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Fukushima 81...2/5/15-2/26/15

February 26, 2015

  • The source of Sunday’s high radiation alarm has been found. Rain collection areas on the roof of the reactor building #2 equipment access area, drains into the ditch where the radiation monitor alarmed. One of the “puddles” on the roof tested at 23,000 Becquerels per liter for Cesium and 52,000 Bq/liter of Beta emitters, which would be sufficient to have caused the 90-minute-long alarming condition. Other “puddles” on the rooftop were found to contain between 920 and 1,900 Bq/l, which were not high enough to have caused the monitor to read in excess of 7,000 Bq/l. Records tracing back to May, 2014, show that the monitor recorded slight increases every time it rained, but this is the first time the concentration exceeded the alarm set-point for Beta—emitters of 1,500 Bq/liter. Tepco also announced that zeolite, a Cesium absorbing material, has been placed in the main drainage channel and around the unit #2 roof top drain outlet. The Press handout on the incident, including pictures of the suspect “puddle” and positioning of Cesium-absorbing zeolite around the roof drains, can be found here -  Tepco says they have not detected “any significant increase” in the seawater inside the F. Daiichi port area. Actually, there has been no increase in quay water activity, but Tepco is too timid to say their data shows nothing. However, they have increased the sampling frequency from weekly to daily until the full investigation is completed. The concentration of Cesium and “gross Beta” activities inside the port area can be found here - For comparative purposes, he activity levels in the quay at the end of 2014 can be found here -

  • Beginning Wednesday, Japanese Press has gone haywire over the incident. Mainichi Shimbun called the sporadic, environmentally-harmless rainwater release “highly toxic”. The “toxic” modifier is commonplace whenever Fukushima radiation is the case, even though there is no evidence to support its use with levels this low. In addition, Thursday’s Mainichi editorial calls Tepco’s handling of the rainwater situation “terribly managed”, “deplorable”, and “insensitive”. It also says Tepco is “clumsy” when it comes to releasing information that is scarier than wild beasts. The piece closes by saying that Tepco is at fault due to “misreading what we need to fear most”. Thus in the opinion of the Mainichi, low level radiation is the most dangerous phenomena imaginable. Japan Times reported, “The utility admitted Tuesday it failed to disclose leaks of rainwater containing radioactive substances from a drainage ditch at the stricken plant even though it was aware of high radiation in the water last spring.” Even the usually-objective NHK World chimed in, “TEPCO knew last April that the density of radioactive substances in the channel rose when rain fell. But it did nothing to prevent contaminated water from leaking directly out to sea, nor did it make the finding public.” The obvious intent of the Press barrage is to make it seem that Tepco has covered up something unconscionably horrible. To make matters worse, the Nuclear Regulation Authority demanded that Tepco thoroughly investigate the drain-leakage incident, as if to say the company wasn’t already doing it. Chair Shunichi Tanaka said Tepco should not have allowed any contamination to drain to the plant’s port and a system of automatic gate closures should have been in place to stop flow if a monitor alarmed. -- -- -- -- (Comment - all of the hub-bub is because of a detectible contamination increase in a drainage ditch due to rainwater run-off. This affirms several points concerning Japan’s Press made by this writer over the past few years… (1) If radiation is detected, no matter how miniscule, it is treated as if it is necessarily harmful. (2) Even the most innocuous radiological events - and this one is completely harmless - are blown out of proportion. (3) Most of Japan’s news outlets admit they are antinuclear. When there is a lull in reports of problems at F. Daiichi, the Press will exaggerate anything possible to keep its antinuclear crusade fresh in the public mind. This is the first “negative” newsworthy incident in 2015, and the Press is treating it as equally important as the events of March, 2011.)

