Saturday, May 12, 2012

Political Remarks of the Day from Goshi Hosono, Ichiro Matsui (Governor of Osaka)

The former we've known long enough to not to expect brilliant comments from. The latter teams up with the boy-wonder mayor of Osaka City (who is being set up as the next prime minister - the horror, the horror) and is eager to accept disaster debris to Osaka and burn and bury in the Osaka Bay.

First, Goshi Hosono, Minister of the Environment and Minister in charge of the nuclear accident, from Yomiuri Shinbun (5/12/2012):


Fukushima is not suited to become the final disposal site for nuclear fuel, Mr. Hosono says


On May 12, Minister of the Environment Hosono attended the meeting in Koriyama City in Fukushima Prefecture with the residents who evacuated from Okuma-machi, where Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is located.


The residents expressed worries to Mr. Hosono that the final disposal site for nuclear fuel in Japan may be built somewhere in the Futaba-gun's 8 municipalities including Okuma-machi. Mr. Hosono definitely denied the possibility, saying "Fukushima was hit by a big tsunami, and therefore it is not suited to become the final disposal site."

Ummm. All of Japan's nuclear reactors are located right on the ocean, and just about the entire Japanese archipelago is full of active faults running through it. There are plate junctions capable of producing large earthquakes and tsunami.

Next, Governor of Osaka Ichiro Matsui tweets, trying to convince people in Osaka that the disaster debris from Tohoku is totally free of plutonium:


Many people seem to misunderstand about the debris disposal. But plutonium from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant accident didn't reach Iwate. Plutonium's specific gravity is large, and it is not confirmed to have flown a long distance.

Uh... Researchers have found Fukushima-origin plutonium in Lithuania. (Maybe Lithuania is located just south of Fuku I Plant?)

I don't think the Ministry of Education and Science ever tested the soil samples for plutonium outside Fukushima and southern Miyagi. But that shouldn't deter these politicians (or the radiation/nuclear experts for that matter) from declaring one thing or another. If they keep repeating it, sooner or later it will become "true", particularly in the post-Fukushima Japan.

#Radioactive Japan: Spring Athletic Event at One Elementary School in Fukushima

News clip from TBS News (5/12/2012).

Of the same event, Sankei Shinbun (5/12/2012) quotes the school official who said they had replaced the soil in the school yard (and that is considered "decontamination") which lowered the air radiation level to 0.13 to 0.18 microsievert/hour. For elementary schools, I believe they measure at 50 centimeters off the ground, but it could be at one meter, looking at those white, cylindrical monitoring devices.

Friday, May 11, 2012

#Radioactive Japan: All Elementary Schools in Fukushima City Will Have Outdoor Athetic Meets This Year

As if radioactive cesium disappears in one year. It has surely disappeared from the minds of school administrators, teachers, and probably the parents.

The photo is from Chunichi Shinbun (5/11/2012), citing Kyodo News. Kids wearing masks to play "ball-tossing" game to avoid dust.

Japan Times quoting Kyodo News (5/11/2012):

FUKUSHIMA — All 51 municipal elementary schools in the city of Fukushima will hold their sports festivals outside this year, starting Saturday, after two-thirds held them indoors or canceled them last year amid the nuclear crisis triggered by the March earthquake and tsunami, the city's board of education said Thursday.

Each school decided to hold the annual event outside after the amount of radiation measured on school grounds was reduced due to decontamination efforts, according to the board of education.

Last year, only 18 of the schools held their sports events outdoors, while 11 canceled them and 22 held them indoors due to radiation fears due to the triple meltdown crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Some of the schools will take measures to avoid possible radiation contamination to the students by shortening the time schedule for the meets or canceling games that could force children to touch the ground, such as tug of war, the board of education said.

Schools typically hold sports festivals in spring or fall outdoors. But many schools in the city of Fukushima postponed the events to last fall and all of the spring festivals were held in indoor facilities.

For more fun school events for kids in the post-Fukushima Japan, see my list.

"Decontamination efforts" for the most part involved replacing the top soil of the school yards sometime in last year, once. In one of the highest radiation areas in Fukushima City, Watari District, the city did the "model decontamination" of the school routes last summer by cleaning gutters and washing the sidewalks. The radiation level dropped about 25% to 1.1 to 1.3 microsievert/hour then.

But those who have remained inside Fukushima this long seem to be doubling down, so to speak. I hear about the citizens's groups holding seminars in major cities like Fukushima City and Koriyama City to "correctly fear the radiation", which seems to mean "trying not to think about it because there's not much they can do about it".

Radiation Effects Research Foundation's Latest Studies of the Mortality of Atomic Bomb Survivors: "There Was No Threshold"

Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF) is the successor organization of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC) to conduct investigations of the late effects of radiation among the atomic-bomb survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In its 14th report on mortality in the Life Span Study (LSS) cohort of atomic bomb survivors published in March this year in the "Radiation Research" magazine, the official journal of the US Radiation Research Society, the researchers at RERF say there was no "threshold":

  • Importantly, for solid cancers the additive radiation risk (i.e., excess cancer cases per 104 person-years per Gy) continues to increase throughout life with a linear dose–response relationship.

  • The estimated lowest dose range with a significant ERR [excess relative risk] for all solid cancer was 0 to 0.20 Gy, and a formal dose-threshold analysis indicated no threshold; i.e., zero dose was the best estimate of the threshold.

According to the blogger who posted the link to the paper says he/she called the Ministry of Health and Welfare on May 1 and asked: "Ministry of Health and Ministry of Foreign Affairs oversee the RERF. I understand from this report that it has now been epidemiologically proven that even a low-dose radiation exposure resulted in negative health effect such as dose-dependent increase in cancer. This is contrary to the position of the Japanese government which is based on the IRCP assertion that there is no epidemiological proof that there is a health risk in low-dose radiation exposure but the radiation protection standards are set assuming there is such a risk. Is there any press release planned by the Ministry of Health? Is my understanding correct?" The answer from the official in charge at the Ministry was, according to him/her, "Your understanding is correct. The Ministry doesn't have a plan for any press release, because the RERF has already done so."

There is hardly any coverage of this paper by the mainstream media in Japan.

While the RERF continues to study (and not treat) the effect of atomic bombs on human health, there is a worthy successor in Fukushima Medical University, headed by Dr. Shunichi Yamashita. He has been mostly quite successful in convincing the residents in Fukushima Prefecture to continue to live in Fukushima. That gives him close to 2 million subjects to study. By the way, Dr. Yamashita's stance is that "unless you are exposed to radiation at 100 millisieverts or more in a single episode, there is no increase in cancer risks". Well the RERF study seems to finally disprove that.

The abstract part of the paper by Ozasa, K., Shimizu, Y., Suyama, A., Kasagi, F., Soda, M., Grant, E. J., Sakata, R., Sugiyama, H. and Kodama, K. "Studies of the Mortality of Atomic Bomb Survivors, Report 14, 1950–2003: An Overview of Cancer and Noncancer Diseases. Radiat. Res. 177, 229–243 (2012)":

This is the 14th report in a series of periodic general reports on mortality in the Life Span Study (LSS) cohort of atomic bomb survivors followed by the Radiation Effects Research Foundation to investigate the late health effects of the radiation from the atomic bombs. During the period 1950–2003, 58% of the 86,611 LSS cohort members with DS02 dose estimates have died. The 6 years of additional follow-up since the previous report provide substantially more information at longer periods after radiation exposure (17% more cancer deaths), especially among those under age 10 at exposure (58% more deaths). Poisson regression methods were used to investigate the magnitude of the radiation-associated risks, the shape of the dose response, and effect modification by gender, age at exposure, and attained age. The risk of all causes of death was positively associated with radiation dose. Importantly, for solid cancers the additive radiation risk (i.e., excess cancer cases per 104 person-years per Gy) continues to increase throughout life with a linear dose–response relationship. The sex-averaged excess relative risk per Gy was 0.42 [95% confidence interval (CI): 0.32, 0.53] for all solid cancer at age 70 years after exposure at age 30 based on a linear model. The risk increased by about 29% per decade decrease in age at exposure (95% CI: 17%, 41%). The estimated lowest dose range with a significant ERR for all solid cancer was 0 to 0.20 Gy, and a formal dose-threshold analysis indicated no threshold; i.e., zero dose was the best estimate of the threshold. The risk of cancer mortality increased significantly for most major sites, including stomach, lung, liver, colon, breast, gallbladder, esophagus, bladder and ovary, whereas rectum, pancreas, uterus, prostate and kidney parenchyma did not have significantly increased risks. An increased risk of non-neoplastic diseases including the circulatory, respiratory and digestive systems was observed, but whether these are causal relationships requires further investigation. There was no evidence of a radiation effect for infectious or external causes of death.

Northern Mariana Islands Offer to Accept Disaster Debris and Store it on One of the Islands

Jiji Tsushin reports that Froilan Tenorio, former governor of the Northern Mariana Islands and a current Representative of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas (CNMI), offered to lease one of the islands to the Japanese government to store the disaster debris from Tohoku.

From Jiji Tsushin (5/11/2012):


A Representative of the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, which is known for the island of Saipan, held a press conference at the Miyagi prefectural government on May 11 and offered to accept the disaster debris from the March 11, 2011 disaster on an uninhabited island under [the Commonwealth's] control. However, according to the Ministry of the Environment, it will be quite unlikely as one of the conditions of exporting the waste is that the waste cannot be disposed domestically.


Representative Froilan Tenorio, who was the governor of the Commonwealth, said, "I hear that there are only few places in Japan that will accept the debris", and announced that he would lease the island of Pagan to store the debris. A volcanic eruption in 1981 forced the residents to evacuate the island.


However, the Japanese law on the waste disposal allows export of the waste only when it is not possible to dispose it in Japan and when the waste is recycled in the recipient country. The official in charge of the debris in the Miyagi prefectural government said, with mixed feeling, "We appreciate the offer, but it's impossible [to ship the debris] overseas."

A quick check on Google found a Youtube video of Mr. Tenorio speaking about the failure of his most recent effort to build a casino on the island of Saipan.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

#Radioactive Japan: Shameless Mayor of Shimada City in Shizuoka Wants Tea in His City to Be Designated as "Gift to the Imperial Family"

How much lower can you get? With this dictatorial mayor of Shimada City whose son is the president of the waste management company in the city, probably a lot lower.

From Shizuoka Shinbun (part; 5/11/2012):


Mayor Sakurai [of Shimada City, Shizuoka] described his motive to accept the disaster debris as follows: "People in Tohoku buy Shimada's tea, benefiting us. So I wanted to return the favor." To "prove the safety" of tea made in Shimada City, he is asking the Ministry of the Environment so that the tea grown in Hatsukura District of Shimada City can be designated as "Gift to the Imperial Family" and given to the Imperial Family. Hatsukura District is where the final disposal site is located [where the radioactive slug and ashes are buried].

Where are the nationalistic ultra-right when we need them? They have been busy disrupting the anti-nuclear rallies and gatherings.

For the video of the final disposal landfill in Hatsukura District, go to my post here.

Yukio Edano Stating the Obvious: "Cost of Decontaminating Fukushima May Be Borne by Japanese Citizens"

The so-called "decontamination" being carried out on an experimental basis by the national government in part of Fukushima Prefecture such as Iitate-mura, Namie-machi and inside the 20-kilometer radius "no-entry zone" has so far turned out to be a "dud" when it comes to actually "decontaminate", though it's been a great business for the national general contractors who get the cushy government contracts.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano says the government's effort to decontaminate Fukushima is so essential to the well-being of the residents in Fukushima that the rest of Japan may be asked to pitch in. As if it's a novel idea. Under the current so-called plan, all decontamination cost will be billed to TEPCO. TEPCO, in turn, will ask the national government for the money to pay the bill from the national government. The national government, then, will increase tax, issue special bond, whatever it can do to take money from the Japanese citizens and residents of Japan, and give it to TEPCO so that TEPCO can pay the government. It will be much easier in July when TEPCO is "effectively" nationalized anyway.

From Jiji Tsushin (5/11/2012):


Cost of decontamination may be borne by the citizens, says Minister of Economy Edano


Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano said during the press conference after the cabinet meeting on May 11 that the decontamination of radioactive materials dispersed by the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident "is the responsibility of the national government, from the viewpoint of making the residents in Fukushima Prefecture feel safe". Regarding part of the cost of decontamination to be borne by the national government, he said "I don't say it won't happen in the future".

Mr. Edano is a lawyer by training.

Trillions of yen to waste, so that the Fukushima residents can feel safe. That's very generous, isn't it?

#Fukushima Nuclear Accident: "Worst Case Scenario" Involved Evacuation of 500,000 People, Says Government Minister

Remember the "worst-case scenario" that the Kan administration withheld in March last year and was disclosed only in January this year? Yes that one, thanks to the mis-translation by Mainichi Daily, which morphed into articles that screamed "the Japanese government are creating blueprints for forcibly removing 39 million people from the Tokyo metro-area".

Now, Koichiro "Let's all cheer for TEPCO" Genba, Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Noda administration who was the minister in charge of national strategy under the Kan administration, claims he was the one who "ordered the worst-case scenario", and that the plan was to evacuate about a half million people from the areas inside the 50-kilometer radius from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

It is still a significant number, about a quarter of the population of Fukushima Prefecture and about 5 times the number of residents who actually evacuated. But it is nowhere near 39 million people inside the 250-kilometer radius. The 50-kilometer radius evacuation was what the top management at the plant had expected after the explosion of Reactor 1 building, and they were surprised when they learned that only the residents inside the 20-kilometer radius were evacuated, according to the article by Shukan Asahi in July last year.

Mr. Genba is elected from Fukushima Prefecture. He said "Let's all cheer for TEPCO" right after he got the "worst-case scenario" from the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan.

From Asahi Shinbun (5/10/2012):

幻の50万人原発避難計画 福島事故直後、官邸が想定

Prime Minister's Office's plan right after the Fukushima accident to evacuate 500,000 people, but the plan wasn't executed


It has been revealed that there was a plan at the Prime Minister's Official Residence right after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident started in March last year to evacuate about 500,000 residents inside the 50-kilometer radius from the plant. The assumption was the worst case where a reactor would become uncontrollable. In the end, the plan was never executed.


Minister of Foreign Affairs Koichiro Genba, who was the minister in charge of national strategy at the time of the accident, told Asahi Shinbun. Mr. Genba, who is elected to the Lower House from the 3rd district of Fukushima Prefecture, says he pointed out the possibility of meltdown (core melt) in the meeting of the nuclear disaster response headquarters on March 12, 2011, one day after the start of the accident. On March 15, he instructed the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan (JAEC) under the Cabinet Office to come up with the response [to the accident] based on the "worst-case scenario".


JAEC crafted the plan based on the scenario where one of the reactors would become uncontrollable and have a meltdown, triggering the chain reaction of other reactors becoming uncontrollable as the workers would evacuate from the plant. Mr. Genba proposed [the plan to evacuate 500,000 residents] to then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

There May Be an Active Fault Right Underneath Mt. Fuji, Tokyo University Geologist Says

The result of the research by Professor Hiroshi Sato and his group at Tokyo University Earthquake Research Institute will be presented at the Japan Geoscience Union conference that will be held in Chiba on May 20, 2012.

If an earthquake of Magnitude 7 or larger occurs on that fault, Professor Sato's group says, it may cause "sector collapse" of Mt. Fuji.

It that should ever happen, it will be not just the collapse of Mt. Fuji but the collapse of the 2,000-year Japanese culture... All through Japan's history (and pre-history, for that matter), Mt. Fuji has retained its shape, and has been revered for the shape.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (5/10/2012):


Active Fault directly below Mt. Fuji? Sector collapse possible with M.7 class earthquake


It has been revealed by the research by Professor Hiroshi Sato (structural geology) and his group at Tokyo University Earthquake Research Institute that it is highly possible that there is a 30-kilometer long active fault underneath the eastern foot of Mt. Fuji.


If this fault moves, it could cause a Magnitude 7-class earthquake which could trigger "sector collapse", a collapse of part of the mountain. The result of the research will be presented at the Japan Geoscience Union conference that will start in Chiba City on May 20.


The active fault was discovered on the eastern foot of Mt. Fuji, near Gotenba City in Shizuoka Prefecture. The location is considered to be where the continental plate is hit by the Philippine Sea Plate from the south. Izu Peninsula is on the Philippine Sea Plate. The fault is on the west side of the active fault already confirmed.


The group studied the subsurface structure by vibrating the ground. The length of the fault is about 30 kilometers in the northeast-southwest direction, and it is a reverse fault. The fault deepens toward the direction of the mountain top of Mt. Fuji, and it is considered that it is over 10 kilometers deep right beneath the mountain top. There is evidence of the fault having moved in the most recent 1 million years, but it is not known when it moved or at what cycle.

OT: Tokyo Brown Tabby's Youtube Channel Deleted

Some of Tabby's videos (Japanese videos with English sub, and  English videos with Japanese sub) made it to Dailymotion channel before Youtube deleted the account. You can easily guess the reason, because the original videos were from the likes of Asahi, Yomiuri, NHK, BBC, etc.

But the Youtube screen captured at Tabby's blog seems to say "The account was suspended due to multiple complaints from third parties." So it may not even by the MSM networks themselves who complained but by the righteous citizens who felt strongly that the rights of the major news networks of the world be protected.

The channel also included subtitled videos from the independent net media in Japan, but those got deleted along with the videos from mainstream big media.

Tabby's subscribers can visit:

Right now, there are 8 videos uploaded there. Tabby will try to upload the videos that used to be on Youtube channel by putting the subtitles again, when Tabby's eye condition improves.

Minami Soma Assemblyman: "5.57 Million Bq/kg Cesium from Soil, and People Are Cleaning Out Their Homes"

Part of Minami Soma City in Fukushima was inside the "no-entry zone" but the designation was lifted as of April 16 this year and people are returning. One such area is Odaka District, and as NHK reported, the returning residents are being assisted by volunteers from all over Japan in cleaning up the damage from the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Minami Soma Assemblyman Koichi Ooyama says he went and collected soil samples (what he calls "black dust") in locations in Minami Soma, including several in Odaka District after the no-entry zone designation was lifted. He had them tested by the city's laboratory for radioactive cesium, and the result, as posted on his blog (5/10/2012) is shocking.  The maximum is 5,570,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium in soil in Odaka District. In the same district, half a million becquerels/kg of cesium in cow dung was also found.

Mr. Ooyama lists those with high radioactive cesium content, because the numbers are not in sequence. English labels are by me. (Unit is bq/kg, dry weight):

①1,320,000 原町区牛越土壌 Haramachi District, soil
②1,960,000 鹿島区橲原土壌 Kashima District, soil
5,570,000 小高区金谷土壌 Odaka District, soil
⑧  16,200 原町区国見町土壌 Haramachi District, soil
⑪ 793,000 小高区上町土壌 Odaka District, soil
⑫ 430,000 小高区本町土壌 Odaka district, soil
⑬ 583,000 小高区本町土壌 Odaka district, soil
⑭2,970,000 小高区金谷土壌 Odaka district, soil
⑰ 522,000 小高区金谷牛ふん Odaka district, cow dung

Even if these samples are from areas where radioactive cesium is getting highly concentrated, I haven't seen numbers like this anywhere else in Fukushima outside the immediate vicinity of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

NHK News said the volunteers helping the home owners in Odaka District were scooping out the sludges - probably highly contaminated sludge - with hardly any protection other than flimsy masks and gloves. Who is going to be responsible if anything should happen to these volunteers later? Volunteers themselves.

Assemblyman Ooyama screams, "And they're going to do what? Spring athletic meets? Swimming pool opening? I can't take it any more!"

(For the mind-numbing routine in post-Fukushima Japan in spring and summer, see my previous post.)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

(UPDATED) Shukan Asahi: #Fukushima II (Daini) Extensive Damage from March 11, 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami

Shukan Asahi, one of the major weekly magazines in Japan by one of Japan's mainstream media (Asahi), has a scoop on Fukushima II (Daini) Nuclear Power Plant. I have no reason to believe this is true, but I also have no reason not to believe this is true. According to the person who used to work at Fuku II, it is more likely to be true.

According to the reporter, Fukushima II has sustained extensive damage from the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and that hasn't been properly disclosed by any party (TEPCO or the government). He also says TEPCO knows there is no way the plant can be restarted anytime soon, if at all.

The reporter, Shun Kirishima (probably a pseudonym), works at Fukushima II and filed this report, according to Shukan Asahi. The article has several photographs, but the quality is rather bad.

Information from Shukan Asahi May 9, 2012 issue (the images of the article are posted at the end of the post):

1. Reactor 1 building still has no electricity restored after more than 1 year since the March 11, 2011 disaster. Aluminum window frames bend inward. (Photo 1)

2. Reactor 1 building basement is all rusted - pipes, light shades, equipment. Sands on the floor, mud caked on the cables on the ceiling (3-meter high).

3. The industry insiders had told the reporter earlier that TEPCO had informed them right after the March 11, 2011 disaster that Fukushima II wouldn't be operational for 5 years. It is a wishful thinking on TEPCO's headquarters' part that Fukushima II is anywhere near operational. It isn't, and it is damaged badly.

4. The office building is badly damaged, with ceiling collapsed and walls fallen down. (Photo 4)

5. Even though Fukushima II achieved cold shutdown 4 days after the earthquake/tsunami, it was a very close call. Some of the pumps for the heat exchanger didn't work, and some of the emergency diesel generators in Reactors 1 through 4 didn't work after the tsunami. In Reactor 1 building, 2 out of 3 diesel generators couldn't be used because they were damaged by the tsunami, even though they were in the reactor building above the 1st floor. (Photo 6)

6. Reactor 3 turbine building basement was flooded with water, even though TEPCO announced in March this year that there was no damage in the turbine building basements of Reactors 3 and 4. The reporter claims there is a handwritten note in the 2nd basement floor of Reactor 3 that says "2011.3.11 (inundated with water) 430 centimeters from the floor surface" - i.e. 4.3 meters of water in the basement (Photo 7). In the report in August last year, TEPCO says the water was from the skimmer surge tank overflow, but the reporter says it is hard to believe, because the 2nd floor of the basement was not just flooded but completely filled with water.

7. TEPCO says the damage at Fukushima II is due to the tsunami. But the pipes in the heat exchanger building on the 2nd floor, which was not flooded with the tsunami, show extensive damage, and they are being repaired or replaced. (Photos 9 and 10)

The Shukan Asahi article:

(UPDATE) Just as I posted, I also found TEPCO's newly released photographs (5/9/2012) of Fukushima II Nuclear Power Plant. Everything looks great as far as these photographs show. There are photographs of Reactor 1's diesel generators.

#Radioactive Japan: Spring in 2012, Same as Spring in 2011 after 3 Reactors Blew Up in Fukushima

It is as if nothing out of the ordinary happened last year. Japanese people managed to be alert for about a year, but by March this year it was rather obvious that people got tired of having to pay constant attention. So, come spring of the new fiscal year that started on April Fool's Day, most of them went back to the routine.

The most of the routine events were carried out even in last year. So why not this year? What difference does it make any more?

The difference is that this year more people are aware of radiation contamination but they go on the routine anyway. Schools in particular didn't pay a bit of attention last year, so they don't pay any attention this year either. The following is the favorite activities in spring and early summer in Japan for small children happening right now and about to happen very soon:

Digging up bamboo shoots:

A fun activity that many kindergartens and nursery schools have their small pupils participate. Digging the dirt and getting to bamboo shoots, and then harvesting the bamboo shoots. Then have those bamboo shoots cooked and served in the school lunches for the wonderful taste of spring. Radioactive cesium tends to accumulate in the bamboo shoots, and many areas in Tohoku and Kanto have been found with bamboo shoots with cesium far exceeding the new and improved safety limit (100 becquerels/kg). That hasn't deterred these schools and teachers from holding the fun event of the spring.

Hand-picking green teas, and eating the fresh leaves in tempura:

Many schools in tea-growing areas in Chubu (where Shizuoka Prefecture is) and Kanto are doing their annual event of picking the local teas. This year, the way the radioactivity in green tea is measured have been changed, and they no longer test dried leaves. As long as the brewed tea tests below 10 becquerels/kg, they are "safe". 10 becquerels/kg in liquid would translate to about 1,000 becquerels/kg in dry leaves, but no one's supposed to pay attention to that.

Planting rice plant seedlings in the rice paddies:

This fun activity is just starting in Kanto and Tohoku. Farmers in Kanto and Tohoku tilled the land and mixed up radioactive cesium in the soil, and grew rice last year as radioactive materials continued to fall in Kanto and Tohoku. Small children did the planting as part of the school work last year, with bare feet and hands. If they could do it last year, of course they can do it this year. The only areas that I'm aware of whose rice paddies were "decontaminated" is Iitate-mura in Fukushima, where the government is still trying various methods of decontamination (so far, none worked).

Having spring athletic meets:

Running around, kicking up dusts, on bare feet. Some schools in higher-radiation Kanto and Tohoku did replace the soil in the school yards to lower the air radiation levels, but many haven't. In the high-radiation Koriyama City in Fukushima, it was only in April this year that they finally admitted to the existence of hot spots in schools.

Cleaning the swimming pools:

Another fun activity before the summer break. Children get to clean out the school's swimming pool, that have accumulated dirty water and muddy sludge over the last year after the close of the pool. They cleaned it last year, even when the sludge was later found with tens of thousands of becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium. Why not this year? In one elementary school in Ibaraki Prefecture last year, the sludge that pupils scooped out was later found with over 17,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium.

Going to summer school in high-radiation northern Kanto:

This fun activity is only for pupils in elementary schools and junior high schools in certain Special Wards in Tokyo. For a week or two during the summer break, they get to spend time hiking, swimming, in the high-radiation mountain areas in Tochigi and Gunma Prefecture. Why would these schools do that? Well they did it last year, so why not this year?

When fall comes, these children will get to harvest rice, dig up sweet potatoes, collect acorns and colorful fallen leaves, and participate in fall athletic meets. In winter, they get to go to the high-radiation area ski schools.

Absolutely no change whatsoever.

By the way, the mayor of Yokohama City who fed the city's school children with Fukushima beef loaded with radioactive cesium was trying to feed the children with mandarin oranges harvested in Kanagawa Prefecture (where Yokohama is) this year. The oranges have been found with radioactive cesium, but she and her bureaucrats were going to feed them to children anyway because the cesium level was below 100 becquerels/kg. At the fierce outcry from a small but vocal group of parents, the city backed down and one school decided to serve beach jello instead.

Ummm. Peach?

As if nothing has happened since March 11, 2011.

Government to (Effectively) Take Over TEPCO in July

It looks like it will be Yukio Edano, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, who will run the show. He is the same one who, as Chief Cabinet Secretary, was a very popular and reassuring figure in the early days of the nuclear crisis last year with his remarks that the radiation "have no immediate effect on health".

It is not "nationalization" but "effective" one. I'm yet to find the precise definition of "effective nationalization" in Japan, but if it is the same as "effective nationalization" of AIG in the US, it has to do with the percentage of shares that the government will control - enough to run the company but not enough to combine the balance sheet.

A short article from Sankei Shinbun (5/9/2012) has some telling bits of information:

東電、7月にも国有化 政府が総合計画認定
TEPCO to be nationalized in July, as the national government approves the overall business plan


Yukio Edano, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, approved the overall special business plan on May 9. The plan centers around the effective nationalization of TEPCO. The period that the business plan covers is 10 years until the fiscal 2021. The plan calls for 3.365 trillion yen reduction of expenses, 10% raise in utility fees for the household, and restart of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant (in Niigata Prefecture) in the fiscal 2013. The national government will do the capital injection of 1 trillion yen using public money, and hold the majority of voting right, effectively nationalizing TEPCO. It will also increase the number of outside directors to tightly monitor the management of the company.


The current divisions, such as Fuel and Thermal, Power Transmission System, and Retails, will be set up as separate branches within the company, with an eye on turning them into holding companies. Using TEPCO as a platform, the national government will put into effect its electric power reforms and energy policy revisions.

A power grab by a government who is even less transparent than TEPCO when it comes to disclosing the information about the nuclear accident or the radiation contamination.

Needless to say, there is no plan B if Kashiwazaki-Kariwa doesn't restart. The cut of 3 trillion yen over 10 years doesn't seem much at all, when the cost to decommission is estimated to be tens of trillions of yen.

The 107-page business plan, which says hardly anything of note, is with the 140-page supplement which says more. The compensation to the victims of the nuclear disaster is calculated by a Tokyo University professor with macro economics in mind (whatever that means), and the plan hinges on the assumption that the government/TEPCO can cut back on the compensation to people who will be returning to their homes in the areas with less than 20 millisieverts per year annual radiation (external only) exposure.

So much for the new president of TEPCO pledging to do his best to compensate the victims.

For now the business plan and its attachments are in Japanese only. TEPCO promises it will post them in English as soon as they become available, here.

San Onofre Nuke Plant: 1,300 Tubes in Steam Generators Found Bad

There are 4 steam generators made by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, two each for 2 reactors at San Onofre Nuclear Plant. 1,300 tubes represent about 3% of the total number of tubes in the steam generators.

For more on the SG problems at San Onofre, see my previous posts.

Mitsubishi Heavy Industry's English website doesn't have anything on the current problem. The last press release about the SG is about the delivery to San Onofre. It is the same with their Japanese site.

From ABC News (5/8/2012) citing AP:

More than 1,300 tubes that carry radioactive water inside the San Onofre nuclear plant in Southern California are so damaged that they will be taken out of service, the utility that runs the plant said Tuesday.

The figures released by Southern California Edison are the latest disclosure in a probe of equipment problems that have kept the coastal plant sidelined for more than three months.

At issue has been the integrity of tubing that snakes through the plant's four steam generators, which were installed in a multimillion-dollar makeover in 2009 and 2010.

A company statement said that as of Monday, 510 tubes had been plugged, or retired from use, in the Unit 2 reactor, and 807 tubes in its sister, Unit 3. Each of the generators has nearly 10,000 tubes, and the number retired is well within the limit allowed to continue operation.

The statement comes just days after an Edison executive said the company hopes to restart at least one of the twin reactors next month. The company is drafting a plan under which the reactors would run at reduced power, at least for several months, because engineers believe that will solve a problem with vibration that the company believes has been causing unusual wear in the alloy tubing.

Government regulators say there is no timetable for a restart, which would require federal approval.

A joint statement issued Tuesday by Edison and the agency that operates the state's wholesale power system, the California Independent System Operator, said the possible June dates are for planning and subject to change.

"There is no timeline on nuclear safety," Edison President Ron Litzinger said.

Activists viewed the new figures as another alarming sign following a tube break in January, which prompted Edison to shut down the Unit 3 reactor as a precaution. Traces of radiation escaped at the time, but officials said there was no danger to workers or neighbors.

Unit 2 was taken offline in January for routine maintenance, but investigators later confirmed accelerated wear on tubing in both units.

"It seems that these new steam generators are falling apart and Edison doesn't know why. It would be foolhardy to restart, even at reduced power, under the current circumstances," said Daniel Hirsch, a nuclear watchdog who lectures on nuclear policy at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Ted Craver, chairman of SCE parent Edison International, told investors in a phone call last week that unusual wear was found in about 1 percent of nearly 39,000 tubes in the steam generators.

(Full article at the link)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Atomic Guitars, Played by Decaying Atoms

It is a visual and "performing" (sort of) art piece by Fuyuki Yamakawa.

From LRB Blog (5/8/2012):

Two canary yellow stratocasters, mounted on stands to face each other and wired into squat black amps, buzz with a tentative open string drone. Next to the guitars hangs the shell of a radiation-proof suit. The stage is set for a band that never arrives: Fuyuki Yamakawa’s Atomic Guitars – recently on display at the Tokyo Art Fair – are played by decaying atoms.

At the base of each guitar is a Geiger counter and a pot of radioactive soil. The counters are plugged into tactile transducers – sound-to-movement converters most often used in home cinemas – that shake the guitars whenever the counters click, making the strings vibrate. The first time Yamakawa exhibited Atomic Guitars he used soil taken from the grounds of the Tokyo National University of the Arts in Toride, a small city 118 miles away from the burnt-out reactors of Fukushima Daiichi. For the Tokyo Fair he took soil from the Imperial Gardens. Radiation doesn’t stay still, it follows the weather. Yamakawa’s guitars are the same colour as the yellow rain that reportedly fell in Tokyo a couple of days after the Fukushima meltdown.

(Full article at the link)

(H/T John Noah)

TEPCO's New President: "TEPCO Has to Be Sensitive to How People Sees the Company"

That comment alone may tell you that he is not an engineer. But then, TEPCO has never been an engineering or technology company anyway.

As part of the deal for the public money injection into the company, TEPCO has a new set of top management, including the chairman sent from the Noda administration. The new president, Naomi Hirose, is from the sales department, which is unusual for the company, but not much departure from the past presidents of TEPCO who were from the planning or the general affairs departments with strong ties to the government officials.

Some of Hirose's remarks during the press conference, from Yomiuri Shinbun (5/8/2012):


Naomi Hirose (age 59), Executive Director of TEPCO and soon-to-be President, held a press conference on May 8 and spoke of his aspirations, "I will try my best to reform the company so that people can feel "Oh, TEPCO is slowly but surely changing"."


He also pointed out that TEPCO should be more aware how it is perceived in the society.


He listed three issues as his priorities: compensating the victims of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, decommissioning the plant, and providing electricity in a stable manner.


As to Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant (in Niigata Prefecture), which is considered key to TEPCO's operation, Hirose said, "We will have to do the detailed investigation of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, as Niigata Prefecture demands. Then we may be able to obtain the consent [of the local municipalities] to restart the plant." In TEPCO's overall special business plan, Kashiwazaki-kariwa is to be restarted in the fiscal 2013. The national government is scheduled to approve the business plan on May 9.

That business plan also include raising the utility charges for the ordinary household customers by 700 yen (US$8.77) per month starting July, to help pay for decommissioning. TEPCO will also introduce the tiered fee structure, so it will cost more to use electricity during the peak hours in summer (middle of the day).

Independent journalist Ryuichi Kino, who attended the press conference, noticed a peculiar Japanese phrase that Mr. Hirose used. It is an expression in the literary (as opposed to spoken) style Japanese that means "be that as it may". Kino says he has noticed over the last year that this particular phrase is used by many top bureaucrats in the top ministries of the government, and wonders if Mr. Hirose is closer to them than to common people after all. Uh... yes. The role of the president of TEPCO has always been to work with the bureaucrats and politicians.

As to the bureaucrats who use old-style literary Japanese, one prominent novelist, Ryotaro Shiba, in Japan once wrote, "For the bureaucrats in the central government, it is still the Meiji era with Charter Oath of Five Articles and Grand Council of State" which governed the country in the absence of a parliament by popular election.

Monday, May 7, 2012

OT: Ultra Buddha

I just have to share this:

Governor of Tokyo Has Collected 125,351,220 Yen So Far for His Senkaku Islands Purchase

from 9,349 donors as of May 2, 2012, according to the webpage of the Tokyo Metropolitan government.

125,351,220 yen is about US$1.57 million. To buy all of Senkaku Islands to the satisfaction of the current owner, Ishihara and his vice governor who is totally gung-ho on the idea would need 10 times as much, or 1.5 billion yen.

For more of Ishihara's patriotic project, read my posts here and here.

Mainichi Shinbun reports (5/7/2012) 61% of people surveyed by the paper support the purchase of Senkaku Island by the Tokyo Metropolitan government, with only 31% opposing. No details of how the survey was crafted.

FYI, the vice governor of Tokyo, Naoki Inose, seems also gung-ho on the conscription to secure workers for Fukushima I Nuke Plant decommission. If you read Japanese, go here. Vice governorship in Japan is by political appointment, not by election.

#Radioactive Japan: Wild Monkeys to Be Fitted with Dosimeter in Minami Soma, Fukushima to Study Radiation in Mountain Areas

Female monkeys in the mountain areas in Minami Soma City in Fukushima will be fitted with dosimeters so that the researchers at Fukushima University can collect data on radiation levels in the mountainous areas inaccessible to humans.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (5/6/2012):


The research group headed by Takayuki Takahashi, vice president of Fukushima University (robotics) will fit wild Japanese monkeys with collars with dosimeters in order to study the radiation contamination in mountains and forests due to the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The experiment will start this month.


The purpose is to map the radiation levels to assist in decontamination.


The collar weighs 350 grams, and equipped with dosimeter and GPS. The collar will be fitted around the neck of a monkey to collect information on air radiation dosage and locations. Currently, the radiation levels in mountains and forests are measured from the air. It is hoped that by "deputizing" the work to the monkeys the radiation measurement in the deep mountain areas becomes possible.


Vice President Takahashi focused on the habit of monkeys to stay inside a territory as a group. If a monkey is fitted with dosimeter, it is possible to map the radiation levels within a certain territory. His group will catch female monkeys who are more likely to stay within the group and fit the collars. The collars will automatically come off after sending the signals, and they will be collected 2 weeks later for data analysis.


The experiment will be carried out in the southern Minami Soma City, which was inside "no-entry zone" until April 16 and has relatively high levels of radiation. As more monkeys become fitted with the collars, it is hoped that the wide-area mapping of radiation levels is possible.


Takahashi says, "Radioactive cesium in mountains and forests move with the flow of rainwater, and it is hard to fully understand the levels of contamination. By mapping the radiation levels this way, we hope to use it to protect wild life.

ICRP recommends that the radiation work be done under full understanding of the risks and full agreement among participants. Even though the communication between the species is not yet possible, I hope the monkeys will be rewarded with some contamination-free food.

Some of my Japanese twitter followers live in Fukushima Prefecture. One of them retweeted my tweet linking the article with his/her comment, "They can borrow my cat for radiation monitoring in the urban area." He/she lives in Fukushima City. The way he/she said it was resigned, slightly sarcastic maybe, and humorous. Sense of humor is a good thing to have, but I hope that person lives in a lower radiation area.

But where were these researchers last year? They could have done this last year. The only study on wild life last year in Fukushima was the study on birds in Fukushima by Professor Mousseau of University of South Carolina, and that result wasn't disclosed until February this year.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

"Hot Spots" in Koriyama City's Public Schools Revealed, as High as 20 Microsieverts/hr in the Side Drain in One School

High-radiation "hot spots" including a side drain that measured over 20 microsieverts/hour had been found in public schools in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture, but the information only came to light after citizens' groups in the city demanded the disclosure to the city's Board of Education.

From Kyodo News (5/6/2012):

郡山の学校に「ホットスポット」 情報公開で判明

"Hot spots" in schools in Koriyama City, revealed by information disclosure request


Citizen's groups in Koriyama City announced on May 6 that the request for information disclosure to the Koriyama City Board of Education revealed that at least 14 elementary schools and 7 junior high schools, and 5 nursery schools had "hot spots" where the radiation levels exceed 3.8 microsieverts/hour, equivalent of 20 millisieverts in annual cumulative radiation exposure.


According to the information disclosed, the Board of Education had asked the elementary schools and junior high schools in the city in January to measure the air radiation levels in 8 locations [at each school] including side drains, hedges, and drainage outlets. The measurement was in addition to the regular measurement of radiation levels in the school yards and classrooms. In the April measurement, one junior high school had a spot in the side drain at 20.4 microsieverts/hour at 1 centimeter off the surface.

Toyo Keizai, weekly economic magazine, had an article (5/2/2012) about the same topic - high radiation levels in schools in Koriyama. Even though the schools are supposed to have been "decontaminated", the reality is that all that's been done was to replace soil in the school yard, according to Toyo Keizai. Nothing has been done to the locations that tend to concentrate radioactive materials such as drains and water spouts.

Koriyama City finally decided to "decontaminate" those "hot spots" after the Golden Week holidays, but the decontamination work won't be finished before the annual spring athletic meets that these schools plan to conduct, just like last year and the year before.

OT: Socialist Wins Presidency in France, Greece Parliamentary Vote with No Clear Majority

(UPDATE) Re: Greek Parliamentary Election
New Democracy and Pasok may not have 151 seats needed to form a coalition government. Left is calling for anti-bailout coalition. Stick it to the creditors (European banks)... Read Zero Hedge.


First, the French presidential election, headline at France 24:

Socialist Hollande beats Sarkozy to win French presidency

Socialist Party challenger François Hollande has beaten incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy in a tight run-off election to win the French presidency with 51.9% of the vote to Sarkozy’s 48.1%, Ipsos exit polls show.

Here's NY Times coverage, with Sarkozy's remark "I become a citizen among you".

And Greece, from BBC (5/6/2012):

Greeks are voting in parliamentary polls, with the country's two mainstream parties expected to lose support to anti-austerity candidates.

The centre-left Pasok and centre-right New Democracy parties have been in coalition since last November.

They are both expected to suffer due to opposition to the austerity measures imposed by the government in exchange for international bailout funds.

No single party is expected to gain a majority.


A range of smaller parties looks set to benefit, from the communists to the anti-immigrant, far-right Golden Dawn party, he adds.

"I am going to vote one of the small parties. I have had enough of ND and Pasok," one voter, psychology student Maria, told the AFP news agency. "Ever since I was born people have just voted for them."

Some polls indicate that Golden Dawn could gain more than 5% of the vote and enter parliament for the first time.

In his party's closing rally on Friday, Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos said Greeks faced a choice between continuing with the austerity programme in order to stay in the eurozone and "mass poverty".

New Democracy's leader Antonis Samaras said the Left was "playing games with the country's European future".

New Democracy is expected to emerge from the poll as the largest party, but with only around 22% of the vote.

Pasok, which has been governing in coalition with New Democracy since last November, has been in second place in opinion polls with around 18%.

Left-wing parties opposed to the terms of the bailout deal have collectively scored around 30% in opinion polls.

European equity markets have been somewhat discounting these outcomes, but decidedly not the US equity market which has been floating higher on hopium on declining volume.

(UPDATED with Video) Tornado in Ibaraki Prefecture

UPDATE (5/7/2012):
890 houses were damaged in Ibaraki and Tochigi Prefectures.
52 people injured, one died (14-year-old boy).
9 kilometer long path in northern Tsukuba City
F3 on Fujita scale.
Japan Meteorological Agency issued warning 10 minutes before the tornado hit, but Tsukuba City didn't have the public warning system. The city in Tochigi hit by the tornado did have the public warning system, but didn't bother to use it because "warnings happen all the time".


Nothing seems to go right for Japan since March 11, 2011...

From Yomiuri Shinbun (5/6/2012):

  • Northern part of Tsukuba City in Ibaraki Prefecture was hit by tornado at about 45 minutes past noon on May 6, 2012.

  • As of 2:40PM, at least 30 houses were destroyed, 30 people injured, including heavily injured.

  • About 17,000 households are without electricity.

  • Hails as big as 3 centimeters in diameters fell in Mito City.

ANN video. OMG.