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Fukushima Accident Updates (Blog)


The internet's top source of objective Fukushima News. No "spins"...just summaries of the news reports in the Japanese Press. Japan's Press is 94% antinuclear and calls the Fukushima accident the Fukushima nuclear disaster. (Updates are posted twice weekly; Monday and Thursday)

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May 28, 2015

  • Tepco says they have finished Cesium and Strontium removal from all stored waters. This is a major milestone for the wastewater situation at Fukushima Daiichi.  Of the 620,000 tons currently in storage tanks, 440,000 have been run through the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) and Cesium removal filters. The other 180,000 have been processes by the Cesium filters and the new Strontium removal system, but will need to be run through ALPS. At its peak, the untreated volume was more than 360,000 tons, but the operation of the multi-stage decontamination system has lowered the amount to less than 9,000 tons. The remaining 9,000 tons are in bolted-together storage tanks that are nearly empty and routine pumping cannot reach the liquid. As the tanks are dismantled, the contaminated water will be carefully removed and treated. Tepco had voiced doubts about decontaminating all of the stored liquid by May 31 because of 20,000 tons of salt water used to cool the damaged cores in March of 2011. However, the processing of the salty water has gone better than expected. Although nearly 450,000 tons have been totally processed, the residual Tritium in the liquid must be dealt with. Although biologically harmless, the isotope is detectible and for that reason unacceptable to Northeast Japan’s fishing industry because of widespread consumer fears. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2015/1251076_6844.html -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/27/national/tepco-says-radioactive-water-fukushima-1-tanks-filtered/#.VWW8CqMw8dU -- http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201505260041

  • The dismantling of leak-prone wastewater storage tanks has begun. A total of 40 tanks are scheduled for the first round of the project. The tanks are “flange-type”, with seams between the sections bolted together. This type of tank was used in the early stages of the storage of waters building up in the basements of units #1 through #4 turbine buildings. However, substantial leaks from at least two of the tanks resulted in Tepco abandoning the flange-type construction and shifting to the current type where seams are firmly welded. The two tank groups being handled first are where leaks occurred. The groups are dubbed H1 and H2. Because the interior of the tanks are contaminated and contain some water in the bottom that pumping cannot remove, the dismantlement process will be slow. The twelve H1 tanks will not be finished until the end of September and the 28 tanks in H2 won’t be done until late January of 2016. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2015/images/handouts_150527_01-e.pdf

  • Reuters claims that most Japanese companies are not keen on Tokyo’s policy goal for nuclear. PM Abe’s regime is pointing to nuclear garnering 20-22% of the electricity production for Japan by 2030. In a Reuters poll sent to 481 companies, fourteen percent of the 230 respondents said it will probably be less than 10%, a quarter said it would be between 10 and 14%, and twenty nine percent said it would be 15-19%. It seems the greatest percentage (32%) believe Tokyo’s nuclear goal is possible. A doubting machinery company manager said, "Some nuclear power stations may resume operations, but it will be difficult to expect as many restarts as the government and utilities want," which Reuters says is due to last year’s poll which showed that as few as one-third of the idled nukes might pass Japan’s new, tougher safety standards and supply about 10% of Japan’s grid needs. Other doubters point to seismic problems, legal issues, and local political hurdles that could keep nukes from restarting. http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/05/24/japan-companies-nuclear-idUSL3N0YB2PR20150524?feedType=RSS&feedName=utilitiesSector

  • The Industry Ministry says nuclear should be at least 20% of the nation’s electricity. The ministry believes that without nuclear, energy costs for corporations and households will not be manageable. The most costly of other sources are wind and solar. Even though they will be expensive, the ministry says solar should have 7% contribution and wind 17% of the electricity mix. Any more than that will be financially unwieldy. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201505270040

  • The restarts for Sendai units 1 and 2 surmount another hurdle. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has approved the station’s emergency plans. Owner Kyushu Electric Power Company now has all approvals necessary for restart. Plant staff will be able to load nuclear fuel in unit #1 after the NRA finishes technical inspections and monitors a station emergency drill. Although NRA inspections have been tediously slow, Kyushu Electric still plans on June fuel loading and mid-to-late summer restart of unit #1. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150527_26.html

  • A Kyoto volcano expert says pyroclastic flows are not a threat to Sendai station. The concern was whether or not an eruption of Aira Caldera, 50 kilometers away, could reach the nukes and destroy them. However, Kyoto Professor Kazuhiro Ishihara said pyroclastic flow should not travel as far as Sendai station.  But, he questioned "whether workers can remain at the plant to ensure the safe operations of the reactors if a volcano eruption effectively cuts off lifelines and residents start to evacuate, even if the pyroclastic flows do not reach the site." He also criticized Kyushu Electric’s plans to consult volcanic experts on whether or not to stop operations at Sendai if there are signs of the caldera erupting. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2015052700745

