Tuesday, December 31, 2013

(OT) Music at the Very End of Year 2013

Jascha Heifetz, "Bach, Chaconne, take one."

(For Record) #Fukushima I NPP Reactor 3 Operating Floor Situation Summary as of 12/31/2013

The post is for my own record and for those who missed the news in July this year about the steam rising from a gap near the shield plug on the operating floor of Reactor 3 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

For more posts on the subject, go here.

0. The steam looks like this:

TEPCO's hypothesis from July is that it is part rainwater part leak from the Containment Vessel.

1. The steam was first noticed in July this year, and since then it has been observed numerous times when and after it rains in the geographical area where the plant is located in Fukushima Prefecture (Futaba-machi and Okuma-machi on the Pacific Ocean). It has probably been there since after the March 2011 explosion. Why wasn't the steam noticed earlier? Most likely because of piles of debris on the operating floor, which looked like this from the top, until September 2012 when TEPCO/Kajima started to remove the debris:

(March 24, 2011)

(Video taken on 11/5/2011)

2. Infrared images, taken on July 24 this year, from TEPCO (labels are mine), showing a warm spot with a red X (34.3 degrees Celsius, or 93.74 degrees Fahrenheit) right where the steam was (and still is, occasionally) rising:

3. The air dose rates (gamma radiation) on the operating floor of Reactor 3, particularly around the shield plug, are very high (the latest measurement from November and December this year, presented at the December 26, 2013 meeting to discuss progress of the "roadmap toward decommissioning" - PDF file in Japanese):

The upper numbers: air dose rate in millisievert/hour, at 5 meters off the floor
The lower numbers: localized surface rate in millisievert/hour, measured by a survey meter fitted with collimeter, at 50 centimeters off the floor

(I marked the location of the steam with a blue X.)

But it is more likely that the high air dose rates are not from the occasional weak steam from the spot as seen in the infrared images above, but from the contamination from the fallout in March 2011, from several vents including dry vent (releasing the highly radioactive gas inside the Containment Vessel to outside, without having it go through water to reduce radioactive materials) and the March 14, 2011 explosion of Reactor 3 and steam/smoke afterwards. The steam/smoke in March 2011, as TEPCO casually admitted during the regular press conference on July 24, 2013 (there was no follow-up question from the press), came from a breach in the Containment Vessel of Reactor 3, "as you all know".

As a piece of that evidence,

4. Nuclides analysis result of the radioactive materials in the air, July 25, 2013 shows radioactive cesium in the air where the steam is observed on the operating floor of Reactor 3 is two orders of magnitude lower than the density limit by the nuclear regulation, at 3.3E-05 Bq/cm3 (3.3x10^-5 Bq/cm3 or 0.000033 Bq/cm3, or 0.033 Bq/L, or 3 Bq/m3) for cesium-137, too low to account for several hundred millisieverts per hour radiation:

5. Reactor 3's Spent Fuel Pool is filled with debris big and small, but there are fuel assemblies inside the pool which are cooled with water (water temperature at 11.2 degrees Celsius as of 12/27/2013, from TEPCO's handout for the press.

Video taken in May 2011:

Video taken in September 2012:

Video taken in February 2013:

Again, photos of the Reactor 3 operating floor: (from TEPCO's photos and videos library) March 16, 2011:

March 24, 2011:

July 11, 2012:

September 21, 2012 (SFP, when TEPCO started removing the debris):

May 25, 2013:

October 10, 2013:

(OT) Abe's Yasukuni Shrine Visit and the "Disappointed" US: State Dept Spokesperson Tells Chinese Reporter to Go Get a Dictionary

and learn the difference between "disappointment", "regret" and "concern".

The Chinese reporter's question is quite legitimate, as the words used in diplomatic statements are (or should be) strictly defined and used to convey specific meanings. The US State Department, following the example of the US Embassy in Tokyo, chose the word "disappointed" in their statement regarding Japan's PM Abe's visit to Yasukuni Shrine on December 26, 2013.

But Ms. Harf, deputy spokesperson of the US State Department, told the reporter to get a dictionary and look up.

In passing, Ms. Harf also debunked the story floating in Japan and clearly in Asia that the State Department consulted the White House in choosing the word "disappointed". So much for that story.

From the Daily Press Briefing at the US State Department, 12/30/2013:

QUESTION: Some media reports that U.S. officials from State Department discussed with officials from White House and finally chose the word “disappointed” rather than “regret” or “concern” to express a stronger or tougher tone. I mean, what kind of message does U.S. trying to send to the Japanese Government?

MS. HARF: Well, I think our message is very clear from the words we chose. I don’t know those reports about interagency communications. Obviously, we talk to our colleagues at the White House all the time. I think we’ve made very clear that we were disappointed, that we think this will exacerbate tensions. I think those words are very clear in their meaning, and I wouldn’t probably wordsmith them any further to try and get deeper meaning out of them.

QUESTION: So you have no differences between “regret” --

MS. HARF: Us and the White House?

QUESTION: No, I mean the differences between “disappointed, “regret,” or “concern.”

MS. HARF: I’m happy for you to get a dictionary and look up what the difference is. I think it’s pretty clear what I mean when I say “disappointed.”

If you are in Japan or following the Japanese media and social media, you would know that this "disappointed" statement by Caroline Kennedy's US Embassy in Tokyo and the State Department has been causing a tremendous stress among Japanese citizens on and off the net.

It is almost comical to see people who normally accuse the Japanese government (particularly the LDP one under PM Abe and more specifically Mr. Abe himself) of always taking orders from and following orders of the United States quite upset that Mr. Abe defied the US (who had reportedly expressed opposition to the visit) and so upset the US that the US issued "such a strong statement" using the word "disappointed".

Most Japanese only understand the Japanese word for "disappointed" - which can be translated into Japanese as 失望 (shitsu-bo), or literally "loss of hope", and that's the Japanese word that the US Embassy chose (I presume, and not Googled) in the provisional (reference) Japanese translation.

