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Tepco to pursue its radioactive water sea release plan

Tepco to pursue its radioactive water sea release plan and “Tepco also plans to use social media to counter rumors that exposure to radiation from the released water is harmful.”




Plan to dispose of Fukushima wastewater drafted

March 24, 2020

NHK has learned that Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, has drafted a plan for disposing of radioactive wastewater stored at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Water used to cool molten nuclear fuel from the 2011 accident is treated to remove most radioactive material. But tritium and other substances remain in the water, a huge amount of which is stored in about 1,000 large tanks.

A government panel last month compiled a report that says releasing diluted radioactive wastewater into the sea or air are realistic options.

TEPCO’s plan for doing so would involve diluting the wastewater with seawater, aiming for a tritium level of one-fortieth that allowed by national regulation.

The firm would gradually release the diluted water over about 30 years, taking into consideration the amount of similar water released at other nuclear plants.

TEPCO would also test treating the wastewater again to further remove other radioactive materials.

The utility is to explain the plan to local officials and residents in Fukushima Prefecture. People in the local fishery and tourism industries oppose releasing the water into the ocean.



n-tepco-a-20200326-870x497Tanks storing contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in February


Tepco may take 30 years to release Fukushima No. 1 radioactive water

March 25, 2020

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said Tuesday it may spend up to 20 to 30 years releasing contaminated water into the surrounding environment from its disaster-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The possible time span was mentioned in draft plans Tepco drew up in line with a government panel’s report in February, calling the release of the water into the ocean or the air in the form of vapor a “realistic option.”

The company currently stores roughly 119 tons of water that still contains tritium and other radioactive substances after passing through a treatment process at the nuclear plant, which suffered a triple meltdown in March 2011 caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami. The amount of contaminated water stored at the facility is still increasing.

According to the draft plans, Tepco will first conduct secondary treatment work to reduce the amount of radioactive substances in the water other than tritium — which cannot be removed by existing systems — to levels below national standards.

Following the treatment, the water will be released into the ocean, after being diluted with seawater to lower the radiation level to 1,500 becquerels per liter, or emitted into the air from a tall exhaust stack after being vaporized.

Tepco also plans to use social media to counter rumors that exposure to radiation from the released water is harmful.


March 27, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Dramatizing the reality of a nuclear meltdown

‹g“c¹˜YŠ’·We can be heroes: “Fukushima 50” offers a dramatic account of real-life on-site manager Masao yoshida (pictured here with reporters in 2011) and his team as they fought to prevent the crippled nuclear plant from melting down in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.


March 21, 2020

As with many feature films based on real-life incidents, “Fukushima 50,” which opened nationwide March 6 and depicts the actions of the men who struggled to contain the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant following the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011, is a blend of factual exposition and dramatic enhancement. Stories require conflict to keep them interesting, usually with a hero fighting an adversary. In “Fukushima 50,” the hero is plant manager Masao Yoshida (Ken Watanabe), who makes life-and-death decisions in resistance against higher-ups rendered as incompetents.

One of these “villains,” as pointed out by writer and editor Yusuke Nakagawa in the March 6 online edition of Gendai Business, is Naoto Kan, who was the prime minister at the time of the disaster. In the movie, Kan’s name is never uttered and, as Nakagawa points out, the actor who plays him, Shiro Sano, doesn’t look like him, but that’s not what concerns Nakagawa. Sano portrays Kan as a puddle of hysteria whose decisions threaten lives because they make Yoshida’s job more difficult. Kan has an infamous temper and Nakagawa acknowledges that he made mistakes during the course of the emergency, but the movie fails to detail the reasons for his actions. Turning him into a babbling fool makes the filmmakers’ job easier, which is to show Yoshida as a towering figure of courage and resourcefulness in the face of a crisis that could have ended in the destruction of eastern Japan.

Nakagawa admits to having a horse in this race, as he helped Kan write his own account of what went down at the Prime Minister’s Office during those fateful days, and he concurs with the conclusion that Yoshida and the men who worked at the plant are heroes and that Yoshida’s employer, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (Tepco), was the main problem. However, he can’t help but think that the film’s pillorying of Kan was due to more than dramatic license. There was something political about it. Kan has since become a pariah to many people. As much as any other matter, it was Kan’s handling of the Fukushima disaster that led to the destruction of his party. The Democratic Party of Japan no longer exists.

Nevertheless, Kan has no problem with the portrayal, according to the film’s director, Setsuro Wakamatsu, who said so during a news conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan following a press screening of “Fukushima 50” on March 4. Kan’s magnanimity is noble, perhaps, but it should be noted that he has his own film to promote, or, at least, a film that shows him in a more sympathetic light. “The Seal of the Sun,” originally released in 2016, had a much smaller budget than “Fukushima 50” and no marquee stars. It looks at the disaster from the vantage point of the Prime Minister’s Office, focusing on Tepco’s lack of cooperation with the government, and while it doesn’t contradict the Yoshida hero narrative, it does complicate it with points that “Fukushima 50” downplays or doesn’t even bring up.

Kan has made himself available to discuss those points at public screenings of “The Seal of the Sun.” Such local events aren’t going to counteract the message of “Fukushima 50,” and they aren’t meant to, but the narrative distinctions do show how uneven the coverage of the Fukushima disaster has been. The most glaring example of this unevenness is a 2014 story by the Asahi Shimbun’s special investigative team based on an interview that Yoshida gave to the government. The report undermined the Fukushima hero narrative by saying that 90 percent of the plant workers fled the facility in fear for their lives. The Asahi Shimbun management, already smarting from other recent scandals, eventually retracted the piece after receiving complaints saying the article implied the workers were cowards, effectively ending the special investigative team in the process. Ryusho Kadota, the journalist who wrote the book that was the basis for the “Fukushima 50” script, wrote another book refuting the Asahi Shimbun’s coverage, though, as former New York Times Tokyo bureau chief Martin Fackler points out in an article he wrote for the Asia-Pacific Journal, there was nothing essentially untrue in the Asahi Shimbun story. In fact, Tepco admitted that about 650 workers had fled, but said many were not regular company employees. The legendary “Fukushima 50” (in reality, they numbered 69), a term coined by foreign media, remained at the plant.

The argument about what really happened isn’t over facts. It’s over how those facts are interpreted. In “Fukushima 50,” Kan’s desperation is presented as a danger to the country. In “The Seal of the Sun,” it shows how hard he is trying to grasp the actual situation on the ground. Before the Yoshida report in 2014, the Asahi Shimbun’s editorial slant was generally critical of nuclear power. Afterward, it became neutral.

Nakagawa thinks these differences are politically influenced. Almost all of Japan’s nuclear power capacity has been off-line since the Fukushima incident, a situation the present government wants to reverse but finds difficult to do because of public resistance. In that sense, the story of the men who saved Japan from nuclear catastrophe can be exploited by both sides. Anti-nuclear forces say it proves how dangerous nuclear power is, while pro-nuclear forces say that it shows how Japanese ingenuity and dedication prevails.

However, even that distinction is subject to dispute. Retired Fukui District Court Chief Justice Hideaki Higuchi was one of the few judges to find in favor of plaintiffs suing to stop resumption of nuclear power plants. Higuchi reached these decisions after carefully studying the Fukushima No. 1 disaster and concluding that it was averted as much by serendipity as by Yoshida’s and the Fukushima 50’s bravery. These “miracles,” which had to do with the availability of cooling water and quake-related damage to the reactor housing, have been openly discussed, but they aren’t emphasized as much because it takes something away from the hero tale. As a judge, Higuchi had to pay closer attention to all the facts than a feature film script writer does.

March 27, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Japan’s 3/11 Recovery Stalled by Fukushima Decommissioning Delays


March 13, 2020

Delays in dismantling the disaster-stricken nuclear power complex cast doubt on whether recovery goals will move forward according to schedule.

Nine years after a quake-triggered tsunami sparked a triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, decontamination and decommissioning continues in northeastern Japan. The ultimate goal of removing all debris is expected to take anywhere between 30 to 40 years, but progress has been slower than originally planned. So far just one-fourth of decommission work has been completed, drawing attention to work that has not yet begun.

The Fukushima decommissioning and decontamination draft has been amended five times. While changes published in December offered a specific time frame for the first time, the latest timetable for debris removal has been pushed back five years, citing the need for additional safety precautions. Previously, the process of removing spent fuel was scheduled from 2021 to 2024. But work on reactor two looks more likely to start in 2025 and last until 2027, followed by reactor one work commencing sometime between March 2028 and March 2029.

The powerful tsunami, which reached over 40 meters in some areas, took the lives of 22,167 people. At the same time, the loss of power to the entire Fukushima Daiichi plant caused reactors one, two, and three to overheat, sparking hydrogen explosions and the release of radioactive contaminants. This forced 160,000 survivors to evacuate. Despite evacuation orders being lifted in some of the “difficult to return” areas, many still opt to stay away from their homes nine years later.

The next decommissioning stage sets out the removal of 4,471 spent fuel rods inside the cooling pools of reactors one to six. But the biggest obstacle is finding a way to locate and remove the molten nuclear fuel. With frequent delays, evacuees face a constant sense of uncertainty, tangled in a waiting game to see whether decommissioning work can be completed in 30 years.

Reactor two is seen as the safest and easiest option to start full-scale debris removal since it suffered the least structural damage with only “some fuel” melting through the pressure vessel and accumulating at the bottom of the containment vessel.  But with no established method for debris retrieval, attempts to survey the location and distribution of molten nuclear fuel among the rubble requires a lengthy trial and error process. In mid-February 2019 an attempt to probe and collect samples from reactor two failed to find and lift the main nuclear fuel debris, instead lifting portions of pebble-like sediment with the lowest radiation readings from the surface. At this stage there is no way for TEPCO, the company that owns the Fukushima Daiichi plant, to determine where fuel debris lies among the rest of the metal debris. It’s estimated that reactor two alone contains 237 metric tons of debris while reactors one and three contain a combined 880 tons. The complexity of debris removal requires developing specialized technology that does not yet exist.

Also plaguing decommissioning efforts is the battle over how to safely dispose of 1 million tons of contaminated water that were used to cool nuclear fuel. Currently, huge tanks on the premises store the polluted runoff, which could fill 400 Olympic swimming pools, but space is expected to run out by mid-2022.

On average 170 tons of contaminated water is produced to cool fuel in nuclear reactors. Without constant cooling, nuclear fuel risks melting from its own heat in a process called decay heat. With two years needed to prepare a disposal method, time is running out for a final decision.

Government proposals to slowly release contaminated water into the ocean has sparked fierce backlash from locals and the agriculture and fishing industries, who argue traces of radioactive materials such as tritium still found in “treated” water could further harm a region still struggling to restore its international reputation.

Last month, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Chief Rafael Mariano Grossi visited the Fukushima nuclear power plant where he commended the government’s “dual approach” of decommissioning the plant while revitalizing the local community. Grossi said the IAEA could help provide reassurance to the public that Japan’s plan to release treated water into the ocean meets international standards.

To make matters worse, decommissioning operations have been temporarily suspended due to the spread of coronavirus. Tepco was forced to cancel on-site inspections of reactor one scheduled during March, which would have brought together some 1,800 experts and members of parliament, as well as local residents and student groups.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

‘Fukushima’s radioactive water discharge is important to Koreans’

optimizeGreenpeace nuclear campaigner Shaun Burnie in front of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, five years after the accident. The environmental organization has launched an underwater investigation into the marine impacts of radioactive contamination on the Pacific Ocean resulting from the 2011 nuclear disaster,

By Bahk Eun-ji

March 13, 2020

Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany, has been working in Fukushima since 1997 to stop the operation of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, with much of his time based in Japan.

Among a number of nuclear experts around the world who have been condemning the Japanese government’s plan to discharge radioactive water from the destroyed Fukushima power plant into the Pacific Ocean, Burnie claims this issue is clearly important to Koreans as they understand the risks of nuclear energy and care about the environment.

“Fukushima is a defining issue of this time as it continues to pose a threat to the environment not just of Japan but the Asia Pacific region. This is a nuclear disaster with no end and Koreans realize that only by speaking up and opposing bad decisions can the progress be made in protecting our environment,” he said.

The nuclear expert said the opposition in Korea to the Japanese government’s plan to discharge contaminated water from Fukushima is entirely justified and essential, so the opposition should continue here in Korea. At the same time, Koreans also should be supporting the local Japanese communities who are opposed to the discharges.

Burnie also said the discharges of the contaminated water are a direct threat to the marine ecosystem and human health as all radioactivity has the potential to cause harm as technically there is no safe level of exposure. The discharges are more than tritium, which can cause damage to human and non-human DNA, but also many other radionuclides such as strontium that, even if processing of the contaminated water is successful, will still be discharged in enormous quantities.

“None of this can be justified from an environmental perspective when there is a clear alternative ― long term storage and processing to remove radionuclides, including tritium.”

The Japanese government has sought for many years to deny that there are radiation risks in Fukushima, which is a central part of their strategy to support nuclear power. By creating the illusion that Fukushima has recovered from the 2011 disaster, the Japanese government think they can convince people to support the restarting of nuclear reactors although the majority of Japanese people are against it.

“It is one reason why the human rights of tens of thousands of Fukushima citizens, including women and children, as well as tens of thousands of workers are violated consistently by the Japanese government,” he said.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima cleanup struggle focuses on what to do with contaminated water

Fukushima disaster shook the world, one of the biggest impediments to cleaning up the site in Northeastern Japan is coming from an unexpected source: The water.


2013_Fukushima_NB-2-300x199A waterlogged radiation and tsunami warning sign found on Fukushima beaches in 2013

March 13, 2020

Nine years after the Fukushima disaster shook the world, one of the biggest impediments to cleaning up the site in Northeastern Japan is coming from an unexpected source: The water.

That water, specifically 1.2 million tons of it, is still radioactive. Stored in 1,000 special tanks on the site of the nuclear power plant’s ruins, it’s taking up needed space – which the Japanese government plans to free up by dumping it into the sea.

But local residents, especially fishermen are opposed to that plan, telling touring reporters on the nine-year anniversary of the disaster that the water release would further damage the already battered reputation of fisheries – where sales remain at only half of what they were before the catastrophe.

Under discussion are two possible ways of disposing of Fukushima’s contaminated water. According to a government report released earlier this year, one possibility is that technicians could dilute the water to levels below the allowable safety limits, and then release it into the sea in a controlled way. The other is to allow the water to evaporate over the course of several years.

The dilemma over what do with the water is part of the complicated aftermath of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit on March 11, 2011. A wall of water destroyed cooling capabilities at the Fukushima nuclear plant and three of its six nuclear reactors melted down, forcing the evacuation of 160,000 people.

In the days that followed the quake, the Fukushima-Daiichi plant was rocked by hydrogen explosions, which burst through the roofs of the three afflicted reactors, sending radioactive iodine, cesium and other fission by-products belching into the environment. Millions of liters of water were pumped from the ocean to cool the overheating reactors, cascading contamination into the sea.


2013_Fukushima_NB-1-1024x714A clock stopped at the time the tsunami gushed in from the sea found in the destruction of a beach community in Fukushima.

Ever since then, the name of Fukushima has become synonymous with Chernobyl – the world’s other most notorious nuclear disaster – in connoting catastrophe, contamination and mass human evacuation.

Officials with Tokyo Electrical Power Co, or Tepco, say that the excess water they have collected must be disposed of so they can build facilities they need to begin the retrieval of radioactive debris within the reactors.

That wreckage is slated for removal by December 2021. Remote control cranes are being used to dismantle the cooling tower of the No 2 reactor, the first from which molten nuclear fuel was removed. Spent nuclear fuel stored in a pool at the No 3 reactor is being removed ahead of attempts to remove that reactor’s melted down fuel.

As the Associated Press reported, most above ground areas at the Fukushima plant can now be visited with minimal protective gear and a Geiger counter. The radioactive remains of the reactor buildings are, however, still off limits.

But areas underground beneath the plant remain extremely hazardous. Radioactive cooling water is leaking from the melted-down reactors and mixing with groundwater. The groundwater then must be pumped out to keep it from leaking into the sea. Other contaminated water – some of which was initially sprayed and dumped on the reactors while they were melting down – sit in other underground locations, leaking continuously into groundwater outside the plant.

Tepco has attempted to remove most radionuclides — like cesium and strontium – from the excess water, but the technology does not exist to cleanse it of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. Coastal nuclear plants commonly dump water that contains tritium, which occurs naturally in nature, and Japanese officials insist it is harmless when ingested in small quantities.

But many are not pleased with Tepco’s assurances. Katsumi Shozugawa, a radiology expert at the University of Tokyo who has studied Fukushima’s groundwater, told the AP that long term, low-level radiation exposure in the food chain is poorly understood.

At this point, it is difficult to predict a risk,” he told AP. “Once the water is released into the environment, it will be very difficult to follow up and monitor its movement. So the accuracy of the data before any release is crucial and must be verified.”

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima: How the ocean became a dumping ground for radioactive waste

The nuclear disaster at Fukushima sent an unprecedented amount of radiation into the Pacific. But, before then, atomic bomb tests and radioactive waste were contaminating the sea — the effects are still being felt today.



March 11, 2020

Almost 1.2 million liters (320,000 gallons) of radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear power plant is to be released into the ocean. That’s on the recommendation of the government’s advisory panel some nine years after the nuclear disaster on Japan’s east coast. The contaminated water has since been used to cool the destroyed reactor blocks to prevent further nuclear meltdowns. It is currently being stored in large tanks, but those are expected to be full by 2022.

Exactly how the water should be dealt with has become highly controversial in Japan, not least because the nuclear disaster caused extreme contamination off the coast of Fukushima. At the time, radioactive water flowed “directly into the sea, in quantities we have never seen before in the marine world,” Sabine Charmasson from the French Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN) tells DW.

Radiation levels in the sea off Fukushima were millions of times higher than the government’s limit of 100 becquerels. And still today, radioactive substances can be detected off the coast of Japan and in other parts of the Pacific. They’ve even been measured in very small quantities off the US west coast in concentrations “well below the harmful levels set by the World Health Organization,” according to Vincent Rossi, an oceanographer at France’s Mediterranean Institute of Oceanography (MIO).


37863914_401The contaminated water in these storage tanks at Fukushima could be released into the sea as of 2022


15802302_401People observing a minute of silence for the victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami


But that doesn’t mean there’s no risk, says Horst Hamm of the Nuclear Free Future Foundation. “A single becquerel that gets into our body is enough to damage a cell that will eventually become a cancer cell,” he says.

A study from the European Parliament reached a similar conclusion. The research found that “even the smallest possible dose, a photon passing through a cell nucleus, carries a cancer risk. Although this risk is extremely small, it is still a risk.”

And that risk is growing. Radioactive pollution in the ocean has been increasing globally — and not just since the disaster at Fukushima.

Atomic bomb tests

In 1946, the US became the first country to test an atomic bomb in a marine area, in the Pacific Bikini Atoll. Over the next few decades, more than 250 further nuclear weapons tests were carried out on the high seas. Most of them (193) were conducted by France in French Polynesia, and by the US (42), primarily in the Marshall Islands and the Central Pacific. 



But the ocean wasn’t just being used as a training ground for nuclear war. Until the early 1990s, it was also a gigantic dump for radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. 

From 1946 to 1993, more than 200,000 tons of waste, some of it highly radioactive, was dumped in the world’s oceans, mainly in metal drums, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Several nuclear submarines, including nuclear ammunition, were also sunk during this time.

Is the ocean a perfect storage site?

The lion’s share of dumped nuclear waste came from Britain and the Soviet Union, figures from the IAEA show. By 1991, the US had dropped more than 90,000 barrels and at least 190,000 cubic meters of radioactive waste in the North Atlantic and Pacific. Other countries including Belgium, France, Switzerland and the Netherlands also disposed of tons of radioactive waste in the North Atlantic in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

“Under the motto, ‘out of sight, out of mind,’ the dumping of nuclear waste was the easiest way to get rid of it,” says Horst Hamm.

To this day, around 90% of the radiation in the ocean comes from barrels discarded in the North Atlantic, most of which lie north of Russia or off the coast of Western Europe.

“The barrels are everywhere,” says ecologist Yannick Rousselet of Greenpeace France. He was present in 2000 when the environmental organization used submarines to dive for dumped drums a few hundred meters off the coast of northern France, at a depth of 60 meters (196 feet).

“We were surprised how close they were to the coast,” Rousselet says. “They are rusty and leaking, with the radiation clearly elevated.”


52446012_401The radioactive pollution of the oceans began in 1946 when the US tested a nuclear bomb at Bikini Atoll Micronesia.


52446312_401Nuclear waste barrels dumped in the sea decades ago, a common practice in the Channel between France and England in the 1960s, are now rusty and are leaking radioactive substances


Germany also implicated

In 1967, Germany also dumped 480 barrels off the coast of Portugal, according to the IAEA. Responding to a 2012 request for information from the Greens about the condition of those barrels, the German government wrote: “The barrels were not designed to ensure the permanent containment of radionuclides on the sea floor. Therefore, it must be assumed that they are at least partially no longer intact.”

Germany and France don’t want to salvage the barrels. And even Greenpeace activist Yannick Rousselet says he sees “no safe way to lift the rusted barrels” to the surface. That means nuclear waste will likely continue to contaminate the ocean floor for decades to come.

For Horst Hamm, the long-term consequences are clear. The radiation will be “absorbed by the marine animals surrounding it. They will eventually end up caught in fishing nets, and come back to our plates,” he says.

In its 2012 response to the Greens, however, the German government described the risk to humans from contaminated fish as “negligible.”

Rousselet sees things differently: “The entire area along the coast is contaminated by radiation — not just in the sea, in the grass, in the sand, you can measure it everywhere.”


52446337_401The reprocess in plant in La Hague is still discharging radioactive water into the sea. Cancer rates have increased in the region, according to a report by the European Parliament


Radioactive dumping ground

The main reason behind the radiation along the northern French coastline isn’t the underwater barrels, but rather the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant at La Hague. It is located directly on the coast and “legally discharges 33 million liters of radioactive liquid into the sea each year,” says Rousselet. He thinks it’s scandalous.

In recent years, La Hague has also been the scene of several incidents involving increased radioactivity levels.

The dumping of nuclear waste in drums was banned in 1993 by the London Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution. But discharging liquid contaminated with radiation into the ocean is still permitted internationally.

Spike in cancer rates

According to a study by the European Parliament, statistics show cancer rates are significantly higher in the region surrounding La Hague. Cancer rates are also high near the nuclear processing plant in Sellafield in northern England. A study from 2014 concluded that the total amount of radioactivity discharged into the sea from the Sellafield plant over the years is equivalent to the amount released by the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima.

The report say a link to health effects “cannot be ruled out” even if there is no clear evidence to date of a link between illness and radioactive discharges from nuclear facilities.

“The exact effects of radioactive radiation are extremely difficult to measure and prove. We only know that it has an impact,” says Rousselet, adding that it’s crucial to walk away from everything that causes radioactive waste.




Dumping more waste at Fukushima

In Fukushima, the operating company of the Tokyo Electric Power Company nuclear plant claims that before the cooling water is discharged into the sea as planned, all 62 radioactive elements will be filtered down to safe levels — except for the isotope tritium. The advisory panel in Tokyo considers discharging the cooling water into the sea to be “safer” than other alternatives, such as evaporating the water.

Just how harmful tritium is to humans is a source of controversy. According to the plant operator, the concentration of tritium in the collection tanks is sometimes much higher than that of conventional cooling water from nuclear power stations.

“The local fishermen and residents cannot accept the discharge of water,” Takami Morita of the National Research Institute of Fisheries Science said in a press release. While fish pollution levels are below the harmful limit, demand for fish from the region has dropped to one-fifth of what it was before the disaster.

Releasing the cooling water into the sea “is a good method because of the diluting properties of the water,” Sabine Charmasson of the IRSN says. “There aren’t any real problems on the security side, but it’s difficult, because there are also social implications. It might be an appropriate method, but it’s never easy to release radioactive substances into the environment.”

In a press release, Greenpeace said: “There is no justification for additional, deliberate radioactive pollution of the marine environment or atmosphere.”

March 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Safety of Fukushima nuke plant waste water focus of sea release debate

0001In this Feb. 12, 2020 photo, a worker in a hazmat suit carries a hose at a water treatment facility at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.


March 11, 2020

OKUMA, Japan (AP) — Inside a giant decontamination facility at the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant, workers in hazmat suits monitor radioactive water pumped from three damaged reactors, making sure it’s adequately — though not completely — treated.

Three lines of equipment connected to pipes snaking around in this dimly lit, sprawling facility can process up to 750 tons of contaminated water a day. Four other lines elsewhere in the plant can process more.

From there, the water is pumped to a complex of about 1,000 temporary storage tanks that crowd the plant’s grounds, where additional tanks are still being built. Officials say the huge tanks will be completely full by the summer of 2022.

The decontamination process, which The Associated Press viewed on a recent tour, is a key element of a contentious debate over what should be done with the nearly 1.2 million tons of still-radioactive water being closely watched by governments and organizations around the world ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, says it needs to free up space as work to decommission the damaged reactors approaches a critical phase. It’s widely expected that TEPCO will gradually release the water into the nearby ocean following a government decision allowing it to do so. The company is still vague on the timing.

But local residents, especially fishermen, are opposed to the plan because they think the water release would hurt the reputation of already battered fisheries, where annual sales remain about half of the level before the nuclear accident, even though the catch has cleared strict radioactivity tests.

TEPCO Chief Decommissioning Officer Akira Ono says the water must be disposed as the plant’s decommissioning moves forward because the area used by the tanks is needed to build facilities for the retrieval of melted reactor debris.

Workers are planning to remove a first batch of melted debris by December 2021. Remote control cranes are dismantling a highly contaminated exhaust tower near Unit 2, the first reactor to get its melted fuel removed. At Unit 3, spent fuel units are being removed from a cooling pool ahead of the removal of melted fuel.

The dilemma over the ever-growing radioactive water is part of the complex aftermath of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami that hit on March 11, 2011, destroying key cooling functions at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. Three reactors melted, releasing massive amounts of radiation and forcing 160,000 residents to evacuate. About 40,000 still haven’t returned.

Except for the highly radioactive buildings that house the melted reactors, most above-ground areas of the plant can now be visited while wearing just a surgical mask, cotton gloves, a helmet and a personal dosimeter. The area right outside the plant is largely untouched and radiation levels are often higher.

The underground areas remain a hazardous mess. Radioactive cooling water is leaking from the melted reactors and mixes with groundwater, which must be pumped up to keep it from flowing into the sea and elsewhere. Separately, even more dangerously contaminated water sits in underground areas and leaks continuously into groundwater outside the plant, experts say.

The contaminated water pumped from underground first goes through cesium and strontium removal equipment, after which most is recycled as cooling water for the damaged reactors. The rest is filtered by the main treatment system, known as ALPS, which is designed to remove all 62 radioactive contaminants except for tritium, TEPCO says.

Tritium cannot be removed from water and is ‘virtually’ harmless when consumed in small amounts, ‘according’ to Japan’s industry ministry and nuclear regulatory officials.

But despite repeated official reassurances, there are widespread worries about eating fish that might be affected if the contaminated water is released into the sea. Katsumi Shozugawa, a radiology expert at the University of Tokyo who has been analyzing groundwater around the plant, said the long-term consequences of low-dose exposure in the food chain hasn’t been fully investigated.

“At this point, it is difficult to predict a risk,” he said. “Once the water is released into the environment, it will be very difficult to follow up and monitor its movement. So the accuracy of the data before any release is crucial and must be verified.”

After years of discussions about what to do with the contaminated water without destroying the local economy and its reputation, a government panel issued a report earlier this year that narrowed the water disposal options to two: diluting the treated water to levels below the allowable safety limits and then releasing it into the sea in a controlled way, or allowing the water to evaporate in a years-long process.

The report also urged the government to do more to fight the “reputational damage” to Fukushima fishing and farm produce, for instance by promoting food fairs, developing new sales routes and making use of third-party quality accreditation systems.

TEPCO and government officials promise the plant will treat the water for a second time to meet legal requirements before any release.

At the end of the tour of the treatment facility, a plant official showed a glass bottle containing clear water taken from the processing equipment. Workers are required to routinely collect water samples for analysis at laboratories at the plant. Radiology technicians were analyzing the water at one lab, where AP journalists were not allowed to enter. Officials say the treated water will be diluted with fresh water before it is released into the environment.

Doubts about the plant’s water treatment escalated two years ago when TEPCO acknowledged that most of the water stored in the tanks still contains cancer-causing cesium, strontium and other radioactive materials at levels exceeding safety limits.

Masumi Kowata, who lives in Okuma, a town where part of the plant is located, said some of her neighbors are offering their land so that more storage tanks can be built.

“We should not dump the water until we have proof about its safety,” she said. “The government says it’s safe, but how do we know?”


0002In this Feb. 12, 2020 photo, two workers wearing hazmat suits work at a water treatment facility at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture


0003In this Feb. 12, 2020 photo, a worker removes a plastic layer covering his hazmat suit after working at a water treatment facility at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.


0004In this Feb. 12, 2020 photo, engineers analyze water samples in a lab at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.

gklkIn this Feb. 12, 2020 photo, the No. 1 and 2 reactor buildings, damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, are seen at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.


March 13, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | 1 Comment

Contaminated water at nuclear plant still an issue ahead of Tokyo Olympics


March 10, 2020

Work to deal with contaminated water at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant continues as the Olympic Games approach.

Inside a giant decontamination facility at the destroyed plant, workers in hazmat suits monitor radioactive water pumped from three damaged reactors.

The decontamination process is a key element of a contentious debate over what should be done with the nearly 1.2 million tons of still-radioactive water being closely watched by governments and organisations around the world ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, says it needs to free up space as work to decommission the damaged reactors approaches a critical phase.

It is widely expected that Tepco will gradually release the water into the nearby ocean following a government decision allowing it to do so.

March 11, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | 1 Comment

Work on Fukushima plant, halted during 2016 G7 summit, to continue during Tokyo Olympics

jhlkùWorkers are seen near storage tanks for radioactive water at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (TEPCO) tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Okuma town, Fukushima prefecture, Japan January 15, 2020. Picture taken January 15, 2020

March 4, 2020

TOKYO (Reuters) – Decommissioning work at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear power station, halted during a G7 summit in Japan in 2016, will not stop during this summer’s Tokyo Olympics, the plant operator said.

There are about a third fewer workers now – 4,000 compared with 6,000 in 2016 – which makes the decision to keep working easier, said Akira Ono, Tokyo Electric Power Co’s (Tepco) chief decommissioning officer.

When I was the plant manager, I suspended operations at the time of the Ise-Shima summit. But the situation is totally different now,” Ono told Reuters in an interview.

Although the coronavirus outbreak – which has sickened more than 1,000 Japanese – has disrupted supply chains, there has been no shortage of protective gear at the plant, he added. Workers must wear special clothing to protect them from residual radiation in some parts of the facility.

There was a time when coverall supply became quite tight … But after talking with various sources, we are now sure that we can procure what we need,” Ono said in the interview conducted on Tuesday but embargoed till Wednesday.

A powerful earthquake and tsunami hit eastern Japan in March 2011 and knocked out cooling systems at Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, triggering the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

Since then, the operator has been working to clean up the damage and contain any spread of radiation.

For the last nine years, Tepco has been pouring water over melted reactor cores to keep them cool. Nearly 1.2 million tonnes of tainted water, enough to fill 480 Olympic-sized swimming pools, is stored at the plant. The company treats the water to remove most radioactive material.

A government panel reviewing potential disposal methods has recommended releasing the water into the sea after dilution. Local residents, fishermen in particular, strongly oppose the ocean discharge.

Ono said that the plant will likely run out of tank space by summer 2022.

The time is getting near,” Ono said, referring to a decision on the disposal method. “We are cutting it very close.”

Japanese trade and industry minister Hiroshi Kajiyama said last month the government would decide after hearing opinions from people in local communities and others, without committing to a deadline.

March 5, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Poll: 57% oppose dumping water into ocean from Fukushima plant

ijolmpTanks storing contaminated water occupy the site of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, in August 2019.

February 28, 2020

Fifty-seven percent of respondents to a poll in Fukushima Prefecture say they oppose the government’s plan to release tons of contaminated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean.

In the survey, conducted by The Asahi Shimbun and Fukushima Broadcasting Co. on Feb. 22-23, 31 percent supported the plan.

About 1.2 million tons of water contaminated with radioactive substances are in storage tanks at the crippled plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The government plans to remove most of the radioactive substances from the water and release the diluted portion into the ocean.

Among male respondents, 35 percent said they support the plan, compared to 26 percent of female respondents who also agreed.

Respondents who are in their 40s are most likely to support the plan, as 41 percent back the plan.

However, more respondents opposed the plan in every age group.

Asked about damage caused by harmful rumors surrounding the release of the contaminated water, 89 percent of the respondents said they were “very much” or “somewhat” concerned.

Even among those who supported the plan, 79 percent said they were worried about the possible damage.

Only 23 percent said they approved of the central government and TEPCO’s handling of the contaminated water problem. That was up from 14 percent in last year’s survey.

Still, 57 percent of the respondents said they did not approve of the handling of the contaminated water.

The government has committed to disposing of waste substances, including contaminated soil removed in the decontamination work, within 30 years and locating a final waste disposal site outside of Fukushima Prefecture.

We will do our best to keep the promise,” Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi has pledged.

Asked if the promise will be kept, 80 percent of the respondents said they did not think so “at all” or “very much.”

Only 17 percent said they thought the government will keep the promise “very much” or “somewhat.”

Fukushima Prefecture will be the starting point of the months-long nationwide torch relay for the 2020 Tokyo Games.

Asked if the relay will contribute to showing the public the current state of the disaster-stricken area, 41 percent said it would, while 51 percent said it would not.

In other questions, 69 percent opposed resuming operations of nuclear power plants that have been idle since the Fukushima nuclear accident, while 11 percent supported it.

In a nationwide survey conducted by The Asahi Shimbun on Feb. 15 and 16, 56 percent opposed the resumption, while 29 percent supported it.

The two media companies have conducted a phone survey of eligible voters in Fukushima Prefecture since the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. The recent survey was the 10th. 

Landline phone numbers were randomly selected by computer and then called by survey staff. Of these, 1,883 belonged to eligible voters. The survey received a total of 1,035 effective responses with the response rate at 55 percent.

March 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | 1 Comment

IAEA chief says Fukushima water release plan meets global standards

n-fukushima-a-20200228-870x579IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi inspects the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Wednesday.

February 27, 2020

OKUMA, FUKUSHIMA PREF. – The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday that Japan’s plan to release radioactive water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the environment meets global standards for the industry.

The comment by IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi, made during a tour of the facility that was devastated by the powerful earthquake and tsunami in 2011, comes amid strong opposition to the plan from local fishermen and neighboring South Korea.

Whatever way forward must be based on a scientific process, a process which is based on a scientifically based and proven methodology,” Grossi told reporters after the tour.

It is obvious that any methodology can be criticized. What we are saying from a technical point of view is that this process is in line with international practice,” he said.

This is a common way to release water at nuclear power plants across the globe, even when they are not in emergency situations, he said.

The government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the crippled complex, are considering ways to safely dispose of the more than 1 million tons of water contaminated with radioactive materials after being used to cool the melted fuel cores at the plant, which straddles the towns of Okuma and Futaba.

The water, which is increasing at a pace of about 170 tons a day, is being treated using an advanced liquid processing system (ALPS) to remove most contaminants other than the relatively nontoxic tritium. The water is being stored in tanks on the facility’s premises but space is expected to run out by summer 2022.

Methods being discussed include releasing the water into the Pacific Ocean or allowing it to evaporate, both of which the government says will have minimal effect on human health.

But local fishermen have voiced strong opposition to such plans for fear that Japanese consumers would shun seafood caught nearby. South Korea, which currently bans imports of seafood from the area, has also repeatedly voiced concerns about the environmental impact.

Grossi, an Argentine diplomat who succeeded the late Yukiya Amano as IAEA director general in December, said the Vienna-based organization is prepared to help put the international community at ease.

What the IAEA can do, at the request of Japan, is to provide support, advice when the process starts. This can take different forms, for example we can assist in the monitoring of the water previous to its controlled release into the environment,” Grossi said.

In a speech to Tepco employees at the plant, Grossi voiced appreciation for their hard work on the decommissioning process, which is scheduled to end 30 to 40 years after the disaster.

It’s a job of decommissioning but it’s (also) a job of reconstruction,” he said.

Grossi, who is on a five-day trip to Japan, also met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi on Tuesday.

On Thursday, Grossi told reporters in Tokyo that Japan should be flexible on its timeline for removing melted fuel from the wreckage of the Fukushima plant, with safety being the top priority.

The government and Tepco currently plan to begin extracting the highly radioactive debris by the end of 2021, though the process is expected to be fraught with technical challenges.

The issue of the timing is always important … but it’s not a race against time. It is a race, I would say, more against safety. And more safety, this is what is very important,” he said.

March 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

An Olympic-Sized Disaster Is Brewing in Japan

Fukushima_Water_Testing_1088x725-700x470Tokyo Electric Power Company demonstrates how to measure radiation of water processed in ALPS II (Multi-nuclide retrieval equipment) at the tsunami-devastated nuclear power plant, Fukushima, January 22, 2020.

February 24, 2020

The 2020 Summer Olympics are coming to Japan — despite two major health scares: radiation from the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima and, more recently, the coronavirus. Over half of the coronavirus cases outside of China were onboard a cruise ship docked in Japan. (On board, 634 cases; on land, another 93, but these figures constantly change.)

The Japanese government is handling the coronavirus outbreak much the same way China handled it: not by controlling the situation, but by controlling information about the situation. 

And this is the same way the Japanese government is handling the Fukushima crisis. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told the Olympic Committee that the nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima are not a problem.  

Let me assure you, the situation is under control, he said in 2013. 

That was a lie — one that let Olympic planning proceed by virtue of official denial of nuclear uncertainty with lethal potential.  

And now the Olympics may also be threatened by a health crisis of another sort: Japan’s botched handling of the coronavirus. 

Japan’s official response to this new threat has already drawn criticism, especially for releasing hundreds of possibly exposed passengers from a cruise ship into the general population. The dysfunction of Japan’s response to this crisis is illustrated by the fact that its environment minister skipped a government meeting on the coronavirus outbreak in favor of a political celebration in his home town. The Bangkok Post argues that time is running out on the Tokyo Olympics

Japan needs to rethink the Olympics. The most pressing reason to postpone or cancel the 2020 Tokyo summer games, which are due to start in late July, is a raging public health crisis of unknown dimensions. The second most important reason to put the Olympics on hold is the Japanese government response to the public health crisis to date: it has shown itself to have feet of clay. 

At the same time, organizers of the Tokyo marathon on March 1 have limited participation to about 200 athletes, after originally expecting 38,000. 

Meanwhile, the governor of Fukushima Prefecture was reassuring the public that radiation is no threat to the safety of the Olympic torch run on March 26: Through this ‘Reconstruction Olympics,’ we would like to show how Fukushima’s reconstruction has progressed in the past nine years as the result of efforts in cooperation with the Japanese government.”

“Using Greenpeace’s calculations, people staying near the stadium could be exposed to a greater amount of radiation in just over a day than they would naturally experience in a year.”

There is no way to know how the coronavirus spread will play or what effect, if any, it will have on the Summer Olympics. But it’s clear that the Japanese government has a huge stake in minimizing the perceived threat, exercising a level of denial that mirrors the official reassurances about Fukushima over the past nine years.

Judging by the head of the Australian Olympic Committee’s response, the Japanese reassurances are being taken at face value, albeit with significant caveats:

They’ve made it quite clear to us that there is no case for postponing, cancelling the Games at all … provided that all of the requirements of the Japanese authority on people coming into the Games are followed … We’re very satisfied that all the checks and balances will be there by the time the athletes and the spectators enter the country. 

Although the Tokyo Olympics committee tells everyone that none of the Olympic playing fields are radioactive, there have been reports to the contrary near Fukushima. South Korean athletes plan to bring their own food and radiation detectors. (Australian and US athletes will eat Japanese-prepared meals.)

The Hot Spots

The J-Village National Training Center is an Olympic sports complex that includes a stadium, 11 soccer fields, a swimming pool, a hotel, and conference center — all located about 12 miles from the ruined reactors at Fukushima. 

Last December, the environmental organization Greenpeace published a study documenting radioactive hot spots at J-Village, and found in some areas radiation levels as much as 1,700 times higher than they had been in 2011 before the meltdowns.

Greenpeace also found radiation levels roughly 280 times higher than those promised by the Japanese government. As CNN reported: “Using Greenpeace’s calculations, people staying near the stadium could be exposed to a greater amount of radiation in just over a day than they would naturally experience in a year.”

While Greenpeace found that most of the J-Village site was not highly radioactive, the organization questioned the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) approach to cleaning up the hot spots at the site:

How were such high levels of radiation not detected during the earlier decontamination by TEPCO? Why were only the most alarming hotspots removed and not the wider areas following the standard decontamination procedures? Given these apparent failures, the ability of the authorities to accurately and consistently identify radiation hot spots appears to be seriously in doubt.

On January 21, Fukushima Prefecture officials issued a statement assuring the public that radiation levels “won’t be posing any problem for holding the torch relay,” and that radiation exposure would be less than the exposure during a flight from New York to Tokyo. 

The statement provided no details explaining any ongoing safety measures: what measures had been taken to decontaminate hot spots, what effort was being made to search out other hotspots, or any other details of decontamination procedures.

A Disaster in Slow Motion

The 2011 nuclear meltdowns at Fukushima may now be widely ignored or forgotten, but the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remains an evolving, multi-faceted disaster proceeding in slow motion. Radiation is constantly leaking from the nuclear complex where three melted nuclear cores remain a threat should they lose the water that keeps the meltdowns from reigniting.

For now there’s ample water to keep the cores cool, mainly because TEPCO has jury-rigged enough plumbing in the damaged plants to continue pumping water that keeps the cores and fuel pools covered and the meltdowns in check. No one really knows the configuration of the cores, which are presumably in a molten heap on the floor of the containment building, with lethal levels of radioactivity. Robots have made some contact with the cores, but their safe removal is years away.

TEPCO must continue to pump water to keep the cores cool for the indefinite future. As it’s pumped through the system, the fresh water becomes too radioactive itself to release into the environment. So the authorities have been storing this water in giant on-site tanks — now more than 1,000. 

They say they’ll run out of room for more tanks in another year or so. The tanks currently hold an estimated 1.2 million tons — more than 300 million gallons — of radioactive water that continues to accumulate at an estimated rate of 1,000 tons (265,000 gallons) or more per week.

No Solution in Sight

TEPCO, which owns the Fukushima complex, and the Japanese government understand the problem well enough, but they have yet to find a reasonable solution. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) overseeing the Fukushima operation calls for replacing the temporary storage tanks with a permanent solution. Although no feasible permanent solution exists, three have been proposed: Evaporate the water, bury the water deep underground, or pump the water into the Pacific. There is no consensus in support of any of these. 

The Japanese government and TEPCO have been advocating the Pacific Ocean dumping solution for more than two years. Authorities say the water has been decontaminated, but this has never been true. At best, the water contains high levels of radioactive, carcinogenic tritium. The filtration device used on the water, the Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS), is unable to remove tritium. 

In 2017, TEPCO was claiming that ALPS had cleaned the water of every radionuclide other than tritium. That was not true. In August 2018, TEPCO admitted that the treated water still contained radioactive contaminants including iodine, cesium, and strontium, some of them above officially designated safe levels.




As the IAEA has documented, the authorities have released controlled amounts of radioactive water from Fukushima into the Pacific for years. Additionally, uncontrolled radioactive groundwater has flowed into the Pacific continuously since the 2011 disaster, although that flow has been substantially reduced. As the Fukushima site runs out of storage space, the campaign to release 300 million gallons of radioactive wastewater into the Pacific has intensified.

In November 2019, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists published a status report on Fukushima that began:

After more than eight years, Japan is still struggling with [the] aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. The Japanese government and nuclear industry have not solved the many technical, economic, and socio-political challenges brought on by the accident. More worrying, they continue to put special interests ahead of the public interest, exacerbating the challenges and squandering public trust.

Among the problems at Fukushima, the Bulletin cited a highly radioactive exhaust stack that is at risk of collapse and needs to be carefully removed. In 2019, in its first attempt to remove the stack, TEPCO constructed a tower that was three meters too short to do the job. Other glitches have plagued this operation, which is ongoing.

The Bulletin also noted that a subcommittee of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry recommended dumping treated wastewater with a low level of tritium into the Pacific. However, this plan was stalled by the authorities’ failure to reduce radioactivity to safe levels — or to tell the truth about it.

Releasing Fukushima radioactive water into ocean is an appalling act of industrial vandalism.”

Further complicating the clean-up at Fukushima, according to the Bulletin, is that none of the institutions involved is a disinterested party and none is willing to accept “a truly independent third party to oversee their activities.”

In December 2019, the New York Times approached the Fukushima story from the perspective of a fisherman whose life has been devastated by the disaster. The fishing industry is operating at about one-fifth the capacity of its pre-meltdown level and is one of the strongest opponents of more dumping. According to the Times:

The water from the Fukushima disaster is more radioactive than the authorities have previously publicized, raising doubts about government assurances that it will be made safe … Some scientists said they would need proof before believing that the Fukushima water was treated to safe levels.

Team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo looks at part of a system that removes radioactive elements from water. Fukushima, Japan, February 11, 2015.

The government official in charge of contaminated-water management acknowledged public concern about the issue, “even though there is no scientific evidence that the water is dangerous.” As if to reinforce that opinion, TEPCO officials hosted a media tour of the Fukushima plant on January 29. Radioactivity on the site is varied, but workers mostly wear protective gear and some jobs are so dangerous only robots are used.

On January 31, after six years of consideration, an advisory panel made a preliminary recommendation to the government to release Fukushima wastewater into the Pacific. The panel decided that this was better than the only alternative they considered feasible: evaporating the water. The recommendation has to be approved by panel chair Ichiro Yamamoto, a step required before the government considers it

There should be no delays to decommissioning the plant,” Yamamoto said. There is no reliable estimate as to how long decommissioning the plant’s damaged fuel pools and melted-down reactors will take, but it will surely run to decades. TEPCO’s own timeline stretches past 2050.

On February 3, the Japanese Foreign Ministry briefed 28 diplomats from 23 countries about the proposed radioactive-water dumping into the Pacific. The US did not participate in the briefing. The ministry assured the diplomats that “release of tainted water from Fukushima would have no impact on oceans.” According to the ministry, none of the diplomats voiced any objection to the proposal. The government plans to hold hearings on the proposal.

Reacting to the briefing, Common Dreams (a nonprofit US-based progressive news website) reported: “Nuclear policy expert Paul Dorfman said Saturday, ‘Releasing Fukushima radioactive water into ocean is an appalling act of industrial vandalism.’ Greenpeace opposes the plan as well.”

While South Korea may not have spoken up at the Fukushima briefing, it maintains a ban on Fukushima fish, and closely monitors other produce from Fukushima and seven neighboring prefectures (administrative areas) north and south of it.

Happy Talk

Current media coverage of Fukushima, where it exists, is mostly happy talk about the Olympics and how safe the country has become in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. Radiation that will persist for thousands of years and quiescent nuclear reactors whose meltdowns could reignite any time something else goes wrong are largely ignored.

Wildlife is thriving in radioactive Fukushima,” according to the Wildlife Society of Bethesda, MD, on February 6, 2020. The Society’s reporting is based on a 2020 study published by the Ecological Society of America in Washington, DC. The limited study used remote sensors to gather data from areas radiologically unsafe for humans (in the so-called human-evacuation zone). 

The study found that the radioactive region was repopulated with native mammals and birds, but could reach no conclusion regarding the impact of radiation on individuals or any of their molecular structure. According to the abstract:

Using a network of remote cameras placed along a gradient of radiological contamination and human presence, we collected data on population‐level impacts to wildlife (that is, abundance and occupancy patterns) following the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. We found no evidence of population‐level impacts in mid‐to large‐sized mammals or gallinaceous birds, and show several species were most abundant in human‐evacuated areas, despite the presence of radiological contamination. These data provide unique evidence of the natural rewilding of the Fukushima landscape following human abandonment, and suggest that if any effects of radiological exposure in mid‐to-large‐sized mammals in the Fukushima Exclusion Zone exist, they occur at individual or molecular scales…. 

In other words, the researchers have no idea whether or not these populations are “thriving,” only that they appear to have reestablished themselves in pre-meltdown numbers in areas still deemed unsafe for humans.

March 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Is ocean discharge the best solution to Fukushima No. 1’s water crisis?

A government panel has said that releasing radioactive water accumulating at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean is the most reliable option

Japan Nuclear Flawed Cleanup


Feb 25, 2020

The issue of what to do with the treated radioactive water being stored at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant is nearing its boiling point. Despite plans to install more tanks by the end of the year, the plant’s operator is projected to run out of space around summer 2022.

The estimate by the plant’s manager, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., underscores the fast approaching deadline for the tanks, which now number 1,000.

For three years, an industry ministry panel has been examining five disposal methods for the treated water. In December the number of options was reduced to three: diluting it and dumping it into the sea; letting it evaporate; or a combination of both.

In a report to the government on Feb. 10, the panel recommended releasing the water into the ocean as a more “reliable” method than evaporation, given the practice is common at nuclear power plants here and around the world, and said radiation monitoring would be easier.

One of the major concerns, however, is whether it is safe to discharge the water, which is contaminated mainly with tritium that cannot be removed by ALPS, the advanced liquid processing system installed after the triple-core meltdown in March 2011.

Proponents insist dumping will be safe, arguing that tritium emits beta radiation so weak that the health risks posed will be minimal. The industry ministry estimates that even if all the stored water were to be released into the environment over a one-year period, the resulting radiation exposure would be less than a thousandth of that received from natural background radiation.

Both methods have track records.

Since both volume and radiation levels can be regulated, ocean discharge of tritiated water is a method routinely practiced at nuclear power plants around the world.

Despite scientists’ emphasis on safety, however, opponents argue that either method will again hurt Fukushima’s image, damaging the agriculture, fishing and tourism industries that were just starting to recover from the disaster. The panel noted that risk in its report.

Among Fukushima’s hardest-hit sectors since the disaster is the fisheries industry, which is vehemently opposed to ocean release. They fear the water dumps will ruin a nearly decadelong effort to restore the once-thriving industry, which was forced to halt or restrict operations in waters near the plant.

For the past nine years, fishermen have been conducting operations on a trial basis and measuring catches for radiation before shipping. Amid signs of a recovery, they are now talking about full resumption of fishing.

Because of deep-seated negative perceptions, however, some people still avoid buying fish from Fukushima.

The government is facing a difficult decision balancing the interests of the industries with the shortage of storage space.

February 27, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | 1 Comment

South Korean activists and professors sign petition against Japan’s push to dump radioactive water into the ocean

There needs to be a public open debate regarding what to do with the water BEFORE another high magnitude earthquake makes ithe decision for us. There are no easy answers but such a debate will at least serve to highlight the perils of all things nuclear. Pretending everything will be OK is not a credible strategy.


February18, 2020

Activists, professors, and civic groups have united to lambast Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his push to dump radioactively contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant into the ocean. Referring to such an action as “nuclear terrorism against humanity and a criminal act,” 100 professors, civic group members, and environmental activists have signed a petition calling for Abe to immediately abandon his plans for the dump. The photo shows an artist painting palm prints on a drawing of Abe in protest. (Kim Wan, staff reporter)

February 23, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima staff could use raincoats as virus threatens gear production

The lack of suits and masks may cause work delays. TEPCO’s alternative ideas such as using plastic rain gear may put workers at higher risk of exposure.
Tyvek suits become impossible to obtain.
This could also impact access to N95 masks. These are currently used in lower risk areas to prevent small particles of radioactive dust from being inhaled. The same masks are used to block coronavirus among the public and health care workers in lower risk situations. Masks have been in short supply world wide causing long lines as consumers hope to secure a supply. Masks were recently stolen from a hospital in Kobe.
Fukushima staff may be forced to use raincoats as COVID-19 threatens gear production
18 Feb 2020 03:40PM
TOKYO: Workers at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant may need to wear plastic raincoats as the coronavirus outbreak threatens production of protective suits in China, the operator warned on Tuesday (Feb 18).
The workers cleaning up the plant wear special plastic overcoats to prevent radioactive dust settling on clothes or the body and the TEPCO operator gets through 6,000 per day.
But a TEPCO spokesman told AFP “we could have difficulties getting certain specific items from our usual suppliers” because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“For example, we have coats with transparent pockets showing an ID badge and their radiation measuring device and it is possible these same products are not available,” he added.
In this case, they would be forced to resort to commercially available products such as plastic raincoats, said the official.
There should be no impact on safety as the coats are not designed to protect workers from radiation since the rays penetrate clothes in any case. << = Gamma rays don’t stop for Tyvek, either.
Fukushima staff could use raincoats as virus threatens gear production
Workers at Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant may need to wear plastic raincoats as the coronavirus outbreak threatens production of protective suits in China, the operator warned on Tuesday.
Staff cleaning up the plant wear special plastic overcoats to prevent radioactive dust settling on clothes or the body and the TEPCO operator gets through 6,000 per day.
But a TEPCO spokesman told AFP “we could have difficulties getting certain specific items from our usual suppliers” because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“For example, we have coats with transparent pockets showing an ID badge and their radiation measuring device and it is possible these same products are not available,” he added.
In this case, they would be forced to resort to commercially available products such as plastic raincoats, said the official.
There should be no impact on safety as the coats are not designed to protect workers from radiation since the rays penetrate clothes in any case.

February 23, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment