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Fukushima 49... 3/6/13-3/17/13


March 17, 2013

148th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The Hiroshima Syndrome is privileged to be hosting the 148th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers.

From Yes Vermont Yankee (2)…

(1) Fukushima: The Second Anniversary - http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2013/03/fukushima-second-anniversary.html

(2) In Actually, They Did Fix the Cooling Towers…Or the importance of confronting falsehoods - http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2013/03/actually-they-did-fix-cooling-towers-or.html

From The Hiroshima Syndrome (3)…

(1) Fukushima-Two Years On: Tokyo chooses realism over political expediency (March 14)

(2) Summation of Fukushima 2nd Anniversary Articlesfrom Japan - (March 9)

(3) Summary of Tsunami 2nd Anniversary Articles from Japan - (March 10) http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/admin/editcontent.php?_sx_=71dec4be&content_id=113&page=

From Atomic Insights (2)…

(1) Radiation Superstition (guest post from Robert Hargraves) -  http://atomicinsights.com/2013/03/radiation-superstition.html

(2) Fukushima happened two years ago (Atomic show podcast #199) – http://atomicinsights.com/2013/03/atomic-show-199-fukushima-happened-2-years-ago.html

From Canadian Energy Issues

Port Hope uranium workers had lower mortality and cancer than rest of Canadian population, says British Medical Journal studyhttp://canadianenergyissues.com/2013/03/14/port-hope-uranium-workers-had-lower-mortality-and-cancer-than-rest-of-canadian-population-british-medical-journal-study/

From Entreprenuclear

Nuclear Risks are Acceptable, YOLO - http://entreprenuclear.blogspot.com/2013/03/28-nuclear-risks-are-acceptable-yolo.html

From Deregulate the Atom

Fukushima Lesson from Hans Christian Anderson - http://deregulatetheatom.com/2013/03/fukushima-lesson-from-hans-christian-anderson/ 

From Next Big Future

China, Russia and India are pushing forward with fast neutron nuclear reactorshttp://nextbigfuture.com/2013/03/china-russia-and-india-are-pushing.html
From Things Worse than Nuclear...
Renewables' Carbon Secrethttp://www.thingsworsethannuclearpower.com/2013/03/renewables-carbon-secret.html
 
