News from Fukushima Update # 69

by Ana Miller and Greg Laden

Over the last several weeks we’ve heard repeated, alarming, and generally worsening, news from Fukushima Diachi, the Japanese nuclear power plant that suffered a series of disasters that make The China Syndrome look like a Disney family movie. One question is this: Has a new set of problems (new leaks, apparently the fifth such “unexpected” leak) occurred that is really significant, or is this level of spewing of radioactive waste from the plant pretty much run of the mill but somehow the press only now noticed something TEPCO has been avoiding talking about, or is this part of an ongoing contamination event that began when the plant suffered several explosions and meltdowns but that TEPCO somehow has missed? Or some combination of those things?

The news as complied here has a couple of themes other than the information about the leak (or leaks). For one thing, any suspicion that TEPCO or anyone else in charge of the Fukushima disaster mitigation could ever utter an honest word has essentially vanished. No one believes TEPCO. TEPCO could say the sky is blue and people would assume it must not be. Second, there is little belief on the part of actual experts that TEPCO is competent. Third, and a bit more subtle, this distrust in TEPCO and this understanding that TEPCO has no clue as to how to handle the sort of disaster that many people have been saying for 40 years would ultimately occur is manifest outside of Fukushima and outside of Japan to a significant degree. No matter how much we might need nuclear power as part of the mix to save our planet from the effects of climate change, it is unlikely that newer, safer technologies would ever be developed because as a species we’ve more or less stopped trusting the power industry in general and the nuclear power industry in particular to be honest brokers, and to a somewhat lesser but still significant extent, competent. We also may be resenting the degree to which the traditional (including nuclear) industry has bought our political system.

Anyway, welcome to the 69th installment of our irregular update on the situation at Fukushima Diachi Nuclear Power Plant. The other updates are here.

Before getting on to the news summaries, here’s a question for you: Why do so many journalists refer to the plant at the “Crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant”? Crippled? That would be like calling the dead raccoon you’ve driven by six times this week a “Crippled Carnivore”. Crippled is just not the word for what Fukushima is.

And now, on to the news…

9,640 Fukushima plant workers reach radiation level for leukemia compensation – The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 5, 2013

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  • Nearly 10,000 people who worked at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant are eligible for workers’ compensation if they develop leukemia, but few are aware of this and other cancer redress programs.
  • According to figures compiled by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. in July, 9,640 people who worked at the plant between March 11, 2011, when the nuclear accident started, and Dec. 31 that year were exposed to 5 millisieverts or more of radiation.
  • Workers can receive compensation if they are exposed to 5 millisieverts or more per year and develop leukemia one year after they began working at the plant.
  • TEPCO figures showed that 19,592 people worked at the Fukushima No. 1 plant during the nine-month period and were exposed to 12.18 millisieverts on average.
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Fukushima Reinforces Worst Fears for Japanese Who Are Anti-Nuclear Power – PBS NewsHour, Aug. 8, 2013

  • How are the Japanese people reacting to the news of the continuing contamination leak and what does it mean for Japan’s energy policy? Jeffrey Brown talks with Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research and Kenji Kushida of Stanford University about what the government may do to stop the flow.

Watch Fukushima Reinforces Worst Fears for Japanese on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.

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After disaster, the deadliest part of Japan’s nuclear clean-up – Reuters, Aug. 14, 2013

  • The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is preparing to remove 400 tons of highly irradiated spent fuel from a damaged reactor building, a dangerous operation that has never been attempted before on this scale.
  • Containing radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima 68 years ago, more than 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies packed tightly together need to be removed from a building that is vulnerable to collapse, should another large earthquake hit the area.
  • No one knows how bad it can get, but independent consultants Mycle Schneider and Antony Froggatt said recently in their World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2013: “Full release from the Unit–4 spent fuel pool, without any containment or control, could cause by far the most serious radiological disaster to date.”
  • When asked what was the worst possible scenario, Tepco is planning for, Nagai said: “We are now considering risks and countermeasures.”
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    Nagasaki Bomb Maker Offers Lessons for Fukushima Cleanup – Bloomberg, Aug. 15, 2013

  • Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) has sent engineers on visits to the Hanford site in Washington state this year to learn from decades of work treating millions of gallons of radioactive waste. Hanford also has a method to seal off reactors known as concrete cocooning that could reduce the 11 trillion yen ($112 billion) estimated cost for cleaning up Fukushima.
  • Hanford stretches over 586 square miles of scrubland southeast of Seattle where thousands of technicians are decommissioning the nine reactors in operation from 1944 to 1987. Its laboratories and plutonium facilities were integral to the Manhattan Project to make the first atomic bomb.
  • Hanford has its own share of containment challenges. Six underground tanks leaking radioactive waste may offer lessons to Tepco in dealing with substances that contaminate everything they come in contact with. The tanks are among 177 buried at Hanford, about 200 miles (320 kilometers) southeast of Seattle along the Columbia River.
  • The U.S. Department of Energy has spent more than $16 billion since 1989 to clean up Hanford. The weapons production generated 56 million gallons of radioactive waste, enough to fill a vessel the size of a football field to a depth of 150 feet, according to a December report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
  • Tepco is talking with the DOE on whether cocooning could work for the crippled reactors in Fukushima. Sealing them off in concrete for 75 years would allow more focus on cleaning up surrounding areas so that residents could return, said Ishikawa.
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TEPCO is preparing to build the world’s largest underground ice wall – Mining.com, Aug. 19, 2013

  • After admitting that between 300 to 600 tons of coolant water is leaking into the Pacific Ocean every day, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has decided to surround the crippled nuclear power plant with a 1.4 km long ice wall that will cost between $300-$410 million.
  • According to Engineering.com, sink pipes with constantly cycling coolant will surround reactors 1 through 4. Estimated time to completion is one to two years.
  • Ground freezing is used in mining. Cameco used freezing on its Cigar Lake mine to contain underground water, but nothing has ever been built on this scale. If completed the Fukushima artificial ice wall would be the world’s largest.
  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the leaks an “urgent problem.”
  • The expensive ice wall will be a drop in the bucket compared to what Japanese taxpayers have already spent. To date the cost of cleaning up the Fukushima nuclear disaster is US$112 billion.
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Government slammed over monitoring of Japanese seafood – The Korea Herald, Aug. 18, 2013

  • About 3,010 tons of fish requested for import declaration has been found to contain radioactive cesium since March 11, 2011, according to the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety.
  • However, the food ministry was found not to have carried out additional inspections nor tightened return procedures, after radioactive materials were detected.
  • “They were below the threshold level, which causes no problem for market distribution,” an official from the ministry was quoted as saying by Yonhap News.
  • While most products had below 10 becquerels of radiocesium (134Cs and 137Cs) per kilogram, some products showed up to 98 becquerels ― just two becquerels less than the level considered unsafe.
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The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said on Monday two workers were found to be contaminated with radioactive particles, the second such incident in a week involving staff outside the site’s main operations centre. -Reuters, Aug. 19, 2013

  • Two workers waiting for a bus at the end of their shift were found to be have been contaminated with radioactive particles, which were wiped off their bodies before they left the site, Tokyo Electric, also known as Tepco, said. Full body checks of the staff members showed no internal contamination.
  • The utility said it could not be sure the alarms were connected with the discovery of the contamination of the workers. The incident is being investiged.
  • Last week, the same monitors sounded alarms and 10 workers waiting for a bus were found to have been contaminated with particles. Tepco said it suspected they came from a mist sprayer used to cool staff down during the current hot summer.
  • The mist sprayer has been turned off since last week.
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    Radiation levels in Fukushima bay highest since measurements began – RT, Aug. 20, 2013

  • Readings of tritium in seawater taken from the bay near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has shown 4700 becquerels per liter, a TEPCO report stated, according to Nikkei newspaper. It marks the highest tritium level in the measurement history.
  • TEPCO said the highest radiation level was detected near reactor 1. Previous measurements showed tritium levels at 3800 becquerels per liter near reactor 1, and 2600 becquerels per liter near reactor 2. The concentration of tritium in the harbor’s seawater has been continuously rising since May, according to Nikkei.
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Fukushima’s Invisible Crisis: Don’t expect coverage of Japan’s nuclear power disaster on the evening news: unlike other environmental catastrophes, Fukushima’s ongoing crisis offers little to film. – The Nation, Aug. 19, 2013

