Spent fuel transfer diary – Week 2

Day 5 – The 22 fuel bundles are in their racks inside the common storage facility pool. Tepco’s Noriyuki Imaizumi told a press conference, “All of the fuel assemblies have been placed in their storage rack, meaning that the first fuel transfer work effectively ended.” After reviewing the process that began Monday, Tepco will begin the transport of the next 22 bundles. The initial transfer was with unused fuel stored in the #4 pool. The next step is expected to include irradiated spent fuel bundles. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2013/11/257978.html

Day 6 – While Tepco examines all equipment and reviews procedures before next week’s second transfer operation, much of Japan’s Press is filling the relative void by saying that the really risky work will come when the used fuel bundles begin to be moved. Here’s an example… http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2013112300009

Day 7 – No report by Tepco and most news media, however a few Press outlets re-hashed the previous week’s fuel transfer.

Day 8 – Today (11/25/2013), Tepco said their next step will be the safe transfer of used fuel bundles. NHK World suggests the movement of the radioactive fuel will begin tomorrow (Tuesday). Before the next movement of bundles begins, Tepco says they need to pump dirty water from just above them to keep sand and other fine particles from impairing visibility. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html

Here’s some other Fukushima updates…

  • The International Atomic Energy Agency has begun a second inspection at F. Daiichi. A 19-person team will examine Tepco’s fuel transfer operations for unit #4 and the current situation with radioactive wastewater. Team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo spoke of the fuel transfer, “The removal of the spent fuel is an essential activity toward decommissioning. Our idea is to review the full process that Tepco has developed for the purpose and all the precautions adopted to develop these activities in a safe way.” He also told government and Tepco officials that the successful commencement of the fuel removal was “promising” for subsequent activities, including the same operation with the other damaged units. The team’s preliminary report will be issued December 4 and a final document about two months later. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/25/national/iaea-starts-review-at-fukushima-2/#.UpNNxYAo4dU
  • Feelings about returning home are mixed among evacuees from parts of Minamisoma City. Of the nearly 5,700 evacuated households, 3,543 responded to a Reconstruction Agency survey in August and September. 29% said they want to go home, 44% were undecided, and 26% said they do not wish to return. The undecided demographic felt they need firm information on when infrastructure such as schools, hospitals and shops will be reopened. They also want reliable evidence on radiation levels and decontamination work. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20131125_18.html
  • The use of personal dosimeters to establish actual exposures for repopulated F. Daiichi evacuees is coming under fire. Fukushima antinuclear groups, supported by some sympathetic news media, say the data-gathering method is merely a ploy to get more evacuees to repopulate unrestricted areas. The local antinuke group Protecting Children from Radiation says in their blog, “They want evacuees to go home sooner. Safety is not a priority!” The Tokyo Shimbun says the new methodology is a “cover up” to mask the slow process of cleanup. In response, Nuclear Regulation Authority Chair Shunichi Tanaka says the 1 millisievert per year goal has not changed, nor has the 20 mSv/yr threshold for lifting repopulation restrictions. An Environment Ministry official added, “Just because residents are returning home doesn’t mean there won’t be any support. We’ll keep trying to minimize exposure.” Radiation expert Minoru Takata of Kyoto University says, “It sounds reasonable.” http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2013/11/22/fukushima-watch-individual-radiation-monitoring-spurs-debate/  (comment – It seems the antinuclear groups and their Press supporters have no desire for Fukushima evacuees to go home. The activists have a clear goal of keeping as many evacuees away as possible, with complete disregard for any mental anguish their thinly-veiled agenda causes.)  
  • Fukushima evacuees receiving compensation are getting a raise. A lump-sum payment will be issued to people from locations that might not be repopulated in the next 5 years. The additional funds will cover damages for mental anguish due to the lengthy period of time before they can go home. The Dispute Reconciliation Committee for Nuclear Damage Compensation says those unlikely to return home in the foreseeable future will be awarded up to $75,000 per person, based on $1,000 per month over an estimated six year time-frame. These locations are showing radiation exposures in excess of 50 millisieverts per year. People from locations adjacent to the +50 mSv/yr sites will also get that amount because they will face difficulties in their daily lives after returning home. They have been receiving $1,000 per month each for mental damages until now. The lump-sum payments will void out the future monthly payments and put a cap on the total compensation for mental anguish. Up to $12,000 per person will be given to those from locations below 20 mSv/yr, where current restrictions are expected to be lifted in the next 12 months. Persons from places in the 20-50 mSv/yr range will be awarded up to $24,000 each. But, this will not be the ceiling on possible compensations. Once restrictions are lifted, additional compensations can be received for up to one year. For example, if the six-year group does not go home after 60 months from now, they can get an additional year’s compensation plus an eighth year of pay-outs after the evacuation order ends. Finally, if any resident can never go home, they will be subsidized to assist with the cost of housing elsewhere. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131122p2a00m0na016000c.html
  • Tepco has received another $1.2 billion from Tokyo to cover this month’s compensation pay-outs. There are about 84,000 individuals receiving payouts. This equates to an average of $13,333 per month per person for December. The money comes from Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, based on the revised Comprehensive Special Business plan invoked in October of 2011. There have been 22 months of Fund transfers from Tokyo to Tepco. Over the past 2 years, the Fund has loaned $30 billion to Tepco to cover the mandated compensation payments. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1232356_5130.html
  • Tepco has asked the news media to stop posting certain pictures and videos showing security measures at the F. Daiichi station. The news media feeding-frenzy due to the unit #4 spent fuel transfer has resulted in the posting of some pictures that violate national security law. The regulation being invoked is “Measures to be Taken for Physical Protection of Specific Nuclear Fuel Material”. The Nuclear Regulatory Authority has been advised of the situation and told Tepco to ask the Press to be wary of the law. Sensitive images includes spent fuel transportation schedules, transportation routes, and security guard activities. The law is intended to prevent theft, unauthorized diversion of nuclear materials, or sabotage by individuals or groups. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2013/1232348_5130.html
  • Tokyo wants to buy 15 km2 of land adjacent to F. Daiichi for temporary low-level waste storage. This will impact thousands of landowners in Okuma and Futaba whose properties are inside the zones most unlikely to be repopulated. The Environment Ministry is hoping to get the support of the Fukushima Government and town mayors. Tokyo anticipates the cost of buying the property will be around $2 billion. Two other towns, Nahara and Tomioka, have a few locations of interest and are included in the plans. The vicinity of storage facilities might be restricted to habitation over concerns about the passage of trucks carrying low-level waste. The expected duration of storage is 30 years. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2013/11/23/national/fukushima-land-grab-eyed/#.UpCxWYAo4dU
  • Tepco and Mitsubishi plan to build and operate two new coal-burning power plants near F. Daiichi. Hirono Town and Iwaki City will be hosts to the twin 500 MWe units. This will partly compensate for the decommissioning of the two fully-functional units 5 & 6 at F. Daiichi. The total cost of building the coal units is estimated at $3 billion. The plants will be state-of-the-art integrated combined gasification cycles which promises to emit less atmospheric pollution than the coal plants now operating in Japan. The companies plan to apply for a government subsidy to help defray costs. It is hoped the two units will be operational before the end of 2015. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20131123p2g00m0bu096000c.html