Fukushima 30...4/9/12-4/23/12

April 23

  • Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has a 2000 page document covering all nuclear crisis meetings between March 13 and October, 2011. NISA has come under severe criticism because no minutes were kept during crucial emergency meetings held the first few days of the Fukushima accident. In March, NISA released a 76 page report on 23 of the meetings taken from recordings of conversations and personal notes kept by participants. This new, far more comprehensive report literally covers everything except a news conference on March 12 where a NISA spokesperson said it might be possible that a meltdown had occurred at Fukushima Daiichi unit #1. That statement remains as an open issue because it allegedly prompted then-Prime Minister Kan to begin complaining of a lack in information sharing between NISA and his office. The 2000 page report was released through a Kyodo News freedom of information request. (Japan Times)
  • A new Tokyo government projection includes maps of Fukushima “hot spots” through 2032. Tatsuo Hirano, state minister in charge of reconstruction and disaster prevention, says, "They are prognostic charts based on theoretical values but decontamination factors were not taken into account." In other words, the government is projecting which locations will take anywhere from 5 years to more than 50 years before radiation levels drop below national safety standards, if no further decontamination efforts occur! (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Another press statement on the same report says, “Bereft of decontamination work, residents will be unable to return home for at least 5 years in seven municipalities around…Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.” Futaba mayor Katsutaka Idogawa welcomes the information saying it will provide invaluable help in planning for recovery. But Namie Mayor Tamotsu Baba described the charts as “just cartoons,” and he reiterated his request for the government to draw up a more specific decontamination plan. “I am worried what residents will think after seeing the charts,” Baba said. “The town cannot make any move without government projections for radiation levels that include the carrying out of decontamination efforts.” On the other hand, Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said, "Natural declines (in radiation) can be somewhat predicted. It is important to determine what decontamination method should be taken to make the areas more habitable. We will decide on a program for a return of the evacuees and restoration of the areas based on results from future decontamination tests.” (Asahi Shimbuns)
  • Industry Minister Edano says that the maps show that a few areas will not be repopulated for at least 10 years. Specifically, locations in Futaba and Okuma towns adjacent to the F. Daiichi power complex. These hot spots could still exceed 100 millisieverts per year in 2112, if no decontamination work is performed. Disaster Minister Hosono says evacuees from these areas should seriously consider giving up on ever going home, but he acknowledges that many evacuees continue to insist on returning no matter how long it takes. (JAIF)
  • Japanese electric companies say they have been asked by the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry to submit a report on the "Outlook of electric power supply and demand of this summer”. The data is unquestionably being pursued by METI in response to widespread disbelief that keeping all nukes shuttered will result in summer power shortages. This has become a major issue in the debate over restarting Oi units #3 & 4. (Tepco)
  • Senior vice industry minister Seishu Makino will visit Kyoto and Shiga prefectures today, to try and convince the local governments of the safety in restarting Oi units #3 & 4. Makino is expected to hold separate meetings with Kyoto Gov. Keiji Yamada and Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada because of heightened public fears over atomic power. Officials from NISA as well as the Natural Resource and Energy Agency will also attend the meetings to explain the safety measures being taken and official estimates of summer electricity demand. Both Yamada and Kada, however, have criticized the government's decision to restart the Oi reactors as premature. The governors are expected to press Makino to adopt their proposals. (Japan Times)
  • Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto has said he plans to attend Kansai Electric Power Co.'s shareholders' meeting in June. The mayor is an outspoken opponent of atomic energy and is expected to demand that Kansai Electric abolish all its nuclear power plants. Osaka Municipal Government is a 9% shareowner in Kepco, and Hashimoto’s opinion carries considerable weight. Hashimoto is also expected to demand Kepco immediately increase its use of renewables, separate its generation and distribution systems, cut the number of board members in half, openly post executive salaries, and stop appointing ex-bureaucrats to executive positions. (Japan Times)
  • The Tokyo Farm Ministry has asked food distributors to stop using their own, arbitrary radiation limits for the sale of foods. The ministry said, "The national standards fully ensure safety. Different standards create confusion." The ministry says their new 100 Becquerels per kilogram Cesium limit is the most restrictive in the world and food processors who demand their products be as much as five times lower makes the government standards seem questionable. Yukiguni Maitake Co., a major distributor of mushrooms in Niigata Prefecture, set its own allowable radiation limit at 40 becquerels per kilogram of mushrooms in November last year, then lowered it to 20 Becquerels this March. Many distributors have complained that the ministry should not tell food companies to relax their self-generated safety standards. Hiroshi Tsuchida, in charge of product quality control at the co-operative union, said, "It is the consumers' right to select safer food, and the notification is too demanding. The national standards are not considered reassuring in the first place, and therefore if they are forced upon us, the government will lose all the more confidence." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • While not specifically a Fukushima article, the re-publication of a revised 2007 Scientific American report on the radioactivity in coal ash bears mention. It has been known for decades that when coal burns, the natural Uranium, Thorium and Radium in the mix does not burn. Thus, their concentrations increase dramatically in the ash produced by burning the coal. As a result, the level of radiation exposure from a coal plant can be more than 100 times greater than from a nuclear plant. Further, most of the ash is used for land-fills, some of which have housing projects and malls built on them. The report concludes, “…ounce for ounce, coal ash released from a power plant delivers more radiation than nuclear waste shielded via water or dry cask storage.” http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=coal-ash-is-more-radioactive-than-nuclear-waste  comment - Japan should keep this in mind when debating the relative risks of restarting nukes versus operating old, ash-spouting fossil-fueled plants, which includes oil and LNG. While the natural isotopic concentrations in oil and LNG are lower than with coal, the radiation exposures will still be at least ten times greater than with a nuke.

