Tag Archives: fukushima

Natural Hazards and Risk Reduction in the Modern World

Great disasters are great stories, great moments in time, great tests of technology, humanity, society, government, and luck. Fifty years ago it was probably true to say that our understanding of great disasters was thin, not well developed because of the relative infrequency of the events, and not very useful, not knowledge that we could use to reduce the risks from such events.

This is no longer true. The last several decades has seen climate science add more climatic data because of decades of careful instrumental data collection happening, but also, earlier decades have been added to understanding the long term trends. We can now track, in detail, global surface temperatures well back into the 19th century, and we have a very good idea of change over time, and variability in, global temperatures on a century level scale for centuries. There is a slightly less finely observed record covering hundreds of thousands of years and an increasingly refined vague idea of global surface temperature for the entire history of the planet.

This is true as well with earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis. Most of the larger versions of these events leave a mark. Sometimes that mark is an historical record that needs to be found, verified, critiqued for veracity, and eventually added to the mix. Sometimes the mark is geological, like when the coastline of the Pacific Northwest drops a few meters all at once, creating fossilized coastal wetlands that can be dated. Those events are associated with a particular kind of earthquake that happens on average every several hundred years, and now we have a multi-thousand year record of those events, allowing an estimate of major earthquake hazard in the region.

And so on.

The theory has also developed, and yes, there is a theory, or really several theories, related to disasters. For example, we distinguish between hazard (chance of a particular disaster happening at a certain level in a certain area) vs. risk (the probability of a particular bad thing happening to you as a results). If you live and work in Los Angeles, your earthquake hazard is high. You will experience earthquakes. But your risk of, say, getting killed in an earthquake is actually remarkably low considering how many there are. Why? Partly because really big ones are rare and fairly localized, and partly because you live in a house and work in a building and drive on roads that meet specifications set out to reduce risk in the case of an earthquake. Also, you “know” (supposedly) what to do if an earthquake happens. If, on the other hand, you live in an old building in San Francisco, you may still be at risk if the zoning laws have not caught up with the science. If you live near sea level in the Pacific Northwest, your earthquake hazard is really low, but if one of those giant earthquakes happens, you have bigly risk. Doomed, even.

Since my own research and academic interests have involved climate change, sea level rise, exploding volcanoes, mass death due to disease, and all that (catastrophes are the punctuation makrs of the long term archaeological and evolutionary record), I’ve always found books on disasters of interest. And now, I have a new one for you.

Man catastrophe books are written by science-interested or historically inclined writers, who are not scientists. The regurgitate the historical record of various disasters, giving you accounts of this or that volcano exploding, or this or that tsunami wiping out a coastal city, and so on. But the better books are written by scientist who are very directly, or nearly directly, engaged in the work of understanding, documenting, and addressing catastrophe.

Curbing Catastrophe: Natural Hazards and Risk Reduction in the Modern World by Timothy Dixon is one of these. Although I was aware of Dixon’s work because of his involvement in remote sensing, I don’t know him, so I’ll crib the publisher’s bio for your edification:

Timothy H. Dixon is a professor in the School of Geosciences and Director of the Natural Hazards Network at the University of South Florida in Tampa. In his research, he uses satellite geodesy and remote sensing data to study earthquakes and volcanoes, coastal subsidence and flooding, ground water extraction, and glacier motion. He has worked as a commercial pilot and scientific diver, conducted research at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and was a professor at the University of Miami, where he co-founded the Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing (CSTARS). Dixon was a Distinguished Lecturer for the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) in 2006–2007. He is also a fellow of the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the Geological Society of America (GSA), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He received a GSA Best Paper Award in 2006 and received GSA’s Woollard Award in 2010 for excellence in Geophysics.

Screen Shot 2017-02-06 at 11.21.23 AMThis book covers risk theory, the basics of natural disasters, uncertainty, and vulnerability of humans. Dixon looks specifically at Fukushima and the more general problem of untoward geological events and nuclear power plants, and other aspects of tsunamis (including the Northwest Coast problem I mention above). He talks about energy and global warming; I found his discussion of what we generally call “clean energy” a bit outdates. He makes the point, correctly, that for various reasons the increase in price of fossil fuels that would ultimately drive, through market forces, the development of non-fossil fuel sources of electricity and motion is not going to happen for a very long time on its own. Environmentalists who assume there will be huge increase in fossil fuel costs any time now are almost certainly mistaken. However, Dixon significantly understates the rate at which solar, for example, is becoming economically viable. It is now cheaper to start up a solar electricity plant than it is to start any other kind of plant, and the per unit cost of solar is very low and rapidly declining.

Dixon is a bit of a free marketeer, which I am not, but a realistic one; He makes valid and important points about science communication, time lags and long term thinking, and he makes the case that more research can produce important technological advances.

By the way, two other books in this genre — catastrophe examined by experts — that I also recommend are Yeats “Earthquake Time Bombs” and the less up to date but geologically grounded Catastrophes!: Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Tornadoes, and Other Earth-Shattering Disasters by Don Prothero.

Return to Fukushima

Three years after the disaster at Fukushima, science correspondent Miles O’Brien returned to the Daiichi nuclear plant for an exclusive look at the site. Follow Miles on a never-before-seen tour of Daiichi’s sister site, Fukushima Daini, which narrowly avoided a meltdown during the Tohoku earthquake. As the country debates turning its reactors back on, Miles asks: will Japan have a nuclear future?

UPDATE Chance Typhoon Neoguri Will Hit Nuke Plant Increases?

Update:

The new forecast track of Neoguri is shown above as well as the location of two nuclear power plants.

The forecast track has moved south, and is now in a very good (and here good means bad) position to strike the Sendai nuclear power plant very directly. Keep in mind that this forecast may change.

On Tuesday mid day UTC the storm will likely be in the later phases of a turn to the right, aiming roughly at the Sendai plant. At this point maximum wind speed near the center of the storm will likely be about 90 mph, which puts the storm in the middle of the Category One range. That evening, possibly near midnight, the center of the typhoon should be coming ashore. During this time the storm will weaken.

The exact track matters a lot. It is quit possible that the right front quadrant, near the eye, will come ashore very near the plant, which would mean a very severe storm tide. But, the strength of the storm will be attenuated so perhaps the storm tide will be reduced.

Even though the storm now seems to be more or less aiming at a shut-down nuclear power plant, I’m thinking this will all result in little more than a very wet nuclear power plant. If the storm was stronger I’d be more worried about the effects of storm surge. I think Japan will have other problems caused by this storm to worry about.

Old post:

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Yes and no. The question really has to be understood to refer to a “meaningful” hit, one that matters to the plant.

<li>Yes because Super Typhoon Neoguri (which means "raccoon" in Korean) is on its way to Japan and there is no way that at least two nuclear power plants, those facing the southwest in the vicinity where the Typhoon is likely to make its first major landfall, will not be affected by this storm because the storm is huge.  It is going to hit everything. </li>


<li>No because it is possible Neoguri will not be a Category Five storm when it hits this part of Japan, it is more likely to be a Category Two storm by then.</li>


<li>Maybe, because the currently predicted path of Neoguri, as indicated on the graphic above, is highly uncertain at any level of detail at this time.  It is quite possible that the right punch (right leading quadrant) of the storm, and thus the storm tide, will come ashore in a bad place.  In this situation, the bad place would be at Sendai ... Genkai is probably more protected.  But the storm could come assure in a lot of places, we just don't know yet.</li>


<li>No, because even if there is something of a direct hit, the Japanese nuclear authorities have ashore us that the plants, which are all shut down, are secured and can easily handle this.</li>


<li>Maybe yes because if you accept what the Japanese Nuclear Power authorities say at face value you are a moron. That should be obvious by now. </li>

In the end, though, I do think that nuclear power plants are generally well built and secured and I’m sure a big storm won’t bother them too much. But, even if shut down, as they are, cooling of fuel is still required and a major storm could do the kind of damage that interferes with that. So we’ll see. The chances, though, of a nuclear disaster related to this particular storm are minimal. The storm itself is the problem.

There is some great coverage on the storm here:

<li><a href="http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/07/07/3456862/typhoon-neoguri/">‘Once In Decades’ Typhoon Approaches Japan, Two Nuclear Power Plants</a></li>

<li><a href="http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/07/supertyphoon-neoguri-japan-nuclear-plants-fukushima">A Scary Super Typhoon Is Bearing Down on Japan…and Its Nuclear Plants</a></li>

The Fukushima Alternative

On March 11th, 2011, a large earthquake caused a large tsunami in Japan, and the two historic events wrecked the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The power plant had six boiling water reactors of the kind used around the world in many nuclear power plants. Three of the six reactors suffered a meltdown, and containment structures meant to contain a meltdown were also breached. This is regarded as one of the worst nuclear disasters to ever happen, possibly the worst of all, though comparing major nuclear disasters to each other is hard for a number of reasons.

As you know if you are a regular reader of this blog, Ana Miller and I produced a number of updates no Fukushima, in which Ana’s studiously assembled list of sources was organized, assembled, and commented on. These “Fukushima Updates” together with a number of other posts on Fukushima can all be found HERE.

Yesterday I looked up how much the Fukushima disaster is likely to cost when the cleanup is all over. This is a very difficult number to estimate, but various sources put the cost at between 250 and 500 billion US dollars. For the present purposes, I’m going to assume that the actual cost will be at the higher end of the scale, and I’m going to take that money and do something else with it.

So, I’ve got 500 billion dollars and I want to spend it on non-carbon based non-nuclear energy production. What will that get me?

I’ve only done a few rough calculations, and I welcome you to correct or add or revise in the comments below. I am not an expert on this topic and I am easily confused. Please correct me in the comments but be nice about it I’m sensitive.

According to the good people at Blue Horizon Energy, which installs home solar panels and such, I can have a 625 square foot solar installation that would produce about 5000 W of power for about $20,000 dollars. Why would I want such a thing? Because I want to put it on the high school that is down the street from my house. Oh, I also want to put one on the middle school. And the strip mall where the grocery store is. I know this would be a bit more expensive, but I also want to put one or two over the parking lot at the strip mall, so cars underneath it would not get covered with snow but could hook up during the day to charge their batteries (for people with electric cars). And so on.

With the money to be spent ultimately on the Fukushima cleanup, I can install approximately 25 million of these things at current costs. I have a feeling, though, that I could get a discount. Also, if I was going to spend 500 billion buckaroos on solar, that itself would help drive down costs because costs of solar energy are dropping fast. I’m thinking I could probably squeeze 30 million units out of my budget.

There are about 100,000 public schools in the united states, a bit over that number if you count private schools. But I have 30 million units! There are about 30,000 towns and cities that probably have a city center, city hall, public works department, or some other building that a unit could go on. There are about 35,000 super markets. I’m going to make a guess and figure that if there are 30,000 supermarkets there must be at least 50,000 strip malls. There are probably several tens of thousands of parking structures, private or public. Imma guess 50,000 of those.

So far, then, we have over a quarter of a million places to put my solar panel arrays in a manner that would involve a reasonable level of management and negotiation, but we have 25 million arrays. OK, so maybe we’ll put more than one array on most of these structures. Maybe we can fit four on average, since some strip malls are large. Then we add big box stores that are not on strip malls. There’s almost 1,800 targets so there must be roughly the same number of Wall-marts. There are movie theaters and many other places with flat roofs where it would be fairly easy to install a big bunch of solar panels and still cover only part of the roof (fire departments do not like it when you cover the entire roof). And then, of course, there are farms. Lots and lots of farms with barns and other buildings on which a solar panel could be stores.

In the end, we can install 25,000,000 units that are worth 5000 Watts each. That is 125,000,000,000 W. I’m assuming that this is potential power and not realized capacity, which may be as low as 15%, but could be higher. Hell, let’s just say 20%. That’s 20 gW. Could that be right?

Putting it another way, we can install 16,250,000,000 square feet or 583 square miles of solar power.

Or maybe we should just use the money to build a smaller number of thermal solar installations like the IVANPAH project in California. There, they spent 2.2 billion dollars to develop solar power facilities that produce 392 MW (That’s a bit smaller than a single reactor of the type found at Fukushima). With 500 billion dollars, we could produce over 225 of these plants, which in turn would produce over 89,000 MW of power. That’s like building over 170 new nuclear reactors (distributed among a smaller number of plants, presumably). There are currently about 435 nuclear plants making energy around the world and in a few years that number will rise to about 500. Many of them have multiple reactors. Let’s assume for a moment that there are an average of four reactors per plant, so my 170 new reactors is equal to about 10% of the installed nuclear power base.

So, one way to look at it is this: The cost of Fukushima’s cleanup is equal to about 10% of the existing nuclear power industry’s energy production capacity. Looking it another way, we can retrofit every school district, municipality, parking garage, and farm with enough solar energy to make a big dent in their daily use of energy.

What would you do with the money?

Happy Anniversary Fukushima. Also, thank you Ana for all your work on the Fukushima feed.

Removing the #Fukushima Spent Fuel Rods. Or not.

TEPCO was going to start removing the fuel rods from the less-damaged reactor building Numnber 4 over the next few days. Today, it was announced that damage to the fuel rod assemblies, some or most of which predated the tsunami and earthquake, this could not be done. There is now uncertainty as to what is going to happen.

Here is a video by Fairewinds about this operation, which I believe was made before TEPCO decided to not continue with the removal at this time:

As you can see, there are several possible problems. Most of these problems are not related to the reasons TEPCO has given to halt the operation at this time; they are additional .

Fukushima Update #70: If you can’t measure it … (UPDATED)

Fukushima Update #70: If you can’t measure it, you can’t analyze it.

by Analiese Miller and Greg Laden

It has been suggested, by various commenters on the internet, that the problem with Fukushima is not that there is a dangerous radioactive mess there, but rather, that the authorities in charge have decided that exposure to radiation is dangerous, when it really isn’t. The argument has been made that the evacuation of the region around Fukushima at the time of the meltdowns and explosions was unnecessary. This presumably also means that the exclusion zones, where people are not allowed to return to the present day, are safe and should be re-occupied by the former residents. To some extent, this must also mean that in many cases the workers at the plant are not really in danger of radiation, or at least most of them most of the time. This whole business of testing for radiation leaks, and monitoring exposure, and so on and so forth, should perhaps be reserved only for those who go inside the crippled reactor buildings, not those wandering around outside in some cases hundreds of meters from those buildings. This also means that expensive and bothersome monitoring of the presence or amount of radio-nucleotides in the groundwater and entering the nearby ocean is unnecessary. Clearly, then, by extension, testing of fish and other sea life being caught for human consumption is a waste of time, and certainly, keeping these fish off the market is also a waste of time.

Indeed, one gets the impression that TEPCO feels the same way, as one of the most interesting parts of this set of news stories and commentaries is the confusion and dispute over measurements of radiation. This extends beyond mere methodology and impinges as well on politics and public relations, what with the prospect of the Tokyo Olympics on the table and all.

Or, maybe that is all wrong and radiation is really very dangerous even in tiny quantities. There are those who say that radiation falling from the sky in North America, put into clouds by Fukushima, is a danger, or that fish that live along the US or Canadian coast will pick up radiation from the ocean put there by Fukushima and become dangerous. There are even reports from some sources that the sea offshore from Fukushima has been boiling. That certainly sounds unhealthy.

We think that both of the extreme views characterized above are probably wrong. The latter version of the dangers of Fukushima arise from a combination of fear, or at least, over-caution, and ignorance. The former view, the one that says that nothing is wrong at Fukushima, is not based on ignorance at all, we think, because it comes at least in part from people who tell us that they have studied radiation and nuclear things. But clearly, it is wrong. The evacuation at Fukushima was necessary. During the first few days of the disaster, the possibility of a much much worse release of radioactive material, brought by much less unfavorable winds than actually occurred to major population areas, was very real. Exposure to dangerous levels of radiation for people living near the plant almost certainly would have happened had they not left the area, and things could have turned out much worse than they did and no one could have known that at the time. Also, the idea that certain levels of radiation are safe because people have not in the past been made demonstrably sick form radiation releases is a limited way of thinking about the dangers. Fortunately, in very few instances are people exposed in large numbers to radiation levels like those involved at Fukushima. There are not nuclear disasters like this every day, and with respect to cleanup workers, the maximum levels of exposure is, probably, set conservatively. There is nothing wrong with being conservative about something dangerous even if it means less data to play with later.

The question this leaves us with is this: If the people worried about trout in Michigan are wrong because they don’t know what they are talking about, why are the people who are talking as though radiation is nearly always harmless wrong, when they should know better?

Getting back to the question of measurements for a moment. We note that the measurement of total body exposure in children is still not being done satisfactorily years after the event. We note that when new spikes in radiation or concentrations of a particular radio-isotope are noted, it is almost always impossible to be certain that the new measurement is a new event, or merely that someone thought to measure something. On numerous occasions, including recently, an apparent spike in some measurement occurred because a measurement device that had a maximum value that was too low was replaced with a proper measuring device that could handle higher numbers. That is not science, that is not proper attention to safety, that is not even good public relations. We assume that the best and the brightest around the world assemble around a disaster like this and that the thing is being handled as well as possible. If that is so, than expertise is clearly limited in the areas of nuclear energy and nuclear safety. They can’t even measure things. We have a saying in science. If you can’t measure it you’re borked. (Or words to that effect.) They can’t measure it.

Note in the feed below that some people are considering showing up to help. Maybe we don’t have the best and the brightest at Fukushima.

Also: Solutions. There seems to be a lack of them. For instance, the groundwater bypass flume, designed to move harmless groundwater around the plant rather than through it, to avoid it being contaminated on the way to the see seems like a great idea. The problem is, the groundwater that would be shunted around the plant seems to already be contaminated byu tritium. Is it contaminated by anything else? Who knows? They don’t know how to measure things!

UPDATE Since this is very current, it seems appropriate to toss it in this update rather than wait for later. Tropical Storm Man-Yi, which is just under typhoon (hurricane) strength with maximum winds at hurricane strength, is hitting Japan right now and it is predicted to affect the area around Fukushima. The storm will have gone over land for a period of time before arriving at Fukushima and may not be that strong. Having said that, Pacific Typhoons (or near typhoons) are not like the ones in the Atlantic, which many readers of this blog are more familiar with. They are often way, way larger and for a given rating are often more serious than equivalent Atlantic storm.

The storm will be going over Fukushima over the next several hours, and there is actually a live feed you can watch to see the action, here.

Fukushima Leaks Prompt Government to ‘Emergency Measures’ –Bloomberg; Aug. 26, 2013

Japan’s government will lead “emergency measures” to tackle radioactive water spills at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant, wresting control of the disaster recovery from the plant’s heavily criticized operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company.

“We’ve allowed Tokyo Electric to deal with the contaminated water situation on its own and they’ve essentially turned it into a game of ‘Whack-a-Mole,’” Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi told reporters today at Fukushima. “From now on, the government will move to the forefront.”

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Outside help offered to deal with Tepco debacle: U.S., French experts also ready; water woes escalate –Japan Times; Aug. 26, 2013

Russia repeated an offer first made two years ago to help Japan clean up its radiation-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear station, welcoming Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s decision to seek outside help.

“In our globalized nuclear industry, we don’t have national accidents, they are all international,” Asmolov said. Since the Liberal Democratic Party took power in December and Shinzo Abe became the prime minister, talks on bilateral cooperation on the Fukushima cleanup have turned “positive” and Russia is ready to offer its assistance, he said from Moscow last week.

The idea of pumping water for cooling was never going to be anything but a “machine for generating radioactive water,” Asmolov said. Other more complex methods, such as the use of special absorbents like thermoxide to clean contaminated water and the introduction of air cooling, should be used, he said.

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‘Mismanaged’ leaks to require reserve funds –Japan Times; Aug. 26, 2013

The government is considering using reserves from the fiscal 2013 budget to deal with the leaks of radioactive water at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday.
Suga said he has instructed industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi to pursue all possible measures to deal with the leaks, including the money.

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More Fukushima evacuees to sue Tepco, government –Japan Times; Aug. 26, 2013

A group of 74 people representing 27 families will file the lawsuit with the Osaka District Court on Sept. 17, seeking around ¥15 million per head for psychological and other damage suffered from the event in Fukushima Prefecture, the lawyers said.
Similar suits have been filed in Hokkaido, Tokyo, and Yamagata, Chiba, Niigata and Aichi prefectures.

The group will argue that Tepco should have taken stronger measures to protect the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant from earthquakes and tsunami after the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion warned in 2002 that there was 20 percent chance of a magnitude 8 or so quake occurring in the Japan Trench in the Pacific Ocean within 30 years, the lawyers said.

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RO Waste Water Leak at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant: TEPCO Says the Leak May Have Started A Month Ago after Examining Beta-Radiation Exposure of a Worker –EXSKF blog; Aug. 27, 2013

At Nuclear Regulatory Authority’s site, there is a TEPCO document that contains charts that plot beta radiation exposure of workers who do the tank patrol, and of the worker who worked at the radio relay station (English labels are by me):

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The area where the relay station is located has been found with high beta radiation, up to 95.55 millisieverts/hour at 70-micrometer equivalent dose (to express the effect on skin and the crystalline lens (of the eye)).

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Gov’t decides to put off target date for decontaminating area near Fukushima plant – Mainichi; Aug. 28, 2013

The government has decided to push back the target date for completing its decontamination work in seven of the 11 municipalities around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant from the end of fiscal 2013 to sometime after fiscal 2014.

Areas in the 11 municipalities near the crippled nuclear plant that were first designated as “evacuation zones” or “planned evacuation zones” in the wake of the outbreak of the nuclear crisis are subject to the decontamination work under the jurisdiction of the central government. The government has decided to push back the target date for the decontamination work in seven municipalities – Iitate, Katsurao, Kawamata, Minamisoma, Namie, Tomioka, and Futaba.

The government is supposed to ask Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the crippled nuclear power station, to pay the bills for decontamination. But as of the end of May, TEPCO had paid only 6.7 billion yen out of 21.2 billion yen the central government told the utility to pay. TEPCO has apparently been making decisions whether to pay the costs while strictly examining the effectiveness of the decontamination work. Therefore, the government apparently is hesitant to put pressure on TEPCO over decontamination projects that are not clearly deemed effective in reducing radiation levels. If TEPCO’s business conditions worsen, there is a possibility of the government shouldering the costs.

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Water Management and Mismanagement at Fukushima –All Things Nuclear Blog; Aug. 29, 2013

Although the uncontrolled daily release of radioactivity into the environment represents a failure on the part of TEPCO to safely manage the Fukushima site, it does not yet pose a major public health threat comparable to the releases of radioactivity that occurred in the weeks following the accident, which were millions of times greater. The inability to safely contain the radioactivity at the site is first and foremost a threat to the workers who must report each day no matter how precarious the conditions. The contamination of more than ten workers in recent weeks, resulting in an expansion of areas where respiratory protection is required, has highlighted the dangers faced by personnel.

However, the situation is a stark reminder of how fragile things still are at Fukushima, which is especially alarming given the enormous quantity of radioactive material that still remains within the reactor cores and spent fuel pools. Things could rapidly get worse if, for example, additional wastewater tanks started to leak. And the potential for another earthquake that might cause soil liquefaction under the site, as reported by the Japan Times this week, raises the possibility of sudden and much larger releases. The international community should not be lured into a false sense of confidence during the periods when little news about Fukushima is being reported. The situation is dire and requires an urgent response.

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Fishermen press TEPCO to end toxic water problem at Fukushima –Mainichi; Aug. 29, 2013

“Your company’s radioactive water management has failed,” the National Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations told TEPCO President Naomi Hirose after it summoned him to its office in Tokyo.

On Wednesday, the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations decided to suspend at the end of August so-called “trial” fisheries operations off the coast of Fukushima.

A trial operation limits the area of fishing and only allows shipment of products confirmed to be safe.

A fisheries cooperative covering the northern part of the prefecture has employed such an operation for more than a year, while another cooperative covering the southern part of the prefecture had planned to resume the operation from September.

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Fukushima Fishermen Ruined by Tepco Now Key in Toxic Fight –Bloomberg; Aug. 30, 2013

Tokyo Electric Power Co. ruined the livelihoods of the commercial fishermen who trawled the seas off Fukushima prefecture when its leaking reactors poisoned the fishing grounds. The utility now needs their help.

Tokyo Electric has built wells and a pipeline on the hills behind the wrecked Fukushima atomic station to route groundwater into the ocean away from the plant. This will reduce the volume of water getting into reactor buildings, where it’s contaminated and then flows into the Pacific at a rate of 300 metric tons a day.

While the company has assured Fukushima fishing cooperatives the water to be piped from the hillside wouldn’t be contaminated, the fishermen have yet to sign off on the plan, citing the utility’s history of faked safety reports and cover ups. Talks with the 1,500 fishermen are now into their third month.

“We have yet to reach a conclusion” on whether the cooperative will agree to Tokyo Electric’s water bypass plan, Tetsu Nozaki, chairman of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations, said yesterday in Tokyo. “We will make a cool-headed decision.”

“The only thing we can do now is to explain this carefully,” Tepco President Naomi Hirose said in a briefing this week. “We are getting more understanding that the risk gets higher unless we solve the underground water issue.”

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Fukushima radiation levels 18 times higher than previously thought –Guardian; Sept. 1, 2013

The high radiation levels announced on Sunday highlighted the dangers facing thousands of workers as they attempt to contain, treat and store water safely, while preventing fuel assemblies damaged in the accident from going back into meltdown.

Japan’s nuclear workers are allowed an annual accumulative radiation exposure of 50 millisieverts. Tepco said radiation of 230 millisieverts an hour had been measured at another tank, up from 70 millisieverts last month. A third storage tank was emitting 70 millisieverts an hour, Tepco said. Radiation near a pipe connecting two other tanks had been measured at 230 millisieverts.

Tepco admitted recently that only two workers had initially been assigned to check more than 1,000 storage tanks on the site. Neither of the workers carried dosimeters to measure their exposure to radiation, and some inspections had not been properly recorded.

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Fukushima’s Radioactive Legacy is Just Beginning –Climate Central; Sept. 1, 2013

If anything, the future consequences of Fukushima for Japan are more serious than for the countries still suffering from the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine in 1986.

There the 30 km (18.6 mile) exclusion zone round the plant is still in force, and the ruined reactor has still not been made safe. The current international effort is aimed at placing a giant concrete shield over the reactor at a cost of around $1.5 billion. That work is not expected to be complete for another two years — until 30 years after the disaster.

The International Atomic Energy Agency team that looked at Fukushima and the problems of making the plant safe said in April that Japan may need longer than the projected 40 years to decommission the wrecked plants.

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Fukushima nuclear plant still ‘unstable’, regulator says -BBC News; Sept. 2, 2013

The crisis at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant “has not ended”, the country’s nuclear watchdog has warned, saying the situation there is “unstable”.
Watchdog chief Shunichi Tanaka also accused the plan’s operator of careless management during the crisis.

He added that it may not be possible to avoid dumping some contaminated water into the ocean.

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Errors Cast Doubt on Japan’s Cleanup of Nuclear Accident Site –New York Times; Sept. 3, 2013

In this small farming town in the evacuation zone surrounding the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, small armies of workers in surgical masks and rubber gloves are busily scraping off radioactive topsoil in a desperate attempt to fulfill the central government’s vow one day to allow most of Japan’s 83,000 evacuees to return. Yet, every time it rains, more radioactive contamination cascades down the forested hillsides along the rugged coast.

As the environmental damage around the plant and in the ocean nearby continues to accumulate more than two years after the disaster, analysts are beginning to question whether the government and the plant’s operator, known as Tepco, have the expertise and ability to manage such a complex crisis.

In the past, they say, Tepco has resorted to technological quick fixes that have failed to control the crisis, further damaged Japan’s flagging credibility and only deflected hard decisions into the future. Some critics said the government’s new proposals offer just more of the same.

“Japan is clearly living in denial,” said Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a medical doctor who led Parliament’s independent investigation last year into the causes of the nuclear accident. “Water keeps building up inside the plant, and debris keeps piling up outside of it. This is all just one big shell game aimed at pushing off the problems until the future.”
“This is just a tactic to avoid taking responsibility,” said Harutoshi Funabashi, a sociologist at Hosei University who led a critical examination of the recovery efforts by the Science Council of Japan, a group of about 2,000 academics. “Admitting that no one can live near the plant for a generation would open the way for all sorts of probing questions and doubts.”

Mr. Funabashi and other critics say Japan should consider other options, including the tactic adopted by the former Soviet Union at Chernobyl of essentially capping the shattered reactors in concrete and declaring the most contaminated towns off limits for a generation.

Japanese officials said the large amounts of groundwater under the plant mean that just covering the reactors with concrete would fail to contain the spread of radiation. They also said giving up on a large portion of Fukushima was not an option in a densely populated country where land remains a scarce commodity.

But they also suggested that the reason for eschewing a Soviet-style option may be the fear that failure could turn a wary public even more decisively against Japan’s nuclear industry.

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Abe steps in to tackle nuclear water crisis –Japan Times; Sept. 3, 2013

After putting off spending taxpayer money as long as it could, the Abe administration announced Tuesday it will earmark at least ¥47 billion to stop contaminated water from leaking at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The government will finish setting up coolant equipment to create a barrier of frozen soil around the plant by the end of March 2015, not by the end of September 2015 as envisioned in an earlier plan, officials said.

Of the earmarked funds, ¥32 billion will be used to create the facilities to freeze the soil, and another ¥15 billion to develop more powerful filtering equipment to remove radioactive materials from the contaminated water.

The Abe Cabinet finally decided to step in after it recently become clear that hundreds of tons of contaminated groundwater has been flowing into the sea, drawing strong attention and criticism both at home and abroad.

Still, at least for the time being, Tepco will have to handle the water problem on its own, as the government will spend money only for projects that involve “great technological challenges.”

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Criminal complaint filed against TEPCO, 32 executives –Mainichi; Sept. 3, 2013

Three people on Tuesday filed a criminal complaint against Tokyo Electric Power Co. and 32 of its current and former executives with the Fukushima prefectural police, arguing they neglected to take measures to prevent toxic water at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant from flowing into the ocean.

Among the three is Ruiko Muto, who heads a group of some 14,000 people who have filed a criminal complaint with prosecutors against the utility, its executives and government officials over their responsibility for causing the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

In the latest complaint, the three said the failure of Tokyo Electric and its executives, including current president Naomi Hirose, to take appropriate measures has caused the daily outflow of 300–400 tons of radioactive-contaminated water into the Pacific.

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The Road Ahead: Infant Checks in Fukushima –NHK Newsline Feature; Sept. 4, 2013 (VIDEO)

Hospital officials say they lack the resources to conduct accurate radiation checks of infants in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster. Now scientists and industrial designers are developing a machine that could offer much greater precision.

click here for video

Record radiation readings near Fukushima contaminated water tanks –Reuters; Sept. 4, 2013

Readings just above the ground near a set of tanks at the plant showed radiation as high as 2,200 millisieverts (mSv), the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) said on Wednesday. The previous high in areas holding the tanks was the 1,800 mSv recorded on Saturday.

“There’s a strong possibility these tanks also leaked, or had leaked previously,” said Hiroaki Koide, Assistant Professor at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute. “We have to worry about the impact on nearby groundwater…These tanks are not sturdy and have been a problem since they were constructed two years ago.”

It’s also possible the radiation readings are increasing because of more frequent monitoring and inspections by Tepco employees, indicating the hotspots and leaks have been there for some time, Koide said.

“The government has finally said they will be involved in this problem but they are still not going to be fully involved in the decommission,” he said. “It is too little, too late.”

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Fukushima fishermen losing hope as trial operations postponed –Asahi Shimbun; Sept. 4, 2013

Of about 200 kilograms of octopus caught in Fukushima waters and stocked in early August, half have been left unsold.

According to the Soma-Futaba fishing cooperative association, octopus caught during the trial fishing period had been shipped to Tokyo and Nagoya. But wholesalers in Nagoya stopped accepting the octopus in late July, a week after TEPCO announced a leak of radioactive water.

Hiroyuki Sato, who heads the association, has also felt frustrated.
“Products we monitored and found to be safe have been given the cold shoulder (by our customers),” Sato, 57, said. “We have done many things until now, but we are right back where we started.”

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Fukushima tank leak may have mixed with groundwater, Tepco reckons –Japan Times; Sept. 5, 2013

Tepco said Thursday that workers had detected radiation of 650 becquerels per liter in samples from a monitoring well dug near the damaged tank.

“There is the possibility that the contaminated water (from the tank), diluted by rainwater … has seeped into soil and reached groundwater,” Tepco said in a press release.
The groundwater from the surrounding mountains naturally flows beneath the plant toward the sea.

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Camera at reactor 1 finds water entry point –Japan Times; Sept. 5, 2013

An entry point for some of the groundwater flooding the crippled Fukushima No. 1 plant has been found at reactor 1, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Tepco will consider measures to halt or divert the water by conducting more surveys to determine exactly where it is entering. Cracks in the basement are considered a possibility.

The groundwater is believed to be the primary source of the radioactive material entering the sea and potentially poses great danger to the environment.

Reactors 1, 2, 3 and 4 and their turbine buildings have similar layouts. Stopping the invasion of the groundwater is thus considered vital to reducing the overall volume of contaminated water.

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RO Waste Water Leak at #Fukushima: 2,200 mSv/Hr to 30 mSv/Hr Beta After Shielding Experiment –EXSKF blog; Sept. 5, 2013

The images don’t give you much confidence and may make you fear for the safety of workers from beta radiation exposure on skin who would be asked to perform this task on potentially over 350 huge tanks.

But the beta radiation (measured at 5 centimeter and expressed in 70 micrometer dose equivalent) did go down.

  1. Apply sealing material (which looks like putty) to the flange.

FukuLeak01

  1. Place one to three acrylic sheets (15 x 10 x 1 centimeter).

Fukuleak02

  1. Place two layers of rubber sheets (1.5m x 1m x 3mm) on the concrete (and put sand bags to hold them down).

Fukuleak03

Result:

  • 2,200 mSv/hr –> 30 mSv/hr
  • 500 mSv/hr –> 15 mSv/hr
  • 70 mSv/hr –> 10 mSv/hr

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Regulator raps Fukushima operator over “unreliable” data –Reuters; Sept. 5, 2013

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) , the operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, is still putting out questionable data on radiation leaks, causing confusion and a heightened sense of crisis, Japan’s nuclear regulator said.

The stakes have been raised as Japan makes a final pitch for Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympic Games, while a steady stream of bad news from Fukushima, the site of the worst atomic disaster in a quarter of a century, leaves officials frustrated by Tepco’s missteps and miscalculations.

“As I’ve said before, Tokyo Electric has not been properly disclosing the situation about the contamination and the levels of contamination,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), told reporters on Thursday.

“This has caused confusion domestically and internationally. Because of that, the Japanese government has a sense of crisis and I, personally, feel a little angry about it,” he said.

The company’s disclosure of problems at the site and the quality of its data have been a source of constant criticism.

“I have a certain expert knowledge of Tepco’s data and their data is not reliable,” Kayoko Nakamura, one of five NRA commissioners, said at Thursday’s briefing.

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Leaked toxic water at Fukushima plant may have mixed with groundwater –Mainichi; Sept. 6, 2013

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Thursday it has detected 650 becquerels per liter of radioactive substances from groundwater near a leaky water storage tank at its crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The detection of radioactive substances emitting strontium and other beta rays shows the possibility that toxic water from the tank may have reached the groundwater, the plant operator known as TEPCO said. About 300 tons of highly toxic water had leaked from the tank.

The utility said it collected the groundwater Wednesday at a well dug more than a dozen meters south of the tank in the H4 area where the radioactive water had leaked.

The government plans to use wells to pump up groundwater before it flows into reactor buildings for discharge into the sea in a bid to reduce about 400 tons of groundwater now seeping into reactor buildings every day. The construction of an ice wall is also planned to block off groundwater flow.

With the latest detection of radioactive substances, however, the water in some of the wells is feared to be contaminated.

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Seoul bans fish imports from eight prefectures –Japan Times; Sept. 6, 2013

According to officials, all fishery products from radiation-affected regions in Japan will be banned from entering South Korea regardless of the levels of contamination. The ban covers products from Fukushima, Aomori, Ibaraki, Gunma, Miyagi, Iwate, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures.

“The measure comes as our people’s concerns are growing over the fact that hundreds of tons of radiation contaminated water are leaked daily from the site of Japan’s nuclear accident in Fukushima,” the South Korean Ministry of Oceans and Fisheries said in a press release, according to Yonhap news agency.

Tokyo responded Friday by saying Japan has stringent food safety standards based on international rules and regularly checks radiation levels. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga urged Seoul to “take actions based on scientific grounds,” stressing Japan is “strictly controlling safety” of fishery products based on international radiation standards.

The South Korean government said it will request additional radiation tests from Japan, if “even a minuscule dose of radioactive material, such as cesium or iodine, is detected in any products from any other region of Japan,” Yonhap reported.
The government also decided to lower the allowed dose of radiation in fisheries products from the current 370 becquerels per kilogram to 100 Bq/kg.

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South Korea bans fish imports from Japan’s Fukushima region –Guardian; Sept. 6, 2013

With the IOC decision imminent, Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of Japan’s nuclear regulation authority, criticised Tepco for inflating fears around the world by releasing misleading data about the water leaks.

Earlier this week, the utility said it had detected measured radiation of 2,200 millisieverts an hour at a hotspot near a water tank. Tanaka said the measurement was misleading, and had prompted alarmist reports in the domestic and international media.

“What Tepco is talking about is the level of contamination,” he said, “So to describe it with the unit ‘millisieverts per hour’ is scientifically unacceptable. It’s like describing how much something weighs by using centimetres.”

He said Tepco should have used the unit becquerel, which signifies the radioactivity levels in the water itself rather than the potential human exposure levels. “I have come to think they need to be spoon fed,” Tanaka said of Tepco. “It is regrettable that Tepco has caused confusion and fear in the international community by spreading misleading information.”

The 2,200-millisievert an hour reading, confirmed by Tepco, is accurate, however. The firm has been at pains to point out that most of the radiation was emitted as beta rays – as opposed to far more dangerous gamma rays – which travel only short distances and are easily blocked by protective clothing.

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Tepco to fit No. 1 plant water tanks with level gauges –Japan Times; Sept. 7, 2013

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it will install water level gauges on all flange-type tanks storing radioactive coolant at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant by the end of November, to enhance monitoring.

The new gauges can remotely monitor the levels of water in the tanks nonstop and sound an alarm if a decrease is detected, Tepco said.

Currently, only 55 flange-type tanks out of 337 are equipped with gauges. The existing devices differ from the ones that will be installed and cannot be remotely monitored.

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RO Waste Water Leak at #Fukushima: TEPCO’s Video of Tank Patrol by Workers –EXSKF blog; Sept. 8, 2013

Three workers are doing the patrol of the tank area to spot the leaks. These are the assembled tanks as opposed to welded, held together by rivets and packing (whose effective life is about 5 hours, and that doesn’t assume radiation).

Workers are to examine the tanks and any water puddles closely, and measure the radiation. The area looks huge, and there is no way to distinguish the actual leak from the rainwater puddle until and unless they actually measure the radiation.

By the way, there is a job listing posted on September 3, 2013 at the government job agency “Hellowork” in Fukushima Prefecture to recruit workers to do the tank patrol at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The listing was posted by one of the subcontractors (of the subcontractors, most likely).

  • Wages: 10,000 to 14,000 yen [100 to 140 dollars] per day
  • Benefits: none
  • Details of work: to monitor tanks that store contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. You will patrol the compound with survey meter with another worker, and visually inspect the tanks and write reports. One round takes about 30 to 40 minutes, and you are expected to do 4 to 6 rounds of patrol per one shift. The work will be intermittent, and the effective hours of work per day will be about three hours. When you are not doing the patrol, you will wait in the room that is shielded from radiation inside the plant. Trial workers are also wanted.
  • Required education: none
  • Required work experience, license, certificate: none

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Fukushima leaks contaminate more groundwater –NHK; Sept. 9, 2013

TEPCO says it detected 3,200 becquerels of strontium and other radioactive substances per liter of water collected on Sunday from a new well. The well is about 20 meters north of the tank that leaked.

The reading was 5 times higher than in a sample taken from another well, to the south of the tank, last Wednesday.

TEPCO is planning to dig more wells to try to find out how the underground water is being contaminated.

In another development, TEPCO officials said they detected 80,000 becquerels of tritium per liter in a sample collected last Thursday from a well on the coastal side of the No.1 reactor building. The well has been there from before the nuclear accident.

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72% criticize government’s response to Fukushima radioactive water leak issue –Asahi Shimbun; Sept. 9, 2013

For the survey, The Asahi Shimbun contacted 3,496 voters by telephone on Sept. 7–8. There were 1,925 valid responses, accounting for 55 percent of the total.
The respondents were also asked whether they feel the government should take the lead in tackling this growing problem, and 89 percent answered “yes.”

When asked to pick one option among four in regard to the gravity of the problem, 95 percent of respondents answered it is “serious.” Of that number, 72 percent said “very much” and 23 percent said “to some degree.”

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Stress-induced deaths in Fukushima top those from 2011 natural disasters –Mainichi; Sept. 9, 2013

The number of deaths in Fukushima Prefecture caused mainly by stress from the nuclear disaster reached 1,539 at the end of August, almost equaling the 1,599 fatalities due directly to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.

In addition, bereaved families have filed condolence money applications for at least 109 victims who they say died due to fatigue, stress and aggravated health conditions while living in evacuation shelters and temporary housing. If this number is added, deaths attributable to post-disaster conditions surpass the number of those killed directly by the March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami.

There have been cases of Fukushima residents whose health conditions worsened due to extended periods living as evacuees, as well as those who were driven to suicide.

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Fukushima evacuation has killed more than earthquake and tsunami, survey says –NBC NEWS; Sept. 9, 2013

Francis Markus, East Asia spokesperson for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said the conditions faced by those displaced is made worse by them not knowing when they can return.

“What we are seeing is some very, very difficult social and emotional effects that communities are having to cope with,” he said Tuesday. “A lot of the people suffering are the older generation, and they need a lot of support to make it through with as little ill effect as possible. It’s a very serious and painful existence.”
Markus has visited many of the evacuees as part of the IFRC relief efforts in the region.

“You drive into the settlements and find they are very neat and tidy,” he said.

“There is a car park, and then there is rows upon rows of these very neat but very small prefabricated houses, each with a family trying to make them as homely as possible. In the summer they are very hot and in the winter they are very chilly.

“People from the worst affected areas are really very concerned as to when they will be able to go back, if they will be able to go back at all.”

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Japan: No Indictments Over Fukushima Accident –New York Times; Sept. 9, 2013

Japanese prosecutors have decided not to indict former officials of Tokyo Electric Power, the operator of the tsunami-stricken nuclear power plant at Fukushima, over their roles in the accident there in March 2011, Japan’s public broadcaster reported Monday. Naoto Kan, who was prime minister at the time of the accident, will also not be prosecuted over his inability to prevent the multiple meltdowns and explosions that hit the plant’s reactors, driving 100,000 people from their homes, according to the broadcaster, NHK. Prosecutors said that their decision was based on data provided on a voluntary basis, and on the opinions of experts, who suggested that the scale of the earthquake and tsunami that triggered the accident could not have been predicted. That finding, however, has been contradicted in various studies, including an influential parliamentary report that called the accident a “manmade disaster.”

A group of Fukushima residents who had sought indictments told NHK that prosecutors “had failed to respond to the voice of local residents."

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Evacuees give mixed reactions –NHK, Sept. 9, 2013

A man in his 70s says prosecutors have never done on-site inspections and do not understand how evacuees are feeling. He says he cannot understand why no one is indicted for such a serious accident, and that prosecutors should determine who is to blame.

Another man, also in his 70s, urges prosecutors to not only investigate people who dealt with the accident but also politicians who approved the construction of the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

A woman in her 60s says many people are still living in temporary housing 2 and half years after the accident.

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Ex-officials, local chiefs react to decision –NHK; Sept. 9, 2013

Former Nuclear Safety Commission chairman Haruki Madarame is one of the accused people. He declined to comment on the prosecutors’ decision not to press charges.

Tokyo Electric Power Company apologized for causing much trouble to residents of Fukushima and other people, but declined to comment on the decision.

Toshitsuna Watanabe, the mayor of Okuma Town in Fukushima Prefecture, says he will keep on monitoring developments.

The mayor says he and other town officials believe that delayed responses in the initial phase of the accident caused damage to spread.

Shiro Izawa, the mayor of Futaba Town, which hosts the Fukushima Daiichi plant, also declined to comment.

All residents of Okuma and Futaba have been evacuated due to high radiation levels.

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Leak from Fukushima tank contaminating groundwater –Asahi Shimbun; Sept. 10, 2013

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has discovered radioactive materials from groundwater at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. It is the second such instance, which suggests contaminated water that leaked from a storage tank is spreading underground.

The utility said Sept. 9 that 3,200 becquerels of radioactive materials, such as strontium, were detected per liter of water taken from an observation well the previous day.

The well is located 20 meters north of the storage tank from which the company said on Aug. 20 that an estimated 300 tons of highly radioactive water leaked.

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Fukushima victims incensed at decision not to prosecute TEPCO, government officials –Japan Daily Press; Sept. 10, 2013

One of the affected residents who took up the cause for the officials to be held responsible was Kazuya Tarukawa, 38, a farmer in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture. He said, “It is very heartbreaking if the decision not to indict leads to the erasing of the calls made by disaster victims to pursue responsibility for the accident.” Reiko Hachisuka, 61, a Fukushima resident who now lives in temporary housing in Aizu-Wakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture, expressed her disgust at the decision. “I want to shout, ‘Why is no one being held responsible?’” Hachisuka says that she only feels frustration at the fact that no one seems to want to take responsibility for the disaster. “Even if responsible individuals were pursued, the nature of the utility TEPCO would not change,” she said. “I am very saddened because no one has stepped forward and said, ‘I am the person responsible.’”

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Fukushima refugees disappointed that ex-PM, TEPCO execs escape prosecution –Mainichi; Sept. 10, 2013

“We wanted to seize it as an opportunity to change the status quo. It is truly regrettable,” said Toru Takeda, 72, who is still taking shelter in Yonezawa, Yamagata Prefecture, after evacuating from Fukushima city.

“The responsibility for an accident of that magnitude should not be kept ambiguous. I wonder how they think the world sees them,” Takeda said while drooping his shoulders in disappointment.

Hiroyuki Inamoto, 52, who still is taking shelter in Tokyo’s Koto Ward after evacuating from Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, said, “Non-prosecution. That’s something like ‘I thought so.’ Even if we hold them accountable for what happened in the past, our lives will not change. I want the government to think about what should be done for us in the future, such as places for us to live and reconstruction of our hometowns.”

Kan, who was prime minister when the nuclear accident broke out, said in a statement, “I spearheaded the work to prevent the accident from expanding and to mitigate damage. I see non-prosecution as a natural outcome.”

[link](http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20130910p2a00m0na027000c.html
Decontamination delay affects evacuees –NHK; Sept. 10, 2013)

The Environment Ministry on Tuesday admitted that it cannot finish the project in 7 cities and towns by its initial deadline set for the end of next March.

The ministry attributes the delay to difficulty in obtaining agreements from evacuees living in different locations, and securing sites to store radioactive soil.

In Iitate Village, only 3 percent of the houses have been decontaminated despite the ministry’s initial plan to finish the work for the village by next March.

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Resisting with a Purpose –NHK Newsline Feature; Sept. 10, 2013 (VIDEO)

Two and a half years on from the nuclear accident in Fukushima, one local farmer is refusing to abandon his cattle despite a government evacuation order. And the cows are providing a unique opportunity to study the effects of radiation.

VIDEO HERE

Abe’s assurance over Fukushima radioactive water comes under question –Mainichi; Sept. 10, 2013

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s assurance that the situation surrounding the radioactively contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is “under control” during Tokyo’s final presentation for the 2020 Olympics have come under question, prompting plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) to send an inquiry to the government.

Abe stated in his presentation at the International Olympic Committee meeting in Buenos Aires on Sept. 7, “Some may have concerns about Fukushima. Let me assure you, the situation is under control. It has never done and will never do any damage to Tokyo.” He also said the effect of the water leak has been “completely blocked” within an area of 0.3 square kilometers in the waters from the plant.

“His remarks don’t convey the facts accurately,” said one observer in criticism of the prime minister’s statement.

“It is hard to tell what can be called as being ‘under control,’ but it is certain that you can’t say the contaminated water has ‘been completely blocked’ in a technical sense,” said a senior official with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

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Abe’s assurance to IOC on nuclear plant called into question –Japan Times; Sept. 10, 2013

Experts have long pointed out that irradiated water from the plant has kept gushing into the Pacific far beyond the man-made bay, although the government continues to claim that most radioactive materials have been contained within a silt fence that forms a barrier directly in front of reactor units 1 through 4. Reactors 1, 2 and 3 suffered core meltdowns in March 2011.

The silt fence was deliberately set up with many openings so it can withstand waves and tidal movements.

When disclosing the results of a simulation last month, Tokyo Electric Power Co. admitted that a lot of water — and probably radioactive materials — was penetrating the fence and pouring into the wider ocean. The simulation assumed that 50 percent of the water inside the fence becomes mixed with seawater daily due to tides and other factors.

Tepco, based on the findings, concluded that a maximum of 10 trillion becquerels of radioactive strontium–90 and a further 20 trillion becquerels of cesium–137 may have reached the ocean.

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Tritium levels spike at stricken Fukushima nuclear plant –Reuters; Sept. 11, 2013

The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant said levels of tritium – considered one of the least harmful radioactive elements – spiked more than 15 times in groundwater near a leaked tank at the facility over three days this week.

Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said tritium levels in water taken from a well close to a number of storage tanks holding irradiated water rose to 64,000 becquerels per liter on Tuesday from 4,200 becquerels/liter at the same location on Sunday.

The spike in radioactive elements in groundwater near the tanks threatens to scuttle Tepco’s plans to build a bypass to route groundwater away from the plant and release it into the Pacific Ocean. The tank that leaked is in an area around 130 meters above the proposed bypass.

Tepco Vice President Zengo Aizawa stressed the importance of the bypass on Wednesday, saying the company will continue to try and win support from local fishermen – who oppose the release of contaminated water into the sea- for the bypass.
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Japan ponders Fukushima options, but Tepco too big to fail –Reuters; Sept. 11, 2013

A crisis over radiation-contaminated water at the plant has revived calls to put Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) into bankruptcy as a prelude to nationalising the clean-up and shut-down of the reactors, but there is little political support for the idea given its potential fallout for financial markets, Tepco’s creditors and other nuclear utilities.

With concerns over Tepco’s ability to cope, policymakers are pondering ways to take the Fukushima shut-down off the utility’s hands, perhaps through an agency along the lines of Britain’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Even that, though, faces hurdles, including the likely need for new legislation, clarity on the size of the bill for taxpayers and government liability, and working out the implications for Japan’s other utilities.

That means, at least for now, the government may just end up pouring in more money, leaving Tepco in charge while stepping up official oversight.

Under the scheme crafted to keep Tepco afloat after the 2011 disaster, the company is liable for compensation, decontamination of affected areas and decommissioning the reactors. It is supposed to use electricity revenues to pay for decommissioning, while, for compensation and decontamination, it can borrow up to 5 trillion yen from the state-backed Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Corporation.

With cost estimates for compensation and decontamination at least double the 5 trillion yen credit line, and projections of the cost of decommissioning starting at 1 trillion yen, critics have long said Japanese citizens would end up paying the bill.

But putting Tepco into bankruptcy would make that inconvenient truth all too clear.

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The rest of our posts about Fukushima are HERE.

Fukushima Update

Patrick J. Kiger at National Geographic News has an excellent summary of the current situation at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The plant continues to leak radioactive material into the sea, though at a rate much lower than the massive release that happened at the time of the accident. Strontium-90 (Half-life 28.79 years) has increased in proportion over various Cesium isotopes. This is a concern because while Cesium has the potential to enter the food supply in fish that pick it up, Strontium enters the food supply in a different way. In theory Cesium enters tissues and leaves tissues, and doesn’t accumulate over time. (I quickly add that there is evidence of Cesium accumulation in the fish food chain, so that may not be entirely true; certainly, tough, Cesium does not accumulate in large amounts). Strontium, on the other hand, substitutes for minerals in bone, and thus accumulated as a fish ages. Taking fish from contaminated waters for human consumption has mostly been banned since the accident (there are a few species of marine organism that have stopped showing detectable levels of radioactive isotopes, so they are now being caught).

The overall expected health risks of the Fukushima disaster overall and continued health risks because of the ongoing leakage are hard to estimate. There is almost certainly an elevated cancer risk for people living in the area, though the extent of this is unknown. Concerns that we see around the Internet that dangerous levels of radiation are reaching the US are incorrect.

Having said that, I think people often evaluate the significance of the Fukushima disaster incorrectly, for political reasons. Those who want to claim that nuclear power (including existing old-generation nuclear plants) is just honkey-dory seem to do so by feeding off of anti-nuke misconceptions and irrational fears about radiation. Yes, people do get it wrong; the average person has no clue what risks radioactive materials or radiation pose. For this reason, it is easy to creates straw men and then disprove them. The fact that the region around Fukushima is not littered with skeletons of people who were zapped into oblivion by the Fukushima multiple meltdowns, or that all babies in Japan are born with only one head and ten fingers, does not mean that nothing happened there. The fact is that you can’t go near this power plant without taking a serious health risk, and there is a moderate but real health risk because of the prior large scale dispersal of radioactive material and the ongoing lower level but still important outpouring (literally) of radioisotopes.

If we were to propose the construction of 22 nuclear power plants and noted that over a 30 year period one of them would suffer multiple meltdowns, spew enormous amounts of nuclear icky stuff into the air and sea, continued to spread contaminated water into the sea and groundwater for years after at a lower rate, create a very expensive problem that would last for decades and create a deadly no-entry zone filled with millions and millions of gallons of radioactive water and piles of nuclear material in the disabled reactors and spent fuel pools that could not be cleaned up for decades in a zone susceptible to serious earthquakes and tsunamis … the designers of that system might well be asked to go back to the drawing board or seek other alternatives. (Japan has about 22 plants operated over about 30 years, give or take.)

In fact, they were. They were asked to not do what they did, but those who opposed nuclear plants in Japan. The specific reasoning of the anti-nuclear activists and others may have included faulty logic and bad information about nuclear power, but on the list of potential problems was the possibility that what actually happened would happen. They were right. And they were not “stopped clock” right. They were right because they saw a real danger that really existed.

We probably have to build new nuclear power plants. Burning fossil fuels at the rate we are burning them will cause disasters that will make us forget bout our nuclear woes. But it is not true that the nuclear power industry is ready to step in and build significantly safer plants now, and it is not true that “alternative” (a term we should stop using!) energy solutions such as geothermal, solar, wind, and so on deployed on a smart grid with significant enhancements of efficiency at both production and use ends of the grid comprises a secondary solution.

Anyway, I gave only a short summary of what Kiger outlines in his excellent piece. Go now and read: Fukushima’s Radioactive Water Leak: What You Should Know

Fukushima Update: Radioactive Fish, Conflicts of Interest, and Filtered Vents

On March 11th, 2011, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant complex suffered damage from an earthquake and ensuing tsunami that caused multiple nuclear reactor core meltdowns and melt-throughs, explosions, and major releases of radioactive material into the air and the sea. In addition to the reactor meltdowns and melt-throughs spent fuel storage tanks were also damaged and probably contributed to the release. It took about a year for the plant to reach a condition that was stable enough that we stopped checking it every day to see if new bad things were happening. Heroic efforts were implemented by the utility and the workers, but in the end, very little that was done aside from the initial flooding of the reactors with sea water really had much effect. Basically, the plant just cooled down and stopped being as dangerous because the nuclear material in the plant escaped into the environment or just settled down to a less reactive level over time.

A handful of news items have come up recently mainly pertaining to contamination and other issues, so we thought an update was in order.

Conflicts of Interest Involving Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Agency and Other Stakeholders

There have been a number of points where it looked like conflicts of interest between the regulators and the regulatees (as it were), or at least the appearance thereof, were in effect since the time of this disaster. It is happening again. Continue reading Fukushima Update: Radioactive Fish, Conflicts of Interest, and Filtered Vents

Japan Nuclear Disaster Update # 40: Fukushima Plant Still Producing Energy! (In a bad way)

The Fukushima nuclear power plant was opened to journalists for the first time; See below for numerous links to related stories.

There appears to be very high levels of radiation at Fukushima plant reactor #3, and at either reactors 1 and 3, or both, nuclear fission may have been occurring in the melted down remains. Ideally, once a plant is turned off, i.e., control rods inserted etc. etc., the state of “criticality” is stopped and there is no more fission, or at least, only a small background level. But, if a nuclear power plant’s core melts down, nuclear material can re-accumulate in some uncontrolled manner in the wreckage beneath the plant or in lower areas of a reactor containment vessel, and critical mass can be re-attained. This apparently has been detected over the last few weeks at Fukushima. This is evident from the presence of Xenon-135, a product of nuclear fission with a half life of just over 9 hours.

However, TEPCO appears to be making adjustments to the definition of the term “criticality” so this problem is expected to go away soon. (You will remember that some time ago when it became apparent that TEPCO would be unable to effect a true “cold shutdown” of the melted down reactors, the definition of “cold shutdown” was changed. Now, there is discussion of the meaning of the term “criticality.”) Also, TEPCO reassures us that the detection of the products of “spontaneous fission” is not really a new phenomenon. Rather, they just started to be able to detect this accidental nuclear process. It has presumably been going on all along (which could go a long way to explaining why it has been impossible to obtain a “cold shutdown” of the reactors without having to resort to redefining “cold”).

Of increasing concern is the amount of evidence that people, including some school children, nuclear plant workers, and others have been found to have internal exposure, meaning particles of nuclear material were breathed in or ingested. In a possibly related move, the upper limits of contamination for food is being lowered significantly. One rescue worker who was found to have been internally exposed has died and some are suggesting that there is a link.

One report indicates that about 79 percent of the fallout from Fukushima ended up in the ocean, 19% has been deposited on the land in Japan, about 2% on other land surfaces mainly in Asia and North America. The report indicates that about twice as much Cesium 137 was released at Fukushima than had bee previously reported. Another report indicates that measurable amounts of Iodine-131 have been found in several European countries, of uncertain origin.

Speaking of contamination, have a look at this discussion of bird brains and radiation at Chernobyl.

Robotic exoskeletons are being developed to help the workers work harder – there are ~3,000 people working there every day. It is interesting to observe over these months since the meltdowns how many procedures and technologies are being invented and deployed for the very first time, as though the nuclear power industry actually, really, truly believed that nothing could ever go wrong. Had the possibility of a major disaster such as this been considered earlier, not only would TEPCO and others have been more prepared, but also, the costs may have been manged better.

Speaking of cost, there is talk of recalculating the cost of nuclear energy – internalizing waste costs and accident costs when planning plants. Interesting idea, and utterly surprising that this has never occurred to anyone before. It turns out that nuclear energy is fairly expensive. Floridians are upset over two or three billion dollars of state funds being used to upgrade a nuclear power plant plant; TEPCO has asked for and will get a trillion yen. It adds up.

The Japanese Genkai reactor has restarted, and this is the first restart of a nuke plant shut down for technical problems in Japan since the massive Fukushima meltdown. The technical problem was caused by a screw-up that was, in turn, caused by using a faulty operation manual. Perhaps the instructions were written originally in English and translated poorly into Japanese. In any event, it is telling that a) Nuclear industry lies and cheats to get a major plant that should not have been built constructed where it should not be; b) plant melts down causing worst nuclear power disaster ever; c) Other plants start to resume operations d) within weeks, another plant is shut down because of a bad photocopy job in a manual.

Oh yes, of course we can trust the Nuclear Power Industry to get it right.

NHK asked plant operators if they’d been cyber attacked and many said yes, but that they had not been compromised. And of course, the would never lie. Later it was reported that sensitive data was leaked through these attacks, including design plans, etc.

And now, it is time for Ana’s Feed of all the latest Fukushima and other Nuclear Power related news:

Continue reading Japan Nuclear Disaster Update # 40: Fukushima Plant Still Producing Energy! (In a bad way)

Japan Nuclear Disaster: Update # 36: Sushi Recommendations

One of the interesting items we have this week is a study by Greenpeace in which various organisms from the sea near Fukushima were sampled for radioactive isotopes. Let’s take a closer look.

The data in the table provided (see the first item in Ana’s feed for the link) show the amount of radiation (radioactive decay) by isotope type per kilogram of plant or animal tissue from various samples. On the higher end is a fish with 357 bq/kg of radiation and some seaweed with 190 bk/kg.

What does this mean? Hard to say. I can tell you this: A normal human has about 4,000 or more bq (in total for the human) of radiation primarily from the most common source of radiation (radioactive potassium) So if Greenpeace had sampled a typical human not from a radioactive region they would get a result of about 4,000 bq total. Say a human weighs 70 kilos. That means the human being sampled would yield about 50 bk/kg. So the radioactive fish is about 7 times more radioactive than a human, and the plant almost 4 times as radioactive. A concern here would be where on the food chain one is, if radioactive isotopes are being concentrated through trophic activity (things eating things). Also, a concern would be how long this radioactive stuff will be radioactive.

Regarding the second question first, roughly half the radioactive material found in the Greenpeace samples has a half life of just over 2 years, but the rest has a half life of 30 years. Regarding trophic level, note that among the less radioactive samples both fish and seaweed have similar amounts, but among the more radioactive samples, it is the fish (which are trophically higher than plants) that have more, which simply indicates that the samples could be revealing things about a real biological system (subject to revision). In other words, were the reverse true, I’d be scratching my head and not because of dandruff.

The most radioactive fish is a Rockfish, which is an opportunistic carnivore often feeding on other things that eat things and sometimes things that eat things that eat things, and they are probably relatively long lived. In other words, rockfish are high on the food chain and would be expected to concentrate radioactive isotopes that are in the environment. The next highest fish in terms of contamination is the halibut, which is also a carnivore, but eating more crustaceans and probably not as high on the food chain. A kind of cod, with a similar diet to halibut is next. The lowest in terms of radiation is a kind of mackerel, which probably eats pelagic crustaceans (shrimpy things that float around near the surface) which in turn eat plankton. This would be the lowest on the food chain of the sampled fish, but also the highest in the water column. So, it might be hard to tell the difference here between how high something is on the food chain and how high (top feeder) vs low (bottom feeder) the fish is in the water column. My sushi recommendations? Surface feeding low-torphic level short lived fish. From the Atlantic Ocean.

None of these samples were particularly close to the power plant, some were purchased from markets some taken directly from the sea. The plume of radiation from the plant is rather large.

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Scan Ana’s feed for a lot more on contamination issues.

And as these data become available we also see bans on Japanese produce being lifted for US military commissaries. The effects of food bans are being explored, and radioactive contamination is being found in novel places such as industrial waste.

News regarding nuclear plant incidents, construction patterns, and potentials in the US, as well as further conversations about nuclear safety, are all over Ana’s feed. And it’s OK, the IAEA has a plant to make reactors safe. They also have this barn door they intend to close. The plan will be voluntary, of course.

Meanwhile at the reactors, water has been used to cool them down to the point where the hot spots are only barely boiling and bubbling. In other words, we are still in a state where Step One control over the situation has not yet been achieved, even though it was declared achieved weeks ago. It is now expected that cooling below boiling levels may be achieved by some time next year.

It does appear that rainwater is passing more or less feely into the lower levels of the nuclear power plant where it interacts with uncontrolled globs of nuclear material, then presumably disappears from the planet all on its own. Or perhaps it flows into the nearby sea. They’re still working on that.

I want to take a moment to express my very sincere thanks to Analiese Miller for the tremendous work she does in putting together this feed. I know that she’s been very busy with other things over the last few weeks and that this has been an extra burden on her. You are awesome, Ana.

Continue reading Japan Nuclear Disaster: Update # 36: Sushi Recommendations

Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 34: A quick feed for your reading pleasure

Today all we have for you is Ana’s feed, and only the first half. We have both been very busy with distracting things like work and other writing projects and so on. There are interesting things going on at Fukushima and in the Nuclear Power industry in general, as you’ll see soon. In the mean time, here’s what has been happening:

Fight Over Mining Near Grand Canyon, Other Riders Will Return After Recess -NYT, August 9
-Several lawmakers involved in the congressional debate over uranium mining around the Grand Canyon expect the war of words to reignite as soon as the House returns from summer recess.
-Even though it remains an open question whether lawmakers will finish work on the Interior and U.S. EPA spending bill, they expect the legislation to at least come back to the floor after Labor Day.
-One of those riders, inserted by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), aims to stop the Obama administration from withdrawing about 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon from new mining claims. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced in June a second temporary withdrawal and his intention to move forward with a 20-year ban, pending the completion of a final environmental impact statement.
-Since then, pressure has been mounting in Congress, with Republicans wanting to use the appropriations process to tie the administration’s hands. The argument over job impacts and environmental consequences is bound to only get louder.
http://www.nytimes.com/gwire/2011/08/09/09greenwire-fight-over-mining-near-grand-canyon-other-ride-22281.html

Fairewinds Report for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy on TVA Bellefonte Plant -Fairewinds Associates, August 10
-Today the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Fairewinds Associates issued a report to the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority regarding numerous concerns with the Bellefonte Unit 1 nuclear project. First designed with slide rules back in 1968, Bellefonte Unit 1 is America’s oldest nuclear power plant that has yet to generate any electricity. TVA began construction in 1974, mothballed the plant in 1988, and cannibalized the plant for scrap metal between 2006 and 2008. Alarmingly, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently allowed construction of Bellefonte Unit 1 by TVA to start again with its 1968 design and its 40-year old weakened foundation and containment. In the video and in its report, Fairewinds identifies seven areas of substantial risk for TVA if it continues to construct this aged facility.
http://www.fairewinds.com/content/fairewinds-report-southern-alliance-clean-energy-tva-bellefonte-plant

NRC studies possible nuclear fuel problem at Peach Bottom plant -York Dispatch, August 11
-The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is undertaking a study to ensure the spent fuel pools at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station can maintain safety guidelines despite the degradation of a material used to control the radioactive waste.
-At issue is Boraflex, which absorbs neutrons from fuel that was once burned in a reactor. The spent fuel is still highly radioactive when it is placed in the cooling pool, said Neil Sheehan, NRC spokesman.
-Though the temperature of the radioactive waste drops dramatically within a few months, conditions must be controlled to make sure it doesn’t start fission, he said. To this end, Boraflex panels are attached to racks where the spent fuel is stored, 40 feet underwater at the bottom of the spent fuel pool, he said.
-But gamma rays, the strongest form of radiation, have caused shrinkage in the Boraflex, so NRC inspectors will examine whether the existing material is safe for use until 2014, when owner Exelon Nuclear plans to replace it, he said.
-Failure of the system could cause boiling of water in the pool or the release of radioactivity, he said.
-He said there are 19 reactors nationwide that use Boraflex, and problems have also been noted at other facilities.
http://www.yorkdispatch.com/business/ci_18660458

NISA under fire over hiring of former TEPCO subsidiary worker as nuclear inspector -Mainichi News, August 11
-The government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said it hired a former employee of a Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) subsidiary in April as a nuclear inspector and assigned him to the utility’s Fukushima No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant the following month.
-NISA explained that it hired him to fill the vacancy after one of its inspectors quit at the end of March.
-The practice has called into question NISA’s neutrality as a nuclear power plant regulator.
-NISA and TEPCO emphasized that the worker is performing his duties in an appropriate manner.
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/news/20110811p2a00m0na010000c.html

Krypton-85 and Xenon-131m in Reactor 2 Containment Vessel Air Samples -Ex-SKF, August 11
-Half life of xenon-131m is about 12 days.
-The measurement of density of radioactive materials in the air inside the Reactor 2 Containment Vessel was delayed because there was water in the temporary sampling instrument that TEPCO installed outside the CV. It looks like they decided to measure the water anyway, as well as the air.
-According to the measurement, the air is more radioactive than the water inside the Containment Vessel, but less radioactive than the air inside the Reactor 1 CV.
-So the melted fuel is probably not even inside the Containment Vessel in Reactor 2 either.
http://ex-skf.blogspot.com/2011/08/fukushima-i-nuke-plant-krypton-85-and.html

Radiation measurement experts trained -NHK, August 12
-The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant plans to train about 4,000 workers as experts on the safety of irradiated areas.
-The government plans to consider lifting evacuation orders for zones which are deemed safe after it achieves the second phase of bringing the plant under control. In the second stage, the government aims to significantly reduce the amount of radiation emitted from the plant.
-To determine the safety of the 20-kilometer no-entry zone and the evacuated areas, a large number of experts on radiation exposure will be required. Tokyo Electric Power Company is now training staff for that purpose.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/12_06.html

New nuclear safety agency to be set up under Environment Ministry -Japan Today, August 12
-The government has decided to set up a new nuclear regulatory agency under the Environment Ministry instead of the trade ministry to increase its independence after the country’s atomic disaster, officials said Thursday.
-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the cabinet is expected to approve the plan by Monday.
-The current Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has been widely criticized for cozy ties with the nuclear industry under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which promotes nuclear energy.
-Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a parliamentary session Thursday that “someone who is not a blind advocate of nuclear safety or promoter of nuclear energy but is fully aware of the problems of nuclear power” should head the new regulatory agency.
http://www.japantoday.com/category/politics/view/japan-to-set-up-new-nuclear-safety-agency

Nuclear plant may get revival; TVA board to consider completing Alabama site -Power Engineering, August 12
-TVA says reviving the Bellefonte plant would cost about $4.8 billion and take several years. The proposal follows a crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which went out of control after an earthquake and tsunami in March. As recently as this month, workers were still trying to contain radiation leaks at the plant.
-The incident prompted international concerns about the safety of nuclear power. Germany announced plans to eliminate all nuclear power plants by 2022 and regulators in the U.S. have taken a close look, too.
-A group called the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says rebuilding the Bellefonte plant is “an extremely costly and dangerous proposal,” according to a news release.
-Construction on the Bellefonte plant began in 1974, but the utility canceled it in 1988 because the demand for power had subsided and also because it was over budget and behind schedule, Golden said.
http://www.power-eng.com/news/2011/08/1477950376/nuclear-plant-may-get-revival-tva-board-to-consider-completing-alabama-site.html

Tomari No.3 nuclear reactor restart not decided -NHK, August 12
-Japan’s industry ministry has deferred a final decision on restarting a nuclear reactor in Hokkaido following local government criticism.
-The No.3 reactor at the plant in Tomari Village operated by Hokkaido Electric Power Company has been undergoing trial runs for 5 months.
-The agency told the Nuclear Safety Commission on Thursday that no abnormalities were found in the reactor during a 2-day final check that ended the previous day. The commission endorsed the view that the reactor can restart commercial operations.
-But Hokkaido’s prefectural government has criticized the operator for applying final tests of the reactor before it has reached its own decision on restarting.
-Industry minister Banri Kaieda told Governor Harumi Takahashi on Wednesday that the prefecture’s consent is vital, and that he intends to wait for that.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/11_33.html

Giant tent to go up over Japan nuclear reactor -Stars and Stripes, August 12
-The operator of Japan’s damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is building a huge tent to cover one of the worst-hit reactors, officials said Friday.
-Officials hope the cover will keep radioactive materials that have already leaked from spreading, prevent rainwater seepage and offer a barrier from possible leaks or blasts in the future.
-Construction of the tent and its foundation began this week, Koji Watanabe, a spokesman for the power utility, said Friday.
-The work couldn’t begin until now because the location was too dangerous for workers to operate in.
-If the tent over reactor No. 1 proves successful, similar coverings will be constructed over other reactors on the plant. The areas around the other reactors are also highly risky to work in.
http://ap.stripes.com/dynamic/stories/A/AS_JAPAN_EARTHQUAKE_NUCLEAR?SITE=DCSAS&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

Local govts worried by N-ash -Yomiuri, August 12
-With residents living near final disposal sites voicing concern and some local governments refusing to accept it, the Tohoku region is reconsidering its arrangement to store ash–some of it radioactive–from the Tokyo megalopolis in its local landfills, it has been learned.
-In Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, up to 47,400 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium was found in ash at two garbage processing plants in July.
-The figure is about six times the government’s interim limit for ash to be disposed of in land reclamation.
-But the Matsudo government did not report this information to Kosakamachi, Akita Prefecture, which accepted and finally disposed of the ash.
-As a result, 39.5 tons of the problematic ash was buried at a Kosakamachi landfill facility.
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110811006513.htm

Radiation contamination leaves Fukushima schools unable to drain pool water -Mainichi News, August 13
-Many schools in Fukushima Prefecture are at a loss over what do to with their swimming pools, which can’t be used or drained because the water is tainted with radioactive materials from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, it has emerged.
-The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has said schools should obtain consent from farmers when draining pool water into agricultural waterways, but the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education has not formed any guidelines on the concentration of radiation in water that is drained — leaving locals to sort out the issue themselves.
-According to the education board, about 600 of the 735 pools at public kindergartens, elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools in Fukushima can’t be drained. Most of these pools are located in eastern parts of the prefecture near the damaged nuclear plant or in central Fukushima Prefecture. One-third of the pools are designed to drain their water into sewage systems, while the rest have to drain the water directly into agricultural waterways or rivers.
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/national/news/20110813p2a00m0na016000c.html

Fukushima food producers protest -Yomiuri, August 13
-Demanding stabilization of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and compensation for the disaster at the earliest possible date, about 2,800 farmers and fishermen from Fukushima Prefecture gathered for a protest rally in Tokyo’s Hibiya Park Friday.
-Following the rally, the participants, some carrying protest banners, marched to the nearby head office of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.
-The protest rally and demonstration were organized by JA (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives) Fukushima and related bodies to appeal for speedy payments of compensation to food producers whom the disaster has left in dire financial straits.
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110812005552.htm

Professor’s anger at lawmakers creates buzz on Internet -Asahi, August 13
-An exasperated University of Tokyo professor who launched an angry tirade at lawmakers over the Fukushima nuclear crisis has become a hero to many on the Internet.
-Tatsuhiko Kodama, 58, who heads the Radioisotope Center at Todai, was called to provide expert testimony before the Lower House Health, Labor and Welfare Committee on July 27.
-Besides being a doctor of internal medicine, Kodama is also an expert on internal radiation exposure. His background made even more shocking the testimony he provided in the Diet.
-“(On March 21), Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, ‘There are no immediate problems for people’s health.’ At that time, I felt something very disastrous was about to occur,” Kodama said. “When we look at problems from radiation, we consider the total exposure amount. Neither Tokyo Electric Power Co. nor the central government have made any clear report about total exposure from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.”
-The Radioisotope Center conducted its own calculations on the level of radiation contamination arising from the Fukushima nuclear accident.
-Kodama explained the horrifying results of those calculations at the committee session.
-“The equivalent of 29.6 times of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, or in terms of uranium about 20 atomic bombs, were released by the accident,” Kodama said. “While the remaining radiation from atomic bombs decreases to one-thousandth of the original level after a year, radioactive materials from the nuclear power plant only decrease to one-tenth the original level.”
http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201108120245.html

Zone’s dissolution brings confusion, fear -Yomiuri, August 13
-Recently announced plans to dissolve the emergency evacuation preparation zone have been met with trepidation in affected municipalities, whose residents and officials worry about radiation and whether evacuees will actually return.
-The central government decided Tuesday to dissolve the emergency evacuation preparation zone, which was created in the wake of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
-The dissolution will likely be announced late this month or in early September, after all the related municipal governments have submitted reconstruction plans. However, local governments have said central authorities should dissolve the zone after presenting plans for decontamination.
-A 34-year-old homemaker who evacuated to a hot spring facility in Iwaki with her two primary school-age children said: “I’m mostly afraid of radiation. Unless safety is guaranteed, we can’t go home even if we want to.”
-Some residents in Minami-Soma said they were also unsure about the decision to dissolve the zone.
-Yoshioki Fukano, 72, said his home is in a hot spot–a specific location where voluntary evacuation is recommended due to high radiation levels–in the Haramachi district of Minami-Soma.
-“The emergency evacuation preparation zone will be dissolved, but my house is in a place where evacuation is recommended. I don’t know if the city is really safe,” he said.
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110812004186.htm

How Merkel Decided to End Nuclear Power -NYT, August 13
-How did Germany, Europe’s economic powerhouse, turn its back on nuclear energy?
-Most directly, the decision belonged to Chancellor Angela Merkel. Unlike other world leaders, she is a trained scientist, with a Ph.D. in physics.
-She reached the momentous decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022 after discussing it one night over red wine with her husband, Joachim Sauer, a physicist and university professor, at their apartment in central Berlin, according to people who spent many hours debating the issue with her but spoke only on the condition that they remain anonymous.
-The decision to switch off Germany’s nuclear power plants has been widely portrayed as a sudden U-turn by Mrs. Merkel. After the nuclear disaster in Japan in March, the German public, long opposed to nuclear power, was ready to pull the plug, and their chancellor, known for shifting with the prevailing political winds, complied.
-But those close to Mrs. Merkel described her change of heart as something more like an awakening. Powerful industrial and energy interests fought the shift, but Mrs. Merkel, her allies say, is ready to lead Germany into a new era in which wind and solar energy, along with enhanced efficiency, can be developed fast enough to replace the lost power from nuclear plants.

Arizona dream and nuclear reality -RT, August 13
-The uranium boom of the 1940s made mines sprout like mushrooms in parts of Arizona. Eventually the need for nuclear fuel declined and after decades the facilities were abandoned, and left to contaminate the environment.
-This North-East part of Arizona encompasses part of America’s Navajo nation. Native American governed territory, rich in uranium, but ruined by America’s demand for it.
-“It’s a different world. We don’t have money. We don’t have the funds the people from the dominant society have. We also have conditions we’re trying to live through. Like living in the abandoned uranium areas here and drinking the contaminated waters that we have drank,” says Faye, a Navajo Nation Citizen from Blackmesa, Arizona.
-Beginning in 1944, nearly four million tons of uranium ore were extracted from Navajo lands, under the auspices of private companies and the US government. The radioactive resource was in high demand for development of atomic power.
-After four decades, corporations closed shop but neglected to clean up. Abandoned mines, homes, and drinking water were left contaminated with elevated levels of radiation. Residents were left behind to battle deteriorating health conditions.
-Elsee Tohomie an Old Woman of the Navajo Nation, says that her knees are aching and walking became difficult for her.
-“I’ve been diagnosed with some form of cancer. I feel pain below my chin.I’m taking medication now,” she says.
-US officials say radionuclides in the air and drinking water have been linked to thousands of cases of lung cancer, bone cancer and impaired kidney function.
http://rt.com/news/arizona-uranium-threatens-navajo/

Radiation effect on children’s thyroid glands -NHK, August 14
-A group of researchers led by Hiroshima University professor Satoshi Tashiro tested 1,149 children in the prefecture for radiation in their thyroid glands in March following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactive iodine was detected in about half of the children.
-Tashiro says radiation in thyroid glands exceeding 100 millisieverts poses a threat to humans, but that the highest level in the survey was 35 millisieverts.
-Tashiro says based on the result, it is unlikely that thyroid cancer will increase in the future, but that health checks must continue to prepare for any eventuality.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/13_26.html

Lawyers provide free consultation to evacuees -NHK, August 14
-Lawyer Kiyoshi Morikawa who heads the group says evacuees are becoming increasingly concerned about their homes and living expenses, as evacuation centers are closing 5 months after the disaster.
-He says he would like the evacuees to feel free to consult with the professionals.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/14_18.html

Radioactive impact on wheat may be small -NHK, August 14
-Researchers in Japan have found that wheat absorbs a relatively small amount of radioactive cesium from its roots, and the impact of the substance on wheat grain may be small.
-The scientists believe wheat absorbs only a small amount of radioactive cesium through its roots.
-They believe the substance does not migrate from leaves to the grain, the edible part, which makes the impact small.
-They also measured the distribution of radioactive cesium in rice paddies in Fukushima prefecture by collecting soil at 5 centimeter increments from the surface.
-96 percent of the cesium was found at the 5 centimeter level from the surface.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/14_14.html

Fukushima farmers in a jam / Fruit growers see orders plunge due to fears over radiation -Yomiuri, August 14
-Shipments of Fukushima’s signature akatsuki peaches would normally be peaking about now.
-The fruit is a popular summer gift, but orders have plummeted this year, even though the levels of radioactive material detected in the fruit since the crisis began at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are much lower than government-set interim limits.
-Unless consumers stop shunning this produce, the problems afflicting peach farmers could soon spread to growers of other fruit–such as pears and apples–whose shipments are scheduled to peak later this month.
http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T110813002913.htm

Mud sports festival held in Fukushima -NHK, August 14
-People enjoyed playing volleyball and other sports in the mud in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan.
-The festival was held in the town of Hanawa on Sunday. A local sports club started the event 3 years ago.
-The town is about 75 kilometers from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
-But the organizers say it’s safe as they measured radiation levels in the courts and confirmed it was about 0.2 microsieverts per hour.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/14_16.html

Safety doubts raised at U.S. nuclear waste cleanup project -LA Times, August 14
-The Energy Department has asserted that Bechtel Corp. underplayed safety risks from equipment it is installing at the nation’s largest nuclear waste cleanup project, according to government records.
-A federal engineering review team found in late July that Bechtel’s safety evaluation of key equipment at the plant at the Hanford site in Washington state was incomplete and that “the risks are more serious” than Bechtel acknowledged when it sought approval to continue with construction, the documents say.
-Senior scientists at the site said in emails obtained by The Times that Bechtel’s designs for tanks and mixing equipment are flawed, representing such a massive risk that work should be stopped on that part of the construction project.
-But Energy Department officials in Washington said they believed the problems were fixable and that they had authorized Bechtel to keep going for the time being. Bechtel officials said Friday that the matter was not a safety issue and that sticking to the current construction schedule would save money.
-The Hanford project is the most important environmental cleanup program in the nation. It seeks to prevent 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge in underground tanks, some of which are leaking, from contaminating the nearby Columbia River.
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-nuclear-defects-20110814,0,5490202.story

Cesium levels down in seawater near reactors 2, 3 -NHK, August 15
-Seawater collected near the water intake of the No.2 reactor on Saturday was found to contain 0.058 becquerels of cesium-134, or 0.97 times the government-set safety limit. It also contained 0.056 becquerels of cesium-137, or 0.62 times the limit. Both figures were around one tenth of the level found on the previous day.
-In April, the level of cesium-137 in seawater near the water intake of the No.2 reactor was found to be 1.1 million times the safety limit. Since then, the density of the radioactive element has been declining, and recently it has fallen below the limit sometimes.
-Seawater sampled near the water intake of the No.3 reactor on Saturday was found to contain 0.087 becquerels of cesium-134, or 1.5 times the safety limit. It also contained 0.09 becquerels of cesium-137, or about the same as the limit. Both figures were less than one tenth of the level found on the previous day.
-Seawater taken from 6 spots offshore was found to contain no radioactive materials.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/15_01.html

PET bottles become radiation detectors in Japan -Reuters, August 15
-To meet growing demand for radiation detectors after Japan’s March earthquake and tsunami, which set off the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years, a Japanese researcher has come up with devices made from recycled PET bottles — inexpensively.
-The detectors devised by Hidehito Nakamura, an assistant professor at Kyoto University in western Japan, in cooperation with Teijin Ltd, cut costs by 90 percent from existing devices, many of which come from foreign firms.
-“We’re aiming to have a final product by the end of September, given the ever-increasing demand following the March earthquake,” said Toru Ishii, a sales executive at Teijin.
-Nakamura came up with “Scintirex,” a plastic resin that emits a fluorescent glow when exposed to radiation. The resin acts as a sensor within the radiation detectors, allowing measurements of radiation.
http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/08/15/us-japan-radiation-detector-idUSTRE77E10R20110815

Debris disposal bill to be submitted to Diet -NHK, August 15
-Japan’s main ruling and opposition parties have compiled a bill stating that the government will be responsible for cleaning up the fallout from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
-The bill calls on the government to collect and dispose of debris contaminated with high levels of radiation in the no-entry zone and areas near the troubled nuclear plant.
-It also says the government will deal with debris whose radioactivity levels exceed pre-determined standards, regardless of where it is found.
-The parties also propose that the government should oversee the decontamination of soil in areas where contamination is serious.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/15_11.html

At least 30 prefectures to test newly harvested rice for cesium to alleviate safety concerns -Mainichi News, August 15
-As many as 30 prefectures are planning to test newly harvested rice for radioactive cesium contamination in a bid to ensure and demonstrate the safety of their farm crops to consumers worried by the spread of radioactive substances from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, the Mainichi has learned.
-The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has subjected newly harvested rice in 17 prefectures from Aomori to the north to Shizuoka to the west in East Japan to cesium contamination tests, but other municipalities, keen to alleviate safety concerns among consumers about farm products, decided to test rice independently.
-The farm ministry urges the 17 prefectures to test brown rice raised in soil containing 1,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram or more, or in areas whose atmospheric radiation doses are more than 0.1 microsievert per hour, before and after harvesting. If more than 200 becquerels per kilogram are detected in brown rice in a preliminary testing before harvesting, the area will be designated as an “area for priority testing” and be thoroughly examined after harvesting. If radiation exceeds 500 becquerels, shipments of the rice from the area will be banned.
http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110815p2a00m0na013000c.html

“Loud bang” at FPL nuclear plant near Miami -Sun Sentinel, August 15
-Florida Power & Light employees heard a “loud bang” Thursday at the utility’s Turkey Point nuclear plant 24 miles south of Miami when a large valve carrying water unexpectedly closed, turning off a system that cools equipment in one of the reactors, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report on the incident. Regulator have not yet determined the safety significance.
-FPL employees followed their procedures, immediately opening one of two backup valves to fix the issue within 20 minutes, said FPL Spokesman Mike Waldron.
-On Tuesday, a three-person NRC team began a special inspection of the plant because the cooling system “failure resulted in the loss of a safety system,” the agency wrote in a statement.
http://weblogs.sun-sentinel.com/business/realestate/housekeys/blog/2011/08/loud_bang_at_fpl_nuclear_plant_1.html