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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July 20, 2017

  • Tepco posted a Press handout concerning their submersible robot's (ROV) initial probe inside the Fukushima Daiichi unit #3 RPV pedestal. The device literally swims under the surface of the 6.4 meters deep water in the bottom of the Primary Containment (PCV). The robot entered the pedestal through the opening for replacement of Control Rod Drive Mechanisms, staying near the opening. The handout says, “The ROV took photographs of the conditions inside the PCV around the pedestal opening and enabled us to achieve the objective of the exploration, which was to examine conditions inside the pedestal.” The robot's twin propulsion propellers stirred up sediment, limiting visibility on and around the personnel grating below the reactor's CRDMs. Regardless, some intact CRDM supporting clamps below the Reactor Pressure Vessel are clearly visible, and the bottom of a CRDM is also quite clear. Tepco reports, “Today’s exploration revealed damage to multiple structures inside the pedestal and also that some of the support fittings for the CRD housing have fallen.” Last week, Tepco said it will keep the robot docked in the outer PCV until Friday’s investigation. One thing they have to ponder is how to get the ROV back through the pedestal opening without stirring up more sediment. NHK World reports a Tepco official saying that the maintenance platform (a.k.a. carousel) under the RPV appears to be gone, which seems to be confirmed by one of the handout images (i.e. “Platform condition”). The Asahi Shimbun speculates, “It is highly likely that melted nuclear fuel fell through the pressure vessel and weakened the scaffolding, leading to its collapse.” The Associated press says "the images contained no obvious sign of the melted nuclear fuel that researchers hope to locate..." and that unit #3 has more damage than unit #2. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170720_01/ -- http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_170719_01-e.pdf  -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201707200046.html -- http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/swim-robot-probes-fukushima-reactor-find-melted-fuel-48719330
  • Tepco’s chairman says F. Daiichi’s purified waste water will be released when the NRA allows it. All radioactive isotopes have been removed from the waters, except for biologically-innocuous Tritium. Widespread unfounded fear about radiation (radiophobia) has kept the harmless water from being released to the sea. Company Chairman Takashi Kawamura said, “The decision has already been made,” and stressed that the company cannot do it until the Nuclear Regulation Authority gives them the go-ahead. The NRA has had a panel studying the situation for many months, examining several possibilities. But, only a controlled release to the sea makes any real sense. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has previously expressed support for an ocean release, which Kawamura acknowledged, "Technically, we fully support the chairman's proposal. [But] I think we should have acted sooner. ... We should start moving faster." Not unexpected, Japanese antinuclear activists condemn it. Green Action Japan antinuclear campaigner Aileen Mioko-Smith said, “The accident happened more than six years ago and the authorities should have been able to devise a way to remove the tritium instead of simply announcing that they are going to dump it in the ocean.” She then exaggerated to the extreme, “They say that it will be safe because the ocean is large so it will be diluted, but that sets a precedent that can be copied, essentially permitting anyone to dump nuclear waste into our seas." http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/07/14/national/science-health/tepco-says-decision-already-made-release-radioactive-low-toxic-tritium-sea-fishermen-irate/#.WWi6GKMUkdU -- http://www.foxbusiness.com/markets/2017/07/13/tepco-chair-nuclear-plant-must-release-contaminated-water.html -- http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/07/14/fishermen-express-fury-fukushima-plant-set-release-radioactive/
  • Japan’s reconstruction minister Masayoshi Yoshino says he opposes the alleged release. Why? Because groundless rumors that will hurt the Fukushima fishermen. He said there would “certainly be [perception] damage due to unfounded rumors.” He urged Tepco “not to create fresh concerns for fishermen and those running fishing operations in Fukushima Prefecture." Yoshino added that releasing the essentially harmless water to the ocean could drive the fishermen “further towards the edge”. In response, Tepco said its chairman meant to say there is "no problem [with the release] according to state guidelines based on scientific and technological standpoints."   https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170715/p2g/00m/0dm/064000c -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/07/15/national/tepco-backpedals-disaster-reconstruction-chief-knocks-plan-dump-tritiated-water-sea/#.WWoL5KMUkdU 
  • Fukushima fishermen protest the Tepco president’s misinterpreted remark. Tepco Chair Takashi Kawamura was accused by the Press of saying the company had decided to release the Tritium-laced waste waters into the sea. On Wednesday, Kawamura met with the head of Japan’s fisheries federation, Hiroshi Kishi, to deny the media-sourced claim. Kawamura said the news media misunderstood him and apologized for the worry it caused the fishermen. Regardless, Kishi urged Tepco to refrain from a release without the consent of fishermen and the public. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170720_02/
  • Fukushima’s most popular beach reopens after a seven year hiatus. Usuiso beach, Iwaki City, closed at the end of the summer season of 2010. The Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami pounded the Iwaki shoreline, killing more than 100 people and making the beaches uninhabitable. The closure of Usuiso beach was prolonged due to detectible levels of radiation and fears of contamination. On Saturday July 15th, some 1,800 people came to the reopening. Prefectural officials say the radation levels have dropped to pre-2011 levels. https://japantoday.com/category/national/fukushima%E2%80%99s-most-popular-beach-reopens-for-first-time-since-march-2011-disaster
  • Wild boar hide is used to make leather in Fukushima Prefecture. A leather workshop in Date is making baby shoes and key fobs out of it. The products have become so popular that production cannot keep up with demand. The boars are captured by hunters, but the meat cannot be sold due to a 2011 Tokyo mandate. The hides have proven to be free of contamination, so they have been used to make the leather products since 2015. The boar population in Date continues to grow and causes considerable damage to crops, thus hunters are used to cull the population. Roughly 1,800 have been captured in the city since March, 2011.  http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=845 
  • Fukui politicians ask Defense Minister Inada to beef up nuclear station protection against missile attacks. There are three stations on the north shore of the prefecture, containing a total of 15 units. Governor Issei Nishikawa and six mayors presented a formal request to the minister, saying (in part), “Ignoring international criticism, North Korea repeatedly launches missiles and conducts nuclear tests. On July 4, it launched a new type of missile, one that fell inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone. The danger of an armed attack on Fukui’s 15 reactors in the south of the prefecture, the largest number in Japan, is rising. In order to deter a missile attack, and in order to secure peace of mind of local residents, we ask that Self-Defense Forces be dispatched to the southern part of the prefecture.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/07/20/national/politics-diplomacy/fukui-governor-mayors-ask-inada-added-protection-reactors-north-korea-attacks/#.WXCVUKMUkdU (Comment – The news report failed to mention that the three nuke stations are Tsuruga, Mihama, and Ohi, plus that none of the fifteen units are currently operating. Further, only two of the units at Ohi have operated in the last six years.)

July 13, 2017

  • Tepco posts plans for next week’s unit #3 underwater investigation. The investigation will occur over a three day period, March 19-21, 2017. The underwater ROV (Remote Operated Vehicle) will pass through the Primary Containment Vessel wall via existing piping that was modified to accommodate the robot on July 11th. It will then move underwater on a path parallel to the Control Rod Drive Mechanism replacement rail, then swim into the inside of the Reactor Pressure Vessel pedestal. Unlike units #1&2, the water level in the bottom of the unit #3 PCV is high enough to allow the ROV to make its search entirely submerged. The first day will provide images of the physical conditions inside the pedestal, in and around the CRDMs. On the second day, the Tepco staff will review the images of the first day and map out a plan of attack for the third day’s excursion. The three-day strategy has been dictated by the possibility “of damage inside the pedestal including dropped grating and cut TIP guide pipe”, based on what was seen inside the unit #2 pedestal. The ROV will be “moored” just inside the PCV penetration pipe during the second day, awaiting the review of the day #1 images and modification of “the priority order of investigation.” By swimming into the pedestal, the ROV should not encounter the debris problems that hampered the robot excursion into unit #2. Being submerged, the ROV should not experience the high radiation exposures that limited the operation of the prior robotic investigations, because water itself is an effective radiation shield. It remains to be seen if the unit #2 water is murky, as with unit #2, or clear, as with unit #1. https://www4.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_170713_02-e.pdf
  • A Harvard University instructor says fear is more dangerous than radiation. David Ropiek writes that fear of radiation is “deeply ingrained in the public psyche”, so much so that it is believed any exposure, no matter how tiny, is unacceptably dangerous. He continues, “The truth, however, is that the health risk posed by ionizing radiation is nowhere near as great as commonly assumed. Instead, our excessive fear of radiation – our radiophobia – does more harm to public health than ionizing radiation itself.” He concludes, “Our fear of radiation is deep, but we should really be afraid of fear instead.” https://aeon.co/ideas/fear-of-radiation-is-more-dangerous-than-radiation-itself
  • The main road through Namie will open in the fall. It is the most direct highway between Namie and Fukushima City. It will shorten the time to go from the capital to nuclear host community Futaba by at least 30 minutes. Local residents and “designated parties” are currently allowed to use the thoroughfare during the day, but not at night. When the restrictions are lifted, the highway will improve traffic flow to the coast and accelerate reconstruction. Most of the highway runs through Namie’s remaining “difficult to return” zone. It will happen only if the prefectural and local governments agree to unrestricted use of the road. Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba said, “We'd like to realize open transit along Route 114 and thus hasten reconstruction.” http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=843
  • NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka makes a verbal blunder, and is castigated by the Press. The head of the Nuclear Regulation Authority was speaking to a group of about 30 anxious Takahama residents concerning the restarts of two nuclear units. He was asked what would happen if a North Korean nuclear-tipped missile hit the power station. They feared it would cause a nuclear catastrophe worse than the missile alone. He responded, “I do not know if North Korea's technology has the level of precision that can land a missile at a small reactor. If I were in charge, I would believe that targeting the middle of Tokyo would be a lot better idea.” When the attending Press took umbrage with what Tanaka said, he apologized for the offhand comment and said he used an inappropriate example. https://japantoday.com/category/national/nuclear-authority-chief-draws-flak-over-n.-korea-missile-gaffe
  • The NRA chides Tepco for a lack of initiative with Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning. NRA Chair Tanaka says, “I feel a sense of danger” because it seems Tepco does “not have a will to take initiative. An operator lacking will to take initiative does not have the right to resume operation of nuclear reactors." The admonishment was specific to treatment of the increasing volume of contaminated water and removal of melted fuel at the plant. This reproach was made at a meeting with the company concerning the possibility of restarting two Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units. Tepco chair Takashi Kawamura replied, "There are citizens who believe nuclear power is necessary. Operating reactors is our responsibility." He added that there is only enough space at the nuke station for two more years of additional decontaminated water storage, implying that the NRA needs to do something pro-active to resolve the problem. Tanaka responded that the NRA feels it has not received sufficient information on F. Daiichi decommissioning, and “[Tepco] which caused the [Fukushima] accident, is not [treated as] an ordinary operator.” https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170710_21/ -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170711/p2g/00m/0dm/028000c  (Comment – Every time Tepco takes initiative, the NRA puts up roadblocks to impede progress. So, who is to blame for the so-called lack of initiative? The NRA needs to look at itself!)

July 6, 2017

  • Takahama station restarts result in 3.15% rate reduction for Kansai Electric Co. customers. The utility submitted its plan to cut its household consumer electricity costs to the Industry Ministry, effective August 1st. The reduction reflects the recent restart of two units at the Takahama nuclear station in Fukui Prefecture. The reason is that nuclear fuel costs less than fossil fuels for the production of electricity. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=ind&k=2017070600656
  • The Japanese Press’ obsession with mixed oxide nuclear fuel continues. A shipment of recycled (MOX) fuel left Cherbourg, France, on Wednesday, destined for Takahama unit #4. MOX is fabricated from the Uranium and Plutonium isotopes that exist in abundance is used nuclear fuel bundles. Kansai Electric Co. says the sea-going route of the shipment is being withheld for at least two weeks due to security concerns. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170706_17/
  • The much ballyhooed criminal retrial of three Tepco executives starts as a news media circus. The three are former Tokyo Electric Power Company Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and former Vice Presidents Ichiro Takekuro and Sakae Muto, all of whom were in office on March 11, 2011. In 2013, Tokyo prosecutors rejected the allegations that the three were criminally negligent with respect to the Fukushima accident. However, the plaintiffs who were rebuffed in 2013 persisted in their efforts to get a citizen’s tribunal to reverse the court’s decision. They were finally successful last February when court appointed lawyers, acting as prosecutors, moved to indict the executives. All three plead not guilty when the trial opened on Friday. Former Chair Katsumata said it was impossible to predict the massive tsunami that spawned the nuke accident. The plaintiffs argued that an internal Tepco investigation in 2008 found that a tsunami capable of swamping the nuke station was possible. Plaintiffs insist that the 44 hospital patients who died in the chaotic evacuation and ten Tepco employees injured during the effort to stop the three-unit meltdown, were entirely avoidable, "They [Tepco] should have suspended the operations of the reactors until they have taken measures [to protect the plant] such as by building seawalls, making reactor buildings watertight, or moving reactors to higher ground." The prosecutors said the “astounding” tsunami predicted in 2008 resulted in a blueprint for upgrading the emergency electrical systems being drawn up and presented to Mr. Muto and Mr. Takekuro. The prosecutors alleged that the Tepco Chairman attended the decision-making meeting, but Mr. Katsumata said he had no recollection of it. The head of the plaintiff group said, “I hope we will get to know the truth [through the trial].” https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170630_16/ - http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003794390 - http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706300043.html - https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/06/7502f1b1b6c3-update1-ex-tepco-execs-go-on-trial-over-fukushima-nuclear-disaster.html and etc.
  • Ikata unit #1 is the latest to be approved for decommissioning. This is the sixth unit to have its dismantling permitted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority; the other five are Tsuruga #1, Genkai #1, Mihama #1 & #2, and Shimane #1. All are relatively small units with outputs less than 600 MWe, where the cost of meeting Japan’s new safety standards would cost more than the operation of the units could generate over a 20 year period. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/japans-nra-approves-ikata-1-decommissioning-plan/

June 29, 2017

  • Tepco applies to the NRA for permission to finish the Fukushima Daiichi ice wall. Closure of the wall has been throttled down by Tokyo’s Nuclear Regulation Authority due to fears concerning groundwater outside the turbine buildings falling below the level of water inside. Tepco has been forced to freeze the last half-dozen seven-meter-wide sections individually, wait to see what it does to external groundwater levels, and then proceed to the next section if groundwater level is maintained according to plan. One section on the inland side of the 1.5 kilometer ice structure is all that needs to be activated to complete the wall. To date, the sequential closure of Tokyo-mandated gaps has dropped the groundwater influx from 400 tons per day down to about 100 tons per day. No projections are being made as to how much more the in-flow will abate after the last part of the wall is frozen.  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170627_01/
  • The International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID) is developing a way to stop leaks in the PCVs. It is believed that at least some of the on-going build-up of contaminated water in units #1 through #3 is through cracks in equipment connecting the reactor vessels to the Primary Containments. IRID’s research facility in Naraha will test injecting concrete into mock-up equipment to find out if this could slow or stop the rate of leakage out of systems attached to the RPVs. About 800 cubic meters of the concrete will be infused into the facsimile equipment over an eight hour period, then await its solidification to see how well the process might work. If the leaks can be stoppered, it is possible that the PCVs can be filled with water, greatly facilitating removal of nuclear fuel debris. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170624_16/
  • The cover for F. Daiichi unit #3 is delivered to the nuclear station. The giant structure was fabricated elsewhere and floated into the port at F. Daiichi port. It appears that the dome came in two equal sections. Pictures and videos of the barge arriving, a crane lifting the cover from the barge, and the structure being moved ashore, have been released by Tepco. No details as to the size and weight of the dome have been posted, but people in the 45-second video look tiny in comparison. http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2017/201706-e/170627-01e.html
  • All electric utility minority shareowner’s antinuclear proposals are summarily rejected. Eight of the annual meetings began today, and it seems that formal calls to end nuclear energy in Japan were proffered at each. Even though the proposals were made by a tiny minority of the shareholders, the Japanese Press made it seem that they were unjustly snubbed by those in charge of the respective companies. Headlines included the Japan Times with “Shareholders urge utilities to end nuclear power generation, are snubbed by management” and the Asahi Shimbun “Utilities reject shareholders’ calls for nuclear power phase-out”. The Asahi wrote, “The utility dismissed anti-nuclear proposals by major shareholders, including the Osaka and Kyoto city governments.” What was not said was that each so-called “major” shareowner had purchased only enough of the utility stocks to enter the meetings and get their unpopular (with the majority) proposals free publicity from Japan’s most antinuclear Press outlets. This tactic was adopted after the 2011 nuke accident, at the suggestion of antinuclear activists from around the world. Many popular Japanese Press outlets neglected to cover this non-story. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/29/business/shareholders-urge-utilities-end-nuclear-power-generation-snubbed-management/#.WVT4B6MUkdV -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706290042.html
  • Shizuoka’s governor restates he will not approve restart for Hamaoka station. Heita Kawakatsu affirmed his disapproval to the possibility of restart on June 27, two days after he was re-elected for a third term as governor. He did admit, however, there are no signs of Chubu Electric attempting to get Tokyo to approve restart during his new term of four years. The five-BWR-units station has been repeatedly dubbed the most dangerous in Japan because Noto Kan – Japan’s openly antinuclear Prime Minister at the time of the Fukushima accident – asserted that there was an 87% chance of a Richter scale level eight quake caused by the offshore Nanking Trough subduction zone over the next 30 years. He ordered all operating units shut down immediately. (NHK World; 5/6/11) Regardless, the Governor Kawakatsu insists that even if any of the Hamaoka units pass the nation’s new stringent safety regulations, they should not be allowed to operate because they don’t need to be restarted to meet electrical demand. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706290045.html

June 22, 2017

  • Data on F. Daiichi corium locations are based on RPV temperature changes. Tepco reduced cooling water flows by 33% to Reactor Pressure Vessels for units #1, 2, & 3 - from 4.5 tons per hour down to 3 tons per hour – and the resulting temperature changes were used to crudely estimate “fuel debris” (corium) locations. For unit #1, temperatures measured at the bottom of the RPV rose as the coolant flow was reduced. Tepco says this shows that some corium that melted through the bottom head is lodged in the control rod drive mechanisms. With unit #2, the RPV bottom head temperature increased in tandem with the reduction in coolant flow, at a rate greater than with unit #1. Because of this, Tepco assumes that the unit’s corium may be massed in the RPV’s bottom head. For unit #3, the water in the Primary Containment Vessel is at a higher temperature than the RPV’s bottom head. Thus, Tepco assumes most of the corium melted through the bottom head and now lays under the water atop the PCV floor. Tepco also says that the temperature trends tend to confirm the findings of the muon tomography images for units #1 & 2. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/new-data-obtained-on-debris-locations-based-on-temperature-changes-using-reduced-injections-of-water/
  • The interim radioactive waste storage complex opens in Futaba. The Environment Ministry started a “test operation” of the “waste accepting and sorting facility” on June 8th. The facility is intended to be the entry point for all contaminated rural wastes in Fukushima Prefecture. The test period will establish the ability to separate soil from vegetation and other debris. The large bags will be brought in, torn open, and the contents separated. Once the soils are free of other material, it will be segregated into two categories; one for soil less than 8,000 Becquerels per kilogram, and the other for greater than 8,000 Bq/kg. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=838
  • Returning residents say they are afraid at night because so few have repopulated. Only 300 have returned to the Gongendo District of Namie Town. Resident Hidezo Sato says, “It’s like a dream to once again be able to live in my home sweet home,” but he becomes afraid when a car is parked in the dark. He says, “If safety and security aren’t assured, there won’t be more people coming back.” As a result of complaints like this, the town has set up neighborhood watch groups and installed security cameras. Similar measures have been taken in repopulating sections of Minamisoma City, including a free panic button installed to alert the police to a problem. 30% of the 770 repopulated households now have them. As people return, fewer and fewer police are needed to patrol the streets, and this makes residents even more anxious. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=841
  • A submersible robot is unveiled by Toshiba and the International Research Institute for Decommissioning. It is intended for the interior of the Primary Containment Vessel of unit #3, the bottom of which holds several meters of water. The “little sunfish” is equipped with lights, two cameras, and a dosimeter. It is propelled by two rear propellers and remotely controlled by two people. A demonstration of the robot was held for the Press on June 15th. Toshiba’s Tsutomu Takeuchi said, "The major advantage is it can avoid various obstacles" which other robots could not get around successfully. IRID director Hirotsugu Fujiwara said, "I feel we are finally at the starting line of decommissioning." America’s Dale Klein said removal of the corium will be a challenge, perhaps unlike anything ever done before. http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory/swimming-robot-probe-damage-japan-nuclear-plant-48050128
  • Tiny amounts of contamination were found in the urine of the 5 men contaminated at the JAEA facility in Ibaraki Prefecture two weeks ago. The men were released from the National Institute of Radiological Sciences on Tuesday, June 13th. When their urine samples were found to contain traces of Plutonium-239, they were called back to the Institute on Monday, June 19th and administered “medication to facilitate discharge of radioactive materials from their bodies”. The medication will be administered for five days, after which the medical staff will decide whether or not continued treatment will be necessary. JAEA President Toshio Kodama said, "The agency as a whole had problems in the prediction of risks." Ibaraki Governor Masaru Hashimoto urged a full investigation into the incident because “There has been reputational damage" to JAEA.  https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170619_27/ -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/06/ee95c381d7eb-plutonium-found-in-urine-of-5-workers-exposed-to-radiation.html  It should be noted that Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency has made a multiple posting on the incident. In the June 12th report we can find a specific timeline of the incident. https://www.jaea.go.jp/english/news/press/p2017061201/pr01.pdf  In the June 15th report, we find that three of the five worker’s dosimeters registered 2μSv, 3μSv, and 60μSv, which is ~1/800 to 1/20,500 of the 50 mSv annual exposure limit. https://www.jaea.go.jp/english/news/press/p2017061501/pr01.pdf

June 15, 2017

The “alleged” internal contamination incident at Oarai Research Facility continued to get considerable Press coverage. Here’s what we found out since last Thursday…

  • (Friday, 6/9/17) – Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) released a picture of the glass-enclosed “hood” where last Tuesday’s internal contamination incident happened. The image was taken the day after the situation arose. The yellow container inside the hood is 22cm high and 15cm in diameter. The handle on the top of the cylinder was used to open it by the worker who experienced the greatest internal contamination. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170609_27/  The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) issued a stern warning to JAEA in November of 2016 concerning the disheveled storage methods used by the agency at 12 facilities for more than 35 years.  http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170609/p2a/00m/0na/004000c  An anonymous JAEA official said, “There is a possibility that the [plastic bags] became filled with gas and burst.” Nagoya University nuclear chemical engineering professor Yoichi Enokida offers his view on why the plastic bags ruptured, “When plutonium is kept in a polyethylene container for a long time, the container can degrade from radiation to produce a gas composed of carbon, hydrogen and other components.”  http://annx.asianews.network/content/jaea-nuclear-containers-likely-not-checked-26-yrs-47873  However…
  • On Saturday, the incident was reported to be much ado about nothing! The alleged internal radioactivity level(s) reported earlier this week disappeared after the NIRS administered "proper decontamination". The JAEA said it believes the initial readings resulted from superficial decontamination leaving transuranic material detected on the men's skin. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706100022.html
  • On Monday, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the NIRS had run numerous tests on the men. No plutonium contamination of the lungs was detected, which verifies the results reported Saturday. The Institute claims they have run the same methods of measurement used by the JAEA last week. However, NIRS stops short of saying there is no internal Plutonium contamination since three of the men had tiny amounts found in their nasal passages. Some traces may have been ingested, so the Institute is keeping all of the men hospitalized in order to run analyses on their excretory substances. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003755769
  • On Wednesday, the case is closed by the Yomiuri Shimbun. The article focused on what it calls a lax attitude about safety on the part of JAEA. Multiple re-examinations of the five men verified no internal Plutonium contamination, but did find traces of Americium in “some” of them. NIRS says there will be no “significant effect on their health”. Regardless of the facts, the Yomiuri admits that the initial assumption of Plutonium contamination in the men’s lungs “took on a life of its own” resulting in informational turmoil, and the NRA’s statement that it was “a situation that cannot be taken lightly” aroused unnecessary anxiety. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003760721

Here’s some othernews from Japan…

  • The suit against restarts of Genkai units #3 & #4 was rejected. On Tuesday, the Saga District Court passed down the verdict with the following reason - "We do not recognize that the plants are lacking in terms of safety." Presiding Judge Takeshi Tachikawa said Tokyo’s new safety standards are reasonable, regardless of what other courts have alleged. The court found no issues with the reactors' earthquake resistance, steps taken to prevent serious accidents, and does not see any specific dangers of radiation exposure. Saga’s governor Yoshiaki Yamaguchi said he agreed with the judgement, reiterating his approval for the restarts. Plaintiff spokesperson Hatsumi Iahimaru criticized the decision, saying, "The court is supposed to help the weak, but the ruling is based on economics and politics. We will continue to fight until we stop the nuclear plant." He added that the plaintiffs will immediately appeal to the Fukuoka High Court. Plant owner Kyushu Electric Co. says the restarts could happen as early this autumn. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/saga-district-court-allows-two-genkai-reactors-to-resume-operation/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170613/p2g/00m/0dm/039000c -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017061300678
  • The governor of Niigata Prefecture will not judge nuclear restarts for quite a while. The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station, owned by Tepco, is located in the prefecture. Its restart is thought to be essential for Tepco’s ability to garner the ability to repay Tokyo for the multi-billion dollars loaned to the company for decommissioning and evacuee compensations. Governor Ryuichi Yoneyama said he plans to appoint an advisory committee to make yet another investigation of the F. Daiichi nuclear accident and the health impacts of the radiation released during the accident. He said the review will start no later than August. Yoneyama explained, "It is necessary to look at the overall picture of the risks so we are going to conduct a review. I have no intention of launching the (local) consent process while the review is under way." However, he did admit that demanding absolute safety at K-K is not possible, and his decision will be based on a “democratic process.” Yoneyama was elected governor last October based on an anti-Tepco platform. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706090042.html
  • Tohoku’s fisheries have physically recovered to 70% of their pre-earthquake/tsunami levels. The Tohoku region comprises the three Pacific Ocean-bordering prefectures: Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima. A June 2nd white paper posted by Japan Fisheries Agency included the decision. The paper also pointed out that the monetary value of the fish reached 90% of the pre-disaster level. As for Fukushima Prefecture, the only remaining “off-limits” area for the fisheries is a 10km radius from F. Daiichi. In 2016, 2,100 tons of fish were caught off the prefecture, found free of contamination, and marketed. Ina an effort to combat unfounded fears and rumors, the White Paper stressed the need to provide appropriate information overseas, including publicizing the results of inspections and making them available in other languages. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/recent-white-paper-shows-recovery-of-fukushima-fisheries-progressing-smoothly/ (Comment – This good news was ignored by Japan’s popular Press, continuing a dark and deceitful trend. The only posting was by JAIF!)
  • The head of a popular government inquiry into the Fukushima accident shows his naivety. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, former chairman of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, blasted Tokyo’s approval of restarts for two Takahama units. He told the Lower House (~House of Representatives), “What are you going to do if a tsunami comes? How can you go to rescue people if cars cannot move forward on roads?” Aside – Takahama station is located on the Sea of Japan, which has no known subduction zone faults capable of generating a catastrophic tsunami. It seems that Kurokawa is either unaware of this fact, or declines to admit it! – End aside. Kurokawa also demeaned PM Shinzo Abe’s belief that Tokyo’s new nuclear safety standards are the strictest in the world, “I cannot accept such rhetoric.” In addition, he questioned how Nuclear Regulation Authority personnel are selected, suggesting that the new head of the NRA secretariat is a promoter of nuclear energy, compromising his objectivity. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706130017.html

June 8, 2017

On Tuesday, high internal contamination incident occurred at a Japanese research facility, and immediately became the top news topic in Japan. It remains at its lofty perch as this update is being written. The situation happened at Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s Oarai Research and Development Center in Ibaraki Prefecture. Reports across Japan have varied considerably. There are many details that need to be filled in by JAEA. At this point in time, we will share what we feel to be the most objective of the numerous news reports… 

  • (postings on Wednesday) Five anti-contamination-suit-clad workers, with half face masks, opened a storage canister containing powdered nuclear fuel material. The plastic bag contained a mixture of Uranium, Plutonium-239, and Americium-241 broke open and dusted the men. One man inhaled a considerable amount, with subsequent tests showing 22,000 Becquerels of Pu-239 and 220 Bq of Am-241 in his lungs. Kyodo News says three other men were found to have a range of internal contamination between 5,600 and 14,000 Bq. Other news outlets reported much lower levels for the three. The fifth worker is “highly likely” to be internally contaminated, but no level has been reported for him. All five men were administered “medicine” designed to remove the contaminants from their systems. The Nuclear regulation Authority estimates that the highly-contaminated man could experience a first year exposure of more than one Sievert to the lungs, and a 50 year exposure of 12 Sieverts. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka earmarked complacency as a possible cause, "Perhaps (the workers) have become too accustomed to plutonium. I urge careful handling. As (a level for) internal radiation exposure it's an amount unheard of." Fellow NRA Commissioner Nobuhiko Ban said, "We shouldn't downplay the situation." University of Tokyo professor Keiichi Nakagawa said that this is the first case in Japan where 22,000 Becquerels of ingested radioactivity has been measured in a human. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170607_16/ -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/06/2f92663c7968-plutonium-found-in-lungs-of-worker-at-nuclear-facility.html -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170607/p2a/00m/0na/018000c -- https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170607_29/
  • (Postings today – Thursday) The incident occurred when a small canister of material was opened inside a laboratory “hood”. The hood’s glass screen was raised to put the canister in, and left slightly open so that the workers could reach inside to work. The canister contained about 300 grams of powdered material, wrapped in two layers of polyethylene. The material was intended for use in the Joyo experimental fast breeder reactor. A myriad of delays with the Joyo project resulted in 21 canisters of the nuclear material being stored at Oarai. The one opened Tuesday was the first to be inspected. There is no prior record of inspections in any of the canisters. When the container, the workers were engulfed in a cloud of the black dust.  Kazuya Idemitsu, a professor of Energy Materials Science at Kyushu University, speculated on what caused the plastic bagging to rupture, "Over time, the atomic nuclei of uranium, plutonium and other such substances break down, releasing helium nuclei (alpha rays). When stored over a long time, helium gas would build up, and it's possible that the pressure inside the container rose, resulting in the rupture." It seems the workers were following the procedure for the inspection required by JAEA. JAEA is being criticized for not anticipating such an incident ever happening. The internal contamination would probably have been averted if the workers had been wearing full face masks, rather than half-masks, or if they had opened the canister inside a sealed laboratory “glove box”. JAEA additionally estimates that the total activity within the worker’s entire body could be as much as 360,000 Becquerels. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170608_32/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170608/p2a/00m/0na/018000c -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201706080045.html -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/06/6fe470dc2c22-plutonium-container-in-radiation-accident-kept-sealed-for-decades.html -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0003748472

Now, for some other news posted over the past week…

  • Takahama unit #3 was restarted on Tuesday. There are now five nuclear generating units operating in Japan. The precision sequence of slowly raising control rods to allow fissioning began at 2pm. Initial criticality was reached yesterday (Wednesday) and the first trickle of electricity will be produced Tomorrow (Friday). By the end of the summer, Kansai Electric Company should have a consumer rate reduction because of both units each producing 870 MWe of electricity. Once again, Japan’s Press fixates on the few MOX (mixed oxide) fuel bundles in the core that include reactor-grade Plutonium. Of the 157 fuel assemblies, only 24 use MOX fuel. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170606_23/ -- http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170606/p2g/00m/0dm/017000c
  • US Energy Secretary Perry visits Fukushima Daiichi. Perry was quoted as saying, "We offer continued support, expertise, companies that have history of dealing with cleanups and technology available as well as the department of energy. I want to bring the strong support of the current administration to Japan and any assistance that we can, as we go forward in the cleanup and the decommissioning of [Fukushima’s] facilities." Tepco posted several pictures taken during the visit. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170605/p2g/00m/0bu/038000c -- http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2017/201706-e/170605-01e.html
  • Fukushima products will be promoted in Europe prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Groups of Fukushima residents in Germany, France, England, and The Netherlands will jointly make proposals to the Fukushima prefectural government about accommodating Europe visitors. Takeshi Ishikawa, chairman of the Netherlands-based group, said, "We want to dispel groundless rumors [about contamination] through active provision of information," in support of Fukushima's hosting of Olympic baseball and softball games. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017060500381
  • Nearly 20% of Japan’s consumers continue to shun Fukushima food products. A 2016 survey run by the Fukushima Prefectural Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives shows that 18.7% “will not buy depending on products” and 9.5% say they are as anxious about the accident now as when it happened in 2011. The Union speculates on the reason for the on-going negativity, saying that “efforts to test radioactive substances in food have not yet been understood sufficiently.” The group calls on Tokyo and the local Fukushima governments to transmit information that is easier to understand. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=832
  • Jiji Press says there are seven more cases of child thyroid cancer in Fukushima Prefecture. This brings the total of pre-cancerous thyroid anomalies (tiny nodes and/or cysts) to 152, out of more than a third of a million individuals tested. To date, all but one were found to be indolent (not malignant) Head of the prefectural research panel Dr. Hokuto Hoshi said it is “unlikely” that these new discoveries were caused by the nuke accident. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/06/06/national/seven-fukushima-residents-diagnosed-thyroid-cancer/#.WTa20aOwcdV (copied from a Jiji Press release)
  • Tepco has agreed to compensate Namie Town for losses in land valuation. The municipality will be awarded $22 million. Namie had asked for over $100 million. It will continue negotiating with Tepco over the remainder. The Fukushima government says Futaba has filed a similar request and that other evacuated communities might do the same thing. This compensation is in addition to the extremely generous amounts being paid monthly to evacuated individuals and businesses. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20170606_03/ 
  • A Fukushima researcher says there is a widespread feeling of happiness in the prefecture. Dr. Sae Ochi writes that she is confronted with various responses because she is a Fukushima resident from Soma City. Most are reluctant to bring up radiation topics, even though she knows it is what immediately comes to people’s minds. Reports about people in Fukushima generally focus on those who are unhappy, and the first few years after the quake/tsunami disaster and nuclear accident, it was quite true. However, Dr. Ochi says that now there are actually many happy people in the prefecture that “qualitatively differs from just “living bravely.” While many reports focus on PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) in Fukushima residents, there is a converse result that is also the case…PTG (Post Traumatic Growth). PTG is a positive change after recovering from a disaster. She feels that this does not get reported because there is a “poverty of happiness” by those who are conveying what is happening; they look for the negative and disregard things that are positive. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/scientists-feeling-of-happiness-relative-to-peoples-image-of-fukushima/


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