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  • More than two years after the cataclysmic earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima plant is still in crisis. TEPCO still has no sufficient explanation for when the leaks began or why it waited until after the election to reveal them. Its assurances that the contamination is staying within the seawalls of the harbor are less convincing after weeks of assurances that there was no leak at all. The government has estimated that at least 300 tons of contaminated water are being released per day. TEPCO officials would not confirm the estimate.
  • This disclosure is only the latest in a series of well-documented problems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant: a power outage, the release of radioactive steam and the limited space to store the contaminated water (320,000 tons to date, with plans to build more tanks to hold up to 700,000 tons of radioactive water by 2015).
  • Dale Klein, a former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission invited to serve on TEPCO’s outside advisory committee, reacted to the latest revelation by excoriating the company’s executives: “These actions indicate that you don’t know what you are doing, and that you do not have a plan, and that you are not doing all you can to protect the environment and the people.” The editorial board of the major daily Asahi Shimbun declared it had “zero faith” in the “incompetent” utility, adding that “allowing the company to handle nuclear energy is simply out of the question.”
  • Cordoned off inside the forbidden zone, the leaking plant has come to be a source of embarrassment and anxiety that is too easily ignored. Unlike other environmental catastrophes like BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Fukushima crisis offers little to film, and thus nothing much to lead with on the evening news, aside from pictures of press conferences and the grim face of TEPCO president Naomi Hirose, bowing in yet another apology. The coverage, despite the alarming numbers, seems to suggest there’s nothing to see here. And so the story, when it gets reported, rarely gets the attention it deserves.
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Tank Has Leaked Tons of Contaminated Water at Japan Nuclear Site – New York Times, Aug. 20, 2013

  • Workers raced to place sandbags around the leaking tank to stem the spread of the water, contaminated by levels of radioactive cesium and strontium many hundreds of times as high as legal safety limits, according to the operator, Tokyo Electric Power, or Tepco. The task was made more urgent by a forecast of heavy rain for the region.
  • The new leak raises disturbing questions about the durability of the nearly 1,000 huge tanks Tepco has installed about 500 yards from the site’s shoreline. The tanks are meant to store the vast amounts of contaminated liquid created as workers cool the complex’s three damaged reactors by pumping water into their cores, along with groundwater recovered after it poured into the reactors’ breached basements.
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Tepco yet to track groundwater paths: Liquefaction threat adds to Fukushima ills – Japan Times, Aug. 20, 2013

  • About 1,000 tons of groundwater flows from the mountains under the complex daily, and about 400 tons of it penetrates the basement walls of the buildings housing reactors 1 to 4 of the six-reactor plant, thus mixing with the highly radioactive coolant water leaking from the containment vessels.
  • The remaining 600 or so tons apparently flows to the sea and Tepco suspects about half of it gets contaminated somewhere else under the plant.
  • But the exact paths the groundwater takes have yet to be pinpointed.
  • Tepco compiled a groundwater flow simulation for an Aug. 12 meeting with experts from the Nuclear Regulation Authority, but the utility said the simulation was inaccurate.
  • The east side of the reactor buildings, in an area close to the sea where land was filled in, appears more vulnerable to liquefaction. Marui said the reclaimed land consists of clay and crushed rocks, through which water can easily pass.
  • Tepco recently injected liquid glass into the filled land, thereby forming an underground barrier to help prevent groundwater from reaching the sea.
  • Due to technical reasons, the barrier had to be built 1.8 meters below ground, meaning tainted groundwater can flow to the sea above it. Tepco officials believe that is happening now.
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Severity of radioactive water tank leak at Fukushima plant upgraded to Level 3 – The Mainichi, Aug. 21, 2013

  • The leaky tank is located in a section that includes 25 other tanks. The area had been surrounded by a double-layered barrier made of concrete and sandbags in order to prevent seepage, but it was discovered that the contaminated water had escaped through the sandbags.
  • The radiation dose inside the barrier was measured at 100 millisieverts per hour, or 100 times greater than the average yearly exposure for the general population. A high level of radiation was also detected outside the sandbag barrier, at more than 90 millisieverts per hour.
  • The level of radioactive substances inside a drainage canal that connects directly to the ocean, some 20 meters away from the tank, was found to be a low 130 becquerels per liter, however – leading TEPCO to comment that “no spillage into the ocean has been detected so far.”
  • TEPCO is now working to determine the exact locations of the leaks.
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Radioactive Leaks in Japan Prompt Call for Overseas Help – Bloomberg Businessweek, Aug. 21, 2013

  • The crippled nuclear plant at Fukushima is losing its two-year battle to contain radioactive water leaks and its owner emphasized for the first time it needs overseas expertise to help contain the disaster.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said they are prepared to help.
  • At least one commissioner at Japan’s nuclear regulator questioned the accuracy of data being released by Tepco and whether the incident had been fully reported. The leak, along with a separate spill of 300 tons of radioactive water a day into the Pacific Ocean, is raising doubts about the utility’s ability to handle the 40-year task to decommission the nuclear site.
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Fukushima leak erodes confidence in nuclear power – The Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 21, 2013

  • What happened at Fukushima is a rare occurrence, many in the industry stress, and nuclear remains one of the safest and most reliable ways to generate electricity. Still, the political fallout from Fukushima – and the fumbling recovery in its wake – has delivered another blow to a nuclear industry that a few years ago seemed to have finally shaken the stigma of the Three Mile Island disaster.
  • “The [Fukushima] remediation work (and the daily news drip) has likely had a negative impact on nuclear perception in the US, but much less than the accident itself,” Edward Kee, vice president of NERA Economic Consulting, wrote in an e-mail. “The nuclear industry is good at understanding all accidents and incidents (even minor things that do not make the news) and learning from them to prevent similar things from happening in the future.”
  • The US has had its own post-Fukushima nuclear curtailment, but that might be more the result of market forces rather than fear of a meltdown. Subsidies for wind and solar and cheap, abundant natural gas have made it difficult for nuclear to compete in electricity markets. Since October 2012, electric power companies have announced the retirement of four nuclear reactors at three power plants in the US. About 20 percent of electricity in the US comes from nuclear.
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Nuclear meltdown’s effect on B.C. fish unclear – Times Colonist, Aug. 21, 2013

  • Karla Robison, Ucluelet’s manager of environmental and emergency services, wants Ucluelet council to ask senior levels of government to support a study of chemicals in fish.
  • “We could work with local folks who are out fishing to get tissue samples and make sure there are no problems with the fish,” said Robison, who has led much of the on-the-ground response to earthquake debris arriving on the Island. “It’s a very, very important issue and quite frightening,” she said.
  • “Given the thousands of kilometres between Japan and Canada’s west coast, any radioactive material that might have been carried eastward via wind currents was dispersed and diluted over the ocean long before it reached Canada,” Health Canada said.
  • Nikolaus Gantner, an ecotoxicologist affiliated with Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., said the challenge is to discover how much radiation is accumulating in migratory or long-lived fish, such as halibut, salmon and tuna.
    “There are simply not enough measurements being done in water and biota on this side of the Pacific Ocean,” he said.
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    Viewing Fukushima in the cold light of Chernobyl – PhysOrg, Aug. 21, 2013

  • The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster spread significant radioactive contamination over more than 3500 square miles of the Japanese mainland in the spring of 2011. Now several recently published studies of Chernobyl, directed by Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina and Anders Møller of the Université Paris-Sud, are bringing a new focus on just how extensive the long-term effects on Japanese wildlife might be.
  • Their work underscores the idea that, in the wake of the Chernobyl catastrophe in 1986, there have been many lost opportunities to better understand the effects of radiation on life, particularly in nature rather than the laboratory. The researchers fear that the history of lost opportunities is largely being replayed in Fukushima.
  • Mousseau and Møller have with their collaborators just published three studies detailing the effects of ionizing radiation on pine trees and birds in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. “When you look for these effects, you find them,” said Mousseau, a biologist in USC’s College of Arts and Sciences.
  • In the journal Mutation Research, they showed that birds in Chernobyl had high frequencies of albino feathering and tumors. In Plos One, they demonstrated that birds there had significant rates of cataracts, which likely impacted their fitness in the wild. And in the journal Trees, they showed that tree growth was suppressed by radiation near Chernobyl, particularly in smaller trees, even decades after the original accident.
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Thyroid cancer found in 18 Fukushima children – NHK WORLD English, Aug. 21, 2013 (VIDEO)


 
 

Investigators Looking Into Abnormal Radiological Reading At Hanford – Oregon Public Broadcasting, Aug. 22, 2013

  • Crews were transferring waste at a tank inside what’s known as the C-Farm. That’s about a 9-acre grouping of underground tanks in central Hanford. They hold millions of gallons of radioactive sludge. Operators noticed a big difference in their radiological readings and proceeded to evacuate the entire farm area. Gates were closed to most workers and areas of Hanford were under a “take-cover” status. Special crews surveyed the areas outside of the C-Farm, then got closer to the area where work was being done.
  • Now, crews have given the all clear for most of the farm, but are working on narrowing down where the high reading came from.
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Radiation ‘hotspots’ found in Fukushima tanks – The Raw Story, Aug. 22, 2013

  • “We have confirmed two spots where radiation doses are high” near two other tanks, a company statement said.
  • But the levels of water in these two tanks have not changed since they were pressed into service to store contaminated water and the ground around them was dry, it added.
  • The inspections were prompted by the discovery of a leak that the company said may have carried radioactive materials out to sea, with the country’s nuclear watchdog voicing concerns that there could be similar leaks from other containers.
  • On Wednesday, nuclear regulators said the leak represented a level-three “serious incident” on the UN’s seven-point International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), raising the alert from level one, an “anomaly”.
  • TEPCO in July admitted for the first time that radioactive groundwater had been leaking outside the plant.
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New High-radiation Spots Found at Quake-hit Fukushima Plant – Scientific American, Aug. 22, 2013

  • In an inspection carried out following the revelation of the leakage, high radiation readings – 100 millisieverts per hour and 70 millisieverts per hour – were recorded at the bottom of two tanks in a different part of the plant, Tepco said.
  • Although no puddles were found nearby and there were no noticeable changes in water levels in the tanks, the possibility of stored water having leaked out cannot be ruled out, a Tokyo Electric spokesman said.
  • The confirmed leakage prompted Japan’s nuclear watchdog to say it feared the disaster was “in some respect” beyond Tepco’s ability to cope.
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    Fukushima leak is ‘much worse than we were led to believe’ – BBC News, Aug. 22, 2013 (VIDEO)

  • “The quantities of water they are dealing with are absolutely gigantic,” said Mycle Schneider, who has consulted widely for a variety of organisations and countries on nuclear issues.
  • "What is the worse is the water leakage everywhere else – not just from the tanks. It is leaking out from the basements, it is leaking out from the cracks all over the place. Nobody can measure that.
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Fukushima checking 300 more tanks for toxic leaks – Global Post, Aug. 22, 2013

  • TEPCO has said puddles of water near the tank were so toxic that anyone exposed to them would receive the same amount of radiation in an hour that a nuclear plant worker in Japan is allowed to receive in five years.
  • The utility did not have a water-level gauge on the 1,000-tonne tank, which experts say would have made it a lot more difficult to detect the problem.
  • Thursday’s safety checks on 300 tanks came after Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) chairman Shunichi Tanaka on Wednesday voiced concern that there could be similar leaks from other containers.
  • “We must carefully deal with the problem on the assumption that if one tank springs a leak the same thing can happen at other tanks,” he said.
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    The News From Fukushima Just Gets Worse, and the Japanese Public Wants Answers – TIME, Aug. 22, 2013

  • Earlier this month, at a symposium on the Fukushima nuclear disaster held at the Tokyo International Forum, an unlikely cast gathered to vent fears now gaining traction in Japan. The panel included a bank president, investigative journalist, world-renowned symphony conductor, teenage pop star and the mayor of a radioactive ghost town. For all their obvious differences, this motley crew agreed on one thing: that the damage being caused by the crippled No. 1 nuclear plant is far worse than government officials cared to acknowledge. “It’s time we faced the danger, ” said Takashi Hirose, a writer shocked by the under-reported radiation levels he found on recent trip into the evacuation zone. “So many terrible things are not being reported in the news.”
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    Fukushima Clouds Abe’s Bid to Start Nukes for Recovery: Economy – Bloomberg, Aug. 22, 2013

  • As Abe prepares for a trip tomorrow to the Middle East where he will promote sales of nuclear technology, the atomic industry at home is reeling. Japan’s nuclear regulator said this week that a new radioactive water leak was the most serious incident at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant since the March 2011 accident that devastated the site.
  • The latest setback may stoke public anger over Fukushima, undermining Abe’s efforts to restart some of Japan’s 48 idled atomic plants and boost nuclear exports – elements of his plan to drive an economic revival. Abe, who must decide whether to proceed with a sales-tax increase, is counting on re-opening the installations to help reduce energy imports and fuel growth in consumer confidence and corporate earnings.
  • Apart from backing a return to nuclear power, Abe has made exporting nuclear technology a component of his economic plan and has been a pitch man for companies such as Toshiba Corp. (6502) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. (7011) On his Aug. 24–29 trip to four Middle East nations, Abe will offer “cooperation in the nuclear safety field” in Kuwait and Qatar, according to a briefing paper on the tour.
  • Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi agreed to promote nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia on a visit in February, while Japan previously signed a memorandum of nuclear development with Kuwait. Abe and French President Francois Hollande agreed to deepen cooperation on reactor exports in June.
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Twelfth Prefectural Oversight Committee Meeting: Thyroid Ultrasound Examination Results – Fukushima Voice, Aug 23, 2013

  • The Proceedings of the Twelfth Prefectural Oversight Committee Meeting for Fukushima Health Management Survey were released on August 20, 2013.  HERE is the translation of the thyroid ultrasound examination.
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Radioactive groundwater at Fukushima nears Pacific – AP, The Big Story, Aug. 23, 2013

  • The looming crisis is potentially far greater than the discovery earlier this week of a leak from a tank that stores contaminated water used to cool the reactor cores. That 300-ton (80,000-gallon) leak is the fifth and most serious from a tank since the March 2011 disaster, when three of the plant’s reactors melted down after a huge earthquake and tsunami knocked out the plant’s power and cooling functions.
  • But experts believe the underground seepage from the reactor and turbine building area is much bigger and possibly more radioactive, confronting the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., with an invisible, chronic problem and few viable solutions. Many also believe it is another example of how TEPCO has repeatedly failed to acknowledge problems that it could almost certainly have foreseen — and taken action to mitigate before they got out of control.
  • It remains unclear what the impact of the contamination on the environment will be because the radioactivity will be diluted as it spreads farther into the sea. Most fishing in the area is already banned, but fishermen in nearby Iwaki City had been hoping to resume test catches next month following favorable sampling results. Those plans have been scrapped after news of the latest tank leak.
  • “Nobody knows when this is going to end,” said Masakazu Yabuki, a veteran fisherman in Iwaki, just south of the plant, where scientists say contaminants are carried by the current. “We’ve suspected (leaks into the ocean) from the beginning. … TEPCO is making it very difficult for us to trust them.”
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    Fukushima inspectors “careless”, Japan agency says, as nuclear crisis grows – Reuters, Aug. 23, 2013

  • The operator of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant was careless in monitoring tanks storing dangerously radioactive water, the nuclear regulator said on Friday, the latest development in a crisis no one seems to know how to contain.
  • Tokyo Electric Power Co. also failed to keep records of inspections of the tanks, Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa told reporters after a visit to the nearby Fukushima Daiichi plant.
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    Despite Fukushima, IAEA sees global progress on nuclear safety – Reuters, Aug. 23, 2013

  • In a report prepared for its annual member state gathering, the International Atomic Energy Agency said nearly all countries with nuclear plants had carried out safety “stress tests” to assess their ability to withstand so-called extreme events.
  • The U.N. agency’s report, evaluating the implementation of an IAEA nuclear safety action plan adopted by the General Conference in 2011 to help prevent any repeat of the Fukushima disaster, said progress had been made worldwide in key areas.
  • These included emergency preparedness, assessments of safety vulnerabilities of nuclear plants, and the protection of people and the environment from radiation.
  • “Since September 2012 … considerable progress has been made worldwide in strengthening nuclear safety through the implementation of the action plan and of national action plans in member states,” the report said.
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The Fukushima nuclear complex is still not under control – Global Post, Aug. 23, 2013

  • News of the leak was met with a shrug in Japan, where an estimated 94 percent of the population said it believes the disaster has not been resolved, according to a March survey by Hirotada Hirose of Tokyo Woman’s University.
  • Thursday news bulletins on the national Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) prioritized New York Yankee’s baseball player Ichiro Suzuki’s 4,000th hit over updates from the plant. Some private TV stations failed to report any update from Fukushima at all.
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Tepco testing tainted earth at No. 1 plant: Utility begins digging ground to assess extent of contamination – The Japan Times, Aug. 23, 2013

  • The utility will dig areas measuring 12 sq. meters in total to a depth of 40 to 50 cm where pools of leaked radioactive water formed, and then measure levels to determine how far the contamination has spread and how much soil needs to be removed.
  • Tepco has said puddles of water near the leaking tank were so toxic that anyone exposed to them would receive the same amount of radiation in an hour that a nuclear plant worker in Japan is allowed to receive in five years — 100 millisieverts.
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Abe, Kan among 1,000 at memorial service for former chief of Fukushima plant – Japan Today, Aug, 24, 2013

  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and former Prime Minister Naoto Kan were among 1,000 people who attended a memorial service in Tokyo Friday for Masao Yoshida, the man who led the life-risking battle at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant when it was spiraling into meltdowns.
  • Yoshida died of cancer of the esophagus on July 9 at the age of 58. He led efforts to stabilize the stricken nuclear power plant after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami knocking out its power and cooling systems, causing triple meltdowns and massive radiation leaks.
  • After the service, Tokyo Electric Power Co President Naomi Hirose praised Yoshida for his efforts on the front line during the crisis and said all employees of TEPCO must do what Yoshida would have done to cope with the ongoing crisis, NHK reported.
  • Yoshida, an outspoken man, wasn’t afraid of talking back to higher-ups, but he was also known as a caring figure to his workers.
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Comments

  1. #1 Sou
    August 25, 2013

    Thank you for these updates, Greg.

  2. #2 Greg Laden
    August 25, 2013

    Ana did he vast majority of work on this!

  3. #3 Rob Tarzwell
    August 25, 2013

    This is a very thorough roundup! My thanks to you both for putting in what must have amounted to at least dozens of hours of work as pure public service. I think a few themes are worth emphasizing and re-emphasizing. First, of course, it would be greatly preferable had this not occurred. Given that it has, it would have been lovely for TEPCO to have been honest the whole way along. Given that they were not, we are now left to try and assess the actual risks ourselves. These news sources do a poor job of giving the public sufficient information to make informed risk decisions. Let’s look at few headlines and unpack the stories briefly:

    1) 9640 Workers reach leukemia compensation level. This is just about the most outrageous way possible of saying, “Workers reached annual radiation limit.” The 5 mSv dose, equivalent to living in Denver, Colorado for 1 year, is a regulatory limit set, generally by international consensus, to ensure that the risks to radiation workers from radiation do not exceed the risks to workers in other industries from work-related hazards. It’s not based on empirical studies, because it’s extremely difficult to study oncogenesis in low-dose radiation, so it’s an arbitrary cutoff set very, very low, to be extra sure. What we *do* know is that a full Sv (1000 mSv) confers an extra lifetime risk of approximately 4% in an adult. You have a lifetime cancer risk of about 40%. So, if there is a linear relationship between dose and risk, which is a highly contentious point, 5 mSv would raise the population risk from 40% to 40.005%. But that just isn’t as sexy as talking about the leukemia compensation limit.
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2477710/

    2) 18 cases of Thyroid cancer in Fukushima children – Fukushima prefecture has 2,000,000 people. I can’t find precise figures for youth, but its distribution closely approximates Japan as a whole, where 16.7 million are 0 to 14 in a total of 127, suggesting 263,000 youth. Approximately 0.2-5% of youth have thyroid nodules, and approximately 30% of these will harbour malignancy. So, on the very low side: 263,000(0.002)(0.3)=158 cases. The 18 cases in the headline would be indistinguishable from noise, and if those are indeed the only cases, this is far below the expected level, using even the most conservative estimates.
    http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/853737-overview

    3) Effect on BC fish unclear – That is just false. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has made multiple measurements in fish samples and found them either below minimally detectable concentrations (MDC) or below health concern levels. Their public statement put this into context: “The radiation levels found on the West Coast are less than the natural levels of radiation that would be detected when it rains or snows.”
    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/story/2011/09/16/bc-no-radiation-west-coast-fish.html

  4. #4 Greg Laden
    August 25, 2013

    All three of your points have to do with the effects of radiation (one way or another) on health and this is the area of greatest uncertainty in research and greatest level of misinformation out there among the public. I know people who will no longer eat fish on the US Pacific coast because they’ve heard that radiation levels are way high because of Fukushima. Even more amazing is that some people have stopped drinking California milk for the same reason. (Actually I can think of cases from Wisconsin as well.)

    What IS amazing in many of these cases is that Fukushima-originated radioactive material can be detected across the Pacific (and it can be). But that is a testament to the instrumentation and not the amount of radiation.

    The Leukemia compensation headline is accurate. It refers to a specific health benefit rule. Workers who receive a certain level of exposure now get a special benefit if they happen to get leukemia.

    I’m not sure what to make of the BC fish headline. The article is accurate. The title says “unclear” … which it may be, but any reasonable estimate of the risk should conclude that it is non-existant or negligible. Hard to say what was on the editor’s mind there.

    Fukushima prefecture has about 360 children in the age range, but something like 180,000 have been screened, of which 44 have had some sort of issues either 18 or 28, depending on how one reads the secondary reports, diagnosed as cancer. Supposedly thyroid cancer is very rare in Japan. But, thyroid cancer rates change a great deal over time probably because of changes in diagnostics, so it is quite possible that Japanese methods and methods elsewhere are different enough that the data are not comparable. In any event, one would not expect to see thyroid cancer develop in children in the area for another 10-3 years from now, so this is probably people being extra edgy.

    Anyway, of the 31 headlines, you’ve identified 3 as problematic, and it is possible that only two of them are, so that’s pretty good Also, the fact that most of the confusion and misunderstanding is related to radiation dosage and risk, is very unsurprising. Indeed, over the same period of time covered by these mostly MSM items, there is quite a bit not included in this post including simulations of giant radioactive blobs eating California!

    Thanks for the input.

  5. #5 Dunc
    August 25, 2013

    I noticed that you suggested on your facebook page that we could just break open the barriers that separate the plant from the ocean and let it wash out to sea. I know you were being sarcastic when you said that but I don’t see a problem with that. In fact, use some explosives to make a canal from the power plant to the ocean. The truth is, the radiation would spread out so much that it would go back to being what it was before it was mined, a natural product on the earth.

  6. #6 Matthew
    August 25, 2013

    I worked nuclear power in the Navy. The danger is in the concentration and proximity. There are several nuclear cores on the sea floor already. I wouldn’t want to swim close to one but you could grind them al

  7. #7 Dunc
    August 25, 2013

    They got to Matthew.

  8. [...] The news as complied here has a couple of themes other than the information about the leak (or leaks). For one thing, any suspicion that TEPCO or anyone else …See all stories on this topic [...]

  9. #9 Eamon
    Tohoku
    August 31, 2013

    The Thyroid reports in the media are virtually scaremongering now. The kids are being checked with the latest Ultrasound scanners. Compared the the traditional method of checking for thyroid anomalies – feeling for them – they’re the equivalent of the Hubble Space Telescope. S.Guth et al 2009 found that 13 MHz scanners found anomalies in 67% of Germans, the older 7.5 MHz ones had something like 16%, and the touch method seems to be in the 4-8% mark depending on the populations concerned.

    With that I’d guess the scanners are picking up cancers which would have presented later in life, if at all (The incidentaloma problem).

    Also, the J-Gov did a check on juvenile populations in other parts of Japan with the same methods and equipment. No difference in thyroid stats. Ref: http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201303090076

    On the subject of cancer stats, Japan’s are available from the “Monitoring of Cancer Incidence in Japan (MCIJ) Project”. The latest free published one is available here: http://jjco.oxfordjournals.org/content/41/1/139.full.pdf

    Japan however does not have a national database, the data has to be judged and collated from prefectures all the way down to villages, and not every prefecture is in the registry, or has the resources to devote the time and money needed. Fukushima was one of 3 prefectures that started their registries in 2010(!)

  10. #10 Qu Quine
    California
    September 1, 2013

    It’s fukued.

  11. #11 Nathaniel White-Joyal
    Burlington vt
    October 4, 2013

    Yesterday we launched our newest video project from Fairewinds Energy Education, a guided tour video tour of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site (link here). Fairewinds is nuclear safety advocacy group whose mission is to demystify nuclear power for our worldwide audience. Every week we get hundreds of questions about the ongoing tragedy in Japan as a result of the 2011 tsunami and triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In our most recent film, we combined satellite video, animated graphics and photos to create a guided tour to give our viewers a better understanding of the challenges and risks we are facing at Daiichi.

    The accident at Fukushima Daiichi has had tremendous impacts on the Japanese people, and as the site cleanup is ignored and radiation spreads in to the Pacific Ocean, the repercussions of this accident are beginning to be felt worldwide. We’ve been working to bring international attention to this immense, and growing, public health crisis. Today we’re asking for your help.

    Our video tour of Fukushima Daiichi is 20 minutes long, and we have much more educational content of all types (videos, podcasts, blog posts, technical reports, TV and radio interviews, book lists and more) on our website. Your (website/blog) is well known and respected, and if you could take the time to share our video and bring increased attention to the Fukushima Daiichi crisis, your contribution to expanding public education would be one step forward towards a cleaner and safer world.

    Thanks for taking the time to read this email, and please consider sharing our video with your audience.
    https://vimeo.com/76075250
    Sincerely yours,

    Nathaniel White-Joyal
    Fairewinds Media Producer
    http://www.fairewinds.org

  12. #12 Johnny Lee George Jr
    Tulsa , Oklahoma
    November 3, 2013

    It sounds like to me they need to dig a trench up stream of the reactors to keep out unwanted ground water and build a wall to keep contaminated water from entering the trench .

  13. #13 xxx
    June 10, 2014

    ” just two becquerels less than the level considered unsafe.”

    No, asshole. It isn’t “unsafe”. It’s REGULATORY.