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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August 16, 2018

  • Fukushima holds an international forum on decommissioning F. Daiichi. On August 5th and 6th, domestic and foreign experts shared information on available technology and talked with local residents. It was the third such forum to be held. The first day focused on allowing locals to “know, talk, and question”, interacting with the experts. The second day was largely a technical session concerning remotely-operated and robotic technology, both in Japan and available from overseas sources. The experts came from around the world, including Dr. Jeff Griffin from Savannah River National Laboratory in the United States. The need for international cooperation was stressed both days. https://www.jaif.or.jp/en/international-forum-on-decommissioning-fukushima-daiichi-highlights-remotely-operated-systems/
  • A large statue of a child wearing Anti-Cs is unveiled and sparks local criticism. The 6.2-meter statue called Sun Child was made by contemporary artist Kenji Yanobe to express his wish for a world free from nuclear disasters. It is designed to show that the air in Fukushima Prefecture is free of radioactivity. Yanobe apologized on his website for the sharp criticism his creation induced. He said, "I wanted to make a work that encourages people (in Fukushima)...and made the statue of a child standing up bravely and strongly against any difficulties it faces.The clothing looks like protective gear, but it is also armor to confront major issues and, being like a space suit, it also carries a futuristic image." Criticisms included the statue giving the impression that everyone in the prefecture has to wear Anti-Cs, and the artwork is “unscientific”! Yanobe responded, "I should have paid more attention to the fact that accurate knowledge about radiation is needed much more now than before the disaster." https://japantoday.com/category/national/child-statue-in-protective-suit-in-crisis-hit-fukushima-criticized
  • Last Friday (Aug. 10) Chucogu Electric Co. applied for an NRA safety examination regarding Shimane unit #3. Shimane #3 is nearing the end of construction, at more than 93% completed. Work on the 1,373 MWe Advanced Boiling Water Reactor system  began in 2005, but construction was halted for several years following the accident at F. Daiichi. Requests for permission to operate were submitted to Shimane Prefecture and Matsue City in June and July. This is the second-such request for a safety screening on new nuke construction, following the one submitted relative to Oma unit #1, submitted in 2014. https://www.jaif.or.jp/en/chugoku-electric-applies-for-shimane-3-safety-examination-second-for-a-reactor-under-construction-after-ohma-npp/

August 9, 2018

  • Japan will not raise the cap on nuclear financial compensation funds. Currently, nuclear station owners must have a roughly $1.2 billion fund set aside in the unlikely event of a major nuclear accident. The Japan Atomic Energy Commission has been pressured to raise the limit, but an expert panel has decided it would not be needed. However, the draft report keeps operators' current unlimited liability for compensation that is stipulated in the law on compensation. The public comment period will last for 30 days, and the final report is expected as soon as October. https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2018080700265
  • Tepco temporarily ends the sale of Fukushima Daiichi souvenirs. Last week, the company began offering plastic folders with images of the four units which suffered damage on 3/11/11. The folders drew a considerable social media outcry, so Tepco pulled them off the shelf. They had been on sale for F. Daiichi visitors and workers at the station. Nay-sayers claim selling them was insensitive, especially to those forced to evacuate their communities. However, there were a number of people who thought the sale of the souvenir folders was appropriate. One said the merchandise could help visitors remember what they saw at the plant. The company is reviewing the large number of comments and will then decide whether or not to resume sales. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180809_38/

August 2, 2018

  • Fukushima’s J-Village has returned to being Japan’s national soccer training center. A high school “friendly” match marked the reopening on July 28. Since the 2011 nuke accident, it has served as a base for accident recovery activities, including personnel contamination checks, worker decontamination, donning anti-contamination clothing, and the distribution of personal dosimeters. The facility was Japan’s soccer training center from 1997 until 2011. J-Village Vice President Eiji Ueda said, “I am grateful especially to the devoted efforts of those involved in the work (to return the facility to soccer training).” He hopes the return of soccer training will help dispel on-going fears of lingering Fukushima accident radioactivity.  Though primarily focused on the 2020 Olympics, the J-Village will also be the site of training for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/j-village-stadium-to-revert-to-original-role-as-soccer-training-center-having-contributed-to-the-stabilization-of-fukushima-daiichi/ -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004620584
  • (More on last week’s Fukushima ambassadors…) Three teenage Fukushima Reconstruction Ambassadors visited Taiwan to share insight on earthquake recovery. They met with the Mayor of Hualien, Taiwan, which suffered a major earthquake in February. Fukushima Minpo’s Jun Sakuma read a prepared message, which included, "The power of young people and strong bonds will help us open the way for a bright future whatever hardship we may face." Reconstruction ambassador Yumeka Ichijo , a 17-year-old, said, "I was surprised to find post-quake recovery well under way in Hualien, and would like to report on the present situation back at school." The ambassadors also met with students from Taipei Municipal Minquan Junior High School.  http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=906
  • Tepco will open a nuke accident and recovery museum in Tomioka town. It will open in late in November. The facility that will become a museum is now being used as a base for visitors to the plant site. The museum will have 1,900 m2 of floor space.The second floor will be devoted to the accident itself, recreated as a drama, and lessons learned from the experience. The first floor theme will be decommissioning of the reactors. A life-sized cross-section image of a reactor will be displayed so that visitors can see how a robot moves inside the reactor during a probe. Tepco says there will be no admission charge. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180730_18/
  • Namie resumes its annual samurai parade. The parade was part of the annual Soma-Nomaoi festival that has been postponed since 2011. Mounted warriors represented five hometowns covering the Soma-Nakamura domain that ruled northeastern Fukushima Prefecture. It was the first time the parade had been held in eight years. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201807280033.html
  • Tepco considers decommissioning some of the units at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station. The company responded to a request from one of the host municipalities saying it is too risky to operate all seven units at the station. Kashiwazaki Mayor Masahiro Sakurai wants Tepco to only restart units #6 & #7, which have passed the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety screening. Tepco says they will consider it. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180802_36/
  • The plan to use floating wind turbines to supply Fukushima Prefecture is failing. The windmills are being operated on a trial basis before diving into the full-fledged government-backed program. Theoretically, the windmills should produce a 30% capacity factor (the ratio of actual output to the maximum possible). Only one of the three test units has reached that level of reliability. Only the 2 MWe unit reached the desired capacity factor with 34%. The 5 MWE unit attained a CF of 12%, and the 7 MWe unit only a CF of 2%. The Industry Ministry says the reason for the tiny 7 MWe turbine CF is defects in the gearbox and “other parts”. Whether or not to commercialize the existing units will depend on their profitability. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201807290001.html
  • The full relocation of Iwate and Miyagi prefecture disaster victims should be complete in 2020. Prime Minister Abe said, "Securing homes is an important step toward reconstruction. We'll do all we can so people no longer have to live in temporary housing.” The government has designated fiscal 2016-2020 as a period for the reconstruction and revitalization of disaster areas after a five-year intensive reconstruction period. As for revitalizing livelihoods, Abe said, "We'll continue to support livelihood reconstruction with full force." https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2018080201015

July 26, 2018

  • Fifteen new “Fukushima Reconstruction Ambassadors” begin their work. The students were selected by Fukushima Minpo Company to visit parts of Japan and other countries to bring global attention to the prefecture’s post-2011 reconstruction. Minpo’s Masayuki Hanami told the new envoys, “We would like you to convey your thoughts to many people at home and abroad, build a network of acquaintances and expand infinite possibilities.” Senior rumor control official Akiyoshi Usami briefed the group on the current status of earthquake, tsunami, and nuke accident recovery. The group’s duties are expected to begin very soon. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=903
  • Tepco has decided to begin damaged nuclear fuel recovery with unit #2. The work will be done through existing piping penetrations, previously used the make video and radiation level inspections. Unit #2 has been selected as the first of the three severely damaged units because there is much less physical damage inside the Reactor Pressure Vessel pedestal, allowing an easier time in accessing the debris bed in the bottom. Technicians will use a rod-shaped device equipped with a camera, LED light, and an apparatus to grab the debris. They will be able to determine the condition of the debris bed to see if it is fused together or not. Granular material can be grabbed by the probe and removed, if small enough to fit through the piping penetration. The work is planned to begin before the end of March, 2019. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20180726_42/ -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201807260065.html
  • Another Fukushima beach reopens. Haragamaobama beach in Soma had between 30,000 and 50,000 visitors per year before the quake and tsunami of 2011. Anti-tsunami levees have been rebuilt and tsunami debris removed. Water quality checks have found that radioactivity is well-below Japan’s standards. The beach is only the fourth to reopen out of the 18 swimming beaches in Fukushima Prefecture. https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2018/07/2140bb33c29c-beaches-ravaged-by-2011-tsunami-open-to-public-1st-time-in-8-years.html
  • (More on the F. Daiichi Tritiated water issue, post 7/19.) On July 13, the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy (ANRE) discussed the F. Daiichi Tritiated water issue. The volume of the stored liquid was about 1,050,000 cubic meters (tons). Additional capacity was about 320,000 m3. Building the additional tanks in order to reach that capacity could interfere with damaged fuel removal, adding new spent fuel storage facilities, and other decommissioning work. It was agreed that there are two NRA approved options: either releasing to the ocean or evaporation. Three other options were addressed, but they would require additional NRA approval before implementing. Since the situation with storage capacity approaches the critical point, the two NRA-approved options will be focused upon. ANRE also discussed draft materials explaining the societal effects of unfounded fears and rumors.  http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/anre-to-hold-explanatory-meetings-and-public-hearings-on-handling-of-tritium-water/
  • A court rejects a damages suit filed by families of fishermen subjected to fallout from the 1954 Bikini Atoll H-bomb test. The suit alleged that Tokyo hid key records about the exposure. The Kochi District Court’s Presiding Judge Osamu Nishimura said, “We cannot conclude that the state persistently gave up providing support and conducting health surveys to hide the radiation exposure.” Plaintiff’s lawyer Morimitsu Kajihara, said, “We can't accept the decision which didn't acknowledge the (state's) responsibility for neglecting the fishermen." The plaintiffs wanted $680,000 in damages, claiming negligence on the part of both the United States and Tokyo by ceasing the investigation after the 60-year statute of limitations expired, while additional evidence still needed to be examined. https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20180720/p2g/00m/0dm/066000c
  • Former Prime Minister, and current antinuclear fanatic, Junichiro Koizuma, continues his crusade. He has criticized the current PM Abe administration for its pro-nuclear energy stance and called for the policy to be made an election issue when Japanese go to the polls next year. He is touring Japan trying to unite all opposition (minority) political parties and make nuclear energy the most important issue in future elections. At a recent news conference, he said, “When I met Prime Minister Abe, I repeatedly told him, ‘Don’t be fooled by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (which is in charge of energy policies).’ But he only smiled! Though five years have passed (since I announced my anti-nuclear stance), Abe is still unaware (of the problems of nuclear power generation). It isn’t possible any more for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to end nuclear power generation. He did not try to do so, even though he could have.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201807240057.html
  • CNN says that there might be minute traces of Fukushima radioactive particles in California wines. A French team has been monitoring California wines from before and after the March 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi. To no-one’s surprise, some Cesium-137 was found in the post 2011 wines that exceeded the bomb fallout levels in the pre-2011 wines. However, the levels are too low to be a safety concern. https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/23/health/california-wine-radioactive-fukushima-trnd/index.html

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


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