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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July 19, 2018

  • A government panel will hold hearings in August on releasing harmless Tritiated water. Another hearing will be held in Tokyo to gather public opinions. Nearly 900,000 tons of this water are currently languishing in massive storage tanks on the premises of F. Daiichi Station. Tritium is the radioactive isotope of hydrogen, and as such is a physical part of the water itself. Thus, it is almost impossible to separate the radioactive water molecules from the non-radioactive. Aside - While biologically innocuous, Tritium causes dread in the minds of millions of radiophobic Japanese. - End aside. Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa has said the only and best option is releasing the water into the sea after reducing the concentration of Tritium. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180713_40/
  • A small minority of Tepco shareholders seek a court injunction to block company support of the restart of Tokai unit #2. Aside – Soon after the F. Daiichi accident, a few anti-nuclear customers bought shares of Tepco stock in order to obstruct the company’s nuclear business, driving up costs. – End aside. Earlier this month, the NRA unanimously found that the unit meets or exceeds Japan’s new safety standards. Three of Tepco’s numerous shareholders filed the request for injunction in Tokyo District Court. They argue that operating Tokai #2 will never allow the company to recover its investment because Tokai’s operator, Japan Atomic Power Company, is currently running in the red due to the national nuclear moratorium. The also feel that Tepco’s attention to Tokai #2 will reduce its ability to safely deal with F. Daiichi decommissioning. The plaintiffs’ lawyer says Tepco will be throwing money down the drain. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180713_06/
  • An evacuation drill for Tokai unit #2 was held on Monday. Some 400 residents of Tokai village participated. This was the first such “out-of-village” drill for the area surrounding the nuke station. The drill scenario was a severe loss of water from the spent fuel pool. Unit #2 has passed its safety examination with the NRA on June 4th. https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2018071600497
  • The NRA approves placing partially used and unused fuel bundles from one reactor unit into another. The Press calls this “reuse”, which is misleading. There are 264 partially used, but not exhausted, bundles inside units #1&2, and another 216 unused bundles stored in their fuel pools Both units will be decommissioned. All of this useful fuel can now be transferred to operating units #3 & #4. The NRA will give its formal approval after hearing opinions from the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and other concerned parties. https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/07/f2c53652b99d-japan-oks-reuse-of-nuclear-fuel-from-scrapped-reactors-for-1st-time.html
  • A long-time antinuclear voice says Japan should not reduce its domestic Plutonium stockpile by manufacturing MOX fuel. MOX is a mixture of domestic Plutonium with standard Uranium fuel. Alan J. Kuperman of the University of Texas says the concept contradicts his opinion on the matter. He says making MOX is it is impossible, counterproductive, slow, and unsuitable for most domestic Plutonium. What he refuses to admit is that MOX fuel has been fabricated for more than 30 years and used extensively. He further exaggerates the cost of MOX, uses hyperbole to magnify the hypothetic risks, and overlooks the fact that domestic Plutonium is worthless as a weapon’s material because of the fact that there’s simply too much non-fissile, neutron-scavenging Pu-240 and Pu-241 in the matrix. Kuperman is coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project and a vocal anti-nuclear opponent of MOX fuel for many years. https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/07/f91d38319475-refiling-opinion-how-not-to-reduce-japans-plutonium-stockpile.html

July 12, 2018

  • Japan’s Olympic torch relay will begin in Fukushima Prefecture on March 26, 2020. The Olympic Games’ coordination council decided today at a meeting in Tokyo. The torch relay will last 121 days, traveling through all 47 prefectures until the Games’ opening ceremony on July 24, 2020. The specific route within prefectures will be decided by a local committee yet to be established. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004579149
  • Fukushima rice wine wins a prestigious international award. Okunomatsu Adatara Ginjo has won the International Wine Challenge's Champion Sake award for 2018. Representative Director of Okunomatsu Sake Brewery Co. Joji Yusa said, "We're in our 302nd year in business, and we've received such a big prize for the first time. We're deeply honored. "We suffer from bad rumors, but we'll produce good sake that will be enjoyed widely." There were 1,639 brands entered in the competition. https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2018071200306
  • About half of Fukushima’s residents do not want government radiation monitors removed. Tokyo In a poll run by Fukushima Minpo (the Prefecture’s daily news) and Fukushima Television, it was found that 46% of the respondents are opposed to Tokyo removing 2,400 area monitor located throughout the prefecture. A Nuclear Regulation Authority official explained the reasons for removal, “We believe that continuous measuring is unnecessary in areas where dose rates are low and stable. The equipment requires huge maintenance costs. We have to effectively use the limited amount of funds.” The resident dissenters say they need peace of mind during decommissioning of F. Daiichi, won’t feel safe if the devices are removed, and need to confirm the safety of children. It turns out that 25% of the respondents are in favor of the NRA removing the monitors, 23% say they are indifferent, and 6% say they “don’t know”. Of those favorable, many feel the monitor are no longer needed, and others say the devices contribute to harmful rumors. Of those opposing the move, one said the idea is “out of the question”! The Aizu-Wakamatsu city government says, “There are citizens who are concerned about the radiation’s potential impact on their health and possible accidents that could happen during decommissioning work, and such people can feel relieved by visually checking dose rates constantly with monitoring systems.” The prefectural government says it is “calling on the central government to proceed with the plan while winning consent from residents at the same time.” The announcement was made July 2nd. Other than Fukushima Minpo, it seems only the Asahi Shimbun posted on it.  http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=901 -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201807090004.html