May 25, 2015

  • The IAEA will issue its final Fukushima accident report in September. An advance copy has been procured by the Japanese Press. The report says the major reason for the crisis was “…some weaknesses which were not fully evaluated by a probabilistic safety assessment, as recommended by the IAEA safety standards.” The UN watchdog believes that earthquake and tsunami estimates that emerged between 2007-2009 showed an 8.3 Richter scale quake and 15 meter tsunami were possible, but Tepco and Tokyo ignored the estimates. The report also stresses that plant operating staff members were ill-prepared for worst-case emergency mitigation, “The operators were not fully prepared for the multiunit loss of power and the loss of cooling caused by the tsunami. Although Tepco had developed severe accident management guidelines, they did not cover such an unlikely combination of events.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/25/national/iaea-report-fukushima-debacle-slams-lack-tsunami-preparedness-despite-awareness-threat/#.VWMdKKMw8dV

  • Some Fukushima evacuees have doubts about Tokyo’s repopulation plan. Last week, the government’s ruling party announced plans to have most evacuation orders lifted, potentially allowing 55,000 people to go home. Some evacuees have their doubts. The town of Nahara could see its evacuation restriction lifted as early as this summer. One elderly resident says she will probably not go home. "I am glad that the compensation will be extended, but money is not the only reason that I cannot go back. If the neighbors don't come back with me, I won't be able to live there, as my legs and back are weak," she explained. Mikiko Matsumoto from Katsurao said she is making ends meet on compensation money, but if she returns home and re-opens her store there will probably not be enough customers to keep her afloat. She says, "I can't receive compensation forever, but it is obvious that sales will be lower than before the disaster." To date, precious few have returned to those communities where evacuation orders have already been lifted. For example, only 10% of those eligible have returned to Kawauchi Village’s Tobu district and only 41% have repopulated Tamura City’s Miyakoji district. Katsurao’s mayor acknowledges the potential problem and said, “[Financial] support will be needed for some time even after residents return." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150522p2a00m0na019000c.html -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150522p2a00m0na011000c.html

  • An umbrella antinuclear organization is formed out of 13 Fukushima evacuee groups. Its inaugural meeting was held May 24th in Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, with some 300 representatives attending from all over Japan. The body says it was formed to show they disapprove of post-accident efforts on the part of Tokyo and TEPCO. The new group includes members of the 12 organizations suing the utility and the government, plus people who have been acting individually. The general feeling is that Tokyo will lift evacuation orders and stop compensation payments despite residents remaining fearful of decommissioning efforts. Plus, the group wants a formal apology and full financial compensation. One participant from Kyoto said, "Lifting the evacuation orders for restricted areas and terminating compensation payments, despite the fact that the physical effects from radiation remain unknown, constitutes irresponsibility." Another from Okayama Prefecture said, "The psychological wounds that we have endured remain invisible -- just as with radiation. If we don't voice our pain, the damages that have occurred will not be understood in their entirety." http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150524_16.html -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150525p2a00m0na005000c.html (Comment - though not stated in the Press reports, it seems safe to assume the umbrella group is comprised mostly by voluntary evacuees who will lose their housing subsidies when the 2016 repopulation date passes. Fukushima Prefecture says more than 65,000 of the 70,000 remaining mandated evacuees live in the prefecture, but almost no voluntary evacuees. The new umbrella group seems clearly made up of those who fled of their own free will and are living outside of Fukushima Prefecture.)

  • The Asahi Shimbun speculates that Fukushima’s liquid waste drums might explode. The polyethylene drums store liquid residues from ALPS (advanced liquid processing system). Since some radioactive water was found on the top of 26 of 278 recently-inspected filled drums, Tepco is checking all 14000 drums in storage. The drums have holes in the top cover to allow gasses to escape. One container was found to be missing the holes. This would allow the gasses to build up inside the drum. One of the gasses is hydrogen. A Nuclear regulatory official allegedly said, “If the concentration level is high, a spark caused by static electricity could cause a container to explode.” Mayumi Yoshida of Tepco said, “We think the possibility of an occurrence of hydrogen explosion from these storage facilities is extremely low, since there is no fire origin, or anything that generates static electricity nearby.” Another Tepco spokesperson speculated that making the holes was skipped-over at a factory in the United States. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201505230059 -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150523p2a00m0na015000c.html  (How static electricity could cause a spark inside a drum full of water is a complete mystery. In addition, a hydrogen explosion needs some free oxygen in order to occur. A filled and sealed drum would likely not have enough free oxygen for an explosion. This writer suspects we have yet another wildly-speculative worst-case scenario, this time fueled by visions of the explosions at F. Daiichi the second week of March, 2011. It is important to note that the above-listed Mainichi Shimbun link says nothing about the possibility of a hydrogen explosion, indicating they may have done their homework.)

  • Tokyo’s NRA approves all Sendai station design changes. The changes for unit #2 were approved on Friday. Now, on-site inspections by the NRA can begin. The inspections for unit #1 have been underway for about a month, but less than 10% have been completed. Because the units are tandem, there are a number of shared systems to be inspected. They will not have to be re-checked for unit #2. Restart for unit #1 is expected in July and unit #2 in August. It is likely that these will be the first two nuke restarts in Japan, marking the beginning of the end of the nuclear moratorium. On Monday (today), Kyushu Electric Company, the owners of Sendai station, formally applied for site inspection of unit #2. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150522_30.html -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2015052200684 -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco

  • Tokyo decides to change its policy for locating a high-level nuclear waste disposal site. The government will identify scientifically “suitable” or “promising” candidate sites, taking care to avoid volcanoes and active faults. The government will ask municipalities to provide various kinds of information and have discussions with residents. It will then submit requests for consent to formal inspection for promising candidate disposal sites. The process is expected to take 100 years from the investigation to closure of the facility. Until now, prospective sites were supposed to be voluntary, but nothing has happened. Under the new plan, the government will scientifically analyze possible sites while explaining everything to local communities. Tokyo hopes this will result in getting at least one suitable site approved by the local public. Industry Minister Yoichi Miyazawa says there are “quite a few” candidate sites being considered. Cabinet Minister Yoshihide Suga added, “We should move forward step by step while trying to gain the public’s understanding.” Japan’s Atomic Industrial Forum admits that a majority of Japanese oppose nuclear power, thus it is optimistic to think the public will support HLW disposal. The group says, “People may be ‘interested’ in the HLW issue, but such ‘interest’ is in the context of its being just another reason to oppose nuclear power.”  http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/government-takes-initiative-on-selecting-hlw-geological-disposal-sites/ -- http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2015/05/353936.html -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002169670 

  • The first government nuclear waste symposium was held in Tokyo. About 300 people attended. Akihiro Tada of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said the symposiums are intended to inspire public debate. They are not meant to force site selection. Panel chair Hiroya Masuda said it is important is to win public understanding and trust. One member of the audience said it will be hard to gain public support at any location because most people don’t want nuclear plants. Eight more symposiums are scheduled by the end of June. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

May 21, 2015

  • A Fukushima medical professional says four years of public radiation education show little progress. Sae Ochi (MD, MPH, PhD), Director of Internal Medicine at Soma Central Hospital, says that clear and understandable radiation information has been shared with the public, but there is a general inability to believe it will make them healthy or happy. Often, the reports on Fukushima accident have the statement “no one has died because of radiation”, and no more is said. She explains,The health problems in Fukushima now are mostly unrelated to radiation. More important as factors influencing health include living as evacuees, job loss, changed lifestyles, mental stress, and working environments. To help people in Fukushima recover their health, we have to discuss their health in a wider context. The reality is that the real health-related impacts of the accident have been overlooked by focusing so much on radiation.” She argues that when radiation risks are reported, they ought to be placed in context with the other risks, but this is not the case in Japan. Dr. Ochi makes other important points, so I would strongly suggest clicking the below link and reading everything she says. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/gridlock-in-education-on-radiation-in-fukushima/

  • Fukushima’s governor says radiation rumors hurt the entire nation of Japan. Governor Masao Uchibori says the problem "is deeply rooted and difficult in that there is no magic cure. We will continue disseminating (information) accurately and honestly." He stressed that "Some people still shy away as soon as they see Fukushima produce." Uchibori then compared it to Taiwan’s recent unfounded restrictions on Japanese food. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2015052100717

