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Fukushima 96... 1/28/16-2/15/16

February 15, 2016

  • Radiation exposures in and around the exclusion zone have dropped at least 65% since 2011. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has posted its latest data taken from aerial surveys run in September, 2015. The readings were taken by helicopter with its detection probe at about one meter above the ground. The radiation levels have dropped even more over the past six months. The NRA says 53% of the decline in outdoor area exposures has been due to radioactive decay, and the rest from decontamination efforts. In addition, the “belt” of relatively high (>19 microsieverts per hour) estimated exposures extending northwest of F. Daiichi has shrunk to nearly nothing. In the 19 µSv/hr locations, a person staying outdoors 24 hours per day for a full year would receive about 100 millisieverts of exposure. 

  • Nearly 90% of Fukushima consumers buy mostly prefecture-grown foods. The Fukushima Prefecture Liaison Council of Consumer Organizations has been running an annual survey since 2012 to assess the impact of negative rumors on prefecture foods following the nuke accident. The 2015 survey showed a nearly 10% improvement versus 2014. The council says the significant gain was probably due to the stringent monitoring of radioactive content with Fukushima-grown foodstuffs.

  • The on-again, off-again Ice Wall operation is probably on-again. Tepco and the NRA had agreed, in principle, to begin freezing the 1.5 kilometer-long ice wall in stages. The recent hold-up concerned the part of the wall to be frozen first. Tepco wanted to begin by freezing the “upstream” section first; facing inland. The NRA feared this would cause groundwater outside the four contaminated basements to drop below the levels inside the buildings, resulting in a significant out-flow of radioactive water with potentially harmful consequences. The NRA wanted the “downstream” side, facing the shoreline, frozen first. Tepco finally agreed to the NRA’s wishes. Official approval of the new Tepco plan is pending because the NRA says they still have points to clarify. -- --

  • The government has procured less than 1% of the land designated for interim rural waste disposal. The large amount of paperwork and limited manpower are cited as reasons why so little has been accomplished during the past year. More than 2,500 individuals own the properties in Futaba and Okuma intended for the 30-year facility. About 10% of the properties are owned by people who have yet to be located. To date, only 44 contracts with landowners have been finalized. During the eleven months since the project opened, about 36,000 cubic meters of the bagged trash has been moved to the storage location.

  • Another 2011-level quake/tsunami will not cause a severe accident at F. Daiichi. Plant Manager Akira Ono briefed the news media on Feb. 10th concerning the possibility of another massive radioactive release. He said, “If a major earthquake hits and then a tsunami comes again, that would be the most tense moment for us. But we will not fall into similar confusion like before.” Ono explained that none of the reactors have operated for five years, so there could be no meltdowns. Plus, cooling water systems for the damaged cores have been greatly improved. Further, the protective barriers surrounding the station have been built to withstand a 15-meter tsunami; the size of the one that caused the nuke accident. Ono also said, “I feel like we have just climbed over the first stage of a mountain.”

  • The Environment Minister retracts her “unscientific” statement about the 1mSv/year decontamination goal. Minister Tamayo Marukawa made her retraction after reading a memorandum of her February 7th speech in Nagano Prefecture. In the speech, she said the former government regime had “decided [on the 1 mSv goal] by the then environment minister “without any scientific grounds”. This past Friday, she decided to "retract the remark in order to maintain a relationship of trust with residents in Fukushima. I would like to extend my sincere apologies once again to disaster victims, including those in Fukushima.” She added that the 1 mSv goal was “indeed scientific in the sense that it was set as a result of thorough discussions by scientists,” and "The government will work together to achieve that goal." The minister says she has no intention of stepping down from her job as a result of this issue. -- 

  • Tsunami debris remains on the ocean floor because of radiation fears. Fukushima fisheries want to fully open their fishing grounds between 10 and 20 kilometers from F. Daiichi. But first, they have to remove the tsunami-deposited debris from the seabed that will foul their nets. A Soma Fisheries official said, “Unless the debris is removed, fishing nets may be caught and the risk of accidents will rise.” Not being able to dispose of the material has put the plans on hold. Another official said, “Even if we pull debris out of the water, it’s not easy to find a place for it.” Over 35,000 tons have been removed outside the 20 kilometer radius. The fisheries say they will pay for the trash removal, but Fukushima Prefecture says there are no municipalities that will agree with land disposal. Part of the problem is the nearest ports to the area are still under post-tsunami repairs, but the main issue is resident’s fears that the debris could possibly be radioactive.

