From the New York Times:

The Japanese electricians who bravely strung wires this week to all six reactor buildings at a stricken nuclear power plant succeeded despite waves of heat and blasts of radioactive steam.

The restoration of electricity at the plant, the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, stirred hopes that the crisis was ebbing. But nuclear engineers say some of the most difficult and dangerous tasks are still ahead — and time is not necessarily on the side of the repair teams.

The tasks include manually draining hundreds of gallons of radioactive water and venting radioactive gas from the pumps and piping of the emergency cooling systems, which are located diagonally underneath the overheated reactor vessels. The urgency of halting the spread of radioactive contamination from the site was underlined on Wednesday by the health warning that infants should not drink tap water — even in Tokyo, 140 miles southwest of the stricken plant — which raised alarms about extensive contamination.

"We've got at least 10 days to two weeks of potential drama before you can declare the accident over," said Michael Friedlander, who worked as a nuclear plant operator for 13 years.

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Earlier this week, a top Nuclear Regulatory Commission official said Japan's nuclear crisis does not warrant immediate change in U.S. plants.  Bill Borchardt, the NRC's executive director for operations, noted that officials have "a high degree of confidence" that the 104 nuclear reactors operating in the U.S. are safe.  He asserted that inspectors at each of the plants are ensuring that efforts are in place to guard against safety breaches.  Eric Epstein, co-founder of the citizen-watchdog group Rock the Capital and chairman of TMI Alert, will join our panel discussion.  Epstein has grave concerns about whether American plants are designed to withstand whatever man-made or natural disaster strikes them.  He says our spent-fuel waste is kept in facilities never designed for long-term storage.  Congress has not been able to agree on a permanent site for America's highly radioactive waste.


EPA Press Office
March 22, 2011

WASHINGTON – During a detailed analysis of four west coast RadNet air monitor filters, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) identified trace amounts of radioactive iodine, cesium, and tellurium consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident. These levels are consistent with the levels found by a Department of Energy monitor last week and are to be expected in the coming days.

EPA’s samples were captured by three monitors in California and one in Washington State on Friday, March 18 and sent to EPA scientists for detailed laboratory analysis. The data was reviewed over the weekend and the analysis was completed Monday night.  The radiation levels detected on the filters from California and Washington monitors are hundreds of thousands to millions of times below levels of concern.

In addition, last night preliminary monitor results in Hawaii detected minuscule levels of an isotope that is also consistent with the Japanese nuclear incident. This detection varies from background and historical data in Hawaii. This isotope was detected at our fixed monitor in Hawaii, and it is far below any level of concern for human health.  The sampling filter from this monitor is being sent to our national radiation lab for further analysis. 

In a typical day, Americans receive doses of radiation from natural sources like rocks, bricks and the sun that are about 100,000 times higher than what we have detected coming from Japan. For example, the levels we’re seeing coming from Japan are 100,000 times lower than what you get from taking a roundtrip international flight.

EPA is in the process of conducting detailed filter analyses for fixed monitors located in Oregon.

EPA’s RadNet filter results for San Francisco, Seattle, Riverside and Anaheim, California detected minuscule quantities of iodine isotopes and other radioactive particles that pose no health concern at the detected levels. Below are the results of the detailed filter analysis. All of the radiation levels detected during the detailed filter analysis are hundreds of thousands to millions of times below levels of concern.

All units are in Picocuries per meter cubed.

- Filter results for Anaheim, Calif. found:

  • Cesium-137: 0.0017
  • Tellurium-132: 0.012
  • Iodine-132: 0.0095
  • Iodine-131: 0.046

- Filter results for Riverside, Calif. found:

  • Cesium-137: 0.00024
  • Tellurium-132: 0.0014
  • Iodine-132: 0.0015
  • Iodine-131: 0.011

- Filter results for Seattle, Wash. found:

  • Cesium-137: 0.00045
  • Tellurium-132: 0.0034
  • Iodine-132: 0.0029
  • Iodine-131: 0.013

- Filter results for San Francisco, Calif. found:

  • Cesium-137: 0.0013
  • Tellurium-132: 0.0075
  • Iodine-132: 0.0066
  • Iodine-131: 0.068

EPA’s RadNet system is designed to protect the public by notifying scientists, in near real time, of elevated levels of radiation so they can determine whether protective action is required. In addition, an analysis of the filters in the monitors can identify even the smallest trace amounts of specific radioactive isotopes.

As part of the federal government’s continuing effort to make our activities and science transparent and available to the public, EPA will continue to keep RadNet data available at:


Lawmaker Authored 2002 Law That Requires Potassium Iodide for Residents Living within 20 Miles of Nuclear Plant; Law Ignored by Bush Administration


WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass) sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius requesting the department’s assistance in urging Presidential Science Advisor Dr. John Holdren to reverse the Bush administration decision to that effectively blocks HHS from distributing potassium iodide – also called KI – to Americans living within a 20 mile radius of a nuclear power plant. Potassium iodide has been found to protect individuals, especially young children, from the cancer-causing releases of radioactive iodine that would occur if a nuclear disaster occurred in the United States. In the wake of the Japan nuclear crisis, earlier this week, Rep. Markey today wrote [LINK] to the president’s science adviser asking him to begin implementing the law.
“The essential value of distributing potassium iodide in preparation for a potential nuclear disaster has been abundantly clear for more than 30 years,” wrote Rep. Markey in the letter to Secretary Sebelius “The exercise of Presidential power to distribute KI is now long overdue, leaving many Americans living near these plants needlessly at risk, as sadly evidenced by the disaster in Japan.”
A copy of the letter to the HHS can be found HERE.
Rep. Markey amended the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness andResponse Act of 2002 to make potassium iodide available to state and local governments to meet the needs of all persons living within a 20-mile radius of a nuclear power plant. However, the Bush administration chose to ignore these provisions and declined to implement them, thereby denying communities access to stockpiles of KI.
InDecember 2009, Rep. Markey wrote President Obama urging him to move forwardwith full implementation of the provisions. However, Dr. Holdren’s office wrote Rep. Markey in July of last year upholding the Bush administration’s position. Because of this action, citizens living within the 10 mile radius of nuclear power plants in some states have KI stockpiled for an accident, but others do not and those living out to the 20 mile radius do not receive KI.
Rep. Markey, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and a senior Democratic member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has served on the Committees that have oversight over the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the nuclear utility industry since 1976.  Following the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, he authored an amendment to establish a moratorium on licensing of new nuclear power plants until the consequences of that accident could be fully understood and participated in the Congressional hearings on the accident. Following the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, he chaired the Congressional hearings examining the causes and consequences of the accident.


Journalists and others may find helpful a new fact sheet, "Radiation and Human Health," from the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER):
This plain-language two-pager was produced in response to the extraordinary volume of questions and requests IEER has received in light of the Japan nuclear reactor situation.
It includes descriptions of some radionuclides of concern, a glossary of radiation units, an explanation of differences between high dose and low dose, and accepted conversions for estimating cancer morbidity and mortality from radiation exposure.


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Contact: Eben Burnham-Snyder, 202-225-6065
Giselle Barry, 202-225-2836

Conflicting Accounts Require Clarity, Says Lawmaker; Nuclear Industry Updates Hampered by Tokyo Electric Power Co. Membership

WASHINGTON (March 18, 2011) – Amidst conflicting information regarding the status of the meltdowns and condition of the spent nuclear fuel pools at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, today, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and a senior Democratic member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is calling on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to provide the American public and Congress the latest in information on the nuclear emergency in Japan.
Now that the NRC is on the ground and involved in the response in Japan, Rep. Markey asks the agency to provide daily reports and an analysis of multiple scenarios, including worst-case events, to Congress and the public.
“I believe that it is vitally important to all those who may be considering leaving the vicinity of the impacted reactors to be receiving accurate and unbiased written assessment of current conditions,” wrote Rep. Markey in the letter to NRC head Greg Jaczko. “It is also important that the American public fully understand the potential magnitude and timing associated with a worst-case core melt-down and radiation release or spent fuel fire.”
A copy of the letter to the NRC can be found HERE.
Along with daily situation reports, Rep. Markey is asking the NRC to provide scenario readouts on the following events at each of the affected reactor units and spent nuclear fuel pools:
--The loss of water in the spent fuel cooling ponds and subsequent fire and/or release of radiation.
--A full core meltdown assuming that no further breaches in containment occur.
--A full core meltdown assuming containment structures are already breached or become breached.
Rep. Markey also notes in the letter that Tokyo Electric Power Co., the owner of the Fukushima reactors, is a member of the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), which has been sending updates on the situation in Japan to Congress and the public. Rep. Markey notes in the letter that NEI has “a clear vested interest in providing a highly optimistic assessment of the situation.”
Since the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan, Rep. Markey has called for a series of immediate actions in response to the resulting nuclear emergency.
Rep. Markey has asked the Obama administration to fully implement the 2002 law he authored that potassium iodide, the “emergency pills” taken after a nuclear disaster which can help prevent the cancer-causing effects of radiation poisoning, be distributed to those living within 20 miles of a U.S. nuclear facility. The Bush administration ignored the law and the Obama administration has not yet reversed the Bush policy despite a letter Rep. Markey sent in 2009 urging President Obama to implement the law.
Rep. Markey also called for a moratorium on all new reactors that could be placed in seismically active areas until a top-to-bottom review of design resiliency, emergency response, backup power to prevent a meltdown during long electricity outages, and evacuation plans has been conducted. Operating nuclear reactors should then also be retrofitted to incorporate the findings of the review. Rep. Markey has also demanded a safety review of the 31 reactors in the United States that are the same design as those currently experiencing major failure in Japan.
And Rep. Markey has asked the NRC to suspend a pending approval of the design for the AP1000 nuclear reactor. One of NRC's most senior staff warned that the containment structure for this reactor design would not be able to withstand a strong earthquake and it was so brittle it could “shatter like a glass cup” under sufficient stress.
Rep. Markey has served on the Committees that have oversight over the NRC and the nuclear utility industry since 1976.  For more than three decades, Rep. Markey has worked to secure nuclear power plants and ensure the public safety in the event of a nuclear disaster. In 1979, before the Three Mile Island accident occurred, Rep. Markey introduced legislation providing for a three year moratorium on licensing of new nuclear power plants until a top to bottom safety analysis on nuclear reactors could be performed. In 1986, he chaired hearings on the causes and consequences of the disaster at Chernobyl. Following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Rep. Markey passed a law to strengthen security for nuclear reactors and materials, and a law providing for distribution of potassium iodide to those living within 20 miles of a nuclear reactor (which still has not been implemented). And before the catastrophe in Japan, Rep. Markey raised concerns of the seismic resiliency of our reactors.



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