Tag Archives: Fukushima

11/11/2011 Mystery Radiation Detected 'Across Europe'

11/11/2011 Mystery Radiation Detected ‘Across Europe’ by Lee Ferran: The hunt is on for the source of low level radiation detected in the atmosphere “across Europe” over the past weeks, nuclear officials said today. Trace amounts of iodine-131, a type of radiation created during the operation of nuclear reactors or in the detonation of a nuclear weapon, were detected as early as three weeks ago by Austrian authorities and then two weeks ago by the Czech Republic’s State Office for Nuclear Safety. Today the International Atomic Energy Agency released a statement revealing similar detections had been made “in other locations across Europe.”

The IAEA said the current levels of iodine-131 are far too low to warrant a public health risk, but the agency still does not know the origin of the apparent leak and an official with the agency would not say where else it has been detected. Considering iodine-131 has a radioactive decay half-life of about eight days, continued detection means the leak occurred over a period of several days at least and is possibly ongoing.

The IAEA said it does not believe the radiation was left over from the nuclear disaster at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi plant in March and the Czech Republic’s State Office for Nuclear Safety said it was unlikely to have been caused by an incident at any nuclear plant’s core. A meltdown there, the Czech agency said, would have released several other radioactive isotopes in addition to iodine-131.

The IAEA has been unable to determine from which country the radiation is emanating, and both Czech and Austrian officials said it was unlikely their countries were the source. Austrian officials said in a statement that a study of the dispersal cloud indicated the radiation is most likely coming from somewhere in southeastern Europe.

In addition to nuclear plants, iodine-131 is used in many hospitals and by radiopharmacutical manufacturers as it can be used to help treat thyroid problems in small doses.

“Anywhere spent nuclear fuel is handled, there is a chance that… iodine-131 will escape into the environment,” the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says on its website.

Fukushima: First visit of journalists since evacuation + Amazing photos of damaged reactor buildings

Fukushima: First visit of journalists since evacuation + Amazing photos of damaged reactor buildings from Gordon Edwards <ccnr@web.ca>: Background: These new photos show extensive structural damage — to Units 3 and 4 in particular. All of this damage was self-inflicted by the reactors overheating and producing hydrogen gas which exploded with great force.  None of the visible damage was caused directly by the earthquake or the tsunami. The structural damage, core melting, spent fuel fires, and radioactive releases are all the result of a prolonged power blackout which prevented the heat from the irradiated fuel in the reactor cores and the spent fuel bays from being removed.  Similar events could occur in any commercial nuclear power plant if there were no electrical power for a period of days. Go to the following URL to see the photos.  A caption appears below each photograph. http://cryptome.org/eyeball/daiichi-111211/daiichi-111211.htm


10/14/2011 NY Times ASIA PACIFIC: Citizens’ Testing Finds 20 Hot Spots Around Tokyo

Toshiyuki Hattori, who runs a sewage plant in Tokyo, surrounded by sacks of radioactive sludge. By HIROKO TABUCHI 10/14/2011 New York Times: Citizens’ Testing Finds 20 Hot Spots Around Tokyo: TOKYO — Takeo Hayashida signed on with a citizens’ group to test for radiation near his son’s baseball field in Tokyo after government officials told him they had no plans to check for fallout from the devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Like Japan’s central government, local officials said there was nothing to fear in the capital, 160 miles from the disaster zone.

Then came the test result: the level of radioactive cesium in a patch of dirt just yards from where his 11-year-old son, Koshiro, played baseball was equal to those in some contaminated areas around Chernobyl.

The patch of ground was one of more than 20 spots in and around the nation’s capital that the citizens’ group, and the respected nuclear research center they worked with, found were contaminated with potentially harmful levels of radioactive cesium.

It has been clear since the early days of the nuclear accident, the world’s second worst after Chernobyl, that that the vagaries of wind and rain had scattered worrisome amounts of radioactive materials in unexpected patterns far outside the evacuation zone 12 miles around the stricken plant. But reports that substantial amounts of cesium had accumulated as far away as Tokyo have raised new concerns about how far the contamination had spread, possibly settling in areas where the government has not even considered looking.

The government’s failure to act quickly, a growing chorus of scientists say, may be exposing many more people than originally believed to potentially harmful radiation. It is also part of a pattern: Japan’s leaders have continually insisted that the fallout from Fukushima will not spread far, or pose a health threat to residents, or contaminate the food chain. And officials have repeatedly been proved wrong by independent experts and citizens’ groups that conduct testing on their own.

“Radioactive substances are entering people’s bodies from the air, from the food. It’s everywhere,” said Kiyoshi Toda, a radiation expert at Nagasaki University’s faculty of environmental studies and a medical doctor. “But the government doesn’t even try to inform the public how much radiation they’re exposed to.”

The reports of hot spots do not indicate how widespread contamination is in the capital; more sampling would be needed to determine that. But they raise the prospect that people living near concentrated amounts of cesium are being exposed to levels of radiation above accepted international standards meant to protect people from cancer and other illnesses.

Japanese nuclear experts and activists have begun agitating for more comprehensive testing in Tokyo and elsewhere, and a cleanup if necessary. Robert Alvarez, a nuclear expert and a former special assistant to the United States secretary of energy, echoed those calls, saying the citizens’ groups’ measurements “raise major and unprecedented concerns about the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.”

The government has not ignored citizens’ pleas entirely; it recently completed aerial testing in eastern Japan, including Tokyo. But several experts and activists say the tests are unlikely to be sensitive enough to be useful in finding micro hot spots such as those found by the citizens’ group.

Kaoru Noguchi, head of Tokyo’s health and safety section, however, argues that the testing already done is sufficient. Because Tokyo is so developed, she says, radioactive material was much more likely to have fallen on concrete, then washed away. She also said exposure was likely to be limited.

“Nobody stands in one spot all day,” she said. “And nobody eats dirt.”

Tokyo residents knew soon after the March 11 accident, when a tsunami knocked out the crucial cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, that they were being exposed to radioactive materials. Researchers detected a spike in radiation levels on March 15. Then as rain drizzled down on the evening of March 21, radioactive material again fell on the city.

In the following week, however, radioactivity in the air and water dropped rapidly. Most in the city put aside their jitters, some openly scornful of those — mostly foreigners — who had fled Tokyo in the early days of the disaster.

But not everyone was convinced. Some Tokyo residents bought dosimeters. The Tokyo citizens’ group, the Radiation Defense Project, which grew out of a Facebook discussion page, decided to be more proactive. In consultation with the Yokohama-based Isotope Research Institute, members collected soil samples from near their own homes and submitted them for testing.

Some of the results were shocking: the sample that Mr. Hayashida collected under shrubs near his neighborhood baseball field in the Edogawa ward measured nearly 138,000 becquerels per square meter of radioactive cesium 137, which can damage cells and lead to an increased risk of cancer.

Of the 132 areas tested, 22 were above 37,000 becquerels per square meter, the level at which zones were considered contaminated at Chernobyl.

Edwin Lyman, a physicist at the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, said most residents near Chernobyl were undoubtedly much worse off, surrounded by widespread contamination rather than isolated hot spots. But he said the 37,000 figure remained a good reference point for mandatory cleanup because regular exposure to such contamination could result in a dosage of more than one millisievert per year, the maximum recommended for the public by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.

The most contaminated spot in the Radiation Defense survey, near a church, was well above the level of the 1.5 million becquerels per square meter that required mandatory resettlement at Chernobyl. The level is so much higher than other results in the study that it raises the possibility of testing error, but micro hot spots are not unheard of after nuclear disasters.

Japan’s relatively tame mainstream media, which is more likely to report on government pronouncements than grass-roots movements, mainly ignored the citizens’ group’s findings.

“Everybody just wants to believe that this is Fukushima’s problem,” said Kota Kinoshita, one of the group’s leaders and a former television journalist. “But if the government is not serious about finding out, how can we trust them?”

Hideo Yamazaki, an expert in environmental analysis at Kinki University in western Japan, did his own survey of the city and said he, too, discovered high levels in the area where the baseball field is located.

“These results are highly localized, so there is no cause for panic,” he said. “Still, there are steps the government could be taking, like decontaminating the highest spots.”

Since then, there have been other suggestions that hot spots were more widespread than originally imagined.

Last month, a local government in a Tokyo ward found a pile of composted leaves at a school that measured 849 becquerels per kilogram of cesium 137, over two times Japan’s legally permissible level for compost.

And on Wednesday, civilians who tested the roof of an apartment building in the nearby city of Yokohama — farther from Fukushima than Tokyo — found high quantities of radioactive strontium. (There was also one false alarm this week when sky-high readings were reported in the Setagaya ward in Tokyo; the government later said they were probably caused by bottles of radium, once widely used to make paint.)

The government’s own aerial testing showed that although almost all of Tokyo had relatively little contamination, two areas showed elevated readings. One was in a mountainous area at the western edge of the Tokyo metropolitan region, and the other was over three wards of the city — including the one where the baseball field is situated.

The metropolitan government said it had started preparations to begin monitoring food products from the nearby mountains, but acknowledged that food had been shipped from that area for months.

Mr. Hayashida, who discovered the high level at the baseball field, said that he was not waiting any longer for government assurances. He moved his family to Okayama, about 370 miles to the southwest.

“Perhaps we could have stayed in Tokyo with no problems,” he said. “But I choose a future with no radiation fears.”

Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting from Washington, and Kantaro Suzuki from Tokyo.

10/8/2011 The Economist: Radiation in Japan Hot spots and blind spots – The mounting human costs of Japan’s nuclear disaster

10/8/2011 The Economist: Radiation in Japan Hot spots and blind spots – The mounting human costs of Japan’s nuclear disaster: CREST the hill into the village of Iitate, and the reading on a radiation dosimeter surges eightfold—even with the car windows shut. “Don’t worry, I’ve been coming here for months and I’m still alive,” chuckles Chohei Sato, chief of the village council, as he rolls down the window and inhales cheerfully. He pulls off the road, gets out of the car and buries the dosimeter in the grass. The reading doubles again.

Iitate is located 45km (28 miles) from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant hit by a tsunami on March 11th this year. In the mountains above the town, the forests are turning the colour of autumn. But their beauty is deceptive. Every time a gust of wind blows, Mr Sato says it shakes invisible particles of radioactive caesium off the trees and showers them over the village. Radiation levels in the hills are so high that villagers dare not go near them. Mr Sato cannot bury his father’s bones, which he keeps in an urn in his abandoned farmhouse, because of the dangers of going up the hill to the graveyard.

Iitate had the misfortune to be caught by a wind that carried radioactive particles (including plutonium) much farther than anybody initially expected after the nuclear disaster. Almost all the 6,000 residents have been evacuated, albeit belatedly, because it took the government months to decide that some villages outside a 30km radius of the plant warranted special attention. Now it offers an extreme example of how difficult it will be to recover from the disaster.

That is mainly because of the enormous spread of radiation. Recently the government said it needed to clear about 2,419 square kilometres of contaminated soil—an area larger than greater Tokyo—that received an annual radiation dose of at least five millisieverts, or over 0.5 microsieverts an hour. That covered an area far beyond the official 30km restriction zone (see map). Besides pressure- hosing urban areas, this would involve removing about 5cm of topsoil from local farms as well as all the dead leaves in caesium-laden forests.

However, Iitate’s experience suggests the government may be underestimating the task. Villagers have removed 5cm of topsoil from one patch of land, but because radioactive particles continue to blow from the surrounding trees, the level of radiation remains high—about one microsievert an hour—even if lower than in nearby areas. Without cutting down the forests, Mr Sato reckons there will be a permanent risk of contamination. So far, nobody has any idea where any contaminated soil will be dumped.

The second problem is children’s health. On September 30th the government lifted an evacuation advisory warning to communities within a 20-30km radius of the plant. The aim was partly to show that the authorities were steadily bringing the crippled reactors under control.

But these areas are still riddled with radiation hot spots, including schools and public parks, which will need to be cleaned before public confidence is restored. Parents say they are particularly concerned about bringing their children back because the health effects of radiation on the young are so unclear. What is more, caesium particles tend to lurk in the grass, which means radiation is more of a risk at toddler height than for adults. In Iitate, Mihori Takahashi, a mother of two, “believes only half of what the doctors say” and says she never wants to bring her children back. That, in itself, may be a curse. “The revival of this town depends on the children returning,” says Mr Sato.

And even if people return, Mr Sato worries how they will make a living. These are farming villages, but it will take years to remove the stigma attached to food grown in Fukushima, he reckons. He is furious with Tokyo Electric Power, operator of the plant, for failing to acknowledge the long-term impacts of the disaster. He says it is a way of scrimping on compensation payouts.

One way to help overcome these problems would be to persuade people to accept relaxed safety standards. A government panel is due to propose lifting the advisory dose limit above one millisievert per year. This week in Tokyo, Wade Allison, a physics professor at Oxford University, argued that Japan’s dose limit could safely be raised to 100 millisieverts, based on current health statistics. Outside Mr Sato’s house, however, a reading of the equivalent of 150 millisieverts a year left your correspondent strangely reluctant to inhale.

10/10/2011 NY Times: After Fukushima, Does Nuclear Power Have a Future?

10/10/2011 NY Times: After Fukushima, Does Nuclear Power Have a Future? By STEPHANIE COOKE: A couple of months after the catastrophe at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant March 11, an American nuclear expert posed an interesting question. “The post-Fukushima public sentiment is surprisingly low-key isn’t it? What a difference between this event and TMI or Chernobyl,” he wrote in an e-mail, using an abbreviation for the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania. “What do you think is going on? Why so quiet?”

I was not convinced. What he said was certainly true in the United States, but the accident had a profound effect in Germany, China and several other countries, serving as a fearful reminder of what can go wrong with nuclear power plants. Phase-outs were the order of the day in Germany (where Chancellor Angela Merkel also demanded immediate shutdowns of eight of the country’s oldest reactors) and Switzerland. China suspended approvals for new reactors pending a safety review, which is now reportedly completed. This has resulted in a downward revision of China’s unofficial pre-Fukushima goal to install 86 gigawatts of nuclear capacity by 2020. It now looks like that will be set around 60 gigawatts (up from around 12 currently) or just a little higher.

Italy said no to new reactors for the second time, ending a relatively brief flirtation with nuclear planners after a long post-Chernobyl freeze. “I think there is now less than 0.01 percent chance for nuclear in Italy,” said Luigi De Paoli, energy economy professor at the Bocconi University in Milan, according to Reuters.

Taiwan appears on the brink of some kind of phase-out involving four reactors, although it is likely to allow a recently constructed fifth unit to operate. Venezuela and Israel, both countries that had harbored nuclear power ambitions, decided they could do without after all. “I think we’ll go for the gas,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told CNN. “I think we’ll skip the nuclear.”

In Japan, of course, the effect was most dramatic. Thirteen units were automatically “scrammed” when the earthquake struck, and a 14th was already out for maintenance. With 15 others offline because of previous quakes or for mandatory inspection and refueling, the country’s fleet of 54 operating reactors was cut to 25. In May, the government ordered a shutdown of three additional units (one of which had already been down for maintenance) at Hamaoka, situated in a particularly vulnerable seismic zone near Tokyo.

The nuclear “capacity factor” — a measure of how much electricity reactors generate as a percentage of what they could provide — had dropped precipitously, from 71 percent in February to 51 percent in May, but it would plunge even further in subsequent months.

Facing the prospect of broad electricity failures over the summer, Japan’s leadership did not dare order more plants shut down, but it hardly needed to. Because of the requirement for inspections every 13 months, more reactors were taken offline, one after the other. Now only 11 are operating. (The Japan Atomic Industrial Forum stopped publishing monthly capacity factors after July, when the figure stood at 34 percent, with 19 units operating.) While there certainly were electricity shortages, Japan survived the summer without the extensive blackouts that had been predicted.

Normally the reactors would have been restarted within several weeks of shutdown, but these are not normal times in Japan. Restarts require approvals from local and prefectural governments, and these have not been received since the disaster. The 11 reactors still in operation are due to go down for maintenance between now and next September, and that in theory could leave Japan with zero nuclear-generated electricity — although that is unlikely, given the pro-nuclear sentiment of governors in some prefectures and the intense pressure for restarts from Tokyo.

However, the Japanese government has ordered a gradual phase-out of the country’s reactors, reversing a previous policy of increasing nuclear’s share of the generating mix to 50 percent by 2030. (Japan’s reactors were generally credited with supplying about 30 percent of the electricity mix, but the figure was debatable, given the frequency of power failures even before Fukushima.) “To build new reactors is unrealistic, and we will decommission reactors at the end of their life spans,” Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said in his first policy speech Sept. 2.

Despite this relatively dismal outlook for nuclear energy, the London-based World Nuclear Association predicts a 30 percent increase in global nuclear generating capacity over the next decade; it foresees 79 more reactors online by 2020, for a total of 514, even taking Fukushima into account. And it sees a 66 percent increase by 2030, with capacity additions in China, India, South Korea and Russia outnumbering projected declines in Germany, France, the United Kingdom and the United States. Curiously, it assumes Japan will restart all but the six units at Fukushima Daiichi and continue to build new reactors to replace aging ones, for a net number of operating reactors in 2030 more or less the same as before Fukushima.

While the nuclear association is obviously bullish, it is less so than it was in its last forecast two years ago. And the projected increase would only keep nuclear energy treading water. As a percentage of global generation it would account for just 14 percent, the same amount the association says it currently contributes. (Other experts say the figure is lower.)

In the United States, currently home to the world’s largest reactor fleet, only one proposed project, in Texas, was effectively canceled after Fukushima, but it had been teetering for more than a year since its largest backer, NRG Energy, decided to pull the plug. Plans for about 30 new reactors in the United States already had been whittled down to just four, despite the promise of large subsidies and President Barack Obama’s support of nuclear power, which he reaffirmed after Fukushima.

Perhaps most interesting to watch will be France, whose dependence on nuclear energy is the highest in the world, with nearly 80 percent of the country’s electricity produced by 58 reactors, a fleet second in size only to that of the United States.

A poll by the Institut Français d’Opinion Publique in May, published in Le Journal du Dimanche, found 77 percent of the public favored some kind of nuclear phase-out. That is not completely surprising, given past polls showing French opinion toward nuclear energy to be lukewarm. What is clear is that Fukushima is prompting a major rethinking of the country’s energy policies and that the nuclear issue promises to be a big factor in the presidential election next year.

Against this background, it is not surprising that in the World Nuclear Association’s midcase scenario, both the United States and France show a gradual decline in the number of operating reactors over the next two decades.

It has been evident for some time that nuclear energy’s future increasingly lies in Asia. Whatever the reasons for the muted response to Fukushima, the European phase-outs prompted by the tragedy would make this trend even more pronounced. But even in Asia, a nuclear future is no certain thing. Twenty-five years apart, Chernobyl and Fukushima were events that nuclear plant designers assumed would never happen. Any further major accidents could spell the industry’s doom.

Stephanie Cooke is editor of the Energy Intelligence Group’s Nuclear Intelligence Weekly and author of “In Mortal Hands: A Cautionary History of the Nuclear Age.”

Video: Fukushima Now Radiating Everyone: 'Unspeakable' Reality 'Will Impact All Of Humanity'

8/22/2011 Guardian UK: Fukushima disaster: residents may never return to radiation-hit homes

8/22/2011 Guardian UK: Fukushima disaster: residents may never return to radiation-hit homes: Japanese government will admit for first time that radiation levels will be too high to allow many evacuees to return home: Residents who lived close to the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant are to be told their homes may be uninhabitable for decades, according to Japanese media reports. The Japanese prime minister, Naoto Kan, is expected to visit the area at the weekend to tell evacuees they will not be able to return to their homes, even if the operation to stabilise the plant’s stricken reactors by January is successful.

Kan’s announcement will be the first time officials have publicly recognised that radiation damage to areas near the plant could make them too dangerous to live in for at least a generation, effectively meaning that some residents will never return to them.

A Japanese government source is quoted in local media as saying the area could be off-limits for “several decades”. New data has revealed unsafe levels of radiation outside the 12-mile exclusion zone, increasing the likeliness that entire towns will remain unfit for habitation.

The exclusion zone was imposed after a series of hydrogen explosions at the plant following the earthquake and tsunami in March.

The government had planned to lift the evacuation order and allow 80,000 people back into their homes inside the exclusion zone once the reactors had been brought under control. Several thousand others living in random hotspots outside the zone have also had to relocate.

However, in a report issued over the weekend the science ministry projected that radiation accumulated over one year at 22 of 50 tested sites inside the exclusion zone would easily exceed 100 millisieverts, five times higher than the safe level advised by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. “We can’t rule out the possibility that there will be some areas where it will be hard for residents to return to their homes for a long time,” said Yukio Edano, chief cabinet secretaryand face of the government during the disaster. “We are very sorry.”

Edano refused to say which areas were on the no-go list or how long they would remain uninhabitable, adding that a decision would be made after more radiation tests have been conducted.

The government has yet to decide how to compensate the tens of thousands of residents and business owners who will be forced to start new lives elsewhere. The state has hinted that it may buy or rent land from residents in unsafe areas, although it has not ruled out trying to decontaminate them.

Futaba and Okuma, towns less than two miles from the Fukushima plant, are expected to be among those on the blacklist. The annual cumulative radiation dose in one district of Okuma was estimated at 508 millisieverts, which experts believe is high enough to increase the risk of cancer. More than 300 households from the two towns will be allowed to return briefly to their homes next week to collect belongings. It will be the first time residents have visited their homes since the meltdown.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, is working to bring the three crippled reactors and four overheating spent fuel pools to a safe state known as “cold shutdown” by mid-January.

Last week the company estimated that leaks from all three reactors had dropped significantly over the past month.

But signs of progress at the plant have been tempered by widespread contamination of soil, trees, roads and farmland.

Experts say that while health risks can be lowered by measures including the removal of layers of topsoil, vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and children should avoid even minimal exposure.

“Any exposure would pose a health risk, no matter how small,” Hiroaki Koide, a radiation specialist at Kyoto University, told Associated Press. “There is no dose that we should call safe.”

Any government admission that residents will not be able to return to their homes will be closely monitored in Japan.

Suspicions persist that the authorities privately acknowledged this situation several months ago. In April, Kenichi Matsumoto, a senior adviser to the cabinet, quoted Kan as saying that people would not be able to live near the plant for “10 to 20 years”. Matsumoto later claimed to have made the remark himself.

9/8/2011 Guardian UK: Japan disaster: Fukushima residents return to visit their homes

9/8/2011 Guardian UK: Japan disaster: Fukushima residents return to visit their homes: Six months after radiation leaks from the nuclear plant led to their evacuation, residents of nearby towns briefly return by Justin McCurry in Okuma, Fukushima prefecture: Takashige Kowata thought he was prepared for the worst when he opened the door to his house for the first time in six months. But the trauma of seeing his family home abandoned amid the panic of a nuclear meltdown was compounded when he noticed a broken bathroom window.

“It looks like we have been burgled,” the 63-year-old says, still too shaken to establish what is missing. “I can’t believe that someone is capable of stealing from the victims of a disaster.”

The intruders would have committed their crime with ease: Kowata’s spacious house and garden lie about a mile from the scene of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which has turned large swaths of nearby land into an official no-go zone.

He was one of 80,000 people living within a 12-mile (20km) radius of the nuclear plant who were told to evacuate by the government in the hours after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake launched a tsunami that crashed through its protective seawall and triggered meltdown in three of its six reactors.

Kowata and more than 200 of his neighbours have been allowed to make a brief visit home to collect as many belongings as they can carry. It is a homecoming that many accept is likely to be their last.

Dressed in protective suits, masks and goggles, they have been given just two hours to survey the damage to the houses they have been barred from entering since the triple disaster struck north-east Japan on the afternoon of 11 March.

Months of radiation leaks from Fukushima Daiichi have rendered Okuma and the nearby town of Futaba uninhabitable for years, perhaps decades.

According to a recent government report, the annual cumulative radiation dose in one district of Okuma is estimated at 508.1 millisieverts, more than 500 times the acceptable yearly level and, experts believe, high enough to increase the risk of cancer.

“We’ve been told that we can’t return home because of the radiation,” says Kinuko Yamada, a 53-year-old woman who is making the trip with her husband. “I hope we can go back, but it could be 20 to 30 years before that happens. I’ll probably be dead by then.”

Radiation levels in the town are so high that decontamination could take years, or not succeed at all. Residents have so far been allowed just this one brief visit, organised by the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] and nuclear safety officials. The Guardian was the only foreign media permitted to accompany them.

Evidence of the area’s dismal place in the history of Japan’s nuclear power industry becomes visible soon after the convoy of buses passes through the police checkpoint.

All traces of ordinary life have been cast in eerie suspension: roadsides are overgrown with grass and weeds; shops and restaurants lie empty, and grand farmhouses – evacuated in the hours following the accident, when Tepco officials were considering abandoning the plant – stand quiet and deserted. Toppled walls and scattered roof tiles are reminders of the staggering force of the quake that caused the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

The only sound is the chirping of late-summer cicadas and the occasional beep of a Geiger counter. A scrawny black dog wanders into the road, sizes up his human visitors and scampers back into the woods.

And just visible above a line of trees is the roof of one of Fukushima Daiichi’s reactor buildings. As our bus drives past, radiation levels inside surge to 61 microsieverts an hour (compared to the typical Japanese average of 0.34 microsieverts).Elsewhere inside the exclusion zone, at least 1,000 cattle are roaming wild after escaping from their farm homesteads, according to local authorities. Most pets, and tens of thousands of cows, pigs and chickens have starved to death.

A few days after residents returned to their homes, police officers and firefighters resumed the search for almost 200 tsunami victims in the area still listed as missing.

Some residents are reluctant to openly criticise Tepco, a major local employer. “I never worried about the nuclear plant before the tsunami,” says one of Kowata’s neighbours, a woman in her 60s who declines to give her name.

“When we left on 11 March we thought we would be back in a week or 10 days. Then the reactor buildings started exploding and we were more cautious, but even so I never thought it would be as bad as this. The power plant put food on the table around here … I can’t find the words to describe how I feel.

“I’m going to take back some valuables and our ancestors’ spirit tablets – my parents are both dead. The earthquake left our family Buddhist altar in pieces, so I brought some flowers to place in front of it.”

Her garden, usually a blaze of colour at this time of year, is a tangle of weeds and wild grass. “I spotted a few flowers blooming among the grass,” she says. “I love flowers and told them I was sorry for not being able to look after them properly.”

Inside, the doors have come away from their hinges and the walls have been pushed up by the force of the quake. “It’s terrible,” she says. “The kind of shock from which you can never recover. I want to come back, but it might be better for my peace of mind to stop hoping.”

However, Kowata, a former local government official who witnessed the arrival of MOX (mixed oxide) nuclear fuel at Fukushima Daiichi last year, makes no attempt to hide his bitterness towards Tepco.

He has lived in this neighbourhood all his life and had only just built a new house, which he shared with four other members of his family. His father, like many other elderly tsunami survivors, died soon after being evacuated.

“I don’t know how much Tepco and the government will give us as compensation, and in any case it will take a long time to arrive,” says Kowata, who is living in rented accommodation in Aizu-Wakamatsu, a town farther inland.

“We can’t wait around for them to take action. The nuclear accident is a man-made disaster.

“The government and Tepco kept telling us that this kind of thing could not possibly happen. Tepco hasn’t changed when it comes to covering up trouble.”

Just two hours after they arrived, Okuma’s residents must board buses to take them back outside the exclusion zone to be screened for radiation.

They emerge from their homes gripping plastic bags bulging with clothes, valuables, heirlooms, children’s toys and photo albums.

Kowata gathers his belongings, walks out of his front door and turns the key one last time. “As far as I am concerned, this is the last time I will see my home,” he says. “The house itself isn’t very old … it’s a great shame.”

Halfway down the driveway he turns and fixes his gaze on the home he is leaving behind.

“I wanted to say thank you one last time. Now it’s time to move on.”

8/28/2011 Extremely High First Year Radiation Doses Predicted by Japanese Government in some areas

8/28/2011 Extremely High First Year Radiation Doses Predicted by Japanese Government in some areasby Gordon Edwards: Background: Deposits of radioactive fallout from Fukushima are highly variable, depending on weather conditions, precipitation, and nature of the releases — which include not only gases and vapours, but also “hot particles”, sometimes called “nuclear fuel fleas”, which are tiny but solid radioactive “cinders” from the disintegrated fuel elements. For those who may not know, MEXT is Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology. A note about the numbers: In Canada, the maximum extra radiation exposure allowed (by regulation) for a member of the public is 1 mSv per year. In the nuclear industry, any worker who is exposed to 1 mSv or more per year must receive special training. In North America, the maximum occupational exposure for an atomic worker is 50 mSv per year. In Germany, the maximum occupational exposure for an atomic worker is 20 mSv per year.

8/23/2011 Email From: Ko-ichi Nakamura: 8/23/2011 Greetings, I am forwarding Dr. Saji’s latest daily update by Ko-ichi Nakamura: (Dr. Saji is Ex-Secretariat of Nuclear Safety Commission, Japan). He is now retired, independent from any government or industry group. The following web sites may be your good source of info, what is going on everyday. http://jaif.or.jp/english/ http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/
Best regards, Ko-ichi Nakamura

8/23/2011 Email From: Genn Saji: Dear Colleagues: 161th-165th day!:

I. Extremely high first year doses predicted by MEXT. MEXT announced their estimation of the first year doses (starting from the day of the accident), at the 50 representative spots within the 20 km “vigilance (off-limit)” zone in view of the government intention of allowing re-habilitation of the evacuees. According to their measurements, the dose rates are orders of magnitude different within the same zone in Fukushima Prefecture. Among the extremely high doses recorded are these: 508.1 mSv at Koirino, Okuma-cho, 223.7 mSv at Kawafusa, Namie-cho, 172.4 mSv at Futaba-cho, 115.3 mSv at Koryougahama, Tomioka-cho, 53.1 mSv at Kanaya, Kotaka-ku, Minamisouma-shi.

Thirty five out of 50 locations exceeded the Government guideline of the first year dose of 20 mSv. The dose rates are greatly different even in the same district. For example, at Namie-cho, it was only 4.1 mSv at Kitaokusebashi, located only 8 km from the Fukushima Daiichi. I think overall dose maps have been shown in DOE/NNRI website by indicating above 20 mSv, however, these individual values higher than 20 mSv are the first released by MEXT.

Further studies of these phenomena are very important, I believe, since there are two possibilities. One is that these highly contaminated spots are induced by the black-rain/fallout as droplets from the plumes, mostly in a liquid state. The other case is that highly radioactive solid fuel particles were included in the plume which fell out during the plume passage.

In this case, the surface concentration should be much more localized than the first case. In the first case, the removal of wider surface soil should be necessary for decontamination. Whereas, in the second case, it is essential to locate the hot particles and remove them.

Being influenced by these facts, the Government is now saying that there will be some areas where rehabilitation will not be possible for an extended [number of] years, typically several tens of years. Mr. Edano, Chief Secretary of Diet, said on August 21 that the government is going to contact with the local communities to explain these prospects. It was reported that the government is going to purchase these areas, however, the local people may refuse to sell due to a strong affection towards their homelands. The Government is shifted to lent [forced to rent] the lands for decontamination until re-habitation will become feasible.

Through watching results of various decontamination activities being performed in Fukushima, I got an impression that decreasing the soil activation by one order of magnitude may be feasible, such as by removing the surface soil as well as disposing weeds and fallen leaves, reduction of two orders of magnitude may not be practical, due to secondary contamination possibilities. I once thought it is essential to decontaminate the very highly contaminated corridor stretching towards NW direction towards the Iitate-mura [village], however, I begin to think it will not be feasible if we consider secondary radiation doses expected for the workers. It is because most of these regions are in a Mountain district (Abukuma mountain chain).

The recent observation [recently observed] activities are now showing that a large fraction of radioactivity seems to be absorbed in leaves and barks of the trees. For decontamination, we need to dispose these biomass mass safely, As in the case of the “Red Forest” stretching towards the west direction from the Chernobyl reactor, the decontamination may be impossible. The Government should clearly explain to the affected people what can be done and what will be impossible, considering the secondary radiation risk.

II. Update of internal exposure in livestock

Since I covered this subject in July 30 as [Update #134], this issue is being reported almost every day in Japanese media. I would like to update this since another route of contamination [of beef] was discovered recently. It has been generally understood that the major pathway was through rice straw feed mainly produced in Fukushima, contaminated from the straw left in the paddy field at the time of the plume passage, through a rice straw feed –> cattle.

However, stocked beef meet from 12 cattle was found contaminated as high as 2.0E+3 Bq/kg, [2,000 becquerels per kilogram] twice the temporary guideline. The meat was produced at Namiemachi (10-30 km from Fukushima Dai-ichi) in April. This rancher has not used the rice straw feed, instead he was feeding with imported hay, all stored in a barn. The local government [guessed] that the contaminated air passing through the barn may have contaminated the hay. In view of this, the Fukushima Prefecture is requesting the Government to lift the restriction of marketing cattle from Fukushima, since they are now ready to perform monitoring of each cattle.

I first suspected the pathway is from inhalation, however, due to high retention factor of radioactive aerosol in vegetation, the prominent pathway seems to be through contaminated straw or hay feed.

III. Update of the water purification system

The new zeolite sorption process, developed by Toshiba/Shaw Group has started to commission on August 18, showing DFs as below for Line B:

Species pre-processing post-processing DF
(Bq/cm3) (Bq/cm3) Decontamination Factor
I-131 ND (<7200) 5.8 <1,200 Cs-134 1,100,000 21 52,000 Cs-137 1,300,000 23 57,000 The DFs were found to be approximately 10 time lower than expected, however, it is an order of magnitude better than Kurion's process. Because of the reasonably good performance, TEPCO configured this system to run parallel to the existing system. The parallel operation improved the total capacity of the water purification system by a factor of 1.5 with 70 tons/h, starting from the night of August 19. This started to reduce the total volume of the highly contaminated water. If everything works as planned, the backlog inventories may be clarified in several month. Partly being helped from this, all of the temperature readings of the [Fukushima Dai-ichi Unit 1 plant] went below the boiling point on 11 PM on August 19. The temperature readings of [Units 2 and 3] are still 118.4/126.4, [degrees Celsius] respectively. Genn Saji

8/23/2011 FNArena News: Uranium Drops Below US$50

8/23/2011 FNArena News: Uranium Drops Below US$50By Greg Peel: Interest in the spot uranium market has been quietly drying up week by week confirming earlier feedback provided by industry consultant TradeTech. Last week’s trade was also impacted by northern hemisphere summer holidays but TradeTech notes ongoing uncertainty from both buyers and sellers on just where the global nuclear energy industry is heading from here. The sellers are nevertheless proving a little more keen to get deals away, so last week’s minimal activity of three transactions totalling 300,000lbs of U3O8 equivalent saw TradeTech’s sport price indicator fall US35c to US$49.90/lb.

It is the first time spot uranium has traded under the US$50/lb mark since briefly breaching that level in March following the plunge from around the US$70 level in the initial response to Fukushima. At that time buying support was unearthed as utilities, producers with production shortfalls and even hedge funds moved in to secure what was considered cheap material. A subsequent rethink of nuclear energy globally, the reality of large uranium inventories now superfluous in Japan, and moves by the US to enrich tailings stockpiles for sale have all conspired to diminish demand in the spot market and increase uncertainty generally on both sides of the price spread.

It remains to be seen whether a breach of the US$50/lb level can again inspire buying interest, remembering that spot uranium traded down into the low forties post the 2007 spot price bubble-and-bust.

There were no new transactions in the term market last week and TradeTech’s term price indicators remain at US$58/lb (medium) and US$68/lb (long).

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