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Fukushima waste water dumped in Pacific Ocean – a critical environmental issue threatening marine pollution

Is Japan’s Nuclear Wastewater Dumping Reckless?  THE ASEAN POST, Anna Malindog-Uy6 June 2021

 it is important to speak about one of the most critical environmental issues that might cause marine pollution in the Pacific Ocean and beyond soon. 

It can be recalled that a few months back, Japan alarmingly announced that it will release around 1.25 million tons of contaminated water or wastewater from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea. These 1.25 million tons of wastewater can fill up around 500 Olympic-sized swimming pools. 

What’s pretty disquieting is the fact that, thus far, there has never been any precedent in the world or actual practice of discharging such a huge volume of wastewater into the sea. Even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), though not opposed to Japan’s decision, has no relevant experience in this regard. 

Accordingly, it will be hard to assess the long-term effects of such dumping of radioactive waste into the sea. Likewise, according to some reports, no independent testing of the water will be allowed as previously promised.  ………

Perplexing

But one perplexing thing about all this is the fact that the United States (US) seems to be in agreement with this decision. In a tweet, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken said “We thank Japan for its transparent efforts in its decision to dispose of the treated water.” This is a bit idiosyncratic and out of the ordinary given that the US continues to ban the import of farm and seafood products from the Fukushima region just like some other countries, precisely because of fears that these marine and agricultural products are contaminated with radioactive materials.,……….

Protests

Nevertheless, countries in East Asia like South Korea, China, and even Taiwan are protesting against Japan’s unilateral decision to dump radioactive waste into the Pacific Ocean. This is because it will be hazardous to marine ecosystems and resources, and will affect the fishing industries of these countries. ……….

Roque, an expert on international law said that “I can only repeat the principles of International Environmental Law that I hope all countries will comply with. The first principle is we are one ecosystem. The second principle is that we are interconnected and the third principle is that the polluter must pay.”……….

 it’s not only neighbouring countries that have expressed their opposition and resistance to the plan of dumping wastewater into the sea. Even the Japanese people themselves are opposed to it. 

For instance, the local fisherfolks of Fukushima have publicly announced their opposition to the plan saying, “…the said plan will undo the years of work rebuilding their industry’s reputation since the plant was destroyed and ruined by the huge tsunami in March 2011.” 

In a Yahoo Japan survey, 41.5 percent of the 31,035 respondents disagreed with the government’s plan. 

Conclusion

The unilateral plan of the Japanese government to dump wastewater in the Pacific Ocean needs to be reconsidered and studied further. Japan should at least show the necessary courtesy to consult and discuss its decision with its immediate neighbours like South Korea, China, Taiwan, and even beyond East Asia given the seriousness of the matter. 

It should be noted that the bodies of water in Asia are very much connected and pollutants originating from the Fukushima water will no doubt reach other nearby areas, affecting local marine and the coastal environments and people’s health. Thus, as a responsible member of the community of nations, Japan should think twice before proceeding with its plan and prudently consult with countries that will directly be affected by such a decision.

However, Japan being a privileged country may not heed the call of its neighbours probably because it has the backing of the US. But if something goes wrong with the said plan, developing countries like the Philippines will surely be adversely affected and left on their own to suffer the negative consequences.  ……

It is also quite shocking that the international media and even the mainstream media in the Philippines is downplaying this issue which is of great importance. 

Another baffling issue is why has the IAEA sanctioned Japan’s decision when not much study has been done yet on the effects of dumping such a huge volume of radioactive wastewater into the sea. ……..https://theaseanpost.com/article/japans-nuclear-wastewater-dumping-reckless

June 7, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, oceans | 1 Comment

Japanese government and TEPCO planning release of radioactive water, via a pipeline to the Pacific Ocean

Japan Times 12th May 2021, Japan and Tepco studying release of Fukushima water 1 kilometer from coast.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and the government are
considering a plan to release treated radioactive water from the crippled
Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the sea about 1 kilometer from the
coast, informed sources said Tuesday.

The plan calls for a pipeline to be set up at the bottom of the ocean, according to the sources. Tepco, the
government and the Nuclear Regulation Authority are expected to kick off
full-fledged talks next month to decide whether to release the water
directly from the coast near the power plant or offshore through a
pipeline, the sources said. As tritium cannot be removed with existing
technology, the levels of the radioactive substance will be diluted to
about 1/40 of the state-set standard before the release of the treated
water into the ocean.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/05/12/national/release-fukushima-water-study/

May 15, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Even with water release to the Pacific, Fukushima nuclear plant needs more storage tanks

Even with water release, nuclear plant needs more storage tanks, Asahi Shimbun, By KEITARO FUKUCHI/ Staff Writer, May 1, 2021   The plan to release treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the sea will likely not resolve the chronic problem of contaminated water accumulating there, Asahi Shimbun calculations show.

The maximum rate of water discharge allowed under the government’s basic plan would be less than the inflow of rainwater and groundwater at the nuclear power plant, meaning that additional water storage tanks would inevitably be needed at the site.

The government on April 13 approved the basic plan to release more than 1 million tons of treated water into the sea. The government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. hope to start discharging the water two years from now. Existing storage tanks at the site are expected to reach full capacity around the same time.

The Asahi Shimbun studied this plan based on documents and materials published by the government and TEPCO……… http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14332645 

May 1, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Fukushima waste water plan won’t win public confidence, no matter how hard Japan tries

Fukushima waste water plan won’t win public confidence, no matter how hard Japan tries,  Peter Wynn Kirby https://www.scmp.com/comment/opinion/article/3130239/fukushima-waste-water-plan-wont-win-public-confidence-no-matter-how

  • The nuclear industry’s history of secrecy and cover-ups is only one reason
  • Tepco’s incompetent and at times dishonest handling so far of the 2011 disaster and its aftermath has shattered what’s left of people’s trust.

To exasperated observers, this recalled the nuclear industry’s notorious 1990s mobilisation of Pluto-kun, a puckish cartoon character who drinks plutonium – arguably the world’s most dangerous substance – to demonstrate its harmlessness.

While other nations in the region have registered vociferous opposition to the water release plan, the domestic resistance is telling. A majority of Japanese oppose the plan. For a decade, the fishing industry has laboured, successfully, to show that the seafood it brings to market is safe, giving a wide berth to the plume of radioactive effluent haemorrhaging out of the Fukushima nuclear plant. All these efforts may soon appear to have been made in vain.

As indicated above, the choice of last Tuesday for the announcement seems to have been dictated by politics alone. Did Japan see the Olympics as a feel-good spectacle that could provide cover for the decision? Did US President Joe Biden’s recent pressure on Japan and South Korea to work together on regional security make the timing more palatable? 

Whatever the calculus involved, one thing is for sure: the more Japan tries to make Fukushima Daiichi seem perfectly safe, the more people distrust the message – and the messenger.

As the Japanese proverb goes, “Let the past drift away like water.” Yet with radiation, letting go is not so simple. Even as the Japanese government tries to rid itself of the catastrophic after-effects of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, radioactive traces stubbornly remain. 

Japan announced last week its intention to release about 1.25 million tonnes of waste water collected from the bowels of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The water to be released into the Pacific Ocean contains tritium, a radioactive hydrogen isotope with a half-life of over 12 years. The unwelcome news has provoked uproar both within Japan and among neighbouring countries

For over a decade, authorities have been engaged in a messy, difficult, frustrating, even Sisyphean task, flushing the ruined footprint of the power station with water to keep the slumped nuclear fuel there from triggering a chain reaction.The meltdowns left parlous uranium fuel in desultory clumps amid the wreckage below. The only way to cool the escaped uranium is to flood the most dangerous areas of the Fukushima Daiichi complex with circulating seawater. Radioactive groundwater and waste water have been stored on-site to avoid contact with humans and the environment.

Ever since, huge water tanks filled with contaminated water have been springing up around the Fukushima Daiichi site like poisonous mushrooms. Now, there are over 1,000 of them. Most rival the size of small Japanese apartment buildings. 

You didn’t have to be a genius to realise that the situation at Fukushima Daiichi was unsustainable. Any child who could do basic maths, or maybe a bit of Minecraft, would have been able to see that, day by day, month by month, the water would increase and the 350-hectare site would have less and less available space.Whatever else you might say about Japanese bureaucrats with regard to nuclear policy, they have very good maths skills. As a result, we can surmise that Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s announcement last week was, at root, a question of politics and calculated timing

Not that Japan didn’t attempt to resolve the situation otherwise. Authorities tried a range of strategies, including plugging leaks and creating a gigantic US$300 million ice wall around the site, underground, to stem water flow.

In the end, filtering the waste water was the only workable solution. But Japan had mixed results with this strategy. In June 2011, the first filtration system set up by reviled Tepco – Tokyo Electric Power Co, the company that owned the nuclear power station – broke down after only a few hours. The amount of radioactive Caesium in the water overwhelmed the filters. 

More recently, before a parliamentary commission, Tepco was forced to admit that it had falsely claimed to have treated most of the waste water from the plant. In actual fact, Tepco had properly dealt with only about one-fifth of the waste water.

Astonishingly, this disappointing result stemmed from it not having bothered to change the filters often enough. Even such basic elements of quality control seem to be beyond the capabilities of the Tepco team, which already lives in infamy after having presided over the world’s second most damaging civil nuclear disaster, after Chernobyl. 

Predictably, scientists, officials and industry stakeholders argue that this degree of tritium discharge happens all the time in the nuclear industry – this is more or less true, however perturbing – and suggest that the announced controlled release should therefore present no problem whatsoever.

But the history of the nuclear industry globally is one of military synergies, secrecy, cover-ups, Machiavellian information management, and propaganda-style communication with the public. Indeed, it was striking that on the very same day as Suga’s announcement, Japan’s reconstruction agency released a video depicting tritium in the form of Tritium-kun, a harmless-seeming fishlike creature with blushing cheeks who says tritium release is safe.

April 22, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, public opinion | 2 Comments

US backs Japan’s Fukushima plans despite S Korea’s concerns

US backs Japan’s Fukushima plans despite S Korea’s concerns

Seoul fails to gain US support against Japan’s decision to release contaminated water from Fukushima nuclear plant.  Aljazeera, 18 Apr 2021

US climate envoy John Kerry has reaffirmed Washington’s confidence in Japan’s decision to release contaminated water from its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea despite concerns raised by South Korea.

Kerry arrived in Seoul on Saturday to discuss international efforts to tackle global warming, on a trip that included a stop in China ahead of President Joe Biden’s virtual summit with world leaders on climate change this month.

South Korean Foreign Minister Chung Eui-yong sought to rally support behind the country’s protest against the Fukushima plan at a dinner meeting with Kerry.

Under the plan, more than one million tonnes of water will be discharged from the plant wrecked by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 into the nearby sea off Japan’s east coast.

Seoul strongly rebuked the decision, with the foreign ministry summoning the Japanese ambassador and President Moon Jae-in ordering officials to explore petitioning an international court.

“Minister Chung conveyed our government and people’s serious concerns about Japan’s decision, and asked the US side to take interest and cooperate so that Japan will provide information in a more transparent and speedy manner,” the ministry said in a statement.

But Kerry, at a media roundtable on Sunday, said Tokyo had made the decision in a transparent manner and will continue following due procedures.

“The US is confident that the government of Japan is in very full consultations with the IAEA,” he said, referring to the International Atomic Energy Agency……..   The former US secretary of state added that Washington would closely monitor Japan’s implementation “like every country, to make certain there is no public health threat”……..    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/4/18/s-korea-us-show-differences-over-japans-fukushima-plans

April 19, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, politics international, USA | Leave a comment

Fukushima nuclear wastewater ‘fundamentally different’ from normal plants: Chinese ministry,

Fukushima nuclear wastewater ‘fundamentally different’ from normal plants: Chinese ministry,   https://www.globaltimes.cn/page/202104/1221363.shtml
By Global Times , 18 Apr 21,  Amid international pushback against Japan’s decision to dump nuclear-contaminated wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear power plant into the sea, China’s Ministry of Ecology and Environment has urged Japan to consider all safe ways of disposal to deal with the issue, as the nuclear-contaminated water is fundamentally different from discharges from other normal nuclear plants.

Regardless of domestic opposition and doubts from the international community, Japan made a unilateral decision to dump the contaminated water into the sea before exhausting all safe ways of disposal or fully consulting with neighboring countries and the international community, the ministry said. 

China, as Japan’s close neighbor and one of the stakeholders in this issue, has expressed grave concerns.

The Chinese environment ministry urged Japan, which has a responsibility to the international community, to conduct further research on all safe ways of disposal and release related information in a timely and transparent way. 

A cautious decision should be made after a careful consideration of all other safe ways of disposal and full consultation with all stakeholders, it said. 
The ministry stressed that the nuclear-contaminated water has fundamental differences from the discharge of a normally operated nuclear plant, either in terms of the original source, category of radionuclides, or disposal treatment imparity.

The Fukushima contaminated wastewater came from the cooling water injected into the melted reactor core after the nuclear accident, as well as groundwater and rainwater that permeated the reactor. It contains a variety of radionuclides in the melted reactor core, which are difficult to treat, it said.
Discharges from a normally operated plant are mainly from the technology and land drainage, which contain few fission nuclides. After being treated and strictly monitored under international standards, such discharges are much less harmful than the international standards require, the ministry noted. 

The ministry also said that China will evaluate the possible impact of nuclear-contaminated wastewater on the marine environment and strengthen monitoring of the radiation in that environment.

April 19, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Fukushima” is not over: Japanese NGOs raise concern over the ongoing nuclear disaster

Fukushima” is not over: Japanese NGOs raise concern over the ongoing nuclear disaster, Friends of the Earth Japan, Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC), 14 Apr 21,

On the 10th anniversary of one of the worst nuclear accidents at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, and amid the controversial decision of the Japanese government to dump “treated” radioactive water into the ocean, Japanese NGOs Friends of the Earth Japan and Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC) co-produced a documentary film Fukushima 10 Years Later: Voices from the continuing nuclear disaster. The film sheds light on the ongoing suffering of victims of the accident and poses critical questions about the Japanese government’s poor responses to the accident.

While then-Prime Minister Abe vainly declared to the world that “the situation in Fukushima is completely under control”, nuclear decays are continuing inside the molten fuel rods, and the exploded plants are still emitting radioactive particles to this day. In the meanwhile, evacuees are torn apart in limbo, with grim hopes of returning to their homeland, continued fear of radioactive fallout, and a dire socio-economic situation. Fisherfolk, who overcame the initial fear of ocean contamination, are forced to relive the experience each time TEPCO and the Japanese government repeatedly choose to release contaminated water into the ocean.
This happens all under the propaganda that Fukushima is pressing ahead with “Fukkou (Recovery)”.  
This video aims to highlight the current situation of the victims of the man-made disaster, and challenge the government propaganda of Fukushima’s Recovery.

Fukushima 10 Years Later: Voices from the continuing nuclear disaster
Produced by Friends of the Earth Japan and Pacific Asia Resource Center
Supervised by HOSOKAWA Komei (Citizens’ Commission on Nuclear Energy)
Directed by MATSUMOTO Hikaru (Friends of the Earth Japan)
Running time: 43 min.

The English subtitled version of the film is now available on Vimeo on Demand and will cost USD 5.75 to rent and USD 47.50 to purchase.
https://vimeo.com/ondemand/fukushima10years

For further information on the film, please contact OKUMURA Yuto, Pacific Asia Resource Center.
E-mail: video@parc-jp.org
Yuto Okumura,Pacific Asia Resource Center (PARC)

April 15, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Fukushima: Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea

Fukushima: Japan announces it will dump contaminated water into sea  https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/apr/13/fukushima-japan-to-start-dumping-contaminated-water-pacific-ocean

More than 1m tonnes of contaminated water will be released from the destroyed nuclear station in two years’ time,  
Japan plans to release into the sea more than 1m tonnes of contaminated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear station, the government said on Tuesday, a decision that is likely to anger neighbours such as South Korea.

The move, more than a decade after the nuclear disaster, will deal another blow to the fishing industry in Fukushima, which has opposed such a step for years.

The work to release the water will begin in about two years, the government said, and the whole process is expected to take decades.

“On the premise of strict compliance with regulatory standards that have been established, we select oceanic release,” the government said in a statement after relevant ministers formalised the decision.

Around 1.25 million tonnes of water has accumulated at the site of the nuclear plant, which was crippled after going into meltdown following a tsunami in 2011.

It includes water used to cool the plant, as well as rain and groundwater that seeps in daily.

The water needs to be filtered again to remove harmful isotopes and will be diluted to meet international standards before any release.

The decision comes about three months ahead of the postponed Olympic Games to be hosted by Tokyo, with some events planned as close as 60km (35 miles) from the wrecked plant.

The disposal of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power, has proved a thorny problem for Japan as it pursues a decades-long decommissioning proj

April 13, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Japan’s Prime Minister getting ready to release Fukushima waste water into the Pacific ocean?

Reuters 6th April 2021, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will hold a ministerial meeting as early as next week to start discussions on the release of contaminated Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant water into the ocean, broadcaster FNN said on Tuesday.

Suga is also expected to meet with the head of the national federation of fisheries cooperatives as early as Wednesday to discuss the potential release of the water. The water, which is treated but contains traces of tritium, was used to cool the reactors in the aftermath of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Power Plant’s nuclear disaster in 2011 and is now stored within the grounds of the power plant.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japan-disaster-fukushima-water-idUSKBN2BT09C?taid=606c150f9e71f30001ce44af

April 8, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

4,000 Fukushima waste bags contain unidentified radioactive materials

Mainichi 6th April 2021, Of the 85,000 containers holding radioactive waste placed in the radiation-controlled area of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the contents of about 4,000 have not been identified, operator Tokyo ElectricPower Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) announced on April 5. According to TEPCO, it began listing the contents of the containers after the meltdown in 2011, but about 4,000 of them remain unidentified. The company says it will formulate a survey plan and proceed to determine what they hold.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20210406/p2a/00m/0na/002000c

April 8, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Infamous Fukushima town sign praising nuclear energy to become permanent museum display 

全町避難が続く福島県双葉町で、原発推進看板の撤去工事を見守る標語考案者の大沼勇治さん=21日

March 23, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | 1 Comment

Fukushima disaster 10 years on: How long will it take to clean up the nuclear waste?

