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Fukushima Fallout: Updates from Japan

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Most of these news items are taken from the twice-weekly updates produced by Greenpeace International. You can subscribe to the updates at:

The first batch of 22 nuclear fuel assemblies removed from the reactor #4 storage pool at the Fukushima Daiichi plant have been placed in a more secure storage pool 100 metres away. The assemblies moved to the new location were unused. The next 22 to be removed, however, will be spent fuel. The fuel assemblies are the first of over 1,500 to be removed from the storage pool in work that is expected to take around a year.[2]

TEPCO has announced that it will permanently close the undamaged reactors #5 and #6 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after a request to do so from Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in September. The reactors were closed for maintenance when the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami hit the plant. TEPCO will not decommission and dismantle the reactors. Instead they will become "test platforms" and used as research facilities to help plan for the removal of fuel from reactors #1, #2, #3 which suffered core meltdowns.[1]

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority has begun safety assessments of two nuclear reactors at TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant this week. There are many issues involved and the process is not expected to run smoothly. There are geological faults below the plant although TEPCO says they are not active. NRA chief Shunichi Tanaka has warned TECPO that the assessment process could be halted if events at the Fukushima Daiichi plant take another turn for the worse. Niigata Prefecture Governor Hirohiko Izumida − who effectively holds a veto over TEPCO's plan to restart reactors at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant − said TEPCO must give a fuller account of the Fukushima disaster and address its "institutionalized lying" before it can expect to restart reactors.[1]

Japan's government has proposed a change to its policy towards disposing of nuclear waste. The policy of waiting for towns and cities to volunteer to host final disposal facilities for nuclear waste has failed, with no candidates stepping forward. The policy has been in place for over 10 years. Instead, the government is proposing to draw up a list of candidate sites for storage facilities and then measuring public support in those places.[1]

Government sources have told the Japan Times that plans are being drawn up to purchase 15 square kilometres of land around the Fukushima Daiichi plant to use store radioactive waste from cleanup and decontamination operations. The lack of storage facilities for the waste has meant decontamination efforts have not progressed as quickly as the government would have liked. However, the purchase of the land is expected to affect landowners and may prevent evacuees from eventually returning to their homes. The plan is expected to cost one trillion yen (US$9.84 billion).[2]

Almost eight out of 10 South Koreans have reduced the amount of fish they eat over possible safety concerns associated with a leak of radioactive water from Japan's Fukushima plant, a poll showed Monday. An online poll released by the Korea Rural Economic Institute found that 77.5% of those questioned said they reduced their fish consumption by nearly half since August. Since September, South Korea has blocked all fishery imports from eight prefectures surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi plant.[3,4]

Only one-third of people evacuated from areas near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are willing to return to their homes, even if evacuation orders were lifted now. Parts of Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture, are designated evacuation zones. The city and the Reconstruction Agency conducted a survey in August and September of 5,677 households originally from the evacuation region. Among them, 3,543 households, or 62%, responded. When asked if they will return home once the evacuation orders are lifted, 29% said they want to do so, 44% said they are undecided and 26% said they will not go back. When the undecided group was asked what is needed to make a decision, many said information on things such as when schools, hospitals and shops will be reopened. They also want to know when radiation levels will go down and how much decontamination work has been done.[5]

[3] Yonhap, 11 Nov 2013,
[4] Kwanwoo Jun, 14 Nov 2013, 'Fish Is Off the Menu in South Korea Over Radiation Fears',
[5] NHK World, 25 Nov 2013, 'Only a third of evacuees want to return',