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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. Post are made weekly on Thursdays.

There are three regularly-updated pages on this site concerning popular Fukushima issues; Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments (updated monthly), Fukushima Child Thyroid Cancer s and  Fukushima Radiation on North America’s West Coast? 

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March 15, 2018

The seventh anniversary of the Fukushima accident occurred on March 11th. This year is very different. There have been relatively few seventh anniversary articles.

First, something positive…

  • Fukushima InFORM has a seventh anniversary article on North American radiation monitoring. The peak Fukushima sea-water contamination level has been 8 to 10 times less than the peak levels recorded due to atmospheric nuclear weapons testing in the 1950’s and 1960’s. InFORM reports, “Levels measured now and predicted to arrive along the coast in the future will not approach levels known to represent a significant risk to the health of marine organisms or human beings,” and, “Our coastal ecosystem and food supply are not at risk from these low levels of radioisotope contamination.” With respect to contamination of Pacific Salmon and other food fish, InFORM says, “The ionizing dose from consuming these fish is insignificant relative to other sources of ionizing radiation dose experienced by members of the public in North America. No measurable health impacts are expected.” The group’s bottom line reads, “Consistent with model predictions and the measurements made by scientists around the globe, the FDNPP accident will not have measurable negative impacts on North America’s marine ecosystems or public health. Levels of contamination are simply too far below those known to represent a threat to wildlife or human health.”

Now, the reports of a negative nature…

  • A seventh anniversary summation of the latest post-accident mortality data is provided by NHK World. Most of the article will not surprise regular readers of this news-blog. One significant exception is the Reconstruction Agency reporting that at least 3,647 evacuees in 10 prefectures have died due to health problems and other reasons.
  • 40% of the Fukushima evacuees in Niigata Prefecture have no intention of returning home. The most-cited reason for their refusal is fear of health effects from detectible residual contamination, followed by concerns about the future of children and a lack of available jobs.
  • “Wastewater” stored at F. Daiichi tops a million tons! However, the news report fails to mention that some 850,000 tons have been decontaminated by the site’s purification systems and could be harmlessly released to the sea, if not for phobic fear of all detectible radiation. But, the article does say that the rate of buildup has slowed since the ice wall has been completely frozen.

We found only one tsunami disaster aftermath article…

  • Negative feelings towards the new Pacific-bordering sea walls are not uncommon. Initially, most survivors wanted the high sea walls to replace the breakwalls that failed to protect the city. But, as time has passed, some have become critical because they allege they were not consulted enough when the wall was in the planning stage. Others say the wall will damage the tourism business. A Rikuzentakata resident complains, "It feels like we're in jail, even though we haven't done anything bad." On March 11, 2011, nearly 2,000 of his neighbors died. One tourist says, "About 50 years ago, we came up here with the kids and enjoyed drives along the beautiful ocean and bays. Now, there’s not even a trace of that.” To counter such objections, the new wall in Kesennuma has windows in it to provide a view of the sea. But one resident who lost his home and brother to the black water surge complains, “They're a parody. It's just to keep us happy with something we never wanted in the first place." Near end of the article one person who sees the Kesennuma seawall as a benefit, I can't say things like 'the wall should be lower' or 'we don't need it’. It's thanks to the wall that I could rebuild, and now have a job."

Now, for some other Fukushima news…

  • Yesterday, Oi unit #3 was restarted. It is the sixth unit to emerge from Japan’s nuclear moratorium. Control rods were sequentially raised from their fully-inserted status until a self-sustaining chain reaction (criticality) occurred. Criticality was achieved in the wee hours of this morning. Initial power generation is expected on Friday. Full commercial operation is expected in early April. Oi unit #4 is planned to restart in May. - -
  • Millions of Japan’s consumers remain hesitant to buy Fukushima food. Though it is the lowest percentage in the last five years, it reveals that unfounded radiophobia and distrust of scientific evidence continues to plague Japan’s marketplace. 12.7% of the respondents to a government survey say they avoid Fukushima foods, regardless of safety checks. An official with the Consumer Affairs Agency said the findings "reveal a weakening sense of wariness over radioactive substances contained in food, and that a cautious feeling toward products from disaster-affected areas is also diminishing." He feels the problem is that public information on tests for radioactive materials in the food have not reached everyone.
  • Fukushima’s governor calls lifting of restrictions on marketing flounder “regrettable”. Governor Masao Uchibori admits that the fish are rigorously screened for radioactive contamination and a local restaurant has had a favorable response. However, the head of the local Fisheries Association called the cancellation of restrictions “sad news”, prompting the governor’s objection. While Japan’s screenings are known to be more than satisfactory, public trust in the results is another matter.
  • A Kyoto court awards more than $1 million to Fukushima evacuees. Of the 174 plaintiffs in the case, only 110 were found worthy of compensation. 64 were rejected. The ruling makes both Tepco and Tokyo mutually responsible for paying the fine. Presiding Judge Nobuyoshi Asami said that to some extent the government was able to foresee the tsunami of 3/11/11 and should have compelled Tepco to take adequate preventative measures. He said, "It is highly likely that the accident could have been avoided if the state had exerted its regulatory authority over Tepco by the end of 2006." The court also said their decision was influenced by the possible danger of low level radiation exposure because, "Its impact on human health is unclear as many factors (about the danger) are still scientifically uncertain." The plaintiffs in the Kyoto suit evacuated from Fukushima, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba Prefectures. --
  • Transuranic particles are found outside the F. Daiichi plant site, inside the Fukushima nuclear exclusion zone. Researchers report they have discovered Uranium embedded in Cesium micro-particles several kilometers from F. Daiichi. Dr. Gareth Law of The University of Manchester and an author on the paper, says: "Our research strongly suggests there is a need for further detailed investigation on Fukushima fuel debris, inside, and potentially outside the nuclear exclusion zone… further work will enhance our understanding of the long-term behavior of the fuel debris nano-particles and their impact.” Dr. Satoshi Utsunomiya, Associate Professor at Kyushu University (Japan) led the study. He highlights that: "Having better knowledge of the released micro-particles is also vitally important as it provides much needed data on the status of the melted nuclear fuels in the damaged reactors. This will provide extremely useful information for TEPCO's decommissioning strategy."

General comment – In the seven years we have dutifully reported on F. Daiichi, last year was the first that donations were actually less that the cost of maintaining this site. Please donate this year! – End comment.

March 8, 2018

  • Alaskan fish remain free of Fukushima contamination. Testing for radioactive Cesium between 2014 and July 2017, none of it has been detected. The species taken from the Bering Sea have been Pollock, Pacific Cod, Halibut, Herring, Sockeye & Chinook salmon, and Chum. The minimum detectible concentration (MDC) for radioactive Cesium in Alaska is three Becquerels per kilogram. The American limit for radioactive Cesium is 1,200 Bq/kg. More sensitive analyses run by Fukushima InFORM have an MDC of 0.1 Bq/kg. A typical reading on Alaskan species is 0.2 Bq/kg for Cesium 137, which is the level of nuclear weapon testing in the 1950s and 60s.
  • An Ibaraki professor voices pleasant surprise at the rate of Fukushima soil recovery. Kiichi Nakajima says, "The agricultural sector in Fukushima has entered a recovery phase except in areas near the power plant and heavily contaminated locations. I thought recovery would take at least a decade, but it came unexpectedly early." He added that this “should be made widely known around the world.”
  • Tokyo says the F. Daiichi ice wall has reduced the influx of groundwater, but more needs to be done. A Tokyo-commissioned panel said the ice wall has reduced the influx into the basements of units #1 through #4 by more than one-half. Current estimates are at 95 tons per day of rainwater and groundwater. Before the wall was built, the influx was about 200 tons per day. To reduce it further, the panel suggests repairing existing roofs for rainwater prevention and other in-leakage points with the basements. The influx needs further reduction to support removal of damaged fuel debris from Reactor Buildings #1 through #3.
  • Japan’s nuclear watchdog says the Fukushima accident is not over, referencing the remaining decades-long task of F. Daiichi decontamination and fuel debris removal as the reasons for his foreboding statement. Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa said attitudes concerning the NRA have changed for the better, but the public should not forget what happened in March, 2011. On the other hand, he added that there is nearly zero risk of any new problems outside the physical boundary around the nuke station.
  • Fukushima peaches are number one in Southeast Asia for the second year in a row! Exports to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, increased to 48 tons in 2017, up 57% from 2016. The biggest importer was Thailand, with more than 31 tons, which was a 50% increase. Malaysia imported 15 tons (a 72.5 % increase) and Indonesia brought in 1.5 tons (a 57% increase). A Fukushima official said, “The efforts of people involved, including producers, farm co-ops and importers, have produced good results. We will continue working on developing effective sales channels to win the support of overseas consumers.”
  • A second-generation Hiroshima Hibakusha (A-bomb survivor) fights Fukushima prejudices. Yuji Morii, 48, oversees construction and management of waste-water storage tanks at F. Daiichi. He he wants to erase the biases toward the Prefecture, which has suffered considerably from unfounded rumors for nearly seven years. Yuji’s father was exposed to Hiroshima bomb-spawned radiation, and has suffered needless discrimination ever since. Yuji hid his heritage to avoid being showered with heartless comments. He began working in the main office of a Tokyo-based construction firm in 1994, and made his first visit to F. Daiichi in 2012. After several years of seeing and hearing about the discrimination inflicted on Fukushima residents caused by radiation rumors, Yuji transferred to the plant site in 2016. None of the 200-odd tanks he has overseen have leaked. Yuji says, "If there is trouble, then it breeds unnecessary anxiety, and we can't let that strengthen biases (toward Fukushima). Working consistently will lead to rebuilding trust. Fukushima has granted me an opportunity to come face-to-face with my own identity as a second-generation Hibakusha."
  • Most Fukushima accident responders have not had their free medical checks. Roughly 20,000 workers worked at the station during the nine months following the unit #1 explosion. The Radiation Effects Research Foundation planned to have 80% of the people checked for the long term effects of low level radiation exposure, but only about 7,000 have taken advantage of it. The program began four years ago. 35% have not answered calls to take a screening, 17% have refused take the check-up, and 8.5% cannot be reached. Reasons for non-compliance vary.
  • The rate of anxiety about radiation in Fukushima Prefecture goes up. There had been a slow, steady downward trend in recent years, but there has been an upswing in worries about radiation over the past year. 66% of the population is concerned, up from 63% a year ago. Twenty-one percent say they are “very much” concerned and 45% say they are worried “to some degree”. In addition, 52% say they are not confident that the course of recovery had been “set”. Further, 75% of Fukushima residents oppose the restart of idled nuclear units, which is greater than the national average of 61%. Also, 67% of the Fukushima populace oppose diluting the tritium-laced wastewaters and releasing to the sea, but 87% said they feel anxiety about sea contamination if and when it happens.
  • Fukushima’s government says they might cut radiation checks on some of its rice in 2020. Currently, all rice is scanned for contamination. None of the commodity has failed to meet national standards (100 Becquerels per kilogram) for three years. If that record continues two more years, 47 of the prefecture’s 59 municipalities will end blanket monitoring and instead shift to random checks. On the other hand, all rice from the 12 municipalities that comprised the old “no-go” zone will continue to be scanned beyond 2020.
  • The Okuma government will set up a municipal real estate office. There is no realtor in the town, so the municipality will set up “Okuma Town-Building Public Corporation” for consultations and referrals regarding residential and business use of land. In addition, the office will handle vacant houses and offices to be rented or sold. The corporation is scheduled to open up April 1st in Iwaki City, 40 kilometers south of Okuma, to support completing a reconstruction hub at some point in 2019.
  • Some 73,000 evacuees from the Tohoku region have yet to return home. Roughly 50,000 of them are Fukushima Prefecture residents. The rest are from Miyagi and Iwate. While the total number remains great, it has dropped by about 50,000 over the past year. 53,000 Tohoku evacuees are living in temporary housing, municipality-funded private residences, or welfare facilities. The rest are staying with relatives or friends. Remaining evacuees from Miyagi and Iwate face “soaring land prices” that hinder their ability to build new homes, thus prolonging their refugee status. --
  • Japan’s nuke utilities have spent more than $47 billion on idled units since 2011. Some companies have restarted nukes and are recovering financially. But Hokkaido, Tohoku, Tokyo, Hokuriku, Chubu and Chugoku electric power companies and Japan Atomic Power Co. have yet to experience restarts and must recover expenditures through customer billing. Paperwork has been submitted to the NRA to restart 18 idled units, but 15 other restart-worthy units have not had restart requests filed as yet.

March 1, 2018

  • Fukushima flounder is sold overseas for the first time since 2011. No flounder has failed the radiation tests over the past three years, so about 100 kilograms of the fish is being shipped to Japanese restaurants in Thailand. Kanji Tachiya, head of the Soma Futaba fishermen’s cooperative, said, “The export is encouraging news to us local fishermen as we are hoping to resume full-fledged fishing operations soon.” Sato Suisan is the the local company that bought the stock. Company president Yoshishige Sato said, “I would not like people in Thailand to miss out on the chance to eat the fish.”
  • Fukushima Prefecture makes anime films to counter unfounded rumors overseas. This is part of the continuing effort to expand international markets for the prefecture’s farm products and seafood. Five anime “film shorts” promote the safety and quality of Fukushima foods, depicting high school girls playing the roles of foods working hard to have the best taste. The films will not only be in Japanese, but also English, Chinese, Spanish and French versions, to be shown in March at an event in Hong Kong.
  • The World Trade Organization rules South Korea’s ban on Japanese food imports “unjustifiably discriminate”. The WTO recommended corrective action by S. Korea. It also said the South Korean ban was “unnecessarily restrictive against trade”. The WTO finding is equivalent to a lower court ruling. However, S. Korea says it will appeal the decision and will not lift current restrictions until the appeal is ruled on. The S. Korean government says it will “strive wholeheartedly for the protection of safety, not allowing any food products contaminated by radiation whatsoever to be placed on South Korean dinner tables.” The restrictions not only apply to Fukushima Prefecture, but also to Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba. Actually, the WTO decision was announced last October, but the report itself was not made public until now.
  • The Fukushima ice wall plus the sub-drain system have reduced groundwater influx by more than 80%. The Japanese Press reports that the wall has had as “limited effect”. Regardless, groundwater incursion into the four turbine basement was more than 500 tons per day before the two systems went into operation. It is now less than 100 tons per day.
  • A Fukushima child thyroid cancer activist group says that nearly 10% of those diagnosed with the anomalies have suffered recurrence. The group alleges that the Fukushima government has ignored the issue of thyroid cancer recurrence. All those with the recurrent lesions and/or cysts have undergone second operations.  The group fails to mention is that the rate of recurrence is typically much greater, and can be as much as 30%.
  • The Mainichi Shimbun reports the only 4% of the children in the evacuation zone will return to school in April. Nine municipalities had restrictions lifted by last spring, but only a small number of families have repopulated in four of them. Namie community had the largest pre-accident school population of the communities mentioned in the article, at 1,440. Only 10 will return in April, and formal decontamination will not start until May. Tomioka, with 1,204 pre-accident students will only have 16 returning. It should be noted that the two community’s schools are reopening for the first time since 2011! (Comment - The percentage is decidedly skewed by the fact that the two municipalities most-recently having restrictions lifted, Tomioka and Namie, have much larger pre-accident populations than other districts. Communities with their restrictions lifted much earlier have had a slow, steady stream of returning families, such as Odaka (20% repopulation) and Naraha (30% repopulation). These communities are conspicuously missing from the Mainichi article.)
  • A Tepco employee says he was told to reduce the pre-accident tsunami projection. This was part of testimony he presented at a trial in Tokyo District Court concerning accident culpability of three Tepco executives. He said he made the projection in 2003. He was told to use a different methodology supplied by the company. He declined to change his results. He added that his estimate for a worst-case tsunami was 15.7 meters, which was roughly the case with the one that hit F. Daiichi in 2011. He could not recall anything else about the incident. 
  • Greenpeace Japan continues to promote Fukushima phobia! The activist group says their surveys in Iitate and Namie reveal that contamination levels may be increasing due to influx from the local forests. The range of contamination was between 0.2 and 0.8 microsieverts per hour. While this is essentially harmless, the group points to the target decontamination level of 0.23 mSv/hr and calls it a national limit. One house in Iitate showed a contamination level higher than last year, which seems to be the reason for the sensationalist headline. Buried in the article is the fact that five other houses have shown no such increase.

