Fukushima 110...3/30/17-5/11/17

May 11, 2017

  • The United Nations is “convinced” that Fukushima-produced foods are safe. U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva says, “We’ve been following this issue very closely. We are also periodically testing samples to certify that the food presents no danger to human beings. For the moment we are convinced that there is no immediate problem with the food coming from that area.” His visit to Japan that began Tuesday is intended to learn more about Japan’s diet and participate in a desert-tasting event using Fukushima-grown fruits. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705080043.html

  • Iitate rice planting begins for the first time in six years. Eight farms in the village will sow about seven hectares (17.5 acres) this year. There was 690 hectares within the village before the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. With most of Iitate no longer under Tokyo’s evacuation mandate, the process of recovering the agricultural staple can now begin. The acreage is protected from damage by wild boars, and all crops harvested will be scanned for radioactive contamination before marketing.  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/10/national/fukushima-village-begins-sowing-rice-first-time-since-nuclear-crisis/#.WRMf6qOwcdU Meanwhile, buried in the second half of the same article, an Upper House committee passed a bill to support evacuees that cannot return home because of continuing Tokyo mandate. The bill had already cleared the Lower House on April 14th. Also buried is the fact that Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to support a medical care system for the city. Goichiro Toyoda of Medley Inc. - a remote medical care system - asked Tokyo to upgrade regulations to expand the current program. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/10/national/fukushima-village-begins-sowing-rice-first-time-since-nuclear-crisis/#.WRMf6qOwcdU

  • Tepco posts its FYFY 2016/Q4 progress report on the Nuclear Safety Reform Plan. Japan’s 2016 fiscal year ended on March 31, 2017. The Plan’s mantra is “Keep the Fukushima Nuclear Accident firmly in mind; we should be safer today than we were yesterday, and safer tomorrow than today; we call for nuclear power plant operators that keep creating unparalleled safety”. The report covers numerous topics including the F. Daiichi unit #1&#2 robotic investigations inside the respective PCVs, the status of the successful “ice wall” project, safety improvements undertaken at F. Daini, and the actual situation with the possibility of restarting Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units #6&#7. With the last, the much-publicized NRA issues with the seismic design of a Technical Support Center at K-K were specific to unit #5! Not the two units up for restart, at all. Tepco states that this fact was “not widely conveyed”. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu17_e/images/170510e0101.pdf (Comment - Not widely conveyed? What an understatement! The Japanese Press did not “convey” it at all, and the Niigata Assembly ignored it too.)

  • Fukushima InFORM takes umbrage with an inappropriate use of its data. The summation posted on May 5th says, “Beware the difference between color schemes.” ENENEWS is reporting that a "red blob" from Fukushima is on its way to North America.” (InFORM 5/5/17) ENENEWS posted a typically unfounded article on May 3, 2017, using past InFORM mapping to make it seem that a deadly red blob of radiation was nearing North America’s Pacific coast. InFORM’s August 2016 report used various colors on a map to show the extent of the different levels of barely detectible radioactive Cesium. The biologically innocuous concentration of Cesium at ~10 Becquerels per ton of seawater happened to be in red! There is, was, and never will be a “red blob” as intimated by ENENEWS!  https://fukushimainform.ca/ -- http://enenews.com/peak-of-fukushima-radiation-now-moving-to-west-coast-levels-much-higher-than-predicted-huge-red-blob-of-nuclear-waste-near-shore-san-francisco-area-being-hit-hardest-concern-over-iodine-12 (Comment - ENENEWS is arguably the most biased and misleading internet site focusing entirely on Fukushima. We have not responded to its eschatological drivel, to date, because it could give its webmaster/author undeserved free publicity. We hope the InFORM response to ENENEWS does not give it a wider audience.)

  • Tokyo makes Tepco deposit money to cover F. Daiichi decommissioning costs, well into the future. The bill to revise the law on Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. (NDCDFC) was approved by a majority vote in the Upper House. The money placed in reserve will be decided on an annual basis by the NDCDFC, and withdrawn only through approval of the Minister of Industry. The new rules are intended to clarify the relative level of state involvement in Tepco’s funds management, and provide assurance that sufficient funds for decommissioning will exist regardless of Tepco’s business situation. It will also accommodate future estimate increases on the project, now thought to be over $70 billion. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017051000451 -- http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/revised-ndf-bill-enacted-after-passage-by-upper-house-tepco-required-to-deposit-funds-for-decommissioning/

  • The relatively small Namie wildfire continues to get Press coverage. NHK World’s headline says the wildfire is spreading, but the body of the report states that it covers 20 hectares (~50 acres), which is no larger than was reported on May 1st. Regardless, there have been 240 firefighters attending to the fire on the ground, wearing hazmat suits. However, none of the monitoring locations downwind of the fire showed any airborne contamination. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170505_04/

  • NHK Japan reports that a “radioactive wildfire” headline is criticized by Fukushima farmers… and they get an apology! A newspaper in Wakayama Prefecture – Kii Minpo - had posted that radioactive material could scatter in connection with the forest fire in Namie town. “About 20” Fukushima farmers called the newspaper and criticized the article for causing the spread of damaging rumors and effecting a “false hoax”. The May 9th apology said “There was not much fluctuation in radiation dose and caused inconvenience." Professor Naoya Sekiya of the University of Tokyo said a fire can spread harmful substances so the rumors are understandable, “…but six years have passed since the nuclear accident, [so] I think that the time to write articles only with anxiety and concern has passed.” He stressed that all radiation monitors around the “no-entry” zone have shown nothing, thus the newspaper obviously did not properly investigate what was happening. Kii Minpo (circulation ~ 30,000) says it got the information from an un-named former Tepco employee who said the forest had not been decontaminated and the fire would likely spread radioactive material through the air. Minpo says it will continue to report on the still-smoldering fire, but always include the actual radiation levels being monitored. Wakayama Prefecture is more than 500 kilometers southwest of Fukushima on the Pacific coastline. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20170509/k10010974921000.html (Japanese only) (Comment - Thanks to colleague Jaro Franta for providing us with some of the translation. And, thanks to Bing Translate for the rest.)

  • Tokai unit #2 will apply for a 20-year extension to its operating license. The 1060 MWe BWR/5 has been upgraded by Japan Atomic Power Co. staff in order to meet Japan’s new nuclear safety regulations. JAPCO says it makes financial sense to expend the money for the upgrades because the unit output is so large. Final system inspections are expected to be complete by the end of November so that JAPCO can submit the licensing application. The company also owns the 1160 MWe Tsuruga unit #2, a PWR that has an iffy future because the Nuclear Regulation Authority staff suspects is may sit atop a potentially-active seismic fault. The two nuclear stations are JAPCO’s only electrical generating facilities, so restart of Tokai #2 could be critical to the company’s future.  http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705110026.html

  • Tax-exempt donations are being made to Hakodate City to stop an under-construction nuke. A small portion of the Hokkaido Prefecture city lies within the 30km evacuation planning zone for the Oma nuclear plant in Aomori Prefecture. Residents can give a portion of their local taxes to the local government of their choice and then deduct it from declared income, under the “furusato nozei” (hometown tax) system. Hakodate says more than $60,000 has been garnered since April 1st. It is expected that the windfall will be used to pay for legal fees incurred in trying to stop construction of the nuke which lies across the 23 kilometer-wide straight between the two northern prefectures. Hakodate officials say it will be impossible to devise a workable evacuation plan because of a scarcity of roads and shortage of vehicles. The city has already filed a suit against the government, charging that approval for building the nuke plant places Hakodate residents at risk. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705090043.html

May 4, 2017

  • The Fukushima soccer training facility for teens will reopen after the 2020 Olympics. Known as the J-Village, the facility was used by the Japan Football Association to prepare teen athletes for success in international soccer competition. In 2011, the training was moved to Shizuoka Prefecture so that the facility could be Tepco’s home-base for dealing with the Fukushima nuclear accident, as well as recovery from the devastation caused by the quake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. It remained as such until April, 2017, and is currently being prepared by the Prefecture to train Japan’s Olympic soccer players. After the 2020 Olympics, the facility will once-again be used to attract students from the region when they enter junior high school. They will attend the Futaba Future Junior and Hirono Senior High Schools while training at the J-Village, both of which are scheduled to re-open in 2019. JFA President Kozo Tajima says the full operation of the J-Village wil depend on how many Fukushima evacuees actually return home, “We will tackle the matter with a determination to start from scratch. We hope to boost enthusiasm for soccer in Fukushima and that this will lead to the reconstruction of disaster-hit areas.” The J-Village has eleven soccer fields and a 1,200 square meter gymnasium, plus student dormitories. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=820 -- https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-01/japan-s-soccer-team-to-return-to-base-used-for-fukushima-cleanup

  • All 157 fuel bundles have been loaded into Takahama unit #4. The only major news outlet to report on it was NHK World. Only four of the bundles contain recycled nuclear fuel (MOX), but is a focus in the article because the fissionable matrix includes Plutonium. Restart of the unit is planned for mid-May. Unit #3 fuel loading is also planned for mid-May. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170501_15/

