Saturday, May 19, 2012

24 Bq/kg of #Radioactive Cesium from Green Tea (Brewed) in Kanuma City, Tochigi, Highest Level So Far This Year

If the old testing method is used, this tea could contain 2,400 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium in dry leaves.

The other sample from Kanuma City in Tochigi Prefecture also exceeded the new safety limit for brewed tea (10 Bq/kg), with 12 Bq/kg of cesium.

Checking the Kanuma City's website, there is no mention of this test result, even though it was in the news on May 18, 2012 (Shimotsuke Shinbun). Instead, the page for Kanuma's agricultural products has this interesting mention of how to take care of the tea plantations while the shipment of the tea from the city is halted (it has been halted since June last year, after the fresh leaves of tea from the city tested above the provisional safety limit):



Management of the tea plantations

It is considered desirable to do as you have normally done. As for the tea leaves and branches that have been pruned, there is no problem burying them in the farm land.

I believe many tea growers in Kanto did the deep pruning after their tea was found with high radioactive cesium last year. But if they buried the contaminated cuttings in the soil, they may have simply (re-)introduced radioactive cesium in soil which has been absorbed by the tea plants.

There are people (including Professor Hayakawa of Gunma University) who are speculating that radioactive cesium in green tea this year is the result of strong winds in spring that have blown dust particles off the land which landed on the tea leaves. And there are people who argue radioactive cesium was absorbed through the surfaces of old leaves and sent to the roots, so it is now in the tea plants.

In case of Kanuma City, it may have been absorbed from the roots, in addition to the absorption from old leaves from last year.

To freshen up your memory, Kanuma City in Tochigi Prefecture was the one that fed elementary school children with local beef last October as a PR stunt to prove how safe their beef was. More recently, the city's mayor is very eager to accept the ashes from disaster debris incineration because the national government would foot the bill for upgrading the city's aging final disposal site that needs major repairs.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Formaldehyde in Water Supply in Kanto Region, Water Intake Temporarily Stopped

If it's not radioactive cesium, it's something else like formaldehyde...

Authorities haven't identified the source of formaldehyde, but judging from the density they suspect straight formaldehyde liquid leaking from a plant somewhere in Tochigi Prefecture along the Tone River that runs through Gunma, Saitama, and Chiba Prefectures.

The safety limit for formaldehyde in drinking water is 0.080 milligram/liter.

From Japan Times quoting Kyodo News (5/19/2012):

Formaldehyde found at water plants in Saitama, Chiba

Saitama Prefecture said Friday night it has halted water intake and supply at one of its filtration plants after hazardous formaldehyde exceeding limits was detected in tap water there, while neighboring Chiba Prefecture said it has stopped water intake at two plants after detecting the substance.

The water at the plants was taken from the Tone River and one of its branches, the Edo River, the prefectural governments said.

According to the Saitama prefectural government, more than twice the amount of formaldehyde permitted under national water quality standards was detected in water at its plant in the city of Gyoda.

On Saturday morning, however, the Saitama government said it resumed water intake and supply at the plant after the figures for the substance dropped and remained stably below the standard set by the central government.

The Chiba prefectural government said Friday it has stopped intake at its plants in the cities of Noda and Nagareyama. Early Saturday, it also halted water intake at another plant in the city of Matsudo.

The local governments are now examining the water quality upstream of the Tone River with cooperation from Gunma Prefecture, where the upstream water is located, to identify the source of the contamination, they said.

Formaldehyde could be generated by a combination of organic substances included in the drainage from chemical plants and chlorine, according to the governments.

As with radioactive cesium in food, the Japanese authorities are repeating the mantra that "there is no effect on health" even if you drank the formaldehyde-laced water.

NHK Update: 68,000 households in Nagareyama City in Chiba Prefecture are without water to their homes, as of 2PM on May 19, 2012. 46,000 households in Noda City and 35,000 households in Abiko City in Chiba are also without water. The so-called "tokatsu" region of Chiba (northwestern corner of the prefecture) along the Tone River is hit hard.

#Radioactive Tea from Chiba, This Year's First Pick: Max 14 Bq/kg of Cesium, Brewed, Exceeding the Safety Limit

This is the first case in Japan of this year's green tea exceeding the new safety limit of 10 Bq/kg of brewed tea.

14 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium in brewed tea could translate into the maximum 1,400 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium in the dried leaves, with the possible range between 800 to 1,400 Bq/kg, far exceeding even the provisional safety limit (500 Bq/kg) that was in place until April 1, 2012. For more on the old and new test methods for green tea, see my previous post. (If you read Japanese, here's a comprehensible togetter (string of tweets) on the subject compiled by @Kontan_Bigcat, titled "Standard for radioactive cesium in green tea was stricter last year, and here's why".)

Chiba Prefecture's test result (using only the new way of measuring brewed tea) of total 16 samples from 5 municipalities shows some samples close to the new safety limit of 10 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium in brewed tea. 2 samples exceeded the new safety limit.

Chiba Prefecture's page says the samples are prepared in this way, following the guideline from the Ministry of Health and Welfare dated March 15, 2012:


Use "ara-cha" (bulk tea) or "sei-cha" (blend tea), more than 10 grams, add hot water (90 degrees Celsius) 30 times the weight of the tea, brew for 60 seconds, strain the liquid using a strainer (40 mesh)

(I put in the English labels)



合計 注3
茶(一番茶飲用)Tea, First pick
grown outdoors

Based on the above result, the shipping ban on the teas in Tako-machi and Shibayama-machi has been lifted. Other municipalities (except for Narita City) will soon follow.

Last year, green tea (dry leaves) from Chiba Prefecture was found with radioactive cesium ranging from slightly over 200 Bq/kg to 2,300 Bq/kg. Even the fresh leaves were found with 260 to 980 Bq/kg of cesium, according to the excel sheet data from the prefecture.

