Fukushima 42...10/19/12-11/7/12

November 7

The question of whether or not the geologic “seam” running under the Oi nuclear station remains an issue. A Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) team of experts looked at the excavated geology last Friday. However, the panel is split over whether or not a displaced stratum above the bedrock is a seismic indicator. Some say it is seismic while others say it’s just as possible it is not. Disagreements among principles in such proceedings are not uncommon. However, this may be the first time an expert debate on a controversial issue has been laid bare for the Japanese press to witness. The news media is not accustomed to the policy of full transparency and the NRA isn’t experienced in the media interest the policy has generated.

  • Earlier this week, Toyo University Professor Mitsuhisa Watanabe said he feels the evidence shows the geological seam has moved in the past 125,000 years, he says it is seismic. His conviction is so strong that his formal presentation contained Oi survey maps overlaid with the words “active fault” in bright red. Shinshu University professor Daisuke Hirouchi gave tacit support to Watanabe saying there is no evidence to show that the stratum in question is not seismic. On the other hand, Ritsumeikan Univ. professor Atsumasa Okada said the displaced stratum may well be the result of a landslide and judging it seismic would be a hasty decision. He called for additional study using experts more familiar with the geologic evidence of ancient landslides. To further muddy the waters, Norio Shigematsu, senior seismic researcher at the Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology, said the indicated direction of movement within the stratum does not match the likely movement of the underlying bedrock’s fault, if the fissure is indeed seismic. It is likely that additional excavations will be needed and more experts added to the investigation before the current deadlock can be broken. Making the debate public has brought criticism with it. Fukui Prefecture official Hiroshi Sakuramoto said, "It's critical to carry out the investigation and render a decision that everyone can understand, one based on objective data and scientific proof, but that's not what we have. The members shouldn't have these kinds of vague discussions." (Yomiuri Shimbun; Japan Times; Wall Street Journal – Japan Realtime)
  • The NRA’s investigative team met again on Wednesday in the hope of resolving the deadlock. Instead, the rift among the team members remained. One problem is the discovery made by Kansai Electric that the fissure is considerably shorter than had been expected. Several months ago Prof. Watanabe and his colleagues estimated the seam to be 900 meters long, but Kansai now believes it to be about 600 meters. In response, some of the team members say Kansai’s survey “lacked three-dimensional data” which could show the fissure to be the prior estimated length. Thus, NRA commissioner and team leader Kunihiko Shimazaki concluded that failure to reach an agreeable conclusion is due to a lack of sufficient data. He said, "It is desirable for the five members to reach a conclusion by consensus." He told Kansai to expand their survey to accommodate all panel concerns. Once the Kansai excavations have been expanded, the NRA will inspect it themselves. Professor Watanabe urged the NRA decision be made quickly because two of the Oi nukes are operating at full power. (Kyodo News Service; NHK World)

Here are some additional Fukushima updates…

  • More errors have been found in the contamination projections released by the NRA last week. The new mistakes were found in prognoses for Kyushu Electric’s Genkai and Sendai nuclear stations. The NRA says the errors were due to Kyushu Electric supplying incorrect weather pattern data. Last week, NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka instructed the responsible staff to insure they do everything possible to prevent incorrect projections. As a result, the NRA staff uncovered the faulty data. NRA spokesman Hikeda Morimoto said the blame should not be directed at Kyushu Electric, but rather that the NRA staff as the culpable party. They relied on utility meteorological projections without cross-referencing them with independent meteorologists. Regardless, Kyushu Vice President Masanao Chinzei said, "We sincerely apologize for causing trouble." Because the projections did not include the effects of topography on the hypothetical release pathways, Morimoto said the NRA has told their staff to produce an “advanced” version. (Kyodo News Service; Japan Times)
  • The NRA will create expert panel to discuss the criteria for the administration of Potassium Iodide (KI) tablets. Many municipalities say they cannot draw up emergency plans until they receive expert guidance on the (KI) issue. KI is a thyroid-blocking medication that saturates the gland and prevents the deposition of radioactive Iodine-131. NRA commissioner Kayoko Nakamura said she wants domestic criteria established on KI administration. She said the panel will be selected from private-sector experts familiar in KI administration, such as radiologists. KI is designated as a “powerful medicine” in Japan and this label seems to be at the root of the issue. "If we deliberate on the details of administering [the pills] without an airtight plan, it could cause a panic like the one that occurred in Fukushima Prefecture. We will work out specifics, including which people will be asked to take the pills," Nakamura said. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Recent medical examinations show no radioactive Cesium in the breast milk of Fukushima mothers. While the number of mothers who volunteered for the medical survey was a bit fewer than had been hoped, there were enough volunteers to produce results with a reasonable degree of confidence. One reason suggested for the low number of participants was the survey posted in July showing no Cesium content in the participant’s milk. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco) is said to have “over-reported” the number of people working at Fukushima Daiichi. Tepco has maintained 24,000 people have been working at F. Daiichi, but NHK World has discovered the number is more like 8,000 per month. The Tepco number is for everyone who has worked there since 3/11/11. Many have left due to layoffs while others quit because the work was too strenuous. Tepco maintains they need an average of just under 12,000 workers per month to stay on their published recovery time-table. The company told NHK that the number of people working at Fukushima fluctuates from week to week and the survey was run during a low point in staffing. Many of those currently laid-off are temporary contractor employees who will be re-hired when they are needed. Tepco says that on any given day, about 3,000 people work at F. Daiichi; some full-time and some part-time.