  • A wildfire broke out in a Namie forest over the weekend, and subsided on Monday afternoon. Eight fire-quenching helicopters were dispatched from Fukushima, Miyagi, Gunma, and Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force to contain the fire. By Monday morning, it had consumed about 50 acres of the forest. Officials suspect the fire was caused by lightning. Because the fire is located inside Namie’s remaining “no entry” zone, the Mainichi Shimbun posted the report under the overstated headline, “Wildfire rages in highly radioactive Fukushima mountain forest”. NHK World first said the wildfire was “raging”, but later admitted that the “blaze abated somewhat on Monday afternoon.” An Environment Ministry official said the radiation levels downwind are being monitored to see if deposited radioactive contamination is going airborne, "We will continue to closely watch changes in radiation doses in the surrounding areas." Since Tuesday, no further reports have been posted. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170501/p2a/00m/0na/003000c -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170501_24/

April 27, 2017

  • Residents where restrictions have been lifted are slowly returning home. The population of the Odaka District in Minamisoma City was 9,079 before the Tokyo-mandated evacuation. When the order was ended last July, only 311 returned home. However, as of March 31, 2017, the number of returnees had swelled to 1.488. The monthly influx of evacuees has steadily risen over the past seven months, with March having 239 more people repopulate the district. Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai suggesting the reasons behind the public’s return include opening an elementary school, a junior high school, a new high school, and the resumption of numerous business operations. The city intends to complete commercial facilities to further entice repopulation in 2018-2019. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=815

  • Kansai Electric plans to restart Takahama units #3&4 beginning in May. KE President Shigeki Iwane informed Fukui Prefecture’s Governor Issei Nishikawa of the schedule on Tuesday. Nishikawa said, "It is correct that (Kansai Electric Power) will take procedures to start operations." Fuel bundle installation for unit 4 is planned for tomorrow (April 28th), with power resumption beginning in mid-May. Core loading for Unit #3 should begin in mid-May, with commercial operation about a month later. Unit #4 will have four and unit #3 twenty-four fuel bundles using recycled MOX fuel. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/takahama-4-to-restart-in-may-first-such-case-following-court-ruling-to-suspend-operation/ - https://japantoday.com/category/national/utility-seeks-to-restart-two-reactors-in-fukui-from-mid-may?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2017-04-26_PM

  • Saga’s governor approves restarts for Genkai #3 & #4. On Monday, Governor Yoshinori Yamaguchi said the units should be scheduled for restart. This marks the fourth Prefectural governor to approve resumption of operations at a nuclear station in Japan. Yamaguchi said his decision required great consideration, "After deeply thinking it over, as it was a grave decision to make, I have reached the conclusion that (the restart) is inevitable under the present circumstances." PM Abe’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga added, "We feel it is important that the governor's understanding has been gained regarding the restart of these reactors." https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170424_25/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170424/p2g/00m/0dm/067000c

  • Voluntary evacuees that moved to prefectures other than Fukushima say they face diminishing public support and increased scorn from their hometown communities. Thus, many are now expressing doubts over their decision to flee, even though they admit their mortal fear of radiation (radiophobia) persists. One mother justifies her decision to flee by saying, “If I become convinced that my decision was sound, it would come at a time when the impact of radiation has manifested among children who stayed in the prefecture.” Voluntary evacuees who did not flee from the prefecture wish those living in other prefectures would stop saying it is too dangerous to return. One said, “We reside in Fukushima Prefecture, and I would like them not to speak ill of the prefecture.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704250040.html

  • 2/3 of the voluntary evacuees living in Fukushima Prefecture say they intend to return home. On the other hand, nearly 80% of those who fled to other prefectures say there’s no way they will go back. A Fukushima official says that most evacuees "still worry about radiation, and many of them have shifted the foundations of their lives to the places they've evacuated to." It is interesting that 18% of the voluntary emigres say they intend to eventually return home. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170425/p2a/00m/0na/003000c

  • Tepco announced that muon-based imaging of the unit #3 reactor vessel will begin in May. The scanning device will be installed before the end of April, but will not be operated until some point in May. https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_170424_01-e.pdf

  • The New York Times reports on the reopening of Naraha schools. 105 children began attending the recently completed Naraha Elementary/Junior High School earlier this month. The facility was under construction when the 2011 quake and tsunami struck, but the town decided to begin the construction from scratch to eliminate all possibility of detectible contamination in finished product. The building was originally designed as a junior high school, but two elementary schools have been included as well. The 5th and 6th grade classes have two teachers each and extra counselors help students with anxieties. All students will get tablet computers, lunch, and school uniforms for free. All provided meals are strictly monitored for contamination before being offered to the students. Radiation at the new school is below the national goal of 0.23 microsievert per hour (~1 microsievert per year) for decontamination. But, the article says the children remain at risk from the radiation levels that might occur in drainage ditches after rainstorms. The school’s principal is surprised that the town allowed children to return before all the large bags of mildly-contaminated rural debris were cleared from Naraha. A Tokyo professor says government officials “have every incentive to downplay the level of risk and to put a positive spin on it.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/world/asia/japan-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-children.html?_r=0

  • Voluntary evacuee mothers are trying to stop the restarts at Genkai station. Three of the women reside in Itoshima, part of which is within the 30-kilometer emergency evacuation zone. They fear a nuke accident at Genkai will place them and their children at mortal risk. One mother says the utility’s argument that the nukes are needed for a stable power supply sounds like the company doesn’t care about human lives. The women have created a name for themselves - Mothers Who Want to Save Children’s Lives. They have submitted petitions to the Saga governor and Itoshima mayor. On mother explained, “Resuming operations only makes residents feel unsettled and we cannot draw a bright future. We want our leaders to understand such feelings.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/23/national/moms-fled-fukushima-fallout-raise-pressure-genkai-plant-restart-saga/#.WPywKKOwcdU

  • Japan’s reconstruction Minister resigns. His demise is blamed on Japan’s antinuclear Press. Masahiro Imamura stepped down due to massive pressure after he said that if the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami had centered on Tokyo instead of Tohoku, the economic impact would have been far worse than the currently-estimated $226 billion for complete regional recovery. Imamura’s remark brought harsh criticism from opposition parties, Japan’s Press, and many Tohoku residents. All of them demanded his resignation for allegedly saying the Tohoku disaster was a “good thing”. Toshihiro Nikai, the Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General, blamed Imamura’s demise on the news media, "Media organizations record everything, and after one slip of the tongue they call for you to be fired." Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed Tohoku resident Masayoshi Yoshino to replace Imamura. Yoshino was chairman of a Lower House special committee on disaster reconstruction. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003662703 -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017042601087 -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170426_80/

April 20, 2017

  • The cherry blossoms at Fukushima Daiichi are in full bloom. There are roughly 400 cherry trees that line a stretch of a road to the plant called “Cherry Street”. The stand of trees is located 1.5 kilometers from the nuke station. Plant workers can be seen walking there without protective gear because the clothing is not needed since the area was decontaminated. Tepco says everyone seems happy to see the cherry blossoms. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170419_28/

  • Iwaki fish marketing resumed on April 3rd.  Previously, fish caught during coastal “test operations” were sold at prices negotiated between the local cooperative and city brokers. But in this case, it was an open auction organized by the Onahama Trawl Fisheries Cooperative Association. More than two tons of seafood were sold, covering 24 varieties, including “mehikari” (greeneyes) and “hirame” (flounder). The fisheries plan to continue both negotiated block sales and open auctioning while adding more species subject to broker bidding. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=811  (We have only seen this reported by one news outlet, Fukushima Minpo. Figures…)

  • Tepco hopes to restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units 6 & 7 in 2019. The plan for the restarts will be added to the company’s New Comprehensive Special Business Plan (CSBP), designed to improve the financially-troubled utility’s economic status. Both units are Advanced Boiling Water Reactor systems, each rated at an electrical output of 1,315 Megawatts. The new CSBP should be released either late this month or early May, after it is reviewed and approved by the Industry Ministry and the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. Before restarts can occur, both units must pass the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety inspection and get a positive decision by the Niigata governor. To date, Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama has balked at granting restart approval, and indicates there may be future delays in the prospective roadmap. He said, “The period could become longer depending on the circumstances.” The governor also says the hangup is the station’s emergency operations facility, which was found to not meet earthquake resistance requirements. He added that nukes are not indispensable to the economies of Japan or Niigata Prefecture. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704140044.html -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704200028.html 

  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries President Shunichi Miyanaga is optimistic about the future of the company with respect to building future nukes. He told The Nikkei that Japan’s new, stricter rules for nuke operation have spurred innovation, including the future use of artificial intelligence. This should make nukes increase in value. He also feels that Toshiba and AREVA’s recent financial downturns are not a nuclear death-knell. Rather, Miyanaga says Mitsubishi is in the nuclear business to stay. He also feels that merging his company’s nuclear fuel business with Hitachi and Toshiba for overseas marketing could lead to a bright future. http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Mitsubishi-Heavy-chief-In-the-nuclear-business-to-stay

  • More information on Genkai units 3 & 4 restarts. The Saga Prefecture’s Assembly approved restarts last Thursday. The next key decision now lies with the Governor, Yoshinori Yamaguchi. Before his decision is rendered, he will meet with Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko to discuss national energy policy. Yamaguchi met with Minister of State Koichi Yamamoto to discuss emergency planning before convening the extraordinary session for the assembly in order to vote on the restarts. He told the assembly that restarts “cannot be helped” because Japan needs reliable base-load electricity generation that does not contribute to global warming. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/after-saga-prefectural-assembly-approves-restart-of-genkai-3-4-governor-must-make-final-decision/

  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority approved decommissioning plans for five nukes. They are: Mihama units 1 and 2, Tsuruga unit 1, Shimane unit 1, and Genkai No. 1. All of them were ear-marked for decommissioning because they are smaller units and it would not make financial sense to bring any of them up to Japan’s new safety standards. Mihama #1 is 320 MWE and #2 is 470 MWE, Tsuruga #1 is 357 MWE, Shimane #1 is 460 MWE, and Genkai No. 1 is 559 MWE. The initial plans call for first dismantling uncontaminated parts of each facility, and decontaminating piping systems. The owner companies say the full decommissioning of the units could take until 2045. The NRA is also studying whether or not to approve decommissioning plans for Ikata unit #1.  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170419_18/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170419/p2g/00m/0dm/079000c

  • The NRA chairman will retire in September. Shunichi Takata, 72, has held his position with the NRA since its inception on September 19, 2012. The person slated to replace him is current Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa, who has also held his position for 5 years. Takata’s opinions have been disparaged by critics for being less than impartial. Professor Andrew DeWit of Rikkyo University says, "Fuketa has a long background in research on reactor safety and replaces a figure (Tanaka) who was not seen as impartial, at least in some circles. His appointment and international connections may help to overcome the industry's reluctance to adopt some internationally recognized safety practices." Fuketa has been instrumental in the recent decision on surprise  inspections, and the use of dry storage casks for used nuclear fuel bundles. He has also stated that some projections by companies wishing to restart reactors have been overly optimistic. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704180041.html

April 13, 2017

  • Saga’s prefectural assembly approves restarts for Genkai units 3 & 4. Governor Yoshinori Yamaguchi said his final decision should come before the end of the month. The host municipality of Genkai Town has already given its official approval. Procedures for restart at the station will start as soon as the governor’s approval is rendered. The minority Japanese Communist Party and one other group have asked Yamaguchi to not jump to a “hasty” decision. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017041300725 (Comment – The term “hasty” is usually connected to nuke restarts by antinuclear groups and opposition political parties. Hasty is defined by Merriam-Webster as “done or made in a hurry…typically superficial…exhibiting a lack of careful thought or consideration”. After six-plus years since the Fukushima accident, this is certainly not a hasty decision. The term “hasty” is rhetorically to gain sympathetic Press coverage, and it always works!)

Critical infrastructure resumes prior to the April 1st lifting of five evacuation orders… 

  • Minamisoma elementary students started the new school year at a former school building. 62 students participated in opening day. The students come from Odaka, Fukuura, Kanabusa and Hatsupara school districts. The city decided to consolidate them in one building because relatively few parents are interested in actually going home soon. One parent said they were enrolling their first-grader because the family plans on returning to their home this year and did not want their daughter to change schools in the middle of first grade. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704070031.html

  • A new high school is the first to open inside the old “no-go” zone. On Tuesday, the new high school combined industrial and commercial high school. Freshman Koki Takeuchi said, “We want to acquire a lot of knowledge and technologies so we can contribute to the reconstruction of our communities.” The school has an enrollment of 503, including 165 freshmen. The Education Ministry dubs the new facility a “super-professional high school” that will cultivate young people to lead the region’s industrial revival. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017041100788 -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003634611

  • Tomioka’s police station reopened March 30th; the day before the town’s evacuation order was lifted. Hiroyuki Matsumoto, head of the Fukushima Prefectural Police Headquarters, urged local police to "protect the safety of people living here and contribute to regional reconstruction." http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=808

  • Important transportation lines re-opened in the old “no-go” zone on April 1st. The Joban rail line between Futaba and Soma was re-opened; a stretch of nearly nine kilometers. The rail line has been closed for six years. In Tomioka Town, bus service to Iwaki City resumed the same day. In addition, train service between Namie and Odaka Station in Minamisoma resumed on March 31st. The improved level of public transportation foreshadows the permanent return of evacuees. While many commercial and medical facilities have yet to re-open, the train service provides convenient access to hospitals and shopping districts in Minamisoma, Soma, and Sendai. It also facilitates children whose home schools have yet to re-open for commuting to high schools in neighboring communities. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=810  

  • Iwaki’s temporary shopping mall closed on March 31st. The Hisanohama-machi district along the city’s shoreline was devastated by the quake and tsunami of 3/11/11. The temporary mall opened September, 2011 in an elementary school, with 11 shops and offices including an “eatery”, barber shop, and fish market. The local chamber of commerce also worked out of the building. With projects making headway in disaster-hit areas in the city, and all stores seeing prospects of reopening elsewhere, the mall was shut down before summer when usage contracts were due to end. One official spoke to the celebratory crowd, “We have been able to come thus far thanks to support from all of you. We would like to continue working hard on the strength of happy memories here." http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=809

