The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

TEPCO’s priority is, and will be, to decommission crippled reactors

March 14, 2018
Toyoshi Fuketa, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), told a news conference last week that the Fukushima nuclear accident is far from over, and that it would be a mistake to think of it solely as something that occurred seven years ago.
On the surface, it appears as if a semblance of order has been restored at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the site of one of the most catastrophic nuclear accidents in history. Except for in and around the crippled reactor buildings, workers can now go almost anywhere on the premises without protective clothing.
Measures have been set in place to cool debris from the reactor cores and spent nuclear fuel in storage pools.
The NRA has considerably downgraded the risk of the plant spewing massive amounts of radioactive substances again.
In reality, however, the road to reactor decommissioning is long and arduous.
“We are still in no state to see the peak of the mountain,” Fuketa said. “We don’t even know what sort of uphill slope awaits us.”
The government last year revised its timetable for reactor decommissioning. The basic target of “decommissioning in 30 to 40 years” has not changed, but the removal of spent fuel from the No. 1 and No. 2 reactor pools will not begin until fiscal 2023, three years later than initially projected.
With the state of the immediate surroundings of the reactor cores still being understood only vaguely, any decision on concrete steps for the removal of debris has been postponed by one year to fiscal 2019.
The volume of water containing radioactive substances, stored in 850 tanks, has reached 1 million tons, and it will only keep growing with the passage of time. The bloating costs of reactor decommissioning will translate into a heavier taxpayer burden. But trying to rush the job will raise the risk of exposing workers to radiation and inviting accidents.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, started last summer to publicly announce troubles encountered by cleanup crews as “deviations from the norm.”
Such issues include injuries or acute illnesses suffered by workers, vehicular collisions while multiple operations are being simultaneously run, and the deterioration of machinery used in emergencies. While most of these cases do not constitute legal violations, they are being reported almost daily.
Ensuring the safety of workers is TEPCO’s top priority. The utility must also pay close attention to other factors while proceeding steadily with reactor decommissioning, such as reducing the risks of environmental pollution. It is also crucial for the company to explain the situation to local residents as well as the general public and heed their voices.
However, some within the NRA, as well as the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, a group of domestic and overseas experts who advise TEPCO’s board of directors, have frequently expressed concern that TEPCO may start prioritizing its corporate profitability.
For TEPCO, which has been bailed out effectively under government control, decommissioning the reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant should be its foremost task. As the very party that allowed the nuclear disaster to occur, it is obviously its responsibility to invest sufficient capital and manpower in this undertaking.
In 2013, when Tokyo was bidding for the 2020 Olympics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared in his speech that the issue of contaminated water at the Fukushima plant was “under control.”
But such optimism was hardly warranted, given the difficulty that became clear in disposing of the radioactive water.
This must be firmly borne in mind by TEPCO, as well as the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the utility, and the NRA.

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

Nuclear Power Facing a Tsunami of Litigation

March 12, 2018
Legal fallout from the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station continues, as dozens of lawsuits and injunctions make their way through Japan’s judicial system. The final rulings could have a profound impact on the government’s energy policy and approach to risk mitigation.
Court cases stemming from the meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi can be divided broadly into two categories. In the first are efforts to assign responsibility for the accident, including one high-profile criminal case and numerous civil suits by victims seeking damages from the government and owner-operator Tokyo Electric Power Company. The second group consists of lawsuits and injunctions aimed at blocking or shutting down operations at plants other than Fukushima Daiichi (whose reactors have been decommissioned) on the grounds that they pose a grave safety threat. In the following, we briefly survey these cases and their implications.
A Foreseeable Danger?
According to lawyer Managi Izutarō, who is handling the largest class-action suit against TEPCO and the government, about 30 such cases are currently moving through courts around the nation. Most of the plaintiffs are Fukushima evacuees who filed suit in the districts to which they fled after the accident.
Meanwhile, TEPCO’s former chairman and two former vice-presidents are facing charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury in a criminal case currently before the Tokyo District Court. Tokyo prosecutors initially declined to bring charges, but in an unusual reversal, they were overruled by a prosecutorial review panel composed of ordinary citizens.
In all of these cases, the pivotal issues facing the court are (1) whether TEPCO and the state could have foreseen the danger posed to the Fukushima plant by a tsunami on the order of that triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and (2) whether they could realistically have prevented a serious accident through risk-mitigation measures. The “state” in this case is the defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the regulatory body formerly in charge of the inspection and licensing of nuclear power facilities.
Construction of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station began in 1967, when the government’s ambitious nuclear energy development program was shifting into high gear. Seismology and tsunami simulation have advanced considerably since those days, but at the time, the maximum height of any potential tsunami relevant to the Fukushima Daiichi site was estimated at a little more than 3 meters. When the facility was built, in other words, there was no way for TEPCO or the government to foresee that waves 10–15 meters in height could one day inundate the plant.
However, as scientists continued to collect and analyze data on earthquake and tsunami activity around Japan, their thinking evolved. In July 2002, a government panel of seismologists issued a report estimating a 20% chance that a magnitude-8 earthquake would trigger a dangerous tsunami off the coast of northeastern Japan within the next three decades. That August, NISA asked TEPCO to conduct a tsunami simulation for Fukushima Daiichi and other plants on the basis of that report, but TEPCO refused, and NISA did not press the matter.
When TEPCO finally did conduct such a simulation in 2008, it concluded that a major earthquake could trigger a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters, tall enough to flood the Fukushima Daiichi plant. However, the utility took no action to mitigate the risk (as by building up the facility’s seawalls or taking other measures to protect backup generators), and it failed to report the findings to NISA until early 2011, just weeks before the disaster.
Complacency and Opacity
In the wake of the Fukushima accident, NISA (since replaced by the Nuclear Regulation Authority) was faulted for its lack of independence. The agency was under the authority of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, which promotes the use of nuclear power, and officials maintain that its regulatory powers were limited. In addition, a closed, inbred environment encouraged unhealthy ties between NISA and the electric power industry. As a consequence, NISA had fallen into the habit of accommodating and supporting the utilities instead of overseeing them. TEPCO, for its part, had developed a deeply rooted culture of denial, habitually concealing information that might supply ammunition to anti-nuclear activists or fuel fears among the local citizenry. The company brushed off the warnings, convincing itself that the danger from a giant tsunami was purely hypothetical.
So far, district courts have reached decisions on three major class-action suits, and in each case they have agreed with the plaintiffs that the state and TEPCO could have foreseen the danger from a major tsunami once the 2002 report on earthquake risks was released. Two of the district courts, Maebashi and Fukushima, found both the state and TEPCO negligent for failing to prevent the meltdowns. The Chiba District Court, on the other hand, dismissed claims against the state on the grounds that the government was focusing on earthquake safety at the time and may not have been able to formulate effective measures in time to protect Fukushima Daiichi against the March 2011 tsunami. With the government and TEPCO girding up to appeal the lower courts’ decisions, the cases could drag on for years.
The final verdicts could have important ramifications in a country prone to natural disasters. Despite the scientific advances of the last few decades, our ability to predict major earthquakes, tsunami, and volcanic eruptions remains extremely limited. How can we ensure that the design and operation of existing nuclear power plants reflect the latest scientific assessments of long-term risks? Are the government and industry responsible for guarding against catastrophic events, however low their probability?
A Tsunami of Lawsuits
Attorney Managi Izutarō estimates that more than 10,000 plaintiffs are currently involved in class-action suits against TEPCO and the state. He represents 4,200 victims in the largest of these cases so far. Managi argues that allowing TEPCO to keep Fukushima Daiichi operating after learning of the risks from a tsunami was “like giving an airline permission to fly an unsafe jetliner.”
In its ruling on Managi’s case last October, the Fukushima District Court agreed that both TEPCO and the state were negligent and ordered damages paid to a majority of the plaintiffs. But the victims and their lawyers deemed the amount and scope of the damages inadequate and opted to appeal. TEPCO and the state have appealed the ruling as well.
The case now moves to the Sendai High Court. “Ultimately, we’re demanding that Fukushima Prefecture be restored to the way it was before the nuclear accident,” Managi explains. “At the same time, we’re fighting to end the use of nuclear power.”
Managi stresses the importance of mobilizing a large number of victims. “Unless you get together a big group of plaintiffs, their case won’t resonate with the judges,” says Managi. “The number of people involved in litigation and the intensity of public sentiment are key. I believe the real battle takes place outside the courtroom.”
In organizing victims into large class-action suits, Managi and others lawyers are following the same playbook that helped turn the tide against big industrial polluters in the 1960s and 1970s, when victims of Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) and itai-itai disease (cadmium poisoning) succesfully banded together to seak legal redress. Whether the current movement will have a comparable impact remains to be seen.
Lawyer Managi Izutarō is representing 4,200 former Fukushima residents in a class-action suit against the state and Tokyo Electric Power Co.
Fighting Nuclear Power, One Plant at a Time
On a different but related front, citizens’ groups and other plaintiffs are vigorously pursuing lawsuits and injunctions aimed directly at shutting down nuclear power plants around the country.
Efforts to block nuclear energy development through legal action date all the way back to the 1970s. Prominent among these early cases was a citizens’ suit challenging the legality of the license granted to Shikoku Electric Power Co. to build and operate the Ikata Nuclear Power Station in Ehime Prefecture. In that case, lawyers called into question the fundamental safety of the facility, given its location near the Median Tectonic Line fault zone. The case made its way up to the Supreme Court, which finally ruled against the plaintiffs in 1992.
Safety concerns are at the core of the 30-odd “anti-nuclear” suits and injunctions currently before the nation’s courts (as of January 2018). Most cite the potential danger from major earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or tsunami, while others are calling for suspension of operations on the grounds of inadequate evacuation planning. While a few of these cases date back to the pre-Fukushima era, the majority were filed in the wake of the accident.
In December last year, the Hiroshima High Court issued an injunction suspending operations of the number 3 reactor at the aforementioned Ikata Nuclear Power Station. In its decision, the court cited the danger posed to the Shikoku facility from a massive eruption of Mount Aso, all the way across the sea in Kyūshū. Although an eruption on this scale has not occurred in recorded history, the court opined that the risk was sufficient to make the site unsuitable for a nuclear power plant. The decision did not go down well with the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which had cleared the plant for resumption of operations under new, post-Fukushima safety standards.
At present, almost all of Japan’s operable nuclear power plants are in the midst of some kind of litigation. In one case, the plaintiff is a local government: The city of Hakodate in Hokkaidō has filed a lawsuit to block the construction and operation of the Ōma Nuclear Power Station across the Tsugaru Strait in Aomori Prefecture.
Status of Japan’s Operable Nuclear Reactors
Note: All six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station were decommissioned between 2011 and 2014.
Lawyers on a Mission
Lawyers Kawai Hiroyuki and Kaido Yūichi have been key figures in the fight against nuclear power since before the Fukushima accident. In the wake of the disaster, they founded the National Network of Counsels in Cases against Nuclear Power Plants, a group that has been pursuing legal action against nuclear facilities on behalf of citizens and other plaintiffs nationwide.
Kawai and Kaido are also representing the shareholders of TEPCO, who are suing the company’s former executives for an unprecedented ¥5.5 trillion. In addition, as lawyers for the Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, the two attorneys are working alongside the prosecuting team in the criminal case against three TEPCO executives, which parallels the civil suit in terms of arguments, evidence, and testimony.
Even so, the trial—which officially opened last June and is expected to continue at least through the coming summer—is expected to attract intense media coverage as witness examinations begin this spring. More than 20 witnesses are scheduled to testify. The case also involves a massive volume of documentary evidence, including records of interviews conducted by the government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, along with countless pages of emails, internal memos, meeting minutes, and reports. Will all this information shed new light on the human factors behind the Fukushima accident? The nation will be watching closely.

