Fukushima: the greatest danger comes now…

While the world media are paying little note, and most of the stateside public thinks of the Fukushima disaster in the past tense, in fact the ongoing effort to stabilize the stricken nuclear complex is now about to enter its most dangerous phase. Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) will this month begin removing fuel rod "assemblies" from reactor building No. 4—where they are vulnerable because the containment dome was shattered by a hydrogen explosion four days into the disaster, on March 15, 2011. They are to be transferred to an "undamaged facility" within the complex. There are 1,533 of these zirconium-plated "assemblies," and they are said to be in a chaotic "jumble." The transfer is to take about a year—if all goes well. (Japan Times, FukuLeaks, Nov. 14; EneNews, Nov. 6; Fukushima Update, Sept. 14)

Canadian scientist David Suzuki warns that if another major earthquake hits Japan before the transfer of the assemblies is complete, it could mean a nuclear disaster that would dwarf anything the world has yet seen. "[I]f in fact the fourth plant goes under in an earthquake and those rods are exposed, it's 'bye-bye Japan,' and everybody on the west coast of North America should evacuate," he said at a "Letting in the Light" symposium at the University of Alberta. The meeting was officially on water policy, but Suzuki emphasized potential consequences for the entire planet from a mishap in the assembly transfer process. "Fukushima is the most terrifying situation I can imagine," he said. "Three out of the four plants were destroyed in the earthquake and in the tsunami. The fourth one has been so badly damaged that the fear is, if there's another earthquake of a seven or above that, that building will go and then all hell breaks loose… And the probability of a seven or above earthquake in the next three years is over 95%." (Global Research Report, Nov. 7)

Some in Japan have been trying to raise the alarm—including at least one courageous politician (generally an oxymoron). Independent Diet member Taro Yamamoto was officially censured after he breached protocol by handing a letter to Emperor Akihito about the new Fukushima risks during a reception at the Imperial Palace, urging him to speak on the matter. He is to be barred from future events at the Palace for trying to "involve the emperor in politics." (BBC News, Nov. 8)

Following last year's alarming news about a jump in thyroid abnormalities in Japan since the Fukushima disaster began, come more such unsettling findings—which are practically failing to make English-language media at all. Asahi Shinbun reported Sept. 28 (only in Japanese, with a citation in English on Akihabara News, a tech blog) on a study indicating that up to 70% of youth from newborns to 18 years in the Kanto region (where Tokyo is located) have radioactive cesium in their urine. This is based on a sampling of 150, apparently picked at random. 

And worse news (or, alas, non-news) could be yet to come, even barring a mishap in the assembly transfer. Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, who has analyzed thousands of samples of fish from the Fukushima area, says the initial leak from the complex had a high concentration of cesium isotopes—but the water flowing from the plant into the ocean now is likely to be much higher in strontium-90, posing a greater threat. "Cesium is like salt—it goes in and out of your body quickly," he told National Geographic. "Strontium gets into your bones." While he's still not too concerned that fish caught off the US coast will be affected, "strontium changes the equation for Japanese fisheries, as to when their fish will be safe to eat." (Via EneNews, Aug. 7)

And local fleets have resumed fishing off Fukushima. Twenty-one trawlers brought in five tons of seafood, including octopus and squid, from a trial operation; if they're confirmed safe in tests, they will be shipped to markets across Japan, Common Dreams reported Sept. 27, citing Japanese media. We haven't heard any reports on the results of those tests, if they are separate from those being conducted by Woods Hole. Another example of the terrifying paucity and vagueness of reportage on this ongoing disaster.

And yet another. Daily Beast on Sept 26 said that it had obtained unpublished data on birth defects in Japan, which showed a jump in prevalence rates for 2011. The "2011 Report on Congenital Malformations" found the prevalence of malformed infants to be at 2.43%, the highest figure since 1999 (1.48%). It is true that the figure for 2010, the year before the Fukushima disaster began, was 2.31%, indicating only a small increase between that year and 2011. Adding to the ambiguity is the fact that Yokohama City University, which conducted the study, won't release regional figures—to the protest of many experts, who are calling on authorities to measure the health impact of Japan's nuclear problems, including birth defects, "with not just annual data but monthly data and broken down by prefecture."

An online petition is calling for transparent public oversight of the clean-up at Fukushima, and also demanding that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe formally retract his statements to the International Olympic Committee: "The [Fukushima] situation is under control… The effects of the [radioactive] discharges are completely blocked within the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant's harbor." This was part of his successful bid to win the 2020 Olympics for Japan—but the statement was contradicted by a TEPCO senior manager just days later. At a public meeting in Koriyama, Fukushima prefecture, Kazuhiko Yamashita, TEPCO's top technology executive, reportedly told local lawmakers that he "does not believe [TEPCO] is able to control" the situation. TEPCO diligently issued a press release within hours attempting to downplay Yamashita's statement, saying he was only talking about unexpected leaks at some of the hundreds of water tanks in the complex, not the general situation. (Japan Subculture Research Center, Sept. 27; Daily Beast, Sept. 26; Japan Times, Sept. 13)

Another petition, No Olympics, is calling for Japan to abandon the 2020 Olympics altogether, and notes more such dissembling statements. Japan Olympic Committee chair Tsunekazu Takeda, responding to press questions on the issue, said: "Not one person in Tokyo has been affected by this issue. Tokyo and Fukushima are almost 250 kilometers apart. We are quite remote from Fukushima." Rather embarrassing in light of the cesium urine findings.

US anti-nuclear spokesman Harvey Wasserman on EcoWatch is calling not only for public intervention but a UN-directed international take-over the Fukushima clean-up—a demand that has won nearly 40,000 signatures at NukeFree.org.

Meanwhile, pro-nuclear propagandists continue their hubristic crowing about how the Fukushima disaster actually proves nuclear power is safe! John Watson in Australia's The Age offers this typically denialist headline: "Japan's radiation disaster toll: none dead, none sick." He cites a World Health Organization study predicting there would be "no noticeable increases in cancer rates for the overall population" of Japan due to Fukushima. A third of emergency workers were found to be at some increased risk, he admits. 

We've noted before this perverse eagerness to gamble with the health of future generations on the basis of technocratic conjecture. A little corrective perspective is provided by Norway's environmentalist Bellona foundation, which says the WHO report has been "greeted with broad skepticism." Bellona portrays connivance between WHO and Japanese authorities to cook the books:

The WHO report says that it has found no data on any cancers among the population in the area, but humanitarian organizations have offered contradictory evidence to those claims, saying at least three cases of thyroid cancer have been linked to the disaster.

Additionally, it was earlier reported that in 2011, Japan's former Nuclear Safety Commission—which has been supplanted by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority—denied public access to the results of thyroid check-ups for more than 1,000 Fukushima children that were exposed to radiation.

And Watson's touting of the "overall population" projections obscures the fact that "[i]n the most contaminated area, the WHO estimated that there was a 70 percent higher risk of females exposed as infants developing thyroid cancer over their lifetime." Apparently they don't count in the pro-nuclear calculus. 

The comfortably cooked WHO projections are also touted in a sneering piece on the British tech website The Register with the utterly obnoxious headline "Fukushima SCARE-mongers: It's YOUR FAULT Japan DUMPED CO2 targets." This is a reference to the fact that at the Warsaw climate summit now underway, Japan announced it is dropping its former goal, based on the Kyoto Protocol, to reduce greenhouse emissions by 25% over 1990 levels by 2020. The new goal is an increase of 3%—with Japan's leaders blaming public backlash against nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima! (The Verge, PRI, Nov. 15) This despite the fact that Japan has repudiated calls from its own special commission convened after the disaster to phase out nuclear power. And despite the fact that much greenhouse emissions come from automotive transport, and cars don't run on nuclear power. Simple illogic that The Register's Lewis Page happily lets Japan's leaders get away with. Displaying his own illogic, he gloats:

If the Fukushima crisis has proved one thing, it's that nuclear power is safe. Everything that could possibly go wrong did, the accident was agreed to be at the top of the international scale for seriousness, and yet in decades to come scientists will not be able to attribute any deaths to radiation released from the Daiichi plant.

As we've stated before in response to such nonsense: If tsunamis, earthquakes and human error are inevitable, this is an argument against nuclear power, not for it. And the juxtaposing of nuclear power and fossil fuels as an either/or is a false dilemma. Ultimately, the way out of the crisis is abandoning an economic system predicated on the inexorably unsustainable foundation of endless growth.

This point is made in an Indigenous Elders Statement on Fukushima issued by Sioux, Dakota and Miccosukee elders last month, which states: "This self destructive path has led to the Fukushima nuclear crisis, Gulf oil spill, tar sands devastation, pipeline failures, impacts of carbon dioxide emissions and the destruction of ground water through hydraulic fracking, just to name a few… [T]hese activities…continue to cause the deterioration and destruction of sacred places and sacred waters that are vital for Life."

Not that world leaders are in the habit of listening to indigenous elders. Just as the Elders' statement was being issued, Shinzo Abe was on a trip to Turkey, where Kyodo news agency reported he met with Prime Minister Erdogan to "discuss closer bilateral economic cooperation, including on exports of Japanese nuclear reactors."

Do not let the captains of this death-dealing industry get away with perversely turning the disaster they have foisted upon the world into a propaganda coup. The illusions and general lack of awareness about nuclear power even in the wake of Fukushima must be vigorously combated.

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  1. Fukushima alarmism aids pro-nuke lobby —again
    Fukushima alarmism (in the negative sense of the word: scare-mongering rather than raising an alarm responsibly) unfortunately does exist. We’ve pointed out before how Internet rumors about the disaster merely play into the hands of pro-nuclear propagandists who would portray all anti-nuclear forces as “alarmists.” The latest bogus claims are being peddled under the hed: “28 Signs That The West Coast Is Being Absolutely Fried With Nuclear Radiation From Fukushima.” They are defly called out by the Southern Fried Science blog.

    Indeed, concerns about Fukushima radiation in tuna caught off California and in milk from West Coast dairies appear to be legitimate. But the more bogus claims are raised, the more likely that the legitimate ones will be dismissed. A word to the wise.

    1. Fukushima radiation found off California coast

      Scientists have detected trace amounts of signature radioactive compounds from the Fukushima accident triggered by the 2011 earthquake in California waters for the first time. The findings came from water samples collected in August an sent to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts for analysis. The effort was organized by a group of volunteers on the research vessel Point Sur, sailing between Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and Eureka, California.

