Fukushima Accident Updates (Blog)

Your most reliable source of objective Fukushima News. No "spins"...just summaries of news reports in Japan's Press, which calls the Fukushima accident a nuclear disaster. Beginning in 2017, posts occur weekly.

The are three regularly-updated pages on this site concerning popular Fukushima issues; Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments (updated monthly), Fukushima Child Thyroid Cancer Issue and Is There Fukushima Radiation on North America’s West Coast? (all updated when new information is available)

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Fukushima: The First Five Days... taken from the hand-written staff records at Fukushima Daiichi the first five days of the crisis. Fukushima : Available here and all E-book stores. Click here for more...

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September 21, 2017

  • The main road from Fukushima City to Namie reopens. It occurred on Wednesday. National Route 114 is the most direct, least time-consuming road between the Fukushima capital and the tsunami-devastated coastline. The 27-kilometer section had its northwest access barrier removed at 6am, allowing evacuees and reconstruction workers direct access to the Namie coastline. Until now, residents needed permission from the town government or had to take a lengthy detour route. Namie resident Hisashi Suzuki said, “Until now, we had to arrange for a thoroughfare pass beforehand, and we sometimes had to wait at checkpoints. This is much more convenient.” The reopened part runs through the remaining “difficult-to-return” zone in Namie where evacuees are allowed to make short visits to their homes, but not remain permanently. Highway access is limited to automobiles, with motorcycles and pedestrians forbidden to enter. Tokyo has set up barriers at 88 intersections on Route 114 to prevent thieves and tourists from using side roads to gain entry. Local officials hope this will increase the number of people who will return home. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709200053.html
  • Used fuel bundle removal from units #1 & #2 is delayed. The Nuclear Regulation Authority is revising the “roadmap” for decommissioning F. Daiichi, which includes adding three years to the on-set of spent fuel removal for the two units. The work is now planned to begin in 2023. It was formerly supposed to start in 2020. The plan to start used fuel retrieval for unit #3 in 2018 has not changed. The delay’s reason is that it is taking longer than thought to remove contaminated debris from the two reactor buildings.  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170920_04/
  • Most Fukushima residents feel that a recurrence of the 2011 accident is possible. 26,582 families who lived in the communities of Naraha, Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba, Namie, Kawauchi, and Katsurao were polled in February. A little over 10,000 replied. Although essentially impossible, 71.4% found it either “strongly true” or “slightly true” that another major accident is possible before decommissioning is complete. In addition, 70.3% expressed similar concerns about the storage and disposal facilities straddling home communities Okuma and Futaba. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=854 (Comment - Local officials most do a better job of informing evacuation zone residents that such fears are necessarily unfounded.)
  • The Fukushima accident did not affect the Pacific’s fish or the people of North America. Fukushima InFORM’s Jay Cullen headed the team of nine authors who published their findings in the Journal Environmental Science and Technology. He says, "We're confident in saying that the levels that we see now in our part of the Pacific from Fukushima are below those levels that represent a significant health risk either to the Pacific Ocean or to human beings in Canada or the west coast of North America. We haven't been able to detect changes in the amount of these artificial isotopes that are in our Pacific salmon and steelhead trout or shellfish that we've collected all up and down the [Canadian] coast." https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/japans-nuclear-disaster-didnt-affect-fish-or-human-health-bc-scientist/article36257317/?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theglobeandmail.com
  • The first government-designated “hub” for Fukushima recovery is approved. The hub is a 560 hectare acre portion of Futaba’s no-go zone that should speed up restoration of infrastructure for the community. Tokyo will effect full scale decontamination in the hub to lift the evacuation order for the town’s train station by the end of 2019, allowing resident evacuees to access their homes and make “short stays”.  The entire hub zone is expected to have its restrictions lifted in the spring of 2022, and the rest of the town should be open for unrestricted repopulation by 2027. The rebuilding hub will be paid for by Tokyo. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709150058.html
  • Two University training and research reactors have resumed operation since April. However, many other such facilities are being shuttered permanently. This has raised concerns about training enough young people to support the future of nuclear energy in Japan. The two operating units are a one watt (thermal) reactor at Kindai University and a 100 watt (thermal) “Critical Assembly” reactor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, both located in Osaka Prefecture. Tetsuo Ito, director of the Institute said, “There is no substitute for the sense of pressure that comes with operating actual equipment.” In 2010, there were eleven such training and research units operating in Japan. Now, at least three will not restart due to the cost of meeting Japan’s new safety regulations. Another five are planned to restart. In 2010, there were about 1,500 students studying at these facilities, but last year there were only 300, mostly at South Korean university reactors. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003924264 
  • The NRA says five of the nuclear stations cleared for restart may be at risk from volcanic ash. The five are Sendai, Mihama, Ohi, Ikata, and Genkai stations. The NRA believes that airborne concentrations of volcanic ash could be 100 times greater that formerly estimated, thus current filtration units need to be upgraded. The NRA says the units most likely to be harmed by clogged air filters are Ikata #3 and Genkai #3 & #4. No further details on the NRA’s decision have been posted. https://japantoday.com/category/national/5-nuclear-plants'-cooling-systems-may-fail-during-volcanic-eruptions

September 14, 2017

  • A drone will be used to measure area radiation levels inside units #1 through #4. The 93cm by 83cm four-propeller device has an on-board power supply that should last about 15 minutes. Repeated flights inside the four Reactor and Turbine buildings will be used to create a detailed 3-D map of radiation levels that could be encountered by workers when fuel debris removal begins. Unfortunately, Japan’s Press continues to post that the fuel debris is “molten” or “melted”, which is entirely incorrect. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/09/09/national/drone-measure-radiation-tainted-fukushima-no-1-buildings/#.WbUzSKMUkdU - https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170910/p2g/00m/0dm/008000c
  • A worker at F. Daiichi experienced a tiny amount of internal contamination. The worker was dismantling wastewater tanks no longer being used. The contamination was discovered during a routine medical examination, when a tiny amount was found in nasal cavities. The worst case exposure estimate was 0.01 millisieverts. This level of exposure is essentially harmless. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709080046.html
  • Less than 10% of Fukushima’s evacuees have repopulated. In 2010, there were about 60,000 people living in the communities where evacuation orders have been lifted. As of August, only 5,950 have actually returned. Of these, more than 2,900 are elderly. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170909/p2a/00m/0na/004000c
  • The Fukushima evacuee jobless rate remains high. Fukushima University’s Fukushima Future Center for Regional Revitalization has found that nearly 32% of those aged 15-64 in the municipalities subject to evacuation orders are still unemployed. The pre-2011 rate was about 11%. Most of the jobless are living off continuing compensation subsidies (56%), as well as pensions (50%), with most receiving both. Only 33% of the respondents in the survey said their main income was from working. Team leader Fuminori Tanba of Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto explained, “The victim’s self-help or the payouts of compensation alone are not sufficient in empowering them to rebuild their lives. Administrative support aimed at helping them find jobs will be needed.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709110027.html
  • The NRA begins final restart inspections for Genkai unit #3. Barring problems, Kyushu Electric Company plans to load fuel in December, and restart the unit in January. In addition to examining safety improvements stipulated in Japan’s new standards for operation, The Nuclear Regulation Authority will further review disaster response measures for unit #3. https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017091100330
  • The NRA does an about-face on Kashiwazaki-Kariwa restart approval. Recently, Tokyo’s nuclear watchdog said that Tepco was qualified to restart K-K units 6 & 7.  Now, Chairman Shunichi Tanaka says “it’s insecure” if the company shows its resolve in words alone. The NRA’s reversal is due to criticism that there had been a lack of debate on whether or not Tepco is qualified to operate the K-K units. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170914/p2g/00m/0dm/006000c
  • Fearmongering ex-PM Junichiro Koizumi says nuclear plants are the same as bombs. In a September 8th speech in Fukui Prefecture, he said, "Having nuclear plants is tantamount to possessing atomic bombs directed at the people of Japan." His statement followed the recent North Korean test flight of an ICBM over Japan and subsequent detonation of what was believed to be a thermo-nuclear weapon. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170909/p2a/00m/0na/012000c
  • Over 20,000 2011 quake and tsunami refugees still live in temporary housing: Iwate Prefecture has 8,142, Miyagi 7,148, and Fukushima 6,210. This is a decline of about 30% since March. The percentage will probably drop further because the people owning the land with the temporary housing want their property back. However, many of the refugees will probably continue staying put well into next year, if not beyond, since construction of new housing on high-enough ground continues to lag. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170911_02/
  • The completion of the Rokkasho used fuel reprocessing plant is delayed. Rokkasho owner Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited has been told by the NRA that rainwater flowing through underground piping at the facility needs to be addressed before it can pass a pre-operational safety screening. A recent examination of the piping’s tunnel, and attendant inspection records, showed that it had not been examined since 2003. JNFL had hoped to begin operation by March 2018, but this development makes that unlikely. The length of the delay is speculative. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170914_14/

September 7, 2017

  • Minamisoma radiation levels are the same as cities on the west coast of Japan. Most of the city was subject to the 30 kilometer evacuation order rendered by Tokyo in 2011. Though restrictions were rescinded for some of the population in April, 2012, the majority were not lifted until July, 2016. Repopulation has been disappointing due to lingering radiation fears. As a result, the city government conducted a survey to compare the city’s radiation levels to those of cities hundreds of kilometers away, and on the other coastline. 25 dosimeters were issued to city employees of Minami-Soma, Tajimi in Gifu Prefecture, Fukuyama in Hiroshima Prefecture, and Nanto in Toyama Prefecture, from May 29 through June 11. The general exposure level in Minamisoma was found to be 0.82 millisieverts per year, which was essentially no different than with the other three control cities. Project head Masaharu Tsubokura of Minamisoma General Hospital said, ““Making comparisons with other municipalities is important.”  He said the results will be formally posted as an academic paper. The city hopes the results will encourage more former residents to return home. In 2010, the city’s population was about 78,000, but the current estimate is just under 58,000. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709050042.html
  • Fukushima InFORM says assumptions of bioaccumulation of Fukushima contamination are “unwise”. The conclusion is based on an independent peer-reviewed paper “Assessing Fukushima-Derived Radiocesium in Migratory Pacific Predators”. The author’s results include that no Cesium-134 is detectible in any of the analyzed organisms, except for a trace found in one Ridley sea Turtle. In addition, the concentrations of Cs-137 are essentially the same as before the 2011 nuke accident. Further, the Cs-137 levels are 10 to 100-fold lower than naturally-occurring Potassium-40. Ninety-one species were tested between 2012 and 2015, including tuna, dolphins, turtles, and salmon. Thus, the paper’s authors say, “…predators in the central, eastern, and western Pacific should not be assumed to accumulate detectable levels of radiocesium a priori.” Thus “…anxiety and speculation about the dangers of radiocesium bioaccumulation in the face of such data seems unfounded.” The paper was published in Environmental Science and Technology, July, 2017. (Comment - Once again, important information has not been picked up by the Press both inside and outside Japan because it is not titillating.) https://fukushimainform.ca/2017/09/06/how-much-fukushima-contamination-is-there-in-migratory-pacific-fish/m -- http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.7b00680 (paper abstract)
  • Tokyo posts the latest F. Daiichi decommissioning “roadmap” on September 1. The last revised version was released in June, 2015. While there are no overall scheduling changes, the methods of damaged fuel debris removal have been modified to reflect the latest decisions made by the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF). Rather than the headlines posted by the Press near the end of August, a more detailed and accurate step-by-step approach is actually the case. The first step will be removal of corium (fuel debris) that may have collected inside the pedestals of the reactor vessels through the side of the Primary Containment Vessels. Before the next step is made, new evaluations will be made to determine the next step. For example, water-covered removal of corium inside and/or attached to the RPVs will be considered in order to minimize worker exposures. The target date to begin corium removal is 2021. Another important target is decontamination of all water in the damaged unit basements by 2020. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/government-team-releases-draft-revisions-to-mid-to-long-term-decommissioning-roadmap-for-fukushima-daiichi-npps/
  • The second section of the unit #3 used fuel removal cover dome has been installed. Here are a few pictures. http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2017/201709-e/170907-01e.html
  • Two of Tepco’s large BWR unit restarts will be discussed by the NRA. Restarts of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units #6 & #7 began to be reviewed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority commissioners on Wednesday. Discussion focuses on issues concerning the implementation of Japan’s new nuclear safety standards. It is expected the commissioners will create a draft document certifying that the K-K units have satisfied the new safety requirements. The NRA wants to reach a conclusion before current Chairman Shunichi Tanaka’s term expires on September 18th. It is possible that the K-K units will be the first Boiling Water Reactor systems to restart in Japan. The move is expected to trigger considerable socio-political criticism since both units are Boiling Water Reactor systems, although far more advanced than Fukushima Daiichi and having large, domed containments around their reactors. Local governments are also uneasy about supporting the restarts. Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama says it will takes as long as five years for Tepco to receive the local consent needed for power resumption. Tepco needs the income from the operation of the two units to begin the company’s financial recovery. The two units have a combined 2,630 MWE electrical output.  https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/09/e77604d30bbc-exclusive-tepcos-reactors-soon-to-clear-major-safety-hurdle-to-restart.html -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170906/p2a/00m/0na/016000c
  • Japan’s Press posts contrasting reports on the NRA’s view ok the K-K units. The Mainichi Shimbun says the NRA is poised to give approval to the K-K safety inspections, saying the Tokyo watchdog has a “suddenly sunny attitude” towards Tepco. That is, the NRA chair, Shunichi Tanaka, now says that currently unresolved problems, like contaminated water build-up, cannot be helped given the socio-political circumstances. An anonymous NRA executive said, "We avoided demanding a detailed (disposal measures) plan because we don't legally have that authority, and doing so could pose legal risks." In contrast, the Asahi Shimbun alleges that the NRA is considering some sort of legal move before approving the K-K units for restart. While the watchdog has found that K-K units meet the technological aspects of the new safety standards, there is doubt that the company has embraced lessons learned from the 2011 nuke accident. The Asahi says the NRA is “…considering holding the utility legally responsible for completing the entire decommissioning process of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant,” which essentially contradicts what is contained in the Mainichi report. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170907/p2a/00m/0na/019000c -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709070026.html
  • Tokyo says it will build a memorial in Namie for 2011 disaster victims. It will not be a structure, per se. Rather is will be a ten hectare plot with a square and hill commemorating those who died in the quake, tsunami, and chaotic evacuation from around Fukushima Daiichi. The memorial will be part of a large park bordering on Futaba, one of the F. Daiichi host communities. It will function as a facility to share lessons learned from the calamity and post the status of reconstruction, in addition to remembering the dead. https://japantoday.com/category/national/national-memorial-for-quake-tsunami-victims-to-be-built-in-fukushima 
  • Fukushima will send 100 tons of its home-grown rice to Malaysia this year. Japan usually ships 150 tons of rice to Malaysia each year, so this will comprise 2/3 of the 2017 shipment. In addition, 15 tons of peaches will be shipped, nearly double of what was sent in the past. This will make Fukushima Prefecture the largest Japanese regional rice exporter to the Southeast Asian country. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=852

August 31, 2017

  • The Fukushima corium removal methods are modified. Tokyo’s Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. (NDF) says most of the debris will be extracted horizontally and the rest taken out vertically from the refueling decks. NDF President Hajimu Yamana, says Tepco should combine the several proposed methods instead of specific one specific procedure. The idea of completely filling each Primary Containment vessel to greatly reduce external radiation exposures was officially dropped earlier this year. NDF said that method is not viable because of the difficulties in patching up the holes in the PCVs. However, the NDF now says a partial filling of the PCV before debris removal seems possible. The tentative date for starting the corium removal process is 2021. The specific, step-by-step plan for corium removal is expected to be completed in September.  https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/08/c780f4e5b954-debris-to-be-removed-from-side-of-fukushima-reactors-state-backed-entity.html -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708310042.html
  • Fukushima and Ohio State University have begun a medical exchange program. The focus is developing experts in cancer radiation therapy. Ohio State will share its world-class expertise in treatment with doctors and students from Fukushima Medical University. The FMU doctors will then build a research framework to be used at their facility in Japan. The program will eventually be expanded to include other Japanese medical staff and create a joint research framework between OSU and FMU. FMU Professor Yoshiyuki Suzuki said, “I’ll do my utmost to make the best of this international exchange program and build a system to nurture experts in radiation therapy here (Fukushima).”  The deal was finalized last month. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=851
  • Removal of voluntary evacuees from Tokyo’s “official list” gets some bad press. This past April, housing subsidies ended for all voluntary Fukushima evacuees that have yet to return home. Critics are now condemning the move, alleging that it prevents officials from fully appreciating the plight of these people. One Tokyo sociologist said, “Accurate data on Fukushima evacuees is essential in gaining a better understanding of their current circumstances and crafting measures to address their problems. When only smaller than the real numbers are made available, difficulties facing evacuees could be underestimated and could result in terminating support programs for them.” Nearly 30,000 have been removed from the official evacuee list since March. By cutting off their essentially free housing, it was hoped there would be a prompt return to their hometowns in Fukushima Prefecture, where they could continue to have subsidized housing. But, it seems that most have chosen to remain voluntarily estranged because of radiophobia. One voluntary evacuee said, “We cannot return to Fukushima Prefecture due to fears of the effects of radiation. I feel like I have been abandoned by the state by being denied evacuee status.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708280053.html
  • Three more Japanese nukes ask for restart inspections. On Monday, The Nuclear Regulation Authority was formally requested to begin pre-restart reviews for Kyushu Electric’s Genkai #3. The company should be able to load nuclear fuel bundles in December. Restart for Genkai unit #4 is expected to follow, but the schedule has not yet been formulated. Also on Monday, Kansai Electric requested the same NRA pre-operational inspections for Ohi units #3 and #4. While the Fukui prefectural assembly has yet to approve the Ohi restarts, the existing operation of Takahama units #3 and #4 suggests that approval should be forthcoming. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/power-companies-request-pre-service-inspections-toward-restarting-reactors-at-genkai-and-ohi/ --https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170829/p2a/00m/0na/011000c
  • The NRA says Tepco restarts depend of the company taking the lead on decommissioning. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka says that for the restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units "TEPCO must do things based more on its own judgment," and not depend so much on the government and other organizations. He added, "If Tepco is unable to finalize the decommissioning of the Fukushima reactors, it is simply not qualified to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant." The one issue that seems to be of most importance is a firm plan to dispose of tritiated waste waters. Tepco’s most recent document submitted to the NRA had no mention of disposal, and Tanaka doesn’t like it. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170830/p2a/00m/0na/017000c
  • The plaintiffs in the new $5 billion American lawsuit for Fukushima damages appear to be Americans who were in Japan and supported the relief effort immediately following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. In addition, an un-named American company is subject to the suit along with Tepco. Further, the money is not only to cover medical tests and treatment caused by their low-level radiation exposure - it also calls for mental and economic damage compensation. The identities of the plaintiffs have not been revealed. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170825/p2g/00m/0dm/001000c -- https://japantoday.com/category/national/fukushima-operator-faces-5-bn-us-suit-over-2011-disaster