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

Seven years on, no end in sight for Fukushima’s long recovery

March 11, 2018
Japan faces myriad challenges to decommissioning and decontamination
Removing nuclear fuel from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant will take 30 to 40 years, ‘Tepco says’.
TOKYO — After helping shape nuclear policy in post-Fukushima Japan, Shunichi Tanaka, a former chief of the country’s nuclear watchdog, took on another tough assignment — moving to a village still struggling from the 2011 nuclear disaster to help with its recovery effort.
In February, Tanaka, who chaired the Nuclear Regulation Authority until last September, became a reconstruction adviser in the tiny village of Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture. Like many in surrounding localities, Iitate residents were ordered to evacuate after a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, led to meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings’ Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. To date, only around 10% of residents have returned.
“It won’t be easy to make life like it was before the disaster,” Tanaka said. Nonetheless he will help the village move forward by offering advice on nuclear decontamination and the ongoing dangers of radiation. He also acts as a go-between for the village and the national government.
“I’m a jack of all trades,” he says.
Shunichi Tanaka, former chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority.
In his former role at the NRA, Tanaka spearheaded an overhaul of Japan’s nuclear regulatory scheme, setting tough new standards for nuclear power operations intended to prevent another Fukushima-like accident. To date, 12 reactors have cleared the new standards. And yet the public remains largely distrustful of nuclear power — a problem Tanaka believes he can address by building up trust in the areas directly affected by the Fukushima disaster.
Challenges in that region, however, remain immense, none more so than decommissioning the damaged power plant. This involves the unprecedented feat of removing and safely storing the plant’s nuclear fuel, part of which has melted and escaped from the reactors it originally powered.
Back in September, Tepco and the national government reaffirmed their previous timeline for the cleanup, estimating the decommissioning process would take 30 to 40 years to complete. But the herculean nature of this task is becoming increasingly apparent. Nuclear fuel is too radioactive for humans to approach even when wearing protective gear, and must be handled by remotely controlled robots. But precision machinery is sensitive to radiation, and developing technology able to withstand conditions at the Fukushima site has proved intensely challenging.
“I truly cannot say” whether decommissioning can be wrapped up on a 30- to 40-year timeline, and “it is important to be honest,” said Hajimu Yamana, head of the government-backed Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation.
The process is also extremely costly. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in 2016 pegged costs such as decommissioning and victims’ compensation related to the disaster at 21.5 trillion yen ($202 billion at current rates), nearly double its initial estimate of 11 trillion yen.
Work to remove and store melted fuel, set to begin as soon as 2021, and assorted other decontamination tasks could pile on additional expenses, depending on how they progress. The Japan Center for Economic Research believes the real cost could be as high as 70 trillion yen. Much of this would be borne by taxpayers, who require a convincing explanation of why costs are so high.
Decontaminating the soil poses another thorny problem. Roughly 640,000 cu. meters of contaminated soil, divided into 1-cu.-meter packages, has been delivered to an interim government storage facility between October and January. Yet up to 22 million cu. meters of contaminated earth remains to be treated in Fukushima Prefecture alone, a far larger amount than can be adequately handled at the current pace of work.
The government has not even locked down the roughly 1,600 hectares of land needed to complete the facility, which is itself only a temporary solution. Tokyo has pledged that Fukushima Prefecture will not be the final resting place for any of this soil, and looks to move it to a more permanent home elsewhere within 30 years. But even initial steps toward choosing such a site remain to be taken.
“It would be difficult and unrealistic to ask other prefectures to shoulder the burden,” Tanaka said. He has proposed decontaminating the soil and using it to fill in wetlands, turning them into farmland or meadowland that would provide a living for residents returning to evacuated areas. An influx of foreign engineers working on decommissioning the Fukushima plant could also give rise to new industry. But whatever plans emerge, the highest and most important hurdle could be simply getting started.

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

Fukushima ice wall yields limited benefit for its cost

March 11, 2018
$322m barrier is less effective than lower-tech measures in fighting contamination
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Tepco has surrounded the reactors at its Fukushima Daiichi plant with a wall of frozen earth.
TOKYO — Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings faces the question of whether the so-called frozen soil wall built to contain contamination at its damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant justifies its high cost.
The 1.5km barrier of frozen earth, which cost 34.5 billion yen ($322 million) to build using taxpayer money, is supposed to keep groundwater out of the plant’s four reactor buildings. Multiple reactors suffered core meltdowns following the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Any water that enters must undergo decontamination, though it is not possible to remove all the radioactive material the water takes up.
Tepco, as the utility is widely known, has said that the barrier has reduced the amount of new contaminated groundwater by 95 tons a day. This suggests that the wall accounts for just one-quarter of recent reductions: Around 110 tons of groundwater were contaminated daily in the three months through February, compared to roughly 490 tons daily before the frozen barrier was created. Freezing of earth around the buildings began in March 2016, and was nearly complete last November.
The utility has said a variety of external factors make those numbers difficult to compare directly, and it plans to release a more detailed analysis as soon as next week. “The frozen soil wall is working,” said Naohiro Masuda, chief decommissioning officer for the Fukushima plant. Some of the tanks to store contaminated water are rendered unnecessary, and “this is huge in monetary terms,” he said.
Others beg to differ. “It is hard to believe” the barrier is “contributing as much as it cost to build,” said Masashi Kamon, professor emeritus at Kyoto University. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority has also raised questions about the barrier’s effectiveness relative to its cost.
Lower-tech measures also in place to prevent contamination, such as wells that pump water out of the ground surrounding the plant, have proven more effective than the frozen barrier. But Tepco plans to keep the wall in place, at an annual cost of more than 1 billion yen, until the groundwater contamination problem is resolved.

