MAC: Mines and Communities

Japanese government to dump Fukushima radioactive water into the ocean?

Published by MAC on 2020-10-21
Source: Mainichi.jp, NYT, Global Times (2020-10-20)

Local fishermen in Fukushima publicly stated their opposition.

The world public, especially those in Japan's neighbors such as China and South Korea, have expressed deep concerns over environmental pollution and human health, and opposition to the Japanese government's intentions to dump radioactive water from the disabled Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean. Local fishermen publicly announced their opposition, saying the plan will undo years of work rebuilding their industry's reputation since the plant was wrecked by a tsunami in March 2011. A South Korean Foreign Ministry official told reporters that his government will continue to closely monitor Tokyo's activities and seek measures based on international cooperation.

[By the end of the first article, Japan's long-established image of being friendly to the marine environment? Not with one of its most exceptional creatures: Japan resumes commercial whaling after 30 years, 1 July 2019, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-48821797]

Under a ruling by the Sendai High Court emitted last month, the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, must compensate 3,550 plaintiffs that had sought monthly compensation payments of about $475 per person until radiation at their homes returns to pre-crisis levels.

See also:

2011-03-14 Uranium Meltdown in Japan

 

World worries about release of Fukushima nuclear water

Neighboring countries oppose 'irresponsible' plan.

Xu Keyue

Global Times  https://www.globaltimes.cn/content/1203852.shtml

2020/10/18

The world public, especially those in Japan's neighbors such as China and South Korea, have expressed deep concerns over environmental pollution and human health, and opposition to the Japanese government's plan to dump radioactive water from the disabled Fukushima nuclear plant into the ocean.

Analysts said that Japan should think twice before making the decision as the move would have disastrous consequences for the marine environment and human health, which could lead to criticism by related international organizations, countermeasures by affected countries including cessation of imports of Japanese seafood, and harm to the country's image.

Japanese media said that the country's government will hold a related cabinet meeting as early as this month to make the final decision on the plan to release more than 1 million tons of radioactive water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the Pacific Ocean after reducing the level of radioactivity.

The plan has not gotten much rolling coverage in Japan, but there are still many Japanese netizens expressing their disagreement. According to a poll on Yahoo Japan, 41.5 percent of the 31,035 respondents disagreed with the plan.

Local fishermen in Fukushima publicly announced their opposition, saying the plan will undo years of work rebuilding their industry's reputation since the plant was wrecked by a huge tsunami in March 2011.

The public of South Korea has repeatedly voiced concern, claiming that discharging the water represents a "grave threat" to the marine environment.

A South Korean Foreign Ministry official told reporters that a meeting of related ministries regarding this issue was elevated to vice-ministerial status last month to step up the response to Japan's move, reported South Korea's KBS News on Friday. The official said the government will continue to closely monitor Tokyo's activities and take measures based on cooperation with the international community.

Japan's plan also sparked outrage among Chinese netizens, many of whom criticized Japan's practice, saying it is throwing its responsibility onto the world to share.

Sun Yuliang, a nuclear expert at Tsinghua University in Beijing, told the Global Times on Sunday that whether to dump the waste water should depend on an authoritative scientific assessment to determine whether the processed radioactive water meets international standards for release.

Sun called on the Japanese government to invite professional teams from related international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency to conduct a complete field investigation.

Liu Junhong, a research fellow at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, urged Japan to further communicate with the international community and share information transparently.

Liu said that the Japanese government should give priority to safeguarding public health and safety and the environment, rather than the cost of the rehabilitation work after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Liu noted that the seas in Asia are mostly connected and many of them are semi-closed, so that the contaminants from the Fukushima water could subside and then rise, which would severely affect the local marine and coastal environment and the health of people nearby.

Therefore, Japan's neighboring countries including China and South Korea would be the first to react to the plan, Liu said.

He noted that if the Japanese government releases the water, these  countries are likely to stop imports of seafood from Japan, and foreigners could be reluctant to visit the country and enjoy its food, which would harm Japan's economy.

Other analysts noted that the plan goes against Japan's long-established image of being friendly to the marine environment.

Another expert on nuclear safety, who requested anonymity, said that the issues is not only one of Japan's own business but also relates to the interests of the global community, so countries and related organizations in the international community should cooperate and assist Japan to deal with the contamination.

The Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima went into meltdown and released radioactive material in the aftermath of a tsunami in March 2011.

The disaster cast doubts over the safety of nuclear power worldwide, leading China to launch a campaign to review and upgrade the safety systems of all its nuclear power stations.


Japan's fishing industry firmly opposes release of tainted Fukushima water at sea

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20201009/p2a/00m/0na/039000c

October 9, 2020

TOKYO -- Japanese fishing industry representatives on Oct. 8 expressed their resolute opposition to the planned release of radioactively contaminated water that has built up following the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station into the sea, saying it would create damaging rumors and could negatively affect the industry into the future.

The comments came in a government hearing with Japan's national federation of fisheries cooperatives, JF Zengyoren, and other representatives over the handling of the contaminated water and whether to dump it into the sea.

"Damaging rumors would inevitably occur, and the consensus of those in the fishing industry is that we are absolutely opposed to releasing it at sea," JF Zengyoren Chairman Hiroshi Kishi stated at the meeting.

The hearing is expected to be the last scheduled gathering in a series of meetings that have been held since April. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga has stated that he wants to decide on a policy for dealing with the contaminated water as soon as possible, and the government is set to reach a decision based on opinions heard to date.

At the meeting, Kishi warned that if the contaminated water from the nuclear plant were released into the sea "all the efforts of fishing industry workers to date would come to nothing." He added, "It would be a setback and letdown for those in the fishing industry and could have a devastating impact into the future." He said that he had heard from the government about measures to prevent damaging rumors, but stated, "Not releasing it (contaminated water) into the sea is simply the best approach."

A seafood processing federation from Fukushima Prefecture was among the bodies represented at the meeting. Federation head Toshihito Ono commented, "I've worked on the front lines with regard to damage from rumors following the nuclear plant accident for nine years. Even when the fish are caught outside the prefecture, if the processing firm is in Fukushima then they'll be stigmatized."

After the meeting, State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kiyoshi Ejima commented, "We've heard opinions from 43 people to date. We'd like to sort them out as soon as possible and reach a conclusion with governmental responsibility."

The Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations and the national consumers federation Shodanren earlier expressed opposition to the release of contaminated water from the Fukushima plant at sea. The association of inns and hotels of Fukushima Prefecture, meanwhile, has expressed understanding of the move, as has the Central Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government has taken the position that the issue should be given careful consideration, while the head of the Fukushima Federation of Societies of Commerce and Industry said the water should be dealt with quickly and rumors dispelled, and that the central government should process the water responsibly.

(Japanese original by Suzuko Araki, Science & Environment News Department)


Japanese Government Is Ordered to Pay Damages Over Fukushima Disaster

The Sendai High Court said the state and the plant’s operator must pay $9.5 million to survivors of the 2011 nuclear accident. They have until mid-October to appeal to the country’s Supreme Court.

Makiko Inoue and Mike Ives

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/09/30/world/asia/japan-fukushima-tokyo-electric.html

Sept. 30, 2020

TOKYO — A high court in Japan on Wednesday became the first at that level to hold the government responsible for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, saying in a ruling that the state and the plant’s operator must pay about $9.5 million in damages to survivors.

The overpowering earthquake and tsunami that ripped through northern Japan in March 2011 caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, leading to the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Under Wednesday’s ruling by the Sendai High Court, the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, must compensate 3,550 plaintiffs, the Kyodo news agency reported. The plaintiffs had sought monthly compensation payments of about $475 per person until radiation at their homes returns to pre-crisis levels.

In 2017, a lower court had ordered the government and Tepco to pay about half that amount to about 2,900 plaintiffs. But the ruling by Sendai’s high court, one of eight such courts in Japan, is significant because it could set a legal precedent for dozens of similar lawsuits that have  been filed across the country.

The government has long argued that it could not have prevented the tsunami or the nuclear accident, while Tepco says it has already paid any compensation that was ordered by the government. Last year, a Japanese court acquitted three former Tepco executives who had been accused of criminal negligence over their roles in the accident.

Hiroshi Kikuchi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, called Wednesday’s decision “groundbreaking.”

“The court carefully collected facts for this judgment,” Mr. Kikuchi said at a news conference. “We feel now it will largely impact on other actions nationwide.”

Izutaro Managi, another lawyer on the team, said in a brief interview that if the government and Tokyo Electric Power appeal the decision, he expects it to go to the country’s Supreme Court. The deadline for filing that appeal is Oct. 14.

Tepco said in a statement on Wednesday that it would examine the judgment before responding to it.

“We again apologize from our heart for giving troubles and concerns to people in Fukushima as well as in the society largely caused by our nuclear power plant’s accident,” the statement said.

Toyoshi Fuketa, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, an agency that was created after the Fukushima accident, said on Wednesday that he would not comment until the details of the judgment were released.

“The Nuclear Regulation Authority was set up based on reflection over, and anger against, the nuclear accident in Fukushima,” Mr. Fuketa added. “I would like to advance strict rules on nuclear power so that a nuclear accident will never happen again.”

Takashi Nakajima, one of the plaintiffs in the case, told reporters that the ruling was a reminder that the consequences of the Fukushima disaster were still real, even if many people in Japan were starting to forget about it.

“Some people say that I’m damaging Fukushima’s reputation,” Mr. Nakajima said. “But now I think we are encouraged by the court to say what we think.”

Another plaintiff, Kazuya Tarukawa, said in a tearful statement that he had been tilling contaminated soil in the area for nearly a decade, and waiting for the government and the plant’s operator to take responsibility.

He said the money was beside the point, and that the ruling raised a larger question about the long-term risks of nuclear energy.

“What will come of Japan if there is another nuclear disaster like that?” he asked.



9 1/2 years after meltdowns, no end in sight for Fukushima nuke plant decommissioning

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200921/p2a/00m/0na/018000c

September 22, 2020

It has been some 9 1/2 years since the triple-meltdown disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in northeast Japan, and in early September I visited the plant to get a close-up look at the reactor buildings and find out how much progress is being made in dismantling them.

The trip began aboard a microbus, which stopped on an inland promontory running north to south at an elevation of 33.5 meters above sea level. Getting off the bus, I looked east, over the Pacific Ocean. And then I saw them, just 100 meters away or so: the buildings containing the plant's No. 1 to 4 reactors.

When a tsunami triggered by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake slammed into the coastal facility, reactors 1 to 3 were online, while No. 4 was shut down for a regular inspection. There were core meltdowns in all three of the active reactors, with the fuel mixing with material from the surrounding structure as it melted and turned into "fuel debris." Later, the No. 4 reactor building, connected to the No. 3 building by plumbing, was blown apart by a hydrogen explosion.

To complicate matters further, the reactor buildings had fuel storage pools each containing between 392 and 1,534 nuclear fuel rods. However, the plant workers managed to keep the rods cool, averting a major secondary disaster.

On my visit, the No. 3 reactor building is encased in what looks like a Baumkuchen layer cake stood upright. Inside, operations are underway to remove the fuel rods from the 12-meter-deep storage pool.

"There's a newly installed crane in there to take the fuel out," said our guide Masayuki Ueda, who is a manager at the Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning unit of the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO).

The hydrogen explosion choked the pool and surrounding area with debris, including fragments of the roof and bits of nearby machinery. Even after the clearing of this debris, equipment and other problems delayed the fuel removal operation by more than four years. The process finally got underway in April 2019. The special crane lifts the some 300-kilogram rods out of the pool one at a time, and they are then taken to a pool in a separate building. Of the 566 rods, 366 had been removed as of Sept. 11, 2020. Due to the high radiation in the building itself, the crane is operated remotely from a control facility about 500 meters away.

The hardest part of the task is yet to come; the handles on 16 of the rods were warped by falling debris, and can't be extracted by the crane as they are. TEPCO is apparently working on a "grabbing tool" for the crane to lift out the damaged rods, among other methods, in hopes to finish the removal project by March 2021.

We get back on the microbus and head down the hill to a spot where we can look up at the No. 4 reactor building. Here, too, we can see the machinery for the so-called underground ice wall surrounding the No. 1-4 reactors.

Groundwater from the mountains flows relentlessly beneath the power station. The walls in the basement levels of the reactor buildings were cracked in the March 2011 quake, letting in the groundwater and rainwater that has come into contact with the nuclear fuel debris, contaminating it. The "ice wall," which TEPCO began making in May 2013, is TEPCO's attempt to control the problem.

The wall is made up of some 1,500 pipes sunk 30 meters into the ground, creating a subterranean perimeter about 1.5 kilometers long around the reactor buildings. Liquid cooled to minus 30 degrees Celsius is then run through the pipes, freezing the soil around them. The Japanese treasury spent about 34.5 billion yen (about $330.7 million) to make the wall, and the electricity and other maintenance to keep it going costs hundreds of millions of yen per year. These latter outlays are passed on to consumers in their power bills.

Previously, the stricken plant produced up to 600 metric tons of contaminated water per day. However, thanks to pumping up groundwater on the landward side of the plant and other measures, that was down to 160 tons per day in April through July this year. Under the plant decommissioning plan, TEPCO and the Japanese government intend to reduce that to 150 tons per day by the end of 2020, and 100 tons by 2025. TEPCO has said that, with work on new roofs over the reactor buildings proceeding, it believes it can meet the 150 ton target this year.

Meanwhile, with radiation levels around the reactor buildings gradually declining, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) believes it is the moment to consider going into the basement levels to patch the cracks in the walls. NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa has said that "it's about time to start discussing when to halt" the ice wall operation.

There are experts who doubt the efficacy of the ice wall. In 2018, TEPCO estimated the wall alone was preventing 95 tons of contaminated water from being generated per day. However, Hideyuki Ban, co-director of the nonprofit organization Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, told the Mainichi Shimbun, "There needs to be an inquiry into whether the ice wall was ever really necessary."

Parts of the Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning plan have been delayed repeatedly since its release in December 2011. At that time, the plan stated it would take 30-40 years to complete the project. However, after seeing the power station up close, I find it hard to imagine this.

(Japanese original by Suzuko Araki, Science and Environment News Department)



S.Korea concerned about Fukushima waste water

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200923_03/


Sept. 22, 2020

South Korea has again expressed its concerns about Japan's plan to release into the sea radioactive wastewater building up at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The first vice minister of South Korea's science ministry Jeong Byungseon was speaking at a general meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Tuesday.

He said "releasing contaminated water into the ocean is not an issue of Japan itself, but one that could have a wider impact on the global marine environment, as well as the neighboring countries."

He said Japan has "an overarching obligation to make transparent, concrete communication within the global society," including South Korea, before making any disposal decision.

He asked the IAEA to play a proactive role in the issue.

At last year's IAEA general meeting, South Korea raised questions about the issue and criticized Japan.

On Monday, Japan's Science and Technology Policy Minister Inoue Shinji told the meeting that Japan is studying ways to dispose of the water, taking into consideration advice from the IAEA. He stressed Japan will provide careful and transparent explanations to the global community.

In February, a Japanese government expert panel came up with a report saying that diluting the wastewater below environmental and other standards, and discharging it into the sea, as well as vaporizing and releasing it into the air are realistic options.

The government plans to make a decision after hearing opinions from local residents and groups.

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