December 9, 2013

  • America’s Allison Macfarlane says Japan should consider discharging tritiated water to the sea. Chair of America’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Macfarlane commented on the wastewater build-up at F. Daiichi. Tritium is difficult to strip from water because it is part of the water molecule itself. She said the issue in Japan is complex and there is no “silver bullet” which will resolve it. But, diluting the waters to below national Tritium limits would be a safe and effective solution. Macfarlane explained that she agreed with the recent IAEA suggestion because it is “a reasonable recommendation”. She added that people on the west coast of the USA are “rightly concerned about radiation in general”, but the levels of Fukushima contamination found in the Pacific are “two orders of magnitude less than the [American] drinking water standard.” http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131206_37.html -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2013120600557
  • A recent survey indicates that most Fukushima evacuees don’t want to go home. Japan’s Reconstruction Agency ran the survey on the two towns nearest F. Daiichi; Okuma and Futaba. Of the 2,760 Okuma households, 67% said they have given up on returning while 65% of the Futaba families said the same. Of those who said they will not go home, 70% cited concerns about nuclear safety and radiation exposure. Of the same cohort, 65% said it has taken too long and they are literally fed up. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131206_38.html
  • A Science Ministry panel wants added payments to Fukushima evacuees. Specifically, those who have no prospect of returning home due to high radiation levels. In addition to the generous monthly compensation paid to them by Tepco (~$7,500 per person) and lump-sum pay-out of $75,000 per person for mental stress and suffering, they might each receive between $25,000 and $65,000 as a further supplement. The panel is also considering increasing payments for housing. Many evacuees complain that payments to-date have not been enough to build new homes at their evacuation locations. Further considerations will be discussed at the panel’s next meeting on December 26th. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html
  • The Environment Ministry has OK’d building three interim low level waste storage facilities. One facility is planned for each of three Fukushima Prefecture towns very near F. Daiichi; Okuma, Naraha, and Futaba. Okuma and Futaba border on the nuke station property. Senior Vice-Minister Shinji Inoue said this is “a major step forward” in the process of decontamination of the region around F. Daiichi. Firm plans for the facilities can now be drafted and submitted to the town’s officials by the end of the year. The plans will be made public concurrent with their local submittals. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2013120700355
  • Tokyo now estimates that Tepco will eventually owe them $18 billion for decontamination. This is $300 million more than previous projections. The $18 billion is seen as a cap on Tepco’s financial responsibility. Any over-runs will be covered by Tokyo, as well as waste disposal construction costs exceeding $10 billion. Cost-sharing between Tokyo and Tepco promises to speed up recovery work. The projected numbers are based on the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s recent decision to allow repopulation of evacuated zones with annual exposures below 20 millisieverts per year. If the long-term target of 1 mSv/yr were used as a repopulation criterion, the total cost could skyrocket to more than $50 billion. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000854872 
  • The nuclear moratorium continues to bludgeon Japan’s economy. Japan’s “current account balance” (export income + investment earnings minus import costs) for October, ran at its first deficit in nine months. The October deficit was nearly $13 billion. The main reason for the shortfall was increased imports of fossil fuels needed to compensate for Japan’s 50 idled, fully-operational nukes. The resulting fossil-fuel-caused “goods trade deficit” was $11 billion, bringing oil and LNG import increases for the year to a record $70 billion. Takeshi Minami, chief economist at the Norinchukin Research Institute, said the trade deficit is expected to continue for some time as the need for hefty fuel imports will linger while nuclear reactors remain closed. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/12/09/business/fuel-costs-yield-deficit-in-current-account/#.UqXHAIAo4dV 
  • The first rice harvest from the F. Daiichi “no-go” zone is well-below radiation standards. Most Of Iitate village, 40 kilometers northwest of the accident, has been designated as a no-entry zone for 20 months. Rice paddies in the Nagadoro District had their topsoil stripped last year and crops planted this past June to test whether or not rice grown there would pass inspection. The first crop was harvested in October and 3 kilograms of product was tested by the government. All samples were below 10 Becquerels per kilogram, one-tenth of the national standard. While agriculture-for-sale remains banned in the no-go zone, farmers plan on another crop next year in the hope their efforts will re-open the district to resumption of selling their rice. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131209_13.html 

December 5, 2013

  • Tepco says the flow of contaminated groundwater to the sea has been stemmed. The company believes that a recent increase in radioactivity in a well near their soil-solidified barrier is due to its holding back the flow, along with their pumping away of the water buildup behind the barrier. They feel the increased activity in the one well is due to water that escaped unit #2 beginning in April, 2011. There has been no change in the sea-side groundwater radioactive “density”, thus there is no “increased risk to human health or the environment.”  http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1232723_5130.html

  • American Dale Klein praised Tepco for F. Daiichi improvements. Klein, a member of the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, told Tepco, “There’s obviously a lot more work to be done, but it’s very positive progress….Spent fuel movement at (reactor) No. 4 went very well. You have demonstrated a very positive approach to safety culture. You’ve also made good progress in water management. But again water will continue to be a challenge at the Fukushima site.” The committee is comprised of four independent experts and was created in September of 2012. Klein made his comments at the group’s fifth formal meeting on Monday. Another member, Lady Barbara Judge said the company has made “extremely good progress…But nuclear safety is a long proposition. And it’s only beginning,” she said. “I’m disappointed that it’s not going as fast as we would have liked it to. There is still reluctance by some of the members to ask the hard questions.” http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/tepco-wins-rare-praise-from-u-s-nuclear-regulatory-commission

  • Tokyo has extended the evacuee compensation period to a full 10 years. The previous statute was three years, which would have run out in March. The special bill was approved by the upper House of Councilors. It was passed by the lower house of representative last week. The right to apply for damages was also extended to a 10 year statute. In addition, those who have “not already suffered Fukushima-related losses”, such as future health consequences, can apply for compensation covering a 20 year period after said damages manifest. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/12/04/national/japan-enacts-bill-to-extend-nuclear-calamity-damages-claim-period/#.Up85W4Ao4dU -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131205_01.html

  • Okuma town says they will assist in compensation payments to some of their evacuees. Okuma is one of the two host communities for the F. Daiichi station, along with Futaba town, and has the lesser levels of contamination between the two. The Okuma supplements will be given to families from areas expected to have long-term repopulation restrictions. The payments mandated by Tokyo compensate for abandoned household appliances and furniture. Tokyo says Tepco must give a family-of-four $50,000 if they come from the two zones expected to be repopulated within the next 5-6 years. Those who are in the zone projected to have a longer period of restriction will get $67,000. Okuma Town says they will cover the $17,000 difference in the interest of fairness. Town officials say they do not want the community divided over the household compensation variance. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131203_19.html

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency says F. Daiichi will eventually discharge Tritiated water to the sea. The IAEA released its preliminary report on their most recent investigation on Wednesday, including the Tritium advisement. It is suggested that water containing only Tritium be discharged after it is diluted to below Japanese standards. Team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo said Tepco needs government approval for the release as well as local consent. The report states Tepco should “examine all options for its further management, including the possibility of resuming controlled discharges in compliance with authorized limits. TEPCO should prepare appropriate safety and environmental impact assessments and submit them for regulatory review."  Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said “We will respond by considering the advice.” The IAEA team also said Tepco should intensify their effort to decontaminate waste waters at the station. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2013120400877 -- http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2013/12/260057.html

  • Tokyo says that the risks from highly-contaminated water at F. Daiichi should be alleviated in 7 years. Industry Minister Yogi Ueda said a formal report delineating the government’s plans should be available by the end of the year. The Ministry says there is no “silver bullet” to resolve the issue, but rather a mix of proposed measures should have a major positive impact. It added that more than 780 system’s proposals have been received from around the world and many will be tested for efficacy. One of the processes mentioned specifically is the new waste-water cleansing system called ALPS. Ueda said, “The system is capable of removing all radioactive materials except tritium.” Tritium is exceedingly difficult to remove, but is a nuclide that poses little or no danger because its radiation is very, very weak. However, any radiation release, no matter how innocuous, is adamantly opposed by local fisheries because radiophobia in the marketplace stigmatizes their products. Mr. Ueda said, “Communication is important.” http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2013/12/04/fukushima-watch-draft-plan-sees-minimal-water-risks-in-7-years/

  • The highest-yet groundwater contamination level has been discovered at F. Daiichi. The “all-beta” reading has topped out at 1.1 million Becquerels per liter. The highest prior reading was 910,000 Bq/liter from the same sampling well. The well is located 40 meters from the sea and is the one nearest the unit #2 equipment trench holding water with an extremely high concentration of radioactive isotopes. The level of Cesium isotopes is 1.3 Bq/liter and the Tritium reading is 25,000 Bq/liter. The well is some 30 meters inland from the underground soil-solidified barrier protecting the inner harbor (quay). Radioactive concentrations in the quay have not changed. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131203p2a00m0na011000c.html -- http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2013/images/tb-east_map-e.pdf

  • A government panel wants additional measures used at F. Daiichi to curb groundwater contamination. In September, the group asked Tepco to freeze the soil around the four damaged units at the station to keep contaminated basement water from mixing with the groundwater. Since that will take a long time and lots of money, Tokyo wants five preliminary actions taken that should provide positive results, including building double-walled tanks for wastewater storage, sealing leaks from pipes with concrete, and paving the earth with asphalt to keep rainwater from being contaminated as it seeps into the soil. The group also called for a team of experts to study the inevitable issue of dealing with residual Tritium. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

  • Tepco and the NDF (Nuclear Liability Facilitation Fund) agree that restart of all seven units at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station is needed by the end of 2016. Tepco envisions restarting two of the K-K units next year which could result in as much as a $1 billion reduction in fossil fuel costs. Two other K-K units are hoped for restart in 2015 and the rest in 2016. There are a number of other measures in the plan, but the restart of the seven K-K units is at the head of the list. For example… under the plan, Tepco is to issue corporate bonds to stabilize cash-flow. If the NDF makes profits from the sale of its Tepco shares, it can be used to lessen Tepco’s debt due to the loans from the NDF, now totaling more than $20 billion. Obviously, there are critics of this announcement. The common objection is that Tokyo is giving Tepco preferential treatment. The new plan will be submitted to the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry by the end of December. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131203p2a00m0na013000c.html

  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority has concocted a new severe nuclear accident scenario, this time for the reprocessing facility at Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture. The NRA says the stored liquids containing Plutonium and those containing the roughly 50 other fission-product elements could overheat, boil, and perhaps produce hydrogen explosions if a Fukushima-type accident occurred at the facility. There are 3.5 cubic meters (tons) of liquids containing Plutonium, and 430m3 of high-level waste liquids. The Plutonium liquid is supposed to be processed into powdered form to be used in Mixed Oxide fuels for nuclear plants. The high-level wastes are to be solidified in a glass matrix (vitrified) for deep geological burial. However, both processes have been off-line since 2007 due to equipment problems and, since 3/11/11, seismic retrofitting. NRA speculates that a loss of cooling functions could allow the liquid waste to boil and spew radioactive substances in 55 hours, while plutonium solutions could boil in 23 hours. A hydrogen explosion could happen as soon as 38 hours for the fission product liquids and 11 hours for the Plutonium. In worst case meteorological conditions, all scenarios could contaminate Tokyo, which is ~130 kilometers to the southwest of Tokai. Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency runs the facility and wants to get it going again. JAEA says it will take 18 months to process the Plutonium that has built up, and 20 years to vitrify all high-level liquid waste.  http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201312030046

  • A fear-inducing report concerning Typhoon impacts on the spread of contamination has hit the Japanese Press. The joint study comes from France’s Climate and Environmental Science laboratory (LSCE) and Tsukuba University. While there is considerable press and internet coverage on the report, I can’t find the report-itself anywhere. Regardless, it says Typhoons tend to accelerate the migration of deposited radionuclides into waterways, and eventually into the sea. “There is a definite dispersal towards the ocean,” LSCE researcher Olivier Evrard said. He warned that populations which have escaped fallout might now be at risk due to a “flood” of Cesium particles moved by Typhoons. Evrard warned that scientists “concentrated mostly on the direct fallout from Fukushima yet this is another source of radioactive deposits” that must be taken into account. http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/typhoons-spread-fukushima-fallout-study-warns?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2013-12-04_PM  (Comment - The news reports make no attempt to provide context, as can be seen in the above link. Is the “flood” significant or mere hyperbole concerning barely detectible levels? No Cesium concentration number have been posted in any of the reports, so there is no way to know if the study is worthy of being taken seriously.)

December 2, 2013

There have been no reports on spent fuel transfer for unit #4 at F. Daiichi in the past three days. So, here’s the other updates from over the weekend…

  • An international team of experts are teaching Fukushima residents about radiation. A two day seminar was held this past weekend in Iwate by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. Some 80 residents attended and provided positive input to the proceedings. Three people from Iwate’s Suetsugi district, 30 kilometers from F. Daiichi, said they use mobile monitors as they move about the town to see how radiation levels change. They also eat locally-grown foods and have themselves regularly scanned for internal radiation levels. The results of their efforts have proved to them that living in their previously-evacuated district is safe. They also said the reason many young people have not returned is because of radiation fears. Another local said the ICRP should incorporate the resident’s opinion into the educational measures to be developed. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html
  • One elderly couple will spend the rest of their lives in repopulated Kawauchi village. Kinjiro Ide (97) and his wife Toshi (93) have moved back to their home since the living restriction was lifted. During their mandated period of evacuation, they lived with their third son in Tochigi Prefecture. Many former residents of Kawauchi have hesitated to return, but not these two. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2013/11/259093.html
  • A new radiation monitor has been developed for babies. University of Tokyo and Canberra Japan have collaborated on the device to measure internal radiation levels in pre-standing/walking infants. The free examinations, called “baby scans” begin today at Hirata Central Hospital in Fukushima Prefecture. The scanner allows babies to be lying down during the examination. Previously, infants were tested while being held by a parent, leading to criticisms that the results were in error. With prior technology, people had to be standing while the scanner examined them. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000834507
  • A former Fukushima prison inmate is suing the Tokyo Electric Company. The un-named inmate’s filing says her life in prison was profoundly affected by the nuke accident causing prolonged emotional grief and agony. She had requested to be shifted to another facility further from F. Daiichi, but was refused. In addition, fear of radiation allegedly forced her to cancel plans to be a mother for fear a child would be born with birth defects. She is demanding $30,000 in damages. She has served her three years in prison and is now free. http://www.japantoday.com/category/crime/view/inmate-of-tohoku-prison-within-nuclear-evacuation-zone-sues-tepco-for-emotional-distress?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2013-11-30_AM
  • The Yomiuri Shimbun says Tokyo must quickly designate a site for high-level nuclear waste disposal. Currently, candidate sites are sought by voluntary petition, but no community has consented to the open solicitation that began in 2002. The Mayor of Toyo, Kochi Prefecture, applied to host a candidate site but fierce local opposition threatened to force his resignation so the application was withdrawn. The Yomiuri, Japan’s largest newspaper, wants the government to follow the policy used by Sweden and designate candidate sites unilaterally. Sweden has successfully chosen their location using this method. Japan wants to recycle spent nuclear fuels and reclaim the 95% that can be used in new fuel bundles. The remaining 5% can be encapsulated and buried in deep geological formations. Popular beliefs hold that the waste isotopes must be isolated for 100,000 years, but the fact is that the radiation levels drop more than 99% in less than 1,000 years. The Yomiuri says the problem with the open solicitation policy is little public understanding of the realities of nuclear waste and the extreme safety of the technologies involved. The urgency in making the decision has been amplified by former PM Koizumi’s recent public statement that all idled nukes should never be restarted because it is “too optimistic and irresponsible” to assume that an acceptable site will be found in the future. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000817116
  • PM Shinzo Abe says Tokyo will work to speed up housing construction for Tsunami refugees. He added that an increased effort will also be extended to Fukushima evacuees. “I would like to help speed up construction of private homes and public housing for evacuees,” Abe told reporters during his visit to Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture. It was his third trip to the prefecture, one of the hardest hit along the Tohoku coast. Abe was also told by teachers that pre-disaster education kept the loss of children’s lives to a minimum. The PM said, “I have become aware of the importance of education on disaster prevention. I want to promote this experience nationwide.” In the linked article, we find that Fukushima Prefecture had 1,599 deaths due to the tsunami, and the number of evacuees who have died due to disease during the prolonged evacuation period is 1,539. http://japandailypress.com/japan-pm-abe-says-the-govt-ready-to-aid-home-construction-for-tohoku-disaster-victims-0240355/
  • One of the flow-paths through the new wastewater clean-up system at F. Daiichi was stopped Sunday. The reason was a chemical leak from a pipe joint on the Advanced Liquid Processing System. Acid was seeping from a connection and captured in a vinyl bag, but stopped when the sub-system was shut off. The bag held about a liter of the acidic liquid. The acid is used to neutralize the alkaline water coming out of the isotopic removal process. Two of the three ALPS flow-paths have been operating in a test condition since mid-November. Now there is but one undergoing the testing. There is no word on when the second system is expected to resume its flow test. http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/glitch-hits-water-decontamination-system-at-fukushima-plant?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2013-12-02_AM

 November 28, 2013

Spent fuel transfer diary - Week 2

Day 9 - Six spent fuel bundles were removed from their unit #4 pool and loaded into the transfer cask without incident. These were the first irradiated bundles to be handled. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1232452_5130.html The news media says the spent fuel is more difficult to handle than the initial 22 moved last week because they are radioactive and hotter due to decay heat. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131126p2g00m0dm070000c.html (comment - However, the radiation and low level of decay heat at this point do not make the process any more difficult. The Press seems to be influenced by worst-case scenarios contrived by antinuclear sources.)

Day 10 - All 22 spent fuel bundles were moved into the transfer cask at F. Daiichi. Tepco says no problems were encountered. The Press continued to report that the movement of spent fuel is more difficult than movement of unused fuel. The transfer of the 22 irradiated bundles took the same amount of time as the non-irradiated ones moved a week ago.  http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

Day 11 - There have been no reports out of Japan relative to this day’s events with the fuel transfer, as of this posting.

Here’s some other Fukushima updates -

  • Tokyo is in the process of creating a National Security Agency in the mold of the United States. The Agency is expected to be started next week. The lower house vote was 213 for, 18 against. Paranoiac Fukushima Prefecture residents charge that Tokyo’s proposed secrecy bill was ram-rodded through the House and will allow nuke accident information to be concealed. One Fukushima resident said, "How far are they going to go in fooling us?" Saki Okawara, a 61-year-old resident of Miharu, said, "The public hearing was something like a sneak attack..” Professor Yumiko Nihei felt that she was compelled share her position on the matter because of the nuke accident. She said, “Information about the plant hasn't been properly provided after the disaster.” Tamotsu Baba, mayor of the town of Namie, said, "I'm opposed to a bill that denies people's access to information. If information concerning the nuclear plant was categorized as special secrets against terrorism, the government could hide it under the bill. Fukushima residents' voices didn't seem to reach the committee members."  http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131126p2a00m0na014000c.html -- http://the-japan-news.0000829514 -- com/news/article/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131127p2a00m0na013000c.html
  • Tepco will limit its repayment of loans for evacuee compensation to $500 million per year. The company had previously calculated a $1 billion per year ceiling for repayment, but recent creditor concerns forced them to lower their estimate. The government’s Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund office concurred with Tepco. The new figure will also allow the company to have more money to deal with the current contaminated water issues at F. Daiichi.  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/27/national/tepco-to-limit-annual-repayment-to-government-to-%c2%a550-billion/
  • More than 1,900 kilograms of Fukushima rice was delivered to Emperor Akihito. The rice is from Hirono, 20 kilometers south of F. Daiichi, and was harvested in late October. Deputy Mayor Koki Kuroda said, “It is a sheer pleasure for the town as well as the producers.” The shipment was sent to the Imperial household at the request of the Emperor after 120 kg was delivered to the Imperial Agency on November 20. Akihito said, “Because the rice must have been made with struggles [of farmers], we’d like to have some as well.” The rice will be used by the Imperial Household and staff cafeterias of government offices at the palace. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131128p2g00m0dm032000c.html

November 25, 2013

Spent fuel transfer diary - Week 2

Day 5 – The 22 fuel bundles are in their racks inside the common storage facility pool. Tepco’s Noriyuki Imaizumi told a press conference, "All of the fuel assemblies have been placed in their storage rack, meaning that the first fuel transfer work effectively ended." After reviewing the process that began Monday, Tepco will begin the transport of the next 22 bundles. The initial transfer was with unused fuel stored in the #4 pool. The next step is expected to include irradiated spent fuel bundles. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2013/11/257978.html

Day 6 - While Tepco examines all equipment and reviews procedures before next week’s second transfer operation, much of Japan’s Press is filling the relative void by saying that the really risky work will come when the used fuel bundles begin to be moved. Here’s an example… http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2013112300009

Day 7 – No report by Tepco and most news media, however a few Press outlets re-hashed the previous week’s fuel transfer.

Day 8 – Today (11/25/2013), Tepco said their next step will be the safe transfer of used fuel bundles. NHK World suggests the movement of the radioactive fuel will begin tomorrow (Tuesday). Before the next movement of bundles begins, Tepco says they need to pump dirty water from just above them to keep sand and other fine particles from impairing visibility. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

Here’s some other Fukushima updates…

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency has begun a second inspection at F. Daiichi. A 19-person team will examine Tepco’s fuel transfer operations for unit #4 and the current situation with radioactive wastewater. Team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo spoke of the fuel transfer, “The removal of the spent fuel is an essential activity toward decommissioning. Our idea is to review the full process that Tepco has developed for the purpose and all the precautions adopted to develop these activities in a safe way.” He also told government and Tepco officials that the successful commencement of the fuel removal was “promising” for subsequent activities, including the same operation with the other damaged units. The team’s preliminary report will be issued December 4 and a final document about two months later. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/25/national/iaea-starts-review-at-fukushima-2/#.UpNNxYAo4dU
  • Feelings about returning home are mixed among evacuees from parts of Minamisoma City. Of the nearly 5,700 evacuated households, 3,543 responded to a Reconstruction Agency survey in August and September. 29% said they want to go home, 44% were undecided, and 26% said they do not wish to return. The undecided demographic felt they need firm information on when infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and shops will be reopened. They also want reliable evidence on radiation levels and decontamination work. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131125_18.html
  • The use of personal dosimeters to establish actual exposures for repopulated F. Daiichi evacuees is coming under fire. Fukushima antinuclear groups, supported by some sympathetic news media, say the data-gathering method is merely a ploy to get more evacuees to repopulate unrestricted areas. The local antinuke group Protecting Children from Radiation says in their blog, “They want evacuees to go home sooner. Safety is not a priority!” The Tokyo Shimbun says the new methodology is a “cover up” to mask the slow process of cleanup. In response, Nuclear Regulation Authority Chair Shunichi Tanaka says the 1 millisievert per year goal has not changed, nor has the 20 mSv/yr threshold for lifting repopulation restrictions. An Environment Ministry official added, “Just because residents are returning home doesn’t mean there won’t be any support. We’ll keep trying to minimize exposure.” Radiation expert Minoru Takata of Kyoto University says, “It sounds reasonable.” http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2013/11/22/fukushima-watch-individual-radiation-monitoring-spurs-debate/  (comment – It seems the antinuclear groups and their Press supporters have no desire for Fukushima evacuees to go home. The activists have a clear goal of keeping as many evacuees away as possible, with complete disregard for any mental anguish their thinly-veiled agenda causes.)  
  • Fukushima evacuees receiving compensation are getting a raise. A lump-sum payment will be issued to people from locations that might not be repopulated in the next 5 years. The additional funds will cover damages for mental anguish due to the lengthy period of time before they can go home. The Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation says those unlikely to return home in the foreseeable future will be awarded up to $75,000 per person, based on $1,000 per month over an estimated six year time-frame. These locations are showing radiation exposures in excess of 50 millisieverts per year. People from locations adjacent to the +50 mSv/yr sites will also get that amount because they will face difficulties in their daily lives after returning home. They have been receiving $1,000 per month each for mental damages until now. The lump-sum payments will void out the future monthly payments and put a cap on the total compensation for mental anguish. Up to $12,000 per person will be given to those from locations below 20 mSv/yr, where current restrictions are expected to be lifted in the next 12 months. Persons from places in the 20-50 mSv/yr range will be awarded up to $24,000 each. But, this will not be the ceiling on possible compensations. Once restrictions are lifted, additional compensations can be received for up to one year. For example, if the six-year group does not go home after 60 months from now, they can get an additional year’s compensation plus an eighth year of pay-outs after the evacuation order ends. Finally, if any resident can never go home, they will be subsidized to assist with the cost of housing elsewhere. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131122p2a00m0na016000c.html
  • Tepco has received another $1.2 billion from Tokyo to cover this month’s compensation pay-outs. There are about 84,000 individuals receiving payouts. This equates to an average of $13,333 per month per person for December. The money comes from Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, based on the revised Comprehensive Special Business plan invoked in October of 2011. There have been 22 months of Fund transfers from Tokyo to Tepco. Over the past 2 years, the Fund has loaned $30 billion to Tepco to cover the mandated compensation payments. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1232356_5130.html
  • Tepco has asked the news media to stop posting certain pictures and videos showing security measures at the F. Daiichi station. The news media feeding-frenzy due to the unit #4 spent fuel transfer has resulted in the posting of some pictures that violate national security law. The regulation being invoked is “Measures to be Taken for Physical Protection of Specific Nuclear Fuel Material”. The Nuclear Regulatory Authority has been advised of the situation and told Tepco to ask the Press to be wary of the law. Sensitive images includes spent fuel transportation schedules, transportation routes, and security guard activities. The law is intended to prevent theft, unauthorized diversion of nuclear materials, or sabotage by individuals or groups. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1232348_5130.html
  • Tokyo wants to buy 15 km2 of land adjacent to F. Daiichi for temporary low-level waste storage. This will impact thousands of landowners in Okuma and Futaba whose properties are inside the zones most unlikely to be repopulated. The Environment Ministry is hoping to get the support of the Fukushima Government and town mayors. Tokyo anticipates the cost of buying the property will be around $2 billion. Two other towns, Nahara and Tomioka, have a few locations of interest and are included in the plans. The vicinity of storage facilities might be restricted to habitation over concerns about the passage of trucks carrying low-level waste. The expected duration of storage is 30 years. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/23/national/fukushima-land-grab-eyed/#.UpCxWYAo4dU
  • Tepco and Mitsubishi plan to build and operate two new coal-burning power plants near F. Daiichi. Hirono Town and Iwaki City will be hosts to the twin 500 MWe units. This will partly compensate for the decommissioning of the two fully-functional units 5 & 6 at F. Daiichi. The total cost of building the coal units is estimated at $3 billion. The plants will be state-of-the-art integrated combined gasification cycles which promises to emit less atmospheric pollution than the coal plants now operating in Japan. The companies plan to apply for a government subsidy to help defray costs. It is hoped the two units will be operational before the end of 2015. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131123p2g00m0bu096000c.html

November 21, 2013

Because of the international Press hullabaloo prior to the start of the spent fuel transfer from F. Daiichi unit #4, we will post what has happened each day of the process as part of the regular updates until Press interest wanes.

Fukushima Daiichi Unit #4 Spent Fuel Transfer Diary

Day 2 – 18 fuel bundles were safely removed from their pool storage racks and placed in the submerged transfer cask. This is in addition to the four bundles loaded in the cask on Day 1. The cask is now filled to capacity. Work began at 9am (Japan Time) and finished at around 6:30pm. The process of sealing the cask, lifting it from the pool, and loading it onto a truck at ground level is planned to start tomorrow. The attached Tepco link contains a video-link for the first day’s safe movement of four fuel bundles, found in the body of the Press statement. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1232275_5130.html -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131119_46.html

Day 3 - The transfer cask filled on Day 2 was sealed and lifted out of the storage pit. The cask was inspected for leakage and subsequently washed-down to remove any traces of pool contamination that might have been on the outside of the cask. The plan for Day 4 was to lower the cask onto its transport truck and move it to the common spent fuel storage facility located about 100 meters from the unit #4 structure. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

Day 4 - The truck-borne transfer of 22 F. Daiichi fuel bundles from unit #4 to the nearby common storage facility has occurred without a hitch. After off-loading the 22 bundles into their common-pool racks on Friday, there will be a “pause” in the process for procedural review and technology inspection. When the next transfer will occur has not been announced. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1232330_5130.html -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131121_36.html  Tepco has also posted pictures and a video of yesterday’s cask-lifting procedure… http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2013/201311-e/131121-01e.html

Now, for some other Fukushima updates…

  • In what seems to be an ongoing attempt to continue the proliferation of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) in parallel with the unit #4 fuel transfer, Japan Times says the Fukushima job is “too perilous” to be left up to Tepco. First, the Times cites a month-old quote from Nuclear Regulation Authority Chair Shunichi Tanaka saying he is more concerned about the spent fuel movement than about the water contamination issues at F. Daiichi. But in this latest report, The Times dubs a Japanese anti-nuclear protest organizer an “expert” before posting his paranoiac fears. Hideyuki Ban, co-director of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, says, “It is quite certain that various kinds of troubles will occur, but I don’t think Tepco has prepared enough safety measures.” He added that he is very worried about lowering the fuel-filled cask 32 meters to the ground and having it dropped. Ban believes that when this occurs (in fact, he virtually guarantees it) workers will not be able to come near the cask to make repairs because it will be releasing too much radiation. He says there must be other, safer options. The Times subsequently follows Ban’s fear-mongering with a rehash of prior issues including the reports of wastewater issues at the nuke station, Tepco’s financial woes, and news articles about low F. Daiichi worker morale. It appears The Times is going overboard to keep FUD over the spent fuel transfer in the headlines, while most other news outlets in Japan have not.  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/19/national/fukushima-job-feared-too-perilous-for-tepco/#.UotvLIEo4dU
  • Future concern over the de-fueling of unit #1 through #3 has begun, although none of the work will begin before 2015. The radiation levels with units #1 and #3 are higher than with unit #4 and much of the explosion-based debris remains in their fuel pools, thus it is reported that the work in removing fuel from the pools will be a more arduous and time-consuming task. Doubts of the two building’s ability to safely support the cranes used to transfer the fuel bundles have already been raised. Further, the more-difficult process of recovering the melted fuels of units #1 through #3 is receiving attention. Further, while Tepco estimates the total cost of de-fueling the three units is roughly $2 billion, The Times says there are reports that it could be as much as $5 billion. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000808286
  • Tepco’s new wastewater decontamination system (ALPS) is in a full test mode. The third of the three parallel processing lines was started this morning. The third line’s test operation was halted this past summer due to an unanticipated corrosion build-up in one of the line’s tanks. All three lines were shut down and anti-corrosion measures were taken. Now, all three are back in test mode. However, one new glitch has emerged. ALPS is designed to remove all radioactive isotopes except Tritium after the wastewaters are run through the highly-efficient Cesium removal process. However, tests on the ALPS effluent show detectable levels of four isotopes including Cobalt and Antimony. Tepco says they will study the glitch and do what is needed to remove the four isotopic residuals. Because of the problems confronted in the ALPS test run, the full start-up schedule has been moved back until early in 2014. Subsequently, Tepco wants to add as many as three more process lines. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131121_29.html
  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority has expanded seawater monitoring off-shore of F. Daiichi. They already run testing outside the 30km radius and as far away as Miyagi and Ibaraki Prefectures. Now, they will also monitor inside the 30km radius to as close as 1 kilometer from the station. It should be noted that the NRA’s analytical technology is more sensitive than that used by Tepco. Tepco’s less-sensitive analytical technology allows for relatively quick data acquisition, in most cases within a few hours of taking their samples. The technology used by the NRA takes longer to provide its data, but the minimum detectable concentrations can be as much as 100 times lower than what Tepco can provide. The radionuclides to be analyzed by the NRA (with minimum detectability) are Cesium-134 and Cs-137 (0.001 Becquerels per liter), Strontium-90 (0.01 Bq/liter), Tritium (0.5 Bq/liter), and Potassium-40 (1 Bq/liter). It must be noted that K-40 is not a fission product, but is a naturally-occurring radioactive isotope found in water and soils all over the world. Why the NRA is including K-40 in their program is a mystery. http://www.nsr.go.jp/english/data/131119.pdf  

November 18, 2013

Now, here are some other Fukushima Updates from over the weekend…

  • There’s more information on the F. Daiichi unit #1 containment leak. Tepco has posted a Press release, graphics handout, and video on the unit #1 containment leak found Thursday. Tepco believes it is the "primary source of contaminated water leaks" from inside the Primary Containment of unit #1. Here's the Tepco Press release... http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1232195_5130.html  Here's the handout link... http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2013/images/handouts_131113_11-e.pdf  The video link can be found at the bottom of the following link, for viewing and/or download... http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2013/201311-e/130313-04e.html Two major news outlets have picked up on the discovery, The Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan News) and the Wall Street Journal’s Japan Real Time. The Yomiuri presents a very objective report, but Japan Real Time exploits the opportunity to re-hash the scare-mongering with Tepco’s unit #4 spent fuel removal.  http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000797189 -- http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/
  • There are 17,000 Fukushima government-built housing units for nuclear evacuees. The temporary units house about 30,000 people. The housing complexes are located in 25 Fukushima Prefecture municipalities. These facts are contained in a Japan Times article focusing on the ~500 units that currently need repairs and the 300 repair requests each month received by the non-profit Recycling Society Promotion Center. The number of units in the Times article should be compared to the few hundred such units the governments of Miyagi, Iwate and Aomori Prefectures have built for the more than 250,000 tsunami refugees. Former PM Naoto Kan promised the tsunami refugees 27,000 such units, but the former regime’s fund-skimming and local political harangues have virtually stopped the program in its tracks. Once again, the Press cherry-picks problems with some Fukushima evacuees, makes it seem to be endemic, and ignores the far greater plight of the tsunami refugees. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/17/national/fukushima-evacuees-housing-units-crumbling/#.UojN7IEo4dU
  • A Tokyo official hints at new nukes in Japan’s future. Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Shigeru Ishiba says new nukes may be built after restarting the ones currently idled. Even if the use of renewable power sources increases, the building of new nukes cannot be ruled out. He did point out the new plants must be safer than those built in the past. He added that the party should consider a radical move toward resolving the nuclear waste issue. He suggested the government should just designate a location for a repository rather than wait for local resident approval. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131116_22.html
  • The Oi nuclear station has no active faults beneath it. For more than a year, the Oi station has been the focus of Press scrutiny due to it having the only two units to have operated during the nuclear moratorium. One issue has been whether or not geological anomalies below the station are seismic. The Nuclear Regulatory Authority has brought in seismic experts to study the situation. Last September, the team said the anomaly was not seismic. The NRA approved the panel’s formal draft report on Friday. The document says there is no evidence of seismic activity over the last 130,000 years and there’s no possibility of future movement. NRA Commissioner Kunihiko Shimazaki said the panel’s decision was unanimous. The Panel did say, however, that there are some unstudied fault lines near Oi station that should also be investigated. The final report will be issued after four additional experts look at the data. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html
  • Some weeks before starting to remove spent fuel from F. Daiichi unit #4, Tepco’s posted an excellent video on the effort and a detailed Press handout. The Press handout addresses the most-often-reported objections and fear-predicated what-if scenarios common to the Japanese Press. http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2013/201310-e/131030-02e.html


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