In the Press Briefing video, Ms. Harf looks annoyed that she has to work at the end of December.

Monday, December 30, 2013

#Fukushima I NPP: Multi-Nuclide Removal System (ALPS) May Be Obsolete Even Before It Starts Full Operation

TEPCO was counting on the multi-nuclide removal system ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System) to be operational in the summer of 2012, so that the only remaining radionuclide in the water going through the treatment cycle would be tritium.

The system, advertised as Toshiba's system but in fact developed by EnergySolutions based in Utah in the United States, was supposed to remove strontium and a host of other alpha, beta and gamma nuclides that still exist after cesium absorption (by SARRY and Kurion) and desalination (reverse osmosis, mostly).

The first hiccup came when Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) was abolished and replaced by Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) in September 2012. NRA demanded additional safety tests of the vessels that would store highly radioactive waste after the treatment by ALPS, and hot tests were delayed. Then throughout this year, the system with three lines were on again off again in hot tests that started in March this year because of the leaks from tanks and vessels from what look like poor welds. (For ALPS problems, see my posts here.)

Then around October this year, I started to hear that there would be another set of ALPS to accelerate the treatment. But then in November, I read a magazine article in which a researcher said the current ALPS was not capable of effectively removing strontium, and an entirely new system needed to be developed.

Then finally I found this document (PDF) in the website of Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (who continues to be in charge of promoting the nuclear energy and for reasons unknown to me in charge of dealing with contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant):

The first meeting of a task force for a high performance multi-nuclide removal system

November 29, 2013

prepared by Tokyo Electric Power Company, Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy, and Toshiba

This document (available only in Japanese) is from the first meeting of the task force on November 29, 2013 at METI. I believe it was a closed meeting, and there was no news coverage as far as I know.

The presentation is, as often the case with TEPCO's, a fine example of how not to make a presentation as each page is jammed with information some of which does not belong on the page. So I'm doing my best to piece together a cohesive story here.

First, this is the current ALPS system, in trial hot runs at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant:

(From TEPCO's 3/29/2013 presentation in English)

Take note of the "Pretreatment Facilities", made up of iron coprecipitation and carbonate coprecipitation systems, and producing highly contaminated slurry as waste product to be stored in the "high integrity containers (HIC)" (I believe it was these containers that NRA wanted tested for integrity by dropping from height).

Now, it turns out that this pretreatment system produces too much waste product, according to the document at METI (English translation is mine):

"Estimated total waste product from the existing system is 2,300m3 annually (800 High Integrity Containers), 95% of which is the slurry from pretreatment (iron coprecipitation and carbonate coprecipitation)."


"In order to reduce waste product, we need to develop a radionuclide removal process that does not use iron coprecipitation and carbonate coprecipitation but is able to remove radionuclides as well as, or better than, the existing system."

Uh oh. After paying Toshiba and Kajima (construction) a ton of money to build a huge system (see the photos below) that is not even in full operation yet, they need a new one because the current one produces too much waste.

What I don't understand is that they, particularly Toshiba who picked EnergySolution's technology, should have known from the very beginning that the current ALPS system would create a large amount of slurry from coprecipitation process, much like the decontamination system by AREVA that use coprecipitation process (AREVA's system was stopped and practically abandoned when too much, highly radioactive slurry was created as the waste, on top of numerous technical problems).

But wait, it is not just about the amount of toxic waste that the existing ALPS is not performing to expectations. It's also about how it removes radionuclides.

From the document at METI, TEPCO/Toshiba(/Hitachi-GE) thought radionuclides, particularly cesium and strontium, existed in the contaminated water as "ions" at the time when the current ALPS system was being designed. However, it turns out that the nuclides exist in the contaminated water mostly as "colloids" and "particulates", not "ions". The existing ALPS system is fitted with ion-exchange media from the Finnish company Fortum. Uh Oh.

More than 93% of cesium-137 in the post-RO (reverse osmosis for desalination) waste water exists as "colloids", less than 2% as "ions" and 5% as "particulates".

59% of all beta (strontium-89, -90, Y-90) exists as "colloids", 37% as "particulates", and 4% as "ions".

The existing absorption materials (in vessels) can only remove these nuclides in "ion" form. The nuclides in "colloids" and "particulates" are removed by the pretreatment process, thus the large amount of slurry waste.

So now, after two full years of building and testing the ALPS, it is obsolete even before it reaches full operation.

At least this was on TEPCO's own money, not the taxpayers' money, though I feel sorry for the workers made to work in a high-radiation environment.

ALPS (photo taken on September 16, 2012):

housed in :

(OT) Performance of East Asian Stock Markets in 2013

Maybe this is one of the reasons Japan's Abe decided to go visit the war shrine, thinking his "Abenomics" has won...

From January 4 to December 30, 2013:

  • Japan's Nikkei: up over 50%

  • Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index: flat

  • Shanghai's Composit Index: down 8%

  • South Korea's Kospi: flat

(Chart created at stockcharts.com)

Of course the depreciating currency of Japan has helped a great deal.

Japanese yen, from November 2012 to December 2013:

The Japanese government and the South Korean government have reduced the size of the currency swaps since October 2012 to an insignificant level ($10 billion). Though the South Korean government has since expanded the currency swaps with China, it now has less ammo to cheapen its own currency.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

(UPDATED) Reuters Special Report: Japan's Homeless Recruited for Murky Fukushima Clean-Up

(UPDATE 12/30/2013) It was almost amusing to view a tweet from someone apparently in Fukushima Prefecture quoting my tweet (in Japanese) about the Reuters article below, who said what a terrible translation my tweet was (probably without even seeing the English article). What part was terrible for this person? That there were 733 companies contracting decon work in Fukushima from the Ministry of the Environment, apparently. Go figure.

(UPDATE 12/30/2013) Short video news from Reuters on the subject:


Remember the State Secrecy Protection Law that passed on a Friday in November in Japan? One of my twitter followers commented, "Good timing. No one will remember it on Monday."

Sure enough, the Japanese national media almost completely dropped their coverage the next Monday. So much for the citizens' right to know, and freedom of the press that they harped about when the Upper House was debating the bill.

They said, almost all of them, "If the law passes, the coverage of the Fukushima nuclear accident will be suppressed by the government."

Well the Japanese media doesn't need the secrecy law to stop writing about the nuclear accident, as no one in the Japanese national media ever writes about what the US Reuters just wrote about.

Reuters reports that Japan's homeless continue to be recruited to work in the decontamination jobs in Fukushima Prefecture, and some of them are forced to go into debt by doing so. Five companies in the Ministry of the Environment registry for decontamination jobs cannot even be identified, says Reuters.

Taxpayers' money at work, and no report, no naming names in the Japanese media.

From Reuters (12/29/2013; part, emphasis is mine):

Special Report: Japan's homeless recruited for murky Fukushima clean-up

By Mari Saito and Antoni Slodkowski

(Reuters) - Seiji Sasa hits the train station in this northern Japanese city before dawn most mornings to prowl for homeless men.

He isn't a social worker. He's a recruiter. The men in Sendai Station are potential laborers that Sasa can dispatch to contractors in Japan's nuclear disaster zone for a bounty of $100 a head.

"This is how labor recruiters like me come in every day," Sasa says, as he strides past men sleeping on cardboard and clutching at their coats against the early winter cold.

It's also how Japan finds people willing to accept minimum wage for one of the most undesirable jobs in the industrialized world: working on the $35 billion, taxpayer-funded effort to clean up radioactive fallout across an area of northern Japan larger than Hong Kong.

Almost three years ago, a massive earthquake and tsunami leveled villages across Japan's northeast coast and set off multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Today, the most ambitious radiation clean-up ever attempted is running behind schedule. The effort is being dogged by both a lack of oversight and a shortage of workers, according to a Reuters analysis of contracts and interviews with dozens of those involved.

In January, October and November, Japanese gangsters were arrested on charges of infiltrating construction giant Obayashi Corp's network of decontamination subcontractors and illegally sending workers to the government-funded project.

In the October case, homeless men were rounded up at Sendai's train station by Sasa, then put to work clearing radioactive soil and debris in Fukushima City for less than minimum wage, according to police and accounts of those involved. The men reported up through a chain of three other companies to Obayashi, Japan's second-largest construction company.

Obayashi, which is one of more than 20 major contractors involved in government-funded radiation removal projects, has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But the spate of arrests has shown that members of Japan's three largest criminal syndicates - Yamaguchi-gumi, Sumiyoshi-kai and Inagawa-kai - had set up black-market recruiting agencies under Obayashi.



Part of the problem in monitoring taxpayer money in Fukushima is the sheer number of companies involved in decontamination, extending from the major contractors at the top to tiny subcontractors many layers below them. The total number has not been announced. But in the 10 most contaminated towns and a highway that runs north past the gates of the wrecked plant in Fukushima, Reuters found 733 companies were performing work for the Ministry of Environment, according to partial contract terms released by the ministry in August under Japan's information disclosure law.

Reuters found 56 subcontractors listed on environment ministry contracts worth a total of $2.5 billion in the most radiated areas of Fukushima that would have been barred from traditional public works because they had not been vetted by the construction ministry.

The 2011 law that regulates decontamination put control under the environment ministry, the largest spending program ever managed by the 10-year-old agency. The same law also effectively loosened controls on bidders, making it possible for firms to win radiation removal contracts without the basic disclosure and certification required for participating in public works such as road construction.

Reuters also found five firms working for the Ministry of Environment that could not be identified. They had no construction ministry registration, no listed phone number or website, and Reuters could not find a basic corporate registration disclosing ownership. There was also no record of the firms in the database of Japan's largest credit research firm, Teikoku Databank.

"As a general matter, in cases like this, we would have to start by looking at whether a company like this is real," said Shigenobu Abe, a researcher at Teikoku Databank. "After that, it would be necessary to look at whether this is an active company and at the background of its executive and directors."

Responsibility for monitoring the hiring, safety records and suitability of hundreds of small firms involved in Fukushima's decontamination rests with the top contractors, including Kajima Corp, Taisei Corp and Shimizu Corp, officials said.

"In reality, major contractors manage each work site," said Hide Motonaga, deputy director of the radiation clean-up division of the environment ministry.

But, as a practical matter, many of the construction companies involved in the clean-up say it is impossible to monitor what is happening on the ground because of the multiple layers of contracts for each job that keep the top contractors removed from those doing the work.

"If you started looking at every single person, the project wouldn't move forward. You wouldn't get a tenth of the people you need," said Yukio Suganuma, president of Aisogo Service, a construction company that was hired in 2012 to clean up radioactive fallout from streets in the town of Tamura.

Seiji Sasa, 67, a broad-shouldered former wrestling promoter, was photographed by undercover police recruiting homeless men at the Sendai train station to work in the nuclear cleanup. The workers were then handed off through a chain of companies reporting up to Obayashi, as part of a $1.4 million contract to decontaminate roads in Fukushima, police say.

"I don't ask questions; that's not my job," Sasa said in an interview with Reuters. "I just find people and send them to work. I send them and get money in exchange. That's it. I don't get involved in what happens after that."

Only a third of the money allocated for wages by Obayashi's top contractor made it to the workers Sasa had found. The rest was skimmed by middlemen, police say. After deductions for food and lodging, that left workers with an hourly rate of about $6, just below the minimum wage equal to about $6.50 per hour in Fukushima, according to wage data provided by police. Some of the homeless men ended up in debt after fees for food and housing were deducted, police say.

