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Extreme makeover: Fukushima nuclear plant tries image overhaul

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Officials have been gradually trying to rebrand the Fukushima nuclear plant, bringing in school groups, diplomats and other visitors
 
August 3, 2018
Call it an extreme makeover: In Japan’s Fukushima, officials are attempting what might seem impossible, an image overhaul at the site of the worst nuclear meltdown in decades.
At the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, there’s a flashy new administrative building, debris has been moved and covered, and officials tout the “light” radioactive security measures now possible.
“You see people moving around on foot, just in their uniforms. Before that was banned,” an official from the plant’s operator TEPCO says.
“These cherry blossoms bloom in the spring,” he adds, gesturing to nearby foliage.
If it sounds like a hard sell, that might be because the task of rehabilitating the plant’s reputation is justifiably Herculean.
In 2011, a massive earthquake triggered a devastating tsunami that killed thousands and prompted the meltdown of several reactors.
It was the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, and has had devastating psychological and financial effects on the region.
But TEPCO officials have been gradually trying to rebrand the plant, bringing in school groups, diplomats and other visitors, and touting a plan to attract 20,000 people a year by 2020, when Tokyo hosts the Summer Olympics.
 
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Upbeat messaging from Fukushima’s operator TEPCO belies the enormity of the challenge to decommission the plant
 
Officials point out that protective gear is no longer needed in most of the plant, except for a small area, where some 3,000 to 4,000 workers are still decontaminating the facility.
Since May, visitors have been able to move around near the reactors on foot, rather than only in vehicles, and they can wear “very light equipment,” insists TEPCO spokesman Kenji Abe.
That ensemble includes trousers, long sleeves, a disposable face mask, glasses, gloves, special shoes and two pairs of socks, with the top pair pulled up over the trouser hem to seal the legs underneath.
And of course there’s a geiger counter.
The charm offensive extends beyond the plant, with TEPCO in July resuming television and billboard adverts for the first time since 2011, featuring a rabbit mascot with electrical bolt whiskers called “Tepcon”.
But the upbeat messaging belies the enormity of the task TEPCO faces to decommission the plant.
It has installed an “icewall” that extends deep into the ground around the plant in a bid to prevent groundwater seeping in and becoming decontaminated, or radioactive water from inside flowing out to the sea.
 
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About 100,000 litres of water still seeps into the plant each day, which requires extensive treatment to reduce its radioactivity
 
But about 100,000 litres (26,400 gallons) of water still seeps into the plant each day, some of which is used for cooling. It requires extensive treatment to reduce its radioactivity.
Once treated, the water is stored in tanks, which have multiplied around the plant as officials wrangle over what to do with the contaminated liquid.
There are already nearly 900 tanks containing a million cubic metres of water—equal to about 400 Olympic swimming pools.
And the last stage of decommissioning involves the unprecedented task of extracting molten nuclear fuel from the reactors.
“There was the Chernobyl accident, but they didn’t remove the debris,” said Katsuyoshi Oyama, who holds the title of TEPCO’s “risk communicator”.
“So for what we have to do here, there is no reference.”
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August 6, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

NRA OKs plan to bury radioactive waste from nuke plant decommissioning for 100,000 yrs

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The Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is seen in this file photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter on July 17, 2018.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) plans to require that highly radioactive waste generated when nuclear reactors are decommissioned be buried underground at least 70 meters deep for about 100,000 years until the waste becomes no longer hazardous.
Moreover, disposal sites for such waste should not be built in areas that could be affected by active faults or volcanoes.
The plan is part of the proposed regulatory standards on disposal sites for radioactive waste from dismantled nuclear reactors, which the NRA approved on Aug. 1. The NRA will hear opinions from power companies operating nuclear plants and other entities before finalizing the regulatory standards.
Low-level radioactive waste generated when reactors are dismantled is graded by three ranks in descending order from L1 to L3.
The proposed regulatory standards cover L1 waste, such as containers for control rods and fuel assemblies.
There have been no regulatory standards for L1 radioactive waste even though a growing number of nuclear reactors are bound to be decommissioned under the regulatory standards for nuclear plants that have been stiffened following the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis in March 2011.
Under the proposed regulatory standards for L1 waste, electric power companies would be required to build disposal sites on stable ground. Such facilities should not be built near faults at least 5 kilometers in length. Moreover, utilities would be mandated to confirm from records or geological surveys that there has been no volcanic activity over the past 2.6 million years or so near where they plan to build the disposal sites.
Power companies would also be obligated to avoid building disposal sites near oil or mineral deposits because areas with such natural resources may be excavated in the future.
Such radioactive waste must be regularly monitored over a roughly 300- to 400-year period following its disposal to see if the waste contaminates nearby groundwater. The owners of disposal sites would then be banned from digging areas surrounding the facilities without permission from the central government.
The proposed standards also require that additional radiation exposure dosages from disposal sites be limited to 0.3 millisieverts or less a year in accordance with international standards. It is also required to confirm whether radiation doses would be below that limit even if the functions for shielding radiation were partially lost, such as the container holding radioactive waste being broken, by analyzing doses under such scenarios.

August 6, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Safety from Japanese Radiation Contaminated Food Import Should or Should Not Be a Political Issue?

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‘Don’t politicize Japanese food import issue’: official

2018/07/31
Taipei, July 31 (CNA) A Taiwan official on Tuesday urged all sides not to politicize food safety after Japan’s top envoy to Taiwan last week raised concerns over an opposition party-initiated referendum to prevent the government lifting an import ban on food from radiation-affected areas of Japan.
 
The opposition Kuomintang (KMT) held an event on July 24 to promote a referendum bid it initiated to prevent the government lifting a ban on the import of food products from five radiation-affected prefectures in Japan — Gunma, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba — following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant disaster in 2011.
 
Following the KMT event, Japan’s top envoy to Taiwan Mikio Numata (沼田幹夫) issued an open letter to the public, calling the KMT’s move “deeply disappointing,” while urging Taiwan to lift the ban that he said was imposed “without any scientific basis.” Failure to do so could harm the friendly relationship between Japan and Taiwan, he added.
 
Asked to comment, Taiwan-Japan Relations Association (TJRA) Secretary-General Chang Shu-ling (張淑玲), said as a democratic country governed by the rule of law, the government has no right to stop people exercising their civil right to initiate a referendum.
 
She reiterated that the government will do everything possible to safeguard public health, adding that the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which is in charge of food safety, will make the final decision on whether to lift the ban.
 
Chang called on all sides to remain clam and rational as food safety is a highly specialized issue and should not be politicized in ways that adversely impact Taiwan’s trade and economic relations with other countries.
 
The foreign ministry-funded TJRA handles Taiwan-Japan relations in the absence of official diplomatic ties.
 
Since returning to power in May 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration has said it is considering lifting the ban but has run into heavy opposition. No progress has been made on the issue since then.
 
 

Food safety issue should not be politicized: official

Aug 01, 2018
Food safety should not be politicized, a top diplomat said yesterday, after Japan’s representative to Taiwan last week raised concerns over a proposed referendum to prevent the government from lifting an import ban on food from Japanese prefectures linked to a 2011 nuclear power plant disaster.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) on Tuesday last week held an event to promote the referendum bid it initiated to prevent the government from lifting a ban on the import of food products from Japan’s Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures that was imposed following the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster in March 2011.
Japanese Representative to Taiwan Mikio Numata later issued an open letter calling the KMT’s move “deeply disappointing” and urging Taiwan to lift the ban, which he said was imposed “without any scientific basis.”
Failure to do so could harm the friendly relationship between Japan and Taiwan, he added.
Asked to comment on Numata’s remarks, Taiwan-Japan Relations Association Secretary-General Chang Shu-ling (張淑玲) said that as Taiwan is a democratic nation governed by the rule of law, the government has no right to stop people from exercising their civil right to initiate a referendum.
However, the government would do everything possible to safeguard public health, she said, adding that the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which is in charge of food safety, would make a final decision on whether to lift the ban.
Chang called on all sides to remain calm and rational, as food safety is a highly specialized issue and should not be politicized in ways that adversely affect Taiwan’s trade and economic relations with other nations.
The association, which is funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, handles Taiwan-Japan relations in the absence of official diplomatic ties.
Since returning to power in May 2016, the Democratic Progressive Party administration has said it is considering lifting the ban, but the effort has been met with heavy opposition.