  • Japan places a trade complaint against South Korea with the World Trade Organization. Japan’s filing in Geneva says Seoul has failed to justify their trade restrictions in accord with WTO guidelines.  Korea has 60 days to try and appease Japan in bilateral talks. If still dissatisfied, Japan could file for WTO to take legal action against Korea. Korea says they regret Japan’s move and stated the ban on Japanese seafood is necessary. Their formal statement says, “In upcoming talks with Japan, we plan to explain fully that the import ban is necessary for people’s safety, and actively deal with Japan over the issue they raised based upon WTO’s dispute settlement procedures.” Korea feels that Japan’s complaint is not science-based. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/21/business/japan-takes-south-korea-to-wto-over-fukushima-related-food-import-restrictions/#.VV4FwKMw8dU

  • Radiophobia continues in the Fukushima marketplace. A Fukushima Consumers Group poll shows that 18% of consumers find Fukushima-produced foods unacceptable, even if no contamination is detectible. 9.2% say they cannot decide because of a lack of information, 42.4% find Fukushima foods “tolerable”, and 26.1% don’t care. The “unacceptable” percentage dropped nearly 13 points from the previous year, which is significant. The biggest upswing was in the “don’t care” demographic, which increased by 10 points. The Consumer Affairs Agency poll, however, shows little difference over the past two years, with a 3% increase in the “unacceptable” group. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=507

  • Futaba’s ex-mayor continues his antinuclear crusade with a lawsuit. Katsutaka Idogawa was in office at the time of the nuke accident. He has filed for $1.2 million in damages from Tepco and Tokyo because he was exposed to radiation and has suffered health concerns for four years. During a news conference in Tokyo, Idogawa said: “We could not protect the town residents because we believed in the words the government and TEPCO said that the nuclear accident would never happen. I hope I can guide those suffering from concerns over radiation exposure.” He later added, “Even after the accident, I was forced to stay in the town as mayor and thus exposed to a high dose of radiation from the plant. The central government delayed giving evacuation orders and even when they were issued, the areas under evacuation orders were inappropriate.”  http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201505210042  

  • Four new cases of child thyroid cancer were found in Fukushima. The second round of screenings by Fukushima’s prefectural government has discovered that four who did not test positive on the first round, have done so this time. This brings the number of new cases for 2015 to five, with one diagnosed in February. In addition, twelve of those “suspected” of possibly having the cancer in the first round, were confirmed in the second screening. The total of those either having the cancer or “suspected” in both screenings, is now 127. Also, none of the children who were less than five years old in 2011 or babies born after the accident have tested positive. The Asahi Shimbun reports that the ratio of positive tests is no different than that of the same age group from other prefectures. A Fukushima official said, "At this stage, there's no need to revise the evaluation that any effect of radiation is unlikely." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150519p2a00m0na002000c.html -- http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201505190041

  • A Tepco report makes new speculations about the Fukushima accident. The curious radiation exposure increase of March 20, 2011, is explained thusly, "The site dose increase measured around March 20 was most likely due to a change in wind direction that blew the constantly escaping radioactive substances the opposite way [inland]." Another issue has to do with why the top of the unit #1 containment was inordinately hot during the first days of the accident. Tepco now says that it was likely due to a steam leak from the reactor pressure vessel near its top. The third speculation is the one gaining considerable Press traction in Japan. During the accident, there were problems with depressurizing unit #2. The “rupture disc” in the exhaust line was supposed to open when there was sufficient over-pressurization inside the Primary Containment. Tepco says it is possible that it failed to operate properly, but the “results remain inconclusive. Engineers are examining various portions of the venting and pressure management system to determine, largely from circumstantial evidence, how pressure built and was relieved in various parts of the Unit.” The Japanese Press has focused on this speculation because it would be a technological failure, which makes scarier headlines. The other two Tepco speculations are not to be found in the Japanese Press. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2015/1250926_6844.html -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150520p2a00m0na011000c.html

  • The Fukui Court rejects the appeal on the Takahama plant injunction of April. The Fukui District Court, which rendered the restart ban order, heard the appeal and said Kansai Electric Company failed to provide explanations sufficient to nullify the injunction. At least, that is what the lawyer for the plaintiffs said. The court itself declined to comment. Actually, the appeal’s dismissal was rendered on Monday, but the Court made no announcement to the Press, at the time. Kansai Electric has filed a formal complaint with the court, which was supposed to be heard on Wednesday. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2015051900875 -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/19/national/crime-legal/fukui-court-rejects-kansai-electric-appeal-of-reactor-ruling/#.VVtq0KMw8dU

  • Fukushima business compensation might be extended for an additional year. The current compensation period is supposed to end in February of 2016, but local firms have pressured the government into extending the pay-outs until February of 2017. A formal decision is forthcoming by the end of June. As of the end of March, business compensation has totaled roughly $4.5 billion (USD). http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/19/national/tepco-may-have-to-pay-nuclear-compensation-to-businesses-longer/#.VVtrPqMw8dU

