Fukushima ice wall near completion

An underground ice wall designed to curb the buildup of radioactive water at the Fukushima Daiichi plant will see near completion on Friday. But it’s not yet clear when it can be put into service as the nuclear regulator has not yet given a green light to its use.

The barrier will almost be finished Friday. Only the last procedure, which involves filling underground pipes with coolant, remains.

The wall made of frozen soil stretches about 1.5 kilometers around 4 reactor buildings.

Tokyo Electric Power Company aims to cut the amount of groundwater that seeps into the buildings and then becomes contaminated. The utility expects the barrier to reduce the inflow to 10 tons a day. That’s less than one tenth the current level.

The project to build the wall began in June 2014 at a cost of about 290 million dollars from the national coffers. The plan is to start operation by the end of March.

But the Nuclear Regulation Authority has not given its approval. It fears radioactive water could leak from the reactor buildings if the wall makes the level of groundwater lower than that of contaminated water.

TEPCO says it will closely monitor groundwater levels and inject water if the levels fall too far.

But the regulator insists changes in groundwater levels could cause unintended consequences.
http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20160129_04.html

Fukushima nuclear crisis far from over, Kan says

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant is not over five years since a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered the meltdowns.

“There is no doubt” radioactive materials have been seeping into the sea after mixing with groundwater, Kan, who has been a vocal critic of nuclear energy since the crisis started, told the National Press Club in Washington.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly said the issue of water contaminated with radioactive substances at the Fukushima plant is “under control,” including when he was making a pitch for Tokyo as host of the 2020 Olympic Games.

Kan disputes this. “The accident is still unfolding,” he said.

Kan was prime minister when the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl occurred following the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Kan, a lawmaker of the Democratic Party of Japan, also criticized Abe’s decision to raise the ratio of electricity produced by atomic energy to 20-22 percent of the nation’s total output by 2030.

“The goal is not achievable” unless Japan extends the maximum legal period of reactor operations or builds a new nuclear plant, Kan said.

Most nuclear reactors remain off line in Japan, but various operators are seeking restarts.

Kansai Electric Power Co. is set to reactivate a reactor at its Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture on Friday, in what would be the third restart since new safety standards were put in place.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/01/28/national/politics-diplomacy/fukushima-nuclear-crisis-far-kan-says/#.Vqrzy1LzN_n

Fukushima fishermen to expand operations off crippled nuclear plant

FUKUSHIMA – Fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture said Wednesday they plan to scale down their self-imposed fishing ban in waters off the damaged nuclear power plant due mainly to a substantial decline in radioactive cesium levels.
The Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations is considering narrowing the area subject to the ban to a 10-kilometer radius from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from the current 20-kilometer radius.
The move comes as plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. last autumn completed the construction of a shielding wall to prevent leaks of contaminated groundwater into the sea. Since the completion, radiation levels in sea waters at the plant’s port have been declining.
In addition, prefectural research shows the radioactive cesium levels of marine products caught in coastal areas have dropped substantially.
The proportion of marine products with cesium levels exceeding the state standards of 100 becquerels per kilogram fell to less than 0.1 percent last year from some 40 percent between April and December 2011, soon after the nuclear accident at the plant in March that year. No products have surpassed the level in checks since last April.
The federation is scheduled to make a final decision late next month. “The environment of the seas of Fukushima has improved, and conditions for reviving fisheries are being laid out,” federation leader Tetsu Nozaki told reporters.
After the tsunami-triggered triple meltdown at the nuclear plant, the federation voluntarily halted all of its coastal fishing. In June 2012, it started trial operations in a limited area, which has since expanded in steps.
http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/01/27/national/fukushima-fishermen-to-expand-operations-off-crippled-nuclear-plant/#.VqmtzVLzN_m

Japan considering building network of tunnels beneath seabed to store thousands of tonnes of nuclear waste

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Government agencies are discussing the plan as a ‘long-term solution’ while environmentalists have dismissed it as an expensive ‘pipe dream’.
A team of experts from Japan’s Nuclear Waste Management ­Organisation is examining the possibility of storing thousands of tonnes of highly radioactive nuclear waste in tunnels deep beneath the Pacific Ocean.
Japan already has a stockpile of some 40,000 units of vitrified nuclear waste, with each of the stainless steel containers containing around 500kg of radioactive material, with more waste being produced.
Two of Japan’s 55 nuclear reactors resumed operations last year, after their operations were subjected to detailed scrutiny as a result of the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plant, caused by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
A number of additional reactors have applied to restart operations, while dozens of the older plants will now have to be decommissioned as they have reached the end of their operational lives. Japan has never before decommissioned a reactor and does not have a dedicated storage facility for high-level nuclear waste.
“We are presently looking for a site and one of the options being considered is for tunnels beneath the seabed,” Kenichi Kaku, a spokesman for the agency, told the South China Morning Post.
“We are looking for a long-term solution to the issue that also meets the terms of the law on the storage of high-level waste,” Kaku explained.
A preliminary report suggests that tunnels could be excavated from the land to a distance of several kilometres offshore. The final disposal chamber would need to be in bed rock at a depth of at least 300 metres below the seabed.
The tunnels would need to be within 20km of a port, which would be required to transport vitrified waste over long distances, and the containers would be taken to the sub-seabed storage chamber by remote-controlled vehicle.
As well as being more secure from human interference, storage chambers beneath the seabed are less affected by the movement of groundwater and fluctuation in sea levels.
The experts, appointed to complete a full study by the ministry of industry, will now carry out a study of the technical issues that will need to be overcome. They will start by examining geographical features to identify possible seismic fault zones.
Kaku admitted that one result of the 2011 disaster at Fukushima is that “the Japanese public has lost confidence in science and we need to rebuild our credibility”.
Key considerations will be ensuring security in the transportation phase of highly radioactive waste, he said, while a great deal of work needs to be done to ensure that the storage chamber cannot be breached after the tunnel has been closed off.
“We need to identify active faults and volcanic regions so the waste is not affected in any way and we are looking to the experience of other countries for our plans,” Kaku said.
Environmental organisations have been quick to condemn the plan, however, with Aileen Mioko-Smith, an activist with Kyoto-based Green Action Japan, telling the Post that the proposal is “a pipe dream”.
“They talked about an ‘ice wall’ that was meant to stop ground water at the Fukushima plant becoming contaminated with radiation, but that was a pipe dream,” she said. “This is another one. It may look good on paper but how could it ever be achieved at a reasonable cost?
“And that’s before we even consider the safety of putting high-level nuclear waste beneath the seismically active seabed off Japan. It just doesn’t make sense.”
http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/east-asia/article/1906306/japan-considering-building-network-tunnels-beneath-seabed-store

NRA’s data shows contamination level in Tokyo tap water higher than Fukushima by 24 percent

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According to NRA (Nuclear Regulation Authority), Cs-134/137 density in Tokyo tap water is 24% higher than Fukushima.
The report was released on 10/30/2015, titled as “Readings of radioactivity level in drinking water by prefecture” to cover from July to September in 2015.
From this report, only 0.0015 Bq/Kg of Cs-137  was detected in Fukushima drinking water. Cs-134 was not supposed to be detected. On the other hand, 0.00036 Bq/Kg of Cs-134 and 0.0015 of Bq/Kg were detected from Tokyo drinking water.
The measurement of Cs-134 is due to Fukushima accident.
NRA comments each data is based on the reports from prefectures.
It is not mentioned by Fukushima prefectural government why Cs-134 was not detected in their drinking water.
http://radioactivity.nsr.go.jp/en/contents/11000/10416/24/194_20151030.pdf
http://fukushima-diary.com/2016/01/nras-data-shows-contamination-level-in-tokyo-tap-water-higher-than-fukushima-by-24-percent/

Group to monitor trial of former TEPCO executives to clarify truth about Fukushima disaster

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From left, Ruiko Muto, Kazuyoshi Sato and Takashi Soeda hold a news conference in Fukushima on Jan. 19 to announce a planned group that will monitor the trial of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Lawyers, journalists and scientists will form a group to help expose the truth and spread details about the Fukushima nuclear disaster during the criminal trial of three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co.
“We will encourage the court to hold a fair trial while transmitting information regarding the trial across the nation,” said an official of the planned organization, whose name is translated as “support group for the criminal procedure on the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.”
Tsunehisa Katsumata, former chairman of TEPCO, the operator of the crippled plant, and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, face mandatory charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury.
Although the trial is still months away, 33 people are now setting up the group, including Ruiko Muto, who heads an organization pursuing the criminal responsibility of TEPCO and government officials for the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Tetsuji Imanaka, an assistant professor of nuclear engineering at the Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, and Norma Field, a professor emeritus of East Asian Studies at the University of Chicago, have also joined.
Three reactors melted down at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11, 2011. A number of hospital patients died in the chaotic evacuation.
About 14,000 residents of Fukushima Prefecture filed a criminal complaint against TEPCO executives, government officials and scientists in 2012, saying they were aware of the dangers to the Fukushima nuclear plant from a tsunami, but they failed in their responsibility to take proper countermeasures.
Tokyo prosecutors twice decided not to indict the three former TEPCO executives. However, the Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution, a panel of citizens, decided to forcibly indict the three in July last year.
“It has been almost five years since the disaster, but many details, including their foreseeability of the tsunami, remain unclear,” said science writer Takashi Soeda, one of the group’s co-founders. “As TEPCO has not unveiled a sufficient amount of information even in inquiries conducted by the Diet and the government or in civil lawsuits, the truth must be uncovered through the legal force of a criminal trial.”
Five lawyers appointed by the Tokyo District Court will act as prosecutors in the trial.
Legal experts expect the lawyers will indict the former TEPCO executives and release a statement naming the victims around March 11, the fifth anniversary of the triple disaster that still haunts the Tohoku region.
http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201601270055

Nuclear reactor mockup to be used to advance decommissioning technology

jklmNARAHA, Fukushima Prefecture–A life-size model of a section of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant that will be used in developing decommissioning technology is almost complete.

The mockup of the lower part of a reactor containment vessel will be used to develop remote-control technology used to locate the section from where radioactive water is leaking in order to repair damage, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said.

A group of reporters from the Japan National Press Club were allowed to enter the test building of the JAEA’s Naraha Remote Technology Development Center in the town of Naraha.

The model is being built at the center by a consortium comprised of electric utilities and nuclear plant manufacturers. It is scheduled to be completed in mid-March.

Radiation levels near the reactors that went in meltdown in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster remain too high for workers to approach. The development of remote-control technology is key to smoothly conducting the decommissioning work, which is estimated to take 30 to 40 years.

The Naraha center also houses a massive screen on which a 3-D image of the interior of a reactor building can be viewed by wearing special eyeglasses.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201601270040