April 20

F. Daiichi unit #2 robot inspection – one answer and two new questions

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has used a new robot to inspect inside the Primary Containment Vessel’s (PCV) torus room of unit #2 at Fukushima Daiichi. The torus is a gigantic, donut-shaped tank containing about 600,000 gallons of water to suppress (condense) steam released from the reactor vessel during an over-pressure condition. The robotic inspection is the most detailed to date with respect to the inside of any containment structure at the power complex. The inspection seems to answer one long-standing question about unit #2, but at the same time presents two new, more troubling questions.

First, there is no evidence of any deformation, cracks, or physical compromise of the torus tank itself. In addition, there is no indication of damage to the steel shell of the walls surrounding the torus tank. In other words, there is no evidence of any water leaks with the unit #2 PCV itself. See : http://www3.nhk.or.jp/daily/english/20120418_34.html The pictures should finally put to rest the myth of a hydrogen explosion inside the PCV on March 15, 2011. The pictures released by Tepco show no evidence of any kind of hydrogen burn, either. In fact, if we didn’t know better we might conclude that nothing happened at all. See : http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2012/201204-e/120419-01e.html

A more important outcome of the robot’s inspection is two new, albeit over-lapping questions. First, unit #2’s rate of cooling water injection is about double the water flow for the same amount of cooling as units #1 & 3. Decay heat production in each core is now about the same, so double the water flow should mean twice the cooling. The numbers just don’t add up. Prior to this week, it was assumed that there must be a serious leak from the RPV into the PCV, and from there to the turbine building basement. But, there doesn’t seem to be any source of leaks from inside the PCV. The water is not going inside the “drywell” area either, where a surprisingly low water level was discovered a few weeks ago. So the question becomes…where is the water going? Since the temperature is about the same for unit #2 as is the case with the other two units, the flows indicate that about half the water Tepco is trying to inject into #2 RPV is not getting there! Only half of the water intended for injection is actually cooling the damaged core, while the other half is being lost before it gets there. It is very possible there is a serious leak from the feed-water piping somewhere before the pipes pass through the PCV and Drywell walls. The leak’s location is anybody’s guess at this point, but not inside the containment structure itself.

Which leads to the second new question…If only half of the water being pumped to the unit #2 RPV is actually getting there, what is happening to the water coming out of the system after it cools the damaged core? It’s not leaking into the Drywell and it doesn’t seem to be going into the torus room. The water levels in both are physically lower than the water level inside the turbine building basement. Unless the law of gravity has been repealed, there is no way the ongoing influx of water going into unit #2’s turbine basement is coming from the building’s PCV or drywell. Thus, there must also be yet another piping compromise outside the PCV from a system which has as not yet been speculated upon.

Tepco needs to go back to the computer-simulated drawing board and try to ascertain where the cooling water for unit #2 reactor core is really going, because their assumptions to date have been effectively quashed! By all indications, there has been no “melt-through” from the unit #2 RPV and there are no leaks going into or coming out from the unit #2 containment building. The previous “official” speculations on water leaks inside unit #2 at Fukushima Daiichi simply do not make sense any more.

