• Japan’s tsunami debris disposal is way behind schedule, and the residues in Fukushima Prefecture have had the least attention. Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures had set a goal of 50% disposal by this coming March, but only 24% in Iwate and 31% in Miyagi have actually been handled. Fukushima disposal stands at a mere 12%, largely due to fears of radiation voiced by politically active local residents. Part of the problem is that the total amount of the tsunami remains has been underestimated. Up to now, the three prefectures were believed to have 22 million tons, but the revised numbers are more like 30 million. It is increasingly unlikely that Tokyo’s goal of total tsunami debris clean-up by March, 2014, will be met. Another problem is the time it takes to sort the rubble between burnable and non-burnable, plus the separation of metals because some are considered toxic. A third issue is the limited amount of land available for burial of the non-burnable, non-toxic debris, largely because many other prefectures fear the material might be detectibly radioactive. The 22-month level of tsunami waste handling can be compared to the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake which had 90% disposal after 22 months. The 1995 quake killed more than 6,400 people and destroyed more than 150,000 buildings in the Kobe metropolitan area, so the comparison to the current Fukushima disposal situation makes sense. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • On Saturday, PM Shinzo Abe visited Miyagi Prefecture to inspect the status of tsunami reconstruction efforts. Miyagi was probably the most impacted prefecture on 3/11/11 and had the most tsunami debris estimated at about 18 million tons. Abe inspected a destroyed coastal shipbuilding facility, a seafood processing plant, and a temporary housing complex, including one under construction. Abe spent the most time in Iwanuma City, which was devastated and lost about 200 lives in the flooding. Mayor Tsuneaki Iguchi told the PM that because six of the city’s communities were completely washed away, the construction of temporary housing is on high ground to avoid a repeat of the 2011 disaster. The mayor stressed that residents are making their own decisions about whether or not to accept the temporary housing. Some say they plan on rebuilding where their former homes stood. Abe also met with several Iwanuma tsunami refugees and said he took what they said very seriously. Later in the day he visited Watari Town and inspected the temporary housing complex where about 1,500 refugees reside. Again, he spoke with some residents to get their perspective. One told him that many farmers lost everything on 3/11/11 and they are trying their best to recover. While in Watari, Abe bought some locally grown strawberries, eating a few and commenting on their good flavor. At the end of the day, Abe said he feels his regime can speed up recovery now that the budget limitations of the old government have been discarded. (NHK World; Japan Times)
  • While Abe was in Miyagi Prefecture, the Tokyo government added another 22 billion dollars to the new reconstruction budget. The post-disaster fund allocation was $213 billion, of which $191 billion has already been spent. Much of the past expenditures were discovered to have been siphoned off for projects outside the scope of Tohoku reconstruction. The increased funding is intended to come out of the provisional tax increase started just after the New Year. Any shortfall is planned to be made up by selling stock shares owned by the government. (NHK World)
  • Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority has drafted an outline for the prevention of severe nuclear accidents due to earthquakes, tsunamis and aircraft crashes. A major change concerns new facilities to be located apart from the reactor building to control emergency cooling operations if the main control room is unusable due to terrorism, natural disaster, or excessive radiation levels. The new structures are called “specific safety facilities”. Another change is the requirement to have a filtered venting system for relieving excessive pressure build-up inside the reactor and/or its surrounding containment structure. Since 3/11/11, mobile electric generators and water-pumping vehicles have been stationed near all of Japan’s nukes, but the new guideline calls for them to be housed at each site permanently. If this proposal becomes part of the final regulatory package planned for this July, it would require the new facilities be completed before a nuke will be allowed to restart. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The NRA has also proposed construction of emergency public shelters for people living within 5km of nukes but would have geographic problems with leaving the area quickly. Five nuclear stations are located on peninsulas with many residents living on the tip, beyond the nuclear station. The NRA plans to refit school gymnasiums and assisted-living facilities for use as the shelters. The locations will be upgraded to an air-tight condition so that the inside can be slightly pressurized above atmospheric. All ventilation systems will have high-efficiency filters installed. Air showers will also be built to remove radioactive dust from evacuees. The five affected locations in are Miyagi, Shizuoka, Fukui, Ehime and Saga Prefetures. (NHK World)
  • Tepco has released more teleconference footage covering the first weeks of the Fukushima crisis. By March 16, 2011, the Fukushima staff’s frantic efforts over the previous five days had resulted in them being very exhausted. There were about 180 employees being rotated in 70-person shifts working on several projects which included providing a steady supply of electricity into the power complex by splicing a mile-long cable into a functional off-site transmission station, maintaining cooling water flow through the reactors and having water sprayed into the exposed spent fuel pools of units #1, 3 and 4. These efforts occupied all available workers. Plant Manager Masao Yoshida had been pleading with Tepco’s home office in Tokyo to send more workers to the facility, but to no avail. On March 17, Yoshida asked headquarters to realize the number of workers at F. Daiichi was limited and there weren’t enough to perform additional tasks the home office wanted addressed. Regardless, Tepco/Tokyo told Yoshida to use some of his people as drivers to bring in more repair parts and equipment to repair flooded pumps and re-energize switchboards. Yoshida responded, “Don’t expect extra workers from the plant.” On March 18, a frustrated Yoshida reported that he was starting to lose available staff because some had reached their limit for radiation exposure, “I can no longer force my employees to continue working.” (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The antinuclear political parties that suffered a crushing defeat with the December national election are trying to understand why they lost. They won’t admit that their unpopularity might have been because they did not represent the will of the people. Instead, they believe that other factors led to their demise. One of the defeated candidates, Yasuko Maruko, says, “In the end, we were in a minority. To garner broader support, we need to be better prepared, such as by creating slogans that are easier to understand. Campaigning in a national election is in a different league from citizens’ movements.” A December 22 meeting to discuss the defeat had promotional flyers saying “Are demonstrations useless?” and “Are rallies futile efforts?” The forum drew about fifty people. One panelist, Yasumichi Noma, feels the antinuclear cause was too new to the greater population, so they didn’t understand what was being presented. Noma stressed that convincing just a few politicians is very different from reaching out to voters. “There are many people who must have felt that demonstrations can change politics,” Noma pointed out, “As a means of expressing our will outside elections, we just need to patiently continue with them.” Another speaker, Etuso Izawa, said “Although I was disappointed by the result, I expect that everyone will carefully think about the problems of nuclear power generation before casting their ballots in the House of Councilors election” in the summer. (Japan Times)
  • Yesterday, blogging colleague Rod Adams of Atomic Insights held a podcast with esteemed radiation experts Dr. Jerry Cutler and Dr. A. David Rosen. They covered the biological effects of radiation and how regulatory limits around the world are based on non-scientific assumptions. They focused on the situation in Japan where unreasonable radiation exposure limits and public fear of radiation have caused significant negative health effects which should never have happened. Here’s the link to the article and podcast… http://atomicinsights.com/2013/01/atomic-show-195-health-effects-of-low-level-radiation.html#more-13220

The 139th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers has been posted at the Yes Vermont Yankee website. After a relatively quiet blogging activity during the recent holidays, the nuclear writers have come roaring back with a large body of work. Yes Vermont Yankee operator Meredith Angwin has divided the submitted blogs in three categories: Radiation, Nuclear Energy and Politics. Please click the following link and check it all out… http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2013/01/139th-carnival-of-nuclear-energy.html