Japanese get anti-radiation pills ahead of nuclear restart — Channel NewsAsia

” Japanese officials are handing out radiation-blocking iodine tablets to people living in the shadow of two nuclear reactors slated to restart this year, underscoring concerns about atomic power after the Fukushima crisis.

TOKYO: Japanese officials are handing out radiation-blocking iodine tablets to people living in the shadow of two nuclear reactors slated to restart this year, underscoring concerns about atomic power after the Fukushima crisis. The move to distribute the pills — which help to reduce radiation buildup in the body — started Sunday (July 27) for those living within a five-kilometre radius of the Sendai nuclear plant.

The site, roughly 1,000 kilometres from Tokyo on the southern island of Kyushu, recently cleared new safety standards and could start operations in a few months. It comes despite vocal opposition to the plan, three years after the worst atomic crisis in a generation.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority said earlier this month that two atomic reactors at the Sendai plant were safe enough to switch back on, marking a big step towards restarting nuclear plants which were shuttered after Fukushima.

Officials in Satsumasendai city and the Kagoshima prefecture said they were handing out iodine tablets to about 4,700 people in the area, some as young as three years old. Several dozen people have refused the free pills, which were part of stricter central government guidelines aimed at preparing for another accident. The pills are used to protect the human thyroid gland in the event of airborne radiation, although there is some debate about their effectiveness.

“The affected residents came to five designated locations yesterday to pick up the tablets,” a Kagoshima prefecture official said Monday. “The central government has guidelines for distributing iodine pills and we asked the affected residents to keep them in easy to remember places, such as medicine cabinets,” he added.

Despite the likely restart of the two Sendai reactors in the autumn, switching on dozens more reactors could prove to be a major challenge for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Abe has been trying to persuade a wary public that the world’s third largest economy must return to an energy source which once supplied more than a quarter of its power.

Widespread anti-nuclear sentiment has simmered in Japan ever since a quake-sparked tsunami in March 2011 slammed into the Fukushima power plant and sent reactors into meltdown — the worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl. The area remains a no-go zone and cleaning up the crippled site could take decades. Tens of thousands of area residents may never be able to return to their homes near the plant. ”

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Tepco defies laws of physics claiming water freezes at 5 degrees celsius as workers dump ice into reactor 2 turbine bldg trench — EXSKF

” (UPDATE) According to @jaikoman who follows and tweets on every single TEPCO and NRA press conferences, TEPCO poured ice and dry ice, thinking ice would float, cooling the top layer of water, and dry ice would sink, cooling the bottom layer of water.

Well they need a Plan C. Dry ice pieces they pour were apparently too small, and they all floated. Water remain unfrozen, and TEPCO says they will know by mid August whether the operation will work.

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TEPCO says by dumping ice and dry ice they can lower the temperature of the contaminated water in the trench to about 5 degrees Celsius, then they will be able to form a continuous ice plug.

Here I thought that water freezes at zero degree Celsius. As the whole world is seemingly going crazy afresh this July, maybe TEPCO is correct that water does freeze at 5 degrees Celsius.

From TEPCO’s photos and videos library, 7/24/2014:

On July 24, 2014, TEPCO started the experiment of dumping ice into the Reactor 2 turbine building trench, trying to freeze highly contaminated water which has refused to freeze despite 3 months of freezing effort. Workers dumped only 2 tonnes of ice, or 4 bags with 500 kilograms of ice each. … ”

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Japanese monkeys’ abnormal blood linked to Fukushima disaster – study — The Guardian, etc.

The Guardian: “Primates in Fukushima region found to have low white and red blood cell levels and radioactive caesium”

” Wild monkeys in the Fukushima region of Japan have blood abnormalities linked to the radioactive fall-out from the 2011 nuclear power plant disaster, according to a new scientific study that may help increase the understanding of radiation on human health.

The Japanese macaques (Macaca fuscata) were found to have low white and red blood cell levels and low haemoglobin, which the researchers say could make them more prone to infectious diseases.

