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Fukushima 114

November 16, 2017

  • Three decades of studies show life may depend on low level radiation (LLR) exposure. In 1987, researchers in France discovered that when microbes are shielded from background radiation, their growth is stunted. This suggests the notion of there being no safe level of exposure is false, and that LLR is beneficial to life. Two places this discovery has been tested are under a mountain in Italy and at France’s Laboratoire Souterrain de Modane. In Italy, scientist Massimo Pinto found that when cells are kept at low radiation levels for a period of months, they can no longer survive when returned to natural background. While in typical background radiation fields, cells keep their natural repair mechanisms “switched on”. The problem is finding other places where background radiation is extremely low. One such location is located in a New Mexico salt mine. New Mexico State’s Hugo Castillo heads up the research team. They report that exposure to radiation levels as much as 80 times below background causes biological stress in microbe D. radiodurans, and grows slower than its control group exposed to New Mexico’s natural background. Another microbe, Shewanella oneidensis, initially has a population drop when underexposed, but after a short while the numbers return to the control growth rate. Castillo surmises about the two microbe’s differing responses, “…it appears the cells can turn some genes on and off to compensate for this lack of radiation.” What is the location of the American study? It is inside the Waste Isolation Pilot Project.
  • The unit #3 fuel handling machine (FHM) and crane arrive at F. Daiichi. The FHM and fuel handling crane were lifted onto the unit #3 refueling deck on Nov. 12. The two devices will be used to prepare fuel bundles for transfer to the ground-level spent fuel storage facility. Once a container is filled with fuel bundles, it will be tightly sealed before being lifted onto a transport vehicle by another crane. There are 566 fuel bundles in the spent fuel pool, 36 meters above ground level. It is expected that the removal process will begin in mid-to-late 2018. --  A picture of the FHM atop the unit #3 refueling deck, and the crane being lifted to its right, can be found here…
  • The governor of Fukushima Prefecture inspects the new Fuel Handling Machine at F. Daiichi – pictorial…
  • Tokyo designates a “rebuilding hub” in Okuma Town, which is co-host to F. Daiichi with Futaba. Futaba was designated with its rebuilding hub in September. A 680 hectare area of Okuma accounts for 18% of the town’s “difficult to return” zone, and will be home to town government, residences, and shopping center, for an estimated 2,600 people. The area is currently vacant. Now, Tokyo can begin decontamination, water maintenance and infrastructure recovery using public funds. The hub’s evacuation order is scheduled to be lifted in the spring of 2022.
  • Tomioka’s traditional fall fair resumes for the first time since 2010. The two-day event, called Ebisukp-ichi, is a traditional way to pray for bumper crops and prosperous businesses. This year, fireworks were also held in memory of those who died in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 3/11/11. Local officials decided to hold the fair after the evacuation order for the community was lifted last spring. The fair dates back more than a century.
  • The European Union relaxes restrictions on Japanese food imports. The EU has required a radiation safety certificate for foods from 13 prefectures to insure that the products meet European safety standards. The phase-out of restrictions for 10 prefectures will begin December 1st. Foods losing the import restrictions include rice from Fukushima Prefecture, yellowtail fish, red sea bream, some mushrooms, and mountain vegetables. By relaxing restrictions on Fukushima rice means all prefectures can ship their rice without constraints. Some restrictions will remain in-place for specific agricultural and seafood products.
  • A “so what” article about Kobe steel in nuke plants. Kobe Steel Ltd. has been charged with fabricating quality data on some of its products, mostly on specific welding rods. There are nine Japanese nuclear units that have used Kobe Steel products, but none of the welding rods involved with the data fabrication charges. The Nuclear Regulation Authority was informed of this fact on Wednesday, November 15. Regardless, Japan’s news media makes hay from it with a misleading headline posted by Jiji Press.  
  • Tokyo allegedly bribes students to attend nuclear waste disposal site events. The government has been holding meetings to provide a public understanding of hosting a repository for high level nuclear waste. The events started after the government published a map of potential disposal sites that are geologically-appropriate. However, poor attendance, especially by college-age students, has influenced Tokyo to provide an incentive to reverse the trend. It was not supposed to offer money as an enticement. One organizer said, “We weren't supposed to solicit participants by paying money, but the idea was not thoroughly shared inside the (organizing) company." One company, Oceanize Inc, promised 12 students 10,000 yen each for their participation in the city of Saitama, on Nov. 6th. Japan’s Press sees this as evidence of government bribes.'t-events-on-nuclear-waste

