Japan Experts: Active fault runs underneath MOX fuel plant — Warnings of massive quake

Published: December 19th, 2012 at 10:57 am ET
By
Email Article Email Article
76 comments


Title: Quake risk at Japan atomic recycling plant: experts
Source: AFP
Author: Kyoko Hasegawa
Date: December 19, 2012

Japan’s only reprocessing plant for spent nuclear fuel could sit on an active seismic fault vulnerable to a massive earthquake, experts warned Wednesday.

If regulators agree they will have to order its closure and Japan would be without any recycling capacity of its own, a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity. [...]

Yasutaka Ikeda, assistant professor of geomorphology at Tokyo University, said a nearly 100-kilometre (60-mile) fault runs under the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in northern Japan.

“Even though experts’ opinions are divided on whether this fault is active or not, I think the possibility of it being an active fault is extremely high, given the evidence,” Ikeda told AFP.

“This fault could cause an 8-magnitude earthquake, so any nuclear-related facilities in the region are in danger,” he said, referring to the Shimokita Peninsula where the Rokkasho plant is located.

Mitsuhisa Watanabe, professor of geomorphology at Tokyo University, separately told Wednesday’s Tokyo Shimbun that part of an active fault runs directly under the Rokkasho plant, warning it is likely to move when the bigger fault moves. [...]

Under government guidelines atomic installations cannot be sited on a fault if it is still classed as active. [...]

Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant – Wikipedia:

At the same site there will also be:
  • A high level nuclear waste monitoring facility
  • A MOX fuel fabrication plant
  • A uranium enrichment plant

Published: December 19th, 2012 at 10:57 am ET
By
Email Article Email Article
76 comments

Related Posts

  1. Japan nuclear plant will likely be scrapped — All gov’t experts say it’s on top of active fault December 10, 2012
  2. Tokyo professor warns of possible active fault dividing reactors at Japan’s only operating nuclear plant — Shattered zone runs between Units 2 and 3 at Oi July 3, 2012
  3. Gov’t Nuclear Expert: Immediately halt Japan’s only 2 operating reactors — “It’s certain there’s an active fault” November 4, 2012
  4. Japan nuclear plant may be permanently shut down because of quake risk — Fault line found 500 feet from reactor on Tuesday (VIDEO) April 25, 2012
  5. UPI: Active geological fault lies directly beneath Japan reactor — Yomiuri: “Extremely uncertain” if it can be reactivated April 25, 2012

76 comments to Japan Experts: Active fault runs underneath MOX fuel plant — Warnings of massive quake

  • aSpadeisaSpade aSpadeisaSpade

    "Even though experts’ opinions are divided on whether this fault is active or not…"

    One does not need to be an "expert" to know that all faults are active on some time-scale. Put another way, all faults are inactive until they aren't.


    Report comment

  • Mack Mack

    They should shut it down…but they won't.

    Too much money involved.

    In the U.S. they're building a MOX plant at the Savannah River Site.

    >> it's costing 6 billion dollars (so far)
    >> it's beset with problems
    >> there are no customers for it

    >> What is MOX?

    "Mixed Oxide Plutonium Fuel (MOX) is composed of uranium dioxide and plutonium dioxide powders which are mixed inside of fuel pellets."

    >> Whose bright idea was MOX?

    "The US MOX program results from the 1998 Agreement on the Management and Disposition of Plutonium with Russia. This agreement designates 54 metric tons of surplus weapons grade plutonium for “immobilization” through irradiation as MOX fuel."

    http://www.ananuclear.org/Issues/PlutoniumFuelMOX/tabid/75/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/572/Default.aspx

    >> Simplyinfo did a good, short summary on it
    http://www.simplyinfo.org/?p=4897


    Report comment

  • TheBigPicture TheBigPicture

    Active faults or not, we don't want dangerous MOX fuel, and we don't want nuclear reactors. It's like someone keeping a gun pointed at your head.


