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Fukushima 102...6/27/16-7/25/16

July 25, 2016

  • Regional banks have been reopening in evacuation zone communities. Residents have been slow to repopulate after the lifting of Tokyo’s 2011 withdrawal order. The banks feel that reopening branches would be an incentive for the reluctant residents to return. The Namie evacuation order is scheduled to be retracted next March, so Abukuma Shinkin has reopened a branch in the town. “We hope our branch, where local people can stop by freely and enjoy chatting, will become a place that can console them,” said branch chief Takahiro Abe, “Being the first to reopen a branch in the town will hopefully allow us to attract people and see rises in deposits and loans.” The prior reopening of Toho Bank in Nahara has not had much impact. The branch was reopened in April, seven months after the evacuation order was lifted. Only about 8% of Naraha’s residents have gone home.

  • A Russian company says it can be a part of the F. Daiichi wastewater clean-up effort. State-based Rosatom’s waste disposal facility has built a prototype system that strips all radioactive isotopes, including Tritium. The naturally-occurring isotope of Hydrogen is removed through distillation and electrolysis. Although biologically harmless, Tritium’s weak emissions concern millions of Japanese. These fears have kept Tepco from expunging the more than 600,000 tons of water that have been cleansed of all isotopes except Tritium. The Rosatom system is said to reduce Tritium by a factor of 6,000, which would bring the concentrations well-below Japan’s drinking water limit. Rosatom says duplicating the facility at F. Daiichi would probably cost about $700 million.

  • Tokyo declassifies 7.7 tons Chiba City’s contaminated waste. When collected, the wastes had a radioactivity level of greater than 8,000 Becquerels per kilogram and were designated as “specified”, which disallowed ordinary trash burial. However, natural radioactive decay has dropped 3.5 tons of zeolite down to 6,100 Bq/kg, and 4.2 tons of incinerator ash down to 4,000 Bq/kg. While this technically allows the 7.7 tons to be disposed as ordinary trash, Chiba Municipal Government will probably continue storage of the material because it is afraid regular disposal will cause residents anxiety and harm the trash disposal business. --

  • Rent-free evacuee housing is extended for another year. Fukushima Prefecture’s government announced the decision on July 15th in Fukushima City. This will affect the evacuees from ten of the eleven municipalities impacted by the Tokyo mandate of 2011. The one community that has decided to not honor the extension is Naraha, which will consider the rent-free option on an individual basis. The prefecture decided to prolong the housing benefit because the lifting of the evacuation order differs from community to community inside the evacuation zone. The 10 affected municipalities are the whole areas of five towns (Naraha, Tomioka, Okuma, Futaba and Namie) and two villages (Katsurao and Iitate). In addition, it is applied to portions of Minamisoma City, Kawamata Town and Kawauchi Village. In Minamisoma, the program only applies to evacuees from “difficult-to-return” and “residency-restricted” zones, plus another zone preparing for the lifting of the evacuation order.

  • Tokyo tells nuclear operators to be wary of the new “Pokémon Go” game. The Nuclear Regulation Authority is calling for heightened security to prevent people from entering the premises of nuclear plants while playing the game on a smartphone. This is because three teens entered the employee parking lot of an Ohio nuclear plant while playing the game and were apprehended by station security guards. --

July 21, 2016

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun wants a full government investigation on banning the word “meltdown” in 2011. A recent Tepco-funded investigation found that the company avoided using the word early into the March, 2011 crisis. The Yomiuri states, “TEPCO has said that avoidance of the word ‘meltdown’ was in accordance with instructions from the Prime Minister’s Office. Who made TEPCO keep this vital information from being disclosed? This is a matter that directly affects how crisis management should be conducted. The government should endeavor to uncover the truth behind what happened.” Japan’s largest newspaper explains that there are inherent limitations to questioning bureaucrats and other government officials, but the Fukushima Prefectural Assembly says that what happened “trifled with residents of the prefecture”.

  • Tokyo removes the word “sarcophagus” from the latest F. Daiichi decommissioning plans. The Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation released a revised plan on Wednesday. The original mentioned consideration to entomb one or more of the three damaged reactors at F. Daiichi, but stressed that Tokyo was committed to removal and burial of re-solidified fuel and RPV internal structures. But, the mere mention of a Chernobyl-like sarcophagus sent Fukushima’s local officials into a tizzy. Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori said he wants the Corporation to appreciate the shock felt by Fukushima residents with the plans including the word "sarcophagus." Shunsuke Kondo, the head of the body's technical committee, says he regrets the body's lack of consideration for the locals.

  • The NRA further fuels the fires of fear over Fukushima contaminated water. Nuclear Regulation Authority Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa told Tepco to reduce the amount of contaminated water inside the turbine building basements of the four crippled units. The NRA sees only two options for Tepco. One is to build more storage tanks, even though space on the nuclear station is running out. The second is to recirculate everything through ALPS (the isotopic removal system) and an un-specified cooling technology. Fuketa said the more than 60,000 tons of basement waters cannot stay there forever and the company needs to better address the problem. He added that the highly-contaminated water could be released to the environment should another massive tsunami strike, and that is unacceptable. He failed to consider that Tepco beefed up shoreline protection for the four units in 2011, with an anti-tsunami wall roughly 15 meters high. -- (Comment – Of course, there was no mention of the best-possible option of releasing the purified waters to the sea, containing only the harmless, naturally-occurring isotope Tritium. As long as the Tritiated water is barred from release, the problem with storage will drag on.)

  • Tepco is ordered to compensate a distant golf course for “false rumor” losses. The Tokyo District Court says the company must pay a Tochigi Prefecture golf course $180,000 in damages for lost revenue due to false rumors spawned by the Fukushima accident. The golf course’s lawyer Kiyohisa Arai boasted, “This is an epoch-making judgment that appropriately recognizes damages caused by false rumors.” Although the course is more than 100 kilometers from F. Daiichi, Judge Tetsuro Nakayoshi said that the public did not know anything about radiation at the time of the accident. Thus the ruling stated, “A significant number of users avoided visiting the facility because sufficient scientific knowledge on the amount of radiation and exposure from the accident was not available at the time.” The plaintiffs had asked for about $800,000 in compensation, but the court said infrastructure damage from the earthquake and the resulting atmosphere of the natural disaster had a greater impact on the golf course’s business than the rumors about radiation. --

  • Kagoshima’s antinuclear governor-elect calls for shuttering the two operating Sendai units. The stated reasons are that he was elected due to his campaign pledge to have the units fully inspected for earthquake damage by prefectural officials, and have the approved evacuation plans reconsidered. Governor-elect  Satoshi Mitazono said, “The people of Kagoshima Prefecture have been anxious (about the safety of the plant) since the earthquakes that occurred in Kumamoto Prefecture. Kyushu Electric would be able to bolster trust from the public if it addressed the public’s anxiety by conducting fresh inspections.” He also wants to reevaluate his predecessor’s approval of evacuation plans and study the status of geologic faults in the Prefecture by bringing in his own “experts”. Mitazono said they would have a problem with being able to evacuate under the current plan because his “experts” believe bridges along evacuation routes might collapse in a severe quake.

  • Greenpeace Japan continues to foment Fukushima radiophobia because of detectible radioactive contamination in Fukushima riverbanks, estuary, and marine sediments. Their posted report says, “The radiological impacts of the Fukushima nuclear disaster on the marine environment, with consequences for both human and nonhuman health, are not only the first years. They are both ongoing and future threats, principally the continued releases from the Fukushima No. 1 plant itself and translocation of land-based contamination throughout Fukushima Prefecture, including upland forests, rivers, lakes and coastal estuaries.” Of course, the report fails to mention that the contaminants are essentially fixed in the sediments and the so-called “consequences” are exaggerated assumptions on the part of Greenpeace. For example, Kendra Ulrich, senior global energy campaigner at Greenpeace Japan, says the purified waters containing only biologically-harmless Tritium is “highly contaminated”, the ice wall designed to reduce groundwater in-leakage to the turbine buildings is supposed to “reduce groundwater contamination”, and the three long-ago re-solidified reactor cores are still “molten”. --

July 18, 2016

  • 70% of recently-returning evacuees have less than 1 millisievert/yr exposure. A September survey of 65 returning citizens in Kawamata, Tomioka, and Katsurao, revealed the low average. The maximum exposures were 2.62 mSv/yr in Kawamata, 1.78 mSv/yr in Tomioka, and 1.84 mSv/yr in Katsurao. When combined with Japan’s estimated natural background of ~1.5 mSv/yr, those repopulating in the three towns will actually have much less exposure than millions of Americans living in the Rocky Mountains and surrounding high-altitude plateaus. The survey was run by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. All exposures were adjusted relative to lifestyle, hours indoors, and the time spent outdoors. The exposures are currently less than the readings last September due to the constant decay of radioactive isotopes. The exposure data was released by the NRA at a Fukushima Prefecture Press Conference on July 6th, but only reported in Fukushima Minpo.