  • Fukushima fishermen add to the cacophony of anti-Tepco criticism, and the Press has exploited it to the fullest. Japan Times reports that Masakazu Yabuki, chief of the Iwaki fisheries cooperative, said, “I don’t understand why (Tepco) kept silent even though they knew about it. Fishery operators are absolutely shocked.” Jiji Press adds that Soma-Futaba fisheries head says, “[Tepco] concealed the leaks into the ocean” and “Our relationship of trust has collapsed”. NHK World reports, “Fishermen are accusing the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant of betraying their trust.” NewsAsia spins the story to make it seem PM Shinzo Abe’s mislead the International Olympic Committee when he said Fukushima Daiichi is “under control”. Perhaps the most heavily “spun” report is to be found in the Asahi Shimbun. The Asahi says all negotiations with the fisheries “concerning TEPCO’s overall strategy for decommissioning” will be “put on hold” because one Fishery official said it. In a most egregious “twist” of the facts, the Asahi makes it seem that Tepco’s alleged cover-up began last August and has continued since. In addition, the Asahi takes a pot-shot at Tokyo by saying, “Central government officials did not appear as concerned as the Fukushima officials or the fishermen.”

Meanwhile, other important events have occurred in Japan…

  • Area radiation levels in Kawamata have been cut in half. The entire Kawamata community is outside the Fukushima evacuation zone, but decontamination efforts have been on-going for more than three years. The Yamakiya District has dropped 49% with the 350 homes designated for decontamination. The effort will now focus on farmland and roads. An official with Fukushima Office for Environmental Restoration said, "Once we proceed with decontamination of the farmland and other areas, it is possible that the air radiation dose in residences may fall further."

  • Tepco may stop requiring full face-masks for some F. Daiichi decommissioning work. Beginning in May, Tepco wants permission to have workers wear half-masks or dust masks. If given permission, the relaxed requirement will apply to about 90% of the station. Full face-masks will still be required for work with the units #1 through #4 buildings. This will necessarily reduce the physical burden on workers in the all other areas. The Fukushima government committee monitoring decommissioning safety wanted Tepco to expand areas in which workers do not need to wear full-face masks to reduce the chance of injury and accidents, as well as speeding up work.

  • The antinuclear base-camp in Tokyo is ordered to be taken down. Back in September of 2011, tents were erected on the Environment Ministry’s property to act as a home-base for weekly antinuclear protests in Tokyo. Even though the weekly protests have had so little attendance that the Press has stopped covering them, the antinuclear activist leaders have kept three tents on the premises, using them for live internet feeds over the past year. Tokyo’s District Court says they have been there way too long, ordered them to remove their tents, and two lead organizers were assessed about $92,000 for property use since the summer of 2013. The useage fee will increase at about $200 per day until the tents are gone.

  • Fukushima InFORM says no accident Plutonium has been found in the Pacific Ocean seabed. Two recently-published papers prove it. The reports say that estimates of Plutonium releases from Fukushima were up to 5 million times lower than from Chernobyl and that’s the reason why no Plutonium is discernible from the remains of post-WWII weapon tests. Project leader Dr. Jay Cullen and the InFORM staff conclude, “Given the absence of both isotope ratio [Pu-239 vs. Pu-240] and activity anomalies thus far in the western Pacific traceable to the Fukushima meltdowns, it is unlikely that any impact on organisms or the North Pacific ecosystem should be expected.”

  • Former Prime Minister and vocal nuclear critic Naoto Kan wants atomic energy abolished. Kan made a speech in Paris, France, relating his personal nightmares during the Fukushima accident. At one point he feared he would have to evacuate 40% of Japan’s population. As a result of his nigh-apocalyptic vision, he believes all nukes in the world should be eliminated. He calls for the 21st Century to be “the age of solar energy”.

  • As expected, Fukushima’s governor has approved the movement of rural radioactive wastes. Governor Masao Uchibori met with the mayors of Futaba and Okuma on Tuesday after receiving the central government's response to 5 conditions they set for transporting the material. Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said that allowing the transportation of radioactive waste to an intermediate storage facility in his town was a difficult but necessary decision. Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa says that two of his pre-conditions have yet to be fully met, but he would likely agree if they are accepted by Tokyo. Izawa’s agreement was issued this morning.

  • Die-hard antinukes in Tokyo refuse to believe the worst of the nuke accident has passed. Undaunted, some groups continue to monitor radioactivity levels. One group, Albireo, works out of a western Tokyo suburb. One member, Rumiko Hashiba, has become increasingly concerned about the steady drop in news media coverage of radiation levels and decreased interest by the public. She continues to take her own radiation readings, even though there seems to be nothing detectible. Hashiba says, "We don't know anything until we actually take measurements," which strongly suggests she distrusts the Tokyo government. Dwindling interest has made it difficult for the operators to cover expenses for rent and the cost of promotional material for meetings. Albireo says public requests have dropped from about ten per month down to one or two. Doctor Makoto Yamada, who started Albireo says, no one knows what will happen over the next 20-30 years, so citizen groups must keep memories of the nuke accident from fading.  Other citizen-monitoring groups claim they have similar problems.

February 23, 2015

  • A drainage ditch radiation monitor alarmed on Sunday morning. Beta-emitters suddenly jumped from about 200 Becquerels per liter to more than 7,000 Bq/l. The alarm set-point is 1,500 Bq/l, and the “high-high” set-point is 3,000 Bq/l. All water transfer operations were immediately ceased and the gate downstream of the monitor was shut. The ditch outlet is inside the Fukushima Daiichi port. Tepco says it is possible that some of the contamination may have leaked into the port area before the gate was closed, but the “latest radioactive data has shown no significant changes inside the port as well as upstream of the drainage”. The outlet of the port area shows no detectible activity of any kind, thus there is no evidence of leakage into the open sea. No storage tank water levels have dropped and none of the coffer-dams surrounding the tank clusters have indications of leakage. Tepco says typical rainwater run-off can show Beta activity at about 1,000 Bq/l. Tepco continues to investigate. Tepco has also provided a graphic depiction showing the locations of the drainage ditch, alarming liquid monitor, and the closed gate. Please note that the ditch’s outlet was changed from outside to inside the inner port area in November, 2014.  It should be noted that some of the typically antinuclear Japanese news outlets posted misleading headlines. Two examples are… (1) Mainichi Shimbun – “Toxic water at Fukushima plant leaked into bay”. From the Tepco data, there seems to be no contamination actually reaching the F. Daiichi inner port. In addition, the Mainichi is making typically cavalier use of the term “toxic”. (2) Japan Times - “Strontium-90 levels spike alarmingly at Fukushima No. 1 plant”. Strontium is a Beta-emitter, but is only one of more than 60 Beta-emitters in the contaminated waters. Japan Times’ headline makes it seem that Strontium is the only Beta emitter detected, which is false.

  • Fish recently caught outside the F. Daiichi port’s break-wall are below radiation limits. Japan’s national standard for fish consumption is 100 Bq/kg. Of the ten types of fish caught, only three contained detectible Cesium-134 radioactivity, and five registered Cs-137 activity. The highest total Cesium activity was with a species of flounder at 70 Bq/kg (Microstomus Achne). Five species were taken from inside the break wall with only one registering below the national standard; a flatfish containing about 55 Bq/kg total Cesium activity. One important point needs to be made; at least two fish of one species was caught both inside and outside the break wall (Marbled Sole). The Cesium concentrations are significantly different. Inside the wall, the Sole’s total Cesium activity was 1080 Bq/kg, but outside the wall the Sole registered but 29 Bq/kg. --

  • The movement of rural radioactive wastes should begin on schedule. Tokyo has been working on preparing a temporary facility in Futaba to store the materials, but they needed Prefectural acceptance before transporting the first loads by March 11th. Jiji Press reports that the Fukushima government has accepted the proposal because Tokyo has included consideration for requests made by affected municipalities. It is expected that the formal announcement will be made Tuesday. According to sources, Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori may formally approve it at a meeting with Environment Minister Yoshio Mochizuki later this week. The government has been discussing the process with local officials in the host communities of Okuma and Futaba. -- --

  • MIT’s Richard Lester tells Japan that nuclear energy is needed to lower carbon emissions. At a Press conference in Tokyo, Dr. Lester said Japan is emitting much more atmospheric carbon than it was four years ago. He added, “There is, in my judgment, almost no likelihood that Japan will be able to achieve the kinds of reductions in carbon emissions that the world will look to.” Dr. Lester stressed that the debate between nuclear and renewables misses the point, “I think the central point that needs to be made here is that Japan and the U.S. and other societies will need much more of both, much more nuclear, much more renewables.” Dr. Lester was visiting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuke station on Friday and met with the Press at that time.

February 19, 2015

  • The IAEA urges Tepco to release treated F. Daiichi wastewater. After a nine day visit to the site, an IAEA inspection team advised the discharge the huge volume of water containing only the radioactive isotope Tritium. During the exit interview, team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo cited the continuing buildup of contaminated water one of the two challenges to be focused on (the other is dealing with the wastes generated during station decommissioning). Merely storing the fully-treated waters will eventually lead to running out of space for more tanks. Lentijo asked Tepco and Tokyo to seriously consider releasing the Tritiated waters to the sea. “Controlled discharges are a normal practice in the industry. Most of the nuclear power plants are discharging treated water,” he said in Tokyo, “This is accomplished with negligible impact on the environment and the safety of the people.” The team’s full report is expected by the end of March. --

  • IAEA praises the progress made at F. Daiichi. Team leader Lentijo said, "Japan has made significant progress since our previous mission. The situation on the site has improved - progressive clean-up has led to reduced radiation dose levels in many parts of the site." Naohiro Masuda, TEPCO's Chief Decommissioning Officer, said: "The IAEA peer review has acknowledged our progress at Fukushima Daiichi, such as in the management of radioactive waste and contaminated water, removal of spent fuel assemblies and reduction of dosage on the site and in the vicinity.  The IAEA has also given us valuable points for improvement and we look forward to their continued advice." The IAEA’s preliminary report said Tepco and Tokyo’s combined efforts have resulted in removal of used fuel from unit #4, improved waste water cleanup systems, slowed the influx of groundwater into the basements, and reduced radiation exposure to workers. With respect to transparency, the report urges Tepco and Tokyo to "help lay audiences understand the relevance of the information by basing it on the health and safety aspects of both the workforce and the public, as well as protection of the environment."

  • Fukushima’s birth defect rate is no different from the rest of Japan. The Prefectural government ran a survey on the rate of birth defects from 2011 to 2013. They found Fukushima’s rates were consistently in the 2-3% range, which is below the national average of 3-5%. In addition, there seemed to be no correlation between occurrence and location within the prefecture. Keiya Fujimori, professor at Fukushima Medical University, said, “The rates of occurrence (in Fukushima) do not differ from the commonly accepted figures so it is unlikely that there was any impact from radiation.” Kenichi Hata, head of the Fukushima Prefecture Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said: “It is important to publicize the survey findings nationwide.”

  • Fukushima Prefecture fights radiophobia with discount travel coupons. In April, the prefectural government will begin issuing a 50% discount for visitor’s overnight accommodation. The Prefecture’s typical $100 coupon will be sold for $50. One coupon per person will be allowed per night. The coupons will be issued three times during fiscal 2015, which begins in April. The coupons can also be used by Fukushima residents making overnight trips within the prefecture. Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori says this should help the prefecture's recovery. It is hoped this will combat harmful rumors about Fukushima radiation and help recover the pre-accident tourism trade. Fukushima tourists numbered more than 57 million in 2010, but dropped about 40% to 35 million in 2011. It recovered to 48 million in 2013, but that was still 15% below the 2010 figures.

  • The total number of Fukushima refugees continues to drop. It is below 120,000 for the first time since March, 2011. The total includes both those forced to leave by government mandate, and those outside the mandated zones who fled out of fear. Voluntary evacuees from outside the exclusion zone are less than 50,000. Fukushima’s government says about 73,000 of the total remain in the prefecture, and nearly 46,000 live elsewhere. While only a few thousand have been allowed to return home within the no-go zone, it appears that tens of thousands of voluntary evacuees have gone home since June of 2012. Officials believe this is due to decontamination efforts and an overall reduction in radiation levels have spurred the return. In addition, economics may have also contributed. About 70,000 of the total are from the dictated “no-go” locations and receive continual monthly compensation checks. On the other hand, voluntary evacuees received compensation for about a year after the nuke accident, but that ended more than 2 years ago.

  • Canada’s citizen-scientist group says no Fukushima isotopes have reached the Pacific shore. The Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring Network (InFORM) reports that as of November of 2014, no Cesium-134 had been detected along the length of the British Columbia coastline. Cs-134 is the “unambiguous fingerprint” of the radioactive material released by Fukushima Daiichi in 2011. InFORM concludes “The absence of detectable 134-Cs indicates that waters near these locations spanning the length of British Columbia have not been contaminated with Fukushima radioactive elements transported across the Pacific by prevailing currents as of Nov. 2014.” InFORM is a collaborative effort between qualified radiological and environmental scientists, and public volunteers. The citizens gather the oceanic samples and send them to Dr. Jay Cullen at Victoria University, where the liquids are scanned by a sensitive germanium detector. Radioactive isotopes can be detected to below 1 Becquerel per ton of seawater.

  • Japan’s Industry Ministry has drafted a revision in basic policy for disposal of highly radioactive wastes. Tokyo intended to inter the wastes in geological formations at least 300 meters below the surface, and leave it there. The new policy will be to bury in a fashion that will allow recovery in the future. The policy draft states, “In principle, we grant reversibility regarding policies on final disposal…so future generations can choose the best way to dispose.” Allowing recovery will facilitate currently unforeseeable technical issues and possible policy changes in the future. The main concern is used nuclear fuel bundles from nuclear power plants. Japan has reprocessed spent fuel, up to this point, stripping the fission products that inhibit continued usage. The recovered Uranium and Plutonium, about 95% of the used fuel, is recycled into new fuel bundles. However, the time frame needed to handle all of the spent fuel now stored at Japanese nukes is a problem, so Tokyo is considering deep disposal without reprocessing as a parallel option. A thirty day public comment period must be endured before the policy can be forwarded to the Prime Minister’s Cabinet for endorsement. --

February 16, 2015

  • The restart approval of Takahama units 3&4 has other prefectures concerned. At issue is emergency planning within the 30 kilometer radius. Takahama is located in Fukui Prefecture, but the 30km radius touches into Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures. Prior policy with restarts has been to gain consent from host municipalities and the respective prefectural governing body. This policy excludes both Shiga and Kyoto from the consent process, and they don’t like it. Kyoto governor Keiji Yamada wants station owner Kansai Electric. Co. to provide a “thorough explanation” about the reactors, as per a prior agreement concerning restarts. However, the previous accord was specific to restarts for new projects in the region and during nuclear accidents elsewhere in Japan. However, the pact has no “right to consent” stipulations. Kyoto maintains that part of Maizuru City is but 5 kilometers from Takahama, and this should give the municipality the same consent rights as the host community. Meanwhile, Takahama town mayor Yutaka Nose said, "I take very seriously the fact that the safety (of the reactors) has been confirmed." Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa has added that "the responsibility for providing explanations to residents lies with the national government and the power company." Maizuru City official Yoshio Tani says, "I want the utility to restart the reactors after technology to eliminate radiation is developed." --

  • Fukushima exclusion zone rice passes radiation tests. It is a “test crop” from a district in Namie. The entire municipality lies within the government-mandated exclusion zone. Under the national Food Sanitation Law, no rice with 100 Bq/kg, or more, can be marketed. The entire test crop was found to have 5 Bq/kg or less. Instead of being distributed via traditional sales channels, the rice cultivated on 1.2 hectares of farmland in Sakata District was distributed to events promoting the safety of Fukushima rice.

  • The bus line through the exclusion area (no-go zone) is popular. The East Japan Railway Company route runs between Minamisoma and Nahara as an alternative to the railway line destroyed by the 2011 quake/tsunami. The service began January 31 with about 30 people initially taking advantage of it. Tomoko Takahashi, an office worker from Minamisoma, rode the bus that day to meet her three children, who were evacuated to the prefecture’s western city of Minamiaizu. She said, “I am happy I have more than one option.” 84 year-old Rei Nakagawa took the bus to greatly shorten his trip to Soma, where he teaches Koto (Japanese Zither). He says, “The new service helps me for sure, but I think it will also help the recovery of the region significantly.” There are about 700 residents of Minamisoma who evacuated to Iwake City, which is south of the exclusion zone. Minamisoma Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai says this provides the evacuees with a convenient way to make visits to their homes.

  • Japan has a new technology for environmental radiation monitoring. The National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) has co-developed a device to detect Gamma activity that is more sensitive than those now in use, produces results in a relatively short time, and can be mounted on a variety of remote-controlled vehicles including ground robots, balloons, and unmanned drone helicopters. The system is intended to allow detailed exposure maps of areas deemed too radioactive for people to enter, thus facilitating decontamination planning. Devices now in use must remain essentially stationary for a minute or more at each location before readings are fully processed. The new technology reduces the time it must remain stationary in a location before moving on to the next. This allows speedier pre-decontamination monitoring. The system will be marketed by co-developer Clear-Pulse Inc.

February 12, 2015

  • The filling of contaminated equipment tunnels is further delayed. The project will be set back at least two weeks. Tepco says the timetable revision is because of two problems. First, all decommissioning and recovery labor activity was stopped due to the two recent fatal construction accidents. Resumption of work projects has been slow and cautious since the tragedies. The second reason is the pouring of cement into the tunnels flooded with contaminated water has not stopped the outflow from the turbine building basements. Tepco has asked the Nuclear Regulation Authority for permission to fill the junctions between unblocked equipment tunnels connected to the buildings. The NRA seems amenable to the plan. Tepco also said they will continue to look for what else can be done to stop the outflow. It is not clear how this setback might impact the building of the 1.5 kilometer-long ice wall to surround the structures.

  • Many exclusion area homes will be torn down. About 1,080 residences in three municipalities will be affected. Nahara Town will have the most at 870. Reasons for the demolitions include residents having permanently moved to new homes outside the no-go zone, rain and wind damage, and roaming animal intrusions. Local officials say another reason is decontamination inefficiency on the part of Tokyo. All homes must be decontaminated before being razed to prevent making contamination airborne. Tokyo will pay for the decontamination and demolitions. The Environment Ministry says the average cost of decontaminating a residence is about $8,300 and takes two weeks.

  • It’s official… Takahama units 3&4 have passed the government’s safety review for restarts. The Nuclear Regulation Authority announced it will issue a screening certificate verifying that both units meet or exceed Japan’s new safety regulations. One major post-Fukushima upgrade has been increasing the maximum tsunami surge height and raising the tidal gate for the intake structures to 8.5 meters in height. Though happy with the NRA decision, station owner Kyushu Electric Co. says restarts will probably not happen before November. The NRA must approve other documents in the application including added construction work, specified design details, and safety programs for operation and emergency management. Then the NRA must make a detailed site inspection, and subsequently seek local approval for restart.

  • Meanwhile, a small number of antinuclear die-hards are protesting the NRA’s decision on Takahama. Some 30 people gathered outside the building where the NRA made the Takahama approval announcement. The protest’s leader said Takahama nukes are not fit to be restarted, including the NRA not assessing evacuation plans around the nuke station, local residents in Fukui Prefecture not having the details of the restart adequately explained, and the facility allegedly riddled with flaws that make it inherently unsafe… the same objections made with last year’s decision to allow the Sendai units to be restarted.

  • More info on Muon tomography at F. Daiichi. One question is why doesn’t Tepco just bore some holes in the containments and slip camera’s inside to see where the fuel is? One reason is the extremely high radiation levels prohibiting human habitation for enough time to make any progress. Another reason is that boring holes would make new leakage paths for contaminated material to exit the massive inner containment. However, Muon tomography minimizes necessary worker exposures and does not need to have the containment walls further compromised. The location of damaged fuel is needed to effectively plan for the removal of the material. Duncan W. McBranch of Los Alamos National Laboratory said the fuel removal tools “can be much better designed if you had a good idea of what’s inside,” but “nobody wants to go in to find out.”  The technology was created by the Decision Sciences Corporation in conjunction with Los Alamos. The technology is formally called “Multi-Mode Passive Detection System” (MMPDS) and is currently used for examining inside shipping containers to see if they contain nuclear threats. The detectors used by MMPDS were developed by Tokyo’s High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) and can see the position of nuclear fuel more than 30-50 centimeters in in diameter. KEK professor emeritus Fumihiko Takasaki said, “It will be very important simply to confirm the hypothesis that the fuel is no longer in the pressure vessel.” The machine being installed at F. Daiichi, supplied by the Kurion Corp., is a mobile version of MMPDS.   [Comment – I can’t wait for the results. I am one of the two nuclear writers – the other being Rod Adams of Atomic Insights - who say that (at most) very little molten fuel has escaped the unit #1 reactor vessel, and none made it out of the unit #2 RPV. In fact, I’m on record saying that unit #2’s core damage is only about as bad as with the Three Mile Island incident in 1979. We should find out about unit #1 in March, and unit #2 a few weeks later.]

February 9, 2015

  • Actual Fukushima child exposures are one-third of Tokyo estimates. A team at Minamisoma General Hospital, led by Dr. Masaharu Tsubokura, monitored 520 school children of all ages with dosimeters. The monitoring periods ranged between 18 and 30 months. The actual readings showed an average of 0.8 millisieverts per year, which is a third of the 2.4 mSv/yr estimated by the government. The estimates were derived from “mid-air” readings taken near the homes of the children, assuming they would spend 8 hours per day outdoors. As it turned out, 97% of the children were outside less than 4 hr/day on weekdays, and 85% less than 4 hr/day on weekends and holidays. Dr. Tsubokura believes this is the first detailed child survey comparing actual to estimated exposures. The findings have been published in London’s Imperial College School of Public Health journal.

  • A Tritium removal system has been adopted for use with Fukushima wastewaters. Kurion, Inc., has developed the new technology. A demonstration project for verification tests of the Tritium separation technology will be run by the Industry Ministry (METI). Most Tritium removal technologies were found to be prohibitively expensive, but Kurion’s Modular Detritiation System is less costly. The test project should be ready in April.

  • Muon tomography technology has been delivered to F. Daiichi unit #1. The portable system is ready for testing. The process is similar to X-ray imaging. Muons are a type of cosmic radiation that passes through most substances, but extremely dense materials deflect and block their passage. Uranium is one of the densest substances known, so Muon detection can be used to produce an image depicting where the main mass of melted uranium is located. About 10,000 muons per square meter reach the Earth's surface every minute. The process was originally developed to map magma inside volcanos. It has been modified to be used at F. Daiichi. Before units #1, 2 & 3 can be fully decommissioned, all damaged fuel must be removed. Muon tomography should show where the melted fuel has accumulated inside the three reactor buildings and greatly assist in planning. Decommissioning Officer Naohiro Masuda said, "This is a great example of how the innovation and cooperation from external experts is helping us overcome challenges and make progress toward decommissioning. I hope that this will give us an opportunity to contribute to technological advancement and to share such progress with the rest of the world." Delivery of a second system for unit #1 usage will be later this week.  For images of the delivery and external installation of the equipment, see…

  • A “crawler” robot has been developed to examine inside the Primary Containments at F. Daiichi. The robot was built by Hitachi-GE and can change shapes from rectangular to cylindrical in order to fit through tight spaces and inside piping. In rectangular form, the robot is 20x30x10 centimeters, but can fold into a rod-like form less than 10 centimeters in diameter. It is self-propelled and carries a camera, radiation monitor and thermometer. Radiation levels inside the PCVs are too high for human inspection, so it is hoped this robot will provide inspections sufficient to find out whether or not melted fuel (corium) flowed outside the reactor pressure vessel (RPV). Hitachi-GE engineer Yoshitomo Takahashi said, “Depending on how much data we can collect from this area, I believe (the probe) will give us a clearer vision for future decommissioning.” The robot was unveiled Friday at Hitachi-GE, Tokyo, and is planned for on-site use with unit #1 in April or May. -- --

  • The IAEA begins its latest inspection of Fukushima Daiichi. The International Atomic Energy Agency has sent a 15-member team to Japan as a follow-up to the agency’s 2013 examination. The general focus will be the status of the station’s decommissioning process, with special emphasis on wastewater buildup and treatment. Team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo said dealing with contaminated water at F. Daiichi remains "one of the most challenging short-term issues".

  • It seems the restart assessment for Takahama units 3&4 will be formally approved. The draft of the approval was released in December, but a 30-day period for public comment had to be granted and the submittals reviewed before a final announcement could be rendered. The NRA has pored over some 3,600 public comments since mid-January. The final approval document could be ready by Thursday. Station owner Kansai Electric says they do not believe actually start up one of the units before November. The utility must submit additional design paperwork to the NRA for approval, and local consent must be garnered. The NRA added that if units 1&2 at Takahama are ever considered for restart, Kansai Electric will have to undergo a unit 3&4 reassessment because the new emergency command center is too close to units 1&2.

  • The anticipated restart of the two Sendai units has caused political reaction. When asked about restarts, Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori said, “We urge the government to take into full consideration the tremendous suffering from the nuclear power plant accident and make sure that future policy ensures the safety and peace of mind of all citizens.” Sources say that the June restarts will be formally announced by Prime Minister Abe, who wants the nation’s massive trade deficit caused by the nuke moratorium to be eased.  

  • Japan has lifted all restrictions on fish caught off northern Ibaraki Prefecture. The prefecture was placed under a ban for all seafood in April, 2011. The restrictions have been peeled back slowly over the past two years. The final ban specific to flounder, has been lifted. No other restrictions remain. Ibaraki is immediately south of Fukushima Prefecture. 57 flounder tests were performed since last year; 38 showed no detectible Cesium and the other 20 were less than one-seventh of the national limit. The local fisheries will continue radiation monitoring in the hope of dispelling rumors in the marketplace.

February 5, 2015

  • Tepco identifies and resolves labor safety issues. Last month, two contractor employees lost their lives in separate mishaps at Fukushima Daiichi and F. Daini. As a result, all labor projects were stopped at the two nuke stations, as well as Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. Work resumed at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa January 26 and F. Daini on the 28th. Labor restarted at F. Daiichi on Tuesday. Tepco Chairman addressed the issue saying, "While industrial accidents may be difficult to entirely eradicate, the loss of life is completely unacceptable." Tepco searched for possible causes of the tragedy and posted their findings along with the safety improvements made throughout the company’s nuclear group. Issues include pressure on workers to comply with a planned schedule, inadequate accident prevention activity, restricted inspection measures, lack of a clear chain of command, poor communication of labor safety problems encountered in the past, and, Tepco supervisors spending too much time away from the work areas and not fully aware of procedures specific to the job tasks. Tepco has implemented a three-pronged program to minimize these issues in the future and improve overall safety conditions for contractor employees. --

  • Work has begun on the temporary rural waste storage facility. The activity is taking place at two locations, one each in Okuma and Futaba Towns adjacent to F. Daiichi. Both are within one kilometer of the nuke station. The two storage sites will cover about 20,000 square meters in two industrial parks. The land is part of 60,000 m2 that has been acquired from companies that owned the properties. One official from a company in Okuma said, "We doubt products we make here will sell anyway, even if we can someday resume operations. We are afraid that (radiation-related) fears about products and produce from this area will linger." The plan is to have these locations ready to receive low-level radioactive material by the middle of March. The wastes are currently being held at thousands of places in Fukushima Prefecture. The two new facilities will only be able to hold a small fraction of the accumulated trash and soil. The remaining area of the proposed 16 km2 site remains in limbo because negotiations with landowners have been very slow. One senior Environmental Ministry official said “It will takes a very long time.” Minister Yoshio Mochiduki asked Fukushima residents to put up with leaving wastes at their current sites for an extended period. -- --

  • Hotspot landowners in Minamisoma will be getting more money. Hotspots are localized areas outside the exclusion zone where high radiation levels existed. Ten homes in Minamisoma were found to be hotspots and the residents were asked to leave. The evacuees filed for more than $4 million in property damages, and Tepco has agreed to pay it. It was not all of the money the residents asked for, but attorneys call it a large portion. One of the filing families voluntarily evacuated from a location outside the hotspot, and Tepco says they will not be included in the pay-out. In a show of solidarity, the other hotspot evacuees say they will not accept any of the money until the outlier family is included in the compensation.

  • The Sendai station restart date is delayed again. Plant owner, Kyushu Electric Company, needs approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority on final detail design documents being prepared by the company. They hoped to submit in December, but Kyushu now says it will take until the end of February for additional data and explanations the NRA wants with respect to unit #1. In addition, further design information concerning facilities shared between units #1&2 will not be ready until the end of March. The time needed for the NRA to review the added submittals and make final on-site inspections will move the prospective restart back until May, at the earliest, and might not happen until the summer.


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