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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November 16, 2017

  • Three decades of studies show life may depend on low level radiation (LLR) exposure. In 1987, researchers in France discovered that when microbes are shielded from background radiation, their growth is stunted. This suggests the notion of there being no safe level of exposure is false, and that LLR is beneficial to life. Two places this discovery has been tested are under a mountain in Italy and at France’s Laboratoire Souterrain de Modane. In Italy, scientist Massimo Pinto found that when cells are kept at low radiation levels for a period of months, they can no longer survive when returned to natural background. While in typical background radiation fields, cells keep their natural repair mechanisms “switched on”. The problem is finding other places where background radiation is extremely low. One such location is located in a New Mexico salt mine. New Mexico State’s Hugo Castillo heads up the research team. They report that exposure to radiation levels as much as 80 times below background causes biological stress in microbe D. radiodurans, and grows slower than its control group exposed to New Mexico’s natural background. Another microbe, Shewanella oneidensis, initially has a population drop when underexposed, but after a short while the numbers return to the control growth rate. Castillo surmises about the two microbe’s differing responses, “…it appears the cells can turn some genes on and off to compensate for this lack of radiation.” What is the location of the American study? It is inside the Waste Isolation Pilot Project. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/next/evolution/life-without-radiation/
  • The unit #3 fuel handling machine (FHM) and crane arrive at F. Daiichi. The FHM and fuel handling crane were lifted onto the unit #3 refueling deck on Nov. 12. The two devices will be used to prepare fuel bundles for transfer to the ground-level spent fuel storage facility. Once a container is filled with fuel bundles, it will be tightly sealed before being lifted onto a transport vehicle by another crane. There are 566 fuel bundles in the spent fuel pool, 36 meters above ground level. It is expected that the removal process will begin in mid-to-late 2018.  http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2017/images/handouts_171109_01-e.pdf -- https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017111200203  A picture of the FHM atop the unit #3 refueling deck, and the crane being lifted to its right, can be found here… http://photo.tepco.co.jp/library/171112_01/171112_02.jpg
  • The governor of Fukushima Prefecture inspects the new Fuel Handling Machine at F. Daiichi – pictorial… http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2017/201711-e/171115-01e.html
  • Tokyo designates a “rebuilding hub” in Okuma Town, which is co-host to F. Daiichi with Futaba. Futaba was designated with its rebuilding hub in September. A 680 hectare area of Okuma accounts for 18% of the town’s “difficult to return” zone, and will be home to town government, residences, and shopping center, for an estimated 2,600 people. The area is currently vacant. Now, Tokyo can begin decontamination, water maintenance and infrastructure recovery using public funds. The hub’s evacuation order is scheduled to be lifted in the spring of 2022. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201711130039.html
  • Tomioka’s traditional fall fair resumes for the first time since 2010. The two-day event, called Ebisukp-ichi, is a traditional way to pray for bumper crops and prosperous businesses. This year, fireworks were also held in memory of those who died in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 3/11/11. Local officials decided to hold the fair after the evacuation order for the community was lifted last spring. The fair dates back more than a century. http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201711120025.html
  • The European Union relaxes restrictions on Japanese food imports. The EU has required a radiation safety certificate for foods from 13 prefectures to insure that the products meet European safety standards. The phase-out of restrictions for 10 prefectures will begin December 1st. Foods losing the import restrictions include rice from Fukushima Prefecture, yellowtail fish, red sea bream, some mushrooms, and mountain vegetables. By relaxing restrictions on Fukushima rice means all prefectures can ship their rice without constraints. Some restrictions will remain in-place for specific agricultural and seafood products. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20171112_06/
  • A “so what” article about Kobe steel in nuke plants. Kobe Steel Ltd. has been charged with fabricating quality data on some of its products, mostly on specific welding rods. There are nine Japanese nuclear units that have used Kobe Steel products, but none of the welding rods involved with the data fabrication charges. The Nuclear Regulation Authority was informed of this fact on Wednesday, November 15. Regardless, Japan’s news media makes hay from it with a misleading headline posted by Jiji Press. https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017111501365  
  • Tokyo allegedly bribes students to attend nuclear waste disposal site events. The government has been holding meetings to provide a public understanding of hosting a repository for high level nuclear waste. The events started after the government published a map of potential disposal sites that are geologically-appropriate. However, poor attendance, especially by college-age students, has influenced Tokyo to provide an incentive to reverse the trend. It was not supposed to offer money as an enticement. One organizer said, “We weren't supposed to solicit participants by paying money, but the idea was not thoroughly shared inside the (organizing) company." One company, Oceanize Inc, promised 12 students 10,000 yen each for their participation in the city of Saitama, on Nov. 6th. Japan’s Press sees this as evidence of government bribes. https://japantoday.com/category/national/students-offered-reward-for-joining-gov't-events-on-nuclear-waste

