Saturday, February 11, 2012

(Updated) TEPCO Press Conference on Reactor 2 RPV Temperature

TEPCO's Matsumoto opening remarks:

No Xe-135 detected in the latest gas sampling test.
Preparing to increase water.
1090 kilograms of boric acid solution has been poured into the RPV.

At 2:20PM, the temperature exceeded 80 degrees Celsius.
Since other temperatures at the bottom of the RPV remain low and the temperature of the Containment Vessel is not rising, the cold shutdown state remains.

(There are many reporters this time...)

It's the blue line in the chart (screen capture):

TEPCO thinks it is physically "very difficult" for the temperature to rise above 80 degrees Celsius, and it is likely to be the instrument failure.

No cesium-134 and 137 have been detected, so there is no steam being generated inside the RPV/CV.

Graph generated from the automatic digital reading showing 10 degrees "noise" starting 12 noon (before noon, the noise was 1 degree):

Asahi Shinbun's reporter asked how high exactly the temperature went, as the graph seemed to show the spike above 90 degrees Celsius.

Matsumoto answered the graph is plotting all the 1-second readings from the digital display, not visually verified by the workers. The official reporting is every 6 hours, the reference reporting is every hour.

Q: Will the amount of water be increased if the thermometer at that location continues to rise?
A: We will have to be careful. If the increased water doesn't lower the temperature, the instrument failure will be more likely.

Q: How to verify the instrument failure?
A: We want to do the resistance testing from the central control room.

Q: Why has the temperature started to vary widely since noon?
A: We don't quite know.

Q: When will you get back to the normal operation under the safety regulations?
A: To do it, we have to make sure it is the instrument failure.

Q: Does the instrument failure have to do with the variance?
A: It's not that the instrument failure started today, but it may have started late January when this thermometer started to behave differently from the other two at the bottom of the RPV. The 10 degrees Celsius water is right near the thermometer (15 centimeter away), and the thermometer shows rising temperature. The location of the thermometer should be uniformly cooled.

Q: Where do you measure the temperature of the water injected?
A: The temperature of the water is measured at the buffer tank. No place along the way to get heated.

Q: What happens if the temperature doesn't drop?
A: We will wait and see for a day.

Q: Why did you start mentioning "instrument failure" only when the temperature started to approach 80 degrees Celsius?
A: We didn't think it was behaving erratically. The variance of 1 degrees was understood. The trend changed at the end of January. Also, the temperature remained high as more water accumulate inside the RPV, therefore the instrument failure more likely.

A: We want to see if it is possible to have the instrument failure where the temperature drops, instead of going up.

A: The Containment Vessel is still hot and humid, so we have to make sure the other instruments are working properly. At this point, we don't have better alternatives.

9.9 (core spray, from 6.9) + 7.5 (feed water) = 17.4 tonnes/hour of water is to be injected into the RPV.

Q: Why are you increasing the amount of water if you think it is the instrument failure? What do you think of the safety regulations?
A: We have always informed the NISA and followed the safety regulations. (No answer on why they are increasing water.)

Q: Why did you pick this particular thermometer as the representative temperature for the RPV?
A: Perhaps it was one of the first to come back online last fall, but we will confirm.

Q: What happens if other thermometers fail?
A: We have to think about how to monitor the condition of the reactor, as we cannot enter the Containment Vessel.

(The press conference just finished. The above note is not necessarily comprehensive. In short, TEPCO thinks it is more likely to be the instrument failure, not the actual temperature rising, but it will continue to monitor the situation.)

JUST IN: #Fukushima Reactor 2 RPV Bottom Temperature at 82 Degrees Celsius

TEPCO's press conference scheduled at 5PM February 12, 2012, Japan Time.

10:00 78.3
11:00 74.9
12:00 79.1

Decision was made at 2:20PM that the the condition of "the temperature at the bottom of the Reactor Pressure Vessel at 80 degrees Celsius and below" was not met; the condition is specified in the safety regulations.

From authoritative source, here's Yomiuri Shinbun.

For more info, see my notes from the 5PM press conference.

NY Times: "A Confused Nuclear Cleanup" (And Needless One at That...)

A day laborer wiping down windows at an abandoned school nearby shrugged at the work crew’s haphazard approach. “We are all amateurs,” he said. “Nobody really knows how to clean up radiation.”

Decontamination is a big business where a day laborer with no skills can earn $325 a day, says New York Times' article by Hiroko Tabuchi on February 10, 2012:

IITATE, Japan — As 500 workers in hazmat suits and respirator masks fanned out to decontaminate this village 20 miles from the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors, their confusion was apparent.

“Dig five centimeters or 10 centimeters deep here?” a site supervisor asked his colleagues, pointing to a patch of radioactive topsoil to be removed. He then gestured across the village square toward the community center. “Isn’t that going to be demolished? Shall we decontaminate it or not?”

A day laborer wiping down windows at an abandoned school nearby shrugged at the work crew’s haphazard approach. “We are all amateurs,” he said. “Nobody really knows how to clean up radiation.”

Nobody may really know how. But that has not deterred the Japanese government from starting to hand out an initial $13 billion in contracts meant to rehabilitate the more than 8,000-square-mile region most exposed to radioactive fallout — an area nearly as big as New Jersey. The main goal is to enable the return of many of the 80,000 or more displaced people nearest the site of last March’s nuclear disaster, including the 6,500 villagers of Iitate.

It is far from clear, though, that the unproved cleanup methods will be effective.

Even more disturbing to critics of the decontamination program is the fact that the government awarded the first contracts to three giant construction companies — corporations that have no more expertise in radiation cleanup than anyone else does, but that profited hugely from Japan’s previous embrace of nuclear power.

It was these same three companies that helped build 45 of Japan’s 54 nuclear plants — including the reactor buildings and other plants at Fukushima Daiichi that could not withstand the tsunami that caused a catastrophic failure — according to data from Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, a watchdog group.

One of them, the Taisei Corporation, leads the consortium that sent out the workers now tramping around Iitate in hazmat suits. Consortiums led by Taisei and the other two big companies — Obayashi and Kajima — among them received contracts for the government’s first 12 pilot decontamination projects, totaling about $93 million.

“It’s a scam,” said Kiyoshi Sakurai, a critic of the nuclear industry and a former researcher at a forerunner to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, which is overseeing this phase of decontamination. “Decontamination is becoming big business.”

The cleanup contracts, Mr. Sakurai and other critics contend, are emblematic of the too-cozy ties they say have long existed between the nuclear industry and government.

“The Japanese nuclear industry is run so that the more you fail, the more money you receive,” Mr. Sakurai said.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency said the construction giants would not necessarily receive the bulk of the future work, which will be contracted out by the Environment Ministry. Company officials, however, have indicated they expected to continue serving as primary contractors.

“We are building expertise as we work,” said Fumiyasu Hirai, a Taisei spokesman. “It is a process of trial and error, but we are well-equipped for the job.”

Kajima and Obayashi said they could not comment on the projects under way.

An Environment Ministry official, Katsumasa Seimaru, said that big construction companies were best equipped to gather the necessary manpower, oversee large-scale projects like decontaminating highways and mountains, and properly protect and monitor radiation exposure among the cleanup workers.

“Whether you promoted nuclear or not beforehand isn’t as important as what you can do to help with the cleanup,” Mr. Seimaru said.

Other construction companies are scrambling to get in on the action. In late January, the Maeda Corporation, another general contractor, won a cleanup contract, this one awarded by the Environment Ministry. Maeda bid to take the job for less than half the expected costs, an apparent loss-leader maneuver to get a foot in the door that has drawn complaints from other bidders, including Taisei.

Early this month, a city just outside the exclusion zone, Minamisoma, said that it would also allocate 40 billion yen ($525 million) worth of decontamination projects to groups led by national general contractors. Whatever the controversy, there is no question Japan is undertaking a crucial task. The endeavor is meant to go far beyond the partial cleanup that followed the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine, which left a 19-mile radius around the plant that, even a quarter-century later, remains largely off limits.

