Air duct corrosion and holes found at seven nuclear plants

n-reactors-a-20180524.jpgCorrosion is seen in a ventilation duct at the No. 3 unit of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture. | NUCLEAR REGULATION AUTHORITY

 
Corrosion and holes have been found in ventilation ducts at 12 reactors at seven nuclear plants across the country, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said Wednesday, raising concerns that workers could be exposed to radiation in the event of an accident.
The governmental nuclear watchdog released the results of a nationwide survey it had ordered following a revelation in December 2016 that corrosion had left multiple holes in the air ducts of the No. 2 reactor at Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Shimane plant in western Japan. That reactor was not included in the survey.
Serious corrosion was found at the No. 3 unit of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and may have abnormally affected ventilation of the central control room, the watchdog said.
Although the No. 7 unit at the same plant has passed a test to resume operation, the NRA said it will inspect the impact of any corrosion found at the reactor. No abnormality associated with corrosion has been found at the remaining 10 units, it said.
Corrosion or holes were found in steel or galvanized steel ducts at Tohoku Electric Power Co.’s Onagawa nuclear plant, Japan Atomic Power Co.’s Tokai No. 2 nuclear plant, Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka plant, Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shiga nuclear plant and Chugoku Electric’s Shimane plant.
If an accident occurs, radioactive materials could flow into a plant’s central control room through such holes, putting workers in danger of radiation exposure.
At the No. 3 reactor at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, a crack as large as 13 centimeters in length and 5 cm in width was found. A total of nine holes and cracks have been discovered at the Nos. 3 and 7 units at the plant.
All the reactors with corrosion were boiling-water reactors, the same type used at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, which spewed a massive amount of radioactive material into the atmosphere following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
No problems have been detected at pressurized-water nuclear reactors, as filtering and other measures take place near air inlets.
The holes at the No. 2 unit at the Shimane plant were discovered when insulation materials covering the ducts were removed for inspection.
The holes, the largest of which measured about 100 centimeters wide and about 30 centimeters long, are believed to have been caused by dew condensation and rainwater that seeped inside the building, as well as salt deposits on the ducts, given that the corrosion extended about 50 meters from the air inlet and spread from the inner surface of the ducts.
Chugoku Electric has decided to increase the number of inspection points at sections near fresh-air inlets and bolster anti-corrosion measures, including the installation of a dehumidifier.

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Japanese 100-yen shop slapped with fine, 2-year import ban in Taiwan

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TAIPEI (Kyodo) — Taiwan authorities said Wednesday that Japanese 100-yen shop chain Daiso has been fined NT$41.64 million (US$1.38 million) for falsifying import application documents and banned from importing goods from Japan for two years.

Foreign Trade Bureau deputy chief Lee Guann-jyh told a legislative committee that the punishments have been meted out to Hiroshima-based Daiso Industries Co., which has been operating in Taiwan since 2001 and has about 60 stories here.
 
In November 2015, Daiso received a six-month import ban for having illegally imported food products from parts of Japan affected by 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster between July 2014 and March 2015, and selling them with falsified labels of origin.
 
During that six-month period, Daiso could still import goods from Japan on a case-by-case basis after obtaining permission from the bureau.
 
But in doing so, it falsified the dates of the imported goods, altering them to predate the six-month ban period that began in November 2015. A total of 694 import application documents were fraudulent, according to the bureau.
On April 27, the company held a press conference in which it apologized to Taiwanese consumers.
 

Japan’s government weighs dumping radioactive Fukushima water into the Pacific

As the cleanup of a triple meltdown following an earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima nuclear power plant drags into its seventh year, one of the biggest continuing threats is less from airborne radioactivity than it is simple water.
 
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A waterlogged radiation and tsunami warning sign found on Fukushima beaches in 2013.
May 22, 2018
As the cleanup of a triple meltdown following an earthquake and tsunami at the Fukushima nuclear power plant drags into its seventh year, one of the biggest continuing threats is less from airborne radioactivity than it is simple water.
On March 11, 2011, the Fukushima plant was devastated by a tsunami, which over the ensuing days sent three of its six reactors into meltdown, while hydrogen explosions cast radioactive iodine, cesium and other fission by-products into the air. More than 160,000 people were forced to evacuated in the wake of the disaster, which has now become synonymous with Chernobyl.
At the time, officials began pumping millions of liters of water into the destroyed reactors to keep them cool, often dumping it from helicopters and spraying it through water cannons. In the years since, the water inundation has become less dramatic, but in the absence of any other way to keep the molten fuel cool, the flow of water continues to flow through the remains of the reactors at the rate of some 160 tons of water a day.
While much of that water undergoes purification to remove significant amounts of radiation, filters can’t cleanse the water of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen — a process likened by some scientists to separating water from water.
As a result, water contaminated with tritium is building up and space to store it at the disaster site is running out. Of the 1.13 million-ton water storage capacity that the plant has, some 1.7 million tons have been used up.
Cleanup workers have to build a new steel water tank at the rate of one every four days to contain it all, and space to build more is becoming scarce. According to Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the tanks already sprawl over an area that could accommodate 32 football fields. All of the storage, says the government, will run out by 2021.
This looming crisis has left the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, which owns Fukushima,  pondering how to get rid of this water – a decision that is generating anxiety and scare headlines as an expert committee weighs whether or not to release the water into the Pacific Ocean.
Despite the national and worldwide case of nerves such a decision might provoke the Japanese government says it can do it without a threat to the country’s fishing industry. Tritium, after all, is a substance that naturally occurs in rivers and seabeds – even tap water. What’s problematic with the tritium at Fukushima, though, is that its levels in the Fukushima water are 10 times higher than Japanese national standards for dumping it.
Because of that, the government’s expert panel is considering several methods for the water’s disposal, including evaporating it, releasing it into the sea after electrolysis, burying it underground or injecting it deep into the geology.
But as cleanup costs continue to spiral, with some Japanese think tanks speculating the final bill could be as much as $470 billion to $660 billion,  releasing the water into the sea – after diluting it – may turn out to be the cheapest option.
It’s not the first battle against water that the cleanup effort has fought. As recently as two years ago, some 400 tons of ground water flowed into the facility daily. Tokyo Electric Power somewhat stemmed that by building an underground wall of frozen soil to staunch the seepage of radioactive water.
has managed to decrease the inflow by installing a 30-yard-long “ice wall” fence that freezing cold brine is pumped through to freeze the soil around it, reports Wired. The chilled soil is meant to create a barrier to keep additional groundwater from spilling into the radioactive area.
But this year, on the seventh anniversary of the disaster, an expert group commissioned by the Japanese government concluded that the subterranean wall is not entirely effective against the deluge, and that other methods of battling leakage have to be devised.

‘Everything is fine and delicious in Fukushima’ according to the director the Fukushima Reconstruction Promotion Group at the minister’s secretariat of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

