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Decontaminated soil from the nuclear power plant accident “Cleanup is right in front of my house…” Plans to reuse soil from outside Fukushima emerge in Shinjuku Gyoen, Tokorozawa, and Tsukuba

December 10, 2022
An important move has been made regarding the cleanup of the TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident. A demonstration project to reuse decontaminated soil is planned to be conducted for the first time outside of Fukushima Prefecture. The Ministry of the Environment is planning to reduce the amount of decontaminated soil for interim storage in the prefecture by reusing it, and briefing sessions are scheduled for Tokorozawa City, Saitama Prefecture, on December 16 and Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, on December 21. Why has reuse emerged in these areas? Can we easily proceed with reuse that will lead to the proliferation of pollution? (Special Reporting Division: Takuya Kishimoto, Takeshi Nakayama)

A demonstration project to reuse decontaminated soil is planned at the Environmental Research and Training Institute in Tokorozawa City, Saitama Prefecture.

◆Local residents voiced their confusion, and the city office was reluctant to go ahead with the project.
 A 10-minute walk from Koku Koen Station on the Seibu Shinjuku Line in Tokorozawa City, we came upon a corner lot adjacent to the National Defense Medical College. This is the Environmental Research and Training Institute, one of the facilities where a demonstration project to reuse decontaminated soil is planned. Across the main street to the west was a residential area.
 How do local residents perceive the plan?
 What is right in front of our house? A woman in her 50s who lives across the street from the training center voiced her confusion. I remember hearing on the news that there was going to be some kind of experiment in Tokorozawa, but…. But have you already decided? I’m not absolutely against it, but there are so many things I don’t understand that I can’t say for sure.
 The training center is a Ministry of the Environment facility used to train personnel involved in environmental conservation. The plan for the demonstration project was explained by Environment Minister Akihiro Nishimura at a press conference on April 6. Decontaminated soil will be used to create a lawn at the facility to confirm its safety.
 He also visited the city hall, which is a few minutes’ walk from the training center. Mr. Kazuto Namiki, director of the Environment and Clean Environment Department, was open to accepting the project.
 The reuse of decontaminated soil is a nationwide issue, not just in Fukushima. We would like to cooperate with them on the premise of ensuring the safety and security of residents. The Ministry of the Environment approached the city in June of this year, and discussions have continued. Naturally, we are proceeding with the project after consulting with the mayor.
 Mayor Masato Fujimoto. He seems to have such strong feelings about the project that he wrote on the city’s website, “The Great East Japan Earthquake and the nuclear power plant accident were the starting point of my desire to become mayor.
 In 2012, the year after the earthquake, the city once announced a policy to cancel the installation of air conditioners in junior high schools, saying, “Now that we have experienced the disaster, we need to be patient. Although he later retracted the policy in response to a referendum in which the majority of residents opposed it, a source familiar with the city government described him as “the type of person who goes his own way, without regard for criticism.
 In August of this year, he revealed that he had attended an event of an organization affiliated with the Family Coalition for World Peace and Unification (formerly the Unification Church), causing controversy when he said, “I don’t feel that much remorse” and “My personality is such that I can’t say I won’t go anymore.
◆Residents’ explanatory meeting was limited to 50 people, many of whom were unaware of the event.
 The lack of explanation about the demonstration project to reuse decontaminated soil seems to be conspicuous.
 The Ministry of the Environment plans to hold a briefing session for residents at the training center on the evening of the 16th of this month. The details of the project will be revealed there for the first time. However, the number of participants is limited to 50 residents of the neighborhood, and pre-registration is required. The city was in charge of the briefing, but it was only announced on 28 bulletin boards in the area.
 A local man (81) said, “I didn’t know about the briefing. I don’t usually look at bulletin boards. Another woman said, “I thought it would be announced in the city’s newsletter. When we asked about 10 residents, none of them knew that the information about the briefing was posted on the bulletin board.
 After the plans for the demonstration project came to light, the city received about 40 inquiries, the majority of which were negative. Yoichi Sugiura, who has been involved in the local anti-base movement and has confronted the government and the city, said, “Even if it is a national project, the city is not going to accept it.
 Even if it is a government project, the city should confirm the wishes of the citizens before taking any action, but they are proceeding with the project without informing us well. If the city is going ahead with the project by fiat without listening to citizens’ opinions, it will be the same as when the air conditioner was installed.
◆Decontaminated soil in Fukushima also failed due to local opposition.
 Why is the Ministry of the Environment trying to reuse decontaminated soil?
 Interim storage facilities in Fukushima Prefecture (Futaba and Okuma towns) began receiving decontaminated soil in 2015, and the amount is expected to reach about 14 million cubic meters. The government has stated that final disposal will take place outside the prefecture by 45 years for both towns. In June 2004, the Ministry of the Environment set a standard for reusing decontaminated soil with a level of 8,000 becquerels per kilogram or less. This is considerably looser than the standard for reusing materials from decommissioned nuclear power plants (100 becquerels per kilogram).

Interim storage facilities for temporarily storing contaminated soil spread out around the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in the town of Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on January 25, 2012, from the “Oozuru” helicopter operated by the head office of the company (photo by Ryo Ito).

However, it is difficult to say that recycling is on track.
 In Fukushima Prefecture, a plan to use the soil for filling city roads in Nihonmatsu City was abandoned due to opposition from local residents. In Minamisoma City, the city built fill and measured the radioactivity concentration of seepage water, but a plan to reuse the soil for construction of the Joban Expressway did not materialize due to local opposition. Now, only an experiment in crop cultivation is underway in Iitate Village. Tsunehide Chino, associate professor of environmental sociology at Shinshu University, said, “It is difficult to obtain broad public agreement, and the demonstration project has nowhere to go.
 Nevertheless, in August, the Ministry of the Environment announced a policy to implement the demonstration project outside of Fukushima Prefecture. In addition to the Environmental Research and Training Institute in Tokorozawa City, Shinjuku Gyoen (Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo), a facility affiliated with the Ministry of the Environment, and the National Institute for Environmental Studies (Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture) are also being discussed as possible sites. A Ministry of the Environment official explained, “We took into consideration the fact that there is space in the area that is not accessible to the general public. In the demonstration project, flowerbeds, grass plazas, parking lots, etc. will be built, and data on changes in radiation levels in the surrounding area will be collected.
◆Tokorozawa, Tsukuba, and Shinjuku Gyoen…places with close ties to the country
 Tokorozawa was the site of an army airfield before World War II and is now the site of a U.S. military communications base, so it is closely related to national security policy. Tsukuba has the face of an academic city, and research institutes with close ties to the national government are also prominent. Shinjuku Gyoen was the site of the “Cherry Blossom Viewing Party” hosted by the prime minister.
 The connection with the government may remind one of the government-led recycling of decontaminated soil, but Mr. Chino said, “If a facility has a relationship with the Ministry of the Environment, it may be easier to conduct a demonstration project. In other words, it is only possible there. He then goes on to express his concern, “It is not clear to what extent the project will be agreed upon, including with the residents of the surrounding area, and they are trying to move forward without finding a way out.
 On the other hand, an official in charge of Shinjuku City, the home of Shinjuku Gyoen, where the demonstration project was announced, remains calm, saying, “The Ministry of the Environment should take the responsibility of explaining the project to the local residents and gain their understanding.
 Chia Yoshida, a freelance writer who has been covering the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident, is suspicious of the Ministry of the Environment’s preoccupation with the issue, saying, “I suspect that they are trying to proceed with the project by putting the residents’ wishes second.
 This attitude of the national government can be seen in the ongoing reconstruction project in Hamadori, Fukushima. In the area, the Reconstruction Agency will launch the Fukushima International Research and Education Organization in the next fiscal year, bringing together industries such as robotics, drones, and radiation science. Many of the technologies being handled are “dual-use” technologies that can be used by both the military and civilian sectors.
 In the name of ostensibly “reconstruction,” the idea of the business community and some research institutes that share its intentions may be taking precedence. The government’s policies, including the reuse of decontaminated soil, are proceeding without sufficient explanation to the local communities, and the residents are being left behind.
 Yoshiharu Monma, 65, chairman of the “30-year Interim Storage Facility Landowners Association,” said, “It is out of the question that decontaminated soil, which should be confined to one place, is being spread around the country by using the sound of reusing it. As with the restarting of nuclear power plants, we are seeing the government move in such a way as to make people think that they can do whatever they want after so much time has passed since the Fukushima accident,” he continued.
 In the first place, TEPCO, which caused the accident, should take responsibility for the final disposal of the decontaminated soil. For example, the government should consider condensing the decontaminated soil on TEPCO’s land, and the government should shoulder the shortage of funds and manpower. I would like to see these disposal methods discussed in a forum open to the public as a problem for Japan as a whole.”
Related article] Where to in 2045? Contaminated soil generated by the nuclear power plant accident: The current location of intermediate storage facilities in Fukushima
◆Desk Memo
 Decontaminated soil should be cleaned up by those who caused the accident. However, the Ministry of the Environment tries to bring it to various places in the name of reusing it. Without regard to pre-accident standards, a system will be set up to allow use even if considerable contamination remains, and a demonstration project for vegetable cultivation will also be carried out. The wild story looms over the Tokyo metropolitan area. This is no time to be distracted by the World Cup. (Sakaki)


December 11, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

A group of HT journalists interview Shaun Burnie senior Green-peace specialist on the impact of Fukushima’s controversial plan to dump water into the ocean

December 8, 2022

MADRID, Dec. 8, 2022 /PRNewswire/ — Japanese authorities have described the measure as “totally safe and unavoidable”, member countries of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (ORA), official institutions, non-governmental organizations, environmental associations such as Greenpece, experts and professors in atomic energy, as well as doctors and researchers specialized in diseases related to uncontrolled exposure to atomic substances, denounce this measure as irresponsible, and ask the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to intervene in this situation.

A group of international journalists led by HT investigates and analyzes the impact of the controversial plan to dump Fukushima water into the sea.  The main conclusions are:

  • The decision announced in April 2021, assuring that it is a “safe” project, does not convince  the scientific community, nor the experts in atomic energy, since of all it is “the cheapest option”.
  • It is currently unknown how the long-lived radioactive isotopes contained in the contaminated water will interact with marine biology, this situation is “unprecedented”.
  • An independent analysis of the report published by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) Subcommittee shows that the company responsible for the Fukushima power plant understood that additional storage of contaminated water beyond 2022 was possible, but ruled it out because it would require “a substantial amount of coordination,  time and financial resources.
  • Last October 30, a group of experts and professors in atomic energy, as well as doctors and researchers specialized in diseases related to uncontrolled exposure to atomic substances, submitted a letter to the Director General Mr. Rafael Mariano Grossi, asking him to urge the Japanese authorities to stop this measure.

Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace, confirms “the lack of clarity and scientific inconsistencies” in the Fukushima nuclear power plant decommissioning project, considering it a “fantasy” and that the discharge of contaminated and treated water into the ocean “does not solve the crisis and will generate an unpredictable environmental situation”.

Eleven years after the earthquake and tsunami that caused one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, Greenpeace is issuing a new wake-up call after reviewing multiple documents from different government agencies and industry.

Satoshi Sato, leader of the nuclear fusion and quantum energy neutron source design group at Rokkasho (Japan), states that “decommissioning is not possible in 40 years”. There are many shadows and doubts, the authorities should clarify the progress that has been made so far.

It will have to “live with treated water for decades while a safe solution is found,” the expert said in relation to the discharge of treated water into the Pacific Ocean, a plan planned for 2023 and which the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently assessed during a mission to the country.

Shaun Burine and Satoshi Sato, agreed that the IAEA’s position in supporting TEPCO’s (Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.) plans “makes no sense. They went on to say that “the IAEA’s mission is to develop safety standards and maintain high levels of safety for the protection of human health and the environment against ionizing radiation.  As well as to verify that States meet their commitments.”

“TEPCO has no intention of decommissioning the Fukushima nuclear power plant in the next 20 to 30 years. It is a fantasy and a much longer process than we have been told, said Burnie, who stressed the need to inform affected communities and the public in detail.

“You can’t discount the long-term consequences, because this transcends generations and this fact should be crucial to addressing the problem, not the official agenda of the actors involved,” Burnie criticized the roadmap approved by the Japanese government.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is the world’s fourth-largest utility and the country’s bastion of nuclear power, from which Japan gets 30% of its electricity. Tepco serves one-third of the population. The company that operates the nuclear power plant has contributed to the catastrophe with its management before and after the accident Falsified reviews, concealed information and delayed urgent measures.

The Greenpeace organization recalls that the company’s negligence put the former IAEA management in check on numerous occasions, its spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama denounced on numerous occasions as “extremely regrettable” the errors in the radioactive water measurements, apparently due to faults in the software used to carry out the measurements. “Tepco is facing a very serious situation and is not meeting people’s expectations”,  Nishiyama insisted, in the harshest criticism the company has received.

December 11, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo park to be used in Fukushima soil recycling demonstration

Dec. 9, 2022

Japan’s environment ministry has announced plans to demonstrate the reuse of decontaminated soil from Fukushima at a Tokyo park.

Environment Minister Nishimura Akihiro announced on Friday that the project will take place at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden.

Soil exposed to radioactive fallout from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has been decontaminated and kept in intermediary storage in the prefecture.

The government plans to reuse the soil for public works projects as long as the concentration of radioactive substances falls below a certain threshold.

Nishimura said the ministry will use the soil in a flower bed in an area normally closed to the public and later hold public flower-viewing events.

Ministry officials are to meet with nearby residents to explain about the project on December 21. The project is due to start early next year.

Nishimura said the ministry hopes to use the project to gain public understanding for the recycling of the decontaminated soil.

Earlier in the week, the ministry announced a plan to test soil recycling at the National Environmental Research and Training Institute in Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo.

Trials to reuse the soil have so far only taken place in Fukushima.

December 11, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Ministry plans tests on reusing Fukushima soil in Tokyo area

A temporary storage site for soil contaminated from the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster in February. The bags of radioactive waste were due to be shipped to an interim storage facility.

December 7, 2022

The Environment Ministry is eyeing the Tokyo metropolitan area for its first trial runs outside Fukushima Prefecture on reusing soil decontaminated after the 2011 nuclear disaster, The Asahi Shimbun learned on Dec. 6.

The ministry said the tests will take place at three government-related facilities in Tokyo, Saitama and Ibaraki prefectures.

But authorities said they have yet to gain the understanding of residents at all three candidate sites on the reuse of the soil, which still contains low-level radioactive substances.

Decontamination work was carried out on soil exposed to radioactive materials after the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The decontaminated soil has been kept at an interim storage facility in Fukushima Prefecture, but a law requires final disposal of the soil outside the prefecture by 2045.

The volume of decontaminated soil in Fukushima Prefecture, excluding the difficult-to-return zones where radiation levels remain high, is about 14 million cubic meters, enough to fill 11 Tokyo Domes.

Reusing the soil is part of the government’s efforts to reduce that volume before disposal.

The ministry is considering conducting the tests at the Shinjuku Imperial Garden in Tokyo, the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, and the National Environmental Research and Training Institute in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture.

Tokorozawa city will hold a briefing on the plan for about 50 residents on Dec. 16.

Under the experiment in Tokorozawa, decontaminated soil will be reused for lawns, and tests will be conducted to verify changes in radiation doses in the air.

For the trial runs in Tokyo and Ibaraki Prefecture, the soil will be used for parking lots and flower beds.

“We would like to use the experiments to gain public understanding regarding the reuse of the soil,” Environmental Minister Akihiro Nishimura said at a news conference on Dec. 6.

Only soil that measures below 8,000 becquerels per kilogram, the threshold set by the government, will be used in the trial runs.

The ministry has been conducting experiments on reusing the decontaminated soil for farmland in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture.

But plans for similar tests in Minami-Soma and Nihonmatsu cities, also in the prefecture, fell through after residents opposed.

December 11, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Ministry of the Environment to Reuse Decontaminated Soil in Shinjuku Gyoen and Other Places

December 6, 2022

The Ministry of the Environment is considering conducting demonstration tests to reuse soil removed from decontamination sites in Fukushima prefecture outside the prefecture, including the ministry’s Environmental Research and Training Institute (Tokorozawa City, Saitama Prefecture) and Shinjuku Imperial Garden (Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo).

The other is the National Institute for Environmental Studies (Tsukuba City, Ibaraki Prefecture). 

At a press conference after the Cabinet meeting on the same day, Environment Minister Akihiro Nishimura explained that there were several candidate sites and that he was coordinating with related local governments.

This is an important project for Fukushima Prefecture. We want to confirm the safety of the project and help build understanding. The Environmental Research and Training Center plans to reuse the land to create a lawn square, and will hold a briefing session for local residents on March 16.

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Reuse of decontaminated soil to be tested outside Fukushima

Dec. 6, 2022

Japan’s Environment Ministry is planning its first trial outside Fukushima Prefecture on the reuse of soil that was decontaminated after the 2011 nuclear accident.

The ministry says the demonstration will take place at the National Environmental Research and Training Institute in Saitama Prefecture, near Tokyo.

Officials will use the soil in a courtyard to grow a lawn. They plan to brief nearby residents in mid-December to seek their understanding, and begin the trial in January at the earliest.

Soil exposed to radioactive fallout from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has been cleansed and kept in intermediary storage in the prefecture.

The government plans to reuse the soil for public works projects as long as the concentration of radioactive substances falls below a certain threshold.

Trials to reuse the soil to grow vegetables and create earth mounds have so far only taken place in Fukushima.

Environment Minister Nishimura Akihiro told reporters on Tuesday that his ministry hopes to use the experiment in Saitama to confirm safety and gain public understanding for the recycling of the soil.

He said the ministry will coordinate with other candidate sites where similar trials could be held.

A law mandates the final disposal of the decontaminated soil outside Fukushima by 2045. But it remains unclear how this will be achieved.

December 11, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

News WatchNews Watch by Citizens’ Nuclear Information CenterNews Watch

December 4, 2022

NRA Complicit in Abolishing NPP Operation Period Limits

After hearing Director General Matsuyama Yasuhiro of the Energy Conservation and Renewable Energy Department (Agency for Natural Resources and Energy of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)) explain METI’s point of view at a regular meeting of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) on October 5, NRA Chairman Yamanaka Shinsuke indicated a positive stance toward METI’s proposal to rescind the rule under Japan’s Nuclear Reactor Regulation Act that says for nuclear power plants (NPPs), in general “the period set forth” may be extended “only once upon the expiration thereof, not exceeding 20 years,” and limits it to special cases. Yamanaka remarked, “The operation period is a policy decision on the ideal way to employ nuclear power, and is not a matter for NRA to comment on.” Moreover, on November 2, barely a month later, he went as far as to say new regulatory system proposals were being drafted that would allow operation of NPPs in excess of 60 years for 10-year periods providing the facilities underwent inspections for deterioration and met the new regulatory standards.

Regarding METI’s proposals, which are described below, at a press conference following an NRA meeting on November 9, the same Chairman Yamanaka expressed negativity toward the exclusion of periods when operation of a reactor was suspended from the operation periods as an immediate means of extending operation past 60 years, saying “Our regulations are so-called calendar-based, and we evaluate by calendar year.”

METI Proposals for NPP Operation Period Extension Rules

METI submitted three proposals for future operation rules to the “Nuclear Power Subcommittee” panel of experts on November 8, regarding extension of NPP operation periods, which is being considered by Japan’s government. The three proposals METI submitted are 1) maintaining the current rule based on a 40-year limit with extension of up to 20 years if the NPP obtains NRA approval., 2) no upper limit on additional extensions, and 3) setting a uniform upper limit on operation periods (e.g., 20 years), while not counting periods of suspended operation resulting from “heteronomous factors” that are difficult for electric power companies to anticipate as part of the operating period.

At the meeting that day, only two people supported proposal 1), CNIC Secretary General Matsukubo Hajime and Nippon Association of Consumer Specialists Director Murakami Chisato, both of whom opposed any extensions to begin with. The other 16 committee members were nuclear power supporters from the outset, so a number of them supported proposal 3), but proposal 2) drew the most support. Nevertheless, the mass media all said that proposal 3) had the most backing. This clearly reflects METI’s intentions.

Examples of “heteronomous factors” put forward were suspension periods for meeting stronger safety regulations following the Fukushima nuclear accident and suspension periods based on provisional dispositions by courts ordering injunctions against operation.

Japan’s government is expected to set forth its new rules before year end, but many, in particular the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) faction supporting nuclear power, are seeking the abolition of upper limits on operation periods as in proposal 2).

Applications Filed for 60-year Operation of Sendai Units 1 and 2

Kyushu Electric Power Co. filed for approval from the NRA on October 12 to extend the operation periods of Sendai NPP Units 1 and 2 by 20 years. They said no problems with deterioration of the equipment had been found in the special inspections performed for the Unit 1 reactor in October 2021 and for the Unit 2 reactor in February 2022 and that the soundness of the reactors up to the 60-year point had been confirmed. The results of the special inspections, however, were examined by the Kagoshima Prefectural Nuclear Safety and Evacuation Planning Committee, who pointed out a number of issues with them. At a meeting on October 17, one committee member expressed his view that the principle of good faith had been violated due to the applications being filed before those results were made available.

Doubling of Subsidies to Municipalities that Approve NPP Restarts

METI announced on October 10 that it would expand the subsidies provided to municipalities hosting NPPs upon their restart. The maximum subsidy provided to prefectures where NPPs are located and which have been restarted in April 2022 or later will be doubled from 500 million yen to 1 billion yen, and subsidies of up to 500 million yen will also be newly provided to prefectures adjacent to municipalities hosting those NPPs. The rules for Infrastructure Development Support Project Grants for areas hosting NPPs were to have been revised by the end of October.

The same day, Commissioner Hosaka Shin of METI’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy held talks on-line with Governor Maruyama Tatsuya of Shimane Prefecture and Governor Hirai Shinji of Tottori Prefecture to tell them that they would be the recipients of the first round of the newly expanded subsidies, with up to 1 billion yen to be provided to Shimane Prefecture, which had agreed to restart Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Shimane NPP Unit 2 reactor, and up to 500 million yen to the adjacent Tottori Prefecture.

Mission of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Internally Displaced Persons to Japan

UN Special Rapporteur on Human rights of Internally Displaced Persons Cecilia Jimenez-Damary visited Japan in September, where for about two weeks she investigated the circumstances of the Fukushima nuclear accident evacuees. She presented the results of her investigation as a provisional statement at a press conference at the Japan National Press Club on October 7. The official report will be released in Geneva next June.

The provisional statement made it clear that the evacuees, “Regardless of whether or not they come from areas designated [as] areas where forced evacuation orders were enforced, are all internally displaced persons with the same rights and entitlements as citizens of Japan” and that their categorization as forced or voluntary evacuees in terms of receiving support and assistance “should therefore be dropped in practice.”

Compensation for Fukushima Nuclear Accident: Capital Repayment from TEPCO to Take as Long as until FY2064

The Board of Audit of Japan released its report on its audits of account settlements for FY2021 on November 7, 2022. In the report, the Board of Audit’s estimations revealed that the recovery of funds that had been lent in effect to Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) by Japan’s government for providing compensation for the accident involving that company’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station could take as long as until FY2064. A similar estimation four years ago said it would take up to until FY2051, so the current estimation has the repayment period prolonged by 13 years. The amount of compensation TEPCO is paying to the disaster victims still has the potential to increase, and the Board of Audit notes, “The current estimation of the recovery completion date suggests the possibility of further delays in the future.”

To pay the compensation, the government borrowed money from financial institutions and loaned it in effect via the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF) to TEPCO interest-free, for use in covering compensation, decontamination and other expenses. Each year, the NDF receives a “General Assessment” from each of Japan’s major electric power companies that have NPPs, plus an additional “Special Assessment” from TEPCO, and pays these funds back to the government. The interest paid by the government to the loaning financial institutions is entirely covered by taxes.

The original General Assessment and Special Assessment for the NDF’s repayments to the government have been insufficient, so the government has adopted a new idea of a “past portion” of the compensation funds that should have been secured before the nuclear accident. From FY2020, it has had the customers of Power Producer & Suppliers (new electric power businesses under Japan’s liberalized system) bear part of the burden in the form of an additional charge on power grid usage (consignment charge) by the major electric power companies. For FY2021, that additional charge came to 60.9 billion yen.

When the Board of Audit investigated the contribution charges, the General Contribution paid by each of the major electric power companies in FY2013-2020 was 163 billion yen, but in FY2021 it decreased to 133.7 billion yen. Details on this change were not released. The Special Contribution paid by TEPCO had been ranging from 50 billion to 110 billion yen per year, but in FY2021, it fell to a record low of 40 billion yen. Regarding the method for determining the Special Contribution, the Board of Audit says, “It is not clear if it meets legal criteria.”

 According to the Board of Audit, 13.5 trillion yen worth of government bonds have been issued to support TEPCO, and about 8 trillion yen of that has yet to be repaid by the NDF to the government. In addition to the General Contribution, the NDF collects the Special Contribution from TEPCO, profits from sales of TEPCO shares by the NDF and other sources of funding, and uses them to pay back the loans. The Board of Audit’s estimations of how long it will take to pay back the full amount are based on the state of these funds.

The Board of Audit bases its estimations on the assumptions that TEPCO’s business conditions and stock price will not improve as expected, that, in the case where the most time is needed, the Special Contribution will be 40 billion yen annually in and after FY2023, and that the profits from sales of TEPCO shares will only be 110 billion yen. In such a scenario, they estimate it will take 42 more years—until FY 2064—to repay the full amount.

However, the oceanic release of processed contaminated water accompanying decommissioning work is expected to commence in the spring of FY2023, and if this results in reputational damage to TEPCO, the amount of compensation it will have to pay out could increase. Moreover, since the amount of compensation ordered in the suit brought by the disaster victims and evacuees nationwide exceeds the standard based on the government’s guidelines, those guidelines may be reviewed, which could result in further increases in compensation.

Because of these factors, the Board of Audit says, “If the amount granted (loaned) by the government increases further as a result of increased compensation, the burden borne by Japan’s citizens will increase.” It is therefore asking the government to explain this to its citizens in an appropriate manner and requesting TEPCO to improve its profitability.


December 11, 2022 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

A Survey on the Concentration of Radioactive Cesium in Japanese Milk Samples (2021)

by Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center · Published December 4, 2022 · Updated December 4, 2022

Investigating the origin of the contamination and assessing the risks of cases where the radioactive cesium level is below the Standard Limits for Radionuclides in Foods

By Tanimura Nobuko (NPO Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center) and Fuseya Yumiko (NPO Shinjuku Yoyogi Citizen Monitoring Center)

  1. Introduction

Radioactive contamination of food due to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident occurred in March 2011, resulting in the contamination of the environment and food by radioactive materials. At that time, no standard limit of radiation levels of food distributed in Japan existed, and a temporary standard was therefore set by the government. In April 2012, about one year after the accident, new standard limits were established, in which radiation exposure due to the consumption of food was limited to 1mSv per year, thus making the standard value of radioactive cesium 100Bq/kg for general food, 50Bq/kg for milk and baby/infant food and 10Bq/kg for drinking water. While this was supposed to regulate contaminated food, there were many reports of the discovery of food that was over the standard limit being distributed. In fiscal year 2020, twenty-two cases of food over the standard limit were recognized.

Due to inadequate food contamination checks and distribution management systems, some people who refused to be unnecessarily exposed to radiation decided to select food according to the area in which it was produced in order to avoid risks of radiation exposure. The Japanese government terms this action—avoiding the food produced in the affected area of the Great East Japan Earthquake—‘reputational damage,’ something which must be eliminated if reconstruction is to proceed.

Risks of radiation and risks of chemical materials

However, is making a choice of avoiding a health risk an unfair act that prevents the reconstruction of the affected areas?

The cancer risk of chemicals in tap water and other substances is regulated to a level of 1 in 100,000 per substance, which is usually the risk for a lifetime of ingestion of such substances. But those who do not want to take the risk of developing cancer from chemicals in food are able to buy organic products at some additional cost. This consumer action is not criticized by the government as ‘reputational damage.’

The standard for radiation exposure from consuming food is set at 1mSv/year. According to the ICRP (International Commission on Radiological Protection) the fatality risk is about 5% per 1Sv and ‘the standard is based on the hypothesis that the probability of radiation-induced cancer or hereditary effects increases in direct proportion to the increase in dose.’ In addition, it estimates that the fatality risk is 0.4% if a person continues to be exposed to radiation at 1 mSv per year throughout his/her lifetime.

Adding five hundred-thousandths per year (0.005% for 1mSv/year) means that if we take 80 years as the average lifetime, four hundred people’s deaths are added per hundred thousand people, a risk that is two digits higher than that for chemical materials.

It is sometimes claimed that as the risk of radiation exposure is the total of the risks of various radionuclides, comparing the regulation for one chemical material to the regulation for radiation exposure is improper, since there are thousands of chemical materials that we may come into contact with in daily life. However, the radiation exposure standard of 1mSv per year is not the ‘total’ amount of exposure but an ‘additional’ exposure. The following are all conveniently used to explain that exposure of 1 mSv or less is safe: a) the radiation dose limit for the public from nuclear facilities under pre-accident conditions, b) the new standard for radioactive cesium in food, c) the standard of 8,000 Bq/kg for “designated waste” introduced to handle the large amount of radioactive waste generated by the Fukushima nuclear accident (exposure of workers disposing of the waste), and d) the standard for the disposal of radioactively contaminated water, which has been the focus of attention at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, now undergoing decommissioning. The fact that these exposure risks add up, as well as the effects of this addition, have not been explained to civil society by the regulators, and of course have not been discussed.

In addition, the risk assessment of carcinogenic chemical materials is based on ‘causing cancer,’ but the risk assessment of radiation exposure is based on ‘deaths from cancer’; it is impossible to compare the two risks. ICRP estimates that the risk of ‘developing cancer’ is twice as high as that of ‘death from cancer.’

Further, it is the user who decides whether or not to use chemical materials, weighing the advantages and disadvantages of use, but in the case of exposure due to nuclear power plant accidents, there are no direct advantages to anyone.

Research and objective

We would like to support people’s right of choice to avoid the risk of radiation exposure by measuring even low levels of radioactive cesium contained in milk and disclosing the areas of production and levels of contamination.

Even though many people avoided milk produced in the Tohoku district and chose milk produced in Hokkaido to avoid risks of radiation exposure. In FY2020 our research revealed the unanticipated fact that the milk produced in Hokkaido is also contaminated due to the Fukushima accident. The survey was therefore expanded to include western Japan products in order to compare contamination on a national scale.

Each measurement sample was 22kg of commercial milk which had an identifiable production location. In FY2021, the milk produced in 11 areas was included in the survey: Iwate (K), Miyagi (L), Ibaraki (M), Tokyo (N), Shizuoka (O), Ehime and Kochi (P), Miyazaki and Kagoshima (Q), Nagasaki (R), Oita (S), Shimane (T), and Ishikawa (U). (See Table 1. Areas A to J indicate areas surveyed in FY2020).

In measuring the concentration of radioactive cesium, 2kg of the sample was used as a direct measurement sample and the remainder (20kg) was used as a concentrated measurement sample. In order to detect small amounts of radioactive cesium, we performed the ammonium phosphomolybdate (AMP) method on whey after separating the whey from the milk.

 The germanium semiconductor detector (BSI Co. GCD70-200) was used for gamma ray detection in these radioactivity measurements.

The results of the measurements are shown in Table 1. In FY 2021, the production areas in which cesium 137 was detected in the direct measurement were Iwate (K) and Miyagi (L). No cesium 134 was detected in any areas in the direct measurement. In the concentrated measurement, cesium 137 was detected in all areas including the Kyushu district. The most contaminated area was Miyagi (L) with 152mBq/kg. This figure was higher than the 135mBq/kg found in Fukushima (H). The second most contaminated was the milk produced in Iwate (K), 79mBq/kg. These were followed by Shizuoka (O) (16mBq/kg), Ibaraki (M) (11mBq/kg), Tokyo (N) (7.3mBq/kg), Miyazaki and Kagoshima (Q)(7.0Bq/kg), Oita (S) (5.7mBq/kg), Shimane (T) (5.4mBq/kg), Nagasaki (R) (5.2mBq), Ehime and Kochi (P) ( and Ishikawa (U) (3.9mBq/kg). Cesium 134 was detected only in Miyagi (L) ( and Iwate (K) (2.0mBq/kg).

Please note that about 90% of cesium in milk exists in the whey, and therefore adopting this cesium concentration method indicates figures that are 10% lower in the concentrated measurement than in the direct measurement.

  1. Discussion

Origin of cesium 137

At the time the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident occurred, cesium 134 and cesium 137 were emitted into the environment at the ratio of about 1:1. The half-life of cesium 137 is about 30 years, and that of cesium 134 is about 2.1 years. By taking into account the half-life of cesium 134 and 137, and the length of time from the disaster to the measurement, it is possible to calculate a cesium ratio (cesium 134/cesium 137) of cesium that was emitted as a result of the accident at the time of the measurement. Five years after the accident (March 2016), the cesium ratio had fallen to 0.21, Ten years after (March 2021), it had decreased to 0.046.

The cesium ratio differs slightly according to each reactor. Thus the cesium ratios due to the accident in the fallout in each location are different. The initial cesium ratios in the atmospheric fallouts in each area from March to May in 2011 were calculated using data from the environmental radiation database.

The proportions of cesium-137 (derived from the Fukushima nuclear reactor / total in the milk sample) were derived by calculating the measured value of cesium 134 concentration and calculated cesium 134/137 ratio at the time of measurement.

In the survey conducted last fiscal year (2021), the production areas where cesium 134 was detected were Hokkaido, Fukushima, Gunma, Tochigi, Iwate and Miyagi. The cesium 134/137 ratios in the atmospheric fallouts soon after the Fukushima nuclear disaster were as follows: Hokkaido 1.05, Fukushima 0.94, Gunma 1.00, Tochigi 1.01, Iwate 1.00 and Miyagi 1.00. The cesium 134/137 ratios (at the time of the measurement) were calculated by using the figures for the half-life of each cesium radionuclide and the number of years from the disaster to when the measurements were taken. The following figures were obtained: Hokkaido 0.053, Fukushima 0.044, Gunma 0.045, Tochigi 0.045, Iwate 0.035 and Miyagi 0.036. Dividing the cesium 134 concentration of the measurement by the cesium 134/137 ratio (at the time of the measurement) of the sample production area, the results of cesium 137 concentrations that derived from the Fukushima nuclear disaster were obtained and are shown in Table 2.

The following is one calculation example for Iwate. The cesium 134/137 ratio measured on November 19 in 2021 which was derived from the Fukushima nuclear disaster was calculated as 0.035 in Iwate. As the result of the measurement, 2.0±0.1mBq/kg of cesium 134 was detected and therefore cesium 137 derived from Fukushima reactor should be 56±3.9mBq/kg on the basis of the cesium 134/137 ratio. However, the measurement result of the concentration of cesium 137 in the sample was 79±0.8mBq/kg. The reason why it was higher than expected is because it contained cesium 137 that traces back to nuclear weapon tests and other sources. Thus, out of the total cesium 137 contained in the milk produced in Iwate, it was concluded that the ratio of 0.71±0.05 was derived from the Fukushima nuclear accident.

The origins and concentrations of cesium 137 in the samples were compared based on the production areas (Figure 2). In western Japan (P-U), which was supposed to have been mostly uninfluenced by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the concentrations of cesium 137 were below 7mBq/kg. This cesium 137 was thought to be derived from various nuclear weapon tests and the Chernobyl disaster.

By contrast, in eastern Japan (except Hokkaido) H-O, the cesium concentrations derived from nuclear weapon tests and the Chernobyl accident were 7-19mBq/kg, and in Hokkaido the cesium concentration tends to be higher (15-66mBq/kg) than those in eastern Japan.

Consideration of health risk

Assuming that the radioactive contamination level of milk is 50Bq/kg of and also assuming that radiation exposure from all food is up to 1mSv per year, what is the additional risk of cancer death caused by radiation exposure through food based on the concentration of Cs137 in the milk measured in this study?

 The concentration of cesium in milk in this survey was found to be 4-150mBq/kg, and when milk is at the contamination level of 150mBq/kg, this is equivalent to 0.003mSv per year. Under these conditions the lifetime risk of dying from cancer increases by 1.2 people per 100,000.

As noted at the beginning of the article, in general, carcinogenic chemical materials are regulated so that their concentration causes one person per 100,000 to develop cancer in his/her lifetime. If people are to face an equivalent risk of cancer death from consuming radioactively contaminated food, the detection limit should be lowered to 0.1Bq/kg (100mBq/kg), and this information should be published to allow citizens who wish to avoid exposure to make choices on what products to buy. A sufficient number of detections are also required to support this choice of citizens to avoid exposure.

  1. Summary

 The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident has caused serious environmental radiation contamination to Fukushima and surrounding areas. Since then, some people have selected and purchased food that is produced in western Japan and Hokkaido in preference to food produced in the affected area in order to avoid radiation exposure through food.

 The concentrations of radioactive cesium in milk produced in specific areas across Japan were measured using the AMP method and the germanium semiconductor detector. This procedure made it possible to compare contamination in each area.

In all measurements, figures were considerably lower than the new standard limit of radioactive cesium contained in food (50Bq/kg), but the commercially available milk produced in Miyagi measured in 2021 was more highly contaminated than that produced in Fukushima measured in 2020, which suggests that Fukushima products are not necessarily the most contaminated. The milk produced in Hokkaido tended to contain more cesium than that produced in western Japan.

The risk of dying from cancer caused through food intake 10 years after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in the contaminated area was calculated based on the measurement values obtained this time, and was found to be of around the same order as the management standards for carcinogenic chemical substances, even though we are talking about a risk of suffering from cancer with chemicals and a risk of dying from cancer with radiation exposure.

Every person’s sense of values, what he/she thinks is the highest priority and what risk he/she wants to avoid, should be respected. The option of avoiding the risk of exposure to radiation should be thought of as important as the option of avoiding the risk of chemical substances and a mechanism must be established to allow this.

Western Japan, which was not so much affected by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, has also been contaminated by radiation from a historical angle; the harsh fact is that the past contamination caused by atmospheric nuclear weapons tests is still contained in food. We must become more aware that the mistake which the current generation has made by causing serious environmental radiation contamination from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident will continue to affect generations in the future.


December 11, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s TEPCO will suspend the excavation of the Fukushima nuclear sewage discharge tunnel or postpone it

December 5, 2022

According to Japan’s Kyodo News Agency, Tokyo Electric Power Company will soon suspend the excavation of the submarine tunnel used for the discharge of nuclear sewage from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The start of sea discharge “around next spring” that the Japanese government and TEPCO are competing for is likely to be postponed until after summer.
TEPCO fully launched the nuclear sewage discharge equipment project in August this year. As of December 2, it has excavated about 780 meters on the seabed, and will temporarily suspend work when it reaches about 800 meters.
According to reports, although about 80% of the 1-kilometer tunnel has been excavated, priority needs to be given to projects around the discharge outlet. The time to restart excavation will be around April next year,
During this period, concrete and other reinforcement works will be carried out around the concrete “caisson” installed at the exit of the offshore subsea tunnel. It is expected to take about 4 months, but it may be delayed depending on weather and wave conditions. Taking advantage of the downtime, work on the inner wall of the shaft that injects treated water during discharge will also be carried out earlier.
It is reported that around April next year when the two projects are completed, the excavation of the tunnel will be restarted, and the remaining 200 meters will be completed in 2 to 3 months. On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred off the coast of northeastern Japan and triggered a massive tsunami. Affected by both the earthquake and the tsunami, a large amount of radioactive material leaked from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. On April 13, 2021, the Japanese government formally decided to filter and dilute the Fukushima nuclear sewage and discharge it into the sea. However, this decision was widely questioned and opposed by the international community, and it also aroused strong concerns in Japan.

December 11, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , , | Leave a comment

Decontaminated soil taken out of Fukushima prefecture and reused for the first time outside of Fukushima, at a Ministry of the Environment facility

Storage of decontaminated soil at an interim storage facility in Okuma Town, Fukushima Prefecture, in June.

December 5, 2022
On December 5, it was learned that the Ministry of the Environment plans to conduct a demonstration test for reusing soil removed from decontamination sites in Fukushima Prefecture following the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant at its Environmental Research and Training Center in Tokorozawa City, Saitama Prefecture. This is the first test in which decontaminated soil will be taken out of Fukushima Prefecture, and the question is whether the test will gain the understanding of local residents. A briefing session for local residents will be held on March 16.
 The Ministry of the Environment has not revealed the amount of decontaminated soil to be brought in or the timing of the test, saying, “The details of the test will be announced after the briefing.
 The law stipulates that decontaminated soil from Fukushima Prefecture must be removed from the prefecture by 45 years for final disposal.

December 11, 2022 Posted by | Fuk 2022 | , , | Leave a comment