Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant Weekly Review

A proposed energy policy eliminating nuclear power by 2030, as well as thyroid testing results and the appointment of a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman to an oversight panel highlighted the news from Japan in the last week.

Recent developments related to the accidents at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant include:

Fukushima unit 3 spent fuel tank. Source: TEPCONoda Plans Zero Nuclear Power by 2030

In a draft energy policy released this week, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's government proposed a gradual phase-out of nuclear energy in Japan that was soon condemned by business groups for acting too quickly and by opposition politicians for not acting fast enough.

While the country's 2010 energy plan would have upped nuclear's share of Japanese power generation to more than 50 percent by 2030, the new policy would "invest all possible policy resources to make it possible to exit nuclear power" in that time, the Asahi Shimbun reported. The proposal's fate is uncertain, as any new government formed following elections in the coming months would be under no obligation to follow it.

Kyodo reported that the head of the Japan Business Federation expressed his opposition to ending nuclear power to the prime minister Thursday.

No Immediate Effects Evident in First Round of Thyroid Testing

On Tuesday, the Fukushima Prefectural government released data on thyroid testing for 80,000 children and teenagers in the region. While radiation-induced thyroid cancer takes years to develop, the initial results were encouraging. The Asahi reported that only one person was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which researchers did not attribute to the accident, and another 27 were diagnosed with benign tumors. The testing will eventually encompass 360,000 people 18 or younger at the time of the earthquake who will be tested periodically throughout their lives.

The government also reported estimates for the external radiation exposure of 97,000 residents in the first four months after the accident. Eighteen people had doses 10 millisieverts or higher; 44 had doses between 5 and 10 millisieverts and the rest were below 5 millisieverts. The study did not include nuclear workers.

Former NRC Chairman Joins TEPCO Oversight Panel

Former NRC Chairman Dale Klein has been appointed to a committee formed by TEPCO on Tuesday. He will join other experts from Japan and Europe on the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee to propose safety improvements to the company's executives, according to the Daily Yomiuri.

Photo: Taken last September and released Thursday, this overhead shot is from an inspection of the unit 3's spent fuel pool. (Source: TEPCO)

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