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Radioactive soil spilled over into roads, rivers, during Typhoon Hagibis, report says

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A 2017 image of a building in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
Novembre 19, 2019
Japanese media has reported that soil with relatively high concentrations of radioactive contaminants spilled over from forested regions in Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture onto neighboring roads, rivers, and residential areas amid the destruction of Typhoon Hagibis last month. The report is prompting fears of spreading contamination.
Reporting on a study conducted jointly with Shinzo Kimura, an associate professor of radiation hygiene at Dokkyo Medical University, in which soil samples were gathered on Oct. 24-29 from 15 sites in the cities of Minamisoma, Iwaki, Nihonmatsu, and Motomiya in Fukushima Prefecture, the Tokyo Shimbun newspaper said on Nov. 18 that radioactive cesium was detected at levels as high as 5,063 becquerels (Bq, representing the quantity of radioactive material undergoing one disintegration per second) per kilogram. Radioactively contaminated soil in forested regions of Fukushima appeared to have spread to residential areas and roads when Typhoon Hagibis swept through Japan.
The highest concentrations of contaminated soil were found on the roads of Minamisoma’s Odaka District, with testing of soil from the nearby hills showing a reading of 5,063 Bq. The amount is lower than the 8,000 Bq threshold designated by the Japanese government as permissible for radioactive waste. But with a permissible threshold of 100 Bq having been in place before the 2011 nuclear power plant disaster, it may be considered a relatively high concentration in view of the criticisms the Japanese government has faced for “unreasonably” increasing the threshold by 80 times in the wake of the incident in order to encourage residents to return to their homes. Indeed, Odaka District was previously subject to an evacuation order due to damage from the leakage of radioactivity from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in 2011. In 2016, the classification “uninhabitable region” was lifted for all but a few areas.
The Japanese government has undertaken decontamination through the removal of soil and fallen leaves in contaminated parts of Fukushima Prefecture, with a policy approach of encouraging residents to return home once the efforts are completed. But the decontamination has been focused chiefly on areas with a large human presence, including stations, residential areas, and farmland — while many locations within the hills have yet to undergo decontamination efforts. It’s this situation that appears to account for the highest concentrations of contaminated soil being detected in Odaka. Commenting on the contamination levels they had measured, an Odaka resident surnamed Shirahige told the newspaper, “I wouldn’t be surprised if it were 10,000 Bq, given how serious the contamination in the hills has been. What worries me is the possibility of contamination spreading as large volumes of contaminated soil travel into the living zone.”
The Fukushima Preference radioactivity monitoring office told the newspaper, “Decontamination has not been carried out deep in the mountains. Spillage of highly concentrated [radioactive] soil is a concern.”
Levels of 1,470 Bq and 753 Bq were respectively detected in soil from a garden in a Nihonmatsu residential district and in dust in a parking facility. In a downstream area of Haramachi District in Minamisoma, a level of 819 Bq was detected.
Meanwhile, Kyodo News reported the publication of a report by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) on Nov. 18 stating that few effects would result from the full dumping of “treated water” stored at Fukushima Dai-ichi into the ocean and atmosphere over a period of one year. The Japanese government uses the term “treated water” to refer to contaminated water from which all radioactive material apart from tritium has been eliminated with multi-nuclide removal equipment.
Speaking at a Japanese government subcommittee meeting that day to discuss the disposal of treated water from Fukushima Daiichi, METI estimated the additional annual radioactivity emissions from the full release of treated water into the ocean and atmosphere over a one-year period at between 1/1600 and 1/40,000 the daily radiation exposure of 2,100 microsieverts for an average person. This suggests that Tokyo continues moving ever closer to releasing contaminated water from the disabled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean.
By Cho Ki-weon, Tokyo correspondent

November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | 1 Comment

TEPCO estimates tritium volume for disposal from Fukushima plant

Tritium, radioactive hydrogen, is clinically recognized as causing cancer, birth defects and genetic mutation. That should be plastered on the side of nuclear power plants.
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Storage tanks containing processed but still contaminated water at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant
November 18, 2019
Tokyo Electric Power Holdings Co. on Nov. 18 released for the first time an estimate of the annual disposal amount of radioactive tritium from its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The volume will vary from 27 trillion to 106 trillion becquerel, depending on the commencement date and ending time of the disposal process, according to a report the utility presented to a subcommittee of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.
In comparison, a domestic nuclear power plant in operation usually dumps liquid radioactive waste that contains tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, from several hundred billion up to 100 trillion becquerel annually into the ocean, according to the ministry.
In line with the comparison, there will be no health-related problem by being exposed to radiation of the tritium disposed of from the Fukushima plant, the ministry said.
TEPCO made its preliminary calculation in substantiating the impact of the long-term storage of contaminated water.
The estimate set the total amount of tritium contained in the radioactive water stored in the tanks to be 860 trillion becquerel as of January 2020. Four starting dates of the disposal process were set as the beginning of 2020, 2025, 2030 and 2035.
The estimate assumed two ending times for the disposal at the end of 2041 and 2051, based on the progress schedule set by the government and the utility, which predicted the reactor decommissioning to be completed in 30 to 40 years.
The amount of tritium is expected to decay naturally over time. Still, the estimate revealed that the later the starting date is, the more the annual disposal amount will be.
Since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami crippled the plant in Fukushima Prefecture, TEPCO has processed and stored a large amount of radiation-contaminated water in tanks on the grounds of the plant.
Even after being treated with a filtering system, the polluted water still contains tritium, which will be released when the water is dumped into the ocean or is disposed of in another manner.
The volume of contaminated water has continued to accumulate from the cooling of melted nuclear fuel debris and underground water pouring in.
TEPCO said that it cannot keep installing more storage tanks for the contaminated water due to space limitations of the site and that all the tanks will be full by around the summer of 2022.
If the disposal process hasn’t begun by then, TEPCO will have to build more storage tanks, exceeding the limit, which will lead to a delay in the construction of other facilities that are necessary for the decommissioning work of the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Experts warn against fires from disaster waste after Typhoon Hagibis

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Firefighters try to extinguish a fire that broke out in disaster waste piled up at a temporary garbage collection site in Sukagawa, Fukushima Prefecture, on Oct. 20, 2019. (Photo courtesy of the Sukagawa Municipal
November 18, 2019
TOKYO — Two fires broke out in Fukushima Prefecture at temporary collection sites for disaster waste generated by flooding of houses due to Typhoon Hagibis, which lashed eastern Japan in mid-October, prompting experts to urge caution against similar possible incidents.
In both fires in the northeastern Japan prefecture, it is believed that hazardous material among the disaster waste caught fire. As blazes of a different kind also took place several months after disaster waste was generated in the past, one expert warned, “It is necessary to be on the alert against possible fires even several months after a disaster hit.”
One of the two Fukushima Prefecture fires occurred at a temporary collection site for disaster refuse in the prefectural city of Motomiya on the morning of Oct. 17, five days after Typhoon Hagibis made landfall in parts of eastern Japan. After the fire broke out at a site for collecting household appliances, it consumed a total of approximately 4 square meters.
The Ministry of the Environment issued a warning against similar potential blazes the following day. In spite of this, another fire started in a pile of flammable trash at a temporary waste collection site in the prefectural city of Sukagawa on the evening of Oct. 20.
“There is a possibility that hazardous material left among flammable garbage ignited,” said Toshiaki Yanai, head of the city government’s environment division.
Apart from these common flames, there are fires caused by heat accumulation several months after a disaster. Kazuto Endo, a senior official at the Fukushima branch of the National Institute for Environmental Studies, said, “In areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunamis (in 2011), there were at least 30 fires caused by a buildup of heat.”
In the wake of the 2011 disaster, a total of some 31 million metric tons of disaster waste was generated. As there were not enough land lots for temporarily storing the litter, piles of waste soared high in affected regions. In the hardest-hit prefectures of Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi, a total of 38 fires occurred due to heat accumulation between May 2011 and June 2013.
According to guidelines compiled by a group of experts including Endo immediately after the 2011 quake disaster and other sources, heat accumulation fires are triggered by the following mechanisms:
— Combustible trash put out in the early period of waste collection generates heat as microbes using oxygen actively move around it.
— When the waste is further piled up, it gets compressed by the weight of the trash and heavy machinery such as shovel loaders operated on mountains of rubbish, preventing the heat from being released outside.
— When the piles of garbage soar more than 5 meters high, the speed of heat generation inside the trash overtakes that of the heat released from the surface of the piles, accelerating heat accumulation.
— When a pile of waste stores heat with temperatures of over 80-90 degrees Celsius, oils contained in plants and trees get oxidized and produce heat.
— The higher the temperatures rise, the faster those oils get oxidized and generate heat, eventually catching fire spontaneously.
The guidelines call for keeping a pile of burnable trash no more than 5 meters high and each mountain of waste no more than 200 square meters as part of measures to prevent heat accumulation blazes. The guidelines also urge authorities to maintain the height of perishable trash such as tatami mats at a maximum of 2 meters and allow it to reach no more than 100 square meters in size.
Endo has patrolled areas affected by Typhoon Hagibis and noted, “Some local bodies that had not previously experienced major flooding damage are leaving disaster waste piling up high.” He has thus given guidance to those municipalities to keep their mountains of rubbish lower.
(Japanese original by Takashi Yamashita, Integrated Digital News Center)

November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s METI says it’s ‘safe’ to dump radioactive water from Fukushima nuclear disaster into ocean

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Tanks storing radioactive water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, in February
Nov 18, 2019
Japan’s industry ministry said Monday it would be safe to release water contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster into the ocean, stressing that the amount of radiation measured would be very small compared to what humans are naturally exposed to annually.
Discharging the water into the Pacific Ocean over the course of a year would amount to between just one-1,600th and one-40,000th of the radiation that humans are naturally exposed to, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry told a government subcommittee on the issue.
Water used to cool the melted-down cores and groundwater near the disabled plant contains some radioactive materials, and is currently being collected and stored in tanks on the plant grounds.
But space is running out fast, and the government is exploring ways to deal with the water — already more than 100 tons and increasing every day.
According to the ministry, annual radiation levels near the release point is estimated at between 0.052 and 0.62 microsievert at sea and 1.3 microsieverts in the atmosphere, compared with the 2,100 microsieverts that humans are naturally exposed to annually.
While government officials stress the safety of releasing the water, opposition lawmakers as well as neighboring South Korea have expressed concern. Local fishermen are also opposed to the release of the water into the sea, fearing the potential impact on fish stocks.
The water is being treated using an advanced liquid processing system, or ALPS, though the system does not remove the relatively nontoxic tritium and has been found to leave small amounts of other radioactive materials.
The tanks storing the water are expected to become full by the summer of 2022, according to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
The plant was disabled by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami on March 11, 2011.
A nuclear expert from the International Atomic Energy Agency said in 2018 that a controlled discharge of such contaminated water “is something which is applied in many nuclear facilities, so it is not something that is new.”

November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Dangerous radioactive hot particles span the globe

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November 17, 2019

Citizen scientists are uncovering risks that governments would rather cover up

By Cindy Folkers

When reactors exploded and melted down at the Fukushima nuclear power complex in March 2011, they launched radioactivity from their ruined cores into the unprotected environment.  Some of this toxic radioactivity was in the form of hot particles (radioactive microparticles) that congealed and became airborne by attaching to dusts and traveling great distances.

However, the Fukushima disaster is only the most recent example of atomic power and nuclear weapons sites creating and spreading these microparticles. Prior occurrences include various U.S. weapons sites and the ruined Chernobyl reactor. While government and industry cover up this hazard, community volunteer citizen science efforts – collaborations between scientists and community volunteers – are tracking the problem to raise awareness of its tremendous danger in Japan and across the globe.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster began, one highly radioactive specimen, a particle small enough to inhale or ingest, was found in a private home where it should not have been, hundreds of miles from its source, in a vacuum cleaner bag containing simple house dust.

This “high activity radioactively-hot dust particle” came from a house in Nagoya, Japan – after it had traveled 270 miles from Fukushima. The only radioactive particle found in the home’s vacuum cleaner bag, it was an unimaginably minuscule part of the ruined radioactive core material from Fukushima – many times smaller than the width of a human hair. We know it came from Fukushima because it contained cesium-134, meaning that the particle came from a recent release, and we know it is a piece of core material specifically because it was so radioactive that it could not have come from any other material.

 

nagoya-hot-particle.png(Image courtesy of Arnie Gundersen/Fairewinds)

Most of the particle’s radioactivity came from cesium-134 and cesium-137. By the time it was collected, some of the particle’s radioactivity, mostly from iodine-131, had already decayed. Named “corium” by scientists, it was still thousands of times more radioactive (5,200,000,000,000,000 disintegrations per second per kilogram — that’s 5.2 quadrillion more than the average activity (26,000 disintegrations per second per kilogram) found in dust and soil samples collected through community volunteer efforts from across Japan — with a focus on areas around Fukushima — since the 2011 nuclear disaster began. By way of comparison, in the U.S., average soil and dust activity is thousands of times lower.

Due to privacy concerns, we are not permitted to know the identities of the Nagoya residents who participated in the dust sampling collection and in whose home the particle was found. Nor do we know how many people lived in the home; if there were children or babies present; or pets; or pregnant women. And we will never know if there were any other radioactive microparticles in the home that did not make it into that vacuum cleaner bag.

We do not know how the particle got there. No one in the home (nor the vacuum cleaner) had any connection to the Fukushima reactors or the exclusion zone. Was the particle transported by a car tire into their city? On someone’s shoes? Did it fly in through a window after being lofted by air currents? Did it arrive by a combination of forces? We do not know if other particles like this travelled just as far in all directions, or who may have taken a breath at just the wrong moment, so that a similar microparticle might be lodged in their lungs.

We do know the residents in Nagoya were notified about the particle’s presence, and that if it had been inhaled or ingested, it could have proven lethal over time. This corium particle would have destroyed tissue near it, potentially threatening the function of any organ that tissue was part of. But the particle’s additional danger would come from what it didn’t destroy – that is tissue that is damaged but survives and can go on to mutate into cancer or non-cancer diseases.

 

fukushima-nagoya-map.pngA map showing the distance between Nagoya, where the radioactive “hot particle” was found, and Fukushima.

We also know that had scientists and citizens not worked together to collect samples, we would never have known a microparticle of corium existed at all at a distance so far away from the Fukushima meltdowns. If the presence of this particle – and its potential for inhalation – had gone unnoticed, any calculations of the doses to residents of this home would have been significantly underestimated. And while the Nagoya particle may simply be an outlier, it shows how inaccurate radiation risk assessment has turned out to be.  All of these microparticles, even ones less radioactive, may pose significant health risks inside the body that are currently uncalculated.

Citizen and scientists collaborations show us that radioactive microparticles are a worldwide problem. Yet action by public health advocates and government officials has been slow to nonexistent in recognizing this danger, much less working to protect people against exposure from it. Detecting radioactive microparticles is extremely difficult, in part because detecting them and proving their danger requires specialized techniques and equipment. But this is no excuse for governments to ignore the problem altogether as they continue to do. When experts tell us what our risks are from radiation exposure, risks from these microparticles remain unaccounted for in every country in the world.  Speculation swirls around these particles and whether the rapid-onset cancers occurring in Japan are possibly due to their presence.

Radioactive particles across the globe

Collections of various samples (home air filters, vehicle engine intake filters, soils, samples of dust from vacuum cleaner bags) have revealed radioactive microparticles from Fukushima made it as far as Seattle, WA and Portland, OR in the U.S.,and to the Western coast of Canada.

Not surprisingly, microparticles in Japan were much more radioactive than those that made their way to the U.S. and contained more varied radioisotopes, thus posing a much greater health risk. In the case of some filters in Japan, contamination was high enough to be classified as “radioactive waste.”

In addition to catastrophic releases from nuclear power facilities, these particles come from atomic detonations, other nuclear industry processes such as mining and atomic fuel fabrication, and nuclear facility releases of radioactivity, as well as leaking atomic waste dumps. Nuclear workers, First Nations Tribes, and local residents have submitted samples for testing around such facilities. Particles have been detected in the environment and in house dusts in communities around weapons facilities in Los Alamos, NM; Hanford, WA; and Rocky Flats, CO. Thorium, plutonium, and uranium from nuclear facilities were found “outside of radiation protection zones,” including workplaces, workers’ homes and cars. “Given the small respirable size of these radioactive microparticles, they are a potential source of internal exposure from inhalation or ingestion,” according to Dr. Marco Kaltofen of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

 

rad-shrine.jpgA traditional sacred Japanese shrine, whose backdrop is covered bags of radioactively contaminated soil. (Photo courtesy of Arnie Gundersen/Fairewinds)

In some cases, radioactive particle releases can be higher from nuclear power catastrophes than disasters at atomic bomb facilities. In 1986, Chernobyl also released radioactive particles that still contaminate the environment today. . Forest fires are spreading them further. Current community volunteer citizen science efforts are underway in the environs of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) – a former reactor test site adjacent to Simi Valley, CA – and the site of several unanticipated and unmonitored nuclear releases, a meltdown, and the November 2018 Woolsey forest fire.

Similar work is being carried out in Pike County, OH, host to a uranium enrichment facility for military and civilian nuclear reactors that has spread radioactive contamination to a nearby middle school, the grounds of which have now been quarantined. The U.S. Department of Energy hid the school contamination for two years, prompting public outrage and calls for health investigations into the high incidence of local childhood disease.

Ignoring danger to human health, environment

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) currently has an existing 10-mile emergency planning radius around commercial nuclear power reactors, a zone the NRC does not place around other nuclear facilities. This 10-mile zone is not large enough to account for exposures that often occur well outside of it.

While the NRC is aware of the radioactive microparticle threat, its dose models fail to provide the extensive, detailed calculations required to actually protect anyone working at or living near these sites. Since radioactive microparticles remain a threat for generations after a catastrophe begins, the NRC should account for continuing exposure to communities and their people for the decades or centuries it takes for such materials to be safe for human or animal exposure.

The author wishes to thank Arnie and Maggie Gundersen at Fairewinds Energy Education for technical and editorial input. Cindy Folkers is the radiation and health specialist at Beyond Nuclear.

Headline photo: “3S0578” by Billy and Lynn is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

https://beyondnuclearinternational.org/2019/11/17/dangerous-radioactive-hot-particles-span-the-globe/?fbclid=IwAR1f6xoC-X36Om7p6anCTPHz9DPeqjcZtP5NX2LYweMyUS3fjnIS1mAB1FA

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November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Work at reactors to be suspended during 2020 Games

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November 16, 2019
Tokyo Electric Power Company will suspend work at its nuclear plant on the Sea of Japan coast during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as part of antiterrorism measures.
TEPCO is conducting safety work at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture to restart two of the seven reactors that are offline.
The utility says it will put all work on hold at the plant during the Olympics, and suspend welding and other operations using fire during the Paralympics.
It cites an increased risk of terror attacks during the sports event that will attract global attention with many people moving about.
The company also plans to set limits on welding and other operations at its Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants, where decommissioning work is under way.
In order to reduce risks of power failure, TEPCO will suspend part of the work for transmitting and supplying electricity during the Tokyo Games.