    Report comment

    • HoTaters

      It's as if the people who chose the site said to themselves, "Hey! Our idea is great! Let's site the plant at the worst possible location. Let's see, there's a northern facing peninsula where it's vulnerable to tsunamis caused by earthquakes in northern Japan, the Kuril Islands, and possibly Alaska and North America. And this is great, too, it's on an active fault. Let's put it there! Yeah, that's the ticket!"


      Report comment

      • Mack Mack

        You're right HoTaters.

        It's either intentional or complete stupidity/incompetence on their parts.


        Report comment

        • Mack Mack

          If anyone likes to read, the article linked below gives a good understanding of the mentality of the early nuclear energy promoters.

          This sentence in the article stuck out:

          "Nuclear energy was a game for young men…"

          Highly recommended reading—>
          http://www.powermag.com/nuclear/Too-Dumb-to-Meter-Part-7_5225.html#tools


          Report comment

          • HoTaters

            All you have to do is look at the schematic of a Mark 1 reactor to see it's like testosterone on steroids. Almost like a giant "I'm giving you the finger." I needn't say more. I'm a fan of testosterone in moderation.


            Report comment

          • HoTaters

            Mack, I agree. And check this out:

            http://www.cddc.vt.edu/host/atomic/atmosphr/ustests.html#Plumbbob

            "Conducted at the Nevada Test Site from 28 May to 7 October 1957, Operation PLUMBBOB included the 24 nuclear detonations summarized in the accompanying table. The series also included six safety experiments, conducted to ensure that no nuclear reaction would occur if the high explosive components of the device were accidentally detonated during storage or transport (18: 1,6,7). These tests are discussed with the subsequent safety experiments in section 4.18.
            Operation PLUMBBOB Weapon-Related Events, 1957

            4.14.3 Dose Summary for Operation PLUMBBOB.

            The maximum dose limit for Desert Rock troops was 5.0 rem of gamma radiation in any 6-month period, with no more than 2.0 rem to be from prompt radiation. Participants in activities of the AEC Nevada Test Organization and AFSWC were limited to 3.0 rem for any 13-week period and 5.0 rem for one calendar year (18: 2,3).
            Summary of External Doses for Operation PLUMBBOB as of
            1 May 1986
            Gamma Dose (rem) 0-0.5 0.5-1 1-3 3-5 5-10 10+ (Table shows exposure to military personnel (the human lab rats).


            Report comment

        • HoTaters

          Hi Mack, the Kuril Islands are extremely tectonically active, and IMHO to site a plant anywhere facing the Aleutian or Kuril Islands is insanity. If one looks at the shape of the bay where Rokkasho is sited, you'll see it sits roughly in the middle of a crescent shaped bay. Sapporo lies to the north. If a tsunami were to strike this area directly (with the wave more or less traveling directly toward it, the waters would reach the highest levels somewhere near Rokkasho.

          In other words, the bowl shape of northern Honshu and Hokkaido would trap the water, and the brunt force would be directed roughly toward Rokkasho. Imagine forcing water into a funnel. The narrower the neck of the funnel, and the greater the force behind it, the more powerful the stream of water is, coming from the opening of the funnel (exiting).

          Analysis of the tsunami after the great Sumatra quake of 2004.

          http://www.smh.com.au/news/Asia-Tsunami/Tsunami-death-toll-passes-283000/2005/01/27/1106415737181.html

          Watch this video. If you ever had any doubt about the potential destructive force of a tsunami, this should dispel your illusions. You will see many people standing helpless, unable to move, or too tired to run, swamped by the enormous waves and surges of water. At one location in Thailand, the tsunami waves traveled some 35 kilometers inland, up a river.

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RDOuwMj7Xzo

          In Phuket, Thailand:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thailand_tsunami


          Report comment

      • Cataclysmic Cataclysmic

        They don't have to care, they have the bottomless taxpayer safety net to rely on. There is no fiscal reason for these plants to operate, or locate safely. They have no skin in the game, their feet are not in the fire, the board members, share holders get to live fancy as the rest of the world is polluted by dna mutating invisible death dust.

        Take away taxpayer safety net and put the fiscal onerous back on the corporation, the share holders, the board members and nuke would have been dead a generation ago.

