Checking radiation levels in the Fukushima area — BBC News

Watch a short clip from BBC that explains the crowd-sourced radiation monitoring efforts in Fukushima prefecture.

Visit the Safecast website to learn more.

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Fukushima nuclear wasteland revealed as residents slowly dare to return to devastated ghost towns — The Sun

” Eight years after fleeing their homes after a tsunami caused Fukushima’s nuclear power plant to go into meltdown, just a tiny trickle have braved returning to the evacuation zone.

Local officials paint a rosy picture, but few of the 100,000 evacuees have reclaimed their homes, offices, schools and streets from weaving weeds and roaming wild boars.

Three reactors went into meltdown after the 2011 Japanese tsunami sparked the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe.

Radiation leaks left an apocalyptic vision of ghost towns and overgrown wildernesses, and scared residents refusing to go home.

Nevertheless, the Japanese government is keen for evacuees to return as soon, as it claims, is safe to do so.

In fact, it is so desperate to recover quickly from the disaster it has ploughed at least £21billion into the epic clean up.

A huge army of more than 70,000 workers have scooped away topsoil, removed tree branches and dug up grass in areas near homes, schools and public buildings in a bid to decontaminate.

Millions upon millions of cubic metres of radioactive soil has been poured into bags. They are then removed and safely stored.

All the while in a town nearby a Saga arcade slowly fades, with dust blanketing everything, while elsewhere vegetation creeps and crawls into nooks and crannies, floors and doors.

Some places on the other hand look eerily unaffected, frozen in time.

There are streets and offices perfectly preserved — as if one day humanity suddenly vanished.

Progress IS being made in the clean-up, however.

This month radiation levels in parts of the town Okuma, west of the crippled nuclear plant, have been deemed safe for its residents to return home.

The Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, visited to mark the milestone.

Yet according to local reports just 367 residents of Okuma’s original population of 10,341 have so far said they are going to return home.

Parts of the town remains off-limits until about 2022.

Despite all this the mayor of Okuma was upbeat when speaking to Japanese reporters.

He said: “It has taken many years to get to where we are now, but I am happy that we made it.”

CAMPAIGN TO CONVINCE EVACUEES TO RETURN

This comes amid a big push to persuade people to go home and pick up where they left off.

But many residents have voted with their feet — that is to say they’ve stayed away.

They and campaigners, along nuclear experts across the globe, believe it is just not safe.

Japanese authorities are accused of wanting to allay public fears over nuclear power by downplaying the dire consequences of the leak.

Some critics have also accused the Japanese government of talking up residents’ return as part of a public relations exercise ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

But despite the bad publicity a nuclear disaster on this scale has obviously brought, officials say new figures show the largest year-on-year growth in foreign visitors to Fukushima.

The Japanese Times is now reporting tourism was up roughly 2.4 times from the same month the previous year.

This comes after the number foreign lodgers in the region reached 120,250 last year which breached 100,000 line since the nuclear crisis.

A Fukushima prefecture spokesman said: “We hope to utilize every possible means to promote the prefecture’s attractiveness as a tourist destination to bring in more visitors.”

by Patrick Knox, The Sun

source with some good photos

Eight years on, water woes threaten Fukushima cleanup — Reuters

” OKUMA, Japan (Reuters) – Eight years after the Fukushima nuclear crisis, a fresh obstacle threatens to undermine the massive clean-up: 1 million tons of contaminated water must be stored, possibly for years, at the power plant.

Last year, Tokyo Electric Power Co said a system meant to purify contaminated water had failed to remove dangerous radioactive contaminants.

That means most of that water – stored in 1,000 tanks around the plant – will need to be reprocessed before it is released into the ocean, the most likely scenario for disposal.

Reprocessing could take nearly two years and divert personnel and energy from dismantling the tsunami-wrecked reactors, a project that will take up to 40 years.

It is unclear how much that would delay decommissioning. But any delay could be pricey; the government estimated in 2016 that the total cost of plant dismantling, decontamination of affected areas, and compensation, would amount to 21.5 trillion yen ($192.5 billion), roughly 20 percent of the country’s annual budget.

Tepco is already running out of space to store treated water. And should another big quake strike, experts say tanks could crack, unleashing tainted liquid and washing highly radioactive debris into the ocean.

Fishermen struggling to win back the confidence of consumers are vehemently opposed to releasing reprocessed water – deemed largely harmless by Japan’s nuclear watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) – into the ocean.

“That would destroy what we’ve been building over the past eight years,” said Tetsu Nozaki, head of the Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations. Last year’s catch was just 15 percent of pre-crisis levels, partly because of consumer reluctance to eat fish caught off Fukushima.

SLOW PROGRESS

On a visit to the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi plant last month, huge cranes hovered over the four reactor buildings that hug the coast. Workers could be seen atop the No. 3 building getting equipment ready to lift spent fuel rods out of a storage pool, a process that could start next month.

In most areas around the plant, workers no longer need to wear face masks and full body suits to protect against radiation. Only the reactor buildings or other restricted areas require special equipment.

Fanning out across the plant’s property are enough tanks to fill 400 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Machines called Advanced Liquid Processing Systems, or ALPS, had treated the water inside them.

Tepco said the equipment could remove all radionuclides except tritium, a relatively harmless hydrogen isotope that is hard to separate from water. Tritium-laced water is released into the environment at nuclear sites around the world.

But after newspaper reports last year questioned the effectiveness of ALPS-processed water, Tepco acknowledged that strontium-90 and other radioactive elements remained in many of the tanks.

Tepco said the problems occurred because absorbent materials in the equipment had not been changed frequently enough.

The utility has promised to re-purify the water if the government decides that releasing it into the ocean is the best solution. It is the cheapest of five options a government task force considered in 2016; others included evaporation and burial.

Tepco and the government are now waiting for another panel of experts to issue recommendations. The head of the panel declined an interview request. No deadline has been set.

NRA chief Toyoshi Fuketa believes ocean release after dilution is the only feasible way to handle the water problem. He has warned that postponing the decision indefinitely could derail the decommissioning project.

STORING INDEFINITELY

Another option is to store the water for decades in enormous tanks normally used for crude oil. The tanks have been tested for durability, said Yasuro Kawai, a plant engineer and a member of Citizens’ Commission on Nuclear Energy, a group advocating abandoning nuclear energy.

Each tank holds 100,000 tons, so 10 such tanks could store the roughly 1 million tons of water processed by ALPS so far, he said.

The commission proposes holding the tritium-laced water, which has a half life of 12.3 years, in tanks for 123 years. After that, it will be one thousandth as radioactive as it was when it went into storage.

Although experts caution that tanks would be vulnerable to major quakes, Japan’s trade and industry minister, Hiroshige Seko, said the committee would consider them anyway.

“Long-term storage … has an upside as radiation levels come down while it is in storage. But there is a risk of leakage,” Seko told Reuters. “It is difficult to hold the water indefinitely, so the panel will also look into how it should be disposed of eventually.”

Space is also a problem, said Akira Ono, Tepco’s chief decommissioning officer. By 2020, the utility will expand tank storage capacity by 10 percent to 1.37 million tons, and about 95 percent of total capacity will probably be used by the end of that year, he said.

“Tanks are now being built on flat, elevated spots in stable locations,” Ono said. But such ideal space is getting scarce, he added.

Many local residents hope Tepco will just keep storing the water. If it does get released into the ocean, “everyone would sink into depression,” said fishing trawler captain Koichi Matsumoto.

Fukushima was once popular with surfers. But young people in the area do not go surfing any more because they’ve been repeatedly warned about suspected radioactivity in the water, said surf shop owner Yuichiro Kobayashi.

Releasing treated water from the plant “could end up chasing the next generation of children away from the sea as well,” he said.

Ono says dealing with contaminated water is one of many complex issues involved in decommissioning.

A year ago, when he took over leading the effort, it felt like the project had just “entered the trailhead,” he said. “Now, it feels like we’re really starting to climb.” ”

Reporting by Kiyoshi Takenaka; Editing by Malcolm Foster and Gerry Doyle, Reuters

source

Accusations of scientific misconduct concern city in Japan — Beyond Nuclear

” Eight years after the Fukushima nuclear reactors exploded on Japan’s Northern coast, spewing radioactive particles into the air, across the land, and into the Pacific Ocean, the country continues to struggle with decontamination and relocation efforts. Determining the health impacts resulting from the nuclear disaster has been particularly fraught. For Date City, about 60 km from the ruined Fukushima reactors, and still blanketed by radioactive contamination from the ongoing catastrophe, the struggle for protection of health continues amid accusations of scientific misconduct and betrayal.

After the nuclear catastrophe began, Date City residents received glass badges that measured radioactivity. About four and a half years of measurements collected from these glass badges were used by Ryugo Hayano, Professor emeritus from the University of Tokyo and Makoto Miyazaki from Fukushima Medical University (FMU) to initially publish two studies in the Journal of Radiological Protection (JRP). Radiation policy makers in Japan often reference the second of these two studies, indicating they trust the data and conclusions it offers. However, earlier this year, Shin-ichi Kurokawa (Professor Emeritus of The High Energy Accelerator Research Organization) and Akemi Shima (resident of Date City) contended that this research and the studies using it, are compromised by serious ethical violations and scientific misconduct.

Date City officials requested the studies subsequent to their adoption of a 5 mSv annual radiation exposure limit, which represents a huge increase of radiation exposure to residents. Date City has also limited decontamination efforts in certain areas, and the former mayor Shoji Nishida, requested that the International Atomic Energy Agency proclaim 5 mSv per year safe, instead of the current 1mSv. More detailed information is coming to light as a new mayor of Date City has been elected.

Kurokawa first raised concerns about the second study in a peer-reviewed August 2018 letter sent to JRP. The JRP, a U.K. journal, has yet to publish Kurokawa’s critique, so he published it on a Cornell University website in December 2018. Kurokawa also published a timeline and further critique of Hayano’s response to the letter in Harbor Business Online in February 2019, original article in Japanese. This research has also been reported on Retraction Watch, a website that tracks published troubled papers, although there are more serious concerns than those RW highlights.

Hayano has admitted (English translation here) to a miscalculation that underestimated doses to Date City residents by three times. Hayano also admits to destruction of the data on which the studies were based, claiming this “deletion” was in accordance with research protocol of the study. But Kurokawa disputes that, pointing out that data destruction is a violation of Japan’s ethical guidelines on handling human data – guidelines that instruct researchers to keep the data as long as possible. This destruction of data, and failure to publish a promised third study, appear to conceal evidence that found very high internal doses of radioactivity in some residents of Date City.

The Date City glass badge experiment

The research used glass badge data from approximately 59,000 Date City residents. These badges, paid for and distributed by Date City, supposedly measured the external radioactivity that each individual was exposed to beginning about August 2011, approximately 5 months after the nuclear catastrophe began, until the summer of 2015. The mayor’s office of Date City provided both the glass badge data and data on internal exposures for individual residents.

According to research protocols agreed to with FMU, Miyazaki and Hayano planned to publish three studies based on these data. The first, comparing individual external doses to survey results of airborne radiation from the Government of Japan, was published in 2016. The second, a prediction of lifetime dose and an evaluation of the effect of decontamination on doses to individuals, was published in 2017. The third study, examining the relationship between external doses and internal doses, will not be published. Instead it has been replaced by a study on a different topic.

Where things went wrong

Bad glass badge data

Perhaps the experiment was doomed from the start as the Miyazaki-Hayano studies admit some residents of Date City may not have worn the glass badges on their bodies or actually lived at the address registered for the badge. Such improper badge use would immediately compromise any conclusions reached concerning individual doses, but the researchers used the data anyway.

Mishandling and destruction of data

In addition to questionable glass badge measurements, Kurokawa contends the Miyazaki-Hayano research suffers from mishandling and destruction of data that violates ethical guidelines:

  • Residents (research subjects) of Date City were not informed of the content of the research prior to the research commencing, and were not given opportunity to refuse use of their data. Miyazaki, being a municipal advisor on radiation to Date City as well as a study author, should have known how to handle this properly, yet he did not.
  • Miyazaki and Hayano failed to note that some residents had not consented to use of their data, a fact obvious in the data supplied to them by Date City. They further failed to obtain consent from those residents prior to use of their data.
  • Hayano presented data before the research protocol was submitted to, and approved by, an FMU Ethics review committee.
  • Residents were not told of the papers once they were published, nor were they told that the Mayor’s office of Date City had requested the papers be published. This presented a conflict of interest since the Date City Mayor’s office had an agenda (see slides 21 & 26) of encouraging residents to increase “resilience” while living in a contaminated environment. For residents, this means consuming contaminated food and restricting decontamination efforts per Date City’s new 5 mSv annual exposure limit. A few months after Date Mayor Shoji Nishida announced this “resiliency” policy, Miyazaki was hired as radiation advisor to the city.
  • Miyazaki and Hayano violated research protocol by replacing the third studyoriginally agreed to, with a study that said nothing about internal versus external doses.
  • At the conclusion of the research, all of the data were destroyed. According to records obtained by an information request filed by Shima, Kurokawa’s co-author of the Kagaku article, Hayano created an integrated database at the request of Date City, but did not share this database with the city. Therefore, when the database was destroyed, Miyazaki and Hayano knew that Date City could not replicate it or the data it contained.

Kurokawa points out that research conducted in Japan must follow the ethical guidelines based on the Declaration of Helsinki for proper protocols in handling medical and health research involving human subjects, such as valuing welfare of the research subjects over that of scientific results. FMU approved the Miyazaki-Hayano research papers under these protocols – protocols this research seriously violated by not allowing people to control use of their own data and by destroying the data after publication so that neither researchers nor the research subjects, can access it or replicate the studies.

Underestimation of dose

In addition to the mishandling of data, Kurokawa has discovered discrepancies in the values of cumulative doses in paper 2, which appear to underestimate actual doses. Hayano has, by his own admission, underestimated individual doses by three times. Professor Hayano says that he will issue a correction (corrigendum) for this dose underestimation, but has failed to completely answer the additional serious discrepancies, and the ethical violations of mishandling and destruction of data Kurokawa notes.

Why the “phantom” third study matters

The missing third study was supposed to investigate correlation between external and internal individual doses – a correlation Miyazaki and Hayano had already hypothesizedwould not exist. However, upon reviewing other data in Date City reports, the opposite was found: “[there was very] clear correlation between the external and internal doses…some cases with very high levels of internal exposure measurements.” Kurokawa offers his own hypothesis as to why Miyazaki and Hayano never published a paper on this third research question:

The true reason for not publishing Paper 3 could be the discovery of a clear correlation between the external and internal doses with some residents showing internal exposure measurements of several thousand Bq even since 2015. Not publishing inconvenient results despite receiving the internal exposure dose data from Date City would have to be considered a violation of the Ethical Guidelines. (emphasis added)

This correlation also reveals that Date City’s “resiliency” plan is not protecting its residents. Miyazaki and Hayano’s unwillingness to address internal dose evidence in the Date City data also calls into question Hayano’s other research on internal doses issues such as monitoring of food and whole body scans of children, the last publication of which appears to be in 2015.

Mistaken assumptions based on faulty studies

Japan’s Radiation Council (JRC) on setting standards for protecting people from radiation often references this ethically and scientifically compromised research in discussions, particularly the second paper, which was the focus of Kurokawa’s critical letter. Hayano’s work is often mentioned by other scientists and press as indication that doses from Fukushima radiation are low, that decontamination efforts paid for by Date City funds, might not have been necessary, and that living in an environment contaminated by “low” levels of man-made radiation is acceptable.

Where was the peer-review?

For its part JRP has now determined at this time that a correction for the dose underestimation is all that is needed, while an investigation into the consent issue is conducted. JRP claims to adhere to the Declaration of Helsinki for proper protocols in handling medical and health research involving human subjects. However, data misuse and destruction should require retraction of the papers, not correction.

Kurokawa contends that underestimating 70-year lifetime doses by three times is a severe enough miscalculation that a mere correction will not suffice, implying the conclusions of the papers are now in jeopardy. Hayano is claiming, falsely, that JRPwants a rewrite of the paper. Even if JRP did want a rewrite, it is unclear how Hayano intends to accomplish this since the Date City data on which the original papers were based have been destroyed. Kurokawa states:

There is no way to rewrite a paper when the research has already completed and all the data have been destroyed. Even if Date City were to re-supply the data to FMU, it would be considered new research and a new research proposal would have to be submitted to the Ethics Review Committee at FMU. A resulting paper would no longer be a revised version, but an entirely different paper based on new researchA scientist should never conceal such information, let alone pretend as if what was requested by JRP was a rewritten paper when it was a corrigendum that was actually requested. (emphasis in original English translation)

To date, neither Miyazaki nor Hayano have responded in the customary fashion, which would be to answer Kurokawa’s original letter criticizing their published research point-by-point. Kurokawa has published an analysis of Miyazaki-Hayano paper 1 in the March issue of Kagaku in Japanese, and will be publishing detailed analysis of paper 2 in April 2019.

Thanks to Yuri Hiranuma for input and review of this article and for the translations used to write it. See Yuri’s blog.

by Beyond Nuclear

source for article and internal links