• Tokyo wants to reopen most of Katsurao Village on June 12th. More than three-quarters of the community will have the evacuation order lifted, but it is not known how many of the 1,451 residents will take the opportunity. Mayor Masahide Matsumoto and Tokyo officials announced the plan to about 300 villagers on April 10th. Many were unhappy with the decision. Some questioned whether decontamination has been adequate. One person asked, “Is it really safe to live there?” The mayor said he will follow the will of his constituency, but added, “Personally, I would like to follow the schedule of ending evacuation on June 12.” http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=658
  • Tepco plans to dismantle most of unit #1&2 exhaust stack. The Nuclear regulation Authority had asked for the disassembly because steel beams in the upper support structure had fractured, probably during the hydrogen explosion of unit #1. The NRA says there is a risk of the 120 meter-high stack collapsing in the future. Because of high radiation levels around the stack from residual contamination left inside after the venting of March 12, 2011, dismantling will be performed by crane. TEPCO officials said that fractures were found in eight steel joint locations at and above the 66 meter elevation. Tepco says a collapse is unlikely, even with the fractures in the support matrix. But, there would be impacts on the decommissioning effort if the unlike were to happen, so Tepco agreed to do it. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160425/p2a/00m/0na/024000c
  • Ground has been broken for a decommissioning research facility in Tomioka. It will be part of the “Innovation Coast” project, integrating high-tech industries along the coastal region of Fukushima Prefecture. The decommissioning facility is planned to employ 150 engineers and researchers from Japan and around the world, investigating ways to remove the re-solidified corium (melted fuel and core components) and handle disposal of the high-level wastes. Construction will cost about $12 million. Tomioka Mayor Koichi Miyamoto hopes that the new facility will motivate local revitalization efforts. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160425_28/
  • Tepco has posted the latest Press handout on the status of the “ice wall”. It seems that freezing of the earth around the refrigerant pipes on the sea-side portion of the barrier is progressing nicely. Once it is fully frozen and a period of monitoring groundwater levels is complete, Phase 2 freezing of the north and south portions of the system will begin. Interestingly, groundwater level locations both inside and outside the portion being frozen demonstrated an initial decrease in groundwater levels for a few days, but have remained steady since. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/handouts/2016/images/handouts_160421_01-e.pdf
  • The NRA is planning to have unannounced (“snap”) nuke inspections. This will be part of inspection upgrades the agency hopes to have in place by 2020. The introduction of “snap” inspections was suggested by the International Atomic Energy Agency in their assessment of the NRA, issued in January. Currently, on-site inspections are formally scheduled four times a year; once every calendar quarter. Inspections beyond the pre-arranged schedule must be approved by the plant owners. If the proposed change makes it through the Diet, unannounced inspections will be allowed regardless of a utility’s feelings on the matter. The NRA will set up a panel to next month to discuss the matter, and submit legislation to the government by next February. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160425_25/http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2016/04/408495.html
  • The OECD wants to set new international standards for radioactive food contamination. The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development announced it two weeks ago, but Fukushima Minpo seems to be the first Japanese Press outlet to post it. NEA Director General William Magwood stressed the need to unify ways of measuring radioactive concentration and standards that currently differ from country to country. For example, the Ukraine’s limit is 20 Becquerels per kilogram for bread, and the United States is 1,200 Bq/kg for all foods. Japan’s standard for food radioactivity is 100 Bq/kg for all foods. Japan hopes the OECD decision will help ease bans on Japanese food exports to foreign countries. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=659
  • News reports on nukes following the Kumamoto earthquakes did not cause public alarm. This observation was made by NHK’s President Katsuto Momii at the NHK Broadcasting Center. A source close to Momii explained, “Ongoing reporting on nuclear power plants should be based on official announcements so as not to stir up residents’ anxiety unnecessarily.” While most news media representatives in attendance had no objections, a few didn’t like it. One executive commented, “This is an order wherein the president is trying to make sure that broadcasts reflect his own personal viewpoint” implying that other Press officials might not feel the same way. Rikkyo University’s Hiroyoshi Sunakawa, said, “President (Momii) has strong authority over personnel-related matters, and if the remark (on nuclear power) was indeed made, it is a problematic statement that has a chilling effect on on-the-ground reporting. It could threaten independent reporting that aims to verify the appropriateness of evacuation plans in the event of a nuclear power plant accident…” http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160423/p2a/00m/0na/009000c
  • Tepco announces the latest financial assistance influx from Tokyo for evacuee compensation. Tepco received about $40 million from the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation for May. This brings the total for compensation pay-outs, to date, to nearly $50 billion. http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2016/1278393_7763.html
  • Deregulation is hurting financially-strapped Tepco. As of April 8th, more than 600,000 households across Japan had switched electricity providers. About 60% of the total were from Tepco to other local providers. The majority of the Tepco switches were with customers in the greater Tokyo area, with Tokyo Gas Company garnering 260,000 new customers. Analyst Shusaku Nishikawa says that a million total switches could occur by the end of the year. If the current trend continues, this means Tepco could lose 600,000 customers. This will cut Tepco’s cash flow by at least 3%. http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Trends/Deregulation-hurting-Tepco-s-earnings
  • Former fishermen plan to sue Tokyo because they may have been exposed to radiation 60 years ago. An American hydrogen bomb test detonation at Bikini Atoll in 1954 contaminated the crew of the Fukuryu Maru #5. There were as many as 1,000 other Japanese fishing boats operating in the vicinity at the time, but not all of those crews were screened for exposure. 40 former fishermen and their families are expected to take part in the suit, which is planned to be filed on May 9th. They want $18,000 each in compensation. In September, 2014, the Health Ministry announced that some of the fishing boats other than the Fukuryu Maru had crews with unusual levels of radiation after the Bikini blast. The prospective plaintiffs believe they were also exposed, but were never screened by the government. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160425_13/