• Most residents of Tamura’s Miyakoji district are back home. The entire 357-household district was forced to evacuate by government mandate in 2011. When the district was reopened for unrestricted population on April 1, 2014, Japan’s Press focused on those who did not initially repopulate, lamenting that only 27 families that returned (less than 10%). However on December 4th, Tokyo’s Reconstruction Agency said 62.6% of the people have returned; 23% higher than in October of 2014. In addition, more than half of the remaining refugees either plan on returning to Miyakoji or find a new home elsewhere in Tamura. Thus, it seems that more than 80% of the district’s evacuated population will eventually repopulate.  http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=605 (Comment – This reveals that the bombarding of evacuees with scare stories about low level radiation exposure, necessarily makes potential returnees timid. It now seems that most Miyakoji residents took a wait-and-see approach before returning. When the initial returnees show they are hale, healthy, and happy after many months, the majority has trickled back. I suspect that the same will recur with the other municipalities and districts after their evacuation orders are lifted. It is sad that the only Japan Press outlet to cover this good news is Fukushima Minpo.)
  • The F. Daiichi sea-side impermeable barrier causes an unexpected problem. The water being pumped out of the inland side of the wall is quite salty; too saline for decontamination equipment to work with. For the time being, the water is being pumped into the already-contaminated basements of the four damaged units. The basements are getting about 400 tons a day. Until now, new groundwater pumping processes had reduced the influx into the basements to 200 tons per day. Tepco says they will pump out more uncontaminated groundwater from the wells upstream of the buildings. This could reduce the buildup at the wall. Tepco will also monitor the water on the inland side of the wall to see if the level of salinity gets lower with the passing of time. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20151218_27.html
  • Disposal of rural decontamination materials has many prefectures at-odds. Fukushima’s recent acceptance of Tokyo’s plan to incinerate and/or dispose of the prefecture’s radioactive waste in Tomioka, has re-ignited the desire by five other prefectures to have their wastes shipped to Fukushima; Tochigi, Chiba, Ibaraki, Miyagi, and Gunma. A not-in-my back-yard attitude is common. For example, Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai says, “It would be desirable if all the nuclear waste in the five [affected] prefectures was completely removed from them.” On the other hand, Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori says his agreement with Tokyo’s plan does not make Fukushima a disposal site for all six prefectures, “I would like to confirm here again that radioactive waste in each prefecture should be disposed of locally by the central government.” Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa added, “We’ll uphold a plan to dispose of radioactive waste in each prefecture.” Whether or not Fukushima and Tokyo’s positions will hold is speculative, given the stiff opposition of the other five prefectures. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002632836
  • Tokyo feels decontamination of forests may do more harm than good. The government might not decontaminate forested land in Fukushima and other prefectures that is far from residential areas. A government task force has been studying the situation and has concluded that removing fallen leaves could allow contaminated soil to flush out of the forests. The upper, largely uncontaminated leaf bed covers the underlying contaminated soil, allowing rainfall to run off with very little contamination in it. By keeping the leaf-cover in place, no harmful levels will flush out. Leaf removal could result much higher levels of contamination being purged into inhabited areas. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20151221_09.html
  • The latest on the unit #2 Safety Relief Valve failure reported on Thursday. Some of the confusing news reports turn out to have merit, while others can now be understood as incorrect. First, the correct…F. Daiichi’s SRVs are opened by a combination of DC electrical current and Nitrogen gas pressure. In addition, the DC-actuated valves for the Nitrogen gas supply have rubber seals that may have lost integrity due to extreme heat and failed to work properly. In addition, the connection of the nitrogen supply to the SRVs may have leaked, also due to the heat inside the Primary Containment (PCV) on March 14-15. Now for the incorrect…The SRV malfunctions were with both unit #2 and #3 (see the next bullet, below). It further seems that Nitrogen gas releases the locking mechanisms on the SRVs if design pressure set-points are reached. The SRVs operate in pairs as the steam pressure increases. When reactor steam pressure reaches a specific value, the Nitrogen supply actuation valves open for the first two SRVs, the Nitrogen pressure releases the locking mechanisms, and the SRVs come open. It wasn’t the SRVs that malfunctioned; it was the Nitrogen supply valves that failed because some of the rubber seals were only designed to survive temperatures of 170oC, and PCV temperatures were reported to be in excess of 150oC by in-plant operators. The SRVs were always operable, as evidenced by the in-plant operating crew eventually connecting car batteries to nitrogen actuators, and the nitrogen supply valves opened. This resulted in two SRVs opening, reducing pressure inside the reactor vessel enough for fire pumps to inject seawater for cooling.  http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20151218/p2g/00m/0dm/024000c
  • Tepco releases its fourth Fukushima Progress Report. The Progress Report is where the Press got its information on the Unit #2 SRVs, but was never mentioned by the reporting Press outlets (NHK World, Asahi Shimbun, and Kyodo news Service) last Thursday. As mentioned above, the Thursday articles neglected to include that SRV malfunctions also occurred on unit #3. Also, Tepco actually said the increases in atmospheric releases beginning March 14, 2011, were from units 2&3 combined, while Thursday’s Press reports said the releases were only from unit #3. In addition, the Progress Report includes the latest information on molten fuel relocation, new data on the increase of pressure inside unit #3 PCV, the possibility of at least a partial melt-through for unit #1, and an updated accident timeline. Here are the links for the Tepco report summation… http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2015/1264512_6844.html and Press handout…  http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu15_e/images/151217e0101.pdf
  • It appears the removal of debris from unit #1 will begin in January. Tepco has built a partial mock-up of the destroyed upper floor of the unit. On December 16th, the Press observed operators practice using remote-controlled cranes to lift and remove large steel objects. The cranes are equipped with plier-like grasping devices to prevent slippage once the debris has been grabbed. Crane-operated cutting tools were also demonstrated. A TEPCO official said, “We want to improve our technique so we can conduct the operation with accuracy.” Tepco estimates that there are about 50 large pieces that must be removed before a dust-suppression sprinkler system can be installed. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201512180040
  • Only 16% of Fukushima’s evacuees were aware of Tokyo’s initial nuclear emergency declaration. The survey of evacuees was released by the Prime Minister’s Cabinet Office on Thursday. Understandably, the reason was because the earthquake and tsunami knocked out most of the Prefecture’s communications infrastructure. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201512190021 (Comment – The Asahi Shimbun says the initial emergency declaration in Tokyo was at 7:03pm. However, F. Daiichi plant manager Masao Yoshida informed Tokyo of the initial emergency declaration by Fukushima Prefecture at 3:42pm; seven minutes after the tsunami hit the station.)
  • Japan’s leading antinuclear group creates new terrorism concerns. The Citizen’s Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) in Tokyo says Japan’s new security law and recent military cooperative agreement with America makes Japanese nukes an international terrorist target. The CNIC’s Hideyuki Ban says, “The terrorist threat to Japan has increased more than ever because of the (legalization of using the) right to collective self-defense.” Conversely, former American embassy science expert Kevin Maher says the new regulations for nukes has beefed up security, making “softer” Japanese targets more likely for attack, “I think there are other targets that terrorists would probably aim for rather than nuclear power plants.” CNIC’s Ban said also that no nukes should be restarted, because, “The steel plate of the primary containment vessel is only about 3 cm, and the outside concrete layer is not very thick. A large airplane would burst right through a containment vessel if it was directly hit.” Actually, the steel liner is imbedded inside high-density, steel-reinforced concrete several feet thick. The Ban statement was so incorrect that Tepco and the Nuclear Regulation Authority declined to comment on it. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/12/20/national/nuclear-power-plants-feared-vulnerable-terrorist-groups/#.VnbBvpDUgdV