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Work begins to remove cover of Fukushima nuclear reactor building

14 September 2016

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) began work on Sept. 13 to remove giant outer wall panels covering the building of one of the reactors at its crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in a move designed to pave the way for the retrieval of spent nuclear fuel and eventual decommissioning of the plant. All 18 panels will be taken down in an operation lasting about three months.

On the first day of work on the No. 1 reactor building opened to the press, a large crane detached one of the panels which each measure 23 by 17.5 meters and weigh 20 tons, and placed it on the ground in about 20 minutes. The work exposed part of the upper building, but TEPCO said the midair radioactive dosage in the plant premises near the reactor showed no major change after the operation.

After the 18 panels are dismantled, the building is to be covered by windbreak sheets. Debris left in the upper part of the structure will be removed to prepare for fuel retrieval. The panels taken down will be cut into pieces for storage inside the plant.

The panels were installed in October 2011 to prevent radioactive materials from spreading from parts of the building blown off by a hydrogen explosion following a reactor meltdown caused by the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March that year. The roof portion of the panel cover was removed by October last year after chemical agents were sprayed on the cover and other measures were taken to prevent radioactive materials from being dispersed.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

14 September 2016

1,700 more evacuees from Hirono town eye permanent returns by next spring

A survey by the Hirono town office has found that about 1,700 out of some 2,700 residents still evacuated after the 2011 earthquake and subsequent nuclear accident are considering returning to their homes for permanent residence by next spring. The finding means that about 80% of townspeople will have returned permanently by then, including those who have come back already.

Hirono Mayor Satoshi Endo showed the survey outcome on Sept. 13 at the start of a September municipal assembly session.

Of the town’s population of some 5,000, about 2,300 were back home as of October last year. The survey covered the remaining 2,700 living outside the town as evacuees since the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The survey was taken from January to February this year, asking the evacuated residents about their future plans beyond next March when temporary housing for evacuees is due to be terminated in principle. Questionnaires were sent to them, and town officials visited those who did not respond.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

15 September 2016

Fukushima’s specialty persimmon exports to resume in November

An agricultural group in Fukushima Prefecture promoting the “Aizu Mishirazu” species of persimmons is set to resume its exports to three Southeast Asian countries -- Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore -- in November, marking the first full-fledged exports in six years since 2010 after a hiatus caused by the 2011 nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The group, called the council for the expansion of sales channels for Aizu Mishirazu persimmons, comprises JA Aizu-Yotsuba, a local chapter of the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives group, and two municipalities -- Aizubange and Aizumisato towns -- in the Aizu region in southwestern Fukushima.

The group has decided to resume exports of the fruit amid gradually rising awareness of safety for Fukushima agricultural products five years after the nuclear disaster. Export volume has yet to be decided, but the group is ready to ship about 8 tons to Thailand and 2.4 tons to Malaysia. With publicity campaigns scheduled in the three countries, the group is poised to adjust export volume based on trends of consumer demand there. The fruit is an astringent type, but is sweetened by treating it with distilled spirits and other means.

Before the accident, Aizu Mishirazu persimmons were exported to Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong from 2008 to 2010. The Fukushima prefectural government hopes to take advantage of the planned persimmon exports to also resume shipments overseas of other fruits, including peaches, apples and pears, next year and thereafter.

(Translated by Kyodo News)

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