Fukushima 39...9/2/12 - 9/15/12

September 15

  • Japan’s government has decided to set a “no-nukes in the 2030s” national energy policy, and problems are already arising. The draft report issued Wednesday by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) says “we will devote all policy resources to achieving zero nuclear power generation in the 2030s”. It adds that the island nation will turn away from its current policy of recycling used nuclear fuel and begin research on direct disposal (permanent burial). The report stresses that Aomori Prefecture, site of Japan’s principle nuclear fuel recycling facility, will not be home to the permanent repository. Finally, the new policy will be review each year until 2015, and then at least once every three years thereafter. The decision is based on the wishes of “some local governments” in Japan and some opinions voiced by a few American “experts”. At this point, there is no speculation on how the effects of the nuclear energy abolition will be handled in those communities now hosting nuclear plants, or how it might affect Japan’s civilian nuclear cooperation pact with America. The government says it will limit nuclear plant operational age to 40 years and not allow new nukes to be built. (Mainichi Shimbun) The first of what will undoubtedly be many local rejections of the new policy comes from Fukui Prefecture. Fukui Prefecture hosts the largest number of nukes of any prefecture in Japan. Governor Issei Nishikawa strongly criticized Tokyo for their new nuclear energy policy. He pointed out Prime Minister Noda said Japan cannot survive without nukes prior to restarting Oi units #3&4, and also that nuke are essential to national security. Nishikawa says Noda has essentially contradicted himself by backing the new energy policy. Nishikawa asserted that if the government wants to decommission the reactors in his prefecture, it must immediately remove all the spent nuclear fuel and restore the plant sites back to their original state. (NHK World) The chairman of the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren), Hiromasa Yonekura, told Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda that he is opposed to ending nuclear power generation. Keidanren’s chief explained that he shared his position in a phone conversation with PM Noda that lasted more than 10 minutes. (Kyodo News) The United States has expressed their concern over Japan’s no-nukes policy. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman met with the ruling DPJ policy chief Seiji Maehara on Tuesday. Poneman said if Japan takes steps to achieve such a target, it could have unexpected effects on the United States and other parties concerned. Maehara explained that Japan will set a target but stop short of declaring its full commitment to it, fearing that Japan’s large increase in Middle East fossil fuel consumption would mean higher prices for everyone.Poneman suggested Japan maintain policy flexibility and not make a fixed decision.(Yomiuri Shimbun) Noted environmentalist Mark Lynas says the new Japanese energy policy is “nothing short of insane”. He points out that the Japanese people have been subject to constant fear-mongering since Fukushima, and the current government is catering to the will of the fear-mongers “…in order to eliminate the safest power source ever invented.". (World Nuclear News)
  • Replacing nukes with renewables would cost Japan more than $600 billion, not to mention severe economic penalties for not meeting their target for greenhouse gas emissions. By not meeting their 25% emission-reduction commitment by 2020, Japan would have to purchase 320 million tons of overseas emissions credit. Tuomas Rautanen, head of regulatory affairs and consulting at First Climate in Zurich, agrees that the 25 percent goal may be out of reach, "In order to reach that target, or even a lower one, Japan would need to draw strongly on international offsets" of emissions. This would mean even higher electricity costs and heavier consumption taxes for the public than the staggering cost of building enough renewables to replace the nukes. Under the zero nuclear option, Japan would need to invest $550 billion on solar, wind and other types of renewable energy and about $50 billion on power grids. Undaunted by the crushing impact the full replacement policy would have on Japan’s already-crumbling economy, Seiji Maehara, chairman of the DPJ's policy research committee says three principles are mandated. First, all nukes are to be scrapped after 40 years of operation, no matter how well-maintained they might be. Second, no more nukes are to be built in Japan. Lastly, restarting currently-idled reactors should not be allowed until they receive safety approval from the forthcoming Nuclear Regulatory Commission. To spur renewable development, Tokyo has created an unprecedented subsidy for companies getting involved in the business; called a “feed-in tariff”. For solar alone, the subsidy will triple the current electricity costs for industrial users. The plan is to put solar panels on 12 million homes, or about 44 percent of all of the country's detached houses, as well as build massive solar and wind farms. Keidanren, the nation's biggest business lobby that includes industry giants like Toyota Motor Corp as well as power utilities, has called the zero nuclear plan "unrealistic" and a threat to manufacturing and jobs in Japan. They say the zero percent scenario "is ignorant of economic efficiency and entails a large increase in the public burden. If energy cannot be stably supplied at an economically efficient price, not only will growth be set back, the hollowing-out of industry and employment will accelerate in the midst of intense global competition." Industry minister Yukio Edano rejects the Keidanren speculation saying the increase in renewable spending would have an eventual positive impact on Japan by improving Japan’s competitiveness in the world renewable market. Reiji Ogino, a Tokyo-based energy analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co., says the new energy policy is little more than a ploy by the DPJ to “guarantee them a victory in the next election.” (Japan Times)
  • In what seems suddenly contradictory, Tokyo says they will seek to continue spent fuel recycling at the Rokkasho facility, Aomori Prefecture. However, if the new no-nukes energy policy remains in place over the next two decades, the recycled nuclear fuel will have no Japanese customers to use it. Under the new policy, it seems there would be no point in reusing plutonium and uranium, extracted through reprocessing, as reactor fuel. Could this announcement be an attempt to counter possible international criticism of Japan’s new energy policy? (NHK World)
  • A Fukushima government effort to identify the Prefecture’s radiation exposures moves forward. As of the end of July, more than 400,000 of the prefecture’s 2 million citizens have submitted radiological surveys estimating their F. Daiichi-related exposures. The survey began in June of 2011 with evacuees from Namie town, Iitate village and Kawamata town, but was expanded to the entire prefecture last fall. 56% of the evacuees responded, as did 40% of the other residents of northern Fukushima. The lowest response rate was 15% from the Aizu island area where estimated radiation levels are the lowest. Many of those who did not respond say their memories have faded and the forms are complicated. "Although we are visiting households to seek submissions, such efforts have produced only limited results," said a prefectural official involved in the survey. Some choosing to not partake in the survey say they simply don’t trust their government’s effort because it began many months after the accident, suggesting that the prefecture is less than serious about the program. The prefecture says they have told about 10% of the respondents of their calculated levels of exposure, which is lower than the government had hoped. It says they are limited by a lack of enough people to make the assessments and the fact that many surveys were submitted incompletely. Regardless, Hisakatsu Kotani, an official in charge of monitoring health, said, "Although one year and six months have passed since the nuclear accident, we are still at an early stage of the crisis. I hope people will send back the forms so we can prepare for the future." (Japan Times)

