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Fukushima 75...8/21/14-9/15/14


September 15, 2014

  • Tokyo will relax evacuation for a Kawauchi Village district on October 1. Much of the village’s eastern area will be open to unrestricted repopulation. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "The lifting is not a goal but a start toward revival. We will provide even more powerful support after the lifting." The district is currently under a living restriction where residents can have short-term stays, if they wish. This will be the second reopening of a location inside the 20 kilometer “no-go” zone caused by the 2011 evacuation mandate.  http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014091200424

  • Groundwater from F. Daiichi sub-drains is safe for unrestricted discharge. The Industry Ministry’s Agency for Natural Resources & Energy (ANRE) says that water from the sub-drain pits surrounding the four damaged units has below-detectible radiation levels for Cesium and Beta-emitting isotopes. The water will be run through a purification system and stored in above-ground tanks. Eventually, the water will be released to the sea, with the understanding of relevant local groups. http://www.jaif.or.jp/english/news_images/pdf/ENGNEWS01_1410162475P.pdf

  • The seawater surrounding F. Daiichi has radiation levels well-below regulatory limits. The data comes from Tepco, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, and Fukushima Prefecture. Pacific Ocean samples taken outside the F. Daiichi port are not only below seawater standards, but also less than international limits for drinking water; e.g. less than 10 Bq/liter each for Cesium-134, Cs-137 and Strontium-90. Levels inside the outer port break-wall are below NRA limits at all sampling points. The radioactive concentrations inside the inner, barricaded quay continue to decrease with only Sr-90 above limits for seawater. Unfortunately, Tepco continues to speculate that their efforts have merely reduced out-flows of contamination to the sea, despite the fact that the data shows there is nothing being released. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2014/1241751_5892.html

  • On Friday, the Asahi Shimbun ran a front-page apology for its incorrect report on the Masao Yoshida testimony. The paper retracted its May 20 assertion that F. Daiichi staff fled the accident site, disobeying Yoshida’s order to stay. Actually, Yoshida told unnecessary personnel to move to a low-radiation-level area and await further instructions. This was misconstrued to mean they should go to the Fukushima Daini nuke station, 10 kilometers to the south. The paper said it failed to verify facts and partially omitted testimony.  The front-page apology is rare for the Asahi. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140912p2a00m0na006000c.html

  • Masao Yoshida blasted both Tepco/Tokyo and the government in his testimony. On Sept.11, we reported Yoshida was shocked that the nuke accident was getting more-intense government and Press attention instead of the horrors of the deadly Tsunami. Today, we find that he was upset with what was going on in Tokyo when stories of site abandonment emerged. Tokyo believed the site was being abandoned, but Yoshida had only told non-essential personnel to leave in order to avoid unnecessary radiation exposure and there was no consideration given to full abandonment. He testified, “I said to some of the people from the businesses cooperating with us, the people in the hallways—‘If you don’t have any work to do, just evacuate for now’—and many of them left.” Yoshida followed this with words of anger towards Tepco/Tokyo and the government, “The head branch of the company and the government maybe were making idiotic arguments about us fleeing, but at the scene itself did we flee?  No we did not.  I want to make that clear…We never said everyone should retreat.” He became so frustrated that “I want to just completely turn my back on this idiotic country and its idiotic politicians.” When asked about then-PM Naoto Kan’s visit to F. Daiichi on the morning of March 12, 2011, Yoshida pulled no punches, “He [Kan] asked me about the situation in an extremely stern tone…I’d call him an idiot.” In addition, when the issue about the critical delays with venting unit #1 was broached, Yoshida took umbrage at the notion that it was the fault of the F. Daiichi staff, “I’d like to beat up anyone who says we hesitated.” http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2014/09/11/fukushima-daiichi-manager-blasted-idiotic-politicians/ -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001563575 -- http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001563482

  • The accident’s seawater injection debate resurfaces with the Yoshida testimony release. Some news reports said the nuke plant staff injected seawater to cool unit #1, despite orders from Tokyo to await the Prime Minister’s approval. After the unit #1 hydrogen explosion on March 12th, the plant was depressurized and fresh water was injected into the system using low pressure pumps. But, the amount of available fresh water ran out in a hurry. Thus, the decision was made by Plant Manager Yoshida to use seawater as an alternative from a “pit” near unit #1. Yoshida dutifully informed Tepco’s home office in Tokyo of his decision. It was 7:04pm when the seawater injection began. At 7:20pm, Tepco-Tokyo official Ichiro Takekuro, liaison between Tepco and the Prime Minister’s office, ordered the Yoshida to “Stop it immediately”. Yoshida asked why they should stop the necessary flow of cooling water. Takekuro responded, “Shut up! The prime minister’s office keeps on pestering me.” PM Naoto Kan had told Takekuro that he feared the seawater would trigger a recriticality because it contained trace levels of natural uranium. Kan later denied culpability, saying, “I wanted him [Yoshida] to consider the possibility because I was told that there was time before the seawater injection.” At this point, Yoshida told the plant staff he would tell Takekuro they would stop, but operators were to ignore the order. Yoshida testified, “I felt that, in the end, it had to be my decision. There was just no time for debate.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/09/14/national/yoshidas-call-seawater-kept-reactor-cool-tokyo-dithered/#.VBWU66N0wdU