Here’s some additional Japanese nuclear news…

  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority will hold surprise inspections at nuke plants. The Tokyo congress (Diet) passed a nuclear regulatory law revision on Friday, allowing the NRC to mimic the American Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s ability to inspect licensees without prior notice. To date, NRA inspections have been pre-planned and strictly followed pre-approved checklists. The Diet says they must give the NRA time to formulate the revised rules for inspections, so the change might not be implemented until 2020. This marks a major change in Japan’s industrial environment where unannounced inspections have never been allowed before. https://home.kyodo.co.jp/news/2017/04/467500.html

  • The Reconstruction Minister retracts his statement about voluntary evacuee responsibility. Last week, Minister Masahiro Imamura told voluntary evacuees not living in Fukushima Prefecture that they made the decision to abandon their homes, so they should take ownership for what they did. Now, he has caved to pressure from thousands of evacuee protestors and publically retracted his statement.  He stated, "I regret that I caused misunderstandings," Imamura told a news conference. "It's all right to consider that I have withdrawn the remarks." http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017040701100

April 6, 2017

  • The Fukushima “ice wall” is doing its job, and the Japanese Press ignores it! Tepco’s April 3rd posting reveals the amount of groundwater pumped into the basements from the drainage system dropped below 100 tons per day back in October. It remained a steady until December 3rd when the Nuclear Regulation Authority allowed Tepco to freeze the six remaining openings in the ice wall designed to curtail the in-seepage. The rate of influx has dropped steadily since then. The March 30th data point for the in-flow is somewhere between 10 and 20 tons per day. All of Japan’s popular Press outlets have neglected to report this fact. When a massive change in the in-flow peaked in September, the Japanese and international Press broadcasted widely that the ice wall had failed. Aside - In an ideal world, they would admit they were wrong. But, there’s been no interest in good news about Fukushima since 3/11/11. Why should that penchant change now? – End aside. https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_170403_01-e.pdf

  • The long-awaited lifting of many Fukushima evacuation orders began Friday. The order was rescinded for Kawamata Town, Namie Town, and Iitate Village on Friday, and Tomioka on Saturday. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said areas subject to the evacuation order have dropped 70% since 2011; from 1,150 to 370 square kilometers. At the same time, the number of people subject to on-going evacuation orders has decreased from 81,000 to 24,000. Tokyo says it will work to restore infrastructure and encourage job-creation by attracting companies to the re-opened areas. Previous lifting of evacuation orders have witnessed low repopulation percentages. It seems the trend could continue. Only 33% of Iitate evacuees say they want to go home, 13% for Namie and 44% for Kawamata.  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170331_04/ -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003611327 -- http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/fukushima-prefecture-evacuation-orders-partially-lifted-expectations-for-a-speedier-improvement-of-conditions-for-residents-to-return-home/

  • A Tokyo Minister is chided for saying voluntary evacuees should take responsibility for their 2011 decision to flee. Tokyo’s Democratic Party of Japan regime gave them stipends to pay for their housing since 2011, but that ended over the weekend. Reconstruction Minister Masahiro Imamura says that the central government is no longer obligated to finance voluntaries, “They are responsible for their lives. They can file a lawsuit or do other things [if they disagree with the central government’s position].” He added that the government has done all that it could to help voluntary evacuees, but the time has come to stop relying on government handouts. The Press responded with outrage. One reporter accused the government of shirking its responsibility. The minister responded, “We are taking responsibility. Stop being rude!” Then another reporter bellowed, “You’re the one who’s causing problems for the evacuees.” Imamura became angry and told the reporter to “Shut up!” The minister later apologized for being emotional, but said voluntaries fending for themselves is an “objective statement”. As if on cue, Tokyo’s minority antinuclear lawmakers were sharply critical of Imamura’s banter with the reporters, and some called for the minister’s resignation. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga defended Imamura, saying he would continue to carry out his duties as reconstruction minister. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704050057.html --
    http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170406/p2g/00m/0dm/066000c  -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170405_35/

  • The extensive FMU child thyroid screening program is alleged to be defective by a doctor employed by the 3.11 Fund for Children With Thyroid Cancer.  Dr. Hisako Sakiyama says a child discovered to have the disease was missed by the Fukushima Medical University team, and claims that this “major problem” shows that the FMU thyroid screening program is flawed. The 10 year-old boy had thyroid surgery at FMU last year, but it did not show up in the latest thyroid screening data because the diagnosis and surgery was not made by the research group. Regardless, the objecting doctor says the oversight is intentional and proves proves there is a connection between the nuke accident and child thyroid cancers, "It is very puzzling how they would not want to come forward with the case. There is no reason to outright deny the link" of the thyroid cancer cases and Fukushima radiation. Japan’s Press says this contradicts the government’s position that no child below age five at the time of the accident contracted thyroid cancer from the releases, thus bringing the thoroughness and transparency of the screenings into question. FMU says it stands by its program, and will not comment on individual cases due to privacy concerns. FMU spokesman Seisho Tanaka said those who had tested negative might develop cancer after the initial screening and seek medical treatment outside the established process. FMU has screened roughly 385,000 Fukushima Children. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2017/03/466482.html -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703310047.html

  • There will be no appeal of the latest court decision allowing Takahama restarts. Last month, the injunction prohibiting the safe operation of Takahama units #3&4 was overturned by the Osaka High Court. The only recourse left to the plaintiffs and their lawyers is appealing to Japan’s Supreme Court. However, they say they will not pursue that path because they feel their case would probably be rejected again and it could sway the courts hearing the remaining antinuclear filings in Japan. The plaintiff’s lawyers say the plaintiffs will be supporting a separate case that is pending. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/04/national/plaintiffs-drop-bid-block-fukui-reactor-restarts-high-court-nixes-landmark-injunction/#.WOOQPtK7odV

  • More than 20% of a new Soma-Fukushima City expressway opens. The free road will be nearly 46 kilometers long when completed. The now-open section is 10.5 km long and will be named “Abukuma-Higashi (east) Road”. At an opening ceremony, Minister Keiichi Ishii said the government will seek to complete the entire freeway by March 2021. There are four more sections that remain to be finished. The expressway will connect the capital city to the Tohoku coast at Soma City, on the Miyagi border just north of Minamisoma City. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=807

  • Groups of Fukushima Prefecture natives living in Europe try to dispel radiation rumors. They will hold a “summit” on June 3rd in Amsterdam. The groups will attempt to create a joint effort to deflect false rumors about their home prefecture. They hope to improve sales of Fukushima food products. Current plans include the introduction of the Kitakata and Shirakawa ramen brands at events in Europe ahead of the Olympic baseball and softball competitions. Promotion of sake is also planned, capitalizing on Fukushima's honor as the region with the largest number of new brands awarded the Gold Prize among Japan's 47 prefectures in the Annual Japan Sake Awards. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=805

March 30, 2017

  • The injunction against Takahama restarts is reversed. On Monday, the Osaka High Court reversed last year’s Otsu lower court’s estoppel order relative to the operation of Takahama units #3 & #4. Presiding Judge Ikuo Yamashita stated, “It cannot be said that there was a convincing explanation that the nuclear reactors are unsafe.” The court explained that post-Fukushima safety measures were "not unreasonable" because they were based on the "latest scientific and technical knowledge" reflecting the Fukushima accident. Kansai Electric says they will restart Takahama operations as soon as possible, but the company is not yet able to make a prediction as to the date. The high court's decision completely dismissed the Otsu District Court's provisional injunction, and fully upheld the new regulatory standards. The Otsu court said that Tokyo and Kansai Electric both felt that they could overlook risk, no matter how small and found it unacceptable. In fact, anything other than zero risk was intolerable. But, the high court found that logic to be, in itself, unacceptable, and challenged the plaintiffs to prove flaws in the new regulations that compromised realistic safety. Judge Yamashita asserted, "It's inappropriate to demand the absolute safety of atomic power stations” when it is permitted for all other forms of technology. He added that the factors related to the occurrence and development of the Fukushima accident have been make clear, thus there is no basis for the argument that the cause of the accident has not been clarified. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170328_24/ --  http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003606006 -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170328/p2g/00m/0dm/063000c -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170329/p2a/00m/0na/015000c

  • The losing plaintiffs in the (above) Takahama decision are “furious”. Yoshinori Tsuji says that the high court merely “rubber stamped” Tokyo’s policy of restarting reactors, "The decision was unjust as the high court took [only] the policies of the central government and the utility into consideration. The high court took a decidedly different stance from the district court with regard to listening to the people's voices. Shame on them." Lawyer Kenichi Ido added that the 400 page ruling merely copied the opinions of Kansai Electric and Tokyo, while ignoring the concerns of local residents. It is expected that the plaintiffs who made the original filing in a Shiga Prefecture court will appeal to Japan’s Supreme Court.  http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170329/p2a/00m/0na/013000c

  • A Hiroshima court refuses to issue an injunction against operation of Ikata unit #3. The court says the anti-seismic design criteria is appropriate, that Shikoku Electric Co. used reliable data in its quake calculations, and that there is nothing irrational about the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety standards. Presiding Judge Shigeyuki Yoshioka called Shikoku Electric’s geological survey “meticulous”, and there is nothing unreasonable about the NRA’s approval for restart. Thus, the rights of the four plaintiffs were not likely to be violated. The plaintiffs live in Hiroshima and Matsuyama Cities, which are more than 100 km and 50 km from Ikata station, respectively. There are at least three more filings against Ikata operations that remain to be adjudicated. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170330_25/ -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703300062.html

  • Tepco posts its final Press release and handout on the unit #1 robotic investigation. The Press handout is more detailed than to ones released during last week’s probe. For example, the opening for the PCV d4rain sump was expected to show evidence of the diffusion of solidified fuel debris, but images captured by the robot’s camera don’t seem to show any corium. However, Tepco stops short of saying no corium is in the sump area. Chief Decommissioning Officer Naohiro Masuda says it will take more time to draw any firm conclusions. A reason for the hesitation is that floating material in the PCV basement water obscures photography, to some degree. Regardless, some conclusions can be drawn with confidence, such as the existence of deposits on some piping and the floor of the PCV that are not disturbed by raising and lowering the detection device. Tepco says the exact nature of the deposited material needs to be ascertained. Also, a complete rundown of radiation levels in the examined locations is included. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2017/1398202_10469.html -- http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_170327_01-e.pdf

  • The Asahi Shimbun says some Nuclear Regulation Authority members are skeptical about the results of last week’s successful unit #1 robotic probe. An unidentified “senior member” of the NRA said, “We should come up with a method that will allow us to investigate in a short period of time and in a more sensible way.” The reason for this statement is the robot probe not showing any corium (solidified melted fuel). It was expected that the images would show at least some corium, especially with the unexpected clarity of the water in the bottom of the Primary Containment (PCV). The Asahi article repeatedly implied that the robotic venture was as much a failure as the robot incursions in unit #2, earlier this year. But, does the clear lack corium mean the unit #1 investigation was a failure?  http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703240064.html

  • Tokyo and Tepco appeal last week’s court ruling that they must pay damages to a group of Fukushima evacuees in Gunma. They say that the Maebashi District Court decision is unacceptable. The plaintiffs demand compensation for mental distress over evacuating their homes and loss of livelihoods. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170330_23/

  • The Asahi Shimbun admits that pre-repopulation decontamination will be finished in nine of the eleven Tokyo-mandated evacuation communities by April 1st. It also states that the estimated exposures for “difficult-to-return” zones are “more than 20 millisieverts”, and no longer “more than 50 millisieverts”. Of course, the newspaper infers that the end of decontamination will not end public angst, “Despite the cleanup project, many evacuees will likely remain anxious about radiation exposure when they return because forests and woods except for those close to residential areas have not been decontaminated.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703270039.html

  • Japan Times feeds the fire of radiophobia. Its article titled Radiation brings fear, and kids let it all out, begins with the following scare-mongering statement, “Radiation is a fearful thing. Colorless, odorless, undetectable except by special instruments, it’s one of those evils you can dismiss from your mind altogether, until the special instruments start registering. Then suddenly it’s everywhere, or seems to be — a ubiquitous and ineradicable contaminant.” Later, the Times asserts, “Radiation, unseen, unheard, is the most fearful of stalkers.” The report itself actually focuses on name-calling and bullying experienced by the children of Fukushima evacuees. Some bullies brandish imaginary guns and say “bang, bang”, an off–shoot of a new, popular taunt, “Fukushima kids won’t live past junior high school anyway, so you may as well die now.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/03/25/national/media-national/radiation-brings-fear-kids-let/#.WNfCkdK7odU

  • The Mainichi infers that all former no-go zone evacuations plans to be completed before repopulation occurs. Although there are Tokyo-based plans for both the 5km and 5-30km planning radii, local planning is remiss in five communities. One Katsurao representative says, "…there are only two officials in charge of the matter. We don't have expert knowledge (about nuclear evacuations) and we can't handle it with all the other work we have to do. Neither the state nor the Fukushima Prefectural Government is giving us advice." An Iitate official complains, "It's difficult to make a plan before examining how many residents will come back." Tokyo points out that lifting evacuation orders is allowed if state planning is completed… which it is! http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170327/p2a/00m/0na/012000c

  • A February symposium on radiation exposure was held for returning Iitate evacuees. The impact of fear-mongering by activists inside and outside Japan is obvious and saddening. One resident said, “Experts say radiation doses don't affect us as long as we stay home. But I wonder about the quality of my life if I can neither go to the mountains nor the river.” One doctor proposes that Fukushima residents become the new Hibakusha, the term that designates atomic bomb survivors in Japan, “Offering appropriate health management and medical benefits (for the disaster victims who have been exposed to radiation) is the government’s minimum responsibility just like it issued ‘Hibakusha’ (A-bomb victims) health books in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The government should take measures that help residents who had been burdened with unnecessary risks.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703250003.html

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