JRCS Second Meeting of Nuclear Emergency Medical Care Advisors (FY2018)

2019/04/12

The Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) held the second meeting of Nuclear Emergency Medical Care (NEMC) Advisors for FY 2018 on December 20-21, 2018.

Meeting at Japanese Red Cross Fukushima Hospital


On the first day, participants assembled at the multipurpose hall located in the new premises where Fukushima Hospital was due to move into in a short while. The meeting was attended by approximately 30 NEMC advisors convened from the Red Cross hospitals across the country that have been designated as special duty hospitals such as Nuclear Emergency Core Hospital. With observers representing internal/external organizations in attendance, they reiterated the discussion on the subjects carried over from the previous meetings, including hoped-for ways to support hospitals in the event of a nuclear emergency, and the designing of training programs for the nuclear disaster response basic training sessions.

Additionally, in a session titled “Revisiting the Response to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Accident”, Shoichi Kishinami (Director of General Affairs and Organizational Development Division) and Yoshihiro Kubo (Director and Deputy Director of Volunteers Division), both belonging to the JRCS Fukushima Chapter, gave respective presentations. As workers who managed the emergency response to the Great East Japan Earthquake & Tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) Accident in 2011, they provided a chronological rundown, showing some photographs taken at that time, of the 10 days after the earthquake hit. These included the situation of devastation and ambient doses at various places in Fukushima Prefecture. They also showed how things were going at the Headquarters of Disaster Control and the Headquarters of Disaster Medical Care Coordination, and the challenges they faced in the relief activities within Fukushima Prefecture. After adjournment of the meeting, participants took a tour of the decontamination areas and other places in the new site of Fukushima Hospital, which has been designated as a Nuclear Emergency Core Hospital by Fukushima Prefectural Government.

[Photo 1] The NEMC advisors nationwide listening intently to the presentation, “Ten Days of the JRCS Fukushima Chapter”, given by Yoshihiro Kubo of the chapter in retrospect of the time.

[Photo 1] The NEMC advisors nationwide listening intently to the presentation, “Ten Days of the JRCS Fukushima Chapter”, given by Yoshihiro Kubo of the chapter in retrospect of the time.

Tour of Fukushima Daiichi NPP


On the second day of the meeting, participants visited the Fukushima Daiichi NPP, where they took a tour of the site and viewed the current situation at the premises and the decommissioning work being done on site.

Civic Life Returning in the Vicinity
The group left Fukushima City by bus in the early morning. Hearing the narration delivered by Reiko Takeda (Director, Fukushima Chapter), they travelled along Joban Expressway via Iitate Village*1 to Tomioka Town*2, where the TEPCO* Decommissioning Archive Center is located, passing through Minamisoma City*3, Namie Town*4, Futaba Town*5, and Okuma Town*6. As they drove through the area, although they caught a glimpse of the legacy of the accident such as cleaned-up farmland and monitoring posts standing by the roadside, some scenes like children walking to school made them conscious that the locals’ were beginning to regain, albeit little by little, their previous life.

* TEPCO: Tokyo Electric Power Company

*1 Iitate Village: Evacuation Order lifted on Mar. 31, 2017 (Some Difficult-to-Return Areas remain)
*2 Tomioka Town: Evacuation Order lifted on Apr. 1, 2017 (Some Difficult-to-Return Areas remain)
*3 Minamisoma City: Evacuation Order lifted on Jul. 12, 2016 (Some Difficult-to-Return Areas remain)
*4 Namie Town: Evacuation Order lifted on Mar. 31, 2017 (Some Difficult-to-Return Areas remain)
*5 Futaba Town: Difficult-to-Return Area (Some areas have been designated as Preparation Area for Lift of Evacuation Order)
*6 Okuma Town: Difficult-to-Return Area (Some areas have been designated as Habitation Restricted Area or Preparation Area for Lift of Evacuation Order)

[Photo 2] A monitoring post installed by the roadside on Joban Expressway.
In front of them was a truck hired by the Ministry of the Environment transporting the soil generated from decontamination activities to the temporary storage facility. (Near Odaka District, Minamisoma City)

[Photo 2] A monitoring post installed by the roadside on Joban Expressway.
In front of them was a truck hired by the Ministry of the Environment transporting the soil generated from decontamination activities to the temporary storage facility. (Near Odaka District, Minamisoma City)

Journey through the Restricted Area
After visiting the Decommissioning Archive Center, they took a ride on a TEPCO’s bus where a TEPCO employee was on board to brief them. They went to the Fukushima Daiichi NPP, passing through a restricted area. Approximately 8 years have passed since the earthquake and the NPP accident and now the mountains in the area have become a vast wilderness of overgrown weeds and bushes while battered buildings stood untouched. Also, the survey meter on the bus signaled a sporadic presence of radiation hotspots within the restricted area such as the forests.

[Photo 3] A view along the roadside of Route 6 within the restricted area with road signs standing in line warning, “DIFFICULT-TO-RETURN AREA AHEAD”, etc. (Near Moto-oka, Tomioka Town)

[Photo 3] A view along the roadside of Route 6 within the restricted area with road signs standing in line warning, “DIFFICULT-TO-RETURN AREA AHEAD”, etc. (Near Moto-oka, Tomioka Town)

Current Status of the Fukushima Daiichi NPP
Participants first heard a presentation by a TEPCO employee in a conference room in the plant. The presenter highlighted the challenges TEPCO have been addressing, which included:

  • Progress of the removal of the spent fuel and fuel debris from the damaged reactors of Units1-4
  • Countermeasures against contaminated water by water treatment facilities and the landside impervious wall for suppressing groundwater inflow
  • Improvement of the site working conditions, such as radiation protection and controlling radiation dose, at the premises where approximately 4,000 workers on average per day are on duty

Subsequently, the group, each wearing a personal dosimeter, boarded a bus that runs exclusively within the precincts. From the bus, they saw Units 1 through 4, contaminated water storage tanks, contaminated water treatment facilities, the impervious wall system, and the workers occupied in remediation activities. As they drove around the facilities, especially when passing through between Unit 2 and Unit 3, the reading on the survey meter in the bus surged, pointing 200 µSv/h or over in its peak. In the precincts, they also saw the Seismically Isolated Building, from which TEPCO employees directed response activities during the ongoing accident, and deformed tanks compressed by the tsunami lying untouched on the coastal side of the premises.

[Photo 4] The northern side of Unit 3 building that still bears massive scars from the hydrogen explosion that occurred in the building.

[Photo 4] The northern side of Unit 3 building that still bears massive scars from the hydrogen explosion that occurred in the building.

Review of the Ground Zero Tour
The mid- and long-term roadmap created by TEPCO assumes the removal of fuel debris to commence within 10 years after the occurrence of the accident (within 2021). It also presumes that the decommissioning of Units 1-4 should be completed in 30-40 years after the accident. What the group saw on this tour reinforced their sense of the multifaceted, long-lasting negative impact of the NPP accident on the residents and environment in the vicinity of the site as well as on the remediation workers. This tour also made them realize, again, that the reconstruction of the surrounding area required long-range support, and that the nuclear emergency preparedness was of vital importance in both national and international perspective.