Fukushima 106... 10/31/16-11/24/16

November 24, 2016

Early Tuesday morning, a major earthquake struck the Tohoku region, measuring 7.4 on the Richter scale. The off-shore seismic zone causing the quake suffered a geologic uplift spawning a tsunami, measured as high as 1.4 meters (4ft. 7 in.) at Sendai, well north of F. Daiichi. More than 15 people were injured and notable damage occurred with fishing boats and seaweed-harvesting rafts along the coast. But, with many Japanese news outlets, these facts took a back seat to reports of a brief electrical failure to the spent fuel cooling system at F. Daini and the intentional stoppage of contaminated water treatment operations at F. Daiichi so that the operators could follow their earthquake protocols and check for equipment damage. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161122_40/ -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161122_46/ -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611220029.html -- http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2016/11/445505.html  Only the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, with its relatively small readership, reported the actual situation with all nuke units on the Tohoku coast – “Insignificant effects”. (http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/insignificant-effects-from-earthquake-off-fukushima-prefecture-this-morning/) This showed, once again, that much of Japan’s antinuclear Press feels it is more important to deceptively resurrect images and fears connected to March 11, 2011, than sticking to the facts!

Unfortunately, some of the international Press followed suit. The NY Times blew the whole thing way out of proportion, based entirely on wild, paranoiac speculation. Its report began with an unabashed attempt to resurrect Fukushima accident angst. It said, “There was no avoiding fearful memories of the Japanese nuclear disaster of 2011” when an F. Daini SFP cooling system stopped “leaving more than 2,500 spent uranium fuel rods at risk of overheating”. Dredging up a willing critic of Tepco, the Times said that nothing happened…but, “…you never know until something happens. As far as this morning goes, they [Tepco] did a decent job, but mainly because it wasn’t that big of an earthquake or that big of a tsunami.” Another nay-sayer from Nagasaki lambasted the Nuclear Regulation Authority, charging that the agency allows the company to release all information, and inferred that Tepco cannot be trusted, “We should be informed fully whether this operation is reasonably done with cost effectiveness and safety and making sure that the best technology is being used.” The Times cited yet another a nuclear-critic, who is also a vocal opponent of nuke restarts in Japan, “I think we expect more of such readjusting plate movements and that has been reasonably predicted, and many volcanic activity and earthquakes have been rampant over the last five years. So why are we continuing to restart nuclear plants?” Thttp://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/22/world/asia/japan-earthquake-tsunami-fukushima.html?_r=1

On a less sensational level, Bloomberg focused entirely on Fukushima Daini’s minor SFP electrical issue. As it turned out, the shutdown of the SFP cooling system was automatic. It was caused by water in the pool rippling due to the earthquake, signaling a possible decline in level. The pumps were restarted after staff verified that the pool was not actually losing water level, with a total shutdown time of a little over an hour and a half, and a small but measurable increase in pool temperature. At the detected rate of heat-up, it would have been a week before the upper temperature limit would have been reached. But, these facts did not deter Bloomberg from posting an article devoid of the actual impacts of the quake and tsunami. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-22/japan-probes-nuclear-cooling-system-shutdown-after-earthquake

Now, here’s some Fukushima, and related, news of actual significance…

  • Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission studies setting a limit for nuke liability. Currently, there is no upper limit for the compensation burden on electric power utilities. JAEC says the amount paid to Fukushima evacuees, to date, is $54.2 billion USD. But, the figures posted by Tepco show roughly $65 billion. Whatever the actual amount might be, it is clearly exorbitant and something needs to be done. Japan’s electric power industry wants limited liability, but if this were done it could harm the understanding of local residents in host communities, given the massive precedent set with F. Daiichi. Japanese law says that nuclear companies are liable for unlimited damages unless the accident were due to a “massive natural disaster”. However, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, under the regime of antinuclear fanatic Naoto Kan, concluded that the F. Daiichi accident was not due to the massive natural disaster. Thus, Tepco has been shackled with massive public compensation pay-outs, and no end in sight. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/committee-examines-lifting-of-compensation-amount-for-electric-power-utilities-unlimited-liability/ -- http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/comp/images/jisseki-e.pdf

  • Tepco has received a monthly compensation funding, this time for December. The amount is just under just under $400 million. This is the 58th such payment from Tokyo’s Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation, since the Naoto Kan regime ruled that Tepco was entirely at fault for the Fukushima accident. By the end of December, the total compensation given to 75,000 Tokyo-mandated Fukushima evacuees will be roughly $65 billion. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2016/1339554_7763.html

  • Small puddles of water have been found on the floor at Fukushima Daini station, seven miles south of F. Daiichi. Tepco believes that it was caused by water that “slopped” out of the spent fuel pools during Tuesday’s major earthquake. In keeping with the Japanese Press’ penchant for evoking nuclear FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) as much as possible, the report says, “The utility has yet to confirm whether the water leaked outside the reactor buildings.” http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2016/11/445693.html