        You only need to check what is going on with Tepco stock to see it.. shouldn't those that buy the stock, own the company, pay for it's mess? Now that would change things.


        Report comment

  • Sol Man

    Too many have been motivated by a death wish; all for mammon and power.


    Report comment

  • dka

    Faults and fault lines don't just disapear like that.
    Active faults that have become inactive are replaced by new faults.
    Otherwise there would not be any faults anymore.
    The truth is that researchers can't predict where and when a new faults are happening. Japan would like the faults to just go away and make all of them gradually "inactive". The reality is that Japan is moving and over subsuctive and prone to earthquake lands and there were, are and will be new faults.


    Report comment

  • MCBEKRL

    Mox reactors will end it all and the final loss of face
    will have a plutonium taste


    Report comment

  • I think a quake just hit:

    Japan Just Hit With Third Earthquake Today as 177 Earthquakes Have Peppered the Western Pacific
    http://guardianlv.com/2012/12/japan-just-hit-with-third-earthquake-today-as-177-earthquakes-have-peppered-the-western-pacific/

    "Honshu, Japan was just hit with its third earthquake of the day as 177 relatively significant earthquakes have peppered the Western Pacific Countries. The last 5.0 temblors hit approximately 4:20 p.m. Tuesday, December 18, 2012, local time. According to the USGS, the quake had a depth of 20 miles and struck off the east coast of Honshu, Japan."


    Report comment

  • AGreenRoad AGreenRoad

    Savannah River Site; Most Severely Radiation Polluted Place on Earth? via A Green Road http://agreenroad.blogspot.com/2012/11/savannah-river-site-most-severely.html

    Tokai And Rokkasho Reprocessing Plants History, Accidents And Dangers; via A Green Road
    http://agreenroad.blogspot.com/2012/06/rokkasho-reprocessing-plant.html


    Report comment

  • Keen

    This article identifies an active fault as having moved within the past 120,000 to 130,000 years. Wikipedia defines a fault as being active if it has moved within the past 10,000 years. As much as I would welcome the perminent shut down and decommissioning of this and all other nuclear plants, I am curious as to what the full criteria of the fault being defined as active is, and how it's most recent movement is determined. I would also like to know why there is such a large discrepancy between the hugely differing criteria for a fault being defined as active. Any seismologists out there?


    Report comment

  • Keen

    It seems an active fault and not a tsunami would be the greatest danger to this facility. The plant its self is located about three miles inland and over 160 feet above the nearest body of water which is a sea level lake. How vulnerable the cooling intake pumps etc are is a valid question but it would take a tsunami bigger than anything seen in modern times to actually reach the plant. I do hate now knowing that all impending epic disasters are now to compounded and stretched out over eons by the addition of nuclear catastrophes.


    Report comment

    • HoTaters

      There have been, historically documented, tsunami waves reaching 1,400 meters in height, in Indonesia. If you consider what a focused teletsunami might do, as I described above (all that water coming into a bottleneck near Rokkasho) it's not inconceivable. If Rokkasho lay further inland and sat behind the island in the isthus between Hokkaido and Honshu, it would be better protected. As it is, it sits right in harm's way, IMHO. Perhaps the elevation and distance from the ocean would protect it. I certainly hope so.


      Report comment

      • HoTaters

        Also helpful to do a search using term Higashidori, as this is an existing plant location, and where the Rokkasho plant is to be built.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higashid%C5%8Dri_Nuclear_Power_Plant

        Is this three miles inland? Higashidori plant:

        http://www.tohoku-epco.co.jp/electr/genshi/npi/higas-e.htm

        Link is from Tohoku-Tepco PR page (in English).

        You say the Rokkasho plant being sited further inland? It's supposed to be part of the Higashidori complex, non? The Higashidori plant sits on a small strip of land on a peninsula in the strait between Honshu and Hokkaido. Both the eastern side and Pacific side of the peninsula are visible from the plant. On the Pacific side are a series of small ponds. If you know your geology, you might be aware these ponds are often caused by ground subsidence occurring on a fault line.

        "The Higashidori Nuclear Power Station is sited in Higashidori-mura, facing the Pacific Ocean, on the eastern side of the Shimokita Peninsula in Aomori Prefecture. To the north of Higashidori-mura is Cape Shiriyazaki on the northeastern tip of the main island of Japan. This cape is a part of the Shimokita Peninsula National Park. It commands a fine view of a white lighthouse, a green grassy plain and a blue expanse of ocean. On the Pacific side of Higashidori-mura are as many as twenty-four lakes and marshes formed by the natural damming by dune sand…."


        Report comment

    • HoTaters

      Show me the beef, and I'll believe Rokkasho is safely sited inland. Where's the beef?


      Report comment

    • Mack Mack

      Japan's tsunami went 6 miles inland.


      Report comment

  • Cataclysmic Cataclysmic

    Tepco having another bad day.."at least two major faults underneath the Higashidori plant are believed to be active and could cause major earthquakes, rejecting operator Tohoku Electric Power Co.'s denial. The operator would have to re-evaluate the seismic impact and reinforce the facility, a process which could take years."

    http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201212200097


    Report comment

    • HoTaters

      Thank you, Cataclysmic. The combined risk from earthquakes and tsunamis makes the siting of this plant a very, very bad decision, IMHO. In Japan, there are at least two nuclear power plants sited on peninsulas, where they are exrremely vulernable to tsunami damage.

      The greatest tsunami damage arises when there is movement under the seafloor, (as in in a subduction zone), and movement of geologic masses under the sea. If these moving masses of soil, rock (or whatever they are) underwater displaces a lot of water quickly, it can generate a powerful tsunami.

      To understand tsunamis, one needs to understand how the energy is attenuated over distance.


      Report comment

  • Keen

    By the old standards the Rokkasho plant is situated in a tsunami safe location and the Fukushima plants especially (as well as the Higashidori plant) were (and are) known not to be. At this point it is obvious that the "old standards" need some serious reevaluation. I do not know if there is such a thing as a "safe" site for any big nuclear facilities. Especially in Japan.

    Fourteen hundred meter tsunamis !?!!!. That could really cramp ones style. Sounds like you are talking about a Yellowstone or Toba type of event that could be spelling curtains for everyone any way. If there is a chance of surviving it I would hope it would not also be within a nuclear paradigm.

    Now a Carrington type of event which before the advent of electrical transmission would have simply been a wondrous spectacle could really spell disaster. Now however, such events which may occur about every 500 to 2,000 years will set modern existence asunder, even without nuclear power plants. With them the likelihood of hundreds of simultaneous full nuclear melt downs becomes quite high. If we get off easy it might be only ten or so. Knowing what a Carrington type of event could do getting off easy seems unlikely when globally every ones electrical power would be simultaneously knocked out and fires are likely to ignite in all cities and towns. Firefighters would have to choose between protecting peoples homes and businesses or engaging in a likely futile effort at the local nuclear power…


    Report comment

    • HoTaters

      I have posted a link to the 1,400 meter tsunami info. here, in the past.

      The largest one in modern times:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1958_Lituya_Bay_megatsunami

      "The 1958 Lituya Bay megatsunami occurred on July 9, 1958, when an earthquake triggered a landslide that caused 30 million cubic metres of rock and ice to fall into the narrow inlet of Lituya Bay, Alaska. The sudden displacement of water resulted in a wave hundreds of metres high, that washed over trees and was ultimately measured as washing 524 metres (1,720 feet) up the opposite slope of the inlet, 143 metres (470 feet) taller than the roof of the Empire State Building. This is the highest recorded megatsunami and the largest known in modern times. The event forced a re-evaluation of large wave events, and recognition of impact and landslide events as a previously unknown cause of very large waves."


      Report comment

      • HoTaters

        More historical info. on tsunamis:

        http://www.livescience.com/13176-history-biggest-tsunamis-earthquakes.html

        Reunion Island may have had the largest tsunami on record. It is located off the eastern coast of Africa.

