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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.
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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

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

Seismologist testifies Fukushima nuclear disaster preventable

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In this March 11, 2011 photo provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co., a tsunami is seen just after striking the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant breakwater.
May 10, 2018
TOKYO — A seismologist has testified during the trial of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the tsunami-ravaged nuclear plant, that the nuclear crisis could have been prevented if proper countermeasures had been taken.
“If proper steps had been taken based on a long-term (tsunami) evaluation, the nuclear accident wouldn’t have occurred,” Kunihiko Shimazaki, professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, told the Tokyo District Court on May 9.
Shimazaki, who played a leading role in working out the national government’s long-term evaluation, appeared at the 11th hearing of the three former TEPCO executives as a witness.
Prosecutors had initially not indicted the three former TEPCO executives. However, after a prosecution inquest panel consisting of members of the public deemed twice that the three deserve prosecution, court-appointed lawyers serving as prosecutors indicted the three under the Act on Committee for Inquest of Prosecution.
Court-appointed attorneys insist that former TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto, 67, and others postponed implementing tsunami countermeasures based on the long-term evaluation, leading to the disaster.
The government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion released its long-term evaluation in 2002 predicting that a massive tsunami could occur along the Japan Trench including the area off Fukushima.
In 2008, TEPCO estimated that a tsunami up to 15.7 meters high could hit the Fukushima No. 1 power station, but failed to reflect the prediction in its tsunami countermeasures at the power station.
The Cabinet Office’s Central Disaster Prevention Council also did not adopt the long-term evaluation in working out its disaster prevention plan.
Shimazaki, who was a member of the Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion’s earthquake research panel in 2002, told the court that the Cabinet Office pressured the panel shortly before the announcement of the long-term evaluation to state that the assessment is unreliable. The headquarters ended up reporting in the long-term evaluation’s introduction that there were problems with the assessment’s reliability and accuracy.
In his testimony, Shimazaki pointed out that the Central Disaster Prevention Council decision not to adopt the long-term evaluation led to inappropriate tsunami countermeasures.
With regard to factors behind the council’s refusal to accept the evaluation, Shimazaki stated that he can only think of consideration shown to those involved in the nuclear power industry and politics.
“If countermeasures had been in place based on the long-term evaluation, many lives would’ve been saved,” Shimazaki told the court.
Shimazaki served as deputy chairman of the government’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
(Japanese original by Epo Ishiyama, City News Department, and Ei Okada, Science & Environment News Department)

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

New Data for Unit 2’s Missing Fuel

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TEPCO published a Roadmap document right before leaving for Golden Week vacation. In this document is a 30+ page section of new data for unit 2’s missing fuel.
 
TEPCO has given varying explanations for unit 2’s meltdown and fuel location. Two muon scans have been completed for unit 2. The first found no fuel remaining in the RPV. A second scan by TEPCO claimed to have found some fuel in the bottom of the RPV, our analysis of the scan found otherwise. It is likely that all of the fuel inside the reactor vessel melted and all of it except for some residues is no longer in the RPV.
 
Fuel debris volume:
The volume of fuel debris inside unit 2 is difficult to calculate due to a number of factors. The debris is spread between multiple areas including the floor grate level, the pedestal floor and whatever debris may have burned down into the pedestal floor. The total volume of the fuel core is known for unit 2 but the exact size of the pedestal diameter is not known.
 
A fuel debris volume estimate was made for unit 1 based on known data and meltdown events at that reactor. Unit 1 is smaller than unit 2 in both fuel core size and size of the reactor structures. The general reactor building sizes and the fuel core sizes should be something that could roughly scale up for unit 2. Unit 1 estimate showed a fuel volume of all of the fuel and related melted structural materials as 60-100 cm deep.
 
Inside unit 2 about 50% of the pedestal floor was found to be covered with 70 cm of fuel debris. Additional fuel debris in an unknown volume is on the floor grate level. An unknown amount is burned down into the pedestal concrete basemat. Further fuel debris may be in lower reactor piping systems or the outer drywell floor. Unit 2’s fuel debris volume would also be reduced as the control rod drive array and bottom head of the reactor vessel are still intact. That large amount of metal structural material is known to not be part of the melted fuel debris in unit 2.
 
What has been found on inspection may be all of the fuel debris for unit 2 if a portion of the material is burned down into the pedestal basemat concrete. In most meltdown scenarios that is a given assumption unless the containment structure was heavily and repeatedly flooded with water at the time the fuel first dropped into the pedestal. With unit 2 that is an unlikely scenario.
 