Streets have been rebuilt, while radiation decontamination has progressed steadily since the Fukushima earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident 10 years ago. But few residents have returned.  Straits Times, 
BY WALTER SIM AND SPE CHEN | MARCH 20, 2021

Decontamination and living with ‘black bags’

Piles of black bags were generated by the vast, painstaking clean-up and then transported from other storage places. Those black bags have occupied more than 90 blocks ranging from 180 sq m to 6,500 sq m in the northern part of Tomioka since 2015.

According to a 2018 report from Japan’s Ministry of the Environment, the estimated total quantity of decontaminated soil will be somewhere between 16 and 22 million cubic metres after volume reduction. This is 13 to 18 times larger than the volume of the Tokyo Dome.

The Ministry says the total will likely be at the lower end of the provided range, in a latest reply to The Straits Times’ query.

Limits of decontamination

The “decontamination” only involves soil removal in flatland areas – the government has said that it is impossible to clear the soil in mountainous areas, but more than 70 per cent of the hardest-hit areas are mountainous.

Mr Nobuyoshi Ito is one of those who live in the mountainous areas where vast decontamination is hard to carry out.

Mr Ito first moved to Iitate village in Fukushima prefecture in 2010 after he retired as an IT engineer, to work as an “apprentice farmer”.

He had no ties with the village before that, but the self-professed “guinea pig” ended up staying on there, in open defiance of government orders to evacuate, and against his children’s wishes for him to live with them in Niigata prefecture on the west coast.

“When the government asked us to evacuate… I asked if there would be criminal charges if I continued to live here,” he told The Straits Times in 2016. “They said no.”

He carries a dosimeter around with him all the time, measuring anything he can lay his hands on from soil, plants to animal carcasses. He also owns a laboratory-grade radiation measuring machine at his cabin, deep in the mountains in the village.

He has become one of the most visible critics of the government, which he accuses of vested interests in lifting exclusion zones too quickly.

He thinks the government’s decision to not decontaminate forested mountainous areas will backfire due to factors such as rain that may spread radioactive material, and in a study last year found that 43 out of 69 locations along the Olympic torch relay route had radiation levels above the government limits.

He told The Straits Times that he fears that Tokyo is overly eager to portray that everything was “under control”, given that this could give the impression that it is “case closed”.

One possible explanation for the limited effect of decontamination in forests is the rapid shift in the main reservoir of Caesium-137 – a major contributor to the total radiation released – from litter and topsoil layers to the underlying mineral soil, according to a 2020 research paper published in Nature Journal.

Non-profit Greenpeace notes that such standards in towns neighbouring the nuclear plant would not pass in other parts of the world.

The indefinite future: Where to permanently store 16 million bags of nuclear waste

Removed soil and waste are stored in the interim storage facilities within the prefecture only for a certain period before the government finds permanent places.

The law requires that the final disposal site of high-level nuclear waste should be outside of Fukushima by March 2045.

Two fishing villages in Hokkaido are vying to host the final storage facility of Japanese nuclear waste for half a century, splitting communities between those seeking investment to stop the towns from dying, and those haunted by the 2011 Fukushima disaster who are determined to stop the project.

I cannot give a deadline at this moment. We will consider the entire schedule based on the progress at the two new potential sites, along with nationwide public relations activities.

MS MASARU KASHIMA

A deputy director in a division of the economy ministry that deals with radioactive waste.  https://www.straitstimes.com/multimedia/graphics/2021/03/fukushima/index.html?shell

March 22, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, wastes | Leave a comment

New type of large and highly radioactive particles found in Japan

March 17, 2021 Posted by | environment, Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Japan’s Nuclear Clean-Up Has No End in Sight

Climbing Without a Map: Japan’s Nuclear Clean-Up Has No End in Sight, U.S. News, By Reuters, Wire Service Content March 12, 2021,   BY SAKURA MURAKAMI AND Aaron Sheldrick TOKYO (Reuters) – For one minute this week, workers at the Fukushima nuclear station fell silent to mark the 10-year anniversary of a natural disaster that triggered the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.

Then they went back to work tearing down the reactors melted down in the days after a tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The job ranks as the most expensive and dangerous nuclear clean-up ever attempted. A decade in, an army of engineers, scientists and 5,000 workers are still mapping out a project many expect will not be completed in their lifetime.

Naoaki Okuzumi, the head of research at Japan’s lead research institute on decommissioning, compares the work ahead to climbing a mountain range – without a map.

“The feeling we have is, you think the summit’s right there, but then you reach it and can see another summit, further beyond,” Okuzumi told Reuters.

Okuzumi and others need to find a way to remove and safely store 880 tonnes of highly radioactive uranium fuel along with a larger mass of concrete and metal into which fuel melted a decade ago during the accident.

The robotic tools to do the job don’t yet exist. There is no plan for where to put the radioactive material when it is removed.

Japan’s government says the job could run 40 years. Outside experts say it could take twice as long, pushing completion near the close of the century……..

It wasn’t until 2017 that engineers understood how complicated the clean-up would become. By that point, five specially designed robots had been dispatched through the dark, contaminated waters pumped in to cool the uranium. But radiation zapped their electronics.

One robot developed by Toshiba Corp, nicknamed the “little sunfish”, a device about the size of a loaf of bread, provided an early glimpse of the chaotic damage around the cores.

Kenji Matsuzaki, a robot technician at Toshiba who led development of the “sunfish”, had assumed that they would find melted fuel at the bottom of the reactors.

But the sunfish’s first video images showed a tumult of destruction, with overturned structures inside the reactor, clumps of unrecognizable brown debris and dangerously radioactive metal.

“I expected it to be broken, but I didn’t expect it would be this bad,” Matsuzaki said.

The delivery of a robotic arm to start removing fuel, developed in a $16 million programme with the UK’s Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, has been delayed until 2022. Tepco plans to use it to grab some debris from inside reactor 2 for testing and to help plan the main operation………….

But the cleanup has been delayed by the buildup of contaminated water in tanks that crowd the site. The melted cores are kept cool by pumping water into damaged reactor vessels.

But the cleanup has been delayed by the buildup of contaminated water in tanks that crowd the site. The melted cores are kept cool by pumping water into damaged reactor vessels.  https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2021-03-12/climbing-without-a-map-japans-nuclear-clean-up-has-no-end-in-sight

March 15, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, Reference, technology, wastes | Leave a comment

The truth about Fukushima today – and the cover-up – Thomas A Bass

Fukushima today: “I’m glad that I realized my mistake before I died.”   Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,  By Thomas A. Bass | March 10, 2021After the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, evacuees were put in what was supposed to be temporary housing built in parking lots and fields on the outskirts of inland towns. These metal structures were measured by the size of Japan’s traditional tatami sleeping mats, typically about 36 by 71 inches.

Takenori and Tomoko Kobayashi lived in an eight-tatami-mat house for the next five years—nuclear refugees inhabiting 132 square feet of living space.

In 2016, Mr. and Mrs. Kobayashi were allowed to return to their former home in Odaka, a village on the edge of Fukushima’s 20-kilometer exclusion zone, where Tomoko is a third-generation innkeeper. Owner of a small ryokan—a traditional Japanese hotel with common baths and a dining room holding a long table for family and guests—she invited volunteers to help her scrub down the inn, plant flowers along the roadside, open a gift shop, and rescue some of the area’s famous “samurai horses,” which are now branded with the white mark that labels radioactive livestock.

The operator of the plant, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, evacuated its workers from F1 and ordered the site abandoned. The Japanese prime minister, in a dawn visit to TEPCO headquarters in Tokyo, effectively seized the company and demanded that they keep working. As a result, a suicide squad of older workers struggled to contain the disaster. Known as the “Fukushima Fifty” (which actually numbered 69) they tried to cool the reactors with fire trucks brought from Tokyo, 140 miles to the south. The command center for managing the disaster was moved to J-Village.

No one can say with 100-percent certainty the amount of radiation that came from Fukushima, since most of this radiation has been carried eastward into the ocean. At the high end, Fukushima may be worse than Chernobyl in terms of global contamination. At the low end, the Nuclear Energy Institute estimates that Fukushima’s release is one-tenth that of the accident at Chernobyl—which is estimated to have scattered between 50 and 200 million curies of radiation over Russia and Central Europe says Kate Brown, the MIT historian who published a book on Chernobyl in 2019. (One curie equals 37 billion becquerels, the standard unit of measurement for radioactive decays per second.) To give a sense of scale, this amount of radiation is the equivalent of what would have been emitted by at least 400 Hiroshima bombs, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. As Nobel laureate Kenzaburō Ōe says of the Fukushima disaster, unlike Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this time Japan bombed itself.

Compounding the problem, most of Fukushima’s dosimeters were swept away in the flood or knocked offline. Readings from US military planes flying overhead and ships sailing offshore differed dramatically from those reported by TEPCO. The same is true for spot readings of air and soil samples around the plant………..

F1’s reactors are still radioactively hot. They are lethal to humans who approach them and even the robots sent to explore the melting cores are quickly fried; in 2017, TEPCO lost two robots in two weeks. But some of the nuclear exclusion zone has been re-opened—at least officially—to resettlement, and the Japanese government is paying two million yen (about $20,000) to people who move into the area.

Ouside the core but still in the zone. An army of about 100,000 workers has spent a decade scraping up and bagging radioactively contaminated soil. Consequently, what were once the emerald green rice paddies of Fukushima’s coastal plain are now filled with black plastic garbage bags holding mountains of radioactive dirt…………..

casual attitude toward radiation is widespread. “We found a disregard for global trends and a disregard for public safety,” said the parliamentary report on the Fukushima disaster, known as The Official Report of The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission. “Across the board, the commission found ignorance and arrogance unforgivable for anyone or any organization that deals with nuclear power,” the report’s authors concluded.

They went on to note: “What must be admitted—very painfully—is this was a disaster ‘Made in Japan.’ ”

If Japan covered up the risks involved in building 54 nuclear reactors on its geologically unstable shores, it is now covering up the consequences. A government-sponsored study of radiation exposure in Fukushima prefecture undercounted people’s exposure by two-thirds. Australian physician Tilman Ruff, co-founder of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize), wrote me to say that doctors have left the area because the government refuses to reimburse them when they list radiation sickness as the cause for nose bleeds, spontaneous abortions, and other ailments resulting from ionizing radiation. (The only acceptable diagnoses are so-called “radiophobia,” nervousness, and stress.) The spike in thyroid cancer among children in Fukushima is dismissed as a survey error, produced by examining too many children.

The government has mounted no epidemiological study in Fukushima. It has established no baseline for comparing public health before and after the disaster. Instead, it has greenlighted the use of radioactive ash and soil from Fukushima in construction projects throughout the country, the Japan Times reported.

The generally accepted safety standard for radiation exposure is one milliSievert, or one-thousandth of a Sievert, per year. Different countries have different standards, but in the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires that the operators of nuclear power plants limit the amount of their incidental radiation exposure to individual members of the public to 1 milliSievert (1,000 microSieverts) per year above the average annual background radiation, and this figure has become a sort of rough international average benchmark. (For comparison’s sake, the natural level of background radiation usually averages in the range of up to as much as 3 milliSieverts annually.)

But in its haste to deal with the Fukushima emergency in the months after the accident, the Japanese government simply raised the limit of what was considered an acceptable amount of incidental radiation coming from the now-defunct nuclear power plant.

The Japanese government now allows individuals in Fukushima prefecture to be exposed to 20 milliSieverts per year of incidental radiation, above and beyond what was emitted naturally, reported Scientific American. Figures like these are a far cry from that international average benchmark of 1 milliSievert annually.

To give a sense of scale, a figure in the 20 milliSieverts range means that a schoolchild in Fukushima can be exposed to the same amount of radiation as the average adult working full-time in a nuclear power plant.

The limit in the rest of Japan, outside of Fukushima’s environs, remains 1 milliSievert per year.

21st-century versions of hibakusha, or “bomb-affected people”? Anyone objecting to Fukushima’s 20-fold increase in allowable radiation exposure is criticized for promoting “harmful rumors.” After China and 50 other countries banned the importation of food from Fukushima on the grounds that it might be radioactive, the Japanese authorities reacted vehemently, and critics of the Japanese government’s response to the handling of anything related to Fukushima were treated like economic saboteurs. Similarly, refugees from Fukushima are scorned in other parts of Japan, and the Asahi Shimbun reported “widespread bullying and stigmatization of evacuees.” This finding was echoed by the UK newspaper The Independent, which said that “discrimination suffered by evacuee pupils [is] likened to that faced by those who lived through the atom bomb blasts of the Second World War.”

Women from Fukushima are shunned as marriage partners, and a new kind of Fukushima divorce has emerged, with men returning to the area in greater numbers than their wives, who want to keep their children as far away as possible.

“Japan has clamped down on scientific efforts to study the nuclear catastrophe,” said Alex Rosen, a pediatrician who co-chairs the German affiliate of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. “There is hardly any literature, any publicized research, on the health effects on humans, and those that are published come from a small group of researchers at Fukushima Medical University, which are centered around the scientist Shunichi Yamashita, who in Japan is called ‘Mr. 100 milliSieverts.’ ” (Yamashita was the spokesman for the Japanese government in the early months of the catastrophe and led the Fukushima health survey for two years, before being forced to resign in 2013. Contradicting his earlier research and instructions to his own staff, Yamashita told the public that 100 milliSieverts of radiation was harmless. He recommended against administering iodine pills to prevent thyroid cancer, and told people that their best protection against radiation poisoning was literally to smile and be happy.)

Four thousand people continue to labor daily to contain the ongoing disaster at F1. They pump cooling water into reactor cores and fuel pools, while struggling to keep the damaged buildings from collapsing. More than a billion liters of contaminated water—the equivalent of 480 Olympic-sized swimming pools—are stored on-site in rusting tanks. Claiming that it has run out of storage room, TEPCO is planning to release this water directly into the ocean. For years, TEPCO maintained that the water stored at F1 had been scrubbed of radioactivity, save for tritium, a water-soluble isotope that is said to be relatively safe. In 2014, TEPCO was forced to admit that its cleaning process had failed, and Fukushima’s cooling water is actually contaminated with high levels of strontium-90 and other radioactive elements.

From the day it opened, Fukushima Daiichi struggled to contain the groundwater that rushed down from the nearby mountains and flowed through the plant. Fukushima today is a swamp of groundwater and cooling water contaminated with strontium, tritium, cesium, and other radioactive particles. Engineers have laced the site with ditches, dams, sump pumps, and drains. In 2014, TEPCO was given $292 million in public funds to ring Fukushima with an underground ice wall—a supposedly impermeable barrier of frozen soil. This, too, has failed, having “limited, if any effect,” Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said.

In 2019, the Japan Institute for Economic Research estimated that the cost of cleaning up the Fukushima disaster could reach $747 billion. But there is actually no such thing as saying that a nuclear disaster has been cleaned up. Lumps of radioactive fuel, concrete, and cladding remain lethal for tens of thousands of years. At Chernobyl, this lava-like mass, called the “Elephant’s Foot,” has been buried under a mountain of concrete and covered again by a second, $1.5 billion shield financed by the European Union, which some have dubbed the “sarcophagus.” Sensitive about looking like a failed nuclear power, Japan has vetoed the building of a similar concrete sarcophagus over Fukushima. Instead, relying upon technology yet to be invented, TEPCO plans to scoop up the fuel in its failed reactors and store the waste in some undisclosed location. In the meantime, Fukushima sits like an open wound on Japan’s eastern shore.

The takeaway? Among the new buildings meant to lure settlers back to Fukushima are two museums. In Tamioka, directly to the south of the power plant, a former energy museum has been converted into something called the Decommissioning Archive Center. Films depict actors replaying scenes from the disaster on one floor of the museum and demonstrate TEPCO’s “Progress of the Work” on another floor.

In the village of Futaba, directly to the north of the reactors, the government has erected a three-story building called The Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster Memorial Museum. A former boomtown filled with workers from the plant, Futaba used to have an archway over its main street, declaring, in bold letters, “Atomic Power: Energy for a bright future.” Yuji Onuma created this slogan for a ninth-grade homework assignment. He received a prize from the mayor.

Now living far from Fukushima and running a business installing solar panels, Onuma returned to Futaba one day a few years after the disaster. A photo from that visit shows him wearing a white Tyvek suit, booties, hat, and facemask. Behind him is Futaba’s main street, filled with crumbling buildings and overgrown with weeds. Above him is the archway that TEPCO financed. Over his head, Onuma holds a placard with red-letter writing on it, so the sign instead reads, “Atomic Power: Energy for a destructive future.”

The archway has since been removed and stored in Futaba’s new museum. Onuma wants it reinstalled, where the irony of having his slogan floating over the ruins of a dead city will remind everyone of their original mistake. At the least, he wants the sign put on display in the museum. “I made the wrong slogan,” he recently told an American interviewer. “But I’m glad that I realized my mistake before I died.”  https://thebulletin.org/2021/03/fukushima-today-im-glad-that-i-realized-my-mistake-before-i-died/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=ThursdayNewsletter032021&utm_content=NuclearRisk_Bass_03102021

March 13, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing, Reference, secrets,lies and civil liberties, social effects | Leave a comment