Hardly anyone seems to pay serious attention to Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant itself these days, except occasional, perfunctory mentions of how radioactive materials are still spewing from the reactors and how the groundwater is being contaminated because the basements are leaking (almost always without citing the actual numbers).
All the talk about imminent collapse of Reactor 4 has all but died down, and no sensational stories about the plant are circulating on Japanese Twitter.
So what is TEPCO, now officially the government company with the capital infusion of 1 trillion yen (US$12.8 billion), doing these days at the plant?
Very prosaic, mundane jobs like picking up concrete debris to save for later testing, trying to unclog the pipe to insert a thermocouple, hosing down the fuel assembly. They have been also building the multi-nuclide absorption towers (Toshiba), trying to replace Kanaflex hose for the transport of contaminated water, trying to clean the subdrain pit water, and asking workers from affiliate companies how they are doing.
This post is the first installment from the monthly report, about the workers picking bits of concrete rubble near the blown-up reactors at Fukushima I Nuke Plant. In the report, it is the last item, but it stuck with me as I browsed through the report yesterday while listening to the press conference given by Naoto Kan and his "Zero Nuke" group of politicians.
The workers got 0.3 millisievert radiation exposure for one-hour work of picking up concrete bits, and the concrete bits are not very "radioactive" in Fuku-I standard (it would be considered extremely high outside the plant), at 2,000 microsieverts/hour (or 2 millisieverts/hour).
Where is that former Prime Minister who supposedly scolded top executives at TEPCO and urged them to go to Fukushima I Nuke Plant, saying he himself would go with them? Why isn't he picking up the pieces of radioactive rubble, instead of the workers who may be paid only 8,000 yen (US$102) per day for their work?
From TEPCO's July 30, 2012 monthly progress report on the "Roadmap to decommissioning the reactors at Fukushima (available in Japanese only), pages 84 to 89 (I added the labels):
The former Prime Minister Naoto Kan was busy trying to re-invent himself as champion of "ordinary citizens" who are against nuclear power plants and as key man who can connect these citizens with the power that be (Prime Minister Noda and his high-ranking ministers like Mr. Edano), when he and his supposedly anti-nuclear group of politicians held a press conference and the closed meeting with those "citizens" on July 31. But that will be another post.