• Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) says that TEPCO has met all the preconditions for declaring Fukushima Daiichi to be in a state of cold shutdown. This is not a final, official declaration, but merely a preliminary one. It is expected the formal, official declaration will be made later this week by the Tokyo government. There are some voices of disagreement within the NSC, of course. But, the majority agrees that cold shutdown conditions now exist for all three reactors at the plant site. (NHK World)
  • One unofficial group in Japan has decided to try and put the nuclear energy issue to a vote. “Minna de kimeyo ‘Genpatsu’ Kokumintohyo” (Let everyone decide on nuclear power through local referendums) was
    formed in Tokyo this past June. Its formation seems to have been missed by most of the Japanese Press. But, what the group is currently trying to do may have far-reaching repercussions. They are running a signature collection program, which seems neither pro- nor anti- nuclear. If they can get 214,200 signatures in the next 2 months, it will force the governor of Tokyo to introduce a referendum to the Metropolitan Assembly. If the Assembly decides in favor of the petition/referendum, the prefecture’s residents will vote on whether or not they want Japan to continue its nuclear energy program. The group behind the petition says they want an open debate among the people and then let the voters decide. Governor Ishihara said he personally supports what the group is doing, then added, “This is an open society, but I wish people would take radiation issues a bit more calmly.” (Mainichi Shimbun) We favor the group’s efforts if they are actually neutral in their intent. If so, we hope they get enough signatures.
  • Satoshi Takayama, parliamentary secretary of the environment, says the local governments in the tsunami-devastated Tohoku region should run their own scans of rubble and debris for Fukushima contamination because no-one trusts the Tokyo government. Takayama made the remark at a Shizuoka news conference in response to a question about the central government’s position on the matter. This brought an immediate counter-response from Shizuoka Vice Gov. Shinichi Omura, who said, “His remarks that ‘the state is not trusted’ shake the foundations of safety standards.” (Mainichi Shimbun) The truth hurts!
  • The Ministry of the Environment says they cannot actually begin full-fledged contamination clean-up in the no-go zone, northwest evacuation corridor and higher contaminated areas outside the zones until late March…at the earliest. The reasons include the need to get documented landowner permission to do the work and find somewhere to store the removed material. The exposure criteria for this full-scale effort is a whole body dose in excess of 1 millisievert per year, which the government says is the natural background level across the entire nation. (Kyodo News) So, are there any physical or technological barriers that keep the Ministry from getting started right now? Absolutely not!
  • Tokyo will receive the first 30 tons of tsunami rubble and debris from Miyagi in February. A disposal facility will incinerate it and then test the ash for Fukushima contamination. At this point, Tokyo is calling the rubble “potentially radioactive” because the rubble to be shipped shows no detectable contamination, but the concentration effect of incineration might reveal detectable levels. (Japan Times) And…uh…detectable is dangerous?
  • A new twist to the contaminated baby formula issue has arisen. It seems Meiji, the company in question, was “tipped off” to possible contamination in their product in November, and ignored the possibility. The “tip-offs” were one anonymous phone call and two calls from concerned citizens citing internet sources. The anonymous caller said an unidentified citizen’s group had posted an internet warning in October. The two identified callers cited internet sources. Meiji said they were not able to confirm any of the three, and told all callers they were already testing their product on a monthly schedule. Now after the fact, Kyodo News and several “citizen’s groups” claim they forced Meiji to test their formula, thus they take credit for the discovery. (Japan Times)
  • Fukushima University plans to monitor accurate forest contamination levels by putting collars with detectors on monkeys that populate the region. The collars will also have small GPS units. The combined data will be sent back to the researchers in order to accurately measure and map contamination levels. This should be better than with the current practice of airborne scanning from planes and helicopters. The first attempt will be in the spring with the forest near Minamisoma. (NewsOnJapan.com)

Concerning the Japanese news media’s on-going crusade to maintain a high level of public anxiety…

  • In a Saturday Asahi Shimbun hindsight editorial on the radioactive releases and resulting contamination from the Fukushima accident, once again an allegedly responsible news media source has stated there was an explosion inside unit #2’s containment on March 15. Because of this, it is assumed that most of the contamination comprised of Iodine, Cesium, and other isotopes came from unit #2. These assumptions are no more than on-going false speculations that keep the public on edge. Since April, TEPCO has repeatedly said there was no hydrogen explosion inside unit #2’s containment. In addition, control room operator records show the “impulsive sound” in unit #2, which the Tokyo government and Japanese news media cavalierly call an explosion, happened at the same moment as the unit #4 hydrogen explosion. The cavernous air space inside unit #2’s primary containment necessarily muffled the sound of the unit #4 blast. Thus, we have the source of the “impulsive sound” reported by unit #2’s staff. There is no reason to continue reporting it as an explosion, other than complete distrust of TEPCO and the desire to keep the public guessing. Regardless, with no explosion inside unit #2’s containment, there is no reason to think the containment was compromised. This brings us to the unit #2 airborne release topic. Unit #2’s outer building is intact (which is not at all the case for units 1, 3 & 4) and there was no “venting” of the unit #2 containment…ever! So, how did the airborne material inside unit #2’s structures get out? A compromised containment structure which was never actually compromised? A relatively small “blow out panel” that didn’t blow out but rather seems to have opened by “blowing in”? We are now going on record to say the belief of unit #2 having the worst release, as continually proclaimed by the government, TEPCO, and the news media, is a complete fiction. The alleged release of airborne material needs a pathway, and none exists.
  • Also on Saturday, Yomiuri Shimbun ran an article with the headline Residents exposed to high doses of radiation. The article itself says that the worst possible exposure for any Fukushima Prefecture resident who did not work at the power complex was 14 millisieverts. Only one person who lived near Fukushima Daiichi and evacuated during the heavy radiological releases, received this dose. Half of the remainder had exposures between one and ten millisieverts and the other half one millisievert or less. These are high doses? The average person in Ramsar, Iran, (pop. ~31,000) gets more than 14 millisieverts per year due to natural background, and there is no increase in cancer. Is that a “high dose” worthy of inciteful headlines? Yomiuri Shimbun is clearly aiding and abetting radiophobia among their readers and should be held morally accountable for it.