Saturday, September 3, 2011

"Blind" - A Disturbing Short Film Set in Near-Future Tokyo

trying to tell you what could happen if you "don't see it" now. (Or so I take the message.)

Or at their site:

Future Challenge for Yokohama City Mayor: Bring Back Foreign Tourists

Mayor of Yokohama City Fumiko Hayashi has an illustrious career. Armed only with a high school diploma, she became the CEO of one of Japan's biggest supermarket chains (Daiei) after selling BMWs as the president of BMW Tokyo.

Her motto as the mayor - "Sympathy and trust in government".

She didn't count on having a major nuclear accident on her second year in office, but here it is, and what has her city administration done to deal with the crisis?

Tokyo Shinbun conducted the exclusive interview with the mayor and reported on August 31 in its Kanagawa local version:

横浜市長に就任してから、2年を経過した林文子市長(65)が本紙のインタビューに応じた。原発事故による市の放射線をめぐる対応について「横浜は安全だと発信してきた。最善でやっていると思う」と指摘。市庁舎の建設問題には「区役所の整備が優先」との考えを示した。 (聞き手・荒井六貴)

Mayor Fumiko Hayashi (age 65) has agreed to speak with the paper on the 2-year anniversary of her mayorship in Yokohama City. About the city's response to radiation issues arising from the nuclear plant accident, "We have appealed safety for Yokohama. I think we've done our best". About the construction of the new city hall building, she thinks "Upgrade of the Ward Offices should have the priority".


- What have you achieved in the two years in office?


37% reduction of the number of children on the waiting list at the city-approved nursery schools has been achieved. Telephone consultation for obstetrics and the 24-hour hot-line for emergency pediatrics have been set up, resulting in substantial improvement in medical environment. I hope city residents are pleased.


- Beef from cows that had been fed with contaminated feed was served in elementary school lunches. Some criticize the city for being "behind the curve" on the problem.


I don't think so. What we feared most was the spread of vague fear of radiation. We thought it necessary to spread the correct information and knowledge, and we focused on that. Excessive reaction would cause anxiety among city residents. We have to avoid "baseless rumors".


- About the construction of the new city hall?


The city hall is is 50-year-old and deteriorating. Rooms are too small, and departments are housed in different private buildings leading to a lower quality of service for the residents. We absolutely must have the new city hall. Our goal is to come up with the base plan by the fiscal 2013. However, the priority should go to the earthquake retrofit of the Special Ward Offices. During the earthquake of March 11, there were some Ward Offices whose service was interrupted because of fallen bookshelves.


- What are the challenges?


Because of the baseless rumors (of the nuclear plant accident), the number of (foreign) tourists to Yokohama has dropped dramatically. We want them back. Yokohama is full of tourism resources but they are not fully utilized. Yokohama hasn't yet been fully developed as tourist destination. I would like to increase the contents of various arts.

Her idea of correct information about radioactive beef served in schools was to repeat over and over again that she firmly believed it was safe because "it was sold in the market". When the news of potentially contaminated cows reached her, she apparently said "it's only the surface, and inside (meat) is OK". After the cesium beef was actually discovered, the usual "no health effect" mantra was repeated.

In addition to the big construction project (City Hall), she is also doing a small "upgrade" of her official residence, to the tune of $220,000, paid for by Yokohama residents.

It would never occur to her (as it hasn't to most of the country) that the best way to have foreign tourists back again is to deal with radiation and radiation contamination issues openly, with numbers. No one would be willing to risk their health no matter how people like her scream "It's safe, it is below the national provisional safety limit, no effect on health, if you worry you'll get radiation disease".

In Mayor Hayashi's case, if Yokohama has a lively art scene, foreign tourists will flock to the city.

(Well, young Chinese couples may still come, thinking they would conceive boys. )

A fish rots from the head, and the head is still very important in a place like Japan where many ordinary people still look up to the top for leadership, wisdom, knowledge, or whatever virtue they think the "leaders" possess.

Wild Mushroom in Fukushima Tested 28,000 Becquerels/kg of Radioactive Cesium

"It's not food any more, it's simply radioactive materials", as the young man at the Citizen's Radioactivity Measuring Station in Fukushima City said of the radioactive mushroom in Germany's ZDF program aired on August 9.

Wild mushroom harvested in a town in Fukushima tested highest ever radioactive cesium so far in food after the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident that I'm aware of: 28,000 becquerels per kilogram.

According to the data from Fukushima Prefecture, 13,000 becquerels/kg of cesium-134, and 15,000 becquerels/kg of cesium-137 were detected from the mushroom.

The town, Tanakura-machi, is located at about 73 kilometers southwest of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (9/3/2011):


Fukushima Prefecture announced on September 3 that 28,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected from wild mushroom, Lactarius volemus, harvested in the mountains in Tanakura-machi. The level of radioactive cesium vastly exceeds the national provisional safety limit of 500 becquerels/kg.


It is still early in the season for this particular mushroom and it is not sold in the market. The prefectural government notified the town and the distributors to voluntarily halt harvesting and shipping of wild mushrooms including Lactarius volemus.


According to the prefectural government, the mushroom was harvested on September 1. The government is going to test the mushrooms nearby for radioactive materials, and put up signs calling for voluntary halt on harvesting.


In Fukushima Prefecture, 3,200 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium has been detected from Lactarius volemus harvested in Furudono-machi. The prefectural government says, "We are surprised at the extremely high number. We will continue to investigate and identify the cause".

