Saturday 13 April 2013

Update 11 April 2013

Time for my monthly update.
More trouble at Fukushima Daiichi. After the case of the rat shorting a switchboard and halting cooling for a day, the latest is leakage of highly contaminated water from two storage pools. Contaminated water from the bottom of the reactor buildings continues to increase at a rate of 400 tonnes a day and two years on the remedies still seem to be makeshift with no solution to the basic problem. Where does this water come from? Water continues to be injected into the three reactors to keep them cool and circulates within a system. But some escapes through cracks in the containment vessels (they need to be repaired but high levels of radiation prevent the work getting done). Then there's underground water which continues to seep into the buildings from outside. Wells have been sunk and underground water pumped out but still it pours into the buildings. A relatively new water filtration system (ALPS) is cleaning the water, nonetheless, much of the site is given over to hundreds of tanks storing contaminated water and, it turns out, seven covered pools, five or six metres deep, lined with plastic. A few days ago there was a leakage from one of the pools - 120 tonnes of water containing 7.1 billion becquerels of radioactive material - and a much smaller leakage from another pool.

So again we're treated to the sight on television of the prefecture hauling Tepco bosses before it and eliciting a stage-managed apology. Then the CEO was summoned by the Minister of the Economy who gave him a dressing down in front of the cameras and told him that Tepco must not dump contaminated water in the sea. Necessary gesture for the fishing industry (which has just started trial fishing) and to reassure our foreign neighbours. The Nuclear Regulation Authority has put its oar in. Not before time. And the IAEA has said it will send a survey team, the first one to do with decommissioning. The latest is that Tepco has said it won't use the pools after all and all the water will be moved to tanks. But when they started moving the water, one of the pumps sprung a leak ... It really doesn't inspire confidence. The accident won't be over until all this water is properly dealt with - and the spent fuel rods are removed from damaged Unit 4. These are the two priorities at the moment.

Let's look for some good news instead.
Here's some really good news. A research team at Tokyo University has analysed the data of 33,000 people who've had their radiation dose (internal exposure) checked in whole body counters and reports that since March 2012 radioactive caesium was detected in only 1% of cases and that since May 2012 none was detected in the 10,000 under 15 year-olds tested. Professor Hayano commented, 'Compared with the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in 1986, chronic internal dose in Fukushima is extremely low. Testing of food in the market would appear to be working effectively'. This is great news. The rigorous testing has been vindicated, the dangers do not seem to be anything like as bad as at Chernobyl, and at last there is data on which experts can form an opinion. (In addition, the team reports that although a UNSCEAR report in 1988 suggested a correlation between internal dose and contamination levels in the soil, this new data does not support such findings.)

Also some good news for those families living apart. Voluntary evacuees (estimated to be about 30,000 people) can travel free on the expressways for the next year. The proposal was in this year's budget but wasn't to be debated in the Diet until later on in May. It's been brought forward to start from the coming Golden Week holiday end April/beg. May. Nice to see something being done right.

Finally, three more local districts have been re-zoned. This means that instead of the whole district being in the exclusion zone, it's been divided according to levels of contamination into: areas over 50 mSv/year which remain out of bounds (and re-named 'difficult to return areas'); 'restricted residence' areas and 'areas being prepared for having the evacuation order lifted'. Up to now residents could only visit under special conditions (bussed in and wearing white radiation suits) but under the new system residents in the latter two areas can go in and out freely (they have a code for the security gates) though they can't stay the night. Work will also start on decontamination and getting infrastructure working again. Only two of the 11 districts in the original exclusion zone to be re-organised.

Still cold in Koriyama but bright and sunny. The cherry blossom is out. Loudspeakers blaring out all over town this week as it's the election for Mayor tomorrow.
All the best

1 comment:

  1. In Japan, Hayano is criticized because of his political behavior.
    On 2011.3.11, Hayano retweeted Yoshiyuki Mizuno's tweet "I cannot understand
    the opinion that
    there is a possibility of meltdown" on his twitter account.
    And on 2011.3.22, Hayano said "Let's take a wet spring rain" on twitter. This
    tweet is deleted by Hayano later.
    Also he introduced the article of Forbes misinforming that LNT model was
    denied by UNSCEAR.
    Hayano insisted that urine test is undesirable, and sticked to only
    inspection by the WBC.
    He went the lobbying and suggested Project HAYANO to the government. In this
    project, he claimed that litigation is a barren and that the compensation
    cost should be reduced.
    About this WBC paper, in Japan, Hayano himself misled people by saying
    "Health effects will never occur in this value" on weekly diamond magazine.
    In this way, Hayano is considered to act not as a scientist, but as a
    political player.