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Fukushima 27...2/22/12-3/7/12


March 7

Comment : Fomenting groundless fear in Japan

Some of the Japanese Press continues to shamelessly promote radiophobia. Monday, the Mainichi Shimbun alleged that the health effects of radiation exposures below 100 millisieverts remain “unknown”. The Mainichi states, “…the health effects of radiation -- including from relatively low doses -- are a matter of concern for many, and unknowns remain.” This contradicts a small mountain of evidence showing exposures below 100 msv are essentially harmless and further evidence that it may actually improve human health. But the Mainichi doesn’t stop there. They assert that radiation irreversibly damages DNA and mistakes can occur during DNA repair that can cause chromosomal abnormalities, mutation, and/or death. This contradicts recent discoveries in America (Livermore Laboratories) showing that DNA repair processes are more efficient with increased exposures and the degree of radiation-induced mistakes actually decrease. What’s worse, the aiding and abetting of fear proliferation has wormed its way in to the minds of “officials” who should know better. Yasuhito Sasaki, director at the Japan Radioisotope Association and former member of the ICRP, says, "There is no safe amount of radiation exposure. The less radiation one is exposed to, the better." The Mainichi has been at the fear-inducing forefront of Japanese news media since March 11. This is but the latest example..

Today’s updates…

  • An American expert says the Fukushima accident was wholly preventable. George Apostolakis of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said this at a Washington nuclear symposium. He points out that there was sufficient information available in the decades before Fukushima to allow Japan to technologically prevent full, prolonged power outages at nuclear plants. But, Japan’s government and power companies ignored these recommendations. Had they taken these additional steps to mitigate blackouts, it is likely Fukushima Daiichi would not have experienced its three meltdowns. (NHK World)
  • Environment/Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono confirmed that Tokyo will pay for all tsunami debris disposal costs. That is, with any local government that accepts and disposes of the tsunami rubble. In addition to disposal costs, Tokyo will pay for radioactivity tests that might ease contamination fears in the local residents. Also, the central government will provide financial aid for the expansion of existing facilities or construction of new ones. "I think this will largely resolve the concerns of the municipalities," Hosono said. "We will continue to strongly seek everyone's cooperation to overcome this situation." He also stressed that none of the debris would come from Fukushima Prefecture and public concern about the fallout is groundless. (Japan Times)
  • An American human rights group says Japan has been way too slow on health checks for Fukushima residents. "A year on, we are really not seeing basic health services being offered in an accessible way and we are not seeing accurate, consistent, non-contradictory information being disclosed to people on a regular basis," said Jane Cohen, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. "People have to at least be equipped with accurate information so that they are evaluating their situation based on real facts. There should be a clear plan and place for testing everyone in Fukushima for radiation." Fukushima Prefecture says the 360,000 children aged up to 18 at the time of the disaster will be subject to thyroid checks for the rest of their lives. So far, 40,000 have been screened. About 380,000 children and pregnant women are eligible to have internal radiation exposure levels checked and 15,400 have done so as of January, according to the government's website. But, Cohen says this is not nearly enough and has caused growing mistrust of authorities. She urged the government to explain the reasoning behind its decisions. "People don't feel that they have a real picture of what their safety situation is," she said. (Reuters)
  • A few dozen Fukushima residents may be seeking emigration to South Korea. A Japanese pastor is seeking Korean immigration for some members of his flock. Pastor and civic activist Nagato Tsuboi from Fukushima Prefecture visited the southwestern Korean county of Jangsu last month, a local official said on condition of anonymity. “He came with several South Korean estate developers and said he was looking to buy land at a place similar to Fukushima, like our county and Jeju,” he said. He added that the pastor alleges many Fukushima residents wanted a place where their children did not have to fear radiation. (Japan Times)

March 5

It has been nearly a year since the onset of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Numerous “one year later” articles are filling the news around the world. While most dwell on the plight of evacuees, apocalyptic “what if” scenarios, and exaggerated predictions of cancer deaths, a few look at the one year anniversary differently. What are the actual health impacts due to Fukushima? Have the risks of radiation exposure been accurately portrayed? Here are a few summaries of just such reports, with links…

  1. (Wall Street Journal | Japan) A panel of prestigious American radiation experts says Fukushima’s radiation health threats have been greatly exaggerated. Members of the Washington panel considered the physical health risks from the exposure too small to measure, but the accident will still have an impact. Psychological trauma from the evacuation and months away from home could end up being the biggest health effects. “From a radiological perspective, we expect the impact to be really, really minor,” said Kathryn Higley, a professor of nuclear engineering at Oregon State University. “I received more radiation on my transcontinental flights from Tokyo to Washington than I did at the reactor site,” said John Boice, a professor at Vanderbilt University and the incoming president of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements. Comments like these fly in the face of government and academic officials in Japan, resulting in overt rejection of the panel’s conclusions. Hisako Sakiyama, an anti-nuclear activist and former cancer-cell biologist at the National Institute of Radiology says that much is still unknown about the effects of radiation on human health. She points out that many people in Fukushima will be exposed to low levels of radiation for very long periods of time, but it’s unclear how much damage such exposure will cause. http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2012/03/02/fukushima-health-impact-minimal/
  2. (Scientific American) A year after the accident, many experts agree that radiation-based fears are over-blown. Especially the concerns about radiation-contaminated food.Richard Garfield, a professor at Columbia University's School of Public Health, says, "In terms of the health impact, the radiation is negligible. The radiation will cause very few, close to no deaths." But that does not mean that the accident has not already caused wide-reaching health issues. "The indirect effects are great," Garfield says. Some experts believe that the accident was not as dangerous as originally feared, but some less-reported risks may well be worse. Kathryn Higley says debris and scattered chemicals left in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami are potentially more dangerous than radioactive isotopes. She points out, "You have shredded buildings. You have [abandoned] industrial parks, petroleum sites." Another says an even greater negative health effect might be psychological. "Mental health is the most significant issue," notes Seiji Yasumura, a gerontologist at Fukushima Medical University's Department of Public Health. He says stress, such as that caused by dislocation, uncertainty and concern about unseen toxicants, has been linked to increased risk for physical ailments, such as heart disease. So even if radiation risks are low, "people are still worried," he says. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=japans-post-fukushima-earthquake-health-woes-beyond-radiation
  3. (Time Science) Was the Fukushima meltdown that dangerous? Was Tokyo really in danger during the crisis? Some experts say “no” to both questions. They feel something about nuclear power makes the news media go straight to the worst-case scenario, whether it happens or not. Risk expert David Roepik says that radiation exposure has some psychological characteristics that make it particularly frightening. Author Bernard Cohen writes, “It is easy to concoct a possible accident scenario that is worse than anything that has been previously proposed. I have frequently been told that the probability doesn’t matter—the very fact that such an accident is [conceptually] possible makes nuclear power unacceptable.” The Health Physics Society says the health threat to Japanese from radiation exposure is extremely low. http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2012/03/02/nuked-how-bad-was-fukushima/

Today’s updates…

  • The Japanese government says it will try to silence international rumors about radiation contamination. Rumors around the world have seriously hurt the country’s tourism and agricultural businesses. As a result, a new panel of ministers will explore measures to quell false gossip about Fukushima contamination. They hope to have firm guidelines in place by April. (JAIF)
  • A group of 30 residents in Kanawaga Prefecture have started a service which tests food for radiation. They have bought monitoring units through local donations, each costing more than $16,000. Food samples can be mailed to either of their two locations and results will be sent back within 10 days. Tests will cost $40 to $60. (Japan Times)
  • The issue of tsunami debris disposal continues to amplify. Presently, two local governments are assisting in rubble disposal efforts, but the vast majority of the governments in Japan are reluctant to join in the effort because of vocal minorities. Because of political catering to vocal minorities across Japan, the Tohoku region labors under a staggering volume of dangerous, decaying rubble. One prime example concerns Kanagawa Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa, who said he wants to help. But, he put his plans on hold because he was accosted by 200 outraged citizens (out of a population of ~9 million), many demanding "How will you take responsibility if radioactive substances affect our health?" At a temporary storage site in the Kawaguchicho district of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, a mountain of debris stands like a pyramid. Since last April, it has reached 20 meters high and continues to grow. To avoid a terrible fire or explosion, an excavator recently dug holes and inserted pipes so methane can dissipate. "We don't want to create such tall debris mountains, due to the risk of fire. But there was no other place," said an Ishinomaki supervisor of temporary storage. The Environment Ministry has not been actively involved because it does not want to agitate residents who are in opposition. One ministry official said, "The ministry thinks it better to leave things to mayors of concerned municipalities, who have political power." (Yomiuri Shimbun) Meanwhile, Prime Minister Noda has joined in the fray. He is asking companies across Japan to join in the effort, hoping to ease the political roadblocks that have paralyzed the national disposal effort. He wants a joint public and private effort. His government is working on a budget to fund the group work. (JAIF) A poll of Japan’s 1,789 municipalities reveals that only 27 (~1.5%) say they will accept tsunami debris for disposal, 127 (~7%) say they are willing to consider it, 466 say accepting waste might be too difficult, and 753 say they are not planning to get involved. 53% of the dissenting local communities said they have no facilities for disposal, 41% cited fears of radioactive substances, 24% pointed to the geographical distance for transportation and 20% cited opposition by local residents. (Kyodo News)
  • Another poll across Japan shows 72% see little or no progress with tsunami recovery. The region of greatest discontent is Tohoku, which bore the brunt of the tsunami’s impact, with 78% saying they see no progress. When asked why they think this situation exists, 75% say it is because of the impact of the nuclear accident, which is also the opinion of 91% of the respondents in the Tohoku region. 75% of the respondents said their local governments should help in disposing of tsunami debris. (Stars and Stripes)
  • NISA says they waited more than two months to admit there were meltdowns at Fukushima because the team making the judgment was not formally assembled. Eiji Hiraoka, the NISA’s vice director-general, said, “We must reflect on that we failed to establish (the team) within the formal organizational structure.” An ad-hoc team of ten researchers analyzed what was happening at Fukushima during the first few days of the crisis, concluded that three reactor cores melted down, and believed that there was no danger of the situation deteriorating after cooling water was pumped in to stop the fuel degradation. The work was treated as a mere reference because the team was not positioned within the strict NISA organizational framework. (Asahi Shimbun)

The American nuclear Society has posted a guest blog that was written by me a few weeks ago. It is titled "A Fukushima Investigative Scorecard" which summarizes the (currently) five official Japanese commissions/panels looking into the Fukushima accident. Here's the link... http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2012/03/05/a-fukushima-investigative-scorecard/

March 2

  • 57% of the local governments within 30 kilometers of Japanese nuclear power stations favor restarts. The results come from a Mainichi Shimbun poll of 137 municipalities. However, none of the polled governments wanted unconditional restarts. The restart conditions include… 80% want an indication of safety measures and conditions of plants' restart by the government, 62% want completion of stress tests, and 46% ask for approval by a local assembly. Minority conditions included "an explanation of the relationship between supply and demand of electric power," by the Furubira Municipal Government in Hokkaido, and "achieving 100 percent security and safety," by Shizuoka Prefecture's Kakegawa Municipal Government. When asked why the officials favored restarts, 77% said the electricity would be needed to stabilize the energy supply and 53% said “because plants' safety will be secured through stress tests and other means”. Sabae Municipal Government in Fukui Prefecture said, "It is necessary until an alternative energy supply method is firmly established." Approval based on financial reasons was mentioned by 6% of those polled. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • 17% of the polled local governments opposed nuclear plant restarts, and 26% either did not respond or said they were undecided. Of those opposed, 74% said "Because the cause of the Fukushima nuclear disaster has not been established yet", 65% "the nuclear crisis has clarified the danger of nuclear power plants", and 57% "Because stress tests and other inspection means have not proved the safety of the plants". One local government, Tokai in Ibaraki Prefecture opposed because, "…the electric power industry and the central government have failed to show sincere remorse for causing the nuclear crisis." Tottori Prefectural Government said, "It is necessary to analyze the cause of the Fukushima nuclear crisis and fundamentally map out safety measures. However, the government has failed to do what it should." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Nuclear Safety Commission Chairman Haruki Madarame will resign in April. He said he will step down when the new nuclear regulatory commission is established. Madarame spoke before the House Budget Committee amid harsh criticism. There were a few calls for his immediate resignation for being “irresponsible” because the SPEEDI radiation computer projection system wasn’t used during the Fukushima accident. Madarame responded, "When April comes, there will be a new organization (Nuclear Regulatory Agency) and the NSC itself will be disbanded. I will naturally step down." He added no country in the world that plans evacuations based on systems like SPEEDI. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Tokyo has said they will begin disposing of tsunami debris from Onagawa, Miyagi Prefecture. Tokyo has been testing incineration of samples of the rubble for two months. Tokyo found the process to be safe. This will be in addition to the debris they are already handling from Miyako, Iwate prefecture. The Onagawa rubble is being mixed with local refuse before burning at a ratio of 20% Onagawa and 80% local. It was found that exhaust gas, water, and ash radioactive levels were the same as processing only Tokyo debris. (Japan Times)
  • Two Japanese nuclear power stations will undergo new inspections based on recent seismic studies. Tokai Daini and the Tomari power facility both say they cannot rule out the possibility of vulnerability due to simultaneous movement of multiple seismic faults that exist near them. Whether or not the stations could withstand bigger quakes than previously considered cannot be judged until the new inspections are completed. The announcement could affect the results of their stress tests. All other Japanese nukes say faults near them would have limited impact and are not likely to move together. Prior to March 11, simultaneous fault movement was considered only if the possibility existed within 5 kilometers of the power station. However, March 11 demonstrated that severe simultaneous movement more than 100 kilometers away could be catastrophic. (NHK World)
  • The municipality of Hirono has resumed services for returning evacuees. Most of the town lies outside the southern edge of the 20km no-go zone, but was evacuated because its northern tip falls inside the zone. The restriction was lifted by Tokyo in September, but the Hirono government decided to continue the evacuation precaution themselves. They now want residents to return home in April. A few hundred of the town’s population of 5,300 has already come back. "This is the first step" toward recovery from the disaster, Hirono Mayor Motohoshi Yamada told town officials Thursday. He also said, "It remains unclear how much time it will take us to remove all their fears…but I know that we must get the job started." The town is planning to decontaminate its schools in time for the students to return for the autumn semester. Every house is scheduled to be cleansed by the end of 2012. (Japan Times)
  • The Japan Dairy Industry Association says its 116 member companies have detected no Cesium in their milk products. The association said, "The safety has been confirmed. We would like consumers to feel safe to drink milk." The association voluntarily did the tests in response to consumers' concerns, although local governments have regularly tested raw milk. None of the tested samples were above the new standard of 10 Becquerels that becomes law in April. TEAM Nihonmatsu, an organization that independently tests food products, said it detected a maximum Cesium level of 14 Becquerels per kilogram in one milk product. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Japan Press Research Institute held a conference last Monday concerning news media coverage of the 3/11 disasters. One research team polled 1,000 residents of Tokyo and found that while most felt news coverage of the disasters was sufficient, many felt the Press didn’t do enough to properly deal with harmful rumors. Another team found that foreign opinion on some Press coverage (e.g. NHK World) was non-sensational, but was critical of most other news sources. The final report on the Institute’s study will be published this summer. (Mainichi Shimbun)

February 29

A prestigious Fukushima accident panel has summarily blasted Naoto Kan’s actions during the first days of the crisis. The Independent Investigation Commission of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation (RJIF) has issued its report on the Fukushima Accident and held a Press conference on Monday. Each Press source focuses on different, and in some cases over-lapping aspects of what the 400-page report contains. Here are a few…

  1. Panel head Koichi Kitazawa told reporters at the Japan National Press Club on Tuesday that Kan interfered excessively in workers' efforts to bring the plant under control. For example, his insistence on stopping RPV cooling with seawater fearing it could cause recriticality. Kitazawa added that Kan failed to disclose information aptly, leading to widespread public mistrust of the government. (NHK World)
  2. The report accuses the PM's office of "grandstanding" and causing "useless confusion." The Prime Minister's Office's first response to the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant "increased the risk of worsening the situation through stress and useless confusion." In addition, "grandstanding led to badly muddled crisis management measures" which did little or nothing to prevent a worsening of the crisis. The report also admonished the highest levels of government for meddling in emergency response measures. The report further stated that "Orders by the Prime Minister's Office and industry ministry that gas building up in the reactor vessels be vented right away (to reduce pressure) were not at all helpful." The report also takes Kan to task over the injection of sea water into the No. 1 reactor, stating that he confused the situation and risked making it far worse. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  3. The government's response, on the whole, was “off-the-cuff and too late.” The late response was due to the government's failure to anticipate a nuclear accident triggered by an earthquake and tsunami that occurred simultaneously, which rendered its crisis management manual useless. (NHK World)
  4. Panel head Kitazawa said the overall handling of the emergency by then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan's administration was ''a failure.'' There were ''excessive interventions'' by the prime minister's office in efforts to contain the crisis and the panel ''cannot praise'' most of them. (Kyodo News)
  5. Kitazawa told the Press conference, "There were cases of excessive meddling (by the government) toward people working at the site," and such actions did more harm than good. Kitazawa painted a picture of distrust and doubt due to the limited exchange of information among the government, TEPCO, bureaucrats and other parties. Overall, they had also fallen into a systematic inattentiveness" toward making the crippled nuclear plant secure. The report-itself noted how Kan may have aggravated the crisis by inappropriate micromanagement of the situation. "Vertical sectionalism" within the government also exacerbated the crisis, the report said, citing the confusion over whether the science ministry, the NSC or the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency should initiate the public release of data from the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI), which caused a delay in getting the word out. Industry Minister Banri Kaieda disclosed, "I didn't know that (SPEEDI) even existed." Kitazawa concluded with, "It was extreme luck that Japan managed to avoid experiencing the most disastrous day.” (Japan Times)
  6. The report additionally takes central and local emergency agencies to task due to many hospitalized people dying because they were evacuated in haphazard fashion. It underscores how unprepared Japanese industry officials and regulators were for a major nuclear disaster. Panel chair Kitazawa summarized, "Ensuring the safety of the people is the government's foremost responsibility. We can't say the government fulfilled its role of providing a system to ensure people's safety." (Wall Street Journal/Asia)
  7. The report further reveals Cabinet officials advised P.M. Naoto Kan to not fly to Fukushima the morning of March 12. When Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told Kan that such a move would be political madness, Kan responded, “Which is more important, facing political criticism or being able to put a reactor under control?” Edano reluctantly conceded to the Prime Minister. Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama told the panel, "It was not easy for me to stop him from going." (JAIF) [Please note that Kan’s visit to Fukushima Daiichi changed nothing with respect to emergency actions and plant-control efforts. He was clearly panicking and believed that as Prime Minister, he was omniscient and omnipotent. He did little more than amplify the existing panic and frustration already burdening plant personnel. His abject ignorance of nuclear plants, emergency monitoring equipment, and Japanese emergency law has been well-documented.]
  8. The report says TEPCO executives involved in immediate efforts to defuse the crisis refused to be interviewed for the report for reasons that were not specified. It adds that most TEPCO workers would testify only when assured of their anonymity because TEPCO has forbidden their speaking under penalty of losing their jobs. (Japan Times)

Now, for other updates…

  • The amount of Cesium released from Fukushima may have been previously under-estimated. Instead of ~10% of the Chernobyl Cesium release, it is now believed to be between 20 and 30% of Chernobyl. The study was compiled by a team of researchers from the Meteorological Research Institute of the Japan Meteorological Agency and the Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry. (Kyodo News)
  • The new investigative robot, Quince 2, has been inspecting reactor building #2. It has reached the top floor refueling deck, which shows a 220 millisievert/hr. exposure rate. The robot’s camera shows puddles of water on the floor outside the Spent Fuel Pool, but all are believed to be the result of condensation and not from the accident itself. This is the first set of robot-generated data and images from the refueling deck of the undamaged building. Quince 1 only made it to the third floor of the building before becoming hopelessly tangled in its power cord. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Eight prefectures and cities are uniting their efforts to dispose of tsunami debris. The eight governments include Akita Prefecture and Kawasaki City. They plan to meet early in March to organize the joint project. Other local governments are reluctant to accept the rubble mainly due to concerns that it may contain radioactive substances from the Fukushima nuclear accident. (NHK World)
  • Additional Fukushima accident compensation pay-out amounts have been announced. All Fukushima residents will receive about $1,000 USD “due to their radiation fears”. Pregnant women who decided to remain in the prefecture will get ~$5,000. Pregnant women who evacuated the prefecture will get ~$2,500 to help with relocation costs. (Japan Times)

February 27

  • The Prime Minister’s Fukushima investigative panel has finished questioning five foreign experts. Their chief recommendation is for Japan to develop a “safety culture” for nuclear energy. "The most fundamental obligation perhaps is to establish an appropriate safety culture among all those involved in nuclear enterprise," said Richard Meserve, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, "Safety culture should reflect a commitment that safety is the highest priority (and) that it should come ahead of cost, production and schedules." Andre-Claude Lacoste, chairman of France's nuclear safety body said, "What is improbable is possible. We must be aware of the fact that an accident is always possible. We must be prepared to deal with it." Lars-Erik Holm, head of Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare, said he expects the panel to include a chapter on safety culture in its final report to demonstrate what "the problem was and what needs to be fixed in Japan." (Japan Times)
  • Japan’s opposition parties have criticized Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono for trying to corrupt the political neutrality of the Diet’s committee investigating Fukushima. Hosono met Kiyoshi Kurokawa, chairman of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, to explain a bill to set up a new nuclear regulatory agency. "Hosono is exerting political pressure to threaten the investigation commission's neutrality," a member of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party said. It seems the Diet doesn’t trust the Prime Minister’s cabinet. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The Minister of Economy says the people and businesses of Japan can expect considerable increases in the cost of electricity. He said the extent and duration of the increases could not be estimated. He added that restarting nukes is inevitable. But, he cautioned that restarts will happen only after residents are convinced the plants are safe. (JAIF)
  • One spot in Futaba town, which borders Fukushima Daiichi, has a radiation level of 470 millisieverts per year. However, this single reading is not what was found over the rest of the community. In fact, some Futaba locations have radiation exposures that are nearly 100 times lower. In other words, the contamination levels are not uniform inside the no-go zone and it might be possible for some people to go home without much decontamination work, even in one of the two towns adjacent to the power plant (with Okuma). The Tokyo government released this information on Saturday, based on ground-level surveys taken inside the 20km no-go zone. The surveys are being run to identify which portions of the zone might be repopulated quickly, and which ones will need extensive decontamination before people can return home. All previous reports have been based on airborne monitoring, which is necessarily inexact. (Japan Times)
  • The government plans to issue a new evacuation zone contamination report by the end of March. The report will use ground-based readings taken inside the 20km and northwest corridor no-go zones and designate locations by actual readings rather than the previous airborne estimates. The report will precisely identify where the above-50-millisievert “uninhabitable” spots are located, as well as 20-50 millisievert “restricted” areas, and less-then-20-millisievert locations where residents should be able to return home in the near future. In parallel with this announcement, the government has reduced the “no-fly” zone above the region to a 3 kilometer radius around Fukushima Daiichi because airborne radiation levels have dropped since the completion of the unit #1 enclosure. The previous “no-fly” zone was set at a 20 kilometer radius. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Many schools in Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, are now open. Minamisoma is centered roughly 25 kilometers north of Fukushima Daiichi, with its southern portion inside the 20km no-go zone. All schools outside the zone have started classes since decontamination work has been completed. However, only less than half of the district’s enrollment is presently attending classes. Low enrollment is due to many parents who moved during the March-April evacuations have not returned, and no-one has returned to the part of the district inside the no-go zone. Those students asked how they felt about returning to their old schools responded positively. (JAIF)
  • The temperature of the unit #2 RPV has raised slightly since the water injection flow was reduced earlier this week. Temperatures have stabilized, however, and are at about the same level as before the faulty thermometer incident a few weeks ago. One monitor reads 41oC and the other is at 44oC. (TEPCO)
  • A human chain of 700 protesters surrounded the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power station. Stretching nearly 1 kilometer long, participants protested against the reactivation of the Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant and called for its decommissioning. Many of the protesters came from communities outside of Tokai, while others came from neighboring prefectures. A few Fukushima evacuees also participated. A woman who evacuated from Tomioka said, "I hadn't realized the danger of nuclear power plants until I was evacuated (from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant). The blunder must not be repeated." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A NY Times article from Feb. 26 is literally a “must read” for those concerned about risk aversion. The parallel with the current radiophobic situation in Japan is obvious. Here’s the link… http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/the-wages-of-eco-angst/?src=tp

February 24

  • TEPCO reports that the water injection to unit #2 RPV has been reduced from 17 tons per hour to 9 tons per hour. The reduction in cooling flow has shown “no abnormality” with respect to vessel temperatures.
  • TEPCO plans to literally pave the seabed along nearly one kilometer of shoreline at Fukushima Daiichi. The material to be used will be a mixture of clay (bentonite) and cement, 60 centimeters (~2 feet) thick. The paving is designed to keep radioactive sands and muds from migrating into the open ocean. The paving will cover more than 72,000 square meters within the existing “silt dams” that close off the quay areas inside the power complex break-walls. The seawater inside the dams has lost most of its radioactivity due to the cesium slowly precipitating onto the sea floor. As a result, the mud and sand inside the quay contains about 1.6 million Becquerels per kilogram of Cs-134 and Cs-137. The paving should keep the Cesium in the seabed from being picked up and carried away due to wave action. (Yomiuri Shimbun) The process will have two steps. First, a low-density layer will be laid down to capture any floating or suspended mud above the sea bed. The second layer will be a high density mixture to keep wave action from eroding the lower density mixture below. A test project will begin on February 25 (Saturday) and main construction in 3-4 months thereafter. (IAEA)
  • Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono is literally begging political parties across Japan to help with tsunami debris disposal. Since most Prefectural heads oppose giving assistance due to public fears that the debris might have Cesium from Fukushima Daiichi, Hosono wants national representatives to use their political influence to break the log-jam. He has told the party heads that the mountains of un-processed debris are hampering national recovery from the natural disaster. He points out that in the year since the tsunami only 5% of the rubble has been disposed of, which indicates that the goal of full disposal by March 2014 is unrealistic and the road-map for recovery will have to be revised. (JAIF)
  • A new technology for decontaminating soil, first announced late last year, has completed its testing and removed more than 99.9% of the Cesium. The test soil contained more than 67,000 Becquerels per kilogram before processing, and 29 Becquerels when finished. There is no actual burning of the soil. It is heated to ~1300oC and mixed with a calcium compound which strips the cesium from the soil and suspends it in the hot gas. The gas is run through a high-efficiency filter to remove the Cesium. The filters will be disposed as high level waste. The decontaminated soils can be used to make bricks and other building materials. It is possible that existing furnaces in the Fukushima area can be used as the heat source. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The Prime Minister’s panel investigating the Fukushima accident is interviewing five foreign experts. The speakers maintain that the plant operators have the primary responsibility of dealing with the accident itself. But, with Fukushima it was unclear who was making the technical and operational decisions. Was it the operators, TEPCO home office, or the Japanese government? They said the Japanese government should have frankly admitted to lacking certain knowledge. The experts also emphasized the importance of clear, transparent information flow, which it seems was not always the case in the weeks and months following March 11. The experts include Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of the French Safety Authority, and Richard Meserve, former chairman of the US NRC. (NHK World)
  • Mayor Tru Hashimoto of Osaka opposes a recent petition for a nuclear plebiscite. Hashimoto says that he was elected on an anti-nuclear platform and the plebiscite would be no more than an expensive redundancy, "The result of last November's mayoral election clearly showed that the will of Osaka's people is for a move toward ending the region's reliance on nuclear power. So the aim of the plebiscite proposal, to let the people decide the issue, has already been decided." On the other hand, Hajime Imai who heads the plebiscite drive, says the Mayor’s intentions are not nearly enough, "Moving away from nuclear power was a minor (election) issue, and one that accounted for just two or three paragraphs in the party's 18-page manifesto. You can't claim nuclear energy was sufficiently debated during (Osaka's) elections or that it proves people voted for Hashimoto mainly because they shared his opposition to atomic power." (Japan Times)
  • The municipal government of Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, will base decontamination efforts on protection of their children. This is the first local government to commit to decontamination goals more strict than the official national objectives. The city decided to prioritize decontamination of environments where children might be exposed to 2 millisieverts or more of radiation per year. In those areas, decontamination work will continue until the projected exposures will be 1 millisievert or less. The decision was based on the results of a relatively comprehensive survey record of the large municipality, which stretches nearly 20 km along the coastline and as far as 20km inland. The study showed a considerable difference between coastline and flatland exposure (2-4 millisieverts per year) and mountains (~9 msv/yr). Soma, which stretches between 30km and 50km north of Fukushima Daiichi, was utterly devastated by the March 11 tsunami up to 5 km inland. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The city of Naha on sub-tropical Okinawa Island has cancelled its annual “snow event” because of fear of radiation. Each year, some 600 tons of snow from Aomori Prefecture, 350km north of Fukushima Daiichi, is shipped to Naha for their winter celebration. Last week, an anonymous caller demanded the cancellation of the event for children. Because of the call, an open meeting was held which was attended by 20 mothers who had evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture after March 11. All said they did not want the snow because it might contain radioactive Cesium. Aomori Prefecture had tested their snow and found that it was safe. But, fear of radiation held the day. "I can't trust the explanations given by the central government and the municipal government," one evacuee said. In response, the city cancelled the children’s celebration. "The snow was found to be safe in checks and we are sorry for the children who waited for the snow, but we considered the worries of the evacuees," a city official said. However, at least one rational mind takes issue with the decision. "Under the current circumstances, radioactive materials aren't being scattered in the air, and people don't have to worry about radiation exposure through snow," said Atsushi Kumagai, a doctor of Nagasaki University Hospital. "If people just assume that everything from the Tohoku region is dangerous, they won't be able to make rational decisions" about whether there is a health risk. (Yomiuri Shimbun) Please bear in mind the numbers of people involved (above) and juxtapose it with the city’s population of nearly 360,000.
  • The American Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has issued the first firm regulatory orders based on the Fukushima accident. There are 3 groups of orders; (1) safety upgrades to protect against extreme situations (i.e. natural disasters) for sites with multiple power plants, (2) improved instrumentation for spent fuel pools, and (3) improving “vent” systems designed to depressurize the power plant systems and structures. The NRC’s mandates full compliance by the end of 2016. (Reuters) Will Japan’s nuclear regulators follow suit? And if they do, how long will implementation be delayed by petty politicking?

February 22

  • Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) says “stress tests” are but the first stage of assuring nuclear safety. A second round of nuclear safety inquiry must be performed. This is the first mention of a second round of investigation being needed before restarts of idled nukes can happen. NSC chief Haruki Madarame said the first tests only focus on equipment essential for nuclear emergency mitigation. An NSC team of 11 experts will review the recently-accepted and approved data for two Ohi units, but they want to include as much Fukushima accident information as possible before any restart decision is made. (JAIF) Senior cabinet officials say they have no idea why Madarame has called for a second round of stress testing and fear he is undermining the need to restart nukes to avoid summer power shortages. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • The power shortage caused by politically-idled nukes intensifies. Since the closure of Takahama #3 on Monday, Kansai Electric has been buying over 100 MWe from neighboring Chubu Electric, supplied by fossil fuel plants. However, running fossil-fueled plants beyond their design capacity is also taking its toll. On February 3, Kyushu Electric’s 2,290 MWe Shin-Oita power-plants had to be shut down. Since then, Kyushu has been buying 2,400 MWe of power from six other companies. The situation has sent chills through the business community…"Unless nuclear reactors are restarted, the exodus of companies abroad will accelerate due to fears of power shortages and a rise in costs," said Toshihiro Nagahama of the Dai-ichi Life Research Institute. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Some of NISA’s own expert panel has formally bashed the approval of the Agency’s Ohi stress tests for a second time since January. Professor Emeritus Hiromitsu Ino of the University of Tokyo said discussions with the panel hadn't been exhausted and he feels deceived. Masashi Goto, a lecturer at the Shibaura Institute of Technology, says he feels NISA rushed to announce a conclusion. NISA says the panel met eight times before the Ohi announcement and felt the panel had endorsed the findings. (NHK World)
  • Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono says the March 2014 goal for disposal of all tsunami debris is unrealistic. This is because 95% of the tsunami debris of March 11 has yet to be disposed of, nearly a year after the natural calamity hit. Of the more than 22 million tons of rubble, only a little more than 1 million tons has been incinerated or buried. 72% of the debris has been removed from the coastline and is being stored at temporary sites. 28% remains moldering where it has lain since March 11, mostly within the 20km Fukushima no-go zone. (NHK World)
  • The test incineration of tsunami waste by Shimada City shows its ash contains ten times less Cesium than the Tokyo standard for disposal. The ash contains 48 Becquerels of Cesium per kilogram, far below the 500 Becquerel limit. Shimada burned 10 tons of debris from Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, mixed with 56 tons of local household garbage for the test. The ash was scanned by city officials and local residents. Shozo Masuda, who runs a city produce shop, scanned the ash and said she was relieved, "I was assured that (burning the debris) would be OK. I want the city to dispose of as much rubble as possible and will tell others that there is no need to worry." Shimada Mayor Katsuro Sakurai said he will formalize the city’s plan for tsunami rubble disposal next month if further incineration tests fail to detect any radiation dangers. (Japan Times)
  • A comprehensive radiation monitoring system for Fukushima has begun, including schools and parks. The 2,700 monitoring location’s data is being fed into the Education Ministry and posted on their website. Concerned parents can access the site to find out what the latest radiation levels are for each location. The system is designed to update the data every 10 minutes. (NHK World)
  • The Fukushima government released the preliminary results of their comprehensive exposure survey on Monday. 58% of the residents of Fukushima Prefecture received less than 1 millisievert of internal exposure from the nuclear accident. ~95% were below 5 millisieverts and only two people have greater than a 20 millisievert exposure. The highest was 23 millisieverts. The results are out of the data taken from more than 10,000 residents of the prefecture. More than 431,000 residents have entered data into the survey, so the prefecture has a long way to go. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • A report in the UK Telegraph brings the promise of rationality to the true Japanese disaster of March 11…the tsunami itself. Entitled, The world has forgotten the real victims of Fukushima, the article blasts the Japanese and international news media for virtually ignoring the calamity that killed 20,000 while focusing on “a nuclear disaster that never was”. Don’t take my word for it…read it yourself… http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9094430/The-world-has-forgotten-the-real-victims-of-Fukushima.html

 

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