        We got into this discussion about a year ago when Atoms4Peace1 was trying to argue the tsunami which hit Fukushima was much larger than other tsunamis which have hit Japan in the last 100 or 300 years.

        The highest tsunami ever measured was not witnessed and recorded, but the data came from marks it left on objects inland. Will have to try to find the link for this again.

        One also has to think about a tsunami in terms of force. The wave height doesn't always indicate the amount of destructive force present. It's the amount of energy present that is most important.

        The five most destructive tsunamis in recorded history (not including findings by scientists):

        http://fohn.net/biggest-tsunami/

        The Lituya, Alaska tsunami was measured at 1,740 feet in height.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1958_Lituya_Bay_megatsunami

        Can't find the info. posted here before on height of Indonesian tsunami.


        Report comment

      • HoTaters

        More historical info. on tsunamis:

        http://www.livescience.com/13176-history-biggest-tsunamis-earthquakes.html

        Reunion Island may have had the largest tsunami on record. It is located off the eastern coast of Africa.

        We got into this discussion about a year ago when Atoms4Peace1 was trying to argue the tsunami which hit Fukushima was much larger than other tsunamis which have hit Japan in the last 100 or 300 years.

        The highest tsunami ever measured was not witnessed and recorded, but the data came from marks it left on objects inland. Will have to try to find the link for this again.

        One also has to think about a tsunami in terms of force. The wave height doesn't always indicate the amount of destructive force present. It's the amount of energy present that is most important.

        The five most destructive tsunamis in recorded history (not including findings by scientists):

        http://fohn.net/biggest-tsunami/

        The Lituya, Alaska tsunami was measured at 1,740 feet in height.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1958_Lituya_Bay_megatsunami

        Can't find the info. posted here before on height of Indonesian tsunami. Wave height at Lituya Bay not 1,740 feet, but it traveled up that far on the rock shore of the bay, on opposite side.


        Report comment

        • VanneV anne

          Higashidori: Very nearly SBO
          “Information released today by NISA indicates that the Higashidori Nuclear Power Station, owned and operated by Tohoku Electric Power Company, did in fact get very close to experiencing an actual Station Blackout event. Here from the narrative style data provided by NISA is a brief timeline of events at Higashidori following the April 7 earthquake off Miyagi Prefecture (which is assumed to be an aftershock from the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake):…
          “07:00 April 9th: The diesel that had been in service, unit B, was again ready for operation. This made a period of about 17 hours during which the plant had no EDG capability at all….”
          http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com/2011/04/higashidori-very-nearly-sbo.html


          Report comment

          • VanneV anne

            Magnitude 7.1
            Date-Time

            Thursday, April 07, 2011 at 14:32:41 UTC
            Thursday, April 07, 2011 at 11:32:41 PM at epicenter

            Location 38.253°N, 141.640°E
            Depth 49 km (30.4 miles)
            Region NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
            Distances 66 km (41 miles) E of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
            114 km (70 miles) E of Yamagata, Honshu, Japan
            116 km (72 miles) ENE of Fukushima, Honshu, Japan
            330 km (205 miles) NNE of TOKYO, Japan


            Report comment

    • VanneV anne

      They had damage from a 7 magnitude aftershock to 311 and may already be in meltdown.


      Report comment

  • VanneV anne

    The Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant , the real time bomb
    From Aletho News something to scare us further .

    [link to alethonews.wordpress.com]

    " … There are large seismic faults, capable of producing earthquakes at the 7 or 8 magnitude level, near each of Japan’s nuclear plants, including the reprocessing plant at Rokkasho. It is hard to believe that there is any nuclear plant that would not be damaged by a magnitude 8 earthquake.

    “A representative case is the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant itself, where it has become clear that the fault under the sea nearby also extends inland. The Rokkasho plant, where the nuclear waste (death ash) from all the nuclear plants in Japan is collected, is located on land under which the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate meet. That is, the plate that is the greatest danger to the Rokkasho plant, is now in motion deep beneath Japan.

