Japan plans cutting evacuation zone

09 August 2011

The Japanese government is planning to allow residents from certain areas near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant to return to their homes. Meanwhile, the plant owner has reported a quarterly loss of ¥571.7 billion ($7.4 billion). 


The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has decided to make it easier for residents and business owners from within three kilometres of the plant to pay short visits to check their properties as early as this month. It also plans to simplify evacuation preparedness, lifting the request for people in the 20-30 kilometre zone to be prepared fror evacuation. Furthermore, METI said it may be possible for some people from evacuated areas to be able to return home permanently, noting that the damaged reactors are becoming more stable and radiation levels have decreased.


The decision to allow people back would be made on three considerations: how safe the nuclear plant is and at what distance from it adequate safety can be ensured for residents; the results of radiation monitoring to determine whether levels are safe for residents in their specific location; and how easily services and infrastructure can be recovered in different areas.


With regards to the safety of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, METI said that it will take into consideration the possibility of further hydrogen explosions, failure of cooling of the reactors and used fuel pools, the risk of further earthquakes and tsunamis; and the effect of continuous release of radioactive material. Basic affirmations of safety in these respects was confirmed by a METI study released on 4 August and once these matters have been further reviewed on the basis of pessimistic assumptions, the government will then decide to which areas people would be allowed to return. In areas too close to the plant or in specific areas which there are high radiation levels due to materials already deposited on the ground, the government will consult local authorities on long-term countermeasures.


METI said that it aims to compile the basic policy for decontamination by around mid-August and will then carry out thorough and continuous decontamination work. As a long term goal, it aims to limit additional exposure to residents as a result of the accident to less than 1.0 millisieverts per year. This is the same as the maximum legally permissible dose from the operation of a nuclear facility in Japan and compares to the 2.4 millisiverts per year global average that people receive from all sources each year. Radiation levels in some areas, it must be noted, are as high as 20 millisieverts per year although people continue to live in some of these with no ill-effects expected.


METI has told the country's Nuclear Safety Committee that it has confirmed the appropriateness of lifting the evacuation zone. It has also instructed local authorities to begin preparing recovery plans, including support for the relocation of evacuated residents, resuming public services and restoring public infrastructure.


For those areas that will remain evacuated, the government said that it would monitor radiations levels in the air and soil so residents can return at the earliest opportunity.


Costs hit Tepco results 


Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) reported a quarterly loss of ¥571.7 billion ($7.4 billion) resulting from restoration work at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant and compensating people affected by the accident.


The company announced that operating revenues for the first quarter of fiscal year 2011 (1 April to 30 June) fell 7.2% from the same period of the previous year to ¥1133.1 billion ($14.7 billion).


Quarterly net losses were ¥571.7 billion ($7.4 billion) due to costs and losses of ¥105.5 billion ($1.4 billion) resulting from restoration costs of the properties damaged by the earthquake and tsunami, and estimated extraordinary losses of ¥397.7 billion ($5.1 billion) on a non-consolidated basis related to the nuclear damage compensation payments to recompense those affected by the accident. This includes ¥88.2 billion ($1.1 billion) for "mental distress" and ¥309.4 billion ($4 billion) for loss of income, etc. Extraordinary losses during the quarter due to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi amounted to ¥105.3 billion ($1.7 billion).


Electricity sales during the quarter dropped 12.1% from the same period of the previous year to ¥60.2 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) as a result of decreased electricity usage.


The average capacity factor of Tepco's nuclear power plants between April and June was just 29%. Meanwhile, increased costs of fossil fuel as a replacement for its nuclear plants also pushed up Tepco’s losses.


For the year ended March 2011, Tepco reported a net loss of ¥1.25 trillion ($15 billion). As for a prediction of the results for the financial year ending March 2012, the company said these are "to be determined" as it is difficult to estimate future electricity supply and demand. Tepco said that it would make such a prediction “as soon as the situation changes.”


Researched and written

by World Nuclear News