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Fukushima 70

May 12, 2014

  • The health impact of the Fukushima accident is impaired social and mental well-being. So says the most recent Fukushima report from the United Nations Scientific Committee on Atomic Radiation. The report is summarized by Mark Flanagan of America’s Nuclear Energy Institute. Also in the summary is an overview of Dr. Jim Conca’s summation of the UNSCEAR document in Forbes. In fact, NEI says Conca feels much the same as they and posts part of the Forbes article which says, “But if you want to continue feeling afraid, and want to make sure others keep being afraid, by all means ignore this [UNSCEAR] report on Fukushima.”

  • The recent manga (comic) depicting Fukushima nosebleeds continues in the news. Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara has criticized the manga story for linking nosebleeds with exposure to Fukushima radiation, “I cannot understand the intention behind the story or what the author wants to say.” The ministry has been running on-going research of possible health effects from low level radiation exposure. Ishihara says none of the experts have found a causal connection between low exposures and harm to humans. The comic is quite popular, so the minister felt it was important to go public with his view in order to check what seems to be a purely rumor-based publication. Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga added to the situation by saying, "We cannot think of any causal links." Also, Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato called the comic episode extremely regrettable because it fosters groundless rumors. He is considering a formal response to the publication, in addition to the protest filed by the current town government of Futaba. In the latest episode of the comic, the mayor of host community Futaba says, "Many people in Fukushima suffer nosebleeds and are developing strong fatigue because of exposure. That is why I am telling the people of Futaba not to live in Fukushima Prefecture." The prefectural government filed a formal protest with the publisher, saying the manga fuels harmful rumors and is “completely deplorable”. The publisher responded that the artist had asked the prefecture about radiation and nosebleeds and was told that extremely high exposures could do it. Thus, the artist felt the depiction was acceptable. -- -- NHK World; Fukushima Governor: Manga story regrettable; May 12, 2014  

  • Ex-Futaba Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa, admits that he is the source of the manga artist’s information. Idogawa maintains he has regular nosebleeds and knows of many Fukushima residents with the same problem. The ex-mayor says he has nosebleeds every day, and wants everyone to know, "There is no way I would retract my comments in the manga." Further, he takes personal umbrage with the Environment Minister’s statement, "The minister has no business with my physical condition."

  • The Fukushima fishing industry is not doomed. A few Fukushima residents are taking seabed samples, having them independently analyzed, and have found nothing to be concerned about. An Iwaki seafood processing employee, Riken Komatsu, has founded the Iwaki Ocean Investigation Squad Sea Lab, supported by Tomioka community fishermen. Fukushima residents are measuring contamination levels in parks and on farmland, so Komatsu decided to do the same with the seabed and compare the results to those found near Aquamarine Fukushima, a local aquarium at least 30 kilometers south of F. Daiichi and outside the exclusion zone. Komatsu chartered the fishing boat of Hirokazu Ishii, of Tomioka. Project members began dredging up samples on April 27, about 1.5 kilometers from the F. Daiichi station. Captain Ishii said the first day’s work caused him to notice something surprising when he looked at the Fukushima station from sea for the first time. Since then, he has heard clients say much the same thing, "It's smaller than you think, isn't it? Everyone asks, 'Is this tiny thing getting the world stirred up?" The most recent sample was tested for activity at the aquarium and was found have a level of 417 Becquerels per kilogram. This is only about 100 Bq/kg more than the sea bottom next to the aquarium. Aquarium veterinarian Seiichi Tomihara says, "…considering it was taken from right in front of the nuclear plant, this number does not justify the view that Fukushima's fishing industry is doomed."  An unpolished video of F. Daiichi from the sea taken by the Mainichi Shimbun to accompany the above article can be accessed here…

  • The Naraha town assembly demands more decontamination before repopulation. 10 members of the group handed a formal demand to the Environment Ministry saying lowering annual radiation exposure below the international standard of 20 millisieverts is unacceptable. Instead, they want the town’s radiation level below 1 mSv/yr before the government lifts its evacuation restrictions. In addition, the document calls for complete cleaning inside homes and buildings as well as stripping the contaminated bottom of the town’s Kido dam. Group Chairman Motoi Aoki says the ministry response to the group demands will determine when the assembly agrees to let residents return home. He then called for restoration of the environment as soon as humanly possible.  (Comment – I suspect the group wants to extend the time before the living restrictions are lifted for one purpose…greed. Getting the entire community down to 1 mSv/yr is unrealistic, considering that Japan’s average natural background level is 1.5 mSv/yr and Naraha’s background before the accident. If the evacuation period is extended for many years, and all evacuees could continue to get their $7,500 per month compensation check plus $1,000/month mental anguish stipend. This is a huge income, and much more than the assembly members are paid for their political jobs. It seems they are using the low level radiation issue as a ploy to keep their windfall of money coming in.)

  • The latest estimate of total F. Daiichi Cesium releases are the highest numbers yet. A Japanese research team says the total amount of Cesium-137 released was 20,500 terabecquerels (20.5 thousand-million-million). This is about 1.5 times higher than Tepco’s estimate of 13,600 TBq. The team reported on Cs-137 during a session of the European Geosciences Union in Vienna on the Fukushima nuclear accident. The team believes their findings are the best yet. They say 12,000 to 15,000 TBq was deposited in the Pacific Ocean, and the rest (5,500 to 8,500 TBq) were dropped on land. 14,000-17,000 TBq were estimated to have been deposited from the atmosphere and 3,500 TBq were the result of water flow into the sea. They also estimate that up to 400 TBq has fallen on North America. (Comment – While some might dismiss this new estimation as being yet another scare-mongering report out of Japan, I’m not one of them. First, one of the organizations involved in the study is Fukushima University’s Institute of Environmental Radioactivity, which is not prone to alarmist tactics. Secondly, I have been skeptical of Tepco’s total release numbers since 2011, and stated this in some of my earliest blogs. It seemed from the start that Tepco underestimated the releases due to the hydrogen explosions of units #1 and #3 because their onsite monitors didn’t show much on March 11 and March 14, 2011, respectively. However, the wind was constantly blowing out to sea until late in the day of March 14, and Tepco had no sea-side monitors located there. I’ve said “they missed it” all along, and now it seems a reputable research group has verified my argument.)

  • Another antinuclear lawsuit in Japan is thrown out of court. The Osaka High Court has dismissed a suit to block the restart of the Oi nuclear station units, two of which operated safely through last summer to avoid severe regional power shortages. Presiding Judge Keisuke Hayashi said, "It is inappropriate for a court to prevent the resumption before the Nuclear Regulation Authority decides whether to give a nod to the reactors." Units 3 and 4 at Oi station are under consideration for restart by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

May 8, 2014

  • As of Wednesday (yesterday), 814 fuel bundles have been safely removed from unit 4 fuel pool. Twenty-two of the relocated bundles were new and unused, and 792 were spent (used) fuel assemblies.

  • Jim Conca of Forbes magazine says Fukushima is not causing cancer and death. He cites latest scientific information published by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, as well as many other reputable sources. It has been more than three years after the nuclear accident, and no member of the public has been physically harmed by exposure due to the contamination released into the air and water around Fukushima. In contrast, Conca notes that while writing his op-ed piece, a Florida gas explosion killed two people and a crude oil-carrying train derailed in Virginia which caused the James River to be polluted and burn.

  • Oxford Professor Wade Allison says that radiation fears lead to high energy prices and negative climate impacts. He says radiation is erroneously presented to the public as exceptionally dangerous in ways that are never applied to other risks, leading to unnecessarily extreme costs. A too-narrow obsession with nuclear safety has distorted the energy market to the benefit of fossil fuel interests, but also to the detriment of the human race. Allison asks if the world has been duped by political propaganda and too many science fiction stories. He answers with a resounding “Yes!” In addition to radiation, he addresses nuclear waste issues and Press reports of Fukushima-contaminated foods. He concludes that there are real threats to humanity, like political and economic instabilities, but radiation exposure is not one of them.

  • There’s no Fukushima radiation on America’s west coast. This comes from researchers at CSU Long Beach and other schools sampling kelp along the California coastline. The on-going study is entitled Kelp Watch 2014, and covers ocean sampling from Kodiak Island, Alaska, through Baja California. The researchers are looking for the Cesium 134/137 isotopic “footprint” of Fukushima contamination, but none has been detected. Chief researcher Dr. Steven Manley says, “So far, it appears that, based on our analysis of kelp, that none of the Fukushima radiation has arrived via the ocean current to our shoreline.” In addition, nothing has been detected at Guam and Hawaii, both of which are thousands of kilometers nearer the accident site in Japan. The team is using kelp sampling from Chile as a base-line reference. The new study contradicts a prior Long Beach State report claiming Fukushima isotopes found in California kelp.

  • NHK World reports the number of disaster-related deaths is now more than 3,000. This figure applies to refugees of both the 3/11/11 earthquake/tsunami and the mandated Fukushima evacuation. The survey covered 10 prefectures from Chiba (home of the Tokyo metropolis) in the south to Iwate on the northeast coast of Honshu Island. By the end of March, disaster-related deaths rose to 3,076, which is an increase of 388 from last March. More than half of the total comes from Fukushima Prefecture, alone. The number of Fukushima post-disaster deaths now exceeds the number killed by the quake and tsunami by 88.

  • The mandated evacuation zone around F. Daiichi has been a haven for wild pigs. The beasts have thrived without humans around to keep them in check, and have caused considerable property damage. The Environment Ministry has decided to expand its culling of the creatures to minimize additional destruction. 200 boars were put down in the four municipalities nearest the nuke station between November and February, but the rate of damage has not seemed to slow. As a result, the culling program will be extended to three more communities later this month. The Ministry feels reducing the number of wild boars will facilitate the repopulation of evacuated towns. NHK World; Culling of wild boars near Fukushima nuclear plant; May 6, 2014

  • An international research team has found very little rural Fukushima Plutonium and Uranium. Plutonium concentrations in prefecture samples ranged from 1.6 to 2.1 Becquerels per kilogram of material. A Becquerel is one radioactive emission per second. The level of Uranium isotope 236 was in the range of 0.000028 to 0.0007 Becquerels per kilogram. This effectively verifies that the total Uranium radioactive isotopic mix released during the accident was 3.9 million Becquerels (about 150 grams) and the total matrix of Plutonium isotopes was 2.3 billion Becquerels (~0.58 grams). The team says this is the first quantitative estimate of total Uranium released by the accident. (Abstract only…the full report is behind a pay wall.)

  • A former Fukushima contract worker is suing Tepco for “unnecessary” radiation exposure. The identity of the claimant is being withheld by the suit’s lawyers. The plaintiff held a news conference where he said, “I wish (the utility) had informed us of possible risks in advance.” He seeks $108,000 in damages for unnecessary exposure and slipshod instructions from Tepco. He was employed to install emergency power cables in unit #3. On March 24, 2014, he says he worked for 90 minutes near a contaminated water puddle reading 200 millisieverts per hour, and estimates he got an exposure of at least 20 mSv. The plaintiff insists Tepco should have known what the radiation levels were and informed the workers of the risk before being sent in for their jobs. He argues, “That is a breach of responsibility to ensure safety. [The utility] put us in a position of being exposed to high doses of radiation unnecessarily.” The claimant has not had any health issues due to the alleged exposure.

  • Former Prime Ministers launch their antinuclear crusade. Junichiro Koizumi and Morihiro Hosokawa have officially started a group intended to abolish atomic power, but say they will avoid being directly involved in politics. (Aside – Right! Career politicians saying they will avoid politics. That’s a serious contradiction. – end aside) At the inaugural Press conference for Japan Assembly for Nuclear Free Renewable Energy in Tokyo, Koizumi said, “Japan is an earthquake-prone country, and the government has not taken effective measures to protect nuclear power plants from terrorism.” He added that it is a “blatant lie” to say nukes are safe, clean and cost-effective. Hosokawa said, “It is utterly wrong for the current government to push for the restart of nuclear power plants. It contradicts Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s promise that his government will lower the country’s dependence on nuclear energy. We must turn to renewable energy to create a society without fear of radiation contamination.” Numerous popular celebrities participated in the formal “workshop” which coincided with the group’s inauguration. The first priority will be screening anti-nuclear films to be shown at small-scale discussion meetings for residents living close to nukes.

May 5, 2014

  • An American political advisor to Japan says Fukushima “alarmism” should be combatted with facts. David Roberts, former Science Adviser to the U.S. ambassador in Japan during the Fukushima accident, says an international system of news media-glib experts should be immediately available to the Press when a major tragedy happens. While he feels this should not be a solely nuclear endeavor, it was the over-reaction to Fukushima around the world that spurred him to write his op-ed piece for The Diplomat on-line magazine. In it, Roberts states, “As a crisis emerges, one or more experts would write jargon-free commentary that is then rapidly disseminated through respected news outlets, especially in the affected area. This loose network of specialists should come from not only leading institutions in developed countries, but also those in developing countries, particularly where public health crises are more likely to occur… Assisting the Network would be an on-call team of science journalists and risk-communication specialists to help deliver the experts’ message to the public. Crucially, the expert – not the journalist – will be the lead author and therefore accountable for both tone and content.”

  • Fukushima forest radiation has dropped more than 50%. The prefecture forecasts that radiation levels will drop another 70% over the next 20 years. The radioactivity contained in new leaves is about one fifth of the post-accident levels. The prefectural government also says the radiation levels of contaminated forests have decreased from 0.91 microsieverts per hour in 2011, down to 0.44 µSv/hr by March, 2014. The posted results are an average of 362 monitored sites inside Fukushima’s forests. 0.44 µSv/hr equates to an annual exposure of 3.8 millisieverts for someone spending every hour of every day in the forests. [Aside – 3.8 mSv/year is similar to the ambient natural radiation exposures for millions of Americans living on the Colorado Plateau. – end aside] A prefectural official says fear of radiation has caused some woodlands to have been abandoned by forestry workers. NHK World; Fukushima forest radiation down 50% in two years; May 5, 2014

  • Some Tepco and NRA officials doubt the efficacy of the Fukushima groundwater ice wall. Tepco is involved in a $313 million project designed to freeze the 1.4 kilometer periphery of the reactor and turbine buildings for units #1 through #4. In theory it will stop the daily influx of groundwater into the contaminated volumes pooled inside the several basements, and mitigate the increasing amount of wastewater stored at the site. But, former USNRC Chairman Dale Klein says, “I’m not convinced that the freeze wall is the best option. What I’m concerned about is unintended consequences. Where does that [blocked] water go and what are the consequences of that? I think they need more testing and more analysis. No one has built a freeze wall this long for this period of time.” Former British Atomic Energy Authority Chairperson Barbara Judge adds that there needs to be study on whether the wall will maintain integrity during the hot days of summer. Meanwhile, Nuclear Regulation Authority Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa expressed his concerns with hydrological impacts, “We need to know if a frozen wall is really effective, and more importantly, we need to know whether a frozen wall may cause any trouble.” --

  • Tepco says their finances have turned around enough to repay $1.5 billion of borrowed money. Tepco has received about $20 billion in loans from various Japanese banks to offset the costs of decommissioning F. Daiichi. They say that increases in electric bills from increased use of fossil fuels due to the nuke moratorium make it possible to begin loan reimbursement to three banks by the end of this year. Last month, TEPCO quietly repaid $40 million in emergency loans to the government-backed Development Bank of Japan, with another $40 million payment planned for October. How long repayments like this can be expected is speculative due to the on-going moratorium.

  • F. Daiichi’s host towns approve public meetings on rural waste disposal. Okuma and Futaba municipal assemblies say Tokyo can begin holding waste storage gatherings with residents as early as this month. The government feels they might win support for temporary (30 years) storage by explaining the details of the proposed facilities and measures for promoting local community development. After Tokyo announced a subsidy program to promote local development, the prefectural and municipal governments approved the meetings if the town assemblies also said yes. Now, they have. Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said the central government needs to show firm plans because residents’ opinions are mixed. Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa said his town will make a decision on whether to allow the facilities after seing how the government responds to residents’ concerns.

  • Japan’s nuke watchdog says the safety report on the two Sendai units needs revision. An NRA official said the Kyushu Electric Co. report submitted last week lacks data on how the plant's operator would respond to a fire if an aircraft crashed in the plant, and does not mention fireproof levels for pumps and other equipment. The revision could extend the time needed to clear the two units for restart and makes an early-summer resumption unlikely. NHK World; NRA asks for revision of plant safety report; May 3, 2014.

  • The 100th weekly antinuke rally in Tokyo occurred May 2nd. The number of demonstrators has been dwindling since the high point, soon after the first rally on March 29, 2012. The 100th anniversary demonstration attracted about 3,000 participants, according to the rally organizer, Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes. The Coalition says this is roughly a third of recent attendance. Metropolitan police estimates on the crowd size have not been posted, but routinely their numbers are about 25% of rally organizers’ figures. The Coalition believes the drop-off is due to the government’s refusal to hold a national debate on nuclear energy and the restart of idled reactors. Popular writer Kaoru Takamura said, “Politicians have tried to prevent national debate on the nuclear issue and the problem surrounding nuclear energy from surfacing. It is against this background that people’s urgent sense of alarm over nuclear power is clouded by their busy daily lives.” The Coalition wants to mobilize what they believe to be a “silent majority” opposing nuke restarts, and add that the dwindling attendance only heightens their resolve.

May 1, 2014

  • As of Wednesday, April 30th, 770 fuel bundles have been moved out of unit #4 storage pool. This means more than half of the 1533 stored bundles have been safely transferred to the ground-level common facility storage pools. In addition, 748 of the 1,331 spent (used) fuel assemblies (56%) have been safely removed from the unit 4 pool. Unfortunately, this important milestone does not seem to have been reported in any major Japanese news outlet.

  • We have consolidated the several postings of the Fukushima accident’s third anniversary into a separate page, Fukushima Third Anniversary, which can be accessed by clicking the title in the left-hand menu. Also posted on its own page is Japan’s Quake/Tsunami 3rd Anniversary, accessed by clicking its title in the left-hand menu.

  • Half of the evacuated Fukushima families are separated. Fukushima Prefecture has surveyed more than 62,000 households that moved due to the 3/11/11 earthquake, tsunami and nuke accident combined, including those that fled of their own accord out of radiation fears. A little over 20,000 households responded, roughly a 33% rate. Of them, 48.9% said their family is currently separated and living in two or more locations. However, 44.7% said they are still together and living in one location. 70% of the respondents from the Fukushima exclusion zone said they have had health problems during the past three years, while 55% of the voluntary refugees said they had health complaints. The most prominent reported health issues were worsening of pre-existing diseases, insomnia, and less life enjoyment. Each category had a 10% higher incidence among mandated evacuees than voluntary. 36% of the voluntary evacuees are undecided as to whether or not they will ever return home, 27% say they will remain in their new homes, but only 17% said they plan to go back home. On the other hand, more than 35% of the mandated evacuees say they want to return home if they can be assured "the elimination of the effects of radiation and associated concerns."  Half of the mandated evacuee families have made formal address changes, while only 14% of the voluntary evacuees have re-registered addresses. A Prefectural official commented, "As for those households that voluntarily evacuated, many of them have been moving their residential registrations to new addresses in order to receive administrative services smoothly. As for those from the evacuation zones, many of them are probably worried that they may not be able to receive compensation [if they change their residential registrations]."

  • Many Fukushima residents are angry about “misleading” manga about prefecture. Manga is a Japanese word for comic book. A recent episode of the “Oishinbo” series is about a group of journalists that were taken through the damaged Fukushima Daiichi site and subsequently suffered sudden nosebleeds and extreme exhaustion. It was released Monday by Big Comic Spirits magazine. In response, a resident of Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture expressed anger in a Twitter “tweet” which included that the user “never suffered such symptoms over the past three years”. By Wednesday, the post had been retweeted more than 13,000 times. Publisher Shogakukan says they have been inundated with phone calls and Emails accusing them of promoting unfounded rumors and prejudice concerning Fukushima Prefecture. Their response was that the artist, Tetsu Kariya based his depiction on “meticulous reportage” concerning former Futaba Mayor Idogawa’s recent public statement that numerous Fukushima residents suffer these conditions. Idogawa has said he has had repeated nosebleeds and felt “unbearably sick” since the accident. The artist says he visited the plant and suffered bouts of nosebleeds and exhaustion himself. The editor added that doctor and radiation expert Eisuke Matsui told the editorial staff that “the connection between sickness and radiation is not exactly zero”. Regardless, its seems thousands of Fukushima citizens are up in arms about the comic and are fed up with provocative negative portrayals of their prefecture.

  • Traces of Fukushima Cesium have been found in Albacore tuna off the Oregon coastline. A study has been run by staff at Oregon State University and will soon be published in the Environmental Science and Technology journal. The study’s lead author, graduate assistant Delvan Neville, says, “You can’t say there is absolutely zero risk because any radiation is assumed to carry at least some small risk. But these trace levels are too small to be a realistic concern. A year of eating albacore with these cesium traces is about the same dose of radiation as you get from spending 23 seconds in a stuffy basement from radon gas, or sleeping next to your spouse for 40 nights from the natural potassium-40 in their body. It’s just not much at all.” In fact, you would have to consume more than 700,000 pounds of the fish with the highest radioactive level, just to match the amount of exposure the average person is annually exposed to via natural background radiation. Another positive finding concerned the species’ movement patterns. Research associate Jason Phillips said, “Fukushima provides the only known source for a specific isotope that shows up in the albacore, so it gives us an unexpected fingerprint that allows us to learn more about the migration.”

  • Two nuclear units in Kagoshima Prefecture enter the final stage of restart screening. Units 1 and 2 at Sendai station are likely to be the first nukes restarted under the new, more-stringent requirements of the Nuclear Regulation Authority. On Wednesday, station owner Kyushu Electric Company submitted a final report on NRA safety issues concerning the two plants. The safety investigation is now in its final phase. Revisions include upgrades for earthquake and tsunami protection. Site-specific standards were raised 15% for earthquakes and from 3.5 to 5 meters wave height for tsunami after the accident at F. Daiichi. The NRA plans on a final safety report by the end of May and could possibly clear the Sendai units for operation by the end of June. The restarts would mark the beginning of the end of Japan’s post-Fukushima nuclear moratorium. NHK World; Kagoshima plant in final stage of safety screening; May 1, 2014

  • Japan and France have agreed to co-research fast reactor technology. As part of the deal, the Monju facility in Fukui Prefecture will be used to test fuels for France’s new ASTRID liquid sodium-cooled reactor. Before this can happen, Tokyo must restart currently-suspended operations at Monju. The joint research document will be signed by Japan’s Science and Technology Ministry, its Natural Resources and Energy Agency, and France’s Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission. Formal confirmation is expected during a summit between Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe and France’s President Francois Hollande on May 5. ASTRID design is expected by 2019 and operation by 2025. The technology will reduce the amount of radioactive waste produced by nuke operations and shorten the period of time for waste radioactivity to drop below naturally-occurring levels. ASTRID will produce an excess of fissionable fuel to be recycled into new fuel bundles, only leaving about 5% of the matrix to be handled as waste. By removing the Uranium-238 (4.5 billion year half-life), residual Uranium-235 (700 million year half-life) and Plutonium-239 (24,000 year half-life), the remaining ~ 5% “waste” will only be more radioactive than naturally occurring Uranium ore for less than 500 years.