    “The Rokkasho plant was originally built with the very low earthquake resistance factor of 375 gals. (Translator’s note: The gal, or galileo, is a unit used to measure peak ground acceleration during earthquakes. Unlike the scales measuring an earthquake’s general intensity, it measures actual ground motion in particular locations.) Today its resistance factor has been raised to only 450 gals, despite the fact that recently in Japan earthquakes registering over 2000 gals have been occurring one after another.


    Report comment

    • VanneV anne

      [cont.]
      Worse, the Shimokita Peninsula is an extremely fragile geologic formation that was at the bottom of the sea as recently as the sea rise of the Jomon period (the Flandrian Transgression) 5000 years ago; if an earthquake occurred there it could be completely destroyed.

      “The Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant is where expended nuclear fuel from all of Japan’s nuclear power plants is collected, and then reprocessed so as to separate out the plutonium, the uranium, and the remaining highly radioactive liquid waste. In short, it is the most dangerous factory in the world.

      “At the Rokkasho plant, 240 cubic meters of radioactive liquid waste are now stored. A failure to take care of this properly could lead to a nuclear catastrophe surpassing the meltdown of a reactor. This liquid waste continuously generates heat, and must be constantly cooled. But if an earthquake were to damage the cooling pipes or cut off the electricity, the liquid would begin to boil. According to an analysis prepared by the German nuclear industry, an explosion of this facility could expose persons within a 100 kilometer radius from the plant to radiation 10 to 100 times the lethal level, which presumably means instant death… “
      http://www.godlikeproductions.com/forum1/message1460501/pg1


      Report comment

  • VanneV anne

    PLANNING FOR FAILURE – INTERNATIONAL NUCLEAR SAFEGUARDS
    AND THE ROKKASHO-MURA REPROCESSING PLANT
    http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/planet-2/report/2006/6/planning-for-failure-internat-2.pdf

    Rokkasho blunder leads to failures
    Saturday, May 31, 2003

    “Business at Oye Kogyo went downhill after the company was found to be responsible for a water leak at a nuclear fuel storage tank in December.
    “The tank is in a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant now under construction in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture….”
    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nb20030531a6.html


    Report comment

  • VanneV anne

    Rokkasho blunder leads to failures
    Saturday, May 31, 2003

    “Business at Oye Kogyo went downhill after the company was found to be responsible for a water leak at a nuclear fuel storage tank in December.
    “The tank is in a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant now under construction in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture….”
    http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nb20030531a6.html


    Report comment

  • VanneV anne

    Insight: Japan's nuclear crisis goes much further than Fukushima
    “…A joint venture between Tokyo Electric Power, operator of the crippled Fukushima plant, and Japan Atomic plans to build Japan's first large dry-cask storage facility in Mutsu, north of Rokkasho, where 3,000 tonnes of spent fuel would be encased in metal and stored on an interim basis.
    “But that project would be dedicated only to Tokyo Electric and Japan Atomic rather than all nuclear utilities, and it is also delayed, with commercial operation set to begin in October next year, 15 months behind schedule….”
    http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/24/us-japan-nuclear-waste-idUSTRE81N08P20120224


    Report comment

  • VanneV anne

    Rokkasho Reprocessing Facility
    another leak from spent fuel pool
    “On June 8th it was confirmed that there had been yet another leak from the spent fuel storage pool (Figure 1) at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. The location of the leak was a corner of the burnable poisons1 treatment pit for PWR spent fuel. According to a report released by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) on July 12th, two holes, almost connected to each other, were found where padding had been faultily welded, contrary to the approved procedures….
    “There have been large scale leaks from the same spent fuel storage pool in the past. Those leaks also resulted from faulty welding. A leak detector attached to the pool detected leakage in July 2001, but the leak wasn't publicly confirmed until January 2002 (NIT 88, 95). By April 2003, 291 faulty welds, including six actual leaks, had been located. As a consequence major repairs had to be carried out. At the time, six locations in the burnable poisons pit where this latest leak occurred were repaired. For over a year spent fuel could not be loaded into the pool. This led to delays in the uranium trials….”
    http://www.cnic.jp/english/newsletter/nit107/nit107articles/nit107rokleak.html


    Report comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.