Please excuse the lateness of this posting. The Japanese Press has obsessed on yesterday’s Court Injunction which stopped operation of Takahama units #3&4. It has not only the lead story with most major outlets, and the number of side-bar articles is huge, so there has been little or no Fukushima news. In a few other news outlets, there has been a lot of good stuff specific to Fukushima…some of it really good…which is all-but ignored by Press outlets that fixate on Takahama. As a result, we will break this unusually-long Update into two parts: first will be the important, mostly good news concerning Fukushima, followed by an overview of coverage relative to Takahama.

A. Fukushima and related News…

  • A team of experts from four universities conclude that the Fukushima evacuation was not justified. The team consists of experts from City University in London, Manchester University, the Open University and Warwick University. Team head, Professor Phillip Thomas, said “We judged that no one should have been relocated in Fukushima and it could be argued this was a kneejerk reaction. It did more harm than good. An awful lot of disruption has been caused.” A second finding was that the financial impact of the evacuation was up to 150 times greater than what might be judged as rational. Another says Tokyo failed to consider the physical and psychological effects of their actions, leading to more than 1,000 evacuation-related deaths. Further, the fact that prolonged separation from home and hearth causes a significant fraction of evacuees to never wish to return, was overlooked. Thomas argues that governments should carry out a careful assessment before ordering a prolonged “relocation”. In addition, he would like to see more real-time information available to the public on radiation levels in order to avoid hysteria. Funding for the study came from Britain’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
  • Radiation exposures around F. Daiichi have dropped 65%. The Nuclear Regulation Authority routinely monitors radiation within an 80km radius from helicopters. The first such survey was in October, 2011. This was originally used to verify the efficacy of the extent of the evacuation. Areas with readings that extrapolated to 20 millisieverts per year or more, were considered to have warranted evacuation. The investigation has been run annually, ever since. The aerial survey run in October of last year revealed that there has been an average 65% decrease in exposure levels over the past four years. More than 80% of the drop is attributed to the passage of time, since radioactivity decreases as time passes. Professor Yuichi Onda, University of Tsukuba, says other reasons include isotopes sinking into the soil and decontamination efforts.
  • More than half of Naraha’s population is going home. Six months ago the evacuation order for the town was lifted. The latest Reconstruction Agency data shows that 7.6% of the original 7,000 person population have returned home. In addition, another 34.7% say the plan to return after all recovery plans have been realized, and some 8.4% say they will go back before then. Thus, 50.7% now say they have either returned home, or planning to return home, compared to 45.7% in October, 2014.
  • The chance of catching a fish off Fukushima’s coast with above-limit Cesium is almost zero. The finding was published in the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. The team of researchers was Japanese, headed by Hiroshi Okamura of the Fisheries Research Agency. They found the overall risk of contamination exceeding the standard has steadily dropped since the nuke accident, and is now almost zero percent when marine and freshwater fishes were taken together. The Japanese standard is 100 Becquerels per kilogram. They also found that the probability of catching a marine fish with greater than 20 Bq/kg was also almost zero, but 7.5% for freshwater game species.
  • No radioactive cesium was found in Fukushima meals for the second straight year. The study, conducted by Co-op Fukushima, tested home-cooked meals made with locally-grown products and regular tap water. The meals were prepared by 100 residents of Fukushima Prefecture. Due to these results, the Co-op concluded that the probability of ingesting radioactive cesium in Fukushima meals is “extremely low”. The Agricultural Ministry hopes these results will persuade the 12 nations that have varying sorts of bans on Japanese foods, to reconsider.
  • A cattle ranch has been open inside the F. Daiichi exclusion zone as a “protest”, since the nuke accident. “Ranch Hope” is in Namie, about nine miles from F. Daiichi; well-inside the infamous no-go zone. Owner Masami Yoshizawa has tended his prize beef cattle since the accident, despite pressure from Tokyo to slaughter the animals. He feels his efforts protest the government’s attempts to cover-up the impact of the nuke accident on the surrounding environment, “An effort to eliminate a negative reputation is nothing but a cover-up… We’ll stay here at the Ranch of Hope, and keep sending our message.” Yoshizawa fled his ranch when Tokyo ordered everyone to evacuate, but returned a few weeks later to find that 200 of the 330 animals in his herd had died, of starvation. He then pledged, “I said I was not going to let any more cows die on my ranch.” Tokyo has tried to block feed transports the force the rancher to kill his stock. However, the towns of Namie and Minamisoma, which border the property, have literally looked the other way. His cattle now number the pre-accident level of 330. He and his animals are hale and hearty.  (Comment – Associated Press reporter Mari Yamaguchi tries hard to make the report negative, in keeping with the Press outlet’s historically-antinuclear agenda. But, the facts show that remaining in the exclusion zone – defying government mandates – is not a demonstrable health hazard to anyone or anything.)
  • Still no Fukushima contamination on the North American Pacific coastline. Fukushima InFORM researchers have announced that samples of seawater from the British Columbia coast, mostly taken in October and November, contain no detectible Cs-134; the unmistakable indicator of Fukushima contamination. Meanwhile, off-shore waters indicate a slow, continuous rise in Cs-137, which suggests that the main body of the low concentration Fukushima plume is getting closer to British Columbia.
  • A former Tokyo official “blasts” PM Abe, the NRA and Tepco concerning nuclear safety. Yukio Edano was then-PM Naoto Kan’s Cabinet chief during the Fukushima accident. He is now Secretary General of the deposed Democratic Party of Japan. He says that the nation’s new nuclear safety regulations are not as good as they have been touted, “The government explanation is mistaken. The regulations have not won international recognition as the world’s toughest.” As for PM Abe’s support of nuke restarts, he charges Abe with shirking his responsibility as Prime Minister. Edano says there are no proven emergency evacuation plans, so restarts should not be allowed. In response, current Cabinet Chief Yoshida Suga said that Edano’s criticisms were “way off the mark”. As for Tepco, he argues that the recent discovery of an overlooked meltdown criterion in the company emergency manual is condemnable. Edano asserts that Tepco hid the truth, and the company “doesn’t take responsibility like it should.”
  • Tokyo’s chief nuke watchdog appeases Japan’s large antinuclear demographic. Nuclear Regulation Authority Chair Shunichi Tanaka says nukes passing his agency’s screenings for restart is “not enough” to insure safety. He urges surrounding communities to increase their vigilance and not drop their guard once a nuke resumes operation. Tanaka cautions against Japan’s new, more-stringent regulations promoting a new “safety myth”. He asserts, “If they [nuclear utilities] are to establish a new safety myth, it would be better to cancel nuclear power.” Tanaka also continues to doubt the efficacy of the ice wall barrier being frozen around the four damaged units at F. Daiichi. He believes the wall “will not essentially help reduce risk”. Tanaka makes one positive statement, saying that rural decontamination work has been effective and should allow people to return home.
  • Tokyo wants to make hydrogen fuel by using geothermal and wind power in Fukushima Prefecture. The electricity from the two renewable sources is planned to be used to power large-scale electrolysis of seawater that generates hydrogen. The fuel will be shipped to Tokyo and supply fuel cell vehicles to be used during the 2020 Olympic Games. The government adopted the plan at a meeting of Cabinet officials on Tuesday. The technology for the project may come from Japanese and/or foreign companies familiar with seawater electrolysis.
  • The idled Kashiwazaki-Kashiwa unit #5 had a minor control rod incident on Tuesday. During routine maintenance on the reactor’s control rod drive systems when one of the 185 fission-dampening devices moved a little, causing an alarm condition. The alarm cleared within a minute, indicating that the control rod had returned to its fully-inserted position. Station owner Tepco dutifully reported the unusual event to the NRA. The K-K station has seven Boiling Water reactor units.
  • Greenpeace goes “FUDing” over Chernobyl again. In a clear attempt to continue the promotion of radiophobia using rhetoric steeped in Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD), the international antinuke propaganda group reports that “…people continue to eat and drink foods with dangerously high radiation levels.” This conclusion is purported as rational because Chernobyl contamination is still detectible, especially in forests. The group reports, “It is in what they eat and what they drink. It is in the wood they use for construction and burn to keep warm.” Greenpeace also says the Ukraine is going broke, so it “no longer has sufficient funds to finance the programs needed to properly protect the public… this means the radiation exposure of people still living in the contaminated areas is likely increasing. And just as this contamination will be with them for decades to come, so will the related impacts on their health. Thousands of children, even those born 30 years after Chernobyl, still have to drink radioactively contaminated milk.” The report makes the same sort of scare-mongering claims with respect to Fukushima. Greenpeace continues to propagate the false notion that if radiation is detectible – even at the most trivial levels – it must be branded as highly radioactive.

II. Japan’s Press obsesses with the Takahama injunction…

  • An operation estoppel order was rendered against Takahama station on Wednesday. The injunction was effective immediately Thus, Takahama unit #3, in full commercial operation, had to be shuttered. Shutdown of the unit was completed today. The court, though, is not one from the Takahama plant’s home prefecture; Fukui. Rather, it is the Otsu district court in neighboring Shiga Prefecture. Presiding judge Yoshihiko Yamamoto said, “Kansai Electric has not fully explained its measures for ensuring the safety of the reactors, despite continuing concerns about such issues as measures to tackle a severe accident.” He further argued that Japan’s new regulations were not credible. NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka responded by defending the new regulations, stressing that they are based on the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. Lawyers for the 29 Shiga plaintiffs that filed the case called the decision “fair, calm, and wise,” and attacked the NRA’s safety standards as not sufficient to insure safety. They also questioned Kansai Electric Company’s safety culture. When the decision was announced, Kansai Electric immediately said, “We will promptly take steps to file an objection and will do our best to assert and prove the safety of the Takahama-3 and -4 NPPs so as to obtain the lifting of the temporary injunction as soon as possible.” Later, the company stated that the court must not have understood the issue they were adjudicating, and the decision rendered was entirely unacceptable. Meanwhile, a Shiga antinuclear group said that the Injunction was reasonable because an accident at Takahama would exposed the public to radiation and contaminate Lake Biwa; a source of drinking water for the region. They also claimed that no effective evacuation plan exists for the few hundred Shiga residents within the 30km Emergency Planning Zone. The antinukes have filed their own lawsuit, which is pending in the same court. Meanwhile, the governors of the two prefectures reacted to the injunction in very different fashions. Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa says the decision is extremely regrettable, and inconsistent court decisions make host communities to nukes worry about their future. He emphasized that restart decisions are the responsibility of the central government, but it is the combined obligation of Tokyo, the NRA, and nuke utilities to educate the nation so that the current level of confusion can be overcome. On the other hand, Shiga Governor Taizo Mikazuki said the injunction places emphasis on nuclear safety, and sends the message that Tokyo needs to take public opposition seriously.  —
  • The injunction gained considerable traction with other international Press outlets on Wednesday. Reuters reported that the decision could potentially throw the government’s energy policy into disarray. AFP News said the injunction will be a blow to PM Abe’s government policy on nukes. Bloomberg Business reports the decision undermines the promotion of nuke restarts. —
  • The Otsu Court questions the NRA’s new nuke safety standards. Presiding Judge Yamamoto charged that the NRA should not allow restarts until the cause of the Fukushima accident has been established, which he believes is still lacking, “The investigation into the cause of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is still under way. Finding the cause of the accident is necessary to prevent a recurrence. If the NRA’s stance is to not pay attention to that point, I cannot help but say that I have major concerns.” He believes the tsunami might not have been the cause of the accident, and until a detailed internal examination of all damaged units at F. Daiichi is completed, the reason for the accident cannot be known with certainty. Yamamoto also attacked the NRA’s regulations and safety philosophy, “It is necessary to sincerely face the mistake that has been repeated every time a disaster occurs — saying that the disaster ‘went beyond our assumptions’. He asserted that the NRA should draw up safety standards “based on the goal of preventing reactors from reaching critical conditions even when a severe accident occurs.” He also charged that nukes should remain idled until “concrete, visible” evacuation plans are in place. Yamamoto feels Tokyo is violating public trust by allowing restarts while plans are incomplete. The Secretariat for the NRA responded, “The court apparently wants to say that the new safety standards are insufficient, but it does not provide clear reasons for that on some points. I cannot understand what logic the court used to reach the conclusion.”
  • The Otsu Court decision has given new energy to antinuclear activists. Lawyer Kenichi Ido says the injunction could serve as a “tailwind” for similar moves by antinukes living in prefectures neighboring those hosting nukes, “It will no longer be an obstacle for plaintiffs not to be residents of prefectures that house a nuclear power plant.” He added that the ruling “is different from previous decisions because it calls on Kansai Electric Power Co. to verify how it reinforced the designs and operations of the nuclear plant and how the utility responded to requirements in light of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.”  About a hundred residents of Shiga Prefecture gathered together and were literally ecstatic over the injunction. One Shiga resident hailed it as a “landmark decision” and “I got goosebumps when I read the (ruling)”. Another said, “I feel as if I’m in heaven.” A third stated, “The reactivation of the Takahama plant disregards the pains of people in Fukushima. It is only natural that the court has made this decision amid the ongoing Fukushima crisis. Today is the best day for me over the past five years (after the accident).” A Fukushima evacuee from Okuma said, “The ruling is good in preventing others from experiencing the same distress as we have.” Finally, Iitate Mayor Norio Kanno hailed the Injunction, “It is absolutely necessary to provide sufficient explanations to residents who are concerned about safety regardless of the distance from nuclear plants. In that sense the ruling acknowledged the voices of residents in Shiga Prefecture even though it doesn’t host a nuclear power station.”