Saturday, March 10, 2012

Japan Marks March 11

It's been a long, long year. I really did not expect I would still be writing about the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster one year later.

I was supposed to be looking for a job, but reporting on the disaster, particularly the nuclear aspect, has become a full-time work, 7 days a week, every single week, week after week.

Thank you readers for your moral support and financial support and your comments. Please keep them coming.

Things have unfortunately turned out the way I had expected from the beginning. From the day one I knew it was core meltdown at Fukushima. I knew the Japanese government would hide it, downplay it, telling everyone things were under control. I knew the government would never tell the true extent of radiation contamination until months after, until it was too late for the people affected. I knew the government would appeal to emotions to spread radioactive vegetables, rice, meat, firewood, fish, mushrooms, compost, rice hay, building materials, disaster debris. I knew the media would simply go along with whatever the government told them.

But the Internet has proven to be a more powerful tool for ordinary citizens than I thought.

The only good thing I see that has come out of the nuclear disaster is that a small but increasing number of ordinary citizens in Japan are waking up from decades of stupor, getting connected via the net and starting to ask the right questions. They are trying to think for themselves, instead of letting TPTB decide the course for them. All the more power to them.

For the country that perished on March 11, 2011:

Ex-Minister of Economy Looks Back on Fukushima Nuke Accident: "Flood of Emotions..."

Banri Kaieda was Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry who supervised the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency which in turn supervises TEPCO, when the earthquake hit Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on March 11, 2011.

We haven't heard about him for a while, since he lost his bid to become the leader of of the DPJ thus the prime minister of Japan last August. Instead of Kaieda, who was backed by the kingmaker Ozawa, Japan's got highly unpopular Yoshihiko Noda who can only speak in cliches, thanks partially to NHK who fed the wrong information to the viewers and the delegates in between the two votes.

Kyodo News (3/10/2012) reports Kaieda is flooded with emotions when he think of the progress they made in one year:

帰還準備「万感の思い」 海江田元経産相、福井で

Residents preparing to return, "I'm flooded with emotions" says former Minister of Economy Kaieda, in Fukui Prefecture


Banri Kaieda, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry at the time of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident last year, spoke with the reporters in Sabae City in Fukui Prefecture on March 10 where he was giving a talk. He said, "Little by little, preparation is underway for the evacuees to return home. I didn't expect that I would celebrate the one-year anniversary [of the accident] this way, and I'm flooded with emotions."


Mr. Kaieda acknowledged that there are still challenges such as decontamination, but said he couldn't even imagine the evacuated residents would return to their homes in the areas affected by radioactive materials. "Compared to what we went through in the week of March 11, we've come a long way, somehow."

Kaieda should know that the Noda administration, with his former buddies Edano and Hosono on board, is pushing the residents back to their homes in the contaminated areas after one "decontamination" effort by the government which amounts to nothing more than a good cleaning.

He didn't, and still doesn't strike me as a bad person, but the whole accident was way over his head. And judging from his comment, it is still totally over his head.

As to the person who continues to strike me as dishonest and evil, Yukio Edano spoke with the reporters on March 9 at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry about the government's response to the nuclear accident on March 11, 2011 when he was the Chief Cabinet Secretary to Prime Minister Kan.

Just like he was doing in the early days of the nuclear crisis, he still plays a "lawyer". When he can't get away with technicality ("There is no immediate effect on health" which he now says meant "There may be some effect on health if you stay longer/drink milk longer than a few days"), he declares he doesn't remember.

As Jiji Tsushin (via a blog, as Jiji's article disappears quickly)(3/9/2012) reports:


When asked about the possibility of meltdown already mentioned during the 1st meeting of the government's nuclear emergency response group on March 11, 2011, on the day of the accident, Minister Edano, who was the Chief Cabinet Secretary at that time, said "I don't remember, including whether it was myself" who referred to the possibility.

He's not worried. No one will go after him. His current boss, PM Noda, has already declared to the world that no one person is responsible.

There are demonstrations, gatherings, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of whatever people choose in Japan on March 11. For some, it is anti-nuclear power plant demonstration. For others, it is anti-disaster debris burning. Or ceremonies for those perished in the earthquake and tsunami. But many others particularly on the net have chosen to rest, do nothing. It's been a long year.

NRC's Orders to US Commercial Nuke Plants: Install or Improve Venting Systems, Water Gauges in SFPs

On the one-year anniversary (I know you're getting sick of the phrase..) of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission has issued orders to improve safety of the commercial nuclear power plants in the US.

From the NRC's press release on March 9, 2012, they are:

  1. The first Order requires the plants to better protect safety equipment installed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to obtain sufficient equipment to support all reactors at a given site simultaneously.

  2. The second Order requires the plants to install enhanced equipment for monitoring water levels in each plant’s spent fuel pool.

  3. The third Order applies only to U.S. boiling-water reactors that have “Mark I” or “Mark II” containment structures. These reactors must improve venting systems (or for the Mark II plants, install new systems) that help prevent or mitigate core damage in the event of a serious accident.

  4. Plants have until Dec. 31, 2016, to complete modifications and requirements of all three Orders.

There are evidences that the venting may have caused the hydrogen explosions of the reactor buildings because the vent pipes were connected to the pipes for the gas management systems BEFORE they connected to the exhaust stacks. At least part of hydrogen and other gasses, instead of dispersing into the atmosphere through the exhaust stacks, may have come back into the reactor buildings via the gas management system pipes, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency admitted in December last year, 9 months after the explosions.

About the "enhanced equipment" to monitor water levels in the SFPs, I wonder what happens if station blackout happens and the operator cannot read any instrument, as it happened at TEPCO's plant.

Order No.3 requires the installation of new venting systems for Mark II containment structures. Fukushima Reactor 6 is Mark II. I actually do not know if Reactor 6 has the venting system.

If anyone knows the link to the details of these NRC orders, please post on the comment section. I want to know the details. I haven't found it, but I haven't looked carefully enough on the NRC site.

Friday, March 9, 2012

UN Passes Resolution from Japan to "Adopt Women's Points of View" in Disaster Recovery

The occasion was the 56th Session of UN Commission on the Status of Women.

The government of Japan (represented by Hiroko Hashimoto) submitted a resolution ("Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women in Natural Disaster") urging the world to adopt women's points of view in emergency disaster response, recovery and reconstruction like Japan is doing, including measures for empowering women in rural areas and compulsory quota for women's participation in committees that formulate master plans for local agriculture.

Jiji Tsushin (3/9/2012) reports the resolution was unanimously adopted. As Jiji reports it, the resolution was:


to urge the governments in the world and in the community to support the disaster recovery with the needs of pregnant women and breast-feeding women

I read the statement that explains the resolution, and I didn't find anything about needs of pregnant and breast-feeding women. I didn't find any "urging" of the international community. It is quite possible that the statement I read is different from the resolution.

The purpose of the resolution, crafted with all the "right" words, is to describe what the Japanese government has been doing and is planning to do in the "gender equality" and have a stamp of approval from the UN, so that the government can say to the Japanese citizens, "See, UN approved it, so we will implement it." Much like the Finance Minister promised the consumption tax hike at an IMF meeting first, and used the promise as Japan's "obligation" to carry it out.

And this is a country governed by the politicians and so-called experts who have ridiculed, even excoriated women who want to protect their children or anybody's children from radiation as "monster" mothers, calling their fears as "irrational, women's fears".

So much for appreciation for women's points of view.

Japan's PM Noda's Op-Ed in Washington Post: "A year after the earthquake, building a new Japan"

Whoever translated this piece has my sympathy. It's hard to translate sentences devoid of meaning. I can almost see through the original Japanese words, cliche after cliche after cliche.

Noda's op-ed, from Washington Post (3/9/2012); emphasis is mine, and my comment in blue italic in square brackets:

A year after the earthquake, building a new Japan

By Yoshihiko Noda, Friday, March 9, 5:01 PM

March 11 is etched in Japan’s collective consciousness. Today, on the first anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which triggered the starkest crisis our country has faced in a generation [let's see, a generation is 30 years. I think he meant at least 2 generations, so it goes back to right after World War II; otherwise it doesn't make any sense], we pause to commemorate all of those who suffered. Our thoughts go out to all of the victims of the tragedy and to people around the world whose lives have been devastated by natural disasters.

We will not forget the loved ones, friends and colleagues lost in the disaster. Nor will we forget the outpouring of support and international expressions of solidarity that Japan received. For this, we feel deeply indebted and forever appreciative. [I remember they dare returned blankets donated by Indonesia, because the blankets didn't meet the Japanese specs. Some appreciation.]

Japan has made remarkable progress over the past 12 months. Today we renew our commitment to learn from the great difficulties we have faced [you are still facing them]. I firmly believe that this period of difficulty must, and will, come to mark the start of a full-fledged revitalization of Japan.

The national solidarity and sense of urgency that resulted from last year’s tragedy underscore that we have the collective will to tackle our most pressing issues [I hardly sense any solidarity, any sense of urgency, or collective will; for once, ordinary Japanese are not really into "collective" anything]: reconstruction of areas affected by the earthquake; full decommissioning of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and decontamination of affected areas; and revitalization of the Japanese economy.

The many steps taken in a year included establishing a budgetary and legislative framework that laid out many of the strategic tools for reconstruction. We set up the Reconstruction Agency, which acts as a control tower for all related planning and significantly streamlines and expedites activities, including formation of reconstruction grants and special reconstruction zones [to hand out pork to construction companies and hand out tax benefits to large corporations]. In addition, procedures for monitoring and testing food products have been strengthened, while more than 1 trillion yen in state funds have been provided for the decontamination of residential areas close to the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The issues of greatest concern among affected individuals, and our nation as a whole, are the most fundamental: job security and a sustainable livelihood for families [those have been totally destroyed by the Koizumi administration]. Through the creation of special reconstruction zones and other initiatives under the concept of “open reconstruction,” these regions will stimulate new domestic and overseas investment, creating jobs, driving the restoration of existing industries and enhancing innovation. [What the hell is open construction?]

The creation of 11 “FutureCities” throughout Japan, in areas including the disaster-hit municipalities of Ofunato, Rikuzentakata and Higashimatsushima, is one such example. Through budgetary, tax and regulatory measures, support will be provided to develop an industry and social infrastructure linked with compact cities and decentralized, environmentally friendly energy production that uses “smart” grids and large-scale solar and offshore wind farms. [Sound like Potemkin Village.] Japan is already a leader in energy efficiency, and it has a wealth of innovative technologies. We must put this expertise to use creating a model for growth and sustainability that we can share with the world.

Another area where Japan can, and I believe must, lead the world and share its knowledge is disaster-risk reduction and response [What knowledge?]. We have learned, in the harshest possible terms, that it is no longer acceptable to claim that events had been unforeseen. To build resilient communities and a country able to withstand natural disasters, our disaster-management measures are being comprehensively reviewed, and I expect they will be dramatically strengthened.

Of course, Japan also faces challenges that were apparent before last year’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. We have been tackling some, such as securing robust economic growth and rebuilding government finances, for a number of years. The longer these issues are left unresolved, the more serious they become.

When I became prime minister last September, I promised the Japanese people that I would not tolerate the politics of indecision. A propensity to delay difficult and weighty decisions has been hurting our country. It is detrimental to our economy, society and future, and it cannot be allowed to continue. [Right. So let's raise consumption tax by 10%, that will bring about true recovery.]

The many projects underway for Japan’s reconstruction and revitalization constitute the first step toward our country’s economic revival [by taking the country deeper into debt?]. Securing robust economic growth is a momentous challenge in the face of global economic uncertainty, the yen’s historic appreciation and long-standing deflation — but it is not insurmountable. [It's been insurmountable for 22 years.]

We must draw on the unique strengths of the Japanese economy [like what?], seek an open and cooperative approach with our international partners, and intelligently exploit the promise of new growth areas. Sectors such as energy, the environment, health and nursing care hold significant potential as leading growth industries where Japan can tap innovative ideas and investment from the private sector, including foreign direct investment [here we go. TPP], and play a leading role globally. We aim to create the conditions to support increased international interest and investment in Japan, not only in business but also in tourism. As a prerequisite, we commit to providing timely and accurate information to the international community.

In recent history, Japan seized rapid economic expansion from the ashes and desolation of World War II, and we built the most energy-efficient economy in the world in the aftermath of the oil shock. On the anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, we remember that today we face a challenge of similar proportions [Similar? I don't think so. It's monumentally bigger]. Our goal is not simply to reconstruct the Japan that existed before March 11, 2011, but to build a new Japan. We are determined to overcome this historic challenge.

© The Washington Post Company

NISA Approves TEPCO's Request to Have Female Workers Back at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant

TEPCO informed the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency that it would bring female workers back at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on March 9, and NISA approved before the day was over.

According to Tokyo Shinbun quoting Kyodo News (3/9/2012), TEPCO is envisioning 8 hours a day, 20 days per month indoor work that would result in less than 5 millisieverts in 3 months.

As per my calculation, it will be 3.456 millisieverts in 3 months.

I just asked a former TEPCO employee who used to work at one of the TEPCO's nuclear power plants, who said "0.1 to 0.3 millisievert per year" radiation exposure for indoor, office work with occasional visits to controlled areas.

What is the point of TEPCO bringing back female workers at the plant where 7.2 microsieverts/hour radiation is considered "low"? Just to send a hopeful message that everything is going well in Fukushima?

Core Shroud of Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant Was Found with a Huge Crack in 2009, Operator and Swiss Government Hid the Fact, Says Japan's Mainichi

(UPDATE) According to Switzerland's Beobachter (in German), the cracks are along the horizontal weld of the shroud, not "top to bottom" as Mainichi describes. The core spray system was also found with cracks. (H/T Atomfritz)


More on Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant in Switzerland, whose license to operate will be withdrawn in June 2013 by the court order (see my previous post).

Japan's Mainichi Shinbun (3/8/2012; link goes to a message board with full copy of the article) reports that the plant operator BKW Energy and the nuclear regulating agency of the Swiss government hid the discovery in 2009 of a huge crack in the core shroud inside the Reactor Pressure Vessel.

From Mainichi Shinbun article (part):


However, the local media reported in June last year in the wake of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident that the 9-meter high stainless-steel core shroud inside the Reactor Pressure Vessel at Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant [there is only one reactor] had a crack from top to bottom. The federal nuclear safety regulation agency denied the risk, saying "Even if there is a crack, [the shroud] meets the safety standard, and there is no problem."


Anti-nuclear groups criticized the comment, saying "The core shroud is an very important structure that surrounds nuclear fuel rods and control rods. The damage may cause the fuel rods to shift." The crack had been discovered in 2009 but it was not disclosed. The anti-nuclear group(s?) filed a suit in the Federal Administrative Court demanding the withdrawal of the operation license issued by the federal government in 2009. With the ruling [on March 7], the Federal Administrative Court upheld the complaint from the group.

The crack in the core shroud was found in 2009, in the same year that the government granted the operator an open-ended (indefinite) operation license. I wonder which came first.

Mainichi also reports that BKW Energy plans to appeal to the Swiss supreme court.

TEPCO to Welcome Back Female Workers to Fukushima I Nuke Plant

Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is now so stable and safe that TEPCO wants to bring back female workers to the plant.

Yup, you heard it right. What better way is there to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the nuclear accident and to demonstrate how safe it has become, than to have female workers working at Fuku I again?

From Jiji Tsushin (3/9/2012):


Women to work at Fukushima I Nuke Plant again, as "radioactive materials have decreased and the work conditions have improved", says TEPCO


TEPCO announced on March 9 that the company would review the operation policy in order to allow female workers at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, as the air radiation levels in the Anti-Earthquake Building and the reactor buildings of Reactors 5 and 6 have dropped. In April last year, female workers at the plant were found to have exceeded the radiation exposure limit [for female nuclear workers] of 5 millisieverts in 3 months. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency then instructed TEPCO to come up with the countermeasure to prevent it from happening again, and there has been no female worker at the plant since.


According to TEPCO, the air radiation level on the first floor of the Anti-Earthquake building dropped from 47 microsieverts/hour in March last year to 7.2 microsieverts/hour in November. By reviewing the policy, TEPCO could allow female workers from subcontractors to work at the plant. The company is expecting them to providing medical care and other tasks.

Let's see. 8 hours inside the building, 57.6 microsieverts per day, 288 microsieverts per week (assuming 5 days a week work), 1,152 microsieverts per month. 3,456 microsieverts (3.456 millisieverts) in 3 months, oh that's so within the 5 millisieverts/3 months limit.

Notice that the Jiji article talks about female workers from subcontractors, not TEPCO's own female employees. It also refers to Reactors 5 and 6. What kind of work is TEPCO envisioning female subcontract workers to do in the reactor buildings, I wonder?

NPR: "Trauma, Not Radiation, Is Key Concern In Japan"

The US's NPR (National Public Radio, though they go by NPR these days) has an article written by Richard Harris on the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.

The most interesting information comes from Dr. John Boice, a cancer epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University who says in the NPR piece:

To be sure, "there was radiation released. It was about a tenth of what was released from Chernobyl," he says. "But most of the releases were blown off to the Pacific Ocean. The winds were blowing to the sea and not to populated areas."

One big cloud did blow inland, up toward the northwest. But most of the 170,000 residents in the area were quickly evacuated. Boice says that helped limit dangerous doses. So did other quick actions by the Japanese government.

"They prohibited the release of any food that had had increased levels of radiation in them," he says. "So there wasn't milk out there in the public supply. There wasn't any fish that had levels that were increased."

Did you know that?

From NPR (Richard Harris, 3/9/2012):

Trauma, Not Radiation, Is Key Concern In Japan

by Richard Harris

March 9, 2012

One year ago this Sunday, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake off Japan triggered a tsunami that killed 20,000 people. It also triggered multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station, one of the worst nuclear disasters in history.

But health effects from radiation turn out to be minor compared with the other issues the people of Fukushima prefecture now face.

That may come as a surprise. We all watched frightening TV images, and clouds of radioactive steam and gas did erupt from the plant. That material did sometimes move over the countryside and into populated areas, so it looked like a horrible disaster.

But in the case of radiation, the dose matters. It's true, there is no bright line that separates a safe dose of radiation from a dangerous dose, but at some point, a dose is so small that any potential health risk is simply too small to measure.

"Surprisingly, there have been no health effects that have been demonstrated among the Japanese people or among the workers," says John Boice, a cancer epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University.

To be sure, "there was radiation released. It was about a tenth of what was released from Chernobyl," he says. "But most of the releases were blown off to the Pacific Ocean. The winds were blowing to the sea and not to populated areas."

One big cloud did blow inland, up toward the northwest. But most of the 170,000 residents in the area were quickly evacuated. Boice says that helped limit dangerous doses. So did other quick actions by the Japanese government.

"They prohibited the release of any food that had had increased levels of radiation in them," he says. "So there wasn't milk out there in the public supply. There wasn't any fish that had levels that were increased."

And that's a huge difference from the aftermath of Chernobyl. In 1986, the Soviets let people eat contaminated food and drink contaminated milk, activity that led to many cancers. In Japan, Boice says the only people with significantly elevated doses are the nuclear workers. And as a result, a few workers are at slightly higher risk for cancer.

Psychological Health Effects

Robert Gale, a bone-marrow-transplant expert who treated workers after Chernobyl, spent half of the past year in Japan talking to some of the thousands of workers called in for the nuclear cleanup.

"Most of these workers are not nuclear workers," Gale says. "They are common workers that [for example] were upholstering couches in Osaka and now they're cleaning up a nuclear reactor."

They work until they reach the occupational radiation limit of 50 millisieverts in a year, then they go home. But they don't know what their risk really entails. So Gale has been meeting with them to explain.

"Usually, when they're discussing these issues we're in an izakaya, a sort of Japanese bar," he says. "While they're discussing their concerns about radiation with me, they can go through a pack of cigarettes. If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for a year, you're getting an internal radiation dose of about 30 millisieverts."

That's more than half the dose they got through occupational exposure. But cigarette smoke is also filled with cancer-causing chemicals, so smoking is a far bigger risk to their health.

But the issue isn't just physical health — it's the worries that come with radiation. Evelyn Bromet, a psychiatry researcher at SUNY Stony Brook, says this anxiety sets in after big nuclear accidents.

"The central public health issue often becomes health-related anxiety, concerns about the future, about the future health of the children," Bromet says. "So that's what happened in Japan, just as it happened after Chernobyl and after Three Mile Island."

But it's worse in Japan because the public is also suffering from the trauma of the tsunami, of evacuation and of losing livelihoods, because people are reluctant to buy produce from Fukushima. And Bromet says physicians in Japan don't generally treat mental health issues.

"So I think it's not going to be very easy to set up intervention programs in the same way it would in countries like Holland, for example, where there's much more integrated mental and physical health care."

Bromet says it will be essential to deal with both physical health and mental health in the years to come.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

89 Millisieverts Equivalent Dose at Thyroid from a Resident in Namie-machi, Fukushima, Says Hirosaki University Researchers

Professor Shinji Tokonami, Department of Radiation Physics, Institute of Radiation Emergency Medicine, Hirosaki University and his researchers say people who escaped from the coastal areas of Fukushima Prefecture after the accident and people who continued to live in Namie-machi after the March 11, 2011 nuclear accident were found with high levels of radiation exposure on the thyroid.

They tested 65 residents in April 2011, and it is in the news on March 9, 2012. Another case of nearly one-year delay in disclosing the information that would have made the difference if known earlier. Like 11 months ago.

From Asahi Shinbun (3/9/2012):


It has been disclosed that someone was exposed to nearly 90 millisievert radiation [equivalent dose] on the thyroid from radioactive iodine during the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. Professor Shinji Tokonami, Department of Radiation Physics, Institute of Radiation Emergency Medicine, Hirosaki University and his researchers analyzed the test result of 65 Fukushima residents. The test was conducted 1 month after the accident. Of people who were exposed to radiation, about half had equivalent dose of 10 millisieverts or less, but 5 people had equivalent dose exceeding 50 millisieverts.


The radiation exposure on the thyroid increases the risk of cancer. However, radioactive iodine has a short half life, and the exposure was not measured properly in the confusion right after the accident and the details were not known.


From April 11 to 16 last year, Professor Tokonami's group measured the density of radioactive iodine in the thyroid of 48 people who evacuated from Hamadori (coastal 1/3 of Fukushima) to Fukushima City and 17 people who remained in Tsushima District of Namie-machi, right outside the 30 kilometer radius from the nuclear power plant. Radioactive iodine was found in 50 people, nearly 80% of people tested.


From the actual measurement, the researchers calculated the equivalent dose at the thyroid. Assuming they had inhaled radioactive iodine immediately after the accident on March 12 and were exposed to radiation, the calculation showed that 34 people had equivalent dose of 20 millisieverts and less, and 5 people exceeded 50 millisieverts, which is an international standard for intervention to prevent negative effect on health.


The maximum equivalent dose was 87 millisieverts, from an adult who remained in Namie-machi after the accident. The second highest was 77 millisieverts from an adult who had spent more than 2 weeks in Tsushima District of Namie-machi on his/her way to evacuate to Fukushima City. The highest dose in children was 47 millisieverts. There is no information of whereabouts of the child during the weeks in March and April.


In the test done by the national government late last March on 1,080 children in Iwaki City, Kawamata-machi, and Iitate-mura, 35 millisievert equivalent dose was announced as the maximum.

From Asahi's extremely convoluted tabulation, here's what I've figured out (I think, maybe):
  • 48 people from Hamadori (coastal 1/3), 17 people who remained in Tsushima District of Namie-machi, total 65 people

  • Radioactive iodine detected in 50 people

  • 25 people below 10 millisieverts equivalent dose

  • 9 people between 10 and 20

  • 11 people between 20 and 50

  • 5 people above 50
Why can't Asahi say it straight? (Rhetorical question in case you're wondering.)

NHK, reporting on the same news, says the researchers are yet to tell the residents about the test result:


The researchers plans to tell the residents about the test result in the near future.

How nice of them.

Hirosaki University is one of the 86 national universities in Japan.

Fish Imported from Japan Found with Radioactive Cesium in South Korea

From TBS News (3/9/2012):

韓国、日本産水産物 セシウム検出増える

South Korea finding more marine products from Japan with radioactive cesium


It has been revealed that an increasing number of marine products from Japan imported to South Korea have been found with radioactive materials. Since the levels are below the safety limits, they are being sold in the marketplace.


South Korea's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Fisheries and Food announced on March 8 that an increasing number of marine products imported to South Korea from Japan have been found with radioactive cesium.


The South Korean government conducts its own test of marine products imported from Japan, aside from the radiation test in Japan [by the Japanese authorities] at the time of shipment.


Radioactive cesium was found in mackerels and Alaska pollock. There were 13 cases of cesium detection in 8 months from April to November last year, but the number significantly increased from December onward. There are 40 cases of cesium detection in 3 months from December to February this year.


In most cases, the radioactive density was 7 becquerels/kg or less. The maximum was 97.9 becquerels/kg. Since they are all below the safety limit of South Korea, they have been sold in the market.

Photos of TMI Corium from Japan Atomic Energy Agency

JAEA published the photographs of the corium from the Reactor No.2 from the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in 1979.

Asahi Shinbun (3/7/2012) reports that the 60 samples of the TMI corium have been kept at JAEA since 1991. The samples, weighing 3 kilograms, were given to JAEA by Idaho National Laboratory as part of the international research collaboration.

According to Asahi, JAEA is planning to re-evaluate the samples as part of the basic research for decommissioning the reactors at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

Cross section of a corium sample, with the surface oxidized to show colors. Green is uranium dioxide. Brownish part is metals like zirconium, iron, nickel melted together (according to Asahi):

Cross section of a small 1-mm corium grain. Whitish color is where uranium and cladding melted and mixed (according to Asahi):

3.43 Million Bq/Kg of Radioactive Cesium in "Black Dust" in Minami Soma City, Fukushima

Whatever this substance is, the number is extremely high.

About this "black dust" in Minami Soma, see my past posts, here, here, here.

Minami Soma City's Assemblyman Ooyama reports on his blog (3/8/2012):

試料:ID:080 鹿島区ジサ原C
Cs-134 1,498,000 ± 1,586 Bq/kg
Cs-137 1,932,900 ± 2,481 Bq/kg
TOTAL 3,430,900± 2,945 Bq/kg

It seems to be part of the report by Professor Tomoya Yamauchi of Kobe University who did the measurement. Mr. Ooyama lists the result of 11 samples tested by Professor Yamauchi.

The NGO in Minami Soma, HCR, seems to have some kind of a fallout with the assemblyman's volunteer group over the "black dust", and they've been making rather wild announcements (telling residents that the black dust was plutonium, when there was no alpha emission was detected, for example). I am still trying to get the overall picture on this matter.

Plutonium-241 of Fukushima Origin Found 32 Kilometers from the Plant, Says National Institute of Radiological Sciences After Nearly One Year

The National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) knew about it since May last year, but decided to keep quiet. Why? It's yet another case of the researchers waiting until their data collection is published in a peer-review scientific magazine (the paper is linked at the bottom of the post).

For the NIRS researchers, their data has just been published in the UK's Scientific Reports (electronic version), reports Kyodo News (3/8/2012):


The National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS, in Chiba City, Chiba) published the result of their measurement of plutonium-241 at three locations in Fukushima Prefecture 20 to 32 kilometers northwest and south of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in the electronic version of the UK's science magazine "Scientific Reports" issued on March 8, 2012.

 人体に影響のないレベルだが、プルトニウム241は他の同位体に比べて半減期が14年と比較的短く、崩壊してできるアメリシウム241は土壌を経由して主に豆類に取り込まれやすい。放医研は「内部被ばくを避けるためにも 原発20キロ圏内での分布状況を確かめる必要がある」としている。

The level [of plutonium-241] will not affect human health. Plutonium-241 has relatively short half life of 14 years compared to other isotopes of plutonium. It decays into americium-241, which is easily absorbed through soil into legumes. The NIRS says "To avoid internal radiation exposure, it is necessary to survey the spread of plutonium-241 inside the 20 kilometer zone around the plant."

 昨年4~5月に採取した福島県飯舘村、浪江町の森林の落ち葉と、スポーツ施設で現在事故対応拠点となったJヴィレッジ(広野町など)の土から検出。他の同位体プルトニウム239(半減期2万4千年)、240(同6600年)も検出 、同位体の比率から今回の事故が原因と分かった。

[Plutonium-241] was detected from the samples they collected in April and May last year - the dead leaves from the forests in Iitate-mura and Namie-machi, and the soil at J-village, which has been used as the staging area for the work after the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident. Other isotopes of plutonium, plutonium-239 (half life 24,000 years) and plutonium-240 (half life 6,600 years), were also detected. From the ratio of isotopes, the NIRS researchers concluded that they were from the Fukushima nuclear accident.


The density of plutonium-241 [detected this time] is higher than that being detected in Japan after the atmospheric nuclear tests in the past. However, plutonium-241 has a short half life, and the density is lower than that during the 1960s when the radioactive fallout from the nuclear tests fell on Japan.


Plutonium is a radionuclide that hardly exists in nature. It is created when uranium in the reactor fuel absorbs neutrons.

Hmmm. If you want to avoid internal radiation exposure by ingesting food that may contain americium-241, a decay product of plutonium-241, don't you want to survey the area outside the 20 kilometer zone? After all, outside the 20 kilometer zone, Fukushima farmers will be tilling the land, ready to grow crops of all kinds again this year.

Half life of americium-241 is 432.7 years. As it decays, americium-241 emits alpha and gamma rays.

Asahi Shinbun has the numbers for plutonium-241:

  • Dead leaves in Namie-machi (26 kilometers NW of the plant): 34.8 becquerels/kg

  • Dead leaves in Iitate-mura (32 kilometers NW of the plant): 20.2 becquerels/kg

  • Soil at J-Village (20 kilometer south of the plant: 4.52 becquerels/kg

Farmers in Fukushima, are you still going to grow stuff on your land?

Researchers at the NIRS, did you think of at least informally telling the local authorities or the farmers about your findings? Or did you just sit and wait until your paper was published by a peer-review magazine?

(I know I'm wasting my breath.)

Scientific Reports carries their full paper online.

The Telegraph's Delingpole: "Wind farms: even worse than we thought…"

From decidedly "non-warmer" James Delingpole on wind farms (he calls " Bat Chomping Eco-Crucifixes") that:

ruin views, kill birds, cause bats to implode, destroy the British film industry, frighten horses, enrich rent-seeking toffs like David Cameron's father-in-law Sir Reginald Sheffield Bt, drive up electricity bills, kill jobs, create fuel poverty, cause old people to die of hypothermia, wipe out property values, drive people mad with strobing and noise pollution and enable smug liberal idiots to spout rubbish like "Oh, I don't mind them. Actually I think they're rather beautiful", but also by 2020 they're set to drive up consumer bills in the UK alone by £120 billion.

From The Telegraph (James Delingpole; 3/8/2012):

The Global Warming Policy Foundation has produced yet another devastating report: this time on the economics of wind farms. Turns out they're even worse than we thought.

Not only do the Bat Chomping Eco-Crucifixes (TM) ruin views, kill birds, cause bats to implode, destroy the British film industry, frighten horses, enrich rent-seeking toffs like David Cameron's father-in-law Sir Reginald Sheffield Bt, drive up electricity bills, kill jobs, create fuel poverty, cause old people to die of hypothermia, wipe out property values, drive people mad with strobing and noise pollution and enable smug liberal idiots to spout rubbish like "Oh, I don't mind them. Actually I think they're rather beautiful", but also by 2020 they're set to drive up consumer bills in the UK alone by £120 billion.

This is about ten times more than it would cost if we stuck to gas. (Which we have in abundance, just waiting to be exploited, in places like the Bowland Shale).

In the latest Spectator, Matt Ridley delivers the coup-de-grace. Here's a taste:

To the nearest whole number, the percentage of the world's energy that comes from wind turbines today is: zero. Despite the regressive subsidy (pushing pensioners into fuel poverty while improving the wine cellars of grand estates), despite tearing rural communities apart, killing jobs, despoiling views, erecting pylons, felling forests, killing bats and eagles, causing industrial accidents, clogging motorways, polluting lakes in Inner Mongolia with the toxic and radioactive tailings from refining neodymium, a ton of which is in the average turbine — despite all this, the total energy generated each day by wind has yet to reach half a per cent worldwide.

If wind power was going to work, it would have done so by now. The people of Britain see this quite clearly, though politicians are often wilfully deaf. The good news though is that if you look closely, you can see David Cameron's government coming to its senses about the whole fiasco. The biggest investors in offshore wind — Mitsubishi, Gamesa and Siemens — are starting to worry that the government's heart is not in wind energy any more. Vestas, which has plans for a factory in Kent, wants reassurance from the Prime Minister that there is the political will to put up turbines before it builds its factory.

Some readers may occasionally detect in my coverage of wind farms a mild hint of contempt for those involved in the wind farm industry whether as lawyers (that means you Mrs Nick Clegg), paid propagandists/disrupters (see commenters, below), rent-seekers (yep, Sir Reginald) or corporatist blood-suckers feeding off the backs of innocent taxpayers.

One thing is certain: the arguments against wind farms are so abundant and well-known that ignorance is no longer a plausible excuse. If you're involved in the wind farm industry, you're a weapons-grade tosser, simple as that.

"Wind farms are beautiful" meme is in Japan also, despite the complaints from the residents who live near one of them and suffer health problems from the ultra-low frequency from the wind mills. I guess anything can be said to be beautiful after witnessing the wreckage at Fukushima I Nucleaer Power Plant.

Worker Fell Ill at Fukushima II (Daini) Nuke Plant

From TEPCO's press release (English, as reference) on March 7, 2012:

Call for Doctor Helicopter due to occurrence of injured person

At around 1:55 pm on March 7, at the first basement of Heat Exchanger Building* of Unit 1 (non-controlled area) a partner companies' worker found another worker who was engaged in repair work of insulation material of piping was lying. After that, at 2:36 pm on the same day, we requested the helicopter emergency medical service (called "Doctor Heli"). The worker retained consciousness and suffered no external injury. In addition, we confirmed no radioactive materials were adhered to the worker's body.

By "lying", TEPCO means "collapsed" (in case you're wondering).

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Carnegie Endowment Paper: "Why Fukushima Was Preventable"

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace just released a paper by James C. Acton and Mark Hibbs titled "Why Fukushima Was Preventable".

Their main argument is that TEPCO and the Japanese government could have better prepared for the tsunami if they had followed the international standards (for flooding).

The authors say TEPCO and the NISA's assessment for tsunami risks were inadequate because:

  • Insufficient attention was paid to evidence of large tsunamis inundating the region surrounding the plant about once every thousand years.

  • Computer modeling of the tsunami threat was inadequate. Most importantly, preliminary simulations conducted in 2008 that suggested the tsunami risk to the plant had been seriously underestimated were not followed up and were only reported to NISA on March 7, 2011.

  • NISA failed to review simulations conducted by TEPCO and to foster the development of appropriate computer modeling tools.

Never mind that TEPCO and NISA didn't intend to pay enough attention. But that is beyond the scope of the analysis by these authors. Not to mention that the earthquake alone may have doomed the plant, even without tsunami.

The following is the opening section that summarizes the paper "Why Fukushima Was Preventable" (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, March 2012):

Public sentiment in many states has turned against nuclear energy following the March 2011 accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. The large quantity of radioactive material released has caused significant human suffering and rendered large stretches of land uninhabitable. The cleanup operation will take decades and may cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

The Fukushima accident was, however, preventable. Had the plant’s owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), and Japan’s regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), followed international best practices and standards, it is conceivable that they would have predicted the possibility of the plant being struck by a massive tsunami. The plant would have withstood the tsunami had its design previously been upgraded in accordance with state-of-the-art safety approaches.

The methods used by TEPCO and NISA to assess the risk from tsunamis lagged behind international standards in at least three important respects:

* Insufficient attention was paid to evidence of large tsunamis inundating the region surrounding the plant about once every thousand years.

* Computer modeling of the tsunami threat was inadequate. Most importantly, preliminary simulations conducted in 2008 that suggested the tsunami risk to the plant had been seriously underestimated were not followed up and were only reported to NISA on March 7, 2011.

* NISA failed to review simulations conducted by TEPCO and to foster the development of appropriate computer modeling tools.

At the time of the accident, critical safety systems in nuclear power plants in some countries, especially in European states, were—as a matter of course—much better protected than in Japan. Following a flooding incident at Blayais Nuclear Power Plant in France in 1999, European countries significantly enhanced their plants’ defenses against extreme external events. Japanese operators were aware of this experience, and TEPCO could and should have upgraded Fukushima Daiichi.

Steps that could have prevented a major accident in the event that the plant was inundated by a massive tsunami, such as the one that struck the plant in March 2011, include:

* Protecting emergency power supplies, including diesel generators and batteries, by moving them to higher ground or by placing them in watertight bunkers;

* Establishing watertight connections between emergency power supplies and key safety systems; and

* Enhancing the protection of seawater pumps (which were used to transfer heat from the plant to the ocean and to cool diesel generators) and/or constructing a backup means to dissipate heat.

Though there is no single reason for TEPCO and NISA’s failure to follow international best practices and standards, a number of potential underlying causes can be identified. NISA lacked independence from both the government agencies responsible for promoting nuclear power and also from industry. In the Japanese nuclear industry, there has been a focus on seismic safety to the exclusion of other possible risks. Bureaucratic and professional stovepiping made nuclear officials unwilling to take advice from experts outside of the field. Those nuclear professionals also may have failed to effectively utilize local knowledge. And, perhaps most importantly, many believed that a severe accident was simply impossible.

In the final analysis, the Fukushima accident does not reveal a previously unknown fatal flaw associated with nuclear power. Rather, it underscores the importance of periodically reevaluating plant safety in light of dynamic external threats and of evolving best practices, as well as the need for an effective regulator to oversee this process.

In "Predicting the Disaster" section of the paper, the authors say:

First, there appears to have been insufficient attention given by TEPCO and NISA to historical evidence of large earthquakes and tsunamis. Best practice, as promulgated by the IAEA, requires the collection of data on prehistorical and historical earthquakes and tsunamis in the region of a nuclear power plant in order to protect the plant against rare extreme seismic events that may occur only once every ten thousand years.36 Historical data was used in assessing plant safety.

If that's the case, going back 10,000 years, there should have been no nuclear power plants approved anywhere in Japan.

The international best practice the authors cite is that of flooding, not tsunami that comes after a large earthquake. I haven't finished reading the paper yet, but their proposed actions to protect the plant from the tsunami seem viable as long as there is no damage from the preceding earthquake, which in Fukushima's case was M.9. The actions that could have saved the plant, as proposed by the authors, are:

  • Moving emergency diesel generators and other emergency power sources to higher ground on the plant site

  • Establishing watertight connections between emergency power supplies and the plant

  • Building dikes and seawalls to protect against a severe tsunami

  • Installing emergency power equipment and cooling pumps in dedicated, bunkered, watertight buildings or compartments

  • Assuring that seawater-supply infrastructure is robust and providing additional robust sources to serve as the plants’ ultimate heat sink.

None of the actions seems to assume any damage to the buildings, structures, pipes, equipment from an earthquake.


Uncle Genpachi and Tama on Tsunami:

Radioactive Cesium in Urine from Children in Miyagi, Iwate, Chiba

France's ACRO (Association pour le Contrôle de la Radioactivité de l'Ouest) released the result of the urine tests of children in Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate, Chiba, Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Saitama Prefectures.

While the radioactive cesium levels in children in Tokyo, Kanagawa and Saitama were below detection levels, children in Fukushima, Miyagi, Iwate and Chiba (Kashiwa City) were found with radioactive cesium in their urine.

Most troubling were the results for children outside Fukushima with rather high levels of radioactive cesium. ACRO suspects (I think correctly) that they may come from ingesting contaminated food.

  • 8-year-old boy in Kakuda City, Miyagi: 3.12 becquerels/kg

  • 11-year-old boy in Marumori-cho, Miyagi: 3.03 becquerels/kg

  • 10-year-old boy in Oshu City, Iwate: 2.89 becquerels/kg

  • 4-year-old girl in Kashiwa City, Chiba: 1.47 becquerels/kg

Even in the Aizu region of Fukushima (western third) where the radiation contamination is far less than the rest of Fukushima, a 36-year-old woman was found with 1.84 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium in her urine.

From ACRO's announcement in February 2012:

ACRO continues to face a large demand for urine testing from Japan at the request of local NGOs or individuals and to provide free analysis. This time, the urines come from prefectures that further from the Fukushima NPP.

Results show that urines are still contaminated almost one year after 3/11 and are contaminated in places located as far as Oshu (Iwate Pref.) at about 220 km from the NPP. In Miyagi Pref. that is closer, urines are also contaminated. It is particularly the case in Marumori.

Sample n°11 comes from the same girl from Ichinoseki as the last time. We notice a significant decrease of the contamination. Parents were eating vegetables from the Grandparents’ garden without expecting that they could be contaminated. The urine test provided by ACRO allowed them to change their food habits and protect themselves.

Marumori-cho is located in southern Miyagi. 1600 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was just found in shiitake mushrooms in Marumori-cho.

The 4-year-old girl in Ichinoseki City in Iwate Prefecture had been found with 4.64 becquerels/kg of cesium in the urine test done by ACRO in September 2011.

Contaminated food could come from home-grown vegetables, or from school lunches in which local produce is used. As far as schools are concerned, it's "safe" as long as the food items are sold in the market, or the food items test below the government safety limit (500 becquerels/kg for radioactive cesium, until April 1, 2012; then 100 becquerels/kg).

Swiss Court Withdraws Mühleberg Nuclear Plant Licence

The Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant has one boiling water reactor made by GE, the same type as in Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

From (3/7/2012):

The Mühleberg atomic plant near Bern will lose its operating licence at the end of June 2013 on security grounds, the Federal Administrative Court has ruled.

The court upheld a complaint by local opponents of the plant against the indefinite extension of the plant's licence by the environment ministry, granted at the end of 2009.

The 1972 plant, one of the oldest in Switzerland, is run by BKW Energy. Last September it was restarted after three months of annual checks and safety improvements.

Before the court’s ruling, Mühleberg's licence was open-ended as long as it met national nuclear safety requirements.

All Swiss atomic plants are due to be decommissioned by 2034, in line with the government’s decision to opt out of atomic energy, announced last May.

In the wake of last year’s crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, the Swiss government suspended all applications for the building of new power plants and ordered a review of options for the country’s energy mix in the future. and agencies

Bill That Will Create "Global Warming Tax" Wil Pass in Japan by the End of March

In case you are not aware, Japan is one of the last bastions of people who believe in anthropogenic (man-made) global warming. The majority of the population in Japan are quite willing to sacrifice their well-being if that reduces CO2 emission and save the mother earth.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (3/7/2012):


Secretaries-general and Diet policy committee chairmen of the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito Party met on March 7, and confirmed their parties' policy to agree to 4 tax bills [submitted by the Noda administration] in the bills related to the fiscal 2012 budget including the one that will create the tax for countermeasures against global warming (environmental tax).


With their agreement, the 4 bills are likely to be passed within this month.


Meanwhile, the Diet Steering Committee of the Lower House held a meeting on March 7, and decided that the fiscal 2012 budget would be voted on in the plenary session of the Lower House in the evening on March 8. The 2012 budget is expected to pass by the majority vote from the ruling coalition. The LDP and the New Komei Party confirmed in the meeting on March 7 to oppose the budget.

The budget is going to pass anyway, so the LDP and Komeito want to make a token stand that they opposed, a gesture enough to fool people into voting for them in the future.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Yokohama City Stopped Using Zeolite after Only One Month at Its Final Disposal Site on Tokyo Bay

Yokohama City, which has been dumping the radioactive ashes with low radioactivity from burning household garbage at its final disposal landfill (Minami Honmoku) on Tokyo Bay since September last year, has said the runoff water is safely treated by the cesium absorption towers with zeolite.

Well they lied. They used the absorption towers for one month and stopped using them, but never bothered to tell they stopped using them.

In one month, they used 5500 kilograms of zeolite, which absorbed 5000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium. In other words, 27.5 million becquerels of radioactive cesium was effectively caught. So the city thought "Oh that's good", and stopped using zeolite.

From Sankei Shinbun Kanto local version (3/6/2012):

セシウム浄化装置の使用停止説明せず 横浜市

Yokohama City didn't explain why it stopped using the cesium absorption system


It was revealed on March 6 that Yokohama City had stopped using the system to absorb radioactive cesium using zeolite in November last year at the city's Minami Honmoku Final Disposal Site (in Naka-ku, Yokohama). The city continued to tell residents about the zeolite absorption system in the meetings to explain the ashes from the sewer sludge being buried in the final disposal site, even after they stopped using the system. The official says, "We are sorry if the residents were misled into thinking the system was still used."


The Minami Honmoku Final Disposal Site is on Tokyo Bay, encircled by the seawalls. When the ashes are dumped on the ocean [inside the seawalls], the displaced water go through the absorption system and is discharged into the ocean [outside the seawalls]. The city started to use 5500 kilograms of zeolite in October last year to process the water, and stopped the usage about one month later. 5,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was found in the zeolite. The city explains that it was only an experiment to see how effective zeolite was in absorbing [radioactive cesium], and that the radioactivity of the exhaust water is very low.


The city will start cesium absorption treatment at the garbage incineration plants in the city. At the Minami Honmoku site, they will conduct the test of a new system using zeolite to absorb radioactive cesium in September.

According to Yokohama City Assemblywoman Sakura Inoue, the city official in charge said he was impressed with zeolite's ability to absorb radioactive cesium, but he stopped the use anyway because the radioactivity of the treated water was below the national safety level.

Here's a hilarious exchange between the official and Assemblywoman Sakura Inoue during the recent Assembly meeting, as Ms. Inoue relates in her blog:

Inoue: Why did you stop treating water with zeolite?

Official: It was to see the effect of zeolite.

Inoue: I am asking you why you stopped treating the water.

Official: No detection of radioactive cesium in water coming in to the absorption system or in water coming out of the system into the ocean.

Inoue: It's not "no detection", but "below detection limit". Since the ashes were dumped into a large amount of seawater, when you look at the density it may be below the detection limit. But it doesn't mean there was no radioactive cesium. In fact, what was the radioactive density of zeolite after 26 days of use?

Official: 5,000 becquerels/kg.

Inoue: What did you think of the number?

Official: I thought zeolite was quite effective.

Oh boy. But wait, it gets worse:

Inoue: Why did you give misleading explanation? Did you tell the residents, fishermen and harbor workers that you stopped using the zeolite absorption system?

Official: We explained to them that radioactive cesium was not detected.

Inoue: It's not the matter of density but the absolute amount. A large amount of radioactive cesium is being dumped into the bay. Treatment with zeolite should be resumed.

Official: There's no problem, as it is below the national safety standard. We are not going to use zeolite.

Inoue: Why then are you building a new embankment as a new countermeasure against radiation?

Official: To be safer...

Inoue: How much does it cost to build the embankment, and how much does zeolite cost?

Officla: It costs 130 million yen to build the embankment, and 1.2 million yen for one zeolite tower. [Kanagawa Shinbun says it is 1.2 million yen for 2 zeolite towers.]

Here's my take, in an effort to make sense:

  • The city doesn't want to have highly radioactive (over 8,000 becquerels/kg) zeolite after absorbing radioactive cesium, because they cannot dump zeolite in the landfill if the radioactivity exceeds 8,000 becquerels/kg.

  • Building the embankment costs a lot more money, and the city wants to spend more money as it is able to distribute money and jobs to the well-connected contractors.

What "national safety limit" of exhaust water is this official talking about? It turns out (according to Kanagawa Shinbun 3/7/2012) to be 60 to 90 becquerels/liter.

Well guess what kind of "safety limit" it is.

Those numbers happen to be the allowed density of radioactive cesium in exhaust water of a nuclear power plant. Cesium-134: 60 becquerels/liter, and cesium-137: 90 becquerels/liter.

Multi-Party Push for Wide-Area Disposal of Disaster (Radioactive) Debris Accelerates

Not just the Noda administration, not just the Democratic Party of Japan but the so-called "opposition" parties join the government's all-out effort to spread the disaster debris all over Japan.

That alone shows there are tons of money to be made from tons of debris.

Yomiuri Shinbun (3/6/2012; link will disappear soon as this is a Yahoo link) reports that 5 former Ministers of the Environment from the DPJ, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Komei Party will collaborate in persuading the residents in municipalities in Japan to accept the disaster debris from Miyagi and Iwate.


Prime Minister Noda met with Governor Yuji Kuroiwa of Kanagawa Prefecture on March 6 at the Prime Minister's Official Residence.


Mr. Kuroiwa handed the prime minister the request that the national government pay for the entire cost of wide-area disposal of disaster debris from the March 11, 2011 disaster. The prime minister expressed appreciation for Kanagawa Prefecture's willingness to consider accepting the debris.


Meanwhile, the Democratic Party of Japan held the first meeting of the DPJ members of the Diet for promoting the wide-area disposal of the disaster debris (chairman Yoshiaki Takagi, ex-Minister of Education and Science), and decided on the policy to explain the safety of debris disposal to the municipalities and directly intervene in the process of acceptance [instead of going through the governors or through the Ministry of the Environment].


5 former Ministers of the Environment in the DPJ, the Liberal Democratic Party, and New Komeito [fairness] Party will launch their campaign to push the municipalities to accept the debris, with each former Minister in charge of one specific geographic region.

All-out war on those pesky residents who dare say no, by convincing the majority who don't care one way or another of the need to "help" Tohoku "recover".

The Ministry of the Environment continues to push for wide-area dispersion of debris to be burned and buried, and has allocated 200 million yen (about US$2.5 million) for the PR blitz featuring a popular actor from Onagawa-machi, Miyagi (whose debris is being shipped to the central Tokyo to be burned in the municipal incinerators for household garbage) showing the piles of debris in his hometown (Nikkan Sports news, 3/6/2012, in Japanese).

Monday, March 5, 2012

Dry Vent of Reactor 2 May Have Released Largest Amount of Radioactive Materials, Not Explosions

The paper by a Tokyo University researcher that was finally published nearly one year after he took the samples at the front gate of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant and in Iitate-mura in Fukushima Prefecture (see my post from yesterday) has this very interesting chart.

It shows the spacial dose of radiation at the front gate of Fukushima I Nuke Plant and the timeline of events at the plant in March. The largest spike seems to be around or after 12AM on March 15, and the label on the spike says "Dry vent at reactor no.2".

On checking the information from March 2011, I find that TEPCO did the dry vent at Reactor 2 at 12AM on March 15, 2011 for a few minutes. At first (on March 20), TEPCO announced they'd done the dry vent sometime on March 16 and 17, but on March 21 retracted that statement and said the dry vent was done at 12AM on March 15. (See Sankei Shinbun article on 3/21/2011.)

It is not clear whether the company informed the residents or the government before the the Reactor 2 dry vent on March 15 which caused a huge spike in radiation, and which may be the biggest contributor to radiation contamination in wide areas in Tohoku and Kanto. From the Sankei article it doesn't look like they gave any prior notice. This is the same company that didn't even tell the plant workers that the vent on Reactor 1 was about to be carried out on March 12.

Dry vent releases different types of radioactive materials compared to wet vent.

The peak that appears to the right side of the largest peak is after the hydrogen explosion of Reactor 4, but not at the time of explosion. I suspect the peak may have been the result of some event on Reactor 2's Suppression Chamber which seems to have taken place about the same time as the Reactor 4 hydrogen explosion. TEPCO says it was not "explosion" that happened at the Reactor 2 Suppression Chamber but still doesn't say what it was.

The second largest peak was when the fire broke out on Reactor 3 on March 16. The white smoke was seen at 8:30AM on March 16, and the radiation level at the front gate of the plant shot up to 10,000 microsieverts/hour (10 millisievert/hour) at 10:40AM (Asahi Shinbun 3/16/2011).

Again, it is just too bad that the researcher had to sit on the data for 11 months for his article to be published in a peer-review magazine.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Discovery of Neptunium-239 in Iitate-mura Finally Published by a Peer-Review Magazine (Nearly One Year after the Discovery)

A paper by a researcher at Tokyo University about discovery of neptunium-239 and other short-lived nuclides in Iitate-mura seems to have finally been accepted and published by Environmental Pollution, a peer-reviewed scientific magazine. It was made available online on January 20, 2012, and is published in the April 2012 issue of the magazine.

It took nearly 1 year for off-line readers to know about the discovery. The researcher took the samples of soil, plants and water in early April last year.

In August last year there was an article of neptunium-239 having been discovered in Iitate-mura, 35 kilometers from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, by a researcher at Tokyo University. The article was written by a husband and wife comedian couple. (For more, see my post on August 15, 2011.) They were criticized for not revealing the source (name of this researcher) or the details. Their response was that the researcher was submitting the paper to a peer-reviewed magazine.

Well here it is, published by a peer-reviewed magazine nearly one year after the accident, and now utterly irrelevant except for some academic curiosity. The information, as it sat in limbo of peer-reviewing process, was not used to educate, warn people in Fukushima, particularly in Iitate-mura, so that they could decide what to do. If they had known their soil and vegetation were extremely contaminated with short-lived radionuclides with strong radioactivity, they might have done things differently.

I hope the researcher at least warned the villagers privately.


Environmental Pollution

Volume 163, April 2012, Pages 243–247

Deposition of fission and activation products after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant accident

* Katsumi Shozugawa (a), Corresponding author
* Norio Nogawa (b),
* Motoyuki Matsuo (a)

* a Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 3-8-1 Komaba, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 153-8902, Japan
* b Radioisotope Center, The University of Tokyo, 2-11-16 Yayoi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0032, Japan

* Received 22 August 2011. Revised 24 December 2011. Accepted 1 January 2012. Available online 20 January 2012.


The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, damaged reactor cooling systems at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. The subsequent venting operation and hydrogen explosion resulted in a large radioactive nuclide emission from reactor containers into the environment. Here, we collected environmental samples such as soil, plant species, and water on April 10, 2011, in front of the power plant main gate as well as 35 km away in Iitate village, and observed gamma-rays with a Ge(Li) semiconductor detector. We observed activation products (239Np and 59Fe) and fission products (131I, 134Cs (133Cs), 137Cs, 110mAg (109Ag), 132Te, 132I, 140Ba, 140La, 91Sr, 91Y, 95Zr, and 95Nb). 239Np is the parent nuclide of 239Pu; 59Fe are presumably activation products of 58Fe obtained by corrosion of cooling pipes. The results show that these activation and fission products, diffused within a month of the accident.

► We collected environmental samples near the Fukushima nuclear power plant. ► We observed 239Np and 59Fe along with many fission products. ► 239Np is evidently an activation product of 238U contained in nuclear fuel. ► 239Np is also parent nuclide of 239Pu. ► Our results show that activation products diffused within a month of the accident.

If the data in the paper is not much different from what the researcher had put on his own website last year, Iitate-mura had several thousand becquerels/kg of neptunium-239, exceeding one of the two sampling locations in front of the Fukushima I plant gate. Iitate-mura also had a host of other radionuclides in amounts exceeding the immediate vicinity of the plant or the front gate of the plant or even inside the plant.

You can see the charts for yourself, here. They are from the researcher's presentation last year, not from the paper submitted and accepted at Environmental Pollution.

Japanese Government's All-Out Offensive to Push Disaster Debris All Over Japan

The push has gotten noticeably stronger in the past week or so, gearing toward the one-year anniversary of the March 11, 2011 disaster.

Even the far-away prefecture like Okinawa, some of whose islands are physically much closer to Taiwan than to the Japanese mainland, eagerly wants disaster debris from Tohoku to be shipped there (I hate to think how much it would cost), much to the despair of parents who have thought they escaped to Okinawa with their children to avoid radiation contamination.

Now, Prime Minister Noda has promised a beefed-up support (i.e. more subsidy, i.e. more taxpayers' money) to those exemplary municipalities who take the debris and burn, on a TV show.

Jiji Tsushin (3/4/2012):


Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda appeared on a program aired on Nippon Television in the evening of March 4. About the wide-area processing and disposal of the debris from the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster, he said, "We will have to support the municipalities that will accept the debris. The national government will support the testing of radioactivity, which is the only way to dispel fears. In some cases, the national government will conduct the test", indicating the policy to financially support the municipalities that accept the debris.


The prime minister also promised the financial support from the national government when the municipalities expand the existing disposal sites or build new disposal sites. He said emphatically, "The most important thing is to get approval from people near the disposal sites. If necessary, we will go ourselves to explain to them."


The national government makes it the goal to dispose all the debris by the end of March 2014. However, there is a limit to how much debris can be processed at the disaster affected areas, and the prime minister called for cooperation from municipalities in Japan in wide-area debris processing in the press conference on February 10. However, only Tokyo, Aomori Prefecture, and Yamagata Prefecture have accepted the debris, because of the fear of radiation contamination of the disaster debris.

Oh boy. This prime minister may have been a good speaker on the street corner in his younger days, but he doesn't seem to live in the reality-based world.

1. No one outside the government believes the numbers that the government churns out regarding radiation contamination. Even the ranking official at the Ministry of the Environment has admitted that people do not trust any government numbers.

2. His understanding that the only people that should matter are the residents near the final disposal sites is plain wrong. The debris will be burned elsewhere, and the residents near the incineration plants do matter. Besides, the final disposal sites are often located near or at the water source, and even without radioactive materials there have been numerous problems with contaminated runoffs polluting the water and soil, affecting people and businesses downstream.

3. Capacity to process the debris at the disaster-affected area is a matter of debate right now. More and more municipalities and waste management industry people are saying they want the debris to stay where they are, instead of wasting money to transport it as far away as to Okinawa.

But it doesn't seem to matter to the Japanese government a bit. They seem to think if they repeat the same words over and over again people will get weary and give up.

Japanese Government to Hold the March 11 Memorial Service at the National Theater

It's rather symbolic and ironic that the commemorative event for the March 11, 2011 disaster is going to be held at the National Theater where "kabuki" performance is regularly held.

(Almost worthy of Onion News coverage...)

To be fair, as a nation that is not very overtly religious, they can't pick a cathedral, temple or shrine for a ceremonial event to be conducted by the national government. There must be a (perceived) security concern also, judging by the way the police has been reacting to peaceful demonstrators.

I found a statement by the Prime Minister's Office announcing the event, laden with customary, formal cliche as to how regrettable and sorrowful was the loss of lives in this unprecedented disaster. (For those of you who read Japanese, you would understand what I mean from the Japanese text below. So cliche that it means almost nothing.)

From the Prime Minister's Official Website (2/24/2012):


On the one year anniversary of the March 11, 2011 disaster, the government will conduct the memorial ceremony at the National Theater.


It has been almost a year since the start of the March 11, 2011 disaster.


Wide areas were affected by this unprecedented disaster in which extremely large number of people lost their precious lives and people's way of living was significantly affected. When I think about the deep sorrow of people whose family members were lost in the disaster, it is a matter of greatest regret and sorrowfulness.


To express our sorrow to those who perished in the disaster, we will stand in silent prayer for one minute starting 2:46PM on the day of the memorial service [March 11] at the National Theater. I would like to ask the Japanese citizens to pray in silence at the same time, wherever you happen to be.

内閣総理大臣 野田佳彦

February 24, 2012
Executive chairman of the one year anniversary memorial service for the March 11, 2011 disaster
Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda

Onion Network's News on Facebook as CIA Front Is Taken Seriously in Japan

I know the Japanese are way too serious on certain things and way too casual on others (the worst nuclear accident in the history of Japan, for example), but I felt sorry when I saw tweets circulating rapidly in Japan about the Onion video from last year where "CIA Deputy Director" says the agency created Facebook, and it is saving the government millions of dollars.

They thought Onion News Network is real, like ABC, CBS, NBC, or BBC.

Well it is real, now I think about it. I can't tell the difference any more.