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Fukushima 94...12/3/15-12/24/15

December 24, 2015

  • The injunction against Takahama 3 & 4 restarts has been reversed. In April, the Fukui District court under Judge Hideaki Higuchi ordered Kansai Electric Co. to not restart the units because the Nuclear Regulation Authority has standards that are too loose to be reasonable. The judge added that the NRA approval of restarts was “irrational”. The injunction was based on a petition filed by local residents who claimed the units could not withstand a worst-case earthquake. Today, Fukui District Court, with Judge Jun Hayashi presiding, affirming the Kansai Electric appeal of the injunction. The ruling says the NRA standards are not unreasonable or irrational. With the injunction reversed, Kansai Electric plans to begin installing the reactor’s fuel bundles on Friday, for a possible restart in late January. In addition, the court rejected a request by antinuclear citizens to bar restart of Oi units 3 & 4, also located in Fukui Prefecture and owned by Kansai Electric. -- -- --

  • The lawyer for the residents who filed the Takahama injunction vows to appeal. Attorney Hiroyuki Kawai says the reversal of the injunction against Takahama 3 & 4 restarts is unjust and unacceptable, and he will file an appeal with Nagoya High Court. Kawai alleges that the Fukui court has learned nothing from the Fukushima accident, and the reversal was a foregone conclusion in order to keep the Takahama restart schedule on-track. One of the plaintiffs said Judge Jun Hayashi has given up being guardian of the law and doesn’t care about human rights.

  • Earlier this week, the governor of Fukui Prefecture approved the restarts. In his statement on Tuesday, Gov. Issei Nishikawa said, "I gave comprehensive consideration to the country's and the operator's policy and reached a conclusion." He added that prior approvals by the Takahama mayor and Fukui Assembly, plus Prime Minister Abe making a personal assurance of full disclosure to the public, influenced his decision. Nishikawa also said the restarts should “stabilize employment and boost the economy.” One more hurdle to restarts remained; the injunction barring operation of the reactors. (see above) One of the plaintiffs for the suit denounced the governor’s approval, calling it “premature” because the appeal to the injunction had not been decided upon. Nishikawa said, “The timing [of his decision] should not be an issue” because the prefecture was not party to the suit. -- --

  • Health Canada reports that no radiation monitors were turned off in the months after the Fukushima accident began. False, irresponsible rumors emerged in 2011 that Health Canada shut off much of its monitoring system to hide the extent of the scant radioactive plume that migrated across the Pacific Ocean. In fact, Health Canada’s activities were expanded to increase information flow, in the hope of countering the widely-shared rumors. The first detection of the plume occurred on March 18, 2011, and peaked on March 25th. It subsequently dissipated to undetectible levels. The Health Canada report concludes there was no appreciable exposure increase, relative to the radiation levels from naturally-occurring sources. The Health Canada report makes three main points; the average increase in exposure from Fukushima to the typical Canadian has been one-three thousandths of natural background, the natural background variances across Canada are greater than the Fukushima increases, and there will be no negative health impacts.

  • Genkai unit #1 will be decommissioned. The unit has an electrical output rating of just under 560 megawatts. This follows the pattern of previous decommissioning announcements, all with power output ratings below 700 MWe. The cost of meeting Japan’s new nuclear regulations is simply too great to recover before sixty years of licensing comes to an end. Owner Kyushu Electric Company estimates that the process will take 28 years.  (Japan’s Press says the reason is that the unit is too old and deteriorated to be restarted. But, the facts indicate that the decommissioning decisions are primarily a matter of money.)

December 21, 2015

  • Most residents of Tamura’s Miyakoji district are back home. The entire 357-household district was forced to evacuate by government mandate in 2011. When the district was reopened for unrestricted population on April 1, 2014, Japan’s Press focused on those who did not initially repopulate, lamenting that only 27 families that returned (less than 10%). However on December 4th, Tokyo’s Reconstruction Agency said 62.6% of the people have returned; 23% higher than in October of 2014. In addition, more than half of the remaining refugees either plan on returning to Miyakoji or find a new home elsewhere in Tamura. Thus, it seems that more than 80% of the district’s evacuated population will eventually repopulate. (Comment – This reveals that the bombarding of evacuees with scare stories about low level radiation exposure, necessarily makes potential returnees timid. It now seems that most Miyakoji residents took a wait-and-see approach before returning. When the initial returnees show they are hale, healthy, and happy after many months, the majority has trickled back. I suspect that the same will recur with the other municipalities and districts after their evacuation orders are lifted. It is sad that the only Japan Press outlet to cover this good news is Fukushima Minpo.)

  • The F. Daiichi sea-side impermeable barrier causes an unexpected problem. The water being pumped out of the inland side of the wall is quite salty; too saline for decontamination equipment to work with. For the time being, the water is being pumped into the already-contaminated basements of the four damaged units. The basements are getting about 400 tons a day. Until now, new groundwater pumping processes had reduced the influx into the basements to 200 tons per day. Tepco says they will pump out more uncontaminated groundwater from the wells upstream of the buildings. This could reduce the buildup at the wall. Tepco will also monitor the water on the inland side of the wall to see if the level of salinity gets lower with the passing of time.

  • Disposal of rural decontamination materials has many prefectures at-odds. Fukushima’s recent acceptance of Tokyo’s plan to incinerate and/or dispose of the prefecture’s radioactive waste in Tomioka, has re-ignited the desire by five other prefectures to have their wastes shipped to Fukushima; Tochigi, Chiba, Ibaraki, Miyagi, and Gunma. A not-in-my back-yard attitude is common. For example, Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai says, “It would be desirable if all the nuclear waste in the five [affected] prefectures was completely removed from them.” On the other hand, Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori says his agreement with Tokyo’s plan does not make Fukushima a disposal site for all six prefectures, “I would like to confirm here again that radioactive waste in each prefecture should be disposed of locally by the central government.” Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa added, “We’ll uphold a plan to dispose of radioactive waste in each prefecture.” Whether or not Fukushima and Tokyo’s positions will hold is speculative, given the stiff opposition of the other five prefectures.

  • Tokyo feels decontamination of forests may do more harm than good. The government might not decontaminate forested land in Fukushima and other prefectures that is far from residential areas. A government task force has been studying the situation and has concluded that removing fallen leaves could allow contaminated soil to flush out of the forests. The upper, largely uncontaminated leaf bed covers the underlying contaminated soil, allowing rainfall to run off with very little contamination in it. By keeping the leaf-cover in place, no harmful levels will flush out. Leaf removal could result much higher levels of contamination being purged into inhabited areas.

  • The latest on the unit #2 Safety Relief Valve failure reported on Thursday. Some of the confusing news reports turn out to have merit, while others can now be understood as incorrect. First, the correct…F. Daiichi’s SRVs are opened by a combination of DC electrical current and Nitrogen gas pressure. In addition, the DC-actuated valves for the Nitrogen gas supply have rubber seals that may have lost integrity due to extreme heat and failed to work properly. In addition, the connection of the nitrogen supply to the SRVs may have leaked, also due to the heat inside the Primary Containment (PCV) on March 14-15. Now for the incorrect…The SRV malfunctions were with both unit #2 and #3 (see the next bullet, below). It further seems that Nitrogen gas releases the locking mechanisms on the SRVs if design pressure set-points are reached. The SRVs operate in pairs as the steam pressure increases. When reactor steam pressure reaches a specific value, the Nitrogen supply actuation valves open for the first two SRVs, the Nitrogen pressure releases the locking mechanisms, and the SRVs come open. It wasn’t the SRVs that malfunctioned; it was the Nitrogen supply valves that failed because some of the rubber seals were only designed to survive temperatures of 170oC, and PCV temperatures were reported to be in excess of 150oC by in-plant operators. The SRVs were always operable, as evidenced by the in-plant operating crew eventually connecting car batteries to nitrogen actuators, and the nitrogen supply valves opened. This resulted in two SRVs opening, reducing pressure inside the reactor vessel enough for fire pumps to inject seawater for cooling.

  • Tepco releases its fourth Fukushima Progress Report. The Progress Report is where the Press got its information on the Unit #2 SRVs, but was never mentioned by the reporting Press outlets (NHK World, Asahi Shimbun, and Kyodo news Service) last Thursday. As mentioned above, the Thursday articles neglected to include that SRV malfunctions also occurred on unit #3. Also, Tepco actually said the increases in atmospheric releases beginning March 14, 2011, were from units 2&3 combined, while Thursday’s Press reports said the releases were only from unit #3. In addition, the Progress Report includes the latest information on molten fuel relocation, new data on the increase of pressure inside unit #3 PCV, the possibility of at least a partial melt-through for unit #1, and an updated accident timeline. Here are the links for the Tepco report summation… and Press handout...

