Fukushima 111

June 29, 2017

  • Tepco applies to the NRA for permission to finish the Fukushima Daiichi ice wall. Closure of the wall has been throttled down by Tokyo’s Nuclear Regulation Authority due to fears concerning groundwater outside the turbine buildings falling below the level of water inside. Tepco has been forced to freeze the last half-dozen seven-meter-wide sections individually, wait to see what it does to external groundwater levels, and then proceed to the next section if groundwater level is maintained according to plan. One section on the inland side of the 1.5 kilometer ice structure is all that needs to be activated to complete the wall. To date, the sequential closure of Tokyo-mandated gaps has dropped the groundwater influx from 400 tons per day down to about 100 tons per day. No projections are being made as to how much more the in-flow will abate after the last part of the wall is frozen.  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170627_01/
  • The International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID) is developing a way to stop leaks in the PCVs. It is believed that at least some of the on-going build-up of contaminated water in units #1 through #3 is through cracks in equipment connecting the reactor vessels to the Primary Containments. IRID’s research facility in Naraha will test injecting concrete into mock-up equipment to find out if this could slow or stop the rate of leakage out of systems attached to the RPVs. About 800 cubic meters of the concrete will be infused into the facsimile equipment over an eight hour period, then await its solidification to see how well the process might work. If the leaks can be stoppered, it is possible that the PCVs can be filled with water, greatly facilitating removal of nuclear fuel debris. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170624_16/
  • The cover for F. Daiichi unit #3 is delivered to the nuclear station. The giant structure was fabricated elsewhere and floated into the port at F. Daiichi port. It appears that the dome came in two equal sections. Pictures and videos of the barge arriving, a crane lifting the cover from the barge, and the structure being moved ashore, have been released by Tepco. No details as to the size and weight of the dome have been posted, but people in the 45-second video look tiny in comparison. http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2017/201706-e/170627-01e.html
  • All electric utility minority shareowner’s antinuclear proposals are summarily rejected. Eight of the annual meetings began today, and it seems that formal calls to end nuclear energy in Japan were proffered at each. Even though the proposals were made by a tiny minority of the shareholders, the Japanese Press made it seem that they were unjustly snubbed by those in charge of the respective companies. Headlines included the Japan Times with “Shareholders urge utilities to end nuclear power generation, are snubbed by management” and the Asahi Shimbun “Utilities reject shareholders’ calls for nuclear power phase-out”. The Asahi wrote, “The utility dismissed anti-nuclear proposals by major shareholders, including the Osaka and Kyoto city governments.” What was not said was that each so-called “major” shareowner had purchased only enough of the utility stocks to enter the meetings and get their unpopular (with the majority) proposals free publicity from Japan’s most antinuclear Press outlets. This tactic was adopted after the 2011 nuke accident, at the suggestion of antinuclear activists from around the world. Many popular Japanese Press outlets neglected to cover this non-story. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/29/business/shareholders-urge-utilities-end-nuclear-power-generation-snubbed-management/#.WVT4B6MUkdV -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706290042.html
  • Shizuoka’s governor restates he will not approve restart for Hamaoka station. Heita Kawakatsu affirmed his disapproval to the possibility of restart on June 27, two days after he was re-elected for a third term as governor. He did admit, however, there are no signs of Chubu Electric attempting to get Tokyo to approve restart during his new term of four years. The five-BWR-units station has been repeatedly dubbed the most dangerous in Japan because Noto Kan – Japan’s openly antinuclear Prime Minister at the time of the Fukushima accident – asserted that there was an 87% chance of a Richter scale level eight quake caused by the offshore Nanking Trough subduction zone over the next 30 years. He ordered all operating units shut down immediately. (NHK World; 5/6/11) Regardless, the Governor Kawakatsu insists that even if any of the Hamaoka units pass the nation’s new stringent safety regulations, they should not be allowed to operate because they don’t need to be restarted to meet electrical demand. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706290045.html