  • The Asahi Shimbun reports that 70% of evacuees have family health issues. The data released by Fukushima Prefecture shows a slight, 1.2% drop in frequency from last year. 73% of the respondents were from those mandated to flee by Tokyo, and 27% were voluntary. Nearly 60% reported at least one family member with sleeping issues and nearly 50% said they tire easily. On related issues, 56% say they want to remain in temporary (government funded) housing until evacuation orders are lifted, 40% said they cannot afford to leave temporary housing, and 42% say they are unable to rebuild their homes. Of the Tokyo-ordered evacuees, 37.3% hope to eventually go home, 16.5% want to stay where they now live, and 12% are undecided about their future. Among the voluntary demographic, 24% do not want to return home, 20% want to go back, and nearly 32% are undecided. http://fukushimaupdate.com/majority-of-fukushima-evacuees-have-family-members-with-health-problems/ (Comment – once again, there is no attempt to segregate those whose homes were swept away or destroyed by the 2011 tsunami. I suspect that a major portion of those who say they are unable to rebuild are tsunami victims whose plight would be no different if the nuke accident had never happened.)

  • The NRA approves the initial safety screening for Ikata unit #3. On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said the safety upgrades on the Ehime Prefecture unit meets all new requirements. Restart is not expected before this coming winter because a 30 day public comment period, subsequent NRA inspections, and gaining local community consent, still lie ahead. Ikata Mayor Kazuhiko Yamashita says he will approve restart if the municipal assembly agrees to it. Ehime Gov. Tokihiro Nakamura said, "I understand that the safety evaluation is entering its final stage. After the final decision is reached, we as the prefectural government would like to receive an explanation from the national government that includes the grounds for passing the plant, and then check the safety of the plant ourselves." As should be expected, local residents’ concerns are reported by the Press, and a small protest happened in Tokyo. The Mainichi Shimbun found several people living with 30 kilometers of Ikata station who are worried about a restart. One man said, "If a disaster occurs, we will be able to do nothing but wait for death." Meanwhile, NHK World reports that 20 people staged a protest in front of NRA headquarters in Tokyo. They argued that Japan has survived without nukes since 2013, so the idled plants need not be restarted. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002164079 -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150520p2a00m0na015000c.html -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150520_27.html

May 18, 2015

Last Thursday, the International Atomic Energy Agency released a report on its third Fukushima site visit since the accident. The focus of news media articles vary greatly, with perhaps the most provocative coming from outside Japan.

  • The IAEA confirms progress at F. Daiichi and commends Tepco on many achievements. The agency said the shift from operations to long-term remediation has been “profound”, even though many challenges remain. The areas of improvement include completion of used fuel removal from unit #4, upgrades in contaminated water treatment systems, expansion of waste water storage capacity, operation of the groundwater bypass system, and general clean-up of the site which has significantly reduced radiation levels. IAEA also commended the company on the creating the institution of a safety culture. The report says, "There is a robust internal process in place within TEPCO, for internal safety evaluation and approval of works." With respect to waste management, IAEA says "the work carried out has been broadly successful." On the issue of communication, the report says “[TEPCO] has intensified its public communication efforts. TEPCO has developed a multi-faceted communication strategy that aims to disseminate information by using understandable language and visual element such as infographics, photos and short videos." Finally, the agency commended Tepco on all areas of waste water management, "The IAEA team reconfirms TEPCO's success in treating large volumes of highly radioactive water." Concerning the recent media uproar of intermittent radiation spikes in drainage ditches, IAEA encourages the company "to continue to focus on finding any other sources contaminating the [drainage] channels," while acknowledging that belated release of the information "resulted in some criticism, by the public and the media." http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2015/1250670_6844.html -- http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2015/images/handouts_150514_01-e.pdf -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2015051500528#

  • Much of Japan’s Press focused on IAEA advice for improvement, rather than the commendations. For example, Japan Today reported, “Management of radioactive waste and contaminated water at Japan’s tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant could be improved,” and that not all water treatment systems are operation at full capacity. And, NHK World focused on the IAEA’s 15 points of advice on how to make their public communication better. In both cases, the greater part of the IAEA document commending Tepco receives only passing mention. http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/handling-radioactive-waste-at-fukushima-plant-could-be-improved-iaea-2 - http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

