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First phase of work to contain nuke crisis completed: Japan
The first phase of work to bring the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant under control has been completed as scheduled, a Japanese minister said.

“We believe Step 1 of stably cooling (the reactors) and eliminating risks of a hydrogen explosion has been achieved,” Goshi Hosono, state minister in charge of handling the nuclear accident, said in a TV program yesterday, referring to the road map and time schedule issued April 17 by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. The utility, known as TEPCO, shares that view.

But going forward, concerns linger about whether the country’s worst nuclear crisis will be contained as planned as some Step 1 goals were not achieved, including targets for decontaminating radioactive water accumulating at the site.

Under the road map, TEPCO aimed to bring the reactors crippled by the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami to a stable condition by Sunday as a first step, and to a “cold shutdown” by next January at the latest as a second step.
(18 July 2011)

Japan Won’t Rule Out Possibility Radioactive Fukushima Beef Was Exported

Aya Takada and Yuriy Humber, Bloomberg
Japan’s government said it can’t rule out the possibility beef contaminated with radioactive material has been exported, as consumers and lawmakers accused authorities of negligence on food safety.

The government yesterday imposed a ban on beef shipments from areas near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant after finding 637 cattle were fed hay containing radioactive cesium. Supermarkets including Japan’s biggest, Aeon Co., said the beef was sold in Tokyo and other cities.

“We cannot completely rule out the possibility” contaminated beef was also sold abroad, Yuichi Imasaki, the deputy director of the farm ministry’s meat and egg division said by phone today. “The chances are very low” because most countries have tightened rules on Japanese beef imports or banned them, he said.

The ban comes more than four months after the earthquake and tsunami wrecked the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power station causing the worst nuclear fallout since Chernobyl. Concerns about food contamination before yesterday’s ban cut beef exports by 16 percent in the last two months, while hotels and restaurants in the region, including Shangri-La Asia’s luxury chain dropped Japanese seafood from their menu.
(20 July 2011)

Brittleness factor of aging reactors key restart criterion

Jun Hongo, Japan Times
In the world of nuclear reactor science and safety, the ductile-brittle transition temperature, which is used to measure the strength of the inner wall of a reactor pressure vessel, is a critical factor.

The steel walls of a reactor vessel wear out through years of direct exposure to neutron irradiation, and when they are weakened they can become brittle with sudden temperature drops.

A high DBTT means the walls can shatter at a relatively high temperature when the vessel is going through the cooling process, similar to pouring ice-cold water into a hot glass, causing it to shatter.

Even though the government is mulling new stress-test standards and when to give the green light to reboot nuclear power plants across Japan, some experts warn that aged reactors and their high DBTTs should be considered key factors when assessing safety levels.

And when it comes to the brittleness factor, the one causing the most concern is reactor 1 at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear plant in Saga Prefecture.
(20 July 2011)

Japan Geiger Counter Demand After Fukushima Earthquake Means Buyer Beware

Pavel Alpeyev, Bloomberg
In Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics district, a Geiger counter sold under the Shanghai Ergonomics Detecting Instrument Co.’s DP802i brand name costs 65,000 yen ($800). For that price, twice the cost in China, it comes without a box, warranty or return policy.

Shanghai Ergonomics doesn’t know how its device got onto the shelves at Akihabara as the company doesn’t sell its Geiger counters directly overseas and offers a one-year warranty for models sold in China, Chairman Li Jinglei said in a telephone interview.

Geiger counters, also known as dosimeters, have sold out and prices quadrupled in Tokyo because of worries about radiation fallout since the Fukushima nuclear reactor meltdown in March. The demand spurred a grey market of “illegal” products that use faulty parts and shoddy designs or are fake, Li said. He declined to say how much it costs Shanghai Ergonomics to make the dosimeters
(15 July 2011)