Fukushima 61...11/1/13-11/14/13

November 14, 2013

  • Tepco has located some leak sources from F. Daiichi unit #1 containment. It seems that at least two pipes inside the suppression pool (torus) room are leaking. One is a small broken pipe with a flow that is said to look like gushing tap-water. The pipe appears to be from a system to collect dew from inside the containment vessel. A Tepco official said "Part of the containment vessel is damaged, and water leaking from there is likely to be flowing down into the ground via the pipe." Whether or not it is a possible source of groundwater contamination is not known, though such speculations will surely ensue. The other leak source is not precisely recognizable, but water trickling over the outer surface of the 600,000 gallon, donut-shaped torus proves there is a second containment leak. Water pooled in the bottom of the torus room has several pathways into the turbine building basements. Tepco says the leaks were probably caused by the massive hydrogen explosion outside the containment vessel on March 12, 2011. The leaks were detected by a remote-controlled, robotic boat floated on the water surface inside the Torus room. This is the first visual proof of containment vessel system leaks outside the vessel itself. By identifying leak sources and stanching them, it might be possible to fill the containment vessel, greatly reducing radiation exposures inside the unit #1 reactor building enclosure. Hosei University professor Hiroshi Miyano says the volume of the discovered leaks suggests massive damage to parts attached to the outside of the containment vessel. He believes the parts were dislodged by the hydrogen explosion that blew the top off the outer unit #1 reactor building. Most news outlets have given this momentous discovery secondary coverage. NHK World has provided the most comprehensive reporting. The attached Jiji News link was found at the very end of today’s long list of news reports, and is included because of the Tepco official’s quote.  http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131113_40.html -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131114_16.html -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2013111301037
  • An American expert has confidence in spent fuel removal from F. Daiichi unit #4. Lake Barrett, formerly with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, says he found preparations for the fuel removal to be thorough and has "confidence" the effort will succeed safely. Barrett said, "While removal of the fuel is usually a routine procedure in operating a power plant, the damage to the reactor building has made the job more complex. TEPCO and its partners have made extensive preparations and are employing specialized technology designed to meet the particular needs of extracting the fuel from the damaged building and safely moving it to more secure storage. I am genuinely impressed by the thoroughness of the effort and TEPCO's contingency planning. Beginning this work shifts the focus from site stabilization to real progress. When the work is done, and the fuel is brought to an undamaged storage facility, the site will be safer for workers, for the community, for Japan, and for the world." Barrett is a foreign advisor to the Tokyo Electric Company. His favorable decision came the day after the Nuclear Regulation Authority gave TEPCO approval for the removal and transfer of the fuel. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1232158_5130.html
  • The proposed plan to use dosimeter-based exposure readings for the F. Daiichi evacuation zones has been approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The NRA executives gave the plan a broad-based consensus approval. However, nuclear critics claim the move can only increase distrust in the government. The new method is expected to ease some current evacuee’s doubts about the safety of returning to their no-longer-restricted homes. Those who return home will be issued dosimeters to monitor actual exposures. The new methodology does not change the long-term goal of having all repopulated areas eventually below Japan’s goal of 1 millisievert per year. However, a few doubting voices are being given attention by the Press. Ichiro Kowata, an Iitate evacuee, says, “Younger people say they can’t trust statements that suddenly declare areas to be safe when they have been called dangerous until now.” He wants a full explanation by the government about the change before he considers returning home. On the other hand, Japan’s radiation experts are applauding the move to dosimeter-based projections (albeit buried at the end of newspaper articles). Hirosaki University’s Shinji Tokonami says, “We support the idea of focusing on individual dose readings, but it will be a difficult problem how to put it in place.”  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/12/national/plan-to-lower-radiation-readings-okd/#.UoIzHIEo4dU -- http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201311120071  It is important to note that the Asahi article begins with the first and only interview I have seen relative to a Fukushima tsunami victim. Etsuko Oura’s picturesque home by the sea was completely swept away by the tsunami, many hours before the Fukushima accident began. She wants to rebuild, but her property is in Okuma, 96% of which is considered “difficult to repopulate” because of high aircraft-based radiation readings. She is resigned to never living her recovery dream, “I know I will not be able to return to Okuma. As long as I am away from home, I cannot feel true happiness under any circumstance.”
