Tepco’s Fukushima report has spawned numerous news articles in the Press. Until the English version of the report is released, I will report on the Press stories only. Once the report itself is translated I will summarize it as completely and objectively as possible. Here’s the latest news media-based information…
- Japan Times’s headline reads “Tepco lashes prime minister’s office”. Tepco says the government, led by Naoto Kan, did nothing but make their lives miserable, contributed nothing positive, and wasted their precious time during the crucial first five days of the crisis. Beginning in the wee hours of March 12, the Prime Minister’s staff often called with questions and/or suggestions, but they were out of touch with what was going on at the plant. Due to calls from the prime minister's office "the plant chief was wedged between (the government and Tepco headquarters), and (requests from the prime minister's office) did not help the containment efforts." The Tepco report says the cause of the accident was the enormous scale of the tsunami combined with the company’s lack of preparedness. As for operator error allegations with emergency cooling operations, the report defended them by saying they did their best amid unprecedented circumstances.
- The Yomiuri Shimbun reports Tepco believes the prime minister’s office caused unnecessary confusion that hurt Tepco efforts. PM Naoto Kan called to make unrealistic comments and suggestions that hurt rather than helped the effort. For example, Kan phoned the plant manager, Masao Yoshida, on March 12 and told him the plant's reactors could be cooled down by referring to the 1979 nuclear crisis at Three Mile Island in the United States. This made no sense to Yoshida or anyone else at Fukushima Daiichi because the plant was a boiling water system (BWR) and TMI was a pressurized water system (PWR). Tepco described the instructions as "unrealistic given the actual state" of the reactors. Regarding information released to local residents, Tepco again blamed the Prime Minister’s Office for delaying the release of information. Tepco found it difficult to release information without approval from the PM’s office after they were admonished by Kan’s staff for posting photos of the unit #1 hydrogen explosion on March 12. As a result, the utility could not promptly announce situations such as pressure inside the No. 3 reactor's containment vessel increasing on March 14, until it obtained government approval. Also, Tepco says they can prove they never planned to abandon F. Daiichi because of an internal document circulated during the crisis. The internal document stipulates that all employees "except for emergency workers" should be evacuated quickly in the event of an accident. Tepco says they "found it odd" when Kan shouted that withdrawing all workers would be unacceptable during his impromptu visit to Tepco headquarters. This is in line with the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigative Commission’s conclusion that it "cannot confirm that TEPCO made a decision to withdraw all workers" from the plant.
- Mainichi Shimbun reports Fukushima residents are upset with the Tepco report, calling it “sloppy and false”. "TEPCO should have asked itself why it didn't have a sufficient tsunami policy and whether they had an opportunity to set one up. We still don't know what happened in the cores of the No. 1, 2 and 3 reactors, among other unclear information. TEPCO should continue to try and explain all facts related to the crisis, and the government's disaster committee should do a deep investigation of the accident," said Yoshihiro Koyama, head of Fukushima Prefecture's nuclear safety measures division, The Mayor of Namie town says there’s at least one falsification where Tepco says some staff went to Namie on March 13 to let the town know what was happening. Mayor Tamotsu Baba says that they heard from TEPCO officials for the first time only in late March. Another resident said, "Despite being a final report, I feel somewhat that TEPCO is still hiding many things. It's crystal clear that the company tries to play innocent and escape responsibility." In summation, the Mainichi says that the Tepco report is nothing more than a “self-justification” and “TEPCO has absolutely no way to evade its responsibility for the Fukushima nuclear crisis.”
- The New York Times (Asia Pacific) says the Tepco report is an attempt to exonerate itself of wrongdoing relative to the Fukushima accident. The company is trying to reclaim some of its former standing by distancing itself from their missteps in the accident. “The report is too full of excuses,” said Masako Sawai of the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, “If we don’t get to the bottom of this accident, how can we prevent future ones?” The Times also reports Tepco’s denial of ever planning on an abandonment of the accident site. Tepco executive vice president Masao Yamazaki said, “It is an undeniable fact that our employees stayed — or even voluntarily returned to the plant — to bring it under control. Multiple reactors were in trouble, all power was lost, there were frequent aftershocks and tsunami warnings. But still, our employees stayed at their posts.”
In other Fukushima news…
- Tepco says they will soon be removing spent fuel from unit #4 at Fukushima Daiichi, a year ahead of schedule. “We would like to start taking out undamaged fuel this year. Preparation is now under way,” Japan’s nuclear crisis minister, Goshi Hosono said. He added, “Doing it quickly is important. But we also have to make sure those workers out there, who are struggling under harsh conditions, will not be endangered by trying to move things fast.” Work began in April to put a cover over the building to keep radioactive dust from scattering during the transport of the fuel rods. The removed fuel bundles will be placed in a storage pool in a separate, undamaged building at the Fukushima plant. TEPCO says its analysis shows the No.4 reactor building would hold up in a strong earthquake. (Japan Today)
- Japan’s Atomic Energy Commission has announced three possible paths for nuclear waste disposal. If Japan abandons nuclear energy, it should bury all spent fuel in deep geological formations. If 15% of Japan’s electricity comes from nukes, they should recycle some of the spent fuel. If nuclear’s electric contribution is 20% or more, all spent fuel should be recycled. (NHK World)
- The potential for nuke restarts at the Sendai power station has become the central issue in the Kagoshima prefecture gubernatorial race. Incumbent Governor Yuichiro Ito is not opposed to Kyushu Electric Power Co. restarting its Sendai nukes. Independent candidate, Yoshitaka Mukohara, 55, heads a group opposed to nuclear plants and is demanding that the Sendai complex be immediately decommissioned. This is the first gubernatorial election since the decision to restart Oi 3&4, and its outcome could indicate the future of nuclear energy in Japan. (Japan Times)
- The preliminary cleansing of steam and water pipes of impurities at Oi #3 is over. The same process will be immediately applied to Oi unit #4. Unit #3 is now scheduled for restart on July 1st, with full power to be reached a week later. Unit #4 is scheduled for restart on July 17th with full power by July 28th. (NHK World)
- The science ministry and NISA withheld United State’s maps of radiation dispersal during the week after 3/11/11. The US maps were compiled from monitoring by aircraft out to 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Fukushima Daiichi. The maps show high concentrations of radioactive materials out to about 25 miles northwest of the plant, precisely where the SPEEDI computer program predicted. The government decided the maps should not be made public because they were estimates made from aircraft monitors, and not from ground-level monitoring. This flimsy excuse does not sit well with the Japanese public. Science minister Hirofumi Hirano says the government will review its decision last year not to disclose radiation maps provided by the United States. It should be noted the maps estimated radiation levels were more than a factor of ten too high, but the areas identified to be most heavily contaminated were correct. (NHK World)
- Public trust in Japanese scientists has dipped more than 10% since 3/11/11. The 2012 white paper on science and technology says the lack of Japanese-made robots for the Fukushima Daiichi recovery and scientists' inability to predict the 3/11/11 quake/tsunami are the primary reasons for the decline. Before 3/11, at least 76% of the public trusted scientists, but now it is about 65%. (Kyodo News)
- The new nuclear regulatory commission will have a “nuclear reactor expert” as its chairman. Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono said the head of the body will need reactor expertise to make the accident-related decisions the new law will require. Hosono added that the proposed bill before the Diet says the five commissioners should also include a radiation expert and geologist specializing in earthquakes. Regardless of who is selected, all commissioners must be endorsed by the Diet. Yukio Ubukata, one of the sponsors of the bill, said guidelines for selecting regulatory commission members will be mapped out before appointing its first members. (Mainichi Shimbun) Today, it was announced that the bill creating the new nuclear commission has passed the Diet’s House of Councillors (Lower House). This is the first important step in making the proposed independent commission a reality. (Kyodo News)
- Protests over the Oi nuke restarts are being held around the world. The protest in front of the Japanese Embassy in Washington followed similar protests in Australia, France, Germany, India, Italy, South Korea and Thailand. In Washington, protestors presented an embassy official with a petition for the Japanese Prime Minister demanding the Oi units not be restarted, allegedly containing 6,500 signatures. (Kyodo News)
- A Press report out of Oi says there has been a low water level alarm from reactor #3, currently undergoing restart. As it turns out, the low water level was with a tank holding cooling water for the electrical generator and had nothing to do with the reactor, safety systems, or safety-related technology. The tank and its connected piping showed no evidence of leakage. The water level had dropped about five centimeters (2 inches) since it was last monitored, causing the alarm. The headlines have resulted only because the release of the information was some 13 hours after the situation had been discovered, which the news media feels is too long of a delay. (JAIF) comment – This is a non-issue! It’s only getting coverage because it is spinable as a negative story connected to the decision to restart the Oi nukes, and the article appeals to the generally negative feeling about the judgment to resume operations. The headlines should follow the facts. This is NOT a nuclear safety issue in any way, shape or form.
- Tepco’s full report on its in-house investigation of the Fukushima accident has been released (Japanese only). The report is said to include admission of inadequate tsunami protection and insufficient electrical reliability. The report takes the Tokyo government to task for directly and indirectly interfering with the Tepco staffs at both the Tokyo home office and at the F. Daiichi accident site. The main lesson learned has been the need for emergency procedures that take into account the loss of all emergency cooling functions. Additional changes include measures to improve the chain of command, information flow and efforts to prevent meltdowns. (NHK World) comment – NHK adds a statement entirely predicated on the continuation of FUD…Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt…”But an NHK reporter says TEPCO still doesn't know the extent of radioactivity that has been released since the start of the crisis, or how much damage the reactors suffered from the earthquake independent of the tsunami.” The first part of the statement is grossly misleading, at best. The second part is wild speculation on the miniscule possibility that the earthquake caused critical damage before the tsunami hit. NHK World should be ashamed of itself!
- The non-profit Japan Forum on International Relations Inc. has endorsed the restarts of all currently-idled nukes once their safety has been assured. "Those nuclear power stations now . . . shut down should resume operations as soon as possible, after their safety has been verified, their facilities structurally reinforced, and their operational management improved in line with the lessons learned from the accident at the Fukushima (No. 1) nuclear power station," says the proposal released Monday. The report has been endorsed by more than 70 academic and business leaders across Japan. The proposal adds, "We cannot share the optimistic view of some that the introduction of renewable energy would serve as a quick remedy or substitute for nuclear power and instantly enable denuclearization.” In a minority opinion, Professor Haruo Shimada of Chiba University of Commerce said, "(Industry chiefs) had repeatedly said the nuclear reactors were safe. But they are actually very dangerous." (Japan Times)
On Saturday, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda approved the restart of Oi units #3 and 4. This effectively ends ex-PM Kan’s de-facto moratorium on nuclear operations. Within an hour of Noda’s announcement, the staff at Oi unit #3 began preparations for restart. It is believed #3 will be at full power on July 8th, and unit #4 on July 24th. Noda made his announcement following a meeting with Fukui governor Issei Nishikawa agreed to the restart because the government pledged to increase its efforts to ensure safety. However, the official restart declaration has caused a wide diversity of opinions to be reported across the spectrum of Japan’s Press. Here’s a few of them…
- The Prime Minister’s office in Tokyo was descended upon by about 400 citizens protesting the move. One protestor said it is unacceptable to restart the plant as the cause of the Fukushima accident has not been satisfactorily clarified. Another said the safety of nuclear plants has not been sufficiently assured.
- Local residents who reside near other nuclear plants have mixed feelings about Noda’s decision. A woman in Shizuoka Prefecture who lives near the Hamaoka nuke said, "I think that uncovering the causes of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant accident and establishment of the nuclear power regulation agency should come first, but if the Kansai area will really be short of electricity this summer, then restarting the reactors can't be avoided. However, there should be a limit to the period of operation." A man who lives next to the Ikata nuke said “If the nukes aren’t restarted, the local economies will suffer.” A woman in Ibaraki Prefecture near the Tokai nukes an opposing view, "There are people who have committed suicide because of the nuclear disaster (at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant). I feel powerless and angry. The fact that the government has to go through various processes in order to restart the reactors reflects the power of the public. ... We cannot let the voices against nuclear power disappear." Perhaps the most adamant anger comes from Fukushima Prefecture, as shown by a woman from Iitate, "I'm exasperated and speechless. The nuclear disaster did not just upset our lives; it also crushes people's spirits. I can only conclude that the Fukushima disaster hasn't served as a lesson.” (Mainichi Shimbun)
- Many Fukushima town mayors and evacuees are critical of the Oi restarts. Katsuya Endo, Mayor of Tomioka town, which was designated as a no-entry zone, said he feels strong indignation at the government decision and believes the prime minister has forgotten the sorrow felt in Fukushima. Mayor Tomotsu Baba of Namie feels the accident at the Fukushima plant has not yet been contained and government panels have not compiled reports on the Fukushima disaster. A man from Kuwauchi village said those who decided on the restart must be thinking that the Fukushima disaster was not their own affair. A woman from Futaba said she is willing to reduce her energy consumption as much as needed if it means the end of nuclear energy. She added that the government put priority on the economy and ignores the sanctity of people's lives. (NHK World)
- A relatively small group of former and current mayors in Japan have virtually condemned the Oi restart decision. Out of the ~770 current mayors and more than a thousand former mayors, the group of 73 held a news conference Sunday to show their extreme displeasure. They accused Tokyo of sidestepping efforts to insure safety and alleged that the new standards under which the Oi plants are being restarted are “makeshift” (haphazard). The government should have waited until the new watchdog agency is formed and fully functional before restarting any nukes. Further, Fukushima demonstrated nuclear energy is a national, not merely a local hazard. Consent for restart from only the local communities is unacceptable. All communities should be involved in the decision. A formal letter of protest will be submitted to PM Noda today. (NHK World)
- The critics in the Diet rapped the premier for moving too hastily. Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima told reporters, "I don't know why (the government) has to restart them in a big hurry when their safety cannot be assured. [The restart would be] an act of outrage and we will strongly protest against it." (Kyodo News)
- Opposition voices have cried out of the minority political groups in Japan. Liberal Democratic Party Secretary General Nobuteru Ishihara says the reactors should be restarted only after the safety of all reactors is confirmed by a new regulatory organization. Leader of New Komei, Natsuo Yamaguchi, says the government gave priority to securing a stable supply of power ahead of securing safety. Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii calls the government's decision impermissible. Social Democratic Party’s Mizuho Fukushima said the government's decision is outrageous. (NHK World)
- Letters of protest over the Oi decision have come from anti-nuclear sources all over the world. Antinuclear activists and politicians in many countries have criticized Tokyo and are holding rallies outside Japanese embassies and consulates. The German green party unanimously agreed to oppose the restarts. An Italian petition with 3,700 signatures was presented to the Japanese consulate in Rome. Sen. Scott Ludlam of the Australian Greens sent a letter of protest June 12 to Japan's Embassy in Canberra. In America, protest gatherings are scheduled for this week in Washington, Chicago and Los Angeles. (Japan Times)
- Finally, Asahi Shimbun editorializes, “The decision by the central government on June 16 to resume operations at the Oi nuclear power plant is yet another attempt to rely on the myth of the safety of nuclear power plants”.
In other Fukushima news stories…
- The Diet says the new nuclear regulatory system should be in operation within three months. The new law, expected to be approved by the upper house, would create a five-member independent nuclear regulatory commission and a nuclear regulatory agency to enforce regulations. Although the time-table is much more prolonged than most in Japan might want, it is the lack of a 40-year operating limit on nukes that has drawn the most fire. More than a dozen of the country’s 50 reactors are at least three decades old, with three already operating for about 40 years. Many believe 40 years is too old to continue safe operation. “Does this reflect the sentiment of the citizens, who are seeking an exit from nuclear power?” queried an editorial in the Tokyo Shimbun, “Won’t it instead make what was supposed to be a rare exception par for the course?” (Japan Today)
- Japanese electric utilities are concerned about how well their thermal (fossil-fueled) power plants will operate in a constant state of full power operation. Even with the two Oi restarts, there will be very little reserve power available. The thermal plant’s records over the past several months have not been promising. Thermal plants experience relatively rapid corrosion and system degradation which forces rather frequent maintenance periods with the plant’s off-line. The current power crunch has caused companies to keep them running, and scheduled maintenance has been put on hold. Many of the thermal plants have never been run this long before, which makes worries even greater. "The risk of drops in our thermal power generating capacity due to facility flaws may have been heightened," Kepco President Makoto Yagi said. "The facilities' age is being exacerbated by the high operating rate," a Hokkaido Electric official noted. "But we cannot afford to conduct thorough examinations." An unnamed power industry official added, "The (supply and demand) situation is more severe than last summer despite the reactor restarts.” (Japan Times)
June 16 - commentary
Oi 3 & 4 restarts…a hasty decision?
The Japanese government has approved the startup of Oi nuclear units 3 and 4 in Fukui Prefecture, on the west-central Kansai region. Immediately, political nay-sayers across Japan and irresponsible green-energy obsessives around the world are spouting that it is a “hasty decision” due to on-going angst spawned by the Fukushima nuclear accident. Citizens unceremoniously ripped from their homes due to the politically-mandated evacuations in Fukushima Prefecture are outraged. And, 400 anti-nuclear zealots descended on the government in Tokyo to show their anger and frustration while a sympathetic Press gave them full, international exposure.
Hasty decision? There is nothing hasty about it. The word itself is defined as “impulsive, brazen, uncontrolled, without much thought or attention”. There is no basis for this wildly speculative rhetorical criticism on the Prime Minister and the local officials associated with the Oi nuclear power complex. Those who have followed the on-going soap opera that has ear-marked the Oi restart issue realizes every step has been careful and overly-cautious. The nukes at Oi suffered no damage due to the 3/11/11 quake/tsunami. The natural calamity that devastated the Tohoku region happened on the opposite coast. Both units were capable of safe, clean operation more than a year ago. The earthquake resistance “stress tests” for both units have long been passed with flying colors. All mandated safety upgrades have been made. Any rational observer would conclude the resumption of nuclear power in Japan is warranted and long overdue. The process has been controlled and painstaking. The decision is in no way hasty. In fact, it’s about time!
The restart issue finds its seminal roots in a hasty decision made by then-PM Naoto Kan soon after the Fukushima Daiichi plants were brought under effective control in late March of last year. Kan mandated that all of the nukes that were shut down for routine maintenance and refueling had to remain shuttered. All operating nukes would be similarly shuttered when their scheduled outages began. 30% of Japan’s electricity production is nuclear. As of early June this year, all of them were closed. No country on this planet could possibly survive if 30% of its electrical infrastructure were suddenly removed from the picture. While there is no legal mandate for acquiring local approval before a nuke restart, Tokyo decided to take the ultra-safe, politically-expedient path and wait for endorsements out of Oi town and Fukui Prefecture while fossil-burning pollution is disgorged into the air breathed by everyone in Japan. The wait has ended.
Now that the permission for the Oi restarts has manifested, tacit condemnations pour down from the news media’s heavens. Pie-in-the-sky alternative energy proponents and the prophets of nuclear energy doom around the world want all the Japanese nukes to remain shuttered and force Japan into becoming a guinea pig for their grand experiment with people’s lives. They want to place the innocent Japanese people in the clutches of intermittently-operating, currently non-existent renewables combined with even tighter electricity restriction than is already the case. All the while, increased thermal plant offal contaminates the environment and chokes the air passages of the populace. These selfish groups and individuals don’t give a tinker’s damn about the people of Japan. All they care about is giving their vision of a future energy panacea a place to be tested. The Japanese people saved as much energy as they could last summer, and rolling brown-outs were common-place. This was while numerous nukes were still operating. As the moratorium advanced, old, pollution-spawning “thermal” (fossil fueled) units were brought out of mothballs and run continuously during the winter, barely keeeping Japan’s electrical grid from running catastrophically short on supply. Without the Oi units running, blackouts in the Kansai region would be a virtual certainty. I remember sweltering with the blackout of the American Northeast during the summer of 2003 and the broiling heat that no-one could escape for more than 24 hours. 55 million people in America and Canada suffered immensely. At least a dozen people died from the heat or related effects. To be blunt, it sucked! That calamity was accidental, but an electrical calamity in Japan would be literally intentional without Oi units 3 & 4. When the summer heat hits, Japan has no other rational, realistic choice but to restart a few nukes. Without the Oi power plants operating, the summer heat throughout the Kansai region would cause people to literally cook in the discomfort of their own, unlit homes.
- A massive protection platform has been installed above spent fuel pool #4 at Fukushima Daiichi. The platform will keep falling debris out of the pool while the mangled superstructure above the refueling deck is removed. This is important because the superstructure must be gone before the fuel bundles in the pool can be relocated and stored. The removal of the bundles from the pool should end the wild, fantasy-based speculations of an international apocalypse caused by a collapse of the building. For pictures of the installation, go to http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2012/201206-e/120615_02e.html, and for a diagram of the platform’s purpose, go to http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/nu/fukushima-np/images/handouts_120608_03-e.pdf. (TEPCO press releases)
- In April, 2011, Fukushima Prefecture told a university research team to stop checking citizens for radioactive Iodine ingestion. The Prefecture was afraid the work was “stirring uneasiness” among the people. Very little data on ingestion of radionuclides during the early stages of the accident exists because of the government’s decision. The ramifications have been felt ever since. "If proper tests had been carried out, then we could have accurately evaluated the effects of the nuclear crisis, and residents would have felt more at ease," a member of the university's research team commented. Shinji Tokonami, a professor at Hirosaki University's Institute of Radiation Emergency Medicine, said, "The reason anxiety about radiation has become prolonged is that we have no information from that time (soon after the outbreak of the nuclear disaster)." (Mainichi Shimbun)
- The mayor of Oi has given his assent to the restarts of units 3&4. Mayor Shinobu Tokioka said he approved the plan because he is concerned about possible power shortages and the impact on the local economy if the nukes remain closed. Following the mayor’s lead, the Fukui governor will meet with Prime Minister Noda Saturday to inform him that Oi town and Fukui Prefecture support the resumption of operations. Local consent is not legally required for restarting the reactors, but Tokyo wants their support because of the sensitivity of the issue. (Japan Today)
- The Prime Minister’s final decision on the Oi restarts is scheduled to be given on Saturday. A meeting will be held between Fukui governor Issei Nishikawa and PM Noda before the prime minister’s announcement. It is expected that Nishikawa will formally extend his permission for the restarts now that Oi town officials and the Fukui general assembly have agreed to the resumption of operations. The general assembly’s majority statement says, "Nuclear reactors in Fukui Prefecture have been contributing to the Kansai region's development. It's our responsibility to continue to cooperate with the nation's nuclear energy policy as [the prefecture] that supplies electricity [to the region]. [The country] should maintain nuclear power sources. We want the governor to make a suitable decision [to support the restart]." On the other hand, the assembly’s minority statement says, "The safety [of the reactors] has yet to be sufficiently confirmed. But the reactors' suspension has been adversely affecting the local economy and employment. We need support from the central government." Noda will leave for Mexico on Sunday to attend a summit of the Group of 20 major economies. It is expected he will state his decision before his departure. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- The Diet’s three major parties have agreed on the creation and operation of a new nuclear regulatory program for Japan. All the details seem to have been worked out, so the only remaining hurdle is getting the authorization bill passed by the Diet itself. It is believed this will happen before the end of next week, prior to the Diet’s recess. The bill features an independent nuclear safety commission of bureaucrats overseeing a regulatory agency of experts who will enforce regulatory changes mandated by the commission itself. Also, a nuclear disaster conference, chaired by the Prime Minister, will be created to clearly define responsibilities within the government during a nuclear power plant crisis. The team in the conference will include the Cabinet Secretary, Environment Minister, and the head of the new Nuclear Regulatory Commission. In a rather surprising revelation, the new bill does not place a 40 year limit on nuke operation. One of the bill’s contributors said, "The bill is expected to become one that seeks the new nuclear regulatory commission, after its launch, to swiftly judge (if the 40-year limit is appropriate).” (Japan Times)
- Kazuko Ozawa, the wife of DPJ leader Ichiro Ozawa, has divorced him because he fears radiation. She states he fled Tokyo with his secretaries on March 16, 2011, abandoning family and friends, because he feared the radioactive isotopes wafting from Fukushima Daiichi. The Skakun Bunshun says they have printed documents of Kazuko’s which state, "Facing unprecedented catastrophe, politicians must be the first to stand up, but in fact Ozawa ran away with his secretaries because of fear of radiation. As I saw him abandon people in Iwate who have supported him a long time, I realized Ozawa is not a person good for Iwate and Japan. Therefore, I divorced him.” Iwate is Ichiro Ozawa’s home district. One of the secretaries was told by Ozawa to let everyone move away because of his "receiving confidential information on radiation.” She passed on the message to other secretaries, but she herself refused to move with them and kept her family in Tokyo. Allegedly, Ozawa locked himself in his room and refused to leave until his staff had evacuated, which was completed March 25. Then, he also moved. This explains why the news media could not find him between March 11 and March 28. (Japan Times)
- Nobel Prize-winning novelist Kenzaburo Oe has submitted a petition to the government asking for an end to a dependence on nuclear power in Japan. The petition is said to contain about 6.5 million signatures. During the formal presentation to Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura, Oe said he opposes the restarts of the Oi nukes, wants the country to stop building nuclear plants, and that the Fukushima accident shows that people cannot co-exist with nuclear energy. He believes it is imperative that adults demand the abolition of nuclear power to protect children. Oe and his campaign staff will hold an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo on July 16, and claim that 100,000 will attend. (NHK World)
The Diet’s Nuclear Accident Independent Investigative Commission (NAIIC) has released some preliminary findings. The full report will be published by the end of June. Part of the report focusses on the actions of PM Naoto Kan and his staff during the early months of the Fukushima accident. It has touched off a verbal war between the panel and Kan. Here’s some of the coverage…
- Kan and his staff are blasted by the NAIIC report on six points, not the least of which is “excessive intervention” during the early phase of the crisis. Panel member Shuya Nomura said, "Officials at the Prime Minister's Office made frequent calls to workers on site to ask inappropriate basic questions. To answer such questions, the workers had to waste their time and energy. The Prime Minister's Office's frequent intervention confused the chain of command [at the plant]." Nomura also said the panel could find no evidence of Tepco ever planning on abandoning F. Daiichi, in opposition to incorrect assumptions by Kan and his staff. Although Kan says the prevention of complete withdrawal was one of his achievements during the crisis, the panel has openly refuted his claim. Nomura says that Tepco "did not coordinate with the Prime Minister's Office's intervention, but simply conveyed instructions [from the office] to workers on site." The second point in the report is that the PM’s crisis-control system needs drastic revision. Concerning the delay in declaring the nuclear crisis, Nomura said, "It failed to play the role it should have, leading to delays in issuing evacuation instructions and releasing information on the nuclear crisis." The third point says matters inside a nuclear power plant should be handled by the utility, while outside issues should be covered by the government. The remaining points are that the government’s actions caused delay and confusion in public protective actions, the disuse of SPEEDI predictive modeling to determine areas exposed to Fukushima airborne releases resulted in essentially arbitrary evacuations, and the PM’s staff actions undermined the safety and health of local residents. When Nomura finished outlining the six points, Chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa asked the other panel members if they had any objections. None did. The six points were unanimously approved. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- In his personal blog, Naoto Kan fired a broadside at the NAIIC conclusions, denying any wrong-doing. Concerning the allegation of excessive intervention, Kan posted, "It was indeed unusual for the Prime Minister's Office to get directly involved, but we were dealing with a disaster more serious than either (plant operator) Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) or the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) had ever envisioned. That the Prime Minister's Office did what was necessary is fact." He then added, "TEPCO could not inject water into the reactors on its own, and it was my office that ordered the Self-Defense Forces and other units into action (to help). I still believe that, as NISA was not functioning, my office could not avoid getting directly involved in managing the crisis." With respect to the F. Daiichi abandonment issue, Kan said Tepco had probed the possibility of pulling out its entire staff, and rejected the suggestion of a misunderstanding on the part of the Prime Minister's Office. Kan demanded the public release of all video conference calls recorded between the Fukushima No. 1 plant and TEPCO headquarters in Tokyo, which he feels will exonerate him and his staff. (Mainichi Shimbun)
Now for some other updates…
- Tepco has claimed their information problems during the nuclear crisis were the fault of the Prime Minister’s office. Tepco’s draft report of their investigation into the accident says, "Because we had to seek approval from the prime minister's office and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (on publicity matters), the timing of the announcement and the content were restricted." In addition, Tepco states the Prime Minister’s office caused “unnecessary confusion” among the staff at the F. Daiichi accident site. Plant manager Yoshida said calls from the PM’s office forced him to divert attention from the rapidly-deteriorating situation. Such behavior by the government “put the plant chief in a dilemma and did not improve the outcome of efforts to address the accident." One example concerns March 12 when PM Naoto Kan called Yoshida and said an acquaintance told him Fukushima might develop similar to Three Mile Island in 1979. This was essentially a waste of Yoshida’s precious time. Yoshida also described Kan as “running amok and yelling” and acting in “an extremely high-handed manner” during his un-announced assault of Tepco’s home office on March 15, due to outrage over a rumored abandonment of F. Daiichi. Tepco had no intention of full withdrawal. The report says Tepco employees had a "determination to remain (at the site) even in a crisis situation", but not because Kan ordered them to stay. (Kyodo News)
- A draft report by the Science Ministry’s says they knew computer simulation, using SPEEDI, was reliable at the onset of the crisis at Fukushima. However, the Ministry decided to with-hold the data until April 25th, more than a month after 3/11/11, because they feared it would cause public disorder. Plus, they felt SPEEDI data was “only a prediction”. However, the Ministry sent a team to Namie Town on March 15th to take radiation readings and then compare them to SPEEDI predictions. Even though there seemed to be a positive correlation, they chose to keep the information in-house. (NHK World)
- Fukui governor Issei Nishikawa visited the Oi nuclear power complex on Tuesday to verify claims of safety improvements. On Monday, the prefecture’s nuclear safety commission told Nishikawa that all necessary safety measures had been taken. Before the inspection, the governor said, "Based on the report I received, I'd like to see how (the measures) have been implemented and utilize (the findings) for my judgment.” As a result of his visit, it is expected Nishikawa will endorse the Oi restarts as early as Friday. (Kyodo News)
- Oi mayor Shinobu Tokioka is expected to announce Thursday that he will approve switching the reactors back on. The Oi town assembly and Fukui safety commission have endorsed the nuke restarts, which Tomioka has said were prerequisites for his decision. It is believed governor Nishikawa’s visit to the nukes will give the mayor even more reason to support resumption. Once the Fukui governor and Oi mayor make their formal restart announcements, it is expected that the Tokyo government will quickly announce their decision. (NHK World)
- If the Oi nukes are given permission to restart this week, it could be the end of July before both units are at full power. Kepco says it will take about three weeks to get unit #3 up to full power because of necessary pre-operational testing and system impurity removal. Only one unit can be restarted at a time, so unit #4’s full reactivation could take another three weeks after unit #3. Kepco and the Tokyo government agree that with both units at full power, the possibility of summer electrical shortages in the Kansai region will be minimal. Regardless, Kepco is preparing for possible rolling blackouts before both units are at full power. (Japan Times)
- (Saturday) It seems the Diet’s Fukushima Investigation Panel (NAIIC) believes that Tepco never wanted to abandon F. Daiichi. “Workers at the plant were battling to contain the crisis,” said NAIIC Chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa, “Not only (Tepco president) Shimizu’s accounts, but also our past investigations showed that the electric utility was not considering full withdrawal.” This followed Shimizu’s testimony where he said Tepco "at no stage considered a complete pullout." However, submitted evidence on June 8 included transcripts of some telephone communications between Tepco-Tokyo and un-named persons at F. Daiichi. On March 14, someone with Tepco asked, “Around what time will evacuation of all workers from the site be ready? All workers will evacuate to the visitor hall of the Fukushima No.2 (Daini) nuclear power plant, is that correct?” During his testimony, Tepco’s president Shimizu explained they were talking about the evacuation of non-essential personnel alone - Tepco never intended to abandon F. Daiichi. When asked if he felt the government misunderstood what he was saying, Shimizu responded, “I am afraid so.” (Asahi Shimbun)
- (Saturday) The NAIIC generally feels government interference during the Fukushima crisis only made matters worse. Panel member Shuya Nomura said Naoto Kan’s aides made numerous calls to the Fukushima Daiichi plant which did not follow the official line of communication mandated under the country’s nuclear disaster management law, adding, “They asked questions that were often inappropriate and very basic, unnecessarily causing more work in addition to the operation at the site.” Among other criticisms, the panel said the government should have released more information about the spread of radiation and other related data so the public could have made more-informed evacuation decisions. The with-held information has created great distrust for their leaders. (Japan Today) "I didn't know a hydrogen explosion had occurred (at the nuclear plant) and was wondering why we had to evacuate. In any case, information was slow," said a resident of Minamisoma. "If the government had mentioned the nuclear plant when it issued the evacuation instructions, I could have locked up my house and brought out my valuables. I'm disappointed that my house was robbed (while I was evacuated)." A significant majority found out about the accident on TV, and not from their elected officials. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- (Saturday) Protestors disrupted the meeting with their extreme anger. Some members of the public demanded that the panel allow them in as the committee members. A few even tussled with Fukui Prefecture’s staff. Because of this, the meeting was suspended and resumed at a more secure location. This infuriated many people. Shouts of "This commission should be for the people," and "Pushing it through is an act of violence," rang out. (Japan Times)
- (Sunday) NAIIC has run an extensive survey of evacuees from the six towns nearest F. Daiichi. The survey covered more than 10,000 of the ~55,000 people who evacuated their homes. NAIIC found that 70% of the refugees moved at least 4 times before being finally settled. About a third of the survey’s residents moved as many as six times! "The government's evacuation instructions were haphazard and invited confusion," said Chairman Kurokawa. But, the most disturbing situation was Tokyo’s confused notion of where to send evacuees. Some 50% from Namie actually moved to locations where the contamination levels were higher than at their homes – and the same with about 25% of those fleeing Futaba and Tomioka. Even though all reputable experts agree that the contamination levels experienced by evacuees were well-below harmful levels, radiophobia continues to plague many. "For the rest of my life, my health will be threatened by the fact that I was evacuated to a highly radioactive area. Why did the government withhold the information?" said one resident from Namie. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- (Sunday) On another issue, Chairman Kiyoshi Kurokawa is opposed to restarting the Oi nukes. Kurokawa feels the Prime Minister should delay nuclear plant restarts until his group files its official report later this month, "Why (doesn't the prime minister) wait until he receives reports from the Diet’s investigation committee before restarting the reactors?" Conversely, Kyushu University research professor Kazuhiko Kudo says, “The government's criteria ensure a certain level of safety, and I can understand (the prime minister's decision) that took a potential power shortage seriously.” (Mainichi Shimbun)
- (Sunday) Meanwhile, the Osaka City expert panel says the Oi restarts are OK, but not permanently. An emergency statement issued Friday said, "The reactivation should be limited to the minimum necessary period, and the reactors should be suspended again after the power-saving period ends in September." The statement also says, "The planned reactivation will lead to the undermining of public safety and ignore the lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear crisis.” (Kyodo News) On the other hand, Fukui governor Issei Nishikawa objects to limited operation, saying that running a nuclear power plant is different than “supermarket’s bargain sales, which are often held for limited periods.” (Nuclear Street)
- (Sunday) Governor Nishikawa says he is pleased with Prime Minister Noda’s public explanation about the Oi restarts. In a statement made on Friday, he commended the prime minister's firm endorsement of nuclear power and added he will ensure that an accident like last year's Fukushima disaster will never happen in Fukui. However, he has yet to personally consult the Fukui nuclear safety expert panel and the Oi mayor for their input. Until both meetings are held, he is holding back his final decision on the Oi nuke restarts. (NHK World)
- (Sunday) Anti-nuclear campaigners condemned PM Noda’s plea for the restart of two Oi nuclear units as an attempt to intimidate the Japanese public. Approximately 4000 protestors massed outside the Prime Minister’s office building. Kazumasa Aizawa, a village assembly member in Tokai, said: “No convincing data has been presented. Still, the prime minister was saying that the reactors would resume operations because of the threat of power shortages. It is intimidation of the public. He repeatedly said the government would defend people’s security, but all his words were empty.” Long-time anti-nuke activist Kazuyuki Takemoto added, “He pressed the people to reopen the plant, waving power shortages and economic issues (in front of them). It was very much like a threat.” Takeichi Saito, the representative of a study group, also said, “It is a step in (the administration’s) self-destruction.” Finally, Nozomu Suzuki, one of the organizers from Shizuoka Prefecture, said, “The decision to restart the Oi reactors was too sloppy and rough. It was a political decision giving a top priority to the energy problem.” (Asahi Shimbun)
- (Monday) The local safety commission of Fukui Prefecture said they now support the Oi restarts. In their report released Sunday, prefectural officials stated that necessary safety measures have been put in place and resumption of operations can proceed. The meeting was temporarily disrupted by some members of the public opposed to the restart, but it did not alter the panel’s conclusion. All that remains for the restart work to begin is Fukui governor Nishikawa’s approval, which is expected to occur this week. (Kyodo News) The panel’s report will be submitted to governor Nishikawa today. Nishikawa says he will probably announce his decision on or before Saturday. (NHK World)