Fukushima Accident Updates (Blog)

Your most reliable source of objective Fukushima News. No "spins"...just summaries of news reports in Japan's Press, which calls the Fukushima accident a nuclear disaster. Posts are made every week or two on Fridays

There are three regularly-updated pages on this site concerning popular Fukushima issues; Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments (updated monthly), Fukushima Child Thyroid Cancer s and  Fukushima Radiation on North America’s West Coast? 

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July 12, 2019

  • The Reconstruction Agency will remain after 2021. The temporary law establishing the agency expires March 31st of that year. The decision was requested by the municipalities damaged by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and/or negatively impacted by the subsequent nuclear accident. Continuation of the temporary law has been formally requested, led by representatives of Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi Prefectures. On July 3rd, for the first time, Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori urged temporary Reconstruction Minister Hiromichi Watanabe to create a full-time minister post for a successor Reconstruction Agency, headed by the Prime Minister. Uchibori said, "Fukushima's reconstruction will not end in 10 years. It is extremely important for the state (national government) to take the lead in securing a system and financial resources that enable prefectural people to make efforts for reconstruction with peace of mind." The Tokyo government seems to be in complete agreement. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=955
  • 44% of Fukushima residents feel the 2020 Olympics will evoke sympathy for the survivors of the 2011 disaster. Nearly 46% feel differently! Most of the dissenters base their feelings on the idea that not enough is being done, or will be done, to showcase their plight. They feel current plans for disseminating information before, during, and after the Games are not enough! http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=954
  • A high court upholds a lower court decision to allow two Genkai units to continue operation. The Fukuoka High Court rendered the decision on Wednesday. The suit was filed by 173 Japanese from 16 prefectures who believed the operation of the units posed an unreasonable threat to their health. They claimed the Nuclear Regulation Authority methodology for the unit’s ability to safely survive earthquakes and volcanoes is flawed, and that Kyushu Electric’s measures against catastrophic pipeline failure are inadequate. In June 2017, the Saga District court rejected the proposed injunction against operation of units #3 & #4, because the new standards were "reasonable" since they were based on the latest scientific knowledge. The plaintiffs appealed. In upholding the Saga court’s decision, Fukuoka High Court’s Presiding Judge Noriyuki Yamanouchi said, "I cannot recognize that the nuclear reactor facility lacks safety features and there are specific risks that could result in serious damage." Both units are currently in safe operation. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190710_31/ -- https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2019071000920 -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190710/p2g/00m/0na/054000c
  • Traces of radioactive Cesium returned to Japanese waters sooner than expected via a previously unknown route. This was found by a team comprised of the University of Tsukuba, the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), and Kanazawa University. University of Tsukuba professor Michio Aoyama said, "That the cesium would come back in such a short time was unexpected. We've found a previously unknown route." On a positive note, JAMSTEC researcher Yuichiro Kumamoto said, "Because it has visualized ocean circulation, the results could be used in the future for predictions on issues such as climate change." https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190708/p2a/00m/0na/015000c 
  • On a related note, the Chernobyl accident area will become an official tourist attraction. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a decree designating the area a tourist site due to a significant increase in popularity following the HBO "Chernobyl" miniseries. He said, "Chernobyl has been a negative part of Ukraine's brand. The time has come to change this." Zelensky added that the area is "a unique place on the planet where nature is reviving after a major technological catastrophe." Could this be a precursor to something similar for Japan in the future? Only time will tell! http://www.ktvu.com/news/chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-site-will-become-official-tourist-attraction-ukranian-president-says?fbclid=IwAR3sWdbU6Opxp8DXG5C9wWy_hd7PF-I-wp1p8Ty1e-GXsp9Tohp_cIgu90k


June 28, 2019

  • Only one fish species caught in the open ocean shows the F. Daiichi “fingerprint” isotope, Cesium-134. Of the more than 100 fish taken from the Pacific Ocean, only Schlegel’s Black Rockfish had detectible Cs-134 in it. The level was 6.7 Becquerels per kilogram, far below the legal limit of 100 Bq/kg. It was caught about 2 km off of Fukushima Daini, which makes the source of the Cs-134 a matter of debate. https://www7.tepco.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/handouts_190625_01-e.pdf  Only seven of the 24 fish taken from inside the F. Daiichi breakwall had detectible Cs-134. All concentrations of the isotope were well-below Japan’s 100 Bq/kg limit. Further, only four of the fish contained more than the legal limit for combined Cesium isotopic concentration (Cs-134 and Cs-137). https://www7.tepco.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/handouts_190625_02-e.pdf 
  • Tepco is forced to pay ~$3,000 to a former plant worker for not providing information on radiation exposure. The plaintiff demanded $100,000 in damages to health. Even though the judges found that the worker’s exposure of 16 millisieverts posed no health hazard, Fukushima District Court ordered the award because the worker had not been informed about the biological effects of radiation exposure. In addition, the court rejected two suits brought against F. Daiichi subcontractors because the responsibility for accident was solely in the hands of Tepco. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190626_34/

June 21, 2019

  • Researchers believe they have found a technology to effectively remove radioactive contaminants from soil. Team leader Professor Masahiko Matsukata of Waseda University claims this can reduce the volume of contaminated waste at a relatively low cost. An un-named chemical is added to the high pressure water flow used to cleanse the soil. Tokyo plans to transport the large volume of the material now in temporary storage to facilities designed to either recycle the soil or lower its radioactive concentration. The Waseda staff wants to use soils sent to the storage facilities to test the effectiveness of the technology in the field. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190618_25/
  • An industrial inspection robot is demonstrated by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The design was inspired by the F. Daiichi’s s post-accident needs. The robot is considered “anti-explosion”, intended to reduce the chances that it might produce sparks or heat that could cause an explosion or fire if it is operated in a flammable gas environment. It is intended for possible nuke accident uses, of course, but its more-regular use will be for patrolling other potentially explosive facilities such as oil refineries. This will reduce manpower needs and safety. The company has been working on such robotics following the Tokaimura criticality accident in 1999. The anti-explosive requirements not only follow Japan’s standards, but also those in Europe. The June 10th test not only accounted for functioning in high heat and high radiation environments, but also demonstrated the ability for remote control docking at an electricity charging station. https://www.jaif.or.jp/en/mhi-tests-anti-explosion-robot/
  • Another lawsuit to stop restarted nukes is rejected. On Monday, June 17th, the Fukuoka District Court disallowed a suit filed by 33 members of the public claiming that restarting two units at the Sendai station placed Kagoshima residents at undue risk from an accident caused by volcanic eruption. The suit said that not all conceivable levels of volcanic fallout inflicted on a nuke were considered, but units #1 & #2 were restarted after satisfying Tokyo’s rigid post-Fukushima requirements. Regardless, the court found that the restarts were not illegal. Presiding Judge Moriharu Kurasawa explained, "Japanese laws on nuclear power do not go so far as requiring (regulators) to consider the impact of a catastrophic volcanic eruption that is impossible to predict and highly unlikely to occur.” He added that taking no action for a disaster that is beyond rational projections is entirely acceptable. The plaintiffs are considering an appeal, claiming (in the words of one litigant), “It is regrettable. The lessons of the nuclear accident (in Fukushima) have not been learned." Others said that any possibility of an accident, other than zero, should be unacceptable. Lawyer Yuichi Kaido said the decision means that another Fukushima-level accident is tolerable. The suit’s rejection parallels a Saga District Court decision rendered in March 2018! https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190617_29/ -- https://japantoday.com/category/national/court-rejects-call-to-revoke-approval-for-nuclear-reactor-restarts
  • Japanese news media claims Tepco caused unnecessary fear in Niigata Prefecture during a recent earthquake. A mistaken fax was sent to local governments saying there were quake-induced electrical problems at the shuttered Kashiwazaki Kariwa station during the June 18 temblor, affecting spent fuel pool cooling. However, it never happened! Kashiwazaki Mayor Masahiro Sakurai sent a staff member to confirm the fax with Tepco, and found it was incorrect. Tepco subsequently issued a correction. Regardless, Mayor Sakurai scolded station manager Chikashi Shitara, saying, “When a real earthquake is happening, not a drill, this is a massive error. It is extremely poor on their part to make errors in the most important and basic information at a time of crisis.” He added that he is more determined than ever to keep K-K station from ever having a restart. It turns out that an incorrect marking of a box on a fax form caused the hubbub! Tepco is trying to meet Japan’s new nuclear safety regulations in order to restart K-K units #6 & #7. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/06/20/business/corporate-business/get-fax-right-tepco-workers-accidentally-spark-japan-nuclear-scare/#.XQzRtutKiUk -- https://news.yahoo.com/fax-bungling-officials-spark-japan-nuclear-scare-113810502.html;_ylt=A2KLfSV30QxdkucAW9NXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTByNXQ0NThjBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwM1BHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzcg--

June 14, 2019

  • Kawauchi Village population is recovering nicely. The village was forced to evacuate by Tokyo mandate in 2011 because it lies within the 30km radius of F. Daiichi. The village evacuation orders were lifted three years ago. The 2010 population was 3,038! The return of residents has been slow, but steady. Currently, 2,095 people live there. Nearly 500 have come back after fleeing to other prefectures. About 100 former residents return each month. Mayor Yuko Endo says want to continue making an environment to support working residents, plan beyond reconstruction, and build a "sustainable" village. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190614_37/
  • Prime Minister Abe’s Cabinet approves Japan’s energy policy through 2050, focusing on meeting Paris Agreement goals. Unfortunately, the popular Press made it sound decidedly pronuclear, while the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum treated nuke energy as mostly an after-thought. Most of the White Paper explains the plans for Japan to meet its 2030 commitment on greenhouse gas emissions, and the full social and industrial shift to the desired low carbon goal of 2050. Currently, about 80% of the country’s energy supply comes from the burning of fossil fuels. That will decrease as the remaining dozen or so nukes restart over the next few years, but the reduction percentage will be minimal. Regardless, Japan is continuing its commitment to restarting as many post-Fukushima-idled nukes as regulatorily possible, stating that it will “continue promoting the restart of nuclear reactors, putting priority on safety.” In addition, the white paper details the decommissioning status of F. Daiichi, possible solutions for the accumulating waste water volume at the station, and the near-term removal used and unused fuel bundles from units #1, #2, & #3. It also explains the support for disaster victims, including the status of nuclear damages compensation. On the other hand, the popular Press bemoans restarts “despite lingering anti-nuclear sentiment since the Fukushima crisis”, the snail’s pace buildup of its commercial Plutonium stockpile, and virtually ignores the main body of the white paper. https://www.jaif.or.jp/en/japans-cabinet-approves-fy18-white-paper/ -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201906100044.html 
  • Training and simulations for Monju fast breeder fuel removal goes off without a hitch! The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety monitoring team reported this to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency on June 10th. The postponement of the onset of nuclear fuel removal was widely heralded by Japan’s news media, last month. Regardless, the flawless FBR defueling practice has not further delayed the current plan for work to begin in October! JAEA also announced that two “hold points” for additional training will be factored into the plans so that each subsequent sequence of events can proceed smoothly. They are: (1) process function tests (in late August) using simulated fuel assemblies to insure automatic removal operations, and (2) just before the actual removal of the fuel assemblies in October.  https://www.jaif.or.jp/en/training-and-simulations-mark-flawless-preparation-for-start-of-fuel-removal-from-fbr-monju-reactor-core-in-october/  
  • Kyushu Electric Company plans to shut down three nuclear units due to NRA terrorist regulations. Sendai unit #1 must have its mandated remote operations facility completed by March 17, 2020 in order to avoid being shuttered. Kyushu Electric says the completion will probably occur about a year later. When asked if construction could be accelerated, the company said doing that could compromise worker safety. In addition, Kyushu Electric said Genkai units #3 & #4 would probably not be able to meet their deadlines in 2022, and also have to be temporarily shut down. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201906140067.html

June 7, 2019

  • A convenience store has opened in Okuma. Located in front of the new town hall, the shop is the first commercial business to begin operation since the evacuation order of 2011. The town government hoped to build a commercial facility by next February, but could not find a company willing to build it. Thus, the convenience store is open on a temporary basis. Two more temporary stores plan on opening in June. Town residents began moving into public housing units last weekend, so the stories intended to support their meal and personal commodity needs. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190603_24/
  • Fukushima Prefecture says the second round of child thyroid “cancers” is not related to the nuke accident radioactive releases. Although the frequency of anomalies was a bit higher closer to the nuke station, no correlation could be found between the exposures and the increases. Investigation panel head Gen Suzuki says, "We haven't concluded that there are no long-term effects from radiation." He they need to continue thyroid screenings for the time being, while informing the families of the downside of over-diagnosis. Of the 380,000 screenings performed in 2015 and 2016, 71 tested positive for possibly cancerous growths and 52 experiencing operations to terminate the condition. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190604/p2a/00m/0na/017000c
  • All fishing ports on the Fukushima coast will be opened by the end of July. Nine of the ten ports closed after the 2011 calamity are already open. The last to open is in Tomioka, now that the wharves and breakwall damaged by the tsunami have been repaired. The fishing boats of Tomioka have been working out of Iwaki City and Namie Town until now. Officials say all boats are expected to return to Tomioka. The local fisheries plan a reopening ceremony in July. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190604_35/
  • Tepco may move up the schedule for removal of fuel bundles from the unit #2 spent fuel pool. The master plan is to remove the bundles sometime in 2023-2024. However, since unit #2 did not experience an explosion damaging the walls and ceiling of the fuel handling deck, the risk of releasing radioactive airborne material during the work is minimal. A firm decision on the schedule will be made in 2020. https://www.jaif.or.jp/en/tepco-considering-new-plan-to-remove-spent-fuel-from-fukushima-daiichi-2/
  • Local governments ask Tokyo to step up challenging overseas food bans, and persuade foreign governments to withdraw restrictions on Fukushima-area foods. Formal requests have been made in the past to promote formally addressing unfounded rumeos,  but this year the All Japan Council of Local Governments has added a request for pressuring foreign governments to drop their bans. The appeal to Tokyo was made as part of the meeting to update national parties on Fukushima reconstruction and F. Daiichi decommissioning. https://www.jaif.or.jp/en/local-governments-asks-national-government-to-help-get-overseas-import-regulation-on-foods-withdrawn-or-relaxed/
  • Aomori’s pronuclear governor is re-elected. Incumbent Shingo Mimura won his fifth term in the Aomori gubernatorial election on Sunday. The prefecture is home to several nuclear facilities, including the Rokkasho reprocessing plant…currently under construction. The prefecture gets about 20 billion yen in tax monies from the nukes each year. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2019/06/03/national/politics-diplomacy/pro-nuclear-incumbent-shingo-mimura-wins-fifth-term-aomori-gubernatorial-election/#.XPlf5BZKiUl

May 31, 2019

The latest totals Fukushima evacuee compensation have been posted here; https://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-evacuee-compensation-payments.html

  • Radionuclide analysis of fish caught within 20km of F. Daiichi show no accident “fingerprint”. 110 specimens caught and radiologically examined between April 2nd and April 18th contained no detectible Cesium 134 - the so-called “fingerprint” isotope for the March 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi. https://www7.tepco.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/handouts_190528_02-e.pdf  One of the five fish caught inside the F. Daiichi port breakwall was found to contain 13 Becquerels per kilogram of Cs-134, and total Cesium including Cs-137, was 160 Bq/kg. The species was the Gray Mullet, caught on April 19th. The Japanese limit for total radioactive Cesium is 100 Bq/kg. https://www7.tepco.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/handouts_190528_01-e.pdf
  • Fukushima’s specialty persimmons will be exported for the first time since March, 2011. The half-dried “ampo-gaki” fruit export was decided upon by the prefectural government on May 15th. The first country for export is Thailand. It will be a litmus test for future exports in Southeast Asia. A government official said, "We intend to strengthen sales promotion for the specialty fruit and broadly publicize the Fukushima brand of products." If this is successful, the next target will be the Middle East. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=948
  • The tide gates at Takahama Nuclear Station will close whenever an abnormal high tide is detected. The Nuclear Regulation Authority had advised Kansai Electric to shut the gates in response to a local tsunami warning following an earthquake. However, the NRA recently asked the company to consider gate closure with other tsunami-causing events, citing the remote possibility of a large tsunami due to an underwater landslide. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190530_31/
  • Volcano-phobia makes the NRA ask for greater ash-fall protection at three nuke stations on the Sea of Japan. The volcano at-issue is Mount Daisen; roughly 200 kilometers from Kansai Electric’s Takahama, Oi, and Mihama Stations, on the coast of Fukui Prefecture. A final decision on possible rule-making is forthcoming, spurred by the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors, reflecting current scientific knowledge. The Act obligates nuclear plant operators to make safety upgrades even after operation has begun. Before the nuke accident, safety upgrades were not obligatory once a nuke unit had started. At issue is whether or not volcanic ash deposition is a reasonable concern with Mt. Daisen since it is considered currently dormant, but an academic paper published in 2018 concluded that a future eruption is possible and could be at least twice as powerful than current scientific evidence might indicate. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190530/p2a/00m/0bu/010000c

May 24, 2019

  • Tepco decides to postpone its decision on employment of foreign workers at F. Daiichi. The company announced the possibility last month, following Japan’s new foreign visa program designed to stem the tide of a national labor shortage. The National Immigration Services Agency has created a system that assists foreigners in acclimating to daily lives in Japan. The system applies to all foreign workers, including those who might work in the decommissioning of the F. Daiichi station. The Labor Ministry wants Tepco to be doubly sure that any foreign workers are fully protected from high radiation exposures. The Ministry says most foreigners are unaccustomed to Japan’s language and customs, thus there may be critical misunderstandings in training for safety procedures. This is not accounted for under Japan’s radiation training programs, thus Tepco must be extremely cautious in having foreign workers engaged in work that exposes them to radiation. As a result, the company will not hire foreign workers at F. Daiichi at this point in time. Currently, there is no worker shortage at the nuke station, but it is possible that it could happen in the future. It seems that this concern is specific to nuclear power plant workers, and not to all new foreign workers intended to stem Japan’s worker shortage. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190521_26/ -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0005758473 -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190522_39/ -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201905220067.html
  • Japan’s Federation of Electric Power Companies intends to accelerate construction of anti-terrorism facilities at nuke plants. Member companies will cooperate as much as possible to meet Nuclear Regulation Authority deadlines. The NRA says it will block operation of nukes that have not completed their facilities in time. FERC Chair Satoru Katrsuno says member companies have insufficiently communicated details of their respective construction situations with the NRA, but are now fully motivated to complete the work “as soon as possible, to the best of their ability, to minimize the suspension periods or—if possible—avoid them altogether.” Last week, Kyushu Electric Company submitted a portion of its anti-terrorism plans to the NRA for currently-operating Genkai unit #3, hoping to avoid t the unit’s August 2022 deadline. Whether or not this will satisfy the NRA is unknown. https://www.jaif.or.jp/en/japanese-power-companies-to-cooperate-with-each-other-to-complete-anti-terrorism-facilities-more-quickly/ 
  • Former antinuclear activist Michael Shellenberger explained why he changed his opinion on nukes to the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum. He said his desire to tackle the global warming problem was central to his decision. The more he objectively studied the issue, the more his objections lessened. He wants to demystify the core of the debate. He says the bottom line problem has to do with radiation. He says, “When I listen to people talk about radiation, it sounds like they are talking about an evil spirit rather than a physical phenomenon. There is an impulse common to every culture to rid ourselves of the unwanted and to bury it forever—that is, to put nuclear power back in Pandora’s Box.“ Unfortunately, Shellenberger’s presentation has been largely ignored by Japan’s popular Press! https://www.jaif.or.jp/en/%e3%80%9052nd-jaif-annual-conference%e3%80%91-environmental-activist-michael-shellenberger-a-pro-nuclear-convert-meets-the-press/

May 17, 2019

  • Tepco tests the effect of ceasing cooling flow for F. Daiichi unit #2 RPV. On Monday, the three tons per hour injection to the Reactor Pressure Vessel was stopped to measure how fast the remaining internal temperature would rise do to residual decay heat. Estimates said the increase should be about 4oC over the seven-hour-long test. The actual temperature increase was not posted in time for this update.  https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190513/p2g/00m/0dm/071000c
  • Fukushima Sake breweries team up with KISS. You read that right… the legendary American rock icons! Representatives of the prefecture’s Okunomatsu Sake Brewery and Homare Sake Brewery informed Governor (and admitted fan of the band) Masao Uchibori on Monday. Bottle labels will display KISS album covers, and names from hit songs. Okunomatsu President Joji Yusa said he was surprised to get the chance to work with his favorite musicians. Homare President Hiroyuki Karahashi said it was an opportunity to promote Fukushima sake from to KISS fans around the world. The items have been on sale at a music store in Tokyo and on its website since April 29. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190513_27/
  • Okuma begins large-scale farming trials. The town's agricultural commission has had crops planted, including sticky glutinous rice and premium quality koshihikari rice, across 1,600 square meters of paddy fields. Earlier test crops revealed radiation levels well-below Japan’s 100 becquerels per kilogram safety standard. Last year the level was a mere 2 Bq/kg! https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190514/p2a/00m/0na/013000c
  • A Japanese utility plans an anti-terrorist facility to beat 6the 5-year deadline set by Tokyo. Kyushu Electric Company submitted plans for Genkai #3 to the NRA yesterday. The Nuclear Regulation Authority requires such a facility to be completed within five years of approval for restart engineering plans. In April, the regulator said those units not meeting the deadline could be shuttered. The electric company said prompt approval by the NRA should allow it to complete the structure by the unit’s August, 2022 deadline. All other owners of 13 units targeted by the NRA have said the deadline is not feasible!  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190517_04/
  • Tepco postpones the disassembly of the upper portion of the units #1&2 exhaust gas stack. The work was scheduled to begin on May 16th, but will not actually start until June, at the earliest. A Tepco official said, “We believe that the lifting angle of the crane arm turned out to be different from the original plan because of an error in measuring equipment,” which makes the crane 1.6 meters too short to remove the first, upper-most section. The deconstruction of the upper half of the 120 meter chimney is needed because of support structure weakening due to the March 2011 unit #1 explosion. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201905170049.html
  • The current status of F. Daiichi decommissioning is presented to JAIF. Executive Officer Akira Ono of Tepco relayed the information to the 52nd annual conference of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum. He pointed out that area radiation levels inside the Tokyo-mandated evacuation zone have diminished enough to eliminate living restrictions in many areas. He added that work is being undertaken strategically and on schedule, stressing that interactive communication with local residents is a priority. He stated, “All the units are in a state of cold shutdown. The volumes of water injections have gradually decreased, and the temperatures of the pressure vessels and the interior of the containment vessels have remained stable.” In addition, plans for removal of fuel bundles from units #1, 2,& 3 storage pools are progressing positively. Further, area radiation levels have been reduced so that 96% of the premises no longer need employees to wear protective clothing. The most troubling problem remains to be the on-going build-up of decontaminated wastewater, which cannot be discharged to the ocean due to radiophobic fears. https://www.jaif.or.jp/en/52nd-jaif-annual-conference-fukushima-daiichi-report/
  • Tokyo makes long term tank storage a possibility for F. Daiichi wastewater! While the problem had long been the ubiquitous and relatively harmless existence of mildly-radioactive Tritium in the waters, discovery of residual Strontium-90 in much of the treated liquids "completely destroyed the premise for discussions” and confounded the issue.  As a result, the Industry Ministry will add long-term storage to the list of some five pre-existing possible ways to deal with the issue. NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa warned in March that "the time when a decision must be made (on how to deal with the contaminated water) is very close indeed." He added that dilution and open release remains the best choice for disposal. There is currently less than 5 years of storage space remaining on the F. Daiichi station property. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190513/p2a/00m/0na/006000c

May 10, 2019

  • The new town office for Okuma opens for business. It is located in the Ogawara District where the evacuation order has been lifted. Municipal administration has been operating from Aizu-Wakamatsu, roughly 100 kilometers from Okuma, since the town was forced to become deserted by Tokyo mandate in March, 2011. Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe and 80 officials moved on Tuesday of this week to handle returning local residents and other visitors. The mayor told office workers he wanted to create a safe and secure environment for returning townspeople, "We've reached a new stage of reconstruction. As we aim to improve residents' services and speed up the recovery, I want you all to use this building as the frontline in making Okuma's recovery more than just words." https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190507_25/ -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201905070060.html -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190508/p2a/00m/0na/013000c
  • Japan will use drone technology to monitor area radiation levels around F. Daiichi. Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency has developed the system to measure exposure levels in the remaining no-entry zones near the nuke station. A recent test-run revealed that a 7,000 m2 survey that formerly took half a day using airplane-borne equipment, will now take about 30 minutes. Full implementation is planned to happen by next March. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190510_26/
  • Potassium Iodide tablets will be issued for immediate ingestion for those under the age of 40. The Nuclear Regulation Authority decided to restrict this measure to residents who live within 5 kilometers of a nuclear station, to be ingested if the nuke has an accident and the release of airborne radioactive material is possible. In addition, the measure will include pregnant and/or nursing women, regardless of age. The under-40 restriction conforms to World Health Organization recommendations. WHO suggests that KI ingestion is essentially ineffective for adults over the age of 40. However, The NRA says they will distribute the tablets to those over 40 who formally request it. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190508_36/ -- https://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/pub_meet/tech_briefings/potassium_iodide/en/
  • Tepco plans to start disassembling half of the units’ #1 & #2 exhaust chimney on May 20th. The chimney was built to release radioactive gasses that accumulated inside the two reactor buildings. However, it was used as such only for unit #2 since the unit #1 hydrogen explosion of March 12, 2019, made a controlled release from that unit moot. The explosion caused fractures in the chimney’s support structures that have remained unrepaired for eight years due to the high radiation levels caused by the residual contamination inside the chimney. Tepco has been planning the removal of the upper half of the 120 meter chimney for years, but needed to come up with a remote-controlled disassembly process because of the ~10 Sievert per hour radiation level measured at its base in 2011. It has decayed down to a current level of about 2 Sieverts/hr, still to high for NRA comfort. The remote-control will be located in a bus about 200 meters from the chimney. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201905100045.html

May 3, 2019

  • The latest Fukushima evacuee compensation figures are posted. http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-evacuee-compensation-payments.html
  • An unregistered key to an F. Daiichi building is discovered missing, violating NRA rules. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has issued a warning to Tepco because an ensuing investigation found that it took more than a week to uncover the problem. Also, it was found that the key was not registered, along with 9,000 other keys for a padlock on a unit #1 door! Tepco says they are trying to find out why the padlock had so many keys and why one was missing for so long before it was reported. An unlisted key is a violation of NRA rules. The company says that a list of all keys has been created. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190427_10/

April 26, 2019

  • Tepco removes seven unused fuel bundles from the unit #3 Spent Fuel Pool. The remote-control process began on Monday with the bundles placed in a fuel transfer cask. The cask was moved to a fuel storage facility, some 100 meters away, and the bundles inserted into the facility storage rack on Tuesday. The seven relocated bundles, along with those already there from unit #4, will now undergo a required safety check. Because of this, the remaining 45 unused and 514 used (spent) bundles will not begin their transfer until July. The complete process should be finished by the end of March, 2021. Sometime later that year, removal of fuel bundles from units #1 & #2 should begin. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190423_39/ -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2019/04/0a6233fbd8f0-tepco-transfers-some-fuel-from-fukushima-plant-no-3-unit-pool.html -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190423/p2g/00m/0na/060000c
  • The Fukushima J-Village soccer center fully reopens. Located some 20 mile south of F. Daiichi, it was used as a base of operations for recovery for the nuke plant. Prior to the 2011 accident, the facility was used to train Olympic soccer players. The opening of the new local station on the JR Joban railway line marked the completed restoration of the facility for soccer. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0005687777 -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190420_12/
  • Japan’s Para-Cycling Federation moves its base to Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture. The community is just outside the old Fukushima 20 kilometer-wide no-go-zone, to the southwest. The City hosts the Iwaki-Taira Keirin Velodrome which has a stable environment year-round. The JCPF will move into Iwaki in May, to coincide with a seven day training camp May 1-7. The 2020 Paralympics will begin less than 500 days there-after. Para-cycling is an official event at the Tokyo Paralympics. Japan will send about 20 men and women to the games. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=945
  • None of the fish caught within 20 kilometers of F. Daiichi in March contained a detectible level of the Fukushima radiological “fingerprint”, Cesium-134. The four caught inside the station break-wall had higher concentrations of Cesium-137 in them that those taken outside the barrier. But, even the one with the highest Cs-137 concentration was many times less than eight years ago. This was the first posting where all tested fish from inside the break-wall showed no detectible Cs-134. For more than a year, none of those taken outside the break-wall have tested positive for Cs-134.  https://www7.tepco.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/handouts_190423_01-e.pdf -- https://www7.tepco.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/handouts_190423_02-e.pdf
  • Japan asks S. Korea to lift Fukushima food import restrictions, to no avail. Last week, we reported that the restrictions were approved by the World Trade Organization. Subsequently, Tokyo appealed to Seoul to lift the ban because Japan’s radioactive safety standards were more restrictive than WTO standards. However, S. Korea has turned a deaf ear to Japan’s request arguing that the restrictions prioritize the “health and safety” of their citizens. Fukushima Governor Uchibori says that thorough explanations should have eliminated fears and false rumors, but he truly regrets the WTO decision to uphold Korea’s restrictions. The WTO originally ruled that Fukushima-region food restrictions were actually unfair discrimination, but the body reversed that ruling on April 11th. Almost immediately, Tokyo said the latest ruling was not a defeat for Japan because the WTO admits that Japanese food products are scientifically safe and test below the standards set by South Korea. This has been attacked by legal experts from inside and outside of Japan, so the Farm Ministry has rephrased their objection to say the foods being shipped test below all international “numerical” safety standards. The dispute continues. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201904230050.html -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190423/p2g/00m/0na/059000c -- https://www.jaif.or.jp/en/governor-uchibori-of-fukushima-says-that-thorough-explanations-are-the-only-way-to-eliminate-unfounded-fears-and-rumors/
  • Japan’s operating nukes could be shuttered for not meeting the NRA deadlines on anti-terrorism facilities. Once a nuke is approved for restart, the time clock begins ticking on the construction of “specific safety facilities” (i.e. a remote safe shutdown control room in the event of a jetliner crashing into a power plant control room), giving the unit operator five years to build, test, and bring the facility into operation. On April 17th, three company heads of restarted nukes told the Nuclear Regulation Authority that five years is an impossible time frame, and it will actually take more than six years, and perhaps as much as seven and a half years! However, the NRA turned a deaf ear to the utilities and re-affirmed the five year grace period. NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa said that existing facilities followed the new regulatory standards via so-called back-fit measures, and the grace periods are currently firm. However, he added that the agency will discuss the matter promptly at a future public NRA meeting. Regardless, most of Japan’s Press has taken this to mean that all currently operating nukes are necessarily at-risk for being shuttered! https://www.jaif.or.jp/en/electric-utilities-ask-nra-for-understanding-on-extending-grace-period-for-building-anti-terrorism-facilities-at-npps/ -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190424_21/ -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190424/p2g/00m/0dm/067000c -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201904240044.html

