• Minamisoma City is now fully re-opened to residents. Tokyo has formally lifted the government-imposed evacuation order of 2011, allowing as many as 10,800 more citizens to have unrestricted access to their homes. About half of the city was evacuated following the nuke accident. The pre-accident population was nearly 64,000. Two of the evacuation zones were re-opened previously, but the latest lifting of the restrictions for the Odaka and Haramachi Districts affects the largest number of evacuees to date. This is the fifth cancellation of a Fukushima evacuation order, and the largest in land-area and population to have the mandate lifted. About 2,000 of the former residents have returned. The relatively low percentage of people taking immediate advantage of the order being lifted is attributed to the long period of Tokyo’s ban of returning home resulting in many families finding suitable employment and accommodations elsewhere, and (of course) the fear of low level radiation exposure. Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai said, “This is not the end of our reconstruction, it is the beginning.” http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160712_06/http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201607120054.htmlhttp://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160712/p2a/00m/0na/018000c
  • The Science Council of Japan held a symposium on communicating food safety. Participants focused on the theme of radiation communication because deep-rooted issues of fear and misinformation continue more than five years since the nuke accident. Among the many speakers was Fukushima Medical University’s Dr. Yuji Hasegawa, who said that much of the problem revolves around Fukushima citizens “negatively labeling” local produce. He called for all Japanese to have radiation-monitoring instruments to decide on food safety for themselves. Another speaker, Kyoto University’s Dr. Yoko Niiyama, spoke about inadequate risk communication, saying, “What the public knows is limited by the information environment.” He explained that distrust of the government and the Press led people to gather their own information and form strong, often incorrect opinions. He suggested that actual experts should try to understand what people fear and inform as a response. One other participant, Tokyo University’s Dr. Nobuyuki Yagi, said the huge volume of purified water at F. Daiichi contains only one radioactive isotope, the biologically-innocuous Tritium, which has held up releasing the water to the sea. He cited Dr. Niiyama’s research showing that consumers “intuitively reject” products that might contain radioactivity, especially from Fukushima sea foods. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/science-council-of-japan-holds-symposium-on-food-and-radiation-risk-communication/
  • Kyodo News posts that the unit #2 re-solidified fuel (corium) is in the reactor. As earlier reported (and subsequently deleted) by NHK World, Kyodo says the Muon scanning image shows that the 200 tons of corium has accumulated in the bottom head of the Reactor Pressure Vessel. http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2016/07/421290.html
  • An accidental spill of mildly-contaminated water occurred at F. Daiichi on Monday. Workers were using a vacuum truck to remove contaminated rainwater from a storage tank when a hose came loose. About 80 liters (16 gallons) of the stored rainwater spilled out and into a drainage ditch before flow was stopped. Samples of the water revealed about 1,200 Becquerels of Strontium-90 per liter. All of the spilled water was contained and recovered by the workers. Nothing leaked into the barricaded inner port (quay). Radiation monitors downstream of the incident showed nothing detectibly unusual. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160712_12/
  • A major nuclear accident class action suit has been rejected by a Tokyo District Court. 3,800 claimants from 33 countries had sought largely symbolic compensation from the F. Daiichi manufacturers. Under Japanese liability law, manufacturers are usually exempt from accident damage claims. The plaintiffs’ lawyers had argued that the law violated the constitutional right for the pursuit of a happy, wholesome, and cultured livelihood. The Tokyo District Court ruled that the law “is not unconstitutional”. One plaintiff said, “We knew it was difficult to win under the current legal system in Japan, but it’s clearly wrong that nuclear (plant) manufacturers don’t have to bear any responsibility for an accident. If they are spared responsibility, it could lead to disregard for product quality.” The plaintiffs say they will appeal. http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/court-rules-fukushima-reactor-makers-not-liable-for-2011-disaster
  • Tokyo’s Fukushima decommissioning body hints at a sarcophagus! The Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation says there are two long-term possibilities for corium inside units #1, 2 & 3, at F. Daiichi. The first is removal of the material after filling the Primary Containments with water, then deep geological disposal of all material. The other is creating a “sarcophagus” to seal off the reactor buildings, similar to Chernobyl. Although the latest plan is strongly in favor of corium removal, it mentions the sarcophagus option for the first time. Reaction to the mention of entombment is predictable. Minamisoma Mayor Sakurai said the government and TEPCO must abide by their long-standing pledge to remove the fuel from Fukushima Prefecture. He added that until this is done, the evacuees won’t feel it’s safe to return home. Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba said Tokyo and Tepco must have faith in being able to eventually figure out how to remove the corium. Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe also urged the government and the utility to stick to their initial disposal promise. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160713_25/http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160713_28/
  • Tokyo plans background checks for upgraded nuclear workers. The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has drafted regulations for security checks on nuke workers to prevent terrorists from gaining nuclear facility access. They will include worker’s records of overseas’ travel, drug abuse, and possible criminal activities. Currently, security checks look at driving records and identification cards. The security checks will be mandated for workers who regularly enter central control rooms and other protected areas. The agency plans on implementing the ruling in August after the required 30-day public comment period. This is the first regulatory action of its type in Japan. In the past, Tokyo felt that such deep, detailed investigations were a violation of personal rights. http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160713/p2a/00m/0na/013000c
  • The Otsu Court disallows the appeal to reverse the injunction against Takahama #3&4 operation. This is the same court that issued the injunction in March, and also refused to temporarily void the injunction in June. Tuesday’s decision was issued under the same presiding judge, Yoshihiko Yamamoto, who rendered the other judgments. The rationale was that the Nuclear Regulation Authority regulations were irrational and did not guarantee absolute safety. In this latest decision, Yamamoto said the utility had not given an adequate explanation of what caused the 2011 Fukushima accident. Unit #3 had restarted and unit #4 was preparing for restart when the initial injunction was rendered in March, forcing Kansai electric to shutter both of them. Kansai Electric said, “We are very disappointed with today’s decision as our claims were rejected. It is totally unacceptable to us.” The utility will now appeal to the Osaka High Court. The company says fuel bundles will be removed from both Takahama reactors next month because the High Court appeal will take a long time. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20160712_25/http://english.kyodonews.jp/news/2016/07/420911.html
  • On Thursday, Kansai Electric Power Co. appealed the district court ruling. Kepco says the Otsu District Court’s decision to not suspend their initial injunction was “totally unacceptable” because the company had given them the requested detailed explanation on the safety of the reactors.  http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/07/14/national/crime-legal/kansai-electric-files-appeal-ruling-takahama-reactors/#.V4evrVIUWic