Friday, September 27, 2013

Trial Fishing in Iwaki City in #Fukushima to Start, Fish Caught Will Be Sold If They Pass Monitoring (Sampling) Test

It will be the first time in two and a half years since the start of the nuclear accident on March 11, 2011 that fishermen in Iwaki City in southern Fukushima will fish on a "trial" basis.

Also, the fishery association in Soma City, 48 kilometers north of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, will resume its "trial fishing".

When I first read the Kyodo News (9/25/2013) below, it somehow did not occur to me that the fish caught would be sold to the market. I was lulled by the word "trial", and totally forgot that the fishery association in Soma City was selling the fish that they caught in their trial fishing.

In Japanese terminology, a "trial fishing" only means "it is not full operation", whether it is in terms of the number of fishing boats or the number of fish allowed or the number of species allowed. It is a commercial operation in which fishermen are allowed to sell their catch.

First, from Kyodo News on the Soma City fishery association:

福島の試験操業が再開 組合長「やる気示す」

Trial fishing in Fukushima resumes, fishery association head says "we'll show our determination"


Soma/Futaba Fishery Association in northern Fukushima resumed the trial fishing on September 25, as about 20 fishing boats started leaving the Matsukawaura Port (Soma City) at 2AM. The trial fishing was halted because of the contaminated water problem at FUkushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The boats are due to return in the afternoon with their catch.


Hiroyuki Sato, head of the association, told the fishermen before leaving port, "We will have to continue trial fishing to show out determination to TEPCO, the national government, and people in general that 'we are aiming at full operation'."


Masayoshi Hamauchi (age 58), shipowner of Suijin-maru said, "I'm happy to be able to fish. I'm still worried about baseless rumors but we want to show our determination, one step at a time."

While Kyodo News is vague about "trial fishing" (or assumes everyone knows that the fish caught will be sold), Fukushima's local paper Kahoku Shinpo (9/25/2013) makes it clear for us:


The Fishery Association of Fukushima Prefecture held a meeting of association heads on September 24 in Fukushima City, and decided that the Iwaki City fishery association will start trial fishing on October 3. It will be the first trial fishing in the southern Fukushima. It was also decided that the Soma-Futaba fishery association (in Soma City) will resume on September 25.


The decisions were made because the safety [of the catch] was ascertained after the Fukushima prefectural government and TEPCO tested radioactive materials in marine products and ocean water. For now, the Iwaki City fishery association will only catch 16 species including Chlorophthalmus borealis and Enteroctopus dofleini. Monitoring [sampling] tests will be conducted, and if there is no problem [below the national safety standard] they will ship and sell the catch.


Shoichi Yabuki, head of the Iwaki City fishery association, said, "We've been waiting for this trial fishing for two and a half years. We want TEPCO to install thorough countermeasures against contaminated water."

After two and a half years since the accident, fishermen in Fukushima are finally joining farmers in Fukushima - just blame fickle consumers for not buying their stuff.

If consumers have no means of knowing whether the fish they buy at supermarkets are from off the coast of Fukushima, there will be no baseless rumors anyway.

Another Kabuki Theater Is Finally Over, Governor of Niigata OKs TEPCO Submitting Application for NRA Inspection for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP

A day after meeting with TEPCO's President Hirose on September 25, 2013, Governor Izumida gave his approval that TEPCO can now go ahead and apply for Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant inspection by Nuclear Regulation Authority, which is very likely to pave the way for the restart of the nuclear plant.

I never clearly understood what Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida said he wanted from TEPCO, as he and TEPCO executives talked past each other over the application for safety inspection and the restart of TEPCO's nuclear power plant in Kashiwazaki City and Kariwa-mura in Niigata Prefecture (see my post from July 30, 2013).

It was not "his" to approve to begin with, as he has no legal authority over the nuclear power plant. But he's now apparently satisfied that TEPCO's top management has kowtowed enough, pledging that the company will consult the municipalities before submitting the application to NRA.

(TEPCO's Hirose bowing deeply, properly showing the top of his head to Governor Izumida, on September 25, 2013, from Asahi.)

Izumida's reasons for "approving" TEPCO's submission of the application to NRA sound awfully like what TEPCO has been pleading with him ("safety must be ascertained by the neutral third party that is NRA"), but there is one new condition: that in case of a severe accident, TEPCO won't do the vent unless the municipalities (Kashiwazaki, Kariwa) agree.

Hmmm. Wouldn't that be more dangerous? Not venting the reactor in a severe accident until you get approval from local politicians?

From Asahi English (9/26/2013):

Niigata governor approves TEPCO reactor-restart plan on one condition

Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida, who has criticized and humiliated Tokyo Electric Power Co., has now removed a hurdle in the utility’s drive to restart two nuclear reactors.

Izumida on Sept. 26 approved TEPCO’s plan to apply for a safety screening for restarting the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.

But he attached one condition.

In a document handed to a TEPCO executive on Sept. 26, the prefectural government demanded that the utility promise, in an application request, not to use filtered venting equipment without prefectural approval in the event of an accident at the nuclear plant.

Filtered venting equipment is required for nuclear power plants under new safety standards that took effect in July. The equipment is designed to release steam to keep pressure from building within the containment vessel after radioactive materials are filtered. Still, the steam released would contain radioactive substances.

TEPCO plans to file an application for the safety screening with the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Sept. 27.

In a meeting with Izumida on Sept. 25, TEPCO President Naomi Hirose explained the company’s plans to install additional filtered venting equipment at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.

Hirose also said TEPCO will abide by a safety agreement with the prefectural government and promised not to apply for an NRA safety screening until it obtains prefectural approval for the construction of filtered venting equipment.

Izumida appeared impressed by TEPCO’s policies to take additional safety measures and respect its relationships with the local communities, the sources said.

...Izumida previously criticized TEPCO’s proposals to ensure safety in case of a major accident at the plant, as well as the utility’s handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis and its response to the growing problem of radioactive water at the site.

The governor spurned Hirose’s request for approval when they last met on July 5.

Izumida has questioned TEPCO’s plans to put filtered venting equipment on foundations different than those for the reactor buildings.

He repeatedly asked Hirose what would happen if piping that connects the two facilities came off during an earthquake.

“To what extent would residents be exposed to radioactive materials if an accident occurs?” Izumida asked Hirose on Sept. 25.

Hirose said TEPCO will have heavy machinery in place to reconnect piping in case of an accident. He also said the utility will install additional filtered venting equipment underground, which is more quake-resistant than on the surface.

(Full article at the link)

Asahi Shinbun is wrong in implying as if the "prefectural government" is in charge. Prefectural governments do not have legal authority over the nuclear power plants once they are built. The safety agreement is not legally binding, is only a "gentlemen's agreement"; there is no "safety agreement with the prefectural government but only with the municipalities where the nuclear power plant is located.

Nikkei Shinbun has his full official statement, and it does not say "prefectural" approval; it simply say:


We now have a common understanding that "the safety of the residents cannot be secured simply by clearing the new regulatory standards, and consultation with the municipalities is necessary".

Izumida's fans in Japan continue to solidly "support" his stance until September 26, 2013 - i.e. champion of ordinary people who are against nuclear power plants and against TEPCO. The dominant theme is that Izumida has been "blackmailed" by anyone from Ministry of Economy to international nuclear mafia.

The second dominant theme is that Izumida has actually accomplished something by insisting that TEPCO consult with the "prefecture" (as many wrongly assume has any authority) before using the filtered vent in a severe accident. (Or something to that effect I can't really understand.)

In the meantime, thanks to Governor Izumida finally agreeing to the submission of the application, the group of financial institutions has agreed to continuously fund TEPCO by allowing the company to refinance 80 billion yen (US$80 million), according to Asahi (9/28/2013).

Monday, September 23, 2013

Futaba Kosei Hospital in Futaba-machi, #Fukushima on March 12, 2011 - Insulation Materials Falling from the Sky like Snowflakes

Journalist Ryuichi Kino's photographs of the ex-evacuation zone triggered my memory of what the former mayor of Futaba-machi had said about the fateful day.

Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa's recollection of March 12, 2011, as compiled by journalist Hiromichi Ugaya who attended Idogawa's press conference in February 2012 (from my post on that day):

We weren't told of the "vent" [of Reactor 1] that the government decided to do. The vent was carried out while the residents were still in town. I wonder if they [the government] think of us as Japanese citizens. This is like pre-Meiji Restoration [when there was no notion of citizens of a nation].

On March 12, as the residents were fleeing, I was in front of Futaba Kosei Hospital guiding the hospital patients and elderly people from the nearby senior citizens' home to a bus [for evacuation] when the first hydrogen explosion took place. There was a dull "thud".

"Oh no, it finally happened," the mayor thought. After a few minutes, small debris that looked like glass fiber insulation materials came falling down from the sky like large snowflakes. "Big ones were this big", the mayor puts his thumb and index finger together to form a circle.

Futaba Kosei Hospital is only 2 kilometers away from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. About 300 people, including municipal workers, doctors and nurses, watched the flakes of insulation materials fall like snow, stunned. The mayor thought, "We're finished."

The mayor looks back and says, "That was a very, very strange sight. It was like a movie". Not knowing what to do, he just dusted off his clothes with his hand.

Futaba Kosei Hospital in June 2013, by Ryuichi Kino. This is where Mayor Idogawa was on March 12, 2011.

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

For more of Kino's photos from June 2013, see my previous post.

As announced by Fukushima prefectural government in September 2012, in Kamihatori District in Futaba-machi, about 1.5 kilometers west of Futaba Kosei Hospital, the radiation level spiked to 1,590 microsieverts/hour at 3PM on March 12, 2011, BEFORE the hydrogen explosion of Reactor 1 building at 3:36PM.

Evacuees from Futaba-machi, #Fukushima Still Living in Abandoned High School Building After Two and a Half Years

As Japan celebrates "recovery" (at least in the stock market), 2020 Tokyo Olympic, maglev bullet train that will run under Japan Alps, there are still 100 people from Futaba-machi, Fukushima still living in the abandoned high school building in Saitama Prefecture, more than two and a half years after the earthquake and tsunami and the nuclear accident struck Tohoku and Kanto.

Time has frozen for them, too.

In my August 16, 2012 post, I wrote there were more than 200 Futaba-machi residents living in shelter in the Kisai High School building in Kazo City in Saitama Prefecture, in partitioned classrooms and gyms, getting boxed meals.

Since September 1, 2012, the residents who live in the high school building have had to pay for the boxed meals, 30,000 to 40,000 yen (US$300 to 400) per month, out of their own pockets.

According to a volunteer group who's been providing the residents, mostly elderly, with hot meals every one to two months since September 2012,


One year since [we started serving hot meals], the number of people living in the shelter have been gradually decreasing. However, there are still about 100 people living here [at the high school], eating three boxed (bento) meals every day.


The plan to close this shelter is rapidly gaining momentum, but there are still many issues to be resolved. Where will the current 100 residents at the shelter go? What about compensations?


It is not a good thing that a shelter continues to exist. But we don't think it is a good thing if this shelter is closed without consensus from the residents.


The residents at the shelter also tell us that despite bad living conditions they find emotional support through human relationship - that they live together with their friends and acquaintances from the same town [Futaba-machi]. If the shelter is closed, they will have to live apart. They have already lost so much and are forced to live in a harsh condition. It would increase the sense of loneliness in the elderly residents and deprive them of their daily joy and happiness.

Katsutaka Idogawa is no longer the mayor of Futaba-machi; he decided not to fight the recall motion by the town assembly. He was a candidate of the Green Party for the Upper Election in July this year, but his campaign didn't get any attention and he lost.

There is no incentive for politicians to do anything about the evacuees in an abandoned high school building in Saitama. The evacuees don't complain, and no one complains for them.

They are going to squander a ton of money (maybe literally) on maglev trains and 2020 Olympic, but they can't even convert this high school building into a more comfortable, habitable living space.

Photo Essay by Ryuichi Kino: Time Frozen in Ex-Evacuation Zone in #Fukushima

Independent journalist Ryuichi Kino went to Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in June 2013, his fourth. Along the way, he went inside the ex-evacuation zone (no-entry zone within 20-kilometer radius from the plant) and took these photos, and posted on his Flickr site. (Copyright: Ryuichi Kino, all rights reserved.)

Kino wonders aloud in his tweet, "How do they expect the residents to live here? Will the tanks full of contaminated water and the reactor buildings that blew up disappear in five years?"

The following photos are only part of 54 photos of the set.


Naraha-machi, where Fukushima II (Daini) Nuke Plant is located. Farm road lined with plastic bags containing contaminated soil removed from farmland.

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

Tomioka-machi, where Fukushima II Nuke Plant is located. The fence bars entry to the "zone where the residents won't be able to return for 5 years". As if the radiation is suddenly higher beyond the fence.

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

JR Joban Line Yonomori Station in Tomioka-machi. Nature is taking over.

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

Futaba-machi, from the distance. Half of Fukushima I Nuke Plant is located in Futaba-machi. The arch in the left of the picture says "Nuclear Power to Build Affluent Society and Town".)

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

Futaba Kosei Hospital. Doctors, nurses, and patients were still trying to evacuate when Reactor 1 building exploded in hydrogen explosion on March 12, 2011. Beds and stretchers abandoned in haste.

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

Okuma-machi, with Reverse Osmosis waste storage tanks, exhaust stacks, and tall cranes working on the broken reactors in the backdrop. Would you feel safe, returning to the area?

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

Okuma-machi. It looks almost normal.

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

Until you look up close.

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

Somewhere within the ex-evacuation zone. The survey meter shows 15.54 microsieverts/hour radiation (gamma).

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

Ukedo District in Namie-machi, along the Pacific Ocean. Total wipe-out.

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

Memorial for the dead, in Ukedo District in Namie-machi. Someone does come here (probably more than one) to offer flowers and drinks.

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

As far as eyes can see, plastic bags with radioactive waste from decontamination along Route 6 in Naraha-machi. As talks of building intermediate storage facilities for contaminated waste have stalled in the ex-evacuation zone, these bags are left like this in many locations.

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

Route 6 in Tomioka-machi. Buses carry workers to Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

Guards manning the checkpoint to the "difficult for the residents to return" zone. Kino writes that they are from private security company, and that:

以前の警戒区域は法的根拠があ ったので警察権を行使することができたけど、今の帰還困難区域は強制力がないので、法的には立ち入りを止めることはできない。中に入らないという制限 は、ある意味で市民の協力により成り立っているということになる。

The evacuation zone had a legal basis, and the police authority was used to enforce it. But the current "difficult for the residents to return" zone does not have legal force behind it, and there is no way to legally stop one from entering the zone. Restriction of entry is, in a way, made possible by the cooperation of the residents.

ex evacuation zone, Fukushima

The national government is essentially telling the the residents, "At your own risk."

For more photos of the ex-evacuation zone by Kino, go to his Flickr page, here.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Weekend Fun and Farce -2: Minister of Economy Says "More Space for Tanks if Reactors 5 and 6 Are Decommissioned" at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant

Minister Motegi, ex-McKinsey management consultant whose most recent utterance about Fukushima I Nuclear Plant was that the contaminated water problems are not because of lack of money or faulty engineering but because of TEPCO and the plant workers not working hard enough, seems to think decommissioning a nuclear reactor is just like dismantling a factory line.

According to the Yomiuri article below, Minister Toshimitsu Motegi seems very confident that decommissioning of Reactors 5 and 6 will be finished way before the end of fiscal 2014 (March 31, 2015) with reactors, equipments, and buildings all removed, and the space can be used to install more tanks to store contaminated water until that water is completely treated by the end of fiscal 2014.

This is the minister in charge of the national government being "at the forefront" of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.

And he screams, as always, "Accelerate! Ahead of schedule!"

From Yomiuri Shinbun (9/20/2013):


If Reactors 5 and 6 are decommissioned, more tanks can be installed, says Minister of Economy


During the press conference on September 20 after the cabinet meeting, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Motegi commented on Prime Minister Abe's request [to TEPCO] to decommission Reactors 5 and 6 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. He said, "Reactors 5 and 6 have very similar structures to Reactors 1-4 (which are being decommissioned). Training can be done on the actual reactors," thus accelerating the process of decommissioning Reactors 1-4.


As to the contaminated water treatment, he said, "In the empty space created by decommissioning Reactors 5 and 6, we can build additional tanks to store contaminated water." He expressed his desire again to have all contaminated water stored in the tanks treated by the end of fiscal 2014, and emphasized he would "do anything ahead of schedule that can be done ahead of schedule".

"Happy", one of several workers who have been tweeting from the plant since the beginning of the accident, gently reminds his followers that:

  • Spent fuel assemblies in the Spent Fuel Pools of Reactors 5 and 6 should be removed first, and that won't happen until July 2014 at the earliest (tweet);

  • After spent fuel assemblies are removed, dismantling will start with equipments and pipes with low contamination. It will be at least 10 years before we start dismantling the reactors themselves. (tweet)

  • In dismantling a reactor, pipes and equipments in the primary line will be chemically cleaned and decontaminated, but dismantling doesn't happen at least until 5 years pass. (tweet)

  • It's because Cobalt-60, major source of radiation for pipes and equipment, has the half life of about 5 years. (tweet)

  • Even the decommissioning of small-scale or experimental reactors like the one in Tokai-mura is problematic, with unforeseen problems. (tweet)

I would suggest Mr. Motegi or his secretary follow these workers on Twitter.

I do feel sorry for TEPCO managers who have to kowtow to politicians like Motegi.