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Fukushima Accident Updates (Blog)


Your most reliable source of objective Fukushima News. No "spins"...just summaries of news reports in Japan's Press, which calls the Fukushima accident a nuclear disaster. Beginning in 2017, posts occur weekly.

The are three regularly-updated pages on this site concerning popular Fukushima issues; Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments (updated monthly), Fukushima Child Thyroid Cancer Issue and Is There Fukushima Radiation on North America’s West Coast? (both updated when new information is available)

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May 18, 2017

  • The people of Naraha are returning home. Most of Japan’s news media has totally ignored the 65% increase in population since October. The town government released the latest population figures on May 11, which showed that 1,616 people now live in the community. Last October, it was reported that only 976 residents had returned following the lifting of the Tokyo-mandated evacuation order in September, 2015. More than 100 returned in April, which has been typical over the past seven months. The age demographic in the town is also very interesting. 38% are age 65 or older. Meanwhile, nearly 10% are under 20 years old, and 16% are in the 20-30 demographic. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/increase-in-young-persons-and-those-raising-children-among-returnees-to-naraha-town/

  • Takahama unit #4 is restarted. Control rod withdrawal began at 5pm on Wednesday and reached criticality (self-sustaining chain reaction) this morning. Initial power generation is anticipated for Monday, with full commercial operation by mid-June. Although only four of the core’s 157 fuel bundles are recycled (MOX) fuel, most news outlets made it seem as if comprises the entire core. The Press focus on it because the MOX fuel bundles contain reactor-grade Plutonium. There are now four restarted nukes running in Japan. At least four more units are planned to restart at Genkai and Oi stations by the end of the year. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/takahama-4-npp-is-restarted/ -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017051800467 -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170517_28/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170517/p2g/00m/0dm/070000c -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/05/a8459de923bd-kansai-electric-restarts-nuclear-reactor-at-takahama-plant.html  There were a few local protestors present at the Takahama station. The group included many who don’t live in Fukui, the home prefecture. The actual number reported varied from two-dozen to 70. From posted pictures, it seems that two-dozen was the more-likely number. Regardless, the small group received wide Press coverage. A petition was given to a plant official demanding the unit restart be halted and all four Takahama nukes be dismantled because the protestors are afraid of an accident caused by a huge earthquake near the station. Shiga governor Taizo Mikazuki released a written statement opposing the restart, which stated, "Local residents hold profound anxiety about nuclear plants. The government should change the current energy policy that relies on nuclear plants at the earliest possible time.” https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170517_29/ -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/17/national/kepco-restarts-takahama-no-4-reactor-amid-anti-nuclear-protest/#.WRxLgqOwcdU  -- https://japantoday.com/category/national/japan-restarts-another-reactor?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2017-05-18_PM

  • North Pacific fish sold in Hawaii are virtually free of Fukushima contamination. A scientific report by two University of Hawaii researchers tested 13 different fish species in 2015 for radiocesium and Potassium-40. Three of the 13 had barely-detectible Cs-134; the marker isotope for Fukushima radioactivity. The rest were free of Fukushima contamination. The highest concentration of Cs-134 was o.1 Becquerels per kilogram and 0.62 Bq/kg of Cs-137 in ‘ahi tuna. These levels were more than 30 times less than naturally-occurring K-40. The U of H paper essentially confirms the results of fish tested by Fukushima InFORM, out of the University of Victoria, Canada. https://fukushimainform.ca/2017/05/16/measuring-fukushima-contamination-in-fish-caught-in-hawaii/comment-page-1/#comment-2979

  • A Japanese radiation expert from Nagasaki says fear, not radiation, is a killer. Shunichi Yamashita (M.D., PhD.) is radiation health management adviser for Fukushima Prefecture and vice-president of Nagasaki University, Japan. He was born in Nagasaki seven years after the August, 1945 bombing, and has studied the biological effects of radiation most of his adult life. He says, “Fukushima wasn’t just a nuclear disaster. It was also an information disaster… I recognize people’s fears about radiation. It is human nature. You can’t smell or see or touch it – it is like a ghost. Radiophobia has become a big public health problem. And it is made worse because, especially here in Japan, people have lost trust in experts. I am one of those experts.” He laments that much of his advice offered to residents of Fukushima Prefecture was posted out of context by unscrupulous online sources. He is further upset by reports of a Fukushima child-thyroid disease epidemic, even though the rate of thyroid anomalies has been no different than anywhere else in Japan. Dr. Yamashita states, “There hasn’t been an epidemic of cancer, but there has been an epidemic of fear.” https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg23431250-600-fear-is-the-killer-nuclear-expert-reveals-radiations-real-danger/

  • A student radio personality broadcasts problems with marketing Fukushima products. Two years ago, 18 year-old Misaki Ageisha was promoting Fukushima peaches in Yokohama. A woman said a sample tasted some, liked it, and wanted to know where it came from. Misaki said it was Fukushima and the woman spit out what was in her mouth. That and other experiences she had during the Miss Peach tour encouraged her to pursue a career as a radio personality in order to “squarely face” the difficulties her prefecture faced. She finds that un-called-for repugnance of Fukushima products still exists, two years later. During a March Fukushima produce exhibition in Tokyo, a man told her, “Do not bring your ‘nuclear souvenirs’ in here.” Misaki offered that he must be joking, but even as a joke his statement was repugnant. That was the last straw, so to speak. She began her radio career in April. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705130001.html

  • Rice growing acreage in the old “no-go” zone will increase by10% this year. 4,130 hectares (more than 10,000 acres) are expected to be planted in seven villages and towns. This is still only about 40% of the acreage before 2011 because many farmers are skittish about whether or not their rice will do well in the marketplace. The municipalities affected include Minamisoma, Kawamata, Naraha, Tomioka, Katsurao, and Iitate. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=822

  • Logging will resume in Hirono and Kawauchi. Japan’s Forestry Agency says radiation levels in the locations designated for cutting have declined enough to allow logging to restart. At some point before April 2018, the agency plans to cut and ship timber from national forests in the two communities. Contracts for the work have yet to be awarded, but one local company has expressed an interest. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017051500898

  • The forest fire in Namie was extinguished on May 10th. However, very little Press coverage marked the end of the fire, but the perfunctory investigation into whether or not radioactivity has been dispersed has received wide dissemination. Nothing of any sort has been found. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170517_19/

  • Tokyo finally assumes some financial responsibility for rural decontamination. The Diet (congress) of Japan enacted a bill designed to accelerate recovery of the remaining “difficult to return” zone, where the government continues to disallow repopulation. The law aimed at the full recovery of Fukushima Prefecture will be revised to allow use of state funds in decontaminating designated districts within the zone. Up until now, Tokyo intended to make Tepco eventually pay for all rural decontamination costs, but now feels the five year timetable for lifting all remaining evacuation orders might not be possible with Tepco shouldering the entire financial load. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017051200479 -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003694412

  • Emergency housing units in Fukushima are razed as people no longer need them. About a third of the 16,800 units fabricated by the prefecture will be gone by the end of March, 2018. The number occupied peaked at nearly 14,600 in April, 2013, accommodating 31,500 people. However, as of march, 2017, only 5,542 units were occupied, housing just over 10,000 persons. Thus, the prefecture believes that many of the temporary units can be torn down. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=823

  • Most mayors of towns within the Hamaoka station want to be part of the restart decision. It is customary in Japan to get the approval of the home community and prefectural governor prior to restarting a nuke. With the post-nuke accident creation of the 30-kilometer UPZ (Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone) around nukes, the officials of many included communities feel they should say whether or not a plant should be reactivated. Seven of the eleven Shizuoka Prefecture’s UPZ community heads feel their approval should determine restarts, not just the home mayor and governor. Five mayors said agreement from all 11 municipalities in the UPZ was necessary, one favored approval of four municipalities within 10 kilometers of the plant, and one wanted agreement from all municipalities in Shizuoka Prefecture. The four other mayors say the decision should rest with the Tokyo government. None came out as being in full support of restarting either unit #3 or unit #4, probably because they are Boiling Water Reactor systems, as were all four damaged units at F. Daiichi. Shizuoka governor Kawakatsu believes future Hamaoka restarts should be determined by a referendum and supports the dissenting mayor’s opinions. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170513/p2a/00m/0na/013000c

May 11, 2017

  • The United Nations is “convinced” that Fukushima-produced foods are safe. U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva says, “We’ve been following this issue very closely. We are also periodically testing samples to certify that the food presents no danger to human beings. For the moment we are convinced that there is no immediate problem with the food coming from that area.” His visit to Japan that began Tuesday is intended to learn more about Japan’s diet and participate in a desert-tasting event using Fukushima-grown fruits. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705080043.html

  • Iitate rice planting begins for the first time in six years. Eight farms in the village will sow about seven hectares (17.5 acres) this year. There was 690 hectares within the village before the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. With most of Iitate no longer under Tokyo’s evacuation mandate, the process of recovering the agricultural staple can now begin. The acreage is protected from damage by wild boars, and all crops harvested will be scanned for radioactive contamination before marketing.  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/10/national/fukushima-village-begins-sowing-rice-first-time-since-nuclear-crisis/#.WRMf6qOwcdU Meanwhile, buried in the second half of the same article, an Upper House committee passed a bill to support evacuees that cannot return home because of continuing Tokyo mandate. The bill had already cleared the Lower House on April 14th. Also buried is the fact that Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to support a medical care system for the city. Goichiro Toyoda of Medley Inc. - a remote medical care system - asked Tokyo to upgrade regulations to expand the current program. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/05/10/national/fukushima-village-begins-sowing-rice-first-time-since-nuclear-crisis/#.WRMf6qOwcdU

  • Tepco posts its FYFY 2016/Q4 progress report on the Nuclear Safety Reform Plan. Japan’s 2016 fiscal year ended on March 31, 2017. The Plan’s mantra is “Keep the Fukushima Nuclear Accident firmly in mind; we should be safer today than we were yesterday, and safer tomorrow than today; we call for nuclear power plant operators that keep creating unparalleled safety”. The report covers numerous topics including the F. Daiichi unit #1&#2 robotic investigations inside the respective PCVs, the status of the successful “ice wall” project, safety improvements undertaken at F. Daini, and the actual situation with the possibility of restarting Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units #6&#7. With the last, the much-publicized NRA issues with the seismic design of a Technical Support Center at K-K were specific to unit #5! Not the two units up for restart, at all. Tepco states that this fact was “not widely conveyed”. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu17_e/images/170510e0101.pdf (Comment - Not widely conveyed? What an understatement! The Japanese Press did not “convey” it at all, and the Niigata Assembly ignored it too.)

  • Fukushima InFORM takes umbrage with an inappropriate use of its data. The summation posted on May 5th says, “Beware the difference between color schemes.” ENENEWS is reporting that a "red blob" from Fukushima is on its way to North America.” (InFORM 5/5/17) ENENEWS posted a typically unfounded article on May 3, 2017, using past InFORM mapping to make it seem that a deadly red blob of radiation was nearing North America’s Pacific coast. InFORM’s August 2016 report used various colors on a map to show the extent of the different levels of barely detectible radioactive Cesium. The biologically innocuous concentration of Cesium at ~10 Becquerels per ton of seawater happened to be in red! There is, was, and never will be a “red blob” as intimated by ENENEWS!  https://fukushimainform.ca/ -- http://enenews.com/peak-of-fukushima-radiation-now-moving-to-west-coast-levels-much-higher-than-predicted-huge-red-blob-of-nuclear-waste-near-shore-san-francisco-area-being-hit-hardest-concern-over-iodine-12 (Comment - ENENEWS is arguably the most biased and misleading internet site focusing entirely on Fukushima. We have not responded to its eschatological drivel, to date, because it could give its webmaster/author undeserved free publicity. We hope the InFORM response to ENENEWS does not give it a wider audience.)

  • Tokyo makes Tepco deposit money to cover F. Daiichi decommissioning costs, well into the future. The bill to revise the law on Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. (NDCDFC) was approved by a majority vote in the Upper House. The money placed in reserve will be decided on an annual basis by the NDCDFC, and withdrawn only through approval of the Minister of Industry. The new rules are intended to clarify the relative level of state involvement in Tepco’s funds management, and provide assurance that sufficient funds for decommissioning will exist regardless of Tepco’s business situation. It will also accommodate future estimate increases on the project, now thought to be over $70 billion. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017051000451 -- http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/revised-ndf-bill-enacted-after-passage-by-upper-house-tepco-required-to-deposit-funds-for-decommissioning/

  • The relatively small Namie wildfire continues to get Press coverage. NHK World’s headline says the wildfire is spreading, but the body of the report states that it covers 20 hectares (~50 acres), which is no larger than was reported on May 1st. Regardless, there have been 240 firefighters attending to the fire on the ground, wearing hazmat suits. However, none of the monitoring locations downwind of the fire showed any airborne contamination. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170505_04/

  • NHK Japan reports that a “radioactive wildfire” headline is criticized by Fukushima farmers… and they get an apology! A newspaper in Wakayama Prefecture – Kii Minpo - had posted that radioactive material could scatter in connection with the forest fire in Namie town. “About 20” Fukushima farmers called the newspaper and criticized the article for causing the spread of damaging rumors and effecting a “false hoax”. The May 9th apology said “There was not much fluctuation in radiation dose and caused inconvenience." Professor Naoya Sekiya of the University of Tokyo said a fire can spread harmful substances so the rumors are understandable, “…but six years have passed since the nuclear accident, [so] I think that the time to write articles only with anxiety and concern has passed.” He stressed that all radiation monitors around the “no-entry” zone have shown nothing, thus the newspaper obviously did not properly investigate what was happening. Kii Minpo (circulation ~ 30,000) says it got the information from an un-named former Tepco employee who said the forest had not been decontaminated and the fire would likely spread radioactive material through the air. Minpo says it will continue to report on the still-smoldering fire, but always include the actual radiation levels being monitored. Wakayama Prefecture is more than 500 kilometers southwest of Fukushima on the Pacific coastline. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/news/html/20170509/k10010974921000.html (Japanese only) (Comment - Thanks to colleague Jaro Franta for providing us with some of the translation. And, thanks to Bing Translate for the rest.)

  • Tokai unit #2 will apply for a 20-year extension to its operating license. The 1060 MWe BWR/5 has been upgraded by Japan Atomic Power Co. staff in order to meet Japan’s new nuclear safety regulations. JAPCO says it makes financial sense to expend the money for the upgrades because the unit output is so large. Final system inspections are expected to be complete by the end of November so that JAPCO can submit the licensing application. The company also owns the 1160 MWe Tsuruga unit #2, a PWR that has an iffy future because the Nuclear Regulation Authority staff suspects is may sit atop a potentially-active seismic fault. The two nuclear stations are JAPCO’s only electrical generating facilities, so restart of Tokai #2 could be critical to the company’s future.  http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705110026.html

  • Tax-exempt donations are being made to Hakodate City to stop an under-construction nuke. A small portion of the Hokkaido Prefecture city lies within the 30km evacuation planning zone for the Oma nuclear plant in Aomori Prefecture. Residents can give a portion of their local taxes to the local government of their choice and then deduct it from declared income, under the “furusato nozei” (hometown tax) system. Hakodate says more than $60,000 has been garnered since April 1st. It is expected that the windfall will be used to pay for legal fees incurred in trying to stop construction of the nuke which lies across the 23 kilometer-wide straight between the two northern prefectures. Hakodate officials say it will be impossible to devise a workable evacuation plan because of a scarcity of roads and shortage of vehicles. The city has already filed a suit against the government, charging that approval for building the nuke plant places Hakodate residents at risk. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705090043.html

May 4, 2017

  • The Fukushima soccer training facility for teens will reopen after the 2020 Olympics. Known as the J-Village, the facility was used by the Japan Football Association to prepare teen athletes for success in international soccer competition. In 2011, the training was moved to Shizuoka Prefecture so that the facility could be Tepco’s home-base for dealing with the Fukushima nuclear accident, as well as recovery from the devastation caused by the quake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. It remained as such until April, 2017, and is currently being prepared by the Prefecture to train Japan’s Olympic soccer players. After the 2020 Olympics, the facility will once-again be used to attract students from the region when they enter junior high school. They will attend the Futaba Future Junior and Hirono Senior High Schools while training at the J-Village, both of which are scheduled to re-open in 2019. JFA President Kozo Tajima says the full operation of the J-Village wil depend on how many Fukushima evacuees actually return home, “We will tackle the matter with a determination to start from scratch. We hope to boost enthusiasm for soccer in Fukushima and that this will lead to the reconstruction of disaster-hit areas.” The J-Village has eleven soccer fields and a 1,200 square meter gymnasium, plus student dormitories. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=820 -- https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-01/japan-s-soccer-team-to-return-to-base-used-for-fukushima-cleanup

  • All 157 fuel bundles have been loaded into Takahama unit #4. The only major news outlet to report on it was NHK World. Only four of the bundles contain recycled nuclear fuel (MOX), but is a focus in the article because the fissionable matrix includes Plutonium. Restart of the unit is planned for mid-May. Unit #3 fuel loading is also planned for mid-May. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170501_15/

  • A wildfire broke out in a Namie forest over the weekend, and subsided on Monday afternoon. Eight fire-quenching helicopters were dispatched from Fukushima, Miyagi, Gunma, and Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force to contain the fire. By Monday morning, it had consumed about 50 acres of the forest. Officials suspect the fire was caused by lightning. Because the fire is located inside Namie’s remaining “no entry” zone, the Mainichi Shimbun posted the report under the overstated headline, “Wildfire rages in highly radioactive Fukushima mountain forest”. NHK World first said the wildfire was “raging”, but later admitted that the “blaze abated somewhat on Monday afternoon.” An Environment Ministry official said the radiation levels downwind are being monitored to see if deposited radioactive contamination is going airborne, "We will continue to closely watch changes in radiation doses in the surrounding areas." Since Tuesday, no further reports have been posted. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170501/p2a/00m/0na/003000c -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170501_24/

April 27, 2017

  • Residents where restrictions have been lifted are slowly returning home. The population of the Odaka District in Minamisoma City was 9,079 before the Tokyo-mandated evacuation. When the order was ended last July, only 311 returned home. However, as of March 31, 2017, the number of returnees had swelled to 1.488. The monthly influx of evacuees has steadily risen over the past seven months, with March having 239 more people repopulate the district. Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai suggesting the reasons behind the public’s return include opening an elementary school, a junior high school, a new high school, and the resumption of numerous business operations. The city intends to complete commercial facilities to further entice repopulation in 2018-2019. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=815

  • Kansai Electric plans to restart Takahama units #3&4 beginning in May. KE President Shigeki Iwane informed Fukui Prefecture’s Governor Issei Nishikawa of the schedule on Tuesday. Nishikawa said, "It is correct that (Kansai Electric Power) will take procedures to start operations." Fuel bundle installation for unit 4 is planned for tomorrow (April 28th), with power resumption beginning in mid-May. Core loading for Unit #3 should begin in mid-May, with commercial operation about a month later. Unit #4 will have four and unit #3 twenty-four fuel bundles using recycled MOX fuel. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/takahama-4-to-restart-in-may-first-such-case-following-court-ruling-to-suspend-operation/ - https://japantoday.com/category/national/utility-seeks-to-restart-two-reactors-in-fukui-from-mid-may?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2017-04-26_PM

  • Saga’s governor approves restarts for Genkai #3 & #4. On Monday, Governor Yoshinori Yamaguchi said the units should be scheduled for restart. This marks the fourth Prefectural governor to approve resumption of operations at a nuclear station in Japan. Yamaguchi said his decision required great consideration, "After deeply thinking it over, as it was a grave decision to make, I have reached the conclusion that (the restart) is inevitable under the present circumstances." PM Abe’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga added, "We feel it is important that the governor's understanding has been gained regarding the restart of these reactors." https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170424_25/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170424/p2g/00m/0dm/067000c

  • Voluntary evacuees that moved to prefectures other than Fukushima say they face diminishing public support and increased scorn from their hometown communities. Thus, many are now expressing doubts over their decision to flee, even though they admit their mortal fear of radiation (radiophobia) persists. One mother justifies her decision to flee by saying, “If I become convinced that my decision was sound, it would come at a time when the impact of radiation has manifested among children who stayed in the prefecture.” Voluntary evacuees who did not flee from the prefecture wish those living in other prefectures would stop saying it is too dangerous to return. One said, “We reside in Fukushima Prefecture, and I would like them not to speak ill of the prefecture.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704250040.html

  • 2/3 of the voluntary evacuees living in Fukushima Prefecture say they intend to return home. On the other hand, nearly 80% of those who fled to other prefectures say there’s no way they will go back. A Fukushima official says that most evacuees "still worry about radiation, and many of them have shifted the foundations of their lives to the places they've evacuated to." It is interesting that 18% of the voluntary emigres say they intend to eventually return home. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170425/p2a/00m/0na/003000c

  • Tepco announced that muon-based imaging of the unit #3 reactor vessel will begin in May. The scanning device will be installed before the end of April, but will not be operated until some point in May. https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_170424_01-e.pdf

  • The New York Times reports on the reopening of Naraha schools. 105 children began attending the recently completed Naraha Elementary/Junior High School earlier this month. The facility was under construction when the 2011 quake and tsunami struck, but the town decided to begin the construction from scratch to eliminate all possibility of detectible contamination in finished product. The building was originally designed as a junior high school, but two elementary schools have been included as well. The 5th and 6th grade classes have two teachers each and extra counselors help students with anxieties. All students will get tablet computers, lunch, and school uniforms for free. All provided meals are strictly monitored for contamination before being offered to the students. Radiation at the new school is below the national goal of 0.23 microsievert per hour (~1 microsievert per year) for decontamination. But, the article says the children remain at risk from the radiation levels that might occur in drainage ditches after rainstorms. The school’s principal is surprised that the town allowed children to return before all the large bags of mildly-contaminated rural debris were cleared from Naraha. A Tokyo professor says government officials “have every incentive to downplay the level of risk and to put a positive spin on it.” https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/21/world/asia/japan-fukushima-nuclear-disaster-children.html?_r=0

  • Voluntary evacuee mothers are trying to stop the restarts at Genkai station. Three of the women reside in Itoshima, part of which is within the 30-kilometer emergency evacuation zone. They fear a nuke accident at Genkai will place them and their children at mortal risk. One mother says the utility’s argument that the nukes are needed for a stable power supply sounds like the company doesn’t care about human lives. The women have created a name for themselves - Mothers Who Want to Save Children’s Lives. They have submitted petitions to the Saga governor and Itoshima mayor. On mother explained, “Resuming operations only makes residents feel unsettled and we cannot draw a bright future. We want our leaders to understand such feelings.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/23/national/moms-fled-fukushima-fallout-raise-pressure-genkai-plant-restart-saga/#.WPywKKOwcdU

  • Japan’s reconstruction Minister resigns. His demise is blamed on Japan’s antinuclear Press. Masahiro Imamura stepped down due to massive pressure after he said that if the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami had centered on Tokyo instead of Tohoku, the economic impact would have been far worse than the currently-estimated $226 billion for complete regional recovery. Imamura’s remark brought harsh criticism from opposition parties, Japan’s Press, and many Tohoku residents. All of them demanded his resignation for allegedly saying the Tohoku disaster was a “good thing”. Toshihiro Nikai, the Liberal Democratic Party Secretary-General, blamed Imamura’s demise on the news media, "Media organizations record everything, and after one slip of the tongue they call for you to be fired." Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appointed Tohoku resident Masayoshi Yoshino to replace Imamura. Yoshino was chairman of a Lower House special committee on disaster reconstruction. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003662703 -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017042601087 -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170426_80/

April 20, 2017

  • The cherry blossoms at Fukushima Daiichi are in full bloom. There are roughly 400 cherry trees that line a stretch of a road to the plant called “Cherry Street”. The stand of trees is located 1.5 kilometers from the nuke station. Plant workers can be seen walking there without protective gear because the clothing is not needed since the area was decontaminated. Tepco says everyone seems happy to see the cherry blossoms. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170419_28/

  • Iwaki fish marketing resumed on April 3rd.  Previously, fish caught during coastal “test operations” were sold at prices negotiated between the local cooperative and city brokers. But in this case, it was an open auction organized by the Onahama Trawl Fisheries Cooperative Association. More than two tons of seafood were sold, covering 24 varieties, including “mehikari” (greeneyes) and “hirame” (flounder). The fisheries plan to continue both negotiated block sales and open auctioning while adding more species subject to broker bidding. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=811  (We have only seen this reported by one news outlet, Fukushima Minpo. Figures…)

  • Tepco hopes to restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units 6 & 7 in 2019. The plan for the restarts will be added to the company’s New Comprehensive Special Business Plan (CSBP), designed to improve the financially-troubled utility’s economic status. Both units are Advanced Boiling Water Reactor systems, each rated at an electrical output of 1,315 Megawatts. The new CSBP should be released either late this month or early May, after it is reviewed and approved by the Industry Ministry and the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. Before restarts can occur, both units must pass the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety inspection and get a positive decision by the Niigata governor. To date, Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama has balked at granting restart approval, and indicates there may be future delays in the prospective roadmap. He said, “The period could become longer depending on the circumstances.” The governor also says the hangup is the station’s emergency operations facility, which was found to not meet earthquake resistance requirements. He added that nukes are not indispensable to the economies of Japan or Niigata Prefecture. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704140044.html -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704200028.html 

  • Mitsubishi Heavy Industries President Shunichi Miyanaga is optimistic about the future of the company with respect to building future nukes. He told The Nikkei that Japan’s new, stricter rules for nuke operation have spurred innovation, including the future use of artificial intelligence. This should make nukes increase in value. He also feels that Toshiba and AREVA’s recent financial downturns are not a nuclear death-knell. Rather, Miyanaga says Mitsubishi is in the nuclear business to stay. He also feels that merging his company’s nuclear fuel business with Hitachi and Toshiba for overseas marketing could lead to a bright future. http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Companies/Mitsubishi-Heavy-chief-In-the-nuclear-business-to-stay

  • More information on Genkai units 3 & 4 restarts. The Saga Prefecture’s Assembly approved restarts last Thursday. The next key decision now lies with the Governor, Yoshinori Yamaguchi. Before his decision is rendered, he will meet with Industry Minister Hiroshige Seko to discuss national energy policy. Yamaguchi met with Minister of State Koichi Yamamoto to discuss emergency planning before convening the extraordinary session for the assembly in order to vote on the restarts. He told the assembly that restarts “cannot be helped” because Japan needs reliable base-load electricity generation that does not contribute to global warming. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/after-saga-prefectural-assembly-approves-restart-of-genkai-3-4-governor-must-make-final-decision/

  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority approved decommissioning plans for five nukes. They are: Mihama units 1 and 2, Tsuruga unit 1, Shimane unit 1, and Genkai No. 1. All of them were ear-marked for decommissioning because they are smaller units and it would not make financial sense to bring any of them up to Japan’s new safety standards. Mihama #1 is 320 MWE and #2 is 470 MWE, Tsuruga #1 is 357 MWE, Shimane #1 is 460 MWE, and Genkai No. 1 is 559 MWE. The initial plans call for first dismantling uncontaminated parts of each facility, and decontaminating piping systems. The owner companies say the full decommissioning of the units could take until 2045. The NRA is also studying whether or not to approve decommissioning plans for Ikata unit #1.  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170419_18/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170419/p2g/00m/0dm/079000c

  • The NRA chairman will retire in September. Shunichi Takata, 72, has held his position with the NRA since its inception on September 19, 2012. The person slated to replace him is current Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa, who has also held his position for 5 years. Takata’s opinions have been disparaged by critics for being less than impartial. Professor Andrew DeWit of Rikkyo University says, "Fuketa has a long background in research on reactor safety and replaces a figure (Tanaka) who was not seen as impartial, at least in some circles. His appointment and international connections may help to overcome the industry's reluctance to adopt some internationally recognized safety practices." Fuketa has been instrumental in the recent decision on surprise  inspections, and the use of dry storage casks for used nuclear fuel bundles. He has also stated that some projections by companies wishing to restart reactors have been overly optimistic. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704180041.html

April 13, 2017

  • Saga’s prefectural assembly approves restarts for Genkai units 3 & 4. Governor Yoshinori Yamaguchi said his final decision should come before the end of the month. The host municipality of Genkai Town has already given its official approval. Procedures for restart at the station will start as soon as the governor’s approval is rendered. The minority Japanese Communist Party and one other group have asked Yamaguchi to not jump to a “hasty” decision. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017041300725 (Comment – The term “hasty” is usually connected to nuke restarts by antinuclear groups and opposition political parties. Hasty is defined by Merriam-Webster as “done or made in a hurry…typically superficial…exhibiting a lack of careful thought or consideration”. After six-plus years since the Fukushima accident, this is certainly not a hasty decision. The term “hasty” is rhetorically to gain sympathetic Press coverage, and it always works!)

Critical infrastructure resumes prior to the April 1st lifting of five evacuation orders… 

  • Minamisoma elementary students started the new school year at a former school building. 62 students participated in opening day. The students come from Odaka, Fukuura, Kanabusa and Hatsupara school districts. The city decided to consolidate them in one building because relatively few parents are interested in actually going home soon. One parent said they were enrolling their first-grader because the family plans on returning to their home this year and did not want their daughter to change schools in the middle of first grade. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201704070031.html

  • A new high school is the first to open inside the old “no-go” zone. On Tuesday, the new high school combined industrial and commercial high school. Freshman Koki Takeuchi said, “We want to acquire a lot of knowledge and technologies so we can contribute to the reconstruction of our communities.” The school has an enrollment of 503, including 165 freshmen. The Education Ministry dubs the new facility a “super-professional high school” that will cultivate young people to lead the region’s industrial revival. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017041100788 -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003634611

  • Tomioka’s police station reopened March 30th; the day before the town’s evacuation order was lifted. Hiroyuki Matsumoto, head of the Fukushima Prefectural Police Headquarters, urged local police to "protect the safety of people living here and contribute to regional reconstruction." http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=808

  • Important transportation lines re-opened in the old “no-go” zone on April 1st. The Joban rail line between Futaba and Soma was re-opened; a stretch of nearly nine kilometers. The rail line has been closed for six years. In Tomioka Town, bus service to Iwaki City resumed the same day. In addition, train service between Namie and Odaka Station in Minamisoma resumed on March 31st. The improved level of public transportation foreshadows the permanent return of evacuees. While many commercial and medical facilities have yet to re-open, the train service provides convenient access to hospitals and shopping districts in Minamisoma, Soma, and Sendai. It also facilitates children whose home schools have yet to re-open for commuting to high schools in neighboring communities. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=810  

  • Iwaki’s temporary shopping mall closed on March 31st. The Hisanohama-machi district along the city’s shoreline was devastated by the quake and tsunami of 3/11/11. The temporary mall opened September, 2011 in an elementary school, with 11 shops and offices including an “eatery”, barber shop, and fish market. The local chamber of commerce also worked out of the building. With projects making headway in disaster-hit areas in the city, and all stores seeing prospects of reopening elsewhere, the mall was shut down before summer when usage contracts were due to end. One official spoke to the celebratory crowd, “We have been able to come thus far thanks to support from all of you. We would like to continue working hard on the strength of happy memories here." http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=809

Here’s some additional Japanese nuclear news…

  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority will hold surprise inspections at nuke plants. The Tokyo congress (Diet) passed a nuclear regulatory law revision on Friday, allowing the NRC to mimic the American Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s ability to inspect licensees without prior notice. To date, NRA inspections have been pre-planned and strictly followed pre-approved checklists. The Diet says they must give the NRA time to formulate the revised rules for inspections, so the change might not be implemented until 2020. This marks a major change in Japan’s industrial environment where unannounced inspections have never been allowed before. https://home.kyodo.co.jp/news/2017/04/467500.html

  • The Reconstruction Minister retracts his statement about voluntary evacuee responsibility. Last week, Minister Masahiro Imamura told voluntary evacuees not living in Fukushima Prefecture that they made the decision to abandon their homes, so they should take ownership for what they did. Now, he has caved to pressure from thousands of evacuee protestors and publically retracted his statement.  He stated, "I regret that I caused misunderstandings," Imamura told a news conference. "It's all right to consider that I have withdrawn the remarks." http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017040701100