But there is little consensus on what cleanup methods might prove effective in Japan. Radioactive particles are easily carried by wind and rain, and could recontaminate towns and cities even after a cleanup crew has passed through, experts say.

“No experts yet exist in decontamination, and there is no reason why the state should pay big money to big construction companies,” said Yoichi Tao, a visiting professor in physics at Kogakuin University who is helping Iitate villagers test decontamination methods on their own. He is also monitoring the effectiveness of the energy agency’s decontamination projects.

Though big companies have won the main contracts so far, the actual cleanup — essentially a simple but tedious task of scrubbing and digging — is being carried out by numerous subcontractors and sub-subcontractors, who in turn rely on untrained casual laborers to do the dirtiest decontamination work.

This tiered structure, in which fees are siphoned off and wages dwindle each step down the ladder, follows the familiar pattern of Japan’s nuclear and construction industries.

On the Iitate project, most of the workers come from elsewhere. The self-described amateur wiping down the school windows, who would identify himself only as Shibata, said he was an autoworker by trade who resided about 160 miles away, just east of Tokyo in Chiba. He said he had jumped at news that there was “decent-paying work but not so dangerous” in Fukushima.

Mr. Shibata said he was working two four-hour shifts a day and was being put up in a local spa resort. Although he and other workers declined to discuss their wages, local news media have reported that the pay for decontamination work can reach about 25,000 yen, or around $325 a day.

He spoke as he wiped a window with a paper towel. “One swipe per towel, or the radioactive particles just get spread around,” he said. “Not that you can see the radiation at all.”

Indeed. A similar cleanup project at the Iitate community center last fall, undertaken by the local government, was unable to reduce the radiation to safe levels.

The pilot projects led by Taisei and the other contractors have already hit snags. The government, for example, failed to anticipate communities’ reluctance to store tons of soil scraped from contaminated yards and fields.

Some critics, meanwhile, have argued that local companies and governments could perform the cleanup work for much less money, while creating local jobs.

Some Iitate villagers have enlisted the help of university experts to take matters into their own hands. Their experiments, they say, suggest that decontamination must start on the forested mountains that cover three-quarters of Iitate’s land area.

“Even if they clean up our homes, the radiation will sweep down from the mountains again and recontaminate everything,” said Muneo Kanno, a 60-year-old farmer. Like many other residents of Iitate, he stayed in the village for more than a month after the disaster, unaware that the radioactive plumes had reached Iitate.

Mr. Kanno fled the village in May but returns on weekends to try different decontamination methods. Recently he took Mr. Tao, the visiting physicist, to a nearby mountain to test the effectiveness of removing dead leaves from the ground to reduce radiation levels.

There is no public financing for their work, which is supported by donations and the volunteer efforts of the villagers themselves. On a recent morning, about a dozen volunteers, some as old as 70, scrambled up a snowy mountainside to rake leaves into cloth sacks, wearing only regular clothes and surgical masks.

“We know the land here far better than the construction companies do,” Mr. Kanno said. “We are afraid that the money is just disappearing into thin air.”

What is the point of decontaminating Iitate-mura? Why do they lie to day laborers by telling them the location is "not so dangerous"? Outside the immediate vicinity of the plant, Iitate-mura is one of the most contaminated places in entire Fukushima. People shouldn't be living there or working there, but they do, despite the village having been designated as "planned evacuation zone".

There are neptunium and plutonium in Iitate-mura's soil, spiders are concentrating radioactive silver. Back in early April last year, IAEA said they had found 20 million becquerels/kg of iodine-131 from the soil.

#Fukushima Reactor 2 RPV Temperature: 79.1 Degrees Celsius as of Noon, February 12, 2012

(UPDATE: The temperature exceeded 82 degrees Celsius as of 2:20PM February 12, 2012.)


Mainichi Shinbun (2/12/2012 1:54PM):


TEPCO announced that one of the thermometers at the bottom of Reactor 2 Pressure Vessel at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was showing 79.1 degrees Celsius as of 12 noon on February 12. It is the highest temperature since the "cold shutdown state" declaration in December 2011. Considering the margin of error, if the temperature exceeds 80 degrees, it would violate the definition of "cold shutdown state". TEPCO thinks the instrument failure is possible, but will increase the amount of water injected into the reactor.


Temperature at the bottom of the Reactor 2 RPV has been trending up since the beginning of February. It reached 73.3 degrees Celsius at 7AM on February 6. TEPCO increased the amount of water to be injected into the RPV by 3 cubic meters (tonnes)/hour to 13.5 cubic meters/hour on February 7, which lowered the temperature to about 64 degrees Celsius at one time. But the temperature resumed the up-trend, and reached 73.3 degrees Celsius at 9PM on February 11. The company increased the amount of water by 1 cubic meter/hour to 14.6 cubic meters/hour, but so far there hasn't been any effect. The amount will be increased by another 3 cubic meters [to 17.6 cubic meters/hour] in the afternoon.

Other two locations at the bottom of the RPV show the temperatures that continue to go down, in the mid 30s.

Want to bet if TEPCO will say in the evening press conference, "It's instrument failure after all"?

Futaba-machi Mayor on March 12, 2011 Explosion of Reactor 1: "Insulation Materials Falling Like Large Snowflakes. I Knew We Were Finished"

Mayor Idogawa says he knew it was the end.

Journalist Hiromichi Ugaya compiled a togetter of the press conference by the mayor of Futaba-machi on February 11, 2012.

Futaba-machi is where part of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is located (Reactors 5, 6). The town's function has been moved to Kazo City in Saitama Prefecture, and the mayor, Katsutaka Idogawa, is now demanding that his town of about 7,400 residents be relocated instead of "decontaminated".

Ugaya says Mayor Idogawa held three separate press conferences, one for TV, one for newspapers, and one for independent journalists. I haven't looked carefully yet, but I don't see any coverage at the websites of major newspapers.

Mayor Idogawa said:

  • There was no instruction from the government as to where to evacuate, or how to evacuate.

  • The town was not told of the vent, and the vent was carried out while there were lots of people still in town.

  • What looked to be the insulation materials from the plant fell like snowflakes on them, and he knew they were finished.

The following is my translation of most of the remarks by Mayor Idogawa, as tweeted by Ugaya, who was at the conference:

Current situation of Futaba-machi in exile, as narrated by the journalist Ugaya:


Futaba-machi is one of the "municipalities with nuclear power plants", where Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is located. The entire town was designated as "no entry zone" and all 6400 [sic] residents have evacuated. It is the size of Nerima-ku [in Tokyo]. The town hall has relocated to Kazo City in Saitama Prefecture. I [Ugaya] met the mayor at the temporary town hall of Futaba-machi.


The temporary town hall is located in Kazo City, Saitama. They use the high school building that has been closed. About 500 Futaba-machi residents still live there. I am surprised. Still that many people living in the shelter, instead of living in apartments or other temporary housing arrangements.

Mayor Idogawa's recollection on the day of Reactor 1 hydrogen explosion (3/12/2011):


Residents of Futaba-machi have been deprived not only of their past but also of their future. They have been deprived of the most precious thing that no amount of compensation from TEPCO could buy.


"Which direction?" "How do we evacuate?" There was no evacuation instruction from the national or prefectural government. So we looked at the flag in front of the town hall, figured out the wind direction, and decided which way to evacuate.


The scenario of the annual evacuation drills was "Power is lost, and recovers in about 3 hours, and the reactor cooling system comes back online". The drills were useless in the real-life accident.


Residents had to flee in their own cars. Kawamata-machi [northwest of Futaba-machi, just beyond Iitate-mura] had just decided to accept evacuees, so we used the emergency communication system and called out desperately to the residents to somehow go to Kawamata-machi.


We weren't told of the "vent" [of Reactor 1] that the government decided to do. The vent was carried out while the residents were still in town. I wonder if they [the government] think of us as Japanese citizens. This is like pre-Meiji Restoration [when there was no notion of citizens of a nation].


On March 12, as the residents were fleeing, I was in front of Futaba Kosei Hospital guiding the hospital patients and elderly people from the nearby senior citizens' home to a bus [for evacuation] when the first hydrogen explosion took place. There was a dull "thud".