  • Yoshida recollected terror with the status of unit #2 on March 14, 2011. The unit had yet to be depressurized and the situation was degrading. Yoshida is quoted as saying, “If we continue to be unable to get water in, all of the nuclear fuel will melt and escape from the containment vessel, and radioactive substances from the fuel will spread to the outside. What we envisioned was that the entire eastern part of Japan would be annihilated.” The Yoshida citation was used to create the scary headline “Yoshida feared nuclear 'annihilation' of eastern Japan, testimony shows”. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201409120034

September 11, 2014

  • Ex-F. Daiichi boss Masao Yoshida testified that he was incredulous about the nuke accident getting more attention than the tsunami disaster. His full testimony was released by Tokyo today. Most of the Press reports out of Japan are attacking the earlier Asahi Shimbun posting that more than 600 workers fled to F. Daini on March 15th, disobeying site manager Yoshida’s orders. (see below) There are also a number of re-hashed issues, including the site abandonment debate, Yoshida’s criticism of Tepco executives and the Tokyo government, and the precious little support F. Daiichi received during the height of the crisis. One news report (Japan Times) cites the following statement made by Yoshida, which could be the most important of all, “I want to raise a loud voice to say this. This time, (the tsunami-quake disasters) killed 23,000 people. This is not just about issues regarding the safety of a nuclear power plant. If you (criticize) us, why didn’t you take measures to prevent those people from dying? . . . People just discuss the design of a nuclear power plant.” Clearly, Yoshida was not only upset with the paucity of men and materials to mitigate the accident and the inept orders coming from Tokyo, but he was confounded by the way the nation’s focus was on the nuke accident rather than the real horrors caused by the natural disaster. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/09/11/national/yoshida-transcripts-on-fukushima-nuclear-crisis-released/#.VBGfBaN0wdV (Comment - The failed sea-wall at F. Daiichi was but one of more than 200 instances of tsunami protection failures along the Tohoku coastline on 3/11/11. More than 21,000 died (the most recent official figures) due to these technological failures, but only two workmen drowned in an F. Daiichi basement were killed during the nuke accident. This reporter has written on this repeatedly over the last three-plus years. Now, we find that M. Yoshida was of the very same opinion.)

  • A panel member of the NAIIC (Diet investigation) calls the release of the Yoshida testimony significant. Non-fiction writer Kunio Yanagida says the numerous testimonies, including Yoshida’s, were given under the condition they would not be publicly disclosed. Yanagida said the disclosure could impact investigations if a similar accident occurred, and the government needs to give the public a full explanation as to why it released the documents. He added that Tokyo has not made a sufficient effort to control accident recovery, alleging that the cause of the calamity remains unclear. Yanagida hopes the document releases will give experts an opportunity to assess the accident from their own perspectives by pouring over the accounts given by engineers and operators. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20140911_28.html

  • The Asahi Shimbun has admitted its error in its earlier reporting on the Yoshida testimony. Earlier this summer, The Asahi posted that more than 600 workers fled to F. Daini on March 15th, disobeying site manager Yoshida’s orders. But the actual testimony indicates the staff retreat was due miscommunications. In fact, Yoshida said the move to F. Daini was “even more reasonable” than what he had suggested to his staff. The Asahi's report has been cited by much of the foreign news media, making it one of the most controversial points in hindsight criticism of the crisis. Asahi President Tadakazu Kimura said, "We have judged the report was incorrect. We have significantly hurt our readers' trust. We will withdraw the expression ‘the retreat in violation of an order’ [issued by Yoshida]. We deeply apologize to our readers and those related to TEPCO.” In addition, executive editor Nobuyuki Sugiura has been fired because he was ultimately responsible for the erroneous publication. Kimura stated that he was also considering resignation. He also apologized for other erroneous Asahi articles about the WWII’s Korean “comfort women” issue. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001562117 -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140911p2g00m0dm042000c.html

  • Tokyo’s nuclear watchdog (NRA) says the Sendai nukes meet regulatory mandates for safety. The NRA has unanimously approved the Kyushu Electric Company’s submittal that their post-Fukushima upgrades meet all new national standards. The NRA’s new assessment of the upgrades includes responses to the more than 17,000 public comments received since the draft assessment was released in July. Many comments said the NRA’s regulations are “unconvincing” and do not sufficiently address the potential for volcanic eruptions. The authority says these objections do not affect their conclusion that the Sendai units meet their safety regulations. Before sanction to restart can be issued, approvals must be gained from host community Satsumasendai, other local municipalities, and the prefectural government. Most Japanese and international Press reports say that the NRA decision gives approval for restarting the two Sendai units, but this seems to be a questionable assumption given what the NRA has publicly posted. Only NHK World seems to have reported in line with the NRA News Release. http://www.nsr.go.jp/english/newsrelease/data/20140910.pdf -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20140910_21.html

September 8, 2014

  • The removal of spent fuel from unit #4 pool resumed on September 4th. The operation was suspended for the summer to perform scheduled maintenance on the ceiling (polar) crane. Regular listings of the removal should restart next week.

  • Seven of the oldest nukes in Japan might be decommissioned. It is suspected that Tokyo will ask the four potentially affected utilities to submit plans for dealing with the seven units as early as October. The seven units are Mihama #1 and #2, Takahama #1 and #2 (all 4 owned by Kansai Electric Co.), Shimane #1 (Chugoku Electric), Genkai #1 (Kyushu Electric), and Tsuruga #1 (Japan Atomic). All will be at least 40 years old by the end of 2015. Tokyo is working on measures to ease the four company’s financial burdens imposed by the expected government request. The current licensing limit is 40 years, but can be extended for another 20 years if certain conditions are met. Tokyo has asked those wishing to apply for extensions should do so by July, 2015. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001550139

  • New Industry Minister Yuko Obuchi is expected to support reactor restarts. The mother of two children, Obuchi is hoped to sway the nuclear-skeptical public in a positive direction. She said, “I, too, am raising children. If people say they are worried, I think it is only natural. If you are a mother, I think it is a kind of feeling that everyone has. The central government must offer a full explanation to these sentiments.” At her inaugural news conference, Obuchi said her policy will be “to reduce our reliance on nuclear plants by actively introducing renewable energy and thorough energy saving. We will restart (nuclear power plants) by making safety our priority.” Greenpeace’s Kazue Suzuki calls the appointment “a cunning move” because Obuchi’s motherhood could make restarts seem credible to worried parents. Suzuki believes the female demographic will not be fooled, “When (Obuchi) makes decisions, she should consider the reaction of ordinary women, the majority of whom do not want nuclear power stations reactivated.” On the other hand, Political Science Professor Junichi Takase of Nagoya University says Obuchi is fully qualified for the job and “Japanese people are no fools, and they know there will be no change in the safety of nuclear plants just because the minister changes. At this point [Abe has] no intention to use her politically to make the restart of nuclear reactors easier.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/09/06/national/politics-diplomacy/ldp-star-lead-nuclear-debate/#.VAx1t6N0wdV

  • Local governments remain cautious about nuke restarts. NHK has polled 146 prefectures and municipalities within 30 kilometers of nuke stations, asking if they would approve restarts of units meeting the new safety regulations. Twelve percent said they would, 8% said they would not, and 67% said they were undecided. Specifically, 44% of the communities actually hosting nukes responded in the affirmative while only 8% of the surrounding municipalities said they favored restarts. Reasons for caution include NRA inspections not being complete, local resident skepticism of the new rules, and suspicions that Tokyo has not fully embraced nuclear safety. One Tokyo University professor says Tokyo should fully explain the safety of nuclear plants and measures taken to avoid accidents, otherwise local approval might not occur. NHK World; Local governments wary of nuclear plant restart; 9/8/14

  • A new report says Pacific Coast contamination from Fukushima is harmless. University of California/Berkeley professor Eric Norman had his students test San Francisco Bay area rainwater over the weeks following 3/11/11. The results were not alarming, “The levels we saw were detectable, but low and not a health hazard to anyone.” However, subsequent scary reports of dangerous West Coast radiation levels made him curious, “I don’t know where they got the numbers, but they were claiming very high numbers that were causing health effects on people especially children.” Last year, he and his students ran tests on fish, plants, milk, seawater, and salt, both in the ocean and along the coast. They found detectible levels of Cesium isotopes, but well below anything to be concerned about. Norman explained why the concentrations are so low, “We’re a long way from Japan and there’s a lot of water in the Pacific. Whatever gets dumped in the ocean will get diluted by enormous factors.” He added that his home-grown grapes showed trace Fukushima isotopes in 2011, but none now. http://phys.org/news/2014-09-fukushima-coastal-areas.html

  • Tepco has posted a handout which details the status of barricading groundwater flow at F. Daiichi. The shoreline between the four damaged units has been effectively sealed by soil-solidification. The sampling wells between the barricading and the sea show all isotopic concentrations well-below Japan’s legal limits for releases to the sea. The soil-solidification project between units 1 and 2 was completed March 25th; between units 2 and 3 was finished February 6th; and, between units 3 and 4 completed on March 5th. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2014/images/handouts_140905_03-e.pdf -- http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/f1/smp/2014/images/2tb-east_14090801-e.pdf

September 4, 2014

  • A Japanese lawyers’ group wants Tepco to accept all damage settlements. Lawyers with the Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) say the company has not kept its promise to respect damage compensation decisions of the Science Ministry’s dispute center. The center has settled more than 8,000 claims since 3/11/11. But, lawyers say Tepco has recently rejected a number of settlement proposals, including a class action suit filed by about 15,000 residents of Namie. Yuichi Kaido, JFBA’s compensation head, says Tepco’s rejection of the claim settlement is causing further suffering among the town’s residents. NHK World; Lawyers call on TEPCO to accept settlements; 9/1/14