November 9, 2017

  • UNSCEAR reiterates that there have been no detectible negative Fukushima health effects. On October 27, Secretary Malcolm Crick of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) visited Japanese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Manabu Horii to deliver the group’s 2017 white paper on the health risks stemming from the nuke accident at F. Daiichi. Presentations were made two days later in Iwaki City, but none of the Japanese popular news outlets had the decency to report on any of this. Only Japan Atomic Industrial Forum has posted, 13 days after the fact. Thus, the vast majority of Japan’s population, including those in Fukushima Prefecture, have no idea concerning the findings. The two most important findings are: (1) the most serious and noticeable effects of the March, 2011 accident are with mental health and social well-being, and (2) and a 2016 paper claiming a 50-factor increase in thyroid cancer with Fukushima children is seriously flawed, citing excessive bias in its planning and methodology, and insufficient consideration of the use of highly-sensitive ultrasonic inspection devices.
  • In the same report (above), on 10/23/17 Hajime Suzuki, clinic director at the International University of Health and Welfare, reported that the average thyroid equivalent dose from external and internal radiation exposure for one-year-old infants in the prefecture had been reevaluated and found to be less than 40mSv in all areas. This essentially verifies the projected exposures to infants found in the UNSCEAR report of 2013. Once again, Japan’s popular Press dropped the ball and kept the country’s population uninformed.
  • The fuel handling machine (FHM) for unit #3 used fuel removal is being shipped to F. Daiichi. Five of the eight sections of the roof over the refueling deck have been installed. But, the last three cannot be placed until the FHM is mounted on the deck. The FHM will remove the fuel bundles from the unit #3 Spent Fuel Pool. Each removed bundle will be lifted by the crane and inserted into a transfer vessel. Once filled, the transfer vessel will be moved to the ground-level storage facility. Unlike the fuel removal from unit #4 SFP, this operation will be performed entirely by remote control from the Main Anti-Earthquake Building. The machine is being shipped by sea and is expected to arrive at F. Daiichi in time for a mid-November installation of the device.
  • Attendance at Iitate schools nearly doubles. After last year’s lifting of the municipality’s Tokyo-mandated living restrictions, only 52 children attended the local schools. This year, there will be 90; an increase of over 70%. This good news was revealed by the Board of Education. Twenty-four of the students are from families that were previously undecided, and sixteen were from families who said they were not going to let their children be schooled in Iitate. Mayor Norio Kanno said, "We are happy to hear children say they would like to graduate from the school in Iitate. We will seek to deepen bonds with villagers and establish a sort of school that will be the core of reconstruction of our village." One of the reasons for the unexpected up-swell is making uniform costs and study material expenses free, for children ranging from babies to junior high.
  • Blanket radioactive contamination scanning of Fukushima rice is questioned. Since 2011, every bag of rice produced in the prefecture has been tested for its radioactivity. It has been years since a bag has failed to meet Japan’s tough standards. Many of the prefecture’s producers want the requirements pared back because the checks are costly. Others say they want the current checking of each and every bag of rice because a number of consumers continue to avoid buying Fukushima-produced foods. The prefectural government wants to make a final decision by the end of the year, and put an end to the debate.
  • The NRA chairman says the pace of nuke restarts will not speed up. The Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa told this to Reuters, earlier this week. He said the problem is the pace with which units on the Pacific coastline might meet Japan’s tough safety standards, “We have accumulated experience in safety reviews, but… many of the plants in Eastern Japan that we are reviewing now have difficult natural conditions. It’s doubtful the pace of approvals would quicken.” When asked how many units will restart over the next five years, he said, “I honestly do not know.”
  • The NRA doubts the effectiveness of the Fukushima Ice Wall. Last week, Tepco announced the last section of the in-ground ice wall at F. Daiichi was frozen, but now the regulator is said to be skeptical. The Japan News posts that “some members” of the NRA doubt the ability of the massive structure to greatly reduce groundwater influx to the basements of the four damaged units. The inflow has already been reduced from 400 tons per day to less than 100 tons. But, the NRA says much of the decrease is due to paving the surface of the ground which prevents rainwater from percolating downward, plus pumping out water from 40 sub-drains must contribute to the drop. However, the inflow has decreased every time the NRA allowed sections of the wall to be frozen, thus it seems the NRA merely remains distrustful of anything Tepco says. 
  • A new Fukushima exploitation film is released in Japan. It is entitled “Nuclear cattle”, concerning the impact of Tokyo’s mandated evacuation on cattle farmers. It focuses on the farmers' response after the government ordered them to slaughter livestock exposed to radiation (actually…airborne contamination). You can read the Mainichi’s article on the exploitation flick here…

