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Fukushima 80...1/5/15-2/2/15


February 2, 2015

  • Nahara officials have returned home to spur future repopulation. In December, Mayor Yukihide Matsumoto and three others were given a special permit from Tokyo and Fukushima Prefecture to return to the town and live there. The four officials live in the town and commute to Iwake City each day to tend to Nahara affairs. Train service was restarted last June. Most of Nahara lies within the 20 km radius, between 10 and 20 kilometers from F. Daiichi. Nearly all of the town’s 7,500 residents were evacuated. The total ban on entry was lifted in August, 2012. Residents have been able to visit their homes and property during the day, but remain prohibited from overnight stays. Nearly half (~46%) of the estranged residents say they are willing to return home, while about 23% say they will not return. Those willing to return say they will wait until sufficient infrastructure exists to support them, such as roads and hospitals. Officials also want some
    leisure” facilities revived to stimulate resident return. Officials hope to have all restrictions lifted this spring. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201501300010

  • Two convenience stores open inside the Tokyo-mandated evacuation zone. The FamilyMart chain has opened one in Nahara Town and the other in Tamura City. In Nahara’s Kamishigeoka District, the new store is located on the coastal national highway and will be open 24/7 to support evacuees making daytime visits and round-the-clock for workers at F. Daiichi 14 kilometers to the northeast. Residents say they hope to be allowed to return home permanently in the spring. The opening of the store is important in the effort to provide needed infrastructure to facilitate repopulation. Store manager Tomoe Murao said, “We want to do our best to help the residents of Naraha return home.” In Tamura, the store opened in the Miyakoji District where the evacuation advisory was lifted last April. Most of the evacuees have not returned home, however. FamilyMart set up the Miyakoji outlet at the request of the Reconstruction Agency and the Tamura City in the hope of increasing repopulation. Only a small fraction of Tamura is inside the exclusion zone, so infrastructure for the return of evacuees is good. However, there was no food store in the Miyakoji District until now. Whether or not it will persuade dissident residents to go home remains to be seen. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/01/30/national/familymart-reopening-lifts-spirits-irradiated-town-naraha/#.VMuTJ6McQdU -- http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=461 -- http://fukushimaupdate.com/24hr-convenience-store-re-opens-in-fukushima-restricted-zone/

  • Bus service has begun inside the mandated exclusion zone. The bus will run between Minamisoma City and Nahara Town. It will run twice a day over the 46 kilometer route. There will be no intervening stops between Minamisoma and Nahara. Radiation exposure for the trip is below one microsievert. Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai said the start of public transportation is encouraging to local residents. However, most potential passengers say they will wait until the railway service is resumed. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

  • PM Shinzo Abe says the decision on Fukushima Daini is Tepco’s to make. The nuke station is 10 kilometers south of F. Daiichi and was essentially unharmed by the 2011 quake and tsunami. Fukushima Prefecture opposes any restarts. Abe mentioned the situation when questioned by the head of Japan’s Communist Party, Chizuko Takahashi, in a Lower House meeting. Takahashi said Tepco should focus only on F. Daiichi decommissioning and not try to restart any unit at F. Daini. She believes all ten Fukushima units ought to be scrapped. Abe responded that cleanup at F. Daiichi is already a priority, but it has nothing to do with F. Daini’s future. He added that the decision is entirely Tepco’s. It should be noted that the oldest unit at F. Daini will not reach its 40 year licensing limit until 2021. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

  • The future Fukushima robotics facility is expanded. Last year, Tokyo announced it would establish a center to develop robots for decommissioning F. Daiichi in the Prefecture. Wataru Takeshita, state minister in charge of reconstruction, says pressure from local officials has convinced the government to make the facility for all robot development, not just for F. Daiichi. It is hoped this will accelerate the return of residents to the evacuated zones. The new plan allows companies to purchase land at lower costs, provide subsidies, and give tax breaks. Takeshita also said Tokyo will add measures to ease resident anxieties about radiation and cull the wild boars that have moved into the area. Takeshita said this expansion will provide a permanent facility beyond the decommissioning period.  http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/recovery/AJ201502020046

  • Another group tries to block nuke restarts with a petition. The focus this time is units #3&4 at Takahama station, Fukui Prefecture. However, the petition is not from Fukui residents. It comes from 29 people living in Shiga Prefecture. It was filed in Shiga’s Otsu District Court. Only small portions of two Shiga communities lie at the extreme edge of the 30 kilometer emergency planning zone, southeast of Takahama. The residents claim that the nukes were not designed to withstand worst-possible quakes and Shiga Prefecture has not finished its emergency plan. A similar petition was rejected by the same court last year. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2015013000847

