• On December 6, TEPCO announced they have begun removal of radioactive materials from the water in the Spent Fuel Pool (SPF) of unit #2. The decontamination system is contained in two trucks, one for pumping and the other holding a Cesium absorption device. The absorber truck is lined with shielding to minimize the external radiation field which will develop as Cesium is stripped from the water. The decontaminated water will then return to the SPF. Once the cesium levels are down to a minimum, another portable unit will be used to remove the salt content from the SPF water. At the same time as unit #2’s SPF’s
    desalination, TEPCO plans on using the Cesium decontamination equipment to lower the contamination in the SPF of unit #3. (TEPCO)
  • The Tokyo government has decided to segregate the 20km no-go zone and northwest evacuation corridor into three designations for recovery. All will be based on estimated levels of exposure to people who might be in the radiation fields 24 hours a day for a full year. The lowest designation will be those areas estimated to be below 20 millisieverts per year. These areas will be the first to be given intensive decontamination so people can return home. Unfortunately, Tokyo says decontamination work will not begin before next spring. The second designation will be for estimated exposures between 20 and 50 millisieverts per year. In this area, it is expected that evacuees will not be allowed to return for two years or more. The government plans on reducing exposures to below 20 millisieverts before they will let anyone back in. The third designation is for estimated exposures above 50 millisieverts per year. This “difficult to return zone” will take several years, if not decades, before anyone will be allowed to return, and some locations will become permanent exclusion zones. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The Ministry of the Environment has preliminarily designated Futaba County, just outside the 20km no-go zone but within the northwest evacuation corridor, as the location for an interim storage facility for decontamination debris produced in Fukushima Prefecture. While there will undoubtedly be considerable NIMBY (not in my back yard) protests, the mayors of two towns most likely to have the facility are
    resigned to the inevitable. Takashi Kusano, mayor of Narahamachi, said, “As [the radiation] came from the
    Fukushima plant, we have no choice but to [build the facilities in the county].” (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • METI Minister Yukio Edano has forbidden TEPCO releases of any decontaminated waste water into the sea unless the utility gets permission from the local fishing cooperatives. He acknowledges that TEPCO’s plan to re-filter decontaminated waters before discharge would drop residual contamination levels well below national standards, but he says such an action will be unacceptable as long as unfounded radiation
    rumors hurt the fishing industry. Edano urges TEPCO to educate the fishing cooperatives on radiation issues in the hope that they will eventually agree to future decontaminated waste water discharges. (JAIF)
  • The Fukushima government says that the highest estimated exposure to any evacuee outside the 20km no-go zone is 19 millisieverts. Monday’s report of the highest exposure being 14 millisieverts referred to those evacuees who completed the prefecture’s detailed questionnaire, which has been less than 10% of the total number who left the area. This new exposure estimate is based on “timing and place of evacuation” combined with current knowledge of contamination levels and hot spots specific to the municipalities of Namie, Kawamata, Iitate, Futaba, Okuma, Minamisoma, Tamura, Tomioka, Naraha, Hirono, Katsurao and Kawauchi. The towns of Futaba and Okuma border on the Fukushima power complex. Shunichi Yamashita, vice president of Fukushima Medical University, said the levels are low compared to Chernobyl. “I think there is no problem,” Yamashita said. The report also states the persons evacuated from the 20km zone around Fukushima Daiichi received exposures in the range of 0.18-2.3 millisieverts. Those in the northwest evacuation corridor outside the no-go zone had exposures in the range of 0.84-19 millisieverts. The higher exposures further from the accident were due to evacuations being ordered more than ten days after the 20km evacuation order was issued.  (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • An elementary school in Tokyo covered their school lawn with a large plastic sheet on March 18 to protect it from frost. It has stayed there ever since, largely due to the school contamination fears running rampant
    through the city. They finally checked it for radiation levels, and found the sheet had collected considerable radioactive Cesium. Officials of Suginami Ward say the contamination is ~96,000 becquerels per kilogram, which is 12 times higher than the national standard for burial. The officials are in a quandary as to what they should do. They are leaning towards carefully folding the sheet to keep the contamination inside, then sending it to an incineration facility. (JAIF) The contamination cannot impregnate the plastic. They could wash the contamination off the slick plastic surface, roll it up, and save it for frost protection next year. But we have become convinced that the Japanese government’s level of health physicsunderstanding is nearly nothing. They’ll probably burn it if they can find an incineration facility to do the job…which we doubt.
  • We have another case of a horribly misleading headline followed by a conflicting article. This time it’s a Tuesday report in Japan Times. The headline reads Evacuations too late outside no-go zone: high exposure to radiation possible before officials acted. But the article itself paints a much less provocative picture. It says essentially the same thing as the Mainichi Shimbun report summarized above. There is nothing in the Japan Times article to support the headline. “Too late” based on who’s opinion? Traditionally, editors write the headlines for a reporter’s narrative. The Japan Times editors are probably the culprits.
  • The citizen’s group that is trying to get enough signatures in Tokyo to force a voter referendum on nuclear energy has also begun a similar petition in Osaka. In today’s news reports, we find that the petitions cannot be signed electronically and cannot be issued through the internet. The process must be verifiable, grass-roots, face-to-face, and hand-signed. Journalist Hajime Imai, who heads both petition drives, said, “The rules in Japan governing these referendum drives are very strict. Signatures must be directly
    gathered by volunteers. Signing Internet petitions or via email is not allowed.” (Japan Times)