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Fukushima 87... 6/22/15-7/16/15

July 16, 2015

  • Removal of the unit #1 enclosure roof at F. Daiichi will begin later this month. Tepco needs to dismantle the enclosure in order to collect and discard rubble caused by the hydrogen explosion of March 12, 2011. The next step will be removal of the used fuel bundles in the spent fuel storage pool. The enclosure was built in late 2011 to stop the continual outflow of detectible radioactive particles into the atmosphere. Tepco wanted to begin dismantling the enclosure last year, but public fears about the possible dispersal of radioactive dust during rubble removal caused the company to postpone the plans. Tepco staff will first remove one of the six roof panels, then thoroughly spray chemical agents inside unit #1 to keep dust from going airborne. The process of taking off all six roof panels, with dust suppression following each removal, is expected to last about four months.

  • The IAEA has finished its inspection of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuke station in Niigata Prefecture. The Tepco-owned K-K plant has seven units, the combined output of which is the largest in the world. The International Atomic Energy Agency completed a detailed 14-day inspection of plant safety and emergency response program. The team noted good progress with strengthening protection against worst-case natural disasters and upgrades to insure against a full-station power blackout like the one that caused the accident at Fukushima Daiichi. Team leader peter Tarren said, "We've had excellent cooperation from the TEPCO staff and the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa persons in particular. We would like to take both of those aspects (improvements and good practices) back to the rest of the nuclear industry as learning opportunities." He added, "We've seen very strong commitment to both the nuclear safety and the continuing improvements, not just from the people at the power station but also from the corporate organization right from the top.” Major upgrades that were noted include “comprehensive and robust measures against severe accidents”, frequent emergency preparedness drills, and minimization of fire risks. Proposals for further improvement include creating systems to better exchange lessons-learned with the rest of the industry, improving management guidance with spent fuel pool safety, and full integration of on-site emergency plans to make them easier to implement. -- --

  • Decontamination of the Fukushima “J-Village” has begun. The J-Village is a soccer facility 20km south of Fukushima Daiichi that has been leased by Tepco as the main location for recovery operations and housing of workers at F. Daiichi. Tepco plans on finishing clean-up in 2018. Tokyo would like to use the twelve soccer fields as a training site for the men’s and women’s teams to compete in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It is believed that many the fields will be fully decontaminated and open for use by the summer of 2018. Tokyo would like to relocate the soccer operation’s base to the J-Village in March, 2017. Fukushima Prefecture plans to fully open the facility in April, 2019. --

  • Tokyo approves restart safety for Ikata unit #3 in Ehime Prefecture. On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulation Authority unanimously agreed that the unit’s safety measures satisfy the post-Fukushima standards. Ikata is the third nuke station to reach this point since the NRA went into full operation more than two years ago. A draft approval was issued in May, but a final decision had to await a 30-day public comment period. There were 3,464 comments submitted. All comments were considered before the final judgment was rendered. Allegations of safety inadequacy, such as underestimation of quakes and tsunamis, were dismissed as unfounded. The next steps include on-going construction for upgrading facilities and equipment, enhancing programs for dealing with severe accidents, and consent from local communities. Shikoku Electric plans to make house-to-house visits within a 20km radius to explain the high degree of safety. The local antinuke leader, Tsukasa Wada, believes the unit should not be restarted because “the size of a possible quake was underestimated”, “the problem of spent fuel from the reactor can’t be solved,” and evacuation plans for the 30km radius are inadequate. Shikoku Electric hopes to clear all remaining regulatory hurdles in order to restart by the end of this year. -- -- --

  • Tokyo warns against increased dependence on fossil fuel for electricity generation. In the annual fiscal report on energy for 2014 was adopted by the Prime Minister’s Cabinet. It said rising electrical costs due to the nuclear moratorium have been a huge burden to households and industry. The average cost to the consumer has risen 25% and to commercial customers by 40% compared to 2010, the year before the nuclear moratorium began being phased in. The report says liberalization of retail electricity will begin in April, 2016, and city gas as early as 2017. It also mentioned the prospect of using shale gas imports from the United States as a possible cost-saving measure. 

July 13, 2015

  • Sendai unit #1 Fuel loading was completed just after midnight on Friday. Now, pre-operational testing has begun. The plant’s staff will also run a four-day long accident-response drill and inspect emergency facilities, all under the scrutiny of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority. Kyushu Electric Co., the station owner, said it will continue to sincerely cooperate with the NRA and put safety first throughout the process. Kyushu Elec. Was the first to file for restart consideration after the new safety regulations were handed down in July, 2013. It was also reported that Sendai #1 may restart as early as August 10th. -- --

  • Four utilities are actively pursuing Boiling Water Reactor restarts. The safety requirements for BWRs are more complicated than with Pressurized Water Reactor systems, largely because Fukushima Daiichi is a BWR station. The main issues are with depressurization (venting) systems and prevention of releases of airborne contamination during a nuclear accident. The large, domed containments at PWRs are far more forgiving than the BWR-type used across Japan. The NRA will select which BWR unit(s) will be given priority for restart reviews, just as the two Sendai units were given primacy with PWRs. Five BWRs have jointly had their applications for restart examined by Tokyo’s watchdog; Onagawa unit #2 (Tohoku Elec.), Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units#6&7 (Tepco), Hamaoka unit 4 (Chubu Elec.), and Shimane unit 2 (Chugoku Elec.). One of the current review hold-ups is whether or not each plant’s seismic design meets the new regulations. The NRA says the first plant to be examined will be the one whose staff best responds to severe accident issues concerning protection of containment integrity.

  • Tepco has posted the current status of filling the unit #2 equipment tunnels shafts with concrete. Of the four vertical shafts, it appears that three are completed and one (shaft “B”) is still in process. All contaminated water was removed from the tunnels by June 30th. The linked Press handout has pictures of the concrete supply vehicle used for the filling of the shafts. Though not close-ups, it appears that none of the workers are required to wear full face-masks and anti-contamination suits.

July 9, 2015

  • Fuel load inside Sendai unit #1 began on Tuesday, while more than 100 protesters rallied outside. There will be roughly 40 fuel bundles installed in the reactor vessel every day. It should take about four days to load all 157 bundles. The process requires one bundle at a time to be taken from its storage position in the fuel pool, sent through the water-filled fuel transfer canal, gripped by the reactor building’s polar crane, and precisely placed in its proper location inside the reactor vessel. Trained staff will be working in shifts so that the fuel installation occurs around the clock. After installation is complete, the large reactor head will be returned to the top of the vessel by the polar crane and securely bolted in-place, the control rod drive mechanisms remotely attached to the control rods already in the core, and pre-operational tests run, including emergency core cooling system function. When everything checks out, the Nuclear Regulation Authority will be asked to allow start-up. The pre-operational phase will last about two months.

  • Meanwhile, protests occurred at Sendai station and in Tokyo. At Sendai, signs said "Loading of nuclear fuel is a step toward accidents" and protesters shouted "We will never condone reactivation!" Many were local activists, but some were from other parts of Japan. Long-time local activist Ryoko Torihara said the NRA, station owner Kyushu Electric, and local officials have rushed the startup. She claims a thorough analysis of volcanic risks has not made. She said, “It’s quite strange the NRA did not have any volcanic experts on its committee when it accepted the word of Kyushu Electric that the possibility of a gigantic volcanic eruption, called a caldera eruption, was extremely small.” Torihara also feels adequate evacuation planning for the public has yet to be completed. She further claimed that no nukes should be operated for the sake of future generations. Another local, Kiyaoki Kawabata, said, "Even though residents have been seeking an explanation, they ignored us. We cannot forgive them for that." Hiroshi Sugihara of Kagoshima University said all nukes should be abandoned. In Tokyo, some 200 people rallied outside the Kyushu Electric Co. branch office. Organized by the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes, they carried banners saying "Don't put in nuclear fuel!" and "Don't press the start button." -- -- --

  • Nahara residents take umbrage with an Industry Minister’s comment about public concerns over residual contamination. Vice-Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yosuke Takagi visited the town on Monday and was questioned about the safety of tap water. He responded that there is no detectible radioactive Cesium in the water, and then added, "People differ in how they think about radiation. I think whether you think [the water source is] safe or not is a psychological issue." One resident said, "That comment makes me lose my desire to go back. Does he intend to say it's people's own fault [that they feel unsafe]?" One evacuee now living in Tokyo, Noboru Endo, said, "We are reminded once again that the government can't be trusted." Endo alleges that he wants to go home, but "Even if the government tells us our tap water is safe, how can we relax? If my generation, who have children, do not return, my hometown will not recover. That's why I want to return, and I want the government to do everything it can to prepare a safe living environment there." The angry residents point to Cesium levels as high as 18,700 Becquerels per kilogram that have been found in the mud at the bottom of the Kido Dam reservoir, a major source of Nahara’s tap water.

