Japan Lifts Evacuation Orders for 3 Fukushima Areas

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Fukushima, March 31 (Jiji Press)–Japan on Friday lifted its evacuation orders for the village of Iitate and two other areas that had been enforced due to the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station in northeastern Japan.

The move came six years after Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s <9501> power station suffered meltdowns after the huge earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, triggering evacuation orders in many places in Fukushima Prefecture, including Iitate and the other two areas.

Residents of Iitate, the town of Namie and the Yamakiya district in the town of Kawamata, totaling some 22,100 at the end of February, can now return home, except in a handful of places included in no-go zones where radiation levels are still too high.

With the evacuation order set to be removed for the town of Tomioka on Saturday, Okuma and Futaba, the host towns of the crippled power station, will be the only Fukushima municipalities without an area where an evacuation order has been lifted.

Meanwhile, municipalities where evacuation orders have been removed have their own problems: a slow return of residents.

http://jen.jiji.com/jc/eng?g=eco&k=2017033000961

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Fukushima 4-year-old missing in Japan thyroid-cancer records

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Hisako Sakiyama, a medical doctor and representative of the 3.11 Fund for Children With Thyroid Cancer, speaks to reporters in Tokyo, Friday, March 31, 2017. Sakiyama, who has sat on government panels to investigate the Fukushima disaster, says a child who was 4 at the time of the disaster , has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and that case is missing from the official government records.

TOKYO (AP) — A child diagnosed with thyroid cancer after the Fukushima nuclear accident is missing from government checkup records, an aid group said Friday, raising questions about the thoroughness and transparency of the screenings.

Japanese authorities have said that among the 184 confirmed and suspected cases of thyroid cancer in Fukushima, no one was under age 5 at the time of the 2011 meltdowns. They’ve said that suggests the cases are not related to nuclear-plant radiation, as many were after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The 3.11 Fund for Children With Thyroid Cancer, however, said Friday that one child who was 4 when the meltdowns occurred has been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. That case is not listed in data from Fukushima Medical University, which is overseeing thyroid-cancer screening and surgeries and had treated the child.

Hisako Sakiyama, a medical doctor and representative of the 3.11 Fund, which gives aid to families of children diagnosed with thyroid cancer, said that any missing case is “a major problem,” and raises the possibility that others may also be missing from the data.

The university has been carrying out ultrasound screenings of some 300,000 youngsters in Fukushima 18 and younger at the time of the nuclear accident. It has repeatedly said it stands behind its data but declined to comment on individual cases, citing privacy concerns.

Seisho Tanaka, a spokesman for the screenings, said those who may have had tested negative could have developed cancer afterward and sought medical treatment outside the screening process. He declined to comment further.

The officials have argued the Fukushima cases are popping up because of “a screening effect,” meaning the meticulous testing uncovered cases that would not be known otherwise.

Sakiyama, who has sat on a legislative panel investigating the Fukushima nuclear disaster, said the screening system was flawed. The child, a boy now 10, and one of the fund’s aid recipients, had surgery at Fukushima Medical University last year and is receiving treatment there, making it difficult to think the university could be unaware of the case, she added.

“It is very puzzling how they would not want to come forward with the case,” she said, adding of the Fukushima cases and radiation: “There is no reason to outright deny the link.”

The boy, who continues to receive treatment from the hospital, and his family have not spoken publicly.

Thyroid cancer is usually not fatal with proper treatment. It’s extremely rare among children and young adults under normal conditions, but since young people are not typically screened for it, it can go undetected for years.

Of the thousands of thyroid cancer cases that surfaced after Chernobyl, in the Ukraine and Belarus, about half or about 15 percent, depending on the study, were those under age 5 at the time of the accident.

Keith Baverstock, professor at the University of Eastern Finland and an expert on health and radiation, thinks it’s important Fukushima medical records be transparent.

Although it’s still difficult to reach a conclusion on a link with radiation, studying the cancers and how they developed can shed light on the question, he said recently in a Skype call.

http://www.sfgate.com/news/medical/article/Fukushima-4-year-old-missing-in-Japan-11040388.php

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Tepco’s Fukushima: the most expensive industrial accident in history

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(MENAFN – Asia Times) Six years after Japan’s Fukushima nuclear accident three global nuclear corporations are fighting for their very survival.

The bankruptcy filing by Westinghouse Electric Co. and its parent company Toshiba Corp. preparing to post losses of 1 trillion (US9 billion), is a defining moment in the global decline of the nuclear power industry.

However, whereas the final financial meltdown of Westinghouse and Toshiba will likely be measured in a few tens of billions of dollars, those losses are but a fraction of what Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) is looking at as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

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If the latest estimates for the cost of cleaning up the Fukushima plant prove accurate, Tepco faces the equivalent of a Toshiba meltdown every year until 2087.

In November 2016, the Japanese Government announced a revised estimate for the Fukushima nuclear accident (decommissioning, decontamination, waste management and compensation) of 21.5 trillion (US193 billion) – a doubling of their estimate in 2013.

But the credibility of the government’s numbers have been questioned all along, given that the actual ‘decommissioning’ of the Fukushima plant and its three melted reactors is entering into an engineering unkown.

This questioning was borne out by the November doubling of cost estimates after only several years into the accident, when there is every prospect Tepco will be cleaning up Fukushima well into next century.

And sure enough, a new assessment published in early March from the Japan Institute for Economic Research, estimates that total costs for decommissioning, decontamination and compensation as a result of the Fukushima atomic disaster could range between 50-70 trillion (US449-628 billion).

If confirmed over the coming years, it will be the most expensive industrial accident in history with even greater implications for the people and energy future of Japan.

Rather than admit that the Fukushima accident is effectively the end of Tepco as a nuclear generating company, the outline of a restructuring plan was announced last week.

Tepco Holdings, the entity established to manage the destroyed nuclear site, and the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF) are seeking ways to sustain the utility in the years ahead, confronted as they are with escalating Fukushima costs and electricity market reform.

The NDF, originally established by the Government in 2011 to oversee compensation payments and to secure electricity supply, had its scope broadened in 2014 to oversee decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi plant on the Pacific Ocean coast north of Tokyo.

The latest restructuring plan is intended to find a way forward for Tepco by securing a future for its nuclear, transmission and distribution businesses. If possible in combination with other energy companies in Japan.

Map of Japan’s nuclear plants. Photo: Japan Atomic Industries Forum Inc, 2016.

But the plan, already received less than warmly by other utilities rightly concerned at being burdened with Tepco’s liabilities, is premised on Fukushima cost estimates of 21.5 trillion — not 50-70 trillion.

To date Tepco’s Fukushima costs have been covered by interest-free government loans, with 6 trillion (US57 billion) already paid out. Since 2012 Tepco’s electricity ratepayers have paid 2.4 trillion to cover nuclear-related costs, including the Fukushima accident site.

That is nothing compared to the costs looming over future decades and beyond and it comes at a time when Tepco and other electric utilities are under commercial pressure as never before.

The commercial pressure comes from electricity market reform that since April 2016 allowed consumers to switch from the monopoly utilities to independent power providers.

In the ten months to February 2017, the main electric utilities lost 2.5 million customers, with Tepco alone losing more than 1.44 million. Hence, profits have fallen off a cliff.

Prior to the deregulation of the retail electricity market, Tepco had 22 million customers. As the Tepco president observed late last year “The number (of customers leaving Tepco) is changing every day as the liberalization continues … We will of course need to think of ways to counter that competition.”

Countering that competition shouldn’t mean rigging the market, yet Tepco and the other utilities intend to try and retain their decades long dominance of electricity by retaining control over access to the grid. This is a concerted push back against the growth of renewable energy.

Current plans to open the grid to competition in 2020, so called legal unbundling, are essential to wrest control from the big utilities.

The message of unbundling and independence, however, doesn’t seem to have reached the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) that oversees the electricity industry.

Current plans would allow Tepco to establish separate legal entities: Tepco Fuel & Power (thermal power generation), Tepco Energy Partner (power distribution) and Tepco Power Grid (power transmission).

Tepco Holdings will retain their stock and control their management, meaning the same monopoly will retain control of the grid. Where Tepco leads, the other nine electric utilities are aiming to follow.

Leaving the grid effectively still under the control of the traditional utilities will throw up a major obstacle to large scale expansion of renewable energy sources from new companies.

Such businesses will be ‘curtailed’ or stopped from supplying electricity to the grid when the large utilities decide it’s necessary, justified for example to maintain the stability of the grid.

The fact that ‘curtailment’ will be permitted in many regions without financial compensation piles further pain onto new entrants to the electricity market, and by extension consumers.

Further, METI plans to spread the escalating costs of Fukushima so that other utilities and new power companies pay a proportion of compensation costs. METI’s justification for charging customers of new energy companies is that they benefited from nuclear power before the market opened up.

The need to find someone else to pay for Tepco’s mess is underscored by the breakdown of the Fukushima disaster cost estimate in November.

When put at 22 trillion estimate, 16 trillion is supposed to be covered by Tepco. The Ministry of Finance is to offer 2 trillion for decontamination, and the remaining 4 trillion is to be provided by other power companies and new electricity providers.

The question is how does Tepco cover its share of the costs when it’s losing customers and its only remaining nuclear plant in Japan, Kashiwazaki Kariwa (the worlds largest), has no prospect of restarting operation due to local opposition?

What happens when Fukushima costs rise to the levels projected of 50-70 trillion?

The policy measures being put in place by Tepco, other utilities and the government suggests that they know what is coming and their solution for paying for the world’s most costly industrial accident will be sticking both hands into the public purse.

Shaun Burnie is a senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, Tokyo. He has worked on nuclear issues worldwide for more than three decades, including since 1991 on Japan’s nuclear policy.

http://menafn.com/1095358564/Tepcos-Fukushima-the-most-expensive-industrial-accident-in-history

 

Japan further scales down evacuation zones around Fukushima plant

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FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — The government on Friday lifted the remaining evacuation orders for large parts of areas less seriously contaminated by the radiation due to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster.

The government lifted evacuation orders that had affected some parts of the towns of Kawamata and Namie as well as the village of Iitate. A large part of the town of Tomioka will also be released from the evacuation order Saturday.

The move will scale down the evacuation zones to about one-third of what they had originally been. But it is uncertain whether many residents will return to their homes amid radiation fears, while the most seriously contaminated areas around the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant remain a no-go zone.

Initially, 11 municipalities — many of which are located within a 20-kilometers radius of the crippled nuclear complex — had been subject to the evacuation orders. They were later rezoned into three categories based on their radiation levels, with the most seriously contaminated land defined as the difficult-to-return areas.

Through radiation cleanup work and efforts to rebuild infrastructure, the government said in 2015 that it aimed to remove by the end of the current fiscal year through Friday all the evacuation orders except for those issued to the difficult-to-return zones.

But the government failed to do so in the towns of Okuma and Futaba, which host the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant owned by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.

Okuma and Futaba have some areas not designated as highly toxic, but both towns will remain under full evacuation orders due to insufficient infrastructure, according to government officials.

The areas where evacuation orders will be lifted by Saturday had a registered population of about 32,000, or 12,000 households, around the end of February. Even after the move, seven municipalities will be partially or fully subject to evacuation orders.

As for the difficult-to-return zones, the government plans to create areas where they will conduct intense decontamination and lift the evacuation orders for those areas in about five years’ time.

The number of Fukushima people who fled from their homes in the wake of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster, which also triggered the nuclear crisis, stood at about 77,000 people as of March. The maximum number was about 165,000 marked in May 2012.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170331/p2g/00m/0dm/015000c

Toshiba’s nuclear flagship U.S. Westinghouse goes bust after $10 billion losses

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Where Toshiba’s $10bn nuclear debt came from: the Vogtle AP1000 construction site in Georgia, under inspection by NRC Commissioner Svinicki.

Toshiba’s nuclear flagship goes bust after $10 billion losses

News that one of the world’s biggest nuclear power constructors, Westinghouse, has filed for bankruptcy in with debts of over $10 billion has put the entire sector on notice and issued a dire warning to nuclear investors everywhere, writes Jim Green. Among the likely casualties: the UK’s Moorside nuclear complex in Cumbria.

The rapidly-evolving nuclear power crisis escalated dramatically yesterday when US nuclear giant Westinghouse, a subsidiary of Japanese conglomerate Toshiba, filed for bankruptcy.

The Chapter 11 filing took place in the US Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York in New York City.

Westinghouse and its parent Toshiba are in crisis because of massive cost overruns building four ‘AP1000’ nuclear power reactors in the southern US states of Georgia and South Carolina.

The combined cost overruns for the four reactors now amount to about $1.2 billion and counting. And it has now emerged that they may never be finished at all. Whether the four reactors will be completed is now subject to an “assessment period”, according to Westinghouse.

The corporate mishap may also signal the end of new nuclear power in the US. No other reactors are under construction in the country and there is no likelihood of any new reactors in the foreseeable future. The US reactor fleet is one of the oldest in the world, with 44 out of its 99 reactors having been operated for four decades or more.

A $10 billion financial hole – and it’s getting deeper!

Toshiba says Westinghouse had debts totalling US$9.8 billion. Plans for new Westinghouse reactors in India, the UK and China are in jeopardy and will likely be cancelled. Bloomberg noted yesterday: “Westinghouse Electric Co., once synonymous with America’s industrial might, wagered its future on nuclear power – and lost.”

The same could be said about Toshiba, which is selling profitable businesses to stave off bankruptcy. Toshiba said yesterday it expects to book a net loss of $9.1 billion for the current fiscal year, which ends on Friday – a record loss for a Japanese manufacturer.

That projected loss is also well over double the estimate provided just last month, raising investor fears that the final figure may be greater still. “Every time they put out an estimate, the loss gets bigger and bigger”, said Zuhair Khan, an analyst at Jefferies in Tokyo. “I don’t think this is the last cockroach we have seen coming out of Toshiba.”

The BBC noted that Toshiba’s share-price has been in freefall, losing more than 60% since the company first unveiled the problems in December 2016. Toshiba president Satoshi Tsunakawa said at a news conference yesterday: “We have all but completely pulled out of the nuclear business overseas.”

Westinghouse is the major member of the Nugen consortium that’s set to build a massive three-reactor AP1000 nuclear complex at Moorside in the UK, next to the Sellafield site. The company has already stated that while it intends to progress the project through planning stages, it is unable to take on financing or construction and intends to sell its share.

Nugen’s other member, the French energy company Engie (formerly GDF Suez) has also gone on record as wanting to extricate itself from the Moorside project in favour of the ‘new energy’ economy based on renewable, storage and smart grid technologies.

It’s now looking increasingly probable that the Moorside project, given the state of the Nugen consortium and the massive failure of the AP1000 design, may never progress to construction.

The good news for the nuclear industry? The UK’s Office of Nuclear Regulation (ONR) today – with impeccable timing – accepted the AP1000 design as suitable for construction in the UK and issued Westinghouse a Design Acceptance Certificate.

Is the nuclear game up at last?

A similar crisis is unfolding in France, which has 58 power reactors but just one under construction. French ‘EPR’ reactors under construction in France (Flamanville) and Finland are three times over budget – the combined cost overruns for the two reactors amount to about €12.7 billion and counting.

The French government is selling assets so it can prop up its heavily indebted nuclear utilities Areva and EDF. The French nuclear industry is in its “worst situation ever” according to former EDF director Gérard Magnin.

Meanwhile a simple comparison of decommissioning provision between France and Germany indicates that EDF has massively under-budgetted for its liabilities. Germany has set aside €38 billion to decommission its 17 nuclear reactors (€2.2 billion each), but France has set aside only €23 billion to decommission its 58 reactors (€0.4 billion each).

When the real costs, for which EDF will be liable, come in, they could easily bankrupt the company. This in turn puts the UK’s Hinkley Point double EPR nuclear project, in which EDF is the main partner, in doubt.

The crisis-ridden US, French and Japanese nuclear industries account for half of worldwide nuclear power generation. Other countries with crisis-ridden nuclear programs or nuclear phase-out policies account for more than half of worldwide nuclear power generation.

Meranwhile renewable energy generation doubled over the past decade and strong growth, driven by sharp cost decreases, will continue for the foreseeable future.

http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2988820/toshibas_nuclear_flagship_goes_bust_under_10_billion_debt_burden.html

 

Toshiba’s nuclear unit files for bankruptcy, 1 tril. yen loss eyed

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Toshiba Corp. said Wednesday its troubled U.S. nuclear unit Westinghouse Electric Co. has filed for Chapter 11 and it could post a net loss of over 1 trillion yen, the biggest ever for a Japanese manufacturer.

Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York, as the Japanese parent company was rushing to limit further losses from the U.S. unit and looking to exit the money-losing overseas nuclear business.

With the do-or-die decision on the filing, Toshiba will make all-out efforts to move out of its financial woes, Toshiba President Satoshi Tsunakawa told a press conference in Tokyo after Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy.

“We are almost risk-free as we are pulling out of overseas nuclear operations, the biggest problem,” he said.

Toshiba said it could post a group net loss of 1.01 trillion yen ($9.13 billion) for the fiscal year ending on Friday, with massive costs related to the Chapter 11 filing. Westinghouse has $9.8 billion in total liabilities, much of which must be shouldered by Toshiba under a debt guarantee for the U.S. unit.

The estimated net loss would eclipse 787.3 billion yen posted by Hitachi Ltd. in the year to March 2009 following the 2008 global financial crisis and would be much worse than the 390 billion yen loss the company projected in February.

The huge loss would put the company in a negative net worth of 620 billion yen at the end of March, Toshiba said, far larger than the 150 billion yen it previously estimated.

Tsunakawa said that he feels responsibility for the company’s crisis but has no intention to step down as chief executive.

He took the helm at the company last June after it had been hit by an accounting scandal in 2015.

The bankruptcy filing will deconsolidate Westinghouse from Toshiba’s financial results for the current fiscal year.

The company has been under pressure to have Westinghouse file for bankruptcy protection, as the unit is the main cause of its massive losses with delays in U.S. plant projects leading to cost overruns, informed sources have said.

The nuclear-to-electronics conglomerate was looking to finalize losses related to the unit within the current fiscal year through the bankruptcy filing.

In February, Toshiba said it was expecting a loss of 712.5 billion yen in its U.S. nuclear business for the nine months through December on an unaudited basis. The company had to delay its earnings announcement twice, saying it needed more time to look into an accounting problem at Westinghouse.

Faced with ballooning losses, Toshiba had been considering a way to separate itself from the debacle at Westinghouse, which it bought in 2006 as a step to tap into overseas markets.

The cash-strapped company has decided to spin off its prized memory chip business and sell a majority stake, or even the whole operation, to raise funds to bolster its financial standing.

Toshiba closed the first round of bids Wednesday for the new semiconductor division that it plans to establish on Saturday. It has likely attracted 10 bidders and will choose the preferred buyer in May, according to sources close to the matter.

Tsunakawa is confident that the bidders have a strong financial standing and the proceeds from the sale will be able to eliminate the company’s liabilities.

He estimates the value of the chip business at 2 trillion yen at least, and said he expects the value to continue to rise.

Toshiba is seeking support from Korea Electric Power Corp. as a sponsor, aiming to sell its Westinghouse shares to the South Korean utility.

“We are focused on developing a plan of reorganization to emerge from Chapter 11 as a stronger company while continuing to be a global nuclear technology leader,” Westinghouse Interim President and Chief Executive Officer Jose Emeterio Gutierrez said in a release.

The company turned the corner in stemming the bleeding for the time being. But the fate of its turnaround remains unclear.

The sale of Westinghouse and the pullout of the overseas nuclear business will leave the company with no core profit-making businesses after it sold its cash-cow medical business and as it plans to sell its chip operation.

The outlook for the sale of the U.S. unit is far from certain. Toshiba may find it difficult to attract a buyer with slowing demand for nuclear power generation after the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170330/p2g/00m/0bu/029000c

 

Study: S. Korean nuclear disaster would hit Japan the hardest

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The projected spread of radioactive cesium-137 from a disaster at the No. 3 reactor’s spent fuel pool of the Kori nuclear plant in Busan, South Korea (Provided by Kang Jung-min)

A serious nuclear accident in South Korea could force the evacuation of more than 28 million people in Japan, compared with around 24 million in the home country of the disaster.

Japan would also be hit harder by radioactive fallout than South Korea in such a disaster, particularly if it occurred in winter, when strong westerly winds would blow radioactive substances across the Sea of Japan, according to a simulation by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington-based think tank.

The simulation, based on a scenario of an unfolding crisis at the Kori nuclear power plant in Busan, South Korea, was led by Kang Jung-min, a South Korean senior researcher of nuclear physics, and his colleagues.

At events in Japan and South Korea, Kang, 51, has repeatedly warned about East Asia’s vulnerability to a severe nuclear accident, saying the region shares the “same destiny” regardless of the location of such a disaster.

The Kori nuclear complex is home to seven of the country’s 25 commercial reactors, making it one of the largest in South Korea. Its oldest reactor–and the first in the country–went online in 1978.

Spent nuclear fuel at the Kori plant is cooled in on-site storage pools next to reactors.

But the operator of the plant has ended up storing spent fuel in more cramped conditions than in the past because waste keeps accumulating from the many years of operations.

An estimated 818 tons of spent fuel was being stored at the pool of the Kori No. 3 reactor as of the end of 2015, the most at any reactor in the country.

That is because the No. 3 pool has also been holding spent fuel from the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors since their fuel pools became too crowded.

Storing spent fuel in such a manner greatly increases the risk of a nuclear accident, Kang warned.

Kang’s team simulated the series of likely events that would follow if the No. 3 reactor lost power in a natural disaster or an act of terrorism.

With no power, the spent fuel at the No. 3 reactor could not be cooled. The cooling water would evaporate, exposing the fuel rods to air, generating intensive heat and causing a fire.

Hydrogen gas would then fill up the fuel storage building, leading to an explosion that would result in the release of a large amount of vaporized cesium-137 from the spent fuel.

Assuming that the catastrophe occurred on Jan. 1, 2015, the researchers determined how highly radioactive cesium-137 would spread and fall to the ground based on the actual weather conditions over the following week, as well as the direction and velocity of winds.

To gauge the size of the area and population that would be forced to evacuate in such a disaster, the team took into account recommendations by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, a private entity, and other organizations.

The results showed that up to 67,000 square kilometers of land in Japan–or much of the western part of the country–would fall under the evacuation zone, displacing a maximum of 28.3 million people.

In South Korea, up to 54,000 square kilometers would need to be vacated, affecting up to 24.3 million people.

The simulation also found that 18.4 million Japanese and 19 million Koreans would remain displaced for even after 30 years, the half-life of cesium-137, in a worst-case scenario.

Radioactive materials from South Korea would also pollute North Korea and China, according to the study.

Nineteen reactors in South Korea are located in the coastal area facing the Sea of Japan, including those at the Kori nuclear power plant.

Kang said the public should be alerted to the dangers of highly toxic spent fuel, an inevitable byproduct of nuclear power generation.

One ton of spent fuel contains 100,000 curies of cesium-137, meaning that 20 tons of spent fuel would be enough to match the estimated 2 million curies of cesium-137 released in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

An average-size light-water reactor produces about 20 tons of spent fuel in one year of operation.

East Asia is home to one of the world’s largest congestions of nuclear facilities, Kang said.

Japan, China and South Korea, which have all promoted nuclear energy as state policy for decades, together host about 100 commercial reactors.

A number of nuclear-related facilities are also concentrated in North Korea, particularly in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang.

If a severe accident were to occur in China, the pollution would inevitably spill over to South Korea and then to Japan.

That is why people should take serious interest in not just their own country’s nuclear issues, but also in neighboring countries,” Kang said. “Japan, China and South Korea should cooperate with each other to ensure the safety and security of spent fuel and nuclear facilities.”

He said the risks of a fire would be reduced if spent fuel were placed at greater intervals in storage pools.

Ideally, spent fuel should be moved to sealed dry casks and cooled with air after it is cooled in a pool for about five years,” he said.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703300001.html

Mall opens in Fukushima town near disaster-stricken nuclear plant

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Rice cakes are tossed to a crowd ahead of the full-scale opening of Sakura Mall Tomioka, a publically-established and privately-run mall, in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, on March 30, 2017.

TOMIOKA, Fukushima — A shopping mall opened in this town near the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant on March 30, amidst hopes it will jumpstart the return of the populace as evacuation orders will be lifted for most of the town on April 1.

In addition to returning residents, the mall is expected to be used by employees working on decommissioning of the nuclear plant.

Before the nuclear disaster, Tomioka was considered to have the largest concentration of commercial facilities in Futaba County, which also hosts the nuclear plant. Together with the lifting of the evacuation orders, the town is touting its recovery as the “capital of the county.”

The mall, called “Sakura Mall Tomioka,” has around 4,500 square meters of floor space. In November last year, a home improvement store and three restaurants opened early, and on March 30 this year a supermarket and drugstore opened, bringing the facility into full operation. At a ceremony for the opening, Mayor Koichi Miyamoto said, “I am sure this mall will aid recovery (of areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster).”

The Tomioka Municipal Government set up the mall by renovating buildings along National Route 6. The areas of the town with evacuation orders being lifted will cover 9,544 residents (based on March 1 population figures), but in the near term only a few percent of the population are expected to actually return to the town. Evacuation orders will remain in place for parts of the town with high radiation levels, called “difficult-to-return” zones.

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170330/p2a/00m/0na/014000c