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Fukushima 90...9/3/15-9/24/15

September 24, 2015

  • Dr. Mohan Doss of Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia pulls no punches when the New York Times asked him about the 1,600 Fukushima accident “related” deaths. He says Tokyo over-reacted to hypothetical radiation risks and should not have called for immediate evacuations, “The government basically panicked. When you evacuate a hospital intensive care unit, you cannot take patients to a high school and expect them to survive…It was fear of radiation that ended up killing people.” The Times reporter concludes that humans are bad at balancing risks so we are always faced with uncertainty, thus “Trying to avoid the horrors we imagine, we risk creating ones that are real.”

  • There’s very litle Fukushima Cesium in North Pacific whales and dolphins. Fukushima InFORM of Canada reports that whale and Dolphin sampling in Northern Japan soon after the nuke accident showed elevated Cesium concentrations. Within a year the levels were detectible, but 10 times lower than naturally-occurring isotopes found in the animals. InFORM concludes, “…it is quite unlikely that radioisotopes from Fukushima will reach levels in our cetaceans here off North America that would cause toxicity or measurable detrimental impacts to their health.”

  • A joint presentation by Pacific Ocean experts was given in Vancouver, B.C. Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic explained the migration of detectible Fukushima isotopes across the Pacific. Jay Cullen of Canada’s Fukushima InFORM project spoke about radioactive Cesium in two key fish species. Buesseler showed that the concentrations approaching the North American coast are detectible, but not dangerous. He stressed that research detection equipment is extremely sensitive and can find isotopic concentrations hundreds of times below levels that are of use to “health groups”. Cullen said the detectible levels of radioactive Cesium found in ocean salmon and steelhead trout comes from nuclear weapon’s testing many decades ago, but none from Fukushima.

  • Tepco signs a decommissioning pact with a French group. The Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), which is funded by the French government, has experience in dismantling nuclear reactor facilities. CEA will help to develop remote-controlled robots that can withstand high radiation levels, and assist in training Tepco staff. The information flow will be reciprocal so that the Fukushima experiences of Tepco will be of benefit to CEA. Tepco’s Chief Decommissioning Officer Naohiro Masuda said: "I believe that the conclusion of the information exchange agreement with the CEA is significant for TEPCO to proceed with Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning safely and steadily. Knowledge and experiences of the CEA in the areas of R & D and decommissioning would help TEPCO incorporate international expertise." -- --

  • NHK World says 20% of reactor operators are inexperienced. The news outlet asked 10 utilities about the impact of the post-Fukushima nuclear moratorium. They all had to expand staff to meet the new regulations. Without operating nukes the new people cannot get actual hands-on experience. However, they can get some training on existing control room simulators. Under the new rules, there are 10 operators for each shift, and on the average two of them are inexperienced. NHK says the newly reactivated Sendai station has the highest inexperienced rate at 40%, followed by Shimane (37%), Ikata (33%) and Genkai (30%).  (Comment – NHK fails to report several important facts. First, these inexperienced operators are trainees and would not be actually running the reactors. Second, not all of the control room staff actually operates the unit’s reactor. Many are performing equipment start-up and control for the steam, condensate, and feed-water systems. Next, having a trainee or two on the control room staff at a nuke is not uncommon. The new regulations have unquestionably increased the percentage, but NHK doesn’t say by how much. Finally, the nuclear moratorium includes university and research reactors, so it is not possible to get collegiate training for their students and operators, either.)

  • A large demonstration in Tokyo protests PM Abe’s policies. An estimated 25,000 rallied to protest Japan’s new national security legislation and the recent restart of Sendai unit #1. Though organized by the local antinuclear group, the majority of those attending were there to oppose the new laws that allow Japan’s Self Defense Force to participate in overseas action. The common belief is that the security legislation is unconstitutional and violates Japan’s policy of pacifism since WWII. Journalist Satoshi Kamata said, "We will clarify that the security legislation is unconstitutional in cooperation with attorneys.” The gathering also protested the American military base relocation in Okinawa. But, some protestors did decry the Sendai restart, with one saying, "A government that continues to use nuclear power while the disaster at the Fukushima plant has not been cleared is not paying any respect to its people."  (Comment – Antinuclear protests in Tokyo have become less and less popular over the passage of time. Two weeks ago, the Sendai commercial operation protest only attracted a few dozen die-hards. However, the passage of the security legislation has spawned massive protest gatherings in Tokyo, one of which was estimated to have had more than 100,000 people attend. The combining with more popular issues seems to be a desperate attempt by Japan’s antinuclear forces to make it seem their cause remains popular.)

September 21, 2015

  • More rural contaminated waste bags were found washed away. Last Monday, we reported that ~400 large bags containing mildly radioactive decontamination debris were swept up by flooding along the Hiso and Niida Rivers running through Iitate in Fukushima Prefecture. Many were torn and empty. On Friday, another ~340 bags were reported to have been washed away by flooding on Kinugawa River in Nikko City, Tochigi Prefecture. City officials said 17 had been recovered, but the contents were gone. They said the reason was due to erosion accelerated by the river’s flooding. There were a total of 558 bags stored at the location of the incident, protected by mounds covered with sheets. When part of the embankment collapsed, most of the bags tumbled into the river. The radiation levels inside the lost bags were so low that no discernible environmental impact is expected. --

  • Japan’s nuclear watchdog says there are no laws concerning radioactive rainwater run-off. Fukushima Prefecture has been besieged by nervous residents and fishermen to do something that will stop the occasional overflows of mildly contaminated water from an F. Daiichi drainage ditch during torrential rains. The prefecture has called for the Nuclear Regulation Authority to set limits on the releases. Prefectural official Kiyosh Takasaka wants it done immediately. However, the NRA says they can’t set limits because there are no laws prohibiting discharges of radioactive rainwater, and creating such laws could take a very long time. The problem is the K-channel at F. Daiichi, which has had rainwater activity fluctuations for more than a year. When rainfall is less than 14mm/hr, installed pumps remove all run-off and send it to the barricaded inner harbor (quay). If rainfall exceeds pumping capacity, the channel fills and spills over the closed-off outlet to the sea. Tepco is working on re-channeling the ditch to the quay, but estimates the major undertaking will take about six months to complete because much of the needed work is underground. Fisherman Tomomitsu Konno says, “I’m worried because we don’t know how much radiation-tainted rainwater has leaked out.” The most recent incidents happened on Sept. 9th and 11th when a typhoon skirted the Tohoku region, dumping huge volumes of water resulting in flooding of low-lying areas in at least seven prefectures. Officials called the constant, days-long downpour “unprecedented”.

  • Some Tohoku residents complain that the new, massive anti-tsunami barriers are an eyesore. On March 11, 2011, the worst tsunami in Japan’s history devastated the 400 kilometer coastline of Honshu Island, a region known as Tohoku. Two-thirds of the more than 300 barriers designed to handle a tsunami utterly failed. The coastlines of Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi Prefectures witnessed entire communities washed away, more than 20,000 total deaths, and 250,000 refugees who lost everything to the black water surge. Tokyo vowed to rebuild the failed structures, making them massive enough to withstand another similar tsunami and protect the coastline. Much of the work is done, but some is still progressing. The total cost of the project is estimated at over $8 billion. However, some residents don’t like what they see…or rather, cannot see. The new wall along Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, is 7.5 meters high (~23 feet) and is a little over a mile long. One sea-side store owner complains that it blocks his view, “The scenery I used to know was taken away when the barriers were installed.” Next, the new wall protecting the fishing companies of Iwate’s Rikuzentakata is 10 meters high (~31 feet) and a little less than one-half mile long. 80% of the town was lost on 3/11/11, with some 1,900 killed. Residential construction is no longer allowed, but the fishing business is needed for local recovery. Regardless, one elderly resident says the money to build the wall is being misspent. He said, “There’s no need for such a thing if nobody is going to live in the area.” He wants the old barrier repaired and the rest of the money given to refugees. In Miyagi’s Kesennuma City, the 6.5 meter high (~20 feet) wall has been built with Acrylic glass windows because the residents did not want to feel like they were in a prison. 1,400 Kesennuma residents died in the tsunami that peaked at 26 feet. -- (Comment – Relatively little Japanese Press coverage has been afforded to tsunami recovery. We post what we can find in order for our readers to juxtapose with the comparatively huge Press coverage given to the nuclear accident.)

September 17, 2015

  • Residual airborne radioactive releases from F. Daiichi may have ended. The large-scale releases into the atmosphere ended more than four years ago, but low levels have remained detectible until now. Japan Atomic Energy Agency has monitored radiation levels at various locations within a five kilometer evacuated radius of F. Daiichi since 2012. The agency says that radiation levels at one meter elevation are the same as contact with the ground, which indicates that all exposure comes from ground contamination. Mitsuo Imura of JAEA reports, “This data supports the fact that there has been no further spewing of highly radioactive substances from Fukushima Daiichi.” Another team member has also studied radioactive Cesium content in the surface soils and found that the concentration is lessening over time. It is believed that the Cesium has penetrated into the ground because it is water-soluble and carried down into the soil when it rains.