  • Tokyo politicians propose reconsideration of the 40-year lifetime rule for nukes. Law requires that the NRA’s organization be reviewed three years after the agency was in full operation, which would be September, 2016. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has begun exploration into possible changes to be addressed at that time. A caucus of LDP Diet members concluded that a blanket 40-year operating limit for nukes should be reviewed, and perhaps replaced with limits based on a case-by-case basis. Also, the proposal calls for reconsideration of earthquake fault rulings. Just because a fault runs under a nuke station does not mean it could not safely survive a worst-case temblor. Thus, a special research committee of experts would be better than the current process of the single earthquake expert on the commission making seismic decisions. Finally, the proposal says it might be better to have the NRA made an adjunct of the Prime Minister’s cabinet, rather than an external bureau of the Environment Ministry.

  • The NRA chairman says slow, careful nuclear restart screenings will continue. Chair Shunichi Tanaka made the statement on Wednesday, marking the second anniversary of Japan’s new, stricter safety standards. Screenings are taking place for 25 units across Japan, and only the two units at Sendai station are on the brink of restarting. Tanaka admitted the screenings are generally a time-consuming process, and 10 of the units will probably take more time than the other 15. He explained that seismic evaluations, especially with boiling water reactor systems, are the main reason for the longer time frames. Tanaka added, “The new safety standards have set considerably high standards, so I believe utilities are having to take some time to satisfy those requirements.” When asked about the possibility of extending plant operating licenses beyond 40 years, he said he does not have enough knowledge to say whether or not 40 years is scientifically valid and if a change to that rule is required. --

  • Tepco says it will deploy water cannons for emergency use at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station. The devices will be used to limit release of radioactive materials into the atmosphere which might otherwise drift off the plant’s property. Five cannons, each with a 1,200 ton per hour capacity, will be sent to the K-K station later this month. Tepco got the idea from the rain-out of atmospheric contaminants at Fukushima Daiichi on March 15, 2011, due to rainfall. The water cannons would spray around the unit(s) having an accident to limit off-site releases.

  • Sputnik News says Russia will build a new water treatment system to remove Tritium from already-treated F. Daiichi wastewaters. Atomproekt, a subsidiary of Rosatom, has sent initial design documents to the parent company for review. The paperwork addresses land resettlement, architectural solutions, process piping, ventilation and electrical systems. If approved, a demonstration treatment plant will be built.

July 6, 2015

  • The lifting of Nahara’s evacuation order is delayed three weeks. Nahara was one of the Fukushima communities entirely evacuated by government order in 2011. It was scheduled to be the first entire municipality to have its restrictions lifted in mid-August. It is now scheduled to occur on September 5th. However, town officials say many residents are not yet ready to return, and asked for Tokyo to delay the date when full repopulation will be allowed. Some citizens said they are concerned about the low levels of contamination that might remain, while others said they are not sure there is enough access to medical services and “other” needs. --

  • Sendai unit #1 is scheduled to begin fuel loading in Tuesday. It appears the unit will be the first to return to full, unrestricted operation since the Tokyo-mandated moratorium on nukes was invoked after the F. Daiichi accident. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has completed its pre-operational examinations and has given Kyushu Electric Company the green light to place fuel inside the reactor vessel. The fuel bundles will be moved individually from the adjacent fuel handling and storage building and into the reactor. In all, 157 fuel bundles will be installed over a four day period. The entire process is done under water. After all fuel is loaded, plant operators will test emergency coolant injection systems and operation of control rod drive mechanisms. A nuclear emergency drill will also take place before the unit start-up begins in mid-August. --

  • Fukushima Prefecture refuses to meet Tokyo on the high level nuclear waste issue. The Industry and Environment Ministry is holding briefings across Japan to explain plans for the disposal of highly radioactive wastes. The meetings have been held with 39 prefectures, but a significant minority of local officials refuse to attend for fear that constituents will take their presence as agreement to host the final repository. Fukushima Prefecture is now officially among the dissenters. Although the meetings only address the process of identifying appropriate candidate sites and waste handling options, Fukushima argues that they already have more than enough of a burden dealing with F. Daiichi decommissioning and temporary storage of rural decontamination materials.

  • A ministry-appointed panel criticizes making the high level waste briefings “closed door”. The panel called for full information disclosure, but their request has not been honored. They said that closed door meetings could have a negative impact on the issue with respect to the public. Considering that after 13 years of wide-spread public aversion to the siting of a high level waste repository, it is unknown how holding the briefings behind closed doors could make it any worse. The Industry Ministry said the closed door decision was made to allow local officials to speak freely. Press reports do not identify which ministry the panel reports to. Panel head Hiroya Masuda said Tokyo must convince local officials that attendance does not mean candidacy for their prefecture(s).

July 2, 2015

  • The radioactive water has been removed from the unit #2 equipment tunnels. The tunnels have been slowly filled with cement that sets up and hardens under water, and the displaced water has been t and stored. The removed liquids were run through the Multi-nuclide Removal Facility (ALPS) just like any other contaminated waters. Also, the unit #3 tunnel water removal project nears completion, with Tepco’s graphic depiction showing that three vertical shafts remain to be filled. The unit #2 tunnels had 4,160 tons of the contaminated water in them, and unit #3’s had 5,440 tons. Tepco estimates that about 10,000 tons has flowed through the tunnels since the accident. The Tepco graphic indicates that a much shorter tunnel system for unit #4, which held 690 tons, was completely filled by the end of April. At this point, 93% of all tunnel waters have been removed. -- --

  • A “scorpion” robot will examine inside the unit #2 primary containment vessel. It will be used to identify fallen objects and possible damage inside the PCV. The robot is about 21 inches long, 3.5 inches tall, and 3.5 inches wide. It weighs about 11 pounds. The name “scorpion” comes from the robot’s ability to raise its lights and cameras on an arm from the rear of the device. When the arm is fully extended, it resembles a scorpion. Unlike the previous snake-like robots used to study inside the unit #1 PCV, this “scorpion” is built to be self-righting, in case it tips over as it traverses the inner PCV. It is planned to make entry through a piping penetration before the end of August. Unfortunately, the Press inside and outside Japan make the false speculation that the robot is intended to find melted fuel “in the pressure vessel”. This will not be possible since such an inspection would have to be inside the thick concrete “pedestal” supporting the reactor itself. The “scorpion” will only inspect outside the pedestal. Is the Press setting up yet another “failure” agenda when the robot doesn’t see any melted fuel? Only time will tell. Here’s an example of such incorrect reporting from the New York Times…

  • British nuclear energy expert Malcolm Grimston says Fukushima’s evacuation was not justified. In an August 2014 report, Grimston said, “…the irrational prevention of people from returning to their homes in areas where there was hardly any contamination, turned it [the Fukushima accident] into a serious human tragedy.” He adds, “Ironically, one suspects that the irrational exclusion was adopted in an attempt to reassure people. In reality, there is a demonstrable, dangerous but almost invisible myth that one should 'err on the side of caution' in radiological protection. Any action that is not justified on health grounds - let's say any exclusion from an area which is safer than living in London or Tokyo with all their air pollution - will do more harm than good.” Grimston is Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Imperial College Centre for Energy Policy and Technology. His paper, “Fukushima: The Response was Worse than the event” was published in the Journal of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, Vol. 57. Here’s the summation Grimston wrote for World Nuclear News, August 26, 2014…

  • A Tohoku professor is studying slaughtered animals from the Fukushima evacuation zone. Manabu Fukumoto has been examining blood and other remains from domestic cows and pigs, plus wild animals hunted down inside the no-go zone. Over the past four years, he has checked 300 cows, 60 pigs, and 200 monkeys. He explains his reasoning, “Studying animals that lived in areas with high levels of radioactive material will help shed light on how radiation affects people… In fact, they provide us with a wealth of information,” Fukumoto said. He is convinced that “this is the quickest way to resolve questions regarding long-term radiation exposure.” It should be noted that the Press report suggests the reason why this type of research is happening is because “much remains unknown about the long-term health effects of the radioactive substances released.”

  • Rural radioactive waste will be removed from five Fukushima schools. The Environment Ministry says the materials produced by decontamination efforts at the schools will be moved to the new interim storage facility in July, when students will be off on summer holiday. Officials at the schools have been pressuring the removal of the packaged materials in order to ease student’s concerns. The five schools are elementary schools Kaoru, Asaka Daini, and Takakura in Koriyama, plus Yashirogawa in Tanagura and Yamashiraishi in Asakawa. The materials at the Koriyama schools are buried, and the two other schools have the wastes in bags stacked at various locations on their respective properties. All waste should be gone by the time schools reopen in late August.

  • Koori students plant grass seedlings to revive their decontaminated schoolyard. The Danzaki Elementary School schoolyard was turned into a lawn under the Fukushima Prefecture’s Utsukushima Green Project in June, 2010. But, when radiation levels increased after the nuclear accident, the upper layer of soil was removed. The stripped underlying soil has remained barren until now. Parents wanted it green again, and the Japan Football Association supplied the seedlings to make it happen. About 350 pupils, parents and guardians, local residents, teachers and others took part the planting. Koori is located just north of Fukushima City, more than 60 kilometers from F. Daiichi.

