Fukushima 48...2/18/2013-3/4/2013

March 4, 2013

  • Japan’s Science Ministry says the radiation levels within 80 kilometers of Fukushima Daiichi have dropped 40%. Readings were taken 1 meter from the ground on November 16. These were compared readings taken Nov. 5, 2011. The Ministry says the reductions are due to a combination of things. First, half of the decrease is due to the radioactive decay of the Cesium contamination. Cs-134, comprising about half of the total for the element, has a 2 year half-life. Thus Cs-134 decay was about a third of what existed in 2011 due to natural decay. The Cs-137 isotope has a 30 year half-life, so its rate of decay had not changed much over the year. Secondly, rainwater had surely washed off the Cesium-laden dust that settled on buildings and has seeped deep enough into soils so that the relatively weak radiation was shielded. Also, decontamination efforts on roadways, parking lots and parks have certainly contributed to the drop. The initial survey was in June, 2011. The decrease over the first five month period was 21%, with rainwater-flushing causing about 60% of the decrease and Cs-134 decay about 40%. The Ministry also reported that all areas outside the 80km radius were below the 1 millisievert per year national standard. (Mainichi Shimbun; Asahi Shimbun)
  • Japanese experts and Tokyo officials remain upset with last Friday’s World Health Organization report. The WHO said that while the chance of cancer was small, there was elevated risk nonetheless. The Environment Ministry told the public the report did not reflect “reality” and called for Fukushima residents to remain calm because WHO intentionally exaggerated. A ministry official said, “Their calculations were made based on the assumption that people continued living inside the evacuation zone and ate banned food. But there are no such people. [While] experts are still divided over ways to calculate the impact of limited levels of radioactive exposure over a long period, it is incorrect to think that residents will develop cancer in these ratios.” Makoto Akashi of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences is upset over the WHO announcement. He said, “It’s utterly hypothetical. It can increase peoples’ fears as they just see the findings. I’m not seeking underestimation, but I’m very angry at seeing the (WHO) raising fears by overestimating data.” In response, WHO’s director for public health, Maria Neira, said, “This is the first report of international effort, the first comprehensive assessment done at a global level of what's happened. We hope the report will be used for future health needs and to help policy makers and health authorities to anticipate which actions are needed and which ones can be taken." Meanwhile, the world’s leader in antinuclear fear-mongering, Greenpeace, says the WHO report underestimates the actual risk of low level radiation exposure thus the population’s risk is much higher, especially with little children. (Japan Today; Jiji Press)
  • The total exposure to F. Daiichi workers in 2012 was only 25% of that recorded in 2011. The unit used is called the “man-sievert”. The average exposure for a group is multiplied by the number of individuals in the group and the result is given in units of man-sieverts (manSv). Tepco reports the collective exposure for F. Daiichi workers in 2011 was 247 manSv, but for 2012 it was 60 manSv. Other nuke stations in Japan logged up to 46 manSv in 2011, the year before the current moratorium was invoked by the Naoto Kan government. Thus, the 60 manSv at F. Daiichi for 2012 is remarkable considering the severity of the accident on 3/11/11. Tepco also reported that no plant worker exceeded the state-mandated exposure limit 50 millisieverts per year. The average exposure of the more than 12,000 workers at F. Daiichi in 2012 was 4.6 mSv. The highest was 46.6 mSv. In 2010, the year before the 3/11/11 tsunami caused the accident, Tepco reported the station’s collective dose at 15 manSv. (Japan Times)
  • 22 million Japanese are at risk if another 3/11/11 tsunami happens. Nagoya University’s Disaster Mitigation Research Center reports that 22 million people live in places less than 5 meters above sea level. The average tsunami height measured along the Tohoku coast in 2011 was 4.5 meters. Nobuo Fukuwa, professor of environmental and safety management at the Center, said, “Low-lying lands are at risk not only for tsunami, but also for tidal waves, the strong tremors of a quake and liquefaction.” Tokyo has the largest number of people living in a vulnerable location at about 3.5 million, followed by Osaka (3 million), Aichi Prefecture (1.75 million) and Chiba Prefecture (1.44 million). The center also estimates that people subject to a tsunami as high as 20 meters includes nearly one-half million residents in Shizuoka, 380,000 in Mie and 140,000 in Kochi Prefectures. The majority of the at-rick locations fall along the eastern Japanese coastline which runs parallel to off-shore subduction zone faults that can produce massive tsunamis. Japan’s west coast has few such faults so there are but about a million of the at-risk residents living there, mostly in Niigata Prefecture. Regardless, a full 17% of Japan’s population is at-risk. For comparison, the Center pointed out that only 7% of the populations of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima Prefectures lived at or below 5 meters above sea level, and the tsunami killed 20,000 and made 250,000 permanently homeless. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Antinuclear activists continue to hold weekly protest demonstrations in Tokyo. The protests focus on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s offices. While the numbers attending are dwindling, the vigor and anger shown by the remaining protestors remain high. Protestors shout chants of “Get rid of nuclear power plants” and “Don’t restart them”. Demonstrators also say they will never lose their anger because the Liberal Democratic Party now rules Japan, and the LDP is blamed for making japan nuclear energy-dependent in the first place. The coordinating body, the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes says the demonstrations will continue every Friday until nuclear energy is abolished in Japan. (Kyodo News)
  • Although this should come as no surprise to regular readers of Fukushima Updates, Kyodo News reports that the restart of any shuttered nukes in 2013 is unlikely. Kyodo News ran a survey of all nuke stations and merely “proved” what should have been intuitively obvious to the most casual observer, considering the NRA’s new regulations will not become law until July at the earliest. Thus, when the two operating Oi station units shut down for refueling in September, Japan will once-again be nuke-less and plunged into yet-another power shortage.

