(c) The Asahi Shimbun

Radioactive cesium spread as far as Gunma-Nagano border(Asahi, Nov 12)

The science ministry released maps on Nov. 11 showing aerially measured accumulations of radioactive cesium from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in 18 prefectures.

Measurements were taken for the first time in six prefectures–Iwate, Toyama, Yamanashi, Nagano, Gifu and Shizuoka–in addition to the previously available contamination maps of 12 prefectures, providing an almost complete picture of eastern Japan.

Radioactive cesium has contaminated areas as far west as the border between Gunma and Nagano prefectures, and as far north as the southern part of Iwate Prefecture, according to officials.

The combined concentration of cesium-134 and cesium-137 exceeded 30,000 becquerels per square meter in certain areas of four municipalities in southern Iwate Prefecture–Oshu, Hiraizumi, Ichinoseki and Fujisawa–and parts of four municipalities in eastern Nagano Prefecture–Karuizawa, Miyota, Saku and Sakuho.

A concentration exceeding 60,000 becquerels per square meter was found near the border of Oshu and Ichinoseki cities and near the border of Saku city and Sakuho town.

The high cesium concentration levels in southern Iwate Prefecture and northern Miyagi Prefecture are said to have formed due to rainfall after a radioactive plume spread from the plant following the nuclear accident. Eastern areas of Nagano Prefecture may have been contaminated by a plume that moved southward from Gunma Prefecture.

In the latest round of measurements, the science ministry fine-tuned its methods by subtracting levels of naturally existing background radiation. The adjustments have led to considerably reduced areas in Niigata Prefecture, where the concentrations exceeded 10,000 becquerels per square meter, but high concentrations were still found in parts of Uonoma city and neighboring areas close to the border with Fukushima Prefecture.

The science ministry defines places with a concentration of more than 10,000 becquerels per square meter as “areas affected by the nuclear accident.” No contamination was detected to the west of areas near the Gunma-Nagano border.

“It is possible the plume did not reach the other side of the mountains,” a ministry official said.

Gov’t updates radiation maps with data on six new prefectures (Mainichi, Nov 12)

A screen capture of a map released on Nov. 11 by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology displaying accumulated radioactive cesium levels in eastern Japan. (Mainichi)

A screen capture of a map released on Nov. 11 by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology displaying accumulated radioactive cesium levels in eastern Japan. (Mainichi)

The government has released soil radiation maps covering a much broader swath of Japan than previous releases, covering six new prefectures.

The newly included prefectures are Iwate, Yamanashi, Nagano, Shizuoka, Gifu, and Toyama.

Areas contaminated with 30,000 to 100,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium per square meter were found in the municipalities of Ichinoseki and Oshu in Iwate Prefecture, Saku, Karuizawa, and Sakuho in Nagano Prefecture, Tabayama in Yamanashi Prefecture, and elsewhere.

The measurements were taken by helicopter and combine contamination with both cesium-134 and -137, which have half-lives of two and 30 years, respectively.

Click here for the original Japanese story

Dosimeters sound alert as media enter crippled nuke plant (Asahi, Nov 13, 2011) Extracts below…

“OKUMA, Fukushima Prefecture–Carrying dosimeters that were emitting radiation warnings while nearing the destroyed No. 3 reactor, anxious members of the media got their first up-close look at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Nov. 12 …

The areas made available to the media on Nov. 12 were only part of those in the compound.

Since the accidents in March, The Asahi Shimbun has repeatedly asked the government and TEPCO to allow reporters to visit the compound. However, the government and TEPCO had declined, saying, “Work toward settling the accidents will be obstructed” and “radiation levels are still high in the compound.”

As work on achieving a cold shutdown made progress, however, it became difficult for the government and TEPCO to continue to refuse. In a news conference following a Cabinet meeting on Nov. 1, Hosono said that he would allow the media to enter the compound by having them accompany him on his inspection tour.

However, the number of reporters was restricted to 36. They were from 19 organizations that are regular members to the press club covering the Cabinet; seven firms that belong to the press club covering the Fukushima prefectural government; and foreign media. Freelance journalists and Internet media reporters were not chosen for the tour.

