Monday, 1 September 2014

Testimony from former chief of crippled Fukushima nuclear plant encourages ex-worker

A former TEPCO worker holds a document listing his accumulated radiation dosage. 

September 01, 2014
A former Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) employee who worked to bring the nuclear disaster at the company's Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant under control has welcomed the release of a report recording the words of the late chief of the plant immediately after the disaster broke out.

"I had wanted to know this information for a long time," the worker, who is in his late 20s, said. The report provides testimony that former plant chief Masao Yoshida provided to the government's Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations.

The former worker, whose name is being withheld, said he was supported by the sight of Yoshida dealing with head office executives without budging an inch. At the same time he says he and other workers were insulted by news reports that claimed 90 percent of workers had disobeyed orders and left the plant.

On March 12, 2011, the worker was heading by car to the plant's No. 1 reactor, where work was continuing to inject coolant water into the reactor core, when the first hydrogen explosion hit. The force of the explosion shook his car vertically, and he temporarily fell senseless. When he came to, he saw that the reactor building had been blown apart. He was just 100 meters away.

Workers continued toiling at the plant without sleep, but on the morning of March 14, the building housing the No. 3 reactor exploded, and that evening he heard that the No. 2 reactor was also in serious danger. His boss, who was normally calm, aimlessly murmured, "We're done for, you know."

As clocks ticked past midnight, marking the start of a new day, several hundred workers continued to wait on the first floor of the plant's main quake-resistant building. At dawn, someone came from the emergency response office on the second floor of the building, from which Yoshida and other officials had taken command, and told them to leave.

The heavy double-layer doors of the building were opened, and the workers headed by bus and car to the Fukushima No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant.

The workers napped for about two hours before being woken up by his boss, with instructions to return to the No. 1 plant. A fire had broken out in the building housing the plant's No. 4 reactor, and help was needed, he was told. His co-workers said they would return, and he had no option but to go along with them.

"I want to return alive," he thought. But at the same time he felt he couldn't give up when Yoshida was trying so hard to handle the disaster. During television conferences in the emergency response office, he saw Yoshida ripping into executives from the head office numerous times. At the same time, Yoshida dealt with young workers who went in to hand over material in a friendly manner, which made him happy.

An article that appeared in the Asahi Shimbun in May that year stated that workers pulled out in violation of Yoshida's orders. The worker objects to this report. "At the time there was a shared awareness among workers that we would be evacuating to the Fukushima No. 2 plant," he said. If workers had searched for places to evacuate to on the grounds of the No. 1 plant "everyone would have died, fully masked, if they had stayed there for several hours," he said.

It was on April 2, 2011, that the worker finally left the No. 1 plant and went home. He later resigned from TEPCO, and has found new work. But even now, he is afflicted by flashbacks. Soon after the accident, he went to inspect equipment in the building housing the plant's No. 3 reactor. Shouldering an oxygen tank, he finished his work inside, where radiation levels were high, and tried to open the double-entry doors, but there had been a power cut, and when he pressed the button nothing happened. For several minutes he struggled until he found the emergency release lever. He thought he was going to be trapped inside and die. He breaks into a cold sweat when he remembers the scene.

The man feels that the records containing Yoshida's testimony will guide him when he faces crises in his life in the future.

"These records are a compass for me in my life," he says.