Friday, September 2, 2011

A Solitary Farmer in Tomioka-Machi: "I'll Never Leave, I'll Never Be Beaten"

AP News reported on August 31 about Mr. Naoto Matsumura, who refuses to leave his home and his farm in Tomioka-machi, which lies in the no-entry evacuation zone within the 20 kilometer radius from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. His family has farmed in that location for 5 generations.

"I'll never be beaten", he says. If he wants to stay, it's his right to do so, he also says.

(h/t Irene)

Radioactive Materials Dispersion Model by Kyushu University Researchers

Using the supercomputer program called SPRINTARS, researchers at Kyushu University and Tokyo University created the simulation of how radioactive materials from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant may have dispersed throughout the northern hemisphere. The researcher say their simulation fit the actual measurements.

It was published in the Scientific Online Letters on the Atmosphere (SOLA) under the title "A numerical simulation of global transport of atmospheric particles emitted from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant" in June.

You can read the paper at this link (PDF file).

You can also view the animation, here, and the press release in Japanese here.

Their simulation also shows, like France's CEREA, radioactive materials from March 14/15 release reached the west coast of North America on March 18. The researchers attribute the rapid dispersion of radioactive materials from Fukushima to the unusually strong jet stream. Also, on March 14/15, there was a low pressure on the east cost of Japan, which created a strong updraft that lifted the radioactive materials to the jet stream.

The relative scale is set with the density of radioactive materials at Fukushima I Nuke Plant as 1. By the time it reached North America, it was between 0.000001 and 0.00000001.

From their paper:

AP: "Quake risk to reactors greater than thought"

"Gov't says 27 US reactors could be more vulnerable to earthquakes than previously thought", according to the article on 9/2/2011.

From AP:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The risk that an earthquake would cause a severe accident at a U.S. nuclear plant is greater than previously thought, 24 times as high in one case, according to an AP analysis of preliminary government data. The nation's nuclear regulator believes a quarter of America's reactors may need modifications to make them safer.

The threat came into sharp focus last week, when shaking from the largest earthquake to hit Virginia in 117 years appeared to exceed what the North Anna nuclear power plant northwest of Richmond was built to sustain.

The two North Anna reactors are among 27 in the eastern and central U.S. that a preliminary Nuclear Regulatory Commission review has said may need upgrades. That's because those plants are more likely to get hit with an earthquake larger than the one their design was based on. Just how many nuclear power plants are more vulnerable won't be determined until all operators recalculate their own seismic risk based on new assessments by geologists, something the agency plans to request later this year. The NRC on Thursday issued a draft of that request for public comment.

The review, launched well before the East Coast quake and the Japan nuclear disaster in March, marks the first complete update to seismic risk in years for the nation's 104 existing reactors, despite research showing greater hazards.

The NRC and the industry say reactors are safe as they are, for now. The average risk to U.S. reactors of core damage from a quake remains low, at one accident every 500 years, according to the AP analysis of NRC data.

The overall risk at a typical reactor among the 27 remains very slight. If the NRC's numbers prove correct, that would mean no more than one core accident from an earthquake in about 30,000 years at the typical reactor among the 27 with increased risk.

But emails obtained in a more than 11,000-page records request by The Associated Press show that NRC experts were worried privately this year that plants needed stronger safeguards to account for the higher risk assessments.

(The article continues.)

What's more interesting than the article is the comment section. Here are some:

- I am suspicious of the anti-nuclear propaganda like this article. Not one person died due to the Japanese nuclear problem. Millions of people die worldwide each year due to pollution from coal and oil fired power plants. ... Nuclear power does not produce CO2. It is the ONLY source powerful enough to supply our modern world. Solar and wind are great - but much too small a source. ...The hysteria over nuclear must stop. Every power source has its problems. Nuclear will not kill the five or six billion eventually that scientists say will happen with increasing CO2.

- That's right- Hack Journalist! Blow Me AP! You fear mongoring POS! DIE AP!

- So a bunch of hack journalists read a bunch of government emails and that makes them nuclear engineers?Give me a freaking break!

You can read the rest of the comments at the link.

How 2 Workers Got Wet from Contaminated Water from Kurion's Vessel

TEPCO has a cute illustration of what happened. The worker's error, the company says, of removing the hose without shutting the valve off.

(When the workers get blamed, look for the real cause elsewhere.)

TEPCO's handout for the press on 9/1/2011:

August 2011 Net Monthly Job Added in the US: Zero, ゼロ, Cero, Null,

The last time when this happened, according to the news report, was August of 1945, when the World War II finally ended with the surrender of the imperial Japan.

From MSNBC (9/2/2011):

Employment growth ground to a halt in August, as sagging consumer confidence discouraged already skittish U.S. businesses from hiring, keeping pressure on the Federal Reserve to provide more monetary stimulus to aid the struggling economy.

Nonfarm payrolls were unchanged last month, the Labor Department said Friday. It was the first time since 1945 that the government has reported a net monthly job change of zero. The August payrolls report was the worst since September 2010, while nonfarm employment for June and July was revised to show 58,000 fewer jobs.

(The article continues.)

According to the article, while the number may look bad, it's all because of striking Verizon workers (45,000 people).

President Obama had no comment, and at 10AM departed for his presidential retreat at Camp David for the Labor Day weekend (of all weekends..). (That's all he did today.)

He must be preparing for his big speech on jobs to be delivered on the NFL opening night next week, no doubt.

If that doesn't do anything (I doubt it does), there's Ben and his QE3 to the rescue. (Just don't ask rescue what?)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Wild Lily That Has Really Gone Wild in Saitama City

I know there will be many who will tell me they've seen something like this before, or it's just a normal variation, happens all the time, etc.. If you do, please send the pictures of this happening elsewhere.

