Saturday, January 28, 2012

Now They Tell Us: Detection of High-Level Cesium-134 in Nagasaki City in April 2011

Toshihiro Takatsuji, associate professor at Nagasaki University announced the result of his measurement of radioactive cesium in the air at an international symposium, and said a high level of cesium-134 (11,300 becquerels/kg) was detected from the dust collected in the filter paper in early April last year in Nagasaki City, 1,000 kilometers away from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

It took him 9 months to reveal what he had known in April last year. Not bad, I guess, considering there are many others who still hold back information that they obtained in March and April last year while they eagerly wait for the acceptance of their papers at international peer-review journals. Some information could have made a big difference in how people responded to the nuclear crisis if it had been revealed in a timely manner.

But maybe not in this case, as I cannot compare this number with any other number. How about the measurement of air filter papers in Fukushima or Tokyo during the same time period? How about the measurement in Nagasaki prior to the nuclear accident? What are we comparing this Nagasaki number to?

Chugoku Shinbun (1/26/2012):

福島第1原発から約千キロ離れた長崎市の大気観測所の吸引調査で、事故1カ月後に高い数値の放射性物質が確認されていたことが分かった。広島市南区の広島 大広仁会館で25日にあった同大原爆放射線医科学研究所(原医研)の国際シンポジウムで長崎大の高辻俊宏准教授が報告した。

It has been revealed that the suction survey at an atmospheric observatory in Nagasaki City, about 1000 kilomters from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, showed a high level of radioactive materials one month after the nuclear accident. Toshihiro Takatsuji, associate professor at Nagasaki University reported at an international symposium by Hiroshima University Research Institute of Radiation Biology and Medicine (RIRBM) held on January 25 at Hiroshima University in Hiroshima City.


Professor Takatsuji measured the amount of radioactive cesium in the air captured by the air suction apparatus and on the filter paper at the suction entrance every week after the nuclear accident. He reported the results from March 23 to July 27, 2011.


The week beginning on April 6 registered the highest level of radioactive cesium. The density of cesium-134 on the dust caught by the filter paper was 11,300 becquerels/kg, equivalent to the level seen in the soil in Iitate-mura in Fukushima Prefecture.


Professor Takatsuji pointed out that on April 6, 2011, the wind reached from Tohoku to Kyushu (where Nagasaki is located) in an arc sweeping the Pacific side of Japan, according to the data from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He deemed the radioactive cesium to be of Fukushima origin.

 高辻准教授は「大気中の数値は低くても、空調機のフィルターなどには放射性物質が集積し高くなる可能性がある」と指摘した。  シンポジウムは26日もある。

The professor said, "Even if the amount in the atmosphere is low, it is possible that radioactive materials accumulate in the air filters." The symposium will continue on January 26.

11,300 becquerels/kg of cesium-134. No information about cesium-137, if it was detected at all in the air or on the filter paper.

I dispute the reference to Iitate-mura, though. From what I have read, the density of radioactive cesium in Iitate-mura's soil is much higher (50,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium).

As an aside, Professor Takatsuji has been featured in a popular weekly Shukan Gendai magazine (as transcribed in this blog) in which, with Shinzo Kimura he assures the readers that the effect of radiation won't manifest in genes in the next generation, so the fear of expecting mothers in Fukushima is overblown.

But even the two admit that by continuing to live in the areas with elevated radiation levels the gene mutation which normally happens after 10 generations or more may happen within a few generation.

Kevin Maher: "US government was privately terrified over the unfolding crisis" over Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident

Kevin Maher was the director of the State Department's Office of Japan Affairs in Japan when he was abruptly dismissed over his alleged remarks about "lazy Okinawans" one day before the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster. He continued to work at the US embassy after the disaster, and wrote a book titled "The Japan That Can't Decide".

In his interview with AFP, he says:

The "US government was privately terrified over the unfolding crisis" at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

After the operation to drop water on the reactors from a SDF helicopter, "the US government called in the Japanese ambassador and said, look, you have to take this stuff seriously. We don't know what's going to happen".

From AFP (1/26/2012; emphasis is mine):

US ex-diplomat pulls no punches on Japan

By Shaun Tandon (AFP)

WASHINGTON — US diplomats typically are unfailingly polite and reverential towards their countries of expertise and, upon retirement, go away quietly into research or business. Not so with Kevin Maher.

Since he was unceremoniously removed from his position last year, the veteran US diplomat on Japan has gone on the offensive with biting criticism on issues from Tokyo's political paralysis to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

To his own surprise, he has found an eager audience. A book he wrote in Japanese, "The Japan That Can't Decide," has sold more than 100,000 copies and for weeks topped the country's best-seller list for non-fiction paperbacks.

Maher's main thesis is that Japan -- which has had six new prime ministers since 2006 -- has been crippled by a failure of its politicians to accept responsibility and, hence, to make hard decisions.

Maher pointed to the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, which was devastated by the March 11 tsunami, and dismissed the government's declaration last month that it had stabilized the leaking reactors.

"It's not stable," Maher said recently at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. "Tokyo is safe, but Fukushima Daiichi is in really bad shape."

The State Department sacked Maher as its Japan desk chief just a day before the historic 9.0-magnitude earthquake but he stayed on for another month to coordinate the US disaster response.

Maher said that the US government was privately terrified over the unfolding crisis. He accused Japan's then prime minister, Naoto Kan, of evading responsibility and trying to pass the problem over to the plant's operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Co.

"I remember sitting on a task force many a time thinking, 'Who the hell is in control in Japan?' The government's not doing anything. Kan made one trip and flew up and got in the way and came back," Maher said.

Maher said that he watched in horror as he saw television footage of a sole helicopter dropping water on the stricken plant.

"Is that the best Japan can do?" Maher said. "Frankly what happened is the US government called in the Japanese ambassador and said, look, you have to take this stuff seriously. We don't know what's going to happen."

Maher said that the United States was even looking at whether it would have to evacuate some 100,000 Americans, although it soon became clear that Tokyo was not in harm's way.

Maher's earlier strident critiques led to his downfall. While in office, he spoke to students about Okinawa -- home to half of the 47,000 US troops in Japan -- and accused local leaders of playing on mainland Japanese guilt to "extort" concessions. Japanese media accounts of his remarks stirred outrage.

Maher, 57, who has worked on Japan for three decades and has a Japanese wife, called the controversy "water under the bridge" and said he was making a good living as a consultant.

Nonetheless, he criticized the two officials he said were behind his dismissal -- then deputy secretary of state Jim Steinberg and Ambassador to Japan John Roos.

"They just wanted to get this out of the press and decided that the best thing was not to address whether these press reports were actually true or not but just to remove me from my position," Maher said.

Despite his criticism, Maher -- like current US officials -- sees bright spots in Japan's latest prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, who is pushing forward controversial plans to raise taxes and join talks on a US-backed trade pact.

Maher said he has received little backlash over his book. He believed he won over potentially hostile readers with a message that Japan worked well in the past and needed to return to its traditions.

"We used to have an image back in the '80s, if a Japanese corporation had a problem, you were worried that the chairman would go to commit seppuku," he said, referring to ritual suicide.

"He would take responsibility even if it was not a mistake that he made. But now it's reversed in Japan," he said.

Maher said he was surprised when he visited Okinawa to promote his book.

"There were four demonstrators. When I was consul general in Okinawa, I could always get 40."

Copyright © 2012 AFP. All rights reserved.

Maher's alleged criticism of Okinawans is actually shared by many in Japan, probably even by Okinawans themselves. But in the "tatemae" (facade) society you are obliged to just look at the superficial meaning of things, live and die by it.

Dropping a bucket of water at a time from a sole SDF helicopter was a brilliant idea concocted by the Kan administration to, of all things, impress the US. From Maher's account, it sure did impress the US, even if it was not the way Kan had hoped.

In the early days of the nuclear crisis, the Kan administration steadfastly declined (while superficially "considering") the offers for help in dealing with the nuclear accident from foreign governments, particularly from the US and Russia. Other than the "face" issue I still don't know the reason. That Japan is somehow different and superior, I guess. It is different, for sure. I remember the politicians talking about "sovereignty" as the reason for "sending the offer for help to the appropriate government committee to discuss whether it is feasible to accept the offer and if so how" - i.e. declining help.

His praise of Yoshihiko Noda is not surprising coming from a US official, as the prime minister is doing everything in his power to please what the US is allegedly demanding. Too bad there's this thing called the Internet and the Japanese are seeing him for what he is - a stooge. His administration most certainly welcomes Twitter's decision to censor tweets that are deemed "illegal" by any government.

#Fukushima Governor May Do "Free Healthcare For Fukushima Children" Using the Fund Set Aside for Decon and Health Surveys

After rejection by the national government of the scheme that Fukushima Prefecture has been pushing - free medical care for children under 18 who live in Fukushima Prefecture, the governor of Fukushima says he may do that on his own, using the fund given to Fukushima for decontamination and health survey of the residents.

That begs an obvious question, as asked by Professor Hayakawa, among others:

"If Fukushima Prefecture is so dangerous that they have to provide free medical care, shouldn't the children in Fukushima evacuate from Fukushima, instead of remaining there?"

From NHK News (1/28/2012):


Governor Sato of Fukushima Prefecture met on January 28 with Minister in charge of recovery Hirano. On being informed that the request from Fukushima Prefecture to make medical care for children under 18 free would be very difficult to accept, Governor Sato expressed his dissatisfaction by saying "That is highly regrettable because both the prefectural government and municipalities in Fukushima were looking forward to the scheme". He further commented that the Fukushima prefectural government would work toward launching the scheme on its own to make Fukushima a place where people raise their children at ease. Governor Sato talked to the press after the meeting, and indicated that the likely source of the free medical care scheme would be the "fund for the health management of Fukushima residents" which has 78 billion yen [US$1 billion] that the national government contributed for decontamination and the health surveys in Fukushima.

The cost of the free medical care for children in Fukushima was estimated to be 10 billion yen when the idea was first floated by the governor.

Friday, January 27, 2012

NY Chefs Learn about Japanese Cuisine, and CM by the Japanese Government Promoting Food in East Japan

This gotta be the scheme hatched by the Japanese government, to have a sympathetic French chef conduct a workshop in New York.

The Japanese people, like many Asians and for that matter Europeans (and New Yorkers themselves), seem to think everything revolves around New York when it comes to anything American.

Of all things, the workshop was about how to prepare raw fish for sushi...

Anyway, here's NHK World (1/27/2012):

NY chefs learn about Japanese cuisine

Chefs at high-end restaurants in New York have taken part in a workshop to learn about traditional Japanese cuisine.

New York-based French chef Daniel Boulud organized the workshop. He led a group of chefs last July to cook meals for survivors in the tsunami-ravaged city of Kamaishi.

About 40 chefs took part in Thursday's workshop.
A sushi chef explained traditional ways to prepare raw fish.

Boulud said Japan is striving to restore trust in food safety, and he believes that Japanese ingredients are safe.

New York City has more than 1,400 Japanese restaurants. Some of these businesses were affected by the safety concerns about Japanese food after the disaster.

Friday, January 27, 2012 15:41 +0900 (JST)

NHK World has a video of the news at the link. Watching the video, it was indeed the scheme hatched by the Japanese government.

Here's another video promoting produce from disaster-affected East Japan (Kanto, Tohoku), targeting the Japanese using a popular group TOKIO. Translated and captioned by Tokyo Brown Tabby who did it probably in rage (as Tabby tries to pick safe food):

(From TBT's Youtube description; emphasis is mine)

This TV commercial clip (15 seconds) and its longer full version are sponsored by Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and have been on-air intermittently since early June, 2011. (A month after that, the problem of contaminated beef started to emerge).

The full 30-second version can be viewed here:

According to the official webpage for this CM campaign, the food that appear in the full 30-second version is as follows: rice ball using rice from Miyagi, asparagus from Fukushima, cucumber from Fukushima with "miso" from Miyagi, tomato from Ibaraki, apple from Aomori, watermelon from Gunma, milk from Iwate, peach from Yamanashi, BBQ using beef from Yamagata and onion from Chiba, and raw skipjack "sashimi" from Chiba.

These 5 men are a popular idol group called TOKIO.

The list of food items used reads like a horror story for those who closely follow the radioactivity measurement results by the prefectural governments.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Full of Untrained, Migrant Workers, TEPCO Says Subcontractors Are Supposed to Train Them

Tokyo Shinbun is a regional newspaper covering Kanto region of Japan. It has been reporting on the Fukushima accident and resultant radiation contamination in a more honest and comprehensive manner than any national newspaper. (Their only shortcoming is that their links don't seem to last for more than a week.)

Their best coverage on the subject, though, is not available digitally but only in the printed version of the newspaper. But no worry, as there is always someone who transcribes the article and post it on the net for anyone to see.

In the 2nd half of the January 27 article, Tokyo Shinbun details what kind of workers are currently working at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant: migrant workers young (in their 20's) and not so young (in their 60's), untrained, $100 a day. Some of them cannot even read and write.

From Tokyo Shinbun (1/27/2012):

(The first half of the article is asbout Mr. Osumi, the first worker to die in May last year after the plant "recovery" work started. About him and his Thai wife, please read my post from July 11, 2011.)


Low wages


The relationship between the cause of Mr. Osumi's death and radiation exposure is unknown. However, it is still the radiation exposure that is most worrisome for the workers who work at Fukushima I Nuke Plant to wind down the accident. The radiation exposure limit was lowered back to the normal "maximum 50 millisieverts per year" and "100 millisieverts in 5 years" on December 16 last year. It was done on the declaration of "the end of the accident" by Prime Minister Noda that day.


The radiation exposure limit was raised to 250 millisieverts per year right after the accident, as a special measure. The Ministry of Health and Labor argued that the number was based on the international standard for a severe accident which was 500 millisieverts. But the real purpose was to increase the number of hours that can be put in by the workers and to increase the number of workers to promptly wind down the accident.


However, as the prime minister wanted to appeal "the end of the accident", the limit was lowered back to the normal limit.


According to TEPCO, the radiation exposure levels of workers exceeded [annualized?] 250 millisieverts in some cases right after the accident, but since April it has been within 100 millisieverts.


However, the workers voice concerns over the safety management. One of the subcontract workers told the newspaper:


"Right now, 70% of workers at the plant are migrant contract workers from all over Japan. Most of them have never worked at nuke plants before. The pay is 8000 yen to 13,000 yen [US$104 to $170] per day. Most of them are either in their 20s who are finding it difficult to land on any job, or in their 60s who have "graduated" from the previous jobs."


As to the safety management, he said, "Before you start working at a nuclear power plant, you have to go through the "training before entering radiation control area". But in reality the training is ceremonial. The assumptions in the textbook do not match the real job site in an emergency situation. There were some who could not read, but someone else filled in the test for them at the end of the training."

■休む場所で 毎時12マイクロシーベルト

12 microsieverts/hour in the rest area


"Then the workers start working at the site. But there are not enough radiation control personnel who measure radiation levels in the high-radiation locations, and warn and instruct the workers. There are too many workers because the nature of the work is to wind down the accident. There are workers who take off their masks or who smoke even in the dangerous [high radiation] locations. I'm worried for their internal radiation exposures."


In the rest area where the workers eat lunch and smoke, the radiation level is 12 microsieverts/hour. "Among workers, we don't talk about radiation levels. There's no point."


The worker divulged to us, "For now, they've managed to get workers from all over Japan. But there won't be enough workers by summer, all bosses at the employment agencies say so." Local construction companies also admit [to the scarcity of workers by summer.]


"Local contractors who have been involved in the work at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant do not work there any more. It's dangerous, and there are jobs other than at the nuke plant, such as construction of temporary housing. The professional migrant workers who hop from one nuclear plant to another all over Japan avoid Fukushima I Nuke Plant. The pay is not particularly good, so what is the point of getting high radiation to the max allowed and losing the opportunity to work in other nuclear plants? So, it's mostly amateurs who work at the plant right now. Sooner or later, the supply of workers will dry up."


As to the working conditions and wage levels of the subcontract workers, TEPCO's PR person explains, "We believe the subcontracting companies are providing appropriate guidance." As to securing the workers, he emphasizes that "there is no problem at this point in sourcing enough workers. We will secure necessary workers depending on how the work progresses."


However, Katsuyasu Iida, Director General of Tokyo Occupational Safety and Health Center who have been dealing with the health problems of nuclear workers, points out, "Workers are made to work in a dangerous environment. The wage levels are going down, and there are cases of non-payment. It is getting harder to secure the workers."


He also says the safety management cannot be fully enforced by TEPCO alone, and demands the national government to step in. "They need to come up with the management system that include the subcontract workers. Unless they secure the [safe] work environment and work conditions, they cannot deal with the restoration work that may continue for a long while."

※ デスクメモ 福島第一原発での作業員は命懸けだ。それを一日八千円の報酬でこなしている労働者たちがいる。東電に籍のある「お抱え議員」は年収一千万円以上。原子力ムラの天下り役員たちも未だに健在だ。脱原発とは単なるエネルギー問題ではない。こうした「不条理」を放置するのか否かという問いでもある。

Memo from the desk [at Tokyo Shinbun]: Workers at Fukushima I Nuke Plant are risking their lives. Some are doing it for 8000 yen per day. A councilman who also happens to work for TEPCO earns more than 10 million yen [US$130,000] per year. Executives who "descended from heaven" to cushy jobs in the "nuclear energy village" are alive and well. To move away from nuclear power generation is not just about energy issues. It is to question whether we will continue to ignore such "absurdity".

Well said. Everybody in the nuclear industry in Japan knew that the industry depended (still does) on migrant workers who were (still are) hired on the cheap thorough layer after layer of subcontracting companies. Thanks to the Fukushima I Nuclear Plant accident, now the general public know that. But there are plenty of those who are still comfortable with the nuclear power generated by the nuclear power plants maintained at the expense of such workers and see nothing wrong with it.

Two Ways to Sell Contaminated Fukushima Rice: Sell Direct, and Discount for Wholesalers

No matter what the governments (national, prefectural) or the agricultural co-op (JA) in Fukushima say about the "safe" rice from Fukushima through vigorous testing, there are just too many ways that Fukushima rice that are contaminated with radioactive cesium can slip through and reach the consumers, without the consumers knowing that they are contaminated to a degree that they may not be comfortable eating it.

One way to sell directly to consumers, like in this case in Fukushima: "Mochi" rice (sticky rice used to make "mochi") containing 1110 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium had been sold at a farm stand in Date City, Fukushima.

From Jiji Tsushin (1/27/2012):


The Fukushima prefectural government announced on January 27 that radioactive cesium exceeding the provisional safety limit (500 becquerels/kg) was detected from "mochi" rice produced by a farmer in Date City in Fukushima Prefecture. The density was 1110 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium. According to the prefectural government, 57.5 kilograms of this rice had already been sold by the first half of November 2011 at a direct sales depot in the city. The direct sales depot is calling for the return of the rice.

Return? Most likely the rice has been already eaten as "mochi".

I totally fail to sympathize with the farmer who sold the rice at the direct sales depot. By 2011 fall, it should have been obvious, even to people in Date City, that their houses, farmlands were heavily contaminated. The city was measuring the radiation levels in the city and finding "hot spots" everywhere.

Another way is being practiced by the Fukushima JA: Reduce the wholesale price so that the distributors can get a fat margin, thus incentive for the wholesalers to push Fukushima rice. I'm sure they will be glad to oblige, because they mix and match with other rice from other parts of Japan anyway.

Also from Jiji Tsushin (1/27/2012):


The Fukushima Branch of the National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Association (JA) has been coordinating with the wholesalers to lower the wholesale price of some brands of rice produced in Fukushima in 2011. A multiple wholesalers disclosed the news [to reporters] on January 27. The new price will be effective as soon as January 30. As the sales has slumped due to the baseless rumors after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, the Fukushima JA may be aiming at stimulating the sales by lowering the wholesale price.


The wholesale price of "Koshihikari" from Nakadori (central Fukushima) and from Hamadori (coastal Fukushima) will be lowered by 1500 yen to be 13,800 yen and 13,700 yen per 60-kilogram bag respectively. "Hitomebore" brand produced in Fukushima will be lowered by 500 yen to 13,500 yen per 60-kilogram bag. The price for "Koshihikari" produced in Aizu region (western Fukushima) will not change.

I do not think it is likely that the wholesalers will pass on the savings to the retailers, if the past is any indication.

There are just too many channels through which the rice will leave Fukushima, as the Fukushima JA handles only 23% of rice produced in Fukushima anyway.

By the way, the Fukushima JA has decided on the rice growing policy in Fukushima for 2012 crop. The only areas that they say they will disallow the planting of rice are the areas that produced rice that exceeded 500 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium. Everywhere else, even in those areas that were unlucky to be found with rice that had radioactive cesium between 100 and 500 becquerels/kg, the JA will allow the rice growing after "thorough decontamination" of the soil.


We know what "decontamination" they are talking about, don't we? The rice farmers in Fukushima who grew rice last year (almost all of them) tilled their contaminated land before planting last year, mixing up the radioactive cesium, strontium and whatever other nuclides that landed with the then-clean soil underneath. Most likely they did the autumn tilling before the snowfall last year already. Most locations weren't even tested for radioactive materials in soil.

How do you decontaminate such land? It certainly won't be accomplished by thinly scraping the soil surface. Remove the top 30 centimeters? No that won't be enough, because rain may have driven radioactive materials further down. Top 1 meter then? The productive part of the soil will be gone.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Decontamination" Defined by Ministry of the Environment Is Nothing But a General, Thorough Cleaning by Hand

according to Sankei Shinbun, who has been unabashedly pro-nuclear energy and in favor of dispersing radioactive materials throughout Japan via the disaster debris to share in the "pain".

The paper has an article about the meeting between the Ministry of the Education officials and the heads of the municipalities within the 20-kilometer radius "no entry zone" where the heads of the municipalities received the information from the Ministry about their lot - whether they can return after the decontamination work by the national government or not.

But that isn't the interesting part of the article.

At the end of the article, there is a separate section that the newspaper writes about what "decontamination" is, according to the Ministry of the Education:

除染 「がんこな汚れを落とす掃除のようなもの」(環境省幹部)で、基本は人手に頼ってスコップやタワシなどで行わ れる。環境省が昨年末に公表したガイドラインによると、落ち葉など容易に除去できるものは手作業で取り除く。屋根であれば高圧洗浄機で洗い流し、玄関など コンクリート部分であればタワシやブラシでこする。放射性物質が染み込んだ草地や土壌は、スコップやショベルカーなどで表面をはぎ取る。放射能を浴びない ように防護服を着るなど作業時の服装に注意しなければならない。

Decontamination: "It is like a cleaning job of stubborn dirt or stains" (Ministry of the Environment senior officials). Basically, it relies on manpower, using hand tools like shovels and scrubbing-brushes. According to the guideline published at the end of last year by the Ministry of the Environment, what can be easily removed, such as dead leaves, is to be removed by hand. The roofs are to be washed down by high-pressure washers, and the concrete surface such as the entrance of a house is to be scrubbed by scrubbing-brushes and deck brushes. As for the grassland and the soil where radioactive materials have penetrated, the surface is to be removed using shovels or diggers. Workers must pay attention not to get exposed to radioactivity by wearing the protective gear.

It looks as long as you follow these procedures the Ministry will call it "decontamination" and the job is done by the book. The subcontractors get paid by the general contractors, who get paid by the Ministry.

If you believed what Goshi Hosono, Minister of the Environment, said about decontaminating Fukushima - "Japan is not the Soviet Union, we have advanced technology to deal with radiation contamination, and we can do what others may have failed", sorry. There is nothing high-tech about any of these methods, and they don't even work.

From what's been tweeted by a villager in Iitate-mura, Fukushima Prefecture, the thorough "decontamination" job by hand by the Self Defense Force using screw drivers scraping dirt and dead leaves achieved nothing. It's back to square one:


After decontamination (part 1): About the stone pavement in front of the village office that the Self Defense Force kindly took trouble to decontaminate for us. Right after the decontamination work on December 20, the radiation level was 1.57 microsievert/hour. On December 29 it was 2.87 microsieverts/hour. On January 10, it was 3.26 microsieverts/hour. I told you so, it's no use. The gaps between the stones are filled with dead leaves [again].

He is not angry that the radiation didn't go down. He is angry that the government needlessly exposed these young SDF soldiers who are from the bases inside Fukushima to high levels of radiation.

So far, two workers doing exactly what the Ministry of the Environment defines as "decontamination" have died in Date City and Hirono-machi in Fukushima Prefecture. The deaths have nothing to do with radiation, the government tells us, without giving any further details about the cause of their deaths.

If the government ever measured the density of radioactive materials in the soil and dead leaves that it made these workers and the SDF soldiers remove by hand in places like Iitate-mura and Date City, it hasn't bothered telling us.

By the way, Sankei Shinbun categorizes articles related to the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident and the radiation contamination problems with the label "Radiation Leak". At least Yomiuri and Asahi use "Nuke Plant Accident" as their label.

Tokyo University Seismologists: 70% Chance Within 4 Years That M7 Earthquake Hits Tokyo Region

70% chance within 4 years, 98% within 30 years. It's all about statistics.

The Insurance Journal carried an AP story about the study done by the researchers at Tokyo University on a potential M7 earthquake in Kanto region within 4 years.

After forking out the record payout after the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami, the insurance industry worldwide may be very interested in knowing more about such a study coming from a premier university well-aligned with the national government in Japan.

People in the Tokyo region (metropolitan areas and Kanto) don't seem to care. It's like "What's new?"

From The Insurance Journal citing AP (1/25/2012):

Study: Major Earthquake Could Hit Tokyo Within Years

By Mari Yamaguchi (AP)

A new study is warning that the Tokyo region has a 70 percent chance of being hit directly by a powerful magnitude-7 earthquake within four years.

The study by University of Tokyo seismologists bases the estimate on an increase in earthquake activity in the Tokyo region since last year’s March 11 disaster, when a magnitude-9 quake and subsequent tsunami about 140 miles (230 kilometers) northeast of the capital left nearly 20,000 people dead or missing.

The group at the university’s earthquake research institute said the number of moderate quakes in the capital region measuring magnitude 3 or bigger surged to 343 in the six-month period after the March quake, up from 47 in the previous six months.

Based on a theory that the probability of bigger earthquakes rises in proportion to an increase in smaller quakes, the team calculated a 98 percent likelihood of a magnitude 6.7 to 7.2 earthquake striking Tokyo over the next 30 years.

Stated differently, “When we ask when a probability of such a quake reaches 70 percent, then we get a 70 percent chance over the next four years,” said Shinichi Sakai, a seismologist on the team.

A separate government study estimates that the chance of a magnitude-7 quake striking Tokyo is 70 percent over the next 30 years.

Sakai said the two studies use different methods to calculate earthquake likelihood. While the university study factored in the recent increase in moderate seismic activity, the government estimate only looked the pattern of magnitude 6.7-7.2 quakes over the past 150 years. Since no quake that big has occurred in the Tokyo area since March, there is no change in the government estimate, Sakai said.

Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. Tokyo’s last major quake was the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake that killed 140,000 people.

(Video) What Happened to Chernobyl Children 7 Years after the Accident (from a Japanese TV program in 1993)

When it was someone else's problem (Chernobyl), Japan was telling the truth about the effect of radiation, particularly on children.

Tokyo Brown Tabby's translation and captioning of a TV program from 1993:

Ironically, the female newscaster has morphed into one of the strongest proponents (even today) of nuclear power generation. The journalist on the right has remained a journalist; he was seen investigating and reporting from the high-radiation areas in Fukushima, right after Reactor 1 blew up at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

Tabby's description of the Youtube video:

This video is from a Japanese evening news program broadcasted on Nihon TV, seven years after the Chernobyl accident (around 1993).

I hope the families in Fukushima who still hesitate to voluntarily evacuate their children will watch this and change their minds.

The original video is at:

German version is at 007bratsche's channel:
French version is at kna60's channel:

Japan's PM Noda: It Is "Regrettable" That There Is No Minutes of Meetings of Government Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters

None of the meetings of the Nuclear Disaster Response Headquarters has the minutes.

No record whatsoever of how decisions were made by a handful of politicians surrounding then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan (people like Yukio Edano, Banri Kaieda, and Goshi Hosono) and high-level bureaucrats at the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the Ministry of Education and Science, government experts in the Nuclear Safety Commission or the Atomic Energy Commission, and last but not least, TEPCO. We won't know who else was there, because they say they did not keep any record.

The excuse by the NISA was that they were too busy dealing with the crisis.

Well, they sure didn't act like they were dealing with crisis at that time. They were telling us everything was under control, and the Fukushima accident was only a Level 4 accident on INES event scale.

(My ranting is longer than the article.)

From Jiji Tsushin (1/26/2012):


Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda commented during the Lower House session in the afternoon of January 26 on the minutes of the meetings of the Nuclear Disaster Response Headquarters that was set up by the cabinet. He answered the question from a LDP politician and said "In the emergency situation after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, it is a fact that there is no minutes of the 23 meetings since March 11 last year, and it is regrettable."

Decisions that they made in the meetings include (in no chronological order and on top of my head, may not be accurate but we'll never know because there is no minutes):

  • Setting evacuation zones in concentric circles, as if Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was an atomic bomb.

  • (Kan) going to Fukushima I Nuke Plant less than a day after the nuclear accident because Kan thought of himself as "nuclear expert".

  • Ignoring the nuclear emergency protocol which specifically said "Use SPEEDI".

  • Introducing the "rolling blackout" to scare people into not abandoning nuclear power plants despite the horrendous accident.

  • Raising the annual radiation exposure limit for the Fuku-I workers to 250 millisieverts from 50 millisieverts max per year.

  • Raising the radiation exposure limit for school children in schools in Fukushima to 20 millisieverts per year.

  • Creating the provisional safety standards for food and water.

  • Ordering sample tests for food items out of Fukushima, which resulted in 99.9% of vegetables being sold without any testing.

  • Sending nuclear experts to Fukushima to tell people everything was OK.

  • Sending government-affiliated nuclear experts to TV stations to downplay the accident (remember the "Plutonium Brothers"?).

  • Devising a campaign attacking journalists who wrote something "bad" about Fukushima or Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident.

  • Devising a campaign to promote the idea that tasty food was safe food; performance by politicians and by celebrities eating freshly picked Fukushima vegetables.

  • Dumping the contaminated water from the plant into the Pacific Ocean without telling the countries that might be affected.

The list is endless.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

1143 Children (Over 30%) of 3765 Tested for Thyroid Abnormalities in Fukushima Had Lumps or Cysts (Updated)

(UPDATE: The document issued by the Fukushima Prefecture's expert committee is here (PDF, in Japanese).

Total number of children tested: 3765
No. of children found with lumps [nodules] 5.1 millimeter or larger: 26
No. of children found with lumps [nodules] less than 5.1 millimeter: 56
No. of children found with cysts 20.1 millimeter or larger: 0
No. of children found with cyst less than 20.1 millimeter: 1086
No. of children with no lumps [nodules], cysts: 2622

There are children who have both lump [nodule] and cyst.


Waaaiiit a minute...

I was looking for more information on the post I wrote about the lumps on the thyroid 5.1 millimeters or bigger in diameter found in 0.7% or 26 children out of 3765 children tested in Fukushima Prefecture. I was specifically looking for information on the number of children who had any lump at all.

I've just found it in an unlikely place: Fukushima Minpo, local Fukushima newspaper. I thought they would obfuscate, but they have the details. The article looks like it is a part of a longer article; it is possible it is abbreviated from the article in the print version of the newspaper.

It turns out,

Total number of children tested: 3765
No. of children found with lumps 5.1 millimeters and larger: 26 (0.7% of total)
No. of children found with lumps smaller than 5.1 millimeters: 1117 (29.7% of total)

1143 children, or 30.4% of children tested, were found with lumps of varying sizes.

From Fukushima Minpo (1/25/2012):


At the expert commission, the result of the thyroid test was reported. The test was done on the children below the age of 18 in Namie-machi, Iitate-mura, and Yamakiya District of Kawamata-machi [all planned evacuation zone]. Of 3765 children, there was no one who was deemed necessary to immediately go through further testing.


26 children (0.7%) have been found with lumps with 5.1 millimeters or larger in diameter, and will go through further testing [at some time]. However, Shunichi Yamashita, the head of the commission and the vice president of Fukushima Medical University explains, "There is no malignant change due to the nuclear plant accident". Of 3739 children who will not need further testing (99.3% of children tested), 1117 children (29.7%) have been found with lumps 5.0 millimeters or less in diameter. But the prefectural government has decided they are "benign".


The thyroid testing is part of the Fukushima residents health management survey, and was carried out in Namie, Iitate-mura, and Yamakiya District of Kawamata-machi first. For the other areas, it has been on-going.

It decidedly does not look totally OK to me, and the explanation by the Fukushima officials sounds suspect.

OT: "Egoist" by Falco

(Speaking of an egoist...) One of my favorite songs.

Die ganze Welt dreht sich um mich,
denn ich bin nur ein Egoist.

Der Mensch, der mir an naechsten ist
bin ich, ich bin ein Egoist.

and of course this one:

Drah di ned um, oh oh oh - schau, schau,
der Kommissar geht um! oh oh oh

WSJ Runs a Hagiography of Naoto Kan, Former PM of Japan Who Presided (Unfortunately) Over the Fukushima Nuke Accident

A political "rags to riches" story, says Wall Street Journal writer Toko Sekiguchi.

The article is totally uncritical, glossing over everything that happened under Kan's watch since March 11, 2011, and is written in a simple English to match the simplistic content that doesn't read like a Wall Street Journal at all.

What's the occasion anyway for this hagiography? Kan is attending the Davos meeting, annual confab of the world's rich and powerful in Davos, Switzerland, and is saying "No More Nuke Plants". Oh isn't that great.

"I'm pouring most of my time and energy into promoting renewable energy, and I'm having a great time"

From Wall Street Journal (1/25/2012):

Japan's Former Premier Takes Antinuclear Campaign to Davos


TOKYO—Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan returns to the world stage this week, part of a campaign to reinvent himself as a global antinuclear activist nearly a year after he oversaw his government's widely criticized handling of the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

"I would like to tell the world that we should aim for a society that can function without nuclear energy," he said in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, previewing his speech scheduled for Thursday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Mr. Kan was last in the spotlight in August, when he tendered his resignation as prime minister barely a year after taking office, and just over five months after the March 11 tsunami triggered the Fukushima meltdowns. He was forced out by the parliamentary opposition and by critics inside his own ruling party, who blasted his handling of the accident and, more generally, his strong-willed, improvisational style of governing.

Japan runs through prime ministers so quickly—Mr. Kan is one of six men to have held the title in the past five years—that former ones rarely wield influence domestically or internationally. But Mr. Kan is betting he can break the mold, by reverting to his prelegislative career as a civic activist. Before entering Parliament in 1980, he worked as an advocate for affordable housing for Tokyo's long-suffering salarymen.

"People tell me that I've gone back to my roots," he said in the interview, his first with a non-Japanese news organization since leaving office. "I'm pouring most of my time and energy into promoting renewable energy, and I'm having a great time," he added.

Mr. Kan has been traveling the world. On a recent trip to Spain and Germany, his alternative-energy inspection tour included visiting solar-energy control centers. As he talked of energy-efficient building codes and described a visit to a Japanese biomass community project, flipping through PowerPoint printouts, the 65-year-old Mr. Kan flashed a youthful smile—an expression he rarely showed during his tumultuous administration.

While his successor, Yoshihiko Noda, is pushing to restart closed reactors in Japan and to promote Japanese nuclear-reactor exports to countries such as Vietnam and Turkey, Mr. Kan is now pursuing an alternative-energy agenda, hoping to use his connections to make headway. "I think we should aim to create a world in which people do not need to depend on nuclear energy, and it would be ideal if Japan can become a model country for the world," he said.

In some ways, it is a likely end to what had been an unlikely career. In a political rags-to-riches tale, Mr. Kan won his first national election on his fourth grass-roots campaign bid as a member of the smallest opposition party at the time. But the issues raised then by a leftist activist-turned-politician of a miniparty went unheeded as Japan made the transition from its breakneck postwar growth to the bubble economy, protected by an iron triangle of big business, the nation's bureaucracy and the Liberal Democratic Party, which had ruled continuously since 1955.

"We used to talk about defeating the LDP, to eliminate the bureaucrat-led, special-interest politics," said Jiro Yamaguchi, a Hokkaido University political- science professor and longtime friend of Mr. Kan. "It sounded like a dream back then. No way did I think that he'd be premier one day."

Early in his career, Mr. Kan developed an interest in renewable energies, and he still proudly shows a fading picture of himself as a young, long-haired legislator visiting a Colorado wind farm. He discussed wind power during a parliamentary session in 1982, drawing a rebuke from the then-minister of science and technology, who, according to the legislative transcript, chided him: "Don't use it as a reason to reject nuclear power; don't get too excited or carried away."

Mr. Kan recalled that exchange with bemusement, saying nuclear power wasn't even part of that discussion. He said the official's reflexive response demonstrated the ruling government's obsession with the technology. At the time, Japan was still recovering from the oil crises of the 1970s, and nuclear power was emerging as the alternative to foreign oil.

As Mr. Kan rose to power, he came to embrace the national consensus that Japan should ramp up its use of nuclear energy.

Mr. Kan said that as a young politician, he believed atomic power was only a transitional energy source. But " as our party grew in size, many of us began to see nuclear power as a safe power that should be more aggressively utilized," he said.

By the time his Democratic Party of Japan wrested control from the LDP in a historic 2009 victory, the new government had adopted the LDP's pronuclear policy, promising to build 14 new nuclear reactors by 2030. Nuclear power was repackaged as clean energy, becoming the centerpiece of the DPJ's plan to cut carbon emissions by 25%, in relation to Japan's 1990 output levels, by 2020.

March 11 changed that. Mr. Kan had to make gut-wrenching decisions, including rejecting a request from Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. to pull workers back from the increasingly dangerous reactors. "It was the first time since World War II that a Japanese leader was asking people to risk their lives," he said.

In his mind, he said, he simulated an worst-case evacuation scenario that included the 35 million people in the Tokyo metropolitan area. "Not only would we lose up to half of our land, but spread radiation to the rest of the world," he said. "Our existence as a sovereign nation was at stake."

"Just when he reached the peak, an accident that questioned his very core erupted," said veteran lawmaker Satsuki Eda, a Kan ally for three decades.

Four months after the accident, Mr. Kan used the bully pulpit of the premiership to declare that he was revising Japan's energy policy, aiming eventually to rid the country of all its nuclear-power plants. He called the technology's risks impossible to contain. The announcement surprised his own cabinet ministers, who were notified of the decision only hours beforehand, and shocked a political system in which consensus-building skill is prized.

Even onetime close allies within the ruling party questioned Mr. Kan's competence in handling the accident and his response—blaming his impetuous style for aggravating the costly chaos. "Mr. Kan is a skillful politician when on the offensive, forcefully breaking through and overcoming barriers—but crisis management and day-to-day communication with the public is not an offensive skill," said Yukio Edano, Mr. Kan's chief spokesman during the height of the crisis, told reporters last month.

Mr. Kan remains unapologetic: "A large part of people's criticism against me was that I acted spontaneously or just off the top of my head. But for me, that's a positive thing. If you're not inspired, you can't act."

Now, unfettered by the burdens of office, he has more freedom to act. "He's finally back to his normal self," said Mr. Eda.

Write to Toko Sekiguchi at

Thyroid Abnomalities in 0.7% of Fukushima Children, According to Prefectural Government

(UPDATE: See my latest post. Total 1143 children out of 3765 tested had lumps on the thyroid.)


(Let's repeat the refrain: "It has nothing to do with radiation".)

From Jiji Tsushin (1/25/2012):


0.7% of children under the age of 18 have developed lumps [on the thyroid] more than 5 millimeters in diamater: "Hard to believe" there is any effect of radiation, says Fukushima prefectural government


On January 25, the Fukushima prefectural government announced for the first time the result of the early test of thyroid gland on the children who were in Fukushima Prefecture and were under the age of 18 at the time of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. Of 3765 children who were tested with ultrasound, 26 children or 0.7% of the children tested were found with lumps that measure more than 5.1 millimeters in diameter.


Fukushima Medical University, who conducted the test, says, "They are benign lumps. It is highly likely that these lump had existed before, and it is hard to believe there is any effect of radiation". However, just in case, the university will conduct additional ultrasound testing and blood testing.


The early test was done on children who lived in Namie-machi, Iitate-mura, and Yamakiya District of Kawamata-machi at the time of the accident. Most of the 26 children are over the age of 6, and according to the Fukushima prefectural government there was no case of suspected cancer.

Fukushima Medical University, as you recall, has Dr. Shunichi Yamashita as the vice president. He and his associates are responsible for telling the residents in Iitate-mura and other high radiation cities and towns in Fukushima that it was safe to be outside, to eat vegetables, to drink water, when the radioactive fallout was falling heavily in Fukushima in March and April.

Of course these lumps are benign. They have to be.

City Assemblyman in Tokyo to School Children: Don't Be an Egoist, Eat Your School Lunch to Share the Pain of Tohoku

An assemblyman in Itabashi-ku, one of the 23 Special Wards in Tokyo, writes in his official blog that egoism fostered by the post-World War II education system is the root cause of this unscientific, rumor-based hysteria of the parents who want their children not to eat school lunch and instead want them to bring their own lunch boxes and water for fear of internal radiation exposure from contaminated food items used in school lunch.

45-year-old Assemblyman Yoshiyuki Motoyama's main message: "Those of us, who have been spared of the damage from the disaster, must share the pain of Tohoku people."

Japan toward the end of the World War II had a national slogan: All citizens of Japan to die rather than allow surrender - 一億玉砕. Some people seem to want to re-start that campaign.

From the blog post by Yoshiyuki Motoyama, assemblyman from Itabashi-ku, Tokyo on 1/23/2012:


On Sunday column in Sankei Shinbun, there was an article. About school lunch.


School lunch started after the World War II...


Back then, there were children from poor families who couldn't bring bento (lunch box), but...


School lunch started, and everyone get to eat together, and that built bonds and sense of solidarity, the article said.


That's the educational meaning of school lunch, right there.


That is right now being shaken by a handful of egoists.


They mix the problem of radiation contamination after the nuclear accident...


and demand that they be given the freedom to drop out of the school lunch system because there are problems with the radiation in food items. ([They want their children to] bring bento and water to schools.)


They fight the local government without any scientific proof.


Indeed, this is the epitome of baseless rumor.


For us, the citizens of this country who escaped the damage, it is important to share the pain of people in the Tohoku disaster areas.


Removing inconvenience around them, is that all they care about?


When did such egoism take root in the Japanese people?


I get it, it's education!

He is calling the concerned parents of children in nursery schools, kindergartens, elementary schools, middle schools, high schools who do not want their children to ingest radioactive materials in food items used in school lunch by bringing lunch boxes and bottled water, and the children themselves, egoists.

This is about half of the post, which reads like a composition by an eighth grader at best. I tried my best, but I probably didn't do a good job of translating it at that level. My blood pressure rose too high to translate the rest of the dribble. Yes, clearly the post-war education system has been a big problem in Japan, as evidenced by this assemblyman.

OT: Gold Going Vertical After the US Fed FOMC Meeting

that announced the ZIRP (zero interest rate policy) at least until the late 2014, with indication that the US central bank may further "accommodate" (QE3) the still-sluggish "recovery" of the US "economy". Probably just in time for the re-election campaign to be mounted in earnest by the incumbent.

Zero Hedge has a comparison of December and January FOMC statements, here.

As Japan could easily tell to Ben "Bernank" Bernanke, once ZIRP, always ZIRP. Or at least 2 decades and counting.

#Fukushima Farmers Angry at New Safety Standard for Radioacte Materials in Food As "Too Strict"

"With the new, stricter safety standard, we cannot farm", they say.

A small portion of Japan's consumers would say "YES!!!", while the majority would feel bad that they are not doing enough to support the poor farmers in Fukushima Prefecture. "They are victims of TEPCO and the government!" they say. "It's not their fault that radioactive materials have fallen (and continue to fall) on their farmland."

It's not their fault, but it's their choice to farm on a contaminated land and possibly produce contaminated food, just like last year, and sell it to people outside Fukushima, just like last year while they say they cannot let their small children and grandchildren eat it.

From Fukushima Minpo, not the entire article (1/25/2012):


"If the standard gets stricter, I have no choice but quit farming." There was a meeting in Fukushima City on January 24 where the Ministry of Health and Labor and the Food Safety Commission under the Cabinet Office explained the new safety standard for radioactive cesium in food. The farmers who attended the meeting spoke out angrily. It was the first meting outside Tokyo, but there were more producers who did not agree with the policy of the national government [on food safety]. On the other hand, consumers want even stricter standards while the Fukushima prefectural government is unsure how to establish a system to detect radioactive materials in food.


"Half-dried persimmons and blueberries, people don't eat them everyday. The safety limit for those shouldn't be 100 becquerels/kg." A farmer from Nihonmatsu City angrily demanded the revision of the new safety standard, accusing the national government for having tightened the standard without considering the hardship suffered by the farmers in Fukushima. The farmer said, "By uniform tightening of the standard, farmers cannot grow crops, and local specialties will disappear."


About 160 farmers and government administrators attended the meeting. One JA official, who has been asked about the safety of agricultural products [in Fukushima] from the retailers, demanded that [the national government] issue a declaration of safety and security of the Fukushima produce, and the declaration be accompanied with the stricter standard. But there was no clear answer from the officials from the national government. The JA official angrily continued, "You are not answering my question. Do you think the consumers would eat [our produce] just by tightening the standard?"


The farmers in Fukushima are fearful and disturbed by the introduction of the stricter safety standard. A farmer in Koriyama City said there was no radioactive material detected from the rice he grew last year on his 20 hectares of rice paddies. However, there is no guarantee that this year's crop will fare the same. "It is necessary to tighten the standard so that the consumers feel safe. But I wouldn't be able to grow rice at ease if I were to suffer from "baseless rumors" if a minute amount of radioactive materials was found", he lamented.

There is a wide, wide gap between these farmers and JA officials and the consumers who do care about radioactivity in food. The gap is so wide that I don't think they understand each other any more.

To these farmers, radioactive materials found in their crop are nothing but "baseless rumors". To the JA official, I would ask "Do you think consumers eat your food because the national government made a declaration?"

So, they will continue to farm, looking more like the tense and angry Mr. Sugeno , and not like Mr. Tanno, relaxed and happy growing food he loves after leaving contaminated Fukushima. See my January 7 post about these two farmers.

Consumers still have a choice of not eating blueberries and half-dried persimmons (they were found with rather high levels of radioactive cesium last year) from Fukushima, for now. There are people in Japan who are proposing a system whereby all food items will carry labels like "not fit for consumption for people under 20". They want the older people to eat radioactive food so that the farmers in Fukushima can continue to farm.

Now I think about it, it's not that much different from what the ICRP says. It is grotesque to me nonetheless.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Rah Rah Land Called Fukushima: "Let's All Feel Safe and Secure in Fukushima" Forums Being Held

All-out PR campaign by the national government and the Fukushima prefectural government for the people in Fukushima who remain is on.

As part of the campaign, the Fukushima prefectural government is holding "forums" for the residents in locations inside Fukushima so that the residents can feel safe and secure, without worry, living in radioactive Fukushima.

From the prefectural government's announcement on 1/18/2012 on the "Let's feel safe and secure forums in promotion of decontamination efforts":


In order to proceed with decontamination, it is imperative to alleviate the fear of radiation among the residents of Fukushima Prefecture and to promote understanding toward carrying out decontamination. In order to answer the residents' fear and questions regarding the effect of radiation and decontamination, the forums will be held on the following schedule...

Brainwashing, anyone? Much like the safety campaign featuring Dr. Shunichi "I tricked you" Yamashita in late March, as the heavy radioactive fallout from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was descending on Fukushima.

Here's the pamphlet of the "Safe and Secure Forum (安全・安心フォーラム)" to be held in Koriyama City, located in the high-radiation middle third of Fukushima Prefecture, on January 29, 2012. The event is hosted by the Fukushima prefectural government, Koriyama City, and the Atomic Energy Society of Japan. It is free, anyone can come:

Radiation experts will be there to answer all the questions, and a familiar (I'm guessing) voice on Fukushima Radio will serve as a moderator. Silhouettes of families with small children, and a family dog, and the obligatory "Ganbaro Fukushima" (Fight Fukushima) logo in the upper right-hand corner.

Go ahead and fight. Bamboo spears against B29 high-altitude bombers, but it will sure make you feel like you're doing something. A classic case of "escalation of commitment".

Through countless subsidies to Fukushima Prefecture from the national government after the March 11 nuclear accident, the taxpayers of Japan are also party to this lunacy.

The pamphlet says "We will answer your questions". But on the backside of the pamphlet there are examples of questions the residents are supposed to ask in the Q&A session, with the ready answers:

Q: Will decontamination really lower the radiation levels of the living space?

A: If it is effectively done, yes. It is important to survey the levels of contamination first and come up with the efficient decontamination methods.

Q: If the contaminated soil after decontamination is buried, is there a danger of it contaminating the groundwater and soil around it?

A: It is generally known [and accepted] that once cesium is attached to the soil, it will remain attached to the soil surface and won't dissolve easily. Therefore, it is not very likely that the contaminated soil will contaminate the groundwater or the soil surrounding it.

Q: Are there health risks from radiation exposure other than cancer?

A: Health risks such as heart attacks and cataracts have been discussed at the ICRP. However, such health risks only appear in the case of high radiation exposure exceeding 500 millisieverts. We believe there is no need to consider them in the low-level radiation exposure.

Oh really. No cancer, no heart attack, no cataract that the residents in Fukushima may suffer in the future is radiation-related, and that's the declaration here.

"Nuclear Regulatory Agency" Will Be the Name of a New Agency That Will Oversee the Nuclear Industry in Japan

Why the name? Because it sounds just like the US counterpart, Nuclear Regulatory Commission. (As if it's a good thing.)

The original idea for naming the new agency was to use the word "Safety" instead of "Regulatory". But the word "safety" has become such a dirty word in Japan over the last year (much like "hope" and "change" in the US over the past 3 years) the Noda administration, which seems to care very much (many say "only") about how it appears in the eyes of the international "community" (whoever that is), has decided not to use the word "safety" for the name of a new agency that will be created under the Ministry of the Environment (of all places).

From Asahi Shinbun digital version (1/24/2012):


The Noda administration informed the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ, ruling party) on January 24 of its decision to name the new agency in charge of nuclear regulation "Nuclear Regulatory Agency". The agency will be set up as an affiliated agency to the Ministry of the Environment sometime in April.


The administration was going to name the agency as "Nuclear Safety Agency". However, the DPJ's project team on ending the nuclear accident requested last December to name it "Nuclear Regulatory Agency". The Nuclear Regulatory Agency will be created by separating out the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and combining the Nuclear Safety Commission under the Cabinet Office and the radiation monitoring division under the Ministry of Education and Science.

Radioactive Ashes: IAEA Says Japanese Government's Approach to Bury 8,000 Bq/Kg Ashes in Conventional Landfills In Line With International Practices

As residents in municipalities are speaking up against receiving disaster debris contaminated with radioactive materials, the municipalities are quite happy ignoring the residents, citing the Ministry of the Environment's assurance that everything is under control and safe.

One of the authorities that the Ministry relies on in practically ordering the wide-area (all over Japan) processing of the disaster debris (see this document if you read Japanese) is the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA.

In this document (page 3) that haughtily "advises" the municipalities not to refuse the Ministry's "request" to accept, burn, bury and recycle the radioactive disaster debris, the Ministry of the Environment says the following:


A mission from the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has found the policy of burying the ashes with radioactivity of 8,000 becquerels/kg or less in the controlled final landfill sites without further treatment perfectly in line with the established international methodology...

Has IAEA actually said that? So I looked up the IAEA's final report titled "Remediation of Large Contaminated Areas Off-site the Fukushima Daiichi NNP". The report was published on November 15, 2011, on the IAEA mission in Japan from October 7 to 15, 2011:

Guidelines have been issued for the management of incinerator ash and sewage sludge depending on their activity level. For example, incinerator ash having activity levels of 8000 Bq/kg or less is to be disposed of at conventional controlled type landfills without any further conditioning. The Team finds this approach to be fully aligned with established international practices.

So I am asking the readers with knowledge and expertise in the matter: Is it part of the established international practices to bury the radioactive ashes with 8,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium in regular landfills near you without any precaution to shield the radioactivity? If so, where are the sites that practice this form of radioactive waste disposal?

My wild guess is that the IAEA report was written by the Japanese government, just like the previous one on the cause of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident (tsumani did it) which were identical to the Japanese government's position and to the presentation done in Washington DC in May 26, 2011 by Naoto Sekimura, one of the prominent Tokyo University professors in nuclear science, whose constant appearance on NHK in the early days of the accident served the purpose of assuring the (ignorant) public that everything was under control, there was no immediate danger outside the area right near the plant.

There's hardly any mention of the severe contamination that will likely result on the incinerators and furnaces where the radioactive debris will be burned, either in the Ministry of the Environment's document or the IAEA document.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Rich Haul of Skipjacks in Katsuura Port in Chiba Prefecture, First of the Year

The first haul of skipjacks for the year at Katsuura Port in Chiba Prefecture was five times as big as the normal haul.

The other day, fishermen in Kesennuma Port in Miyagi started shipping oysters because they grew too big too fast.

Asahi Shinbun Local Chiba version (1/24/2012):


The first catch of skipjacks for the year, 58 tonnes, was hauled at Katsuura Fishing Port in Katsuura City in Chiba Prefecture on January 23. The port, which boasts of one of the largest hauls of skipjacks in Japan, was enlivened with such a big haul.


Two skipjack fishing boats from Mie Prefecture arrived at the port. 58 tonnes of skipjacks including those caught by single hook fishing near Io-jima were brought to the sorting area. Normally, about 10 tonnes of skipjacks are hauled per day. It is also rare to have two boats arriving on the same day. The skipjacks are of decent sizes, and was sold at 400 to 500 yen per kilogram. Hauling of skipjacks will begin in earnest in February.

The haul includes those caught off Io-jima, but also includes those caught elsewhere, as indicated in the article without mentioning exactly where.

Radioactivity of skipjacks caught 940 kilometers off the coast Aomori Prefecture in November and hauled to a port in Chiba was slightly above 15 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium, according to the information by Chiba Prefecture.

Wall Street Journal: "IAEA Says Japan Alone Should Decide on Reactors"

The head of the delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) currently visiting Japan has said Japan alone should decide whether to restart the reactors in Japan after the "stress test". The IAEA is to examine the ways the "stress test" has been carried out, and to visit two nuclear power plants whose "stress tests" have been "successfully" concluded.

My guess: A ringing endorsement of the way the "stress test" have been done by the Japanese government, with a few pieces of kindly advice on how to further improve.

There are still Japanese citizens who think IAEA will somehow rein in the Japanese government's drive to re-start the nuclear power plants despite stiff citizen-level oppositions. Sorry. And wake up.

Wall Street Journal has a rather disjointed article on the IAEA mission in Japan this time, with the first one-third of the article dedicated to analyzing the trend on tweets in Japan regarding the danger of a big earthquake in the Kanto region and the last one-third dedicated to disaster preparedness of municipalities within 30-kilometers of any nuclear power plants.

(Never mind that radioactive materials from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident have significantly contaminated areas that are more than 200 kilometers away, and the government is still thinking in concentric circles...)

From Wall Street Journal English (1/23/2012):

IAEA Says Japan Alone Should Decide on Reactors


TOKYO—The International Atomic Energy Agency on Monday began a mission to help identify gaps in Japan's safety-check procedure for nuclear plants, to boost reactor resilience to natural disasters, as Tokyo began drawing up emergency plans with local governments.

Underscoring the risks facing Japan, a new research institute investigation has determined there is a 70% chance of a magnitude-7 earthquake striking the Tokyo metropolitan area within the next four years, and 98% over 30 years. The March 2011 earthquake was a magnitude-9.

The latest prediction surprised residents, and grabbed headlines in the local media. The government's forecast, using a different methodology, has been that there is a 70% chance of a magnitude-7 quake hitting Tokyo over the next 30 years.

The term "within four years" began trending on Twitter early in the day, with users saying that while the threat of the big one hovered in the back of their minds, the new calculation has made them more aware of the need to make emergency preparations.

The IAEA mission was dispatched in response to Japan's request to evaluate the methodology of its stress-test safety checks now being implemented on idled reactors. By offering to put itself under international scrutiny, Japan hopes to regain public trust in its safety procedures and bring about an eventual restart of nuclear reactors.

So far, Japan's efforts to regain public support for restarting the reactors has made little headway, with 49 out of the nation's 54 reactors currently offline. By May, those last five will be required to close for maintenance.

The head of the IAEA mission, James Lyons, said a decision on whether to restart Japan's idled nuclear reactors is solely up to the Japanese government.

"We will not be focusing on whether or not it is acceptable to restart any given plant. That is fully the responsibility of the Japanese government," said Lyons, director of the IAEA's nuclear-installation safety division and a former official with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, at a news conference.

Mr. Lyons said the mission will focus on a number of areas in examining the government's stress tests, including severe accident procedures, extreme external events and loss of off-site power supply.

During their nine-day stay through Jan. 31, the IAEA's team of 10 experts will visit two reactors that have recently been certified as safe by Japanese regulators to evaluate whether the checks address all potential risks.

On Monday, the Japanese government asked local authorities within a 30-km radius of nuclear plants to draw up emergency-response plans to possible nuclear disasters.

Such plans have been required only for local governments within an 8-10 kilometer (5-6 mile) radius, but the government has decided that emergency plans should be made for much wider areas in the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which was triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The government also is requesting that plans for major natural disasters be far more specific, detailing the methods of evacuation, distribution of iodine pills for radiation exposure, securing of communication channels and deployment of radiation-monitoring posts.

"The March nuclear disaster has exposed serious flaws in communication between the central and local governments," said Goshi Hosono, minister in charge of nuclear disasters, referring to the failure to alert local communities on the spread of radiation plumes from the Fukushima Daiichi plant in the early days of the 2011 crisis.

Meanwhile, Prof. Naoshi Hirata, of Tokyo University's Earthquake Research Institute, said the March earthquake apparently has increased the chances of major quakes striking the Tokyo metropolitan area over the next four years.

There is a correlation between the number of small quakes and that of large quakes, according to Prof. Hirata. A recent jump in the number of small jolts around Tokyo indicates the chance of a large quake has also increased, he said.

"The balance has changed since March 11," added Shinichi Sakai, a research associate at the institute. He said that pinpointing the exact location of any pending temblor is impossible, but that researchers will attempt to narrow down field of possibilities and revise scenarios of what might occur in the new time frame.
—Yoree Koh contributed to this article.

Ministry of the Environment Seems to Have Outsourced Telephone Answering on Disaster Debris

Citizens in Japan have been calling the Ministry of the Environment directly, asking questions about the Ministry's dubious policy of spreading disaster (and radioactive) debris from Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures throughout Japan to be burned and buried and recycled. To their puzzlement, people who answer the calls from the citizens at the Ministry don't seem to know much about anything.

It turns out that the first line of defense for the Ministry (so to speak) is manned by employees (or part-timers) of the private businesses contracted by the Ministry to answer calls on disaster debris processing. Going nowhere and not getting any meaningful answers, many people give up on this defense line and hang up. Those who persevere may have to go through another layer or two until they get to the Ministry's employees.

Clearly, some of the people answering the phones sound like they never managed to graduate from elementary schools. The following is a reconstituted dialogue between a citizen and a woman who answered the phone at the Ministry (based on these tweets from the same person, here and here):

The woman who answered the phone at the Ministry:
The Ministry is asking [the municipalities] to accept debris whose radioactivity is between 240 to 480 becquerels, so that the radioactivity will be no more than 8000 becquerels after the debris is burned.

Becquerel per kilogram is the unit of measurement, correct? So what happens if there are several tonnes of debris?

The woman at the Ministry:
That doesn't mean the number of becquerels will increase. I tell you there will be no change, no matter how many tonnes of debris there are.

480 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium in the disaster debris means 480,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium in one tonne.

500,000 tonnes of such radioactive debris will contain 240 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium.

(I guess a graduate of an elementary school wouldn't be able to handle numbers larger than thousands.)

When the citizens finally reach the low-level proper employees of the Ministry and ask, "Who do you outsource the telephone answering service to?"

The Ministry's answer is (of course) "We can't tell you that."

I do see one good thing out of this recent development though. The Ministry finally admits openly that the disaster debris from Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures is contaminated with radioactive materials. The Ministry's narrative, for that matter the government's narrative, has been that it is just disaster debris from the March 11 earthquake/tsunami, as if the nuclear accident never happened and no radioactive fallout fell on the debris.

Nevertheless, more prefectures and municipalities have chosen to continue to focus on the old narrative, and expressed their intention to accept, burn, bury, and or recycle the disaster debris. They are mostly prefectures that have mostly escaped contamination from the Fukushima fallout, including Akita Prefecture (that produces one of the premier rice), Gifu Prefecture (that says it is worried about fast breeder Monju accident), and Osaka Prefecture/Osaka City (whose mayor who looks like a boy wonder has national ambitions).

Governor of Kanagawa Kuroiwa, a former TV personality, is doing his utmost best to bring the debris to his prefecture. His main argument is "Because Tokyo is doing it."

If you read Japanese, there is a comprehensible coverage of the disaster/radioactive debris issues including technical information and information from waste management industry people, on this togetter thread (collection of tweets) that is continuously being updated and organized.

These days, ordinary citizens know much more than the government officials and subcontractors. But so far, the government apparently has nothing to fear from the citizens, and does whatever it wants to do.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

India's First Fast Breeder Reactor to Go Critical in Early 2013, Near Chennai

Some poetic justice, I can't help thinking. But this may be exactly what the Japanese government and the corporate elites (particularly in the nuclear industry) want anyway, to be near a successful (if) fast breeder reactor for a change.

India's first prototype fast breeder reactor will go critical in early 2013, with commercial power generation to commence in March 2015 in the township of Kalpakkam in Tamil Nadu, about 70 kilometers south of Chennai where the Japanese government-industry joint venture is to set up a "Japan town" where expat Japanese can live in luxury with own hospitals and shopping centers, golf course in a resort setting.

The fast breeder uses liquid sodium as coolant, just like "Monju" in Japan. I am pretty sure that Indians, just like the Japanese before them, think they are different, and won't make stupid mistakes like Americans (TMI), Russians (Chernobyl), and Japanese (Fukushima). Not to mention the costly "Monju" fast breeder project that has had nothing but failures.

Just watch out for those cyclones and tsunamis from future mega earthquakes from Indonesia...

From (1/21/2012):

Chennai: India's first 500-MW prototype fast breeder reactor (PFBR), being set up at Kalpakkam near here, is likely to go critical early next year and commercial generation of electricity is expected in March 2015.

India`s first PFBR to go critical early 2013
"Construction activities will come to close this year-end. Loading of the part fuel is expected to happen during the first quarter of next year and the reactor would go critical," said S.C. Chetal, director at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR) that designed the PFBR.

Chetal is also a director at Bharatiya Nabhikiya Vidyut Nigam Ltd (BHAVINI), a public sector company under the Directorate of Atomic Energy (DAE), that has been given the responsibility to build fast reactor power plants in the country.

When the PFBR is commissioned, power can be produced at a lesser cost than electricity generated from conventional sources.

A breeder reactor is one that breeds more material for a nuclear fission reaction than it consumes. The reaction produces energy that is used in the form of electricity. The Indian fast reactors will be fuelled by a blend of plutonium and uranium oxide.

India`s first PFBR to go critical early 2013
While the reactor will break up (fission) plutonium for power production, it will also breed more plutonium than it consumes. The original plutonium comes from natural uranium.

The surplus plutonium from each fast reactor can be used to set up more such reactors and grow the nuclear capacity in tune with India's energy needs.

Fast reactors form a key in the India's three-stage nuclear power programme, which comprises pressurised heavy water reactors (PHWRs) at the first stage, fast breeder reactors (FBRs) at second and thorium-based systems at the third stage. In 1985, India became the sixth country in the world to have such a technology.

The government has said in parliament that the PFBR is expected to begin commercial production in March 2015. Nuclear scientists though are of the view that commercial generation can happen even before that date.

According to Prabhat Kumar, project director, BHAVINI, the PFBR construction work will be over by September this year and testing of various systems would end by December 2012 or January 2013.

"There is no inordinate time lag between PFBR attaining criticality and it starting commercial production given the fact that it is a newly-designed reactor. With small core/fuel lot of tests on reactor physics would be done. Then by gradually increasing the generation engineering tests would be carried out," a nuclear scientist told IANS, preferring anonymity.

"A year of testing will be sufficient after reactor attained criticality," he remarked.

Asked about the delay in commercial production, Chetal said: "The PFBR is first of its kind in the country and we want to be sure about the functioning of each and every system."

According to him, with the loading of part fuel, the reactor systems will be checked by increasing the power generation in a gradual manner.

He does not agree that the delay in commercial production of PFBR would have an impact on the next two fast reactors that is planned at Kalpakkam.

"The design modifications made in the proposed two reactors will not make them as first of its kind. They will be commercial reactors. Since PFBR is new we want to be sure with its systems," Chetal added.

The government has allotted Rs.250 crore for pre-project activities for two more 500 MW units.

It has sanctioned construction of two more 500 MW fast reactors whose location is yet to be finalised.


March 12, 2011 NHK News at Noon: "Reactor 1 Fuel Rods Are Exposed..." - "Oops, We're Not Supposed to Say That..."

After the announcer read the news about the fuel rods in Reactor 1 getting exposed and the situation becoming very dangerous, someone in the background said "Hey we're not supposed to use that information..."

The audio of that segment is uploaded on Youtube, here. I have no proof that the recording is authentic, though it does sound authentic and there are people tweeting that they do recall hearing the news.

From the transcript of the news, NHK March 12, 2011 noon:


Now the information on [Fukushima I] nuclear power plant.


According to the government agencies including the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, the level of water to cool the reactor has gone down in Reactor 1 of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. As of 11:20AM today, the maximum 90 centimeters of the nuclear fuel bundles are exposed above water and the situation is getting dangerous. The work is currently ongoing to pour 27,000 liters of water stored for fire extinguishing into the reactor using a temporary pump, in order to raise the water level back up. Let me repeat the news ...

(Then, there is silence.)


[in the background] "Wait, we're not supposed to use that information, I've been told."


Again, information about the nuclear power plant.


The pressure inside the Containment Vessel is getting high at Reactor 1 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima Prefecture. TEPCO has started the work to release the gas inside the Containment Vessel. However, the valve that needs to be opened is located right near the Containment Vessel and the radiation level is very high. So TEPCO has halted the work temporarily to figure out how to proceed.

At least someone at NHK wrote the first news up, and managed to get that out on air.

The reactor building blew up on that day 3 and a half hours later, at 3:36PM.