June 22, 2017

  • Data on F. Daiichi corium locations are based on RPV temperature changes. Tepco reduced cooling water flows by 33% to Reactor Pressure Vessels for units #1, 2, & 3 - from 4.5 tons per hour down to 3 tons per hour – and the resulting temperature changes were used to crudely estimate “fuel debris” (corium) locations. For unit #1, temperatures measured at the bottom of the RPV rose as the coolant flow was reduced. Tepco says this shows that some corium that melted through the bottom head is lodged in the control rod drive mechanisms. With unit #2, the RPV bottom head temperature increased in tandem with the reduction in coolant flow, at a rate greater than with unit #1. Because of this, Tepco assumes that the unit’s corium may be massed in the RPV’s bottom head. For unit #3, the water in the Primary Containment Vessel is at a higher temperature than the RPV’s bottom head. Thus, Tepco assumes most of the corium melted through the bottom head and now lays under the water atop the PCV floor. Tepco also says that the temperature trends tend to confirm the findings of the muon tomography images for units #1 & 2. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/new-data-obtained-on-debris-locations-based-on-temperature-changes-using-reduced-injections-of-water/
  • The interim radioactive waste storage complex opens in Futaba. The Environment Ministry started a “test operation” of the “waste accepting and sorting facility” on June 8th. The facility is intended to be the entry point for all contaminated rural wastes in Fukushima Prefecture. The test period will establish the ability to separate soil from vegetation and other debris. The large bags will be brought in, torn open, and the contents separated. Once the soils are free of other material, it will be segregated into two categories; one for soil less than 8,000 Becquerels per kilogram, and the other for greater than 8,000 Bq/kg. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=838
  • Returning residents say they are afraid at night because so few have repopulated. Only 300 have returned to the Gongendo District of Namie Town. Resident Hidezo Sato says, “It’s like a dream to once again be able to live in my home sweet home,” but he becomes afraid when a car is parked in the dark. He says, “If safety and security aren’t assured, there won’t be more people coming back.” As a result of complaints like this, the town has set up neighborhood watch groups and installed security cameras. Similar measures have been taken in repopulating sections of Minamisoma City, including a free panic button installed to alert the police to a problem. 30% of the 770 repopulated households now have them. As people return, fewer and fewer police are needed to patrol the streets, and this makes residents even more anxious. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=841
  • A submersible robot is unveiled by Toshiba and the International Research Institute for Decommissioning. It is intended for the interior of the Primary Containment Vessel of unit #3, the bottom of which holds several meters of water. The “little sunfish” is equipped with lights, two cameras, and a dosimeter. It is propelled by two rear propellers and remotely controlled by two people. A demonstration of the robot was held for the Press on June 15th. Toshiba’s Tsutomu Takeuchi said, "The major advantage is it can avoid various obstacles" which other robots could not get around successfully. IRID director Hirotsugu Fujiwara said, "I feel we are finally at the starting line of decommissioning." America’s Dale Klein said removal of the corium will be a challenge, perhaps unlike anything ever done before. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/swimming-robot-probe-damage-japan-nuclear-plant-48050128
  • Tiny amounts of contamination were found in the urine of the 5 men contaminated at the JAEA facility in Ibaraki Prefecture two weeks ago. The men were released from the National Institute of Radiological Sciences on Tuesday, June 13th. When their urine samples were found to contain traces of Plutonium-239, they were called back to the Institute on Monday, June 19th and administered “medication to facilitate discharge of radioactive materials from their bodies”. The medication will be administered for five days, after which the medical staff will decide whether or not continued treatment will be necessary. JAEA President Toshio Kodama said, "The agency as a whole had problems in the prediction of risks." Ibaraki Governor Masaru Hashimoto urged a full investigation into the incident because “There has been reputational damage" to JAEA.  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170619_27/ -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/06/ee95c381d7eb-plutonium-found-in-urine-of-5-workers-exposed-to-radiation.html  It should be noted that Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency has made a multiple posting on the incident. In the June 12th report we can find a specific timeline of the incident. https://www.jaea.go.jp/english/news/press/p2017061201/pr01.pdf  In the June 15th report, we find that three of the five worker’s dosimeters registered 2μSv, 3μSv, and 60μSv, which is ~1/800 to 1/20,500 of the 50 mSv annual exposure limit. https://www.jaea.go.jp/english/news/press/p2017061501/pr01.pdf

June 15, 2017

The “alleged” internal contamination incident at Oarai Research Facility continued to get considerable Press coverage through last weekend. Here’s what we found out since Monday…