  • Nearly half of Japan’s public wants the number of reactors reduced. NHK World ran a survey in December and found that 49% want reliance on nuclear energy lowered, 26% said they were comfortable with the current level, and 26% said all reactors should be scrapped. On the issue of nuclear waste disposal, 52% said it is very important, 35% said they care about it, 10% said they don’t think about it much, and 2% said they give it no consideration.

  • 21 groups of plaintiffs suing Tokyo and Tepco have formally united. They all await court decisions on their demands for greater nuke accident compensation. Their association’s first order of business is to share information and seek extension of free public housing for voluntary evacuees. The group’s lead representatives say they should get more compensation because their right to live in their hometowns has been violated. Further, they believe that there will be no restoration [repopulation and recovery] without full voluntary evacuee support. Co-organizer Akiko Morimatsu, a voluntary evacuee from Koriyama City who is living in Osaka, commented, "By coming together and transcending the differences in our circumstances, such as whether or not we evacuated (from Fukushima Prefecture), as well as the location of our evacuation, we plan to make our appeals known widely throughout society." --

  • One of the first international Fukushima Fifth Anniversary articles says the station recovery is not going well. Although initially covering recent Tepco statements on the status of the recovery effort, the main body of the report rues the continuing evacuation mandates by Tokyo, the continual buildup of purified waste waters containing only biologically innocuous Tritium, the NRA’s recent stoppage of the ice wall around the four damaged F. Daiichi units, and the on-going issues surrounding the disposal of radioactive waste from rural low-level decontamination debris and high level used (spent) fuel. The article closes with Japan’s leading antinuke, Hideyuki Ban of the Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center, decrying the notion of burying nuclear waste far out to sea, “At some point it would leak and affect the environment. Some say it’ll be fine, as it will be diluted in the ocean, but it’s unclear whether it will be diluted well. If it gets into fish, it could end up on someone’s table.”

February 11, 2016

  • Tepco reports that groundwater in-flow to units#1-#4 has been greatly reduced. In a Press Release concerning completion of the in-ground “ice wall”, the company says, “The [current] strategy to prevent water from becoming contaminated has reduced the average daily inflow of ground water into the buildings from 400 l/day to 150 l/day.” This statement refers to the successful operation of groundwater by-pass and subdrain systems that have reduced in-leakage.  

  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority has blocked Tepco’s plans to start operation of it 1.5 kilometer-long in-ground ice wall. The NRA speculates that contaminated water in the basements of the buildings could leak into the groundwater if the level inside the frozen soil wall drops too much. Tepco believes the barrier could reduce in-flow to the basements to below 100 tons/day. The structure was actually proposed by the Industry Ministry in May of 2013. The NRA has criticized the project since construction began in June of 2014. Last spring, NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka chided the company by saying, “TEPCO is scattering a strange illusion that the problem of contaminated water can be solved completely if a frozen soil wall is constructed.” The NRA is concerned because it would take up to two months to thaw out the frozen soil if their feared scenario actually happens. On Tuesday, Tepco President Naomi Hirose told the NRA, “We will consider your proposal and get back to you in a most sincere manner.”

  • Japan’s Environment Minister is lambasted for allegedly disrespecting radiophobic evacuees. Minister Tamayo Marukawa has been attacked by the minority Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) for allegedly saying, “There are always those ‘anti-radiation’ people, as you may call them, who are worried about radiation no matter how low the levels are,” and that the annual exposure goal of one millisievert per year is “scientifically groundless”. The 1 mSv/year was arbitrarily established by the DPJ before the party was summarily voted out of office in December, 2012. The DPJ’s Rintaro Ogata said Marukawa sounded like she was ridiculing those suffering from radiation fears in Fukushima. Her alleged statement was made on Sunday and not recorded. Marukawa says she does not recall making the statement and accuses the DPJ of misquoting her, but apologized for not making her view clear enough. Marukawa also challenged the DPJ to thoroughly explain the rationale behind their allegation. 

  • The NRA plans to add more radiation monitors to the Fukushima evacuation zone. This will be in addition to the agency’s ~3,000 monitors presently installed across the Prefecture. The plan calls for the new monitors to be placed in areas where evacuation orders have been lifted, as well as those where the mandates will be removed in the future. In addition, more mobile units will be introduced to study the areas assumed to have the highest remaining contamination. The NRA says this is intended to stimulate repopulation. NRA Chair S. Tanaka says some areas have had too few devices, thus the changes of radiation levels due to decontamination have not been fully monitored.

  • Tepco’s latest Nuclear Progress Report is available on line. The key points were made about F. Daiichi, F. Daini, and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. One new item for F. Daiichi is the trial operation of a low level waste incinerator at the station. The facility will be used to dispose of the small mountain of burnable protective clothing that has built up over the past five years. Two important subjects with the K-K facility are the completion and testing of the hardened filtered vents for the containment, and a strong commitment to insuring that safety and non-safety cabling will be isolated from each other. 

  • NHK World reports on the F. Daiichi waste incinerator test. NHK says the materials to be burned include “protective suits, metal sheets, and lumber.” It is designed to work around the clock and consume 14 tons per day, reducing the disposable volume by 90%. The exhaust gasses will be filtered to remove radioactive particulates. The radioactive ash will be stored at F. Daiichi station.

February 8, 2016

  • The “J-Village” used by Tepco as a base of Fukushima operations will return to being a soccer facility. It was used by the Japan Football Association as the training center for the men’s and women’s national soccer teams prior to the nuke accident. The association plans on refurbishing the J-Village for soccer by 2019 so that the teams can train for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Last year, JFA President Kuniya Daini said that before the accident “generational teams have got a lot of assistance from the J-Village and Fukushima.” He now proposes to “use the J-Village as a training center as it used to be before the nuclear accident.” In addition to the Olympics, the association would also like to have the women’s team train for the 2023 World Cup, which Japan is trying to host.

  • Takahama unit#4 fuel loading is completed. The insertion of 157 fuel bundles began on Sunday, January 31st, and was finished on February 3rd. Four of the bundles are MOX (Mixed-Oxide), comprised of recycled Uranium and Plutonium. Takahama #4 has not previously used MOX fuel, so it will be the fourth unit in Japan to use reprocessed fuel. In addition, it was announced that Takahama unit#3 reached 100% power on February 4th. (Comment – Both of these milestones were conspicuously missing from Japan’s popular Press. Only the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum has carried it. Once again, we find that Japan’s Press ignores nuclear events when there is nothing negative to report, or when there are no protesters to exploit.)

  • Some intertidal species populations have dropped south of F. Daiichi since the accident. A new report, authored by Toshihiro Horiguchi and colleagues, found that specific types of shellfish and crustacean populations south of F. Daiichi have declined since 3/11/11. The research team surmises that the cause might be significant “acute or sub-acute, rather than chronic, exposure to Cs-137 and other radionuclides”. The populations lowered closer they got to the accident site. One species of sea snail (Thais clavigera) was entirely absent within a 30 kilometers. While many of the studied species’ populations were affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami all along the northeastern coast, the data from south of F. Daiichi was unique and significant when compared to Chiba, Ibaraki, Miyagi, and Iwate coastlines. The researchers concluded it was unlikely that the quake/tsunami was solely responsible for these changes. They admit their findings stand in contrast to previous studies of benthic communities (worms, corals, bi-valves, and etc.) along the same coastline, and there might be some other reason for the cause of the population shifts they discovered. However, until other studies can prove otherwise, it seems that the acute, elevated exposures to Cs-137 and other radionuclides is currently the best possibility as a cause for the population declines.  The only major Japanese news outlet to cover the story was the Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan News).

  • Voluntary evacuees continue to denounce next year’s end of free housing. Fukushima Prefecture held a meeting on Sunday to explain what will be done to help residents that fled their homes in 2011, purely out of fear. Unlike those from the exclusion zone, they were not ordered to leave by Tokyo. At the meeting attended by ~30 people, the prefecture said that housing subsidies for voluntary evacuees will end on April 1, 2017. However, new measures for moving and rent will be offered. The crowd responded with a barrage of criticism and complaints. One person who moved to Tokyo said the new hand-outs are not going to be enough, “Do they understand the rent in Tokyo?” Yet another said, “It just sounds like the prefectural government wants to make us return to the area as soon as possible and terminate the assistance. Even though the nuclear accident has not yet come to an end, how can they say we should go back there?” Masaaki Matsumoto, chief of the prefectural government’s Evacuees Support Division, said the government will not force evacuees to return home, “The environment in Fukushima is being prepared for people to live in. By setting up the subsidy system, we also responded to those who want to continue their evacuation.”  (Comment - The Asahi fails to mention that tens of thousands of Tokyo-mandated evacuees will continue to receive their generous monthly stipends.)

