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January 18, 2018

  • The number of non-Japanese Fukushima visitors in 2017 topped that of 2010. Last year, 78,680 travelers came to Fukushima between January and October, and stayed one night or more. This was 790 more than the total during the same period in 2010; the year before the F. Daiichi accident. The number of October visitors was 14,290; 1.7 times more than the 8,471 in October 2010! Prefectural officials believe the growth is because of efforts to attract visitors through tourism information. Taiwan topped the charts with 18,390, followed by Thailand with 7,360. Thailand’s increase was more than a factor of six since last year. The one country with a relatively high drop in visitors was South Korea, largely due to governmental in-fighting and persistent false rumors.
  • Area radiation levels in the remaining evacuated areas continues to drop. In 2016, the “difficult to return” zone had its highest area radiation level of 8.89 microsieverts per hour in Katsurao. The highest level recorded in 2017 was 8.48 mSv/hr in Futaba. However, comparing the levels to Tokyo’s decontamination goal of 0.23 mSv/hr is inappropriate. Nuclear Regulation Authority Chair Toyoshi Fuketa said the goal was set for decontamination and intended to be conservative, but should now be reconsidered, "If we don't revise (that calculation) properly, it could hinder evacuees' return home." (Aside - Japan’s Press calls area radiation measurements “airborne”, which is patently incorrect. Airborne radiation is that which is emitted by radioactive gasses and dust particles suspended in the atmosphere. Radiation emitted by the earth, building materials, rocks, and etc. is termed “area radiation”. Japan’s Press is once again publishing incorrect information! – End aside.)
  • Futaba District farmers consider growing a unique type of banana. They are looking at the district as a potential cold-weather-resistant banana production center. Typically, bananas are grown and harvested in the tropics. However, an unusual type of the fruit developed in Okayama Prefecture could thrive in the district. The banana has a fast growth and maturity period of nine months, rather than the typical one-year period for most banana breeds. Most bananas sold in Japan are imported. Farming the new breed in Fukushima could give a significant boost to the local economy and promote reconstruction.
  • America and Japan maintain status quo on their atomic energy agreement. The Agreement for Cooperation between the Government of the United States of America and the Government of Japan Concerning Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy was first signed on February 26, 1968. It stated each nation’s position on nuclear energy research and development. The main interest in the agreement, at this point, concerns Japan’s growing stockpile of Plutonium extracted from used reactor fuel bundles. It "shall not be used for any nuclear explosive device, for research specifically on or development of any nuclear explosive device, or for any military purpose.” (Article 8) The current agreement was signed in November of 1987, with a 30 year statute for renegotiation. Since both parties refrained from said renegotiation in 2017, the agreement automatically renews. Either party may terminate the agreement “by giving six months written notice to the other party, to terminate this Agreement at the end of the initial thirty-year period or at any time thereafter.” The agreement will renew in July. The opportunity to reopen negotiations was discussed with Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette during his October visit to Japan. Japan’s Foreign Ministry has said there is a mutual trust between Japan and America, so renegotiation is not necessary. -- (The Agreement)

January 11, 2018

  • The $5 billion “Operation Tomodachi” lawsuit is dismissed! The suit was filed in a United States court last August by 157 plaintiffs, including crewmembers of the USS Ronald Reagan, claiming mental and physical damages from F. Daiichi accident radioactive releases. Tepco says the suit was turned down by the California court last Friday citing a lack of authority to try the case! The court hinted that it does not prevent the plaintiffs from re-filing with a modified complaint that would allow the claim to be heard.
  • Japan’s nuclear watchdog says the wastewater at F. Daiichi should be released to the sea after treatment and dilution. More than a million tons of coolant have been stripped all radioactive isotopes but biologically-innocuous Tritium, which cannot be removed because it is part of the water molecules themselves. Nuclear Regulation Authority Chair Toyoshi Fuketa has told Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto, "We will face a new challenge if a decision (about the release) is not made within this year. It is scientifically clear that there will be no influence to marine products or to the environment." He advised Tepco to make the right choice soon because it could take 2 or 3 years to prepare the harmless release. Fuketa has said this a few times before, but unbridled radiophobia has kept it from happening.
  • A new telescoping device will look underneath the unit #2 RPV pedestal. Last July, a submersible robot provided images of the underside of unit #3 Reactor Pressure Vessel and its CRDMs (Control Rod Drive Mechanisms). It is hoped the new probe will provide similar scanning of the underside of unit #2 RPV and CRDMs. The device consists in an external telescopic “guiding pipe”, with its final section holding two miniature cameras, a dosimeter, and thermometer. One camera can be pan-tilted 120o vertically and 360o horizontally, and can be lowered by a power cable. The investigative tools can absorb up to 1,000 Gy of radiation exposure. The last unit #2 excursion sent mechanized robots inside the unit #2 Primary Containment (PCV), but blocking debris and higher-than-expected radiation fields resulted in the probe not being able to enter inside the pedestal. The new device was shipped to F. Daiichi on December 22, 2017, and is expected to be used at some point in January-February of this year.
  • A Tokyo antinuclear group formally proposes a government bill to stop nuke restarts and abolish nuclear energy. Headed by fanatic ex-Prime Ministers Junichiro Koizumi and Morihiro Hosokawa, the group includes activists and scholars who also have the samedevoted opinion. Koizumi said, “We will definitely abolish all nuclear plants in the near future with support from a majority of the public.” He then followed with the opinion that the Japanese public will be “awakened” if the bill is introduced into the Diet, assuming nuclear energy will be quickly abolished. The group will submit the bill to the minority Constitutional Party of Japan and perhaps the tiny Hope Party. Lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai made the group’s singular aim clear, “The name of the game is the immediate halt on nuclear plants!” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government support for nuke restarts “will not change”, however, "We will also seek to lower the dependence on nuclear power as much as possible by maximizing the use of renewable energy and the thorough implementation of energy-saving measures." --

January 4, 2018

  • Fukushima farmers consider an international system to thwart false rumors. They will look to certification through the Good Agricultural Practice system (GAP), recommended by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Fukushima Prefecture has designed its own version, dubbed FGAP, which adds countermeasures for detecting radioactive contamination. The prefecture will cover all costs associated with gaining FGAP certification. The Farm Ministry calls GAP an “effective method to raise [consumer] confidence.”
  • Tepco investigates the possibility of joint refueling and maintenance outages. Japanese BWRs need to be shut down every 13 months to exchange a third of its used fuel bundles for new ones and effect planned maintenance. Tepco believes that collaborating with other utilities using BWRs could end up improving efficiency and save some money for everyone. It is possible that similar partnerships with PWR-based companies could also be efficacious. Some immediate candidates for regular outage collaboration include Chubu Electric, Tohoku Electric, Japan Atomic, and Hokuriku Electric Power Companies. The concept of joint operating management of new nukes, such as Higashidori Station in Aomori Prefecture, is also being considered.  
  • The New York Times posts a Fukushima article fraught with avoidable errors. Early on, the piece alleges that 16,000 people have died due to the nuke accident. Actually, 1,600 Fukushima residents died due to the earthquake, tsunami and chaotic evacuation. Also, there were 16,000 confirmed deaths along the entire Tohoku coastline due to the earthquake and tsunami, not the nuke accident! The Times next suggests the Fukushima City baseball games are being used to make visitors overlook the “extensive damage” caused by the nuke accident on the Pacific coast. Actually, the extensive damage on the coast was caused by the quake and tsunami, not the nuke accident. In addition, the report says there are 120,000 residents “who still cannot – and may never – return to their homes.”  The number still officially barred from their homes is actually in the 25,000 range. At least the Times cited Governor Uchibori, who said he could not “find any negative point” about the decision to have Fukushima City host some of the games… but it is buried deeply in the article. Another mistake is found in the explanation of a posted picture, which says a majority of Namie Town’s pre-accident population have refused to return home and “asked for their homes to be demolished instead.” Actually, there are 8,700 Fukushima homes scheduled for demolition. 7,000 are along the prefecture’s Pacific coastline, caused by the 3/11/11 quake & tsunami, not by the nuke accident! Several hundred of them are in Namie. Such shoddy reporting is inexcusable, especially for a Press outlet as highly respected as the Times.
  • One of Japan’s minor antinuclear political parties gets free promotion from the Asahi Shimbun. Touted as “the main opposition party” to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan (CDP) plans to introduce a bill to the Tokyo government (Diet) to abolish nuclear energy and wholly rely on renewables to cover the lost base load. The bill is believed to focus on helping utilities decommission existing nukes and create jobs in host communities to cover the loss of nuclear plant employment and tax income. One caveat is that nukes will be allowed to operate if Japan was faced with a cut-off in fossil fuel imports. Aside – the CDP is the “main opposition party” by a grand total of five seats in the Diet, outnumbering the now defunct “Party of Hope” 55-50. PM Abe’s “Governing Coalition” holds sway with 313 of 465 possible seats. The Asahi touts a decided minority only because it is antinuclear. – End aside.

December 28, 2017

  • Tritium and radioactive strontium in Fukushima-area fish are barely detectible. Tritium levels in the muscle of three flatfish caught between July 21 and September of 2017 is lower than the concentration in the surrounding seawater. In fact, no organically-bound Tritium was detected. The Strontium-90 found in the muscle of five angel sharks was less than a Becquerel per kilogram, with the lowest being 0.013 Bq/kg.
  • Rural decontamination begins in Futaba, which co-hosts F. Daiichi. This is the first “difficult to return zone” to have such work done. At present, the cost of clean-up and infrastructure repair will be borne by Tokyo. Futaba town mayor Shiro Izawa said, ”We want you to carry out the work, while thinking about the feelings of the citizens who are waiting for the day when they can return. Feeling progress in procedures toward reconstruction through the construction would help stimulate the motivation of town people to return here." A partial lifting of the evacuation order is expected in 2020, and a full rescinding in 2022.
  • The NRA approves restarts for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units #6 &#7. On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulation Authority unanimously endorsed the safety upgrades mandated by Tokyo’s much-improved nuclear safety standards. This is the first restart approval for Tepco, and the first for Boiling Water Reactors. The NRA acknowledged the large number of negative public comments submitted since October, but found that they were essentially unfounded because the safety inspections for the K-K units were far-more-stringent than the new regulations call for, largely because the station is owned and operated by Tepco. All Japanese popular Press outlets erroneously state that the two ABWR (Advanced Boiling Water Reactor) units are the same as the three that suffered meltdowns at F. Daiichi. But, they are not! The operating and safety systems are more forgiving than the four damaged F. Daiichi units. Plus the containment structure is much larger and far-more robust than those for F. Daiich1 units #1 through #4. Regardless, this brings the number of nuclear units approved by the NRA for restart to fourteen. -- --
  • A smattering of protestors opposed the NRA approval of K-K restarts. NHK World estimated that “about 20” people demonstrated outside the NRA headquarters in Tokyo. Two issues were central to their displeasure. First, they believe Tepco is unfit to operate reactors in Japan. Former Kawasaki public official Yoshinari Usui said, "Tepco has no technical qualifications to run a nuclear power plant after causing such an accident. The restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units is totally unacceptable."  Second, they believe the “victims” of the accident have not been given relief, despite each of the more than 75,000 mandated evacuees having already received more than $700,000 in personal compensation and property owners substantially more! One protestor even chided the NRA approval, saying "It is not a technical or scientific assessment, but a political one." -- --
  • A Prolonged delay in restarting Kashiwazaki-Kariwa #6 & #7 will cost locals more than $10 million! Annual grants for hosting nuke stations are currently at more than 1.2 billion yen per year; currently $10.7 million. Co-host communities Kashiwazaki and Kariwa stand to lose a combined $4.45 million and Niigata Prefecture $6.6 million per year if restarts are delayed by nine months after the NRA fully certifies resumption of operations. The most-probable hold-up will be Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama, whose independent investigation into the cause of the F. Daiichi meltdowns will take two to four more years. He acknowledges the NRA approval of plant safety, but refuses to agree to restarts until his independent review is completed, "I have no intention of objecting to the decision by the NRA. [But] Our examination will never be affected” by NRA approvals of plant operations. --  
  • Shikoku Electric Co. has filed an objection to the Hiroshima court injunction against the operation of Ikata unit #3. The unit has been in a refueling and scheduled maintenance outage since October. The court rendered its injunction based on the hypothesis that a worst-case eruption of Mt. Aso on neighboring Kyushu Island could cause a Fukushima-level nuclear accident. Lava fragment 90,000 years old were used as the most compelling evidence. On the other hand, Shikoku Electric says the evidence supplied to the court by the company was not used in the case, so it has asked that the enactment of the court order be suspended. Regardless, it appears that the anticipated February restart of Ikata #3 could be in jeopardy.
  • Former PM Junichiro Koizumi continues his fanatic antinuclear crusade. Now, he promises to announce a “bill” next month to abandon nukes and pursue natural energy. Koizumi’s “bill” comes from Genjiren, an antinuclear-pro-natural energy confederation. Koizumi hopes to ask current Diet members to formally present the “bill” to the Lower House. Koizumi demands that all idled nukes not be restarted and replaced by renewables. He often asserts, "Japan can get along with zero nuclear power plants."

December 21, 2017

  • Naraha’s population has increased to 30% of its pre-nuke accident level. This fact is buried in a Japan News (Yomiuri Shimbun) article on the illumination of holiday lights. The article says, “As of last month, the population of the town was only around 30 percent of what it was before the disaster.” The 2010 census lists the town population at 7,700, and the October 2016 listing shows 976. However, at 30%, the current population is about 2,300. This means that roughly 1,400 people returned home over the past 13 months, and the body of the Japanese Press has disregarded it! -- –-,_Fukushima  (Once again, we have a significant news story concerning Fukushima recovery completely ignored by the Japanese and international Press, simply because it promises to make the repopulation situation look much less dismal than what has been reported to date!)
  • One Canadian Salmon has been found to contain a trace of Fukushima Cesium. The concentration is 0.07 Becquerels per kilogram of Cs-134 (the Fukushima “fingerprint” isotope) and 0.51 Bq/kg of Cs-137. This is more than 1,700 times less than Canada’s “action level”, and has essentially no known health risk. The salmon was one of nine selected from the 123 biotic monitoring samples initially tested by Fukushima InFORM in 2016. After initial 6-hour analysis identified traces of Cs-137 in the nine fish, and extended 2-week analysis was performed on each. The longer monitoring period allowed detection of the tiniest trace of Cs-134, if it was actually present. This is analogous to extending exposure time on a camera to enhance image details in low-light conditions. The InFORM article reads, “So, rest easy the next time you wish to enjoy seafood. It continues to be a healthy component of the normal diet. Bon appétit!”
  • Fukushima Sake sees a significant upswing in exports. The 169 kiloliters exported in fiscal 2016 was an increase of 30% over fiscal 2015. It was also double the amount shipped in 2012. In fact, the 2016 sales topped 216 million yen for the first time! The prefecture believes the upswing was due to a concerted effort in dispelling harmful rumors. The country with the greatest increase in Fukushima Sake imports was the United States, which more than doubled from 2012. The prefecture plans to further extend rumor control worldwide, and see what effect it has.
  • The second annual robot competition is held in Naraha. The first contest last year witnessed none of the contestants traversed the obstacles in total darkness, which is one of the requirements. In addition, radio waves were often unsuccessful in penetrating thick concrete walls, and those that overcame this problem kept participants from meeting time limits! There were two terrains: (1) A mockup staircase had to be climbed while carrying a 5 kilogram object, off-load it, and return to home within a specified time, and (2) finding an object left in an unknown location, traversing uneven terrain. The results were much better this year, with three teams completing the stair-climbing competition, and two teams successfully traversing the uneven terrain. The over-all winner was Nara Hairo-Robocon Club of the National Institute of Technology, Nara College, which won the MEXT Minister’s award.
  • The worst Fukushima food phobia seems to be in Asia. This was discovered by a survey of 12,500 people in Japan and around the world by the Tokyo and Fukushima Universities. More people in Asia said they are “worried about agricultural products from the prefecture” than the United States or Europe. Taiwan had the highest percentage at 81%, followed by South Korea (69%) and China (66%). On the other hand, the negativity was 56% in Russia, 55.7% for Germany, 40% in France, 36% in the United States, and 29% for Great Britain. Surprisingly, “only) 30% 0f Japan had the concern! This suggests that the more aggressive transmission of Fukushima Food product monitoring in Japan might need to become the case around the world. Naoya Sekiya of Tokyo University said, “It is necessary to more aggressively transmit information about the system of examination for radioactive substances and their results.” Ryota Koyama of Fukushima University echoed his words, “(it is) important for the government to explain to foreign countries in a careful manner what has changed between right after the nuclear accident and the present. The prefecture and other parties concerned, building on that, should push ahead with exploitation of new markets, branding and other efforts.”
  • Hitachi’s head says Japan should be bullish on nuclear power. Hitachi President Toshiai Higashihara believes nuclear ought to be Japan’s baseload power source, “We need to consider issues such as the environment, stable energy supply, and securing manpower for reactor decommissioning in a comprehensive manner. Nuclear power should be the country’s baseload power source.” When asked about a possible global nuclear realignment with Toshiba and Mitsubishi, he said, “It’s not something that one single manufacturer should think about. It requires discussion as the issue concerns global energy policy.”
  • Kansai Electric Company consider decommissioning Oi units #1 & #2. The final decision will be announced at the company’s Friday Board meeting. These will be the first large, gigawatt-rated nukes to be scrapped in Japan. Both were placed in operation in 1979, and will reach the in-principle 40-year licensing limit in less than two years. The problem with the two large units is their containment system; both are the ice-condenser type. Some 1,250 tons of block ice are inside the containments to be used to quench any steam released from the primary system during an accident condition. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has not yet created new safety regulations for ice condenser containments, and it is expected that the time table for making the rules will be lengthy and result in not allowing the unit’s operation enough time to recover the costs of meeting the new rules. The company plans on upgrading seven units at three stations: Oi, Mihama, and Takahama. The total cost of upgrades to meet Japan’s current regulations is estimated at about $7.4 billion. --


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