Saturday, September 10, 2011

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Steel Frame for Cover for Reactor 1 Is Ready

On September 10, the workers started to set up the panels. Soon, all you'll get to see from Google Earth will be the Reactor 1 as if nothing happened.

Looking at Fuku-1 Livecam video, the bottom third is already covered with panels.

From TEPCO's Photo for the Press page:

See the tall crane in action moving the panel, from 9/10/11 Livecam video (about 1 minute into the video):

Japan's Trade Minister Yoshio Hachiro Resigns in 8 Days

For ostensible reasons, you can read about them here (Huffington Post).

"Tatemae" (facade) reasons are that he called the area immediately surrounding the broken nuke plant "a ghost town", and that he tried to rub radioactive materials on his protective clothes against reporters who are the members of the official press club.

And a big chorus of "Oh he hurt the feeling of people in Fukushima! Poor victims!" was orchestrated.

(What else would you call a deserted town around the nuke plant, other than "a ghost town"?)

Many in the independent and alternative media don't think they are the "hon-ne" (real) reasons. They believe his stance on nuclear power plants (he wanted to phase out) and his plan for radical restructure of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (he wanted to remove certain pro-nuke officials), and his reservation about TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership, a pan-Asian free-trade scheme promoted by the United States).

Mainstream media reporters couldn't even agree on what exactly the minister said about contaminating the reporters with radioactive materials, which led many to believe this was one of those crafted stories to put up as a facade for taking down a person that they and their friends in the government do not want.

OT: Radiation Contamination Perceived by Different Parties (Joke)

Radiation contamination maps of perception, created by people at the blog called "Bearded Pirates (あごひげ海賊団)" and posted on 9/8/2011, look pretty accurate for mapping the perception of contamination.

Contamination as perceived by people in Tohoku: Fukushima and part of neighboring prefectures. This is very close to what is being reported in the mainstream media, by the way.

Contamination as perceived by people in Kanto: almost entire Tohoku and northern Kanto.

Contamination as perceived by people in Hokkaido: almost entire Tohoku, Kanto, and Chubu. It stops right about Lake Biwa.

Contamination as perceived by people in Kansai: entire Kanto and Tohoku, half of Chubu, and 2/3 of Hokkaido.

Contamination as perceived by people in Okinawa: almost entire Japan except for Kyushu and part of Shikoku and Chugoku.

Contamination as perceived by people outside Japan: entire Japan

Contamination as perceived by Japanese politicians: area around Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

Contamination as perceived by people at TEPCO:

President Obama's Special 9-11 Message Only for Yomiuri Shinbun

Oh isn't it interesting...

Yomiuri Shinbun says US President Obama has sent a special message to Yomiuri on the occasion of the 10-year anniversary of September-11.

Yomiuri Shinbun (1:09AM JST 9/11/2011):


It has been 10 years since the simultaneous terrorist attacks when hijacked airplanes hit the World Trade Center buildings in New York and the Pentagon outside the Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001, killing 3,000 people.


At the "Ground Zero" at the World Trade Center, a commemorative ceremony will be conducted to pray for the victims. President Obama will also join.


On September 10, President Obama wrote a guest editorial for Yomiuri Shinbun titled "Indispensable Partnership". In the editorial, the president said "There's always the United States as the partner, for countries and people who want a peaceful, prosperous future. The United States is currently facing an economic problem, but is determined to play a leading role incomparable in the world". Touching on the relationship between the US and Europe and the Islamic countries that grew tense after the terrorist attacks, the president emphasized, "The United States is not at war with Islam, and will never be". (The president's editorial will be carried on "The Daily Yomiuri" on September 11.)

It is not President Obama's (or his writer's) own words that you see in the above paragraph. It's my translation of Yomiuri's translation, which will not match the original English verbatum.

Why was this paper, Yomiuri, selected as the vehicle for a guest editorial by a US President?

Yomiuri Shinbun has a colorful history in Japan. After Matsutaro Shoriki bought the then-small Yomiuri Shinbun in 1924, one year after the "Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923" with the help from the earthquake recovery agency, it went on to acquire huge national readership. In 1950s, the paper was used as one of the vehicles whereby Shoriki pushed for nuclear energy and promoted it extensively to the Japanese who were leery and suspicious of anything nuclear after the two bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Daigo Fukuryumaru's Bikini Atoll accident in 1954. The other "vehicle" was Nippon Television, where Shoriki served as the president. Extensively using both media, Shoriki, who in 1956 became the first head of the Science and Technology Agency specifically created to promote nuclear energy in Japan, successfully turned around the extremely negative sentiment among the Japanese concerning nuclear energy into that of ardent support. In 1965, Japan's first nuclear reactor went critical in Tokai-mura in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Shoriki was a former high-ranking official in the pre-war Interior Ministry, and he was incarcerated in Sugamo Prison as a Class-A war criminal but later released. In the post World War II days he was an CIA operative with a code name "podam" and "pojacpot-1 ". It is said that both the US and Shoriki were interested in pushing the national television network and the nuclear power in Japan.

Yomiuri remains unabashedly pro-nuke.

Old ties die hard, and the President of the United States sends a 9-11 message only to this particular newspaper.

(Matsutaro Shoriki's information from Japanese wikipedia and other sources in Japanese.)

Shipjack Tuna Caught off Miyagi Hauled to Iwaki Onahama Port, and Sold to Tokyo

A short Asahi Shinbun article mentions that in passing.

The August 30 article is for Asahi's Fukushima local version, and it is about the decision by the Fukushima Prefecture's Fishery Cooperatives Association to not do the coastal trawl-net fishing for the month of September.

