Travel ban lifted on route leading to town near Fukushima plant

20 sept 2017 National route 114 Namie.pngA worker reopens a section of National Route 114 that runs through a “difficult-to-return” zone in Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, on Sept. 20.

 

NAMIE, Fukushima Prefecture–Motorists lined up early in the morning on Sept. 20 in front of a barrier on National Route 114 here, anticipating an event they had waited nearly six-and-a-half years to see.

And then it happened at 6 a.m. The barrier was removed, and a 27-kilometer section was finally reopened to the public, giving evacuated residents direct access to the eastern part of Namie, a town that lies just north of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Hisashi Suzuki, an 85-year-old Namie resident who now lives in Nihonmatsu, an inland city in Fukushima Prefecture, used the section to check on his home and family grave.

Until now, we had to arrange for a thoroughfare pass beforehand, and we sometimes had to wait at checkpoints,” Suzuki said. “This is much more convenient.”

National Route 114, one of main arteries that connects the center of the prefecture with the Pacific coast, runs through much of Namie.

The 27-km section is still within the “difficult-to-return” zone because of high radiation levels, meaning the evacuees can visit their homes in the zone but not return on a permanent basis.

Houses along the road in the no-go zone are now covered in weeds and tangled in vines.

Access to the road section is limited to automobiles. Bicycles, motorcycles and pedestrians are not allowed to enter.

But with the road now reopened, municipalities in the area are hoping for an increasing flow in people, including evacuees visiting their homes and workers involved in reconstruction projects.

All 21,000 or so residents of Namie were ordered to evacuate the town after the nuclear disaster unfolded in March 2011. Many of those living on the coast fled west on National Route 114.

The route was closed in April 2011 because it lies within a 20-km radius of the nuclear plant.

Residents seeking to visit eastern Namie needed to obtain permission from the town government or had to take a cumbersome detour.

The evacuation order was lifted in March this year for the eastern part of the town, which was less contaminated because of the wind direction at the time of the triple meltdown at the plant.

Much of the mountainous western part of Namie is still designated as a difficult-to-return zone.

After receiving requests from the public and municipalities, authorities conditionally lifted the travel ban on the road to allow for convenient access from central Fukushima to eastern Namie.

The central government has set up barriers at 88 intersections on Route 114 to prevent thieves and other unapproved people from using side roads.

In August, a survey showed the radiation dosage on the surface of Route 114 was a maximum 5.53 microsieverts per hour, more than 20 times higher than the threshold level of 0.23 microsievert per hour that many municipalities consider would require decontamination work.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709200053.html

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Nuclear Fuel Retrieval Delayed

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A step in the decommissioning of Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant could be delayed by 3 years.

Japan’s government and the plant operator say they need more time before they remove spent nuclear fuel rods in 2 of the reactors. The rods are in storage pools and now won’t be removed until fiscal 2023. They say they first need to remove rubble and radioactive substances.

The plan to remove molten fuel debris has not changed. This step is considered the biggest hurdle to decommissioning the plant.

The plant went into triple meltdown following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. It’s expected to take 40 years to scrap the plant.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/nhknewsline/nuclearwatch/nuclearfuelretrievaldelayed/

Stand in solidarity: Defend the human rights of Fukushima survivors

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Disasters like Chernobyl and Fukushima remind the world how dangerous nuclear power is. But right now, the nuclear industry is trying to downplay the risks of a nuclear disaster. In Fukushima radiation exposure is still a very real threat despite failed “decontamination”.

The Japanese government is set to lift evacuation orders in heavily contaminated areas around Fukushima. It will cut compensation and housing support to survivors, who are still struggling six years later.

Their basic rights to health, housing, and environment are being violated. The government is desperately trying to minimize the disaster at the expense of survivors in an attempt to revive the dying nuclear industry and suffocate other cleaner energy sources. We must say no!

Sign now to demand the government provides fair compensation, housing support, and is fully transparent about the radiation risks.

We’ll deliver your signature to the Prime Minister so he hears the global wave of resistance against nuclear!

https://act.greenpeace.org/page/6288/petition/1?en_chan=fb&mode=DEMO&ea.tracking.id=facebook&en_ref=34770595

Cooling systems at five NRA-cleared nuke plants could fail if nearby volcanoes erupt

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Five nuclear power plants that have passed safety clearances may be at risk of having their cooling systems crippled during huge eruptions of nearby volcanoes, the nation’s nuclear safety watchdog said Monday.

The five plants are Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai and Genkai plants in Kagoshima and Saga prefectures, respectively, the Mihama and Oi plants, both in Fukui Prefecture and run by Kansai Electric Power Co., and the Ikata plant in Ehime Prefecture run by Shikoku Electric Power Co.

Additional research and data have revealed that the possible concentration of volcanic ash from huge eruptions could soar up to around 100 times that previously estimated. The findings emerged only after screenings of the plants by the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

According to the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, the concentration of volcanic ash that would be spewed could exceed the limit of the plants’ air filters.

In the event that volcanoes nearby erupt, the five plants and eight of their reactors could lose their external power supply and their emergency diesel generators would be rendered useless, according to the nuclear authority.

It now aims to raise the density level of volcanic ash that can affect nuclear plants by 100 times the current level, while pressing utilities to upgrade their air filters.

Reactor No. 3 at the Ikata plant and reactors Nos. 3 and 4 at the Genkai plant top the list of those most likely to be affected by clogged filters.

News of the findings by the NRA followed Kyushu Electric Power’s move Friday requesting that the regulatory agency perform inspections on the No. 4 reactor at the Genkai plant because it aims to put the reactor back online in early March. Pre-operational checks are the last procedure on the list to be carried out before a nuclear reactor can restart.

Kyushu Electric plans to load 193 fuel assemblies into the reactor in February. After reactivating it in early March, commercial operations scheduled to start in April. If things work out as planned, the No. 4 reactor will be active for the first time since December 2011, when it was halted for routine checkups.

On March 11 of that year, reactor cooling systems at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant were crippled following a powerful earthquake and massive tsunami, resulting in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. The tsunami inundated the six-reactor plant, located 10 meters above sea level, and flooded power supply facilities there.

Reactor cooling systems were crippled. Reactors Nos. 1 to 3 suffered fuel meltdowns, while hydrogen explosions damaged the buildings housing reactors No. 1, No. 3 and No. 4.

The five nuclear plants passed the tougher safety requirements introduced after the Fukushima meltdowns.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/09/19/national/cooling-systems-five-nra-cleared-nuke-plants-fail-nearby-volcanoes-erupt/#.WcGPZBdx3rc

Nuclear Lessons Learned: US & Japan NONE!

From Majia’s blog

Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority has bowed to pressure and is allowing TEPCO, a company with a culture that has been berated by this same agency, to re-start reactors:

EDITORIAL: NRA too hasty in giving green light to TEPCO to restart reactors (2017, September 14). The Asahi Shimbun, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709140030.html

Although the Nuclear Regulation Authority has decided to give the green light to Tokyo Electric Power Co. to restart nuclear reactors, we question the fitness of the utility, which is responsible for the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, to manage nuclear facilities. The NRA has been screening TEPCO’s application to resume operations of the No. 6 and No. 7 boiling-water reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture. The NRA on Sept. 13 acknowledged with conditions that TEPCO is eligible for operating nuclear plants after examining the company’s safety culture and other issues. 

Meanwhile, Japan’s nuclear commission is calling not only for a return to nuclear (with at least 20% of its fuel mix targeted for nuclear), but has also endorsed MOX fuel in a move that defies reason, especially given the conditions of Fukushima reactor 3 (which was running MOX at the time of the accident):

Mari MARI YAMAGUCHI (2017, September 14 ) Japan commission supports nuclear power despite Fukushima. The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com/business/japan-commission-supports-nuclear-power-despite-fukushima/

TOKYO (AP) — Japan’s nuclear-policy-setting Atomic Energy Commission issued a report Thursday calling for nuclear energy to remain a key component of the country’s energy mix despite broad public support for a less nuclear-reliant society. The report approved by the commission calls for nuclear energy to make up at least 20 percent of Japan’s supply in 2030, citing the government energy plan. It says rising utility costs from expensive fossil fuel imports and slow reactor restarts have affected Japan’s economy. The resumption of the nuclear policy report is a sign Japan’s accelerating effort to restart more reactors. “The government should make clear the long-term benefit of nuclear power generation …

The report also endorsed Japan’s ambitious pursuit of a nuclear fuel cycle program using plutonium, despite a decision last year to scrap the Monju reactor, a centerpiece of the plutonium fuel program, following decades of poor safety records and technical problems. Japan faces growing international scrutiny over its plutonium stockpile because the element can be used to make atomic weapons. 

And to top it all off, Japan is now setting up its first “restoration hub” in Futaba:

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Noriyoshi Otsuki (2017, September 15). First ‘hub’ set up in Fukushima no-entry zone to speed rebuilding. The Asahi Shimbun, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709150058.html

An area in the no-entry zone of Futaba, a town that co-hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, became the first government-designated “rebuilding hub” after the 3/11 disaster. The designation on Sept. 15 means decontamination will speed up and infrastructure restored so the evacuation order in the town center can be lifted by spring 2022. Most of Futaba is currently located in a difficult-to-return zone because of high radiation levels. Rebuilding efforts have not started there yet, even six-and-a-half years since the nuclear accident unfolded.

As noted in the article, Futaba is located in the difficult to return zone. Here is a screenshot from TEPCO’s 2016 report on air monitoring in the Futaba evacuation zone:

The air dose in Futaba is very high, with the highest reading reported at 9.6 microsieverts an hour.

Locating the first restoration hub in Futaba, located in close proximity to the still-unstable plant, seems like a propaganda move, rather than a thoughtful risk decision.

Fukushima is still belching radioactivity (especially from unit 3), as illustrated in this screenshot from yesterday:

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The plant is still at risk from earthquakes and lifequefaction.

I must conclude from this series of news reports that neither Japan nor the US are capable of learning when it comes to nuclear policy making.

http://majiasblog.blogspot.fr/2017/09/nuclear-lessons-learned-us-japan-none.html

Low 134Cs/137Cs ratio anomaly in the north-northwest direction from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station

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Highlights

We present new data of 134Cs/137Cs around Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
The entire area of the low 134Cs/137Cs ratio anomaly around the FDNPS is revealed.
The low 134Cs/137Cs ratio anomaly is coincident with a plume trace.
The anomaly occurs in the area which had been contaminated before March 13, 2011.

Abstract

A low 134Cs/137Cs ratio anomaly in the north-northwest (NNW) direction from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station (FDNPS) is identified by a new analysis of the 134Cs/137Cs ratio dataset which we had obtained in 2011–2015 by a series of car-borne surveys that employed a germanium gamma-ray spectrometer.

We found that the 134Cs/137Cs ratio is slightly lower (0.95, decay-corrected to March 11, 2011) in an area with a length of about 15 km and a width of about 3 km in the NNW direction from the FDNPS than in other directions from the station.

Furthermore, the area of this lower 134Cs/137Cs ratio anomaly corresponds to a narrow contamination band that runs NNW from the FDNPS and it is nearly parallel with the major and heaviest contamination band in the west-northwest.

The plume trace with a low 134Cs/137Cs ratio previously found by other researchers within the 3-km radius of the FDNPS is in a part of the area with the lower 134Cs/137Cs ratio anomaly that we found.

Our result suggests that this lower 134Cs/137Cs ratio anomaly is the area which was contaminated before March 13, 2011 (UTC) in association with the hydrogen explosion of Unit 1 on March 12, 2011 at 06:36 (UTC) and it was less influenced by later subsequent plumes.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0265931X17301947

 

First ‘hub’ set up in Fukushima no-entry zone to speed rebuilding

Screenshot from 2017-09-20 21-28-38.pngBags of contaminated soil are stored near JR Futaba Station in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture. The area has become part of the government-designated rebuilding hub.

 

An area in the no-entry zone of Futaba, a town that co-hosts the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, became the first government-designated “rebuilding hub” after the 3/11 disaster.

The designation on Sept. 15 means decontamination will speed up and infrastructure restored so the evacuation order in the town center can be lifted by spring 2022.

Most of Futaba is currently located in a difficult-to-return zone because of high radiation levels. Rebuilding efforts have not started there yet, even six-and-a-half years since the nuclear accident unfolded.

The rebuilding hub covers about 560 hectares of land around Futaba Station, accounting for about 10 percent of the town’s total area. It is almost the same size as an interim storage facility for contaminated soil and other waste that will be built within the town.

The central government will start full-scale decontamination efforts in the hub zone, and plans to initially lift the evacuation order for the area around the station by the end of fiscal 2019 to allow an open thoroughfare and short stays by members of the public.

By spring 2022, the government plans to lift the evacuation order for the entire hub zone. It hopes to bring back 1,400 former residents to the zone by 2027, and also provide homes for about 600 people from outside the town, such as workers at the Fukushima plant.

In the difficult-to-return zone, radiation readings surpassed 50 millisieverts per annum right after the triple meltdown occurred at the plant in 2011. An evacuation order was issued to about 25,000 people in seven municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, covering 33,700 hectares in total.

The difficult-to-return zones have been excluded from the government’s rebuilding efforts. But a related law was amended in May, and the government is now responsible for rebuilding areas that could be made habitable in the near future after decontamination, meaning a radiation reading of 20 millisieverts per year or less.

In late August, Futaba applied to the government to host a designated rebuilding hub. Other municipalities with difficult-to-return zones are now preparing applications for the program.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201709150058.html