Sasa was arrested in November and released without being charged. Police were after his client, Mitsunori Nishimura, a local Inagawa-kai gangster. Nishimura housed workers in cramped dorms on the edge of Sendai and skimmed an estimated $10,000 of public funding intended for their wages each month, police say.


In Fukushima, Shuto has faced at least two claims with local labor regulators over unpaid wages, according to Kaneda. In a separate case, a 55-year-old homeless man reported being paid the equivalent of $10 for a full month of work at Shuto. The worker's paystub, reviewed by Reuters, showed charges for food, accommodation and laundry were docked from his monthly pay equivalent to about $1,500, leaving him with $10 at the end of the August.

The man turned up broke and homeless at Sendai Station in October after working for Shuto, but disappeared soon afterwards, according to Yasuhiro Aoki, a Baptist pastor and homeless advocate.

Kaneda confirmed the man had worked for her but said she treats her workers fairly. She said Shuto Kogyo pays workers at least $80 for a day's work while docking the equivalent of $35 for food. Many of her workers end up borrowing from her to make ends meet, she said. One of them had owed her $20,000 before beginning work in Fukushima, she says. The balance has come down recently, but then he borrowed another $2,000 for the year-end holidays.

"He will never be able to pay me back," she said.

The problem of workers running themselves into debt is widespread. "Many homeless people are just put into dormitories, and the fees for lodging and food are automatically docked from their wages," said Aoki, the pastor. "Then at the end of the month, they're left with no pay at all."

Shizuya Nishiyama, 57, says he briefly worked for Shuto clearing rubble. He now sleeps on a cardboard box in Sendai Station. He says he left after a dispute over wages, one of several he has had with construction firms, including two handling decontamination jobs.

Nishiyama's first employer in Sendai offered him $90 a day for his first job clearing tsunami debris. But he was made to pay as much as $50 a day for food and lodging. He also was not paid on the days he was unable to work. On those days, though, he would still be charged for room and board. He decided he was better off living on the street than going into debt.

"We're an easy target for recruiters," Nishiyama said. "We turn up here with all our bags, wheeling them around and we're easy to spot. They say to us, are you looking for work? Are you hungry? And if we haven't eaten, they offer to find us a job."

(Full article at the link)

Shuto, in the article, is a contractor who hires and sends workers to Fukushima. Ms. Kaneda, who generously lends money to workers to make ends meet after her firm deducts a ton of money from their pay, was arrested in 2009 for charging illegally high interest rates on loans to pensioners, says Reuters.

Most people in Japan continue to look toward the horizon longingly where the beautiful nuclear-free future is supposed to lie, while pretending not to know the not-so-pleasant details of the nuclear accident.

(OT) Is This the Level of Understanding on Fukushima I NPP Accident in the US?

(UPDATE 12/31/2013) For those who want the summary of the steam incident since July this year and the Reactor 3 operating floor condition since the March 2011 accident, I have a new post.


An acquaintance who casually follows the Fukushima I NPP accident sent me a link, quite worried. I opened the link, and I started laughing, then I despaired - realizing that this may be the current level of understanding in the US when it comes to the Fukushima I NPP accident.

I have no idea who this is ("Turner Radio Network - Free Speech, No Matter Who Doesn't Like It"), but it has an urgent news flash on December 28, 2013:

Persons residing on the west coast of North America should IMMEDIATELY begin preparing for another possible onslaught of dangerous atmospheric radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster site in Japan. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) says radioactive steam has suddenly begun emanating from previously exploded nuclear reactor building #3 at the Fukuishima disaster site in Japan. TEPCO says they do not know why this is happening and cannot go into the building to see what's happening due to damage and lethal radiation levels in that building. Experts say this could be the beginning of a "spent fuel pool criticality (meltdown)" ...

The page shows a photograph of Reactor 3 steaming vigorously to lend support to the contention above.

The problem? It is a photo from March 2011 right after the building blew up.

Further down the post,

The video below was taken several months ago by TEPCO. It shows that the roof is totally blown off reactor building # 3

Uh... no. All the debris on the operating floor of Reactor 3 has been painstakingly removed, piece by piece, by remote-control cranes and shovels supervised by carbon-based human workers wearing tungsten vests who were physically there on the platform surrounding the reactor building.

The readers of this blog know (I hope) about the story of this "steam" rising from Reactor 3's operating floor. The best hypothesis so far is that this is a combination of rainwater going through the gaps and reaching the Containment Vessel below and being heated up and the steam leaking from a breach somewhere in the Containment Vessel as nitrogen gas is injected into the CV. The steam tends to get observed when it is raining or after it rains.

The steam rising from the gap in the Reactor 3 operating floor looks like this:

I suppose it is free speech to claim this is vigorous enough to reach the height of the jet stream and hit the west coast of North America. Or, to use the favorite refrain among many Japanese, "erring on the side of caution".

The lack of coverage of the Fukushima nuclear accident by the established media in the US has been being filled by the alternative media. For good or bad.

For those who care to know, this is what the operating floor of Reactor 3 looked like, and looks like now (from TEPCO's photos and videos library):

March 16, 2011:

March 24, 2011:

July 11, 2012:

September 21, 2012 (SFP, when TEPCO started removing the debris):

May 25, 2013:

October 10, 2013:

Saturday, December 28, 2013

#Fukushima Reactor 4 SFP Fuel Assembly Removal: Cracked Channel Box from 1982

Back in November right before they started removing fuel assemblies from the Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor 4, TEPCO announced (again) that there were three spent fuel assemblies in the pool that had been deformed.

The company released the photos of one of the assemblies on December 27, 2013, whose protective case (channel box) is cracked in several locations. According to the incident report filed with Nucia (Nuclear Information Archive maintained by Japan Nuclear Safety Institute), the incident happened in 1982 when workers not thoroughly familiar with the fuel removal procedure made a series of mistakes.

From TEPCO's photos and videos library (12/27/2013):

A fuel assembly is about 4.5 meters long; of that, the channel box is about 4.2 meters long.

If you care to know what TEPCO has to say about the fuel assembly removal operation in Reactor 4, here's their PDF presentation in English.

One of several workers who have been tweeting from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, "Sunny", says:


It's not that TEPCO hid the fuel assembly damage. It's been reported on official sites like Nucia. It just shows how uninterested people were in nuclear power [until the Fukushima accident].


I didn't even know there were 54 nuclear reactors dotting the scenic coastlines in Japan.

(OT) Abe's Visit to Yasukuni Shrine Was Timed With Progress on Okinawa Base

Japan's Prime Minister Abe visited Yasukuni Shrine on December 26 to the resulting loud condemnation of the world's governments and entities.

It was exactly when the prospect of a breakthrough in the construction (or prep thereof) a new US military base in Okinawa was greater than ever (and sure enough on the next day the governor of Okinawa gave his approval of the project, to the loud condemnation from Okinawans who felt betrayed by the governor).

I thought these two events were related, and were presented as a "package", so to speak, to the US government. It is as if to say:

"I visited the shrine. So? I also won the approval from the Okinawa governor of a long-standing issue of a new base in Okinawa. Add two together. Is it net positive or negative for the US interest?"

Abe was confident, clearly, that the it was net positive for the US, and went to the shrine.

The Wall Street Journal's article (12/28/2013) seems to agree with me, though all I can read, as a non-subscriber, is the headline and the first paragraph (emphasis is mine):

Abe's Style Presents U.S. With Dilemma

Japanese Prime Minister Timed Shrine Visit Around Progress on Okinawa Base, Aides Say

TOKYO—In just a matter of days, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has drawn both praise and censure from the U.S., underlining how his assertive style presents a dilemma for Washington policy makers needing his help to counter China's influence in the region.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Japanese Agricultural Export in 2013 to Surpass 500 Billion Yen for the First Time in 5 Years

(UPDATE) Wait a minute.... Japanese yen has depreciated by 30 percent against the US dollar compared to one year ago. Of course the amount of export would "increase", because of the exchange rate difference.


and may come very close to, if not pass, the all-time high of 532.8 billion yen (US$5.328 dollars) in 1984.

40% of all agricultural export is fish and marine products.

Buyers are Hong Kong and other Asian countries, and the United States.

Jiji Tsushin (12/27/2013) reports:


Agricultural export in 2013 is set to surpass 500 billion yen for the first time in 5 years


It has been revealed that the food and agricultural export in 2013 is set to surpass 500 billion yen [US$5 billion] for the first time in 5 years. The agricultural export dipped temporarily due to baseless rumors after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, but in 2013 it has rebounded markedly, growing by more than 20% compared to last year because of the [superior] taste and safety of the Japanese products and the worldwide popularity of the Japanese cuisine. It may approach the all-time high of 532.8 billion yen in 1984.


According to the data collected by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the amount of export from January to October in 2013 grew 23% compared to the same period last year to 443.1 billion yen [US$4.431 billion]. Fish and marine products make up 40% of the export, and they grew by 32.4% in 2013. The growth came from brisk sales of Japanese scallops and mackerels. Export of processed foods also grew by double digit.


Main export destinations include Hong Kong and other Asian countries and the United States. When the November result, to be announced in the first half of January next year, is added, the cumulative amount of agricultural export from January to November 2013 is expected to reach 490 billion yen [US$4.9 billion]. When the December result is added, it may make a new all-time high.

Jiji reports as if the drop in agricultural export were caused by "baseless rumors". If I remember correctly, many countries in the world banned or severely restricted the import of agricultural products from Japan because of radioactive materials (radioactive iodine and cesium for the most part) found in them after the nuclear accident.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

(OT) Meanwhile at the Japan Society of Coloproctology...

It's even wilder than the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence, I think.

Coloproctology is a branch of medicine dealing with pathology of the colon, rectum, and anus and colorectal surgery.

The poster of the 68th Annual Meeting of the Japan Society of Coloproctology:

People sure find strange things and post them on Twitter...

15-Nation Study on Low Dose Radiation Cancer Risks for Nuclear Workers May Have Been Skewed by Canadian Data

Particularly after the Fukushima nuclear accident, one of the often cited pieces of evidence that even the low dose radiation exposure (less than 100 millisieverts) can increase the risk of (solid) cancer is the study published in 2005 of more than 400,000 nuclear workers in 15 countries.

In looking for the study, I found instead an editorial in British Journal of Cancer (11/14/2013) that suggests the seminal 2005 study of nuclear workers may have been flawed due to the Canadian data that significantly skewed the result because of 3,088 Atomic Energy of Canada Limited workers who were employed between 1956 and 1964 and whose dose information may be incomplete.

For what it's worth. (Emphasis is mine.)

Nuclear worker studies: promise and pitfalls

R Wakeford1

1Centre for Occupational and Environmental Health, Institute of Population Health, The University of Manchester, Ellen Wilkinson Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PL, UK

Correspondence: Professor R Wakeford, E-mail: Richard.Wakeford@manchester.ac.uk

The publication in this issue of BJC of the findings of an updated study of Canadian nuclear industry workers by Zablotska et al (2013) invites enquiry into the background of this and similar studies. Nearly 40 years ago, the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (1976) opined that it would be desirable to conduct epidemiological studies of nuclear workers to directly assess risks to health from protracted occupational exposure to ionising radiation, to test the appropriateness of the assumptions made in setting radiation protection standards based largely on the experience of the acutely exposed Japanese survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The next year, the study by Mancuso et al (1977) on nuclear workers at Hanford, WA, appeared to show that cancer risks among these workers were greater than expected; the methodology of this study was heavily criticised (Hutchison et al, 1979), but it received much publicity.

In the United Kingdom, the National Registry for Radiation Workers (NRRW) was established in 1976 (Kendall et al, 1992), and nuclear worker studies were initiated in other countries, notably the United States of America (Gilbert et al, 1989) and Canada (Gribbin et al, 1993). However, it was recognised that international collaboration was highly desirable to increase the statistical power of the worker studies, and in 1988 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) agreed to coordinate such a collaboration, the first fruits of which appeared in 1995 and involved three countries and seven groups of workers, three from the United States of America (including Hanford), three from the United Kingdom (including Sellafield) and one from Canada (the workers of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, AECL) (Cardis et al, 1995). The combined data showed a positive association between the risk of mortality from leukaemia (excluding chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, CLL) and the cumulative recorded dose of radiation from external sources, which was of marginal statistical significance, and a (non-significantly) negative association for the risk of all other cancers combined, results that were compatible with conventional risk estimates (Cardis et al, 1995). For AECL workers, the estimates of the excess relative risk (ERR) per sievert were as follows: leukaemia excluding CLL (5 deaths), 48.40 (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.8, >100); all other cancers (324 deaths), 0.13 (95% CI: <0, 2.1) (Cardis et al, 1995).

The IARC-coordinated collaborative study was later extended to 15 countries, and the first report from this study was published in 2005 (Cardis et al, 2005). Although the trend of risk with cumulative external dose was positive for mortality from leukaemia excluding CLL, somewhat surprisingly given the findings of the three-country study it was not statistically significant; but the association with dose for all other cancers was both positive and significant – the ERR/Sv was 0.97 (95% CI: 0.14, 1.97). Moreover, the risk estimate for the group of all other cancers was only just compatible with the prediction of standard risk models, leading to controversial suggestions that the risk of cancer resulting from protracted exposure to radiation in the workplace has been underestimated.

The interpretation of the 15-country study was not, however, straightforward, and one aspect of the findings that troubled both me (Wakeford, 2005, 2009a) and others (United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, 2008; Boice, 2010) was the surprisingly large influence of the Canadian workers on the risk estimate for all other cancers – although the Canadian workers contributed around 4% of the deaths, the exclusion of these workers caused a ~40% reduction in the risk estimate (Wakeford, 2005). In fact, the ERR/Sv for the Canadian workers, 6.65 (90% CI: 2.56, 13.0), was notably and significantly larger than the ERR/Sv estimate for the combined workers from the other 14 countries, 0.58 (90% CI: −0.10, 1.39) (Cardis et al, 2007). Of course, this does not mean that the Canadian data are necessarily wrong, but scrutiny of previous findings of studies of Canadian workers, including the three-country study (Cardis et al, 1995), reveals an apparent upward step-change in risk estimates for the group of all other cancers that coincides with the start of the use of Canadian National Dose Registry (NDR) data in the analyses (Wakeford, 2009a).

Ashmore et al (2010) examined the NDR data for the AECL workers, the group of workers who seemed to be the primary reason for the upward change in the Canadian risk estimates. They identified a number of possible deficiencies in the AECL worker data used in the 15-country study, in particular those relating to the data before 1971. They called for a thorough examination of the Canadian worker data, and if appropriate, a new analysis of Canadian worker risks based on revised NDR data.

The Canadian worker data contributing to the 15-country study were those used in the study of Zablotska et al (2004) of workers from AECL and three Canadian electricity-generating companies. Now, Zablotska et al (2013) report the findings of an updated study of 45656 Canadian nuclear industry workers, following a detailed check of dosimetry and employment records, which resulted in a number of changes in the AECL data in the NDR. These revisions led to a reduction in the ERR/Sv for mortality from all solid cancers from 2.80 (95% CI: −0.04, 7.13) to 1.77 (95% CI: −0.42, 5.30), the latter risk estimate being driven by the AECL workers, 3.25 (95% CI: 0.11, 8.85). However, also revealed was a notable difference in the solid cancers ERR/Sv for 3088 (19%) of the AECL workers first employed during 1956–1964, 7.87 (95% CI: 1.88, 19.5), and those first employed after 1964, −1.03 (95% CI: <−1.66, 5.76). Zablotska et al (2013) conclude that the finding for the early AECL workers is likely to be due to remaining data inaccuracies, probably missing dose information, rather than a real effect of radiation exposure, and they believe that use of the pre-1965 AECL worker data cannot be justified until further investigation is undertaken.

So, it would appear that the most reliable results from the 15-country study are for the combined 14 countries excluding Canada, which are not exceptional (see above). For Canada, Zablotska et al (2013) propose that until the findings of further investigations of the AECL data are available, the ERR/Sv estimates should be taken to be those using the post-1964 AECL worker data combined with the data for the workers of the three generating companies: leukaemia excluding CLL (12 deaths), 14.4 (95% CI: <−1.49, 146), and all other cancers (347 deaths), −1.36 (95% CI: <−1.47, 1.98).

Zablotska et al (2013) have indicated that it is intended to further investigate the data for pre-1965 AECL workers with the intention of eventually including them in future studies. Hopefully, this investigation will prove fruitful as the earlier studies of all AECL workers based on an AECL dosimetry database rather than the NDR suggested that these early workers could contribute valuable data – for example, it was pointed out above that a statistically significant positive trend with dose for mortality from leukaemia excluding CLL, was previously reported for all AECL workers (Cardis et al, 1995). It is generally the case that early nuclear workers will have accumulated larger radiation doses than later workers, not only because they have worked longer, but also and importantly because doses received in the early years of the industry were greater (sometimes much greater) than those received in recent years. Consequently, the inclusion of such early workers will considerably improve statistical power, and this is especially the case for workforces in countries with nuclear programmes starting in the 1940s and 1950s, such as Canada. By way of illustration, the recently published third analysis of the NRRW included greater than 10000 workers with cumulative external radiation doses exceeding 100mSv (i.e., moderate doses), but at the time of the analysis only about one-quarter of these workers had died (Muirhead et al, 2009), suggesting that substantial information is still to come.

Studies on radiation workers have the potential to provide valuable evidence on the risks from protracted exposure to low-level radiation. International collaboration remains the obvious way of extracting as much information out of the available data as possible, and these collaborations should certainly continue (Wakeford, 2009b), but the difficulties in conducting such studies and interpreting the results should not be underestimated. The latest Canadian worker study by Zablotska et al (2013) illustrates the care that must be exercised in collating worker data, and the problems that can arise, especially when using data that may have been collected for purposes other than epidemiology.


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The 2005 study is part of the BEIR VII report (2006) as Appendix E.

From the 2005 report (Risk of cancer after low doses of ionising radiation: retrospective cohort study in 15 countries):

Fig 1 Distribution of cumulative radiation doses among workers included in the analyses

Fig 2 Excess relative risks per Sv for all cancer excluding leukaemia in cohorts with more than 100 deaths (NPP=nuclear power plants, ORNL=Oak Ridge National Laboratory)

The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) issued a report in June 2011 after they scrutinized the Canadian data.

From the executive summary of the CNSC report (emphasis is mine):

Reanalysis Main Findings

The main findings and recommendations from this reanalysis are:
• Approximately 42,200 NEWs [nuclear energy workers] from Hydro-Québec, New Brunswick Power Corporation, Ontario
Hydro, and Atomic Energy of Canada limited (AECl), first employed since 1965, had no increase in
risk of solid cancer mortality in relation to radiation exposure.
A group of 3,088 AECl NEWs first employed before 1965 (1956-1964) was the only group of workers
with a consistent radiation-associated increase in risk of solid cancer mortality.
The risk estimate was
statistically significant and was nine times higher than the risk estimates for workers with zero dose.
This group of AECl NEWs had a profound impact on the Canadian and 15-country study findings.
It is very likely that these early AECl NEWs have incomplete dose information (i.e., their doses are
Despite this apparent increase in cancer risk among early AECl NEWs, a comparison using the
Canadian Mortality Database showed statistically significant lower rates of all causes of death and
cancer mortality for this group than for the general Canadian population
. This fact reinforces CNSC
concerns that there remains a data problem as opposed to a true increase in their risk of solid cancer
• Further investigation of this group of early AECl NEWs is necessary to ensure the accuracy and
completeness of radiation dose records in the National Dose Registry (NDR).

Conclusions and Path Forward

• The CNSC’s reanalysis confirms that there is no increased cancer risk among any Canadian nuclear
power plant workers for any time period or for AECl NEWs first employed since 1965.
• While the data suggests an increased solid cancer mortality risk for AECl NEWs first employed
before 1965 (1956-1964), a comparison using the Canadian Mortality Database shows lower rates of
all causes of death and cancer mortality for this group than for the general Canadian population.
The CNSC does not have confidence in the historical AECl dose data (1956-1964). The apparent
increase in the risk of solid cancer mortality for these early AECl NEWs deserves further
• The CNSC, Health Canada and AECl are further assessing the dose data of early AECl NEWs to
resolve the existing outstanding issues. Health Canada has agreed not to share the Canadian cohort
for any further epidemiological research until the quality of the data file has been confirmed.

Effort, often systematic, to underestimate radiation exposure of the Fukushima I NPP workers would mean the dose data of the workers cannot be used in epidemiological studies in the future.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

(UPDATED with US Embassy Statement) Japan's Prime Minister Goes to Yasukuni Shrine, Defying the Stern Warning from the US Administration, Says a Japanese TV Station

In the morning of December 26, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe went to Yasukuni Shrine where the war-dead, including those found guilty by the Tokyo tribunal and executed after the World War II, are enshrined.

Nikkei Shinbun says Abe's decision was in part based on the urging from the politicians from LDP's conservative wing (Mr. Abe's base) who concluded that it was impossible to placate China no matter what, as China unilaterally declared the air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over Senkaku Islands.

Then, FNN (Fuji News Network), one of Japanese TV network, reports (12/26/2013) that Abe's visit was in defiance of the strong US objection:

安倍首相靖国参拝 アメリカ側は事前に「日米関係害する」と反対

Prime Minister Abe to visit Yasukuni Shrine, the US objected as "harming the US-Japan relationship"


Prime Minister Abe visits Yasukuni Shrine in Kudan Kita in Tokyo on December 26, one year anniversary of his administration. FNN has found that the US strongly objected to the visit, telling prime minister's advisor Eto that the visit would "harm the US-Japan relationship" when Eto visited the US for consultation in November.


Mr. Eto went to the US in mid November to meet with key officials including Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs [Daniel] Russel over the prime minister's visit to Yasukuni.


At that time, [FNN learned that] the US strongly opposed the visit, saying "President Obama will not be positive about it", "It will harm Japan's reputation, resulting in lessening the influence of Japan in Asia."


There were worries that the visit would worsen the relationship with Korea. It would also give China an excuse to insist that Japan is causing the tension to rise, putting China in a better position.


Since [PM Abe] visited the shrine despite the objection from the US, there are worries that this may negatively affect the US-Japan relationship even as Japan has important issues including TPP (Transpacific Partnership) and revising the guidelines [for defense cooperation] between Japan and the US.

When they visited Japan in October, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and State Secretary John Kerry went to Chidorigafuchi instead, a strong hint that the US would expect the Abe administration to start de-emphasizing the controversial Yasukuni.

AFP has Abe's comment:

Tokyo (AFP) - Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Thursday his visit to the controversial Yasukuni war shrine was a pledge that Japan would not go to war again and was not intended to hurt Chinese or South Koreans.

"I chose this day to report (to enshrined spirits) what we have done in the year since the administration launched and to pledge and determine that never again will people suffer in war," he told reporters at the shrine.

"I am aware that, because of misunderstandings, some people criticise a visit to Yasukuni shrine as an act of worshipping war criminals, but I made my visit to pledge to create an era where people will never suffer from catastrophe in war," Abe said.

"I have no intention at all to hurt the feelings of Chinese or South Korean people."

A Chinese foreign ministry official condemned his visit as "absolutely unacceptable to the Chinese people".

By the way, how many "war criminals" are enshrined in Yasukuni?

14, out of 2,466,532 war dead since the Boshin War (1868-69) that toppled the Tokugawa Shogunate and ushered in the Meiji era of imperial Japan supported by the winners of the war (Choshu, Satsuma).

Kyodo News reports that the US Embassy in Japan issued a statement saying the US is disappointed. There's nothing on the US Embassy website, but the tweet by the Embassy Press Office has a link to the statement:

December 26, 2013

Japan is a valued ally and friend. Nevertheless, the United States is disappointed that Japan's leadership has taken an action that will exacerbate tensions with Japan's neighbors.

The United States hopes that both Japan and its neighbors will find constructive ways to deal with sensitive issues from the past, to improve their relations, and to promote cooperation in advancing our shared goals of regional peace and stability.

We take note of the Prime Minister’s expression of remorse for the past and his reaffirmation of Japan's commitment to peace.

The US Embassy has the provisional Japanese translation of the statement, which seems, to me, overly harsh by selecting the particular ending pattern for the sentences.

(OT) Japan's Obsession with Humanoid Robot Goes Creepy

Some call it degrading to women, others call it a male fantasy. Either way, it is creepy. Mechanically, it makes absolutely zero sense.

Who is this entity that came up with this?

It is the Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence, putting a new front cover for its academic journal:

The best-selling cleaning robot in Japan is a round disk from a US company that is not tethered and which doesn't carry a bloom (or a book):

Rumba's colleagues, albeit in a very different form, are still working hard at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, sometimes alone, sometimes assisting other robots.

Most recently, a Packbot is assisting the decontamination robot "Raccoon" in decontaminating the floor surface of Reactor 2.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

(OT) Merry Christmas

From Edward Snowden, via UK's Channel 4:

and from me, on the third Christmas since the March 11, 2011 accident,

Hallelujah Chorus, from "Messiah" by George Frederick Handel:

#Fukushima Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool: 132/1533 As of December 24, 2013

TEPCO has a new page that summarizes the operation of removing fuel assemblies from the Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor 4.

According to TEPCO, 132 fuel assemblies have been removed from the Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool into the Common Pool, out of total 1,533 assemblies.

(Nice color scheme... my favorite color combination.)

The tally is updated weekly (on Monday).

Since the removal started on November 18, people's interest in the work, which had been hyped as basically a "disaster that would end the world" if gone wrong by experts, particularly in North America, has dropped off significantly to an almost non-existent level. I don't see any reporting by the Japanese media, I don't even see tweets by people in Japan who were screaming the end of the world if TEPCO proceeded to remove the fuel assemblies from the "toppling" Reactor 4.

I guess they've moved on.

#Fukushima I NPP: Another Day, Another Leak (of 225 Tonnes, Maybe)

The huge storage tanks riveted together in haste at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in mid 2011 to hold highly contaminated waste water after cesium absorption and reverse osmosis treatment continue to be a headache for TEPCO, though not a big one as in August this year when supposedly 300 tonnes of this waste water were suspected to have leaked from one such tank into the surrounding soil (for more, see posts on "RO waste water leak of August 2013").

Leaks found on December 21 and 22 was not the waste water but rainwater accumulated inside the concrete/steel plate barrier that surrounds the concrete pad on which these tanks stand.

How did 225 tonnes of rainwater contaminated with up to 440 Bq/L of strontium leak? From cracks in the concrete barrier and the concrete pad. Looking at the photos from TEPCO, I think I can almost tell which brand of sealants at neighborhood DIY stores that absolutely do not work as promised.

Well, let's just say TEPCO's ingenuity in emergency in April 2011 of using bath salts and saw dusts and shredded newspaper and baby diaper polymer to trace and stop the extremely radioactive water (with more than 1 Sievert/hour radiation) continues to this day.

The legal density limit for strontium in discharge water is 50 Bq/L, and TEPCO's internal standard is 10 Bq/L.

From TEPCO's photos and videos library, 12/22/2013:


and solution (note the two-level metal barriers installed this year to prevent the overflow):

More solutions using waterproof sealant, from TEPCO's 12/24/2013 photos:

Sealant along the crack:

and sandbags:

and waterproof paint:

The Asahi article (12/24/2013) says strontium is most likely from the concrete surface. TEPCO says cesium was below detection level.

Still, I'm more optimistic about the plant these days compared to, say the first week of the accident in March 2011 when the reactor buildings were blowing up one after another with no power supply to the plant (which wasn't restored until April 4, 2011) and to the central control rooms to figure out what was going on.

Almost by sheer luck, the Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor 4 was "refilled" when the gate that separated the Spent Fuel Pool and the Reactor Well/DSP partially broke after the explosive event on March 15, 2011 that wrecked the operating floor; the water that was in the Reactor Well/DSP flooded the SFP, restoring the water level in the pool.

Despite numerous declarations and predictions by mostly overseas experts for the past two years, the Reactor 4 building is still standing, and from all measurements done so far, not even tilting or bulging or cracking beyond the design standard. (You are always free to exercise the freedom of speech and declare TEPCO is lying.)

Instead, the disaster that continues to unfold at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant has been of slow, whack-a-mole type since the initial explosions in March 2011. No scary enough headlines that would allow experts and bloggers to scream "disaster" and declare the world's end, but it is disheartening (partly because they seem so trivial and made worse by TEPCO's incompetence and lack of hands-on knowledge - or I should say lack of workers with hands-on knowledge and experience) nonetheless and demoralizing.

So much so that it almost makes one want an actual, huge disaster to happen at the plant.