SVCF Bulletin No. 61 issued on March 20, 2015

The 39th Regular Diet Meeting

At 11:00 a.m. on February 26 (Thu) 2015, the 39th Regular Diet Meeting was held in meeting room B102 of the House of Councilors Hall. We heard a presentation titled “Visit to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant” by Mr. Akihiko Yoshikawa, a former TEPCO employee and now representing AFW: “Appreciate Fukushima Workers.”

Mr. Yoshikawa had planned an inspection tour to the stricken Fukushima Plant for those who successfully bootstrapped business and have been engaged in reconstruction work in Fukushima. On February 16, 2015, he arranged the first group visit by sole civilians.

Unlike the indirect and obscure coverage by mass media or politicians, the objective was to let visitors look into actual on-site situations and publicly report their candid views as local residents to the public.

True to the name of “Appreciate Fukushima Workers”, AFW calls for the promotion of understanding regarding actual on-site work and for the improvement of the employees’ work and life environments. Their stance met the SVCF’s objective. This tour was aimed at our mutual goal. In his closing remarks, we were quite impressed by the fact that he emphasized the wish for mutual understanding and relationship to deepen between TEPCO responsible for decommissioning and people who have watched the ongoing process and that he quite appropriately responded to questions from the audience.

Diet member, Ms. Hiroe Makiyama, the House of Councilors, Democratic Party, who has always helped arrange these meetings, gave her greetings. Secretaries of Diet members: Mr. Yoshitami Kameoka, the House of Representatives, Liberal Democratic Party, Mr. Takeshi Shina, the House of Representatives, Democratic Party, Mr. Yukihisa Fujita, the House of Councilors, Democratic Party, and Ms. Kazumi Ota, the House of Representatives, Isin Party, also attended the meeting.

In order to bridge the gap between TEPCO and the public: “Visit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant as a civilian” by Akihiko Yoshikawa.

I worked within the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini or No. 2 Nuclear Power Plants as a TEPCO employee till June 2012. After that, I founded a voluntary organization: “Appreciate Fukushima Workers” and am now supporting the spreading of information regarding the condition of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and on-site reconstruction activities. Currently, I work with regeneration of forestry, olive plantation, and educational aids for junior high school.

I was born in 1980 and am 33 years old now. I entered a TEPCO sponsored high school, learned about nuclear and fire power, and got a job at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. I lived in Futaba machi in Futaba gun then. I worked for about 9 years in the Daiichi Plant and was transferred to the Daini Plant. I married and lived in Namie machi.

When the nuclear disaster happened, I was in the Daini Plant and devoted myself to recovery efforts. I resigned from TEPCO in June 2012 since I concluded that I, rather than being in TEPCO after I had seen daily occurrences in the Daiichi Plant, hardly could reach the public in the right and accurate manner. I had also known, in real circumstances, employees in affiliated companies and subcontractors, who had worked, lost their jobs or had to resign.

At that time of nuclear disaster, I lived in Namie machi in Futaba gun. Residents were ordered to evacuate for fear of heavy radiation exposure. That is why I still remain a refugee. In nutshell, I am one of the TEPCO employees whose firm could not prevent the disaster, and, concurrently, live in the same conditions of the refugees who suffered from that disaster.

Why do we want Daiichi Plant visits by private citizens?

At present there is a deep conception gap between TEPCO and the public. The parties on either side cannot face each other. Just a few days ago, it was revealed that TEPCO drained polluted water in the ocean in an off-hand, almost cover-up manner. If TEPCO had kept close contact with the public, we could have acquired relevant information in advance and taken a proper countermeasures. I believe that decommissioning is an essential task to establish a connection between TEPCO and the public.

Actual conditions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

What I want you to understand today is a notion of preparatory process, as seen in the distributed layout of the Daiichi Plant, which is a part of the facilities necessary to tackle the main task. The facilities have mushroomed massively. Among other things, polluted water tanks are evident. Polluted water, increasing by the influx of underground water, is partly filtered by a purification system and saved in tanks. The core of the damaged reactor seems to be continuously cooled with water in a stable condition. The core problem is the melted radioactive fuel rods. In a decommissioning process, melted fuel rods must be securely recovered and saved in a safe place. As for the reactor No. 4, the fuel rods were outside the reactor at the time of the disaster. They were kept in a cooling pool and have since been successfully removed.

However, we don’t precisely know the condition of the remaining fuel rods, in the reactors No. 1 to 3. It is relatively easy to access the reactor No. 3 so that they may remove debris scattered atop the roof, look into the reactor, and attempt the removal of melted fuel rods and debris. The reason why I dared to use a word “attempt” was due to what I heard directly from the Plant Superintendent Ono saying that “unless we achieve a revolutionary technical innovation, we will be unable to remove them.”

Securing manpower and improvement in the work environment

The number of workers has consistently risen since December 2013. At the beginning, a total number was about 3,000 but that number has by now increased to 7,000. The most growing category is that of construction workers. Most of them are new to operations in the Nuclear Power Plant. They must wear protective gear sets and full face masks. Attired in a heavy protection, they work in summer and winter day by day. Therefore, accidents are inevitable and unavoidable, even fatal accidents. Only last month, one worker died in an accident.

The degree of environmental measures has advanced to an extension of the safe area where a full-faced mask is no more needed. 2 years ago masks were still a must but the safe area where the cumbersome protection of workers is no longer needed has stretched out by virtue of the effect of wide-spreading decontamination work.

A large 9-storied stop-off facility for 1,200 people is under construction next to the in-and-out checkpoint. After completion, workers will always be able to get warm meals indoors.

One more well improved facility was a new clerical office which has just started operation. A 2-storied building with about 150 meter depth has been built. This is chiefly for TEPCO employees.

Many buildings stand around this area. These were used as offices to accommodate workers before the disaster. These are now so badly contaminated that they cannot be used any more. If these were perfectly cleaned up, well arranged, and opened up for workers, their work environment will be much better and there would be pretty close facilities in which they will have their meals.

An improved environment is the removal of scattered debris caused by the tsunami. There is an open space north of reactors No. 5 and 6 that was originally prepared for the construction of new reactors No. 7 and 8. Large amount of highly radiating debris were carried to that place and subsequently these sites were well arranged.

Next, I intend to explain the slide pictures taken on that day. I will present an outline of the tour as it was, to give you a glimpse of the onsite position and the mood there.

Tour Center: TEPCO had a tour center built in the area of J Village to welcome visitors. A task force by TEPCO employees, who are mainly from the Public Affairs group, briefs a preliminary session before a tour.

Checkpoint: Every morning during commuting hours, uniformed police officers inspect incoming cars one by one, so cars will have to lined up for quite a long distance. It takes a long time to pass through along the narrow country road; however, this cannot be skipped in terms of security. A drive distance that should take an hour may take one and half or two hours.

Entrance to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant: This is a place called the in-and-out checkpoint. Workers wear protective gear here and enter the premises with a dose equivalent meter attached. The image is that of a factory anywhere, if we were not informed of the name and location. The facilities have been well streamlined. At the entrance, there is a stop-off. Till the completion of a larger one, this temporary facility which looks like a bullpen is a construction site accommodated for workers’ relaxation.

The larger stop-off: It looks almost completed.

Visitors’ room: We changed clothes here. This merely meant we donned full-faced masks, cotton gloves and foot covers. A dose equivalent meter was allotted to each of us, to record the amount of accumulated radiation exposure. Please look at the young female employee here. Young women came to work inside the plant. There was a young visitor in our group too. Though we were requested to stay in a bus during the tour, the radiation dose seemed to have been lowered, to great extent. The reason why we wore vests was that we had to keep a dose meter in the left pocket and an ID card in the right pocket. A guard checked the IDs. Nobody could go farther without an ID.

Changing buses: We went through the gate and changed buses. In the background, an exhaust stack is seen.

In front of reactor No. 4: This is the front of the reactor No. 4 building. We don’t see the building in the picture. There is a particular reason. We are prohibited to take pictures of fences, monitoring cameras, entrance and exit of the building in view of security measures unless we acquire particular permission in advance. Even TEPCO employees are not allowed to do so unless there is a compelling reason. I applied for permission this time; however, I was severely restricted. All I was allowed to photograph was the building for the removal of fuel rods.

Underground frozen wall: A 60 centimeter long pipe protrudes from the ground. At one meter intervals, each pipe is hammered down to 30 meter below ground level. A cooling agent circulates in these pipes. This freezes the soil around the pipe in the ground, producing the effect of a popsicle, by freezing the ground. When we hear of the process, we imagine an underground frozen wall in the form of shields hammered down into the ground, however, it’s really just piles hammered down and the frost building up frozen soil around the piles. Unless all soil between the piles freezes well, they cannot stop the flux of underground water.

That being said, the frozen wall is merely a countermeasure to stop influx of underground water. There are no alternatives. The effect cannot be measured unless the same procedure is tried in another place. It is expected that if walls freeze well, the water influx will diminish drastically. Unfortunately, this is just a theory. No-one can inspect underground.