  • Fukushima death compensation amounts are challenged. The Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center (ADR) has set the causal relationship between post-accident deaths and the accident-itself at roughly 50% of the “standard amount” comparable to traffic fatality compensation. The standard has been set at $200,000, and the ADR decides what percentage of the standard should be awarded. Of the roughly 120 compensation proposals attributed to the nuke accident, about 40% have a contribution ratio of 50 percent, another 40% have a ratio below 50%, and the rest were set at over 50% of the standard. While traffic death culpability is rather clear-cut, the relationship between the nuke accident and a person’s subsequent death is not clear. This methodology was put to the test by a recent Fukushima court decision concerning the suicide (self-immolation) of a woman evacuated from inside the mandated exclusion zone. Tepco argued that the compensation should have been what the ADR decided, at much less than 50% of the standard…below $100,000. But the Fukushima court judged that the nuke accident was 80% of the reason for her suicide and awarded $490,000 in damages to her spouse. This has opened the door for other applicants to sue Tepco for more than the ADR decides upon. Lawyer Motomitsu Nakagawa said, "It has become clear that the ADR cannot be trusted. It raises the question as to who the ADR is working for. Unless our clients ask for it, we will not use the ADR any longer." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140902p2a00m0na018000c.html

  • Japan’s nuclear watchdog will use on-going volcano eruption criteria. The Nuclear Regulation Authority already has volcanic mitigation measures in their nuclear rules, including the removal of fuel from a nuke station. The NRA met with volcanologists on Tuesday to discuss potential worst-case scenarios. The watchdog said they need scientific methods for signs of an impending volcanic eruption. Volcanologists said the NRA and/or nuclear utilities cannot determine these signs on their own, so they should cooperate with local volcanic observatories and government agencies. NRA Commissioner Kunihiko Shimazaki said it's necessary to incorporate new criteria based on the latest information on volcanic activity. NHK World; NRA to study possible volcanic eruptions; 9/2/14

  • Fukushima Governor Sato will not seek re-election. He has been governor since 2006, and said he will leave to task of Fukushima reconstruction to his successor. Sato is a member of the major opposition party, the Democratic Party of Japan. The DPJ is also the party of former PM Naoto Kan. Last week, Sato agreed to Tokyo’s building rural contaminated waste storage facilities in Futaba and Okuma. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014090400683

  • The NRA has re-stated that a fault under a Tsuruga nuke is active. Last year, the NRA decided that the fault had moved within the past 120,000 years, but Japan Atomic Power Company submitted new data hoping to reverse the judgment. The NRA’s seismic panel reviewed the new data, but felt it was insufficient to change their initial finding. Japco now has no choice but to decommission and dismantle Tsuruga unit #2. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2014/09/310389.html

September 1, 2014

Former F. Daiichi plant manager Yoshida’s testimony continues to be debated in the Japanese Press. In many cases, the testimony issue is posted as a lead story.

  • The traditionally-antinuclear Mainichi Shimbun has taken issue with the Asahi Shimbun’s assertion that some 700 F. Daiichi workers fled the station on March 15, 2011, in defiance of Yoshida’s orders. The Mainichi says a former worker at the plant is grateful that the testimony is being released. Further, he and other workers have been insulted by the Asahi Shimbun’s false claims. They went to F. Daini, 10 kilometers to the south, because they felt they were following orders, "At the time there was a shared awareness among workers that we would be evacuating to the Fukushima No. 2 plant." After a few hours of much-needed rest, many were told to return to F. Daiichi to assist in fighting a fire which had broken out in the damaged unit #4 reactor building. Because Mr. Yoshida was not leaving the accident site, all asked-for staff returned to F. Daiichi. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140901p2a00m0na025000c.html

  • The Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan News) continues to counter the incorrect Asahi report. This time, three “experts” are presented with their opinions. Masao Mukaidono is a member of a TEPCO-commissioned panel of external experts tasked with investigating the 2011 nuclear disaster. He says, “Our investigation revealed that a number of TEPCO workers volunteered to remain at the scene of the accident and risked their lives in the work… The moment I read an Asahi Shimbun report that [hundreds of workers] ‘had withdrawn [from the site] in violation of an order,’ I intuitively felt the article was incorrect and untrue.” Yoshio Omori is president of Nihon Bunka University and an expert in national crisis management. He said, “When I read the file, I could not help but suspect that the Asahi report was based on a stretched interpretation of some remarks taken from his interview transcript… The greatest problem is that the Asahi report left other nations to believe that workers at the No. 1 plant fled in direct violation of Mr. Yoshida’s orders… The Asahi report claiming they violated orders has disgraced the spirit and honor of the Japanese.” Hiroshi Miyano, chairman of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan’s Standards Committee, rejects the Asahi claim and says a more effective support system was needed for the staff at F. Daiichi. He states, “There was no practical, effective rescue [assistance] from [TEPCO’s] head office or anywhere else. I still have a huge amount of resentment and bitterness.” http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001537579

  • The Japan News also says the Asahi report has caused “serious misunderstandings among foreign media.” Examples of incorrect reporting include, “The New York Times dated May 20 read “Panicked Workers Fled Fukushima Plant in 2011 Despite Orders, Record Shows.” The Times of London carried an article on May 22 that said: “Far from being heroic exemplars of the samurai spirit, 90 percent of the workers at Fukushima [plant] fled, disobeying orders to remain in the stricken plant.” A headline in The Australian on May 22 said: “Fukushima ‘heroes’ actually fled in fear.” To the contrary, a former worker who had continued to work at the No. 1 plant was upset about the Asahi Shimbun’s report, “Retreat was never an option. It was a grave mistake to say so. I even sense some malicious intent. We had a strong bond of trust with Yoshida.” There has been no mention of this in the foreign news reports. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001535680

Meanwhile…

  • The first instance of resentment toward Fukushima evacuees has surfaced. Specifically, residents are offended at the huge sums of money given to Fukushima evacuees who have relocated to Iwaki City. Reuters says (also posted in Japan Today) long-time residents of Iwaki have “come to resent evacuees and the government compensation that has made the newcomers relatively rich in a blue-collar town built on coal mining and access to a nearby port.” Ryosuke Takaki, a professor of sociology at Iwaki Meisei University, has studied the state of affairs and says, "The situation around Iwaki is unsettled and unruly.  There are many people who have evacuated to Iwaki, and there are all kinds of incidents caused by friction." Many Iwaki residents say they have grown weary of hosting evacuees in temporary housing, even though the money has caused an unprecedented economic boom. Evacuees and F. Daiichi workers living in Iwaki fear for their safety. Hideo Hasegawa, who heads a group looking after evacuees at a temporary housing complex in Iwaki, says, "When they [evacuees] move in to an apartment, they don't talk to neighbors and hide. You hear this hate talk everywhere you go: restaurants, shops, bars. It's relentless." At the core of the problem is the massive amount of money being paid-out to the evacuees. No one disputes the idea of compensation itself, but the amounts (regularly reported in these updates) offend Iwaki’s people because evacuees receive far more compensation from the government than Iwaki residents make at work. Further, evacuees do not have to pay rent on their government-provided temporary homes. Numerous Iwaki residents say the payouts to the newcomers have been frittered away on luxury cars and villas, locally dubbed “disaster relief mansions." Iwaki chiropractor Hiroshi Watahiki says, "The food the evacuees eat and the clothes they wear are different. They can afford it from their compensation funds. They have time and money to go gambling since they're not working." In the City’s community of Takaki, a poll shows that 2/3 "feel envious of their [evacuee’s] compensation." http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/08/31/us-japan-nuclear-resentment-idUSKBN0GV02S20140831 -- http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/fukushima-fallout-resentment-of-evacuees-grows-in-nearby-city

  • It seems the Tepco groundwater bypass operation is having a slightly positive effect, despite Press reports to the contrary. Currently, there is 70,500 tons of contaminated water in the basements of units #1 through #4. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu14_e/images/140827e0101.pdf  On June 25th, the volume was 73,200 tons. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu14_e/images/140625e0101.pdf Prior to June, the volume of basement waters had varied between 73,000 and 74,000 tons for more than a year. Despite this slight improvement, NHK World says the operation is not having a “significant” impact. Tepco has announced they have seen “little change” because external wells have only dropped 20-30 centimeters since the beginning of the process in May. Tepco adds that before a significant change will be measured, the wells would have to experience a drop in water level of about a meter. The water level decrease in the basements is not mentioned. NHK World; TEPCO bypass operation failing to have an impact; 8/28/14

  • Four subcontractor workers plan to sue Tepco for higher wages. They are plumbers who work on radioactive waste water storage tanks. The workers argue that the money they are paid is too low considering the risk of their radiation exposure. The workers want about $96,000 in compensation. One plaintiff says he worries about his health because he has been occasionally exposed to more than four millisieverts per month. The suit’s lawyer says he wants to bring the radiological working conditions at F. Daiichi into the open. NHK World; Fukushima Daiichi workers to sue TEPCO; 9/1/14

  • A fuel handling machine destroyed by the unit #3 hydrogen explosion was dropped into the spent fuel pool. The main console of the machine was about to be grasped by a large crane when the device slipped and fell into the SFP. The console weighs about 400 kilograms. Pool water level was not affected and there was no change in the level of airborne radioactivity around the pool. The airborne activity was constant at 0.00001 Becquerels/cm3. Underwater cameras showed no visible damage to the spent fuel racks in the pool due to the fallen console. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2014/images/handouts_140829_07-e.pdf

August 28, 2014

  • Tokyo offers Futaba and Okuma $820 million (USD) for land purchases and/or leases. The government hopes to locate local rural radioactive waste storage facilities in the two towns that co-host the F. Daiichi nuke station. Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara met with the 2 town’s assemblies on Tuesday to explain for the plan. He told them that the intermediate storage facilities are necessary for the decontamination and reconstruction process. He added that the money will be part of the previously-promised #3 billion to be granted by Tokyo. Leaflets on the plan will be sent to all residents and a hotline set up to answer questions. NHK World; $820 million grant plan for 2 Fukushima towns; 8/26/14 On Tuesday, the town assemblies agreed to planning for interim storage facilities. No objections were voiced during the plenary sessions with either community. In addition to the direct subsidies (above), another $150 million will be extended for revival of livelihood. But, some town officials remain cautious. Yukio Chiba, speaker of the Okuma Municipal Assembly, said, "This (today's meeting) is not a place to decide whether we accept (the temporary storage facilities) or not. There are still matters that need to be discussed." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140827p2a00m0na015000c.html

