Japan’s plutonium glut casts a shadow on renewed nuclear deal — Nikkei Asian Review

” TOKYO — The decision Jan. 16 to automatically extend a nuclear agreement with the U.S. came as a relief to a Japanese government worried about the prospect of renegotiating the basis for a cornerstone of its energy policy. But friction remains over a massive store of plutonium that highlights the problems with the nation’s ambitious nuclear energy plans.

The nuclear fuel cycle pursued by Japan’s government and power companies centers on recovering uranium and plutonium from spent fuel for reuse in reactors. This is made possible by the unique agreement with the U.S. that lets Japan make plutonium. The radioactive element can be used in nuclear weapons, so its production is generally tightly restricted.

“The agreement forms part of the foundation of Japan’s nuclear power activities,” said Hiroshige Seko, minister of economy, trade and industry, in comments to reporters Friday. “It’s important from the standpoint of the Japan-U.S. relationship.”

America began sharing its advanced atomic energy technology with other nations in the 1950s, aiming to promote its peaceful use. Washington remains hugely influential in setting ground rules for military applications of nuclear material, including with regard to reprocessing. Countries including South Korea have sought special arrangements like Japan’s.

The lack of fuss over the renewal of the agreement, which had been due to expire this coming July, has masked concerns expressed behind the scenes. A Japanese official visiting Washington in December was asked by a U.S. nuclear policymaker about Japan’s oversight of its plutonium stockpile.

Japan has amassed roughly 47 tons of plutonium stored inside and outside the country — enough for some 6,000 nuclear warheads. With the nation’s nuclear power plants gradually taken offline after the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, and progress on restarting them sluggish, Japan has been left with no real way to whittle down a pile drawing international scrutiny.

Washington ultimately did not ask to change the nuclear agreement, which after the expiration date can be terminated by either side with six months’ notice. Given the tense regional security situation, including North Korea’s missile advances, “Japan and the U.S. apparently didn’t want the world to see friction between them over nuclear power,” said a Japanese government insider in contact with Washington.

Tokyo’s relief at the lack of American demands is dampened by the awareness that the deal could be scrapped at any time. “It’s more unstable than before,” an industry ministry official acknowledged.

The best-case scenario for Japan would have been securing an agreement that set a new expiration date. But any such change would have had to go through the U.S. Congress, where lawmakers supporting nuclear nonproliferation might not have welcomed giving Japan — which already has no prospect of using up its existing supply — carte blanche to keep reprocessing. This risk is likely why Washington opted for automatic extension of the existing agreement.

The precursor to the current deal, signed in 1955, let Japan use American technology to kick-start its own atomic energy industry. A new agreement in 1968 permitted reprocessing of spent fuel with U.S. consent. A 1988 revision gave blanket permission for reprocessing for peaceful applications.

But the nuclear fuel cycle policy this enabled has stalled amid chronic problems at key facilities. The Japanese government decided in 2016 to scrap the Monju plutonium-fueled experimental fast breeder reactor. And a reprocessing facility in northern Japan that would be critical to producing plutonium fuel usable by conventional reactors has faced repeated delays that have pushed back the completion date from 1997 to 2021.

Reducing Japan’s plutonium stockpile will be vital to assuaging international concerns. Seko asserted that plutonium consumption will pick up again as the Nuclear Regulation Authority clears more reactors to restart.

But this may not work as well as Tokyo hopes. Just five reactors have met the stricter safety standards imposed in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, and not all of these use plutonium.

The nuclear watchdog said Jan. 16 that it will devise new guidelines to better adhere to the government’s principle of not possessing plutonium without a specific purpose. Critics of Japan’s plutonium production will likely not be satisfied without a convincing, reality-based plan to deal with the issue. ”

by Kazunari Hanawa and Takashi Tsuji, Nikkei writing staff

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Latest news on US sailors’ class-action suit against Tepco — Nuclear Hotseat, Stars & Stripes, Bloomberg, DTRA webisode

In the US sailors’ class-action lawsuit against Tokyo Electric, — Lindsay R. Cooper v Tokyo Electric Power Company Inc., 12-cv-3032. U.S. District Court, Southern District of California, — California Judge Janis Sammartino ruled that the lawsuit can proceed and include not only Tokyo Electric Power Company, but also the builders of the Fukushima No. 1 plant, General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba and Hitachi.

Nuclear Hotseat posted the plaintiff attorneys’ press release:

” U.S. SAILORS WIN KEY COURT DECISION TO GO FORWARD WITH CLASS ACTION AGAINST JAPAN’S NUCLEAR POWER COMPANY

U.S. Navy Sailors have won a crucial battle in the United States District Court in San Diego against Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as TEPCO. A Federal judge has ruled that the sailors’ class action law suit may go forward against TEPCO and additional Defendants General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba and Hitachi, the builders of the Fukushima nuclear reactors. The 200 young sailors claim that TEPCO deliberately lied to the public and the U.S. Navy about the radiation levels at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant at the time the Japanese Government was asking for help for victims of the March 11, 2011 Earthquake and Tsunami. Up to 70,000 U.S. citizens were potentially affected by the radiation and will be able to join the class action suit.

