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Fukushima radiation higher than first estimated

Kevin Krolicki, Reuters
The radiation released in the first days of the Fukushima nuclear disaster was almost 2-1/2 times the amount first estimated by Japanese safety regulators, the operator of the crippled plant said in a report released on Thursday.

Tokyo Electric Power said its own analysis conducted over the past year put the amount of radiation released in the first three weeks of the accident at about one-sixth the radiation released during the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

“If this information had been available at the time, we could have used it in planning evacuations,” Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto told a news conference.

Because radiation sensors closest to the plant were knocked out by the March 11, 2011 quake and the tsunami, the utility based its estimate on other monitoring posts and data collected by Japanese government agencies…
(24 May 2012)

Fukushima gets mixed radiation report from WHO

Justin McCurry, The Guardian
Radiation exposure caused by last year’s accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was below levels thought to increase the risk of cancer in almost all parts of Japan, according to a World Health Organisation report.

But in its preliminary estimate [pdf] released on Wednesday, the WHO said infants in one town near the plant could be at a greater risk of developing thyroid cancer after exposure to radioactive iodine-131.

The study is the first by a UN agency since the Fukushima plant was hit…

The independent experts who compiled the report said that people in the towns of Namie, located inside the 12-mile nuclear evacuation zone, and Iitate, which lies 25 miles north-west of Fukushima Daiichi, may have received the highest doses, of between 10 millisieverts a year and 50mSv in the wake of the accident…
(24 May 2012)

Weakened Fukushima nuclear pool is not unstable, Japan insists

Staff and news services, msnbc
Amid concerns of a new disaster should a quake destroy the pool cooling off radioactive nuclear fuel rods at Fukushima’s Reactor No. 4, Japan on Saturday arranged a tour for journalists and declared the situation manageable — but also very long term.

“I don’t think the situation is unstable,” said Goshi Hosono, Japan’s environment minister and the man in charge of the cleanup. He was speaking to reporters after his first tour of the twisted and partly destroyed building that houses the reactor.

Hosono said he expected workers to begin removing fuel from the reactor’s storage pool next year…
(27 May 2012)

Japan’s radiation found in California bluefin tuna

David Perlman, San Francisco Chronicle
For the first time, scientists have detected radioactivity in fish that have migrated into California waters from the ocean off Japan, where radiation contaminated the sea after explosions tore through the Fukushima nuclear reactors last year.

Radioactive cesium was detected in samples of highly prized Pacific bluefin tuna, but it is well below levels considered unsafe for humans, the scientists say.

The evidence is “unequivocal” that the tuna – caught off San Diego a year ago – were contaminated with radiation from Japan’s nuclear disaster, the researchers said…
(29 May 2012)

Reform the Japanese power system. Nationalize Tepco.

Kay Kitazawa, Bulletin of the Atomic Sciences
The Japanese government recently announced a de facto nationalization of the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) to avert the prolonged insolvency expected to result from massive compensation claims, cleanup charges, and reactor-disposal costs related to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. This conventional plan calls for Tepco to be kept viable — that is, not allowed to fail, at least for the time being — so it can be the primary vehicle for dealing with the aftermath of the disaster.

But not letting Tepco fail creates real moral hazard. The government is effectively telling the shareholders and bondholders of other electric utilities that there is no need to worry; investors will not be held responsible should a similar accident occur on their watch. The current financial arrangement also leaves in place the Tepco corporate culture that was responsible for the failures to prepare for and respond to the Fukushima Daiichi accident — even as the damaged and vulnerable spent fuel pool at Unit 4 presents the need for long-term crisis management.

To avoid placing an unnecessarily heavy burden on taxpayers, the government should be pursuing not this de facto nationalization, but an immediate, complete, de jure nationalization of Tepco. Promotion of nuclear energy has been a national policy in Japan. Full Tepco nationalization would allow the state to take direct responsibility for compensation, decontamination, reactor disposal, and crisis management at Fukushima Daiichi. Nationalization of the world’s largest private-sector power utility would also send the message that no Japanese utility is too big to fail, reinforcing an accountability and safety culture within other nuclear operators. Perhaps most important, nationalization would create the opportunity to liberalize the Japanese electricity market, reducing the power of regional utility monopolies and encouraging alternative energy producers…
(25 May 2012)