"Oh no, it finally happened," the mayor thought. After a few minutes, small debris that looked like glass fiber insulation materials came falling down from the sky like large snowflakes. "Big ones were this big", the mayor puts his thumb and index finger together to form a circle.


Futaba Kosei Hospital is only 2 kilometers away from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. About 300 people, including municipal workers, doctors and nurses, watched the flakes of insulation materials fall like snow, stunned. The mayor thought, "We're finished."


The mayor looks back and says, "That was a very, very strange sight. It was like a movie". Not knowing what to do, he just dusted off his clothes with his hand.

The sight of some filament falling from the sky, shining, was also seen by people in Iitate-mura, and Namie-machi.

About "We're finished" remark and the mayor's health:


I [Ugaya] asked the mayor who was doused with "dust from Fukushima I Nuke Plant", "Did you think it was dangerous?" He answered, "Even today, I think "We're finished"." "What do you mean?" I asked. He said "Nosebleed hasn't stopped."


"Nosebleed hasn't stopped. If I blow my nose it bleeds. Sometimes the blood drips. I don't know what's going on, whether the nose is too dry."


"Ive lost almost all body hair from chest down, all the way down to the legs. I noticed it when an old man sitting next to me in "sento" (public bath) said to me, "Hey your skin's smooth like a woman." Pubic hair remains. It's uncomfortable without body hair, because my underwear clings to the skin."

About TEPCO employees who came to Futaba-machi town hall:


Since the accident started on March 11, there were 2 TEPCO employees at the town hall. They were the regular PR department personnel. But they didn't tell us anything about meltdown or hydrogen explosion. In retrospect, the color was drained from their faces. They may have known something [about meltdown and hydrogen explosion].

Just In: Reactor 2 RPV Temperature at 78.3 Degrees Celsius as of 10AM, Feb 12, 2012

From TEPCO's plant parameter - Reactor 2 RPV bottom hourly temperature table (Japanese, for now):

2/11 17:00 69.5
2/11 18:00 71.2
2/11 19:00 71.1
2/11 20:00 70.9
2/11 21:00 73.3
2/11 22:00 72.5
2/11 23:00 71.2
2/12 0:00 71.1
2/12 1:00 69.5
2/12 2:00 71.9
2/12 3:00 74.1
2/12 4:00 75.7
2/12 5:00 74.0
2/12 6:00 74.4
2/12 7:00 76.3
2/12 8:00 74.5
2/12 9:00 77.1
2/12 10:00 78.3 (at TEPCO's morning press conference, 2/12/2012)

2/12 11:00 74.9

TEPCO do not give morning presser on weekends any more, but today is the exception due to the concern over the Reactor 2 RPV temperature. Matsumoto is doing the press conference, instead of the usual junior manager of PR department.

Q: What happens if the temperature here exceeds 80 degrees Celsius?
A: Further increase of water to be injected into the RPV. But the cold shutdown state should take other parameters of the reactor into consideration.

Q: Possible causes?
A: Unstable cooling at the location. Some movement inside RPV of melted fuel, possibly, disturbing the flow of water. We don't think it's likely because we haven't been working near the reactor. Instrument failure is another possibility.

Q: What evidence to verify the accuracy of the thermometer?
A: Difficult.

Q: Containment Vessel's temperature?
A: Dry Well 39.5 degrees Celsius as of 5AM February 12. Other parameters about Reactor 2 is stable, trending down, except for this particular location at the RPV.

A: We're watching out for Xe-135 for any indication of recriticality, so far there is no detection from the gas management system of Reactor 2.

Q: Are municipalities around the plant informed?
A: Yes. We've been informing them of the temperature and the amount of water being injected.

Q: Which is more likely, the unstable water flow or the instrument failure?
A: Not sure. We're on the safety side (that there is actually a rise in temperature), so we're increasing the amount of water.

Q: Current decay heat?
A: We estimate it to be 0.6 megawatt, but we're not sure whether the temperature rise like this is possible, given the uncertainty of how the water flows through the reactor.

74.9 degrees Celsius at 11AM.

Q: Is this the only location that shows abnormality?
A: No abnormal numbers anywhere else.

Q: Amount of boric acid solution to be injected?
A: 1000 kilograms, as before.

Amount of water from feed water system 7.8 tonnes/hour (from 6.8 tonnes/hour), core spray ssytem 10 tonnes/hour.

If the temperature doesn't respond to increased water, then the instrument failure may be suspected.

Q: When are you going to decide on the cause - instrument failure or water flow?

Q: What does the manufacturer of the thermometer say?
A: Nothing so far.

Q: Why is it taking so long to figure out the cause?
A: The problem is that we cannot enter the Containment Vessel. So we do everything we can from outside the CV to figure it out.

(Press conference just ended.)

TEPCO Was Sending the US NRC the Survey (Contamination) Map of Fukushima I Nuke Plant From March 2011

It was only late April that TEPCO admitted to the existence of the "survey map" which plotted the radiation levels on the plant compound, supposedly for the workers to avoid "hot" debris scattered around the reactor buildings and turbine buildings.

But Kyodo News says TEPCO had started sending the map to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission more than one month before they made the map public. It means TEPCO started sending the map to the NRC in mid to late March, practically right after the accident started on March 11, 2011.

What's more, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency started receiving the map a day after TEPCO had started sending it to the NRC, and the Agency had kept it quiet until TEPCO admitted to the existence.

Kyodo News (2/12/2012):

東電、原発線量マップまず米側へ 公表の1カ月以上前

TEPCO had given the radiation map of the plant more than one month before the company made it public


It was revealed on February 11 that the radiation map of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant compound ("survey map") that TEPCO had made public in late April last year had been provided to the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) more than one month prior. According to TEPCO, the survey map was sent as it was updated. The company started to send the report to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry one day after the company had started providing the information to the US agency.


In the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident, it has been revealed that the SPEEDI data from the Ministry of Education and Science and the dispersion simulation data of radioactive materials by the Japan Meteorological Agency had been provided to the US and the international agency [IAEA, who got the data from JMA] from early on, but were not made public in Japan until much later.

On April 24, 2011, Kyodo News reported that TEPCO admitted to the existence of the "survey map". If I remember right, TEPCO only admitted after the "rumor" had spread, supposedly originated from the workers at the plant, that such a map existed.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Sorry State of Pipe Leaks, in Photos

Metal flanges and casings cracked, probably when the water inside froze.

From TEPCO's Photo for Press (Japanese), released on February 10, 2012:

There are more sorry photos at the link, or in the report TEPCO submitted to NISA.

As for Kanaflex pipes, all it took was a weed Imperata cylindrica:

Temperature at Reactor 2's RPV Bottom Shoots Up to 75 Degrees Celsius

TEPCO's plant parameters on temperatures haven't been updated yet to reflect the number, but Jiji Tsushin reports that the temperature at the bottom of the Reactor Pressure Vessel of Reactor 2 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant shot up to 74.9 degrees Celsius as of 11PM on February 11, Japan Time.

The temperature at this location has been trending in the upper 60s, but TEPCO's Matsumoto and his junior PR manager (who can only read what's given to him) have been saying the temperature "is trending down". In TEPCO-speak, remaining at a high temperature is clearly "trending down", because it is not going up.

From Jiji Tsushin (2/11/2012):


One of the three thermometers at the bottom of the Reactor 2 Pressure Vessel that had been trending in the upper 60s started to rise again in the evening of February 11. In response, TEPCO has increased the amount of water being injected into the RPV by 1 tonne per hour to 14.6 tonnes per hour. As of 11PM on February 11, the thermometer showed 74.9 degrees Celsius, while the other two thermometers placed at the same height were trending around 35 degrees Celsius.

The temperature is the highest since the rising trend started on February 1, and the amount of water being injected into the Reactor 2 RPV now is the highest ever since March 11, 2011.

Since the margin of error may be as much as 20 degrees either way, 5 more degrees to go until the temperature at that location may be reaching 100 degrees Celsius.

