• Tepco posts its plan for unit #3 used (spent) fuel removal. There will be four main steps in the process: removal of remaining rubble, decontamination and shielding of the refueling deck, installation of fuel removal technology & a tubular cover, and lastly the removal of the 566 fuel bundles. The decontamination of the deck began in October, 2013, and large debris removal was finished in November, 2015, when the destroyed fuel handling bridge was lifted from the SFP. After decontamination and rubble removal are complete, remote-control installation of large radiation shields will cover most of the refueling deck, with the exception of the SFP to keep it open for fuel bundle removal. This will greatly reduce radiation levels. A work floor, with heavy shielding beneath it will be the next project (early 2016), followed by installation of the curved roof and fuel-removal machinery (through the first half of 2017). Fuel removal is scheduled for 2018. The remote-control devices to be used during the process were shown to the news media by Toshiba, at their Yokohama facility. Toshiba’s Koichi Sekiguchi says there is much to be learned about the condition of the materials in the SFP, but they will develop any new devices they feel might be better-suited for the job and/or lower radiation exposure to the workers. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2016/images/handouts_160118_01-e.pdfhttp://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.html The remote-control fuel removal technologies for unit #3 are further detailed by World Nuclear News. The fuel handling machine weighs 74 tons and is equipped with two manipulators that can cut and grasp debris, along with a fuel grappling mast for actual fuel bundle removal. The tips and hoists are designed to be removable for replacement with more appropriate devices, should they be needed. In addition, a 90 ton fuel hoisting crane was displayed that will move the fuel transfer vessels in and out of the pool, as well as remove and replace the lid of the vessels. http://www.world-nuclear-news.org/WR-Fuel-removal-machine-for-Fukushima-Daiichi-3-1801164.html
  • More detail on the remaining Fukushima evacuees. On January 8th, Fukushima Prefecture announced that the number of current evacuees dropped below 100,000 for the first time. Evacuees living inside the prefecture are tabulated and posted every few days by the prefecture itself, while those living elsewhere are charted by Tokyo and posted monthly. The tally is performed under the Disaster Relief Act. Evacuees who relocate from temporary to public houses for evacuees, or to newly purchased homes, officially end their evacuation status. One prefectural official said, “Relocations to permanent housing are in progress along with returns to homes of voluntary evacuees and of residents in zones where evacuation orders have been lifted.” http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=614
  • All of 2015’s harvested Fukushima rice passes radiation testing. This was the first year that all of the prefecture’s reaped rice measured less than 100 Becquerels per kilogram for Cesium. The prefecture tested 10,307,119 bags of the 2015 crop and found 10,306,498 of them, or 99.99%, below the self-imposed of 25 Bq/kg for shipment to market. The number of bags that exceeded the 100 Bq/kg Tokyo-mandated standard was 71 in 2012; there were 28 in 2013, two in 2014, and zero last year. The last bag of rice to exceed the national limit was tested before August of 2014. The prefecture attributes the good news to the extreme measures used by rice growers to minimize Cesium uptake in their crops as they grow. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=613
  • Kyoto University researchers say 2013 debris removal from unit #3 contaminated Minamisoma rice paddies. Team-leader Professor Akio Koizumi, has been trying to prove that the paddies were contaminated for more than two years. He and his staff presented their findings to the Minamisoma government which believe their rice crops were contaminated, but that Tokyo has covered it up. The report states, “The cause of further contamination was the radioactive particles dispersed from contaminated rubble during the cleanup effort at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.” Koizumi claims they have found about 3.6 times more Cesium in Minamisoma in 2014 than Tokyo’s original estimates, thus there must have been additional contamination deposited in 2013. Previously, the Agriculture Ministry and Nuclear Regulation Authority concluded that all dust generated in 2013 was too heavy to be carried in the air over the 20 kilometers between the nuke station and the rice fields. Koizumi implies cover-up, saying, “It seems they were blinded by their estimated amount of dispersed particles, and their choice for the analysis system was misguided. This kind of attitude would only increase the anxiety of residents in the affected areas.” The team’s conclusions are based on a digital recreation of what happened in 2013 using a unique analytic program developed for the study. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201601180052