Fukushima 52...5/9/13-5/28/13

May 28, 2013

  • A radiological incident at a particle accelerator in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, has dominated the Japanese press. Last Thursday, a proton beam was directed into a piece of gold at the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC). The experiment was being run inside the Hadron Building at the sprawling science complex. It was roughly noon when, suddenly, the beam’s intensity jumped severely…one source says more than 400 times its set-point. A tiny portion of the gold “target” evaporated, releasing several types of radioactive isotopes into the room’s air. Nearby monitors detected the increased radioactivity and automatically stopped the beam’s operation. There was no visual damage to the target material and the beam technology looked OK, so the researchers restarted the beam. In about 90 minutes, airborne monitors inside the “controlled area” (the room where the experiment was held) alarmed. The experiment was shut down until the monitors no longer alarmed. Then, they restarted the beam again. At 4pm, the airborne monitors alarmed once more, so the experiment was terminated. Some of the airborne material escaped outside the controlled area when the staff incorrectly turned on a ventilation fan. A spokesperson for the facility operator, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, said “We don’t know why they switched on the fan. We suspect some wrong decisions were made by workers concerned.” The J-PARC official in charge of the experiment has taken full responsibility for all staff actions. The laboratory staff analyzed the contamination level in an outer hallway to be ~30 Becquerels per cubic centimeter. The specific isotopes involved have not been listed. The longest half-life of any possible isotope is~2.7 days (Au-198). Nearly all other isotopes have half-lives measured in hours, minutes and seconds. One newspaper speculated that the short half-lives caused the J_PARC staff to be unconcerned even if there were a release outside the controlled area. Regardless, 33 of the building’s staff of 55 received detectible internal isotopic deposition while the other 22 showed none. The estimated internal dose per exposed person is calculated to be no more than 1.7 millisieverts….roughly the same as the region’s natural background level. No-one was in need of medical attention. No radiation was released to the environment outside the Hadron Building. JAEA says the leak was stopped after an airborne monitor outside the controlled area alarmed at ten times normal. The incident was not immediately reported on the assumption that all radioactive isotopes had been contained inside the controlled area. Friday night, it was discovered that one of the external monitors at a neighboring building recorded a small radioactive increase at the same time as the incident and an unusual event was reported per procedure. On Saturday, an NRA spokesperson said, “An investigation will be launched into the cause of the incident and prevention measures will be considered.”On Monday, the NRA rated the incident as a “level 1 accident” on the INES scale because of “the lack of a safety culture” with JAEA. Ibaraki governor Masaru Hashimoto said, “It [JAEA] must be taking the matter lightly”. Shunichi Matsumotoof Ibaraki’s nuclear safety group said, “The prefecture is taking the incident seriously. People living nearby are feeling very anxious about the external radiation leak and the internal exposure (of the researchers).” None of the seven monitors run by Ibaraki Prefecture have recorded an increase in radiation level. (Jiji Press; NHK World; Japan Today; Japan Times; Asahi Shimbun; Mainichi Shimbun, The Japan News; Kyodo News)
  • Japan’s Press, politicians and the Science Ministry are treating J_PARC like another nuclear accident. Many of the criticisms recall the statements following 3/11/11. For example The Japan News, “The case thus seems to illustrate a deterioration in the safety culture developed by the nation’s nuclear industry.” In parallel, Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura said, “They lacked a sense of urgency and crisis when the public is harboring strong feelings of distrust toward nuclear power.” (comment – J-PARC is not a nuclear power plant and is not part of the so-called nuclear industry. It is a high energy Physics research facility.) Hiroaki Koide of Kyoto University evoked a common criticism following the Fukushima accident, “It was a result of designing the facility under the assumption that an accident would never happen.” An anonymous official at the Education Ministry said, “I can’t believe they failed to report the incident (immediately) when the public is so sensitive to such matters.” Prominent antinuclear journalist Mitsuhiko Tanaka speculated that the researchers were unfamiliar with handling radioactive substances, “Either the researchers saw the need to take further measures but felt they couldn’t say anything out loud, or they simply thought that nothing more needed to be done.” Akihiko Kawasaki, of the Tokai municipal government, said he was concerned about JAEA’s lax attitude toward the handling of nuclear substances and demanded the agency confirm the safety of the environment around the facility. When told J-PARC was not a nuclear power plant, Kawasaki said, “That’s why we want them to be more sensitive and show local residents that they can make good use of their new technologies [in various fields].” (Japan Times; Japan Today; The Japan News)
  • Japan’s Science Ministry formed a special team to discuss overhaul of JAEA’s safety program. JAEA has been under fire due to year-long issues involved with its Monju fast breeder reactor project. The J-PARC incident and its Press coverage seem to have forced the ministry to take firm action. The team of ministry officials and independent experts is expected to draft reform measures by the end of July. The ministry will also urge all of Japan’s 22 accelerator operators, including universities, to upgrade their emergency procedures and safety management systems. (Jiji Press)

Now for the other Fukushima updates…

  • The last “no-go” restriction inside the Fukushima exclusion zone has been lifted in part. Futaba town, adjacent to F. Daiichi, has been reorganized into two zones. 96% of the town will remain barricaded with residency indefinitely restricted. The other 4%, along the ocean front south of F. Daiichi, is to be prepared for repopulation and clean-up of the tsunami debris that has been untouched since 3/11/11. (NHLK World; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The World Health Organization says there will be no measurable health effects from Fukushima. For the full report, see http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/78218/1/9789241505130_eng.pdf
  • The new wastewater decontamination system (ALPS) at F. Daiichi is expected to be in full operation this coming fall. Three ALPS systems will operate in concert with each one expected to process 250 tons of water per day. ALPS will be used to strip 62 radioactive isotopes from the waters cleansed of radioactive Cesium. Tepco says the final operation has been delayed because new storage tanks for the ALPS system effluent have to be built and tested for leak integrity. (NHK World)
  • The NRA admits they are forging new ground in their efforts to improve nuclear plant safety in Japan and some seismic panel members are dissatisfied with how the group studied the Tsuruga station fault. Koichiro Fujimoto, professor at Tokyo Gakugei University, said, “At first, I was expecting this to end in some three months, but I got quite anxious because the prospects became unclear.” Panel head Kunihiko Shimazaki blames the affected nuclear utilities for what he called a “sluggish” process. He said the NRA has neither the funds nor the expertise to run their own on-site investigations, so they are forced to rely on what they get from the utilities. Shunji Matsuoka of Waseda University said, “The NRA secretariat still does not have enough human resources with technical knowledge to support the organization’s independence. . . . And simply preparing documents for (outside) experts and asking them to make a decision is unlikely to help improve expertise.” Panel members also said the stress of constant public scrutiny and scientific criticism weigh heavily on them, and if they had known this was going to happen they would not have taken the job. (Japan Times)
  • The NRA says they will have three teams to establish the efficacy of nuke restarts. It is expected that four utilities with Pressurized Water Reactor systems will apply for restarts soon after the new safety regulations are issued on July 18th. The inspection teams will check all safety system upgrades and equipment changes for viability so that the NRA commissioners can decide whether or not to grant restart authorization. Before restarts, plant operators will also have to obtain consent from host municipalities. (NHK World)
  • The Press also continues to cover the recent UN report by Anand Glover. Here are some specific quotes now in the Press… “Evacuees should be recommended to return only when the radiation dose has been reduced as far as possible and to levels below 1 millisievert per year”  and epidemiological studies “conclude that there is no low-threshold limit for excess radiation risk to non-solid cancers such as leukemia.” (Japan Times) Glover criticizes the handling of the crisis, including the process for seeking financial compensation, a lack of openness about health risks from radiation and inadequate protection for nuclear plant workers. He urges the government to involve affected communities in decisions and do more to protect children, pregnant women, the disabled and the elderly. Finally, Glover says the Tokyo government bailout of Tepco "has arguably helped TEPCO to effectively avoid accountability and liability for damages,” and the complex process for filing compensation claims is designed to "reduce compensation levels and delay settlement." Further, compensation should be given to the tens of thousands of evacuees outside Fukushima Prefecture who fled on their own out of fear and have not returned. (Mainichi Shimbun)

May 24, 2013

  • Airborne Cesium radioactivity on the F. Daiichi plant site is non-detectible at all but one monitoring point. Tokyo Electric Company’s posting of site activity for May 22 shows that airborne releases from the damaged reactor buildings for units #1 through #3 may have been curtailed. The four monitoring points at the property boundary, including the main gate, no longer show any detectible radioactive Cesium. The same is true at eleven of twelve access points (openings) to the four damaged structures, the incineration workshop, on-site bunker’s equipment hatch, solid waste reduction treatment building, and the three waste treatment buildings. The only location showing detectible Cesium is the northwest opening to reactor building #4, with a concentration of 7.6 micro-becquerels per cubic centimeter. This reading is right at the minimum level of detectability. Unfortunately, neither Tepco nor the Japanese Press is making any effort to promote this good news with the people of Japan or the world at-large. Tepco has merely posted the statistics, but has had no press release announcing it. The Japanese Press is ignoring the data. It should be noted that Tepco’s analysis of the soil surfaces inside the plant property shows contamination levels of 100 Bq/m2 for Cs-137 outside the main Administrative building, plus 960 Bq/m2 Cs-134 and 1800 Bq/m2 Cs-137 outside the Environmental Management building. Thus, F. Daiichi staff must continue to wear anti-contamination garb. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/index-e.html
  • IAEA will open an emergency response training center in Fukushima next Monday. The facility is the result of a cooperative agreement between IAEA and the prefectural government signed last December. The center’s operation will be kicked-off with a four-day workshop beginning Tuesday. There will be about 40 participants from 18 countries atttending. The agenda will include in a field training program. (Jiji Press)
  • A senior UN official says Japan’s exposure threshold for Fukushima repopulation is too high. Anand Grover, special rapporteur to the UN’s Human Rights Council, makes the call based on his personal research with Japan’s radiation exposure issue. He believes the Tokyo government should limit public radiation exposures to 1 millisievert per year, which is believed to be Japan’s average natural background level. He further urged Japan’s threshold for emergency evacuation be lowered from the current level of 20 mSv/yr to 1 mSv/yr. In addition, he charges that limiting exposed child monitoring to thyroid examinations is inadequate, and calls for regular urine and blood tests to check for leukemia and other possible childhood diseases. Lastly, Grover says evacuees from zones reading above 1 mSv/yr be provided with housing, medical and education continued assistance by the government. His formal report will be submitted to the Human Rights Council in the near future. He gives no concrete evidence for his opinion other than saying these measures should be taken from the standpoint of human rights. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • On April 11, Tepco announced they will install PARs inside Kashiwazaki-Kariwa’s reactor buildings for units #1 and #7. Installation began at the end of April and is expected to be completed in June, in time to meet the Tokyo government’s new regulations due in July. PAR is the acronym for Passive Autocatalytic Recombiner. Hydrogen produced during a nuclear accident would be combined with oxygen in the air and become water. The catalyst in the PAR prompts recombination, requires no power source to function and will keep the buildup of hydrogen below explosive concentration. There will be 50 units installed on unit #1 and 56 on unit #7. (JAIF)
  • Tepco has announced they have taken bids to build three coal-fired power plants before 2021. The planned capacity of the three units is 2,600 MWe. Tepco opened the bidding on their plans to Japanese contractors on February 15, 2013. The company will decide on a final successful bidder by the end of June. Tepco says their bidding process conforms with new rules by the Agency for Natural Resources for new thermal power generation established last September. (Tepco Press Release)
  • Seawater samples far from F. Daiichi taken in 2012 show a wide variety of Cesium concentrations. Two Cesium isotopes were found in seawater taken from ten locations between 500 and 2,100 kilometers south of F. Daiichi. Actually, the Cesium was discovered in the zooplankton in the waters. The highest Cs-134 concentration was 10.5 Becquerels/kg and for Cs-137 it was 14.9 Bq/kg. The finding was released by the Japan Geoscience Union in Chiba Prefecture on Tuesday. Team member Minaru Kitamura said, “Plankton are thought to play a key role in the dispersion of the cesium because they are eaten by bigger fish. We want to study further what is influencing the accumulation of radioactive cesium. We need to study whether the concentration will decline, or stay the same.” The team studied no sea-life larger than zooplankton because they lacked equipment to catch anything else during their sampling sojourn. (Japan Times)

May 21, 2013

  • The IAEA supports the sea-discharge of groundwater from F. Daiichi. Juan Carlos Lentijo, head of the IAEA team that held last month’s inspection, said, "It will be very nice if they really get to bypass the main building through these systems -- through this direct pumping of the water to the sea -- because it is clean water." He called the wastewater buildup the biggest remaining problem at the plant site. He added that stopping the groundwater in-flow is necessary because "maybe they can go to the building and try to see what the problems are and try to repair these problems." He added that the current 30-40 year plan for accident clean-up is reasonable, given experiences with past decommissioning efforts, but he stressed there remains the "potentiality for future developments that could enhance the situation." (Kyodo News)
  • The IAEA will support Fukushima Prefecture decontamination efforts this coming summer. They will analyze radiation data, tour the exclusion zone, assist in making maps of radioactive levels, and provide support in waste disposal efforts. The IAEA team plans on spending five days in Fukushima beginning July 22. Last December, the IAEA and Fukushima Prefecture entered into a three year agreement to provide a joint effort. The pact was formally signed in April. One of the pressing issues is decontamination of the forests in and around the exclusion zone. Roughly 70% of region is forested. Another issue concerns incineration of contaminated burnable wastes and disposal of the resulting ash. (Mainichi Shimbun; Kyodo News)
  • Last week, a Tepco Press Release included atmospheric radioactive readings inside F. Daiichi units 1, 2 and 3. None of the internal atmospheres were above the limits set for worker inhalation. (.002 Bq/cc for Cs-134 and .003 Bq/cc for Cs-137) Of the six locations being monitored in unit #1, three have detectible Cesium isotopes in the air. One location is 100 times below the inhalation limit, while the other two are about 1,000 times below the standard. One of the two locations in unit #2 reads a barely detectible level which is 10,000 times less than the limit. All of the six monitored locations in unit #3 show no detectible Cesium isotopes in the air. For details, go to http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/index-e.html and scroll down to “Other”, then click on May 15, 2013.
  • Japan will drop its pledge to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 25% before 2020. The target was set three years ago, before the accident at F. Daiichi which led to the country’s moratorium on nuclear plant operation. Japan has greatly increased the burning of fossil fuels to replace the nukes and significantly amplified their GHG emissions. Thus, they can no longer meet their 2020 commitment. Tokyo says they will alter their GHG pledge accordingly and give a revised projection to the United Nations. The new target will be submitted at the UN climate change conference in Germany, later this year. (NHK World)
  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority has judged another geologic system to be seismic, this time under the Higashidori nuclear station in Aomori Prefecture. They say at least two “crush zones” meet the current definition of active faults. A crush zone is the seam between adjoining bedrock layers that have moved independent of each other at some time in the past. As the bedrock structures move against each other, the boundaries are crushed and the seam fills with the crumpled material. The question is not with the designation of such a seam as a crush zone. The bedrock layers either side of the seam demonstrate movement at some point in the geological past. The question is how long in the past the seam was formed and when it last experienced movement between the two masses? No method exists to precisely date seam movement. Thus, the judgment on movement age is left to the opinion of geological experts. Consequently, it is an inexact science with a relatively high degree of uncertainty. The NRA team, however, meets all academic criteria for making the subjective decision. (The Japan News)
  • On Sunday, a Japan News editorial charged the NRA with drawing a “hasty conclusion” on the Tsuruga fault being seismic, rendered last week. In fact, the piece says it is “highly questionable” that the NRA had sufficient scientific grounds to render their judgment. The News bases their opinion on criticisms over the NRA decision made by Japanese academics. In fact, one of the NRA’s expert panel members, Kyoto University Associate Prof. Hiroyuki Tsutsumi, questioned the team’s final conclusion. He said, “[The report] lacks a considerable amount of fundamental data. It would be fruitful for us to hold discussions after we conduct further research.” A second panel member, Tokyo Gakugei University Associate Prof. Koichiro Fujimoto, lamented, “[The report’s content] would be completely unacceptable in an academic paper.” In other words, the NRA’s expert panel on the Tsuruga seismic issue does not have universal agreement - perhaps majority agreement, but not unanimous. The News charges NRA acting chair, Kunihiko Shimazaki, who also heads the seismic panel, with “a lack of fairness” and making decisions “based on predetermined conclusions.” Comment – The Japan News is the English language edition of the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest newspaper.
  • Tepco has decided to apply for restarting two units at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear station, Niigata prefecture. The applications will be submitted as soon as the new NRA regulations are in effect, which is expected in July. Tepco wants the restarts in order to ease the financial burden they suffer from the government-mandated nuclear moratorium which has forced them to use more-expensive fossil-fueled plants to meet their electrical demand. The applications will be for units #1 and #7 at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, both of which are Boiling Water Reactor plants. Niigata governor Hirohiko Izumida has reservations about Tepco’s plans because F. Daiichi is also a BWR station, “We won’t discuss resuming operations [of the reactors] until results of the review into the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant are presented.” It is expected that four other utilities will submit restart applications at the same time as Tepco. These requests will be for specific units at Tomari (Hokkaido Electric), Takahama (Kansai Electric), Ikata (Shikoku Electric), plus Sendai and Genkai stations (Kyushu Electric). Kashiwazaki-Kariwa is the only BWR station of the group, and will need to have filtered depressurization vents installed, which Tepco says will be done by the end of July. All others are Pressurized Water Reactor systems which do not need the vents in order to restart. (The Japan News)
  • Rice farming has returned to the F. Daiichi “no-go zone”. Farmers in the Miyakojimachi district of Tamura have begun planting rice for the first time since 3/11/11. The district is the only part of Tamura which has been fully decontaminated, thus allowing residents to return home for daily visits. Some enterprising rice farmers are trying to take advantage of the opportunity. Although the fields have been decontaminated to within the government limits, a Potassium-rich fertilizer is being used to reduce the possibility of any residual Cesium uptake by the seedlings being planted. The Fukushima government is considering dropping the visit-restriction rule to allow rice farmers to stay around-the-clock, at least a few days each week. This will be important to monitor water usage necessary for rice growth. (Japan Daily Press)
  • 700 residents of the Hippo District of Miyagi Prefecture are suing for F. Daiichi damage compensation. The Hippo District is more than 50 kilometers northwest of F. Daiichi and well-outside the evacuated areas of Fukushima Prefecture. The $700,000 lawsuit claims that because some locations in Hippo have radiation levels higher than some of the locations inside the Fukushima evacuation zone, the residents should receive the same financial compensation that Fukushima evacuees receive. The Tokyo government requires Tepco to make huge compensation pay-outs to Fukushima evacuees and the 700 Hippo residents want to be given the same financial consideration. (Mainichi Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun) Meanwhile, the Tokyo government is extending the three-year statute of limitations on filing Fukushima-related lawsuits. The lower House of Representatives approved the bill to today. The lawmakers say they have done this to keep pending lawsuits from becoming invalid once the 3-year time statute is reached. (Kyodo News)

May 19, 2013

157th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The Hiroshima Syndrome is once again hosting the 157th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. For the full reports, please click on the individual links. Blog topics include – A nuclear “geek” takes a vacation, Fukushima fishermen fear uncontaminated groundwater, Japan’s new regulatory agency, what closing a nuke in Canada would do to carbon emissions, a testimony overview from the Vermont legislature, and more.

From Atomic Insights 

Pitching nuclear energy and explaining value of new plant construction


From The Hiroshima Syndrome/Fukushima Commentary

Fukushima groundwater makes fishermen fearful


From Canadian Energy Issues

Today’s coffee, without Ontario nuclear power: a depressing counter-factual look…


From Nuke Power Talk

Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority: An Op-ed in the Nikkei Newspaper


From ANS Nuclear Cafe

Love Feast Under The Golden Dome


From Yes Vermont Yankee

The 90% Solution: What 90% Renewables Would Look Like in Vermont


From Next Big Future (2)

China steps up efforts to export nuclear reactors


Lawrenceville Plasma Physics Nuclear Fusion – Plasma Ion Density Tripled…


May 17, 2013

  • Tokyo Electric Co. says the F. Daiichi cistern leakage was actually much less than initial estimates. Tepco initially guessed the volume which seeped in between the inner and second layer of the triple-sheet cistern liner was 120 tons. The company says actual measurements show the leakage was about 20 liters (~0.2 metric tons). Tepco president Naomi Hirose presented the new information to the Press on Thursday. Hirose stressed that most of the leakage remains between the layers of the pool’s liner. He added that regardless of the volume, the leak through the inner liner is a “fact”. (Kyodo News; Asahi Shimbun)
  • The Fukushima groundwater discharge issue continues in the headlines. Here are a few new pieces of information. (1) Tepco is running analyses at all twelve of their groundwater “wells” and says that some radioactivity was initially detectible in four of them. The highest reading was 0.12 Becquerels per liter of Cesium. Eight of the wells have shown no detectible radioactive isotopes. The Japanese Press says the national limit for unrestricted waters is 90 Becquerels per liter. Traces of other isotopes are in the samples but are in tiny amounts. (2) One fisheries representative believes Tepco will never get consent of the membership unless they have outside support, “An explanation from Tepco alone will not be enough to win the confidence of union members.” (3) Some fishermen say they are more concerned about rumors than the radioactivity in the groundwater. Rumors about radiation have hurt the sales of Fukushima-caught fish in major markets like Tokyo. The fishermen fear more rumors will be generated if Tepco discharges the groundwater to the sea, whether or not the water is radioactive. One union member said, “Even if it is [only] groundwater, damage to the public perception of fishing will be unavoidable and could hurt our trial operations.” (4) There are a few supporters of Tepco’s planned discharge among the membership, however. One official stated, “(The federation) would be better off letting it happen because Tepco will have no choice but to release contaminated water into the sea if its system to handle radioactive water falls apart.” (6) Tetsu Nozaki, head of the Federation, believes the problem is misunderstanding among the union membership, “Many of our members got a wrong idea that contaminated water would be dumped into the sea after being treated.” (The Japan News; Asahi Shimbun)
  • On Tuesday, Tsugura Mayor Kazuharu Kawase asked Tokyo to make “cautious deliberations” concerning the geologic seams below Tsugura unit #2. He said, "I have doubts about [the Nuclear Regulation Authority's] rushing toward a conclusion." Plant owner Japan Atomic Power Company is busily investigating the suspect geologic anomaly and has not yet filed their most recent data. Mayor Kawase wanted the NRA to wait until Japco’s study is complete and reviewed by international experts, "I want the NRA to cautiously deliberate the matter from a broad viewpoint, reflecting the outcome of the operator's investigations and various opinions in and outside the country." He added that the local economy is "battered" because of the nuclear moratorium and debate over the underlying geology has made recovery unclear. NRA official Hideka Morimoto responded, "The panel has spent quite a long time (on discussions)...and is trying to summarize its assessment by using the data available at this moment". (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • On Wednesday the NRA’s seismic panel announced that the geologic seam under Tsurguga #2 is seismic. The panel consists of NRA commissioner Kunihiko Shimazaki and four academics. Their findings have been forwarded to the other four NRA commissioners for final disposition. The report states, "The panel of experts thinks that a zone of crushed rock called D-1 is an active fault that should be taken into consideration from a quake-resistant design point of view."  The NRA admits they can bar operation of Tsuruga unit #2, but they cannot force dismantlement because tearing down the facility is legally at the discretion of the owner. (Kyodo News; NHK World, Mainichi Shimbun; Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • When informed of the NRA’s decision on the Tsuruga station, Japco President Yasuo Hamada blasted the NRA. He called the decision premature and unacceptable. He charged that the NRA refused to wait for the data now being compiled by Japco and they should have delayed the decision. Hamada further accused the NRA of drawing a conclusion that was not based on objective data or scientific facts. In addition, he said releasing the decision to the Press before informing Japco was “really an inappropriate action taken by the regulator, which exercises public power.” When asked what Japco will do if the NRA stands firm on their decision, Hamada said the company is confident that Tsuruga unit #2 can be upgraded to safely meet any seismic regulation, thus they believe they will eventually be able to restart the nuke. (Japan Times)
  • NHK World says a survey of the status of Fukushima decontamination shows “little progress”. The study covers 47 municipalities inside of and contingent to the Fukushima exclusion zone. Only 4% of the land and 5% of the homes inside the exclusion zone now meet the national standard of 1 millisievert per year exposure. Outside the zone, only 23% of the land is below 1 mSv/yr. Junko Nakanishi of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology says that the areas where radiation levels can actually be lowered are a “small percentage” of the total which remains. She calls for a new government review of the situation to improve decontamination. (NHK World) comment – Much of the land in the “decontamination zone” is mountainous. Higher elevations and mountain bedrock necessarily raise naturally-occurring radiation levels. The 1 mSv/yr standard does not take this into account. Tokyo says 1 mSv/yr is Japan’s natural background level, which contradicts the world average (2.4 mSv/yr) and the natural radiation levels of other mountainous locales in the world (5 mSv/yr or more). Japan has no natural background data other than from the coastline and low-lying locations - geographic locations that always have the lowest readings. The government is merely guessing that the entire country has the same background levels everywhere. In other words, the 1 mSv/yr background standard for decontamination is arbitrary and based on incomplete data.
  • River eels in Tokyo may have Cesium levels above the national limit. Specifically, Cesium isotope 137. The “safe” limit for Cesium has been set at 100 Becquerels per kilogram for fish and meats. A Tokyo woman has been catching eels from the Edogawa River since last year and sending them to a professor at Kinki University. Many eels exceeded the 100 Bq/kg limit, with one registering nearly 150 Bq/kg. Professor Yamazaki sent his data to the Tokyo Fisheries Agency in late March, calling for banning of eel fishing and a full investigation. The government said the commercial eel fishing season does not begin until this summer, and until then they have no legal power to invoke a restriction. However, the Agency said their routine testing of river species should be sufficient for the time being since the eels do not exceed the ultra-conservative limit by very much. Yukio Koibuchi, an associate professor of coastal environmental studies on the Edogawa River, said the situation may be caused by various factors. Other fish in the river might ingest Cesium in small amounts, and eels, being omnivorous, eat them and the material concentrates in their bodies. “We have looked into other fish and shellfish from near the river mouth, but have yet to detect Cesium,” Koibuchi said. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Ten elderly antinuke activists have begun a hunger strike in Tokyo. They are part of the regular crowd that attends the weekly antinuclear protests which have been held for more than a year. The government has filed a suit to have the protesters move their tents from the property of the Industry Ministry. The ministry says their property has been illegally occupied since the protests began. The protesters decided to hold a public hunger strike until Wednesday when the ministry’s suit against the protesters will be heard in court. The strikers wear coats imprinted with "We are not removing the tents. We are against the restart of nuclear power reactors." One protester from Fukushima Prefecture said, "People who are fighting for the end of nuclear power generation meet here and get information here," and it will no longer be possible if the tents are taken down. Another striker said she is a Fukushima evacuee and “forced removal is unacceptable.” (Kyodo News; Japan Times)

May 13, 2013

  • Tepco’s plan to discharge uncontaminated groundwater has hit a roadblock. The groundwater leakage into the four basements at Fukushima Daiichi has caused a contaminated wastewater buildup of 400 tons per day. Diverting some groundwater to the sea will reduce the in-flow by about 100 tons per day. The company met with representatives of the local fisheries to explain the situation, but could not get consent for the discharge. Tepco met with officials of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations today, hoping to get their approval of the discharge. Tepco explained that the groundwater in four of the twelve testing locations has the same radioactive level as local rivers and streams, while the other ten locations show no detectible radioactivity. Tetsu Nozaki, who heads the federation, said the group will hold off on making a decision, reversing his earlier position of support. He explained, “Some members do not understand the difference between groundwater and contaminated water,” because Tepco and the Fukushima government need to better explain what is going on.  He added, "The central government should make it clear that it has approved the plan." To add more confusion, another fisheries official said, “I cannot see clearly how the central government will get involved in this.” Nozaki says some fishermen fear that the leaking underground reservoirs at F. Daiichi will pollute the groundwater and eventually send radiation into the sea, causing contamination of the local fish. Tepco says it could take another month to inform all the fishermen enough to gain the consent they desire. (Asahi Shimbun; Jiji Press; Kyodo News; NHK World, Japan Daily Press; Mainichi Shimbun) comment - On Tuesday, Tokyo's Industry Minister said they will explain the groundwater situation to the fisheries in support of Tepco.
  • An international group of scientific experts ask the question “Nuclear Radiation – friend or enemy?” Scientists for Public Understanding of Radiation (SPUR) have issued a call to dispel myths and fears about radiation exposure using common-sense arguments. SPUR calls for a “sea of change” in international attitudes towards radiation. The group is against setting health standards a hundred times lower than any exposure that has actually harmed anyone. They argue that numerous detrimental effects of these extreme regulations affect everyone; most notably the people of Fukushima Prefecture where (1) no-one has died from Fukushima radiation exposure, yet serious social and economic damages have happened, (2) the people who have died in Fukushima were a result of the chaotic forced evacuation, and (3) over-reaction due to radiation fears have shut down all but two nukes in Japan, causing the nation to experience the worst economic shortfall in history, just to name a few. All negative impacts are due to ridiculously low health standards spawned by ultra-conservatism and fear of radiation. The group calls for widespread public education to explain the actual risks of exposure and the numerous benefits this effort will surely bring to the world. For the full report and extensive list of references, go to http://www.gepr.org/en/contents/20130507-02/SPUR-1.pdf
  • Two Japanese researchers say F. Daiichi contamination reached waterways in Shizuoka Prefecture, 400 kilometers from the accident. How it got there may have been due to Japan’s complex of interconnected waterways. The report in Nature Magazine claims to have released this information for the first time. One researcher specializes in freshwater ecology and the other teaches economics at the Lake Biwa Environmental Research Institute. The data has been available since 2011 through the Tokyo fisheries agency, but has not been analyzed before. The researchers say the water and irrigation networks across Japan carried F. Daiichi contamination much further than previously estimated, and much faster than anyone could have anticipated. While none of the data from Shizuoka show any of the Prefecture’s fish to have had higher radiation levels than national standards, radioactive cesium was detectible in 2011. Current testing on the Prefecture’s fish show no Cesium. The researchers have asked Tokyo to expand their nation-wide freshwater monitoring efforts based on the new data. (Japan Daily Press)
  • Tepco will remove part of the roof of the enclosure around F. Daiichi unit #1. The part to be detached will allow removal of debris to prepare for transferring spent fuel out of the structure. The enclosure was completed in October, 2011, to reduce radioactive releases from the rubble atop the refueling deck. Once finished, the enclosure dropped releases by more than a factor of 100. Tepco shared their plans with local officials on Friday. The company wants to begin the work this coming winter. Once the roof is opened, F. Daiichi staff can begin clearing the refueling deck of debris remaining from the March 12, 2011 hydrogen explosion. First, suppressant chemicals will be sprayed on the rubble to prevent radioactive dust from escaping. After all debris is removed, spent fuel removal equipment will be installed, including a new polar crane, and then the roof panels will be replaced. The entire process is expected to take 4 years. A Tepco official said that dismantling the cover is expected to lead to a "slight rise" in the station’s radiation level but the impact will be "little." (NHK World; Asahi Shimbun; Kyodo News) comment – It should be noted that The Asahi Shimbun alleges the entire roof of the enclosure will be “demolished”. Why the paper makes this speculation is unknown. The roof was made in pre-fabricated sections which are removable.
  • The ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan has made nuke restarts a plank in this summer’s upper house election. The LDP’s draft platform states, “Nuclear reactors that meet Nuclear Regulation Authority safety standards will resume operations under the government’s responsibility.” The party wants all nukes that meet the new regulations operating within the next three years. Roughly one-half of the 6-year-term seats in the upper House of Councillors will be contested. All major news polls indicate that the LDP’s landslide victory over the Democratic Party of Japan in the lower house election, earlier this year, will be repeated. The LDP platform actually contains about 300 policy proposals, mainly directed toward revitalizing Japan’s struggling economy. Restarting the now-idled nukes is but one part of the plan. However, the Press is presenting nuke restarts as the single-most important plank in the platform, much the same as the news media did earlier this year with the lower house election. (Japan Today; Japan Times)

May 9, 2013

  • Tokyo Electric Company plans to pump groundwater away from the leaking F. Daiichi basement walls and discharge it to the sea. Tepco has analyzed the groundwater under the station and found it to have the same radioactive content as the streams and rivers of the region. Until now, groundwater has been flowing into the basements of units #1 through #4 at a rate of about 400 tons per day. Once the groundwater pumping begins, the in-flow will be 300 tons per day or less. The process will reduce the rate at which contaminated wastewater volumes are increasing. Tepco has tested the new system by pumping about 200 tons to the sea. Tepco’s Toshihiko Fukuda says, “We would like to release that water into the ocean if we can gain the understanding of the relevant officials.” Tepco will meet with representatives of Tohoku region fisheries on May 13 to explain what they are doing and why it will have no radiological impact on the sea. They want to start the operation the very next day. Tetsu Nozaki, chairman of the local fisheries federation, said, “We would like to cooperate in settling the situation by giving our approval once safety has been confirmed.” Tepco insists there is no groundwater contamination from the recently discovered leaks from their large underground storage reservoirs. It should be noted that the Asahi Shimbun makes an unfounded speculation that Tepco has adopted this as a new strategy “to avoid a total collapse of its system for handling radioactive water.” The paper also alleges that Tepco never anticipated the groundwater in-leakage problem and is scrambling to stop it. (Mainichi Shimbun; Kyodo News; Asahi Shimbun)
  • Tepco says that transferring the waste waters to above-ground tanks could raise property boundary radiation levels above the self-imposed limit of 1 millisievert per year. Tepco added the exposure level may be 7.8 mSv/yr with one tank nearest the plant boundary. The boundary exposure level will last as long as it takes for the future ALPS isotopic removal system to cleanse the remaining radioactive materials from the Cesium-filtered waters. 30% of the total transfer to above-ground tanks has ended. The currently-used tanks are far enough from the plant boundary to keep the level below 1 mSv/yr. (Japan Daily News; Kyodo News; NHK World)
  • Futaba town, adjacent to Fukushima Daiichi, is being re-zoned. On May 28, a portion of the community showing less than 20 millisieverts per year exposure will be reclassified as an area “in preparation for lifting the evacuation order”. This will impact about 250 residents out of the 6,500 who lived in Futaba before the evacuation orders were mandated in March of 2011. Futaba is the 10th of 11 communities inside the old “no-go” zone to have the restrictions relaxed. All communities inside the original 20 kilometer evacuation zone will have eased restrictions once the Futaba change becomes official. (Jiji Press)
  • Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures now believe they will have all tsunami debris disposed of by the end of 2014. Upon completion, nearly 23 million tons of material will have been handled. Up to this point, both prefectures were not optimistic about meeting the 2014 goal due to lack of support from enough other prefectures. However, 2013 has witnessed a large increase in assistance. Currently, 17 prefectures have agreed to take and handle most of the nearly 700,000 tons of burnable trash that remains. Iwate and Miyagi will deal with all remaining sand, mud and non-burnable trash themselves. (NHK World)
  • Disposal of the more than 3 million tons of tsunami debris in Fukushima Prefecture remains at a virtual standstill. To date, only 2% of the original 3.3 million tons have been handled. None of the tsunami debris inside the Fukushima evacuation zones has been touched. Tokyo says they will take care of all evacuation zone tsunami debris, but every attempt to get started has run into local public and political roadblocks. The Environment Ministry says they will set new goals for the Fukushima materials this summer, in the hope of starting the process. Formerly, the ministry wanted all Fukushima tsunami debris disposed-of by 2014, but that will not be possible. The small amount of debris already gathered languishes while Tokyo and prefectural governments struggle to secure temporary storage facilities and find ways to lower the radiation level of the rubble. The ministry wants to speed up the installation of high-efficiency incinerators for burnable trash. Also, they want to beef up their public information program concerning construction of temporary storage facilities. Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara said, "Local residents are worried that temporary storage facilities will become permanent storage sites, but governments are doing their best to explain that is not the case." (NHK World; Mainichi Shimbun; Japan Times)
  • Sardine fishing has resumed in Ibaraki Prefecture. Local fishermen have voluntarily refrained from catching the “whitebait” for more than 2 years, because one different off-shore species of fish was found to contain some radioactive Cesium. The fisheries cooperatives in Otsu, Hirakata and Kawajiri restarted the young sardine catch after "test fishing found no safety problems" for contamination. This type of sardine is considered a delicacy by many Japanese consumers. Whether or not the catch will sell in large markets is unknown because of radiation rumors. Fisherman Heishiro Suzuki said, "I've got misgivings about whether consumers will buy our fish, but we must move forward, one step at a time." The fisheries made test catches once a week from August to December last year to establish the safety of the fish. (Mainichi Shimbun; Jiji Press)



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