There is an alternative possibility that a large amount of the radioactive materials in the fuel vaporized during the meltdown and escaped containment. This concept requires more investigation to confirm vaporization but this possibility for unit 2 is not completely ruled out. Fused microparticles containing nuclear fuel and other meltdown related materials have been found over a wide swath of Fukushima and beyond. Unit 2’s refueling floor blow out panel and reactor well containment gasket are one escape path for micro materials, steam and other gasses. Unit 2’s venting attempts are another concern. TEPCO has claimed the direct drywell venting of unit 2 didn’t work and the rupture disc for this system did not break as intended. TEPCO has provided no conclusive proof of this claim such as photos, video or other tangible evidence for this claim. Due to this, there is still the possibility that unit 2’s venting released some of these fused microparticles of fuel.
 
Radiation levels:
The radiation levels found in unit 2’s pedestal including a reading close to the fuel debris pile were between 7-8 Sieverts/hour. The high reading found along the CRD rail in 2017 was between 200-300 Sieverts/hour. These pedestal readings are drastically lower than what would be expected near an unshielded large pile of fuel debris.
By comparison, radiation levels along the outer containment wall in 2012 were within a similar range of the lower readings found on the CRD rail in 2017.
 
The elephant’s foot at Chernobyl, measured within the first year of the disaster, converted to Sieverts was 100 Sievert/hour.
 
Underwater readings in unit 1’s torus room near what is suspected fuel debris, taken in 2012 were 100,000 to 1 million Sieverts/hour.
 
Radiation levels near the fuel debris indicate that the top layers of debris may be mostly metallic materials with little fuel.
 
Radiation levels indicate that fuel bearing debris is not in the visible layer in the pedestal. (other possible locations – vaporized/vented, beneath the metallic layer, sml amounts in piping).

Roadmap document, section on unit 2:
http://www.tepco.co.jp/nu/fukushima-np/roadmap/2018/images1/d180426_08-j.pdf#page=3

TEPCO photo page for unit 2 findings:
http://photo.tepco.co.jp/date/2018/201804-j/180426-01j.html

May 10, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima ETHOS: Post-Disaster Risk Communication, Affect, and Shifting Risks

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26 May 2017
Abstract
ETHOS Fukushima is a risk communication (RC) program organized after the Fukushima nuclear accident by the International Commission on Radiological Protection and other international organizations supported by the Japanese government.
ETHOS has been hailed as a model RC that is participatory and dialogue-based. Yet the critical and feminist literature has shown the need for analyzing the power relations in participatory projects, and for analyzing affect as a target of management by neoliberal governmentality.
The affective work of ETHOS is characterized by narratives of self-responsibility, hope and anticipation, and transnational solidarity with Chernobyl victims. These resonate with the affective regime under neoliberalism that privileges self-responsibility, anticipation, maximization of emotional potential, and cosmopolitan empathy.
This particular regime of affect has been integral in shifting risk from the nuclear industry and the government to individual citizens. ETHOS Fukushima has supported continued residence in contaminated areas.
It has helped portray the reduction of government/industry responsibility as morally defensible, and the decision to stay in Fukushima as a free choice made by hopeful and determined citizens.
At the same time, ETHOS has helped characterize the state’s and the nuclear industry’s roles in cleaning up and compensating the victims as restricting individual freedom and demoralizing the local people.
The recent RC literature increasingly argues for a positive assessment of emotion, but this argument warrants careful analysis, as emotion is socially regulated and entangled in power relations.
Moreover, deploying affective tropes is a crucial technique of neoliberal governmentality, especially because of affect’s seemingly oppositional and external relationship to neoliberalism.

May 10, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | 2 Comments

TEPCO offers virtual tour of Fukushima No. 1 plant on website

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May 5, 2018
Explanations are provided if the questions are clicked when passing through elevated land in front of the No. 1 reactor. (Captured from Tokyo Electric Power Co. website)
FUKUSHIMA–The crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is open for all to explore in a virtual tour on operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s website.
TEPCO released the “Inside Fukushima Daiichi” feature, only available on personal computers, so visitors can feel as if they are touring the decommissioning venue by car.
The service is aimed at helping more people understand the current state of the plant, also known as Fukushima Daiichi, after the nuclear crisis triggered by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
While visitors can tour the plant grounds on the website, the radiation level around the displayed area is shown in the lower left portion of the monitor.
Front and side views of the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors, which suffered serious damage, can be seen up close.
In some sections, images taken both recently and immediately after the disaster are shown to offer comparisons. Explanations of the plant are provided in Q&A format for some areas as well.
A 360-degree view of the inside of the No. 5 reactor building, which has almost the same structure as the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors, and other facilities is also offered.
TEPCO is looking to provide an English-language version in the future.

