• The long-awaited F. Daiichi “ice wall” is finally approved. On Wednesday, the Nuclear Regulation Authority gave Tepco the go-ahead to activate the soil freezing project. The process will be completed in stages, with the nearly 700 meter-long sea-side barrier frozen first. The technology was read to go two months ago, but the NRA would not approve start-up until Tepco caved to their demands for freezing the earth in stages. The wall will extend almost completely around the four contaminated basements at F. Daiichi, to a depth of at least 30 meters. The sequenced start-up process should be finished in about eight months. Tepco estimates that the inflow of groundwater to the basements will be noticeable in about 45 days. Seven small sections on the west (inland) side of the four damaged units will be left unfrozen to allay NRA concerns that completely surrounding the basements with frozen soil could drop groundwater level below the water levels in the buildings and cause an out-flow of highly contaminated liquid within the walled area. The effectiveness of the wall is doubted by some news outlets. The routinely-antinuclear Associated Press belittled the huge refrigeration pipes, calling them “giant popsicles”, and cited a Tepco official who said, “Its effect is still unknown, because the expected outcome is based on simulations.” http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160330/p2a/00m/0na/012000chttp://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002842361https://www.yahoo.com/news/japan-regulators-ok-costly-ice-070409610.html (AP report)
  • The ice wall system began operation this morning. The minus 30oC refrigerant began flowing into the first of the massive pipes at 11:20am. This begins stage one, to solidify more than two-thirds of the 1.5 kilometer perimeter around the four unit’s basements containing contaminated water. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “I very much expect that the frozen soil shields will start to prevent groundwater from entering the reactor buildings at an early date.” Suga also hopes that TEPCO will “carry out the operation steadily while putting safety first.” http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002844243http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2016/1272694_7763.html (Tepco Press Release) — http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/nra-approves-start-of-freezing-of-land-side-impermeable-wall-at-fukushima-daiichi/
  • Most evacuees living in other prefectures want to remain where they now live. This was discovered by a Fukushima Prefecture survey announced March 25th. The survey was sent to families currently living in rent free housing. Of the nearly 3,200 that responded, 65% said they hope to remain in homes outside Fukushima Prefecture once the government stops paying their rent a year from now. On the other hand, 18% said they are considering a return to their former homes once the government money-spigot is turned off. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=648
  • Another Fukushima lawsuit is dropped by a court. On Wednesday, The Fukushima District Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that it will not prosecute Tokyo Electric Power Co. or its executives for violating an environmental pollution law. A criminal complaint was filed two-and-a-half years ago by members of the public, alleging Tepco and 32 of its executives allowed contaminated water to be released. The prosecutors said there was “insufficient” evidence to press charges, and that most of the named executives “had no authority or responsibility to set measures to avoid the leakage in the first place.” Therefore, the accusation has “no grounds.” A spokesperson for the undeterred plaintiffs said the decision is unacceptable and they will appeal through the Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201603300068
  • Tokyo pushes for dry cask storage of used nuclear fuel bundles. Officials say they will promote the storage option because it is hypothetically safer than keeping the fuel bundles in deep water pools. The problem is getting local communities to agree to the possibility because they fear that the filled casks will be kept in their communities over long periods of time. Tokyo says they will raise annual subsidies to the host communities. Currently, the subsidy is $3,550 per year for every ton of used fuel. Tokyo wants to drop the in-pool storage pay-out to $2,670 per ton per year, and raise the annual subsidy for dry cask storage to $5,330 per ton. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160330_10/
  • Cesium concentrations in Japan’s wild game continues to drop. Seven types of wild game from Fukushima, Miyagi, Yamagata, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Chiba and Niigata Prefectures, have been restricted since March 2011 due to radioactive cesium in the meat. Since then, cesium levels have dropped by a factor of two-thirds. Chiba University professor Masashi Murakami says cesium levels in wild game animals fall faster than the element’s natural decay rate. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160331/p2a/00m/0na/016000c