March 15, 2013
  • Antinuclear lawsuits have become common in Japan, but this one is a reversal. Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced the government intends to file a lawsuit against the Tokyo antinukes. Many demonstrators have been pitching tents on Ministry property for each weekend's protest against restarting nukes. Some tents are left up all week long. They government has asked the demonstrators to take the tents down, but they have refused. A settlement through the civil court seems needed to remove the tents from federal property. (Kyodo News)
  • Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology says there might still be radioactive leaks from Fukushima Daiichi to the sea. Tests of the waters from the F. Daiichi docking port (quay) show levels of Cesium contamination slightly in excess of 100 Becquerels per liter, the national standard for open water. They have been testing the waters since June, 2011. Their numbers show a total Cesium release 73 times the standard since they began testing. The group stresses this level won't threaten sea creatures outside the docking port, but could affect those inside the quay. Researcher Jota Kanda says it is unlike to be due to rainwater run-off. He cited two possibilities: groundwater flow into the sea or damaged piping that has escaped Tepco's investigations. Tepco has been running a sea-sampling program since 3/11/11 and feels there is no leakage at this point. Tepco says the reasons for the Tokyo group's finding have not been established. The investigation will continue. (NHK World)
  • Nuclear critics continue to foment distrust of the Japanese government. For two years, nuclear critics have fueled doubt as to the honesty of the Tokyo government and Japan's nuclear community. Now, the critics say people should also distrust international nuclear experts. Nuclear opponents believe that the Fukushima accident recovery should bring in a wider spectrum of "experts" whose views run counter to bureaucrats, engineers and medical professionals. While the United Nations' watchdog, IAEA, has praised Japan's efforts to date, these critics say the IAEA can't have the last word on nuclear safety because its mandate is fundamentally contradictory. On the one hand, it monitors worldwide nuclear safety, but conversely is said to support nuclear power. With the IAEA in control, many antinuclear activists, regardless of their expertise, have no input. The critics say antinuclear voices have as much right to be involved in Fukushima recovery as the IAEA and too little is being done because of the UN watchdog's conflicting vestiture of interest. "There are some bilateral cooperation activities that are heavily biased by the specific interests of the assisting states. But nothing, absolutely nothing, is visible that would resemble a concerted international effort to solve the unprecedented problems at the Fukushima site," said Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based consultant. He also says information is being presented that might not be true, "The most immediate and largest threats are probably still stemming from the spent-fuel pools of the four crippled reactors at Fukushima No. 1. Tepco's affirmation that there is no damage to the fuel assemblies seems to be more of an optimistic guess, rather than a certainty." Schneider also questions the integrity of the F. Daiichi basements which hold thousands of tons of radioactive water, "These basements were never constructed to hold radioactive water. And corrosion of the steel reinforcement in concrete walls, especially of the spent-fuel pools, remains another area of concern. Cracks in the concrete could lead to steel corrosion, to significant breaks of the walls and to ever-increasing levels of water leakage." Schneider also believes that Japan's too-low radiation health standards are not absolutely safe. He argues that even the tiniest level can cause health problems. Anand Grover, special "rapporteur" to the UN, questions the health surveys being performed, "(Japan) has undertaken a health management survey. However, it's limited to the residents of, and visitors to, Fukushima Prefecture at the time of the disaster. They are also limited to thyroid examinations for children, comprehensive health checks, a mental and lifestyle survey, and to a pregnancy survey. The scope of the surveys is unfortunately narrow, as they draw on the limited lessons from the Chernobyl accident and ignore epidemiological studies that point to cancer as well as other diseases in low-dosage radiation, even in areas of exposure below 100 millisieverts per year. I would urge the government to expand the health survey to all radiation-affected zones." (Japan Times)
  • Blogging colleague Rod Adams has posted a summary of a British study on uranium mining worker health. His blog title is "Study of Port Hope radium and uranium processing workers shows longer lives". It includes the following excerpt, "In one of the largest cohort studies of workers exposed to radium, uranium and γ-ray doses, no significant radiation-associated risks were observed for any cancer site or cause of death. Continued follow-up and pooling with other cohorts of workers exposed to by-products of radium and uranium processing could provide valuable insight into occupational risks and suspected differences in risk with uranium miners." The study itself, "Mortality and cancer incidence of workers in the Port Hope cohort study exposed to a unique combination of radium, uranium and gamma-ray doses", is linked in Rod's blog. http://atomicinsights.com/2013/03/study-of-port-hope-radium-and-uranium-processing-workers-shows-longer-lives.html

March 13, 2013

  • It seems Tokyo is seriously considering raising the former regime’s radiation exposure limits inside the Fukushima Daiichi exclusion zone. Locations now known to have annual exposure levels below 20 millisieverts will be affected. The new standards will be set by the end of the year. New guidelines will probably expedite returning thousands to their homes, if they want to. Residents will be able to return once the evacuation directive is lifted, but many are afraid to due for fear of radiation exposure, no matter how small. The current 1 mSv per year standard is now considered hasty and “de-facto”. De-facto means “Existing in fact, or having actual effect, force, or possession whether or not it is formal, legitimate, moral, or rightful.” The regime of former PM Naoto Kan may have over-reacted and panicked when setting the one mSv goal for repopulation. The international standard is 20 mSv and the United Nations Scientific Committee on Atomic Radiation says there are no adverse effects with exposures up to 100 mSv. Making 20 mSv per year as the new, official goal is questionable. Some radiological experts in Tokyo are pushing for a 10 mSv standard. Tokyo Hospitals says that a full physical examination results in seven mSv, which has shown no negative health problems. (Yomiuri Shimbun) It should be mentioned that Bloomburg.com says, “Rather than stand as a warning of the radiation danger posed by nuclear power…Fukushima has become a reminder that uninformed fears aren’t the same as actual risks.”
  • Prime Minister Abe says that existing nuke security programs do not meet international standards. Addressing the Diet, Abe said round-the-clock security measures currently address only reactor building areas. He wants the entire stations around nukes to be covered. Previously, guards have been unarmed, but that will change. Abe desires to have armed security crews on site, 24/7, to protect against a 9/11-type terrorist attack. “In order to ensure safety at nuclear power plants, it is extremely important to acquire an ability to respond to risks such as terrorist attacks,” Abe told the congress. “We are aware of the problems, and will do our utmost to improve the security around nuclear plants in the meantime.” In the past, the government felt that Japan did not face a significant terrorist threat and dismissed beefing up nuke security staffing. Since the Fukushima crisis, critics have charged that Japanese nukes are even more terrorist-prone than American atomic plants, and have pressured Tokyo to make substantial upgrades. (Japan Today)
  • A third-party panel says the misleading information given to the Diet’s investigative committee (NAIIC) by Tepco was not intentional. The panel consisted of three independent lawyers. They concluded that the remarks of a TEPCO official were the result of him misunderstanding the situation inside the unit #1 reactor building. The lawyers also rejected the rumor that his superiors told him to lie about the situation. Tepco President Naomi Hirose apologized after he received the report of the panel and promised to ensure that this will not happen again. (Japan Daily Press; Kyodo News)
  • Tepco has posted three new picture “handouts” from F. Daiichi. The first shows the interior of the suppression pool “torus” inside the Primary Containment of unit #2. It has been assumed by Tepco that the massive donut-shaped tank and/or the attached piping leaked during the first few days of the accident, and continues to leak. Everything looks dry and there is no evidence of either prior leakage or a compromise of structural integrity. (http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2013/images/handouts_130313_03-e.pdf) The second package covers the closure of the “blow out panel” opening for unit #2. The panel was found open on the third day of the crisis. Who or what caused it to open has not been reported. The large opening (about 10 square meters) is believed to have let gas and steam escape and prevented a hydrogen explosion. (http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2013/images/handouts_130311_01-e.pdf) Finally, the third package shows the completed third level frame of the massive cover being built around unit #4. (http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2013/images/handouts_130313_01-e.pdf) (Tepco Photo and Video Library)
  • Data from Japan’s Reconstruction Agency reveals the earthquake-related mortality from 3/11/11 is worse than previously thought. Now included in the total are 2,601 deaths attributed to the 9-Richter scale earthquake itself. The tsunami is known to have killed about 19,000. Thus, the total number of deaths is now believed to be about 21,500. The quake deaths are blamed on fatigue, mental stress and lack of adequate medical attention following the temblor. “Fatigue at evacuation centers” heads the list with 33% of the mortalities, followed by evacuation transportation problems at 21% and inadequate medical attention at 15%. Mortal “fatigue” due to seeing dead bodies and amplified pre-existing mental disorders is next at 8%. Fukushima Prefecture had 51% of the quake-related deaths, 33% from Miyagi and 14% from Iwate. For comparison, after the great earthquake of 1995, 919 deaths were certified as earthquake-related. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Former PM Naoto Kan cites “God’s help” in stopping the Fukushima accident. In a videotaped message shown at an antinuclear symposium in New York, Kan asserted that the crisis was “one step away from the worst situation” and apocalyptic catastrophe was only avoided with “God’s help”. His worst-case nightmare of all six reactors at F. Daiichi melting down and all spent fuel pools going dry and burning would have forced the evacuation of 50 million Japanese, including metropolitan Tokyo. If this had happened, he believes “Many casualties may have resulted in the process of evacuation, and Japan consequently would not have fully functioned as a state over the long-term.” He added, “Nuclear arms and atomic power represent a technology in which coexistence with man is extremely difficult. The safest nuclear power or energy policy is to realize zero nuclear power.” He also said Japan also needs the burning of fossil fuels, replacing them with renewables. (Japan Times; Kyodo News)
  • The antinuclear symposium in New York condemned the recent WHO report on the cancer risks of Fukushima residents from radiation. Professional activist, Australian pediatrician Helen Caldicott, said “It’s a report that was meant to reassure people who, almost certainly, many will develop leukemia and cancer. (sic) What is going to happen is there will be a high incidence of cancer and leukemia and genetic disease.” She asserted that the most important issues with low level radiation exposure were either “ignored” or “glossed over”. She added that since there were no actual radioactivity measurements used by WHO, their estimates are unfounded. She further claimed that children will be harmed by even those radiation levels below the Japanese limits. She stressed her belief that matter how hard they try, the foods of Japan will always contain radioactive Cesium isotopes which will harm the children. Further, she said that Fukushima released three times more radiation than Chernobyl, so three times the cancers of Chernobyl should be expected. Caldicott concluded her angry speculations by saying, “As a physician, I abhor what they’ve done.” (Japan Today)
  • The new, previously-announced lawsuit against Tepco and the Tokyo government was filed on Monday. More than 1650 people are listed as “injured parties”. While the new suit makes many claims similar to the dozens of others that came before it, this one is the first to seek compensation due to psychological damage. The suit calls for nearly $60 million in damages. All plaintiffs were living in Fukushima, Miyagi, Yamagata, Tochigi and Ibaraki prefectures on 3/11/11, but many have re-located to Niigata, Aichi and Okinawa Prefectures. The suit also says all Fukushima contamination should be removed so that the Tohoku region can return to its pre-accident condition. The filing added, “This case is not only aimed at saving victims, but also at pushing the government to thoroughly change its pro-nuclear policy and therefore prevent people becoming victims in the future.”(Mainichi Shimbun; Japan Today; NHK World)

March 11, 2013

While a huge number of tributes, disaster prayer vigils and antinuclear protests dominate the Japanese Press, a considerable number of other topics have emerged out of the news media…

  • The thyroid lumps found in Fukushima children are not statistically unusual. The Environment Ministry has compared the rate of the thyroid gland lumps found in Fukushima to those of three other prefectures (Aomori, Yamanashi, and Nagasaki) and discovered the frequencies are “similar”. In fact, the frequency of the thyroid lumps in Fukushima children is less than the combined statistics of the other three prefectures. The frequency in the three control prefectures is about 56%. In Fukushima, it is 41%. With respect to large “class B” lumps or cysts, the control prefectures had 1% while Fukushima is at 0.6%. Researchers feel the discrepancy may be because the control prefectures looked at children aged 3 to 18, while Fukushima included newborns and children less than three years of age. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato has asked Tokyo to set more realistic radiation exposure standards. Currently, decontamination of evacuated communities must drop radiation levels below 1 millisievert per year before residents are allowed to return. However, local officials have asked the governor to pressure Tokyo to re-visit the standard, set by the former regime, and establish new limits. Originally, pressure from local leaders had contributed to the setting of the most restrictive exposure limits in the world. Now, many of them think the limits are way too low.  The Environment Ministry says, “It's possible to reduce radiation levels from 20 millisieverts to two millisieverts, but any more would be difficult.There's a huge gap between one millisievert and two millisieverts. We should fundamentally change how decontamination works are carried out." The international standard is 20 mSv. If Japan reverts back to that limit, most refugees could go home now. About 710,000 houses have been selected for decontamination under the central government-led project. Of that, however, only 46,000 had been decontaminated to the 1 mSv limit as of the end of January. Will the raising of the standard harm anyone? Keiichi Nakagawa, associate professor at University of Tokyo Hospital, said, "The fatalityrate from radiation is believed to slightly rise when annual accumulated levels reach 100 millisieverts." He suggests that Tokyo should raise the limits to 10 mSv for adults and 5 mSv for children. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Less than 1% of the foodstuffs coming from the Tohoku region are above the nation’s limits for Cesium contamination. More than 250,000 items have been tested from 17 prefectures in northern and central Japan. There have been 2,200 above-limit cases. All the rest are below the health standards. As of March 5, 130 foods from 14 prefectures have been suspended from distribution.  About half of the above-limit tests are from sea and freshwater products.  Nearly 25,000 fish products have been tested for contamination and 90% are below the 100 Becquerel per kilogram health standard. 78% of those from Fukushima prefecture are below the limit. 97% of the fish and seafood products from other prefectures are below the limit. The above-limit species are mostly bottom-feeders. There seems to have been little contamination found in fish caught south of Chiba prefecture. There are more freshwater species above the health standard than those from the sea. (NHK World; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • As time passes, more Japanese consumers are buying foods from the Tohoku region. A survey by an independent food distributor says that fears of Tohoku-produced foods are slowly diminishing. For nearly 2 years after 3/11/11, the percentage of Japanese consumers who were concerned about contamination in food was higher than those who weren’t. Now, that has reversed. 32% now say they are not concerned about Tohoku foodstuffs and 31.8% say they are. The remainder is undecided. The unconcerned demographic raised 2% in the last year and the “concerned” population dropped 6%. (Jiji Press)
  • Forty-four countries continue to ban or restrict Japanese food imports due to radiation fears. This adds to the critical trade deficit Japan has experienced since 3/11/11. According to the Agricultural Ministry, many countries have lifted their restrictions, including Canada and Mexico. However, many Asian countries, like China and South Korea, maintain their bans. (Kyodo News)
  • Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco) is considering plugging suspected leak locations at F. Daiichi with grout. Although video evidence has not shown leaks from the pressure suppression chambers (torus) of the three severely damaged units, Tepco continues to believe the leaks out of the reactor system must be coming from them. Not that Tepco has given up on the hunt. They haven’t. But, if the search for the leak locations continues to come up empty, the grout-plugging might be a possibility. Shunichi Suzuki, TEPCO’s general manager for F. Daiichi decommissioning, said, “We are developing remote technologies to [find the leaks], but in case there are too many holes and it is difficult to repair all of them, we have to take a different approach. One approach we are considering is putting in grout, like cement. In other words, filling it in. That would block all the holes.” (Japan Today)
  • Americans have donated more than $700 million for tsunami relief efforts since 3/11/11. Individuals, companies and non-profit groups have combined for this generous and much-needed outlay. Japan Center for International Exchange says the private sector total is the largest ever given to a developed country and the third biggest disaster donation after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and 2010 quake in Haiti. The largest donor was the American Red Cross at $312 million. Save The Children USA was second at $26 million. (Japan Today)
  • The estimates of tsunami debris have been revised. Most of the wave’s remains are sand and mud washed ashore by from the sea bottom. While millions of tons of these two have yet to be dealt with, the amount that needs to be shipped out to other Prefectures for disposal is less than previously estimated. While no figures have been posted for Fukushima Prefecture, Iwate needs to ship out about 300,000 tons and Miyagi more than 325,000 tons. Most of the 6000,000 ton total is burnable. While new incinerators have been built in Fukushima Prefecture, the 2014 deadline for disposing of all tsunami wastes cannot be met by them. Some Prefectures (14) have agreed to take small amounts combined with their typical local volume, so as not to overload their existing systems. But, the 33 other prefectures have not helped because of local radiation rumors and increasing transportation costs. One Miyagi assemblyman, Mitsuya Aizawa, says criticism concerning disposal is reasonable,   “There was no need to spend lots of money to ship the debris far away. Nor is it any wonder that residents in places that accepted it worry about radiation contamination.” He also attacked the former Tokyo regime for incompetent planning, “This was a policy decided in top-down fashion by the central government, and Miyagi Prefecture, in truth, wanted it stopped as well.” The new government under Shinzo Abe agreed with Miyagi Assembly and a coordinated effort is underway to handle the garbage cheaply and more efficiently. This would hopefully avoid shipping the material long distances and not be faced with communities like Osaka City who initially agreed to help, but later changed its mind over radiation fears. Yuko Suzuki, leader of the groups opposed to tsunami debris disposal, said he realizes the waste must be dealt with but, “People understand the dangers of spreading radioactive debris all over Japan.” (Japan Times)
  • Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco) has been faced with class-action lawsuits on behalf of 1,600 people. It is not coincidence that the filings occurred on the date of the second anniversary of 3/11/11. The class-action strategy is being used because it is difficult to make out-of-court settlements than with lesser filings. One of the lawyers involved, Motomitsu Nakagawa, says, "There's no other way than to file a lawsuit to rebuild victims' lives." In September, 2011, the former Tokyo government set up the Nuclear Damage Compensation Center for victims to have an alternative to court proceedings. However, the system has been criticized for inefficiency and long delays in claim resolution. "In one case, a plaintiff has been kept waiting more than a year after requesting mediation," Nakagawa said. Half of the new suits will be filed in Tokyo. Others in Fukushima, Iwaki and Koriyama. Tepco says they have had some 80 damages suits filed against them. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The Tokyo government says it will begin the world’s first extraction of natural gas from undersea methane-hydrate deposits. The fuel is contained in the near-freezing sea-beds in deep waters near the Japanese coast. The designated test location is said to hold 11 years-worth of the fuel at Japan’s current natural gas consumption. Total off-shore amounts are estimated to be 100 years-worth. The plan to process the methane-hydrate has been spurred by the huge increase in natural gas imports due to Tokyo’s mandated nuclear moratorium. How long it will take to develop a cost-effective methodology to extract the gas from the sea-bed is anyone’s guess. (Jiji Press)
  • A large antinuclear demonstration was held in Tokyo on Sunday. The crowd size was estimated at 10,000. A Saturday demonstration intended to kick-off the weekend’s protest, drew about 2,000 people. The organizers demanded an immediate end to nuclear power in Japan and vowed to never give up their crusade. They are outraged that the new PM Shinzo Abe’s regime favors restarting currently-idled nukes. The throng was shocked at what they perceive as the government ignoring the will of the people. “I am going to fight against those who act as though Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima never happened,” Nobel Prize-winning writer Kenzaburo Oe told the crowd. “I am going to fight to prevent any more reactors from being restarted.” Akihiro Nakata, a 47-year-old owner of a construction company, said, “I can’t see what lies ahead. It looks hopeless, but if I give up now, it’s over. I’d rather die moving forward.” Most demonstrators say they do it to protect Japan’s future generations. Kazuko Nihei, who fled Fukushima with her family, said, “When the government talks about recovery, they are talking about infrastructure. When we talk about recovery, we are talking about the future of our children.” A lawyer involved in the impending class action suits, Izutaro Managi, said, “We can’t believe the government is thinking about restarting the reactors after the horrendous damage and human pain the accident has caused. It is tantamount to victimizing the victims one more time.” The majority of the protestors are frustrated because the nuclear issue is not the government’s primary focus. “The first thing the government should be doing is focusing more on decommissioning (the reactors), rather than working on other issues,” said Yokohama activist Akiyoshi Ando. “The government is turning away from the people affected.”  It is also believed that the accident is still in-progress and will not be over until all Fukushima refugees are back at home. Further, many feel Prime Minister Abe is not doing the job he was elected to do. Protestor Fumi Takanami said, “I don’t understand why Abe cannot realize that Japan should not have nuclear power stations when our country suffers so many major earthquakes. Abe has vested interests with the business community, and probably does not care about the rest of Japan.” The media estimate that about 150 local antinuclear protests took place in Japan Sunday and today (Monday). (Japan Today, Japan Times)

March 8, 2013

  • Numerous 3/11/11 second anniversary articles are being posted in the Japanese Press. As Monday approaches, the number of such reports will surely increase, both inside Japan and around the world. At this point, most of the Japanese Press reports focus on re-visiting the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, the events of the past two years and the condition of its evacuees. However, for the first time in two years, some Press outlets are addressing the far-worse aftermath of the tsunami. A few outlets are devoting entire articles to the horrors of the tsunami and the condition of its refugees, along with parallel articles on Fukushima. Rather than wait for Monday, the Japanese newspapers are posting 2nd anniversary reports early to try and “scoop” each other. It’s a journalistic feeding frenzy. Tomorrow, we will post a summary of the Fukushima-specific articles, and Sunday a summary of tsunami-specific articles.
  • The Tokyo government is reviewing the disaster recovery subsidy policy of the former political regime. The decision was made at a joint meeting of the Reconstruction Promotion Committee and the Nuclear Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters due to pressure from disaster-hit communities. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addressed the committee and said, "We must speed up recovery efforts and ensure that residents of the disaster-hit areas will enter the next winter, which is the third since the disasters, with some hope. We'd like to do our utmost to make sure that residents of disaster regions will restore their livelihoods." Under former PM Noda, Tokyo created the “Act for Special Zone for Reconstruction” and appropriated about $21 billion to be spent on Tohoku recovery. Some $15 billion was spent, but much was skimmed off for non-recovery projects. The local Tohoku governments were dissatisfied (obviously) but have also been upset with the restrictions on money use that are in the Act. The committee does not intend to revoke the Act, but rather modify it to better meet the needs of the communities. Reconstruction of land lost to the tsunami is at the top of the agenda. Number two on the list is erecting more than 19,000 public housing units for those who cannot rebuild their houses in the same locations as before 3/11/11. 5,094 units are intended for Iwate Prefecture, 11,250 in Miyagi, and 2,918 for Fukushima. Also, the government will procure land for 8,500 private dwellings in the three prefectures. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Another of the former regime’s nuclear policies is also under review. This time, it concerns the official timetable for decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi. The new government feels the project’s time-frame can be shortened. A committee has been formed in Tokyo to speed up the work and expedite research into new technologies needed to get the job done. The panel is led by industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi. The group includes TEPCO president Naomi Hirose and presidents from major electrical equipment manufacturers. Motegi said the former regime’s timetable was based on the assumption that the four damaged units have similar levels of destruction and would take similar efforts to decommission them. In fact, the damages are different with each unit. Now, each of the four units will have their own time-table and planning “road-map”. As a result, the staff at F. Daiichi will not have to wait for one unit’s project to be completed before the next project at another unit can begin. Task will be performed in tandem between the four units. (NHK World)
  • Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority wants the on-going Fukushima Prefecture health survey to continue indefinitely. The NRA has issued a report which says the program ought to be “continued and sustainable”, adding "The [Fukushima] government should offer continued support [for the survey] on its own initiative to make it a sustainable project." More than 2 million residents have participated in the program since 3/11/11. This accounts for about 20 percent of the population living in Fukushima before the quake/tsunami hit. The percentage of participants has been disappointing, considering that it costs them nothing. It is believed the widespread distrust of any government program involved with the nuclear accident keeps families from participating. In addition, many Fukushima residents have moved to other parts of Japan and their whereabouts are hard to confirm. Citing the low response rate, the NRA wants the Prefecture to increase its efforts. The report also says, "It has yet to be confirmed whether the level of radiation exposure is high enough to prove beyond doubt that there is an increased risk of developing cancer," and full participation could help in removing public uncertainty. The NRA has asked the Environment Ministry and other government bodies to allocate funds to pay for program improvements. (Yomiuri Shimbun).
  • The NRA says they will not make the mistakes of their predecessor; NISA. At a Tokyo symposium, Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa said, “We will never allow the myth about the safety of nuclear power (that permitted utilities to get away with feeble standards for decades) to be resurrected. That’s one of the most important lessons from the Fukushima disaster.” Law professor Shuya Nomura, member of the Diet’s Fukushima investigative group (NAIIC) said, “It was problematic that the nuclear regulatory and promotional bodies [NISA and METI] existed under the same roof. In that sense, the NRA has been doing its job with a greater commitment to safety.” NRA critic, University of Tokyo professor Koji Okamoto, said focusing on administrative preparedness alone is not enough, “Ultimately, [averting or resolving another crisis] boils down to the management of trained workers and how effectively they respond as a team to a critical situation.” In addition, the NRA says they will not let economics stand in the way of safety. Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has stated, “We are not taking into consideration how much it will cost atomic plant operators. Some power firms could give up on restarting their reactors [because of the prohibitive costs].” (Japan Times)
  • Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco) drilled a hole in the roof of F. Daiichi unit #6 reactor building on March 18, 2011. This was done to prevent the potential buildup of hydrogen that decimated the upper parts of units #1, 3 and 4. Although unit #6 had been shut down for months for refueling and maintenance before 3/11/11, and the possibility of decay-heat-spawned hydrogen generation was miniscule, Tepco decided to drill the hole anyway. Because the unit has not been restarted and the decay heat rate in the refueled core has now dropped well below that which could bring the fuel to the point of hydrogen generation, Tepco has decided to plug the hole. When finished, the structure will once again be air-tight. (Tepco Press Release)
  • The Mainichi Shimbun says the government is not doing enough to protect the health of Fukushima residents. The Mainichi fears that the recent WHO estimates of cancer risk will cause officials to relax and “go away happy”. The paper believes such an important project cannot be left in the control of Fukushima Prefecture. Instead, Tokyo should be in control. The Mainichi feels that not enough was done to find out the activities and travels of residents evacuating during the weeks of major radiation releases, so their actual doses cannot be ascertained with accuracy. Now, it’s too late and it’s all the fault of Fukushima Prefecture for not expending enough early-on effort. Despite the WHO report, the paper believes that there will inevitably be some cancers caused by the Fukushima radiation in the future. Unless the central government takes full control, and does it immediately, the ability to find and treat these cancers will be lost.

March 6, 2013

  • The Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco) has begun a new inspection of Fukushima Daiichi unit #2 using a sophisticated robot. During the first day’s investigation, no evidence was found for leaks out of the Primary Containment’s (PCV) suppression pool (torus). This is the latest of several remote-controlled inspections inside the torus room and none have found evidence of structural compromise. Before these inspections, it was assumed that leaks had been sprung out of the torus due to over-pressurization during the first days of the crisis. There is strong evidence that water is currently leaking out of the piping connected to the reactor pressure vessel (RPV), and finding its way into the outer reactor building and turbine building basements. The question is where the leak(s) exist. So far, it seems the torus was not, nor is the source. Tepco wants to find the leaks, seal them and subsequently fill the RPV and PCV in order to lower worker radiation exposures and expedite opening the RPV itself. Regardless, the robot being used is an upgraded model of the one that has failed previously by, literally, falling down stairs and entangled itself in its power cord. The new model has been upgraded to avoid these problems. (Mainichi Shimbun; Kyodo News) Tepco has released the robot’s first pictures of the torus room as part of a press handout… Results of Investigation of the Lower Part of Unit 2 Vent Pipe at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station
  • As the second anniversary of the Fukushima accident approaches, the Japanese Press is visiting the station. The first was reporters from NHK World. They were allowed to walk near unit #1 for 10 minutes. This is the first time the news media has seen the new enclosure on foot. Until now, the reporters had to stay in a bus as it slowly passed the structure. The bottom of the enclosure has been covered in 4 centimeter-thick steel plates to reduce the radiation field near the building. The reporters were next shown the enclosure being built around unit #4. Finally, they saw the 930 eleven-meter-high steel tanks that contain the partially decontaminated waters that have been processed. Each tank holds 1,000 tons. The tanks now hold about 235,000 tons of water. Another 35,000 tons of deconned water are contained in tanks internal to the plant buildings, so the reporters did not see them. Fukushima staff closely monitored the reporter’s radiation exposures so that none of them would exceed the national standard of 1 millisievert, and none did. (NHK World)
  • A survey of 118 Fukushima evacuees revealed that 80% might not go back home after decontamination is complete. 22% have decided to stay in the Prefectures where they now live, and 58% say they are considering living in another Prefecture. However, only 20% said they would make their new homes permanent. Half of the rest who are not planning on going back to their former homes, say they fear the possibility of radiation exposure. The other half said they currently feel there are no guarantees they will ever be allowed to go home by the government. 47% currently live in government-designated apartments for free, paid for by Tokyo. 27% live in apartments they found for themselves, paid for by the prefectural governments of Iwate, Fukushima and Miyagi. Evacuees come from all three prefectures, with nearly 80% from Fukushima. 60% complain of financial distress, even with the compensations from Tepco that are mandated by the Tokyo government. 58% of those surveyed say they remain concerned about radiation hazards and the future health of their children. Half of the Fukushima evacuees were forced to leave their homes by the government because they lived inside the no-go-zones. The other half come from outside the exclusion zone and evacuated voluntarily. Finally, 20% of the 118 respondents said they have been discriminated against through offensive remarks and/or disapproving looks. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Tepco is considering releasing Fukushima Daiichi’s decontaminated waters to the sea…eventually. Currently, some 270,000 tons of Cesium-stripped waters are in storage. A new system (ALPS) will soon be in operation to remove 62 of the remaining 63 radioactive isotopes remaining in the liquids. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the remaining isotope, Tritium, cannot be removed by ALPS, so it is unlikely Tepco will be allowed to expunge the water after all. Tepco will need Nuclear Regulatory Authority and local fisheries permissions to do it. Because of the Tritium, a naturally-occurring isotope of Hydrogen, it is unlikely that the required permissions will be given. Currently, the Tritium concentration in the waters is 1,300 Becquerels per cubic centimeter, and Japan’s national limit for release is 60 Bq/cc. The Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations has been urging TEPCO to pledge never to release water into the ocean with detectible contamination. Tritium removal can only be done with a costly system that currently does not exist in Japan. Canada has such a system, but whether or not Tepco will buy one remains to be seen. The Canadian system can remove most of the Tritium, but not all of it. (Mainichi Shimbun) [comment – Tritium has an extremely weak radioactive emission – 50 times weaker than radioactive Cesium. It should also be noted that the World Health Organization’s recommended limit for release is 10,000 Bq/cc. Canada’s limit is 7,000 Bq/cc. Australia’s is a whopping 76,000 Bq/cc. Once again, Japan’s ridiculously-low radiation standards are unnecessarily inhibitive.]
  • A blog posted under the Federation of American Scientists has a new overview of the biological effects of radiation exposure. It is entitled, “Back to the Basics: How Radiation Affects Our Health”. Here’s the link… http://www.fas.org/blogs/sciencewonk/2013/02/back-to-the-basics-how-radiation-affects-our-health/#comment-10530 I suggest that all Japanese readers share this with their friends and colleagues.

 

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