September 12

  • Eighteen months after the Fukushima accident, many challenges still remain. The Japanese Press continues to say that “tainted” water continues to leak from the four severely stricken units at F. Daiichi, which places in question the reliability of the waste water clean-up and reactor cooling systems were “hastily” thrown together. In addition, there have been 56 instances of “tainted” water leaks within the crippled power complex and the decontamination systems have stopped 12 times due to either the leaks or power supply problems. Further, on August 30th the reactor vessel coolant flows fell below desired levels for a few days until Tepco found that clogged filters were the cause. And, only 16 of the 41 thermometers installed on the unit #3 reactor pressure vessel are still working, and cannot be replaced due to the high radiation levels inside the unit’s containment structure. What’s more, Tepco does not yet know if they can fill the internal containment structures of units#1 through #3 with water to facilitate removal of the melted fuel cores. The water volume would also significantly reduce the higher radiation fields in and around the three reactor buildings, which would greatly facilitate the core removal process. There is also a concern about finding enough qualified workers over the next five years. Finally, some 400 tons of groundwater is flowing into the plant buildings, mixing with the partially-decontaminated water already there and adding to the total waste water inventory. All the above are purported to be unsolved challenges that need to be resolved. On a positive note, Tepco says that most work areas around the four buildings of concern have radiation fields below 3 millisieverts per hour, compared with the level of 100 mSv/hr measured the first week after the accident. The one major exception is near the unit #3 buildings. (NHK World)
  • None of the Fukushima children who have been medically screened since 3/11/11 show any evidence of thyroid cancer due to the Fukushima accident. Earlier this week, one child was diagnosed with a form of thyroid cancer, but medical experts say it could not possibly be due to the F. Daiichi radiological releases because it will not develop until 4-5 years after exposure. Shinichi Suzuki, professor of thyroid surgery at Fukushima Medical University, said, "Based on the experience of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, it is inconceivable that cancer would develop within four years of exposure to radiation."He added progression of the disease is slow, treatment is effective and the 30-year survival rate for children who have been diagnosed is about 99 percent.The testing has been done on approximately 80,000 Fukushima children. In addition to the child thyroid announcement, Fukshima Prefecture says the highest exposure to any member of the public has been a bit more than 10 millisieverts and this for only 18 individuals out of nearly 100,000 radiologically surveyed. There were 44 exposures between 5 and 10 mSv. All others were below 5 mSv. It should be noted that a typical CAT scan exposes a person to about 5 mSv and the typical resident of Denver, Colorado receives 6 mSv per year due to natural background. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • The Tohoku region’s fishing industry is slowly recovering after the ban on fishing instituted soon after 3/11/11. The fishing being done is mostly on a trial basis to see what the possible contamination levels are with respect to 10 species not previously monitored. Three species were cleared of the ban in June; one type of shellfish and two kinds of octopus. On the other hand, cod, rock-trout and black sea bream fishing has been banned because of Cesium above the nation’s exceedingly strict 100 Becquerel per kilogram limit. One good thing, the level of cesium in the seawater itself is barely detectable, indicating that there is little further contamination being introduced to the marine environment. Tests show that most of the Cesium now entering the sea is coming from river flows, and not from the Fukushima Daiichi power complex. Professor Takashi Ishimaru at Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology says the contamination is being closely studied according to the fish species to understand how it has spread. NHK World)
  • Half of the mayors of communities affected by the 3/11/11 earthquake/tsunami fear that their plight is becoming a “fading memory” across Japan. The latest poll taken by the Mainichi Shimbun covered 42 towns and villages in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima Prefectures. All of the mayors responded to the newspaper’s query. "Our recovery process has just begun. I want people to continue to take an interest in the quake disaster so it won't be forgotten," said Shigeru Sugawara, mayor of Kesennuma City in Miyagi Prefecture. Sugawara’s statement echoed the majority of concerns made by mayors outside Fukushima Prefecture. Some of the biggest issues affecting Iwate and Miyagi are declining financial resources and “flaws in the legal systems”. 14 of the 15 mayors from Fukushima said the greatest impediment to recovery is “the nuclear disaster” itself. Mayoral opinion inside Fukushima Prefecture might best be understood in the words of Kawauchi mayor Yuko Endo, "I don't want people to assume that the nuclear disaster is an issue peculiar to affected areas alone. The memory of the nuclear crisis is fading away, but this is a crisis for Japan as a whole." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Most of the tsunami debris in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures has not yet been cleared from where it has lain since 3/11/11. It is estimated the tsunami left 5.25 million tons of debris in Iwate Prefecture and 18.73 million tons in Miyagi Prefecture. By the end of last month, only 20 percent of the total amount had been incinerated or recycled. The number of temporary storage sites for the debris has fallen to 184, or about 70 percent of its peak. Despite the staggering volume of rubble to yet be handled, the government insists that 53% will be removed by March, 2013, and 100% by March, 2014. However, Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono cautions, “To meet these goals, we have to step up disposal efforts.” Miyagi now has 17 incinerators working daily, with another 12 being built. Tokyo hopes this will influence the precious few other Japanese prefectures presently accepting small volumes for incineration to increase their capacities as well. Perhaps the worst issue is disposal of non-burnable material. Miyagi now has 420,000 tons of non-burnables in storage. Municipalities outside of the waste-swamped prefectures are reluctant to assist in non-burnable disposal because of public fears that the material might be radioactive. Kanagawa Prefecture says they could be ready to accept fishing industry debris soon, but they say they are not ready to take on any other waste material. Regardless, Tokyo says 4 million tons of non-burnable tsunami debris must be disposed of outside the Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures in order to meet the optimistic goals. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Several citizen groups in Japan are protesting the pending appointments to the new Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC is set to begin operation next week. Hundreds of demonstrators held up banners in front of the Industry Ministry saying PM Noda’s decision to appoint during the Diet recess is unacceptable to them. They are especially upset with the decision to make Shunichi Tanaka the chairman because of his previous ties to the Japanese nuclear community. A woman from Fukushima Prefecture says the groups have been calling for the repeal of the appointments for the past month. A Tokyo resident says he is against all 5 appointments because nuclear professionals are promoters and cannot adequately regulate the industry. Tuesday evening the protestors formed a human chain around the ministry building. They say they will not stop their demonstrations until their demands are met. (NHK World) comment – It seems the protestors want the people who will run the NRC to have no nuclear experience. That makes no sense to this writer.
  • The Science Council of Japan says the government’s spent fuel disposal policy needs complete revision. They advise that the country should reduce the potential future waste volume by shutting down all nukes when they are 40 years old and build no others to replace them. Further, the plans for a permanent geological repository should be scrapped and instead use temporary storage for as long as it takes to get a public consensus on final disposal. The Council says Japan is one of the most seismically active nations on earth, so it will not be possible to find a geologic formation that will safely hold high-level nuclear wastes for at least 10,000 years. They feel it would be better to store the material above ground for a century or more until a rational public consensus can be achieved. The council wants the material temporarily buried underground at a depth that is shallow enough for them to be dug up after technologies to reduce radioactivity and make reliable containers are developed. They also feel the materials should be moved to various sites on a regular basis to insure that no one site will become a de-facto permanent repository. Immediately, critics attacked the Council’s decision saying nobody will consent to having a temporary facility located near them. In response, the council called for building nuclear storage facilities in local municipalities near the nuclear power plants in exchange for huge amounts of compensation. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

September 10

America’s Pentagon has announced that American military personnel in Japan at the time of the Fukushima Accident were safe. They have posted a website mapping radiation exposures for military Americans in Japan during the accident and said none of the doses posed health risks. The website shows exposures between March 12 and May 11 at 13 locations in Japan where most of the nearly 70,000 U.S. military and affiliated populations lived. It revealed the highest adult exposure was at Sendai, just north of Fukushima, with whole body radiation of 1.2 millisieverts and 12 mSv for the thyroid. By comparison, a full-body CAT scan yields a whole body exposure of 50 mSv. There were no children at Sendai, but children between one and two-years-old at the Hyakuri Airbase south of Fukushima had an estimated whole body exposure of 1.6 mSv and 27 mSv thyroid. “Since the estimated radiation doses and health risks associated with this event are so low, no one is being placed in a medical surveillance program to monitor their long-term health outcomes,” the website said. (Japan Today)

  • Tepco will invite former U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Dale Klein to oversee restarts of the company’s nukes. He will be part of an expert panel to review Tepco’s nuclear safety measures, which will be formed due to the company’s harsh criticism contained in the government’s accident investigations. The panel will also include lawyer and Diet-appointed investigative panel member Masafumi Sakurai, and management consultant Kenichi Omae. They will supervise the utility's effort to improve nuclear safety measures and transparency in management. The firm's turnaround plan includes the future restart of reactors at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture, which was undamaged by the 3/11/11 quake/tsunami. (NHK World)
  • Tokyo has decided to delay setting the new energy policy decision. It was planned to announce the decision on Monday, but lack of a consensus in the Diet and last minute opposition by business groups forced the postponement. The majority Democratic Party of Japan had stated a goal of abolishing nuclear energy by 2030, which many businesses didn’t like. Many Diet members also had reservations about the DPJ position. A minority of DPJ members said they felt the delay would keep the issue from being a focal point in the election scheduled for Sept.21. (Kyodo News)

