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September 23, 2013

  • Tepco’s water clean-up program continues to be criticized. The company says all waste waters will be stripped of their radioactive isotopes by March, 2015, but some people have their doubts. Once the two ALPS systems for final activity removal are operating, it is anticipated that 1,500 tons per day will be purified except for relatively innocuous Tritium. By diluting the fully-purified waters to drop the Tritium level below national limits, Tepco hopes to be allowed disposal to the sea. But, doubts raised by the resent loss off 300 tons of wastewater from a storage tank and the worries of local fishermen over any releases to the sea place Tepco’s plan in question. Un-named observers feel the company needs more credible plans. Tepco President Naomi Hirose told PM Shinzo Abe that if “everything goes well”, the purification of wastewaters can be completed in fiscal year 2014. The government says they will spend up to $150 million to insure that the ALPS system will do its job. The decontamination of waters in the turbine building basements cannot be completed until the in-flow of groundwater is stopped, but emptying the wastewater storage tanks will reduce the ongoing issue of possible tank leaks.
  • Critics believe data showing no radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean is flawed. Michio Aoyama, a senior researcher at Japan’s Meteorological Research Institute, estimated that 30 billion Becquerels of radioactive Cesium and another 30 billion Becquerels of Strontium-90 leak into the outer ocean every day. He bases this on two assumptions. First, just because there are no detectible levels in the outer ocean samples routinely run, it does not mean there are not lower-than-detectible concentrations leaving the barricaded inner port. It only means that the actual radioactive levels are too low for monitoring equipment to measure, but Aoyama says some surely remains. Second, he estimates that 20% of the quay’s water experiences daily replacement due to the shifting tide, and as the waters flow through the quay’s silt fence it takes contamination with it. Aoyama also says that while radioactive decay necessarily drops activity over time, the levels in the quay have remained constant so there must be contamination coming into the inner port. Another un-named “expert” points to uncertainty with respect to the data, “Measurements could vary tenfold at the same site.” An additional critic says the data itself cannot be trusted because “the analysis methods are outdated.” (comment - Aoyama is an experienced chemist, but it seems he is completely naïve about the filtration of Cesium and Strontium by the soils and the entrained “silt” in the fence enclosing the quay opening. Any Tritium getting into the quay can easily pass through the silt fencing because the isotope is part of the water molecule itself. Assuming the rest of the materials also pass through the barrier at the same rate is necessarily flawed.)
  • The ruling Liberal Democratic Party of Japan is considering a takeover of F. Daiichi. LDP recovery committee head Tadamori Oshima says Tokyo should consider a takeover so that Tepco can fully focus on company business and Fukushima evacuee compensation. He also feels that removing F. Daiichi from Tepco will speed up decommissioning. Under the suggested plan, all Tepco employees at F. Daiichi would be transferred to a new company funded by the government. Critics are already attacking the idea because the new company might result in a confusion of responsibility. Oshima says there are other possible options such as forming a new government agency for decommissioning or creating an independent institution toward that end.
  • Tepco says it will delay filing for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuke’s restart. Company president Naomi Hirose has tried to get Niigata governor Hirohiko Izumida to approve the resumption of operation for K-K units #6&7, but Izumida has refused because Tepco did not brief the prefecture before announcing its plans. As a result, Tepco has been forced to delay the restart filing. Izumida welcomed the news and said Tepco has promised to better communicate their intentions. In an official statement, the governor suggested he would be willing to meet with Hirose and come to an agreeable decision. Operation of the K-K nuke station is critical to Tepco’s plans for financial recovery. The combination of nuke accident recovery, compensation payments to Fukushima evacuees, and the high cost of fossil-fueled replacement power due to the nuclear moratorium have placed Tepco in financial jeopardy. Tepco is optimistic that they will eventually get the Niigata governor’s support so they can pursue restarting the two K-K units.
  • The Industry Ministry wants any disposal of high-level radioactive waste to be retrievable. They believe irretrievable disposal at this point in time would be a mistake because a future technology will likely be created to better-handle the material. The ministry wants to bury high-level material 300 meters underground for successive 13-year periods, but strong public outcry has held them back. Critics want high-level waste permanently entombed deep in bedrock, but the Science Council of Japan says there are no locations in Japan that have seismic stability for the tens of thousands of years.