Source: Mainichi

Nuclear disaster evacuee compensation halved across board: internal document

August 31st, 2014

The governmental Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center, tasked with reaching out-of-court settlements for individual claims filed over the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant meltdowns, has set compensation uniformly at 50 percent, a document obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun has confirmed.
The internal document is being circulated among center staff and used in the processing of individual cases — calling into serious doubt the center’s previous denials that the “50 percent rule” had been an official practice.
The center calculates the total amount of damages for pain and suffering in individual settlement proposals by multiplying a base amount by a percentage figure representing the impact of the nuclear accident upon the particular case at hand.
On July 9, the Mainichi Shimbun reported that Hiroshi Noyama, former head of the nuclear damage claim dispute resolution mediation office (the section of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry serving as secretariat to the center) had attested during an interview that “the decision had been made to assess the contribution ratio (of the nuclear accident to the deaths) at around 50 percent.” It was also reported in the same article that the contribution ratio had indeed been set at 50 percent in numerous cases. Noyama’s successor Joji Danto, a former judge, denied Noyama’s testimony, however.
“I don’t know what Noyama said, but there are no rules in place,” he stated. Danto also commented on July 14, while attending a regular meeting of several teams of lawyers offering support to survivors of the nuclear disaster, “We are continually asked by numerous sources whether a ’50 percent rule’ exists (with respect to the compensation). To this, we say a resolute ‘no.’”
The document obtained by the Mainichi Shimbun, however — four A4-sized pages dated Dec. 26, 2012 — includes the following statement: “(Compensation) shall be set across the board at 50 percent. Fine adjustments, such as setting the figure at 40 or 60 percent, shall not be made.”
The document also states that “the operation (of the 50 percent rule) is in the process of being established at the practical level.” The document additionally reveals the possibility for individual settlement proposals to be set at lower amounts, stating, “When it is difficult to ascertain that the 50 percent rule should be applied, it is possible as an exception to set the figure at 10 percent.”
The document additionally notes that it is possible to set the base amount of compensation at a lower level than that established for standard lawsuits, and that details such as medical records or opinions from doctors shall not be taken into significant consideration when deciding final compensation amounts — corroborating previous Mainichi reports.
In addition to the nuclear damage claim dispute resolution mediation office, the center also employs examiners who organize documents submitted by both disaster survivors and Fukushima No. 1 plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., as well as mediating officers responsible for drawing up the actual settlement offers — all of whom are lawyers.
According to a source affiliated with the center, the document obtained by the Mainichi was authored by an employee of the mediation office, and subsequently distributed among several examiners.
An official who previously served as an examiner commented, “I explained the content of the document to the mediating officers,” adding, “If it appeared that an individual settlement offer was not going to be in line with the document’s guidelines, I pointed it out to the mediating officer” — thereby revealing that the document has in fact been used as a standard.
Center representatives initially claimed that “no such document exists.” They later followed up by saying, “(We found) that such a document did exist,” but continued to deny that it served as a standard guideline, saying, “It is possible that it was simply a personal memo.”
Source: Mainichi

Lawyers call on TEPCO to accept settlements


A group of Japanese lawyers is urging the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to pay more nuclear damage settlements to Fukushima residents.

Lawyers with the Japan Federation of Bar Associations told reporters on Monday that TEPCO is not honoring its promise to respect proposals from the Science Ministry's dispute settlement center.

The ministry established the center in 2011 in order to mediate disputes between TEPCO and residents who have serious claims against the utility following the accident at the Fukushima plant.

More than 8,000 cases have been settled since the center started accepting applications 3 years ago.

But the lawyers said TEPCO have recently rejected a series of the center's settlement proposals. They include a class action suit filed by more than 15,000 residents of the town of Namie.

A JFBA lawyer in charge of compensation for the nuclear accident, Yuichi Kaido, said the center has had a significant meaning for restoring the rights of the victims of the Fukushima accident who cannot directly negotiate with TEPCO. But he said he is increasingly worried about the utility's response.

He said TEPCO promised to respect settlement proposals in its business plan earlier this year. He said the firm is instead causing the residents further suffering by rejecting the offers.

Source: NHK World News

Yoshida Interviews / Asahi insists N-plant staff disobeyed orders

September 01, 2014
 The Asahi Shimbun has reiterated that workers disobeyed orders from Masao Yoshida, the former manager of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, when they evacuated from the plant following the outbreak of the nuclear crisis there.

The Yomiuri Shimbun asked the Asahi why it reported that during the evacuation of Yoshida’s subordinates, “workers...disobeyed Yoshida’s orders,” in a controversial article on May 20 this year.