  • Tepco is ordered to compensate a suicide victim’s wife more than $200,000. Kiichi Isozaki of Namie committed suicide in July 2011. He and his wife fled to Koriyama on March 12, 2011, after the Prime Minister ordered an evacuation out to 10 kilometers from F. Daiichi. They stayed in a high school gymnasium, but later moved to another city when Kiichi said he was having trouble sleeping. He left his apartment on July 23, 2011, and was later found dead in an Iitate river. The suit filed by wife Eiko asked for more than $700,000 in damages. The Fukushima District court ruled that the suicide was not the only possible stressor leading to the suicide because he was a diabetic and had been forced to take early retirement before the accident. But the court ruled that the nuke evacuation caused loss of “foundation of his life”, and was 60% responsible for him taking his own life. This is the second suicide-related damages that have been awarded by the Fukushima court. Last August, they awarded $400,000 to the husband of a woman who burned herself to death. --

  • The IAEA is reviewing the safety of the world’s largest nuclear power station. The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility, Niigata Prefecture, is owned by Tepco. The company needs one or more of the units restarted to recoup at least part of their Fukushima accident losses caused. The International Atomic Energy Agency has sent in a 12 member team to assess the station’s safety level now that most of the upgrades mandated by the Nuclear Regulation Authority have been made. The initial inspections were of the new emergency vehicles, filtered venting technology for depressurization during a prolonged emergency, and the new 15-meter-high break-wall surrounding the station. The team’s report is expected in about three months. -- --

June 29, 2015

  • Two popular Fukushima beaches south of F. Daiichi show no detectible seawater contamination. Yotsukura beach is 35 miles away, and Nakoso beach is 40 miles. Both are inside the city limits of Iwaki. The beaches were closed following the March 2011 nuke accident. Nakoso was reopened in July of 2012, and Yatsukura on July, 2013. Tepco has been sampling the seawater monthly since both reopened, but did not regularly posting the analytical results until after the rainwater run-off issue surfaced earlier this year. Since then, there has been no detectible Cesium, gross Beta, or Tritium activity. The most recent data posting is here…

  • Host municipalities for nukes could lose revenue due to decommissioning. In many cases, host towns are small and deeply dependent on taxes paid by the utilities that own the units. Decommissioning would eventually end the tax income from nukes and pose a serious threat to the community’s financial viability. To mitigate the situation, the All Japan Council of Local Governments with Atomic Power Stations is trying to obtain commitments from the national government to create supportive measures, including a new system of grants/subsidies. One example of the possible impact of lost tax revenue is Genkai Town, Saga Prefecture. One of the five units at Genkai station is going to be decommissioned, effecting a loss of nearly $3.5 million. The Town wants to impose a spent (used) nuclear fuel tax on the utility to compensate for the lost income. However, Tokyo might balk at the idea. Some nuke utilities have already been hit with post-Fukushima taxes from host towns. Traditionally, taxes are paid when units are operating, but the nation-wide moratorium on nukes has changed the revenue structure in some cases. Towns have shifted their tax assessments to make the utilities pay, even when the units are not operating. But, even that approach will end when plants are decommissioned. In anticipation, Genkai Town has come up with the idea of the spent fuel tax.

  • 86% of Fukushima High School seniors want to find jobs within the prefecture. This is the highest rate since 1989. The rate dropped to 77% in 2012 and 77.6% in 2013. The sharp decrease was largely due to fear that the Fukushima accident would dry up the prefecture’s job market. However, this has not happened, so the percentage has climbed markedly over the past 2 years. It is assumed that this positive trend is due to HS students wanting to do whatever is needed to recover from the 2011 quake and tsunami that devastated the coastline. The most popular job category for male students was manufacturing at 37%, followed by technicians or professional engineers at 16%, and construction/mining at 9%. For female students, the most popular was the service industry at 27%, followed by clerical work at 20%, and sales/marketing at 18%.

  • Some low level radioactive waste (LLW) containers were found with broken lid bolts. On Saturday, the Nuclear Fuel Transport Company reported that five bolts on the lid of metal transport containers were damaged. It is the only company in Japan that transports LLW by sea. The Land, Transport, and Tourism Ministry ordered a halt to all transportation operations until safety can be confirmed. The firm reported that a broken bolt was discovered on an empty container at the Rokkasho storage facility, Aomori Prefecture, in February. It was not reported because it was judged a “peculiar case”. Another faulty bolt was found last Thursday, and further investigation uncovered the rest of the broken lid fasteners. None of the bolts were damaged due to the transportation of LLW. There has been no environmental impact. --  

June 25, 2015

  • There is no Fukushima Cesium in Steelhead trout or Sockeye salmon caught off British Columbia. InFORM (Integrated Fukushima Ocean Radionuclide Monitoring) reports,” None of the fish from 2014 were found to contain detectable levels of Cesium-134. What this means is that radioactivity from Fukushima cannot be detected in fish caught in BC waters as of August 2014… Samples (99 total) of sockeye salmon and steelhead returning BC streams and rivers were collected and analyzed and none were found to contain detectable levels of Fukushima derived radionuclides.” Cs-134 is the marker isotope that provides unmistakable evidence as to whether or not Fukushima radioactivity is present.We also measured naturally occurring radioisotopes Potassium-40 (40K) and Polonium-210 (210Po) that always contribute doses of radiation to human consumers of marine fish… Neither the exposure to artificial (weapon’s test residuals) or natural radionuclides represent a dangerous health risk to consumers in Canada.”

  • Tokyo eases restrictions on farming and businesses in Fukushima no-go zone. Agricultural activities will be resumed in residence-restricted zones in the hope of restarting full-fledged shipments. Until now, farming in areas with exposure estimates between 20 and 50 millisieverts per year has been banned “in principle” by the government. Farmers will be allowed shipments of rice, vegetables and other produce that clear limits set under the Food Sanitation Act. Fukushima Prefecture says there are over 3,000 hectares of farmland in residence-restricted areas. In addition, businesses deemed essential to resume and/or rebuild essential infrastructure may restart in locations where outdoor radiation levels are less than 3.8 microsieverts per hour. This would be approximately 20 mSv/yr if someone spent 24 hours per day outdors for 365 days. Further, businesses in zones with exposure estimates greater than 50 mSv/yr can reopen if they are deemed necessary to support infrastructure in locations where restriction are lifted. Details on the government decision will be shared with interested parties by local governments.

  • The new JAIF president says a Japanese nuclear renaissance is coming. Akio Takahashi (63), former senior official of Tepco, is the new president of Japan Atomic Industrial Forum. Former JAIF President Takuya Hattori (71) retired after nine years of leading the organization. In Takahashi’s statement following his ascension to JAIF presidency, he said, “I realize the issues lying before us: the swift restoration of Fukushima, the securing of nuclear safety, the regaining of public trust and the promotion of public understanding. I hope to reinforce the activities of JAIF as Japan’s nuclear industry moves toward a renaissance.”

  • Meanwhile, Japanese utility shareholders reject all antinuclear proposals. All nine utilities with nukes held their annual shareholder meetings. At the meetings, minority antinuclear stockholders filed tenders to keep idled nukes shut down permanently. In each case, the proposals were summarily rejected by the body of stakeholders. For example, the Tepco meeting drew more than 2,000 attendees, but antinuclear proposals came from only 15. Regardless, the complaints from the greatly-outnumbered antinuclear contingents were given foremost Press coverage. Former Futaba Mayor Katsuaka Igodawa continued his antinuclear crusade at the Tepco meeting, saying that abandoning nukes is “the only way for the company to survive”. He compared the lives of the Futaba evacuees to living in hell. Futaba is banned from habitation by government mandate. In another instance, a few Kyushu Electric Co. stockholders called for the firing of the company’s president because the company is going to restart two Sendai units later this summer. The motion was voted down. --

  • High level waste (HLW) NIMBY is spreading in Japan. Tokyo’s Agency for Natural resources and Energy (ANRE) has been holding meetings across Japan to explain the process for HLW repository site selection. At the meetings, ANRE representatives explain the government’s policy to propose “scientifically-promising sites,” with the participating municipalities, then ask questions about specific schedules in order to hold future meetings. However, fears of public backlash resulted in poor attendance by many local officials. At some meetings, half of the prefectures did not attended. Their main reason for non-appearance is that vocal members of the public want no part of the safe handling of nuclear waste, including low level materials, so the officials stayed away out of fear that attendance will be construed as agreeing to have the repository in their prefecture. A few dissident prefectures say they haven’t attended because the meetings are behind closed doors, shutting out public participation.

  • Japan asks China to ease food import restrictions. A director-general of the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries made the request in Beijing. China has banned food imports from 10 Japanese prefectures since the nuke accident in 2011. The sale of all Japanese food products has dropped sharply in China since the import ban went into effect. However, it is believed that demand remains strong for the restricted products. Future meetings between the two countries are expected in the future.