August 24, 2017

  • On Tuesday, Tepco began the process of freezing the final section of the F. Daiichi ice wall. Eleven valves were opened and minus-30OC refrigerant began to flow through the in-ground pipes.  The remaining seven-meter-wide unfrozen stretch could take two months to solidify. Tepco says the influx of water will lessen because groundwater from mountain side will be decreased and the level around reactor buildings will be controlled. A company official said, "We want to carefully freeze [the wall] by monitoring water levels both inside and outside the reactor buildings." The last section could not be closed until the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) gave its consent. Instead of months, it has taken nearly a year-and-a-half to complete the freezing. Many Japanese news outlets blame the delay on Tepco. Others have placed culpability on NRA officials. Total cost of the wall has been just under $320 million (USD). It should be noted that once the wall is fully solidified, Tepco can also assess the effectiveness of the Landside Impermeable Wall that stretches nearly a kilometer along the shoreline. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_170822_01-e.pdf -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170822_19/ -- http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/nra-approves-full-water-shielding-wall-at-fukushima-daiichi-npps/ -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170822/p2g/00m/0dm/053000c
  • All fish within 20 kilometers of F. Daiichi are below Japan’s limit of 100 Becquerels per kilogram.  This includes those caught inside the break-wall of the station’s port. One of the 104 fish sampled outside the break-wall has detectible Cesium-134 activity – the “fingerprint” isotope for nuclear accident contamination. Only one caught inside the break-wall had detectible Cs-134. https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2017/images/fish02_170817-e.pdf -- https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2017/images/fish01_170817-e.pdf
  • Fukushima will expand rice and peach shipments to Malaysia in 2017. Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori announced the prefecture had reached agreement with Malaysian wholesalers to increase exports of both commodities. The exports resumed in 2015, with 12 tons of rice shipped to Malaysia. This year, the volume of rice has increased to 29 tons, with expectations of 100 tons by the end of fiscal 2017. There were 7.3 tons of peaches shipped last year, with 15 tons expected for this year. https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017082301198
  • Ken Buessler of Woods Hole Oceanographic gives his opinion on releasing tritiated water to the sea. He wants slow discharge over several years, “If it’s all released on one day, that’s a very different scenario for the oceans than if it’s released sequentially over the course of several years.” Buessler believes that Tritium is one of the less dangerous radioactive isotopes, although it is actually biologically innocuous in concentrations many orders of magnitude greater than anything now stored in tanks at Fukushima Daiichi. (See - http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/background-information-on-tritium.html) Buessler is also concerned about detectible levels of other isotopes that might be in the ALPS-purified waters, so he wants each tank analyzed before it is drained to the sea. https://www.voanews.com/a/japan-fukushim-tritium-contaminated-water-into-pacific/3995414.html   
  • Futaba announces plans for recovery and reconstruction. It is a co-host to the F. Daiichi station, along with Okuma. On August 2nd, the municipal assembly announced that a 555 hectare (~1,370 acre) block of land has been identified to establish “specified reconstruction footholds” that will be used to coordinate lifting of all “difficult to return” zones in the block by 2022. A “new downtown zone” will be set up on the west side of Joban Line’s Futaba Station where houses for townspeople and workers are to be built. There will be an “urban rebirth zone” on the east side where a shopping street and a base for exchanges among residents will be created. Two areas on the north side will be zones for “the use of renewable energy” and for “the revitalization of agriculture.” If the plan is approved by the prefecture, decontamination efforts and road reconstruction will begin, paid for by Tokyo. This is the first of the seven remaining communities with difficult-to-return zones to create a plan for repopulation and revitalization. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=849 (Comment – Once again, Japan’s popular Press ignores good news with respect to Fukushima. The August 2nd announcement was only covered by Fukushima Minpo three weeks after it was announced.)
  • Three more Japanese nukes file restart documents. Kansai Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. have filed restart-related documents with Tokyo’s NRA for Ohi 3 and 4, and Genkai 3. Each unit is a pressurized water reactor system with a 1,180 MWe generating capacity. It should be noted that Ohi 3&4 were restarted in July, 2012, to avoid a probable summer regional power shortage. Both continually operated at 100% power without incident until September, 2013. https://www.nei.org/News-Media/News/Japan-Nuclear-Update
  • The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission begins a series of postings intended to educate the public about controversial nuclear energy issues. CNSC will explain some touchier concepts through infographics and videos everyone should be able to understand. The group has begun its “RadFacts campaign” with an excellent, no-nonsense infographic on used (irradiated) nuclear fuel safety. http://nuclearsafety.gc.ca/eng/resources/infographics/rad-facts-rayons-dinfo/ifb-pcu.cfm
  • Tepco faces yet another expensive American lawsuit over Fukushima. The company says a $5 billion suit has been filed in a Southern California court. There are 157 plaintiffs listed in the suit demanding a compensation fund be set up to cover costs of medical tests and treatment needed as a result of their efforts to support recovery of the nuke accident. It is not known if the new suit is related to the existing one filed by a group of sailors from the USS Ronald Reagan. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-tepco-fukushima-lawsuit-idUSKCN1B40TG

August 17, 2017

  • Tokyo has (finally) approved closing the “ice wall” around Fukushima Daiichi units #1 through #4. The agonizingly slow activation of the wall has been due to skittishness on the part of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, fearing the level of groundwater outside the basement walls will drop below the level inside and allow highly radioactive water to seep out. The freezing of the wall has progressed sections since March, 2016, with portions frozen, followed by a long waiting period to see if the groundwater level changes. So far, each section’s freezing has not caused a drop in groundwater level. The last 7.5 meter section of the wall is all that remains to be frozen, and Tepco says they will begin the process next Tuesday. The company is confident the completion of the wall will not cause the NRA’s fears to manifest, but they are prepared to deal with it if it happens. Before the wall had begun freezing the soil down to 30 meters, Tepco estimated that 400 tons of groundwater flowed into the turbine building basements each day. The influx is currently estimated to be about 140 tons per day. Tepco says once the last section is frozen, the in-flow should drop to below 100 tons per day, further reducing the rate of wastewater buildup and storage.  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170815_24/ -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708160032.html
  • Work slowly progresses on combatting wild animals in repopulating zones. One of the difficulties with restrictions being lifted is wild animals that have infested the evacuated communities. One particularly problematic species is wild boars. There are limits on how many can be exterminated due to a relatively small number of hunters, many of whom are over 60 years old. Thus, some repopulated residences have been surrounded by sturdy four-foot high fences. One returning resident of Namie said, "Putting humans in cages sounds like a joke, but I'm happy for the fences if they can keep wild boars out. Wild boars appear basically every night.” Most of the boars have lived in the evacuated communities for what amounts to their whole lives, so encouraging them to move into the wild is difficult. Also, smaller animals like civets and raccoons have moved into the ceilings and attics of empty houses, further exacerbating the situation. The Mainichi Shimbun says the critters are “thought to be one cause of the still very low evacuee return rate (of ~20%). https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170817/p2a/00m/0na/011000c

August 10, 2017

  • The European Union considers lifting restrictions on Fukushima rice. EU President Jean-Claude Juncker said, "I would like to congratulate Prime Minister Abe on the remarkable progress Japan has made on making products from the Fukushima region safe, following the 2011 accident." He will argue for the EU’s removal of restrictions after the summer holiday. The move should promote the relief of Fukushima rice from unfounded fears and rumors. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/eu-expected-to-lift-import-restrictions-on-fukushima-rice/  (Comment - The JAIF link contains charts that show Japan’s limits on contamination are as much as 100 times lower than the EU and/or International Standards.)
  • Local Fisheries find 75% of Japan’s consumers are “ready to buy (Fukushima fish)… without doubt”. A survey of consumers and wholesalers revealed that the positive responses are predicated on displaying the level of radioactive substances in the fish. Surprisingly, only 69% said they were aware that all fish currently being caught by the fisheries are tested for radioactivity. In addition, 70% said they will allow family members under the age of 18 to eat the seafood, but 26% said they will not. The federation issues examination certificates for wholesalers in order to dispel rumors, hoping to "will urge shops and other retail outlets outside Fukushima to display examination certificates." http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=848
  • The Asahi Shimbun continues to post dismal reports on the status of Fukushima fishermen. It says fish hauls have been small and there is an increasing number of people leaving the fishing industry. One fisherman is quoted as saying, “Even if we can catch fish, we might be unable to sell them because of harmful rumors.” Tetsu Nozaki, chair of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations, says, “We might face damage from harmful rumors in auctions, but if we’re scared of that and don’t increase our hauls, Fukushima Prefecture’s ocean and fishing industry will never return to what it was before. We want to keep moving toward full-scale operations.” The Asahi says many fishermen still rely on Tepco compensation payments to make ends meet, but fails to mention the substantial amount that each Tokyo-mandated evacuee has received…more than $500,000 for each and every man, woman, and child. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003840041
  • Japan’s plutonium inventory drops due to nuke restarts. The Cabinet Office announced that Japan had a total of 46.9 tons of plutonium at the end of 2016, held domestically and abroad. This was down about a ton from the end of 2015. The reason was the loading of some MOX fuel bundles, containing recycled reactor plutonium, into Takahama units #3 & #4. Full power operation of the two units reduced the nation’s recycled plutonium inventory. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/japans-total-plutonium-holdings-decrease-thanks-to-npp-restarts/
  • Tepco says unchecked “tainted” cars left Fukushima Daiichi the first week of the accident. The company reports that hundreds of detectibly contaminated privately-vehicles came and went without being scanned for radioactivity. Tepco began an investigation in 2012 and found that there were more than 450 cars that left the plant compound. By 2015, they identified all but two of them, scanned each, and found that 190 still had detectible contamination. A few of the cars had levels greater than the upper limit of the spot-check monitors, which is about ten times the official standard. On-site scans of vehicles did not begin until 12 days after 3/11/11. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170809_01/
  • An unexploded WWII bomb near F. Daiichi makes headlines around the world. The device was found about 300 meters from the nuclear station’s perimeter at a parking lot construction site. The area where the bomb was found was an airfield for the WWII Imperial Japanese military, and was bombed near the end of the war. The device was found this morning (Thursday), and removed by a Self Defense Force disposal team in the afternoon. Decommissioning work at F. Daiichi was conducted as usual, without interruption. Aside – International Press coverage provides the usual elaboration, exaggeration, and fabrication. Fukushima-phobia is good for business. – End aside.  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170810_28/  -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170810_35/ -- http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40886169 -- http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/world-news/breaking-world-war-two-bomb-10961825

August 3, 2017

  • Tepco says corium from unit #3 did not burn through the RPV’s bottom head. The company’s computer-based assumption of the bottom head of the Reactor Pressure Vessel experiencing a catastrophic “melt-through” seems to have been disproven by last week’s robotic investigation. Rather, it now appears that the loss of corium was through the stub tubes that hold the Control Rod Drive Mechanisms (CRDM). Tepco spokesman Takahiro Kimoto said the images of the RPV underside show that the bottom head itself withstood the heat of molten corium, “We do not presume that the vessel, which is 14 cm thick, melted and collapsed together with the fuel, but that part of the fuel instead made its way down through holes [for the CRDMs].” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/07/30/national/footage-reactor-3-may-force-rewrite-fukushima-road-map-officials-say/#.WX3XjaMUkdU
  • A government body has compiled a draft blueprint for removal of nuclear accident fuel debris. The Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. (NDF) intends to have a robot arm installed through the primary containment (PCV) wall to scoop up fuel debris (corium) inside the reactor vessel’s pedestal. The NDF revealed its plan in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, on Monday. The “blueprint” in based on the images inside the unit #3 PCV and pedestal captured by the “little sunfish” submersible robot. It is assumed the location and condition of the unit #1 corium is essentially the same as unit #3. Whether or not there is any corium within the unit #2 pedestal remains to be seen, but the NDF assumes there is less than with the other two units. Two corium removal concepts were considered, both of which depend on robotic technology. One idea was to fill the entire PCV with water and remove everything from above. However, this method would require a robotic arm of more than 30 meters, while exacerbating the waste water problem. In addition, it is assumed that the PCVs are leaking, so the sources of the leaks would have to be found and stoppered. Plus, transfer of used fuel bundles from the SFPs would have to be completed before beginning corium removal construction. However, the side-ways concept does not need to have the PCV flooded. A maintenance access hatch could be modified to facilitate access. However, this “airborne method”, would require maintaining the inner volume of the PCV below atmospheric pressure. Aside – would not the assumed PCV leaks also keep the PCV from desired depressurization? – End aside. Another reason for the “airborne” option is fears that the Massive steel-reinforced concrete PCVs might have been weakened by hydrogen explosions and collapse under the weight of the water.  http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003852307 -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708010022.html  (Comment - The referenced articles add that corium removal under water might trigger recriticality, which was allegedly a concern of some NDF officials. If so, the NDF has a modicum of ignorance in its ranks. First, any corium on the floors of the PCVs is already under water! Also, the corium’s admixture of fuel with boron from the control rods makes recriticality effectively impossible.
  • NRA Chair Tanaka says the “dry removal” method for corium will be “far from easy”. The chief of the Nuclear Regulation Authority spoke to reporters on Wednesday in response to questions posed by the NDF plan for removal of fuel debris from the three damaged RPVs and PCVs. Tanaka questioned the idea that “dry removal” would be safer than filling the PCV with water to block the high radiation levels emitted by the corium. Some NDF officials feared a wet removal runs the risk of recriticality, but the NRA Chair countered that it is common for nuclear fuel to be stored and transported underwater to block radiation. He added that once nuclear fuel is removed from water, area radiation levels soar, adding to the difficulties for safe handling. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170802_28/
  • Host community Futaba plans on partial lifting of evacuation orders by 2022. The municipal government concluded the radiation levels for about 10% of the residential areas will be opened for repopulation. The rest of the town will remain designated as difficult-to-return because of allegedly high radiation levels unsuitable for human habitation. The reopened areas will be used as a “hub” for local recovery. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170803/p2a/00m/0na/012000c -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708030040.html  (Comment - Earlier this year, actual radiation exposure levels measured with monitoring devices revealed that most, if not all of Futaba was less than 200 millisieverts per year, This is much less than the people of Ramsar, Iran, that receive roughly 250 mSv/yr from natural background sources, with literally no adverse health effects. Tokyo and the Futaba government should learn from Mother Nature and reopen the entire town now!)
  • Tepco has posted pictures of the installation of the first part of the unit #3 dome. The prefabricated structure is intended to enclose the top of the unit #3 reactor building to allow for the safe transfer of used nuclear fuel from the pool (SFP) on the top floor to the ground-level spent fuel storage facility. There are 566 fuel bundles in the storage pool that will be removed from the pool. Two of the eight sections of the dome are in place, giving us an idea of how the full structure will look. When completed, the dome will be about 17 meters high, 60 meters in length, and weigh nearly 300 tons. The structure will protect workers and fuel handling equipment from severe weather, as well as accommodate Japan’s radiophobic demographic that fears the possibility of radiological dust being released during the transfer. http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2017/201707-e/170731-01e.html -- http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_170802_01-e.pdf -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708020046.html
  • Japan’s 2018 energy outlook sees five more nuclear plant restarts, and perhaps 12. There are now five that have restarted and achieved the status of being “commercial” (qualified to charge customers for the electricity being produced). The Institute for Energy Economics (IEEJ) says as many as twelve, and as few as none of the unit now prohibited from operation could restart by the end of 2018. However, the most-likely number of restarts will probably be five, bringing the total of operating nukes to ten by the end of 2018. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/ieej-releases-2018-economic-and-energy-outlook-pace-of-npp-restarts-affects-improvement-of-3es/
  • More than half of Japan is suited to host a deep geological repository. On Friday, Tokyo posted a “map of scientific characteristics” depicting possible sites for deep burial of high-level radioactive waste from used nuclear fuel. All municipalities were made aware of the map's release before it was shared with the Press. 30% of Japan’s land area is considered “most suitable” for a facility to remain safe for 100,000 years. Another 40% is labeled as locations where favorable characteristics being confirmed is likely. This includes all or part of about 900 municipalities; more than half of all municipalities in Japan. However, the map does not identify specific sites favored for final disposal, the selection of which needs detailed surveys. Tokyo plans to hold briefings on the candidate sites beginning in autumn, most of which are located in coastal areas to accommodate possible sea shipping. The government is submitting requests to the relevant municipalities for their understanding and cooperation with investigations. The map was compiled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. Minister Hiroshige Seko said, “The release of this map is an important step to realize final disposal (of high-level radioactive waste). It is the first step on the long road.” METI hopes the posting of the map and subsequent public briefings will allow municipalities to show interest sufficient to have detailed scientific surveys. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/commentary-on-publication-of-national-map-of-scientific-characteristics-regarding-geological-disposal-of-hlw/  -- http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/anre-publishes-map-of-scientific-characteristics-moving-one-step-closer-to-geological-hlw-disposal/ (detailed map here) -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017072801006 -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201707290027.html


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