August 6, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

16.33uSv/h on Route 114, Fukushima

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16.33uSv/h on Route 114, Fukushima, which is over 70 times as high as the decontamination level. The very highway where the gov. lifted a ban on vehicular traffic.
 

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO to open museum to display decommissioning process for Fukushima reactors

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A rendering of a stage, which projects the life-size cross-section of a nuclear reactor, enabling visitors to see inside of the reactor that suffered a meltdown, using computer graphics and actual footage.
 
July 31, 2018
TOMIOKA, Fukushima — Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) announced on July 27 that it will open a museum here to display exhibitions in relation to the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster and its decommissioning work.
The exhibition, which is scheduled to start in November 2018, will mostly display films in which actors re-enact scenes in the form of dramas, to inform visitors of how the Fukushima nuclear disaster that began on March 11, 2011, was handled and follow-up work, in sections titled, “Memories and records” and “Reflections and lessons.” On a different floor, drama footage introducing measures taken to lower the risk of decommissioning work and descriptions of the enormous worksite will be screened in sections titled, “Conditions at the scene” and “Progress of the work.”
There will also be a stage in which a life-size cross-section of a nuclear reactor is projected, using both computer graphics and actual footage. Visitors can also experience a simulation of the situation at the time of the meltdowns and see images of the actual debris.
Makoto Okura, head of TEPCO’s Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters, stated at a press conference, “I want the museum to serve as a venue for people hesitant to come back to local areas to understand what kind of accident it was, and what it’s like in reality.”
The venue for the museum will be a refurbished former Energy Kan building in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Tomioka, which was shut down after the disaster. The exhibition space is approximately 1,900 square meters spread over two stories. Entry to the museum will be free.

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Unit 2 Refueling Floor Work Poses Risks

Work has begun on the unit 2 refueling floor at Fukushima Daiichi. Previously, TEPCO installed a controlled building on the side of unit 2. This building provides filtered ventilation and a staging area. It will allow workers to send equipment into the reactor building refueling floor. The wall between the two buildings was opened earlier this spring.
After the initial disaster it that unit 2 was creating the most significant radiation releases to the environment.  The highest of the three units that melted down. In 2012 an obvious steam leak from the reactor well was discovered via TEPCO images.
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TEPCO eventually put a filtration system on the building. This prevented radiation releases to the environment. The future plans for this unit include removing the entire refueling floor level. The roof and walls down to the refueling floor deck are to be removed. Then a new cover building with replacement systems will be installed. Workers are still unable to enter the refueling floor area. High radiation levels prevent human entry. Only robots have entered. TEPCO has not addressed this radiation risk during the demolition and construction phase. Earlier reporting mentioned the planned use of dust suppressants during the demolition work. There is no management plan for potential radiation releases from the reactor well.
TEPCO’s schedule shows they may begin removing equipment from inside unit 2’s refueling floor as early as mid-July. The building demolition and spent fuel removal schedule is still somewhat vague. This is dependent on other work completion.

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Gov’t, TEPCO consider starting removal of debris from 2nd reactor at Fukushima nuke plant

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The inside of the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is seen in this frame grab from video provided by the International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID).
TOKYO — The government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) are considering starting the removal of molten nuclear fuel from the No. 2 reactor of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, people familiar with the matter have told the Mainichi Shimbun.
Three of the four reactors at the plant in the northern Japanese prefecture of Fukushima suffered core meltdowns after the reactors’ cooling systems shut down due to tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011.
According to the sources, an on-site inspection of molten fuel debris inside the reactor’s containment vessel using remote control equipment will be conducted this fiscal year. Data from the test, such as the hardness of the debris and whether it is movable, will be used to develop equipment to remove and store the highly radioactive materials.
Under the road map for decommissioning the power plant revised in September last year, the government and TEPCO are to decide on a reactor on which to start debris removal and determine how to carry out the procedure by March 2020, the end of next fiscal year. Actual removal is scheduled to begin in 2021.
In January of this year, the government and TEPCO managed to insert a pipe with a camera into the No. 2 reactor’s containment vessel and captured the image of gravel- or clay-like deposits believed to be fuel debris on the floor.
According to the people familiar with the matter, the government and TEPCO have judged that it is necessary to further examine the conditions of the No. 2 reactor as a possible starting point for fuel debris removal, since inspections needed for such an operation have progressed further on the No. 2 unit more than on the other two reactors that suffered core meltdowns in 2011.
The government and TEPCO will carry out the new probe in the fall or later of this year by inserting a camera-equipped pipe attached with a device capable of directly touching the debris, which will gather data on the reactor’s current conditions. The debris is not taken out of the containment vessel at any point of this survey. In the next fiscal year starting April 2019, they will consider examining wider areas inside the containment vessel and recovering a small sample of molten fuel for analysis ahead of full-fledged extraction in 2021.
As for the other reactors, the No. 3 unit has water inside the containment vessel, the removal of which is difficult, although images of what appeared to be fuel debris were captured inside the reactor in July 2017. The No. 1 reactor, meanwhile, will receive another probe to determine the existence of molten fuel inside because an inspection carried out in March last year failed to spot any debris.
TEPCO will shortly submit a plan for the examination of the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors’ interior for fiscal 2019 and later to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
(Japanese original by Toshiyuki Suzuki and Ei Okada, Science & Environment News Department)

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO’s Plan For Some Of The More Dangerous Work At Daiichi

Soon after the disaster workers at the plant discovered that their dosimeters would high radiation alarm then be unable to give a reading when they approached the unit 1-2 shared vent tower. This was an indication that radiation levels near the tower were so high that their dosimeters were unable to accurately read the level. One of the most dangerous places at Fukushima Daiichi may undergo work to reduce the ongoing risk.

One of the two units connected to this vent tower ejected considerable amounts of radioactive materials via the tower during the initial disaster. The area has been declared off limits with shielding walls installed. Closer inspection with cameras and drones showed that the tower had suffered structural damage and was at risk of collapse or further damage. Since then TEPCO and the research agencies tasked with disaster clean up at the site have been working on a plan to dismantle the tower.

The current plan includes a complex series of machines and equipment designed specifically for this task. The work would remove the upper portions of the vent tower then install a cap on the top of the remaining pipe. This is assumed to be used to prevent further release of radioactive materials or inflow of rainwater into the highly radioactive area. The actual demolition work is scheduled for fall of 2018 and could take a year to complete.

The graphic below shows the steps towards cutting down the tower in sections.

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August 1, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

No Long Term Storage Location for Fukushima Daiichi Spent Fuel

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July 23, 2018

TEPCO’s most recent update on the decommissioning work at Fukushima Daiichi included an update on the movement and storage of the spent fuel on site.

Currently dry cask storage only has space for 50 spent fuel casks. According to TEPCO’s documentation 58 fuel assemblies can be placed into each storage cask.

There are currently 13137 spent and unused fuel assemblies on site that require removal to long term storage. This would indicate that 227 casks and storage locations will be needed to handle all of the on site fuel assemblies.

Those 50 cask slots can hold a total of 2930 fuel assemblies. 10207 fuel assemblies remain in need of a long term storage location.

Currently the cask storage has 33 of the 50 cask slots occupied, this leaves space for 17 more casks. TEPCO has not provided any specific plan for adding additional spent fuel storage on site beyond the current 50 cask storage unit.

The common pool on site has been used as a way point for spent fuel before being sent to dry cask storage. It is currently at 93.9% of capacity.

Some of unit 4’s spent fuel was sent to unit 6’s spent fuel pool for storage due to space constraints. Currently unit 4 is the only reactor to have the spent fuel stored there removed to a safer location.

Unit 3 is the next to begin offloading spent fuel. It has 566 assemblies, 148 more than the available room in the common pool. Dry storage has enough space to accept a few more casks from the common pool. Once unit 3 is offloaded, storage will be tight.

Dry cask storage can be used for long term storage but this is not a permanent solution. Most dry casks have a life span of 20 years before the cask gaskets are no longer considered viable. This requires fuel to be moved to permanent storage or the fuel would need to be transferred to a new cask. A fuel transfer can only take place in a spent fuel pool or similar facility to provide the needed shielding and radiation control for the work. Japan currently has no permanent nuclear repository.

This does not include storage of any melted fuel debris from the damaged reactors.

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan to deploy large patrol boats to guard nuclear plants

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July 22, 2018
TOKYO (Kyodo) — The Japan Coast Guard will deploy two large patrol vessels to areas of the Sea of Japan to reinforce protection of nuclear power plants against terrorism, sources familiar with the matter said Saturday.
Two new 1,500-ton vessels with helipads will be deployed between fiscal 2019 and 2020 to the coast guard’s Tsuruga office in Fukui Prefecture where several nuclear plants are located, according to the sources.
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Patrol boats of similar size, each costing about 6 billion yen ($54 million), will be introduced in other parts of the country in the future, they said.
The government is moving to strengthen counterterrorism measures in the run-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, in line with an agreement in February with the International Atomic Energy Agency to bolster Japan’s capacity to respond to nuclear terrorism.
The coast guard expects the new ships will also enhance its ability to respond to North Korean boats engaged in illegal fishing, and to unidentified ships sighted off the central Japan coast, the sources said.
The new ships could also be used to respond to emergency situations at nuclear plants in other areas, and crew will receive special training in dealing with radioactive substances, they said.
An additional 60 to 80 coast guard crew will be posted at the Tsuruga office, nearly doubling the personnel there.
The Tsuruga office belongs to the 8th Regional Coast Guard Headquarters, which is responsible for patrolling waters along a 2,000-kilometer stretch of Japan’s central and western coasts. That office operates three patrol boats, the largest being the 350-ton Echizen.
To better deal with China’s growing maritime assertiveness, Japan has allocated an initial budget of a record 211.2 billion yen to the Japan Coast Guard for fiscal 2018.

July 23, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , , | 1 Comment

Fukushima Prefecture as if nothing has happened

Fukushima Pref. beach opens to swimmers for 1st time after tsunami, nuclear disasters

 

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Children play at Haragamaobama Beach, which opened for swimmers for the first time in eight years in the city of Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on July 21.
July 21, 2018
SOMA, Fukushima — Haragamaobama Beach here was opened to swimmers on July 21 for the first time in eight years after the area was struck in March 2011 by a massive tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The beach is the first in the northern part of the prefecture to reopen after the disaster. Three beaches earlier opened in the southern city of Iwaki.
Haragamaobama Beach attracted about 56,500 people in 2010. However, 207 people in the area died in the March 11, 2011 disaster, and the tsunami littered the beach with debris.
The beach is about 45 kilometers away from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, which was struck by meltdowns following the quake and tsunami. The city has not found any detectable levels of radioactive substances in seawater quality tests it started in 2016. It reopened the beach after preparing tsunami evacuation routes.
Sayaka Mori, 29, a nursing care worker in the northern prefectural city of Minamisoma, came to the beach with her 3-year-old daughter and played at the water’s edge. “I grew up at my home in front of the sea. It was natural to play at the beach. I want my child to know the delight of playing in the sea,” she said.

Only 24 of 70 beaches reopen to public since 2011 tsunami

 

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A family plays on Hirota public beach in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, on July 20.
July 20, 2018
RIKUZENTAKATA, Iwate Prefecture–A public beach officially opened here July 20 for the first time in eight years, underscoring the destruction of sites along the Tohoku coast that bore the initial brunt of the 2011 tsunami.
Hirota beach in Rikuzentakata, a city that was devastated in the disaster, is one of 24 beaches that will be officially open to the public this summer in the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.
That figure is only about a third of the 70 that were available before the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011.
Miho Mitsui, who lives in Rikuzentakata’s Hirotacho district, visited Hirota beach with her two young daughters on the morning of July 20.
“Until this year, we were disappointed at being unable to go into the sea, especially with the water so clear,” the 28-year-old homemaker said. “I want to come here every day.”
Before the 2011 disaster, Hirota and the city’s other public beach, Takata Matsubara, were key parts of social life among the locals.
Takata Matsubara beach became known as the site where a pine forest was wiped out by the tsunami, leaving only one “miracle pine tree” standing. The tree has since died, and the city is still trying to restore sand at the beach, which is still not officially open to the public.
For “officially opened” beaches, municipal governments and other operators provide maintenance and other care, check the water quality to ensure safety, and operate necessary facilities.
But at some of the sites in the Tohoku region, the beaches have essentially disappeared.
In the village of Tanohata, Iwate Prefecture, more than 100 kilometers north of Rikuzentakata, the two public beaches have been closed to the public over the past eight years for the construction of seawalls.
Tanohata Mayor Hiroshi Ishihara decided to use the Tsukuehama beach as a temporary public beach from July 26, saying it is “undesirable to deprive children, who live in the coastal village, of the experience of swimming in the sea.”
Haragamaobama beach in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, about 40 kilometers north of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, is also scheduled to reopen for the first time in eight years on July 21.
But south of the nuclear plant, in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, the city government in May decided that Kattsuo beach could no longer be considered a public beach. Much of the sandy area of the beach disappeared in plate movements caused by the offshore earthquake as well as the construction of seawalls.
Nobiru beach and the surrounding area in Higashi-Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, will remain closed for now.
A city government official said the beach area will reopen once “escape routes are set up (for possible future tsunami).”
The Iwate prefectural government has set up a technical review committee to explore the feasibility of restoring sand at Negishi beach in Kamaishi and Namiita beach in Otsuchi that were hit hard by the tsunami.

July 23, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s nuclear signature found in California wine

The Japanese nuclear disaster bathed north America in a radioactive cloud. Now pharmacologists have found the telltale signature in California wine made at the time.
Throughout the 1950s, the US, the Soviet Union, and others tested thermonuclear weapons in the Earth’s atmosphere. Those tests released vast quantities of radioactive material into the air and triggered fears that the nuclear reactions could ignite deuterium in the oceans, thereby destroying the planet in a catastrophic accidental fireball.
Atmospheric tests ended in 1980, when China finished its program, but the process has left a long-lasting nuclear signature on the planet. One of the most obvious signatures is cesium-137, a radioactive by-product of the fission of uranium-235.
After release into the atmosphere, cesium-137 was swept around the world and found its way into the food supply in trace quantities. Such an addition is rarely welcomed. But in 2001, the French pharmacologist Philippe Hubert discovered that he could use this signature to date wines without opening the bottles.
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The technique immediately became a useful weapon in the fight against wine fraud—labeling young wines as older vintages to inflate their price. Such fraud can be spotted by various types of chemical and isotope analysis—but only after the wine has been opened, which destroys its value.
Cesium-137, on the other hand, allows noninvasive testing because it is radioactive. It produces distinctive gamma rays in proportion to the amount of isotope present. Dating the wine is a simple process of matching the amount of cesium-137 to atmospheric records from the time the wine was made. That quickly reveals any fraud. Indeed, if there is no cesium-137, the wine must date from after 1980.
There is one blip in this record, though. The Chernobyl disaster in 1986 bathed much of Europe, and other parts of the world, in a radioactive cloud that increased atmospheric levels of cesium-137 again. Hubert and colleagues can see this blip in their data from wines.
And that raises an interesting question about the Fukushima disaster of 2011, an accident of Chernobyl proportions caused by a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan following a huge earthquake and tsunami. It released a radioactive cloud that bathed North America in fissile by-products.
Is it possible to see the effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in California wines produced at the time?
Today we get an answer, thanks to a study carried out by Hubert and a couple of colleagues. “In January 2017, we came across a series of Californian wines (Cabernet Sauvignon) from vintage 2009 to 2012,” say Hubert and company.
This set of wines provides the perfect test. The Fukushima disaster occurred on March 11, 2011. Any wine made before that date should be free of the effects, while any dating from afterward could show them.
The team began their study with the conventional measurement of cesium-137 levels in the unopened bottles. That showed levels to be indistinguishable from background noise.
But the team was able to carry out more-sensitive tests by opening the wine and reducing it to ash by evaporation. This involves heating the wine to 100 degrees Celsius for one hour and then increasing the temperature to 500 degrees Celsius for eight hours. In this way, a standard 750-milliliter bottle of wine produces around four grams of ashes. The ashes were then placed in a gamma ray detector to look for signs of cesium-137.
Using this method, Hubert and his colleagues found measurable amounts of cesium-137 above background levels in the wine produced after 2011. “It seems there is an increase in activity in 2011 by a factor of two,” conclude the team.
That probably won’t be very useful for fraud detection in California wine—the levels of cesium-137 are barely detectable, and even then, only if the wine is destroyed.
But the result does show how nuclear disasters can have unexpected consequences long after the fact.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1807.04340 : Dating of Wines with Cesium-137: Fukushima’s Imprint

July 20, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | 1 Comment

Oi nuclear plant ruling reads like it was rendered pre-Fukushima

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A plaintiff and a lawyer hold signs on July 4 criticizing a ruling by the Nagoya High Court’s Kanazawa branch that nullified an injunction to halt operations at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.
 
July 18, 2018
The Nagoya High Court’s Kanazawa branch declared that the nation, having learned its lesson from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011, will not make the same mistakes again.
We have our doubts.
The July 4 ruling overturned the Fukui District Court’s decision of four years ago in favor of the plaintiffs, who sought an injunction against Kansai Electric Power Co. to suspend operations of the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture.
The plaintiffs have decided against taking their case to the Supreme Court, which will finalize the high court ruling.
The Fukui District Court’s decision to halt operations of the Oi reactors was based on its own study of whether the reactors posed “risks of causing grave situations similar to the Fukushima accident.”
Its main focus was not to judge whether the reactors met the new safety regulations established by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which was set up after the Fukushima disaster.
In contrast, the high court said it would be “only proper for a court to respect (the NRA regulations)” as they were “established based on the latest scientific and technological expertise of specialists from many fields.”
The court said there was nothing unreasonable in the NRA judgment that the Oi reactors met the new safety regulations. It concluded that the risks posed by the reactors were being controlled to a negligible level by socially accepted standards.
But what lessons has the Fukushima disaster taught us? Don’t they boil down to the fact that we believed in many experts who assured us of the safety of nuclear reactors, only to realize that an “unexpected” disaster could and did occur, causing tremendous damage we have yet to recover from.
The high court ruling read like something from pre-Fukushima days. We could not help feeling the same way every time we come across the view that the nation has more or less learned all the lessons it needed to learn from Fukushima.
One of the hardest lessons we learned–which the high court did not really address–is the sheer difficulty of evacuating citizens safely after a serious accident.
After the Fukushima disaster, local governments within 30 kilometers of nuclear power plants came to be required to establish evacuation plans for residents.
A reactor restart should be decided only after third-party experts determine whether the evacuation plan is appropriate and realistic enough.
This is not how things are being done, however.
The NRA specializes solely in examining the safety of plant facilities and equipment from a technological aspect. The administration merely reiterates that reactors that have passed the NRA’s safety tests should be allowed to restart.
There is a huge procedural flaw here, in that all such reactors are back online once the host local governments give the green light.
The high court did say that ending nuclear power generation is an available option. But it went on to state, “The final decision is not for the judiciary to make. It should be based on a political judgment to be left to the legislature or the administration.”
How have the Diet and the government received the high court ruling?
If they have truly learned lessons from Fukushima, their obvious responsibility should be to clearly present a policy to close nuclear plants and critically examine each case for a reactor restart, taking the evacuation plan set by the local government into account.

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July 19, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima nuclear plant operator resumes TV ads

japan-shut-down-all-reactors-in-the-wake-of-the-fukushima-crisis-the-worst-nuclear-accident-since-the-1986-chernobyl-disaster-1531881035985-7.jpgJapan shut down all reactors in the wake of the Fukushima crisis, the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster

18 Jul 2018

TOKYO: The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant on Wednesday (Jul 18) resumed television commercials, seven years after a 2011 meltdown that sparked the world’s worst atomic accident in a generation.

A retail arm of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Holdings said it was placing commercials on television, radio stations, and trains, as competition among energy companies intensifies.

The decision is controversial, with some activists angered that TEPCO is spending on advertising while it remains on the hook for enormous costs stemming from the disaster, including clean-up, decommissioning and compensation payments.

But a spokeswoman for TEPCO Energy Partner said the new campaign was “necessary” to help Fukushima.

“Our achievement of sales targets will allow us to fulfil our responsibilities for Fukushima,” Megumi Kobayashi told AFP.

The commercials feature “Tepcon”, a rabbit mascot who shares “ear-grabbing” information about the company’s electricity and gas packages.

TEPCO took its commercials off the air in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami in March 2011.

The tsunami wrecked cooling systems at the Fukushima plant on Japan’s northeast coast, sparking reactor meltdowns and radiation leaks.

Japan shut down all reactors in the wake of the Fukushima crisis, the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The government has poured billions of dollars into TEPCO to keep the company, which supplies electricity to Tokyo and the surrounding area, afloat.

It faces massive ongoing costs as it stumps up cash for decommissioning the reactors, cleaning up contaminated areas and paying compensation to those who fled their homes due to radiation fears.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/fukushima-nuclear-plant-operator-resumes-tv-ads-10540020

July 19, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | 1 Comment

Japan’s growing plutonium stockpile fuels fears

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The Fukushima disaster has depressed demand for fuel for other nuclear power plants, but Japan’s plutonium stockpile keeps growing.
 
17 Jul 2018
TOKYO: Japan has amassed enough plutonium to make 6,000 atomic bombs as part of a programme to fuel its nuclear plants, but concern is growing that the stockpile is vulnerable to terrorists and natural disasters.
Japan has long been the world’s only non-nuclear-armed country with a programme to reprocess spent nuclear fuel from its power plants into plutonium.
On Tuesday (Jul 17), a decades-old deal with the United States which allows Japan to reprocess plutonium was renewed, but the pact can be terminated by either side with just six months’ notice.
Plutonium reprocessing is meant to create a new and emissions-free fuel source for resource-poor Japan, but the size of its stockpile has started to attract criticism, even from allies.
Plutonium can be used to create nuclear weapons. Although Japan has vowed the material would never be used for military purposes, it has now amassed vastly more plutonium than it can use, since many of its nuclear plants are still offline after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.
Experts warn the growing stockpile could be dangerous in case of a natural disaster, like the earthquake and tsunami that set off the Fukushima meltdown, and is also an attractive target for terrorists.
They also fear the reserve could encourage other regional powers, including China, to press for a similar reprocessing capability, boosting the amount of weaponisable plutonium in Asia.
And some even warn that North Korea could point to the stockpile as an excuse to avoid denuclearising.
This month Japan’s government vowed for the first time to “tackle a reduction in plutonium stocks” but gave no roadmap.
The country’s Atomic Energy Commission reportedly plans a self-imposed cap on the reserve, which now stands at 10 tonnes inside the country, with another 37 tonnes in Britain and France for reprocessing.
COSTLY AND COMPLICATED
“Promising to stop increasing the stockpile is the least they should commit to,” said Tatsujiro Suzuki, former vice chairman of the commission.
“What they really need to do is set a clear goal for reduction,” Suzuki told AFP.
“It’s time for Japan to fully review its nuclear recycling programme.”
The stockpile has attracted concern in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which forced the shutdown of all of the country’s nuclear plants.
Only some have resumed operations, and their fuel requirements fall far short of the stockpile Japan has already amassed.
Despite that, the government has continued work on a decades-long multi-billion dollar project to build a new reprocessing plant, using French and local technology.
Most reprocessing is currently done overseas, mainly in France, and Japan has struggled with technical problems at the new facility.
The planned reprocessing plant, in Aomori in northern Japan, has so far cost around US$27 billion, but the technical problems mean there is no sign of an opening date despite decades of work.
Experts say reprocessing plutonium into fuel is up to ten times as expensive as producing uranium dioxide fuel.
“Japan’s plutonium separation is very costly and has no economic or environmental benefit,” said Frank von Hippel, a Princeton University professor who researches nuclear arms control and policymaking.
REGIONAL RACE
Tokyo’s reprocessing programme also runs the risk of sparking a regional race, warned Thomas Countryman, a former US State Department official for arms control and non-proliferation.
“In the region, it is not in the interest of the United States or Japan or the world to see South Korea or China imitate Japan and enter the field of civilian reprocessing,” he told Japanese lawmakers last month.
“This would increase the risk to nuclear security, that is, the risk terrorists or criminals might divert plutonium, and it would increase regional competition in a technology that offers more risks than it does benefits,” he added.
China is already pushing for its own reprocessing capacity with the help of French and Russian partners, while South Korea has been researching reprocessing technologies but faces objections from environmentalists.
Japan, the only nation in the world to have suffered an atomic bomb attack, insists it would never use its plutonium for military purposes.
The reserves are subject to monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has not raised public concerns about the stocks.
But some activists fear Japan views the stockpile as a way of keeping its options open on nuclear weapons.
“Japan appears be caught up in the idea that in an emergency it can produce nuclear weapons with its reprocessing technology,” said Hideyuji Ban, co-director of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre, an anti-nuclear NGO.

July 19, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment