A letter from our local public junior high school (in Kawasaki City, near Shinyurigaoka) dated Nov 4, informed us that my son’s school grounds had undergone radiation checks and the results were as follows:

Location inspected………………….microSieverts/hr

The school grounds (at 5 cm)            0.05

The school grounds (at 1 m )             0.05

Sandy sports pitch/field (5 cm)           0.05

Under 1 rain-gutter                            0.24

In the drains                                      0.08

In the lawned/grassy areas              0.08

Water draining/pooling spots            0.06

The soil or mud in the particularly elevated area under the rain-gutter was removed, afterwhich the lower reading of 0.13 microSV/hr

Please find posted below … our regular spot updates on the Fukushima nuclear crisis and the radiation contamination situation.

Aileen Kawagoe

Smaller increase in children’s weight in Fukushima (NHK, November 07)

A survey shows that some children in Fukushima Prefecture have smaller average weight gains this year compared to the year before. A pediatrician says the results indicate the negative effects of the nuclear plant accident in March.

Doctor Shintaro Kikuchi tracked the weights of 245 children aged from 4 to 6 in 2 kindergartens in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture. The results show an average weight increase of 0.81 kilograms over the past year through June. The increase for children in the same age group the previous year was 3.1 kilograms.

The average increase for children aged 5 to 6 in the survey was 0.84 kilograms. But a nationwide health ministry survey conducted last year for children of the same age group showed an average gain of 1.8 kilograms.

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident has caused high levels of radioactivity in areas around the plant. Koriyama is located about 60 kilometers from the facility and many children in the city have been forced to play indoors to avoid contamination.

Kikuchi noted that the smaller weight increases could be related to reduced appetite resulting from less exercise as well as changes in the secretion of growth hormones due to stress. He said measures should be taken to restore normal hormone levels in the children.

Fukushima-produced low-cost Geiger counters hit the market (Mainichi, Nov 7)

FUKUSHIMA — A local manufacturer here has developed a new low-cost and high-performance Geiger counter to meet residents’ increasing concerns over radiation leaking from the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant.

“Geiger Fukushima,” manufactured by Sanwa Corporation in Otama, Fukushima, will cost 18,800 yen — a bargain price for the usually very expensive, and recently not easily available, radiation measuring instruments.

The new device will run on two AAA batteries and will be able to measure radiation over a range between 0.04 to approximately 440 microsieverts per hour. Based on the measured data, it will also be able to estimate the approximate amount of radiation a person will be exposed to in one year.

In addition to “Geiger Fukushima,” the company has also manufactured an additional model that is to be specifically used on iPhones in combination with the radiation-measuring application “Geiger Bot.” That model will cost 9,800 yen.

“I want ‘Geiger Fukushima’ to help residents protect themselves from hot-spot areas,” says Yuichiro Saito, president of Sanwa Corp. The concerned father of two has been a direct witness to residents’ growing anxieties since the beginning of the nuclear disaster in March.

Sanwa Corp. has already been receiving a number of inquires, including such from the Fukushima Prefecture village of Kawauchi, which is expecting some 1,000 households to return to their homes as the emergency evacuation preparation zone — within which the village fell into — was lifted at the end of September.

Meanwhile, Sanwa Corp. is also developing a self-manufactured Geiger-Muller tube (GM tube) — the instruments’ central radiation-detecting element — which up to now had not been manufactured in Japan. If fully successful, Sanwa’s future Geiger counters will be sold at even cheaper prices, in smaller sizes and with higher performance, company officials say.

The two new Geiger counter models will be sold online by the authorized non-profit organization “Eigyoshientai,” which is currently accepting advanced orders. For more information see http://eigyoshientai.shop-pro.jp/ (Japanese language only).

Fukushima health concerns (Japan Times, Nov 8)

“It must not be forgotten that exposure to radiation has long-term effects on human health. In the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, the number of leukemia cases started to increase among bombing survivors two years after the bombs were dropped. In the case of the 1986 Chernobyl accident, thyroid cancer began to appear among children several years after the disaster happened. Particular attention should be paid to the health of children.

Tokyo govt to test N-safety of 500 food items (Yomiuri, Nov.8)

The Tokyo metropolitan government will start checking the radioactivity levels of 500 fresh and processed food items produced in east Japan by randomly testing samples of such foods from retailers, officials said Monday.

The inspections, to be conducted from Tuesday through the end of fiscal 2011, is a response to the Tokyo public’s growing concern over food safety since the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The 500 items will include processed foods that regular households consume almost daily, such as tofu, boiled beans, juice and jam. Fresh food subject to inspection will include meat–except beef, because the metropolitan government is already conducting blanket testing on cows–milk, eggs, vegetables and fish.

