Japan Nuclear Disaster Update # 38: Decontamination Edition

The latest update on the crisis in Fukushima. The hot spots are everywhere. Be careful where you step!

But first, we'd like to introduce the handy-dandy Fukushima Post and Ana's Feed search engine. This search engine will return results from this series of posts we've done. This is a good place to start if you are researching anything about fukushima:


Later, we may produce a search engine that includes everything we've pointed to as well. That, of course, is roughly the same as searching the entire internet. We've not yet decided if we should pursue that strategy or something intermediate (such as our posts plus selected other sites).

Is it possible that a tsunami could hit the nuclear power plant in Aomori Prefecture Village? It turns out hat at least five over the last 1000 years have.

Decontamination of a Kindergarten in Minami Soma City, a Fukushima-affected school, has been completed successfully. Except the part about decontamination.

Hydrogen that has mysteriously built up in pipes at the Fukushima reactors is being removed, apparently successfully. This removal must happen before the pipes can be fitted used in cleaning up radioactive material. Finally, steam seems to have stopped coming out of Reactors 2 and 3, and it is believed that the water in them have stopped boiling.

Numerous hot spots well outside the 20 km exclusion zone keep popping up. Some are probably not related to Fukushima but most certainly are. See the feed for numinous examples. These hot spots are typically not detected using areal surveys of radiation, but rather, are found by citizens groups, municipalities, and others, using on the ground equipment. (See Ana's Feed for information on the Ministry of Education's maps based on surveys of radiation, and critiques of the methods used.)

A cesium contamination hot-spot was found outside the Fukushima no-zone, with 300% more of the radioactive isotope than allowed before sealing by concrete is required. Soil of Watari District, in Fukushima has a 500% too-high hot spot, and the entire district is very highly contaminated. Officials had apparently missed these hot spots in earlier surveys. A Tokyo Elementary school has higher than acceptable levels of radioactive Cesium in its compost, which in turn was made from fallen leaves from the school property. That's about 300% or so higher than allowed levels. Although this is the only area school that has recently identified and reported the problem, there are about 20 schools in the vicinity that use the same composting procedure.

The plan for much of the radioactive Fukushima debris is to distribute it to other municipalities. Municipalities to which the fallout is being spread seem resistant. Tokyo, however, seems willing to receiver about a half million tons of debris from Iwate and Miyagi prefectures over the next few years. Officials are certain that the contamination level of this debris is low and therefore the debris is safe.

There is an area of 20 kilometers around the Fukushima plant that is a "no-go" zone for the foreseeable future, but there are areas outside of this which are being cleared by the government for return. However, many residents say they will not move back.

Apparently, structural elements such as bridge girders are manufactured in Fukushima. But Fukushima is radioactive, and thus, so are the girders. The level of radiation coming form the girders is 70% of the annual limit for personal radiation safety. Of course, people don't necessarily hang out right next to the girders. Unless of course they are in a traffic jam. Anyway, there are no government regulations regarding how radioactive the bridge girders you make can be.

A Fukushima plant worker died of as yet unspecified causes.

See the feed for stories on contamination issues in France and Alaska.

Ana's Feed

Areva subsidiary fined over uranium spill -World Nuclear News, Oct. 4

  • A French court of appeals has issued Areva subsidiary Socatri with fines and damages totalling over half a million Euros for polluting groundwater after a 2008 spillage of uranium solution from a tank at the Tricastin site, AFP reported. The Nimes court of appeals ruled that in addition to the main 300,000 ($396,000) fine, the company must also pay damages of 20,000 ($26,000) each to various associations - including antinuclear pressure group Sortir du Nuclaire, Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth - that appealed against an earlier court ruling acquitting the company of water pollution, plus 10,000 ($13,000) each to 12 local residents who had also brought proceedings against the company. The appeal followed an October 2010 ruling which cleared Socatri of water pollution but fined it 40,000 ($53,000) for late reporting of the incident to nuclear safety authorities. The company has five days from the date of the verdict in which it can lodge an appeal with France's supreme court of appeals, the Cour de Cassation.

The NRC Knew Possibility of Elevated Thyroid Dose in Midway Island and Alaska by March 22 - Worked to keep it away from FOIA -Enformable, Oct. 4

Result of "Decontamination" at a Kindergarten in Minami Soma City - Not Much of a Result -EX-SKF, Oct. 4

  • Minami Soma City in Fukushima Prefecture is one of the cities whose designation as "evacuation-ready zone" have been lifted and where the residents are supposed to return. The city had been urging the residents to return well before the designation was lifted, and as part of the efforts to encourage the residents to return and live in the city as before, the city has been busy "decontaminating" kindergartens and schools and other public places with advice from Professor Tatsuhiko Kodama of Tokyo University Radioisotope Center.
  • However, if you look at one and only result that the city has published, the decontamination didn't quite decontaminate, i.e. remove the contamination. If the city has better results elsewhere, it is not showing.
  • Here's their before and after map of the radiation levels in various locations in the kindergarten:

TEPCO faces rough road for business future / 3rd-party panel cites poor management, opposition to rate increases, lack of loan support -Yomiuri, Oct. 5

  • A government panel report submitted on Monday to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda highlights many tough challenges facing Tokyo Electric Power Co. before it secures financial aid from a state-backed entity to compensate for the disaster at the utility's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
  • The third-party panel, the TEPCO Management and Finance Investigation Committee, took TEPCO to task for inefficient management. Headed by lawyer Kazuhiko Shimokobe, the committee also criticized the electricity industry regulator, the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry's Natural Resources and Energy Agency, for deficiencies in the current electricity rate-setting system.
  • The so-called full-cost pricing method allows utilities to pass on personnel, fuel and other costs to consumers, and is thought to be responsible for higher power bills than in many other countries, the report said.
  • In addition to problems such as having nuclear reactors restarted and the issue of raising rates, there are plenty of tasks the Noda Cabinet must address in connection with TEPCO's compensation payments that cannot be accomplished without public support.

