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11 years later, Fukushima still faces a long road to full recovery

Workers remove debris at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant’s No. 1 reactor building.

March 11, 2022

Eleven years after a broad swath of the northeastern Tohoku region was devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, the government is stressing the progress made in the recovery and reconstruction of disaster-hit areas.

It points out, for example, that its plan to relocate 18,000 houses to areas of high ground for residential land development has been achieved. It also says 98 percent of the local seafood processing facilities have resumed operations in an encouraging sign of recovery of one of the mainstay industries in the region.

But the actual picture is less sunny with the process of recovery and reconstruction only halfway through for most local industries and people’s livelihoods. Local fish hauls are still around 70-80 percent of the pre-disaster levels in Miyagi and Iwate prefectures.

A survey by the Tohoku Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry found that about 45 percent of affected companies have yet to return to the staffing levels before that day 11 years ago.

DISTRUST OVER FUKUSHIMA CONTAMINATED WATER 

In particular, Fukushima Prefecture, where the catastrophic accident broke out at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, is struggling to recover what it lost in the disaster.

Coastal fishing catches last year were only 20 percent of pre-disaster figures. Fukushima’s hardships will be further compounded by the scheduled start in spring next year of TEPCO’s plans to release treated radioactive water from the crippled nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean.

Underground water that keeps flowing into the melted reactors is generating a steadily increasing volume of “treated water,” or water currently stored in tanks installed within the compound after being treated with special equipment to eliminate most of the highly radioactive materials.

The government emphasizes that it decided to discharge the water into the sea after explaining meticulously to local communities that scientifically the water poses no health hazard. But the fisheries associations in both Miyagi and Ibaraki prefectures as well as in Fukushima have voiced opposition to the step.

“The decision was made in Tokyo and has been imposed on us,” fumes Ayanori Sato, 31, a Sakhalin surf clam fisherman in the Yotsukura district of Iwaki, a city in Fukushima Prefecture.

In Yotsukura, local fishermen restarted Sakhalin surf clam fishing three years after the nuclear disaster. Since four years ago, the district has been holding Sakhalin surf clam festivals once or twice a month as part of its efforts to dispel unfounded negative rumors about the safety of locally caught clams.

The government and TEPCO have pledged to provide proper compensation if the release of treated water breeds rumors that damage local industries. 

A recent Supreme Court ruling on a damages lawsuit filed by people forced to evacuate from their homes due to the Fukushima disaster has increased the distrust of the government and the utility among victims.

The ruling confirmed that the compensation standards set by the government’s interim guidelines are not sufficient. For Sato, who thinks of fishing as his lifelong job, money is not enough to compensate for what he has lost.

The release of treated water is expected to continue for 30 years or so. The government and TEPCO should establish a system to monitor the effects on the environment and locally caught seafood during the period.

There can be no real progress on this matter unless the government and the utility actively disclose information to win the understanding of local communities.

NO PROSPECT FOR MANY EVACUEES TO RETURN HOME 

In Fukushima Prefecture, there remains some 340 square kilometers of land where the evacuation order is still in place, areas near the crippled plant with high levels of radiation, known as “kitaku konnan kuiki” (difficult-to-return zone).

The order is set to be lifted this spring in certain parts of the zone designated as reconstruction priority areas eligible for preferential policy support to help improve the living environment, such as intensive decontamination and infrastructure development efforts.

In the town of Futaba, home to the stricken plant and the only municipality in the prefecture that is still covered entirely by the evacuation order, local residents will be allowed to return home for the first time since the accident, possibly in June.

On March 4, a group of 12 workers, including TEPCO group company employees, were carrying 20 tatami mats, chests of drawers and other items placed on them out of the house of Kiyotaka Iwamoto, 74, located close to Futaba Station.

Although the household goods seemed to be still usable, they had to be replaced to lower the radiation levels in the room. 

Iwamoto is hoping that the work to repair his home will be completed by summer. But he is expecting to have to shuttle between his home in Futaba and his evacuation site in the city of Nasushiobara in Tochigi Prefecture for the time being.

By the end of February, some 20 local households applied for permission to stay in special facilities within the town to prepare for returning to their homes.

There is no family preparing to return near Iwamoto’s home. He is also concerned about the fact that there is no facility within the town that offers rehabilitation programs for his 71-year-old wife, who suffered a subarachnoid hemorrhage after the disaster.