  • Meanwhile, Bloomberg decided to focus on the IAEA telling Tepco to consider releasing waste water to the sea. The IAEA report states, “The IAEA team believes it is necessary to find a sustainable solution to the problem of managing contaminated water. This would require considering all options, including the possible resumption of controlled discharges into the sea. TEPCO is advised to perform an assessment of the potential radiological impact to the population and the environment arising from the release of water containing tritium and any other residual radionuclides to the sea in order to evaluate the radiological significance.” Bloomberg adds a misleading statement, “Tepco officials are still using water to cool molten nuclear fuel from the reactors.” All fuel that melted in March of 2011 has long-since re-solidified.   http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-05-15/tepco-may-need-to-dump-fukushima-water-into-sea-un-says

Now for some other Fukushima news…

  • The first test of Fukushima’s “ice wall” is encouraging. Tepco is in the slow process of creating a wall of frozen soils around F. Daiichi units #1 through #4 to stop groundwater influx to the basements and greatly lessen possible out-flow of groundwater to the inner harbor. The 1.5 kilometer-long barrier is designed to freeze the soils to minus -30oC, down to a depth of 30 meters. Initial tests on the first section to are promising. Of the 18 points of monitoring, one shows the soil solidified at -15oC, which is a drop of 25 degrees from when the testing began on April 30. Many points, however, have not shown such significant changes. Yet, temperatures are dropping throughout the 18 points of monitoring. Tepco says, “The equipment was confirmed to be working properly, so we want to evaluate how the ground is freezing based on measurement data over a longer period.” http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/fukushima-daiichi-frozen-wall-tests-succeed-in-lowering-underground-temperatures-to-15-degrees-below-zero/

  • The procedure for removal of the enclosure around unit #1 has started. On Friday, the company started spraying a chemical agent through holes in the enclosure’s roof to prevent dust release. The material will be injected through 48 of these holes. After spraying, Tepco plans the take the roof off, beginning on May 25th. The dust suppression chemical was tested last year before taking the roof off for the first time. The use of a suppressant is due to public fears in 2013 that particulate from initial clean-up of the debris atop unit #3 was contaminating distant nonetheless. The company says they will immediately suspend unit #1 work and inform local governments within 30 minutes if radioactive dust is detected in the air. The company says full enclosure removal will take about a year. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150515_08.html -- http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201505150060

  • Japan’s ruling political party wants most of the no-go zone repopulated by March, 2017. The Liberal Democratic Party of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may give ~55,000 of the current evacuees the option of returning home by the end of fiscal 2016. Areas with radiation levels below 20 millisieverts per year will be opened first, allowing as many as 32,000 to repopulate. Those areas between 20 and 50 mSv will be opened next, affecting another 23,000 evacuees. Locations with exposures greater than 50 mSv/yr will remain closed. By setting a deadline for repopulation, the LDP hopes it will spur current evacuees to return home. The proposal calls for accelerated infrastructure recovery and decontamination in the areas to be reopened. They plan to ask Tepco to consider continued financial compensation for psychological pain where evacuation orders are lifted before March, 2017. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150514p2a00m0na009000c.html  -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/15/national/fukushima-evacuation-orders-lifted-low-radiation-areas-end-fiscal-2016-ldp/#.VVYie6Mw8dV

  • Fukushima Prefecture considers ending free housing for voluntary evacuees. The prefecture says that about 36,000 persons who fled from outside the exclusion zone would be affected. Officials hope this will encourage voluntary evacuees to go home. Municipalities such as Kawauchi and Minamisoma have asked the prefecture to end the housing stipends because they are an incentive to remain estranged. The only thing that keeps these people from returning home is fear of very low-level radiation exposure. The Disaster Relief Act allows free temporary housing for a two year period. It has been extended to four years, and another one year allowance is expected. However, the prefecture hopes to end free housing for voluntary evacuees by March, 2017. This will not affect evacuees from the Tokyo-mandated exclusion zone. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/05/18/national/fukushima-may-end-free-accommodations-voluntary-nuclear-evacuees-2017/#.VVnNOaMw8dU

  • Another nuke has cleared the Nuclear Regulatory Authority’s initial screening for restart. Unit #3 at the Ikata station in Ehime Prefecture should have an NRA draft assessment by May 20th. At that point, a 30 day period begins for public comments. A formal approval of the agency’s assessment cannot be issued before the public comment period has passed and submittals reviewed. The next steps will be evaluation of safety equipment designs and the NRA’s on-site inspection. In any case, it seems unlikely that Ikata #3 will restart by the end of 2015. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.htmln

