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Fukushima 38...8/17/12-8/31/12


August 31 

  • After three days of close inspection, the two fuel bundles from #4 Spent Fuel Pool at F. Daiichi have shown no visible damage. The removal and inspection were done to prepare for the full removal of all 1533 fuel bundles from the pool. Small pieces of concrete debris were found between the fuel rods in the bundles, which are clearly fragments from the outer wall and roof of the building which was destroyed by the hydrogen explosion of March 15, 2011. Similar fragments are expected to be found in many, if not all other fuel bundles. Whether or not it will complicate removal and transfer of the remaining rods in the pool is speculative. When one of the bundles was wiped with a white cloth, a green coating was discovered. It is believed to be “rust” caused by using seawater as a coolant during the first week of the accident. Whether or not the “rust” came in with the seawater or was produced by system components when they came in contact with the saline liquid is unknown. (NHK World)
  • Nuclear energy cutbacks in Japan present a harsh economic reality. The cost of immediately abandoning its nuclear reactors may be too much for Japan’s economy to bear, and possibly render nearly half of the electric power companies insolvent. “People talk easily about shutting down Japan’s nuclear power plants, but the economic and financial consequences are severe,” said Reiji Takeishi, professor of environmental economics at Tokyo International University. Japan’s most influential business lobby, the Keidanren, warns of disaster. Hundreds of thousands of jobs would be lost, the group says, and energy alternatives would be hampered by their own problems. Fuel imports are already surging during the nuclear moratorium, driving the country’s trade deficit to record highs. Power cutbacks are weighing heavily on Japanese businesses. Also, replacement of nukes with renewables is questionable due to their inherent intermittency of operation, and their cost will be extreme. “If we do not have a stable supply of energy at economically viable prices, Japan’s economy cannot grow,” the group said earlier this month. On the other hand, antinuclear voices say the nation’s economy is not important enough to continue nuclear energy operations. “How can you put the economy above safety, above human life?” said Masanori Oda, a contemporary artist and a representative of the movement. Nuclear critics argue that the potential costs of another nuclear accident outweigh all other considerations. “The assumptions underlying the economics of nuclear power no longer hold up,” said Terumitsu Honma, a professor in economics and insurance at Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo. (New York Times)
  • Fukushima Prefecture attacked an environmentalist for an unrealistic threat to young adults. Hobun Ikeya, director at Ecosystem Conservation Society-Japan, said young people in radiation-affected areas should never marry to prevent the birth of deformed babies. “If they give birth to their children after getting married, the incidence of deformities will become way higher. People in areas over which the radioactive plumes passed should not marry,” he said. Four Fukushima assembly members told reporters that the remarks were "inappropriate and discriminatory” and should not be tolerated. They demanded Ikeya retract his comments. Ikeya countered that his words had been twisted in an act of defamation, “I offered my view in general terms. Discrimination was never my intention.” The Fukushima prefectural government is struggling to stamp out what it calls “harmful rumors” concerning the nuclear accident while trying to prevent a population decline. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Tepco reports that the decay heat from F. Daiichi’s damaged fuel cells caused them to reduce cooling water flows. The heat generated by the fuel comes from the radioactive decay of its fission products. As time passes, fission product decay drops and some of the contained elements radiologically burn themselves out. After nearly 18 months of decay drop-off, the amount of heat produced by each core is very, very low. The cooling flow for unit #1 was reduced from 4.9 tons/hour down to 4 tons/hr. In units #2 and #3, the flows for each were reduced from 7 tons/hr down to 6.1 tons/hr. The temperatures of the reactor vessels have not changed as a result. (Tepco Press Release)
  • The recent results of a nation-wide voluntary survey on nuclear opinion continue to draw criticism. The panel analyzing the survey based their report on 90,000 public comments and opinions gathered at hearings in 11 locations and a deliberative opinion poll.The panel also says the survey may not reflect Japan’s public opinion on the whole. Instead, it reflects the judgment only of those with the strongest personal beliefs relative to nuclear power plants. The survey showed that 87% of the respondents want nuclear energy abolished. Meanwhile, surveys taken by Japan’s news media of persons selected at random show that less than half of the public favors the zero option. One other survey run by an internet company covering 1.3 million people showed a significant disparity in opinion due to age. 30% of those below the age of thirty say it is unnecessary to reduce nuclear power dependency if safety is improved, while only 20% of those over 50 agreed. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Finally, the Japanese Press has gone public with the financial and material drawbacks of replacing nukes with renewables. The government is pushing “green energy”, but now admits there will be drawbacks. For instance, offshore wind power generation is heavily affected by weather. Coordination with local fisheries cooperatives concerning fishing rights also poses a challenge. Geothermal power generation will take time to obtain construction approval of geothermal power plants as most of them would be built in national parks. The increased cost of power generation, which would be reflected in electricity bills, is thus also a concern. It is too early to say whether it is possible to generate enough electricity to meet the nation's needs without relying on nuclear power, if the plan is realized. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

August 29

  • Japanese officials say that the radiation from Fukushima’s current airborne emissions is less than gamma emanations from the plant’s rubble. In a report to the IAEA, officials say airborne Cesium emissions are at about 0.01 Becquerels per hour…barely detectable. Shinichi Kuroki, who presented the report, says the current challenge is to reduce the relatively high gamma radiation from the plant’s debris. The gamma “shine” should produce negligible exposure off-site. Reducing the gamma fields will lower the exposures to the people working at F. Daiichi. (Japan Today)
  • The Japanese government says the presence of actual seismic faults beneath or near nuclear stations will not necessarily keep them from operating. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) is planning new safety regulations for operations including plants where faults are beneath them. The faults will only stop operations if they are found to potentially exceed ground movements the plants have been built to safely survive. The agency will draft new criteria for evaluation of faults based on expert opinions and hand them over to its successor regulatory agency, which will be launched next month. (Kyodo News)
  • Two Japanese electric companies say they each have one nuke station that meet the current earthquake standards for nearby faults. Shikoku Electric’s Ikata station and Hokuriku Electric’s Shika power complex are said to be able to withstand even the rare-but-not-impossible quake postulated for the region. The two power companies told a NISA expert panel that the reactors and other key systems at the two nukes would have no safety problems even with the worst-possible quake. Chugoku Electric Co. and Hokkaido Electric Co. also reported that the Shimane Nuclear Power Plant was safe if subjected to the same conditions. NISA says they will look at the submitted reports to establish whether or not they are credible. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Shipments of Codfish caught off-shore of Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, have been stopped due to Japan’s overly-restrictive national standards. Hachinohe is about 350 kilometers from F. Daiichi. Some of the Cod taken from these Pacific waters have been tested to contain more than 100 Becquerels per kilogram, which is Japan’s legal limit. Back in June, one Cod was found with 116 Bq/kg, so a temporary restriction was imposed allowing only those Cod tested to be below the limit to be shipped. On August 9th, a few more Cod were tested to be above the limit, with the highest at 133 Bq/kg. Japan’s law states that if above-limit levels are detected multiple times, the food source is to be barred from shipment. It should be noted that Japan’s 100 Bq/kg limit is ten times lower than the international standard of 1,000 Bq/kg set by the United Nation’s Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). It is also 12 times lower than the American standard of 1,200 Bq/kg. The higher international limits are based on the assumption that the food of concern is consumed every day, which could result in an annual exposure of 5 millisieverts per year (avg. natural background level in America’s Rocky Mountains). In order to remove the ban, no Cod can be found to be above the limit for one month.  (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Peaches from Fukushima orchards are being shipped and sold all over Japan. This was not the case last summer when fears of the peaches being possibly radioactive nearly ruined the substantial Fukushima peach trade. This year’s crop is being sold at about 80% of the price before the Fukushima nuclear crisis. The return of sales is attributed to a commercial on TV featuring the pop group Tokio showing the peaches to be big, beautiful and delicious. In addition, Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato and other officials have traveled around the nation to promote produce grown in the prefecture. They believe stringent checks on radiation levels in peaches have helped peach sales. Currently, 30,000 cases of the delightful produce are being shipped to Tokyo and the Kansai region every day. It is planned to start shipping Fukushima grapes, pears and apples, all of which must pass the overly-conservative national standards for radiation. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu says he will support the public’s call for a nuclear energy referendum. Recently, a local petition signed by more than 160,000 people was submitted to the prefectural government calling for the abolition of future operations at the Hamaoka power station. "Signatures of 160,000 people mean a lot. I will strive to implement the referendum," said Kawakatsu. Because similar petitions did not result in referendums in two other prefectures, the governor’s statement caught the local antinuclear group that circulated the petition by surprise. "I was really surprised that the governor has upheld the ordinance as I had thought that he was against a referendum," said Nozomu Suzuki, representative of the citizens group, "I want the prefectural assembly to take the governor's decision seriously and pass the ordinance bill." The Hamaoka station is the closest nuke to Tokyo and was ordered shuttered by former PM Naoto Kan out of fears that an earthquake would force him to evacuate the world’s largest metropolitan population. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Tokyo says about 61% of those who voluntarily replied to a government poll want nuclear energy abolished as soon as possible. Another 20% want an end to nuclear power when it becomes practical. A panel of experts analyzed more than 89,000 public comments taken in July. The most-often-mentioned reasons are fear of another nuclear accident and the perception of uncertainty with respect to low radiation exposures. Some interesting related findings were uncovered. 44% said nukes should be replaced by renewable sources and 43% called nuclear energy unethical. Of those not wanting immediate nuclear abolition, 42% said complete nuclear eradication will cost Japan jobs and 41% said nuclear is currently necessary to maintain needed electricity supplies. At July’s public hearings, 33% said they want nuclear energy in Japan to end by 2030. In a phone survey taken during the hearings, 47% wanted nuclear abolition by 2030. (Yomiuri Shimbun) comment – could the voluntary survey have been “stuffed” by a deluge of fanatic antinuclear sympathizers?
  • An International antinuclear physician’s group urges Japan to further cut their radiation exposure limits. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War say Tokyo should keep all public radiation exposure below 1 millisievert per year in the wake of the Fukushima accident. The group adds that people living in Fukushima-contaminated areas should have access to all information concerning radiation’s health effects and should receive full government support to avoid all radiation exposures in excess of 1 mSv/yr. Japan’s nation average background level is 1.5 mSv/year, which makes the group’s suggestion seem questionable. (Kyodo News).

August 27

  • Tokyo has decided to try and place the Fukushima child thyroid anomaly issue in a realistic perspective. For more than a year, the government has offered free thyroid medical exams to 360,000 children in Fukushima Prefecture. Of the more than 38,000 children tested through March of this year, 13,646 were found to have thyroid lumps or some other irregularities by the prefectural medical community. However, the existence of these thyroid anomalies has not been compared to children who live far away from Fukushima to see if the large number of positive tests is actually due to the Fukushima accident. Medical experts will conduct ultrasonic thyroid examinations on roughly 4,500 children aged 18 or younger far away from Fukushima Prefecture to make a statistical comparison. Benign thyroid lumps are rather common in children everywhere. But, the government has no epidemiological data base to make a valid appraisal of the impact of a nuclear accident on child thyroids. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has posted a remarkably realistic report on the enormous impact of renewables. The historically antinuclear publication identifies the potential needs of materials and resources to make the world’s energy supply totally renewable by 2030. While some might argue the article should have included nuclear energy as a renewable (including this writer), the listing of the massive material volumes needed for renewable sources is in itself important. One significant paragraph begs to be cited; “Renewable energy sounds so much more natural and believable than a perpetual-motion machine, but there's one big problem: Unless you're planning to live without electricity and motorized transportation, you need more than just wind, water, sunlight, and plants for energy. You need raw materials, real estate, and other things that will run out one day. You need stuff that has to be mined, drilled, transported, and bulldozed -- not simply harvested or farmed.” For the full article, click this link… http://thebulletin.org/web-edition/columnists/dawn-stover/the-myth-of-renewable-energy
  • Japan has begun to utilize idled industrial properties for the construction of solar plants. Mega solar power plants require vast amounts of land to lay tens of thousands of solar panels as well as power-transmission facilities, but idled industrial complexes could reduce the impact somewhat. In Kawaminami town, Miyagi Prefecture, the local gas company has decided to build a two megawatt solar facility on part of an abandoned industrial park. Of the nine mega facilities planned for Tochigi Prefecture, four will be built in factory and industrial parks covering about 200,000 square meters. Another six MW facility will be built at the Yasuura industrial complex in Kure, Hiroshima Prefecture. According to the Japan Industrial Location Center, there are about 900 industrial complexes across Japan, but about 150 million square meters currently remain idle. Current projects could swell Japan’s solar output by 500 MWe by 2013 (which is roughly half the output of one nuclear unit). (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Tokyo has drawn up plans for the recovery of 12 municipalities in the former evacuations zones around F. Daiichi. They are located in the areas where the “no-go” restrictions have been lifted. The state will take full responsibility for decontamination and infrastructure recovery because it fully promoted nuclear energy prior to the Fukushima crisis. The government will restore railways, buses, highways, and other transportation systems, and refurbish industries within the next 5 years, so evacuees can lead stable lives after they return home. It also says the effort will create jobs for evacuees during the recovery period. The plan adds that new industries, including renewable energies and medical equipment, will be generated to secure jobs and keep younger generations in the areas. (NHK World)
  • Tokyo has ordered geological anomaly re-checks for more nukes. The new orders are for Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Mihama station and Japan Atomic Energy Agency's Monju fast-breeder reactor. Similar instructions have previously been issued for three other nuclear power stations – Tsuruga, Shika, and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. None of them will be allowed to restart until their earthquake situation can be re-analyzed. The anomalies include cracks in the bedrock as well as “crush zones” (stony deposits in the cracks). All of the anomalies in question were analyzed and found to meet siting criteria before any of the above nuclear stations were allowed to be built. The reasons for the new examinations are two-fold. First, prior to 2006 the time-frame since the last movement of the cracks was 50,000 years. Since 2006 they must be shown to have not moved for at least 130,000 years. Second, a crack that moved during the earthquake of 3/11/11 was previously believed to be non-seismic by the pre-2006 standards. Thus, NISA’s call for re-evaluation has some justification. The urgency in doing the testing is spurred by public outcry following the Fukushima accident, although all empirical evidence strongly indicates the 9.0 Richter-scale quake did no damage to the reactors or safety systems at F. Daiichi. It is estimated that the re-evaluations will take roughly six months at each location. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The first contamination checks for bulk rice production in Fukushima Prefecture show nothing above the current, stringent health standards. The first testing is on rice grown in the Nihonmatsu municipality, on the southern edge of the old northwest evacuation zone. The initial tests were on fourteen bags of 30 kilogram rice under the Gohyakugawa brand name. As each passed the test, labels verifying the absence of contamination were affixed to the bags. One farmer shed tears of joy to find out that his produce had passed the test. Harvesting of rice in Nihonmatsu will continue through September. (NHK World)
  • It now seems that mere rumors about governmental officials are permissible news media fodder. A media report on Friday said Environment/Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono was negotiating with the town of Minamiosumi, Kagoshima Prefecture, to host a final disposal site for Fukushima-contaminated materials. Hosono flatly denies that such negotiations are happening. He said that the government is looking at all possible options and talking with municipal officials all over Japan, "We've been looking into various possibilities, but we haven't officially asked any specific municipalities [about the final disposal site] yet." Hosono added that he knows the Minamiosumi mayor because the town has a national park, and has talked to him about Fukushima and the debris disposal problem. But, he said he discusses those issues with all municipal leaders he comes into contact with. Even the Minamiosumi Municipal Government was taken by surprise. One official said "We have not heard anything about this," and that there had been no official contact from anyone in Tokyo about it. Minamiosumi lies on the southern tip of Osumi Peninsula, some 1500 kilometers from F. Daiichi. (Japan Times)
  • Fear of the possibility of radiation continues to draw news media attention. About 5% of the students in Fukushima prefecture are refusing to swim in their school’s outdoor pools for fear that the water might be contaminated with radiation. The schools have gone to extreme measures to remove all traces of contamination in and around the pools, but some students are declining participation in swimming programs. The municipal board of education ran the survey in June and July, before summer vacation. One curious discovery was that the lower areas ofexposure had just as much denial as those regions with higher radiation levels. In other words, the cause is not linked to radiation intensity, but rather a result of fear itself. However, the survey results pleasantly surprised some board officials. One said, "We expected more students not to go swimming. We believe our careful explanations about our thorough decontamination efforts provided a better understanding of safety." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Yet another popular voice in Japan has gone antinuclear. Manga author Yoshinori Kobayashi, formerly a supporter of Japan’s efforts in WWII, has joined the list of those opposing nukes. Clearly influenced by naïve apocalyptic visions, the author says, “Shouldn’t Japan immediately abandon the old science of nuclear power that ... is linked to the destruction of the nation, and carry out an energy revolution leading the world?” Kobayashi first won fame in the 1990s with a series of comics which argued that Japan’s belligerence in the 1930s and 1940s was aimed at freeing Asia from Western imperialism, denying wartime atrocities. He now takes aim at Japan’s so-called “nuclear village”, which for decades promoted nuclear energy as perfectly safe, cheap and clean. He also dismisses the argument that Japan’s resource-poor economy will suffer if the country abandons nuclear energy. (Japan Today)

August 24

  • The majority Democratic Party of Japan has drafted an energy policy which proposes keeping nukes in the electric supply mix for a few decades. The draft policy allows for the resumption of the idled reactors following safety checks by a new nuclear regulatory body, expected to begin soon. However, the DPJ paper calls for a strict limit of 40 years on nuclear plant operations so as to insure a reduced reliance on them in the future. In order to replace the lost nuclear capacity, they want expanded use of liquid natural gas and renewables. The suggestion of more nuke restarts has created controversy internal to the DPJ. A minority of the party’s lawmakers oppose nuke restarts under any condition. The DPJ working group wanted to finalize the report this week, but opposition made that impossible. (NHK World)
  • Early tabulations of the government’s recent nation-wide nuclear policy survey indicate that 90% want nuclear energy abolished. Of the nearly 90,000 submissions, 7,000 were pulled at random for an early indication of trend.  90% of those favoring abolition want it to occur immediately. 8.6% favored a gradual shift to a nuclear-free energy mix, and 4% said they supported the current 30% contribution from nukes. A member of the government’s review panel commented, "Rather than interpreting the results numerically, we should focus more on qualitative analysis and the paths leading toward people's views." Another member said the poll was created in haste during a time when those opposed to nuclear energy were keen to submit an opinion, while those in favor may have opted to remain silent. Thus, the results are “insufficient for careful deliberation of the issue.” (Mainichi Shimbun) Today’s Yomiuri Shimbun posted a comparative chart showing that the above survey may well be misleading if taken in isolation from other polls. The chart my be found at  http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120823003588.htm                    
  • As previously reported, the antinuclear group headed by Japanese celebrities wants to abolish all nukes by 2025. Group leader, author Kenzaburo Oe, now says nuclear plants could end life as we know it in less than 100 years, "We must bring an end to nuclear power plants if humankind is to continue living in the next century." The group labels nuclear power plants as “extremely fragile systems” with respect to security and devastating accident damage. They add that no safe method of nuclear waste disposal exists, so no nukes should exist. They also say that spent fuel recycling should be abolished. (Japan Times) comment – They fail to consider that recycling will reduce the volume of the total volume of waste by 95%. Regardless, by opposing the safest waste disposal method available, they make their no-safe-disposal-exists statement self-fulfilling. History reveals groups like this fight any waste disposal option tooth-and-nail, and then has the arrogant audacity to say that no-one knows what to do with the stuff.
  • A survey indicates 50% of the evacuated population of Tomioka town plans on returning home, once the government allows it. 30% said they never want to return home under any condition. Questionnaires were mailed to all 7,150 households uprooted after 3/11/11. 3,150 (44% of the total) responded to the official query. The survey was run by the displaced town’s government. Tomioka lies due south of Fukushima Daiichi. The town border extends to, and includes, the undamaged F. Daini nuclear power station. Tomioka is currently a restricted area where repopulation is considered possible, but not in the near term. Government estimates of radiation exposure in the town are around 20 millisieverts per year, which is the upper limit for making immediate efforts to repopulate. (Kyodo News)
  • Japan’s earthquake paranoia relative to nukes continues. Tepco is the latest utility to announce they will re-analyze the geological cracks long-known to exist beneath one of its nuclear power stations. Two geological anomalies, labeled “Alpha and Beta”, have been known to run under unit #1 of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear station for a number of decades. They were analyzed by Tepco and found to be not active, meaning they had not moved in the last 50,000 years, which was the design regulation at the time. Seismic design regulations for nuclear plants were changed in 2006 to extend the non-movement criteria to as far back as 130,000 years.  Tepco re-analyzed and found there has been no movement in either anomaly for as far back as 240,000 years. However, because of the earthquake paranoia following Fukushima’s accident, the government has ordered re-analysis of all known anomalies below or near all nukes using state-of-the-art methods not existent six years ago. This order was laid down because “…the age estimation did not have a clear foundation.” The new analyses will seek fossilized pollen which will be dated to establish if and/or when the cracks moved in the past. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Chubu Electric Company says rust has been found in the system of Hamaoka unit #1, which was ordered shut down by former PM Naoto Kan in May, 2011. During the shutdown, some five tons of seawater entered the plant’s power system through pipe breaks in the condenser which cools the turbine’s exhausted steam. Because Hamaoka unit #1 is a boiling water reactor system, the seawater mixed with the thousands of tons of pure water already in the system and was pumped through the reactor vessel (RPV). As part of the current shutdown, some fuel bundles were removed from the core and inspected. A few were found to have rust on them. Chubu Electric says the rust probably came from someplace in the system other than the fuel core. This is likely because the fuel itself is encased in Zirconium, which doesn’t rust. The company also suggests the rust could have entered the system along with the intrusion of the seawater more than a year ago.  Regardless, all fuel bundles will be removed to allow a full inspection of the RPV’s interior. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Traces of one Plutonium isotope have been found at 10 locations around F. Daiichi. 62 locations were sampled and tested. The highest reading was 11 Becquerels per square meter in Namie town, which lies ~20km northwest of the damaged power complex. That is about 1.4 times greater than the level that resulted from nuclear weapon’s tests around the world. The Pu-238 traces were also detected in Okuma, Iitate, and Minamisoma. The furthest distance from F. Daiichi of a detectable Pu-238 level was 32 kilometers. (Iitate) No other municipalities within 100 kilometers of F. Daiichi have detectable levels of the isotope. It should be noted that a Becquerel is one radioactive decay emission per second. The 11 Becquerel level in Namie is so trivial that that the Science Ministry says there is no health hazard whatsoever. (Japan Times)
  • The Science Council of Japan will propose a relatively radical reconsideration of the nation’s nuclear waste disposal plans. The proposal will be specific to spent (used) nuclear fuel bundles. The current official plan is for burial of the bundles at least 300 meters underground in suitable geological formations for more than 10,000 years. The Council says that idea has fundamental problems because the country as a whole is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity such that there are no geological locations which meet such a long-term criterion.  The council says the government should first find temporary storage sites to hold the used fuel bundles for between “decades to hundreds of years”. During that time frame, a more suitable disposal plan should be developed and a national consensus on the issue ought to exist. Sources say the proposal could start yet another nuclear debate due to a national distrust of nuclear policy-makers, which itself could further-prolong the process. The proposal is planned for public release next week. (NHK World)

August 22

  • Environment minister Goshi Hosono warns against the immediate abolition of Japanese electrical generation from nuclear plants. Before the post-Fukushima moratorium on nuclear power plant operations, Japan produced more than 30% of its electricity from nukes. The moratorium has pushed Japan to the brink of electrical shortfalls and forced the public to reduce consumption to unprecedented levels. Hosono also presented a new issue – lack of expertise in how to decommission and dismantle nukes. He says, "Unless we have the knowledge of how to maintain such technology (for decommissioning), we can't simply say that we will be able to abandon nuclear power generation." Hosono adds that Japan must also be wary of over-reliance on fossil fuels, especially due to the current instabilities in the Middle East. (Kyodo News)
  • Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda met with the organizers of the weekly Tokyo antinuclear protests, but nothing has changed on either side. The activists accused Noda of not learning anything from the Fukushima accident, which they believe is “…yet to be brought under control”. They argue that Noda ignored the will of the people by restarting two Oi nukes last month, and asked him to withdraw the current nominees for the new nuclear regulatory commission because the selection process has been “less than transparent”. Noda replied he approved the Oi restarts after their safety was well-established, and the decision was based on preventing electrical shortages that would have adversely harmed people’s lives. He added that the government’s current position is to reduce reliance on nuclear energy in the future, which he said is based on Tokyo’s carefully listening to people’s opinions. The activists refused to accept Noda’s explanation and will continue to promote their weekly demonstrations on the internet until Japan is nuclear-free. (NHK World)
  • Tokyo’s newly-formed Energy and Environment Council is investigating into the possibility of eliminating all nuclear energy in Japan by 2030. This has been spurred by current public coutcries for full nuclear abandonment and accelerated domestic innovation in renewable energy. However, there are no prospects that stable renewable energy will be made available at low prices. "Solar power is expensive while wind power is unstable," says a government source. Nuclear abolishment will probably cause electric customer bills to soar and force many companies to leave Japan to keep their production costs under control. Because of this, a majority of Diet lawmakers are wary of nuclear abandonment. However, minority groups in the legislature that support nuclear withdrawal are getting most of the attention because they are catering to vocal public opinion. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Now, another “expert” study of the Fukushima accident will be undertaken. This time by the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, a largely academic group with distant ties to the nuclear energy industry. The AESJ has formed a committee of 40 persons from universities and research facilities to undertake the study. The panel plans to publish their findings by December, 2013. University of Tokyo Professor Satoru Tanaka will chair the committee. He says the group will follow similar paths of the four previous investigations by government and industry, focusing on political and Tepco involvement in the crisis. He adds that they will also investigate the AESJ to establish what they could have done to avert the situation. If AESJ is found to have been a contributor to the lack of accident prevention, they will consider a reformation of their association. (NHK World)
  • Two men in Fukushima Prefecture have relatively high internal radioactive Cesium levels, but less than the government’s current health standard. One man from Nihonmatsu city, 35 kilometers west of F. Daiichi, has a reading of nearly 12,000 Becquerels which relates to an internal exposure of 0.5 millisieverts per year. The national standard has been set at one mSv/yr. The other from Kawamata town, just north of Nihonmatsu, has a read-out of close to 20,000 Becquerels, or 0.85 mSv/yr. The Kawamata resident’s internal deposition is due to eating homegrown shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots almost every day. The mushrooms were found to contain about 140,000 Bq/kg. The Nihonmatsu man’s internal Cesium was due to eating a wide range of homegrown vegetables. Doctor Masaharu Tsubokura, who tested the men, commented, "This is not a level that would affect their health, but when people consume homegrown vegetables and other such products we would like them to undergo tests.” (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The antinuclear activist group, Mihama no Kai, says the Oi nukes were not needed this summer and should never have been restarted. Because there have been no rolling blackouts this summer, the group says the Oi unit 3&4 restarts were needless and placed Japan in a state of unnecessary risk. Executive Director Hideyuki Koyama said, "The data are solid proof that Japan can supply enough electricity even without any nuclear power generation." He added, "Electricity utilities may be opting to restart their nuclear reactors since they are cheaper than thermal power plants. Reactivation of the reactors was decided considering the cost and profits of the electricity utilities. But under the circumstances, nuclear plants should be shut down for the safety of the public." (Japan Times)
  • Elevated Cesium levels have been detected in some of the fish caught near the damaged Fukushima power station. Tepco has caught 20 kinds of fish and shellfish from five near-shore locations within 20 kilometers of F. Daiichi. Nine of them were found to have Cesium concentrations in excess of the government’s limit of 100 Becquerels per kilogram. One rock trout caught a kilometer from Minamisoma, 20km north of F. Daiichi, had a Cesium concentration of 25,800 Bq/kg, which is 258 times the national standard. This is the highest level yet discovered anywhere in the sea east of the Tohoku region. Tepco will continue to survey sea life in the area until at least the end of September. (Kyodo News)

August 20

  • Volunteers have “flocked” to Minamisoma to assist in tsunami debris disposal and decontamination so residents may return to their homes. While decontamination is a concern, it seems the main job is removing tsunami debris and the reestablishment of infrastructure. Many of the roughly 4,000 homes damaged or destroyed by the quake and tsunami had been untouched since 3/11/11. In July, between 150 and 200 volunteers showed up weekly. In August the number of helpers has swelled to over 300 per week. One 70-year-old man had driven a small truck for two-and-a-half days from Miyazaki Prefecture. Many of the volunteers said they had never volunteered before the post-disaster recovery efforts. Masataka Miyazaki, 38, from Yokohama, Kanagawa Prefecture, spends most of his weekends in Minamisoma. He says, "People really appreciate it when you clean their homes and remove rubble for them, and it makes me happy to be able to play a part in the reconstruction." Masaru Shimada, 54, from Saitama, says he’s “becoming attached to the area. What I'm doing might just be for my self-satisfaction, but I want to be able to see the recovery through.” (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • National Policy Minister Motohisa Furukawa has said he feels the undamaged units at both Fukushima power stations should never be restarted. He made this brash statement last Thursday at a meeting of evacuees from Kawauchi village. Tepco plans to decommission and dismantle units #1 through #4 at F. Daiichi, but has not made any such plans for the other units in the prefecture. Furukawa says Tepco should also dismantle the fully functional units #5&6 at F. Daiichi and units #1-4 at F. Daini. All six units were automatically shut down on 3/11/11 and have been kept inactive due to Japan’s fear-predicated moratorium on nuclear operations. (Japan Times)
  • On Sunday, the Tokyo government met with the mayors of Okuma, Futaba and Naraha to explain plans for temporary waste storage facilities. The Tokyo contingent included environment minister Goshi Hosono and reconstruction minister Tatsuo Hirano. The meeting was a briefing on environmental tests Tokyo wants to run before any decision is made. After the meeting, the three mayors declined comment on what was proposed. (Kyodo News) Tokyo says they are looking at 12 sites within 15 kilometers of F. Daiichi, and will either buy or lease the locations from the local communities. A Nahara farmer opposes the plan because he feels it will discourage residents from rebuilding their community. On the other hand, an Okuma resident says protests against the plan will only delay community decontamination and keep people away from their homes for a longer period. (NHK World)
  • Power companies have handled the summer demand across Japan. So far there has been enough electricity generation to accommodate usage. To date, no rolling blackouts have been needed, mostly due to voluntary power conservation efforts by customers. The most critical situation is with the Kansai Electric Company, which was heavily dependent on nukes before the current moratorium. Thanks to the Oi unit #3&4 restarts, Kansai has 29,880 Megawatts (MWe) of available capacity. The highest demand this summer was on August 3 with 26,820 MWe used by the system. However, if the Oi plants were not restarted, Kepco would only have had 25,420 MWe available on that date and localized rolling blackouts would have been considered. The company is literally keeping its fingers crossed that old, previously-mothballed thermal (fossil-fueled) plants continue to operate and not suddenly drop off the grid due to mechanical failures. (Yomiuri Shimbun) On Sunday, two thermal units experienced problems. The Karita plant, a fluidized bed coal-fired system, was forced to cut its power output in half because of a failed fuel pump. Its peak output is 375 megawatts (electrical). Also, a fire at the Sendai refinery knocked out one of its three gas generators. (NHK World)
  • Attendance at the weekly antinuclear protests in Tokyo has dropped dramatically. On July 27, metropolitan police estimates of the numbers of protesters ranged between 14,000 and 17,000. This past Friday, the estimated attendance was about 1,000. The reduced numbers have happened in spite of intensive advertising by antinuclear activist groups on the internet. (Japan Today)
  • Friday’s demonstration marked the 67th anniversary of Japan’s surrender that ended World War II. A number of elderly demonstrators tried to make a comparison between today’s government and the one that controlled Japan during WWII. One man spoke to the crowd through a microphone saying the current Tokyo policy on nuclear energy reminded him of WWII’s totalitarian regime. He said, “At that time, Japanese people received orders from the government and big businesses that slighted their lives. What’s happening with nuclear power plants now is that the government and big business are disregarding people’s lives.” He added that nuclear weapon’s dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended WWII and nuclear accidents could end Japan. (Japan Today)
  • A worker at F. Daiichi was found to have misused his dosimeters. A contractor’s crain operator was on break from his job. When he left his job-site, he also left his two dosimeters (pocket APD and LED badge) behind, along with his worker ID. Another worker found his ID and badge dosimeter and returned them to him, but not before reporting it. The APD, however, could not be found. In order to insure a temporary appraisal of his on-the-job exposure, other workers doing the same work at the same location had their APDs checked. Their average exposure was the one temporarily given to the worker. His badge dosimeter will be analyzed in order to establish his actual exposure.  (Tepco Press Release)
  • International antinuclear group, Greenpeace, has demanded that 12 nukes in Europe be shut down immediately, largely because of Fukushima. The extremist organization (prone to exaggerating anything nuclear) says that out of the “stress tests” that all 143 European nukes have taken, they discovered that the dozen identified plants may have flaws overlooked by those analyzing the data. Greenpeace says this makes them unsafe during earthquakes and/or flooding. The 12 plants are located in Belgium (Doel and Tihange), Great Britain (Wylfa) and France (Fessenheim and Gravelines). (Kyodo News)

August 17

  • The Tokyo government ordered Tepco to not tell the Press that unit #3 at F. Daiichi was in a very dangerous state, early on March 14. When plant manager Yoshida saw that RPV and containment pressures were spiking, he ordered all non-essential personnel to leave the unit #3 buildings (not the control room) for fear of another hydrogen explosion. He passed this word on to Tepco/Tokyo, and they began writing a press statement about it. This was about two hours before the unit #3 explosion. However, officials from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) ordered Tepco to delay the announcement. Tepco’s teleconferencing footage shows one official saying, "We've been stopped by the government and are being made to wait before issuing any announcement to the press." A second Tepco official adds, "NISA officials are blocking any release of information on the matter. The agency's officials are saying that (Tepco) should not be the entity to announce this either." NISA says it kept everything on hold because they were unable to obtain the necessary permission with its chief. (Japan Times)
  • A study by the National Defense Medical College and Ehime University shows public slander and criticism contributed more to the mental stress of Fukushima workers than fear of radiation. It warns that stress, anxiety and loss of motivation among Tepco workers could eventually slow recovery eforts. Jun Shigemura, who coauthored the report, says "Even though they work hard bringing the crippled reactors under control, they have become the perpetrators, and the target of angry Japanese people.” Criticism of Tepco by the public and media has been escalating. Thus workers at the two Fukushima stations have fallen victim to blame and slurs, rather than appreciation for their efforts. In addition, the report suggests that similar, if not worse discrimination is being suffered by the myriad of contractors assisting in the recovery effort. The doctors warn that discrimination is harming the workers' productivity. Shigemura adds, "Such low motivation could result in slowing down the restoration process, which will take decades, and possibly trigger accidents." (Japan Times)
  • The Tokyo government has begun a comprehensive survey of Fukushima evacuees to see how many want to return home. Reconstruction Minister Tatsuo Hirano says they will be focusing on towns with populations from inside the zones believed to have exposures in excess of 20 millisieverts per year. The government estimates that about 15,000 residents from inside the former no-go zones will not be allowed to return home in the foreseeable future because of possible exposures in excess of 20 mSv. The first town is Katsuro village, located between 20 and 30 kilometers from F. Daiichi. The Ministry wants to know if long-term Katsuro evacuees will agree to the construction of a temporary town where people can live until their former homes are allowed to repopulate. (NHK World)
  • Nearly 700 Japanese retirees want to volunteer in the F. Daiichi recovery, but Tokyo is not cooperating. One retiree, Yasuteru Yamada, has gone to the United States to get American pressure put on the government to use them. In a New York presentation, he said, "The Japanese government is very sensitive to American voices." The retirees feel their help will reduce radiation exposure to younger people, "Radiation exposure is unavoidable. But even with (radiation) damage . . . the rest of my life is no more than 15 years." Yamada is 73 years old. The retirees have approached both Tepco and the government, but both told the retirees there is “no room” for them. "Why can't we join them or replace them? That is the question," the Tokyo native said. "I believe that one day Tepco will face a (worker) shortage." (Japan Times)

 

 

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