  • Even the good news gets tainted by rhetoric infused with fear, uncertainty and doubt. 
  • The Mainichi also posted a parallel editorial on the high level waste issue which concludes the government has made “no concrete plans” and thus “the government is merely trying to pave the path toward restarting the nation's nuclear reactors”. The editorial uses numerous examples clearly intended to create fear, uncertainty, and doubt, with “nobody knows what to do” implications. At least the writer includes that Tokyo says the waste from reprocessing will become essentially harmless after about 300 years, and not 100,000 years. However, this is followed by the opinion that if the waste is buried, society will forget about it and future generations could unwittingly place themselves at risk. Finally, the report says that it would be a “tragedy” if the government names a permanent disposal site at a point where society remains skeptical of all things nuclear. In other words, the editorial creates an aura of immediate need, but subsequently urges that a need-satisfying decision be delayed. This sort of contradictory rhetoric with nuclear waste issues has been a mainstay of the international antinuclear community for some 50 years, and it seems the Mainichi is falling into the same oratorical trap.

April 28, 2014

  • 748 fuel bundles have been safely moved from the unit #4 fuel storage pool. 726 of the transferred bundles are spent (used) fuel and 22 are unused. The fuel transfer operation is steadily approaching the half-way mark with no radiological incidents.

  • The amount of pay-outs to Fukushima evacuees has topped $37 billion. Payment to evacuees for the evacuation itself plus psychological damage is just over $15.3 billion, while combined corporate compensation and property payments has reached $17 billion. Last week, Tokyo sent nearly $2 billion to Tepco to cover pay-outs through the end of May.

  • Tritium plus massive numbers equals disturbing headlines. On April 24, The Mainichi Shimbun posted “4 crippled Fukushima reactors dogged with 3.4 quadrillion becquerels of tritium”. A quadrillion is a thousand-million-million. Tepco told the government’s Tritium task-force that 68.5% is contained in the damaged unit’s 1, 2 & 3 fuel bundles, 24.5% in stored wastewaters, about 1.5% in the standing water of the four damaged-unit basements, and roughly 1.4% in trenches and cabling tunnels. The limit for Tritium per nuclear station is 3.7 billion Becquerels per year during routine operation, but Fukushima Daiichi is far from being routine. The amount of Tritium in wastewater storage has increased by 17 trillion Becquerels since Tepco’s January estimate, and some critics fear that it is due to leaching out of melted fuel.  (Comment - The increase in stored wastewater Tritium is probably due to the additional tens of thousands of tons of wastewater placed in tanks since the beginning of the year. Regardless, Tritium is a virtually innocuous radioactive isotope with the lowest Beta radiation emission energy known to exist; too weak to penetrate the outer dead layer of skin. Further, all Tritium limits are based on…well…to be blunt…nothing! For background on Tritium limits and how they were extrapolated from mere assumptions, click on “Background Information on Tritium” in the left-hand menu.)

  • The plan to eventually fill the containments of units 1, 2 & 3 with water may be untenable. During a seminar in Tokyo, the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID) said filling the containments with water might not be feasible due to the inability to locate and plug leaks. Tepco’s plan is to eventually fill the containments in order to shield de-fueling staff from high radiation levels, since water is an excellent radiation barrier. (Aside - the drop in radiation would be a factor of 1,000 or more) IRID says Japan should investigate other methods and/or new technologies that could work without the use of water. Tokyo says they will begin accepting alternative proposals in June.

  • The staff at F. Daiichi will begin detailed studies to find leaks from containments of units #1-3. Finding and plugging the leaks is necessary to flood the PCVs and facilitate damaged fuel removal. Earlier this year, leaks were found in all three units via cameras carried by robots, but the exact locations of leakage were not pinpointed. Tepco will use more-advanced robots to examine the bottom of the unit #1 PCV, the unit #2 pressure suppression chamber (Torus room), and the area below “scaffolding” inside unit #3 where water was found to be pooling. The company also feels there may be additional leakage points not yet been discovered, thus a more complete investigative program is needed. NHK World; Detailed containment vessel probe to begin soon; April 27, 2014

  • Kawauchi residents are allowed to begin “long-stay” in their homes. The district is inside the 20 kilometer exclusion zone, and the second area of the old “no-go” zone to allow overnight visitation. District evacuees willing to go home can stay for as long as they wish over the next three months in order to prepare their homes and property for a full relaxation of living restrictions in July. There were 276 people living in the district before 3/11/11. But, only 40 people from 18 households have applied for permission to take advantage of the opportunity. Decontamination of the area was recently completed and local radiation levels are well-below the 20 millisievert per year limit for repopulation. Dosimeters will be supplied to all returnees who want to monitor their own exposure rate.

  • The restarts of two units at Oi nuclear station have been delayed. They were the two units that were safely operated by Kansai Electric Company in the summer of 2013 to avoid power shortages in the Chubu region. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has prioritized to two Kyushu Electric Company units in Kagoshima Prefecture, which has bumped the two Oi units down the list for restarts. The NRA has concerns about geologic anomalies near the two units being quake-prone. Kansai Electric Co. feels the Oi nukes will not be restarted before March of 2015.

  • The cost for the nuclear moratorium continues to climb. Since the shutdown of all Japanese reactors following the Fukushima accident, the nation’s utilities have had to buy about $87 billion for imported fossil fuels to compensate. This explains why the combined losses since the moratorium reached $47 billion by the end of March. The bill for “no-nukes” is becoming unwieldy. Electric rates will have to rise or the government will have to subsidize the utilities, raising taxes to compensate for the financial shortfall. Will there be government bailouts? Former banker Tom O’Sullivan says it is possible because the situation reminds him of the public bank bailouts of the 1990s, “The banks were forced to consolidate after those losses, so the outcome might be similar in this case.” Another possibility is creating local transmission and distribution companies which would purchase the cheapest electricity available for their customers, which might minimize the public financial impact. But, in any case, the equity ratio (shareholder financing versus lender funding) of the utilities has severely weakened. Hokkaido Electric is down to 9%, compared to nearly 25% before 3/11/11. Kyushu Electric’s ratio has been cut in half, now at about 11.5%. Other industrial ratios in Japan average at about 43%, but no utilities are close to that number. Further, Tokyo itself is going deeper and deeper in debt, and the population is getting older. Consultant Gerhard Fasol says, “Given Japan’s government finances are mainly paid for by debt, bailing out the utilities means they’re passing on the cost to future generations, which are declining in numbers. Speeding up the pace of liberalization might help by reducing costs. But this is unlikely to happen, given the pace of change in the electricity industry is generally slow.”

  • More critics are saying the “world’s strictest nuclear standards” phrase is not true. Last week, Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida said it is a bold-faced lie. Now, other detractors are chiming in. An anonymous LDP official said, “The assertion that the standards are “the world’s strictest” is a lie. That is mere lip service to allow the restart of reactors.” Former PM Naoto Kan recently demanded the Abe administration explain what the statement means, to which the written response was, “We have designed the standards so that they can attain the world’s highest levels, referring to the other country’s regulatory criteria.” Kan retorted, “No evidence has been shown. It is just tautology to say the standards are the world’s highest because they are the world’s highest standards.” Nuclear Regulatory Authority Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa says it is difficult to say NRA has the strictest standards in the world, but they are considerably tougher than what Japan had before the agency was formed.

April 24, 2014

  • Naraha’s Fukushima evacuees debate returning home. The town of Naraha, inside the mandated exclusion zone, has been decontaminated and Tokyo has begun briefing residents on conditions in the town. Decontamination has cut the radiation exposure levels in half, now at about 4 millisieverts/year, and repopulation is viable. As far as infrastructure is concerned, a temporary shopping center has been built for returnees with more to come. The government is planning on lifting living restrictions in the not-distant future and town meetings are important for relieving anxieties. The first meeting was held in Iwaki City where 80% of the evacuees now live. NHK World; Fukushima evacuees discuss whether to go back home; April 22, 2014   

  • Reluctance to repopulate Miyakoji continues to be covered by some Press. Fukushima Minpo, the prefecture’s largest newspaper, says those not returning are worried about radiation, lack of jobs and medical services, but many admit they have grown accustomed to living in their current locations. To counter the objections, the municipal government opened two shopping facilities on April 6, reopened three elementary and junior high schools on April 7, and a convenience store is expected to open this autumn. The “long-stay” period, designed to let people prepare their homes for repopulation, ended April 1st. About 90 residents took advantage of the “long-stay” opportunity, and it seems all of them have decided to remain. However, only one other family returned by April 10, indicating that most evacuees are not eager to return.

  • Tepco has received nearly $2 billion to cover evacuee compensation through May. On April 23rd, Tokyo’s Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund transferred $1.92 billion to Tepco, bringing the total to more than $38 billion.

  • The Odaka hospital has been re-opened in Minamisoma. It is the first medical facility to be re-opened inside the evacuation zone. About half of the Minamisoma lies inside the “no-go” zone, and much of it has been reopened to residents for short-term visits. Visiting residents cannot yet stay overnight, however. Tomoyoshi Matsumoto and his wife arrived shortly after the hospital opened. He said, “We live nearby and I feel comfortable because I know some doctors here.” The facility will operate three days per week for outpatient care only. The main building needs repair due to earthquake damage on 3/11/11, so a smaller adjunct building is being used. Other businesses are also opening in the area, including service stations. In addition, a clinic has opened in Namie and one in Nahara will soon follow. Slowly but surely the evacuation zone’s infrastructure is reviving.

  • Last week, the pumping-up of groundwater was halted due to Tritium concentration. The concentration was 1,600 becquerels per liter on April 15. Japan's standard for releasing Tritium into the ocean is 60,000 becquerels per liter, but TEPCO self-imposed a limit of 1,500 becquerels in an agreement with local fishermen. When three consecutive days of testing showed the hydrogen isotope’s level had dropped below Tepco’s self-imposed limit for discharge, pumping resumed. The water is being removed from the ground before it can come in contact with any of the damaged power plant buildings and become contaminated. The liquid is being pumped to empty storage tanks for detailed analysis before discharge to the sea. The groundwater’s diversion is expected to reduce seepage into the basements of the four damaged units by about 100 tons per day. NHK World; Pumping of groundwater resumes at Fukushima plant; April 24, 2014

  • The removal of unit #3’s fuel handling bridge has begun. The hydrogen explosion of 3/14/11 caused the machine to drop into the spent fuel pool below it. This will mark the removal of the last of the debris from the SFP. When finished in July, removal of the fuel bundles in the pool can begin. During the Monday-through-Friday workweek, cooling to the pool will be stopped to insure that no hydraulic fluids or lubricants will flow through the cooling system. Cooling will resume every week end, however.

  • Niigata’s governor says Tokyo’s new nuclear safety regulations are a lie. Hirohiko Izumida stated that the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s claim that they have “the world’s strictest standards” is a fabrication. He believes that new nuclear regulations are full of loopholes, fail to account for the unexpected and forces local governments to protect citizens in the event of an accident. “Although [the new requirements] do not measure up to international standards, [the central government] is not working to change the current situation,” Izumida explained. “[The state] is lying by insisting that it has done what it has not done.” Niigata Prefecture is home to seven units at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station, the largest nuclear power facility in the world. Two of the units have been suggested to the NRA for restarts. But, Izumida says they cannot be called safe even if they conform to all new rules, “The standards assume that nuclear accidents are inevitable, and meeting the standards alone would not assure the safety of residents.” He added that local laws make it virtually impossible to assure that all local residents will be safe. Last year, Izumida met with maverick former American NRC Chairman Greg Jaczko and they agreed that current evacuation plans are inadequate. Izumida advocates building bomb-shelter-like bunkers under homes, which he feels is the only way to insure safety.

  • The former mayor of Futaba says Fukushima is harming Japan’s children. In an interview with Russia’s RT News, Katsutaka Idogawa said radiation levels around Fukushima are “four times higher” than Chernobyl and “it’s too early for people to come back to Fukushima Prefecture. It is by no means safe, no matter what the government says.” He claims that there are 2 million people in the prefecture with “all sorts of medical issues”, but it is denied by Tokyo, “I demanded that the authorities substantiate their claim in writing but they ignored my request.” Then he turned to his opinion concerning children, “They [Fukushima parents] believe what the government says, while in reality radiation is still there. This is killing children. They die of heart conditions, asthma, leukemia, thyroiditis… Lots of kids are extremely exhausted after school; others are simply unable to attend PE classes. But the authorities still hide the truth from us, and I don’t know why. Don’t they have children of their own? It hurts so much to know they can’t protect our children.” Next, Idogawa belittled the workforce at the Fukushima accident site, “Their equipment was getting worse; preparation was getting worse. So people had to think about their safety first. That’s why those who understood the real danger of radiation began to quit. Now we have unprofessional people working there.They don’t really understand what they’re doing. That’s the kind of people who use the wrong pump, who make mistakes like that.” He also said the government has covered-up radiation exposure since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, “The authorities lied to everyone (about the effects of the atomic bombings)...They hid the truth. That’s the situation we are living in. It’s not just Fukushima. Japan has some dark history.” Finally, the former mayor said he knows that the Fukushima accident has killed “ten to twenty people” due to radiation exposure, “When I was mayor, I knew many people who died from heart attacks, and then there were many people in Fukushima who died suddenly, even among young people. It’s a real shame that the authorities hide the truth from the whole world, from the UN. We need to admit that actually many people are dying. We are not allowed to say that but TEPCO employees also are dying. But they keep mum about it.”


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