Court told ex-Tepco Execs were informed barriers could prevent tsunami flooding at Fukushima plant

Feb 28, 2018
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The devastated Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is seen in this April 2011 file photo
 
An employee with a subsidiary of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. testified in court Wednesday that the unit reported a need to install tide barriers to prevent flooding from a tsunami well before the March 2011 nuclear accident at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
According to the worker, the Tepco unit produced an estimate in March 2008 on the basis of long-term assessments released by a government organization, saying that a tsunami could occur with a height of 15.7 meters, which is above ground level at the nuclear plant site.
The estimate was presented at a meeting in June the same year that was attended by Sakae Muto, a former Tepco vice president.
The worker testified during a hearing at the Tokyo District Court that the Tepco unit estimated the tsunami height to reflect the latest information on a possible massive earthquake off Fukushima Prefecture, home to the now-devastated nuclear plant.
After finding that the nuclear plant site was vulnerable to flooding, the subsidiary reported at the meeting that installing 10-meter tide barriers would provide protection from a tsunami, the worker said.
The worker gave the testimony as a witness in the trial of three former Tepco executives, including Muto, 67, who were indicted in February 2016 for allegedly neglecting to take measures against massive tsunami. A prosecution inquest panel comprising ordinary citizens has overruled decisions by public prosecutors twice not to charge the executives. In the indictment, they were charged with professional negligence resulting in death and injury over the accident.
Lawyers appointed by the district court to act as prosecutors have said that former Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 77, and former Vice President Ichiro Takekuro, 67, were also informed of the tsunami estimates on separate occasions. The lawyers claimed that the three former Tepco executives could have foreseen that a massive tsunami might hit the nuclear power plant.
The former executives denied the claim during the first hearing in their trial in June 2017, saying that the company would have been unable to prevent the accident even if measures were taken based on the estimate.
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Fukushima Daiichi groundwater inflow increased 4 times as normal

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2018/2/26
Tokyo Electric Power Company announced on 26th that the amount of groundwater flowing into the basement of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors buildings 1 and 2 began to increase in February and temporarily nearly quadrupled. There is a possibility that the influx may have increased due to the repair work of the drainage passage passing through the vicinity.
 
According to TEPCO, the inflow from January 1 to February 8 this year is about 48 tons per day on average. However, despite the fact that it did not rain from February 8 to 15, it increased to an average of about 131 tons. It peaked at about 179 tons on the 19th and started to decline from 20th.
 
In the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, groundwater flows into the basements of the buildings and mixes with contaminated water, leading to an increase in new contaminated water.
 

Correlation between infectious disease and soil radiation in Japan: an exploratory study using national sentinel surveillance data

From 16 January 2017

Summary
We investigated the relationship between epidemics and soil radiation through an exploratory study using sentinel surveillance data (individuals aged <20 years) during the last three epidemic seasons of influenza and norovirus in Japan. We used a spatial analysis method of a geographical information system (GIS). We mapped the epidemic spreading patterns from sentinel incidence rates. We calculated the average soil radiation [dm (μGy/h)] for each sentinel site using data on uranium, thorium, and potassium oxide in the soil and examined the incidence rate in units of 0·01 μGy/h. The correlations between the incidence rate and the average soil radiation were assessed. Epidemic clusters of influenza and norovirus infections were observed in areas with relatively high radiation exposure. A positive correlation was detected between the average incidence rate and radiation dose, at r = 0·61–0·84 (P < 0·01) for influenza infections and r = 0·61–0·72 (P < 0·01) for norovirus infections. An increase in the incidence rate was found between areas with radiation exposure of 0 < dm < 0·01 and 0·15 ⩽ dm < 0·16, at 1·80 [95% confidence interval (CI) 1·47–2·12] times higher for influenza infection and 2·07 (95% CI 1·53–2·61) times higher for norovirus infection. Our results suggest a potential association between decreased immunity and irradiation because of soil radiation. Further studies on immunity in these epidemic-prone areas are desirable.
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Drone to map radiation within Fukushima plant

27 February 2018
A small drone is to be deployed to measure radiation levels at the damaged reactors at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The UK-developed RISER – Remote Intelligence Survey Equipment for Radiation – has already been used successfully at Sellafield, in England.
 
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The RISER drone undergoing trials at Sellafield (Image: NDA)
 
The lightweight RISER drone uses lasers to self-navigate deep inside hazardous facilities where GPS signals cannot reach. It combines two separate pieces of technology: drones and radiation-mapping software. Each received research and development funding through the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and fellow government agency, Innovate UK.
Cockermouth, Cumbria-based computing and electronics engineering firm Createc’s N-Visage radiation mapping software project was boosted during its early stages in 2009 by a GBP50,000 (USD70,000) investment from the NDA’s R&D portfolio.
Three years later, the NDA joined other government organisations to invest further funds in a wide range of innovative nuclear projects. This led to the collaboration between Createc and Bedford-based aerial systems specialist Blue Bear Systems Research. This collaboration led to RISER.
The drone is less than one metre in diameter and navigates using its own internal ‘collision avoidance’ capability. Able to manoeuvre accurately inside complex industrial spaces, data is transmitted to the mapping system and clearly displayed, highlighting areas of contamination, its developers say.
The N-Visage tailor-made technology maps radiation with “pinpoint accuracy, producing a high-definition 3D picture of contamination, quickly and safely”.
After a series of on-site trials at Sellafield, RISER was put into decommissioning action. The drone has been used to collect vital information about conditions in the highly-contaminated Windscale Pile chimney. This data will be used to establish how the chimney can be cleaned out and finally dismantled.
RISER was first used inside one of the reactor buildings at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi plant several years ago, and is now set to return, mounted on the drone.

More Fukushima Propaganda to Come from Japan’s Ministry of the Environment

Feb 26, 2018,
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Ministry of the Environment Cohosts Panel Discussion “Update Fukushima” —

Cheer Fukushima by Knowing It More and Sharing That Knowledge More
 
– Statement for “Update Fukushima” Released from Tokyo –
TOKYO, Feb. 26, 2018 /PRNewswire/ — The Ministry of the Environment of Japan (MOEJ) on Saturday, February 10, 2018, cohosted the Panel Discussion “Update Fukushima” — Cheer Fukushima by Knowing It More and Sharing That Knowledge More –, hosted by the Update Fukushima Executive Committee and held at the United Nations University’s U Thant International Conference Hall (in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo).
While environmental recovery in Fukushima after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake is well underway, the area still suffers misconceptions within Japan and abroad due mostly to the lack of accurate information. To help correct this situation, the ministry cohosted the aforementioned event in order to discuss, identify and share a variety of facts, viewpoints, effective methods and the like necessary to update and communicate information on the state of Fukushima.
The event brought a total of 275 participants into one place, consisting of individual attendees in response to the ministry’s call on the public to join the event in advance, and representatives from the government, Fukushima, education, media and other various fields.
Based on a variety of questions and comments sent in to the Update Fukushima Secretariat in advance, the event took place in this manner: Part 1 of its program featured issues raised by the members of the Update Fukushima Executive Committee and the exchange of views among them, Part 2 introduced case studies on updated Fukushima affairs, as presented by those representing the educational and media communities and local high school students, and Part 3 focused on further discussions on the subjects of “Update the public awareness of Fukushima,” “Continue efforts to communicate the truth about Fukushima in an effective way” and the like, to summarize the discussions into the statement of “Update Fukushima,” which was then released from Tokyo.
On the day of the event, in Part 1: Thoughts on Fukushima Today — Theories, four members of the Update Fukushima Executive Committee appeared on the stage for discussions: Ryugo Hayano, Professor Emeritus, University of Tokyo; Sae Ochi, Lecturer, Department of Clinical Laboratory Medicine, Tokyo Jikei University School of Medicine; William McMichael, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Fukushima University; and Hiroshi Kainuma, Associate Professor, Kinugasa Research Organization, Ritsumeikan University. Mr. Kainuma played the role of facilitator to step up interaction between the panel members and the audience on the subjects of Fukushima’s agricultural produce, foods, environment, health, Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and other affairs, by giving some quizzes to the audience, which were answered by panel members, while identifying some of the issues that are actually going on in Fukushima, including “misleading information about radiation,” “health risks in Fukushima increasingly more serious than risks between radiation exposure and cancer” and the “wrong imagery about Fukushima felt by people abroad,” for example. Then, he led the panel members to write their messages on the boards, such as “Communicate it to a wide range of people, as well as to each individual,” “Enjoy exploring ‘what you don’t know’,” and “Kakushin (or confidence) x Kakushin (or the core part of the issues affecting Fukushima),” to share their views on what can be done to “update the imagery about Fukushima.”
In Part 2: How the State of Fukushima Today Is Communicated — Case Studies, Assistant Professor McMichael from Fukushima University first appeared on the stage together with foreign students, who participate in the Fukushima Ambassador Program while currently staying and studying in Fukushima, to discuss how to meet the “challenge of building a Fukushima model for global education for recovery from disasters.” In discussing the theme, they admitted that “there are many foreign students who have changed their impressions about Fukushima after they actually visit the place.” Representing overseas media, Vikram Channa, Vice President and Production Head for Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, delivered his speech on the subject of “Communicating Fukushima in the Age of Social Media” to present a TV program titled “FUKUSHIMA DIARIES” broadcast on Discovery Channel to share viewers’ responses to the program.
Then, representing Japanese media, Akira Ito, Chief Producer for the TV Programming Division of TV-U Fukushima, came up onto the stage together with Riken Komatsu, president of Alternative Space UDOK, and Hiroshi Motoki, president of Wonder Farm, who both appeared on the TV program to have a talk show on the subject of “Correcting the Images of FUKUSHIMA Via TV Program,” and then talked about “Fukushima Today,” a documentary program for overseas audiences, as broadcast in a total of 18 countries, including China, South Korea and those in Southeast Asia, in terms of episodes behind the production of the program and responses to it from local viewers.
NB. You can watch the two programs of “FUKUSHIMA DIARIES” and “Fukushima Today” on the following website: http://josen.env.go.jp/en/movie_publication/cooperation_index.html
The last part of the case study session in Part 2 was presided over by Dr. Hayano who led Shunya Okino and Honoka Ara, who are juniors at Fukushima High School, and Ryo Endo, a junior at Fukushima Futaba Future School, to present their case studies so far made under the theme of “We Explore, Learn, Study and Communicate.” Okino said in his presentation, “I hope people will keep watching us in Fukushima (in warmth and without prejudice) by gaining the right knowledge about it,” while Ara said, “I will continue to communicate facts about ‘Utsukushima Fukushima (Beautiful Place, Fukushima)’ not only to people in Japan but also to people in the rest of the world.” And Endo said, “It is natural that even if they come from the same Fukushima prefecture, how hard experiences they might have undergone from that disaster and how to think about their future may vary from person to person. I hope that you understand us in a more flexible way.”
In Part 3: Cheer Fukushima by Knowing It More and Sharing That Knowledge More — Summary, the four members of the Update Fukushima Executive Committee, who appeared in Part 1, were joined by Takashi Hara, a teacher at Fukushima High School, Ippei Nango, Vice Principal of Futaba Future School, and Hideka Morimoto, Vice Minister of the Environment, the MOEJ, to write their messages each for “Update Fukushima” on the boards before getting down to the discussion.
With his message saying, “Want to update educational trips for high school students,” Mr. Hara stressed how important it is to educate people in the right way. Showing his message “‘For Fukushima’ to ‘From Fukushima’ with the Youth,” Mr. Nango said that young people without unwanted ties or fetters are expected to actively participate in the decision-making process to communicate information from Fukushima to the rest of the world.” And MOEJ Vice Minister Morimoto, with his message of “Just talking cannot get across to people — (need for) group learning,” said that based on lessons learnt from the case of the Minamata disease, or methylmercury poisoning caused in Japan by environmental pollution, it is important to build a scheme allowing people to trust one another (or group learning), through which we would like to strive for winning understanding about decontamination and intermediate storage of radioactive materials among people.”
Dr. Hayano wrote “(All women in Fukushima) feel safe to have babies,” “All” and “Individuals” on the board and said, “It is important to communicate the right information to individuals. Education holds the key but it will be also necessary to take an approach of sharing it with all people in the future.”
Dr. Ochi wrote “No qualification is required to talk about Fukushima. Do from now on right here” and said, “Some of you may choose to keep silent because you have never been there or you may feel afraid of causing trouble if you say something despite not being an expert. Never mind, you may think and talk about Fukushima from now on and right here.” Mr. McMichael wrote “No boundaries, Kakushin (confidence) x Kakushin (the core part of the issue) = Kakushin (innovation)” and said, “It is important to move forward to build a better future and get things innovated in the awareness process.” Finally, as the facilitator, Mr. Kainuma, announced a statement for “Update Fukushima” before the audience before closing the panel discussion event.
Relevant URLs:
Official site of Update Fukushima: http://josen.env.go.jp/update_fukushima/en/ 
Official site of the Ministry of the Environment of Japan: http://josen.env.go.jp/en/movie_publication/cooperation_index.html
* A report on what was going on at this Panel Discussion event will be disclosed at the URLs above on a later day.
SOURCE Ministry of the Environment, Japan

Tepco sets sights on global expansion

26 February 2018
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Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) aims to become an innovative global energy and technology company, according to its president, Tomoaki Kobayakawa. He stressed the company will continue providing strong support for the restoration of Fukushima.
Tepco is Japan’s largest power company, supplying energy to the greater Kanto area, including the country’s two biggest cities, Tokyo and Yokohama. As well as the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant, Tepco also owns the Fukushima Daini and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plants.
Speaking at a press conference held on 16 February at the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, Kobayakawa said Tepco faces challenges posed by the deregulation of Japan’s energy markets, the country’s declining population, and the need to continue clean-up work in Fukushima Prefecture.
Tepco will continue its transformation from a local utility into an innovative global energy and technology company, partnering with other leaders around the world, Kobayakawa said.
Tepco aims to increase its revenue by JPY500 billion (USD4.7 billion) per year, generating a total of JPY450 billion in profit over the next decade.
Kobayakawa said this would be achieved through streamlining businesses and cost reduction, reorganisation and integration of nuclear power and distribution, as well as forming alliances with partners. Tepco will create businesses in new areas, which will create a value chain from fuel upstream to thermal generation and bundling the sale of electricity and natural gas.
Kobayakawa said Tepco’s parent company – Tepco Holdings – will create a management committee during the coming fiscal year to formulate a detailed plan for achieving its aim.
“Our main mission is guaranteeing the delivery of a stable supply of low-cost electricity to customers,” he said. “Within that mission, nuclear power is not everything. Thermal power, the procurement of renewable energy, and hydropower all play a part.”
“Renewables are an essential component of our future,” Kobayakawa said. “We believe we can scale up our renewables business to create a new source of revenue comparable to JERA.”
JERA is a 50/50 joint venture formed between Tepco and Chubu Electric Power Company in April 2015. The main business areas of JERA are: upstream fuel investments; fuel procurement; fuel transportation; fuel trading; replacement and construction of domestic thermal power plants; overseas power generation and energy infrastructure.
However, Kobayakawa stressed the focus on the future will not come at the expense of Tepco’s obligations to its past. Noting the steady improvement of the situation both inside the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and in the surrounding area, Kobayakawa affirmed the corporate mission to rebuild communities and restore the trust of the residents, including efforts to support the sale of products from Fukushima Prefecture.
In May 2012, the Japanese government approved amendments to Tepco’s ten-year special business plan which effectively puts it under state control. Under the amendments, the government provided Tepco with JPY1 trillion in state funds in return for a 51% stake in the company.
In 2014, Tepco was reorganised into two main sections: a power generation business and a separate division dedicated to decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi site.
A further reorganisation followed in April 2016, with Tepco being structured under Tepco Holdings. Its fuel and thermal generation operations were placed in a subsidiary called Tepco Fuel and Power Incorporated; its power transmission and distribution business became Tepco Power Grid Incorporated; and its electricity retail operations became Tepco Energy Partner Incorporated. Its nuclear-related operations remained within the holding company.

7 years on, local gov’ts face challenge in protecting 3/11 evacuees from isolation

February 26, 2018
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A disaster recovery support worker, left, listens to an evacuee on his life and worries in Taiwa, Miyagi Prefecture, on Feb. 15, 2018.
 
While March 11 marks the seventh anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing tsunami that triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, tens of thousands of people who evacuated from their hometowns in the wake of the triple disaster are yet to return. Now, local governments are facing a challenge as they make efforts to prevent evacuees scattered across Japan from becoming isolated.
As of January this year, 75,206 people were still living outside their hometowns following evacuation in the wake of the triple disaster in March 2011. Of those, 40,349 from the three prefectures hit hardest by the disaster — Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate — had left their hometowns to reside in areas outside their home prefectures. While local authorities continue to visit evacuees door-to-door, in many cases their whereabouts have become unknown.
On Feb. 15, Naokiyo Suzuki, 66, and two other disaster recovery support workers sent by the Tomioka Municipal Government in Fukushima Prefecture visited the home of 63-year-old Kazunari Sakamoto, who has evacuated from his hometown with his wife to Taiwa, Miyagi Prefecture. The workers checked whether the couple needed welfare services as they chatted with them.
“It’s hard for us to get local information on the town we used to live in, and we tend to think that we’ve been abandoned,” Sakamoto says. “I’m thankful that workers from my hometown come to check on us.”
At an apartment in the Miyagi Prefecture city of Tagajo, the support workers met with a male relative of an evacuee in her 90s to learn how she was doing. The relative told them that she fell (at the apartment) and bruised her face and said he wanted to have her moved from the current place as he was worried about the steep stairs at the building. Suzuki’s team then asked the bureau at the Fukushima Prefectural Government to handle the man’s request.
There are 34,202 Fukushima Prefecture residents who left the prefecture after the disaster and have not returned. The prefectural government has set up disaster recovery hubs in nine prefectures in the Tohoku and Kanto regions, including Tokyo, and support workers visit and meet with the evacuees. Separately, the Fukushima Prefecture towns of Tomioka and Namie continue to visit their local residents who have evacuated outside the prefecture. These local governments are utilizing the disaster recovery support workers program set up by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications to cover expenditure, including the support workers’ salaries and their activity fees. The program was established with the objective of providing services to watch over the evacuees.
At the same time, differences in support measures taken by the three prefectures have become apparent. The Iwate and Miyagi prefectural governments, with 1,234 and 4,913 evacuees outside those prefectures, respectively, conduct door-to-door visits, not to check the evacuees’ lives away from their home, but rather to confirm their thoughts on returning to their home prefectures. Both prefectural governments therefore do not visit the evacuees’ homes if their will to return can be confirmed via a phone call or in writing. They explain that they have phone consultation services and other methods to respond to evacuees’ needs.
With such handling of the evacuees, some are feeling increasingly isolated. An 83-year-old woman who lives by herself at a housing complex in Saitama Prefecture after her home in Otsuchi, Iwate Prefecture, was swept away in the tsunami says she only exchanges conversations at her doorstep with a social worker who stops by about once every two months.
“There were various things I could enjoy in Otsuchi, but there’s nothing like that here,” the woman says. She hardly goes out, except to visit the hospital and to go shopping.
A study shows that the risk of depression increases when a person does not have someone in their immediate circle to talk to. Waseda University and other organizations began a survey in October last year targeting households that have moved from Fukushima Prefecture to the Tokyo metropolitan area after the disaster. According to a midterm preliminary report, of the 356 households that responded to a question on whether members had someone to talk to when there was a problem or concern, 157 households, or 44 percent, said “no.” Of these households, 49, or 31.2 percent, said there was at least one family member suspected to have depression — about three times higher than the corresponding figure for households whose members had someone to talk to.
Among the respondents in this survey was a couple in their 50s who said they were thinking about a family suicide due to financial hardships. The husband has had a hard time finding a job and their second son stopped going to school due to bullying. They decided to “leave some kind of trace” before taking their own lives when the questionnaire arrived in the mail and they raised their voice for the first time.
Yutaka Aiko, director general of support group “Shinsai Shien (disaster support) Network Saitama” which helped out with the survey, points out that there are people who hide the fact that they are disaster evacuees from others around them. He stressed that administrative bodies need to understand evacuees’ circumstances through door-to-door visits.
The Mainichi Shimbun asked each local government that conducts door-to-door visits about the number of households they have visited and the number of families they could actually meet, and calculated the success rate. As a result, the Fukushima Prefectural Government had a 34 percent success rate and the Miyagi Prefectural Government 24 percent. Some housing units that are supposed to house evacuees show no sign of occupancy, making it difficult for local authorities to know where the evacuees are located.

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