20 septembre 2014 6 20 /09 /septembre /2014 20:28

September 20, 2014

Completion of nuclear fuel plant to be delayed


Sep. 20, 2014 - Updated 04:22 UTC+2

The operator of a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in northeastern Japan is expected to postpone completion of the plant by about 18 months due to the ongoing government screening.

NHK learned that Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited is making final adjustments to a plan to delay completion from October to early 2016.

The plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, has been undergoing screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority since January. Regulators are trying to determine whether the facility meets new requirements for nuclear plants introduced after the 2011 disaster in Fukushima.

But regulators say they have not been able to conduct screening. They say documents submitted by the operator are insufficient.

It is not known when the screening will finish.

If the schedule is revised, this will be the 22nd postponement of the plant's completion.

The Japanese government decided in its basic energy plan in April to promote nuclear fuel recycling.

But a delay in the completion of the reprocessing plant could adversely affect the government's policy.

Japan Nuclear Fuel is expected to formally decide next month when the plant will be completed. It will then submit its decision to the Nuclear Regulation Authority after reporting to local governments.

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20 septembre 2014 6 20 /09 /septembre /2014 17:16

Childhood Leukemias Near Nuclear Power Stations: new article


Posted on July 25, 2014

In March 2014, my article on increased rates of childhood leukemias near nuclear power plants (NPPs) was published in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity (JENR). A previous post discussed the making of the article and its high readership: this post describes its content in layman’s terms.

Before we start, some background is necessary to grasp the new report’s significance. Many readers may be unaware that increased childhood leukemias near NPPs have been a contentious issue for several decades. For example, it was a huge issue in the UK in the 1980s and early 1990s leading to several TV programmes, Government Commissions, Government committees, a major international Conference, Government reports, at least two mammoth court cases and probably over a hundred scientific articles. It was refuelled in 1990 by the publication of the famous Gardner report (Gardner et al, 1990) which found a very large increase (7 fold) in child leukemias near the infamous Sellafield nuclear facility in Cumbria.

The issue seems to have subsided in the UK, but it is still hotly debated in most other European countries, especially Germany.

The core issue is that, world-wide, over 60 epidemiological studies have examined cancer incidences in children near nuclear power plants (NPPs): most (>70%) indicate leukemia increases. I can think of no other area of toxicology (eg asbestos, lead, smoking) with so many studies, and with such clear associations as those between NPPs and child leukemias. Yet many nuclear Governments and the nuclear industry refute these findings and continue to resist their implications. It’s similar to the situations with cigarette smoking in the 1960s and with man-made global warming nowadays.

In early 2009, the debate was partly rekindled by the renowned KiKK study (Kaatsch et al, 2008) commissioned by the German Government which found a 60% increase in total cancers and 120% increase in leukemias among children under 5 yrs old living within 5 km of all German NPPs. As a result of these surprising findings, governments in France, Switzerland and the UK hurriedly set up studies near their own NPPs. All found leukemia increases but because their numbers were small the increases lacked “statistical significance”. That is, you couldn’t be 95% sure the findings weren’t chance ones.

This does not mean there were no increases, and indeed if less strict statistical tests had been applied, the results would have been “statistically significant”. But most people are easily bamboozled by statistics including scientists who should know better, and the strict 95% level tests were eagerly grasped by the governments wishing to avoid unwelcome findings. Indeed, many tests nowadays in this area use a 90% level.

In such situations, what you need to do is combine datasets in a meta-study to get larger numbers and thus reach higher levels of statistical significance. The four governments refrained from doing this because they knew what the answer would be, viz, statistically significant increases near almost all NPPs in the 4 countries. So Korblein and Fairlie helped them out by doing it for them (Korblein and Fairlie, 2012), and sure enough there were statistically significant increases near all the NPPs. Here are their findings-

Studies of observed (O) and expected (E) leukemia cases within 5 km of NPPs




90% CI








Great Britain


















Pooled data






a derived from data in Spycher et al. (2011).

b acute leukemia cases

This table reveals a highly statistically significant 37% increase in childhood leukemias within 5 km of almost all NPPs in the UK, Germany, France and Switzerland. It’s perhaps not surprising that the latter 3 countries have announced nuclear phaseouts and withdrawals. It is only the UK government that remains in denial.

So the matter is now beyond question, ie there’s a very clear association between increased child leukemias and proximity to NPPs. The remaining question is its cause(s).

Most people worry about radioactive emissions and direct radiation from the NPPs, however any theory involving radiation has a major difficulty to overcome, and that is how to account for the large (~10,000 fold) discrepancy between official dose estimates from NPP emissions and the clearly-observed increased risks.

My explanation does involve radiation. It stems from KiKK’s prinicipal finding that the increased incidences of infant and child leukemias were closely associated with proximity to the NPP chimneys. It also stems from KiKK’s observation that the increased solid cancers were mostly “embryonal”, ie babies were born either with solid cancers or with pre-cancerous tissues which, after birth, developed into full-blown tumours: this actually happens with leukemia as well.

My explanation has five main elements. First, the cancer increases may be due to radiation exposures from NPP emissions to air. Second, large annual spikes in NPP emissions may result in increased dose rates to populations within 5 km of NPPs. Third, the observed cancers may arise in utero in pregnant women. Fourth, both the doses and their risks to embryos and to fetuses may be greater than current estimates. And fifth, pre-natal blood-forming cells in bone marrow may be unusually radiosensitive. Together these five factors offer a possible explanation for the discrepancy between estimated radiation doses from NPP releases and the risks observed by the KIKK study. These factors are discussed in considerable detail in the full article.

My article in fact shows that the current discrepancy can be explained. The leukemia increases observed by KiKK and by many other studies may arise in utero as a result of embryonal/fetal exposures to incorporated radionuclides from NPP radioactive emissions. Very large emission spikes from NPPs might produce a pre-leukemic clone, and after birth a second radiation hit might transform a few of these clones into full-blown leukemia cells. The affected babies are born pre-leukemic (which is invisible) and the full leukemias are only diagnosed within the first few years after birth.

To date, no letters to the editor have been received pointing out errors or omissions in this article.


Bithell JF, M F G Murphy, C A Stiller, E Toumpakari, T Vincent and R Wakeford. (2013) Leukaemia in young children in the vicinity of British nuclear power plants: a case–control study. Br J Cancer. advance online publication, September 12, 2013; doi:10.1038/bjc.2013.560.

Bunch KJ, T J Vincent1, R J Black, M S Pearce, R J Q McNally, P A McKinney, L Parker, A W Craft and M F G Murphy (2014) Updated investigations of cancer excesses in individuals born or resident in the vicinity of Sellafield and Dounreay. British Journal of Cancer (2014), 1–10 | doi: 10.1038/bjc.2014.357

Fairlie I (2013) A hypothesis to explain childhood cancers near nuclear power plants. Journal of Environmental Radioactivity 133 (2014) 10e17

Gardner MJ, Snee MP; Hall AJ; Powell CA; Downes S; Terrell JD (1990) Results of case-control study of leukaemia and lymphoma among young people near Sellafield nuclear plant in West Cumbria. BMJ. 1990;300:423–429.

Kaatsch P, Spix C, Schulze-Rath R, Schmiedel S, Blettner M. (2008) Leukaemia in young children living in the vicinity of German nuclear power plants. Int J Cancer; 122: 721-726.

Körblein A and Fairlie I (2012) French Geocap study confirms increased leukemia risks in young children near nuclear power plants. Int J Cancer 131: 2970–2971.

Spycher BD, Feller M, Zwahlen M, Röösli M, von der Weid NX, Hengartner H, Egger M, Kuehni CE. Childhood cancer and nuclear power plants in Switzerland: A census based cohort study. International Journal of Epidemiology (2011) doi:10.1093/ije/DYR115. http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/07/11/ije.dyr115.full.pdf+html

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Published by fukushima-is-still-news - dans Health effects of radiation
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20 septembre 2014 6 20 /09 /septembre /2014 17:14
SPEEDI budget slashed

August 25, 2014

Major budget cut planned for radiation forecasting tool for nuclear accidents


By TOSHIO KAWADA/ Staff Writer

The Nuclear Regulation Authority is planning a major slash in the budget for a forecasting tool for the spread of radioactive substances that was at the center of a controversy during the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident.

The System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI) was designed to help government officials decide early on whether local residents should be evacuated.

However, a lack of information from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant made it difficult for the SPEEDI to operate as intended. Moreover, high-ranking government officials at the time, including Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, were not informed of the existence of the system in the initial stages of the nuclear accident.

With some experts also raising doubts over whether it would be possible to improve the forecasting accuracy of the SPEEDI, the NRA had already downgraded data coming from the system to only "reference material" when it revised in 2013 its guidelines for dealing with nuclear accidents.

For the next fiscal year budget, the NRA will request less than half of what has been budgeted for the SPEEDI this year. About 500 million yen ($4.8 million) has been set aside for maintenance and management of the radioactive contamination forecasting system.

The NRA plans to divert the money that had been going to the SPEEDI for measures that would involve actual measurement of radiation levels.

One such measure is the installation of more monitoring posts in local communities near nuclear plants. Greater emphasis will be placed on actual measurement of radiation levels in deciding if residents should be evacuated in the event of a nuclear accident.

The revised guidelines call for making an evacuation decision for residents living within a 30-kilometer radius of a nuclear plant based on actual measurements from monitoring posts in the area.

In the event of a serious accident that could lead to the emission of large amounts of radioactive materials, residents within a 5-km radius will be ordered to evacuate immediately.

Those living within a radius between 5 kilometers and 30 kilometers will be asked to remain indoors before a decision is made on evacuation based on the actual radiation measurements.

The thinking behind the new guidelines is that quicker and more appropriate decisions can be made based on actual measurements rather than depending on forecasts that may not be totally accurate.

In line with those guidelines, the NRA has begun installing a system for sharing of radiation data among central and local governments. Officials involved in making evacuation decisions will be able to access data on their computer screens as the measurements are being made.

The money that had been going to the SPEEDI will also instead be used to improve the central government's monitoring of the new information-sharing system as well as for its maintenance.

Local governments are being asked to install monitoring posts in areas that could become subject to evacuation. The recommendation has been made to install monitoring posts at intervals of five kilometers depending on whether the area is residential or hilly and also on past spreading of radioactive materials.

Local governments had used the SPEEDI to put together their evacuation plans, and some officials are calling for maintaining the forecasting system.

With the shift toward a new system based on actual measurements, local government officials will now be faced with deciding how to utilize that information and how to transmit it to local residents in the event of a serious nuclear accident.


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20 septembre 2014 6 20 /09 /septembre /2014 17:05

August 17, 2014

Scientist weighs homecoming risks in Fukushima

Staff Writer

When scientist Junko Nakanishi stepped into radiation-contaminated towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture 10 months after the nuclear power plant meltdowns of 2011, she realized how difficult the job of decontamination would be.

Decontamination is the biggest issue when thinking of Fukushima’s future, because it determines when, or even if, residents will be able to return home, she said.

Three years on, however, the government is still stumbling toward a realistic decontamination goal, leaving thousands of evacuees in limbo, she said.

The central government is responsible for decontaminating evacuation zones in 11 municipalities where dosage readings exceed 20 millisieverts per year. But many areas remain untouched or in the midst of decontamination, with their 80,000 residents still displaced as of April 1, by government order.

“The longer their evacuation period gets, the more residents will miss the timing to return home,” said Nakanishi, a fellow at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology. “It’s about time to think of ways to live under a certain level of risk.”

The government did not set a specific radiation goal for decontamination but settled on a threshold instead. The main condition for lifting an evacuation order is that the annual radiation dose must be 20 millisieverts or less.

An annual dose of 1 millisievert has meanwhile been set as a “long-term goal” for decontamination, without a specific time frame.

Nakanishi said that the 20 millisievert threshold is too high for many residents to accept and that the 1 millisievert figure is unrealistic in heavily contaminated areas, given the limits and cost of decontamination technology. As an alternative, she proposes a maximum exposure level of 5 millisieverts per year as a target for decontaminating evacuation zones, based on her assessment of the various risk factors.

“Somebody has to find a common ground where people can return to their homes as early as possible. We need to set a goal for radiation. . . . But no politician, bureaucrat or expert seems to make such suggestions,” she said. As a scientist, Nakanishi said it’s her job to find that magic number.

Since the 1970s, Nakanishi has studied the environmental and health risks of such toxic chemicals as dioxin and mercury. At the core of her research is the concept of risk trade-off, which means reducing one risk while allowing another to rise.

For example, chlorinating the drinking water of a population would reduce its risk of contracting an infectious disease. But it would also increase the risk of cancer. Nakanishi searches for the best mix of acceptable risks when trying to reduce overall risk.

Nakanishi looked at health factors, technological limits, cost and time to assess the tainted areas in Fukushima and concluded that an annual radiation exposure of 5 millisieverts or less would be the best goal for repopulating them.

According to her calculations, a 5-millisievert goal would allow some 65,000 residents to return home in another one to two years and cost around ¥1.8 trillion to execute.

A resident would be exposed to around 38 millisieverts over 15 years, a risk that, when compared to the average risk of exposure to a chemical like dioxin, is not high, Nakanishi said. The dose would drop to less than 1 millisievert a year after 15 years due to natural radioactive decay and land erosion from rain and wind, she said.

According to the International Commission on Radiological Protection, an annual dose of 100 millisieverts increases the risk of dying by cancer by 0.5 percent over one’s lifetime. Below that, the risks are too small to distinguish from the effects of other cancer risks, such as smoking and an unbalanced diet.

“The risk is not zero, but we need to think about the amount we can tolerate,” Nakanishi said. “It’s difficult, but that’s the reality. It’s more honest to say that the risk is not zero rather than it is safe.”

For areas with annual radiation readings over 50 millisieverts, residents need to give up on returning and relocate, with financial support from the state, she said.

Nakanishi also emphasized that there is a need for the government to financially back those who want to relocate even if an annual radiation dose drops to less than 5 millisieverts a year. Given Japan’s experience with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, some find it extremely hard to prevent horrific images of the aftermath from entering their minds when they hear the word radiation, she said.

“For a long time, I’ve been analyzing the risk of chemicals, and through the research I have come to realize that Japan has never set a goal for regulating chemicals by itself. It was always based on decisions made by international organizations or other countries,” she said.

“(In Japan, people are) not used to finding a mutually acceptable common ground by considering different conditions and risks,” Nakanishi said. “(Fukushima) was a very unfortunate nuclear disaster. But I see it as a chance for Japan to learn to strike a balance of risks, and find risk levels that we can accept.”

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Published by fukushima-is-still-news - dans Nuke safety
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19 septembre 2014 5 19 /09 /septembre /2014 20:30

September 19, 2014

EDITORIAL: Time running out to scrap nuclear fuel recycling program


Japan currently stores spent nuclear fuel primarily at 18 nuclear power plants around the country. Most of the 17,000 tons of radioactive material is kept in spent nuclear fuel pools.

Storage of spent nuclear fuel in pools is highly vulnerable to incidents such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks. If such an incident were to occur, the spent fuel rods in pools could cause immense damage by releasing huge amounts of radiation. This problem was brought to the fore by the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011.

But the debate on storage and disposal of spent nuclear fuel is getting nowhere fast.

A nuclear power subcommittee of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry’s Advisory Committee for Natural Resources and Energy held a meeting Sept. 16 to discuss a range of topics, including spent nuclear fuel. But nothing notable came out of the discussions. Why?

The principal factor is the government’s refusal to change its policy of continuing the nuclear fuel recycling program.

The program is designed to reuse all spent nuclear fuel in fast-breeder reactors or in existing reactors. If the system for recycling nuclear fuel is actually realized, the problem of having to store spent fuel in the pools would be solved.

But it is already clear that neither the Monju project to develop practical fast-breeder reactors nor the “pluthermal” project to use nuclear fuel made from reprocessed plutonium and uranium in existing reactors is viable, technologically or economically.

Following the 2011 nuclear disaster, the Cabinet Office’s Japan Atomic Energy Commission said that direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel would be cheaper than reprocessing, after estimating the costs of both approaches.

The Science Council of Japan and other expert organizations pointed out that storing spent nuclear fuel in dry casks--typically leak-tight steel cylinders containing an inert gas--placed on the ground for a limited period of time is an effective way to avoid the risks of storage in pools.

Pursuing alternative storage methods requires the government to start reconsidering its nuclear fuel recycling program.

The government will also have to rethink its relations with Aomori Prefecture, which has accepted fuel reprocessing facilities. But there will be no realistic solution to the dangers of storing spent nuclear fuel in the pools unless the government takes the step.

Currently, used fuel is treated as “assets” for accounting purposes. But if it is regarded as waste, it has to be reported as “debt” on the balance sheets of the operators of the nuclear power plants.

As a first step toward a policy shift, the government should publish objective data about the nuclear fuel recycling program, including information about accounting practices and other issues.

If idled nuclear reactors are restarted while the program remains unchanged, spent fuel pools at nuclear power plants will start reaching their capacity in three years, according to an estimate by the industry ministry.

In addition, the power retail market will be fully liberalized in 2016, with the scrapping of the government-regulation system for electricity rates.

The pluthermal project, which is financially supported by the electric utilities that operate nuclear power plants, is bound to become a burden on that market liberalization.

The government is running out of time to make the major policy decision to pull the plug on the nuclear fuel recycling program.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 19

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19 septembre 2014 5 19 /09 /septembre /2014 20:20

September 19, 2014

Tainted water problems still plague Fukushima, despite some positive signs



More than three years since it was crippled by a megaquake, tsunami and triple core meltdown, the Fukushima No. 1 power plant is still bleeding tons of toxic radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean.

Since the crisis in 2011, the water solution that saved eastern Japan from nuclear calamity has developed into a wider problem that is stoking public concern about seafood safety and what the utility will do when the plant runs out of space for its seemingly endless lines of water tanks.

To improve the situation, Tepco has been taking steps to reduce the daily buildup of tainted water and to empty the filled trenches running beneath it.

One of those steps, the so-called groundwater bypass, finally began showing progress this week. The bypass is designed to reduce the amount of groundwater merging with tainted water from the plant by pumping it up beforehand and discharging it into the sea.

Other steps have proved unsuccessful, including a recent effort to build ice walls between two of the flooded turbine buildings and their trenches.

The mingling of the waters is a huge headache for Tepco: 400 tons of groundwater seep into the cracked reactor and turbine buildings every day. It then mixes with highly radioactive water in the flooded basements of reactors 1, 2 and 3, which were hit by the meltdowns, and increases the overall volume.

To stop the buildup, Tepco started using wells to pump up the groundwater before it seeps into the buildings. It is then dumped into the sea after radiation checks.

The bypass project, launched in late May, was something Tepco had wanted to try for a long time because it looked like a promising solution.

But it took a while to convince local fishermen to let them dump the untainted water into the sea.

The utility estimated the bypass project would cut the amount of groundwater seepage by about 50 tons daily after three to four months. On Thursday, however, it said the reduction was 50 to 80 tons.

“We all believe this result is better than our previous analysis,” Tepco spokesman Shinichi Kawamura told a news conference.

Tepco is pumping up 300 to 350 tons of groundwater each day, and as of Friday had released 35,979 tons.

“If the groundwater bypass is really cutting the amount by that much, it’s good progress,” said Atsunao Marui, a groundwater expert who is a member of a government panel dealing with the tainted water issue.

But the bypass is only part of the solution, Marui said.

“The project is designed to work effectively with other measures, such as paving the ground surface of the site” and the ice walls, said Marui, who is also a researcher at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, a semi-public research body.

The plan is for the underground ice walls to encircle the reactor and turbine buildings to prevent the groundwater from entering. It also plans to pave the site to halt rainwater seepage.

Once all these measures are in place, they will work together to stop the tainted water from increasing, he said.

Storage tanks at the plant are already holding close to 400,000 tons of contaminated water, so the utility is eager to slow the rate of increase.

But the groundwater bypass is important for another reason, he said, which is to determine whether groundwater from the west side of the plant is contaminated.

That is where hundreds of full storage tanks stand and where there have been several leaks. Contaminated water may have seeped into the ground and polluted the groundwater.

“It’s important to continuously monitor so groundwater can be discharged safely. . . . If some wells pump up contaminated water that can’t be dumped into the sea, the effect of the project would be smaller,” he said.

Tepco set up 12 wells to pump groundwater, and water from one well was found with a high level of tritium.

Tepco also wants to pump up water from wells dug around the reactor buildings to divert more groundwater, but the beleaguered utility will have to get consent from local fishermen because it wants to dump it into the sea. Tepco does not know when it will be able to start this project.

Although the bypass project has started showing signs of life, the utility is still trying to find a way to deal with the plant’s utility trenches, which are filled with highly contaminated water.

The trenches, which run beneath the plant, were built to house cables and pipes needed to transport electricity and water to the reactor and turbine buildings. The pipes were installed to bring in seawater for cooling purposes.

The trenches are connected to the basements and run underneath the flooded turbine buildings. The toxic water is entering the trenches via small spaces in the pipes and cables.

Leaving the tainted water in the trenches is risky.

For instance, if another major quake hits and damages the trenches, the toxic water will escape and contaminate the groundwater.

Tepco said the trenches connected to the No. 2 and No. 3 turbine buildings are filled with radioactive water but can’t be drained until the leaks from the buildings are plugged first.

To do that, Tepco started building ice walls. It has installed freezing pipes and thrown in tons of ice and dry ice over the past few months, but the utility has been unable to seal the leaks completely.

While about 90 percent of the wall is up and running, the rest of it hasn’t been able to freeze because the water is flowing too fast.

Tepco is trying to figure out how it can seal up the leaky parts by other means, such as by using fillers, but it is still unclear when it will be able to plug the leaks.

Marui said Tepco has been spending too much time trying to make the ice walls work, and should give up and explore other alternatives.

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19 septembre 2014 5 19 /09 /septembre /2014 14:13

September 19, 2014

TEPCO struggling to win approval of fishermen over water-discharge plan


By HIROKI ITO/ Staff Writer

Local fishermen are crying foul over Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s latest plan to discharge processed contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean.

TEPCO and the central government held the first explanatory briefing over the plan on Sept. 18, seeking to win the approval of fishermen operating in southern Fukushima Prefecture.

Their explanation was apparently unconvincing.

“I can’t believe anything TEPCO says,” one of the attendees said after the meeting.

The plan is designed to limit the amount of radioactive water accumulating at the nuclear complex, which was severely damaged in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Under the plan, tainted water stored in 42 wells outside the reactor buildings would be pumped into the nearby sea after undergoing a purification process.

The plant operator believes the new drainage efforts would drastically reduce the amount of contaminated water in the buildings. About 400 tons of contaminated water a day is produced from groundwater flowing into the No. 1 through 4 reactor buildings.

In March, fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture gave TEPCO the green light to release groundwater into the ocean before it reaches the crippled reactors and becomes contaminated.

However, many members of local fisheries associations opposed the plan on the opening day of the briefing sessions, held in Iwaki in the prefecture.

Among the 90 in attendance, Yoshinori Sato, a 55-year-old fisherman of sea urchin and abalone, expressed concern over the plan’s safety.

“If a critical problem should occur, (local fisheries) would be severely damaged,” he said. “They wouldn’t be able to recover.”

Another member criticized the utility for burdening local fishermen with such proposals, asking, “How many times will we have to make a similar painful decision?”

Near the end of the meeting, TEPCO, the central government and fishery association members agreed to pursue the issue on another occasion.

September 18, 2014

Fukushima fishermen against water release plan


Sep. 18, 2014 - Updated 12:59 UTC+2

Fishermen have voiced opposition to a plan for well water from around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant to be dumped into the ocean.

About 90 fishermen attended a briefing held in Iwaki City in Fukushima on Thursday by Tokyo Electric Power Company.

The plan involves removing radioactive particles from the water before discharging it, and is part of TEPCO's efforts to reduce the buildup of contaminated water at the site.

Company officials said they would only release decontaminated groundwater after tests confirm radiation levels are below safe levels.

Many fishermen said they are not convinced about the safety of water to be released into the sea. They said it could still be contaminated to a certain degree.

They said if problems occurred and highly contaminated water were accidentally released, the negative media coverage would destroy Fukushima's fishing industry.

TEPCO has agreed to a request by fishermen to hold another briefing, as not all the fishermen who wanted to attend could get into the meeting space.

One of the participants said the electric power company should do more research and present data that will be more convincing to fishermen.

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19 septembre 2014 5 19 /09 /septembre /2014 14:11

September 18, 2014


TEPCO begins test runs of new ALPS system at stricken plant





Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it has begun trial runs of a decontamination channel of a newly installed ALPS system to process radioactive water at the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Three channels of the Advanced Liquid Processing System equipment have been in operation since March 2013, but have frequently been suspended because of accidents.

TEPCO said it will start trial runs of two additional channels of the new ALPS equipment by early October. When all six channels become operative, the ALPS system can decontaminate up to 1,500 tons of contaminated water per day, twice as much as the current capacity.

There are 365,000 tons of highly-contaminated water in storage tanks at the plant as of Sept. 16, posing a risk of accidental leaks.

In addition to the two ALPS systems, an upgraded model whose development was financed by the central government is scheduled to begin operations as early as October. The plant's three ALPS systems will handle up to 2,000 tons of contaminated water a day, TEPCO officials said.

The government and TEPCO are implementing measures to reduce the risk of accidental leaks of contaminated water at the plant. So far, the existing trouble-prone ALPS equipment has processed 138,000 tons of contaminated water.


TEPCO tries new ALPS system

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19 septembre 2014 5 19 /09 /septembre /2014 14:10

September 18, 2014

Govt. releases transport plan for tainted soil


Sep. 18, 2014 - Updated 09:44 UTC+2

Japan's Environment Ministry has come up with a plan to reduce the possible impact from trucks removing radioactive-contaminated soil produced by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident.

Ministry officials on Thursday showed an experts' panel its basic plan for transporting contaminated soil and other waste to intermediate storage facilities.

Two such facilities will be built in the towns of Futaba and Okuma, near Fukushima Daiichi. Soil and other waste from decontamination efforts in Fukushima Prefecture are to be stored there for up to 30 years before being removed to final disposal sites.

Under the plan, the Environment Ministry will ask local governments to use small- or mid-sized trucks when carrying such waste to designated loading depots.

Then, workers from the central government will reload the waste onto large trucks that will carry it to the intermediate storage facilities.

Ministry officials say this method of switching the size of trucks for transportation will help curb the impact on the environment along the transportation routes because fewer vehicles will be used. They add that the measure will also help reduce the risks of traffic congestion and accidents.

They will discuss the matter with officials of Fukushima Prefecture and related municipalities to decide on a concrete plan.

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Published by fukushima-is-still-news - dans radioactive fallout and waste
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19 septembre 2014 5 19 /09 /septembre /2014 14:09

September 17, 2014

Learn from the 3/11 transcripts


The transcripts of the interviews of 19 people who dealt with the March 2011 triple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, including the late Masao Yoshida, then chief of the plant, may offer little new information about the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl but still provide important lessons that must be learned for management of future crises.

Last week’s release of the transcripts had been closely watched, especially due to conflicting reports by some members of the media over the interview of Yoshida, who led the desperate efforts to contain the situation at the crippled plant after the 3/11 tsunami destroyed the emergency generators needed to operate the reactors’ cooling system, and an apology by the Asahi Shimbun after the release stating that its earlier report — which alleged that many of the workers at the No. 1 plant had defied Yoshida’s orders and fled to the Fukushima No. 2 plant at the height of the crisis — was erroneous.

However, the naming of names should not let us lose sight of what the transcripts tell us about what transpired among people at the plant, the Tepco headquarters in Tokyo and the government as they tried to deal with the crisis — which will be all the more important as the power industry and the Abe administration move to restart nuclear power plants idled in the wake of the 2011 disaster.

The 19 people, including then Prime Minister Naoto Kan and key members of his Cabinet, were among a total of 772 people interviewed for the government’s probe into the Tepco plant disaster. Yoshida, who died of esophageal cancer last year, reportedly asked that the transcript not be made public saying that his statements may include erroneous recognition of facts, but the government decided to release his and others’ transcripts after media reports gave conflicting accounts of Yoshida’s testimony.

In the roughly 400 page transcript, Yoshida gives vivid descriptions in candid words of what he thought and did as he and his men faced the loss of power at the plant. His testimony shows that Tepco had not been prepared for the cutoff of emergency power. Yoshida admits that he did not have an answer ready on how to cool the reactors in such a situation. He repeatedly talks of “death” in the initial days of the crisis as the realization sinks in that the nuclear fuel had already started to melt, and might melt through the reactors’ container vessels and release massive amount of radioactive substances.

Yoshida flatly denies that he thought of withdrawing all his men from the plant even as fears rose of the worst-case catastrophe — which Kan and his Cabinet suspected as they heard reports from the power company’s top executives. He says he pondered keeping a skeleton crew at hand to manage the crippled reactors but having all other nonessential workers to evacuate. The transcript shows that many workers in fact braved the danger and worked desperately to keep the situation under control.

Still, even the men who Yoshida counted among the nation’s most capable engineers with trouble-shooting experience were unable to prevent the core meltdowns, which left large areas around the Fukushima No. 1 plant uninhabitable due to the radiation fallout more than three years after the disaster — and likely even much longer.

The safety standards updated in the wake of the Fukushima crisis call for measures to make nuclear power plants resilient against natural disasters, including maximum possible quakes and tsunami forecast on their sites, as well as steps to deal with severe accidents. It still needs to be verified if a system has been established in which workers at each plant will be able to manage situations that have not been foreseen — as happened at the Fukushima plant — in future possible crises. Upgrading plant hardware alone would not be sufficient to manage crises, in which, as Yoshida’s accounts show, things may not work out as they are presupposed to.

In his testimony, Yoshida defends Tepco’s inaction in response to a 2008 simulation by experts that the No. 1 plant could be hit by a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters if a strong quake hits off Fukushima Prefecture. As head of Tepco’s department responsible for managing its nuclear power plant equipment to prepare for natural disasters when he was informed of the scenario, Yoshida says that the power company needed to assess the cost-efficiency of measures to invest money in measures to deal with the hypothetical simulation — which turned out to have rightly gauged the estimated 15.5 meter height of the tsunami that hit on March 11, 2011. It needs to be closely monitored if the power companies still follow the same business logic as they respond to the updated plant safety standards.

The July 2012 report by the government’s investigation into the Fukushima nuclear disaster pointed to a shortage of information about events at the plant reaching the prime minister’s office. Kan’s administration came under criticism that its “meddling” — apparently based on insufficient information — created confusion in the on-site team’s fight to contain the situation at the plant. The released transcripts underline the communication failures between the government and Tepco headquarters — and between Tepco’s top executives in Tokyo and the Fukushima plant team.

A typical episode is the order by a senior executive at Tepco headquarters to Yoshida on March 12, 2011, to stop the injection of seawater to cool Reactor 1 after the supply of fresh water ran out. The executive, who had reportedly been urged by Kan to look into the possibility of seawater injection causing a nuclear chain reaction known as recriticality, told Yoshida that seawater injection had not yet been approved by the prime minister’s office. Yoshida’s decision to ignore the executive’s order and keep on injecting seawater is credited for preventing the situation from worsening. Kan, in his interview transcript, says he never told Tepco to halt the seawater injection and blames miscommunication and misunderstanding on Tepco’s part.

In the part of the transcript where Yoshida recounts the repeated urging from the Tepco headquarters and the government to hasten the venting operations to release radioactive steam from the stricken reactors to reduce the buildup of pressure on the morning of March 12, he says there was a distinct gap between the on-site staff at the plant and the Tokyo headquarters in the recognition of what’s going on — which he says was even wider between the plant staff and the prime minister’s office.

It remains unclear if the government and power companies have learned from such communication gaps — perhaps other than to blame leaders of the previous DPJ-led administration. The government does not appear to have done much to follow up on its 2012 report to dig deeper into how the Fukushima disaster evolved into a crisis. It needs to use the testimonies of Yoshida and others, including those that remain confidential, to learn what went wrong before and during the events in 2011, and to help avert or contain future crises.

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