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Japan

Until the Fukushima accident, Japan had 55 operating nuclear reactors as well as enrichment and reprocessing plants which had suffered a series of deadly accidents at its nuclear facilities resulting in the deaths of workers and releases of radioactivity into the environment and surrounding communities. Since the Fukushima disaster, there is growing opposition against re-opening those reactors closed for maintenance.

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Thursday
Jan222015

"NRA signs off on TEPCO plan to release decontaminated groundwater into sea"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, the Japanese national government's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has approved the proposal by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) to simply release radioactively contaminated groundwater from its Fukushima Daiichi site, so long as contaminants are below a certain concentration level.

The article reports:

"The water must meet certain criteria before it is released into the sea.

The conditions per liter of water are: that radioactive cesium is less than 1 becquerel; radioactive substances that emit beta rays are less than 3 becquerels; and the level of tritium is less than 1,500 becquerels.

Although TEPCO does not have the means to remove tritium at its decontamination facilities, the levels of contamination must be within safety limits."

It is not clear whether or not TEPCO will be allowed to simply "water down" tritium -- that is, dilute the tritium contamination with uncontaminated water, and then release it all, over time, into the ocean. Dilution is not the solution to radioactive pollution -- the tritium, and other contaminants, will re-concentrate up the food chain.

Wednesday
Jan212015

"TEPCO to beef up on-site training after 2 deaths at Fukushima plants"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, two workers died on the same day from industrial accidents at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi (Daiichi means Number One) and Fukushima Daiini (Daiini means Number Two) nuclear power plants. One worker died after having fallen into a rainwater storage tank, due to an improperly secured safety harness. Another worker died after his head was caught in radioactive waste disposal machinery.

The two deaths occurred just four days after Fukushima Prefecture labor bureau officials warned TEPCO to increase worker training, in order to avoid industrial accidents, after a significant rise in recent months.

TEPCO has dramatically increased the workforce at the two plants, located just 12 km (7.5 mi) apart, since the wrecked reactors at Fukushima Daiichi entered full-fledged "decommissioning" phase activities. Many of the workers have never worked at nuclear plants before, and are entirely untrained.

In addition, protective radiation gear, such as face masks, obscure vision and make verbal communication difficult or impossible.

Not mentioned in this article are exposés over the past few years revealing that TEPCO subcontractors, including some with links to the Yakuza (Japanese mafia) have recruited heavily amongst homeless men to fill the workforce at Fukushima Daiichi. So many workers have already received their maximum allowable radiation exposures at Fukushima Daiichi, that TEPCO has had difficulty finding enough workers to take their place.

Fukushima Daiichi had a total of six reactors. Three operating reactors melted down, and a fourth, although defueled, nonetheless exploded, ruining them. The two others, although not operating and largely undamaged, have also been retired.

Fukushima Daiini, with operating four reactors, barely averted catastrophe itself on 3/11/11 and the days following. Cooling systems averted meltdowns thanks to a single offsite power line that survived the earthquake and tsunami. Several offsite power lines were lost, as were all onsite emergency diesel generators.

Monday
Jan192015

"TEPCO racing against time to process 280,000 tons of tainted water at Fukushima plant"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, serious problems persist with highly radioactively contaminated water at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Despite TEPCO's self-imposed promise to Japanese Prime Minister Abe in late 2013, that the highly contaminated water would have 60+ radionuclides filtered out by March 2015, some 280,000 tons (or 75 million gallons) of highly contaminated water remain. The contaminated water is stored in many hundreds of hastily and shoddily built, massive on-site storage tanks. Workers near the storage tanks are exposed to gamma radiation doses emanating out from the contained water. (Note, however, that the reported 1 milliSievert, or 100 millirem, worker exposure figure is not given a unit time. Is that per hour? Per day? Per year?)

The problem is that the ALPS (French Areva supplied, so-called Advanced Liquid Processing System) have suffered repeated problems, and even leaks, for many months and even years. For this reason, TEPCO has decided to leapfrog the main ALPS, and focus on strontium-removal filtration for the time being. Strontium is a very hazardous bone-seeker.

Supposedly, once the ALPS finally works, some 60+ radionuclides will be removed from the highly contaminated water. However, ALPS will not remove tritium, so TEPCO's plan is to simply release those many tens of millions of gallons of tritiated water directly into the ocean.

The article does not report how the very highly radioactive filters from the ALPS system will be stored or disposed of, themselves.

The article also reports that TEPCO still plans to freeze the ground across the site by March, in a bid to divert groundwater flow away from radioactively contaminated areas.

Thursday
Jan152015

"New subsidy system designed to expedite restarts of nuclear reactors"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, Prime Minister Abe's administration has budgeted $12.75 million, on top of another $775 million, in the form of grants to help jump start nuclear reactor restarts across Japan.

Remarkably, the article reports:

"Although the local governments will be able to decide how to spend the funds, the subsidies are expected to be used, for example, to conduct monitoring surveys to prevent the spread of groundless rumors about nuclear power. The central government also wants prefectural authorities to use the funds to hold explanatory sessions to convince residents of the safety of nuclear plants."

In the weeks and months following the beginning of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, it was reported -- including in the New York Times -- how the Japanese nuclear establishment in industry and government had coaxed communities into hosting atomic reactors.

In the case of Futaba and Okuma, the host towns of Fukushima Daiichi itself, very large town halls were paid for by Tokyo Electric Power Company. However, the town halls were so large, for such small towns, that the municipality had trouble later funding staffing levels to maintain them.

Another example was a semi-professional calibre baseball stadium, complete with a state of the art lighting system, provided by the nuclear establishment to a nuclear plant host town. However, the local little league were the only ones to use it, once per week.

Such "Faustian fission" contributed significantly to the collusion between industry, regulator, and elected official, concluded by the Japanese Parliament to be the root cause of the nuclear catastrophe -- what left Fukushima Daiichi so catastrophically vulnerable to the earthquake-tsunami disaster.

The well funded propaganda campaign harkens back to the beginning of nuclear power promotion in Japan, carried out by the U.S. CIA and Atomic Energy Commission in the mid-1950s. An indicted "Class A War Criminal" from World War Two, and a founder of the Liberal Democratic Party, Shoriki, was recruited as an agent of the CIA, to promote "Atoms for Peace" on Japan's biggest t.v. station, and in one of its biggest newspapers, both of which he owned. Pro-nuclear power has remained a central plank in the LDP platform to this day, as with the Abe administration.

Wednesday
Jan142015

'No choice': "Town near crippled nuclear facility OKs plan to build storage facility for waste"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, town leaders in Futaba -- one of two towns which host the radioactive ruins of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant -- have agreed to turn their town into an "intermediate storage site" for radioactive debris leftover from the triple disaster of 3/11/11: earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear catastrophe.

Futaba thus joins the other host town, Okuma, and Fukushima Prefecture, in blessing the deal.

As the article reports:

'"I decided we have no choice but to agree to hosting the facility. It was a difficult decision that was made purely for the sake of rebuilding and revitalizing Fukushima," Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa said Jan. 13 after a town assembly meeting.'

A former Fukushima Daiichi town leader, who served during the initial phase of the nuclear catastrophe, has become an outspoken anti-nuclear voice since. He now lives, alongside many of his neighbors, as a permanent evacuee in an abandoned school on the outskirts of Tokyo.

Large parts of Futaba and Okuma lie within the 12.4-mile radius radioactive exclusion zone around Fukushima Daiichi.