Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency faced further embarrassment this week for neglecting to use US Department of Energy radiation data during evacuations near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Meanwhile, the Japanese parliament approved the creation of a new and more independent agency that will replace NISA by September.Recent developments related to Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s severely damaged nuclear plant include:
DOE Data IgnoredOn March 17-19 of last year, the US Department of Energy’s Aerial Measuring System created a detailed map of airborne radiation early in the crisis using data gathered during 40 hours of military flights around the plant. The map was sent to NISA and the science ministry but was not released to the public or shared widely within NISA or other parts of the Japanese government. The Asahi Shimbun reported Monday that in some areas radiation levels were measured in excess of 125 microsieverts per hour, which could create a dose in excess of a yearly regulatory limit in eight hours. Yet officials directing evacuations may not have seen the DOE map, and thousands of people who left their homes on government warnings headed in the direction of the plume. Soon after the Asahi report, NISA held a press conference to apologize for not making better use of the DOE data and to try to explain why it had not reached more decision makers.Parliament Confirms Creation of New RegulatorAs promised, Japan’s political parties enacted an agreement to create a new nuclear regulator this week. The body will replace the existing NISA, which resides within the industry ministry charged with promoting nuclear power. Replacing it in September will be a semi-autonomous commission of five experts with authority over technical issues in nuclear power. The lower house of Japan’s parliament approved the law June 22, with the upper house voting to pass it Wednesday, Japan Today reported.Hosono: Some Unit 4 Fuel Removal This YearThe Japanese minister appointed to oversee Fukushima, Goshi Hosono, told Reuters that crews are preparing to begin removal of undamaged fuel from unit 4 this year. That tentative schedule would be a year ahead of previous estimates by TEPCO. While the utility has issued a report reassuring that unit 4 remains structurally sound, Hosono said the new schedule is meant to address concerns about the potential impact of earthquakes on the building that lost its roof in a hydrogen explosion. Its spent fuel pool holds 1,535 assemblies. It was covered with a 4-centimeter-thick steel plate last week to protect it from debris as crews demolish part of the damaged building around it.
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