It’s almost 5 years since the Great East Japan earthquake – Fukushima still has a long way to go

From the article:

About 1,000 tanks storing more than 700,000 tons of contaminated water could be seen in the wide spaces in front of buildings accommodating reactors Nos. 1 to 4, where the decontamination and decommissioning work is being conducted.

Within the site, work to remove contaminated surface soil and pave over the scoured ground has been continuing. Thus levels of radiation are generally becoming lower.

In contrast, there are facilities for which decontamination work has not been carried out at all, and vestiges of the accident remained visible in some places.

From an area 35 meters above sea level, where a group of tanks and other facilities are located, I went down a slope by car and approached a building accommodating the No. 4 reactor, which is located at a spot 10 meters above sea level. I saw that the walls still bore black traces of the tsunami that hit the nuclear power plant following the earthquake.

When the car I was in passed by the No. 3 reactor building, where a hydrogen explosion had occurred, a dosimeter indicated 230 microsieverts per hour.

A tolerable annual limit of exposure to radiation for ordinary people in usual times is said to be 1 millisievert (1,000 microsieverts). The figure on the dosimeter means that a person’s exposure level would exceed the limit if they stayed there for about four hours.

The highest radiation dose of any place in the plant is near an air stack, which is about 120 meters tall, near reactors Nos. 1 and 2.

A TEPCO official explained, “In 2013, the radiation dose was estimated to be about 25 sieverts (25 million microsieverts) per hour. Though about five years have passed, no measures have been taken.”

full article:

Abnormalities found in trees near Fukushima plant

A bit scary. From NHK:

Japan’s Environment Ministry has found abnormalities in fir trees near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The ministry has been observing about 80 species of wild animals and trees near the plant since 2011, when Japan suffered its worst nuclear accident.

At the request of the ministry, the National Institute of Radiological Sciences analyzed fir trees in areas where radiation levels are relatively high and published the results on Friday.

The results show that Japanese fir populations in the area showed a significantly increased number of morphological defects, including deletions of leader shoots of the main branch axis.
The study shows that 98 percent of fir trees in a 3.5-kilometer area from the damaged plant have defects. The radiation dose in the area is about 34 microsieverts per hour.

The results also show that 44 percent of fir trees have defects in an 8.5-kilometer zone with 20 microsieverts of radiation, and 27 percent in a 15-kilometer zone with 7 microsieverts of radiation.

The institute says the results indicate that radioactive materials emitted after the nuclear accident may have caused such morphological abnormalities.

The results have been also posted on the website of the British science magazine, Scientific Reports.

The institute’s Satoshi Yoshida says conifers such as fir trees are more susceptible to radiation.

But he said relations between such defects and radiation are still unclear and that further studies are necessary.

The Environment Ministry says no abnormality has so far been confirmed in other animals and trees.

One way to deal with radioactive waste – just pretend it’s not there

From the Japan News – full article with picture at

Radioactive waste left in limbo / Local authorities avoid filing paperwork for 3,600 tons

More than 3,600 tons of radioactive waste has not been designated as emitting radiation at levels above the national standard because municipal authorities have avoided submitting applications to the central government, according to research by the Environment Ministry.

At least 3,648 tons of radioactive waste has not been properly designated in five prefectures, including Miyagi Prefecture. The waste was generated by the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Municipal governments must apply for designation by the central government, but they are concerned about shouldering the responsibility of storing the waste and becoming subject to harmful rumors. However, experts say that submitting applications for designation is a necessity, due to concern over the spread of radioactive contamination.

The volume of waste that had not been so designated — despite radiation levels exceeding national standards — was 2,711 tons in Miyagi, 710 tons in Iwate, 113 tons in Saitama, and lower volumes in two other prefectures.

“The burden is too big for cities to manage by ourselves,” said an official of the city government of Kurihara, Miyagi Prefecture, which has 974 tons of rice straw with radioactivity levels exceeding the national standard.

An official of Ichinoseki, Iwate Prefecture said, “Once we receive designation, harmful rumors like ‘That city or area is dangerous’ will spread, and people might hesitate to buy their farm products.” Ichinoseki has not submitted applications regarding 640 tons of waste.

An official in charge of Takahagi, Ibaraki Prefecure, said, “We talk to farmers about whether to apply, but they might not want to reveal the existence of rice straw that has radiation levels exceeding the national standard.” Takahagi has not submitted applications for 0.4 tons of waste.

An official of the Kurihara city government said, “The disadvantages of receiving the designation outweigh [the advantages] under the present circumstances.”

However, the town of Wakuya, Miyagi Prefecture, intends to submit applications next fiscal year for 270 tons of waste currently stored at farms in the town.

“Farmers may express fears over harmful rumors, but it’s safer to receive the designation and have the town manage [the waste] responsibly,” an official of the town government said.

Remembering 3/11 – stats from the event and aftermath

As we approach the 4th anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, here are some facts.

The earthquake struck at 2:46 pm on March 11, 2011. I was at a local supermarket at the time. At first I wondered, “is there a quake?” and then shelves started rocking violently and things started falling and I fled the building. For a long while I had to hold onto a bicycle rack to remain standing. The store didn’t reopen, and I went home to find a mess, but no real damage inside. Then it was weeks of aftershocks, the unfolding nuclear disaster in Fukushima, water shortages, trains stopped, cell phone outages and some worry about radioactive rain drifting in from the north. Of course we in Tokyo were lucky in comparison to those in the tsunami ravaged areas. Interestingly enough, even though I did lose landline and cell phone connectivity, I never lost power or Internet connectivity.

Anyway, some facts:

  • Magnitude of the quake: 9.0
  • Energy released by the quake: 480 megatons (a magnitude 9.0 earthquake releases as much energy as 32,000 magnitude 6.0 earthquakes)
  • Energy released by the quake compared to the nuclear attack on Hiroshima: 600,000,000 times the the energy of the Hiroshima bomb
  • Size of the quake: Largest in Japan’s history and 5th biggest in World history
  • Duration of strong shaking from the quake: up to 5 minutes
  • Number of aftershocks: more than 900 (aftershocks from a 9.0 magnitude quake can last for years)
  • First aftershock: There were 3 aftershocks of magnitude 7.0 or greater within 45 minutes of the quake
  • The quake moved entire main island of Japan (Honshu): 2.4 meters (8 feet) closer to North America
  • The quake shifted the Earth’s axis: 10 cm (4 in) at least
  • The quake made earth days shorter by: 1.8 microseconds
  • Peak tsunami height: 40.5 meters (133 feet) at Miyako — that’s equivalent to a 13 story building.
  • How far the tsunami made it inland: up to 10 km (6 miles) at Sendai
  • Total land area covered by the tsunami: 561 kilometers sq (217 sq miles)
  • Total area of icebergs the tsunami wave broke off of Antarctica: 125 square kilometers
  • Time Sendai residents had before tsunami hit: around 8 minutes
  • Size of tsunami waves that hit the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant: 15 meters (49 feet)
  • Number of full nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant: 3
  • Severity of the Fukushima disaster on the International Nuclear Event Scale: 7 (maximum severity)
  • Estimated cost of the disaster: US$300 billion (biggest in World history)
  • Number of buildings destroyed: 45,700
  • Number of automobiles and trucks destroyed: 230,000
  • Number of people killed and missing: 15,828 deaths and 3,760 people missing