September 19, 2013

  • Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe has asked that undamaged Fukushima Daiichi units #5&6 be decommissioned. His surprising request coincided with a visit to the nuke station to observe the wastewater contamination situation. Abe feels decommissioning the two fully-functional units will allow Tepco to concentrate their efforts on all problems stemming from the nuke accident. He also called for Tepco to set a firm deadline for complete purification of all wastewaters. Tepco’s president Hirose responded that they will give full consideration to Abe’s request for scrapping units #5&6, but stopped short of saying they would comply. Hirose added that Tepco’s deadline for wastewater decontamination is March 2015. --
  • Typhoon Man-Yi forced the F. Daiichi staff to let 1,130 tons of waste water drain to the soil. Heavy rains from the typhoon filled many of the coffer dams around wastewater tank clusters to nearly-overflowing. Samples taken from seven of the dams showed total radioactivity below the governments limit for release – 30 Becquerels per liter – with the highest concentration being 24 Bq/liter. Plant staff opened the drains from the dams and allowed the water to flow onto and into the surrounding soil because it did not exceed limits. Since the wastewaters in the tanks have been stripped of their Cesium content, no Cesium releases have been anticipated. Tepco says some of the drained waters may have entered one of the two nearby drainage ditches, but there is no way of knowing if it actually occurred because of the deluge caused by the typhoon. Tepco says a sample taken from a puddle outside a coffer dam showed only 9 Bq/liter of total radioactivity, thus any of the very-low-level contamination that might have hypothetically reached a drainage ditch was in no way harmful. Most of the Japanese Press reported that Tepco’s staff pumped the 1,130 tons directly into the ditches and the sea, but it seems these reports are unfounded. Water that needed to be removed from the 11 dams showing activity above the 30 Bq/liter limit was pumped to empty storage tanks. One of Tepco’s sandbag barriers at the confluence of the two ditches was overwhelmed by the high flow of typhoon run-off, but the barrier was re-set less than two hours later when the flow of rainwater through the channel slowed. Tepco had drained the waters above the sandbag barrier before the typhoon hit, hoping to prevent failure. -- -- --
  • The Asahi Shimbun reports a new method to speed up establishing Strontium-90 activity samples. A team of Fukushima University and Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency researchers have reduced the analytical time from several weeks to as short as 20 minutes. They say a new device can separate the Strontium from the “all Beta” isotopic group through the use of a Strontium-specific resin. The new method will not be as sensitive as the currently-used process, but will have a minimum detectability of 3 Becquerels per liter of water and 5 Bq/kg in soil. Team leader Yoshitaka Takagai said, “It is possible to choose the new or conventional method depending on the intended use. I hope our new method will be used widely.” The team’s research paper will be published online by the Royal Society of Chemistry.
  • Fukushima’s fisheries have ceased whitebait fishing due to concerns caused by news reports of Fukushima water leaks. Iwake City fishermen say they will postpone their whitebait catch until next spring. Their report on test catches show no radioactivity in most fish they have caught and below-limit levels in the rest. Regardless, all near-shore fishing has been ceased. The fisheries say they have decided to resume off-shore test catches on September 26.  The decision was not because any of the catch is unsafe for consumers to eat. It is because there is little hope of selling the fish in enough markets to make a profit. The perception that the food might be radioactive is the root of the problem. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has recently decided to perform a detailed study of the situation covering a 1,000 square kilometer area off the Fukushima coastline. The NRA will also unify all independent efforts to study the situation. NRA Commissioner Kayoko Nakamura says this unity will provide data to the world that is easy to understand. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said the Press is “letting down the people of Fukushima” with its handling of the information.” His words were echoed by Satoshi Nozaki, head of Fukushima’s fishery cooperative, “We find it too hard to sell our catches due to the tainted image of Fukushima sea food.” Japan’s Fishery Agency also says that only 25 of the 1,000 species found in near-shore waters have radioactive levels above the national limit, compared to more than 50% two years ago. In addition, the recently-reported off-shore “hot spots” of Cesium in bottom mud are not in the water-itself, but are at depths below those that are habituated by food fish. These facts have gone unreported by the Press.
  • Japan’s current reliance on fossil-fueled electricity causes constant concerns. With Sunday’s routine closure of Oi unit #4, fears of even higher imported fuel costs and a possible power shortage this winter have emerged. While most electric customers have reduced their consumption, Yoshitaki Kimura, a local Oi businessman, worries that increased electricity costs and power-saving efforts will hurt his gas-station business. Across Japan, utilities are running fossil-fueled plants to compensate for the nuclear moratorium mandated by the government since 2011. Since April, 10 of these old units have have failed, already approaching the number of failures for all of 2012. Kepco has 32 such units, but could keep them all running for only seven days in August. Scheduled maintenance on the “thermal” units have been delayed or cancelled in order to meet customer demand. Most of the thermal units were intended as temporary replacement power sources during routine nuke plant shutdowns, but they were never intended to be a constant source of base-load electricity. Japan’s trade minister Toshimitsu Motegi says the government wants to reduce long-term reliance on nukes, but the country may not have enough reliable power for the future if it happens. Business and industry leaders feel reducing reliance on nukes is not a good idea, especially if fossil fuel prices (liquid natural gas and/or oil) from the Middle East go up. Also, there is no way of knowing how long the burdened fossil-fueled plants will continue to operate reliably.
  • Japan told the IAEA that leakage from F. Daiichi to the sea is contained. At the International Atomic Energy Agency General Conference in Vienna, Science and Technology Minister Ichita Yamamoto told the international nuke watchdog that any pollution is inside the fully-barricaded 3-square-kilometer “quay” along the F. Daiichi shoreline. No contamination is going into the open sea. He added that all foods and drinking water in Japan are safe to consume.  An Austrian participant said he feels Japan has a lot more work to do.

September 16, 2013

  • Tepco’s American consultant Lake Barrett says the waste water at Fukushima must eventually be released to the sea. However, he said the currently-stored waters must be stripped of their radioactive isotopes until the lowest possible levels are achieved. In addition, the Japanese public’s trust must be regained. “They should start pumping as soon as practical,” said Barrett, adding that the release must include groundwater too. “I believe in a matter of a few months ... early next year… water will be cleaned up and be ready to be discharged.” However, once the wastewaters are sufficiently cleansed, regaining public trust will be difficult, Barrett says, “When TEPCO says: ‘Trust me, this water is safe,’ that’s not enough.” He feels it will take the input of international experts to turn the tide of public opinion.
  • The staff at F. Daiichi is taking extraordinary measures to handle powerful typhoon Man-yi. Torrential rains and high winds are hammering central and northern Honshu, Japan’s main island, forcing as many as 400,000 people to evacuate their homes. In preparation, workers at Fukushima have weighed-down large cranes and tied down outdoor pumps and piping in an effort to weather the storm. Other pressing concerns focus on preventing the torrential rains from increasing the in-flow of water to the turbine building basements of the four damaged units, and removal of rainwater run-off from the wastewater storage tank complex further inland. Water has already overflowed some of the coffer dams around wastewater tank groups and is flowing into the nearby drainage ditch. A sample of the water in the ditch has 37 Becquerels of “all-Beta” activity per liter, far below the limit for releases to the sea. Tepco is also using temporary pumps to reduce the build-up throughout the tank complex and discharging the water into the station’s drainage system. Since the detected activity is thousands of times lower than that found inside the wastewater tanks, Tepco is sure the contaminants are entirely due to the rainwater run-off. Due to the continual heavy downpour (over two inches per hour), the company has no choice but to allow the very-low-level radioactive run-off to continue flowing into the sea beyond the inner barricaded quay. --
  • One Tepco official has said the wastewater situation at Fukushima Daiichi is not under control. Kazuhiko Yamashita, an Executive Fellow at the company, was “grilled” by opposition lawmakers about conditions at F. Daiichi until he reluctantly said, "I think the current situation is not under control." Immediately, the Japanese Press twisted his meaning and broadcast that he had contradicted PM Shinzo Abe’s statement at the recent IOC meeting in Buenos Aires, where Japan was awarded the 2020 Games. Tepco’s official response to the Press reports was, "It is our understanding that prime minister intended his statement 'the situation is under control' to mean that the impact of radioactive materials is limited to the area within the port of the power station...According to this understanding, we share the same views." Abe’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga echoed the Tepco statement by explaining the PM meant the possible contamination “remains inside the port”. Abe plans to visit F. Daiichi on Thursday in the hope of deflating the issue. --
  • The build-up of low-level wastes from Fukushima’s residential decontamination effort continues. Of the more than 500,000 tons of wastes accumulated so far, some 150,000 tons has yet to be sent to approved storage locations and remain in open areas where the wastes were generated. The lack of enough storage sites is due to local residents fearing radiation and having suspicions that temporary sites will become permanent. Some local officials feel Tokyo should forge ahead with building storage facilities because once construction starts, local concerns greatly diminish. Of the 372 planned storage locations, only 139 have been built. 23 of the 36 communities involved have not yet allowed any site to be built.  The municipality with the most radioactive waste yet to be stored is Nishigo with 40,000 tons, followed by Motomiya with 39,432 tons and Tamura with 17,800 tons. Iwaki city says they have more than 29,000 bags of material awaiting temporary storage.
  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority will conduct 600,000 seabed tests for radioactive Cesium. The agency feels the data will be critical in assessing long-term impacts on sea creatures. So far, the NRA has conducted about 200 tests of the sea bottom, but decided to expand their program due to the recent concerns caused by wastewater issues with F. Daiichi. The area to be tested will cover 1,000 square kilometers off the coast of the nuke station, extending 50km north and south, and 20km east and west. The NRA hopes to have the results compiled by the spring of 2014. An NRA official said, “If we can check where cesium is accumulated by comprehensively covering the seafloor that has yet to be surveyed, we can utilize the data to control contamination.” The watchdog intends to use the data in the hopes of explaining the actual risks to the public and dispel rumors and unfounded concerns.
  • Japan is once again devoid of electricity from nukes. On Sunday, Oi unit #4 was shut down for routine maintenance and refueling. With unit #3’s shutdown earlier this month, there are no longer any nukes operating. How long Japan will remain “nuke-less” is speculative because of slower-than-anticipated NRA processing of restart applications and local political opposition to some of the 12 nukes that applied for resumption. In Fukui Prefecture, home of the Oi units, local politicians are frustrated with the NRA for dragging out the restart process. Governor Issei Nishikawa says, “Safety is important, but if you waste time, that too has an effect on safety. The Fukui nuclear power plant sites have a long history and respond to risks. My position is therefore different from other prefectural governors [who oppose restarts].” Nationally, Japan’s economy needs the nukes restarted since the cost of natural gas and oil imports to cover the political moratorium have skyrocketed since 2011. In 2012, fossil fuel imports were $32 billion greater than in 2010, and the increase this year is expected to top $38 billion.
  • About 8,000 people marched against nuke restarts in Tokyo on Sunday. The well-organized demonstration coincided with the shutdown of the last operating nuke unit in Japan at the Oi station. Chief organizer, Nobel Laureate Kenzaburo Oe, said "We want to keep telling what is happening at Fukushima even though everybody is talking about the Olympics. Let's hand down an environment in which children can live without fear." Writer Keiko Ochiai used the occasion to blast PM Shinzo Abe’s statement that F. Daiichi is under control, "Can you say the situation is under control even though contaminated water keeps leaking?" A voluntary Fukushima evacuee, Katsumi Hasegawa, said "With the future of my children tainted, I have realized that radiation and human beings cannot coexist.”  Meanwhile, former PM Naoto Kan pleaded with Taiwan to not build any more nukes. At a Taipei antinuclear rally, Kan said, “Nuclear power is not cheap and [is] as a matter of fact quite risky. It takes a long time for radiation to decay. We should ask ourselves whether it is responsible to leave it for our children and grandchildren to take care of.” Taiwan has a pending proposal before its legislature for a national nuclear referendum.

September 13, 2013

  • Tokyo Electric Company has another American expert to consult on Fukushima issues. Lake Barrett, formerly with both the US Department of Energy during the Three Mile Island clean-up, has been asked to be part of Tepco’s "Contaminated Water and Tank Countermeasures Headquarters." His experience with the TMI accident recovery should be invaluable to Tepco’s mitigation of wastewater problems at F. Daiichi. Barrett will also provide input on the decommissioning of the four damaged units at the station. Tepco says there will be other international experts asked to assist them. -- Barrett’s first public statement after touring F. Daiichi calls for increased public communication. He pointed out that Tepco’s current efforts to contain wastewater tank leaks are helping the situation. Barrett stressed that current efforts can be improved, and they should be. But, he feels there is no reason for concern about public health and safety. Because people are traumatized by reports of radioactive releases, Barrett calls on Tepco to improve its methods of communication in order to keep people from over-reacting.
  • One groundwater sampling well inside the wastewater tank complex shows 130,000 Becquerels per liter of Tritium. The new reading on Friday was more than four times the level found on Monday. Japan’s Tritium limit for open release is 60,000 Bq/liter, but only a very tiny amount of the water found in the groundwater sample might have seeped into the nearby drainage ditch. Tritium is the radioactive isotope of hydrogen having by-far the weakest Beta radiation of all reactor-produced materials. Regardless, one Japanese Newspaper (Japan Times) alleged that the ground under the tank complex is turning into a “radioactive swamp”.  --  Meanwhile, the Japanese Press ignores the latest readings from the nearby drainage ditch – felt to be the most likely pathway for the Tritiated waters to reach the sea. Only only one location shows a level of “all Beta” emitters (2000 Bq/liter). While most of the Japanese Press is reporting the all-Beta as containing Strontium and Cesium isotopes, the data clearly shows there is no Cesium in the ditch’s water, and there is still nothing detectable at the ditch’s outlet to the sea.  It should be noted that the most recent samples of seawater from F. Daiichi show nothing detectible. Both the NRA and Tepco results agree.  --
  • This morning, Tepco found that contaminated water is flowing into a recently-drained unit #2 equipment tunnel. The tunnel was drained because the company felt it has been the source of the groundwater contamination found in four nearby observation wells. (1T-3, 1T-4, 2T-1, and 2T-2 at this link-- ) 210 tons of water has been pumped out of the tunnel and discharged to the unit #2 turbine building basement. The water’s removal was completed August 24th. Now, water is flowing back into the tunnel and the water level is rising at a rate of 8cm/day.
  • A nuclear researcher claims groundwater contamination is entering the barricaded F. Daiichi quay. Head researcher at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, Seiji Takeda, says Tritium in a few of the groundwater sampling wells and inside the quay suggests outflow is occurring. Takeda says Tritium moves with water and can be used to track water flow, and its levels on the sea-side of the four damaged units are greater than the inland, mountain-side groundwater. The specific wells of concern are located near an underground equipment tunnel known to have contained extremely high levels of contamination. Takeda feels the groundwater contamination came from seepage out of the tunnel.
  • Japan’s Federation of Electric Power Companies vows industry-wide support for Tepco with the current waste-water situation. Chair Makoto Yagi said, "We take the problem seriously. The whole industry should tackle it.” Initially, the Federation will send 10 radiation experts and a variety of radioactive survey equipment to F. Daiichi.  "We will consider additional support based on TEPCO's needs and depending on developments in the situation at the power plant," Yagi said. He added that he fully supports restarting nuclear plants so they can be a core of reliable future electricity supplies.
  • Vietnam has lifted their radiation inspection requirements on Japanese food imports. Their Agricultural Ministry actually removed the restrictions on September 1. The reason for the delay in the announcement has not been reported. The ministry had required all foods from Japan to be checked for contamination, especially those from Fukushima, Ibaraki, and Tochigi Prefectures. Vietnam no longer considers the food checks necessary.
  • South Korea says their ocean is free of Fukushima contamination. The peninsular country recently banned fish imports from 8 Japanese prefectures over the Fukushima leak reports in the press. The Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries reports, “The result of an analysis of waters from six sea areas that was conducted jointly with the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission showed no traces of induced radioactive materials. The test confirmed that marine products produced from our waters are safe from radiation.” This raises the possibility that S. Korea’s recent ban on many of Japan’s fisheries is intended to protect Korea’s fishing businesses.
  • Only 60% of the F. Daiichi “advisory” evacuees have returned home. The advisory area stretched from the old 20km no-go zone out to a 30km radius from the nuke station. The evacuation advisory was lifted last March, but only 36,000 of the 60,000 people who were affected have taken advantage of the opportunity. Reasons for not going home vary. Some say they fear subsequent problems at the nuke will force them to leave again, while others say some hospitals and stores remain closed. Still others doubt they will be able to find jobs if they move back.
  • Japan’s antinukes object to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Many critics purport that Japan’s pursuit of the Olympic venue shows that Fukushima doesn’t really matter to Tokyo’s government. Others take issue with Prime Minister Abe saying the situation at F. Daiichi is under control. One web user Tweeted, “Are you thinking about the people of Fukushima!!” An alleged F. Daiichi worked also Tweeted, “Prime Minister Abe isn’t a specialist in nuclear disasters, or a specialist in environmental impacts.” Another person tweeted, “I promise that the Olympics will probably — no, definitely — have the worst possible impact on the Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning.” On the other hand, the overwhelming majority of Japan’s public is thrilled with getting the 2020 Olympics and feel the venue will result in greater international pressure to clean up Fukushima Prefecture and decommission the damaged nukes.
  • The recent court decision to not indict Tepco and Tokyo officials over the nuclear accident has outraged the people that filed the criminal complaint. Lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai, representing more than 14,000 plaintiffs, said, "How can they say they conducted a thorough investigation when they did not carry out any raids on relevant offices? From the very beginning, it was not an investigation seeking indictments, but rather, one conducted so no indictments would be handed down." Journalist Soichiro Tawara supported Kawai by saying, "As long as there is the possibility that new evidence could emerge, such raids should have been carried out and a decision should only have been made after all the evidence was examined. It cannot be claimed a thorough investigation was conducted." Kawai also criticized the Fukushima prosecutors for transferring the case to Tokyo. He says a formal request for an inquest panel will be submitted in the hope of reversing the non-indictment decision.
  • Former PM Naoto Kan says no nuclear plant is 100% safe. At a Press conference in Taiwan, Kan said the Fukushima accident brought him to that conclusion. He will tour a Taiwanese nuke today, then make make antinuclear speeches today and Saturday. Kan says he will also meet with Taipei Mayor-elect Eric Chu and Taipei Mayor Hau Long-bin. Kan’s former party, the DPJ, has taken issue with PM Abe’s claim that Fukushima is under control. DPJ Secretary General Akihiro Ohata said, "The prime minister must back up his claim that the (radioactive water) problem is under control. The government has a responsibility to explain this statement to the people of Fukushima Prefecture and indeed the entire country." He threatened to take the issue to the Diet (congress) if Abe cannot satisfactorily respond. The DPJ also says the NRA’s “frozen wall” to stop groundwater contamination is “technically very difficult” and "If the contamination is widespread, then the (frozen soil) method cannot be used."

September 10, 2013

  • There is no Fukushima contamination polluting the Pacific Ocean. This has been reported by Japan’s Prime Minister and the Tokyo Electric Company. PM Shinzo Abe’s statement about Japan’s recent selection as the host country for the 2020 Olympics included a statement relative to the F. Daiichi contamination issue. He said, “The situation is under control.” Abe added the contaminated water outflow from the nuke station has been “completely blocked” and worst-case radiation levels stand at less than one percent of the international standards. Further, the safety limits have kept Japan’s food completely safe, "I can assure you that there have never been, and will never be health problems." Tepco has finally stated that no radioactive water has reached the Pacific Ocean. Company President Naomi Hirose said, "Judging from the results of our monitoring 3 kilometers offshore, there has been no impact on the waters or the wider ocean. We believe that the impact on the surrounding waters is limited to the area within the port of the power plant." [aside - as I have been reporting for more than a month.] Critics have objected to the statements of both PM Abe and Tepco. One anonymous observer in Buenos Aires said, “His [Abe’s] remarks don’t convey the facts accurately.” One Industry Ministry official said, "It is hard to tell what can be called as being 'under control,' but it is certain that you can't say the contaminated water has 'been completely blocked' in a technical sense."
  • Tepco’s most recent testing at F. Daiichi continues to show no contamination has entered the Pacific. The outlet of the suspect drainage ditch around the suspected leaky tank group continues to show no contamination in the seawater. It is interesting that a testing location upstream from the wastewater tank complex show detectible Cesium-137 and an “all Beta” reading of 110 Becquerels per liter. This location is in the direction of the mountains that rise just west of the station’s property. In addition, the water from the observation well on the sea-side of units #1 & #2 that started the groundwater issue last month no longer shows any Cesium or “all Beta” (including Strontium) isotopic activity. However, it does continue to have relatively high Tritium, the radioactive isotope of Hydrogen, at 80,000 Bq/liter. Once again we find that Cesium and Strontium are not being carried by the groundwater, but Tritium is. Tritium is the least-risky isotope produced by nuclear plants and is a naturally-occurring material present in all of the world’s water.
  • Tokyo has extended the deadline for decontamination of towns near F. Daiichi. Seven of the eleven municipalities inside the mandated evacuation zone will not meet national standards by March of 2014, including parts of Minamisoma City, the towns of Kawamata, Namie, Tomioka and Futaba, and the villages of Iitate and Katsurao. The Environment Ministry says the work will continue through April of 2014, at least. The ministry says the reasons for the extended timetable are two-fold. First, there have been political delays if securing locations for the storage of contaminated soils and other debris. Second, getting approval to start decontamination from some of the local residents has been difficult. Junko Nakanishi of the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology has called the plan overly optimistic and calls for increased measures to support evacuees while decontamination takes place.
  • South Korea has banned all fish imports from 8 Japanese prefectures. The affected prefectures are Fukushima, Aomori, Ibaraki, Gunma, Miyagi, Iwate, Tochigi and Chiba- with Chiba the furthest from Fukushima Daiichi at 250 kilometers. South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries says, “The measure comes as our people’s concerns are growing over the fact that hundreds of tons of radiation contaminated water are leaked daily from the site of Japan’s nuclear accident in Fukushima.” Korea added that additional radiation tests must be supplied by Japan, and the ban will continueif “even a minuscule dose of radioactive material, such as cesium or iodine, is detected in any products from any other region of Japan…as the government concluded that it is unclear how the incident in Japan will progress in the future and that the information the Japanese government has provided so far is not enough to predict future developments.”  Japan’s response has been one of surprise and exasperation. Chief cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Japanese limits on contamination of food are the strictest in the world and shipments are always banned when tests show the limits are exceeded. He also ruled out any effects on the Pacific Ocean due to water contamination from F. Daiichi because the leaks are small and contained in the nukes station’s port area. He added, "We hope that South Korea will act on scientific evidence." Each of the prefectures expressed surprise and concern when told of Korea’s action. Chiba officials are bewildered as to why their fish exports have been included in the ban since Korea has not previously done anything like this to them. Two of the Prefectures banned by Korea are completely land-locked – Gunma and Tochigi.  The Japanese fisheries submitted a petition calling for Tokyo to stop all radioactive water leaks from F. Daiichi immediately. National fisheries head Hiroshi Kishi gave the petition to Industry Minister Motegi on Friday. Kishi cited the Korean ban on fish from eight Prefectures and urged the government to insure information is spread properly.  A Nuclear Regulatory Authority official says the reporting provided by the NRA thus far has been unsatisfactory. NRA Secretary Morimoto said providing accurate information on how F. Daiichi is affecting the sea is crucial. The NRA says there are no detectible radioactive substances have been found outside the F. Daiichi port. NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka stated, “From what we can see from existing data… so far there is no meaningful effect” on the Pacific. (NRA seawater test results now available in English)
  • Is the current situation at F. Daiichi a disaster or a PR failure? Journalist Rowan Hooper says neither Tepco nor the Japanese government have succeeded in making sure information is communicated to the public clearly and openly. Hooper’s interview with Dr. Gerry Thomas, who runs the Chernobyl Tissue Bank in England, is the focus of his piece. Thomas is totally dismissive of the health risks postulated by many voices in the Press. She said, “They’ve got a huge problem out there — largely a PR problem; it’s not a health problem because none of this is going to do anything health-wise.” For the full article, see…

September 5, 2013

  • The Tokyo Electric Co. has posted a detailed handout on the new “soundness” inspection of unit #4. This is the sixth integrity study since the building’s ability to withstand another massive earthquake came into question. The most recent work was performed by Tepco consultants and two “outside” experts on building integrity – Katsumi Takiguchi of the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Kazuo Tamura of Chiba Institute of Technology. As with all previous studies, the inner Primary Containment which holds the now-infamous fifth-floor Spent Fuel Pool is clearly not tilting in any direction. The handout can be viewed here…
  • The Tokyo government moves closer to a take-over of Fukushima Daiichi. PM Shinzo Abe and Industry Minister Motegi approved a plan to combine the efforts of the government and Tepco to mitigate the contaminated water issue at the nuke station. They agreed the water contamination problems are too great for Tepco to tackle on their own. The decision was made at a joint meeting of the government's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters and Nuclear Emergency Preparedness Council. $470 million will be appropriated for the project. $210 million will be financed with reserve funds out of the 2013 budget. $320 million will be used to design and install a frozen soil barrier around the four damaged unit’s buildings. Installation is scheduled to begin in 2014. $150 million will be used to upgrade on-site equipment to remove radioactive material from the wastewater. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga will head the panel to implement the plans. PM Abe said “The government will work on the front line to cope with the contaminated water problem, not relying solely on Tokyo Electric Power Co. We have compiled a set of basic policies to fundamentally solve the problem, not ad hoc measures.” The panel also pointed out that Press reports of the Pacific being contaminated are incorrect. Industry Minister Tatsuya Shinkawa said most of the contamination is contained inside the station’s inner break-wall (quay). The radioactivity outside the harbor is no different than levels occurring before the 2011 accident. “We are deeply sorry for causing an international stir over this contaminated water problem,” Shinkawa said. -- --
  • The Nuclear Regulatory Authority says the news media is giving the world a “misleading impression” about the situation at F. Daiichi. Chair Shunichi Tanaka scolded the Press, saying, “You should avoid the situation that Japan gets criticism from abroad because of misleading information.” He added that some of Tepco’s reports are not “scientifically acceptable” and contributes to the issue. He said the company’s announcing high exposures for radioactive hotspots should be reported in levels of activity. Instead of using millisievert units, Tepco should be using Becquerels because, “It’s like describing how much something weighs by using centimeters.” Further, Tepco is reporting the levels of activity as if it is Gamma radiation, when it is actually Beta. Unlike Gamma, Beta radiation decreases rapidly with increasing distance from the source. The recent 2,200 mSv/hour reading reported by Tepco is measured at a point of near-contact with the source, but move out to 50 centimeters and the level drops to 40 mSv. Also unlike Gamma, Beta cannot penetrate clothing. In order to receive the exposures reported by Tepco, a person would have to be immersed naked into the contaminated water. Tanaka’s call for a distinction between Gamma and Beta radiation has been confirmed by independent international experts.
  • Japan is being questioned about Fukushima in its bid for the 2020 Olympics. At the opening Press conference in Buenos Aires for the International Olympic Committee vote on Saturday, questions abounded about Fukushima and how it might affect the games, 250 kilometers away. Four of the six questions posed concerned Fukushima. Japan’s bid president Tsunekazu Takeda told everyone there is nothing to worry about, but doubts remained common among the Press. Takeda said, “The radiation level is absolutely safe. The 35 million people living in Tokyo are living in normal conditions. There is no problem.” He became increasingly exasperated as question after question focused on Fukushima. Taketa stressed, “There is no issue here. Not one person in Tokyo has been affected by this issue. Tokyo and Fukushima are almost 250 kilometers apart. We are quite remote from Fukushima. The water is safe and the level of radioactivity is absolutely safe. Our Prime Minister (Shinzo) Abe has officially announced that the government will be responsible for the project (clearing up Fukushima). I am not worried about the Tokyo 2020 bid.” British and American journalists charged Taketa with avoiding the issue by focusing on conditions in Tokyo. Meanwhile, an Argentine TV station said the questions were sufficiently answered. --
  • Tepco’s continual posting of new wastewater tank radiation levels at F. Daiichi makes daily headlines. The newest tank reading is the highest yet at 2,200 millisieverts per hour of Beta activity. The NRA says there is no evidence of leakage from this tank. However, this does not stop some people from speculating. Hiroaki Koide of Kyoto University said, “There’s a strong possibility these tanks also leaked, or had leaked previously. We have to worry about the impact on nearby groundwater…These tanks are not sturdy and have been a problem since they were constructed two years ago. The government has finally said they will be involved in this problem but they are still not going to be fully involved in the decommission (sic). It is too little, too late.”
  • Tepco has found water flowing into the unit #1 turbine building via an underground cabling tunnel. The company drilled a hole in a floor of the turbine building and lowered a video camera into the basement. The camera revealed a groundwater influx at a junction of the basement wall and piping. Tepco will continue the video investigation. They are concerned that there are more leaks yet to be found among the turbine basements of the four damaged units. Tepco does not want to raise the internal water levels above the outside groundwater to be sure that no contaminated liquid will flow out of the buildings.
  • The Industry Ministry will begin testing their frozen artificial wall project at F. Daiichi in mid-October. They plan to drive steel pipes 30 meters into the earth to the mountain side of unit #4, in a 10-by-10 meter array. Liquid calcium chloride will be pumped into the pipes and, theoretically, freeze the soil solid. The test will see if the wall stops groundwater flow. The ministry hopes to finish the test by next March and, if successful, complete the 1.4 kilometer-long wall by March, 2015. The test is expected to cost the government $13 million.
  • The Nuclear Regulatory Authority says mildly-radioactive wastewater will eventually have to be released to the sea. NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka said the storage of contaminated water at F. Daiichi cannot continue indefinitely. He stated, “I’m afraid that it is unavoidable to dump or release the water into the sea” after it is purified to levels recognized as safe under international standards. Tanaka added that the situation at the nuke station changes daily, posing various levels of risk in the process. Tanaka also said, “The accident has yet to be settled down.”
  • World Nuclear News has posted an article; “Fear and Fukushima”. It is a summation of messages from international radiation experts sent to the Japanese people explaining the health impacts of the Fukushima accident. Unfortunately, it seems none of Japan’s Press outlets have seen fit to report on it. Regardless, perhaps the most significant message comes from Imperial College’s Gerry Thomas, “Worrying about what might happen can have a very bad effect on quality of life, and can lead to stress-related illnesses. All scientific evidence suggests that no-one is likely to suffer damage from the radiation from Fukushima itself, but concern over what it might do could cause significant psychological problems. It is therefore important to understand that the risk to health from radiation from Fukushima is negligible, and that undue concern over any possible health effects could be much worse than the radiation itself.” Russian Chernobyl expert Mikhail Balonov adds that through “Only an open information policy on the level of the effects, the media and the science community will create the trust needed to heal... and prevent negative socio-economic effects from unwarranted anxiety and fear."
  • A citizen’s group from Fukushima Prefecture has filed a criminal complaint over the contaminated wastewater at F. Daiichi. Fukushima’s public prosecutors and say they will consider it. 32 Tepco executives are named as accomplices to the contaminated water leaks that have recently come to light. The group charges that Tepco failed to follow a government request to install water shields, and neglected to monitor the condition of radioactive water storage tanks. Group leader Ruiko Muto said, "We want TEPCO to recognize its criminality." Three group leaders filed the complaint on behalf of their 14,000 person membership. The group already has a complaint on file over the nuclear accident in March, 2011, which charges the utility, its executives and the government as criminally responsible for causing the crisis. --


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