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Fukushima, seven years on
by Hideyasu Tamura
May 21, 2018
More than seven years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in 2011. A successful decommissioning of the plant and reconstruction of Fukushima is one of the most important missions of the government, especially the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Since 2016, I’ve been involved in the ministry’s special unit on Fukushima reconstruction, and mainly charged with a mission to eliminate reputational damage.
After the accident, the government set very stringent standards on the level of radioactive substances in food (in principle, 100 becquerel/kg: 10 times stricter than the Codex radionuclides standard), and any food product exceeding that level is prohibited for market distribution. Food products from Fukushima have undergone stringent monitoring, including all-volume inspection on rice and beef. Since 2015, not a single grain of rice or any piece of beef has been found with radioactive substances exceeding that level.
Nevertheless, around 12 percent of consumers in Japan tend to avoid agricultural and fishery products from Fukushima, according to a Consumer Affairs Agency survey. Since such reputational damage lingers even at home, the popular perception gap concerning Fukushima is likely even more serious overseas. With a view toward bridging that gap, I would like to highlight the following facts.
First, in the 12 municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture where evacuation orders were introduced after the nuclear disaster (Futaba, Hirono, Iitate, Kawamata, Kawauchi, Katsurao, Minamisoma, Namie, Naraha, Okuma, Tamura and Tomioka), the number of companies in the industrial estates has doubled from 35 before the disaster (in December 2010) to 70 in January. Some of the companies that have newly launched operation there engage in business that are relatively new to this area, such as the recycling of lithium-ion batteries and the production of internet-of-things devices that are wearable.
The establishment of the new companies have been facilitated by government incentives, including subsidies on investments that cover up to three-quarters of the investment cost, as well as the development of industrial infrastructure, such as the Fukushima Robot Test Field in Minamisoma and Namie. The test field, where any entity can use an extensive site (approximately 50 hectares) for demonstration experiments of robots and drones, is the core facility of the Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework.
This shows that the areas of Fukushima hit by the nuclear disaster have already become safe enough for businesses to operate. Private-sector companies never launch operations in locations where their employees’ safety is not ensured, even when the government provides most favorable incentives.
Second, as another proof of the area’s safety, the current situation of the Fukushima No. 1 plant should be highlighted. Today, workers can enter 96 percent of the site without any special radiation protection gear because the air dose rate has significantly decreased compared with right after the accident.
In addition, through multi-layered measures (e.g., the construction of frozen soil walls to suppress the inflow of groundwater as well as the pumping up of groundwater), the generation of contaminated water has been significantly reduced and prevented from leaking into the ocean. As a result, the concentration of radioactive materials in the sea water surrounding the plant has declined from 10,000 becquerels per liter as of March 2011 to below the detection limit (less than 0.7 becquerel per liter) since 2016.
The successful management of contaminated water has resulted in the improved safety of Fukushima’s fishery products. No marine products caught off Fukushima has exceeded the standard limit (100 becquerel/kg) in monitoring surveys over the fiscal years from 2015 to 2017.
Third, evacuation orders were lifted in many parts of the 12 municipalities by April 2017, and areas still under such orders account for approximately 2.7 percent of the prefecture’s total space — compared with 8 percent when the zoning was set in 2013. In several municipalities where evacuation orders were lifted up relatively early (such as the city of Tamura and the village of Kawauchi), around 80 percent of local residents have returned to their homes. Even in the areas where evacuation orders remain in place, efforts to improve the living environment have begun to pave the way for return of residents at the earliest possible time.
Needless to say, many challenges remain toward the successful reconstruction of Fukushima. The decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 plant is expected to take 30 to 40 years. To carry out the decommissioning, the retrieval of the melted nuclear fuel debris will be a major hurdle, and efforts to probe the inside of the reactor structures just started in 2015. In several towns where the evacuation orders were lifted only last year, less than 10 percent of local residents have returned to their homes. The improvement of living environment is an urgent task for those towns in order to encourage more residents to return.
Despite these challenges, the safety of Fukushima both in terms of its food products and the living/working environment in most parts of the prefecture has been proven. It is a pity that several countries/regions still impose import restrictions on Japanese food products (including those from Fukushima) and some people still hesitate to visit Fukushima for tourism or business. I wish that more people will visit Fukushima to taste the delicious and world’s safest rice, peaches and fish, and that more companies would be interested in utilizing advanced facilities/infrastructure such as the Fukushima Robot Test Field, and invest in Fukushima by taking advantage of the most favorable incentives in this country. Peaches will be harvested every year, but subsidies and other incentives will not last forever — so, the fast-movers will get the advantages.
Hideyasu Tamura is director the Fukushima Reconstruction Promotion Group at the minister’s secretariat of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

Radiation monitors in Fukushima to be scrapped after malfunctioning to the tune of ¥500 million a year

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May 21, 2018
The thousands of radiation-monitoring posts installed in Fukushima Prefecture after the 2011 nuclear crisis have malfunctioned nearly 4,000 times, sources said Sunday as the Nuclear Regulation Authority prepares to remove them after spending ¥500 million a year on repair costs.
“It’s all about the budget in the end. They can’t reuse the devices and there seem to be no concrete plans,” said Terumi Kataoka, a housewife in Aizuwakamatsu who formed a group of mothers to petition the NRA last month to keep the monitors in place. The NRA refused.
Around 3,000 of the monitors were installed in the wake of the triple core meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant following the March 2011 mega-quake and tsunami. The NRA, which operates the monitoring posts, plans to remove around 80 percent of them by the end of fiscal 2020 on the grounds that radiation levels in some areas have fallen and stabilized.
But the move is being viewed by some as an attempt to cut costs because the government is also looking to terminate its special budgetary account for rebuilding Tohoku by the same year.
Some municipalities and residents oppose scrapping the monitoring posts because they will no longer be able to gauge the risk to their health. They were installed in kindergartens, schools and other places to measure radiation in the air, according to the NRA.
But in the five years since the network was activated in fiscal 2013, the system has been plagued by problems including inaccurate readings and data-transmission failures. The tally of cases stands at 3,955.
Each time, the undisclosed makers of the device and security companies were called to fix it, costing the central government about ¥500 million a year.
In March, the NRA decided to remove about 2,400 of the monitoring posts from areas outside the 12 municipalities near the wrecked power plant and reuse some of them in the municipalities.
Local citizens’ groups have asked the NRA not to remove the monitoring posts until the plant, run by Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., is decommissioned. That project is expected to take decades.
Kataoka asked the NRA to disclose information on its plans to reuse the devices, but she was told no official documents on the plans had been drafted yet.
On Monday, Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori urged the central government to investigate the cause of the monitor malfunctions and take measures to address the issue.
“The accuracy of the system is important,” he said.
Safecast, a global volunteer-based citizen science organization formed in 2011 to monitor radiation from the Fukushima disaster, said some devices had to be replaced because they didn’t work or were not made to the required specifications. Many were placed in locations that had notably lower ambient radiation than their surroundings, and so were not adequately representative of the situation, it added.
“Removing the units seems like a huge step away from transparency,” said Azby Brown, lead researcher at Safecast.
Brown said the public will certainly view the move with suspicion and increasingly mistrust the government, while the continuity of the database is lost.

Fukushima Quote of the Day

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“We achieved the sixth straight year of victory despite the severe situation due to rumors about radiation contamination”.

Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori, speaking at a ceremony after the National Research Institute of Brewing awarded Fukushima Prefecture the national sake title for an unprecedented sixth straight year.

Japan still at a loss in how to deal with Fukushima’s radioactive water

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20 May, 2018
The number of storage tanks for contaminated water and other materials has continuously increased at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Japan, and space for still more tanks is approaching the limit.
It is seven years since an eathquake and tsunami overwhelmed Fukushima and a way to get rid of treated water, or tritium water, has not been decided yet.
The Government and Tokyo Electric Power Company will have to make a tough decision on disposal of tritium water down the road.
At the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, groundwater and other water enters the reactor buildings that suffered meltdowns, where the water becomes contaminated.
This produces about 160 tons of contaminated water per day. Purification devices remove many of the radioactive materials, but tritium – a radioactive isotope of hydrogen – cannot be removed for technical reasons. Thus, treated water that includes only tritium continues to increase.
Currently, the storage tanks have a capacity of about 1.13 million tons. About 1.07 million tons of that capacity is now in use, of which about 80 per cent is for such treated water.
Space for tanks, which has been made by razing forests and other means, amounts to about 230,000 sq m – equivalent to almost 32 football fields. There is almost no more available vacant space.
Efforts have been made to increase storage capacity by constructing bigger tanks when the time comes for replacing the current ones. But a senior official of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry said, “Operation of tanks is close to its capacity.”
TEPCO plans to secure 1.37 million tons of storage capacity by the end of 2020, but it has not yet decided on a plan for after 2021. Akira Ono, chief decommissioning officer of TEPCO, said, “It is impossible to continue to store [treated water] forever.”
Tritium exists in nature, such as in seas and rivers, and is also included in tap water. The ordinary operations of nuclear plants produce tritium as well.
Nuclear plants, both in Japan and overseas, have so far diluted it and released it into the sea or elsewhere. An average of 380 trillion becquerels had been annually released into the sea across Japan during the five years before the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
Bottles that contain the treated water continue to be brought one after another to a building for chemical analysis on the grounds of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. The tritium concentration of the treated water is up to more than 1 million becquerels per liter, which is more than 10 times higher than the national standard for release into the sea – 60,000 becquerels per liter. But if diluted, it can be released into the sea.
The industry ministry’s working group compiled a report in June 2016 that said that the method of release into the sea is the cheapest and quickest among five ideas it examined. The ideas were:
– release into the sea;
– release by evaporation;
– release after electrolysis;
– burial underground;
– injection into geological layers.
The committee plans to hold a public hearing in Fukushima Prefecture and other places to hear citizens’ opinions on methods of disposal.