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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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Monday
Jan122015

"Fukushima evacuees pledge to rebuild communities on Coming-of-Age Day"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, 20-year-olds effectively exiled from their own communities due to radioactive contamination evacuation in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe nonetheless celebrated their traditional "Coming-of-Age-Day" milestone, albeit tens of miles from home. Despite what they've been through in the past nearly four years, with no end in sight, they nonetheless pledged to devote their young lives to rebuilding their ravaged communities.

Wednesday
Jan072015

"Niigata governor scolds TEPCO president, rejects reactor restarts"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, Niigata Prefecture Governor Hirohiko Izumida remains "adamantly opposed" to Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) request to him for permission to restart two of seven reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa is the single biggest nuclear power plant in the world. It is so big, it sprawls across two host towns, as captured in its name. Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, also owned, operated, and melted down by TEPCO, also sprawls across two towns -- Okuma and Futaba, now radioactive ghost towns.

Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant has been largely to entirely shut down ever since July 2007, when an earthquake caused extensive damage to plant facilities and radioactive waste storage, including a serious transformer fire, as well as radioactivity releases to the ocean.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe has kept Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant shut down since. TEPCO needs Gov. Izumida's permission to restart any reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, but is not getting it.

The article quotes the Governor's strong words:

“There has not been a sufficient investigation into the causes of the (Fukushima) accident nor in-house disciplinary actions, so we cannot stand at the starting line of discussions on safety,” the governor said.

Sunday
Jan042015

"Utilities balk at safer storage of spent nuclear fuel to avoid 'wasted investment'"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, very few Japanese nuclear power plants have on-site dry cask storage for irradiated nuclear fuel. A relatively large amount of INF has already been transported to a storage pool at the targeted Rokkasho reprocessing facility in northern Japan, although its operational opening is nearly two decades behind schedule.

Or, as at Fukushima Daiichi, high-level radioactive (HLRW) waste was moved from individual reactor units into a common pool.

That's why, when the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe began on 3/11/11, there was a relatively small amount of HLRW in the Units 1 to 4 storage pools. But even what was there, risked a large-scale radioactivity release that would have dwarfed what has occurred so far, in four years, due to the three melt downs and damaged or destroyed containment structures.

In fact, fear that the Unit 4 pool was devoid of cooling water led to Japanese Self Defense Forces conducting desperate helicopter drops of water from above, in attempt to refill the pool. The fear also played a large part in the U.S. decision to urge American citizens to evacuate 50 miles away from Fukushima Daiichi.

Because pools lack containment, a sudden drain down, or slower motion boil down, of the cooling water supply, and a subsequent INF fire in the pool, could be cataclysmic. Robert Alvarez of IPS estimated that the Unit 4 pool alone at Fukushima Daiichi contained an order of magnitude more hazardous radioactive cesium than was released by the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.

There are voices, such as Professor Katsuta quoted in this article, advocating on-site dry cask storage in Japan, to address storage pool risks, and as an alternative to dirty, dangerous, and expensive reprocessing. Beyond Nuclear has worked with Dr. Katsuta in both Tokyo and Washington, D.C.

In the U.S., hundreds of environmental groups, representing all 50 states, have called for Hardened On-Site Storage, to address both pool and dry cask storage risks.

Saturday
Jan032015

"All rice grown in Fukushima pass radiation safety checks for first time"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, no Fukushima Prefecture grown rice in 2014, tested for radioactivity, were found to surpass so-called "acceptable" or "permissible" level of radioactive Cesium. That could not be said in 2012 and 2013.

However, despite the phrase "safety standards" used in the article, Japan's standard of 100 becquerels/kg of food does not mean the food is "safe." A cost-benefit analysis has been done, and government decision makers have deemed the health risks of eating the contaminated rice "acceptable." 

For, as the U.S. NAS has affirmed for decades, any exposure to ionizing radioactivity carries a health risk for cancer, and these risks accumulate over a lifetime of exposures.

However, Japan's standard is twelve times stronger than America's, and ten times stronger than Canada's. Canada "allows" 1,000 Bq/kg of radioactive Cesium in food; the U.S. "permits" a whopping 1,200 Bq/kg! This means that radioactively contaminated food grown in Japan considered unfit for domestic consumption could be exported to North American markets.

Wednesday
Dec312014

"TEPCO's sloppy handling of suppressant led to spread of radioactive dust in 2013"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, it has been determined that the cause of large-scale radioactivity releases to air at Fukushima Daiichi was due to "sloppy handling" of dust suppressant, and a low priority placed on workers' and local residents' health and safety.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was found to have diluted dust suppressant chemicals in ten to one hundred times too much water, and instead of applying them once per day, sometimes only applied them once per two months.

A dozen workers were thus contaminated with radioactive dust, and fallout extended 3 km (2 mi), during debris removal at the ruins of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 reactor in summer 2013.

Previous Asahi Shimbun articles have reported that radioactive dust escaping the debris removal operations fell out over a wide area, even tens of km downwind, contaminating rice crops.