Fukushima Accident Updates


The internet's top source of objective Fukushima News. No "spins"...just summaries of the news reports in the Japanese Press. Often called the  Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Fukushima accident is a major topic around the world. (twice weekly; Monday and Thursday)

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April 21, 2014

The repopulation of the Miyakoji district continues as a hot topic with the Japanese Press. The public release of new radiation exposure measurements followed repopulation and seems too convenient to most media outlets. Since the measurements were taken in September and the results compiled in October of 2013, the Press suspects the results were withheld until after the first repopulation inside the evacuation zone. Also, it has expanded into a wider range of issues, and the international Press has joined in…

  • Most of the Miyakoji evacuees are not returning to their homes. Among the dissidents is Kazuo Yoshida, who says the government should have released the data sooner, but he isn’t going home is concern over contamination washing out of the forests in the district. Another, Yasushige Watanabe, says the radiation levels near his home are higher than the estimates and only two of the 36 families in his temporary housing complex have returned. One who has returned, Tesuzo Tsuboi, says he feels cheated by the government for the data delay. However, another returnee, Hisao Tsuboi, says the new data fits his expectations. He has been growing rice on his property since last year and uses his own dosimeter to monitor radiation exposure. He says that levels do vary with location, but he feels many do not understand that this is the case. NHK World; Residents respond to exposure estimates; April 19, 2014

  • Masumi Watanabe says she won’t return home because she cannot be certain that radiation levels will remain low, "Even if I'm told that the well water has been tested [for radioactive contaminants] and that 'it's OK,' I don't know what's going to happen down the road. I also worry about how much decontamination work will actually get done." A large number of her former neighbors are upset about the great disparity in compensation pay-outs between evacuees like her and non-evacuated residents. Only the Miyakoji district was forced to evacuate from Tamura due to the Fukushima accident and the ~800 evacuees receive large compensation checks every month. Tamura has a total population of nearly 40,000 and the vast majority get little or no money. Some residents say their radiation exposures are greater than those in Miyakoji, and should be similarly compensated. One Tamura political candidate says, "The difference in compensation and other support has made relations among Tamura's residents pretty awkward." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140419p2a00m0na007000c.html

  • Russia’s largest news agency, Ria Novosti, has picked up on the issue. The news outlet has essentially posted a re-write of the Asahi Shimbun article we covered on April 17th. The delay in releasing exposure data is not the article’s main focus. Ria Novosti’s emphasis is on much of the repopulated Miyagi district having radiation levels between 1 and 3 mSv/yr, which is more than the long-tern goal of 1 mSv/yr. This seems the basis for the article’s provocative headline, “Fukushima Radiation Levels Drop, Still Dangerous – Report”. http://en.ria.ru/world/20140418/189256919/Fukushima-Radiation-Levels-Drop-Still-Dangerous--Report.html

  • The Asahi Shimbun may be softening on the posting of exposure levels. On Saturday the Asahi admitted that radiation levels around F. Daiichi have dropped significantly and all dosimeter-based readings are below the international standard of 20 millisieverts/yr for repopulation. Not to abandon the issue entirely, the Asahi says many prospective returnees indicate they will not go home until the goal of 1 mSv/yr is met. It also points out that the forest of Miyakoji district will have a 2.3 mSv exposure if someone stays there around the clock for a full year. Further, some places in Kawauchi village, which might be repopulated as early as July, have 3 mSv annual exposures. It seems the Asahi feels these levels are too high because it scares some people. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201404180053

Now for some other Fukushima news…

  • Nippon.com has posted a comprehensive report on the condition of the tsunami refugees at the third anniversary of the cataclysm. The numbers in this report distinguish between tsunami victims and those displaced by the Fukushima accident. This distinction is almost unique among the reports found in the rest of the Japanese Press. As of February 13, there were still more than 267,000 tsunami refugees, which is a drop of 47,000 from the same time last year. Much of the lower refugee numbers are due to people giving up and permanently moving to other parts of Japan. More than 150,000 continue to live with families or friends and over 100,000 now live in 46,000 temporary housing units across eight prefectures. The effort to rehouse these victims still lags well-behind what had been planned. Much of this problem stems from delays to build permanent “restoration housing” complexes where most refugees formerly lived; only 2% have actually been built. Only 5% of the planned community relocation projects have been completed and 64% are in varying degrees of being built. Local business recovery is faring even worse. While the construction and “haulage” businesses are at 66% and 42% of pre-disaster levels respectively, the food and fisheries sector is only at 14%. Wholesale, retail and service commerce is at about a 31% level. It should be noted that fish catches are at 69% and processing plants at 78%, but restrictions on marketing required by Tokyo due to possible Fukushima contamination has severely hurt income. The lag with business recovery is worse in Fukushima prefecture than in the other four most damaged by the tsunami. However, the good news is that farming in Iwate Prefecture is actually at 101% of pre-disaster levels, Miyagi Prefecture is at 99%, and Fukushima Prefecture is at 85%. The lower percentage for Fukushima is largely due to the remaining no-go areas of the nuclear exclusion zone. http://www.nippon.com/en/features/h00049/

  • Tepco says that 704 fuel bundles have been removed from the unit #4 pool. Last Monday, the total reported was 638, thus the transfer of 66 bundles marks the most of any week yet. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/decommision/index-e.html

  • The total pay-out of compensation to Fukushima evacuees has climbed to nearly $37 billion. The amount paid to the 85,000 Tokyo-mandated evacuees is just over $15 billion (~$176,000 each), and the money paid to property owners, affected businesses and proprietorships is nearly $17 billion. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/comp/images/jisseki-e.pdf

  • F. Daiichi’s site manager Akira Ono says they have kept leaks from reaching the sea. He said, “The ultimate purpose is to prevent contaminated water from going out to the ocean, and in this regard, I believe it is under control.” However, he admitted that they have yet to gain full control of the wastewater storage and treatment situation, “It’s embarrassing to admit, but there are certain parts of the site where we don’t have full control.” Ono says the publicized leaks are probably due to the haste with which many of the storage tanks and pumping systems were built, “We were pressed to build tanks in a rush and may have not paid enough attention to quality. We need to improve quality from here. We need to improve the quality of the tanks and other facilities so that they can survive for the next 30 to 40 years of our decommission period.” Ono also said that the ALPS isotopic removal system might not be able to purify all wastewaters by the March 2015 goal. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/20/national/fukushima-no-1-boss-admits-water-woes-out-of-control/#.U1UEA6NOUdU

  • It seems that public opinion is moderating on the nuke restart issue. A Jiji Press poll posted on April 18 showed that nearly 40% favor restarts and 53% oppose. This is in contrast to polls run by other news outlets this year, most showing 70% opposed and one as recent as March 10 (NHK World) saying that 80% are in favor of scrapping some or all nukes. The Jiji poll also revealed that about 63% still want Japan to reduce reliance on atomic energy. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014041800622 (Comment – it should be kept in mind that all of these polls only cover the members of the public that are the customers/audience of each news outlet. Further, those who agree to respond are usually those with the strongest feelings on an issue, thus the Press polls probably contain a disproportionately-large percentage that is avidly antinuclear. On the other hand, last year’s national election and the recent Tokyo governor’s election both witnessed sound defeats of the antinuclear candidates and victories for the mostly nuclear-neutral conservatives. Thus, it seems that ending nuclear energy is not the most important issue with the public at large.)

  • Japan’s trade deficit continues to skyrocket due to the nuclear moratorium. At the end of Japan’s fiscal year (March 31), the trade shortfall had swollen by 70% over 2012. The deficit for 2013 was nearly $135 billion. Japan’s 2013 exports increased nearly 11%, but didn’t stanch the bleeding. The income from exports was about $690 billion, but import costs reached $825 billion. The cost of imported gas and oil to compensate for the nuke moratorium totaled $134 billion, the largest negative commodity on the record. No end to this trend will be possible until nuke plants begin restarting. http://japandailypress.com/japan-records-highest-ever-trade-deficit-in-2013-due-to-surging-fuel-costs-2147561/

  • A new robot for Fukushima accident recovery has been built. The robot, named "Sakuraichigo", was developed by a group including Nichinan (an appliance prototype company) and Chiba Institute. Sakuraichigo is an upgraded version of the “Quince” machine used since 2011. It is more compact to maneuver in tight areas, but can be unfolded into a larger unit as needed. It has four cameras as well as temperature and radiation monitoring equipment. Sakuraichigo is waterproof so it can function in radioactive liquid. It can be run wirelessly for up to eight hours and can easily climb stairs at a 45o angle. The robot was demonstrated in Tokyo on April 18 and will soon be used at F. Daiichi. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140418p2a00m0na003000c.html

  • Sharp Corp. will build a 2.2 MWe solar farm in Tomioka. It will be the first new industrial facility built inside the 20 kilometer exclusion zone. The company has reached an agreement with the community to start construction in December and the first electricity could be generated as early as June, 2015. Tomioka officials say this could stimulate recovery and repopulation, and become a model for other companies coming to the region. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/18/business/sharp-to-build-solar-complex-within-hot-zone/#.U1EolKNOUdU 

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April 17, 2014

  • Contaminated equipment washing water has overflowed inside its storage facility. While cleansing a tank from the advanced water decontamination system, ALPS, F. Daiichi workers found water building up outside the washing area. It is estimated that about seven tons of water contaminated by from cleaning the tank overflowed from the containment area, but all of it is confined within the ALPS facility. Tepco estimates the volume of overflow is about 1 ton (1,000 liters). The water contains 6,700 Becquerels per liter of Cesium-137 and a total of 3.8 million Bq/liter of Beta-emitting isotopes. The cause of the incident is being investigated. This did not affect operation of the one ALPS unit operating at the time of the discovery. NHK World; Radioactive water overflows at treatment facility; April 17, 2014 

  • The water pumped to a wrong building has been returned to its system source. Last Friday, Tepco staff thought the water was being pumped to an intended storage building, but the level in that structure actually went down. This indicated the water was going somewhere else. It turned out that four pumps were running that were not supposed to be used during the transfer. About 200 tons of wastewater was incorrectly sent to the incinerator workshop basement instead of the main processing building. The reason these four pumps were running has yet to be determined. No wastewater was lost to the outside environment. Tuesday morning, the company said they are pumping the water in the incinerator basement back to its original location in the waste bunker building. NHK World; TEPCO pumping back contaminated water; April 15, 2014

  • Japan’s Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) has posted the reasons why the 3/11/11 tsunami did not cause accidents at three other nuke sites. The three stations are Onagawa (Miyagi Prefecture), Tokai Daini (Ibaraki Prefecture) and Fukushima Daini (10 km south of Fukushima Daiichi). The main reason they escaped the fate of F. Daiichi was because at least one off-site power source and two or more emergency diesels remained intact at each station after the tsunami hit. Thus, none of the three had a complete, prolonged electrical blackout. Onagawa station was in cold shutdown less than 10 hours after the tsunami hit, Tokai Daini just after midnight on March 15, and F. Daini at 7:15am on March 15. For more complete details, click the following link… (JAIF has deleted the page for reasons unknown)

  • The Asahi Shimbun continues to treat innocuous radiation exposure levels as biologically significant. Japan’s second-largest newspaper now reports that critical radiation exposure estimates for residents returning to their homes was withheld for six months, allegedly to not inhibit people from repopulating the Miyakoji district of Tamura City. Some of the 43 locations surveyed were also in the communities of Kawauchi and Iitate. Decontamination is complete in Kawauchi and repopulation is expected in the near future. The report released by the Cabinet Office on April 15 shows no estimated exposures in excess of 20 millisieverts per year (the criterion for repopulation), but slightly more than half of the monitored locations were in excess of the long-term goal of 1 mSv/yr the Asahi seems to feel should be the repopulation criterion. The government says releasing the data had nothing to do with Miyakoji’s repopulation and the delay in releasing the data gathered last July was because of a disparity between actual readings and estimated exposures taken from monitors carried in aircraft. Tokyo wanted to have the disparity studied by University experts before making the data public. The Asahi tacitly accuses Tokyo of a cover-up because the results were not released before Miyakoji was repopulated. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201404160056  (Comment – this issue was first reported in the Mainichi Shimbun late in March and summarized in our March 27 update. For additional information please go to the “Fukushima Updates #68” which can be accessed through the sitemap at the bottom of this page.)

  • Two former Japanese PMs continue their antinuclear crusade. Undeterred by a crushing election defeat in January, Morihiro Hosokawa and Junichiro Koizumi say they will create a new antinuclear political group with the goal of ending nuclear power in Japan and replacing them with energy efficiency and renewables. They plan to kick it off May 7th with a convention in Tokyo. It is believed the meeting will be entitled “the conference for promoting renewables”. The group itself has yet to be named. Hosokawa and Koizumi will oppose all reactor restarts and promote all local election candidates willing to join their antinuclear bandwagon. They are currently planning town meetings in Niigata, Aomori and Kagoshima Prefectures. Hosokawa said, “I want to support efforts to build the local economy without reliance on nuclear power.” The two PMs also plan on backing an antinuclear candidate for the Fukushima gubernatorial election later this year. In January, Hosokawa placed a distant third (out of ~15 candidates) in the Tokyo gubernatorial election, garnering less than 20% of the ballots cast. The platform was almost entirely antinuclear. An official from Japan’s ruling LDP party says the group should not have significant impact, “They no longer have any clout to significantly sway public opinion.” It is believed the group will first to try and stop the restarts of the two Sendai nuke units in Kagoshima Prefecture, anticipated for later this summer. The Sendai units are expected to be the first nukes restarted under the new Nuclear Regulation Authority rules. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/politics/AJ201404150059

April 14, 2014

  • 638 fuel bundles have been removed from unit #4 spent fuel pool. 616 of the transferred bundles were actual spent fuel and 22 were unused. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/decommision/index-e.html

  • Resolving radiation anxieties is the key to Fukushima repopulation. The lifting of living constraints for the Miyakoji district of Tamura City marked the beginning of possible resident returns to the exclusion zone. The two primary requirements for repopulation were completion of decontamination projects and reducing annual radiation exposures below 20 millisieverts. The actual radiation levels in Miyakoji are no more than 16% of the 20 mSv/year goal, and similar to readings in locations outside the exclusion zone that were never evacuated. The problem is resident hesitation to return primarily due to radiation fears over these low, biologically-innocuous exposure levels. International expert views on these exposures are virtually unanimous; health risks with doses below 100 mSv/yr are indistinguishable from typical lifestyle habits not connected to radiation exposure. The United Nations most recent report “finds no discernible changes in future cancer rates [of adults] and hereditary diseases are expected due to exposure to radiation as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident; and, that no increases in the rates of birth defects are expected.” Efforts by the Fukushima Prefecture medical community to quell fears and unfounded rumors have had a positive impact, but the low return rate to Miyakoji shows that it has not nearly been enough. Activist-spurred calls for lowering the repopulation standard to 1 mSv/yr continue to hurt the repopulation effort. There are also other factors affecting repopulation, including a steady prefectural depopulation prior to 3/11/11 and few immediate jobs. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001202646

  • Lack of nuclear energy and radiation education continues in Japanese schools. Only one out of the six approved new science texts for primary schools includes information concerning the Fukushima accident. The problem stems from a complete lack of curriculum fundamentals such as defining “atom” and “radiation”. Another problem is a decidedly negative tone taken by some prospective texts relative to Fukushima and radiation. One editor said, “We could not deal with the issue negatively when our textbook is used in some municipalities hosting a nuclear plant.” The only approved text merely mentions Fukushima and nothing about radiation as dollows, “The earthquake off the Pacific coast of the Tohoku region triggered an accident at a nuclear power plant,” and that effective use of resources is a lesson learned. One publisher tried to add basic radiation information because it is a scientific fundamental, but gave up because “there is no appropriate relation with the [existing] curriculum’s guidelines.” http://japandailypress.com/education-ministry-approves-of-only-1-elementary-school-textbook-mentioning-fukushima-disaster-1147137/ (Comment – This writer has long held that the major reason for Japanese over-reaction to the Fukushima accident and radiation exposure is due to a historical lack of these topics in Japan’s public schools. An old adage holds that “ignorance is bliss”. However, there is nothing blissful about what has happened in Japan since 3/11/11. This latest academic setback will only continue a situation where rumor and fiction hold sway over fact and reason.)

  • Another tank leak occurred at F. Daiichi. On Sunday, Tepco said about a ton of contaminated water escaped a plastic storage tank, but none of it reached the sea because the tank is 700 meters from the shoreline and there are no drainage channels near enough to allow run-off to the ocean. The water in the tank had 1,640 Becquerels per liter of Cesium isotopes 134 and 137, and 1,400 Bq/liter of other Beta-emitting materials. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014041300113  A little over 200 tons of wastewater was pumped to the wrong location. The liquid containing about 37 million Becquerels per liter was incorrectly sent to a building used as an incineration workshop. During routine transfer of water from the waste bunker building to the main processing building on Thursday, water level in the processing building dropped unexpectedly. The inadvertent pumping to the incinerator building was eventually stopped and no loss of contaminated water to the environment occurred. Tepco is investigating the cause. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014041400215

  • Residents of the Sendai station’s host town are eager to get its two Pressurized Water Reactor units restarted. Sendai is some 1,600 kilometers south of F. Daiichi on Kyushu Island. Although no quake or tsunami was experienced by the nuke plants on 3/11/11, Japan’s nation-wide moratorium has idled them for over two years. Most people in host community Satsumasendai are happy that the Nuclear Regulation Authority has placed the station at the top of the list for restart consideration. Resident Hiroya Komatsu says, “I know it [Fukushima] was a horrible accident, but right now I’m more concerned about the economy and my job. We saw it on TV, but it could very well have been the Philippines. It didn’t feel like it was Japan.” The town has received more than $250 million in government subsidies since construction began in 1974, and gets about $25 million added annually to the local economy from refueling and maintenance periods for both units. Satsumasendai was hit hard by a severe economic downturn in the 1980s and the local average income remains at about a fifth of the national average. The nuke moratorium has added to the economic suffering. Hotel owner Daisaku Fukuyama says, “This whole town used to be booked up and you couldn’t get a room even if you made reservations months ahead,” thus many hotels have closed since 3/11/11. http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/kyushu-town-rallies-for-nuclear-plant-restart?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2014-04-14_PM

  • Japan’s new national energy policy continues to be a Press focus. Most news outlets say it is reinstating nuclear energy, which is a reversal of the prior regime’s plans to eliminate nukes from Japan. However the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s biggest newspaper, says the new policy “takes a realistic stance”. A stable, affordable energy supply is essential to the national recovery from both 3/11/11 and the prior regime’s failed economic policy. It is also vital that the currently poor trade balance be reversed by cutting back on the expensive imports of fossil fuels caused by the nuclear moratorium. Nuclear plants operate both day and night at full power, which is a must for the country’s industrial base. The Yomiuri says, “The plan is appropriate for officially ending the policy line of phasing out nuclear energy that was upheld by the administrations of the Democratic Party of Japan.” http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001205376  However, in deference to outcries for a firm statement on the policy’s commitment to a reduction in reliance on nukes, Prime Minister Abe says they will set a ratio of nuclear-to-renewables after all qualifying nukes have been restarted. He stressed that the new policy includes developing an energy-efficient society and doubling of renewable generation, while not building any new nukes. He added that given Japan's increased dependence on natural gas and other fossil fuels, he can't say that Japan will ever completely abandon nuclear power. NHK World; Gov’t to set ratio for nuclear power; April 12, 2014

  • The former mayor of Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, says the new policy is wrong. He also says the economic benefits of nuke operations to the host communities is an “illusion”. Since retiring in September, Tatsuya Murakami has been lecturing on his antinuclear opinion and joined the Mayors for a Nuclear Free Japan. The group numbers about 90 former and incumbent Mayors from the roughly 470 municipalities in Japan. Murakami says host communities treat nuke operators “just like lords”, while opposing them is a taboo. He believes that so much money comes in from the operating nukes that communities become dependent on it and “as a result, we have failed to cultivate other businesses”. After the Tokiamura reprocessing plant accident in 1999, Murakami began to wonder “how to reconstruct our village”. He added, “We were thrust into notoriety -- Tokaimura was contaminated with radiation and the villagers were not being chosen as marital partners." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140413p2g00m0dm103000c.html (Comment - several other members of the antinuclear mayoral group were cited, but none of the mayors from host communities who are not group members were approached. The practice of non-balance with antinuclear group reports is becoming more and more common in Japan.)

  • A foreign nuclear critic says Japan’s new energy plan is too-little, too-late for nukes. Frenchman Mycle Schneider, who has long followed the no-nukes persuasion, says, “I think it is unavoidable that the Japanese utilities will write off most of their nuclear ‘assets’ and move on. Given the slim realistic prospects for a major nuclear share, the challenge will be flexibility and the whole base-load concept flies out of the window.” http://www.japantoday.com/category/politics/view/japan-approves-energy-plan-reinstating-nuclear-power  (Comment – Schneider’s Fukushima bashing began in March of 2011, soon after the accident. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-23/nuclear-cloud-comes-with-aura-of-arrogance-commentary-by-mycle-schneider.html His incessant antinuclear exaggerations using cherry-picked “evidence” have been published since the turn of the century. One of the most revealing news reports showing his anti-Fukushima biases is contained in a CNN piece of 2013. http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2013/08/30/why-fukushima-is-worse-than-you-think/  He advertises himself as an energy consultant and nuclear analyst, but is clearly no more than a typical antinuclear mouthpiece.)

  • Distrust of the government hampers the gathering of radiation exposure data for the IAEA. Japan’s Foreign Ministry asked 18 local governments for the latest exposure readings from personal dosimetry and whole body scans at hospitals and other community facilities. But half of the communities have declined because they suspect "the effects of radiation exposure on residents' health could be trivialized" and that "it is senseless to request personal information via email." A news media survey found many said "It lacks common sense to request radiation exposure data, which requires careful handling, via email alone," and "The request came in all too sudden and we don't have enough time to sort out the data." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140414p2a00m0na009000c.html (Comment - IMHO, the real reason is that data from dosimeters carried by evacuees who have returned home have shown the actual radiation exposures are much less than prior estimates gleaned from aircraft monitoring. It is quite likely that the IAEA request for actual data will show much the same results. Many Fukushima communities do not want this to happen, especially those affected by Tokyo’s mandated 2011 evacuations. Much lower exposures mean more people allowed to return home, including officials from evacuated towns. Once living restrictions are lifted, a one-year clock begins ticking for the cessation of generous evacuee compensation.)

  • The Vancouver Sun says Fukushima radiation is coming to British Columbia. Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic says that his west coast citizen’s sampling program is being pursued because “No one wanted to take responsibility”. US officials say the concentrations will be so low it will not hurt anyone so they are not checking for Fukushima isotopes. Buesseler said he realized that testing needed to be done when his website’s activity started to “go through the roof” in November of last year when an infamous YouTube video of a beach near San Francisco hit the internet. He said it is a prime example of how unbridled fear of radiation can run rampant and cause widespread anxiety. Buesseler says, “You can be anti-nuclear and you don’t have to scare people about Fukushima. There have been some really awful scaremongering — showing lesions in fish and things that have never been shown to be due to Fukushima. A lot of false and misleading claims, I think, are out there.” The program has 22 citizen-operated and funded sites along the west coast of North and Central America, and another 27 working on raising the money to do it. Each sample costs about $600 to perform, including packaging and postage. The samples are tested for Cesium isotopes. If both Cs-134 and Cs-137 are found to be present, then the sample contains Fukushima radioactive material. The American drinking water standard for Cesium is 7,400 Bq/m3, and Canada’s is 10,000 Bq/m3. Buesseler speculates that detected Cesium from Fukushima will be anywhere from 1-30 Bq/m3 when it reaches the Pacific coast…which it hasn’t, as yet. Buesseler cautions, “I would not be concerned swimming in those waters or eating seafood. I personally don’t have concerns about human health and safety from what the levels are predicted to be. But without measurement, we won’t be able to confirm that level of radioactivity. Since there is debate about doses, even at the lowest levels, it behooves us to get those numbers. Radioactivity can be dangerous — but not at the levels we expect on the west coast of North America.” http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Citizen%20scientists%20prepare%20test%20West%20Coast%20Fukushima%20radiation%20with%20video/9730931/story.html

April 10, 2014

  • Industry Minister says F. Daiichi groundwater releases should begin next month. Toshimitsu Motegi said that since the local Fisheries have agreed to the releases, the “pumping up” of groundwater into storage tanks can begin immediately. The waters will be tested extensively before actual release can happen. The testing is time consuming because some of the radionuclides must be analyzed over extended periods in order to provide confident results at the extremely low levels desired. Tepco has said they will not release unless the waters are below 1 Becquerel per liter of Cs-134 and Cs-137, 5 Bq/liter of “all beta” activity, and 1,500 Bq/liter of Tritium. All of these self-imposed limits are at least 10 times less than national drinking water standards. Testing will also be done by a third party in parallel with Tepco’s staff at F. Daiichi. The water will be removed from 12 wells drilled between the nearby mountains and the damaged buildings at F. Daiichi. Initially, the amount of water to be “pumped up” should lower the groundwater level in the land-side earth by one meter. Tepco will then be able to gauge the effect it will have on seepage into the contaminated building basements of units #1 through #4.  http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20140408_25.html -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140409p2g00m0dm060000c.html -- http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2014/1235426_5892.html

  • The Agency for Natural Resources and Energy posted its latest progress report on Fukushima site recovery. Topics in the report are testing of the preliminary frozen earth shield walls, status of the ALPS multi-nuclide removal system, spent fuel bundle transfer out of unit #4, and accident debris removal. http://www.jaif.or.jp/english/news_images/pdf/ENGNEWS01_1396864614P.pdf

  • Severe radiophobia and distrust of the government made a Fukushima family take extreme measures to keep their daughter from the exposure she fears. Thirteen-year-old Kokoro Kamiyama had developed nosebleeds, grown pale and lethargic, and skipped school over anxiety about radiation exposure. She said she was discriminated against by other children who accused her of being radioactive. Her older brother and grandparents thought she was being ridiculous, but her parents eventually decided to send her away. Much of Kokoro’s anxiety seems based on her mother, Yukie, who kept telling her daughter not to believe the government and that no-one really knows the real risks of low level exposure. Yukie still says, “The low-dose radiation is continuing. There is no precedent. We don’t know what effect that will have on our children. I didn’t really believe things are as safe as the government is telling us.” The Mayor of the Nagano ski town Matsumoto had offered to take in children like Kokoro and educate them. Kokoro is one of eight that have been moved to Matsumoto this month to start the new school year. The project is the brainchild of Mayor Akira Sugenoya, a doctor who performed many thyroid-cancer surgeries in Belarus after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The Hiroshi Ueki family is also making use of the opportunity. Hiroshi moved his wife and two children to Matsumoto when he became overseer of the project. He says, “The bottom line is: No one knows for sure. What we do know is that the cases of cancer are up, and so naturally we are worried.” Recently, the National Council for Child Health and Development found that one child in four who suffered from the quake/tsunami disaster of 3/11/11 has clinically-diagnosable mental health problems. However, it seems the Matsumoto project is only for the children of Fukushima evacuees. http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/fukushima-children-start-school-in-nagano?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2014-04-08_AM

  • Many of the evacuees from the newly-unrestricted Miyakoji district are staying away. Twenty-six of the 117 affected families have either returned or are planning on going home. These are mostly elderly people. Most of those reluctant to return are younger families with children or unmarried adults. Some who are not planning to return cite radiation fears and distrust of the situation at F. Daiichi. Others say the reason is a lack of jobs and too little operating infrastructure. One mother named Masumi has moved to Koriyama, which is outside the exclusion zone. She says, “We cannot return to the Miyakoji area. There are few jobs available.” She also commented on the $9,000 lump-sum payment for each returning person designed to stimulate repopulation, “The lump-sum payment won’t lead to future security. It would be much easier to find work in Koriyama, where there are many prospective employers.” http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201404090045  (Comment - The Asahi article says there are 800,000 remaining Fukushima refugees, but the actual number is more like 80,000. Is this a typo? Also, the Asahi article makes it seem the only compensation evacuees get is $1,000 per month. This contradicts the Asahi report of October 26th that says the typical family of four gets $30,000 per month in compensation. It also contradicts Tepco’s weekly financial postings on compensation and the more than $1 billion per month in subsidies paid to Tepco by the government to cover the pay-outs. The $1,000 per month compensation is for mental anguish due to the Tokyo-mandated evacuation, per person, in addition to what was already being paid out. This brings the average monthly income per family to about $34,000.)

  • The reason for the latest problem with the ALPS water purifying system is resin failure. About 6 centimeters of compacted resin “chipped off” from one of the filter beds and allowed contaminated water to bypass it. This raised the system outlet contamination level into the millions of Becquerels per liter range. The resin material will be removed and tested. The same materials in the other two operating ALPS systems will also be examined. NHK World; Defect found in water treatment system; April 9, 2014  (Comment – the normally objective NHK World says there is now no prospect of bringing the system into full operation. This seems to be purely speculative and taints the news outlet’s repute.)

  • A filtered vent system at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station has been tested. The system will strip airborne radioactive materials from depressurization venting should there be an over-pressure condition inside the unit #7 containment. The venting systems at F. Daiichi were not filtered. If they were, the resulting off-site contamination levels would have been greatly reduced and tens of thousands of people would probably not have been forced to evacuate by the government. The test ran nitrogen gas through the system and demonstrated that it flowed as per design. The filtering cylinder in the system measures 8 meters by 4 meters. NHK World; TEPCO tests filtered vent at nuclear plant; April 9, 2014 

  • The Sendai nuclear plants could restart this summer. Kyushu Electric Co. says they will submit the supplementary documents requested by the Nuclear Regulation Authority later this month. The NRA plans to subsequently write a draft report and seek public opinion over the month following Kyushu’s submittal. Barring unforeseen delays, the official approval for restart could be issued by late June, opening the possibility of restarting both Sendai nukes in the summer. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014041000520

  • Radiophobic American sailors have again filed for damages from Tepco. This time it includes 79 persons who want a combined $1 billion. Last year’s initial suit was thrown out of court in San Diego because the allegations of a conspiracy between Tepco and the US Navy were unfounded. The new suit filed in San Diego only names Tepco as culpable. Allegedly, the company lied about conditions at F. Daiichi causing the USS Ronald Reagan to be “blanketed” in high levels of radiation. The Associated Press speculates this has caused “dozens of cancers and a child being born with birth defects.” Tepco has filed a motion to dismiss the suit and has responded that the US Navy would never have relied on a foreign utility to determine the safety of its sailors, “It’s wholly implausible that military commanders in charge of thousands of personnel and armed with some of the world’s most sophisticated equipment, relied instead only on the press releases and public statements of a foreign electric utility company.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/08/national/u-s-sailors-sue-tepco-for-1-billion-over-alleged-radiation-exposure/#.U0PsxqNOUdU

April 7, 2014 

  • As of this morning, 594 fuel bundles have been safely transferred out of unit #4 fuel pool. There are now less than 1,000 of the original 1533 fuel bundles remaining in the #4 spent fuel pool. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/decommision/index-e.html

  • Tepco has revealed the new head of the Fukushima decommissioning company. He is Naohiro Masuda and is now in charge of the "Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination and Decommissioning (D & D) Engineering Company". Masuda was the station manager at Fukushima Daini at the time of the 3/11/11 Great east Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Tepco says his decisive actions at F. Daini prevented a nuclear accident after the site was struck by a nine meter-high tsunami. Upon accepting the position, Masuda said, "I take this role with full awareness of the great responsibility we have to the people of Fukushima, Japan, and the world to pursue this work diligently and safely through to its conclusion, no matter how long it may take." He added that solving the wastewater problems at F. Daiichi will be his first priority and he will seek input from "both international and domestic experts". Masuda added that he will address concerns about contractors and subcontractors. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2014/1235345_5892.html

  • Tepco has formally agreed to all local Fishery requirements for groundwater discharge. The agreement includes clear standards for discharge and operation, independent verification of data, broad public communication on discharge safety, and compensation for fishermen who may be harmed by rumors. For example, the company says released water will have less than 1 Becquerel per liter of Cesium-134, which is a tenth the international drinking water standard. Tepco president Naomi Hirose said, "This is an important agreement that demonstrates our commitment to working with the Fukushima community, and the fishermen in particular, to move forward together in an environmentally responsible way." American Fukushima consultant Dale Klein says, "It is gratifying to see the fishermen and TEPCO reach agreement on this important step, which will protect the environment, ease the stress on water storage, and lay the groundwork for important improvements in water management at Fukushima." By discharging groundwater before it comes in contact with contaminated basements, Tepco believes that in-seepage to the buildings will drop from 400 tons/day down to 300 tons/day. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2014/1235388_5892.html  (This link includes another link explaining the bypass system to be used.)

  • Tepco says they will nearly double their wastewater storage capacity by next March. This will be a year sooner than originally planned. The capacity will be expanded from the current 480,000 tons to 800,000 tons. The accelerated plan is said to be possible because tanks are now prefabricated at the manufacturing sites and carried to F. Daiichi by ship. Tepco also feels they have devised more efficient ways to build tanks inside the compound when needed. The company adds that they expect the amount of contaminated water will be less than the maximum storage capacity by 2016. NHK World; TEPCO to add more water storage tanks by March 31; April 5, 2014

  • Tokyo will designated at least two universities to research F. Daiichi decommissioning. Students and staff from the schools will work out of a base facility at F. Daiichi beginning in 2015. The International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID) will lead the research on recovery of melted fuel from reactors 1 through 3 by remote control and how to dismantle the technology. The plans include accommodations for researchers to stay overnight when needed. There has been a noticeable decline in applications for nuclear courses in Japan since the Fukushima accident and Tokyo hopes this new program will reverse the trend. An Education, Science and Technology Minister says, “By gathering the knowledge and wisdom of plant operators, manufacturers and universities, we hope to accomplish the decommissioning work successfully.” http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001189927

  • Japan’s ruling coalition has approved Japan’s new energy policy. Thursday’s announcement marks Japan’s first official energy strategy since 3/11/11. The policy calls for renewables to account for about 20% of the nation’s electricity generation by 2030. In addition, the policy confirms that nuclear will remain an important power source for the near future. However, much of Japan’s news media doubts that the current regime in Tokyo will actually make the move away from nuclear. http://japandailypress.com/japans-ruling-coalition-agree-to-draft-of-energy-policy-0546853/

  • Futaba town reopened school for resident children today, albeit in the city of Iwate. Junior High and elementary students from Futaba may now return to school with their evacuee classmates for the first time since the mandated evacuation in the spring of 2011. Only 11 of the more than 600 possible Futaba students attended on opening day: one kindergartener, four elementary and six junior high students. The low attendance is attributed to parents concerned about the effects of long-term low level radiation exposure and ongoing problems at F. Daiichi broadcast by the popular Press. Also today, Furumichi Elementary in Tamura City reopened for the first time since 2011’s evacuation. 61 of 151 possible students attended on the first day, including four from the Miyakogi district which had all living restrictions removed about a week ago. Local residents held a banner saying “welcome back”.  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/04/07/national/futaba-school-ceremonies-restarted-2/#.U0KYjaNOUdU -- http://japandailypress.com/fukushima-elementary-school-opens-as-radiation-evacuation-order-is-lifted-for-the-first-time-0746913/ 

  • The Reconstruction Agency has bought land for 3,741 evacuee housing units. This is a major portion of a project totaling nearly 4,900 units. The remaining land for nearly 1,500 units is expected to be purchased by September. The money will come from community revival subsidies through the Agency. The new homes will be built in Iwaki and Fukushima Cities for evacuees who have filed applications for permanent relocation. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=329

  • 83% of Fukushima residents doubt that the government will ever dispose of rural radioactive waste outside the prefecture. 72% say legislation should be passed to ensure that Tokyo’s promises will be carried out. On the other hand, 5% said they were not concerned about the government meeting its commitment. Tokyo has designated Okuma and Futaba communities for temporary storage of rural low level wastes, promising to have it all moved to a permanent location elsewhere in Japan within 30 years. It seems the majority of Fukushima residents don’t think this will happen and want the government to be legally bound to their promises.  http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=328

  • No problems with anti-quake and tsunami measures have been found with the Sendai station. Sendai has two Pressurized Water Reactor units in Kagoshima Prefecture, on the southern tip of Kyushu Island and more than 400 kilometers south of Tokyo. The two-unit station has been prioritized by the Nuclear Regulation Authority as the first to be fully screened for restart. NRA Commissioner Kunihiko Shimazaki and his 14 member team inspected the Kyushu Electric Power Company plant on Thursday. They looked at the geology under the station and inspected the barriers under construction to protect against a worst-case tsunami. The team found nothing that would cause a change in the NRA’s initial assessment that the station meets the new regulations. After the NRA approves Kyushu Electric’s request for restart, the agency will seek hold local public hearings. NHK World; No problem found with Sendai nuclear plant; April 5, 2014

  • Tokyo says they will investigate into development of domestic, high-temperature gas-cooled reactors. Potential advantages over the current fleet of light water reactors include use of heat-resistant ceramic fuel pellets which are thought to make them less susceptible to meltdowns. Japan began research into gas-cooled reactors in the 1990s and built a test facility in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture. Tokyo says the plants could be built inland rather than on the seacoasts because Helium is used as a cooling medium instead of water. This would eliminate tsunami risks. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001182327

 

  

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