Japan Test Reactor Was Shaken Beyond Design Limit in March Quake -Bloomberg, Oct. 5

  • A research reactor operated by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency was shaken beyond its design limits during the earthquake that struck in March and another of the agencys nuclear facilities was likely damaged in the disaster.
  • The Japan Research Reactor No. 3 in Tokai village, 115 kilometers (71 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was shaken as much as 5.7 times more than its design allowed, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology said in a statement.
  • Parts of the roof of the experimental Japan Materials Testing Reactor building in the agencys research center in Oarari, 60 kilometers from Tokyo, was damaged, possibly by the quake, the ministry said. No radiation leaks were found at either site, according to the ministry.

High dosage of cesium found in soil outside Fukushima no-go zone -Mainichi News, Oct. 5

  • High levels of radioactive cesium were found in an independent study in a Fukushima city district, prompting a citizens group and others involved to urge the government on Wednesday to promptly designate the area as one of the contamination hot spots for possible evacuation and ensure proper decontamination.
  • Up to 307,000 becquerels of cesium per kilogram of soil was detected in the Sept. 14 survey, triple that of the benchmark above which the government requires tainted mud to be sealed by concrete. The contamination is believed to have been caused by radiation leaked by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant crippled in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

Soil Survey of Watari District, Fukushima City Shows 5 Times Cesium Concentration in One Location compared to the survey done in June. -EX-SKF, Oct. 5

  • Survey results [through link]
  • The entire district is highly contaminated. The radiation level will not go down with decontamination that only involves removing the sludge from the drains. In addition to removing the top soil at houses and empty lots, asphalt, concrete, concrete fences and roofs would have to be removed in order to lower the radiation level.
  • The national government did survey the district, but managed to miss high radiation locations. It did only the air radiation survey, which does not necessarily reflect the contamination level of the ground.

Nurseries let Fukushima kids play at site with lower radiation level -Mainichi News, Oct. 5

  • Nursery schools in the city of Koriyama in Fukushima Prefecture, where outdoor activities are limited due to radiation spewed from the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, took part in a project Wednesday to let kids play at remote sites with lower radiation levels.
  • About 40 children commuting to two nurseries in central areas of Koriyama, where radiation of 0.9 microsievert per hour is recorded, and their teachers took a bus to an educational facility some 30 kilometers away where the radiation level is 0.1 microsievert per hour.

Japan's Ministry of the Environment Determined More Than Ever to Spread Radioactive Disaster Debris All Over Japan -EX-SKF, Oct. 5

  • Minister of the Environment and Minister of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Goshi Hosono called representatives from 43 Prefectures to the Ministry of the Environment and requested again that they accept disaster debris from Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures.
  • The Ministry of the Environment will ask the municipalities once again about their intentions and waste processing capacities, and will coordinate between the disaster-affected areas and the municipalities that will accept the debris.

Nuclear inspectors exposed to radiation - Nature News Blog, Oct. 5

  • Today, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that one of its nuclear inspectors had been exposed to radiation during a 4 October inspection of the Belgoprocess nuclear waste facility in Dessel, Belgium.
  • The inspector, along with an inspector from EURATOM and a Belgoprocess employee, apparently received a dose of radiation after a vial or flask of plutonium accidentally fell on the floor, according to releases from the company and the Belgian Federal Nuclear Control Agency (AFCN). Plutonium is dangerous if ingested, but the amount received by the inspectors was less than the legal limit, the AFCN says. No radiation has been released beyond the site.

NRC Should Make Cooling-Pool Safety a Priority, Staff Says -Bloomberg, Oct. 5

  • The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission should require reactor owners to have sufficient equipment to keep cooling pools that store nuclear waste safe during disasters, the agency staff told commissioners.
  • The agency should consider the requirement without delay, R.W. Borchardt, NRC executive director for operations, said in an Oct. 3 report released today by the commission.
  • Its among eight recommendations from an agency task force that have the greatest potential for safety improvement in the near term, he said. The staffs selections for top priorities include proposals to re-evaluate earthquake and flooding hazards, and to impose rules that help nuclear plants deal with on-site blackouts.

Cesium surges in ash halt Kashiwa incinerator -Japan Times, Oct. 6

  • An incinerator in Kashiwa, Chiba Prefecture, has been shut down following the discovery of high levels of radioactive cesium in incinerated ash, a city official said Thursday in the first such case since the March nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima Prefecture.
  • The Kashiwa Municipal Government has no plans to restart the Nanbu Clean Center in the foreseeable future, said Kazuhisa Yokozeni, an official in charge of the city's waste policy.

Aging nuclear power plant near NYC hires Rudy Giuliani to do ad campaign vouching for safety -Washington Post, Oct. 6

No impact from spillages -World Nuclear News, Oct. 6

  • Separate spillages of nuclear materials at facilities in Belgium and the USA appear to have been without radiological impact, although personnel involved in both incidents are undergoing tests to confirm their degree of exposure.
  • One inspector from the International Atomic Energy Agency and another inspector from Euratom, as well as a worker were exposed to plutonium during an annual inspection of fissile material inventory at Belgian radioactive waste management company Belgoprocess. The trio were contaminated when a container with a small amount of plutonium in it fell to the floor. They were immediately taken to a specialised laboratory for decontamination and monitoring.
  • Meanwhile, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is carrying out a special inspection at Uranium One's Irigaray and Christensen Ranch in situ recovery uranium facilities in Wyoming after release of yellowcake - uranium oxide recovered from ore - inside the plant. According to the regulator, two operators who were working at the facility on 2 October noticed airborne yellowcake after an alarm sounded and the plant's yellowcake dryer automatically shut down. It appears that the yellowcake escaped when a seal on the dryer broke.

Nuclear energy after Fukushima -Washington Post, Oct. 6

  • The environmental disaster at Japans Fukushima nuclear power plant this spring is creating a new global divide over the safety of nuclear energy. Sharply differing responses to Fukushima from the worlds wealthiest and poorest nations will bring diminished safety for all.
  • Countries that should be best equipped to deal with nuclear mishaps are turning away from atomic energy after the meltdown of three reactors in northern Japan on March 11. Europeans, most notably in Germany, and Americans are abandoning or delaying plans to replace or upgrade their electricity-producing nuclear plants and extending the operational life of existing, less-safe reactors well beyond their original 40-year licensing period.
  • But developing countries with little nuclear experience and spotty industrial safety records are moving ahead with ambitious plans to expand generating capacity. China and India after pausing briefly to review safety arrangements are adding about 80 new reactors over the next two decades. (The United States has 104 of the 436 reactors worldwide.)

Britain's nuclear future is not so bright as firms look for exit strategy -This is Money, Oct. 6

  • The future of Britains nuclear power is at risk, with one of the three groups looking to build the next generation of reactors on the brink of splitting up.
  • RWE, which owns npower, is in talks with partner E.ON about the future of its involvement in their joint project to open a reactor by 2020.
  • According to people familiar with the situation, RWE is looking for a way to pull out of the Horizon Nuclear Power scheme.
  • Costs, currently estimated to be 1million a week, are one of the reasons why the firm is looking at an exit strategy, sources said.
  • But a larger factor is the value of costs RWE has incurred in Germany with the compulsory closures of the countrys nuclear power plants, they added.

SDLP leader demands: Sellafield must close -Daily Mail, Oct. 6

  • During a visit to the Greenpeace ship which docked near the city's Odyssey arena, the Deputy First Minister of the Stormont power-sharing government said: "The SDLP believes that it is high time that the British Government shut Sellafield down and for good.
  • "Sellafield poses a threat to everybody living in Ireland - north and south.
  • "If there was an accident at the plant the whole of our island would be contaminated - damaging livelihoods and destroying lives.
  • "We have seen the devastation that the nuclear accident at Chernobyl caused. Even today young children are suffering terribly because of that disaster 18 years ago."
  • Mr Durkan's call for the closure of Sellafield follows hard on a plea last month for more measured debate on nuclear power by an Ulster Unionist cabinet colleague at Stormont.
  • Environment Minister Dermot Nesbitt angered environmentalists and nationalist politicians by saying that too often the debate was dominated by emotion and not scientific fact.

Tokyo guarantees debris plan is safe -Japan Times, Oct. 6

  • Tokyo plans to take about 500,000 tons of debris and waste from Iwate and Miyagi prefectures over a three-year period, starting with 1,000 tons from Miyako in Iwate later this month.
  • The metropolitan government says the contamination level of the waste is too low to pose a health risk for residents or workers at the designated landfill dump area 4 to 5 km off the Odaiba waterfront area in Tokyo Bay.
  • But of the 900 telephone calls and emails from residents commenting on the matter through Wednesday, about 730 were against the plan, while around 100 were supportive, the metropolitan government said.
  • The metropolitan government stressed that the contamination level of the debris is so low that it can be safely processed and dumped without putting anyone's health at risk.

Above-Limit Cesium Detected in Compost at Tokyo Elementary School -Jiji Press, Oct. 6

  • Tokyo's Bunkyo Ward said Thursday that radioactive cesium exceeding the government limit has been detected in compost made at an elementary school.
  • The compost, made from fallen leaves at the school, had radioactive cesium of 1,488 becquerels per kilogram, higher than the 400 becquerels set by the government for agricultural fertilizers.
  • Although compost made of fallen leaves is not subject to government regulation, the ward decided to refrain from making more.
  • The contaminated compost will be covered up for safety.
  • Five kindergartens and 20 elementary and junior high schools in the ward have been making compost for use in flower gardens.

ASU embarks on next phase of an effort to rapidly assess radiation dose -Physorg, Oct.6

  • Arizona State University has announced today it is entering the next phase of a multi-million, multi-institutional research project to develop technologies that would rapidly measure an individual's level of exposure to radiation in the event of a radiological or nuclear incident.
  • The project will enter a $5 million contract option as part of a potential $35.44 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to extend feasibility testing for the development of a prototype that will measure gene expression in individuals exposed to abnormal levels of radiation.
  • Currently, no rapid, FDA cleared, high-throughput system exists to measure the radiation dose of individuals within a large population.
  • "As Japan's tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis has demonstrated, there is an urgent societal need to rapidly assess an at risk population's exposure to radiation," said Lee Cheatham, PhD, deputy director of the Biodesign Institute and lead investigator of the project. "Our ultimate goal is to develop a diagnostic system that would ensure that medical responders have the information necessary to provide appropriate medical treatment and ensure human health and safety."

Gov't panel mulls interim goals on radiation dose -NHK, Oct. 6

  • A government panel is calling for Japan's one-millisievert annual radiation limit to be eased for the interim, saying it will be difficult to restrict exposure in some areas near the troubled Fukushima nuclear plant.
  • The panel on radiation believes it will be difficult to keep their dose below the one-millisievert limit set by the government for normal times and proposed on Thursday to set an interim exposure target.
  • It says the target should be set between one and 20 millisieverts in line with recommendations by the International Commission for Radiological Protection.
  • The panel says the target should be lowered in steps as decontamination progresses.

Residents of Japanese town contaminated by Fukushima refuse to return - Globe and Mail, Oct. 6

  • I dont plan to come back, ever, said a middle-aged woman who briefly visited Hirono this week to retrieve belongings from the two-storey home that she and her family fled on March 12, the day after the tsunami that set in motion the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. She paused to take in her abandoned homes view of the ocean and its now-unkempt garden. Ill never feel safe here. Ill never feel secure.
  • The area where the government has lifted its advisory was one of three evacuation zones around the plant. The 20-kilometre radius around Fukushima Daiichi remains a no-go zone for the foreseeable future, as does a heavily contaminated corridor northwest of the plant that was later added to the mandatory evacuation zone. Once home to more than 100,000 people, the areas are expected to be uninhabitable for upward of two decades.
  • Hirono and the three other towns that the government is encouraging residents to return to are in a third zone, between 20 and 30 kilometres from the plant. Pregnant women and hospitalized patients were advised to evacuate the towns in mid-April, the rest of the 58,500 who live in the area were told at the same time to be ready to flee on a moments notice. All left immediately, with the exception of 300 steadfast residents, most of them elderly enough to claim they arent worried about the long-term effects of radiation.
  • Shifting official recommendations since the disaster struck as well as new revelations about the scope of the disaster of Fukushima Daiichi that still make newspaper headlines on a near-daily basis here leaves few locals willing to trust the latest assessment from Tokyo.

IAEA team to help decontaminate area around nuclear plant -Japan Times, Oct. 6

  • A team of experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency will visit Japan this week to help with the massive cleanup of areas contaminated by the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, officials said.
  • Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Tuesday the 12-member team will help plan and conduct the decontamination during its nine-day visit starting Friday. It will also visit the crippled power plant, meet with Japanese nuclear officials and compile a report, he said.

Ministry of Education's Radiation Map for Tokyo and Kanagawa -EX-SKF, Oct. 6

  • They did Tokyo and Kanagawa from September 14 to 18, using one helicopter that flew 10 times over the area. The radiation detection device on board the helicopter measured gamma radiation from the radioactive materials deposited on the ground from 150 to 300 meters off the ground. The measurement of about 300 to 600 meters radius below the helicopter is then averaged out. Here's the report by the Ministry (PDF).
  • As far as I know, there is no plan for the national government to conduct the ground-level measurement outside Fukushima Prefecture.
  • First, let's take a look at Tokyo.
  • Air radiation level at 1 meter off the ground:

Osaka residents voice radiation concerns over Fukushima-made bridge girders -Mainichi News, Oct. 7

  • Residents of Kawachinagano in Osaka Prefecture have expressed concerns over radiation from girders made in Fukushima Prefecture, which will be used for a bridge construction project as part of National Route 371's bypass linking here with Wakayama Prefecture.
  • The local reaction led Osaka Prefecture to suspend the work in late July to ensure the safety of the steel bridge girders from Fukushima, which has been rocked by the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, by measuring their radiation doses. But because there are no national safety standards for civil engineering materials such as bridge girders, the Osaka Prefectural Government is considering asking the central government to set safety standards for such construction materials at an early date.
  • A private inspection entity checked the bridge girders and found the amount of radiation to be 0.7 millisieverts, as compared to an annual limit of 1 millisievert for ordinary residents set by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.

TEPCO starts sprinkling decontaminated water -NHK, Oct. 7

  • The Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, has started sprinkling decontaminated water on the premises of the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
  • TEPCO on Friday began spraying the water onto trees cut down and piled on the plant's compound. The utility says dry trees could catch fire spontaneously.
  • The water was taken from facilities for temporary storage of water with low levels of radioactivity that had accumulated in the basements of 2 reactor turbine buildings. The buildings did not incur major damage in the March disaster.
  • The facilities contain about 17,000 tons of such water, and are filled to nearly 90 percent of their capacity.

New safety rules for outdoor nuclear workers -NHK, Oct. 7

  • Japan's health ministry will introduce safety guidelines to protect workers who clean up radioactive substances around the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
  • Existing guidelines target only those working indoors at the plant.
  • Citizens groups had complained that the ministry was not doing enough to minimize the exposure of workers who engage in decontamination outdoors.
  • The new guidelines will require outdoor clean-up workers to wear protective masks and carry dosimeters to monitor radiation.

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant worker dies -Japan Today, Oct. 7

  • A worker at Japans disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant died Thursday, its operator said, adding that the death was not necessarily related to radioactive leaks.
  • The male worker, in his 50s, was taken to hospital for treatment Wednesday after feeling ill during a regular morning assembly at the plant, some 200 kilometers north of Tokyo, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO).
  • He died early morning Thursday at the hospital, TEPCO spokeswoman Chie Hosoda said, adding that the cause of his death was being investigated.

Okutama cesium level seen spiking -Japan Times, Oct. 7

  • The science ministry's aerial monitoring of the capital and Kanagawa Prefecture found highly contaminated areas in northwest Tokyo, but most of the surveyed areas were in the range of normal levels, a ministry official said Friday.
  • Hourly radiation readings in the area was between 0.2 and 0.5 microsievert, but few spots had radiation levels between 0.5 and 1.0 microsieverts, ministry official Hirotaka Oku said.
  • The highest levels of cesium-134 and -137 in the area were between 60,000 and 100,000 becquerels per square meter found in Katsushika, Oku said.

True radiation decontamination still a long way away -Mainichi Features, Oct. 7

  • The three main decontamination methods that have been highly publicized through media reports are: the stripping away of surface soil from school playgrounds and athletic fields, the removal of mud accumulated in gutters, and the washing of roofs using high-pressure water cleaners. While the first method is considered effective, the remaining two have been found to be effective only to a certain point, and some especially warn against overestimating the effects of high-pressure water cleaners.
  • "It might make you feel like you're decontaminating, but there's a limit to the amount of radioactive cesium that's caked onto roofs that can be eliminated with high-pressure water cleaners," says Kunihiro Yamada, a professor of environmental science at Kyoto Seika University. "The water cleaners wash surface dirt off, but then that tainted water goes into sewers and can contaminate rivers, thereby affecting farm goods and seafood. If people in highly populated areas were to begin using water cleaners, we may end up finding people forcing tainted water onto each other."

Hot spots and blind spots -Economist, Oct. 8

  • CREST the hill into the village of Iitate, and the reading on a radiation dosimeter surges eightfoldeven with the car windows shut. Dont worry, Ive been coming here for months and Im still alive, chuckles Chohei Sato, chief of the village council, as he rolls down the window and inhales cheerfully. He pulls off the road, gets out of the car and buries the dosimeter in the grass. The reading doubles again.
  • Iitate is located 45km (28 miles) from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant hit by a tsunami on March 11th this year. In the mountains above the town, the forests are turning the colour of autumn. But their beauty is deceptive. Every time a gust of wind blows, Mr Sato says it shakes invisible particles of radioactive caesium off the trees and showers them over the village. Radiation levels in the hills are so high that villagers dare not go near them. Mr Sato cannot bury his fathers bones, which he keeps in an urn in his abandoned farmhouse, because of the dangers of going up the hill to the graveyard.
  • One way to help overcome these problems would be to persuade people to accept relaxed safety standards. A government panel is due to propose lifting the advisory dose limit above one millisievert per year. This week in Tokyo, Wade Allison, a physics professor at Oxford University, argued that Japans dose limit could safely be raised to 100 millisieverts, based on current health statistics. Outside Mr Satos house, however, a reading of the equivalent of 150 millisieverts a year left your correspondent strangely reluctant to inhale.

'Minor' radioactive leak at Dounreay nuclear plant -BBC, Oct. 8

  • Radioactive liquid effluent is understood to have leaked inside a treatment facility.
  • The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) said the leak was minor and did not get outside the plant.
  • Sepa has launched an investigation. Dounreay is currently undergoing a 2.6bn decommissioning process.
  • Dounreay was constructed in the 1950s as an experimental nuclear power complex, but has not generated electricity since 1994.
  • Radioactive liquid effluent occurs when a reactor and its equipment are cleaned.
  • A section of the treatment plant has been shut down for investigations.
  • DSRL is in the process of dealing with 100 tonnes of breeder reactor material.

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Measures Soil Contamination in Shinjuku -EX-SKF, Oct. 8

  • And it is higher, much higher than the Ministry of Education's aerial survey indicates.
  • It goes to show that the aerial survey with 300 to 600 meter radius and averaging out the numbers doesn't locate high radiation hot spots in the cities like Tokyo or Yokohama. Or anywhere else for that matter. And this Shinjuku location is not considered to be particularly hot.
  • Here's the screen capture of the Tokyo Metropolitan government announcement, with highlight:

Tepco Starts To Eject Hydrogen From Fukushima Plant -Fox Business, Oct. 8

  • Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501.T0), operator of the crisis-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, said Saturday it has started to discharge hydrogen with high concentration levels from a pipe connected to a reactor containment vessel at the plant, as a measure to prevent an explosion.
  • The utility said it has injected nitrogen into the pipe for the No. 1 reactor vessel to eject hydrogen found with high density of more than 60%. The hydrogen has been generated by radiation that dissolved water.
  • Tepco said it will make sure that the concentration level of hydrogen is lowered to less than 1% before removing the pipe and going ahead with a plan to connect a system to clean up radioactive materials in the vessel.

Removal of hydrogen starts at Fukushima plant -NHK, Oct. 8

  • TEPCO says an explosion is unlikely as there is no oxygen in the pipes now.
  • It adds that Saturday's work will not pose any risk of explosion as nitrogen is to be injected into the pipes to lower hydrogen levels.
  • TEPCO explains that it will use special hoses that do not generate static electricity to prevent an explosion while releasing hydrogen outside the reactor building.
  • Following a government instruction, TEPCO is planning to check the level of hydrogen in pipes linked to the No.2 and No.3 reactors.

US eases travel alert around Fukushima N-plant -NHK, Oct. 8

  • The State Department advised US citizens on Friday to stay more than 20 kilometers from the plant – in line with a no-entry zone set by the Japanese government.
  • The previous US advisory recommended avoiding areas within 80 kilometers of the plant.
  • But the State Department warned pregnant women, children, and older people not to stay within 30 kilometers of the plant.

Okutama cesium level seen spiking -Japan Times, Oct. 8

  • An aerial radiation survey of the capital and Kanagawa Prefecture has revealed the northwest tip of Tokyo was tainted by an unusually high amount of fallout, while most other areas showed normal levels, a science ministry official said Friday.
  • The results, released late Thursday, show that fallout from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant contaminated part of the mountainous Okutama region on Tokyo's western fringe. Radiation readings in the area were the highest of the two prefectures at 100,000 to 300,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per square meter.
  • The hourly radiation readings in the area hovered between 0.2 and 0.5 microsievert, but a few spots had higher levels between 0.5 and 1.0 microsieverts, science official Hirotaka Oku said.

Noda says nuclear power budget may be diverted for decontamination, compensation -Mainichi News, Oct. 8

  • Portions of the budget and other funds originally earmarked for the promotion of nuclear power may be diverted to finance radiation decontamination efforts and compensation payments for residents affected by the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said on Oct. 7.
  • Noda's proposal became public after he told Japanese Communist Party (JCP) Chairperson Kazuo Shii and Social Democratic Party (SDP) leader Mizuho Fukushima during individual meetings on Oct. 7 that he would review nuclear power-related budgets as part of a comprehensive re-evaluation of energy policy, and divert funds to decontamination and compensation while alleviating some of the burden on the general public.
  • The same day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura told a news conference that the nuclear power-related budget for fiscal 2011 amounted to 433 billion yen. He added: "The same amount will not be allocated (to nuclear power) next fiscal year. We'll see how much we can cut back, including aid to the bodies concerned."

5 big tsunamis may have hit nuclear plant village in past 1,000 years -Mainichi News, Oct. 8

  • A geological study has indicated an Aomori Prefecture village which hosts a nuclear power plant may have been hit by huge tsunamis at least five times during the past 1,000 years, a researcher said Saturday.
  • The tsunamis that broke over Higashidori village are believed to have reached up to 1.3 kilometers inland, according to Kazuomi Hirakawa, a specially appointed professor at Hokkaido University.
  • The village hosts Tohoku Electric Power Co.'s Higashidori nuclear power plant, which faces the Pacific Ocean, while other nuclear-related facilities, including a temporary storage facility for spent nuclear fuel, are also located in the area surrounding the village on the Shimokita Peninsula.

Cooperative bans saury fishing within 100 km of Fukushima nuclear plant -Mainichi News, Oct. 8

  • A national fisheries cooperative has decided to ban saury fishing within a 100-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant in an effort to gain consumer confidence in the safety of saury caught in other areas.
  • The Zenkoku Sanma Boukeami Gyogyo Kyodo Kumiai (national saury fishing cooperative), based in Tokyo, made the decision on Oct. 7. While members of the cooperative have refrained from fishing for saury within the 100-kilometer radius to curb rumors about radiation contamination, the cooperative decided to introduce an operational ban to ensure the saury its members caught were safe.

New safety rules for workers near N-plant -Yomiuri, Oct. 8

  • The health ministry will lay down a set of rules aimed at protecting the health of personnel working to decontaminate areas around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, ministry officials said Friday.
  • The rules will require such workers to have their radiation levels tested and oblige them to wear protective masks.
  • The new regulations, to be incorporated into the Industrial Safety and Health Law, are designed to protect the health of workers engaged in such tasks as open-air decontamination and the disposal of radioactive waste in the vicinity of Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s crippled facility, according to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry.
  • The current rules only cover personnel working inside nuclear power facilities. Starting in January, however, full-fledged efforts will be made to decontaminate radiation-polluted areas and dispose of radiation-contaminated sludge and debris. The ministry will soon start working out the details of the new rules, with a view to enforcing them in January, the officials said.

Thyroid checkups begin for Fukushima children -NHK, Oct. 9

  • The Fukushima prefectural government has begun thyroid examinations for children in an effort to assess the health impact of the nuclear accident.
  • The examinations will cover around 360,000 youths aged 18 or younger as of April 1st.
  • Their health will be monitored for their lifetime. Radioactive iodine released from the damaged nuclear plant could accumulate in children's thyroid glands, raising the possibility of cancer.
  • The results are expected to be mailed to them in about a month.
  • The prefectural government says it plans to have all the children examined by 2014.
  • After that, it says the children will undergo a thyroid check every 2 years until they turn 20, and will be examined once every 5 years after that age.

Temperatures drop at Fukushima damaged reactors -NHK, Oct. 9

  • New footage of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi plant has been released by the Tokyo Electric Power Company. No steam is seen leaving the No.2 and 3 reactors, which indicates that internal temperatures have dropped.
  • Officials say the temperature inside the No. 3 reactor dropped below 100 degrees Celsius 3 weeks ago, followed by a decline in temperature at reactor No.2.
  • TEPCO believes that the drop in temperatures has led to the reduction in steam.

Removal of hydrogen continues at Fukushima plant -NHK, Oct. 9

  • On Saturday, TEPCO spent one hour removing hydrogen, while at the same time injecting nitrogen to the pipes to reduce the risk of an explosion.
  • About half an hour later, the company found the percentage of hydrogen had dropped to nearly zero.
  • However 2 hours later, the density was measured at 3.9 percent. Even though TEPCO says an explosion is unlikely, hydrogen at a density of over 4 percent could cause a blast when mixed with oxygen.
  • TEPCO believes that the hydrogen level rose because gas accumulated in the upper part of the pipes may have redistributed internally.

4 generator failures hit US nuclear plants -AP, Oct. 9

  • Four generators that power emergency systems at nuclear plants have failed when needed since April, an unusual cluster that has attracted the attention of federal inspectors and could prompt the industry to re-examine its maintenance plans.
  • None of these failures has threatened the public. But the diesel generators serve the crucial function of supplying electricity to cooling systems that prevent a nuclear plant's hot, radioactive fuel from overheating, melting and potentially releasing radiation into the environment. That worst-case scenario happened this year when the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in Japan lost all backup power for its cooling systems after an earthquake and tsunami.
  • Three diesel generators failed after tornadoes ripped across Alabama and knocked out electric lines serving the Tennessee Valley Authority's Browns Ferry nuclear plant in April. Two failed because of mechanical problems and one was unavailable because of planned maintenance.
  • Another generator failed at the North Anna plant in Virginia following an August earthquake. Generators have not worked when needed in at least a dozen other instances since 1997 because of mechanical failures or because they were offline for maintenance, according to an Associated Press review of reports compiled by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

National lab in NY halts radiological operations after small leak; no health impact seen -Washington Post, Oct. 9

TEPCO creates simpler guide for compensation claims -Japan Today, Oct. 9

  • Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has responded to a government request to make the compensation claims process easier for those affected by the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
  • In September, TEPCO started sending out forms to Fukushima residents to file claims for damages resulting from the evacuation of areas surrounding its stricken Daiichi nuclear power plant. TEPCO said it aimed to make its first payments in October, but was subsequently heavily criticized for creating an overly large claim form that complicated the application process. The manual was 156 pages and the claims forms themselves were 60 pages.
  • The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry ordered TEPCO to simplify the procedures and make the claim process simpler. In response, TEPCO said that from this week, it will start sending a four-page guide to claimants.
  • According to the government, about 80,000 people were evacuated from a 20-km radius around the nuclear plant, which has been leaking radiation since March 11.

IAEA team arrives in Fukushima to observe decontamination effort -Japan Today, Oct. 9

Strontium-90 Discovered in Yokohama City, 245 km from Fukushima I Nuke Plant -EX-SKF, Oct. 9

  • The number is 195 becquerels/kg, more than 150 times more than the background (1.2 becquerels/kg).
  • This is probably the lower of the two samples; the other sample is currently being analyzed.
  • As far as the Ministry of Education is concerned, the southern most detection of strontium-90 was in Shirakawa City, 79 kilometers from the plant. The Ministry doesn't have a plan to test for strontium or plutonium outside the 80 kilometer radius.

Farmers frustrated on removing tainted straw -Daily Yomiuri, Oct. 9

  • Livestock farmers in three disaster-hit prefectures in the Tohoku region are having difficulty disposing of rice straw contaminated with radioactive cesium from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
  • Cattle farmers are complaining that the central and local governments have not decided how to get rid of the contaminated straw.
  • "We have no space to store new straw, even though the rice harvest season has started. We want the government to remove the contaminated straw as soon as possible," one farmer said.
  • More than 600 bales of straw sat in one greenhouse at a cattle farm in southern Iwate Prefecture. Their combined weight was more than 60 tons, the farmer said.
  • Radioactive cesium of more than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram was detected in the straw, more than the limit allowed for incinerating the straw or taking it to a landfill.
  • A woman at the farm said in bewilderment, "How long will this situation continue?"

Tokyo under illusion that things are normal while Fukushima remains a war zone -Mainichi Perspectives, Oct. 10

  • We are well into autumn. And despite the growing sense in the Tokyo metropolitan area that things are now all right – with train services back to pre-disaster schedules and the regret we once felt over our wasteful consumption of electricity dissipating – Fukushima remains a war zone.
  • It was reported on Oct. 7 that the Watari district of Fukushima was not designated by the government as a "specific evacuation recommendation spot."
  • The following day, at an information session held for local residents at Watari Elementary School, participants demanded to know why their district was excluded from the list when it was a dangerous place for children to be, to which a government official responded: "It's not a final decision."
  • While this battle was taking place, I went to visit Watari residents Chieko Tanji, 64, and her husband, Hiroshi, 63, to hear about their personal battles with radiation and decontamination.

City of Fukushima to decontaminate orchards on test basis -Mainichi News, Oct. 10

  • The municipal government here is poised to conduct a test decontamination of local orchards tainted by radioactive substances leaking from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, officials said.
  • If the test run proves effective, it will work out a schedule for decontaminating farmlands and incorporate it in the city's overall decontamination plan. However, finding enough space to store removed soil will likely pose a challenge.
  • In the experiment, the municipal government will cooperate closely with local agricultural cooperatives to decontaminate pear and peach orchards in areas where radiation doses are high. The city of Fukushima was ranked No. 1 nationally in the harvest of pears and No. 2 in peaches in 2006.

School sports festivals on in Fukushima, while being mindful of radiation -Mainichi News, Oct. 10

  • While taking steps to prevent students' exposure to radiation from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, schools here held athletic festivals on Oct. 9, the day before Japan's Health and Sports Day.
  • At Ozaso Elementary School in the prefectural capital, a joint school-community athletic festival was held. The topsoil of the playground had been removed and a drop in radiation levels confirmed during summer vacation. Still, the festival program was designed so that the lower grades' events would be completed only about an hour and a half after the start of the festival, in order to reduce the likelihood of younger children's exposure to radiation outside.
  • The "tamaire" event, where contestants try to throw bean bags or balls into an elevated basket, was conducted on a tarp to keep the students from touching the ground. A tarp was also laid out for the students to sit on when they were not competing in events. Furthermore, it was recommended that students wear long sleeves and eat lunch in the school building.

Daycare center near Fukushima plant reopens -NHK, Oct. 11

  • A daycare center some 20 kilometers from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has reopened for the first time since the accident there in March.
  • 18 children aged 2 months to 5 years arrived with their parents at the center in Minami Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture, on Tuesday.
  • The facility decided to reopen when the Japanese government lifted its evacuation advisory for the city on September 30th.

Decontamination center opens in Date City -NHK, Oct. 11

  • A public support center for residents seeking to remove radioactive material on their own has opened in Date City, Fukushima Prefecture.
  • Date is located about 60 kilometers northwest from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, but radiation levels remain high in some parts of the city. Officials therefore plan to decontaminate the entire city.
  • At an opening ceremony for the center on Tuesday, Mayor Shoji Nishida said that the center will offer technological support to residents who want to clear their neighborhood of radiation as soon as possible.

Radiation checking facility opens -NHK, Oct. 11

  • On Tuesday, about 20 people including housewives brought rice, water and vegetables to the facility in Kashiwa City. The facility was started by a computer software firm owner.
  • Kashiwa is about 200 kilometers from the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Radiation levels higher than those in surrounding areas have been detected in the air in the city.
  • The facility charges about 13 dollars per use of a counter that can detect more than 20 becquerels per kilogram, and about 50 dollars per measurement to an accuracy of over 10 becquerels. The prices are lower than those of other test facilities.

Govt reviews nuclear power generation costs -NHK, Oct. 11

  • Japan's Atomic Energy Commission is creating a new estimate of the cost of nuclear power as part of a review of the country's nuclear policy.
  • For the first time, it will take into account the cost of compensation for possible nuclear accidents.

Japanese sake tested for radiation -NHK, Oct. 12

  • Japan's tax officials have conducted preliminary radiation checks on sake and other alcoholic beverages in the wake of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
  • The National Tax Agency conducted a trial test on Wednesday ahead of extensive assessment. The agency will conduct tests of all breweries and factories located within 150 kilometers of the troubled plant. Brewing facilities outside the radius will also be randomly tested.

All rice in Fukushima Pref. cleared for shipment -NHK, Oct. 12

  • All rice harvested in Fukushima Prefecture this year has been cleared for shipment, with levels of radioactive material below the government set standard.
  • The results of final post-harvest tests at 37 locations in Nihonmatsu City and Miharu Town were released on Wednesday. Levels of radioactive material at all sites were below the government set limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram.

Yokohama tests soil for radioactive strontium -NHK, Oct. 12

  • Officials in Yokohama City are testing soil for radioactive strontium following a report from a local resident in September that the substance had been detected in sediment on the roof of an apartment building.
  • In September, radioactive cesium more than 80 times the government-set limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram was found in sediment collected from roadside ditches in Yokohama City, which is near Tokyo.
  • The city later removed sediment from the area.
  • But the city decided to retest the sample for radioactive strontium due to the request of a local resident.

Gov't unveils plan to expand decontamination project areas; local reactions mixed -Mainichi News, Oct. 12

  • Under the plan, the Environment Ministry is to designate those areas with annual radiation exposure of 1 millisievert or more as "priority contamination inspection areas" by the end of November. In collaboration with the central government, local governments are supposed to decide on areas which need to be decontaminated and ways of decontaminating them. The central government will shoulder all the costs.

IAEA group praises cleanup effort -Japan Times, Oct. 12

  • The head of an International Atomic Energy Agency team of experts on Tuesday hailed Japan's efforts to ensure the safe handling and management of waste from the cleanup of radiation-tainted areas near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
  • On Monday, the team inspected an elementary school where work has already been done to remove radioactive substances. They received explanations on the decontamination operation at the school in Date from Mayor Shoji Nishida.
  • The mayor told the team that the amount of radiation at the school has been reduced to one-tenth after the removal of surface soil from the schoolyard.
  • Asked by one of the team members whether the low-level radioactive waste from the decontamination work could be disposed of as ordinary waste, the mayor said the city is having difficulty handling such waste, which includes radioactive materials, as there is no legal framework that stipulates how to dispose of it.
  • The waste is currently stuffed in bags and temporarily stored in the back of the gymnasium.

No-go zone soil to be moved in 2-1/2 yrs -Yomiuri, Oct. 12

  • Soil contaminated with radioactive substances in the no-entry zone and the expanded evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant will be removed by the end of March 2014, the Environment Ministry has announced.
  • According to a draft plan compiled by the ministry, the radioactive soil will be removed in 2-1/2 years–except from areas where the level of radioactive contamination is too high–and taken to temporary storage sites.
  • The ministry gave the March 2014 deadline only to the no-entry and expanded evacuation zones. The decontamination work aims to reduce annual radiation count in the areas to less than 20 millisieverts, a senior ministry official said.
  • However, the ministry has not set any concrete target level or deadline for places where radiation counts remain too high to conduct decontamination work. The basic policy draft only says the ministry will try to determine effective measures by carrying out model projects in this regard.

Japan mayor wants reactor near Tokyo decommissioned -Reuters, Oct. 12

  • A Japanese mayor has called on the government to decommission the nuclear reactor in his village, 110 km northeast of Tokyo, the first local leader to urge scrapping a reactor as Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda tries to rehabilitate the tarnished nuclear sector to help meet the nation's power needs.
  • The 33-year old reactor still has seven years before its operating licence expires and Tokyo Electric Power Co had been counting on the 1,100-megawatt facility to help it make up for the 4,700 megawatts of lost power from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant.
  • Murakami was Tokaimura's mayor in 1999 when a criticality accident at a Tokaimura uranium reprocessing facility resulted in two deaths, the worst nuclear accident in Japan until the Fukushima crisis.

UK nuclear must comply or face shutdown -Reuters, Oct. 12

  • Britain's nuclear regulator said he could shut down plants that fail to comply with recommendations put forward on Tuesday in response to Japan's Fukushima crisis.
  • "If operators don't comply, we have various legal means and enforcement powers, but I'm sure the industry will respond effectively and the information we received already showed that they have taken a robust approach," said Mike Weightman, head of Britain's Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).
  • The body's enforcement powers include stopping operations at nuclear plants and the issue of improvement notices, he said.

Are Regulators And The Nuclear Industry Applying The Valuable Lessons Learned From Fukushima? -Fairewinds, Oct. 12

  • Fairewinds chief engineer Arnie Gundersen discusses three nuclear safety problems uncovered during the Fukushima accident that nuclear regulators and the nuclear industry wish they could ignore. Why isn't the industry designing nuclear plants to withstand the worst natural events? Why aren't nuclear regulators, governments, and citizens who live and work near a nuclear plant prepared for a nuclear accident? How much does the NRC value human life? Finally, Fairewinds' Gundersen concludes that the NRC is not implementing adequate safety changes because the NRC believes that a serious accident is impossible.

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