New fission detected at supposedly “cold” Fukushima reactor

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said Nov. 1 it had begun injecting water and boric acid into Reactor No. 2 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, after detecting signs of fission. The injection was ordered after analysis of gas samples from the reactor building indicated the presence of xenon 133 and xenon 135, byproducts of a nuclear reaction. “We cannot deny the possibility of a small nuclear fission reaction,” TEPCO spokesman Hiroki Kawamata said. The temperature in reactor No. 2 had been brought to below 100 degrees C, one of the conditions for the utility to declare “cold shutdown.” TEPCO and the government had said they were on track to bring the damaged reactors to cold shutdown by the end of the year. (AFP, Bloomberg, Nov. 2)

The Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Saga prefecture meanwhile became the first to win approval from a local government to resume operations since the Fukushima disaster. Only 10 of Japan’s 54 reactors are now generating electricity, a sharp reduction for an industry that supplied 30% of the country’s electricity. The shortfall in supply forced the TEPCO to tell consumer companies to slash energy use by 15% this summer. (NYT, Nov. 1)

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  1. Radioactive cesium found in Fukushima rice
    Japan’s Fukushima prefecture on Nov. 16 restricted rice shipments from Ohnami district after grain from the area was found to contain radioactive contamination. Ohnami, a district of Fukishima’s capital municipality, planted 42 hectares of rice this year, about 1.8 percent of Fukushima City’s total rice crop, or about 192 metric tons, according to the local government office. About 630 becquerels of cesium per kilogram were found in a rice sample—far above the government-mandated limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram of harvested rice. (WSJ’s Japan Real Time, Bloomberg, Nov. 16)