July 5, 2018

  • The injunction against restarting Oi units #3 & #4 is reversed. On July 4th, the Nagoya High Court reversed the May 2014 order of the Fukui District Court to prohibit operation of the units. Antinuclear groups have been coordinating their efforts across Japan for several years, filing numerous lawsuits for temporary injunctions prohibiting restarts. Unless an order of injunction is issued by the Supreme Court, nukes are allowed to operate. Antinuclear groups have thus pursued a “provisional disposition” as a tactic to delay nuke operations as soon as the decision is rendered. Presiding Judge Masayuki Naito said, "Although it is possible to scrap nuclear power generation itself in light of the Fukushima nuclear plant accident, making such a decision is beyond the role of the judiciary, and it therefore should be left for politics to decide." Resident’s lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai deplored the decision, "It is the worst possible court ruling we can think of."   http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/court-of-second-instance-approves-operation-of-ohi-npps/ -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/07/58dd34c484b3-update1-court-rejects-suspension-of-oi-nuclear-power-plant.html
  • Tepco prepares for resumption of construction at Higashidori Station, Aomori Prefecture. Company President Tomoaki Kobayakawa says, "As we restart the (Higashidori) project, I want to make sure that a new plant would excel in safety. The geological survey is a very significant step to move forward on the joint development of Higashidori." Tepco envisions resumption of construction of the first 1385 MWe Advanced BWR around 2021, with a second to begin being built at some point thereafter. The site also has an idled nuke owned by Tohoku Electric Company. It is an 1100 MWE BWR that began operation in 2005, but has been shut down due to the Tokyo moratorium since 2011. https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/06/e6cd4468167a-tepco-willing-to-resume-higashidori-nuclear-plant-construction.html
  • Fukushima Prefecture wants to supply locally-grown products, including rice, cucumbers, tomatoes, and peaches, to the athlete’s village for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. The prefecture will embark on a campaign focusing on catering companies to buy Fukushima-produced food for athletes and other participants. Meals at the athletes' village will be selected by the Tokyo 2020 Games organizing committee. All foods must have the Good Agriculture Practice (GAP) food safety certification. Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori says, "We will make efforts to increase GAP certification and, while publicizing the safety of our food, have our farm produce enjoyed by people from Japan and abroad during the Tokyo Olympics." http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=900
  • A robotic probe has entered the F. Daiichi unit #2 refueling deck and found radiation levels that are too high for humans to work, by Japan’s stringent exposure standards. Last month, TEPCO effected a 35 m2 opening in the wall of the building in order to use a camera-equipped robot to make a detailed map of exposure levels on the deck. Levels of up to 59 millisieverts per hour were identified, which exceeds the 50 mSv annual exposure limit. Because of this, Tepco says they cannot let people work on the refueling deck. How the defueling of unit #2 spent fuel pool will be performed has yet to be determined. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180702_35/
  • Tokai unit #2 passes the NRA’s safety standards. The Nuclear Regulation Authority announced its decision on July 4th. Tokai #2 is the 15th unit to have met Japan’s post-Fukushima accident regulations, and the third Boiling Water Reactor. The nuke still needs to clear two more NRA screenings by November when it reaches its 40 year licensing limit, otherwise it could face decommissioning. Ibaraki Governor Kazuhiko Oigawa told reporters, "I want to closely monitor the remaining screenings. I call on the NRA to conduct strict examinations." https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2018070400751 -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/07/2ea49c56d936-nuclear-watchdog-oks-restart-of-aging-nuclear-plant-hit-by-tsunami.html

June 28, 2018

  • The F. Daiichi unit #2 refueling deck’s outer wall has been opened. Removable concrete blocks have been slid out of the wall, causing a 35 square meter opening. A robot will be fitted with a camera and radiation monitor and sent onto the deck to monitor the physical conditions and provide a detailed mapping of radiation fields. There are 615 fuel bundles in the Spent Fuel Pool that need to be removed and stored at ground level. The opening will allow for the removal, as well as access for any machinery that might be needed. Actual conditions on the deck have been quite unknown since the March, 2011 accident caused by the worst tsunami ever recorded in Japan. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180622_02/ --  Photos http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2018-e/201805-e/180528-01e.html 
  • Naraha opens a shopping center for its more than 3,400 returnees. Ten businesses including a supermarket, hardware store and restaurants, opened their doors on Tuesday. The 3,300 square meter facility includes medical institutions and public housing. The town is operating free shuttle bus services between all its districts and the shopping center. Town population in 2010 was about 7,700. In 2014, a year before the evacuation order was lifted, more than 7,000 people remained registered as residents. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180626_22/
  • Environment Minister Masaharu Nakagawa says decontamination outside Fukushima Prefecture is “all done”. He added that "environmental regeneration in Fukushima is progressing steadily." Nakagawa reported this at the 20th Tripartite Environment Ministers Meeting held in Suzhou, China, to preface a plea for all Chinese food import restrictions to end. 10 Prefectures remain under the bans. His request was also heard by the South Korean representative. https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/06/ab2db24b3be5-japan-touts-completion-of-fukushima-cleanup-at-environment-meeting.html
  • The town of Date is running a full-scale wild boar-skin leather business. It is being run by the Date Agriculture and Forestry Promotion Public Corporation. The demand for the products is actually exceeding production. The wild boar are captured by resident hunters and the skins are fully scanned for contamination before tanning. The meat cannot be sold because the 2011 ban on such activity remains in-place. The shop currently employs 16 artisans. The corporation’s secretary-general, Katsunori Sagawa, says, “We are determined to go headlong, like a boar, into strengthening our brand and expanding our sales channels.” http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=899
  • Tokai unit #2 passes a key earthquake safety test; NRA restart safety screening approval is imminent.  The test was run on a scale model of at the National Research Institute for Earth Science and Disaster Resilience, located in Miki, Hyogo Prefecture. The institute has a building that can replicate earthquakes. The test was to see if the blowout panels in the refueling deck walls ill remain in place when struck by a worst-case quake. After the test quake ended, a 5 centimeter opening appeared on some parts of the panel. While the results met the safety requirement, Japan Atomic Power Company will redesign the equipment to have it remain sealed, no matter how severe the quake might be. On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said it is now set to complete the unit’s restart safety screening. NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa said, "We can forecast the prospects for the screening."  http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201806220040.html -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180628/p2a/00m/0na/016000c

June 21, 2018

  • Genkai unit #4 becomes Japan’s ninth restarted reactor plant. Kyushu Electric Power Company reactor operators began the slow, sequential raising of control rods to uncover nuclear fuel bundles early on Saturday. Criticality (self-sustaining fission chain reaction) was achieved around midnight, the same day. This will probably be the last reactor restart in Japan for 2018. About 150 protesters gathered in front of the plant, chanting their typical slogans and displaying the usual banners protesting the restart. Most news outlets called the Genkai #4 “trouble-hit” because of a pre-startup mechanical issue that was corrected, yet another example of scaremongering by the Japanese Press.   https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180616_15/ -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180616_17/ -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/06/9a38312be60b-update1-trouble-hit-nuclear-reactor-in-southwestern-japan-resumes-operations.html
  • The Fukui governor scolded the NRA over “slow examinations”. On Monday, Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa exchanged regulatory opinions with Governor Issei Nishikawa of Fukui Prefecture. Nishikawa was not happy with the NRA’s slowness in making safety checks before their approval, “The examination process does not take time into consideration. Delays in the examinations have adversely affected local municipalities’ abilities to take economic and employment measures, which troubles us extremely. The examinations focus on documents in Tokyo, far from the actual sites.” Fuketa essentially deflected the admonishment saying merely increasing the staff is not the way to go. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/fukui-governor-castigates-nra-chairman-over-slow-examinations/
  • A new Japanese nuclear information organization will begin operation on July 1. The Atomic Energy Association (ATENA) will be formed out of the joint efforts of the Federation of Electric Power Companies and the Japan Electrical Manufacturers’ Association. Ei Kadokami, special advisor to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. will be the first chairman of ATENA. He promises that the group will raise nuclear safety to a higher level. He said ATENA will use a three-pronged approach: (1) Promotion of effective safety measures through efforts by the entire nuclear industry, (2) effect substantive dialogue with the NRA, and (3) communicate group efforts to stakeholders. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/new-association-to-be-launched-in-july-with-ei-kadokami-at-the-helm/

June 14, 2018

  • The June update on Fukushima evacuee compensation has been posted.
  • Tepco posts the plans for extraction of fuel debris from damaged F. Daiichi units. The plan is inserting a robotic arm through an opening in each of the Primary Containment structures, accessing the pedestal area where some, if not most of the escaped Reactor Pressure Vessel corium has been identified. Smaller debris that can fit through the containment penetration will be removed first. Larger material will be removed by a yet-to-be-determined method. Tepco says they are not planning to open new apertures, but rather only use pre-existing openings. One problem is with unit #3, when the desired robotic arm insertion is currently under water. The water will have to be drained before damaged fuel removal can happen. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=896
  • Tepco announces it will decommission undamaged Fukushima Daini station. TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa informed Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori today. Kobayakawa said the reason is negative rumors about the station that keep evacuees from returning home, hampering reconstruction efforts. He said it "is a drag on the recovery" of Fukushima. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180614_20/ -- https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2018061400691
  • The number of child evacuees living in Fukushima Prefecture drops below 10,000. As of October 1, 2017, the official count was 9,912. In addition, the number of child evacuees living in other prefectures dropped to 7,575. The stated reasons for the continuing decline are lifting of evacuation orders and completion of public housing. One official said, "We would like to partner with municipal governments in allowing children to return to their hometowns in the prefecture and to push ahead with measures to ensure an environment where parents can raise children with peace of mind.” The Prefectural government posted this on June 4th, but (as usual) the popular Press failed to report the good news. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=897
  • Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited Matsukawaura fishing port in Soma. They wanted to see how well post-disaster fishing industry recovery had progressed. They visited the rebuilt Soma Haragama wholesale market and interacted with some of the workers. The Emperor asked one of them, “Which one (species of fish) tastes best?” This will be Akihito’s last Fukushima venture prior to his approaching abdication. https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2018061100778
  • The Mayor of Namie will resign due to illness. Tamotsu Baba has submitted his resignation to the town assembly. He will leave office June 30. He has been mayor since 2007. He has been one of the most influential voices in the Prefecture’s disaster recovery planning. Last year, Baba approved the lifting of Tokyo’s 2011 evacuation advisories for Namie residents. He has overseen the slow return of residents since then. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004509485
  • Japan’s largest newspaper calls for calm discussion about restarting units at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station. The reason is the election of a new governor in Niigata Prefecture - Hideyo Hanazumi – who is not believed to be as nuclear-critical as his predecessor. The election was due to the resignation of former governor and K-K opponent, Ryuchi Yoneyama, over his questionable relationship with a woman. Hanazumi says he will support completion of Yoneyama’s snail’s-pace investigation into the Fukushima accident in order to not make the issue a point of dispute. He says he might hold another gubernatorial election “to seek residents’ confidence” after the investigation is completed. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004511653

June 7, 2018

  • The massive die-off of Pacific Ocean birds in 2014-15 was not due to Fukushima radioactive contamination. Rather, the problem was caused by an area of the ocean, just off the North American coast, that experienced a 3.5o C increase in temperature. This marine phenomena is colloquially referred to as “The Blob”! Recently published in Geophysical Research Letters, a research team says the die-off occurred because the warmer water greatly reduced the quantity of food available to three species of bird. The Blob first emerged in 2013 and kept growing until 2015. The thermal anomaly caused a “lens of warm water [that] had the effect of shifting the entire ocean ecosystem,” said Julia Parrish, professor at the University of Washington. “It made it better for some species, and worse for others, and we can say very definitely it made it worse for these birds. With such large-scale changes in the ocean we had very dramatic responses. We had a window into a future of a warmer ocean. We are getting a sense of who the winners and losers might be in a warmer world.” https://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/the-blob-a-marine-heat-wave-caused-massive-die-off-of-west-coast-birds/ -- https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/2017GL076164
  • Tepco opens room in the ground-level common pool by using dry cask storage. By August, 483 fuel bundles will be moved from the common spent fuel pool facility and into the storage casks. This will make enough room in the common facility for the 566 bundles now in the Unit #3 SFP. 52 of the unit #3 bundles were never used. This process began on May 27th, but was widely ignored by Japan’s mainstream news media. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/tepco-opens-up-space-in-common-pool-at-fukushima-daiichi-to-receive-spent-fuel-from-unit-3/
  • While nuclear business in Asia is picking up, Japanese reactor exports have hit a wall. The construction of new nukes has dropped world-wide since the Fukushima accident, but it looks like business will be picking up in Asia. Rapid economic growth has created an increase in electricity demand across the continent. The most significant growth is in China. China has put more than 20 new reactors in operation since 2011, and now has the fourth-most operating units in the world. This could increase another 80% by 2020. Their large number of nukes being built is because nukes don’t emit greenhouse gasses or particulates into the atmosphere, and air pollution has become a major health hazard in China. The country’s state-run nuclear companies are providing the expertise for nuke construction, and have even exported their product overseas. Competition could come from companies in Japan and South Korea, but Japanese firms have run into roadblocks they might have trouble overcoming. Toshiba has withdrawn from an overseas project, and Mitsubishi is also having problems with foreign sales. Hitachi has a possible project on the horizon in England, but that’s because the British government might provide financial assistance. The main problem is ever-swelling costs due to post-Fukushima safety requirements. While some business could open up overseas, Japanese domestic nuke construction has become essentially non-viable.  http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004495147 -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004495489

May 31, 2018

  • Tepco prepares to remove 615 fuel bundles from F. Daiichi unit #2 storage pool. 29 concrete blocks are being removed from the western wall of the refueling deck, opening a hole measuring 5 by 7 meters. The work is being done by remote control and is expected to end in mid-June. No airborne radioactive dust was stirred up as the work commenced. Once the hole is fully opened, radiation levels on the deck will be measured near the end of June using remotely-controlled monitoring. Then, the company will plan how to best remove the bundles from the pool while minimizing personnel exposure. The company plans fuel removal and transfer to the ground-level storage facility in 2023. https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2018/images/handouts_180528_02-e.pdf --   https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180528_21/
  • Radiation levels in Fukushima forests have dropped 74% since 2011. In 2011, the average exposure level was 0.91 microsieverts per hour. At the end of March, to average level among the 362 monitoring points was .23 µSv/hr, which is Tokyo’s target level for decontamination. 226 of the locations were measured below the government’s target. The reason given for the significant drop is the natural decay of radioactive Cesium. The downward trend is not only in the forests. The prefecture-wide survey of 1,300 locations shows a similar decline. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=892
  • Fukushima’s governor told the international community that most of the prefecture has been decontaminated and food exports are steadily increasing. At a Press conference on Wednesday at One World Trade Center in New York, Masao Uchibori said, "Our consistent efforts over the seven years have borne fruit and recovery is under way." He announced that 97% of the planned decontamination has been completed and "the radiation levels of the cities within the prefecture are now the same as any other major cities in the world." As of May 17th, some 12,000 Fukushima residents remain under evacuation orders. https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/05/f59979acd9f3-fukushima-tells-world-radiation-is-down-exports-up-after-nuke-crisis.html
  • A Fukushima entrepreneur will use hops grown in Tamura for a future craft brewery. Makoto Honma, the president of Hop Japan Inc., told Tamura farmers, “I can’t wait to drink delicious beer made from homegrown hops.”  His craft brewery dream started while studying in the United States (Seattle) a decade ago. In 2014, a friend asked for help in negotiations for Tohoku-grown hops. Honma opened Hop Japan in 2015. He applied for start-up financial aid through a Fukushima bank, and got it. Tokyo’s Reconstruction Agency asked him to grow hops in Tamura because the town’s tobacco production plummeted after the 2011 quake and tsunami. Honma is currently living in Sedai, but will move to Fukushima City by the end of the year. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=894
  • Shikoku Electric Co. applied for permission to install dry fuel storage at Ikata station. The application to the Nuclear Regulation Authority has been submitted, as well as formal requests to build the facility to Ehime Prefecture and Ikata Town. It will have a capacity of 45 dry metal casks. The dry storage will be used for temporary storage before shipping the bundles to Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Aomori Prefecture. The facility is scheduled for operation in 2023. The spent fuel pool at Ikata unit #3 is currently 78% full. The present transfer of bundles from Ikata unit #1 will continue and further fill the unit #3 pool. Thus, the dry storage will be needed, perhaps as soon as 2023. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/shikoku-electric-power-applies-to-install-spent-fuel-dry-storage-facility-for-operation-in-2023/

May 24, 2018

  • The grazing of beef cattle returns to Iitate village. Five farmers restarted breeding when the evacuation order was lifted in March of 2017. Now, some of the cattle will be allowed to graze on green grass for three months as a test for open grazing. Farmer Takeshi Yamada, 69, who had six of his beef cows graze on the green grass, commented, "Grazing is less stressful than breeding in barns. It makes it possible to produce fresh beef." Yamada wants to revive the local "Iitate Beef Cattle" brand. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180524/p2a/00m/0na/009000c
  • Chigoku Electric Co. asks local governments for permission to start Shimane unit #3. The 1,373 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactor unit remains under construction, but is nearing completion. The company has decided to pursue local consent before applying to the Nuclear Regulation Authority for its start-up safety screening. This is the second new unit to begin pre-start-up procedures, the first being Oma #1. Ironically, if all goes according to plan, Shimane #3 will begin operation before Oma #1. Chigoku President Mareshige Shimizu submitted the paperwork to the mayor of Matsue City, the host community, on Tuesday. He said, “We’re going to thoroughly implement safety measures and offer sufficient explanations (to the local communities and prefectural government).” https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180522_21/ -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201805220043.html
  • F. Daiichi’s amount of purified tritiated water nears capacity. About 160 tons of radioactive waste water is produced every day due to cooling damaged reactors in units #1, #2, & #3. The water is then purified, removing all radioactive isotopes except Tritium, which cannot be removed for physical reasons. Rainwater runoff and groundwater drain out flows add even more to the daily production of stored waters. Station storage capacity for waste water is 1.13 million tons. About 1.07 million tons is currently stored.  There is little room on the F. Daiichi property to construct more tanks, but full capacity could expand to 1.37 million tons by the end of 2020. There are no plans on what to do there-after. Although the tritiated water is biologically innocuous, the wide-spread existence of extreme radiophobia makes it a political nightmare to do the right thing and release it to the sea. The Industry Ministry appointed a committee to decide on the problem nearly two years ago, but has only met eight times during the interim. But, they are aware that time is running short. One committee member says, “In order to advance the decommissioning, the number of tanks should be decreased at an early date.” How long this political football will be kicked around is anybody’s guess, but the days before reaching a conclusion are numbered. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004451987
  • Holes and corrosion are found control room ventilation ducts at 12 nuclear units. The Nuclear Regulation Authority says it is examining the possible impact of the condition, even though the owners say the holes will not cause worker radiation exposure during an accident. Kyodo News says there are concerns that radiation could pass into the control rooms during an accident, but no source for these worries was identified. The NRA investigation began with corrosion found in the ducting of Shimane #3 in December of 2016. The NRA says it found the condition in specific units at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, Onagawa, Fukushima Daiichi, Hamaoka, Shiga, and Tokai stations. All units are Boiling Water Reactors. Plant owners say they will increase inspections and install dehumidifiers to prevent this in the future. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180523_21/ -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180523/p2g/00m/0dm/082000c

May 17, 2018

  • Tepco posts its latest quarterly safety reform plan overview. TEPCO continues to implement nuclear safety reforms and initiatives designed to “keep the Fukushima Nuclear Accident firmly in mind.” On April 1 at Fukushima Daiichi, D&D Engineering welcomed Akira Ono as a new president. On March 30, the Niigata Headquarters created the “Mamoru (protect), Sonaeru (prepare), Kotaeru (respond) Action Plan” (aka “Action Plan”) to show the company’s desire to become more involved with the people of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa region and Niigata Prefecture. For more on the latest quarterly report, click on the following link. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu18_e/images/180516e0101.pdf
  • Japan says it will need all possible nukes by 2030. The Advisory Committee for Natural Resources proposed the country maintain a previously set target of generation at 20-22 percent. The target could be met by restarting all the nukes now in the planning stage and finishing those now under construction. Thought not mentioning more construction, the possibility is clearly implied. According to other reports, without new construction or expansion of existing plants it would be difficult to fulfill the target quotas. https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2018/05/16/More-nuclear-power-needed-by-2030-Japan-says/6941526488687/
  • Ohi unit #4 was shuttered last Thursday afternoon due to a low steam generator water level alarm. The shutdown occurred while ramping up its power level following its restart. It turns out that a water level monitor had malfunctioned, causing the automatic shutdown. After the monitor was fixed, the startup resumed at 1:35am on Friday. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180511/p2a/00m/0na/024000c
  • Tokyo approves an anti-terrorist plan for Sendai station. Japan's nuclear regulator Okayed the plan to build terrorism-response facilities for Sendai unit #1. The plan insures there are no problems in a system to remotely cool the reactor if a large aircraft were to be crashed into the containment building. In addition, the designs are appropriate for the plumbing and valves used to direct cooling water to the reactor from a tank yet to be built. Details of the plan cannot be disclosed for security reasons. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180516_12/

May 10, 2018

  • Ohi unit #4 becomes the eighth Japanese nuke to restart. Control rods were slowly, sequentially pulled early Wednesday morning. Criticality occurred early today. Power generation and transmission are expected Friday. Commercial operation is scheduled for early June. With Ohi unit #3, two units are now running at Ohi station. Continued operation for both units is nebulous since the 2014 injunction was passed against them in Fukui District Court. The ruling was not finalized and is under appeal at the Kanazawa branch of Nagoya High Court, making this restart possible. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180509_30/ -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180509/p2g/00m/0dm/086000c
  • Former NRA Chair Kunihiko Shimazaki testified that the Fukushima accident was preventable. Shimazaki served on a committee at the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion from 1995 to 2012 and played a pivotal role in the compilation of a long-term assessment on the probability of major earthquakes. He is an eminent Japanese Seismologist. In 2002, he compiled an earthquake forecast that a 15.7 meter tsunami for F. Daiichi was possible. The forecast was submitted to Tepco and unheeded because the Cabinet Office in Tokyo took issue with "the range in credibility of the data” of the quake forecast, which Shimazaki labeled as a "non-scientific” conclusion. The testimony was offered at the ongoing trial of three Tepco executives alleged to be responsible for the deaths of 44 2011 evacuees by not following Shimazaki’s 2002 forecast. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180510/p2a/00m/0na/017000c -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201805100060.html
  • The second session of JAIF Annual Conference was held on April 10 where representatives from each of the nuclear vendors present were asked to discuss why their companies had entered the international nuclear field, their strategy and activities, and the prospects seen for the global nuclear market. The said that despite the socio-political aftermath of the Fukushima accident, the presenters were cautiously optimistic. The third session of the conference was held the following day, with presentations by representatives from four Japanese and foreign manufacturers on the innovations required for nuclear energy to continue to play an important role into the future. The moderator stated that it is necessary to innovate for the future through cooperation across different fields. He concluded by evoking the words of young physics enthusiast Taylor Wilson who said, “Innovation will come when other young people are shown that nuclear power is an exciting field.” http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/51st-jaif-annual-conference-session-3-innovations-in-nuclear-power/ --  http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/51st-jaif-annual-conference-session-2-promotion-of-international-activities-by-nuclear-vendors/
  • Young employees with game pad experience are a valuable commodity with damaged fuel removal. Those who have used the pads to play video games can operate them to take full command of detailed operations. The game pads are suited for remote operation of robots in areas humans cannot reach. Hiroaki Anekawa, senior project manager at Mitsubishi’s Advanced Nuclear Plant & Fuel Cycle Engineering Department, said, “They’re relatively cheap and available for several thousand yen, plus they easily cope with small movements. Young workers in their 20s and 30s are good at handling them.” A game pad was used to control the robots for recent inspections of the unit #2 and unit #3 pedestal areas.  http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004412433
  • JAIF Chairman Takashi Imai says Japan needs both nuclear and renewables to meet its energy needs. He said this as he addressed the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum Annual Conference on April 9&10. Imai stressed that renewable energy and nuclear power are essential for Japan to have from a stable, inexpensive supply of electricity, while addressing global warming issues. He added that he was concerned about use of fossil-fueled power plants and their CO2 emissions, but also because they harm the national economic burden. It is his belief that nukes are needed, more than anything else! http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/jaif-chairman-says-renewable-and-nuclear-energy-both-needed-in-the-future/

May 3, 2018

  • Tepco greatly reduces the areas where protective attire is required at F. Daiichi. Nearly all locations external to the plant buildings will no longer require anti-contamination clothing for workers. Eight of the contamination measuring points have less than detectible levels of radioactive substances, and the ninth is so low that it is well below a level where Anti-Cs will be needed. This means that ~96% of the station’s external environs require only regular working clothes. https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2018/images/handouts_180426_01-e.pdf
  • Six foreign technical trainees are found to have been working at F. Daiichi. This violates TEPCO's decision made last February to not to let such trainees work at the nuclear station, because of pressure from government agencies. The six were hired by a subcontractor, that had them burning wood and other debris working until late last month at a facility outside the radiation controlled area. Radiation levels are so low that the trainees did not have to wear personal dosimetry, and were not given training on how to protect them from exposure. Regardless, this goes against the purpose of Japan's technical intern training program. A Tepco official says, "We deviated from our independent rules on employment. We will make our subcontractors thoroughly check the terms of their contracts." https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2018050100772 -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/05/bedd09794f9a-foreign-trainees-worked-at-fukushima-nuclear-plant-despite-ban.html

April 26, 2018

  • Tepco posts unit #2 damage pictures, and unit #3 damage graphics, indicating no bottom head melt-throughs. The unit #2 pictures show that nearly all control rod drive mechanisms appear to be in place, which would not be the case with a melt-through. However, the debris scattered on the floor of the pedestal interior indicates some drip-through around the CRDMs seems plausible. The unit #3 graphics depict much more damage than unit #2’s pictures, but, again, there seems no evidence of catastrophic melt-through. If the debris bed on the floor of the pedestal had been molten at the time of the accident, there large amount of metallic devices sticking out of the bed would have melted into the corium mass. Further, the graphics indicate that the debris bed amassed atop the workers platform. If that debris were corium, the platform would at least have holes through it, if not be completely lost. Rather, some of the metallic devices in the bed are shown to protrude beneath the platform, which would not be the case had there been a catastrophic bottom-head melt-through.  http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2018-e/201804-e/180426-01e.html -- http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2018-e/201804-e/180426-02e.html
  • Fukushima exports its largest amount of agricultural products since records were first kept. Governor Masao Uchibori said that 210 tons of produce was shipped out in 2017.  In 2010, the year before the Fukushima accident, the prefecture export 153 tons, but fell to near zero in 2011. Uchibori stressed that safety measures in the prefecture have been highly evaluated, and that quality and good taste are well-recognized, resulting the swelling exports. But, he frankly acknowledged that fear and misinformation concerning the prefecture’s products persist. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/fukushima-exported-record-level-of-agricultural-products-last-year/
  • The ice wall and sub-drains have drastically reduced the generation of contaminated water. On March 1st, Tepco told the Press that these counter-measures are the main reason that the rate of contaminated water production has dropped from 490 tons per day down to less than 110 tons per day. This is well below the 2020 target of 150 tons per day. As a result, the level of water inside the ice wall to drop 4-5 meters below the exterior groundwater level. The ice wall has almost fully frozen, except for some “very deep sections”. Otherwise, the daily groundwater influx would be much less. In addition to the ice wall and subdrain system, the surface of the ground around the four damaged units has been paved to keep rainwater from exacerbating the problem and groundwater bypass has been moved further from the basements. In addition, the seaside impermeable wall has prevented groundwater from entering the port area (quay), which is open to the sea. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2018/1487320_15409.html
  • As of Monday, April 23rd, the amount of groundwater influx had dropped to 93 tons per day. Most of it comes from basement in-leakage and rainwater, with about 10 tons per day from groundwater drains. https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2018/images/handouts_180423_01-e.pdf
  • The new 24-hour hospital in Tomioka has started accepting patients. This is the first such facility to open inside the Tokyo-mandated evacuation zone since 2011. The hospital has 30 beds, 21 doctors to insure round-the-clock care, and a heliport for patient airlifting. It is located about 10 kilometers from F. Daiichi. The hospital director says the facility will provide medical support to local residents and plant workers. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180423_15/
  • Tokyo orders student background checks at research reactors in Japan. Background investigations will be required for teachers and guards who are able to enter restricted areas where nuclear materials are kept. The Nuclear Regulation Authority is set to require the checks to prevent terrorism. However, critics are concerned that the more-stringent policy could hurt researcher’s motivation and discourage new student enrollment. The affected facilities include the research reactors of Kyoto University, Kindai University, and the Oarai Research and Development Institute. https://japantoday.com/category/national/gov't-to-mandate-background-checks-on-students-at-research-reactors

April 19, 2018

  • Japan’s first self-driving bus operates at Fukushima Daiichi. The French-made vehicle will eventually provide passengers with a choice of pre-programmed routes. It uses GPS to navigate. It can carry as many as 15 people with a maximum speed of ~10 miles per hour. The bus has sensors to keep it from getting too close the pedestrians or other vehicles. The bus is currently running a one kilometer route between the F. Daiichi station and the employee “rest facility”. Plant official Tetsunori Kobayashi says the bus is supporting decommissioning work using new technology. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180418_30/
  • The possibilities improve for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa restarts because Niigata Prefecture’s antinuclear governor will resign due to a sex scandal. On Tuesday, Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama admitted that he paid money to and bought gifts for a college coed in return for sex. Today, he admitted that he paid several women nearly $300 per meeting, possibly violating Japan’s Anti-Prostitution Law. He met them through a dating site. Yoneyama won the governorship in 2016 on a largely antinuclear platform, in staunch opposition to restarting any of the KK units. He has repeatedly said he cannot decide on the operation of the K-K station until the prefectural government completes its assessment of the Fukushima accident. Spurred by this announcement, Kashiwazaki Mayor Masahiro said, “I will ask the new prefectural governor to start discussions on the restart as early as possible. In the NRA, excellent experts gave the green light to the two reactors after repeated discussions. It [would have been] impossible for the prefectural government to make its own judgment [on the restarts] by holding only several meetings a year.” The two K-K units cleared the Nuclear Regulation Authority safety screening in December. PM Shinzo Abe supports restarting K-K units 6 & 7. Each is a 1315 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactor system. Tepco needs the K-K units operating to begin paying off the enormous debt incurred since March, 2011.  https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/04/98170af362c2-update1-governor-quits-over-sex-scandal-affects-nuclear-reactor-restart.html -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201804190046.html (Comment - we have suspected that Yoneyama was intentionally delaying the prefectural investigation into the F. Daiichi accident as a stalling tactic. It now seems that Yoneyama had no intention of ever completing the study! Holding but “several meetings a year” would have delayed restarts until after all seven units had passed Japan’s arbitrary 40-year licensing limit. In other words the now-humiliated governor was effecting a ban on nuclear energy in his prefecture.)
  • Tepco apologizes to the family of a suicide victim, and the mainstream Press ignores it. On April 5th, three senior Tepco officials apologized to the grand-daughter of Fumio Okubo, who killed himself over the Tokyo-mandated evacuation of Iitate Village. This followed the awarding of about $145,000 damages by a Fukushima court on February 20th. One of the Tepco officials said, “We profoundly regret forcing Fumio-san to make such a heart-wrenching decision and we are terribly sorry. We will reflect on ourselves.” Fumio’s grand-daughter said, “I think grandpa must be glad to have you come all the way to Iitate where he lived until after turning 100.” http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=888

April 12, 2018

  • Fukushima Prefecture prioritizes export markets to boost sales in five product categories. The markets have been selected based on export results, import restrictions, and the extent of harmful rumors. The five product categories are (1) agricultural produce, (2) processed food, (3) alcoholic beverages, (4) seafood and (5) craftwork. The list includes Southeast Asian countries for rice, fruit and other agricultural products, as well as the United States, Hong Kong and Taiwan for alcoholic beverages such as Sake (rice wine). The prefecture will increase the amount of product information sent to the markets and boost production and distribution systems. The effort will be supported by the central government ministries and related agencies to try and ease import restrictions, if not eliminate them. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=886
  • Nuclear energy will remain in Japan’s energy mix through 2050. It will be part of the country’s long-term policy to reduce carbon emissions, along with a substantial increase in renewable sources. But, Japan says it will continue to reduce nuclear energy production. A government panel reports, "Japan will keep the policy of lowering its dependency on nuclear power generation as much as possible while seeking to expand economically independent and carbon-free renewable energy." On the other hand, the country will strive to eliminate all “thermal” (fossil-fueled) energy production. No numerical benchmarks were included in the report. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180410/p2g/00m/0dm/063000c
  • Arbitration ends between Tepco and 15,000 residents of Namie. The town’s evacuation order ended on April 1, 2017. All residents continue to receive ~$950 per month for mental anguish. Namie filed a petition with the Nuclear Damage Compensation Dispute Resolution Center in 2013 to have the compensation increased. In March, 2014 the Center offered a 50% increase, which the town accepted. But Tepco balked, arguing that such a change would set a precedent for all Tokyo-mandated evacuees. The Resolution Center has tried to arbitrate a settlement acceptable to both parties for three years. Friday, the Center gave up! The claimants are now considering a lawsuit. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180406_21/
  • A Tepco employees testifies that executives nixed bolstering tsunami protection for F. Daiichi in 2007. The statement was made at a trial of three Tepco officers claiming professional negligence causing death and injury. The employee was part of an internal assessment group tasked with estimating the height of a worst-case tsunami. The group submitted a maximum estimate of 15.7 meters, essentially the same as what hit the nuke station on March 11, 2011. The employee testified, "I thought that TEPCO should take the assessment into consideration in taking (earthquake and tsunami) countermeasures, as the assessment was supported by prominent seismologists." He submitted the assessment to Tepco Vice President Muto, who called for the document to be re-assessed for correctness. The employee also said, "I thought they (Tepco) would consider taking tsunami prevention measures, but they changed policy unexpectedly and I lost heart." The reason for the Tepco executives rejecting the tsunami estimate will be the focus of future hearings. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180411/p2a/00m/0na/018000c -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201804110051.html


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