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Fukushima 79...12/11/14-1/1/15

January 1, 2015

  • A Canadian ocean monitoring network says the risk from Fukushima is “insignificant”. The Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring (InFORM) Network involves academic, government & non-governmental organizations, and citizen scientists to acquire data and assess radiological risks to Canada’s oceans from Fukushima’s radioactive contaminants. Samples supplied by Canadian citizens and the Fisheries and Oceans Canada group show that the levels on the Pacific coast of Canada are “so low they pose almost zero risk to human or ecosystem health. Salmon remain safe to eat and the ocean is clean enough to swim in.” The Bedford Institute of Oceanography says that detectible levels of Fukushima radioactivity have reached the continental waters. Bedford’s Dr. John Smith reports, “The resulting large ocean plume of radioactivity dissipated rapidly … but a significant remnant was transported eastward. By June 2013, the Fukushima signal had spread onto the Canadian continental shelf, and by February 2014 it had increased … resulting in an overall doubling of the fallout background from atmospheric nuclear weapons tests.” He adds that even at the worst-possible peak, the concentrations will be hundreds of times less than Canadian drinking water standards. As for fish, Smith says “predicted exposure level is many orders of magnitude less” than the baseline safe levels.” University of Victoria’s Dr. Jay Cullen, head of the InFORM project, says radiation levels are actually lower than in the 1960s when nuclear weapon’s tests in the Pacific drove Cesium concentrations up to 80 Becquerels per ton (cubic meter) of seawater. The Fukushima levels are not expected to go above three to five Bq/ton. [Comment – the conclusion of very low risk is due to the researchers using the Linear/No Threshold assumption (LNT), which is used world-wide to set radiation standards. Even at its projected worst-case peak, and further if someone were stupid enough to drink raw seawater, the internal exposure would be but a small fraction of one millisievert per year. Considerable scientific evidence over the past 3+ decades shows that exposures below 700 millisieverts/year cause no actual observable negative biological effects. In other words, if InForm and Bedford Institute used science instead of the LNT assumption, they could confidently conclude that there is no risk whatsoever.]

  • Japan’s post-Fukushima “coal binge” fuels international criticism. Once a paradigm of lowering Carbon-Dioxide releases, Japan’s nuclear moratorium has caused a huge increase in using coal as a power plant heat source. As a result, the island nation is now the fifth-largest emitter of CO2, behind China, the United States, India, and Russia. Japan’s Industry and Environment Ministries deny any regressing on climate policies, but international confidence in the claim is low. The nuke moratorium resulted in relaxing pollution standards for coal burning plants in order to increase output by 40%. The lead Chinese delegate at Friday’s climate talks in Lima, Peru, expressed a modicum of optimism once Japan gets their nukes back in operation, “We expect Japan would certainly come up with an ambitious target for the post-2020 period. That is not just China’s expectation I think it is the expectation of the world.” But, from Japan we find pessimism. Nobuo Tanaka of the  Institute of Energy Economics said, “Japan cannot excuse itself in Paris [at the 2015 climate summit] by saying ‘sorry we don’t have nuclear power so we can’t reduce CO2 emissions.’” Japan’s CO2 releases rose 1.6% through March, 2014, to a new record. Regardless of the emission record, Japanese utilities plan to install 14.8 gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity over the next few years since the fuel is cheaper than gas or oil.

  • Most Minamisoma decontaminated “hot spot” residents say they will not return home. On Sunday, Tokyo lifted all restrictions on the 152 residences evacuated more than 2 years ago because estimated radiation exposures were greater than 20 millisieverts per year. Decontamination efforts and radioactive decay have dropped the measured exposure levels to well-below the standard, so everyone is allowed to go home. However, city officials say 80% of the residents will not repopulate because they fear the low levels of radiation.

  • The Asahi Shimbun accuses Tepco of “sloppy handling” of dust suppressants in 2013. The suppressant was used to keep radioactive dust from wafting into the air and off the station’s property during debris removal from units #3&4. The suppressant was purchased in concentrated form and was supposed to be diluted with water by one part in ten. For unit #4 prior to erecting the outer building for transfer of used fuel, the suppressant was either sprayed undiluted or to the specified 10% dilution level. But, for dust suppression with unit #3 rubble, the dilution factor being used was about one part per hundred. The Nuclear Regulation Authority Secretariat says the under-specified 1% solution probably had reduced effectiveness and “likely led to the spewing of radioactive materials in the summer of 2013.” An official at the suppressant supply company says a 1% solution is about as effective as using only water and, “Because work should, in principle, only be conducted when the dust has been moistened with the suppressant, not using the suppressant for several days will naturally lead to the spewing of radioactive dust.” In August of 2013, some airborne monitors alarmed and 12 workers were found to have detectible levels of radioactive dust on their protective coveralls. One monitor 3 kilometers away showed a small increase during the August 12-19 period. Tepco says these incidents might possibly have been due to over-diluting the dust suppressant.

December 29, 2014

  • 127 more Fukushima accident testimonies have been released. 772 people were grilled by the NAIIC, a government committee investigating the nuke accident beginning in October, 2011. The report on the NAIIC findings was released in June of 2012. Nineteen interviews, including former PM Naoto Kan and Plant Manager Masao Yoshida, were released earlier in September. Another 56 were made public in November. The new releases were made public on Thursday after getting consent from the parties involved. Interviewees included officials from Tepco headquarters in Tokyo, various government officials, former Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato, and Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanbe. One Tepco official related that the Tokyo task force did not know that one of the emergency cooling systems for unit #1 had been turned off on March 11. Another said that he analyzed what had happened in April of 2011 and realized that at least half of the fuel core of unit #1 had melted. He added that Tepco refrained from using the term “meltdown” in March and April because there was no precise definition of the word and it could thus have been misunderstood. Governor Sato complained about poor communications between Tokyo and Fukushima’s prefectural government during the first day of the crisis. He said that his staff got most of its information from TV news. He admitted to have issued a 2 kilometer-wide evacuation at 8:50 pm based on the TV reports. His office began getting airborne contamination reports via Email on March 12. Sato said the poor communications network resulted in many Fukushima residents evacuating to areas where contamination was likely to spread. Tokyo had planned to have all 772 testimonies released by the end of the year, but many officials have not agreed to the release. The government will continue working on the project in 2015. -- --

  • Kurion’s mobile Strontium removal system is exceeding expectations. Its first water decontamination system began operation in early October and has processed more than 11,000 tons of liquid. It has removed more than 99.95% of the contained Strontium. The target was for 99.9%. In other words, the system was expected to have a decontamination factor of 1,000, but has actually operated with a Strontium removal factor of 2,000. A second mobile unit arrived in Japan about the first week of December. Full operation of both units should treat about 600 tons of water per day.

  • The water levels inside the turbine basements of units #1 thru 4 appear to be dropping. On November 4th, the total volume in the four basements was about 73,000 tons, which is roughly what it has been for more than two years. But, on December 23rd, the volume was down to about 63,000 tons. This is an indication that recent efforts to curb groundwater inflow, such as pumping up water before it reaches the basement walls and operating the external drain system, are having a positive impact. Unfortunately, there has been no mention of this in Tepco Press releases or news media briefing handouts. --

  • Tokyo plans to accelerate Fukushima accident recovery. The Reconstruction Agency will locate based for homes and offices inside the mandated evacuation zone to prepare for the return of evacuees. A bill to make it happen will be submitted during the next Diet (Congressional) session. The plan calls for tax exemptions for sales of land in Okuma Town, meaning landowners will not have to pay income tax on sales up to $420,000. The bill will also allow business owners to write off reserve funds for capital investments as losses.

  • The government and Tepco may end some business compensation in February of 2016. They have proposed this to Fukushima Prefecture's commerce and industry federation. Those businesses that would not lose their post-accident subsidies would be in the agricultural, forestry and fisheries sectors. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and Tepco, are seeking input from the prefectural federation. Federation Secretary-General Hideki Endo doesn’t like it, "Fukushima business owners face different situations depending on their evacuation statuses and their business categories. While we understand the need to draw the line somewhere, we cannot accept the end of compensation payments within a year and a few months from now when the nuclear disaster has still not been brought to a conclusion and there are no prospects that harmful rumors will end in the foreseeable future." Those whom would at-risk include self-employed residents and small to medium sized businesses. The proposal seems to be the result of the Fukushima government’s asking for policy direction on compensation. When the compensation was first mandated in December, 2013, the committee charged with overseeing the program said it would be reasonable to end the pay-outs when owners are able to run their businesses at pre-accident level. Tepco’s records show that almost $17 billion has been paid in business compensation, up to this point. This is roughly 85% of the some $20 billion that has been disbursed under the heading “Corporations and Sole Proprietors”.

  • Five Minamisoma mothers have written a booklet about radiation. The information comes from regular informational seminars organized by the five women. The mothers call themselves “Veterans Mother’s Society”. Their booklet is entitled Radiation and Health Seminar. The seminars began in December of 2011 with Dr. Masaharu Tsubokura of the Tokyo Institute of Medical Science. Other doctors have since joined in the at-least-monthly presentations. Children are brought to the meetings and ask the experts many questions like, “Is it OK to lick the snow?” and “Can radiation be transmitted from one person to another?” Over the past two years, the questions did not change much, so the five organizers decided to create a booklet answering the repeated questions.  20,000 copies of the Japanese version have been distributed, and an English version has been ordered by international schools and other English-speaking groups.

  • The Japan News says nuke restarts are important to keep electric bills under control. The Japan News is the English edition of Japan’s largest newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun. The high cost of using fossil fuels is causing electric rates to skyrocket. One prime example is Kansai Electric Co., which owns 11 of the currently-idled nukes. Kepco has applied for a general rate increase of 10% and 14% for corporate customers. This is the second time the company has been forced to raise the cost of electricity. Last Year, general rates were hiked 10% and corporate rates were hiked 17%. Hokkaido Electric was the first to have a second rate increase last November. Kepco says they are forced to have another rate hike because four of their nuclear units which were assumed to restart in 2014, have been delayed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority requirements for restart becoming more time-consuming. Kansai also said that while the recent drop in oil prices will help, it will not eliminated the $50 billion per year increase in fuel costs inflicted by the nuke moratorium. Kepco’s cost-cutting measures and consumer energy-saving measures are nearing their limit. If NRA delays keep the two Takahama units from operating until autumn, a third rate increase could happen. Kepco’s situation is common to most of Japan’s utilities owning nukes. Thus, the Yomiuri says it is “Increasingly important to restart N-plants to reduce need for energy rate increases.”

  • Tokyo prosecutors will likely rule against indictments of three Tepco executives concerning the nuke accident. The office was forced to consider indicting the trio when a citizen’s panel ruled that the issue deserved prosecution. The citizen’s panel order followed the Prosecutor’s Office declining to charge 30 Tepco officials with negligence relative to nuclear safety precautions at F. Daiichi, last year. The non-indictment decision is expected to be made public early in this coming year. The reason is likely to be insufficient evidence. If this happens, the citizen’s panel can force court-appointed lawyers to try the case if 8 of the 11 on the committee vote in favor of indictment.

December 25, 2014

  • Four more Fukushima children may have thyroid cancer. All of them cleared the initial screenings in 2011. The screening panel says there is not enough evidence to prove the cancers were caused by the nuke accident because exposures to radioactive Iodine were very low. Further, none of the four lived in areas of high exposures. The panel also said much is unknown about the reasons for the development of child thyroid cancers, so they will continue close monitoring of the ~380,000 individuals.

  • Japan’s nuclear watchdog considers evacuation planning for F. Daiichi. The Nuclear Regulation Authority is looking at evacuation needs around the nuke station in case another accident occurs that could release radioactive material. The specific worst-case scenarios during the decommissioning period that might warrant evacuation have not been posted in the Press. Because a mandated evacuation zone currently exists around F. Daiichi, the NRA is pondering guidelines that would apply to this one location. The agency says the 30 kilometer emergency planning zone mandated for all nukes also applies to F. Daiichi, but just how that will be handled given the existing situation needs to be addressed.

  • The restart of two Sendai Station units is further delayed. A documentation revision by the NRA is cited as the reason. It was anticipated that the restart of Sendai units #2&3 would happen early in 2015. It is now felt this will not happen until March, at the earliest. The two different forms of new NRA-mandated documentation are submittal and approval of construction plans that describe the facility’s design in detail, and the rules for operation and emergency response. Kyushu Electric, Sendai station owner, says submittal will not happen until early in 2015.

  • Japan Atomic Power plans to send a team of 100 decommissioning experts to F. Daiichi. Japco has more than a decade of experience in nuclear plant dismantling of a unit at Tokai station. If the plans become a reality, it is hoped that the decommissioning schedule for F. Daiichi will be accelerated. Prior to the nuke accident, Tokyo Electric Company had no experience in dismantling a nuke. They have literally been learning on the fly, with some international expertise supplementing the company’s effort. One of Japco’s specialties is the use of remote-control robotics to facilitate project operation in areas of very high radiation exposures. This could be a significant boon to the defueling of units #1&3, where radiation levels are much higher than those with recently defueled unit #4.

  • The Industry Ministry recommends financial revisions for decommissioning older nukes. By the end of March, four utilities could decide to scrap as many as five currently-idled nuclear units since they are all nearing the new 40-year licensing period for operation. The Ministry announcement calls for special accounting to assist in the process. It also calls for ending subsidies paid to the host communities. On the other hand, the Ministry says they will consider steps to support regional economies that lose the subsidies. The report states, "Without a clear future vision for our nation's nuclear power, including how to make up for electricity supply that would be lost as a result of reactor decommissioning, (utilities and local host communities) will find it difficult to decide whether to scrap nuclear reactors." Another part of the report seems to suggest that new nuclear plants might be needed, and poses this as a possible option. It says nuclear generation remains “as significant as renewables” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and "the government should clarify its stance on building new reactors as well as replacement of (old) reactors with new ones while promoting understanding of nuclear power among the public."  --

  • Tokyo will modify the “feed in tariff” for electricity generated by renewables. In 2012, the government ruled that utilities must purchase all electricity produced by renewables, such as solar and wind, at prices well-above the existing market. This was called a feed-in tariff. As part of the ruling, the increased costs were passed on to electric ratepayers. The tariff guaranteed an immediate return on investment to companies deciding to build renewable generation systems. The tariff immediately spawned an unanticipated frenzy of solar and wind construction across Japan. However, the large influx of this inherently irregular electricity supply has upset at least five transmission systems to the point where the utilities said they cannot guarantee reliability, and stopped accepting new suppliers. It seems no-one had foreseen the major impact caused by the feed-in tariff.  In mid-January, the Industry Ministry will implement a new rule allowing utilities to limit renewable input to their transmission systems if renewable supplies exceed what the transmission systems can accommodate. Solar builders are concerned that there will be a sharp decrease in orders for new solar units, and might cause some now under construction to be cancelled. A Ministry official responded, "Utilities need to carefully explain to what extent they are going to restrict output, so that prospective solar power plant operators can calculate the risk." 

  • (Comment - The feed-in tariff had created an idyllic financial situation for renewable construction that promised no limits on profit for up to 20 years. The current situation has brought the subtle but significant realities of transmission and distribution to the fore-front. An objective overview of the situation has been posted by, “Clouds on the Horizon for Solar Power in Japan”, with a detailed explanation of the cost of electricity that was, and still is, guaranteed by Tokyo. For example, solar supplies greater than 10 kilowatts are assured rates of more than 29¢/kwh. This can be compared to the average cost of electricity of 12¢/kwh in America. The extensive article can be accessed at…


December 22, 2014

  • All fuel bundles have been removed from the unit #4 Spent Fuel Pool. The Press was allowed to observe the removal of the last four bundles, loading into the transfer cask, lifting of the cask to the hauling vehicle, and transport to the SFP in unit #6. A TEPCO representative commented, "We'd like to use this experience with reactor No. 4 as a model for the other reactors." F. Daiichi Plant Manager Akira Ono said, “Completion of the removal work is a milestone and I feel deeply about it.” Tepco President Naomi Hirose said, "That it was done safely and without incident is a testimony to the skill and commitment of our engineers and workers at every level, and to the many other organizations, in Japan and from around the world, that contributed their knowledge and resources. I wish to express my personal gratitude, and that of our company, to all of them." Unfortunately, most (but not all) of the Press outlets tempered this milestone with unnecessary rehashes of the F. Daiichi accident, reminders of used (spent) fuel worst-case scenario speculations, and predictions that the removal of used fuel from units #1&3 will possibly be more difficult due to higher ambient radiation levels. Tepco says they hope to begin the unit #3 fuel removal process in 2-15. -- -- --

  • Quake/tsunami debris removal begins in Tomioka Town. The town lies between 7 and 10 kilometers south of F. Daiichi, and is one of the Fukushima Daini host communities. All residents remain evacuated by government mandate. The Environment Ministry says they will move 7,500 tons of tsunami remains by the end of March, and the remaining 26,500 tons over the following year. The debris will be moved to a temporary storage location in the town. The first action will be to search the material for items of sentimental value to the evacuees.

  • Tokyo says the temporary storage of rural low-level wastes will not begin in January, as previously planned. The problem is slow negotiations with property owners in Futaba and Okuma, the two host communities for F. Daiichi and the designated locations for interim storage. The facilities will hold the material for no more than 30 years.

  • Tepco has posted numerous pictures of the interior of Unit #1. These pictures were taken during the time the roof of the temporary enclosure was open. Good stuff.

  • Japan Times reports that 6 tons of “tainted water” leaked at F. Daiichi. The water had been fully decontaminated by the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) and was being pumped to a storage tank when the leak was detected on Wednesday. Tepco says the water, containing an unspecified concentration of biologically innocuous Tritium, seeped into the ground. There was no release to the sea.  (Comment - It seems that all waters at F. Daiichi are being dubbed “tainted” regardless of their purity. Whether or not the liquid is actually worthy of being called “tainted”, the term is continually applied. After ALPS treats the water, the outflow is essentially demineralized to laboratory purity. Does the “tainted” descriptive apply because of the residual Tritium? I’m afraid that even if the Tritium, which is entirely harmless, were also removed, the term would continue to be used.)

  • Japan’s largest newspaper calls for an efficient safety screening process to expedite nuke restarts. The Yomiuri Shimbun points out that it has taken the Nuclear Regulation Authority nearly a year and one-half to review Kansai Electric’s (Kepco) application for safety review, which seems less than expeditious. As a result, Kepco has been forced to increase rates to their customers, with another looming on the horizon, to pay for expensive fossil fuel generation. The Yomiuri says, “We want the NRA to proceed with safety confirmation of the remaining nuclear reactors without delay.” It adds, “It is natural to put top priority on safety, but an efficient screening process is also important.” The Yomiuri also says that it is the government’s responsibility to insure safety, but at the same time it must work to relieve local anxieties and explain the need for restarts, “The government must work toward increasing public understanding of the need for restarting reactors as well as disaster prevention and response measures.”

  • Tokyo has selected Onagawa Town to be the first to be subsidized for post-disaster revival. Onagawa is in Miyagi Prefecture, hosts the Onagawa nuke station, and was hit by tsunami wave heights similar to the one experienced by F. Daiichi. Reconstruction Minister Wataru Takeshita said the program will begin in March, providing subsidies for projects to revive shopping areas willing to include community facilities. The Ministry says it will pay 70% of the estimated $5.6 million cost of the commercial complex. (Aside - On 3/11/11, the tsunami swept one kilometer inland, destroying everything in its path, including the town center and 12 of the community’s 25 designated evacuation sites. More than 300 are confirmed dead and at least 1,000 are still listed as missing. Almost the entire population of nearly 7,000 was immediately homeless. Several hundred residents fled to the Onagawa nuke station to escape the black water torrent. All were safe because the station’s tsunami barrier was sufficient to hold back the waves. The Station survived relatively unscathed. – End aside)

  • Some 340 residents of Minamisoma are suing for more compensation money. The case was filed in Tokyo District Court. The plaintiffs are seeking a lump sum for damages to the tune of nearly $85,000 for mental anguish and monthly payments of $1,700 for three years. All mandated evacuees currently get a $1,700 monthly anguish pay-out, but the plaintiffs feel they deserve more. News reports are confused concerning the specifics surrounding the three-year compensation clause. The residents are from the Odaka area of Minamisoma, and had its own local government before the April, 2012 evacuation order. It has since been absorbed into Minamisoma City. Residents are now allowed to visit their homes, but are not permitted to live there. The residents initially filed a request for the additional compensation with Tepco, but were rebuffed. Former Mayor Isao Enei says, “We have been deprived of our hometown and families have been broken apart. I hope to return to our lives as they were before the accident as soon as possible.” -- (Comment – It seems all the above residents will be allowed overnight stays for a thirty day period that began Saturday, December 20th. In fact, all of the evacuated portions of Minamisoma City, as well as the villages of Iitate, Kawamata and Katsurao will be granted this holiday gift. Nahara evacuees will be allowed overnights from December 24th through January 7th, and Kawauchi residents from December 27th until January 4th. There will be nearly 27,000 residents eligible, but how many actually do it remains to be seen.)

  • The evacuation order for Minamisoma “hot spots” has been lifted. 152 households in the city outside the exclusion zone boundary had the advisories issued three years ago due to localized radiation levels of at least 20 millisieverts/year. All locations are now below that level. The hot spot advisory was planned to be removed by Tokyo in October, but residents opposed the move due to radiation fears. The homes have been decontaminated, but the inhabitants say radiation levels are still detectible and they want further decontamination. They fear the homes are not safe to live in. Dissenting residents said Tokyo is "not valuing human life" and the recommendations "should be lifted only from residences where the residents agree." The local government agrees that the lifting of the advisory is understandable, but feel the residents should have further decontamination on their residences. They currently receive about $835 a month in stress and suffering compensation, which Tokyo says they will continue to get until March. --

  • Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency says 75% of released radioactivity from F. Daiichi occurred after the first four days of the crisis. JAEA says the emissions continued from March 15 until the end of that month. The group analyzed the dispersal of contamination based on meteorological data and actual samples taken outside the station boundaries. In addition, it was determined that releases of March 21st and 22nd reached a wider area that previously thought, including the Kanto region containing the Tokyo Metropolis. JAEA estimates the total release was about 470,000 terabecquerels (tera = trillion)  It should be noted that Tepco estimates of total radioactive releases made in May, 2012, fits with the new JAEA numbers. The company estimated the total release was more than a million terabecquerels.  The Tepco estimates included noble gasses which were about 500,000 teraBq, which it does not seem the JAEA estimates included. Tepco’s numbers for particulates other than noble gasses, was a little over 500,000 teraBq…essentially the same as the JAEA findings.

  • Tokyo considers increasing local grants to governments that have nuke restarts. On the other hand, governments surrounding nukes that are not allowed to restart will see their existing grants reduced. The grants are based on operating unit capacity factor. The factor is calculated by taking the total MWe generated during a one year period and dividing it by the MWe that would be produced if the unit were at 100% power for the entire year. Prior to the F. Daiichi crisis, the grants were based on an average of 73%, which was actually lower than the capacity factors indicated. The yearly grants then totaled roughly $1 billion. However, the provision being considered would raise this to 81% for restarted units. For units that remain idled, the grant percentage will be dropped to 70%. The new grant-rate will apply to nukes as they are restarted.

December 18, 2014

  • Earthquake and tsunami debris clean-up has finally begun in Futaba Town. Futaba is one of the two host communities for F. Daiichi. The work has begun in the Morotake area and along the tsunami-devastated coastline. Morotake is located inland, about three kilometers northwest of the nuke station. The tsunami debris to be removed from the Futaba coast is estimated to be about 5,000 tons, including beached driftwood and demolished housing material. The Environment Ministry estimates the full amount of debris to be removed from the two locations will be about 13,000 tons. Contamination and radiation levels are low enough to allow the work to occur. The debris will be taken to a provisional storage site for close inspection before a decision is made on final disposal. Community official Rokuro Saito said, “At last, Futaba town’s reconstruction begins.” –-

  • The draft NRA report for Takahama Station indicates that restarts are allowable. The Nuclear Regulation Authority review of the paperwork for units #3&4 indicates that Kansai Electric Company (Kepco) has passed all safety check-points. The 430-page draft indicates that measures to cope with possible severe accidents fulfill the NRA safety standards. Kepco has shown that earthquake and tsunami protection has been upgraded to meet the post Fukushima criteria. Quake safeguards were originally designed for a ground movement of 550 Gal, but has been improved to handle an acceleration of at least 700 Gal. 981 Gals is equal to acceleration due to gravity (~9.8 meters/sec2). The tsunami break-wall has been raised to 8 meters in order to handle the worst-possible wave height of 6.2 meters. In addition, Kepco installed back-up emergency cooling pumps and hydrogen mitigation units to prevent the core damage and hydrogen explosions suffered at F. Daiichi. A 30-day public input period begins today. -- --

  • Japan’s first all-MOX nuke is ready for government safety review. As reported in our last update, the currently under-construction Oma nuclear plant owners have applied to the NRA for preliminary assessment. It will be the world’s first all-MOX-fueled reactor. MOX is the acronym for Mixed Oxide, which is manufactured from recycled fuel bundles. The fissionable isotopes will be both U-235 and Pu-239. The Mainichi Shimbun says there are problems with MOX fuel which is different from Uranium-only fuels, and spins it to make it seem that MOX is more difficult to control. While this would be true if the same control rods were used as are found in Uranium-only cores, the Oma reactor will use control rods specifically designed for MOX-only cores. Thus, reactor power control should be no more difficult than with Uranium-only cores. The NRA has not approved the MOX design, as yet, which the preliminary safety application should cover. Approval will effectively resolve any regulatory concerns about the reactor power control technology. The Mainichi makes many other criticisms, all of which are more speculation than fact. The Oma plant is in northern-most Aomori Prefecture, across the Tsugaru Strait from Hokkaido City. The City is ~30km from Oma and has filed a lawsuit to have construction halted because of radiation fears.

  • Tepco says more than 3,700 Fukushima evacuees have not filed for compensation. Executive Vice President Yoshiyuki Ishizaki said 3,713 had yet to apply for full compensation as of the end of November. This is about half of the number a year ago. Tepco reports that roughly 400 of the non-applicants have yet to be found, indicating that about 3,300 of the non-applicants have been contacted but have not filed claims. The company’s Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters says 750 qualified voluntary (designated as “provisional”) evacuees have not filed for their temporary compensation. The total number of qualified claims stands at about 166,000, more than half of which are from outside the Tokyo-mandated exclusion zone and thus designated as provisional.

December 15, 2014

  • 98% of the fuel bundles are removed from unit #4. All used bundles have been transferred to the ground level common storage facility for more than a month. The only bundles that remain (26) are unused. It seems that the last unused bundles will be removed within a week.

  • Evacuee financial indemnification now tops $45 billion. Cash compensation pay-outs are nearing $20 billion for the roughly 75,000 Tokyo-mandated evacuees. This averages to about $600,000 for every man, woman, and child ordered to evacuate by the government. Property and proprietor compensation totals more than $20 billion. Indemnification for voluntary evacuees still stands at about #3.5 billion.

  • A few Japanese news sources say Sunday’s landslide victory for PM Shinzo Abe’s party is expected to boost reactor restarts. Although the election did essentially nothing to change the nation’s political landscape, Japan Times and Kyodo News speculate that Abe will increase his efforts to get Japan’s idled nukes back on-line. --

  • NRA chief Shunichi Tanaka says that cement should stop contaminated inflow to equipment tunnels. Tanaka visited F. Daiichi on Friday to tour the plant and look at the work being done. He inspected the multiple barriers keeping groundwater and possible leakage from reaching the sea and thinks the safety of the plant has improved. Tanaka then checked on the recent decision to pour concrete into equipment tunnels containing contaminated water. While stating the contaminated water situation is his greatest concern, he said the new method of stopping inflow to the tunnel out of unit #2 seems to be successful.

  • NRA chief Tanaka also said fully-treated water must be released to the sea. He sees no other way to mitigate the buildup of both contaminated and decontaminated water at F. Daiichi. Japan’s leading liberal newspaper (circ. ~ 7 million), the Asahi Shimbun, spins this into the following headline, “NRA head signals massive release of tainted water to help decommission Fukushima site”. In the article, Tanaka says, "I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of tanks (holding water tainted with radioactive substances). We have to dispose of the water." But, he added the caveat, “We also have to obtain the consent of local residents in carrying out the work, so we can somehow mitigate (the situation). While (the idea) may upset people, we must do our utmost to satisfy residents of Fukushima." Tanaka promised that the NRA would provide information to local residents based on continuing studies of radioactive elements in local waters.

  • Okuma Town OKs interim storage of rural decontamination material. The Okuma assembly made the decision after Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said he would accept Tokyo’s temporary storage plan. The assembly said the explanation of the overall plan is sufficient enough for them to approve interim storage, but the government’s proposed property compensation is insufficient. They also said they had no choice but to accept Tokyo’s proposal in order to speed up reconstruction of their town. Mayor Watanabe said it was time to make a decision. But, he said that he only accepts construction of the facilities, adding that the central government needs to sign a safety agreement before bringing in waste. Tokyo wants to begin shipments in January.

  • Owners of Oma nuclear plant will apply for a preliminary safety screening on Tuesday. It will be the first application for a safety check with a facility under construction. Japan’s Electric Power Development Company (J-Power) plans on full-scale operation of the 1383 MWe unit in 2021. The Tuesday application explains J-Power’s plans to meet the new regulations set by Tokyo since the 2011 Fukushima accident. It is expected that the screening of the plans will take about a year before J-Power makes the the changes needed to meet the new rules.

  • South Korea will run surveys on Fukushima fish products. This is in response to formal Japanese protests over Korea’s continuing ban of seafood products from Fukushima and seven other surrounding Prefectures, some as far away as the eastern Tokyo metropolis. The ban has been in place since September, 2013. A Korean research team will visit wholesale markets on the Fukushima and Chiba coasts, focusing on the analyses being run to check for contamination. Their findings could lead to Korea reconsidering the import ban. Japanese Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroshige Seko said, "Japan strongly hopes that South Korea will deepen its accurate understanding through the survey and that the ban will quickly be abolished.”

December 11, 2014

  • Japan’s nuke watchdog ponders higher emergency exposure limits for nuclear workers. Currently, the limit is 100 millisieverts per year. During the height of the 2011 Fukushima accident, Tokyo temporarily raised this to 250 mSv/yr. The Nuclear Regulation Authority is now considering a standard of 250 mSv, which will conform to limits set by other countries. In addition, the NRA says individual workers should give informed consent before being exposed to more than 100 mSv in a year. Along with the possible increase, nuke companies will have to educate and train workers in radiation protection before allowing them to be exposed. NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka says it’s appropriate to set the limit to 250 millisieverts because it was briefly used during the accident without any health consequences, and it would be comparable to medium exposure levels set by countries overseas. (By comparison,  the US EPA has the following annual limits for emergency workers... 5 rem (50 mSv) for all occupational exposures, 10 rem (100 mSv) for "Protecting valuable property necessary for public welfare (e.g., a power plant)", and 25 rem (250 mSv) for "Lifesaving or protection of large populations". )

  • Japan’s largest newspaper calls for a realistic debate on nuclear energy. The Yomiuri Shimbun says many of Japan’s minority (opposition) parties are calling for the immediate abolition of nuclear energy, no matter what the cost. The Democratic Party of Japan, in power until December 2013, said “every possible resource” should be employed to reduce nuclear energy needs to zero. The Japanese Communist Party calls for an “immediate reduction of nuclear power generation to zero”, while the Social Democratic Party insists that currently-idled nukes should never be restarted and all new construction be stopped. However, realistic plans on how this will be accomplished without placing Japan’s energy needs in critical jeopardy while reducing Japan’s deeply-negative balance of trade are never presented. The Yomiuri says, “Insisting on cutting nuclear power generation to zero without coming up with specific measures to find alternative power sources should be deplored as extremely irresponsible.” The newspaper adds, “Should nuclear energy be phased out in a haphazard manner, technology developed over the years could be lost. This could affect the technology needed to resolve the aftermath of the crisis at the Fukushima plant, the decommissioning of the reactors and the final disposal of radioactive waste.” Tokyo’s hasty decision to promote renewables and guarantee their profitability has placed Japan’s distribution system at risk. The Yomiuri says, “Depending excessively on certain types of power sources is considered too risky from the viewpoint of energy security.”

  • A study on Fukushima children shows no detectible internal concentrations of radioactive Cesium. Whole body measurements of students attending 22 schools in Minamisoma City were administered between May and July, 2013. Of the 3,299 tested students, 3,255 were screened during school health check-ups. None had detectable levels of Cs-134 or Cs-137. Maximum estimated exposures indicate that none of the children will ever exceed the national goal of one millisievert per year. The report, Absence of Internal Radiation Contamination by Radioactive Cesium among Children Affected by the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Disaster (Tsubokura, has been posted in the Health Physics Journal. Since the report itself is behind a pay wall, we are providing a link to a surprisingly objective article on it in the Daily Kos.

  • Believe it or not, canned Fukushima air is being successfully sold by a Tokyo teenager. He says he’s doing it to shock the public into reviving the debate over the 2011 accident. The 17-year-old high school student, mono-named Atsu, said, “I want to try to surprise people and renew interest in the nuclear accident.” Last summer, he went to the Fukushima Prefecture’s coast to inject its air into the cans. Upon return, he began selling it. He recalls thinking, “I’m sure it’ll attract both support and criticism and spur debate. And debate will generate interest.” Atsu says his sales have sparked a bit of negativity. Some say he is just seeking publicity for his budding art business, while others say Fukushima evacuees no longer need assistance. On the other hand, many people in Fukushima Prefecture express support. Atsu says, “I thought there would be more criticism.” The air in the cans has been analyzed and generates between 0.05 and 0.09 microsieverts per hour, well below the national goal of 0.23 µSv/hr. The cans sell for about $5 each (600 yen). All procedes are donated to the Japanese Red Cross.

  • An F. Daiichi worker claims that he and his co-workers have been forgotten by Tokyo. The man claims that they experience harsh working conditions, are not paid enough, and worry about their radiation exposure. As a third-tier contract employee, the man receives about $1,800 per month in pay and defines his working conditions as “harsh” because he must wear protective clothing and dosimetry. He adds that his most recent radiation exposure was 1.8 mSv and he is nearing his annual 20 mSv limit. He complains, “I feel that people are gradually forgetting about the nuclear accident. From now, our work will become even harsher because we will have to go inside the reactor buildings, where the radiation level is even higher. I want people to recognize that there are such workplaces.”


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