November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Japan nuclear plant safety costs increase 5-fold over 6 years to 5.4 trillion yen

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The No. 6 reactor building at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant is seen in Niigata Prefecture on Nov. 15, 2018
November 16, 2019
TOKYO — The estimated cost of safety measures at nuclear power plants across Japan has increased fivefold over the past six years to just over 5.38 trillion yen, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has shown.
Eleven power producers spent the funds to implement stiffened safety standards at 15 nuclear power plants, including those currently under construction, according to the survey conducted from September to November this year. Atomic power station safety regulations were strengthened in July 2013 after the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis and subsequent shutdown of all Japan’s nuclear plants in 2011, and required upgrades at existing facilities before they could restart.
A 2013 survey conducted before the new regulations were implemented found that 10 power companies had allocated a combined 998.7 billion yen to safety measures. The outcome of the latest survey indicates the scale of the financial commitment power companies must make to meet the stricter safety regulations.
Tadahiro Katsuta, a nuclear power policy expert at Meiji University, commented, “Countermeasures against accidents being taken now should’ve been considered before the (2011 Fukushima Daiichi) nuclear accident. The sharp increase in costs is the result of the firms’ failure to do what was necessary.”
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is estimated to have spent nearly 1.17 trillion yen on safety measures, the largest amount of all the 11 utilities. TEPCO explained that large outlays were required to reinforce piping at buildings housing the No. 1 to 7 reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata Prefecture following the 2007 Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake as well as for countermeasures against liquefaction beneath the complex’s No. 6 and 7 reactors. The figure is around 17 times the company’s 2013 cost estimate of 70 billion yen.
TEPCO is followed by Kansai Electric Power Co. (KEPCO) based in the western Japan city of Osaka, at some 1.02 trillion yen, about 3.6 times the 2013 estimate. Implementing measures against terror attacks at its three nuclear power plants in Fukui Prefecture along the Sea of Japan coast — the Takahama, Oi and Mihama complexes — and other measures were particularly expensive.
Kyushu Electric Power Co. in southwestern Japan, which operates the Sendai and Genkai nuclear plants in Kagoshima and Saga prefectures, respectively, estimates its safety upgrade costs at 900 billion yen, 4.5 times the figure in 2013.
However, six other companies, including Chubu Electric Power Co. in central Japan, which is aiming to restart its Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture, answered that the costs of construction for anti-terror measures were not yet determined. The measures are generally estimated to cost tens to hundreds of billions of yen.
Since countermeasures against volcanic ash need to be considered at some atomic power plants, the costs will likely mount further.
(Japanese original by Riki Iwama, Suzuko Araki and Yuka Saito, Science & Environment News Department)

November 19, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Workers Battle Leukemia – and Bureaucracy

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November 13, 2019

Editor’s Note

The March 2011 tsunami, and the subsequent meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, has had a devastating impact on Japan. Eight years later, and most journalists – in Japan and abroad – have forgotten about the story. But for many, the struggle continues.

This is especially true of workers who helped assist in the cleanup effort at Fukushima. Some Fukushima workers have contracted severe diseases – including cancer and leukemia – since their work concluded. The government of Japan has even certified that some cases are a result of recovery work. But workers who are fighting for their lives also find themselves fighting the system. Tokyo Electric (TEPCO), which led the recovery effort, refuses to admit any connection between the cleanup work and subsequent diseases in workers. And many insurance companies are pointing to the fine print in private insurance contracts stating they don’t cover accidents at nuclear facilities.

Unseen Japan has been pleased to partner with photojournalist Hiro Ugaya (烏賀陽弘道) to translate his interviews with evacuees and former evacuees, and to document the ongoing struggle of the victims of this tragedy.

We previously published Hiro’s interview with a mother in the city of Minamisoma. In this installment, we share the first part of Hiro’s interview with Mr. Ikeda (pseudonym), a Fukushima nuclear reactor cleanup volunteer who now finds himself fighting two uphill battles.

(Translation from an article originally published on Note.mu. Translation by Jay, Editor/Publisher, Unseen Japan. All photos used with permission of Hiro Ugaya.)

Ikeda’s Story

For this installment of the Fukushima Report, I visited Northern Kyushu City in Fukuoka prefecture. I departed from Tokyo and flew west, in the direction opposite Fukushima.

I went to Fukuoka, which is quite far from Fukushima. That’s where the leukemia-stricken Ikeda Kazuya (age 44; pseudonym) has lived since participating in the Daichi Nuclear Reactor reconstruction efforts. I had visited Ikeda once in 2017 to hear his story. Among all my interviews here in the Fukushima Report, it’s the one that’s reverberated the loudest.

Mr. Ikeda volunteered to participate in the restoration work at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. By trade, he’s an independent welder. In March 2011, when so many people died due to the tsunami, he looked at the report of the death of a small child and thought, “I need to do something useful for Tohoku” [Editor: the region of Japan hit by the tsunami]. He asked permission from his boss and threw himself into the reconstruction effort. The interior of the heavy machinery room of Reactor 4 butts up against the nuclear fuel rod pool.

 

ikeda2-2Mr. Ikeda during Fukushima cleanup.

But in 2013, Mr. Ikeda came down with leukemia.

Mr. Ikeda is one of the first cancer patients that the country recognizes as a work-related accident connected to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Two Fukushima workers contracted leukemia (bone marrow cancer), and one contracted thyroid cancer. The first case of leukemia was recognized in October 2015. The second was recognized in August 2016. The third person, who had thyroid cancer, was certified in December 2016.

As of May 2019, there are six patients in the country whose cases have been recognized as occupational accidents caused by work at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. To tell the truth, I was quite surprised that the country recognized them as occupational accidents. Judging from the history of pollution diseases, such as Minamata disease and Itai-itai disease, I predicted the government would probably prevaricate and not admit a causal relationship. But the government admitted it readily (employing a lot of rhetoric, of course, such as “This is not an admission of a scientific, causal relationship”).

From a global and historical perspective, the admission is rare. In the Three Mile Island nuclear accident (1979) in the US, more than 2000 lawsuits have been filed, but no relationship between health damage and exposure has been admitted in even a single case. The state government naturally won’t admit it, and the courts don’t either.

Due to this admission, the assertion that “the radiation leakage from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident is mild enough not to damage health” fell apart.

In the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the former Soviet Union, the first to suffer serious harm were the so-called “Liquidators,” the firefighters and soldiers who were the first responders. Nearly 5,000 people died. Naturally, people who are close to radiation-intensive sites will become seriously ill. The same phenomenon occurred in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident.

While the case was recognized as a workplace injury, Mr. Ikeda filed a lawsuit against Tokyo Electric (TEPCO), which ran the restoration project. That’s because TEPCO doesn’t “recognize a causal relationship between Mr. Ikeda’s leukemia and exposure to radiation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.”

I’ve long found it mysterious that not a single TV station, weekly newspaper, web media or other news outlet has done an article on those like Mr. Ikeda who contracted deadly diseases from the nuclear reactor recovery work. Since the government’s announcement certifying them as workplace injuries, there’s been dead silence. Those affected can’t be heard in their own voices.

For a nuclear accident to occur and three reactors to meltdown (even at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, two such past events, only one reactor melted down) is an event of worldwide and historic proportions. In addition, 200,000 people becoming refugees from the area is a war-level crisis. In addition, there’s the damage toll on six people, starting with Mr. Ikeda, who’ve contracted fatal diseases. I can’t think of any news that’s more important to record in the annals of history than the actual voices of these victims.

The silence of the mass media in the face of such a reality astonishes me. I ‘m tempted to think they all, through some shared intent, decided to suppress the story.

If Mr. Ikeda refuses interviews, I’d get that. But that’s not the case. Since the legal proceeding began, Mr. Ikeda has traveled from Kitakyushu to the Tokyo District Court once every few months. He leaves the courthouse, after which there’s a public briefing session. I also went there and was granted leave to interview people.

If other reporters did this, they could hear Mr. Ikeda’s story too.

I try and attend whenever there’s a court session. In Tokyo, Mr. Ikeda is busy with supporters and lawyers, so he doesn’t have time to interview. So I went to his home in Kitakyushu, where I soaked up his story. This was in March 2017 – two years ago.

During that time, every time I met Mr. Ikeda and talked with him, I realized he was recovering little by little. Let’s talk about what’s happened since. It was April 2019 when I flew back to Kitakyushu again.

This time, Mr. Ikeda pointed out something important. People who work in nuclear facilities such as nuclear power plants are not covered by private insurance, even if they have an accident or get sick. It’s in the so-called “disclaimer.”

If if you can’t work and fall into hard times, unless the country certifies it as a workplace accident, there’s no path to salvation. For subcontractors who are not in-house employees, TEPCO and other electric power companies have denied any compensation or even causality.

People who engaged in the dangerous work of recovering the nuclear power plant post-meltdown have been left naked and defenseless. And few people notice it. Even insurance companies don’t care. I want to fix this abnormality.

Here’s what Mr. Ikeda told me.

A Return to Normalcy?

fishing-lures.jpgA set of fishing lures at the Ikeda home. For Mr. Ikeda and his kids, fishing is an important family pastime.

It’s been two years since I’ve seen you. When I last saw you, you told me, “I have to make memories with my kids,” and you’d planned to go skiing or fishing or whatnot in spite of your illness. I heard that and thought, “This is someone who’s truly prepared to die.”

I think, before, I had contracted leukemia, and I’d thought, it’ll probably recur again. But recently I’ve come to think more in terms of doing things for my kids’ future. Things like helping my kids with their hobbies, or helping my wife develop their potential. Kids can’t grow without their parents’ cooperation. In hobbies, or in sports. 

What hobbies do your kids have?

Fishing, mostly. Baseball, golf, track & field.

Your eldest does track and field, right?

Since middle school. Some say he should do baseball as well because he’s so physically gifted.

Is it a local public middle school? Or a private school somewhere that focuses on sports?

Nah, we’re in the sticks (laughs). There are no private schools that are big on sports. 

You said you’re a baseball coach. What do you coach?

I’m a scorer. I volunteer. And I help develop the kids.

You must get up early. Do you go on away trips? Isn’t that tough?

Several middle schools gather together and we drive. We can fit seven kids in a minivan.  The kids love riding like that.

How’s your body?

It’s fine. There are times I get tired, but the kids are enjoying themselves, so I’m like, it’s fine. On days when there’s no practice, I play catch with kids from the team. No matter how hard I toss it, those kids laugh at me. “You’re slow!”

Two Battles for Fukushima Workers

Do you have to go to the hospital regularly?

I go to Kitakyushu Medical Center once a month. Get blood drawn. It’s to check if there’s any recurrence. The doctor tells me, “Don’t go back to work yet.” I became depressed and started going to the psychiatric clinic once a week.

You told me last time that you had to take gritty pills that were like marble chocolate.

Yeah, I did. They had antibacterial agents. I take about six a day now.

(He takes out the pills and shows them to me)

Wow, there are a lot.

Taking depression meds is tough. I lost my cool with my wife during these last two months. So I consulted a doctor, and he switched me to Chinese medicine.

You were in the middle of leukemia treatments when you became depressed, right?

I mean, I thought I’d die during leukemia treatment. I was certified Level 2 on my disability card. [Editor: disability cards, which enable their holders to additional assistance, are classified levels 1 through 6.]

They gave me medical morphine after because the pain was so bad. I felt like my body was floating off of the bed. After I asked them to stop, my stomach got really sore for seven hours.

The Diagnosis

It was December 2013 when Mr. Ikeda noticed an abnormality in his body. It started with cold-like symptoms. Eventually, he was too winded to climb the stairs at the construction site.

The next month, January 2014, he received a blood test using an “ionizing radiation screening” (a screening received after returning from a workplace exposure to radiation). That night, a doctor called him. “This may be leukemia.” 20% of the venous blood in his body was teeming with cells.

When surgeons opened a hole in the lumbar spine and examined it, they found his bone marrow was 70-80% cancer cells. Doctors told him in January 2014 that “Your cancer is spreading gradually,” and he was swiftly admitted to the Kitakyushu Medical Center.

He was hospitalized for seven months. His red blood cells and platelets declined. he had to have over 50 blood transfusions. In August 2014, he underwent an “autologous peripheral blood transplant” to transplant his healthy blood components. In order to reduce his immune strength, doctors isolated him in a sterile room. He couldn’t come face to face with his family.

The side effects of the anti-cancer drugs combined with the fear of death drove him to the brink. When he says he’s being treated for depression, it’s a consequence of that period.

He underwent an ionizing radiation screening in September 2013. Doctors found no abnormalities. The canceration of hematopoietic cells progressed rapidly in the following 3 months.

Experts say that the incubation period of leukemia (time from exposure to onset) is two years. Mr. Ikeda’s case matches that. And the five-year survival rate for leukemia is around 30%. His doctor said, “If you’d waited two weeks, it’d have been too late.”

No One Will Listen”

 

ikeda-sonMr. Ikeda’s son running track.

There are six people, including yourself, who have been certified as workplace accidents due to cancer or death from overwork in the recovery work of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident. Any contact from them?

No, none. I’ve caught sight of the wife of one of the Fukushima workers who died from overwork (karoshi) at rallies in Tokyo.

It seems that TEPCO employees and primary subcontractors who got sick will receive 30 million yen [around USD $274,000]. But in return, they can’t sue. That’s what my lawyer emphasized at trial. But that offer doesn’t extend to us (second-tier subcontractors).

The owner who hired me also had business owner insurance. Just in case we have an industrial accident. However, we found out later that it wasn’t valid in nuclear facilities, such as nuclear power plants. The insurance companies say it’s too dangerous a place to cover via employer insurance. And yet TEPCO denies responsibility for my leukemia.