  • The antinuclear Japanese Press continues to focus on the Fukushima student bullied in Yokohama. The Mainichi Shimbun says the boy’s parents are “irate over [education authority’s] tardy responses” when first told of the bullying. The Asahi Shimbun lauds the social media reaction to the boy’s plight. As with all prior news reports concerning the bullying, there is no mention as to whether the student’s family evacuated voluntarily or was forced to leave by Tokyo mandate. However, near the end of the Asahi article, the mother is quoted as saying that the family has received “only hundreds of thousands of yen” in compensation. This strongly suggests they are voluntary evacuees. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161124/p2a/00m/0na/009000c -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611240065.html

November 21, 2016

  • Full freezing of the landside “ice wall” is confirmed by Tokyo. Yosuke Takagi, State Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry, visited Fukushima Daiichi today. He climbed into a pit along the western (landside) section of the wall and inspected temperature gauges penetrating the frozen soil. He then used a small hammer to confirm the frozen state of the ground. Thus, we have visual confirmation that the entire western side of the wall ice wall has been successfully frozen. http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2016/201611-e/161121-01e.html (Comment - None of Japan’s popular Press outlets have covered this story. If the minister had found the slightest indication of even the tiniest part of the wall unfrozen, it would have made national headlines, picked up by the international Press.)

  • A pro-nuclear mayoral candidate wins in Kashiwazaki. Kashiwazaki co-hosts the world’s largest nuclear station with Kariwa. Masahiro Sakurai, an independent candidate, has become mayor-elect in what is tantamount to a landslide victory. He garnered 30,220 votes, overshadowing the antinuclear candidate Eiko Takeuchi who amassed 16,459 votes. After being declared the winner, Sakurai said, “I will gradually but surely reduce the number of reactors in the nuclear power plant.  But, I recognize the value of resuming operations.” During the mayoral campaign, he said he would approve restarts of Tepco’s qualified Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units “if safety is confirmed and certain conditions are fulfilled.” The Mayor is sure to butt heads with the new Niigata governor who opposes K-K restarts. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611210053.html

  • Fukushima City high school students tour Fukushima Daiichi. Thirteen students were allowed to visit with the consent of their parents to see decommissioning work. The reason for the visit was that they will deal with issues that emerge in F. Daiichi accident recovery for as much as 35 years. From the inside of a bus, the students spent an hour touring the Fukushima plant. They saw the unit #1 reactor building, which recently had its cover removed, and storage tanks for radioactively contaminated water. They also entered the emergency response facility that has been operating around the clock since March, 2011. One student said, "I had mixed feelings toward Tepco, which caused the accident. But when I saw the response room, I realized they are working hard for Fukushima, trying to decommission the reactors." Another student said, “The tour made me realize that we should arm ourselves with accurate information if we want to change people’s perceptions of Fukushima as a scary place. For starters, I want to tell my fellow high school students ‘We went to the plant to see for ourselves what was going on there.’” The measured level of exposure for the students was about ten microsieverts. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161119/p2a/00m/0na/008000c -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611190023.html

  • Fukushima specialty persimmons are being readied for market. Farmers have begun producing "ampo-gaki", half-dried persimmons, in the Yanagawa district of Date city. The facility, built by the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives, has most stages of the production process automated, including peeling, drying, selection, and packaging. This has been an especially good year for the specialty fruit because of fortuitous temperature variations. There was a voluntary ban on the processing of persimmons in Date after the nuke accident. Date borders on the northern-most edge of the Tokyo-mandated evacuation zone. However, the ban has been lifted for 2016 because the “test” crop of 2015 was considered a success. This year’s product will be shipped to market after being scanned for radioactivity. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=753

  • World baseball chief says Olympic baseball in Fukushima will not be dangerous. President Ricardo Fraccari says, “This can be an issue, but from the data I received, the situation at this moment is not dangerous in Fukushima.” He also believes that the sport’s top stars will not refuse to play games in the prefecture. He reminded reporters that the Under-15 World Cup was hosted this past summer in Iwaki City, saying, “Even at the last Under-15 World Cup, only one country refused to come. But the rest were there… so I think from this point there won’t be any problem for countries to come to Fukushima.” He said there are other considerations to be accounted for, including distance from the Olympic hub in Tokyo, the scheduling of the teams, and physical condition of the fields. Three locations are under consideration — Iwaki Green Stadium in Iwaki, Azuma Baseball Stadium in Fukushima City, and Koriyama Kaiseizan Baseball Stadium in Koriyama. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/18/national/world-baseball-chief-plays-fukushima-olympic-fears/#.WC8G0tK7odU

  • A restaurant flourishes in sparsely-repopulated Nahara. The town’s evacuation order has been lifted for a year, but less than 1,000 of the town’s pre-evacuation population of 7,000 has returned. This has not deterred Junji Oshida, who opened a pork rice bowl restaurant along the main road through the town. His business is bustling, mostly due to vans transporting workers to F. Daiichi stopping for a hot meal. Oshida says, “I’ve never been able to predict the future, but I think taking on this challenge was a good idea.” His family had run an eel restaurant in Tomioka City for 140 years before the establishment was destroyed by the 3/11/11 earthquake. Oshida lived off of the generous compensation package mandated by Tokyo for about a year, then he got a decontamination job in Tomioka to escape boredom. He saw the large number of on-site workers passing through the town, so “I thought the workers would welcome a restaurant offering warm and casual meals if I opened one.” Oshida lives in an apartment in Iwaki with his family, and will probably stay there because they have settled-in after the five years of living there. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003342971

  • Fuel removal from F. Daiichi unit #3 is likely to be further delayed. The bundles in the spent fuel pool (SFP) were originally planned for removal between April and September of 2015. However, the time needed for removal of debris has been extended due to local concerns about the work stirring up radioactive dust. Because of this, the target date was moved to January, 2018. However, Tepco now plans to install a cover and fuel handling equipment similar to the one built for unit #4. This will probably further delay fuel removal, though just how much is speculative. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2016111800715

  • A leukemia patient will sue two Tepco and Kyushu Electric Co. for allegedly not taking adequate precautions to prevent him from being exposed to radiation. He will file for nearly $550,000 in compensation. His lawyer says, “TEPCO and Kyushu Electric, as the managers of the facilities, are responsible for the health of workers there, but they failed to take adequate measures to protect them from radiation exposure. The man was forced to undergo unnecessary radiation exposure because of the utilities’ slipshod on-site radiation management, and as a result had to face danger to his life and fear of death.” This is the first time Tepco will be sued following the granting of a work-compensation claim. The worker was awarded workman’s compensation for leukemia under a Tokyo blue law in October of 1985. His total exposure over a three year period was about 20 millisieverts (~ 2 REM). http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611180052.html (Comment - For more detail on this, see “The Western Press spins Japan’s workman’s comp into a medical diagnosis” dated October 23, 2015.http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-commentary-23.html )

  • A Nagasaki woman fears nuke accidents will make new Hibakusha in Japan. Hibakusha is the Japanese word for “bomb affected people”. Yoko Nakano was in utero when Nagasaki was bombed. She feels she was used as a “guinea pig” by Tokyo and the USA to monitor her and her peers in elementary school. She says, "I suspect that my data may have been used as reference materials for building nuclear plants" by playing a role in setting international standards for radiation exposure at nuclear power plants. She admits she has never had a serious disease over the past 70 years, but she feels that nuclear plants should not be allowed because people fear that low level radiation exposure can adversely affect their descendants. Yoko opposes nuclear plant restarts in Japan because “Such facilities could make their own Hibakusha even though they're not bombs. I'm not thinking negatively. I'm horrified because I feel that risks are becoming realistic; they're beginning to take shape." More than 650,000 have been officially registered in Japan since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, including the in utero children of those who were actually exposed to radiation and/or fallout. Nearly 175,000 Hibakusha are still alive.  http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161118/p2a/00m/0na/017000c

November 17, 2016

  • The IEA calls for Japan’s nuclear moratorium to end. In its September 21, 2016, publication on Japan’s energy policies, the International Energy Agency said the most cost-effective way to “decarbonize” and “diversify” its energy mix is by increasing the amount of generation from nuclear and renewable sources. The report says it “is important for the nuclear industry to be re-established in Japan, provided that safety is maintained at the highest standards possible.” The economics of the situation cries out for Japan to restart its nukes as quickly as possible. As a result of the Democratic Party of Japan’s nuke moratorium after the Fukushima accident, Japan’s energy dependence on imports rose 14%, annual CO2 emissions from power generation grew by 25 percent, and electricity prices increased by 16 percent for households and 25 percent for industry. http://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/EnergyPoliciesofIEACountriesJapan2016.pdf

  • Pre-construction work begins on Fukushima’s rural contaminated waste site. The project straddles Okuma and Futaba Towns, co-hosts to Fukushima Daiichi station. There will eventually be two facilities covering the 16 km2 area: one for sorting materials by size and contamination level, and the other for storage of the sorted material. Environment Minister Tadahiko Ito told personnel who began work on Tuesday, "I strongly request you to engage in daily work bearing in mind that safety must be a top priority." The Ministry plans to begin official 30-year storage next fall. Workers will first strip the contaminated layer of soil from the surface of the site. Full construction should begin in January. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161115_26/ -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2016111500412

