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Fukushima Commentary (blog)

These postings mainly address four questions. What Japanese decisions border on the irrational? Is the Fukushima accident ongoing? Does Fukushima have the potential for world-wide apocalyptic disaster? Are the Fukushima radiation levels health-threatening?

"Fukushima : The First Five Days"...a book taken from the records kept by the operating staff at Fukushima Daiichi during the first crucial days of the crisis. It is now available at all E-book outlets. For the PDF and bundle... (click here)

NEW E-BOOK - "Kimin: Japan's Forgotten People" - the untold story of Japan's 300,000 tsunami refugees, ignored by the world's news media. for Availability... (click here)

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July 15, 2015

Tokyo owes Naraha Town a huge apology

On September 5th, the town of Nahara, Japan, will be re-opened for full repopulation. On March 12, 2011, the Tokyo government, under now-deposed Prime Minister Naoto Kan, ordered an evacuation of all people within a 20km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station. About 90% of Naraha is within the 20km radius, so the entire community was emptied and remained a virtual no-man’s land until this year. The Sept. 5th lifting of all restrictions on the residents will mark the first full repopulation of an entire municipality within the Tokyo-mandated exclusion zone.

It is expected that only about 20-25% of the estranged residents will actually go home, based on the repopulation levels of re-opened residential areas outside the exclusion zone. Some people say they will stay away because not all social and medical infrastructures will be in full operation. Others say they fear the low levels of radiation that remain detectible. There those who are concerned that the huge government-mandated subsidies given to the evacuees end, forcing many to find jobs that may not yet exist. But, the most commonly-voiced reason for staying away is a lack of trust in the central government.

To be blunt, Naraha should have been unconditionally re-opened more than four years ago. The population has suffered reprehensible and absolutely avoidable angst for far, far too long. There is only one entity responsible for this, and it is not the owner of Fukushima Daiichi….Tepco is the willing pawn of this travesty. The burden of guilt totally falls on Tokyo, and its well-past time they owned up to it!

The initial evacuation order in 2011 made some sense, if only as a precaution against the weather patterns changing and carrying concentrated amounts of F. Daiichi airborne contamination to the community. Naraha stretches between 10km and 20km directly south of F. Daiichi. The prevailing winds blow east, west, and occasionally to the north. Winds blowing in a southerly direction are quite unusual, thus the potential for it was unlikely. Due to brief meteorological shifts, some contamination actually made it to Nahara over the first two months following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. But, the drastic reduction in releases from F. Daiichi after April, 2011, made it unlikely that anyone would have been at risk even if the winds constantly blew directly over Naraha for an extended period.

By late summer of 2011, estimated exposure levels across Naraha Town were projected. The average was in the one microsievert per hour range. That equated to a bit less than 9 millisieverts per year for anyone remaining outdoors 24 hours per day, every day. Anyone with an iota of radiological understanding knows that the roofs and walls of homes, no matter how thin, reduce radiation levels. It’s called shielding. People spend most of their lives inside their homes. Thus, if the estimated outdoor exposure levels (largely taken by monitoring devices hanging below helicopters) were correct, the typical resident of Nahara would have experienced an exposure of about 6 mSv/yr. This is the naturally-occurring exposure level of millions of Americans living on the Colorado Plateau, where life expectancies are a bit greater than the rest of the US, and cancer rates are statistically lower. In other words, Tokyo could have safely lifted the evacuation order for Naraha within six months of forcing the population of about 7,700 to leave.

But, it didn’t happen.

As time passed, the exposures measured at ground level in 2012 indicated that actual exposures were much lower than those conservatively estimated. It turned out that the outdoor exposure levels were (on the average) about 0.5 µSv/hr, a bit more than half of the initial estimates. This equated to 4.4 mSv/yr, which is considerably less than natural background levels on the Colorado Plateau. It was unequivocally… unquestionably… absolutely safe for everyone in Naraha to go home in the summer of 2012.

But, again, it did not happen.

Expensive and arguably unnecessary decontamination efforts in the town, rainfall flushing, and natural radioactive decay have lowered the current average levels to about 3 µSv/hr, or roughly 2.5 mSv/yr…which is actually equal to the average natural radiation exposure routinely experienced by every man, woman, and child around the world! There is absolutely no risk to anyone from Naraha, if they go home. But, again, polls run by national newspapers and Tokyo government groups indicate that the overwhelming majority have no intention of returning.


Most say it is because they don’t trust the government. The former political regime under Naoto Kan and the Democratic Party of Japan was roundly voted out of office more than three years ago. The old administration proved itself financially and socio-politically inept before the quake and tsunami of 2011. The recovery efforts promised to the 250,000 homeless refugees from the 400 kilometer coastline never materialized. Then, the frustrated and outraged Japanese public gave them the old heave-ho. The subsequent regime under current PM Shinzo Abe was shackled with many lame-duck policies from the DPJ, including the continued enforcement of the ridiculously-low goal of lowering exclusion zone radiation levels to one mSv/yr or less.

The one mSv goal was invoked by the DPJ because using the international guideline for repopulation of 20 mSv/yr was vehemently attacked by Japan’s politically-active antinuclear demographic and the nation’s largely-antinuclear Press. The DPJ, under Kan and his predecessor Yoshihiko Noda, kept lowering the decontamination goal until the antinukes and the Press backed off. Clearly, political expediency for the doomed regime was more important than scientific truth. The current government has been shackled with trying to right the radiological ship, swing back to the 20 mSv/yr guideline, and allow people to safely go home. It has taken more than 3 years, but it seems they have finally arrived at a semblance of reality.

So, how can they persuade the majority from Naraha to overcome their distrust of Tokyo, and their paranoiac fear of medically-innocuous low level radiation, and go home?

Tokyo must make a full, unequivocally apology to the people of Naraha Town. The government needs to admit that repopulation was not only safe and possible four years ago, but the extended duration of mandated exclusion over that period was (for all intents and purposes) entirely political. The one mSv/r goal for decontamination was entirely the result of the old regime making a last-ditch effort to politically survive. The prolonged evacuation of Naraha was entirely the fault of Tokyo. The prolonged estrangement of Naraha was entirely due to a government too afraid of the Press to tell it like it actually was.

The protracted evacuation of Naraha Town is one of the most severe socio-political blunders of the 21st century. It is time for the current government to proffer the most copious volume of mea culpa apologies possible. Will a full, formal apology change the minds of the people of Nahara so they will go home? That’s a matter of speculation. But, it would certainly do more good than harm.

July 1, 2015

What If There had been No Fukushima Accident?

On March 11, 2011, the entire coastline of the Tohoku Region of Japan was devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Tohoku is comprised of several prefectures, including Ibaraki, Fukushima Miyagi, and Iwate on the Pacific Ocean. The earthquake of 9 Richter-scale caused no nuclear emergency at any of the four stations along the shore, including Fukushima Daiichi. It was the subsequent tsunami which triggered the Fukushima nuclear accident. While the impact of Fukushima has been a regular issue with the Japanese Press, little attention has been given to the severe plight rendered by the tsunami along the 400 kilometer coastline.

Recently, posted two reports on the situation with the town of Onagawa (1,2), which was the community closest to the earthquake’s off-shore epicenter. Onagawa nuclear station was the closest land-site to the epicenter at about 72 kilometers. (2) The typical wave depth measured along the 400 kilometer Tohoku coastline was between 5 and 7 meters. But, Onagawa town itself was literally demolished by the violent tsunamic surge, which reached the mind-boggling height of about 20 meters. It suffered the most massive water-rise of any community along the Tohoku coast. This was because the town is surrounded by a continuous ridgeline, causing the tsunami’s in-surge to literally pile up and raise its peak depth considerably. Further, the shoreline forms a virtual funnel into the Onagawa port area, further amplifying the wave’s intensity. All town residents were rendered homeless and 827 of the towns nearly 10,000 residents died.

On the other hand, the tsunami’s depth at the Onagawa nuclear station reached a peak of about 15 meters because there was no natural topography to swell the wave’s intensity. The nuke is roughly 10 kilometers southeast of Onagawa Town, and is actually located inside the border of Ishinomaki City. It is on a peninsula jutting some ten kilometers into the sea. Onagawa station had a 14 meter-high seawall surrounding it. While some of the tsunamic surge spilled over the barrier, it was sufficient to prevent severe flooding. All safety systems functioned perfectly and no nuclear accident occurred.

Onagawa station and Fukushima Daiichi both use Boiling Water Reactor technology. F.Daiichi was built more than a decade before the first unit at Onagawa and the GE design had been plainly copied by Toshiba, which built the Onagawa units. Thus, the technological similarities between the two nukes are considerable. In addition, both stations were hit by the same level of tsunami - ~15 meters. If is safe to say that it was Onagawa’s much more robust tsunami protective barrier kept it from having an accident similar to F. Daiichi.

With this all in mind, the article gives us what is essentially the first opportunity to ask a question; what if there had been no nuclear accident at F. Daiichi? What if Tepco had built a seawall of the same robustness as the barrier at Onagawa? The current situation with respect to Onagawa might provide at least part of an answer.

It is critical to be reminded that with Onagawa on 3/11/11, hundreds of local residents fled to the nuke station seeking shelter. They were given relief, allowed to stay in the station’s gymnasium, provided free bedding, and were given free food and water to sustain them for as long as they needed. Nearly all of these residents lost everything to the black water surge. Their homes and all belongings were swept away. Many too advantage of the station’s generosity for more than two weeks.

It is likely something similar could have happened at F. Daiichi, if their tsunamic protection had paralleled Onagawa. The Fukushima Prefecture coastline was pummeled by the tsunami, with many thousands of homes and businesses destroyed or swept away. There can be no doubt that F. Daiichi would have taken in all local residents seeking refuge, providing them with the same support as the refugees who fled to Onagawa.

What would the situation with Fukushima be like today, more than four years later, if there were no nuke accident? There is no reason to think it would be much different from what we find in Onagawa Town. At Onagawa, it took two years to cart away the mountains of debris left behind by the giant waves. Rebuilding of the town and the seaport could not begin until the tsunamic residuals were removed. The town’s main transportation artery, the JR Ishinomaki Railroad, was destroyed. It took four years to repair it and rebuild the Onagawa station on a massive artificial mound as high as other natural bluffs where buildings were flooded, but not swept away. The town’s fishing business has made a strong comeback, with 2014 being as lucrative as before the disaster. Perhaps the greatest boost to the fishing business was a $20 million cash influx from Qatar.

On the other hand, most other Onagawa infrastructure remains in the recovery condition. Few homes have been rebuilt and the main shopping plaza has only begun construction recently. Many lots that had held homes and other buildings remain empty. Only 7,000 of the town’s residents have stayed in temporary living conditions in the hope of going back. Government-funded temporary homes have been built for only 2,100 people. Mayor Suda Yoshiaki says permanent public housing projects could take more than four years to complete. Much of the delay has been due to landowners being reluctant to sell their property. For all intents and purposes, the town’s rebuilding has only just begun, spurred by the railroad’s reopening in March of this year.

Asu e no Kibō, a nonprofit organization whose name means “hope for tomorrow,” has been coordinating the restart of businesses and running employment training for two years. Its leader, Komatrsu Yosuke, says “Onagawa has strong community ties and a culture where veterans boost the younger generation. This has been very heartening.” This has much to do with why Onagawa is one of the foremost communities in the tsunamic recovery along the Tohoku coast. Most other communities lag far behind.

The recovery of Onagawa Town has been slow and agonizing. Mayor Suda Yoshiaki was asked if his town’s path to recovery was coming into focus. He said,” No, that’s still to come,” largely due to delays in building public housing and lack of money.” Suda explained that the town’s annual budget during recovery is about $300 million; six times what it was before 3/11/11. He said the tax money from the Onagawa nuclear station would be a big help if it were operating. If Tokyo shifts the financial burden for reconstruction to local communities, which is being considered, restarting Onagawa’s nuke will be even more important.

Many of Onagawa’s on-going issues virtually mirror those regularly reported in Japan’s Press concerning Fukushima. One positive difference is the recovery of the Onagawa fishing business. However, there are many difference that are stark and disturbing. While it is true that the homes of several thousand Fukushima residents were swept away by the tsunami, most of the residences of Fukushima’s more than 70,000 mandated evacuees are still there. Some are in disrepair, but the majority are ready to welcome their people home. The only exceptions are with the F. Daiichi host towns of Okuma and Futaba – a combined population of 17,000 – which remain under the no-return restriction ordered by Tokyo, and the hundreds (thousands?) of homes swept away by the tsunami within the 20 kilometer-radius exclusion zone.

In addition, temporary living quarters are provided free for all mandated evacuees, at government expense. More importantly, more than $45 billion has been paid to these people in individual and property compensation, not to mention the $1,000 per month mental anguish rewards paid to every man, woman, and child. Free rent subsidies continue to be given to the ~25,000 voluntary Fukushima evacuees scattered all over Japan. These compensations will run through March, 2017.

However, the typical Onagawa refugee receives less than five hundred dollars a month in government-funded subsistence, and this is due to run out next March. Across the vast expanse of the tsunami-flooded Tohoku coastline, more than 18,000 were killed and roughly 250,000 refugees made instantly homeless by the giant waves. 230,000 remain estranged to this day. In Fukushima Prefecture, more than 1,500 were killed by the massive sea-surge, and there is no doubt that the thousands made homeless by the tsunami would still be dispossessed if the nuclear accident had never happened. The exact number of tsunami-spawned homeless in Fukushima has not been posted by Tokyo or Fukushima Prefecture.

While there are many similarities between Fukushima-today and Onagawa-now, there are also important differences. A major difference is that Fukushima evacuees are being treated far better by Tokyo than those in Onagawa Town or almost everyone else in the Tohoku region displaced by the tsunami.

In addition, the road to repopulation for the majority of mandated Fukushima evacuees is shorter than the one facing Onagawa refugees, because the restrictions will be lifted for some 50,000 by March, 2017.

The bottom line is this - if there had been no nuclear accident, the future faced by Fukushima’s tsunami refugees would probably be little different than those still displaced from Onagawa. This fact should always be kept in mind.


1. – A Tohoku Town Returns to Life;; June 19, 2015.

2. – Rebuilding Onagawa;; June 29, 2015.

3. - Japan Earthquake & Tsunami of 2011: Facts and Information; Live; May 7, 2015.

June 21, 2015

266th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting this week’s edition of the Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers. We have postings by Dr. Jim Conca, Dan Yurman, Gail Marcus, Meredith Angwin, and Leslie Corrice.

Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… The second-largest nuclear power station in the world is located on Lake Huron.

Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include… Israel’s flirtation with a weapon of mass destruction, France’s nuclear fleet approaches a crossroads, the hidden danger of fact-resistant people, antinuclear reports that contain easily-corrected errors, and the Associated Press’ latest use of FUD.

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From Dr. Jim Conca of Forbes Magazine – (2)

Israel Experiments With A Weapon Of Mass Disruption

Israel just finished a four-year project to determine the effects of a dirty bomb attack. They concluded that such an attack would be ineffective. This isn’t really news. The USA did these tests years ago, and came to the same conclusion. A radiation dispersal device (RDD) uses a conventional bomb to disperse radioactive materials in a populated area to cause economic and social disruption. An RDD is a psychological weapon, not a nuclear weapon. Few, if any, people would die from the radiation of the dirty bomb, although tens to hundreds could die from the conventional blast. The concept is to scare everyone silly.


Pope Francis Talks Climate Change, Shocks Religious Right

The Pope’s landmark encyclical on global stewardship was leaked and states that the major contributor to global climate change is human activity. Francis strongly emphasizes that the pervasive belief that God gave humans power of dominion over the Earth to the point that we can destroy whatever we choose, "is not a correct interpretation of the Bible." Conservatives thinks he should stick to theology and not concern himself with such weighty matters.

From Dan Yurman’s Neutron Bytes

France's nuclear destiny depends on rescuing Areva

While most press reports have focused on Areva’s financial troubles, French government is more likely looking at is who or what will replace the current fleet of nuclear reactors. In just six years, half of the French nuclear fleet will start to click over on their service life of 40 years. The other half, built in the 1990s, are all of the fleet’s 1300 MW units. Some of them will start hitting the 40 year mark starting in 2030. By 2040, France is going to be needing new nuclear reactors. The problems are long construction time lines and large capital requirements.  

From Dr. Gail Marcus’ Nuke Power Talk

The Hidden Danger

Gail Marcus discusses a tongue-in-cheek article on "a new strain of fact-resistant humans."  While the idea seems amusing and we usually laugh at such people, she postulates that science and/or fact deniers can cause widespread damage in a variety of ways by impeding the use of some technological advances.

From Meredith Angwin’s Northwest Clean Energy and Yes Vermont Yankee -

Northwest Clean Energy

How to be an “Errorist”

Columbia Generating Station is often the target of anti-nuclear "reports" that contain easily correctable errors. For example, one article is concerned with the age of the station's steam generators. However, the station is a BWR--it has no steam generators!  John Dobken analyzes the “Errorist” resistance to mere facts.

Yes Vermont Yankee 

There is an emergency plan (Guest post by Howard Shaffer)

Vermont Yankee has begun the decommissioning process, and the plant's emergency plan is changing as the plant circumstances change. Mr. Shaffer answers opponents that claim the NRC has approved a plan that protects Entergy's bottom line, but ignores the need to protect people.

From the Leslie Corrice’s Fukushima Commentary

Fukushima Uncertainty and Doubt Reign Supreme with the Associated Press

The latest roadmap for decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi has spawned an unusually large spate of misinformation. The AP uses this questionable material to try and continue the quest of keeping Fukushima uncertainty and doubt alive.

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Fact or Fiction (?) quiz answer – Fact.

The Bruce Station on Lake Huron is the second largest nuclear power station on Earth. It is located on a 2,300 acre site and has a maximum total electrical capacity of more than 6,300 Megawatts. Bruce Station provides more than 40% of the electricity used in Ontario. The largest nuclear station in the world is Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in Japan, with a total electrical capacity of over 7,900 MWe. Kashiwazaki-Kariwa is currently idled due to Japan’s nation-wide nuclear moratorium. --

June 14, 2015

Fukushima Uncertainty and Doubt Reign Supreme with the Associated Press

The Associated Press affiliate Japan Today is one of the major English news sources in Japan. Its antinuclear agenda has been obvious to this writer since I began following Japan’s Fukushima accident news in March, 2011. However, the June 12th posting, Gov't OKs long-term Fukushima cleanup plan despite unknowns (1), one of its most error-filled to date. Not only does it preach the antinuclear dogmas of unbridled uncertainty and doubt, but it contains an incredible amount of misinformation and incorrect statements used to support the article.

The report concerns the freshly-revised roadmap for the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi. The opening blurb says, “The Japanese government on Friday approved a revised 30- to 40-year roadmap to clean up the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, but many questions remain.” This is followed by the obligatory reminders of the March, 2011 accident and the need to remove damaged fuel. Unfortunately, the confabulatory offal soon follows.

The first tainted statement goes thusly, “Experts believe melted fuel had breached the reactor cores and mostly fell to the bottom of the containment chambers, some possibly sinking into the concrete foundation.” First, the fuel is the reactor core. It cannot breach itself. I guess they mean “breached the reactor vessel”. On the other hand, the notion of the cores sinking into the concrete foundation is nothing more than fantasy. Nobody, other than a few foreign antinuclear prophets of doom, has said any melted mass actually breached the vessel’s bottom head and sunk into the base-mat below. The statements literally drip with uncertainty.

This is but the tip of the redolent iceberg. Four “uncertainties and questions” follow. The first concerns the removal of used nuclear fuel from units #1, #2, &#3. The article says, “…they [fuel bundles] need to be removed to free up space for robots and other equipment to go down to the containment chambers.” This is pure hogwash. The spent fuel pool is completely outside the Primary Containment Vessel. The fuel in the SFP in no way, shape, or form, has anything to do with access to the PCV. But, this gross error is immediately followed with another, “…the building roofs must be taken off and replaced with a cover that prevents radioactive dust from flying out.” Actually, the temporary enclosure around unit #1 reactor building needs to be disassembled, but there is no roof at all over unit #3 and unit #2’s reactor building is completely undamaged. For units #1 and #3, a fuel-removal structure will be needed, similar to the one used to defuel the SFP for unit #4. Unit #2 has an essentially undamaged, already-installed fuel transfer system for used fuel removal that will be more than sufficient to empty the SFP. Two entirely incorrect statement that transcend uncertainty and doubt, and take us into the realm of fiction.

The next topic is entitled “The Melted Fuel”. In this case, there may well be currently unanswerable questions, but they get spun into something beyond the truth. It says, “The biggest questions are where the melted fuel is and in what condition.” Hey…hello! The fuel is fully melted in unit #1; that IS the condition. It is not entirely unknown. The fuel core may have fully melted in unit #3 and (probably) partially melted in unit #2. Again, these conditions are fairly-well known…not completely unknown. Also, the location of the fuel in each is not unknown. With unit #1, it’s inside the Primary Containment, either pooled up in the bottom head of the RPV or else piled up on the floor of the PCV directly below the RPV. The same goes for unit #3. Unit #2, it is probably still inside the RPV. Regardless, Japan Today makes it seem like some big, horrific mystery that smacks of the unrealistic “melted into the earth” fiction preached by many antinuclear sources.

The real problem is whether or not the melted fuel can be recovered by filling the PCVs with water. However, this option is not in order to keep the melted fuel cooled. It’s to use the water as a highly effective radiation shield! A foot’s thickness of water reduces radiation levels by a factor of 10. Two feet drops it by a factor of 100. Keeping the melted fuel cool has nothing to do with why the principle methodology is submergence! It’s to reduce the radiation exposures to the workers who will be doing it.

The third item is entitled “Contaminated water”. While admitting that the massive volume is being run through “treatment machines to remove most radioactive elements”, the article abruptly conjures up visions of radioactive harm by saying, “Water leaks pose environmental concerns and health risks to workers.” However, the environmental concerns from leaks of treated waters are entirely hypothetical. In addition, any leaks can only get as far as the wholly-barricaded inner port. It’s going nowhere else. And, what in tarnation does the contaminated water pose as a health risk to workers? Only those who ascribe to the non-scientific, fundamentally alarmist notion of no safe level of radiation, or the more irrational notion that detectible equates to inordinate danger, would believe the treated wastewater stored at F. Daiichi poses any real risk to the people working there.

The last item is entitled “radioactive waste”. It says Japan has no plan for the waste that comes out of the plant. A kernel of truth transformed into something entirely misleading. The material will either be buried at F. Daiichi or shipped to a geological repository. However, the antinuclear activists of Japan have been well-trained by foreign experts in socio-political obfuscation; how to keep either of these things from happening. Japan Time’s bottom line is that “…finding waste storage site is practically impossible considering public sentiment.” And, “This raises serious doubts about whether the cleanup can be completed within 40 years.” The appeals to uncertainty and doubt are obvious.

Japan Today makes the decommissioning processes seem hopeless, when the opposite is the reality. However, we can be confident on two points concerning the future. Japan Today will certainly do everything it can to keep fear of the unknown alive in Japan. The future is necessarily uncertain, and Japan Today uses this fact as if it is only applicable to Fukushima decommissioning. Secondly, we can surely doubt whatever rhetorical ploys the news outlet uses to try and “prove” its undeniably antinuclear agenda.

(End note – The same reporter posted a nearly identical report with the Associated Press on Saturday. (2) The preamble to the four main points is abbreviated from the Japan Today article, but the myriad of technical mistakes remain.)

1 -

2 – (AP version)



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