But critics of the study say the link between the abnormal blood tests and the radiation exposure of the monkeys remains unproven and that the radiation doses may have been too small to cause the effect.

The scientists compared 61 monkeys living 70km (44 miles) from the the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant with 31 monkeys from the Shimokita Peninsula, over 400km (249 miles) from Fukushima. The Fukushima monkeys had low blood counts and radioactive caesium in their bodies, related to caesium levels in the soils where they lived. No caesium was detected in the Shimokita troop.

Professor Shin-ichi Hayama, at the Nippon Veterinary and Life Science University in Tokyo, told the Guardian that during Japan’s snowy winters the monkeys feed on tree buds and bark, where caesium has been shown to accumulate at high concentrations.

“This first data from non-human primates — the closest taxonomic relatives of humans — should make a notable contribution to future research on the health effects of radiation exposure in humans,” he said. The work, which ruled out disease or malnutrition as a cause of the low blood counts, is published in the peer-reviewed journal Scientific Reports.

White blood cell counts were lowest for immature monkeys with the highest caesium concentrations, suggesting younger monkeys may be more vulnerable to radioactive contamination. Hayama noted: “Abnormalities such as a decreased blood cell count in people living in contaminated areas have been reported from Chernobyl as a long-term effect of low-dose radiation exposure.” But other blood measures did not correlate with caesium levels, which vary with the seasons.

Prof Geraldine Thomas, at Imperial College London, said the Chernobyl studies were not “not regarded as scientifically validated” and that the correlations between the caesium and low blood counts in the Fukushima study were not statistically strong. …”

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Related article: “Fukushima monkeys’ blood shows signs of radiation exposure” — Fox News

Spent nuclear fuel: Reprocess or dispose? — NHK World

” The Japanese government’s basic stance is to reprocess all spent nuclear fuel to extract plutonium and reuse it as fuel at nuclear power plants.

A basic energy plan adopted in April upholds the nuclear fuel recycling policy. But, for the first time, the plan also called for studies on ways to directly dispose of spent fuel without reprocessing it.

Behind this move lies a series of challenges the government faces in recycling nuclear fuel. A reprocessing plant in Rokkasho Village in the northern prefecture of Aomori has suffered numerous troubles, and has been unable to start full operation more than 20 years since construction began.

The fast-breeder reactor Monju in Fukui Prefecture in central Japan is designed to use recycled plutonium.

But the facility too has been plagued by troubles, including a fire and failed inspections, and its future is uncertain.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency plans to continue geological and geographical analyses for the direct disposal of spent fuel. It’s due to finalize a report in 2018.

However, this option also has its own challenges. Spent nuclear fuel is highly radioactive, and compared to reprocessing, direct disposal would mean more than a 4-fold increase in nuclear waste volume.

Above all, the government lacks any prospect of finding a place that would accept a nuclear dumpsite. ”

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Tepco: Groundwater bypass showing limited effects — NHK World

” Work to pump up groundwater to keep it from flowing into the contaminated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is apparently having limited effects.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, reported the results of the operation so far at a meeting of experts at the industry ministry on Friday.

TEPCO began the so-called groundwater bypass operation in May. It involves draining water from wells and releasing it into the sea to keep it from flowing into reactor buildings and becoming contaminated.

The utility had said the operation would reduce the amount of highly radioactive water created this way by up to 100 tons per day, down from roughly 400.

But TEPCO officials told the meeting that in the past 2 months, water levels at 3 wells located 70 to 150 meters from the reactor buildings dropped by only around 10 centimeters at most.

Experts voiced concerns about the limited effects of the operation. Others pressed TEPCO to come up with concrete data, saying that fishermen in Fukushima accepted the plan because they expected results.

The utility says rain is partly to blame for the limited effects of the operation. It says it plans to cover soil near the wells with asphalt by the end of next March, to keep rain from seeping into the ground. ”

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Running backwards on health support after the nuclear accident: Ministry of Environment expert meeting — July 22 Tokyo Shimbun via Fukushima Voice version 2e

Here is the English translation for the Tokyo Shimbun article. The original Japanese version is available on the “Fukushima Voice version 2e” blog.

” The Ministry of the Environment (MOE) Expert Meeting Discussing Health Support After the Fukushima Nuclear Accident is taking an unthinkable twist. At the July 16th meeting, an outside researcher asked for the expansion of health checkups, but the committee chair looked the other way, stating “I don’t want to discuss the issue.” The expansion of health checkup is part of the Act Concerning Support for Children and Disaster Victims, but the committee chair himself voiced an opinion, “We now have different circumstances from when the Act was first approved.” There is no way disaster victims can accept such attitudes. (by T. Sakakibara)

Hesitant on the expansion of health checkups

“Radioactive materials [being disseminated due to the Fukushima nuclear accident] are not thought to remain within borders of Fukushima Prefecture. We need to urgently figure out if there are any cases in non-Fukushima residents. We should not be fixated only on dose assessments.” It was the Ministry of the Environment Expert Meeting held on July 16th. An invited guest speaker Toshihide Tsuda, an epidemiologist and an Okayama University professor, challenged the current state of the meeting spending time on discussing what the exposure dose was for residents within and out of Fukushima Prefecture. However, Shigenobu Nagataki, the committee chair and a former chairman of Radiation Effects Research Foundation, pushed aside what Professor Tsuda pointed out, stating, “You are extremely unique.” Fukushima Prefecture began the Prefectural Resident Health Survey immediately after the accident, including thyroid examination for those who were under age 18 at the time of the accident. However, the central government currently pays for health examination only for Fukushima residents. Therefore, the Expert Meeting is presently discussing whether other areas might need health checkups. Chairman Nagataki has set a policy to: 1) Assess the exposure dose for residents within and out of Fukushima Prefecture; 2) Analyze health effects based on the dose; and 3) Consider which health support might be necessary. At the last meeting (the seventh session) on June 26th, the rough outline of dose assessment was finally put together. The outline, based on the dose estimates by an Independent Administrative Institution, National Institute of Radiological Sciences, as well as the behavior questionnaire of residents by Fukushima Prefecture, stated that the internal exposure dose from radioactive iodine that can cause thyroid cancer was “mostly under 50 mSv.” In regards to the external exposure dose, it noted that “The survey finding, ’99.8% was under 5 mSv in Fukushima Prefecture,’ could be reasonably applied to see the overall tendency.” However, there are large uncertainties in this assessment result. Only about 1,000 had direct measurements of exposure from radioactive iodine taken, which is 0.3% of residents eligible for thyroid examination by Fukushima Prefecture. Radioactive iodine has a short half-life of 8 days and cannot be measured now. Behavior questionnaires for external dose assessment had a low response rate of only 25.9%. During the meeting, Professor Tsuda claimed, “When considering a causal relationship between an illness and a cause, data for the cause often tends to be scant. It is a principle of international epidemiological analysis to see it from the side of the illness. Considering the cause first is merely a laboratory method.” In addition, he continued, “Fixating on dose assessments will delay countermeasures, worsening the damage.” He emphasized that health checkups should be immediately carried out within and out of Fukushima Prefecture, in order to identify cases of thyroid cancer and other illnesses and to analyze whether the number of cases increased after the accident or whether there are regional differences. Despite inviting Professor Tsuda to the meeting, Chairman Nagataki practically ignored his opinion. To this response [by Nagataki calling him unique], Professor Tsuda retorted, “My opinions are based on a textbook published by Oxford University Press. Chairman, you are the one that is unique.” However, Chairman Nagataki unilaterally cut off the conversation, stating, “I have no intention of arguing with you. We are going to carry on discussion based on exposure dose.”

Not meeting the expectations by residents

Passive assessments of radiation health effects by the Japanese government predate this meeting. The Cabinet Office expert meeting, “Working Group (WG) on Risk Management of Low-dose Radiation Exposure,” put together a report in December 2011, concluding, “…increased risk of cancer from low-dose radiation exposures at 100 mSv or less is so small as to be concealed by carcinogenic effects from other factors, making verification of any clear cancer risk from radiation exceedingly challenging.” http://www.cas.go.jp/jp/genpatsujiko/info/twg/Working_Group_Report.pdf The Cabinet Office WG was also headed by Nagataki. It also included other members of the MOE expert meeting, such as Ostura Niwa, a special professor at Fukushima Medical University, and Keigo Endo, president of Kyoto College of Medical Science. The expert meeting, at this point of time, is leaning in the direction of “Radiation health effects cannot be proven,” and “As the effects cannot be proven, even health checkups within Fukushima Prefecture are unnecessary,” since the exposure dose within and out of Fukushima Prefecture is expected to be significantly lower than 100 mSv. In fact, the expert meeting already has some opinions hesitant on expanding health checkups. The Act Concerning Support for Children and Disaster Victims, approved in June 2012, asks for expansion of health checkups as well as reduction of medical expenses, but Chairman Nagataki cast doubt on the need for it at the seventh session, stating “Circumstances are quite different now compared to the time when the act was approved,” and, “As the dose assessment has progressed, we can now make scientific statements in regards to the risk.” Likewise, during the same session, a member of the expert meeting and a professor at Osaka University, Tomotaka Sobue, explained disadvantages of health checkups using the term, “overdiagnosis.” This means that since a slow-growing cancer, such as thyroid cancer, has a possibility of never becoming symptomatic in lifetime and causing damages to the body, discovery of cancer during health checkups could cause excessive anxiety and a psychological and physical burden due to surgery. Another member and the clinic director at International University of Health and Welfare, Gen Suzuki, claimed “An adequate debate needs to be carried out as to whether the best answer is to conduct health checkups as a response to anxiety by residents regarding their health.” However, requests for expansion of health checkups are swelling from the side of the parties involved, the residents. On July 13th, there was an event in Metropolitan Tokyo for mothers from within and out of Fukushima Prefecture to talk about life after the nuclear accident. One of the participants, Kaoru Inagaki (age 42), a member of citizen’s group, Kanto Children Health Survey Support Fund, which conducts thyroid examination in four prefectures including Tochigi, Ibaraki, Chiba and Saitama, said, “When we announce openings for the examination, they are immediately taken up.” Another participant, Kumi Kanome (age 46), a mother who evacuated with a second-grade daughter to Kanagawa Prefecture from Otama Village, Fukushima Prefecture, appealed, “The nuclear accident increased our worries about children’s illnesses. It is natural for us to want to have them checked out. Regardless of whether living in or outside Fukushima Prefecture, any mother would feel that way.” Emiko Ito (age 51), director of the event organizer, non-profit organization “National Parents Network to Protect Children from Radiation,” said, “The expert meeting is ignoring the Act Concerning Support for Children and Disaster Victims. That won’t be conducive to resolving residents’ anxiety. It only leads to mistrust.” Some of the members of the expert meeting have different views. One of them, Hiromi Ishikawa, Executive Director of Japan Medical Association, criticizes, “The present expert meeting does not reflect opinions of the residents. I don’t know why anybody would just one-sidedly tell worried people, ‘It’s okay.’” From a stand point of “nobody knows the effect of low-dose radiation exposure,” he says, “We need to quickly consider whether there are any illnesses due to radiation and how to deal with them if there are any. Worries can be only resolved when we are prepared that way.” “Advantages and disadvantages of health checkups are not something that can be uniformly decided by those who are called experts. We need to establish the system for health checkups and let the residents, who are the parties involved, decide.” Memo from the editing desk: Mr. Nagataki is running the expert meeting. This fact alone makes it clear how the government has summed up the Fukushima nuclear accident. The predecessor of Radiation Effects Research Foundation was the United States Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission (ABCC), which “investigated the effects of atomic bombs without treatment.” A network originating there was involved in developing the “Myth of Infallible Safety.” Now they are working hard to spread the “Myth of Reassurance.” “