In response, the company’s public relations department said: “To examine the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 plant and apply its lessons to future safety measures, The Asahi Shimbun did not just repeat the contents of records of interviews in which Yoshida, who was in charge of the plant, answered questions from a government committee tasked with investigating the disaster.

“Instead, we picked sections of a highly public nature and of strong public benefit, and examined them against TEPCO’s internal documents and interviews with related sources.”

The public relations department also said, “During the interviews, Mr. Yoshida said, ‘As a matter of fact, I didn’t tell them to go to 2F [the Fukushima No. 2 plant],’ revealing that he had not ordered his subordinates to evacuate to the other plant. What he did order was for staff to temporarily evacuate from locations that had higher radiation levels and to stand by within Fukushima No. 1 plant buildings, where they could return to the site of the problems soon, as we described in our story.

“Retreating to the No. 2 plant located about 10 kilometers away was the act that disobeyed orders.”
Regarding the criticism that the article has prompted from relevant officials, The Asahi Shimbun said: “We will report on matters that we decide The Asahi Shimbun should report on, in our paper or our digital edition. We refrain from making comments on every opinion regarding our reporting.”

Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

Three Chiba cities will store radioactive waste if state fails to build final disposal site, NHK says

Sep. 01, 2014

Three cities in Chiba Prefecture that were heavily contaminated with radioactive materials as a result of the March 2011 nuclear meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant will build facilities to store incinerated radioactive waste in their own municipalities if the central government fails to find a final waste disposal site, NHK reported Monday.

The Chiba Prefectural Government is now temporarily in charge of “designated waste” — incinerated ash and other kinds of waste that contain more than 8,000 becquerels of radioactive materials per 1 kg — produced by the cities of Kashiwa, Matsudo and Nagareyama in northwestern Chiba. The three cities have produced a total of 526 tons of such waste, according to NHK.

While the central government is supposed to build final disposal facilities for designated nuclear waste, the prefectural government is also asking the three cities to bring the waste back to their own municipalities and dispose of it on their own, if the central government fails to build a disposal facility by next March, the broadcaster reported.

The three cities have agreed to the prefectural government’s request. The city of Kashiwa plans to submit a ¥410 million budget request to the municipal assembly this month in order to build a waste storage plant and transport the waste there, NHK said.

Source: Japan Times

Fukushima gov.: Tainted soil site decision ‘painful’

September 01, 2014
 FUKUSHIMA—The Saturday announcement by Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato that he will allow the construction of an interim storage facility in the prefecture for radioactively contaminated soil and other waste is a significant step toward the start of transporting waste to the facility in January next year.
One factor in Sato’s decision was the harsh reality that more than three years after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Fukushima Prefecture is dotted with large piles of contaminated soil.
Soil has nowhere to go
“It was a truly painful decision.”
So said Sato to reporters on Saturday, after he conveyed his decision to allow the building of the facility to eight municipalities in Futaba County that are near possible construction sites.

Sato appeared relieved to have achieved a measure of progress toward solving his biggest concern, saying, “It’s one big mountain, isn’t it.”
The government’s plan is to build a roughly 16-square-kilometer facility in a zone where residency is prohibited for an extended period that straddles the municipalities of Okuma and Futaba. A maximum of about 25.5 million cubic meters of soil and other waste would be monitored in facilities including a storage facility made of concrete to block radiation.
The Environment Ministry expects the process of reconstruction to visibly speed up once the issue of storing contaminated soil is resolved.
The increase in contaminated soil is intimately linked to the progress of decontamination work. The more work is done, the more the volume of contaminated soil increases. If long-term storage is not available, the only option is to temporarily locate the soil on privately owned land.
There were 724 such temporary storage sites in Fukushima Prefecture as of the end of March. By the end of July, only 70 percent of the needed temporary storage locations had been secured in six municipalities in areas being prepared for residents’ return, where decontamination work continues.
With concrete plans for an interim facility failing to materialize, many residents declined to provide land for temporary storage, fearing that contaminated soil would be left there indefinitely. Some of the contaminated soil with no place to go is in “on-site storage” in the gardens of private homes and elsewhere. There are more than 50,000 such places.
The delay in finding temporary storage locations has caused decontamination work to stagnate as well. At the end of last year, the Environment Ministry pushed back the completion date of decontamination work conducted directly under government supervision from the end of March this year to a maximum of three years later.
Growing frustration
A plan to construct interim storage facilities first emerged in August 2011. Then Prime Minister Naoto Kan visited Sato at the Fukushima prefectural government office, expressing his hope that the facilities would be built in the prefecture. But the central government had only made an official request to local governments to host the facilities in December last year. Progress over the issue remained deadlocked partly due to Futaba Mayor boycotting the negotiations as he was opposed construction of the facilities.
Local residents demanded the central government present regional development measures out of fear the facilities could hinder reconstruction from the nuclear crisis. The government announced a total of ¥301 billion in financial support, stressing that “the subsidy has a lot of flexibility of use.” To deal with strong local concerns about the interim facilities turning into final disposal sites, the central government also pledged to secure through legislation the final disposal of contaminated soil outside Fukushima Prefecture within 30 years from the start of interim facility storage.
Local residents are becoming increasingly frustrated over the slow reconstruction progress, blaming the heads of local governments. Such circumstances are thought to have spurred the local governments into accepting the construction of interim storage facilities.
In Fukushima Prefecture, incumbent mayors in the three major cities of Koriyama, Iwaki and Fukushima lost their elections last year. At the same time, local residents are increasingly looking for leaders to launch the construction of the storage facilities at an early date. The governor’s decision to host the facilities is believed to stem from pressure to take measures to address rising fears among local residents.
Some observers pointed out that the Fukushima gubernatorial election set for Oct. 9 was one of the reasons the local government made the decision.
A prefectural assembly member close to Sato said, “[He] can’t define his attitude to the election unless he has prospects for the biggest task, which is constructing the facilities.” Moreover, the central government is also believed to have requested the prefectural government to conclude construction talks by the end of August due to the possibility of Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara leaving his position in the Cabinet reshuffle scheduled for Wednesday.
“Time runs out if the [environment] minister changes. That makes it impossible to transfer tainted soil to the facility in January next year,” a central government official said. “Both the central government and Governor Sato will face problems if that situation delays reconstruction work.”
Source: Yomiuri Shimbun

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Fukushima nuke plant chief feared catastrophe for eastern Japan

 Aug. 31, 2014
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- The chief of the disaster-struck Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said in testimony before his death that he had feared catastrophic damage to eastern Japan while he was struggling to contain the crisis in March 2011, according to government documents obtained Saturday.
"Our image was a catastrophe for eastern Japan," Masao Yoshida told a government panel that was examining the nuclear meltdowns at the plant about 220 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami on March 11, according to his testimony. "I thought we were really dead."
On the government's interpretation that plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. was seeking a "complete withdrawal" from the plant on March 15, Yoshida denied such a view, expressing anger at the office of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan and TEPCO headquarters, which he thought had failed to understand the dire situation his workers were facing on the ground.
"We did not escape," Yoshida said, according to his roughly 400-page testimony, which is scheduled to be released by the government next month.
The testimony was reflected in the panel's final report compiled in July 2012 along with testimonies from more than 770 others. Yoshida died of esophageal cancer the following July at age 58.
The Asahi Shimbun daily reported in May that 90 percent of plant workers had left the complex despite Yoshida's order to stay put, citing his testimony to the government panel. But Yoshida did not say there had been a violation of his order.
At the height of the crisis on March 14, 2011, when the No. 2 reactor's containment vessel faced the risk of releasing a massive amount of highly radioactive materials due to the loss of cooling functions, Yoshida said he thought he was really dead.
"I really don't want to recall this part," Yoshida said, because he had been imagining the worst -- nuclear fuel melting down and breaking through the reactor pressure vessel and the outer vessel containing it.
"All the radioactive materials would go out and be scattered", he said.
Workers continued efforts to inject water into the No. 2 reactor to cool the molten-hot nuclear fuel in the reactor core and managed to avert the crisis following a drop in air pressure inside the containment vessel that had kept fire engines from injecting water into the reactor.
Yoshida did not want his testimony to be made public on the grounds he could have misidentified some facts due to the fading of and confusion in his memory and that he feared that all he had said in the testimony would be taken as fact.
When the Asahi newspaper first reported the contents of the testimony, the government said it would keep the testimony from the public according to his wishes.
But more recently, the government has decided to disclose the testimony on the grounds his concerns have already become evident as other media began reporting on it, and that continuing to keep the testimony from the public would actually go against his will.
Source: Mainichi

Tepco abandons goal of cleaning up radioactive water with ALPS system

Aug 31, 2014

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has given up its goal of completing radioactive water cleanup at its stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant with its ALPS system within fiscal 2014, informed sources said Sunday.
As of Tuesday, 367,000 tons of high-level radioactive water that had been used to cool the plant’s damaged reactors was being kept in storage tanks, waiting to be treated with the Advanced Liquid Processing System, according to data from Tepco.
When 11,000 tons that accumulated at trenches at the plant’s No. 2 and No. 3 reactors and 43,000 tons expected to become polluted by flowing into reactor buildings are included, the amount of water that needs to be treated by the end of March next year will reach 420,000 tons.
The ALPS system is now expected to treat 380,000 tons between September and March after planned capacity expansion. The company plans to treat the remaining 40,000 tons with a different cleanup system starting in December.
Tepco still insists that the cleanup process will be completed by the end of fiscal 2014. But the different system cannot remove radioactive substances other than strontium sufficiently, making it necessary for the remaining 40,000 tons to be treated again with the ALPS system in fiscal 2015 or later.
Moreover, the amount of groundwater that is expected to flow into reactor buildings could be larger than the currently estimated 43,000 tons.
Source: Japan Times

Fukushima governor gives go-ahead for intermediate storage facility for radioactive debris

The candidate site for an intermediate storage facility for radioactive soil and debris spans the towns of Okuma, foreground, and Futaba, background, in Fukushima Prefecture. Seen in the central background is the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

 August 31, 2014

FUKUSHIMA--Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato said on Aug. 30 that his prefecture will accept the central government’s plan to construct an intermediate storage facility in Okuma and Futaba for radioactive debris from cleanup work due to the nuclear disaster.
He made the announcement after meeting here with mayors of the two towns that are jointly hosting the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“I made a painful decision. I decided to accept the construction,” Sato told reporters after the meeting.
Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe and Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa also said that they will accept the prefectural government’s decision, saying that they took Sato’s acceptance seriously.
The Fukushima governor plans to convey his approval to Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara and Reconstruction Minister Takumi Nemoto on Sept. 1.
The decision is expected to advance the construction plan for the storage facility, which was first advocated by the central government several months after the nuclear plant suffered a major accident following the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
The central government will hold explanatory meetings with landowners of the planned construction site as early as in September. Then, it will start negotiations to acquire their land so that it can transport radioactive soil and debris to the storage facility from January.
When the facility is completed, radioactive soil and debris, which have been temporarily placed in various parts of the prefecture at present, will be transported there. This will allow the decontamination efforts to be accelerated, since local opposition to temporary storage sites has impeded the buildup of the contaminated materials.
However, of the more than 2,000 landowners who will be contacted in regards to the storage facility, some are reluctant to sell or lease their land. Therefore, the focus from now is whether they will accept the government’s offers.
Source: Asahi Shimbun

15 Billion Bq of Tritium flows to the Pacific every single day / Tepco under-reported 1/15 at press conference

August 31, 2014
15 Billion Bq of Tritium flows from Fukushima plant area to the sea every single day. Tepco reported it in the handout submitted to Fukushima fishery cooperative on 8/25/2014.
In the press conference of the same day, Tepco announced it was 1 Billion Bq, which is 1/15 times much as the actual amount.
It is not clear if Tepco tried to under-report it intentionally or not. Tritium cannot be removed by any of the purification systems of Tepco.

Source: Fukushima Diary