Fukushima Accident Updates (Blog)

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

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

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October 12, 2017

  • The IAEA confirms Japan’s Fukushima-related marine radioactivity results. The IAEA’s Environmental Laboratories found that the oceanic contamination level reports coming out of Japan are accurate. At a September 28th Press briefing in Tokyo, Laboratories Director David Osborn said, “After 3 years of inter-laboratory comparisons and proficiency tests, we’re able to make the conclusion very confidently that the results published regularly by Japanese authorities are precise. Over 98% of the results were not statistically different from each other, which shows a high level of consistency among participating laboratories. This demonstrates a high level of accuracy and competence on the part of Japanese laboratories involved in the analysis of radionuclides in marine sample...” Osborn added that fish samples from 2015-2016 revealed Cesium-134 were about 5 Becquerels per kilogram, which is far below Japan’s 100 Bq/kg standard. Professor Jota Kanda of Tokyo University’s Marine Science and Technology department, said “I do welcome the IAEA conclusion, and I do trust the data of the government monitoring program.” Fukushima InFORM’s head Jay Cullen praised the IAEA conclusions, and said Japan’s program is suitable to monitor on-going contamination impacts, even when the “partially purified” waste water stored at F. Daiichi is released to the sea. https://fukushimainform.ca/2017/10/11/iaea-affirms-japans-fukushima-related-radioactivity-monitoring/
  • A Fukushima court finds both Tepco and Tokyo culpable for the 2011 nuclear accident. About 2,900 plaintiffs will collectively receive 500 million yen ($4.4 million) in damages for mental distress due to the accident destroying the base of their livelihoods. The filing included 3,800 evacuees and called for 16 billion yen in compensation, but the court found that only 2,900 qualified for damages. The suit also demanded that 50,000 yen per month be paid to each plaintiff until their area radiation levels returned to the pre-accident level (0.04 mSv/hr), but this was denied by the court. At issue was whether or not Tepco and Tokyo could have foreseen the severity of the tsunami, taken appropriate measure to prevent the three meltdowns, and if the existent payment of damage compensation has been appropriate. Presiding Judge Hideki Kanazawa explained why Tokyo and Tepco were found culpable, "The government's inaction in exercising its regulatory authority (to order Tepco to take safety measures) was extremely unreasonable." Tokyo responded that it did not have legal power to compel Tepco to upgrade tsunami protection until after the Nuclear Regulation Authority was created in 2012. It is noteworthy that the Mainichi Shimbun reports most of those awarded damages are voluntary evacuees, but there has been no corroborative mention in the other news outlets we scan on a daily basis. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20171010_24/ -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201710100060.html -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/10/4a4b353519fe-update1-govt-tepco-ordered-to-pay-damages-for-fukushima-disaster.html -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20171011/p2a/00m/0na/014000c
  • Winning plaintiffs hail the Fukushima court decision for being a sharp criticism of Tokyo. Plaintiff leader Takashi Nakajima said, “If we do not try to make the government’s responsibility clear, a (similar) accident will be repeated. On that point, we obtained a complete victory.” Hitoshi Yoshioka, member of the 2012 government’s investigative team on the nuke accident, added, “The Fukushima District Court’s ruling acknowledged that if the government followed the long-term appraisal (of 2002), it would have been able to prevent the situation in that all electric sources were lost (and, as a result, the nuclear accident occurred). The ruling pointed out again that the government and TEPCO are bearing major responsibility for neglecting to take measures (to safeguard the nuclear plant against tsunami of that scale).” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201710110042.html
  • Tepco is ordered to pay $6 million to a Minamisoma golf course. The award is to cover revenue lost due to the nuclear accident. Minamisoma’s Kashima Country Club is located in the 20-30 kilometer radius from F. Daiichi that was designated “emergency evacuation preparation zone” by Tokyo in 2011. The golf course was closed for three months. Since re-opening, some of the course has remained closed over contamination concerns. Kashima CC filed a suit for about $50 million and demanded Tepco fully decontaminate the parts of the course still unopened. The Tokyo court said Tepco should compensate based solely on the difference between revenue before the accident, and revenue thereafter. It also rejected the call for further decontamination measures. Presiding Judge Yuko Mizuno explained, “The contents and method of decontamination have yet to be specified and therefore the demand is inappropriate.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201710120039.html
  • More on the recent NRA approval of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa safety screening. The Nuclear Regulation Authority approval is called a “draft screening document”. After a 30 day public comment period, the NRA will review “construction plans”, details of work on upgraded safety measures, and revised operation management rules. Enhancements to be studied include upgraded cooling functions during a loss of power and multiple depressurization systems. Although not required, new seawalls have been built and will also be inspected by the NRA. As for the extraordinary investigation into Tepco’s aptitude to safely operate nuke plants, the screening document concludes, “There is no reason to determine that [TEPCO] lacks capability as a nuclear plant operator.” The Yomiuri Shimbun adds that the Niigata governor’s requirement of his personal accident inquiry taking 3-4 more years is a “superfluous addition” to due process since such studies have already been performed. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003987477 
  • Former PM and antinuke fanatic Naoto Kan is running for a seat in Japan’s Diet. He is among the first group of candidates from the new, liberal Constitutional Democratic Party, created out of the collapse of the Democratic Party of Japan. Party leader Yukio Edano says they are determined to topple current PM Shinzo Abe’s regime. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20171007/p2g/00m/0dm/004000c

October 5, 2017

  • A Fukushima district harvests rice for the first time in seven years. The evacuation order for Minamisoma’s Odaka District was lifted last year, opening the door for full-scale rice cultivation. Test crops have been run to insure that the rice has no radioactive contamination. The harvesting of nine hectares of paddies began Monday, Oct. 2. The Regional Agricultural Administration says the prefecture’s volume of rice is about average, relative to 2010. Agricultural Corporation President Ryoichi Sato says he is happy and will do what’s best to encourage more people in the area to resume farming. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20171002_19/
  • Muon imaging of unit #3 shows the possibility of partial melt-through of the RPV. Tepco says as much as 50% of the corium from the core area and bottom of the RPV may have escaped the RPV’s bottom head. Of the 210 tons of material in the core before the accident [fuel bundles (160 tons), control rods (15 tone), and structural materials (35 tons)], there is only about 30 tons remaining. Where there was about 35 tons of control rod drive mechanisms in the bottom head before 3/11/11, about 90 tons of collected material is indicated by the muon scan. This suggests that 125 tons of corium (admixed, formerly molten debris) may have exited the RPV bottom head. The July 22nd submersible robotic investigation showed considerable debris collected inside the pedestal, but little or no compromise of the RPV bottom head or the Control Rod Drive Mechanisms that protrude from the bottom head. It then seemed that much, if not most of the corium remains inside the protruding CRDMs. However, the 9/29/17 Tepco Press handout indicates that all of the corium that exited the RPV is now collected in the bottom of the pedestal.   https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_170928_01-e.pdf
  • The world’s Press continues to exploit Fukushima phobia. Late last Thursday, Tepco said a few of the groundwater measuring devices surrounding unit #1 had problems. Some levels dropped 70 centimeters below the low level limits set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. Although the groundwater levels were still 30cm above the low limit, the Press made it seem that out-leakage may have occurred. Tepco says that one well may have dropped a whopping two centimeters lower than inside the unit #1 basement a few times between May 17 and May 21st. But, none of the analyzed groundwater samples showed anything. Regardless, Japan Today and the Associated Press report that the monitors were improperly set by Tepco, thus whether or not contaminated water actually leaked out is unknown. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170929_19/ -- https://japantoday.com/category/national/tainted-water-leak-suspected-at-fukushima-nuclear-plant -- http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/water-leaked-fukushima-due-gauge-errors-50173380
  • Safety screenings for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units #6&7 are approved by the NRA. Each ABWR unit is rated at 1356 MWe. When they are restarted, Tepco’s finances will improve immensely, and will allow most of its old, expensive fossil-fueled units to be shuttered. The NRA says the units meet the requirements of Japan’s new regulations. The mandatory 30 day period of gathering public opinions now begins. Aside - Although the K-K units are BWRs, they are actually Advanced Boiling Water Reactor systems with much more forgiving technology than the older BWR units at F. Daiichi They are also surrounded by larger, far-more forgiving containments. – End Aside. In addition to the NRA’s traditional approval inquiry, the Agency investigated whether or not Tepco is qualified to operate any nuclear power plants. Meanwhile, Niigata’s governor says he will not rule on restarts until the cause of the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the effects of nuclear accidents on people, and the adequacy of evacuation plans are verified to his satisfaction. Some local residents are upset because they do not understand why the NRA says the two units meet the new safety standards. Monthly briefings by the NRA on K-K safety have been held since last year, but the residents say this has not been enough. K-K units #6 & #7 are the 13th and 14th nuclear units to pass the NRA safety screenings under the new standards. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20171004_16/ -- http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/kashiwazaki-kariwa-67-become-first-bwrs-to-clear-safety-examinations-as-nra-finalizes-examination-reviews/ -- https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017100400699
  • Japan’s minority parties once again try to make no-nukes a major campaign issue. This has happened every major election since 2011, without significant impact. The majority Liberal Democratic Party says if the units meet the new safety standards, it will promote restarts while seeking understanding and cooperation from local governments. The minority Democratic Party, overwhelmingly swept from power in 2012, wants all nukes phased out in the 2030s. The fledgling Party of Hope wants nukes eliminated by 2030. The Constitutional Democratic Party, newly formed by former Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, wants nukes permanently shuttered as soon as possible. The Communist Party wants decommissioning of all nukes to begin immediately. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003984825  
  • The Industry Minister says zero nuclear plants is unrealistic. Minister Hiroshige Seko stated that Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike’s no-nukes platform plank for her new Party of Hope flies in the face of high electric bills and cutting carbon emissions. He added that only the nukes that Japan’s new safety rules will be restarted. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20171003_25/
  • A Japanese Press outlet criticizes the Ikata visitor center for correcting false rumors. The Asahi Shimbun says, “It’s as if the 2011 nuclear disaster never happened,” because the facility shows why nuclear power plants are safe, which counters the Asahi’s historically antinuclear agenda. Three of the statements found on a touch screen outside the visitor’s center seem to especially rankle the Asahi. One is that reactors automatically stop when an earthquake strikes. Another is that reactor buildings do not “budge an inch” during even the worst quakes. And the third is that a reactor cannot explode like a nuclear bomb. In addition, the article takes issue with a video presentation which correctly states that there are no increases in cancer rates or hereditary illness at exposures less than 100 millisieverts. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709300035.html
  • More details on the two evacuation-related lawsuits that were ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. 28 class actions suits have been filed over the past six years, but so far only two have been decided: Maebashi (March 17) and Chiba (Sept. 22). Japan Atomic Industrial Forum has posted a detailed “outline” of the Maebashi and Chiba rulings. For the September Chiba case, it appears the Press made significant errors. First, Tepco was not found to be negligent, but rather ordered to pay $3.42 million because the Law on Compensation for Nuclear Damage says the operator is liable whether negligent or not. Second, the Press said the four of the 42 plaintiffs granted compensation were voluntaries, but JAIF states that none were voluntaries. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/status-of-class-action-lawsuits-filed-by-evacuees-after-fukushima-daiichi-accident/ 
  • A new report says the higher amount of Fukushima contamination now entering the Pacific Ocean is coming from beaches up to sixty miles from the nuke station. Virginie Sanial of Woods Hole Oceanographic says it probably came from “tainted” accident water traveling along the Japanese coastline and lapping onto the sands. Some Cesium then became attached to the sands and percolated down into the brackish groundwater beneath. Sanial says the re-release of the Cesium in the beach groundwater equals the estimated leach rate from the F. Daiichi station. Since the water is not used for drinking, it is of no actual risk to public health. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/radioactive-cesium-fukushima-groundwater -- http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2017/09/26/1708659114

September 28, 2017

  • A Fukushima physician says scientists need to better explain the “unknowable”. Dr. Sai Ochi of Soma Hospital has found that a Japanese google search for “Fukushima” and “radioactivity” first brings two articles: “The situation at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station is so serious!” and “People are sick because of radioactivity." Dr. Ochi thus feels that unfounded fears and rumors remain “firmly rooted”. The frustration felt by those who combat these fears is because “facts” often not understood as believable. But, statistical outliers are often given greater emphasis because they come from trusted friends and neighbors. However, such outliers are excluded in scientific data and the public doesn’t understand why. In addition, there is always the unknown factor. Dr. Ochi feels the concept of “unknowability” must be better explained by scientists. Since the public does not expect scientists to say they do not know something, the experts limit themselves to sharing only what they do know. Ochi says this deprives the public of opportunities to confront, discuss, and come to terms with uncertainty. She concludes that with Fukushima “not only what is known, but also what is not known, must be explained both objectively and logically in an easily understood manner.” http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/responsibility-for-explaining-the-unknowable/  
  • The European Union is set to relax bans on some Fukushima foodstuffs. The easing of restrictions will also affect 10 other prefectures. The lifting of the bans is expected by the end of the year. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170927_02/
  • Five Fukushima University interns help with disaster cleanup in Houston, Texas. They are assist with the operations of shelters, clearing out disaster debris, sorting relief supplies, removing flood-damaged furniture, and floors. The students feel this shows their appreciation for the kindness Americans demonstrated after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. Philip McCasland, an associate professor at Fukushima University, was impressed by their volunteer work, “They were proactive in the way they took part in the recovery efforts.” http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=856
  • A court says Tepco, not Tokyo, is responsible for the Fukushima accident. On Friday, the Chiba District Court ordered Tepco to pay $3.4 million in damages to 42 Fukushima evacuees, while absolving the national government of accident culpability. Four of those granted compensation are voluntary evacuees, while the rest were ordered to flee by Tokyo. The ruling says Tepco should compensate the evacuees a bit more than they have already received, but the amount was about eight times less than the plaintiffs had filed for. Presiding Judge Masaru Sakamoto said TEPCO did not entirely fail to implement measures against the risk of tsunami, but Tepco could have upgraded their defenses based on a 2002 government appraisal of worst case tsunamis on the east coast of Japan. Tokyo University professor Kunhiko Shimizaki headed the 2002 study, and testified on behalf of the plaintiffs, “The height of a likely tsunami could have been known if it was calculated based on that appraisal. Even if a specific forecast could not be made, some sort of countermeasure could have been taken.” The estimated tsunami height was for 12 meters, which would have swamped Fukushima Daiichi units #1 through #4 with much less water than was the case in March, 2011 (more than 15 meters). If Tokyo had forced Tepco to upgrade tsunami protection to meet the 12 meter criterion, the accident would have happened anyway. Thus, Tokyo was absolved of responsibility. The plaintiffs' lawyers criticized the ruling as unfair, in that the court did not recognize the state's liability. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170922_25/ -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709220052.html -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170922/p2g/00m/0dm/081000c -- https://japantoday.com/category/national/tepco-again-ordered-to-pay-damages-in-nuclear-disaster-but-not-state
  • The revised roadmap for F. Daiichi decommissioning, reported in our September 7 posting, is approved by the Tokyo government. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003966538
  • The Japan-US nuclear energy cooperation agreement could be automatically extended. The deal is due to expire next July, but will be  extended if neither the Japanese nor U.S. government gives written notice at least six months in advance. The agreement has been in force since 1988. Tokyo says the Trump administration will allow the automatic extension. The agreement allows Japan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and enrich uranium so long as any the nuclear material will not be used for any military purpose. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003962364
  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority has a new Chairman, Toyoshi Fuketa. Upon taking office, he said, "There is no end to efforts to keep (nuclear plants) safe. I will uncompromisingly pursue safety." Fuketa is the former director-general of the Nuclear Safety Research Center of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, and has been an NRA commissioner since the agency was created in September, 2012. He is a cautious supporter of restarting Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units #6 & #7, so long as Tepco embraces Fukushima lessons learned. https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017092201319
  • The NRA posted a draft report explaining that two units at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa meet Japan’s new safety standards. The agency’s secretariat announced the possibility a few weeks ago, which spurred considerable debate among the commissioners. NRA Chair Fuketa said the panel continues discussions and additional comments will be sent to the secretariat before the next scheduled meeting on October 4th. By then, the five commissioners should have a decision on whether or not to approve the report. Some of Japan’s Press says the NRA will probably accept the final, albeit revised report. https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/09/103f1fad7dc9-tepco-closer-to-approval-for-first-reactor-restarts-after-fukushima.html [Comment - Japan’s Press calls the K-K BWR units “the same as those that experienced meltdowns in Fukushima.” They are not the same as F. Daiichi units #1 through #3. The K-K units in the NRA report (#6 & #7) are ABWRs (Advanced BWRs) with greatly improved safety systems over those at F. Daiichi. ABWRs are thought to be capable of safely surviving a prolonged full-station blackout that caused the F. Daiichi accident.]
  • Sixteen fuel bundles of MOX fuel arrive in Japan. The shipment arrived at Takahama station on September 21. The bundles will be used in Takahama unit #4, which resumed operation in May. Unit #3 was restarted in June and uses 24 MOX assemblies interspersed with 133 standard fuel bundles. MOX is the acronym for mixed-oxide fuel containing recycled Plutonium. The shipment left Cherbourg, France, on July 5th. The bundles for unit #3 will be included in the next refueling process that is scheduled to begin next June. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/mox-fuel-arrives-at-kansai-eps-takahama-4-npp/ -- http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-MOX-fuel-shipment-leaves-France-for-Japan-0607174.html (Comment - once again, the Japanese and international Press outlets ignore a nuclear energy event that could be construed as something positive. When the shipment left Cherbourg, numerous articles were posted, full of antinuclear fear-mongering. The safe arrival of the small shipment got no Press coverage other than JAIF.)

September 21, 2017

  • The main road from Fukushima City to Namie reopens. It occurred on Wednesday. National Route 114 is the most direct, least time-consuming road between the Fukushima capital and the tsunami-devastated coastline. The 27-kilometer section had its northwest access barrier removed at 6am, allowing evacuees and reconstruction workers direct access to the Namie coastline. Until now, residents needed permission from the town government or had to take a lengthy detour route. Namie resident Hisashi Suzuki said, “Until now, we had to arrange for a thoroughfare pass beforehand, and we sometimes had to wait at checkpoints. This is much more convenient.” The reopened part runs through the remaining “difficult-to-return” zone in Namie where evacuees are allowed to make short visits to their homes, but not remain permanently. Highway access is limited to automobiles, with motorcycles and pedestrians forbidden to enter. Tokyo has set up barriers at 88 intersections on Route 114 to prevent thieves and tourists from using side roads to gain entry. Local officials hope this will increase the number of people who will return home. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709200053.html
  • Used fuel bundle removal from units #1 & #2 is delayed. The Nuclear Regulation Authority is revising the “roadmap” for decommissioning F. Daiichi, which includes adding three years to the on-set of spent fuel removal for the two units. The work is now planned to begin in 2023. It was formerly supposed to start in 2020. The plan to start used fuel retrieval for unit #3 in 2018 has not changed. The delay’s reason is that it is taking longer than thought to remove contaminated debris from the two reactor buildings.  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170920_04/
  • Most Fukushima residents feel that a recurrence of the 2011 accident is possible. 26,582 families who lived in the communities of Naraha, Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba, Namie, Kawauchi, and Katsurao were polled in February. A little over 10,000 replied. Although essentially impossible, 71.4% found it either “strongly true” or “slightly true” that another major accident is possible before decommissioning is complete. In addition, 70.3% expressed similar concerns about the storage and disposal facilities straddling home communities Okuma and Futaba. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=854 (Comment - Local officials most do a better job of informing evacuation zone residents that such fears are necessarily unfounded.)
  • The Fukushima accident did not affect the Pacific’s fish or the people of North America. Fukushima InFORM’s Jay Cullen headed the team of nine authors who published their findings in the Journal Environmental Science and Technology. He says, "We're confident in saying that the levels that we see now in our part of the Pacific from Fukushima are below those levels that represent a significant health risk either to the Pacific Ocean or to human beings in Canada or the west coast of North America. We haven't been able to detect changes in the amount of these artificial isotopes that are in our Pacific salmon and steelhead trout or shellfish that we've collected all up and down the [Canadian] coast." https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/japans-nuclear-disaster-didnt-affect-fish-or-human-health-bc-scientist/article36257317/?ref=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.theglobeandmail.com
  • The first government-designated “hub” for Fukushima recovery is approved. The hub is a 560 hectare acre portion of Futaba’s no-go zone that should speed up restoration of infrastructure for the community. Tokyo will effect full scale decontamination in the hub to lift the evacuation order for the town’s train station by the end of 2019, allowing resident evacuees to access their homes and make “short stays”.  The entire hub zone is expected to have its restrictions lifted in the spring of 2022, and the rest of the town should be open for unrestricted repopulation by 2027. The rebuilding hub will be paid for by Tokyo. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709150058.html
  • Two University training and research reactors have resumed operation since April. However, many other such facilities are being shuttered permanently. This has raised concerns about training enough young people to support the future of nuclear energy in Japan. The two operating units are a one watt (thermal) reactor at Kindai University and a 100 watt (thermal) “Critical Assembly” reactor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, both located in Osaka Prefecture. Tetsuo Ito, director of the Institute said, “There is no substitute for the sense of pressure that comes with operating actual equipment.” In 2010, there were eleven such training and research units operating in Japan. Now, at least three will not restart due to the cost of meeting Japan’s new safety regulations. Another five are planned to restart. In 2010, there were about 1,500 students studying at these facilities, but last year there were only 300, mostly at South Korean university reactors. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003924264 
  • The NRA says five of the nuclear stations cleared for restart may be at risk from volcanic ash. The five are Sendai, Mihama, Ohi, Ikata, and Genkai stations. The NRA believes that airborne concentrations of volcanic ash could be 100 times greater that formerly estimated, thus current filtration units need to be upgraded. The NRA says the units most likely to be harmed by clogged air filters are Ikata #3 and Genkai #3 & #4. No further details on the NRA’s decision have been posted. https://japantoday.com/category/national/5-nuclear-plants'-cooling-systems-may-fail-during-volcanic-eruptions

September 14, 2017

  • A drone will be used to measure area radiation levels inside units #1 through #4. The 93cm by 83cm four-propeller device has an on-board power supply that should last about 15 minutes. Repeated flights inside the four Reactor and Turbine buildings will be used to create a detailed 3-D map of radiation levels that could be encountered by workers when fuel debris removal begins. Unfortunately, Japan’s Press continues to post that the fuel debris is “molten” or “melted”, which is entirely incorrect. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/09/09/national/drone-measure-radiation-tainted-fukushima-no-1-buildings/#.WbUzSKMUkdU - https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170910/p2g/00m/0dm/008000c
  • A worker at F. Daiichi experienced a tiny amount of internal contamination. The worker was dismantling wastewater tanks no longer being used. The contamination was discovered during a routine medical examination, when a tiny amount was found in nasal cavities. The worst case exposure estimate was 0.01 millisieverts. This level of exposure is essentially harmless. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709080046.html
  • Less than 10% of Fukushima’s evacuees have repopulated. In 2010, there were about 60,000 people living in the communities where evacuation orders have been lifted. As of August, only 5,950 have actually returned. Of these, more than 2,900 are elderly. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170909/p2a/00m/0na/004000c
  • The Fukushima evacuee jobless rate remains high. Fukushima University’s Fukushima Future Center for Regional Revitalization has found that nearly 32% of those aged 15-64 in the municipalities subject to evacuation orders are still unemployed. The pre-2011 rate was about 11%. Most of the jobless are living off continuing compensation subsidies (56%), as well as pensions (50%), with most receiving both. Only 33% of the respondents in the survey said their main income was from working. Team leader Fuminori Tanba of Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto explained, “The victim’s self-help or the payouts of compensation alone are not sufficient in empowering them to rebuild their lives. Administrative support aimed at helping them find jobs will be needed.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709110027.html
  • The NRA begins final restart inspections for Genkai unit #3. Barring problems, Kyushu Electric Company plans to load fuel in December, and restart the unit in January. In addition to examining safety improvements stipulated in Japan’s new standards for operation, The Nuclear Regulation Authority will further review disaster response measures for unit #3. https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017091100330
  • The NRA does an about-face on Kashiwazaki-Kariwa restart approval. Recently, Tokyo’s nuclear watchdog said that Tepco was qualified to restart K-K units 6 & 7.  Now, Chairman Shunichi Tanaka says “it’s insecure” if the company shows its resolve in words alone. The NRA’s reversal is due to criticism that there had been a lack of debate on whether or not Tepco is qualified to operate the K-K units. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170914/p2g/00m/0dm/006000c
  • Fearmongering ex-PM Junichiro Koizumi says nuclear plants are the same as bombs. In a September 8th speech in Fukui Prefecture, he said, "Having nuclear plants is tantamount to possessing atomic bombs directed at the people of Japan." His statement followed the recent North Korean test flight of an ICBM over Japan and subsequent detonation of what was believed to be a thermo-nuclear weapon. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170909/p2a/00m/0na/012000c
  • Over 20,000 2011 quake and tsunami refugees still live in temporary housing: Iwate Prefecture has 8,142, Miyagi 7,148, and Fukushima 6,210. This is a decline of about 30% since March. The percentage will probably drop further because the people owning the land with the temporary housing want their property back. However, many of the refugees will probably continue staying put well into next year, if not beyond, since construction of new housing on high-enough ground continues to lag. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170911_02/
  • The completion of the Rokkasho used fuel reprocessing plant is delayed. Rokkasho owner Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited has been told by the NRA that rainwater flowing through underground piping at the facility needs to be addressed before it can pass a pre-operational safety screening. A recent examination of the piping’s tunnel, and attendant inspection records, showed that it had not been examined since 2003. JNFL had hoped to begin operation by March 2018, but this development makes that unlikely. The length of the delay is speculative. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170914_14/

September 7, 2017

  • Minamisoma radiation levels are the same as cities on the west coast of Japan. Most of the city was subject to the 30 kilometer evacuation order rendered by Tokyo in 2011. Though restrictions were rescinded for some of the population in April, 2012, the majority were not lifted until July, 2016. Repopulation has been disappointing due to lingering radiation fears. As a result, the city government conducted a survey to compare the city’s radiation levels to those of cities hundreds of kilometers away, and on the other coastline. 25 dosimeters were issued to city employees of Minami-Soma, Tajimi in Gifu Prefecture, Fukuyama in Hiroshima Prefecture, and Nanto in Toyama Prefecture, from May 29 through June 11. The general exposure level in Minamisoma was found to be 0.82 millisieverts per year, which was essentially no different than with the other three control cities. Project head Masaharu Tsubokura of Minamisoma General Hospital said, ““Making comparisons with other municipalities is important.”  He said the results will be formally posted as an academic paper. The city hopes the results will encourage more former residents to return home. In 2010, the city’s population was about 78,000, but the current estimate is just under 58,000. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709050042.html
  • Fukushima InFORM says assumptions of bioaccumulation of Fukushima contamination are “unwise”. The conclusion is based on an independent peer-reviewed paper “Assessing Fukushima-Derived Radiocesium in Migratory Pacific Predators”. The author’s results include that no Cesium-134 is detectible in any of the analyzed organisms, except for a trace found in one Ridley sea Turtle. In addition, the concentrations of Cs-137 are essentially the same as before the 2011 nuke accident. Further, the Cs-137 levels are 10 to 100-fold lower than naturally-occurring Potassium-40. Ninety-one species were tested between 2012 and 2015, including tuna, dolphins, turtles, and salmon. Thus, the paper’s authors say, “…predators in the central, eastern, and western Pacific should not be assumed to accumulate detectable levels of radiocesium a priori.” Thus “…anxiety and speculation about the dangers of radiocesium bioaccumulation in the face of such data seems unfounded.” The paper was published in Environmental Science and Technology, July, 2017. (Comment - Once again, important information has not been picked up by the Press both inside and outside Japan because it is not titillating.) https://fukushimainform.ca/2017/09/06/how-much-fukushima-contamination-is-there-in-migratory-pacific-fish/m -- http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/acs.est.7b00680 (paper abstract)
  • Tokyo posts the latest F. Daiichi decommissioning “roadmap” on September 1. The last revised version was released in June, 2015. While there are no overall scheduling changes, the methods of damaged fuel debris removal have been modified to reflect the latest decisions made by the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF). Rather than the headlines posted by the Press near the end of August, a more detailed and accurate step-by-step approach is actually the case. The first step will be removal of corium (fuel debris) that may have collected inside the pedestals of the reactor vessels through the side of the Primary Containment Vessels. Before the next step is made, new evaluations will be made to determine the next step. For example, water-covered removal of corium inside and/or attached to the RPVs will be considered in order to minimize worker exposures. The target date to begin corium removal is 2021. Another important target is decontamination of all water in the damaged unit basements by 2020. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/government-team-releases-draft-revisions-to-mid-to-long-term-decommissioning-roadmap-for-fukushima-daiichi-npps/
  • The second section of the unit #3 used fuel removal cover dome has been installed. Here are a few pictures. http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2017/201709-e/170907-01e.html
  • Two of Tepco’s large BWR unit restarts will be discussed by the NRA. Restarts of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units #6 & #7 began to be reviewed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority commissioners on Wednesday. Discussion focuses on issues concerning the implementation of Japan’s new nuclear safety standards. It is expected the commissioners will create a draft document certifying that the K-K units have satisfied the new safety requirements. The NRA wants to reach a conclusion before current Chairman Shunichi Tanaka’s term expires on September 18th. It is possible that the K-K units will be the first Boiling Water Reactor systems to restart in Japan. The move is expected to trigger considerable socio-political criticism since both units are Boiling Water Reactor systems, although far more advanced than Fukushima Daiichi and having large, domed containments around their reactors. Local governments are also uneasy about supporting the restarts. Niigata Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama says it will takes as long as five years for Tepco to receive the local consent needed for power resumption. Tepco needs the income from the operation of the two units to begin the company’s financial recovery. The two units have a combined 2,630 MWE electrical output.  https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/09/e77604d30bbc-exclusive-tepcos-reactors-soon-to-clear-major-safety-hurdle-to-restart.html -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170906/p2a/00m/0na/016000c
  • Japan’s Press posts contrasting reports on the NRA’s view ok the K-K units. The Mainichi Shimbun says the NRA is poised to give approval to the K-K safety inspections, saying the Tokyo watchdog has a “suddenly sunny attitude” towards Tepco. That is, the NRA chair, Shunichi Tanaka, now says that currently unresolved problems, like contaminated water build-up, cannot be helped given the socio-political circumstances. An anonymous NRA executive said, "We avoided demanding a detailed (disposal measures) plan because we don't legally have that authority, and doing so could pose legal risks." In contrast, the Asahi Shimbun alleges that the NRA is considering some sort of legal move before approving the K-K units for restart. While the watchdog has found that K-K units meet the technological aspects of the new safety standards, there is doubt that the company has embraced lessons learned from the 2011 nuke accident. The Asahi says the NRA is “…considering holding the utility legally responsible for completing the entire decommissioning process of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant,” which essentially contradicts what is contained in the Mainichi report. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170907/p2a/00m/0na/019000c -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709070026.html
  • Tokyo says it will build a memorial in Namie for 2011 disaster victims. It will not be a structure, per se. Rather is will be a ten hectare plot with a square and hill commemorating those who died in the quake, tsunami, and chaotic evacuation from around Fukushima Daiichi. The memorial will be part of a large park bordering on Futaba, one of the F. Daiichi host communities. It will function as a facility to share lessons learned from the calamity and post the status of reconstruction, in addition to remembering the dead. https://japantoday.com/category/national/national-memorial-for-quake-tsunami-victims-to-be-built-in-fukushima 
  • Fukushima will send 100 tons of its home-grown rice to Malaysia this year. Japan usually ships 150 tons of rice to Malaysia each year, so this will comprise 2/3 of the 2017 shipment. In addition, 15 tons of peaches will be shipped, nearly double of what was sent in the past. This will make Fukushima Prefecture the largest Japanese regional rice exporter to the Southeast Asian country. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=852

August 31, 2017

  • The Fukushima corium removal methods are modified. Tokyo’s Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. (NDF) says most of the debris will be extracted horizontally and the rest taken out vertically from the refueling decks. NDF President Hajimu Yamana, says Tepco should combine the several proposed methods instead of specific one specific procedure. The idea of completely filling each Primary Containment vessel to greatly reduce external radiation exposures was officially dropped earlier this year. NDF said that method is not viable because of the difficulties in patching up the holes in the PCVs. However, the NDF now says a partial filling of the PCV before debris removal seems possible. The tentative date for starting the corium removal process is 2021. The specific, step-by-step plan for corium removal is expected to be completed in September.  https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/08/c780f4e5b954-debris-to-be-removed-from-side-of-fukushima-reactors-state-backed-entity.html -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708310042.html
  • Fukushima and Ohio State University have begun a medical exchange program. The focus is developing experts in cancer radiation therapy. Ohio State will share its world-class expertise in treatment with doctors and students from Fukushima Medical University. The FMU doctors will then build a research framework to be used at their facility in Japan. The program will eventually be expanded to include other Japanese medical staff and create a joint research framework between OSU and FMU. FMU Professor Yoshiyuki Suzuki said, “I’ll do my utmost to make the best of this international exchange program and build a system to nurture experts in radiation therapy here (Fukushima).”  The deal was finalized last month. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=851
  • Removal of voluntary evacuees from Tokyo’s “official list” gets some bad press. This past April, housing subsidies ended for all voluntary Fukushima evacuees that have yet to return home. Critics are now condemning the move, alleging that it prevents officials from fully appreciating the plight of these people. One Tokyo sociologist said, “Accurate data on Fukushima evacuees is essential in gaining a better understanding of their current circumstances and crafting measures to address their problems. When only smaller than the real numbers are made available, difficulties facing evacuees could be underestimated and could result in terminating support programs for them.” Nearly 30,000 have been removed from the official evacuee list since March. By cutting off their essentially free housing, it was hoped there would be a prompt return to their hometowns in Fukushima Prefecture, where they could continue to have subsidized housing. But, it seems that most have chosen to remain voluntarily estranged because of radiophobia. One voluntary evacuee said, “We cannot return to Fukushima Prefecture due to fears of the effects of radiation. I feel like I have been abandoned by the state by being denied evacuee status.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201708280053.html
  • Three more Japanese nukes ask for restart inspections. On Monday, The Nuclear Regulation Authority was formally requested to begin pre-restart reviews for Kyushu Electric’s Genkai #3. The company should be able to load nuclear fuel bundles in December. Restart for Genkai unit #4 is expected to follow, but the schedule has not yet been formulated. Also on Monday, Kansai Electric requested the same NRA pre-operational inspections for Ohi units #3 and #4. While the Fukui prefectural assembly has yet to approve the Ohi restarts, the existing operation of Takahama units #3 and #4 suggests that approval should be forthcoming. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/power-companies-request-pre-service-inspections-toward-restarting-reactors-at-genkai-and-ohi/ --https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170829/p2a/00m/0na/011000c
  • The NRA says Tepco restarts depend of the company taking the lead on decommissioning. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka says that for the restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units "TEPCO must do things based more on its own judgment," and not depend so much on the government and other organizations. He added, "If Tepco is unable to finalize the decommissioning of the Fukushima reactors, it is simply not qualified to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant." The one issue that seems to be of most importance is a firm plan to dispose of tritiated waste waters. Tepco’s most recent document submitted to the NRA had no mention of disposal, and Tanaka doesn’t like it. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170830/p2a/00m/0na/017000c
  • The plaintiffs in the new $5 billion American lawsuit for Fukushima damages appear to be Americans who were in Japan and supported the relief effort immediately following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. In addition, an un-named American company is subject to the suit along with Tepco. Further, the money is not only to cover medical tests and treatment caused by their low-level radiation exposure - it also calls for mental and economic damage compensation. The identities of the plaintiffs have not been revealed. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170825/p2g/00m/0dm/001000c -- https://japantoday.com/category/national/fukushima-operator-faces-5-bn-us-suit-over-2011-disaster


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