That’s what you’re contesting in court.

That’s right. They’re denying everything. They say it was too low of a dose to bear any relationship. In the previous trial, TEPCO says I developed leukemia due to smoking, drinking, and a vegetable deficiency. That took me aback (laughs). They talk to us like we’re alcoholics.

When I petition to declare this an industrial accident, I was interviewed by the Labor Standards Control Board. I didn’t know quite what was happening, so when they asked me about my health, I was straight and said, “I drink two beers a day,” and “I smoke 20 cigarettes a day.” TEPCO must have requested disclosure of the Labor Board’s data.  Who knows where they got “vegetable deficiency” (laughs). They’re just making stuff up.

Do you have a timeframe for a ruling?

No, not yet. We’re on the 11th round of oral arguments. The last one was in January and the next one’s July. We’re getting our strategy in order.

What evidence is TEPCO presenting to refute you?

Search for the stories of scholars who kowtow to the government, you’ll find it (laughs).

Who’s providing testimony, besides you?

There are various people I think.

TEPCO won’t recognize the causal relationship between your leukemia and radiation exposure, correct?

If they did, it’ll become a serious obstacle to future nuclear power policy. I was the first person certified, and there’ve been a number since. So there has to be a causal relationship, right?

What total dose did you receive?

A total of 19.8 millisieverts. Others received more. TEPCO is terrible. It’d be better if they just copped to it.

Others Will End Up Like Me”

Why do you think TEPCO should admit responsibility?

When this happens to someone else, this won’t be any guarantee, but it’ll give them peace of mind, you know? I mean, it’s not like you can tell people, “Don’t help with recovery efforts.” Other industries offer insurance – who’s going to guarantee workers who enter a nuclear facility if the employer’s primary insurance won’t? That’s what I want to tell people.

Fukushima workers who entered the facility had no idea their employer’s primary insurance wouldn’t cover it.

Yep, yep…We ask who’s going to cover this, but TEPCO is the only company that makes people work in an environment not covered by insurance. People will think, “If TEPCO won’t guarantee it, why should I take the risk?”

That’s what I want to say, to communicate to the world. But no one will listen….If workers have the right to insurance, they know they can get compensation if something happens. I mean, that’s how the old coal miners thought. “I’ going into a dangerous place, but, well, at least I have insurance.”

Is work accident insurance insufficient?

It’s not a matter of it being insufficient. I want to see a proper system established for the people who come after me. Unskilled workers like me have these jobs like nuclear power plant cleanup shoved on them. If something happens, and you’re a TEPCO employee, you’re covered. The rest of us are kicked to the curb. It makes me sick. Many of us have no idea who’ll take care of things if something happens.

The company that hired me took out high premiums for us to have round the clock coverage. It covers us even when we’re in dorm rooms outside of works hours from aftershocks and tsunamis. However, they didn’t know the insurance wasn’t applicable inside of a nuclear facility. The CEO complained, and a rep came and apologized.

I heard that they changed that text from small print to large print after my case was certified.

So there are gaps in the current system?

That’s what I want people to know. I want the media and others to know. And I want people who enter a nuclear facility to work to know this as well. Private insurance won’t cover you if something happens. Do people think that’s right? If I don’t say something, others will end up like me.

https://unseenjapan.com/fukushima-workers-leukemia-bureaucracy/

November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

As Fukushima food export barriers fall, Japan aims to persuade China

Japanese government diplomatic campaign to exports radioactive food products continues.
Five markets still prohibit crops and seafood from nuclear disaster zone.
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Worker sorts fish at the port of Matsukawaura in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. Japan hopes to break down the last international barriers to food exports from the area.  
November 13, 2019
TOKYO — International restrictions on food products from Japan’s nuclear disaster-stricken Fukushima Prefecture are falling one by one, creating a tailwind for Tokyo’s drive to boost farm, forestry and fisheries exports.
Much, however, will hinge on the decision of one man — Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Singaporean leader Lee Hsien Loong last week told Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that the city-state would remove its ban on food from Fukushima and adjacent prefectures affected by radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which suffered meltdowns after the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.
The European Union, starting this Thursday, will no longer require radiation inspection certificates for most products, with the exceptions of seafood from Fukushima and wild vegetables picked in eastern Japan. Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Iceland are expected to ease their own policies in similar fashion soon.
Brunei in late October announced it was removing all of its restrictions as well.
Though Singapore will still require pre-export safety checks, its move means the number of markets retaining bans on certain goods will drop to five: mainland China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao.
Japan thinks Beijing holds the key to removing most of the remaining barriers, and will be looking to get the nod from Xi when he visits Japan next spring.
Hong Kong and mainland China are the top two destinations for food from Japan, importing one-third. But China’s doors are closed to all food and feedstuffs from Fukushima, Miyagi, Ibaraki and six other prefectures. A Japanese Foreign Ministry official said that if China relaxes its restrictions, Hong Kong would likely follow suit.
Beijing has already shown some willingness to back down: After Abe met Xi in China last fall, it lifted an import ban on rice from Niigata Prefecture. As the two countries’ often chilly relations begin to improve, Abe is hoping for more. In recent meetings with Chinese Vice President Wang Qishan and Premier Li Keqiang, in preparation for Xi’s upcoming visit, Abe asked China to further ease the restrictions.
The Abe government, encouraged by the rising global popularity of Japanese cuisine, has made food exports an important part of its growth strategy. It is aiming to ship 1 trillion yen ($9.15 billion) worth of agricultural, forestry and fisheries products and other foods this year. In 2030, it hopes to push the value to 5 trillion yen.
Exports topped 900 billion yen in 2018, more than double the figure for 2012, right after the earthquake. Yet, exports from Fukushima and surrounding prefectures lag behind. Easier access to foreign markets would not only help the government reach its export goals but also contribute to economic revitalization in the disaster zone.
After the meltdowns, 54 countries and regions imposed curbs on food from affected areas. Twenty-one retain restrictions in some form, such as requiring the submission of inspection certificates. Put another way, 60% of the governments have completely lifted their controls.

November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Hotspots in East Tokyo’s Mizumoto Park

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November 12, 2019
The soil of 12 out of 29 spots in Mizumoto Park (Katsushika-ward, Tokyo city) recorded more than 8000 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium. The highest measurement was over 42,000 Bq/kg.
水元公園かわせみの里残土 地図 Sample115
Here is another measurement data of the highest spot in the Park, which was recorded by a local volunteer in March 2019.

November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima to Become Solar, Wind Hub Using Farmland Tainted by Radiation

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11 novembre 2019
Japan govt to offer 30b yen in subisidies for 300b yen project
Renewable energy to be supplied to Tokyo and surrounding areas
Japan is pursuing a 300 billion ($2.75 billion) yen project to transform disaster-struck Fukushima prefecture into a clean-energy hub, with the development’s first solar farm scheduled to start in January.
Building wind and solar farms on agricultural land tainted by radiation from the 2011 Dai-Ichi plant meltdown will help rejuvenate the area, which also suffered earthquake and tsunami damage, Masashi Takeuchi, the head of the energy division at the Fukushima prefectural government, said Monday.
The venture includes plans for 11 solar farms and 10 wind farms with total capacity of 600 megawatts and is scheduled for completion by March 2024. The government plans to contribute 30 billion yen of subsidies and the Nikkei reported earlier the Development Bank of Japan and Mizuho Bank are among the institutions planning to provide financing.
The first solar farm will probably be a 20 megawatt project in Minamisoma city in the northern part of Fukushima prefecture, according to Takeuchi. Fukushima, which provided nuclear power to Tokyo prior to the disaster, is transforming its energy policy as Tepco scraps reactors amid public concern about their safety.

November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

An update from Fukushima, and the challenges that remain there

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Workers stack bags of soil collected during Fukushima decontamination and cleanup operations, 2011.

November 11, 2019

After more than eight years, Japan is still struggling with aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The Japanese government and nuclear industry have not solved the many technical, economic, and socio-political challenges brought on by the accident. More worrying, they continue to put special interests ahead of the public interest, exacerbating the challenges and squandering public trust. The longer these issues remain unsolved, the more difficult it will be to restore this trust.

Technical challenges. The most difficult challenge is, of course, the decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. It would take too long to describe all of the technical challenges of the decommissioning operations, but two recent events are instructive of the overall difficulties.

The first is the dismantlement of the joint exhaust stack for units one and two. This stack stands 120 meters tall and is at risk of collapse because of fractures in its pillars. It was also heavily contaminated by the venting of radioactive gases during the accident. So the stack must come down, and the operation to deconstruct it must be done remotely from the stack itself to avoid exposing workers to dangerous radiation. According to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operation was supposed to be simple: cut down the top of the tower using special remote-controlled equipment, slicing pieces from the top of the chimney one by one and guiding them down by crane. Originally, the operation was supposed to start in March 2019, but TEPCO deployed an operation tower that was about three meters too short for the task, meaning it needed to rebuild the tower before starting. The cutting operation began on August 1, but the project has already faced numerous additional delays because of technical difficulties that include malfunctions of the crane, the camera on the cutting machine (which is needed to monitor the operation), the saws of the cutting machine, and both the main generator and sub-generators. The operation was supposed to finish by the end of 2019 but will now drag on until at least March 2020.

The second technical problem, which is much more serious than the first, is the management of contaminated water. The water is continuously injected into the reactors to cool the fuel debris, and then treated to remove most—though not all—of the radioactive materials. The so-called “treated water” is being stored on site and amounts to about 1.1 million tons, with several hundred tons being added every day. According to TEPCO, the total tank capacity to store treated water will be approximately 1.37 million tons by the end of 2020, but the volume of treated water will exceed storage capacity by 2022. A subcommittee of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry recommended that the treated water, which still contains tritium, should be released into the sea once the radioactive concentration is below the standard agreed beforehand. The agreed standard between TEPCO and the local fishing industry association is 1,500 becquerels per liter (Bq/l), which is far below the drinking water standard for tritium water of 10,000 Bq/l set by the World Health Organization. An additional condition of release, however, is that all other radioactive substances besides tritium must be removed below a detectable limit or in line with regulatory standards. Unfortunately, in August 2019 news outlets reported that some radioactive materials such as iodine 129 were not completely removed and that their concentration levels were above the regulatory standards.

Most recently, the super typhoon Hagibis hit the eastern part of Japan, which includes Fukushima prefecture and the area affected by the nuclear accident. TEPCO reported irregular readings from sensors monitoring water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant but did not confirm whether any radioactive water leaked into the sea. In addition, according to the Tamura city government, some bulk bags filled with soil collected from decontamination operations were swept into a river during the typhoon on October 12. The bags were among 2,667 that have been temporarily stored at a site in the city. The Ministry of the Environment later confirmed that total of 11 bags were swept away and found downstream. Thankfully, there was no evidence that any of the contaminated soil leaked out. But this wasn’t the first time an incident like this has happened. In September 2015, several hundred bags were swept downstream during flooding caused by tropical storm Etau. The recurring close calls reveal the ongoing vulnerabilities of the Fukushima and associated sites. The contaminated soil will need to be stored for at least 30 years, and the risk of possible leakage remains if a larger and stronger typhoon, or a tsunami, hits the region again.

Economic challenges. In December 2016, the Ministry of Trade, Economy, and Industry’s committee for reforming TEPCO published its latest estimate for total accident costs, including decommissioning the reactors, compensation, and decontamination of the land. The total cost was estimated at almost 22 trillion yen ($188 billion), which was twice as much as the previous estimate of 11 trillion yen ($96 billion). More recent estimates have put the figure even higher—up to 80 trillion yen ($736 billion) over 40 years.

According to the legal scheme established by the ministry, TEPCO and other nuclear utilities will pay about 20 trillion yen of the total accident costs. But now the rest (2 trillion yen) will be footed by Japanese taxpayers. The 2016 report was the first time that the Japanese government admitted that tax money would be spent for the Fukushima accident costs.

The government’s lack of transparency in agreeing to this scheme is a source of ongoing concern, not least because the taxpayer burden could balloon if total costs go up, or if the nuclear utilities cannot pay off the debt. The government has given no clear explanation why and how much tax money will be spent to cover the total accident costs. To make matters worse, the power utilities are passing on part of the accident cleanup costs to customers by increasing their electricity rates, but without disclosing the amount.

This exceptionally high cost may have influenced the future economic competitiveness of nuclear power. At present, no utility has announced plans to build new reactors or to replace existing reactors.

Socio-political challenges. On September 19, 2019, three former top executives of TEPCO were found not guilty of criminal negligence for their roles in the disaster, which resulted in the death of 44 and the injury of 13 others. The Tokyo district court ruled that it was not realistic for the former executives to have prevented the triple core meltdown because they were not able to predict all possible tsunami scenarios. This was the only criminal case so far involving TEPCO officials and, although they were found not guilty, the case revealed new facts regarding the tsunami predictions. A 2008 TEPCO internal study, based on a 2002 report by a government panel, concluded that a wave of up to 15.7 meters could hit the plant after a magnitude 8.3 earthquake, overwhelming the Fukushima site, which sits 10 meters above sea level. The findings were reported to the TEPCO executives, but they did not act to take measures against such high-tsunami scenarios. The court decision was totally unsatisfactory to the public, especially for the victims in Fukushima who were forced to leave their homes. For them, it is now clear that the accident was preventable and that no one at TEPCO will be held accountable for their lack of action to prevent it.

Although the criminal case was highly symbolic, it is not the only legal one involving TEPCO and Fukushima. More than 100,000 evacuees have filed about 30 different civil lawsuits seeking compensation from TEPCO and the government. Several district courts have ruled that TEPCO could have predicted and prevented the nuclear crisis and have awarded millions of dollars in damages to the evacuees.

TEPCO isn’t the only utility with a public relations problem. On September 27, 2019, the Kansai Electric Power Company held a press conference to disclose that 20 of its employees, including top executives, received inappropriate payments and gifts worth a total of $2.9 million from a senior local government official in Takahama, a town that hosts one of the company’s four nuclear power plants. This has become the biggest scandal since the 2011 Fukushima accident and has exposed the collusive relationship between the utility companies and local public officials as well as the connection between the utilities and local construction companies, which may have benefited from favorable contracts for necessary safety upgrades at the nuclear plants. In October, the chairman, executive vice president, and three executive directors resigned, while the president of the company stepped down from his position as the head of the powerful Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan. Although Kansai Electric Power Company planned to restart units one and two of its Takahama nuclear plant earlier this year, that plan is now on hold indefinitely.

These two recent events show that social and political problems persist even eight years after the Fukushima accident. According to the latest public polling conducted in 2018 by Japan Atomic Energy Relations Organization, a utility-sponsored pro-nuclear organization, only 6.7 percent of the public think nuclear industry organizations are trustworthy or somewhat trustworthy (a decline from 7 percent in 2017), and only 7.9 percent of the public think the government is trustworthy or somewhat trustworthy (a decline from 9.2 percent in 2017).

Lessons not learned. The ongoing technical, economic, and socio-political problems demonstrate that the nuclear power industry and the Japanese government haven’t learned their lesson from the Fukushima accident, which is that transparency is the key to public trust. It is true that the quantity of information about cleanup has increased substantially over the years. But transparency means that the utilities and the government need to disclose information that the public needs, even when it is not favorable to them. One solution, which they have so far been unwilling to accept, would be to establish a truly independent third party to oversee their activities. Lack of such an independent oversight organization is one of the main causes for not taking alternative and possibly better, more appropriate measures over the last eight years.

https://thebulletin.org/2019/11/an-update-from-fukushima-and-the-challenges-that-remain-there/#

 

November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

Inspectors find 41 cracks in the grounds of Fukushima nuclear plant: local media

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November 10, 2019
Dozens of cracks have been found in facilities built to contain radiation at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant. Tokyo-based Yomiuri Shimbun reported Sunday that 41 cracks were found in the plant’s concrete floor. It says Tokyo Electric Power Company appears to have neglected the facilities,… with inspectors having discovered weeds growing through the concrete. They believe there’s a danger that radioactive substances may have seeped through the cracks… and into the groundwater. Inspectors have raised the issue with the power company,… requesting maintenance work.

November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , | Leave a comment

21 new plants to help transform Fukushima into a renewable energy hub

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Solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass combined to provide Japan’s Fukushima prefecture with almost 1.5 GW of power in 2018
November 10, 2019
The wheels are in motion to breathe new life into the energy production of Fukushima, the Japanese prefecture that was devastated by the 2011 tsunami and nuclear meltdown. As reported by Tokyo-based newspaper Nikkei Asian Review, plans are afoot to transform the area into a renewable energy hub, with the power it generates to be fed into national grid for use in the country’s capital.
The government of Fukushima has actually been ramping up the region’s renewable energy production since the 2011 accident, which was triggered by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake that resulted in the plant being swamped by seawater and caused the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
Working towards an objective of powering the entire region with 100 percent renewable energy by 2040, wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass combined to provide the Fukushima with almost 1.5 GW of electricity in 2018. This was up from around 1 GW in 2016 and around 400 MW in 2012.
The new construction project will add 11 new solar plants and 10 wind power plants to the mix, which will be constructed on unused farmlands and hilly terrain, according to Nikkei Asian Review. With a total cost of around US$2.75 billion over the coming five years, the new plants are expected to add a further 600 MW to Fukushima’s energy output.
A new 80-km (50-mi) grid is also in the works, which will feed this power into the metropolitan area of Tokyo. The Fukishima government expects renewables to provide 13 to 14 percent of Japan’s national energy mix by 2030.
Sources: Government of Fukushima, Nikkei Asian Review

November 19, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Nuclear regulator says cost-cutting culture creating mistakes, delays at Fukushima plant

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The No. 3 reactor, right, and No. 2 reactor, left, are seen in this photo of work at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in November 2018, provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co.
November 8, 2019
TOKYO — Decommissioning efforts following the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station have been hit by delays and a series of mistakes contravening safety rules relating to the operation of nuclear facilities.
In response to the issues, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) is carrying out a survey into whether operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has sufficient staffing numbers working on the project, and is seeking to have TEPCO’s board improve its preparations.
According to the secretariat of the NRA, this summer there were errors in the wiring of electrical cables to the No. 5 and 6 reactors, which caused problems when smoke started to emerge from equipment attached to the reactors.
Furthermore, drinking facilities are being continually installed in controlled zones with high levels of radioactivity where they are forbidden from being built, and it has emerged that workers have drunk water from those areas. In October, the NRA identified both incidents as contravening safety regulations.
Elsewhere, the continuation of work to remove spent nuclear fuel from storage pools at the No. 3 reactor has been delayed. NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa said, “It appears the absolute number of such workers (who manage the work at the power station) is insufficient. If small mistakes continue, it creates the danger of leading to big mistakes.”
Ryusuke Kobayashi, head of the Fukushima Daiichi NRA Regional Office, attended a regular meeting of the NRA on Nov. 6. Regarding the situation at the power station, he said, “There’s a strong focus on cost-cutting at the site. It has an atmosphere which makes it difficult to speak out and say there are too few people working there.” At a press conference after the meeting, chairman Fuketa stressed that it was essential for more staff to be secured.
In response to the NRA, a representative at TEPCO said, “It’s believed an easing of vigilance at the site has been one reason (for the mistakes). The number of human errors has stayed at between 100 and 200 each year for the last five years. We want to proceed with a plan to resolve this considering the specific characteristics of the working environment at the site.”
(Japanese original by Yuka Saito and Suzuko Araki, Science & Environment News Department)

November 19, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment