• All remaining Minamisoma evacuation orders will be lifted in July. Tokyo shared their plans with the city assembly on Friday. Much of Minamisoma lies outside the evacuation zone, and some of the zone has been re-opened. However, the remaining areas to have living restrictions lifted have a pre-accident population of nearly 12,000. This will make it the largest number of people to be allowed home since the government-ordered evacuation of 2011. Tokyo says decontamination has been completed and the living environment is safe for repopulation. A firm date for formal rescinding of the evacuation will not be set until after hearing opinions of the evacuees, in meetings that began Sunday. This will be the fourth evacuated community to be reopened inside the exclusion zone. Naraha was reopened last September, while Katsurao Town and Kawauchi Village will have the orders for the last communities lifted in June. The Ogi and Kainosaka districts of Kawauchi will have unrestricted residence beginning June 14th, making the entire town open for repopulation. Osamu Goto, deputy head of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, says decontamination has reduced outdoor exposures by 70% and conditions living conditions are safe.  http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160513_11/http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=664
  • Fukushima’s child thyroid cancer rate is probably due to over-diagnosis. Japan Times, the nation’s largest English-language newspaper, reports on the pain and suffering caused by child thyroid removal surgeries in Fukushima Prefecture since 2012. Two Fathers spoke at the launch of the 311 Thyroid Cancer Family Group, with their voices masked to protect their identities. Both have had children suffer thyroid surgery after the ultra-sensitive sonogram screening detected small anomalies that later tested positive for carcinoma. Both men said they do not want their speaking-out to be taken as linking the thyroid issue to the nuclear accident, and they fear social criticism if they reveal their identities. One said, “I couldn’t tell anyone that my child had cancer. My child was also unable to tell her friends” because of rumors that the nodules were caused by F. Daiichi radiation. 166 of the roughly 300,000 children screened since 2011, have shown the anomalies, and 116 of the nodules tested positive for carcinoma. None of them were under the age of five, strongly indicating that the nuke accident had nothing to do with it. Some doctors are showing support for the beleaguered families. Sagami Seikyo Hospital’s Motomi Ushiyama said, “[The families] were completely at a loss after being told their children had cancer and given little explanation. They were blaming themselves. It’s heart-wrenching to listen to such voices.” Shoichiro Tsugane, of the National Cancer Center, said over-diagnosis is probably the reason behind the rise in child thyroid cancers, “…based on scientific knowledge on thyroid cancer that we have, it is natural to think it is due to over-diagnosis.” Kazuo Shimizu, a thyroid surgeon at Kanaji Hospital, adds that contrary to most Press reports, not all of the children with detectible thyroid anomalies have had their glands removed. He has been observing some of them for three years, and their tumors often have not grown. Kuma Hospital reports that some of the originally-discovered anomalies have actually shrunk with the passage of time. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/05/12/national/science-health/thyroid-cancer-spike-fuels-fukushima-fears-cause-diagnosis/#.VzcUZClf0dV (Comment – This is the first national Press outlet to report on the over-diagnosis problem. Unfortunately, none of the major national News Media has done this.)
  • More than half of the forests in re-populated communities have radiation levels below the national decontamination goal. Of the nearly 5,700 forest sites monitored between September and November of last year, 58% were found to be below the 0.5 microsievert per hour goal. As such, these locations have been declared open for logging by the Prefectural Federation of Lumber Cooperative Associations. The analysis covered a total of 5,694 forest locations — 1,619 in Tamura’s Miyakoji district, 1,269 in Naraha and 2,806 in Kawauchi. http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=666
  • Tepco agrees to a decommissioning lull during the Group of Seven summit, May 26-27, including President Obama’s visit to Hiroshima on May 27. A Tepco spokesperson said that the suspension of most work at F. Daiichi will be a precaution against “risks” that could disturb the meeting of leaders. These alleged risks include leaks of radioactive waters and airborne monitoring device alarms. All essential operations to maintain cooling of the formerly melted fuel and internal reactor components (corium) will not be suspended, and decontamination of waste waters will also continue. The spokesperson said, “We have made the decision without any request from the government.” http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/05/13/national/tepco-put-fukushima-decommissioning-work-hold-g-7-summit/#.VzXA4Clf0dV (Comment – This move makes no sense. Tepco should continue all work at F. Daiichi during the summit. The suspension of work will only send a message to the world that decommissioning is too risky for the world leaders 500 kilometers from the nuke station. This will surely result in the antinuclear demographic alleging that if decommissioning is too risky for Obama and company, it must be too risky for the tens of million living within 500 km. Tepco has everything to lose and nothing of any significance to gain. IMHO, this is a major mistake.)
  • Tokyo approves safety upgrades for two research reactors. The two less-than-100-watt units are located at Kyoto and Kindai Universities. The schools have been waiting for a Nuclear Regulation Authority decision on their restart applications since 2014. After a series of meetings by its experts, the NRA sent draft reports to the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). After those two bodies agreed, NRA granted its permission on May 11. Six other research reactors are also under NRA consideration for restart. The reactors have been shuttered for more than two years with negative impacts on industrial research, as well as the development of human resources in the area of nuclear energy. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/nra-allows-reactor-modifications-at-two-research-reactors-first-under-new-regulatory-standards/