January 29, 2015

  • Tokyo will soon begin building two Fukushima rural waste storage facilities. Both are in existing industrial parks near F. Daiichi. Each will have an area of about 10,000 square meters. They are part of the 16 square kilometer site in Okuma and Futaba which Tokyo plans to use as a 30-year storage facility for rural radioactive waste materials. It is hoped that initial movement of the waste will begin by the March 11th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Work preparing the two sites should begin February 3rd. The industrial parks are government owned and will be used exclusively until existing private property owner issues are resolved. Fukushima municipalities have been pressuring Tokyo to make firm plans for moving the existing materials out of the thousands of present locations. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

  • Fukushima fishermen protest against plans to discharge fully-treated wastewater. Last week, the Nuclear Regulation Authority divulged a plan to release the biologically-harmless water to the Pacific beginning in 2017. A national fishery association demanded this plan be halted because Tepco does not fully understands the ramifications of the release. The National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations’ head, Hiroshi Kishi, submitted the request to Industry Minister Yoichi Miyazawa on Tuesday. The Federation says the plan is deplorable. Kishi called it “extremely deplorable”. He stressed that fishers do not like the idea of releasing water even if it meets government standards and added that he wants the nuclear regulators to know that. Miyazawa said the administration will not allow release of radioactive water without due care. The Federation fears that even if the release meets all of Tepco’s self-imposed standards, which are many times less than the national limits, rumors could cause further harm in the marketplace. The national limits for discharge are 60 Becquerels per liter for Cesium-134, 90 Bq/liter for Cs-137, and 60,000 Bq/liter for Tritium. National drinking water limits are 10 Bq/liter for Cs-134 and Cs-137, respectively, and 10,000 Bq/liter for Tritium. Tepco’s self-imposed limits are 1 Bq/liter for Cs-134 and Cs-137, and 1,500 Bq/liter for Tritium. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/01/27/national/fishermen-oppose-dumping-radioactive-water-into-sea/#.VMem3aMcQdU

  • A Fukushima official is accused of illegal sales of dosimeters. He admitted he used the money to pay off personal debts, much of which he lost through playing Pachinko. He sold 181 dosimeters, valued at about $37,000. The man worked for the prefecture’s Local Medical Care Division between 2010 and 2013. In October and November of 2013, he was in charge of buying and managing dosimeters. It was then that he made the illegal sales to two companies. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150129p2a00m0na017000c.html

  • Former government accident investigation chairman Yotaro Hatamura speaks out on nuclear policy. Hatamura headed the Prime Minister’s Cabinet inquiry into the Fukushima Accident in 2011. On Wednesday, he addressed a government commission considering future nuclear policy. Hatamura said that as long as Japan has nukes, accidents will occur and unseen risk remains even if all new standards are met. He added that the Nuclear Regulation Authority is correct in not saying nukes are safe, but drawing up evacuation plans is not enough. He feels post-accident decontamination and reconstruction plans also need to be included in the regulations. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150128_32.html

  • Work slowly resumes at Fukushima Daini. Nearly all labor activity at both nuke stations in Fukushima Prefecture was halted last week when two workers were killed. Tepco, owner of both stations, called a halt to all contract labor in order to review and upgrade worker safety at both locations. Since then, Tepco has focused on meeting with the numerous contractor and subcontractor companies at both sites to insure they are appropriately instructing their staff on proper safety habits. On Wednesday, two of the roughly 250 labor operations at F. Daini restarted. One was inspection of a crane in unit #1, and the other was cleaning of radiation monitoring equipment for cooling water. Tepco says other operations will resume as soon as proper safety measures are addressed for each task. Safety inspections at F. Daiichi will continue, but none of the work projects are expected to resume before next week. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

  • Four utilities restart purchase of electricity from solar providers. The four utilities are Hokkaido Electric Power Co., Tohoku Electric Power Co., Shikoku Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. At least five Japanese companies stopped accepting new solar–based power in October because of an unexpected influx of new supplies. The inflow resulted from Tokyo’s ill-conceived feed-in tariff, forcing utilities to buy every watt of power generated and guaranteeing new solar companies generous profits. Solar generation is necessarily intermittent, only producing power during the day, and then fluctuating due to a number of factors such as weather and the angle of the sun’s rays striking the solar panels. Intermittent input to the transmission system is limited. Too much, and voltage fluctuations could cause system failure. The Industry Ministry was tasked with resolving the problem. As a result, the utilities will be given more flexibility in the amount of solar-based electricity they can take. The lessening of profit guarantees will probably discourage some new solar unit construction. Under the original feed-in tariff, utilities could curb input of solar and wind power when it reached more than 500 kilowatts for 30 days out of the year. Under the new rules, kilowatt provision was removed. Now, restrictions are 360 hours per year for solar and 720 hours for wind, allowing utility decisions to be made hourly when solar and/or wind-generated power is coming into the grid. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150128p2a00m0na004000c.html