For those who are still wondering what "Becquerel" means, Chiba Prefecture's page has the definition for you, too:


Becquerel: Unit of radioactivity. It indicates the number of nuclei decaying in a unit time (1 second).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Banri Kaieda Says Then-PM Naoto Kan Couldn't Decide Whether to Declare a Nuclear Emergency Without Knowing "Legal Basis"

. . . (sigh).

The Fukushima nuclear accident independent investigation commission set up by the Diet called Banri Kaieda as witness on May 17.

Kaieda was the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry who oversaw the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency when the Fukushima nuclear accident happened in March 2011. After losing the leadership election of the Democratic Party of Japan to Yoshihiko Noda in August last year, thanks partly to NHK, he has kept a low profile unlike Naoto Kan (who went on a media blitz to spread his version of the accident), Yukio Edano (who quickly became the Minister of the Economy), or Goshi Hosono (who was promoted from a personal assistant to Kan to the minister in charge of the nuclear accident and then to the Minister of the Environment).

The hearing lasted two and a half hours, and the media reporting it picked different aspects of his testimony. So, from several newspapers and NHK, here's what Kaieda had to say about the early days of the worst nuclear accident in Japan. Nikkei Shinbun has the most extensive coverage. (Emphasis is mine.)

From Nikkei Shinbun (5/17/2012):

  • In accordance with the Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness, TEPCO notified the Ministry of Economy at 4:45PM on March 11, 2011 after the loss of power to Reactor 1 and Reactor due to the tsunami. Kaieda, as Minister of Economy, requested then-Prime Minister Kan to declare a Nuclear Emergency Situation and set up the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters. But it took PM Kan until after 7PM to declare a Nuclear Emergency Situation.

    Kaieda said "It took a long time to obtain Mr. Kan's agreement [to declare a Nuclear Emergency and set up the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters]" because Kan had to be satisfied with information such as the condition of the reactors and the legal basis for [declaring, etc.].

  • About injecting seawater into the reactors to cool, Kaieda said Mr. Kan expressed his concern that injecting seawater might cause re-criticality.

  • Kaieda felt that TEPCO didn't start the injection of seawater immediately because the company was hesitant to decommission the reactors. [If you pour in seawater into a reactor, the reactor cannot be restored.]

  • Kaieda received a telephone call on late night on March 14, 2011 from Masataka Shimizu, then-President of TEPCO, who told Kaieda that he would like to evacuate the workers from Fukushima I Nuke Plant to Fukushima II (Daini) Nuke Plant. Kaieda interpreted the call to mean it was a "complete withdrawal".

  • Kaieda emphasized that he thought "it was a grave mistake" for Kan to closet himself in his office on the 5th floor of the Prime Minister's Official Residence. The risk control center [for the nuclear accident] was located in the basement.

  • Kaida felt that it was like a telephone game among the PM's Official Residence, TEPCO Headquarters, and Fukushima I Nuke Plant.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (5/17/2012):

  • Kaieda requested Kan that he declare a Nuclear Emergency Situation and set up the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, but Kan asked "what's the basis?" So then-Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano and PM's assistants [no doubt including Goshi Hosono] had to pour over the related laws and regulations. In the meantime, Kan did other things including attending a meeting with the opposition party leaders.

From NHK (5/17/2012):

  • About the delay in the vent to lower the pressure inside the Containment Vessel [of Reactor 1], Kaieda said he thought "TEPCO is hesitant, because the company wants to minimize the accident".

I didn't know the reason for the delay in declaring a Nuclear Emergency. I didn't know TEPCO's proposal to evacuate the workers was to Fukushima II Nuke Plant. As to injecting seawater (or for that matter, any kind of water) may have been hard with increasing pressure inside the RPV.

Two interesting points:

  • There was no one who was able to tell then-Prime Minister Kan, "Prime Minister, just do it", when Kan wasted everyone's time by wanting to know the legal basis for declaring a Nuclear Emergency. Instead, Kan insisted on knowing the legal basis, and Edano (and no doubt Hosono) went to look up the information for their Prime Minister when every second might have counted. Not really a picture of a resolute leader as Kan wants to portray himself.

  • TEPCO's "complete withdrawal" was what Kaieda thought, not necessarily what then-President Shimizu of TEPCO told him. He didn't tell Kaieda that he wanted complete withdrawal, but since he didn't tell Kaieda that it would be partial withdrawal either, in Kaieda's mind it was "complete withdrawal".

Yukio Edano's turn as the witness will come on May 27. Goshi Hosono will be interviewed by the commission on May 19, but it will be closed to public, according to Mainichi (5/18/2012). Hosono says he requested the open hearing, but the commission said no, because Hosono was not in a decision-making position when the accident started. (Huh?)

On May 28, Naoto Kan will be the witness.

Minami Soma's "Black Dust" with Over 10 Million Bq/kg of Radioactive Cesium, Says Assemblyman Ooyama (Just Don't Multiply by 65!)

He keeps finding "black dust" in his city with ever higher radioactivity. That's extremely high, even though Mr. Ooyama hasn't given the details as to the exact measurement or the location in his blog post.

But one thing the readers had better keep in mind: YOU DO NOT MULTIPLY THIS NUMBER BY 65 TO CONVERT TO BQ/M2.

As I said in the previous post on Tokyo's "black dust", the multiplier of 65 is only applicable if:

  • The soil sample is taken from the surface to 5 centimeter deep; and

  • The soil's relative density is about 1.3 gram/cm3 (cubic centimeter).

In case of the samples that Mr. Ooyama has been collecting,

  • The samples are taken from the surface, as in most cases the "black dust" is scattered on the paved road; and

  • The soil's density is extremely light, 0.45 gram/cm3.

By automatically multiplying the Bq/kg numbers for Minami Soma's samples by 65 (or worse, 150), you would be grossly exaggerating the Bq/m2 numbers.

Japan Health Physics Society has a Q&A post detailing the step-by-step calculation to convert Bq/kg to Bq/m2. Let's figure out what kind of multiplier would be appropriate (if at all) to use for the Minami Soma "black dust" samples.

First, this is how the multiplier of 65 for the soil sample taken from surface to 5 centimeters and with the relative density of 1.3 gram/cm3 is calculated:

Calculate volume for 1 kg of a given soil sample using the relative density (or specific gravity). Then divide the volume by the depth to get the area. So,

Volume (cm3) = 1000 (g) / 1.3 (g/cm3) = 769 cm3
Area (cm2) = Volume (cm3) / Depth (cm) = 769 / 5 = 154 cm2
Area equivalent to Bq/kg = Bq/154 cm2
Converting this into Bq/m2 (which is 10000 cm2), with the multiplier "x",
Bq/154 cm2 = x Bq/10000 cm2
x = 10000/154 = 64.9 ≒ 65

Variables are "relative density" and "depth".

Now, in case of Minami Soma's "black dust", let's assume the sample is taken from surface to 1 centimeter deep (I suspect it's thinner than 1 centimeter). The density is 0.45 gram/cm3, as one of Mr. Ooyama's Youtube video states (100 ml for 45 gram):

Volume (cm3) = 1000 (g) / 0.45 (g/cm3) = 2222 cm3
Area (cm2) = Volume (cm3) / Depth (cm) = 2222 / 1 = 2222 cm2
Area equivalent to Bq/kg = Bq/2222 cm2
Converting this into Bq/m2, with the multiplier "x",
Bq/2222 cm2 = x Bq/10000 cm2
x = 10000/2222 ≒ 4.5

If it is possible to take the sample from 1 millimeter,

Volume (cm3) = 1000 (g) / 0.45 (g/cm3) = 2222 cm3
Area (cm2) = Volume (cm3) / Depth (cm) = 2222 / 0.1 = 22220 cm2
Area equivalent to Bq/kg = Bq/22220 cm2
Converting this into Bq/m2, with the multiplier "x",
Bq/22220 cm2 = x Bq/10000 cm2
x = 10000/22220 ≒ 0.45

So, if the "black dust" sample is taken from the surface to 1 centimeter deep, the appropriate multiplier would be NOT 65 BUT 4.5. If the sample is taken from 1 millimeter, the multiplier would be 0.45.

The numbers, whether they are in Bq/kg or Bq/m2, are extremely high, particularly in Minami Soma City. I don't understand why the municipal governments, whether it is in Minami Soma City or in Tokyo, aren't removing the substance, particularly from the school routes and parks.

But it is plain wrong to hype the already bad numbers by multiplying by 65. As the "black dust" is not uniformly spread over wide areas, I'm not sure if doing the conversion from Bq/kg to Bq/m2 makes any sense.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Third Tour for the Press on May 26, 2012 May Have the Press on Reactor 4 Operation Floor

It looks TEPCO/Government allow the press inside Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant every three months. The first tour in November last year was only for the reporters and cameramen who belong to the Press Clubs (Japanese and Foreign). The second tour in February allowed the independent media (Iwakami's IWJ and Nico Nico went). The third tour will again allow the independent media, again IWJ and Nico Nico.

What's different this time is, according to the worker who tweets from Fuku-I:

  • Goshi Hosono, Minister of the Environment and Minister in charge of the nuclear accident, will go with the press on the tour;

  • They will get off the bus right near the Reactor 4 building;

  • Hosono and the press representatives may go up the reactor building to see the reinforcement work beneath the Spent Fuel Pool, and go up to the top floors.

The worker who tweets from Fuku-I thinks the reason why Goshi Hosono is coming may be to dispel the rumors circulating around the globe about Reactor 4's building "listing" (leaning, about to collapse, whatever). Bad choice, as Goshi Hosono would be the last person that people would believe. But that aside, the worker doesn't seem particularly worried about Reactor 4 (he never has). From his tweets (here and here):


People in the world are making a fuss about Unit 4, but I think the other reactor buildings would be the same as Unit 4 if an earthquake hits. Other units also have spent fuel, and what's worse there is still fuel inside the reactors. Units 1 and 3 also exploded but they haven't been reinforced. There has been several earthquakes with seismic intensity of 5, but luckily they were OK. I was scared a bit...


It's not that I am optimistic. No one knows what will happen if an earthquake with seismic intensity of 7 hits. But it's not just Unit 4 that is dangerous. They are all the same. They will start removing the spent fuel from Unit 4 in the fall of next year, but it hasn't been decided when the spent fuel in other Units will be removed.

Independent journalist Ryuichi Kino was tweeting he entered the "lottery" to go to the plant....

#Radioactive Debris Kitakyushu City Update: They Will Accept and Burn Anyway Regardless of the Test Result

In the previous post, I wrote:

They will burn the debris for 24 hours before they measure the radioactivity of the ashes to see if it is below 330 bq/kg [of radioactive cesium], the city's own standard to bury the ashes.

A concerned citizen called the Environment Bureau of Kitakyushu City and spoke with one of the officials in charge, who told him:


Even if the radioactivity of the fly ashes exceeds 330 bq/kg, or the radioactivity of waste water after treatment exceeds the [city's?] safety standard of 10 bq/kg, that won't stop the full-scale incineration. The radioactivity measurement of the test burn is done just to study the effect on the environment.


The only possibility where the full-scale incineration won't be done would be if the extremely high radioactivity was measured, or the incinerators broke down, or there was a visible deterioration of the environment, he said. I am astonished at his incredible understanding. There is no intention to stop the test burn. He said the test result will be fully disclosed, so that the city is not accused of hiding the data.

#Radioactive Debris: Kitakyushu City to Test Burn, First in Kyushu

Kitakyushu City has been heavily polluted in the past from numerous steel mills and other heavy industries. Now, the city government is eager to risk polluting the city with radioactive materials.

From a few tweets from residents in the city who called the city government and spoke with the people in the section that deals with the debris burning, the national government has been exerting a heavy pressure on the city to proceed with the test burn and acceptance of the debris (which is just a foregone conclusion).

Kitakyushu City, which literally means "city in northern Kyushu", is located on the northern-most tip of Kyushu Island. It used to be 5 separate cities, but they consolidated themselves into one giant city in 1965 for the added benefits of being designated as "ordinance-designated city". It is the largest city in western Japan. According to the city's website, it wants to be the most "ecological", "green" (i.e. low-carbon) city in the whole wide world.

