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Over 10,000 workers staying for a year or longer for Fukushima nuke plant decommissioning

24 April 2016

At least 10,000 workers are scheduled to stay in Fukushima Prefecture for more than a year to engage in decommissioning work at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Co. This was disclosed on April 23 in a report on the outcome of a survey by the Reconstruction Agency during a meeting of experts advising the central and local governments on the future outlook of 12 municipalities evacuated in the aftermath of the 2011 nuclear accident at the plant. The meeting was held in the prefectural government office in Fukushima city.

It was the first time that the realities of long-stay workers have come to light. Many of them desire to have a secure living environment and means of transport. The agency will reflect the survey results in its policy measures to improve working conditions for smooth progress in the nuclear plant decommissioning.

The survey, conducted from Feb. 25 to March 29, covered about 30,000 workers at 24 selected companies involved in the decommissioning work, including subcontractors. Asked about conditions required to live for more than a year, many sought accommodation near the plant, grocery shops and convenience stores, removal of road traffic congestion along Route 6, and means of transport to urban areas with restaurants and recreational facilities.

The workers surveyed included those who have been evacuated with their families following the accident. In anticipation of permanent return to their hometowns, they called for a living environment suiting their family needs, including nursing care for parents and schools for children.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

21 April 2016

Fishermen in Fukushima’s Soma city resume "asari" clam fishing after 6-year hiatus

Fishing for "asari" Japanese littleneck clams in Matsukawaura, a lagoon off Soma city, Fukushima Prefecture, was resumed on April 20, ending a self-imposed ban in place since the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant. The first asari haul in six years enlivened a local port.

A total of 25 fishermen from the Soma-Futaba Fisheries Cooperative Association set sail on 10 boats shortly after 8 a.m. Clad in waterproof pants fitted with boots, they used long-handled dredges to scoop the shellfish. Their combined catch of the day was about 300 kilograms, equivalent to a daily target on one voyage.

The haul was subjected to screening for radioactive substances, but none was detected, according to the association. The clams are left alone to allow them to discharge sand and other impurities before shipment to supermarkets and restaurants on and after the following day.

The central government has not instructed local fishermen to refrain from asari fishing since the disaster, but the association will regard the restart as "test fishing" in light of consumer concerns over radioactive contamination of the seashell species. Fishing will be conducted once a week through August.

Before the disaster, Matsukawaura used to be crowded with people seeking to gather asari. There is no prospect in sight of lagoon tideland being restored as a shellfish-digging beach because recovery work has not made headway.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

20 April 2016

METI estimates terms, costs of tritium removal at Fukushima nuke plant

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has unveiled its first estimates on the periods and costs of removing radioactive tritium left in wastewater contaminated by nuclear fallout from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant. The estimates were shown on April 19 at a meeting of advisers on the disposal of radioactive substances.

The estimates covered five alternative methods of tritium elimination: geological disposal, dumping wastewater into the ocean, atmospheric release as vapor, atmospheric release after conversion to hydrogen, and underground burial. Releasing radioactive tritium into the ocean was estimated to require the shortest period and its cost was found to be low. The five choices are likely to be a basis for the government to decide on how to dispose of the radioactive isotope which, unlike cesium and other radioactive substances, cannot be removed by the utility’s existing treatment equipment at the plant.

METI came up with 55 different calculations using the five methods, changing conditions such as dilute concentrations for each calculation. The methods were: (1) wastewater injection into geological strata 2,500 meters underground, (2) discharge into the ocean, (3) atmospheric release as vapor containing tritium, (4) atmospheric release after altering tritium to hydrogen, and (5) underground burial after mixture with fixation agents. The calculations were based on the following assumption: the total volume of tritium-containing wastewater at 800,000 tons, the daily amount of wastewater disposal at 400 tons, and the level of tritium concentration diluted to 60,000 becquerels per liter in accordance with a government-set standard.

In one case where tritium content was assumed to be at the richest concentration level, its dumping into the ocean was estimated to require 88 months or 7.3 years and cost 3.4 billion yen. The period was the shortest of all methods and the cost was relatively low, although simple comparison was difficult due to technically uncertain factors involved.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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