Initially, the Cabinet Secretariat said TEPCO would check photos and video footage taken by reporters and would ask them to delete images and footage, if necessary, to guard against nuclear terrorism.

In conventional news coverage of nuclear power plants, reporters are sometimes restricted from taking pictures at certain locations as measures against terrorism. But they have never been requested to submit their photos or video footage for checking.

Therefore, The Asahi Shimbun pointed out that checking photos or video footage constitutes censorship prohibited under the Constitution.

Eventually, the Cabinet Secretariat relented and withdrew its request. Only a restriction on places where reporters could take photos or video footage was imposed.”

See also NY Times coverage of the same media trip to the No. 1 reactor: “Devastation at Japan Site, Seen Up Close” The most striking feature at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant was not the blasted-out reactors, or the makeshift tsunami walls, but the chaotic mess….

3,000 travel to Fukushima N-plant every day (Yomiuri, Nov.13)

FUKUSHIMA–The base for workers at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture was opened to the press for the first time Friday, eight months after the March 11 disaster.

About 3,000 workers covered in head-to-toe protective gear travel to the nuclear power plant every day from J-Village, originally a sports training facility, in Hironomachi and Narahamachi, about 20 kilometers from the nuclear power plant.

Working day shifts at the plant, they change into protective clothes, medical masks and gloves at the center and receive a dosimeter from officials of companies related to plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. Getting on a bus to go to the plant, the workers do not talk much or smile at all.

Although eight months have passed since the crisis began and workers are close to achieving cold shutdown of the plant’s reactors, the situation is still tense, as work must be done in some locations where radiation levels are still high at 100 millisieverts per hour or more.

Work at locations with high radiation levels is limited to about three to four hours a day. However, some workers return to the center covered in sweat.

The overall environment has improved remarkably in the past eight months. Just after the crisis began, workers had to sleep huddled together in hallways, but today two air-conditioned dormitory buildings that can accommodate about 1,600 people stand on what was a training ground for TEPCO’s soccer team.

Initially, only simple emergency foods were available, but TEPCO has distributed boxed meals since May and a convenience store opened in August. In September, a restaurant in the center reopened.

A 37-year-old man from Aomori Prefecture said, “I’m grateful for the good working environment here.”

Encouraging messages from children and others are displayed in the changing room and other places at the center, illustrating just how harsh and stressful the job is.

Problems remain. Waste including used protective gear and masks contaminated with low levels of radiation is being stored on a covered soccer practice ground. The pile has reached a volume of 4,000 cubic meters.

An official at the center said no measures for disposing of it have been decided.

TEPCO opened the center in 1997 with contributions of 13 billion yen. One of its practice grounds, one of the largest soccer facilities in the nation, has been converted from natural grass to gravel and is being used as a parking lot and heliport.

Radium 226 sample found at Tokyo residence (Japan Today, Nov 12)

“TOKYO — The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology confirmed Friday that a small amount of radium 226 had been found in a container in a residence in Higashiyama in Tokyo’s Meguro Ward.

A ministry spokesperson was quoted by Fuji TV as saying that the resident, a woman who has lived in the building for a long time, found the substance in a metal container in a wooden box in a storeroom in the building.

After she reported unexpectedly high levels of radiation emanating from the box on Oct 31, the ministry sent a radiation expert to the property to inspect the container and found that it contained a small piece of radium 226 measuring around 3mm in diameter and 2cm in length. The ministry said the surface of the box measured 250 microsieverts per hour, but that the amount dropped to 6 microseiverts at a distance of one meter, Fuji TV reported.

According to experts, the shape of the sample suggests it was originally for medical use. According to the ministry, the owner of the property was not aware of the contents of the box, which she said had been in the storeroom for around 50 years.” …read more here.

Antinuclear-plant protesters rally in Fukuoka (Japan Times, Nov 13)   Extracts below…

“OKUMA, Fukushima Pref. — Making his first public appearance since the nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in March, the facility’s general manager, Masao Yoshida, apologized for failing to prevent the triple meltdowns but emphasized that conditions at the plant have “definitely been stabilized.” …

The organizer of a series of large antinuclear rallies in Fukuoka on Sunday says more than 15,000 people, including protestors from South Korea, took part in the protest calling for the closure of all nuclear power plants in Japan….Read more here.

