Breaking news:  High radioactivity measured at Tokyo school (NHK, Oct 18)

A radioactivity level higher than that of areas near the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant has been detected at a Tokyo elementary school.

A level of 3-point-99 microsieverts per hour was observed 5 centimeters above ground just beneath a rainwater pipe on Monday at the school in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward. Radiation levels in Fukushima City about 60 kilometers from the plant were around 1 microsievert per hour on Monday. The ward is about 210 kilometers from the plant.

Ward authorities plan to remove soil and trees from the school area and measure radiation in ditches at about 800 locations including schools, parks and other public facilities.

The school’s principal says he was stunned to hear about the radiation and cancelled physical education classes and other activities in the schoolyard for the day.

 

Amidst news of the declaration that a Cold shutdown will be achieved within this year (NHK) | Gov’t and TEPCO to aim for ‘cold shutdown’ of Fukushima reactors by year-end, there are also spreading viral internet tweets and isolated news reports that China Syndrome is occurring …

News report from NHK (J. version only) on the underground steam situation here.

The photos are two of 32 released by TEPCO on Oct. 15 and were taken at J-Village, a sports facility serving as a base of operations for workers trying to control the nuclear plant. Other released photos show medical rooms and shops set up in the facility.

Photos taken with an infrared camera over the No. 1 and 3 reactor buildings were also released. They were taken with a camera attached to a crane, as radiation levels in the buildings are too high for people to enter them.

According to TEPCO, the hottest spot photographed of the No. 1 reactor building was around 35 degrees Celsius, and the hottest spot for the No. 3 reactor building was around 40 degrees Celsius. They believe these hot areas were due to steam escaping from small openings in the concrete lids of the reactors’ containment vessels. The average temperature of the reactor buildings’ exteriors was around 20 degrees Celsius.

TEPCO said that, “The steam vapor we saw before is now gone. The reactors are probably getting cooler.”

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1号機建屋内で依然高い放射線量

Translations by Fukushima Diary – of  a Japanese blog‘s  interpretations of what had happened inside reactor no. 1… is this evidence of a China Syndrome meltdown which according to the Fukushima Diary blog is occurring, or are all the viral rumours pre-mature conclusions without proper technical analysis?

See also Fukushima Diary’s summary of TEPCO’s Oct 15 report and further alarmist and pre- interpretations of the “steam report” (RussiaToday)

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Some schools in Minami Soma City, Fukushima, have resumed classes after being closed during the earthquake-triggered nuclear crisis.

Five of the city’s 12 elementary and junior high schools reopened at their original locations on Monday, following the lifting of an evacuation advisory.

The government lifted the advisory last month for 5 municipalities located outside the 20-kilometer no-go zone around the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Minami-Soma is the first to restart classes.

At one elementary school, students wearing face masks were driven to school by their parents.

Trumpet shells from a traditional local festival were sounded in a ceremony celebrating a fresh start.

Students are supposed to wear face masks to and from school and to limit outdoor activity to 2 hours a day.

But school officials say that only 4 in 10 students have come back, as many evacuated families remain outside the city.


Schools restart in ex-emergency evacuation zones (Yomiuri, Oct.18) | Children in Fukushima return to schools after evacuation order lifted

 

Is the bringing of children back to evacuation zone premature? 

Read the views of these nay-saying-contenders (posted below) and watch this “Chernobyl Heart documentary” before deciding …  

Bringing the Plight of Fukushima Children to the UN, Washington and the World  福島の子供たちの現状を国連・ワシントン・世界へ

“75% of Fukushima’s 300,000 children are going to schools that are so contaminated they would be radiation control areas in nuclear plants where individuals under 18 are not legally allowed.  The Japanese government won’t evacuate people unless radiation levels are four times what triggered evacuation in Chernobyl,” Aileen Mioko Smith pointed out. …
As the Japanese delegates pointed out, the most urgent issue concerns the 300,000 children of Fukushima, above all those living in radiation hot spots both in Fukushima and beyond. The heart of the matter is the Japanese government’s evacuation policy. Following the meltdown, Japan established a twenty-kilometer evacuation zone from the plant, evacuating approximately 36,000 people out of Fukushima’s total population of just over 2 million. Including those who evacuated within the prefecture but outside the twenty kilometer zone, the number is still only a little larger than ten percent of the 400,000 plus evacuated from Chernobyl after the 1986 disaster which turned 2,000 villages into ghost towns. [See Fujioka Atsushi, Understanding the Ongoing Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima: A “Two-Headed Dragon” Descends into the Earth’s Biosphere.]

To minimize the number of evacuees, the Japanese government arbitrarily raised the permissible level of annual radiation exposure from one millisievert to twenty mSv, a figure that is being applied not only to adults but to infants and pregnant women, those most vulnerable to radiation. By contrast, following Chernobyl, the Russian and Belorussian states evacuated everyone in localities with five mSv. A quarter of a century later, the evacuated areas remain uninhabitable, a prospect that could confront Fukushima if recent official projections prove accurate.

How high a radiation level is twenty mSv/year? The Japanese government has legally compensated Japanese nuclear power plant workers who contracted cancer from as low as 5.2mSv exposure and higher. Now a substantially higher level of supposed safety (20 mSv) is to be applied to citizens, including infants and children in Japan.  Indeed, the Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT), choosing a strategy of reassurance over one of protection, produced a guide for teachers and parents in Fukushima which claimed that “weak” radiation doses such as 250 mSv over a number of years will have no health effects, and increased cancer risk was not recognized with cumulative doses of under 100 mSv. [Say Peace ProjectProtecting Children Against Radiation: Japanese Citizens Take Radiation Protection into Their Own Hands.”]

Much of the discussion of the risk of radiation has centered on cancer. That is indeed an important concern. But the effects of cancer are played out over decades and it is frequently difficult to conclusively pinpoint the cause. What have been the short-term health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns?

“With the Japanese government in general, and the Fukushima medical establishment in particular providing no comprehensive statistical health data, indeed, insisting that there are no health concerns, it is presently necessary to rely on evidence provided by Fukushima residents,” Smith explains. “These include numerous examples provided by parents who have challenged MEXT and Fukushima authorities demanding evacuation for the children. For example, there have been numerous reports of serious nose bleeding and of diarrhea that cannot be stopped . . . and not just in children. There have also been numerous examples of symptoms of atopic skin diseases and asthma getting worse after the accident.”

We know, moreover, that the immediate effects of the Chernobyl disaster included elevated levels of numerous diseases including heart disease as well as birth normalities and stillbirths.


Say-Peace Project and Norimatsu Satoko, Protecting Children Against Radiation: Japanese Citizens Take Radiation Protection into Their Own Hands

Robert Alvarez, a former senior policy adviser at the U.S. Department of Energy said in a Democracy Now! interview on June 10, “The nuclear industry, particularly in the United States, and elsewhere—Russia and Japan—has had a very long history of withholding information and misleading the public about the hazards of their activities.” Being no exception to Alvarez’s generalization, the Japanese government, since the mutiple meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in mid-March, has withheld or controlled information about health risks of radiation, expected dispersion of radioactive materials,1 and their actual contamination measurements in areas surrounding Fukushima Daiichi.2 Instead of providing candid information to the public, the government started campaigns in the opposite direction—to lull the public into worrying less about radiation and its health risks.

For example, the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare’s pamphlet for pregnant women and mothers,3 of which three million copies were distributed to preschools, nurseries and clinics across the country, emphasizes that food, water, and breast milk are all safe within the government’s provisional standards. It is a “Don’t Worry” pamphlet with little concrete information to support their safety claims or about how to minimize radiation risks for infants, children and pregnant women. The Japanese Ministry of Education (MEXT)4 also produced a guide for teachers and parents in Fukushima, which stressed that “weak” radiation doses such as 250 mSv(millisieverts) over a number of years will have no health effects,5 and increased cancer risk was not recognized with cumulative doses of under 100 mSv, while the existing exposure limit for ordinary people is 1 mSv/year, and that for nuclear workers is 20mSv in Japan.6 Yet nuclear workers have been recognized as having radiation-caused sickness at an exposure level averaging as low as 5.7 mSv/year.7 Again, the entire guide emphasized “Don’t worry too much,” including a large section to describing the negative psychological effects of worrying about radiation.

These attempts by the government to downplay radiation effects have been successful. Even in Fukushima, life seems to go on as usual. Most people are not wearing masks, and children are at play on dusty playgrounds. But the tide is changing now, as more revelations are made about the government’s and the electric company’s failure to disclose information in a timely manner, and as more people use the Internet and social media to exchange information and organize networks. Francis Boyle, an international law professor at the University of Illinois and a nuclear policy specialist, urged people in Japan “to protect themselves from their own government and from the nuclear industry.”8 Despite the government’s and the mainstream media’s massive campaigns to promote the idea that the affected areas are safe and to encourage consumption of produce from those areas, people are finally starting to take safety into their own hands, where it belongs. This is partly because more and more “hot spots,” or, irregularly-formed highly contaminated areas, are being discovered, not only in relatively populated areas within Fukushima Prefecture such as the cities of Fukushima and Koriyama, but also throughout the Kanto region, including Tokyo, with forty million people, one third of the nation’s population. People can no longer regard the nuclear crisis as being restricted to Fukushima and its people only.

Parents’ groups, being formed everywhere,9 are conducting their own independent radiation measurements and demanding that their cities do more to protect residents, especially children, who are more susceptible to radiation. In Fukushima, a university professors’ group,10 town mayors,11 and even prefectural assembly members have raised doubts over the credibility of the government’s official radiation guidelines. They are demanding dismissal of Yamashita Shun-ichi, the prefecture’s “expert radiation adviser,” who has been teaching seminars and appearing frequently in the media to convince people in Fukushima not to worry and to stay where they are.12

One such citizen-initiated effort is “Protecting Children from Radiation Exposure” by SAY-Peace, a Tokyo-based NGO, among the first comprehensive guides of its sort,13 published in late May and immediately revised in June. We at The Asia-Pacific Journal have felt the need for such a citizen-initiated radiation guide being made available in English, especially now that the Western media’s interest has declined, and much of the latest information about contamination and radiation risks are not as readily accessible in languages other than Japanese. The struggle continues between the government, which wants to hide information and minimize radiation fears in order to evade responsibility and to minimize economic losses, and citizens, who want to know and share the truth in order to minimize radiation risks for themselves, their children and their communities, by creating, using, and spreading tools like this radiation protection guide.

The original Japanese version of the guide is downloadable here.

…as Professor Nagataki mentioned earlier, statistical significance became clear 20 years later. What was clarified 20 years later was that occurrences of children’s thyroid cancer in and around Chernobyl began in 1986, and after peaking in 1995, disappeared in 2004. This provided evidence of the causal relationship even without data from the past. Thus, epidemiological evidence is extremely hard, and in most cases, proof is impossible until all episodes finish running their course.
Thus, a totally different approach is needed for “protecting children,” which is our task. What is being done now is this. Professor Fukushima Akiharu of the state-run Japan Bioassay Research Center observes the effects of chemical substances on the human body. He has been examining matter that collects in the urinal tract in Chernobyl. In consultation with Ukrainian doctors, he and his colleagues collected over 500 cases of operations for prostatic hyperplasia, non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate. In a prostate operation, some bladder tissue also comes off. Examination of this clarified that the mutation of P53 had markedly increased in the highly contaminated area, though the amount of radiation in urine is very small—6 Bq/l— in that area. Moreover, it was found to be in the precancerous state of a malignant kind. In our view, MAP kinase (Mitogen-activated protein kinases) called P38 and a signal called NF-κB (nuclear factor-kappa B, or nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells in full) are activated, resulting in inflammation of the bladder. It has been reported that cancer is already present in the outer skin in a large percentage of cases.

What shocked me was that, as already reported, 2 to 13 Bq of cesium was measured in the mother’s milk in seven individuals.

Please turn to the next page. Our Radioisotope Center has been sending researchers weekly on a 700 kilometer trip, usually four people at a time, to Minami-Sōma to cooperate with decontamination efforts. What is happening in Minami-Sōma is just as you see. The definition [of the danger zone] such as 20 kilometers or 30 kilometers, is totally meaningless. It’s absolutely useless unless you make minute measurements from kindergarten to kindergarten. At present, 1,700 Minami-Sōma children are being bused to areas between 20 to 30 kilometers, but in fact, in central Minami-Sōma facing the sea, the radioactive dose at seventy percent of the schools is relatively low. And yet children are forced to travel daily by school bus, and at a cost of one million yen, to schools closer to Iidate-mura, located 30 kilometers from the power plant. Please stop this immediately.

The greatest hurdle now is that the country does not guarantee compensation except in cases of forced evacuation, as President Shimizu of TEPCO and Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kaieda stated at a recent House of Councilors’ committee meeting. Please separate the two issues. Please immediately separate the demarcation issue for compensation problems from the issue of children.

I beg you to do your utmost to protect children.

Another thing I would like to request from the viewpoint of those working at the actual site is, to distinguish between decontamination related to urgent evacuation and officially defined decontamination. We have been engaged to a fair extent in decontamination related to urgent evacuation. For example, see the foot of the slide shown in this diagram. This is where small children put their hands down [at the bottom of a slide]. Each time that rain pours on the slide, the dose is concentrated. The measurement differs between the right and left sides. Where the average dose is 1 μ, we observe a measurement over 10 μ. We must hasten to conduct decontamination in such areas.

When a building, foliage, and an entire area are all contaminated, even if you wash contaminants away from one place, it is extremely difficult to handle the totality. In seriously performing decontamination, you need to take into consideration how problematic the situation is and how much it will cost. Let me use the example of the cadmium poisoning disease that frequently occurred from the 1910s to the early 1970s in Fuchū-machi (now Toyama city) in Toyama prefecture. The cadmium-contaminated area was approximately 3,000 hectares. Currently 800 billion yen in public funds is allocated for decontamination of up to 1,500 hectares in Toyama. If the area turns out to be 1,000 times greater, how much public funds will have to be invested? Thus, I would like to make the following urgent suggestions.

First, please, as national policy, radically improve inspection of food, soil, and water with the use of the newest and most powerful equipment available in Japan that employs imaging, and systematically eliminate environmental radioactivity. By now, semi-conductor imaging is simple. Introduce the use of the newest tools equipped with imaging and other capabilities. This is totally possible with today’s Japanese scientific technology.

Second, please urgently establish a new law to reduce children’s exposure to radiation. What I am currently doing is illegal on every count. The current law on prevention of radiation poisoning defines the radiation doses and nuclides that can be handled by different facilities. Our Radioisotope Center mobilizes its 27 branch centers to support Minami-Sōma, but many of these branches have not obtained permission to use cesium. It is also illegal to carry cesium-contaminated materials by car. However, because we cannot hand over high dose materials to mothers and teachers, in our decontamination work we bring everything back to Tokyo packed in oil drums. Reception of such things is illegal—completely illegal.

For leaving this situation intact, the Diet is to be blamed. Throughout Japan, many institutions, for example isotope centers at state universities, own germanium counters and the newest detectors. With these organizations fettered [by law], how can the nation maximize its effort to protect children? This reflects the Diet’s total indolence.

Third, please assemble, as national policy, the technologies for decontaminating soil and the power of the private sector. For example, chemical makers like Toray and Kurita, radioactive decontamination equipment makers like Chiyoda TechnoAce and Attox, and firms like Takenaka Corporation, have a variety of knowhow about decontamination. Assemble these potentials and immediately build a decontamination research center at the actual site. It may require tens of trillions of yen of public funds. At present, I am seriously concerned that this develop into interest-driven public enterprise. Given the national financial situation, there is not a moment to spare. The question is how to really decontaminate. When 70,000 people are uprooted from their homes, what on earth is the Diet doing?”

Residents’ feelings mixed over discovery of radioactive strontium in YokohamaYOKOHAMA — Residents have expressed mixed feelings over the discovery of radioactive strontium in Yokohama’s Kohoku Ward, some 250 kilometers away from the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.Relatively high levels of strontium were found in two spots in the ward where it was easy for radioactive materials to accumulate when the Yokohama Municipal Government took measurements. While some residents say they can no longer let their children play outside, others maintain that the level of radioactive materials is not enough to cause concern.In the Okurayama district of Kohoku Ward, where residents earlier detected 195 becquerels of radioactive strontium on the roof of an apartment complex, a 43-year-old housewife whose 4-year-old son attends a kindergarten in the area commented, “I take care around places where it is easy for water to accumulate, like at the bottom of slides in the park, and make my son properly wash his hands and gargle.”

Another 62-year-old woman whose 2-year-old grandson attends a nursery said, “Young children play in the sand, so I’m worried.”

Meanwhile, another 55-year-old housewife who is no longer raising her children commented, “There’s no point getting in to a flurry, saying, ‘I’m worried.’ The people in Fukushima are worse off.” Another resident, an 80-year-old man, commented, “I used to be an engineer for a thermal power plant so I know something about radiation. I don’t think this is at a level that would affect people’s health so I’m not that worried.”

In September a radiation level of 42,000 becquerels per kilogram was detected in dried mud in a roadside ditch in the Okurayama district. When concerned residents asked a private company to analyze sediment that had accumulated on the roof of an apartment complex, 195 becquerels of strontium was detected. This prompted the municipal government, which had previously stated there was no need to conduct tests, to change its policy.

In light of the latest discoveries, the municipal government plans to ask the central government to conduct checks in Yokohama for radioactive strontium. Checks for radioactive material are currently being conducted within a 100-kilometer radius of the nuclear plant.


TEPCO identifies risks that could cause meltdown (NHK, Oct 17)

Japan faces growing radioactive ash (Times, Oct 17)

In Ohtawara, 400 tonnes of radioactive ash have piled up at a garbage incineration plant, which will run out of protected storage space in two weeks.

Ohtawara is more than 100 km southwest of the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Further south, the city of Kashiwa has been forced to temporarily shut a high-tech incinerator because its advanced technology that minimises the amount of ash produced has the side-effect of boosting the concentration of radiation.

Ohtawara and Kashiwa are just two of a growing number of municipalities across northern Japan that face similar problems after the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant, devastated by a huge March quake and tsunami, began spewing radiation into the atmosphere in the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years.

Although the government aims to bring the Fukushima crisis  under control by December, researchers say that problems arising from the radiation, scattered over mountains, rivers and residential areas, are set to persist for years.

“Residents say they are worried about their children’s health and grandchildren’s health. Faced with such pleas, we just cannot make a move,” an Ohtawara city official said, explaining why the ash has not be taken to a nearby city dump.

Ohtawara has already cut the frequency of garbage collection by half to hold down the generation of radioactive ash, by-product of burning contaminated leaves and branches.

Nonetheless, fresh bags of radioactive ash will have to be left in empty outdoor space at the incineration facility with no proper shelter around them, the official said.

Natural feelings    

Radiation levels of most of the ash in question are below 8000 becquerels per kilogram, low enough to be buried in dumping grounds, according to government guidelines.

But people living nearby remain worried.

“If you think about residents’ feelings, it is quite natural. Some people just don’t want to have it near them no matter how low radiation levels are,” said Baku Nishio, co-director of Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, an anti-nuclear civic group.

“It is up to the government to set up storage facilities, but naturally, finding the place can be a real challenge.”

A draft plan by the Environment Ministry calls for the government to take responsibility for disposing of ash and sludge with radiation levels above 8000 becquerels/kg, but a ministry official said nothing concrete has been decided.

Following hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima plant in March, rainfall has brought radiation down to the earth’s surface.

Part of the radioactive caesium, which can cause internal radiation exposure for an extended period, found its way into sewage systems and, through the purification process, was concentrated in sludge as well as the ash that is produced by burning sludge.

In northern Japan, stored-up radioactive ash and dehydrated sludge from the sewage treatment process alone totalled 52000 tonnes in mid-September, up 63% from levels at the end of July, data from the Transport Ministry showed.

The volume is still growing by about 360 tonnes a day.

The growing piles of radioactive ash are also causing financial headaches for local governments.

Nagareyama city, next to Kashiwa, has set aside about 250 million yen ($3,2 million) in three of its four extra budgets so far this year for temporary storage and related projects.

Researchers say the problem is here to stay, although the government aims to declare a big step forward in dealing with the nuclear disaster by bringing the Fukushima plant to “cold shutdown” by year-end, a month ahead of the original schedule.

A “cold shutdown” is the term used to describe the reactor condition where water used to cool fuel rods remains below 100 degrees Celsius and radiation leakage is under control.

“I doubt the problem will go away in a year or two. It takes 30 years for caesium 137 to decay by half. Each time it rains, caesium deposited in mountains will be washed down to where people live,” Kobe University professor Tomoya Yamauchi said.

Decontamination starts in Fukushima city (NHK, October 18, 2011)

The city of Fukushima, about 60 kilometers from the crippled Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, will start to remove radioactive materials from all private houses in the city on Tuesday.

The city has high levels of radiation in some areas. The plan aims to lower radiation levels to 1 microsievert per hour in all 110,000 households in the city within the next 2 years.

The decontamination will start on Tuesday in an area with 360 households, where relatively high levels of radiation have been measured.

Under the plan, professional cleaners commissioned by the city will scrub radioactive substances from roofs and ditches of the houses with high-pressure equipment.

The garden soil will be removed and all the roads used by elementary and junior high school students and nearby forests will be decontaminated as well.

The city will hire professional cleaners for areas with relatively high radiation levels and for work on roofs and other dangerous places, but residents and volunteers will be required to remove the rest by themselves.

It has yet to be determined how to dispose of the contaminated sludge and the government is under pressure to come up with a solution soon.

See Chemical Contamination, Cleanup and Longterm Consequences of Japan’sEarthquake and Tsunami (Japan Focus)

Earlier news:

A covering of thick polyester sheets has been attached to steel frames at the damaged No.1 reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Company plans to complete the covering and verify its effectiveness by the end of October.

The work which began in late June is designed to decrease the release of radioactive materials into the air. The No.1 reactor was severely damaged in a hydrogen explosion in March.

A large crane was used to attach the sheets to the steel frame encasing the reactor building.

The utility company will conduct a test-run to see how the system captures radioactive materials from the building with a filter.

It estimates the system should be able to remove about 90 percent of the radioactive materials.

Release of the radioactive materials into the atmosphere needs to be reduced before residents who have evacuated can return to their homes.

TEPCO is considering installing covers on the No. 3 and 4 reactors which were also damaged.

Student gives parting words to tsunami victims at ceremony

Further related readings: