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Fukushima 29...3/26/12-4/6/12


April 6

  • TEPCO says another leak from a waste water pipe has reached the sea. They found another leak from the same pipe that leaked on March 26. The pipe is attached to a decontaminated water storage tank. TEPCO estimates that 12 tons of water was released before it was found and isolated. The company believes a large portion of the water flowed into the sea through a nearby drainage ditch. TEPCO says the concentration of Cesium in the tank is low, but the level of Strontium-90 in the tank is higher. The situation is spawning “high radiation” articles in many Japanese newspapers. However, the water contains only 16.7 Becquerels of the Cesium per cubic centimeter. The level of Strontium is being researched. (NHK World)
  • TEPCO says the number of employee voluntary retirements has gone up 350% over the last year. The main reason given was threats and bullying of their families by people angry at TEPCO’s response to the Fukushima accident. Analysts say morale is low at the utility with current employees being unsure about the company’s ability to secure a stable supply of personnel. TEPCO announced this week it was cutting executives’ annual income by 25% and everyone else’s salaries by 20%. It also said it would not be paying any bonuses this year. (Japan Today)
  • Reconstruction minister Tatsuo Hirano says an uninhabited buffer zone will be created around Fukushima Daiichi. Hirano said, "I suggested at a meeting of the government's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters [on Saturday] to set up a buffer zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant." He says the “no-return” zone could be in effect for up to 20 years and should include parts of Okuma and Futaba towns that are adjacent to the power complex. Hirano says the town’s mayors are positive about the idea. He added that new guidelines to compensate residents from the no-return zone will be needed. Finally, Hirano stressed this new designation will not be created out of radiation levels, but will be strictly for resident safety reasons during F. Daiichi recovery work. (Yomiuri Shimbun; JAIF)
  • The Tokyo government has made it official; they will not restart any nukes until they get local support. In a public statement, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura referred specifically to 2 reactors in Fukui Prefecture that are suspended for regular inspection; Oi units #3 & 4. Fujimora stressed that local community approval is not required by Japanese law, but the government will fully explain the situation to local officials before any restart decision is issued. (NHK World)
  • The Prime Minister’s restart task force is meeting regularly. The task force is made up of P.M. Noda, Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono, and Economic Minister Yukio Edano. On Thursday, Noda directed Edano to draft new safety standards that might ease public opposition to nuke restarts. They are to cover increased emergency power sources and beefed-up earthquake and tsunami defenses. Noda says he will send Edano to the local communities after they have reviewed the new standards to explain them to the affected officials and exchange views concerning restarts for Oi units #3 & 4. The new standards are to be based on the recent 30-point recommendation made by NISA. On Friday, Edano said he will demand all nuclear power companies create firm timetables for meeting new safety rules. He feels the most important lesson learned from Fukushima is that companies failed to regularly enhance safety by incorporating new ideas. He added that there is no need to restart reactors so long as Japan’s electric demand is met by other methods. All ministers and P.M. Noda support the new standards. (NHK World)
  • The new nuke safety standards being drafted are based on previous NISA recommendations. The changes will include avoidance of lost power sources needed to activate safety devices, separating back-up power supplies so that one cause will not knock them all out, and providing increased tsunami protection. The current draft chides TEPCO for being slow to release pressure from the reactor systems which would have prevented the three hydrogen explosions, plus having gauges and communications systems that were unusable during the first days and weeks of the accident. NISA says 13 of the 30 steps are to be made immediately, and some have already been completed by companies that own nukes. The rest are mid-to-long term fixes that require new equipment and facilities. (JAIF)
  • The new safety standards are already coming under fire from anti-nuclear groups. Baku Nishio, co-director of the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, criticizes the new safety standards saying they are just ad-hoc measures. In other words, the standards merely address what happened at Fukushima and do not cover the wide range of nuclear issues beyond the accident itself. Other critics say it remains unclear what kind of facilities power plant operators should build and to what extent they should boost safety. The critics argue that the new rules are a mere band-aid intended to make restarts of idled nukes seem proper. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A prestigious international research team has determined that the level of F. Daiichi isotopes in Pacific Ocean fish is literally too low to matter. The team includes experts from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Stony Brook University, and the University of Tokyo. They found that the level of cesium found in numerous species of fish were well below those from naturally occurring radioactive elements such as Potassium 40 and Uranium which are dissolved in seawater. This includes the levels that might be retained in consumers of the fish. For the complete report, go to… http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/03/26/1120794109.full.pdf

 

April 4

  • The Environmental Ministry has ramped up its decontamination program for Fukushima. The head of the decontamination task force, Masaru Moriya, says the mission is urgent and should be performed quickly under central government authority. On Monday, five new branch offices were opened in Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures, and one office in Saitama Prefecture. A total of 111 municipalities will be coordinated out of these offices. The Ministry has added more than 180 people, bringing the total decontamination staff to over 500. (JAIF)
  • The government is considering making areas near the F. Daiichi off-limits for an extended period, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said today. Reconstruction minister Tatsuo Hirano said some areas should be off-limits for an extended period, regardless of radiation levels. While radiation exposure levels are determining if and when most of the evacuation zones can be repopulated, restrictions on the communities nearest F. Daiichi will have added issues to overcome. Concerns have been voiced that the huge volume of contaminated water now in storage could threaten the safety of people living in the vicinity. In addition, a far-reaching concern is safety of nearby residents during removal of damaged and melted fuel. (Japan Times)
  • Thermal (fossil-fueled) electricity production is now more than 73% of Japan’s total. Before former-P.M. Kan’s de-facto moratorium on nukes started, the thermal contribution was about 50%. "We've managed to make up for a decrease in power generated by nuclear plants by fully operating thermal plants," says a high-ranking official with Kansai Electric Power Co. All nine companies affected by the moratorium are now running at an economic deficit due to the greater cost of fossil fuels. Their reliance on fossil fuel will only increase. However, thermal unit are unstable sources because they cannot bear full-power operations over a long period. "The more electricity we sell, the greater the deficits we suffer," says an official with the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. An increase in the dependence of utilities on thermal power will also result in a rise in the emissions of carbon dioxide. "There are limits to Japan's excessive reliance on certain energy sources," says IEE Chairman and CEO Masakazu Toyoda. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The city of Osaka is creating its own nuclear safety panel. Mayor Toru Hashimoto said that he wants a panel of nuclear experts to verify the safety of nukes – an unprecedented move for a community that does not host a nuclear facility. In Fukui Prefecture, a nuclear safety commission made up of 10 nuclear engineers assesses the operations and management of nuclear power plants in the Prefecture. "I have never heard of a local government that does not host a nuclear power plant setting up such a committee," said a Fukui Prefectural Government official in charge of nuclear policy. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The governments of four prefectures are placing pressure on Tokyo to create new safety standards before restarting idled nukes. Fukui, Kyoto, Shiga and Osaka Prefectures want to be intimately involved in the decision-making process because they fear that decisions to-date have been hasty and unacceptable. Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa has said, "The central government must first show the public its responsible opinions on the meaning of nuclear power and the need for the reactivation of nuclear reactors and make efforts to secure understanding." A prefectural assemblyman who opposes restarts said, "While findings from the Fukushima accident have not been confirmed, the government has hastily moved ahead with procedures to reactivate (the reactors) without presenting a provisional safety standard.” In Osaka, local governments have joined to demand eight conditions for restart, including consent of the people living within 100 kilometers of a nuclear power station. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto said, "We must widen the scope further to include more local municipalities." Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada wants to set up a forum in which officials from the Kyoto, Shiga and Fukui prefectural governments can exchange views. Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada said, "The investigations into the cause of the nuclear accident in Fukushima, the formulation of safety measures and the mechanism to ensure the safety of nuclear reactors are insufficient.” But, not everyone agrees. One Fukui assemblyman said delaying restarts of Oi #3 & 4 is costing the region plenty, "We were thinking that the reactors would be reactivated in late April...The impact on the local communities is immeasurable." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A Fukushima publisher sent soil to Tokyo saying it is nuclear waste. Tadashi Okudaira sent an attached article which said, “This is soil I took from my garden. I am giving this to the Environment Ministry, which is primarily responsible (for the radioactive contamination) and for storing waste. Responsibility of radioactive contamination falls on the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. In a gesture of protest, we are starting a campaign to give radioactive soil to the government and TEPCO.” He hopes this will inspire other Fukushima residents to do the same. Because the package is identifiable, the ministry is storing the soil sent by Okudaira. The ministry rejected another box labeled “Fukushima soil” because the sender could not be determined. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • P.M. Noda’s nuke restart task force has met, and not everyone is happy. Minister Yukio Edano says he has “glanced” at the stress test results for Oi units #3 & 4, and finds them questionable. On Monday, Edano told the Diet he had safety concerns and was opposed to restarting the Oi plant's reactors 3 and 4 until local consent is given. Asked about his definition of "locals," Edano said: "The Fukushima accidents affected the whole country both directly and indirectly. In that sense, all the nation are the 'locals.'" (Japan Times)
  • P.M. Noda instructed Minister Edano to draft new safety standards to be met as a precondition to nuke restarts. The restart task force feels measures to prevent nuclear accidents are not clearly defined in the existing regulations and the move might ease local community opposition. The task force will meet again later this week to discuss the needed safety measures. (JAIF)

 

April 2

  • The Tokyo government is finally re-defining the Fukushima evacuation zone. The existing 20km no-go zone and northwest evacuation corridor will be modified based on actual surveys of radiation levels made this year. The government said it is rearranging the evacuation zone based on three categories of contamination, rather than by distance. The existing perimeter had been criticized as an inexact measure of safety. The immediate focus is on three municipalities – Kawauchi, Tamura and Minamisoma. All have portions of their geographic areas inside the no-go zone, and parts that lay outside. It was decided to lift entry restrictions for the no-go parts of Tamura City and Kawauchi Village on Sunday. Kawauchi mayor Yuko Endo welcomed the announcement, “The revision comes at a right time just as the town tries to rebuild and [be] reborn.” Restrictions for Minamisoma City will be lifted on April 16th. Up to 16,000 people can now return home. Initially, they won’t be allowed to stay overnight and some must wear protective gear (Minamisoma). When they will be allowed to return home around-the-clock is not known. “The reorganization would be the foundation for the reconstruction of the affected towns. We will thoroughly discuss how we can best accommodate their needs,” Economy and Trade Minister Yukio Edano said on Friday. Decisions on the eight other municipalities either wholly or partially inside one of the existing evacuation zones will occur at some point later this month. (Japan Today)
  • At a disaster task force meeting, Prime Minister Noda said, "We have decided to revise the restriction bans placed on the evacuation areas." Even as the restrictions are relaxed on Kawauchi, Tamura and Minamisoma, the government is still in talks with the remaining eight cities over lifting the ban. The government hopes that lifting the entry bans will speed up decontamination by allowing freer return of evacuees to their homes. (News on Japan)
  • The neighboring towns of Tomioka, Naraha and Okuma remain off-limits. Barricades five meters wide, 80 centimeters high and weighing 600 kilograms have been placed on roads between the three now-opened communities and the three that remain restricted. Checkpoints for entry have also been shifted on the roads to accommodate the change. "We can now return home without an entry permit," said Katsutoshi Kusano, a 67-year-old Kawauchi resident. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

Other updates…

  • Prime Minister Noda has reinforced Japan’s commitment to nuclear safety relative to restarting nukes. He spoke to an Upper House committee about the issue today. He said that he and his Cabinet Ministers will judge the restarts in the most comprehensive way possible. On a negative note, Industry Minister Yukio Edano says he is not convinced of the assessments by experts on the recent stress test findings. (JAIF)

  • The mayors of five municipalities in Niigata Prefecture said Saturday they will accept tsunami debris. Officials in Niigata, Nagaoka, Kashiwazaki, Sanjo and Shibata will brief their residents in April. "We received support in the past when we were hit by earthquakes and floods," Niigata Mayor Akira Shinoda told a joint news conference. The shipments must contain less than 100 Becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram of debris. (Kyodo News)

  • The ceiling on radioactive Cesium in food has been lowered to 100 Becquerels per kilogram. As a result, some prefectures have increased the scope of their food monitoring programs. Tochigi Prefecture will double or triple the number of samples tested, according to official Hiroyuki Sugimoto. "We will be certainly busier (than now)… But it is our job to check produce more thoroughly and disclose the results to consumers. Recently, barely any radioactive cesium was found in produce grown in Tochigi, except for mushrooms and fish. But the important thing is to continue testing and let consumers know no radioactive cesium was found." Sugimoto said. A Fukushima prefectural official said, however, they have no plans to increase food sampling, except for buying more testing devices, because it is already checking about 200 food products a day. The Health Ministry said a person would be exposed to less than 1 millisievert of radiation a year by eating the average Japanese meal of food products contaminated with Cesium at 100 Becquerels per kilogram. (Japan Times)
  • Food containing Cesium above new limit has already been found in 421 samples from eight prefectures since January. All of the samples are below the old 500 Becquerel/kg limit. The Health Ministry says the food samples were found in eight prefectures - Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba. 80% involved fish while the remainder included shiitake mushrooms and the meat of wild animals (boars and birds). (Kyodo News)
  • The new Cesium contamination limit on food is upsetting fishing communities along the Nojiri River in Okuaizu. “This river's sweetfish is exceptional," Kiroku Gonoi, 65, the head of a local fisheries cooperative said as he posted a sign for "No Fishing ". “It was decided by the government so the only thing we can do is accept it," Gonoi says. "We have to prevent the possibility that children eat the fish and something happens to them." In addition, the fisheries cooperative of Kaneyama town and Showa village near the Nojiri River was forced to postpone this year's mountain stream fishing season, which was to begin on Sunday. Last spring and summer, due to harmful rumors and other related reasons, the number of fishing visitors to the river decreased drastically. The local fishermen were counting on a comeback this season. Fish samples taken from the river show between 119 and 139 Becquerels per kilogram, which is above the new 100 Becquerel limit. The decision to postpone the fishing season will affect not only fishermen but also local inns. Actual radiation doses on the Nojiri River area are not high, and many wonder what led to the recent high contamination readings. "We are not exactly sure why cesium has accumulated in the fish. It could be that they were contaminated through the food chain," an official with the Fukushima Prefecture's fisheries division said. (Mainichi Shimbun)

 

March 30

  • Radioactive Cesium concentrations in the air within 20km of F. Daiichi are all below the national standard. Monitoring between March 18th and 25th throughout the no-go zone revealed that the air’s Cesium level is below 20 Becquerels per cubic meter. (JAIF)
  • A NY Times article speculates the condition of F. Daiichi unit #2 may be far worse than previously thought. The article says the lower-than-anticipated water level inside the unit #2 primary containment vessel (Drywell) might mean the melted fuel in the reactor itself (RPV) is not covered and is in danger of heating up. It further alleges that some of the water being pumped into the RPV is flowing into the ground water and from there into the sea. (News on Japan) [comment – The NY Times article literally drips with wild, exaggerated speculations and should not be given credibility. Reporting on it because it is scary is deplorable.]
  • The new national standards for Cesium in foods will take effect on April 1st. The old limit on Cesium was 500 Becquerels per kilogram and the new standard will be 100 Becquerels. Fukushima farmers hope this will ease concerns about the safety of their foodstuffs and begin to reverse last year’s rumor-based consumer avoidance of their fruits and vegetables. However, many Fukushima farmers aren’t so sure. They fear that any detectable levels of Cesium will drive business away, no matter how low the limits might be. The rumors about Fukushima foods being unsafe will persist. "The level of cesium in rice produced in 2011 was below what we could test, but there was no pick-up in sales," said 58-year-old Masahiro Ito, a Fukushima Prefecture farmer. The local fishing industry will also be affected by the new rule because testing shows that 30% of fish caught off the Tohoku shores exceed the 100 Becquerel limit. "If cesium levels in fish in Ibaraki and Miyagi exceed the new standard, then the resumption of fishing in Fukushima could be a way off," said Kenji Nakada, of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations. But, even the new standard is not trusted by some fishery organizations. The fishery oassociation in Ibaraki Prefecture has arbitrarily lowered their standard to 50 Becquerels. "The reason we introduced a standard tougher than the government's one was because our destiny lies in delivering safe fish to consumers," says organization head Isao Ono. However, another insider with the organization says the move "has had a fairly big financial impact." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The soils removed for recent decontamination inside the no-go zone are being stored at the locations where they were generated. The problem of what to do with the material is mounting because there is no place else to put it. 13 out of 25 local governments that are engaged in decontamination work have set up local storage sites for removed soil. Contaminated soil removed from public spaces had been left at 947 locations including schools and nurseries, 541 parks, as well as houses and business establishments. Local officials want to know what to do next. "We haven't been able to reach an agreement with local residents over where to set up temporary storage (for removed soil)," said an official in charge of decontamination work. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Japan is burning more Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) and oil than any time since 2008 to offset the idling of nukes. Japan imported more than 71 million tons of LNG last year. As a result the cost of LNG has risen 16%. According to Deutsche Bank, Japan can meet up to 60% of its minimum electrical needs through the use of LNG. However, it is unrealistic to think that all LNG-powered plants will constantly work at 100% capacity. Some LNG power plants are being reopened after extended periods of shut-down, while others were never designed to work continuously at full power. As a result, Japan is stepping up the operation of oil-fired units. Japan’s crude oil consumption rose 118% last year, and will increase further this year due to the additional shuttering of nukes since January 1st. At the end of the year, Japan was importing 135,000 barrels of crude oil per day, more than a 400% increase from 2010. Demand has further risen more than 175% over the first two months of 2012. But the future looks bleak as far as energy availability goes. While the increased LNG and crude oil burning is meeting Japan’s current needs, if this summer’s demand equals last summer’s, Japan will run into significant shortages. Fereidun Fesharaki, chairman of Facts Global Energy Inc. (GEYI), said in an interview, “They are going to have a major crisis if the nuclear plants don’t restart.” He also says, “The cost of generating electricity from oil is so far above that of nuclear that at some point, the economics are likely to become a more important consideration in the ongoing political debate in Japan over whether… to start returning idle nuclear capacity to the grid.” Currently, Japan is paying $126 per barrel for crude oil, but forecasts indicate that could rise to ~$150 per barrel this coming summer. (Bloomberg)
  • The Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) has tried to explain that Oi units #3&4 are safe to operate, but the governors of Shiga and Kyoto Prefectures aren’t buying it. Prefectural officials were briefed on the results of the Oi stress tests on Thursday. It seems the attempt did next to nothing. Governor Keiji Yamada of Kyoto says he needs more assurances, so he cannot approve the Oi unit’s restart until its safety is guaranteed. Governor Yukiko Kada of Shiga demanded a complete explanation on the causes of the Fukushima accident and the new safety measures spawned by lessons learned from the accident. (NHK World)
  • Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe announced he wants his entire town designated as being “unlikely to return”. Okuma is the first municipality in the no-go zone to ask that its entire area be labeled as such. Over 90 percent of Okuma residents lived in areas that the national government plans to designate as zones where they are unlikely to be able to return in the near future. As such, the mayor wants the entire town so-designated. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Former-P.M. Naoto Kan says he has sufficient support in the DPJ (Japan’s ruling party) to launch a campaign for complete elimination of nukes from Japan. ''Thinking about the future of Japan...why don't we seek a society that does not rely on nuclear power? This group is intended to properly discuss the time frame for realizing that goal,'' Kan told reporters. The article points out that Kan did not become anti-nuclear because of Fukushima, but his efforts to end Japan's use of nuclear power date back to before he was in office. Only around 25 lawmakers, mainly those close to Kan such as former Justice Minister Satsuki Eda, attended the gathering. This indicates that Kan’s support in the DPJ is minimal. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A scandalous scare story has swept the Press outside of Japan. A notorious anti-nuclear consultant has claimed the soils found in Tokyo would have to be handled as nuclear waste in America. However, his claims have been challenged by the chief Health Physicist at America’s Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), Ralph Anderson. Anderson says the levels reported by anti-nuke luminary Arnie Gundersen in no way qualify as nuclear waste, and the levels of radioactivity reported by Gundersen are too low to worry about. NEI also states the laboratory report on Gundersen’s soil samples has not been released, so there was no peer review on the data itself or Gundersen’s arbitrary conclusion. NEI takes issue with the news source broadcasting the scare-story, the Associated Press, “If a radiation protection professional with 40 years of experience in our industry wasn’t able to verify Mr. Gundersen’s claims, then how was your reporter able to do that?” In fact, AP publishing the article contravenes their own “Statement of News Values and Principles” by posting the story. NEI argues AP should publish a correction to be posted by every AP affiliate in the world. (NEI Nuclear Notes - http://neinuclearnotes.blogspot.com/2012/03/nei-questions-associated-press.html )

March 28

  • Monday’s endoscopic look inside unit #2 containment (PCV) revealed 60 centimeters of water. Previously, the water level was thought to be 3-4 meters deep. This is not inside the reactor pressure vessel (RPV), but rather in the bottom of the massive containment structure surrounding it. The lower-than-expected water level indicates a greater out-flow from the PCV and into the outer suppression chamber (torus) than had been estimated. In addition, the temperature of the water was measured at about 50oC and the radiation level inside the PCV was found to be as high as 73 sieverts per hour. The water temperature indicates that any molten fuel which may have leaked out of the RPV and fallen into the bottom of the PCV is being adequately cooled. However, the radiation levels inside the unit #2 PCV makes it doubtful that similar inspections will be possible for units #1 & 3 because they are believed to have suffered much worse core damage. The videos have considerable gamma radiation interference, and the more intense fields inside units #1 & 3 would probably make the images un-viewable. A small portion of the RPV was examined and there was no evidence of damage, although TEPCO continues to assume there was at least some melt-through. Another surprising discovery was the relative transparency of the water in the bottom of the PCV. (Mainichi Shimbun and NHK World)
  • On Tuesday, TEPCO reported more information on the endoscopic inspection. The 73 sievert radiation reading is directly above the water surface in the bottom of the PCV. At the opening for the endoscope, several meters above the water, the reading is about 31 sieverts. Any future endoscopes will have to be built to better withstand the high radiation levels. While these levels are too high for workers to go inside the PCV, it does not mean robots cannot go in. Recent work in unit #2’s outer chambers with the Quince II robot shows it operated in a 20 sievert radiation field for 10 hours without malfunction. Before any robotic access can be planned, however, the robots must be tested for radiation fields two to four times more intense than what they have previously experienced. The increasing radiation level as the probe goes lower into the PCV indicates that the pooled water is extremely radioactive and may well contain some melted core material that may have seeped around RPV bottom-head penetrations, like the control rod drive mechanism (CRDM) housings. While the radiation levels are higher than TEPCO anticipated, it should not affect the current time-table for decommissioning unit #2. (Japan Times)
  • On Monday, TEPCO said water from their decontamination system has leaked and some has reached the sea. About 120 liters of water escaped from a pipe feeding one of the external storage tanks. The water had passed through the decontamination system, so its radiation levels are quite low, reading 0.25 Becquerels/cc of Strontium (equivalent to one radioactive disintegration every four seconds) on the outlet of the drainage ditch to the barricaded quay (port area). As of Tuesday morning, the leaking piping had been replaced and the water decontamination system was returned to full operation, treating 40 tons of water per hour. [comment – The Japanese Press says the water that leaked to the quay contains highly radioactive substances, which makes little sense considering the very low activity level.]
  • Initial decontamination work in Okuma town has reduced most radiation levels by 60%. Okuma is located immediately adjacent to the F. Daiichi power complex and has some of the highest recorded radiation levels outside of the power station’s property. Most of the work has been stripping the top layer of soil, which contains perhaps 90% of the deposited Cesium. Some 16,000 tons of the stripped soil has been collected. However, high pressure spraying of concrete has been less effective at reducing radiation levels, probably because the material is porous and contamination has become imbedded. Officials are considering stripping off top layers of concrete to see if that helps. Regardless, radiation levels at people's homes, in parks and on roads were decreased by about 60 percent. With homes, roofs were washed and topsoil was removed which dropped the radiation dosage from as high as 11.5 microsieverts per hour down to 3.9 microsieverts per hour (roughly 20 millisieverts per year). In parking lots and on roads, the level was reduced from 13.8 microsieverts per hour (72.5 millisieverts per year) to 5.3 microsieverts per hour (27.8 millisieverts per year). Meanwhile, similar work in the Fukushima city of Tamura has reduced radiation levels down to about 3 millisieverts per year and forest floors to ~3.7 mSv/year. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • With TEPCO’s shuttering of its last operating nuke, it seems hardships loom on the horizon. These include prolonged power shortages and increased electricity charges to cover fuel costs at thermal (fossil-fueled) power plants. TEPCO will be walking a power-generation “tightrope” this summer if no nukes are allowed to restart. TEPCO has installed nearly 300 portable generators and shifted their thermal plants from “peaking” operation (only during high-demand periods) to base-load (full power, 24/7). Keeping sporadically operated thermal units at constant full power this past winter resulted in at least four complete failures, which stretched TEPCO to its limits. The use of portable generators and the base-loading of thermal units are currently making up for the shuttered nukes, but how long this makeshift situation will last is anybody’s guess. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Fukushima Mayor Takanori Seto has taken formal umbrage with statements made by Kobe professor Tomoya Yamauchi. Yamauchi has publicly stated that Fukushima City ought to be completely evacuated in his lecture to an anti-tsunami debris gathering in Osaka on February 18. "Fukushima city needs to be evacuated," Yamauchi said at the lecture. "The city administration isn't doing much of anything, but there is one man there doing the right thing: the mayor. He's living in Yamagata and goes to work in Fukushima every morning by official car." However, Mayor Seto has done nothing of the sort. Seto said in a written statement that Yamauchi's claims "are not true, and his comments have badly tarnished my honor. Our residents suffer because of the radiation problem, and Yamauchi's comments have damaged the trust they put in their mayor." Seto also demanded that Yamauchi issue a correction and apology to the news media. He may file a criminal complaint for defamation depending on the professor's response. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto says the city resident’s petition for a nuclear referendum has been rejected. He said that there were considerable problems in verifying the authenticity of many of the petition signatures, more than enough to invalidate the petition itself. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • The Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) plans to brief the governments of Fukui, Shiga, and Kyoto on the results of the stress tests for Oi units #3& 4. It is hoped this will ease opposition to the restart of these two units, and begin to alleviate the nation-wide power crisis. It's not only people in Fukui who are worried about a resumption of operations at the reactors. The adjacent prefectures of Kyoto and Shiga are also demanding explanations on the stress tests and safety measures at the plant. NSC plans on beginning their briefings on Thursday. (NHK World)
  • Prime Minister Noda has addressed the nuclear summit in Korea concerning nuclear safety. Noda said that people in charge of nuclear security around the world must not be lulled into a “myth of safety” concerning a natural disaster or terrorist attack. He stressed, “The workings of nature are beyond comprehension, but there is also no limit to human imagination. We should keep in mind that the man-caused act of sabotage will test our imaginations far more than any natural disaster. Every person who works toward nuclear security should take this to heart.” He also said one of the problems was a lack of coordination between civil and defense authorities in obtaining accurate information, “At times, it was difficult to know who was in charge.” (Japan Times)

March 26

  • NISA has released a comprehensive set of slides on the current status of Fukushima Daiichi, including technical causes of the accident and “countermeasures” taken to maintain cold shutdown. http://www.nisa.meti.go.jp/english/files/en20120321.pdf
  • TEPCO is making a second endoscopic examination inside the unit #2 containment structure (PCV). The first such inspection was in January, but was limited by the length of the fiber-optic line. Today’s inspection will be using a longer line which should allow for a closer look at the water pooled in the bottom of the PCV and take radiation readings. TEPCO says they hope the new inspection will allow them to better understand containment conditions and whether or not there is any melted-through material from the reactor core. (NHK World)
  • About 25% of the psychiatric patients hospitalized after the Fukushima accident suffer from fear of radiation. A psychiatric team headed by Akira Wada of Fukushima Medical University has researched data from 27 prefectural hospitals and found that 30% of all psych. in-patients came in due to stress caused by the accident itself, with more than 80% of them wracked by radiation fears. Most of the radiophobia cases came from the communities near the power plants – Futaba, Soma, and Iwaki. 13% of those complaining of radiation fears had never sought psychiatric help before. Another university team headed by Fukushima Medical University professor Itaru Miura surveyed 57 prefectural hospitals from March to May, 2011, and found that 32% of the psych. in-patients suffered depression, acute stress and/or post-traumatic stress disorder due to the accident. 40% of these suffered of fear of radiation. This may be the first study in the world to look at the immediate psychiatric health effects of a nuclear accident, and the impact of radiophobia on the afflicted. Similar studies with Chernobyl did not begin until ten years after the accident. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • It’s official. The new Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NSA) will not begin April 1st. The Noda administration excluded debate on the bill authorizing the new agency for the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends March 31. This will certainly delay any possible local approval of nuke restarts. Mayor Kazuharu Kawase of Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture said Thursday, "If the regulatory agency is not launched, we can't enter talks on whether to allow reactivation." This seems to be the case with all municipalities hosting nuclear power stations. What exacerbates the situation is that all top officials in the current watchdog body, NISA, wish to step down on April 16 when their terms of office expire. Although member’s terms can be extended, one observer asked, "Can members who don't want to stay conduct safety checks diligently?" (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • There will actually be two new nuclear regulatory bodies - Nuclear Safety Investigative Committee (NSIC) and Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA). It is planned that NSIC will analyze information concerning nuclear accidents, potential accident precursors and nuclear research, then send the information to the NRA with recommendations for new regulations. The NRA will take the NSIC recommendations and create binding regulations for the nation’s nuclear power plants. The NRA regulations will be backed by the legal authority of the prime minister’s cabinet. While both groups will be organizationally positioned inside the Ministry of the Environment, its funding and operation will be entirely independent of the ministry itself. (NISA, March 2012)
  • Another possible nuke restart issue may be emerging. It has to do with the current 10km emergency planning zone being expanded to 30km for each power station. This could mean many, many more municipalities must be persuaded to approve nuke restarts than is now the case. Industry Minister Yukio Edano plans on visiting the local governments within 10km of the Oi power station the first week of April to outline the 30-point guideline for new safety regulations. He hopes this will satisfy the local officials sufficiently to allow restart of Oi units #3 & 4. If the “local entities” needed to approve restarts expands to 30km, it will not only mean more municipalities in Fukui Prefecture, but also a few in neighboring Shiga Prefecture. Shiga Prefecture has previously said they want to be part of the final decision on the Oi restarts. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Today, Shiga Prefecture has unilaterally expanded the nuclear preparedness zone to 43 kilometers. This is the first prefectural government to stretch the 30km Tokyo-mandated zone that will take effect on April 1st. This unprecedented move is intended to give Shiga some say on whether or not the Tsuruga nuclear power station in neighboring Fukui Prefecture can restart. Shiga says they ran their own computer simulations on a worst-case accident at Tsuruga and how contamination might spread. Governor Yukiko Kada said the Fukushima accident taught her that the central government cannot be trusted and local governments are thus obligated to take nuclear safety matters into their own hands. (NHK World)
  • The second-to-last operating nuke was shut down today for a planned outage. TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa unit #6 began its shuttering on Sunday and was taken completely off the grid this morning. To compensate for the loss of generating capacity, TEPCO is restarting additional retired thermal (fossil-fueled) plants. Many retired thermal units do not have modern pollution-control systems to remove particulates and carbon from their exhausts. In addition, pulling old thermal plants out of mothballs showed them to be quite unreliable last winter. TEPCO also plans to ask businesses and households to further reduce consumption below the minimum levels currently being experienced. (JAIF)
  • Eiji Hayashida, chairman of the Japan Iron and Steel Federation, says the nation’s society and economy cannot function without nuclear power. He told reporters Friday that once reactor safety is confirmed, the government should give a full explanation to appropriate localities. Without the hard work needed to obtain local understanding, restarts of idled nukes will be difficult or impossible. (NHK World)
  • Two top industry leaders say expansion of nuclear energy is the only realistic way to effectively reduce global warming. Director-general John Rich of the World Nuclear Association (WNA) and Luc Oursel, chief executive of the French nuclear reactor builder Areva, addressed an industry summit in Seoul, South Korea on Friday. Rich said nuclear power is “uniquely able to deliver on a global scale” both energy security and environmental protection. Climate change and the danger it foretells need “nothing less than a global clean-energy revolution. Those with a mind for real-world solutions know that this transformation can be attained only with nuclear power in a central role,” he said. Oursel said that while last year’s disaster raised concerns about the safety of nuclear power, countries around the world have resumed reactor building. A total of 60 new nukes are being built world-wide, which shows that the industry is doing very well. The summit was attended by some 200 experts and leaders from 36 countries to discuss ways to ensure safety and security of nuclear material and nuclear power plants, while safeguarding sensitive nuclear information from terrorists. (Japan Today)
  • Aichi Prefecture has committed to assisting in tsunami debris clean-up. They will build incineration and storage facilities on an artificial island previously used for local industrial waste treatment. Aichi will take up to one-half million tons of debris. "The central government should normally take the initiative in building waste disposal facilities in disaster-hit areas, but it's not doing anything," Aichi Gov. Hideaki Omura said at a press conference Saturday. "As Japan's top industrial prefecture, Aichi wants to do everything it can to contribute to reconstruction." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Gunma Prefecture’s governor Masaaki Osawa has visited the temporary debris storage site in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. He is personally investigating the possibility of his prefecture assisting in tsunami debris disposal. He also toured a debris treatment site under construction near the storage site. During his visit, Osawa used a dosimeter to measure radiation levels of some of the debris. After the dosimeter showed a reading of 0.05 microsievert per hour, Osawa said: "It's not an alarming figure. I don't think there's any need to be concerned over the risk of radiation." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Kawauchi Village has resumed regular village office operations in the hope of drawing evacuated residents to return. Kawauchi is located inside the Futaba District which was totally evacuated in March-April, 2011. This is the second municipality inside the evacuation zones to resume services. Shinroku Igari, 82, who came to the office for help with health insurance procedures, said, "It's nice that there are a lot of people at the office again." Recent surveys show that radiation levels in the village are very low, but the exact numbers will not be released before April 1 when the new zone designations will be published. So far, 230 of the village’s ~3,000 residents have returned. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has compiled a basic plan for training nuclear plant operators to prevent serious accidents beyond anything assumed probable. It calls for general measures at each stage of a severe accident, such as damage to nuclear fuel rods and the release of a large amount of radiation. It also includes measures against risks such as terrorist attacks and aircraft accidents. Government regulators are directed to continuously raise safety requirements to reflect lessons learned from nuclear accidents. This plan will become a basis of the new two-part watchdog organization reporting to the Prime Minister’s cabinet, beginning some time later this spring. (NHK World)

 

 

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