From Yomiuri Shinbun Kyushu version (5/16/2012):


Kitakyushu City has decided to conduct the test burn of the disaster debris from Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture from May 23 to 25. Mayor Kenji Kitahashi announced the plan during the press conference on May 16. It will be the first, west of Kansai, if the city formally accepts the debris after the test burn.


The disaster debris to be test burned will be 80 tonnes, mostly wood debris. The sorting has started in Ishinomaki since May 15, and the debris will arrive in Kitakyushu City by land on May 22.


The debris will be mixed with the household garbage collected in the city. Starting May 23, 32 tonnes will be burned at the Hiagari incineration plant in Kokura Kita District of the city, and 48 tonnes at the Shin Moji incineration plant in Moji District starting May 24. They will burn the debris for 24 hours before they measure the radioactivity of the ashes to see if it is below 330 bq/kg [of radioactive cesium], the city's own standard to bury the ashes. The ashes [from the test burn] will be stored in a warehouse in Kokura Kita District. If the city officially accepts the debris [after the test burn], the ashes will be buried in the final disposal site in Wakamatsu District.

The mixture ratio is 9 (household garbage) to 1 (disaster debris), according to May 2 Yomiuri Shinbun article. The ashes from burning the household garbage in Kitakyushu City do not contain radioactive cesium above the detection levels, according to the city's measurement.

Judging by the fact that they will burn 24 hours straight, the incinerators must be those that require the continuous 24-hour burn in order to properly operate.

According to the data from the Ministry of the Environment, the wood debris in Ishinomaki City proper has been found with 35 bq/kg of radioactive cesium, but the wood debris in part of Ishinomaki City in Ojika Peninsula has been found with 85 bq/kg of radioactive cesium. If the debris that Kitakyushu City will test burn is the fine particles (less than 5mm in size), which are basically the crushed wood debris, they test 207 and 360 Bq/kg respectively.

So they are using how many special trucks to transport this debris from Ishinomaki to Kitakyushu? 900 miles?? (Kitakyushu City is much closer to Korea than to Ishinomaki.) The transportation cost is all paid by the national government (i.e. taxpayers of Japan, whether they like it or not) of course.

Train Ad in #Radioactive Japan: "Air Counter" Radiation Survey Meter to Protect Your Children!

Getting surreal by the day.

The stick-like product is called "Air Counter", and it is a simplified radiation survey meter made by S.T. Corporation. You can buy it at drug stores and convenience stores nationwide for 7,900 yen (suggested retail price). In this ad, the "Air Counter" is being sold with the book written by Professor Kunihiko Takeda of Chubu University, who has been speaking out since the early days of the nuclear accident last year to protect children.

"To protect your children, it's important to measure the radiation levels."

"Radiation contamination can be reduced for your children" if you follow the methods detailed in the book.

The photo shows the ad on the train, I think.

What's next? Full-face masks for children, perhaps? (Just like the movie "Blind" ...)

(H/T Chibaguy for the photo)

This Year's Tea from Shizuoka with 12.37 Bq/kg of #Radioactive Cesium, Measured the Old Way (Dry Leaves)

Whatever the national government or the prefectural governments (particularly the hilarious Shizuoka Prefecture with the Oxford-grad governor) say, the retailers are testing green tea the old way - measuring the dry leaves - for their customers.

Here's a notice from Green Co-op on May 14, 2012, informing the customers that the organic first-pick "Fukamushi" green tea from Shizuoka Prefecture 100-gram package was found with:

cesium-134: 4.98 bq/kg
cesium-137: 7.39 bq/kg
Total: 12.37 bq/kg

They also tested the liquid after the tea was brewed, according to the new guideline from the government, and the cesium levels were below detection levels.

Green Co-op's own safety standard, the notice says, is 10 becquerels/kg of cesium in dry leaves. This particular Shizuoka tea exceeded the standard, but after consulting the directors of the co-op the management decided to offer the tea to the customers anyway. The reason for offering it to the customers even if the level exceeded its own safety standard is not given.

For numbers comparing the radioactivity measured in dry leaves and measured in brewed tea, go to my April post, which shows last year's examples from Shizuoka Prefecture.

There are several brands of green tea in other prefectures that have tested close to 10 bq/kg in brewed tea. The highest so far this year is the tea from a town in Ibaraki Prefecture, which tested 9.3 bq/kg in brewed tea. If you apply the last year's numbers from Shizuoka Prefecture, the dry leaves may have between 700 and 1000 bq/kg of radioactive cesium, far exceeding the provisional safety limit of 500 bq/kg effective until April 1, 2012. But since it passes the test under the new method of measuring brewed tea, the tea passed the test with flying colors, and the Ibaraki prefectural government says it will negotiate with the national government for lifting the shipping ban.

Having looked at the prefectural government sites so far, there is none who measures the green tea the old way.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Japan's Sovereign Debt Situation in 4 Charts

Move over, Greece.

From Zero Hedge (5/15/2012):

Sovereign debt to GDP: Japan is the only country over 200%, and set to go higher after the March 11, 2011 triple disaster.

Sovereign debt interest payment to government revenues: Japan is the only country over 20%.

Japan's sovereign debt to GDP ratio, since 1980: 45-degree angle since early 1990s, after the real estate bubble burst.

Sovereign debt to government revenues: Japan looks to be about 1,900%. Greece comes in second, with about 400%.

Zero Hedge cites the source as: Harvard Business School, 9-212-091, Hayman Capital Management

Greek Citizens Withdrew 700 Million Euros from Banks Recently

CNBC couldn't say exactly when.

From CNBC (5/15/2012; emphasis is mine):

Stocks faded in the final hour of trading Tuesday to finish lower following news that Greek depositors withdrew 700 million euros from the nation's banking system and after Greece's leaders failed to agree on a coalition government.

The S&P 500 closed at 3-month lows, while the Dow logged its ninth loss in the last 10 sessions. Major averages are on pace for their biggest monthly losses since last September.