November 5

  • This past weekend witnessed controversy between experts over the situation with the geological anomaly running under the Oi nuclear station. The Nuclear Regulatory Authority’s expert investigative team surveyed the work done by Kansai Electric Company at Oi. Three of the panel’s seismic experts have gone public with their differing opinions about the seam in the bedrock, which is called a “crush zone”. The point of dispute concerns rock layers just above the fissure which show evidence of an event about 125,000 years ago. Was it caused by a seismic shift in the underlying anomaly or was it caused by a local landslide unconnected to the fissure? One seismic expert, Professor Mitsuhisa Watanabe, says, "It's certain there is an active fault. Operations [at Oi station] should be stopped and another investigation should be conducted." On the other hand, Professor Atsumasa Okada says landslides can create fissures in the underlying bedrock and drawing a conclusion at this point would be hasty. The NRA member on the team, Kunihiko Shimazaki, said that while the 125,000-year-old rock strata shows a fissure, it was caused by either an earthquake or a landslide but there’s not enough data to make a firm judgment as to which might be the reason. The group will meet again on Wednesday in the hope of resolving the dispute. If the issue remains unresolved, the NRA will probably require a renewed investigation. (Japan Today; NHK World; Yomiuri Shimbun: Asahi Shimbun; Japan Times)
  • Scientific American writer John Horgan takes a neutral look at hurricane Sandy’s impacts on the nukes in her path. Or, rather, Sandy’s lack of impacts. Hogan says there were none. He points out that this fact is presented in two different ways, depending on which side of the nuclear energy issue one might be in. Although the pro-nukes say Sandy shows that nukes are safe, opponents say Sandy poses serious nuclear safety questions. His conclusion is rather surprising… http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/2012/11/02/does-sandy-mean-we-should-have-fewer-nukes-or-more/
  • A student sociological research project at Nagoya’s Chukyo University focusses on antinuclear demonstrations. It seems most rally participants are older citizens along with mothers and their children, but relatively few younger adults. The students were surprised at the friendly behavior of those participating in a recent protest in Nagoya, which is outside the new, expanded NRA emergency planning zones. "I was surprised to see how polite the participants were, and they seemed to be having fun. It completely changed my original image of them as scary or self-absorbed," said third-year student Sachi Matsuda. Tomohide Kido, was equally impressed. "People in Nagoya are paying close attention to the nuclear issue even though there is no atomic plant in the city." However, the students say doubts exist as to the effectiveness of such demonstrations. The local utility, Kepco, essentially ignores the protests and passers-by often give the participants disapproving stares. (Japan Times)
  • Four of the six persons drafting Japan’s new nuclear regulations have acknowledged receipt of donations and grants from the Japanese nuclear industry during the past four years. The NRA requires experts involved in drafting safety standards for nuclear plants to disclose their remuneration received from the industry. The Nuclear Regulatory Authority says none of the four are in violation of the regulations for panel membership. The NRA secretary said all four "were selected in line with regulations, and there should thus be no problem" over their appointment. The lowest reported amount was $35,000 (research grant) and the highest $318,000 (research grants and academic donations). Nuclear critics express concern that such income might compromise the panel’s objectivity and produce watered-down safety regulations. (Japan Times)
  • The Mayor of Minamisoma says Japan is heading in the wrong direction following the Fukushima tragedy. Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai is upset with Tokyo’s decontamination efforts and the government’s lack of certainty with respect to the country’s energy future. He told Japan’s Foreign Correspondent’s Club, "I seriously question whether politicians on the national level really understand the reality we are facing.” He complains that many city residents are also dissatisfied, "They asked me, 'Are we completely abandoned?'" Sakurai is convinced that the government and the Japanese Press are treating the F. Daiichi accident as if it is a thing of the past. He insists the accident situation is on-going. He points to the need for a cultural shift nation-wide, "We need to change the system that we have here in Japan in which Japanese politicians and Japanese mass media basically work together. But the reality I feel is that we are moving in the completely opposite direction. We are not changing the system for the better. We are going backward. We are moving toward the way things were. The revival of Japan depends on the revival of Fukushima." (Mainichi Shimbun)

This week’s Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is hosted by the Next Big Future website. This week’s topics include, but are not limited to… – nuclear facts and fears surrounding hurricane Sandy, the spent fuel pool situation at Oyster Creek nuclear station in New Jersey, the hazards of radioactive Cesium, why MRIs are not a nuclear energy-related process, and the sudden increase in Kazakhstan’s Uranium production. http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/11/carnival-of-nuclear-energy-129.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+blogspot%2Fadvancednano+%28nextbigfuture%29

November 2

(For today's Commentary - How Hazardous is Cesium-137? - please click on "fukushima Commentary" listed in the column on the left side of this page.)

  • Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) has begun their investigation into the geological seam running under the Oi nuclear power station. Commissioner Kunihiko Shimazaki, Tokyo University professor Mitsuhisa Watanabe, and three seismic/geological experts comprise the investigative team. Today, the group was initially briefed on Kepco’s recent findings, then inspected the locations where borings and samples had been taken by Kepco, followed by an examination of the soil layers in a boring removed from the ground just above the seam itself. During the physical examination, samples of soil and stone were taken by the NRA team. After the lengthy inspection, Shimazaki said they had learned a great deal and that the NRA will meet on Sunday to assess their findings. The team plans on posting their independent assessment at some point in the near future. The team pointed out the geologic zone cannot cause an earthquake by itself, but there is concern that it could move as a result of other seismic faults in the area causing an earthquake severe enough to damage a major seawater intake structure at Oi. If the seawater intake were to fail, it would inhibit emergency cooling functions for any reactor at Oi that had been operating at the time of the earthquake. The team would not say if their inspection indicated whether or not the Oi seam is thus seismic. However, Shimazaki left the door ajar for further studies, "It is one possibility that there will be some talks about reinvestigation.” (NHK World; Mainichi Shimbun; Kyodo News Service)
  • The NRA hopes their new emergency planning guidelines will begin to restore public trust in Tokyo’s nuclear authorities. Chairman Shunichi Tanaka says the new strategies for public protection should also dispel the idea of absolute nuclear safety, which was one of the underlying causes of the Fukushima accident. Instead, they believe the new guidelines should send the message that “a nuclear accident could happen”. The new plans call for a 5 kilometer Precautionary Action Zone (PAZ) around each nuke where all residents would be required to immediately evacuate at the outbreak of a nuclear crisis, long before radioactive releases should begin. The PAZ existed in a different form prior to F. Daiichi whereby each plant’s management made an agreement with local authorities on how wide a PAZ should be. From operator records, it seems the F. Daiichi PAZ was two kilometers wide. Next, an Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone (UPZ) will extend from 5km out to 30km. This is an extension of the former 10 km EPZ contained in existing Japanese disaster law. UPZ and PAZ designations now meet or exceed international standards. Tanaka optimistically said, "We've made safety the top priority and will rebuild the public's trust." Meanwhile, local municipalities affected by the new NRA guidelines are taking this sort of emergency planning seriously, many for the first time. The so-called “nuclear safety myth” was embraced by much more than the “nuclear village” and the Tokyo government. The expanded planning zones also affect much larger populations than before. Prior to 3/11/11, the Tokai nuclear station, the nuke nearest to Tokyo, had plans covering 220,000 people. The expanded plans relative to Tokai now encompass 930,000 people. Ibaraki prefecture, home of the Tokai plant, fears they will be left to do all the planning themselves. One official said, "It's problematic if the NRA only decides on an outline and then leaves the details up to the respective local governments." In addition, there’s the issue of the distribution of thyroid-blocking Potassium Iodide (KI) tablets. Currently, there are no guidelines as to who would be responsible for administering disbursement, how it would happen, and when it should occur. Some municipalities want exemption from any possible side effects for ingesting the KI tablets. However, everyone agrees that implementation of emergency planning is the shortest path to local approval of reactor restarts. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Japan’s moratorium on operating nukes is costing a lot of money. Eight of Japan’s ten leading electric companies have posted huge financial losses due to increased buying of oil and natural gas to fuel the “thermal” plants that have replaced the nation’s nukes. The total impact is about 40 billion dollars in fuel costs over the past six months, which would not have happened if Japan had not shuttered all their nukes. Five companies were forced to eliminate mid-term dividends to their shareholders in order to pay for the imported fuels. In addition, six companies face considerable consumer rate increases. Tepco already raised rates in September because each shuttered nuke resulted in about a billion dollars per year in added fuel costs. Two other companies say they will similarly raise their rates this spring. Three more companies say they are considering rate hikes, as well. Many utilities are hoping to be able to begin nuke restarts in April in order to ease the nation’s economic burden. But, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority says they will not have new regulations in place before next summer. Without the NRA’s consent, getting necessary local consent for restarts will be almost impossible. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Futaba mayor, Katsutaka Idogawa, has told the United Nations that the Fukushima Crisis is far from over. He told this to the UN’s European Headquarters in Geneva. Futaba is one of the two municipalities immediately adjacent to F. Daiichi, which may take as long as 50 years to repopulate. Idogawa explained that despite repeated government assurances that the three melted reactors at F. Daiichi have been stabilized, he doesn’t believe it. He criticized Tokyo for not fully disclosing information relative to how much radiation exposure his constituents received. Idogawa boldly asked, “Don’t we have human rights?” (Japan Times)

October 31

  • The much-ballyhooed Japanese no-nukes policy is not written in stone. Tokyo’s no-nukes policy announcement has drawn criticism for being ambiguous, unrealistic, and done only to garner votes for Diet politicians. A Japan Times editorial says it was actually devised to keep the door ajar on the nuclear energy option in Japan. There are several key questions addressed in the editorial – (a) what prompted the zero-nuclear goal? Two words…public opinion. The business community, including Japan’s electrical infrastructure, remains deeply dependent on continuing the nuclear option. Japan Times says many social experts point out that the polls used to show the public’s displeasure probably attracted those most opinionated on the subject and may not demonstrate the opinion of the public in general. Regardless, the poll responses made headlines and the politicians catered to them. (b) What will happen to the reactors under construction? They will be completed and put in operation under the new standards being formulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority. (c) Why is the atomic fuel-recycling program continuing? This is a better direction than allowing the build-up of spent fuel inventories over the next 20 to 30 years (or more). Some say it is being done to placate local communities that host the recycling facilities. Others say it is intended to address weapon proliferation concerns voiced by international powers like the United States. (d) Could the no-nuclear goal be reneged-on in the future? Yes! The Prime Minister and his Cabinet refused to endorse the new strategy, keeping the door open for the Diet to rescind its proposal in the future. If the largely pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party of Japan returns to power, the policy might be withdrawn. It is possible that the nuclear energy issue will be prominent in the next national election. (e) How will the new policy affect Japan’s vow to cut greenhouse gas emissions? It will not be able to meet the 25% reduction promised to the UN General Assembly. That pledge was based on nuclear expanding to 50% of Japan’s electrical needs. Nukes release no greenhouse gasses while operating. Their thermal plant replacements release considerable GHGs. (Japan Times)
  • The NRA apologizes for making an error in their recent nuclear accident contamination projections. The original projection for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station’s projected worst-case releases would result in more than the 100 millisievert exposure point for mandatory evacuation extending to Uonoma city, more than 10 kilometers beyond the new 30 kilometer emergency evacuation zone. As it turns out, the projections attributed to Uonoma were actually for Nagaoka city, which is almost entirely inside the planning zone’s 30 kilometer radius. Uonoma deputy mayor Taichi Nakagawa said, "I'd never dreamed [radioactive substances] could reach as far away as here." Regardless, officials in Uonoma are not relieved. "Even though we are excluded from the 100-millisievert areas, we are not fully relieved because the nuclear facility is still (too) close," said an employee of the Japan Agriculture Cooperative's Kita Uonuma branch. Nagaota Mayor Tamio Mori is another who is upset, saying the NRA has reported a “lax analysis”. Tokyo’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura also criticized the mistake, "It's quite regrettable, as local governments have a vital interest in the projections. I hope the authority will explain the revised projections sincerely to local governments so it will not cause further turmoil." In addition, the mistaken projections have upset many municipalities other than Uonoma. The “revised map” includes changes relative to the Tsuruga station in Fukui Prefecture, Genkai in Saga Prefecture, Shika in Ishikawa Prefecture, Sendai in Kagoshima Prefecture, and Tokai Daiini in Ibaraki Prefecture. Yet another complaint comes from Fukui Prefecture, home of Kansai Electric Co.'s Oi nuclear station, with the nation's only operating nuclear plants. Oi was the one of the three remaining power stations where radiation was originally predicted to spread furthest beyond 30 kilometers….if all four reactors at the site experienced simultaneous, Fukushima-level meltdowns and hydrogen explosions. The NRA simulation projected 100 millisievert exposures out to 32.2 kilometers for Oi. Fukui Prefecture complains that the projections did not include topographic features which could limit the spread. Hiroshi Nakatsuka, speaker of the Oi town assembly, said: "Simply releasing projections on the spread of radioactive substances will only fuel people's fears.” Clearly, the NRA has a lot of explaining to do. (Kyodo News Service; Japan Today)
  • Rumors of the end of Japan’s nuclear industry may be premature. Hitachi says it will buy controlling interest in a major British power company, Horizon Nuclear. Hitachi is set to buy all $1.1 billion in Horizon shares presently held by two German companies; E.ON and RWE. Hitachi says it will work with Britain to build new nukes and put the first one in operation by the mid-2020s. British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the purchase, saying Hitachi will contribute to Britain's electrical infrastructure, “This is a decades-long, multi-billion pound vote of confidence in the UK that will contribute vital new infrastructure to power our economy. I warmly welcome Hitachi as a major new player in the UK energy sector.” Cameron explained they are excited about Hitachi because they will bring specialist skills into the project that does not presently exist in Great Britain. British analyst Omar Abbosh says this will facilitate replacing the nukes scheduled for decommissioning by 2018. London says there could be as many as six new nukes by 2030. Babcock International and Rolls-Royce will join Hitachi in the Horizon project. Hitachi hopes this deal will attract other international nuclear business, including Central Europe and the Middle East. (NHK World; Japan Today)
  • Kepco’s preliminary findings on the geologic seam under the Oi nuclear station was presented to the NRA today. The 900 foot-long geologic anomaly has become a major point of concern because two of the Oi units are presently operating and some officials in Tokyo believe the seam might be seismic. Kepco’s new study says the seam is not seismic. The NRA says they will look at Kepco’s data and begin their own study on the issue this coming Friday. One possibility that might make Kepco’s findings moot is the NRA’s considering of expanding the siting criteria by a factor of three. Existing nuclear siting standards say no nuke can be built above or near an active earthquake fault. An active fault is defined as nothing has geologically moved in the past 130,000 years. Some on the commission want that expanded to 400,000 years. If this happens, all prior studies would have to be thrown out and a completely new investigation would have to be undertaken. (NHK World)

October 29

  • After nearly three months of analysis, Kansai Electric Company (Kepco) says the geologic anomaly running under the Oi nuclear station is probably not an active seismic fault. Kepco says their “interim” report will be submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority today and the final report by the end of this year. The new data shows the anomaly has not moved in the last 130,000 years and there is no evidence that it would move with any active faults in the region. Kepco has paid for the digging and boring operations used to investigate the situation. The same type of investigation was done prior to the start of construction on the first Oi unit, which went into operation in 1979. The new study, mandated by Tokyo, has uncovered nothing to counter the previous evaluation. The seam in the underlying bedrock does not appear to be seismic. Regardless, the NRA plans on running its own investigation beginning on November 2nd. (Mainichi Shimbun; NHK World)
  • It seems stories of Japan going “no-nukes” by the 2030s may have been premature. The Tokyo government is debating whether or not the mid-to-long term goal of abolishing nukes by the 2030s is viable. Because of the debate, the Ministry of the Economy, Trade and Industry has postponed discussion on the specifics needed to make the new policy a reality. It is doubtful that the debate’s deadlock will be broken before the next national congressional election, thus the finalization of Japan’s future energy policy could be delayed until next year. One informed source says the debate is not presently resolvable, “Therefore, the basic outline won’t be concluded this year.” Many in the Diet feel finalizing the energy policy now would be too hasty, cause the debate itself to spiral out of control and result in a rift that could aggravate Japan’s current state of political disorder. The costs of replacing nukes with fossil-fueled plants has already weakened Japan’s economy and threatens to drive the cost of electricity beyond what the public will accept. METI continues to say they are committed to the eventual abolition of nuclear power in Japan, but when and how that will be done remains an open, festering political sore. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The majority Democratic Party of Japan is accused of looking like a “bunch of bungling amateurs” by popular author and journalist Richard Katz. Katz argues that the DPJ’s nuclear policy statements have been “…reversals, and then reversals of the reversals.” He charges the “rollercoaster of reversals” makes no sense and leaves Japan’s energy policy in a state of confusion. This makes it hard for high-electrical-use businesses to decide whether or not to stay in Japan. Further, Katz charges that it alienates the majority of voters who no longer trust nuclear power. He blames it all on Prime Minister Noda, who he believes told the Diet and the public just what they wanted to hear so he could remain as PM. Katz states there is no doubt that the DPJ’s endorsement of the no-nukes policy was an “election gambit”, but Noda’s subsequent reversal has offset any gains his party might have made. Noda’s reversal will allow at least a few nukes to operate well into the 2050s, if not longer. Katz admits that summarily removing nuclear energy from the grid will cost Japan’s electric consumers dearly, and that belief in renewables producing 30-35% of the island nation’s electricity by 2035 is unrealistic. (News on Japan)
  • The build-up of decontaminated waters at F. Daiichi has resurfaced as a major news media issue. More than 200,000 tons of decontaminated water from the turbine basements of units 1 through 4 is presently stored in large tanks covering much of the plant property. Tepco says they have room for 700,000 tons of storage. The decontaminated water is used to cool the reactor vessels and spent fuel pools of units #1 through 4. Turbine building in-leakage of groundwater is currently greater than the amount of de-conned water being used, thus the volume needed for storage increases with each passing day. Unless that situation is reversed, Tepco will eventually fill all of the tanks and have to make space to bring in more. Water-treatment manager Yuichi Okamura says, “It’s a pressing issue because our land is limited and we would eventually run out of storage space.” While the situation poses no immediate risk to the surrounding environment, the Press incessantly posts exaggerations concerning the decontaminated water and rumors of continual polluting of the area’s groundwater as if they are facts. In the first place, all of this weekend’s reports referred to the stored decontaminated waters as ‘highly radioactive”, when they are actually less radioactive than those found at many of Japan’s health spas. It seems the news media believes that “detectable at Fukushima Daiichi” means “highly radioactive”, which is not the case at all. In addition, since the leaks from the plant systems into the building basements continue, it is rumored that groundwater and ocean polluting continues. The Press now focusses on one sensational voice as proof that water polluting is on-going. College lecturer Masashi Goto says Tepco’s inability to stop in-plant leaks plus the admitted in-flow of groundwater to the building basements is a tacit admission that continual ground-water pollution is on-going. Goto says, “You never know where it’s leaking out and once it’s out, you can never put it back in place. It’s just outrageous and shows how big a disaster this is.” Goto adds he is sure it will take Tepco much longer than reported to stop the waste water build-up, and declares Tepco’s plans for dealing with the issue is “wishful thinking”. (Japan Today; Japan Times; Mainichi Shimbun: Kyodo News Service; Asahi Shimbun)
  • The city of Fujieda will put up street signs to let citizens know how far they are from the Hamaoka nuclear station. The signs will be placed at 60 locations. The southern 25% of the Shizuoka city lies within 30km of Hamaoka, and 75% beyond the new emergency planning zone limit. The city is doing this because of numerous requests about how far people live from the nukes at Hamaoka. The city says this will provide residents with accurate information and help them evacuate during any disaster that might hit. The locations are at government sites, elementary and junior high schools, the rail station, and “a few other locations”. Fujieda Mayor Shohei Kitamura said, "It's a significant step in terms of local residents' peace of mind." (Mainichi Shimbun)

This week’s Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is hosted by Atomic Power Review. Topic include; earthquake phobia in Japan, the situation surrounding Vermont Yankee power plant, a listing of nukes around the world that will begin operation between 2013 and 2017, an update on America’s nuclear waste confidence ruling, why investors focus on short-term profits rather than long-term gains, and some “good news” concerning nuclear energy in general. Here’s the link for the full articles… http://atomicpowerreview.blogspot.com/2012/10/128th-carnival-of-nuclear-bloggers.html

October 26

 (For the Commentary - Earthquake phobia threatens Japan’s electrical infrastructure, please  click on Fukushima Commentary listed in the menu to the left of this page.)

  • A Commissioner of the new regulatory agency (NRA) says the situation at Fukushima Daiichi remains “precarious”. NRA commissioner Kenzo Oshima told UN security chief Yukiya Amano that “Overall, the conditions there have been maintained rather in a stable condition ... but there is no denying that the whole situation remains precarious of course.A lot of precaution, a lot of care, a lot of attention is still very much needed.” His concerns have been spawned by the April visit of American senator Ron Wyden, who said Japan needed to do more to move the spent fuel bundles at F. Daiichi unit #4 out of harm’s way. “I am aware there are a lot of concerns expressed, including by the U.S. senator.” Oshima said. But he admitted “[Tepco] considerably reinforced measures so that it can withstand the earthquakes that might happen again.”Oshima also said the NRA will soon conduct the first of many earthquake risk assessments, beginning with the Oi nuclear power station where two units are now operating. He points out that some geologists think dangerous fault lines run under the Oi power plants. When asked if the plants would be shuttered if the studies determined the underlying anomalies were in-fact seismic, Oshima said, “It depends on the findings.” (Japan Today; Bloomberg Business Week)
  • The NRA has released a listing of the range of types of nuclear accident initiators they will address in their new regulations. Historically, measures to prevent accidents have been largely left to the nuclear utility companies to address…if they decided to spend the money needed for upgrades. Nuclear safety upgrades will no longer be at the mercy of corporate discretion. Unless the electric companies meet or exceed the forthcoming standards, their nukes will not be allowed to operate. The various types of nuclear accident precursors the NRA will address includes terrorist attacks, plane crashes, volcanic activity, toxic gases and the loss of cooling functions due to a massive convergence of jellyfish from the sea, in addition to Fukushima-like full station blackouts simultaneously affecting multiple reactors. The NRA plans on posting an outline of their new accident-prevention standards early in 2013. (NHK World)
  • Half of last year’s reconstruction funds designated for the Tohoku region have not been used. The Board of Audit of Japan reports that 52% of the money set aside for recovery by this past March remains in the government coffers. Much of the problem concerns three the Prefectures surrounding F. Daiichi – Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi. The number of available jobs intended for reconstruction has not been filled, which prevents affected municipalities from using the available cash. The town of Futaba (Fukushima Prefecture) has used only 6% of its allotted monies and Hirono (Iwate Prefecture) has used but 11%. Clearly, the lowest rates of budget execution are found in proximity to F. Daiichi because of unresolved decontamination issues and a lack of workers due to fears of radiation. (Mainichi Shimbun)

October 24

  • A global poll shows that nuclear support is increasing but still lags behind all other electricity sources. The Poll (Ipsos MORI) across 24 countries was compared to a similar one taken in April. 21 of the countries showed increased backing for nuclear The greatest decline is in Japan, which dropped from 41% favorable down to 36%. The countries showing the greatest favorable responses are (in order) India at 75%, the United States at 66%, and, Great Britain and China (tied) at 59%. The country with the greatest relative increase is Great Britain, jumping from 49% to 59% favorable. Italy, which has said they will abolish nukes, showed a small favorable upswing. The countries with the lowest favorable percentages (but still-greater than last April) are Mexico and Germany (both 26%), and Argentina (29%). Robert Knight, research director at Ipsos, said, “There’s no doubt global public opinion has recovered somewhat since Fukushima. But while the global picture is still not that encouraging for the nuclear industry, there are several countries where optimism about the future of nuclear energy is once again justified.” (NEI News)
  • German industrial giant Siemans is withdrawing from the solar energy business. They say low international demand and falling fossil-fueled energy prices no longer make it a good business investment. Siemans is discussing sale its solar generation units because they are losing too much money. The company will continue to manufacture solar technology, such as turbines and generators. Siemans was the first international giant to abandon the nuclear power business and focus on renewables in September of 2011, after Germany announced its plans to abandon nukes. Other German firms are also finding the transition to the solar option a problem, including the bankruptcy of Germany’s largest solar panel manufacturer in April of this year. Siemans says they cannot compete because Chinese companies market at a much lower cost. (NHK World)
  • A member of Japan’s new nuke safety agency (NRA) says they are considering expanding their definition of active earthquake faults. The current designation is that the fault has moved within the past 130,000 years. The NRA has not said how much they will magnify the definition, but seismologist Kunihiko Shimazaki suggests a 400,000 year standard, "I have never used 120,000 and 130,000 years (when talking about active faults)." (Kyodo News Service)
  • The NRA has posted their worst-case radiation projections for Fukushima-level accidents at all 16 Japanese nuclear power stations. The assumptions are based on all reactors at each location having concurrent meltdowns due to a prolonged loss of emergency cooling operations, causing a massive release of radiation into the atmosphere. The suppositions include weather patterns recorded over the past year. The NRA used the IAEA-recommended projected exposure level of 100 millisieverts over a seven day period as their criteria for evacuation. At 12 of the stations, the 100 mSv/week locations all fall within the proposed emergency preparedness zone of a 30km radius. The four stations that are projected to have “hot spots” outside the 30 km radius are Kashiwazaki-Kariwa (Niigata prefecture), Fukushima Daiini, Oi (Fukui Prefecture) and Hamaoka (Shizuoka Prefecture). The farthest hot spot (42km) is projected for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility if all seven reactors experienced full meltdowns at essentially the same time. The NRA projections are intended to serve as a reference for local emergency planning. The NRA also emphasizes the prognostications are estimates and not to be taken as expected. One NRA official said, "The calculations are based on hypotheticals and there are limits to their accuracy and reliability." (NHK World; Mainichi Shimbun; Japan Times)
  • Greenpeace says government radiation monitoring posts in Fukushima are unreliable. The populist antinuclear group says they have found one spot reading 13 times the radiation limit now in vogue across Japan. “We also found that official monitoring posts placed by the government systematically underestimate the radiation levels. Official monitoring stations are placed in areas the authorities have decontaminated. However, our monitoring shows that just a few steps away the radiation levels rise significantly. Decontamination efforts are seriously delayed and many hot spots that were repeatedly identified by Greenpeace are still there,” said Rianne Teule, Greenpeace’s radiation expert.The locations were in public parks and near school facilities. The antinuclear group said officials were wasting time cleaning up evacuated areas and should prioritize decontamination efforts in places where people live, work and play. Greenpeace adds that the government ought to publicize more accurate data. Greenpeace Japan nuclear campaigner Kazue Suzuki said current decontamination efforts are “misguided”. He added, “The government continues to downplay radiation risks and give false hope (of returning home) to victims of this nuclear disaster.”(News on Japan; Japan Today; Kyodo News Service)
  • One bag of rice from Fukushima Prefecture shows a higher-than-standard level of Cesium contamination. The bag registered 110 Becquerels per kilogram, and the national limit is 100 Bq/kg. As a result of this single reading, all 320 bags of rice produced by a Sukagawa farm are being withheld from shipment. It should be noted that Japan’s Cesium standard is ten times lower than the internationally-recommended limit of 1000 Bq/kg. (Kyodo News Service)
  • The honorary Chair of Japan Airlines, Kazuo Inamori, calls nuclear energy a “necessary evil”. "It's necessary to have nuclear energy if we want to maintain the sophistication that Japanese society has," Inamori told the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan. He added he believes Japan’s policy goal of no-nukes in the 2030s is unrealistic. He also said the real problem behind the nuclear issue in Japan is that Tokyo has never provided sufficient nuclear information to the public. In addition, Inamori says the lack of information is why Japan has not adequately dealt with the nuclear waste issue. (Kyodo News Service)

October 22

Commentary - Japan’s historical lack of safety upgrades amplifies - click on the Fukushima Commentary listing in the menu found in the left-hand column.

  • The head of Japan’s new regulatory group, the NRA, says their forthcoming standards will bring Japan’s nuclear program up to international levels of safety. Chairman Shuichi Tanaka said “The existing safety standards fall short of international levels. We’ve aimed to make new ones comparable internationally and also come up with good ones taking into account Japan’s geological characteristics.” He added that existing standards lacked the foundation for adequate disaster prevention measures and severe accident management. Tanaka also asks the Japanese nuclear electric companies if their already-performed “stress tests” take into account external forces beyond those traditionally accounted for, “But our argument is: what if there were an external force five times as much?” Finally, Tanaka said he now understands his group has the authority to allow restarts of nukes that meet the new standards, but has only limited power to shutter those that do not. He made this point as he elaborated on questions concerning the controversy surrounding the two operating nukes at the Oi nuclear station, “So far, we understand the Oi plant is not exposed to any imminent danger. But the more we move on, the more cases we will clarify which do not meet (the new standards). Then, we’ll order utilities to make changes necessary to comply.” The new safety regulations are expected to be developed by next July, which Tanaka says should prevent a repeat of the F. Daiichi accident. (Japan Today)
  • The European Union (EU) has eased their import restrictions on Japanese food products caused by fear of Fukushima accident contamination. The constraints relative to 10 Prefecture’s exports, including Tokyo, have been affected. Restrictions will remain for tea and mushrooms from Shizuoka, mushrooms from Yamanashi, and, tea, mushrooms, fish, rice, soybeans, some wild grasses, vegetables and fruits from the eight other Prefectures. All items from Fukushima Prefecture remain under the ban. All shipped products must come with an analysis report to prove that radioactive Iodine and Cesium levels are below EU standards. The EU also eased their requirement that 10-20% of all shipped items must be tested. It is now only 5%. Calls to ease the restrictions have been received by the EU since New Zealand lifted all import restrictions on Japanese foodstuffs last summer. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • One Japanese utility says they fear a power shortfall this winter. Hokkaido Electric Company reports demand for electricity may be more than 10% greater than they can generate, especially if problems occur with their thermal (fossil-fueled) plants. The power line between northern Honshu and Hokkaido has limited capacity, so making up the difference from Japan’s main island will be unlikely. Tokyo is considering extending a voluntary power conservation notice for Hokkaido customers. Hokkaido, Japan’s northern-most major island, experiences the country’s coldest, snowiest winters. Tokyo says there would be no power shortage issues if it were not for the moratorium on nuclear power plant operation. (Kyodo News Service)

The 127th Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers has been posted at ANS Nuclear Café. Thus week’s topics include; the possibility that Fukushima Daiichi unit #1 did not experience a “melt-through”, increased the electrical output at Bruce NPS, a salute to the use of radiation in detecting and treating breast cancer, new nuclear plant start-ups around the world for 2012, the constitutionality of tax-lawsuits concerning Vermont Yankee, and a comparison between the “wastes” of nuclear power versus those generated by solar plants. The full list and related links can be found by clicking the following link… http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2012/10/21/carnival-of-nuclear-bloggers-no-127/

October 19

  • A high-tech imaging system used for non-invasive internal scanning of large objects might be used to try and find the location of the melted fuel at Fukushima Daiichi. The system, called “Cosmic Ray Tomography”, uses cosmic rays (Muons) to perform internal imaging without actually going inside the object being scanned. The process has also been used to look inside the pyramids, scan lava beds beneath volcanoes and search for clandestine transport of nuclear weapon’s materials. A team from Los Alamos National Laboratory has visited F. Daiichi and believes they can use cosmic ray imaging to give us a picture inside the three damaged Reactor Pressure Vessels (RPV) and Primary Containments (PCV) that surround them. They feel they can pinpoint where the melted fuel is situated inside of each structure and estimate the volume of the material. Muons are particles from outer space moving at extremely high velocities. When they strike our atmosphere, some of them cause a cascade of light and smaller particles that invisibly rain down on us. Most of the muons, however, reach the Earth’s surface and collide with just about everything, including our bodies. Some of them cause a localized particle cascade, while others get deflected (along with the cascade particles) by the physical material they encounter. By placing detectors on either side of the object to be examined, the deflected cosmic rays and cascade particles display a “picture” similar to primitive x-ray photographs. The denser, heavier materials inside the scanned object deflect more Muons and cascade particles than the less dense, which shows up distinctly on the detector read-out. At F. Daiichi, the densest material inside the three damaged RPVs and their surrounding PCVs is the solidified melted fuel (corium). The location, or locations of the corium deposit(s) inside each PCV should be identifiable and the size of each deposit confidently estimated. During the team’s visit in May, they placed detectors at key locations inside reactor buildings #1 and #2. Haruo Miyadera, a member of the research team, said "If we find where the molten nuclear fuel is located, it will give us a clue to understand what happened inside the reactors and help accelerate the decommissioning work." He added that using the system will keep from having to expose workers to high radiation fields in order to find out where the corium is actually located. (Japan Times; News on Japan) comment – It should also rather conclusively show whether or not there was a melt-through of the unit #1 RPV bottom head. I can’t wait! – end comment
  • The head of Japan’s Nuclear Accident Independent Investigative Commission (NAIIC) is in Washington to present his panel’s English-version of their report. Kiyoshi Kurokawa is doing this because he wants full international transparency and feels his country is in need of socio-political change. The NAIIC report says that much of the blame for the Fukushima accident is Japan’s cultural “reflexive obedience”, and ingrained collusion between industry and government bureaucrats. "Japan has been doing reasonably OK, but I think not really adapting to the changing, uncertain times of this global world," Kurokawa said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. "I think we need all of the pressure for the Japanese establishment to change and adapt. I think it will be very difficult for Japan to change.” He added that Japan has a historically-inadequate system of checks and balances needed in a democracy. In japan, bureaucrats resist change from outside. Kurokawa also said the NAIIC hopes to challenge the emphasis on nuclear safety-alone, but also develop strategies on managing risks. "The public is not stupid," he said. "Accidents happen, machines break, and humans make errors. So we have to learn this and minimize risks, or at least become resilient." (Japan Today; Japan Times)
  • The Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) field study on the geologic anomaly relative to Oi NPS began today. They 5-person expert team plans on holding a public meeting on November 4th to assess the study results and discuss whether or not the anomaly is seismically active: i.e. having shifted within the past 130,000 years. They will compare their findings with those recently compiled by Kansai Electric Company to see whether or not full re-examination is warranted. If it is, the NRA will run its own drilling and testing program on the geology. NRA chair Shunichi Tanaka said if the anomaly is found to be a seismic fault they will call for shutdown or decommissioning of the four-unit station. The NRA plans on doing the same field study at the five nukes previously identified for analysis by the defunct NISA. The NRA will also consider whether or not to conduct a similar survey at the under-construction nuclear power plant site at Oma, Aomori Prefecture. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • With the moratorium on operating nukes, Japan’s Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) imports have sky-rocketed. In fact, the tiny middle-eastern country of Qatar has acquired the status of “lifeline” for Japan’s electric companies. Many old, moth-balled LNG-burning power plants were re-opened last Fall to replace the generating capacity lost to the nuclear moratorium. Despite numerous plant failures, enough of the LNG-fired plants stayed on line to avoid power shortages and rolling blackouts this past summer. Japan’s LNG import cost was 3.55 trillion yen in 2011, but has already surged to 5.4 trillion yen this year. When Japan’s utilities cried out for fuel, Qatar jumped at the opportunity and filled as much of the void as they could, which is about half of the increased imports since 3/11/11. Qatar is now the second biggest supplier of LNG to Japan, behind Malaysia. (Kyodo News)


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