Among other food items, the inspections will focus on items regularly consumed by children, according to the officials.

Metropolitan government officials will visit supermarkets and other retailers to seek their cooperation, buying 20 to 30 items per week from stores that will then be checked with handheld geiger counters.

If any of the foodstuffs are found to contain 50 becquerels per kilogram or more of radioactive substances, they will go through additional tests using germanium detectors.

The test results will be displayed on the Web site of the Tokyo metropolitan government, which also will release the names of products found to contain radioactive substances above provisional standards set by the central government.

Local governments currently conduct voluntary tests on the safety of agricultural products produced in their respective districts. However, some products have slipped through the system, such as beef contaminated with radioactive cesium. In addition, almost no processed foods have so far undergone inspection.

“Many consumers are expressing concerns whether the food they buy at retailers is really safe to eat,” said an official from the metropolitan government’s Social Welfare and Public Health Bureau. “The Tokyo metropolitan government wants to help boost [consumer confidence in] food security by regularly checking various foodstuffs during an intensive period.”

(Nov. 8, 2011)

In earlier news:

Govt to study low-level radiation impact  (NHK, November 05, 2011)

The Japanese minister in charge of nuclear crisis says the government plans to set up an expert team to study the impact of radiation levels of about 20 millisieverts per year.Goshi Hosono made the remark in Hamamatsu City, central Japan, on Saturday. His comment follows the government’s concern over low levels of radiation found in many places after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.Hosono said studies of past nuclear accidents suggest that exposure to radiation levels more than 100 millisieverts per year will affect human health to a certain degree, but exposure to levels lower than that amount has not been confirmed as harmful to human health.He said it is necessary to further study low-level radiation exposure caused by radioactive materials that have already spread in the air.He added that the government hopes to sort out ideas, using a radiation level of 20 millisieverts per year as the threshold for affecting human health. The figure is an exposure limit recommended by the International Commission for Radiological Protection.Referring to a government project to dispose of debris in areas outside of disaster-hit northeastern Japan, Hosono said rubble from the prefectures of Iwate and Miyagi is not radioactive. He said incineration will not produce anything harmful and ashes will be safely handled.He added that he wants to ask local governments for cooperation for projects as the government will ensure their safety and take responsibility for the process.No criticality in Fukushima (NHK) | NISA: No criticality in reactor 2 (Japan Times, Nov 8) Extracted below:The government’s nuclear safety agency said Monday it supports Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s view that the recent detection of radioactive xenon at one of the crippled reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant was not a result of a sustained nuclear chain reaction, as earlier feared.The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said what is known as “spontaneous” fission created the xenon-135 because it found that the density of the substance had not changed even after Tepco injected water containing boric acid, which should have lowered the density of xenon-135 if criticality had taken place.

“We judge Tokyo Electric’s report (on the detection of xenon) to be basically appropriate,” NISA said in a statement.

Tepco initially touched on the possibility that the melted fuel inside the stricken reactor 2 may have gone critical temporarily, but it concluded in a report submitted to the agency Friday that spontaneous fission had generated the xenon-135.” Read more here.

Nuclear safety body to form third-party committee to investigate inspection methods (Mainichi, Nov 5 )

The Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization (JNES) said on Nov. 4 that it will form a third-party committee to investigate whether there are any problems with its nuclear facility inspection methods following revelations that the body copied its procedures directly from drafts provided by a nuclear fuel firm.

The nuclear inspection body, under the jurisdiction of the government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), made the decision in line with instructions from Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano. The third-party committee will consist of more than five members selected from legal experts and those known for taking a cautious approach to nuclear policies. The committee is expected to compile and submit a report by the end of this year.

The Mainichi broke the news this week on the JNES’s 2008 inspection of nuclear fuel rods using procedures copied verbatim from documents the body ordered the fuel maker itself to provide. Apart from that incident, the JNES has systematically carried out similar inspections on nuclear facilities before they went into operation.

The JNES had previously told the Mainichi, “The inspection methods are appropriate, and therefore we have no intention of changing them.” However, Yasukazu Mochimaru, a senior JNES official, said at a news conference, “We cannot deny the possibility that we have relied excessively on (nuclear) firms, adding, “The general public has doubts about whether the JNES has the qualifications to inspect nuclear facilities. We want to listen to opinions from the committee and clear the problems.”

The committee will also look into findings that the JNES failed to uncover the fact that Hitachi Zosen Corp. did not conduct necessary tests on a uranium enrichment facility run by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, in 2009, and that the nuclear safety body failed to notice flaws in inspection documents on the Oi Nuclear Power Plant prepared by Kansai Electric Power Co., and therefore failed to conduct inspections on the plant properly in 2009 and 2010. The committee will examine the process for creating inspection procedures, relationships between the JNES and nuclear firms, the JNES’ human resources development and training programs, and other areas.

TEPCO starts trying to remove radioactive cesium from Fukushima spent fuel pool (Mainichi, Nov 7)

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has activated equipment to remove radioactive cesium from the spent nuclear fuel pool of the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, the company announced on Nov. 6.

In addition to radioactive materials, the fuel pool also contains a high concentration of salt, which was caused by the pouring in of seawater soon after the disaster began. It is thought that if left in the pool, the salt could corrode open a hole. According to TEPCO, however, the radioactive materials must be removed before an attempt to lower the salt concentration can begin.

TEPCO says that the pool of the No. 3 reactor is in a similar state, and it plans to carry out decontamination there after work on the No. 2 reactor pool. Work to remove salt from the pool at the No. 4 reactor has been ongoing since August. TEPCO says that for the No. 1 reactor pool, the salt concentration is not high because saltwater was not poured in.

Japanese firm unveils robot suit for nuclear workers (Japan Times, Nov 8) Extracted below…

“TSUKUBA — The Japanese maker of an exoskeleton robot suit to assist walking on Monday unveiled a model that could help nuclear workers weighed down by heavy anti-radiation vests in contaminated zones.

Cyberdyne, based northeast of Tokyo, demonstrated an upgraded version of the robot device called the Hybrid Assistive Limb, or HAL, that can be worn under anti-radiation tungsten vests as heavy as 60 kilograms.

Lightweight Tyvek protective outfits can provide a barrier between radioactive materials and the body, but are not effective in blocking radiation itself.

Vests made of tungsten can block radiation but are very heavy, making it difficult for workers to take on long shifts at highly contaminated sites, Cyberdyne noted.

“This new type of HAL robot suit supports the weight of tungsten-made protective clothing and enables their wearers to work on the site without feeling the burden,” the company said in a statement.

“It is hoped that this will reduce risks of working under harsh environments and contribute to early restoration operations by humans in the wake of disasters,” it said.” Read the rest of the article here.

1/4 won’t return to Fukushima restricted zone (NHK, Nov 8)

Minute radiation monitoring begins in no-go zone (NHK, Nov 8) | Survey to compile detailed radiation map in Fukushima begins (Kyodo)

In view of these facts, it is logical that the Fukushima prefectural government has developed a program to monitor the health of all residents in the prefecture, who number about 2 million, throughout their lifetime. It has also started examining the thyroids of some 360,000 children who are age 18 or younger. Detailed and long-term area-by-area studies should be carried out to record cancer incidences.” Read the rest of the article here.

Other headlines:

A Ryugasaki citizen’s group has helped to detect radioactive material from the soil of Kubodai Elementary School in Ibaraki. 120,000 Bq per kg radioactive cesium was detected from the soil in a depression on the asphalt surface of a school passage area near the Kubo Elementary School’s main gate. Soil contamination levels detected from the area beside a poolside area were recorded between 11,720 Bq to 19,050 Bq from per kg. The city makes the standard of decontamination more than per hour 0.23 micro Sv. As a result of efforts to decontaminate the city and school, the radiation levels fell but are said to be still dangerously high at six places. 178  spots within the city are reported to have recorded radiation levels exceeding the 0.23-micro sievert.  Read the article at Tokyo Shimbun.

About ten mothers accompanied by the small child of @ Ryugasaki interview Mayor Nakayama.

Low radiation areas should be used as bases for restoration work for Fukushima: expert (Mainichi, Nov 7)

Children in tsunami-hit area observe rite of passage in temporary housing (Asahi, Nov 6) | Related news: Camping helps heal apathy in disaster-affected children (Kyodo, Nov 7)

Mothers from Fukushima have been demonstrating outside gov. offices, with numbers estimated at 4,000 between Oct 27~Nov 5 and on  November 6, 2011 at 10:36 am, Fukushima Diary reports tweets stating that the demonstrators were being abused by right-winged group members and police.

Elsewhere:

Youtube shows contamination of western Japan Shiga prefecture, watch this Youtube video

Resources:

In Asia-Pacific Journal’s “Fallout From the Fukushima Shock: Japan’s Emerging Energy Policy“, Andrew Dewit gives us an overview picture on the current status and future directions of Japan’s energy policy.

See related topic news: Smart grid eyed to smooth power supply to Tokyo offices (Yomiuri, Nov.8)

Bioremediation for Contaminated Soil: Phytoremediation and Mycoremediation

How to Detoxify Radiation from Your Body — A Two Part Strategy with Daniel Vitalis | Health Beyond Hype

Countering radiation damage and contamination: Anticancer cures, quick detoxes or quackeries?

To read our previous Spot Update, click here.