On July 18, the residents of Fukushima prefecture posted a statement:
From the residents of Fukushima Prefecture(Bold theirs; baghouse link mine.)
Please be noted that we, residents of Fukushima Shirakawa district (southern part of Fukushima prefecture) will perform action against the Ministry of Environment’s burning project of highly contaminated radioactive waste (more than 8000 Bq/kg) on 18th July, here in Samegawa.
Fukushima Disaster is not over, but the Ministry of Environment (MOE) is trying to bring another contamination plan all over the world.
Last fall, MOE secretly ordered Hitachi Zosen to construct a controversial radioactive waste incinerator in small village of Samegawa with only 4000 population. Construction has been completed late June, but there had been no prior information about the project, no such public consultation. Furthermore, last week,some landowners spoke out they never admitted nor signed the contract, but the government mysteriously announced they had all landowners consent to run the project.
It is the world-first demonstration incinerator, with unproven technology, and even MOE admitted the technology is still its experimental stage, but MOE and Hitachi Zosen would not stop the experimental incineration. Rather they have been rushing, because until now no other municipalities accept such dangerous facility. They say radioactive cesium could be caught by baghouse filtration, but it cannot catch gaseous substances and small particles like PM2.5 or nano-sized particles.
There is no way to stop radioactive cesium emitted from smokestack, it simply get into the atmosphere and travel the globe.
The location of incinerator is amidst the pastureland, rich in groundwater and forestry. Ironically, the level of radioactive cesium is comparatively low compared to other parts of Fukushima prefecture, and people are still living here, children are living here, cattle are living here. At the same time, people are dying, children are dying, they are having cancers.
How can we tolerate the second contamination by our own government? How can we believe the project of IAEA and nuclear power plant manufacturer? We are so angry. We have right to protect ourselves, our children, our lives and our district. There is no legitimacy for polluting project.
We ask you sirs to come to Samegawa on 18th and see what is happening here and what will happen all over the world. Please report our situation to your country so that we can protect our earth together. We are preparing English signboards to tell the people all over the world!
Even now, 400 metric tons of water a day flow into the below-ground levels of the destroyed reactor buildings, mix with the highly radioactive water used keep the reactor core below 32°F, and then pour into the ground, where it is supposed to be contained.
But, as Shinji Kinjo, head of a Fukushima task force for Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Agency (NRA), says, Tepco's "sense of emergency is weak... Right now, we have an emergency."
Tepco has been building the underground walls, using injected chemicals which turn the soil solid, but the contaminated water -- as water will -- has now sought its own level, and is working its way around the barriers.
That barrier, according to NBC WorldWide,
...[I]s only effective in solidifying the ground at least 1.8 metres below the surface.Tepco has had an execrable record in dealing with the continuing crisis of containment at Fukushima Daiichi. They've focused more on the damaged reactor than on the steady release of radioactive material. In fact, when questioned about the current leaks,
By breaching the barrier, the water can seep through the shallow areas of earth into the nearby sea. More seriously, it is rising toward the surface - a break of which would accelerate the outflow.
TEPCO officials were unable to answer many of the watchdog officials' questions, including ones about the leaks' origin, their routes and how they can be plugged. They also acknowledged that they have neglected large amounts of highly contaminated water that has remained in maintenance trenches since the crisis, a risk also cited by the watchdog.Until the current issues, Tepco reported a single leak one month after the tsunami damaged the reactor, and has insisted that since then there had been no further leaks into the ocean.
"It's a race against the clock," said Toyoshi Fuketa, a commissioner of the Nuclear Regulation Authority. "The top priority is to keep the water from escaping into the sea."
...TEPCO has estimated that up to 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium, a water soluble element that can affect DNA but is believed to be less dangerous than cesium or strontium, might have leaked into the sea over the past two years. The company says the amount is within legal limits, but is much higher than is released under normal operations.
Tritium is far less harmful than caesium and strontium, which have also been released from the plant. Tepco is scheduled to test strontium levels next.Attempts were made to store the contaminated water: there are 1,000 enormous tanks around Fukushima Daiichi, but they're all nearly full. And now Tepco says it will be pumping out an additional 100 tonnes a day.
Tepco said on August 5 that caesium levels at an observation post 53 metres from the sea had jumped in the past week. Readings for caesium-134 were almost 15 times higher at 310 becquerels a litre.
Caesium-137, with a half-life of 30 years, was also 15 times higher than it had been five days ago at 650 becquerels a litre. A much larger spike in radioactive caesium in July in a different well led to Tepco overturning months of denials and admitting that radioactive water had been leaking into the sea.
The government estimates that around 300 tons of radioactively contaminated water have been flowing into the bay of the Pacific Ocean each day since the disaster began.
How effective has that barrier been?
The underground barrier on the coastal embankment has somewhat slowed the leaks, but has caused underground water to swell at the complex. To prevent an overflow above the surface, which is feared to happen within weeks, TEPCO will start pumping out about 100 tons of underground water from coastal observation wells by the end of this week.The Government Steps Up
Government officials said Wednesday that they were considering funding a separate, multibillion-dollar project to surround the reactor buildings with a wall of frozen ground to block underground water from entering the buildings.
The same method has been used to build tunnels, but building a wall that surrounds four reactor buildings and their related facilities is "unprecedented anywhere in the world," said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. "We believe it is necessary that the country steps forward to support its construction," he said.
Today, there are reports that:
Japan’s government will step in to help the operator of the wrecked Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant deal with the tons of radioactive groundwater spilling into the Pacific Ocean.The problem may be bigger than it should be.
The government isn’t content to leave the matter to Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. and will draw up its own strategy to tackle the problem, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told a ministerial meeting in Tokyo today.
Abe’s comments echo those of Greenpeace campaigners who called yesterday for authorities to intervene, saying Tokyo Electric, also known as Tepco, is incapable of resolving the leaks. The prime minister’s stance underscores the escalating seriousness of the matter, which has been called an emergency by officials at the nation’s nuclear regulator.
Fukushima Residents Stayed Despite Warnings
The film Alone in the Zone is about the one resident who has remained in the red zone (20km from the reactor) after the rest of the area was evacuated:
Back in May of this year, it was reported that despite the crisis, many of the two million residents of Fukushima have continued to behave as if life in the prefecture is normal.
"Despite evacuating Fukushima in the summer and coming to live in Yamagata Prefecture, I make occasional trips back to the area. I have come to be feel quite alarmed by the way of thinking and the overall feeling in the air within Fukushima, and I feel that these attitudes have become more and more common in recent times. From doctors and hospital staff to schools and city officials, the message being repeated over and over is that Fukushima is safe, so much so that I have come to feel that, if I didn’t go along with it and join in this way of thinking, then I would simply not be welcome there.He likens the situation to behavior within a totalitarian state where everyone complies with the official position so as not to be seen as subversive. He further says, "The government has created an environment wherein people are going about their daily lives, all the time wondering whether their child will develop cancer or leukemia, yet conditioned not to breathe a word about it. It’s like living in wartime Japan again."
"The message being passed around is that worrying too much about radiation and the safety of our children actually has a negative effect on them, and that by removing their children from the area mothers run the risk of breaking up their families. People have begun saying 'For the sake of my child’s health, I’m not going to think about radiation any more.'
"Those who have questions or doubts regarding the information given to them by the government and local authorities come to be thought of as intentionally going against the system. Meanwhile, the people who dare to speak of moving away for their own safety are often considered to be selfish, egotistical beings who are doing little more than abandoning their home towns. I feel like we are all being led in one, incredibly restrictive, direction. We find ourselves in the bizarre situation where those who – without bias or intent – simply want to know more about the current situation and what will happen next, or to learn from the events of the past and go forward, are seen as individuals to be wary of. Thinking independently, experiencing things first-hand, raising issues or making suggestions that go against the grain; it almost feels like all of these things have come to be prohibited."
Back in March, Nakajima stressed that officials were consistently adjusting their position on what radiation levels constituted a danger to the public.
With hundreds of people still existing in a state of limbo and only just coming to terms with the fact that it may not be possible to return to the homes that they initially thought they would be leaving only temporarily, it would be impossible to suggest that the Fukushima disaster is even close to over. Despite this situation, many members of the Japanese parliament continue to stress the need to restart idling reactors elsewhere in the country, something that Nakajima among others is far from on board with.The author of the above piece, Philip Kendall, who lived in Fukushima for five years prior to the disaster and loved the area, says he understands the apparent inertia of those who have stayed behind. To leave your home, relocate your family and kids, find a new home and a new job seems daunting enough that Fukushima prefecture residents see no choice but to stay. "But," he writes, "with friends, family and jobs in the region and no desire to leave everything they have worked to build up behind, what choice do these people have other than to assure themselves that everything is under control and that they are quite safe within Fukushima? After all, what quality of life can a person hope to have if they spend their every waking hour fearing for their physical wellbeing?"
“The accident has already happened. At this time, people ought to be told, ‘Those living in areas with yearly radiation levels of five millisieverts or more must evacuate, and those in areas with one millisievert or more may choose to leave if they wish.’ The government (TEPCO) should accept responsibility and buy the land that these people once called home, and help them to find jobs and settle elsewhere. A government that cannot fulfill these basic responsibilities is not qualified to restart nuclear reactors.”
Action Against Samegawa-Radiowaste Incineration (Sorry about the source of this link -- it was the only article I could find in addition to the one cited.)
Lastly, I apologize for any inaccuracies: I'm not up on nuclear reactors. I've drawn information from the many articles cited herein, and urge any interested reader to follow the links.
Update: Please also see Joieau's excellent diary on the subject here.