Anti-Nuclear Poster by Famous Japanese Illustrator Makoto Wada

The image is from

This has caused a storm on Twitter and Twitter-related platforms in Japan, with many accusing the illustrator of "fanning the nuclear fears unnecessarily and of discrimination" against people in Fukushima. If you read Japanese, here's the togetter collection of such tweets.

I think it upsets many because Wada's poster is too real. A nuke plant in the background spewing radioactive fallout, and a mother and a child. Other posters are either abstract, or do not have human figures in the poster in a life-like setting.

I personally think it is a brilliant work, like Professor Hayakawa's map.

You can view over 200 posters at

Makoto Wada's other works can be viewed here.

Friday, February 10, 2012

"I'd eat all sushi I want without worry, in my dream", says one Japanese reader

Sentiment in a tweet from one of my Japanese followers is no doubt shared by many people in Japan and outside.


It's OK if it is only in a dream; I'd eat all sushi I want without worry.

This, while politicians there are running around like chickens with heads cut off, as the severed heads squawk "Free trade pact in the Pacific (TPP)!", "Let's raise sales tax to 17% so that the economy will recover!", "The world wants and needs Japan's expertise in nuclear plant technology!", "We can decontaminate the most contaminated region of Fukushima, because we're Japanese and we're different!"

It is not just fish used in sushi. Rice, nori seaweed, and wasabi (if it is fresh) are also suspect, not to mention "agari", a strong cup of green tea to finish off the sushi meal.

#Radioactive Firewood, This Time from Miyagi Prefecture: 730 Bq/kg Cesium in Wood Would Become 130K Bq/kg in Ashes

Miyagi Prefecture, whose governor has simultaneously insisted that there was no radiation contamination in his prefecture and that his prefecture needs support (aka money) from the national government to deal with radiation contamination, has been found with firewood very much contaminated with radioactive cesium, the only radionuclide that the government cares to measure.

The Ministry of the Environment survey found the firewood from southern Miyagi tested high in radioactive cesium, with the maximum of 730 becquerels/kg in one town. If you burn this wood, the resulting ashes would contain 132,860 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (2/10/2012):


The Ministry of the Environment announced on February 10 that radioactive cesium 18 times the national safety limit [40 becquerels/kg] was detected in the firewood from southern Miyagi. The ministry had been conducting the test of firewood and the ashes from burning the firewood in southern Miyagi for radioactive materials.


Radioactive cesium 7 times the national safety limit [8000 becquerels/kg] was detected from the ashes.


According to the ministry, the test was conducted in 9 municipalities in southern Miyagi on January 26 and 27. In 6 municipalities, the densities of radioactive cesium exceeded the national safety limit (40 becquerels/kg): 730 Bq/kg in Murata-machi, 670 Bq/kg in Shiraishi City, 460 Bq/kg in Marumori-machi. In 4 municipalities, the ashes exceeded the national safety limit (8000 Bq/kg) for safe disposal as regular waste: 59,000 Bq/kg in Marumori-machi, 28,000 Bq/kg in Shiraishi City.


On receiving the results, the Miyagi prefectural government is calling the residents not to use firewood for baths and stoves, and to keep the ashes in bags and store them.

The news probably came too late for many people in Miyagi. But after 11 months, isn't it time people started to think for themselves? Or am I asking too much?

The Ministry of the Environment has a press release of the result, here.

And contrary to popular belief in Japan, a researcher at Tokyo University of Agriculture says that radioactive cesium has penetrated deep inside the wood. So, even if the bark is stripped off the firewood, radioactive cesium is still there in the wood.

OT: SPAM Attack, Google's Filter Freely Lets In SPAM

No, I'm not talking about Finnish trolls or any other familiar "spams" at this blog. All this morning and into the afternoon, people with the Google profiles have been spamming the comment section of the posts. I probably deleted 2 dozen already.

Here's the latest:

Iris H.Maldanado has left a new comment on your post "India's First Fast Breeder Reactor to Go Critical ...":

I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I'm not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my trouble. You're amazing! Thanks!
Spectrum Transfertube Combination Dropping Pipets; Volume: 4mL

What's the matter, Google? There's some serious filter failure on your part.

I guess no one is interested in system maintenance at Google.

(Updated) Gift of Snow from Fukushima Children to Okinawa Children

(UPDATE: I was wrong. It was not just tiny containers of snowmen but a whole lot more, enough for the kids in one Okinawa school to throw snowballs at each other. Watch the video at the link. H/T Japanese twitter follower)


probably to the horror of mothers who took their small children to Okinawa to escape radiation contamination in east Japan.

It's not that they are sending a ton of snow but only 5 20-centimeter containers. It is only a symbolic gesture of .... uhhh goodwill and friendship?

Fukushima Prefecture is supposed to be measuring the radiation levels of snow, but the result won't be available until March.

From NNN News (2/9/2012):


2 elementary school children, as "friendship ambassadors of snowman", flew off this morning to Okinawa to bring Fukushima snow as a gift to Okinawa.


It is the 11th year of the project by the Fukushima government. The purpose is to promote friendship between children of Fukushima and children of Okinawa by giving the snow from Fukushima to Okinawa children. The two will deliver 5 snowmen in 20-centimeter tall styrofoam containers [shaped like a snowman] to Okinawa.

The friendship ambassadors are a boy and a girl. The boy says he wants to appeal the beautiful scenery and great food of Fukushima. In the news clip at the link, the girl doesn't seem one bit thrilled.

Using the children to promote agendas of the adults has been ongoing on both sides - the governments (national and local) and the citizens' groups demanding anything from stopping the nuke plants in Japan to compensating the voluntary evacuees.

TEPCO's Video of #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool

For people who have been claiming the fuel racks and the fuel bundles inside the Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor 4 are broken, sorry. As far as the camera shows, there is no evidence of that.

Water is murky.

From TEPCO's handout for the press on February 10, 2012:

Thursday, February 9, 2012

TEPCO Did the Water Clarity Survey of Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool, Says Fuku-I Worker

(UPDATE: The worker was right. I posted the TEPCO's video of the Reactor 4 SFP in my new post.)


For now, it's nothing but "hearsay" from the worker who tweets from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. But it looks TEPCO is going to let us see the what the Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor 4 is like under the water pretty soon.

The worker who tweets from Fuku I says TEPCO just did a survey of water clarity in the Reactor 4 SFP, and is getting ready to video the pool with the underwater camera.


It seems TEPCO measured the clarity of water in the Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool today. They were supposed to do it last week.


Based on today's data, soon we'll be able to see the pool with the underwater camera. In fact, you can vaguely discern the fuel rods with naked eyes after the water injection to the pool is stopped. When I looked at the pool before we installed the floats to protect the pool, I don't think I saw as much debris as I had expected.


I did see some hand rails... The fuel rods were in the fuel rack, and the rack was standing. Anyway, we'll find out soon. When the media comes for another tour, they may be able to go near Reactor 4, if not on the operation floor.

So much has been speculated about Reactor 4, in particular outside Japan where some experts and some bloggers have been saying anything from "Reactor 4 is leaning like the Tower of Pisa" to "Reactor 4 building is falling apart"; some with what they say as "proof" (statements from an insider expert in Japan), some with nothing but fantasy from looking at the photographs showing controlled removal of debris. Some still insist that there is fuel core in the RPV, though I simply don't know how it is possible when you see the lid of the Containment Vessel having neatly set aside on the operation floor, with all the equipment that was to go inside the RPV is submerged in the DS Pool.

It will be nice to at least see the spent fuel (and fuel core removed from the RPV) actually in the rack, undisturbed, as the worker claims. Load-bearing walls falling down and taking the SFP down is another matter.

The last image of the Reactor 4 SFP is from May 2011, which you can view on my post here.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 2 RPV Temperature Remains Near 70 Degrees Celsius Despite Increased Water Injection

70.6 degrees Celsius at 5AM on February 9, 67.9 degrees Celsius twelve hours later at 5PM.

TEPCO's thinking on this: It will go down eventually, someday. (Seriously.)

From TEPCO's reference data sheet on Reactor 2 RPV temperatures as of February 9, from February 8:

Let's review the recent events on Reactor 2, a Boiling Water Reactor with Mark 1 containment designed by GE.

In October last year, Quince the robot was sent on a mission to survey the radiation levels in the reactor building. After going all the way to the top floor and measuring 250 millisieverts/hour, it started the descent, and was stuck somewhere between the 5th floor and the 2nd floor after the communication cable was either severed or disconnected. Now, Quince is on a solo mission somewhere in Reactor 2 building to monitor the effect of radiation on electronic equipment.

On January 14, 2012, out of nowhere the temperature at CRD (control rod) Housing spiked to 142 degrees Celsius, only to be plunged to -197 degrees Celsius 5 days later on January 19. TEPCO announced it was an instrument failure. The temperature there spiked above 130 degrees Celsius again in late January, and since then has been dropping down. As of February 9, it is back down to 70s.

On January 19, TEPCO conducted an endoscopy using the industrial endoscope by Olympus to peek inside the structure called Containment Vessel, inside the reactor building. Dozens of carbon-based workers, having trained on Reactor 5, drilled a hole on the CV, inserted the endoscope, and manipulated the endoscope to get the glimpse of the interior of the CV which still contains the Reactor Pressure Vessel (RPV). TEPCO was hoping to find water at about O.P. (Onahama Peil) 6000, which is about the level of the first floor, 5.3 meters from the bottom of the CV. There was no water at that level. Another peek is not scheduled in the near future.

Needless to say, the thermometers at the bottom of the RPV have not been measuring the temperature of water for a very long time, as everybody knows.

Then in February TEPCO announced that the temperature at the bottom of the RPV had been rising since February 2. TEPCO responded by increasing the amount of water injection to the RPV by 50% (from 9 tonnes/hour to 13.5 tonnes/hour) and adding boric acid. Probably as the result of this 50% increase in water, the Reactor 2 sub-drain pit overflowed.

It's not that hard to imagine the decent increase in the amount of contaminated water to be treated.

2077 Bq/Kg of Radioactive Cesium from Dried Shiitake "Made in Japan"

Sure. Iwate Prefecture is Japan alright. Since the company who packaged the dried shiitake claims it has mixed shiitake harvested in different parts of Japan (never mind that they did say the shiitake are mostly from Iwate Prefecture), the label can claim "made in Japan".

The photo is from the press release from Yokohama City. (Click to enlarge.)

From Sankei Shinbun Kanto local version (2/9/2012):


7 packets of dried shiitake mushrooms with radioactive cesium 4 times the provisional safety standard sold in Yokohama supermarket


Yokohama City announced on February 9 that 2,077 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected from dried mushrooms sold at a supermarket in Kohoku-ku in the city. The provisional safety limit is 500 becquerels/kg. 7 packets have already been sold. The city notified Shizuoka Prefecture where the packaging company is located, and ordered the supermarket to recall the packets.


After being notified by a citizen who measured the radioactivity [of this dried shiitake] on his own, the city conducted its testing on February 9. The Tsunashima-Tarumachi store of a supermarket chain "Big Yosun" sold these mushrooms with effective date of 1/10/2013. Otsuka Food located in Fujieda City in Shizuoka Prefecture packaged the mushrooms in 80 gram packets, which was sold exclusively at the supermarket chain. According to the packaging company, the mushrooms are mostly from Iwate Prefecture.


According to the supermarket chain, their Tsunashima-Tarumachi store had purchased 20 packets, and sold 7 packets. 2 other stores also had the packets but none of them have been sold, according to the chain.


According to the city, if one eats 80 grams of this dried shiitake the internal radiation for 0-year-old would be 0.003833 millisievert, and 0.0025724 millisievert for people 13 years old and older. It is considered that if you re-hydrate the shiitake, the density of radioactive cesium would drop to about one-tenth.


According to the new safety standard guidelines that the Ministry of Health and Labour has compiled to take effect in the new fiscal year [starting on April Fool's Day], the internal radiation exposure limit is 1 millisievert per year or less.

As if 80 grams of dried shiitake from Iwate with radioactive cesium is all you eat the whole year.

NRC Approves First New Reactors in U.S. Since 1978

Two new reactors by Westinghouse (Toshiba) are to be added to the Vogtle Nuclear Plant's existing two reactors in Waynesboro, Georgia, population of about 5,800.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Nuclear Safety, welcomed the approval, and added, "Nuclear energy has helped curb our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and has helped reduce harmful air pollution that damages health and causes climate change."


Dirty fossil fuels? Senator, just take a look at those bags being piled up in Okuma-machi in 130 microsieverts/hour radiation, thanks to your "clean" nuclear energy gone bust.

From LA Times (2/9/2012):

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Thursday approved construction of the first new nuclear reactors to be built in the United States since 1978. The commission’s board approved the decision by a 4-1 vote, with its chairman Gregory B. Jaczko casting the dissenting vote.

The new reactors will be added to the Vogtle plant outside of Waynesboro, Ga., and operated by Southern Co. The reactors will use light water technology developed by Westinghouse. The new reactors could be in full operation by 2016, according to Southern. The reactors will together generate 2,200 MW, enough to power almost 1.8 million homes.

Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Nuclear Safety, welcomed the approval.

"These new reactors will employ cutting-edge technology that requires fewer components than our current nuclear fleet, thereby increasing safety by providing fewer opportunities for things to go wrong during an emergency,” he said in a public statement.

He added: "Nuclear energy has helped curb our reliance on dirty fossil fuels and has helped reduce harmful air pollution that damages health and causes climate change.”

The plan to expand the plant has faced opposition from Congressman Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and environmental groups including Friends of the Earth, which questioned the safety of the reactor design in the wake of the damage caused to nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan, by an earthquake last year.

“Today, the NRC abdicated its duty to protect public health and safety just to make construction faster and cheaper for the nuclear industry,” Markey said in a statement.

The Department of Energy is expected to provide $8.3 billion in conditional loan guarantees for the construction of the reactors.

The last reactor granted approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission came shortly before the Three Mile Island nuclear incident in 1979.

It will be Westinghouse's AP1000 pressure-water reactors, untested in the real world anywhere. The local community of Waynesboro, Georgia is very excited about the new construction, because it creates jobs for the community and double the tax revenue. (It's the same anywhere in the world, how these things are sold.)

Here's a USA Today article from March 18, 2011, after Reactors 1, 3, 4, 2 had explosive events at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The comment from the mayor of Waynesboro can be from any mayors around any nuclear power plant in Japan - in the plant operator we trust, the giver of shining new town halls, schools, recreation centers:

A nuclear plant disaster in Japan has done little to change the thinking about nuclear energy in Waynesboro, Ga., where the USA's first nuclear power plant construction in decades is planned.

Mayor George DeLoach, 70, says people in Waynesboro trust Southern Co., which is expanding its Alvin W. Vogtle Electric Generating Plant from two nuclear reactors to four.

"We have a lot of confidence in the Southern Co.," says DeLoach, who is in his 16th year as mayor. "The plant is over 20 years old. It's been operating since the late '80s and we haven't had a serious accident or complaint out there. They do a great job."


Plant Vogtle is a source of considerable largesse in Waynesboro, which bills itself as the Bird Dog Capital of the World for the Georgia Field Trials held there since 1901. Vogtle is the county's largest employer and generates about $25 million annually in utilities taxes — 70% of the local tax base. That is expected to double to between $50 million and $60 million with the new reactors, which will generate 3,000 construction jobs and 800 to 900 new permanent positions, the mayor says.

"We have five new schools, a new hospital, a new library and one of the best rural emergency management systems in the state," he says. "The nuclear plant in Japan was built in 1971. That's 40 years. We've had a lot of new technology that's come out since that plant was built in Japan."

The last bit sounds just like Japanese. Oh we have new technology now, we're not Japan.

That's what the Japanese have said all along. We have new technology now, we're not America (referring to TMI), we're not Russia (Chernobyl). In fact, they still say that regarding the state-of-the-art decontamination technologies of bags and screw drivers.

I'm sure Chinese and Indians are saying it too. We have new technology now, we're not Japan, the US, or Russia.

And so it goes.

#Radiation in Japan: Decontamination Work in 70 - 130 Microsieverts/Hr Location in Fukushima

What is the point here?

Contract workers pile up plastic bags containing highly contaminated soil on the ground in one of the most contaminated area in the entire Fukushima Prefecture. (Photo from Yomiuri)

This particular location, Ottozawa District of Okuma-machi (where Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is located), regularly measures well over 100 microsieverts/hour in air radiation 1 meter off the ground.

Just 6 days ago (2/3/2012 in Japan), the air radiation was 130 microsieverts/hour in Ottozawa District, according to Fukushima Minyu. The newspaper says the levels of radiation haven't changed much.

At 130 microsieverts/hour, if one stands there 24/7 for a year, it will be 1138.8 millisieverts, or 1.138 sievert, per year. (Only Professor Wade Allison may say it is safe.)

To say Ottozawa District is "inside the 20 kilometer radius no entry zone", as Yomiuri in the article below does, is a severe understatement. Ottozawa is within 3 kilometers from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. Some of the public facilities of Ottozawa District are right up against the plant compound.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (2/10/2012):


On February 9, the national government invited the press for the first time to the temporary storage site of the waste from the government's decontamination model project. The storage site is located in Ottozawa District in Okuma-machi in Fukushima Prefecture, inside the 20-kilometer radius "no entry zone".


Two locations on the town's baseball ground, 3 kilometers from the plant, were shown to the press. The radiation levels in Ottozawa District on February 9 exceeded 70 microsieverts/hour in some locations. The radiation levels [in Ottozawa District] are the highest among the locations regularly monitored by the government.


The workers in protective clothing and face masks were piling up 1-tonne bags of contaminated soil and vegetation. One of the workers said, "The protective mask is suffocating, and my hands are freezing because of the rubber gloves. It's a hard work."


Four protective layers, including water-shielding sheet, were laid on the ground where the bags were being put. After the bags are piled up, they will be covered with 3 layers of sheet, which they will be covered with dirt. The Japan Atomic Energy Agency who contracted the decontamination work explains, "98% of radiation [coming from the bags] can be shielded."

Well, there is no information in the article what's the radiation coming from the bags that contain extremely contaminated soil right near the nuke plant. The workers, as far as Yomiuri reports, are not concerned about radiation but inconvenience of having to work in the protective gear which does not shield radiation.

There is no information on whether the workers are JAEA employees or the contract workers, but judging from the remark by one of the workers in the article, it is likely to be the latter. I hope they were fully informed of the risks and paid accordingly, but hope is a dirty word.

My uneducated guess is that the radiation coming off the bags can be measured in millisieverts, not in microsieverts.

Russian Bombers Were Not Alone Over Japan on Feb 8

More on the 2 Russian bombers over Japan from The Voice of Russia (2/9/2012):

Russian "bears" fly over Pacific

Two Russian long-distance aircraft of the TU-95MS class have carried out a routine patrol mission over a neutral area of the Pacific Ocean, a Defense Ministry spokesman has told reporters.

At various stages, the “bear” bombers were accompanied by Su-27 jet fighters and A-50 reconnaissance planes. All the flights were in strict compliance with international regulations on the use of airspace over neutral waters, the spokesman said. Earlier, the Japanese media rang the bell over 5 Russian warplanes spotted near Japan’s border.


There was absolutely no mention of jet fighters and reconnaissance planes in Japanese news. I wonder how many Japanese jet fighters they "escorted" this time. (In December 2010, the Russian long-range bombers "escorted" 10 Japanese jet fighters.)

(H/T anon reader)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Radiation Contamination of Tokyo Bay Already Happening

From Asahi Shinbun (2/8/2012):


A survey by Kinki University has revealed that radioactive cesium has reached the depth of 20 centimeters of the ocean mud in Tokyo Bay. More than 90% of radioactive cesium stays within 5 centimeters from the soil surface on land, but on the ocean floor there are spots where the deeper soil contains more radioactive cesium.


It may be because of the feces of the organisms in the mud that eat the mud containing cesium. Professor Hideo Yamazaki (environmental analysis) says, "It is a good thing that radioactive cesium gets buried deep quickly, when we consider the impact on marine contamination."


Professor Yamazaki collected the mud on the ocean floor at 4 location near the mouth of River Arakawa that flows into Tokyo Bay last August. Radioactive cesium was found in the mud 24 to 26 centimeters deep. In other locations, the highest concentration of radioactive cesium was found between 12 to 14 centimeters deep. Cesium is considered to have come from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

I'm not sure if it's a good thing.

Asahi's article, since the full version is only available to paid subscribers, doesn't mention the density of radioactive cesium. But Professor Yamazaki was featured in the NHK documentary on marine contamination (aired on 1/15/2012), and in that documentary the mud collected from the mouth of Edogawa River was found with 872 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium. (I'll write about the NHK documentary later.)

Rankin Taxi Presents Anti-Nuclear Reggae: "Radiation Is Strong, Radiation Is Powerful, It Doesn't Discriminate, and You Can't Beat It"

(From the mirror video at Tokyo Brown Tabby)

This is a mirrored video from
The original video description: Japan reggae artists MC Rankin and Dub Ainu Band deliver a cautionary message about radioactive material through this song and music video "You Can't See It, and You Can't Smell It Either."

"You can't see it, and you can't smell it either - 誰にも見えない、匂いもない 2011- "

By Rankin Taxi & Dub Ainu Band
Words & Music: Rankin Taxi

If you pronounce "Nuclear" like Japanese, nyu-ku-ri-ah, it sort of rhymes with Fukushima, fu-ku-shi-mah

#Radioactive Farming: Date City's Agricultural Committee Forces Farmers to Till the Land, or Else...

Date City in Fukushima Prefecture is located in the high-radiation "Nakadori" middle third of the prefecture. The farm soil is so contaminated that if the rice farmers are to be prohibited from growing rice in the areas that produced rice that contained more than 100 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium last year, nearly 64% of the rice paddies in Date city cannot be cultivated this year (link goes to Asahi Shinbun Fukushima local version 2/8/2012).

So what does the city do? Force the farmers to till the land, or the land will be considered "abandoned". The city is threatening the farmers who didn't grow last year to till the land this year if they want to remain farmers.

Tokyo Shinbun has the story that I haven't seen anywhere else yet.

From Tokyo Shinbun (2/8/2012):

米から国の基準を上回る放射性物質が検出された福島県伊達市で、土壌汚染や被ばくへの懸念から耕作できなかっ た農家に対し、市農業委員会が田畑を耕作放棄地と扱う通知を出した。「農地として適切に利用されていない」として耕すよう指導。一月中旬に通知を受けた同 市の小野寛さん(51)は「耕すと放射性物質が土に混ざる」と困惑している。 

Radioactive materials exceeding the national provisional standard have been found in rice harvested in Date City in Fukushima Prefecture last year. But the city's Agricultural Committee has sent notices to the farmers who didn't farm last year because of soil contamination and fear of the radiation exposure, and told them their farmland will be considered abandoned. The committee is instructing the farmers to till the farmland, because their land is "not appropriately utilized as farmland". One of the farmers, Hiroshi Ono (age 51) in Date City, is bewildered. "If I till, I'll mix up radioactive materials in the soil."


The Agricultural Committees in municipalities conduct the annual survey of the abandoned farmland, in accordance with the Agricultural Land Act. As soon as the farmers receive the notice, their land is considered abandoned, and the owners (farmers) are basically prohibited from acquiring new farmland. This time, Date City's Agricultural Committee has issued about 200 such notices.


Ono grows rice and wheat on his 2000 square-meter plot. The crops are mostly for own consumption, but he sells part of the crops. He grows organic rice with his own unique method of suppressing weeds by growing rye in fall and cutting it down when the rice season arrives.

昨年三月の原発事故で、田畑は毎時三マイクロシーベルトと高い線量が検出された。単純計算で年間二〇ミリシーベルトを超え、政府が避難を促す基準 を超える値だ。「作っても食べられない」と判断し田植えをやめた。土ぼこりなどを吸って被ばくする懸念があったため、ライ麦と小麦の収穫もせず、田畑はそ のままにしていた。「除染さえできれば耕作するつもりだった。放棄したわけじゃない」。小野さんは農業委員会に通知を取り消すよう求めたが、受け入れられなかった。

After the nuclear plant accident in March last year, his farmland measured high radiation, 3 microsieverts/hour. The annual cumulative radiation would exceed 20 millisieverts, the level at which the national government would prompt evacuation. "Even if I grow, the crops won't be edible." He didn't plant rice last year. Since there was a worry of internal radiation exposure from inhaling dust from the land, he didn't even harvest rye and wheat, and didn't do anything with his farmland. "If decontamination was possible, I was going to grow crops. It's not that I abandoned." Ono asked the Agricultural Committee to rescind the notice, but the committee refused.


There is a clause in the Agricultural Land Act that says the farmland is not considered abandoned in a disaster. The people in charge at the Ministry of the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries say, "Ultimately it is up to each Agricultural Committee, but generally speaking, the concern for radiation in Fukushima after the nuclear plant accident should be considered a disaster."


However, Date City's Agricultural Committee's stance is that the committee "will not make any special case for radiation concern unless it is a high-radiation hot spot". Meanwhile, Date City still hasn't come up with the plan to decontaminate the farmland.


Ono sounds helpless when he says, "If I till the land, radioactive materials will be mixed up, and all I can do is to wait for them to disappear naturally. Half life of cesium is 30 years. What am I going to do?"

<原発事故による耕作規制> 農林水産省は昨年、避難区域と土壌調査で1キログラム当たり5000ベクレルを超える地域の米の作付けを制限。伊達市 は対象外だが、避難区域に近い地域では米から国の暫定規制値(1キログラム当たり500ベクレル)を超えるセシウムが検出された。規制値は1キログラム当 たり100ベクレルに引き下げられる見込みで、農水省は今年も作付け制限を検討。除染方法は、表土を地中深くに埋めるなど農水省がいくつか案を示している が、最終的には自治体が方法を決めることになっている。

Restriction of farming due to the nuclear plant accident: Last year, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries restricted the cultivation of rice in the evacuation zones and in areas that were found with 5000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium in the soil. Cultivation in Date City was not restricted, but in the areas close to the evacuation zones radioactive cesium exceeding the national provisional limit (500 becquerels/kg) was found in rice. The national limit is set to be lowered to 100 becquerels/kg, and the Ministry is considering restricting the cultivation again this year. There are several methods that the Ministry is proposing to decontaminate the farmland, including burying the top soil deep in the ground. But ultimately, it will be up to the municipalities to decide on the decontamination methods.

That's just ridiculous. It is up to the bureaucrats in local governments to decide how to "decontaminate", and who will "decontaminate" (i.e. farmers themselves), and force them to grow crops, threatening the farmers that unless they till the land, their land is considered abandoned, and they cannot acquire new land in the future.

The system is set up to punish the farmers like Mr. Ono, who wisely refrained from disturbing the contaminated land last year and did not grow radioactive rice and other crops like other farmers did.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.

Two Russian Bombers Surveying Japan

I don't have any other information on this yet, but this is what appeared in Japan's TBS News (10:38PM 2/8/2012):


The Ministry of Defense announced that two Russian bombers flew the perimeter of Japan's airspace.


The two bombers were TU-95. From 9AM to 9PM on February 8, they flew north from off the coast of Shimane Prefecture on the Japan Sea side, past the Northern Territories (the Kurile Islands) and down to Boso Peninsula on the Pacific Ocean; they repeated the pattern a number of times.


The Air Self Defense Force responded by scrambling its fighter aircrafts in the western, central, and northern air defense forces.

That covers about 70% of Japan. It looks as if they were testing the response. Is the Cold War back on again?

"Backup" Tokyo (Capital of Japan) to Be Considered Somewhere in Japan to Preserve Government Functions in Case of Disaster

Locations already jockeying for the front-runner position to become a "backup" capital include Hokkaido, Osaka, and Fukuoka.

There they go again, looking for another construction boom in the land of earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear accidents.

From Jiji Tsushin (2/8/2012):


Democratic Party of Japan to consider backing up of the capital functions


Democratic Party of Japan will hold the first meeting of "the working group for backing up the core functions of the capital" (headed by Sumio Mabuchi, former Minister of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation) on February 10. It is to prepare for the case of Tokyo devastated by an epicentral earthquake. The focus will be whether the group designates a location to temporarily move the function of the Prime Minister's Official Residence and the central government ministries. The group will submit the report to the government by the end of March.


The expert committee at the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation started the discussion on backup functions of the capital last December, in light of the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami. The committee says it won't specify the location [to which the functions will be moved], but heated campaigns to become a "backup" capital have already started among locations including Hokkaido, Osaka, and Fukuoka City.

Well, even after the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident, they still do not (or cannot) say they should consider a potential nuclear disaster when planning a backup capital. If they do consider, there may be nowhere in Japan that's suitable.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Temperature at the Bottom of Reactor 2 RPV Slowly Going Down, For Now

after pumping the largest amount of water since March 11, 2011, the temperature at the RPV bottom went from 72.2 degrees Celsius at 5AM on February 7 to 66.7 degrees at 5AM on February 8.

According to TEPCO's handout for the press on February 7, 2012, TEPCO has been injecting the water at the rate of 13.5 cubic meters (or tonnes)/hour in the Reactor 2 Pressure Vessel:

  • The amount of the core spray system injection water was increased from 3.7 m3/h to 6.7 m3/h at 4:24 am on February 7.

  • The amount of the continuing feed water system injection is 6.8 m3/h.

On February 1, the total amount of water being injected to the Reactor 2 RPV was 9 cubic meters/hour.

By the way, Mainichi Shinbun reported (2/7/2012) that the margin of error of the thermometers on the RPV may be 20 degrees Celsius:


Thermometers exhibited the maximum 20 degrees Celsius error after the March 11, 2011 accident. Since the definition of a cold shutdown state is "to keep the temperature at the bottom of the Reactor Pressure Vessel at 100 degrees Celsius and below", TEPCO's safety regulation specifies that the local municipalities are to be notified when the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Celsius given the maximum margin of error. TEPCO's Matsumoto said in the press conference on February 6, "The reactor is sufficiently cooled, and there is no need to revise the judgment of the cold shutdown state."

So, the current temperature of 66.7 could be as low as 46.7, or as high as 86.7. That's comforting.

The ever-incurious TEPCO and the overseeing agency NISA simply pump more water into the RPV, instead of ever wondering what may be causing the temperature to rise.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 2 Sub-drain Water Overflowing from the Temporary Tank

Near the end of TEPCO's morning press conference on February 8, TEPCO's PR man mentioned in passing that the water from the Reactor 2 sub-drain pit stored in the temporary pool was found overflowing.

"OK, no more question?... Well then we have one last announcement for you ..."

According to TEPCO:

  • TEPCO has been conducting the experiment to clean the sub-drain pit water.

  • The Reactor 2's sub-drain pit water is being pumped into a temporary storage tank which has the device submerged in the tank to decontaminate the water.

  • At 9:40AM on February 8 the water was found overflowing from the tank.

  • The pump was stopped, then the overflow stopped.

  • No information yet on how much water have been spilled, on the density of radioactive materials in the water, or whether the water spilled into the ocean.

  • More details in the evening press conference.

#Radioactive Okinawa Noodles and Pizzas from Radioactive Ashes from Radioactive Firewood from Fukushima

Radiation's reach is indeed long. Okinawa is as far away as you can get in Japan from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, and there has hardly been any radioactive fallout. Maybe because of that, businesses in Okinawa don't seem to be much concerned about radioactive contamination in goods.

Here's an example of some Okinawa restaurants having bought firewood from (of all places) Fukushima Prefecture via a distributor in Gifu Prefecture who clearly thought it could get away with it; one of the restaurants made the traditional "Okinawa Soba (noodle)" using the ashes from the radioactive firewood, and has already served the noodles to the customers.

As usual, the familiar refrain from the government officials: "There is no effect on health." They might as well add "Just keep on smiling."

From Okinawa Times (2/8/2012):


Okinawa Prefecture announced on February 7 that 4 restaurants in Okinawa have used firewood from Fukushima Prefecture, and in one of the restaurant the maximum 468 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected from the firewood, which is about 11 times the level of the national safety limit for radioactive cesium in firewood (40 becquerels/kg). In another restaurant, 39,960 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected from the ashes after the firewood was burned, which is about 5 times the level of the national safety limit of 8,000 becquerels/kg. The Okinawa prefectural government says, "For both the consumers and the employees at these restaurants, there is no effect on health at these levels."


The distributor who sold the firewood to Okinawa says, "We washed the firewood with a high-pressure washer, and it passed the test by Motosu City [in Gifu Prefecture]. So we thought it would be OK." The distributor will recall the firewood in question.


The restaurants that used the firewood from Fukushima were 3 restaurants offering kiln-baked pizzas and 1 noodle shop offering "Okinawa Soba" noodles. From the firewood and the ashes at 2 restaurants, radioactive cesium exceeding the safety standards was detected.


The noodle shop got the ashes from burning the firewood from the restaurant where radioactive cesium exceeding the safety limit was detected to make noodles. Part of the noodles has already been served to the customers. According to the test by the prefectural government, 258 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected from the noodles (safety standard is 500 becquerels/kg), and 1,260 to 8060 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected from the ashes. Of three samples of ashes, one of them exceeded the safety limit [of 8,000 becquerels/kg].


The tests at the remaining 1 restaurant and the shipper are on-going, and the test results will be published in 2 to 3 days.


The Okinawa prefectural government points to the national guideline that says less than 2% of radioactive cesium in the firewood will be transferred to the food being cooked, and says "Even at the maximum 468 becquerels/kg, only 9 becquerels will be transferred to food, and there is no health effect even if you ingest this food." The prefectural government also says there is no effect on the employees who cook with the firewood, because they won't be at the firewood all the time, and the amount of time they are exposed to radiation is short.


The distributor in Gifu Prefecture sold 15.7 tonnes of firewood from Fukushima Prefecture in Okinawa. 8.4 tonnes of it have been sold to restaurants. The remaining 7.3 tonnes are stored in a container near the Naha Port. 0.7 tonne of the firewood sold to restaurants is not used, and the shipper in the prefecture will collect them and ship it, along with what remains in the container, back to Fukushima via Osaka on February 8.

"Okinawa Soba" is like ramen noodles, and instead of brine it often uses lye from the ashes.

If you burn firewood with 468 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium, it will result in ashes with 85,176 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium (468 x 182). Even by the lax "standard" of the Ministry of the Environment, you wouldn't be able to bury these ashes in a regular dump, not to mention using it in your garden. You certainly wouldn't want to use them in your noodles, because the transfer rate from the ashes to the noodles seems rather high from the example in the article.

Radioactive beef and radioactive leaf compost have already reached Okinawa, and I hear that Kanto and Tohoku vegetables are freely sold in Okinawa.

Still, the national government, just like last year, is set to do everything to help the producers in Fukushima who have been suffering from "baseless rumors" called radioactive materials.

1.37 Million Bq/kg Radioactive Cesium in Earthworm Castings in Fukushima

There was a piece of news about 20,000 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium found in earthworms collected in Kawauchi-mura, Fukushima Prefecture (20 kilometers from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant) in Mainichi Shinbun (2/6/2012).

The article says the researchers at the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, a government institution, found radioactive cesium in earthworms collected at 3 locations in Fukushima. The amounts varied significantly (from 20,000 becquerels/kg to 290 becquerels/kg), and the researchers (or Mainichi Shinbun reporter) attributed to the varying air radiation levels in these 3 locations.

Ummm, earthworms live in the soil, not in the air, I thought. Still, 20,000 becquerels/kg was high, until I read Professor Bin Mori's blog about his own experiment using earthworms.

Professor Mori found over 1.37 million becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium in excrement of earthworms he picked up in Watari District of Fukushima City, where radioactive cesium exceeding the national provisional safety standard (500 becquerels/kg) has been found in rice.

From Professor Mori's blog (2/6/2012):


All God's creatures, great and small, have been contaminated with radiation (About radioactive silver and cesium in earthworms)


Our study on the living organisms collected in and around Fukushima Prefecture shows that there is no organism that is not contaminated with radioactive cesium. As the Mainichi Shinbun reported today, earthworms are also contaminated.


I collected a lot of earthworms that are about 5 centimeters in length in Watari District of Fukushima City, about 60 kilometers away from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. Earthworms were in direct contact with soil, and so I assumed they would be highly contaminated with radioactive cesium.

As a preliminary test, I used the NaI scintillation detector over each worm. On the high end, there were several tens of thousands of becquerels/kg of cesium-137. All worms were highly contaminated, but I wondered at why there were wide variations between the worms.

On closer observation, it seemed that the worm that still had the soil it had eaten remaining in the body tested high in radioactive cesium.


One of my catch was a large earthworm, 30 centimeters in length. So I washed it carefully with water, and left at room temperature for 2 weeks until it excreted all the castings and was dry. I measured [the worm and the castings] using the germanium semiconductor detector.

To my surprise, radioactive cesium in this worm was significantly less (Table 1). I didn't expect it to be this low.

Table 1: Radioactivity of earthworm in Watari District in Fukushima City


Radioactivity (Bq/kg)











Even bigger surprise was that the radioactivity in the castings was extremely high (Table 2).

Table 2: Radioactivity of the worm castings


Radioactivity (Bq/kg)








I measured the radioactivity of the soil where I got the worm (Table 3).

Table 3: Radioactivity of the soil


Radioactivity (Bq/kg












The worm was found in the sludge of a ditch. The radiation level at 1 centimeters off the surface of the sludge was extremely high, at 13.31 microsieverts/hour.


According to my calculation, the worm concentrated radioactive cesium in soil at a ratio of 0.01 (840 Bq/81660 Bq). On the other hand, it concentrated radioactive silver at a ratio of 0.085 (20 Bq/237 Bq).


The ratio of radioactive cesium to radioactive silver in the worm was 8.2 times the ratio in soil (345/42). In other words, in earthworms [as well as other living organisms we tested], radioactive silver tends to get concentrated more than radioactive cesium.      


Also, I found that radioactive cesium in the worm castings was 16.8 times as much as that in soil (1,373,372 Bq/81660 Bq). Radioactive silver in the worm castings was below detection level.      


I won't elaborate here, but there is a tendency in all living organisms [that I tested] that radioactive silver gets more concentrated in the organisms than radioactive cesium.

In my personal opinion, the Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute, as reported by Mainichi Shinbun, is likely to have measured the radioactivity of earthworms with the castings that are still inside the worms.

Earthworms are near the bottom of the food chain in the forest. They eat dirt , or rather, eat organic materials already digested by bacteria and other organisms in the dirt. I am very curious to see if anyone has studied the effect of radiation in organisms such as bacteria in the soil.

What we need here is the ecologists who can evaluate the whole forest ecosystem, from the lowest in the food chain such as bacteria that break down the raw materials (such as fallen leaves) up the chain - worms, insects, frogs, lizards, fish, birds, and mammals. There is also another chain of concentration that may go like - bacteria that break down the raw materials, bacteria that feed nutrients from the breakdown of the raw materials to the plant root, worms, insects/lizards/birds that eats part of the plant.

Why study these, instead of human beings? Alternation of generations is much faster in them, so the effect of radiation may be easier to observe, if any.

But alas, only a handful of researchers in Japan seem even interested in studying. Most of those who did study seem to be waiting for their peer-review magazine debut.

Dr. Bin Mori is professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences. His specialty is plant nutrition.