May 10, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

‘Global Consequences’ of Lethal Radiation Leak at Destroyed Japan Nuclear Plant

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May 4, 2018
Lethal levels of radiation have been observed inside Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant. And they are arguably way higher than you suspect.
According to Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), radiation levels of eight Sieverts per hour (Sv/h) have been discovered within the Fukushima nuclear power plant, which was destroyed after a massive earthquake and a tsunami in March 2011.
Tepco, the company that operated the plant and is now tasked with decommissioning it, reported the discovery after making observations in a reactor containment vessel last month.
Eight Sv/h of radiation, if absorbed at once, mean certain death, even with quick treatment. One Sv/h is likely to cause sickness and 5.5 Sv/h will result in a high chance of developing cancer.
While 8 Sv/h is deadly, outside of Fukushima’s Reactor Number 2 foundations of a much higher level of 42 Sv/h was detected.
A strange occurrence, and experts are still arguing what caused the discrepancy. One possible explanation is that cooling water washed radioactive material off debris, taking it somewhere else.
But here’s a truly terrifying catch: according to the report, Tepco highly doubts the new readings, because, as was discovered later, a cover was not removed from the robot-mounted measurement device at the time of the inspection, NHK World reports.
Exactly one year ago, Sputnik reported that Tepco engineers discovered absolutely insane levels of radiation of about 530 Sv/h within the reactor. Such levels of radiation would kill a human within seconds. By comparison, the Chernobyl reactor reads 34 Sv/h radiation level, enough to kill a human after 20 minutes of exposure.
The levels of radiation within Fukushima reactor number 2 were so high that Tepco’s toughest robot, designed to withstand 1000 Sv/h of radiation, had to be pulled out, as it started glitching due to high radiation levels. Nuclear experts called the radiation levels “unimaginable” at the time.
On November 2017, the New York Times and other news outlets reported a much smaller figure of 70 Sv/h of radiation, more or less on par with a 74 Sv/h reading gathered before an anomalous 530 Sv/h spike.
While that radiation dosimeter cover negligence prevents precise calculations, the actual picture inside Unit 2 is thought to be much worse.
Japanese state broadcaster NHK World quoted experts saying that if the cleaning of the stricken power plant is not properly addressed, it will result in major leak of radioactivity with “global” consequences.
Richard Black, director of the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, says that while the readings are not reliable, they still “demonstrate that, seven years after the disaster, cleaning up the Fukushima site remains a massive challenge — and one that we’re going to be reading about for decades, never mind years.”
Mycle Schneider, independent energy consultant and lead author of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, criticized Tepco, saying the power company has “no clue” what it is doing.
“I find it symptomatic of the past seven years, in that they don’t know what they’re doing, Tepco, these energy companies, haven’t a clue what they’re doing, so to me it’s been going wrong from the beginning. It’s a disaster of unseen proportions.”
In observing the poor maintenance of plant radiation leaks, Schneider also pointed out that the company stores nuclear waste at the site in an inappropriate way.
“This is an area of the planet that gets hit by tornadoes and all kinds of heavy weather patterns, which is a problem. When you have waste stored above ground in inappropriate ways, it can get washed out and you can get contamination all over the place.”

May 5, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Foreign Trainees Used in the Cleanup of Fukushima Nuke Plant

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Foreign workers who have been employed at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant are pictured in Fukushima Prefecture.
Despite ban, foreign trainees working at crippled Fukushima nuclear plant
May 1, 2018
FUKUSHIMA — At least four foreign technical intern trainees are working at the construction site on the premises of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant despite the policy of its operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), that bans the employment of such trainees there, the Mainichi has learned.
TEPCO has acknowledged to the Mainichi that the foreigners are indeed at work at the plant in Fukushima Prefecture. The plant has been shut down due to the core meltdown accidents at some of its nuclear reactors after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated northeastern Japan.
A TEPCO official said that the practice of letting the trainees work does not match the intentions of the Technical Intern Training System. “We will demand our contractors to thoroughly check the residency status (of their foreign workers). We will do our own checks too,” the official said.
The Mainichi investigation has found that the four Vietnamese and other trainees are in their 20s or 30s and two of them just arrived in Japan last year and thus speak little Japanese. Two more foreign construction workers operate inside the grounds of the Fukushima plant.
The six workers, employed by a Tokyo-based subcontractor of a major construction company, are involved in laying the foundations of a new facility designed to burn rubble or trees with potential radioactive contamination. The work began in November last year.
According to TEPCO, the area the six workers are assigned to is outside the radiation controlled area where protection from radiation is necessary. Although they are inside the premises of the nuclear power plant, they did not receive training on how to protect themselves from radiation, and there is no need to control their radiation exposure, the company said.
The six workers are made to wear dosimeters but told the Mainichi that they were not aware of the amount of radiation they have received.
The Technical Intern Training System is designed to transfer technology to developing countries, but Vietnam does not have nuclear power plants where workers could be exposed to radiation. The Vietnamese government ended a plan to construct a nuclear power plant in 2016 due to a shortage of funds and out of consideration of public opposition following the nuclear disaster at the TEPCO plant in 2011.
TEPCO officials told a news conference in February 2017 that the company wanted to protect the working environment with its own control measures as the training system was designed for the trainees to acquire knowledge and experience in Japan and pass that on to people at home.
A TEPCO official told the Mainichi that the company does not accept technical intern trainees to work at locations even outside the radiation controlled areas, adding that the company intends to strengthen the contractual management of its contractors.
The president of the construction company that hires the six foreigners said that he was told by the main contractor to refrain from using foreign workers as much as possible. “But our industry cannot carry on without foreigners any longer,” he said.
According to the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, some 55,000 foreigners were reported to have worked in the construction sector in 2017, more than four times the number recorded five years earlier. Out of the 2017 total, some 37,000 were technical intern trainees.
(Japanese original by Shunsuke Sekiya, Chiba Bureau)
 
 
Foreign workers vital for Japanese contractor in cleanup at Fukushima nuke plant
May 1, 2018
FUKUSHIMA — Foreign technical intern trainees have been employed in what is said to be a 40-year-long decommissioning operation underway at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) in the wake of devastating core meltdowns in 2011. While they are not supposed to be there under TEPCO policy, they are still considered indispensable by their employer, commissioned by TEPCO.
The homelands of the interns include Vietnam, a country that abandoned plans to import a nuclear reactor from Japan two years ago. As trainees, they are supposed to “transfer” their experiences in Japan to their compatriots back home. But in the case of Vietnam, there is no chance of using such know-how in the non-nuclear country. What is going through the minds of the trainees as they engage in this work?
“Hosha-kei, hosha-kei, hosha-kei,” one foreign worker repeated when the Mainichi Shimbun asked six workers from Vietnam and elsewhere about their job at the plant in February. It was not clear whether he meant radiation, radioactivity or a dosimeter.
“The job is easy and many Japanese workers are with us. I think (safety) is OK,” said another foreign worker who had the best command of the Japanese language in the group. The location they started working last fall is outside the radiation controlled areas and everyone there is in ordinary workers’ outfits.
The president of the Tokyo-based company that employs the six has nothing but praise for them. “People say they are so good at their work. I depend on them very much.” The six workers make up two-thirds of the company’s workforce, which also includes three Japanese nationals.
When the company was founded some 30 years ago it employed over 20 Japanese workers in their 20s, but now foreigners are vital for its operations. Says the president: “Japanese youngsters quit easily but foreigners stick with us because they borrow heavily to come to Japan and cannot go home at least for three years,” a requirement for technical intern trainees.
The six each borrowed between 1.2 million and 1.5 million yen to pay for their trip to Japan and other expenses. Four of them are paying back the debt as they work. They all share a one-story, three-room wooden apartment near the plant that includes a small dining room and a kitchen.
When one male foreign worker who barely spoke Japanese was asked why he came to Japan, he replied in Japanese, “Okane” (money).
The workers have not told their families they are working at the nuclear plant. “My family would worry and tell me to come home,” one man said in broken Japanese.
(Japanese original by Shunsuke Sekiya, Chiba Bureau)
 
 
TEPCO: Foreign trainees worked at Fukushima nuclear plant
May 2, 2018
Six people in the government’s foreign technical trainee program worked at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant until the end of April despite Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s ban on such dispatches.
A TEPCO official on May 1 said the company had failed to sufficiently check the situation concerning workers at the nuclear plant.
The utility in February 2017 said it would not have foreign trainees work at the plant, which has continued to leak radiation since being struck by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
The six workers were employed by a subcontractor of Tokyo-based Hazama Ando Corp.
They started working at the plant between October and December last year and were involved in construction of an incinerator on the premises to destroy contaminated protective clothing and other materials.
They were not required to wear protective gear against radiation because they worked outside the radiation-controlled area.
“We will ask prime contractors once more to check the status of workers (under their supervision),” the TEPCO official said.
The company said it also intends to check whether other foreign trainees have ended up working at the plant.
The purpose of the foreign trainee program is to pass down skills and expertise that interns can use to help their home countries. However, a number of cases have shown that companies are exploiting the program to obtain cheap labor, sometimes for dangerous tasks.
In March, it was revealed that a Vietnamese trainee was involved in decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture but had not been told of the potential hazards.
A Justice Ministry official said decontamination work is an inappropriate job for foreign trainees.

May 5, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Tepco Staffer Testifies in Court that Tepco Executives Put Off Tsunami Measures at Fukushima Plant

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In this March 11, 2011 photo provided by Tokyo Electric Power Co., a tsunami is seen just after striking the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant breakwater.
TEPCO staffer testifies execs put off tsunami measures at Fukushima plant
April 11, 2018
TOKYO — A Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) employee testified in court here on April 10 that company executives decided to postpone tsunami prevention measures at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant despite an assessment warning that a massive wave could hit the power station.
Three former TEPCO executives including former Vice President Sakae Muto, 67, are on trial for professional negligence causing death and injury over the Fukushima nuclear crisis triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami. The TEPCO employee’s statements at the trial’s fifth hearing were in line with the arguments of the court-appointed attorney acting for the prosecution.
Since 2007, the male employee had been part of an internal assessment group tasked with estimating the maximum height of tsunami which could strike the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
The group commissioned a TEPCO-affiliated company to estimate the size of potential tsunami, based on a long-term assessment made by the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion that a massive wave could be generated by a quake in the Japan Trench, including off Fukushima Prefecture. In 2008, the TEPCO subsidiary reported that tsunami as tall as 15.7 meters could hit the plant.
In the trial, the employee stated, “I thought that TEPCO should take the assessment into consideration in taking (earthquake and tsunami) countermeasures, as the assessment was supported by prominent seismologists.” He said he was so confident that the utility would take action that he emailed another working group at the company, “There will definitely be major renovations at the Fukushima No. 1 and other plants.”
When the employee reported the assessment result to Muto, the then vice president gave him instructions that could be interpreted as an order to prepare to build a levee. However, the employee testified that Muto later shifted policy and called for an investigation into whether the long-term tsunami risk assessment is correct rather than taking tsunami countermeasures.
“I thought they (TEPCO) would consider taking tsunami prevention measures, but they changed policy unexpectedly and I lost heart,” the employee told the court.
Along with Muto, former TEPCO President Tsunehisa Katsumata and Vice President Ichiro Takekuro were slapped with mandatory indictments in February 2016 after a decision by the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution. Since the trial’s first public hearing, the court-appointed lawyers for the prosecution have claimed that the executives put off tsunami countermeasures even though TEPCO staff tasked with estimating the maximum height of tsunami that could strike the Fukushima plant endeavored to address the threat. The defendants have argued that they did not put off the countermeasures.
(Japanese original by Ebo Ishiyama, City News Department, and Ei Okada, Science & Environment News Department)
 
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The 2011 tsunami damaged pumps at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
TEPCO worker: Boss scrapped tsunami wall for Fukushima plant
April 11, 2018
An employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co. testified in court that his boss abruptly ended preparations in 2008 to build a seawall to protect the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant from a towering tsunami.
“It was unexpected,” the employee said of former TEPCO Vice President Sakae Muto’s instructions during a hearing at the Tokyo District Court on April 10. “I was so disheartened that I have no recollection of what followed afterward at the meeting.”
Muto, 67, was deputy chief of the company’s nuclear power and plant siting division at the time.
He, along with Tsunehisa Katsumata, former TEPCO chairman, and Ichiro Takekuro, former TEPCO vice president, are now standing trial on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the 2011 nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
To prove negligence, prosecutors are trying to show that the top executives could have predicted the size of the tsunami that swamped the plant on March 11, 2011, resulting in the most serious nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
The employee was a member of a team tasked with compiling steps against tsunami at the earthquake countermeasures center that the utility set up in November 2007.
He reported directly to Muto.
According to the employee, TEPCO was considering additional safeguards on the instructions of the then Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency for all nuclear plant operators to review their anti-earthquake measures.
The group weighed its options based on a long-term assessment of the probability of major earthquakes released by the science ministry’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion in 2002.
The assessment pointed out that Fukushima Prefecture could be hit by a major tsunami.
Some experts were skeptical about the assessment, given that there were no archives showing a towering tsunami ever striking the area.
But the employee told the court, “Members of the group reached a consensus that we should incorporate the long-term assessment” in devising countermeasures.
The group asked a TEPCO subsidiary to conduct a study on the maximum height of a tsunami on the basis of the assessment.
The subsidiary in March 2008 informed the group that a tsunami of “a maximum 15.7 meters” could hit the Fukushima plant.
The group reported that number to Muto in June that year.
Based on Muto’s instructions, the group studied procedures on obtaining a permit to build a seawall to protect the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, according to the employee.
But in July, Muto, without giving an explanation, told the group at a meeting that TEPCO will not adopt the 15.7-meter estimate, the employee said.
He said Muto’s decision stunned group members who had believed the company was moving to reinforce the plant.
The tsunami that caused the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant reached 15.5 meters.
But Muto and the two others on trial have pleaded not guilty, arguing that the 15.7-meter prediction was “nothing more than one estimate.”
Why the TEPCO management dropped the tsunami prediction will be the focus of future hearings.
Prosecutors had initially declined to press charges against the three former executives, citing insufficient evidence. However, a committee for the inquest of prosecution twice concluded that the three should be indicted.
Their trial began in June last year. Lawyers are acting as prosecutors in the case.
(This story was compiled from reports by Mikiharu Sugiura, Takuya Kitazawa and Senior Staff Writer Eisuke Sasaki.)

April 16, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

Downplaying: Hokkaido METI bureau requested changes to nuclear energy part of high school lecture

7 april 2018
The image on the left shows a March 2011 hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant originally used in the lecture materials, while the image on the right shows the materials after alterations had been made, adding photos of disasters from other energy sources alongside the hydrogen explosion photo.
 
SAPPORO — High-ranking officials from the local bureau of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) requested that an assistant professor change an October 2017 lecture to high school students pointing out the dangers of nuclear power, it has been learned.
 
“We will review our operations so as not to cause misunderstandings,” stated industry minister Hiroshige Seko regarding the request by the Hokkaido Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry.
 
The lecture at Hokkaido Niseko High School in the prefectural town of Niseko was on energy issues. The school had been chosen by the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, an industry ministry-affiliated body, as a model for energy education last academic year, and the lecture by Hokkaido University assistant professor Sadamu Yamagata was supported by a government grant.
 
According to multiple sources close to the matter, Yamagata sent his lecture materials to the school beforehand to be printed, and the school handed the documents over to METI’s Hokkaido bureau at the latter’s request. Two high-ranking officials from the bureau then visited Yamagata and requested that he make changes to a section of the materials explaining the dangers and costs of nuclear power, illustrated with a photo of the aftermath of a hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.
 
The officials told Yamagata that this was “only one perspective” and that called it “impression manipulation.”
 
Yamagata added the statement, “natural energy is not necessarily 100 percent safe” along with a photo of a collapsed windmill, but did not comply with the request to change the section about nuclear energy.
 
“I found it uncomfortable that (the request for changes) was focused on nuclear power,” Yamagata told the Mainichi Shimbun. Hokkaido Niseko High School principal Noboru Baba said, “The lecture content was good. I don’t know if there was intrusion (by the ministry) into education.” However, residents who were aware of what had happened view the flow of events as meddling by the government in education, and the Niseko Municipal Government has held three meetings to explain the situation to locals.
Industry minister Seko told a post-Cabinet meeting news conference on April 6, “It’s common sense that the government takes responsibility for the content of an agency-commissioned program, but with the focus (by the bureau officials) only on nuclear energy, misunderstandings can arise easily.”
 
The incident comes on the heels of criticism of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology for pressuring the Nagoya Municipal Board of Education by requesting a report about a lecture given by former vice minister of education Kihei Maekawa.
 
But how should the Hokkaido case be understood? The class taught by Maekawa was set up by the school and the Nagoya education board, completely independently of the central government. On the other hand, the Hokkaido case was funded by a central government grant, and Japan’s stance has so far been that funding gives related government bodies a say in how the monies are used.
 
The Hokkaido bureau’s Natural Resources, Energy and Environment Department denied intervening, telling the Mainichi, “The purpose was to show both the merits and demerits of all types of energy sources, and if the lecture had hypothetically been extremely critical of natural energy resources, the same request for alternations would have been made. If only the shortcomings of nuclear energy are presented while ignoring the benefits, that is a problem.”
 
However, experts are critical. Hokkaido University emeritus professor Yoichi Anezaki said, “The case of the education ministry requesting a report of Maekawa’s class was also problematic, but in this case with the industry ministry, which plays a key role in nuclear power policies, requesting that a section pointing out the issues with nuclear energy be changed, it’s an intrusion into education by authority and is much worse. It’s tantamount to censorship.”
 
“The belief that just because the government provided the grant, it means that it can have its say on the content of education doesn’t make sense,” said Kyoto University of Art and Design professor and former education ministry bureaucrat Ken Terawaki. “If we allow for this, then it means that it’s fine for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to promote the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Ministry of Defense the necessity of military affairs in the classroom. Intrusion into education is a serious matter.”
 

April 9, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Total tally for Fukushima decommission is $75 billion

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April 2, 2018
The decommissioning of the Fukushima nuclear power plant will cost an annual $2 billion (220 billion yen) until 2021, an unnamed source told the Japan Times.
 
Half of the money will be used to tackle the radioactive water buildup at the site of the plant and for removing radioactive fuel from the fuel pools. A small amount of funds will be used to research ways of retreating melted fuel from the reactors that got damaged during the 2011 tsunami disaster.
 
The $6 billion for the three years is only part of the total estimated cost for taking Fukushima out of operation.
 
The total decommissioning tally came in at $75 billion (8 trillion yen), as estimated by the specially set up Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp (NDF). That’s four times more than the initial estimate of the costs around the NPP’s decommissioning.
 
Now the operator of Fukushima, Tepco, and the NDF are due to submit their financial plan for the facility to the government for approval by the energy industry minister.
 
In addition to the $6 billion allocated for the cleanup, Tepco will spend another $1.88 billion (200 billion yen) on preparing to start extracting the melted fuel from the three damaged reactors. This seems to be the biggest challenge for the cleanup efforts because of the still high radiation levels as well as technical difficulties.
 
Tepco is still reeling from the effects of the 2011 tsunami and resulting nuclear meltdown. Around 15,000 people died in March 2011, when a magnitude-9 quake caused a deadly tsunami and erased the coastline in the area of the nuclear power plant.
 
At the end of 2016, the Japanese government revised upwards the total costs of the disaster to $192 billion (21.5 trillion yen), stepping up pressure on Tepco to clean up its act and implement urgent reforms to its safety procedures.
 

April 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | 2 Comments

Fukushima Jitters

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April 2, 2018
by Robert Hunziker
Fukushima is full of nasty surprises, similar to John Carpenter’s classic film The Thing (1982), which held audiences to the edge of their seats in anticipation of creepy monsters leaping out from “somebody, anybody, nobody knows for sure,” but unlike Hollywood films, Fukushima’s consequences are real and dire and deathly. It’s an on-going horror show that just won’t quit.
Only recently, a team of international researchers, including a group of scientists from the University of Manchester/UK and Kyushu University/Japan made a startling discovery. Within the nuclear exclusion zone in paddy soils and at an aquaculture center located several miles from the nuclear plant, the research team found cesium-rich micro-particles.
Evidently, the radioactive debris was blown into the environment during the initial meltdowns and accompanying hydrogen blasts. Accordingly, the environmental impact of radiation fallout may last much longer than previously expected. (Source: New Evidence of Nuclear Fuel Releases Found at Fukushima, University of Manchester, Phys.org, Feb. 28, 2018)
According to Dr. Gareth Law, senior lecturer in Analytical Radiochemistry at the University of Manchester: “Our research strongly suggests there is a need for further detailed investigation on Fukushima fuel debris, inside, and potentially outside the nuclear exclusion zone. Whilst it is extremely difficult to get samples from such an inhospitable environment, further work will enhance our understanding….” Ibid.
Their discovery dispels the long-held view that the initial explosion only emitted gaseous radionuclides. Now, it is clear that solid particles with very long-lived radionuclides were emitted. The research team did not discuss the likely impact, as more analysis is necessary before drawing conclusions.
Decidedly, they’d best hurry up, as the Olympics are scheduled for 2020.
Still, this discovery smacks in the face the government’s and TEPCO’s statements about successful cleanup efforts and pressuring prior residents to return to homes in the exclusion zones.
In another recent development, lethal levels of radiation have unexpectedly popped up in leaks at the nuclear plant facility, as explained in an article by Jeff Farrell: Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Lethal Levels of Radiation Detected in Leak Seven Years After Plant Meltdown in Japan, Independent/UK, Feb. 2, 2018.
TEPCO has discovered lethal levels of radiation leaking around the facilities, radiation that would kill a person within one-hour of exposure. Even though this is not entirely a surprise with 100% total meltdowns and tons of radioactive corium sizzling wildly underneath, irradiating like crazy. This is why radioactive water continues flowing into the Pacific Ocean, necessitated to cool white-hot sizzling corium. Nobody knows what the long-term effect will be for the ocean, but guaranteed, it cannot be good.
Furthermore and distressingly, Mycle Schneider of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report claims, “TEPCO does not have a clue” to decommissioning the plant. That’s not comforting, knowing that mistakes could circumnavigate the planet much worse than the current flow of radioactive water into the Pacific, thus turning into a global catastrophe of unspeakable proportions.
After all, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the country has 100,000 earthquakes every year. Who knows what can happen to rickety broken down nuclear reactors in a country that slip slides so easily, so readily, so often, totally unpredictably.
According to Schneider: “It’s a disaster of unseen proportions.” The radiation leaks, coupled with inappropriate storage of radioactive waste has global consequences. Schneider is aghast at the sloppiness and ignorance of TEPCO, in charge of handling the disaster.
“This is an area of the planet that gets hit by tornadoes and all kinds of heavy weather patterns, which is a problem. When you have waste stored above ground in inappropriate ways, it can get washed out and you can get contamination all over the place… This can get problematic anytime, if it contaminates the ocean there is no local contamination, the ocean is global, so anything that goes into the ocean goes to everyone… It needs to be clear that this problem is not gone; this is not just a local problem. It’s a very major thing.” (Schneider)
And remarkably, the Olympics are coming to Tokyo and Fukushima in 2020.
For the world’s best and clearest understanding of the power and imposing danger inherent with nuclear power, the following is a spectacular power point demonstration that discusses the ABCs of nuclear power: The Age of Nuclear Waste, From Fukushima to Indian Point, prepared for the Fukushima anniversary on March 11, 2017 by Gordon Edwards, Ph.D., president Canadian Coalition for Nuclear Resp0nsibiliy. It’s the best-ever most important-ever description of nuclear power, the process, and inherent dangers.
See a list of 211 man-made radionuclides (p.59 of the power point) contained in irradiated nuclear fuel, not found in nature, which should be a big tipoff of potential dangers inherent with irradiated isotopes… umm, not part of nature!
Gordon Edwards discusses the nuclear waste “word game” as follows: (1) Clean-up is moving nuclear waste from one place to another;(2) Decontamination is collecting and repacking, but not eliminating; (3) Nuclear Waste Disposal is abandoning nuclear waste “somewhere.” In short, there is no such thing as “getting rid of nuclear radiation waste.”
According to The Age of Nuclear Waste, From Fukushima to Indian Point, it’s impossible to dispose of nuclear waste!
Postscript: “It would be irresponsible and morally wrong to commit future generations to the consequences of fission power… unless it has been demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that at least one method exist for the safe isolation of these wastes….” Sir Brian Flowers, UK Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, London, 1976.

April 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Seven years on, radioactive water at Fukushima plant still flowing into ocean, study finds

Fukushima Daiichi still leaking radioactivity into Pacific Ocean. That expensive Ice wall turned out to be a slushy. Keep trying. Better yet, shut down before meltdown.

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Fukushima Daiichi still leaking radioactivity into Pacific Ocean. That expensive Ice wall turned out to be a slushy. Keep trying. Better yet, shut down before meltdown.
More than seven years after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, radioactive water is continuing to flow into the Pacific Ocean from the crippled No. 1 plant at a rate of around 2 billion becquerels a day, a study has found.
The amount of leaking cesium 137 has decreased from some 30 billion becquerels in 2013, Michio Aoyama, a professor at the Institute of Environmental Radioactivity at Fukushima University, said in his study, which was presented Wednesday at an academic conference in Osaka.
The study said the concentration of radiation — 0.02 becquerel per liter of seawater found in samples collected near a coastal town 8 km south of the No. 1 plant — is at a level that does not affect the local fishing industry.
The radioactive water is generated in a process to cool melted nuclear fuel at three damaged reactors at the complex. The reactors experienced core meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
“It can be assumed that there is a path from the complex to the ocean” through which contaminated water flows, Aoyama said.
The water accumulates in the basements of the buildings at the site after being used to cool the melted fuel.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the Fukushima complex, has been trying to prevent contaminated water from increasing within the facilities by building an underground ice wall in an effort to block ground water. It has also built a seawall aimed at preventing contaminated water from entering the ocean.

April 7, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | 2 Comments

Fukushima disaster interest payments to be shouldered by taxpayers now estimated to US$ 29,3 billion, up 58% from previous estimate

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Workers are flanked by bags of radioactive debris along a road in the town of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, In July 2016.
Estimated cost of Fukushima disaster might balloon to ¥218 billion
March 24, 2018
In more bad news for taxpayers, the Board of Audit says the cost of the Fukushima nuclear disaster could balloon to ¥218.2 billion, up 58 percent from the previous estimate of ¥126.4 billion.
The board released the latest estimate Friday in light of the government’s adoption of a Cabinet decision in December 2016 to raise the upper limit on financial assistance for Tokyo Electric to ¥13.5 trillion from ¥9 trillion.
The government is borrowing funds from financial institutions for delivery to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. through a public-private body to help it deal with compensation and other costs related to the triple core meltdown in March 2011.
The principal of the funds will be repaid from contributions by Tepco and other power companies to the body, called Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corp., and from proceeds from the sale of Tepco shares it owns.
But the interest payments will be shouldered by taxpayers.
According to the latest estimate, if Tepco uses up the ¥13.5 trillion assistance limit, it will take 17 to 34 years for the government to finish repaying the funds, and interest payments will balloon to between ¥131.8 billion and ¥218.2 billion.

March 25, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment