Here’s our latest edition of EDU WATCH for news on the educational scene. First up, are reports and article links on the local educational scene in Japan:

Finding shelter kids a place to hit the books (Jun.5, Yomiuri)

MIYAKO, Iwate–Almost every night, a group of children stay up long past the 9:30 p.m. lights-out. Hidden behind thick curtains in a corner of a disaster shelter, the students from primary to high school are taking advantage of a rare time of quiet in their communal lives to keep up with their studies.

With personal space and privacy at a minimum, shelters in disaster-hit areas have tried various things to ensure time and space for children to study.

At the gymnasium housing 300 people at the Greenpia Sanriku Miyako lodging facility in the upland Taro district of Miyako, former cram school lecturer and shelter resident Naoto Takeda, 37, said he felt sorry for children who had nowhere else to study but with their textbooks spread out on futon on the floor.

Takeda proposed setting aside a space for students to study until 11 p.m. each night to the management of the center. Curtains were put up to cordon off the corner of the gym so the light from inside would not disturb the other residents. When children come to the study area, they bring solar-powered lanterns that came with other relief supplies and are charged during the day. From May, Takeda started giving mathematics lessons twice a week for third-year middle school students who are preparing for high school entrance exams.

Kazushi Saito, a third-year student at Taro No. 1 Middle School in Miyako, said, “I was getting worried because there was no time or place to study at the shelter. [Takeda’s] lessons are a big help.”

Residents with carpentry skills at a shelter at Akahama Primary School in Otsuchicho in the prefecture built partitions in classrooms that students can use as private study rooms.

Intern at Disney, get credits (Japan Times, Jun 4)

Nagoya University of Foreign Studies in Nisshin, Aichi Prefecture, has launched an overseas program to give its students the opportunity to study in the U.S. and work at Disney World in Florida. This year, 11 students are set to carry out seven-month internships at the theme park to learn about Disney’s culture of hospitality. As such overseas internships help students gain work experience and improve their English-language skills, other universities have been introducing similar programs. The Disney internship program is aimed at giving students wishing to work in the tourism or service industries work experience at a global company. (Japan Times)

Many universities suffer damage(Yomiuri, May 26)

The Great East Japan Earthquake damaged many universities in the Tohoku and Kanto regions as well as in Hokkaido. The repair and reconstruction of damaged facilities has gradually progressed, and institutions both at home and abroad have offered to accept students from the disaster-hit universities.

But delays in research and study activities are unavoidable, and those researchers affected are feeling an increasing sense of urgency.

Prof. Masahiro Hirama at Tohoku University’s Graduate School of Science voiced his concerns in a laboratory on the fifth floor of a university chemistry building in Aoba Ward, Sendai.

A piece of experimental equipment, used to measure the microscopic structure of samples, remained where it fell in the middle of the lab floor. When the earthquake hit on March 11, the support column for the device broke, and the device fell to the floor.

“At the time, we were doing an experiment. Nitrogen gas coolant was leaking from the device and there was a risk of suffocation. Fortunately, none of the students were injured, but the equipment, worth tens of millions of yen, was broken,” Hirama said.

In Hirama’s lab, students were able to restart experiments on May 9. But on the upper floors, the damage was more serious.

Bookshelves and lab tables moved and some were flipped over, with their support brackets torn off. Walls in upper-floor rooms had large holes or cracks in them and plastic ventilation pipes were broken.

Prof. Masahiro Terada, whose lab is on the seventh floor of the building, said: “We have resumed work in another building. It will be a long time until we will be able to come back here.”

Tohoku University has five campuses in Sendai. Its Aobayama Campus, located on a hill and containing the science labs, was the most severely damaged.

The university’s School of Engineering buildings suffered heavy damage as concrete pillars collapsed and steel beams inside were exposed.

At the university’s Cyclotron and Radioisotope Center, which is shared by universities nationwide, the particle accelerator’s supporting columns collapsed. The university is unsure when experiments with the accelerator can be resumed.

Prof. Hiroshi Fukumura, head of the Graduate School of Science, said: “In the physics and chemistry labs, equipment and samples were severely damaged. In biology labs, power outages stopped refrigerators, resulting in the loss of valuable proteins, enzymes and other samples.”

As of March 16, the university found that 28 of about 600 buildings on all of its campuses were considered dangerous, and 48 were judged to require extreme care during use.

Repair or reconstruction of the facilities alone will cost about 45 billion yen. The university estimated that about 700 pieces of equipment were damaged, accounting for about 32.4 billion yen in losses.

According to the Cabinet Office’s Council for Science and Technology Policy, as of April 1, a total of 177 universities, including affiliated institutions, suffered some degree of damage.

Thirty-four independent administrative entities and national research institutes were also damaged.

Some universities were not directly damaged but have suffered from power shortages caused by the accidents at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The University of Tokyo’s Information Technology Center set a goal to cut the electricity consumption of its supercomputer by 30 percent. The center passed some calculations, which its supercomputer is no longer able to perform, to other universities such as Hokkaido and Kyushu Universities.

Tokyo Institute of Technology, which owns TSUBAME, the nation’s fastest supercomputer, set a goal to cut electricity consumption by 50 percent.

The institute said it cannot ask for help from other universities, meaning that studies requiring extremely large amounts of calculation will be delayed.

Though damage to facilities and equipment is serious, the disaster also has caused concern among students, who have limited time to finish their academic reports before graduation.

Assistance for these students has already begun.

Riken, headquartered in Saitama, a scientific research institute conducting advanced studies in various fields, has accepted students from undergraduate through doctoral-level courses.

Hirama sent three of his students to Riken. He said: “I have received similar offers of assistance from Germany and other countries. I feel a deep sense of gratitude.”

According to the Science Council of Japan, more than 80 universities and research institutions have offered assistance for students and researchers of the disaster-hit universities by, for example, accepting them or allowing them to use their libraries.

However, there is another problem.

The more specialized a field of study is, the more need there is for close consultation with an academic advisor. There are also cases where the same experimental equipment is unavailable at other universities or institutions.

If the research topics are in fields where the students or researchers are competing with other universities, a delay of six months or a year can be disastrous.

Terada, who studies next-generation organic catalysts, expressed his worries by saying: “What should we give up on and what we should concentrate on? I feel a sense of uncertainty and pressure.”

The government’s first supplementary budget for fiscal 2011, which passed May 2, earmarked 18 billion yen for the repair of experimental equipment and state-run university facilities.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is continuing to research the extent of the damage.

Terada said: “The assistance is very helpful. To resume research activities as soon as possible, I want procedures to become more flexible and quick. Researchers are also thinking of other ways around the problems.”

Elsewhere …the world news on education:

Less Talk More Learning: Improving Science Learning (NY Times, May 13)

Over the past few years, scientists have been working to transform education from the inside out, by applying findings from learning andmemory research where they could do the most good, in the classroom. A study published in the journal Science on Thursday illustrates how promising this work can be — and how treacherous. The research comes from a closely watched group led by Carl Wieman, a Nobel laureate in physics at the University of British Columbia who leads a $12 million initiative to improve science instruction using research-backed methods for both testing students’ understanding and improving how science is taught.

In one of the initiative’s most visible studies, Dr. Wieman’s team reports that students in an introductory college physics course did especially well on an exam after attending experimental, collaborative classes during the 12th week of the course. By contrast, students taking the same course from another instructor — who did not use the experimental approach and continued with lectures as usual — scored much lower on the same exam. … read more here.

Coaching and much more for Chinese students looking to U.S.

Students such as Ms. Lu turn to companies like ThinkTank Learning, a college admission consulting company from California that had recently opened an office in Shenzhen, next door to Hong Kong. At a steep price of 100,000 renminbi, or $15,000 (but it comes with a 100 percent money-back guarantee) — if Ms. Lu was rejected from the nine selective U.S. universities to which she applied, her family would get a full refund. Ms. Lu brainstormed with a ThinkTank consultant on ways to redo her admissions essay, which had originally been about playing badminton. The new version she came up with focused on a cross-strait dialogue conference that Ms. Lu had organized with high schoolers in Taiwan. Happily for Ms. Lu and for ThinkTank, the approach worked and she got into the University of Pennsylvania …read more here.

Too young for kindergarten? Tide turning against 4-year olds (NY Times, May 27) In Connecticut, about 24 percent of the approximately 39,000 kindergartners who start school each year are 4. But in the poorest districts, where parents may not be able to afford day care or preschool, 29 percent of kindergartners start at 4. In the wealthy ones, it is 18 percent. About 2 percent of kindergartners in those wealthy districts start at age 6, compared with fewer than 0.1 percent in the poor areas. The proposed change in Connecticut would take effect in 2015.

“It’s a glaring weakness that we should have fixed long ago,” said Mark McQuillan, Connecticut’s previous education commissioner. “Many of the wealthy parents enroll their children at 6 or 6 ½, and other families — particularly poor families — enroll their children as early as 4 ½ because they need the school support. It’s a huge developmental span.”

Some research suggests that children who enter kindergarten later perform better on standardized tests, but critics contend that family background and preschool experience often have a bigger influence on academic success than age. In any case, they say, such benefits disappear by middle school.

At elite classes, longer classes to go deeper  Instead of the traditional schedule of eight 45-minute classes each day, with courses broken into two semesters, high school students at Calhoun intensively study three to five subjects in each of five terms, or modules, that are 32 to 36 days long. Classes are in blocks of 65 or 130 minutes each day. Every day, students have 45 minutes of “community time,” an intentionally unstructured period for the students.

What started five years ago as an effort to accommodate maddeningly complex schedules in a relatively small space quickly became a sort of evangelical mission to make progressive education more, well, progressive: embracing depth over breadth, allowing for more experiential learning in Central Park and at nearby museums, and, administrators said they hoped, reducing stress. Steven J. Nelson, Calhoun’s head of school, said the new schedule fostered teaching in the ways children learn best.

“Most of the activities that create the neuron connections in brains which lead to higher-level academic research and achievement are things that require time and space and experiential education,” he said. “These are things that are privileged by a block system.”

Block scheduling became popular among public schools about a decade ago, but it ran smack into an increasing emphasis on standards and testing.

Pretesting students and the KWL strategy In 1986, Donna Ogle created KWL, a reading strategy that engages the students in the text or textbook and helps students analyze what they are reading. Students are asked to describe what they already know about the reading topic. Then they are asked to look at the title, the introduction and the pictures and determine what they want to know more of, in essence to determine why they should continue reading the literature.

After reading, then they describe what they learned from the reading selection. In KWL this was done verbally. In KWL+ this included a worksheet. In either form, the purpose was to stimulate discussion, questions, and curiosity in the topic being studied.

For too many teachers, KWL has become the preferred method for pretesting any student knowledge before beginning a lesson. Ogle never intended KWL to be used as a pretest. It is a discussion tool designed to stimulate questions. (Article referral courtesy of Lottie)

Inquiring minds of Governors Island (NY Times) Scientists take students out to do field work in “Science o n Site” – Dr. Naczi said during an interview “I personally think the best way to educate students in science is to have a mix of lab science and field science. It really helps give students a perspective when they do get to have a little bit of field work” In the “Pioneers in Science” and “Cool Jobs” events were designed to create a dialog between students and professional scientists. In “Pioneers” which grew out of a talk Dr Greene had given at a high school, he called for a rethinking of K-12 science education. “What other field are we thrilled and satisfied if by 12th grade our students are brought all the way up to 1687? Physics – if you learn Newton, you’re golden,” he said. “And that’s not the way it should be. We should really be bringing kids into the exciting things that have happened the last few centuries.” He also recommended that high school science teachers, like college professors, engage in research. “It’s hard to teach passionately about something that you don’t have a passion for,” he said.

New university gathers top academics to teach £18,000 pound a year degree (Guardian) A new private university in London staffed by some of the world’s most famous academics is to offer degrees in the humanities, economics and law from 2012 at a cost of £18,000 a year, double the normal rate. The Oxbridge-style university college aims to educate a new British elite with compulsory teaching in science literacy, critical thinking, ethics and professional skills on top of degree subjects taught in one-to-one tutorials. Read on …. here

Helping teachers help themselves (NY Times)

The Montgomery County Public Schools system has a highly regarded program for evaluating teachers, providing them extra support if they are performing poorly and getting rid of those who do not improve. The  uses several hundred senior teachers to mentor both newcomers and struggling veterans. If the mentoring does not work, the Peer Assistance and Review (PAR) panel — made up of 8 teachers and 8 principals — can vote to fire the teacher.


Resource links:

Canadian Adventure Camp

Canadian Adventure Camp is a full service children’s summer camp located on beautiful 160-acre Adventure Island in Temagami, Ontario. The camp features a full program of 35 great camp activities, including 3 specialty programs, with campers and staff from around the world. Canadian Adventure Camp is the summer camp home to 130 boys and girls, aged 5 through 17 years.

How to Teach Handwriting

About three-quarters of elementary school teachers say they don’t feel adequately prepared to teach handwriting. That figure isn’t surprising when you consider that few teacher training programs in the United States today address handwriting instruction. Perhaps this article can help! Included: Handwriting lessons, free worksheets.

Here are some good tips for getting your kids ready for bedtime:

Bedtime Behaviors That Work: 7 Habits That Will Prepare Your Body for Sleep

Handwriting Practice Made Easy
At handwriting instruction time, students use special whiteboards as they would paper. Using the boards enables students to work until they’re happy with their writing; they can erase until they succeed. Invite students who have created the best writing samples to go to the head of the class to show off their work

Next, here are the news updates on the Fukushima situation:

Japan nuke plant gets tanks for radioactive water  (AP)

Tanks for storing radioactive water were on their way Saturday to the crippled nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan where reactor cores melted after the massive earthquake and tsunami.

The new tanks should help prevent further environmental damage in the evacuated area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant by providing a secure place to store the contaminated water being used to cool the reactors as workers continue their battle to bring them under control.

Radioactive water has been leaking from the plant since it was struck by the March 11 disasters, with tons having already flushed into the sea and more continuing to pool across the complex.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that operates the plant, has said radioactive water could start overflowing from temporary storage areas on June 20, or possibly sooner if there is heavy rainfall.

Two of the 370 tanks were due to arrive Saturday from a manufacturer in nearby Tochigi prefecture (state), TEPCO said. Two hundred of them can store 100 tons, and 170 can store 120 tons.

The tanks will continue arriving through August, and will store a total of 40,000 tons of radioactive water.

Workers have been fighting to get the plant under control since the tsunami knocked out power, destroyed backup generators and halted the crucial cooling systems for the reactors, causing the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. Several explosions have scattered radioactive debris around the plant, and reactors are puffing radiation into the air.

TEPCO also said robots with cameras that entered Unit 1 — one of the three reactors whose cores have melted — found Friday that steam was spewing from the floor. Nationally televised news Saturday showed blurry video of steady smoke curling up from an opening in the reactor floor.

The radioactive fumes were suspected to be coming from the suppression pool area, which is near the reactor core.

The radiation level near the smoky area reached as high as 4,000 millisieverts per hour, much too high for any human to get near that area, and confirming the formidable obstacles Fukushima workers face in fixing the problems at the reactors.

Nuclear fuel rods are believed to have melted almost completely and sunk to the bottom of three reactor containers, although falling short of a complete meltdown, in which case the fuel would have melted entirely through the container bottoms.

In one progress update, TEPCO said workers were successful in attaching additional pressure monitors at Unit 1. The plan is to keep adding pressure-reading equipment at all three hobbled reactors. The ones already there may have been damaged by the tsunami and quake, and may not be working properly.

TEPCO has promised to bring the plant under control by January, but doubts are growing that the plan was too optimistic. The plan calls for a reprocessing system for the radioactive water by June 15, with hopes of reusing the water as coolant in the reactors.

The March earthquake and tsunami left 24,000 people dead or missing, and left tens of thousands of others living in evacuation centers — including residents near Fukushima Dai-ichi whose homes were intact but still had to leave to avoid risks of radiation exposure.

Japan nuclear plant moves radioactive water

TOKYO (AP) — The Japanese utility battling to bring its radiation-spewing nuclear reactor under control said Sunday that 1,500 more tons of radioactive water are being moved into temporary storage — the latest attempt to prevent a massive spill of contaminated water into the environment.

More than 100,000 tons of radioactive water have pooled beneath Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan. Three reactor cores melted after the March 11 tsunami destroyed backup generators, damaging critical cooling systems.

The pooled radioactive water at the plant could start overflowing as soon as June 20 — or possibly sooner with heavy rainfall.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that runs Fukushima Dai-ichi, also acknowledged it had made 1,000 errors in data submitted to the government to decide on power consumption goals for corporate customers.

The wrong data are the latest embarrassment for the fumbling utility, which has been criticized as lacking in transparency in responding to the nuclear crisis. TEPCO has repeatedly given wrong errors on radiation data. Officials had also insisted some of the fuel core was intact but acknowledged last month that the fuel rods had just about completely melted.

Japan faces a power crunch in the peak electricity-demand months of July, August and September, because of problems at Fukushima Dai-ichi, and the government has shut down another nuclear power plant, Hamaoka, for safety concerns.

Companies and consumers alike are under pressure to conserve energy. Automakers are producing vehicles on weekends while taking Thursday and Friday off, dark-suited “salaryman” workers are encouraged to wear Aloha shirts, and electric fans are quickly becoming hot-sellers as air conditioners get turned off.

In a June 3 letter to TEPCO President Masakata Shimizu, Tetsuhiro Hosono, who heads the government’s Natural Resources and Energy Agency, demanded that correct information be submitted by Monday, with a plan to prevent a recurrence of the errors.

“The responsibility lies extremely heavy with your company for creating great confusion,” said the letter, a copy of which was on the ministry website.

Plutonium found outside Fukushima plant

Minute amounts of plutonium have been detected for the first time in soil outside the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Shinzo Kimura of Hokkaido University collected the roadside samples in Okumamachi, some 1.7 kilometers west of the front gate of the power station. They were taken during filming by NHK on April 21st, one day before the area was designated as an exclusion zone.

Professor Masayoshi Yamamoto and researchers at a Kanazawa University laboratory analyzed the samples and found minute amounts of 3 kinds of plutonium.

The samples of plutonium-239 and 240 make up a total of 0.078 becquerels per kilogram.

This is close to the amount produced by past atomic bomb tests.

Disposal of radioactive debris to go ahead

A panel on nuclear waste disposal has decided to allow municipalities to burn highly radioactive debris if they have incinerators that can remove radioactive substances.
The panel was set up by the environment ministry. Members of the expert panel made the decision on Sunday.

The ministry measured radioactive substances on debris inside Fukushima Prefecture at collection posts, excluding areas such as those in a 20-kilometer radius no-entry zone. It had already decided to allow 10 municipalities where radiation levels are relatively low to resume usual methods of disposal, such as burning and burying.

On Sunday the panel discussed ways to dispose of highly radioactive debris in the areas.

The participants agreed, in principle, to allow municipalities to burn debris highly contaminated with radioactive substances if their incinerators have filters or electric dust cleaners to remove the substances.

The environment ministry will inform these municipalities of the decision by the end of June, after checking the capabilities of each facility.

The panel also agreed that the ministry and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency should measure the radioactivity of debris inside the 20-kilometer radius no-entry-zone and evacuation zones where monitoring has not been conducted.

Monday, June 06

Cesium in seawater near No. 3 reactor falling The operator of the crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima says the levels of radioactive materials in seawater near the Number 3 reactor are at their lowest since the accident.

Tokyo Electric Power Company says it detected 1.2 becquerels of radioactive cesium-134 per cubic centimeters in seawater samples taken on Saturday.
The level is 20 times the national legal limit. TEPCO also found 1.3 becquerels of cesium-137, 14 times the limit. Both substances were found to be at their lowest levels since the accident.

At the same location near the water intake of the Number 3 reactor, cesium at 32,000 times the legal limit was detected on May 11th.

In seawater samples taken near the water intake of the Number 2 reactor, the concentration of radioactive iodine rose to 160 times the limit on Saturday, up from 43 times the limit on Friday.

TEPCO says it detected radioactive cesium twice to 3 times higher than the national limit at 2 of the 4 survey points, including the one near the water drainage gate of the Number 5 and Number 6 reactors.

Surveys far out to sea were cancelled due to bad weather conditions.

TEPCO says levels of radioactive materials are on a downward trend at all survey locations. But the company will continue to carefully monitor levels in coastal waters.

Monday, June 06

Soil sampling begins in Fukushima (NHK) Japan’s science ministry has begun a prefecture-wide examination in Fukushima to check for radioactive contamination in the soil from the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The ministry began taking soil samples on Monday as part of efforts to produce a map outlining radiation contamination in the prefecture. The study involves direct sampling of soil for the first time. Until now, the ministry has been measuring soil contamination from airplanes.

About 80 experts from 35 universities and laboratories across the country are taking part.

Three experts visited a district in Nihonmatsu City on Monday morning and took soil samples from more than 6 centimeters deep.
Samples will be taken every 4 square kilometers in areas within 80 kilometers of the nuclear plant and every 100 square kilometers in areas further away.

The radiation levels in more than 2,200 sections of the prefecture will appear in the map.

The ministry plans to complete the study by the end of this month and release the results in August.

June 06

Radioactive water leak to be prevented for 3 days Tokyo Electric Power Company has decided to increase the transfer of radioactive water by about 1,500 tons to a facility at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The company says the transfer can keep contaminated water from leaking outside for about 3 days.

More than 105,000 tons of contaminated water is thought to have accumulated in the basements of the reactor and turbine buildings. An additional 500 tons or so flows into the basements per day as a result of the injection of water into the reactors.

The situation is raising concern about the possible overflow of contaminated water.

On Saturday, TEPCO obtained Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency permission to increase the water transfer from its initial plan. It began transferring 12 tons of water per hour from the basement of the Number 2 turbine building to the basement of a facility for nuclear waste.

The utility will start filtering 1,200 tons of highly radioactive water per day on June 15th. It also plans to set up tanks to store 10,000 tons of water underground at the plant in the middle of August.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Related news: Tanks readied for radioactive water (Jun.6, Yomiuri)

About 23,500 dead or missing in March 11 disaster The number of dead or missing in the March 11th earthquake and tsunami, including aftershocks, stands at 23,571 as of Sunday.

The National Police Agency says 15,365 people have been confirmed dead, while 8,206 remain unaccounted for.

Miyagi Prefecture has the most deaths at 9,184, followed by Iwate with 4,524 and Fukushima with 1,592.

About 87 percent of the victims, or 13,312 people, have been identified.

Meanwhile, 98,505 evacuees are still living in temporary shelters, mainly in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

Monday, June 06, 201

TEPCO mulls ways to cut humidity in No.2 reactor The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant says it will try to reduce humidity inside the Number 2 reactor building.

Tokyo Electric Power Company says humidity and high radiation levels mean workers can work only for short periods of time even if they wear protective gear.

TEPCO says it plans to reduce the amount of radioactive materials inside the reactor building and then open the doors to lower humidity, now at 99.9 percent. The decision came after the failure of its initial attempt to bring down the humidity level. The company initially thought vapor from a storage pool of spent nuclear fuel was responsible for the high humidity. It installed a device to cool down the water. The device cooled down the water but failed to reduce the humidity.
At the Number 1 reactor, a device to reduce radioactive substances was installed in May. But TEPCO says the device needs to be adjusted for the Number 2 reactor since it has low resistance to humidity.

It is possible that radioactive substances will leak out of the Number 2 reactor building once the doors are open. TEPCO says it will make a final decision after carefully assessing the levels of radioactivity.

Work to fix a water level gauge was supposed to begin as early as mid-June, to help ensure stable cooling. But there may be a delay if the company cannot reduce the humidity.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Pressure in No.1 reactor drops close to atmosphere

Tokyo Electric Power Company has found that pressure inside the Number 1 reactor at its Fukushima Daiichi power plant has dropped to close to the outside atmospheric pressure. It reaffirms that the reactor has been damaged.

The reactor is believed to have suffered a meltdown after the March 11th disaster. The meltdown apparently created holes in the pressure vessel and damaged the containment vessel, letting highly radioactive water flow below ground in the reactor building.

Pressure inside an operating reactor is normally around 70 atmospheres. But after the disaster, the pressure indicator showed 6 atmospheres in the Number 1 reactor, raising questions about data reliability.

On Friday, the utility replaced the gauge with a new one and made measurements again.

The reading was 1.26 atmospheres as of 11 AM on Saturday, almost equal to normal air pressure. The company says this proves that air inside the reactor is escaping outside.

But the utility estimates that the lack of a big hole in the reactor is keeping steam inside, leading to the slightly higher interior pressure.

TEPCO is also planning to install new pressure gauges at the Number 2 and 3 reactors to assess the situation accurately.

Sunday, June 05

Workers on Sunday began checking devices that will help decontaminate the radioactive water that is flooding the Fukushima No. 1 power plant, officials said. Tokyo Electric Power Co., which manages the badly damaged plant, is building the system and hopes to activate it in about a week so it can start cleaning the massive amounts of highly dangerous water being created at the plant in Fukushima Prefecture.The system is being set up at a facility where tainted water from reactors No. 2 and No. 3 has been transferred. It is expected to treat about 1,200 tons per day by reducing the concentration of radioactive substances in it to somewhere between one-thousandth and one-ten thousandth of what it is now.The system includes an oil separator, a device to absorb radioactive cesium, decontamination equipment for cesium and strontium, and a desalination apparatus, the officials said. Some of the devices were made with technical cooperation from Kurion Inc. of the United States and Areva SA of France.Workers held trial runs Sunday and are to test the equipment further to make sure it is all operating properly, they said.The plant lost the ability to cool is six reactors when the March 11 quake and tsunami knocked out all power and ruined its backup generators.Reactors 1 to 4 need perpetual injections of water from outside to keep the fuel rods and spent fuel from overheating. But vast pools of water are accumulating.

Related news: TEPCO tests filtering system at Fukushima plant  (NHK) Tokyo Electric Power Company is testing a filtering system to decontaminate highly radioactive water that continues flooding outside the reactors of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

TEPCO is checking to ensure the system works properly ahead of putting it into use on June 15th.

Decontamination of the water is necessary before TEPCO moves it elsewhere and achieves its ultimate goal of stabilizing the reactors.

More than 105,000 tons of highly radioactive water is estimated to be flooding the basements of reactor- and turbine buildings of the plant.

The volume continues to grow at a pace of 500 tons a day. It is thought that water injected into the reactors to keep them cool is leaking through cracks in the reactor containment vessels.

TEPCO warns that the contaminated water may overflow the tunnel outside the No. 2 reactor as early as June 20th.

Starting on June 15th, the utility hopes to decontaminate the water and transfer it to temporarily-installed tanks before returning it to reactors as a coolant.

Two tanks arrived near the plant on Monday. A total of 270 tanks, which have a combined capacity of 30,000 tons, will be installed at the plant.

June 06

Can Japan afford nuclear power? Can Japan afford to dispense with nuclear power? If the answer to both questions is no – as, in the wake of the Fukushima reactor meltdowns, it appears it may be – we are at a fukurokōji (袋小路, impasse). What to do? Prime Minister Naoto Kan is often criticized as ketsudanryoku ga nai (決断力がない, indecisive). No doubt he is, and yet who wouldn’t be in the face of the jirenma (ジレンマ, dilemma) he confronts? Under current circumstances, the only way not to be indecisive is to be mubō (無謀, reckless), which is probably worse. (Japan Times)

After crises Japanese lose faith in their government Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan faces a no-confidence motion in parliament over his handling of the aftermath of Japan’s huge earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. Distrust of the government is mounting, especially in areas close to the stricken nuclear plant. Anger has focused on the hot-button issue of children’s safety. More here

Radioactivity of materials released in Fukushima nuclear crisis revised upward

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) on June 6 revised the level of radioactivity of materials emitted from the crisis hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant from 370,000 terabecquerels to 850,000 terabecquerels.

The Cabinet Office’s Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan (NSC) had estimated that the total level of radioactivity stood at around 630,000 terabecquerels, but this figure was criticized as an underestimation. NISA officials plan to present the new figure at a ministerial meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) after reporting it to the NSC.

The NSC and NISA, which operates under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, announced a figure for the total amount of radioactivity on April 12, when the severity of the Fukushima nuclear crisis on the International Nuclear Events Scale was raised to level 7, matching that of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. In the Chernobyl accident, the total amount of radioactivity reached 5.2 million terabecquerels.

The NSC calculated the amount of radioactive materials released into the air between the outset of the crisis and April 5, based on the amount of radiation from measurements taken near the plant. NISA based its calculations on the state of the plant’s reactors.

The latest figure takes into consideration the release of radioactive materials during explosions at the plant’s No. 2 and 3 reactors. The INES scale designates leaks of tens of thousands of terabecquerels as level 7 events, and the seriousness of the disaster on the scale will not change as a result of NISA’s revision of the amount.

More related news:

Dried tea to be tested for radioactive materials (Asahi, Jun 4)The government will introduce radiation testing of dried tea after cesium was found in fresh tea leaves picked in Kanagawa and Ibaraki prefectures.Officials said on June 2 that shipments of dried, unrefined tea leaves would be stopped if more than 500 becquerels of cesium per kilogram was detected. That is the same standard used for vegetables.The government has also instructed prefectural governors in Ibaraki, Chiba, Kanagawa and Tochigi to stop shipments of fresh tea leaves from regions where high levels of radioactive materials were detected. The order covers all of Ibaraki Prefecture as well as 14 municipalities in the three other prefectures.The four prefectures account for less than 1 percent of tea produced in Japan.

Workers at Fukushima plant treated for dehydration | Experts fear tsunami sludge could lead to infectious disease outbreak | Gov’t to OK incinerating, burying radioactive rubble in Fukushima | TEPCO eyes design flaw in hydrogen explosion(Asahi, Jun 5) | Can squid warn us of major quakes?

Tsunami reached 10 stories high in Iwate Prefecture (Asahi, Jun 4)

A tsunami spawned by the Great East Japan Earthquake crested as high as a 10-story building in Miyako in Iwate Prefecture, according to a group of tsunami researchers.

The highest wave, at 40.5 meters above sea level, was observed in the Omoe Aneyoshi area of Miyako.

Nobuhito Mori, associate professor of unusual waves at Kyoto University’s Disaster Prevention Research Institute, reported the findings at a meeting of the Japan Society of Civil Engineers’ Kansai branch on May 30.

“We hope the data we will provide will be used to draw up rebuilding plans,” he said.

The researchers, comprising 147 scientists at 48 research organs of universities and construction companies, including the University of Tokyo, Tohoku University, Nagoya University and the University of Tokushima, have worked since March 12, the day after the nation’s worst postwar disaster.

They have covered about 3,600 sites across the nation to determine the extent of affected areas and the height of waves in the tsunami.

In Miyako, the tsunami’s height was determined by tree branches and other objects that were stuck on trees on the slope about 520 meters inland from the shoreline.

Researchers believe the height of tsunami was amplified in the area because it is located inside the bay.

In Miyagi Prefecture, traces of the tsunami were observed at a location about 11 kilometers inland from the sea.

According to the researchers, waves that reached inland after spilling over gigantic breakwaters in Kamaishi Bay in Iwate Prefecture were considerably lower than waves in other bays, showing the fortifications had some effect.

The group will publicize its findings on the tsunami at (

Power-saving public turns to LED (Jun.6, Yomiuri)

Prices of energy-saving LED lights are plummeting, as greater consumer interest in electricity conservation stimulates the market.

Nojima Corp., a Yokohama-based chain of home appliance stores, has released its own line of LED, or light-emitting diode, lights that until the end of August will be priced at 980 yen each–less than half the average market price.

In late May, domestic sales of LED lights at major retailers surpassed those of filament light bulbs for the first time.

With such strong demand, LED prices will likely continue to fall, industry observers said.

Nojima’s ELSONIC line of LED lights usually sell for 1,480 yen each, but the company said it decided to reduce the price for a limited period of the initial release to attract consumers who are newly interested in reducing their electricity usage.

According to GfK Marketing Services Japan Ltd., a market research firm, between May 23 and May 29 major retailers sold about 2.9 times as many LED devices as in the corresponding period last year….

That’s it then, TTFN,

Aileen Kawagoe