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More evacuation orders to be lifted in Fukushima for some areas

Yoshito Konno’s home in a difficult-to-return zone, seen here on Aug. 30 in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, is shrouded in trees and weeds as tall as people.

September 24, 2021

Shrouded in trees and weeds as tall as people, his old house rests quietly in a difficult-to-return zone in the Tsushima district of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, only some 30 kilometers from the hobbled nuclear plant.

“I can finally see light at the end of the tunnel, although there will likely be a race against the clock of my lifetime,” said Yoshito Konno, 77. “I wish to be comfortably back in my hometown while I am still healthy enough to be moving around.”

The central government announced it will lift evacuation orders by the end of the decade for residents who wish to return to their homes in the last remaining difficult-to-return zones around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The new policy was approved at a joint meeting at the end of August by the Reconstruction Promotion Council and the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters.

But the government has no prospect of totally lifting evacuation orders for all the difficult-to-return areas as the new policy is expected to cover only limited areas.

Konno’s home community had 262 residents from 80 households prior to the 2011 nuclear disaster.

About 45 of them, mostly advanced in age, have since died.

“Those who died while separated from their hometown must have felt so frustrated and let down,” he said. “The central government and the town government should take action as soon as possible in line with the newly approved plan.”

Currently, areas where about 22,000 residents used to live remain designated as difficult-to-return zones.

This latest decision covers sparsely populated areas which are outside the areas designated for earlier lifting and once home to some 8,000 people, who previously had little hope of ever returning given the absence of a plan for them.

Some of the more populated areas had been designated as reconstruction bases where evacuation orders will be lifted by spring 2023.

Local communities had been pressing the central government to come up with a plan for lifting the evacuation orders in those undesignated areas. The government has committed to fund cleanups and lift evacuation orders on a limited basis, when requested by the locals.

For people like Konno, the news came as a relief.

But more than a decade since the disaster, others have mixed feelings about the prospect of one day returning after finding new lives and livelihoods in the communities to which they have evacuated to. 


A survey taken by the Reconstruction Agency in fiscal 2020 showed that in the four towns that contain part of the difficult-to-return zones, only about 10 percent said they wished to return.

About 50 to 60 percent of respondents from each of those towns said they did not want to return.

Kazuharu Fukuda, 50, president of a local construction company and evacuee from the town of Futaba, said he will not be returning home any time soon because he now resides and works in another town.

The central government’s plan to decontaminate areas where cleanup is necessary to allow people to return has not impressed Fukuda.

“Even if I were to return, the land plots next to mine would remain contaminated with high radiation levels and with everything left in a dilapidated state,” he said. “How could I take up residence in such a place? I want the central government to clean up all the areas and restore them to their original state before letting us decide whether to return.”

Under the new plan, which was presented by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga during the joint meeting, residents of the areas in question will be surveyed.

After that, the surroundings of the homes of those who wish to return will be decontaminated, and the government will develop key infrastructure to facilitate their return.

There is no prospect for evacuation orders to be completely lifted in those areas because the decontamination work will be done only in limited areas at the request of those who wish to return.

The decontamination process will be funded by two special central government accounts: one designated for rebuilding from the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011; and another designated for energy policy measures, financed by revenues from electricity rates.

The difficult-to-return zones straddle six towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture.

Some areas in those zones, including the surroundings of town halls, village offices and residential districts, have been designated “Specified Reconstruction and Revitalization Bases” by the central government.

The goal is to lift the evacuation orders in those places sometime between 2022 and the spring of 2023.

The central government is funding cleanup, construction of public housing complexes for disaster survivors and other work currently under way in these locations.

The areas outside the “specified bases” account for more than 90 percent of all the landmass of the difficult-to-return zones and slightly less than 40 percent of the population. Cleanup and other related work will only be conducted in those outside areas after considering whether the residents are expected to return.

Local governments had called on the central government to set a date to lift all the difficult-to-return zones so residents outside the designated reconstruction bases will not be left behind.

The central government has so far lifted evacuation orders for areas home to about 45,000 people. Only about 14,000 of those residents–about 30 percent–have returned to their home communities, although the government has spent some 3 trillion yen ($27 billion) on cleaning up those areas alone.

The government remains skeptical that large-scale decontamination will be effective for post-disaster rebuilding, so it has decided to clean up only limited areas based on requests.

September 25, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , | Leave a comment

LDP candidates debate on nuke power must be based on realities

Storage tanks hold contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on April 12.

September 24, 2021

Japan’s nuclear power policy has emerged as one of the main issues for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership race.

The four candidates for the party presidential election on Sept. 29 should face up to the lessons from the disaster that unfolded at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant a decade ago and offer specific policy proposals for ensuring in-depth debate on key questions.

Taro Kono, the minister of administrative reform who also served as foreign and defense minister in the past, is the only one among the contenders who has clearly argued for phasing out nuclear power generation.

Kono has stated that Japan should pull the plug on its nuclear fuel recycling program “as soon as possible” while promising to allow offline reactors to be restarted when they are officially endorsed as safe, for the time being.

The other three politicians seeking to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga have committed themselves to maintaining the current policy of keeping nuclear reactors running. During a recent debate, they voiced skepticism about Kono’s vow to end the fuel recycling program.

Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister and LDP policy chief, questioned the consistency between Kono’s position on fuel recycling and his policy of allowing reactors to be brought on stream.

Seiko Noda, executive acting secretary-general of the LDP, ruled out any energy policy change that could cause a disruption in the stable supply of power. Sanae Takaichi, a former communications minister, stressed she would promote the development of small reactors and nuclear fusion reactor technology.

The nuclear fuel recycling process involves recovering plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for recycling back into new fuel.

But Japan’s original plan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel to obtain start-up plutonium for a new generation of plutonium “fast breeder” reactors fell through when its Monju prototype fast breeder reactor, which was supposed to be the core technology for the program, was shut down after a sodium leak and fire.

The government then shifted to a strategy of converting spent plutonium, formed in nuclear reactors as a by-product of burning uranium fuel, and uranium into a “mixed oxide” (MOX) that can be reused in existing reactors to produce more electricity.

But this approach has also hit a snag as the number of operating reactors has declined sharply since the Fukushima meltdowns.

Asahi Shimbun editorials have argued that the government should concede that the fuel recycling program is no longer viable and declare an end to it. To be sure, withdrawing from the program would mean spent nuclear fuel must be disposed of as waste. But Japan would only make the world uneasy if it keeps a massive stockpile of weapons-usable plutonium without any plan to use it.

Arguments concerning nuclear policy issues in general, not just fuel recycling, tend to overlook reality. The most important fact about the catastrophic accident at the Fukushima plant is that it caused tremendous damage to society.

Not much is known about the current conditions of the reactors whose cores melted down during the accident. There is no predicting when and how the process of decommissioning the plant will come to an end.

The LDP presidential candidates are divided over whether to build new nuclear plants or expand current ones. But it is obvious that winning the support of the public in general and the local communities involved for such plans would be next to impossible.

It is also unclear when the small reactor and the nuclear fusion reactor that are under development will enter commercial use.

A new estimate by the industry ministry on the future costs of power generation published in August predicts that solar power will eclipse nuclear energy in terms of costs as of 2030. It is hardly surprising that the government’s draft new Basic Energy Plan, unveiled in July, says promoting renewable energy sources should be the top energy policy priority.

Since the Fukushima disaster, the government has been seeking to restart offline reactors one by one while leaving the decisions up to the Nuclear Regulation Authority. But the government should not shy away from a sweeping review of its broken nuclear energy policy.

There are many sticky questions the LDP presidential hopefuls need to address. How would they try to change the country’s current energy mix in what ways and in what kind of time frames while maintaining a steady power supply? What would they do with the growing amount of spent nuclear fuel?

The LDP election requires them to clarify their approaches to tackling these tough challenges.

September 25, 2021 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

US lifts post-Fukushima import restrictions on Japan farm products

Suga further tweeted that he had asked for an early removal of the restrictions when he met with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington in April and said the government “needs to continue its efforts in order to have similar import restrictions lifted in other countries and regions as well.” Japanese farm products now cleared for shipping to the United States include rice harvested in Fukushima, bamboo shoots from Iwate and shiitake mushrooms.

This Feb. 13, 2021 photo taken from a Mainichi Shimbun helicopter shows the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

September 22, 2021

TOKYO (Kyodo) — The United States has lifted all of its restrictions on imports of food products from Japan established in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan’s farm ministry said Wednesday.

Under the restrictions, U.S. imports of a total of 100 agricultural products produced in 14 Japanese prefectures including Fukushima had been suspended.

The other 13 prefectures were Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Niigata, Yamanashi, Nagano and Shizuoka.

Welcoming the U.S. decision, Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday on Twitter, “It is a move that people in the disaster-hit areas have been waiting for, and something that will greatly contribute to the recovery of those places. Japan welcomes this step very much.”

Suga further tweeted that he had asked for an early removal of the restrictions when he met with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington in April and said the government “needs to continue its efforts in order to have similar import restrictions lifted in other countries and regions as well.”

Japanese farm products now cleared for shipping to the United States include rice harvested in Fukushima, bamboo shoots from Iwate and shiitake mushrooms.

“The abolition of U.S. import restrictions will have a great impact on other countries and regions,” a ministry official said.

The European Union also plans to ease import restrictions on Japanese farm and food products on Oct. 10, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forest and Fisheries said Tuesday.

According to the ministry, the United States is the third-largest importer of Japanese farm and food products after Hong Kong and China.

Japanese exports of farm products and food to the United States totaled 118.8 billion yen ($1.09 billion) in 2020.

With the United States’ lifting of import restrictions, effective on Tuesday local time, the number of countries and regions imposing such measures on Japanese farm and food products decreased to 14.

In the wake of the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following a massive tsunami caused by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011, 55 countries and regions placed restrictions on imports of Japanese farm and food products amid fear of potential contamination with radioactive materials.

Japanese farmers, particularly those in the region close to the Fukushima nuclear plant, have gone to great lengths to regain consumer trust in their products at home and abroad, including compliance with strict safety inspections. Nonetheless, concerns over the quality of such products still linger.

The farm ministry plans to urge the 14 countries and regions including Hong Kong and China to abolish the remaining import restrictions on Japanese products.

Meanwhile, despite the latest U.S. measure, some food products subject to Japan’s own export restrictions cannot be shipped overseas.

September 24, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

U.S. lifts post-Fukushima import restrictions on Japan farm products

A trial cultivation of vegetables is carried out in the Nagadoro district of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture, in August.

September 22, 2021

Citing ‘robust control measures,’ the United States on Wednesday lifted an import ban on food products from prefectures hit by the earthquake, tsunami and triple meltdown disaster that struck northeastern Japan in 2011.

The ban, which was put in place following the tsunami-triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, affected 100 agricultural, forestry, fishery and food products from 14 prefectures, including rice and shiitake mushrooms produced in Fukushima.

The other 13 prefectures were Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Yamagata, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Niigata, Yamanashi, Nagano and Shizuoka.

Ten years after the accident, the number of countries and regions that have imposed import restrictions now totals 14, down from the initial 55.

The news was immediately welcomed in Japan, where officials have long insisted that products from the disaster-hit regions are safe to consume.

“This decision has been long-awaited by people in the disaster-stricken areas, and it will be of great help in their recovery efforts.” Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga tweeted on Wednesday. “Japan greatly welcomes this decision.”

Suga added that he was “deeply moved” by the U.S. policy change.

“I personally lobbied President (Joe) Biden for the early elimination of the ban during my visit to the United States in April,” Suga added. “The government must continue to work together to eliminate import restrictions in each country and region.”

In announcing the move, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cited “extensive analysis of Japan’s robust control measures,” and pointed to 10 years of sampling of food products from Japan.

The decision came after the FDA determined “a very low risk to American consumers from radioactive contaminated foods imported from Japan,” the agency said a statement.

The EU has also decided to relax its related import restrictions next month.

The export value of Japanese agricultural products and food items to the U.S. was ¥118.8 billion in 2020, making it Japan’s third largest export destination after Hong Kong and China, according to the ministry.

“The impact of (the United States’ move) is huge,” an agriculture ministry official said, expressing hope that countries still imposing restrictions will be encouraged to ease or lift them.

September 24, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Footage reveals highly radioactive area in crippled Fukushima Daiichi

21 sept. 2021

The Nuclear Regulation Authority reveals footage of a highly radioactive area in Fukushima Daiichi, which may affect decommissioning plans.

September 24, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

“Having a meeting is not necessarily the same as dialogue, and if it is a one-way explanation meeting, it is no different from an online video or television”

September 21, 2021

The release of treated water into the ocean was explained 532 times in advance…

A request for information disclosure made by NHK has revealed that the government claimed to have held a total of 532 “opinion exchanges” and “briefing sessions” regarding the increasing amount of treated water at the TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in the year leading up to April 2012, when it decided to release the water into the ocean.
On the other hand, even after the decision was made, there are still strong opposition to the release of radioactive materials from fishermen in the prefecture, raising questions about the nature of the discussions.

The government says that the decision to release treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the sea was made after listening to the opinions of related parties, based on the report of a national sub-committee which said that “release into the sea or the atmosphere is realistic.
However, even after the decision was made, a series of resolutions and opinion letters opposing the policy were issued by fishery groups and parliamentary assemblies in Fukushima Prefecture, claiming that there was not enough discussion.
Therefore, NHK requested the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), which is in charge of the policy, to disclose the documents showing what discussions the government had with the relevant parties before the decision was made.

In response, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) disclosed a list of the subjects and dates of “opinion exchanges” and “briefing sessions” held between January 31, 2011, when the national subcommittee compiled its draft report, and April 13, 2011, when the government decided on the policy of oceanic release.

According to the list, a total of 532 “opinion exchanges” and “briefing sessions” were held in and outside of Fukushima Prefecture over a period of more than one year and two months.
The average number of times per day is two per point, with the highest number of times per day being 14.
The breakdown of the targets, in descending order of frequency, is as follows: heads of local governments in the prefecture 83 times, fishery-related organizations 74 times, and local government councils 72 times.
On the other hand, consumers were interviewed 18 times, the tourism industry 12 times, the head of a local government outside the prefecture 23 times, and the assembly of a local government outside the prefecture 15 times.

Masahiro Matsuura, a professor at Meiji University’s Graduate School of Public Policy who is an expert on science and technology policy and consensus building, said, “It is possible that there was a lack of dialogue in the sense of gaining understanding,” and added, “Having a meeting is not necessarily the same as dialogue, and if it is a one-way explanation meeting, it is no different from an online video or television. Dialogue is only possible when the participating fishermen and the general public speak out and the explanation is given in the form of a catch-all game. Even if an opinion is received, if the bureaucrat without authority continues to say, ‘We will take it back to Tokyo for consideration,’ it is not dialogue. If the prime minister, ministers, and other people who can make substantive decisions came to the meeting and answered specific questions on the spot, it might not have been necessary to hold the meeting as many times. It will be important to evaluate the state of the debate over treated water over time,” he said.

Fishermen: “There was no discussion.
The government has held more than 70 “opinion exchanges” and “briefing sessions” with fishermen, but after the policy was decided, fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture said that the decision was unilateral.
In July 2020, the Soma Futaba Fishermen’s Cooperative Association in the northern part of the prefecture held a total of four briefing sessions for fishermen belonging to the cooperative, divided into four districts.
However, according to the fishermen who participated in the briefings, most of the briefings were about the report compiled by the subcommittee, and they rarely exchanged opinions with each other about the disposal method or reputational measures.
Mr. Masahiro Kikuchi, the vice president of the association, said, “At the time of the briefing, we hadn’t decided whether to release the waste into the ocean or into the air, and there were no concrete explanations about measures against harmful rumors. There were no further meetings, and I feel that the decision was made unilaterally. I think that if they had held monthly meetings with young fishermen, including those who will be responsible for the future of the fishery, and listened to their opinions, they would have come up with an answer that would have satisfied some, if not all, of them.

Co-op: “Not enough explanation to consumers”
More than 70 “opinion exchanges” and “briefing sessions” were held for fishermen, heads of local governments and assemblies in the prefecture, but only 18 briefings were given to consumers.
At Fukushima Prefecture’s Co-op Fukushima, where about 200,000 households in the prefecture are members, no briefing was held by the government before the policy was decided.
Shunkichi Nonaka, the general manager of the co-op, said that he feels that there was an overwhelming lack of opportunities to hear the opinions of consumers, some of whom are opposed to the release of radioactive materials into the ocean due to safety concerns.
Mr. Nonaka said, “All citizens are consumers, and I thought it was necessary to give a broad explanation to consumers, but I think the government and TEPCO did not give enough consideration to this. I think the government and TEPCO should have consulted with us before deciding on the policy of releasing radioactive materials into the ocean and asked us what we thought about it.

The government official said, “We discussed it to a great extent.
Regarding the fact that the government and related parties held more than 500 opinion exchanges and briefing sessions over a period of about one year and two months, Mr. Masato Kino, Counselor of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, said, “We have been visiting related parties who are likely to be affected by the rumors due to the disposal of the treated water, and our staff members have been working together to make a list of them. We believe that we have exchanged opinions with all kinds of people to a considerable extent. There were people who opposed the release of treated water into the ocean, but I believe we have incorporated the opinions we have heard into our decision-making process.
As for the fact that we have not gained the understanding of fishermen and others regarding our policy on the release of radioactive materials, he said, “We are doing our best to prevent rumors. I think we are still at the stage where people don’t feel safe, so our mission is to do our best. glnFBLeKhvs

September 23, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima aims to attract new residents

A sign gives notice of decontamination and building demolition in areas categorized as difficult-to-return zones within Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture.

September 20, 2021

FUKUSHIMA – The central and local governments have begun encouraging people from outside Fukushima Prefecture to move into areas surrounding Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, hoping that new residents will revive the areas.

The central government plans to lift evacuation orders in all areas categorized as difficult-to-return zones so that residents wishing to return to their homes can do so within the 2020s. However, in areas where such an order has already been lifted, residents have been slow to return.

300 newcomers sought

I’ve long wanted to contribute to the reconstruction of Fukushima, said Daisuke Yamamoto, 49, an engineer who moved from Sapporo to the city of Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture, in August.

Yamamoto said he aimed to set up his own business there.

The central government’s financial support system, which began in July, encouraged him to move in. The system grants up to 2 million Yen to those who move into 12 municipalities near the nuclear plant from outside the prefecture. Additional funds of up to 4 million Yen will be paid if they launch a business there. The government’s goal is to bring in 300 new people this fiscal year alone.

Local municipalities are preparing for new residents. In July, the Fukushima prefectural government set up a joint support center with the 12 municipalities. In Minami-Soma, vacant houses will be renovated into rental housing. In the village of Katsurao, eight units of municipal apartment housing will be constructed.

10% want to return

Behind the move is the slow return of residents to areas where the evacuation orders were lifted. The Reconstruction Agency and others surveyed the residents of five towns, including Futaba and Okuma, and found that only about 10% wanted to return.

The town of Namie, where the evacuation order was partially lifted in 2017, now has a population of 1,717. In fiscal 2019, 70 people in 49 households moved into the town from outside the prefecture, thanks in part to the presence of factories opened by 10 companies, but the population is still only about a tenth of its pre-disaster size.

The only way to keep the town going is to further increase the number of new arrivals, a town official said.

Commuting, restoring

Over 10 years after the nuclear accident, people who have rebuilt their lives in areas to which they evacuated will have the option of having residences in two locations, commuting to Fukushima Prefecture while carrying on with their present lives elsewhere.

A 66-year-old man who moved his family to Hitachi, Ibaraki Prefecture, has a home in an area categorized as a difficult-to-return zone in Namie. In order to return to that home, he would need to repair the now dilapidated house. His children have found jobs in Ibaraki. The man’s life in Ibaraki, where he grows vegetables in rented fields, has become settled.

I have no choice but to spend two hours each way to get to and from Fukushima, he said.

In a survey conducted last fiscal year by the towns of Futaba, Okuma and Tomioka on their residents, about 60% said they wanted to maintain ties with their hometowns.

The evacuation order for Naraha was lifted in 2015, but the number of residents in the town now has leveled off at 50% of the population before the accident. The town aims to raise the figure to 60% by 2030, or 5,130 people, by subsidizing JR train fares for residents who live in two locations.

The town of Tomioka supports residents who have been evacuated outside the town in the hope of bringing about reconstruction by commuting. It opened social center and support office facilities in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, and Saitama City, which are two places where many evacuated Tomioka residents now live. In those facilities, staff check up on the health of the evacuees or give counseling.

Those who want to go home someday will become important people for the progress of reconstruction, said Yusuke Yamashita, a sociology professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University. The central and local governments should continue to provide assistance from the perspective of reconstruction by commuting.

September 20, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan eyes disposal abroad of radioactive plant equipment

Watch out! Japan’s hoping to export now its radioactive junk!

Decommissioning is at work at the Tokai nuclear plant in Tokai village, Ibaraki Prefecture, in 2015.

September 20, 2021

Japan plans to ease regulations to allow exports of large, disused equipment from nuclear power plants for overseas disposal as a way to reduce the mountains of radioactive waste accumulating at home.

The setup would mark a major shift from the government’s existing principle of disposing of all radioactive waste inside the country.

The industry ministry mentioned the revised disposal policy in the draft of the updated Basic Energy Plan, which awaits Cabinet approval in October at the earliest.

Even if the plan is approved, it will likely take some time for the government and nuclear plant operators to clear a slew of hurdles, such as estimating the costs of the project and ensuring the safety of shipments.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nuclear industry, is considering outsourcing the disposal of three kinds of large low-level radioactive equipment overseas: steam generators, feed-water heaters and nuclear fuel storing and shipping casks.

These components range in size from 5 to 20 meters and weigh 100 to 300 tons.

Although they are not highly contaminated, compared with nuclear debris generated by spent fuel, they must be disposed of and managed properly, including being buried deep in the ground for years.

The ministry is considering their export as an “exceptional measure” to deal with the grave issue of the radioactive waste accumulating at nuclear facilities across Japan.

“Export regulations will be reviewed to allow for export (of low-level radioactive waste) when certain conditions are met, such as their safe recycling into useful resources,” the draft for the latest version of the Basic Energy Plan said.

The industry ministry is soliciting public opinions on the outsourcing plan until Oct. 4.

Nuclear plant operators have decided to decommission 24 reactors, including the six units at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Work to dismantle those reactors is expected to go into full gear starting in 2025.

Excluding the reactors at the Fukushima plant, the decommissioned units will produce an estimated 165,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste.

But more than 90 percent of that waste has nowhere to go for dismantling and disposal.

Japan still lacks a dedicated disposal site for equipment used at nuclear plants, forcing plant operators to store the waste at their facilities.

The ministry says the storage of the out-of-service equipment is getting in the way of the decommissioning process.

Experts say some businesses in the United States and Sweden clean, melt and recycle metal from radioactive waste sent by foreign countries.

“Japan should first learn the know-how of disposal by outsourcing the work to foreign businesses with a reliable track record in the area and eventually become capable of doing it at home,” said Koji Okamoto, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tokyo.

Under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, signatory countries that produce radioactive waste are obliged, in principle, to dispose of it within their territories.

But they can export the waste as exceptional cases if they obtain the consent of countries where business partners are based.

However, Japan’s Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law bans such exports.

Utilities have pressed the government for a change in the disposal policy, and the industry ministry has been reviewing the existing setup alongside experts on nuclear technology.

Although the ministry intends to follow the principle of doing away with the waste within Japan, it plans to approve exports of the three types of nuclear plant equipment on condition that they will be recycled.

Ministry officials say the plan can be achieved through a revised ministry directive, without having to change the law.

The equipment intended for recycling overseas could include components kept at nuclear plants that still generate power.

But the ministry needs to work out many issues to turn the plan into reality.

Nuclear plant operators have the primary responsibility for disposing of low-level radioactive waste. And the actual costs these Japanese companies would have to pay to recyclers overseas is still unknown.

The bill could be far more expensive than initially estimated.

How to safely ship the radiation-contaminated equipment abroad is another unresolved issue.

The amount of nuclear waste in Japan has been growing since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Utilities have gradually resumed operations at nuclear plants, but some have decided to decommission reactors, particularly aging ones, largely because of the costs needed to upgrade them under new safety standards.

For decades, Japan has been unable to secure a final disposal site for such waste inside the country, mainly because of opposition from residents of candidate sites.

September 20, 2021 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO bungles placement of 100 fire detectors at nuclear plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture in March

September 20, 2021

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has continued its bumbling ways concerning safety measures, misplacing dozens of fire detectors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture, sources said.

TEPCO is seeking to restart the No. 7 reactor at the sprawling nuclear plant, but the utility has run into a host of problems following stricter safety standards implemented after the 2011 disaster at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

In the latest incident, about 100 fire detectors were not placed in locations set under safety regulations, the sources said.

The misplacements could delay the detection of heat and smoke from a fire, hampering an immediate response to such a potentially disastrous event.

Under the new safety regulations, nuclear plant operators are required to place a fire detector at least 1.5 meters from an air conditioner vent or other opening. That rule is based on the fire protection law.

Inspectors from the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority in February noticed that a smoke detector was placed only about 1 meter from the ventilating opening in the storage battery room of the No. 7 reactor building.

TEPCO said it has since moved the detector to the proper location and confirmed through visual checks that the other fire detectors were installed in the right places.

But an additional NRA inspection in April found that two other fire detectors were misplaced.

Following that finding, TEPCO undertook a fresh check of about 2,000 detectors throughout the nuclear plant.

The company reported to the nuclear watchdog on Sept. 16 that more cases of misplaced detectors were confirmed, bringing the total to about 100, according to the sources.

With seven reactors, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant is among the largest in the world in terms of capacity. It is also the only nuclear facility that TEPCO can restart since the company decided to decommission both the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear plants.

TEPCO is eager to put the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant back online because burning fossil fuel at its thermal plants has proved costly.

But the NRA in April ordered the company to stop preparations toward a restart following revelations of a number of safety flaws.

In January, the company announced the completion of work to bolster safeguarding of the No. 7 reactor, which has an output of 1.35 gigawatts.

However, fire-prevention work was not finished at many locations of the nuclear plant.

News outlets also reported in January that an employee of the plant entered the central control room of a reactor by using the ID of another employee in September last year, a serious breach of the NRA’s anti-terrorism measures.

In addition, it was found that security devices designed to detect unauthorized entry had not been working properly at 15 sites at the plant since March last year.

TEPCO left most of these devices unfixed for about a month.

The company is expected to submit a report to the NRA on how to prevent a recurrence by Sept. 23.

September 20, 2021 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Regulators: Waste stored poorly at Fukushima plant

Sept. 18, 2021

Japanese nuclear regulators have urged the operator of the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to improve the way it manages accumulating waste at the complex.

Most of the radioactive waste generated through decommissioning of the plant is being stored at designated outdoor depots.

But wreckage and other clutter that cannot be quickly transported there is instead being kept at interim sites for up to one year in principle.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority says the volume of waste at the interim sites reached 60,000 cubic meters in July, surging more than eight-fold from the figure in January of last year.

It also says the waste has been kept longer than one year in some sites, and not enough patrols are being conducted.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, says it could not send the waste to the outdoor depots while work was underway to rearrange containers there. It adds that the containers had to be inspected following leaks of radioactive substances.

The company says it will review the temporary storage arrangements and manage waste properly.

The total volume of radioactive waste at the plant reached about 480,000 cubic meters as of March of this year, 10 years after the triple nuclear meltdown accident.

September 20, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , | Leave a comment

Japan’s Plan To Discharge Nuclear Waste Into The Pacific Worries Island Nations

The effects and memory of U.S. nuclear testing endures in the Pacific. “It is a level up from urgent for us,” one Pacific leader says.

Pacific nations and territories aren’t yet convinced their people and waters will be safe when Japan discharges processed nuclear wastewater into the Pacific, as it recently announced it plans to do.

Despite briefings from Japan, and its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Pacific community has yet to fully understand what the ramifications of dropping 1 million tons of wastewater off Japan’s coast might be.

“Currently we are not satisfied there will be no harm to our Blue Pacific,” said Henry Puna, secretary general of the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, noting that even basic concerns had not yet been addressed.

Japan triggered immediate and strong opposition when it announced the plan in April, initially from neighboring nations South Korea and China, though countries and territories across the Pacific continue to express their dissatisfaction with Japan’s engagement with them thus far.

The wastewater, which contains debris from the Fukushima Daiichi power station destroyed during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami, has been treated and many scientists believe the technology is safe.

But for countries in the Pacific, the nuclear legacy still endures and many have their reservations.

The Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, an intergovernmental organization comprising 17 Pacific nations and territories, noted the serious concerns over Japan’s plans in a July meeting and, following a briefing on Tuesday, remains unconvinced.

Puna said one issue was the highly technical nature of the briefings. The former Cook Islands prime minister acknowledged Japan was “as committed as we are to having frank and open dialogue,” but the planned action is less than 18 months away.

Puna said a major issue was that the Pacific nations lacked the expertise to interpret the highly technical plans.

“I just want to note that, for us, the issue is very urgent but also requires very careful thinking,” said Puna. “When you have a major development partner explaining that the only way for it to get rid of more than a million cubic tons of treated, but still contaminated water, is to dump it into an ocean, where we share the same tides, current, and fish, it is a level up from urgent for us.”

An IAEA review of the waste disposal, agreed to on Sept. 9, would focus on safety, regulation and environmental monitoring, and a team of IAEA experts would review the process in a December visit. PIFs concerns have not been allayed, however, so it was in the process of bringing on three independent scientists to assess the plans.

“This is an area of the planet where people see the ocean as an extension of themselves,” Puna added.

The Republic of the Marshall Islands was subjected to 67 nuclear bombings between 1948 and 1956, and the legacy of nuclear testing endures. Islands were scarred or fully vaporized and people were forced from their homes. Across the Pacific, France and the United Kingdom also tested their nuclear prowess around the same time. The fallout has had generational effects.

A recently released study, conducted as part of ongoing collaboration between IAEA and RMI, found that Bikini Atoll, where the U.S. conducted the Castle Bravo test (a 15 megaton thermonuclear bomb) in 1954, is slowly healing from the test though radioactive material remains.

Given RMI’s nuclear history — even with IAEA’s involvement — Marshallese have maintained a “healthy distrust” of governments and agencies, said Giff Johnson, editor of The Marshall Islands Journal.

He said although Japan and Micronesian nations share a long history, and have enjoyed a healthy diplomatic relationship in more recent times, nuclear issues remain contentious. “That in itself is a big hurdle to get over,” Johnson said. “It makes it complicated, diplomatically.”

This is not the first time Japan has riled Pacific nations with nuclear waste. In 1979, Japanese plans to dump 10,000 drums of nuclear waste in the Marianas Trench were met with virulent opposition from political leaders and protests from citizens.

Given the multi-generational legacy of nuclear testing and waste disposal, young activists are also voicing their concerns. Youngsolwara Pacific, a regional collective of young activists, has condemned the Japanese government’s plans and lack of consultation.

According to Talei Luscia Mangioni, a Pasifika researcher at the Australian National University and Youngsolwara Pacific member, Japan’s nuclear behavior seemed to ignore the region’s ongoing Nuclear Free and Independent Pacific movement and the history of colonizers dumping nuclear waste and testing nuclear weapons.

“Pacific youth acknowledge that this is an act of transboundary harm and is part of a great legacy of where nuclear powers have treated the Pacific as a sacrifice zone,” said Mangioni. “I think that Japan needs to properly consult and engage with Pacific people and their own Japanese civil society instead of making an announcement that they are going to do this, given their history.”

Mangioni was similarly concerned by the proximity of Micronesian nations to the proposed dumping and emphasized that they “have been the vanguard for a lot of nuclear resistance.”

PIFS Secretary General Puna, however, said Micronesia remained part of the forum “family” and said it had endorsed Rhea Moss-Christian, chair of the Marshall Islands National Nuclear Commission, as a representative of its interests on the IAEA safety task force.

Moss-Christian said she was unsure if her involvement with IAEA reassured the Marshallese, and her organization had not yet begun its outreach program in RMI.

Though Japan’s government had been working hard to assure the region’s concerns, whether its plans were robust enough remained to be seen and would be addressed by the task force.

“However, it is still difficult to accept that our backyard should be a dumping ground for our neighbor’s toxic waste, no matter how minimal the risk,” she said.

September 20, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

Clear vision needed for future of still-evacuated Fukushima areas

Access is restricted to the “difficult-to-return zone” in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture.

September 16, 2021

More than a decade after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accident, there remains more than 30,000 hectares of land where the evacuation order is still in place and is not expected to be lifted any time soon.

The government recently announced a plan to rebuild ravaged communities in these areas near the crippled plant with high levels of radiation, known as “kitaku konnan kuiki” (difficult-to-return zone).

Under the plan, the government will decontaminate the land and houses of local residents who want to return to their homes so that the order can be lifted by the end of the 2020s.

Initially, the evacuation order covered more than 110,000 hectares. The measure was lifted for some 80,000 hectares by March last year.

In 2017 and 2018, the government thrashed out a plan to designate some 2,700 hectares of land in six municipalities within the zone as reconstruction priority areas eligible for preferential policy support to help improve the living environment. The plan requires the government to make intensive decontamination efforts in the areas and lift the evacuation order by the spring of 2023.

The local administrations involved asked the national government to make clear when the order will be lifted for the remaining areas in the difficult-to-return zone.

The latest plan unveiled by the government may represent a step forward as it offers a specific timeframe for lifting the measure, albeit for only those who wish to return to their homes. The blueprint has brought a ray of hope to local residents who have been facing a distressingly uncertain future outlook. 

But the fact remains that the government has yet to offer a realistic road map to deliver on its promise to lift the evacuation order for the entire restricted zone sometime in the future, no matter how long it will take.

The government has pledged to tread carefully in this undertaking, holding multiple meetings with residents to ask about their desire to to return home as well as talks with local administrations on the range of areas to be decontaminated.

But it has yet to announce specifics about the decontamination, such as the areas to be covered or the method to be used. 

The residents in these areas have been living as evacuees for more than 10 years. Many of them are likely to find it difficult to decide even if they want to return to where they once lived.

If the government proceeds with the latest plan, it needs to work out details of how it will tackle the challenge in a “careful” manner. The details should cover how the government will confirm the local residents’ wishes and ensure the level of decontamination that can reassure them of the safety of returning to their homes.

Moreover, the land and buildings that nobody wants to return to will not be covered by the plan to lift the order. This will remain a serious issue for the future.

The government has so far spent some 3 trillion yen ($27.45 billion) on decontaminating areas subject to the evacuation order. This effort has allowed some 14,000 residents, or 30 percent of the local population, to return home. It will cost taxpayers a huge additional amount of money to accelerate the cleanup work in the difficult-to-return zone, where nearly 22,000 people are still registered as residents.

The government says the necessary funds will be budgeted from the Fukushima reconstruction special account and other appropriate financing sources. But it admits the total amount of money required cannot be estimated since it depends on the number of local residents who want to return.

In other words, it has no clear and viable plan to raise the necessary funds.

The 2011 special law to deal with contamination by radioactive materials from the Fukushima plant stipulates that it is the government’s “obligation” to deal with radiation pollution caused by the accident.

The government has a duty to offer as soon as possible a clear future vision for tackling this formidable challenge, specifying when and how the evacuation order will be lifted and what kind of policy support will be provided to residents including those who choose not to return to the areas.

September 17, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , | Leave a comment

Pacific Forum Members Hold Third Briefing With Japan Regarding Fukushima Treated Nuclear Wastewater

Thursday, 16 September 2021, 6:01 am
Press Release: Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat

Wed 15th September 2021—Pacific nations continue to raise questions and concerns in closed briefing sessions around plans by Japan to discharge over a million tonnes of treated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the Pacific Ocean.

The Government of Japan committed to ongoing dialogue with Forum Members as a priority follow up to the PALM9 Summit in July. This followed Japan’s announcement in April of plans to begin discharge in 2023, for a period of up to 40 years. The announcement drew strong global response, including from the Forum Chair and Leaders.

In his opening comments at the third briefing on Tuesday afternoon, Secretary General of the Pacific Islands Forum Henry Puna noted the issues require “open and frank consultation” along with sustained dialogue at the political and technical level.

Japan officials presented a status update on the ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) Treated Water, interim measures regarding the planned discharge, and outcomes of the latest International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) visit to Fukushima.

While appreciative of the information being shared by Japan, Secretary General Puna reiterated the region’s unequivocal need for information as being key to safeguard the Blue Pacific as a nuclear-free zone. “I appeal to the Government of Japan to continue to share the relevant information in its totality, and within agreed timelines.”

“Importantly for us in the Blue Pacific, our fears really lie in the transboundary nature of the impacts. We require nothing less than full and complete disclosure of all information and evidence to enable us to fully understand the nature and extent of the impact, and to enable us to make a comprehensive and unbiased assessment of the impacts of the proposed ALPS water discharge.”

As reiterated by Forum Foreign Ministers on 27 July, the region is actively pursuing efforts to advance Forum Leaders’ commitments to international consultation, international law, and independent expertise to provide guidance and verifiable scientific assessments. To accelerate efforts, the Forum will engage independent experts to support the region’s efforts over the next months.

Thanking the Government of Japan, Secretary General Puna said he is hopeful there will be ways to address Pacific concerns to reach “solutions that are based on science, and consistent with legal and moral obligations.”

September 17, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , , | Leave a comment

Lethal radiation levels detected in Fukushima nuke plant reactor lid

A remotely controlled robot inserts a dosimeter into a hole created to measure radiation levels beneath the uppermost lid of the No. 2 reactor’s containment vessel in a study on Sept. 9.

The operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant could be forced to reconsider the plant’s decommissioning process after lethal radiation levels equivalent to those of melted nuclear fuel were detected near one of the lids covering a reactor.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said Sept. 14 that a radiation reading near the surface of the lid of the No. 2 reactor’s containment vessel was 1.2 sieverts per hour, higher than the level previously assumed.

The discovery came on Sept. 9 during a study by the NRA and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant.

TEPCO plans to insert a robotic arm into the No. 2 reactor’s containment vessel from its side in a trial planned for the second half of 2022 to retrieve pieces of melted nuclear fuel.

“We will consider what we can do during the trial on the basis of the detection of the concentration of contamination” in the upper area of the containment vessel, a TEPCO official said.

The round concrete lid, called the shield plug, is 12 meters in diameter and about 60 centimeters thick.

The shield plug consists of three lids placed on top of each other to block extremely high radiation emanating from the reactor core.

Each lid weighs 150 tons.

When operators work on the decommissioning, the shield plug will be removed to allow for the entry into the containment vessel.

The NRA said a huge amount of radioactive cesium that was released during the meltdown of the No. 2 reactor in March 2011 remained between the uppermost lid and middle lid.

In the Sept. 9 study, workers bored two holes measuring 7 cm deep each on the surface of the uppermost lid to measure radiation doses there by deploying remotely controlled robots.

One radiation reading was 1.2 sieverts per hour at a location 4 cm down from the surface in a hole near the center of the lid.

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO not informing the Regulation Agency for 2 years about the 25 damaged filters at Fukushima Daiichi NPP

After finishing my stage (*Mako and her husband Ken are comedians) , we attended a Monitoring and Evaluation meeting of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency and a press conference of TEPCO today.

Various terrible things came out at the Regulatory Agency meeting. As for the holes of ALPS high-performance filters, although no photos came out at the press conference with TEPCO no matter how much I requested, I found them in the document from the Regulatory Agency.

It was much worse than I had imagined. TEPCO said they didn’t notice that there were such holes for these two years.

They replaced the 25 filters with holes (*out of 25 filters, means all filters had holes) in 2019.(This incident wasn’t published, nor reported to the Regulatory Agency.)

In 2021, 24 out of 25 filters have holes.The photos are here.These filters are not for ALPS’s contaminated water treatment, but the ones for the treatment of gaseous waste generated in the process.

The terrible thing is, until being asked at the press conference on August 31st, TEPCO had not explained the total damage of the filters two years ago.

When I asked, I got the answer that 25 out of 25 filters were damaged two years ago. Why didn’t TEPCO explain it voluntarily? That’s quite important information, isn’t it?

I wanted to know how TEPCO would explain it at today’s Regulatory Agency meeting and what kind of discussion would develop.

TEPCO reported only this year’s filter damages and didn’t explain the damage of all filters two years ago to the Regulatory Agency!

TEPCO finally gave an oral explanation when they were asked by chance, “What was the situation at the time of the last inspection?” by Mr. Yasui, Inspector General of the Regulatory Agency.

The Regulatory Agency got to know for the first time today about the damage of all 25 high-performance filters two years ago (and this time the 24 of 25 filters were damaged again). It was natural that the members of the Regulatory Agency got angry about the fact and the discussion about a completely damaged high-performance filter did not proceed at all …! !!

During unofficial Q and A session at the end of the meeting, we shared various information with Mr. Takeuchi, the director of the Regulatory Agency.

September 15, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2021 | , | 1 Comment