Friday’s announcement by Prime Minister Noda that Fukushima Daiichi had achieved a state of cold shutdown has been blasted by the Japanese Press and news media around the world. Here are a few examples…

  • Japan Times – “Skeptics believe the declaration is little more than political grandstanding.”
  • Asahi Shimbun – “The state of cold shutdown is easy on the ears but the actual state does not allow optimism. It is as if a patient came out of a life-or-death condition but remained hospitalised.”
  • – Their on-line edition described it as “…first aid treatment. The world has no previous experience of dismantling a nuclear power plant with fuel that has melted this much.”
  • CNN – Its website says the announcement is no more than a symbolic milestone so that government and TEPCO might appease public anger and criticism. (NHK World)
  • Xinhua (China) – Cites experts who say the Tokyo government may have been overzealous in meeting its self-imposed deadline and might be misleading the public. (JAIF)
  • Greenpeace – The world’s bastion of nuclear negativity says the announcement is a publicity stunt. (Reuters)

From the local government…

  • Yuhei Sato, Fukushima governor, said Noda should have come to the Prefecture himself because the citizens doubt the Prime Minister fully understands the situation. Sato also demanded that Tokyo make
    full financial compensation to all Fukushima Prefecture residents. (NHK World)

And from the “human interest” perspective…

  • Some evacuees from the zones around Fukushima Daiichi were angry at the cold shutdown declaration.
    Taisuke Hori, 27, who fled to Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, said, “I doubt whether kids can live safely without concerns no matter how thoroughly local tracts of land are cleaned up.” Soichi Sanpei, 31, who evacuated to Komoro, Nagano Prefecture, wants to know how the government can declare the crisis is under control while radioactive substances remain in areas around the plant. (Kyodo News)

On the other hand…

  • The government’s criteria for declaring cold shutdown were (1) The temperature at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels of units 1-3 is constantly below 100 C, while the water in the spent fuel pools of units 1-4 is continuously below 25 C. (2) The amount of airborne releases is below the government-set target of 1 millisievert per year. (3) The reactor vessel water injection systems have multiple backups. Even if all the equipment fails, water injection can be resumed in about three hours. (4) A radiation level below 1 millisievert per year can be maintained even if water injection into all three RPVs stops for 12 hours. (5) Recriticality is unlikely but can be prevented by injecting water containing boric acid. (6) The system to cool spent fuel pools has multiple backups. Even if its system fails, it would take at least 16 days until the water in SPF #4, which holds the largest number of fuel cells, drops below the top of the stored bundles. (7) A system to process highly radioactive water is capable of reducing radioactive Cesium to below one ten-thousandth of the original level. (Mainichi Shimbun)

Other update subjects…

  • Goshi Hosono, Nuclear Disaster Minister, says some Fukushima evacuees might be returning home this spring. He specifically pointed to the 20km no-go zone, which was arbitrarily established by former Prime Minister Kan when he and his staff ignored SPEEDI projections during the first week of the emergency. The 20km no-go zone and northwest evacuation corridor designations will be replaced by three new official criteria in the coming months. The new designations will be based on actual radiological measurements. Those areas with radiation levels below 20 millisieverts per year will be the first considered for decontamination, many of which are in the no-go zone. Afterwards, residents will be allowed to return. Locations with much lower exposures (probably one millisievert or less) may be opened to repopulation without decontamination as early as this coming spring. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Prime Minister Noda will introduce new bills to the Diet next month to tighten nuclear safety regulations and give the regulators more power to enforce them. Up to now, NISA and the other various regulatory bodies can do little more than suggest that nuclear utilities comply with safety upgrades, and then leave it up to the companies themselves to decide if the cost is worth the risk-reduction benefit. The revised regulations will give the government power to suspend nuclear plant operations if it fails to meet the latest safety requirements. (Mainichi Shimbun) The article also says the bills will set the maximum life-span of a
    nuke at 40 years. This would be a horrendous mistake. The life-span would be entirely arbitrary, resulting from the desire to soothe fears and eliminate criticism. Nukes are the most corrosion and erosion-free large capacity power plants in the world, with some experts saying they may well last over 100 years
    before decommissioning is needed. We praise Noda for trying to beef up sorely-needed regulatory powers, but we are decidedly disappointed in his purely politically-expedient attempt to set an capricious life-span on nukes.
  • Japan’s Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) has been decontaminating the government buildings and properties in four towns inside the evacuation zones. They have completed the clean-up in Namie, Naraha,
    and Iitate. They hope to have finished their work in Tomioka by Friday. About 900 members of GSDF have been spray washing and wire brushing buildings, scraping away the upper layer of topsoil, and decontaminating decorative pools and ponds by removing water and gravel before scrubbing the plastic lines. The clean-up effort began on December 7. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • About 230 tons of contaminated water has been discovered in a tunnel running under Fukushima Daiichi’s waste water storage facility. TEPCO says the water stretches the full length of the 54 meter long tunnel, and depth varies from 50cm to 3 meters. The utility believes some radioactive water entered the tunnel from the facility above and has been diluted by groundwater inflow. The tunnel does not empty into the sea, so no barricades are needed. The waste facility was completed in April. (NHK World)
  • 52 workers at Fukushima Daiichi have symptoms of stomach flu. A norovirus outbreak is suspected. Three have confirmed cases of the novovirus, while the rest are only showing flu-like symptoms. It seems all
    of the workers were involved in the same “radioactive waste cleanup operation.” Because the flu report came the day after the cold shutdown announcement, TEPCO added that the outbreak will not negatively affect the plant’s essential reactor cooling functions. (Japan Today) Many comments posted by Japan Today readers say stomach flu symptoms are similar to radiation sickness symptoms, so they allege a cover-up on the part of TEPCO.