  • On Wednesday, the NRA approved 20 millisieverts as the threshold for Fukushima repopulation. An NRA expert panel approved a draft report setting the annual exposure dose at 20 mSv or less as a condition for evacuees to return home. The NRA is expected to finalize the report by the end of this month and submit it to the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. However, some evacuees have said they do not want to return home unless the government achieves its long-term annual exposure target of 1 millisievert or less. The panel also wants a system in which representatives of residents’ associations, doctors, and health workers offer consultation and health counseling to those who fear radiation. The 20 mSv threshold is fully in line with international standards. The International Council on Radiation Protection says a 20 mSv/yr exposure poses a very, very low risk.  http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000790739
  • Fukushima’s unprecedented child thyroid survey has found a few more cancers. Of the 226,000 tests that have been screened, 26 were found to be cancerous and another 32 are felt to be possible cases. In August, there were 18 confirmed and 25 suspected cancers. All 26 of the confirmed cases have undergone successful surgery and are doing well. The Prefecture’s experts stress that papillary thyroid cancer develops at a very slow pace and not enough time has passed to link the newly discovered cancers to the Fukushima accident. Fukushima’s screening program has never occurred before in Japan, thus there is no way to assess whether or not the number of cases is typical. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/13/national/thyroid-cancers-up-in-fukushima/#.UoOB84Eo4dU  Most Japanese Medical experts say these numbers are really not unusual for Japan when the extreme sensitivity of the survey is considered. In addition, similar screenings were run in three far-distant Prefectures late last year and early this year. Results show that the Fukushima numbers are consistent with the other three Prefectures. In fact, the other three Prefectures have child thyroid cancer rates slightly higher than with Fukushima. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/13/national/thyroid-cancers-up-in-fukushima/#.UoOB84Eo4dU -- http://nuclear-news.net/2013/03/08/radioactive-japan-thyroid-control-screening-reveals-much-higher-percentages-of-cysts-and-nodules-in-children-far-away-from-fukushima/
  • Tepco is creating a drainage ditch bypass at F. Daiichi. Currently, the rainwater run-off channel from the wastewater tank complex outlets into the outer port, external to the barricaded inner port. The new bypass will divert flow into the barricaded quay. If any more tank failures occur and contaminated water enters the channel, the main pathway will be blocked and the bypass opened. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131112p2g00m0dm036000c.html
  • Many Japanese nuke utilities have recently shown a profit, but a misleading one. Five of Japan’s nuke-operating power companies, including Tepco, posted a net profit for the six months prior to Sept. 30. However, all say the current situation is unsustainable. The main reason is an inability to maintain and repair the old, previously mothballed, natural gas-burning plants because they are needed to keep power flowing during the nuclear moratorium. Plus, continuing to buy excess gas from overseas is destroying Japan’s balance of trade. Tepco technically shows the greatest profit ($6 billion), but this is largely due to the government’s subsidy of $6.7 billion given the company for F. Daiichi compensation payments. A Tepco spokesperson said, “[The profit] is mainly due to the rate hike last year, postponed maintenance fees for thermal plants and the government’s subsidy.” He added, “If we can restart nuclear power, we’ll be able to cut the expensive fossil fuel bills.” Greenpeace Japan doesn’t like it, saying, Tepco’s profit is false coming from government handouts.” However, Greenpeace says nukes should never be restarted because “They have said they wouldn’t be able to get by without restarting reactors, but it seems they can.” http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2013/11/12/fukushima-watch-some-power-companies-in-black-without-nuclear-restarts/

November 11, 2013

  • The Tokyo government plans on injecting $50 billion into nuclear damage liability (NDF) funding. The monies are intended for evacuee compensation and environmental decontamination. Currently, the fund has a $50 billion limit, but a new “accelerated Fukushima disaster recovery” rider could double the amount. The money is being loaned to the NDF interest-free. From there, it is forwarded to Tepco on an as-needed basis. This is because the real cost is significantly more than had originally been estimated due to expanded compensation possibilities for the 84,000 who qualify. Tepco and the nation’s nuclear utilities will eventually be expected to reimburse Tokyo for everything. Specifically, NDF will repay the debts to the government using general contributions paid by the 11 nuclear power producers in Japan and special contributions extended by TEPCO. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131109p2a00m0na009000c.html (comment- meanwhile, the government has merely appropriated about $30 billion for the 250,000 tsunami refugees.)
  • A new contaminated leak was discovered at F. Daiichi. The leak was from a wall joint near one of the outlet pipes from a wastewater tank coffer dam. It was found dripping on Saturday. A puddle 32 inches by 40 inches had built up, reading 140 Becquerels per liter of Strontium-90 activity. No Cesium isotopes were detectable. The puddle was surrounded by sandbags and did not enter any of the wastewater drainage ditches. Subsequently, a plate was installed over the area of leakage, inside the dam, and sandbags were placed around the plate. None of the tanks inside the coffer dam were found to be leaking. The residual water inside the dam (~29 tons) is being pumped to an underground reservoir.  http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1232087_5130.html  Tepco has also posted the latest contamination levels in the drainage ditches of concern at F. Daiichi. The levels have dropped more than a factor of 15 relative to their highest readings of mid-October. The Press is neglecting to cover this, of course. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2013/images/south_discharge_13110801-e.pdf
  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority will change the way radiation exposure estimates are run for the F. Daiichi evacuees. Previously, dose projections were based on readings taken by aircraft monitoring. The readings were then projected into the dose estimates by assuming people spend 8 hours per day outdoors. However, the few people who have repopulated in the past three months have dosimeters which show actual exposures as much as seven times less than the estimates. The NRA wants to use these dosimeter-based readings as public information with Fukushima evacuees. It is hoped that the dosimeter readings will persuade some of the current people who are reluctant to go home to change their minds. Since September, the NRA has discussed “scientific and technical aspects” of the repopulation of evacuated communities with outside experts. The change in exposure monitoring is one decision made at these meetings. The proposal calls for teams of “communicators” to be sent out and explain the acceptable exposure levels using this method. The study team said the concept of “safe” doses has not come into the discussion. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201311090063  How this will affect evacuee decisions on returning home is speculative, at best. However, if a statistic posted by the reconstruction Agency is correct, it might make a positive difference. The Agency ran a recent evacuee survey and found that 90% of the people from some communities either have no desire to ever return home or can’t make up their minds. The latter might be positively affected by the dosimeter-based system since it shows exposures are much lower than previously assumed. However, all of those reluctant to repopulate agree that measures taken to date are insufficient. At the same time, NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka says discussions with local residents about exposure levels should be done by local officials, and not the NRA. This statement has brought loud protests from critics inside the Reconstruction Agency who call it a contradiction of the concept of transparency. Tanaka responded that he fears that evacuee repopulation would be stalled due to a potentially large number of evacuees wishing to relocate elsewhere. Going through local officials makes more sense since two communities, Date and Iitate, have a large number of residents eager to return home. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131111p2a00m0na012000c.html
  • The Environment Ministry assembled an expert panel to review health monitoring and possible medical support for Fukushima evacuees. The seventeen selected people met for the first time today. Among the initial discussions were methods of determining long-term exposures, possible health effects, and scientific guidelines on what exposures warrant medical treatment. Assessments will focus on people in Fukushima and other parts of eastern Japan who live near hot spots. The panel’s findings are expected to be published next summer. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html
  • Tepco plans to freeze highly contaminated waters in underground tunnels and pipes. The idea is to prevent mixing of the contaminated waters with groundwater. All of the designated freezes are for conduits coming from the Turbine building basements of units #2 and #3 at F. Daiichi. Work on the project is expected to begin in April. The tunnels and pipes contain an estimated 10,000 tons of fluid. Ducts enclosed in nylon bags will be placed at the connections to the buildings to block the entrance of water into the tunnel pipes. Cement and soil will then be injected into the bags, and coolant at minus 40 C will be put into the ducts to freeze the bags and the contaminated water around them. The frozen material should will block the tunnels and pipes completely. Tepco Engineer Hiroyuki Ishikawa said, “The work will take several months, so we’d like to position the ducts appropriately and minimize the workload for workers to prevent excessive exposure to radiation.” http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0000785092
  • Tokyo Electric Company has posted their new ways to deal with F. Daiichi contractor issues. Improvements include strengthened management controls, doubling the pay to contract workers up to $200 per week, new procedures, better top-to-bottom communications, and improved infrastructure at the station. Also, a temporary office building for 1,000 people, an eight-story-high rest facility, and a warm meal building are to be built, all of which is planned to be completed by March, 2015. President Naomi Hirose said, "As the decommissioning work continues, improving working conditions and the safety of workers, along with their morale and motivation, should be among our highest priorities. We believe this is a very important element in regaining public trust." http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu13_e/images/131108e0101.pdf  Tepco has also released a more-detailed explanation of the impending spent fuel transfer out of unit #4. http://photo.tepco.co.jp/library/131030_02e/131030_01-e.pdf
  • Tokyo’s Reconstruction Agency will grant a $76 million subsidy for F. Daiichi evacuee housing. The money is intended for construction of 3,700 public housing units in the Prefecture, focusing on refugees from Kori Town and Kawauchi Village. The funds will also be used to procure land for 563 units in Minamisoma and Iwake. This will be in addition to the evacuee subsidy granted in March for a total of $500 million. A third allocation is pending, dependent on the number of people who apply for federal housing assistance. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2013110800196 (comment – Meanwhile, the long-promised 27,000 units for tsunami refugees remains unfulfilled. At last count, less than 500 had been completed, 2,000 are partially built but in local political limbo, and the rest have yet to be started. When will the Japanese people demand that the 250,000 remaining tsunami refugees get as much government support as the Fukushima evacuees?)
  • At least 33 Japanese civic groups have been cyber-attacked. They have been inundated with more than 2.5 million Emails since September. A criminal lawsuit is being considered according to lawyer Yuichi Kaido who represents the organizations.The Japan Times says the groups include Fukushima Genpatsu Kokusodan, the Prefecture’s leading antinuke group. The Times said that not all attacked groups were anti-nuke. On the other hand, The Asahi Shimbun says all the attacked groups were antinuclear, including Women’s Active Museum on War and Peace and the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes. The perpetrators are believed to have used software designed to abuse computer systems that automatically send confirmation emails to people who register for newsletters or make inquiries. Some Emails contained hostile messages. One of them said, “Unless we kill all of the anti-nuclear believers, world peace will never be achieved”. However, most of the bogus Emails were designed to obstruct internal activities of the targeted groups and/or cause an internal feud among group members.  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/10/national/anti-nuclear-civic-groups-targeted-in-large-scale-cyber-attacks/#.Un-xboEo4dU -- http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201311100027
  • Fukushima’s fruit is being marketed in Thailand. Fukushima Vice-Governor Masao Uchibori presented fruits grown in Fukushima Prefecture as gifts to Thailand's royal family on Oct. 22, hoping to draw attention to the safety of the products. Uchibori visited the Thai royal palace and met with Khuying Araya, chief secretary to Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn. He asked Araya to sample peaches, pears, grapes and apples he brought.Uchibori gave a similar gift to Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong in late October, and the gesture was well-received. In addition, Uchibori persuaded Asia Atlantic Airlines to link Bangkok to Sendai City beginning December 4th. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=261

November 7, 2013

  • The removal of spent fuel from F. Daiichi #4’s pool has been delayed up to 2 weeks. The delay is due to Japan’s Nuclear Energy Safety Organization wanting a test run on removal of a shipping cask from the pool and transferring it to the on-ground common fuel storage facility. The agency also wants the test run inspected by foreign experts through the Tokyo-based International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning. A massive crane has been installed inside the recently enclosed unit #4 reactor building to handle the heavy cask. Once lifted from the pool, the cask will be trucked to the common storage facility about 100 meters away. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131105p2g00m0dm035000c.html  Tepco has posted a series of videos depicting how the spent fuel removal and transport will occur, including footage of delivery of the massive casks to be used.  http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/news/library/movie-01e.html?bcpid=59368209002&bclid=347242463002&bctid=642054611002
  • Two IAEA marine monitoring experts are spending two days at F. Daiichi. They are overseeing the seawater testing and analysis program employed by Tepco. Both experts are from the Marine Environment Laboratories in Monaco. They plan to stay in Japan for a week and meet with Japan’s government to brief them on their findings. The experts have come as a result of a request by Tokyo to the IAEA. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2013110600161  Today, one IAEA inspector said Tepco’s seawater testing is trustworthy. David Osborne, director of the IAEA Environment Laboratory in Monaco, said Tepco’s sampling program is comprehensive, trustworthy and transparent. He and colleague Hartmut Nies accompanied Tepco’s team as they sampled 7 of their 11 monitoring locations beyond the F. Daiichi outer break-wall, and seemed impressed. The tandem will also observe Tepco’s water analysis systems and procedures on Friday.  http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2013110700953
  • There has been a drop in the wastewater buildup at F. Daiichi. It seems to have gone un-noticed by the Press (perhaps they are intentionally ignoring it?). Regardless, the total amount of Cesium-stripped waters in storage tanks was 384,500 tons on October 22nd. On November 5th, the total 389,500 tons. Over a period of 14 days, the buildup was 5,000 tons. Previously, the buildup for that period was rather steady at 6,500 tons, dating back to early 2012. The reason for this decrease has not been posted by Tepco. The reason for the 100-ton-per-day drop would certainly be something positive for Tepco to share with the Press, and a much-needed “good news” story at a time when the company could use it.  http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu13_e/images/131023e0301.pdf -- http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu13_e/images/131106e0101.pdf
  • Meanwhile, the prophets of nuclear energy doom are stirring the cauldron of fear. Former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland Mitsuhei Murata said, “It is urgently needed to set up an international task force to assist Japan by deploying all possible means to reduce the risks of the imminent first unloading of spent fuel from unit 4,” in a recent letter to America’s president. Long-time antinuke activist Harvey Wasserman says Tepco does not have the scientific, technical or financial resources to do the job on its own. He insists that the work “may be humankind’s most dangerous moment since the Cuban missile crisis. We are petitioning the United Nations and Obama to mobilize the global scientific community to take charge of the nuclear power plant and the job of moving these fuel roads to safety.” A petition by 17 international antinukes has been sent to the IAEA asking for monitoring by people independent of Tepco, Tokyo and the IAEA. An American on-line petition has been signed by over 12,000 people, which says the west coast of the United States is at risk. They also want “a detailed inspection of the (Fukushima No. 1) facility by a team of experts who are independent of the nuclear industry, as well as ongoing monitoring of West Coast and Hawaii water, air and food for radiation.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/05/national/tepco-feeling-heat-over-fuel-removal/#.UnkGIYEo4dV
  • Numerous fear-oriented news articles about the impending spent fuel removal at F. Daiichi have followed Tepco’s touring of news media through the fuel handling area on the fifth floor of unit #4. None of today’s postings are nearly as inflammatory as the above Japan Times piece, but all have downplayed the extraordinary precautions Tepco has taken to avert any mishap. The Japanese Press is clearly committed to the perpetuation of uncertainty and doubt. At least the following show a modicum of “balance”. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201311070083 -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131107_03.html -- http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/fukushima-plant-readies-for-dangerous-fuel-rod-removal?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2013-11-07_PM -- http://japandailypress.com/tepco-prepares-for-removal-of-fuel-rods-at-fukushima-reactor-no-4-0739213/
  • Tepco plans to restart two reactors in July. The two units are their newest BWRs (Boiling Water Reactors) at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station in Niigata Prefecture. Applications for restart were filed with the Nuclear Regulation Authority in September, but review has been delayed because of the wastewater issues at F. Daiichi and NRA concerns of Tepco’s ability to safely run nukes. Tepco needs to turn its cash-flow situation around and operating the two nukes will certainly help. The NRA currently has 14 restart applications to review, including the two K-K units. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2013/11/255032.html  In addition to gaining NRA restart approval for the K-K units, Tepco is also pursuing local approval. While the two host communities (Kashiwazaki and Kariwa) are in favor of the restarts, Niigata Prefecture’s governor has been in a state of disapproval. One measure being pursued by the company is a new report on the Fukushima accident prepared by independent American and Japanese nuclear experts. This is believed to be a counter to Niigata Prefecture’s current review of the upgraded K-K safety features. Governor Hirohiko Izumida has criticized and attempted to humiliate Tepco for quite a while. In late September, Izumida said he might reverse his position if Tepco agreed to not use filtered venting of the unit’s containments without prefectural approval. Tepco has not yet decided to comply with Izumida’s request, but their open sharing of information on the installation and operation of the venting technology seems to have softened Izumida’s stance. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131106_27.html
  • The US will advise Japan about assessing nuclear accident risks and their mitigation. The methodology is currently in place in America, but not in Japan. Japan's Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama and US Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman met in Washington on Monday. The basic idea is to decide on the best path that will bring Japan’s nuclear risk assessment up to American standards. The US methodology includes worst-case natural disasters, unexpected equipment malfunctions and extreme human error. The advisement will include how to adapt the methodology to each individual nuclear station in Japan.  http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html
  • Tokyo continues to plan for assistance to Fukushima evacuees who may never return home. Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi pointed to the thousands who the government may not allow to go home due to too-high annual exposures. The announcement also suggests that even those allowed to go home, but refuse, may continue to receive their [now understood to be] generous compensation checks well into the future. Motegi said, "Of those who are unable to go home soon, a high percentage, of course, have yet to decide or have already decided not to return. Bearing this in mind, we hope to provide a number of options." http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco

November 4, 2013

  • A ruling party executive stunned Japan with a comment about Fukushima evacuees. Shigeru Ishiba, secretary general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), feels it is inevitable that some evacuees will never go back home, “The time will definitely come that someone must say ‘they cannot live in this area but they would be compensated.’” He also said, “Unless we come up with answer (sis) as to what to do with a measure for decontamination, reconstruction of Fukushima won’t ever make progress.” This flies in the face of his party’s position that all Fukushima evacuees will eventually return home. Ishiba’s statements have set off a serious debate across Japan over this heretofore taboo issue. One government official agreed with Ishiba specific to the current “difficult to return zones” containing locations in excess of 50 millisieverts per year of exposure. On the other hand, a cabinet minister said "It's not for the government to say such-and-such areas are uninhabitable." A Fukushima Prefecture official called Ishiba’s statement premature, "It's too early to suggest some may not be able to return." Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa insisted on his residents being allowed to return, "We have to envisage the return of the next generation, even if we were not able to return. Even if an area were to be declared uninhabitable, I would want to know how long it will remain so." Tamotsu Baba, mayor of Namie, says "A secretary-general suddenly blurts out that some evacuees may not be able to return. I doubt residents will be given proper explanations." Iitate Mayor Norio Kanno said he is opposed to any such move by Tokyo, "Some want to return to their homes in difficult-to-return zones, while others have not returned to areas with lower radiation levels. No simple line can be drawn." Koichi Miyamoto, mayor of Tomioka, takes a slightly different stand, "I have been pinning my faint hopes on the return of the entire town, but that remains up in the air. It is so heart-wrenching, but reality sobers me up. If we cannot return, just say so." http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/ldp-questions-plan-to-let-fukushima-evacuees-go-home -- http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/recovery/AJ201311040066  (comment – What no-one is mentioning is the fact that thousands of Fukushima evacuees will never go home because the tsunami either swept away or totally destroyed their residences. They would be refugees even if the Fukushima accident had never happened. It is long-past time to bring this undeniable situation into the open. – end comment)
  • Tokyo plans use public funds for Fukushima Prefecture’s decontamination. Informed sources say it could total as much as $10 billion. The money will be earmarked for infrastructure restoration as well as decontamination of school property, parks and other public facilities. The funds will also be used to build interim low level waste storage facilities. This will not affect the estimated $30 billion that Tokyo Electric Company will be asked to repay the government for total costs. Tokyo also has no desire to exempt Tepco from cost payments already incurred by state and local governments. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131102p2g00m0dm065000c.html
  • The US DOE Chief says America can help remove Tritium from Fukushima wastewater. Secretary Ernest Moniz spoke to the Press on Saturday and addressed the processing of contaminated waters at F. Daiichi. Tepco says their new isotopic removal system, ALPS, will eliminate all radioactive materials except Tritium. Although the isotope of Hydrogen has a very low energy level and would produce no detectible health hazard if released to the sea, radiation fears in Japan make such an operation problematic, to say the least. Moniz said removal of Tritium is a challenge. But, he stressed that the DOE and US firms have experience in processing the isotope because they have dealt with Tritiated water in the past. Moniz also expressed shock with the scale of damage he saw during his Friday tour of F. Daiichi and the difficulty workers face while toiling in full anti-contamination gear. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131102_19.html
  • Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has continued his antinuclear crusade. During a Press conference in Yokohama, Koizumi said he wants none of the currently-idled nukes restarted, and instead replaced entirely with renewables. He dismissed the claim that he is being irresponsible made by Prime Minister Abe. Conversely, Koizumi said that Abe “should discuss how to introduce renewable energy that would substitute for atomic power." When asked about his turn from being nuclear energy supporter while in office, Koizumi said, “People often change their minds.” He explained that his position is based on a belief that the permanent disposal of high level nuclear waste is “impossible” due to widespread local opposition. Koizumi rhetorically asked, "If a strong leader emerges, can he or she achieve the construction of a site that can be used for 100,000 years by ignoring opposition of local residents? It would be optimistic and irresponsible to think that it is possible." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131103p2g00m0dm085000c.html
  • Japan’s ex-IEA Director Nobuo Tanaka says nukes must be restarted to maintain international industrial competitiveness. Tanaka believes that “Japan should maintain a certain number of nuclear plants as they are the best power sources that can provide a stable supply of electricity at reasonable prices.” He adds, “Adequate attention, of course, needs to be paid to ensuring safety, but the risks of keeping reactors offline should be considered as well.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/04/national/japan-needs-set-number-of-reactors-to-stay-competitive-ex-iea-chief/#.UnelZIEo4dU
  • Tokyo’s maverick antinuclear politico is in a lot of trouble. Upper house legislator Taro Yamamoto handed a politically-motivated letter to Emperor Akihito last Thursday. Japan's Constitution, established after World War Two, defines the Emperor as a symbol of the state with no political power. All letters to the Emperor are to be mailed and never delivered personally, especially during a public gathering covered by the Press. Further, attempting to politically influence the Emperor is forbidden. Yamamoto indicated he did this because he believed the Emperor was unaware of the health risks posed to children by the Fukushima accident and recent contaminated leak reports, and also ignorant of the working conditions for F. Daiichi workers. The results of Yamamoto’s act have been considerable. Members of the Upper House called Yamamoto’s act “irrelevant” to his role as a lawmaker and are considering appropriate punishment. The most extreme response is from Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura, who has called for Yamamoto’s resignation. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/japan.html

November 1, 2013

  • Nearly a fourth of Japan’s quake/tsunami recovery projects are nothing of the sort. The total of misused money has been about $14.5 billion. The possibility of a large diversion of recovery funding came to light last year, but now the ugly numbers have been tabulated by Tokyo’s Board of Audit. Of the roughly 1,400 projects funded, 912 were judged to be of direct relevance to recovery, 27 covered increased tsunami protection and seismic resistance for schools, and another 136 projects were deemed to be recovery-related. But, 326 were found to have no direct relevance to the natural catastrophes. One misappropriation concerned a $16 million nationwide effort to make government facilities quake resistant, but much of the money went into renovations of Tokyo’s National Stadium. Another misuse was by Tokyo’s Ministry of Labor which provided vocational training for disaster survivors. $12 million was designated for the job program, but nearly $10 million was spent outside the three most-ravaged prefectures: Iwate, Fukushima and Miyagi. A third example was the use of $22 million to protect Japan’s whaling industry, ostensibly specific to Ishinomaki City. However, Ishinomaki only received 9% of the total catch for 2012. The Audit Board stressed that this sort of spending violated no laws because it was all approved by Tokyo in accordance with the recovery policy created in Tokyo soon after 3/11/11 under the Naoto Kan regime. The Board also reported that more than $50 billion has been spent on disaster recovery to-date.  http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131101p2a00m0na011000c.html
  • Japan’s nuke watchdog has approved the removal of spent fuel from F. Daiichi unit #4. The Nuclear Regulation Authority gave their consent on Wednesday. Tokyo Electric Company’s target date to begin is November 8. Tepco says they will be cautious throughout the process and constantly check for fuel bundle damage due to debris that fell into the pool from the hydrogen explosion of March 15, 2013. They will also be careful to avoid remaining rubble in the pool. NRA Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa said the transfer "is a big step in the process of decommissioning the reactor. We can reduce risks by moving them to the common pool." The NRA’s announcement has received wide Press coverage in Japan, with most news outlets exploiting the opportunity to post elaborate worst case scenarios. Unfortunately, NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka echoes these fears, “Handling spent fuels involves huge risks. It would be a disaster if radioactive materials come out of the metal rods during the work.”  http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131030_31.html -- http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2013/10/30/fukushima-watch-watchdog-approves-tepcos-plan-to-retrieve-fuel-rods/?mod=yahoo_hs
  • American DOE Secretary Moniz has visited Fukushima Daiichi. He spoke to the Press in Tokyo on Thursday, but said little about the current situation at the station. Moniz did say the success of cleanup on the plant site and in the surrounding areas has global significant. However, Moniz focused on Japan’s intention to be a signatory to the international Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC), which is designed to cover nuclear accident liability. Under the treaty, compensation for damage resulting from a nuclear accident may be partially covered with funds contributed by participating countries. Moniz added that the US has sent experts to Japan to help the nuclear recovery effort, but Japan’s intent to join the CSC will allow for expanded support. The CSC currently has four signatories, including the US. It needs five nations to agree before implementation can occur, so Japan’s intent to join is critical.  http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2013103101162 -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131101_05.html  Tepco president Naomi Hirose wrote a very complimentary note of appreciation to Secretary Moniz, which is posted on the Tepco website. In the letter, Hirose says, “On behalf of all of my colleagues at TEPCO, I want to thank Secretary Moniz and the DOE for this invaluable support.” http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1231870_5130.html
  • Tepco is adding another wastewater storage process. They have decided to pump out all of the contaminated groundwater under the storage tank that leaked 300 tons in August. The latest reading from the nearest testing well is 220,000 Becquerels of Beta emitters per liter. The company will dig five more wells around the leaked tank and pump out the water into a “specially made” tank. They will move 10 tons per day, beginning in November. The company is presently scarping the soil under the leaked tank and bagging it as low level waste. The two efforts will continue until the contamination of the soil and groundwater have been removed. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131031_03.html
  • Tepco might use undamaged F. Daiichi units #5 and #6 for wastewater storage. Executive Vice President Yoshiyuki Ishizaki said the company is considering the possibility. It seems they will decide on whether or not to scrap the units before making them storage locations. PM Shinzo Abe has suggested they decommission both units rather than restart them. Tepco says they will make a decision on the PM’s request by the end of the year. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/10/29/national/tepco-may-use-undamaged-reactor-buildings-for-water-storage/#.UnEQyoHD8dU
  • Japan and the U.S. are considering uniform standards for nuke plant safety. The principles will be based on long-standing American regulations and safety practices. Both countries plan on completing an agreement on the bilateral standards by 2018. Tokyo and many nuclear plant operators feel this will result in much less criticism of nuclear power plant operations and might facilitate current restart efforts in Japan. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2013103100861
  • It seems Japan’s Industry Ministry will turn Tepco into a holding company with a new decommissioning body. The move began Thursday after it was approved by the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Japan’s Diet. The proposal called for Tepco to immediately pursue separation of normal company functions from the F. Daiichi decommissioning effort. It is believed splitting the company into two business entities will facilitate both efforts. Tepco welcomed the news and is considering a business plan to overhaul the company this year. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131101_04.html
  • The number of seafood species to be fished off Fukushima is being expanded. For the past few weeks, 18 kinds of fish have been approved. Now, the Fukushima fisheries will catch 27. None of the 27 kinds of fish have been found to contain contamination at or above the national limits for Cesium or Strontium. The list includes flathead flounder, which was the leading money-making species before the nuke accident. Soma City cooperative head Hiroyuki Sato said the flathead flounder bring good prices and the fishermen are motivated. He hopes the ban on other types will be lifted soon. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131030_35.html
  • Tokyo has further defined how long the Fukushima evacuees will continue to receive compensation. While previous announcements suggested the limit of exposure for repopulation is 20 millisieverts per year, the government says the limit is 50 mSv/yr. Those whose homes cannot be brought down to that level will be given financial assistance to permanently locate elsewhere. Tokyo says that areas now reading more than 50 mSv/yr have 25,000 evacuees. The restricted zone, where people may make short visits during decontamination efforts, has a population of 23,000. The number of evacuees from zones about to be ready for repopulation is about 33,000. As always, Tokyo did not said how many of the refugees were permanently displaced by the tsunami-itself. Regardless, officials are also considering raising the amount of mandated monthly stipends from Tepco. Currently, monthly checks are issued based on the property value of the abandoned residences. However, this is not believed to be enough for permanent evacuees to build elsewhere.  http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131030p2a00m0na006000c.html 
  • The Environment Ministry is considering extending the period of mandated financial compensation due to psychological stress. Refugees receive $1030 per month for psych damages. Currently, 84,000 evacuees get the psychological compensation. The statute on such payouts ends one year after evacuation orders are lifted. The Ministry says they will consider extending the statute if social infrastructure and employment opportunities are considered insufficient. In addition, a longer statute extension will be possible if psychological suffering continues long after repopulation has occurred. The announcement has sparked a debate among evacuees. One Miyakoji resident was in favor of cutting off the compensation after a year so that people would stop depending on the payments and move forward with their lives. Iitate mayor Norio Kanno, where all residents continue as evacuees, said one year was an appropriate cutoff point because residents would not feel the need to return to work if the compensation was overly extended. Conversely, Katsunobu Sakurai, the mayor of Minami-Soma, said: “Residents will be puzzled by the across-the-board one-year extension. Decontamination and removal of rubble has still not been completed.” Statistics indicate that an average family of four has received about $900,000 in compensation from Tepco - $490,000 for real estate, $110,000 in lost wages, and $300,000 in “consolation” money for pain and suffering. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201310260046 
  • An antinuclear member of the Diet has created a public outrage by trying to make the Emperor an antinuke. Upper House member Taro Yamamoto, elected on an antinuclear ticket, handed a letter to Emperor Akihito at a public gathering in the Imperial garden. Yamamoto said the letter informed Akihito of the children exposed to radiation from Fukushima and the dangerous working conditions at the plant. Yamamoto has been summarily criticized for trying to use the monarch for political purpose, which Japan’s Constitution expressly forbids. Yamamoto said he had no political intent for his rude and possibly illegal act, but why else would he have done it? Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga chided Yamamoto, “By using common sense, people should consider if it’s appropriate to give a letter to the Emperor in such an occasion as a garden party.” The Diet is considering punishment of Yamamoto. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/10/31/national/anti-nuclear-lawmaker-tries-to-get-emperors-attention/#.UnOAaIHD8dU


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