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

Decommissioning Fukushima reactors will take time but progress continues

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In this July 27, 2017 file photo, contaminated water storage tanks are seen on the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant grounds, in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture
March 11, 2018
Over the past year, clumps appearing to be melted fuel debris have been found inside three reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant — which will soon mark seven years since being struck by disaster, on March 11.
However, the specific properties of the fuel debris remain unclear, and the decision on how to go about extracting the material has been delayed. The mammoth task of decommissioning the nuclear power plant, which is expected to take 40 years, is moving at a sluggish pace.
Removing the debris is the most difficult part of the decommissioning process. During an internal probe of nuclear containment vessels at the site, which involved robots, debris-like clumps were discovered in the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors, and sand-like sediment was found spread across the bottom of the No. 1 reactor. However, the specific properties and distribution of the debris has not yet been ascertained.
In September 2017, the government and TEPCO re-examined its decommissioning operation schedule. Initially, it was planned that the reactor which would undergo decommissioning first, as well as the method, would be decided by the end of the first half of fiscal 2018. However, the decision was delayed until the end of fiscal 2019 due to a lack of information concerning the situation inside the reactors, as well as the debris.
Meanwhile, as part of countermeasures against contaminated water, an ice wall designed to block the flow of underground water has almost been completed. In addition, a sub-drain well that pumps away subterranean water has been reinforced. As a result, the volume of underground water flowing into the buildings housing the reactors has been reduced from roughly 400 metric tons per day, which was the figure immediately after the outbreak of the disaster, to about 80 tons per day — indicating that there has been some progress regarding the “entrance” policy designed to reduce the volume of contaminated water generated at the site.
However, the “exit” policy, designed to dispose of treated water after most of the radioactive materials have been removed from the contaminated water, is still up in the air. The major issue concerning this policy is that the radioactive material tritium (tritiated hydrogen) cannot be removed, in principle, from treated water.
Tritium is something that appears in the natural world. Based on the fact that it has been flowing out into the sea from nuclear facilities across the globe, the Nuclear Regulation Authority stresses that Fukushima’s treated water containing tritium should be diluted and flushed out into the sea. However, due to fears that this could damage the reputation of the local fishing industry, the government and TEPCO continue to keep the treated water stored in tanks.
As a result, the amount of radioactive water stored at the site, including the treated water, has risen to about 1.05 million tons, and the number of tanks has increased to roughly 850. The government has set up a committee looking into how to dispose of the treated water, but consensus has not yet been reached.
Meanwhile, with regard to the extraction of fuel from pools of spent nuclear fuel, removal is planned from the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors in fiscal 2023, three years later than initially scheduled, and from the No. 3 reactor sometime around mid-FY2018. Special cranes are being installed to prepare for the job.

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

7 years later, why hasn’t Japan learned from Fukushima?

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10 Mar 2018
Cancer rates in children are sky high, radioactive rubbish is piling up and radiation levels are rising. Yet the government bails out the plant’s operator – even as it announces a profit and plans to resume seaside operations
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Seven years after the worst natural disaster to strike Japan in living memory, a handful of people whose homes, schools and livelihoods were in villages that were directly beneath the plume of radioactivity that escaped from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant were this week permitted to return briefly to their communities. Media coverage has shown families picking through the interiors of their abandoned homes and collecting keepsakes to remind them of their lives before March 11, 2011, when a magnitude 9 earthquake off north-east Japan triggered a series of massive tsunami that caused widespread devastation in coastal regions and wrecked the nuclear plant.
Officially, more than 18,000 people died in the triple disaster. Of that total, the remains of 2,546 have never been recovered.
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Wakana Kumagai, 7, visits the spot in Miyagi prefecture where her house once stood, before it was washed away by the March 11, 2011 tsunami.
Most of the returnees smiled dutifully for the cameras, but radiation levels are still too high for anything but a fleeting visit and they were soon bused out of an area that the Japanese government still classifies as the “difficult to return to zone”.
The bittersweet images have been eclipsed, however, by the sort of unrelentingly bad headlines with which Fukushima has long been synonymous. On Monday, an investigative committee set up by the prefecture announced that cases of thyroid cancer diagnosed in Fukushima children had risen to 152 in 590,000. A Japanese epidemiologist named Toshihide Tsuda published a paper in 2015 saying the usual rate is a maximum of three cases per million. Officially, however, the cancers are not being linked to the disaster.
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Radioactive soil and debris in black vinyl bags continues to pile up in Tomioka, a town adjacent to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
Radioactive soil and debris in black vinyl bags continues to pile up in vast storage facilities across the prefecture and Greenpeace has issued a study in which it states that radiation levels in the communities of Iitate and Namie have actually risen since they were last measured in 2016, despite the government’s effort to decontaminate the region.
For Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the operator of the nuclear plant, the headlines have been arguably worse. The company’s press releases about progress in work to solve a multitude of problems at the site – from cleansing contaminated water to safely removing fuel rods and developing techniques to eventually safely recover the melted nuclear fuel – are being completely overlooked.
Instead, the focus in the last week has been on a much-vaunted and, at 34.5 billion yen (HK$2.56 billion), very expensive “ice wall” that was meant to freeze the soil around the damaged reactors and prevent more ground water seeping into the basement levels. It has managed to slow the flow by half, but 95 tons of water still gets through every day.
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People living in temporary housing in the northeastern Japan city of Minamisoma mark the anniversary of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
In court in late February, it emerged that Tepco had in 2008 asked an official at a subsidiary to downplay the likely size of a tsunami in the region. The expert on tsunami modelling was giving testimony in a trial for three former executives of the company who have been charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury, and said he was initially asked to lower the possible size of a tsunami by changing his calculations. When he refused, his prediction was not accepted by the company.
Even now, critics say, the company is failing to learn its lessons. “Tepco is completely ignoring its responsibilities to the people of Japan and nothing highlights that more than the efforts they are going to in order to resume operations at their Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, which is right on the Sea of Japan and has been hit by earthquakes in the past,” said Aileen Mioko-Smith, a campaigner with Green Action Japan. “They should have learned it is going to take half a century, if not more, to clear up the mess at Fukushima and they should have realised the cost of that work continues to rise. Instead they have learned the government will continue to bail them out, whatever happens.”
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A mourner in Sendai marks the anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
Mioko-Smith said a combination of “pig-headedness” in the boardroom and government support effectively meant the company had failed to change and was still focused on doing business the “old way” and making money.
She said despite accepting billions of yen in support from the government, all of which comes from the nation’s taxpayers, the company had announced a profit in the last financial year and gave its shareholders a dividend.
“They know that they are indestructible and that the government will always bail them out, so they can take as many risks as they like,” she said. “They have not learned the lessons of Fukushima because the government has not forced them to learn those lessons.”
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Tepco employees give members of the media a tour of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
A British-built drone that entered the No 3 reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant late last month, is helping scientists to plot radiation levels for the first time since its meltdown.
Seven years after one of the worst nuclear accidents in history, radiation in three of the six reactor buildings is still too high for humans to tolerate and Tepco, the operator of the plant, has had limited success with conventional robots entering the structures.
Tepco is now using a small unmanned aerial vehicle called Riser (Remote Intelligent Survey Equipment for Radiation) that was developed by Blue Bear Systems Research, based in Bedfordshire. Riser is the first drone to have flown into the building since the plant was hit on March 11, 2011, by a magnitude-9 earthquake and a tsunami estimated to have been 14 metres high.
“Tepco came to us not long after the incident at Fukushima and we briefed them on what Riser can do,” said Ian Williams-Wynn, director of operations for Blue Bear Systems. “Initially, they said they were going to go away and make something similar themselves, but a few years later they came back to us and said they needed our technology after all.”
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The No 3 reactor building at Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.
Measuring 92cm by 81cm and weighing less than 10kg, Riser is equipped with cameras and a dosimeter to measure radiation. The vehicle does not rely on GPS for guidance but instead uses a series of lasers to determine its position and to build up a picture of the obstacles that now litter the inside of the structure.
“Tepco knows what the rooms inside the building used to look like but they have no idea what that terrain looks like now,” Williams-Wynn said. “There will be fallen piping, collapsed walls and electrical wiring hanging from the ceilings, all of which Riser will have to navigate. These are really challenging problems but we believe this can be part of the solution.”
A conventional remote-controlled robot that entered the structure in July took images of what experts believe are some of the reactor’s fuel rods after they were exposed to air and melted through the containment vessel, releasing lethal amounts of radiation. Tepco needs to know the exact location of the debris that has fused together on the lowest levels of the building before a plan can be devised to safely remove the melted fuel. That process is scheduled to begin in 2021 and experts believe it may take a further 40 years before the site is rendered completely safe.
The three undamaged reactors at Fukushima Daiichi have already been shut down and the cost of the entire decommissioning process is estimated at 8 trillion yen (US$75.4 billion).

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

Fukushima Ice Wall Failing, Water Seepage Into Nuclear Reactors Still A Problem



March 9th, 2018 by James Ayre

The “ice wall” that Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) put in place a few years ago, with the intent of stopping water seepage into the basements of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, isn’t functioning as advertised (so to speak).
Going on an analysis performed by Reuters (using Tepco data), since the ice wall became “operational” — towards the end of August 2017 — an “average of 141 metric tonnes a day of water has seeped into the reactor and turbine areas.”
What that means is that after the ice wall was deemed to be fully operational that the flow of groundwater into the areas in question actually increased — as the previous 9 months (before August 2017) had seen an average of 132 metric tonnes a day of groundwater seepage.
Considering how expensive the ice wall was to put into place, and Tepco’s assurances to skeptics that the approach would be effective, this is very notable, to say the least.
As a result of this failure, large quantities of groundwater are continuing to flow into the basements of the Fukushima nuclear power plants, and there mingle with the extremely radioactive material present there.
Arguments are of course being made by Tepco officials, though, that since groundwater flows have lessened over the last few years that the ice wall is working (in conjunction with various pumps and drains), but considering the figures discussed above, effectiveness is certainly limited.
The company is claiming that, based on computer models, the ice wall is reducing groundwater flow into the reactors by around 95 tonnes a day, compared to 2 years ago.
Reuters provides more information:
“The groundwater seepage has delayed Tepco’s clean-up at the site and may undermine the entire decommissioning process for the plant, which was battered by a tsunami 7 years ago this Sunday. Waves knocked out power and triggered meltdowns at 3 of the site’s 6 reactors that spewed radiation, forcing 160,000 residents to flee, many of whom have not returned to this once-fertile coast.
“Though called an ice wall, Tepco has attempted to create something more like a frozen soil barrier. Using ¥34.5 billion ($324 million) in public funds, Tepco sunk about 1,500 tubes filled with brine to a depth of 30 meters (100 feet) in a 1.5-kilometre (1-mile) perimeter around 4 of the plant’s reactors. It then cools the brine to minus 30° Celsius (minus 22° Fahrenheit). The aim is to freeze the soil into a solid mass that blocks groundwater flowing from the hills west of the plant to the coast.”
It should be realized that the more groundwater seepage there is into the areas in question, the more radioactive water there is to eventually deal with — or not deal with, as may be the case.
To date, the radioactive water at the Fukushima site has either been lost to the wider environment or is stored in large tanks at the facility. These storage tanks now total more than a thousand, and store over 1 million tonnes of radioactive water. Tepco has warned that it will run out of space at the site to store this water by as soon as early 2021. What happens then?
“I believe the ice wall was ‘oversold’ in that it would solve all the release and storage concerns,” commented Dale Klein, the former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the head of an external committee that’s advising Tepco on safety issues, to Reuters.
“The hydrology of the Fukushima site is very complicated and thus the exact water flow is hard to predict, especially during heavy rains.”
This reality was made especially clear last October when a typhoon affected the region, and 866 tonnes a day of groundwater flowed into the nuclear reactors for the duration.
The Reuters coverage provides a bit more:
“However, a government-commissioned panel on Wednesday offered a mixed assessment of the ice wall, saying it was partially effective but more steps were needed…In addition to the building costs, the ice wall needs an estimated 44 million kilowatt hours of electricity a year to run, enough to power about 15,000 typical Japanese homes.
“Meanwhile, Tepco must decide how to cope with the growing volume of water stored on site. The purification process removes 62 radioactive elements from the contaminated water but it leaves tritium, a mildly radioactive element that is difficult to separate from water. Not considered harmful in low doses, tritium is released into oceans and rivers by nuclear plants around the world at various national standard levels.
“But local residents, particularly fishermen, oppose ocean releases because they fear it will keep consumers from buying Fukushima products. Many countries, including South Korea and China, still have restrictions on produce from Fukushima and neighboring areas.”
That’s not to say that such releases won’t be the eventual outcome, as they are one of the primary options now being considered by a government-commissioned task force working on the problem.
As far as whether the water in question actually does “only” contain radioactive tritium, that remains an open question as Tepco has yet to allow third-party testing of the store “purified” water in question. Without third-party testing, who actually knows what’s in it?
As a reminder here, the Fukushima nuclear disaster effectively began 7 years ago on Sunday and is quite obviously still ongoing. A vast amount of money has already been spent working to contain the nuclear material and contamination at the Fukushima site, but the reality remains that a vast amount more will have to be spent over the coming decades. The area itself will effectively remain unfit for human habitation indefinitely regardless of containment and remediation work.

March 14, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Clearing the Radioactive Rubble Heap That Was Fukushima Daiichi, 7 Years On

july 2017.jpg
March 9, 2018
By Tim Hornyak
The water is tainted, the wreckage is dangerous, and disposing of it will be a prolonged, complex and costly process.
Seven years after one of the largest earthquakes on record unleashed a massive tsunami and triggered a meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, officials say they are at last getting a handle on the mammoth task of cleaning the site before it is ultimately dismantled. But the process is still expected to be a long, expensive slog, requiring as-yet untried feats of engineering—and not all the details have yet been worked out.
When the disaster knocked out off- and on-site power supplies on March 11, 2011, three of the cooling systems for the plant’s four reactor units were disabled. This caused the nuclear fuel inside to overheat, leading to a meltdown and hydrogen explosions that spewed out radiation. The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), responded by cooling the reactors with water, which continues today. Meanwhile thousands of people living in the surrounding area were evacuated and Japan’s other nuclear plants were temporarily shut down.
In the years since the disaster and the immediate effort to stanch the release of radioactive material, officials have been working out how to decontaminate the site without unleashing more radiation into the environment. It will take a complex engineering effort to deal with thousands of fuel rods, along with the mangled debris of the reactors and the water used to cool them. Despite setbacks, that effort is now moving forward in earnest, officials say. “We are still conducting studies on the location of the molten fuel, but despite this we have made the judgment that the units are stable,” says Naohiro Masuda, TEPCO’s chief decommissioning officer for Daiichi.
Completely cleaning up and taking apart the plant could take a generation or more, and comes with a hefty price tag. In 2016 the government increased its cost estimate to about $75.7 billion, part of the overall Fukushima disaster price tag of $202.5 billion. The Japan Center for Economic Research, a private think tank, said the cleanup costs could mount to some $470 billion to $660 billion, however.
Under a government roadmap, TEPCO hopes to finish the job in 30 to 40 years. But some experts say even that could be an underestimate. “In general, estimates of work involving decontamination and disposal of nuclear materials are underestimated by decades,” says Rod Ewing, a professor of nuclear security and geological sciences at Stanford University. “I think that we have to expect that the job will extend beyond the estimated time.”
The considerable time and expense are due to the cleanup being a veritable hydra that involves unprecedented engineering. TEPCO and its many contractors will be focusing on several battlefronts.
Water is being deliberately circulated through each reactor every day to cool the fuel within—but the plant lies on a slope, and water from precipitation keeps flowing into the buildings as well. Workers built an elaborate scrubbing system that removes cesium, strontium and dozens of other radioactive particles from the water; some of it is recirculated into the reactors, and some goes into row upon row of giant tanks at the site. There’s about one million tons of water kept in 1,000 tanks and the volume grows by 100 tons a day, down from 400 tons four years ago.
To keep more water from seeping into the ground and being tainted, more than 90 percent of the site has been paved. A series of drains and underground barriers—including a $325-million* supposedly impermeable “wall” of frozen soil—was also constructed to keep water from flowing into the reactors and the ocean. These have not worked as well as expected, though, especially during typhoons when precipitation spikes, so groundwater continues to be contaminated.
Despite the fact contaminated water was dumped into the sea after the disaster, studies by Japanese and foreign labs have shown radioactive cesium in fish caught in the region has fallen and is now within Japan’s food safety limits. TEPCO will not say when it will decide what to do with all the stored water, because dumping it in the ocean again would invite censure at home and abroad—but there are worries that another powerful quake could cause it to slosh out of the tanks.
Fuel Mop-Up
A second major issue at Fukushima is how to handle the fuel¾the melted uranium cores as well as spent and unused fuel rods stored at the reactors. Using robotic probes and 3-D imaging with muons (a type of subatomic particle), workers have found pebbly deposits and debris at various areas inside the primary containment vessels in the three of the plant’s reactor units. These highly radioactive remains are thought to be melted fuel as well as supporting structures. TEPCO has not yet worked out how it can remove the remains, but it wants to start the job in 2021. There are few precedents for the task. Lake Barrett—director of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant during its decommissioning after a partial meltdown at the Middletown, Pa., facility in 1979—says TEPCO will use robots to remotely dig out the melted fuel and store it in canisters on-site before shipping to its final disposal spot. “This is similar to what we did at Three Mile Island, just much larger and with much more sophisticated engineering because their damage is greater than ours was,” Barrett says. “So although the work is technically much more challenging than ours was, Japan has excellent technological capabilities, and worldwide robotic technology has advanced tremendously in the last 30-plus years.”
Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, doubts the ambitious cleanup effort can be completed in the time cited, and questions whether the radioactivity can be completely contained. Until TEPCO can verify the conditions of the molten fuel, he says, “there can be no confirmation of what impact and damage the material has had” on the various components of the reactors—and therefore how radiation might leak into the environment in the future.
Although the utility managed to safely remove all 1,533 fuel bundles from the plant’s unit No. 4 reactor by December 2014, it still has to do the same for the hundreds of rods stored at the other three units. This involves clearing rubble, installing shields, dismantling the building roofs, and setting up platforms and special rooftop equipment to remove the rods. Last month a 55-ton dome roof was installed on unit No. 3 to facilitate the safe removal of the 533 fuel bundles that remain in a storage pool there. Whereas removal should begin at No. 3 sometime before April 2019, the fuel at units No. 1 and 2 will not be ready for transfer before 2023, according to TEPCO. And just where all the fuel and other radioactive solid debris on the site will be stored or disposed of long-term has yet to be decided; last month the site’s ninth solid waste storage building, with a capacity of about 61,000 cubic meters, went into operation.
As for what the site itself might look like decades from now, cleanup officials refuse to say. But they are quick to differentiate it from the sarcophagus-style containment of the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe in the Soviet Union, in what is now Ukraine. Whereas the Chernobyl plant is sealed off and the surrounding area remains off-limits except for brief visits—leaving behind several ghost towns—Japanese officials want as many areas as possible around the Daiichi site to eventually be habitable again.
“To accelerate reconstruction and rebuilding of Fukushima as a region, and the lives of locals, the key is to reduce the mid- and long-term risk,” says Satoru Toyomoto, director for international issues at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Nuclear Accident Response Office. “In that regard, keeping debris on the premises without approval is not an option.”

March 14, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima: A Human-Made Disaster Brought on by Bad Faith

March 9, 2018
by John Laforge
“Nearly seven years after the triple reactor meltdowns, this unique nuclear crisis is still underway,” Greenpeace International’s Shaun Burnie wrote in a blogpost last December. The word “unique” is an understatement but true. The March 11, 2011 meltdowns are the world’s first combined earthquake-tsunami-reactor catastrophe. Moreover, while other power reactors have run out-of-control, melted down and contaminated large areas, never before have three simultaneously suffered mass earthquake damage, station black-outs, loss-of-coolant and complete meltdowns.
The consequences of its meltdowns-cubed are uniquely over three times deeper, broader and more expensive than anyone was prepared to handle. In the days following the initial quake, tsunami(s), and explosions, the head of the emergency response said, “There is no manual for this disaster.” Managers have had to invent, design, develop and implement the recovery whole cloth. Evacuation was so haphazard that on August 9, 2011, one local mayor accused the government of murder.
The crisis is ongoing in many ways: radioactively contaminated water is still pouring into the Pacific Ocean (permanently contaminating and altering sea life which bio-accumulates and bio-concentrates the radioactivity); radioactive gases and perhaps even “hot particles” are still wafting out of destroyed reactor structures and waste fuel pools; the constant threat of earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan puts millions of gallons of radioactive waste water now stored near the shore in tanks at risk of spilling; and the dangerous work of collecting radioactive soils, leaves and tree trimmings from farmlands, school yards, parks and gardens continuously adds to vast collections of 1-ton radioactive waste bags.
The government estimates that 30 million cubic meters of this collected rad waste — a nearly unimaginable 29 million tons — will eventually require burial, incineration or re-use in road-building. The disaster is ongoing because the dangerous radiation exposures endured by the workers in these disaster response jobs is cumulative and irreversible — and the work will continue for 3 centuries or so. This is because: 1) cesium-137, one of the principle pollutants spewed by the meltdowns, takes 300 years to decay to other isotopes; and 2) in spite of the gigantic amount of contaminated material that’s been scrapped together and bagged — at over 1000 Temporary Storage Sites and elsewhere at 141,000 locations across Fukushima — the effort covers “only a small fraction of the total landmass of radioactively contaminated areas,” as Greenpeace’s Burnie reports. The “largest areas of significant contamination [are] the forested mountains of Fukushima,” Burnie notes, and will continue for three centuries to re-contaminate the soil down-wind and down-river, “through weathering processes and the natural water and lifecycle of trees and rivers.”
Fukushima’s endless radiation effects — from thyroid cancers, to contaminated sea food, from poisoned pregnancies to irradiated clean-up workers — should be the final insult from nuclear power and weapons. And they will be if the general public wises up to the unacceptable risks of continuing to operate nuclear reactors.
In “Fukushima Meltdown” the first scholarly book to appear on the incident, author Takashi Hirose dashed off a grim warning after having published books and articles warning of the terrible danger of nuclear power since the 1980s. His cautions are more important now than ever, because commercial media will this week repeat the tragic-comic assurances that “no one died,” that Fukushima’s “released radiation was less than Chernobyl,” and that “nuclear power is clean.”
Natural disasters will never disappear, Takashi wrote, and there is no way of putting an end to earth quakes and tsunamis. “However, the Fukushima Disaster is neither a natural disaster nor ordained by fate. It is a human-made disaster brought about by bad faith.” In his terrifying 150 pages, Takashi methodically proves the case that the Fukushima catastrophe “was easily predictable and preventable.” In a nutshell, two principle government and corporate lies demonstrate how bad faith brought about the worst reactor accident in history. Exposing and rejecting these lies can prevent another meltdown.
Initially the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) asserted over and over that “there is no crisis” and even that “there will be no radiation release.” A month after the start of the disaster, the government admitted that radiation gushing to the sea and spewing to the atmosphere was at the same level as Chernobyl (the 1986 reactor disaster in Ukraine). Author Takashi calls this use of disinformation “as terrifying as what is happening at the actual site.” “From day one I had been saying that huge amounts of radiation were sure to be escaping.… From day one the situation had reached the highest level for nuclear accidents, Level 7, and from day one the government knew this, but it concealed that information from the people, thus causing far more people to be irradiated than otherwise would have been the case.”
The other glaring example of bad faith has been Tepco’s repeatedly saying, “We could not imagine that a once-in-a-thousand-years earthquake might come,” and further that “the tsunami was beyond our expectation.” These are lies. The destroyed Fukushima reactors were hit by an easily imaginable 14-meter tsunami. In 1896, the Meji-Sanriku quake’s tsunami reached 38.2 meters on the Iwate coast not far from Fukushima; the 1933 Hokkaido quake caused a 28.7 meter tsunami. Indeed, since the late 1970s experts have warned that a disaster like Fukushima was possible. In the late 1990s, seismology professor Ishibashi Katsuhiko at Kobe Univ. coined an explicit new term meaning “nuclear-power-plant-earthquake-disaster.” Because Prof. Ishibashi’s many books on the subject are well-known, “it is impossible that his warnings were unknown to the officials of Tepco,” who just want to dodge criminal charges.
The lessons for the 99 faulty reactors in this country and the other 300 around the world are clear enough. It’s absurd to put reactors near earthquakes or volcanoes or anywhere near the water. And, as Takashi says, “The people responsible for the horror of this nuclear accident are the people who promoted nuclear power.”

March 14, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima’s giant ice wall fails to stop water leaking into radioactive area

March 8, 2018
A giant ice wall constructed underneath the ill-fated Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan is failing to prevent groundwater from seeping into it, according to a new report from Reuters.
The failure to contain the water is preventing clean-up teams from removing the last of the dangerous radioactive fuel, seven years after a tsunami hit the plant and triggered a catastrophic meltdown.
The refrigeration structure, which resembles giant ice lollies, was completed in 2016 and was an attempt to limit the amount of radioactive water created by the incident.
The aim is to freeze the soil into a solid mass that blocks groundwater flowing from the hills west of the plant to the coast.
At the time of the ice wall construction, nearly 800,000 tonnes of contaminated water was being stored in 1,000 huge industrial tanks at the site.
Data released from operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) showed that water leakage has actually got worse since the structure was turned on.
An average of 141 metric tonnes of water per day seeped into the reactor and turbine areas, compared to an average of 132 metric tonnes a day during the prior nine months.
The structures cost around 34.5 billion yen (£233m) in public funds and consist of approximately 1,500 tubes filled with brine, cooled to minus 30°C, and buried 30 metres underground.
“I believe the ice wall was ‘oversold’ in that it would solve all the release and storage concerns,” said Dale Klein, the former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the head of an external committee advising Tepco on safety issues.
“The hydrology of the Fukushima site is very complicated and thus the exact water flow is hard to predict,” he said, “especially during heavy rains.”
Overall, Tepco says a combination of drains, pumps and the ice wall has cut water flows by three-quarters, from 490 tons a day during the December 2015 to February 2016 period to an average of 110 tons a day for December 2017 to February 2018.
It is hard to measure exactly how much the ice wall is contributing, Tepco officials say, but based on computer analysis the utility estimates the barrier is reducing water flows by about 95 tonnes a day compared to two years ago, before the barrier was operating.
However, it expects to run out of space to store the water by 2021, so the decommissioning process needs to be completed as quickly as possible.
In 2016, the estimate for the total cost of the clean-up operation increased to 22.6tr yen (£151bn), more than double the previous estimate.
According to a Greenpeace report on Fukushima, published last week, the people, towns and villages in the surrounding area are still being exposed to excessive levels of radiation. A ground-level study conducted by an international research team also found that uranium and other radioactive materials, such as caesium and technetium, were present in tiny particles released from the damaged nuclear reactors.


March 14, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Experts: Fukushima Must Do More to Reduce Radioactive Water

March 7, 2018
By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press
A group of experts has concluded that a costly underground ice wall is only partially effective in reducing the ever-growing amount of contaminated water at Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant, and that other measures are needed as well.
In this Nov. 12, 2014, file photo, workers wearing protective gears stand outside Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant’s reactor in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan.
A government-commissioned group of experts concluded Wednesday, March 7, 2018 that a costly underground ice wall is only partially effective in reducing the ever-growing amount of contaminated water at Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant, and that other measures are needed as well.
TOKYO (AP) — A government-commissioned group of experts concluded Wednesday that a costly underground ice wall is only partially effective in reducing the ever-growing amount of contaminated water at Japan’s destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant, and that other measures are needed as well.
The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., says the ice wall has helped reduce the radioactive water by half. The plant also pumps out several times as much groundwater before it reaches the tsunami-damaged reactors via a conventional drainage system using dozens of wells dug around the area.
The groundwater mixes with radioactive water leaking from the damaged reactors.
The panel agreed Wednesday that the ice wall helps, but said it doesn’t completely solve the problem. Panel members suggested that additional measures be taken to minimize the inflow of rainwater and groundwater, such as repairing roofs and other damaged parts of the buildings.
The 1.5-kilometer (1-mile) coolant-filled underground structure was installed around the wrecked reactor buildings to create a frozen soil barrier and keep groundwater from flowing into the heavily radioactive area. The ice wall has been activated in phases since 2016. Frozen barriers around the reactor buildings are now deemed complete.
On Wednesday, TEPCO said the amount of contaminated water that collects inside the reactor buildings was reduced to 95 metric tons per day with the ice wall, compared to nearly 200 tons without one. That is part of the 500 tons of contaminated water created every day at the plant, and the other 300 tons were pumped out via wells, treated and stored in tanks.
In addition to the 35 billion yen ($320 million) construction cost funded by taxpayers’ money, the ice wall needs more than 1 billion yen ($9.5 million) annually in operating and maintenance costs. Critics have been skeptical about the ice wall and suggested that the greater use of wells — a standard groundwater drainage system — would be a cheaper and more proven option.
The plant has been struggling with the ever-growing water — only slightly contaminated after treatment — now totaling 1 million tons and stored in 1,000 tanks, which take up significant space at the complex, where a decades-long decommissioning effort continues. Officials say they aim to further reduce the amount of contaminated water in the reactor buildings before starting to remove melted fuel in 2021.


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

Vietnamese trainee misled into Fukushima decontamination work

Vietnamese trainee alleges he was misled into taking part in Fukushima decontamination work
March 7, 2018
The Justice Ministry is investigating a case involving a Vietnamese man brought to Japan under the government’s foreign trainee program who alleges he was duped into taking part in cleanup work in areas devastated by the 2011 nuclear disaster, authorities said Wednesday.
The ministry confirmed by telephone that the officials have been looking into the case of the 24-year-old man who worked for an Iwate Prefecture-based construction firm. The company wasn’t available for comment as of Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the Nikkei daily reported the firm has denied claims that it violated labor laws. In the report, the firm asserted instead that the man, who requested anonymity through the union, was assigned the same duties as his Japanese coworkers, which didn’t pose any threat to workers’ health.
But according to the Tokyo-based Zentoitsu Workers Union, which represents the man, he was supposed to conduct dismantling and public engineering work, but was instead assigned with cleanup work in contaminated areas in Fukushima Prefecture, exposing him to radiation.
The group’s Secretary-General Shiro Sasaki, who is well-versed on trainee issues and familiar with the case, said the 24-year-old came to Japan in September 2015 after signing a contract with the firm.
He was then sent to Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture more than a dozen times to decontaminate the city’s residential areas between October 2015 and March 2016.
Afterwards, he was engaged in dismantling buildings in an exclusion zone in the Fukushima town of Kawamata before the authorities lifted restrictions on the evacuation zone due to high levels of radiation.
The man claims he was not informed he would be cleaning up areas contaminated after the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
“(The man’s claims) suggest that he might have been deceived and brought to Japan to conduct cleanup work,” Sasaki said.
Sasaki said the man’s employer might have abused the Labor Contract Act, Labor Standard Act and Industrial Safety and Health Act.
Sasaki said the union is assisting in the ongoing negotiations between the Vietnamese man and the construction firm and are seeking compensation worth the amount he would have been paid if he had completed the rest of his three-year contract.
According to Sasaki, the man was receiving a monthly wage of about ¥140,000, while Japanese workers conducting similar cleanup work earn nearly three times as much.
The government-backed Technical Intern Trainee Program was designed to support foreign nationals in their acquisition of technical skills but in reality has been exploited to make up for the shortage of unskilled laborers in Japan.
“(Technical trainees) shouldn’t be forced to conduct such work … which may pose a threat to one’s health; it’s undeniable that radiation may be hazardous,” Sasaki said.
The Vietnamese quit the company last November out of concern for his health after it ignored his requests to have the situation explained.
The Japan Times was able to access records showing the man had been exposed to radiation while working in Kawamata. According to the labor union, the employer hid this information from him.
Sasaki said the employer also denied the man allowances given to those working under hazardous conditions.
“Above all, decontamination work is very dangerous and requires the trainee’s consent,” said Shoichi Ibusuki, a lawyer versed on labor issues, who supports foreign trainees and interns. “It’s not the type of work you engage someone in who is not aware of accompanying risks. It’s more of a humanitarian rather than a legal issue.”
Ibusuki stressed the Vietnamese man’s case shows flaws in the system, which is aimed at helping foreign nationals from developing countries gain skills they could use back home.
Companies accepting foreign workers under the trainee system are required to submit a detailed plan of their training to a Justice Ministry body tasked with overseeing the program. Ibusuki speculated the trainee’s employer might have kept the scope of the man’s duties hidden when submitting the documents to the government.
Asked to comment on the Vietnamese man’s case, an official said the ministry was verifying the information it had obtained, including claims the trainee’s duties differed from work described in the contract.
The official said there was a possibility the employer had violated labor laws and if the abuse is proven, the ministry would consider penalties. The law, under which violation of the trainees’ rights is subject for punishment, went into effect last November.
The official explained that labor laws do not forbid employment of foreign nationals at decontamination work sites and in theory employers accepting foreign technical trainees may have them conduct cleanup work at contaminated sites. But the official said that a vocational training program needs to be aligned with the objective of the training system.
“It’s hard to imagine that a trainee could use decontamination work experience in his or her home country,” he said, indicating that such a program would likely not be authorized by the government.

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

The Irradiated Sailors of the USS Reagan

Injustice At Sea: the Irradiated Sailors of the USS Reagan
by Linda Pentz Gunter

American sailors on the USS Ronald Reagan were exposed to radiation from Fukushima. Many are sick. Some have died. Why can’t they get justice?


image.0jpg.jpgSailors scrub the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan following a countermeasure wash down to decontaminate the flight deck while the ship is operating off the coast of Japan on March 23, 2011. The Reagan, along with 15 other ships that took part in the relief effort, still have some radiation contamination more than seven years later, the Navy says.


“Coverage of the USS Ronald Reagan has been astoundingly limited,” wrote Der Spiegel in a February 2015 story. Since then, nothing much has changed.

The German magazine was referring to the saga of the American Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier whose crew pitched in to help victims of the March 11, 2011 Tsunami and earthquake in Japan, then found themselves under the radioactive plume from the stricken coastal nuclear reactors at Fukushima. Since then, crew members in eye-popping numbers have come down with unexplained illnesses — more than 70 and still counting. Some have died. And many are suing.

The USS Reagan was part of Operation Tomodachi, a U.S. armed forces mission involving 24,000 U.S. service members, and numerous ships and aircraft bringing aid to the victims of the tsunami and earthquake.

On January 5, 2018, a federal judge in San Diego, CA, dismissed the latest version of a class action lawsuit brought by USS Reagan sailors and US Marines. This was just the latest milestone in a long and winding path to justice strewn with roadblocks and delays.

The original class action lawsuit — Cooper et al v. Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc., was filed in San Diego, the home port of the USS Reagan, on December 21, 2012. A second class action suit — Bartel et al v. Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc. et al — was subsequently filed on August  18, 2017 and was the case dismissed in January.

The plaintiffs are represented by California attorneys Charles Bonner and Paul Garner, and by Edwards Kirby, the North Carolina firm led by former U.S. Senator, John Edwards.

Cooper now has 236 named plaintiffs and Bartel 157. But, wrote attorney Cate Edwards of Edwards Kirby and daughter of John Edwards, in an email;

“We have about 34 additional plaintiffs who have contacted us since the filing of the Bartel complaint, and that number continues to grow on a weekly basis.” As a class action the suit also “encompasses additional, unnamed class members— up to 70,000 American servicemen and women who served in Operation Tomodachi and may have been exposed to the radiation from Fukushima,” Edwards wrote.

Sadly those numbers sometimes also decline. Nine of the plaintiffs have already died. It is unknown how many others who took part in Operation Tomodachi, but did not join the suit, may also have died.

The Bartel plaintiffs are requesting an award of $5 billion to compensate them for injuries, losses and future expenses associated with their exposure to radiation, as a result of what they allege is TEPCO & GE’s negligence.  The Cooper plaintiffs have asked for an award of $1 billion.

Bartel is an extension of Cooper, with different plaintiffs but virtually identical facts and claims. It had to be filed separately, explained Edwards, because at the time more sailors came forward, the Cooper suit was stuck in appeal.  Eventually, Edwards said, the lawyers hope to consolidate the two suits “for litigation on the merits.”

But almost seven years after the Fukushima disaster, those merits are yet to be heard, with the case mired in legal wrangling and delays brought by the defendants — TEPCO, along with General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba and Hitachi, the builders and suppliers of the Fukushima nuclear reactors.

One such delay occurred when TEPCO and the Japanese government tried to force the case to be heard in Japan. But on June 22, 2017, the attorneys won in the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and ensured the case would be heard in the U.S.

The plaintiffs charge that TEPCO lied to the public and the U.S. Navy about the radiation levels at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant at the time the Japanese government was asking for help for victims of the earthquake and Tsunami. By doing so, TEPCO deliberately allowed those involved in Operation Tomodachi to sail into harm’s way and become exposed to the radiation spewing from the stricken reactors on the battered Japanese coast.

A floating pariah  

Whether or not U.S. military commanders knew of the radiation risks once the readings were in, is moot legally. The plaintiffs are barred from suing the U.S. Navy because of the Feres Doctrine, dating from the 1950s, and which prohibits any member of the military from recovering damages from the government for injuries sustained during active military service.

The USS Ronald Reagan arrived off the Japan coast before dawn on March 12, 2011 with a crew of 4,500. It had been on its way to South Korea but returned to join Operation Tomodachi.

But what actually happened to the Reagan after that is still clouded in confusion, or possibly cover-up. After it got doused in the radioactive plume, then drew in radioactively contaminated water through its desalination system — which the crew used for drinking, cooking and bathing — it turned into a pariah ship, just two and a half months into its aid mission.

Floating at sea, the USS Reagan was turned away by Japan, South Korea and Guam. For two and a half months it was the radioactive MS St. Louis, not welcome in any port until Thailand finally took the ship into harbor.

There is no disagreement that the radioactive plume from Fukushima — which largely blew out to sea rather onto land — passed over the Reagan. Radiation meters on board confirmed this. But the levels of exposure are disputed, as is how close the ship came to shore and the melting Fukushima reactors and how often it strayed into — or stayed within — the plume.

Some versions have the radiation readings on board at 30 times “normal,” other 300 times.  Official Navy reports say the ship stayed 100 nautical miles away from the Japan coast.

But some crew members dispute that, saying they were at times just two miles away from shore. In an interview with journalist Roger Witherspoon for his article in Truthout, Navy Quartermaster, Maurice Ennis described a “cat and mouse” game played by the ship to try to stay out of the plume.

“We stayed about 80 days, and we would stay as close as two miles offshore and then sail away,” he told Witherspoon. “We kept coming back because it was a matter of helping the people of Japan who needed help. But it would put us in a different dangerous area.”

How close the ship came to the Fukushima reactors specifically, as opposed to the Japanese shoreline, is also a matter of dispute. Until the plaintiffs’ lawyers can issue subpoenas, hopefully getting a look at the ship’s logs, it is an important question that remains unanswered.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Daniel Hair told Stars and Stripes that he was informed the Reagan came within “five to 10 miles off the coast from Fukushima.” Stars and Stripes also reported that “many sailors have disputed the Navy’s accounting, saying they were so close that they could see the plant.”

Ship’s personnel who flew missions to mainland Japan to aid the earthquake and Tsunami victims also risked exposure to the radiation from Fukushima. Their aircraft, like the ship’s decks, had to be decontaminated upon return. In fact, a total of 25 US ships involved in Operation Tomodachi were found to be contaminated with radiation.

In the June 22, 2017 opinion allowing the class action lawsuits to be heard in the U.S., Judge Jay S. Bybee observed of the anomaly about the ship’s location that:

TEPCO makes much of Plaintiffs’ allegations that the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan was initially positioned “two miles off the coast,” while the Navy had been warned to stay at least “50 miles outside of the radius. . . of the [FNPP].” Appellant’s Opening Brief 7. The SAC [Second Amended Complaint of plaintiffs] alleges, however, that the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan was situated so as to provide relief in the city of Sendai, which is located over fifty miles north of the FNPP. Thus, it is possible that the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan was at once two miles off the coast and fifty miles away from the FNPP. Although other portions of the SAC suggest that the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan was closer to the FNPP, where the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan was situated is unclear from the record before us, and further factual development is necessary to resolve this issue.

No worse than flying or eating a banana

At first, any concerns about radiation exposure were dismissed by military brass. Sailors were told the exposures were no worse than flying or eating a banana, according to Naval officer Angel Torres, one of the plaintiffs.

What they didn’t disclose was the very significant difference between eating a banana — during which the body ingests but also excretes identical amounts of radioactive potassium-40 to maintain a healthy balance — and exposure to nuclear accident fallout. Fukushima was leaking cesium, tritium and strontium as well as radioactive iodine which attacks the thyroid. For example, cesium, can bind to muscle, or strontium to bone, irradiating the person from within. This is a very different effect than the brief visit cosmic radiation pays to the body when we fly in an airplane.

There was also, according to former Department of Energy official, Robert Alvarez, now a senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies, a problem with the dose methodology.

Alvarez told Who.What.Why that “the only way to get an accurate internal and external dose on any individual is to take continual measurements throughout the time they are exposed. People must wear special monitoring equipment and undergo a regular regime of monitoring. This is especially important in trying to assess the health effects from a multiple meltdown situation with large explosions involving reactor cores, as occurred at Fukushima.”

Who.What.Why was created by long-time journalist, Russ Baker because, as he writes on the site, “the media gatekeepers, both ‘mainstream’ and ‘alternative,’ will not allow the biggest, most disturbing revelations to see the light of day.”

That is precisely the fate that appears to have befallen the undeniably disturbing USS Reagan story.

It has been touched on hardly at all by the mainstream media in the US although Jake Tapper delivered a 7-minute piece about it in February 2014 on CNN. Local television news stations have carried reports when a sailor from their area joined the law suit but rarely covered the bigger picture. An article in the New York Times two days into the disaster, chose to downplay and dismiss radiation concerns.

Aside from the legal trade publication, Courthouse News, most of the consistent coverage in the US has come, unsurprisingly, from the independent media. These include Counterpunch, Thom Hartmann’s The Big Picture on RT (now off the air), Mother Jones and a second piece in Truthout in addition to the Witherspoon article, and the work of anti-nuclear activist reporters, Harvey Wasserman’s Free Press and Libbe HalLevy’s Nuclear Hotseat podcast.

Epidemic of illnesses among sailors too strange to be a coincidence

The delay in getting accurate information, then having to contend with disinformation and official downplaying of the severity of the exposures has cost many of the sailors dearly. Treatment by specialists has often had to come out of their own pockets. Many cannot afford it. Some have paid with their lives.

The sicknesses range from the leukemias and cancers most often associated with radiation exposures, to immune system diseases, headaches, difficulty concentrating, thyroid problems, bloody noses, rectal and gynecological bleeding, weakness in sides of the body accompanied by the shrinking of muscle mass, memory loss, testicular cancer, problems with vision, high-pitch ringing in the ears and anxiety.

Attorney Edwards sees the epidemic of illnesses among the Reagan crew as just too pronounced to be unconnected to Fukushima-related radiation exposure.

“Why are all these young, healthy, fit people getting cancer? Experiencing thyroid issues? It’s too strange to be a coincidence,” she told Courthouse News.

“That just doesn’t happen absent some external cause,” Edwards added. “All of these people experienced the same thing and were exposed to radiation at Fukushima. A lot of this is just common sense.”

Common sense, of course, does not usually prevail in such cases. There are far more powerful forces at work. And, as always, the burden of proof falls upon the victims, not the most likely perpetrator.

The case is dismissed but the lawyers aren’t quitting

In her January 5, 2018 ruling in San Diego, federal judge Janis Sammartino sided with the defendant’s request for dismissal, stating that the plaintiffs had failed to establish that TEPCO’s actions were directed at California — a technicality. The judge also wrote that the plaintiffs “have provided no information to support an assertion that Tepco knew its actions would cause harm likely to be suffered in California.”

However, lawyers in the case plan to press on. “The Bartel case was dismissed without prejudice, which means that we are able to refile those claims,” Edward said in her email. “We plan to refile those claims in the coming weeks, and are still working on determining the best course for doing so.”

She told Courthouse News, that the team intends to “continue to fight for the justice these sailors deserve. We will also be moving forward with the Cooper case in due course, and look forward to reaching the merits in that case.”

Meanwhile, the sailors in the lawsuit still struggle to get either justice or media attention. Official sources who could shed more light on what actually happened, aren’t talking, including the ship’s captain, Thom Burke, who has never spoken out.

Lead plaintiff, Lindsay Cooper, has been told by Veterans Administration officials that her symptoms are likely due to “stress” and has denied her claim for disability based on radiation exposure, claiming there is not enough proof. Yet Cooper suffers from continuous menstrual cycles, and a yo-yoing thyroid that results in massive weight gain and then weight loss every few months. Her gallbladder was removed because it ceased to function.

When another plaintiff, Master Chief Petty Office Leticia Morales, had her thyroid taken out, she learned her doctor had already removed thyroid glands from six other sailors on the Reagan.

As lawyer Garner put it: “These kids were first responders. They went in happily doing a humanitarian mission, and they came out cooked.”


Yet, the other ships that are part of a Carrier group. Never get mentioned.

16 US ships that aided in Operation Tomodachi still contaminated with radiation

March 13, 2016

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Sixteen U.S. ships that participated in relief efforts after Japan’s nuclear disaster five years ago remain contaminated with low levels of radiation from the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, top Navy officials told Stars and Stripes.

In all, 25 ships took part in Operation Tomadachi, the name given for the U.S. humanitarian aid operations after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011. The tsunami, whose waves reached runup heights of 130 feet, crippled the Fukushima plant, causing a nuclear meltdown.

In the years since the crisis, the ships have undergone cleanup efforts, the Navy said, and 13 Navy and three Military Sealift Command vessels still have some signs of contamination, mostly to ventilation systems, main engines and generators.

“The low levels of radioactivity that remain are in normally inaccessible areas that are controlled in accordance with stringent procedures,” the Navy said in an email to Stars and Stripes. “Work in these areas occurs mainly during major maintenance availabilities and requires workers to follow strict safety procedures.”

All normally accessible spaces and equipment aboard the ships have been surveyed and decontaminated, Vice Adm. William Hilarides, commander of Naval Sea Systems Command, wrote to Stars and Stripes.

“The radioactive contamination found on the ships involved in Operation Tomodachi is at such low levels that it does not pose a health concern to the crews, their families, or maintenance personnel,” Hilarides said.

The largest U.S. ship to take part in the relief operation was the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, which normally carries a crew of more than 5,000 sailors. In 2014, three years after the disaster, the Reagan’s ventilation system was contaminated with 0.01 millirems of radiation per hour, according to the Navy. Nuclear Regulatory Commission guidelines advise no more than 2 millirems of radiation in one hour in any unrestricted area, and 100 millirems total in a calendar year from external and internal sources in unrestricted and controlled areas, so full-time exposure on the Reagan would be below that.

Plume of radiation

In the days after the tsunami hit the Fukushima complex, the plant suffered multiple explosions and reactors began to melt down.

Officials from the NRC told Congress that extremely high levels of radiation were being emitted from the impaired plant. Japanese nuclear experts said winds forced a radioactive plume out to sea, and efforts to keep fuel rods cool using sea water caused tons of radiated water to be dumped into the ocean.

The Reagan was dispatched to take part in relief efforts, arriving the next day. Navy officials say the Nimitz-class nuclear-powered supercarrier stayed at least 100 nautical miles away from the damaged plant, but many sailors have disputed the Navy’s accounting, saying they were so close that they could see the plant.


image1.jpgA U.S. Marine sprays the surface of an F/A-18C Hornet aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan during a countermeasure wash down on the flight deck in March 2011. The Reagan, along with 15 other ships that took part in the relief effort, still have some radiation contamination more than five years later, the Navy says. Sailors aboard the ships, however, are not in any danger.



The Navy has acknowledged that the Reagan passed through a plume of radiation. Navy images showed sailors with their faces covered, scrubbing the deck of the Reagan with soap and water as a precautionary measure afterward. The Reagan and sailors stayed off the coast of Japan for several weeks to aid their Japanese allies.

The multibillion-dollar ship, projected to last at least 50 years after its launch in 2001, then was taken offline for more than a year for “deep maintenance and modernization” at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., according to Navy officials.

“Procedures were in place to survey, control and remove any low-level residual contamination,” the Navy said. “Personnel working on potentially contaminated systems were monitored with sensitive dosimeters, and no abnormal radiation exposures were identified.”

Upgrades and cleaning also took place at the ship’s next stop in San Diego.

Sailors who performed the work said it entailed entering spaces deep within the ship, testing for high levels of radiation, and if it was found, sanding, priming and painting the areas. They say there were given little to no protective gear, a claim that the Navy denies.

Of the 1,360 individuals aboard the Reagan who were monitored by the Navy following the incident, more than 96 percent were found not to have detectable internal contamination, the Navy said. The highest measured dose was less than 10 percent of the average annual exposure to someone living in the United States.

Radiation effects unknown

Experts differ on the effects of radiation in general and, specifically, for those involved in Operation Tomodachi.

Eight Reagan sailors, claiming a host of medical conditions they say are related to radiation exposure, filed suit in 2012 against the nuclear plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. The suit asserts that TEPCO lied, coaxing the Navy closer to the plant even though it knew the situation was dire. General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi were later added as defendants for allegations of faulty parts for the reactors.

A spokesman for TEPCO declined to comment for this story because of the sailors’ lawsuit, which was slated to go forward pending appeals in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The illnesses listed in the lawsuit include genetic immune system diseases, headaches, difficulty concentrating, thyroid problems, bloody noses, rectal and gynecological bleeding, weakness in sides of the body accompanied by the shrinking of muscle mass, memory loss, leukemia, testicular cancer, problems with vision, high-pitch ringing in the ears and anxiety.

The list of sailors who have joined the lawsuit, which is making its way through the courts, has grown to 370.

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

Nuclear regulator: Fukushima accident not over



March 7, 2018

Nearly 7 years after the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, Japan’s chief nuclear regulator says the 2011 accident is not over.
Toyoshi Fuketa, Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman, held a news conference on Wednesday, 4 days before the 7th anniversary of the severe accident.
He suggested the perceived magnitude of damage from the accident can change based on many factors that will influence future judgment. He cited decontamination and radioactive waste disposal efforts, areas where evacuation orders can be lifted, and the reconstruction of affected areas.
Fuketa also said that attitudes towards regulation have changed since the accident but he suggested that people should not forget what happened 7 years ago.
He predicted there would be almost no risk of any new problems affecting areas outside the compounds of the nuclear plant in the decommissioning process.
The biggest challenge of the decommissioning is said to be the removal of fuel debris, a mixture of molten nuclear fuel and broken interior parts, from the 3 reactors.
He said the removal work has not yet reached a point where “exit is in sight.”

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

Radiation Refugees and the De-Valuing of Life

Tuesday, March 6, 2018
We are approaching the Fukushima Daiichi’s anniversary, as the many news reports testify.
My brief “thematic” analysis of this year’s crop of Fukushima anniversary news stories indicates “returning home” as the dominant theme.
Fukushima’s refugees – both official and non-official – are inclined to be suspicious of the government’s assurances that they face no additional health risk by returning to officially de-contaminated areas.
Here is a particularly detailed article describing competing claims about safety:
Derrick A. Paulo & Tamal Mukherjee (2018, March 4). New cracks seven years on, as Fukushima residents urged to return home. Channel News Asia. Available, (accessed March 6, 2018)
…The upper limit of the stated safe range in an emergency is 100 mSv/year, but some experts contend that exposure to even 20 mSv/year is too high. Former World Health Organisation regional adviser (Radiation and Public Health) Keith Baverstock said: “It could be, living in your house, the dose rate is 20 mSv/year. The dose rate outside that area that has been cleaned up can be a lot higher. So no, it isn’t safe.”
Cancer specialist Misao Fujita, 55, contrasted the situation in Fukushima with medical X-ray rooms, where the typical maximum amount of radiation allowed is five mSv/year – a level that hospital staff “rarely” get exposed to, he said.
The article describes efforts by 70 Fukushima families to seek justice using the court system, alleging that the government did not release Speedi information (which I’ve documented in my published books), leading to chaotic evacuations and increasing radiation exposure.
A Mr. Konno, a resident of Tsushima, said that his child has had “cold-like symptoms for over two years.”
Japan’s radiation authorities are themselves divided, with some seeing evidence of exposure in people, while others hotly denying that any relationship between disease and radiation exposure can be proven in the absence of definitive evidence of exposure level.
Very elevated levels of children’s thyroid cancer stand at the center of the ongoing safety debates (
My head hurts. My heart hurts.
The Channel News Asia article also addresses ongoing contamination of the Pacific Ocean, which I’ve discussed frequently at this blog (most recently here: Japan’s former prime minister is quoted as saying he is confident contaminated water is flowing into the ocean:
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who was the premier when the nuclear accident happened, told Insight there is no doubt “some of the water is flowing into the (Pacific) ocean”.
Japan is not the only nation to have produced radiation refugees and to be contaminating the pacific and other large bodies of water.
In a recent chapter I wrote on radiation refugees I note that Pacific Islanders, whose lives and livelihoods were catastrophically changed by US atmospheric testing during the early Cold War, are still seeking redress. Here is a brief excerpt from this chapter:
For decades after WWII, legal recourse and compensation were denied to entire communities living in landscapes of risk after being exposed to atmospheric testing. 
For example, indigenous people exposed to atmospheric testing in the South Pacific Marshall Islands (1946-1955) were studied as experimental subjects by the US military, but to this day are still seeking full compensation for ongoing claims of acute health problems and property lost due to contamination. 
In 2012, Calin Georgescu, then-United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights and toxic waste, concluded after a visit to the Marshall Islands that many communities reported feeling like “nomads” in their own country.
Nomads in their own country. I wonder if that is what Fukushima refugees feel like. I wonder how long it will be before the US has its own newly-made batch of radiation refugees.
Trump’s promise to extend the operating license of nuclear reactors by decades ensures future US radiation refugees:
Ari Natter (2018, February 21). Nuclear Reactors Could Run as Long as 80 Years Under Trump Plan. Bloomberg
Radiation refugees are among the dispossessed. Their lives have been discounted.
We see the discounting of the lives of the exposed when we evaluate the assumptions of the new policy toward “ADAPTATION” of people in radioactive zones being promoted by organizations such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Adaptation is occurring as governments, including the US and Japan, raise the allowable exposure level after radiological emergencies. By raising the exposure levels, governments discount the lost years of the exposed and reduce the costs and publicity damage caused by evacuation.
Exposures levels go up while environmental health protections are lifted.
Life is devalued.

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