Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 34: A quick feed for your reading pleasure

Today all we have for you is Ana's feed, and only the first half. We have both been very busy with distracting things like work and other writing projects and so on. There are interesting things going on at Fukushima and in the Nuclear Power industry in general, as you'll see soon. In the mean time, here's what has been happening:

Fight Over Mining Near Grand Canyon, Other Riders Will Return After Recess -NYT, August 9
-Several lawmakers involved in the congressional debate over uranium mining around the Grand Canyon expect the war of words to reignite as soon as the House returns from summer recess.
-Even though it remains an open question whether lawmakers will finish work on the Interior and U.S. EPA spending bill, they expect the legislation to at least come back to the floor after Labor Day.
-One of those riders, inserted by Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), aims to stop the Obama administration from withdrawing about 1 million acres around the Grand Canyon from new mining claims. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced in June a second temporary withdrawal and his intention to move forward with a 20-year ban, pending the completion of a final environmental impact statement.
-Since then, pressure has been mounting in Congress, with Republicans wanting to use the appropriations process to tie the administration's hands. The argument over job impacts and environmental consequences is bound to only get louder.

Fairewinds Report for Southern Alliance for Clean Energy on TVA Bellefonte Plant -Fairewinds Associates, August 10
-Today the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and Fairewinds Associates issued a report to the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority regarding numerous concerns with the Bellefonte Unit 1 nuclear project. First designed with slide rules back in 1968, Bellefonte Unit 1 is America's oldest nuclear power plant that has yet to generate any electricity. TVA began construction in 1974, mothballed the plant in 1988, and cannibalized the plant for scrap metal between 2006 and 2008. Alarmingly, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission recently allowed construction of Bellefonte Unit 1 by TVA to start again with its 1968 design and its 40-year old weakened foundation and containment. In the video and in its report, Fairewinds identifies seven areas of substantial risk for TVA if it continues to construct this aged facility.

NRC studies possible nuclear fuel problem at Peach Bottom plant -York Dispatch, August 11
-The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is undertaking a study to ensure the spent fuel pools at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station can maintain safety guidelines despite the degradation of a material used to control the radioactive waste.
-At issue is Boraflex, which absorbs neutrons from fuel that was once burned in a reactor. The spent fuel is still highly radioactive when it is placed in the cooling pool, said Neil Sheehan, NRC spokesman.
-Though the temperature of the radioactive waste drops dramatically within a few months, conditions must be controlled to make sure it doesn't start fission, he said. To this end, Boraflex panels are attached to racks where the spent fuel is stored, 40 feet underwater at the bottom of the spent fuel pool, he said.
-But gamma rays, the strongest form of radiation, have caused shrinkage in the Boraflex, so NRC inspectors will examine whether the existing material is safe for use until 2014, when owner Exelon Nuclear plans to replace it, he said.
-Failure of the system could cause boiling of water in the pool or the release of radioactivity, he said.
-He said there are 19 reactors nationwide that use Boraflex, and problems have also been noted at other facilities.

NISA under fire over hiring of former TEPCO subsidiary worker as nuclear inspector -Mainichi News, August 11
-The government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said it hired a former employee of a Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) subsidiary in April as a nuclear inspector and assigned him to the utility's Fukushima No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant the following month.
-NISA explained that it hired him to fill the vacancy after one of its inspectors quit at the end of March.
-The practice has called into question NISA's neutrality as a nuclear power plant regulator.
-NISA and TEPCO emphasized that the worker is performing his duties in an appropriate manner.

Krypton-85 and Xenon-131m in Reactor 2 Containment Vessel Air Samples -Ex-SKF, August 11
-Half life of xenon-131m is about 12 days.
-The measurement of density of radioactive materials in the air inside the Reactor 2 Containment Vessel was delayed because there was water in the temporary sampling instrument that TEPCO installed outside the CV. It looks like they decided to measure the water anyway, as well as the air.
-According to the measurement, the air is more radioactive than the water inside the Containment Vessel, but less radioactive than the air inside the Reactor 1 CV.
-So the melted fuel is probably not even inside the Containment Vessel in Reactor 2 either.

Radiation measurement experts trained -NHK, August 12
-The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant plans to train about 4,000 workers as experts on the safety of irradiated areas.
-The government plans to consider lifting evacuation orders for zones which are deemed safe after it achieves the second phase of bringing the plant under control. In the second stage, the government aims to significantly reduce the amount of radiation emitted from the plant.
-To determine the safety of the 20-kilometer no-entry zone and the evacuated areas, a large number of experts on radiation exposure will be required. Tokyo Electric Power Company is now training staff for that purpose.

New nuclear safety agency to be set up under Environment Ministry -Japan Today, August 12
-The government has decided to set up a new nuclear regulatory agency under the Environment Ministry instead of the trade ministry to increase its independence after the country's atomic disaster, officials said Thursday.
-Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the cabinet is expected to approve the plan by Monday.
-The current Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has been widely criticized for cozy ties with the nuclear industry under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which promotes nuclear energy.
-Prime Minister Naoto Kan told a parliamentary session Thursday that "someone who is not a blind advocate of nuclear safety or promoter of nuclear energy but is fully aware of the problems of nuclear power" should head the new regulatory agency.

Nuclear plant may get revival; TVA board to consider completing Alabama site -Power Engineering, August 12
-TVA says reviving the Bellefonte plant would cost about $4.8 billion and take several years. The proposal follows a crisis at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which went out of control after an earthquake and tsunami in March. As recently as this month, workers were still trying to contain radiation leaks at the plant.
-The incident prompted international concerns about the safety of nuclear power. Germany announced plans to eliminate all nuclear power plants by 2022 and regulators in the U.S. have taken a close look, too.
-A group called the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy says rebuilding the Bellefonte plant is "an extremely costly and dangerous proposal," according to a news release.
-Construction on the Bellefonte plant began in 1974, but the utility canceled it in 1988 because the demand for power had subsided and also because it was over budget and behind schedule, Golden said.

Tomari No.3 nuclear reactor restart not decided -NHK, August 12
-Japan's industry ministry has deferred a final decision on restarting a nuclear reactor in Hokkaido following local government criticism.
-The No.3 reactor at the plant in Tomari Village operated by Hokkaido Electric Power Company has been undergoing trial runs for 5 months.
-The agency told the Nuclear Safety Commission on Thursday that no abnormalities were found in the reactor during a 2-day final check that ended the previous day. The commission endorsed the view that the reactor can restart commercial operations.
-But Hokkaido's prefectural government has criticized the operator for applying final tests of the reactor before it has reached its own decision on restarting.
-Industry minister Banri Kaieda told Governor Harumi Takahashi on Wednesday that the prefecture's consent is vital, and that he intends to wait for that.

Giant tent to go up over Japan nuclear reactor -Stars and Stripes, August 12
-The operator of Japan's damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is building a huge tent to cover one of the worst-hit reactors, officials said Friday.
-Officials hope the cover will keep radioactive materials that have already leaked from spreading, prevent rainwater seepage and offer a barrier from possible leaks or blasts in the future.
-Construction of the tent and its foundation began this week, Koji Watanabe, a spokesman for the power utility, said Friday.
-The work couldn't begin until now because the location was too dangerous for workers to operate in.
-If the tent over reactor No. 1 proves successful, similar coverings will be constructed over other reactors on the plant. The areas around the other reactors are also highly risky to work in.

Local govts worried by N-ash -Yomiuri, August 12
-With residents living near final disposal sites voicing concern and some local governments refusing to accept it, the Tohoku region is reconsidering its arrangement to store ash--some of it radioactive--from the Tokyo megalopolis in its local landfills, it has been learned.
-In Matsudo, Chiba Prefecture, up to 47,400 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium was found in ash at two garbage processing plants in July.
-The figure is about six times the government's interim limit for ash to be disposed of in land reclamation.
-But the Matsudo government did not report this information to Kosakamachi, Akita Prefecture, which accepted and finally disposed of the ash.
-As a result, 39.5 tons of the problematic ash was buried at a Kosakamachi landfill facility.

Radiation contamination leaves Fukushima schools unable to drain pool water -Mainichi News, August 13
-Many schools in Fukushima Prefecture are at a loss over what do to with their swimming pools, which can't be used or drained because the water is tainted with radioactive materials from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, it has emerged.
-The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has said schools should obtain consent from farmers when draining pool water into agricultural waterways, but the Fukushima Prefectural Board of Education has not formed any guidelines on the concentration of radiation in water that is drained -- leaving locals to sort out the issue themselves.
-According to the education board, about 600 of the 735 pools at public kindergartens, elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools in Fukushima can't be drained. Most of these pools are located in eastern parts of the prefecture near the damaged nuclear plant or in central Fukushima Prefecture. One-third of the pools are designed to drain their water into sewage systems, while the rest have to drain the water directly into agricultural waterways or rivers.

Fukushima food producers protest -Yomiuri, August 13
-Demanding stabilization of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and compensation for the disaster at the earliest possible date, about 2,800 farmers and fishermen from Fukushima Prefecture gathered for a protest rally in Tokyo's Hibiya Park Friday.
-Following the rally, the participants, some carrying protest banners, marched to the nearby head office of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.
-The protest rally and demonstration were organized by JA (Japan Agricultural Cooperatives) Fukushima and related bodies to appeal for speedy payments of compensation to food producers whom the disaster has left in dire financial straits.

Professor's anger at lawmakers creates buzz on Internet -Asahi, August 13
-An exasperated University of Tokyo professor who launched an angry tirade at lawmakers over the Fukushima nuclear crisis has become a hero to many on the Internet.
-Tatsuhiko Kodama, 58, who heads the Radioisotope Center at Todai, was called to provide expert testimony before the Lower House Health, Labor and Welfare Committee on July 27.
-Besides being a doctor of internal medicine, Kodama is also an expert on internal radiation exposure. His background made even more shocking the testimony he provided in the Diet.
-"(On March 21), Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said, 'There are no immediate problems for people's health.' At that time, I felt something very disastrous was about to occur," Kodama said. "When we look at problems from radiation, we consider the total exposure amount. Neither Tokyo Electric Power Co. nor the central government have made any clear report about total exposure from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant."
-The Radioisotope Center conducted its own calculations on the level of radiation contamination arising from the Fukushima nuclear accident.
-Kodama explained the horrifying results of those calculations at the committee session.
-"The equivalent of 29.6 times of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, or in terms of uranium about 20 atomic bombs, were released by the accident," Kodama said. "While the remaining radiation from atomic bombs decreases to one-thousandth of the original level after a year, radioactive materials from the nuclear power plant only decrease to one-tenth the original level."

Zone's dissolution brings confusion, fear -Yomiuri, August 13
-Recently announced plans to dissolve the emergency evacuation preparation zone have been met with trepidation in affected municipalities, whose residents and officials worry about radiation and whether evacuees will actually return.
-The central government decided Tuesday to dissolve the emergency evacuation preparation zone, which was created in the wake of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
-The dissolution will likely be announced late this month or in early September, after all the related municipal governments have submitted reconstruction plans. However, local governments have said central authorities should dissolve the zone after presenting plans for decontamination.
-A 34-year-old homemaker who evacuated to a hot spring facility in Iwaki with her two primary school-age children said: "I'm mostly afraid of radiation. Unless safety is guaranteed, we can't go home even if we want to."
-Some residents in Minami-Soma said they were also unsure about the decision to dissolve the zone.
-Yoshioki Fukano, 72, said his home is in a hot spot--a specific location where voluntary evacuation is recommended due to high radiation levels--in the Haramachi district of Minami-Soma.
-"The emergency evacuation preparation zone will be dissolved, but my house is in a place where evacuation is recommended. I don't know if the city is really safe," he said.

How Merkel Decided to End Nuclear Power -NYT, August 13
-How did Germany, Europe's economic powerhouse, turn its back on nuclear energy?
-Most directly, the decision belonged to Chancellor Angela Merkel. Unlike other world leaders, she is a trained scientist, with a Ph.D. in physics.
-She reached the momentous decision to phase out nuclear power by 2022 after discussing it one night over red wine with her husband, Joachim Sauer, a physicist and university professor, at their apartment in central Berlin, according to people who spent many hours debating the issue with her but spoke only on the condition that they remain anonymous.
-The decision to switch off Germany's nuclear power plants has been widely portrayed as a sudden U-turn by Mrs. Merkel. After the nuclear disaster in Japan in March, the German public, long opposed to nuclear power, was ready to pull the plug, and their chancellor, known for shifting with the prevailing political winds, complied.
-But those close to Mrs. Merkel described her change of heart as something more like an awakening. Powerful industrial and energy interests fought the shift, but Mrs. Merkel, her allies say, is ready to lead Germany into a new era in which wind and solar energy, along with enhanced efficiency, can be developed fast enough to replace the lost power from nuclear plants.

Arizona dream and nuclear reality -RT, August 13
-The uranium boom of the 1940s made mines sprout like mushrooms in parts of Arizona. Eventually the need for nuclear fuel declined and after decades the facilities were abandoned, and left to contaminate the environment.
-This North-East part of Arizona encompasses part of America's Navajo nation. Native American governed territory, rich in uranium, but ruined by America's demand for it.
-"It's a different world. We don't have money. We don't have the funds the people from the dominant society have. We also have conditions we're trying to live through. Like living in the abandoned uranium areas here and drinking the contaminated waters that we have drank," says Faye, a Navajo Nation Citizen from Blackmesa, Arizona.
-Beginning in 1944, nearly four million tons of uranium ore were extracted from Navajo lands, under the auspices of private companies and the US government. The radioactive resource was in high demand for development of atomic power.
-After four decades, corporations closed shop but neglected to clean up. Abandoned mines, homes, and drinking water were left contaminated with elevated levels of radiation. Residents were left behind to battle deteriorating health conditions.
-Elsee Tohomie an Old Woman of the Navajo Nation, says that her knees are aching and walking became difficult for her.
-"I've been diagnosed with some form of cancer. I feel pain below my chin.I'm taking medication now," she says.
-US officials say radionuclides in the air and drinking water have been linked to thousands of cases of lung cancer, bone cancer and impaired kidney function.

Radiation effect on children's thyroid glands -NHK, August 14
-A group of researchers led by Hiroshima University professor Satoshi Tashiro tested 1,149 children in the prefecture for radiation in their thyroid glands in March following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Radioactive iodine was detected in about half of the children.
-Tashiro says radiation in thyroid glands exceeding 100 millisieverts poses a threat to humans, but that the highest level in the survey was 35 millisieverts.
-Tashiro says based on the result, it is unlikely that thyroid cancer will increase in the future, but that health checks must continue to prepare for any eventuality.

Lawyers provide free consultation to evacuees -NHK, August 14
-Lawyer Kiyoshi Morikawa who heads the group says evacuees are becoming increasingly concerned about their homes and living expenses, as evacuation centers are closing 5 months after the disaster.
-He says he would like the evacuees to feel free to consult with the professionals.

Radioactive impact on wheat may be small -NHK, August 14
-Researchers in Japan have found that wheat absorbs a relatively small amount of radioactive cesium from its roots, and the impact of the substance on wheat grain may be small.
-The scientists believe wheat absorbs only a small amount of radioactive cesium through its roots.
-They believe the substance does not migrate from leaves to the grain, the edible part, which makes the impact small.
-They also measured the distribution of radioactive cesium in rice paddies in Fukushima prefecture by collecting soil at 5 centimeter increments from the surface.
-96 percent of the cesium was found at the 5 centimeter level from the surface.

Fukushima farmers in a jam / Fruit growers see orders plunge due to fears over radiation -Yomiuri, August 14
-Shipments of Fukushima's signature akatsuki peaches would normally be peaking about now.
-The fruit is a popular summer gift, but orders have plummeted this year, even though the levels of radioactive material detected in the fruit since the crisis began at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are much lower than government-set interim limits.
-Unless consumers stop shunning this produce, the problems afflicting peach farmers could soon spread to growers of other fruit--such as pears and apples--whose shipments are scheduled to peak later this month.

Mud sports festival held in Fukushima -NHK, August 14
-People enjoyed playing volleyball and other sports in the mud in Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan.
-The festival was held in the town of Hanawa on Sunday. A local sports club started the event 3 years ago.
-The town is about 75 kilometers from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
-But the organizers say it's safe as they measured radiation levels in the courts and confirmed it was about 0.2 microsieverts per hour.

Safety doubts raised at U.S. nuclear waste cleanup project -LA Times, August 14
-The Energy Department has asserted that Bechtel Corp. underplayed safety risks from equipment it is installing at the nation's largest nuclear waste cleanup project, according to government records.
-A federal engineering review team found in late July that Bechtel's safety evaluation of key equipment at the plant at the Hanford site in Washington state was incomplete and that "the risks are more serious" than Bechtel acknowledged when it sought approval to continue with construction, the documents say.
-Senior scientists at the site said in emails obtained by The Times that Bechtel's designs for tanks and mixing equipment are flawed, representing such a massive risk that work should be stopped on that part of the construction project.
-But Energy Department officials in Washington said they believed the problems were fixable and that they had authorized Bechtel to keep going for the time being. Bechtel officials said Friday that the matter was not a safety issue and that sticking to the current construction schedule would save money.
-The Hanford project is the most important environmental cleanup program in the nation. It seeks to prevent 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge in underground tanks, some of which are leaking, from contaminating the nearby Columbia River.

Cesium levels down in seawater near reactors 2, 3 -NHK, August 15
-Seawater collected near the water intake of the No.2 reactor on Saturday was found to contain 0.058 becquerels of cesium-134, or 0.97 times the government-set safety limit. It also contained 0.056 becquerels of cesium-137, or 0.62 times the limit. Both figures were around one tenth of the level found on the previous day.
-In April, the level of cesium-137 in seawater near the water intake of the No.2 reactor was found to be 1.1 million times the safety limit. Since then, the density of the radioactive element has been declining, and recently it has fallen below the limit sometimes.
-Seawater sampled near the water intake of the No.3 reactor on Saturday was found to contain 0.087 becquerels of cesium-134, or 1.5 times the safety limit. It also contained 0.09 becquerels of cesium-137, or about the same as the limit. Both figures were less than one tenth of the level found on the previous day.
-Seawater taken from 6 spots offshore was found to contain no radioactive materials.

PET bottles become radiation detectors in Japan -Reuters, August 15
-To meet growing demand for radiation detectors after Japan's March earthquake and tsunami, which set off the world's worst nuclear accident in 25 years, a Japanese researcher has come up with devices made from recycled PET bottles -- inexpensively.
-The detectors devised by Hidehito Nakamura, an assistant professor at Kyoto University in western Japan, in cooperation with Teijin Ltd, cut costs by 90 percent from existing devices, many of which come from foreign firms.
-"We're aiming to have a final product by the end of September, given the ever-increasing demand following the March earthquake," said Toru Ishii, a sales executive at Teijin.
-Nakamura came up with "Scintirex," a plastic resin that emits a fluorescent glow when exposed to radiation. The resin acts as a sensor within the radiation detectors, allowing measurements of radiation.

Debris disposal bill to be submitted to Diet -NHK, August 15
-Japan's main ruling and opposition parties have compiled a bill stating that the government will be responsible for cleaning up the fallout from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
-The bill calls on the government to collect and dispose of debris contaminated with high levels of radiation in the no-entry zone and areas near the troubled nuclear plant.
-It also says the government will deal with debris whose radioactivity levels exceed pre-determined standards, regardless of where it is found.
-The parties also propose that the government should oversee the decontamination of soil in areas where contamination is serious.

At least 30 prefectures to test newly harvested rice for cesium to alleviate safety concerns -Mainichi News, August 15
-As many as 30 prefectures are planning to test newly harvested rice for radioactive cesium contamination in a bid to ensure and demonstrate the safety of their farm crops to consumers worried by the spread of radioactive substances from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, the Mainichi has learned.
-The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries has subjected newly harvested rice in 17 prefectures from Aomori to the north to Shizuoka to the west in East Japan to cesium contamination tests, but other municipalities, keen to alleviate safety concerns among consumers about farm products, decided to test rice independently.
-The farm ministry urges the 17 prefectures to test brown rice raised in soil containing 1,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram or more, or in areas whose atmospheric radiation doses are more than 0.1 microsievert per hour, before and after harvesting. If more than 200 becquerels per kilogram are detected in brown rice in a preliminary testing before harvesting, the area will be designated as an "area for priority testing" and be thoroughly examined after harvesting. If radiation exceeds 500 becquerels, shipments of the rice from the area will be banned.

"Loud bang" at FPL nuclear plant near Miami -Sun Sentinel, August 15
-Florida Power & Light employees heard a "loud bang" Thursday at the utility's Turkey Point nuclear plant 24 miles south of Miami when a large valve carrying water unexpectedly closed, turning off a system that cools equipment in one of the reactors, according to a Nuclear Regulatory Commission report on the incident. Regulator have not yet determined the safety significance.
-FPL employees followed their procedures, immediately opening one of two backup valves to fix the issue within 20 minutes, said FPL Spokesman Mike Waldron.
-On Tuesday, a three-person NRC team began a special inspection of the plant because the cooling system "failure resulted in the loss of a safety system," the agency wrote in a statement.


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