November 9, 2017

  • UNSCEAR reiterates that there have been no detectible negative Fukushima health effects. On October 27, Secretary Malcolm Crick of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) visited Japanese Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs Manabu Horii to deliver the group’s 2017 white paper on the health risks stemming from the nuke accident at F. Daiichi. Presentations were made two days later in Iwaki City, but none of the Japanese popular news outlets had the decency to report on any of this. Only Japan Atomic Industrial Forum has posted, 13 days after the fact. Thus, the vast majority of Japan’s population, including those in Fukushima Prefecture, have no idea concerning the findings. The two most important findings are: (1) the most serious and noticeable effects of the March, 2011 accident are with mental health and social well-being, and (2) and a 2016 paper claiming a 50-factor increase in thyroid cancer with Fukushima children is seriously flawed, citing excessive bias in its planning and methodology, and insufficient consideration of the use of highly-sensitive ultrasonic inspection devices. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/unscear-white-paper-reiterates-findings-that-fukushima-risks-are-low/
  • In the same report (above), on 10/23/17 Hajime Suzuki, clinic director at the International University of Health and Welfare, reported that the average thyroid equivalent dose from external and internal radiation exposure for one-year-old infants in the prefecture had been reevaluated and found to be less than 40mSv in all areas. This essentially verifies the projected exposures to infants found in the UNSCEAR report of 2013. Once again, Japan’s popular Press dropped the ball and kept the country’s population uninformed. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/unscear-white-paper-reiterates-findings-that-fukushima-risks-are-low/
  • The fuel handling machine (FHM) for unit #3 used fuel removal is being shipped to F. Daiichi. Five of the eight sections of the roof over the refueling deck have been installed. But, the last three cannot be placed until the FHM is mounted on the deck. The FHM will remove the fuel bundles from the unit #3 Spent Fuel Pool. Each removed bundle will be lifted by the crane and inserted into a transfer vessel. Once filled, the transfer vessel will be moved to the ground-level storage facility. Unlike the fuel removal from unit #4 SFP, this operation will be performed entirely by remote control from the Main Anti-Earthquake Building. The machine is being shipped by sea and is expected to arrive at F. Daiichi in time for a mid-November installation of the device. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/fuel-removal-system-leaves-yokohama-headed-for-fukushima-daiichi-3/
  • Attendance at Iitate schools nearly doubles. After last year’s lifting of the municipality’s Tokyo-mandated living restrictions, only 52 children attended the local schools. This year, there will be 90; an increase of over 70%. This good news was revealed by the Board of Education. Twenty-four of the students are from families that were previously undecided, and sixteen were from families who said they were not going to let their children be schooled in Iitate. Mayor Norio Kanno said, "We are happy to hear children say they would like to graduate from the school in Iitate. We will seek to deepen bonds with villagers and establish a sort of school that will be the core of reconstruction of our village." One of the reasons for the unexpected up-swell is making uniform costs and study material expenses free, for children ranging from babies to junior high. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=863
  • Blanket radioactive contamination scanning of Fukushima rice is questioned. Since 2011, every bag of rice produced in the prefecture has been tested for its radioactivity. It has been years since a bag has failed to meet Japan’s tough standards. Many of the prefecture’s producers want the requirements pared back because the checks are costly. Others say they want the current checking of each and every bag of rice because a number of consumers continue to avoid buying Fukushima-produced foods. The prefectural government wants to make a final decision by the end of the year, and put an end to the debate. https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017110500432
  • The NRA chairman says the pace of nuke restarts will not speed up. The Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa told this to Reuters, earlier this week. He said the problem is the pace with which units on the Pacific coastline might meet Japan’s tough safety standards, “We have accumulated experience in safety reviews, but… many of the plants in Eastern Japan that we are reviewing now have difficult natural conditions. It’s doubtful the pace of approvals would quicken.” When asked how many units will restart over the next five years, he said, “I honestly do not know.” https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-nuclear/japan-nuclear-regulator-says-restart-approval-pace-unlikely-to-speed-up-idUSKBN1D719N
  • The NRA doubts the effectiveness of the Fukushima Ice Wall. Last week, Tepco announced the last section of the in-ground ice wall at F. Daiichi was frozen, but now the regulator is said to be skeptical. The Japan News posts that “some members” of the NRA doubt the ability of the massive structure to greatly reduce groundwater influx to the basements of the four damaged units. The inflow has already been reduced from 400 tons per day to less than 100 tons. But, the NRA says much of the decrease is due to paving the surface of the ground which prevents rainwater from percolating downward, plus pumping out water from 40 sub-drains must contribute to the drop. However, the inflow has decreased every time the NRA allowed sections of the wall to be frozen, thus it seems the NRA merely remains distrustful of anything Tepco says. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004052403 
  • A new Fukushima exploitation film is released in Japan. It is entitled “Nuclear cattle”, concerning the impact of Tokyo’s mandated evacuation on cattle farmers. It focuses on the farmers' response after the government ordered them to slaughter livestock exposed to radiation (actually…airborne contamination). You can read the Mainichi’s article on the exploitation flick here… https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20171109/p2a/00m/0na/014000c

November 2, 2017

  • The Fukushima Ice Wall is effectively completed. In August, Tepco staff began freezing the final seven-meter section of the 1.5 kilometer barrier. Underground temperatures became sub-zero at the end of October, indicating that the entire 30-meter deep wall is now frozen solid. Some surface monitors remain above freezing, and it is likely that some of the ground around sub-surface pipes and equipment tunnels remains unfrozen. Regardless, Tepco has begun assessing the wall’s ability to reduce the in-flow of water to the basements of the Reactor and Turbine Buildings. It seems that NHK World is the only popular Press outlet to report on this milestone! https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20171102_13/
  • A Fukushima medical group says it is important to understand many types of risk, rather than focusing on one in-isolation. The group compared the risk of cancer due to a nuclear accident’s radiation, to risks stemming from diabetes. It was found that “loss of life expectancy” (how much a person’s life could be shortened) is 30 times greater with respect to diabetes than with low level radiation exposure. The doctors argue that it is important to deal with post-accident risks in a balanced manner. Diabetes was chosen because of a significant increase in the prevalence of the affliction following the Fukushima accident evacuation. It is important to note that the models chosen for the study were designed to overestimate the risk of cancer and underestimate the risk of diabetes. Minamisoma Municipal Hospital researcher Masaharu Tsubokura, M.D., said, “The consequences of a nuclear accident are more than just radioactive contamination and radiation exposure. There are also quite significant health risks from worsened chronic diseases, including diabetes, owing to changes in living and societal environments.” http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/medical-group-in-fukushima-emphasizes-importance-of-understanding-multiple-risks/
  • The rural contaminated debris storage facility opens in Okuma. The Okuma repository is the first of seven on the 1,600 hectare (16 km2) site, shared by Futaba. Environment Minister Tadahiko Ito said, “We are hoping to remove as many bags of contaminated soil as possible from people’s living spaces.” http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201710290026.html 
  • Japan Atomic Power Company (Japco) will file for a 20-year licensing extension for Tokai unit #2. The unit will reach the end of its 40-year operating license on November 28, 2018. If approved by the nuclear Regulation Authority, Tokai #2 will be the first Boiling Water Reactor plant to be granted the extension. It is expected that the filing will bring considerable public protests because of the large population living within the 30-kilometer emergency planning zone. In addition, the Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second largest newspaper with a daily circulation of 11 million, is posting that Tokai “…narrowly escaped a catastrophe like the one at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant when it was struck by the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.” The rationale behind the claim is that one of the three diesels failed to operate after the station was struck by the tsunami, and some unidentified “experts” claim that a tsunami two feet higher would have made reactor cooling impossible. Japco owns four nuclear units… two at Tokai and two at Tsuruga Station. They are the only sources of revenue for the company. https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017102700899 -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201710270036.html

October 26, 2017

  • Fukushima’s storage facility for rural radioactive debris opens Saturday. Environment Minister Masaharu Nakagawa announced that Okuma Town will begin receiving bags of contaminated soil and other materials on October 28th. He said, "There are numerous challenges that must be overcome, but the start of operations at the facility is an important step toward the final disposal of contaminated soil." After receipt, the bags will be opened so that contents can be separated according to the degree of radioactivity. Burnable trash will be incinerated and the ash securely packaged for long-term storage. The underground operation has a capacity of 50,000 cubic meters of material. A twin underground facility is under construction in Futaba. When completed, it is estimated that the 16 km2 operation will have processed and stored about 22 million m3 of debris. Roughly 40% (~6.5 km2) of the land has been procured by the Environment Ministry.  https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20171025/p2a/00m/0sp/012000c -- http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201710250040.html
  • Tokyo schools will resume annual Fukushima field trips. An October 19th Fukushima prefectural survey found that 37% of the capitol’s elementary or Junior high schools are either scheduled to recommence such tours or are “considering” restart. While this percentage may seem small, it really isn’t. An Education Ministry survey found that about 63% of the schools in Tokyo and its six surrounding prefectures did not visit Fukushima prior to 2011. Thus, the 37% planning to tour the prefecture is roughly the same as before the nuclear accident. The Fukushima government has provided a subsidy to schools for such visits since 2016.  http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=862
  • Tepco and Tokyo both appeal the latest Fukushima accident reparation ruling. On October 10th, the Fukushima District Court ordered both parties to pay out about $4.3 million to some 2,900 plaintiffs. On Monday, the government and the utility appealed to a higher court in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture. On the same day, the awarded plaintiff’s lawyers filed an appeal demanding more money. Lawyer Izutaro Managi said the Fukushima court "clearly acknowledged the liability of the state", but the "level and scope of compensation is insufficient. We will seek compensation that better matches the actual damage.” The 2013 filing called for more than $40 million in compensation for 3,800 plaintiffs. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20171023_25/ -- https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20171024/p2g/00m/0dm/017000c
  • More of Fukushima’s main train line to the coast opens. The East Japan Railway Company opened a seven kilometer section of its Joban Line between repopulating Tomioka and Naraha. The segment was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Tomioka Mayor Koichi Miyamoto said the reopening fills him with great joy, and “Many residents were looking forward to the resumption of operation. We hope this will give a boost to the recovery of the town." One of the initial train riders said the rebuilding of the train tracks and Tomioka Station, totally destroyed by the tsunami, is impressive. Repairs on the remaining 21-kilometer sections in Futaba and Osuna remain to be finished.  https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017102100430 -- https://japantoday.com/category/national/jr-east-partially-reopens-line-halted-since-2011-nuclear-disaster
  • Fukushima’s governor promotes his prefecture to Brazil. Governor Masao Uchibori held a seminar in Sao Paulo on Saturday. He stressed the extreme monitoring measures that insure the safety of Fukushima-produced foods. He told the audience of ninety people that over the past two years, all rice and fish have passed Japan’s stringent radiation checks and are safe for consumption. One participant said he was surprised to learn how hard the people of Fukushima have been working! Uchibori also stressed the technology exchanges with Denmark and Germany, and the advancement of renewable energy. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20171022_11/

October 19, 2017

  • Lawson will use drones to deliver goods to repopulating evacuees of Minamisoma’s Odaka District. The program focuses on elderly people who have limited access to shopping facilities. A Lawson sales vehicle will carry many popular items for immediate sale. If a product is carried by the vehicle, it will be airlifted by un-manned drone from a store that has the commodity. The nearest store from the district’s Community Center is about seven minutes away, so inconvenience will be minimal. Rakuten Inc. makes the drones. Rakuten and Lawson say if Minamisoma concept is a success, it will be expanded across Japan. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=859
  • Fukushima sake is served to Great Britain’s Parliament. An October 17th parliamentary reception provided the liquor from six of the prefectures breweries. The venue was organized jointly by the Fukushima government and the British-Japanese Parliamentary Group to demonstrate the degree of recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011. Ian Bailey, a British company owner, said, "It's very smooth…is nice and subtle…and eminently drinkable.” Former Parliamentarian Derek Wyatt added that the sake had "same good taste on the back of the mouth and on the front of the mouth." https://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017101801362
  • Tokyo will require a new emergency cooling system (ECCS) for Boiling Water Reactors. The system will be in addition to the ECCS already in place on all BWRs. It will use seawater to cool the hot, radioactive liquids produced by a severe accident. The system was designed by Tepco for the two Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units that were recently given a safety approval by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The NRA feels this is a better option than depressurization of the containments through filtered venting systems because there will be no radioactive material released to the environment. https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20171018_31/ -- https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2017/10/5bec015b1c23-japan-to-require-new-cooling-system-for-boiling-water-reactors.html
  • Kansai Electric Co. intends to decommission Oi units #1 & #2. These will be the first large-output nukes in Japan to succumb to Tokyo’s arbitrary licensing limit of 40 years. Both 1,175 MWe units will reach that point in 2019. Kansai Electric (Kepco) says the cost of upgrading the units to meet Japan’s new standards would be too great for them to remain profitable, even after a 20 licensing extension is granted. The decision is actually a preliminary one, but the final official pronouncement is expected by the end of the year. The reason for the scrapping of both units is that they are the only Pressurized Water Reactor systems in Japan with ice condenser-type containments. In addition, containment design is such that there is much less workspace around the Reactor Pressure Vessels than with all other PWRs. Getting Nuclear Regulatory Authority approval would require regulations that differ from all other Japanese PWRs, and the cost of meeting such unique regulations could be around $1 billion. The profits from 20 years of operation would probably not compensate for the added cost. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004008184 
  • Nuclear energy may not be the big election issue in Japan that the popular Press makes it seem. The Mainichi Shimbun runs an article that spends a lot of copy re-hashing its typical focus on antinuclear sentiment. However, the report eventually gets to the meat of the matter. Meiji University Professor Masamichi Ida says opinion polls in the popular Press often misrepresent voting behavior, "You need to be careful in reading opinion polls. The way a question is asked influences responses. When a question asks whether you are for or against restarting nuclear plants, it is quite natural to say that you are against it, given the Fukushima crisis. But if the question was, is nuclear policy an important factor in choosing who to vote for, voters tend to pick more urgent issues such as social security. Past elections show that voters who are against nuclear power will still vote for the pro-nuclear LDP." Toyo University Professor Katsuyuki Yakushiji adds, "As Japan is no longer in a nuclear crisis due to stabilization of nuclear power plants, the general interest in the nuclear issue is fading more than six years after the Fukushima nuclear accident." https://japantoday.com/category/politics/focus-nuclear-power-issue-unlikely-to-be-decisive-factor-in-election

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.)

 

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