      Collected 100 miles due west of Eureka, the water samples were found to contain the specific form of radioactivity released into the ocean by the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima—cesium-134. The amount of cesium-134 reported was less than 2 Becquerels per cubic meter (the number of decay events per second per 260 gallons of water). "The levels are only detectable by sophisticated equipment able to discern minute quantities of radioactivity,” said Ken Buesseler, a Woods Hole marine chemist who is leading the monitoring effort. (ENS, Nov. 11)

      1. Fukushima radiation found off British Columbia coast

        Talk about misleading headlines! The Globe & Mail of Dec. 30 headlines: "B.C. radiation risk from Fukushima disaster 'insignificant:' research." What's more significant is that they actually detected it! The find was confirmed by Canada's Bedford Institute of Oceanography, examining samples collected by "citizen scientists."

  2. Correction on greenhouse emission sources
    One of my pro-nuclear Facebook critics has already pointed out (accurately) that “most”* greenhouse emissions do not come from automotive transport. According to EPA figures, 28% comes from transportation, compared to 33% from electricity generation (based on 2011 figures for the US). Automotive transport accounts for most oil use. Natural Resources Defense Council, citing Energy Department statistics, informs us: “Of the 20 million barrels of oil consumed each day, 40 percent is used by passenger vehicles, 24 percent by industry, 12 percent by commercial and freight trucks, 7 percent by aircraft, and 6 percent in residential and commercial buildings.” But of course greenhouse emissions come from coal and natural gas as well, which are more widely used in the power sector. In any event, the power and transport sectors each account for about a third of emissions—so nuclear power isn’t bailing us out of the climate crisis, and Shinzo Abe’s scapegoating of anti-nuclear sentiment for dropping the Kyoto Protocol commitments is hardly less disingenuous.

    * Changed to “much” in original text.

  3. Nuclear power and greenhouse emissions: another view
    Belgium Friends of the Earth has a page on the question, which, citing a University of Illinois study, puts the share of greenhouse emissions from electricity production at only 9%. I conjecture that the considerably lower figure than that offered by the EPA is due to including carbon released through deforestation in the total. The factsheet shoots down what it calls “Myth 1: the generation of electricity by nuclear fission does not lead to greenhouse gas emissions.” In fact:

    It is true that the actual fission process whereby electricity is generated does not release greenhouse gases. However, in various stages of the nuclear process (e.g. mining, uranium enrichment, building and decommissioning of power plants, processing and storing radioactive waste) huge amounts of energy are needed, much more than for less complex forms of electricity production. Most of this energy comes in the form of fossil fuels, and therefore nuclear power indirectly generates a relatively high amount of greenhouse gas emissions.

    It places the total emissions per kilowatt-hour generated for nuclear at 35 grams—compared to 20 grams for wind power and 1,000 for coal. A page on the question from NuclearInfo.net, maintained by some seemingly pro-industry scientists at the University of Melbourne, in contrast, puts the nuclear figure at 3.3 grams—which it calls lower than the figure for wind, or hydro or even solar.

    Of course the game is to keep us arguing over numbers while the systemic roots of the crisis are overlooked as a matter of unspoken consensus.

  4. NY Times pro-nuclear propaganda deconstructed

    Charles Komanoff writing on the Carbon Tax Center website calls to task Eduardo Porter of the New York Times, who in a Nov. 20 column called nuclear power the "Unavoidable Answer for the Problem of Climate Change." Komanoff doesn't even address the health and environmental impacts of nuclear power, but goes right for the economic jugular: "The column fails the single most critical precept in nuclear economics: don’t confuse promise with performance." He notes a June 11 story from the Times' own Matt Wald on the Vogtle nuclear reactors under construction in Georgia—one of two new reactor projects underway in the US. Wald summarized the spiralling cost escalations at the predecessor projects 30 years ago, Vogtie 1 and 2, and noted that the new project, Vogtle 3 and 4, has instituted supposed cost-control measures. But they haven't been working out too well. Wrote Wald:

    [T]he company that was supposed to be making prefabricated parts like clockwork, from a factory in Lake Charles, La., was shipping them with some parts missing or without required paperwork. Southern [Company, the reactor owner] built a cavernous "module assembly building," 120 feet high and 300 feet long, where the parts were supposed to be welded together, largely by robots, into segments weighing thousands of tons. But shipments stopped last August and are still arriving too slowly.

    "[I]t remained to be seen," the Georgia state construction monitor told Wald, "whether modular construction would actually save time." Not very promising. Komanoff then notes Times reportage on the ambitious Olkiluoto nuclear complex underway in Finland:

    "The massive power plant under construction on muddy terrain on this Finnish island was supposed to be the showpiece of a nuclear renaissance," the Times reported back in 2009. "The most powerful reactor ever built, its modular design was supposed to make it faster and cheaper to build. And it was supposed to be safer, too."

    Instead, the Times reported then, "after four years of construction and thousands of recorded defects and deficiencies, the price tag…has climbed at least 50 percent.” That was just the beginning. By December 2012, three-and-a-half years after the Times article appeared, the cost of the Olkiluoto reactor had doubled again, according to Wikipedia, to 8.5 billion euro — nearly triple the original €3 billion delivery price. So calamitous is the cost spiral that the Finnish electric utility owner and the French reactor supplier are suing each other.
    Why bring up Vogtle and Olkiluoto? Because they exemplify the real-world experience that Porter ignored. (They also constitute a majority of reactor construction now underway in the Western economies.) Instead, Porter hung his column on — you guessed it — paper cost estimates from the U.S. Energy Information Administration and the U.K. government.
    Talk about not being serious about getting better. The nuclear boosters seem determined to repeat the disastrous experience of the last thurst of the industry's expansion, in the 1970s, when chronic cost and time overruns did more than the now nearly forgotten wave of citizen protests to humble ultra-ambitious plans for hundreds of new reactors.

    By the way, the other US nuclear project currently underway is the addition of two reactors at the Virgil Summer plant in South Carolina. But in the past year, utilities have permanently shut down four others and plan to take a fifth out of service next year, Vermont Yankee. (CNN, Nov. 6) There's also the new reactor planned for the Watts Barr plant in Tennessee, which the TVA is struggling to finish after work halted in 1988, according to Wikipedia. The Dallas Morning News reported Nov. 8 that plans to build new reactors at the Comanche Peak plant in Texas are on hold because the contractor on the project, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, has decided to focus on getting its nuclear reactors in Japan back in operation.

    Nuclear renewal? Don't bet the rent. 

  5. Fire shuts Arkansas nuclear plant
    A transformer caught fire at Entergy Corp’s Arkansas Nuclear One plant on Dec. 9, forcing utility officials to take one of two units at the facility offline. The London Volunteer Fire Department said the blaze was under control by midmorning, but it is not known when the idled unit will be restarted. (AP, Dec. 9)

  6. Fukushima alarmism misses the point —again

    Over the new year, unexplained plumes of steam began rising from Fukushima's unit No. 3, leading to a wave of speculation (e.g. in The Ecologist) that a new meltdown was underway. The rumors were dismissed by the Fukushima Diary blog, which has been intimately following the still-unfolding disaster. Fukushima Diary said the steam was probably "evaporated coolant water leaking out of primary containment vessel." Hardly comforting, but not a meltdown.

    The professional paranoids at Global Research are now pedalling the rumor that the US Department of Health and Human Services is "stockpiling iodine in preparation for Fukushima meltdown"—based on a highly speculative account on InfoWars (!), which has as its sole source a solicitation posted on the Federal Business Opportunities website, where DHHS asks contractors to supply "potassium iodide tablet, 65mg, unit dose package of 20s; 700,000 packages (of 20s)" by Feb. 1. Wouldn't it be nice if a real journalist would call DHHS and ask them what it is all about?

    On the other side of the coin, the don't-worry-be-happy crowd hasn't skipped a beat. EX-SKF, another rational Japanese blog closely monitoring the disaster, reports that right-wing militarist Toshio Tamogami, now running for governor of Tokyo, has gone on record saying (with egregious ignorance as to how radiation actually works):

    It is said it's dangerous, but in reality, radiation in Fukushima is not that dangerous. Has a crow flying over the [Fukushima] nuclear plant dropped from the sky? Have you seen fish floating [and dead] in the ocean near the plant? It is gradually being proven that radiation is not dangerous.

    In an unfortunately rare case of real, aggressive and critical yet responsible reportage of the disaster, Public Radio International ran a piece Jan. 1 on how a private contractor has been recuiting homeless men from commuter stations to work in the Fukushima clean-up effort. The men are not working under any formal contract, and are vulnerable to having their wages skimmed and being charged exorbitant sums by their overseers for food, housing, cigarettes and so on. Although the PRI report didn't emphasize it, we have noted the obvious threat that these workers will be improperly exposed to radiation in the atmopshere of lax oversight…

    There is plenty to be outraged about here. Please let us reserve our outrage for the appropriate targets, and avoid discrediting the anti-nuclear effort as wacky "alarmism"…

  7. Fukushima thyroid cancers jump —again

    From Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 8:

    The number of young people in Fukushima Prefecture who have been diagnosed with definitive or suspected thyroid gland cancer, which is often associated with radiation exposure, has risen to 75, prefectural officials said Feb. 7.

    That is 16 more than in November, when figures were last released. The number of definitive cases rose by seven, from 26.

    The 75 are among 254,000 individuals for whom results of thyroid gland tests have been made available to date.

    Only residents of Fukushima Prefecture who were aged 18 or under at the time of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster are eligible to receive the thyroid gland tests administered by the prefectural government.

    The latest figures include the results from 28,000 more individuals compared to the numbers released in November.

    Medical and government officials in Fukushima say they do not believe the cases of thyroid gland cancer diagnosed or suspected in the 75 young people in the prefecture are linked to the 2011 nuclear accident.

    Hokuto Hoshi, who chairs a panel that discusses matters related to the prefectural survey on the health impact from radiation on Fukushima’s residents, referred to the fact that cases of thyroid gland cancer in children who lived near Chernobyl only began to increase four to five years after the 1986 nuclear accident.

    So once again… We are not told how statistically divergent this is from the norm, nor offered an alternative explanation… merely assured that it is unrelated to the nuclear disaster. And again, all we can do is echo Helen Caldicott's call for an international investigation into these findings. Until then, we are not going to join the rush to exculpate the Fukushima disaster.

    1. Fukushima thyroid cancers jump —again

      From Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 24:

      The number of young people in Fukushima Prefecture who have been diagnosed with definitive or suspected thyroid gland cancer, a disease often caused by radiation exposure, now totals 104, according to prefectural officials.

      The 104 are among 300,000 young people who were aged 18 or under at the time of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and whose results of thyroid gland tests have been made available as of June 30. They were eligible for the tests administered by the prefectural government.

      Of these 104, including 68 women, the number of definitive cases is 57, and one has been diagnosed with a benign tumor. The size of the tumors varies from 5 to 41 millimeters and averages 14 mm.

      The average age of those diagnosed was 14.8 when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

      However, government officials in Fukushima say they do not believe the cases of thyroid gland cancer diagnosed or suspected in the 104 young people are linked to the 2011 nuclear accident.

      The figure can be extrapolated for comparison purposes to an average of more than 30 people per population of 100,000 having definitive or suspected thyroid gland cancer.

      The figure is much higher than, for example, the development rate of thyroid cancer of 1.7 people per 100,000 among late teens based on the cancer patients' registration in Miyagi Prefecture.

      But experts say the figures cannot be compared because the test in Fukushima Prefecture covers a large number of people who have no symptoms.

      Those experts are always so comforting, aren't they? A good thing we have experts, so we never have to worry about a thing.

  8. Fukushima cesium groundwater level breaks new record

    Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Feb. 13 that 130,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per liter were detected in groundwater sampled that day from an observation well at its the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The level was the highest for radioactive cesium found in well water at the plant. (Jiji Press)

  9. Fukushima workers rally against Tepco

    Workers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant rallied March 14 outside the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co., complaining they are being forced to work for meager pay in dangerous conditions. Several thousand employees at the plant are employed in a daily scramble to keep the site as safe as possible, making myriad repairs and building tanks for the vast amounts of water contaminated after being used to cool reactors. Demonstrators also rallied outside the office of Maeda Corp., one of the contractors hired to run cleanup operations at the plant and in surrounding areas.

    Meanwhile, authorities moved closer to restarting a pair of reactors at the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, with the Nuclear Regulation Authority saying it would conduct safety checks. Local officials are still wary of the plan. (Japan Times)

  10. UN claims on Fukushima questioned

    Criticisms of the UN's study of Fukushima's impacts were dismissed by nuclear boosters. Now we have more details. From the GreenWorld blog, June 10:

    Today, physicians from 19 affiliates of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) published a critical analysis of the Fukushima report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR). The efforts made by UNSCEAR committee members to evaluate the extensive and complex data concerning the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe are appreciated. The report shows that the Fukushima nuclear disaster was not a singular event, but is an ongoing catastrophe; that it is not confined to Fukushima Prefecture, but affects people all over Japan and beyond; and that it constitutes the largest single radioactive contamination of the ocean ever recorded.

    Based on the collective lifetime doses of the Japanese population, which are presented in the report, it must be expected that about 1,000 excess cases of thyroid cancer and between 4,300 and 16,800 other excess cancer cases will occur in Japan due to Fukushima radioactive fallout. It must be said, however, that predictions can only be as good as the presumptions and data they are based on. UNSCEAR attempts to downplay the true extent of the catastrophe. Its conclusions must be viewed as systematic underestimations…

    Through December 31st, 2013, 33 children had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and 41 more have tumor-suspect biopsies, indicating possible malignancies. Although it is not possible to determine whether a single case is caused by radiation, as cancers do not carry a “label of origin,” the number of cases found so far is unexpectedly high. Japanese cancer statistics suggest an incidence of less than 1 case of thyroid cancer in this population per year. Moreover, the number of cases is likely to increase, as results are only available for about 70% of the affected pediatric population so far and hundreds of children with suspicious examination results have yet to be reassessed..

    [I]t should be emphasized that the events in Fukushima were not the worst-case scenario. If the wind had blown in a different direction, millions of people living in metropolitan areas of Eastern Japan could have been affected by nuclear fallout, which luckily rained down on the Pacific Ocean instead.

  11. NRC chief: “no technology exists” to stop Fukushima leaks

    US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chief William Magwood is arriving in Japan to review efforts to stop the spreading of radioactive water at the Fukushima plant—and the more longterm problem of how to handle the melted fuel. He admitted to a reporter from Japan's NHK World: "The reality is, no technology exists anywhere to solve this problem." (ENENews, July 3)

    Despite what is implied by the misleading term "cold shutdown," it seems that the water they have to keep pumping into the reactors to maintain the "cold shutdown" is exactly that which is leaking interminably. (Japan Times, June 28) Nothing is actually under control.

  12. Fukushima farmer sues TEPCO over wife’s suicide

    From Reuters via Japan Times, July 10:

    The Fukushima District Court is due to rule next month on a claim that Tokyo Electric Power Co. is responsible for a woman's suicide, in a landmark case that could force the utility to publicly admit culpability for deaths related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

    In July 2011, nearly four months after the massive earthquake and tsunami that triggered a series of catastrophic failures at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Hamako Watanabe returned to her still-radioactive hilltop home, doused herself in kerosene and set herself on fire.

    She left no suicide note but her husband, Mikio, says plant operator Tepco is directly responsible.

    "If that accident hadn’t happened, we would have lived a normal, peaceful life" on their family farm some 50 km from the plant, said Watanabe, now 64, who discovered her charred body.

    1. TEPCO liable for suicide

      A Japanese court has ordered the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant to pay damages to the family of an evacuee who killed herself. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) will pay the family of Hamako Watanabe 49 million yen ($472,000). TEPCO has settled a number of suicide-related claims through a government dispute resolution system, reports say, but this case is the first time a court has mandated TEPCO should pay damages. (BBC News, Aug. 26)

  13. Irradiated monkeys show Fukushima effects

    IFL Science website reports on a study in Scientific Reports in which a team led by Kazuhiko Ochiai of the Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University compared 61 Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) from near Fukushima with 31 from 400 kilometers away. They found a huge range of the radioactivity in the Fukushima monkeys, from 78-1778 Becquerels per kilogram, while their more distant kin had undetectably low levels. The Fukushima monkeys were also found to have lower counts of both red and white blood cells than monkeys living further north, which may indicate health impacts to come.

    We're somewhat comforted by the findings that monkeys from 400 kilometers away are OK, and wonder what it means for the claims of Dr. Shigeru Mita that Tokyo is contaminated from the disaster and should be evacuated, being aggressively pushed on such dubious websites as Popular Resistance and Global Research. The claims do seem to embraced by the World Network for Saving Children from Radiation. Tokyo is some 240 kilometers from Fukushima, although prevailing winds make a big difference. The wind, which was blowing out to the Pacific at the time of the tsunami on March 11, 2011, shifted south towards Tokyo a few days later.

    The Scientific Reports abstract places the northern monkeys on the Shimokita peninsula in Aomori prefecture, at the very most tip of Honshu, Japan's central island. We have noted that contamination likely related to Fukushima has been detected in Aomori too…

  14. Fukushima: Unit 3 “melt-through” admitted

    TEPCO admitted Aug. 6 that the damage to the Fukushima No. 3 reactor may be worse than previously thought, saying that most of the fuel in the unit melted through the core and is now resting at the bottom of the containment vessel. They had previously said some of the fuel was still inside the reactor. The new assessment suggests decommissioning the No. 3 reactor could be more challenging than previously thought. (NHK World)

  15. Fukushima coming to Lancashire?

    EDF Energy has been forced to shut down two of its eight UK nuclear power stations amid safety fears, after discovering "unexpected cracking" in a boiler unit of one of its reactors in Lancashire. The French-owned energy giant said it had shut down its Heysham 1 and Hartlepool plants, each of which comprise two reactors, after confirming there was a "defect" in a boiler unit at Heysham 1 Reactor 1. (The Telegraph, Aug. 11)

  16. Fukushima radiation levels a ‘violation of human rights’

    We generally aren't too crazy Russia Today as a source, but we give them creds for running this lengthy interview with Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba in Fukushima prefecture, who notes growing health problems in the region since the disaster and says the "current level of radiation in Fukushima is a violation of human rights."

  17. Tritium up tenfold in Fukushima groundwater after typhoon

    From Japan Times, Oct. 12:

    The radioactive water woes at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant got worse over the weekend after the tritium concentration in a groundwater sample surged more than tenfold this month.

    A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Saturday that heavy rain caused by Typhoon Phanfone probably affected the groundwater after the storm whipped through Japan last week.

    Some 150,000 becquerels of tritium per liter were measured in a groundwater sample taken Thursday from a well east of the No. 2 reactor. The figure is a record for the well and over 10 times the level measured the previous week.

    In addition, materials that emit beta rays, such as strontium-90, which causes bone cancer, also shattered records with a reading of 1.2 million becquerels, the utility said of the sample.

    The well is close to the plant’s port in the Pacific.

    The water crisis could get worse as the nation braces for Typhoon Vongfong this week. Although downgraded from supertyphoon status, the storm was still packing winds of up to 180 kph and on course to hit Kyushu by Monday.

  18. Japan moves back towards nuclear generation

    Japan took a major step towards returning to nuclear power generation as the government  of Kagoshima prefecture approved restart of the Sendai nuclear plant. "We decided there is no other way but to accept," said Gov. Yuichiro Ito. "Nuclear power is necessary for a while considering Japan's energy policy." The plant is expected be operational again sometime next year, following approval by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). Deliberation in the Kagoshima assembly was almost drowned out by the sound of protesters outside. Environmental group Green Action said the vote showed that Japan had “failed to learn the lessons” of Fukushima. (Irish Times, Nov. 7)

    The Ohi reactors in Fukui prefecture were restarted in July 2012 but shut down again for inspection in September 2013. They have remained shut following a legal challenge.

  19. New radiation spike at Fukushima

    From Japan Times, Feb. 23:

    Sensors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant have detected a fresh leak of highly radioactive water to the sea, the plant's operator announced Sunday, highlighting continued difficulties in decommissioning the crippled atomic station.

    Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the sensors, which were rigged to a gutter that drains rain and groundwater at the plant into a nearby bay, detected contamination levels up to 70 times greater than the already-high radioactive status seen on the plant grounds.

    Tepco said its emergency inspections of tanks storing nuclear wastewater did not find any additional abnormalities, but the firm said it closed the gutter to prevent radioactive water from flowing into the Pacific Ocean.

  20. Gains, reversals for Japan anti-nuclear effort

    A Japanese court on April 14 issued a landmark injunction against restarting the No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama, after the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) had given the green light to switch them back on. Kansai Electric Power slammed the injunction as "extremely regrettable and utterly unacceptable" and said it would appeal against the decision. (AFP) But one week later, a Kagoshima district court found no "irrationalities" in new safety standards sand ruled that the Sendai nuclear power plant may restart. The first of two reactors is scheduled to go back online in July. (CNN, April 22) The decision came just as a generator that powers pumps at Fukushima broke down, leading to another leak of radioactive water from reactor No. 1 into the Pacific Ocean. (Asahi Shimbun, April 22)

    1. Japan court rules to restart Takahama reactors

      The Fukui District Court has lifted an injunction that had blocked the reopening of two reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power in the western city of Takahama. The injunction was issued after locals argued the reactors could not withstand a strong earthquake. "Today's two rulings show a recognition that safety has been ensured at Talahama Nuclear Power Station," Kansai said. (BBC News)


      1. Third reactor restart spurs fears over Kansai evacuation plan

        Kansai Electric Power Co. on Jan. 29 restarted its Takahama No. 3 reactor, the nation’s third unit to go back online under new safety regulations but the first to run on mixed oxide (MOX) fuel, which contains plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel. The restart has revived concerns, especially in neighboring Kansai, about the feasibility of plans to evacuate residents within 30 kilometers of the plant in the event of an accident. It is also unclear where the spent fuel from the reactors will eventually be stored. (Japan Times)

        1. Radioative leak halts re-opening of Japanese nuclear plant

          A radioactive water leak has halted plans to re-start a reactor at a nuclear power plant in western Japan, which would have been the fourth to come online after a nationwide shutdown, its operator said on Feb. 21. Kansai Electric Power said some 34 liters (8.8 gallons) of cooling water containing radioactive substances leaked out from the reactor at its Takahama plant 380 kilometres (236 miles) west of Tokyo. (AFP)

          That same week, incidentally, adioactive tritium-contaminated water leaked into the groundwater at the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York state. (Talk of the Sound, Feb. 29) This was just the latest in a string of recent mishaps at the plant, leading the Hudosn Riverkeeper to call it "a disaster waiting to happen." (CBS)

  21. Japan takes South Korea to WTO over Fukushima food ban

    From the FukuLeaks blog, May 21:

    Japan has filed a WTO trade complaint against South Korea for restricting potentially contaminated Japanese food from entering their market. Japan also recently threatened to do the same to Taiwan after that country put additional proof of origin and radiation screening on some imports.

    Japan’s argument has been that food products are under that country’s intervention limit for radiation contamination, citing government food testing programs. Those programs involved only spot testing of products. Food products not tested are routinely exported. As ongoing testing in Taiwan has shown, food items that contain radioactive contamination are showing up in other countries with some of them over Japan’s own intervention limit.

  22. Japan restarts Sendai reactor

    After months of debate and protest, the No 1 reactor at the 30-year-old Sendai nuclear power plant, on the southwest island of Kyushu, became the first to be brought back to life since new post-Fukushima safety regulations were instated. The reactor, one of 25 which have applied to restart, will begin generating power by week's end and reach full capacity next month. Japan has been completely free of nuclear power since September 2013. (SMH, Jiji Press, Aug. 11)

    1. Sloppy reportage on Sendai reactor

      Why are almost all media reports (even, e.g., the Washington Post) saying this is the first reactor to go online in Japan since the Fukushima accident? That is not so, the Ohi reactor was briefly online in 2013 and shut down due to protest. (Scroll up for link to details.) Ignorant reporters, shut up. And Shinzo Abe: SHUT 'EM DOWN.

  23. Greenpeace rejects UN Fukushima study

    Greenpeace harshly criticizes the conclusions of IAEA's latest report on the Fukushima disaster, calling the claim that radioactive exposure is "unlikely" to result in increased thyroid cancer risk in children a political rhetoric rather than science:

    "The IAEA concludes that no discernible health consequences are expected as a result of the Fukushima disaster, but admits important uncertainties in both radiation dose and long-term effects. Nobody knows how much radiation citizens were exposed to in the immediate days following the disaster. If you don’t know the doses, then you can’t conclude there won’t be any consequences. To say otherwise is political rhetoric, not science," said Kendra Ulrich, senior global energy campaigner with Greenpeace Japan.

    "Even the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) has concluded that there is no safe level of radiation exposure. To intentionally subject nuclear victims to raised radiation levels is unjustified, particularly when we have the tragic reminder of Chernobyl where we saw increased rates of cancers more than five years after the crisis."

    "The IAEA report actively supports the Abe government’s and the global nuclear industry’s agenda to make it appear that things can return to normal after a nuclear disaster. But there is nothing normal about the lifestyle and exposure rates that the victims are being asked to return to. What is clear is that the Japanese government has utterly failed to learn the lessons of the Fukushima nuclear accident, as is shown by the NRA ignoring outstanding safety issues in order to allow the restart of the Sendai nuclear reactor," said Ulrich, in reference to page 3 of the IAEA report.

    The Japanese government is systematically lifting evacuation orders in progressively more contaminated areas, attempting to increase the public’s tolerance for what is an acceptable limit of radiation to which the Fukushima victims are exposed.

    Asahi Shimbun meanwhile reports that a former clean-up worker is suing TEPCO, blaming exposure to radioactive debris for his cancer:

    A 57-year-old man is suing Tokyo Electric Power Co. and a contractor on grounds he developed multiple cancers from radiation exposure while performing cleanup work around the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

    The lawsuit filed in the Sapporo District Court on Sept. 1 is seeking 65 million yen ($541,666) in damages.

    According to the man's lawyers, it is the nation’s first lawsuit to assert a correlation between the onset of cancer and radiation exposure stemming from work to contain the nuclear crisis that unfolded at the plant in March 2011 after the earthquake and tsunami disaster.

    The lawsuit also names construction company Taisei Corp., which was contracted by the utility to help with the cleanup in which the plaintiff was involved, as well as other parties.

    The man was involved in removing debris near the plant for about four months from July 2011, according to court documents.

    Alarmingly, Asahi Shimbun also reports that fisherman operating in waters close to the Fukushima plant formally approved TEPCO's plan Co. to discharge radioactive groundwater into the ocean after "decontamination treatment" (sic).

  24. Fukushima evacuees slow to return

    Gee, I can't imagine why. From Asahi Shimbun, Spet. 5:

    NARAHA, Fukushima Prefecture–Authorities lifted an evacuation order for 7,400 residents of this small town close to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Sept. 5, but very few homeowners have indicated they plan to return anytime soon.

    Most of Naraha is located within the 20-kilometer-radius evacuation zone surrounding the stricken plant. Even though the evacuation order was lifted at midnight for the entire town, there are lingering fears of radiation contamination and concerns over a lack of essentials that would allow residents to pick up the threads of their former lives.

    Of the seven Fukushima municipalities where all residents were ordered to evacuate after the triple meltdown triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, Naraha is the first one to have the evacuation order removed.

  25. Study: children’s cancer linked to Fukushima radiation

    An important, insufficiently noted story from AP, Oct. 8:

    TOKYO — A new study says children living near the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer at a rate 20 to 50 times that of children elsewhere, a difference the authors contend undermines the government's position that more cases have been discovered in the area only because of stringent monitoring.

    Most of the 370,000 children in Fukushima prefecture have been given ultrasound checkups since the March 2011 meltdowns… The most recent statistics, released in August, show that thyroid cancer is suspected or confirmed in 137 of those children, a number that rose by 25 from a year earlier. Elsewhere, the disease occurs in only about one or two of every million children per year by some estimates.

    "This is more than expected and emerging faster than expected," lead author Toshihide Tsuda told The Associated Press during a visit to Tokyo. "This is 20 times to 50 times what would be normally expected."

    The study was released online this week and is being published in the November issue of Epidemiology, produced by the Herndon, Virginia-based International Society for Environmental Epidemiology. The data comes from tests overseen by Fukushima Medical University.

    Making sense of the relationship between radiation and cancer is precarious: It's scientifically impossible to link an individual cancer case to radiation. Looking harder with routine check-ups, like the one in Fukushima, leads to quicker discovery of tumors, inflating the tallies in a so-called "screening effect."

    Right after the disaster, the lead doctor brought in to Fukushima, Shunichi Yamashita, repeatedly ruled out the possibility of radiation-induced illnesses. The thyroid checks were being ordered just to play it safe, according to the government.

    But Tsuda, a professor at Okayama University, said the latest results from the ultrasound checkups, which continue to be conducted, raise doubts about the government's view.

    Thyroid cancer among children is one sickness the medical world has definitively linked to radiation after the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe. If treated, it is rarely fatal, and early detection is a plus, but patients are on medication for the rest of their lives.

    Scientists are divided on Tsuda's conclusions.

    In the same Epidemiology issue, Scott Davis, professor at the Department of Epidemiology in the Seattle-based School of Public Health, said the key limitation of Tsuda's study is the lack of individual-level data to estimate actual radiation doses.

    Davis agreed with the findings of the World Health Organization and UNSCEAR, or the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, both of which have carried out reviews on Fukushima and predicted cancer rates will remain stable, with no rises being discernable as radiation-caused.

    David J. Brenner, professor of radiation biophysics at Columbia University Medical Center, took a different view. While he agreed individual estimates on radiation doses are needed, he said in a telephone interview that the higher thyroid cancer rate in Fukushima is "not due to screening. It's real."

    Conclusions about any connection between Fukushima radiation and cancer will help determine compensation and other policies. Many people who live in areas deemed safe by the government have fled fearing sickness, especially for their children.

    An area extending about 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the nuclear plant has been declared an exclusion zone. The borders are constantly being remapped as cleanup of radiated debris and soil continues in an effort to bring as many people back as possible. Decommissioning the plant is expected to take decades.

    Noriko Matsumoto, 53, who used to work as a nurse in Koriyama, Fukushima, outside the no-go zone, fled to Tokyo with her then-11-year-old daughter a few months after the disaster. She had initially shrugged off the fears but got worried when her daughter started getting nosebleeds and rashes.

    "My daughter has the right to live free of radiation," she said. "We can never be sure about blaming radiation. But I personally feel radiation is behind sicknesses."

    Kudos to AP for actually deigning to quote someone with a real stake in the matter. Other than career advancement and access to research grants.

  26. First worker cancer linked to Fukushima

    Japan's Health Ministry acknowledged that a worker involved in the post-disaster clean-up at the Fukushima nuclear plant has developed cancer. Officials say the man will be entitled to compensation for work-related illness—an implicit recognition that his leukemia could be a result of his work at the plant. In response to the news, TEPCO's shares fell 4.5% to 832 yen on the Tokyo stock exchange. (Bloomberg, BBC News)

  27. Fukushima thyroid cancers jump —again

    Asahi Shimbun reports Dec. 1: "Eleven people in Fukushima Prefecture aged 18 or younger at the time of the 2011 triple meltdown were recently diagnosed with thyroid cancer, bringing the number of confirmed cases to 115 since the accident…" Hokuto Hoshi, who "chairs a panel" with the prefectural survey, is reassuringly quoted telling us: "It is unlikely that radiation is responsible for the recently reported thyroid cancer cases…" But—once again—we are not told how statistically divergent this is from the norm, nor offered an alternative explanation…

  28. TEPCO executives charged in Fukushima disaster

    Three former TEPCO executives have been formally charged for alleged negligence in the Fukushima disaster. Tsunehisa Katsumata, TEPCO chairman at the time of the disaster, was indicted along with two other executives. The three, charged with professional negligence, were not arrested. (AP, Feb. 28)

  29. Japanese court halts reactor re-start

    From Japan Times, March 9:

    In a surprise ruling that is likely to delay efforts to restart nuclear power generation nationwide, the Otsu District Court on Wednesday issued a provisional injunction ordering Kansai Electric Power Co. to shut down its No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at its Takahama facility in Fukui Prefecture.

    While Kepco is expected to appeal the ruling, company officials said at a news conference that was hastily called after the decision that they would begin operations to shut down the No. 3 reactor on Thursday morning, and expected to complete the process by the evening.

    The No. 3 reactor was restarted in January, and the No. 4, which had been scheduled to restart last month, was delayed due to technical problems.

    "There are doubts remaining about both the tsunami response and the evacuation plan," the ruling said.

    The Otsu ruling comes just two days before the fifth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the resulting tsunami and triple meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

  30. Fukushima’s ground zero: No place for man or robot

    That's the headline of a very sobering March 9 Reuters story, on frustrated efforts of Japanese authorities to contain the ongoing Fukushima disaster. Here's the lede:

    The robots sent in to find highly radioactive fuel at Fukushima's nuclear reactors have “died”; a subterranean "ice wall" around the crippled plant meant to stop groundwater from becoming contaminated has yet to be finished. And authorities still don’t how to dispose of highly radioactive water stored in an ever mounting number of tanks around the site.

    Grim details follow. Please tell us again how nuclear power is safe…

  31. Japan court rejects suit seeking to enjoin restart of reactors

    The Fukuoka High Court on April 6 rejected an appeal filed by citizens of Japan seeking to stop the operation of the only two functining nuclear reactors in the country. The suit was originally raised by 12 residents in the Kagoshima District Court in April 2015. The decision upholds the ruling from last year. The No. 1 and No. 2 reactors at the Sendai nuclear power plant were restarted in August and October 2015. The Fukuoka High Court emphasized that reactors at the Sendai plant adhere to more stringent safety measures enacted following the Fukushima disaster in 2011. The reactors in question are the first to be restarted following the adoption of new standards by the Nuclear Regulation Authority. In rejecting the challenge, president judge Tomoichiro Nishikawa stated there is "no concrete risk that the plaintiffs and others would suffer serious damage." The plaintiffs may be able to seek appellate review with Japan's supreme court. (Jurist)

  32. Radioactive wild boars rampaging around Fukushima nuclear site

    We didn't make the headline up, we swear. From The Independent, April 7:

    Radioactive boars are running wild and breeding uncontrollably in the northern region of Japan contaminated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

    The animals have been devastating local agriculture and eating toxic, nuclear-contaminated food from around the accident site.

    Mass graves and incinerators have been unable to cope with the quantity of boar corpses, shot by local hunters.

    A quarantine zone near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant where a 2011 meltdown leaked radioactive material into the surrounding countryside has been uninhabited by humans since the disaster.

    However, boars remained in the area, unchecked by humans. Their precise number is unknown, but since 2014, the number of boars hunted has increased from 3,000 to 13,000, The Times reported.

    The damage to local farms beyond the quarantine zone caused by the boars has correspondingly increased, amounting to ¥98 million (£620,000) since the accident.

    The animals are now being killed faster than they can be buried.

    Three mass graves, big enough for 600 boars each, are almost full in the city of Nihonmatsu, 35 miles from the nuclear plant. There is no more public land on which further mass graves can be dug…

    In desperation, the authorities are resorting to using incinerators to get rid of the corpses, although it has been difficult to find the workers to chop up the remains into pieces small enough to feed into the furnaces.

    In the city of Soma, a purpose-built incinerator has been developed, complete with filters to absorb any radioactive material released by its cremations. However, even this £1million operation can only dispose of three boars a day.

  33. Japan considers dumping radioactive water at sea

    From the UK Express, April 13:

    Officials are becoming increasingly concerned by the huge levels of irradiated water building up at the Fukushima nuclear facility which needs to be disposed with.

    Currently thousands of tanks are being used to hold the water, which contains a nuclear material known as Tritium which has been linked to cancer.

    But scientists say they are fast running out of space, with some 300 tons needing to be pumped into the plant every day just to keep its reactors cool…

    But there are now calls for the matter to be released into the Pacific Ocean, with Japanese politicians set to vote on the matter.

    Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, favours that option. He previously claimed what will be released from Fukishima will be below the global standard for tritium in water…

    But Japan's fisheries industry is staunchly opposed to this plan, claiming releasing the radioactive water into the sea could devastate the industry.

    Robert Daguillard, a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, also warned against the dangers of releasing the toxic water.

    He said: "Any exposure to tritium radiation could pose some health risk. This risk increases with prolonged exposure, and health risks include increased occurrence of cancer."

    Yeah, we know… The Express. But it happens to be accurate. See more at AP

  34. Earthquake near Fukushima…

    OK, this is very sloppy reportage—it was the earthquake and tsunami that killed 15,000 in March 2011, not the nuclear disaster. But this is still very unnerving news, given the huge amounts of radioactive water being held at Fukushima. From The Mirror, April 20:

    Japan faces fresh earthquake panic as 6.1 magnitude tremor hits coast near Fukushima nuclear plant

    Japan was plunged into fresh panic today as a 6.1 magnitude tremor hit the northern coast – the third major earthquake within a week.

    The tremors struck near the northern island on Honshu around 60 miles southeast on Sendai.

    To the dismay of rattled survivors, the latest quake happened close to the site of the Fukushima nuclear disaster – which saw 15,000 killed in March 2011.

    No tsunami warnings have been issued on this occasion.

    It comes after at least 48 people were killed when two cataclysmic earthquakes ripped through the island of Kyushu—leaving houses crumbled and survivors in shock.

    Meanwhile, The Telegraph reports that Jaopan's Nuclear Regulation Authority is refusing popular demands that the Sendai plant (the only one cow functioning in the country) be shut down in response to the earthquakes.

  35. More counterproductive Fukushima alarmism

    Once again, the click-bait conspiranoids at YourNewsWire (who we have had to call out before) abet the nuclear industry by making its critics look like unserious wingnuts. The completely inaccurate headline reads: "Dead Dolphins In Fukushima Found Stranded With White Radiated Lungs." Except if you read the actual text, or go to a credible source like Japan Times, it turns out the 150 dolphins washed up on the beach not in Fukushima but Ibaraki prefecture which is down the coast (see map), and the notion that the lungs were irradiated is entirely conjectural. A report on ENE News says the dolphins are believed to have died from a disease called ischaemia which turns lung tissue white and "has been linked to radiation exposure…under certain conditions." (Note guarded language.) No, nothing indicates the lungs were turned white from radiation, or were radioactive.

    Is this worrisome and worthy of further investigation? Absolutely. Is YourNewsWire helping by spreading click-bait bullshit that is easily refuted? Absolutely not.

    The world's dolphins are in a perilous state due to a variety of factors. Fukushima may be a factor in the Ibaraki incident—or it may not. In any case, YourNewsWire is engaging in mere unscrupulous dolphin-exploitation. There is a difference between raising the alarm and being alarmist. One helps. The other hurts.

  36. Another reactor decomissioned in Japan

    Shikoku Electric Power Co. this week decommissioned its nearly 40-year old Ikata nuclear reactor in western Japan's Ehime prefecture, making it the sixth unit to be scrapped under stricter safety regulations introduced after the 2011 Fukushima disaste. (Kyodo, May 10)

  37. Japan green-lights reuse of radioactive soil for public works

    From Mainichi Japan, July 1:

    The Ministry of the Environment formally decided on June 30 to allow limited use of radioactively contaminated soil in public works projects, but sidestepped estimates from a closed-door meeting that the soil may have to be monitored for up to 170 years.

    The ministry decided that soil could be reused for embankments as long as the radioactivity of cesium it contained did not exceed 8,000 becquerels per kilogram. Under the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors, contaminated soil can be used freely if the level of radioactivity is 100 becquerels per kilogram or less.

    It earlier emerged that the ministry calculated in a closed-door meeting that some soil would have to be monitored for 170 years — well beyond the life of embankments. However, in its basic policy the ministry simply stated, "Safety and administration methods will be examined during verification processes in the future."

    It is expected that up to around 22 million cubic meters of waste contaminated with radioactive material from the Fukushima nuclear disaster will end up piled up at an interim storage facility straddling the border between the Fukushima Prefecture towns of Okuma and Futaba. The central government plans to dispose of the waste for good outside the prefecture by March 2045, but hopes to reuse as much of it as possible to reduce the amount.

    Maddening that in the face of this, new nuclear plants are still coming on line. The new reactor at Watts Bar, Tenn., has just gone critical—the first new reactor in the US since another unit at the plant went on line in 1996. (WaPo, June 17) In a little good news, Diablo Canyon—California's last functioning nuclear plant—is to close in 2025, Pacific Gas & Electric announced. It is ostensibly to be replaced by greenhouse-gas-free renewable energy, efficiency and energy storage resources. (SFGate, EcoWatch, June 21) Of course that means another nine years of tempting fate. And unless the fuel ponds are emptied, the site will remain radioactive…

  38. Fukushima ‘ice wall’ not working

    From Japan Times, July 20:

    In first, Tepco admits ice wall can’t stop Fukushima No. 1 groundwater

    The much-hyped ice wall at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has failed to stop groundwater from flowing in and mixing with highly radioactive water inside the wrecked reactor buildings, operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. has admitted.

    Tepco officials also said at a meeting of the Nuclear Regulation Authority in Tokyo that it is not the utility’s ultimate goal to shut out groundwater with the ice wall, which has been built around the four damaged reactor buildings at the plant.

    Tuesday's announcement was apparently the first time the utility publicly said it is technically incapable of blocking off groundwater with the frozen wall.

  39. TEPCO: Stop chasing Pokémon in Fukushima radiation zone

    Tokyo Electric Power Co has issued an official warning to Pokemon Go players to stay out of the Fukushima exclusion zone, asked gaming app maker Niantic Inc. not place the virtual-reality monsters within the zone. No, we're not joking. See TechnoBuffalo.

  40. Fukushima ‘ice wall’ still not working

    From Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 19:

    Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s "frozen wall of earth" has failed to prevent groundwater from entering the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, and the utility needs a new plan to address the problem, experts said.

    An expert panel with the Nuclear Regulation Authority received a report from TEPCO on the current state of the project on Aug. 18. The experts said the ice wall project, almost in its fifth month, has shown little or no success.

    "The plan to block groundwater with a frozen wall of earth is failing," said panel member Yoshinori Kitsutaka, a professor of engineering at Tokyo Metropolitan University. "They need to come up with another solution, even if they keep going forward with the plan."

  41. Fukushima ‘ice wall’ melting

    From Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 2: 

    Rainfall from recent typhoons caused partial melting of the “ice wall” at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, allowing highly radioactive water to leak from around the damaged reactor buildings, the plant’s operator said Sept. 1.

    Tokyo Electric Power Co. said melting occurred at two sections of the ice wall, which is designed to divert groundwater away from the reactor buildings.

    TEPCO officials believe that during the latest typhoon, contaminated water from around the reactor buildings flowed through openings of the ice wall created by the deluge and reached downstream toward the sea.

    Sounds like it's working out just great, guys.

  42. Koizumi: Fukushima not ‘under control’

    From AFP, Sept. 7:

    Former Japanese leader Junichiro Koizumi on Wednesday accused current Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of lying when he claimed the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant was "under control."

    Abe made the assertion in 2013 at a meeting of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which voted to grant the Japanese capital the right to host the 2020 Summer Olympics.

    "That was a lie," Koizumi told reporters when asked about Abe's remark. "It is not under control."

    Koizumi, known for his populist flair, was a supporter of nuclear power while in office from 2001 to 2006.

    But he turned vocal opponent after the March 11, 2011 tsunami that sparked reactor meltdowns and crippled the Fukushima nuclear plant in the world's worst such accident since Chernobyl in 1986.

    Koizumi is also raising money for the hundreds of US sailors who say they got sick from radiation after taking part in relief operations for the 2011 disaster. (AP, Sept. 7)

  43. Fukushima radiation has reached US shores

    From USA Today, Dec. 9:

    SALEM, Ore. — For the first time, seaborne radiation from Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster has been detected on the West Coast of the United States.

    Cesium-134, the so-called fingerprint of Fukushima, was measured in seawater samples taken from Tillamook Bay and Gold Beach in Oregon, according to researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

    Because of its short half-life, cesium-134 can only have come from Fukushima.

    For the first time, cesium-134 has also been detected in a Canadian salmon, according to the Fukushima InFORM project, led by University of Victoria chemical oceanographer Jay Cullen.

    The Fukushima InFORM website makes clear that the radioactive "plume" reaching across the Pacific—about which there was a "fake news" scare a few years back—is in fact real. Of course, the fake news purveyors dodn't help matters any with their inaccurate pseudo-reportage.

  44. Highest Fukushima radiation reading since 3-11

    From Japan Times, Feb. 3:

    The radiation level in the containment vessel of reactor 2 at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant has reached a maximum of 530 sieverts per hour, the highest since the triple core meltdown in March 2011, Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. said.

    Tepco said on Thursday that the blazing radiation reading was taken near the entrance to the space just below the pressure vessel, which contains the reactor core.

    The high figure indicates that some of the melted fuel that escaped the pressure vessel is nearby.

    At 530 sieverts, a person could die from even brief exposure, highlighting the difficulties ahead as the government and Tepco grope their way toward dismantling all three reactors crippled by the March 2011 disaster.

  45. Radiation fries out Fukushima robot

    From AP, Feb. 9:

    A remote-controlled cleaning robot sent into a damaged reactor at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant had to be removed Thursday before it completed its work because of camera problems most likely caused by high radiation levels.

    It was the first time a robot has entered the chamber inside the Unit 2 reactor since a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami critically damaged the Fukushima Da-ichi nuclear plant.

    Tokyo Electric Power Co. said it was trying to inspect and clean a passage before another robot does a fuller examination to assess damage to the structure and its fuel. The second robot, known as the "scorpion," will also measure radiation and temperatures.

  46. Fukushima irradiated water to be dumped into sea

    From Japan Times, July 14:

    Despite the objections of local fishermen, the tritium-tainted water stored at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant will be dumped into the sea, a top official at Tokyo Electric says.

    “The decision has already been made,” Takashi Kawamura, chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., said in a recent interview with the media.

    Tritium typically poses little risk to human health unless ingested in high amounts, and ocean discharges of diluted volumes of tritium-tainted water are a routine part of nuclear power plant operations. This is because it is a byproduct of nuclear operations but cannot be filtered out of water.

    As of July 6, about 777,000 tons were stored in about 580 tanks at the Fukushima plant, which is quickly running out of space.

    Yeah, we'd say those 777,000 tons go rather beyond the supposedly safe routine discharges.

  47. Fukushima operator must pay evacuees

    The Kyoto District Court ruled March 15 that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, is liable to voluntary evacuees in the sum of $1 million for failing to take adequate measures to protect the plant from the tsunami. The plaintiffs sought compensation for two years of harm and psychological suffering due to abandoning their homes. All but one of the 174 plaintiffs evacuated the area voluntarily. The ruling only awarded compensation to 64 of the plaintiffs. (Jurist)

  48. Fukushima disaster: still not over

    I don't suppose anyone remembers Fukushima? After seven years, the disaster is still not contained. From Wired, April 27:

    The earthquake and tsunami that hammered Fukushima on March 11, 2011 triggered meltdowns in three of its six reactors. That left messes of intensely radioactive fuel somewhere loose in the reactor buildings—though no one knows exactly where. What is known, however, is that every day, as much as much as 150 tons of groundwater percolates into the reactors through cracks in their foundations, becoming contaminated with radioactive isotopes…

    To keep that water from leaking into the ground or the Pacific, Tepco, the giant utility that owns the plant, pumps it out and runs it through a massive filtering system housed in a building the size of a small aircraft hangar. Inside are arrays of seven-foot tall stainless steel tubes, filled with sand grain-like particles that perform a process called ion exchange. The particles grab on to ions of cesium, strontium, and other dangerous isotopes in the water, making room for them by spitting out sodium. The highly toxic sludge created as a byproduct is stored elsewhere on the site in thousands of sealed canisters…

    The filters, however, don’t catch tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. That’s a much trickier task. Cesium and strontium atoms go into solution with the water, like sugar in tea; but tritium can bond with oxygen just like regular hydrogen, rendering the water molecules themselves radioactive… The company claims to have developed a system that can do the job, but Tepco has so far balked at the multi-billion dollar cost.

    So for now, the tritiated water is pumped into a steadily growing collection of tanks. There are already hundreds of them, and Tepco has to start building a new one every four days.

    Tepco has at least reduced the water's inflow. As much as 400 tons per day was gushing in just a couple of years ago. In an effort to keep the groundwater from getting in, Tepco has built a network of pumps, and in 2016 installed an underground "ice wall"—a $300 million subterranean fence of 30-yard-long rods through which tons of sub-zero brine is pumped, freezing the surrounding earth. All of which helps, but hasn't solved the problem.

    Tritium is far less dangerous than cesium—it emits a weaker, lower-energy form of radiation. Still, all that tritiated water can’t just be stored indefinitely…

  49. Japan plans to flush radioactive Fukushima water into sea

    From The Telegraph, Oct. 16:

    Water that the Japanese government is planning to release into the Pacific Ocean from the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant contains radioactive material well above legally permitted levels, according to the plant’s operator and documents seen by The Telegraph.

    The government is running out of space to store contaminated water that has come into contact with fuel that escaped from three nuclear reactors after the plant was destroyed in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that struck north-east Japan.

    Its plan to release the approximately 1.09 million tons of water currently stored in 900 tanks into the Pacific has triggered a fierce backlash from local residents and environmental organisations, as well as groups in South Korea and Taiwan fearful that radioactivity from the second-worst nuclear disaster in history might wash up on their shores.

    Tokyo Electric Power Co., (Tepco) which runs the plant, has until recently claimed that the only significant contaminant in the water is safe levels of tritium, which can be found in small amounts in drinking water, but is dangerous in large amounts.

    The government has promised that all other radioactive material is being reduced to "non-detect" levels by the sophisticated Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) operated by the nuclear arm of Hitachi Ltd.

    Documents provided to The Telegraph by a source in the Japanese government suggest, however, that the ALPS has consistently failed to eliminate a cocktail of other radioactive elements, including iodine, ruthenium, rhodium, antimony, tellurium, cobalt and strontium.

    Hitachi declined to comment on the reports on the performance of its equipment. The Japanese government did not reply to multiple requests for comment.

  50. UN urges Japan to halt return of Fukushima evacuees

    A UN human rights expert on Oct. 25 urged the Japanese government to delay the relocation of evacuees from the Fukushima disaster back to their homes. "Many feel they are being forced to return to areas that are unsafe, including those with radiation levels above what the Government previously considered safe," said the expert.

    Following the disaster in March 2011, everybody within a 19-mile radius of the plant—470,000 people—were forcibly evacuated. Around 123,000 remain evacuated, but the Japanese government is encouraging these people to return home before 2021.

    The UN rights expert expressed concern over the safety of these returnees—especially the children. "The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Japan is a Party, contains a clear obligation on States to respect, protect and fulfill the right of the child to life," the statement said.

    Earlier this year, experts claimed that workers sent to clean up the site were "possibly exploited" by the government. "[The workers] are often exposed to a myriad of human rights abuses, forced to make the abhorrent choice between their health and income, and their plight is invisible to most consumers and policymakers with the power to change it," said the experts. (Jurist)

  51. ‘Too cheap to meter,’ eh?

    From Japan Today, Dec. 27:

    The state-backed Japan Atomic Energy Agency says it would need to spend about 1.9 trillion yen to close 79 facilities over 70 years, in its first such estimate.

    The total costs could increase further, as the agency said the estimated figure, which would be shouldered by taxpayers, excludes expenses for maintenance and replacing aging equipment.

    The JAEA plans to close more than half of the 79 facilities over the next 10 years due in part to the increased costs to operate them under stricter safety rules introduced after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis. The agency, which has led nuclear energy research in Japan with its predecessors since the 1950s, owns a total of 89 facilities.

    Of the estimated costs, the expense for closing the nation's first spent-fuel reprocessing plant in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, accounts for the largest chunk of 770 billion yen. It will cost 150 billion yen to decommission the trouble-plagued Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor.

    As for nuclear waste, the agency said about 100 kiloliters of high-level radioactive waste and up to 114,000 kl of low-level radioactive waste were estimated to have been produced but it has yet to decide on disposal locations.

    The Japanese government aims to restart nuclear power plants after a nationwide halt following the nuclear crisis, despite persistent concern over the safety of atomic power generation.

  52. Protest plan to dump Fukushima water into the ocean

    Greenpeace has slammed a plan by the Japanese government and an electric utility company to release into the ocean highly radioactive water from the tsunami-devastated Fukushima Daiichi power plant, saying in a new report the decision was "driven by short-term cost-cutting." An estimated 1.09 million tons of water are presently stored in more than 900 tanks at the plant, with up to 4,000 tons added every week. (SCMP, Jan. 22)

  53. Japanese government covered up radiation exposure?

    ]From Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 22:

    An 11-year-old girl who evacuated from the town of Futaba after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster was likely exposed to radiation levels near the government-set standard, despite assurances that no children were exposed to such high doses.

    The girl is said to have been exposed to a radiation dose of about 100 millisieverts, the threshold for enhanced risk of cancer…

    The previously undisclosed case, which was reported to The National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) after the disaster, contradicts the central government's statement that "there has been no confirmed cases of children exposed to radiation doses of 100 millisieverts or higher."

    According to the NIRS, the case was not disclosed at the time because the institute considered that the estimate was based on information…using a simple monitoring instrument and that the figures were not calculated precisely…

    On around March 17, 2011, a radiological technician of the Fukushima prefectural government office engaged in radiation check-up tests on residents detected 50,000 to 70,000 cpm of radiation when checking the girl's thyroid gland using a radiation monitoring device at a gym in Koriyama…

    Cpm, or counts per minute, is a measurement of radiation emitted per minute from radioactive substances detected by such a device.

    No documents regarding the case remain, but the figures were conveyed to a team from Tokushima University that traveled to the site to provide support for the tests.

    The team estimated that the radiation level in the girl's thyroid gland was likely a dozen kilobecquerels on the assumption that all the radioactive substances were absorbed by her thyroid gland and reported the estimated figures to the NIRS.

    A becquerel is a measurement unit that indicates the ability of a radioactive material to emit radiation, or the intensity of radioactivity. A sievert, in contrast, is a unit that focuses on the effects of radiation on human health.

    The NIRS shared the information on the case among its staff members and left memos indicating the dose that the girl may have been exposed to a radiation dose of around 100 millisieverts…

    In March 2011, a government survey of 1,080 children in the three municipalities of Iwaki, Kawamata and Iitate in Fukushima Prefecture found a maximum level of 35 millisieverts..

  54. First contact made with melted nuclear fuel at Fukushima

    A probe touched melted nuclear fuel debris in a destroyed reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, a long-awaited milestone in the battle toward decommissioning, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Feb. 13. (Asahi Shimbun)

  55. Court orders damages for Fukushima survivors

    The Sendai High Court has ordered the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, to pay 1 billion yen ($9.5 million) in damages to victims of the 2011 disaster.

    Affirming the decision and rationale of a Fukushima district court, the Sendai High Court made its decision Sept. 30 based on the foreseeability of a major tsunami, countermeasures that could have been implemented, and the sufficiency of the government’s compensation levels. To refute a government argument that the tsunami and nuclear disaster were not foreseeable, the high court pointed to a 2002 earthquake assessment stating a wave higher than 15 meters was possible. It further determined that the nuclear disaster could have been prevented if the government had ordered the implementation of additional safety measures after the report came out.

    The plaintiffs sought 28 billion yen for 3,550 people. The number was calculated based on 50,000 yen monthly payments per plaintiff until the radiation levels around their homes returned to pre-crisis levels. Both the amount owed in damages and the number of plaintiffs have risen since a lower court issued its ruling in October 2017. TEPCO insists that since the original payments met government guidelines, they are not required to pay more. The high court rejected this argument, and found the government’s guidelines insufficient.

    This is the first case in which a high court has acknowledged the government’s responsibility for the disaster. Similar lawsuits remain pending in Japanese courts. (Jurist)

  56. Japan to release contaminated Fukushima water into sea

    Japan’s government has reportedly decided to release more than 1 million tons of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the sea, setting it on a collision course with local fishermen who say the move will destroy their industry.

    Media reports said work to release the water, which is being stored in more than 1,000 tanks, would begin in 2022 at the earliest and would take decades to complete.

    An official decision could come by the end of the month, the Kyodo news agency said, ending years of debate over what to do with the water. (The Guardian)

  57. Water levels at Fukushima reactor containers falling after quake

    Cooling water levels have fallen in two reactors at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant since a powerful earthquake hit the area last weekend, indicating possible additional damage, TEPCO said Feb. 19. The water levels are continuing to drop by several centimeters each day, The leaked water is believed to have remained inside the reactor buildings and there is no sign of any outside impact, TEPCO said. The company added that the injection of water into the reactors, as well as operations to cool melted nuclear fuel debris at the bottom of the containment vessels, are continuing. (AP, Japan Times)

  58. Japan court blocks reopening of nuclear plant

    The Mito District Court ruled March 18 that Japan Atomic Power Company (JAPC) cannot reactivate its idled Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Ibaraki Prefecture. The No. 2 unit has been idled since the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, which also heavily damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Complex.

    The Tokai station originally contained two reactors, the first of which has been dismantled. However, JAPC sought to continue operation of No. 2, arguing that updated safety procedures and facilities for managing serious accidents had been developed. No. 2 was built in 1978 and is approaching its 40-year operational lifespan. However, aged nuclear reactors in Japan can be granted a single extension of up to 20 additional years, pending regulatory approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Authority.

    Among the safety upgrades that JAPC planned to install were extra tsunami protection for power supplies and water pumps, newly constructed seawalls, and diversified power and water sources to protect reactor safety in the event of a power failure.

    While JAPC argued that Tokai No. 2 was safe, and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority had previously approved the reactor restart, the Mito court was not persuaded by the company’s assertions and ordered an injunction against reopening the plant, with Judge Eiko Maeda finding that JAPC’s evacuation planning “lacks safety.” JAPC has announced that they plan to appeal the decision to the Tokyo High Court. (Jurist)

    The Tokai plant was also shut down in the 2011 earthquake.

  59. Japan to release water from Fukushima nuclear plant into sea

    The Japanese government decided April 13 to release treated radioactive water from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean, having determined it poses no safety concerns despite opposition from local fishermen and neighboring countries.

    The decision ends years of discussions on how to dispose of water accumulating at the plant after a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered a triple meltdown in March 2011.

    Greenpeace Japan denounced the decision, saying in a statement that it “ignores human rights and international maritime law.” Kazue Suzuki, a climate and energy campaigner for the organization, said that the Japanese government had “discounted the radiation risks.” (Kyodo News, NYT)

    Just a week earlier, the president of Tokyo Electric Power Co apologized for a string of misconduct at its nuclear power plant in Niigata prefecture that revealed dangerous holes in the company’s anti-terrorism security measures.

    “I am deeply sorry about causing great anxiety and distrust among local residents and the public,” Tomoaki Kobayakawa said at a news conference.

    TEPCO failed to notice malfunctioning of equipment designed to detect unauthorized entry to controlled-access areas at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant and left the situation uncorrected at multiple sites for more than 30 days since March last year. (Asahi Shimbun)

  60. Japanese government drops kawaii tritium mascot

    Only in Japan. From Kyodo, April 15:

    A mascot launched by the Japanese government to coincide with its decision to release treated water from the inactive Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant into the ocean has become the target of criticism by local residents, with many saying it is out of sync with the reality of the situation.

    The Reconstruction Agency on Tuesday released a flyer and video on its website featuring the radioactive substance tritium as a cute character to dispel concerns about the government’s decision, but they were removed Wednesday night following the criticism.

  61. Japan’s nuclear industry mired in multiple crises

    Last week, Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) effectively banned TEPCO from restarting its Kashiwazaki plant—which is one of the largest nuclear power facilities in the world—on the Sea of Japan coast after the complex was found to be riddled with major security flaws that could make it a target for terrorists.

    Late last year, the Osaka District Court ruled that two reactors at its Ohi nuclear plant in Fukui were vulnerable to a major earthquake despite having been approved to restart by the NRA.

    The Genkai power plant in Saga has also suffered a host of problems since it was reactivated in March of 2018, including steam leaks and malfunctioning cooling pumps. Last month, a local district court rejected a lawsuit by residents to halt operation.

    In his new book How Nuclear Energy Will Destroy The Nation, veteran nucklear engineer Toshio Kimura asserts  that TEPCO’s persistent cover-ups have resulted in nuclear safety regulations that are fundamentally flawed. In response to the new controversy at Kashiwazaki, he said: “It’s just another example of this company, covering up misdeeds, as they always do. It can only be said that [TEPCO] is not qualified in any way to be running a nuclear power plant.”

    In 2005, after retiring from TEPCO, Kimura wrote in an article that “if the [Fukushima] plant is hit by a tsunami, the pumps are to use sea water as a coolant and emergency power will probably be lost. And as a result, there will be a meltdown of the reactor core.” His prediction came true in 2011. (Daily Beast)

  62. South Korea fisheries sue Japan over radioactive water release

    A group of South Korean fisheries filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government over plans to release radioactive wastewater from the decommissioned Fukushima nuclear power plant into the ocean. (Jurist)

  63. Radioactive cesium found in Fukushima honey

    The radioactive chemical cesium has been found in honey collected near Fukushima in an amount larger than Japan’s national health standard, raising concerns about food safety in and around the city.

    The honey manufactured by a local beekeeping cooperative in Namie township of Fukushima prefecture contained from 130 to 160 becquerels (bq) of the chemical per kilogram, according to a July 23 report from Japan’s daily news outlet Yomiuri Shimbun. The amount exceeded the country’s national standard of 100 bq. (Korea Times)

  64. Taishan reactor shut down over damaged fuel rods

    A Chinese nuclear plant has shut down one of its reactors for maintenance after damage to fuel rods. China General Nuclear Power Group said it had shut Unit 1 at the Taishan plant in Guangdong province after “lengthy” talks with technicians, while insisting the situation “completely under control.”

    The move comes a month after the Chinese government acknowledged damage to fuel rods at the Taishan unit, but said it was a “common” problem, with no need for concern.

    In June CNN reported the US government was assessing a reported leak at the site.
    CNN said French energy firm EDF, which helps run the site, had warned the US government that China’s nuclear regulator had raised limits on permissible levels of radiation outside the plant to avoid shutting it down.

    EDF later said a problem with fuel rods had led to the build-up of gases, which had to be released into the atmosphere.

    Last week an EDF spokesperson told CNN the French company would shut the plant down if it could. The situation at Taishan was “not an emergency” but nevertheless a “serious situation,” the spokesperson added. (BBC News, July 30)

  65. Jellyfish attack nuclear power plant —again

    Scotland’s only working nuclear power plant at Torness shut down in an emergency procedure when jellyfish clogged the sea-water intake pipes at the plant. Without access to water coolant, a nuclear power plant risks overheating, with potentially disastrous results (as seen at Fukushima). The intake pipes can also be damaged, which disrupts power generation. And ocean life that gets sucked into a power plant’s intake pipes risks death.

    The threat these gelatinous, pulsating, umbrella-shaped marine animals pose to nuclear power plants is neither new nor unknown. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reported on this threat in 2015. (BAS, Oct. 28)

  66. Fukushima ‘ice wall’ still melting

    Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) will launch remedial works at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to strengthen an ice wall intended to halt the flow of groundwater after testing indicated partial melting. (Reuters)

  67. Fukushima survivors sue TEPCO over cancers

    Six young Japanese men and women will sue the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) over claims they developed thyroid cancer due to exposure to radiation after the Fukushima meltdown. The plaintiffs, now aged between 17 and 27, were living in the region at the time of the disaster. They are to file a class-action lawsuit seeking a total of 616 million yen ($5.4 million) in compensation. (AFP)

  68. Japan: high court orders damages for Fukushima victims

    Japan’s Supreme Court upheld an order for utility Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) to pay damages of 1.4 billion yen ($12 million) to about 3,700 people whose lives were devastated by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the first decision of its kind. The average payout of about 380,000 yen ($3,290) for each plaintiff covered three class-action lawsuits, among more than 30 against the utility. (Reuters)

  69. Fate of Fukushima nuclear reactor clean-up uncertain

    The government has set a “decommissioning” roadmap for the Fukushima nuclear power plant, aiming for completion in 29 years. The challenge of removing melted fuel from the reactors is so daunting that some experts now say that setting a completion target is impossible, especially as officials still don’t have any idea about where to store the waste.

    Nuclear Regulation Authority chairman Toyoshi Fuketa said recently that extra time would be needed to determine where and how the highly radioactive waste removed from the reactors should be stored. (AP)

  70. Japan court rules TEPCO execs liable for Fukushima meltdown

    A Tokyo District Court on July 13 found four former executives of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) responsible for operating the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant liable for its 2011 meltdown. The court ordered the four defendants to pay damages of around 13 trillion Yen (US$ 94 billion) to TEPCO shareholders for negligence and failure to exercise due care in preventing the disaster. (Jurist)

  71. TEPCO executives ‘not guilty’ in Fukushima disaster

    The Tokyo High Court on Jan. 18 upheld a not guilty criminal verdict by a lower court that cleared former TEPCO executives of negligence over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power station disaster. (Reuters)

    Japan is preparing release into the sea 1 million tons of treated but still radioactive wastewater stored in hundreds of tanks at Fukushima. The plan is being protested by local residents, and even foreign governments. The Pacific Island Forum on Jan. 18 expressedconcern in a public seminar called on the matter. China’s Foreign Ministry has similarly questioned the science behind the plan. (The Diplomat, Times, Jurist, Xinhua)

  72. IAEA approves release of Fukushima water into Pacific

    The International Atomic Energy Agency declared on July 4 that the Japanese government’s plan to release more than one million metric tons of “treated” radioactive water from the Fukushima nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean mets the agency’s safety standards. (NikkeiAsia)

  73. Koreans protest Japan radioactive water dumping plans​

    Following reports Japan will begin releasing radioactive water from the Fukushima site into the Pacific Ocean, hundreds of South Korean activists gathered on Aug. 12 in Seoul for a public protest. The demonstration was organized by activist group Korea Radiation Watch. WION reports that one organizer, Choi Kyoungsook, stated: “If it is discarded, radioactive substances contained in the contaminated water will eventually destroy the marine ecosystem… We are opposed…because we believe the sea is not just for the Japanese government, but for all of us and for mankind.” (Jurist)

  74. Japan begins releasing radioactive water into Pacific

    China announced Aug. 24 it was banning all seafood from Japan in response to Tokyo’s decision to begin releasing treated radioactive wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant, dramatically escalating an already tense feud between the two neighbors. (CNN)

  75. Protest at Japan embassy in South Korea over radwaste dumping

    South Korean police on Aug. 24 arrested a large number of protesters demonstrating outside the Japanese embassy against the Japanese government’s dumping of treated radioactive water into the ocean. (Jurist)

  76. Fukushima waste accumulates on land too

    A few miles from the Fukushima fence line, another radioactive contamination story continues to unfold 12 years after the meltdowns. Here, they are gathering bagged topsoil tainted with radioactive cesium. It was scraped off the surface all throughout the contaminated region. The cesium will persist in the soil for 300 years.

    So, on the land side, you got the bags. Toward the sea, you have got the tanks full of water. It’s a mess in both directions. (PBS NewsHour)

  77. Snafus and dilemmas mount at Fukushima disaster site

    I love the way the heds say “treated water” rather than RADIOACTIVE WATER! From NHK World, Aug. 10…

    Leaks found in hose to transfer Fukushima Daiichi treated water
    The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has found leaks in a hose used to transfer treated water. Tokyo Electric Power Company conducted a probe after higher-than-usual levels of radioactive material were detected in rainwater in the dike around a storage tank. TEPCO says the water that leaked remained inside the barrier.

    It says someone caused the cracks with a cutter blade while removing the packaging around the hose after it was delivered.

    Rain and groundwater mixes with water used to cool molten fuel at the plant. The accumulated water is treated to remove most radioactive substances, but still contains tritium.

    The Japanese government plans to dilute the treated water to reduce tritium levels to about one-seventh of the World Health Organization’s guidelines for drinking water quality before releasing it into the sea.

    And from Reuters, Aug. 24…

    More nuclear challenges await Japan after Fukushima water release
    Twelve years after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan has started to release treated radioactive water into the sea, a key step in the process of decommissioning the stricken plant, but much tougher tasks lie ahead, such as molten fuel removal…

    The 2011 accident spewed radiation into the air, which eventually contaminated the soil. Part of that tainted soil is stored at an interim site more than four times as big as New York’s Central Park.

    But the law requires the soil stored at the interim site, located next to the tsunami-wrecked power plant, to be moved out of Fukushima within 30 years from when it began operating in 2015.

    More than a quarter of that interval has elapsed with no clear sign the government is nearer to securing permanent storage, though the environment ministry says the earliest the search for specific locations will start is 2025.

  78. Japanese fishermen sue over Fukushima water discharge

    Some 150 fishermen from Fukushima prefecture filed a lawsuit on Sept. 8 against the Japanese government and TEPCO, asserting that the release of radioactive water from the nuclear site violates their right to fish. (Jurist)

  79. US GIs fed Fukushima fish

    The United States has started bulk buying Japanese seafood to supply its military there in response to China’s ban on such products imposed after Tokyo released treated water from its destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea. US ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel said Washington should also look more broadly into how it could help offset China’s ban that he said was part of its “economic wars.” China, which had been the biggest buyer of Japanese seafood, says its ban is due to food safety fears. (SCMP)

  80. Japan government held not liable for Fukushima nuclear disaster

    Tokyo’s High Court found the government of Japan not liable Dec. 26 for damages related to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and associated mass evacuations, leaving responsibility solely with plant operator the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO).

    The decision mirrors a previous ruling in 2022 which found that the government “was highly unlikely” to have been able to avert the disaster. Ultimately, the court held that more stringent regulatory actions would have been insufficient to prevent the disaster since the size, direction and scale of the tsunami exceeded estimations for such an event. (Jurist)

  81. TEPCO delays removal of melted nuclear fuel at Fukushima

    The operator of the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant said Feb. 1 it has given up on a plan to begin retrieving debris that contains melted nuclear fuel at the facility’s Unit 2 reactor by March, due to technical difficulties. TEPCO now aims to start the process by October .

    Retrieving the highly radioactive mixture of melted nuclear fuel and debris from the plant is considered one of the hardest tasks in the process of its decommissioning. The revised approach will use a new method of retrieval—using a telescopic tube first instead of a robotic arm, pending approval from the Nuclear Regulation Authority. (Japan Times)

  82. Radioactive water leaks at Fukushima

    An estimated 5,500 liters (5,5 cubic meters) of radioactive water leaked at Japan’s stricken Fukushima nuclear plant but no sign of contamination has been detected outside the facility, its operator said Feb. 8. TEPCO reported to the IAEA that water containing radioactive materials was found to have leaked from a caesium absorption tower at the plant. The water was assessed to have leaked from a valve left open during cleaning work at the absorption tower. (AFP, IAEA)