Polluted water tanks: A real tank must be fabulously large, to store a thousand tons of polluted water. Large tanks are needed for the storage of such vast amounts. They have to build one tank every two days to keep up with the increasing volume of polluted water. They will be unable to keep storing polluted water in ground tanks. They planned and forwarded a project to discharge filtered water, in which only tritium remains. In order to achieve this, they have to build such huge tanks every two days. They have to start from a concrete laid foundation on the ground.

View in front of reactor No. 4: Here we can see the spread of rubble carried by the tsunami. We still see small-size rubble but the larger rubble has been removed. Here, heavy machinery can drive in and out during the operation.

A crane atop the reactor No. 3: The reactor of No. 3 is being prepared for the removal of fuel rods. The roof and scattered rubble have been removed. We see a large crane atop the rooftop but there is no one in the operation booth. A person sitting in the crane would be severely exposed, so the operation is remotely operated from an earthquake-resistant building. Some of the moves are badly explained, as if they were parts of a TV game. The huge crane is remote-controlled and the rubble is removed piecemeal.

Incinerator: An incineration facility is under construction northwest of reactors 5 and 6. Every nuclear power plant has an incinerator on the premises. They are intended for the burning of polluted waste, such as protective gear, to reduce the volume that has to be stored. What matters, as far as the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant is concerned, is how to cope with the increasing amount of discarded protective gear. 7,000 workers go in daily. They change into protective gear before work. Workers who work in the A area in the morning and in the B area in the afternoon need two sets. This means that up to 14,000 sets of gear becomes polluted waste daily. This gear is so radioactively polluted that it cannot be disposed of outside the plant and there is no way to store it inside the plant. Thus they pile up in large quantity. In fact, the large volume of used polluted gear suspend the work. I experienced it once. In order not to bring the daily work to a stop, an incinerator is necessary. There used to be one just south of reactor No. 4. When the disaster happened, they used the first and second basements of the incinerator as polluted water storage. That is why new buildings are being built.

Forest growth removed: When I worked at TEPCO, there used to be a large forest here. At present polluted water tanks occupy the area. Whole forests groves were felled although their trunks are highly radiating waste. The trunks will have to be piled up and keet on the premises. They will be burned later in a new incinerator.

In front of the reactor No. 5 and 6: Workers come out of the cars. Around reactors 5 and 6 protective measures are unnecessary. The people can work without masks and gloves. Starting from a hundred meters away from the reactors No. 1, 2, 3, and 4, the dose rate becomes lower and safer.

Unattended fallen iron tower: Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant suffered a terrible meltdown when electricity from outside and from the Tokyo power plant was cut off. The iron tower fell down because of the earthquake. People only noticed the reactor buildings; however, it will also be necessary to provide earthquake resistance capability to all surrounding facilities. Though a task force called “Fukushima 50” remained in the actual place, they could not cope since they didn’t have enough electricity. They were forced to collect car batteries. The reason was the electricity blackout. Even TEPCO admits this.

Loading deck: As this faces the ocean, it was severely damaged by the tsunami. However, the present state of affairs seems fairly well arranged to accommodate the access of heavy machinery. As we were confined to the inside of the bus, we didn’t get a view of the seaside condition. A TEPCO employee showed us a picture of the shielding walls taken from the seaside. The polluted water in the trench looked somehow blocked from the sea, but not completely blocked.

Clerical Office: This is for workers, as I mentioned before. This is a 3 story building, of a size similar to that of an elementary or junior high school. If they don’t use this at all, they will have to leave the power plant after work, go back to their offices and do their paper work there. This is quite inefficient. If offices were available on site, they’d only have to process papers to TEPCO there.

Vehicle maintenance factory: There were many people who had arrived by car on March 11 (Fri), 2011. For a couple of months after the disaster, vehicles used in the plant were not allowed to leave, because of radiation check and maintenance. Cars were exposed but still usable. For owners, this factory was built for self-check and repair purposes. Fire engines are also reserved for “Dual cooling policy” in case of an emergency. Their routine maintenance is carried out here. In addition, there are several gas stations in the plant. Cars can be adequately managed within the premises. This service was not available before the disaster.

Anti-earthquake building: A car is parked in front of the anti-earthquake building, which was radioactively polluted. Cars may be driven within the premises but they cannot be taken away from the area. The building interior is well cleaned. A new office has been built, at present 60 to 70 employees work in it. However, they say this is seldom used.

Emergency operation room: Compared with the original shape, it became fairy cleaned up. Encouraging letters arrived from throughout Japan are put on the wall. There is a round table at the center and staffers of Nuclear Regulatory Agency are always present. A monitor covers Fukushima No 1, No.2, Kashiwazaki, and TEPCO head office on line. If a problem rises, people assemble here for talks and possible countermeasures. They monitor reactor No. 1, 2, and 3 on-line in real time.

J village shuttle bus: We rode in this bus back to J village. We had a follow-up discussion and our tour ended. We had gathered at 12:00 p.m. and we spent 5 hours until we returned back to J Village. We spent one hour on the premises. We received  accumulated radiation doses of 10 microSievert. In this very limited time, only one hour, we merely saw an outlook and no details inside. My total impression is that the sites are changing into a quite well arranged work environment. It has improved quite well.

On the contrary, although it seems things go so perfectly, they lull us into an illusion. The actuality is that we cannot touch the core of the problem. They are barely doing preparatory work now.

Two days ago a piece of news was released announcing that polluted rain water was drained in the sea. TEPCO had founded a relationship with fishermen in Fukushima on condition that they agreed to the draining of filtered water into the sea. This was decisively reversed in two days. This is a logical conclusion. Taking our visit and this news into account, we have to admit that an abysmal gap lays between TEPCO and the public. I wonder if TEPCO employees, who are daily working, numb their work ethics and morale against threat of radioactive radiation.

This issue was quite simple in the effect that rain water has constantly been leaking into a ditch and is flowing through outlets into the sea. Objectively speaking, it is clear that rain water started to flow into the sea immediately after the disaster. However, the amount of radioactive material per liter has reduced drastically in the past 4 years. In terms of workers at work, they may excuse that it is a scientifically small degree not to surpass the safe criteria worth to announce the fact. Conversely, the public may retort that the quantity, whether large or small, is not the issue.

The bottom line is that they don’t interact with each other. Commoners don’t know real TEPCO persons. On the contrary, neither do TEPCO members. We have to share many pieces of information with people, to allow them to imagine real workers working in the plant.

We have looked the other way, imaging that “Fukushima plant has nothing to do with my daily life. Someone takes care of the reconstruction work.” This led to obscurity of information and it has finally bounced back into our lives.

This condition is unlikely to improve, unless we with openness and clarity establish a tie with TEPCO to some extent. We seldom get any negative information in the available TEPCO materials. Reading their convenient stories, we come to feel as if things proceed quite positively on site. However, we hardly see what means are used  and its effect in a timetable for decommissioning. An arbitrary stance on the TEPCO’s side, which diligently streams one-way service to the public, has still not been settled.

Tour members from Fukushima told that they came to see completely different images. In Fukushima, news on the Fukushima Plant is released every day. However, even Fukushima people don’t know much about the present condition on the plant. Even more, people outside the prefecture know little. This is what I learned from the tour.

In the Flower Memorial Service

Together with “Kizuna Japan” voluntary group in Saitama, we were invited to attend the Flower Memorial Service in Hisano hama, Iwaki city, Fukushima prefecture, where 67 local residents have passed away, and 12 are still missing. A total of 45 came by bus to attend the ceremony. Although the weather was very foul, with rain and strong winds, many people were already attending at 10.30 a.m. when we arrived at the site.

In response to our request to SVCF members for donations at the regular Diet meeting or in other channels, we have received lots of conributions. Thanks to your cooperation we could offer lots of flowers to the altar.

As it was a windy day, a scheduled visit to the Hamakaze Shopping Mall was unexpectedly cancelled. In closing, we heard a ward mayor’s lurid tale on that day. It was quite moving. He explained: “When at first the water went out far out into the sea, I could see sea bottom that had never been exposed before. At that moment, I was quite intimidated by fear of how horribly large the following wave would be. I ran around broadcasting “leave here right now for higher ground!” However, quite sadly, lots of people were killed in the tsunami. I still feel much chagrined.”

This is our 4th participation. We gain nodding acquaintances year by year. I am somewhat satisfied that I could contribute by making publicity for SVCF.

Suspend SVCF Watchers’ Activities

Since the start in fall 2011, this group has released very high quality technical reports based on professional analysis and detailed explanations, in view of the abundant data announced in TEPCO’s webpages.

Nevertheless, generation change has not really proceeded and it is getting difficult for current members to keep activities due to their own and family member’s health condition. Under these circumstances, SVCF reluctantly decided to suspend Watchers’ activities as of March this year.

Decommissioning work bogs down and we have no clear foresight for the future. We regret having to do so. We deeply apologize to those who have supported us, for our lack of capacity. We sincerely hope for your understanding of this issue.