Fukushima 95...12/25/15-1/25/16

January 25, 2016

  • The IAEA lauds Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority for “fast progress”. An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team says the NRA has demonstrated independence and transparency since it was set up in 2012, yet should upgrade its technical competence to simplify nuclear restarts. Team leader Philippe Jamet said, “In the few years since its establishment, the NRA has demonstrated its independence and transparency. It has established new regulatory requirements for nuclear installations and reviewed the first restart applications by utilities. This intensive and impressive work must continue with equal commitment, as there are still significant challenges in the years to come.” The team comprised 19 experts from 17 countries - Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Ireland, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. The NRA’s two most impressive successes were the swift creation of a legal framework for increased regulatory powers, and prompt incorporation of lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. Suggested areas of improvement include the staff upgrades, Tokyo amending legislation to allow the NRA to improve safety inspections, and the continuation of developing a safety culture. https://www.iaea.org/newscenter/pressreleases/iaea-mission-says-japan%E2%80%99s-regulatory-body-made-fast-progress-sees-challenges-ahead Unfortunately, Japan’s largely-antinuclear Press ignored the IAEA findings. I have seen only two articles. Kyodo News focused mainly on the IAEA suggestions for improvement and ignored the areas worthy of praise. On the other hand, NHK World provided a semblance of objectivity. Regardless, once again another nuclear “good news” story gets snubbed. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2016/01/394024.html -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20160122_22.html

  • Japan studies placing limits on nuclear accident compensation. The Japan Atomic Energy Commission is debating the compensation issue. Current laws force owners of damaged nukes to bear unlimited liability, which has resulted in more than $60 billion having already paid out to the 75,000 people that Tokyo ordered to evacuate. (Aside – 48% of the pay-outs have been direct, individual compensation, averaging just under $10,000 per month for every man, woman and child. In addition, business and property compensation accounts for 52% of the total. – End aside) The JAEC discussions are difficult because not all members agree to setting a limit, although other countries have set rather firm compensation parameters. For example, the United States sets the maximum at $12.6 billion; any more would literally take an act of congress. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2016012300254 -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2016012300254

  • A recent scientific study suggests that all Cesium contamination came from Fukushima’s core meltdowns, and not the fuel pools. The research group gathered rice, soil, mushroom, and soybean samples more than 100 kilometers from F. Daiichi were analyzed and found to favorably compare with pre-existent data. The “correlation plots” comparing concentrations of the several isotopes of Cesium, show that it all came from the damaged cores of units 1, 2, &3. There was no evidence of any Cesium coming from spent fuel pools, which would have caused different “plots”. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/rcm.7468/abstract 

  • The restart of Takahama unit #3 is scheduled for January 29th. Later that day, it is expected the unit will achieve initial criticality and begin generating electricity four days later. Approximately 15% of the core is recycled Mixed Oxide fuel (MOX). This will be the first restart of a reactor containing a portion of the fuel load containing a reprocessed mixture Uranium and Plutonium from used bundles. Owner Kansai Electric Co. says Unit #4 is scheduled to begin loading fuel the following Sunday, January 31st. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html -- http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/japan-to-restart-another-nuclear-reactor-jan-29-1st-on-mox-fuel

  • Shiga Prefecture signs a nuke safety accord with Kansai Electric. Restart approval must be gleaned from the host community and prefecture. Tokyo says emergency plans must be approved covering a 30km radius from a nuke station. Shiga has been politicking to be included in the Takahama restart decision because a small part of it is located within the 30km emergency planning zone. The new accord says Kansai Electric must immediately report emergency situations, compensate the prefecture for damages in the event of an accident, report plans to transport nuclear waste, and participate in Shiga Prefecture’s emergency planning. However, Kansai Electric did not agree to allow Shiga participation in restart negotiations. Though reluctant to sign the agreement, Shiga Gov. Taizo Mikazuki said the accord marked "progress" in fulfilling the prefecture's responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160125/p2g/00m/0dm/083000c

  • Japan begins defining scientifically “suitable” standards for high level waste disposal sites. Japan's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) began inviting opinions from specialists and experts on January 20th. The ANRE working group addresses several matters including the effects of natural phenomena, facility safety, and safety of material transportation; all from a “geo-scientific” perspective. ANRE wants to provide information to organizations, scientific societies, scholars, and other experts, contributing to a shared recognition. They will accept responsible opinions through April 19th, then make presentations to the relevant scientific groups. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/anre-invites-comments-on-requirements-and-standards-for-scientifically-promising-sites-for-hlw-final-disposal/

  • 400 Nagasaki residents tell Fukushima citizens they should fear low level radiation. 79 year-old Chiyoko Iwanaga was more than 10 kilometers from the atomic bomb blast at Nagasaki in 1945. She has never qualified for government compensation because of her distant location from the explosion’s epicenter. She and 400 other Nagasaki residents filed suit to be included in the “Hibakusha” (A-bomb survivors) to get government subsidies, but their suit was rejected on March 11, 2011 – the same day as the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. “We lost the trial and appealed but everyone has had their own issues to confront,” said Iwanaga. All former plaintiffs believe they have suffered radiation-related maladies over the past 70 years. Now, they are sending letters to a church in Minamisoma to explain why they feel low level radiation exposure is dangerous. Iwanaga and her compatriots believe that the government ignores the effects of internal exposure from ingested isotopes, and want to make the frightened demographic of Minamisoma aware of their fears. She says, “There are people in Nagasaki who were not only directly exposed to radiation but also people who received low doses of radiation. We wanted to tell people (in Fukushima) about the type of sicknesses of those who had low-dose radiation.” Kazue Kobayashi helps distribute the Nagasaki letters to Fukushima evacuees living in temporary housing, and says, “These are the people of Nagasaki who suffered from radiation, which has no color or odor, so they understand the hardships we face.” http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/letters-from-nagasaki-build-bonds-5-years-after-fukushima-disaster?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2016-01-23_PM  [Comment – The letters are being shared with evacuees who have not returned home and are most likely to have phobic fears of low level radiation exposure. Apparently, those who have returned home, especially in Minamisoma City, are considered unsuitable for the distribution. The notion that internal exposures are not officially considered by Tokyo is a fabrication fomented by unscrupulous foreign prophets of doom – e.g. Helen Caldicott of Australia, Chris Busby & Ian Fairlie of Britain, and Arnie Gundersen of America – who financially profit on provoking unwarranted fear of innocuous levels of low level radiation exposure.]

January 21, 2016

  • A recent study concludes that Japan’s Fukushima doses are less than natural background exposures. This important scientific finding comes from a paper published through the Society for Radiological Protection, entitled “An assessment of the doses received by members of the public in Japan following the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant”. Specifically, the report says, “It is evident that the estimates of dose typically received by members of the public who are representative of the populations, across the majority of Japan and neighboring countries, were very low. For example they were estimated to be less than the annual average dose from natural background radiation in Japan. Even in the regions local to Fukushima Daiichi NPP (and not affected by any form of evacuation) the maximum lifetime effective dose was estimated to be well below the cumulative natural background dose over the same period.” The team analyzed all reputable data from just about every imaginable perspective. While the initial intent of the work was to codify modeling based on meteorological patterning, the exposure-related conclusions are significant for every person in Japan! This needs to be widely disseminated. Bedwell, Mortimer, et. al.; An assessment of the doses received by members of the public in Japan following the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant; Journal of Radiological Protection, No. 35; ppg.869–890, November 26, 2015.

  • Only 0.046% of Fukushima’s 2015 seafood exceeded the radioactive Cesium limit. Of the 8,577 samples tested in 2015, only four were found to have greater than 100 Becquerels of Cesium per kilogram. This is the second consecutive year of a less than one percent failure. Last year, 75 out of 8,722 specimens were above the standard (0.9%); the first year below 1% since 2011. Some 180 species were tested in 2015. The prefecture says the drop-off by a factor of nearly 1,000 is since 2011 in due to several reasons: radioactive decay of Cs-134 (~2 year half-life), the significant reduction of contaminated waters entering the Pacific Ocean since 2011, and the “generational changes” in the tested species. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=618

  • Twenty-seven percent of Fukushima’s school lunch foods come from the prefecture. This is a 5.4% increase since 2014. The percentage is nearing the 30% mark recorded before March, 2011. The survey is run by the prefectural education board. The prefecture has been trying to make residents aware of the safety of Fukushima-produced foods by posting their annual data and having parents try the foods being provided to their children. The board feels their efforts have allowed parents to understand the safety and wholesomeness of Fukushima rice, vegetables, and other ingredients in school lunches. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=617 

  • Some Japanese utilities reconsider earthquake-absorbing buildings for emergency response. Now they are looking at earthquake resistant structures. The possible shift could affect 16 units at seven nuclear stations. All of the units have been submitted for restart screenings. The Takahama and Ikata units presently approved for restarts in 2016 have committed to earthquake-resistant structures, after first planning on absorbing buildings. At issue is the lack of response data on quake-resistant technology. The emergency response center used during the accident at F. Daiichi is quake-absorbing, and experienced no tremor damage. However, there is question as to whether an absorbing building will return to its original shape after a major quake and be able to withstand major aftershocks. Quake-absorber buildings were not designed for quakes worse than design basis. The singular experience at F. Daiichi is insufficient to make a sweeping judgement. The regulations say emergency response facilities should "be built in such a way as to prevent their functions from being lost to the biggest assumed earthquake through quake-absorbing and other means." Some critics say the move to quake-resistance structures is merely a cost-saving measure. NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka responded, "If the move is for saving money, we will inspect it severely,” and that both types are acceptable if they meet the required criteria. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160119/p2a/00m/0na/012000c

  • A former Tepco executive starts a Minamisoma tomato farm. Eiju Hangai is president of Minami-Soma Fukko Agri KK and hopes the farm will help ease local struggles. He said, “We aim to offer not only job opportunities in the agricultural sector, but also train people for future managers in the industry.” He and other local businessmen have invested over $9 million in a 2.4 hectare property to raise tomatoes. More than 70% of the total comes from a Tokyo grant to help local businesses. Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai comes from a farming family and said, “Since I started in agriculture myself, I am fully aware of the frustration of farmers who could no longer do their work. I would like you to channel your frustration into hope and take pride in working in an industry that protects life.” The company employees fifty people, hopes to begin shipment of greenhouse-grown produce in early March, and sell up to 660 tons per year. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/recovery/AJ201601210044

January 18, 2016

  • Tepco posts its plan for unit #3 used (spent) fuel removal. There will be four main steps in the process: removal of remaining rubble, decontamination and shielding of the refueling deck, installation of fuel removal technology & a tubular cover, and lastly the removal of the 566 fuel bundles. The decontamination of the deck began in October, 2013, and large debris removal was finished in November, 2015, when the destroyed fuel handling bridge was lifted from the SFP. After decontamination and rubble removal are complete, remote-control installation of large radiation shields will cover most of the refueling deck, with the exception of the SFP to keep it open for fuel bundle removal. This will greatly reduce radiation levels. A work floor, with heavy shielding beneath it will be the next project (early 2016), followed by installation of the curved roof and fuel-removal machinery (through the first half of 2017). Fuel removal is scheduled for 2018. The remote-control devices to be used during the process were shown to the news media by Toshiba, at their Yokohama facility. Toshiba’s Koichi Sekiguchi says there is much to be learned about the condition of the materials in the SFP, but they will develop any new devices they feel might be better-suited for the job and/or lower radiation exposure to the workers. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2016/images/handouts_160118_01-e.pdf -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html The remote-control fuel removal technologies for unit #3 are further detailed by World Nuclear News. The fuel handling machine weighs 74 tons and is equipped with two manipulators that can cut and grasp debris, along with a fuel grappling mast for actual fuel bundle removal. The tips and hoists are designed to be removable for replacement with more appropriate devices, should they be needed. In addition, a 90 ton fuel hoisting crane was displayed that will move the fuel transfer vessels in and out of the pool, as well as remove and replace the lid of the vessels. http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Fuel-removal-machine-for-Fukushima-Daiichi-3-1801164.html

  • More detail on the remaining Fukushima evacuees. On January 8th, Fukushima Prefecture announced that the number of current evacuees dropped below 100,000 for the first time. Evacuees living inside the prefecture are tabulated and posted every few days by the prefecture itself, while those living elsewhere are charted by Tokyo and posted monthly. The tally is performed under the Disaster Relief Act. Evacuees who relocate from temporary to public houses for evacuees, or to newly purchased homes, officially end their evacuation status. One prefectural official said, "Relocations to permanent housing are in progress along with returns to homes of voluntary evacuees and of residents in zones where evacuation orders have been lifted." http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=614

  • All of 2015’s harvested Fukushima rice passes radiation testing. This was the first year that all of the prefecture’s reaped rice measured less than 100 Becquerels per kilogram for Cesium. The prefecture tested 10,307,119 bags of the 2015 crop and found 10,306,498 of them, or 99.99%, below the self-imposed of 25 Bq/kg for shipment to market. The number of bags that exceeded the 100 Bq/kg Tokyo-mandated standard was 71 in 2012; there were 28 in 2013, two in 2014, and zero last year. The last bag of rice to exceed the national limit was tested before August of 2014. The prefecture attributes the good news to the extreme measures used by rice growers to minimize Cesium uptake in their crops as they grow. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=613

  • Kyoto University researchers say 2013 debris removal from unit #3 contaminated Minamisoma rice paddies. Team-leader Professor Akio Koizumi, has been trying to prove that the paddies were contaminated for more than two years. He and his staff presented their findings to the Minamisoma government which believe their rice crops were contaminated, but that Tokyo has covered it up. The report states, “The cause of further contamination was the radioactive particles dispersed from contaminated rubble during the cleanup effort at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.” Koizumi claims they have found about 3.6 times more Cesium in Minamisoma in 2014 than Tokyo’s original estimates, thus there must have been additional contamination deposited in 2013. Previously, the Agriculture Ministry and Nuclear Regulation Authority concluded that all dust generated in 2013 was too heavy to be carried in the air over the 20 kilometers between the nuke station and the rice fields. Koizumi implies cover-up, saying, “It seems they were blinded by their estimated amount of dispersed particles, and their choice for the analysis system was misguided. This kind of attitude would only increase the anxiety of residents in the affected areas.” The team’s conclusions are based on a digital recreation of what happened in 2013 using a unique analytic program developed for the study. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201601180052

January 14, 2016

  • Fukushima Daiichi is becoming a popular tourist spot. For the first year after the March, 2011, accident, visitation was primarily politicians and specialists. About 900 visitors came in 2011. Since then, some 16,000 have toured the accident site, and most of them are “ordinary citizens”. The numbers have increased as the radiation levels at F. Daiichi have dropped. 3,700 people toured the site between April and October of 2015. Visitors mainly stay inside tour busses, but wear face masks, shoe covers, and gloves, just to be extra cautious. All wear dosimeters. The typical exposure is a tenth of a millisievert. Tepco opened a visitor’s center in April, 2014. Whether or not a tour is allowed depends on the interests of the group being considered. The main reason for tours is to see the decommissioning work being performed. Hideaki Noro of the visitor center says, "Interest in the work serves as the core motivating factor for employees and decommissioning workers. We plan to actively allow in visitors for as long as possible." http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201601120042

  • Tokyo will further increase efforts for repopulation. Evacuation orders will be lifted by the end of March, 2016, for all or parts of the nine communities remaining to be repopulated. Currently, four communities are allowed to have overnight stays in homes to prepare for the earliest rescinding of evacuation orders: the few remaining parts of Minamisoma, Kawamata town, and the villages of Katsurao and Kawauchi. Because of constant concerns by prospective returnees over radiation exposure and available infrastructure, Tokyo will beef up commercial rebuilding, preparation of medical facilities, and welfare support. Subsidies are also being planned for restoration of businesses, factory construction, and reopening of stores and restaurants, beginning in April, 2016. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20160112_10.html

  • Fukushima appeals to a third party over a financial dispute with Tepco. The prefecture wants the company to pay for expenses incurred due to a new government radioactive contamination department at a cost of about $9 million. Compensation is also being pursued for a public relations campaign to revive Fukushima’s tourism business. Tepco has balked at paying for these expenses. The prefecture has appealed to Tokyo’s nuclear damage claim dispute resolution center to serve as mediator. A TEPCO official said, "We will respond in a sincere manner based on the established procedures." This makes a total of seven prefectures seeking compensation through the claim dispute center. Only one (Iwate) has been awarded funds through third-party settlement.  http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201601140031 -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160114/p2a/00m/0na/020000c

  • Stray cat rescue inside the evacuation zone continues despite the prefecture closing the abandoned-pet shelter. The Nyander Guard says that former pets remain on the loose, even though Fukushima Prefecture feels it is unlikely that any remain after five years. The Guard’s Akira Honda says some remain and need to be found. The Guard sets out traps and has surveillance cameras set inside the exclusion zone. One group member, Takemi Shirota, travels into Okuma Town, part of the “difficult to return” zone. She recently trapped a shabby-looking calico cat wearing a collar. She said, “The cat must have had an owner before the accident”. The Guard has rescued about 400 cats and returned most of them to their owners. Some 60 from the difficult-to- return locations remain unclaimed. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201601130071  (Comment – the Asahi Shimbun mentions that the “difficult to return” population number is about 24,000; the first mention of the zone’s population size in any of the numerous Japanese news sources we have scanned daily since March, 2011.)

  • Die-hard Fukui residents will file another lawsuit to try and stop Takahama station restarts. They feel the restarts of Takahama units 3 & 4 infringe on their personal rights. Local citizens and their supporters plan to file on March 11, commemorating the fifth-year anniversary. Unit #3 is due to restart the end of this month, and unit 4 in late February. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2016/01/392548.html

  • Solidification of high level nuclear waste will resume at Tokai station. The small facility began operation in 1977, but was closed in 2006 when the contract for reprocessing (recycling) used fuel from power plants came to an end. While operating, about 1,050 tons of used fuel was recycled, producing roughly 400 tons of liquefied waste isotopes; mostly fission products. In 2013, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said the plant will be decommissioned because it would cost too much to upgrade the facility to meet the new safety regulations. Regardless, the JAEA says they will resume glassifying (solidifying) of the stored liquid wastes as early as the end of the month. The Nuclear regulation Authority has already approved the work, despite the facility not having been screened with respect to the new rules. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2016011300464 -- http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Tokai-reprocessing-plant-to-shut-2909144.html

January 11, 2016

  • Seventy-three Naraha youths celebrate Coming-of-Age Day in their home town. Formal adulthood in Japan occurs at age 20, which includes the right to drink legally and vote. Each year, the holiday is celebrated on the second Monday in January. The celebration for Naraha has been held in Iwaki since Tokyo forced the town to evacuate on March 12, 2011. With last September’s lifting of the evacuation order, Coming-of-Age Day has returned to the town. Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto told the newly-legal adults, “I want you to embrace the tough and hard times that you have gone through as valuable experiences and carve out your future.” Speaking on behalf of the celebrants, Kaede Nogi said, “I am very happy that I could mark the milestone day in my hometown which I love, and with my friends whom I love.” http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/recovery/AJ201601110044 -- http://web-japan.org/kidsweb/explore/calendar/january/seijinshiki.html

  • Fukushima fishermen hold their first New Year prayer ceremony in five years. The tsunami of March 11, 2011, devastated the fishing business based in Iwaki; which is adjacent to the southern edge of the Tokyo-mandated exclusion zone. As with all Tohoku Region fishing businesses hammered by the quake and tsunami, recovery has been slow. For Iwaki, recovery has been further restricted due to negative publicity concerning radioactive contamination. Iwaki fishermen are currently catching 71 species of marketable fish deemed safe by the government, on a “trial” basis. The total catch in 2014 was about three percent of the tonnage marketed before 3/11/11. Fukushima Prefecture tested more than 8.500 fish from Iwaki in 2015, and only four had greater than the national 100 Becquerel per kilogram standard. Iwaki’s fishermen feel this year will be a hallmark for them, so they have resumed their annual prayer observance. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/recovery/AJ201601080053

  • Singapore will consider lifting restrictions on Fukushima foods. On Saturday, the European Union dropped the majority of their required radiation checks on Japanese food imports. On Sunday, Farm Minister Hiroshi Moriyama requested that Singapore follow suit. Development Minister Lawrence Wong of Singapore said he will consider the request after they examine the EU decision. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/01/10/national/social-issues/singapore-consider-japanese-request-ease-restrictions-fukushima-food-items/#.VpJhUJDUgdV

  • The number of Fukushima’s nuclear evacuees drops below 100,000. The prefectural government’s annual survey reveals 99,991 people remain away from their homes; 56.5% living in the prefecture and 43.5% elsewhere. The total was 121,585 in January, 2015, and the peak was just under 165,000 in May, 2012. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002670837 (Comment - about 70,000 of the current evacuees are Tokyo-mandated, and 30,000 are “voluntary” – from outside the exclusion zone, but fled because they feared low level radiation exposure.)

  • December reports saying 100% of unit #4’s spent fuel was released during the accident were entirely false. James Corbett’s normally antinuclear Fukushima Update, out of Tokyo, posts numerous links showing the “mostly alt-media” sources were posting a “bogus story”. http://fukushimaupdate.com/fukushima-myth-declassified-fuel-releases-video/ Perhaps the most popular of the sources were Russia’s RT News https://www.rt.com/news/325663-fukushima-nuclear-report-declassified/ and America’s Washington’s Blog http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2015/12/declassified-u-s-government-report-week-fukushima-accident-100-total-spent-fuel-released-atmosphere-unit-4.html. The alleged source of the false claim was a recently-declassified Nuclear Regulatory Commission document containing worst-case speculations on Alaskan public exposures if unit #4 spent fuel pool boiled away and somehow caught fire. It never says that the scenario actually happened.  http://pbadupws.nrc.gov/docs/ML1212/ML12122A949.pdf#page=7   (Comment -The SFP was never in danger of boiling away and the spent fuel pool fire concept was/is essentially mythical, though repeatedly trumpeted by deceitful antinuclear sources such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, Australia’s Helen Caldicott, and America’s Arnie Gundersen.)

  • Detectible mid-Pacific Ocean contamination levels increase, but remains innocuous. Fukushima InFORM reports that last summer’s sampling 1,500 kilometers west of Canada at “Ocean Station Papa”, shows levels have gone up over the past year, but remain at less than 10 Becquerels of Cesium per ton of seawater. In June, Woods Hole Oceanographic detected 11.4 Bq/ton at a location between Hawaii and Alaska, farther west than Ocean Station Papa. This is 3-4 Bq/ton more than in 2014, and slightly greater than models have predicted. Thus, it appears that the main body of the detectible Fukushima isotopic plume is moving very slowly to the east. http://fukushimainform.ca/  In addition, Fukushima InFORM now has a highly sensitive gamma spectrometer in full operation. On InFORM’s explanatory page, we find that samples of seawater and fish are so exceedingly low in Cesium levels, that each needs to be monitored inside the spectrometer for 1-3 days to get an accurate reading! http://fukushimainform.ca/methods_gamma_spectroscopy/

  • With the impending startup of two Takahama station units, some Japanese Press have posted reports on “concerns” about Plutonium. The Takahama units will use a few MOX (Mixed Oxide) fuel bundles (~15% of the total) containing Uranium and a small fraction of Plutonium recycled from used (spent) fuel. The concern is that the “plutonium in stock” will keep increasing faster than it can be used in operating reactors. One contributing cause is that smaller Japanese nukes are being decommissioned for economic reasons stemming from the high cost of meeting Japan’s new safety regulations. Another is the extreme slowness of the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s review of applications for restarts in Japan. The build-up of Plutonium in storage is tasty meat for Japan’s antinuclear Press. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160108/p2a/00m/0na/006000c

January 7, 2016

Negative information about Fukushima has been relatively low for a few weeks. As a result, some of Japan’s antinuclear Press is recycling old news to fill the void, allegedly in preparation of the accident’s 5th anniversary. Here are two examples…

  • The Mainichi Shimbun ran a rather lengthy article with the misleading headline “Labor shortage sucks underage workers into Fukushima nuclear cleanup”. The article itself re-hashes the sub-contractor hiring of four underage teens more than two years ago, which received heavy Press coverage in Japan. The hirings were in violation of Japan’s Labor Standards Act. The teens worked on a rural decontamination team. Actually, the four teens are the only underage persons reported to have worked in Fukushima. Roughly 30,000 contract employees work there every day. The Mainichi tries to make the issue seem current by saying one of the former teens (now 20 years old) wants to be re-hired since he is no-longer underage and doesn’t fear low level radiation exposure. Also in the article, the Mainichi reports on past rumors of decontamination workers ignoring dosimeter alarms and taking off protective clothing, child labor violations during WWII, and child labor issues in the 19th Century, as being possibly relevant. The Fukushima labor-shortage concept has been common to the Japanese Press for more than three years. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160105/p2a/00m/0na/016000c

  • The Japan Times revives a December 1st news story from its archives, but makes it seem currently relevant. We covered it here on December 7th. At issue was the discovery of safety and non-safety cabling installed in the same cable trays under the Control room floor at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units #5 & 6. The Nuclear Regulation Authority said they were going to further investigate into it. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/01/06/national/nra-call-checks-safety-related-cables-nuclear-plants/#.Vo0J35DUgdU

Now for some current news…

  • The European Union will ease food import restrictions on Japan. The constraints were due to concerns over Fukushima accident contamination. All foods from Fukushima and other neighboring prefectures required radiation checks before shipment. On Wednesday, the EU said the radiation testing could be lifted on food products that have stayed below the limits for a long period of time. The changes take effect on Saturday. Almost all foods from Fukushima Prefecture will qualify for the exemption, including vegetables, buckwheat, tea, most meat products, and fruits other than persimmon. The same will be true for imports from Aomori and Saitama. Rice and soybeans from six other prefectures will also be exempted. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

  • Fukushima Prefecture wants entire forests decontaminated. The Environment Ministry has set a guideline for decontamination of forests area within 20 meters of adjoining communities. Fukushima’s deputy governor has asked Tokyo to consider decontamination of the entirety of forests because residents fear returning home and having rainwater run-off re-contaminate their properties. Environment Minister Marukawa said all local requests will be considered.  http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html (Comment - It has been five years since the nuke accident, and thorough flushing of the forests by rainwater run-off has already happened. The notion of future rainwaters expunging harmful levels of contamination out of the forests comes from foreign antinuclear sources, led by Greenpeace and Arnie Gundersen. As long as these voices of antinuclear propaganda keep being aired by Japan’s antinuclear Press as bona fide experts, unfounded concerns of this sort will continue to bog down repopulation efforts.)

  • The local mayor wants taxes paid on used fuel stored at Genkai station. Genkai Mayor Hideo Kishimoto asked Kyushu Electric Power President Michiaki Uriu to accept the tax plan. Kyushu Electric responded favorably. The company owns the two operating units at Sendai station, and is paying used fuel taxes to the host community, Satsuma-Sendai. They are now pursuing permission from The Nuclear Regulation Agency to restart Genkai units 3 & 4. The Genkai community lost their operating tax money due to the Tokyo-mandated nuclear moratorium, and wants to begin getting $2.5 million per year in spent fuel taxes as soon as possible, or at least as soon as the two pressurized water reactor units are restarted. The issue of when to begin the payments surrounds Kyushu Electric’s profit margin, which has recovered somewhat due to the relatively recent Sendai restarts, but remains tenuous. But, the town needs the money to regain fiscal health. When all four Genkai units operated before 3/11/11, the town’s financial condition was so good that they did not need subsidies from Tokyo. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201601070028

  • A minor ventilation fire at Hamaoka unit #2 gets some Japanese Press coverage. The fire in an exhaust fan was quickly extinguished. Unit #2 is currently being decommissioned. Chubu Electric Company says they are investigating the cause. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2016/01/391795.html -- http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/fire-occurs-at-hamaoka-nuclear-plant-no-danger-to-public?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2016-01-07_PM

January 4, 2016

  • More than 100,000 Fukushima residents remain displaced from their homes. The NHK World news article says the nuke accident “forced them to flee”. (Aside - some 75,000 were subject to Tokyo’s evacuation edict, and perhaps an equal number also fled because of low-level radiation fears. The NHK article neglects to point out that about 30,000 of the current refugees are voluntaries. – End aside.) Three of the nine municipalities that remain under the government evacuation order expect to re-open in the spring: the last part of Minamisoma City, Kawamata Town, and Katsurao Village. If past response to lifting evacuation orders continues to hold, only a small fraction of the populations will initially return. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html (Comment - NHK says that less than 5% of Naraha Town “have so far returned”. However, last Thursday we reported that more than 10% of Naraha’s pre-accident population has actually returned. [Japan Times] This sort of shoddy reporting is becoming rather routine for NHK, where-as most of its articles over the previous four-plus years were just the opposite. Is NHK succumbing to the antinuclear agenda common to most of Japan’s popular Press?)

  • More than 80% of America’s nukes are licensed for 60 years. This is a message of importance to the Tokyo government, their Nuclear Regulation Authority, the Japanese Press, and (most of all) to the people of Japan. The initial 40 year operating licenses on American nukes were not based on the design lifetime of the power plant. Rather, it was officially set relative to the time it would take to amortize the investment in construction and operation. Of the 99 operating American nuclear units, 81 have had their licenses extended to 60 years. The US NRC is currently preparing “guidance documents” for an additional 20 year licensing extension. This will make it possible for US nukes to operate for 80 years. The first expected application for the additional 20 year extension is Dominion Virginia Power’s Surry plant in 2019. http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/RS-NRC-drafts-guidance-for-80-year-lives-2112157.html (Comment - Japan’s commonly-held assumption that nukes wear out after 40 years is unfounded. Nuclear plants are a low-corrosion system, and operate with essentially no abrasives. However, fossil-fueled systems are naturally a highly corrosive and abrasive operating environment. Japan’s 40-year limit comes directly from American regulatory practices, as does the 20-year extension. Tokyo and the NRA ought to be emphasizing these facts with Japan’ Press, but that does not seem to be happening.)

December 31, 2015

  • Takahama unit #3 fuel loading is complete. The last of the 157 fuel bundles was installed inside the Reactor Pressure Vessel on Monday evening, Dec. 28th. The installation process was halted last Friday night for six hours due to an alarm with a fuel handling crane. The problem was resolved and fuel loading resumed. The glitch has not changed the planned start-up at the end of January.   http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20151229_21.html

  • Fukushima’s population decline has been less than Iwate’s tsunami-hit communities. On Monday, some of Japan’s Press reported that there has been a population decline of 5.7% in Fukushima Prefecture since 2010. A major portion of the drop was due to the government-mandated evacuation of the Fukushima exclusion zone. The prefecture’s population has been dropping for 20 years, but 2011-15 has had the biggest five-year decline. Two noted impacts were with Naraha and Kawauchi, where evacuation restrictions have been lifted. Only 976 out of the 7,000 pre-accident population have returned in Naraha, and in Kawauchi the population is now 2,021 versus 2,550 before 3/11/11. On the other hand, the number of households in Fukushima increased for the 19th consecutive 5-year census, up 2.2% from the last one. In addition the collective population drop of the 12 Iwate coastal communities devastated by the tsunami has been 8.3% since 2011; about 40% more than with Fukushima. Much of the Iwate decrease was due to the thousands who died in the tsunami, but also the steady movement of former residents to new locations owing to the slow pace of reconstruction and recovery. The largest decline was Otsuchi Town at 23.2%, followed by Rikuzentakata City at 15.2%, and Yamada Town at 15%. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/12/28/national/fukushima-population-postwar-low-5-7-nuclear-disaster-evacuees-steer-clear-census/#.VoJ8CZDUgdV -- http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/tsunami-hit-areas-see-record-5-year-drop-in-population-in-2015-census?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2015-12-29_PM

  • Fukushima “direct sale” markets are doing more business than before 3/11/11. Local farmers use direct-sales shops to sell their produce, including fresh vegetables and fruits. There are 50 direct-sales locations in the prefecture. Fukushima’s agricultural cooperative says that despite a 20% drop in sales after the nuke accident, the market has recovered dramatically. While direct-sale markets across Japan have averaged a 5% increase since 2010, Fukushima Prefecture has experienced a whopping 15% increase. The cooperative says that intensive radiation testing of foods has contributed to the improvement in sales, but there is a general trend across the entire island nation to buy directly from farmers, rather than at large grocery stores. One official said, “I would guess that the sense of safety you get by being able to see the producer in person is one reason [for the growth].” A shop in Date actually had a 60% jump in sales since 2010, with more than 650 million yen in sales. The prefecture’s total sales for fiscal 2014 (ending Aril 1, 2014) was 7.47 billion yen; roughly $62.25 million USD. It should be noted that four shops inside the Fukushima evacuation zone remain closed. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002650497

December 28, 2015

  • Initial fuel loading of Takahama unit #3 began on Friday. 157 fuel bundles will be installed inside the Reactor Pressure Vessel, 68 of which are fresh, unused fuel. 24 bundles are Mixed Oxide fuel (MOX), containing recycled Uranium and Plutonium as the fissionable isotopes. Kansai Electric Co. President Makoto Yagi said, “We will put top priority on the safety of the work.” Kansai Electric plans on reactivating the fuel core sometime between January 28-30th, and start electrical generation and transmission around the beginning of February. Full commercial operation should begin at the end of February. Unit #4 fuel loading and restart is expected to follow unit #3 by about a month. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20151225/p2g/00m/0dm/048000c

  • Some Fukushima evacuees criticize reversal of the Takahama restart injunction. The original injunction, rendered in April, claimed the Nuclear Regulation Authority was illogical and irrational, and no nuclear plants were safe enough to be restarted. On Thursday, the Fukui District Court rescinded the injunction. Presiding Judge Jun Hayashi said, "The decision by the Nuclear Regulation Authority [to approve restarts] does not show logical flaws. There is no manifestation of concrete danger that threatens lives of local residents." An evacuee from Minamisoma, now living in Kyoto, felt the people of Japan have effectively forgotten Fukushima, “I feel the Fukushima accident has become something that lies totally in the past. I cannot understand why there is a divergence in the decisions made in the judicial system. If the courts approve reactor restarts and those orders are carried out, there is the possibility of new victims appearing who have to go through what we did.” http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201512250049 -- http://www.nuclearpowerdaily.com/reports/Japan_court_paves_way_for_more_nuclear_restarts_999.html (Comment - Antinuclear advocates in Japan continually complain that the Japanese public has “forgotten” the Fukushima accident. Nothing could be further from the truth. The largely-antinuclear popular Press in Japan carries Fukushima accident and accident-related articles on a daily basis.)

  • A post-Fukushima ICRP workshop was held in Date on December 12-13th. The International Commission on Radiological Protection sponsored the event to inform attendees on the conditions in Fukushima Prefecture. The workshop was entitled “Rehabilitation of Living Conditions after the Nuclear Accident”. About 120 local citizens and international researchers attended. University of Tokyo Physics Professor Ryugo Hayano reported that food restrictions greatly limited resident’s exposures, although it will be difficult to further lower radiation levels due to the limitations of decontamination efforts. Thus, he said, “It is hard to say what we can do for the residents’ greater peace of mind.” As for future efforts, Fukushima Medical University’s Makoto Miyazaki said, “It is necessary to have people who play an intermediary role between experts and residents. In Belarus, teachers and public health nurses play such a role. A similar practice needs to be put in place beforehand in Japan.” http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=610 (Comment – There was literally no mention of the workshop in the national Press, before or after it was held. It is only to be found in Fukushima Prefecture’s internal news outlet, available to its 2 million residents; less than 2% of Japan’s population. If this was an antinuclear workshop, it would have been widely trumpeted by the popular Press across Japan.)

  • Voluntary evacuee partial rent subsidies will be started in 2016. The Fukushima government is currently providing free housing to voluntaries, but that will end April 1, 2016. A family of five currently gets their rent paid up to about $720 per month, and a family of four up to $480/month. The average monthly apartment rental in the prefecture is about $450. In order to ease to loss of free housing for families with children or expectant mothers, the prefecture will give them about $250/month after April 1, 2017, and $160/month beginning April, 2018. In addition, qualifying households will get a lump sum of about $800 for “key money” to cover the switch from government rental payments to residents. Fukushima Prefecture says there are approximately 7,000 voluntary evacuee households getting free rent, which numbers about 18,000 persons. The extended subsidies will cover about 2,000 households. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20151226/p2a/00m/0na/016000c  

  • Fukushima-related suicides continue to rise. Nineteen occurred in 2015 (by the end of November), up from 15 over the same period in 2014. The numbers were compiled by local police through interviews with bereaved families. The most-cited reasons were the prolonged evacuation and uncertainty about leading normal lives after returning home. Professor Masaharu Maeda of Fukushima Medical University says, “The problems facing Fukushima disaster victims become more complicated as time passes. There is a need to increase the number of people who have specialized knowledge to help to provide support of disaster victims through improved care.” The University surveyed 38,000 evacuees in 2014 and some 40% said they worry about future negative health effects from radiation exposure. 50% said they believe the radiation will harm their children and grandchildren. It is felt those most concerned are at the greatest risk of taking their own lives due to unrequited depression. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201512280026m

  • A national association of Fukushima lawsuit plaintiffs is launched. 10 local groups of plaintiffs and their lawyers from across 18 prefectures involved in class-action suits across Japan have come together to supposedly prevent the memory of the nuke accident from fading away. They complain that the threat of radioactive contamination remains and continues to pose a threat, but no-one seems to care. The group also wants to further emphasize their collective demand of compensation for the mental and/or physical harm they claim to have suffered, and compel stronger relief measures for all affected citizens. They hope the new group will attract a membership of 10,000 people or more. The association plans to formally inaugurate in February, just ahead of the nuke accident’s fifth anniversary. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20151227_09.html (Comment – The rampant, prolonged influence of the Hiroshima Syndrome combined with acute radiophobia, virtually assures that the Fukushima accident will not be forgotten. What the new association seems to really mean is nuke restarts show that most of Japan isn’t demanding the immediate and complete abolishment of nuclear plants.)

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