November 2, 2017

  • The Fukushima Ice Wall is effectively completed. In August, Tepco staff began freezing the final seven-meter section of the 1.5 kilometer barrier. Underground temperatures became sub-zero at the end of October, indicating that the entire 30-meter deep wall is now frozen solid. Some surface monitors remain above freezing, and it is likely that some of the ground around sub-surface pipes and equipment tunnels remains unfrozen. Regardless, Tepco has begun assessing the wall’s ability to reduce the in-flow of water to the basements of the Reactor and Turbine Buildings. It seems that NHK World is the only popular Press outlet to report on this milestone!
  • A Fukushima medical group says it is important to understand many types of risk, rather than focusing on one in-isolation. The group compared the risk of cancer due to a nuclear accident’s radiation, to risks stemming from diabetes. It was found that “loss of life expectancy” (how much a person’s life could be shortened) is 30 times greater with respect to diabetes than with low level radiation exposure. The doctors argue that it is important to deal with post-accident risks in a balanced manner. Diabetes was chosen because of a significant increase in the prevalence of the affliction following the Fukushima accident evacuation. It is important to note that the models chosen for the study were designed to overestimate the risk of cancer and underestimate the risk of diabetes. Minamisoma Municipal Hospital researcher Masaharu Tsubokura, M.D., said, “The consequences of a nuclear accident are more than just radioactive contamination and radiation exposure. There are also quite significant health risks from worsened chronic diseases, including diabetes, owing to changes in living and societal environments.”
  • The rural contaminated debris storage facility opens in Okuma. The Okuma repository is the first of seven on the 1,600 hectare (16 km2) site, shared by Futaba. Environment Minister Tadahiko Ito said, “We are hoping to remove as many bags of contaminated soil as possible from people’s living spaces.” 
  • Japan Atomic Power Company (Japco) will file for a 20-year licensing extension for Tokai unit #2. The unit will reach the end of its 40-year operating license on November 28, 2018. If approved by the nuclear Regulation Authority, Tokai #2 will be the first Boiling Water Reactor plant to be granted the extension. It is expected that the filing will bring considerable public protests because of the large population living within the 30-kilometer emergency planning zone. In addition, the Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second largest newspaper with a daily circulation of 11 million, is posting that Tokai “…narrowly escaped a catastrophe like the one at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant when it was struck by the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.” The rationale behind the claim is that one of the three diesels failed to operate after the station was struck by the tsunami, and some unidentified “experts” claim that a tsunami two feet higher would have made reactor cooling impossible. Japco owns four nuclear units… two at Tokai and two at Tsuruga Station. They are the only sources of revenue for the company. -- --

October 26, 2017

  • Fukushima’s storage facility for rural radioactive debris opens Saturday. Environment Minister Masaharu Nakagawa announced that Okuma Town will begin receiving bags of contaminated soil and other materials on October 28th. He said, "There are numerous challenges that must be overcome, but the start of operations at the facility is an important step toward the final disposal of contaminated soil." After receipt, the bags will be opened so that contents can be separated according to the degree of radioactivity. Burnable trash will be incinerated and the ash securely packaged for long-term storage. The underground operation has a capacity of 50,000 cubic meters of material. A twin underground facility is under construction in Futaba. When completed, it is estimated that the 16 km2 operation will have processed and stored about 22 million m3 of debris. Roughly 40% (~6.5 km2) of the land has been procured by the Environment Ministry. --
  • Tokyo schools will resume annual Fukushima field trips. An October 19th Fukushima prefectural survey found that 37% of the capitol’s elementary or Junior high schools are either scheduled to recommence such tours or are “considering” restart. While this percentage may seem small, it really isn’t. An Education Ministry survey found that about 63% of the schools in Tokyo and its six surrounding prefectures did not visit Fukushima prior to 2011. Thus, the 37% planning to tour the prefecture is roughly the same as before the nuclear accident. The Fukushima government has provided a subsidy to schools for such visits since 2016.
  • Tepco and Tokyo both appeal the latest Fukushima accident reparation ruling. On October 10th, the Fukushima District Court ordered both parties to pay out about $4.3 million to some 2,900 plaintiffs. On Monday, the government and the utility appealed to a higher court in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. On the same day, the awarded plaintiff’s lawyers filed an appeal demanding more money. Lawyer Izutaro Managi said the Fukushima court "clearly acknowledged the liability of the state", but the "level and scope of compensation is insufficient. We will seek compensation that better matches the actual damage.” The 2013 filing called for more than $40 million in compensation for 3,800 plaintiffs. --
  • More of Fukushima’s main train line to the coast opens. The East Japan Railway Company opened a seven kilometer section of its Joban Line between repopulating Tomioka and Naraha. The segment was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Tomioka Mayor Koichi Miyamoto said the reopening fills him with great joy, and “Many residents were looking forward to the resumption of operation. We hope this will give a boost to the recovery of the town." One of the initial train riders said the rebuilding of the train tracks and Tomioka Station, totally destroyed by the tsunami, is impressive. Repairs on the remaining 21-kilometer sections in Futaba and Osuna remain to be finished. --
  • Fukushima’s governor promotes his prefecture to Brazil. Governor Masao Uchibori held a seminar in Sao Paulo on Saturday. He stressed the extreme monitoring measures that insure the safety of Fukushima-produced foods. He told the audience of ninety people that over the past two years, all rice and fish have passed Japan’s stringent radiation checks and are safe for consumption. One participant said he was surprised to learn how hard the people of Fukushima have been working! Uchibori also stressed the technology exchanges with Denmark and Germany, and the advancement of renewable energy.

October 19, 2017

  • Lawson will use drones to deliver goods to repopulating evacuees of Minamisoma’s Odaka District. The program focuses on elderly people who have limited access to shopping facilities. A Lawson sales vehicle will carry many popular items for immediate sale. If a product is carried by the vehicle, it will be airlifted by un-manned drone from a store that has the commodity. The nearest store from the district’s Community Center is about seven minutes away, so inconvenience will be minimal. Rakuten Inc. makes the drones. Rakuten and Lawson say if Minamisoma concept is a success, it will be expanded across Japan.
  • Fukushima sake is served to Great Britain’s Parliament. An October 17th parliamentary reception provided the liquor from six of the prefectures breweries. The venue was organized jointly by the Fukushima government and the British-Japanese Parliamentary Group to demonstrate the degree of recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. Ian Bailey, a British company owner, said, "It's very smooth…is nice and subtle…and eminently drinkable.” Former Parliamentarian Derek Wyatt added that the sake had "same good taste on the back of the mouth and on the front of the mouth."
  • Tokyo will require a new emergency cooling system (ECCS) for Boiling Water Reactors. The system will be in addition to the ECCS already in place on all BWRs. It will use seawater to cool the hot, radioactive liquids produced by a severe accident. The system was designed by Tepco for the two Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units that were recently given a safety approval by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The NRA feels this is a better option than depressurization of the containments through filtered venting systems because there will be no radioactive material released to the environment. --
  • Kansai Electric Co. intends to decommission Oi units #1 & #2. These will be the first large-output nukes in Japan to succumb to Tokyo’s arbitrary licensing limit of 40 years. Both 1,175 MWe units will reach that point in 2019. Kansai Electric (Kepco) says the cost of upgrading the units to meet Japan’s new standards would be too great for them to remain profitable, even after a 20 licensing extension is granted. The decision is actually a preliminary one, but the final official pronouncement is expected by the end of the year. The reason for the scrapping of both units is that they are the only Pressurized Water Reactor systems in Japan with ice condenser-type containments. In addition, containment design is such that there is much less workspace around the Reactor Pressure Vessels than with all other PWRs. Getting Nuclear Regulatory Authority approval would require regulations that differ from all other Japanese PWRs, and the cost of meeting such unique regulations could be around $1 billion. The profits from 20 years of operation would probably not compensate for the added cost. 
  • Nuclear energy may not be the big election issue in Japan that the popular Press makes it seem. The Mainichi Shimbun runs an article that spends a lot of copy re-hashing its typical focus on antinuclear sentiment. However, the report eventually gets to the meat of the matter. Meiji University Professor Masamichi Ida says opinion polls in the popular Press often misrepresent voting behavior, "You need to be careful in reading opinion polls. The way a question is asked influences responses. When a question asks whether you are for or against restarting nuclear plants, it is quite natural to say that you are against it, given the Fukushima crisis. But if the question was, is nuclear policy an important factor in choosing who to vote for, voters tend to pick more urgent issues such as social security. Past elections show that voters who are against nuclear power will still vote for the pro-nuclear LDP." Toyo University Professor Katsuyuki Yakushiji adds, "As Japan is no longer in a nuclear crisis due to stabilization of nuclear power plants, the general interest in the nuclear issue is fading more than six years after the Fukushima nuclear accident."


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