Fukushima 67...2/27/14-3/10/14

March 13, 2014

Tuesday marked the 3rd anniversary of the 3/11/11 Earthquake and Tsunami. Overviews of the news reports and a listing of links can be found in the Fukushima Commentary page of this website. 

  • Former USNRC head Greg Jaczko told Japan’s Press that nuclear accidents cannot be prevented. He said, “This has to be remembered — that there are certain accidents that are not preventable,” said Gregory Jaczko, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “The question Japan has to ask itself is: Is the country willing to have another accident? And if the answer is no, then the answer has to be no more nuclear power.” Jaczko added that while Tepco failed to take adequate safety measures, “…at the end of the day, Tepco didn’t create the earthquake, Mother Nature did that.” NHK World; US nuclear expert calls for strict safety measures; March 12, 2014 -- http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2014/03/12/fukushima-watch-is-japan-ready-for-another-nuclear-accident/

  • An excellent 3rd anniversary article has been posted by ANS Nuclear Café. The author is friend and colleague Will Davis. He covers the current conditions at Fukushima Daiichi, the sweeping changes in Japanese nuclear regulation, and the signs of a positive shift in public opinion. His opening statement is thought-provoking, “What is not seen can be frightening, and what is not known can be daunting; what is happening is that the public, both evacuated Fukushima refugees and other peoples around the world, are beginning to grasp the realities of the present in addition to focusing on the days of the tsunami, the nuclear accident, and the evacuation—and the world is starting to respond.” Davis also lists a large number of links to sources of additional information. http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2014/03/11/fukushima-three-years-later/

  • Radiation data recorded at monitoring posts around F. Daiichi the first two days of the accident has been posted. Fourteen of the rural radiation detectors recorded data every 20 seconds. The first increases beyond normal readings at any location were mid-afternoon of March 12. An initial manual venting of pressure from Fukushima Daiichi unit #1 began at ~10:17am that morning but no increased radiation levels were recorded on the rural monitors. A second manual venting started at ~2pm, which was confirmed by the main gate monitor showing a radiation increase.  At 2:10pm, one rural monitor, ~5.5 kilometers from F. Daiichi, showed a rise in radiation level which peaked at 2:40pm showing .0046 millisieverts per hour. The unit #1 hydrogen explosion occurred at 3:36pm, expunging an enormous amount of radioactivity. The rural monitors should have shown a substantial radiation increase, but none did. NHK World; Radiation surge detailed in 2011 accident; March 11, 2014

  • The first nukes to be screened for restarts will be the twin Pressurized Water Reactor units at Sendai station in Kagoshima. The NRA says the prioritization means confirmation of being able to withstand maximum earthquakes and tsunamis. NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka says the major safety issues with the Sendai station have been resolved. The NRA plans on garnering expert opinions and holding public hearings before final approval will be decided. Kyushu Electric hopes to have the units running for this summer’s anticipated peak electrical demand. NHK World; Sendai nuclear plant screening prioritized; March 13, 2013  Meanwhile, Kagoshima Governor Yuichiro Ito says he will keep a close eye on the Sendai safety screenings. He said the basis for the restarts is ensuring safety. Ito added that the state must guarantee the plant's safety and a full explanation should be given to residents to gain their understanding. NHK World; Governor calls for plant safety guarantee; March 13, 2014 

  • The radiation level in Tokyo is less than London, Paris and Seoul, Korea. The Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health has recorded data showing Tokyo has returned to pre-Fukushima background radiation levels. The readings taken in the Shinjuku Ward of the city reveals radiation exposure at 0.034 microsieverts per hour. That’s roughly the same as March 10, 2011; the day before the massive tsunami caused the nuclear accident. The reported level in Paris is 0.057 µSv/hr, 0.085 µSv/hr in London, and 0.11 µSv/hr in Seoul. The highest reading recorded in Tokyo during the accident was 0.809 µSv/hr on March 15, 2011. For the record, the Tokyo level dropped to 0.049 µSv on March 18 which was the pre-accident background readings. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/11/national/tokyo-radiation-less-than-the-level-in-paris/#.Ux8DeKOYYdU

  • American Dale Klein says great progress has been made by Tepco and Japan. Klein is former head of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and currently chairs a group of international experts advising Tepco on nuclear reform. His speech at Japan's Foreign Press Center marked the third anniversary of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. The full transcript of his speech can be found here… http://www.nrmc.jp/en/news/detail/index-e.html#date_20140311-153000

  • Japan’s Atomic Industrial Forum has posted a listing of options for Tritium disposal. Due to the wide concern across Japan with releasing any form of radiation, a joint task force was assembled by Tokyo to provide possible methods of handling Tritium in wastewaters. Several options were broached including burial after solidification, injection into underground geology, release to the sea, releasing into the air in steam, releasing in air as hydrogen gas, long-tern storage, and disposal as diluted amounts of “highly radioactive tritiated water”.  http://www.jaif.or.jp/english/news_images/pdf/ENGNEWS01_1394433399P.pdf

  • A foreign expert says that Fukushima’s child thyroid cancer rate is not due to the nuclear accident. Dr. Dillwyn Williams, professor of pathology at Cambridge University, referred to the Chernobyl accident in 1986 where a noticeable increase in thyroid cancers was not seen until 3-4 years after the accident. Williams explained, “Much less radioactivity was released from Fukushima than from Chernobyl. Most of [the Fukushima radioactivity] was blown over the Pacific Ocean, and thyroid doses in the most-affected areas are low compared to Chernobyl. It is very unlikely there will be a large increase in thyroid cancer or any other health problems, apart from anxiety and psychological difficulties. That does not mean the surveillance should stop. There were surprises after Chernobyl and there may be again after Fukushima.”  http://www.tokyotimes.com/2014/thyroid-cancer-cases-among-fukushima-children/

  • A class action suit against GE, Toshiba and Hitachi has been filed in Tokyo. There are about 4,000 claimants from Japan and 32 other countries, including the United States, Germany and South Korea. They want $1 each in compensation for damages against the international community. The filing is largely symbolic, but it is the first lawsuit to be brought against nuclear power-plant suppliers over the 2011 accident. A statement issued Wednesday said, “General Electric, Toshiba and Hitachi failed to implement safety improvements to the four-decades old boiling water reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The lawsuit is intended to bring attention to the system that protects the nuclear industry around the world.” http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/4000-sue-ge-toshiba-hitachi-over-fukushima-disaster?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2014-03-13_PM

  • A$1 billion lawsuit might be filed against Tepco by US Navy sailors. Their first attempt was quashed by a US District Court Judge last year. The Judge saw the filing as a conspiracy charge against Tepco and said she did not have the authority to determine if the company and the Tokyo government lied about the severity of the accident. Judge Sammartino left the door open for a subsequent filing, but pointed out a serious legal hurdle: the plaintiffs must show the USS Ronald Reagan would have acted differently “but for Tepco’s allegedly wrongful conduct.” The new suit claims Tepco was negligent about safety and lied to the Navy and the public about radiation levels at F. Daiichi. Lawyer Garner Bonner says the suit will be filed on behalf of 70,000 U.S. citizens who were in Japan during the crisis, including 5,500 sailors on board the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier during Operation Tomodachi. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/03/10/issues/stakes-high-as-ailing-u-s-navy-sailors-take-on-tepco-over-fukushima-fallout/#.UyBuRaOYYdV (comment – the timing of the article concurrent with the third anniversary is not mere coincidence. Further, all of the alleged evidence cited in the report is hear-say. Plus, there is not the slightest attempt to balance the report by interviewing anyone from the Radiation Biology or Health Physics communities. Considering the extremely small exposures that occurred in comparison to natural background levels, it seems the suit is using Fukushima radiation as a scapegoat for the plaintiff’s problems.)

March 10, 2014

  • This morning, Tepco posted that 462 spent fuel bundles have been removed from #4 spent fuel pool. Last week the announced total was 418, thus 44 bundles were relocated to a pool in the ground level common storage facility over the last seven days. To date, no problems have been reported. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/decommision/index-e.html

  • Most voluntary Fukushima evacuees refuse to return home. Subsequent to March 11, 2011, at least 25,000 residents fled Fukushima Prefecture from beyond the evacuation zones. NHK polled 307 of them and 74% said they have no intention of returning. Some had returned home briefly, but decided to leave again citing fears of possible radiation exposure. 65% said they are financially “squeezed” by their decision, even though many receive expressway toll waivers and housing compensation. How long these pay-outs will last is a matter of debate. Lawyer Kenichiro Kawasaki says frightened people have a legal right to evacuate and should be granted full compensation. 129 households have the breadwinner still working in the prefecture, but the families live elsewhere. 25% married couples said they live separately because of disagreement over evacuation and radiation. These separations have caused deterioration in relationships. Another 23% have divorced. NHK World; Survey: 74% of voluntary evacuees not returning; March 7, 2014

  • Nearly three-fourths of Japan’s public says the government should not urge Fukushima evacuees to return home. Tokyo has eased their pressure for evacuee repopulation over the past few months, and most Japanese think it is the right thing to do. Government policy is now focused on helping evacuees live away from their former residences. A Yomiuri Shimbun poll found that 73% of the respondents support the new government policy. In addition, 76% said they support Tokyo covering part of the rural decontamination expenses. Currently, Tokyo is billing Tepco for all decontamination costs. On a more disturbing note, 39% said they have become less concerned about recovery of disaster-wrecked areas of the Tohoku region, over the past year. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001098995

  • Some Fukushima fishermen say releasing uncontaminated groundwater is OK. A meeting was jointly held by Tepco and the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy for interested local fishing workers. The meeting informed attendees about the situation at F. Daiichi and why releasing uncontaminated groundwater is needed. Some participants said they would accept the proposal if checks for contamination are sufficient. A consensus on the issue from Fukushima Fisheries is expected later this month. Federation head Tetsu Nozaki said , "This is a difficult decision, but I would consider allowing the release of groundwater in order to help stabilize work on decommissioning the reactors." http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014030700511

  • Atomic Energy Society of Japan says the 3/11/11 tsunami caused the Fukushima accident, not the earthquake. The AESJ has run a full investigation on the accident using all available sources of evidence from Tepco, the government and other accident investigations. The group’s report concludes there is no reason to believe the accident was started by the earthquake before the tsunami hit. It says, "We think safety functions were not particularly affected by the earthquake (before tsunami waves hit the plant)...the direct cause of the accident was insufficient measures to deal with tsunami, severe accidents and emergencies." AESJ also concludes that nuclear experts failed to improve tsunami protection sufficiently because they "locked themselves in their narrow field of expertise" and were not much aware of the risks associated with natural disasters, thus "Tsunami issues were discussed by experts on tsunami, and not enough study was made on what kind of risks they could bring to nuclear power plants." The AESJ admits they had little understanding about the role natural calamity experts should play in improving nuclear safety, thus it lacked awareness of natural disasters and failed to make sufficient efforts to maintain neutrality. Critics of the AESJ say the rejection of the quake as the accident’s cause contradicts other reports, it fails to use human resources in order to pin down the cause of the accident, and it sheds no new light on what happened.  http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140308p2g00m0dm037000c.html -- NHK World; Nuclear experts issue final Fukushima report; March 9, 2014  

  • A new survey indicates most of Japan sees little progress in tsunami recovery. NHK Broadcasting Culture Research Institute polled nearly 2,500 respondents and 65% said tsunami recovery shows little or no progress. 55% said there was little apparent progress, and nine percent said they knew of no progress at all. On the other hand, 98% said they saw progress with respect to Fukushima accident recovery. When asked which of the two recoveries was most important, 45% said the nuclear accident and 55% said non-nuclear. On a related issue, the number of Tohoku region bankruptcies since 3/11/11 is approaching 1,500. The failed companies employed more than 21,000 people. NHK World; Survey shows 60% see little progress in rebuilding; March 9, 2014

  • A Fukushima third anniversary antinuclear protest was held in Tokyo on Sunday. Most news outlets said thousands attended, one demonstration organizer said there were 32,000, another estimated 10,000 participated. The metropolitan police said there were maybe 4,000, but AFP News says it was probably about 1700. Demonstrators marched from Hibiya Park in Tokyo to Japan’s Parliament, chanting “abolish all nuclear plants” and “give radiation-free Fukushima back to us”. They vowed to stop the restarts of all 48 nukes now idled by Naoto Kan’s moratorium. Protestors also said no idled nukes need to be restarted because Japan has been living without them since the moratorium began and no power shortages have occurred. The rally was organized by the Japan Congress Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs. Group leader Koichi Kawano said, “We have tended to focus on abolition of nuclear weapons while being weak in our campaign against nuclear power plants. Let there be no more nuclear accidents.” The organization plans similar rallies before the August anniversary of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings. Also involved in the rally was the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes (MCAN). The group leader Misao Redwolf said the accident at Fukushima is not over and may be getting worse, "The situation in Fukushima has been set back rather than remaining unchanged. We will further raise our voices to bring about zero nuclear power." Other protestors argued that no-one really knows what happened at Fukushima so no nukes should be restarted. Shozaburo Oga from Kanagawa Prefecture said, "There's no way they can restart nuclear reactors when the cause of the Fukushima nuclear disaster has yet to be determined. Such a move disregards the nuclear disaster and those who were affected by the catastrophe." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140310p2a00m0na004000c.html --  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/07/31/fukushima-protesters-urge-end-to-nuclear-power/ -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/09/national/thousands-turn-out-for-anti-nuclear-rally-in-tokyo/#.Ux25kqOYYdU --

  • Contaminated wood chips in Shiga Prefecture have made headlines…again. Last March, about 300 tons of contaminated wood chips had been dumped along the shores of Lake Biwa, an important source of fresh water. Reports as to the degree of contamination varied. A Kyoto nonprofit group said the chips contained 12,000 Becquerels per kilogram, which is greater than the 8,000 Bq/kg limit. Shiga Prefecture did its own survey and found levels between 3,000 and 3,900 Bq/kg. The controversy caused removal of the chips and their storage at an undisclosed location. After the chips were removed, area radiation levels were found to be consistent with local background readings. Shiga’s governor, Yukiko Kada, says they have no legal authority to deal with those responsible for dumping the chips, so the prefecture has filed a criminal complaint against the owner of Omihachiman Construction Company, a Tokyo consulting executive, and another man said to be a “go-between”. Kada said, “…unless the central government and Tepco take responsibility for the environmental pollution by (clearly) saying that the perpetrators are responsible, the same problem will occur elsewhere in Japan.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/07/national/illegal-nuclear-dumping-in-shiga-raises-alarms/#.UxnAO6OYYdU

  • Tepco’s American consultant, Lake Barrett, believes Japan can become a world leader in the nuke decommissioning business. He says, "There is decommissioning business here beyond Fukushima and it's a worldwide business. I think it's an exciting new area. Japan can be a world leader again." Many experts point to the current use of robots and other novel technologies at Fukushima Daiichi as the start of a cutting-edge Japanese business. Japan has several older reactors that might not be allowed to restart, so they could become an additional source of expertise. Japan created the government-funded International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning last year, bringing together nuclear plant operators, construction companies and other expert nuclear organizations to promote research and development of decommissioning technologies. With more than 400 nukes operating world-wide, and hundreds more planned over the next three-plus decades, this business has long-term possibilities. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140309p2g00m0bu008000c.html

  • The use of robots at F. Daiichi has created a need for trained operators. Ken Onishi of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. / Nuclear Energy Systems Division says, “It is crucial to have well-experienced operators. But training takes time.” Should another nuclear accident as severe as Fukushima occur in the near future, there could be a shortage of operators. Onishi said, “If there isn’t a sufficient number of manipulators, it would be difficult to respond quickly to a huge accident like Fukushima.” Tepco says they have enough for their needs. Current operators were trained with Chiba Institute of Technology software. Takayuki Furuta, Director of CIT’s Future Robotic Technology Center said, “It takes about a month to produce a competent operator. We trained four people from Tepco, and they trained a few more. Now there are about a dozen robot ‘pilots.’” http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2014/03/07/fukushima-watch-robots-need-humans-too/

  • Several new lawsuits against Tepco and Tokyo have been filed on the eve of Fukushima’s third anniversary. Suits were submitted to 8 district courts by ~750 persons. One suit filed in Tokyo has 40 plaintiffs who all come from inside the evacuation zone in Tamura City, Fukushima Prefecture. They want $13 million because they are not getting enough money to compensate for their disrupted lives. Another group of Tamura residents from outside the exclusion zone plus a few from Tochigi Prefecture demand $46 million in damages. The statute on filing such suits has been extended to ten years, but lawyers say this will inevitably become a point of contention. Tepco says they will sincerely review the suit filings, while the Nuclear Regulation Commission has declined comment. NHK World; Hundreds sue operator of Fukushima plant and govt; March 10, 2014

March 6, 2014

  • A small fire has occurred at the idled Takahama nuclear station, Fukui Prefecture. One of the transformers for Takahama unit #3 caught fire this morning, and was rapidly put out by station staff. A Kansai Electric Co. spokesperson said, “No one was injured and there was no impact from the incident—such as a radiation leak—on the outside environment.” The incident was covered by Japan Today, but most of the article was used to explain why they were covering it, saying “Japan has become increasingly nervous about nuclear power” and pointing out that Takahama is a nuclear station “viable” for restart. As is the case with all nuclear reports, a summation of the Fukushima accident ends the posting. http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/fire-hits-fukui-nuclear-plant-but-no-radiation-leaks

  • The world’s first whole body radiation scanner for babies is now operating, called Babyscan. It allows babies to be lying down and playing with toys, keeping them in place long enough for the scan to be run. Plus, the baby scanner can measure lower isotopic content, which is the case with the much lower body mass of babies. Scanners used for adults cannot do these things. Babyscan was created by Tokyo University to detect radioactive Cesium, in the hope it will ease concerns of worried parents. It can also detect naturally-radioactive potassium 40. The first unit has been installed at the Hirarta Central Hospital in Fukushima. So far, the only isotope of interest to be detected has been K-40. A research paper about the machine has been published in the Open Journal of Pediatrics, and says, "We are happy to report that radiocesium was not detected in any of the 100 subjects.” The report in International Business Times has some data that needs more detailed explanation, but for the most part the article seems to be remarkably balanced and correct. http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/fukushima-fallout-japanese-scientists-develop-worlds-first-radiation-baby-scanner-1438856

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun reports on the current status of the removal of spent fuel from unit #4 pool. This might be the first newspaper report on the operation since the process began last fall. The Yomiuri says that by Monday, 442 “rods” will have been moved out of the spent fuel pool and located in a common pool inside a near-by storage facility. The article adds that all of the unit #4 fuel bundles should be moved by the end of the year. It is also noted that once the unit #4 transfers are complete, planning for the removal of the spent fuel from the pools of the other three units can begin. Tepco said, “We cannot remove [the other bundles] until we can thoroughly analyze the contamination situation.” Unit #2 will probably be the least challenging because there was no hydrogen explosion. For unit #3, an enclosure around the damaged building and fuel removal machine will have to be fabricated, similar to the technology built for unit #4. The current enclosure around unit #1 will have to be dismantled and the same pre-removal construction take place as with unit #3. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001090570

  • Japan’s nuclear watchdog has absorbed a nuclear safety institution. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has merged with Japan’s Nuclear Energy Safety Organization. JNES has been an independent corporation administering nuke plant inspections and studying nuclear safety, with a staff of 380 engineers and administrators. By absorbing JNES, the NRA now has ~1,000 people working for them. It is hoped that the added staffing and expertise will expedite safety reviews with nukes that have applied for restart. NRA welcomes new staff following merger; NHK World; March 4, 2014

  • F. Daiichi host community Okuma prepares for partial repopulation. Ogawara, the town’s southern-most district, has been open to resident visits but restricted from continuous habitation. The radiation levels in the district have been lowered sufficiently through decontamination efforts, so it will eventually be time for people to go back home…if they wish to, of course. Town officials want Ogawara repopulated by March, 2017. Mayor T. Watanabe and Ikuo Kaminishi of the Urban Renaissance Agency signed an agreement on Monday to begin preparing infrastructure, such as water and electricity. When infrastructure is ready, the first major step in repopulation will have been reached. Fukushima town to start rebuilding; NHK World; March 4, 2014

  • Iitate village evacuees have a plan for rebuilding. Iitate is part of the exclusion zone corridor 30 kilometers northwest of F. Daiichi. The villagers want to begin work for repopulation next year, including new public housing and installation of solar power generation. The plan was submitted to Mayor Norio Kanno on Tuesday. In addition to public housing for seniors, it includes possible farming projects to replace the community’s largely agrarian economy that existed before the nuclear accident. The plan also calls for a solar power plant large enough to make the town energy independent. The villagers further want increased work on decontamination by the government so evacuation orders can be lifted in most Iitate districts over the next two years. Reconstruction plan for Fukushima village; NHK World; March 5, 2014 

  • Fukushima 3rd anniversary news articles are beginning to appear. A summation and critique of the lot will be posted in Fukushima Commentary on or after 3/11/14. However, one report bears mentioning here. The Asahi Shimbun has polled the people of Fukushima Prefecture and says “the survey showed signs that radiation fears are easing among Fukushima residents”. Last March, 75% of the respondents felt varying levels of stress, but this year it has dropped to 67%. Plus, those who were anxious about harm from radioactive substances is now 68%, down from 76% last year and 91% soon after the accident in 2011. Food safety optimism is also on the rise. Only 8% said they refuse to eat food from their own prefecture and 38% said they were “reluctant”. On the other have, 24% said they had no problems eating Fukushima-produced foods. In a February nation-wide survey, 40% of the Asahi’s readers said they were reluctant to eat food from Fukushima, but 59% said they were not hesitant. It should be noted the first 80% of the article dwells on the Asahi’s reader’s negative opinions about Tepco, wastewater issues, and accident recovery, which should come as no surprise considering the generally antinuclear nature of the newspaper.  http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201403040053 (comments - It seems Fukushima’s farms and fisheries should spend more time focusing on those inside the prefecture concerning the safety of their product.)

  • The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second-leading newspaper, continues to doubt the cause of the nuclear accident. The article says thousands of people want to know “specifically” what happened, three years after the fact. The Asahi Shimbun argues that official groups continue to disagree about what happened during the week of March 11, 2011, which is a very misleading statement. First, the Asahi tries to reopen the issue of whether or not the accident was caused by the earthquake before the tsunami hit. Although the Nuclear Regulation Authority concluded there is no reason to think the quake was the cause, the newspaper says “No consensus has been reached on the matter”. The report also asks whether or not all three meltdowns should have been averted, despite the full station blackout. The Asahi’s answer is heavily laced with hindsight speculations and questionable allegations. For example, the article alleges the operators should not have shut off the steam-powered High Pressure Coolant Injection system at 2:42am on March 13. The government’s NAIIC report also says the stoppage should not have happened unless an alternative water supply system was available. However, the Asahi and NAIIC report fail to consider that HPCI was the last operable system. There were no alternatives available. Further, water level inside the reactor was dropping closer and closer to the top of the fuel core. HPCI was being run by steam from the reactor. When the water injection flow became less than the volume of steam being used to run HPCI, its operation could no longer help keeping the core covered. It was actually making the water level drop faster that if it were not running. Any experienced reactor operator is correctly trained to keep water above the core as long as possible during an emergency situation. They obviously did the right thing by stopping HPCI when they did. However, neither the NAIIC nor the Asahi have made even a cursory effort to get a reactor operator’s perspective.  http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/analysis/AJ201403050061

  • NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka says they will make sure the confusion over the spread of radioactive substances doesn’t happen again. The focus will be on having the public informed so they can make responsible public protection decisions themselves. Tanaka says, “Discussing plans for evacuating residents on the premise of an infinitely large-scale accident is impossible. We’ll offer a database to help residents make their own decisions more easily.” The panic-based decisions made by Tokyo concerning the Fukushima evacuation caused utter chaos. There was no public understanding of prevailing conditions or where airborne contamination was spreading. Tanaka stressed that “There were people who rushed to evacuate and lost their lives. We have an obligation to avoid this tragedy. We have to predict how radioactive substances will spread not only in terms of time and space but in terms of which substances are spreading.” He pointed out that fully-prepared evacuation plans are not a precondition for restarts. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001087254

March 3, 2014 

  • This morning, Tepco reports that 418 fuel bundles have been removed from unit #4 pool. All have been transferred to the “common pool” in the nearby storage facility. 22 of the relocated bundles have never been used. 396 of the transferred bundles are used nuclear fuel containing ~5% fission products and ~95% reusable Uranium/Plutonium. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/decommision/index-e.html

  • Fukushima Daiichi’s Advanced Liquid Processing System has hit another snag. Two of ALPS’s three flow streams have been operating continuously as a final test for continuous operation. One of the running systems suddenly stopped operating on Friday when an absorber supply pump shut off. The reason for the shutdown is under investigation. The other line has remained in operation stripping 250 tons per day of all isotopes except Tritium. A third stream is currently off-line because it has passed its continuous operation test. Tepco plans on beginning full 3-stream operation in April in the hope of decontaminating all 340,000 tons of wastewater now in storage tanks and reservoirs by early 2015. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001069900

  • Tritium gets another gloomy Press report. The Mainichi Shimbun says removing Tritium from F. Daiichi’s wastewaters has become a “serious obstacle” to full station decommissioning. Professor Masao Matsuyama at Toyama University’s Hydrogen Isotope Research Center, says, "Tritium is like the 'brother' of hydrogen. It is extremely difficult to separate from water, and if we used existing technology at the Fukushima nuclear plant, the cost would be enormous.” The Mainichi stresses special gear worn by workers at the Center and the negative pressure kept inside the building to prevent the release of Tritium. Did the Mainichi ask why the Center takes these precautions? If they did, it’s not in the article. At least the IAEA’s position on Tritium was in the report, “Tritium is practically not accumulated by marine biota and shows a very limited dose factor" and therefore "has a very limited contribution to radiation exposure to individuals." IAEA suggested release of Tritium to the ocean, but radiophobia in Japan and a fear-mongering Press make this a difficult option, even though there is literally no risk involved. However, the release of Tritiated waters is inevitable because the build-up of stored water at F. Daiichi must eventually end. An NRA official says wastewater at the plant site is “a substance that affects the fate” of the entire [decommissioning] project. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/features/news/20140303p2a00m0na002000c.html

  • Depression has become a serious problem for 3/11/11 refugees. A Tohoku University survey has found that about a quarter of the refugees in Miyagi Prefecture show depression symptoms. The team examined 3,744 residents of six Miyagi municipalities since last May. 27% showed symptoms of depression including “bleak moods” and 5% reported on-going painful memories that affected their daily lives. Experts speculate these people may be experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Project leader Hiroaki Tomita pointed out that the survey was run during regular checkups by “health conscious people”. This indicates that if more people had come in for the free evaluation, the percentage of affected individuals would be greater. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20140228_11.html

  • Fukushima Prefecture will spend nearly $17 million this year to quell unfounded rumors. It is four times more than the money spent on rumor control last year. Speculative fear of Fukushima radiation has damaged the fishing and agricultural businesses. The prefecture wants to try as many different methods of rumor control as possible with a program called “Fukushima after the calamity” in the Japanese media. They used commercials with the popular group Tokio In 2012. It had some positive impact. 27% of Tokyo’s consumers were avoiding Fukushima products because of radiation fears, but there was a “10 point” shift with those who had seen the commercials. In 2013, the percentage of Fukushima-averse consumers dropped to 20%.  “Our measures have yielded a certain amount of results,” a prefectural government official said.  http://fukushimaontheglobe.com/the_earthquake_and_the_nuclear_accident/3433.html

  • Fukushima compensation is becoming a fairness issue. There is a gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” in many communities. In some cases it is due to only part of towns or cities falling within the Tokyo-mandated evacuation zone. Those who evacuated from inside the zone receive generous on-going pay-outs mandated by the government, but those who fled voluntarily either get very little compensation or nothing at all. In Tomioka, one of the “divided” communities, residents have complained that the whole process is unfair and gaps of redress between citizens should have a legal limit. In other words, those getting little or no compensation either want to be included in the pay-outs or have the amount going to mandated evacuees reduced. Resident Choichi Watanabe says, ''Most town residents are giving up on returning home. I cannot understand why there are different amounts of compensation.'' Judicial scrivener Kazunori Watanabe said, ''All town residents evacuated together and have been through a lot. Their pain arising from losing their hometown is the same and compensation should be across the board.'' On a related issue, those areas opened to unrestricted repopulation have had compensation cut off one year after restrictions were lifted. In Hirono, 5,200 people evacuated. In September, 2011, the living restrictions were lifted and the $1,000 per month/per person compensation ended after August 2012. However, only 1,300 have actually gone home and the other 3,900 want their compensation restored. Similar issues exist with re-opened districts of Kawauchi and Tomioka. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140303p2a00m0na013000c.html

  • Traces of Fukushima Cesium have been detected off-shore from Vancouver. However, as yet nothing has actually reached the coastline. John Smith of Canada’s Bedford Institute knows the detected Cesium is from Fukushima because it contains a specific isotope, "The only cesium-134 in the North Pacific is there from Fukushima.” The off-shore concentration of Fukushima Cesium is about 0.9 Becquerels per ton of water. The American limit for drinking water is 28 Bq/liter, but no-one drinks seawater, thus the detected Cesium is not going to harm anyone. "These levels are clearly not a human or biological threat in Canada," Smith said. As it turns out, the inadvertent releases from Fukushima Daiichi have given Pacific Ocean researchers the opportunity to study North Pacific Ocean currents to a degree never before possible. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/radioactive-isotopes-from-fukushima-meltdown-detected-near-vancouver/

  • The dismissal of criminal charges against former PM Naoto Kan caused a protest. Hundreds of angry Japanese rallied Saturday to show their displeasure. The original filing was in Fukushima City, where it was dismissed last year. But, an appeal filed in Tokyo was dismissed last week and spawned the protest. Hiroyuki Kawai, a lawyer representing the campaigners, said “there were lots of measures that officials could have taken to prevent the disaster. We won’t give up [pushing for] indictment of the officials.”  Chief rally organizer Ruiko Muto told the rally that “There are many victims of the accident, but no one [has been charged].  We are determined to keep telling our experiences as victims to pursue the truth of the disaster, and we want to avoid a repeat in the future.” Another of the organizers, Miwa Chiwaki, 43, said. “We want to share with many people in Tokyo our anger and sadness over the fact that no one has taken responsibility three years after the accident.” Kazuo Nakamura, 45, a farmer from the city of Koriyama in Fukushima, also spoke and said, “I used to grow organic rice…but I can’t do so anymore because of consumers’ worries over radioactive contamination. I want officials of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and officials and bureaucrats of the central government to eat Fukushima-grown rice.” (comment - I guess he doesn’t know that PM Shinzo Abe regularly eats Fukushima rice.) http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/02/national/hundreds-rally-in-tokyo-against-dropped-fukushima-crisis-charges/#.UxIJD6OYYdU

February 27, 2014

  • A team of Japanese researchers say Fukushima resident’s cancer risk is very, very low. A team of Kyoto University medical professors, headed by Dr. Akio Koizumi, surveyed the exposures of volunteers living in Kawauchi, Soma, and Minamisoma, all of which are between 20 and 50 kilometers of Fukushima Daiichi. Minamisoma and Soma are on the coast north of F. Daiichi. Kawauchi is inland, to the southwest. 459 people carried dosimeters over a 2-month period to determine external exposure, and collected food samples from 125 residents to gauge internal exposure. Most people in the prefecture are unlikely to receive doses significantly different from normal background radiation levels.The team found that external doses ranged from 1.03 to 2.75 millisieverts per year, and internal from .0058 to .019 mSv/yr. These levels carry a lower cancer risk than being overweight. 23 of the 459 with dosimeters revealed exposures in the 3-8 mSv/yr range because they had spent some time in forests where decontamination had not been done. The full report was released Tuesday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but a formal statement by the authors is available on line. (see second link, below) The statement leads with the following, “Residents of communities bordering restricted areas around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant received a radiation dose of 0.89-2.51 millisieverts per year (mSv/yr) in 2012, a dose similar to the 2 mSv/yr that residents of Japan can expect from natural sources.”  It should be noted that the study’s cancer estimate is based on the controversial Linear/No Threshold assumption which necessarily over-estimates risk to radiation expose to a considerable degree.  http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140225p2a00m0na010000c.html -- http://chinese.eurekalert.org/en/pub_releases/2014-02/aaft-ecr022114.php

  • A brief loss of power to a cooling system caused a brief cessation of spent fuel pool #4 work. Excavation work outside unit #4 caused damage to a power cable; cutting off supply to the SFP’s cooling system at 10:19am on Tuesday. By procedure, spent fuel transfer activities were stopped until cooling was restored. Power was resumed and cooling restarted at 2:16pm. Fuel transfer operations were resumed at 2:36pm. The Press reported that Tepco said the pool temperature could increase as much as 0.3oC per hour, but actual readings showed barely a 0.1oC rise over the four hour period. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2014/1234483_5892.html

  • The preparations for freezing the ground around F. Daiichi units #1 through 4 is progressing. Tepco says the first test around the exterior of unit #4 will begin as early as March 11. Steel pipes will be inserted into the earth to a depth of 30 meters (~93 feet) beneath a surface area of 100 m2. Liquid coolant at minus 40oC will then be injected to freeze the soil solid. Tepco says it may take as long as a month for the entire volume of soil to be frozen. At that point, engineers will inspect the soil to determine the level of success and if the flow of groundwater has been deflected away. If everything is satisfactory, the work to completely surround the four large buildings will begin in April, with only one change; the steel pipes will penetrate to a depth of 35 meters. Critics say the process could severely alter local groundwater migration and have a negative impact on the station’s underground structures. They also doubt whether a new technology of this size can be properly maintained. NHK World, Frozen wall test to begin at Fukushima plant, 2/26/14

  • Tokyo will include nuke operations in Japan’s future energy policy. The next step is to get approval of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet after holding talks with all ruling parties. Nuclear energy is identified as an “important base load power source”. While most Japanese news outlets are unhappy with the announcement and cite antinuclear critics who say the policy shows no consideration of the Fukushima accident, Japan’s leading newspaper (Yomiuri Shimbun) says “We believe the government’s draft shows we are headed in the right direction.” The Yomiuri adds, “At the same time, the government would “carefully consider the scale of the nuclear power plants” it would maintain, suggesting that new nuclear power plants may be built or existing power plants expanded in the future. We believe this is realistic.” http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001068431

  • Ex-PM Naoto Kan continues his “I saved Tokyo” crusade. Now, he’s attacking the new national energy policy which states nukes are an important base-load source of power. It is not mere coincidence that his latest polemic comes concurrent with a court decision to not indict him for criminal actions concerning his actions during the early stages of the Fukushima accident. At a Feb. 26 lower house subcommittee meeting, Kan said that the new policy “is a plan for nuclear energy expansion. It reflects nothing from the Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant disaster”. He then waxed reflective and recalled the time when that he irrationally believed the situation at F. Daiichi was close to the point where Tokyo could be destroyed. Industry Minister Motegi said there are no grounds for Kan’s criticism. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga echoed Motegi and added that affordable energy is important to everyone in Japan and reducing reliance on nuclear power is part of the new policy. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2014/02/276155.html –- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140227p2a00m0na004000c.html -- NHK World; Ex-PM Kan criticizes govt. energy plan;2/27/14.  

  • Tepco is seeking “outside help” to insure there will be no future incorrect radioactive sample analyses. The company says, “Recognizing that improvement needs to be made in the reliability of the sampling and testing of water for radioactivity at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) on February 24 announced that it will ask domestic and internationally recognized organizations in the field, to crosscheck the analysis results, and to review TEPCO's measurement methods from both a technical and management perspective.” Tepco discovered that 164 instances of incorrect water sample analyses had occurred between April and September of 2013. All had to do with groundwater sampling. None were involved with seawater testing. Tepco added, “The measurement errors were halted in October 2013, at which time human resources were strengthened and manuals were clarified to ensure the correct testing procedures.” http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2014/1234473_5892.html

  • Wildlife is thriving inside Fukushima’s mandated evacuation zone. The number of wild pigs and raccoons (designated as an “invasive species” by Japan) have skyrocketed since the government forced the residents to leave. The pigs are a cross of domesticated “iron age” pigs and wild boars. Twenty of the iron age pigs were released by owners before they left in 2011. It seems they have reproduced with the wild boars and the numbers are unexpectedly high. 120 of the iron age variety have been trapped by Tomioka Town as of January, but town official Shinya Kurosawa says, "There are many more iron age pigs left. We have no idea how many." In addition, there have been reports of pigs damaging 43 homes in Namie, and some said they were attacked by the animals during brief visitation periods. Meanwhile, the number of raccoons seems to have doubled. In the city of Date, 1,100 raccoons were captured between April last year and this January, marking an increase of some 600 from the same period last year. The Environment Ministry has commissioned 14 residents with hunting licenses to capture wild animals in Namie, Futaba, Okuma and Tomioka towns. A bounty of $200 per captured pig is being considered by Tomioka Town. If the pigs have become feral, they could be a threat to humans and provide yet another excuse for evacuees to refuse repopulation. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/features/news/20140226p2a00m0na014000c.html

  • Tepco has set deadlines for stopping some compensation payments. The pay-outs have to do with loss of income due to the Fukushima accident. Tepco cites their reason as an “improvement in the employment climate.” This appears to be in violation of the guidelines set by Tokyo. However, a Tepco official explained, “We may not abide by the guidelines, but considering the particularity of the accident, we have sufficiently extended the indemnity period.” The original statutory period was for two years, but Tokyo asked Tepco to extend payments for at least an additional year, and the company complied with the request. However, they will stop this indemnification under one of two conditions. Income compensation will stop one year after the government has lifted evacuation restrictions, and/or February 2014 for everyone. Tepco says they will not further prolong the compensation period. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201402250046

  • The town of Hirono is trying to return its population to what it was before 3/11/11. There were about 5,000 residents before the nuke accident who were forced to evacuate by orders from Tokyo. The order was lifted in September of 2011, but only 1,352 have returned. Many supermarkets and restaurants remain closed due to lack of patronage. However, the town has become a temporary home for some 2,500 F. Daiichi workers, and businesses are seeing a recovery. The owner of a convenience store said that the number of shoppers per day is up 500 from before the accident and daily sales have risen 1.5-fold. Town officials want to begin a project to develop land north of the town as a residential area for Tepco workers. Not everyone is happy about this. One obviously confused resident said, “That would make it difficult to let children play outside.” Also, reported cases of drunken plant workers makes a current evacuee hesitant to return, “I am too scared to walk outside at night.” A worker at F. Daiichi said he and his colleagues are portrayed only in a bad light, even though their efforts to decommission the stricken plant are an important part of the region’s reconstruction. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/02/25/national/half-evacuated-fukushima-town-looks-to-accept-no-1-plant-workers/#.Uwyf38uYYdU


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