February 4, 2016

  • Tokyo says most rural radioactive debris could be declassified. Because of five years of radioactive decay, about 70% of the currently-stored bags of rural debris now qualify for ordinary landfills because it is no longer above the 8,000 Becquerels per kilogram criterion for Cesium. The Environment Ministry wants to reclassify it for open burial. In ten years, more than 99.9% of the current debris will qualify for landfill disposal. Draft rule changes were presented to the Press today. They were formulated at the request of various local governments and their residents. Currently, some 170,000 tons of decontamination rubbish is stored at hundreds of temporary locations across 12 prefectures. --

  • Kansai business leaders “hail” the Takahama #3 restart. The two day Kansai Economic Seminar attracted 500 company representatives from the region. Kansai Economic Federation Chairman Shosuke Mori said, “The restart of these reactors means the situation since September 2013, where Japan had no nuclear plants operating, has been eliminated. This is a very significant development. Kepco will also restart the Takahama No. 4 reactor in about a month…”

  • A former advisor reveals the chaos inside PM Kan’s office the first few days of the nuke accident. Haruki Madarame was assigned to Naoto Kan’s staff the evening of March 11, 2011. At the time, he was chairman of Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission. He was the only member of Naoto Kan’s hastily-assembled staff with any actual knowledge of nuclear power plants. Madarame says that once he arrived at the PM’s office, he was so besieged by questions that he was “more explanatory than advisory”. He accompanied the PM on his infamous March 12 helicopter flight to Fukushima. Along the way, Kan asked Madarame about the potential danger of hydrogen buildup. Madarame said a hydrogen explosion was unlikely because the inner Primary Containment (PCV) was inerted with Nitrogen. A Hydrogen explosion needed some Oxygen in order to occur. Madarame told Kan he was more concerned about over-pressurization rupturing the PCV. He did not anticipate leaks developing out of the PCV and into the outer reactor building, which was not a steel-reinforced structure. Madarame admits he underestimated the situation and lost considerable credibility with Kan when unit #1 had its explosion. He was not in touch with anyone at F. Daiichi, other than when he was at the site with Kan on the morning of March 12th. Madarame says he was “astonished” to later find out that Goshi Hosono, special advisor to the PM, was regularly communicating by phone with Masao Yoshida, F. Daiichi plant manager. He was immediately disturbed that decisions were being made based on information passed along by someone other than a nuclear expert. Concerning another infamous event at the Prime Minister’s office, Haruki said he was asked if injecting seawater could trigger re-criticality. He recalls answering, “I can’t say the possibility is zero”. This triggered an over-reaction on the part of Kan’s staff, which assumed a non-zero possibility meant it was actually going to happen. Thus, the irresponsible order to not use seawater was sent to Masao Yoshida. Fortunately, Yoshida ignored the order. In general, Madarame wishes there would have been more nuclear experts in the Prime Minister’s office, since he-alone was clearly not enough.

  • Eight Fukushima communities want their forests fully decontaminated. Tokyo has decontaminated forests around municipalities to a depth of 20 meters, as well as campsites and other popular locations deeper in the woods. However, most exclusion zone communities say it is not enough. Futaba Town Assembly Chairman Seiichi Sasaki says not decontaminating whole forests discourages evacuees from returning home. Environment Minister Shinji Inoue says they are ready to expand the work close to places people live, but will not commit to anything more. He wants the local community officials to meet with the ministry and discuss the issue.

  • Researchers say they found tiny radioactive glass particles scattered around F. Daiichi. Tokyo professors Noriko Yamaguchi and Toshihiro Kogure report they have collected the miniscule materials (several micrometers diameter) on leaves in the forests near Kawauchi Village. The main component is glass, but they also detected some Cesium, which the researchers say could only have come from F. Daiichi in March, 2011. They believe the Cesium was contained in the concrete of the station’s damaged buildings and melted into the miniscule glass beads because of intense heat.

  • Japan’s top antinuclear organization posts Fukushima’s first 5th anniversary tirade. The report literally drips with abject fear-mongering. The Tokyo-based Citizens Nuclear Information Center’s conjectural claims include – very little is still known about the causes and effects of the accident, an unidentified “piece of evidence” suggests that AC power was lost long before the tsunami hit and caused the unit #1 isolation condenser to fail, no-one knows where the water to cool the damaged reactors went or how much was used, the reasons for the hydrogen explosions “are not known at all”, questions of health and safety remain unanswered, and the “possibility of increase in incidence of thyroid cancer among children”. The obvious agenda of the posting is to appeal to the proliferation of fear constructed on uncertainty and doubt (FUD).

February 1, 2016

Friday’s restart of Takahama unit #3 resulted in numerous fear-mongering, FUD-filled articles in the Japanese Press. We have updated our Saturday posting about the restart, including reports in today’s Press. The fraction of the core made of recycled (used/spent) fuel – i.e. MOX – is a common focus of the reports. Clearly, fear of plutonium is being exploited to the extreme.

Now, back to Fukushima…

  • Fukushima’s “ice wall” is fully installed. The last segment of the 1.5km-long structure is finished, and filling the in-ground piping with coolant/refrigerant has begun. Once the system is filled, all that remains will be approval by the Nuclear Regulation Authority to put the system into operation. The NRA has concerns about the ice wall causing groundwater level to drop below the contaminated water level inside the four unit’s basements, which could possibly result in “unintended consequences”. Regardless, once in operation, the frozen barrier should reduce groundwater flow inside the wall to less than 10 tons per day. The total cost of the project is just below $300 million USD. (Comment - This is another “good news” story largely ignored by Japan’s Press. Only NHK World carried it.)

  • The last remaining exclusion areas in Kawauchi City will be re-opened this spring. Fukushima Prefecture announced that the Ogi and Kainosake districts will have their evacuation orders lifted.  Fukushima’s office of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters shared the plan with residents in the districts at a support center in the village. Eight of the 52 residents from the two districts attended. Some complained that their homes need repairs, while others said they remain concerned about lingering effects of low level radiation exposure. Both districts have been opened for “temporary” habitation for nearly three months.

  • Fukushima police say 1,613 residents died in the quake/tsunami of March 11. 2011. Once the remains of one person were officially identified, the book could be closed on the horrific data. Hidekatsu Suzuki’s remains were recovered on March 14, 2011, in wreckage removed by workers in Iwaki City. The long, macabre process of identification used false teeth, the victim’s past x-rays, and other such data. On January 19th, his name was released to the Press. Mr. Suzuki was a resident of the city’s Hisanohama District. Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures still have unidentified remains to analyze before they can end their investigations.

  • Tepco continues preparations for a robotic incursion inside unit#2 Primary Containment (PCV). Earlier attempts were stymied by imbedded concrete blocks that were located in the robot’s intended path. The blocks have been removed, so planning for the PCV examination can move forward. The main obstacle, at this point, is the relatively high radiation field around the point of insertion for the robot. Humans must make the insertion through the thick PCV walls, and the radiation field is too great to allow it, at this point. Decontamination efforts have lowered the radiation field, but not enough to suit Tepco and the NRA.  A graphic Press handout of the planned robotic inspection can be found here…

  • The restart of Takahama #3 upsets neighboring prefectural governors. Two prefectures overlap the 30km Emergency Planning Zone and they feel they should have had the right of approval on the restart. Shiga Governor Taizo Mikazuki says he would not have approved the restart because he feels no in-depth protection plan for handling a nuclear emergency has been established. He also wants the plant owner, Kansai Electric Co., to provide more safety measures at Takahama station. Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada finds the restart regrettable because he had no say in the matter. Part of Kyoto Prefecture is about 5 kilometers from Takahama station.

  • Fuel loading for Takahama unit#4 quietly begins. Four of the 157 fuel bundles are MOX; the first time recycled fuel bundles have been used in this unit. Kansai Electric Co. plans to have to core fully loaded by the end of the day on Wednesday. Only one major news outlet ran an article on this.

  • Another petition to stop a nuke restart is shot down. Yawatahama City Assembly, Ehime Prefecture, rejected the petition calling for a popular referendum on whether to allow restart of Ikata unit #3. The restart is expected in late spring. Yawatahama lies some thirty kilometers from Ikata station, at the edge of the EPZ. Although the Ehime governor and Ikata Town mayor have approved the restart, die-hard antinuclear groups from the region created the petition and got nearly 10,000 of the City residents to sign it. The petition claims that the Local Autonomy Law allows for such a referendum. To the contrary, Yawatahama Mayor Ichiro Oshiro said, “There is no framework for considering such a result or implementing it under the current system, even if citizens express their opposition to the matter.”

  • Japan’s largest newspaper lauds the Takahama restart. The Yomiuri Shimbun says, “It is highly significant that the power supply system will be bolstered in the Kansai economic zone, the nation’s second-biggest such zone after the Tokyo metropolitan area.” The two Takahama units will provide 7% of the Kansai’s expected demand and lower the company’s expenditure on expensive imported fossil fuels during the lengthy nuke moratorium. In fact, Kepco is anticipating a rate reduction for customers as early as April.  In addition, the Yomiuri says the use of some MOX fuel in the core of unit #3 can only “contribute to the progress of the nuclear fuel cycle.” The newspaper also makes a statement about the NRA’s safety regulations this writer has not seen before in the Japanese Press (or the international Press, for that matter), “Safety measures at the Takahama plant have been reinforced based on the assumption that natural disasters of an unprecedented scale may happen.” (Emphasis added) Finally, the Yomiuri bemoans the tiresome slowness of the NRA in clearing nukes for restart, “The NRA’s screening of other plants has been delayed, making it uncertain when they can be reactivated. The restart of these reactors will be indispensable to a stable power supply. A large-scale power outage has not occurred because utilities have managed to maintain full operation of their aged thermal power plants. To find a way out of this situation, which is like walking a tightrope, the NRA must conduct screening swiftly.”

  • Fukushima InFORM says no detectible Fukushima Cesium has reached the western Canada coastline. It is getting closer, to be sure, but has not happened yet. On the other hand, the increase in Cesium 137 in coastal waters has increased by an average of 0.5 Becquerels per liter over the past year. (Aside – The banana I eat with breakfast every day has at least 30 times more radioactivity from Potassium-40, at a much higher energy level for each emission relative to Cs-137. – End aside) Fukushima InFORM explains that the miniscule increase in Cs-137 indicates that a tiny concentration of Fukushima’s fingerprint isotope Cs-134 is probably existent, but in concentrations too little to be detected by the most sensitive monitoring devices in Canada.

January 30, 2016

Fukushima Update Extra – Takahama #3 restart

The restart of a third Japanese nuke plant has spawned the expected spate of Press reports. Expected? Absolutely! The majority of the postings are negative, resurrecting become common themes: allegedly inadequate emergency planning, the apparent lack of a national nuclear waste disposal option, the inference that the only benefit of nuke operation is making money, and local residents claiming a violation of their human rights. But the main reason for the onslaught is the use of MOX fuel in 15% of the unit#3 fuel load. Even the relatively few nuclear-neutral Japanese news outlets mention the MOX fuel in the core. Much of what is posted is misleading and drips with FUD rhetoric (Fear predicated on perceived Uncertainty & Doubt).

  • Takahama unit #3 was restarted late Friday afternoon. The first of the control rods was slowly withdrawn at 5pm, allowing neutrons from the fuel to be moderated (slowed-down) to produce subsequent fissions. Initial criticality occurred at around 6am this morning. All reports literally centered around Takahama unit #3 being the first nuke to restart using Mixed Oxide fuel Only one, Japan’s Atomic Industrial Forum, mentioned that MOX comprises about 15 % of the installed fuel bundles. Fear generated by the mere mention of the word “Plutonium” was obviously being exploited for increased ratings and advertising income. -- -- [Comment – NHK World posted some apparently misleading information. First, they make it seem as if three-fourths of the control rods were removed from the core. Actually, they were partially withdrawn to expose enough of the fuel to allow initial criticality. The control rods were patterned appropriately, but none totally removed from the core. In addition, the generation of electricity has nothing to do with the NHK assertion about “density of materials in cooling water”. NHK may be making a dismal attempt to explain the core void coefficient of reactivity (see “Slowing Down Neutrons” in that effects power control. The above errors may be merely a quirk of translating from Japanese to English, but this writer suspects it is a result of ignorance on the part of the Press.]

  • Japan’s antinuclear Press makes fears and minor protests seem significant. On Friday, the Japan Times fixated primarily on the evacuation issue. Although welcomed by local businesses, the Mayor, the prefecture, and the governor, the news outlet focuses on the dissident demographic, which mostly comes from neighboring Kyoto Prefecture. The Times says the existing evacuation plans merely exist on paper, clearly implying that they are untested and prone to catastrophic failure. Aileen Mioko Smith of the antinuclear group Green Action said the plans fail to consider the “tens of thousands of people with special needs” inside the EPZ. She added a plea obviously intended to evoke emotional response, “Restart of the Takahama Plant is a human rights injustice toward children and those with handicaps”. (emphasis added) The Times also spends time on the nuclear waste disposal/storage issue, a long-standing favorite of the antinuclear persuasion for more than three decades. The Mainichi Shimbun focused on public protests and failed court injunctions in their Friday restart article. They went so far as to post a picture of about 30 protesters demonstrating in Hiroshima City, exploiting confusion between reactors and bombs that is common across Japan. The Asahi Shimbun chimed-in on this topic, as well. Perhaps 30 demonstrators stood outside Takahama station’s gate shouting antinuclear slogans. Adding to the emotional appeal, the Asahi said they were doing this in “cold weather and steady rain.” The newspaper even found a solitary local businessman whose statement fits the obviously antinuclear agenda. He said, “The resumption of the reactor’s operation poses a huge dilemma for us. We can’t readily welcome the restart, but it is also true that we have relied on revenues from hosting the plant over the past 40 years. This town is certain to go into decline without the plant in operation.” The rest of the article dwelled on the issues raised by the three neighboring prefectures that skirt the 30km EPZ. One Hyogo official said, “The restart has left with concerns because we have yet to decide locations to shelter evacuees.” –- -- --  

  • Japan’s Press makes a mockery of MOX (pluthermal) fuel. On Friday, the Asahi Shimbun believes that MOX fuel places the 180,000 people living inside the 30km evacuation zone at extraordinary risk, and makes it the main focus of its report. The article tries to exacerbate the fear-mongering by including the impending restart of Ikata unit #3, which will also use MOX as a minor part of the fuel bundle mix. Using a modified bait-and-switch tactic, the Mainichi Shimbun added to the MOX fear-mongering on Saturday. The Mainichi said spent (used) MOX fuel bundles “will have nowhere to go for reprocessing…leaving Japan with yet another nuclear waste problem”. It then dwells on historical issues with the Monju fast breeder project and the Rokkasho reprocessing facility. Although wildly misleading and dripping with FUD rhetoric (Fear predicated on perceived Uncertainty & Doubt) , the Mainichi claims “spent MOX fuel is beyond the capacity of the Rokkasho plant, [and] there needs to be built yet another plant dedicated to reprocessing spent MOX fuel. However, there's not even a blueprint for building such a plant.”  (Aside - the Rokkasho facility was completed in 2013, but operation has been delayed in order to meet the post-Fukushima regulatory changes. Until the Nuclear Regulation Authority approves start-up, MOX bundles will be stored at their home site, just the same as all used fuel bundles. - End aside)  Hideyuki Ban of Tokyo’s Citizens' Nuclear Information Center added to the wave of deception by saying, "It is unclear whether spent nuclear fuel will really be reused, while the final disposal site has yet to be decided.” On Sunday, the Japan Times resorted to outright fear-mongering, saying that when this fuel load is ends its life in the core “the amount of highly toxic spent mixed-oxide fuel present there will [raise] to an estimated 18.5 tons”. (Emphasis added) No explanation of the reason for the “highly toxic” designation is given. On Monday, Feb. 1st, the Asahi ran a brief (reminder” piece with the misleading headline “Kansai Electric’s Takahama pluthermal reactor back in operation”. Having 15% of its core comprised of recycled nuclear fuel does not constitute entitling Takahama #3 a “pluthermal reactor”. The Asahi should be formally rebuked for this. -- -- --

  • Not to be outdone by their Japanese counterparts, Greenpeace Japan proclaimed the remote possibility of meltdown is unacceptable. The group’s Kendra Ulrich said, “Allowing the restart of the Takahama reactors with potential fire safety hazards that would pose significant risk of reactor core meltdown is irresponsible. Once again, it may be the people of Japan who end up paying the price for their government’s nuclear gambling.” How “fire safety hazards” could cause a nuclear disaster was not explained. --

  • The Asahi Shimbun says the restart of the two Sendai units last year will provide a “financial windfall” to Kyushu Electric Company. Further, Kyushu’s President Michiaki Uriu is said to be pushing for the “early restarts” of two units at Genkai station, to further bloat the monetary bonanza. He is cited thusly, “The impact of reactor restarts at the Sendai plant has been certainly large, but we are making profits thanks to such fluctuating factors as the declining fuel [oil and gas] price.” What is not mentioned is the massive financial hit that Kyushu Electric, as well as all other nuke owners took because of the nearly four-year-long national nuclear moratorium. Clearly, the Asahi feels the only positive from nuke operation is the money made by the owning utilities, not to mention the local businesses around the stations.

January 28, 2016

  • Fukushima Fishermen may cut the “no-fishing” radius around F. Daiichi in half. The self-imposed exclusion radius was 20 kilometers. Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations wants to reduce it to 10 kilometers because the assumed releases to the Pacific have dropped greatly since the shoreline impervious wall was installed last year. In addition, no seafood caught in the 10-20km zone since last April have contained more than the national limit of 100 Becquerels per kilogram of radioactive Cesium. Federation official Tetsu Nozaki said, “The environment of the seas of Fukushima has improved, and conditions for reviving fisheries are being laid out.” The Federation plans to make a final decision in February.

  • A Japanese mayor approves limited low level waste disposal. Tokai unit #1 is in the process of decommissioning and some of the materials are only mildly radioactive. The wastes include concrete and metallic pieces from the demolished structures. Owner Japan Atomic Power Company wants to bury about 12,000 tons of the debris in situ. Tokai Mayor Osamu Yamada feels the decommissioning process should not be delayed because local authorities will not accept permanent disposal sites. He added that the risk of leakage during a powerful typhoon with the materials being stored in an above-ground building is greater than if it were interred. This is the first local approval of permanent low level waste disposal in Japan. However, burial will not begin unless the Tokai Village Assembly, Ibaraki Prefecture, and the Nuclear Regulation Authority also approve JAPCO’s plans. --

  • The Environment Ministry may approve the “as-is” plans for rural low level waste storage in Ibaraki Prefecture. Last month (December), Ibaraki Governor Masaru Hashimoto told the ministry that the prefecture wants to keep the accumulated, mildly-radioactive debris at temporary storage sites. The ministry has considered Hashimoto’s opinion, which differs from Tokyo’s desire to establish centralized storage sites in each of six prefectures. However, the government plans have not been allowed to get off the ground due to local dissidence. In fact, attempts to run mere surveying work have resulted in extreme protests by residents fueled by phobic fears of low level radiation possibly affecting people. Ibaraki has taken the initiative to say that if the NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) promoters won’t cooperate with Tokyo, then just leave the stuff where it is currently stored; at municipality-managed trash-incineration sites and at prefecture-managed sewage processing sites. The ministry says that even if they officially agree to the Ibaraki proposal, the desire for a centrally-located permanent disposal site will remain on the table.

  • A planned robotic investigation in unit #1 is postponed. Tepco has not been able to inspect the bottom head of the unit #1 reactor vessel because it is submerged. A robot has been developed that can work under water, however the water covering the bottom of the vessel is way too clouded by rust and other particulates to allow the robot to do its job. The goal is to either verify or refute Tepco’s worst-case assumption that molten reactor materials (corium) burned its way through the bottom head and accumulated on the steel-reinforced, high-density concrete floor beneath. The investigative plan for unit #1 will be delayed by about a year, but it is hoped that the robot can be used to look at the undersides of the unit #2 & 3 vessels during the interim.

  • Tokyo aims to have dedicated communications between Tokyo, nukes, and local officials. The Cabinet Office and the NRA will study connecting local governments to the national nuke emergency computer system. They want it up and running in 2017. The system now connects the Tokyo emergency task force and the offsite emergency response center of a nuclear power plant, but is not fed into local offices. Rather, pertinent information has been sent to local officials by fax, and that didn’t work very well with the Fukushima crisis. An emergency drill at Ikata station last November resulted in the prefecture saying communications by fax take longer than might be needed. Plus, there was no way to verify if the other party had receipt of the information.

  • Naoto Kan takes his antinuclear crusade to Washington. On Tuesday, Kan addressed the National Press Club to assert that the Fukushima accident is not over yet. He said “there is no doubt…the accident is still unfolding”. He says this is because radioactive materials are continually seeping into the Pacific Ocean, carried by groundwater flow. He subsequently bashed current PM Shinzo Abe’s statements that Fukushima is “under control”. Kan also asserted that the current government’s goal of at least 20% nuclear generation is “not achievable” unless the 40 year limit on operation of nukes is extended or new units built in Japan. This appears to be a criticism of the slowness demonstrated by the NRA in allowing restarts. --

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