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Japanese 100-yen shop slapped with fine, 2-year import ban in Taiwan

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TAIPEI (Kyodo) — Taiwan authorities said Wednesday that Japanese 100-yen shop chain Daiso has been fined NT$41.64 million (US$1.38 million) for falsifying import application documents and banned from importing goods from Japan for two years.

Foreign Trade Bureau deputy chief Lee Guann-jyh told a legislative committee that the punishments have been meted out to Hiroshima-based Daiso Industries Co., which has been operating in Taiwan since 2001 and has about 60 stories here.
 
In November 2015, Daiso received a six-month import ban for having illegally imported food products from parts of Japan affected by 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster between July 2014 and March 2015, and selling them with falsified labels of origin.
 
During that six-month period, Daiso could still import goods from Japan on a case-by-case basis after obtaining permission from the bureau.
 
But in doing so, it falsified the dates of the imported goods, altering them to predate the six-month ban period that began in November 2015. A total of 694 import application documents were fraudulent, according to the bureau.
On April 27, the company held a press conference in which it apologized to Taiwanese consumers.
 
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May 24, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s government weighs dumping radioactive Fukushima water into the Pacific

As the cleanup of a triple meltdown following an earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima nuclear power plant drags into its seventh year, one of the biggest continuing threats is less from airborne radioactivity than it is simple water.

 

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A waterlogged radiation and tsunami warning sign found on Fukushima beaches in 2013.
May 22, 2018
As the cleanup of a triple meltdown following an earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima nuclear power plant drags into its seventh year, one of the biggest continuing threats is less from airborne radioactivity than it is simple water.
On March 11, 2011, the Fukushima plant was devastated by a tsunami, which over the ensuing days sent three of its six reactors into meltdown, while hydrogen explosions cast radioactive iodine, cesium and other fission by-products into the air. More than 160,000 people were forced to evacuated in the wake of the disaster, which has now become synonymous with Chernobyl.
At the time, officials began pumping millions of liters of water into the destroyed reactors to keep them cool, often dumping it from helicopters and spraying it through water cannons. In the years since, the water inundation has become less dramatic, but in the absence of any other way to keep the molten fuel cool, the flow of water continues to flow through the remains of the reactors at the rate of some 160 tons of water a day.
While much of that water undergoes purification to remove significant amounts of radiation, filters can’t cleanse the water of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen — a process likened by some scientists to separating water from water.
As a result, water contaminated with tritium is building up and space to store it at the disaster site is running out. Of the 1.13 million-ton water storage capacity that the plant has, some 1.7 million tons have been used up.
Cleanup workers have to build a new steel water tank at the rate of one every four days to contain it all, and space to build more is becoming scarce. According to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the tanks already sprawl over an area that could accommodate 32 football fields. All of the storage, says the government, will run out by 2021.
This looming crisis has left the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns Fukushima,  pondering how to get rid of this water – a decision that is generating anxiety and scare headlines as an expert committee weighs whether or not to release the water into the Pacific Ocean.
Despite the national and worldwide case of nerves such a decision might provoke the Japanese government says it can do it without a threat to the country’s fishing industry. Tritium, after all, is a substance that naturally occurs in rivers and seabeds – even tap water. What’s problematic with the tritium at Fukushima, though, is that its levels in the Fukushima water are 10 times higher than Japanese national standards for dumping it.
Because of that, the government’s expert panel is considering several methods for the water’s disposal, including evaporating it, releasing it into the sea after electrolysis, burying it underground or injecting it deep into the geology.
But as cleanup costs continue to spiral, with some Japanese think tanks speculating the final bill could be as much as $470 billion to $660 billion,  releasing the water into the sea – after diluting it – may turn out to be the cheapest option.
It’s not the first battle against water that the cleanup effort has fought. As recently as two years ago, some 400 tons of ground water flowed into the facility daily. Tokyo Electric Power somewhat stemmed that by building an underground wall of frozen soil to staunch the seepage of radioactive water.
has managed to decrease the inflow by installing a 30-yard-long “ice wall” fence that freezing cold brine is pumped through to freeze the soil around it, reports Wired. The chilled soil is meant to create a barrier to keep additional groundwater from spilling into the radioactive area.
But this year, on the seventh anniversary of the disaster, an expert group commissioned by the Japanese government concluded that the subterranean wall is not entirely effective against the deluge, and that other methods of battling leakage have to be devised.

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

‘Everything is fine and delicious in Fukushima’ according to the director the Fukushima Reconstruction Promotion Group at the minister’s secretariat of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

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Fukushima, seven years on
by Hideyasu Tamura
May 21, 2018
More than seven years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011. A successful decommissioning of the plant and reconstruction of Fukushima is one of the most important missions of the government, especially the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Since 2016, I’ve been involved in the ministry’s special unit on Fukushima reconstruction, and mainly charged with a mission to eliminate reputational damage.
After the accident, the government set very stringent standards on the level of radioactive substances in food (in principle, 100 becquerel/kg: 10 times stricter than the Codex radionuclides standard), and any food product exceeding that level is prohibited for market distribution. Food products from Fukushima have undergone stringent monitoring, including all-volume inspection on rice and beef. Since 2015, not a single grain of rice or any piece of beef has been found with radioactive substances exceeding that level.
Nevertheless, around 12 percent of consumers in Japan tend to avoid agricultural and fishery products from Fukushima, according to a Consumer Affairs Agency survey. Since such reputational damage lingers even at home, the popular perception gap concerning Fukushima is likely even more serious overseas. With a view toward bridging that gap, I would like to highlight the following facts.
First, in the 12 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture where evacuation orders were introduced after the nuclear disaster (Futaba, Hirono, Iitate, Kawamata, Kawauchi, Katsurao, Minamisoma, Namie, Naraha, Okuma, Tamura and Tomioka), the number of companies in the industrial estates has doubled from 35 before the disaster (in December 2010) to 70 in January. Some of the companies that have newly launched operation there engage in business that are relatively new to this area, such as the recycling of lithium-ion batteries and the production of internet-of-things devices that are wearable.
The establishment of the new companies have been facilitated by government incentives, including subsidies on investments that cover up to three-quarters of the investment cost, as well as the development of industrial infrastructure, such as the Fukushima Robot Test Field in Minamisoma and Namie. The test field, where any entity can use an extensive site (approximately 50 hectares) for demonstration experiments of robots and drones, is the core facility of the Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework.
This shows that the areas of Fukushima hit by the nuclear disaster have already become safe enough for businesses to operate. Private-sector companies never launch operations in locations where their employees’ safety is not ensured, even when the government provides most favorable incentives.
Second, as another proof of the area’s safety, the current situation of the Fukushima No. 1 plant should be highlighted. Today, workers can enter 96 percent of the site without any special radiation protection gear because the air dose rate has significantly decreased compared with right after the accident.
In addition, through multi-layered measures (e.g., the construction of frozen soil walls to suppress the inflow of groundwater as well as the pumping up of groundwater), the generation of contaminated water has been significantly reduced and prevented from leaking into the ocean. As a result, the concentration of radioactive materials in the sea water surrounding the plant has declined from 10,000 becquerels per liter as of March 2011 to below the detection limit (less than 0.7 becquerel per liter) since 2016.
The successful management of contaminated water has resulted in the improved safety of Fukushima’s fishery products. No marine products caught off Fukushima has exceeded the standard limit (100 becquerel/kg) in monitoring surveys over the fiscal years from 2015 to 2017.
Third, evacuation orders were lifted in many parts of the 12 municipalities by April 2017, and areas still under such orders account for approximately 2.7 percent of the prefecture’s total space — compared with 8 percent when the zoning was set in 2013. In several municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted up relatively early (such as the city of Tamura and the village of Kawauchi), around 80 percent of local residents have returned to their homes. Even in the areas where evacuation orders remain in place, efforts to improve the living environment have begun to pave the way for return of residents at the earliest possible time.
Needless to say, many challenges remain toward the successful reconstruction of Fukushima. The decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 plant is expected to take 30 to 40 years. To carry out the decommissioning, the retrieval of the melted nuclear fuel debris will be a major hurdle, and efforts to probe the inside of the reactor structures just started in 2015. In several towns where the evacuation orders were lifted only last year, less than 10 percent of local residents have returned to their homes. The improvement of living environment is an urgent task for those towns in order to encourage more residents to return.
Despite these challenges, the safety of Fukushima both in terms of its food products and the living/working environment in most parts of the prefecture has been proven. It is a pity that several countries/regions still impose import restrictions on Japanese food products (including those from Fukushima) and some people still hesitate to visit Fukushima for tourism or business. I wish that more people will visit Fukushima to taste the delicious and world’s safest rice, peaches and fish, and that more companies would be interested in utilizing advanced facilities/infrastructure such as the Fukushima Robot Test Field, and invest in Fukushima by taking advantage of the most favorable incentives in this country. Peaches will be harvested every year, but subsidies and other incentives will not last forever — so, the fast-movers will get the advantages.
Hideyasu Tamura is director the Fukushima Reconstruction Promotion Group at the minister’s secretariat of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

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

Radiation monitors in Fukushima to be scrapped after malfunctioning to the tune of ¥500 million a year

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May 21, 2018
The thousands of radiation-monitoring posts installed in Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 nuclear crisis have malfunctioned nearly 4,000 times, sources said Sunday as the Nuclear Regulation Authority prepares to remove them after spending ¥500 million a year on repair costs.
“It’s all about the budget in the end. They can’t reuse the devices and there seem to be no concrete plans,” said Terumi Kataoka, a housewife in Aizuwakamatsu who formed a group of mothers to petition the NRA last month to keep the monitors in place. The NRA refused.
Around 3,000 of the monitors were installed in the wake of the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant following the March 2011 mega-quake and tsunami. The NRA, which operates the monitoring posts, plans to remove around 80 percent of them by the end of fiscal 2020 on the grounds that radiation levels in some areas have fallen and stabilized.
But the move is being viewed by some as an attempt to cut costs because the government is also looking to terminate its special budgetary account for rebuilding Tohoku by the same year.
Some municipalities and residents oppose scrapping the monitoring posts because they will no longer be able to gauge the risk to their health. They were installed in kindergartens, schools and other places to measure radiation in the air, according to the NRA.
But in the five years since the network was activated in fiscal 2013, the system has been plagued by problems including inaccurate readings and data-transmission failures. The tally of cases stands at 3,955.
Each time, the undisclosed makers of the device and security companies were called to fix it, costing the central government about ¥500 million a year.
In March, the NRA decided to remove about 2,400 of the monitoring posts from areas outside the 12 municipalities near the wrecked power plant and reuse some of them in the municipalities.
Local citizens’ groups have asked the NRA not to remove the monitoring posts until the plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., is decommissioned. That project is expected to take decades.
Kataoka asked the NRA to disclose information on its plans to reuse the devices, but she was told no official documents on the plans had been drafted yet.
On Monday, Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori urged the central government to investigate the cause of the monitor malfunctions and take measures to address the issue.
“The accuracy of the system is important,” he said.
Safecast, a global volunteer-based citizen science organization formed in 2011 to monitor radiation from the Fukushima disaster, said some devices had to be replaced because they didn’t work or were not made to the required specifications. Many were placed in locations that had notably lower ambient radiation than their surroundings, and so were not adequately representative of the situation, it added.
“Removing the units seems like a huge step away from transparency,” said Azby Brown, lead researcher at Safecast.
Brown said the public will certainly view the move with suspicion and increasingly mistrust the government, while the continuity of the database is lost.

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

Fukushima Quote of the Day

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“We achieved the sixth straight year of victory despite the severe situation due to rumors about radiation contamination”.

Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori, speaking at a ceremony after the National Research Institute of Brewing awarded Fukushima Prefecture the national sake title for an unprecedented sixth straight year.

May 23, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | 1 Comment

Japan still at a loss in how to deal with Fukushima’s radioactive water

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20 May, 2018
The number of storage tanks for contaminated water and other materials has continuously increased at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Japan, and space for still more tanks is approaching the limit.
It is seven years since an eathquake and tsunami overwhelmed Fukushima and a way to get rid of treated water, or tritium water, has not been decided yet.
The Government and Tokyo Electric Power Company will have to make a tough decision on disposal of tritium water down the road.
At the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, groundwater and other water enters the reactor buildings that suffered meltdowns, where the water becomes contaminated.
This produces about 160 tons of contaminated water per day. Purification devices remove many of the radioactive materials, but tritium – a radioactive isotope of hydrogen – cannot be removed for technical reasons. Thus, treated water that includes only tritium continues to increase.
Currently, the storage tanks have a capacity of about 1.13 million tons. About 1.07 million tons of that capacity is now in use, of which about 80 per cent is for such treated water.
Space for tanks, which has been made by razing forests and other means, amounts to about 230,000 sq m – equivalent to almost 32 football fields. There is almost no more available vacant space.
Efforts have been made to increase storage capacity by constructing bigger tanks when the time comes for replacing the current ones. But a senior official of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said, “Operation of tanks is close to its capacity.”
TEPCO plans to secure 1.37 million tons of storage capacity by the end of 2020, but it has not yet decided on a plan for after 2021. Akira Ono, chief decommissioning officer of TEPCO, said, “It is impossible to continue to store [treated water] forever.”
Tritium exists in nature, such as in seas and rivers, and is also included in tap water. The ordinary operations of nuclear plants produce tritium as well.
Nuclear plants, both in Japan and overseas, have so far diluted it and released it into the sea or elsewhere. An average of 380 trillion becquerels had been annually released into the sea across Japan during the five years before the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Bottles that contain the treated water continue to be brought one after another to a building for chemical analysis on the grounds of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The tritium concentration of the treated water is up to more than 1 million becquerels per liter, which is more than 10 times higher than the national standard for release into the sea – 60,000 becquerels per liter. But if diluted, it can be released into the sea.
The industry ministry’s working group compiled a report in June 2016 that said that the method of release into the sea is the cheapest and quickest among five ideas it examined. The ideas were:
– release into the sea;
– release by evaporation;
– release after electrolysis;
– burial underground;
– injection into geological layers.
The committee plans to hold a public hearing in Fukushima Prefecture and other places to hear citizens’ opinions on methods of disposal.

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

Radiation Exposure on Fukushima Highway 50: 0.35 to 6.44 μSv/h (average 2.53 μSv/h)

The figure below reflects the data measured by the Geiger counter named “Narar tree” on Google Maps when going from Minami Soma to Katsurao village for monitoring on 14th May.
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When going from Minami Soma to Katsurao village, it is the fastest way to go from Route 114 to Prefectural Route 50, but the prefectural highway No. 50 has just opened on April 19th.
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Especially for a while after showing the high air dose rate from Route 114 to Route 50. Although you can take the road, it is prohibited to get out of the car. Bicycles and motorbikes are prohibited from traffic.
In the data measured by the support team for nuclear disaster victims
“Prefectural highway No. 50: 0.35 to 6.44 μSv / h (average 2.53 μSv / h)”
We measured while traveling in a closed car. It is thought that the measures will be higher if measured outside of the car.
From Fukushima Daiichi Surrounding Environment Citizen Radiation Monitoring Project

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Prefecture radiation monitoring posts installed after 3/11 hit by glitches, radiation monitors in Fukushima broken, malfunctioned 4,000 times

Local citizens’ groups in Fukushima are requesting the authority not to remove radiation monitoring posts.
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A radiation monitoring device is installed at a park in the city of Fukushima.
This file photo dated February 24, 2017 shows a radiation monitoring device in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Some 3,000 radiation monitoring devices installed in Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 nuclear accident have been hit by glitches and other problems nearly 4,000 times, sources familiar with the matter said Sunday.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority, which operates the devices called monitoring posts, is planning to remove around 80 percent of them by the end of fiscal 2020 on grounds that radiation levels in some areas have fallen and steadied.
But the move can also be seen as an attempt to cut costs as the government is expected to terminate by the same year a special budget account for rebuilding northeastern Japan areas affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered the nuclear crisis.
Some local governments and residents have opposed the planned removal of monitoring posts, expressing concerns about their health.
Around 3,000 monitoring posts were installed in locations such as kindergartens and schools to measure radiation levels in the air, according to the NRA.
But during the five years since fully starting the operation of the devices in fiscal 2013, the monitoring system has been hit by problems, such as showing inaccurate readings and failing to transmit data, some 3,955 times.
The makers of the device and security system companies were called each time to fix the problems. Managing the monitoring posts has cost the central government about 500 million yen ($4.5 million) a year.
In March, the NRA decided to remove some 2,400 monitoring devices set in areas other than 12 municipalities near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and reuse some of them in the municipalities.
A citizens group in the city of Koriyama has requested the authority not to remove the monitoring posts until the decommissioning work is completed at the plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Storage capacity for radioactive water at Fukushima power plant nears limit

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May 19, 2018
The number of storage tanks for contaminated water and other materials has continuously increased at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and space for still more tanks is approaching the limit.
 
Behind this is the fact that a way to get rid of treated water, or tritium water, has not been decided yet. The government and TEPCO will have to make a tough decision on disposal of tritium water down the road.
Water volume increasing
At the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, groundwater and other water enters the reactor buildings that suffered meltdowns, where the water becomes contaminated. This produces about 160 tons of contaminated water per day. Purification devices remove many of the radioactive materials, but tritium — a radioactive isotope of hydrogen — cannot be removed for technical reasons. Thus, treated water that includes only tritium continues to increase.
 
Currently, the storage tanks have a capacity of about 1.13 million tons. About 1.07 million tons of that capacity is now in use, of which about 80 percent is for such treated water.
Space for tanks, which has been made by razing forests and other means, amounts to about 230,000 square meters — equivalent to almost 32 soccer fields. There is almost no more available vacant space.
Efforts have been made to increase storage capacity by constructing bigger tanks when the time comes for replacing the current ones. But a senior official of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said, “Operation of tanks is close to its capacity.”
TEPCO plans to secure 1.37 million tons of storage capacity by the end of 2020, but it has not yet decided on a plan for after 2021. Akira Ono, chief decommissioning officer of TEPCO, said, “It is impossible to continue to store [treated water] forever.”
Sea release rated highly
Tritium exists in nature, such as in seas and rivers, and is also included in tap water. The ordinary operations of nuclear plants produce tritium as well. Nuclear plants, both in Japan and overseas, have so far diluted it and released it into the sea or elsewhere. An average of 380 trillion becquerels had been annually released into the sea across Japan during the five years before the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Bottles that contain the treated water continue to be brought one after another to a building for chemical analysis on the grounds of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The tritium concentration of the treated water is up to more than 1 million becquerels per liter, which is more than 10 times higher than the national standard for release into the sea — 60,000 becquerels per liter. But if diluted, it can be released into the sea.
Regarding disposal methods for the treated water, the industry ministry’s working group compiled a report in June 2016 that said that the method of release into the sea is the cheapest and quickest among five ideas it examined. The ideas were (1) release into the sea, (2) release by evaporation, (3) release after electrolysis, (4) burial underground and (5) injection into geological layers.
After that, the industry ministry also established an expert committee to look into measures against harmful misinformation. Although a year and a half has passed since the first meeting of the committee, it has not yet reached a conclusion.
At the eighth meeting of the committee held on Friday, various opinions were expressed. One expert said, “While the fishery industry [in Fukushima and other prefectures] is in the process of revival, should we dispose of [the treated water] now?” The other said, “In order to advance the decommissioning, the number of tanks should be decreased at an early date.”
The committee plans to hold a public hearing in Fukushima Prefecture and other places to hear citizens’ opinions on methods of disposal.

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Hong Kong to reach decision by November on lifting Japanese food import ban over Fukushima disaster

News comes after city’s leader in March declined request to remove restrictions, citing public safety
Hong Kong is considering lifting a ban on Japanese food imports after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, with a decision to be reached by November when the city’s top official visits the country, the Post has learned.
In March, Japanese foreign minister Taro Kono met Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor in Hong Kong to request the removal of restrictions on food imports imposed after the 2011 accident. But Lam expressed reservations at the time, citing public safety.
The ban covers fresh produce and milk from Fukushima and four neighbouring prefectures, while fresh produce from the rest of the country is subjected to radiation tests by Hong Kong authorities.
An earthquake seven years ago led to a tsunami damaging nuclear reactors at a plant in Fukushima, sparking fears of radiation leaks.
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On Saturday, Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that Lam told visiting members of the Japan-Hong Kong Parliamentarian League earlier this month she was exploring measures to scrap food import restrictions.
It also stated that Lam hoped to make the decision by November 1, when she is expected to head to Tokyo for a Hong Kong-related forum and meet Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
A local government source confirmed to the Post that it was looking into the possibilities of lifting the ban, but he added these might not cover Fukushima imports.
He also said Lam’s meeting with Abe was not finalised.
The Kyodo report said Lam had explained to visiting league members the difficulties in lifting the ban on Fukushima’s food products, saying the public might not understand the decision because the prefecture was “too well known”.
The report also quoted a Japanese government source as saying: “We are negotiating with Hong Kong and trying our best to get the ban lifted.”
A spokesman for the Hong Kong Food and Health Bureau said on Saturday the authority had tested more than 490,000 samples of food imported from Japan since the restrictions were in place and none of the samples had radiation levels exceeding recommended limits.
He said the government had been maintaining communication with Japanese authorities and reviewing control measures on food imported from the country in light of current conditions.