According to a transcript, Greek depositors recently withdrew 700 million euros from the nation's local banks, said President Karolos Papoulias, though the exact timing of the transfer was unclear.


Earlier, Greek politicians failed to form a coalition government during their final talks, pushing the Athens Composite Index to a new 22-year low. A caretaker government is likely to be formed pending a new election next month. The euro fell below $1.28 following the announcement and European closed at new 2012 lows.

“The fundamental structural issues in Europe are still there and they’re not going to go away…they’ll continue to kick the can down the road because they’re only doing just enough to get by,” said Matt Lloyd, chief investment strategist at Advisors Asset Management.

(Full article at the link)

22-year low. Ouch...

Osaka's "Third Way" to Conserve Electricity in Summer: Citizen Informants

The boy-wonder mayor of Osaka City, who wants to teach "the next generation" a lesson on electricity conservation by having them experience rolling blackouts, proposes his "third way" to combat electricity consumption during the peak hours in the hot summer days.

(As a reminder, the first way is to restart Ooi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefecture, and the second way is to have the rolling blackouts.)

What's his third way? Mainichi Shinbun says it is to turn the residents into the informants for the local government who will rat out businesses that look like using too much electricity.

From Mainichi Shinbun evening paper for Osaka (part; 5/15/2012):


On the other hand, the energy strategy conference of Osaka Prefecture and Osaka City proposed its own plan to save electricity on May 15. It includes setting up the "electricity saving informing counter" where the residents report offices and stores whose lighting is too bright, encouraging electricity saving among medium- and small-size businesses. The plan also calls for shutting down the government offices in the afternoon during the middle of summer. Overall, 1.1 million kilowatt saving is being targeted from households, businesses, and government offices.

I don't see why it should stop at reporting the seemingly wasteful businesses. Everybody against everybody else, like the life under the Stasi, except the Japanese are probably better at it than East Germans. After all, 250 years of peace during the Edo era (until the Black Ships appeared) were partly maintained by the "group of 5 households" in which people watched their 4 other neighboring households for suspicious behaviors, for mutual assistance, and for collective responsibility. That system was resurrected as the "neighborhood group" in the Showa era before the World War II, and it continues today as "voluntary" neighborhood association all over Japan, though without collective responsibility or mutual watch for suspicious behaviors.

Monday, May 14, 2012

"Black Dust" in Tokyo? With 243,000 Bq/Kg of Radioactive Cesium

Freelance journalist Rei Shiva [Shiba] writing for Nikkan Spa, a daily tabloid in Japan (part; 5/15/2012):


It was this February when the super-radioactive and mysterious "black dust" found in Minami Soma City in Fukushima Prefecture was in the news.


Although 1.08 million Bq/kg was shocking, it was considered to be specific only to Minami Soma. However, I've been told that "black dust" exists everywhere in Tokyo.

「放射線検知器を近づけてみると、明らかに反応があるので、汚染度が高いのかなとは思っていたのですが、まさかここまでとは……」「黒い粉」を都内で発見した、市民団体「NO!放射能 江東こども守る会」の石川あや子代表は驚きを隠せない。「江戸川区のJR平井駅周辺で『黒い粉』らしきものを見つけ、採取したサンプルを神戸大学の山内知也教授に検査してもらったところ、最大で1kgあたり24万3000Bqという数値が出たんです」。

"When I brought the radiation detector closer, it visibly responded. So I knew it might be highly contaminated, but didn't know it was this contaminated...", says Ayako Ishikawa incredulously. Ishikawa is the head of the citizens' group "No! to Radiation, Protect Children in Koto". [Koto-ku is one of the eastern Special Wards of Tokyo]. She says, "We found something that looked like "black dust" near the Hirai JR station in Edogawa-ku. We collected the sample and and asked Professor Tomoya Yamauchi of Kobe University to measure the radiation. The result was that it had the maximum 243,000 Bq/kg [of radioactive cesium]."


It is 2,430 times the clearance level [100 Bq/kg] specified by the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law.

「注意して見ると、『黒い粉』は都内の至るところにあります」と石川さんは言う。そんなにあちこちに高汚染の物質が転がっているのだろうか? という疑問を抱えつつ、「黒い粉」の調査に本誌記者も同行した。

"If you look carefully, "black dust" is everywhere in Tokyo", says Ishikawa. Such highly contaminated materials are everywhere? I decided to accompany her to look for "black dust".


First, [to a location] about 10-minute walk from the JR Hirai Station. We found the "black dust" on the playground near the public housing. There were several drifts near the fence, and they looked like just "black soil". When I took a closer look, they were revealed to be something like a dried moss or mold.


Ishikawa said, "They are at slightly different locations. Rain and wind may have moved them." We measured the radiation with the scintillation survey meter made by a domestic manufacturer because it is more reliable than a geiger counter. The number shot up quickly, and exceeded 2 microsieverts/hour. That is twenty times more than the average air radiation level (at 1 meter off the ground) in Tokyo. Professor Yamauchi says, "In general, a scintillation survey meter shows the average radiation level. If the number rises rapidly when the survey meter is directed toward a small amount of substance, it is possible that the substance is emitting extremely strong radiation."


果たして、「黒い粉」の正体とは何なのか? そして、「黒い粉」の性質を利用した効率良い除染方法とは? 5月15日発売の週刊SPA!「首都圏を襲う[放射能の黒い粉]」では、「黒い粉」の元になる物質の怖さのみならず有用性もまた報じている。

What is this "black dust"? What is the efficient decontamination method using the unique properties of the "black dust"? Shukan Spa [weekly magazine] that will go on sale on May 15 has the article "Radioactive black dust striking the Tokyo Metropolitan area", which will report on the danger of the substance that makes up the "black dust" as well as its usefulness.

I don't see much point in comparing it to the clearance level of 100 Bq/kg which is applicable only to enclosed nuclear facilities. After the Fukushima nuclear accident, it's a whole new ballgame where the disaster debris exceeding that clearance level is being shipped to Kyushu to be burned in a regular incinerator and the soil samples in Kanto and Tohoku easily exceed that level in many locations.

Even though I have reported on the "black dust" in Minami Soma City (most recently, here), I am not completely convinced that this "black" substance is any different from a drift of dirt that one often saw on the road surface or near the drains even before the Fukushima nuclear accident. Cyanobacteria that supposedly make up the "black dust" are ubiquitous.

Professor Yukio Hayakawa of Gunma University says if the top 1 millimeter of the soil is taken the radioactivity can be extremely high, though he seems to think that "black dust" is a very good indicator of urban contamination.

No matter what it is or how it came about, it is clearly highly radioactive, and it'd better be removed to avoid contact. No municipalities are doing that, as they should.

Just don't go multiply that number (243,000 Bq/kg) by 65 and exclaim "Look, Tokyo is more contaminated than Chernobyl exclusion zone!" The multiplier of 65 only applies to soil samples that are taken from the surface to 5 centimeters deep, and whose specific gravity is about 1.3g/cm3. If Tokyo's "black dust" has the same weight as Minami Soma's "black dust", it would be less than 0.5g/cm3.

FT: "Divisions over radiation risk have been exposed after Fukushima"

The article written by Mure Dickie and Clive Cookson for Financial Times that appeared in November last year seems to have engendered a lively discussion in the comment section regarding what is the "safe" radiation dose, if there is one.

From Financial Times (11/11/2011):

Nuclear energy: A hotter topic than ever

By Mure Dickie and Clive Cookson

Divisions over radiation risk have been exposed after Fukushima

In front of the government office in Japan’s Iitate village, the radiation monitor – a large metal box topped by warning lights – displays airborne levels in real time on a glowing digital display. A handheld dosimeter carried by local forester Toru Anzai gives more personal readings. In the nearby prefectural capital, sophisticated germanium detectors hum into the night analysing the radioactivity of local foods.

Eight months after a tsunami sent the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power station into near meltdown, data are pouring in across Japan on the scale of contamination caused by the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years. Yet none of these detectors or their data can tell their users just how worried they should be. For the crisis has laid bare an absence of scientific and social consensus on radiation risk, which is undermining a disaster response already weakened by fractious leadership and an often slow-moving bureaucracy.

Uncertainty about radiation danger is not a problem for Japan alone. Atomic plants around the world are ageing fast, and more are being built in developing countries where there is often limited public oversight and high levels of corruption. It would be foolish for the world to assume that this crisis will be the last.

On one side, analysts say bowing to exaggerated fears of radiation will stunt global development of nuclear power, slowing economic growth and increasing pollution and global warming from fossil fuels. On the other, experts accuse the nuclear industry and government officials of playing down the dangers.

In May, radiation safety researcher Toshiso Kosako tearfully resigned as a scientific adviser to Japan’s prime minister after the government decided to set the limit for exposure in schools at 20 millisieverts a year, a level usually applied to nuclear industry workers. “It’s unacceptable to apply this figure to infants, toddlers and primary school pupils,” Professor Kosako said.

But Wade Allison of Oxford university says the 20mSv a year limit for evacuation should be raised to 100mSv a month, arguing that the principal health threat posed by the Fukushima Daiichi crisis is “fear, uncertainty and enforced evacuation”.

Underlying such stark differences lies a lack of clarity about what radiation does to the body at doses below 100mSv per year, the level at which an increase in cancer becomes clearly evident in epidemiological surveys. Prof Allison and many other scientists believe that, below a certain threshold, radiation is likely in effect to do no harm to health at all. However, the mainstream assumption is that even very low doses carry some risk, even if it is not yet measurable.

The result has been highly precautionary limits on artificial radiation exposure, such as an international safety standard for the public of just 1mSv in a year. That is less than half the exposure most people receive naturally from background radioactivity in rocks, soil and building materials, and from cosmic rays. This may make sense in normal times – but it means that in a crisis people tend to assume exposure above the limit is dangerous. The problem for authorities is that it is next to impossible to judge exactly at what point it will be safer to move a population away from the radiation or to limit its exposure by, for example, keeping children indoors and closing schools. Such moves themselves have health risks: evacuation can kill the elderly and thrust younger people into unemployment. Disrupted education can mar children’s future careers. Loss of exercise habits makes people vulnerable to illness and obesity.

David Boilley, a nuclear physicist and head of the French citizens’ radiation testing group Acro, believes the Japanese evacuation line of 20mSv a year is too high, but acknowledges that a 1mSv level would be unrealistic. French government experts have suggested setting the evacuation trigger at 10mSv per year – although this could mean adding another 70,000 people to the 150,000-200,000 evacuated from areas near Fukushima Daiichi.

“Evacuation is terrible [and we] need to weigh the burden and benefit,” says Mr Boilley, whose group is helping with monitoring in Fukushima, adding that the appropriate trigger point varies not only by area and exposure but also by individual. “Where to put it? That’s a very hard question,” he says. “I am happy I am not a politician who has to decide.”

(Full article and the comment section at the link)

Professor Wade Allison left his comment, saying:

I have written and explained in accessible language, but in some depth, why the evacuation level should have been set in the region of 100 millisievert per month, that is 1200 per year -- that is 60 times the current value, not five times, as quoted in this FT article.

Hey that means I was right, saying in my post that Professor Allison's annual limit was 1.2 sievert...

(H/T TS)

Gravelines Nuclear Power Plant in France Stopped due to Technical Problem

From Le Monde (5/14/2012):

Un réacteur nucléaire arrêté à Gravelines après un problème technique

Un des réacteurs de la centrale nucléaire de Gravelines (Nord) a été arrêté lundi 14 mai en fin de matinée en raison d'un problème technique sans gravité et devrait "rapidement" redémarrer, a-t-on appris auprès d'une porte-parole de la centrale.

Le réacteur numéro 6 de la centrale de Gravelines, d'une puissance de 900 MW, est à l'arrêt en raison d'un "défaut sur un capteur sur une pompe", a précisé la porte-parole. "Il n'y a pas de problème de sûreté. C'est un problème technique. Le capteur est en train d'être remplacé et le redémarrage devrait avoir lieu bientôt", a-t-elle ajouté.

Sur son site internet, RTE, filiale d'EDF qui gère le réseau haute tension national, indique que le réacteur a subi un arrêt automatique lundi aux alentours de 11 h 30.

Le 5 avril 2012, la centrale de Penly (Seine-Maritime) avait elle aussi rencontré une défaillance sur l'une des pompes de son système de refroidissement, provoquant un incendie et un arrêt du réacteur.

From Reuters (5/14/2012):

May 14 (Reuters) - EDF's 900-megawatt Gravelines 6 nuclear reactor in northern France stopped in an unplanned outage on Monday at 0935 GMT, France's power grid RTE said on its website.

An EDF spokeman said the outage had been caused by a default on a sensor that measures the good working order of the reactor.

"We are assessing the problem before carrying out repairs," the spokesman said, adding he was unable to give a restart date.

Mayor of Osaka City: Never Waste a Good Crisis, Younger Generation Needs to Experience Rolling Blackout

Toru Hashimoto, current Mayor of Osaka City and ex-Governor of Osaka Prefecture, wants the younger generation who does't know the first oil crisis (1973-74) to experience what it is like to live with the rolling blackouts. I suppose that includes him, having been born in 1969 and not even in the elementary school when the oil crisis hit. His older sidekick, Governor of Osaka Ichiro Matsui, is playing the "good cop" saying it's not that easy. A comedy routine.

Ah bright future for Japan when he is considered the forerunner to become the next Prime Minister. The other choices are equally bleak - Goshi Hosono, Yukio Edano, among others.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (5/14/2012), who has been one of the biggest cheerleaders for this boy-wonder mayor:


Toru Hashimoto, Mayor of Osaka City, spoke to the press on the potentially serious power shortage in Kansai Region in case Reactors 3 and 4 of Ooi Nuclear Power Plant operated by Kansai Electric (KEPCO) do not restart [by summer]. He said, "This kind of situation will never materialize again. For the next generation [of people], it is necessary to fully experience what it will be like to live under the decree to restrict the usage of electricity", indicating his willingness to accept such a decree.


There has been no decree to restrict the usage of electricity within the areas supplied by KEPCO since 1974 oil crisis.


On the other hand, Governor of Osaka Ichiro Matsui told the press, "Last year's rolling blackouts severely affected the economy. Restriction of electricity usage cannot be accepted that easily."


Yukiko Kada, Governor of Shiga Prefecture, was also cautious, saying "If it's necessary, then it can't be helped. But the industry should not be affected by it."

So who should be affected? Household users I suppose, with electricity being cut off in the peak mid-day hours during the summer. To save the businesses and the economy. Very Japanese.

In the meantime, the town of Ooi-cho in Fukui Prefecture, where the nuclear power plant is located, is all for the re-start. At least the town assembly is, voting 11 to 1 in favor of the earliest restart. They say the town greatly benefits from the nuclear power plant. I'm sure it does, until it doesn't. Just ask mayors of Futaba-machi and Okuma-machi in Fukushima. The governor of Fukui Prefecture seems to be still holding out for more perks from the national government, and hasn't said yes to the restart.

US Physicist Michio Kaku: "Unit 2 we now know completely liquified"

That's from the link at enenews.

Original webcast (full) here, short clip at enenews here.

What does that mean?

Can anyone please explain what he means that "Unit 2 we now know completely liquified" and "A 100% liquification of a uranium core"? Does he mean "core melt" or something else entirely?

TEPCO's Chairman Katsumata: PM Kan's Meddling Excessive During the First Critical Hours of the Accident

Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata of TEPCO appeared before the Diet investigation commission on the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant Accident on May 14. For the most part, just like when they called TEPCO's then-VP Muto, the commissioners didn't seem to be successful at drawing any useful information from him.

But one thing he said about then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan caught my attention because I didn't know about it.

From Jiji Tsushin (part; 5/14/2012):


The Diet's Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (Chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa, former head of the Science Council of Japan under the Cabinet Office) held a public hearing on May 14 with TEPCO's Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata as a witness. Chairman Katsumata referred to then Prime Minister Naoto Kan giving direct orders to Masao Yoshida, the plant manager of Fukushima I Nuke Plant, over the cellphone immediately after the start of the accident. Katsumata criticized that "the plant manager's primary duty was to do his best to restore the plant. It was not a good thing that he [Yoshida] had to take time dealing with the prime minister".

Well we could also say that it should have been the job of the TEPCO headquarters in Tokyo to shield Yoshida from having to answer phone calls from the prime minister who claimed to know a lot about nuclear power because he had a technical degree (he went on to become a patent attorney after graduation), so that the plant manager could do his job at the plant.

Mr. Katsumata, whatever you think of him as the head of "evil" TEPCO, is extremely sharp, which was very evident last year when I watched his press conference. It would take equally intelligent and clever people to get information out of him, but the Diet commissioners have been more keen on grand-standing (as the sessions are open to public and netcast live).

The Diet's commission will call then-Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda on May 16. We'll see if the commissioners do better job on Kaieda.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

3100 Bq/kg of #Radioactive Cesium from Wild Mice in Kawauchi-mura, Fukushima

Kawauchi-mura is inside the former evacuation zones where the volunteers including small children planted rice over the weekend. The location where the mice were caught is 6 to 7 kilometers south of the rice farm.

NHK reports (5/14/2012):


3100 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected from wild mice caught in the mountains about 30 kilometers from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The experts say it will be necessary to continuously monitor the effect [of radiation] in wild animals.


In October and December last year, the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, an independent administrative corporation [under the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries] caught wild Japanese mice in Mitsuishi District of Kawauchi-mura in Fukushima Prefecture, about 30 kilometers from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, and in Ogawa District in Sekimoto-cho, Kita-Ibaraki City in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 70 kilometers from the plant. The mountains where the mice were caught are away from the residential areas.


The researchers measured the radioactive cesium density in 12 mice. From the mice caught in Kawauchi-mura, average 3100 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected, while average 790 becquerels/kg was detected from mice caught in Kita-Ibaraki City.


Air radiation levels of the locations where the mice were caught were 3.11 microsieverts/hour in Kawauchi-mura and 0.2 microsievert/hour in Kita-Ibaraki City. The higher the air radiation levels were, the higher the density of radioactive materials in the mice.


Commenting on the result, Yoshihisa Kubota of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, who studies the effect of radiation on animals, says, "Mice have about the same sensitivity to radiation as humans. We need to continuously monitor the effect of radioactive materials on wild animals."

The Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute also did the measurement of radioactive cesium in earthworms in Kawauchi-mura. The result was released in February this year, and they found 19,500 bq/kg of radioactive cesium in earthworms in the same Mitsuishi District of Kawauchi-mura where the layer of dead leaves was found with 319,000 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium and the soil (taken from the surface to 5 centimeter deep) was found with 20,900 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium.

20,900 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium from soil taken from the surface to 5 centimeters deep would translate to 1,358,500 Bq/m2. But the only area in Kawauchi-mura where the human habitation is still restricted (though entering the area is not prohibited) is inside the 20-kilometer radius. So, this location in Mitsuishi District is, as with the rest of Kawauchi-mura, in the areas newly designated as "getting ready for the return of the residents".

1,358,500 Bq/m2, or half that considering only cesium-137, would be a "permanent control zone" in Chernobyl. But in the post-Fukushima Japan, the annual cumulative external radiation of 20 millisieverts is "safe", and the national government is "decontaminating" so that the residents can return to the former evacuation zones in Fukushima. Sooner or later the residents will have little choice but return, as the government doesn't intend to keep paying the compensation now that it's set to effectively take over TEPCO.

Asahi's Asia Japan Watch: Japan Gymnastic Association Members Not Allowed on a Bus in Germany Last Year Because "People from Tokyo Are Contaminated"

No idea whether it is true or not, as it comes from Asahi Shinbun's "Asia and Japan Watch" (AJW) which has had very inaccurate headlines and articles regarding the nuclear accident.

From AJW, article by Kamome Fujimori (part; 5/12/2012):

Unease abroad over the post-3/11 situation in Tokyo is hardly new, however. Sports officials have had to deal with the reassignment of several events scheduled for Japan and some cancellations after the nuclear disaster.

One example was the 2011 World Figure Skating Championships, originally scheduled to be held in Tokyo in late March, but later reassigned to Moscow. The 2011 World Gymnastics Championships in Tokyo in October also appeared to be in danger at one point, but the Japan Gymnastic Association waged a successful campaign to reassure officials in other countries that Tokyo was safe enough to host the event as scheduled. It should be noted, however, that when some members visited Germany as part of that campaign, they were not allowed to get on a bus on the grounds that “people from Tokyo are contaminated.”

Ironic that Germany did that, if this Asahi's article is correct.

#Radioactive Japan: Volunteers Including Small Children Plant Rice Just Outside 20-Km Radius in Fukushima Prefecture

From the photograph by Mainichi Shinbun, both the small girl and the mother (I think) are planting rice with bare hands and bare feet. The location is Kawauchi-mura, Fukushima Prefecture, just outside the 20-kilometer "no-entry" zone and inside the former "evacuation-ready zone" which was abolished in September last year.

Why is this happening? Mainichi Shinbun (5/13/2012; emphasis is mine) reports:


In the wake of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident last year, the national government restricted the planting of rice in Kawauchi-mura in Fukushima Prefecture. On May 13, the experimental planting of rice started in Kawauchi-mura. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the village planned the event, and about 50 volunteers including families from the Tokyo Metropolitan region enjoyed rice planting the old-fashioned way - by hand, in the mud.


This year, the village has decided to refrain from planting rice on a commercial scale, but plans to resume planting next year based on the experimental cultivation. In the experimental plot using 30 rice paddies, rice will be planted in 10 ares with differing amounts of minerals that absorb radioactive materials and different tilling depths. The harvested rice won't be sold in the market, but will be used to study whether radioactive cesium is detected.


Akiko Komiya (age 22), college senior from Fujisawa City in Kanagawa said, "As baseless rumors spread, I wanted to see things for myself. I want to believe in safety, and want to support people doing their best in a positive manner." Yoshitaka Akimoto (age 69), the farmer who planted the rice last year, said, "Even if this is only an experiment, it is the first step toward the agricultural renewal. Even if it cannot be sold right away, I want to continue to slowly persuade the consumers."

With a college senior like Ms. Komiya, the future for Japan is as bright as in the past 20 years or so.

Fukushima's local paper Fukushima Minpo (5/13/2012) reports on the same news, and says this experiment is part of the project to develop new sales routes for the rice grown in Kawauchi-mura. The project is called "Revival of Rice Project (復活の米プロジェクト)", and is hosted by Mr. Akimoto. The paper quote him as saying:


I'm excited to think that rice growing is just about to start. One step at a time, as I interact with more consumers.

As Mainichi article says, Mr. Akimoto planted and harvested rice last year, too, despite the ban. The harvest rice is supposed to have been tested and discarded. I haven't found the result of the test, if it was ever done. Looking at the photo at Fukushima Minpo, he looks like he means well.

The Ministry of Education and Science's cesium deposition map of Kawauchi-mura, and the map roughly indicating where Mr. Akimoto's rice farm is located (from Kobe Shinbun last year):

Contamination in most of Kawauchi-mura seems less than areas in Fukushima City or Date City, 50 kilometers or more from the nuclear plant. Still, the MEXT map shows Mr. Akimoto's farm to have soil with 100K to 300K Bq/m2 of radioactive cesium. It doesn't seem like the "safe" enough level for a mother to let her small daughter go bare feet and hands to play in the mud.

Kawauchi-mura's Tourism Bureau informs us as of April 25, 2012 that the public building (museum) right near Mr. Akimoto's farm remains closed, and no decontamination work has been done.