The picture was taken by a person who lives nearby, and it was on Yomiuri Shinbun Saitama version (9/1/2011). A normal lily is on the right side. The giant lily is about 1 meter tall, according to Yomiuri.

Fall Semester in Fukushima Starts with Glass Badges for Children

that quietly monitor the radiation levels. Their teacher hopes the badges "will protect the children".

(Oh boy...)

From NHK News Japanese (9/1/2011):


The fall semester started on September 1 in elementary schools and junior high schools in Fukushima City, and children received their glass badges.


At Fukushima Daiichi Elementary School, children started arriving at 7AM. High radiation has been measured in certain areas in Fukushima City, and the measures to lower the radiation levels in the school yards and on the routes to schools [children usually walk to school] are being taken. But on the first day of the school, many children wore masks, and many parents drove their children to school to the front gate of the school.


During the start of the school ceremony, Principal Kazuaki Fukui greeted the children, saying "I am glad that you are all here in good health to start the fall semester. Enjoy your school life". In Fukushima Prefecture, 280,000 children younger than 15 years are to receive the glass badges to monitor radiation. After the ceremony, children received the badges from their classroom teachers, and were told to wear the badge from the neck on the way to and from school.


On receiving the badges, children said "I feel a bit safer now", or "it feels funny when I wear it around my neck". A teacher in charge of 6th graders said, "I feel sorry that children have to wear the glass badges, but I consider the badges as amulets that protect children. It looks to me that there are fewer children with sun tan this year, so I would like to have them play outdoors as much as possible."

DON'T!!! In the accompanying video at the NHK page, the teacher says he hopes "it will be the normal fall semester, just like last year".

Higher education doesn't necessarily mean higher intelligence, that's for sure. (Probably inversely correlated, when I look at Japan.) And trading on hope is not a viable strategy either.

Goshi Hosono, Minister in Charge of Fukushima Accident to Become the Minister of the Environment

The Ministry of the Environment is going to oversee the Nuclear Safety Agency to be created next year. Hosono continues to be the minister in charge of the Fukushima nuclear accident under the new prime minister Yoshihiko Noda.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs is Koichiro Genba, whose last notable remark I remember was "Let's all cheer for TEPCO".

OT: Japanese Politician Tried to Bribe with Rice

The Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident may be changing the long tradition of vote buying in Japanese politics.

Yomiuri Shinbun (9/1/2011) reports that an assemblyman in Nara City in Nara Prefecture was privately asked by the assembly chairman in June to vote in a certain way in the upcoming election of the new assembly chairman. He refused. Then the chairman said to him, "What if I gave you rice for 5 years?" He declined, but recorded the conversation with his smart phone.

Well, rice was used as a medium of exchange in Japan until the Meiji Restoration knocked out the Tokugawa Shogun government. Rice may have become more valuable, particularly if it is radionuclide-free, than the fiat money they have in Japan. (Personally I think the assemblyman should have taken up the offer...)

Yet Another Government Survey of Fukushima Evacuation Zones

Now it's METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry)'s turn to announce its radiation survey of air radiation (at 1 meter and 1 centimeter) of Fukushima evacuation zones, showing the highest air radiation of 139 microsieverts/hour at 1 meter off the ground (in a location in Okuma-machi, 1.5 kilometer southwest of the plant), and 368 microsieverts/hour at 1 centimeter (in a location in Futaba-machi, 4 kilometers west of the plant).

The radiation level at the location in Okuma-machi with 138 microsieverts/hour radiation at 1 meter off the ground is 201 microsieverts/hour at 1 centimeter.

The radiation level at the location in Futaba-machi with 368 microsieverts/hr radiation at 1 centimeter off the ground is only 63.8 microsieverts/hour at 1 meter.

The Ministry of Education and Science and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries have already announced their own surveys of soil contamination levels in Fukushima Prefecture, just as the national government is allowing the temporary return of residents whose homes are within the 3-kilometer radius from the plant.

Now, is somebody going to combine all three and create a map that shows air radiation and soil contamination of each location? (Just saying.)

METI's survey was done in July in the no-entry evacuation zone within the 20-kilometer radius and the planned evacuation zone outside the 20-kilometer radius.

From the METI press release on 9/1/2011 (Japanese only):

1. Air radiation levels at 1 meter off the ground:

2. Air radiation level at 1 centimeter off the ground:

The press release doesn't contain all the detailed data for each municipalities.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Simulation Map of Cesium-137 Deposition Across the Pacific by CEREA Shows Contamination in US Greater Than That of Western Japan

France's CEREA has the simulation map of ground deposition of cesium-137 from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident on its "Fukushima" page. It not only shows Japan but also the entire northern Pacific Rim, from Russian Siberia to Alaska to the West Coast of the US to the entire US.

According to the map, the US, particularly the West Coast and particularly California, may be more contaminated with radioactive cesium than the western half of Japan or Hokkaido. It looks more contaminated than South Korea or China. Canada doesn't look too well either, particularly along the border with US on the western half.

From CEREA's Fukushima page:

Atmospheric dispersion of radionuclides from the Fukushima-Daichii nuclear power plant

CEREA, joint laboratory École des Ponts ParisTech and EdF R&D
Victor Winiarek, Marc Bocquet, Yelva Roustan, Camille Birman, Pierre Tran

Map of ground deposition of caesium-137 for the Fukushima-Daichii accident.

The simulation was performed with a specific version of the numerical atmospheric chemistry and transport model Polyphemus/Polair3D. The parametrisations used for the transport and physical removal of the radionuclides are described in [1,2,3,4].

The magnitude of the deposition field is uncertain and the simulated values of deposited radionuclides could be significantly different from the actual deposition. In particular, the source term remains uncertain. Therefore, these results should be seen as preliminary and they are likely to be revised as new information become available to better constrain the source term and when radionuclides data can be used to evaluate the model simulation results.

The page also has the animated simulation of cesium-137 dispersion from March 11 to April 6, 2011. If the Japanese think they are the only ones who have the radiation and radioactive fallout from the accident, they are very much mistaken, if the simulation is accurate. (Meteorological institutes and bureaus in Austria, Germany, and Norway all had similar simulation maps.)

Radioactive materials spewed out of Fukushima I Nuke Plant went up and away on the jet stream, reaching the other side of the Pacific. When the fallout from explosions (March 14, 15) reached the US West Coast, it came with an unusually heavy rainfall in California.

CEREA's description of the animation (if the animation doesn't work, or if you want to see the bigger one, go to CEREA's page):

Movie of the Fukushima-Daichii activity in the air (caesium-137, ground level)

The simulation was performed with a specific version of the numerical atmospheric chemistry and transport model Polyphemus/Polair3D. The parametrisations used for the transport and physical removal of the radionuclides are described in [1,2,3,4].

The magnitude of activity concentration field is uncertain and could be significantly different from the actual one. In particular, the source term remains uncertain. Therefore, these results should be seen as preliminary and they are likely to be revised as new information become available to better constrain the source term and when radionuclides data can be used to evaluate the model simulation results.

(Go to their page to see the references.)

Fukushima Children vs Government Bureaucrats on Aug 17, 2011 (Video)

The showdown of some sort happened on August 17 in a meeting set up by the Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation, between the 4 children from Fukushima Prefecture and the junior bureaucrats from the national government.

It was widely disseminated in Japan and abroad when that happened, and many people were rightly appalled at the pathetically bureaucratic answers of these bureaucrats (what else could you expect?) to the children.

Tokyo Brown Tabby translated the exchange and put the caption on the video. This is the first half of the event. The second half, where the officials answer the children, is being translated by Tabby and will be ready shortly.

Children were reported to be very disappointed and hurt by the non-answers from the bureaucrats, which were totally expected (or should have been expected by the organizers to begin with).

Personally I have a mixed feeling. This reminds me of the Fukushima peach PR campaign the other day by the Fukushima junior high school students on their school trip to Yokohama City. The fruit growers use children to push their belief (that what they produce is safe), and the non-profit organizations against nuclear power also use children to push their belief (that the government should do everything to protect Fukushima children from radiation).

And who are hurt by the negative response or experience? Children.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Water Entombment Is Back on the Table

Remember the time when the TEPCO/government complex pretended that it would fill the Containment Vessels of Reactors 1, 2 and 3 with water to cool the Reactor Pressure Vessels inside? It was late April, TEPCO started to pour an enormous amount of water in the RPV of Reactor 1 to fill the Vessel (as the water would leak into the CV). The operation was dubbed "water entombment".

We know how it quickly ended. TEPCO finally managed to actually measure the water level inside the CV and RPV of Reactor 1, and found that there was hardly any water in either of them - i.e. both the CV and the RPV of Reactor 1 were broken, kaput. Of 10,000 tonnes of water that TEPCO poured into the CV of Reactor 1, 3,000 tonnes were discovered in the basement.

But now, the water entombment is back in discussion in conjunction with decommissioning the reactors at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, according to Mainichi Shinbun (8/31/2011).

According to Mainichi, the plan submitted by TEPCO to a special committee of the Nuclear Safety Commission calls for the following steps:

  1. Clean up highly radioactive debris inside the reactor buildings;

  2. Identify and repair the damage to the Containment Vessels and the reactor buildings;

  3. Fill the Containment Vessels with water;

  4. Open the top lid of the Reactor Pressure Vessels and remove the melted fuel.

The NSC committee will consider the plan, and the government will decide on the final plan by January 2012.

My questions:

Step No.1: How? By whom?
Step No.2: How? By whom?
Step No.3: What's the point again?
Step No.4: What melted fuel?

And no one knows, or rather, no one cares or wants to know, where exactly these melted blobs of fuel rods, control rods, instruments, metals, etc., are right now. TEPCO and the government will proceed as if they remain at the bottom of the Containment Vessel of each Reactor, if not still within the RPV.

Inside the reactor buildings there are at least several spots as identified by TEPCO where the radiation levels are measured in sieverts/hour. Who is going to do the cleanup work, not to mention repairing the CVs and the building (I suppose they are thinking about the concrete foundations)?

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: 2 Workers Got Wet with Highly Contaminated Water

The workers were working on the "equipment" - I think they mean either Kurion's or Toshiba's cesium absorption vessels - that has absorbed radioactive cesium from the highly contaminated water. From the word used in the article below (かぶった), it seems the workers may have been "drenched", not just "splashed" with the water. One of them was wearing the Tyvek suits only.

From Asahi Shinbun (8/31/2011):


TEPCO announced on August 31 that two workers from TEPCO's affiliate company [could be two separate companies] got covered with contaminated water as they were conducting the control work of equipment used to process the highly contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The contamination was wiped off, and the workers' radiation exposure was 0.14 to 0.16 millisievert.


According to TEPCO, the accident happened in the facility where the equipment that absorbed radioactive cesium from the highly contaminated water was stored. One worker was standing on the ladder draining water from the equipment and the other worker was holding the ladder secure. When the worker on the ladder removed the hose [for draining water] at about 9:35AM on August 31, the water leaked.


The worker [on the ladder] was wearing the water-proof jacket, but the worker who was holding the ladder was wearing the Tyvek suits only. The contaminated water penetrated the Tyvek suits and came in direct contact with the skin. The radiation survey meter showed 10 times the standard level. According to TEPCO, there is no possibility that the worker ingested radioactive materials through the nose or the mouth.

"かぶる" in Japanese means one gets covered with a substance falling from above. TEPCO hasn't tested what nuclides are there in the contaminated water during or after the treatment, and has said it has no plans to do so unless it is necessary (meaning when they are ordered to test by the regulatory agency NISA).

TEPCO's people who appear regularly on the press conferences often seem genuinely puzzled why they have to do certain things (like analyzing the treated water for beta radiation or analyzing the filter) without being specifically ordered by the government.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#Radiation in Japan: Something's Rotten in Yokohama City

Well, I have to defend the City somewhat, because by no means Yokohama is alone, even though it has most number of schools (158) in the country that served beef contaminated with radioactive cesium.

The following are the recent happenings in Yokohama City, as I picked from the message board maintained by Yokohama City Assemblyman Masataka Ota, who's been fighting to remove contaminated food items including cesium beef from children's school lunches.

Contaminated beef:

While the City fed kindergarteners and school children with domestic beef contaminated with radioactive cesium despite protests from the concerned parents, the cafeteria at Yokohama City Hall for the city employees and guests were serving beef imported from Australia.

6 elementary schools served radioactive beef 5 times, and 22 schools served it 4 times.

Radioactive summer school:

The City is determined to keep sending school children to the summer school in an elevated radiation area in Gunma Prefecture. The officials insist it is safe, because they are told it's safe. Never mind that nearby locations have levels like 0.50 microsievert/hour (official), and a citizen measured as high as 1.26 microsievert/hour in the very area that the children may go to.

Bringing water bottles to schools:

At least one (but there seem to be many) school allows children to carry water bottles if they want, but they have to leave their bottles in the school principal's office, and when they want to drink water they must come to the principal's office to drink.

This is bullying and harassment of children by the school principal. Quite an education.

Altering the official document:

The City's Board of Education has relented somehow to parents and the legislators like Mr. Ota and issued a notice to the parents whose children go to the public elementary schools in Yokohama City, telling them to consult their schools individually if they want to send their children to school with homemade lunch and water bottle. The hitch is that this notice were issued through schools. Some schools decided to white out the part about homemade lunch and water bottle, and added the contact information for the Board of Education if the parents have any questions.

Testing food items in school lunches:

Oh yes finally the City is doing, but one item per day. Apparently, the City informs the lunch preparation centers which food item is to be tested on a particular day.

One positive thing:

Some parents are actually yanking their children from schools, and have started home schooling.

Japan's Idea of Decontamination: Give Manual to Citizens and Let Them Do It

So the vast tract of East Japan has been contaminated with radioactive materials that came out of nuclear fuel rods that were melted down (and through and possibly out), and many areas are more contaminated than the radiation control area of a nuclear power plant which requires strict control and decontamination by nuclear professionals in case of an accident.

So what have the affected municipalities done? Fukushima Prefecture already has a handbook for citizens on how to decontaminate. The national government has promised it will come up with a plan. (It reminds me of "Blackadder" - where Baldrick always say to Blackadder at the very last moment, "I have a cunning plan ..." which is not cunning and usually very bad or useless or both to say the least.)

That national plan may be something like the one that has been apparently released by the Japanese Society of Radiation Safety Management, and it relies on the citizens' effort to locate the high radiation "hot spots" and decontaminate using the household cleaning tools and materials, as if radioactive cesium and strontium and plutonium and cobalt should be no different from dirt and rust.

One great thing about this citizen decon idea is that it won't cost much at all to the national government, other than some support money given to neighborhood associations.

Asahi Shinbun (8/31/2011) reports:


The Japanese Society of Radiation Safety Management has created a manual on how to find "hot spots" in and around one's home and how to decontaminate effectively. The manual shows the locations where radioactive materials tend to accumulate, such as under the rain gutters, and explains the methods of decontamination that do not spread radioactive materials.


[According to the manual,] hot spots are often found at rain gutters, side drains, manholes, locations where there were water puddles, rusted metals, tree stumps and lumber, surface of grass, trees and moss, pile of fallen leaves and dirt.


Cesium tends to adhere to the rain gutters, rusted tin roofs, and roofing tiles with uneven surface. If one sweeps dust and fallen leaves and collect them, the radiation level may jump significantly.


If dead leaves were plowed into the home garden after mid March, one should be aware that radioactive materials may have moved to the plants.


According to the manual, one should use a brush to decontaminate the roof and rain gutters. If the dirt doesn't come off easily, one may wet the surface a little with water with baking soda or with vinegar and scrub. Cleanser is effective on rusty parts.

North Anna Nuke Plant: Quake May Have Exceeded Nuclear Plant's Safety Specs

But don't worry, says NRC, the plant is "less safe", not more dangerous.

From NBC News Washington (8/29/2011):

Despite being built to sustain more than the maximum expected shaking, last week’s earthquake may have exceeded the design parameters of the two nuclear reactors knocked offline.

That conclusion by Dominion Virginia Power and an independent government analysis prompted the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to send inspectors to the nuclear plant in Virginia.

The Dominion-operated North Anna Power Station 12 miles from the epicenter of the 5.8-magnitude quake in Louisa County temporarily lost power, but there was no significant damage to safety systems, according to the NRC. A low-level emergency was declared temporarily Tuesday after the incident.

The additional inspection should not be interpreted to mean the plant is less safe, the commission said Monday.

Nuclear power plants are built with margins of safety beyond the maximum expected shaking, and the damage detected so far at North Anna has been minimal.

(The article continues.)

In the meantime, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency now says there are 14 newly identified active faults near the nuclear facilities in Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures: 5 of them around TEPCO's Fukushima I and II Nuclear Power Plants, and 9 around the Tokai II Nuclear Power Plant operated by Japan Atomic Power Company and Tokai Fuel Reprocessing Facility operated by Japan Atomic Energy Agency. (From Kyodo News Japanese, 8/30/2011)

Don't worry, says NISA, they are all minor faults incapable of producing major earthquakes.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Worker Died of Acute Leukemia, TEPCO Said in Aug 30 Press Conference

But the doctor assured the company that the death had nothing to do with having worked at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

The unnamed worker died in early August, after having worked at Fukushima I for about a week. TEPCO's Matsumoto says the company does not know where the worker had worked before he came to Fukushima I. He's from one of TEPCO's 1st-tier subcontractors.

Since the death has nothing to do with having worked in Fukushima I Nuke Plant, TEPCO is not going to track the worker's past work history or conduct further investigation. TEPCO will not release personal information about the worker, either.

The radiation exposure of the worker was 0.5 millisievert external radiation, and zero internal radiation for the duration of his work at Fukushima I.

Additional information from Mainichi (8/30/2011):

The worker was in his 40s. At Fukushima I, his work included manning the rest area and radiation control of the workers. There was no abnormal reading of white blood cells before he started to work at Fukushima I. He worked for about a week in August, and fell ill. He was diagnosed with acute leukemia, and died at the hospital. His company reported his death to TEPCO on August 16.

TEPCO's Matsumoto emphasized that the death was a private matter, and TEPCO had no intention of investigating it further now that the doctor denied any relationship between the death and the work at Fukushima I.

Workers Entered Fukushima II (Daini) Reactor 4

While the attention is on Fukushima I, TEPCO has been quietly working on Fukushima II Nuclear Power Plant located in Naraha-machi and Tomioka-machi.

On August 29, workers entered the Containment Vessel of Reactor 4 at Fukushima II for the first time since March 11. No details of the work inside the Containment Vessel have been released by TEPCO yet.

From NHK News (8/29/2011):


Workers entered the Containment Vessel of Reactor 4 at Fukushima II Nuclear Power Plant to check the damages if any and measure radiation levels.


It is the first time after the accident that anyone entered the Containment Vessel of any reactor at either Fukushima I or Fukushima II.


At Fukushima II, after the automatic shutdown of all 4 reactors after the March 11 earthquake, part of the cooling systems that use seawater to cool the reactors was broken by the tsunami in three of the reactors including Reactor 4, and the reactors were not cooled sufficiently.


Reactor 4 was brought to a cold shutdown 4 days after the quake using the cooling system with external power supply. TEPCO determined that the condition of the reactor was stable, and sent about 10 workers inside the Containment Vessel to conduct the survey of the inside.


The reactor pressure rose temporarily in Reactor 4 after the quake. TEPCO is going to check for damages as well as measure the radiation levels and temperature inside.


It is the first time since the accident that anyone entered the Containment Vessel in Fukushima I or Fukushima II. TEPCO says it will decide on the necessary work to be done inside the Containment Vessel, once it gets the result of the survey on August 29.

TEPCO is not just working on the Containment Vessel at Fukushima II by the way. It's been working on the heat exchanger for Reactor 4 also, as evidenced by TEPCO's announcement that one worker from a TEPCO affiliate company fell ill due to excess heat in the heat exchanger building while he was re-routing the temporary cable.

What is TEPCO up to? Restart Fukushima II? That's what the mayor of Naraha-machi wants TEPCO to do.

I also wonder whatever happened to the 3000 tonnes of contaminated water in the basement of the plant.

NHK News May Have Tipped the DPJ Leader Election With Wrong Report on Vote Prospect

wrong, as in "180-degree wrong".

From what I've gathered in twitters and blogs of people who actually watched live both the election proceedings and NHK's reporting on the election (I watched only the election, live on the net), NHK repeatedly reported the totally wrong information about the number of votes that might go to Noda between the first round of voting and the second (final) round of voting.

There were close to 90,000 people watching the netcast of the election, with many of them also watching NHK.

The sequence is something like this:

  1. 1st vote ended. The result: Kaieda 143, Noda 102, Maehara 74, Kano 52, Mabuchi 24.

  2. 2nd round of voting started. Then about 15 minutes into the voting that took about 30 minutes, NHK reported: "Mr. Mabuchi instructed his supporters this morning to vote for anyone other than Kaieda [if Mabuchi loses in the 1st round]."

  3. NHK also said "Kano instructed his supporters to vote for Noda, so did Maehara." NHK was practically predicting the landslide victory of Noda in the 2nd round. They were still voting, and the NHK report was conveyed by the reporters covering the election to the representatives.

  4. 2nd round ended. The result: Noda 215, Kaieda 177. Difference was 38 votes.

  5. 4PM: Special NHK News - "What we reported earlier about Mr. Mabuchi was wrong. He did not instruct his supporters to vote for anyone other than Kaieda; he told his supporters to do vote FOR Kaieda because Kaieda's policy on tax was close to his (they are both against increasing tax)."

Well, that admission was about 2 hours too late.

Despite the report, Mabuchi supporters are said to have voted for Kaieda after all. But the NHK's erroneous reporting may have swayed enough undecided voters in each faction, as all it took was to sway 16 votes in favor of Noda.

So, NHK may have ended up playing the "kingmaker" in deciding the next prime minister of Japan. Inadvertently or not, I do not know.

I do remember, after the election, PM Kan was all big smiles on the stage with 5 candidates. He must have been so happy to see the candidate backed by Ichiro Ozawa defeated.

Dr. Shunichi Yamashita's March 21 Talk in Fukushima City (Part)

Professor Yamashita's speech on "Fukushima as Number One" was meant to cheer Fukushima City residents (he's from Nagasaki, and always prefaces his talk with the Nagasaki and Hiroshima atomic bombs).

As I've said before, it was a bad, bad timing. March 21 is where the second largest spike in air radiation took place in Fukushima, part of Tohoku and most of Kanto, thanks to a certain event at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant which hasn't been fully disclosed. (All we have from TEPCO is that there was a black smoke, then gray smoke, then white smoke rising from Reactor 3 on that day.) Fukushima City residents braved the rain to attend the lecture.

The doctor looks rather ill at ease.

(H/T Tokyo Brown Tabby)

(UPDATE) A Fukushima prefectural assemblyman tweeted a few days ago that Dr. Yamashita was "removed from the post", and some English sites may have misunderstood what he wrote. According to the later clarification by the assemblyman, Dr. Yamashita is no longer in charge of radiation protection, but still fully in charge of health monitoring and follow-up research of the Fukushima residents.

It seems he has simply moved on from preaching safety as a radiation protection advisor to health monitoring after the radiation exposure. There is no official word on Fukushima Prefecture's website at all.

Soil Contamination in 34 Locations in Fukushima Exceeds Chernobyl Confiscation/Closed Zone Level

In one location, the contamination level is more than 10 times the Chernobyl level.

What a surprise. Now that PM Kan is out, the government dribbles out the information that it withheld as it de-emphasized and even attacked the reports of high soil contamination as measured by private entities including citizens' groups.

The most contaminated location found so far is Okuma-machi, where Fukushima I Nuke Plant is located: 29,460,000 becquerels per square meter with cesium-134 and cesium-137 combined, 15,450,000 becquerels per square meter if only cesium-137 is counted.

The confiscated/closed zone after the Chernobyl accident is set in locations whose cesium-137 level in soil exceeds 1,480,000 becquerels per square meter. The level of cesium-137 in the location in Okuma-machi is 10 times that of the Chernobyl confiscated/closed zone.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (3:05AM JST 8/30/2011):


The soil contamination as the result of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident was reported on the August 29 meeting at the Ministry of Education and Science.


The survey found 34 locations in 6 municipalities exceeding the level of the confiscation/closed zone of the Chernobyl accident (1,480,000 becquerels/square meter of cesium-137 in soil). The purpose of the survey was to understand the radiation exposure of the residents. Prime Minister Kan said on August 27 that there might be locations where the residents wouldn't be able to return for a long time. The survey data validates the prime minister's comment.


According to the survey, the highest cesium-137 concentration in soil as of June 14 was in Okuma-machi in Fukushima Prefecture, within the no-entry evacuation zone, at 15,450,000 becquerels/square meter. If combined with cesium-134, the radioactive cesium concentration was 29,460,000 becquerels/square meter.


Total 16 location in 4 municipalities (Okuma-machi, Futaba-machi, Namie-machi, Tomioka-machi) exceeded 3,000,000 becquerels/square meter in cesium-137 concentration. The area with the high cesium-137 concentration extends northwest from the nuclear power plant. In total, 6 municipalities including Iitate-mura and Minami Soma City had the locations that exceeded the Chernobyl confiscation/closed zone level of cesium-137. The Ministry measured the soil samples from about 2,200 locations.

Here's the map by Asahi Shinbun, including the locations with cesium-137 concentration of less than 1 million becquerels/square meter.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Finance Minister Will Be the New Leader of DPJ

Yoshihiko Noda to be the leader of the party, and will be the new prime minister. He got 215 votes.

Ozawa lost.

Hello increased tax, hello TPP, which Noda is all for joining. Therefore, hello Monsanto. Maybe Monsanto has the genetically modified seeds that are radiation-resistant.

Democratic Party of Japan Leader Election Update

Kaieda and Noda in the 2nd round. The difference is only 40 votes.

Noda may have made a good prime minister in the peace time (i.e. no Fukushima nuke crisis). Kaieda is not fit for any position, as far as I'm concerned.

(UPDATED) NISA Mentions "Neptunium-239" in August 29 Press Conference

(UPDATE on 8/30/2011: NISA still hasn't said a word about conversion, but someone in Japan did the calculation based on the NISA's numbers released on June 6. You can view it at this link or in the image below. In plain language, neptunium-239 will decay into plutonium-239, adding 2×10^7 becquerels (20,000,000 becquerels) to the existing plutonium-239. The calculation was done by Tomohiro Endo, a researcher (nuclear physics) at Nagoya University.)

(UPDATE on 8/29/2011: NISA backtracked in the joint conference (TEPCO/government) in the afternoon, and now says it's not sure about the conversion rate of neptunium-239 into plutonium-239.)

Now this is very curious.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA)'s daily press conference is ongoing (August 29). The NISA spokesman Moriyama mentions neptunium-239's conversion ratio to plutonium-239 as 1 to 1.

According to the June 6 estimate by the NISA:

Plutonium-239: 3.2×10^9

Neptunium-239: 7.6×10^13

So, now it is:

Plutonium-239: 7.6 x 10^13, or 76,000,000,000,000 or 76 terabecquerels

The amount of plutonium-239 has increased 23,000-fold, according to NISA.

On August 15 I wrote about neptunium-239, half life of about 2 days, having been detected in large quantity in Iitate-mura, 35 kilometers from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. I had to take down the second post on the subject, but the information was correct.

Now, NISA is suddenly mentioning neptunium-239. Admission of wide dispersion of this nuclide and resultant plutonium-239 may be finally forthcoming, after more than 5 months.

Democratic Party of Japan New Leader Election Today

(Update: The last one, Minister of Agriculture Kano, just finished his speech. Well-rehearsed, totally irrelevant in today's Japan, IMHO. Mabuchi made the most sense, and so he won't get the vote. The worst two were Kaieda and Maehara; if either of them ends up getting the majority vote to become the next Prime Minister, oh boy, it's bleak.)

(Update: Kaieda spoke in an agitated manner, incoherent speech. So that's what Ozawa backs - someone who's hapless. Makes sense, just look at the former PM Hatohama, dubbed "space alien". Now Minister of Finance Noda is speaking. Much calmer, focused.)

(Update: The meeting is live on the net. Right now, Kaieda is speaking. Nothing worthy of mentioning. Sumio Mabuchi, who has the least number of supporters, seems to have impressed many net viewers for his forthright message of the first thing first - tackle the Fukushima nuke plant and recover from the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami, and nuke accident.)


The members of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) will elect the new leader for the party (who will then become the prime minister) in the early afternoon on August 29, JST.

The meeting of 398 DPJ members of the Diet has just started in Tokyo. The candidates are to give 15-minute speech to the audience before the voting.

The majority vote is necessary to determine the winner. If there is no majority winner in the first round of voting, then they vote on the top two in the first round.

The first round of voting will start around 12:20PM, and the tally will be in by 1PM. If the second round is necessary, it will start about 1:20PM after the top two in the first round tries to convince more voters to vote for them. By 2PM, we will know who will be the new DPJ leader and the next prime minister.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda is the front-runner to succeed the outgoing PM Kan. Minister of Finance Noda is considered second, followed by ex-Foreign Minister Seiji Maehara. None of them seems to have secured the majority vote (200).

If it is a popularity contest among the Japanese, ex-Foreign Minister Maehara would win, according to the Yomiuri poll, because he is not backed by the kingmaker Ichiro Ozawa and he is young (he's 49).

"It doesn't matter who's at the top, they're all the same" has been the attitude of most Japanese from the time immemorial. At the same time, they trust the government authority (yes, even today) and clamor for a strong leader to guide them.

Fukushima Peaches to Be Pushed by Fukushima City Junior High School Students

Now the adults in Fukushima Prefecture are using school children to push Fukushima produce to the rest of the country.

Students from a junior high school in Fukushima City in Fukushima will promote locally-grown peaches in Yokohama, where they will spend 3 days on their school trip. According to the Kanagawa Shinbun article below, the students are indignant that the local peach growers are suffering because of the "baseless rumor" that their peaches are radioactive.

They are radioactive, actually, and that's according to Fukushima Prefecture's measurement. But since the level (64 becquerels/kg) is far less than the national provisional safety limit (500 becquerels/kg), the students, along with their parents and teachers no doubt, consider it as "baseless rumor", that the fickle, unreasonable consumers in big cities are causing the suffering.

From Kanagawa Shinbun (8/28/2011):


The seniors at Hirano Junior High School (Hirano District, Iizaka-machi in Fukushima City) will conduct a PR campaign in Yamashita Park in Yokohama City on August 30 to promote peaches grown in their town. Fukushima is well-known for peaches, but the sales has plummeted because of the "baseless rumor" after the nuclear power plant accident. The students are visiting Yokohama on their school trip. Using handmade banners and pamphlets, they will appeal safety, and distribute freshly picked peaches for free.


Their school is located in Hirano District [in Iizaka-machi in Fukushima City], a well-known fruit-growing region with many orchards for tourists. In normal years many visitors go there from the Tokyo metropolitan area to pick peaches. This year, however, because of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, the number of tourists has dropped by 90% and the orders for peaches have dropped by 70%.


According to the survey by the Fukushima prefectural government, the maximum amount of radioactive cesium detected from peaches grown in Hirano District is 64 becquerels/kg, far below the national provisional limit of 500 becquerels/kg. The seniors at Hirano Junior High felt it [that tourist stop visiting and people not buying the peaches in Hirano] was "baseless rumor" causing the suffering of the people in the area where they grew up. So, they planned a PR campaign to promote the town's peaches in Yokohama where they were going to visit on their 3 days 2 nights school trip. The campaign is dubbed "福島は負けない~食べてくなんしょ福島の桃 Fukushima will never be defeated - please eat Fukushima's peaches [said in Fukushima dialect]".


On August 26 at school, they made pamphlets and cards that they will distribute in Yokohama. The 14-year-old chairperson for the school trip organizing committee said, "Fukushima's peaches are safe, and we want to convey that message with our own words".


70 seniors from the school will launch their PR campaign from 5:30PM on August 30 in Yamashita Park (Yamashita-cho, Naka-ku in Yokohama City) with handmade banners to promote local produce [peaches]. They will distribute 150 bags (each bag will contain 2 peaches) of "Kawanakajima Hakuto [white peach]" peaches, freshly picked that morning [and rushed to the park] along with the "safety declaration" by the Fukushima governor and the mayor of Fukushima City.

It sort of makes you lose hope in the next generation.

300 peaches, each weighing, probably 200 grams, so it's 60 kilograms total. 64 becquerels/kg times 60 kilograms - 3,840 becquerels of radioactive cesium right there.

Yokohama City, which already made kindergarteners and school children eat radioactive beef, should have no reason to question the campaign.

The Fukushima governor's safety declaration looks like this:

All it says is the produce has tested below the provisional safety limit. His smiling face is supposed to assure consumers.