September 7

  • The Tokyo government has announced that they want nuclear electricity supplies reduced to 15% by 2030 and a full abandonment at some point thereafter. Immediately, local officials from communities hosting nuclear stations across Japan said they don’t like it. Officials in host communities Kashiwazaki and Kariwa in Niigata prefecture, say abandonment of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPS will destroy their economy. "Local opinion isn't all the same, and we're thinking of future generations," said Yoshiko Arano, a 61-year-old head of a local citizens group dedicated nuclear issue transparency. She added, "I have to wonder how effectively information has been gathered by members of the public, who before had no interest in the nuclear power issue, for them to be seeking a zero nuclear policy." In Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, host to three nuclear reactors, Mayor Kazuharu Kawase said, "We don't know if national energy policy will change again sometime. Even if the portion of Japan's electricity output that comes from nuclear plants is reduced, we should maintain atomic energy in this country." Aomori Prefecture, which hosts the Rokkasho fuel reprocessing plant, appears particularly peeved. If nuclear power is abandoned, there will be no market for Rokkasho’s recycled fuel. "If the fuel isn't reprocessed, then we will send it back to where it came from," Aomori Gov. Shingo Mimura said, and added he also intends to reject any spent fuel bound for a mid-term storage facility set to open in October 2013. Another Aomori prefectural official sounded bitter about Tokyo’s about-face on nuclear energy, "We've been going along with national policy all this time. It'll be a real shame if Aomori gets blamed now for preventing Japan from getting rid of nuclear power quickly." If Aomori Prefecture makes good on their statements, Japanese nukes would run out of space in their pools and be forced to abandon operations. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A cross-party group of Diet politicians call for the immediate decommissioning of more than half of Japan’s nukes. On Thursday, they said that 28 of Japan’s idled nuclear plants should be dismantled because they believe they are too dangerous to be trusted. Four power stations are said to be unacceptable because the group believes the geologic anomalies in their vicinity are seismically active. They add that the remaining 22 nukes are “dangerous” but not in need of immediate decommissioning. The group is comprised of 91 lawmakers out of the 722 that now comprise the Diet. (Kyodo News)
  • The Tokyo government says about 25% of the debris left behind by the 3/11/11 tsunami has been disposed of. Environment Minister Goshi Hosono told reporters that 4.4 million tons, or about 24.5 percent, of debris from Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures had been incinerated, buried or recycled. This leaves more than 18 million tons of debris remaining to be handled. The ministry plans to accelerate the disposal by asking more areas to dispose of the debris and promoting more recycling of incombustible waste. Hosono remarked that the number of communities assisting in the clean-up is expanding, but he neglected to elaborate. The Ministry has set a target of 60% disposal by the end of March, 2013. In addition, rivers of Miyagi Prefecture are now clear of large tsunami debris that restricted flows and made damaging floods possible. The land ministry says the recent removal of an 8-meter-long barge from Kitakami River, 6 kilometers up-river from the sea, ends the work. It was first cut into pieces to make removal easier and safer. The barge was. The ministry says it has cleared 84 cars, 37 boats and 4 heavy machines from 4 rivers in Miyagi Prefecture since it started the process in August of last year. (NHK World)
  • The Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco) wants to restart the seven nukes at their Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station. It is the largest nuclear power facility in the world. The president of Tepco, Naomi Hirose, says the plants were undamaged by the 3/11/11 quake/tsunami, are safe to operate, and the company would be able to recover much of its economic losses once the units are back on line. He promised to “take better measures to avoid a recurrence of the accident and implement them at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa as soon as possible.” Tepco plans to bring in outside experts, including foreigners, to comprise a board that will oversee the restarts. By doing this, Tepco hopes to recover some of its lost credibility with local officials and the public. Up to this point, the governor of Niigata Prefecture has opposed restart for any of the seven Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units. (Japan Today)
  • President Naomi Hirose of Tepco says it would be “foolish” for Japan to abandon nuclear energy. Hirose points out that energy prices would further soar beyond the recent price increases if nukes are not restarted, making the country dangerously dependent on middle east supplies of oil and liquid natural gas. “We understand that local residents might ask whether they are really all right with letting us operate nuclear reactors again after the accident,” he said. “But zero nuclear is a very dangerous option. We need to step back and think of the wider consequences of giving up nuclear power.” He rejected nuclear opponent’s belief that Japan can get along without nukes by keeping their old fossil-fueled plants operating and maintaining the present state of national energy conservation. Hirose says the restart of moth-balled oil and gas plants produced great cost to their customers, and continuation of the nuclear moratorium could be economically catastrophic. Further, he pointed out that complete replacement of nukes with renewables is not as rosy a picture as nuclear opponents make it seem, “When people think of these new energy sources, they only think of best-case scenarios,” Mr. Hirose said. “But we have a responsibility to provide a cheap and stable source of power. We have to be realistic.” Further, he does not rule out restarting undamaged Fukushima Daiichi units #5&6 and the four undamaged units at Fukushima Daini, 16 kilometers south of F. Daiichi. (New York Times)
  • Tokyo has lifted the power conservation targets for three of Japan’s 10 major electric companies. The three are in western and southwestern Japan. The move is due to the summer heat wave dissipating. Power shortages have been averted due to reopening old oil and natural gas-fired power plants, driving Japan’s electric prices upward due to buying more fossil fuels from the Middle East. The restart of the two undamaged nuclear units at the Oi nuclear power station also eased the situation. (Kyodo News)
  • An American investigation into the Fukushima accident has found that Japan was not prepared for the tsunami of 3/11/11. This unsurprising announcement was made by the national Academy of Sciences. Japanese officials told NAS the March 11th tsunami was bigger than F. Daiichi was designed to withstand and company officials in Tokyo were not aware that a backup cooling system was not working after the loss of power sources. A representative from a US industry group of nuclear plant operators criticized safety standards in Japan. The panel member said it is vital to prepare for any eventuality, and that Japan seemed to lack this concept. (NHK World)
  • Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda plans to use legal powers granted to his office to name members to the nation's new nuclear regulatory body. Noda will appoint the chief and four members to the new Nuclear Regulatory Commission on Sept. 19 after the current Diet session ends. Japanese law states that if the Diet is not in session, the PM can appoint regulatory commission members himself. On July 26, the government submitted a list of nominees to the Diet for approval, but a vote on the appointments was delayed due to criticism by both ruling and opposition parties that appointees were too close to the nuclear energy community. Also, the Diet has been at a virtual standstill after the House of Councilors passed a censure motion against Noda on Aug. 29, making it virtually impossible for the Diet to vote on the nominations during this session. With the pressing need to get the new nuclear regulatory system up and running, Noda decided to take matters into his own hands. It is expected Noda will appoint Shunichi Tanaka, formerly of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, as chair. Other likely members will be Kayoko Nakamura, of the Japan Radioisotope Association; Toyoshi Fuketa, deputy division chief at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency; Kenzo Oshima, former ambassador to the United Nations; and Kunihiko Shimazaki, head of the Coordinating Committee for Earthquake Prediction. The Commission will formulate stricter safety standards for nuclear plant operations and examine the efficacy of restarting idled nukes. The Japanese NRC will be politically subordinate to the Ministry of the Environment. The NRC will replace NISA, which is a subsidiary of the Ministry of the Economy. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The heads of Japan’s three major Fukushima investigative committees believe the F. Daiichi accident was the result of a national institutional problem that blurred where responsibilities existed. They said people involved in nuclear safety were influenced by the notion — often dubbed the "safety myth" — that Japan's reactors could not possibly suffer a catastrophic accident, so they didn't plan to contain such crises. "And we can't see who was responsible (for failing to prepare against crises). As a matter of form, there are government officials who headed the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, but none of them think they were truly responsible," said Koichi Kitazawa, who chaired the RJIF panel. "They just said that even if they had tried to change the situation, they would have been 'powerless' trying to act on their own." Kiyoshi Kurokawa, who chaired the Diet-appointed panel, added that NISA, the government nuclear watchdog, failed to properly implement regulations because the utilities have more nuclear expertise, reversing the position of the regulators and those being regulated in a phenomenon called "regulatory capture." Cabinet panel chair Yotaro Hatamura said, "…they [government experts] significantly failed to visualize how things could go wrong.” Kurokawa also criticized the government for the lack of transparency in the process to choose the five commissioners for the new nuclear regulatory body that debuts this month, charging the Prime Minister with a less-than-transparent selection process. Kurokawa said the public is skeptical about the appointment system and nominees partly because the process for choosing the candidates is unclear to them. (Japan Times)
  • Hokuriku Electric Power Co. has refused to tour Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima through the Shika NPS in Ishikawa Prefecture. The reason given by Hokuriku Electric is Ms. Fukushima’s outspoken support of Japan abandoning all nukes as soon as possible. The Toyama-based utility told Fukushima and her Diet supporters that they "could not afford to deal with people who did not share the understanding for the need of atomic energy.” Another official at Hokuriku Electric said, “We are receiving so many requests for tours. Workers on the ground are very busy. We declined the request because we concluded it was low on our list of priorities. We feel that even if we granted a tour to officials of a political party that espouses a phase-out of nuclear energy, we were not likely to win their support for nuclear power." (Asahi Shimbun)

