Japan’s Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) reports…

  • Since filling most of their identified storage facilities with contaminated waste waters, TEPCO has been brain-storming on what to do next. The water levels in the four turbine building basements are continuing to rise slowly due to leakage from reactor building components damaged by the emergency. Leakages from the turbine buildings are also raising water levels in the outside trenches. Reports of this situation have caused news media stories of increasing fears for more leaks to the sea. JAIF says TEPCO is examining the basements of other buildings for integrity, and will possibly use them for temporary storage. The contamination removal system for the waste waters is still about two weeks from completion. The identified basements are described as having “limited capacity”. TEPCO also told JAIF they are going to use the condenser in unit #3 as a temporary storage location, which is surprising considering the draining of the condensers to make room for the waste waters was a priority in April! Does this mean they haven’t used the condensers yet? And, if they haven’t, why not?
  • The unit #1 spent fuel pool’s (SPF) new cooling system was placed in operation yesterday, and this morning the pool’s temperature had dropped from 70oC to 38oC. TEPCO had said, earlier this week, they expected the new unit to drop temperatures this much over a period of weeks, not hours. Regardless, TEPCO will see if this lowers building humidity enough to start airborne activity removal systems.
  • TEPCO says there are 44 drainage tunnels and/or pits connected to the four water-deluged turbine buildings at Daiichi. Most have been plugged with concrete to reduce the risk of additional sea water contamination. The 17 remaining concrete pluggings will happen early this month.
  • As of this morning, ~1,800 workers at Fukushima Daiichi have been internally scanned. It is estimated that ~7,800 people have worked at the site since March 11, and most of them are still there. All who were at Daiichi in March need to be scanned first for they have the greatest potential for internal depositions.
  • Fukushima Prefecture is beginning to check evacuees from the “no-go zone” for possible internal contamination. They will use their single “whole body counter” at first, and expect to screen about 10 people per day. Fukushima Prefecture is trying to get two more counters from Okuma Town, which is inside the “no-go zone”, but they must be sure the sensitive instruments are free of contamination before use. The Prefecture is also asking all research facilities in northern Japan to donate their whole body counters to the effort. Because the evacuations began before the first hydrogen explosion at Fukushima #1, and further because the winds were blowing out to sea during the early days of high atmospheric releases, it is unlikely that many resident will have above-health-standard internal activity, if any. But, fears of “internal radiation”, especially since the reports of power station operators having high internal depositions, have increased considerably. This compels the Prefecture to take immediate action.We applaud Fukushima Prefecture for taking this action, but also provide them with a warning; these are highly sensitive devices that will detect even the most minute isotopic levels. There will unquestionably be some residents with detectible Fukushima isotopes in their systems. 34 of the 87 Nagasaki University health staff who have worked at Fukushima have detectable internal activity, in harmless trace amounts. The widespread “unsafe at any dose” concept, combined with the Hiroshima Syndrome, will foment further fears. It can’t be avoided. Most of the public absolutely believes any level of radiation exposure is inordinately dangerous, thus their fears are rational. It’s the Linear No-Threshold hypothesis that’s irrational…not your citizens. You have their undivided attention, so there is no better time than now to teach them the realities of radiation.

From the other Japanese sources…

  • Asahi Shimbun reports the IAEA investigation’s preliminary report (announced Wednesday) concludes that “confusion over responsibility” caused inadequate preparation for the Fukushima emergency and the muddled flow of information presented to the world. In addition, several parts of the report emphasize that Japan had underestimated worst-case earthquake/tsunami potential, resulting in the design considerations for tsunami protection at Fukushima being inadequate. In other words, too many cooks spoiled the soup.Asahi Shimbun goes on to say the IAEA feels the relatively high frequency of earthquakes and tsunamis in Japan compels “securing an adequate number of personnel and equipment to be able to respond to a natural disaster striking simultaneously at a number of different reactors at a number of different locations.” IAEA also says that given the confused nature of nuclear responsibility across Japan, the actions taken the first few days of the emergency were as good as might be expected. However, the complicated organizational structure in Japan may have delayed making important safety decisions. Perhaps the most negative part of the scenario was “a lack of a joint understanding among those in related government agencies as well as at TEPCO.” This lead to confusion with who ought to have been calling the shots…the government or TEPCO?One final note…IAEA applauds an individual at Fukushima Daiichi, “The head of a nuclear power plant did in fact act recognizing the responsibility of the position he held.” Could they be pointing at the plant manager at unit #1 who ignored TEPCO orders to stop cooling sea water flow on March 12?
  • Japan Times is running an article “Radiation-linked cancer an intangible numbers game”. They write, “Experts agree that exposure to more than 100 millisieverts in total increases the risk of cancer. However, scientists have yet to achieve consensus about the degree of risk of contracting cancer below that level.” The article emphasizes that no-one really knows the risk of exposures below 100 msv. The interviewed experts say that all radiation exposures, no matter how small, pose a risk. The disagreement is whether or not the risk is great or small. They point out there is no statistical evidence for cancer mortality below 100 msv, and the risk at and above 100msv is “estimated”. The Times quotes Masayori Ishikawa, a professor in the department of applied molecular-imaging physics at Hokkaido University and a radiation therapist, “Below 100 millisieverts, the chances are too small to get statistically significant data. With such a low risk, it would be difficult to have statistically significant data, even if information on about 1 million people were available.” Otsura Niwa, professor emeritus at Kyoto University, told the Times that a lack of evidence does not mean there is no risk, “It means that if there is an increase in the health risk, it is below the level detected by the best study in the world.” In either case, the notion of radiation risk is not rejected for low exposures.For journalistic “balance” there’s Ikuro Anzai, a professor emeritus at Ritsumeikan University and life-long nuclear critic agrees, to a point, “The risk of cancer incidence is not zero even at low doses….But the levels we are now exposed to are not something people have to worry deeply about. Many people get scared simply by hearing the word radioactivity. But we have to base our worries on reality. It is very difficult, but we need to have rational fears.” Later, he says everyone in Japan ought to take extra precautions to limit exposure and the ingestion of contamination, rather than waste time arguing about dose limits. He goes on to say washing food will remove “some” contamination.Here’s the bottom line…not one word about radiation hormesis or comparing exposures to natural background levels around the world. For those of us who have spent three decades learning about these fear-mitigating realities, it’s disappointing and frustrating…but not unexpected. As long as the no-safe-level theory of radiation exposure remains a public paradigm, there will be no realistic basis to radiation fears. None!
  • Kyodo News and NHK World announced the motion for no-confidence by the House of Representatives toward Prime Minister Kan has failed…sort of. In a last minute act to keep his job, Kan announced he would voluntarily step down as soon as “tangible progress is made” toward tsunami recovery and the nuclear emergency at Fukushima. Kan, however, did not specify what conditions would constitute “tangible progress”. Regardless, Kan’s last-ditch effort worked, causing numerous supporters of the motion submitted earlier this week to recant and/or abstain.But, the political fire-storm in Japan continues. NHK World tells us that former Prime Minister, Yukio Hatoyama, has discovered Kan will step down before the end of June. From the NHK article, “Hatoyama told reporters on Thursday that Kan will resign after Diet legislation to help reconstruct disaster-hit northeastern Japan is passed and the compilation of a second supplementary budget is almost finished,” which Kan allegedly confirmed in a private meeting with Hatoyama earlier in the day. Kan’s Democratic Party Secretary General, Katsuya Okada, denies Hatoyama’s claim, resulting in Hatoyama saying Ozawa is “lying”. Meanwhile, Kyodo news reports that the political dickering is infuriating nuclear and tsunami evacuees who feel the political effort is taking away from government efforts toward recovery. They don’t think putting someone else in charge will make their situation any better.Japan Times this morning reports that some 70 members of Kan’s party in the House were going to vote in favor of the no-confidence motion, but instead abstained after Kan’s announcement. This surely swung the House vote against the motion. In reaction to the motion’s failure, The Times quotes opposition party Vice President Tadamori Oshima, who slams Kan viciously, “You are an opportunist without principles. You aim to please by altering your opinions and behavior on occasion.”
  • Asahi Shimbun reports the two workers who received over-exposure due to internal deposition of airborne radioactive material were actually assigned to twin units 3 & 4. They were working somewhere in or around the nuclear tandem on March 11 and 12, and were probably exposed to high airborne concentrations from the unit #1 Hydrogen explosion. Earlier reports of the workers being unit #1 control room staff seem to have been in error.