Fukushima 25...1/23/12-2/6/12

February 6

  • TEPCO reports that one of the temperature monitors on #2 Primary Containment Vessel (PCV) has risen considerably over the past 10 days. On January 27 the “upper bottom head” instrument was at 45oC and yesterday it had climbed to 71oC. Plant operators increased the cooling feed-water injection rate from 5 to 6 tons per hour, which seems to have stabilized the temperature. The two temperature instruments on the RPV bottom head have remained steady at about 44oC. TEPCO speculates the change is due to some plumbing work on the feed-water injection system over the past two weeks. The core spray injection system, which cools the innermost portion of the RPV, remains at 4 tons per hour since those thermal monitors are steady.
  • NISA will conduct a 3-week inspection at Fukushima Daiichi to see if the cold shutdown condition can be maintained into the foreseeable future. They will check the replacement RPV cooling and water decontamination systems for long-term operability. The inspection will also include worker interviews, contingency preparations and operating manuals. The inspections will begin Today and be open to the news media. (NHK World)
  • Of the 634 deaths in the Fukushima evacuation zone’s population since March 11, 573 have been certified as “disaster-related”. A disaster-related death certificate is issued when a death is not directly caused by a tragedy, but by fatigue or the aggravation of a chronic disease due to the disaster. All deaths came from 13 municipalities in the no-entry, emergency evacuation preparation or expanded evacuation zones around the nuclear plant. The 13 municipalities are three cities--Minami-Soma, Tamura and Iwaki--eight towns and villages in Futaba County--Namie, Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka, Naraha, Hirono, Katsurao and Kawauchi--and Kawamata and Iitate, all in Fukushima Prefecture. "During our examination of the applications, we gave emphasis to the conditions at evacuation sites and how they spent their days before they died," a city government official said. "However, the screening process was difficult in cases when people had stayed in evacuation facilities for an extended time and when there was little evidence of where they had been taking shelter." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • A U.S. research team will perform a long-term study of wildlife around Fukushima Daiichi. The team will be headed by Dr. Timothy Mousseau, who has published numerous questionable reports of adverse radiation effects with the wildlife around Chernobyl. Mousseau says physical changes in birds and insects due to radiation happens faster than in humans and can be used to predict future health effects on future generations of people. He claims to have proven abnormalities in wildlife with radiation fields as low as 26 millisieverts per year. The study will begin in May. (JAIF)
  • The worms found in the forest grounds around Kawauchi have elevated levels of radioactive Cesium at about 20,000 Becquerels per kilogram. Kawauchi lies on the southwest edge of the 20km no-go zone around Fukushima Daiichi. Motohiro Hasegawa of Japan's Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute says worms are a source of food for many wild animals and he fears that radiation could gradually accumulate in the bodies of animals throughout the food chain. Worms studied at Otama village, 60 km. from the damaged power complex, have 1,000 Becquerels per kilogram and Tadami town, 150 km. away, have worms reading 290 Becquerels per kilogram. This is a direct correlation with the with the forest contamination levels recorded in August and September at the three locations; Kawauchi at 1.4 million Bq/kg, Otama at about 100,000 Bq/kg and Tadami at 20,000 Bq/kg. (Japan Times) The report fails to consider that it takes about 2,200 typical ground worms to weigh a kilogram, thus the specific activity per Kawauchi worm is but 8 Becquerels.
  • After more than 10 months of testing, food fish caught well off the Tohoku coast have shown very little Cesium contamination. The specific species are Tuna, Bonito and Pacific Saury. Regular studies nationwide have found no alarming signs among ocean fish caught outside the coastal areas of Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures. Some deep-water fish, such as Tuna, have shown Cesium levels between 10 and 20 Becquerels, but most are well below detectability. It is believed that the deep-water levels have peaked because seawater Cesium concentrations are either barely detectable or non-detectable. Other than fish caught in near-shore locations off Fukushima Prefecture, no bottom feeders have been found to exceed the provisional limit of 500 Becquerels per kilogram. (Japan Times)

  • The lowest temperatures in recorded history have stressed Japan’s electric power supplies to their limit. Kansai Electric Company has issued a “severe” forecast in energy usage and Kyushu Electric Company was forced to import 2,400 megawatts of power when its Oita LNG-fired station was forced to shut down due to the freezing temperatures. Total electricity usage across Japan reached 96% of full capacity on Saturday. At 97% capacity, the Tokyo government can invoke emergency power reduction measures because the loss of one large power plant could cause a blackout due to overloading the remaining systems. At 100%, it is believed a massive nation-wide blackout is possible. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano said Friday there was no problem with the electricity supply, although the situation is tough. "There's no doubt there are risks of power stations halting operations or weather change-related risks in and after next week," Edano said after a Cabinet meeting. "I'd like to ask the nation to save energy as much as possible." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • A vacant lot in Yokohama has been declared a no-entry zone due to radiation levels. The radiation field is said to be 6.9 microsieverts per hour, roughly 12 times the national standard for open property. City officials say the relatively high radiation level is probably due to Fukushima contamination, even though the power complex is some 270 kilometers to the Northeast. The city plans to decontaminate the site by stripping the upper layer of topsoil. (Japan Times)
  • 97.7% of the farms in Fukushima Prefecture have produced rice below the new government standard for Cesium contamination of 100 Becquerels per kilogram. 84.3% of the rice farms had levels that were undetectable. The central government said it will prohibit the planting of seeds in areas that are heavily contaminated, but it has not decided which areas should face such restrictions. Agriculture Minister Michihiko Kano said on Feb. 3 that the government should not impose limits on planting. “We should respect the feelings of farmers,” he said.  (Asahi Shimbun)

February 3

  • Two Ukrainian nuclear experts say all Fukushima evacuees should be able to return home, unlike the situation with Chernobyl. Ukrainian government officials Oleg Nasvit and Dmytro Bobro made this startling revelation to the Associated Press. They urge that any decision on whether to allow residents to return should be based on radiation dose levels rather than distance from the plant. "If people like to return and they will have a dose of less than 20 millisieverts per year, according to international standards this is possible," Nasvit said, "This is not about this circle of 20 kilometers but it is about the radiological situation. If this is from the radiological point of view permissible, why not return part of this territory to people?" Japan has set guidelines that allow residents to return to areas with contamination levels below 20 millisieverts per year - about three CAT-scans - which it says is safe, although a further reduction is planned by Tokyo. Nasvit and Bobro further said a crucial lesson from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster is that the government needs to tell people the truth so that they can make informed decisions about their future. "Residents can understand the consequences and make realistic decisions only based on accurate information," Bobro said. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • NISA has announced a new proposal to boost nuclear plant safety. The proposal being considered by the Cabinet includes installation of various back-up power generators, water-proofing all reactor cooling facilities to prevent tsunami inundation, automatic activation of all emergency cooling systems, and secure communication systems like TV teleconferencing for nuclear accidents.  If approved by the Cabinet’s expert panel, the 30-point proposal will be used to establish new mandatory safety requirements. If all goes as planned, the new safety regulations could be drafted by the end of March. (NHK World)
  • Tokyo’s government says the Fukushima accident proves safety matters cannot be entrusted to the utilities themselves. Such matters as operating lifetime, nuclear safety upgrades, and back-fitting existing safety systems to address rare accident scenarios, are too important to leave to corporate cost-benefit analyses. Included in the official planning is improvement of communications to expedite appropriate public protective measures once an accident occurs. University of Tokyo Prof. Hideaki Shiroyama said: "The current law that regulates nuclear reactors centers primarily on preventing a nuclear crisis. So establishing new laws that incorporate measures to ensure public safety from radiation on the assumption that a nuclear accident occurs has great significance." The new safety push is supported by the ruling political party in the government, the Democratic Party of Japan. Many other political parties are opposed to the new safety considerations because the future nuclear regulatory agency will still be attached to the cabinet through the Ministry of the Environment. They feel the new safety watchdog should be completely independent of Cabinet ties, but have full legal authority to enforce. “Your Party” Secretary General Kenji Eda says the planned regulatory agency should be "an administrative commission that is independent from the Cabinet, takes a fair and neutral position and can exercise strong authority over ministries and agencies." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Another frozen pipe leak has been found at Fukushima Daiichi. This one is attached to Spent Fuel Pool #4, which is open to the cold winter air because of its hydrogen explosion on March 15. More than 8 tons of mildly contaminated water leaked into the surrounding structure before the pipe’s isolation valve was closed and the leak ended. Constant decontamination of the pool’s water since last October has reduced the concentration of Cesium to around 100 Becquerels per cubic centimeter. None of the leaked water left the building. (Kyodo News)
  • A record cold wave has swept across Japan the past two weeks. Yesterday, record low temperatures were recorded in 16 prefectures spanning the length of the island nation. While these unprecedented temperatures have caused numerous small piping leaks at Fukushima Daiichi, another thermal (fossil-fueled) power station has suffered a much worse fate. High pressure fuel-supply pipes at Kyushu Electric’s three liquefied natural gas-fired electric generators at Oita froze and knocked all of them off the grid. Kyushu Electric scrambled to replace the 2,300 megawatts of power lost by the emergency shutdowns. 30 of the 46 power companies contracted to supply emergency power to Oita Power Station sent a combined total of about 1,300 megawatts, while the others were too short of electricity to help. (Mainichi Shimbun) The power shortage in Japan is getting critical. Now, if the ready-to-go nukes were allowed to restart…
  • A new “shut them down forever” lawsuit has been filed against Kyushu Electric Company. The suit, filed in Saga District Court, includes 1,704 plaintiffs from 29 of the 47 prefectures in Japan. The lawsuit says the operation of Saga Prefecture’s nuclear plants make the plaintiffs feel insecure because they believe them to be inordinately dangerous. "We want the judges to agree that the safety dogma regarding nuclear reactors has collapsed during the trial," said Akira Hasegawa, the plaintiffs' leader and former president of Saga University. Another suit was filed by the same group last month, but had only 300 plaintiffs from the prefecture itself and the suit floundered. By opening it up to radiophobes across Japan, they got the much higher number of signatories in the hope the court will take their plea seriously. (Japan Times)


February 1

  • Two more frozen pipe leaks have been discovered by TEPCO at Fukushima Daiichi. The total leakage from the two is estimated at about 30 liters. This makes a total of 16 frozen pipe and component leaks since last Friday. All of the leaked waters were from the “purified” portions of their systems, thus no radioactive releases have occurred. None of the water from the 16 leaks has found its way to the sea. Since insulating the metallic pipes has not completely stopped the leakage problems, TEPCO will replace all metal piping with polyethylene covered in insulation. Poly is believed to be less susceptible to freeze/thaw cycles. (Japan Times)
  • Mayor Yuko Endo of Kawauchi Village has announced his intent to repopulate the town in April. He presented his plan to Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato on Tuesday. Specifically, he plans on re-opening village offices, schools and child-care center by April to support those who come back. The central government plans to allow residents to begin returning home at some point in March. Last September, some of the village was declared safe for residents to return due to extremely low contamination levels and a radiation field indistinguishable from natural background. Only about 200 people have actually returned, which is about 7% of those who could have. Those reluctant to return say they want all utilities to be operating (e.g. water, garbage disposal, and etc.) before they go home. Others say there are no jobs, as yet. Still others say they won’t return until all contamination has been removed, no matter how little might be the case. Kawauchi is one of nine municipalities inside the 20km radius where former-P.M. Kan forced wholesale evacuation while disregarding computer projections on contamination pathways. (NHK World)
  • The Tokyo government plans on decontaminating three closed sections of a no-go zone’s expressway beginning in March. One section has a radiation field below 20 millisieverts per year, the second between 20 and 50 millisieverts, and the third greater than 50 millisieverts. Effectiveness of highway pavement decontamination will be tested according to the three radiation field categories. This will give the responsible Ministries a good idea of the effectiveness of decontamination with lowering annual projected doses in the three radiological categories. (JAIF)
  • Two upgraded robots are ready for use at Fukushima Daiichi. Their upgrades are based on the experiences with the first robot in June, which became hopelessly entangled in its power cable. The first robot could only take radiation measurements and provide video imagery. The upgraded versions will have 10x longer power cables, the ability to disentangle themselves and each other, mutual WiFi capability should either power cable be damaged, six independent drive belts for debris climbing and traversing stairs, upgraded radiation monitors and 3D scanners. The robots are on schedule for deployment in March. (JAIF)
  • The International atomic Energy Agency has endorsed Japan’s stress test methodology. IAEA’s team leader James Lyons submitted a preliminary report to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency's Director General, Hiroyuki Fukano, on Tuesday. It says NISA’s assessment of procedures carried out by nuclear utilities is appropriate. The report also lists 11 suggestions for stress test improvements including the need to better communicate with local communities. (NHK World) The report does not, however, endorse the restart of any idled reactors. It is a general overview of the program and does not delve into individual power plant data or what it might mean. Critics say it would be wrong to base restart decisions on stress test data alone. One IAEA team member mentioned that NISA should lay down firm restart criteria as soon as possible and stick to it. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Two Japanese nuclear safety advisors have slammed the IAEA stress test endorsement. Masashi Goto, former nuclear power plant designer, and Hiromitsu Ino, emeritus professor at University of Tokyo, say the IAEA stress test confirmation is little more than a process rubberstamp. “The calculations are all based on ideal scenarios: ‘If this piece of equipment breaks, then will another kick in?’” asked Ino who then continued, “It doesn’t look at complex scenarios, such as system-wide failure due to the aging of the plant, or human error." He called the tests an “optimistic desk simulation”. According to Goto the scenarios for the two disasters the tests simulate are insufficient because they do not assess other potential causes of accidents such as fires, plane crashes, tornadoes or lightning. In response, James Lyons, head of the IAEA delegation, emphasized that the mission was to refine the review of the stress tests, not to change their criteria. “What we saw was a process that we felt comfortable with,” he said at a news conference, “We were looking to provide suggestions on how they could improve the process but that doesn’t call into question the adequacy of the original.” (Asahi Shimbun)
  • The Prime Minister’s cabinet has approved a two-pronged nuclear energy bill. One part endorses the proposed legislative limit of an operating license for nukes "40 years from the day [it] passes an inspection.” A 20 year extension is possible as long as all regulatory mandates are met. The second endorsement is for a new nuclear regulatory body to replace NISA entitled “nuclear regulatory agency, completely independent of all current Ministry controls over NISA. The new agency will include a nuclear safety investigation committee to monitor the operation of nuclear reactors and investigate accidents during  a nuclear crisis. The bill also calls for more stringent safety standards, but no specifics on what the new standards might entail is mentioned. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The Siemens Corporation in Germany has estimated the cost of replacing all of their nukes with renewables. It’s staggering at more than $1.8 trillion dollars (USD) over the next 20 years, which is more than the gross domestic product of Brazil! Siemens removed themselves from the nuclear business last September and now focusses on a wide range of power-industry technology including wind turbines, concentrated solar power, hydro and fossil fuels. However, their report says short term emphasis should be placed on completing current fossil-fuel construction projects which will increase Germany’s CO2 emissions to 370 million tons annually…making it the largest greenhouse gas polluter on the Continent. It should be noted that much of Siemens’ current nuclear technology business is fully adaptable to fossil fuel construction, which the company has unabashedly made public. (World Nuclear News)

January 30

  • There have been as many as 14 different leaks from non-radioactive waste water systems at Fukushima Daiichi over the weekend. The problem is the unusually cold weather being experienced in Japan, with night-time temperatures at or below -10oC (~19oF). The low temperatures caused un-insulated piping connections to freeze and crack, then leak when they thaw out during the day. Most leaks came from piping outside the heated buildings which were connected to RPV injection or Spent Fuel Pool cooling systems. TEPCO says there were two measurable leaks from their unit #4 SPF waste water decontamination system, both of which have been repaired. One leak of 30 liters came from a pipe on the desalinization portion of the system, and one drop every 7-8 seconds from a valve on the pipe returning water to the SPF. None of the leaks resulted in decontaminated waste water reaching the sea. TEPCO is insulating the external pipes and flow equipment to keep it from happening again. (JAIF)
  • The Tokyo government says the lack of Fukushima emergency meeting minutes extended beyond the Prime Minister’s task force. Last week, we found that P.M. Kan’s personal task force and the combined government/TEPCO task force both failed to keep records of their meetings for at least two weeks starting on March 11. Now, we find out that 10 of the 15 other emergency-related government teams combatting the on-going accident kept few, if any records of their meetings during the same period. The records of 9 of the 10 suspect teams which were believed to have been kept have been lost. The emergency bodies include the main disaster headquarters, the disaster victim’s assistance team and the nuclear disaster task force. No personal notes whatsoever were kept by these three teams, and sporadically by members of the other six teams. Some ex-post-facto summaries have been compiled, but they are partial at best. Deputy Prime Minister Katsuya Okada has instructed all ministers to submit hindsight summaries of the meetings by the end of February. Kazuhiro Hayakawa, associate professor of administrative law at Omiya Law School said the lack of a written record was “ridiculous” and almost certainly a contravention of the law, adding, “No matter how much of an emergency it was, it is absurd that they did not keep records of the meetings, which were no doubt subject to the Archive Management Law. This failure has deprived us of the possibility of studying what exactly happened.” (Japan Times) Prime Minister Noda has apologized for the mistake made by his predecessor’s regime, reiterating that the Ministers were probably too busy to keep notes and probably not aware of the importance of or legal requirement for record-keeping during an emergency. (NHK World) Noda is clearly trying to protect ex-Prime Minister Kan! Unaware of the importance of record keeping? Unaware of the law? Who does he think he is kidding?
  • In 2006 and 2008, NISA received briefings from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission on its contingency guideline for handling nuclear plants in case of a terrorist attack. No record of the briefings was kept because of the confidential nature of the subject matter. The NRC recently released the contingency guideline to the public, and it is believed that some of the recommendations contained in it could have prevented the Fukushima accident if they would have been implemented. NISA was told by the NRC that they could keep no notes during the briefing and could not share what they were being told to any “outside” group. As a result, the NISA attendees only shared what they learned with other NISA officials and literally kept all nuclear utilities (like TEPCO) in the dark. The NRC decided to release the guideline information because the Fukushima accident demonstrated sharing the material was necessary. NISA received the publicly-available part of the guideline in August, but has not made it public until pressured by the Press this past week. (Japan Times)
  • Radiophobia continues to paralyze tsunami debris clean-up in the Tohoku region. Nearly 20 million tons of the rubble and accumulated biological wastes from the tsunami remain moldering and largely un-attended because of the fear that it might contain detectable levels of Fukushima isotopes. Might! Cursory scans of randomly-selected rubble piles show no radiation levels above natural background, and the ash contamination from the few tons of rubble that have been incinerated in Tokyo are several times below food-consumption standards! Undaunted, Japan’s radiophobic public unabashedly cries ”wolf”. Widespread worries about potential contamination have resulted in no-one other than Tokyo to help out with the clean-up effort. Now, even the Tokyo operation is at risk. “We received some 4,000 letters of complaint (about this),” Masami Imai, director of the city’s waste department, told the Press, “In more than 85% of them, citizens say they are worried about radioactivity or even say that we should refuse to import this debris. They are afraid that radiation levels are too high.” (Japan Times)
  • Although more than 25 years of study on Chernobyl-area wildlife shows flora and fauna thrive in the low level radiation environment, Tokyo has decided to study the effects of Fukushima on Japanese plants and wildlife themselves. Fukushima Prefecture requested the study to be conducted by the Environment Ministry and the National Institute of Radiological Sciences. The species include Japanese red pine and bristlegrass, rats, frogs, and mussels. Collection of some species has started. Researchers will check plant and animal appearance, chromosomes, and reproductive function for Cesium influence. The Ministry says they will issue a preliminary report in March, 2013. (NHK World)
  • 33 of 59 Fukushima school districts perform their own checks for contamination in school lunches. Testing for Cesium has produced a wide range of district-specific contamination standards, many of which seem to be based on the “detectable is dangerous” myth. The limit on foodstuffs will be restricted to 100 Becquerels per kilogram in April, which will be the most restrictive in the world and based largely on political expediency. The international accident standard is 500 Becquerels. However, neither standard is good enough for some districts which seem to feel that any detectable contamination is unacceptable. For example, the Suagawa municipal government has set the limit at 10 Becquerels, which is the lower level of detection using available technology. However, they seek equipment that can detect as low as 5 Becquerels. Shinobu Iida, 45, a representative of Fukushima Mothers Meeting, said: "If a strict limit of less than 5 Becquerels is introduced, which is the standard for other nations, Fukushima-made agricultural products could be used without fear." (Yomiuri Shimbun) We want to know what other nations have such a standard, for we have no such information.
  • The Tokyo government says they will subsidize half the cost of new, sensitive detection equipment for Cesium that local governments must buy to meet the new food standards in April. Foodstuffs will be limited to 100 Becquerels per kilogram, baby food and milk to 50 Becquerels, and drinking water to 10 Becquerels. The guideline states that if half of any Cesium standard is detected, that item will need stricter screening. Many locally used technologies are not currently sensitive enough to meet the forthcoming standards. (JAIF)

January 27

  • Japan’s Ministry of the Environment has announced a two year decontamination plan. The plan covers all municipalities with general area or localized exposure levels at or below 50 millisieverts per year. The proposed deadline is March, 2014. The municipalities include many inside the 20km no-go zone and at least 11 others outside the no-go zone in the northwest evacuation corridor. Priority will be given to schools, parks and other facilities for children, as well as hospitals and fire departments. Future plans will be developed for municipalities with radiation levels above 50 millisieverts. (NHK World) "Our main goal is to make it possible for evacuees to return to their homes as early as possible," said Environment Minister Goshi Hosono. He added that the government would “cautiously make a decision” on when to let people actually return, focusing on the opinions of local governments and the people themselves because “we should not rush them to return”. The plans for repopulation depend on three categories of contamination levels. Areas below 20 millisieverts/year exposures will allow people to return “in stages”, repopulation will be “restricted” between 20 and 50 millisieverts, and areas over 50 millisieverts will be designated as “difficult to return” for residents. The “difficult to return” areas will cover about one-third of the current evacuation zones. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Testing centers have become “inundated” with requests by companies to analyze their gravel for contamination. With Fukushima Technology Centre in the city of Koriyama, requests to check gravel and concrete for radioactive contamination have jumped by a factor of seven. The Centre says they have a backlog of requests through mid-February. The Gunma Industrial Technology Center’s activity has leaped from 25 to about 120 requests per day, which led a Gunma representative to say, “We can’t handle it all.”  Even the Tokyo Metropolitan Industrial Technology Research Institute, 250 kilometers from Fukushima, is getting requests leading an official to say, "Until now we haven't tested gravel, but we will consider whether it is possible." (Mainichi Shimbun) Radiophobia has wormed its way into Japan’s construction industry.
  • Local residents flocked to the Oi nuclear power station during the IAEA’s “stress test” visit on Thursday. Most of those in attendance voiced their concerns, largely based on fear of the unknown. Eiichi Inoue, a 63-year-old retiree in the coastal town of Obama. “I know they added stress tests, but what exactly are they doing? I oppose restarting them.” Still others doubt the efficacy of the stress tests themselves. “I don’t view their evaluation as something that is trustworthy or carries any weight,” said Hiromitsu Ino, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo. On the other hand, some citizens voiced support of reactor restarts for economic reasons. Naozane Sakashita, a taxi and bus-driver, said “I think these idle plants should resume as soon as their safety is confirmed. Our jobs and daily life are more important than a disaster that occurs only once in a million years.” Chikako Shimamoto, a 38-year-old fitness instructor in Takahama, said “We need jobs and we need business in this town. Our lives in this town depend on the nuclear power plant and we have no choice.” (Japan Times)
  • Government sources say TEPCO is ready to accept Tokyo’s offer of a $12.8 billion buy-out. The Japanese Press calls it a “bail out”. If and when this happens, TEPCO will be in a de-facto state of nationalization. The money would come from the state-backed Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund which is largely financed by the companies owning nuclear facilities in Japan. (News on Japan.com)
  • Three of the most experienced and prestigious nuclear experts in Japan have gone public with their view on the nation’s nuclear energy debate. Shojiro Matsuura, former head of the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC); Kenji Sumita, former acting NSC chief; and Shunichi Tanaka, former acting chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan, have apologized for their pre-Fukushima optimism with nuclear safety. However, they stress that without nuclear-powered electricity, Japan’s economy faces the specter of doom. They point out that it is essential to disseminate knowledge and wisdom throughout society to come up with a comprehensive and strategic response to Fukushima, and not base decisions on little more than fear itself. Mr. Sumita said the Japanese nuclear community did not apply lessons learned from past nuclear accidents, and that was the most critical mistake, “We've heard utility companies saying, 'What [other countries] did has nothing to do with us. If we took measures, we would also be seen as being irresponsible.’" On the other hand, looking back over his 50 years in nuclear energy Mr. Matsuura said, "As a person who lived through an era of insufficient energy supply, I think that if we were to maintain the current standard of living in Japan with the current population, we would need to secure a source of atomic energy and use it to live while ensuring its safety." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Ex-Prime Minister Naoto Kan continues to inch closer to becoming a full-fledged anti-nuclear activist. His sights are set squarely on the international stage. At the Davos World Economic Forum in Switzerland, Kan called for an international nuclear debate to insure the safety of nuclear plants. He further advocated a nuclear-free world while promoting renewable power sources and energy saving measures. Kan’s message was given behind closed doors to an international audience of business and political leaders. (JAIF)
  • As of today, there will be but three nuclear power plants operating in Japan. Chugoku Electric Power company has announced that its Shimane unit #2 will be shut down for routine maintenance, inspection and refueling. This marks 45 of Japan’s 48 fully-functional, undamaged nukes being idled. At least 20 of them are totally capable of immediate operation, but former P.M. Kan’s de facto moratorium on nuclear plant operation and local government fears keep them from operating and relieve Japan’s current energy shortage. (JAIF)

January 25

  • Ex-Prime Minister Kan’s Fukushima investigative panel says they will conclude their work and publish a final report in July. Panel leader Yotaro Hatamura said the panel plans to hold hearings with cabinet ministers involved with accident decisions during the weeks following March 11. The panel wants to know how information on the accident was provided to local residents, how the extent of the damage was communicated and how the chain of responsibility was structured. Hatamura added they will meet with “foreign experts” in February to discuss what other issues should be investigated. (NHK World)
  • NISA has said they will require nuclear plant operators to consider and protect against earthquakes greater than those predicted for their locations. This marks the first “beyond design basis” regulatory requirement in Japan. The agency will also pressure nuclear utilities to consider potential quakes from faults now considered “inactive” since one such fault produced a Richter Scale 7 temblor in Fukushima Prefecture in April. (NHK World) It’s about time! If the US NRC and IAEA “beyond design basis” recommendations made since the mid-1990s had been implemented in Japan, it is not unlikely that the Fukushima accident would never have happened.
  • Kawauchi town in Fukushima Prefecture wants residents to return home in March. The rural town is located between 8 and 12 kilometers southwest of Fukushima Daiichi, in a low contamination region. The local government has been quietly decontaminating schools and playgrounds, along with public facilities, in the hope that the cleanup will draw citizens back. "Most residents seemed to agree with our explanations and plans to a certain extent," said a senior town official. On Jan. 31, the municipal government will officially ask evacuees to return home, hoping they will move back by the end of March. School and town hall operations will be resumed in April. This will mark the first attempted repopulation of a town inside to 20km no-go zone. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The supermarket property where radium filled bottles were discovered in October seems riddled with the stuff. To date, at least ten spots on the Tokyo Setagaya ward premises have been found to have buried debris containing Radium-226 isotopes. The more they search, the more they find. Owners of the property, Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives, said, "We have never possessed any radium, and we don't know why radium was buried there." It is estimated the cost of cleanup could exceed one million yen. The Cooperative says it isn’t their fault so they should not be held financially responsible for the decontamination, "Similar things could happen again in the future. We want the government to consider countermeasures such as bearing decontamination costs." A science ministry official said, "Countermeasures have been discussed within the ministry." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The Tokyo-based citizen’s group trying to start an open nuclear energy referendum is in trouble. They have two weeks left before the petition statute runs out and they need 120,000 more signatures. The group is making a final push to beat the deadline. They were averaging ~30,000 signatures per week, but interest has dropped considerably the past few weeks. The group blames public apathy due to pro-nuclear Press coverage in Tokyo for their impending failure. Nonetheless, spokespersons for the group express optimism. If the petition drive is successful, it would pressure the Tokyo city government to put the nuclear issue to a public vote. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Fukushima’s government has announced that they will consider providing compensation to Fukushima residents not currently receiving funds. Western and southern regions of the prefecture have complained about being excluded from the financial benefits which spurred Governor Yuhei Sato to take matters into his own hands. He proposes a $520 million fund to assist those not covered in the Tokyo-based compensatory program. (JAIF)
  • Another nuclear power plant will be shut down on Wednesday for routine maintenance, inspection, and refueling. TEPCO’s Kariwa unit #5’s shuttering will leave only four of Japan’s 54 nuclear plants operating. Kariwa unit #6 will be the only remaining nuclear plant operating in the Tokyo region. TEPCO says they will make up for the loss by boosting the capacity of several thermal units (i.e. coal, oil, or gas-fired) beyond their design limits. (JAIF) Maybe the citizens of Tokyo should start wearing their paper face masks again to keep the increased fossil pollution out of their lungs?
  • While most media outlets in Japan report that NISA has given the OK for Oi units #3 & #4 to restart, the reality is very different. NISA has accepted the TEPCO submittal of stress test results. NISA finds the numbers acceptable, which they published in a “draft” report made public two weeks ago. But…NISA has not given the nukes the OK to restart. The International Atomic Agency stress test review team is in Japan and they began their study of the Oi data, along with NISA, on Monday. Once the IAEA finishes its review, NISA will incorporate their findings into a final, conclusive report at some point next month…or perhaps in March. IAEA plans to finish its Oi review by January 31 and issue a summary report on its findings before they leave. (Japan Times)

January 23

Before today’s updates, it might help many readers to further explain the Becquerel, with respect to some of the reports coming out of Japan. Please recall the Becquerel’s definition of one radioactive disintegration per second. One other way to look at it (in a very, very general sense) is one click per second on a Geiger counter. You will get dozens of “Geiger clicks” per second off a low-grade granite counter-top due to its containing low concentrations of natural Uranium, Radium, and Thorium. The same sort of thing happens with an adobe brick. The point is that a Becquerel is a tiny, tiny unit of measurement. On January 20th, TEPCO announced they had discovered contaminated water inside a vertical pit near unit #1. The news media said the water in the pit was highly radioactive. However, the actual activity of the water has been analyzed and found to contain 0.2 Becquerels/cc. That is, one would have to wait some 5 seconds between “Geiger clicks” when monitoring a cubic centimeter sample. Is that really “highly radioactive”? Of course not. Why did the Press call this essentially innocuous activity “highly radioactive”? Two possibilities come to mind. Either they don’t know any better, or they are intentionally exaggerating. I hope it’s the first because education will eventually correct the error. If it’s the second, then the Press is purposefully exacerbating the mental damage caused by radiophobia.

Updates from this past weekend…

  • Makoto Yagi, chair of the Japanese Federation of Electric Power Companies, is asking the government to explain the scientific basis behind the recently established 40-year limit on a nuclear plant’s operation. He also wants to know the scientific rationale for the one-time-only 20 year extension. (JAIF) Is the 40 year limit based on real-world evidence or is it merely a politically-appropriate decision without scientific substance? It seems the limit is the second case, and not the first.
  • The Tokyo nuclear disaster task force has discovered that the Prime Minister had no records kept of his staff meetings concerning the Fukushima accident. P.M. Kan’s emergency taskforce was assembled on March 11, including all cabinet members, to combat the emergency and control public protective actions in accordance with law. They made critical decisions over a period of months regarding evacuations, decontamination plans, and food restrictions. But, no record of what actually went on in the meetings exists. The NISA representative in the P.M.’s taskforce said everyone was too busy to keep records during the meetings. However, the public records management act requires that minutes of all important official meetings be kept for public accountability. Sources say NISA’s taskforce representative was supposed to act as secretary and keep the minutes, and he is currently being interviewed in the hope of filling the informational void. In addition, there is no record of the government/TEPCO taskforce meetings held concurrently in the same building as the P.M.’s taskforce. (JAIF) I want to know if several months of meetings with no written record is merely an “oops!” or a cover-up?
  • Industry Minister Yukio Edano said that TEPCO is responsible for the financial impacts of the recently discovered radioactive cement and gravel used since April, 2011. He will ask TEPCO to begin compensatory measures as soon as possible. Edano is reacting to Nihonmatsu Mayor Keiichi Miho’s request concerning the apartment building in his city which is built on a base-mat made of the cement. Actually, there are no national standards on contaminated building materials, so it is probable that TEPCO will refrain from compliance with Edano’s request until such standards are created. On Sunday, the government stated that as many as 80 more homes and apartment buildings have been either built or repaired using the contaminated concrete since April. One home in Fukushima City measures 0.85 microsieverts/hr, which is about the same as the natural radiation field around a granite counter-top. Since the reading is slightly higher than the general area outside the home, the government says clean-up is being considered although no adverse health effects are expected. (JAIF)
  • The Fukushima Office for Environmental Restoration is the government's center for Fukushima decontamination work. Nuclear Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono has announced there will be five branch offices in Fukushima Prefecture, in addition to the central office in Fukushima City, to coordinate decontamination efforts across the area. The total number of persons working between the six locations will be about 200. Hosono added the actual work could begin as early as March, but could be delayed due to local opposition with plans for establishing a waste storage center in Futaba, adjacent to Fukushima Daiichi. (NHK World)
  • A full, catastrophic meltdown could occur at the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Station (NPS) if it suffers a Fukushima-level blackout for three days. The estimate, supplied by the NPS’s owner Chubu Electric Power Company, has been drawn up to expedite local nuclear emergency drills and facilitate the efforts of local officials and emergency teams within the 30km radius. Chubu Electric also estimates that the spent fuel storage pools would take 25 days to dry out and potentially have all stored fuel cells melt. The NPS, which has five nuclear power plants, has been shut down since May by then-P.M. Naoto Kan due to his fears of a severe earthquake in the area sometime in the next 30 years. Kan also feared units 1 and 2 were too old, more than 40 years, to be trusted if such an earthquake happened. At Kan’s insistence, Chubu Electric agreed to decommission both nuclear plants. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • The government’s working group on risk with respect to low-dose exposures has reported on their findings. They conclude that (1) a 20 millisievert annual exposure is justifiable when compared to other cancer-causing factors found in daily life, (2) it is appropriate to set separate safety measures for children due to the assumption that they have a greater cancer risk, and (3) risk communication is necessary for the sake of the public so that radiological activities can be made with the participation of residents. With respect to children, decontamination should bring their annual exposure levels to one millisievert or less. The group recommends that evacuation orders should not be lifted until schools and play areas meet the one millisievert standard. In addition, food restrictions for children should be less than those for adults. Finally, the group says the goal should be set to make Fukushima Prefecture the lowest cancer mortality rate location in all of Japan. (JAIF)
  • The Tokyo Occupational Safety and Health Center believes nuclear worker’s exposures in both work and personal life experiences should be totaled together. Center secretariat worker Katsuyasu Iida says, "No matter where they are exposed to radiation, it's the same thing for an individual." Currently, the Health Ministry only records on-the-job exposure histories because the situations and measurement methods differ greatly from every-day life. On the job, workers exposures are constantly measured using individual dosimeters. Off the job, exposures are estimated. Iita maintains that workers' total radiation doses "should be strictly controlled by adding up doses received when they are not at work." (Mainichi Shimbun) If this happens, Japan will be the only country in the world to do such a thing and potentially bring natural background exposures into the “detectable is dangerous” notion that has engulfed Japan.


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