The prestigious American National Academy of Science has posted a research paper that promises to shatter all existing concepts of radiation risk. A research team out of Lawrence Berkeley Laboratories has discovered that
low dose radiation exposure results in an increased ability for living cells to repair DNA damage. They found that when the rate of DNA repairs with a 2 sievert (slightly above the lethal threshold) exposure is compared to the repair rate at 0.15 sieverts (150 millisieverts), the repair function at 150 millisieverts is 20 times more effective than at 2 sieverts. The research team closely monitored the cell’s “Resistance Inducing Factor (RIF)”, which is the scientific phrase for natural DNA repair. The research team continuously watched RIF at work from the moment of exposure until the process was finished. It seems no previous research had followed the operation of RIF as closely and certainly not for the length of time taken by the Lawrence Berkeley group. This discovery severely challenges the notion that cancer-inducing radiation damage parallels the level of exposure, which is the basic paradigm behind the no-safe-level concept. In other words the rate of repair for cancer-causing DNA damage does not drop as the rate of exposure drops. Rather, the rate of DNA repair remains relatively constant across the entire exposure spectrum. We pray that the Japanese government will include this new information in their formal investigation of radiation risks, but we fear that they will intentionally gloss it over because it will make their “soothe public fears by lowering national standards” behavior look ridiculous.
For those interested, here’s a link to the Berkeley Laboratories press report on it (the actual journal posting takes a trained eye to decipher all the scientific terminology)… http://newscenter.lbl.gov/news-releases/2011/12/20/low-dose-radiation/. There has been virtually no popular Press coverage on this. Get the word out to your local Press. Write Emails to the news media. The more pressure they receive, the better the chances for the world learning about something very important.
- In keeping with the above, we have a new chapter in the Tokyo government’s on-going crusade to try and recover public trust by arbitrarily lowering national radiation standards. Tokyo’s Ministry of Health is proposing lowering radioactive cesium standards in foods. The current standard of 500 becquerels per kilogram will be dropped to 100 becquerels. The current standard for milk of 200 becquerels per kilogram will be lowered to 50 becquerels, and water from 200 becquerels down to just 10. To allegedly protect small children, the limit for baby food will be dropped to 50 becquerels. These new limits would virtually insure that food consumption will not cause anyone in Japan to get more than 1 millisievert of internal exposure per year. If approved, the new limits will take effect in April. Hideaki Karaki, a food safety expert at Kurashiki University, says the strictness of the proposal will ensure a greater margin of safety. "People shouldn't worry too much even if (the contamination level in) some food exceeds the new limits", he said. In order to “balance” the article, the newspaper reminded readers that an exposure of 100millisieverts is believed to increase cancer rates by 0.5%. (Japan Times)
- It's now official. The Ministry of the Environment says the government will pay for decontamination in communities that have estimated exposures of at least 1 millisievert per year. That is, if the communities accept the designation needed to get the funding. Cattle farmers near some of the proposed locations outside of Fukushima Prefecture are concerned that being so-designated will cause people to shun their beef in the marketplace. Aizumakamatsu City, Fukushima Prefecture, is debating on whether or not to
accept the government designation due to fears that it would hurt their tourism industry because the city would be “labeled” as contaminated. On a related note, residents in areas with less than 1 millisievert exposure levels say it is unfair that they will not be able to get decontamination funding. (JAIF) Since Japan's natural background exposures are at least one millisievert per year, why would communities below that level feel they have any right to decontamination funding? Next thing you know, communities on the west coast of the United States will demand the Tokyo government pay for decontamination due to there being trace levels of detectable Cesium on their rooftops.
- The government panel assessing the possible cause(s) of the Fukushima accident has reported they will not provide analysis of earthquake damage to the power complex. The panel generally agrees with TEPCO that the cause of the accident was the tsunami on March 11, not the earthquake. But, the panel says it is difficult to determine the full impact of the quake because they cannot inspect the insides of the reactor buildings. Some “outside experts” have argued the earthquake severely damaged the Fukushima plant before the tsunami, and these conjectures have received wide Press coverage that has spawned controversy. Local governments will probably use the unofficial speculations to support their reluctance towards reactor restarts. No official earthquake analysis = no restarts. (Japan Times)
- The Tokyo government is considering partially nationalizing TEPCO later this month. The government “may inject about 13 billion yen” as early as next summer in a de facto nationalization. It is believed by the government that Japanese banks will provide as much as a trillion yen in loans to support the partial government take-over. (News on Japan)
- An American who was working at Fukushima Daiichi on March 11 has been interviewed by Japan Times. Carl Pillitteri was working for a contractor at unit #1 when the earthquake hit. He was understandably
frightened by the temblor. When the massive movements ceased, he and other non-essential personnel moved to their designated assembly area high above the power complex. When he got there, he turned to watch the tsunami hit. He feltit, too. The sea was initially sucked away from the shoreline rapidly, pulling
in air to replace it. Pillitteri says the wind surge was terrific. When he saw the subsequent wave pour over and collapse the off-shore anti-tsunami wall, he was shocked. After the tsunami, he and the rest of the non-operating contract employees left the power complex. He flew back to his overseas home in Taiwan on March 15. Pillitteri returned this week to seek out friends he made while at Fukushima. He was allowed to enter the 20km no-go zone and says he is impressed by the well-organized way the police and TEPCO controlled the traffic and checkpoints on roads.
Friday's announcement by Prime Minister Noda that Fukushima Daiichi had achieved a state of cold shutdown has
been blasted by the Japanese Press and news media around the world. Here are a few examples...
- Japan Times - “Skeptics believe the declaration is little more than political grandstanding.”
- Asahi Shimbun - “The state of cold shutdown is easy on the ears but the actual state does not allow optimism. It is as if a patient came out of a life-or-death condition but remained hospitalised.”
- Nikkei.com – Their on-line edition described it as “...first aid treatment. The world has no previous experience of dismantling a nuclear power plant with fuel that has melted this much.”
- CNN – Its website says the announcement is no more than a symbolic milestone so that government and TEPCO might appease public anger and criticism. (NHK World)
- Xinhua (China) – Cites experts who say the Tokyo government may have been overzealous in meeting its self-imposed deadline and might be misleading the public. (JAIF)
- Greenpeace – The world’s bastion of nuclear negativity says the announcement is a publicity stunt. (Reuters)
From the local government…
- Yuhei Sato, Fukushima governor, said Noda should have come to the Prefecture himself because the citizens doubt the Prime Minister fully understands the situation. Sato also demanded that Tokyo make
full financial compensation to all Fukushima Prefecture residents. (NHK World)
And from the “human interest” perspective…
- Some evacuees from the zones around Fukushima Daiichi were angry at the cold shutdown declaration.
Taisuke Hori, 27, who fled to Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, said, "I doubt whether kids can live safely without concerns no matter how thoroughly local tracts of land are cleaned up." Soichi Sanpei, 31, who evacuated to Komoro, Nagano Prefecture, wants to know how the government can declare the crisis is under control while radioactive substances remain in areas around the plant. (Kyodo News)
On the other hand…
- The government's criteria for declaring cold shutdown were (1) The temperature at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels of units 1-3 is constantly below 100 C, while the water in the spent fuel pools
of units 1-4 is continuously below 25 C. (2) The amount of airborne releases is below the government-set target of 1 millisievert per year. (3) The reactor vessel water injection systems have multiple backups. Even if all the equipment fails, water injection can be resumed in about three hours. (4) A radiation
level below 1 millisievert per year can be maintained even if water injection into all three RPVs stops for 12 hours. (5) Recriticality is unlikely but can be prevented by injecting water containing boric acid. (6) The system to cool spent fuel pools has multiple backups. Even if its system fails, it would take at least 16 days until the water in SPF #4, which holds the largest number of fuel cells, drops below the top of the stored
bundles. (7) A system to process highly radioactive water is capable of reducing radioactive Cesium to below one ten-thousandth of the original level. (Mainichi Shimbun)
Other update subjects…
- Goshi Hosono, Nuclear Disaster Minister, says some Fukushima evacuees might be returning home this spring. He specifically pointed to the 20km no-go zone, which was arbitrarily established by former Prime Minister Kan when he and his staff ignored SPEEDI projections during the first week of the emergency. The 20km no-go zone and northwest evacuation corridor designations will be replaced by three new official criteria in the coming months. The new designations will be based on actual radiological measurements. Those areas with radiation levels below 20 millisieverts per year will be the first considered for decontamination, many of which are in the no-go zone. Afterwards, residents will be allowed to return. Locations with much lower exposures (probably one millisievert or less) may be opened to repopulation without decontamination as early as this coming spring. (Asahi Shimbun)
- Prime Minister Noda will introduce new bills to the Diet next month to tighten nuclear safety regulations and give the regulators more power to enforce them. Up to now, NISA and the other various regulatory bodies can do little more than suggest that nuclear utilities comply with safety upgrades, and then leave it up to the companies themselves to decide if the cost is worth the risk-reduction benefit. The revised regulations will give the government power to suspend nuclear plant operations if it fails to meet the latest safety requirements. (Mainichi Shimbun) The article also says the bills will set the maximum life-span of a
nuke at 40 years. This would be a horrendous mistake. The life-span would be entirely arbitrary, resulting from the desire to soothe fears and eliminate criticism. Nukes are the most corrosion and erosion-free large capacity power plants in the world, with some experts saying they may well last over 100 years
before decommissioning is needed. We praise Noda for trying to beef up sorely-needed regulatory powers, but we are decidedly disappointed in his purely politically-expedient attempt to set an capricious life-span on nukes.
- Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) has been decontaminating the government buildings and properties in four towns inside the evacuation zones. They have completed the clean-up in Namie, Naraha,
and Iitate. They hope to have finished their work in Tomioka by Friday. About 900 members of GSDF have been spray washing and wire brushing buildings, scraping away the upper layer of topsoil, and decontaminating decorative pools and ponds by removing water and gravel before scrubbing the plastic lines. The clean-up effort began on December 7. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- About 230 tons of contaminated water has been discovered in a tunnel running under Fukushima Daiichi’s waste water storage facility. TEPCO says the water stretches the full length of the 54 meter long tunnel, and depth varies from 50cm to 3 meters. The utility believes some radioactive water entered the tunnel from the facility above and has been diluted by groundwater inflow. The tunnel does not empty into the sea, so no barricades are needed. The waste facility was completed in April. (NHK World)
- 52 workers at Fukushima Daiichi have symptoms of stomach flu. A norovirus outbreak is suspected. Three have confirmed cases of the novovirus, while the rest are only showing flu-like symptoms. It seems all
of the workers were involved in the same “radioactive waste cleanup operation.” Because the flu report came the day after the cold shutdown announcement, TEPCO added that the outbreak will not negatively affect the plant’s essential reactor cooling functions. (Japan Today) Many comments posted by Japan Today readers say stomach flu symptoms are similar to radiation sickness symptoms, so they allege a cover-up on the part of TEPCO.
- Prime Minister Noda’s declared the three damaged reactors at Fukushima have achieved cold shutdown. All Japanese Press outlets have articles on the declaration. Noda cites two specific criteria behind the
announcement. They are all three RPVs having sustained temperatures well below 100oC and whole body radiation levels at the power plant boundary below one millisievert per year. Nuclear Disaster Minister Hosono said several experts told him to declare cold shutdown weeks ago, but the government felt
delaying the announcement until the stabilized conditions had continued for a longer period was the more appropriate timing decision.
- As might be expected, the cold shutdown announcement has raised the hackles of nuclear critics in Japan. Perhaps the most scathing, irresponsible reporting comes from Japan Times where anonymous
experts say “the declaration is little more than political grandstanding”. The Times also believes the declaration should not have been made until individuals can confirm the physical status of the RPVs with their own eyes, “…radiation levels are still too high to visibly confirm the actual conditions of the molten fuel believed to be at the bottom of the containment vessels.” In a more responsible example of reporting from Asahi Shimbun we find Fumiya Tanabe, director of the Sociotechnical Systems Safety Research
Institute, saying the cold shutdown announcement is being used as a political message, which he explains by adding, "A cold shutdown is usually used to indicate that a reactor has been shut down on a stable basis in a normal operation control. I feel uncomfortable with the phrase being used when nuclear
fuel has not maintained its original form." We wish the Times had taken the same accountable path as the Yomiuri.
- TEPCO has announced that their newer waste water decontamination system has been given a major upgrade. Instead of the original zeolite filtration material used for reducing Cesium concentrations by a factor of 10,000, the new material is a ferrocyanide compound that is more absorptive and should have a decontamination factor of 100,000. The new filtration medium will reduce Cesium concentrations as efficiently as the tandem operation with the original system that experienced repeated problems. The old system is now shut down and will no longer be needed. TEPCO also reports that the Cesium concentration of untreated waters still in the turbine building basements is 700,000 becquerels per milliliter. Thus, the decontaminatedwaters should be below 10 becquerels per ml.
