Fukushima 46...1/9/13-1/21/13

January 25

(For today's Commentary - Chernobyl Wildlife Thriving: It’s Possible Impact on Japan (or not?) - click on the "Fukushima Commentary" listing in the left-hand colmn of this page.)

  • The politically-embattled mayor of Futaba Town, adjacent to the Fukushima Daiichi station, has decided to resign. Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa announced his intent at the town’s Municipal Assembly on Jan. 23. "I felt I wasn't gaining understanding during resident hearings and on other occasions. I was also targeted with no-confidence motions three times," Idogawa said. He believed a storage facility in Futaba will make it impossible to repopulate the town due to radiation fears, but the town assembly disagrees. Idogawa also feels the municipality’s cooperation with Tokyo is being done too quickly, stating, "Because the former administration was pressing forward with the issue in a hasty manner, I wanted to put my life on the line to block the move. The new administration is going to proceed with the issue while listening to dialogue.” The town assembly has been meeting in-abstentia in Saitama Prefecture near Tokyo, but they have been lobbying strongly to return to Fukushima Prefecture. Idogawa has been against this from the start. A Few Futaba refuges agree with the mayor. One, Taeko Yokoyama, said she has been a staunch Idogawa supporter and is saddened by the news, "We town residents have been left without any explanations (about the storage facility). We are always forced to reluctantly concede. Is it right to mindlessly follow the central government? Mr. Idogawa was always on the side of town residents. I wanted him to hold out and continue.” Idogawa is the first mayor from the Fukushima evacuation zone to have resigned. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The first of several lawsuits relative to the Fukushima accident is being heard. Two executives from Tepco’s home office, former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former president Masataka Shimizu, have been brought in to testify in Tokyo. The suit was filed last year by citizens from Tokyo and Fukushima who said they wanted the two Tepco leaders and 38 others prosecuted for what the citizens feel were illegal acts. The Tepco officials and 38 others are accused of professional negligence and believed to be criminally responsible for the accident. Many legal experts admit it will be difficult to hold individuals legally accountable for an industrial accident spawned by a natural disaster beyond anyone’s expectations. The prosecutors need to prove the earthquake and tsunami were predictable, show that the accident caused actual health impacts due to the radiological releases and caused the premature deaths of those who were lost during the evacuation. Actual criminal charges have not been filed, but if sufficient culpability is established the charges will ensue. If guilty of criminal negligence, a person can be sent to jail for up to 5 years and be fined for over $100,000. (NHK World; Japan Today)
  • Another proposed new nuclear regulation has been released. The Nuclear Regulatory Authority will require nukes to be “terror-proofed”. NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka says the plants must be able to survive a direct hit from a hijacked jetliner, such as the World Trade Center scenario of 9/11/01. Tanaka believes “Japan will have the world’s toughest standards in terms of earthquakes and tsunami.” The Authority wants nuclear plants to also prepare for “external human-caused events” including “flying objects such as falling planes, the collapse of a dam, explosions, fire at nearby plants, toxic gas, a ship crashing into a facility and the interruption of communication systems.” The NRA says that the new safety regulations will mirror America’s standards for the first time in the history of Japan’s nuclear program. (Japan Today)
  • Another geologic anomaly has been identified as being possibly seismic. The new anomaly of concern runs under the Tepco's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear station in Niigata Prefecture. An anomaly that has been known for decades to have not moved within the current 120,000 year criteria for defining seismicity, may have moved 240,000 years ago. The proposed 400,000-year-movement criteria could potentially impact the station’s operation, if it is judged as seismic. There are several suspect seams in the bedrock underlying the nuke station, but the one named “beta” might fail the new criteria. It runs under units #1&2 of the seven unit station. The anomaly contains volcanic ash dating back 240,000 years, indicating the possibility of the seam moving at that time. Tepco made the discovery and now the NRA’s team of seismic experts must look at the data and try to decide whether or not the anomaly is actually a seismic seam. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Nine industrial groups in Japan have called on the Tokyo government for swift restarts of Japan’s currently-idled nukes. The nine include the Japan Iron and Steel Federation and the Japan Mining Industry Association. Their petition was jointly submitted to the Industry Ministry. It says that prolonged restarts will effect a “hollowing out of the Japanese economy” due to increased electricity costs. Since their group’s member companies consume vast amounts of electricity, many will find it “extremely difficult to continue business in Japan.” In a closely related announcement, the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan (IEEJ) said,“It is important to steadily restart those nuclear power stations that are shown to be safe by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.” If only half of the 50 currently-idled nukes were restarted, Japan’s energy crunch, and its severe impact on the economy, would be effectively eliminated. One IEEJ associate, Nobuo Tanaka, warned recently that the country faces potential economic catastrophe if it does not return to nuclear. Japan has doubled its fossil fuel imports due to the nuclear moratorium, increasing the fuel costs of electricity by nearly $35 billion per year. Tom O'Sullivan, a Tokyo-based energy consultant said, "It is unlikely that any of the idled reactors will re-start prior to September due to ongoing investigations of seismic issues at certain plants and due to the fact that safety standards have still not been finalized by the Nuclear Regulation Authority." Will that be soon enough for the IEEJ? (Kyodo News Service; Japan Daily Press; Reuters)
  • Tepco says they will eventually release fully decontaminated F. Daiichi waters to the sea. The company says this will not be done until the isotopic concentrations of all radionuclides are below legal limits. The volume of the low-level decontaminated waters now in storage at F. Daiichi threatens to become unmanageable as long as 400 tons per day of groundwater flow into the turbine building basements. Until the groundwater problem is resolved, the volume of low level radioactive water build-up will continue. Tepco has been adding large storage tanks to the plant site for more than a year, but they will eventually run out of space on their property. The company plans on running the low level decontaminated water through a new filtration facility that will remove the trace amounts of about 60 isotopes that remain in solution. The currently operating decon system is highly effective in capturing Cesium-134 and 137, but less efficient with many other isotopes. After the secondary filtration occurs, the waters will still not be released because of detectible levels of Tritium, a naturally-occurring isotope of Hydrogen. This will also have to be removed to meet Japan’s unwieldy radiation standards. (Kyodo News Service; Japan Times)
  • A new feature-length documentary on nuclear energy issues is creating considerable interest at the Sundance Film Festival. “Pandora’s Promise” focuses on a new breed of scientists and environmentalists who were once ardent foes of nuclear power, but now think there is no better option. An openly antinuclear writer for Slate saw the movie and…read what he says for yourself… http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2013/01/24/pandora_s_promise_review_nuclear_power_documentary_is_persuasive_and_timely.html


January 23

Condolences and prayers to the families and friends of those in Japan who lost loved ones in the Algerian terrorist carnage. May those lost rest in peace. May those responsible for this outrage be punished.

  • Several more of Japan’s proposed new nuclear regulations have been revealed, in addition to those posted in the two previous Fukushima updates. (1) Currently installed emergency cooling systems that inject water into the reactor vessel must also have a flow pathway into the primary containment surrounding the reactor. The new pathway is intended to cool molten material which might melt through the reactor vessel’s bottom head and accumulate on the concrete floor of the containment structure. This specific proposal is based on Tepco’s continuing insistence that at least some of the melted fuel for units #1&3 left the reactor vessels and sits on their containment’s floor. (2) Capabilities for emergency electrical supplies should be sufficient to last for at least one week without outside assistance. This is based on the seven day period between 3/11/11 and the Fukushima Daiichi station being re-electrified from the region’s restored transmission system using a make-shift one kilometer cable. This requirement might be extended because of NRA concerns of a worse earthquake than 3/11/11 which might make the electrical isolation of a nuclear facility last for more than a week. (3) All nukes built before 1975 must remove their electrical wiring and replace it with material that is totally fire retardant. Pre-1975 plants used wiring with three coatings: insulation around the wire itself, a standard cable covering, and an outer fire retardant coating. The inner two coatings are not fire-retardant. The nukes will have to replace existent wiring with fully-fire-retardant material. Since there are several thousand kilometers of pre-1975 wiring in each plant, the replacement process would be costly and time-consuming. Nuclear critics in Japan say this would extend the delays for restart to the point that all of the affected units would be over forty years old, so the utilities should just scrap them and be done with it. The fire-resistance issue could impact as many as 13 Japanese nukes. (4) Upgraded earthquake and tsunami requirements. The NRA wants the time-factor of seismic movement extended from 120,000 to 400,000 years. With respect to tsunamis, all future nuclear plant buildings should be protected against the worst calculable tsunami wave height, and the rooms housing emergency power sources must be waterproofed. At the end of January, the draft NRA proposals will be opened to Japan’s utility companies and the public for discussion. It promises to be a heated debate. (Yomiuri Shimbun; ASSystem News Letter; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The Secretariat of the NRA has committed to training a panel of experts to follow the progression of a nuclear accident and provide informed advice on how to deal with various situations. The panel will subsequently train nuclear plant inspectors in emergency situations and their mitigation. If another nuke accident happens, at least two NRA commissioners would head a team of about 10 experts who might anticipate how the accident could evolve, and project worst-case scenarios based on the dynamics specific to the plant site and its technology. Yotaro Hatamura, professor at University of Tokyo, said that neither the government nor TEPCO had experts trained in predicting how accidents could unfold with F. Daiichi. Each plant site’s operating record and maintenance history will be gathered, and copies of each plant’s blueprints will be kept on file by the NRA in case an accident happens. One of the problems with the government’s Fukushima Daiichi support effort was a lack of up-to-date data on the nuclear station and blueprints in Tokyo. The Secretariat is a formal Cabinet Office responsible for Crisis Management. (Japan Times; Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The NRA says that when the two Nukes at Oi station end their 13 months of operation, they will not be allowed to restart until they meet all the new regulations to be unveiled in July. The 13 month operating period for both units ends in August. The NRA announcement confirms that Oi units #3&4 will be subject to the same restart criteria as all currently-idled nukes. (NHK World)
  • While not technically a Fukushima-related topic, it should be noted that the trial production of glassified, reprocessed high-level nuclear waste has begun at Rokkasho, Japan. The separation of the nuclear waste atoms from the good fuel, and the waste product’s handling, is critical to the recycling of spent fuel. 95% of a spent fuel bundle can be reclaimed and re-used. The Japanese news media has posted numerous negative articles concerning the Rokkasho reprocessing facility since 3/11/11, giving the distinct impression that Rokkasho hasn’t worked and it never will. However, this piece of “good news” seems to have been intentionally ignored – but, not here! The following has been posted by the World Nuclear Association… http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Trial_operation_of_Rokkasho_furnace-2101135.html

January 21

  • The Nuclear Regulatory Authority has drafted a proposed outline for new nuclear safety regulations. The previously announced filtered exhaust vents and remote-operated emergency control rooms would be mandated. In addition, a high-volume water injection system is being considered which would be located in a separate building from the reactor and turbine buildings for each unit, an increase in the number of emergency power generators intended to prevent full station blackouts and new earthquake/tsunami criteria. The remote-operated facilities are intended to keep the reactor fuel cells safe in the event that the main control rooms need to be evacuated due to high radiation levels or otherwise become inoperable. In addition to the prevention of another Fukushima-like situation, the NRA is also considered terrorist attacks and aircraft crashes as the potential accident precursors. None of these types of accidents have been previously considered for nuclear safety prevention in Japan. Some of the new regulations might cause major renovations that could delay restarts for months, if not years - especially for Japan’s 26 boiling water reactor plants. The NRA presented the outline to a panel of experts who will review it for technical merit. The watchdog hopes to have the final draft completed by the end of the month so that the period of public review can begin in a timely fashion. The NRA says they are still on schedule for finalizing and enacting the new regulations by July. Unlike the Japanese process prior to 3/11/11 when it was essentially up to the utility companies to decide what safety measures to implement, the new system will make regulatory compliance mandatory. (NHK World; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Japanese nuclear utilities are disagreeing with part of the proposed boiling water reactor vent filtering requirement. The NRA proposes that boiling water reactors should have more than one filtered depressurization vent for each unit. The utilities argue that one filtered depressurization flow-path is sufficient to ensure “high reliability”, and installing more than one will be of “little help” in improving dependability. (Kyodo News)
  • A type of rockfish called “murasoi” was caught inside the break-wall at Fukushima Daiichi with a Cesium concentration 2,500 times Japan’s legal limit. The analysis showed 254,000 Becquerels per kilogram, which is much greater than the 100 Bq/kg limit. The species is found off the coast of northern Japan in kelp beds and reefs where they feed on smaller fish and crustaceans. Because the murasoi is relatively high on the food chain, it naturally concentrates any contaminants contained in the fish and crustaceans it eats. The small port adjacent to the F. Daiichi station has been blocked with silt dams to prevent any leakage from the plant getting into the open sea. While it is likely that the caught fish’s extremely high Cesium level is due to it being trapped inside the port, it is unknown whether or not the species will be banned from the fishing business elsewhere. (Japan Today)
  • Some of the subcontractors involved with Fukushima area decontamination may have failed to pay their workers properly in order to increase profits. Many workers receive a daily wage, but those in areas of higher radiation levels are supposed to receive an additional $100 per day “risk allowance” plus free room and board. Two subcontractors in Tamura City should have given some of their people the risk allowance, but haven’t. Their employee said there was no mention of the special pay when they were hired. Late last year, the workers were given new contracts which included the risk allowance, but their rooms and meals were deducted. Instead of $110 per day, they actually netted $67/day. Despite the subcontractors being able to rent living quarters from the government at low rates, or in some cases for free, the two in question placed as many as five workers in each residence and deducted the living allowance the same as for one per residence. The subcontractors were collecting up to $200 per week in room allowance for residences rented from the government for $50 per week, or much less. Since the money used to pay the men is government tax revenue, all of it should be paid to the workers without deductions for room and board. A public relations officer for a prime contractor said, “In the past, there were instances of danger pay not being properly turned over to workers; however, we are repeatedly informing subcontractors of the need to do so. Regarding labor contracts and other matters, we are providing individual guidance (to the subcontractors) to help ensure contracts are based on law.” (NHK World; Japan Today)

January 18

Commentary – New Tokyo Regime Should Rethink Radiation Limits - click on "Fukushima Commentary" in the left-hand colum's menu.)

  • The Nuclear Regulatory Authority says no Japanese Boiling Water Reactors can be restarted until they install filters on their “vent” exhausts. The “vent” is a system that relieves excessive pressure from the containment structure surrounding the reactor during a nuclear accident, exhausting radioactive steam and reactor-produced gasses into the atmosphere through tall stacks. Of the 50 operable Japanese nukes, 26 are BWRs and 24 are PWRs. Only the BWRs are affected by the ruling. The existing venting systems do not have filtering technology to strip radioactive contaminants from the exhaust stream. "Without this (filtering systems), reactors will not reach the level" to be allowed to operate, said Toyoshi Fuketa, a commissioner of the NRA. (Kyodo News Service) Fuketa also says the probability of Japan’s 26 boiling water reactors restarting this year is effectively zero because installing depressurization filters could take years. He admitted that the vent filtering issue is much less important for Japan’s 24 pressurized water reactors because of their massive domed containment’s being much more forgiving than the light-bulb shaped containments around the BWRs. Fuketa believes that some companies will apply to restart “a few reactors”, all PWRs, as soon as the new regulations are in place this coming summer. Two possible NRA changes that could impact both BWRs and PWRs are (a) setting up a “second control room” apart from the main reactor buildings for emergency remote control and (b) dis-allowing operation for nukes more than 40 years old that have had past performance issues which indicate they have been worn out. Nukes that cannot meet the new standards will be decommissioned, said Fuketa, "We will show no leniency in that respect." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The continuing lack of NRA consensus over the Oi nuke’s geologic anomaly continues to make headlines. Until a consensus can be reached, Japan’s only two operating nuclear plants will continue to function. There are two panel members who agree on the non-seismic landslide answer, and two who don’t. One panelist, Ritsumeikan University professor Atsumasa Okada, says the issue will not be resolved until the panel brings in an expert on fault fracture zones because none of them are proficient in that subject. During their meeting this week, panel head Kunihiko Shimazaki pressured the members to come to a conclusion because there are many other nukes with suspect anomalies that need to be addressed. After the four hour meeting, Shimazaki said, "I want (the panel) to further consider the issue because I don't think safety matters have become completely clear." The group will meet in February to consider what Kansai Electric’s expansion of the investigation’s trench might show, and if any new data might break the deadlock. (Japan Daily Press; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • An American congressional committee has asked the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to re-think their numerous regulations specific to the Fukushima accident. Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have written an open letter to the NRC asking the agency to move carefully. The letter highlights the significant number of differences between Japan’s regulatory system and ours, and these differences resulted in having safety features on America’s nukes which do not exist on Japan’s. Changes for the sake of change-itself, would be wrong. “It is the nature of any regulatory body to issue regulations, and the NRC is no exception,” the letter states. “However, more regulation is not always safer – sometimes it’s just ‘more’.” (Penn Energy newsletter)
  • The Environment Ministry says more than half of the reports of shoddy Fukushima decontamination practices are unfounded. Officials said on Thursday that only five of the nineteen suspected cases were in factually valid. Fourteen cases could not be confirmed to have inappropriate practices. Because of the five confirmed instances, the ministry decided to increase the number of people monitoring the decontamination efforts four-fold. There will now be 200 inspectors instead of ~50. The ministry also emphasized that the importance of citizens continuing to submit their suspicions. Any future confirmations of shoddy decontamination practices will result in the suspension of the involved contracts. (NHK World)

January 16

  • The public approval rating for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to be rising. In parallel, public opinion on nuclear energy policy has improved since Abe took office. Abe’s overall rating is 68% positive, largely due to his firm, encouraging economic policies intended to curb Japan’s current recession and his promises to rehabilitate the tsunami-ravaged Tohoku region. With respect to nuclear restarts, the public is essentially split with 44% in favor and 46% opposed. This should be compared to the numerous opinion polls prior to the December election that showed 70% of the public opposed to restarts. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • A new poll run by NHK World shows considerable support PM Abe’s plan to review the no-nukes policy of Tokyo’s previous regime. In a telephone survey of more than 1,100 people, NHK found 43% support the policy review, 21 percent are opposed, and 30% undecided. The number of favorable responses thus doubles the number of unfavorable. In addition, when asked what the most pressing problem in Japan is, 38% said it was the economy, 18% chose tsunami/earthquake recovery, 15% selected social security reform, and energy policy came in fourth at 10%.
  • Construction of the enclosure for the removal of the spent fuel bundles from Fukushima Daiichi unit #4 is progressing smoothly. The first layer of the large steel framing has been installed and work on the next layer is in process. Tepco has posted an excellent page on the milestone, including a picture of the first layer and an accompanying graphic of what the structure will look like when completed… http://www.tepco.co.jp//en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2013/images/handouts_130115_01-e.pdf In order to get an idea of scale, find the man standing on the left-hand side of the first layer’s picture. (Tepco News Releases)
  • The Nuclear Regulatory Authority has decided to broaden the time-span used for the definition of active earthquake faults. Up until now, the time-frame for slippage or movement along a fault has been 130,000 years. The new guideline proposed by the NRA’s expert team calls for a 400,000 year span. The proposal says “the activity of faults as early as approximately 400,000 years ago should be assessed." The NRA’s draft supports a 2010 report made by Japan’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research. NRA commissioner Kunihiko Shimazaki says, “In some cases, assessing whether faults on the premises of nuclear plants are active have been prolonged. Pointless discussions will disappear if the definition is reviewed." The proposal also proposed the deletion of the phrase "Reactor buildings can be built above active faults as long as they do not pose a serious threat to the facilities' safety," from the existing regulations. Shimazaki says no existing methodology is in place for assessing how such faults would affect the safety of nuclear plants, thus the phrase should be removed. However, the expert team says they will incorporate the introduction of quake and tsunami risk assessments on nukes in their final report at the end of the month. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The fisheries along the coastline of Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures are gradually recovering from the impact of the 3/11/11 tsunami. However, it will be a long time before they are back to full capacity. The four major fishing ports in Miyagi--Ishinomaki, Kesennuma, Onagawa and Shiogama—say their haul for 2012 was about 168,000 tons. This is just a bit more than half of the 313,000 tons in 2010. The recovery has been slow due to rebuilding their fish-processing facilities. The volume of catches has out-stripped the capacity to process the fish for market. In Ishinomaki, only about 70 of the 200 pre-3/11/11 processing facilities are operating. The bans on certain kinds of fish due to Fukushima contamination are hurting the fishermen. Dragnet fisherman Yoshimi Ankai says the reconstruction of processing facilities has helped his trade, but some contamination bans continue to hurt, "It's a great step forward that I'm now able to fish, but my catches are about half of what they were before the disaster.” But, "Each time I fish, I have to throw back fish worth about 500,000 yen." Iwate fishing companies experience a similar recovery status. Their total was 112,500 tons in 2010, but last year it was only about 88,000 tons. In 2011, Iwate totaled 63,000 tons. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Japan’s Health Ministry wants all workers at contaminated waste disposal sites to be monitored for internal and external radiation exposure. Current regulations do not cover radiation monitoring for this class of employment. Under the proposed regulatory revision, staff at temporary and permanent sites will wear dosimeters for external exposure and take regular whole body examinations for internal dose. The rule will be applied to any site handling contaminated wastes with a radioactive content of more than 10,000 Becquerels per kilogram. The ministry says the new rule should take effect in July, concurrent with the NRA’s time-table for new nuclear safety regulations. (NHK World)
  • Toshiba is developing a small nuclear reactor to be used in mining Canadian tar sands for fossil fuels. Their goal is to have the first one in operation by 2020. The reactor will be in the ten to fifty Megawatt range. Steam produced by the system will be used to heat the underground geology, some 300 meters deep, and produce oil sand slurries that can be pumped to the surface for the extraction of the petroleum-based fuels. In the interest of safety, the entire system will be located underground and built to exceed local earthquake criteria. Toshiba is currently negotiating with the United States for selling the system in America. Currently, Canadian tar sand mining uses natural-gas boilers to make the steam, but the gas costs have been considerable. On the other hand, the Toshiba reactor will be fueled once every 30 years, at a far lower cost. Plus, Carbon Dioxide emissions from gas boiler’s will no longer be the case. In addition to tar sand utilization, the reactor system can be used for desalination of seawater and the high volume production of hydrogen from the electrolysis of fresh water. Last year, nuclear projects around the world accounted for 10% of Toshiba’s income. Currently they are involved in four nuke construction projects in China, four in the United States, and the building of the Oma and Higashidori plants in Japan. They have also submitted bids for one plant in Finland and two in the Czech Republic. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

January 14

  • Japan’s tsunami debris disposal is way behind schedule, and the residues in Fukushima Prefecture have had the least attention. Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures had set a goal of 50% disposal by this coming March, but only 24% in Iwate and 31% in Miyagi have actually been handled. Fukushima disposal stands at a mere 12%, largely due to fears of radiation voiced by politically active local residents. Part of the problem is that the total amount of the tsunami remains has been underestimated. Up to now, the three prefectures were believed to have 22 million tons, but the revised numbers are more like 30 million. It is increasingly unlikely that Tokyo’s goal of total tsunami debris clean-up by March, 2014, will be met. Another problem is the time it takes to sort the rubble between burnable and non-burnable, plus the separation of metals because some are considered toxic. A third issue is the limited amount of land available for burial of the non-burnable, non-toxic debris, largely because many other prefectures fear the material might be detectibly radioactive. The 22-month level of tsunami waste handling can be compared to the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake which had 90% disposal after 22 months. The 1995 quake killed more than 6,400 people and destroyed more than 150,000 buildings in the Kobe metropolitan area, so the comparison to the current Fukushima disposal situation makes sense. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • On Saturday, PM Shinzo Abe visited Miyagi Prefecture to inspect the status of tsunami reconstruction efforts. Miyagi was probably the most impacted prefecture on 3/11/11 and had the most tsunami debris estimated at about 18 million tons. Abe inspected a destroyed coastal shipbuilding facility, a seafood processing plant, and a temporary housing complex, including one under construction. Abe spent the most time in Iwanuma City, which was devastated and lost about 200 lives in the flooding. Mayor Tsuneaki Iguchi told the PM that because six of the city’s communities were completely washed away, the construction of temporary housing is on high ground to avoid a repeat of the 2011 disaster. The mayor stressed that residents are making their own decisions about whether or not to accept the temporary housing. Some say they plan on rebuilding where their former homes stood. Abe also met with several Iwanuma tsunami refugees and said he took what they said very seriously. Later in the day he visited Watari Town and inspected the temporary housing complex where about 1,500 refugees reside. Again, he spoke with some residents to get their perspective. One told him that many farmers lost everything on 3/11/11 and they are trying their best to recover. While in Watari, Abe bought some locally grown strawberries, eating a few and commenting on their good flavor. At the end of the day, Abe said he feels his regime can speed up recovery now that the budget limitations of the old government have been discarded. (NHK World; Japan Times)
  • While Abe was in Miyagi Prefecture, the Tokyo government added another 22 billion dollars to the new reconstruction budget. The post-disaster fund allocation was $213 billion, of which $191 billion has already been spent. Much of the past expenditures were discovered to have been siphoned off for projects outside the scope of Tohoku reconstruction. The increased funding is intended to come out of the provisional tax increase started just after the New Year. Any shortfall is planned to be made up by selling stock shares owned by the government. (NHK World)
  • Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority has drafted an outline for the prevention of severe nuclear accidents due to earthquakes, tsunamis and aircraft crashes. A major change concerns new facilities to be located apart from the reactor building to control emergency cooling operations if the main control room is unusable due to terrorism, natural disaster, or excessive radiation levels. The new structures are called “specific safety facilities”. Another change is the requirement to have a filtered venting system for relieving excessive pressure build-up inside the reactor and/or its surrounding containment structure. Since 3/11/11, mobile electric generators and water-pumping vehicles have been stationed near all of Japan’s nukes, but the new guideline calls for them to be housed at each site permanently. If this proposal becomes part of the final regulatory package planned for this July, it would require the new facilities be completed before a nuke will be allowed to restart. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The NRA has also proposed construction of emergency public shelters for people living within 5km of nukes but would have geographic problems with leaving the area quickly. Five nuclear stations are located on peninsulas with many residents living on the tip, beyond the nuclear station. The NRA plans to refit school gymnasiums and assisted-living facilities for use as the shelters. The locations will be upgraded to an air-tight condition so that the inside can be slightly pressurized above atmospheric. All ventilation systems will have high-efficiency filters installed. Air showers will also be built to remove radioactive dust from evacuees. The five affected locations in are Miyagi, Shizuoka, Fukui, Ehime and Saga Prefetures. (NHK World)
  • Tepco has released more teleconference footage covering the first weeks of the Fukushima crisis. By March 16, 2011, the Fukushima staff’s frantic efforts over the previous five days had resulted in them being very exhausted. There were about 180 employees being rotated in 70-person shifts working on several projects which included providing a steady supply of electricity into the power complex by splicing a mile-long cable into a functional off-site transmission station, maintaining cooling water flow through the reactors and having water sprayed into the exposed spent fuel pools of units #1, 3 and 4. These efforts occupied all available workers. Plant Manager Masao Yoshida had been pleading with Tepco’s home office in Tokyo to send more workers to the facility, but to no avail. On March 17, Yoshida asked headquarters to realize the number of workers at F. Daiichi was limited and there weren’t enough to perform additional tasks the home office wanted addressed. Regardless, Tepco/Tokyo told Yoshida to use some of his people as drivers to bring in more repair parts and equipment to repair flooded pumps and re-energize switchboards. Yoshida responded, “Don’t expect extra workers from the plant.” On March 18, a frustrated Yoshida reported that he was starting to lose available staff because some had reached their limit for radiation exposure, "I can no longer force my employees to continue working." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The antinuclear political parties that suffered a crushing defeat with the December national election are trying to understand why they lost. They won’t admit that their unpopularity might have been because they did not represent the will of the people. Instead, they believe that other factors led to their demise. One of the defeated candidates, Yasuko Maruko, says, "In the end, we were in a minority. To garner broader support, we need to be better prepared, such as by creating slogans that are easier to understand. Campaigning in a national election is in a different league from citizens' movements." A December 22 meeting to discuss the defeat had promotional flyers saying "Are demonstrations useless?" and "Are rallies futile efforts?" The forum drew about fifty people. One panelist, Yasumichi Noma, feels the antinuclear cause was too new to the greater population, so they didn’t understand what was being presented. Noma stressed that convincing just a few politicians is very different from reaching out to voters. "There are many people who must have felt that demonstrations can change politics," Noma pointed out, "As a means of expressing our will outside elections, we just need to patiently continue with them." Another speaker, Etuso Izawa, said "Although I was disappointed by the result, I expect that everyone will carefully think about the problems of nuclear power generation before casting their ballots in the House of Councilors election" in the summer. (Japan Times)
  • Yesterday, blogging colleague Rod Adams of Atomic Insights held a podcast with esteemed radiation experts Dr. Jerry Cutler and Dr. A. David Rosen. They covered the biological effects of radiation and how regulatory limits around the world are based on non-scientific assumptions. They focused on the situation in Japan where unreasonable radiation exposure limits and public fear of radiation have caused significant negative health effects which should never have happened. Here’s the link to the article and podcast… http://atomicinsights.com/2013/01/atomic-show-195-health-effects-of-low-level-radiation.html#more-13220

The 139th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers has been posted at the Yes Vermont Yankee website. After a relatively quiet blogging activity during the recent holidays, the nuclear writers have come roaring back with a large body of work. Yes Vermont Yankee operator Meredith Angwin has divided the submitted blogs in three categories: Radiation, Nuclear Energy and Politics. Please click the following link and check it all out… http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2013/01/139th-carnival-of-nuclear-energy.html

January 11

  • Fukushima internal radiation exposures are declining. More than 20,000 examinations have been given to Minamisoma residents since the Fukushima Daiichi accident. This is about 50% of the population now living within the community. None of the results in 2012 show levels that would exceed the government’s 1 millisievert per year limit. With adults, 92% of the 7,000 examinations since April 1, 2012, have no detectible levels of radioactive Cesium. This can be compared with the examinations between Sept. 2011 and March 2012, where 67% showed nothing measurable. In addition, 99.9% of the nearly 1.700 children examined since April, 2012, also show no detectible Cesium. The lowest level the detectors can measure is about 4 Bq/kg. The highest single exposure measured in adults was 141 Becquerels per kilogram, and one child topped out at 26 Bq/kg. Both translate to well below the 1 mSv/yr standard. The three adults who measured at over 50 Bq/kg say they regularly eat wild mushrooms they find in the area. Dr. Masaharu Tsubokura makes many of the examinations. He says that as the number of detectibly contaminated persons goes down, the number of people who come in for their free examinations also decreases. He attributes this to the general decrease in radiation fears since the Fukushima accident happened. He said, “I'm surprised to see such a dramatic loss of interest in just about a year and a half." Considering the chaotic, near-hysteric public condition soon after the nuke crisis began, Tsubokura feels the current situation is remarkable. He suggests many feel they initially over-reacted, “To be honest, local people have almost no worries (about radiation exposure because of eating contaminated food) these days. . . . They are satisfied with their results from last year (where many were below detectable levels).” He adds that there are a small number of people who may feel they are being used as guinea pigs, so they never came in for check-ups. Others not taking advantage of the free examination probably felt there was little to worry about given the small levels of contamination outside the part of the town that was not evacuated. Tsubokura has been running the tests since May, 2011. (Japan Times)
  • The Tokyo Cabinet Office wants to upgrade medical facilities within 5 kilometers of Japan’s nukes to avoid evacuating patients in the event of a nuclear accident. Due to inadequate sheltering technology at hospitals and care centers in the Fukushima evacuation zone, thousands of patients and infirmed elderly people were ordered by the government to be moved as quickly as possible. Dozens died in the process due to the stress of being moved, and some were left unattended because their care-givers fled and left them behind. About $140 million will be allocated out of Tokyo’s budget expansion to pay for the upgrades. Buildings will be fitted with air-tight doors and windows, as well as filtering technology on their ventilation systems, to keep the internal air free of airborne radio-isotopes. Schools located within 5 km will also be retrofitted. When completed, the upgrades will make it possible to keep those in medical and care facilities from being evacuated, and remain in a risk-free environment. (Yomiuri Shimbun; Japan Daily Press)
  • Nearly a billion dollars from the budget expansion will be used to build a modern radiological research center in Fukushima Prefecture. It is intended to be an international hub for radiation studies. The center will provide hundreds of new jobs which will assist in the Prefecture’s recovery from the 3/11/11 quake/tsunami catastrophe. The budget expansion approved today designates "recovery from the nuclear disaster" and related "support for research and development in the private sector" as priority issues. The project will be overseen by the industry-independent Japan Atomic Energy Agency. The facility will focus on analyzing radioactive waste and study methods for the processing and storing the material. Research for safe decommissioning of reactors will also be conducted, as well as methods for effectively collecting rare metals from radioactive debris. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has ordered his Cabinet to focus heavily on quake/tsunami reconstruction. At Thursday’s post-disaster reconstruction meeting, Abe said, "I want you all to make all-out efforts to create a new Tohoku." Reconstruction minister Takumi Nemoto detailed the current state of recovery and presented issues that need to be addressed, stressing the necessity to strengthen the Reconstruction Agency. Under the old government, the task force was directed to focus on getting Fukushima accident refugees back home. Now, they will also stress building temporary towns for evacuees until they are allowed to repopulate their home communities. They will also accelerate construction of emergency residences for the 250,000 tsunami refugees now residing in temporary housing. The former Tokyo regime promised 23,000 such multi-dwellings, but only 30 have been constructed over the past 18 months. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Survivors of the 3/11/11 tsunami have begun teach-ins concerning their disaster experiences. The first was held today in Yamada Town, Iwate Prefecture. One speaker, Himeko Okawa, told the small audience of 18 people about the shock she felt watching the black water swamp anti-tsunami breakwaters and sweep away farming rafts weighing several tons. She explained how she felt when her husband was seriously injured because he went to check on their boat. Okawa said the people along the Tohoku coast must never forget that huge tsunamis are possible after big earthquakes. She wants people who were not impacted by the Tsunami to understand what those harmed by the event went through. One woman in the audience said the tsunami refugees must not be forgotten. (NHK World)
  • Rice from Miyagi Prefecture has been found to contain more than double the national limit for radioactive Cesium. Rice from one farm has 240 Becquerels per kilogram, which is above the mandated 100 Bq/kg maximum. The prefectural government has asked that all farms in the surrounding region have all rice tested before shipment. There had been spot checks on rice shipped from Miyagi ever since the Fukushima accident, but there was no cause for alarm because there had been no previous above-standard results. This is the first time Miyagi rice has been analyzed above the limit. It should be noted that Japan’s standard for foodstuffs is 10 times lower than the international limit recommended by the IAEA. (Japan Today)
  • Tokyo Electric Company will install filtration devices on the “vents” of their nuclear plant containments. During an accident, if pressure inside the massive containment structure around the reactor gets too high, the gasses and steam are released to the outer atmosphere through tall stacks (chimneys) more than 100 meters high. The filtration units will scrub radioactive materials from the exhaust stream before it enters the stack. The device is a water tank 4 meters long and 8 meters high. Since the vast majority of the radioactive materials that can come out of the containment are soluble Iodine and Cesium, the water will reduce the concentrations by at least a factor of 1,000. The first one will be installed on the Kashiwazaki unit #7, Niigata Prefecture, next week. Tepco says they will put the filtration tanks on all of their nuclear units. It is believed the Nuclear Regulatory Authority will make exhaust filtering mandatory for all Japanese nukes, and a condition for restarting them. (NHK World)

January 9

  • Due to local complaints of illegal decontaminated waste disposal, the Ministry of the Environment is beefing up its examinations of the work in Fukushima communities. The Ministry found that two contractors working in Nahara and Iitate have improperly discarded leaves, tree limbs, and water used to wash down contaminated surfaces. Both contractors have admitted that supervisors in the field had condoned these practices. The ministry investigation is on-going. On Monday, the ministry set up a headquarters for promoting appropriate decontamination practices. Previously, only 10 zones were being watched at any given time, with the areas monitored being rotated. Now, all zones will be inspected on a regular basis. The Ministry will also review its complaint processing system because numerous grievances in the past went unaddressed. Senior Environment Vice Minister Shinji Inoue inspected the Tamura City and Nahara Town decontamination projects this morning. In Tamura, Inoue looked at the sites where leaves and soil are believed to have been illegally dumped. In Nahara, he was approached by local residents who asked him to make sure the rules are followed. Inoue will issue a report on the results of his inspections at some future date. (Mainichi Shimbun; Japan Today; NHK World)
  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has announced a $136 billion budget expansion designed to both stimulate Japan’s shaky economy and speed up 3/11/11 tsunami and earthquake reconstruction. Abe said that his regime need not follow the $500 billion cap on new debt invoked by the previous government under the Democratic Party of Japan. More than a third of the new spending will be on public works; programs to increase investment struggling from dwindling exports, improve energy efficiency, offset power shortages caused by the nuclear moratorium, make roads more quake-resistant, and accelerate tsunami recovery and reconstruction projects. Nearly $23 billion is ear-marked for grants to local governments of communities devastated by the quake and tsunami. The rest will be used to boost Japan’s slumping national pension program, support small businesses, encourage bigger companies to employ more people, and expand the country’s electric automobile recharging infrastructure. The government intends to borrow from the European Stability Mechanism created three months ago to support debt-burdened countries. Other Euro-based bonds are also being considered. Masamichi Adachi, senior economist at JPMorgan Securities in Tokyo, said, “The scale of this budget suggests that Abe’s new administration is serious about stimulating the economy. It’ll be very helpful in the near-time.” He cautions, however, that in the long term the debt will have to be paid back. (Japan Times; NHK World; Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The Environment Ministry wants $125 million of the budget expansion to create research centers for Fukushima decontamination. This would be in addition to the $100 million already allocated to Fukushima Prefecture for decontamination costs. The new centers will be a cooperative effort with the International Atomic Energy Agency, Japanese colleges and various research organizations. The centers will include radiation monitoring equipment for local surveying. The ministry wants two locations: one in Minamisoma and the other in Miharu Town. (Kyodo News)
  • Work on building the new enclosure around Fukushima Daiichi unit #4 reactor building has begun. The enclosure is needed because the roof and walls of the upper floor were blown away by the hydrogen explosion of March 15, 2011. The enclosure will be more than 160 feet high and supported by 87 large steel columns. Under the new roof, a ceiling crane and other fuel-handling equipment will be installed. Tepco says they plan on completing the structure in October so they can begin removing fuel bundles from the spent fuel pool in November. (Mainichi Shimbun) Pictures of the emplacement of the first two steel column bases can be viewed here… http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2013/201301-e/130108-01e.html
  • What is the best, most scientifically-supported model that should be utilized to set radiation exposure standards? How does the current model used by standard-setting organizations tend to deceive the public? Environmental Health professor Dr. E. J. Calabrese of Massachusetts University addresses both of these questions in a provocative paper entitled US Risk Assessment Policy: A History of Deception. Dr. Calabrese’s conclusions are quite startling. Written for the University of Chicago Law Review, the paper can be accessed by clicking this link… US Risk Assessment Policy: A History of Deception (Thanks to Rod Adams of Atomic Insights)

January 8

Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers #138

The Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers is a weekly listing, and summations, of the postings by the most prominent nuclear writers on the internet.  The Carnival can be accessed here… http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/01/carnival-of-nuclear-energy-138.html



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