  • Mihama unit #3 gets a 20-year licensing extension. The unit will reach the end of its 40-year license in December. It is the third Kansai Electric Co. unit to be granted an extension in Fukui Prefecture; the first two being Takahama #1 & #2. The 826 MWE Mihama #3 staff will now begin the necessary safety and earthquake resistance upgrades. Kansai Electric plans to resume operation in the spring of 2020, allowing plenty of time to recoup the cost of the required upgrades estimated at $1.5 billion. The procedure the licensing extension is three-fold: an examination to insure compliance with post-Fukushima regulations, a detailed construction plan for new facilities and equipment, and an “extension examination” on the effects of aging. Approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority was unanimous. Some of Japan’s popular Press used the announcement to criticize the NRA. Kyodo News said the extension signaled “a weakening in enforcement of the (40-year) limit” introduced by the antinuclear Democratic Party of Japan. Jiji Press says the “50-year rule is effectively becoming a dead letter”. Both Press outlets fail to acknowledge the seven smaller units that will be decommissioned because of the 40-year rule, and make it sound like it has made no difference.  http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161116_18/ -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003352399 -- http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/nra-approves-extension-of-operating-lifetime-for-mihama-3-through-2036/ -- http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2016/11/444416.html -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2016111600224

  • Yokohama’s mayor wants to know why city officials failed to follow Japan’s anti-bullying law, with respect to a Fukushima evacuee. We reported on the Board of Education’s explanation on Nov. 10th. Mayor Fumiko Hayashi said she wants to know why the Board didn’t respond sooner. On Tuesday, the 13 year-old boy had a written statement concerning his plight posted by a lawyer. He wrote, in part, “I wished to die many times. But I’ve decided to live even if it is painful because so many people died in the earthquake and tsunami. I decided to disclose the statement because I want people being bullied to keep living.” He has refused to attend school since this past July, rather than suffer the torment. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161116_26/ -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/16/national/young-fukushima-evacuee-suffered-bullying-urges-others-stay-strong/#.WCyAYdK7odV -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2016111501012

  • Japan’s popular Press ignores the antinuclear Kagoshima governor’s inspection of Sendai unit #1. Newly-elected Governor Satoshi Mitazono received wide Press coverage of his failed attempts to shutter the two operating units at Sendai. However, his inspection of unit #1, which is in a refueling outage, has received none. Reporters were there for the visit, but none of the news outlets saw fit to report on it. Only the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum posted an article on the November 11 visit. The Governor said he is trying to form a study committee to independently assess the safety of the two units, but gave no timetable on when it might happen. After taking office in July, Mitazono was given heavy Press coverage when he said citizens of his prefecture were concerned about safety due to the April Kumamoto earthquake, in neighboring Kyushu Prefecture, leading him to twice demand that the Sendai be shuttered immediately. The former Asahi news correspondent demanded that he get an inspection, and was granted his wish. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/kagoshima-governor-visits-reactor-shows-some-appreciation-for-special-inspections-by-kyushu-electric-power/

Due to a reader’s request, here is the current status of nuke restarts in Japan…

  • Sendai units #1 & #2 were restarted in August, 2015. Unit #1 is currently off-line for a routine refueling outage. Unit #2 will enter into its first post-moratorium refueling outage next month.

  • Takahama units #3 & #4 restarted in late January, 2016. Unit #4 shut down after a few days of operation due to an equipment failure in the electrical generator. Unit #3 was shut down in March, 2016, due to a court injunction rendered by an Otsu court in neighboring Shiga Prefecture. Takahama station is in Fukui Prefecture.

  • Ikata unit #3 in August, 2016. It is currently operating at full power.

November 14, 2016

  • Though largely ignored by Japan’s mainstream Press, preparatory home stays began in Namie on November 1st. The program applies to 2 areas of the municipality: one being prepared for lifting the evacuation order and a second “residency-restricted zone.” The town office says as many as 21,000 people could take advantage of the home stays, but as of Oct. 31, only 281 had registered for the opportunity. Toshiaki Shiga, who began his home stay in the Kitakiyohashi District with his wife, said, “We can be at ease at home. We feel a sense of safety.” He says that he must travel to Fukushima City thrice a week for dialysis since no clinic has yet opened in Namie, thus, “I would like to have the town build a reliable hospital. Also, it’s better to have a supermarket in town where we can buy fresh food and other daily necessities. Then I think more people will be able to return home for permanent residence.” http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=749

  • Fukushima’s new housing starts are double the pre-quake/tsunami level. The April-August, 2016, period witnessed 8,329 new starts, which is twice what occurred in April-August, 2010. The prefecture’s government believes the upsurge is due to 2011 Tokyo-mandated evacuees deciding to stay in the communities where they have been forced to reside for more than five years. There is an on-going shortage of building materials and manpower that may be keeping the trend from increasing even more. Before March, 2011, housing starts were on the decline due to Japan’s falling financial situation and a global economic down-turn. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=748

  • 23,000 people took part in an Ehime Prefecture nuclear evacuation drill for the Ikata station. It was the second drill run by the prefecture since unit #3 came on line in August. The scenario was based on the assumption that an earthquake of severe-enough magnitude could cause a full meltdown. The scenario hypothetically cut off power to the station, resulting in a complete loss of cooling water flow through the reactor’s fuel core. It is important to note that the worst-recorded quake in Japan occurred in the Tohoku region, March 11, 2011, registering about 9 Richter scale, but did not compromise emergency cooling water flow to the cores of F. Daiichi units 1, 2, & 3. The meltdowns were due to the massive multi-surge tsunami that began some 40 minutes after the quake. Japan’s west coast is not susceptible to massive tsunamis. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/11/national/23000-take-part-nuclear-evacuation-drill-ikata-plant-shikoku/#.WCXWfNK7odV

  • On Sunday, a two-day evacuation drill began for Hokkaido Prefecture. More than 14,000 were eventually in the exercise centered around Tomari station on the east coast of Japan’s northern-most prefecture. It was the first nuke accident drill organized by the Tokyo government. The scenario began with a massive subduction-zone earthquake off shore, followed soon thereafter by a huge tsunami. In the scenario, the quake knocked out all power to the region and the subsequent tsunami caused a full station blackout and meltdown of Tomari unit #3. The mock tsunami warning was broadcast through Tomari Village’s public address system and volunteer residents gathered at an elementary school. They would be bussed to Sapporo if it were an actual event. All post-Fukushima emergency equipment and technologies were used at Tomari station during the drill. Government officials designated to assemble at the off-site emergency center also took part. Their scenario included being delayed 90 minutes because helicopters were grounded due to severe weather. Another exercise is scheduled this coming winter with scenario happening during a blizzard. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161113_20/ -- http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2016/11/443795.html

  • Japan enters a peaceful use of nukes accord with India. On Friday, PMs Shinzo Abe and India’s Narendra Modi signed the pact – the first time Japan has entered into a peaceful nuclear agreement with a country that has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Japanese PM Abe said, “It will pave the way for India, which is an NPT non-signatory, to effectively join the international nonproliferation system. It is vitally important for [Japan and India] to take the initiative in fostering peace and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region and the whole world.”  India’s PM Modi added, “Our cooperation in this field will help us combat the challenge of climate change.” More than 20% of India’s population lives without electricity. The bulk of its current electrical supply comes from burning coal, making it the fourth-largest emitter of greenhouse gasses in the world. In order to meet its goal of a 30% reduction in these emissions, and continue to electrify its population at the same time, nuclear energy production needs to increase ten-fold in the next fifteen years. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003344730 -- http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/welcoming-the-signing-of-the-india-japan-civilian-nuclear-deal-contributing-to-solutions-to-climate-change/

  • Meanwhile, Pakistan and Japan’s Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) violently protest the announcement, in each case evoking the mistaken belief that bombs can and will be made from used reactor fuel bundles. Head of the federation of A-bomb sufferers Kunhiko Sakuma said, "As a Hibakusha, [the Nov. 11 agreement] is simply unbearable. The proliferation of nuclear weapons goes against the spirit of the NPT and could lead to the creation of more Hibakusha." Nagasaki Hibakusha Koichi Kawano, said, "While the agreement is said to be limited to private-sector use, India could switch nuclear development capabilities it had used for the private sector to military purposes. The result will be to cooperate in increasing the production of nuclear weapons." In addition, a joint protest letter was sent to PM Abe by five Hibakusha groups, which says, "As the only nation in the world to be hit by an atomic bomb, Japan has called for the elimination of nuclear weapons. How can Japan sign an agreement with India?" In addition, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson Nafess Zakira said the pact could undermine Southeast Asian stability, urging Japan “to objectively assess the consequences of discriminatory approaches to our region. It has allowed India to gain access to foreign sources of nuclear fuel and freed up its domestic reserves which are being utilized for rapid expansion of its military nuclear program.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611120040.html -- http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2016/11/443706.html -- https://www.japantoday.com/category/politics/view/pakistan-criticizes-japans-nuclear-deal-with-india?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2016-11-14_AM

November 10, 2016

  • The last panel of the cover around unit #1 has been removed. The destroyed reactor building is now completely uncovered, although the lower half is draped in large tarpaulins. Draping tarpaulins on the frame around the upper half of the unit is being considered. Eighteen large, 20-ton panels were installed to completely enclose the four sides of unit #1 in October, 2011, to prevent the spread of airborne radioactivity. The last of them was removed on November 10th. The next step will be to ascertain the amount of debris that has to be removed before the spent fuel pools can have all fuel bundles removed. The pool holds 392 bundles. Tepco will also assess what might be done to preclude the possibility of raising radioactive dust during debris removal and subsequent emptying of the fuel pool. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2016/images/handouts_161110_01-e.pdf -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611100041.html

  • Japan’s NRA has cleared two more reactors for restart. The Nuclear Regulation Authority announced approval of Kyushu Electric Company’s submittal for restart of Genkai units #3 & 4 on Wednesday. Kyushu spokesperson Naoko Iguchi says the restarts will boost the company’s monthly net income by $117 million. Kyushu Electric also owns the restarted Sendai units #1 & 2. Kyushu president Michiaki Uriu says once the Genkai units are operating, the company can consider lowering the cost of electricity to its customers. The release of the NRA draft reports began the required 30 day public comment period occurred Wednesday. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said: “I think the company [Kyushu Electric] in its entirety has been doing its utmost.” He cited the unblemished safety record of the two operating units at Sendai station as a contributing factor to confidence in Kyushu Electric. But, it is not all peaches and cream because of the looming interference of legal action by numerous local opponents. James Taverner, an energy analyst at IHS Markit Ltd., said, “This news will provide a boost for Japan’s nuclear industry, but progress to restart reactors still lags behind the initial hopes of incumbent utilities [because] Japan’s policymakers and regulators continue to have a challenge to carefully balance industry needs and public safety concerns.” A recent poll of Saga Prefecture, home to Genkai station, found that 51% of the respondents opposed the restarts. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-09/japan-regulator-clears-more-reactors-for-restart-amid-opposition  -- http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/nra-draws-up-review-report-drafts-on-examinations-of-genkai-3-and-4-for-compatibility-with-new-regulatory-standards/   (Comment - Earlier restart approvals by the NRA garnered considerable Japanese Press coverage, but not this one. In fact, the only major Japanese news outlet to post an article on Wednesday was the Mainichi Shimbun, and it literally did a cut-and-paste on the Reuters report referenced here. The lack of Japanese Press coverage is most curious, to say the least.)

  • Radiophobia caused a major loss of hospital staff in Minamisoma and Soma following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Dr. Sae Ochi (MD, MPH, PhD, Director of Internal Medicine, Soma Central Hospital, Fukushima), contributed to a report on the fluctuations in the number of medical professionals working at seven hospitals for 18 months after March, 2011. Immediately after the earthquake, the number of doctors dropped from 92, down to 53. A similar trend occurred with nurses and other medical staff. The decline in clerical staff was even more pronounced. By June 1, the number of doctors had fully recovered. However, the numbers in each other categories only marginally rebounded, and remained significantly depleted through October 1, 2012. Dr. Ochi says the reason for the ongoing deficit in staffing was, and still is, radiophobia. Apart from doctors, hospital workers are primarily women who left out of concern for their children being exposed to radiation. Some had left when their husbands found new jobs outside the prefecture. In addition, women who had been living with their mothers-in-law in traditional arrangements, found job alternatives at evacuation sites and decided not to return.Further, some chose not to go back to avoid criticism for having ‘run away’ in the first place.” http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/report-medical-professionals-in-soma-and-minami-soma-halved-in-number-right-after-march-2011-earthquake-and-nuclear-accident/

  • An evacuee student was bullied and suffered extortion while attending a Yokohama school. The student, now 13, was mistreated by other students since second grade, calling him a “germ” and physically abusing him. He even experienced extortion. One bully said, "You are getting compensation (for the nuclear disaster), aren't you?", so the student handed over somewhere between $500 and $1,000 to about ten students in order for them to play a game at an arcade. For a time, he stopped going to school because of the bullying. The student’s parents have filed a formal complaint with the school board. The Yokohama Municipal Board of Education held a press conference on Nov. 9, where a representative admitted, "The board of education's response and the school's response were insufficient." http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161110/p2a/00m/0na/005000c

  • Vietnam’s decision to scrap their nuke plans impacts Japan. In 2009, Hanoi had chosen Russia’s Rosatom and Japan Atomic Power Company to build two nuclear power plants totaling 4,000 MWe output. Construction was to begin in 2014, but was delayed because of the Fukushima accident in 2011, citing safety concerns. As a result, the work was rescheduled to start in 2019. Now, Vietnam has cancelled the plans entirely because there are less expensive fossil-fueled alternatives. Further, Vietnam’s demand for power has not increased as fast as had been projected in 2009 and the national debt is approaching its legal limit, both of which have contributed to the economic decision. Duong Quang Thanh, chairman of Electricity of Vietnam Group, said, “Nuclear power is now less competitive than other power sources and is not urgently needed,” pointing to oil and coal being much cheaper today than at the time when the project was proposed. National assemblyman Cao Si Kiem added, “Going ahead with the plan would be a big pressure for public debt because Vietnam would have to borrow foreign funds for the construction of the plants.” It is expected that additional increases in demand will be handled by building new coal-fired units. Unfortunately, Japan’s antinuclear Press downplays the economic reasons for the cancellation, and purports that Vietnam’s decision is largely due to nuclear safety concerns. http://www.wsj.com/articles/vietnam-scraps-plans-for-its-first-nuclear-power-plants-1478754942 -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003341018 -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2016111000472

November 7, 2016

Much of the current Fukushima evacuation zone will be allowed to repopulate at the end of March, 2017. Infrastructure sufficient to support the return of residents is under way, but only the prefecture’s local newspaper – Fukushima Minpo – is regularly reporting on it. Here’s the two latest articles…

  • A temporary shopping mall opens in Namie Town. The evacuation order for most residents will be rescinded by April 1st. These people have been allowed to enjoy brief visits since September, in order to prepare for repopulation. The overnight “short stay” privilege will begin at some point this month (November). The mall has ten shops and eating places for repopulating residents. It opened October 28th. Mayor Tamotsu Baba said, "It has become a symbol of our efforts for reconstruction." Masanobu Akutsu, a shop owner in the mall, added that his pan-fried noodle establishment shows businessmen will “work together to restore the town’s hustle and bustle”. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=747

  • Two new bus lines will open for Tomioka Town. Both will be run by Shin Joban Kotsu Corp. (Joko), based in Iwaki City. Joko signed an agreement with the Tomioka town office to operate the two bus lines on Oct. 26th. One route will carry residents between the town and Iwaki, and the other will provide a route connecting key locations within the community. Both routes will run Monday through Saturday, beginning when the evacuation order is lifted on-or-about April 1st. The Iwaki-Tomioka line will have two round-trip runs per day, and the other will cover a circular stretch beginning at Tomioka Station, stopping at key points within the town, six times daily. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=746

Now, here’s some new negative Fukushima news dredged up by Japan’s popular Press…

  • Septic tank sludge becomes a new radioactivity issue. Some car wash septic tanks in Fukushima Prefecture have sludge containing more than 8,000 Becquerels per kilogram, the Tokyo government limit for unrestricted disposal of decontamination wastes. One sample contained nearly 58,000 Bq/kg. The Japanese limit also applies to sewage sludge and ash from waste incinerators. However, there is no official limit on radioactivity in septic tank sludge. The source of the contamination is Cesium washed from the surface of vehicles following the accident at F. Daiichi. There are about 1,700 auto maintenance facilities in the prefecture, many of which have septic tanks nearing the point of being filled and needing the sludge removed. Automobile associations want Tokyo to do something about it, but Tokyo has turned a deaf ear to any calls for action. Nihon University’s professor Kunikazu Noguchi says, “The fact that the government failed to act on this problem for 5½ years shows its negligence. To remove sludge that contains nearly 60,000 Becquerels of radioactive material per kilogram, you need to do so with extra caution, in line with guidelines set by the Environment Ministry.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/11/06/national/car-wash-septic-tanks-emerge-radiation-threat-fukushima/#.WB9A2dK7odU  

  • Seven former temporary workers at F. Daiichi are alleged to have worked illegally. Supposedly, they did not actually receive required radiation protection training before they began working. All were hired to build radioactive waste water storage tanks with welded seams, and worked sometime between March and May 2014. Tepco sub-contracted the project to a Tokyo-based welding company. The company’s president says the foreign welders were hired because they "couldn't fill the spots with a sufficient number of Japanese workers." Many of foreigners were from Brazil and could not read or write in Japanese. They were required to pass tests showing understanding of radiation protection, all of which were written in Japanese. Tepco says they give radiation protection guidance "by using English textbooks and having the employer assign interpreters." http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161107/p2a/00m/0na/011000c

November 3, 2016

  • The evacuation order for the rest of Kawamata Town will be lifted on 3/31/17. The announcement was made by the Tokyo government on October 28th. The new order will affect the two portions of the town that currently remain under restriction. (see the map in the attached link.) On April 1st, there will be but five municipalities—the towns of Tomioka, Okuma, Namie, Futaba, and Iitate—where evacuation orders will remain for specified areas. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/government-to-lift-evacuation-order-for-kawamata-next-march-31/

  • A new coffee shop opened for repopulated residents of Kawauchi Village. All of the town’s living restrictions have been lifted for two years, but many former residents remain estranged. One reason is limited social infrastructure. The new Thai café – Café Amazon – opened November 1st, and local returnees are happy to have a new place to interact. Villager Miho Ide said, “I was longing for the opening because I love coffee so much that I drink five cups a day.” Kawauchi Mayor Yuko Endo added, “Villagers can gather and have good time here.” The establishment was opened by Codomo Energy Co. of Osaka, which had previously set up a factory in the village that has stimulated its revival. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201611020071.html

  • Tepco posted its latest Nuclear Safety Reform Plan Progress Report. Several accomplishments at F. Daiichi have been covered by Japan’s popular Press, including the removal of the upper ring of panels from the unit #1 temporary enclosure and opening of the new main office building. On the other hand, several significant events seem to have been ignored by the Press. One is the shortening of the outdoor piping for the cooling water injection system of the four damaged units from its former length of three kilometers down to 0.8 km. This greatly reduces the chances of contaminated water leaks and minimizes the amount of piping that needs to be routinely inspected. Next, more reverse osmosis desalination equipment has been installed for the water in the unit #4 turbine building. In addition, the entire sea-side run of the “ice wall”, and all sections of the rest of the system allowed to be operated by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, are completely frozen. Finally, the number of heat stroke incidents have dropped 500% since 2014. In fact, there were only three during this past summer; one of the hottest on record. This was due to improvements in the F. Daiichi work environment including no longer having to wear full anti-Cs on 90% of the station, and scheduling heavy labor in the early morning and at night to avoid the hottest times of day. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu16_e/images/161102e0101.pdf

October 31, 2016

  • Another study says Pacific contamination is too low for adverse effects to be observed. Jordi Vives i Batlle of the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre reports on the consequences to the marine environment from the Fukushima accident in the October issue of Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management. He writes, “Overall, the radioactivity levels in the marine biota near Fukushima were lower than predicted by some early studies immediately following the accident, and exposures were too low for acute effects at the population level to be observed in marine organisms ranging from microalgae to mollusks to fish… more recent studies have shown variable levels in individual fish, though they too confirm that population-level effects have not been observed.” https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/10/161018141309.htm

  • The “submersion method” for corium removal at F. Daiichi is being tested in Naraha Village. The International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID) will try to verify technology for preventing leakage from the damaged containment vessels. By stoppering the leaks, the primary containments can be flooded in order to provide water-shielding that will effectively reduce worker exposures and virtually eliminate the possibility of a release of radioactive dust during the corium removal process. The test involves a mock-up primary containment similar to those surrounding the reactors of units #1, 2, & 3. The mockup is at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Naraha Remote Technology Development Center in Naraha village. The tests are designed to prevent water from leaking out of “vent tubes” that relieve pressure inside the vessels. A special material that swells up like a balloon will be inserted into the openings and filled with mortar and/or other waterproof agents. If successful, this test could result in a giant leap in planning for corium removal. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=744

  • A German company wants to convert Fukushima’s mildly radioactive wood into electricity. Entrade Energiesysteme AG wants to install 400 of their biomass-to-energy machines in Fukushima Prefecture to generate 20 MWe of power by next year. The units will be located about 50 kilometers from F. Daiichi and set to “kick in” when power from the region’s solar panels wanes as the sun sets. The prefecture wants all of its power from renewables by 2040, and the wood-burners could fill the inevitable gaps from solar and wind generators. By burning the material mildly contaminated by the releases from F. Daiichi, the volume of the material to be disposed will drop as much as 99%. CEO Julien Uhlig says, “There’s a lot of excitement about this project but I also detected a high degree of reluctance in Fukushima to talk about radiation.” Uhlig said Entrade is moving to Los Angeles to help meet demand in the U.S. and Caribbean. The company has 250 units in California and can hardly keep up with demand. Germany’s Federal Office for Radiation Protection declined comment on the process of burning radioactive waste in Fukushima. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/10/30/business/corporate-business/german-firm-aims-compactly-convert-radioactive-fukushima-wood-power/#.WBX929K7odU

  • A Tepco employee wants money for depression caused by working on compensation to Fukushima’s affected businesses. Tadafumi Ichii says he was caught between his bosses and clients, which caused him to be mentally driven to the edge. His assignment began in September 2011, some six months after the nuke accident, and he worked up to 170 hours of overtime per month. The stress put him into a state of depression. Reportedly, Tepco plans to dismiss him when sick leave ends early in November. Ichii argues that he sacrificed his health for the job, but now he feels the utility is treating him unfairly. He has filed with the Labor authorities to be granted continuing benefits. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20161031_27/

  • Kagoshima Prefecture’s governor gives up on stopping nuke restarts at Sendai station. Former news journalist, now governor, Satoshi Mitazono has relented on his promise to stop restarts of nukes in the prefecture because, “I have no (legal) authority over whether (the reactor) can restart or not. Kyushu Electric (Power Co.) will bring it back online anyway no matter how I respond.” Mitazono became governor by promising to have the safety of the Sendai nukes checked by “experts” following severe earthquakes in neighboring Kumamoto Prefecture in April. The governor also said he wants to inspect the Sendai unit #1 with other nuclear energy experts next month, before the plant ends its refueling outage and restarts. He reports that, “I am hoping to put together my thoughts about the plant’s safety through discussions with experts. If necessary, I want to take some measures.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201610290035.html


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