(For today’s Commentary – Latest Chernobyl Cancer Study Contains Numerous Problems – click here)

  • A Nuclear Regulatory Authority panel has agreed that the nuclear watchdog should set the radiation level for evacuations well-below international standards. The International Atomic Energy Agency recommends 1,000 microsieverts per hour as the “trigger” level for mandatory, ”swift” public evacuation. The NRA panel recommends Japan set theirs at 500 mSv/hr. With any Japanese nuclear emergency where radiological releases are expected, all persons living within 5 kilometers will be evacuated prior to the release itself regardless of anticipated exposure levels. Now, the population between 5 and 30 kilometers will be evacuated if releases are expected to exceed the 500 microsievert per hour threshold. Further, “swift” food restrictions will be enforced if airborne radioactivity reaches 0.5 mSv/hr, which is also half of the IAEA recommendation of 1 mSv/hr. In addition, the threshold for temporary resident relocation will be 20 mSv/hr, one-fifth of the international standard of 100 mSv/hr. The proposed standards will be reviewed by an internal NRA panel of radiological experts to insure that the new limits will not be overly strict and place un-necessary burdens on the affected population. The issue is expected to be resolved and the standards set by the end of the year. (Kyodo News Service; Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Prime Minister Noda said nuclear reactors should be decommissioned if the NRA decides it is a safety risk due to proximity with a seismic fault. Last night he told TV broadcaster TBS (Japan), “The government must respect a judgment by the NRA.”  This could end the debate over where the legal responsibility lies for making a safety-challenged restart decision. Until now, the NRA and the government have been reticent to take a firm stand on nuke restarts. On Wednesday, NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka said that, “We will not be making a judgment on decommissioning the reactor [Japco’s Tsuruga station] but would like to swiftly request any necessary safety measures be taken, if any.” While referring to the seismic-possible fault running parallel-to and under Tsuruga, Noda took a thinly-veiled jab at the LDP by saying, “I wonder which government under what party permitted the establishment by leaving (geological) survey work solely in the hands of the (plant) operator,” which points to the LDP being in power at the time Japco was allowed to build the nukes. Noda also said that the DPJ seeks to abolish nukes by 2040 and “the LDP is for continuing nuclear power generation”. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A new technology has been developed that promises to recover 100 square kilometers of agricultural property which were inundated by the 3/11/11 tsunami. About 150 km2 of agricultural lands along the Tohoku coast were destroyed by the tsunami, and a third of it has been recovered. The remainder has not because of the high concentrations of sand, salt, and plastic debris mixed into the soils. The Hitachi Zosen technology has been used to remove hazardous chemicals from farmland for a number of years. Now, a modified version can be applied to recover the lands devastated by the tsunami. For more than a year, the company has been testing it on 0.45 km2 of rice paddies in the Miyagi Prefecture’s town of Watari. The test showed the new system is five times faster than previously-used methods. They processed more than 200 tons of tsunami-contaminated soils and separated 60% sand, 35 % agricultural soil, and 5% salt and other wastes from the good soil. The sand was sold to construction companies and the other wastes were conventionally disposed. This year’s crop from the Watari test site was 80% of what was typical before 3/11/11. One official said, “There is no problem with the quality and taste of the product, and we can expect bigger harvests in the future.” (Mainichi Shimbun)