The lawsuit is based on the sailors’ participation in Operation Tomodachi (meaning “Friends”), providing humanitarian relief after the March 11, 2011 devastation caused by the Earthquake and Tsunami. The lawsuit includes claims for illnesses such as Leukemia, ulcers, gall bladder removals, brain cancer, brain tumors, testicular cancer, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, thyroid illnesses, stomach ailments and a host of other complaints unusual in such young adults. The injured servicemen and women will require treatment for their deteriorating health, medical monitoring, payment of their medical bills, appropriate health monitoring for their children, andmonitoring for possible radiation-induced genetic mutations.

One Sailor, age 22, has been diagnosed with Leukemia and is losing his eyesight. In his declaration to the court he states, “Upon my return from Operation Tomodachi, I began losing my eyesight.I lost all vision in my left eye and most vision in my right eye. I am unable to read street signs and am no longer able to drive. Prior to Operation Tomodachi, I had 20/20 eyesight, wore no glasses and had no corrective eye surgery. Additionally, I know of no family members who have had leukemia.” Paul Garner and Charles Bonner, attorneys for the sailors, say that additional plaintiffs are continuing to come forward with serious ailments from radiation.

The sailors would like the general public to contact their members of Congress, locally elected officials, and President Obama and implore them to tell the Government of Japan to (1) apply the principles of “Operation Tomodachi” to the Plaintiff-victims and help these U.S. Sailors; and (2) tell TEPCO to stop shirking responsibility for their publically acknowledged wrongdoings.
fukushimaradiationvictims.net Email: daryljbrooks@roadrunner.com ”

* * *

Here is a map showing the position of the USS Ronald Reagan in Operation Tomodachi on March 13 in chronological relation to the stream of radiation flowing out of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

Reagan_Position_Mar13

 

Next, read a Stars and Stripes article titled, “Judge: Sailors’ class-action suit can proceed over alleged radiation exposure,” published on Oct. 30, 2014.

” A U.S. federal judge has ruled that a class-action lawsuit filed by about 200 Navy sailors and Marines can proceed against Japanese utility TEPCO and other defendants who they blame for a variety of ailments from radiation exposure following a nuclear reactor meltdown 3½ years ago.

In a decision released Tuesday, Southern District of California Judge Janis Sammartino ruled that the suit can be amended to add the builders of the Fukushima-Daichi Nuclear Power Plant reactors — General Electric, EBASCO, Toshiba and Hitachi — as defendants.

Sammartino also denied a change of venue to Japan and dismissed several minor aspects of the suit. The plaintiffs’ lawyers have until Nov. 18 to make changes to their filings.

“It is not over, but we have won the major battle,” lawyer Charles Bonner wrote in an email to his clients that was provided to Stars and Stripes.

“THANK GOD!!!!!” responded Lindsay Cooper, the first USS Ronald Reagan sailor to come forward and report an illness.

Sammartino’s ruling was a bit of a surprise. The Defense Department, including Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Dr. Jonathan Woodson, have concluded that the illnesses are not a result of the servicemembers’ work in Operation Tomodachi, in which a massive earthquake on March 11, 2011, spawned a tsunami that swamped the nuclear plant.

The suit was first filed in 2012 by a small group of sailors off the USS Ronald Reagan, who alleged that TEPCO’s misinformation coaxed U.S. forces closer to the affected areas and made them sick. More ailing servicemembers came forward citing exposure-related ailments such as unexplained cancers, excessive bleeding and thyroid issues.

The suit has been refiled a number of times, adding plaintiffs and, more recently, additional defendants.

TEPCO tried to have the case dismissed. Oral arguments were presented Aug. 25.

Bonner and fellow attorney for the sailors, Paul Garner, said additional plaintiffs are continuing to come forward with “serious ailments from radiation,” according to a statement released by the legal team. ”

* * *

In addition to the above article, here is further clarification from Bloomberg in “Sailors can sue Tepco in U.S. over radiation, judge says.” Read the entire article HERE.

” … The sailors and their families claimed the company known as Tepco, Japan’s biggest power utility, was negligent in the design and operation of the Fukushima plant, according to their amended complaint filed in February. They’re seeking to create a fund exceeding $1 billion to monitor their health and pay for medical expenses, on top of unspecified damages.

Tepco had argued the U.S. military had contributed to the plaintiffs’ harm, limiting the utility’s liability.

Tepco spokesman Satoshi Togawa declined to comment on the lawsuit.

In Japan, an inquest committee has recommended that local prosecutors indict former Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and two executives over negligence claims leading to the disaster. Prosecutors in Tokyo said this month they would decide on charges by Feb. 2. … ”

* * *

Finally, here is a self-promotional video from the Defense Threat Reduction Agency for its recommendations to the US Navy at the time of the Fukushima meltdowns.

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Cesium found in Japanese steel exported to South Korea — Enformable Nuclear News

” South Korean authorities plan to return contaminated steel scrap imported from Japan after detecting Cesium 137 over allowable levels in steel scrap imported from Japan earlier this month.

The scrap metals arrived in Gyeongsang Province on Thursday, but according to authorities there was no way of determining the areas in Japan where the scrap originated from.

South Korean officials will ask the Japanese government to assist and cooperate in sharing information in order to prevent any additional occurrences of radioactive materials being unknowingly transferred between the two countries. “

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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.” “

Fukushima catastrophe: Japanese gene pool affected by radiation, morbidity to rise — Voice of Russia

” Thirty thousand people who took part in the works to liquidate the consequences of the accident at the Fukushima 1 nuclear power plant will be examined in Japan. Doctors have already examined Nineteen thousand liquidators. The data received are disappointing.

In order to precisely determine how the accident affected the people, specialists took into account information about their lifestyle. For example, they took into account whether a person smoked and what the ecology in the region of his residency was. About two thousand liquidators who received the radiation dose of over 100 millisieverts have already been detected. It is a dangerous dose, explains Maksim Shingarkin, deputy chairman of the natural resources committee at the Russian State Duma.

“If they received the total dose in the course of a year, those people definitely were exposed to excessive radiation above the established norm. They are to remain under the doctors observation for the rest of their lives. The mere fact that such levels of radiation energy are registered means that inside a person certain processes have already been set off. And it is impossible to predict when and in what form of disease this will show”.

Neither the liquidators, nor the local population have so far developed diseases directly caused by the accident. However, there is a debate regarding what caused cancer that killed Masao Yoshida, the head of the commission to estimate the size of the damage at the Fukushima power plant.

For the sake of comparison, after the Chernobyl disaster 29 people died in the course of two months. That primarily includes those who got many times the lethal dose of radiation while working on the roof of the destroyed energy unit. According to witnesses, people felt a metallic taste in their mouths, which was a sign of a very high radiation level. Other Chernobyl victims experienced a surge of diseases 5-6 years later. According to Andrey Dyomin, president of the Russian Association for Public Health, the same is to be expected in Japan.

“We cannot say that the problem would disappear in five years. The rise of morbidity will continue as the general gene pool has been damaged. Next generations will carry the burden of that catastrophe”.

The peculiarities of the Japanese national cuisine focused on fish and seafood are one of the risk factors. Of course, it is not necessarily true that all of the food will be poisoned by the radiation coming from the Fukushima spills, but the risk of getting radiation poisoning through food is rising. At the end of last year 40 km from the power plant a fish was caught, in which the level of dangerous elements exceeded the norm by a hundred times. Scientists assume that the poisoned water from the power plant was carried by the sea streams to California. How else would one explain that every blue tuna fish caught near the coast of the state has signs of radioactive poisoning, while brown kelp containing the radioactive iodine level that exceeds the norm by 200 times has been detected on the shore? According to the Bloomberg web site, this year a “squad” of radioactive jellyfish is to be expected at the US West Coast. Californians are worried. It is unclear how the situation will develop in the future, says Prof.Alexey Yablokov, an advisor at the Russian Academy of Sciences and ecologist.

“The fact that so far from the Fukushima plant fish contains radionuclides shows that our view of the circulation of radionuclides spilt into the ocean has proved to be false. Radioactivity in tuna fish has been detected on the American side of the ocean. It turns out that the Fukushima spillage affects the life of the world ocean. I see no other way out other than to establish a constant and very careful radiation control of all seafood caught in the Pacific Ocean without exception”.

According to some experts, until the reactors are dismantled, which can be done only in 20 years, the disaster is not over. Spillage of radioactive water into the sea via the ground waters is possible. It appears that one cannot expect an improvement of the ecological situation around Fukushima in the decades to come. “

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Tepco corrects last summer’s water pollution data to record high — JIJI Press News

” Fukushima, Feb. 6 (Jiji Press)–Tokyo Electric Power Co. <9501> said Thursday it has corrected groundwater radioactive contamination data at the Fukushima No. 1 power station originally released in summer last year.

Samples collected from an observation well close to the sea in early July contained a record 5 million becquerels of strontium-90 per liter of groundwater, the company said.

When TEPCO announced the original data that month, the firm said the total amount of radioactive materials emitting beta particles, including strontium-90, was 900,000 becquerels.

Strontium-90 usually accounts for about a half of all beta particle-emitting substances in contaminated water at the disaster-stricken power station in northeastern Japan.

So, the total amount of beta particle-emitting materials in the samples in question are likely to be around 10 million becquerels, far higher than the previous record high of 3.1 million becquerels for the well. ”

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