Now for some other updates…

  • Tepco says the latest robot-generated pictures “almost totally ruled out” that an explosion may have occurred inside unit #2 containment. However, s few pictures might indicate some superficial damage caused by the pre-tsunami earthquake. One of the robot pictures shows bare insulation exposed while another shows a piece of sheet metal lying on the scaffold walkway. (Asahi Shimbun) The Asahi’s statement that the pictures show a “mangled interior” is pure fiction…a complete fabrication.
  • While many polls around Japan show that most people do not want Oi units #3 & 4 restarted, the folks nearest the plant have a completely different opinion. 54% of the residents in Oi town, home of the power complex, favor restarting the two units. 37% opposed restart. Meanwhile, 60% of the people living outside of Oi oppose the restarts while 32% are in favor. When asked if they worry about a nuclear accident at Oi after restart, 71% of the town said “yes” versus 84% of those living outside the town. On a third issue, only 29% of the Oi residents feel the government has done a good job informing the people, while but 19% of their neighbors feel the same way. (NHK World)
  • A new website dedicated to nuclear energy education has been opened. It is called “The Nuclear Literacy Project” and is designed for schools, as well as the adult world. Please check it out and share it with any teachers you know… http://nuclearliteracy.org/


April 18

  • TEPCO workers are preparing for the removal and storage of spent fuel from unit #4 at Fukushima Daiichi. First, a large special crane will be built in order to remove the spent fuel bundles. Next, a ~10,000 cubic meter enclosure will surround the upper reactor building to prevent possible spread of radioactive materials during the removal process. The crane and cover are expected to be finished by autumn of 2013. TEPCO’s report and diagrams can be viewed here… http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/betu12_e/images/120416e0201.pdf
  • TEPCO will be sending a new robot inside unit #2 later today to inspect the suppression chamber (torus) and containment structure for damage. A brief, preliminary inspection several weeks ago revealed no cracking or deformation in the structures. This new examination will be more detailed since the robot will be able to stay in the area much longer than the workers who entered earlier. TEPCO hopes the inspection will reveal what repair work needs to be done (if any) before the Primacy Containment can be filled with water and begin removal of damaged fuel. (JAIF)
  • US Senator Ron Wyden recently visited F. Daiichi and said the condition of unit #4 was far worse than he expected. “Seeing the extent of the disaster first-hand during my visit conveyed the magnitude of this tragedy and the continuing risks and challenges in a way that news accounts cannot,” said Wyden in a letter to Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan’s ambassador to the United States. Wyden said he was most worried about spent fuel rods stored in fuel pools, and urged the Japanese government to accept international help to prevent further release of the radioactive material if another severe earthquake should happen. He added that the only protection for the pools from another tsunami appeared to be “a small, makeshift sea wall erected out of bags of rock.” (Japan Today)
  • Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku came under fire Tuesday for saying it would be suicidal if Japan leaves all its nuclear reactors offline. “We have to consider what it means to try and live without nuclear reactors. In a way, failing to restart the reactors is like committing mass suicide,” he said according to Fuji TV. The official Tokyo position is that two reactors at the Oi nuclear power station should be restarted to avoid power shortages in the summer. (Japan Today)
  • The governors of Shiga and Kyoto jointly announced 7 demands they want addressed before restarting Oi units #3 & 4. The proposal calls on the government to seek independent advice from nuclear experts before making a decision to restart the reactors, a third-party panel to verify the region's power supply-and-demand estimates for the summer, and they want the government to prove why the reactors must be restarted before an official inquiry into the Fukushima accident is complete. They are also seeking a firm timetable for ending the nation's dependence on nuclear power. Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada said the 2 prefectures want the government to understand precisely what the issues are. (NHK World)
  • Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura denied that the government is rushing to reactivate Oi units 3 & 4. Fujimura said no deadline has been set for local discussions on restarting the reactors. "As I have continuously stated, the understanding of the locals will be a major factor" when determining reactivation, he said. "There are no legal grounds that say (consent) is a necessary requirement, but we are proceeding with measures decided last July" to hold two-stage stress tests. Local leaders slammed last week's declaration of safety by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and three other ministers, accusing them making hasty conclusions. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto declared war on the government, stating that the ruling party (DPJ) needs to be unseated in the next general election. Fujimura urged Hashimoto to refrain from making reactor restarts a political issue. "I don't think (the reactors) should be the issue of focus when seeking the judgment of the people. I don't think we should make it too political. . . . We need to put our heads together to think realistically about this summer to overcome power shortages,” Fujimura said. (Japan Times)
  • Nahara Town has scrapped plans to repopulate in April due to an outpouring of public angst and governmental distrust. During the repopulation announcement in Iwate on April 11, local residents cried that the move is just another attempt to fool everyone into thinking the accident is over. Some of the criticisms included, "How will you extract the melted fuel from the reactors?" and "How can we believe you when you say, 'It will be safe after decontamination' even while radioactive material leaks continue?" To add to the chaos, one person said, "We need safe air and water for our children," while another claimed "We are not guinea pigs!" The severity of the criticisms shocked Kensuke Tomita, deputy head of the Cabinet's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, who said, "I never thought there'd be this much of a backlash." As a result, the town’s officials no longer support Tokyo’s desire for repopulation, even though the radiation exposures are well below the new, revised national standards. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • About ten anti-nuclear activists have begun a hunger strike to protest restarting Oi units #3 & 4. The group began the strike on Tuesday in front of the industry ministry in Tokyo. The group maintains the accident at F. Daiichi is not over and the causes of the accident remain uncertain, thus they cannot approve the Oi restarts. The hunger strike will continue until May 5th, when the country's last operating reactor is set to go offline. The group has been camping in tents at the ministry since September, demanding the immediate and complete abolition of nuclear energy in Japan. (NHK World)
  • A fellow nuclear blogger in America has posted an excellent article on the differences between actual risk and perceived risk. Steve Skutnik of The Neutron Economy references a study at Yale University to support his view. He says, “Many times, people will blithely accept particular risks - driving, air travel, smoking, certain recreational activities - and yet recoil in horror at the unarguably lower risks presented by technologies such as nuclear energy…despite the fact that flying is safer than driving, people perceive the latter to be less safe due to other, outside factors.” I recommend it to everyone… http://neutroneconomy.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/cultural-cognition-of-risk-and.html#!/2012/04/cultural-cognition-of-risk-and.html


April 16

The battle over restarting currently-idled Japanese nukes continues…

  • Industry minister Yukio Edano is trying to drum up support for Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa to reactivate Oi units #3 & 4. Edano traveled to Fukui on Saturday after P.M. Noda and the other 3 ministers on the restart task force confirmed the safety and necessity of the restarts. After meeting with Nishikawa, Edano met with Oi Mayor Shinobu Tokioka, whose town hosts the Kepco power complex. Nishikawa says the Prefecture will use Edano’s information to make a decision on whether or not to agree to the restarts. Mayor Tokioka welcomed the Tokyo endorsement of safety. Once the local opinions are formalized, they will be sent to the Prime Minister. The final decision on the two restarts is expected well-before July. Only one of Japan’s 48 operational nukes continues to run (in Hokkaido) but will be shuttered in early May. Most reputable experts in Japan’s business community maintain there will be a severe electricity shortfall this summer unless nukes get restarted. "It is necessary to use nuclear power as a major source of electricity," Edano told Nishikawa. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • During their meeting, Nishikawa suggested to Edano that he at least talk to the dissident governors of Kyoto and Shiga Prefectures. In addition, he said it would make sense to also contact the dissident mayors of Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto. In the past, restart requests went through the home municipality and home prefectural governor only. Because of the news-media hoopla created by the dissident mayors and governors outside Fukui, Nishikawa felt Edano should at least include them in his informational tour. After the local Press announced Nishikawa’s suggestion, new meeting requests came in from communities in northern Shiga Prefecture that lie (at least in part) within 30 kilometers of the Oi power station. (Japan Times)
  • After the meeting, Nishikawa told the Press some other conditions that need to be met. First, electric consumers outside Fukui need to understand the contribution the Prefecture makes towards the nation’s energy infrastructure. Second, the opinions of the full prefectural assembly and Oi town government must be heard. And lastly, Nishikawa intends to have his own panel of experts judge the safety of Oi units #3 & 4 before a decision on restarting will be made. (JAIF)
  • Today it was learned that three members of Fukui’s expert nuclear safety committee say the Tokyo guidelines are sufficient for the restart of Oi units #3 & 4. Committee head Hideyuki Nakagawa said if the government's safety standards and plant operator Kansai Electric Power Co.'s roadmap for safety measures are used, then the reactors "would be safe." Two other committee members agreed with Nakagawa. Seven other members of the committee said they had not yet received an explanation of the latest measures from the government and Kansai Electric Power Co. The experts come from fields including nuclear power, seismology, geology and radiology. It independently evaluates issues such as the safety of nuclear power plants from a technical perspective, and provides suggestions to the government. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Fear, uncertainty and doubt continue to breed dissent due to Tokyo’s support for restart. Most critics say the judgment is a “hasty decision” and the publicized necessity for restarts is “unconvincing”. They believe the thought of having no nukes operating in Japan frightens the government, which has been an unabashed supporter of atomic energy for nearly 50 years. Some critics go so far as to accuse the government of manipulating electricity statistics to make it seem like restarts are needed to keep Japan’s industry and economy running. Critics believe greater conservation and a “smart grid” will make nuke restarts un-necessary…period. Tokyo business and industry officials have raised fears about the hollowing out of Japan's manufacturing industry. So far, power shortages have been avoided through thermal (fossil fueled) power generation, but it is feared that if increased electricity rates resulting from increased fuel prices become fixed, then Japanese businesses could be forced to move overseas. Asked of restarting the Oi power plants could start an avalanche of nuke restarts, Minister Edano said, "Each time, we will make a decision based on safety and necessity," stressing that restarting the Oi reactors would not automatically open the gates for reactors at other plants to be restarted. (Japan Times)
  • An Asahi Shimbun poll of readers shows that as much as 55% of Japan’s people oppose the restarts of Oi units #3 & 4. In addition, 70% do not trust the government’s new, expanded safety standards and 66% do not believe a complete shutdown of all nukes will cause power shortages this coming summer.
  • In Osaka, Mayor Toru Hashimoto says he doesn’t trust anything the experts are saying. The region's most vocal critic of the Oi restarts, Hashimoto increased criticism of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan and those in charge of nuclear safety. "Just because politicians say the reactor is safe doesn't mean they have the ability to judge it's safe. And while the Nuclear Safety Commission has spoken of the stress tests, they have never specifically used the word ‘safe’," Hashimoto said. (Japan Times)
  • Greenpeace has also attacked Tokyo for wanting to restart the two reactors at Oi. Wakao Hanaoka, the Japan campaign manager for Greenpeace, said Noda and the Oi plant’s operator Kansai Electric Power Co are “recklessly rushing to bring the reactors back online now, saying they meet its lax safety requirements. The nuclear industry and the government were totally unprepared for the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi and now they are trying to pretend they can call Oi safe without improving safety or emergency measures.”  He further contends that the forecasts of severe power shortages this summer are a fabrication, “Independent studies show that there will be no power shortages.”  Two national newspapers have chimed in support for Greenpeace. “It is hard to understand why the government is in such a haste to restart the reactors,” Mainichi Shimbun said in an editorial. “It is uncertain if the plan will ever gain an understanding of communities which have raised objections to the resumption of the reactors,” the Asahi Shimbun reported Sunday. (Japan Today)

In other news…

  • On Sunday, Minister Edano said the closure of Tomari unit #3 will mark a momentary suspension of all nukes in Japan. His comment, included with a speech given in Tokushima, gives the first indication that Tokyo does not believe they will be able to surmount all the hurdles needed for restarting any idled reactors by May 6. Sources believe that a complete shutdown of all nukes could add even more obstacles to restarts if electrical shortages do not manifest before the summer heat hits. (News on Japan)
  • 52 horses that were stabled in Minamisoma before March 11, 2011, are being returned. They were all moved to northern Hokkaido last spring because they could not get hay devoid of Fukushima isotopes anywhere else. That situation has ended, however. The first eight horses were returned to their happy owners on Sunday after a 17-hour trip in a special van. It is expected the remaining 44 will be returned by late May, in time for an annual summer festival in July. (NHK World)
  • This past weekend, the 100th “Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers” was posted by my colleague and friend Will Davis on his fine website, Atomic Power Review. I am privileged to have two items from last Friday’s update posted as part of the celebration. For a rundown of all contributions, go to http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com/2012/04/100th-carnival-of-nuclear-bloggers.html.


April 13

Irrational Korean missile fear replaces irrational Nuclear fear…almost.

As the Ides of April approaches, Japan’s national fear of a ballistic missile test out of North Korea has supplanted fear of Fukushima for the past few days. Prime Minister Noda’s task force of ministers charged with deciding whether or not to restart two of Japan’s currently idled nukes, decided to wait another day due to the Korean situation. Industry Minister Edano also postponed his journey to Fukui Prefecture to explain the Oi units #3 & 4 safety factor to dissident governors. But, the governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Yuhei Sato, chose the moment to speak out against the central government’s anticipated decision to restart the two Oi units…which are not anywhere near his political domain. (Mainichi Shimbun)

There are some serious flaws in Sato’s statements to the Press which bear comment. "The investigation into the Fukushima No. 1 plant disaster isn't yet complete, but (the government) is already discussing restarting reactors. That is a problem," Sato told reporters at a news conference. It doesn’t matter that former Prime Minister Kan’s de-facto moratorium on nuke operation has the nation on the verge of electrical collapse, and that the idled nukes are being replaced by old, dirty “thermal” (fossil-fueled) units that were never built to constantly run at full-capacity. It doesn’t matter that Japan’s economy is circling the drain largely due to massive increases with buying foreign oil and liquid natural gas to keep the lights on.

Undaunted, Sato makes the first of two bizarre statements, “It makes me question whether the government really understands how severe nuclear disasters are.” Outside of the three destroyed buildings at Fukushima Daiichi, where is the evidence of a disaster? The mountains of debris left by the March 11, 2011 tsunami along the coast of the Tohoku region, coupled with the nearly 20,000 people drowned by the massive wave itself, serve as testament to a true disaster. And, what supports Sato’s belief that Tokyo doesn’t have a clue? The problem in Fukushima is fear of radiation. It is radiophobia that drives the political decisions designed to soothe the public’s irrational fear of the invisible and the unknown. The disaster is psychological, and Sato is doing little more than fanning the flames of fear, uncertainty and doubt in the minds of his people.

The second shocking statement is, "As the nuclear disaster progresses, we hear of new incidents every day," referring to the reports of spreading radioactive contamination and radioactive water leaks found in the Press. First, the accident at Fukushima no longer “progresses”…it has been contained since December, at the very least. In fact, one could pose a strong argument that the accident itself ended March 17, 2011, when all crippled units were sufficiently depressurized to allow cooling flow to quell the over-heated fuel cells, and spent fuel pool replenishments were occurring on a continual basis. Sato is clearly attempting to create the false notion that the accident continues to worsen. Next, where is the evidence that contamination continues to spread? Answer…there is none! Since the unit #1 enclosure was completed last fall, the releases of atmospheric radioactive particulates have been so minimal as to be no longer detectable outside the 20km no-go zone surrounding F. Daiichi. Detailed ground-based monitoring has discovered localized “hot spots” that have been there all along, but were not previously “known”. This is in no way evidence the contamination continues to spread. And lastly, the few 2012 radioactive liquid leaks have been from the large volume of decontaminated water being stored at the power complex. One…just one of the leaks has been confirmed to have reached the sea, and the concentration of Cesium was so minimal that it was below the lower limit of detection. It is not the disaster-itself that progresses, but rather Sato’s idea of a disaster that continues to progress.

A former boss once told me that appearance is everything and reality is nothing. It is also true that if something is repeated often enough, it becomes fact. Governor Sato is appealing the popular notion that Fukushima is an on-going nuclear accident, the reality of which is clearly the opposite. If Sato and other political opportunists continue to trumpet these false notions, it is very possible that fiction will effectively displace fact.


April 11

  • Kansai Electric has submitted a detailed timetable for meeting Japan’s new medium and long-term safety standards. All short–term standards have already been met. The new standards call for filtered ventilation systems for all containment buildings to minimize the release of radioactive material. In addition, emergency measures will be taken to prevent serious accidents during a complete blackout. Further, bigger, more robust tsunami break-walls will be built and new anti-seismic buildings will be erected for emergency teams and management to assemble. The enhancement of cooling and power-supply facilities was also included. Kansai Electric Power Co. President Makoto Yagi said the firm is dedicated to taking every measure to improve the safety and reliability of its plants. P.M. Noda is expected to make a restart decision on Oi units #3 & 4 in the next few days. If the reactors are not activated, the areas covered by Kepco are expected to face a power shortage of up to 19.3 percent in summer, which makes reactivation likely. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Nuclear critics don’t like the Kansai “road map” one bit. Some said resumption before making key protections would leave the plant vulnerable. Tadahiro Katsuta, a Meiji University associate professor said the upgrades completed are “mostly quick-fix measures” and that more important ones, such as a crisis management center, have been put off. “I doubt if this would suffice to carry out the lessons from Fukushima in the case of another accident,” he said. On the other hand, Oi town mayor Shinobu Tokioka called the roadmap a “step forward.” Starting up the reactors typically takes one or two days after approval is granted. Local consent is not a legal requirement for restarting the reactors, but has been a de-facto condition for restarts since last summer. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Trade minister Yukio Edano says the Oi reactors have “more or less” met all conditions for restart. He said Kepco has already fulfilled enough of the extra safety steps to prevent meltdowns from happening during power outages. Edano also added the government now believes Oi's reactors can survive a station blackout like the one that doomed the Fukushima No. 1 power station. "We have confirmed safety measures have been taken to prevent escalation of an accident," Edano said. Noda, Edano, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura and nuclear disaster minister Goshi Hosono will assess projections for electricity supply and demand this summer in Osaka and other parts of west Japan the utility serves, before determining whether they should seek residents' permission to fire them up. Edano told Kepco to explore the utility's chances of hastening the plans. (Japan Times)
  • Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto and the governors of Kyoto and Shiga want the Oi rectors to remain closed. They want to know how the government and Kepco have arrived at a ~20% electricity short-fall this summer. Hashimoto, whose advisers include critics of such predictions like Tetsunari Iida of the Institute of Sustainable Energy Policies, called on both the central government and Kepco to provide a thorough explanation, backed by data, of how they arrived at such a conclusion. "Is it really the case we're facing such a severe shortage? “ Shiga Gov. Kada asked. The dissident governor’s toughest demand is gaining restart agreements with towns and villages within 100 km of the Oi reactors. Plus, Hashimoto wants a complete revision of Japan’s energy supply incorporating renewables and smart grids, but, "If the Oi reactors are simply restarted, nothing about the electricity supply system will change," Hashimoto said. (Japan Times)
  • Today, Hashimoto took dead aim at the Tokyo government for suggesting restarts are possible. He is against Kepco restarting any of its 11 nuclear reactors because he is not convinced that stress results were sufficient to indicate the reactors’ safety.  “The DPJ believes that only the central government has the authority to make such a decision,” he was quoted as saying by NHK. “They think they can make decisions about everything and ask local governments to accept those decisions. If they ignore voters’ feelings on this issue, then voters will send them a message at the next election.” On Tuesday, he outlined eight conditions, put forward by a panel of experts at an energy summit. They include widening the area of consent, in which Kansai Electric must get local residents’ approval, out to 100 kilometers around the Oi plant. Other conditions include that stress tests must be based on more stringent criteria, a nuclear regulatory agency must be independent of the government and a permanent disposal site for spent nuclear fuel needs to be found. (Japan Times) In another article, Hashimoto is thought to be merely jumping on a timely “vote winner” for the upcoming elections. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Industry minister Edano says the safety of Oi units #3 & 4 has been “generally confirmed”. In other words, the four ministers examining the data from Kepco believe it at least meets the intent of the new regulations. However, a final official decision on whether or not to allow the rectors to restart was not issued. That pronouncement is expected later this week at the next meeting. Edano said at the news conference, "We'll continue to discuss safety confirmation and the necessity [of reactivating the reactors] in consideration of power supply and demand [at the next meeting]."The government's new guidelines consist of two stages: (1) Confirmation of preventive measures to avoid a worst-case scenario in which a reactor loses all power sources due to an earthquake or tsunami, as well as confirmation of emergency measures to maintain cooling functions to prevent a meltdown during a severe accident. (2) Require power utilities to submit medium- and long-term measures to improve nuclear reactor safety.


April 9

  • Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and 3 ministers approved new nuclear safety standards on Friday. They call for utilities to have enough power sources to avoid a blackout in the event of an earthquake or tsunami. They also contain steps to prevent the situation from worsening. Economy minister Yukio Edano asked NISA to make sure Oi units #3&4, run by the Kansai Electric Power Company, meet the standards. Despite public opposition, the government is trying to restart the reactors due to concern about power shortages this summer. The new safety standards comprise 3 parts, 2 of which are made up of measures already in place. The first part calls for additional emergency power supplies, which has been a continuing effort by all nuke utilities since the accident at Fukushima. The second part includes additional computer-simulated stress tests so the government can confirm that measures are in place to prevent nuclear meltdowns even in the face of rare-but-not-impossible earthquakes or tsunami. The third part calls for plant operators to promise they will address any problems revealed in the stress tests and create plans for long-term safety improvements. The long-term plans need not be immediately implemented to meet the government restart criteria. The utilities need only commit to making the new plans a reality. (NHK World)
  • Tsuruga mayor Kazuharu Kawase says stress tests, a 40 year licensing limit and new safety standards all lack scientific basis. As a result, his community is becoming increasingly distrustful of the Tokyo government. He implored disaster minister Goshi Hosono to establish the new nuclear regulatory system as soon as possible or they run the risk of never getting local support for restarting nukes. (NHK World)
  • Opinions are divided on the new nuke safety plans. The mayor of Oi Town in Fukui Prefecture, Shinobu Tokioka, expressed confidence in the new standards, but challenged the government to explain the standards in a manner that would convince local residents of the nuclear safety. However the secretary general of the Nuclear Energy Related-Information Centre, Jun Tateno, said the standards have serious flaws. A long time nuclear critic, Tateno said long-term measures in the standards with regard to the Oi plant have been postponed. He feels they should be immediate and mandatory before restarts are allowed. Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada said that before discussing restarts, the government should fully explain its nuclear policy to residents around every plant, including Kyoto. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto says the new standards have been hastily thrown together and there hasn’t been enough time to properly judge nuclear safety. He says, “Japan will collapse if (restarts are) approved based on these procedures. The role of politicians is to assemble experts who have not received money from the nuclear power establishment and tell them to put together (new) standards.” (Japan Times; Asahi Shimbun)
  • TEPCO has analyzed the seawater samples taken after the latest waste tank leak. The radioactive levels are “below detection limit” in the seawater at the outlet of the drainage ditch that allowed outflow to the sea. There is still no report of what the Strontium level is in the drainage ditch’s water. (TEPCO)
  • Reconstruction Minister Tatsuo Hirano has given details on the possible “no-return” zone around Fukushima Daiichi. Hirano says the envisioned uninhabited zone "will probably be set at a certain distance from the nuclear facility as one of the yardsticks [for its designation]. Discussions must be held in the government about whether 500 meters or 1,000 meters [from the nuclear plant], for instance, would be an appropriate distance [for the uninhabited zone]." The minister's statement also suggested that the government determine compensation criteria. Hirano said the calculation of damages "will be different from the formula currently employed.”( Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Nabuo Tanaka, past director of the International Energy Agency says Japan is “…approaching an energy death spiral.” If you want to know why, follow this link… http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/japan-heading-for-energy-death-spiral/255266/
  • The town of Nahara has refused to cooperate in tsunami debris disposal. Nahara is located in the revised no-go zone, and remains evacuated. Representatives of Nahara confronted Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono at a meeting in Iwaki, where the town’s officials have moved to. Hosono said the final dump site will be built outside the prefecture, and "this is an issue that has to be resolved by nationwide efforts." However, it seems the Nahara contingent didn’t believe him. "How could our children live in such an environment?" one official asked. "Is there any guarantee that government will secure the location for the final dump site?" Naraha's municipal assembly has unanimously adopted a resolution to oppose the construction of such a storage site in the town. (Japan Times)
  • Fear of radiation in Japan has brought the scourge of “quackery”, and bilking money from frightened people. In January, Japan's nursery-school association issued a fraud alert on a company, Japan QRS Health Management Association, which claimed it could measure internal radiation buildup with a machine reading an electromagnetic aura from bits of hair. In another case, a suit that allegedly makes the people sweat out radiation was flagged by the government last July. Also, Japan's consumer-watchdog agency issued an alert about bathtubs priced at $6,500 that promised to suck radiation out of bathers. Tokyo's Bureau of Social Welfare and Public Health says it has received a barrage of radiation-related complaints. Radiation specialists say many anti-radiation products are fake. "Quackery, in a word,'' says Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health researcher Norman Kleiman. But for worried consumers the range of goods is bewildering and the science behind them vague. (News on Japan)
  • The Diet’s Fukushima Investigative Committee plans to question former P.M. Naoto Kan later this month. Kan will be the first Diet official to give testimony in an open session. The panel wishes to find out whether or not Kan’s actions during the Fukushima accident improved the situation. Kan will not be giving sworn testimony, however. (Japan Times)
  • Some schools re-opened in Kawauchi on Friday. The municipal nursery, primary and middle schools held a joint entrance ceremony to celebrate an important step in returning normalcy to the previously-evacuated community. It is the first time that education facilities in Futaba County returned to their original locations and resumed classes. The nursery has eight students, the primary school has 16 students, while the middle school has 14 students, which is about the same number enrolled as before the crisis began. To resume classes, the village decontaminated houses and other facilities for children who wished to go to school in the village. The radiation levels around the schools were 0.114 to 0.16 microsieverts per hour which is lower than the 0.23 microsieverts per hour limit. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Japan’s new, exceedingly strict food contamination limits are having a negative effect on some food supplies. Cesium levels of 141 Becquerels/kg have been detected in shiitake mushrooms from Manazuru town, outside Tokyo. This exceeds the new 100 Becquerel standard. In addition, Chiba Prefecture detected above-standard levels in bamboo shoots from two cities. Also, Ibaraki Prefecture found above-limit concentrations in shiitake mushrooms and bamboo shoots from five cities. Gunma Prefecture found some beef at 106 Becquerels and stopped shipment of the meat. (JAIF)
  • Nine of Japan’s 44 governors think it is safe to dispose of tsunami debris from Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. A survey of prefectural leaders between March 29 and April 6 covered all except Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi. Unfortunately, 10 of the governors continue to be overly concerned about the possibility of contamination from F. Daiichi and 15 others say they have not decided. The survey shows a majority of governors are not buying the central government’s claim that the safe disposal of tsunami waste can be assured. (Kyodo News)
  • Fifteen Japanese mayors are organizing an anti-nuclear conference later this month. "We thought we should set up the conference before Kansai Electric Power Co. restarts its Oi nuclear plant," Hajime Mikami, mayor of Kosai in Shizuoka Prefecture, said, "By breaking away from nuclear plants, we will protect the lives and property of residents." The group wants other mayors to join in the effort to eliminate nuclear power plants from Japan. It is expected that at least 40 of the ~700 mayors in Japan will attend the meeting on March 28. (Japan Times)



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