  • More information on the latest Fukushima thyroid cancer discoveries. Earlier this week, Fukushima Prefecture said 57 minors have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, one non-cancerous tumor diagnosis, and another 46 are showing symptoms. Of the 57 confirmed to have cancerous tumors, all were surgically removed and patients are recovering “smoothly”. The American Thyroid Association says thyroid cancer is “usually very treatable and is often cured with surgery.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “There is a possibility that early-stage cancer and small tumors were discovered because experienced doctors conducted thorough checkups using the newest machinery.”  Of the 367,707 minors hoped to be examined, 296,000 have been scanned. Researchers say there is no statistical difference between the many communities in the Prefecture, regardless of distance from F. Daiichi. http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2014/08/25/fukushima-watch-early-data-on-thyroid-cancer-released/

  • World Nuclear News asks “What was deadly at Fukushima?” Malcolm Grimston of Imperial College in England says, “What created the human misery at Fukushima was the response - not the immediate precautionary evacuation but what followed and ironically what preceded… Clearly there is something in the way radiation from civil nuclear activities is being communicated which has created a set of fears which are not there in other contexts.” In a blunt summation of the situation, Grissom says that we are dealing with massive over-reaction, and he blames the government of Japan. There seem to be three possible explanations. 1. The authorities have gone stark staring mad (or are deeply uncaring) by blighting so many lives and incurring such vast costs for no defensible reason. 2. The authorities are simply lying about the levels of contamination in the exclusion zone. [or] 3. Man-made radiation is significantly more dangerous than the 'same amount' of natural radiation, so comparisons are meaningless.” Grimston concludes that the first possibility is true, and the other two are false. He closes with a bold assertion, “It can be argued, then, that an overzealous infatuation with reducing radiation dose, far from minimizing human harm, is at the heart of the whole problem. Maybe the key question is - how do we protect people not from radiation but from the effects of radiological protection?”  http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/E-What-was-deadly-at-Fukushima-2608141.html

  • Another ALPS water decontamination system will be tested. The existing system has dropped the activity of all but five isotopes below limits. The new system should remove four of them, but Tritium will remain. The system eliminates the vast majority of the four niggling isotopes, down to a level that is just a bit greater than Tepco’s extremely low standards. The Nuclear Regulation Authority approved the test run on Wednesday. A third ALPS system is due for completion in December. The three are expected to purify up to 2,000 tons of waste water per day. NHK World; TEPCO to test-run second water treatment system; 8/27/14

  • Whitebait fishing has resumed off Fukushima Prefecture. The immature fish, including some five species, are a food fish that is boiled and dried for shipment. On Tuesday, about three tons were gathered off Iwaki City and tested for radioactivity. None was detected. Whitebait was a mainstay of the Fukushima fishing industry before the nuke accident. The catch will be limited to once a week, unless demand is sufficient to warrant a greater frequency. NHK World; Whitebait fishing resumes off Fukushima Pref.; 8/26/14

  • Two Japanese newspapers hotly debate the released testimony of Masao Yoshida. Yoshida was the F. Daiichi Plant Manager during the nuke accident in March, 2011. The Sankei Shimbun says that the Asahi Shimbun misinformed their readers as to whether or not 90% of the plant’s staff fled on March 15, 2011. One headline in the Sankei suggested the Asahi “twisted the facts”, and it is an “injury to the newspaper’s honor”. The original Asahi report said, “Yoshida’s testimony revealed clearly that the plant management temporarily left their posts. Is it really proper to entrust disaster response to power companies?” On the other hand, the Sankei says the testimony shows that confusion, not intent to violate Mr. Yoshida’s command, caused the employees to move to the other Fukushima nuclear plant. They quote Yoshida, “Actually, I never told them to go to 2F [Fukushima Daini]. This is the typical stuff with relayed messages. We were discussing, ‘Should we head for 2F if we are ever going?’ I said, ‘Take shelter, get automobiles.’ And somebody who relayed my message told the drivers to go to the Fukushima Daini plant.” He later ordered the management staff at F. Daini to return, and they did. The Sankei points out that the incorrect Asahi interpretation is consistent with the newspaper’s unabashed antinuclear posture, and its desire to conform to Ex-PM Naoto Kan’s antinuclear perspective. http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2014/08/28/fukushima-watch-plant-managers-testimony-stirs-debate/

  • Over 10,000 Tohoku children remain estranged from their former schools. 11,452 students from three prefectures – Iwate, Fukushima, and Miyagi – continue to attend schools in other prefectures. This is 1.351 less than last year. The numbers were released by the Education Ministry on Tuesday. A ministry official said,“(The figures show that some students) returned to their homes, but the impact (of the disasters) still remains.” Fukushima Prefecture, experiencing the Tokyo-mandated restrictions to tens-of-thousands of residents, had the largest number at 9,767, a drop of 1,219 students from the previous year. In Miyagi Prefecture, the number decreased by 74 to 1,400 students. The figure in Iwate Prefecture dropped by 58 to 285 students. The prefectures that have taken in the most students are Yamagata, Niigata, and Saitama. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/quake_tsunami/AJ201408270036

  • The Cabinet Office says Fukushima suicides are higher than in other disaster-hit prefectures. There have been 56 Fukushima suicides since 3/11/11, compared to 30 in Iwate and 37 in Miyagi Prefectures. The office links the higher number of suicides to the Fukushima accident because of the extended time evacuees have had to stay away from their homes. The Cabinet Office says the relationship is “most likely”. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/08/26/national/social-issues/fukushimas-high-number-disaster-related-suicides-likely-due-nuclear-crisis-cabinet-office/#.U_yPHqN0wdU

August 25, 2014

  • Tepco gets more evacuee compensation money from Tokyo. The Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF) has sent another $175 million (USD) to the company, making the total extended to-date to nearly $2.7 billion. This will allow Tepco to meet all mandated pay-outs through the end of September. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2014/1240945_5892.html  As of today, the amount paid out to evacuees for personal and property compensation stands at $42.08 billion. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/comp/images/jisseki-e.pdf

  • Meetings concerning rural radioactive waste storage in Futaba and Okuma are on-going. On August 8th, Tokyo said they would pay some $3 billion to the towns for local decontamination, repopulation preparations, and building of temporary waste storage facilities. The critical caveat was that the communities agree to host the waste storage units. The government has explained the plan to the prefectural assembly. On Tuesday, the plans will be shared with both town assemblies. On Wednesday, representatives of Futaba and Okuma residents will be briefed at two locations in Fukushima Prefecture. Senior officials of the Environment Ministry will explain how the subsidy will be used to restore living conditions for repopulation, including child care and restoration of jobs. The ministry hopes the decision of the two towns will be made before Prime Minister Abe’s planned cabinet reformation of September 3rd. NHK World; Issue of temporary storage entering final stage; 8/22/14

  • The number of Fukushima children with confirmed or suspected thyroid cancer stands at 104. 57 cases are listed as “definitive”, one tumor is considered benign, and 46 are “suspected” because of lumps measuring between 5 and 41 millimeters across. These results come from the 300,000 Fukushima Prefecture children being monitored. Prefecture officials say there is no link between the tumescent growths and the 2011 nuke accident. The Asahi Shimbun maintains that “experts” are divided over whether the cases should be linked to the 2011 nuclear accident. Yoshio Hosoi of Tohoku University says, “Many people are being diagnosed with cancer at this time, thanks to the high-precision tests. We must continue closely examining the people’s health in order to determine the impact of radiation exposure on causing thyroid tumors.” The Asahi takes this to mean that the discovered cancers could be due to the accident’s atmospheric releases. However, Hokuto Hoshi, who chairs a panel that discusses matters related to the issue, said, “In order to scientifically compare the results of the development rates of each region, we must take into account age and other characteristics (of the 104 people).” http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201408240011

  • Fukushima fishermen are briefed on groundwater drainage. Tepco met prefectural fisheries’ representatives to announce the latest situation with groundwater pumped out of service sumps, and run through the hi-tech water treatment system (ALPS). The company says tests of the water run through ALPS shows results actually lower in radioactivity then the groundwater taken from the “bypass” system and released to the sea. Union members opposed releasing the treated water, regardless of its level of purity because it could spawn negative rumors that might hurt business. They want Tepco to provide more details about the new groundwater system. Union official Tetsu Nozaki says they want confirmation that releasing the treated water will not contaminate the sea before supporting Tepco’s plans. NHK World; Fukushima fishermen briefed on new drainage system; 8/25/14

  • South Korea wants to link their electrical grid with Japan. Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco) wants to run a 200 kilometer undersea cable from Busan the Fukuoka, and a 105km feed from Jindo to Tsushima Island. Korea has an electricity-supply surplus which could be used to alleviate the Japanese shortage caused by the nuclear moratorium. A Kepco official said, “Softbank Chairman Masayoshi Son has shown interest in participating in the submarine power cable project. Recently Kepco management and Chairman Son held a meeting where we reached an agreement on this issue.” Son wants to eventually interconnect Korea, China, Japan, Russia and Mongolia’s power grids. The Kepco official explained, “The submarine cable connecting Korea and Japan will be the first step for Son’s Asia Super Grid vision. Depending on the geopolitical situation, this project could also draw in the participation of North Korea.” http://koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/Article.aspx?aid=2993919

  • Japan’s nuke watchdog (NRA) wants to cut the budget for a controversial computer forecasting system (SPEEDI). Due to the 3/11/11 blackout, SPEEDI could not receive any radioactive release data from Fukushima Prefecture, causing then-PM Naoto Kan to ignore the system’s projections based on real-time meteorology. Due to criticism following the nuke accident, the NRA downgraded SPEEDI to “reference material” in 2013. About $10 billion was budgeted for SPEEDI for 2014, but it will be reduced to $4.8 billion in 2015. The diverted money will be used for in-place radiation monitors around nuclear plants that can operate during blackouts. It is felt that actual readings can facilitate quicker, more appropriate decisions should another nuke accident occur. It is hoped that monitors will be posted at intervals of five kilometers, depending on the local topography. Some local governments say they want to continue using SPEEDI because it gives them ample insight into public protective actions. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201408250028

  • Ex-PM Naoto Kan is taking his antinuclear crusade to Australia. He calls for Australia to “wean” the world off uranium instead of increasing exports. Kan told the Australian Broadcasting Corp., "I hope that Australia can be exporting not uranium ... but electricity created through renewable sources. All countries including Australia should be making efforts to do what can be done to reduce such dependence on nuclear power." Kan arrived in Darwin on Friday and planned on visiting the mine from which F. Daiichi’s fuel was extracted. After that, he will confer with the Australian Greens Party to speak with the Northern Territory’s parliament, meet with the aboriginal Mirrar people who oppose the mining, and visit a local wave-activated power station. Australia is believed to hold 1/3 of the world’s Uranium deposits and is the third-largest producer of uranium for nuclear power plants. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140823p2g00m0dm091000c.html

August 21, 2014

  • Tepco has begun testing their new groundwater plan. On Wednesday, about 500 tons of groundwater was pumped out of sub-drains near the basement walls of units #1 through #4. 290 tons were run through the isotopic removal system (ALPS). The results of effluent analysis have not been completed, as yet. Tepco says ALPS should reduce any groundwater contamination by at least a factor of ten thousand. The purified water is being stored awaiting test results. Once the treated water meets Tepco’s self-imposed limits for discharge, local governments and fisheries must agree to the release before it can happen. NHK World; TEPCO starts test-treating groundwater; 8/20/2014

  • Overseas rice exports from Fukushima will begin. National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (Zen-Noh) said it will send 300 kilograms of the grain to Singapore. A Zen-Noh official said, “Despite our efforts at explaining the safety of Fukushima-made farm products, up until now we have not been able to find retailers who wished to trade rice grown in Fukushima. From now on, we aim to export more Fukushima rice, including to Singapore.” Foreign sales of Fukushima rice were stopped in 2012 due to fears of contamination. The rice to be shipped was grown 60-80 kilometers from F. Daiichi and has passed all radiation monitoring. Local officials say rigorous testing proves there is no risk from consuming rice grown in Fukushima prefecture. One Fukushima official said, “Our rice is proved to have passed the government safety standard of 100 Becquerels per kilogram (a measure of radioactive contamination), and is mostly below detection levels.” In 2012, export of peaches and apples resumed to Thailand and last year exports of the fruit to Malaysia restarted. http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/japan-to-resume-fukushima-rice-exports?utm_campaign=jt_newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_source=jt_newsletter_2014-08-20_AM

  • Public housing projects for evacuees are behind schedule. About 40% of the 3,700 planned units intended for those who do not wish to go home are experiencing up to 9 months of delays. The project’s costs are coming from Reconstruction Agency subsidies. The Prefecture says the delays are due to several reasons, including inability to satisfy landowners, forested area that has yet to be cleared, and transformation of rice paddies being behind schedule. The 3,700 units were supposed to be finished by March, 2016. Another 1,200 units were planned for the following year, but that deadline can no longer be met. The 4,900 public housing units are to be built in 15 municipalities across the prefecture. A lottery was held in July to select the residents of the 528 units to be ready by March, 2015. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=389

  • Japan's Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp. has begun operation. In order to upgrade the work at F. Daiichi, Tokyo will provide about 50 decommissioning experts to Tepco and develop needed technologies through the corporation. Shunsuke Kondo, former chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, was chosen as chair of the committee to study decommissioning-related technologies. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2014082100415

  • Most local leaders from around F. Daiichi want all of former plant manager Yoshida’s testimony released. Yoshida gave many hours of testimony to the Diet’s investigative committee (NAIIC) in 2012. He formally asked that his testimony not be disclosed. Yoshida died of esophageal cancer in July of 2013. The government has previously released a small part of the testimony, and plans to make a bit more available to the public. However, the heads of eight of the 13 communities either inside or overlapping the mandated evacuation zone want full disclosure. Five of them said they have no problem if all of their own NAIIC testimonies were released, so there should be no issue with a full release of Yoshida’s. The mayors of Futaba and Okuma, which host the Fukushima No. 1 plant, as well as leaders in Namie, Minami-Soma, Naraha, Kawauchi, Katsurao and Iwaki, said Yoshida’s testimony should be made public. Governor Sato says he is undecided. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201408210044
  • A town near Tokyo says they will not support storage of locally-produced rural radioactive wastes. The mayor of Shioya, in Tochigi Prefecture north of Tokyo, has demanded that the government drop the plans to build a permanent storage site in his town. The site was planned for sewage sludge, incinerated ash, and other debris with more than 8,000 Becquerels per kilogram of activity. Last month, the ministry decided to use state-owned land in Shioya, but Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata says he and the town assembly want no part of it because it could have a negative impact on the town’s natural resources and local produce would be subject to damaging rumors. Environment Minister Shinji Inoue says the site is desperately needed and hopes to convince the officials to relent. A panel set up by Tochigi Prefecture will meet to examine the process used by the government to select the location. NHK World; Town rejects plans to build radioactive waste site; 8/18/14

 

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