February 22, 2018

  • The unit #3 roof cover is completed a half-month early. The schedule had set the first week of March as the completion target, but it was finished on February 22nd. The semi-cylindrical domed roof will provide a two-fold benefit: shielding the exposed refueling deck from severe weather, and inhibiting spread of airborne radioactivity caused by removal of 566 bundles of fuel from the storage pool (SFP). The last of the dome’s 55-ton sections was lowered into place on Wednesday. The next step will be Tepco using remote debris handling devices to clear the enclosed deck of rubble that remains from the 2011 hydrogen explosion. It is anticipated that the removal of the used and unused fuel will begin in the fall. -- --
  • Informed discussion about Fukushima could be the key to countering false rumors! This is the opinion of Dr. Sai Ochi of Soma Central Hospital. The plague of false rumors began as fast as the nuke accident occurred.  One of the worst results occurred in 2012 when the Fukushima Ambassador Program brought foreign exchange students to the prefecture to experience what was happening for themselves. Fukushima University’s president was sent a pair of red-painted gloves from America with the message, “Are you trying to kill our students? Their blood will be on your hands.” The source was unfounded rumors spawned far from Fukushima, and eliminating such balderdash is at the core of FAP’s twice-per-year program. This year, the event added Tokyo to the agenda so the students could see the stark difference between what is actual with Fukushima, and the harsh rumor-based opinions only 125 miles away. One student said, “What I originally heard about Fukushima came only from the news, and people around me saying it was a scary place. My home is far from there. Now I’m shocked that many people in Tokyo—people so much closer to Fukushima than I am—know even less.” Ochi’s eye-opening posting of many more student observations can be found at the following link -  (Comment - Dr. Sai Ochi has openly shared her factual Fukushima observations for several years, but none of Japan’s popular Press has cared to publish on it.)
  • Round-trip charter flights between Taiwan and Fukushima surpass the 2010 level. In 2010, the year before the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami disaster, the number of Taiwanese travelers to Fukushima was 13,290. The number dropped to 3,860 after 3/11/11. But in 2017, that number swelled to 23,180, and there will be even more in 2018. The prefecture’s government has a subsidy program for airlines involved in to-and-from trips from Taiwan. The government has earmarked more than 88 million yen in funding for fiscal 2018.
  • Chugoku Electric wants Tokyo to approve completion of a 1373 MWe ABWR. Shimane #3, an Advanced Boiling Water Reactor system, was in the last stages of construction when the Fukushima accident occurred. Chugoku Electric, stopped work on the plant and waited until new regulations on Boiling Water Reactor units were in place. Now that unit #2 has passed its safety screening with the Nuclear Regulation Authority, the process of approval for completion of unit #3 can be sought. Before Chugoku Electric submits to the NRA, the company will seek consent of local and prefectural officials. This is the second ABWR safety screening in Japan; the first being for Oma unit #1, Aomori Prefecture, in 2014.
  • Tepco is ordered to pay damages to the family of a man who committed suicide. 102 year old Fumio Okubo was watching TV News on April 11, 2011, and found out that his town, Iitate, was designated for Tokyo-mandated evacuation. He was found dead the next morning. Okubo’s family argued that he had no other reason to take his life, other than the impending evacuation. Presiding judge Hideki Kanazawa said Okubo had lived in the village his entire life and suffered unbearable pain because he would likely die before he could return home. The Fukushima District Court awarded $142,300 to the family. The family filed for more than $520,000. Tepco argued that the amount should be reduced because Okubo’s health was failing, at the time of the suicide. --

February 15, 2018

  • Two American mothers accept the challenge of Fukushima fear-mongering. Kristin Zaitz and Heather Matteson launched their website “Mothers for Nuclear” in 2016. Their objective, no-nonsense approach has been attacked with a “barrage” of antinuclear criticism since the site’s inception. A common objection was that both women should actually go to Fukushima to find out that nuclear energy is really dirty and inordinately dangerous. Early this month they actually spent the time and money to visit Fukushima. Other than small mountains of large black bags filled with various types of detectibly radioactive debris, they found was the opposite of the horrendous-sounding problems spouted by the anti-nuclear demographic. Perhaps their most-telling statement is, “Callous exaggerations of the dangers of low level radiation and the branding of the Fukushima prefecture as a toxic disaster zone is a shameful attack on the many beautiful citizens of this area, their livelihoods, their identities, and their futures.” Kirsten’s report is well worth the time it takes to read it!
  • Namie decontamination to begin in May. The devastation along the Pacific shoreline has already begun recovery, as well as with seven northern districts. But, 80% of the municipality remains under the Tokyo-mandated evacuation order. The initial work will cover about 30 hectares (0.3 km2), and the total planned by 2023 is 660 hectares (6.6 km2) is less than 4% of the remaining restricted zone. Decontamination in Namie will begin some two months after the same type of work will begin in Okuma.
  • Namie plans to resume rice planting in the spring, specifically seven northern districts: Tatsuno, Kariyado, Sakata, Fujihashi, Nishidai, Kitakiyohashi and Kitatanashio. Some of the municipality had its evacuation order lifted by Tokyo last March, allowing work to restore irrigation waterways for rice paddies. Of the 1,200 hectares of pre-2011 paddies in Namie, it is expected that up to 430 hectares will be planted this year. The problem is that there could be a shortage of people to work the paddies because many have moved and set down new life-roots elsewhere. A town official said, “We would like to throw our full support behind farmers who are trying to stand on their own feet amid the difficult agricultural environment stemming from protracted evacuation.” Only about 500 of the more than 18,000 former residents have repopulated Namie.

February 8, 2018

  • Radiation exposure due to the Fukushima accident is measured in “round-trip transoceanic” units, i.e. the amount of exposure due to flying across the Pacific Ocean and back. The typical person living in Japan received the equivalent of five transoceanic units, and the average Canadian was given one transoceanic unit from the nuke accident. This unique analogous method was presented by Nikolaos Evangeliou of the Norwegian Institute for Air Research at the annual meeting of the European Geophysical Union earlier this year. The estimated levels of exposure were deduced by studying the atmospheric Cesium-137 concentrations recorded by the international Comprehensive Test-Ban Treaty Network.
  • The percentage of Fukushima foods in school lunches returns to pre-2011 levels. The rate was 36% before the nuke accident, and dropped to around 18% the year after (2012). In 2017, it had returned to 36%. There is a target of 40% for 2020. The prefectural official in-charge said, “There are still parents who are concerned about this, and it is natural for them to be so. We will listen closely to them as we continue our inspections and public information activities.” The prefecture regularly posts the results of random tests of school lunch food for contamination. Although the prefecture’s limit is more limiting than the national standard, the levels have never exceeded it.
  • F. Daiichi’s new rubble storage facility is shown to the Press. The building was completed in time to begin rubble removal from unit #1 last month. Debris from the 2011 hydrogen explosions is strewn atop units #1 & #3, impeding efforts to prepare for the removal of fuel bundles from the Spent Fuel Pools. The storage facility is a four-story structure, with two stories above ground and two below ground. The less radioactive debris will be placed in the upper two stories, and the highly radioactive material in the underground stories, using the earth as an effective radiation shield.
  • A Tokyo court awards more than $10 million in compensation to 318 Minamisoma residents. The Odaka District of the city was part of the Tokyo-mandated evacuation population in 2011. 321 of the district’s residents filed a suit for an additional total of nearly $100 million for psychological damage, but the court decided that the amount was not reasonable and cut it by roughly 90%. However, three of the plaintiffs were denied compensation because they lived overseas at the time of the accident. Each qualified plaintiff will receive about $30,000. All Odaka evacuees had already been awarded more than $75,000 for psychological damage, but the 321 who filed the suit said it was not nearly enough. They also feel they were slighted by this latest court award. Junichiro Hironaka, the plaintiffs' lead lawyer, said, “…the amount of compensation ordered does not correspond to the actual damages they suffered.” There is no mention in the Press reports of every man woman and child having already received roughly $400,000 in personal compensation, and each Odaka District homeowner and/or business proprietor gaining millions of dollars in compensatory restitution. It should be noted that most Odaka District evacuees had their personal compensation payments stopped in July, 2017. – one year after the evacuation order was lifted. --  
  • The above Press article adds that 2,400 of the 12,800 Odaka evacuees have returned home.A 19% repopulation level is one of the most significant of the old no-go zone and should have garnered its own news story. But, the Mainichi merely mentioned it in the mid-body of the posted report. Once again, good news about the repopulation is virtually ignored.
  • Tepco posts the full handout of last month’s investigation inside the unit #2 pedestal. The handout says no damage to the pedestal was observed, also no damage to the CRD replacement mechanism (with a picture of it). The new information includes area radiation measurements at for levels inside the pedestal. Surprisingly, the radiation readings were essentially the same from the personnel platform beneath the CRDMs, down to just above the cable tray encircling the bottom of the pedestal; about 8 sieverts per hour. Logically, if the debris on the cable tray is really re-solidified corium (formerly melted fuel), the radiation readings should have increased as the probe approached the cable tray. They didn’t! Another oddity was that the radiation levels outside the pedestal were actually higher than inside the pedestal, measuring over 40 Sieverts per hour. Several speculations on these peculiarities were offered by NHK World. --
  • This record-cold winter underscores Japan’s need for nuclear energy. Since the start of the nuclear moratorium in 2011, Tepco has totally relied on old, inefficient fossil-fueled (thermal) units and power bought from neighboring utilities to meet the peak demand periods of summer and winter. Since January 23rd, frigid temperatures have forced customers to use excessive amounts of electricity, with a peak of more than 51 gigawatts on Jan. 26. All thermal plants were at full power. A TEPCO official said, “We are in a situation in which all the thermal power plants have to be operated at full capacity.”  With snow covering solar panels, Tepco would have been forced to effect large-scale blackouts if it were not for purchased power. Even then, similar weather conditions across the Kanto region limited available electricity. One industry expert said, “In the worst case, there was the risk of a large-scale power cut.” Tokyo is not out of the woods, as yet. Harsh weather is expected to continue well into February.
  • Sendai unit #1 had a capacity factor of 106.7% last year. Capacity factor of a power plant is the ratio of actual output to its potential output, if it were possible for it to operate at full nameplate capacity indefinitely. Anything over 90% is considered exemplary. Sendai #1’s best previous record was 2009 with a 105% capacity factor.
  • An emergency evacuation drill for the area around Sendai station is a success. The drill was ointly organized by the Kagoshima prefectural government and nine municipalities within 30 kilometers of the nuclear plant. About 4,400 people participated, including 1,800 local residents. Those living within 5 kilometers of the nuke were asked to evacuate by bus and personal vehicles. After they were out of the area, residents beyond 5 kilometers were told to vacate the region. This was the third such drill associated with Sendai station since 2015.
  • Tomioka Town schools will reopen in April with about 30 students! Prior to the F. Daiichi accident, there were roughly 1,400 students enrolled. Last June, the Tomioka School Board surveyed former residents and found that only about 2%planned to return home, 11% said they “cannot make a decision”, and the rest said they would not return. Thus, the town has made the schools a community hub to link the schools with the returning townspeople. 
  • 70% of Japan’s utilities continue to experience falling profits due to the 2011 nuke moratorium. The three that have recovered somewhat are Kansai, Shikoku, and Okinawa Electric Companies. Kansai attributed the recovery to restart of its Takahama nuclear units 3 & 4. Shikoku profits have been bolstered by the power resumption of Ikata nuclear unit #3. Okinawa says their increased cash flow is due to cutting repair and maintenance expenses. While sales increased for all tem major utilities, the high cost of fossil fueled power resulted in less profits for seven of the companies. --

February 1, 2018

  • Last month’s investigation into unit #2 detected very high radiation levels. The area under the bottom head of the RPV, inside the pedestal, had a maximum reading of eight sieverts per hour. This was measured by the detector mounted on the end of the telescoping probe. This shows that removal of fuel debris in and around the pedestal will have to be undertaken with utmost caution.
  • The Associated Press says the “Worst-hit reactor at Fukushima may be easiest to clean up”. Unit #3 is scheduled for removal of fuel bundles from its Spent Fuel Pool (SFP) later this year. Tepco’s Daisuke Hirose said, "If you compare it with mountain climbing, we've only been preparing to climb. Now, we finally get to actually start climbing." The AP alleges that SFP defueling will the easiest of the three remaining units because of the severe damage caused by the March 14, 2011, hydrogen explosion. Unit #1 will be more difficult because of delays in removing debris and repairing key components. Unit #2 is allegedly more difficult because it had no hydrogen explosion and the walls and roof around the refueling deck remain intact, keeping the radiation inside.
  • The Japan Atomic Energy Commission has drafted potential revisions to the Nuclear Compensation System.  The report was compiled by the JAEC’s Special Committee on the Nuclear Damage Compensation System. Since 2015, the committee has debated whether the liability of nuclear operators should be limited or not. Some say nuclear operators should know the upper limit of compensation so they can set aside enough money. Others stress that the public might not readily accept a limited system which could delay or stagnate the compensation process. In order to advise the utilities on how to procure funding, the committee must consider three areas of need: the need to compensate victims promptly and fairly, the need to minimize the national financial burden, and the need for nuclear operators to anticipate possible accidents. The committee will hold more meetings to formulate its final report, taking into account its members’ opinions on the draft, consultations with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and other relevant parties’ inputs.
  • Tokyo begins landfill work for disposal of contaminated soil in Ibaraki Prefecture. Ibaraki shares a border with southern Fukushima Prefecture. The landfill work will start in the village of Tokai and the town of Nasu in the spring. It is estimated that Tokai will bury 2,500 m3 of material, and Nasu 350 m3 for 30 years.
  • The issue of Tepco refusing to accept a 2002 tsunami simulation is resurrected. The simulation was presented to Tepco and the company told the now-defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency it would do nothing because the possibility of a massive tsunami was too-small to matter. NISA had no legal power to enforce its suggestion, so Tepco did not address the simulation’s conclusion that showed a small probability of a massive tsunami, similar to the one that hit F. Daiichi on 3/11/11. The 2002 rejection of the simulation has re-surfaced in a lawsuit filed by Fukushima evacuees in a Chiba court. Former NISA official Shuji Kawahara told the court the agency went along with Tepco’s opinion on the matter because the evidence for such a large tsunami was lacking.

January 25, 2018

Tepco’s investigation inside the unit #2 RPV pedestal with a telescoping device began last Friday. The new device we reported in our 1/11/18 Update, was used on the 19th and preliminary images were released to the Press. Several days of news stories followed, most claiming that re-solidified fuel debris was discovered.

  • Friday, January 19 - Tepco’s Press statement announces the first device insertion and provides details on the technology.  A handout given to the Press graphically depicted the initial insertion and displayed images captured by the small camera on the end of the telescoping mechanism. The images show the underside of the Reactor Pressure Vessel and the debris-strewn cable tray that encircles the bottom of the pedestal area. The picture of what seems to be a hold-down clamp for a Control Rod Drive Mechanism appears to be intact, contrasting many of the CRDM clamps depicted in the unit #3 images from last year. The unit #2 Fuel Assembly replacement mechanism and the “Middle Work grating” attached to it, also appeared to be intact. This is completely unlike the unit #3 images where the mechanism and its work grating are nowhere to be found. No holes in the work platform grating were observed. Images of the cable tray depict what seems to be “sandy, clay-like deposits” and fallen fuel assembly component debris, mixed with “deposits thought to be fuel debris”. There is no mention of the observed debris containing formerly molten corium from inside the RPV.  Japan’s Pres provided scant coverage of Friday’s investigation. NHK World says that Tepco “confirmed… the existence of chunks that are believed to be a mixture of melted nuclear fuel and parts of bindings”. However this assertion is nowhere to be found in the Tepco Press release or Press handout. On the other hand, Jiji Press merely announces the initial investigation and makes no mention of finding formerly molten corium. --
  • Saturday, January 20 - The Press continued the unit #2 “melted fuel” speculation. Asahi Shimbun - The Asahi quoted an anonymous Tepco official, “From the look of things, it must be nuclear fuel debris.” The Asahi also alleged that one image showed a piece of the handle from a fuel bundle and that all of the fuel below the handle must have melted. In addition, The Asahi said the pebble-like debris in the images resembled material found at Three Mile Island. The Associated Press - reporter Mari Yamaguchi cited Tepco’s spokesperson Takahiro Kimoto who said, "There is so much that we still haven't seen." Undeterred, Yamaguchi speculated that the images captured “most likely melted fuel”, and that the pieces of debris resembling a fuel bundle handle was a “sign the rods melted and breached the bottom of the core.” In both articles, there is no mention that the debris is actually located on a cable tray that surrounds the base of the pedestal, or that the existence of the fuel assembly replacement mechanism virtually assures us that an RPV bottom head breach did not occur! --
  • Monday, January 22 – Tepco posted the new video footage taken by the telescoping probe on Friday. The video shows “cooling water falling like rain” from the underside of the RPV onto the debris. How the piece of what seems to be a fuel bundle lifting handle came to be there is “unknown” because “no large hole has been found at the reactor's bottom.” Further, Tepco advised that unit #2 damage appears to be less than with unit #3. Aside – In other words, the earlier speculation of the handle being a “sign the rods melted and breached the bottom of the core” is unfounded! - End aside.


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