January 26, 2015

  • Tepco has moved the target date for full wastewater decontamination to May. Company President Naomi Hirose apologized for not being able to keep the promise made to PM Shinzo Abe that the job would be done by the end of March. Takayuki Ueda of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said not meeting the original target “deplorable”. Hirose responded, "We took the promise with the prime minister very seriously but we cannot fulfill our commitment. The problem of toxic water is the biggest source of concern for the local residents and we are extremely sorry to be unable to keep our word." Two reasons for the delay given by Tepco are frequently having to clean filters and more system adjustments than anticipated during the test runs. Some Press outlets have taken a “we told you so” angle concerning the delayed timetable. Jiji Press says some observers report that the original target date looked too ambitious from the very start. Jiji goes on to make an implied allegation that Tepco caved to PM Abe’s pressure to speed up water decontamination to mitigate radiation fears during negotiations for having the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.   http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150123_29.html -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150123p2g00m0dm078000c.html -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2015012300999   

  • In parallel, the Press has posted articles about wastewater cleanup going slowly. Even the usually-objective NHK World has joined into the chorus. NHK points out that 280,000 tons remain to be processed with a 350 ton per day rate of buildup. In order to meet the end-of-March deadline, Tepco would have to fully decontaminate about 4,000 tons per day, but the multi-layered decontamination system does not have sufficient capacity. Meanwhile, Tepco has posted a comprehensive handout on the status of the water treatment system. In January, the full treatment process decontaminated more than 1,250 tons per day. Now that all stages of the system are out of testing mode and fully operational, it is projected that nearly 2,000 tons will be stripped of all but biologically-innocuous Tritium each day. What the Press fails to mention is that nearly 200,000 tons have been fully processed and are needlessly languishing in large storage tanks. In addition, the Press neglects to report that area radiation exposures in the storage tank area are significantly mitigated due to decontamination. If all waters were untreated, it is estimated that the annual exposure rate would be 9 millisieverts per year, but the current level is less than 3.5 mSv/yr. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html -- http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2015/images/handouts_150123_02-e.pdf  (Comment -Many Japanese Press outlets say that Tepco considers the liquids fully processed after Strontium removal. NHK world calls this a “less ambitious goal”. However, it seems the Press doesn’t understand that the Strontium removal system is the last step in full processing. It is at the end of the full process, after Cesium absorption and purification by the Advanced Liquid Processing System. The Press seems to believe Strontium removal alone constitutes “processed”. This is a gross error and demands retractions across the board.)

  • Another large sum of money is sent to Tepco for evacuee compensation. Tokyo’s Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation has sent about $750 million to Tepco to cover evacuee pay-outs for February. This brings the total sent to Tepco to more than $45 billion. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2015/1247726_6844.html

  • The labor ministry told Tepco to upgrade safety measures to prevent any future fatalities. State Minister of Health, Labor and Welfare Kanae Yamamoto transmitted a written demand to Tepco President Hirose on Friday. The ministry calls for Tepco to acquire self-awareness in contractor work at their two Fukushima nuke stations and properly train them in safety precautions. Yamamoto wants a progress report by February 16. The ministry plans to inspect F. Daiichi soon after to insure the upgrades have been made.  http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2015012300894  As a result of last week’s two subcontractor fatalities, Tepco temporarily suspended decommissioning labor activities at F. Daiichi in order to review what happened. On Friday, Tepco spokesman Shinichi Kawamura said, “The most important thing is to thoroughly conduct safety checks. We can’t tell when we will finish the checks for all work at this point.” Kawamura added that the review will pinpoint potentially unsafe work areas, improve safety habits, and ensure procedures are being followed properly. The review will not stop the operation of emergency cooling systems or the processing of wastewaters. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/01/23/national/tepco-suspends-fukushima-no-1-cleanup-to-probe-fatal-accidents/#.VMJ6paMcQdU

  • Muon tomography equipment is being installed for Unit #1. The cutting-edge technology will produces images of high density substances. Melted (corium) and un-melted Uranium fuel is the densest material inside nuclear plants. The muons will pass through concrete, iron and other construction materials, but be deflected and/or absorbed in the uranium, creating a "shadow" image. Images generated by Muon tomography should show whether or not there is any fuel inside the Unit #1 reactor pressure vessel. Many experts believe most of the fuel has melted through the thick bottom head of the RPV, while others believe half remains inside. Muon tomography should resolve the issue. The one drawback is that any corium that has melted through and accumulated on the floor of the base mat cannot be imaged. (see the diagram in the below-listed link) Another limitation is that small accumulations of fuel measuring less than about a foot wide will not be detected with any degree of confidence. It is expected that results should be available by the end of March. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201501240039  (Comment – Those who follow my Commentary blog know that I argue most, if not all of the corium remains inside the RPV.)

  • The restart of Sendai station’s nukes is further delayed. Plant owner Kyushu Electric says it is due to revision of a design submittal to the Nuclear Regulation Authority. In addition, another submittal for rules of operation and emergency responses must be approved before restart can occur. Kyushu says the documentation should be submitted by mid-February, but it pushes back the anticipated restarts to April. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150123_27.html

  • Chubu Electric Co. has applied to the NRA for permission to use dry cask storage for used nuclear fuel at Hamaoka nuke station. The bundles to be placed in the casks will have been in spent fuel pools for at least ten years. Dry cask storage is believed to be about 20% less costly than leaving the bundles in pools. Chubu Electric wants to build a dedicated storage facility to hold enough casks for 2,200 fuel bundles. If approved, the company will start building the facility immediately so it can begin to receive full casks in 2018. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2015012600505

  • Japan’s 2014 trade deficit hit an all-time high. Largely due to importing liquid natural gas to offset the prolonged nuclear moratorium, the deficit was ~ $125 billion. This is the fourth consecutive shortfall, which began in 2011 following the quake/tsunami catastrophe. LNG imports rose for the third year in a row, increasing by 11.2% over 2013. Part of the deficit was due to a 17.4% increase in semiconductors for solar panels, and also because an 8.7% dip in the value of the yen. Japan’s export of commodities such as automobiles and scientific instruments grew for the second consecutive year, raising hopes that the deficit will rapidly diminish as nukes come on line and LNG imports drop.  http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001884007

January 22, 2015

  • Two workers died Tuesday at Fukushima Daiichi and F. Daini, respectively. Both were “cooperative” staff, and not working for either Tepco or contractor companies. Cooperatives are worker-owned and operated groups specializing in various job classifications. At F. Daiichi, the fatality was a man sealing the top of a 10 meter-high rainwater storage tank and fell to the ground. At F. Daini, the death was a man inspecting a concentration apparatus on the 5th floor of a waste treatment building. Tepco says he was fatally injured when the apparatus unexpectedly rotated and impinged on his head. Neither man was found to have any bodily contamination. F. Daiichi chief Akira Ono said, "We will do our utmost to prevent such accidents and to steadily proceed with the decommissioning work." http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150120p2g00m0dm064000c.html -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html The link to Tepco’s F. Daiichi Press release is http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2015/1247504_6844.html and an image of the storage tank from which he fell can be found here http://photo.tepco.co.jp/library/150120_01/150120_02.jpg. The link to Tepco’s F. Daini Press release is http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2015/1247513_6844.html and a Press handout can be found here http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2015/images/handouts_150120_01-e.pdf

  • Japan’s nuke watchdog calls for the release of wastewaters containing Tritium. On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said Tepco can release fully-treated wastewater to the sea. NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka suggested the death on Tuesday at F. Daiichi shows that continually adding more and more storage tanks for essentially harmless waters has become a danger, “Tokyo Electric Power must consider whether it (storing the water) is really necessary. It is surely harmful if it leads to the death of workers.” However, a Tepco spokesperson says the company is not considering making the releases. The agency wants Tepco to set a firm timetable for the releases. The treated waters have been stripped of all radionuclides except biologically-innocuous Tritium; a naturally-occurring isotope of Hydrogen. More than a year ago, the IAEA made the same recommendation, but Tepco and the NRA have dragged their feet on discharging the harmless waters. Tepco also says they will not do it without approval from local officials and fishermen. One Kyoto University professor says the long-term effects of Tritium on animal genetics are not known, thus detailed monitoring of the sea-life during the releases should be performed to detect “worrisome signals”. http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2015/01/21/fukushima-watch-regulator-calls-on-tepco-to-discharge-tritium-water/

  • The NRA has also approved Tepco’s plan to release decontaminated groundwater to the Pacific Ocean. Tepco wants to install drainage pipes around the buildings of F. Daiichi units #1 through #4, in order to pump it out and run it through the multiple decontamination systems now in operation. Conditions for the release are Cesium below 1 Becquerel per liter, Beta emitters less than 3 Bq/l, and Tritium below 1,500 Bq/l. Tepco says they will not actually make sea releases without approval by local residents. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html -- http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201501220054  Several Japanese news outlets have reported on this, and some are purporting that the waters are toxic. Kyodo News and Mainichi Shimbun both call it a “plan to dump toxic groundwater”.  http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2015/01/332592.html -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150121p2g00m0dm071000c.html