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Total Denial of the Existing Fukushima Radioactive Contamination for Reconstruction’s Sake

 Fukushima tops national sake competition for record-setting sixth year
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Officials and brewers from Fukushima Prefecture, including Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori (second from right), hold bottles of sake during a photo session Thursday at the prefectural government building in Fukushima City. Fukushima sake brands won the largest number of prizes at the Annual Japan Sake Awards
FUKUSHIMA – Fukushima Prefecture is home to the largest number of award-winning sake brands for the sixth year in a row, marking a record in an annual competition, the National Research Institute of Brewing said Thursday.
Nineteen brands from the prefecture won the Gold Prize at the Annual Japan Sake Awards, matching Hyogo Prefecture for the year’s top spot. Judges, including technical officers from the National Tax Agency and master brewers, chose 232 brands as Gold Prize winners out of 850 brands submitted from across the country.
“We achieved the sixth straight year of victory despite a severe situation due to rumors (about radiation contamination),” Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori told a ceremony held in the prefectural government’s head office in the city of Fukushima, referring to the fallout from the March 2011 triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“I hope to promote the excellent sake produced in Fukushima both in and outside Japan,” he added.
Among Fukushima breweries, Kokken Brewery Co.’s Kokken won the top prize for the 11th year in a row. Higashinihonshuzo Productivity Improvement Cooperative’s Okunomatsu and Nagurayama Sake Brewery Co.’s Nagurayama won for the 10th year.
Aspiring brewer taps Fukushima town’s hops in bid to boost sagging farming industry
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Hop Japan Inc. President Makoto Honma (right) gives advice to a hop producer on how to plant a seedling in Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture.
“I can’t wait to drink delicious beer made from homegrown hops,” Makoto Honma, the president of Hop Japan Inc., told farmers with a smile in April when he visited them in Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture.
While his company was originally intended to focus on the production and sale of homegrown hops, Honma is now planning to build a craft beer brewery in the city amid the recent surge in popularity of locally produced beer and unique brewing methods.
Currently, most domestic hops are grown based on contracts with major breweries, but the production outlook is dim due to a dwindling number of farmers in Japan and falling consumption of big brand beers.
The 52-year-old also believes the realization of his dream would help solve problems related to the abandonment of local farms and revitalize rural tourism.
His brewery dream originates from his experience in the United States a decade ago.
While working as a spokesman for Tohoku Electric Power Co. in 2008, the Yamagata Prefecture native decided to take a two-year leave to study English in Seattle. During his stay, Honma developed a fascination with local craft beer and the brewery business.
In 2014, one of his friends asked him to help in negotiations with producers of Tohoku-grown hops, further piquing his interest in the industry.
Honma said the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011, and subsequent tsunami and nuclear crisis, had a major impact on his life.
“I want to make hop production sustainable in Tohoku. I would do whatever I can do as we can only live once,” he said, recalling his new outlook on life.
Honma decided to quit his job and launched Hop Japan in Sendai in 2015.
He later learned that Fukushima Bank offers financial aid for startups, leading him to move his company to the city of Fukushima in order to receive the funding.
Honma was later tapped by the Reconstruction Agency to grow hops in Tamura, where farmers sought alternative crops because of the falling production of tobacco leaves.
Tamura officials later asked him to build a brewery in addition to farming hops.
Prompted by the local passion, Honma decided to follow through with the plan, and is set to move to the city by the end of the year, taking further steps toward fulfilling his dream. “By promoting the brewery business, I’d like to realize a society where economic activities from producing and processing to selling, work together in unison,” he said.
This section features topics and issues from Fukushima covered by the Fukushima Minpo, the largest newspaper in the prefecture. The original article was published on May 1.

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

China opens the door a crack wider to Japanese rice imports

May 15, 2018
Beijing approves more processing facilities but many restrictions remain
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China allows imports of Japanese rice only from approved mills. There is only one such facility now, but Beijing will add two more to the list, potentially expanding Japan’s export market.
TOKYO — The Japanese ramen noodle chain, Ajisen Ramen, operates around 600 restaurants in China. But if you want Japanese rice with your noodles, you must pay about four times the price of a domestic variety. In China, Japanese rice is only for the deep-pocketed.
One reason Japanese rice is so expensive is that China imposes strict controls on imports of the food staple from Japan. Some of these restrictions were introduced after the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011.
But things may soon start to change. On May 9, the two counties struck a deal to increase the Japanese facilities that Beijing approves to process rice bound for its shores. China is a potentially a huge market for Japanese rice, but currently accounts for only 3% of overall exports. Hong Kong and Singapore, the two largest markets, take about 60% of the total.
Japan’s agriculture ministry sees China as vital to achieving its target of increasing annual exports of rice and related products to 100,000 tons. In 2017, Japan exported 11,800 tons of rice, of which only 298 tons went to China. According to one estimate, China consumes about 20 times more rice than Japan.
While the recent deal between the two countries is a step forward, Chinese restrictions and high costs remain major hurdles for Japanese exporters. Most experts also say Japan’s rice exports will remain vulnerable to any political tensions between the two countries.
To export white rice to China, brown rice must first be milled and fumigated at facilities that China has approved as safe. The new deal will expand the number of approved mills and fumigation facilities.
There is currently only one rice mill in Japan approved by China, operated by the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (Zen-Noh) in Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Tokyo.
The agreement adds two more mills. One is located in Ishikari, on the northern main island of Hokkaido, operated by Hokuren Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives. The other is in Nishinomiya in western Hyogo Prefecture, operated by Shinmei, the nation’s largest rice wholesaler.
A Shinmei executive welcomed the agreement, saying it would enable the company to “respond more swiftly to needs in China.”
In Beijing, Shinmei sells the popular Koshihikari rice variety, grown in central Toyama Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast, for about 2,600 yen ($23.70) per 2kg. That is nearly double the retail price in Japan, and 80% higher than the price of Koshihikari produced in northeastern Niigata Prefecture and sold in Hong Kong.
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A Japanese farmer in Ibaraki Prefecture tends to his crop using a rice planting machine
One reason Japanese rice is so expensive in China is because of transport costs and distributor margins. Reducing costs is a principal challenge for Japanese rice exporters.
A Shinmei executive said that in addition to an effective marketing campaign in China, increasing rice exports requires serious cost-cutting in Japan.
For its rice exports to China, Shinmei has had to outsource the milling process to Zen-Noh. That means the rice wholesaler has to send rice harvested all across the country to the Zen-Noh plant in Kanagawa.
Since Zen-Noh’s mill and warehouses are not always available, this arrangement requires the time-consuming process of coordinating schedules between the two sides in advance.
As for fumigation to control insects, Beijing has approved only two facilities in Japan, both in Kanagawa. Under the new deal, Japan’s agriculture ministry will register five more fumigation warehouses for exports to China, including facilities in Hokkaido and Hyogo.
The new agreement will allow Shinmei to polish rice at its own mills and to fumigate it at a warehouse in Kobe for shipment to China from Kobe’s port.
China’s restrictions on food imports from Japan following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster are also a barrier to Japanese rice exports. China bans all food from 10 Japanese prefectures, including Fukushima, Miyagi and Niigata.
The import curbs, which cover rice snacks, sake and other rice products, hit the rice industry hard, said Kosuke Kuji, president of Nanbu Bijin, a sake brewer based in Ninohe, Iwate Prefecture.
While Japan and China have set up a task force to discuss steps to ease the restrictions, there is not much reason for optimism about the outcome of the talks, an agriculture ministry official said.
The chairman of the Central Union of Agricultural Co-operatives, Toru Nakaya, is also cautious about the outlook for rice exports to China.
“We do not expect rapid progress, but we welcome the step forward,” Nakaya said of the recent agreement.

May 21, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

“When they called me a ‘germ’ I wanted to die”

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May 13, 2018
But Fukushima boy fought back, helping win a court victory that brought compensation for evacuees from the nuclear disaster
On October 25, 2017, 15-year old former Fukushima resident Natsuki Kusano (not his real name and he has asked not to be pictured) testified before the Tokyo District Court. He was among a number of Fukushima evacuees seeking compensation from Tepco and the Japanese government and asking the court to hold the company and the government responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, on March 16, 2018, the  Tokyo District Court found the central government and TEPCO responsible for contributing to the psychological stress suffered by 42 evacuees and ordered the defendants to pay a total of about 60 million yen ($566,000) in compensation.
The lawsuit was filed by 47 individuals in 17 households who fled from Fukushima Prefecture to Tokyo in the wake of the nuclear disaster. Significantly, 46 of those individuals evacuated voluntarily from areas where no evacuation order was issued by the government.
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Natsuki’s mother (left) cries with joy when she hears the Tokyo court verdict.
When the verdict came down, Natsuki was in Geneva with his mother and other women who were there to urge the Japanese government to abide by the UN recommendation of a 1 millisievert per year radiation exposure level. The Japanese authorities had raised this level to an unacceptable 20 msv per year in order to justify ordering people to return to affected areas or risk losing their compensation.
This was the sixth ruling so far among at least 30 similar law suits filed in Japan.  Four rulings have held the central government liable for the nuclear disaster and ordered it to pay compensation.
The plaintiffs believe that Natsuki’s declaration played an important role in the victory. Here is what he said:
Life in Iwaki
I was born in Iwaki city, Fukushima. I lived there with my parents and my little brother who is younger than me by 5 years.
While we were in Iwaki, we enjoyed our life season by season. When spring came, we appreciated cherry blossoms at “the Night Forest Park”, which was famous for its marvelous row of cherry trees that lots of people also know about well through the TV. In summer we went gathering shellfish. We had a fun time hunting wild mushrooms in fall and made a snowman in winter.
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A treasured life was lost after being forced to evacuate from Fukushima.
In a park or on my way home from school, I picked a lot of tsukushi (stalks of field-horsetail). My mother simmered them in soy and made tsukudani, which we loved very much. We lived in a big house with a large garden where we grew blueberries, shiitake mushrooms and cherry tomatoes. At school I collected insects and made mud pies with my friends.
Life after the Accident
But we have lost these happy days after March 11,  2011. The Night Forest Park is located in the “difficult-to-return zone”. We can’t make pies with mud fully contaminated by radioactivity.  However, the worst of it was that I was bullied at a school I transferred to.
Some put cruel notes on my work in an art class, others called me a germ. These distressing days continued a long time and I began to wish to die if possible. Once when I was around 10 years old, I wrote on a wishing card on the Star Festival, “I want to go to Heaven.”
Perhaps those who have no way of knowing anything about evacuees see us as “cheating people”. They might think that the evacuees from Fukushima got great compensation and live in shelters in Tokyo for free with no damage at home.
I believe that these misunderstandings would not have happened if the government and TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) had told the truth about the horrible reality of radioactive contamination and had provided accurate information to the public: they have hardly paid any compensation to the extramural evacuees. (Note: these are the evacuees who fled from areas outside of the official evacuation zone. Because they left without the evacuation order, the government considers them “voluntary” evacuees who are therefore not entitled to compensation. In its verdict, the Tokyo district court recognized the rights of these self-evacuees.)
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Contrary to propaganda, Fukushima evacuees were no freeloaders
I have not revealed that I am an evacuee at my junior high school which has no relations with the former school, and actually I have not been bullied ever since.
What I wish adults to bear the blame for
It is adults who made the nuclear power plants. It is adults who profited from them. It is adults who caused the nuclear accident. But it is us children who are bullied, live with a fear of becoming sick and are forced apart from families.
After the accident, no one can say that a nuclear plant is safe anymore.
In fact, no one can say to me, “Don’t worry, you’ll never be sick.”
Nevertheless, the government and TEPCO say “Rest easy, trust us. Your home town is safe now,” and make us return to the place which is not safe.
I suspect that the adults who forced us to go back to the dangerous zone will be dead and not here when we are grown-up and become sick. Isn’t that terrible? We have to live with contaminants all through our life which adults caused. I am afraid that it is too selfish of them to die without any liability. While they are alive in this world, I strongly request them to take responsibility for what they did and what they polluted in return for their profits at least.
And now, please, please don’t force us go back to the contaminated place. We never ever want to do so. The nuclear accidents changed all the lives of the evacuees as well as mine, my parents’ and my brother’s. Who wanted this? None of us. The evacuees all agree that the government and TEPCO should take responsibility.
Court of justice, please listen to us children and all the evacuees.

May 15, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima nuclear disaster from a foreign perspective: German film was shot inside exclusion zone

12 May 2018
Greetings from Fukushima, a movie on the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, was shot on location, with the director Doris Dörrie even carrying a Geiger counter to monitor radiation levels
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Rosalie Thomass (centre) in Greetings from Fukushima
 
There have been numerous responses by Japanese artists and filmmakers to the earthquake that hit Japan in 2011 and the subsequent tsunami. By contrast, Greetings from Fukushima, a 2016 feature by German director Doris Dörrie, gives a foreigner’s perspective on the disaster and its aftermath.
The film is also known as Fukushima, Mon Amour, a reference to Alain Resnais’ 1959 classic Hiroshima, Mon Amour, which was set amid the devastation of the atomic bomb. Dörrie’s film has a more straightforward structure than Resnais’ elliptical work.
In fact, Dörrie does not focus on the wider impact of the tsunami, instead limiting the story to a relationship between a troubled German girl and a grumpy Japanese woman, both of whom are trying to come to terms with events from their pasts. As Dörrie reveals more about her protagonists, the Fukushima tragedy plays into the main theme of overcoming grief to build a better future.
Marie (Rosalie Thomass) is a German street theatre artist who travels to Fukushima to entertain a small community of elderly people who have returned to a safe part of the exclusion zone around the damaged nuclear reactor. The job doesn’t work out but she strikes up an unlikely friendship with the elderly Satomi (prolific actress Kaori Momoi), who’s a geisha. Satomi moves back into her old house, which is still within the exclusion zone, and Marie reluctantly starts to visit her. By roundabout methods, the two women assuage each other’s grief.
Dörrie is no stranger to Japan, having travelled extensively around the country, and made a few films there, including 2008’s Cherry Blossoms, which also viewed the nation from a German perspective. She made a bold decision to shoot Greetings from Fukushima on location within the exclusion zone – in black-and-white – and even carried a Geiger counter to monitor radiation levels.
“We lived there. We shot there. We never left the zone through the entire shoot. Everything [you see in the film] is the real thing,” Dörrie told the Post in an interview in 2016. “Our main location is 11km away from the nuclear power plant.”
 
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Thomass and Kaori Momoi (right) in Greetings from Fukushima.
 
Greetings from Fukushima is a cool-head­ed, quietly moving drama about personal loss and recovery. Sensibly choosing to depict the story through the eyes of a young German visitor, rather than a Japanese protagonist, the film avoids making any cultural errors, although its decision to focus on a geisha, rather than someone less traditional, does tend to reinforce the stereotypical view of Japanese women.
 

May 15, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Remediating Fukushima—“When everything goes to hell, you go back to basics”

5/11/2018
It may take 40 years for the site to appear like “a normal reactor at the end of its life.”
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A schematic of the Fukushima nuclear power plant hints at the complexity of decontamination and decommissioning operations.
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TEPCO workers survey operations at reactor buildings.
Seven years on from the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has come a long way from the state it was reduced to. Once front and center in the global media as a catastrophe on par with Chernobyl, the plant stands today as the site of one of the world’s most complex and expensive engineering projects.
Beyond the earthquake itself, a well understood series of events and external factors contributed to the meltdown of three of Fukushima’s six reactors, an incident that has been characterized by nuclear authorities as the world’s second worst nuclear power accident only after Chernobyl. It’s a label that warrants context, given the scale,
complexity, and expense of the decontamination and decommissioning of the plant.
How does a plant and its engineers move on from such devastation? The recovery initiatives have faced major challenges, constantly being confronted by issues involving radioactive contamination of everything from dust to groundwater. And those smaller issues ultimately complicate the remediation effort’s long-term goal: to locate and remove the nuclear fuel that was in the reactors.
A sense of scale
Jonathan Cobb, spokesperson for the World Nuclear Association, spoke with Ars about the scale of Fukushima, explaining that radioactive releases in Japan were much smaller than at Chernobyl, and the accident resulted in no loss of life from radiation: “Of course, this doesn’t take away from the enormous task currently being faced at Fukushima.”
 
The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) reported in May 2013 that radiation exposure following the Fukushima accident didn’t cause any immediate health effects and that future health effects attributable to the accident among either the general public or the vast majority of workers are unlikely. A 2017 paper from UNSCEAR reports that these conclusions remain valid in light of continued research since the incident.
Even the most at-risk citizens, those living in Fukushima prefecture, are only expected to be exposed to around 10mSv as a result of the accident over their lifetimes. “For reference, the global average natural background radiation tends to be around 2.4mSv/year, but even 20mSv/year isn’t exceptional,” said Cobb.
Still, the accident was rated a 7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES), which is the highest rating possible, and designates it a Major Accident due to high radioactive releases. Estimates vary slightly, but Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission report puts total releases at 570 petabecquerels (PBq) iodine-131 equivalent. (For comparison, Chernobyl released 5,200PBq iodine-131 equivalent.)
But the severity of the accident is probably most keenly felt in the scale of the cleanup. The incident has necessitated the ongoing cleanup and decommissioning of the plant—something that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant’s owner and operator, is responsible for. Even though the plant is seven years into the cleanup and has accomplished a great deal, we won’t see a conclusion for decades yet.
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Damage to reactor Units 1-4 in the aftermath of the March 2011 earthquake.
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In addition to damage to infrastructure and buildings, a large amount of wreckage was left strewn around the plant complex.
 
 
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Remotely operated machines were involved in clean-up of the most contaminated areas.
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A look inside the Primary Containment Vessel (PCV) of Unit 2.
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A composite image of photographs taken inside the Primary Containment Vessel (PCV) of Unit 2.
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A look at debris in the spent fuel pool of Unit 3.
Meltdowns and immediate priorities
Remarkably, seismic shocks of the magnitude 9 earthquake didn’t cause any significant damage to the earthquake-proofed reactors; rather, the tsunami knocked out power that precipitated reactor meltdowns in Units 1, 2, and 3. Subsequent explosions caused by hydrogen buildup (from zirconium cladding of fuel assemblies melting and oxidizing) in Units 1, 3, and 4 then expelled radioactive contamination, most of which fell within the confines of the plant.
Cobb explained that in the aftermath of this, the ongoing risk posed by radionuclides (notably, iodine-131 and cesium isotopes 134 and 137) depended on their half-lives. Iodine-131, with a half-life of just eight days, posed virtually no threat at all after just several months. It has been cesium-134, with a two-year half-life, and cesium-137, with a 30-year half-life, that have been the major focus of decontamination efforts. “Radioactive decay means that we’ve seen a reduction in contamination simply through time passing; at the plant, however, my expectation is that the majority of reduction has been due to efforts of TEPCO. Conditions have improved markedly and a sense of normalcy has returned.”
It’s useful to take stock of what TEPCO had to contend with from the outset. Lake Barrett, a veteran of the US nuclear energy industry who spent several years at the helm of decommissioning work at Three Mile Island reactor 2, is currently an independent special advisor to the Japanese Government and TEPCO board of directors. He told Ars, “When everything goes to hell on you, you go back to basics. You’re concerned with accident response and immediate recovery of the situation. Over the longer timeframe, the decontamination & decommissioning (D&D) focus shifts to a more deliberate approach to major technical challenges.”
Barrett explained that reactor stabilization at Fukushima—an imperative of the immediate recovery—has long since been achieved. Temperatures within the Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPVs) and Primary Containment Vessels (PCVs) of Units 1-3 are stable at between 15 to 30ºC, and there have been no significant changes in airborne radioactive materials released from reactor buildings. This qualifies as a ‘comprehensive cold shutdown’ condition.
Barrett explained how the issue of cooling is mostly non-existent at this point: “The three melted reactor cores emit less heat than a small car. Decay heat was a huge issue in the first weeks, but it’s no longer an issue. And while TEPCO still injects water onto the cores, this is more for dust suppression than anything else.”
With the reactors stable, early phases of TEPCO’s work simply involved debris clearing and restorative efforts throughout buildings and across the 3.5 square miles of the plant—both having been ravaged by the earthquake and tsunami. In the most contaminated places, remotely operated machines undertook most of the work. To reduce environmental contamination, they also removed top soils and vegetation, deforested the site, and then applied a polymer resin and concrete across much of the plant complex. This has locked contaminated material in place and limited the flow of groundwater through the site.
Other work has been more substantial. Units 1, 3 and 4 were blown apart and have had to be reinforced and encased, both for safety and to prevent spread of radioactive material. Although Unit 2 retained its roof, TEPCO decided to dismantle the upper building nonetheless, as it will facilitate removal of fuel from the reactor.
At the peak of these operations, some 7,450 persons worked at Fukushima. As operations have evolved, the workforce has declined to a not inconsiderable 5,000 daily personnel. With such levels of permanent staffing, it’s little wonder that a new rest-house, cafeteria, shops, and office building have all been built.
The efforts have, in a practical sense, meant that the majority of the site has transitioned to a stable, relatively risk-free environment. Describing the decommissioning as an “enormous challenge never before undertaken by humanity,” Seto Kohta of TEPCO told Ars: “We have overcome the state of chaos that ensued after the accident and have succeeded in reducing site dose levels to an average of less than 5μSv/h, with the exception of the vicinity of Units 1-4.” (Global background levels are <0.5µSv/h.)
TEPCO reports that the additional effective dose (i.e. additional to natural background radiation) at the plant’s boundary has declined to the target value of less than 1mSv/y.
This is not to say the plant is without signs of past problems—far from it. Felled trees sit waiting for incineration; huge mounds of soil lie under tarps; buildings retain marks of past trauma; and with environmental dosage a perennial concern, close to a hundred dose-rate monitors are positioned around the site.
Kohta also noted that while “95 percent of the site no longer requires the donning of full- or half-face masks or coveralls,” some level of protection is still required for working around the plant according to three levels of contamination. The vast majority of the plant grounds are in what’s termed Zone G, which requires just generic coveralls and disposable medical masks. Zone Y provides a perimeter around the Units 1-4 and necessitates heavier-duty coveralls and either full- or half-face masks. And lastly there is Zone R, closer to and including the reactor buildings, requiring double-layered coveralls and full-face masks.
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A steel structure is built around Unit 1 as part of reconstruction works.
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An outer shell is constructed around Unit 1.
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Reconstruction work at Unit 4.
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A labyrinth of subterranean tunnels and access points lie around reactor buildings.
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The Little Sunfish submersible used for investigations at Unit 3.
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A TEPCO schematic illustrates measures taken to manage groundwater.
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An impermeable wall constructed of interlocking columns extends along the seafront to restrict contaminated water reaching the sea.

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Above ground apparatus of the frozen wall which descends 30m and surrounds Units 1-4.

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A visitor to the plant performs a low-tech check on the frozen wall.
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The groundwater bypass pump works to reduce the amount of water leaking into the reactor buildings.
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Temporary storage tanks for water pumped up via the groundwater bypass.
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Flanged tanks of the sort used for indefinite storage of tritium-laced water arrive at the docks of Fukushima nuclear power plant.
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Visitors from IAEA visit the ALPS water treatment facility where radionuclides are removed from contaminated water.
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Defueling of the spent fuel pool at Unit 4 was performed in a conventional manner; it won’t be so easy at other Units where radiation and damage is more severe.
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The giant fuel handling machine (background) and fuel handling crane (foreground) arrive for installation at Unit 3.
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The final segment of the domed containment roof is lifted into place at Unit 3.
 
Reactor investigations
While they’re now stable in terms of nuclear activity, Units 1-3 remain highly contaminated. As such, while the structural integrity of these buildings has been restored, relatively little work has been undertaken within them. (One notable exception is removal of contaminated water from condensers, completed last year.)
Over recent years, a variety of remotely operated devices and imaging technologies have performed investigations of these units. The intention has been to gather information on internal physical and radiological conditions of the PCVs—the heavily reinforced bell-shaped structures that host reactors. TEPCO wants, and needs, to understand what has happened inside. Some things are known: once melted, fuel mixed with structural materials including steel and concrete to form something known as corium. But precisely where the corium ended up, how much there is, and whether it’s submerged are just some of the questions in play.
The International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning (IRID), which was established in April 2013 to guide R&D of technologies required for reactor defueling and decommissioning, is supporting TEPCO in seeking answers. IRID is composed of multiple stakeholders, including Japanese utilities and the major nuclear vendors Hitachi, Mitsubishi, and Toshiba.
Naoaki Okuzumi, senior manager at IRID, described for Ars the investigative approaches and technologies. Early work utilized Muon tomography, which Okuzumi described as “a kind of standard practice applied to each unit… to locate high density material (fuel) within PCVs.” It yielded low-resolution data on the approximate location of corium. But with pixels representing 25cm-square cross-sections, the information has been useful only in so far as validating computational models and guiding subsequent robotic investigations.
The latter task hasn’t been easy. In addition to the challenge of navigating the dark, cramped labyrinths of tangled wreckage left behind, TEPCO has had to contend with radioactivity—the high levels act something like noise in electronic circuits. The wreckage has made access a challenge, too, although varying points of ingress have been established for each PCV.
The circumstances mean that TEPCO hasn’t been able to simply purchase an off-the-shelf kit for these investigations. ”An adaptive approach is required because the situation of each PCV is different… there is no standard with investigating the PCVs by using robots,” said Okuzumi, describing an approach that has translated into devices being specially developed and built in response to conditions of each PCV.
But they’re making progress. As recently as January 2018, corium was identified for the first time inside Unit 2 using an enhanced 13m-long telescopic probe and a revised approach designed to overcome problems encountered during investigations in 2017. The situation was hardly easier at Unit 3, where the PCV is flooded to a depth of around 6.5m. Here, it took a remotely operated, radiation-shielded submersible called ‘Little Sunfish’ to locate corium in July 2017.
Altogether the investigations—featuring a litany of robotic devices—have revealed that little fuel remains in any of the cores of Units 1-3. In Unit 2, a large amount of corium is present at the bottom of the RPV; in Units 1 and 3, almost all fuel appears to have melted through the RPVs entirely and into the concrete floor of PCVs beneath. The information is crucial, as we’ll come to see, for future deconstruction work at the reactors, but it continues to be extended as investigations continue.
 
PCV investigations at Unit 2
 
Pumps, ice-walls, and storage: Water management
One of TEPCO’s major concerns has been groundwater, which runs down from mountains west of the plant and can become contaminated by the low-lying reactors before flowing out to sea. Groundwater management has subsequently become one of TEPCO’s greatest efforts, as well as one of the most challenging of the tasks it has faced.
First off, it ought to be noted that marine environment monitoring for radionuclide concentrations near the plant and as far away as Tokyo indicate that levels are well within WHO standards. “The levels of radioactivity that have been found and can be attributed to Fukushima are absolutely dwarfed by natural levels of radioactivity in the water, or even levels of cesium that came from historic nuclear weapons testing,” noted Cobb.
Still, the effort to limit further contamination—seemingly driven as much by societal-political dynamics as safety considerations—remains paramount. To this end, measures have been deployed along three principles: remove sources of contamination, isolate water from contamination, and prevent leakage of contaminated water.
Some measures have been simple enough in design. Installation of an impermeable, underground wall along the sea front, completed in October 2015, is intended to keep groundwater that passes Units 1-4 from reaching the sea. Waterproofing pavement against rainwater is another widely applied step.
After this, solutions become more sophisticated. A groundwater bypass that intercepts and pumps up water before it reaches the reactors is a key development. This water is inspected for contamination before being discharged into the sea. By November 2017, more than 337,000 cubic meters of water had been released to the ocean in this way; this bypass reduced the amount flowing into the building basements by up to 100 tons per day and successfully reduced groundwater levels around the reactor buildings.
To further limit groundwater flow into reactors buildings, TEPCO actually froze the ground around them, creating a kind of frozen wall down to a depth of about 30 meters. Approximately 1,500 meters long, the wall is kept frozen by pipes filled with an aqueous solution of calcium chloride cooled to -30ºC. Freezing commenced in March 2016 and is now “99 percent complete,” according to Kohta.
On either side of the frozen wall, sub-drains and groundwater drains have been installed; they pump water up to keep it from reactor buildings and reaching the sea, respectively. Pumped water is purified at a purpose-built treatment facility. Barrett commented: “With water released from sub-drains and the bypass, there’s an agreement with the fishing industry that releases must be below 1,500 becquerels per liter. Negotiations took several years to agree that level was ‘clean’.”
All this has come at enormous expense, but according to TEPCO, it has been successful. Before any measures were implemented, inflow was around 400m3/day, Kohta told Ars. “The average amount of water flowing into [Units 1-4] for the period from December 2015 to February 2018, before the closure of the land-side impermeable wall, was 190m3/day, and it has decreased to 90m3/day after the closure for December 2017 to February 2018.”
At face value, it’s a sound outcome. As Kohta noted, the amount of contaminated water now being generated—a mix of groundwater, rainwater and water pumped into reactors for cooling—has decreased from about 520m3/day to about 140m3/day between last December and February. Even so, treating that amount of contaminated water is proving taxing.
Water treatment is happening at large-scale facilities that have been built onsite, including a multi-nuclide removal facility. Here, a so-called Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) reduces concentrations of cesium isotopes, strontium, and other radionuclides to below legal limits for release. But one radionuclide remains: tritium.
Cobb explained: “The difficulty is that tritium is basically an isotope chemically identical to hydrogen, so it’s impractical to remove. Levels of tritium in that water are low, but nevertheless there’s great sensitivity to the suggestion that it be discharged.”
Without a feasible alternative for cleaning up the tritium, the (only) solution for ALPS-treated water has been storage. Well over a thousand tanks, each holding 1,200 cubic meters, now store tritium-laced water at the south end of the plant. Several years ago, these tanks hit the news because several were found to be leaking. Barrett acknowledged it as an unfortunate and avoidable incident resulting from use of flange-tanks. TEPCO has since moved to more sturdy welded-joint water storage tanks.
The ultimate plan for stored water is unknown; tritium has a half life of a dozen years, so physics won’t clean up the water for us. Some kind of controlled, monitored discharge—the likes of which is typical within the nuclear industry—is possible, according to Barrett.
Indeed, the International Atomic Energy Agency has endorsed such a plan, which was proposed by the Atomic Energy Society of Japan in 2013. The plan involved diluting tritiated water with seawater before releasing it at the legal discharge concentration of 0.06MBq/L and monitoring to ensure that normal background tritium levels of 10Bq/L aren’t exceeded.
Discussions at both national and international levels would need to come first. Part of the difficulty here harkens back to societal dynamics surrounding risk and contamination: “In nuclear there is no such thing as absolute zero—sensitivity goes down to the atom. This makes discussion about decontamination or levels of acceptable contamination difficult. There’s tritium in that water that’s traceable to the accident; it’s entirely safe, but for the time being, with the event still in recent memory, it’s not acceptable,” observed Barrett.
Toward permanent solutions
In some sense, much of the restoration of order at Fukushima has been superficial—necessary but concerned with handling consequences more than root causes (see, TEPCO interactive timeline). Ultimately, Fukushima’s reactors must be decommissioned.
Broadly, this work involves three phases: removing used fuel assemblies that are stored within ten-meter-deep spent fuel pools of each reactor building, management of melted-down reactors and removal of corium debris, and deconstruction of reactor buildings and the greater plant.
At Unit 4, spent fuel removal operations took around 13 months and concluded in December 2014. “When we began we didn’t know if fuel assemblies or racks were distorted. It turned out they weren’t, and we were able to remove all fuel conventionally without any issues at all. Actually, it went exceedingly well, concluding ahead of schedule and under cost,” recalled Barrett. In all, 1,533 fuel assemblies were removed and transferred to a common spent fuel pool onsite.
 
Spent fuel removal at Unit 4 was accomplished with conventional techniques.
 
Defueling of pools at Units 1 through 3, which suffered meltdowns, isn’t going to be as straightforward. For one, there’s some expectation of debris and circumstances requiring extraordinary removal procedures. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we find some structurally bent fuel assemblies caused by large pieces of concrete or steel,” said Barrett.
Additionally, although radiation in Unit 3 has been reduced sufficiently to allow rotating shifts of workers to install defueling equipment, the already painstaking operations will have to be conducted remotely. The same is likely true for Units 1 and 2.
At Unit 3, the next in line for defueling, preparation is already well underway. In addition to decontamination and installation of shielding plates, TEPCO has removed the original fuel handling crane, which had fallen into the pool seven years ago, and installed a new fuel handling crane and machine. An indication of extraordinary containment methods being used, workers have built a domed containment roof at Unit 3. TEPCO’s Kohta told Ars, “Removal of spent fuel [at Unit 3] is scheduled to begin from around the middle of 2018;” meanwhile, Unit 1 is also in a preparatory stage and Unit 2 will be handled last.
Further down the line still, corium will have to be removed from melted-down reactors. It’s a daunting task, the likes of which has never been undertaken before. The reactors held varying, but known, amounts of uranium oxide fuel, about 150 tonnes each. But how much extra mass the fuel collected as it melted through reactor vessels is uncertain.
“At TMI there was exactly 93 tonnes in the reactor. Once we were done digging out fuel debris, we’d removed 130 tonnes. At Fukushima, I expect maybe a factor of five to ten more mass in core debris. It’s an ugly, ugly mess underneath the PCVs,” suggested Barrett.
High-powered lasers, drills and core boring technologies for cutting, and strong robotic arms for grappling and removing corium are already under development, according to IRID, but precise methodologies remain undecided.
The original plan, Barrett explained, was to flood PCVs and work underwater—a conventional nuclear operations technique that affords protection from contamination. But this requires water-tight PCVs, something that cannot be practically achieved at Fukushima. Discussions also continue over whether a side or top-down entry would be best. “Altogether, we don’t have enough physical data about PCVs to commit to a final decision,” said Barrett, referring back to the need for continued PCV investigations. According to Kohta, fuel debris removal isn’t scheduled to commence before the end of 2021.
Without doubt, the road ahead of TEPCO is a long one, beset with challenges greater than those faced to date. The Mid- and Long-Term Roadmap—the Japanese state-curated document outlining the decommissioning of Fukushima—envisions operations stretching a full 30-40 years into the future. Some have suggested it’s an optimistic target, others say that the plan lacks details on key, long-term issues such as permanent solid-waste storage beyond the onsite repository currently being employed. Certainly it is the case that key decisions remain.
For his part, Barrett concluded: “I believe that the 40-year timeframe is reasonable for a scientifically based decommissioning; that’s to say, to reach a point similar to that of a normal reactor at the end of its life. That’s not reaching the point of a green field where you’d want to put a children’s school. Could it be a brown-field, industrial site, though? Yes it could. That’s a rational, reasonable end point.”
By all accounts, it is hard to gauge the costs for the Fukushima clean-up. Kohta told Ars that works completed to date have cost about 500.2 billion yen, or $4.7 billion—a tremendous sum, to be sure, but fractional compared to the estimate of 8 trillion yen ($74.6 billion) approved by the Japanese state last May for the complete decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi.
 

May 12, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment