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Fukushima Accident Updates (Blog)

The web's top source of objective Fukushima News. No "spins"...just summaries of news reports in Japan's Press, which admits it is 94% antinuclear and calls the Fukushima accident a nuclear disaster. Posts are twice weekly; Monday and Thursday.

The are three regularly-updated pages concerning widely-reported Fukushima issues on this site; Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments (updated monthly), Fukushima Child Thyroid Cancer Issue and Is There Fukushima Radiation on North America’s West Coast? (both updated when new information is available) All can be access by clicking on the titles in the left-column menu.

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Fukushima: The First Five Days... taken from the hand-written staff records at Fukushima Daiichi the first five days of the crisis. Fukushima : Available here and all E-book stores. Click here for more...

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April 28, 2016

  • The number of worker injuries at F. Daiichi has been cut in half. Tepco says the number who were injured or died at the plant decreased by about 50% from last year. In 2015, 25 workers were injured, and one died while cleaning a tank on a vehicle. The number of injuries in 2014 was 49. 60% of the 2015 injuries were with inexperienced workers, but the majority were minor injuries that did not allow them to take off from work. Tepco says the reason for the marked drop is probably due to improved communication and thorough implementation of firm safety measures. The new training facilities for green workers must have also contributed.

  • The Associated Press says that the F. Daiichi ice wall is not watertight. The AP report has been posted by Japan’s most popular, antinuclear-friendly newspapers: The Asahi Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun. Project Chief Architect Yuichi Okamura says the amount of groundwater that will be blocked is “not zero”. Edward Yarmak, president of Alaska’s Arctic Foundations, says, "The refrigeration system has just been turned on, and it takes time to form the wall. First, the soil freezes concentrically around the pipes and when the frozen cylinders are large enough, they coalesce and form a continuous wall. After time, the wall increases in thickness." Critics say the ice wall probably won’t work, the money to build it and run the system is wasted, and Tepco should have built a concrete wall to the west of the station to stop all groundwater from coming in. Regardless, the AP report fails to mention that Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority made Tepco agree to not entirely seal off all flow because of fears that a complete stoppage might allow highly contaminated basement waters to flow out, rather than groundwater flowing in. -- (Comment - The Associated Press completely ignored the early March announcement of the ice wall being approved, and the initial report of it progressing as expected on March 30th. If the AP had done its homework, it would have known that the NRA is the reason the full stoppage of groundwater flow is not going to happen. Once again, the AP shows it is little more than an antinuclear apologist.)

  • A Kyushu Mayor says his town might agree to be a nuclear waste disposal site. Genkai Mayor Hideo Kishimoto said the town is not volunteering, “…but if the state picks Genkai as an appropriate site, we will agree to hold talks. We have a forward-looking stance toward the country's nuclear policy. Construction of a final disposal facility in Japan is necessary for the country's energy plan. If Genkai is proposed as the only candidate, we will start considering accepting such a facility." Kishimoto is unique in that he has inspected a candidate location overseas. He also said he had his issues with his town becoming home to a disposal site at first, but changed his mind when Tokyo said they will consider off-shore, undersea disposal. Genkai is the home of the same-named nuke station in Saga Prefecture, on Kyushu Island. -- --

  • More information on the NRA’s “snap” inspection proposal. On Monday, we reported that the Nuclear Regulation Authority wants to institute surprise inspections at nuke plants. It will literally take an Act of Congress (Diet). The Agency plans to submit a bill that will revise the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law at a Diet session in 2017 and implement the new policy in 2020. We posted that safety inspections now occur four times a year. As it turns out, the quarterly visits are security-oriented. The routine safety inspections are once every 13 months. The schedule is pre-arranged with the owning utilities, including letting the companies know what will be inspected ahead-of-time. Only the notified areas of safety are inspected. Thus, the current law makes surprise inspections possible, but unlikely. The NRA, at the behest of the IAEA, wants to make non-routine inspections entirely free of a pre-visit approval, and leave the scope of the examinations open to the discretion of the inspectors.

  • A Tokyo court orders Tepco to additionally compensate the families of two evacuation deaths. Two men, aged 98 and 73, were among patients forced to evacuate Futaba Hospital in March, 2011. Tepco has already agreed to partial compensation, but did not feel they should cover all of it because other factors had not been considered by the plaintiffs. The Tokyo court says both men lapsed into hypothermia due to the power outage caused by the quake, and that the evacuation aggravated their illnesses. As a result, Tepco has been ordered to pay about $280,000 in compensation to the families. One family will get about $160,000 and the other about $120,000. The court judged that each family was worthy of $200,000, but the nuke accident evacuation was not the only cause of the elderly patient’s passing. The lawyer for the families said the court had not taken the nuke accident into consideration. --

  • NRA scientists say a fault under Shika unit #1 may qualify as seismic. The panel decision supports a draft assessment of last year, which said it is reasonable to believe the fault moved since the Late Pleistocene period; within the past 130,000 years. The report says it is impossible to conclude that the fault will not move in the future, so it is prudent to assume that it qualifies as seismic under Japanese law. However, the panel admitted their decision is based on limited data, including sketches of the geological seam made when the plant was built. The report also concedes that the strata around the fault shows no sign of movement over the past 130,000 years. Thus the conclusion that it “might” be seismic. However, the panel says the NRA should seek further analysis before rendering a final decision. Shika station owner Hokuriku Electric Power says they will gather more data to support their finding that the seam is not seismic, and continue to pursue restart of unit #1. -- --

April 25, 2016

  • Tokyo wants to reopen most of Katsurao Village on June 12th. More than three-quarters of the community will have the evacuation order lifted, but it is not known how many of the 1,451 residents will take the opportunity. Mayor Masahide Matsumoto and Tokyo officials announced the plan to about 300 villagers on April 10th. Many were unhappy with the decision. Some questioned whether decontamination has been adequate. One person asked, "Is it really safe to live there?" The mayor said he will follow the will of his constituency, but added, "Personally, I would like to follow the schedule of ending evacuation on June 12."

  • Tepco plans to dismantle most of unit #1&2 exhaust stack. The Nuclear regulation Authority had asked for the disassembly because steel beams in the upper support structure had fractured, probably during the hydrogen explosion of unit #1. The NRA says there is a risk of the 120 meter-high stack collapsing in the future. Because of high radiation levels around the stack from residual contamination left inside after the venting of March 12, 2011, dismantling will be performed by crane. TEPCO officials said that fractures were found in eight steel joint locations at and above the 66 meter elevation. Tepco says a collapse is unlikely, even with the fractures in the support matrix. But, there would be impacts on the decommissioning effort if the unlike were to happen, so Tepco agreed to do it. 

  • Ground has been broken for a decommissioning research facility in Tomioka. It will be part of the “Innovation Coast” project, integrating high-tech industries along the coastal region of Fukushima Prefecture. The decommissioning facility is planned to employ 150 engineers and researchers from Japan and around the world, investigating ways to remove the re-solidified corium (melted fuel and core components) and handle disposal of the high-level wastes. Construction will cost about $12 million. Tomioka Mayor Koichi Miyamoto hopes that the new facility will motivate local revitalization efforts.

  • Tepco has posted the latest Press handout on the status of the “ice wall”. It seems that freezing of the earth around the refrigerant pipes on the sea-side portion of the barrier is progressing nicely. Once it is fully frozen and a period of monitoring groundwater levels is complete, Phase 2 freezing of the north and south portions of the system will begin. Interestingly, groundwater level locations both inside and outside the portion being frozen demonstrated an initial decrease in groundwater levels for a few days, but have remained steady since.

  • The NRA is planning to have unannounced (“snap”) nuke inspections. This will be part of inspection upgrades the agency hopes to have in place by 2020. The introduction of “snap” inspections was suggested by the International Atomic Energy Agency in their assessment of the NRA, issued in January. Currently, on-site inspections are formally scheduled four times a year; once every calendar quarter. Inspections beyond the pre-arranged schedule must be approved by the plant owners. If the proposed change makes it through the Diet, unannounced inspections will be allowed regardless of a utility’s feelings on the matter. The NRA will set up a panel to next month to discuss the matter, and submit legislation to the government by next February. --

  • The OECD wants to set new international standards for radioactive food contamination. The Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development announced it two weeks ago, but Fukushima Minpo seems to be the first Japanese Press outlet to post it. NEA Director General William Magwood stressed the need to unify ways of measuring radioactive concentration and standards that currently differ from country to country. For example, the Ukraine’s limit is 20 Becquerels per kilogram for bread, and the United States is 1,200 Bq/kg for all foods. Japan’s standard for food radioactivity is 100 Bq/kg for all foods. Japan hopes the OECD decision will help ease bans on Japanese food exports to foreign countries.

  • News reports on nukes following the Kumamoto earthquakes did not cause public alarm. This observation was made by NHK’s President Katsuto Momii at the NHK Broadcasting Center. A source close to Momii explained, "Ongoing reporting on nuclear power plants should be based on official announcements so as not to stir up residents' anxiety unnecessarily." While most news media representatives in attendance had no objections, a few didn’t like it. One executive commented, "This is an order wherein the president is trying to make sure that broadcasts reflect his own personal viewpoint" implying that other Press officials might not feel the same way. Rikkyo University’s Hiroyoshi Sunakawa, said, "President (Momii) has strong authority over personnel-related matters, and if the remark (on nuclear power) was indeed made, it is a problematic statement that has a chilling effect on on-the-ground reporting. It could threaten independent reporting that aims to verify the appropriateness of evacuation plans in the event of a nuclear power plant accident…”

  • Tepco announces the latest financial assistance influx from Tokyo for evacuee compensation. Tepco received about $40 million from the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation for May. This brings the total for compensation pay-outs, to date, to nearly $50 billion.

  • Deregulation is hurting financially-strapped Tepco. As of April 8th, more than 600,000 households across Japan had switched electricity providers. About 60% of the total were from Tepco to other local providers. The majority of the Tepco switches were with customers in the greater Tokyo area, with Tokyo Gas Company garnering 260,000 new customers. Analyst Shusaku Nishikawa says that a million total switches could occur by the end of the year. If the current trend continues, this means Tepco could lose 600,000 customers. This will cut Tepco’s cash flow by at least 3%.

  • Former fishermen plan to sue Tokyo because they may have been exposed to radiation 60 years ago. An American hydrogen bomb test detonation at Bikini Atoll in 1954 contaminated the crew of the Fukuryu Maru #5. There were as many as 1,000 other Japanese fishing boats operating in the vicinity at the time, but not all of those crews were screened for exposure. 40 former fishermen and their families are expected to take part in the suit, which is planned to be filed on May 9th. They want $18,000 each in compensation. In September, 2014, the Health Ministry announced that some of the fishing boats other than the Fukuryu Maru had crews with unusual levels of radiation after the Bikini blast. The prospective plaintiffs believe they were also exposed, but were never screened by the government.

April 21, 2016

  • Only three of 80 fish caught outside the F. Daiichi port show any Cesium-134. Cs-134 is the unmistakable “fingerprint” of Fukushima contamination. 36 other fish contained detectible Cs-137 alone, indicating that it was residuals from the post-WWII nuclear bomb tests in the Pacific. Regardless, none of the fish had combined Cesium concentrations greater than Japan’s 100 Becquerel per kilogram limit. The fish highest in Cesium was a “Sebastes Cheni” (rockfish) at 55 Bq/kg.

  • Tokyo says releasing Fukushima’s tritiated water to the sea is the way to go. The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry reports that discharging tritiated water into the ocean is the fastest and least costly way to resolve wastewater buildup at F. Daiichi. The ministry has been studying ways to dispose of tritium, which cannot be removed by the plant's "ALPS" multi-nuclide elimination technology. METI considered five methodologies including burial, vaporization, and releasing tritium into the atmosphere as hydrogen gas. The sea-release option will be cautious, taking as long as eight years. The cost is estimated at between $30 and $40 million.

  • A small contaminated water leak is found at F. Daiichi. About 2.7 liters fell in drops from a pipe connected to a waste water storage tank. It appears the tank was not storing fully-treated liquid. The water tested at 260,000 Becquerels per liter of beta-emitting Strontium, and 6.200 Bq/l of gamma-emitting Cesium. The leak was discovered Wednesday evening.

  • The NRA will issue twice-daily reports on the unaffected nukes on Kyushu Island. Due to radiophobic concerns proffered by antinuclear groups and broadcast by Japan’s news media, the Nuclear Regulation Authority will provide assurance of nothing bad happening every day at 10am and 8pm.  This will not only address the operating units at Sendai, but also those that remain shuttered at Genkai, Ikata, and Shimane stations.

  • The NRA says Takahama #1 and #2 meet the nation’s new safety regulations. The two units will be the first to restart that were built more than 40 years ago. The agency officially passed the two units on Wednesday. Wednesday's approval came after a 30-day period of soliciting public opinions on the preliminary decision, announced in February.  Most were negative, with some claiming the NRA underestimated the size of possible quakes, while others said the restarts should not be allowed until actual tests on upgraded electric cables were done. The next step will be for Kansai Electric to meet their earthquake commitments and prove the facility has not deteriorated enough to be denied restart. The company says it could take three more years before the units actually restart. The antinuclear-friendly Japan Times says that allowing the restart of the two units could “stoke concern over the efficacy of the strict new safety standards amid renewed public worries over the safety of nuclear plants after two deadly earthquakes rocked the Kyushu area last week.” --

  • Two politicians share their fears of the Takahama station with the Press. Maizuru Mayor Ryozo Tatami said, “At present, has the safety of the plant been confirmed? We need scientific and technological explanations… We also need documentation from when the plant was originally built that proves it’s possible to operate the reactor for 60 years, especially since the core cannot be replaced.” Obviously, the mayor doesn’t know that the core gets regularly replaced. About a third of the fuel cells are removed and new ones inserted every 12-14 months. Meanwhile, Governor Taizo Mikazuki of Shiga Prefecture added his concerns. A tiny part of Shiga lies within the 30km EPZ. He is nervous about running “old” reactors that could leak radiation into Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater lake. In addition, Mikazuki says he is concerned about more nuclear waste being generated by the two units.  

  • At least eleven Kyushu residents have died from post-quake complications. This brings the total morbidity caused by last week’s severe quakes to 58. The prefecture calls the reason “economy class syndrome” – deaths caused by blood clots due to prolonged physical inactivity. The reason we mention this in our Fukushima Update is two-fold. First, we can see that post-quake complications leading to death are not only due to the Fukushima evacuation. In addition, the quake of March 11, 2011, was at least 50 times more powerful than the Kyushu quake, so having at least 50 times more “related” Fukushima deaths should come as no surprise. Antinuclear citizens are trying to use the Kyushu quake as a crutch to block restart of Ikata unit #3. A civic group in Matsuyama City urged Ehime Prefecture and Shikoku Electric to not reboot reactors due to fears following the deadly Kyushu quakes. Tsukasa Wada, a member of the group, said “We can’t rule out the possibility that a big quake will hit near Ikata nuclear plant.” (Aside – Of course these people ignore the fact that the March, 2011 Tohoku quake, 50 times more powerful, caused no damage to any of the fourteen nuclear units on the coast. F. Daiichi succumbed to a massive tsunami…not the quake! Japan’s antinuclear fanatics NEVER accept this fact.) -- --


April 18, 2016

Last week’s deadly earthquakes on Kyushu Island did nothing to the island’s nukes. The two killed at least 58 people, injured more than three thousand others, and made 80,000 homeless. The two operating Sendai units continued full-power operation without a glitch, supplying nearly 1,800 MWe much-needed electricity to the Island. They are located more than 100 kilometers south of the two quake epicenters. The quakes have generated wide Press coverage over whether or not the Sendai nukes should be shut down. However, none of the Press reports mention the likely negative impact shuttering Sendai would have on victims’ health and safety, not to mention the limitations imposed on post-quake recovery.

  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority says there was no scientific reason to shut down Sendai station. Agency officials met on Monday to examine the impact of the frequent quakes and aftershocks on the region’s nukes since Thursday. They said the maximum acceleration at the plant was 8.6 gal, which is far lower than the 160-gal motion that would SCRAM the reactors. The NRA said that since plant's anti-quake measures are for much more powerful earthquakes, there is no problem with continuing operations. NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka said the agency can shut down a nuclear plant if it poses safety concerns, but there is no scientific evidence showing that's required now. --

  • The NRA says it should have released information sooner about the non-impact of the quake on Sendai station. NRA Chairman Tanaka said, "We have been warned that our provision of information may not have been sufficient. We must reflect on our conduct in a candid way." Tanaka was responding to harsh Press criticism that alleged the NRA was failing to do its job by not immediately announcing the condition of the Sendai units when the two sequential quakes hit. Tanaka explained, "We will decide whether to stop the operations of nuclear power plants based on scientific and technological standards. Under the current circumstances, we do not see any safety problem."

  • Antinuclear groups have made a formal appeal to Kyushu Electric Co. to shut down the two Sendai units, saying, “Based on the experience at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, it is clear to everyone that it would be too late if you waited for some abnormality to occur.” In parallel, Japan’s communist party said Sendai should be shut down because some rail lines have been severed by the Kyushu Island quakes and there would be major evacuation problems if there was a nuke accident. Aileen Mioko-Smith of Green Action Japan told the Press, “We are very worried, for a number of reasons. The NRA failed to carry out a risk assessment for an inland crustal earthquake, which is precisely the kind of tremor that we have seen in Kumamoto. We are also concerned about the cumulative effect of all the aftershocks after the main quake.” Meanwhile, Environment Minister Tamayo Murakawa restated the Nuclear Regulation Authority statement that the tremor recorded at Sendai was well-below the limit for operation, “The NRA has judged there is no need to stop the Sendai plant.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said, “Under the current circumstances, there is no need to stop the plant because (the shaking) is sufficiently low.” --  --

  • The Japanese Press broadcasts antinuclear actions concerning Sendai, both inside and outside Japan. An internet-based petition to shutter the Sendai units gained 42,000 signatures from around the world, Fukui Prefecture nuke activists criticized Kyushu Electric for continuing Sendai operation, and a national mayor’s group said the government should re-evaluate its standards for nuke operations during earthquakes. From outside Japan, the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Edwin Lyman said, “Given the general situation on Kyushu — including the ongoing seismic and volcanic activity, the large number of evacuees, and the damage to the transportation infrastructure — I believe it would be prudent for the reactors to be shut down until conditions have stabilized.”

April 14, 2016

  • Japans Tritium fears get blasted by an EPRI researcher. Electric Power Research Institute’s Rosa Yang advises Japan on decommissioning reactors. Rosa believes the public angst over Tritium is uncalled-for. She says a Japanese government official should simply drink water from one of the tanks to convince people it's safe. Japan’s leading nuke watchdog, Shunichi Tanaka’s statement about Tritium being essentially harmless is located at the very end of the article, "Tritium is so weak in its radioactivity it won't penetrate plastic wrapping." The AP tries to rebuff both by using Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt rhetoric (FUD). The topic has recently been given considerable Press thanks to NY Governor Cuomo relative to Indian Point nuclear station. Now, the topic is being extended to Fukushima by the Associated Press. (For an objective, detailed explanation of Tritium and its innocuous biological impact, click on “Background Information on Tritium” in the left-hand menu.)

  • Tokyo considers lifting the evacuation order for most of Katsurao Village on June 12. This will allow 1,352 of the 1,470 residents to permanently repopulate, if they are willing. This includes as many as 62 residents who fled from the “residency-restricted” zone. This will mark the first Fukushima residency-restricted zone to have the evacuation orders lifted. So far, only 104 residents have applied for preparatory lodging at home. It is felt that the majority of Katsurao’s evacuees are awaiting a doctor to be assigned to the village medical clinic and a food store to be opened. Mayor Masahide Matsumoto says living conditions will be improved gradually so that evacuees can consider returning home with peace of mind.

  • Two Japanese research reactors’ safety measures are approved by Tokyo. These are the first research units to pass the post-Fukushima screenings of the Nuclear Regulation Authority. The first is the 100-Watt reactor at Kyoto University and the other a one-watt unit at Kinki University. Both are located in Osaka Prefecture. Research reactors with a maximum output below 500 watts are not required to have the same severe accident prevention measures as commercial nukes.

  • Salmon fishing resumes in a Fukushima lake. Lake Numazawa in Kaneyama Town has had sockeye salmon fishing banned for more than four years. On April 9th, local fishermen dropped their lines into the crystal-blue waters for the first time since the ban. Mitsukatsu Sato, a 73-year-old angler from Motomiya City, caught more than 30 salmon by noon and said, "Sashimi (sliced raw fish) tastes like 'toro' (fatty tuna). I'll come every day." Fishing has been banned since April, 2012, when a salmon was found to have more than 100 Becquerels of Cesium per kilogram. Since none have exceeded the limit for more than a year-and-a-half, the ban was lifted.

  • The Press has finally found a Tepco executive who says he read the meltdown criterion in the company’s emergency manual before the nuke accident. Yuichi Okamura, an acting general manager with TEPCO's on-site nuclear power division, said his understanding was a “personal knowledge” and did not shared it with colleagues. He explained, “I, in fact, knew it [the criteria]. I learned it while working in the field of nuclear technology with the company for over 20 years.” At the time of the accident, Okamura was in charge of pumping water into the unit #4 Spent Fuel Pool and was not involved with the meltdown investigation. --

  • A small group of Japanese protesters file suit against licensing extensions for nukes. 76 plaintiffs from fourteen prefectures charge that the NRA’s statutes on extended lifespan are unacceptable. The focus is on the two Takahama units recently found to qualify for re-licensing by the NRA. The filing clearly attacks the NRA’s efficacy, similar to the latest series of suits getting wide news media coverage. The plaintiffs allege that the NRA has not strictly evaluated the problems accompanying the aging of nuclear reactors, or the danger of hydrogen explosions and other “disasters”. Sakae Kitamura, the head lawyer for the plaintiffs, asserted, "Five years ago we saw that nuclear plants are dangerous, causing such terrible disasters. We want to start a movement in the judiciary of halting nuclear plant operations." Another lawyer representing the group says, “In a serious accident at the Takahama reactors, there is a danger of radiation damage from the effects of a westerly wind.” -- --

April 11, 2016

  • Award-winning journalist Dave Ropeik says radiophobia is harming Fukushima children. He says a significant percentage of us have thyroid abnormalities that would test positive for carcinoma if subjected to the same high-tech scrutiny as the 360,000 Fukushima children. But while those cells or cysts might not hurt us, the fear of radiation and the fear of cancer certainly could, as an unfolding tragedy for children living around in the prefecture of Fukushima in Japan illustrates.Given the prevalence of suspicious cysts or nodules in everyone’s thyroids, “unsurprisingly” the Fukushima screening turned up thousands of abnormalities. Rampant radiophobia has led to the false assumption that the abnormalities were cause by Fukushima radiation. But the evidence says otherwise, especially the same testing in non-exposed children elsewhere in Japan showing the same rate of the cysts and nodules. Further, genetic tests run on thousands of the Fukushima thyroid abnormalities did not match those that were caused by the 1986 Chernobyl accident. Ropeik says “Emotionally, human-made risks scare us more than natural ones and any risk we can’t detect with our senses leaves us feeling vulnerable and powerless and more afraid… When we let our emotions override an objective review of the evidence it’s not radiation we should fear, or cancer. It’s our fears that we have to fear most.” (Comment - We thank Dave for the very nice mention of our postings on the Fukushima child thyroid situation - with link – at the end of the article.)

  • Two unattended police stations in the exclusion zone are manned again. Both communities are preparing for the evacuation orders to be lifted. One is in Kawamata Town and the other in the Odaka District of Minamisoma. The Kawamata station belongs to the Fukushima City Police and the other is run by Minamisoma City. The Kawamata station has had Sergeant Seiju Miura on duty since August, but only during the daytime since the residents were only allowed temporary stays in preparation for the evacuation order being lifted. Sgt. Miura began staying overnight, as well, on March 27th. He says, “A policeman always staying here puts residents at ease.” One returning resident, Shuichi Ouchi, says “Just seeing a policeman around makes me feel relieved.”

  • With the restarts of Sendai units #3 & #4, Kyushu Electric reserve capacity tops 10%. For the summer, the company expects at least 14%. Thus, the utility will no longer have to pay for “power interchanges” with other companies to insure a stable, uninterrupted supply of electricity to their customers. Kyushu Electric says summer power supplies have been a virtual “tightrope walk” since the post-Fukushima accident nuclear moratorium began.

  • Kagoshima residents who lost their Sendai appeal change their minds. Lawyers representing the plaintiffs in the failed suit to try and have the two operating Sendai units shuttered announced they have decided to not appeal to Japan’s Supreme Court. A source close to the lawyers explained why they suddenly changed their minds, "If the Supreme Court also dismisses the case, it could have ripple effects on judgments of trials seeking to halt the operation of nuclear power plants across Japan." On Sunday, the lawyers said there are legal restrictions with the Supreme Court in claim verification that they might not be able to overcome. Regardless, the plaintiffs say they will continue to try and stop nuke restarts in the lower courts. --

April 7, 2016

For the past two days, Japan’s Press has been dominated by the Fukuoka High Court dismissal of an appeal to shut down Sendai units #3 & #4. It is the eighth dismissal of an antinuclear suit since the Fukushima accident, but this one has been given severe scrutiny by the Press for what seems to be two reasons.  First the filing charged the Nuclear Regulation Authority with being irrational for not demanding absolute, zero-risk safety. The Press finds notion of guaranteed, absolute safety to be quite “newsworthy”. The second reason is that the dozen plaintiffs are going to push their antinuclear agenda all the way to Japan’s Supreme Court. (Comment - There have been 30-odd antinuclear suits filed to stop nuke restarts since the Great East Japan earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011. To date, nine (including two appeals) have been adjudicated. NONE have been ultimately successful. Only one is currently open to discussion… the Otsu injunction concerning the two units’ reactivation at Takahama. However, it seems that even that one will be quashed because there is no precedent for local courts making decisions that contradict Tokyo. But, this has not dissuaded the moneyed minority that will fight their hopeless battle to the bitter end. They will win occasional temporary victories – e.g. the Otsu injunction – but they are doomed to inevitable failure.)

  • Fukuoka’s High Court dismisses an appeal to shut down Sendai units #3 & #4. Presiding Judge Tomoichiro Nishikawa upheld last April’s Fukuoka court judgement which found that Japan's NRA and its new nuclear safety standards "cannot be regarded as irrational." Nishikawa’s concluded that there is “no concrete risk that the plaintiffs and others would suffer serious damage.” The plaintiffs had hoped that the recent injunction against the operation of two Takahama nukes would sway the Fukuoka high court. They were very wrong, and they are literally spitting-mad. Chief lawyer for the plaintiffs Masami Mori said, "It's extremely regrettable… The court interpreted the law in a wrong way in handing down the decision to dismiss the petition. The court is unaware of the seriousness of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant." [Aside – In other words, the Fukuoka court is incredibly oblivious to the single-most popular issue in Japan over the past five years! End aside.] The plaintiffs also assert that there will never be sufficient earthquake or volcanic protection to quell their fears. Since their dreads are not making the NRA shut down the Sendai units, the plaintiffs claim the agency is an irrational and uncaring regulatory body. It is clear the plaintiffs saw the writing on the wall; as soon as the appeal was denied, they immediately unveiled banners saying "Unjust decision" and "We will never surrender."  The original petition to bar the restarts was turned down last April, but the 12 die-hard antinukes who originally filed the suit showed they have the money and perseverance to continue when they vowed to file another lawsuit with a higher court; perhaps even Japan’s Supreme Court. -- -- --

  • The formal ruling said, “There is no societal consensus yet that safety measures must be taken to reduce the risk of accidents to zero.”  The court’s ruling tacitly rejects the recent Otsu court decision that fully-functional, non-polluting Takahama units #3 & #4 must be shuttered because absolute safety cannot be assured to the satisfaction of the region’s antinuclear fanatics. The Otsu District Court says that Kansai Electric failed to sufficiently prove the safety of the Takahama nuclear power plant, and criticized the NRA for causing serious anxiety when the restarts were approved. In 1992, Japan’s Supreme Court ruled that nuke safety should be discussed from a viewpoint of whether or not Tokyo’s judgment on the matter is irrational, and this seems to be the point upon which the suits hinge. But, former Yokohama judge Toshiji Sato supports the Fukuoka decision, “In contrast to the Otsu District Court, which denied the new safety standards themselves, the latest decision shows a stance of respecting results of the inspections by the NRA based on the 1992 Supreme Court ruling.” Former Nagoya Judge Hideki Nakagome said, “Judging whether to stop operations of nuclear reactors, which gravely affects the social economy, is not appropriate under the framework of a temporary injunction that requires only simplified presentation of evidence.”

  • The issues of evacuation plan adequacy and volcanic risk were also raised in the wake of the Fukuoka decision. The plaintiffs maintain that the rejection of their appeal fails to consider that (in their opinion) nukes should not operate before air-tight evacuation plans are developed, and should never be operated within 160 kilometers of active volcanoes. To the contrary, the Fukuoka decision states, "Even if the [evacuation] plans lack in rationality and effectiveness, they are not recognized to immediately infringe on residents' personal rights." With respect to volcanoes, it says, "We must say eruption predictions are difficult and unreasonable… (Thus) the danger of catastrophic eruptions can be ignored." On the other hand, Waseda Law School’s Shigeyuki Suto countered, "The decision lacks in an attitude that questions from the public point of view whether the new regulatory standards drawn up by a group of experts are reasonable or not. The decision that the nuclear reactors (at the Sendai plant) are not subject to immediate suspension even if resident evacuation plans are insufficient was also a sheer formality."

  • The apparently-moneyed plaintiffs voiced their distinct outrage with the Fukuoka decision. One spouted, "The court abandoned its independent judgment," and caved to the official Tokyo policy on nukes. Masami Mori, head lawyer for the residents, said, "I saw the ruling as saying, 'Nuclear power plants are accepted by society, so there is nothing to be done.'" Lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai, head of a national association of lawyers against nuclear power, said angrily, "The court's decision was a very careless legitimization of the national government's nuclear power promotion and plant reactivation policies." He added, "It appears to be a re-emergence of the policy of passive courts." The bottom line statement comes from Akiko Morinaga, 44, leader of the plaintiffs in a full-scale lawsuit on the issue, who said, "It's very unfortunate, but we will consider this as a long battle and calmly do what we can.”

  • Lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai (above) has a long history of fighting nuclear power in Japan. He began taking on antinuclear lawsuits in the 1990s. Until the Fukushima accident, he admits that it was an uphill battle. However, the Fukushima crisis has brought him to the forefront of antinuclear law. He is independently wealthy from his several-decades of practicing corporate law and has made an antinuclear movie “Nuclear Japan” to make his view known to everyone. He has formed an alliance of about 300 lawyers who want to rid Japan of nukes, and is personally representing the handful of Fukushima residents who believe their child thyroid anomalies were caused by radiation.

Now… back to Fukushima.

  • A Tokyo doctor says public education on radiation continues to be inadequate. Masaharu Tsubokura, M.D., isChief researcher at the Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo. He spends most of his work in Soma and Minamisoma hospitals, Fukushima Prefecture. He has found that radiation is not a common topic of conversation anymore, and people live normally without open concern about it. Not that they have no continuing concerns, but rather that they don’t want to talk about it anymore. Tsubokura argues that while there has not been, nor will there ever be discernible negative health effects caused by the low levels of radiation with Fukushima, the lack of education about radiation is an on-going problem. After five years of regular interface with Fukushima residents, he says, “At the beginning of the disaster, I didn’t understand, with exposure dose being low, why people wouldn’t return home? I’ve learned more, gradually, through associations with various people. To a mother who doesn’t want to be exposed to any more radiation, it means nothing to tell her that food in Fukushima is now safe… telling a mother—who may have decided to evacuate voluntarily, for the sake of her children, and who struggled a lot— that radiation levels don’t affect health is a challenge to her decision and judgment.” Tsubokura adds, “One of the major lessons of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi NPPs is that the risks from evacuation are overwhelmingly greater than the risk of radiation exposure from 5 to 10mSv,” revealing that “Measures (based on ALARA) have to be considered from the beginning, not a determination to avoid all radiation by all means.” He has been spending considerable time trying to educate Fukushima’s anxious residents, but he seems to have made little headway, “The fear is completely unnecessary, and I want to do something about it. People talk about radiation in ways that are totally wrong. I want to show them the truth—the facts.”

  • Tepco’s “Ice Wall” is progressing “largely smoothly”. A company spokesperson made this observation during Monday’s visit to F. Daiichi by Minister of the Economy Yosuke Takagi. The minus 30oC refrigerant is being circulated through the ocean-side section of the system, to freeze the soil and create a barrier to groundwater flow. Tepco says the soil temperature has dropped to between minus 4 and 6 degrees at some locations. Tepco also showed the new rainwater run-off outlets that discharge inside the barricaded inner harbor (quay). The outlets from the “K” drainage ditch monitors had generated sporadic alarms due to radiation levels in the runoff, causing an outcry from local fisheries. The mildly radioactive runoff will no longer have any direct path to the sea. Tepco’s Press handout containing pictures of the ice wall’s technology can be found here…

  • The NRA says the fixes with the transmission protective devices at Takahama unit #4 are appropriate. In February, just three days after restarting the unit, an abnormality was detected and caused an immediate SCRAM. Kansai Electric Company reported that the device causing the shutdown had incorrect settings. The device has been reprogrammed to avoid a recurrence. NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka said the incident did not affect reactor safety, but the social impact was huge and the utility’s credibility was damaged.

  • Ikata unit #3 pre-restart inspections begin. The NRA began their final assessments on Tuesday to insure that all equipment required by the new regulatory standards is adequate. The improvements include reinforcing the Primary Containment and upgrading pumps to survive a hypothetical worst-case earthquake. Once the assessments are complete, Shikoku Electric Company will begin loading fuel by the end of June and restart the reactor by the end of July. Commercial operation is scheduled to begin in August. It should be noted - because Japan’s Press always does - that 16 MOX fuel assemblies will be installed among the 157 to be inserted in the reactor vessel.

  • University nukes are hamstrung by the new NRA reactor safety regulations. The new safety standards have been written for large, electricity-production units; not small research and training reactors at colleges and institutes. Thus, these small units are being held to the same regulatory rigor as the power plants. All twelve of Japan’s university reactors have been of-line since the Fukushima accident. University of Tokyo Professor Mitsuru Uesaka said about 1,700 students and researchers used these reactors before the 2011 accident. Now, those in training must be sent to facilities overseas at a high cost. The academics plan to petition the NRA to create different criteria for research reactors, the severity of which should depend on maximum power level.


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