These reconstruction priority areas constitute only 8 percent of the difficult-to-return zone. The government has repeatedly said it will decontaminate the land and houses of local residents who want to return to their homes so that the order can be lifted for the entire zone by the end of the 2020s. But it has yet to offer any specific plan to achieve this goal, keeping the outlook uncertain.

Despite all these problems plaguing affected areas, the government has tried to paint a rosy picture of Fukushima’s future in its “Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework,” a policy initiative to nurture new high-tech industries in such areas as robotics and hydrogen energy.

Goals are important for efforts to rebuild disaster-hit areas. But promoting such an unrealistic dream does not lead to any progress in key goals. The first step in rebuilding ravaged communities in Fukushima should be mapping out down-to-earth visions for the future of the communities based on tough-minded assessments of the reality of Fukushima.

DEVELOP CONVINCING PLANS TO DECOMMISSION THE REACTORS 

At the end of January, a robot arm designed to remove melted nuclear fuel debris at the bottoms of ruined reactors at the plant arrived in Fukushima. A trial run of the machine has started for use at the No. 2 reactor.

This is, however, only a small step in the long and complicated clean-up process. There are an estimated 880 tons of radioactive debris at the bottoms of the Nos. 1-3 reactors. Nobody knows, however, how the debris is scattered about and in what form.

The government has already dropped the goal of removing the debris in 20-25 years, included in the road map for decommissioning the reactors published in December 2011. But the goal of completing the decommissioning process in 30-40 years has been kept unchanged.

One big challenge is finding a location for the final disposal of contaminated soil and waste temporarily stored in Futaba and Okuma, where the plant is located. The completion of the work to deal with the consequences of the accident, which is far more difficult than the ordinary decommissioning process and requires different approaches, is vital for progress in the reconstruction of ravaged communities.

But the government has not offered any clear image of this future nor any reliable estimate of the total cost. While the government has estimated the total cost at 22 trillion yen ($189.15 billion), including the compensation to be paid to victims, one research institute has pegged it at 35 trillion to 80 trillion yen.

The government needs to lay out clear and concrete visions for the ultimate state of the Fukushima No. 1 plant and the process of achieving that state while subjecting the visions to Diet scrutiny. Without such visions, it will remain difficult to clear up the dark cloud of uncertainty hanging over Fukushima’s future.

It is, of course, impossible to find a quick solution to the challenge. The long road to Fukushima reconstruction is strewn with obstacles that have to be overcome one by one.

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14569666

March 13, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

11 years on, Fukushima radioactive waste still tough challenge for Japan

TOKYO, March 11 (Xinhua) — Eleven years after the quake-induced Fukushima disaster, the aftermath of the nuclear meltdown, not least a large amount of contaminated water, remains a grave challenge for Japan as well as for the rest of the world.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture in Japan. An earthquake-triggered tsunami engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, causing core meltdowns in units one to three and leading to the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Little progress has been made over the past year on the most pivotal and hardest work of decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi power plant — how to remove the nuclear residue from the meltdown. Japan’s International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning estimated that the total weight of nuclear waste mix from melted fuel rods and other materials in pressure vessels that melted during the accident could be 880 tons.

Since the end of 2011, No. 1 to No. 3 units have been in a stable state of low temperature cooling, but the internal radiation is still very high, making it difficult for personnel to work in close proximity. Relevant work has to rely on remote tools such as remotely controlled robots and mechanical arms, but not a single piece of nuclear residue has been removed so far. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said it plans to first try to remove the nuclear residue from unit 2 this year.

Hiroaki Koide, a retired researcher at Kyoto University, said the Japanese government and TEPCO’s 30-40 year “roadmap” for decommissioning the reactors was an “illusion” that could not be achieved because it would be “impossible even in 100 years” to remove the large amount of scattered nuclear debris, which would have to be sealed in a “sarcophagus.”

In April last year, the Japanese government officially decided to discharge the nuclear contaminated water into the sea starting in the spring of 2023. The contaminated water at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant contains radioactive cesium, strontium, tritium and other radioactive substances.

The Japanese government and TEPCO said the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), a multi-nuclide removal system, can remove 62 radioactive substances except tritium, which is difficult to remove from water.

Japanese fishing groups strongly oppose the plan to discharge contaminated water into the sea. Opposition parties, including the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, also criticized the Japanese government’s plan and demanded its withdrawal.

About 60 percent of the 42 mayors in the disaster-stricken Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate prefectures opposed the decision. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations submitted a statement opposing the plan to Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and others, urging the government to consider other measures, such as mixing contaminated water with cement and sand.

At the invitation of Japan, an investigation team of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visited Japan on Feb. 14-18 to complete its first field investigation.

Lydie Evrard, deputy director general of the IAEA, said Japan had studied several options for treating the contaminated water, but ultimately chose the option of discharging it into the sea, and the Japanese government invited the IAEA to conduct a safety review, hoping that the agency would give basic policy support to the treatment plan. What she pointed out was that it was up to the host country to decide how to deal with the contaminated water, and that the agency provides only technical assessments, not options.

China is seriously concerned about and firmly opposes Japan’s unilateral decision to discharge the nuclear-contaminated water into the sea and its proceeding with the preparatory work, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Zhao Lijian has said.

He stressed that the handling of the nuclear-contaminated water from Fukushima is never Japan’s private matter. Instead, it bears on the marine environment and public health of the whole world.

Japan should heed and respond to the appeals of neighboring countries and the international community, and rescind the wrong decision of dumping the water into the sea. “It mustn’t wantonly start the ocean discharge before reaching consensus with stakeholders and relevant international institutions through full consultations,” Zhao said.

http://www.xinhuanet.com/english/asiapacific/20220312/cb7ee148bd8c4a9cb4f21a16f43d57fc/c.html

March 13, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Bullying, suicide attempts…11 years for a girl in Fukushima… Before evacuation, she was cheerful: “It’s OK. You’ll just make more friends.”

A woman holds a group photo and high school diploma taken in Fukushima before the evacuation. She sometimes looked at the photos at the beach when she was having a hard time.

March 11, 2022

Serialization “At the End of the Tunnel: Trajectory of the Girl and Her Family” (1)

On her last day of high school, a girl (18) nearly burst into tears when her name was called by her homeroom teacher at the presentation of her diploma. The teachers and friends at this school made me smile from the bottom of my heart. I was sad to graduate. I didn’t think so when I was in elementary and junior high school.
 On March 11, 2011, just before the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant occurred, the girl was 7 years old and entering the second grade of elementary school. During the summer vacation after moving on to the next grade, she evacuated from Koriyama City in Fukushima Prefecture to Niigata. In the place where she sought a safe haven, she was bullied, saying “Fukushima is dirty” and “radioactive,” and cried out repeatedly that she wanted to go back to Fukushima. When she was in high school, she even attempted suicide.
 Days went on in a long dark tunnel with no way out. Now, under a clear sky, I feel as if I have finally escaped from that exit. Whenever you feel lonely, come back to us. From April, she will attend a vocational school in Niigata Prefecture to fulfill her dream.
Classmates transferred one after another… “It’s my turn now,” she said.
 March 11, 2011, 2:46 p.m. I was watching TV with my grandfather at home in Koriyama City. Furniture fell over and dishes broke as a result of the violent shaking. The cell phone was beeping incessantly with earthquake early warnings. I hit my head and body hard against the leg of the sunken kotatsu and the desk I was squatting on, and cried out in fear. I’m going to die, aren’t I? When she ran out of the house, she found a blizzard.
 At the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, hydrogen explosions occurred at the Unit 1 reactor on March 12 and at the Unit 3 reactor on March 14. A relative who had family members in the Self-Defense Forces told her father, “I heard the nuclear power plant is dangerous. We’re going to run away,” and her parents decided to evacuate temporarily.
 In the early morning of the 16th, the car with the family of four, including her one-year-old sister, headed for Niigata. At the shelter where they took shelter, there was hot food and hot spring baths. A private room was prepared for the family’s young child, and the mother was small, saying, “Even though we are not from the evacuation zone. Every day was fun because I could play with other children who had evacuated.
 When she returned to Koriyama in time for the new school term in April, she found her days suffocating. The children wore long sleeves, long pants, hats, and masks to avoid exposure to radiation, and the classroom windows were closed. The school building was covered with blue tarps, and the topsoil in the schoolyard had been stripped and piled up for decontamination. The homeroom teachers told us not to touch the soil.
 In the middle of the first semester, one by one, her classmates moved away from the school. I think it’s dangerous here, so I’m thinking of going to Niigata. When my parents asked me about it, I thought, “My turn has come.
 I was sad to leave my beloved father and grandparents who remained in Fukushima for work, but I knew that my parents were trying to protect me and my sister. So I thought positively and answered cheerfully. ‘That’s fine. You’ll just make more friends.”
 At the closing ceremony of the first semester, I was filled with sadness when my friends told me, “It will be okay wherever you go,” and “I’ll be waiting for you to come back to Fukushima again. That day, we took a group photo in class. It is a treasure that I still look back on from time to time. (Natsuko Katayama)
 Based on more than a year of interviews, this report tells the story of the girl and her family over the past 11 years in four installments.