- Under Japan's Special Law of Emergency Preparedness for Nuclear Disaster (Law #156, December 17, 1999), Articles 10, 12, and 17 designate the local and national officials who are to be in charge of nuclear emergency actions. At the head is the Prime Minister who acts as “Superintendent General”, or in his absence an appointed Minister of the cabinet. The Prime Minister during the first five critical days at Fukushima was Naoto Kan and the designated Minister was Haruki Madarame. In Thursday’s news we find that both Kan and Madarame refused to use a sophisticated system for predicting the spread of radioactive releases from Fukushima Daiichi, known by the acronym SPEEDI. As it turns out, SPEEDI correctly predicted where the highest concentrations were heading and where the greatest level of contamination would occur, beginning March 16. However, Madarame told Kan to reject the March 16 SPEEDI projections because there was no input on the volume of radioactive releases from the accident due to the station blackout. As a result, the initial 20km radius evacuated early-on was essentially arbitrary and there was considerable delays in evacuating the region we now call the northwest evacuation corridor, outside the current no-go zone. Evacuations from the northwest corridor did not begin until April 22nd, with some towns not until late June. If northwest corridor evacuations had occurred when the initial SPEEDI projections were submitted to the Tokyo government, the radiation exposures reported previously would have been much, much less...perhaps as low as those exposures estimated for the no-go zone evacuees. (Japan Times) While the estimated exposures pose absolutely no risk to any of the evacuees in either of the zones, the Press’ penchant for radiophobic hyperbole makes it sound like Kan and Madarame subjected the northwest corridor evacuees to potentially mortal risk. While Kan and Madarame were literally ludicrous in ignoring SPEEDI, their decision didn't actually harm anyone due to exposure. But, Press reports make it sound otherwise.
- We find some more disturbing Prime Minister Kan information in today’s Yomiuri Shimbun. At 2pm on March 12, some ten hours into the accident at Fukushima, Koichiro Nakamura of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency told a press conference, “It's a core meltdown. We believe the fuel has started to melt [in the No. 1 reactor]." In hindsight, Nakamura’s statement was correct and timely. However, staffers at the Prime Minister's Office were taken aback by Nakamura's remarks when they watched live coverage of the press conference on TV. Upon reporting this to their boss, he became infuriated. The Prime Minister ordered NISA to no longer hold independent press conferences and all information in the future would be presented after the Prime Minister’s staff had approved it. The Prime Minister no longer trusted NISA to be speaking for the government. Two days later, a humbled Nakamura apologized for saying there was a meltdown in the unit #1 reactor and retracted his initial statement, and there can be little doubt he was under orders from the Prime Minister. Kan’s government finally admitted there was a meltdown of unit #1 on June 7, nearly three months after the fact!
- Government reports show evacuation patterns caused a variety of exposures during the first four months of the Fukushima accident. When combined with the disclosure of the government rejecting SPEEDI
projections, many evacuees are quite angry. One evacuee, Hiroe Yaguchi, was used as an example. She evacuated from within the 20km zone on March 12 and relocated to the Tsushima district of her hometown (Namiemachi) which was outside the 20km radius. This was still in what would eventually become the
northwest evacuation corridor. Over the next two days he heard from local officials that the radiation readings in that area were high, so she moved her family to a shelter in Nihonmatsu on March 15. She says, "If I knew radiation levels in the Tsushima district were high, I would have evacuated to some other place. I wanted to be notified of the fact much earlier." After she was told the estimated exposure for her and her children was below five millisieverts, she said it didn't make her feel any better, "I can't judge
whether we should feel relieved even after seeing the numerical figures. I fear the baby in my womb was affected [by radiation]. Because my children are small, I wish not only estimates but also checks on actual figures will continue to be done." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- The government committee investigating the nuclear crisis has found the obvious by reporting that TEPCO had been ill-prepared for the catastrophic tsunami of March 11th. But, they are also suggesting that the ongoing disaster may have been caused by human error. As previously reported, TEPCO had no emergency procedures for a complete station blackout, so plant personnel had to literally create them as the
accident progressed. But, the new committee statement makes the first public allegation of human error as a possible cause of the accident, pointing to the unit #3 operators stopping High Pressure Coolant Injection (HPCI) flow to the RPV on March 13 without first getting permission from the plant manager. The committee indicated that this was a mistake and was a possible reason for the unit #3 meltdown and the hydrogen explosions of units 3&4. (Mainichi Shimbun) We are shocked by the human error allegation! Control room records show that the operators in unit #3 did shut down HPCI at 2:42am on March 13 because battery power to keep the system running was almost depleted. Personnel outside the control room later attempted to restart HPCI and found that the batteries had indeed been drained of all
power. Thus, the operators did the correct thing in the interest of sound engineering practices, which makes the allegation of human error decidedly questionable.
- The Ministry of the Environment has issued rules as to who is responsible for costs due to decontamination. The central government will bear the cost of decontaminating areas with whole body radiation exposures in excess of 0.23 microsieverts per hour. The government will also cover the disposal costs of sludge and other debris with Cesium contamination levels above 8,000 becquerels per kilogram. Decontamination costs below these two criteria will not be the responsibility of the government. The Ministry says there are ~100 municipalities in the Tohoku region and around Tokyo that qualify, based on current estimates, which meet the criteria. These municipalities will be announced next week. (JAIF)
- Three more “stress test” results have been submitted to the Tokyo government. All three submittals are for reactors owned by the Kyushu Electric Company. They are two units at the Sendai power complex in Kagoshima Prefecture, and one at Genkai in Saga Prefecture. Kyushu Electric says all three can withstand earthquakes in excess of the Great Japan Quake of March 11, and tsunamis with waves up to 15 meters high. Genkai mayor Hideo Kashimoto says the stress tests alone will not be enough for him to allow the plants to be restarted. He also wants Kyushu Electric to “enact full disclosure practices”. (JAIF)
- On December 6, TEPCO announced they have begun removal of radioactive materials from the water in the Spent Fuel Pool (SPF) of unit #2. The decontamination system is contained in two trucks, one for pumping and the other holding a Cesium absorption device. The absorber truck is lined with shielding to minimize the external radiation field which will develop as Cesium is stripped from the water. The decontaminated water will then return to the SPF. Once the cesium levels are down to a minimum, another portable unit will be used to remove the salt content from the SPF water. At the same time as unit #2’s SPF’s
desalination, TEPCO plans on using the Cesium decontamination equipment to lower the contamination in the SPF of unit #3. (TEPCO)
- The Tokyo government has decided to segregate the 20km no-go zone and northwest evacuation corridor into three designations for recovery. All will be based on estimated levels of exposure to people who might be in the radiation fields 24 hours a day for a full year. The lowest designation will be those areas estimated to be below 20 millisieverts per year. These areas will be the first to be given intensive decontamination so people can return home. Unfortunately, Tokyo says decontamination work will not begin before next spring. The second designation will be for estimated exposures between 20 and 50 millisieverts per year. In this area, it is expected that evacuees will not be allowed to return for two years or more. The government plans on reducing exposures to below 20 millisieverts before they will let anyone back in. The third designation is for estimated exposures above 50 millisieverts per year. This “difficult to return zone” will take several years, if not decades, before anyone will be allowed to return, and some locations will become permanent exclusion zones. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- The Ministry of the Environment has preliminarily designated Futaba County, just outside the 20km no-go zone but within the northwest evacuation corridor, as the location for an interim storage facility for decontamination debris produced in Fukushima Prefecture. While there will undoubtedly be considerable NIMBY (not in my back yard) protests, the mayors of two towns most likely to have the facility are
resigned to the inevitable. Takashi Kusano, mayor of Narahamachi, said, "As [the radiation] came from the
Fukushima plant, we have no choice but to [build the facilities in the county]." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- METI Minister Yukio Edano has forbidden TEPCO releases of any decontaminated waste water into the sea unless the utility gets permission from the local fishing cooperatives. He acknowledges that TEPCO’s plan to re-filter decontaminated waters before discharge would drop residual contamination levels well below national standards, but he says such an action will be unacceptable as long as unfounded radiation
rumors hurt the fishing industry. Edano urges TEPCO to educate the fishing cooperatives on radiation issues in the hope that they will eventually agree to future decontaminated waste water discharges. (JAIF)
- The Fukushima government says that the highest estimated exposure to any evacuee outside the 20km no-go zone is 19 millisieverts. Monday’s report of the highest exposure being 14 millisieverts referred to those evacuees who completed the prefecture’s detailed questionnaire, which has been less than 10% of the total number who left the area. This new exposure estimate is based on “timing and place of evacuation” combined with current knowledge of contamination levels and hot spots specific to the municipalities of Namie, Kawamata, Iitate, Futaba, Okuma, Minamisoma, Tamura, Tomioka, Naraha, Hirono, Katsurao and Kawauchi. The towns of Futaba and Okuma border on the Fukushima power complex. Shunichi Yamashita, vice president of Fukushima Medical University, said the levels are low compared to Chernobyl. "I think there is no problem," Yamashita said. The report also states the persons evacuated from the 20km zone around Fukushima Daiichi received exposures in the range of 0.18-2.3 millisieverts. Those in the northwest evacuation corridor outside the no-go zone had exposures in the range of 0.84-19 millisieverts. The higher exposures further from the accident were due to evacuations being ordered more
than ten days after the 20km evacuation order was issued. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- An elementary school in Tokyo covered their school lawn with a large plastic sheet on March 18 to protect it from frost. It has stayed there ever since, largely due to the school contamination fears running rampant
through the city. They finally checked it for radiation levels, and found the sheet had collected considerable radioactive Cesium. Officials of Suginami Ward say the contamination is ~96,000 becquerels per kilogram, which is 12 times higher than the national standard for burial. The officials are in a quandary as to what they should do. They are leaning towards carefully folding the sheet to keep the contamination inside, then sending it to an incineration facility. (JAIF) The contamination cannot impregnate the plastic. They could wash the contamination off the slick plastic surface, roll it up, and save it for frost protection next year. But we have become convinced that the Japanese government’s level of health physics
understanding is nearly nothing. They’ll probably burn it if they can find an incineration facility to do the job…which we doubt.
- We have another case of a horribly misleading headline followed by a conflicting article. This time it’s a Tuesday report in Japan Times. The headline reads Evacuations too late outside no-go zone: high exposure to radiation possible before officials acted. But the article itself paints a much less provocative picture. It says essentially the same thing as the Mainichi Shimbun report summarized above. There is nothing in the Japan Times article to support the headline. “Too late” based on who’s opinion? Traditionally, editors write the headlines for a reporter’s narrative. The Japan Times editors are probably the culprits.
- The citizen’s group that is trying to get enough signatures in Tokyo to force a voter referendum on nuclear energy has also begun a similar petition in Osaka. In today’s news reports, we find that the petitions cannot be signed electronically and cannot be issued through the internet. The process must be verifiable, grass-roots, face-to-face, and hand-signed. Journalist Hajime Imai, who heads both petition drives, said, "The rules in Japan governing these referendum drives are very strict. Signatures must be directly
gathered by volunteers. Signing Internet petitions or via email is not allowed." (Japan Times)
- Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) says that TEPCO has met all the preconditions for declaring Fukushima Daiichi to be in a state of cold shutdown. This is not a final, official declaration, but merely a preliminary one. It is expected the formal, official declaration will be made later this week by the Tokyo government. There are some voices of disagreement within the NSC, of course. But, the majority agrees that cold shutdown conditions now exist for all three reactors at the plant site. (NHK World)
- One unofficial group in Japan has decided to try and put the nuclear energy issue to a vote. “Minna de kimeyo ‘Genpatsu’ Kokumintohyo” (Let everyone decide on nuclear power through local referendums) was
formed in Tokyo this past June. Its formation seems to have been missed by most of the Japanese Press. But, what the group is currently trying to do may have far-reaching repercussions. They are running a signature collection program, which seems neither pro- nor anti- nuclear. If they can get 214,200 signatures in the next 2 months, it will force the governor of Tokyo to introduce a referendum to the Metropolitan Assembly. If the Assembly decides in favor of the petition/referendum, the prefecture's residents will vote on whether or not they want Japan to continue its nuclear energy program. The group behind the petition says they want an open debate among the people and then let the voters decide. Governor Ishihara said he personally supports what the group is doing, then added, “This is an open society, but I wish people would take radiation issues a bit more calmly.” (Mainichi Shimbun) We favor the group's efforts if they are actually neutral in their intent. If so, we hope they get enough signatures.
- Satoshi Takayama, parliamentary secretary of the environment, says the local governments in the tsunami-devastated Tohoku region should run their own scans of rubble and debris for Fukushima contamination because no-one trusts the Tokyo government. Takayama made the remark at a Shizuoka news conference in response to a question about the central government's position on the matter. This brought an immediate counter-response from Shizuoka Vice Gov. Shinichi Omura, who said, "His remarks that 'the state is not trusted' shake the foundations of safety standards." (Mainichi Shimbun) The truth hurts!
- The Ministry of the Environment says they cannot actually begin full-fledged contamination clean-up in the no-go zone, northwest evacuation corridor and higher contaminated areas outside the zones until late March…at the earliest. The reasons include the need to get documented landowner permission to do the work and find somewhere to store the removed material. The exposure criteria for this full-scale effort is a whole body dose in excess of 1 millisievert per year, which the government says is the natural background
level across the entire nation. (Kyodo News) So, are there any physical or technological barriers that keep the Ministry from getting started right now? Absolutely not!
- Tokyo will receive the first 30 tons of tsunami rubble and debris from Miyagi in February. A disposal facility will incinerate it and then test the ash for Fukushima contamination. At this point, Tokyo is calling the rubble “potentially radioactive” because the rubble to be shipped shows no detectable contamination, but the concentration effect of incineration might reveal detectable levels. (Japan Times) And…uh…detectable is dangerous?
- A new twist to the contaminated baby formula issue has arisen. It seems Meiji, the company in question, was “tipped off” to possible contamination in their product in November, and ignored the possibility. The “tip-offs” were one anonymous phone call and two calls from concerned citizens citing internet sources. The anonymous caller said an unidentified citizen’s group had posted an internet warning in October. The two identified callers cited internet sources. Meiji said they were not able to confirm any of the three, and told all callers they were already testing their product on a monthly schedule. Now after the fact, Kyodo News and several “citizen’s groups” claim they forced Meiji to test their formula, thus they take credit for the discovery. (Japan Times)
- Fukushima University plans to monitor accurate forest contamination levels by putting collars with detectors on monkeys that populate the region. The collars will also have small GPS units. The combined data will be sent back to the researchers in order to accurately measure and map contamination levels. This should be better than with the current practice of airborne scanning from planes and helicopters. The first attempt will be in the spring with the forest near Minamisoma. (NewsOnJapan.com)
Concerning the Japanese news media’s on-going crusade to maintain a high level of public anxiety…
- In a Saturday Asahi Shimbun hindsight editorial on the radioactive releases and resulting contamination from the Fukushima accident, once again an allegedly responsible news media source has stated there was an explosion inside unit #2’s containment on March 15. Because of this, it is assumed that most of the contamination comprised of Iodine, Cesium, and other isotopes came from unit #2. These assumptions are no more than on-going false speculations that keep the public on edge. Since April, TEPCO has repeatedly said there was no hydrogen explosion inside unit #2’s containment. In addition, control room operator records show the “impulsive sound” in unit #2, which the Tokyo government and Japanese news media
cavalierly call an explosion, happened at the same moment as the unit #4 hydrogen explosion. The cavernous air space inside unit #2’s primary containment necessarily muffled the sound of the unit #4 blast. Thus, we have the source of the “impulsive sound” reported by unit #2’s staff. There is no reason to continue reporting it as an explosion, other than complete distrust of TEPCO and the desire to keep the public guessing. Regardless, with no explosion inside unit #2’s containment, there is no reason to think the containment was compromised. This brings us to the unit #2 airborne release topic. Unit #2's outer building is intact (which is not at all the case for units 1, 3 & 4) and there was no “venting” of the unit #2
containment...ever! So, how did the airborne material inside unit #2’s structures get out? A compromised containment structure which was never actually compromised? A relatively small “blow out panel” that didn’t blow out but rather seems to have opened by “blowing in”? We are now going on record to say the belief of unit #2 having the worst release, as continually proclaimed by the government, TEPCO, and the news media, is a complete fiction. The alleged release of airborne material needs a pathway, and none exists.
Also on Saturday, Yomiuri Shimbun ran an article with the headline Residents exposed to high doses of radiation. The article itself says that the worst possible exposure for any Fukushima Prefecture resident who did not work at the power complex was 14 millisieverts. Only one person who lived near Fukushima Daiichi and evacuated during the heavy radiological releases, received this dose. Half of the remainder had exposures between one and ten millisieverts and the other half one millisievert or less. These are high doses? The average person in Ramsar, Iran, (pop. ~31,000) gets more than 14 millisieverts per year due to natural background, and there is no increase in cancer. Is that a “high dose” worthy of inciteful headlines? Yomiuri Shimbun is clearly aiding and abetting radiophobia among their readers and should be held morally accountable for it.
Radiophobia has struck 500 kilometers from Fukushima. 50 angry residents have loudly protested Osaka Prefecture’s decision to accept and dispose of tsunami rubble and debris from the Tohoku region. Why? Because it might have radiation from the Fukushima accident, of course. The Osaka Prefectural government decided to hold an open discussion concerning their plans to insure no Fukushima-tainted tsunami materials would be brought into Osaka, with local residents in attendance. However, soon after the meeting began on Thursday, a few loud members of the audience disrupted the proceedings. "You should launch an open debate forum," and, "Are you planning on exposing us to radiation?" angry residents called out.. The audience became so unruly that the meeting was closed and will resume only after it is decided whether or not future discussions will be open to the public. Thus, it is no longer sufficient for a governmental body to insure that no detectable Cesium or Strontium isotopes will penetrate their boundaries. It seems fear of the fear of radiation is now creeping into the fray, and the news media is there to let the rest of the country know about it. A tiny minority of vocal radiophobes in Osaka (50 out of a population of ~4 million) essentially refuse to participate in tsunami recovery support. None whatsoever! And we thought the Japanese people were one of the most caring societies in the world.
- With the unexpected shutdown of the Mihama #2 nuclear plant on Thursday, Japan now has 85% of its nuclear capacity idled and none will be restarted before next spring…or maybe not before next summer…or maybe never. (JAIF)
- JAIF’s latest periodic posting of Fukushima Daiichi parameters shows the amount of waste waters remaining in the units 1 - 4 basements has dropped some 3,000 tons since Monday. No reason is given, but this is the first significant change in the volume of untreated waste waters since the inflow of groundwater was discovered in early November.
- Out of the ~2 million residents of Fukushima Prefecture who have been screened for radiation exposure, only ten are known to have received 10 millisieverts or more. 98% received exposure below 5 millisieverts. Out of the 1700 people initially evacuated from within 3km of Fukushima Daiichi between March 11 and March 12, 1,100 received exposures below the forthcoming one millisieverts limit, which goes into effect this coming spring. (JAIF)
- Masao Yoshida, plant manager at Fukushima since the accident began March 11, resigned due to health reasons last week. We now know the health problem is esophagus cancer, which was diagnosed nearly 5 years ago. (Asahi Shimbun) Esophagus cancer has never been medically associated with very low level radiation exposure. However, all Japanese news reports mention Yoshida’s exposure record at Fukushima since working there (~70 millisieverts), in detail. The close juxtaposition of his cancer diagnosis with his exposure history in the stories, plus the level of radiological ignorance in Japan, will surely result in some (if not many) subsequent articles claiming his cancer might be due to his accident exposure.
- Earlier this week, the largest supplier of baby formula in Japan discovered barely-detectable levels of Cesium in their product and stopped all distribution. The lightly-laced powdered formula has been disposed of and none has reached the marketplace. However, the numerous news media reports concerning the situation has been made it yet another example of rampant radiophobia. For example Japan Times writes, “Although experts stressed that such levels would not harm the health of babies even if they continued drinking the contaminated dry milk product, mothers with young kids weren't ready to breathe a sigh of relief yet — instead expressing a sense of distrust in dairies.” Ai Tatsuno, a mother of four who moved to the distant island of Okinawa in March due to radiophobic panic, said she no longer trusts Meiji, "I've been careful in purchasing baby formula manufactured before March 11. Now I might quit and use soy milk and other products for my children." In other words, it’s no longer just the government and TEPCO who can’t be trusted…the dairy industry is now a part of the radiation conspiracy!
- Because their storage capacity for decontaminated waste waters is being approached and may be satiated in March, TEPCO has announced it is considering discharging some of the decontaminated water into the sea. The waters are no entirely devoid of Cesium and Strontium isotopes, but the levels are close to the national standard. Regardless, the announcement of this potential decision has brought loud and long protests from a national fisheries association chairman, Ikuhiro Hattori. He said consumers will stop buying fish after a discharge of radioactive water, even at levels below the government level. (NHK World) On Friday (today) TEPCO says they have decided to not make the discharge. They will they and find an alternative. TEPCO points out the already decontaminated waters in question would have been run through another filtration unit before discharge to insure the Cesium/Strontium levels would be well below national seawater standards. The fisheries maintain the public would still refrain from purchasing Fukushima-area fish because they don’t trust the government and the radioisotopes would still be detectable. (Asahi Shimbun)
- Verifying an assumption we have held for more than six months, it seems the Japanese government and their puppets in the nuclear industry superficially used the lessons learned from Three Mile Island’s 1979 accident in making safety system or attendant regulatory decisions. Now, they are looking deeply into those lessons learned in the hope of finding information to help mitigate the recovery from the Fukushima Daiichi accident. (Mainichi Shimbun) It’s about damn time!
- America’s increasingly anti-nuclear Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman, Robert Jaczko, has once again unilaterally gone to the popular Press in order to give his personal agenda first light. He is worried that U.S. nuclear plant operators have become complacent just nine months after the nuclear disaster in Japan, and will push for new regulations to insure that it does not happen. Jaczko said his believed “problems” were serious enough to indicate a "precursor" to a performance decline. "We need to make sure that [nuclear] licensees continue to do the right thing for safety. That's the No. 1 thing going forward," Jaczko said. "There are some things we want to keep an eye on to make sure we are not seeing really true declines in performance." (Japan Times) Isn’t this the same guy who guaranteed that the unit #4 spent fuel pool was dry and burning on March 16? The same man too arrogant to admit his error when the rest of the NRC retracted his gross error in July? Now he wants to make costly regulatory changes because of yet another spate of speculation.