April 19, 2019

  • Stored fuel bundles are being removed from F. Daiichi unit #3. The fuel storage (i.e. Spent Fuel) pool contains 512 used and 54 unused bundles. The first four were slid from their pool locations and placed in a shipping container on Monday, April 15. It is generally believed that moving the bundles from the damaged pool structure to ground-level storage is a safety improvement. The bundles were handled by remote control because the 1 millisievert per hour area radiation level is considered too dangerous for people. It is hoped that all bundles will be transferred out of the pool by March, 2022. However, Tepco’s decommissioning and decontamination boss Akira Ono spoke in highly cautious terms about the time-frame, "We do not believe the process will proceed with zero problems." Toyoshi Fuketa, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, echoed his words, saying, "To be honest, it will be difficult to say that no problems will emerge that will force a change in plans." Regardless, the handling of the unit #3 bundles will serve as a learning tool for the removal of fuel pool bundles from units #1 & #2. https://www7.tepco.co.jp/wp-content/uploads/handouts_190415_01-e.pdf --http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201904120036.html -- http://time.com/5570471/japan-fukushima-decommissioning-reactors-fuel/?fbclid=IwAR2Mi_pEk5asM1_zkVrNDjT1Zjh1cqunBGqk6xCrB4vPVcMCbb1DeT5_CQE
  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visits F. Daiichi. Last Sunday, Abe observed decommissioning efforts, explanation of contaminated water countermeasures, and handed out letters of gratitude to key contractor employees. He said, “Let’s continue to work together until we have enabled Fukushima to completely recover.” He also attended a ceremony for opening a new town hall in Okuma, which will start providing local services on May 7th. Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said, "The new government building is at the forefront of the town's revival, and it is a symbol of the pledge to realize our reconstruction."  https://www7.tepco.co.jp/newsroom/announcements/archives/2019/prime-minister-shinzo-abe-visits-the-fukushima-daiichi-nuclear-power-station.html -- https://japantoday.com/category/politics/Abe-visits-Fukushima-to-check-areas-affected-by-2011-nuclear-disaster
  • Tokyo is urged to end overseas restrictions on Fukushima-produced seafood. Last week, the World Trade organization ruled that it favored South Korea’s continuing, radiophobia-based ban on Japanese seafood imports. On Wednesday, ruling Liberal Democratic Party members called the ban a diplomatic defeat and blamed the Tokyo government for it happening! Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga met with the head of the national federation of fisheries cooperatives, Hiroshi Kishi, who says Tokyo needs a drastic review of the country’s strategies for resumption of unrestricted seafood trade. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190417_34/
  • Japan’s largest news outlet makes a call for reason with Fukushima repopulation. Currently the partial revocation of the evacuation order for Okuma affects only about 400 residents… those who have been staying in their homes for about a year. More people will be moving into 50 new housing units in June. However, necessary infrastructure (e.g. medical facilities and supermarkets) have yet to be built. The town government will assist returnees to access these conveniences in the nearby town of Tomioka. But before anything like schools and job sources can manifest, a sufficient percentage of the population must say they are willing to return, and that is currently not the case. At least 50% “have decided not to return”. Long term plans should be made under this probability. This does not mean that the town officials should just give up because a viable, working community is necessary for F. Daiichi decommissioning. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0005673286
  • Tepco decides to allow foreign workers at F. Daiichi. A shortage of workers in various job categories has happened across Japan. The country has created a new visa program to try and alleviate the problem. The new system was instituted April 1st to bring in mostly blue-collar workers to 14 “job-hungry sectors”. Tepco will not be hiring these people, but subcontractors can hire foreign workers for general janitorial and food service jobs, as well as industrial and automobile maintenance workers at F. Daiichi. A TEPCO official explained, "The decision to hire foreign workers under the new visa system is up to our subcontractors” Negative xenophobic opinions assume that the radiation protection requirements for F. Daiichi workers are too complicated for foreigners and such naivety could produce disastrous consequences. Kazumi Takagi, a sociology professor at Gifu University, said, “Unless workers can instantly understand the (Japanese) language when minor mistakes or sudden problems occur, it could lead to a major accident.”
  • https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190418_28/ -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2019/04/b839c3aba30f-tepco-eyes-using-foreign-workers-at-crisis-hit-fukushima-daiichi-plant.html -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190418/p2g/00m/0dm/079000c -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201904180027.html
  • Japan’s antinuclear Press continues to speculate that the location of fuel debris remains unknown. The Mainichi Shimbun posts that because the rubble bed in unit #2 was pebble-like, not a solidified mass, and emitted a several times lower radiation field than had been previously speculated, “This finding suggested that the sediment that TEPCO came in contact with in the survey was not the main nuclear fuel debris it was looking for. Many speculate that the surface of the sediment may mainly consist of metals including cladding tubes that used to cover nuclear fuels. The question now is whether fuel debris exists beneath the surface of the sediment or if nuclear fuel still remains within the reactor pressure vessel, or even somewhere else. There are currently no prospects for TEPCO to ascertain an accurate distributions of debris.” Such reporting only fuels the fears of unprincipled conspiracy theorists around the world, and serves no objective purpose! https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190409/p2a/00m/0na/021000c

April 11, 2019

  • The evacuation order has been rescinded for parts of F. Daiichi host, Okuma Town. The districts are Ogawara and Chuyashiki, each located about 5ive miles south of the nuke station. Municipal employees explained the specifics to interested residents on Wednesday, April 10th. A new town hall will open May 7th in Ogawara. 50 families will move into a public housing complex in June, and a convenience store will open. Bus services will also start to and from the neighboring town of Tomioka, which has a supermarket and a hospital. Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said the town is finally starting reconstruction and promised efforts to make the town ready for anyone who wants to return. Some 700 F. Daiichi employees have lived in a company dormitory since 2016. It is planned to lift restrictions on the rest of the town in 2022.  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190410_38/ -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201904100058.html  
  • Okuma’s “old man squad” ends its vigil. Six older men have patrolled the town for the last six years, removing weed, fallen tree branches, and assisted residents who made overnight visits to their homes. One team member said they did this because “There's no need for young people to risk their lives. We, old men, will make the rounds.” Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe credits the evacuation order’s lifting to the efforts of the “old man squad”. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201904060001.html
  • Tomioka Town’s no-go areas are visited by cherry-blossom tour busses. A 2.2 kilometer stretch of the town is well-known for its ~400 cherry trees that are now in bloom. 1.9 kilometers of the drive is inside the so-called difficult-to-return zone. Ten shuttle busses were chartered by the town government for the event. One resident said, "It's good that everyone could gather to see a symbol of our hometown." https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20190406_14/ -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190406/p2a/00m/0na/011000c
  • Fukushima had Japan’s largest growth in foreign visitors in January. The Japan Tourism Agency says there were nearly 18,000 visitors, which is 2.4 times the number recorded last year.  The largest number came from Taiwan, followed by Taiwan and Australia. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=943
  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) uses artificial intelligence for automated transcriptions of its private meetings with electric utility representatives for safety screenings. This is a change intended to increase transparency and improve the way information is disclosed to the public. The technology achieved about 90 percent accuracy in a preliminary test. Although mistranscriptions will be included, some parts of the text will be deleted upon review, including information that needs to be kept secret for safety reasons. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190409/p2a/00m/0na/019000c
  • A bridge connecting Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture to a city island went into service on Sunday. The residents were isolated for about three weeks after the March 11, 2011, quake and tsunami. This will allow those who need medical services easier access to the mainland, and promote tourism. Kesennuma Mayor Shigeru Sugawara said , “I want many people to visit the scenic island.” http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0005660710-19.html


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