Nuclear disaster minister Hosono joins decontamination work (Mainichi, Nov 13)

Fukushima No. 1 stable: plant chief (Japan Times, Nov 13)

“The first thing I would like to do is to apologize to the people of Fukushima and in the whole of Japan for causing them great trouble,” Yoshida said.

Yoshida has led the workers trying to contain the Fukushima No. 1 plant’s stricken reactors since the first day of the nuclear crisis. He confessed that he almost gave up on several occasions, and in the first days of the disaster he even feared he could die from excessive radiation exposure.

“Several times during the first week of the crisis, I thought I would soon die,” Yoshida said. …

But further hydrogen explosions in the reactor units were prevented and the containment vessels of all three stricken reactors, despite emitting massive amounts of radioactive materials into the environment, have retained most of the melted fuel within the reactor units.

…But further hydrogen explosions in the reactor units were prevented and the containment vessels of all three stricken reactors, despite emitting massive amounts of radioactive materials into the environment, have retained most of the melted fuel within the reactor units.

Yoshida pointed out that the temperature at the bottom of the pressure vessels in the three worst-hit reactor units has been kept below 100 degrees for a number of weeks, which means contaminated coolant water is no longer boiling and releasing large amounts of radioactive materials.

“Stabilizing the reactors doesn’t mean the plant can be considered safe. Radiation levels in the compound are still quite high, and it remains dangerous for workers at the site,” Yoshida said. “But the plant has been stabilized sufficiently to ease the fears of local residents to some extent.”

Many nuclear experts basically agree with Yoshida’s views on the current situation at the plant, saying the stable temperatures in the reactors’ pressure vessels makes further large-scale leaks of contaminated materials from the damaged reactors much less likely.

But they also stressed that long-term concerns remain over the strength of the damaged structures and the ad hoc systems that inject coolant water into the plant’s reactors and circulate it, as Tepco will need to keep cooling the reactors with water for at least ten years before the radioactive substances they contain start to decay and weaken, allowing the utility to remove the melted fuel from the reactors.

“In the short-term, it can be said that people don’t need to worry about large emissions of radioactive materials any more,” said Tadashi Narabayashi, a professor of nuclear reactor engineering at Hokkaido University.

“But the coolant water circulation system, which is essential to ensure the safety of the Fukushima plant, has to keep operating smoothly. More work is necessary to protect the plant from another tsunami or earthquake,” Narabayashi told The Japan Times. …” Read the rest of the article here.

In earlier news:

Explosion at Fukushima plant’s No. 4 reactor caused by hydrogen backflow: TEPCO (Mainichi, Nov 12)

Geothermal power spreading in Oita Pref. (Yomiuri, Nov.11)

MHI N-plant data compromised / Infected server leaked plant designs during recent cyber-attacks (Yomuri, Nov.11)

“Sensitive design and other information on nuclear power plants was leaked during cyber-attacks that targeted major defense contractor Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., it has been learned.

According to informed sources, there are signs that data was transmitted outside the company’s computer network from two servers infected by a virus during the attacks. Data from noninfected servers that had been covertly shifted to the infected computers also might have been leaked, the sources said.

Most of the leaked information involved design plans for nuclear plants and other equipment, leading some observers to believe the attacks were targeting civilian intellectual property.

The Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry is trying to pinpoint the source of and motive for the attacks that infected 83 servers and computers at MHI.

According to the sources, one of the infected servers stored information about defense-related equipment produced by MHI, while the other mainly held nuclear plant-related data. Information from both servers had been transmitted to external sites, although far more data had apparently been sent from the server storing the nuclear plant details.

The Tokyo-based company has confirmed the information leaks began about one year ago.

The infected servers that transmitted data to external sites also stored information from clean servers. The hackers apparently used stolen passwords to shift data between the servers, the sources said.

According to MHI, the company designed and constructed all 24 pressurized water reactors in Japan.

Leaks of data on Type 80 air-to-ship missiles and other defense equipment made by MHI had been confirmed previously. The revelation that nuclear power plant data also was targeted suggests the cyber-attackers were possibly trying to obtain Japan’s intellectual property.

On Wednesday, MHI announced its investigation had found “there had been no leak” of defense equipment information that was to be protected in line with its contracts with the Defense Ministry. However, the company said it was “still investigating” whether nuclear plant and other data might have been compromised by the attacks….” Read more here.

Students from the region affected by the March 11 disaster put on a concert Nov. 8 in Tokyo for ambassadors and other dignitaries to Japan to express their appreciation for assistance from their countries.

“We can play music now because we were offered help,” said Himika Sakuma, a second-year junior high school student, expressing her thanks for the helping hand extended to victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku region. “We are eternally grateful.”

A joint chorus group comprised of students from Okirai, Sakihama and Horei elementary schools in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, and an 85-member brass band from Ueda Junior High School in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, performed at Suntory Hall in Tokyo’s Akasaka district.

Volunteers from the NHK Symphony Orchestra joined the students in the performance.

Survey: Students shying away from N-zone schools (Yomiuri, Nov.9)

FUKUSHIMA–Ten high schools in the vicinity of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant will likely attract fewer applicants for 2012 compared with this year, a survey by the prefectural board of education has found.

The board surveyed about 20,000 third-year middle school students–including those evacuated outside the prefecture since the Great East Japan Earthquake–about their choice of high school as of Sept. 1. The survey showed a significant drop in students who wish to attend the schools compared with students who sat exams for the current school year.

The 10 schools–eight public high schools and two branch campuses attached to two of the eight–are within the no-entry or expanded evacuation zones, or the recently dissolved emergency evacuation preparation zone, which were set up after the nuclear crisis triggered by the March 11 quake and tsunami.

Since then, the schools have relocated to 23 sites–mainly attached to other schools–or “satellite campuses” outside the zones so evacuated students can continue taking their schools’ classes.

Of them, Haramachi High School restarted classes at its own campus in Minami-Soma after the emergency evacuation preparation zone was dissolved at the end of September.

The survey found that Futaba High School in Futabamachi, for example, was the preference of only nine third-year middle school students, but 175 students applied for 160 places for the current school year.

Meanwhile, Namie High School’s Tsushima campus was the preference of only one student, down from the 16 applicants who applied for one of the 40 places available this year.

The schools have seen their student body shrink since the nuclear accident because many students were evacuated or relocated to other areas.

Consequently, six of the 10 schools have reduced their quotas for 2012 enrollments. The remaining four–Soma Agricultural and Odaka Commercial, both in Minami-Soma; Soma Agricultural (Iitate campus) in Iitatemura; and Namie (Tsushima campus)–have decided to keep their quotas unchanged.

The survey revealed, however, local middle school students are more anxious than expected about attending these schools.

The prefectural board of education suspects some students probably find the schools’ rented locations too far for them to commute, while others may be unhappy that students from the same school cannot take classes at one location.

“There’s no prospect as to when these schools can return to their original campuses,” said Principal Noriko Onodera of Futaba-Shoyo High School in Okumamachi. Only 12 middle school students said they would choose the school in the survey. “It’s also unclear what we’ll do with the satellite campus system next year. I believe these factors have discouraged many examinees from choosing these schools,” Onodera said.

An official from the prefectural board of education said the nuclear accident was an additional blow to schools that were already struggling to attract students due to the chronically low birthrate.

“Unless they can attract more applicants, we may have to discuss closures or integrate some of the schools,” he said.

The board of education is encouraging the schools to integrate several of their satellite campuses into one for the 2012 school year to “help them attract more applicants,” the official said.

For example, Tomioka, Futaba and Futaba-Shoyo high schools–each of which offer classes at four locations–will rent rooms at the campus of a university in Iwaki, outside the no-entry zone. Odaka Technical and Odaka Commercial high schools, which offer classes at five and two locations, respectively, will find new sites in Minami-Soma so they can offer classes much closer to their hometown.

“To attract more applicants, we’ll do our best so students can take classes and enjoy club activities [at the new location] just like they used to,” Onodera said.

Others:

Contamination free food stores such as seen in Yokohama proliferating (Video)