Before today’s updates, we should note that Prime Minister Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party has won a landslide victory in Sunday’s Upper house election. The Upper House is similar to America’s Senate. This gives Abe’s nuclear-friendly party a clear majority across both houses in the Diet. How this will affect future nuclear policy in Japan is speculative, but it is clear that nuclear issues have been reduced in political importance since the LDP took power in January. It is also noteworthy that the LDP candidate won handily in Fukushima Prefecture, defeating four opponents running primarily antinuclear campaigns.

Here’s today’s updates…

  • Tepco now says some contaminated groundwater may be leaking into the F. Daiichi seaport. The station’s staff has been monitoring water levels in 17 wells on the east side of units #1 through #4 since May. The steady activity increases in two wells between units 3 and 4, combined with fluctuations in groundwater levels and one elevated Tritium concentration inside the station’s sea port (quay), indicate that some of the material is finding its way to the sea-side. This announcement confirms the Nuclear Regulatory Authority speculation of a leak into the inner quay made earlier this month. Tepco stressed this is a preliminary assessment and more data must be gathered before a final judgment can be made. Tepco also said that while localized Tritium increases have been detected at the intake structure for unit #4, there is no indication of it spreading outside the quay and into the Pacific Ocean. Takeshi Takahashi, F. Daiichi station manager, said, “We apologize for causing concern. We’ll take measures to prevent further leaks into the sea.” Regardless, Tepco’s level of trust with local fishermen has taken a severe hit. The company met with about 100 members of the local fisheries cooperative on Tuesday. Tepco apologized for the incident and stressed that none of the contamination that has trickled into the inner quay has reached the open sea. In addition, the utility explained Tepco’s plans to stop any further leakage to the port and the numerous barriers being built to keep contaminated groundwater from further sea-ward flow. However, the fishermen were not happy. Most worried about the effect negative Press coverage will have on their ability to market their catch. Some accused Tepco of deliberately concealing the truth until after Sunday’s national election. The head of the cooperative was flummoxed by Tepco’s revelation and said there is no way that merely drawing a line on a map will reassure consumers that their product is safe. He lamented that this has dealt a serious blow to the future of Fukushima fishing.
  • The vapor emanating from F. Daiichi unit #3 stopped the day after it was first noticed. The vapor was detected coming from the rubble atop the primary containment dome last Thursday, but was no longer to be seen the next morning (Friday). This morning (Tuesday), the vapor was again seen emanating from the same location atop unit #3. By this afternoon (in Japan) the vapor release had again ceased. Tepco continues to suspect the vapor was caused by rainwater evaporating when contacting the steel dome beneath the rubble. But, because the company cannot make an absolute determination of the cause, “We still don’t know [for sure] what caused the steam and are currently investigating,” said a Tepco spokesman. The Press continues to trumpet this inconsequential situation in bold headlines while using the incident as “proof” of the F. Daiichi station’s “precariousness”.
  • A new radiation rumor is being circulated over the Asian internet. Scary pictures of allegedly mutated Fukushima tomatoes have been posted by the antinuclear website The site posted the picture of a bizarre, tomato-like vegetable with the following statement, “Attack of the mutant vegetables!! Are these our new tomato overlords?? Let’s all boycott the struggling Fukushima farmers for, oh, say 100 years or so. Lori Mochizuki, who edits, reports that capitalists in Japan are now selling clearly discernible radiation contaminated and genetically mutated tomatoes. Mr. Mochizuki reports that such mutated plants are being increasingly found all over Japan, as the capitalist try to draw our attention elsewhere.” A few voices of reason tried to debunk the allegations, but they were overwhelmed by an avalanche of hysterical reaction to the posting. As it turns out, the vegetable is a “reisetomate”, which looks like a lot of multi-colored tomatoes fused together. Plus, it wasn’t grown in Fukushima Prefecture…it actually came from Saitama, hundreds of kilometers away. In addition, the picture of the bizarre object didn’t come from Japan…it may have originated in Romania, of all places. Exposure of the scam was run in the historically-antinuclear Japan Today newspaper on Monday. Suddenly the guilty website corrected itself by posting “these images aren’t related to the Fukushima disaster”. Regardless, the damage had been done and Fukushima farmers are suffering yet another false radiation rumor.
  • A Tokyo professor says 94% of the public believes F. Daiichi is still not under control. Hirotada Hirose of Tokyo Women’s Christian University had a team survey people across Japan in March. About 1,200 responded, with ages ranging from 15-79. 94% said the nuclear “disaster” has not been effectively controlled. The primary reason was continual Press reports of radioactivity leaking from the damaged units. In addition, 33% found the information coming from the government to be “most untrustworthy”, but only 2% said local governments were unreliable information sources. In addition, 31% said nuclear power should be abandoned as soon as possible and 54% said it should be phased out. Further, nearly 80% believed another nuclear accident was likely if currently-idled nukes are restarted. 23% said a future nuclear accident is certain. Natural disasters and terrorist attacks were the main reasons given. Hirose says the survey shows that national nuclear policy must take the public’s opinion seriously, “An (effective) nuclear policy is impossible unless the central government wins the understanding and support of not only local residents living in areas that host nuclear power plants but also the support of all the people in Japan.”
  • Decontamination has been delayed in Iitate, Fukushima Prefecture. The job was scheduled to have been completed by the end of this year, but disagreement between village districts as to the level of decontamination has held things up. The town government decided to let each district call their own shots, if you will, and the results are disappointing. Only 1% of the scheduled decontamination has been completed. This should be compared to Nahara Town, adjacent to F. Daiichi, where 38% of the community is decontaminated, and Kawuachi Village where the work is 100% completed. Decontamination began simultaneously for all three towns. The problem in Iitate is due to some residents feeling government standards are inadequate and should be much lower.
  • Tepco will offer free life-long health check-ups to qualifying F. Daiichi workers. These are individuals may have had exposures of 100 millisieverts or more. The company estimates this could impact roughly 2,000 people. Those at risk were informed last year and asked to have a check-up. Only 37% have actually done it. Of the more than 500 who have had the examination, less than 200 actually surpassed 100 Msv level of exposure. Beyond this, there is considerable confusion with the Press. The Press says there will free ultra-sound check-ups for thyroid exposure and most experts say that a thyroid dose of 100 mSv is the threshold for an increased risk of cancer. However, the reports also say Tepco is looking for accumulation of Cesium in the thyroids, which makes little sense. Cesium tends to accumulate in muscle and other soft tissue…not the thyroid gland. Are they confusing Cs-134 and Cs-137 with radioactive Iodine? To add more confusion to the issue, Hiroshima University Professor Kenji Kamiya says the plant operator must make every effort to provide health care for the workers because it remains unclear how the large doses of radioactive Cesium will affect their health. However, the exposures for F. Daiichi workers are in the low level region where risk is controversial. Some experts say there is a 0.1% increase in risk of future cancer per person, while others say that there is no discernible risk in a society that has cancer rates above 20%.