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Fukushima 41...10/3/12-10/15/12


October 17

(For today's commentary - No “Melt-throughs” at Fukushima Daiichi? – a Detailed Explanation - click on "Fukushima Commentary" in the menu column on the left of this page.)

  • A team of American experts have concluded that F. Daiichi unit #4 spent fuel pool was never really a danger. An Oak Ridge National Laboratory research group finished their report in January and ran it through an extensive peer review process. Their findings are published in the November issue of Nuclear Technology entitled “Study of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Unit 4 Spent-Fuel Pool”. As is typical of esteemed researchers, the team has done next to nothing to draw popular attention to their important work. The long, detailed analysis is painstakingly recorded for any interested party, but the bottom line is stated in the report’s conclusion, “… it is reasonably concluded that there would have been no large leakage in the SFP and no occurrence of fuel uncovery at any time.” This overtly contradicts the irresponsible statements made by Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko to America’s congress on March 16, 2011. He said the pool’s fuel was completely dry and the spent fuel bundles were on fire. This writer, fellow writer Rod Adams, MIT’s school of Nuclear Engineering, and several European experts immediately cried “foul” stating there just wasn’t enough heat being generated for a long enough time to start uncovering any of the bundles in the pool as of March 16. Not even close. The Oak Ridge study corroborates our 18-month-old position that Jaczko was grossly in error. (http://atomicinsights.com/2012/10/oak-ridge-researchers-prove-fukushima-unit-4-spent-fuel-pool-never-a-danger.html#more-13073)
  • High-resolution pictures from inside F. Daiichi SFP #3 show no damage to the stored fuel bundles. The hydrogen explosion of 3/14/11 resulted in considerable heavy debris falling into the pool and accumulating on top of the stored fuel. The location and condition of the debris is now better-understood. In addition, all indications are that the falling debris did not damage any of the contained bundles. Tepco’s greatest concern was the 35-ton fuel transfer apparatus that plunged into the pool, which is the heaviest of the debris material. "We now know approximately where the equipment fell," an official at the utility told reporters Monday, adding the spent fuel rods in the pool apparently were not damaged by the impact. (Japan Times)
  • Tepco reports that a water leak was discovered on the first floor of the F. Daiichi unit #2 turbine building on Monday. The leak was from the system transferring water from the building’s basement to the Radioactive Waste Treatment Facility. The leak was stopped an hour later. The leaked water was entirely contained within the turbine building, and nothing escaped to the outside of the building. The extent of the leaked water on the building’s floor covered an area of about 18 m2 and 5 millimeters depth. Earlier in the day, plant staff intentionally stopped the cooling system for the unit #2 spent fuel pool in order to perform system maintenance. As a result of the inspection, a few system valves and some of the system piping will be replaced. Restart is expected by Saturday. The SFP temperature at shutdown was 23oC. Because of the very low decay heat being generated from the stored fuel bundles, it is estimated that by restart on Saturday the pool will be at about 29oC. (Tepco Press Release)
  • Seismic investigation of the geologic anomaly under the currently-operating Oi NPS will begin on November 2nd. The study will be run by a team of four seismic experts under the aegis of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA). The group will be headed by Commissioner Kunihiko Shimazaki, a seismologist, and three other people from different Japanese academies. NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka says this is a re-assessment of existing seismic data on the anomaly, spurred by intense public concern. It should be noted that one of the team members has been an outspoken about underground geological seams that could undermine nuke quake resistance. (NHK World)
  • The Seismological Society of Japan has announced they will avoid use of the term “prediction” when making future earthquake projections. The Society says the term has generated considerable misunderstanding. They point out that it is possible to make mid-to-long term “projections”, but they are necessarily uncertain as to when they might happen. The Society has been under heavy criticism for not predicting the Great East Japan Earthquake of 3/11/11. Society head Teruyuki Kato of The University of Tokyo's Earthquake Research Institute says he regrets the Society's broad use of the term "prediction" has caused misunderstanding. He hopes focusing on the term “projection” will give the public a more correct understanding of the current state of seismic research. Kato added that the field of seismology cannot predict the time, place and magnitude of future earthquakes. They can only “project” whether or not a fault is likely to produce a quake, but cannot predict when it might occur. (NHK World)
  • New Science and Education Minister, Ms. Makiko Tanaka, has questioned Tokyo’s recent no-nukes policy. She says the pursuit of renewables should happen, but Japan should make also use of nukes that meet the NRA’s future regulations and safety requirements. "It's not easy to change all the energy sources to green energy, like what [former] Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said. It costs a lot of money as well as time," Tanaka told the Press. "If Japan wants to keep up its economic standards and live as a cultured nation and not bother (other nations), (nuclear energy) is needed. Nobody on Earth thinks that nuclear power is great after seeing the March 11 disaster. . . . Risky plants should be stopped. And, of course, we cannot build a new nuclear reactor. . . . But nuclear energy also has a plus side to it, such as uses in the medical field. What we have to do is to conduct further research on reactors and other equipment that can survive quakes . . . and at the same time develop green energy." (Japan Times)

October 15

Today’s first Fukushima update focusses on Tepco’s Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee (NRMC) report recommending changes the company should make to insure nuclear safety. The committee is comprised of five respected international experts from several nuclear and related fields. The Chairman is Dale Klein, former chairman of America’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The other members are Barbara Judge (former chair of Britain’s Atomic Energy Authority), Masafumi Sakurai (public prosecutor and member of the Diet’s Fukushima investigative committee), and Kenichi Ohmae (former nuclear engineer with Hitachi, Ltd). Tepco is represented on the panel by their Chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe. The NRMC is as independent as it gets in Japan. A Japanese nuclear company using independent experts to set corporate policy is virtually unheard-of. Tepco says they will re-structure their nuclear energy division from top to bottom, if necessary, to establish sufficient confidence with the public to allow the restart of their currently-idled nukes. The company posted the NRMC’s initial recommendations on Friday.

Concurrent with the report’s release, Chairman Klein made a public statement. He believes that Tepco had become overly confident in its nuclear program and did not question their level of safety before 3/11/11. He commended Tepco for taking the initiative to create the NRMC, acknowledging that Tepco cannot continue without substantial reform. Klein said, "It's very important for Tepco to recognize the need to reform and the committee is very anxious to facilitate the reforms necessary for Tepco to become a world-class company. The committee's goal is to ensure that Tepco develops practices and procedures so an accident like (the Fukushima meltdowns) will never happen again." He also disclosed he has personally inspected Fukushima Daiichi, with a central focus on the oft-criticized unit #4 Spent Fuel Pool (SFP). He says the building is safe and not in danger of future earthquake damage. Klein added that the uncertainty about the pool’s integrity was caused by early misinformation claiming the pool to be dry. Klein explained that once incorrect information becomes widespread it is difficult to establish confidence in the dissemination of correct evidence when the initial information is proven wrong.

A member of Tepco’s executive staff confirmed their intention to implement all NRMC recommendations posted in the committee’s report. "You can take this as our company's view," said Takafumi Anegawa, general manager of TEPCO's Nuclear Asset Management Department, “We don’t have any preconditions for our reforms.” Anegawa added the committee that the final report to be posted by the end of this year will show that if the recommendations had been made well before 3/11/11 "that would have saved us from the accident, if we were able to turn back the clock." He added that Tepco admitted the NRMC report conflicts with their in-house investigation of last year. Back then, Tepco absolved itself of responsibility for the Fukushima accident by saying the massive tsunami of 3/11/11 was “unforeseeable”. Tepco now confesses it was aware of the beyond-expectations potential for a massive tsunami at least a decade before 3/11/11, but did little to prevent such an event from causing an accident. They feared the public would take safety upgrades as a sign that their plants were not built to be safe and lawsuits relative to such criticisms would have been costly. Tepco’s Anegawa acknowledges, "If we had taken measures based on previous tsunami evaluations and adopted sufficient countermeasures against severe accidents, (the nuclear disaster) could have been handled.” (Yomiuri Shimbun; NHK World; Mainichi Shimbun; Kyodo News; Japan Times)

Here are some other Fukushima updates…

  • This writer’s argument that there have probably been no Fukushima Daiichi Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV) “melt-throughs”, posted Friday, has been corroborated by one of the most respected and successful nuclear writers on the web…Rod Adams. Please click the following link to Rod’s Atomic Insights for his posting… http://atomicinsights.com/2012/10/radiation-probes-indicate-no-melt-through-at-fukushima-unit-1.html#more-13071
  • Japan’s new nuclear regulator, the NRA, will establish an advisory team of experts to draft a revised nuclear regulatory law for Japan. The revision is planned to take effect next July. It will be blended into Japan’s existing Law for the Regulation of Nuclear Source material, Nuclear Fuel material and Reactors. The revision will take the Fukushima accident into full account. The Law’s revisions will include the following; (a) responses to design-basis events, (b) responses to external events that might initiate beyond-design-basis events, including natural calamities and terrorism, (c) basic policies on severe accident measures, and (d) upgraded safety evaluations. (JAIF)
  • Nuclear Regulatory Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka says Tokyo should not have allowed Oi units #3&4 to restart before the NRA had been formed. The new regulations will account for severe natural calamities, upgraded emergency response procedures and protection against terrorist attacks. None of these concerns were addressed by his agency’s predecessor, NISA. Tanaka also acknowledged that idled plants should not be restarted until all public protective measures have been instituted using the new 30-kilometer criteria established by Tokyo. When asked if he would use his authority to shut down both Oi units, Tanaka said, "Right now we don't have the legal basis to make any judgment over reactors. We don't have the legal power to stop the Oi reactors." However, he said that if the geologic anomalies under the Oi complex are found to be seismic, the two operating units would have to be shuttered. (Japan Times)
  • Hokuriku Electric Company has completed its new tsunami protection seawall at Shika Nuclear Station. The Shika station sits ~15 meters above the adjoining sea. The new wall sits above the 15-meter embankment and stands a full 4 meters high. It is 700 meters long, fully covering the ocean-side of the Shika power complex property. The wall is embedded in the ground by 93 foundation pillars, each 3 meters in diameter and 14 meters long. The structure can withstand all rare-but-not-impossible earthquakes and tsunamis. The wall also includes 42 drainage gates to expel any water that might surge over and/or around the structure during a worst-case tsunami. (JAIF)

 

October 12

(For today's commentary - No “Melt-throughs” at Fukushima Daiichi? - click on "Fukushima Commentary" in the menu column located at the left of this page)

  • Using endoscopic technology, Tepco has measured the water depth in the bottom of the annulus between the RPV pedestal and outer PCV wall, as well as radiation levels above and below the water. The water is about 2.8 meters deep, which is 80 centimeters more than they expected based on the water level found in unit #2. The radiation level at the surface of the water itself is about 0.5 sieverts per hour, which was another surprise to Tepco because they estimated that it would be at least double that level. The radiation field just above the water’s surface is 4.7 sieverts per hour. However, the radiation measurement at an elevation of 8.6 meters above the floor of the annulus is 11 sieverts per hour, producing yet another surprise. , Tepco had speculated the radiation field should have been increasingly lower as the radiation detector was raised higher and higher above the water. The opposite is now known to be the case. The Tepco spokesman, Masayuki Ono, says it is difficult to identify where the source of this higher radiation is coming from. However, holding true to the company position of a full RPV melt-through, Ono said the high water level is surely enough to keep the melted fuel lying at the bottom of the PCV from over-heating. Tepco also says the relatively good condition of the PCV’s inner steel lining and the concrete pedestal wall is yet another surprise. What little debris that has been viewed on the metal grating (walkway) suggests the hydrogen explosion of March 12, 2012 had fairly little impact on the physical integrity of the containment. (NHK World; Mainichi Shimbun; Asahi Shimbun; Kyodo News; Japan Times)
  • Tepco has intentionally stopped the de-chlorination system on F. Daiichi unit #4 spent fuel pool (SFP). Why? Because the entire pool’s water has been effectively de-chlorinated, and system operation is no longer necessary. The SFP Chloride level before the system went into operation more than a year ago was 1,944 parts per million. It has been reduced to about 9ppm, which meets Japan’s stringent fresh water standards. (Tepco Press Release)
  • Tepco has finally admitted they had insufficient tsunami protective measures prior to 3/11/11, and they could have upgraded them well before that catastrophic date…but chose otherwise. This admission was made at the first meeting of Tepco’s independent nuclear advisory panel. The five-member panel is headed by former American NRC Chairman Dale Klein, and supported by four equally-independent experts. The panel has been convened to draw up a company-wide reform plan. The preliminary opinion of the group is that Tepco was able to have taken steps to prevent the Fukushima accident well in advance of the crippling tsunami, and a more effective company organization would have done it. In addition, the panel says that all nuclear employees should develop a “questioning attitude” toward nuclear safety. Chair Klein stated, "The challenge that TEPCO will have is establishing a culture so that every individual understands they are responsible for safety," and that this is one of the critical differences between the American and Japanese nuclear programs. (NHK World; Kyodo News)
  • Prime Minister Noda’s inspection of the F. Daiichi unit #4 Spent Fuel Pool has reignited fears of pool failure and potentially huge radiation releases. It seems Noda’s inspection was hoped to ease rumors that the building is dangerously tilting and frighteningly fragile. However, some people see it as a ploy to deflect reasonable concerns. Voices from around the world remain alarmed about the possibility of the reactor 4 building collapsing in the event of another major temblor, regardless. "There won't be any more serious trouble unless something extraordinary happens," said Hajimu Yamana, a Kyoto University professor who sits on the Tepco reform panel. He added, “[Still] you can't totally deny the possibility of (another) gigantic earthquake…so we need to speed up work as far as unit 4 is concerned." Lower House lawmaker Sumio Mabuchi, who headed a project to reinforce the reactor 4 building, says he feels the only way to insure no future catastrophe from unit #4 SFP is by filling every available space with concrete, "The reinforcement steps (adopted) were a first-aid measure, and I kept saying we should buttress the building with permanent measures. We believed (flooding the reactor 4 building) with concrete was necessary as a permanent measure, and held discussions about the subject. But right now, I don't have any knowledge of current conditions." On the other hand, Tepco says their detailed analyses of the unit #4 PCV, of which the SFP is an integral part, shows that it would take a quake many times worse than 3/11/11 to potentially weaken the existing SFP support structure. (Japan Times)
  • The lack of temporary storage sites for decontamination residues continues to plague Fukushima Prefecture. Hundreds of thousands of bags containing Cesium-contaminated soil remain on the premises of the locations where they were generated. Decontamination has been undertaken in most of the 41 affected municipalities surrounding F. Daiichi, totaling about 4,500 properties. This is but 1.1% of those that have been identified for decontamination. In other words, the existing volume of undisposed material is but the tip of the eventual iceberg. Tokyo continues to plan for construction of a temporary storage facility in Futaba Town, but local opposition has kept the work from beginning. (NHK World)
  • Shizuoka Prefecture’s assembly has rejected a petitioned request for a local nuclear referendum. The petition concerning the operation of the nukes at Hamaoka NPS was voted down on Thursday. A hastily-crafted amended version of the proposal was also rejected. Most assembly members say it would be inappropriate for the Prefecture to hold a referendum that would potentially impact Tokyo’s new national energy policy. Referendum supporters say the prefecture should back their citizen’s desire to have a say in the matter. Governor Heita Kawakatsu is one who supported the proposal. (NHK World)

October 10 

  • Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has begun new surveys inside the massive Primary Containment (PCV) of Fukushima Daiichi unit #1. Tepco began the internal PCV investigation two weeks ago by “punching” through thick metal plates blocking the piping penetration they planned to use for the inspection. Last weekend, a camera was inserted through the opening which gave everyone our first look at the annulus between the PCV wall and the reactor pressure vessel’s supporting concrete pedestal. Another camera was inserted on Tuesday which provided better images than the previous cloudy/murky video footage. One clear image shows the water level below the floor grating, which allowed Tepco to estimate its depth at about 2.8 meters (~3 feet). (http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2012/201210-e/121010-01e.html) Tepco also plans to take liquid samples from the water that has accumulated in the bottom of the annulus. The water sample will be carefully analyzed for radioactive material content which could provide a clearer understanding of what kind of damage the fuel core experienced. (Kyodo News)
  • A two-day conference on disaster risk management is being held the city of Sendai, capital of Miyagi Prefecture, located near the tsunami-devastated coast. More than 19,000 people were killed when the massive waves of 3/11/11 struck. Sendai was picked by the event organizers, the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, because it is located near the worst of the tsunami’s impact. “I hope to share with people in the world our country’s experiences from the disaster,” Japan’s reconstruction minister Tatsuo Hirano said in his keynote speech. He added that even Japan, one of the world’s best-prepared for tsunami protection, could not fully disaster-proof itself. “There is no such word as ‘absolute’ in disaster prevention terms,” Hirano said,“The tsunami warning predicted the height of the tsunami as three meters, but the actual tsunami measured nearly 20 meters in some places, easily overcoming defenses. We have to learn how to react to situations beyond our expectations.” Sendai mayor Emiko Okuyama told the conference that urban areas were unpredictably vulnerable. The mayor lamented that a greater-than-expected influx of tourists and commuters had strained the existing population evacuation system. Some local residents, however, took the conference as an opportunity to voice their displeasure with the government. A Sendai woman, who lost a relative and her house in the tsunami, said, “I feel like our community is far from being reconstructed. When parliamentary debates come on the television, I switch it off in anger. Politicians just want to show how important they are but they don’t do their job. The support measures they offer are too little, so we constantly worry about our future.” (Japan Today)
  • The posted minutes of Fukushima Prefecture’s initial disaster recovery meetings have brought new “cover-up” allegations. The first through third meeting’s notes are about 10 pages long, each. The meetings of all subsequent meetings run between 20 and 30 pages. In addition, minutes of the first three meetings were not posted during the year following their being held. In April of this year, a Koriyama resident noticed the first three sets of minutes were missing and filed for them under freedom of information law. The official who was assigned the job of compiling the minutes had to hastily put them together from his personal notes. This occurred at the same time Tokyo was under fire for failing to post the minutes of their meetings immediately following the Great East Japan Earthquake/Tsunami of 3/11/11. The Fukushima official says, "The first three meetings were in chaos. I knew I would have to compile the minutes but later forgot to do so.” However, Yukiko Miki, a freedom of information activist, isn’t buying the official’s explanation, arguing that the official could have created the posted minutes to promote his own “advantage”. He feels this new development makes the Tokyo failure to post minutes pale in comparison, “It's even worse than the national government's failure to compile minutes on meetings on the Great East Japan Earthquake." There are also allegations that the prefecture held “secret” preparatory meetings to coordinate views among the panel members prior to the meetings themselves. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A Japanese news show (My Game News Flash) has sent ripples through the nation’s Press. Using carefully-edited clips from the nearly 160 hours of released video recorded by Tepco between March 11 and March 16, 2011, it seems that Tepco-Tokyo’s communications with F. Daiichi manager Yoshida were muddled and frustrating. Many news outlets have expressed outrage at what was shown. One segment covering March 13th is causing concern. It shows Yoshida pleading with Tepco-Tokyo to get his people some batteries so they could open the electrically-energized valves needed to depressurize units 2&3. Due to the mandated evacuation out to 20 kilometers, the nearest hardware store was more than six hours away in Iwate, and because the region’s electrical grid was down they would need cash to buy the batteries. The Fukushima emergency team asked for Tokyo to lend them the money, which they eventually did. However, the store in Iwate was closed due to the quake/tsunami, so Tokyo said they would go to a home-improvement store in Tokyo and send them the batteries the next day. The TV narrator then said, “It’s unbelievable that they would go shopping for supplies at a home center during the worst nuclear disaster in the world.” (Japan Today)

October 8

This week’s Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is being hosted by Next Big Future and includes the following topics – U-233 is a valuable resource, Japan’s new nuclear regulatory agency is already clouded in controversy, X-rays are explained, pro-nuclear events occurring in New England, nuclear waste as a solution to public health problems, the current situation with San Onofre NPS in California, and Japan’s resumption of nuke construction. Here’s the link… http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/10/carnival-of-nuclear-energy-125.html

  • Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda visited the Fukushima Daiichi power complex on Sunday to inspect the plant and meet with its workers to express his gratitude for their dedication to duty. He is the first prime minister to enter one of the buildings devastated by a hydrogen explosion. After donning white coveralls and a full face-mask, he was taken to the refueling deck of unit #4 reactor building. The #4 deck has been cleared of most debris and is the one reactor building space accessible to such a visit. The prime minister stated that tackling the Fukushima crisis is his administration’s number one task, which begs the question as to the importance of tsunami recovery and the deplorable condition of Japan’s energy infrastructure. In addition, Noda used the opportunity to make statements which seem designed to support his predecessor, Naoto Kan. It was Kan who made his nuclear-naïve apocalyptic nightmares public saying he feared that massive radiation releases from F. Daiichi could have forced him to evacuate Tokyo, signaling the end of Japan as we know it. On Sunday, Noda praised the “Fukushima 50”, who remained in their control rooms March 14th-16th during a brief evacuation of non-essential personnel, by saying, “I believe that Japan has survived as we see it now thanks to your dedicated work.” Later, he exposed his own level of personal nuclear fears when he praised some of those working to keep cooling systems running and cleaning up the debris-strewn areas near units #1-#4, “I want to thank you for exerting yourself in a frightening and demanding environment.” Finally, he made a statement clearly intended to buttress his government’s recent announcement of an energy policy that will abolish nuclear energy in about 50 years, “Without Fukushima’s revival, Japan’s revival will never happen. I want you to make further efforts toward the decommissioning of the reactors.” (Japan Today; Yomiuri Shimbun; Mainichi Shimbun; Japan Times; Kyodo News)
  • It seems no-one in the Japanese government wants to take responsibility for authorizing restarts for currently-idled nukes. New Japanese National Policy Minister Seiji Maehara says that once nuclear plants pass the new regulatory standards, there will be no need for Tokyo to make a political decision on restarts. This contradicts the Nuclear Regulatory Authority position that they will only establish whether or not nukes meet safety standards, but will not authorize permission to restart. Maehara stressed that the NRA has the responsibility to allow restarts…not Tokyo. "We made sure the NRA was set up as a completely independent entity, and for the government to hand down a separate judgment after it confirms a reactor's safety would therefore be inconsistent and illogical. Once the safety of a reactor is guaranteed, it will be brought back online.” In addition, he said, “If safety is approved, such reactors would be considered as an important power source. We should rely on nuclear as an energy option for the time being.” He then did an about-face by saying that his Party, the DPJ, is fully committed to the abolition of nuclear energy. He finally took a political jab at the Liberal Democratic Party by saying they could abandon the new energy policy if they come to power, "I am aware that the LDP has different opinions and I believe that (nuclear power) will be one of the major issues in the next general election." One thing is clear; the nuclear energy issue has galvanized the political framework of Japan. The DPJ wants to make it the central issue of the upcoming national election. (Japan Times; Japan Today)
  • In apparent defiance to the DPJ’s no-nukes energy policy, Chugoku Electric Company has applied to extend its construction license for a future nuke. Yomiguchi Prefecture will examine the application and make a decision in “about a month”. Sources say approval is unlikely. Tokyo has said there should be no further nuclear construction in Japan, with the exception of the three already being built. Chugoku Electric’s move has spurred Industry Minister Yukio Edano to react negatively, saying the Chugoku request is "subject to the principle of not constructing new reactors," which means Tokyo will not stand for it…at least while the DPJ is in control of the government. Edano also said he felt slighted by the electric company not informing him of their decision to apply for a construction permit extension. In Japan, construction permits are a prefectural matter and not a responsibility of the central government. Yamaguchi Prefecture approved the 4-year permit in 2008. The property at the proposed site was being prepared for physical construction when, in 2009, residents of a small island 4 kilometers off-shore opposed the nuke being built, temporarily halting the work. In December of that year, the utility filed a request to build the plant with Tokyo, which would have effectively blocked the local opposition. However, the DPJ had come to power and nothing has happened with respect to the request since. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The admittedly-antinuclear Asahi Shimbun claims that Tokyo may have manipulated the radiation readings reported for Fukushima Prefecture. Local citizens, using hand-held radiation monitors, say they have found the government’s locations for fixed monitors were selected to show lower radiation levels than is actually the case. The group says their readings, a few meters from some of the Tokyo-based locations, show radiation levels as much as 50% higher. Some of the group members are scientists, which makes Asahi present the group’s objections as being correct and place the government’s legitimacy in question. The Asahi clearly wants to keep distrust of the government alive with respect to radiation fears.

October 5

  • Researchers studying the impacts of the Fukushima accident on ecosystems are surprised by some initial findings. A team from Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University has been looking at wildlife and fauna for radioactive Cesium content and possible impacts. One discovery has them puzzled. When they first tested Japanese Macaque muscle tissue in April, 2011, they found Cesium concentrations as high as 25,000 Becquerels per kilogram. However, in June of 2012 the tests showed a drop to about 1,000 Bq/kg. While seasonal differences in the monkey’s foods might account for some degree of variance, a decrease of more than a factor of twenty is beyond anything the team expected. Because monkeys most closely resemble the biological make-up of humans, researchers feel that what happens to the monkeys could indicate what might occur with humans. It is also believed negative health impacts to primates will be more severe than with other wildlife and plants. The team says that some species are more susceptible to radiation exposure than others, but their initial findings have them puzzled because this discovery challenges the recent report that butterfly abnormalities in Fukushima Prefecture are due to F. Daiichi radiological impacts, but no abnormalities have been found with the primates. While it is admitted that radiation exposure could theoretically produce the butterfly mutations, there are other factors that could have been the cause, as well. Takahisa Miyatake, a professor of evolutionary ecology at Okayama University, says there were no similar studies on the butterflies before the Fukushima Accident with which to make a comparison. Further, cross-breeding with Okinawa butterflies (which caused the mutations to appear) had never been done before. Miyatake cautions, "This paper [on butterfly abnormalities] alone falls short of providing conclusive data on the effects of radiation. Further surveys are needed." Satoshi Yoshida, at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, said researchers are somewhat stymied by a lack of consensus on the biological effects of radiation and a difficulty in determining radiation doses in wild animals. He hopes this long-term study in Fukushima will provide some decisive answers. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • A Diet panel is investigating the possibility that funds allocated for recovery from the 3/11/11 earthquake and tsunami has been diverted elsewhere. New Disaster Minister Tatsuo Hirano has started a probe based on information shared with him by knowledgeable sources. Allegations of eight instances of monetary diversion have been submitted to the House of Representatives Committee on Audit and Oversight of Administration. One occurrence was shifting funds from disaster relief to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry to protect whales. Another instance concerns the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry getting disaster recovery monies to improve roads in Okinawa. "Members of the general public will hardly understand such diversions. It's the responsibility of the Diet to conduct an investigation into the issue although the Diet isn't in session now," one of the committee members said. Another official added, "I suspect that officials used various tricks to divert disaster recovery funds." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura says the government will decide to allow idled-nuke restarts only after their safety is confirmed by the Nuclear Regulatory Agency. He added that the nukes that pass can be expected to restart and operate until all electrical demands can be met without them. (NHK World) On the other hand, another newspaper reports Fujimura saying that the reactors might not be allowed to restart, even if they pass the NRA safety evaluations, "The problem of power supply and demand will naturally crop up. The government may decide it is unnecessary (to restart reactors)." This is because the NRA can only establish the safety of the plants. The actual decision for resumption of operations is the responsibility of the politicians. NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka said, "Government offices in charge of energy policy as well as plant operators should make the decision on activating reactors and reach a consensus with local people." Another NRA member says safety assessments are a “necessary condition” for restarts but “not a sufficient condition.” (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Hokuriku Electric Company seeks dismissal of a lawsuit to shut down Shika unit #2’s currently-idled reactor. The trial began Wednesday in Kanazawa District Court with plaintiffs arguing that the geologic anomaly under the Shika station is active and the Fukushima accident proved that compliance with existing safety standards does not insure safety. Susumu Kitano, leader of the plaintiffs, told the court "The existence of an active fault will be a major point of this suit. We will never accept a cover-up of an active fault.” On the other hand, Hokuriku Electric says all previous studies have shown the anomaly is not seismically active and they are currently running yet another investigation into the matter. In other words, the utility says the anomaly is not seismic and the plaintiffs are making an arbitrary assumption. The company says the current study will be completed and a report issued in January. This is the second time local residents have tried to get a court order to shut down Shika based on earthquake fears. The first case was rejected by the Nagoya High Court in 2009. Japan’s Supreme Court finalized the ruling in 2010. (Japan Times)
  • Tepco has released another six hours of video footage made during the first five days of the F. Daiichi accident. The video shows plant manager Masao Yoshida unsuccessfully trying to reach then-PM Naoto Kan for permission to proceed with emergency efforts on March 13. Yoshida was delaying critical emergency actions because of government intervention. In another section of the video, and executive in Tokyo ordered people the plant operators to immediately take specific emergency actions without knowing what was actually happening at F. Daiichi. Plant management told the executive he was obstructing the work already in progress. (NHK World)
  • Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA) has recommended distribution of Potassium Iodide (KI) tablets to all residents within 50 kilometers (~30 miles) of all nukes. However, the NRA admits this cannot be done unless Japanese law restricting issuance of strong medicines is changed. KI can saturate the thyroid gland with non-radioactive Iodine and keep it from absorbing radioactive Iodine if there is a nuclear accident. (Japan Today) comment - While it is not an anti-cancer medicine, the Japanese Press is touting KI as a cancer preventative. The NRA says their recommendation is based on the fact that thousands of thyroid cancers were discovered after the accident at Chernobyl in 1986. None of the Chernobyl cancers were fatal, but the NRA believes distribution of the KI would prevent something similar from happening in Japan if a nuclear accident equal to Chernobyl happens in Japan. It makes no difference that the massive radioactive releases from Chernobyl was because it had no containment structure surrounding the reactor, and the reactor design itself was unique to the Soviet Union and in no way resembles any of Japan’s nukes. In other words, the NRA is concerned with soothing public fear of radiation.

 October 3 

  • Representatives of 46 newspapers in Japan have met to analyze their collective news coverage of the Fukushima accident. 28 of the papers, or 61%, have run editorials calling for the complete abolition of nuclear power in Japan, 14 (30%) have called for a gradual withdrawal from reliance on nukes, and two favor keeping the nuclear option open. Those newspapers most opposed to nukes include The Mainichi Shimbun, Asahi Shimbun, and Tokyo Shimbun - three of the largest daily circulations in Japan. The two in favor of nuclear include the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest-selling paper, and the popular Sankei Shimbun. Of the two major Fukushima dailies, one calls for a gradual withdrawal and the other declined to comment. The only other paper to not comment was the Fukui Shimbun. (Fukui Prefecture is the home of the only two operating nukes in the country.) In addition to the op-ed survey, editors were asked how they would rate their initial coverage of the accident, and all said they could have done a better job. They feel they relied too much on the press statements of the Tokyo government and Tepco, which have since been judged by all accident investigative panels to have been less than transparent and at times incorrect. Finally, some newspapers were critical of their peers regarding the effects of radiation releases from F. Daiichi. Jun Sakuma, editor of the Fukushima Minpo, said "I get the feeling that Tokyo-based national newspapers are focusing on the risks, so I think reporting that may lead to excessive worries could be inappropriate." (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Many food stores in Japan have set their own radioactive Cesium limits, below the national standard of 100 Becquerels per kilogram. A store in Tokyo (Catalog House no Mise) has been selling agricultural products from Fukushima. It has set its own Cesium limit at 40 Bq/kg and displays the test results for all to see. Their independent testing and low limit has resulted in an increase in agricultural sales of Fukushima foods. One employee explains why she buys the Fukushima foods, "I can buy goods at ease because they display the test results. Recently, I have come to feel that I don't have to worry more than necessary." The Aeon food company has an even more restrictive limit of 15 Bq/kg. Aeon says they have also seen an increase in Tohoku region-sourced sales, especially seafood, but that some customers still feel anxieties about buying foods produced near F. Daiichi. According to the Fisheries Agency says the level of contamination in the fish caught off Tohoku has dropped enough to allow stores to reduce their standards well below the national limits. In fact, the Agency reports that with most locations there is no detectable Cesium in the waters, which suggests that eventually all seafood restrictions will end. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The first detailed radiation survey within 3 kilometers of F. Daiichi has begun. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) is using a drone helicopter to take the first look at radiation fields closest to the power complex, beginning with Futaba town. Although there is a firm ban on airplane flights within 3km of F. Daiichi, the law does not apply to unmanned flight technology. The JAEA helicopter can cover a one square-kilometer area every two hours, with readings taken at between 30 and 100 meter elevations, depending on topography and the height of buildings. The readings will be plotted and color-coded on maps. A full report on the results is expected by the end of October. (NHK World)
  • Prime Minister Noda has “reshuffled” his cabinet and replaced former Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono with Hiroyuki Nagahama. This has met with considerable concern in Fukushima Prefecture where officials fear the change will only add more delays to the on-going decontamination efforts. In Naraha, Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto said,"With problems piling up--from decontamination work, construction of interim storage facilities to compensation payments--the change in environment minister will have a massive impact on us." Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said: "Mr. Hosono visited our town many times and was diligently tackling the problem. To be honest, I wanted him to stay on. Including a concrete picture of the facilities, there are still things that are unclear to us. So I'd like him [Nagahama] to give more explanations about the construction proposal." All officials feel Tokyo could speed up decontamination and repopulation if they wanted, but this sends a message to Fukushima that this might not happen. "I want the new minister to actually see how much help is needed in this disaster-hit area. In keeping with what Hosono has already done, I want the minister to speed up decontamination operations," said Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba. Sadayori Aota, a restaurant owner in Namie, said, "I feel politicians care more about the next election than the lives of people in the affected areas." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • As expected, Hakodate Mayor Toshiki Kudo has announced formal plans to file legal action against the resumption of nuclear construction at the Ohma power station. Although Hakodate is in a neighboring Prefecture, and located across some 23 kilometers of open sea from Ohma, the mayor feels obligated to take this action because he believes the plant can no longer be judged as being safe and no new emergency evacuation plans for Hokkaido have been created by Tokyo since the political boundaries of evacuation zones were expanded to 30km. "If the village is cut apart by tsunami or other disasters, where can we escape to?" questioned Mayor Kudo. He further demanded an indefinite freeze on Ohma’s construction because he says the reason for it being built is unclear and its operation could cause rumors that would damage the local fishing industry. Some other local mayors supports Kudo’s move – Koichi Iida of Kazamura Village in Aomori Prefecture near Ohma. He said, "I didn't expect J-Power would come here this hastily. We haven't approved of the construction yet," and demanded that new evacuation plans be a prerequisite for the resumption of construction. In addition, Hokuto Mayor Toshimine Takaya said, "We, along with the city of Hakodate, will call on the company to freeze the construction." Nanae Town Mayor Yasukazu Nakamiya said, "They've learned nothing from the lessons of the Fukushima nuclear disaster." Hokkaido Vice Gov. Kenichiro Tada added, "The decision to restart the construction is extremely regrettable. Our awareness toward the safety of nuclear plants has changed a great deal in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear crisis." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A colleague in Japan has sent us a link to the English translation of an award-winning essay on the socio-political and psychological repercussions of Fukushima. Dr. Jun Takada of Sapporo Medical University takes a highly critical approach towards the government and Press for encouraging irrational fears of radiation exposure. The entire essay can be read at… http://www.apa.co.jp/book_ronbun/vol4/2011einglish.html

  

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