  • It appears the removal of debris from unit #1 will begin in January. Tepco has built a partial mock-up of the destroyed upper floor of the unit. On December 16th, the Press observed operators practice using remote-controlled cranes to lift and remove large steel objects. The cranes are equipped with plier-like grasping devices to prevent slippage once the debris has been grabbed. Crane-operated cutting tools were also demonstrated. A TEPCO official said, “We want to improve our technique so we can conduct the operation with accuracy.” Tepco estimates that there are about 50 large pieces that must be removed before a dust-suppression sprinkler system can be installed.

  • Only 16% of Fukushima’s evacuees were aware of Tokyo’s initial nuclear emergency declaration. The survey of evacuees was released by the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office on Thursday. Understandably, the reason was because the earthquake and tsunami knocked out most of the Prefecture’s communications infrastructure. (Comment - The Asahi Shimbun says the initial emergency declaration in Tokyo was at 7:03pm. However, F. Daiichi plant manager Masao Yoshida informed Tokyo of the initial emergency declaration by Fukushima Prefecture at 3:42pm; seven minutes after the tsunami hit the station.)

  • Japan’s leading antinuclear group creates new terrorism concerns. The Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) in Tokyo says Japan’s new security law and recent military cooperative agreement with America makes Japanese nukes an international terrorist target. The CNIC’s Hideyuki Ban says, “The terrorist threat to Japan has increased more than ever because of the (legalization of using the) right to collective self-defense.” Conversely, former American embassy science expert Kevin Maher says the new regulations for nukes has beefed up security, making “softer” Japanese targets more likely for attack, “I think there are other targets that terrorists would probably aim for rather than nuclear power plants.” CNIC’s Ban said also that no nukes should be restarted, because, “The steel plate of the primary containment vessel is only about 3 cm, and the outside concrete layer is not very thick. A large airplane would burst right through a containment vessel if it was directly hit.” Actually, the steel liner is imbedded inside high-density, steel-reinforced concrete several feet thick. The Ban statement was so incorrect that Tepco and the Nuclear Regulation Authority declined to comment on it.

December 17, 2015

  • Takahama units #3 & #4 clear more restart hurdles. The evacuation plan for the 30km radius was approved on Wednesday, covering not one, but three Prefectures; Fukui (home prefecture), Kyoto and Shiga. Officials from all prefectures “confirmed the plan is reasonable”. It is the first evacuation plan covering multiple prefectures and covers 180,000 people living within the 30km radius. It is expected that PM Shinzo Abe will formally approve the evacuation plan on Friday. On a second note, the Fukui Prefecture Assembly has approved the restarts. A draft resolution supporting of the move was submitted on today to the plenary session of the assembly, and passed by majority. Industry Minister Motoo Hayashi will meet Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa on Sunday to urge a formal approval for the resumption of operations. After that, the restarts will have one remaining roadblock to overcome; a Fukui district court injunction barring it happening. An appeal decision is expected next week.

  • Confusing reports in the Japanese Press about unit #2 valve failures on 3/14/11. It seems that the valves that were supposed to automatically depressurize the reactor vessel (RPV) failed to operate as designed. The earliest report was with NHK World, saying the inability to depressurize the RPV kept operators from using a low pressure fire pump to inject cooling water over the overheating fuel.  Operator records show that the SRVs worked as they were supposed to until the afternoon of March 14th. The operator records show that just after noon on March 14, no-one could enter the Suppression Chamber, which housed the 600,000 gallon “torus”, because the temperature in the room was nearly 150oC! The only way this could have happened was if safety relief valves had opened earlier. Further, with the torus that hot, all of the water within had probably boiled away. The operator record says that pressure build-up inside the PCV might possibly prevent proper SRV function since the pressure inside the PCV was climbing and would work against SRV operation. As it turns out, the operators did open two SRVs that evening by operating manual actuation valves that were energized by car batteries. Thus, there is something confused in the NHK report. It also seems the parallel Asahi Shimbun’s report has at least two technical errors. First, the Asahi (as with nearly all Japanese Press) routinely confuses matters by referring to the entire contents of the reactor building as “the reactor”. They seem to have done it again. Next, the Asahi says that the SRVs did not function because they were “designed to open under the pressure of nitrogen gas piped in from tanks and other sources.” However, BWR SRVs do not use nitrogen “pressure” to open! It is the steam pressure inside the RPV that forces them open by overcoming the large springs that hold them shut.  In both cases, the reports fail to mention the situation as reported in the operator records. The operator records show that just after noon on March 14, no-one could enter the Suppression Chamber, which housed the 600,000 gallon “torus”, because the temperature in the room was nearly 150oC! The only way this could have happened was if safety relief valves had often opened earlier in the crisis. Further, with the torus that hot, all of the water within had probably boiled away. The pressure inside the PCV necessarily increased, which would have inhibited SRV operation. Regardless, it may take many days to sort this all out because Tepco has yet to post what they actually told the reporters. At this point, we only have the confused news reports.

  • Tepco says the release of radioactive material that began March 14, 2011, was from unit #3. This was the day that the wind direction shifted inland. Unit #3 had vented its containment repeatedly beginning March 11th, with the plume going out to sea. However, at 9pm on March 13th, a venting showed only a moderate pressure drop inside the PCV, indicating problems with the operation. Tepco feels that the monitored increase in airborne radioactivity on March 14th was because the PCV’s integrity had been compromised due to over-pressurization, beginning the previous evening. Tepco also feels that the heat generated by the unit #3 meltdown exacerbated the loss of PCV integrity. (Comment - Until now, Tepco attributed the aforementioned March 14th inland releases to unit #2 having its large fifth floor blow-out panel open. We have challenged this since Tepco first speculated the releases came from unit #2. It’s about time that Tepco gave at least some credit to unit #3 for the releases! A major fraction, if not most of the releases had to have come from the unit #3 hydrogen explosion. To date, the unit #3 hydrogen explosion has not been included in Tepco’s “official position” as to the cause of the inland atmospheric releases.)

  • New, more versatile decontamination robots should facilitate F. Daiichi in-plant cleanup. The device was demonstrated to the Press on Wednesday. The new robots can reach upper floors inside the buildings where other clean-up robots could not. The several robotic sections are connected by hoses and cables that can extend upwards as much as 65 meters, including an arm that can blast high-pressure water, one robot that uses dry ice, and another that employs abrasives with a suction function. The interconnected robots are being deployed on the second and third floors of reactor buildings. The robots were developed in conjunction with International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning, Mitsubishi, Hitachi-GE, and Toshiba, in addition to Tepco’s robotic engineers. --  A video has been posted by Tepco to demonstrate the several functions of the new device…

  • The budget for rural Fukushima decontamination is boosted in order to meet the March, 2017, deadline. Last summer, the Environment Ministry requested a fiscal 2016 budget of just under $4 billion. However, that might not be enough to complete decontamination in the targeted municipalities that are supposed to be repopulated in April of 2017. The new budget should be about $4.5 billion. The increase is due to higher-than-expected costs of decontamination work, equipment maintenance costs, and rural waste disposal.

  • Japan plans for more nuclear and renewable energy production. The Industry Ministry wants increased reliance on both in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions caused by the burning of fossil fuels. The plan will be to have nukes and renewables account for at least 44% of Japan’s electricity by 2030, and will allow cooperative efforts between utilities in order to meet the prospective goal. In addition, energy conservation standards will be tightened to promote a shift to energy-saving light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. The plan is intended to help make Japan’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 26% by 2030.

December 14, 2015

  • Fukushima Prefecture releases the child thyroid screening data for 2014-15. There were nearly 153,000 children screened in 2014 with the 25 municipalities with the highest measured I-131 depositions. In 2015, another 47,000 were screened in the 34 remaining prefecture municipalities. In 2014, 41.7% had no detectible nodules or cysts, and 57.5% did. In 2015, 38% showed no detectible nodules or cysts, and 62% did. 1,200 had >5mm nodules requiring follow-up testing for possible cancer in 2014, and 270 in 2015.  There were two cysts of greater than 20mm each year. Of the total, 39 were judged to be either “suspicious or malignant”, all but one of which occurred in 2014. Fifteen of these tested positive for papillary thyroid carcinoma and were surgically removed. The screenings were not only offered in Fukushima Prefecture. More than 10,000 were performed in 46 other prefectures where former Fukushima residents now reside. 

  • More information on last week’s water contamination spike in an F. Daiichi tunnel. Tepco now says the contamination might have come from the adjacent waste water storage building. In November, the Cesium-137 concentration of the water stored inside the building was 19 million Becquerels per liter. Minor leakage into the trench, which runs from the building, could have raised the tunnel’s water from November’s reading of 94 Bq/l to the 400,000 Bq/l found on Dec. 10th. Tepco plans to pump out the contaminated water for purification, and filling the trench with concrete.

  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority wants low/moderate level waste buried deeper. An NRA panel says the current 50 meter depth regulation for radioactive decommissioning materials is too shallow. They say it should be buried at least 70 meters below the surface to prevent citizens from inadvertently contacting the waste. The NRA also wants the site to be maintained for 300-400 years and create provisions that prevent the material from being dug up after the maintenance period. They will seek opinions from Japan’s Federation of Electric Power Companies and compile a general plan by next March.

  • The Industry Ministry will consider deep seabed burial of high-level nuke waste. On Friday, a ministry panel posted an interim report concerning disposal of spent fuel after uranium and plutonium are removed for reuse. In the report, sites within 15 kilometers of active volcanos are to be forbidden and a repository should be within 20km of a coastline in order to facilitate sea transport. Tokyo had wanted municipalities to submit candidate sites for disposal, but no local government has come forward. Instead, the report says the government will hand-pick the “candidate sites from scientific perspectives” and urge local governments to support research and inspection efforts.  Seabed disposal was also considered, even though some on the panel were concerned about seawater seepage into the burial site. A ministry research team will discuss locations of active faults under the seabed and the impact of sea level changes to evaluate the feasibility of the project. It wants to issue recommendations by next summer. --

  • The IAEA says Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station has “comprehensive and robust defenses against severe accidents”. Following a review of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station, the International Atomic Energy Agency issued a report on their inspection. The report also made several safety recommendations for K-K, ranging from improved worker safety to improvements in fire safety. Yokomura Tadayuki, Plant Chief of K-K, said, "We will carefully consider the recommendations and suggestions given, and from now on, plan for what should be done by incorporating the findings and improving upon them. Although certain good practices were acknowledged, we will continue to apply these assessments while making improvements on them." K-K is the world’s largest nuke station with seven large generating units. The IAEA visit looked at units #6 and #7, which Tepco has identified as the two the NRA should look at for restarts. Tepco needs to have them resume operation to begin repaying the government loans for mandated compensation to evacuees, property owners, and businesses.

December 10, 2015

  • No detectible radioactive cesium in Fukushima school meals for 2014-15. Samples of 3,408 school lunch meals in Fukushima Prefecture between April, 2014, and September, 2015, all had less than 1 Becquerel per kilogram; the minimum detectible level. When the prefectural monitoring program began in 2012, some cesium was detected in 14 of 1,962 samples. The average concentration in the fourteen was 2.53 Bq/kg – a fortieth of the 100 Bq/kg limit. In 2013, only six of the 2,480 sampled meals showed detectible levels, with a maximum of 1.28 Bq/kg. Since then, there has been nothing. The prefecture says reasons for not detecting cesium in the meals include strict food examination during production and distribution, decontamination work, and the techniques of farmers to minimize absorption of cesium. University of Tokyo professor Ryugo Hayano says the concentrations should remain undetectable. (Comment – Once again, Japan’s major popular Press outlets have completely ignored some important good news! Fukushima Minpo is a Fukushima Prefecture newspaper.)

  • Iitate village to reopen its municipal office in July. Mayor Norio Kanno said the currently relocated office outside the exclusion zone will resume operation in its old location. This should be the first of several steps leading to the repopulation of Iitate by the spring of 2017. Building a “relocation base”, village-run residences, and a community center, appear to be next on the list, along with on-going decontamination efforts.

  • There was no Fukushima Cesium in North America’s Pacific kelp forests in 2015. Kelp Watch is a scientific collaboration between Dr. Steven Manley (Department of Biological Sciences, California State University- Long Beach) and Dr. Kai Vetter  (UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory). Initiated in November, 2013, the project has tested Giant Kelp (Macrocystis) and Bull Kelp (Nereocystis). Sampling takes place from Baja California to Alaska. The data is compared to samples taken off the coast of Chile, which is used as a base-line reference. Their latest report (January-February, 2015) finds no Cesium-134, the “fingerprint” isotope for Fukushima contamination, in any of the samples.

  • A high water contamination reading in tunnel water at Fukushima Daiichi. The “tunnels” run underground from a storage building temporarily holds untreated waste water from inside the plant basements. The highest tunnel water reading was 482,000 Bq/liter of Cesium and 500,000 Bq/liter of beta-emissions on December 3rd. This is 4,000 times higher than samples taken a year ago. The volume of water in the tunnels is 400-500 tons. Tepco says they are investigating into why there has been such a marked increase. The tunnel water is higher in elevation than the floors of the building, so the contamination must be from another place. Also, none of the nearby groundwater sampling points show increases in activity, thus there has been no release from the tunnels. (Comment - NHK is the only major news outlet to report this, which is unusual. Typically, this sort of news makes headlines everywhere. Very strange, indeed.)

  • Minamisoma City to investigate resident’s suspicions of an NRA cover-up. The City Assembly unanimously decided to officially examine whether or not the rice harvested in 1983 was contaminated by dust caused by the removal of debris from F. Daiichi unit #3. The Nuclear Regulation Authority concluded that the debris removal did not cause rice paddy contamination. A petition was submitted by a local antinuclear group challenging the NRA finding, which says, “The government should continue a scientific investigation so that farmers can be engaged in rice farming without anxieties, and accurate information can be conveyed to citizens in evacuation. Suspicions remain that the NRA concealed facts with the intention of reaching that conclusion.” The Agriculture Ministry originally raised the possibility of debris removal as the cause of contamination in 2013, and filed their concerns with the NRA. The NRA responded that all stirred-up dust remained on the F. Daiichi station property. The petition claims the NRA provided no alternative explanation for the contamination, so the only possibility had to have been the debris removal. The NRA says, “As the documents of the petition were not issued to the NRA, we cannot make a comment.” NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka feels any response should come from the Agriculture Ministry.  

December 7, 2015

  • Fukushima Cesium in the Pacific Ocean continues to be at safe levels. Woods Hole Oceanographic has released its latest data, and Ken Buesseler says tracking the plume is not difficult given modern, sensitive technology. If Cesium-137 is found by itself, then there can be no Fukushima contamination. If Cs-134 is also detectible, then it is due to Fukushima contamination. The highest Fukushima concentration in the most recent sampling is 1,600 miles west of San Francisco, at 11 Becquerels per ton of seawater. A Becquerel is one radioactive emission per second. This is 50% higher than the few locations along the Pacific coastline with the Cs-134 marker, but 10 times less than maximum levels found following post-WWII nuclear weapon’s tests. Further, it is 500 times lower than US drinking water limits. Though quite harmless, Buesseler says these detectible levels do have scientific value, “…these long-lived radioisotopes will serve as markers for years to come for scientists studying ocean currents and mixing in coastal and offshore waters.” On another note, Buesseler still believes that analytically-significant amounts of contamination are still being released to the sea by F. Daiichi.

  • Fukushima student’s radiation exposures are the same as with other parts of the world. Five Fukushima high school students wore dosimeters for two weeks during the last half of 2014. 216 other students around the world – including six from elsewhere in Japan – did the same thing. The Fukushima students found that their exposures were about the same as the rest. One student says, "We would be glad if we could contribute to restoring confidence and rebuilding our reputation by letting people around the world know about the research results." In an important relatyed note, it was found that student's exposures in Belarus were also the same as the rest of the cohort. The student’s group thesis has been published in the Nov. 27 edition of the British Journal of Radiological Protection. -- (British Journal link)

  • A Minamisoma Hospital study finds evacuee mortality was higher than non-evacuees. The death rate of nursing home evacuees was 2.68 times greater during the first year after the accident for evacuees, and 1.68 times greater for non-evacuees. The Minamisoma City mortality rate was compared to that of Soma, a city that is external of, but adjacent to the exclusion zone. The study also compared the mortality rate to the five years before the accident. Overall, elderly evacuees have had a death rate 1.86 times worse than elderly non-evacuees. But, looking at the mortality rates before and after evacuation for nursing homes themselves, the increase jumps to 3.37 times higher. Most importantly, those evacuated to facilities prepared to handle them showed no change in before-and-after rates of mortality.

  • Exclusion zone cows are tested for internal Cesium levels. The screening covers more than 120 cows in Okuma and Namie. Blood has been taken from each of the bovines and is being analyzed. The testing was done by the Society for Animal Refugee & Environment post-Nuclear Disaster, including veterinarians from from Iwate and Kitasato Universities. In addition to finding internal Cesium levels, the blood will be used for DNA testing.

  • The NRA comes under fire for incorrectly located BWR cabling. Japan’s upgraded nuclear regulations call for safety and safety-related power cabling to be separate from non-safety cables. Recently, Tepco informed the Nuclear Regulation Authority that cable trays under the floor of the control rooms at the seven-unit Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station are not properly separated. Subsequently, the NRA is being criticized for failing to conduct cabling inspections on the PWR units recently restarted and the others that have passed pre-operational screenings. While it seems to be a problem with BWR plants, the NRA says they “…can’t deny the possibility that other cables are mixed at pressurized-water reactors…”

  • Tokyo is called to give detailed public explanations of the need to build rural radioactive waste disposal facilities. Of the six prefectures charged with designating the sites, only Fukushima has stepped up and done it. The Yomiuri Shimbun says Fukushima Prefecture agreed because of a concerted effort on the part of the government to correctly inform elected officials and residents of everything associated with the issue. The criterion for public exposure from a disposal site is less than one millisievert per year. The nation’s largest newspaper concludes, “It is important to present correct, easy-to-understand information about radiation to local communities and win their understanding.”

December 3, 2015

  • There is no Fukushima contamination in Alaska’s seafood. State health authorities and the Food and Drug Administration say Alaska fish species found no Fukushima contamination in 2014-15. Misinformation spread online has caused much concern, said Marlena Brewer of the Division of Environmental Health, “I get calls from all across the country. I’ve even had international calls with concerns about Alaska seafood.” Tests this past year were run by the FDA’s Winchester Engineering Analytical Center in Massachusetts. Testing covered five Salmon species common to Alaska’s waters, as well as Halibut, Pollock, Sablefish, and Pacific cod. Scientists had predicted that the peak of Fukushima contamination in Alaska’s fish should be during 2016.

  • Fukushima InFORM summarizes a Japanese report on Fukushima freshwater food fish. The report covers the contamination concentrations found in 16 species. The main points are that I-131 did not appreciably accumulate in the species, Cesium concentrations have decreased over time as expected, Cesium concentrations were highest in bottom-feeding fish found in lakes and rivers, freshwater species had detectibly higher contamination levels than seawater fish, and Fukushima fish had 10-20 times lower contamination levels than Chernobyl’s. The contamination levels were compared to aquiculture fishes that were naturally less contaminated. InFORM reports that the trends in the Japanese report follows the trends found in Canadian species, albeit in much, much lower concentrations.

  • More Fukushima child thyroid cancer cases. The second round of screenings for child thyroid anomalies by Fukushima Medical University has found eleven more that qualify as cancerous. Of the 39 suspected or confirmed cases that were reported during the second round, 19 were cleared during the first round of screening, but apparently developed cancer afterward. The number of confirmed cancers in both rounds now stands at 115. Five children were added to the “suspected list”, bringing the current total to 24. Panel chairman Hokuto Hoshi said, "The dose of radiation exposure in the Fukushima crisis has been small compared to that in the Chernobyl disaster. Based on the fact that no cases of cancer have been identified among children who were five or younger at the time of the meltdowns, it is hard to believe -- as we have heretofore said -- that the cancer was caused by [Fukushima accident] radiation." The first round of screenings covered about 300,000 Fukushima children who were 18 or under at the time of the accident. To date, roughly 180,000 have been re-screened in the second round. --

  • Fukushima Prefecture approves a rural radioactive waste disposal site. The announcement was made by Governor Masao Uchibori. The site will be an existing facility in Tomioka Town. The town mayor accepted the proposal and the mayor of Naraha Town, through which much of the material will be transported, also gave consent. All three said the decision was difficult, given the concerns of some local residents, but they felt it necessary to expedite disposal in order to support repopulation. The volume of the Prefecture’s bagged decontamination material is about 650,000 cubic meters, weighing an estimated 166,000 tons. Of this, some 138,000 tons are classified as “designated waste” with activity greater than 8,000 Becquerels per kilogram. Materials with more than 100,000 Bq/kg will be disposed at the Fukushima Ecotech Clean Center. Tomioka and Naraha accepted the project after the Environment Ministry explained safeguards for the disposal, and the prefecture promised them a grant of 10 billion yen ($81 million). Governor Uchibori said, “Town officials accepted our view that the program is crucial to help recover Fukushima’s overall environment…” Fukushima is the first Prefecture to allow disposal of the rural wastes within their borders, in conformance with Tokyo guidelines. There are ten other prefectures are balking because of “fierce opposition” from local residents. --

  • The “Babushkas” of Chernobyl are living long, healthy lives. More than 100 elderly women refused to evacuate from the government-mandated exclusion zone around Chernobyl in 1986. A few have died of strokes and other old-age complications, but most are still alive. They mostly subsist on homegrown foods, their few farm animals (mostly chickens), and what they can find in the woods near where they live. One woman said that starvation is what scares her; not radiation. Another says, “The exclusion zone is not a prison. In Kiev, I’d have died long ago, five times over. Every car releases the whole periodic table into the air, and you inhale that into your lungs.” The Babushkas come and go as they please. Some even go to a lab with a spectrometer to have their radiocesium levels checked, but mostly out of curiosity. The lab technician says that radiation has its risks, but other problems - “socio-psychological factors” – are more dangerous. He adds that the Chernobyl Babushkas are actually outliving those who evacuated, saying “Quite simply, people die from anguish.”

  • (Updated 12/4/15) The mayor of Takahama approves two nuke restarts. Kansai Electric Company has been meeting with local and Fukui prefectural officials in order to get agreement to restart Takahama units 3&4. Takahama Mayor Yutaka Nose said he believes the conditions for the restarts have now been met. "After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, measures required (for nuclear facilities) changed drastically. We will respond to the matter from a comprehensive perspective while placing top priority on safety." The Town assembly has already agreed to the restart, but the prefectural assembly and governor continue to drag their feet. Mayor Nose also announced a new consultative body will help local governments create evacuation plans, beyond administrative borders, in case of a nuclear accident. --

  • Naoto Kan loses his Fukushima-related libel lawsuit against PM Shinzo Abe. At issue was Kan’s order to halt the use of seawater for cooling at F. Daiichi after they ran out of fresh water. Abe also said that Kan’s staff had spread disinformation to make it seem as if Kan actually ordered Fukushima Plant Manager Yoshida to use seawater, and not order it stopped. Kan claimed that his reputation was damaged by Abe’s criticism of Kan’s actions during the Fukushima accident. Kan alleged numerous factual errors. But, Tokyo district court judge Norio Nagaya ruled that the claims made by Abe were “perceived as true”, and ruled against Kan. (Comment - Meanwhile, One of Japan's most antinuclear popular Press outlets continues its relentless crusade to try and absolve Kan of his actions. Japan Today says that Kan never ordered F. Daiichi to stop seawater cooling in March, 2011, and instead alleges it was all Tepco/Tokyo's idea. Let the truth be damned! )

  • Tepco settles a lawsuit alleging a suicide was due to the nuke accident. The family of a farmer who killed himself in 2011 has agreed to an out-of-court settlement totaling “several hundred thousand dollars”. The family had filed for $1 million in damages. The turning point in the negotiations was the plaintiffs dropping the demand for a formal apology from Tepco. The farmer’s wife and two sons will receive the compensation. The farmer had complained repeatedly that the ban on Fukushima milk by the government made his business impossible, resulting in him selling most of his herd. He left two brief messages as to why he killed himself. One said “If only there were no nuclear accident” and the other “I no longer have the spirit to work”. The farm is located in Soma, outside the government-mandated exclusion zone, more than 50 kilometers from F. Daiichi. The farmer’s wife said, "I am not fully satisfied with the content of the settlement, but I've decided to resolve the issue to return to a peaceful life as soon as possible." --

  • Some evacuees who will lose their free public housing in 15 months are unhappy. Those ineligible for long-term "post-disaster recovery public housing" say they don’t know what they will do when temporary public housing is closed. Those at risk of losing the free accommodations are from towns already having the evacuation order lifted, or will have it rescinded by April of 2017. Many of those eligible for long-tern housing, evacuated from the “difficult to return” zones, have used their generous compensation pay-outs to buy new homes. But, most of those who are (or soon will) be allowed to go home have said they are not returning. Thus, they seem to want the free housing to continue indefinitely. One example is Nahara Town, which had its restrictions lifted earlier this year. But, only a few hundred of the more than 7,000 Nahara residents have returned. By April 1, 2017, the temporary housing the objectors now live in will be closed. One Nahara evacuee said, “…it’s not like we want to move out of our temporary housing units. Why isn't recovery public housing available to Naraha residents?"

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