  • The landside construction of the F. Daiichi “ice wall” was finished on Tuesday, September 15th. Three sides of the four damaged units are covered; north, west, and south of the reactor and turbine buildings. A brine mixture is now being introduced into the piping system before the actual freezing will take place. Only the “seaside” portion of the system remains to be built. A graphic diagram of the ice wall and pictures of the initial introduction of brine into part of the system can be found here… (Comment - this important milestone has not been reported by any of the Japanese Press outlets. For the last year, every minor glitch in the system’s construction made headlines. Speculations by critics, both inside and outside Japan, have been regularly posted. This exemplifies the extreme level of antinuclear bias throughout Japan’s popular Press.)

  • American consultant Dale Klein says Tepco needs to improve monitoring of rainwater runoff. In an Email to Bloomberg Business, he said Tepco “knew heavy rains were coming, they should have taken as much precautions as possible. Tepco needs to work hard to regain public trust and confidence.” The Bloomberg article seems prompted by Tepco being unable to say exactly how much water leaked out of a drainage ditch due to last week’s unprecedented downpours.

  • An antinuclear arsonist has been arrested in Tokyo. Musician Izaya Noda was seen trying to set an East Japan Railway substation on fire on Wednesday. There have been several similar incidents over the past month. Noda admitted that he is the perpetrator. His father says that his son has been a vocal critic of nuclear energy since the Fukushima accident and took part in many antinuclear protests. Noda said he “could not stand the company (East Japan Railway) consuming large amounts of electricity”. The arson occurrences began August 16th, the day that Sendai unit #1 began producing its first trickle of electricity. Noda’s unlawful form of protest seems related to the antinuclear conviction that Japan would not need nukes if less electricity were consumed.

  • Naoto Kan continues his antinuclear crusade. On Wednesday, he addressed a group of Tokyo’s foreign residents. The former PM (at the time of the Fukushima accident) said, “I’m absolutely sure that there will no longer be nuclear power by the end of this century. This is because it doesn’t make sense economically, and enough energy can be provided without it.” He stated that nuclear is an overly-expensive option if the costs of decommissioning and managing nuclear waste are factored in. He also said he has visited a nuke plant in Finland where he was told the wastes remain more radioactive than Uranium for 100,000 years. He felt that this is a legacy which is unacceptable. In addition, he said Japan survived without nukes this past summer, so there’s no reason to restart any of them. He said nukes can be replaced with renewables. (Comments – Kan failed to mention that the nuke moratorium has caused electric rates to skyrocket and given Japan its worst trade deficit in history. In addition, he failed to admit that Japan’s relative boom in solar power has been due to a Feed-In Tariff that guarantees solar producers a profit, otherwise it is doubtful that the solar plants would have been built. Finally, if spent fuel is recycled and the transuranic isotopes are separated from the fission products, only the transuranics will have a higher specific activity than natural uranium. If not recycled, used fuel bundles become less radioactive than natural uranium in less than 1,000 years.)

  • About 2.5 square kilometers of solar plants have been built in Fukushima Prefecture. Peak output of the combined solar “farms” is ideally 160 MWe. (Aside – Unmentioned in the article, maximum output only occurs during sunny days, between the hours of 10am and 2pm when the sun’s rays are most direct. – End aside) The electricity generated is bought by Tohoku Electric Company under Japan’s national Feed-In Tariff. Japan has severe restrictions on the conversion of farmland into industrial facilities. But, Tokyo eased the restriction for Fukushima in order to promote reconstruction from the quake, tsunami, and nuke accident. Fukushima Prefecture has demanded that all units at F. Daiichi and the four undamaged units at Fukushima Daini be decommissioned. Tepco owns both nuke stations, and has committed to decommissioning all six units at F. Daiichi. They have not committed to decommissioning F. Daini station.

September 14, 2015

  • Fukushima nursing home evacuations were riskier than F. Daiichi’s radiation. A scientific study published Friday says the evacuations posed a far-greater health risk to patients than the radiation they would have received had they stayed put. University of Tokyo researcher Masaharu Tsubokura said the study should be used as a resource in evacuation planning at all nuke plants, “The study shows that, in preparing for nuclear disasters, evacuation-tied risks need to be reduced through detailed planning in advance.” The study compared the risks of 191 residents and 184 staffers at three nursing homes between 20 and 30 km from F. Daiichi. All residents said they wanted to be evacuated because they feared radiation. A lack of medical resources caused deaths during the evacuation that would not have happened if they were not moved. The researchers calculated the “loss of life expectancy” under several scenarios: the next-day evacuation (which happened), evacuation three months later, and non-evacuation scenarios with hypothetical first-year radiation exposures of 20 and 100 millisieverts. The next-day evacuation was 400 times riskier than the other options. The study is published in the highly-respected PLOS ONE journal. --

  • The first release of F. Daiichi groundwater happened earlier today. 850 tons of the harmless waters were discharged to the sea. Last year, a total of 4,000 tons had been “pumped up”, purified by the multi-stage treatment system (ALPS), and stored while awaiting approval for release by local officials and fearful fisheries. The released waters contained radioactivity well-below Tepco’s self-imposed limits. The limits are ridiculous considering they are less than international drinking water standards. Regardless, local officials and the fishermen are holding their breath in case something goes wrong. The remaining 3,150 tons from last year will be released over the next few days. --  (Comment – Channel News Asia (CNA) reported on the release, including quotes by American Dr. Dale Klein. In an interview with AFP, Klein said, "The risk that you run is that you have all these tanks full of water. The longer you store the water, the more likely you are going to have (an) uncontrolled release." This was used as evidence for the following CNA blurb… “Dale Klein…said other highly radioactive water used to cool the reactors four years ago and which is still kept in tanks in the plant could be dangerous.” (emphasis added) He never actually says this - CNA does. Klein’s statement is taken entirely out of context and a retraction seems to be in order. Regardless, CNA ignores the fact that all of the currently stored ~700,000 tons have been run through ALPS, are no longer highly contaminated, and are not hypothetically dangerous. )

  • Rural contaminated waste bags were washed into two Fukushima Rivers. Flooding due to recent torrential rains that hit Japan’s main island, Honshu, reportedly caused nearly 300 large contaminated debris bags to be flushed into the Niida and Hiso Rivers. They were being kept temporarily near the rivers, awaiting transfer to other storage sites. By this morning, decontamination workers recovered at least 170 of the bags. Environment Ministry officials say they will continue retrieval of the remaining bags and check as to whether any more had been washed away. The ministry added that none of the recovered bags had opened and spilled their contents, thus the impact on the environment has been minimal.  -- -- Update 9/15/15 - On Tuesday 9/15, the ministry said the total number of bags swept away has been increased to 395, with half of them torn and many completely empty. Minister Yoshio Mochizuki said the contents of the torn bags had quite low radioactivity and there should be a very low possibility of environmental impact. (Comment - The flooding in northern Japan has killed at least seven people, with more than 25 missing. Japan Today’s report on this tragedy is buried at the end of its article on the waste bags being washed into the rivers. The news outlet obviously believes the hypothetical risks of these bags is more newsworthy than the aaftermath of the flooding catastrophe. This is deplorable on the part of Japan Today.

  • A typhoon’s causes intermittent mildly-contaminated releases. Torrential rains from Typhoon Etau caused small, sporadic releases to the sea on Sept. 9, but the water was only slightly radioactive and monitoring reveals negligible environmental impact. The run-off is from surface drains; none of which runs through the highly-contaminated buildings of units #1 through #4. The September 9th drainage exceeded the ditch transfer pump capacity on two occasions in the early morning, ending at 4:24am. On July 11th, brief overflows occurred three times, ending at 7:07am. The total volume of the releases cannot be measured due to their brevity and intermittency. The highest total radioactivity in the ditch was on the 9th at 1650 Becquerels per liter, dropping off there-after. The activity was 1280 Bq/l on Saturday. However, the near-outlet sampling point along the shoreline showed nothing detectible through the period. -- -- --

  • Nearly 70,000 tsunami/quake refugees live in deteriorating temporary shelters. The prefabricated units were designed to last two years, but are now more than four years old. The governments of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima Prefectures said they would have permanent relocation facilities for everyone by 2013, but as yet it has not happened. After the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995, all evacuees were relocated into 25,000 permanent housing units by 2000. However, the natural disaster of 2011 has witnessed only 11,000 units completed. Nearly another 30,000 need to be built, but finding available higher-ground locations near the swept-away communities has been difficult. Many of those still in the temporary units are elderly and low-income residents who cannot find affordable housing on their own. Nearly 200,000 are still listed as quake/tsunami evacuees. On a related note, new totals for the dead and missing from the quake/tsunami have been released. The new total is 21,955, a 3,500 increase from 3 years ago. The jump is due to disaster-related mortality since 3/11/11.

  • Fuel has been loaded into Sendai unit #2. The four day process of placing 157 fuel bundles into the reactor vessel began on Friday and was completed earlier today. The unit has been off-line since September of 2011 due to the prolonged nuclear moratorium, and subsequent upgrading of emergency systems to meet Japan’s new regulatory requirements. The core has been empty since February, 2013. Kyushu Electric Co. says no problems occurred during the fuel loading. The company plans to restart the unit in mid-October.  

  • Trace remains of ancient tsunamis have been found near the Higashidori nuclear station, Aomori Prefecture. A Tohoku University team says the geologic evidence is for two locations, one 800 years old and the other 2,000 years old. The 2,000 year-old location indicates a 10 meter high surge, and the 800 year old evidence points to perhaps a 15 meter high swell. Tohoku Electric Co. says they are already building a sixteen meter high break wall. The research team says they cannot determine if the new evidence is related to already-known tsunamis of the past. Higashidori unit #1 began commercial operation in 2005. Unit #2 began construction in 2010. Tepco began building a third unit at the site in December, 2011. Tohoku Electric seeks to restart unit #1.

September 10, 2015

  • Sendai unit #1 became the first Japanese nuclear plant to resume commercial operations in two years. The Nuclear Regulation Authority completed its final full power inspections earlier today and approved commercial operations, which began at 4pm JST. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga called on Kyushu Electric to put safety first in operating the reactivated unit. Kyushu Electric President Michiaki Uriu pledged to ensure safe operation. Meanwhile, about 40 die-hard antinuclear protestors stood at the Sendai station’s main gate and decried the event. One person said she was very indignant because the restart happened before Fukushima Prefecture's accident recovery was complete. --

  • Tepco plans to release 4,000 tons of purified groundwater to the sea next week. The water was taken from wells last year, run through the multi-stage isotopic removal system, and held in storage while awaiting release approval by the local officials and fisheries. The first 850 tons is to be released on Monday. The purified waters contain no detectible Cesium, Strontium, or Beta-emitting isotopes. The pre-release tests show no Tritium levels above 600 Becquerels per liter, well-below Tepco’s self-imposed limit of 1,500 Bq/l. Tepco also announced it will finish closure of the impermeable wall, located just off-shore from the six units. 95% of the wall had been completed when concerns were raised about contaminated groundwater building up inland which might overflow the barrier, resulting in a contaminated release to the sea. The removal of groundwater from the more than 40 subdrain wells around the four units has allayed the concern. Now that the subdrain system is operating, the remaining 5% of the steel barrier can be completed. --

  • Tepco has posted Press handouts detailing the work to be done on finishing the impermeable wall. Nine “sheet piles” will be driven deep into the earth. Once this is done, the piles will be interconnected by injecting non-shrinking mortar into sealing devices between them, to insure against any possible release to the inner harbor (quay). The mouth of the quay is also barricade by a silt fence which strains contaminants from the waters of the quay during in-flow and out-flow due to each day’s tides. The completion of closure is expected by the end of October.  -- (for photos of first emplacement)

  • Typhoon Etau skirted well-south of F. Daiichi, but caused another overflow of rainwater run-off into the sea. Heavy rains exceeded the capacity of the of the transfer pump that discharges to the inner quay. The amount of leaked water and the concentration of possible contaminants is under investigation. On Friday, 9/11, the Asahi Shimbun reported the contamination levels peaked at 750 Becquerels per liter, but estimates of the volume were not yet available.

  • A Fukushima evacuee human-interest article contains previously unreported material. First, some of those ordered to evacuate the Nagadoro District of Iitate did not leave in 2011. One inhabitant, Shiga Takamitsu, stayed home for more than a year after the evacuation order was issued. He did not work outdoors, so his estimated exposure was less that it might otherwise have been. Unlike many of Fukushima’s mandated evacuees, he read books about radiation and concluded that the levels around his house were not a serious health threat to him. However, he was forced to leave when the district was barricaded by Tokyo in July of 2012, and reluctantly relocated in Fukushima City. In addition, we are told that many Nagadoro residents moved into government-provided temporary housing, some into prefabricated huts, but others”… found themselves living in relatively luxurious condominiums.” The reason is the generous compensation payments they have received… nearly one million dollars for a family of five. reports this is “…more money than anyone in Nagadoro has ever seen before”. (Aside – We have been reporting on this for more than two years, and a page dedicated to the on-going payouts can be found here… ...with monthly updating on the current total, increasing at roughly $100 million per week. - End Aside) [Comment – The referenced article is mostly focused on trying to prove that “The hamlet of Nagadoro will not be resettled—at least not in this generation and not by the people who lived there before the nuclear disaster,” and “What about the rest of Iitate village? What about all the other communities in the disaster zone? My personal opinion is that most of them will go the same way as Nagadoro: that plans of resettlement will fade away, leaving the communities abandoned.” The reasons stated for this conjecture are fear of health problems to children due to prolonged low level radiation exposure, the fact that four years have passed and many have moved on, no chance of an agricultural revival because no-one wants to buy foods raised and grown from formerly contaminated farms, and the recent foreign speculation that rainwater runoff from surrounding forests will re-inundate the city with contamination and make it uninhabitable (thanks to the fear-mongering propaganda ministers of Greenpeace). The reporter closes with “Nagadoro will prove to be the canary in the mine: its abandonment foreshadowing the abandonment of many other settlements in the area around the nuclear power plant. If I am right, the expenditure of hundreds of billions of yen in elaborate decontamination projects could end up looking like a terrible waste of money.” The reporter may be right about the waste of money, but for the wrong reason…most of the costly decontamination locations never needed it in the first place!]

  • A lax information submittal may doom Mihama #3. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has told Kansai Electric Co. that delays in the company providing timely data could keep the agency from granting the unit a 20 year operating extension. The Mihama reactor must clear screenings of general plant safety and the soundness of installed equipment by the end of next November, or else it could be scrapped. The NRA approved the unit’s quake-resistance criteria in August, but the agency says Kansai has made no progress in required submittals since then. Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa said, “Under the current situation, it will be extremely difficult to give approval” for the resumption of Mihama No. 3.

September 7, 2015

  • The evacuation order for Naraha town was lifted on Saturday. The event was marked by more than 200 residents at a festive assembly arranged by the town officials. A large graphic was unveiled depicting a planned "compact community" of medical facilities, shops, and housing, to be located in a small area for residential convenience. During the ceremony, Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto said, “I’ll give my all to have the town pave the way for reconstruction in other municipalities.” Three school students read essays they wrote saying how happy they were to return, and one elderly returnee said this is the happiest he has been in four years. Naraha is the first of the seven fully-evacuated communities to have the order rescinded. The registered population now stands at 7,368, but polls indicate that only half want to repopulate. The government says full decontamination of the town is complete. A private medical facility will soon be opened and a convenience market is up and running. On a negative note, evacuation orders remain in place for about 70,000 refugees in the other communities that remain under the evacuation order. --   Much of Japan’s popular Press focused on reasons why many Naraha residents are not going home, and made the re-opening of the town a secondary story. For example, Friday’s Mainichi Shimbun says “…a lack of hospital access may stand in the way of residents returning.” The article specifies that only about 10% of the hospitals in the “Futaba District” are presently in operation. The “District” is comprised of Naraha and the seven other fully-evacuated communities in the exclusion zone. The Mainichi also marks the reduction in available ambulances and increased ambulance response times in the “district”. The Mainichi focuses on the Futaba district as a whole, and not on Naraha itself. Buried near the end of the posting, the report is “balanced” by a quote from a prefectural official, "As long as we can't predict where residents will return and their number, it is difficult to decide when and where to set up hospitals." On the other hand The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that a private clinic will open in Naraha next month, and a new prefectural clinic will open in February. Neither of these facts are mentioned by the Mainichi. On Saturday, The Mainichi took another negative angle by saying most of the people returning will be elderly. This is used to speculate that the town will experience population decline sufficient to lose its political independence, forcing it to merge with other towns that will experience the same after their evacuation orders are lifted. --  (Comment –The devastation caused by the tsunami along the ~8km of Naraha coastline can finally be attended to, and rebuilding of lost homes and businesses can start. But, will it be reported as tsunami-caused or due to the nuke accident?)

  • Annual radiation exposures are now below 1 millisievert per year for all of Date City. Date is located adjacent to the exclusion zone’s northern-most evacuated community, Iitate, outside Tokyo’s exclusion zone. Dosimeters worn by more than 11,000 volunteers from the over 60,000 Date residents have been used to establish actual exposure levels in three regions covering the city. Zone A had been above the 1 mSv/yr goal since the dosimetry survey began three years ago, with a 1.59 mSv average the first year, 1 mSv for last year, but was 0.82 mSv for this past year (July 2014 – July 2015). Zone B dropped below the 1 mSv exposure goal last year, and Zone C has been less than 1 mSv/yr from the start of the program. Date Mayor Shoji Nishida says, “This is a reflection of the natural decrease in airborne radiation levels and results of decontamination work.”

  • Fukushima tourism has rebounded to 90% of the 2010 pre-calamity level. The number of visitors between April and June topped 13 million, bringing the prefecture nearly $250 million in revenue. The number of tourists increased by more than 1.2 million over the same period last year. Fukushima Prefecture and the local railroad groups have been running a multi-media tourism “blitz” since 2012. Due to these latest figures, Governor Masao Uchibori has called it a “success”.

  • Unit #3 spent fuel pool cooling system was stopped for 4 hours on Thursday. Some oil leaked into the pool from machinery being used to remove debris on the refueling deck. A supply hose for a debris cutter broke and some of the oil made it into the pool. The oil remained inside a surface fence until it was skimmed off. There was no noticeable increase in the pool’s temperature during the four hour stoppage.

  • Sendai unit #2 will begin loading fuel on Thursday, September 11th. Owner Kyushu Electric Co. made the announcement to the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Friday. The fuel load will take four days. Reactor vessel components will be reinstalled after fuel load is complete, the vessel will be sealed, and NRA inspections will take place before the start-up and slow ramping-up of power begins in mid-October. Unit #2 is tandem to the currently operating unit #1 at Sendai station.

September 3, 2015

  • The IAEA released its final report on the accident at F. Daiichi. The main focus of the report seems to be with the accident itself, its causes, and its physical impacts. Director General Yukiya Amano’s statement on the document admonishes Tepco and Tokyo for not taking worst-case accident possibilities seriously enough. He says, “A major factor that contributed to the accident was the widespread assumption in Japan that its nuclear power plants were so safe that an accident of this magnitude was simply unthinkable…There can be no grounds for complacency about nuclear safety in any country…Safety must always come first.” He added that since the accident, Japan has reformed its regulatory system to better meet international standards, giving the NRA the authority to enforce the new safety standards.  Japan’s Press made the report a lead story, with major focus on uncertainties and doubts relative to child thyroid cancers and the long-term health effects of radiation. NHK World said that although no early radiation-induced health effects were observed, it can take decades before discernable increases can be expected. It adds that the report says child thyroid anomalies found to date are unlikely to be the result of the accident. The Japan Times, however, made the child thyroid situation their lead topic, based on the report saying the exact exposure to children can only be estimated from the thyroid examinations now taking place in Fukushima Prefecture. The IAEA report says, “Because the reported thyroid doses attributable to the accident were generally low, and increase in childhood thyroid cancer attributable to the accident is unlikely.” Immediately after posting this quote, the Times posts the IAEA’s qualifier, “However, uncertainties remain concerning the thyroid equivalent doses incurred by children immediately after the accident.” The Times adds to the uncertainty angle by ruing delays in dispersal of Potassium Iodide tablets and “lack of detailed arrangements” to protect children. It should be noted that brief mention of the greater body of the IAEA report was buried at the end of the Times’ article. --

  • A new case of child thyroid cancer has been discovered. The Fukushima prefectural government says it is unlikely that the cause was the nuke Accident.

  • Fukushima University Medical School will study whether or not the prefecture’s children have a higher-than-natural thyroid cancer rate. Researchers will compare their data with national data, taking into account factors like the latency period before thyroid cancer develops. They also intend to look into differences based on age and location. The team will also include researchers from Osaka University, Nagoya University and the Radiation Effects Research Foundation. The prefecture plans on having the results by the end of March, 2016, which is the end of the current fiscal year. [Comment - A similar survey was run two years ago, comparing Fukushima thyroid cancer incidence with three other far-away prefectures. It showed that Fukushima’s rate of child thyroid anomalies was the lowest of the four. (see… The results were not posted by Japan’s Press back then, so there is no reason to think it will be done this time.]  

  • More information on the release of treated groundwater from F. Daiichi. Japan’s Atomic Industrial Forum says all subdrain waters will be purified to remove all radioactive contamination except Tritium. Once below Tepco’s self-imposed limits and verified by an independent third party, the waters will be released to the blockaded inner port. The limits are: Cs-134 1Bq/L, Cs-137 1Bq/L, Gross Beta 3Bq/L, and Tritium 1,500Bq/L. All data will be provided to the public and publicized extensively through the Press. Tepco has agreed to compensate fisheries for damages as long as a causal relationship is proven between the accident and developments such as depressed market prices caused by unfounded fears and rumors. The fisheries asked Tepco to not release the waters until the fisheries and Japanese people reach an understanding on the matter. NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka said, “I think that using the subdrain is a big step forward, especially in terms of increasing overall safety.”  Tepco has made a graphic description of the drain locations and the process of preparing the waters for release. The process has six steps: water “pump up” (out of the numerous drains), collection in tanks, purification, temporary storage, water quality tests (including 3rd party verification), and finally release to the inner port. One possibly significant caveat is that step #6 requires agreement by local officials and the fisheries for each release. Tepco began the first “pumping up” of subdrain waters today (Thursday). About 200 tons of water will be pumped out of 20 of the 41 subdrain wells and stored in “special tanks” before being purified. Tepco has 4000 tons of “already decontaminated” water from prior test runs that they would like to discharge by mid-month. If and when this is successfully completed, work will begin to complete the impervious wall just off-shore, within the barricaded inner harbor. --  (Comment – Most of Japan’s Press continues to refer to the waters building up in the hundreds of F. Daiichi storage tanks as “toxic”. It might be appropriate to use this descriptor for waters taken from the turbine basements before purification. However, about 97% of the stored waters have been purified down to levels at or below international drinking water standards! Calling these purified liquids “toxic” is ill-defined and massively misleading.)

  • Less than 10% of eligible residents are preparing to repopulate Kawamata, Katsurao, and much of Minamisoma. 14,000 people have been told they may remain in their homes over the next three months to prepare for the official lifting of the evacuation order, but only 1,265 have applied for eligibility. Prefectural officials say they hope the order will be lifted by this-coming spring. Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori explained, “What is most important is to provide a sense of safety and security. Evacuees will not readily join the program unless they have easy access to health care, education and shopping areas.” Uchibori notes that many former residents have chosen to settle elsewhere during the long evacuation. (Aside – the generous compensation payments of about $8,000 per month per person has certainly made this viable, but the Press fails to mention it. - End aside) One Katsurao resident says he is getting his home ready, but “Even though the authorities say we are safe, I am still anxious because we cannot see radiation.” Another problem is that many general contractors will not accept assignments in the evacuation area. But, authorities hope repairing local infrastructure and homes encourage evacuees to return home permanently.

  • A Former contract worker at F. Daiichi files for damages due to cancer. The person’s lawyers say he has developed multiple cancers since October, 2011, and blames the radiation he was exposed to while on the job. The suit names Tepco and a subcontractor (Taisei Corp.) as the responsible parties. The suit is for roughly $541,000.  The man was diagnosed with bladder cancer in June 2012, stomach cancer in March 2013, and sigmoid colon cancer in May 2013. He has previously filed claims with Tomioka Labor Standards Inspection Office and Fukushima Prefectural Labor Bureau, but was rejected both times. The suit states that the government uses 100 millisieverts as a threshold for a causal link between exposure and cancer, but the claimant’s work record shows only a total of 56.41 mSv. The suit then claims the man was actually subjected to more than 100 mSv because he didn’t always wear a dosimeter in order to remain below the exposure limit for employment. --

  • In order to have less-costly power supplies, Tepco has contracted for 1,450 MWe of coal-fired electricity. This will be provided by four companies: Tonen General Sekiyu K.K., the Electric Power Development Co. (J-Power), Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation, and the Hitachinaka Generation Co., Inc. Most of the electricity will come from plants being built, and some from an existing plant in Ibaraki Prefecture. Tepco is also inviting offers for gas-fired power.

  • (On a Fukushima-related note) 80% of the anti-tsunami seawalls planned for the eastern Honshu coast have not been built. Of the more than 300 seawalls along the Tohoku coast (Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi Prefectures), two-thirds failed to hold back the tsunami on March 11, 2011. Tokyo has allocated more than $250 billion for recovery over a ten year period. Most of the money is scheduled to be spent by the end of March, 2016, but only 109 of the 677 planned seawalls (covering six prefectures) have been built to date. 356 are under construction and 212 have not yet started. It is important to note that 152 of the wall heights have been reduced because of local resident’s complaining that their view of the ocean is impaired. Also, 35 of the planned walls may not begin construction for a long time because a local consensus is lacking.  (Comment – While the failed seawalls at F. Daiichi get almost all of the Press’ attention, the failures of the more than 200 other Tohoku seawalls, resulting in roughly 20,000 deaths and 250,000 refugees, have been virtually ignored.)

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