  • Prosecutors will not indict Tepco executives over the Fukushima accident. This is the second time a non-indictment decision has been rendered on the suit. A claim of death and injury was filed more than 2 years ago by thousands of plaintiffs, but the suit was dismissed in September of 2013. A citizen’s panel, the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, said in July 2014 that the three men should be indicted, arguing that they could have avoided or diminished the accident by installing switch boards and power generators on higher ground, and waterproofing the plant buildings. In addition to the former TEPCO executives, the prosecutor’s office interviewed experts on tsunami, plant engineering, and other fields. The office concluded that even if added measures had been taken, the tsunami’s damage would not have been averted. The case's dismissal will probably not be the end of it. Plaintiff leader Ruiko Muto said that she intends to file yet another call for a second citizen’s group review. If the second citizen’s group calls for indictment, the court will be forced to appoint independent attorneys from outside the prosecutor’s office to try the case.  http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150122p2a00m0na001000c.html -- http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2015/01/23/fukushima-watch-prosecutors-again-decline-to-indict-ex-tepco-executives/

January 15, 2015 

  • Futaba accepts Tokyo’s rural radioactive waste plan. Okuma agreed to the plan last month. The government wants to build a sixteen square kilometer facility between the two F. Daiichi host communities to store contaminated soil and other debris for no more than 30 years. The mayor of Futaba announced the decision on Tuesday in Iwaki City, where most of the town’s evacuated residents are living. Not all residents agree with the decision, citing distrust of Tokyo’s promise to move the material elsewhere after thirty years. Mayor Shiro Izawa explained that acceptance of the plan is an unavoidable part of post-accident recovery. Land purchase negotiations and creation of transportation safety arrangements are continuing. On Wednesday, the government allocated about $700 million for the facility, land purchases, and research for fiscal 2015. The budget allocation for 2014 was $1 billion, but inability to purchase the property has resulted in carry-over from last-year’s budget.  http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html -- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/01/14/national/futaba-accept-radioactive-soil-storage-facilities/#.VLZfHaMcQdU

  • Four utilities have decided to scrap five nuke units once they get local approval. The four units are located in three Prefectures – Fukui, Shimane, and Saga – and each assembly will be instructed on the decommissioning plans next month. The host communities will also be briefed. It is national policy to seek local understanding before making any decisions that could financially impact the host communities. All five units will have been licensed for the post-Fukushima 40-year limit by the end of 2015. They are all relatively small-output units and the owning companies feel that upgrades to meet new regulations makes them economically non-viable with only a 20 year possibility on further operation. Two other units that have reached to 40 year licensing limit, Takahama #1 & #2, are not going to be voluntarily decommissioned because they have much larger outputs and the costs of meeting regulatory upgrades can be recovered in 20 years. Tokyo estimates the decommissioning costs will be about $200 million per unit. To avoid significant financial adversity, the government is creating accounting measures to mitigate the losses. Specifically, the costs will be charged to each affected utility’s customers and spread out over a ten year period. Under current guidelines, the costs would have to be dealt with during the first year after the permanent shutdown of each unit is decided. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001852229 -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150114_36.html

  • A citizens group has filed their second criminal complaint against former Tokyo safety officials and ex-Tepco executives. Their first complaint was against Former Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and others for not taking adequate accident protective measures. The new suit also names eight others besides Katsumata, including former government nuke safety official Yoshinori Moriyama of the defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. The plaintiffs include Fukushima residents as well as others from outside the prefecture. The complaint was filed with the Tokyo District Public Prosecutor’s Office accusing the nine of responsibility for the public being exposed to radiation. The Prosecutors Office is currently reinvestigating the first case which was dismissed last year, but ordered to be reopened by a citizen’s judicial panel. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/01/13/national/crime-legal/group-files-fresh-complaint-over-fukushima-nuclear-disaster/#.VLVRrqMcQdU –- http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2015/01/331188.html

  • Sendai District Court has ruled on the tsunami-deaths suit we reported on January 8. The court has ordered Joban Yamamoto driving school to pay nearly $19 million in compensation to the relatives of a driving instructor and 25 students who died in the 3/11/11 tsunami. Presiding Judge Kenji Takamiya said the driving school knew of a possible tsunami because some instructors at the school had heard the evacuation warning. The suit charged that school officials told the students to remain in the facility after the quake, but were not told to evacuate to higher ground. That order came nearly an hour later when the first indication of the tsunami hit the city shoreline. The suit claimed the tsunami was warned by local fire companies and the news media, but the company took no action to protect the students and instructor. This is the second time a court has awarded damages to grieving relatives of people killed in the tsunami. In September of 2013, Hiyori Kindergarten in Ishinomaki was ordered to pay nearly $1.8 million to the parents of four children who died. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001851278

January 12, 2015

  • The Director of the Chernobyl Tissue Bank says Fukushima’s risk to the public is negligible. Dr. Geraldine Anne Thomas of London’s Imperial College has visited Japan several times to compare and contrast Fukushima exposure data with Chernobyl’s. She states that the only observable health effects with Chernobyl concerned child thyroid damage, but the Iodine releases from Fukushima were many times less and strict food consumption bans were imposed early-on, thus, “It is therefore important to understand that the risk to health from radiation from Fukushima is negligible.” Thomas stresses that the Fukushima accident is not really a radiation problem, but rather is a communication problem. One striking example concerns the child thyroid screenings being run by Fukushima University. “To me it was a big surprise that the residents were not made aware that the thyroid gland tests that are happening now are a [medical] ‘screening’. There seemed to be a wide-spread misunderstanding that the tests were being conducted to identify the impact of radiation from the accidents in 2011.” As a result, “…the thyroid gland tests, although they were originally designed to reduce the concerns of people living in Fukushima, have resulted in increasing confusion and anxiety amongst the residents.” She also found the notion that Fukushima people are terrified of radiation might not be the case, but the perception outside of the Prefecture may be doing harm, “People living in Fukushima are not concerned about the safety of radiation in Fukushima but are aware of how the disconnect with people who firmly believe otherwise may hinder the recovery of Fukushima.” http://www.gepr.org/en/contents/20141104-01/

  • Canadian scientists have used Fukushima isotopes to study ocean currents. Researchers from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Nova Scotia, have been following the slow migration of the radioactivity across the Pacific. Their work has not been due to any risks to Canada or any other part of the world because dispersion and dilution have reduced the concentrations to well-below dangerous levels. The team found that the activities for Cesium and other isotopes are actually less than safety standards for drinking water. But tracking the dispersal represented a unique opportunity to see how ocean currents work over a period of years. Team leader John Smith said, “We had a situation where the radioactive tracer was deposited at a very specific location off the coast of Japan at a very specific time. It was kind of like a dye experiment, and it is unambiguous - you either see the signal or you don't, and when you see it you know exactly what you are measuring." They have been monitoring out to 1,500 kilometers from British Columbia and first detected Fukushima Cesium isotopes in June, 2012. Based on their data to date, the peak concentrations off North America will be between 3&5 Becquerels per cubic meter (ton of seawater). Natural Pacific radioactive isotopic concentrations are about 13,000 Bq/m3. Smith and his staff are also working with marine chemist Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic in the United States. http://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/scientists-use-fukushima-radiation-plume-to-track-ocean-currents/43196/

  • Tokyo wants to upgrade shelter facilities around nuclear stations for inpatients and the elderly. Many Fukushima residents forced to evacuate from hospitals or nursing homes died due to stress and inconsistent medical care. Guidelines were established to upgrade these facilities within 5 kilometers of nuke stations in order for the elderly and hospitalized to remain in place during an accident. The Prime Minister’s Cabinet has decided to expand this to a 10 kilometer radius. Improvements have already been made to 149 facilities across Japan, including double-paned windows and ventilation system filters designed to strip airborne contaminants from the air. $260 million has been spent to date, and it is estimated the expanded radius will cost another $76 million. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20150109_01.html

  • The Asahi Shimbun says decommissioning five reactor units will help Tokyo’s desire for nuke restarts. Japan’s second-leading newspaper reports that seven currently-idled nukes will attain the age of 40 in 2016, and five will probably not be considered for restart. The NRA wants formal decisions on the seven units to be made by July. The Asahi purports that this is one of various measures being considered by the Industry Ministry to gain public support for nuke restarts. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201501110012

January 8, 2015

  • Japan’s NRA will begin assessing nukes for anti-terrorist measures. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has anti-terrorist regulations, but evaluation of licensees has been delayed until July, 2018, in order to fully focus on natural disasters and other severe accident precursors. The new regulations include having remote emergency control rooms that can be used if the main operating facility is in jeopardy. These remote control rooms will be required to survive worst-case attack strategies, such as suicidal plane crashes similar to the World Trade Center of September 11. 2001. The facilities will be able to bring the reactors into a cold shutdown condition by lowering pressure and maintaining coolant flow to the core. These facilities will be built about 100 meters from reactors in case of a terrorist attack. The NRA feels the first nuke stations to be evaluated will be Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture and Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001834791

  • Niigata’s governor refuses to allow the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station (K-K) to restart. Governor Hirohiko Izumida has balked at extending a possible approval since restarts became an issue more than two years ago. He met with Tepco President Naomi Hirose on Tuesday for their annual New Year’s confab. The two men have not met since last January, and the meeting on Tuesday lasted only 15 minutes. Tepco wants to bring two of the K-K units online by March, 2016, or their currently thin profit margin will slip into a deficit condition. Izumida says he does not feel Tepco has thoroughly examined the causes of the March, 2011, nuke accident at F. Daiichi. Until he is satisfied, the governor will not even begin to consider restart approval. He said, “There has not been a sufficient investigation into the causes of the (Fukushima) accident nor in-house disciplinary actions, so we cannot stand at the starting line of discussions on safety.” One of the governor’s criteria is that all Tepco executives involved with the accident release their formal testimonies given to the Diet’s investigation of 2011 (NAIIC). Some Tepco officials have allowed this to happen, but not all. Japan’s Press has once again found voices of sympathy to support an antinuclear politician’s position. Hitotsubashi University professor Takeo Kikkawa says Tepco’s attempt to restart any K-K unit “an illusion”. K-K is a seven unit station, the largest in the world, with a full power output of nearly 8.000 MWe with all units operating. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201501070051 -- http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2015010600925 -- http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/restart-of-japans-largest-nuclear-plant-still-in-doubt

  • Kansai Electric Co. (Kepco) and Japan Atomic Power (Japco) to decide on the fate of older units. Kepco President Makoto Yagi told Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa on Tuesday that the utility would soon announce what it plans to do with all 11 reactors it operates in the prefecture. Takahama units #1&2 will reach their initial licensing limits of 40 years by November, and all three Mihama units will have exceeded 40 years in February, 2016. The other six units owned by Kepco, including the four Oi reactors, are at least five years from the 40-year standard for initial licensing. Yagi added that he is willing to consider safety agreements with communities outside of the 30 kilometer emergency planning zones around the three station in the prefecture. He said, "We don't insist on 30 kilometers (from nuclear power plants)." Japco President Yasuo Hamada also met with Governor Nishikawa and reported that studies are still being performed on possible earthquake faults under Tsuruga unit #2, so it is not known what its fate will be. Tsuruga unit #1 is the oldest of Japan’s currently-idled nuclear fleet at 44 years. Hamada implied that it might be decommissioned rather than run through the NRA’s restart program. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/01/07/national/kepco-faces-decision-on-aging-fukui-reactors/#.VK1EoKMcQdU -- http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150107p2a00m0na008000c.html

  • NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka says 2015 will be a crucial year for nuclear safety. At least four nuke units are expected to restart this year, at Takahama and Sendai stations. Tanaka believes restarting a nuclear power plant is when the units face particularly dangerous risks of accidents or trouble. His rationale is that the units have been down for two or more years and have a lot of new safety equipment that’s never been used before. The Sendai restarts are assumed to be the first, and Tanaka promised that NRA inspection of the process will be diligent. It is important to note that 2015 will witness the first International Atomic Energy Agency evaluation of the NRA. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

  • The IAEA will observe the situation with Fukushima and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in mid-February. This will be the third IAEA mission with the Fukushima accident, and the first with respect to K-K station. The F. Daiichi visit will assess the status of the decommissioning, situation with radioactive water buildup, and damaged fuel removal processes. The K-K assessment will focus on post-Fukushima accident mitigation measures and compare them to international standards of safety. The K-K investigation is due to a formal request made by Tepco. It will be the first station-specific assessment made by the IAEA since 3/11/11. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2015/01/330451.html -- http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

  • Japan’s GEPR group has posted an informative radiation-based video interview. GEPR’s head, Nobuo Ikeda, and Japanese-Caucasian journalist Morley Robertson discus the Japanese versus Western Press coverages about F. Daiichi. One of the most important observations is that Japan’s Press tends to avoid using sensationalist terminology, while the Western Press literally drips with the melodramatic. Robertson and Ikeda agree that there are socio-political agendas adhered to by Japan’s news media, either blatantly antinuclear (e.g. Asahi and Mainichi Shimbuns) or more objective (e.g. The Japan News/Yomiuri Shimbun). But neither camp resorts to much sensationalist terminology, if any at all. When the Western Press searches the Web for Fukushima News, the antinuclear Japanese press comes up first due to a higher level of immediate internet activity. The Western Press takes the antinuclear perspective and adds the sensational terminology because that’s what sells to their audience. The Western Press seldom takes the time to expand their search to more objective Japanese Press outlets, so all the Western audience hears is melodramatic versions of the Japanese antinuclear Press. There’s much more, but in the interest of brevity, we ask interested readers to use the link (below). Be advised, the interview is an hour in length and while most of the dialogue is English, there are occasional ~5 minute-long summations in Japanese. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4752ZOpfSxk#t=18

  • Nuke evacuees are not the only post-3/11/11 litigious demographic. Sendai District court says it will rule on a suit filed by some of the families of those lost to the tsunami in Miyagi Prefecture. The claim includes the relatives of one employee and 25 students of a driving school in Yamamoto. All 26 died on that fateful day. They want about $19 million in compensation from Joban Yamamoto driving school. The plaintiffs charge that inadequate tsunami evacuation measures had been taken. One parent said, "Whatever decision the court makes, we'd like to keep on pressing the importance of disaster countermeasures at private firms." Another eleven of the school’s employees died, and their families have joined in the suit. In addition, the relatives of one bank employee who died in Onagawa have linked in the filing. The father of the driving school’s teacher, Maki Okubo, said, "When a tsunami hits, I want to see companies drop everything and make sure to get their employees to safety right away." There was about a one hour delay between the precursor earthquake and the school’s order to evacuate. Maki’s father believes this was unforgivable. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150107p2a00m0na010000c.html

January 5, 2015

  • Five older Japanese nukes could be decommissioned. Four utilities plan to speak with local governments affected by the proposal this month so they can decide on the fate of the units by the end of March. All five units will reach the end of their 40 year licensing period by July of 2016. Twenty year extensions are possible under post-Fukushima guidelines, but the cost of upgrades to meet the new requirements must be weighed against foreseeable profits from prolonged operations. Actually, seven of Japan’s nukes will reach the 40 year threshold by July 2016, but two will probably seek the 20 year allowance. The five units at-risk are Mihama #1&2, Shimane #1, Genkai #1, and Tsuruga #1. Takahama units #1&2 are the other two plants that will reach the licensing limit, but work has already begun to qualify for extensions. Estimates concerning the cost of qualifying for extension run in the $1 billion range. The cost of decommissioning is projected to be about $210 million. The five at-risk units are relatively small with power outputs ranging from 320 to 560 MWe. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150103p2a00m0na004000c.html

  • All Fukushima harvested rice passed radiation tests in 2014. This was the first time that all bags tested below the national limit of 100 Becquerels per kilogram, set in 2012. Nearly 11 million sacks were analyzed during the year. There were about 10 million bags checked each year in 2012 and 2013. In 2012, 71 failed the analysis, and in 2013, 38 were above the limit. (Aside -For comparison, America’s Food and Drug Administration has a limit of 1,200 Bq/kg. The European Union limit is 600 Bq/kg.) Fukushima Prefecture says the testing program will continue. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201501030034

  • NRA chief Shunichi Tanaka says nuke restarts will bring greater responsibility to the watchdog. Since the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s inception, the agency’s task has been insuring new regulations are being followed by utilities applying for restarts. With the impending resumption of electric generation at Sendai station, inspections will shift to insuring safe operations. The NRA is currently examining applications for the restarts of 21 units at 14 locations. All of the first wave of reviews are for Pressurized Water Reactor systems. Screenings of Boiling Water Reactor plants may begin later this year. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

  • Local social and political opposition is stalling rural radioactive waste storage and disposal. Twelve prefectures now have temporary storage sites for the material. Tokyo would like to move all of it to designated locations in five prefectures: Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Chiba. Four sites in Tochigi and Miyagi have been specifically designated, but local activists blocked access to them to stop preliminary work. The mayor of a Tochigi town near the proposed, government-owned site, submitted a petition with 17,000 signatures demanding the material not be stored in their prefecture. Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata says the contamination came from Fukushima Prefecture, so it should be dumped there. Sites in Miyagi Prefecture have run into similar socio-political roadblocks. An Environment Ministry official said, “As the waste can’t be left indefinitely in temporary storage facilities, we hope to create facilities as early as possible in order to ensure safety.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/01/05/national/permanent-radioactive-waste-disposal-facing-significant-hurdles/#.VKp18qMcQdU

  • Many British scientists believe nukes are the best option. In a forthcoming open letter in the journal Conservation Biology, 65 biologists say nukes are the best choice for a global strategy to protect the environment. They call for activist groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to drop opposition to building new nukes. The letter is signed by several leading British academics including Lord May of Oxford, a theoretical biologist at Oxford University and former chief scientific adviser; Professor Andrew Balmford, a conservation biologist at Cambridge; and Professor Tim Blackburn, an expert in biodiversity at University College London. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/nuclear-power-is-the-greenest-option-say-top-scientists-9955997.html

 

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