https://www.tokyo-np.co.jp/article/164844?fbclid=IwAR3848Nmfb-xZ1lPserU_cd1k-dFoGKLZvwJlaTS9XhiP5HCACZ2hTpQ2es

March 13, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Court rejects bid to suspend nuclear reactors in Takahama

After the Nagoya District Court dismissed their request to halt the reactors at the Takahama nuclear power plant, the head attorney for the plaintiffs explains the ruling to supporters outside the court in Nagoya on March 10.

March 11, 2022

NAGOYA–The Nagoya District Court on March 10 dismissed a citizens’ request that the government order Kansai Electric Power Co. to halt two reactors at its Takahama nuclear power plant as a safety precaution.

Nine plaintiffs from Fukui, Aichi and three other prefectures filed a lawsuit against the government seeking to suspend the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the facility in Takahama, Fukui Prefecture.

They argued that the nuclear power plant’s disaster-prevention countermeasures for dealing with ash from volcanic eruptions are insufficient.

“(The government) did not deviate from its discretion for not having ordered the suspension,” said Presiding Judge Tomohiro Hioki.

After the 2011 triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the government’s regulatory authority introduced a new “backfit” provision.

That requires utilities to prepare countermeasures for issues that have emerged after new findings, such as the effects natural disasters can have on their existing nuclear power plants. It also allows the regulator to halt reactors if they do not meet its standards.

This marks the first judicial ruling over the backfit provision.

In June 2019, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority issued backfit orders for seven reactors at three Kansai Electric nuclear power plants, including the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors in Takahama.

The regulator contended that Kansai Electric had not taken sufficient measures against volcanic ash in the event of an eruption at Mount Daisen in Tottori Prefecture.

But it did not order Kansai Electric to halt its reactors on the grounds that there is no imminent risk of eruption.

“Mount Daisen is not categorized as an active volcano, so the NRA’s decision not to order the suspension was not a deviation from or abuse of discretion,” the district court ruling said.

The regulator had decided on its response after it was briefed by Kansai Electric, and did not establish a deadline for completing the countermeasures. On both points, the court ruled that the regulator’s actions were legal.

But on the other hand, the court also accepted some of the arguments made by the plaintiffs.

The presiding judge said that in the current situation, with the anti-volcanic measures not yet completed, the plant “holds realistic possibilities of safety deficiencies” and also “has some risk of receiving significant damage.”

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14569930

March 13, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima spill plan goes ahead despite local opposition

March 10, 2022

By Antonio Hermosin Gandul

Tokyo, March 10 (EFE).- Japanese authorities continued with their plan to dump contaminated and processed water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean in 2023, despite the rejection of local communities suffering the consequences of the nuclear disaster 11 years on.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant, damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, faces an uncertain dismantling process that will last beyond 2050, and in which the growing accumulation of radioactive water is the most urgent problem due to sort out.

TEPCO, the plant operator, and the Japanese government approved in April a plan to pour thousands of tons of water into the Pacific Ocean from 2023 after being treated. It’s a measure supervised by the International Atomic Energy Agency that has generated strong opposition from local fishermen’s groups and environmental organizations.

Fukushima Daiichi faces a long list of unprecedented challenges in the history of nuclear energy, among which the removal of highly radioactive fuels from the reactors stands out, or the storage of these and other residues that represent a great risk to human health and the environment.

The most pressing of these headaches is what to do with the water contaminated with radioactive waste after it is used to cool reactors or leak into nuclear facilities, of which some 1.29 million cubic meters are accumulated in drums inside atomic facilities where space has run out.

After analyzing with a scientific panel a series of possible solutions of enormous technical complexity, including methods of evaporation or underground injection, authorities and TEPCO opted to dump all the water into the sea in front of the plant after decontaminating it.

The operator said the water will not represent any danger to human health or the environment, since its level of radioactivity will be “well below” the limits established by both Japan and the World Health Organization.

The water is subjected to a succession of filters that eliminate all radioactive materials considered dangerous with the exception of tritium, an isotope present in nature, although in low concentration.When diluted in seawater, this would generate ‘negligible’ levels of radiation, according to TEPCO and Japan’s government. EFE

March 13, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

11 years on: Fukushima governor wants all evacuation orders to be lifted

Mar 11, 2022

Fukushima – The government should lift all evacuation orders issued after the March 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture, Gov. Masao Uchibori said in an interview.

Uchibori welcomed the central government’s pledge to ensure that all evacuees from the triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant may return home by the end of the decade, if they wish.

“However, there are many challenges such as handling land and housing of residents who do not intend to return, and working out details of decontamination methods,” Uchibori said Monday.

“The situation differs by area. We will urge the central government to carefully listen to the intentions of each municipality and act in a responsible way to lift evacuation orders in all difficult-to-return areas and reconstruct such zones,” he said.

When asked about the central government’s plan to release treated radioactive water from the nuclear plant into the ocean, he said that he will urge the government to carefully give explanations to all people concerned and to give out more information to prevent any more harmful rumors.

“There are opinions in Japan and abroad opposing the water release and calling for the careful handling of the matter,” he said.

On the handling of contaminated soil from Fukushima, Uchibori said that it is the central government’s obligation to move it out of the prefecture for final disposal by 2045.

On last summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics dubbed the “Reconstruction Games,” the governor said that the event became a legacy although there were some restrictions.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was different from what we had imagined, but the prefecture’s products, such as peaches, were highly evaluated by people related to the Games,” he said.

“By utilizing the connections we gained at the Games, we will work to expand exchanges through sports, such as by hosting large-scale events and having children and athletes interact with each other.”

“We also want to further share Fukushima’s attractiveness both domestically and internationally through exchanges,” he added.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2022/03/11/national/fukushima-governor-evacuation-orders/

March 13, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

11 years later, fate of Fukushima reactor cleanup uncertain

One of the Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) employees holds a radiation counter as they take AP journalists to the area under the Unit 5 reactor pressure vessel, which survived the earthquake-triggered tsunami in 2011, at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, run by TEPCO, in Futaba town, northeastern Japan, Thursday, March 3, 2022. The government has set a decommissioning roadmap aiming for completion in 29 years.

By Mari Yamaguchi, March 11, 2022

OKUMA, Japan — Eleven years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was ravaged by a meltdown following a massive earthquake and tsunami, the plant now looks like a sprawling construction site. Most of the radioactive debris blasted by the hydrogen explosions has been cleared and the torn buildings have been fixed.

During a recent visit by journalists from The Associated Press to see firsthand the cleanup of one of the world’s worst nuclear meltdowns, helmeted men wore regular work clothes and surgical masks, instead of previously required hazmat coveralls and full-face masks, as they dug near a recently reinforced oceanside seawall.

Workers were preparing for the planned construction of an Olympic pool-sized shaft for use in a highly controversial plan set to begin in the spring of 2023 to gradually get rid of treated radioactive water — now exceeding 1.3 million tons stored in 1,000 tanks — so officials can make room for other facilities needed for the plant’s decommissioning.

Despite the progress, massive amounts of radioactive melted fuel remain inside of the reactors. There’s worry about the fuel because so much about its condition is still unknown, even to officials in charge of the cleanup.

Nearly 900 tons of melted nuclear fuel remain inside the three damaged reactors, and its removal is an unprecedented challenge involving 10 times the amount of damaged fuel removed in the Three Mile Island cleanup following its 1979 partial core melt.

The government has set a decommissioning roadmap aiming for completion in 29 years.

The challenge of removing melted fuel from the reactors is so daunting that some experts now say that setting a completion target is impossible, especially as officials still don’t have any idea about where to store the waste.

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa said recently that extra time would be needed to determine where and how the highly radioactive waste removed from the reactors should be stored.

Japan has no final storage plans even for the highly radioactive waste that comes out of normal reactors. Twenty-four of the country’s 60 reactors are designated for decommissioning, mostly because of the high cost needed to meet safety standards set up in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake caused a tsunami 17 meters (56 feet) high that slammed into the coastal plant, destroying its power supply and cooling systems, causing reactors No. 1, 2 and 3 to melt and spewing massive amounts of radiation. Three other reactors were offline and survived, though a fourth building suffered hydrogen explosions.

The spreading radiation caused some 160,000 residents to evacuate. Parts of the surrounding neighborhood are still uninhabitable.

The melted cores in Units 1, 2 and 3 largely fell to the bottom of their primary containment vessels, together with control rods and other equipment, some possibly penetrating or mixing with the concrete foundation, making the cleanup extremely difficult.

Probes of the melted fuel must rely on remote-controlled robots carrying equipment such as cameras and dosimeters — which measure radiation — because radiation levels in those areas are still fatally high for humans.

In February, a remote-operated submersible robot entered the Unit 1 primary containment vessel, its first internal probe since a failed 2017 attempt. It captured limited images of what are believed to be mounds of melted fuel rising from the concrete floor.

Probes have moved ahead at Unit 2, where TEPCO plans to send in an extendable robotic arm later this year to collect melted fuel samples.

TEPCO Chief Decommissioning Officer Akira Ono said in a recent online interview that robotic probes at Unit 1 and 2 this year are a major “step forward” in the decades-long cleanup.

“It’s like we have finally come to the starting line,” Ono said. “Before, we didn’t even know which way we were supposed to go.”

Ono said the Unit 2 melted fuel test removal will start from a granule or two, all of which will be sent for lab analysis, meaning a storage facility won’t be necessary until larger amounts are hauled out. Even a tiny amount would provide valuable data for research and development of fuel and debris removal technology for all three reactors, he said.

Hideyuki Ban, the co-founder of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center who previously served on government nuclear safety panels, proposes the underground burial of solidified treated water for stable long-term storage, while entombing the three reactors for several decades — like Chernobyl — and waiting for radioactivity to decrease for better safety and access for workers instead of rushing the cleanup.

Since the disaster, contaminated cooling water has constantly escaped from the damaged primary containment vessels into the reactor building basements, where it mixes with groundwater and rainwater that seep in.

The water is pumped up and treated, partly recycled as cooling water, with the remainder stored in 1,000 huge tanks crowding the plant. The tanks will be full at 1.37 million tons by next spring, TEPCO says.

The government has announced plans to release the water after treatment and dilution to well below the legally releasable levels through a planned undersea tunnel at a site about 1 kilometer offshore. The plan has faced fierce opposition from local residents, especially fishermen concerned about further damage to the area’s reputation.

TEPCO and government officials say tritium, which is not harmful in small amounts, is inseparable from the water, but all other 63 radioactive isotopes selected for treatment ‘can be reduced to safe levels’, tested and further diluted by seawater before release.

Scientists say the health impact from consuming tritium through the food chain could be greater than drinking it in water, and further studies are needed.

At one of the water treatment facilities where radiation levels are much higher, a team of workers in full protective gear handled a container filled with highly radioactive slurry. It had been filtered from the contaminated water that’s been continuously leaking from the damaged reactors and pumped up from their basements since the disaster. Large amounts of slurry and solid radioactive waste also accumulate in the plant.

Radiation levels have fallen significantly after decontamination since the disaster, and full protection gear is only needed in limited areas, including in and around the reactor buildings.

On a recent visit, AP journalists used cotton gloves, goggles, a head cover and surgical masks to tour low-radiation areas.

Additional protection, including hazmat coveralls and double rubber gloves, was required when the journalists entered the Unit 5 primary containment vessel and stood on the grating of the pedestal, a structure beneath the defueled core, where officials explained the concept of using robotic probes in No. 1 and 2 reactors.

TEPCO has emptied spent fuel from the No. 3 and No. 4 reactor pools, but removal at the No. 1 and 2 reactors has been delayed several years because of high radiation and contaminated debris, posing concerns of a spent fuel meltdown in case another major quake caused water loss and overheating.

Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa says the Fukushima Daiichi plant must be safely and fully decommissioned “to make our hometown a safe and livable place again.” Izawa said he wants the government to “wipe out the (region’s) negative image” by tackling the safe cleanup, which is a prerequisite for the town’s reconstruction.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/11-years-later-fate-of-fukushima-reactor-cleanup-uncertain/2022/03/11/91c5f4c6-a0fe-11ec-9438-255709b6cddc_story.html

March 13, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

11 years after meltdown, Fukushima towns to welcome back residents

Housing complexes are being built in the town of Futaba, which will be decontaminated and reopened to residents. The Fukushima plant can be seen on the horizon.

March 11, 2022

TOKYO — Eleven years after a major earthquake and tsunami triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Japan will reopen part of the surrounding area to residents starting this spring as a new hub for the region’s revival.

The government considers the five years that began in April 2021 as the “second phase” of recovery efforts in northeastern Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture. But with costs ballooning and tens of thousands still unable to return home, rebuilding communities there remains an uphill battle.

The death toll from the triple disaster, which occurred March 11, 2011, totaled 15,900 as of the beginning of this month. The search for the 2,523 missing continues to this day.

Another 3,784 deaths are associated with the disaster. A total of 38,139 evacuees had not returned to their homes as of Feb. 8, including 26,692 from Fukushima who now live outside the prefecture.

As the next step in the region’s recovery, Japan is decontaminating a 27-sq.-km area that was evacuated following the disaster, including the towns of Futaba and Okuma. Evacuation directives will be lifted in aand allowing residents will be allowed to move back there starting this spring and into 2023. The government plans to press ahead with nurturing industries to help disaster-hit areas grow on their own.

Another 310 sq. km around the Fukushima plant will remain off-limits to the public. Japan plans to eventually decontaminate residential areas as needed to give all former residents the option to return by the end of the 2020s.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings, operator of the Fukushima plant, aims to start removing nuclear debris from the damaged reactors on an experimental basis in the latter half of the year. The utility looks to complete the decommissioning of the plant by 2041 to 2051.

An interim storage facility for contaminated soil in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture. It remains unclear where the material will ultimately be disposed.

But recovery efforts in Fukushima face mounting financial and logistical hurdles.

Contaminated soil and other waste from the disaster are supposed to be stored within the prefecture for 30 years before they can be moved elsewhere. But the government has yet to secure a final disposal site, and the total cost of the process remains unclear.

In terms of decontamination, “there’s no clear guideline on how far into the mountains and woods our efforts would extend,” said an official at the Environment Ministry.

Japan estimates the total costs associated with the Fukushima disaster, including damages paid to victims, at 22 trillion yen ($190 billion). But the final tally could end up far higher, given how much of the recovery process still needs to be ironed out. One private-sector estimate places the figure beyond 35 trillion yen.

“Should costs continue to mount, our budget for other energy-related policies, like promoting renewable sources, could take a hit,” a government source said.

Though the rebuilding of infrastructure is nearly complete in neighboring Miyagi and Iwate prefectures, personal connections within communities have weakened further, partly due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 680 people living alone have died in the three prefectures since the disaster. Japan still faces the issue of people becoming isolated, which was highlighted following the 1995 earthquake in the Kobe area.

March 13, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

3/11 Fukushima disaster evacuee has been ‘wandering’ for 11 years while growing vegetables

Hisae Unuma is seen in the city of Kuki, Saitama Prefecture, on Sept. 22, 2021.

March 10, 2022

KUKI, Saitama — It will soon be 11 years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. A woman who lived near the nuclear plant continues to live as an evacuee in Saitama Prefecture, saying, “I am still in temporary housing and wandering around with no place to return to.”

Hisae Unuma, who leads a displaced life in Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, works hard every day as a vegetable farmer, something she had no experience doing before the disaster.

The 68-year-old woman’s home was located in the Fukushima prefectural town of Futaba, 2.5 kilometers from Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. She was a farmer who bred the Japanese Black cattle and grew rice. She was particular about the grass she used to feed the cattle, and recalled that the conception rate of her cows was “one of the top three in the county of Futaba.” The farmer believes that “land is the source of life,” and she had put compost in her rice paddies and also made efforts to grow delicious rice. All of this was lost in an instant.

After the disaster, Unuma evacuated to the city of Kazo, where the Futaba town hall was also temporarily moved. In order to “build up her strength for when she returns to Futaba,” she learned to grow vegetables from scratch and rented farmland to start growing them.

Unuma now delivers vegetables she grows to local schools for lunches and sells them at a market. Her husband, whom she shared her life with, passed away from cancer in 2017. People tell her, “We are waiting for your vegetables,” and that is a big support for her.

Her home in Futaba is located in a “difficult-to-return” zone with high radiation levels, and she is only allowed to return home on a temporary basis. When she visited in February, it looked as if her home would collapse at any moment.

“Even if I wanted to go back, I can’t. I am not young enough to want to go back,” Unuma said.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20220310/p2a/00m/0na/010000c?fbclid=IwAR3YrWvgzWovKXenRYNu1Li19rfvUHiSQ2v7LmTIGW_WStjq-QSzl9NkXwU

March 13, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , | Leave a comment