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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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August 31, 2015

  • Today, Sendai unit #1 reached 100% reactor power. Although the plant was generating at its full power level (890 MWe) late last week, the reactor itself was still below 100%. It was ramped up over the weekend. Commercial operation is scheduled for September 10th. During the interim, plant staff and the Nuclear Regulation Authority inspectors will be making numerous examinations of the plant systems at full power. Once all inspections are successfully completed, commercial operation will be allowed. Meanwhile, Kyushu Electric Co. plans to load fuel into Sendai #2 in a few weeks, and begin its restart process in mid-October.  http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150831_16.html  -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150831p2a00m0na013000c.html

  • Full-scale decontamination starts in Okuma Town. Okuma the first of the two host communities for the F. Daiichi station to start the process (along with Futaba). Okuma also shares the proposed 30-year storage facility for rural decontamination rubbish generated in the prefecture. Some 30 workers gathered at an elementary school on Friday to begin work on a 1 km2 area, using heavy machinery to remove contaminated soils. Other zones will also see full-scale decontamination in the future, focusing on locations with schools and public facilities. Until now, decontamination has been limited to “experimental” projects. Similar restricted zones in six other communities are also being planned. Whether or not they will actually be done depends on radiation levels and resident wishes. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150828_38.html

  • Tokyo begins repopulation support for businesses in the Fukushima exclusion zone. A group of about 100 individuals was formed comprised of central government, Fukushima Prefecture government, and private sector employees, to advise exclusion zone businesses on resuming their services before evacuation orders are lifted. The team will set up offices in the cities of Fukushima, Koriyama, and Iwaki. Only 20% of the businesses in the exclusion zone have resumed operations. A much greater percentage should be up and running to support the tens of thousands that could return home by March, 2017. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=555

  • The Ministry of Health posted new guideline for the health and safety of F. Daiichi workers. This mirrors Tepco’s June revision to the “roadmap” for decommissioning. The three areas of the roadmap addressed by the ministry are management of worker safety and health, risk assessment, and reduction of staff radiation exposure. An historical study of incidents at F. Daiichi showed that 84% were by workers that had been there less than a year. The company’s Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Company concluded that the most urgent issue was upgrading new worker awareness of potential health and safety problems. Based on Tepco’s investigation, seven specific items have been identified by the ministry, including added training for care and handling of protective equipment, care and use of dosimeters, contamination prevention measures, and basic first aid. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/health-ministry-issues-guidelines-managing-safety-and-health-at-fukushima-daiichi/

  • A nuclear accident drill was run in Minamisoma City. Some 2,000 people took part, including local residents, fire department officials, police officers and Self-Defense Force personnel. The accident scenario was that another millennia quake struck the off-shore subduction zone fault, causing a massive tsunami. The tsunami would strike F. Daiichi during decommissioning and knock out power to the cooling system of a spent fuel pool. The spent fuel was assumed to severely overheat and release radioactive material into the atmosphere. Volunteer residents evacuated to a designated site and were screened for contamination. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150831p2a00m0na002000c.html (Comment - two key problems. First, the used fuel pool “disaster” scenario is contentious, at best. We should see the actual scenario before passing judgment, but an SFP-based release of radioactivity is a nigh-impossibility. The government of Fukushima Prefecture seems to be stretching reality to come up with a scenario worthy of evacuating residents. On another note, the Press is once again confusing contamination with radiation exposure. Scanning for the public is performed to see if radioactive dust is on a person’s skin or clothing. A person would have to be wearing a dosimeter to establish radiation exposure.)

  • Fir tree abnormalities were found in the Fukushima exclusion zone. The announcement was made by Tokyo’s Health Ministry. The ministry has been monitoring 80 species of animals and plants since 2011. The fir trees were the only species to have shown unusual morphology over the past 4 years. They asked the National Institute of Radiological Sciences to look at the fir trees in the areas of higher radioactivity. The results show a significant increase of one specific defect, and was published in the Scientific Reports journal. http://www.nature.com/articles/srep13232  The report concludes “There are several factors that are possibly responsible for increased frequencies of the morphological defect observed…and, at present, there is no decisive evidence that any single factor is causally related to those increased frequencies.” However, the researchers found that the rate of defects increased in proportion to increases in radioactivity. Thus, they assume that Fukushima radiation might be a possible explanation, but until other possible causes can be studied, no definitive conclusion should be drawn. The Japanese Institute’s Satoshi Yoshida said the relationship between the defects and radiation are unclear and further studies are needed.  http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150829_05.html

  • Mainichi Shimbun reports on the five instances of small amounts of mildly contaminated rainwater run-off at F. Daiichi leaking to the sea since February. There is one important omission. The Mainichi says the activity levels “ranged from around 20 to 670 times the safety level set for a "subdrain" plan…” It neglected to mention that the subdrain release limit for Cesium is a barely-detectible one Becquerel per liter. Second, Japan’s release limit of 90 Becquerels per liter is nowhere to be found in the Mainichi report. Regardless, here’s the link… http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150829p2a00m0na019000c.html

  • NIMBY rears its ugly head in Miyagi Prefecture over rural waste disposal. (NIMBY is the acronym for Not In My Back Yard) On Friday, the Environment Ministry wanted to begin candidate site studies at three locations; Kami, Kurihara, and Taiwa. The ministry notified all three of the survey schedule last Thursday, and received agreement from Kurihawa and Taiwa…but not Kami. As a result, Kami’s Mayor, Hirofumi Inomata, and representatives from about 50 groups opposing low level waste disposal in Japan, blocked the road leading to the proposed Kami site. When told that these were merely preliminary surveys, Inomata said it was his opinion that “this area doesn’t meet the requirements for a candidate site.” Local anti-disposal group leader Fukutsugu Takahashi explained, "It's wrong to bring materials contaminated by the nuclear power plant to a beautiful mountain like this." The confrontation resulted in the agency’s staff leaving after about 30 minutes. Activities at the other two sites were also terminated due to Tokyo’s agreement with Kurihawa and Taiwa was that all three would be surveyed simultaneously. Currently, 3,404 metric tons of rice straw, sludge and other waste containing radioactive Cesium at over 8,000 Becquerels per kilogram, is being stored at 39 makeshift locations in nine Miyagi Prefecture municipalities. (Aside - The same groups continually demanding disposal of the accumulated materials, are also trying to stop it.  – end aside) http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150828p2a00m0na014000c.html

  • On Saturday, NIMBY also descended on Tochigi Prefecture. Led by Kami Mayor Hirobumi Inomata, of Miyagi Prefecture, (see above) about 2,700 people from Shioya, Tochigi Prefecture, rallied over Tokyo’s designating the town as a candidate site for disposal of the prefecture’s accumulated rural radioactive materials. The debris is currently stored at 170 locations through-out the prefecture. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2015/08/371639.html

August 27, 2015

  • Fukushima Fisheries officially approve decontaminated water releases. On Tuesday, the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations approved the plan on conditions that their release rulings are followed and compensation is paid for damages due to harmful rumors. Federation chairman Tetsu Nozaki said the approval was unanimous, adding, "I don't know if it's acceptable for all fishery operators, but stable work of decommissioning (of the Fukushima plant) is necessary for the revival of Fukushima's fishery industry." Further, he wants Tepco to make sure no waters are released to the sea that exceed the legally-allowed limits. However, Tepco’s self-imposed limits are far more exacting than Tokyo’s; e.g. Tokyo’s release standard for Cesium-137 is 90 Becquerels per liter, but Tepco has restricted their releases to below 1 Bq/l for Cs-137. To exemplify the ridiculously low level Tepco is committing to; the WHO limit for Cs-137 in drinking water is 10 Bq/l. Nonetheless, groundwater will be pumped out of 41 wells that surround the damaged turbine building basements, before the groundwater can seep into the buildings and become contaminated. These waters will be run through the station’s highly effective purification system before release. Tepco says this will cut the inflow of groundwater into the plant by about 50%. Fukushima fisheries headquarters Chief Yoshiyuki Ishizaki said the plan could lead to rebuilding of Fukushima's fishing industry. The date the releases will begin is speculative, but it could happen soon. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150825p2g00m0dm075000c.html

  • Three of the four unit #3 equipment trenches have been filled with concrete. Removal of the contaminated water from the shafts was completed on July 30th. The filling of shaft “B” was finished today (August 27th). Shafts “A” and “C” had already been filled. Most of shaft “D” is now filled, except for the very top which is connected to the turbine building at the basement’s contaminated water level. Once the “ice wall” is completed and water level in the basement has been lowered sufficiently, the top of shaft “D” will be filled. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2015/images/handouts_150827_01-e.pdf

  • The Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee says significant progress has been made in Fukushima water management and public disclosure. Committee members praised the company’s most-resent commitment to a much more intensive disclosure of radioactive contamination data, no matter how miniscule it might be. Tepco has raised the number of reported data points from 50,000/yr to 70,000 /yr because “questions had been raised about the adequacy of disclosing certain data that resulted from testing water quality in a drainage channel.” Committee Chair Dr. Dale Klein said, “In addition to fulfilling its disclosure promises, TEPCO has made important advances in water management and safety culture.” Deputy Chair Lady Barbara Judge said, “At our last meeting, a great deal of attention was given to issues of water and disclosure, and I am very pleased to see great progress in both of those areas.” On a contrary note, subcommittee chief Masafumi Sakurai provided a report that sternly rebuked Tepco for “organizational issues” and lack of “the spirit to satisfy the expectation of general public concerning information disclosure.” Unfortunately, the subcommittee paper has been the only part covered by the Japanese Press. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2015/1258281_6844.html -- http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201508250044

  • Sendai unit #1 plugged five leaking condenser tubes and continued the ramping-up of power. Kyushu Electric Company says the plant staff pinpointed the location of five cracked metal pipes (tubes) which allowed small amounts of seawater to mix with the non-radioactive steam plant condensate waters. There are multiple sets of tube sheets inside the condenser. The one with the leaking tubes was isolated from seawater flow. Tiny holes were discovered electronically in five of the tubes after flow was stopped. There are a total of 26,000 such tubes in the three condensers, located on the exhaust (bottom) of the steam-driven turbines that spin the rotor inside the generator that produces electricity. The low-concentration of salinity in the condensate was removed by the unit’s desalination system. Tepco plugged the cracked tubes and the Nuclear Regulation Authority inspected the work, allowing the power increase at the unit to resume.  http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2015/08/371322.html -- http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201508250046 -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

  • The NRA has revised guidelines for medical treatment during a nuclear emergency. They are putting together a national network of medical institutions that can provide emergency treatment for contaminated patients. The NRA identified five hospitals as treatment facilities for large numbers of people exposed to high levels of radioactive materials. The new guide also calls for advanced education on radiation treatment for local medical staffs plus organizing teams of doctors, nurses and medical experts to support local hospitals in the event of a nuclear emergency. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2015/08/371077.html  (Comment – The reports in the Japanese Press seem terribly confused, based on this reporter’s professional experience in Health Physics and the exposures associated with the Fukushima accident. Here in the United States, local hospitals have modified emergency facilities so medical staff can treat sick and/or physically injured patients who are contaminated. Thorough cleansing in a shower removes the contamination. While persons can be exposed to very low levels of radiation while contaminated, nuke accident contamination levels have never been great enough to cause exposure injury. I firmly believe that the NRA guidelines refer to contamination, its removal from otherwise sick or injured patients, and prevention of the medical staff from becoming contaminated while treating these individuals. The Japanese Press is confusing contamination with injurious levels of exposure itself, which is terribly incorrect. The Press seems to be referring to exposures related to nuclear weapon detonations – another example of the Hiroshima Syndrome at-work in Japan.)

August 24, 2015

  • 13,000 more Fukushima evacuees can prepare to go back home. Tokyo’s nuclear emergency response headquarters says residents of Minamisoma City and Katsurao Village can stay in their homes for a three month preparatory period starting on August 31. In the affected zones of both communities, residents have been allowed to visit their abodes only during the day. The zones are the entire Odaka district and part of the Haramachi district in Minamisoma, and nearly all of the small part of Katsurao under the mandated evacuation restriction. In Minamisoma as many as 11,702 will be able to repopulate, and in Katsurao up to 1,360 are subject to the eased restriction. Deputy Chief Osamu Goto said the reason for the decision is "conditions for (residents') return home are almost in place, including progress in the preparation of infrastructure systems and decontamination work." However, he noted that "it does not follow that the restrictions will be automatically lifted three months later" because discussion with the local and prefectural governments must ensue. Regardless, Minamisoma plans on lifting the evacuation order inn April, and Katsuao sometime in the spring. The response task force also intends to extend the eased ruling to Kawamata Town’s Yamakiya district, but details have yet to be worked out. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=551

  • The slow increase of electrical output at Sendai #1 was curtailed Friday. A seawater leak into one of the three main condensers under the main turbines caused the problem. It seems power was at about 75% when a conductivity alarm sounded on the fresh water (condensate) being pumped out of the condenser. A chemical analysis quickly identified seawater in the liquid. The condenser was isolated in order to begin investigation and repair the leak. Sendai #1 is a Pressurized Water Reactor with “primary” and “secondary” systems. The water in the primary system is heated to a high temperature by the heat of fission as it passes through the nuclear fuel core. The primary water is kept at a very high pressure so that it cannot boil. The hot primary water is pumped to a steam generator where it runs through a myriad of pipes (tube sheet) and heats water on the outside (secondary side) of the tubes. The secondary water is allowed to boil, producing the steam to drive the turbine generators. The primary and secondary waters do not mix, thus the steam is not radioactive. When the used-up steam emerges from the bottom of the turbines, it is cooled by another myriad of metal tubes with seawater flowing inside them and condenses back into liquid form. The large tank containing the cooling tubes is called the condenser. The pressure on the steam/condensate side of the condenser tubes is well-below atmospheric, and the seawater running through the tubes has a pressure slightly above atmospheric, so the seawater flows into the condensate if a leak develops. It seems this has not been adequately explained by Japan’s Press, as shown in the below links. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002371636 -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150821p2g00m0dm075000c.html

  • Tepco has posted a detailed Press handout on their upgraded information disclosure program. As a result of the uproar over previously unreported instances of rainwater runoff radioactivity over the past year, the company has committed to a policy of intensified disclosure. The release states, “In the wake of the drainage K problem that came to light in March of this year efforts are being made to improve the awareness of the FDEC and its sensitivity to issues of social concern.” The rationale is that “The sensitivity of disclosing information from the perspective of society had not fully permeated throughout the organization.” Tepco also says the problem was worsened by organizational issues. The Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Company (FDEC) has been tasked to improve awareness, cultivate social sensitivity, and create a formal mechanism to ensure promise fulfillment. In order to implement better public communication, the Risk Communicator staff will be doubled and populated with “…primarily nuclear engineers in management positions that have a variety of expert skills.” Training for the staff will be held every six months with instructors from “outside the company”. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu15_e/images/150824e0101.pdf

  • Correction of an earlier update. Last week, it was announced that Japan has formally protested the South Korean embargo on marine food products. We posted that the ban was expanded to all of Japan in 2013. Actually, the restriction was specific to but eight prefectures on the eastern coastline of Honshu Island; Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba. South Korea says the embargo is due to the “leakage of contaminated water”. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/japan-seeks-formal-adjudication-by-wto-on-south-koreas-import-restrictions-on-japanese-marine-products/

August 20, 2015

  • 25% of Okuma and Futaba landowners will sell their property for rural debris storage. Many say their willingness is due to the possibility that radiation levels will never be low enough to return to their plots. Out of 2,365 landowners of the 16km2 parcel Tokyo wants for the rural radioactive material storage facility, 850 have been contacted and 570 of them agreed to cooperate with land evaluation surveys. 300 of the surveys have been completed, but only five sales contracts have been closed due to a shortage of Environment Ministry employees tasked with the job. One ministry official says it will take “more than 10 years to secure all the land needed.” http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201508200044

  • Tepco announces upgrades to prevent minor rainwater run-off to the Pacific. Earlier this year, a drainage ditch’s radiation monitor showed elevated levels during a rainstorm, and records showed smaller increases had occurred several times over the preceding year. Wild out-cries came from Japan’s numerically-large radiophobic demographic, the local fishermen screamed bloody murder, and the Japanese Press descended on it like sharks in a feeding frenzy. Tepco barricaded the ditch outlet to the sea and installed eight pumps to divert run-off to the multi-barricaded inner port. All was well until July 16. An unusually heavy downpour over-filled the ditch and exceeded the pumping capacity of the diversion system. For 4 minutes, the ditch spilled some of its detectibly radioactive contents to the sea. The combined Cesium-134/137 level was 830 Becquerels per liter, and the beta-emitting activity was 1,100 Bq/l. The very next day, the levels dropped to 24 Bq/l for Cs-134/137 and 39 Bq/l for beta activity, both of which are well below Japan’s standards and the WHO limits for drinking water. No measurable increases in seawater activity could be found due to the brief over-flow. Regardless, the socio-political response to this inconsequential event has spurred Tepco to spend a lot of money and reconfigure the ditch so that it overflows into the barricaded inner port. Work on the reconfiguration is expected to be finished in March, 2016. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2015/1257823_6844.html

  • Tepco will add 20,000 new radiation data points to their existing website disclosures. Currently, the annual number of points is around 50,000. This will swell the total to about 70,000 per year. The new policy should demonstrate the company’s commitment to full transparency with the public. The Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, an independent oversight group, says this is a positive step on the part of Tepco. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2015/1258071_6844.html  Tepco’s current data points can be found here - http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/index-e.html  The listing of the new data points is currently in Japanese only, but may be found here - http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/index-e.html 

  • The most recent testing of fish species caught outside the Fukushima Daiichi port is encouraging. Of the 95 caught, 11 were one km off-shore, 13 were 2km off-shore, 26 were 3km off-shore, six were 4km off-shore, 21 were at 10 km, six were at 15km, and 13 were at 18km. None of the fish contained more than the Japanese limit for marketing, which is 100 Becquerels per kilogram of combined Cesium isotopes. The highest was 45 Bq/kg in the muscle of an angel shark, taken at 2km from F. Daiichi. Only seven of the 95 contained detectible Cs-134, the “fingerprint” isotope for Fukushima-sourced contamination, and all of them were taken within 3 kilometers. All 40 caught at or beyond 10 kilometers showed no detectible Cs-134, and 25 of them showed no detectible Cs-137 either. Two of those with detectible Cs-137 taken from >10km had activity at 11 Bq/kg, while the rest were below 10 Bq/kg. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/index-e.html

  • Japan will take South Korea’s import ban to the World Health Organization. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga has been trying to negotiate with South Korea for many weeks, but to no avail. The timetable for friendly negotiations expired today (Thursday) so Suga will move on to the next stage and bring the complaint to WHO. He told the Press, "The South Korean government should respond sincerely based on WTO rules and should quickly abolish the restriction without waiting for a decision by the WTO." S. Korea banned imports of some food fish soon after the Fukushima accident, but expanded it to all fish products in September of 2013. In remains in vogue despite there being no Japanese fish exports in excess of proscribed limits. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2015082000480

  • Japan’s business community welcomes the Sendai unit #1 restart. Japan Business Federation Chairman Sadayuki Sakakibara welcomed the restart of the Sendai-1 Nuclear Power Plant as a major step forward. He said nuclear is an important energy producer “not only from the viewpoints of energy security and economy, but also as a measure to combat global warming.” Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Akio Mimura thanked local municipalities and chambers of commerce for their efforts to make the restart happen. He stated that it would “contribute to stabilizing supply and demand in summer, when electricity use climbs, primarily due to the use of air conditioning.” He added that the experiences during the process will be shared with all other nukes moving toward restart, which will help everyone. Japan Association of Corporate Executives Chairman Yoshimitsu Kobayashi praised the restart of as a step toward stabilizing Japan’s energy structure. He urged Tokyo to “make maximum use of its experience gained in the examinations so far, in order to improve their efficiency and reinforce the system toward the steady restart of those NPPs whose safety is confirmed.” http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/industrial-groups-welcome-sendai-1-startup-as-major-step-toward-restarting-japans-other-reactors/

  • Japan’s business community welcomes the Sendai unit #1 restart. Minoru Kobayashi, 63, president of the Iitate Denryoku power company said, "Everyone knows what's going on in Fukushima. Will they restart their nuclear reactors anyway? From a Fukushima perspective, I want to change the current situation of putting the economy first." A former Iitate rancher, Kobayashi now heads a solar energy firm producing a peak output of about 50 kilowatts. Yauemon Sato, president of a sake brewery, created the Aizu Electric Power Co. using only renewable generation. When asked about the Sendai restart, he said, "The nuclear disaster robbed the people of Iitate of their everyday lives. We don't need nuclear plants anymore." He added that those who approved the restart in Kagoshima Prefecture may have ignored the Fukushima accident, "If they made the decision while pretending not to have seen the Fukushima disaster that is a tragedy." Yuji Onuma of Futaba town started a solar power company last year which produces a peak output of 220,000 kilowatts in Ibaraki and Tochigi Prefectures. His gripe is that there is no satisfactory solution for used nuclear fuel disposal. He adds, "In an instant, the nuclear plant disaster destroyed the nature and work of people that had taken many years to produce. There was no bright future for nuclear energy." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150818p2a00m0na019000c.html

August 17, 2015

  • Last year, Japan’s utilities spent $11.3 billion to maintain idled nukes. The expenditures were used to keep the plants prepared for the eventual end of the post-Fukushima nuclear moratorium. The outlays were part of the reason that Japan’s cost of electricity continued to increase last year. The main reason for the increases, though, was rising fuel costs for alternative power generation. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2015/08/369562.html

  • On Friday, Sendai unit #1 produced its first electricity. At 9am (Japan Time), the output breaker on the unit’s generator was closed, beginning electrical generation right on schedule. It will take at least a week to raise power output to 100% (890 MWe) in order to satisfy all procedural and regulatory stipulations. On Monday (today), the power level reached 50%. Once at full capacity, a mandated final performance test must be completed before commercial operation will begin and begin to bring in money for the owner. Kyushu Electric Co. has been purchasing electricity from other providers in order to meet demand ever since both Sendai units were shut down soon after the Fukushima accident. Kyushu Electric expects its earnings to be in the black for the first time in five years, once both units are at full capacity. Industry Minister Yoichi Miyazawa said that the start of nuclear power generation is important to establish a diverse energy mix and provide more stability on the grid. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002356644 -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150814p2g00m0dm013000c.html

  • An eruption of Mount Sakurajima should not impact Sendai station. The alert level for eruption of the volcano was raised to “4” on Saturday, which means the surrounding population should prepare for evacuation, including much of Kagoshima City (pop. 605,000). The order immediately affects the 77 residents that live within 3km of the volcano. Mount Sakurajima is about 50 kilometers from Sendai station where unit #1 has restarted, spurring fears of an eruption causing a Fukushima-level nuke accident. Both Kyushu Electric Co. and the Nuclear Regulation Authority say the worst-possible eruption will not affect Sendai station. A Kyushu spokesperson said, “We are not currently taking any particular response. There is no impact in particular to the operations [of the Sendai plant]. We will continue to pay close attention to information from the Japan Meteorological Agency.” http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html -- http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/kyushu-electric-says-no-special-precautions-needed-over-volcano?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2015-08-17_PM  (Comment - As expected, Greenpeace-Japan is making a rhetorical mountain out of this nuclear molehill, saying, “The lengths to which safety issues have been ignored in the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s [NRA] review process for the Sendai plant restart shows just how desperate the nuclear industry and their government allies are… an analysis commissioned by Greenpeace Japan in February showed that the NRA also accepted a flawed volcano risk analysis from Kyushu Electric Power for the active volcano Mt. Sakurajima.”  http://www.dominicantoday.com/dr/world/2015/8/11/56060/Greenpeace-warns-Sendai-nuclear-restart-will-not-end-nuclear-crisis-facing)

  • The NRA has begun pre-restart checks for Takahama unit #3 in Fukui Prefecture. It is an 870 MWe Pressurized Water Reactor system. The agency will inspect more than 400 pieces of new equipment installed to meet the post-Fukushima regulatory mandates, including added emergency pumping technology and mobile power generators kept on the premises. Kansai Electric Co. hopes to restart the unit in early November. Before that can happen, however, they must get a provisional court injunction repealed. The Fukui Court order bars operation of any unit at Takahama station. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

August 13, 2015

  • Sendai unit #1 restarts, ending Japan’s nuclear moratorium. It is the first Japanese nuke to begin operation according to the new regulations. On Tuesday, the first control rods were partially withdrawn at 10:30am (Japan Time). At ~11pm that night, initial criticality was achieved. Both milestones were on schedule. The first electricity will be generated on Friday, August 14, but commercial operation is not expected before next month. Since the plant has not operated in four years, plant staff is proceeding with caution in case of unexpected abnormalities. A major issue posed by critics concerns the several active volcanoes within a 160km radius of the station. Detailed examinations of the possibility were run beginning in March, 2014, and operating procedures were revised in the unlikely event of the nearest caldera (about 50 km away) were in imminent danger of a worst-case eruption. On 7/16/14, the Nuclear Regulation Authority formulated draft reports which were made available for public comments. On 9/10/14, the units received permission to have their basic design changed accordingly, and equipment upgrades began. Restart inspections began on March 30 of this year, fuel assemblies were installed between July 6-10, and final pre-startup emergency drills were run from July 27-30. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/kyushu-electric-power-starts-up-sendai-1/

The restart of Sendai unit #1 has sparked a number critical news reports from Japan’s antinuclear Press. While most news outlets limited themselves to but one report, the Mainichi Shimbun posted no less than four. The always-antinuclear Russian outlet RT chimed in as well.

  • The Asahi Shimbun headline “Tears, fears, whoops of joy as Sendai reactor restarted” focused almost entirely on the “tears and fears” of the 200 protestors at Sendai station. They, “balanced” it with one local hotel operator and the host community mayor. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201508120060

  • One Mainichi Shimbun report (Local opinion divided over reactivated nuclear plant) mirrors the Asahi Shimbun (above). While more than half of the article covers those protesting the restart, about a third of it addresses those in favor (buried at the end, of course). http://mainichi.jp/english/english/features/news/20150812p2a00m0na017000c.html

  • Another Mainichi article alleges that Sendai was restarted haphazardly, with the headline “Sendai No. 1 reactor back online without sufficient volcano and evacuation measures”. It says that volcanoes more than50 kilometers distant have not been adequately accounted-for, and evacuation plans for residents have not been tested. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20150812p2a00m0na012000c.html

  • A third Mainichi report addresses another aspect of the emergency planning issue. It bemoans Tokyo’s decision to not use SPEEDI (System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information) to plan public evacuations during an emergency. NRA says SPEEDI’s radiological “flow” predictions are uncertain, thus they will not use it. The local response is basically that it is better than nothing and use of SPEEDI at F. Daiichi would have sent evacuees away from plume pathways rather than into them. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150812p2a00m0na022000c.html

  • A last Mainichi Q&A article asks the question “Is Sendai Nuclear Power Plant safe under new standards?” It concludes that the plant is “not necessarily” fully protected, questioning the plant operators’ ability to handle the unexpected. It also makes the false allegation that a nuke accident has the “potential to ruin a nation”. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20150812p2a00m0na013000c.html

  • Meanwhile, RT News first attacks emergency planning by alleging that “no evacuation plans – in case of a Fukushima-style catastrophe – have been disclosed to locals,” citing an antinuclear activist. It next quotes antinuclear superstar, former PM Naoto Kan, who asserts, “We don’t need nuclear plants,” and, that Fukushima "exposed the myth of safe and cheap nuclear power, which turned out to be dangerous and expensive." https://www.rt.com/news/312156-japan-nuclear-protest-restart/

On the other hand, reasonable news articles were run by Japan’s largest newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun…

  • Post-Fukushima safety measures strengthen Sendai unit #1. Sendai Plant Manager Nobuhiko Fujiwara says, “We aim to carefully resume electricity generation and give top priority to safety.” Safety upgrades include anti-tsunami barriers around the seawater pumping system, a tornado cover for the external condensate storage tank, mobile emergency power generators on-site, pumping trucks to supply cooling water (also on-site), a new emergency operations center, and satellite phones and transceivers to be available at all times. NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka spoke about the upgrades, “We required the power company to take measures that would prevent another Fukushima disaster, and our screenings checked that they were met. Safety has been ensured to a certain extent.” The station has also added to their emergency staff, and now has 36 trained in crisis procedures. A utility spokesperson said, “We’re now able to bring an accident under control even at night or on holidays.” In preparation for restart, more than 450 emergency drills have been run. Kazuhiko Suzuki, a professor at Okayama University, says, “There are many facilities and equipment aimed at preparing for emergencies, and utilizing them effectively depends on the capability of the plant’s workers. Drills need to be held continuously to ensure that the workers are maintaining their skill.” http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002351622

  • Nuke restarts promise Japan a stable supply of power. The Yomiuri reports, “A stable supply of electricity is vital for the people’s livelihood and the nation’s economic development. It is significant that progress has been made in the utilization of nuclear power, an important energy source that can be produced at low cost and with stability,” and, “With safety measures more stringent than those taken before the Fukushima disaster, it can be said the danger of a serious accident occurring at the plant has been markedly reduced.” A main point concerned the high cost of electricity and lack of reliability that has come with increased use of fossil fuels. While the shortage of generating capacity has not caused a massive power outage, the current electricity supply has only been possible by operating inefficient, outdated fossil-fueled power plants. Finally, the Yomiuri argues that “the government should adopt a policy of extending the life of reactors in operation up to 60 years, while building new ones.” http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002351023

Now, here’s some recent Fukushima news…

  • Naraha Town will be open for repopulation on September 5th. On August 7, the members of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters convened at the prime minister's residence in Tokyo and formally decided to lift the evacuation order for Naraha Town. Yosuke Takagi, State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, notified the town and prefecture. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government would assist the town even more than it had done already, adding, “In order for the residents to successfully return to their hometown, the livelihoods and lives of those affected will have to be rebuilt.” He also announced a joint public-private team consisting of more than 100 people would be established this month to support self-reliance with entrepreneurs. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/decided-evacuation-order-for-naraha-town-to-be-lifted-on-september-5/

  • More information on the impending release of treated groundwater to the sea. Tepco will pump groundwater out of numerous subdrain wells around the four damaged-unit basements. The water will be released after treatment, if it meets the ridiculously-stringent limits on radioactivity, which are actually 10 times lower than Japan’s drinking water standards. The local fisheries have demanded that Tepco and Tokyo improve public communication regarding the plan’s stringent water management and safety to allay the federation’s concern about groundless rumors hurting their market. Tepco estimates that the subdrain plan will reduce groundwater in-seepage to the basements to about 150 tons per day. With the current pumping-away of uncontaminated groundwater on the inland side of the four units, groundwater in-seepage has been lowered from 400 to 300 tons per day. The subdrain plan will also allow final closure of the impenetrable wall installed in the ground just inland of the inner port shoreline. A small opening was left open in the wall to address concerns that a fully-sealed wall would be like a dam allowing water level behind it to rise. The subdrain system will prevent this from happening and the impenetrable wall opening will be sealed. Hopefully, this will also dispel rumors of huge flows of groundwater contaminating the Pacific. None of the water to be released will be from the nearly 700,000 tons of treated water previously stored in massive tanks covering much of the station’s property. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002353495

  • Fukushima InFORM outlines their program for monitoring movement of nuclides across the Pacific. The sampling program will characterize the dispersal of Fukushima-derived radionuclides Cesium-137 and Cesium-134. This will be used to determine accuracy of model predictions. This will also aid the scientific community in better understanding of ocean mixing. 60 liter seawater samples are collected and processed at sea by research assistant Laura McKay. The large samples are needed to confidently determine the very low levels of the targeted isotopes. Ms. McKay has been taking samples across the North Pacific, from the Alaskan island chain to points just west of British Columbia. She disembarked from Barrow, Alaska, in late July. Results of the sampling program should be available in a couple of months. http://fukushimainform.ca/2015/08/09/update-sampling-for-fukushima-derived-radionuclides-in-the-northeast-pacific-and-arctic-2015/#more-1303

  • The Industry Ministry will lower subsidies to the local governments of idled nukes. Currently, subsidies are paid out by assuming an 81% capacity factor, even though no nukes have operated since 2013. Beginning in fiscal 2016, the idled-nuke subsidies will be based on actual operating records prior to the 2011 Fukushima accident. This could possibly spur local communities waffling on future restarts to reconsider their decisions. However, the Ministry says the measure is merely being instituted in the interest of fairness, to insure that municipalities with restarted reactors will not be paid less than those that remain idled. Regardless, communities with idled nukes are destined to lose money if their stations remain in a non-operating state. The Mihama Municipal Government in Fukui Prefecture says they could lose half of their current subsidies due to the anticipated decommissioning of Mihama units #1 & 2. The local Mihama government says, "If the deemed operational rate is to be brought down on top of this, there will be growing calls for reactivating reactors." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150811p2a00m0na010000c.html

August 11, 2015

Update Extra: Sendai #1 restart is Japan’s top news story

Sendai unit #1 was successfully restarted this morning. In precise sequence, 32 control rods were first nudged from their fully-inserted positions at 10:30am (Japan Time), right on schedule and without incident. Initial criticality is expected to occur at about 11pm (Japan Time). While reactor restarts are almost always a mere blip on the local news media radar, All 50 major news outlets in Japan have made the Sendai restart their leading news story. Rather than summarize all the news articles, we will provide a representative list news links for the issues the Press is focusing on. Please be advised, the below is but a sampling.

a. The uneventful restart itself - http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150811_17.html -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002348909 -- http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2015/08/11/photos-japan-restarts-nuclear-reactor-amid-protests/ --  http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150811p2a00m0na017000c.html -- http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201508110066

b. About 200 people protest the restart - http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150811_11.html -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002349504 -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002349504 -- http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/japan-ends-nuclear-shutdown-four-years-after-fukushima

And, some news outlets have added stories focusing on the difficult road that lies ahead for restarting nukes at stations other than Sendai, such as… http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002348925 --  http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150811_20.html

 

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