  • An antinuclear group began a 311 kilometer march to protest the restart of the two Sendai station nukes. Roughly 20 people will take turns during the trek from Kagoshima City to the headquarters of Kyushu Electric Company in Fukuoka. The distance was chosen to reflect the date of the tsunami of 3/11/11, which caused the Fukushima accident. Once they reach the utility offices in Fukuoka, protestors will present a petition to not restart the Sendai nukes, signed by perhaps 100,000 people. The Sendai units are expected to be the first nukes to restart, marking the end of Japan’s nuclear moratorium. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150516p2g00m0dm007000c.html

  • Japan’s Farm Minister objects to Taiwan’s tightened Japanese food import limits. Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi says Taiwan’s restrictions are “a one-sided act without scientific basis.” Under the new regulations to take effect on May 15, all imports of Japanese food products into Taiwan will be required to have valid certificates proving the prefecture from which the products came. Radiation inspection certificates will be required for imports of “products from high risk areas,” effecting more than 800 items including marine products, tea, and baby food. Currently, all Japanese food imports into Taiwan are halted until the new regulations go into effect and Japan complies. Japan has resisted Taiwan’s new regulations, insisting that there is no scientific basis for it. Out of 69,000 food items that Taiwanese authorities inspected between March and April 2011, none was found to exceed limits set by either Japan or Taiwan. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/japans-farm-minister-slams-taiwans-tightened-limits-on-japanese-food-imports/

  • Tochigi Prefecture witnessed concurrent symposiums on Low Level Waste disposal; one by the government and the other antinuclear. Last Thursday, the Environment Ministry held a forum concerning plans to locate a permanent repository in the prefecture. 180 people attended the forum, the second in a series that began last month in Sendai. Officials briefed the participants on the disposal scheme and its construction. Some of the participants made snide remarks such as, "If it's so safe, build it in Tokyo," and, "We can't trust the central government because it covers up bad data." At the same time, another forum was held in Shioya by groups who are against the plan. About 1,800 people met in a high school gym. The participants agreed to try and stop construction of the repository under the guise of protecting the environment. One man said, "The Environment Ministry's forum is an event only for convenient explanations. If we participate [there] we will be counted as supporters." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150515p2a00m0na006000c.html

May 14, 2015

  • 100 Tokyo-mandated Fukushima evacuees want more compensation money. To date, the 75,000 forced evacuees have been given 2.2 trillion yen (~$20 billion USD) in evacuation compensation. That’s more than a quarter of a million dollars apiece for every man, woman, and child; over a million dollars for a family of four. In addition, each evacuee gets another $1,000 per month for psychological stress. Further, evacuees owning property have garnered another ~$20 billion in compensation! But, for 100 evacuees from Namie, that is not enough. They come from an area that has been designated as “difficult to return”. The prospective plaintiffs plan on suing Tepco and the government for failing to make a firm plan for decontamination and robbing them of their homes. The suit is expected to be filed in Fukushima District Court as early as this summer. It should be noted that the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) system allows for such a filing. The possibility of the suit began when the recent proposal by the ADR to raise the monthly psychological stress subsidy to $1,500 was rejected by Tepco. Thus, residents of Namie feel justified in demanding more money. One prospective plaintiff said, "My distrust of the government has grown as it continues to turn a blind eye to TEPCO's rejection of the proposed compromise. I decided to participate in the suit in order to make [TEPCO and the government] take responsibility.” While no damages amount has been set, a lawyer for the Namie residents mentioned the existing Tamura resident’s suit for more than $35 million…roughly $100,000 per Tamura plaintiff. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150514p2a00m0na010000c.html -- http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/comp/images/jisseki-e.pdf

  • F. Daiichi workers show general job satisfaction. 75% of the workers participated. 47.4% of the respondents said they feel a sense of satisfaction with their jobs, while only 14% said they did not. However, almost half of the workers and their families say they feel anxiety, with half of those stating the reason for their unease is possible health effects of low level radiation exposure. The others expressing anxiety said they worried about accidents and injuries while on the job. Tepco has decided to provide counseling for the workers, post a radiation exposure chart from the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, locate more monitors around the site to show actual radiation levels, display a poster to raise safety consciousness, and establish an interactive training facility to reduce risk of injury. The most common on-the-job complaint was that the company providing job instruction was different than the company paying them. This indicated that few of the thousands working at F. Daiichi understand contacting, sub-contracting, outsourcing, and basic labor laws. Tepco feels that when the new food service facility opens next month, many of the worker worries will become less common. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2015/images/handouts_150513_01-e.pdf