  • (Friday, 6/9/17) – Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) released a picture of the glass-enclosed “hood” where last Tuesday’s internal contamination incident happened. The image was taken the day after the situation arose. The yellow container inside the hood is 22cm high and 15cm in diameter. The handle on the top of the cylinder was used to open it by the worker who experienced the greatest internal contamination. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170609_27/  The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) issued a stern warning to JAEA in November of 2016 concerning the disheveled storage methods used by the agency at 12 facilities for more than 35 years.  http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170609/p2a/00m/0na/004000c  An anonymous JAEA official said, “There is a possibility that the [plastic bags] became filled with gas and burst.” Nagoya University nuclear chemical engineering professor Yoichi Enokida offers his view on why the plastic bags ruptured, “When plutonium is kept in a polyethylene container for a long time, the container can degrade from radiation to produce a gas composed of carbon, hydrogen and other components.”  http://annx.asianews.network/content/jaea-nuclear-containers-likely-not-checked-26-yrs-47873  However…
  • On Saturday, the incident was reported to be much ado about nothing! The alleged internal radioactivity level(s) reported earlier this week disappeared after the NIRS administered "proper decontamination". The JAEA said it believes the initial readings resulted from superficial decontamination leaving transuranic material detected on the men's skin. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706100022.html
  • On Monday, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the NIRS had run numerous tests on the men. No plutonium contamination of the lungs was detected, which verifies the results reported Saturday. The Institute claims they have run the same methods of measurement used by the JAEA last week. However, NIRS stops short of saying there is no internal Plutonium contamination since three of the men had tiny amounts found in their nasal passages. Some traces may have been ingested, so the Institute is keeping all of the men hospitalized in order to run analyses on their excretory substances. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003755769
  • On Wednesday, the case is closed by the Yomiuri Shimbun. The article focused on what it calls a lax attitude about safety on the part of JAEA. Multiple re-examinations of the five men verified no internal Plutonium contamination, but did find traces of Americium in “some” of them. NIRS says there will be no “significant effect on their health”. Regardless of the facts, the Yomiuri admits that the initial assumption of Plutonium contamination in the men’s lungs “took on a life of its own” resulting in informational turmoil, and the NRA’s statement that it was “a situation that cannot be taken lightly” aroused unnecessary anxiety. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003760721

Here’s some othernews from Japan…

  • The suit against restarts of Genkai units #3 & #4 was rejected. On Tuesday, the Saga District Court passed down the verdict with the following reason - "We do not recognize that the plants are lacking in terms of safety." Presiding Judge Takeshi Tachikawa said Tokyo’s new safety standards are reasonable, regardless of what other courts have alleged. The court found no issues with the reactors' earthquake resistance, steps taken to prevent serious accidents, and does not see any specific dangers of radiation exposure. Saga’s governor Yoshiaki Yamaguchi said he agreed with the judgement, reiterating his approval for the restarts. Plaintiff spokesperson Hatsumi Iahimaru criticized the decision, saying, "The court is supposed to help the weak, but the ruling is based on economics and politics. We will continue to fight until we stop the nuclear plant." He added that the plaintiffs will immediately appeal to the Fukuoka High Court. Plant owner Kyushu Electric Co. says the restarts could happen as early this autumn. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/saga-district-court-allows-two-genkai-reactors-to-resume-operation/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170613/p2g/00m/0dm/039000c -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017061300678
  • The governor of Niigata Prefecture will not judge nuclear restarts for quite a while. The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station, owned by Tepco, is located in the prefecture. Its restart is thought to be essential for Tepco’s ability to garner the ability to repay Tokyo for the multi-billion dollars loaned to the company for decommissioning and evacuee compensations. Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama said he plans to appoint an advisory committee to make yet another investigation of the F. Daiichi nuclear accident and the health impacts of the radiation released during the accident. He said the review will start no later than August. Yoneyama explained, "It is necessary to look at the overall picture of the risks so we are going to conduct a review. I have no intention of launching the (local) consent process while the review is under way." However, he did admit that demanding absolute safety at K-K is not possible, and his decision will be based on a “democratic process.” Yoneyama was elected governor last October based on an anti-Tepco platform. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706090042.html
  • Tohoku’s fisheries have physically recovered to 70% of their pre-earthquake/tsunami levels. The Tohoku region comprises the three Pacific Ocean-bordering prefectures: Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima. A June 2nd white paper posted by Japan Fisheries Agency included the decision. The paper also pointed out that the monetary value of the fish reached 90% of the pre-disaster level. As for Fukushima Prefecture, the only remaining “off-limits” area for the fisheries is a 10km radius from F. Daiichi. In 2016, 2,100 tons of fish were caught off the prefecture, found free of contamination, and marketed. Ina an effort to combat unfounded fears and rumors, the White Paper stressed the need to provide appropriate information overseas, including publicizing the results of inspections and making them available in other languages. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/recent-white-paper-shows-recovery-of-fukushima-fisheries-progressing-smoothly/ (Comment – This good news was ignored by Japan’s popular Press, continuing a dark and deceitful trend. The only posting was by JAIF!)
  • The head of a popular government inquiry into the Fukushima accident shows his naivety. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, former chairman of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, blasted Tokyo’s approval of restarts for two Takahama units. He told the Lower House (~House of Representatives), “What are you going to do if a tsunami comes? How can you go to rescue people if cars cannot move forward on roads?” Aside – Takahama station is located on the Sea of Japan, which has no known subduction zone faults capable of generating a catastrophic tsunami. It seems that Kurokawa is either unaware of this fact, or declines to admit it! – End aside. Kurokawa also demeaned PM Shinzo Abe’s belief that Tokyo’s new nuclear safety standards are the strictest in the world, “I cannot accept such rhetoric.” In addition, he questioned how Nuclear Regulation Authority personnel are selected, suggesting that the new head of the NRA secretariat is a promoter of nuclear energy, compromising his objectivity. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706130017.html

June 8, 2017

On Tuesday, high internal contamination incident occurred at a Japanese research facility, and immediately became the top news topic in Japan. It remains at its lofty perch as this update is being written. The situation happened at Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Oarai Research and Development Center in Ibaraki Prefecture. Reports across Japan have varied considerably. There are many details that need to be filled in by JAEA. At this point in time, we will share what we feel to be the most objective of the numerous news reports… 

  • (postings on Wednesday) Five anti-contamination-suit-clad workers, with half face masks, opened a storage canister containing powdered nuclear fuel material. The plastic bag contained a mixture of Uranium, Plutonium-239, and Americium-241 broke open and dusted the men. One man inhaled a considerable amount, with subsequent tests showing 22,000 Becquerels of Pu-239 and 220 Bq of Am-241 in his lungs. Kyodo News says three other men were found to have a range of internal contamination between 5,600 and 14,000 Bq. Other news outlets reported much lower levels for the three. The fifth worker is “highly likely” to be internally contaminated, but no level has been reported for him. All five men were administered “medicine” designed to remove the contaminants from their systems. The Nuclear regulation Authority estimates that the highly-contaminated man could experience a first year exposure of more than one Sievert to the lungs, and a 50 year exposure of 12 Sieverts. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka earmarked complacency as a possible cause, "Perhaps (the workers) have become too accustomed to plutonium. I urge careful handling. As (a level for) internal radiation exposure it's an amount unheard of." Fellow NRA Commissioner Nobuhiko Ban said, "We shouldn't downplay the situation." University of Tokyo professor Keiichi Nakagawa said that this is the first case in Japan where 22,000 Becquerels of ingested radioactivity has been measured in a human. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170607_16/ -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/06/2f92663c7968-plutonium-found-in-lungs-of-worker-at-nuclear-facility.html -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170607/p2a/00m/0na/018000c -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170607_29/
  • (Postings today – Thursday) The incident occurred when a small canister of material was opened inside a laboratory “hood”. The hood’s glass screen was raised to put the canister in, and left slightly open so that the workers could reach inside to work. The canister contained about 300 grams of powdered material, wrapped in two layers of polyethylene. The material was intended for use in the Joyo experimental fast breeder reactor. A myriad of delays with the Joyo project resulted in 21 canisters of the nuclear material being stored at Oarai. The one opened Tuesday was the first to be inspected. There is no prior record of inspections in any of the canisters. When the container, the workers were engulfed in a cloud of the black dust.  Kazuya Idemitsu, a professor of Energy Materials Science at Kyushu University, speculated on what caused the plastic bagging to rupture, "Over time, the atomic nuclei of uranium, plutonium and other such substances break down, releasing helium nuclei (alpha rays). When stored over a long time, helium gas would build up, and it's possible that the pressure inside the container rose, resulting in the rupture." It seems the workers were following the procedure for the inspection required by JAEA. JAEA is being criticized for not anticipating such an incident ever happening. The internal contamination would probably have been averted if the workers had been wearing full face masks, rather than half-masks, or if they had opened the canister inside a sealed laboratory “glove box”. JAEA additionally estimates that the total activity within the worker’s entire body could be as much as 360,000 Becquerels. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170608_32/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170608/p2a/00m/0na/018000c -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706080045.html -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/06/6fe470dc2c22-plutonium-container-in-radiation-accident-kept-sealed-for-decades.html -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003748472

Now, for some other news posted over the past week…

  • Takahama unit #3 was restarted on Tuesday. There are now five nuclear generating units operating in Japan. The precision sequence of slowly raising control rods to allow fissioning began at 2pm. Initial criticality was reached yesterday (Wednesday) and the first trickle of electricity will be produced Tomorrow (Friday). By the end of the summer, Kansai Electric Company should have a consumer rate reduction because of both units each producing 870 MWe of electricity. Once again, Japan’s Press fixates on the few MOX (mixed oxide) fuel bundles in the core that include reactor-grade Plutonium. Of the 157 fuel assemblies, only 24 use MOX fuel. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170606_23/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170606/p2g/00m/0dm/017000c
  • US Energy Secretary Perry visits Fukushima Daiichi. Perry was quoted as saying, "We offer continued support, expertise, companies that have history of dealing with cleanups and technology available as well as the department of energy. I want to bring the strong support of the current administration to Japan and any assistance that we can, as we go forward in the cleanup and the decommissioning of [Fukushima’s] facilities." Tepco posted several pictures taken during the visit. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170605/p2g/00m/0bu/038000c -- http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2017/201706-e/170605-01e.html
  • Fukushima products will be promoted in Europe prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Groups of Fukushima residents in Germany, France, England, and The Netherlands will jointly make proposals to the Fukushima prefectural government about accommodating Europe visitors. Takeshi Ishikawa, chairman of the Netherlands-based group, said, "We want to dispel groundless rumors [about contamination] through active provision of information," in support of Fukushima's hosting of Olympic baseball and softball games. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017060500381
  • Nearly 20% of Japan’s consumers continue to shun Fukushima food products. A 2016 survey run by the Fukushima Prefectural Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives shows that 18.7% “will not buy depending on products” and 9.5% say they are as anxious about the accident now as when it happened in 2011. The Union speculates on the reason for the on-going negativity, saying that “efforts to test radioactive substances in food have not yet been understood sufficiently.” The group calls on Tokyo and the local Fukushima governments to transmit information that is easier to understand. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=832
  • Jiji Press says there are seven more cases of child thyroid cancer in Fukushima Prefecture. This brings the total of pre-cancerous thyroid anomalies (tiny nodes and/or cysts) to 152, out of more than a third of a million individuals tested. To date, all but one were found to be indolent (not malignant) Head of the prefectural research panel Dr. Hokuto Hoshi said it is “unlikely” that these new discoveries were caused by the nuke accident. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/06/national/seven-fukushima-residents-diagnosed-thyroid-cancer/#.WTa20aOwcdV (copied from a Jiji Press release)
  • Tepco has agreed to compensate Namie Town for losses in land valuation. The municipality will be awarded $22 million. Namie had asked for over $100 million. It will continue negotiating with Tepco over the remainder. The Fukushima government says Futaba has filed a similar request and that other evacuated communities might do the same thing. This compensation is in addition to the extremely generous amounts being paid monthly to evacuated individuals and businesses. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170606_03/ 
  • A Fukushima researcher says there is a widespread feeling of happiness in the prefecture. Dr. Sae Ochi writes that she is confronted with various responses because she is a Fukushima resident from Soma City. Most are reluctant to bring up radiation topics, even though she knows it is what immediately comes to people’s minds. Reports about people in Fukushima generally focus on those who are unhappy, and the first few years after the quake/tsunami disaster and nuclear accident, it was quite true. However, Dr. Ochi says that now there are actually many happy people in the prefecture that “qualitatively differs from just “living bravely.” While many reports focus on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in Fukushima residents, there is a converse result that is also the case…PTG (Post Traumatic Growth). PTG is a positive change after recovering from a disaster. She feels that this does not get reported because there is a “poverty of happiness” by those who are conveying what is happening; they look for the negative and disregard things that are positive. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/scientists-feeling-of-happiness-relative-to-peoples-image-of-fukushima/


June 1, 2017

  • Tepco posts its plans for the unit #3 PCV (Primary Containment) underwater investigation. A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) will be used to look inside and outside the massive pedestal that supports the reactor pressure vessel (RPV). The handout contains excellent graphics of the Reactor Building, PCV, Pedestal area, and the path that the ROV is planned to take. There are also pictures of the ROV. We posted the graphic representation of the ROV last week. JAIF reports that the investigation could happen at some point this summer (see next entry). http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_170525_01-e.pdf

  • NHK World speculates that “sand” found on the floor of unit #1 PCV might be corium particles. Analysis of the material found in March contained Uranium, which is the basis of the corium conjecture. The sand also contains PCV-sourced materials Nickel, Zinc, stainless steel, and Lead, but not the RPV. Tepco states that Uranium is a naturally occurring element found in many of the structural materials. Samples of the sand-like sediment will be studied by “outside researchers” to establish whether or not it is actually corium. Corium is the term used to identify the formerly molten mixture of reactor fuel, control rods, and structural metals. Despite misleading reports posted in Japan and internationally, the corium is no longer molten and has been solidified since the third week of March, 2011. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170526_02/ -- http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/submersible-crawling-robot-to-examine-interior-of-fukushima-daiichi-3-pcv-before-fuel-debris-is-removed/

  • The number of refugees from the 2011 natural disaster is now less than 100,000, when combined with the 24,000 remaining Tokyo mandated Fukushima evacuees. Japan Today reports that the peak total of refugees was “around 470,000”, but is now about 96,000 living in temporary housing or homes of relatives or acquaintances. https://japantoday.com/category/national/number-of-2011-quake-nuclear-evacuees-dips-below-100-000?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2017-05-31_PM

  • 70% of Fukushima’s planned public houses for 2011 disaster victims is completed. 3,400 houses have been built to replace those wrecked by the quake or swept away by the tsunami, albeit on higher ground than the ones destroyed. Nearly 1,500 remain to be completed. The latest number of completions is an increase of more than 1,400 over last year. It is expected that all will be finished by next March. There are now 319 units that have been completed at locations where Tokyo-mandated evacuation orders have been lifted. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=830

  • The mayor of a nuclear host community says dry cask storage for spent fuel should be considered. Takahama Mayor Yutaka Nose is anticipating the possibility that all spent fuel pools at Takahama station could become filled before their operating licenses expire. The problem is that no Japanese community will agree to host a deep geological repository for the high level remains of used fuel after it is recycled. Nose says, “There is no guarantee that a municipality would agree to host the facility.” He adds that it is likely that a temporary centralized storage facility would also be rejected, thus, “it'll be too late if we start thinking about (what to do with spent fuel) after (spent fuel pools) become full. We need to have a backup plan in case (the temporary storage project) goes nowhere." http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170528/p2g/00m/0dm/052000c 

  • Tokyo begins a series of town hall meetings to appease fears of spent fuel storage. All previous attempts to run preliminary testing at geologically-appropriate sites for a high-level nuclear waste repository have meet with stiff, dedicated opposition, locally and regionally. Though preliminary testing does not include any nuclear materials, each attempt has been blocked by local officials, and in one extreme case a human chain preventing scientists to enter a possible site. So, the government decided to draw up a map of scientifically appropriate candidate sites and inform the locals before trying to run the preliminary tests. The first such town meeting by The Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NUMO) was in Toyama. NUMO spokesperson Iwao Miyamoto explains the timetable of the multi-stage program that would be used to screen the target sites. He suggested the entire project to approve a location could take as long as seventeen years. He also mentioned that local financial and infrastructure benefits would accompany the project, similar to those now the case with nuclear energy stations. However, antinuclear groups in Japan are already preparing to keep the NIMBY fears of the public as keen as they are now. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/28/national/nuclear-storage-crisis-grows-reactor-restarts-continue/#.WSrz36OwcdW

May 25, 2017

  • 80% of Hirono Town’s population has returned home. The entire town was told to evacuate on March 13, 2011. That order was lifted in September, 2011, because most of the town was not inside the Tokyo-mandated no-go zone. But, the return of residents has been at a snail’s pace since. In February of this year, only about 2,900 of the evacuated 4,932 had come back. With the termination of the government’s free housing stipend for from towns where evacuation orders have been lifted, more than a thousand additional residents decided to return. Town’s current official population is 3,900, of which nearly 440 are age 18 or younger. More than 800 of the remaining evacuees remain residents of Fukushima Prefecture, mostly living in nearby Iwate City.  http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/hirono-town-back-to-79-1-percent-of-its-original-population/

  • None of the fish and shellfish outside the F. Daiichi break-wall contain Fukushima contamination. In April, 123 fish and crab were caught outside the break-wall, and within a 20 kilometer radius. None had detectible Cesium-134 in them. Cs-134 is the so-called “fingerprint isotope” for determining F. Daiichi contamination. This is the first contamination-free survey from outside the post we have seen since April, 2011. The data was posted May 19th, but none of the popular Press outlets inside and outside Japan covered it.  https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2017/images/fish02_170519-e.pdf

  • Another re-opened town restarts rice farming. This time, it is Tomioka Town which had its evacuation order lifted April 1st. One farm will raise and harvest a “test” crop to see if contamination of the rice will occur. The surface of the farm’s rice paddies has been removed and replaced with sand. Chemicals have been introduced to improve the underlying soil quality. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170523_36/ 

  • Takahama unit #4 has begun transmitting electricity. Owner/operator Kansai Electric Co. says the unit should be at full power today (Thursday). Unfortunately, reports in the Japanese Press contain two misleading statements. One comes from NHK World. It says criticality occurred “after workers began removing control rods from the reactor core…” No control rods are ever “removed” from a core to achieve criticality. In the case of Takahama, the control rods are sequentially raised from their fully-inserted positions, allowing fissioning in the uncovered portions of fuel bundles. Another example comes from Jiji Press. It correctly states that Unit #4 is using MOX fuel, which contains recycled Plutonium. However, Jiji makes it seem that the entire core is comprised of MOX fuel. Only four of the unit’s 157 fuel bundles are MOX.   https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170522_17/ -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017052200849 -- http:// www.jaif.or.jp/en/takahama-4-npp-is-restarted/

  • Two more nuke plants pass NRA restart qualifications. Ohi units #3 & #4 passed the new safety regulations in February. The subsequent public comment period ended with only a few minor changes in the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s draft assessment. The NRA says both plants must get regulatory approval for construction of new equipment designs, and also gain local and prefectural approval before restarts can begin. Despite a Fukui District ruling that remains in place, local approvals can be gained before the appeal on the ruling is rendered. However, it seems that a restart this coming fall is unlikely. There are now 12 units at six nuclear stations that have passed Japan’s new safety standards for restart. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170524_19/ -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003718521 -- http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/ohi-3-4-npps-clear-safety-examinations-toward-restarts-this-autumn/

  • The season’s first catch of Skipjack Tuna is landed in Iwate City. The city port of Onahama was severely damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011, but has been rebuilt. Four tons of the delicacy was caught when fishing opened on May 13th. This was nearly three weeks earlier than what is considered typical. A fisherman said, “Bonito are moving north earlier than usual.” All of the bonito were scanned and found free of contamination. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=826

  • Tepco posted graphic images of a new remotely-operated underwater vehicle. It will be used to investigate the interior of the unit #3 Primary Containment. http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2017/201705-e/170522-01e.html

  • Three former Tepco executives go on trial for corporate negligence on June 30th. Former TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata plus former vice presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto were indicted for not taking precautions that could have averted the nuke accident. Public prosecutors found there was not enough evidence to press charges in 2013. However, court-appointed lawyers rendered the indictment last February at the behest of a prosecution inquest comprised of randomly-selected citizens. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170524_28/

  • America’s Nuclear Resource Defense Council posts another scare-story to heighten radiophobia in Japan. The scenario is based the wild speculation of an apocalyptic spent (used) fuel storage pool accident at Kori unit #3 in South Korea. According the NRDC, massive concentrations of Cesium-137 would be released into the atmosphere and carried across the Sea of Japan, “tainting” 67,000 km2 of southern Japan. Allegedly it would force Tokyo to mandate evacuation of more than 28 million Japanese. On the other hand, 54,000 km2 of South Korea would be contaminated, also forcing evacuation. The NRDC admits their posting depends on a myriad of assumptions, including precise meteorological conditions. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/21/national/science-health/nuclear-accident-south-korean-plant-leave-western-japan-massively-contaminated-study/#.WSGcKaOwcdV

May 18, 2017

  • The people of Naraha are returning home. Most of Japan’s news media has totally ignored the 65% increase in population since October. The town government released the latest population figures on May 11, which showed that 1,616 people now live in the community. Last October, it was reported that only 976 residents had returned following the lifting of the Tokyo-mandated evacuation order in September, 2015. More than 100 returned in April, which has been typical over the past seven months. The age demographic in the town is also very interesting. 38% are age 65 or older. Meanwhile, nearly 10% are under 20 years old, and 16% are in the 20-30 demographic. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/increase-in-young-persons-and-those-raising-children-among-returnees-to-naraha-town/

  • Takahama unit #4 is restarted. Control rod withdrawal began at 5pm on Wednesday and reached criticality (self-sustaining chain reaction) this morning. Initial power generation is anticipated for Monday, with full commercial operation by mid-June. Although only four of the core’s 157 fuel bundles are recycled (MOX) fuel, most news outlets made it seem as if comprises the entire core. The Press focus on it because the MOX fuel bundles contain reactor-grade Plutonium. There are now four restarted nukes running in Japan. At least four more units are planned to restart at Genkai and Oi stations by the end of the year. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/takahama-4-npp-is-restarted/ -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017051800467 -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170517_28/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170517/p2g/00m/0dm/070000c -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/05/a8459de923bd-kansai-electric-restarts-nuclear-reactor-at-takahama-plant.html  There were a few local protestors present at the Takahama station. The group included many who don’t live in Fukui, the home prefecture. The actual number reported varied from two-dozen to 70. From posted pictures, it seems that two-dozen was the more-likely number. Regardless, the small group received wide Press coverage. A petition was given to a plant official demanding the unit restart be halted and all four Takahama nukes be dismantled because the protestors are afraid of an accident caused by a huge earthquake near the station. Shiga governor Taizo Mikazuki released a written statement opposing the restart, which stated, "Local residents hold profound anxiety about nuclear plants. The government should change the current energy policy that relies on nuclear plants at the earliest possible time.” https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170517_29/ -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/17/national/kepco-restarts-takahama-no-4-reactor-amid-anti-nuclear-protest/#.WRxLgqOwcdU  -- https://japantoday.com/category/national/japan-restarts-another-reactor?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2017-05-18_PM

  • North Pacific fish sold in Hawaii are virtually free of Fukushima contamination. A scientific report by two University of Hawaii researchers tested 13 different fish species in 2015 for radiocesium and Potassium-40. Three of the 13 had barely-detectible Cs-134; the marker isotope for Fukushima radioactivity. The rest were free of Fukushima contamination. The highest concentration of Cs-134 was o.1 Becquerels per kilogram and 0.62 Bq/kg of Cs-137 in ‘ahi tuna. These levels were more than 30 times less than naturally-occurring K-40. The U of H paper essentially confirms the results of fish tested by Fukushima InFORM, out of the University of Victoria, Canada. https://fukushimainform.ca/2017/05/16/measuring-fukushima-contamination-in-fish-caught-in-hawaii/comment-page-1/#comment-2979

  • A Japanese radiation expert from Nagasaki says fear, not radiation, is a killer. Shunichi Yamashita (M.D., PhD.) is radiation health management adviser for Fukushima Prefecture and vice-president of Nagasaki University, Japan. He was born in Nagasaki seven years after the August, 1945 bombing, and has studied the biological effects of radiation most of his adult life. He says, “Fukushima wasn’t just a nuclear disaster. It was also an information disaster… I recognize people’s fears about radiation. It is human nature. You can’t smell or see or touch it – it is like a ghost. Radiophobia has become a big public health problem. And it is made worse because, especially here in Japan, people have lost trust in experts. I am one of those experts.” He laments that much of his advice offered to residents of Fukushima Prefecture was posted out of context by unscrupulous online sources. He is further upset by reports of a Fukushima child-thyroid disease epidemic, even though the rate of thyroid anomalies has been no different than anywhere else in Japan. Dr. Yamashita states, “There hasn’t been an epidemic of cancer, but there has been an epidemic of fear.” https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23431250-600-fear-is-the-killer-nuclear-expert-reveals-radiations-real-danger/

  • A student radio personality broadcasts problems with marketing Fukushima products. Two years ago, 18 year-old Misaki Ageisha was promoting Fukushima peaches in Yokohama. A woman said a sample tasted some, liked it, and wanted to know where it came from. Misaki said it was Fukushima and the woman spit out what was in her mouth. That and other experiences she had during the Miss Peach tour encouraged her to pursue a career as a radio personality in order to “squarely face” the difficulties her prefecture faced. She finds that un-called-for repugnance of Fukushima products still exists, two years later. During a March Fukushima produce exhibition in Tokyo, a man told her, “Do not bring your ‘nuclear souvenirs’ in here.” Misaki offered that he must be joking, but even as a joke his statement was repugnant. That was the last straw, so to speak. She began her radio career in April. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705130001.html

  • Rice growing acreage in the old “no-go” zone will increase by10% this year. 4,130 hectares (more than 10,000 acres) are expected to be planted in seven villages and towns. This is still only about 40% of the acreage before 2011 because many farmers are skittish about whether or not their rice will do well in the marketplace. The municipalities affected include Minamisoma, Kawamata, Naraha, Tomioka, Katsurao, and Iitate. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=822

  • Logging will resume in Hirono and Kawauchi. Japan’s Forestry Agency says radiation levels in the locations designated for cutting have declined enough to allow logging to restart. At some point before April 2018, the agency plans to cut and ship timber from national forests in the two communities. Contracts for the work have yet to be awarded, but one local company has expressed an interest. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017051500898

  • The forest fire in Namie was extinguished on May 10th. However, very little Press coverage marked the end of the fire, but the perfunctory investigation into whether or not radioactivity has been dispersed has received wide dissemination. Nothing of any sort has been found. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170517_19/

  • Tokyo finally assumes some financial responsibility for rural decontamination. The Diet (congress) of Japan enacted a bill designed to accelerate recovery of the remaining “difficult to return” zone, where the government continues to disallow repopulation. The law aimed at the full recovery of Fukushima Prefecture will be revised to allow use of state funds in decontaminating designated districts within the zone. Up until now, Tokyo intended to make Tepco eventually pay for all rural decontamination costs, but now feels the five year timetable for lifting all remaining evacuation orders might not be possible with Tepco shouldering the entire financial load. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017051200479 -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003694412

  • Emergency housing units in Fukushima are razed as people no longer need them. About a third of the 16,800 units fabricated by the prefecture will be gone by the end of March, 2018. The number occupied peaked at nearly 14,600 in April, 2013, accommodating 31,500 people. However, as of march, 2017, only 5,542 units were occupied, housing just over 10,000 persons. Thus, the prefecture believes that many of the temporary units can be torn down. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=823

  • Most mayors of towns within the Hamaoka station want to be part of the restart decision. It is customary in Japan to get the approval of the home community and prefectural governor prior to restarting a nuke. With the post-nuke accident creation of the 30-kilometer UPZ (Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone) around nukes, the officials of many included communities feel they should say whether or not a plant should be reactivated. Seven of the eleven Shizuoka Prefecture’s UPZ community heads feel their approval should determine restarts, not just the home mayor and governor. Five mayors said agreement from all 11 municipalities in the UPZ was necessary, one favored approval of four municipalities within 10 kilometers of the plant, and one wanted agreement from all municipalities in Shizuoka Prefecture. The four other mayors say the decision should rest with the Tokyo government. None came out as being in full support of restarting either unit #3 or unit #4, probably because they are Boiling Water Reactor systems, as were all four damaged units at F. Daiichi. Shizuoka governor Kawakatsu believes future Hamaoka restarts should be determined by a referendum and supports the dissenting mayor’s opinions. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170513/p2a/00m/0na/013000c


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