The Fukushima Daiichi waste water leaks continue to dominate the news…

  • Tepco has released a press handout to explain the Thursday’s pipe flange leak. They found no abnormality with the flange itself, nor the gasket used to seal the connection. Here’s the URL… A few Japanese news outlets reported on this, but all they had to say was Tepco had yet to find the cause of the leak, implying the Tepco investigation is a failure. Regardless, Tepco is replacing the old gasket with a new one and restarted the system this morning (Tuesday).
  • Some Nuclear Regulatory Authority officials have raised doubts over their staff’s monitoring of the Fukushima waste water situation. An NRA in-house team said Tepco must not have adequately tested the underground reservoirs before using them, even though Tepco maintains they did the required testing and found no defects. The team feels the on-site inspectors may have lacked sufficient understanding of the risks associated with the cisterns which may have led them to accept Tepco’s test results. NRA member Toyoshi Fuketa said the problem is serious and the NRA must set the right priorities in the future. (NHK World)
  • Tepco has removed the soil contaminated by Thursday’s pipe-flange leak. Only, it isn’t the kind of material commonly called soil. It is a mixture of crushed gravel and absorbent material spread liberally over and around the reservoirs. The material thickness is several inches. It is designed to keep rainwater seeping into the pool. In this case, it sopped up the contaminated water and was easily removed, securely bagged and placed in low level waste storage. The storage bag had a radiation reading of 28 millisieverts per hour. (Jiji Press)
  • Critics speculate that the staff at F. Daiichi might be forced to dump their wastewater to the sea. Professor Kazuhiko Kudo of Kyushu University says the company is faced with two options. On one hand they could build more above-ground tanks in what he calls a race against time because reactor cooling leaks may produce radioactive water faster than the company can build the tanks. On the other hand, they could strip the waters of residual radioisotopes and dump it. Kudo feels Tepco will be forced to utilize the second option. In that case, the waters will still have radioactive Tritium in them. Tritium is a naturally-occurring isotope of hydrogen found in all water systems around the world. Tepco says such a move would not be made “easily” because local fisheries have said they will oppose the release. Kenji Nakada of the Fukushima Federation of Fisheries said, “We are against the release of water even if Tepco cleans contaminated water. Any release of water that has been used for cooling is not acceptable.”A sea release would also upset many Asian nations on the Pacific coastlines and cause trade problems. (Japan Daily Press; Bloomberg News)
  • There has been no contamination of groundwater or the Pacific shoreline from the cistern leaks. Drainage pipes adjacent to the reservoirs are collecting any leakage making its way out of the triple-layer sheeting that lines the reservoirs. The water seeping into the drain pipes is being collected and returned to the reservoirs. Tepco’s analyses of the numerous drain pipes that surround the reservoirs generally show barely-detectable Beta activity (less than 1 Becquerel per milliliter). One drain for cistern #1 reads one Bq/ml, and one for cistern #2 shows 5 Bq/ml. In addition, groundwater sampling at three locations downstream from the cisterns, toward the shoreline, shows no detectible radioactive material. Tepco says there is “no possibility of outflow to the sea”. (Mainichi Shimbun; Tepco Press Release; Sankei Shimbun)

Here are the other updates…

  • Japan’s first legal ruling on nukes has been decided. The Osaka district court has rejected a petition from 260 residents of eight prefectures to close the two operating units at Oi nuclear station. Judge Kenichi Ono said both units meet the government safety standards and pose no recognized danger to the public. The lawsuit argued that control rods would not automatically insert to stop a chain reactor quickly enough should the simultaneous movement of three regional faults occur. The court found there is no basis for the plaintiff’s assertion. Kansai Electric Company says they have taken all required post-Fukushima safety upgrades at the Oi station. The company also feels the Oi units will meet the proposed safety regulations scheduled for July, thus the two units will be able to operate until their scheduled shutdowns in September. (Japan Daily Press; NHK World)
  • Another antinuclear lawsuit, rejected by a lower court in December, 2011, is currently being considered by Sendai’s high court. It was originally filed by parents on behalf of 14 children in the city of Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, in June of that year. Koriyama is located about 60 kilometers west-southwest of F. Daiichi. The plaintiffs demand that all children in the city of more than 330,000 be evacuated because they have “the right to live free of radiation”. The plaintiffs said the children should be moved to locations that have radiation levels no higher than Japan’s generally-acknowledged natural level of 1 millisievert per year. Some Fukushima medical experts say there is no evidence of negative health effects below 100 mSv/yr. However, the lawsuit says the International Commission on Radiation Protection believes there is no zero-risk level for exposure. The plaintiffs say not all scientists and nuclear experts agree about what should be considered a safe level of exposure, so the worst should be assumed and the children evacuated. Their main concern is long term risk because it is presumed children are more susceptible to radiation damage than adults. When the suit was rejected in 2011, only 10 of the plaintiffs still lived in Koriyama and their parents filed the appeal in Sendai. The court’s schedule has finally brought the case to the table. However, only one of the original plaintiffs remains. Those no longer qualified to pursue the litigation either have children older than the maximum age statute or have moved away over fear of radiation. Lawyer Toshio Yanagihara says the government is more worried about a population exodus than in saving the children, “I don’t understand why an economic power like Japan won’t evacuate the children — something even the fascist government did during World War II,” he said, referring to the mass evacuation of children during the 1940s to avoid air bombings. “This is child abuse.” A 12-year-old whose parents joined the initial filing but have since left the area, said in a letter presented to the court, “Even if I am careful, I may get cancer, and the baby I have may be hurt.” (Mainichi Shimbun; Japan Daily Press)
  • An eminent Canadian radiation expert says the massive evacuations due to F. Daiichi were un-necessary. Dr. Jerry Cuttler stresses that the 1,100 people who died because of the chaotic evacuation were victims of emergency measures taken to avoid low-level radiation exposures that are completely safe. Cuttler calls for a complete rejection of the Linear/No Threshold assumption used to set public protection standards, and replace it with a realistic model based on conclusive scientific evidence. A complete lack of news media coverage in Japan makes it unlikely that the public will know of this report. Here’s the link to the free copy…