- An American political advisor to Japan says Fukushima “alarmism” should be combatted with facts. David Roberts, former Science Adviser to the U.S. ambassador in Japan during the Fukushima accident, says an international system of news media-glib experts should be immediately available to the Press when a major tragedy happens. While he feels this should not be a solely nuclear endeavor, it was the over-reaction to Fukushima around the world that spurred him to write his op-ed piece for The Diplomat on-line magazine. In it, Roberts states, “As a crisis emerges, one or more experts would write jargon-free commentary that is then rapidly disseminated through respected news outlets, especially in the affected area. This loose network of specialists should come from not only leading institutions in developed countries, but also those in developing countries, particularly where public health crises are more likely to occur… Assisting the Network would be an on-call team of science journalists and risk-communication specialists to help deliver the experts’ message to the public. Crucially, the expert – not the journalist – will be the lead author and therefore accountable for both tone and content.” http://thediplomat.com/2014/05/fighting-crises-with-facts-a-lesson-from-fukushima/
- Fukushima forest radiation has dropped more than 50%. The prefecture forecasts that radiation levels will drop another 70% over the next 20 years. The radioactivity contained in new leaves is about one fifth of the post-accident levels. The prefectural government also says the radiation levels of contaminated forests have decreased from 0.91 microsieverts per hour in 2011, down to 0.44 µSv/hr by March, 2014. The posted results are an average of 362 monitored sites inside Fukushima’s forests. 0.44 µSv/hr equates to an annual exposure of 3.8 millisieverts for someone spending every hour of every day in the forests. [Aside – 3.8 mSv/year is similar to the ambient natural radiation exposures for millions of Americans living on the Colorado Plateau. – end aside] A prefectural official says fear of radiation has caused some woodlands to have been abandoned by forestry workers. NHK World; Fukushima forest radiation down 50% in two years; May 5, 2014
- Some Tepco and NRA officials doubt the efficacy of the Fukushima groundwater ice wall. Tepco is involved in a $313 million project designed to freeze the 1.4 kilometer periphery of the reactor and turbine buildings for units #1 through #4. In theory it will stop the daily influx of groundwater into the contaminated volumes pooled inside the several basements, and mitigate the increasing amount of wastewater stored at the site. But, former USNRC Chairman Dale Klein says, “I’m not convinced that the freeze wall is the best option. What I’m concerned about is unintended consequences. Where does that [blocked] water go and what are the consequences of that? I think they need more testing and more analysis. No one has built a freeze wall this long for this period of time.” Former British Atomic Energy Authority Chairperson Barbara Judge adds that there needs to be study on whether the wall will maintain integrity during the hot days of summer. Meanwhile, Nuclear Regulation Authority Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa expressed his concerns with hydrological impacts, “We need to know if a frozen wall is really effective, and more importantly, we need to know whether a frozen wall may cause any trouble.” http://japandailypress.com/nuclear-experts-doubt-ice-wall-as-solution-to-fukushima-plants-leak-problems-0248055/ — http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/05/04/national/experts-challenge-tepcos-great-icewall-fukushima-1/#.U2Y9U6NOUdU
- Tepco says their finances have turned around enough to repay $1.5 billion of borrowed money. Tepco has received about $20 billion in loans from various Japanese banks to offset the costs of decommissioning F. Daiichi. They say that increases in electric bills from increased use of fossil fuels due to the nuke moratorium make it possible to begin loan reimbursement to three banks by the end of this year. Last month, TEPCO quietly repaid $40 million in emergency loans to the government-backed Development Bank of Japan, with another $40 million payment planned for October. How long repayments like this can be expected is speculative due to the on-going moratorium. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20140503p2g00m0dm020000c.html
- F. Daiichi’s host towns approve public meetings on rural waste disposal. Okuma and Futaba municipal assemblies say Tokyo can begin holding waste storage gatherings with residents as early as this month. The government feels they might win support for temporary (30 years) storage by explaining the details of the proposed facilities and measures for promoting local community development. After Tokyo announced a subsidy program to promote local development, the prefectural and municipal governments approved the meetings if the town assemblies also said yes. Now, they have. Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said the central government needs to show firm plans because residents’ opinions are mixed. Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa said his town will make a decision on whether to allow the facilities after seing how the government responds to residents’ concerns. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/05/01/national/cohosts-fukushima-1-ok-meetings-soil-storage-plan/#.U2TveqNOUdV
- Japan’s nuke watchdog says the safety report on the two Sendai units needs revision. An NRA official said the Kyushu Electric Co. report submitted last week lacks data on how the plant’s operator would respond to a fire if an aircraft crashed in the plant, and does not mention fireproof levels for pumps and other equipment. The revision could extend the time needed to clear the two units for restart and makes an early-summer resumption unlikely. NHK World; NRA asks for revision of plant safety report; May 3, 2014.
The 100th weekly antinuke rally in Tokyo occurred May 2nd. The number of demonstrators has been dwindling since the high point, soon after the first rally on March 29, 2012. The 100th anniversary demonstration attracted about 3,000 participants, according to the rally organizer, Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes. The Coalition says this is roughly a third of recent attendance. Metropolitan police estimates on the crowd size have not been posted, but routinely their numbers are about 25% of rally organizers’ figures. The Coalition believes the drop-off is due to the government’s refusal to hold a national debate on nuclear energy and the restart of idled reactors. Popular writer Kaoru Takamura said, “Politicians have tried to prevent national debate on the nuclear issue and the problem surrounding nuclear energy from surfacing. It is against this background that people’s urgent sense of alarm over nuclear power is clouded by their busy daily lives.” The Coalition wants to mobilize what they believe to be a “silent majority” opposing nuke restarts, and add that the dwindling attendance only heightens their resolve. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201405040013