  • Japan’s new disaster recovery plan spreads the financial obligation locally…but not for nuclear. Until now, all recovery costs for the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011 have been covered by Tokyo. However, when the new plan takes effect in late June, as much as half will be the responsibility of local governments. Reconstruction Minister Wataru Takeshita says the agency has "tried to ensure fairness" between the restoration of areas hit by the March 2011 disasters and those affected by other [prior] disasters. The new plan creates three categories of financial burden; fully-funded by Tokyo, partially-funded locally, and equally financed between Tokyo and local governments. Projects including rebuilding coastal levees and repair of ports and harbors would be partially funded by local governments, but mostly by Tokyo. Projects including road construction and/or repair, plus promotion of tourism, will be jointly funded in the same ratio as with local bodies unaffected by catastrophe. The change was spurred by the huge sums of restoration funds issued by Tokyo, but are currently being unspent and held by local governments in bank accounts. For example, Iwate Prefecture has about $300 million (USD) in “fiscal adjustment funds” and Miyagi Prefecture about $320 million. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150512p2a00m0na015000c.html

  • The restart of the first Sendai station nuke probably won’t happen before the end of July, if then. The problem is how slowly the plant’s staff has been conducting pre-startup inspections. As of last week, they have only completed seven of the planned 180 items on the inspection list. The inspections began in early April. The Nuclear Regulation Authority blames this on plant owner Kyushu Electric Co. having set a timetable that is too optimistic. Kyushu Electric has added another 200 personnel to the process to speed things up. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

  • Conditions are proposed for restart of the Hamaoka nuclear station. Hamaoka was the first Japanese nuke to be shuttered by former Prime Minister Naota Kan on May 14, 2011. This began the current nation-wide, economically-ruinous nuclear moratorium. Kan ordered the shutdown because he feared a Nanking Trench earthquake would cause a Fukushima-level accident at Hamaoka, forcing him to evacuate the entire Tokyo metropolitan area. Since then, the Japanese Press has generally assumed that Hamaoka will never be restarted. However, negotiations with the home prefecture’s governor and local communities indicates otherwise. Chubu Electric Co. has quietly garnered a safety agreement with the four municipalities within 10 kilometers of the station, which says, "When a nuclear reactor facility is set up or a change is made (to the nuclear plant), advance consent shall effectively be provided." However, this does not constitute prior permission for restarts. For that, it seems Chubu Electric is open to the possibility of advance consent for restarts with regard to all eleven cities and towns within 30 kilometers. Chubu wants the 10 km safety agreement to be honored by the seven communities outside the 10km radius before they agree to the restart proposal. Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu has said, "The power plant will not be operated without consent from the 11 cities and towns.” http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150514p2a00m0na012000c.html

  • Japan’s nuclear watchdog finds another potentially active fault…by Japanese standards. The Nuclear Regulation Authority defines “active” as the existence of geologic evidence to show movement within the past 130,000 years. For comparison, the USGA defines an active fault as one that has moved in the last 10,000 years. The NRA’s five member board investigating the faults under Shika Station in Ishikawa Prefecture says they have found one, and possibly two more faults that could be defined as active. Commissioner Akira Ishiwatari says the panel members “largely agreed” on the determination because four of the five panelists approved the finding. Hokuriku Electric Power Co. Vice President Yutaka Kanai said: “We take issue with that conclusion” and will present its “arguments at meetings on screening for restarts.” The draft report is forthcoming. If the NRA officially determines the three faults active, Japanese law might not allow either of the units at Shika to be restarted. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2015/05/352285.html -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150513p2g00m0dm092000c.html -- http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201505140050

  • The Ukraine considers drastically reducing the Chernobyl exclusion zone. The current “no-go” zone has a rough radius of 30 kilometers. The proposed radius will be reduced to roughly 10 kilometers. The 10km no-go zone will be turned into a “biosphere” while the outer region will be open to repopulation. Ecology and Natural Resources Minister Ihor Shevchenko said, “I have signed a document on the creation of the Chernobyl biosphere reserve, i.e., the nearest zone, some ten kilometers around the plant, will stay an exclusion zone, and the rest of the territory will be turned into the Chernobyl biosphere reserve. The radiation levels are safe there and economic activities can be conducted there.” He added that some locations inside the 10km radius will possibly allow people to live. http://russia-insider.com/en/society/ukraine-wants-reduce-chornobyl-exclusion-zone/ri6777 (Comment - this is important to the Fukushima’s Tokyo-mandated evacuees since not being allowed to go home is regularly justified by references to Chernobyl.)

  

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