• Fukushima Daiichi is becoming a popular tourist spot. For the first year after the March, 2011, accident, visitation was primarily politicians and specialists. About 900 visitors came in 2011. Since then, some 16,000 have toured the accident site, and most of them are “ordinary citizens”. The numbers have increased as the radiation levels at F. Daiichi have dropped. 3,700 people toured the site between April and October of 2015. Visitors mainly stay inside tour busses, but wear face masks, shoe covers, and gloves, just to be extra cautious. All wear dosimeters. The typical exposure is a tenth of a millisievert. Tepco opened a visitor’s center in April, 2014. Whether or not a tour is allowed depends on the interests of the group being considered. The main reason for tours is to see the decommissioning work being performed. Hideaki Noro of the visitor center says, “Interest in the work serves as the core motivating factor for employees and decommissioning workers. We plan to actively allow in visitors for as long as possible.” http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201601120042
  • Tokyo will further increase efforts for repopulation. Evacuation orders will be lifted by the end of March, 2016, for all or parts of the nine communities remaining to be repopulated. Currently, four communities are allowed to have overnight stays in homes to prepare for the earliest rescinding of evacuation orders: the few remaining parts of Minamisoma, Kawamata town, and the villages of Katsurao and Kawauchi. Because of constant concerns by prospective returnees over radiation exposure and available infrastructure, Tokyo will beef up commercial rebuilding, preparation of medical facilities, and welfare support. Subsidies are also being planned for restoration of businesses, factory construction, and reopening of stores and restaurants, beginning in April, 2016. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20160112_10.html
  • Fukushima appeals to a third party over a financial dispute with Tepco. The prefecture wants the company to pay for expenses incurred due to a new government radioactive contamination department at a cost of about $9 million. Compensation is also being pursued for a public relations campaign to revive Fukushima’s tourism business. Tepco has balked at paying for these expenses. The prefecture has appealed to Tokyo’s nuclear damage claim dispute resolution center to serve as mediator. A TEPCO official said, “We will respond in a sincere manner based on the established procedures.” This makes a total of seven prefectures seeking compensation through the claim dispute center. Only one (Iwate) has been awarded funds through third-party settlement.  http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201601140031http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160114/p2a/00m/0na/020000c
  • Stray cat rescue inside the evacuation zone continues despite the prefecture closing the abandoned-pet shelter. The Nyander Guard says that former pets remain on the loose, even though Fukushima Prefecture feels it is unlikely that any remain after five years. The Guard’s Akira Honda says some remain and need to be found. The Guard sets out traps and has surveillance cameras set inside the exclusion zone. One group member, Takemi Shirota, travels into Okuma Town, part of the “difficult to return” zone. She recently trapped a shabby-looking calico cat wearing a collar. She said, “The cat must have had an owner before the accident”. The Guard has rescued about 400 cats and returned most of them to their owners. Some 60 from the difficult-to- return locations remain unclaimed. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201601130071  (Comment – the Asahi Shimbun mentions that the “difficult to return” population number is about 24,000; the first mention of the zone’s population size in any of the numerous Japanese news sources we have scanned daily since March, 2011.)
  • Die-hard Fukui residents will file another lawsuit to try and stop Takahama station restarts. They feel the restarts of Takahama units 3 & 4 infringe on their personal rights. Local citizens and their supporters plan to file on March 11, commemorating the fifth-year anniversary. Unit #3 is due to restart the end of this month, and unit 4 in late February. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2016/01/392548.html
  • Solidification of high level nuclear waste will resume at Tokai station. The small facility began operation in 1977, but was closed in 2006 when the contract for reprocessing (recycling) used fuel from power plants came to an end. While operating, about 1,050 tons of used fuel was recycled, producing roughly 400 tons of liquefied waste isotopes; mostly fission products. In 2013, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said the plant will be decommissioned because it would cost too much to upgrade the facility to meet the new safety regulations. Regardless, the JAEA says they will resume glassifying (solidifying) of the stored liquid wastes as early as the end of the month. The Nuclear regulation Authority has already approved the work, despite the facility not having been screened with respect to the new rules. http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2016011300464http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Tokai-reprocessing-plant-to-shut-2909144.html