Fukushima 68...3/17/14-4/3/14

April 3, 2014

  • All living restrictions have been lifted for Miyakoji district, Tamura, inside the “no-go zone”. This is the first reopening of any location inside the Fukushima exclusion zone. More than 350 residents can now return without restrictions…if they want to. NHK World reports that more than half will not return because of radiation fears, although the reported radiation levels (1-5 millisieverts per year) are well-below what the World Health Organization says is a threshold for cancer (100 mSv/yr). Regardless, most Japanese Press has spent little copy space on the people who are returning, but focuses on those who are afraid or angry. One reason for reluctance seems to be the prospect of losing their monthly compensation. Edwin Lyman of the Union for Concerned Scientists believes Miyakoji was reopened before cleanup was complete and the government is just trying to save money, “People should not be forced to make a choice between losing their homes and not being compensated, and moving back to a region that’s still more radioactive than it was before the accident.” One angry returnee, Kazuhiro Tsuboi, says the returnee stipend of $9000 per person is a ploy, "Those who stood against the lifting of the evacuation order were told 'Do you want to get more money?'" To date, some $15 billion has been paid to the 85,000 evacuees and nearly $17 billion to corporations and property owners. But, not all of the Miyakoji returnees are upset. Returnee Kyoji Konnai is thrilled to be back to an unrestricted life in his own home, and celebrated over dinner with his wife, Fukiko, and three elementary school-age grandchildren. Fukiko said, "I feel more comfortable here than at temporary housing." However, the Asahi Shimbun believes many are not returning because they “have become acclimated to their lives in evacuation shelters”.   http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/residents-allowed-to-return-to-town-near-fukushima-plant?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2014-04-01_AM –- NHK World; Evacuation order lifted, but majority to stay away; April 1, 2014 -- http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/energy/2014/04/140402-fukushima-return-radiation/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140401p2a00m0na012000c.html -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140401p2a00m0na009000c.html -- http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/recovery/AJ201404010052

  • Tokyo says decontamination is completed in three more municipalities inside the no-go zone. Environment Ministry says that decontanination is finished in Okuma, Naraha and the village of Kawauchi.  Four of the 11 municipalities inside the exclusion zone have been decontaminated. Six of the remaining communities are scheduled to be decontaminated by 2017. Only Futaba Town, which has numerous hot spots of 50 mSv/year, is not expected to be cleaned up enough for repopulation by then. NHK World; Decontamination completed in 3 Fukushima towns; April 1, 2014 

  • The Mainichi Shimbun reports Tokyo is merely trying to save money. The Mainichi posts, “The government is set to make all-out efforts to lift its evacuation orders for municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture as quickly as possible in a bid to hold down the amounts of compensation for damages.” They base this opinion on a statement by Minister Takumi Nemoto, "There is a need for us to use all our resources to lift evacuation orders for as many areas as possible where people can return home early”. He mentioned that removal of living restrictions are being planned for Kawauchi this summer, and later for towns including Katsurao and Iitate. A Katsurao official is quoted as being against Tokyo’s projections, "For those municipalities that were forced to evacuate in their entirety, the longer the evacuation period becomes, the longer it will take to reconstruct them. It is too hasty and unrealistic to think they will be restored in one year and discontinue (compensation payments)." An Iitate official says plans to repopulate in 2015 are too optimistic and should be pushed back to 2016. Regardless, The Mainichi report only refers to the $1,000 per month mental anguish compensation which would terminate one year after the restrictions are lifted as the government’s savings; a total of $80 million per month. The report fails to mention the fact that each of the 80,000 remaining evacuees is also getting $7,500 per month in “evacuation compensation”. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140402p2a00m0na011000c.html

  • A prestigious UN panel says there are no increases in cancer due to Fukushima.  Since all exposures were less than the 100 millisievert  threshold for cancer, there have probably been none. The Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) adds the recent discovery of numerous thyroid gland anomalies in Fukushima children are unrelated to the nuke accident. This includes babies and those in utero at the time of the accident. UNSCEAR points out that Japan has a 35% rate of cancer incidence in the population at-large, and if there were Fukushima cancers it would not show up. In a statement accompanying their report, UNSCEAR says, “No discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases are expected due to exposure to radiation as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident. The occurrence of a large number of radiation-induced thyroid cancers as were observed after Chernobyl can be discounted because doses were substantially lower.” With respect to repopulation, Wolfgang Weiss, who chaired the assessment, said, “The risk is low. Continue life. Don’t be scared.” http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/2013/13-85418_Report_2013_Annex_A.pdf  

  • Reuters says Japan may only be able to restart a third of their idled nukes. Former Japan Atomic Energy Agency Chairman Tatsujiro Suzuki said the Reuter’s speculation is “a very good guess”. The article says that restarting 17 nukes would be sufficient to turn around Japan’s negative balance of trade since former-PM Naoto Kan’s nuke moratorium began. Jeff Kingston of Temple University believes restarting the newest Japanese nukes may be a maneuver to get older ones back on the grid, "I think the government is incredibly clever by doing the restarts in the most modern, advanced places that have the most local support and are yet far from centers of political activity. Then you use that to create momentum for the agenda of restarting as many reactors as possible." Reuter’s prediction on restarts is based on a perceived public disdain for nukes after the Fukushima accident, communities balking at making 30 kilometer evacuation plans, earthquake faults, and the 40 year licensing lifetime now in vogue. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/04/02/us-japan-nuclear-restarts-insight-idUSBREA3020020140402

  • Two Japanese utilities have applied to Tokyo for money due to the nuke moratorium. Hokkaido and Kyushu Electric Companies say they each need a large capital injection to off-set their losses. They been forced to burn expensive fossil fuels for power generation and report a third year of net losses. Kyushu spokesman Yuki Hirano said, “We are in consultations with the Development Bank of Japan about receiving capital support, but since nothing has been decided I am unable to comment further.” His company wants the bank to buy $1 billion of its preferred stock to offset last year’s $1.25 billion losses, and Hokkaido Electric wants to sell the bank $500 million in preferred stock to offset theirs. http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/kyushu-electric-becomes-2nd-nuclear-operator-to-seek-govt-aid -- http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2014/04/282475.html

  • Tepco has posted the latest radioactivity levels for the groundwater and seawater at F. Daiichi. Several points should be emphasized. First, all groundwater and barricaded inner harbor (quay) analyses have been steadily droppingthis year. All quay analyses are now below the strict limits set by the government. Further, only three of the outer harbor (inside the break-wall) samples have shown barely-detectible Cesium 137, and no Cesium-134. This disparity should put the source of the detectible Cs-137 in question since Fukushima-based material should show both isotopes. It is possible that what is being seen is residual Cs-137 from nuclear weapon’s tests in the pacific more than 50 years ago. Finally, all highest readings recorded at each sampling point, including their specific dates, are recorded at the end of the below link, which should be used for comparison to the most recent results. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2014/images/2tb-east_14040101-e.pdf

  • Hokkaido’s Hakodate City has filed an injunction to stop nuclear construction in neighboring Aomori Prefecture. The project in question is the new Ohma nuke, located 23 kilometers south of Hakodate across the Tsugaru Straight. The injunction says the new Tokyo regulations cannot  assure absolute safety and an accident at Ohma could cause the city to no longer function. This is the first filing against nuclear construction in Japan. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority won’t comment on the suit’s allegation that new regulations are inadequate. NHK World; City files for injunction against nuclear plant; April 3, 2014 -- http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2014/04/283003.html

  • The NRA has sent a 14-member team to inspect the two Sendai units in Kagoshima for restart. They will inspect upgraded earthquake and tsunami protection. The NRA recently approved Kyushu Electric’s report saying a quake could cause acceleration of 620 gals and a maximum tsunami would be seven meters high. The plant was originally built to withstand a quake movement of 540 gals and a tsunami of 5.2 meters. Among the upgrades to be inspected is a new sea wall being built to a height of 15 meters. The Sendai station has been prioritized by the NRA for restart consideration. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014040300437

March 31, 2014

  • The reason for stoppage of the unit 4 fuel crane was human error. It automatically stopped just as the crane operator began lifting the spent fuel cask from the pool. As it turns out, the operator did not release the auxiliary brake which is engaged as a safety measure while the crane is not being used. He immediately noticed his error, released the brake, and tried to restart the crane’s motor. But, the automatic shutdown circuitry would not allow it to happen. Tepco says there has been no damage to the crane or its lifting motor. They will resume spent fuel transfer from the unit #4 pool as soon as preventative measures are instituted so that this doesn’t happen again. Tepco resumed crane operation on Sunday. F. Daiichi staff inspected the crane motor and lifting mechanism for damage, but found none. NHK World; Fuel removal resumes at Fukushima plant; March 30, 2014  

  • As of this morning, 550 fuel bundles have been removed from the unit #4 fuel pool. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/decommision/index-e.html A

  • F. Daiichi contract worker died in a construction accident on Friday. He was working in a trench excavated along the basement on a warehouse about 200 meters from the nearest reactor building. The earthen walls and some of the basement material collapsed on top of the worker and killed him. A two meter trench had been dug to effect the repair of the warehouse’s foundation piles. The warehouse had been emptied before the trench was dug. A Tepco spokesman said, “When he was checking underneath the foundation, a mass of concrete collapsed along with the earth around it and fell on him.” He worked for one of the many subcontractors at F. Daiichi. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2014/1235120_5892.html -- http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/fukushima-worker-dies-after-being-buried-in-landslide 

  • The release of uncontaminated groundwater could begin as early as May. Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said that the company will wait until the sand launce fishing season has finished at the end of April. Motegi announced the timetable at a meeting with Soma fishermen. He said the government will support all requests that have been submitted by the local fisheries including testing of the groundwater by a third party institution and compensating fishermen for any lost income due to radiation fears in the marketplace. Tetsu Nozaki, the head of the fishermen's federation, said that since answers were given to their requests, he wants all federation members to support acceptance of the plan.  http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014033000187NHK World; Groundwater dumping requests accepted; March 31, 2014

  • The sole operating ALPS isotopic removal unit was stopped briefly on Saturday night. The reason was a lower-than-desired flow rate at the intake of the pump that moves contaminated water from storage and sends it into the system. Technicians washed the pump internals after it was shut off. Another attempt for full rated flow failed. Later that evening, after repeated washings, the flow had risen to the desired level and the unit’s operation was restored. NHK World; Water treatment system halted with pump trouble; March 30, 2014

  • Researchers have found another way to reduce F. Daiichi groundwater contamination – freezing. Professor Masao Matsuyama of the university's Hydrogen Isotope Research Center and professor emeritus Katsutoshi Tsushima, Japan's leading glaciology researcher, headed the team. They put 10 liters of water with 1,500 Becquerels per liter of Cesium in a freezing apparatus. As it slowly froze, a 5.4 kilogram “icicle” formed. The icicle was melted and found to have only 61 Bq/l of Cesium. The outer part of the icicle had only about 5.6 Bq/l. Professor Matsuyama said, "I recalled icicles in nature, (and how pure they are even in mud), and though I was skeptical, our experiment produced results. This method should be able to assist the ALPS system [at F. Daiichi]." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140330p2a00m0na008000c.html

March 27, 2014

  • The cask-lifting crane for fuel bundle transfer stopped. The cask had been filled with bundles and was about to be lifted out of spent fuel pool #4, when an alarm sounded and automatically stopped the crane. The cause of the incident is being investigated. It was also reported that the number of fuel bundles that have been transferred out of SFP #4 is now 550. NHK World; Trouble stops fuel removal at Fukushima plant; March 26,2014

  • A manga (comic book) artist has created a series about working at Fukushima Daiichi. Kazuto Tatsuta (pen name) worked at F. Daiichi from June to December of 2012 while still a struggling, unpublished artist.  He decided to base his first manga series on his experiences at “1F” (what the workers call F. Daiichi). Tatsuta explains that it is not really “hell on earth”, but rather a careful day-to-day routine ensuring they will be protected from contamination and it is really much like many other construction jobs in Japan. Tatsuta says he never felt a sense of physical danger and only stopped working there when he approached the 20 millisievert exposure limit set for all contract workers. The artist emphasizes that he doesn’t take sides on the nuclear energy issue. He also does not want to glorify plant workers. http://japandailypress.com/former-fukushima-worker-depicts-life-inside-crippled-nuclear-plant-in-manga-2646389/  The first chapter of the series can be read for free at https://www.facebook.com/ichiefu/posts/1415129962074416 . (Comment – I hope this comic book series becomes a success in Japan, but I am not optimistic. It has only been posted in English newspapers, and doesn’t seem to be in any of the major Japanese news media outlets...another example of the Japanese Press neglecting to report on something non-negative about F. Daiichi.)

  • The Fukushima fisheries have accepted Tepco’s plan to release uncontaminated groundwater. The Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations want radiation checks of water that will be released into the Pacific, and have measures taken to prevent and dispel harmful marketplace rumors. Federation chairman Tetsu Nozaki said, "We've made a tough decision. We acted in a responsible manner so that we can do our part to help move forward reactor decommissioning." Futaba Fisheries Chairman Hiroyuki Sato also wants the government to insure that groundwater releases to the sea will not hamper ongoing fishing trials. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014032500437

  • The two ALPS water purification system units started Monday were shut down briefly on Tuesday. When flows resumed, leaks from a connection near a system tank were discovered. Both units were stopped and the packing material for the connection was replaced. Both streams were returned to service later that afternoon. Tepco estimates that about eight liters of water leaked from the system. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001156697  This morning, one of the two operating ALPS units was again shut down, but not because of a failure or leak in the system. The unit was shut off when a technician discovered that water entering the system was too cloudy. Since all waters to be purified by ALPS have already been run through the Cesium removal filters and desalination system, the inlet liquid is supposed to be clear…but not this time. Tepco is investigating the cause of the cloudy inlet water. Only one of the three ALPS units is now operating. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014032700684

  • F. Daiichi is in the midst of placing identification tags on 5,000 valves in the wastewater storage tank complex. This is being done in the effort to minimize chances of improper valve positioning, like the incident that occurred several weeks ago when a tank was over-filled. Tepco has tagged 3,500 of the valves, but that’s not good enough for the Japanese Press focusing on the remaining 1,500 un-tagged valves. The Asahi Shimbun says, “The discovery showed how lax the safety measures put up by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. are even after three years since the meltdown triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.” However, a spokesperson from TEPCO explained that despite the apparent lack of tags, the company is “able to identify the valves that have to be operated based on piping drawings,” and, “It took time to identify valves”. They began labeling last autumn because “there was a need to lower the risk of erroneous operations.” http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201403260050  (comment – The tagging began at the end of October and was scheduled for completion by the end of June. However, it appears the job is actually ahead of schedule.)

  • Tokyo will investigate why Fukushima Prefecture’s disaster-related suicides have increased. The government will interview local officials and nonprofit organization workers who attend to 3/11/11 refugees. There were 23 disaster-related suicides in the prefecture last year, compared to ten in Miyagi and four in Iwate Prefectures. The number of Fukushima suicides has risen from 10 in 2011 and 13 in 2012. The three prefectures were, by far, the hardest hit by the quake and tsunami, but Fukushima also has the impact of the state-mandated nuclear evacuation which might contribute to the relatively high suicide rate. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014032500731

  • There was a delay in posting Fukushima evacuation zone radiation readings. Last September, dosimeters were placed in three areas - the Miyakoji district of Tamura, Kawauchi Town and Iitate Village – to find the actual radiation levels. Previously, posted radiation readings were extrapolated from monitors carried by aircraft flown above the area. The dosimeter data showed all readings were lower than the airborne estimates. The government’s Cabinet office decided to delay posting the new readings until they were confident of accuracy. However, some anonymous officials say the readings were withheld because it was feared the higher recorded levels would discourage residents from returning. Last October, the data showed between 0.2 and 0.7 millisieverts per year, significantly lower than the aerial surveys which ranged from 0.7 to 2.9 mSv/yr. But, some “experts” feel these numbers were intentionally lowered below what was actual. Atsuo Tamura of the Cabinet Office stated, "We wanted to show that the data for individual doses ranged in distribution, even within the same areas," which aircraft readings could not provide. A college professor sounded surprised because the numbers were "exactly what were expected. There seems to be no particular problem. I don't understand why they withheld the figures.” One potential returnee to Tamura’s Miyakogi district said, "We see radiation measurements being conducted everywhere, but hardly any results. They probably show only what's convenient for them. I don't think the measurements are conducted in order to protect us." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20140327p2a00m0na009000c.html

  • The “outline” of Tepco’s future re-organization, and the creation of a new F. Daiichi holding company, has been posted. The name of the new entity will be “Fukushima Daiichi Decontamination & Decommissioning Engineering Company”. Mr. Naohiro Masuda will be the company president with the title “Chief Decommissioning Officer” (CDO). The new company will consist of three sections… (1) General Administration Dept. - Overall management of the whole company, establishment of support and operational infrastructure, and supporting of CDO on site, (2) Project Planning Dept. - Schemes of resolution policies and plans for issues related to decommissioning and contaminated water, and (3) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station - Resolution and implementation of countermeasures against decommissioning and contaminated water. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2014/1235009_5892.html

March 24, 2014

  • Tepco announced that 528 fuel bundles have been successfully removed from #4 spent fuel pool. This is out of a total of 1533 that were in the pool before the operation began last year. To date, more than a third of the bundles have been transferred without incident. Unfortunately, the Japanese Press chooses not to report this good news and Tepco has not issued a Press release on the 33% milestone. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/decommision/index-e.html

  • Separating the actual from the fantasy with Fukushima reports have Japanese scratching their heads. One researcher calls it playing “whack-a-mole” with hoaxes and misunderstandings. The Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Japan says, “Oddly, most of these recent stories seem to originate in the U.S., where mistrust of government in some circles has made people vulnerable to all sorts of fantastic and implausible conspiracy theories.” The FCCJ lists a number of “the most egregious ‘moles’ that have burrowed their way through the mediasphere and deserve a good whacking.” These include many of the prophecies of doom I’ve hammered in my Fukushima Commentaries, including numerous apocalyptic fantasies, “radioactive” California beaches, and the myth of spent fuel bundles burning.  http://www.fccj.or.jp/number-1-shimbun/item/301-the-fukushima-follies/301-the-fukushima-follies.html

  • Tepco has received another $660 million from the government to cover compensation payments to Fukushima evacuees for April. This brings the total that has been loaned to the company by the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund to $36.2 billion. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2014/1234970_5892.html

  • Some Fukushima fishermen accept Tepco’s groundwater bypass plan. Somafutaba Fisheries Cooperative has tentatively approved Tepco’s plan to release uncontaminated groundwater to the sea. It is expected to be formally approved at the regional Fukushima Prefectural Fisheries Cooperative on Tuesday. While the cooperative leaders expressed continued safety concerns, they agreed that there is nothing to gain by continuing to be disobliging. The Cooperative has included nine conditions for the discharges, including accurate consumer information and continuance of damages compensation to the fishermen. The Cooperative of Iwaki City has already approved Tepco’s plan. While awaiting fisheries’ approval, Tepco has dug twelve groundwater wells to the west side of the Fukushima Daiichi complex, upstream from the damaged buildings and wastewater storage tanks. The company says they can pump up 1,000 tons of uncontaminated ground water per day out of each well. The waters will be temporarily stored in unused tanks on-site, tested, and released once the tank’s contents are proven to be uncontaminated. It is anticipated that this plan will reduce groundwater flow into the four contaminated units’ basements by 100 tons per day. NHK World; Fukushima fishermen to accept water release plan; March 24, 2014 – NHK World; Details of groundwater bypass plan; March 24, 1024

  • The ALPS wastewater isotopic removal system has been restarted. Tepco resumed full operation on two of the three parallel units today. The operation of all three channel streams was halted last week when the B unit’s outlet activity suddenly showed a significant increase. The two unaffected channels were stopped as a precaution. The problematic line remains closed. Tepco continues to plan for full, continual operation of ALPS in April. NHK World; ALPS resumes partial operation after 6-day halt; March 24, 2014

  • Another community inside the 20km “no-go” zone will be allowed overnight home stays. Beginning April 26, residents of a portion of Kawauchi Town inside the evacuation zone can go home and stay all night. Currently, the government only allows them to return during the day. The relaxation of the restriction will affect ~300 people from more than 150 households (the exact number varies with the news source), and will last for three months before removing all further limits on the residents who agree to take advantage of the decision. The government says decontamination of the affected district is complete and radiation levels are low enough to relax restrictions. This is the second such restriction-easing inside the exclusion zone. The first was a part of neighboring Tamura City at the beginning of February. All remaining limits on the Tamura residents will be removed April 1.  http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2014/03/280746.html -- NHK World; Fukushima villagers allowed to stay home overnight; March 23, 2014

  • A new device for compacting rural radioactive flora and fauna has been created. Osaka Prefecture’s Kinki University and a local machinery manufacturer have developed a device to compress plants, including trees, to one-tenth of their original volume. The mobile unit promises to greatly reduce the volume of debris generated by decontamination of rural areas in Fukushima Prefecture. This will also lower the number of trucks needed to move debris to temporary storage facilities. In May, the device will be demonstrated in Kawamata Town using uncontaminated plants. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001148239 -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014032200220

  • The low level radioactive waste issue is emerging in Japan. On Friday, the National Resources and Energy Agency announced that the decommissioning of all currently-idled nukes would produce nearly 500,000 cubic meters of low level waste material. This would be in addition to all spent fuel bundles that would have to be disposed as high level waste. According to the Japan Times, the low level waste must be buried and “kept apart from residential settlements for up to 400 years.” The most hazardous materials, including dismantled reactor pressure vessels and control rods, must be buried at least 50 meters beneath the surface for the 400 year period. This is designated as L1 waste and would account for more than 7,600 m3 of the total. L2 waste, including filter media and some waste fluids, would total about 95,000 m3, and L3 would be about 393,000 m3. L1 would be the most radioactive of the three groupings and L3 would be the least. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/22/national/nuclear-waste-buildup-relentless/#.Uy22G6NOUdU  (comment – The Times article fails to mention that L3 materials are also produced by medical, research and university facilities.)

  • The mud at the bottom of some Fukushima dams and reservoirs are high in radioactive Cesium. The Agricultural Ministry says that 568 of 1,940 bottoms exceed 8,000 Becquerels per kilogram. 108 are inside the Fukushima exclusion zone and 460 are outside. One reservoir 58 kilometers from F. Daiichi has the highest reading at 370,000 Bq/kg. It is felt the radioactive material was carried to the water bodies by rain runoff, then it precipitated out. None of the agricultural locations using waters from the water bodies have rice or other produce exceeding Japan’s strict contamination limits. Officials say the only risk of radiation exposure is if the bodies of water dry up and expose the bottom mud to the air. The water in the dams and reservoirs effectively shield the radiation emitted by the bottom muds. NHK World; Radiation high in Fukushima reservoirs; March 23, 2014

  • Greenpeace says children in Fukushima should not be allowed to exercise in playgrounds without wearing facemasks. Greenpeace’s Japanese director Kumi Naidoo says the group’s surveys showed “radiation levels in Fukushima showed they were at dangerously high levels and that the decontamination work being done was not enough.” Naidoo also chastised the government for enacting a national security law, reducing “press freedom” for the second year in a row, and allegedly ignoring a petition with 19,000 signatures calling for not restarting any idled nukes. He concludes, “This leaves Japan's government, and therefore the country, open to energy risks; risks that are not worth taking again and are unfounded.” He closed his guest editorial in Kyodo News with a provocative assertion, “Japan should not be a playground where politicians toy with nuclear energy.” http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2014/03/281010.html (comment - please keep in mind that Greenpeace believes that even the tiniest levels of radiation are “dangerously high”. Further, Naidoo neglects to acknowledge that the national security law only impacts the security system around nuke plants to protect them from unscrupulous groups like Greenpeace. Further, the mentioned petition was not ignored – in fact, it delayed the release of the national energy policy so that it could be revised to say that nukes should be eventually eliminated from Japan. He also ignored the fact that the nuclear moratorium has caused catastrophic harm to Japan’s balance of trade so much that the economy is in jeopardy. But such is the informational cherry-picking nature of groups like Greenpeace which are unconditionally bigoted against nuclear energy.)

March 20, 2014

  • The IAEA continues to support controlled discharge of treated water from F. Daiichi. Yukiya Amano, IAEA Director General, says the continual build-up of wastewater storage tanks at the station is “not viable” because “a huge amount of water is stored on the grounds and the ground is not limitless.” He added, “Common practice is to treat contaminated water as much as possible…and then release it into the environment.” Amano stressed that Tepco should concentrate on issues that pose higher risk, such as the removal of spent fuel from the pools in units 1, 2 and 3. When fully operational next month, Tepco’s hi-tech contamination removal system (ALPS) will strip wastewaters of all isotopes except relatively harmless Tritium, the naturally-occurring isotope of Hydrogen. After the waters have passed through ALPS, release to the sea would result in no discernible risk to anyone or anything. However, local fishermen have opposed the discharge of tritiated waters dreading another loss of consumer confidence due to radiation fears. http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2014/03/17/fukushima-watch-iaea-says-controlled-release-of-contaminated-water-should-be-considered/

  • The final testing run for all three units of the ALPS system was halted on Tuesday because the B unit’s output lost efficiency. Typically, the system drops “all Beta” activity by roughly a factor of one million. All three units have been in a final testing run since March 12. However, B stream suddenly showed output activity in the tens-of-millions range. Tepco immediately stopped all three stream operations to investigate the cause and fix the problem. The two other units were shuttered only as a precaution. A TEPCO spokesperson told AFP News, “We don’t know yet when we can resume operating the system as we have not detected the cause of the defect yet. But we still have room to store toxic water so there is no immediate concern.” On Tepco official feels that the isotopic absorption components had reached their limit and lost removal effectiveness. Another possibility has to do with the replacement of metal-removal filters last week. The company will continue the investigation and keep all three units off-line until the matter is resolved. Tepco also says they may have to re—run 15,000 gallons of water through the ALPS system once it is up and running again. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014031900112 -- http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2014/03/280029.html -- http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/tepco-halts-water-decontamination-system-at-fukushima-plant -- http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2014/03/280301.html  (comment – The past three days have had nothing else negative concerning Fukushima. The only subject reported has been the ALPS shutdown, which would normally be a secondary issue, and it is being given front page headlines. Nearly every Press outlet in Japan has reported on it every day since Tuesday. The four listed links above are but the tip of the iceberg. In addition, speculations were not uncommon. For example, the usually-nuclear-neutral NHK World posted, “The shutdown is generating fears that contaminated water may be flowing into the plant's water storage tanks.” The latest negative speculation is that Tepco will soon run out of storage tanks and have to dump wastewaters into the sea. The Press reaction to the ALPS shutdown shows us that negative nuclear energy stories are the second-most popular topic with the Press, only superseded by war. It doesn’t matter how insignificant the nuclear event might be...ALPS is in the test phase, for crying out loud!)

  • 39 households from Kawamata Town have won a $20 million settlement for land and property compensation. This is the full amount suggested under existing compensation laws. Tepco had tried to reduce the pay-out because all 39 properties are located in a district (Yamakiya) outside the mandated evacuation zone that had been declassified to a lower contamination level. Tepco felt this meant the owners were no longer qualified for full compensation. However, the households filed a complaint with a government arbitrator and won the case. Tepco says they will comply with the decision. This is the first time that full property compensation has been awarded to people in the lower-contaminated locations outside the evacuation zone. NHK World; TEPCO to fully compensate Yamakiya residents; March 18, 2014 

  • In April, Fukushima Prefecture will introduce new food detectors for Cesium in all municipalities. The units will be more user-friendly than those now in place. The ones currently used require cutting food into small chunks before scanning and takes 30 minutes to display results. There is no need to cut up the foods with the new units and the delay time for results will be shorter. Fukushima Prefecture has set aside enough funds to provide one new unit to each municipality. The units will be distributed to those communities who say they want them. The prefecture plans on locating the units in public places, such as community centers. The minimum level of detection will be 20 Bq/kilogram, which is one-fifth of Japan’s strict standard for radioactive Cesium content. User-friendly devices are already provided for certain food items (e.g. rice) but these units only scan for the specific foods to be tested. Fukushima City has installed several of the new units and is currently amassing data on a variety of foods the machines are designed to test. A consumer affairs official said, “We will introduce the new detectors after verifying each product’s accuracy. We want to offer an easy to use testing environment and to reduce people’s concerns.” http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=318

  • There have been at least 97 “solitary deaths” within 3/11/11 quake and tsunami evacuees. The Yomiuri Shimbun asked the police in the three most-damaged prefectures (Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima) about “cases in which people living alone in temporary housing units were found dead in their units”. The newspaper calls these “solitary deaths”. The results are 47 in Miyagi, 28 in Fukushima, and 22 in Iwate. 60% of these were over the age of 65, and more than two-thirds were male. Long periods of evacuee life have caused many people to become isolated and/or develop physical or mental problems. Yoshimitsu Shiozaki of Kobe University said, “Many elderly men cannot cook, so they became unable to maintain a balanced diet as they did before the disaster, or they develop a habit of turning to alcohol to alleviate psychological pain. As a result, they can easily fall ill.” The numbers have been growing over the past three years, with 16 in 2011, 38 in 2012, and 41 in 2013. In the three years following the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, there were 188 solitary deaths. The numbers have greatly increased since then and now sit at 1,057. There are currently about 46,000 temporary housing units in the three Tohoku prefectures, which compares favorably with the 48,000 provided after the Hanshin catastrophe. This suggests that Tohoku’s solitary death figures will continue to increase. It should be noted that Tohoku refugees living in 60,000 private-sector housing units rented by the government were not included in the police data, so the current Tohoku solitary death figures are likely but a portion of the actual numbers. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001136006

  • Meanwhile, PM Abe continues to fixate on nuclear evacuation-related fatalities. He told Fukushima Minpo that Tokyo will reinforce its measures to prevent as many possible fatalities as they can. He said, "It breaks my heart that there are evacuees who have passed away amid thoughts of wanting to return home. We need to take measures in a sound manner." Abe specified measures such as speeding up the rebuilding of homes and communities as well as securing public health nurses give evacuees health guidance. It has been widely broadcast that the number of indirect deaths in Fukushima Prefecture related to the tsunami and nuclear evacuations is now greater than the number of Fukushima citizens killed by the tsunami itself – 1,671 vs. 1,603. While nearly all other news outlets in Japan make it seem that all of the indirect deaths are due to the nuclear accident, at least Fukushima Minpo shows that this is not the case.   http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=322 (comment – once again, the squeaky wheel gets the lubricant. What about the more than 200,000 tsunami refugees in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures? Don’t they deserve at least as much attention as those in Fukushima Prefecture?)

  • Naoto Kan has taken his anti-nuclear crusade to Germany. Speaking to a Berlin audience, Kan said the Fukushima accident is still happening, “It remains a fact that the accident is going on,”  and added, “Despite that, the Liberal Democratic Party is trying to reboot many nuclear power plants.” As proof that the accident continues, Kan said that F. Daiichi has had many wastewater problems and that 140,000 evacuees are unable to return to their homes. Finally, he said there has been no major social disruption due to the nuclear moratorium he mandated in 2011, so the nukes are not needed. http://japandailypress.com/japanese-ex-pm-naoto-kan-says-fukushima-disaster-unresolved-criticizes-abe-administration-1946049/

March 17, 2014

  • Tepco has now safely moved 506 fuel bundles out of F. Daiichi unit #4 pool. 22 are unused fuel bundles and 484 of the transferred assemblies are actual spent fuel.  http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/decommision/index-e.html

  • The Fukushima child thyroid cancer cluster is probably due to intensive testing never previously done in Japan. The discovery of 33 child thyroid cases, out of the more than 225,000 examined, has been widely headlined across Japan, around the world, and over the internet. Columbia University’s Norman Kleiman tried to shed light on the situation. He said, “If you're going to screen that many children, you're going to find more cases than you normally [would], because you're looking for something. I suspect if you took the same number of children in Montana and did the same [screening], you'd probably find a similar ratio… Many of these [detected] cancers would have gone undiagnosed, or might not have progressed. The same thing happens with prostate cancer: Most men over a certain age are going to have cancerous cells in their prostate [if they are tested]. But that doesn't mean there's any clinical significance.” He addd that Fukushima children’s thyroid cancer rate should not be compared to what happened in Belarus after the 1986 Chernobyl accident because the exposures were many times higher than with Fukushima children and the latency period hasn’t yet elapsed. Kleiman concluded, “Over the long term I don't think we're going to find any health effects related directly to radiation. The primary health concerns are mental health effects—anxiety and fear of living in what people perceive as a contaminated area. That's where significant efforts need to be directed.” http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140313-fukushima-nuclear-accident-cancer-cluster-thyroid-chernobyl/

  • Another demonstration against nuke restarts was held in Tokyo on Saturday. Demonstrators believed government regulators are ready to allow Kyushu Electric Power Co. to restart two units at Sendai station. The protest march began at Hibiya Park and progressed through the Ginza shopping district. Demonstrator Masatoshi Harada said, “Japan is prone to earthquakes. We have to seriously think about whether nuclear power is a good idea for Japan. This is an opportunity for Japan to drop nuclear power.” Protestors rejected Prime Minister Abe’s desire to restart idled reactors and ease Japan’s severe trade deficit caused by the nuclear moratorium. They feel Japan can live without nuclear power as it has done since the two Oi units were shuttered last year. Campaigner Junichi Okano said, “Nuclear plants have been closed, so you cannot say we cannot live without nuclear energy.”  http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/thousands-rally-in-tokyo-against-nuclear-power?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2014-03-16_PM -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/15/national/over-5000-rally-in-tokyo-against-nuclear-reactor-restarts/#.UyWiR6NOUdU  (comment – The number of protestors is questionable. Only two news outlets, Japan Today and Japan Times, reported on the rally. They both said more than 5,000 were in the demonstration. However, none of the other news outlets mentioned the demonstration on Sunday. If there really 5,000 in attendance, there would have been wide coverage. It should be noted that both the Times and Japan Today say last weekend’s third anniversary protest had tens of thousands in it, but other news media said maybe 5,000, and the metro police estimated about 1,700. Exaggerations of this sort are common to nuclear demonstration figures, especially by the event organizers. This practice has been commonplace since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979.)

  • Former workers at Fukushima Daiichi held a rally outside Tepco headquarters in Tokyo. The number of participants was believed to be about 100. They believe they were cheated by contractors who hired them to work at the plant. One laid off demonstrator said, “Workers at the Fukushima plant have been forced to do unreasonable tasks with no decent safety measures. Workers are forced to handle contaminated water in such grim working conditions, where any human being should not be put to work. They tend to make easy mistakes under the pressure, but it’s not they who are at fault — it’s the conditions that force them to do terrible tasks.” Some demonstrators said they received far less pay than promised as various layers of bosses docked money for supplying meals, transportation and other expenses. Others said they were never paid a $100 per day premium for working with contamination. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/03/14/national/fukushima-no-1-workers-rally-against-tepco/#.UyMI_aNOUdU 

  • An antinuclear rally was held in Kagoshima City. The crowd assembled to protest the Nuclear Regulatory Authority announcement that the two Sendai units in the prefecture are being prioritized for restarts.  Fukushima evacuee Masumi Kowata spoke to the throng, “Although three years have passed, the situation facing Fukushima has not changed. Please don’t restart the reactors.” As the crowd marched through the capital, they chanted “The restarts will never be forgiven” and “We want to live on an Earth that has no nuclear plants”. The demonstration was organized by the Anti-Nuclear Kagoshima Network. Organizers estimate that there were about 6,000 people in attendance. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201403170063

  • The head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority says the Sendai unit’s startups are not guaranteed. Chairman Shunichi Tanaka says that many safety items remain to be resolved and anything can happen. He called Press speculations on a restart date unfounded. Tanaka stressed that how quickly any plant can meet the new regulations is up to the operators of each unit. It is his opinion that the owners of Japanese nukes are struggling to adapt to the new safety regulations, which he says are very different than those that existed before the Fukushima accident. NHK World; NRA chief: Massive tasks for screening; March 14, 2014

  • Some Fukushima evacuees say restarting idled reactors is premature and there is a public shift away from the antinuclear feelings that once existed. The NRA prioritizing the two Sendai units in Kagoshima Prefecture for restart screenings has upset some Fukushima evacuees. They are especially upset with Satsuma-Sendai Mayor Hideo Iwakiri, who said, “We’ve gotten over a big hump. I believe [the Sendai plant] is the safest, most secure nuclear power plant in Japan.”  Kagoshima Governor Yuichiro Ito, who supports restarting the reactors, said, “The prefectural government will keep careful watch over the screening process.” On the other hand, a pear farmer from Okuma said Fukushima proved there are no safe nuclear plants. Another farmer, Kiyoe Kamata, said, “It remains unclear what is happening to the reactors in Fukushima. A succession of crises such as water leaks, have been reported. How can we conclude that other plants are safe?” The debate over restarts will probably continue as long there are nukes waiting to be cleared by the NRA. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201403140062 

  • Another Fukushima tsunami refugee story is reported. Tomokatsu Endo worked in a health care facility in Iwaki, working on his nursing degree after hours. He was bathing a patient when the mighty earthquake struck. Endo carried the patient up the nearby stairs on his back just before the black water surge of the tsunami swept through. The patient said, “You saved my life”. After the waters receded, he cared for as many patients as possible. At around ten pm that night, he was told his wife and child were safe. Four days later they discovered their home had been swept away. They stayed at an Iwaki evacuation center until they could get enough gasoline to leave the area. They made a temporary move to Tokyo, but without clear prospects for the rebuilding of their devastated town, they decided to stay. Endo continued his health care work in the city. Six months after their move, he began experiencing terrifying nightmares about the tsunami, so he enrolled in a vocational school. "I realized that nothing will happen if I didn't take action," Endo said, "I think it made me a bit stronger." The nightmares have ceased. He has completed his classes and hopes he passed the final examination for becoming a nursing assistant. He feels indebted to everyone who assisted him, especially his wife who took a job at Japan’s National Council of Social Welfare. He is eager to begin his nursing career, saying, "So many people have helped me. Now I want to be the one to support people." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140316p2a00m0na001000c.html


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