September 5

Fukushima Updates resume today after this past weekend’s posting of the Carnival of Nuclear Power Bloggers.

  • Many of the evacuees of Kawamata town, Fukushima Prefecture, are skeptical of government decontamination efforts. Kawamata Mayor Michio Furukawa said, "The government needs to clearly show the effects of decontamination so that many residents can return home.” But up to 60% of the evacuees responding to a Kawamata survey were not so trusting as the mayor. Negative decontamination responses included "decontamination is difficult," "there is no prospect that the nuclear crisis will be brought under control in the foreseeable future," "the national government's safety measures are unreliable," "there are few jobs in the town" and "we just can't let our children or grandchildren go back to our neighborhoods." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Solar energy construction and operation would produce 95,000 times more waste than nuclear power plants. The report with the above conclusion was posted on new nuclear blog site created by engineers at prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here’s the link… http://thingsworsethannuclearpower.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-real-waste-problem-solar-edition.html
  • Police videotaping of the weekly antinuclear protests in Tokyo has been called illegal. While police say they are taking a “soft handed approach” to protect the protestors, a volunteer group of lawyers has formed to keep an eye on what’s happening. Last Friday, two police were seen video-taping the gathering and one of the lawyers asked what they were doing. "Do you know that photographing ordinary citizens could be against the law?" he told them. They two police immediately left. Now, the group questions setting up barricades around the protestors and police confiscation of a few people’s cameras.  As for the barricades, the group says, "Freedom of expression is the lifeline of a democratic society and should not be interfered with by the exercise of police authority." With respect to camera seizure, the group maintains, "It could be a violation of one's portrait rights, and it could serve as a form of intimidation on the participants." A 51-year-old woman said. "With the police taking videos and specifying where we can stand, I felt intimidated. This is a peaceful protest movement." A high-ranking police official responded, "We are taking a soft security approach and have no political meaning in our actions." While early protests were estimated to have about 20,000 demonstrators, last week’s demonstration attracted less than 3,000. The reduced number is seen by the group to be a possible result of police measures that intimidate people. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Tokyo has proposed that a Tochigi Prefecture site be used for radioactive wastes from the Fukushima accident. Senior Vice-Environment Minister Katsuhiko Yokomitsu made the proposal to Tochigi Governor Tomikazu Fukuda on Monday. The government has taken full responsibility for the disposal of wastes from as many as nine prefectures, provided it is actually more radioactive than the national standard of 8,000 Becquerels per kilogram. Tochigi Prefecture is already temporarily storing about 9,000 tons of radioactive waste at sewage treatment and other facilities. Tokyo says a 4-hectare site in a forest outside Yaita city should be sufficient. (NHK World) The Yaita forest was chosen after geological and topographic considerations were investigated. The Ministry is also investigating possible sites in Miyagi, Ibaraki, and Chiga Prefectures. Some 50,000 tons of such waste is currently stored in the three prefectures. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Former PM Naoto Kan has gone totally antinuclear, continuing to bring his apocalyptic nightmares to Japan. A former social activist before becoming a politician, Kan says he is going back to his roots as a civil movement campaigner to end Japan's reliance on nuclear energy. Before a packed audience of more than 200 at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ) on Aug. 29, he said, "To the best of my knowledge, there is no other kind of accident besides nuclear power plant accidents that have the potential to destroy an entire nation or create a situation where a nation is more or less destroyed." He added he fully supports recent lawsuits against the Tokyo Electric Power Company because, "After all, it was such a tremendous accident." He believes it is possible that the public prosecutors' office will eventually indict someone to face charges stemming from the nuclear crisis. He further stated his continuing assertion that he saved Japan from total destruction by ordering Tepco to not abandon F. Daiichi the first few days of the crisis, although all government investigations say his fears were unfounded. Kan is waging his anti-nuclear campaign despite investigative findings that his knowledge of nuclear energy was minimal and his meddling in nuclear operations during the accident only made the situation worse. "I felt strongly that my role as prime minister was to ensure that we would think of everything possible to deal with the situation," Kan said, rebutting such allegations. "I realized that this was an accident caused by the Japanese people and therefore I feel it is the responsibility of the Japanese people to bring this accident to a close." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The Tokyo government says the abolition of nuclear energy could potentially double the cost of electricity. The estimate was compiled by Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano, based on complete withdrawal from nuclear energy by 2030. The estimate is in response to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda asking for guidance on the challenges the nation could face if the government decided to reduce Japan's dependency on nukes to zero. (Kyodo News) Japan’s government estimates it will take a $600 billion investment for a complete replacement of nukes with renewables. National policy minister Motohisa Furukawa says a new national policy plan will be released by early next week, but hinted that it will be based on the eventual abolition of nuclear energy by making the renewable investment projection. Japan’s energy generated from solar, wind and other renewable sources would need to increase 250 billion kwh by 2030 to cover the loss of nuclear power. Even if nuclear generation is only reduced to 15% by 2030, the renewable investiture would be more than $450 billion. Another problem with a complete nuke phase-out would be disposal of spent fuel. Japan currently recycles spent fuel and re-uses the uranium once it is stripped of its fission products. With an abolition of nukes, there would be no market for recycled fuel and disposal options would have to be politically hammered out. An additional issue would be the loss of jobs in the nuclear profession begging the question as to what the displaced workers would do for a living. (Japan Times)
  • Defense Chief Satoshi Morimoto said Japan’s nuclear industry is a deterrent to foreign attack. He made this statement on January 25, before becoming a minister at a public forum on defense. He said Japanese nukes are "taken by neighboring countries as having very great defensive deterrent functions" because other Asian nations believe Japan can produce nuclear weapons quickly if it wanted to. (Kyodo News) Comment -This can only exacerbate Japan’s Hiroshima Syndrome affliction by continuing the confusion of reactors with bombs. Making weapons-grade material out of reactor fuel is hypothetically possible, but technically infeasible. For details on the naivety of the notion, read “Nuclear Waste: Is It?” from the menu to the left.

Now for this past weekend’s updates…

  • The IAEA has agreed to assist in the F. Daiichi decontamination effort and resident health checks. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano met Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato at the agency's headquarters in Vienna. The IAEA chief said his agency will send staff and foreign experts to Fukushima. Agency and prefectural officials plan to set up a detailed plan of action as soon as possible. (NHK World)
  • Japanese judges are calling for more in-depth F. Daiichi safety analyses in legal cases involving nuclear plants. Five of seven judges who submitted proposals at a study meeting hosted by the Supreme Court pointed to the need to examine safety more thoroughly than before. Courts have routinely rejected appeals made in cases involving nuclear plants, but now they are debating whether the government itself is taking appropriate safety procedures. Lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai, who has represented clients involved in lawsuits against nuclear plants, said the fact that the Supreme Court held a meeting to study the issue is sending a strong message to judges. Kawai said. "The opinions of the judges clearly show that their reliance on regulators and bureaucrats is losing ground." (Japan Times)
  • The Ministry of the Environment plans to examine the genomes of Fukushima volunteers to look for radiation damage. The Ministry will work with Fukushima Medical University to collect DNA samples from volunteers and hunt for abnormalities in their genes. They that there have been repeated requests to do a gene study from pregnant mothers and others, especially with respect to children. Professor Yusuke Nakamura of the University of Chicago calls the idea “baseless” because people's gene sequences differ slightly and errors in testing equipment could occur, even if abnormalities in DNA sequences were found they might not be caused by radiation. Satoru Miyano of Tokyo University added, "Analysis results that might not in fact have any connection to radiation could be associated with the Fukushima nuclear disaster, hurting the people of Fukushima Prefecture and leading to discrimination and prejudice." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The heads of three Japanese F. Daiichi investigative panels say the accident could happen again. "It would still be an enormous challenge to bring an accident under control if another occurred," said Koichi Kitazawa, former chairman of the Japan Science and Technology Agency. The other two, Yoichiro Hatamura, professor emeritus of engineering at the University of Tokyo and Kiyoshi Kurokawa who was Chair of the Diet’s investigative committee, agreed with Kitazawa. Hatamura said the plant’s operators and engineers made crucial mistakes that should not be allowed to happen again. He feels that more work needs to be done to prevent such errors in the future, "We should establish a field of research that explores why certain approaches aren't working." Kurokawa called on Japan’s nuclear engineers to upgrade their expertise and skill by learning from other countries, "They should embark more frequently on exchanges with foreign counterparts…” In sum, they believe the current investigations don’t go deep enough into the accident, and unless further inquiry happens there could be another serious nuclear accident. (Asahi Shimbun)

September 2



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