But at the end of the article there's this:


On the other hand, Onahama Port in Iwaki City had its first landing of 18 tonnes of shipjack tuna caught off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture. A quick testing was done by Iwaki Meisei University didn't find radioactive materials, and the fish were sold in the city and also shipped to the Tokyo region.

I don't know what's involved in the quick testing. So maybe there were no radioactive materials, or maybe there were but below detection limit.

I don't think shipjack tuna know where Fukushima Prefecture ends and where Miyagi Prefecture starts, but the fishery for shipjack tuna is about 200 kilometers off the coast of Tohoku and Kanto. Just because the fish come from Onahama Port in Fukushima Prefecture, it doesn't mean they are potentially radioactive.

(Just remember the radioactive materials that leaked into the ocean is 15,000 terabecquerels, and that number is without calculating the iodine-131 equivalent of cesium, as you would if you were trying to figure out the INES event scale.)

Friday, September 9, 2011

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: TEPCO Ready to Drive Carbon-Based Workers Even Harder

to clean up the upper floors of Reactor 3. What floor? was my first thought. The workers will be asked to clean up Reactor 4, too.

From Mainichi Shinbun Japanese (9/9/2011):


TEPCO announced on September 9 that 6 workers entered the reactor building of Reactor 3 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, and installed a water gauge to measure the amount of contaminated water in the basement. According to the company, the radiation exposure of the 6 workers was between 0.33 to 5.26 millisieverts. The measurement using the water gauge is set to start on or after September 12.


... TEPCO also disclosed the plan to start removing the debris from the upper floors of Reactors 3 and 4. The work will start in Reactor 3 on September 10, and it will start in Reactor 4 within this month. Upper floors of Reactors 3 and 4 are littered with damaged ceiling panels and exterior wall panels, and it is hoped that the spread of radioactive materials will be suppressed by removing the debris.

Hmmm. Removing the debris will stir up the radioactive materials instead of suppressing them, won't it? Not to mention exposing the workers to an inadvertent 10-plus sieverts/hour super hot spot, as it happened near the exhaust stack between Reactors 1 and 2?

From the tweets by the worker at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, it is evident that TEPCO is fast running out of money (to spend on the accident, apparently not on its retiring executives) and carbon-based workers to do further work. The worker also tweeted a week or so ago that the construction people were active, already clearing debris in Reactor 4.

The construction companies (Kajima, Taisei are at Fukushima, I think) are the worst offenders in Japan traditionally when it comes to exploiting the temporary, contract workers. Apparently, according to the tweets by the worker mentioned above, there are workers hired by them who know little about radiation danger at Fukushima I Nuke Plant where a 10-sieverts/hr extreme hot spot can be just around the corner.

Perhaps I shouldn't say "TEPCO" in the title. It is not really TEPCO who is ready and willing to expose workers to high radiation by driving them to clean up the place. TEPCO asks its main subcontractors (in this case, large construction companies) to figure out a way to complete the task of clearing the debris and tells them the budget. The subcontractors tell their subcontractors , who then tell their subcontractors....(up to 6th or 7th degree removed from TEPCO) to figure out a way, and finally some fresh warm bodies are brought in and put to work. They may or may not know the risk. The task is simple, just removing the debris from the floors with full protection gear and face mask, climbing up and down the stairs as the elevators are broken. All they need is physical strength.

(By the way, he also says the flashing bright light in TEPCO's livecam at night is from the construction people. Not that you have to believe him necessarily, but just for your information.)

By putting in many layers of subcontracting, everyone can deny that they are willingly and actively putting workers at risk.

Ah the country is broken (and broke), and mountains and rivers are not the same any more, but the subcontracting and "dango" (collusion) are hard to die in Japan.

(I'll try to translate the words by the man who pointed at TEPCO's livecam from his original Japanese. He is protesting against this subcontracting system.)

#Radioactive Tea For Longevity Celebration

In one of the tragi-comical moments in Japan after the March 11 nuke accident, Tokorozawa City in Saitama Prefecture was just about to send the gifts of hand-picked green tea to the city's elderly residents celebrating 88 years of age (a celebratory number in Japan). The hitch was that it contained almost 3 times as much radioactive cesium as the provisional safety limit.


The city wouldn't have known it, and probably would have given the gifts if it were not for the voluntary testing by the tea plantation.

That bureaucrats don't think is an understatement. It is a disease.

From Asahi Shinbun (9/9/2011):


Tokorozawa City in Saitama Prefecture announced on September 9 that radioactive cesium exceeding the national provisional safety limit (500 becquerels/kg) was detected from the "sayama-cha" green tea, a specialty of the region. The tea was to be given as gifts on September 15 ("Respect the Elder Day") to 800 elderly residents who would celebrate their 88th birthdays.


According to the city, this sayama-cha was picked and processed by "Masuda-en", a tea merchant in the city. The young tea leaves were picked early in the season [meaning it was the premium "first pick"]. Masuda-en had the tea tested by a private testing laboratory, and the tea was found with 1,436 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium.


Upon receiving the result, Masuda-en voluntarily declined to sell the tea to the city, and stopped the sale of its blended teas. The city will substitute the gift with other items like dried bonito, and will ask Saitama Prefecture to test the teas by Masuda-en.

I just hope dried bonito was made from shipjacks caught last year or year before (higher quality if dried and aged longer).

TEPCO Dumps 565-Page Report on Early Days of Crisis, Says No Re-Melting of Reactor 3 Fuel

"WTF?" seems to have been literally the reaction by both the journalists who regularly cover TEPCO and the officials at the regulatory agency Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

NISA nor any government agency asked for the report, but TEPCO apparently volunteered. The voluminous data is supposed to refute the claim by certain researchers that the melted fuel at the bottom of the RPV in Reactor 3 may have been re-melted on March 21 and went through the RPV and dropped on the floor of the Containment Vessel, releasing a huge amount of radioactive materials as evidenced by large spikes in air radiation throughout Tohoku and Kanto on that day.

According to TEPCO, there was no re-melt, because their data shows that the amount of water into Reactor 3 RPV was more than adequate, and the spikes in air radiation was simply because of the rain, and had nothing to do with what was happening in Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

The 565-page report also covers the other reactors.

I think I know what this is all about. It's TEPCO's defense and counterattack against the former Kan administration officials like Cabinet Secretary Edano and Prime Minister Kan himself, who, upon resigning, immediately started the media blitz to spread their versions of the event, painting themselves as selfless heroes worried for the humanity and TEPCO as the sole villain.

TEPCO's report on September 9 in Japanese:

The company promises it will upload the English translation as soon as it is done.

In the press conference on September 9, TEPCO released these charts as part of the evidence that there was no re-melt. TEPCO's translation is just as bad as the man who pointed finger at TEPCO livecam, but I hope the charts speak volume:

US 10-Year Treasury Bond Yield Falls to 60-Year Low, As World Is Getting Unhinged

If it's any comfort to the Japanese, the world (at least OECD members) seems to be joining Japan in getting out of control one way or another.

For the EU and the US, it is over the sovereign debt crisis that could lead to a global banking crisis, a la Lehman, this time potentially much bigger. The apparent safe haven bid is on the US dollar and the US Treasuries, which drove down the yield on 10-year bond to 1.896 percent earlier today.

The supposed trigger for today's move is the resignation, though planned, of the ECB board member Juergen Stark because of conflict over the central bank's bond buying program.

Earlier this year before March 11, Japan was one of the two countries (the other is China) who pledged to buy European debts to support the Euro regime (and support their export industries). I wonder if it is still doing that.

From Reuters (9/9/2011):

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Treasury debt prices rose on Friday, taking benchmark yields to the lowest in at least 60 years as investors looked for a safe haven on revived worries a European debt crisis could have a significant global impact.

Stocks plunged on Friday, losing over 2.5 percent and bolstering the safe-haven allure of U.S. government debt, with few investors looking to go into the weekend short Treasuries due to the uncertainty surrounding the European debt crisis.

The worries over Europe were sparked by the planned resignation of European Central Bank (ECB) Executive Board Member Juergen Stark. The ECB confirmed a Reuters report that said Stark was quitting because of a conflict over the central bank's bond buying program.

"The Stark resignation just kind of raises an eyebrow at a time when there's already concerns about what's going to happen next," said Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia.

A debt swap meant to help Greece avoid default and win time to repair its tattered public finances hung in the balance Friday, with expectations of take-up by private creditors slipping amid fierce European pressure on Athens.

"There is a real danger that a European default or bank failure would lead to a global banking crisis akin to that seen after the fall of Lehman Brothers," said Paul Dales, U.S. economist at Capital Economics in Toronto.

Benchmark 10-year notes were trading 19/32 higher in price to yield 1.91 percent, down from 1.98 percent late Thursday. Benchmark yields touched 1.896 percent, marking the lowest since at least World War II.

(The article continues.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reactors at San Onofre Nuke Plant in California Shut Down Due to Blackout

LA Times (9/8/2011):

The blackout affecting large swaths of San Diego County led to a shutdown of two reactors at the San Onofre nuclear power plant.

Gil Alexander, a spokesman for Southern California Edison, said the power outage did not cause any safety issues. Alexander said a fluctuation in power caused the reactors to shut down at 3:38 p.m. but that the overall plant continues to have power.

He said the system worked as it was supposed to during a loss of power.

Ocean Contamination 3 Times As Much As TEPCO Announced

says the government corporation Japan Atomic Energy Agency, 5 months after the leak of highly contaminated water was first discovered (in April) at the water intake for Reactor 2 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

So, instead of 4,700 terabecquerels of radioactive iodine and cesium as TEPCO announced back in May, JAEA says it was 15,000 terabecquerels that leaked into the Pacific Ocean, and that it could have been leaking since March 21, not from April 1.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (9/9/2011):


Researchers at Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) led by Takuya Kobayashi has come up with the estimate that puts the total amount of radioactive materials leaked into the ocean from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant at 15,000 terabecquerels. Their estimate includes the radioactive materials in the contaminated water and in the air that fell in the ocean.


The JAEA estimate is three times as much as the estimate by TEPCO. It will be announced during the Atomic Energy Society of Japan conference set to begin in Kitakyushu City from September 19.


TEPCO limited the time period of the contaminated water leak from April 1 to 6, and estimated the amount of iodine-131, cesium-134 and cesium-137 to be 4,700 terabequerels.


Kobayashi et al calculated the amount of the leaked water from March 21 to April 30, based on the density of radioactive materials at the water intake of the plant. March 21 was when radioactive materials were detected in seawater for the first time. They also did the simulation of how the radioactive materials spread in the ocean based on their estimate, and confirmed that it matched the observed data in the ocean near the plant. The estimate does not include cesium-134, so the total amount of radioactive materials would be higher.

So the researchers concluded the leak may have been ongoing since March 21, based on the density of radioactive materials at the water intake that TEPCO was announcing. Duh. And TEPCO insisted that the leak started on April 1 or not so long before a worker noticed for the first time, and no one in the media questioned at that time. No one is saying anything now either about this extremely contaminated water that may have been leaking for 10 days before TEPCO even noticed.

(Note to self: Think.)

Asahi Shinbun has different details:

  • The main factor that pushed the number up was the radioactive materials in the air that fell into the ocean;

  • Iodine-131 alone accounts for 11,400 terabecquerels, and cesium-137 for 3,600 terabecquerels.

Well I sure hope this number for cesium-137 is "iodine-131 equivalent". Otherwise the total amount of radioactive materials leaked would be approaching INES Level 7 on its own.

These government researchers are announcing their precious studies left and right, now that their papers have been peer-reviewed and set to be published.

UK's Daily Mail: Eerie Echoes of Chernobyl in Fukushima

Daily Mail, which has always had excellent photos of Japan's triple crisis of earthquake, tsunami, and nuke accident, has a collection of photographs of Fuktaba-machi, Fukushima and Pripyat, Chernobyl, side by side.

From Daily Mail (9/4/2011):

Haunting images taken in a town close to Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant have been released showing a community frozen in time.

The new set of photographs, taken in the town of Futaba 12 miles from the Fukushima plant, bear grim similarities to those taken in Pripyat, two miles from the Chernobyl power plant.

Children's play areas lie deserted, lonely dogs wander through empty streets, shoes and personal keepsakes are left hastily abandoned in the two towns, both the scenes of hasty evacuations after explosions at the nearby nuclear power stations.

For more photos, go to the Daily Mail page.

Here's the Man Who Pointed Finger at TEPCO's Fuku I Livecam

Some of you may have read about and seen the video/screenshot of a mysterious worker who appeared in TEPCO's Livecam of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

Well, he's gone semi-public with his email to a high ranking administration official on September 8, protesting the harsh working conditions for the workers, and he has posted his statement and photographs inside the plant on his website:

Scroll down for his English explanation. It's not the perfect English but you get the gist. (Well, actually it is rather hard to follow, compared to the original Japanese which is relatively clear.)

One of the photos he has: A cute poster warning against the danger of heat exhaustion... "Don't get too hot", the girl says.

Here's the part where he explains why he did what he did:

The intention of pointing toward Tepco, the goverment and the claim for them

I claim the concrete improvement of the state of working conditions, entrustment of businesses to subcontract companies, ascertainment of all workers’ employment situations.

As you know according by the reports from some media, there are some workers who have some compelling reason were arranged by the people in the outlaw territory. And they work while hiding from the prime contractor that they are in unfair or harsh conditions.

Even the case of the company recruiting through the Hello Work (Japanese government employment agency), the prime contractor don’t know some workers’ actual employer.

Too many subcontracts cause some problems of the workers’ low wages or not to join the insurances, no contract documents, as known by reports of media.

In addition, I show some of my experiences.

I had some days that I can’t asleep well in the daytime though I had works in late night because the working hours of our room’s members are inconsistent.

There is a rule that the workers have to declare the day’s conditions of their health by writing and submitting the paper. I wrote 4 about the sleeping hours honesty, but a senior rewrite as 6 while I took my eyes off. I think he judged that the existence of a person who can’t control his health is not good for our company.

And, I saw workers who have much extra jobs except the job which the prime contractor knows. They worked so hard for miscellaneous jobs –for example, caring newcomers’ procedures– and they did their original jobs and drove a car in spite of a few hours sleeping.

Subcontract companies compete or appeal with overwork, then the prime contractor obtain high efficiency works with low cost. But some small unreasonable things and harmful effects are not reported to above. They could lead to serious accident in this emergency.

If someone indicates those problems on the conference, Tepco may just answer “we are going to investigate” or “we ask cooperative companies not to do so.”
And great information never will be reported. Only the evidences not to damage to themselves will be reported to above for having been subcontracted.

Subcontract companies and dishonesty workers are not only responsible for such this situation but also prime contractor or Tepco. Even if some workers or the companies were punished severely, this problem would not be solved.
Stern regulations don’t connect the safety measure. This is the important thing we have to learn from the Train Crash on JR West Fukuchiyama Line(2005), I think.

Tepco has to release weaker people from the pressure that they have to hide their overworks. This is hard to carry senses of mission on their back for many people, so we must not to impose the pressures of labor conditions or instability of employment.

I think we should cope with this problem as whole problem of employment system.
It is best that if Tepco employed all workers and companies. If it is completely unable, I want Tepco to confirm the all workers’ contract situation on their documents completry (though I did not make written agreement), and to check if there are fair wages and insurances.

How about grasping if there are enough people on each posts or companies?
Orginally, outsourcing is not to waive the responsible of administration but to consign technical works. I hear that the accident is barely saved from the worst crisis nevertheless being unpredictable. In this case, it is important to avoid human errors from the halfway administration or caring workers.

And my action went through without someone’s check, it gave an example that there is many ways to pick something by someone who were not satisfied on the present state. This won’t change anything if the security will become improved.
It is proper measure to improve the employment situation not to make workers unsatisfied. I hope mass-medias to ask Tepco and the government these points.

■ The intention of pointing toward the people who watches the video

I wanted to make a opposite direction against the observation. We still have put the workers on nuclear power plant as “an exceptional subject different from us” by changing the word from “lower workers” to “heros” or “working people”
I wanted to point it out. I think we can't avoid this on watching something through a media.

■ the intention of pointing toward myself through the mobile phone

I also watch workers and this accident through the media, so I can't leaving out of this situation, I thought. And this action content a self-sacrifice by narcissism, it should not acknowledge unconditionally in the social crisis. Gloomy mind caused by watching TV show should be eliminated by political participation through elections.
My behavior of working only in a short period should be watched and criticized as a slacktivistic pattern.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

TEPCO's Extreme Blackout

All you can read is about 10 or so lines, according to Tokyo Shinbun citing Kyodo News (9/7/2011).

TEPCO submitted the 12-page document as requested by a Lower House committee concerning the emergency operation procedure at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

Following the "request" (it was a formal request) from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency to pay close attention to the PP (Physical Protection), TEPCO blacked out almost all of the information, resulting in the document as you see in the picture.

According to TEPCO's Matsumoto, it was part of the document that was blacked. I suppose 99% is still considered "part".

Needless to say, the committee chairman is not very happy, and requested that TEPCO re-submit the document.

The committee requested the information on emergency procedure from TEPCO, as the allegation that manually stopping the IC (emergency cooling system) may have caused the meltdown in Reactor 1, blaming the worker.

I personally don't buy that allegation, particularly when they say it was a "mistake by the worker". (The committee chairman should have asked for the "true" manual...)

You can view the TBS news and see the completeness of the blackout by TEPCO.

Fukushima I Nuke Plant Workers to Be Awarded Prince of Asturias Award for Concord

The Prince of Asturias Foundation in Spain has decided to give "Fukushima heroes" - workers at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, firefighters and Self Defense Force soldiers who risked (and are still risking) radiation to contain the nuclear disaster - the 2011 Prince of Asturias Award for Concord (peace prize).

Prince of Asturias is the designation given to the crown prince of Spain, or the heir apparent.

Thank you, your Royal Highness.

From the Foundation's press release on September 7:

The 2011 Prince of Asturias Award for Concord has been bestowed on the “heroes of Fukushima”. The Jury for the Award announced its decision today in Oviedo.

This group of people represent the highest values of the human condition by trying to prevent, through their sacrifice, the nuclear disaster caused by the tsunami that struck Japan from multiplying its devastating effects, disregarding the grave consequences that this decision would have on their lives. Their courageous and exemplary behaviour has earned them the international epithet “heroes of Fukushima”.

This candidature was put forward by Josep Piqué i Camps, president of the Spain-Japan Council Foundation (Madrid) and seconded, among others, by Miguel Angel Navarro, Spain’s ambassador to Japan; Fernando Salazar, vice-president of the Spanish Institute of Foreign Trade; Juan José Herrera, director general of Casa Asia; Daniel Hernandez, rector of the University of Salamanca; and Alberto Ruiz-Gallardón, Mayor of Madrid.

Following the massive earthquake and tsunami that occurred in north-eastern Japan on March 11, 2011 and which caused around 28,000 deaths and displaced some 350,000 people, Fukushima nuclear power plant suffered significant damage resulting in hydrogen explosions and fusion of nuclear fuel as well as causing several deaths and serious injuries due to radiation among workers at the plant. The International Atomic Energy Agency and the Japanese government initially placed the alert levels between 5 and 6 on a scale of 7, and finally at 7, as after the Chernobyl accident.

Despite major uncertainty regarding the development of the nuclear emergency, the different groups that worked for weeks in Fukushima did so under extreme conditions (high radiation, continuously rotating shifts and only a few hours of rest, and limited supplies of food and drinking water). As a result, many workers developed chronic pathologies such as arrhythmia and hyperventilation. Despite these grave consequences, they continued to participate in the efforts to regain control of the nuclear plant, aware of how essential their work was to prevent a catastrophe of even greater magnitude.

The work was carried out by three groups of people: employees of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant’s operator; of its 130 workers, 50 volunteered, as did some workers who had already retired or were nearing retirement, and, after increasing the number of rotating shifts and the needs for personnel, additional staff was hired (by May 3, 1,312 workers had intervened in Fukushima); fire fighters from various prefectures, especially from Tokyo, who participated in the work of cooling the reactors, a key task to restore control of the plant; and the Japanese Armed Forces, whose work cooling the reactors by launching water from helicopters, inspecting the damage from the air, cordoning off the exclusion area and evacuating people when the reactors emitted very high doses of radiation was very important.

The behaviour of these people has also embodied the values most deeply rooted in Japanese society, such as the sense of duty, personal and family sacrifice for the greater good and dignity in the face of adversity, humility, generosity and courage.

Amount of Radioactive Cesium in Urine Increased in a Boy Who Remained in Fukushima

From Jiji Tsushin (9/7/2011):


A citizen's group (福島老朽原発を考える会) announced the result of the second testing of the 10 children in Fukushima City and other locations whose urine had been tested 2 months earlier. In one child who did not evacuate from Fukushima, the amount of radioactive cesium didn't decrease but increased slightly.


In May, the group asked a French laboratory to test the urine samples from 10 children from 6 to 16 years old. Radioactive cesium was detected from all samples. In the second test conducted at the end of July, the amount was lower, or in some cases not detected, in 9 children who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture. However, from the urine sample of a 16-year-old boy who remained in Fukushima City, cesium-137 increased from 0.78 becquerels/liter in May to 0.87 becquerels/liter.

France's ACRO, who did the testing, has more details and harsh words for the Japanese government (emphasis is original):

Comments :

At the request of Japanese citizens, ACRO analyzed the urine of 18 Japanese children from the prefecture of Fukushima and from Tokyo and its surroundings.

All the 15 children from Fukushima have or had their urine contaminated with radioactive fallout from the nuclear accident located approximately 60 km away. This means that children themselves have been or are contaminated. However, we did not detect any contamination in the urine of the three children from Tokyo and surroundings.

While the tests performed by the Japanese authorities give about one child from Fukushima out two that is contaminated, we get 100%. This reflects the fact that the official measurements are not accurate enough and did not detect all contaminations.

The first 10 children are the same as in our previous measurement campaign (results released June 30). 9 of them have left the province of Fukushima since. Only one remained (U2).
U6 child was evacuated in end of March. U3 and U4 children were evacuated in the end of May. 3 left late June, early July and three others at the beginning of the school holidays from July 22.

Finally, five new children live nearby Fukushima-city. One of them was evacuated in the middle of May (U14).

U11 and U12 attend the same high school where they frequently practice sports on the same playground. The difference in the contamination could be due to food.

More than four months after the massive discharges of radioactivity into the environment, all children still in Fukushima at the time of urine sampling were contaminated, although their parents do their best to reduce this contamination. Evacuation is a way to reduce contamination. Variations in internal contamination between different children might be due to food.

It is important to conduct an accurate, systematic and regular monitoring of internal contamination of children from Fukushima. Families must have access to the measurement of radioactivity to help them reduce this contamination.

(H/T 44de256)

Radioactive Iodine in Sewer Sludge in Oshu City, Iwate

Oshu City is located 187 kilometers north of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

The city announced the latest survey of radioactive materials in sewer sludge in a sewage treatment center in the city, and it shows iodine-131 being detected in the sludge cake since August 25.

From the city's announcement on September 7 (original in Japanese, I translated the dates, etc.; emphasis is mine):

Collection date

Testing date





















































The city says it has stopped the shipment of sludge cakes from this plant because of the high radioactive iodine concentration detected from the August 25 sample, but that the sludge cakes have been used as fertilizer material because the amount of radioactive cesium has been below the provisional safety limit for composts and manures (400 becquerels/kg).

TEPCO to Pay 2.4 Billion Yen Into Nuclear Damages Support Organization

The Japanese government is set to set up the Nuclear Damage Support Organization ( 原子力損害賠償支援機構) this week, Yomiuri Shinbun reports (9/7/2011). The law to create the Organization was passed on August 3.

The Organization is basically an insurance scheme for the nation's electric power companies and government corporations that operate nuclear power plants, whereby the companies pay into the scheme to get it started and will pay annual premiums in return for the payment out of the scheme in case of a nuclear accident that will require compensating the victims.

The 12 companies including 9 electric power companies (except for Okinawa Electric that doesn't have a nuclear power plant) will pay in total of 7 billion yen (US$90 million) with TEPCO paying the largest share of 2.4 billion yen (US$31 million), and the national government will match 7 billion yen. So the total amount to be paid into the Organization will be 14 billion yen (US$181 million).

The amount of annual premium is yet to be fully decided.

If the amount of compensation exceeds the money paid into the Organization, the government (i.e. Japanese taxpayers) will pick up the tab.

So far, TEPCO has paid out 112 billion yen (as of August 31) as "temporary" compensation ( to be settled later with receipts). Increase in fuel costs for this year is estimated to be 700 billion yen.

All the cost for "decontamination" of the affected areas will be billed to TEPCO (i.e. taxpayers). In Iitate-mura, Fukushima Prefecture alone, the decontamination project is estimated to cost 200 billion yen for the village of about 6,000 residents.

Many Japanese people highly approve of the scheme, thinking now the victims will be fully compensated. What they may not be aware is that the victims will be fully compensated on their dimes (or yen).

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pregnant Mothers Going Back to Minami Soma City to Give Birth

I just don't know what to say.

NHK's program "Close-up Gendai" aired the episode on August 31 (which you can view at the program's site here) about a 72-year-old obstetrician and over 50 pregnant mothers coming back to Minami Soma City to give birth.

The reason for coming back to their homes in Minami Soma City, even if the radiation level remains elevated, is that they were totally stressed out in the evacuation centers. When asked why she came back to the city, one young mother coming to see the obstetrician says, "Well, it was very cold sleeping on the hard floor of the gymnasium, and we thought our home would be better."

While the national government created the evacuation-ready zone in Minami Soma City and advised small children and pregnant women to stay out of the zone, there was no actual support as to where they, particularly pregnant women, can stay comfortably outside the zone.

NHK's program also makes it clear that Minami Soma City itself has no such plan. On the contrary, we know that the city is telling the residents to come back.

The obstetrician, Dr. Takahashi, was able to fit the mothers with glass badges that record the external radiation exposure, thanks to the donation of an NPO. After one month, he got the result. It was between 1 and 6.96 millisieverts on the annual basis - that is, if they stay where they are for one year.

"Is this safe? No one can say for sure, but it is probably safe. There's not enough data to show the effect of radiation below 100 millisieverts per year", the NHK narrator says.

Dr. Takahashi goes and measures the radiation levels at another home. "0.58 microsievert/hour outside, about half that inside". The narrator says, "At this level, the annual radiation exposure would be about 2.5 millisieverts, far below 20 millisieverts". The husband chimes in, as if to convince himself and his wife that it is OK to stay there, "So it is higher than 1 millisievert/year standard that they often talk about, but far less than 20 millisieverts".

After the Minami Soma segment, the guest commentator speaks. Associate Professor Mitsuyoshi Urashima of Jikei University School of Medicine says the following:


To begin with, there is no radiation safety standard for fetuses. So we cannot say it is definitely safe, but I consider [these numbers in the video] to be safe.


There are three reasons why I say this. First, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) says the low radiation above 100 millisieverts [per year] will increase the risk for cancer, but below that level, particularly below 10 millisieverts/year, it is designated as ultra low radiation where there is no increase of cancer. Second, the levels of natural radiation vary. There is a place in the world where people are exposed to 10 millisieverts radiation per year.


Third, there was no risk of thyroid cancer for the fetuses in Chernobyl. There was no increased risk for thyroid cancer after the babies were born. So, if [the radiation exposure] is less than 10 millisieverts, I don't think they need to worry too much.

Experts like him still cite the 10 millisieverts/year location as if that's totally acceptable and safe for people in Fukushima, whose natural radiation exposure has been 1.4 millisievert/year, not to mention this 10 millisieverts/year includes internal exposure.

Experts like him (and the infamous Dr. Yamashita) always cite thyroid cancer, as if that's all people need to worry about.

I can't really blame these mothers for escaping the extremely uncomfortable evacuation centers where they have to sleep on the hard floor with no privacy. It's just too bad that they didn't have anyone who would take them in, outside Minami Soma, and that no one cared about them in the government, national or municipal.

The governments don't do anything, because pregnant women are not supposed to be there in the evacuation-ready zone...

(Guest Post) How to Source Radioactive Material-Free Food in Japan: Food Co-Op

Not all co-ops (grocery stores operated as cooperatives) are equal, but some are decidedly more customer-friendly (as opposed to producer-friendly) and take care in sourcing the food that are not contaminated with radioactive materials AND disclosing the detailed information of their testing.

One of the readers of this blog, William Marcus, has sent me his observations on sourcing the safe food in Japan. William currently lives in Osaka with his family with the toddler son. He says co-ops in Japan are not centralized (which I didn't know), and that more east and north you go co-ops tend not to disclose the details of the testing they do (if they do the testing) on the foodstuff they sell.

The particular COOP that he recommends is "Shizenha" co-op headquartered in Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture and has operations in Tokushima Prefecture in Shikoku region. The co-op, he says, has just started to accept membership from Kanto and Tohoku regions.


I live in Osaka and sourcing clean food for our toddler son has become the biggest concern of ours, after monitoring the fallout plumes and contamination in our vicinity (which thankfully, seems to be quite limited compared to California, my home state). We have always been interested in buying healthy food and have belonged to COOP for many years.

You may or may not know that COOP is not centralized -- there is no national standard for COOPs; they are regionally managed, but their membership can be quite spread out; so we recently joined a COOP (Shizenha; based in Shikoku/West Japan) that is quite more transparent in testing and showing the results of these radiation tests. Our original COOP ("S-COOP") is also doing more testing and has invested another 5 million yen in more testing equipment and outsourcing their testing to a subcontractor as well, but they won't disclose the results of the testing -- only if it is above or below the current (inflated), permitted government safety limit. Shizenha has a different 'feel' to it, and discloses the results of their testing weekly both on their website and in the order forms that we receive weekly.

Basically, the story is this: the further north and east you go, the less likely the COOPs are to disclose testing results as this might well embarrass their long-standing farming/food sources, while to the south and west, this is less likely to happen as their food sources are generally less suspect.

Often, when I read your blog, which I admire and recommend widely, the reports of contaminated food are then commented on by the readers as proof that sourcing food is dangerous and tricky, when actually, if one knows the resources, it is not the case. COOP generally charges 10-20% more than your typical retail supermarkets, but the more radical of the COOPs (like Shizenha) go further by indicating exactly who is tested and what is found. If those who are really concerned about finding safe food for their families are aware of this, they can also benefit from membership to the more transparent COOPs (others probably do exist which I'm not aware of). As of this week, Shizenha will allow shipping to the northern parts of Japan (for a bigger, refundable membership deposit of 20,000 yen vs. the regular 10,000), in an effort to obviously shame the other COOPs who are more hesitant to state reality as it really is, into being more forthcoming with the testing results.

There is a war on food truth that is building steam, and it is in the south and west of Japan that is pushing the envelop on that front, or so it seems to us here in Kansai, at least.

I was in Kyushu for a week last week, visiting in-laws and it was noted by my Japanese partner and in-laws how many people are migrating permanently from Tohoku and Kanto regions -- the cars were obvious and multiple: middle-class and upper-class vans and sedans; the well-heeled are evacuating -- lucky them. . . sad for those not able to do the same, which speaks to the class-based availability of safety recourse in Japan these days (and COOP membership to a degree also represents this with its mark-up).

The other notable thing in Kyushu was how prominently nearly all restaurants advertised their local sourcing of ingredients. This doesn't happen at all in Osaka/Kyoto, which is owing to a few different explanations: not to offend, not to heighten fear, or because the ingredients are suspect, etc.

Likely we will also gravitate to Kyushu in the coming year, as at present only COOP is able to provide assurances with our food concerns, whereas in Kyushu, that is much, much less of a concern, and the food is cheaper. . .

Thanks again for your fantastic blog -- it is unique and serving an invaluable service in this incredible nightmare that is ongoing. I hope this sheds some light on the food safety countermeasures that n.p.o.'s are enacting to guarantee the food supply.

Also, it is evident in Osaka that food origin is getting harder to ascertain in the regular retail supermarkets, as indicated by anecdotes of many friends using conventional stores.


While "Shizenha" co-op is not party to the Fukushima Prefecture's PR effort to push Fukushima produce, other co-ops are eagerly selling. One of my Japanese blog readers says her co-op in Kansai has been pushing Fukushima produce (vegetables and fruits) ever since this spring by holding special campaign events at the store. But as William says, each co-op is different, and it is worthwhile to investigate. It is also good to know that people in Kanto and Tohoku may now be able to purchase from a Kansai-based co-op.

There is also a grassroots campaign to establish volunteer radiation measuring stations throughout Japan, modeled after the one in Fukushima City (Citizen's Radioactivity Measuring Station), where anyone can bring in a food item and have it tested.

As this blog's subtitle says, "Don't count on your government".

#Radioactive Leaf Tobacco, 217 Bq/Kg of Radioactive Cesium

If this doesn't deter the smokers from smoking, I don't know what will.

From TBS News (9/6/2011):


JT (Japan Tobacco Inc.) announced the result of the survey of leaf tobacco for radioactive materials and said "there is no problem". The harvest season for leaf tobacco will start soon.


The harvest season for leaf tobacco will start in October in earnest. JT conducted the survey of one type of leaf tobacco, dried, in 4 prefectures (Ibaraki, Tochigi, Chiba, and Shizuoka). Fukushima Prefecture was excluded as no leaf tobacco is grown this year.


According to the survey, radioactive iodine in all samples was below the detection level. However, the maximum 217 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was found.


There is no safety limit for the leaf tobacco. However, JT explained the level of radioactive cesium as "not a problem" because it was below the provisional safety limit of 500 becquerels/kg for vegetables. JT is going to conduct a sample monitoring of other types of leaf tobacco.

According to the press release by JT, no radioactive cesium was detected in leaf tobacco grown in Shizuoka Prefecture. But of 33 samples in the other 3 prefectures, 27 samples were found with radioactive cesium from the lowest 21 to the highest 217 becquerels/kg (both in Ibaraki).

JT says it will not purchase or use leaf tobacco that exceeds the provisional safety limit for vegetables (as there is no safety limit for leaf tobacco). In other words, all leaf tobacco that's been tested is good to be purchased and made into cigarettes and sold by JT.

JT was a government corporation, and the national government still owns 50.02% of the company. In exchange for the obligation to purchase all leaf tobacco grown in Japan, it is granted the monopoly of manufacturing cigarettes in Japan. It is very active in exporting the cigarettes and is the 3rd largest cigarette company in the world after Philip Morris and British American Tobacco.

#Radioactive Chestnut from Fukushima, 2,040 Bq/Kg

The harvest season is starting, and one by one minor food items that most people can do without are being found with high levels of radioactive cesium.

We'll see soon enough if Professor Kosako's "chaos" in the harvest season occurs when they start harvesting the major crop - regular rice (not the early varieties) in Tohoku.

From Asahi Shinbun (9/6/2011):


Fukushima Prefecture announced on September 6 that 2,040 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was found from the chestnuts harvested at an orchard in Minami Soma City. The prefectural government requested the city and the wholesalers [of the city's chestnuts] to halt shipment voluntarily.


The prefectural government will conduct an emergency monitoring survey in 11 municipalities on September 7. Fukushima's chestnut harvest in 2009 was 267 tonnes, of which 77 tonnes were shipped outside the prefecture.

A "monitoring" survey means they will sample test.

The Fukushima prefectural government and the Minami Soma municipal government want the residents back in the city, with the promise that the government-led thorough decontamination will be carried out.

TEPCO to Stop Free Food at J-Village for Fukushima I Nuke Plant Workers

or so the tweet by the worker at the plant with big twitter followings says:


Oh by the way, like I tweeted some time ago, we're notified September 14 will be the last day of [free food] distribution at J-Village.

J-Village is the staging area for the plant workers. After September 14, TEPCO will make the workers pay for food, if what he tweeted is true.

TEPCO has been bleeding badly financially because of the nuclear accident. The Japanese government, now under the new administration whose approval rate is suspiciously high, continues to pretend it is a problem of a private business. TEPCO does not have a choice but to treat the accident as some maintenance job gone really very bad, and try to come up with a cost-effective patchwork.

And what does the government do (or say it will do)? Embark on the huge "decontamination" projects with government scientists and big corporations and heads of municipal governments that will probably waste billions.

And the Japanese people are still content to be governed.

Monday, September 5, 2011

#Radiation in Food: Radish Boya to Set Its Own Cesium Standard

Radish Boya, an online grocer who first alerted Shizuoka Prefecture that one of the Shizuoka teas contained radioactive cesium exceeded the provisional limit by its own testing, is going to set its own standard for cesium in food and drinks that it sells, which is one-tenths of the national provisional standards.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (9/5/2011):


Radish Boya, a home delivery service of foodstuff headquartered in Tokyo, announced on September 5 that the company had set its own safety limit for radioactive cesium in food and drinks that it sells.


The company's safety limit for rice, vegetables and fruits, and meat is 50 becquerels/kilogram, and for milk and drinking water 20 becquerels[/liter]. They are both one-tenths of the national provisional safety limits.


The company will conduct sample testing before it purchases the food items from 17 prefectures in Tohoku and Kanto, and will not deliver the items whose cesium content exceeds the company's safety limit. The company has 105,000 registered customers, and there have been over 10,000 inquiries about radiation contamination of food after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.

Things to keep in mind, before you rush to order:

  • Radish Boya does source from Tohoku and northern Kanto, including Fukushima, Miyagi, and Tochigi, and radioactive cesium has been detected in their testing though not exceeding the provisional safety limit or the company's own limit;

  • The testing is still a sample testing, though for now there's no practical way to test all;

  • It does participate in the campaign by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, "Let's help the disaster-affected areas by eating their produce!"

By the way, looking at the Ministry of Agriculture's site, they do seem to feed the government workers there with potentially contaminated vegetables and meat from the disaster-affected areas...

Kunihiko Takeda: "A Girl Doesn't Talk"

Professor Takeda of Chubu University has an unusual, short post on his blog for September 5. It's titled "A Girl Doesn't Talk..." and the following is my unauthorized, quick translation:

A girl doesn't talk...

She doesn't talk. With her clear eyes she looks at everything her mother does. At her side, a boy with bright eyes is excited with the train just passing by.

A middle-aged man shouts. Why can't I sell contaminated vegetables? I took great pains growing them. What about our livelihood?

The girl doesn't talk. She quietly eats her school lunch as it is served. Even if the vegetables are contaminated, she takes in the radioactive materials because she trusts adults.

The angry middle-aged man, with the help of the governor and the board of education, shipped the contaminated vegetables that were sold as foodstuff for the school lunches, and he made the living. The government and TEPCO pretended they didn't know, and the media was afraid to report.

The girl who didn't talk is now sick in bed. Who could have saved this girl who didn't talk?



おじさんは怒鳴る! 何で汚染された野菜を出していけないのか! こんなに苦労して作ったんだ! 我々の生活はどうでもよいのか!




Professor Takeda has his share of detractors and critics, but ever since March 11 he has consistently spoke against radiation exposure for children and adults and denounced the government (particularly Ministry of Education, Board of Education, and teachers), TEPCO and experts (particularly medical experts) for making light of the danger of radiation exposure. (See my post from May for his strong words to teachers.)