Tag Archives: Fukushima nuclear plant

A Schoolyard at Fukushima

Radiation hotspot i Kashiwa 2012. image from wikipedia

Highly radioactive soil that should by law be removed by the central government has been left dumped in the corner of a schoolyard here because the construction of a local storage site for waste has been stalled.  Students at the school were not given an official warning that the radioactive soil was potentially hazardous to their health.

When a teacher scooped up soil samples at the site and had their radiation levels measured by two nonprofit monitoring entities–one in Fukushima and another in Tokyo–the results showed 27,000-33,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram. The law stipulates that the central government is responsible for disposing of waste measuring more than 8,000 becquerels per kilogram. But as a central government project to build an interim storage site for highly radioactive waste near the nuclear power plant has been stalled, the school appears to have no alternative to indefinitely keeping it in the schoolyard…

Radioactive soil turns up at Fukushima high school,The Asahi Shimbun, June 15, 2016

All Comes Down to Money: the interim disposal of Fukushima nuclear waste

anti-nuclear protesters in Japan pushing fake nuclear waste

Fukushima Prefecture is set to accept the construction of an interim facility to store radioactive waste from cleanup work due to the nuclear disaster, advancing the stalled process of decontaminating the affected areas.  The prefectural government has decided to shoulder the difference between the appraised value of land in Okuma and Futaba, where the structure will be built, and the price it would have fetched before the 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The decision came after landowners insisted that the land should be bought at a fair market value because the current appraisals are much lower than pre-disaster estimates.  Consent from local governments is expected to move forward the central government’s plan to start transporting radioactive soil and other contaminated waste to the storage site in January.

Okuma and Futaba host the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The residents of the two towns are still living as evacuees due to high levels of radiation in their hometowns. Talks between local officials and the central government over the planned facility reached an impasse after Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara enraged landowners with a comment in June.  “In the end, it will come down to money,” Ishihara said, referring to efforts to gain local approval for the storage facilities. Residents were angry because of the implication they could be easily bought.

The stalemate threatened to jeopardize the entire decontamination operation in the prefecture since the storage site is indispensable to advance the work to clean up and rebuild the affected communities.  In an effort to break the stalemate, the central government on Aug. 8 offered to double the funds to be provided to the local governments to 301 billion yen ($2.9 billion).

Fukushima Prefecture to accept intermediate storage facility for radioactive waste, THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, August 23, 2014

Leaking Radioactive Water into the Pacific Ocean: Fukushima

Japan

The operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant on Monday admitted for the first time that radioactive groundwater has leaked out to sea, fuelling fears of ocean contamination…Earlier this month Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said groundwater samples taken at the battered plant showed levels of possibly cancer-causing caesium-134 had shot up more than 110 times in a few days.

TEPCO did not know the exact reasons for the increased readings but had maintained the toxic groundwater was likely contained at the current location, largely by concrete foundations and steel sheets.  “But now we believe that contaminated water has flown out to the sea,” a TEPCO spokesman said Monday (July 22, 2013).  However, the spokesman insisted that the impact of the radioactive water on the ocean would be limited.  “Seawater data have shown no abnormal rise in the levels of radioactivity.”

Radioactive substances released by the meltdowns of reactors at the plant in the aftermath of the huge tsunami of March 2011 have made their way into underground water, which usually flows out to sea.  Environment experts warn that such leakage may affect marine life and ultimately impacting humans who eat sea creatures.

Excerpt, TEPCO admits radioactive water leaked into sea at Fukushima, AFP, July 22, 2013

See also Japan and the Radioactive Water

The Nuclear Village in Japan: restarting nuclear power

anti-nuclear protest japan 2011. image wikipedia

After an earthquake and tsunami created a creeping nuclear catastrophe two years ago the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) said it would get the country out of nuclear energy by 2040. Although it quickly backtracked, almost all of Japan’s 50 commercial reactors are still lying idle.

In February this year (2013), Shinzo Abe, leader of the then incoming Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), said the new government would restart reactors after they passed a forthcoming set of new safety tests. The country’s “nuclear village”, a cosy bunch from industry and government, cheered. But now the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi plant is starting to alarm the public once more. On April 15th, 2013 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), a UN body, flew in to investigate a series of dangerous incidents.

A power outage in March (2013) left four underground pools that store thousands of the plant’s nuclear fuel rods without fresh cooling water for several hours. A rat, it later emerged, had gnawed through a cable. Workmen laying down rat-proof netting caused another outage. Then this month regulators discovered that thousands of gallons of radioactive water had seeped into the ground; the plant’s operator had installed a jerry-rigged system of plastic sheeting, which sprang leaks. The quantity of contaminated water has become a crisis in its own right, the manager has admitted. And now the pipes used to transfer water to safer storage containers are leaking too.

Experts who examined the causes of the 2011 catastrophe reckon the LDP has paid too little attention to what went wrong. Kiyoshi Kurokawa, the chairman of a parliamentary investigation, says the country may be moving “too hastily back towards nuclear power, without fully regaining the trust of the Japanese public and the international community”. Yoichi Funabashi, a former editor of Asahi Shimbun newspaper who headed a private-sector investigation, says it is unfortunate that the 2012 election, which brought the LDP back to office, did not include a proper debate about the future of nuclear energy.

Now the set of policies known as “Abenomics” is making a return to nuclear power ever more pressing. The LDP is expected to push hard to restart plants if it wins a crucial election for the upper house of parliament this summer. Mr Abe’s focus on the economy has given greater say to the voice of business, including the big utilities whose plants are idle. Smaller firms clamour for cheaper power too.

Japan’s broader economic future may be at stake… [the deterioration of  overall current-account balance]  could affect Japan’s ability to keep funding its huge public debt domestically. A big cause is the cost of energy imported to fill the gap left by nuclear power. A weaker yen, the result of the central bank’s radical loosening of monetary policy, is further pushing up the price of imported oil and gas…[T]he public is still afraid of nuclear power. A nationwide poll  in February 2013 found that around 70% of respondents wanted either to phase out all the plants, or to shut them down immediately. Opposition is likely to be strongest at the local level, as regions move to switch their reactors back on. This week an Osaka court ruled on a suit brought by local residents to have Japan’s only two operating reactors, at the Oi plant in Fukui prefecture, shut down. They lost, but their suit looks like only the first of many battles

Japan’s nuclear future: Don’t look now, Economist, Apr. 20, 2013, at 44.

Who is Afraid of the Media; Fukushima’s nuclear waste

The [Japanese] government, for the first time, has allowed the media to cover operations to move waste contaminated by radioactive substances to a baseball stadium being used for temporary storage in the Ottozawa district in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture.  The contaminated waste was collected in the government-led model decontamination project conducted in the town.  The bags containing the waste were moved to the site and piled in two designated areas at the town-run stadium, about three kilometers away from the power plant. Radiation levels exceeded 70 microsieverts per hour in certain areas of the Ottozawa district, the highest level among the government-monitored locations.

Workers in protective clothing and masks used cranes to pile up bags with the contaminated soil and grass, each weighing about a ton.  A worker said, “Protective clothing hampers our breathing and it’s tough to work because my hands are freezing in these rubber gloves.”

Before placing the bags, four layers of sheeting, including a water-resistant sheet, were spread on the ground to block radiation leaks.  Later, the pile will be covered by three layers of sheets and soil.  An official at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, which handled the operation, said, “It’s possible to block 98 percent of radiation [using this system].”

Yasushi Kaneko ,Radioactive waste site opened to media in Okuma, Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer, Feb. 11, 2012

Contaminated Soil, the challenge of cleaning up in Japan

 

A nuclear decontamination law will go into full effect Sunday Jan. 1, 2012), setting the stage for full-fledged efforts to clean up buildings, soil and waste contaminated with radioactive materials in areas affected by the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.  The central government will be responsible for the cleanup efforts in a no-go zone around the crippled plant and other evacuation areas in the seaside prefecture also heavily hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.  Under the law, which was partially enacted in August, decontamination plans will be formulated by 102 municipalities in eight prefectures where radiation doses are expected to exceed 1 millisievert a year on top of natural background radiation and that from medical treatment.  The cleanup cost in the areas will be shouldered by the central government. The eight prefectures are Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba.

The Environment Ministry is set to launch an office in the city of Fukushima on Sunday to push decontamination work within Fukushima Prefecture, with plans to start in late January the cleanup of infrastructure such as roads and water supply inside the no-go zone and elsewhere.  Full-fledged cleanup work is likely to start at the end of March, ministry officials said.  The ministry hopes to halve annual radiation doses for ordinary people and reduce those for children by 60 percent by the end of August 2013.

Under the law, the state will dispose of ashes from incinerated waste and sludge if they are found to contain more than 8,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per kilogram.  It will still be necessary to find either space in the affected areas to temporarily keep contaminated soil and waste or landfills for disposal. The central government has recently asked municipalities in the Futaba district in Fukushima Prefecture to host a temporary storage facility for a massive amount of contaminated soil to be removed within the prefecture.  In the prefectures except Fukushima, contaminated waste is to be buried in landfills with plastic liners, but whether local communities will give a nod to the disposal remains to be seen.

Nuclear decontamination law to go into full force Sunday, Mainichi Daily News, Japan, December 31, 2011

23 Baseball Stadiums of Nuclear Waste: the Fukushima disaster

Japanese officials in towns around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant reacted guardedly to plans announced on Saturday (October 29, 2011) tobuild facilities to store radioactive waste from the clean-up around the plant within three years.  Saturday’s announcement, seven months after the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 25 years, came as towns near the plant are still coping with health fears and disputes over where to store huge amounts of unwanted waste…

Japan aims to halve radiation over two years in places contaminated by the crisis. To do so, it may have to remove and dispose of massive amounts of radioactive soil, possibly enough to fill 23 baseball stadiums…Local authorities would have to keep the contaminated waste in their towns until the facility is ready….

In Minami Soma, top soil scraped from school playgrounds and house yards is kept on site, piled up in corners or buried. The city has not been able to decide on a single storage location for the soil because of resistance from residents.

Fukushima towns struggle to store radioactive waste, Reuters, Oct. 29, 2011