  • Fukushima university students will aid elderly evacuees. They will live in the same Fukushima City housing as some of the evacuees and give them help that is needed. Two students at a time will live in the Iizaka district complex for three months, followed by two others for the succeeding months, and so on. The cycle will continue for a year, thus involving eight students. The project was suggested by the Fukushima University Disaster Volunteer Center, which has promoted visits to temporary homes for elderly evacuees. It was adopted by the Reconstruction Agency as a state-subsidized "mental reconstruction" project.

  • Tokyo looks into possible voluntary evacuee situations following the 2017 end of free housing. The government has told prefectural governments to include voluntary evacuees in the routine “draw” policy for acceptance in public housing after the free rent period ends. After the 2011 accident, voluntary evacuees were provided rent compensation by Tokyo and were not included in public “draws”. That will end in March, 2017. The Reconstruction Agency says their basic policy has always been for voluntaries to return to Fukushima. When included in the draws, there is no guarantee that they will be selected for cheap public housing. They will be treated the same as any other low-income Japanese citizen. In addition, some municipalities have passed ordinances placing severe restrictions on voluntary evacuees applying for inclusion in local housing draws. The Agency says 40 prefectures and city governments are accepting applications, but only about 50 have been issued. On the other hand, a Land Ministry official said, "We cannot treat voluntary evacuees the same as forced evacuees, who are allowed entrance into public housing without entering draws. In the end, the methods taken are the decision of municipal governments." One dissenting Tokyo official criticized the policy saying it was established without addressing the desires of the voluntary evacuees.

  • Japan’s nuke watchdog will revise emergency medical preparedness for the public. In the past, hospitals near nuclear stations have been given help by the government to treat small numbers of emergency workers. However, the 2011 Fukushima accident revealed that large numbers of the public needing medical care, and also exposed to airborne contamination, overwhelmed the local medical facilities. On Wednesday, the NRA released a draft of new guidelines intended to create a network of medical facilities within the 30 kilometer emergency planning zones, designation 1-3 hospitals as base facilities in each. The hospitals are to have teams of experts to treat patients after accidents, and be available go to other prefectures where an accident might occur. The designated facilities will check evacuees for exposure to contamination, then treat the injured and sick accordingly. A 30-day public comment period began on Wednesday, after which the NRA will pursue making formal regulations.

  • Hamaoka unit #3 restart screening begins. It is possible that one of the two Hamaoka units under consideration will be the first BWR in Japan to restart. The Nuclear Regulation Authority says they will prioritize the screening of unit #4, indicating that they want unit #4 restarted first of the two. Chubu Electric Co. is in the midst of a nearly $3 billion safety upgrade in order to meet the post-Fukushima regulations. It is felt that the screening process will be long and drawn-out. One reason is the station’s proximity to the Tokai fault line, running several kilometers distant. The fault line is rated at 8.4 Richter scale-capable, based on geologic evidence. Secondly, the governor of Shizuoka Prefecture, Heita Kawakatsu, is wary of agreeing to restarts. He is leaning toward having the issue decided by referendum. Hamaoka station was asked to shut down in May, 2011, by then-PM Naoto Kan. Kan feared a Tokai quake would cause another Fukushima-like accident. The station is the nuke nearest the Tokyo metropolis, and Kan feared he would have to face evacuation of more than 10 million people. (Comment - The Japanese Press says Hamaoka sits at the “epicenter” of the Tokai fault. A quick map check shows the station is more than 5 kilometers from the fault line. Second, it is impossible to determine where the epicenter of a future quake will be. The last two quakes in 1854 and 1707 had epicenters more than 100 kilometers from Hamaoka station. In addition, there is no mention in the Press that a worst-case tsunami of 20 meters has been used as the post-Fukushima model. A massive anti-tsunami wall has been built to a height of 21 meters. Plus, the 9.0 Richter scale quake at F. Daiichi did absolutely nothing to the nuclear operating and emergency cooling systems. I guess these facts are not as “newsworthy” as stretching the truth with the false idea that Hamaoka sits on the epicenter of a future quake.)

June 22, 2015

  • A fully-contained Fukushima water leak gets headlines in Japan. Tepco reported that 20 liters of mildly contaminated rainwater leaked from a pipe joint and into an underlying receptacle. It is possible that the leak was spawned by incorrect valve positioning. There was no release to the environment. The leaked water measured 24,000 Becquerels per liter of beta activity. As usual, this relatively low concentration was billed as “highly radioactive” and “tainted” by the Japanese Press. Tepco has posted pictures showing the leaky flange and piping area. It is inside the Rainwater Treatment Facility on the Desalination Reverse Osmosis Membrane System. 

  • The number of Fukushima child evacuees has dropped 5.5% in six months. This was for both mandated and voluntary evacuee kids. In October, the number of child evacuees aged 18 and under, stood at 24,873. As of April 1st, the number had dropped to 23,498. 12, 006 were still inside the prefecture, and 11,492 were living in other prefectures. The percentage inside the prefecture dropped by 3.6%, while those in other prefectures dropped by 8.2%. Minamisoma City had the largest number of child evacuees at 4,729. Fukushima City had the largest number of children evacuated outside the exclusion zone at 2,034, followed by Koriyama city with 2,001. The number of child evacuees inside and outside Fukushima Prefecture has been on the decline since 2013. The greatest decrease seems to have been with those living outside the prefecture, apparently due to parents overcoming their fear of relatively innocuous low level radiation exposures and returning home. The lower radiation levels were largely due to decontamination work reducing airborne releases, natural isotopic decay, and childrearing support measures such as providing medical treatment at no charge for children aged 18 and below.

  • Tokyo’s nuke watchdog confirms exposure reduction at the F. Daiichi site boundary. The NRA acknowledges that effective doses were reduced due to treatment of contaminated water, as of the end of March 2015. The NRA says the highest measurement location 1.44mSv/year, and the average for all nine boundary monitors was less than 1 mSv/yr. Although the data was initially supplied by Tepco, the NRA found that their independent monitoring conforms to the Tepco data.

  • The exposure limit for nuclear emergency responders can be raised to 250 mSv/yr. The Ministry of Health has approved a proposal to revise the Ordinance on Prevention of Ionizing Radiation Standards which would set a “special emergency dosage limit” for nuclear emergency response personnel. The next step is a review by the Radiation Council in April, 2016. The proposed regulation also calls for special education on radiation exposure for the workers and post-exposure health care. In May, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said the new limit ought to be set at 250 mSv/yr.

  • Nahara Town Assembly holds its 1st regular meeting since the Fukushima accident. The meeting was held on June 9th at its regular location in the town itself. Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto said, "Evacuees from the town have been practicing preparatory lodging at their homes since April ahead of permanent returns. We decided to hold the regular June meeting at the usual chamber as a way to proceed with preparations to welcome townspeople back.” Motoi Aoki, chairman of the assembly, said, "It is deeply emotional to be able to meet at the usual chamber in our hometown Naraha."

  • Essential businesses can now operate in the F. Daiichi exclusion zone. Specifically, those businesses needed to rebuild infrastructure and provide needed reconstruction. The government completed a review of the existing guidelines on Friday. Under the revised guidelines, businesses will be allowed to operate in the no-entry zones if they are certified as indispensable for establishing infrastructure or waste disposal. In residential zones, growing and distributing farm produce will be allowed, except for rice, if approved by Tokyo and local authorities.

  • Fuel loading at Sendai unit #1 is scheduled to start on July 7th. It was hoped that the process would begin on July 4th, but re-examination of procedures has forced Kyushu Electric Company to move the schedule back three days. It is expected that the loading of new fuel into the core will take about four days. Once the fuel is installed, containment vessels and pipes will be examined to verify integrity. The fuel loading schedule change has not affected the anticipated mid-August restart of unit #1.

  • A Fukushima river’s radioactive Cesium levels fluctuate with the seasons. Researchers from Tokyo University suspect the changes are due to leaves and animal carcasses falling into rivers during the spring season. The team took samples of sediments from 35 locations in the Abukuma River, Fukushima Prefecture. Average Cesium concentrations were 1,450 Becquerels per kilogram in the spring of 2012, 1,270 Bq/kg in the fall, and back up to 2,700 Bq/kg the next spring. The highest reading at one of the 35 sampling points was 22,888 Bq/kg in the spring of 2013. Team leader Hirokazu Ozaki said, "There is a possibility that radioactive substances are concentrated in the bodies of fish through the food chain, so it's important to grasp what's happening in the rivers. This study is unprecedented, and we'd like to continue."

  • Reuters rues the lack of a permanent nuclear waste storage locations around the world. Finland and Sweden appear nearest to putting High Level Wastes (used fuel bundles) in deep geological repositories. But elsewhere, the issue of public acceptance has effectively stopped progress. Antinuclear groups allege that the materials will remain toxic for more than 100,000 years. Johan Swahn, director of a Swedish non-governmental organization known as MKG, says, “…it will be difficult to prove a safety case for 100,000 years." On the other hand, Stefan Mayer, team leader of the IAEA's waste technology section, says, "If we can provide socially and politically accepted approaches, we can implement solutions." The Reuters article was posted verbatim by the Japan Times.


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