  • Tokyo says it will remove many “difficult to return” designations next decade. “Difficult to return” is defined as locations where 2011 estimates of annual exposure were fifty millisieverts per year or greater. The revisions could affect 25,000 of the more than 36,000 evacuees who fled from the zones Tokyo designates as “difficult to return”. The government says it will begin relaxing restrictions in 2021. The potentially affected locations are mostly in Okuma, Futaba, and Namie Towns. Tokyo admits that radiation levels in the zones are considerably less than to 50 mSv/yr criterion due to rainwater flushing of surface contaminants and ever-diminishing nature of radioactive decay. For example, the installed radiation monitor in Okuma, one of the co-host communities for F. Daiichi, is now showing an actual level of about 9 mSv/yr. In principle, when exposure levels drop below 20 mSv/yr people are allowed to return home. However, the socio-political baggage that would come with dropping the restrictions at that level has kept the “difficult to return” designation in-vogue. The Reconstruction Agency says that exposure concerns are the main reason why only about 10% of the population say they will go home if and when the restrictions are removed.

  • Tokyo rescinds its mention of a Fukushima sarcophagus. On Tuesday, Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation included the slight possibility of a sarcophagus similar to Chernobyl for F. Daiichi in a future planning report for decommissioning. Japan’s Press immediately jumped on it, with Fukushima Prefecture officials howling in opposition. Industry Minister Yosuke Takagi met with Fukushima governor Masao Uchibori on Friday to assure everyone that Tokyo has no intention of entombing F. Daiichi. Takagi added that he has ordered the decommissioning office to rewrite the report and remove the mention of a sarcophagus.

  • Tepco executives will not be indicted over the nuclear accident. An independent citizens’ panel has endorsed a prosecution decision not to indict Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and its executives on charges of failing to take appropriate action to prevent the outflow of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean. The committee said it was “unable to discover evidence enough to deem as unjustifiable the prosecution’s judgment that there was not sufficient evidence to support fault or negligence”. Under Japanese law, no complaint can be brought against the committee’s decision, virtually ending the appeals to the case that have dragged on for more than a year. The decision was rendered July 23rd, but was not reported by the Japanese Press until July 8th, and then only by Fukushima Minpo.

  • Ikata unit #3 restart may be delayed until August. Shikoku Electric Co. has been pointing towards a late July return to operation, but a minor leak from a main coolant pump shaft seal has put a halt to the pre-restart procedure. Main coolant pumps send water through to reactor vessel to be heated and then through the steam generators where non-radioactive steam is generated to run the turbine-generators. A problem with the pump’s seal was first detected on Saturday morning, but could not be confirmed until yesterday morning because of its very low rate of flow. All leaked water has been collected and put into storage. Ikata #3 is a Pressurized Water Reactor system with a rated electrical output of 890 MWe. (Comment - The above report is only to be found in the Mainichi Shimbun. This is most curious. Nuclear plant water leaks, no matter how minor, and restart delays have received across-the-board coverage from Japan’s Press. One would think that both occurring together would garner more than one Press outlet’s interest.)

July 14, 2016

  • Minamisoma City is now fully re-opened to residents. Tokyo has formally lifted the government-imposed evacuation order of 2011, allowing as many as 10,800 more citizens to have unrestricted access to their homes. About half of the city was evacuated following the nuke accident. The pre-accident population was nearly 64,000. Two of the evacuation zones were re-opened previously, but the latest lifting of the restrictions for the Odaka and Haramachi Districts affects the largest number of evacuees to date. This is the fifth cancellation of a Fukushima evacuation order, and the largest in land-area and population to have the mandate lifted. About 2,000 of the former residents have returned. The relatively low percentage of people taking immediate advantage of the order being lifted is attributed to the long period of Tokyo’s ban of returning home resulting in many families finding suitable employment and accommodations elsewhere, and (of course) the fear of low level radiation exposure. Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai said, "This is not the end of our reconstruction, it is the beginning." -- --

  • The Science Council of Japan held a symposium on communicating food safety. Participants focused on the theme of radiation communication because deep-rooted issues of fear and misinformation continue more than five years since the nuke accident. Among the many speakers was Fukushima Medical University’s Dr. Yuji Hasegawa, who said that much of the problem revolves around Fukushima citizens “negatively labeling” local produce. He called for all Japanese to have radiation-monitoring instruments to decide on food safety for themselves. Another speaker, Kyoto University’s Dr. Yoko Niiyama, spoke about inadequate risk communication, saying, “What the public knows is limited by the information environment.” He explained that distrust of the government and the Press led people to gather their own information and form strong, often incorrect opinions. He suggested that actual experts should try to understand what people fear and inform as a response. One other participant, Tokyo University’s Dr. Nobuyuki Yagi, said the huge volume of purified water at F. Daiichi contains only one radioactive isotope, the biologically-innocuous Tritium, which has held up releasing the water to the sea. He cited Dr. Niiyama’s research showing that consumers “intuitively reject” products that might contain radioactivity, especially from Fukushima sea foods. 

  • Kyodo News posts that the unit #2 re-solidified fuel (corium) is in the reactor. As earlier reported (and subsequently deleted) by NHK World, Kyodo says the Muon scanning image shows that the 200 tons of corium has accumulated in the bottom head of the Reactor Pressure Vessel. 

  • An accidental spill of mildly-contaminated water occurred at F. Daiichi on Monday. Workers were using a vacuum truck to remove contaminated rainwater from a storage tank when a hose came loose. About 80 liters (16 gallons) of the stored rainwater spilled out and into a drainage ditch before flow was stopped. Samples of the water revealed about 1,200 Becquerels of Strontium-90 per liter. All of the spilled water was contained and recovered by the workers. Nothing leaked into the barricaded inner port (quay). Radiation monitors downstream of the incident showed nothing detectibly unusual.

  • A major nuclear accident class action suit has been rejected by a Tokyo District Court. 3,800 claimants from 33 countries had sought largely symbolic compensation from the F. Daiichi manufacturers. Under Japanese liability law, manufacturers are usually exempt from accident damage claims. The plaintiffs’ lawyers had argued that the law violated the constitutional right for the pursuit of a happy, wholesome, and cultured livelihood. The Tokyo District Court ruled that the law “is not unconstitutional”. One plaintiff said, “We knew it was difficult to win under the current legal system in Japan, but it’s clearly wrong that nuclear (plant) manufacturers don’t have to bear any responsibility for an accident. If they are spared responsibility, it could lead to disregard for product quality.” The plaintiffs say they will appeal. 

  • Tokyo’s Fukushima decommissioning body hints at a sarcophagus! The Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation says there are two long-term possibilities for corium inside units #1, 2 & 3, at F. Daiichi. The first is removal of the material after filling the Primary Containments with water, then deep geological disposal of all material. The other is creating a “sarcophagus” to seal off the reactor buildings, similar to Chernobyl. Although the latest plan is strongly in favor of corium removal, it mentions the sarcophagus option for the first time. Reaction to the mention of entombment is predictable. Minamisoma Mayor Sakurai said the government and TEPCO must abide by their long-standing pledge to remove the fuel from Fukushima Prefecture. He added that until this is done, the evacuees won't feel it's safe to return home. Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba said Tokyo and Tepco must have faith in being able to eventually figure out how to remove the corium. Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe also urged the government and the utility to stick to their initial disposal promise. --

  • Tokyo plans background checks for upgraded nuclear workers. The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has drafted regulations for security checks on nuke workers to prevent terrorists from gaining nuclear facility access. They will include worker’s records of overseas’ travel, drug abuse, and possible criminal activities. Currently, security checks look at driving records and identification cards. The security checks will be mandated for workers who regularly enter central control rooms and other protected areas. The agency plans on implementing the ruling in August after the required 30-day public comment period. This is the first regulatory action of its type in Japan. In the past, Tokyo felt that such deep, detailed investigations were a violation of personal rights.

  • The Otsu Court disallows the appeal to reverse the injunction against Takahama #3&4 operation. This is the same court that issued the injunction in March, and also refused to temporarily void the injunction in June. Tuesday's decision was issued under the same presiding judge, Yoshihiko Yamamoto, who rendered the other judgments. The rationale was that the Nuclear Regulation Authority regulations were irrational and did not guarantee absolute safety. In this latest decision, Yamamoto said the utility had not given an adequate explanation of what caused the 2011 Fukushima accident. Unit #3 had restarted and unit #4 was preparing for restart when the initial injunction was rendered in March, forcing Kansai electric to shutter both of them. Kansai Electric said, "We are very disappointed with today's decision as our claims were rejected. It is totally unacceptable to us." The utility will now appeal to the Osaka High Court. The company says fuel bundles will be removed from both Takahama reactors next month because the High Court appeal will take a long time. --

  • On Thursday, Kansai Electric Power Co. appealed the district court ruling. Kepco says the Otsu District Court’s decision to not suspend their initial injunction was “totally unacceptable” because the company had given them the requested detailed explanation on the safety of the reactors.

July 11, 2016

  • Contaminated soils are transferred from schools to Okuma. Twenty-eight of the bags were removed from Akai Junior High in Iwaki on July 2nd; the first day of the transports. They were shipped by truck to a Fureai parking lot in Okuma’s Ottozawa District. The lot is capable of storing 10,000 cubic meters of the contaminated soil bags. It is estimated that Fukushima schoolyards currently have a total of 300,000 cubic meters of bagged materials. The transporting of the bags will be Saturdays, public holidays, summer vacations and other days when schools are closed. Iwaki Mayor Toshio Shimizu said, “We would like to thank the people of Okuma town where the waste is being moved. We expect to carry polluted soil from school facilities as soon as possible for the sake of children's safety and peace of mind.”

  • The Iitate Village office opened on July 1st. The evacuation order for the village is scheduled to end March 31, 2017. Iitate partially resumed office functions in April, 2014, but most administrative tasks were performed in Fukushima City. On July 1st, long-term visits were approved for interested residents. Two districts are allowed to have long-term visits, but less than less than 4% have exploited the opportunity. Regardless, Iitate Mayor Norio Kanno said, "We would like to do our best to have as many villagers as possible return home permanently."

  • asks who will pay for F. Daiichi decommissioning. Former site manager Akira Ono said, "Decommissioning is a project that will last 30 or 40 years, and we will have to pass the work on to future generations. We must turn this place from a disaster site to a decommissioning site." The project will take new technology and a lot of money. How much money? It is estimated that the total decommissioning cost will approach $100 billion. But, Nikkei says “…nobody mentions who will pay the bill and how. Currently, compensation and decontamination are being covered by the state, on Tepco's behalf, without charging interest. Tepco and other power companies will eventually have to reimburse the government for compensation payouts through a pool of contributions. The government will recoup decontamination costs by selling the Tepco shares it owns.” The problem is that Japan’s move towards liberalization of the electricity market could “become increasingly difficult to maintain.” Professor Noriko Endo of Keio University says, "If Japan is to continue using nuclear power, it needs to have a long-term perspective, including about how nuclear power stations should be operated, rather than making ad hoc plans." is the world’s largest financial newspaper with an international circulation of over 3 million.

  • Kagoshima Prefecture elects an antinuclear governor. The prefecture is home to Japan’s only currently-operating nuclear units, at Sendai station. Satoshi Mitazono defeated incumbent Governor Yuichiro Ito in Sunday’s election. A former commentator with Asahi TV, Mitazono ran on a multi-issue ticket that included the promise to reverse the former governor’s support for Sendai operation. Mitazono said, “I have consistently asserted, ‘Let’s make a nuclear-free society.’ In response to the earthquakes that occurred in (neighboring) Kumamoto Prefecture (in April), Kyushu Electric Power Co. should temporarily suspend operations at the (Sendai) nuclear plant and check it again.” The Asahi Shimbun makes it seem that Mitazono won because of his antinuclear campaign plank. But, another reason influencing the election may be that Ito was running for an unprecedented fourth consecutive term.

July 7, 2016

  •  The remaining Fukushima evacuee number drops below 90,000. On July 4th, Fukushima Prefecture announced that the combined total of remaining mandated and voluntary evacuees stands at 89,323. Nearly 48,000 remain in the prefecture, and just over 41,000 reside elsewhere. The highest confirmed total was in May, 2012, and stood at nearly 165,000.
  • Cattle breeding resumes in Naraha Town. When Tokyo ordered everyone to leave in 2011, there were about 40 cattle breeders in the area. The Town restarted the breeding process soon after the evacuation order was lifted last September. Now, one breeder has taken over the “test breeding”. Four calves were delivered to his farm on Wednesday, and he hopes to eventually reach full operation once he proves there is no danger to the livestock. Shuko Watanabe, the breeder, says each calf cost around $9,000, but the town covered half the cost. It will be two years before the calves are mature and ready for market.

  • Tepco will re-use flanged water tanks to store so-called “waste” water. It seems the company has run out of other options. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has approved the re-use of the flanged tanks. As yet, only the Mainichi Shimbun has reported on this, and given it the usual antinuclear spin. The Mainichi purports that the reason for tank re-use is “because TEPCO has failed to prevent contaminated water from being generated on the premises of the plant or to secure enough storage tanks to hold treated water.” At the end of the article, we find the admission that the waters destined for the tanks will have been purified by the site’s highly-efficient, multi-stage contamination removal systems, and the only remaining radioactivity will be from Tritium. The biologically-innocuous isotope of hydrogen is the only hold-up in the release of the entirely harmless waters to the sea. Of course, the Mainichi fails to mention it. (For an objective science-based explanation of Tritium’s utterly harmless nature, see )

  • The Mayor of Imari City opposes restarts at Genkai station. Mayor Yoshikazu Tsukabe said, “I have no intention of giving consent to restarting [the nuclear plant]. I was worried about the ramifications on the local economy and the livelihoods of local residents when the Genkai nuclear plant suspended [operation]. Five years on, there have been no large disruptions. The prevailing sentiment in this city is that the plant does not need to go back online.” However, he has no official restart jurisdiction. Imari is in Saga Prefecture within the 30km emergency planning zone, but its consent is not required for restart because it is not a host community. Saga Prefecture and host Genkai town have non-binding “safety agreements” with Kyushu Electric Company. But, Imari City is not part of the pacts. Kyushu Electric plans to restart two units at Genkai by the end of the year. --

  • A Tokyo professor says re-use of mildly contaminated soils could lead to illegal dumping. Last month, the Environment Ministry said they will allow mildly contaminated soil to be re-used for road construction and other public works, provided it is covered with material to shield the mild radiation field. To be used, the soil must have a contamination level less than 8,000 Becquerels per kilogram. Gakuin University Professor Kazuki Kumamoto criticizes the ministry decision. He says there is a “high risk of onerous contracts in which dealers take on contaminated soil in exchange for financial benefits. If contaminated soil was handed over under inverse onerous contracts, there is a risk that such soil could be illegally dumped later. Reuse of tainted soil would lead to dispersing contamination." Prof. Kumamoto has a long history of disagreement with government rulings concerning trash disposal, dating back to the mid-1990s.

 July 4, 2016 

  • Independent international researchers say Pacific Ocean radiation is nearly normal. The Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR), bringing together oceanographic experts from around the world, reports that Pacific radioactivity is rapidly returning to pre-Fukushima levels. Co-author Pere Masque states, “As an example, in 2011 about half of fish samples in coastal waters off Fukushima contained unsafe levels of radioactive material. However, by 2015 that number had dropped to less than 1 percent above the limit.” He cautioned that residual contamination in the seafloor near northeastern Honshu Island suggests that “Monitoring of radioactivity levels and sea life in that area must continue.” SCOR was formed in 1957 as an international ocean research collaboration between scientists from 35 countries. About 250 scientists participate in SCOR activities on a voluntary basis. --

  • U.S. and Canada work together on Fukushima Pacific Ocean tracking. The early question was whether or not predictions of the spread of the plume would be accurate. JoEllen McBride of Fukushima InFORM explains, “The biggest hurdle to testing is the sheer size of the ocean, which makes monitoring and sampling difficult. Another problem is that water is constantly in motion, affected by wind, competing currents and temperature, which can make predictions difficult.” Yet, most reputable projections have proved accurate. The detected concentrations of radioactive material are exceedingly low and can only be analyzed using state-of-the-art laboratory equipment. The concentrations are so low that the “level of monitoring done by [American] states does not meet the level for research.” This means, the trivial concentrations are well-below scientific and regulatory concern. However, some states, like Alaska, collaborate with researchers and agencies to assure their citizens that there is nothing to worry about.

  • Once again, Japanese news outlets try to resurrect the nuclear energy issue in anticipation of the impending election. Japan Times argues that the main political parties are “divided and uninformed about how fast Japan should reduce its dependence on atomic power.” Three minority parties – The Japan Communist Party, Social Democratic Party and Osaka Ishin no Kai – oppose any and all restarts, but the major parties say that nukes will be needed to keep costs down while beefing up wind, solar, and geothermal production. Japan Today calls for a tougher regulatory body, attempting to show that the Nuclear Regulation Authority is not doing an adequate job. The news outlet focuses on the unrealistic notion that there must be absolute guarantees of nuclear safety, chastising the NRA which says there are no possible safety standards that can guarantee unconditional safety. Further, JT points to IAEA reviews of the NRA which show there is room for improvement, implying that there should be no room for improvement if the NRA was doing its job. Adding insult to injury, the newspaper poses long-time nuclear energy basher Mycle Schneider as an expert, who says, “The regulator is the guarantor for the population, not the manufacturers or the utilities, and it is failing. The first level where the NRA is failing is every single day in their oversight of Fukushima.” -- (Comment - Mycle Schneider is expert at one thing – FUD! He contorts the truth to foment fear using arguments predicated on uncertainty and doubt.)

June 30, 2016

  • It appears that most re-solidified fuel (corium) is in the bottom head of unit #2. The Muon detection system at F. Daiichi has found a large, black shadow inside the bottom of the reactor vessel (RPV). Analysis strongly suggests that most, if not all, of the corium pooled inside the bottom head and plated out on other internal structures. Unit #2 is the first one where the Muon detection could see the bottom head of the RPV. This is the first of the three damaged units to have an indication of where the corium ended up. The Muon scan of unit #1 could not see any lower than the core support plenum, so there was no indication of whether or not the corium pooled inside its bottom head. Most researchers speculate that the unit #1 corium melted through the bottom head.

  • Tokyo considers repopulating Namie Town. The first step will be allowing temporary stays for residents who were forcibly evacuated by government mandate in 2011. On June 23rd, the government told 100 town residents they might begin “special” temporary stays in mid-August. These plans are preliminary and need approval by the town officials and municipal assembly. Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba doubted Tokyo’s plan because there must be hearings with residents and talks with the assembly, which is why he says they are “considering implementing the trial home stays around mid-September.” It is speculated that Tokyo will announce when the evacuation order will be lifted by the end of this year. (Comment – Once again, Fukushima Minpo is the only Japanese Press outlet to report on good news relative to Fukushima.)

  • Evacuee psychosomatic disorder rates remain high. The percentage for fiscal 2015 was 62%, down more than 4% from fiscal 2014. Of those forced to evacuate by the government, more than 65% reported psychosomatic issues in 2015, a drop of 4.5% from 2014. The voluntary evacuee rate for 2015 was nearly 56% in 2015, a drop of less than 1% from 2014. The most common complaints were sleeplessness, “unable to enjoy anything”, irritated, dismal and depressed, and, isolated, in that order.

  • A Mainichi Shimbun headline says the NRA has doubts about the F. Daiichi ice wall. But, the Mainichi is mixing apples with onions. The Nuclear Regulation Authority says the seaward-side well-water levels have not decreased, and Mainichi uses this as its proof for the headline. But, the seaward wells are outside the wall, so their steady levels actually prove the wall is working. There would be something amiss if those wells were changing levels. One the other hand, the main body of the article focuses on Tepco being pleased with the system, and supportive expert opinion from a Mie University professor, Kunio Watanabe. He says that large ice walls have been successfully utilized in Japan for about 600 public works projects. Watanabe adds that the F. Daiichi ice wall is about double the size of a Tokyo subway tunnel – the largest one used previously. Consistent with its obvious antinuclear agenda, the Mainichi says Tepco has been “ominously silent” on the ice wall’s effectiveness, and speculates that it is reaching its “do-or-die moment”. This flies in the face of the fact that Tepco has been posting weekly on the in-ground temperatures around the nearly 1,600 thirty-meter-deep refrigerant pipes since the first 55% were allowed to begin operation in April. The data shows that all but a precious few have frozen the earth solid! Because of this, another 43% was started up in June, after the NRA gave them the go-ahead. Tepco says the “ice wall is going according to plan”. But the Mainichi fixates on the few gravel-impregnated sections that have yet to fully freeze, and makes the exception seem the rule.  

  • Chiba City wants the “radioactive” designation removed from stored rural wastes. The bagged debris was accumulated after the nuke accident in 2011. Chiba is 25 kilometers east of Tokyo, and roughly 250 kilometers south of F. Daiichi. Almost eight tons of the material have been stored at a city disposal center. All of it has decayed below the national standard of 8,000 Becquerels of Cesium per kilogram, and Chiba wants the “radioactive” designation removed so that it can be handled the same as all other municipal wastes. The Environment Ministry says it will decide on the City’s request in about a month.

  • Ikata #3 fuel load is complete. Actually, it was completed on Monday, June 27th, as scheduled, but none of the Japanese Press outlets felt it was “newsworthy”. The announcement of completion was posted by Japan Atomic Industrial Forum on Wednesday, the 29th. This is yet another instance where significant nuclear energy news is ignored by the Japanese Press; they would rather appeal to fears over Plutonium in 10% of the fuel bundles.

  • F. Daiichi experienced a localized power outage on Tuesday. An electrical abnormality was detected in a power source at 3:40am. Some equipment in the water treatment and “ice wall” systems stopped operating. None of the reactor or spent fuel pool cooling systems were affected. The most severe impact was to the ice wall refrigeration units. 22 of the 30 ice wall freezing units were operating at the time, but no-one had reported how many were affected. --

  • A minority of shareholders call for nuclear power abandonment. 73 antinuclear motions were submitted at nine utility meetings on Tuesday. The motions are essentially the same as those proposed by the same shareowners for the past five years. As before, it is expected that all motions will be voted down. None of the nine utilities have any intention of capitulating to the minority shareowner demands. The antinuclear shareowners responded with the usual rhetoric. For example, a Tepco shareowner made the specious complaint, "TEPCO is trying to resume operations at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant without taking responsibility for the accident" used since 2011.

June 27, 2016

  • Ikata unit #3 loaded fuel over the weekend. The operation should be completed late today. The 890 MWe Pressurized Water Reactor plant is expected to restart late next month, with full commercial operation in August. Three 20-member teams effected the fuel loading in round-the-clock shifts. The Reactor Pressure Vessel holds 157 fuel bundles, sixteen of which are Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel. MOX is a mixture of recycled Uranium and Plutonium from used fuel bundles. Because MOX contains Plutonium, it has been focus of most Japanese Press reports, even though only 10% of the core (sixteen bundles) is MOX. The Nuclear Regulation Authority approved Shikoku Electric’s safety upgrades last July, meeting Japan’s post-Fukushima regulations. Pre-operational checks have been going on since April. Ikata will be the third station to have a restart in Japan, and Ikata #3 will be the fifth such unit. -- --

  • A smattering of people protested the Ikata #3 fuel loading. The number of demonstrators at the nuke station was estimated at “around ten”. They chanted typical antinuclear slogans and read a statement protesting the fuel insertion. The demonstrators allege that the transmission system cannot withstand powerful earthquakes and the nuke plant’s safety cannot be guaranteed. One demonstrator said the fuel load is hasty, and should be delayed until the full impact of the Kumamoto earthquake on Kyushu Island nukes is known. [Aside – The full impact of the quake on the Kyushu Island nukes has been known since immediately following the quake. There was exactly zero safety impact. However, local nuke activists refuse to believe the truth. - End Aside] Ikata station is on Shikoku Island – not Kyushu Island - 170 kilometers from Kumamoto.

  • A Japanese court approves use of MOX fuels. The Fukuoka High Court says there is no evidence proving that MOX raises the possibility of a nuclear accident. Plaintiffs had filed for an injunction against using MOX fuel, specific to Genkai unit #3, in Saga District Court in March, 2015. The petition was rejected. Undaunted, the plaintiffs appealed to the high court, and the appeal has been similarly quashed. High Court presiding Judge Tsuyoshi Daiku said MOX fuel, and the Genkai unit #3 spent fuel pool “meet the standards set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. [Owner] Kyushu Electric has confirmed their safety.” The plaintiffs had argued that MOX fuel is inherently flawed because gaps can occur between the fuel pellets and cladding during operation, and produce malfunctions resulting in catastrophic meltdown. -- --


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