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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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Friday
Jan232015

Survivors of Fukushima catastrophe vow to fight on, despite prosecutors' repeated refusal to indict TEPCO execs

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, "a group of residents, disaster victims and lawyers" has vowed to persevere in its years-long quest to seek prosecutions of top TEPCO executives, stemming from their suffering in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe that began on 3/11/11.

But, as the article reports:

"The Jan. 22 decision by the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office rejected the stance of an independent judicial panel of citizens that former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, should be indicted on charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury."

The prospective plaintiffs will file a report with the independent judicial panel of citizens, appealing the Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office decision. The Prosecutors Office previously declined to bring the TEPCO executives to justice in 2013.

As reported in the article, among the Prosecutors Office's lame excuses for not trying the TEPCO executives is:

'Prosecutors also said the probability of the Fukushima plant being hit by a 15.7-meter-high tsunami was “once in a million years to 10 million years.”

“It cannot be said that it was a duty for TEPCO to take measures (against tsunami of that height),” the prosecutors office said.'

But even larger scale tsunamis than the one that hit on 3/11/11 have struck northeast Japan, as recently as 869 A.D., as well as earlier just a few millenia ago, scientists have proven. The Prosecutors Office's “once in a million years to 10 million years” estimate flies in the face of such facts.

The Japanese Parliament's 2012 independent investigation report on the nuclear catastrophe contained a section describing how nuclear industry lobbyists with little to no expertise in tsunami science pressured decision makers to lower protections across Japan several years before the fateful day of 3/11/11, in order to save the nuclear power industry money by not having to build taller sea walls.

The question that was not asked was, how many Japanese perished by drowning due to the lowered sea walls across northeast Japan?

Friday
Jan232015

Daily bus service to travel through highly contaminated zone near Fukushima Daiichi

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, two trains stations in the Fukushima Daiichi region, disconnected due to severe radioactive contamination for nearly four years now, will be reconnected by daily bus service.

The trip between the two stations will take about an hour, and there will be no stops between in the highly contaminated zone.

An Abe Cabinet Office team measure radiation levels along the 46-km (28.6-mi) route last summer, about 1.2 microsieverts (0.12 millirems) of radiation in an hour, if the bus travels at 40 kph (25 mph).

Before the catastrophe began, members of the general public were only supposed to be allowed 100 millirem per year of radioactivity exposure stemming from the nuclear power industry. However, shortly after the catastrophe began, that limit was increased 20-fold, to 2,000 millirem/year (2 Rem/yr). This is the legal limit for radioactivity exposure allowed for nuclear power plant workers in Germany, by way of example. Even especially vulnerable children, and pregnant women, are allowed to be exposed to the 2 Rem/yr dose levels in Fukushima Prefecture now.

Taking daily round trips on that bus route would deliver about 88 millirem/year, nearly equal to the total amount previously allowed from nuclear power industry exposures.

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.