This week’s Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is hosted by Brian Wang of the Next Big Future website. Topics include – The climate crisis can be cured by nuclear energy, the IAEA commitment to Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning, a review of Meredith Angwin’s new book Voices for Vermont Yankee, why the Hanford, Washington radioactive leaks have nothing to do with nuclear power plants, an overview of the tsunami protection being built at nukes in Japan, and much, much more. Here’s the link - http://nextbigfuture.com/2013/03/carnival-of-nuclear-energy-146.html

March 1, 2013

  • Japan will eventually restart idled nuclear plants. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe included this announcement in his national policy speech on Thursday. The speech, focused on Japan’s economy, the off-shore island’s dispute with China and Korea, and the Trans-Pacific trade agreement. With respect to nuclear, he said the government must learn the lessons of the Fukushima accident and never again compromise safety. Abe added that the only nukes that will resume operations will be those that meet the new safety standards as judged by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority. He stated, "We will create a new culture of safety under the aegis of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), and restart reactors confirmed safe." Although news media polls still show a majority of the respondents want nuclear energy abolished, Abe says the nation’s economy will not recover unless nukes are restarted and the former regime’s mandated energy conservation measures can be relaxed. In addition, he said his government will work to maximize use of renewable energy generation. Further, Abe promised to speed up disaster reconstruction throughout the tsunami-devastated Tohoku Region, "We will speed up recovery. The Reconstruction Agency will adjust in real ways to the special problems of each district." With respect to Fukushima Prefecture, Abe stated, "We will expend every effort on decontamination, halting economically harmful fears, and bringing the people displaced by the disaster home." (Japan Today; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The World Health Organization says the cancer risk due to the Fukushima accident is tiny. Other experts say the exposures were too low for any negative health effects at all. The highest risk factor according to WHO concerns female infants, whose chances of getting cancer as adults increases by only one percent. WHO compares this to the Japanese national cancer rate which is 41%, thus concluding that if their estimates manifest they will never be verified. “The additional risk is quite small and will probably be hidden by the noise of other (cancer) risks like people’s lifestyle choices and statistical fluctuations,” said Richard Wakeford of the University of Manchester, one of the authors of the report. He added that the actual risks are “infinitesimal”. However, WHO cautions that they have intentionally over-estimated risk, just to be on the ultra-safe side. On the other hand, independent experts say WHO is actually contributing to public over-reaction by making these intentional embellishments. Oxford Univerity’s Wade Allison says, “On the basis of the radiation doses people have received, there is no reason to think there would be an increase in cancer in the next 50 years. The very small increase in cancers means that it’s even less than the risk of crossing the road.” Meanwhile, Professor Gerry Thomas of London’s Imperial College says, “It’s understandable that WHO wants to err on the side of caution, but telling the Japanese about a barely significant personal risk may not be helpful.” She added, “This will fuel fears in Japan that could be more dangerous than the physical effects of radiation.” Back in Japan, Norio Kanno, an official at Iitate Village, harshly attacked WHO for exaggerating the cancer risk when he said, “I’m enraged!” He called the WHO estimates “totally hypothetical”. He pointed to the large number of residents who mortally dread radiation and won’t even let their children play outside for fear that they might be exposed to trivial levels of radiation. The Environment Ministry is also upset. One Ministry official said, “This report is not a chart predicting the future. It is wrong to think what are presented as risks will materialize as shown.” (Japan Today; Japan Times; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Some Japanese professionals feel that psychological damage to Fukushima refugees is getting worse. Clinical Psychologist Noriko Kubota of Iwake Meisei University says "People are living with constant low-level anxiety. They don't have the emotional strength to mend their relationships when cracks appear." Couples find their relationships stressed over the question of leaving the Prefecture or staying. "When people disagree over such sensitive matters, there's often no middle way," Kubota said. She adds that the “disaster honeymoon period” seems to be ending. Marital discord has become so widespread that the phenomenon of couples breaking up has a name: genpatsu rikon or "atomic divorce".In addition, fewer and fewer people are providing support to the Fukushima refugees, about which Kubota says, "We are starting to see more cases of suicide, depression, alcoholism, gambling and domestic violence across the area. From the point of view of mental health, this is a very critical time." She also finds that the level of discrimination extended toward Fukushima refugees is also getting worse. Prejudice against women may be the most severe: many in the popular media and on websites suggest that Fukushima women are "damaged goods". Even some people who were formerly on the side of the refugees have become prejudicial. In one most-vulgar case last year, prominent anti-nuclear activist Hobun Ikeya, of Japan’s Ecosystem Conservation Society, told a protest crowd in Tokyo, "People from Fukushima should not marry because the deformity rate of their babies will skyrocket." While radiation exposure to Fukushima refugees has been well-below the internationally-acknowledged threshold for negative health effects, the news media showers doubt on the public by giving headlines to pseudo-scientific claims that even the lowest exposures cause cancer, mutations and birth defects. Added to the problem is fear of the possibility of radiation. Many in Japan will not buy food or eat at a restaurant until it can be proved that their foods are entirely free of contamination. If the proof is not given, they assume it to be “tainted” and leave. Finally, human interest stories in the Japanese Press make it seem that serious health consequences for those exposed to Fukushima radiation are inevitable. The continual focus of such yellow journalism is towards children. One mother, Aiko Nomura, is so frightened that she says, “It's impossible to recover fully from a nuclear accident. Each anniversary [of the accident] I will be thinking: 'Is this the year that one of our daughters will get sick?'" Another evacuee, Katsumi Hasagawa says he and his family will never return to Fukushima Prefecture, “My wife and I thought it would be impossible to protect our children from (radiation) exposure as long as we were in Fukushima." (The Guardian-UK; Kyodo News)
  • Another highly radioactive fish has been taken from the F. Daiichi quay (the station’s seaside harbor). A greenling caught on February 17, tested out at 510,000 Becquerels per kilogram. A Rock trout caught in December registered 254,000 Bq/kg. The national limit for any foodstuff is 100 Bq/kg. Because of the two fish, Tepco has installed another net at the quay’s opening to the sea in order to keep any highly radioactive fish from leaving the port area. Tepco says all fish caught with high radiation levels will be destroyed. (NHK World)
  • America will have a new Ambassador to Japan. The Japanese Press says the leading candidate is Caroline Kennedy, daughter of America’s former president John F. Kennedy. A source in Japan says her appointment has been approved by President Barak Obama, but necessary background checks need to be completed before it becomes official. JFK and his family are highly regarded by the Japanese Press, so her appointment should be well received in Japan. At the Democratic Party’s convention last year, Kennedy said Obama’s first-term record reflected “the ideals my father and my uncles fought for.” (Japan Times)

February 27, 2013

  • The Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Japan (NRA) has set new guidelines for public protection during a nuke accident. First, Iodine tablets will be issued to everyone within a five kilometer radius of a nuke for thyroid gland protection. Second, those living outside the 5km radius will be evacuated if the radiation level reaches 500 microsieverts per hour. This is one-half of the international standard for evacuation which is 1,000 microSv/hr. Also, the total emergency planning zone will set at a 30km radius from a nuke station. The 5-km zone will be called “precautionary evacuation zone” where the public will be moved out if a radiological release is imminent. They will be given Iodine tablets as they leave. The 5 to 30-km radius will be called an “urgent protective action planning zone” where protective actions will be determined by radiation levels. Based on these guidelines, local governments are to draft public protection plans by March 18. The NRA received more than 3,000 comments on their draft proposal earlier this month, but the majorities were highly critical of the proposed strategies. In general, most responses called for even lower evacuation standards and much larger evacuation radii. Some said Iodine tablets should be issued immediately, and not wait for a nuclear accident to be declared. The NRA said that since these comments did not change the proposed guidelines because the standards were set scientifically, properly incorporating the experiences following 3/11/11. (Japan Times; Kyodo News)
  • Miyagi Prefecture will give financial assistance to rebuild tsunami-devastated communities. The prefectural government will issue more than $27,000 per household to assist homeowners in their reconstruction efforts, coming mostly from the Tokyo government. About 30,000 homes were either completely lost or badly damaged by the 3/11/11 tsunami, but are located outside areas designated as “disaster-prone” by pre-3/11/11 standards. Prior to the great tsunami, the disaster-prone designation was established based on the worst tsunami recorded in the previous 450 years, and government financial assistance is available for those who lived in those areas. However, the 3/11/11 tsunami was much more extreme than any prior projections. Until now, those outside the designated locations could not get financial aid toward rebuilding their lost residences. The new money is intended to defray the costs of reconstruction, raising ground levels, and/or relocating to rebuild. Under the former Tokyo regime, the government refused to help those whose homes were outside the pre-established “disaster-prone” designations. The new government under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reversed this and approved monies to assist everyone. Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai said, "Local municipalities' support systems will be fundamentally improved" by the aid which is intended to encourage reconstruction by the tsunami refugees themselves. (Mainichi Shimbun; Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The Environment Ministry has canceled two previously proposed sites for disposal of Fukushima Prefecture’s tsunami debris. Last September, the old Tokyo regime selected Takahagi City (Ibaraki Prefecture) and Yaita (Tochigi Prefecture) as storage sites. However, the government neglected to consult the towns or their local officials before announcing the decision. The officials were understandably shocked and angry. Also, many local residents have told the Ministry they were unhappy with what happened. It was planned to send out 1,700 tons of incinerator ash and mud from ditches inside the no-go zone around Fukushima Daiichi. New Environment Minister Shinji Inoue admitted his predecessors made a mistake with their selection process. He visited both communities to tell them the plans had been cancelled. Until disposal sites outside Fukushima Prefecture are found, the tsunami debris will remain un-disposed. (Japan Today)
  • Japan’s Industry Ministry will begin the review of the former regimes long-term energy policy in March. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for a full review of the policy which calls for an end to nuke power in Japan by 2040. The ministry’s working group will have about 15 members and will probably not include those either strongly opposed to or in favor of nuclear energy. (Jiji Press)
  • Tepco will buy Liquefied Natural Gas from America. This will be done because current LNG prices in America are 20-30% less than from the Middle East. The imports will total more than 200,000 tons over a 3-year period and begin sometime later this year. (Kyodo News)

A YouTube graphic presentation shows the massive difference between building a single nuke and an equivalent wind-powered complex. With the Japanese Press making it seem that replacing nukes with windmills is easy and affordable, it seems something like this should be circulated to objectify the issue… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zc7rRPrA7rg&feature=youtu.be

February 25, 2013

  • IAEA Director Yukiya Amano proposes an international effort in decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi. On Thursday, Amano said, “The safe decommissioning (of the reactors) should be undertaken not just by Japan but should draw on the wisdom and the most advanced technologies from around the world. It may be necessary to establish an advisory council, or something similar, concerning decommissioning at the IAEA. We hope to see the world make the most of the experiences in Fukushima, and the prefecture to capitalize on experiences from around the world.” The IAEA is planning to send an international team of experts to Japan in April to submit a proposal for retiring the reactors. Some feel the effort is designed to keep Japan from establishing a monopoly on reactor decommissioning. One Tokyo official said,“There is suspicion in the international community that Japan may be aiming to secure interests in decommissioning work that will be needed in various parts of the world by monopolizing technology attained in (scrapping the) Fukushima plant.” Next Wednesday, IAEA experts will be in Fukushima Prefecture to begin the process of opening an office in Fukushima City as a base of operations. Concerning decontamination of the surrounding communities, Amano said, “We will make use of experts involved in the Chernobyl nuclear accident and other incidents.” He explained that residents in the affected areas feel “anxieties about whether or not it is all right to return home. We hope to cooperate in explaining global standards and disseminating information about health issues.” Tepco and the Industry Ministry have been making plans, but there is a limit to what Japan can do on its own due to a lack of experience with retiring nuclear reactors.
  • The former political regime in Tokyo continues to blame Tepco for the government’s lack of information during the first week of the Fukushima accident. Former Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told the Press that the speedy and efficient flow of information to the Prime Minister is imperative during a nuclear accident. He criticized Tepco by saying “there was no information coming from Tepco. The major lesson we learned was that we were unable to collect information efficiently. No one could stop the expansion of the nuclear crisis at the administrative and political level." Edano speculated that if the information collection system is not rebuilt by Tepco, the same situation will occur with the next nuclear accident. (Jiji Press)
  • A team of Japanese researchers have a new, improved method for decontaminating rice paddies. The problem is with fields that were plowed before the Cesium-laden surface was scraped off and disposed of. Cesium tends to adhere to clay particles in the paddies. By filling the field with water and “finely plow” it into a slurry, a dispersing chemical can separate the clay from the rest of the soil. After agitation, the water is drained from the paddy. In tests, the process removed 62% of the Cesium and lowered the surface radiation levels by 30%. In the test soils, the Cesium concentration dropped to 17 Becquerels per kilogram, well below the national standard of 100 Bq/kg. According to the Agriculture Ministry, there are about 400 hectares of rice paddies that qualify for deep decontamination. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • An Asahi Shimbun survey found that 55% of the local officials near nuclear plants in Japan feel nukes are necessary. 45% say nukes should be phased out, but are necessary for the time being. Four of the 156 responding officials said Japan doesn’t need nukes any more. The survey covered 21 prefectural governments and 135 municipalities, all located within 30 kilometers of nuke stations. Nuclear supporter Kazuhiko Yamashita, the mayor of Ikata, Ehime Prefecture, said, “We should utilize nuclear plants that are confirmed safe and make efforts not to slow down economic activities.” On the other hand, Jitaro Yamaguchi, the mayor of Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, said “They are necessary until new power sources that will resolve the issues of global warming and economic efficiency become available.” Kagoshima Mayor Hiroyuki Mori said Japan should denuclearize itself “when civilian life and economic and industrial activities become insusceptible (to the change).” Among the four mayors who said nukes should be stopped immediately, Shohei Kitamura of Fujieda, Shizuoka Prefecture, said “Given that Japan could overcome the electricity shortage during [last] summer, it is doubtful whether (nuclear plants) are really necessary.”

Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers #145 is hosted by Will Davis’ Atomic Power Review. Some of the topics this week include – a new compact reactor system proposed by General Atomics, the problems Canada has found by choosing Natural Gas over nuclear, the refueling and maintenance of Vermont Yankee, the potential for closures of a few American nukes, President Obama’s State of the Union Address, Greenpeace calling scientific research a government ploy, and the diary of a “nuclear tourist” in Germany. Here’s the link… http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com/2013/02/carnival-145.html

February 22, 2013

  • Fukushima Prefecture say their radiation monitors recorded releases from Fukushima Daiichi unit #1 several hours before the plant’s venting operations began. Before 3/11/11, the prefecture had 25 operating monitors surrounding the power station. Five along the shore were washed away by the tsunami. The other twenty were constantly recording data, powered by their batteries and solar panels, but the region’s complete power failure kept the data from being transmitted to Fukushima City and Tokyo. After the chaos of the week following the tsunami, the prefecture collected the data. Subsequent analysis was published on the prefectural website and shared with government bodies. However, it seems no-one noticed that some of the monitors recorded increased radiation levels in four Futaba town districts hours before the unit #1 venting began. Futaba is adjacent to the F. Daiichi property line. Because of the varying wind directions in the pre-dawn hours of March 12, radiation levels fluctuated. Typical background levels recorded before the accident were between 0.04 and 0.05 microsieverts per hour. At 5am on March 12, radiation levels began to jump. The highest peak in the Koriyama district, located about 2.5 kilometers from the nuke station, was 7.8 micro-Sv/hr (9am). The highest in the Yamada district, 5.5 kilometers away, was 32.47 micro-Sv/hr (10am). By the time most of these readings were registered, nearly all the 3km radius around F. Daiichi was evacuated. (F. Daiichi staff records) However, the 10km evacuation began at 5:44am affecting some 50,000 persons, thus those in the “plume pathway” were subject to the elevated exposures. It should be noted that after the final venting operation in the early afternoon, the monitor in Kamihatori district registered a peak of 1,591 micro-Sv/hr. The Diet’s investigative team (NAIIC) was unaware of the existence of the information when they posted their report last summer. Mitsuhiko Tanaka, the outspoken loose-cannon of the NAIIC team, was shocked by the announcement. He said this opens up a whole new set of issues concerning the condition of F. Daiichi unit #1 before the hydrogen explosion at 3:36pm on March 12. He says it could further delay restarts of idled nukes. Tanaka stated, "There's a mountain of issues that should be examined before we start talking about restarting nuclear reactors." Reiko Hachisuka, who represented Fukushima Prefecture at the NAIIC, said, "If the prefectural government was thinking firstly about the health of its residents, then it would have considered the data vital information that needed to be analyzed quickly. As a prefectural resident, I find the Fukushima Prefectural Government's response shameful." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Two mayors in Fukui Prefecture are asking for nuke restarts. The mayors of Takahama Town and Tsuruga City made the request to industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi. Fukui Prefecture has Japan’s largest number of nuclear units. The caveat is that the units must be confirmed safe by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority before they resume operation. The mayors demand the government’s final decision must be made public with details as to the reasons behind it. The mayors say the sudden decision to shutter all nukes has pushed local businesses to the brink of financial collapse. Takahama’s mayor said the former Tokyo regime’s no-nuke policy was a severe blow to his community. He also suggested government subsidies should be made to local communities to defray economic shortfalls during the current nuclear moratorium. Motegi said the government will support the NRA’s safety judgments and address restarts accordingly. (NHK World)
  • Sources from inside the Japanese nuclear community believe the Ikata station, Ehime prefecture, will be the first to be restarted once the nuke moratorium is over. The two Oi station units currently in operation will be shuttered later this year for maintenance and refueling. It is believed they will not be allowed to restart until they meet the new regulations the NRA plans to have in place by July. The Ikata units are said to have some of the most advanced safety systems in Japan’s nuclear fleet. (Japan Daily Press) [Comment - All three Ikata units are Pressurized Water Reactor (PWR) systems. More than half of Japan’s nukes are Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) systems. Since F. Daiichi is a BWR station, it is felt that most new regulations will more severely impact BWRs than PWRs.]
  • The NRA has conditionally approved the final wastewater decontamination system for F. Daiichi. The advanced liquid processing system (ALPS) will begin field trials in March. Full operation is conditional on the integrity of the containers that will hold the concentrated radioactive material removed from the water. ALPS will remove the residual radioactive isotopes from the massive quantity of water that has been run through the existing water clean-up system. Tepco has found some 62 radioactive isotopes in the water now being stored. All but one will be removed by ALPS. The one that cannot be removed is Tritium, an isotope of hydrogen. Although the Tritium levels are tiny, they are detectible. Whether or not the Tritium must also be removed before the waters can be pumped out to sea, is anyone’s guess. (Japan Times)
  • About 65% of the tsunami debris in the Tohoku region has yet to be disposed of. The total already disposed is about 9.5 million tons, leaving some 17.5 million tons that are yet to be handled. 3.5 million tons of the tsunami remains in Fukushima have been untouched due to radiation fears, but ~ 600,000 tons have been disposed of. In Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, 8.9 million tons have been handled, but another 14.5 million remains. The Environment Ministry hopes the job will be finished by March, 2014, but disposal assistance from other prefectures has not met expectations. The Ministry is looking into building new disposal facilities in the three prefectures in the hope that their timetable will be met. (jiji Press)

February 20

  • Greenpeace has started an internet campaign demanding that all nuclear manufacturers in Japan be held accountable for the Fukushima accident. The international bastion of antinuclearism wants Japanese law on industrial accident compensation revised so that all companies associated with the design and construction of nukes have to pay evacuees, not only the utility that owns the plant having an accident. Greenpeace argues that the nuclear industry is evading responsibility for the nuclear accident. Antinuclear campaigner Asilan Tumer says, “The Fukushima disaster exposes the shameful defects in a system that only requires nuclear operators to pay a fraction of the costs of a disaster and does not require suppliers of reactors to pay anything.” Currently, only the Tokyo Electric Company, owner of Fukushima Daiichi, is forced to pay out huge sums of money to the approximately 70,000 people who the Tokyo government forced to evacuate and will not allow returning to their still-intact homes. Green peace wants that to continue, but also have the rest of the nuclear community pay out additional compensations. (Kyodo News; Japan Times; Japan Today)
  • A fish caught off Chiba Prefecture, east of Tokyo, has radioactive Cesium above Japan’s health standards. A sea bass with 130 Becquerels per kilogram was caught by a Choshi City fisherman about 10 kilometers off-shore. Japan’s limit for fish is 100 Bq/kg - ten times lower than the international standard. Many local Chiba fisheries have already ceased fishing these waters due to one fish with 60 Bq/kg Cesium back in December. Regardless, the sea bass is the first fish caught by a Chiba fishery to exceed Japan’s overly-restrictive limit. (NHK World)
  • Construction material costs have soared in the Tohoku region, severely hampering tsunami recovery. More than 250,000 Tohoku residents lost their homes and businesses on 3/11/11 when the giant tsunami swept away everything in its path. Roads and other coastal infrastructure were also lost. Largely because of increases in the cost of concrete and other building materials, many contractors are no longer bidding on reconstruction contracts. Many of those who do submit bids are often above the upper limit the local communities can pay. Over the last six months of 2012, 32% public projects in Miyagi Prefecture failed to find affordable contractors. Miyagi was the worst tsunami-hit Tohoku coastal prefecture. One severely damaged road in Miyagi is untouched because no contractor can be found to do the repairs. Iwate Prefecture has had a 14% failure rate. In Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, no-one could be found to rebuild a tsunami-damaged fire station. The general, Iwate refugees who found temporary housing feel that nothing has changed over the nearly two years since they lost everything. Contractors complain that building material costs have risen as much as 43%, so they cannot afford to take available contracts as long as the upper bid limits do not change. They also complain of a shortage of workers willing to get involved with tsunami recovery. Material suppliers are reluctant to invest in expanding their supply line because once the recovery is over, the demand will fall back to pre-disaster levels. In addition, if construction workers need to be brought in from other parts of Japan, the labor costs will increase as well, further inhibiting reconstruction. (Asahi Shimbun) [comment – it should be noted that this is specific to tsunami recovery, and not the Fukushima accident. None of the Fukushima evacuee’s homes or local infrastructure is physically damaged. Only those communities and infrastructure lost to the 3/11/11 quake and tsunami needs to be rebuilt.]
  • Japan experienced its worst-ever trade deficit in January, mostly due to the nuclear moratorium. The January shortfall was about $17.5 billion, the worst since data began to be kept in 1979. While the country’s exports rose 6.4% for the month, imports increased by 7.3%. The government says the main reason for the deficit is the high cost of crude oil and liquefied natural gas need to run old, inefficient fossil-fueled plants to take the place of the nation’s shuttered nuclear fleet. (NHK World)
  • Japan Atomic Power Company has sold some of its unused nuclear fuel to pay off debt and keep consumer costs as low as possible. The buyers have not been publically identified. JAPCO needed funds to repay loans that will come due in April. It does not seem any of its three politically-idled nukes will restart before this coming summer, if not much later, so JAPCO was forced to raise money by selling the fuel. Tokyo Electric Company is considering taking similar action in order to ease their current financial burden. (Kyodo News Service)
  • Due to nuclear accident fears, five municipalities in Hokkaido Island have formally asked Tokyo to stop construction of the Oma nuclear station in Aomori Prefecture. The request was submitted to the Industry Ministry on Tuesday. The J-Power Company was building the plant before the national nuclear moratorium was mandated, but was allowed to resume last year. The lead community in the request is Hakodate, across the 23-kilometer strait from Oma town where the plant is being built. Hakodate Mayor Toshiki Kudo says the current moratorium on nukes across Japan makes on-going construction at Oma needless. The mayor claims theTokyo government has said there will be a reduction in Japan’s dependence on nuclear, as much as possible. The Kudo argues that building the Oma plant contradicts this policy. If construction is not halted, Hakodate City says they will file a lawsuit. (NHK World)
  • The wife of a Fukushima suicide victim will file a $1.2 million lawsuit against Tepco. Mrs. Shigekiyo Kanno held a news conference on Wednesday. Her husband, a Soma farmer, killed himself in June, 2011, because he and his family were forced to evacuate their farm. His suicide note said, in part, “…if only there were no nuclear plant.” She will file her case in Tokyo District Court next month. A government survey has found 21 persons committed suicide from June, 2011, through December, 2012, due to the earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima accident. Mr. Kanno is the only suicide connected to the nuke accident. (NHK World)

February 18, 2013

  • A Japanese researcher says the only health effects due to the Fukushima accident have been psychological. Kazuo Sakai of Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences said, “Since the accident in Fukushima, no health effects from radiation have been observed, although we have heard reports some people fell ill due to stress from living as evacuees and due to worries and fears about radiation. We know from epidemiological surveys among atomic-bomb victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that if exposure to radiation surpasses 100 millisieverts, the risk of cancer will gradually rise. To put it the other way round, we can’t say risk of cancer will rise if you are exposed to radiation lower than 100 millisieverts,” adding that most people measured had radiation exposure of 20 millisieverts or less. Sakai added that Fukushima exposures are not at “the level we have to worry about its health effect,” taking into account exposure from the atmosphere and ingestion from food. When asked about the thyroid cancers recently reported in Fukushima, Sakai said “there is no clear link between the cancers and exposure to radiation, as empirical knowledge says it takes several years before thyroid cancer is detected after exposure to radiation.” Kazue Suzuki, head of Greenpeace Japan, called the announcement a government ploy to down-play the risks of low level radiation exposure, “Japan should pour more energy into prevention of diseases including thyroid cancer than talking down the risk of low-level radiation.” Several news media outlets are supporting the Greenpeace allegation. (Japan Today; Japan Daily Press)
  • Meanwhile, the former Tokyo regime’s policy of soothing radiation fear continues to needlessly soak up government funds. The Environment Ministry announced that at the end of December, 103,000 homes in seven prefectures other than Fukushima have been approved for government-sponsored decontamination. The homes are in 58 municipalities in Iwate, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba prefectures. 23% of the residences and 85% of all schools and preschools in the Prefectures have been decontaminated down to Japan’s overly-restrictive limit of one millisievert per year. (Yomiuri Shimbun) [comment - The international average for natural exposure is 2.4 millisieverts per year and millions world-wide live long, healthy lives in backgrounds that exceed 10 mSv/yr. Regardless, the former government in Tokyo chose ridiculously-low limits in the hope of calming the nation’s vocally-prominent radiophobic minority. It is costing Japan’s new government money that would be better spent in Tohoku’s tsunami recovery.]
  • Tepco says they can prove there was no quake damage with Fukushima Daiichi unit #1’s isolation condensers. The company has two videos shot on the reactor building’s fourth floor; one on October of 2011 and another on November 30, 2012. When the allegations that Tepco lied to keep the Diet’s investigative team (NAIIC) from inspecting the building, the company released the video from 2011 which they showed to the NAIIC. Now, they have more recent footage from after last year’s release of the NAIIC report. It shows four Tepco employees closely inspecting the debris-covered condensers and the ceiling above them. A plant worker told the NAIIC that after the earthquake, a water leak could be seen along the fourth floor ceiling above the condensers. The video shows no evidence that the ceiling was ever wet. Tepco maintains the alleged leak was actually water that came from the spent fuel pool’s overflow pipe. The quake had caused enough sloshing in the pool to have some water enter the overflow channel and travel down the pipe. The section of pipe above the condensers was supposed to have been sealed by a metal plate, but the quake may have shaken it loose because it is no longer there. (Mainichi Shimbun) The new video can be viewed here… http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2013/201302-e/130215-01e.html
  • Tepco has created an investigative panel to establish whether or not the company actually lied to the NAIIC about the dangers inside reactor building #1. Earlier this month, one of the panel members told the Diet that Tepco lied in February, 2012, which caused the panel to not hold an inspection inside the unit. The new investigation will be headed by Judge Yasuhisa Tanaka. The company says they will not be involved and leave everything to the judge. Tepco denies they lied and that the NAIIC misunderstood their concerns due to poor lighting inside the building and high radiation levels. The Nuclear Regulatory Authority says they would like to go inside unit #1 as soon as possible, but the existing high radiation levels make that impossible. (NHK World)
  • The Atomic Energy Society of Japan is reviewing the proposed nuclear safety rules posted by the NRA. A symposium was held in Tokyo on Sunday to discuss the NRA’s proposed standards. It was pointed out at the meeting that the new rules will apply to all companies with nukes, unlike the historical method of letting each utility decide on which standards they would meet. One member said that while safety cannot be absolutely guaranteed, the NRA should make rigorous safety a goal while being clear on the risks involved. Another said the historical promotion of nuclear energy by the former regulators should not be the case with the NRA. (NHK World)
  • The NRA has deemed the fractured geology near the Higashidori nuclear station in Aomori Prefecture to be possibly seismic. The Tokyo watchdog says the volcanic ash found in some of the fractures might be due to their seismic movement. While none of the fractures are immediately under the station, the nearness (200 meters) could require the Tohoku Electric Company to invest considerable time and money in upgrading their plant’s earthquake protection. Tohoku Electric says the fractures are not seismic, so they will undertake additional geological investigations to show the NRA they are wrong. The company maintains the fractures were caused by water intrusion into the bedrock and the ash in some of them came after the cracks were formed. The NRA dated the ash and said its intrusion was about 110,000 years ago. (NHK World)
  • The Fukushima Liberal Democratic Party chairman says his Prefecture cannot support reactor restarts anywhere in Japan. At the LDP’s Research Commission on Oil, Resources and Energy meeting in Tokyo, Kenji Saito stormed out when the subject turned to restarting some of Japan’s nukes. He angrily said, "I am walking out if the government plans to restart [nuclear power plants] without acting responsibly in dealing with the [Fukushima] accident. I cannot possibly join such a discussion. All the Fukushima chapter members [of the LDP] are opposed to any restarts." The Chairs from the other 12 Prefectures hosting nuclear facilities remained in the meeting. Hiroyuki Hosoda, the acting secretary-general, said, "We want to eventually restart some of the reactors. I understand the Fukushima representative cannot respond to the issue in a constructive manner." (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Yet another lawsuit against Tepco and the Tokyo government has been filed by citizens living near the Hamaoka station in Shizuoka Prefecture. The suit is attached to a one filed previously by others. The suit says the Fukushima accident’s radioactive releases deny the plaintiffs their rights, which is guaranteed by law, including "the right to live in peace, free from fear and want." The filing adds, "The state has a legal responsibility to stop the dangerous nuclear power plant." One plaintiff, Michitoyo Hiratsuka, says tea farmers in the prefecture suffer from harmful rumors that have cost them business. He then asserted that if there’s an accident at the Hamaoka station “the whole region will be beyond repair.” (Mainichi Shimbun)


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