Fukushima Commentary 2...5/27/12-9/20/12

Topics include Tokyo’s energy policy, waste water cleanup a success, nuclear worker discrimination, NAIIC’s big mistake, antinuke rally and Hiroshima Syndrome, Fukushima death threat, fiction vs. fact, no earthquake damage, NAIIC report, 440 times background radiation is not a risk, Fukushima unit 4, Naoto Kan’s con.

September 20

Tokyo comes to its senses…sort of…

Flexibility! That seems to be the key concept in the Japanese government’s final decision on its future energy policy. As a result, it seems the reports of the demise of nuclear energy in Japan are possibly premature….possibly.

Recently, the Japanese Diet (congress) proposed a future energy policy for post-Fukushima Japan. It called for all nukes to be scrapped when they reach an operational age of 40 years. It also called for a replacement of the nuclear plants with renewables and energy conservation. After the Diet formally sanctioned the proposal, they sent it to the Prime Minister for approval and implementation. The Press in Japan and many voices of nuclear criticism around the world hailed it as a watershed moment, speculating that this was the beginning of the end for the production of electricity from nuclear power. At the same time, political pundits suggested the Diet’s proposal may have been a short-sighted attempt to gain votes in the upcoming national election. Japan’s business community and policy experts from the international community loudly voiced a collective “Not so fast”, placing powerful pressure on PM Noda and his cabinet to re-think the Diet proposal. The result has been a relaxation of the Diet’s proposal by Noda and his ministers, but it is clearly not a rejection of the Diet’s populist-based no-nukes policy with respect to Japan’s future energy infrastructure. It is political compromise that softens the Diet’s hardline proposal, but not an utter dismissal.

The 40 year limit on nuclear plant operation still holds, which means the last of the currently-idled Japanese nukes will reach their regulatory limits in the 2030s. This has not changed. However, there remains the possibility of extending licensing for up to 20 years if certain strict criteria are met. In other words, if a 40-year-old nukes have been impeccably maintained and continue to meet or exceed all safety criteria, the plants can operate for as long as an additional two decades. These criteria will be established by Japan’s new, government-and-industry-independent Nuclear Regulatory Authority…after they decide on the restarting of Japan’s now-idled nukes. It seems they will not be able to address the re-licensing issue in time to save the three nukes that are already past their 40th operational birthday, but it could lead to licensing extensions for a number of the remaining 47 nuclear plants. In addition, there are three partially built nukes that Noda’s cabinet has given the go-ahead to be completed. The combination of possible relicensing and the three new nukes pushes the “no-nukes” deadline into the 2050s. Thus, Japan is still officially plodding ahead with its Fukushima-fear-predicated goal of no-nukes, but not nearly as imminent as it seemed but a few days ago.

However, that word – flexibility – keeps the light shining at the end of the suddenly-longer temporal tunnel. Japan's economy minister Motohisa Furukawa said the cabinet has decided to take the nuclear-free plan "into consideration" when formulating the country's long-term energy policy, rather than giving the entire plan formal Cabinet approval. The Cabinet’s official statement on their decision reveals that Japan will "put the strategy into practice in a flexible (emphasis added) manner while constantly verifying and reviewing it" and "hold responsible discussions on the strategy with local governments hosting nuclear plants as well as the international community to win understanding from the public." Flexibility is the key to a rational energy policy for Japan. What about the possibility of importing fossil fuels becoming a financial albatross? What if the severely optimistic vision of easily building a renewable-based, nuclear-replacement infrastructure turns out to be financially and technologically infeasible? What about not being able to meet the nation’s GHG-reduction goals which will place an added financial burden on the country’s already teetering economy? What if mandated energy conservation policies drive Japan’s industries to foreign shores? What happens if Japan’s radiophobic public finds out that radiation is not the toxic monster they have been led to believe? By remaining flexible in their energy policy, Tokyo keeps the door open for a rational energy-generation mix well into the foreseeable future. As least for the moment, it seems Tokyo may be finally coming to its senses with respect to its energy policy.

September 15

Fukushima’s waste water decontamination system is a success story

The Fukushima Updates have not been posting Tepco’s numbers on waste water treatment and storage this year. Why? Because the water levels in the four flooded building basements have stayed essentially the same for the entire period. Until the groundwater flows into the buildings are stopped, the water levels will remain as they are, and the total volume of decontaminated water will be increasing because the auxiliary decontamination system processes more water than is being used to cool the three damaged cores. The volume of stored water is now in excess of 250,000 tons, and it’s getting bigger all the time. This is the reason Tepco is busily installing more and more storage tanks to handle the buildup of decontaminated fluids.

However, there’s a bit of light at the end of this tunnel. The radioactivity of the raw waste water inside the building basements is steadily being reduced. Tepco reported the concentration of radioactive Cesium found in the basements was roughly 2 million Becquerels/cc (cubic centimeter or one milliliter) in August of 2011. Tepco’s most recent posting (9/11/12) shows the raw water level is down to about 110,000 Bq/cc. In other words, the auxiliary decontamination system, routinely called “makeshift” by all Japanese Press, has lowered radioactive content by about a factor of 20! Please keep in mind the volumes of waste water being processed are enormous. The contamination levels being lowered this much in little over a year is actually noteworthy! However, there has been exactly zero Press coverage of this exemplary success story. Nothing! Obviously, the Japanese Press doesn’t feel such information is newsworthy. Could it be that dissemination of this might put their “makeshift” moniker in question?

It should! The auxiliary waste water decontamination system at Fukushima Daiichi is an serious success story. Before 3/11/11, no such technology for handling such massive volumes existed in Japan. The relatively rapid design, testing and operation of the process are a tribute to the professionals within the Japanese nuclear community. That the Press conveniently ignores the truth is, and will forever be, a black mark on their reporting.

August 7

Japan’s No.2 newspaper intensifies discrimination against F. Daiichi workers

A Monday article in the Asahi Shimbun (#2 circulation in Japan) attacks the 3,000 workers at Fukushima Daiichi for allegedly engaging in “A hidden world of untruths, unethical behavior”. The Asahi tries to make the exception seem to be the rule with the people laboring to recover from the Fukushima accident. Recently, one sub-contractor’s supervisor told his team to cover their dosimeters with lead to lower their measured exposure. Now, the Asahi says such practices are endemic at F. Daiichi. As evidence, the Asahi presents hearsay to support their contention that such practices are usual and customary. The newspaper thus concludes, “It emerges that workers at nuclear plants routinely resorted to ingenious ways to conceal the true levels of radiation to which they were exposed--simply to go on earning a living. That is the disturbing picture that emerges from accounts given by more than 10 people, either working at nuclear power plants or now retired.” (emphasis added) Since when has rumor become valid evidence?

In one example, a man (un-named) in his 30’s who has worked at F. Daiichi recalled seeing a box of dosimeters in the back seat of a car in May. He said he returned hours later and the box of dosimeters was still there. Thus, he assumed that workers inside the nuclear plant were not wearing their dosimeters. The “whistle-blower” said he had seen something similar no less than five times before that. To continue the rumor-mongering, Asahi adds “A man in his 40s echoed his colleague's comments. He said that between March and April, there were 10 occasions when he noticed 10 sets of such items placed in a vehicle within the same parking lot.” Talk about making wild, unfounded assumptions! Did they check to see if the dosimeters were spares, un-needed for that day? Did they report it to anyone? Did they do anything other than make a paranoiac speculation? The answer to all these questions seems to be a resounding “No!”

The Asahi then extends their conclusion to the nuclear industry at-large, “…it is now clear that such practices have been in place for years, if not decades.” Why does Asahi say this? Because a former worker at F. Daiichi said, "If a worker diligently carried a dosimeter, he would not be able to work because the radiation levels would increase and set off the alarm. I felt it was only natural to place the dosimeters in the lead container. I have no idea how much radiation I was really exposed to.” To exacerbate the rumor, the man added, “The company also does not allow me to get health checks for cancer. I am very concerned about my health." He also said such cheating is commonplace because he saw other workers hide their dosimeters behind panels in a reactor building. The Asahi then tells us of a retired man in his 70s who worked at several nuclear plants in western Japan. He talked about taking part in this “underhand” practice more than a decade ago. He said one worker would collect the dosimeters of his colleagues and take them where radiation levels were low. "Workers of the electric power company and plant manufacturers also turned a blind eye to such practices," he said. "That was a well-known practice among anyone who worked at nuclear plants for a number of years." Tepco denies knowledge of any of these allegations.

The Asahi also intimates that not wearing dosimeters may have cost workers their lives. Ryusuke Umeda, 78, says his not wearing dosimeters caused him to receive radiation which caused a heart attack. He tried suing Tepco for it. His case was rejected, but he blames the government, "Although I have repeatedly pointed out the problem, the central government has not even bothered to conduct an investigation." The Asahi fails to mention that there is no connection between occupational radiation exposure and heart attacks, which was the reason the suit was not heard. Another man says his eyesight has deteriorated due to “inflammation” caused by excessive exposure to radiation due to faking dosimeter readings. In this case, the Asahi admits “…the relationship with radiation exposure is unclear,” but sloughs it aside by quoting the individual’s most-serious contention, "Nuclear plants would not operate unless there were people like me willing to sacrifice their lives."

The impression is clearly given that the way to keep a nuclear job is to lie about personal radiation exposure, and further that such behavior is tantamount to a death sentence. Not only are nuclear workers untrustworthy, but they are suicidal money-grubbers. The real problem is the Asahi itself, unabashedly subjecting their more than 8 million daily readers to rumor-predicated, antinuclear-agenda-biased journalism with respect to nuclear workers. In the process, the newspaper has surely aggravated the recently-documented discriminatory behavior many Japanese inflict on F. Daiichi workers.

July 27

NAIIC report’s biggest mistake

The Diet’s NAIIC report’s executive summary seems largely spot-on, drawing only a few questionable conclusions (e.g. keeping the earthquake-as-cause notion open). However, one serious mistake cries out to be exposed. On page 31, the report says the unit #1 staff’s stoppage of the Isolation Condenser emergency cooling system, 11 minutes after the earthquake, was a questionable action. They further judge Tepco’s explanation to be “irrational”. Actually, the Tepco staff did was precisely what they should have done. Further, the report apparently makes this egregious claim based on misunderstood testimony, which suggests the panel has limited understanding of Boiling Water Reactor (BWR) operations.

While producing steam, the BWR fuel core is engulfed in a mixture of water and steam. The steam “bubbles” are typically called “voids”. When cooling water flow is increased, enough of the voids collapse to cause the level of the steam/water mixture to decrease. This is called “shrink”. If the increase in cooling water flow is great enough, the rate of shrink will be considerable. In parallel, accelerated flow can cause reactor vessel pressure to literally plummet. In order to insure that “shrink” does not cause the upper portion of the core to become uncovered, and further to insure against core structural damage due to thermal shock, a firm limit on how fast core temperature is allowed to drop. With the F. Daiichi BWR’s, this is 55oC per hour. This is a technical specification that any trained reactor operator will adhere to.

The source of cooling water for the Isolation Condenser is condensate from either the plant storage tank or the turbine condenser itself…as long as there is power to run the supply pumps. Before the tsunami knocked out all electrical supplies, the IC system was so efficient that the rate of cooling, pressure drop, and shrinkage was considerable. Why? Because the steam from the reactor was more than 300oC and the cooling water from the condensate system was no more than 100oC. The great differential in temperature certainly condensed the reactor steam flowing into the IC very rapidly, and the water being returned to the RPV must have been in the order of 100oC cooler than the RPV temperature itself. The rate of void collapse in the core and resulting water/steam level shrink was unquestionably significant. I suspect it was greater than the staff had anticipated. Some staff may have said they also wished to see if there might be a leak from the RPV because the rate of decrease surprised them, but this was not the reason they shut the IC down. The technical specifications were followed…period!

Thus, the F. Daiichi unit #1staff’s actions and Tepco’s explanations were entirely correct. On the other hand, questioning the actions of the staff and calling Tepco’s explanations irrational is an exercise in ignorance.

July 20

Tokyo antinuke rally was caused by the Hiroshima Syndrome

The Hiroshima Syndrome is a largely un-recognized psychological condition which can be defined as a morbid fear of nuclear energy. Those afflicted suffer because of one or more of three fundamental misconceptions…

(1) Belief that there is a crucial similarity between reactors and bombs

(2) Bomb fallout and nuclear power plant releases are one-and-same.

(3) There is no safe level of radiation exposure.

This past Monday’s antinuclear rally in Tokyo demonstrates that most, if not all of those involved are Hiroshima Syndrome victims. Fear of a nuclear power plant based on comparisons to nuclear weapons is naïve, at best. There is, and never has been any education in Japan on the huge differences between nukes and bombs. If there were, this most fundamental misconception would be of little consequence. I am willing to bet my life savings that if a poll were taken of those attending Monday’s antinuclear gala, most would say it is possible for a nuke explode like a bomb. It is impossible because reactors use the wrong kind of uranium for a nuclear explosion. Uranium itself is not an explosive, but through a long, complicated, immensely-expensive transformation from its natural form, a weapon can be made. The best analogy is the nitrogen we breathe, which we all know is not explosive. However, through costly chemical transformation, nitrogen becomes the active ingredient in TNT and nitroglycerine. The weapon’s-level of weapon’s uranium is never used in commercial nuclear power plants. In addition, the technologies are entirely different. The similarities are few and far between. The differences are enormous. But, anti-nuclear leaders in Japan continually make a rhetorical connection, using national paranoia spawned by Hiroshima/Nagasaki to the fullest.

However, the bomb misconception is not the most prominent reason why multitudes in Japan are in morbid fear of nuclear energy. The primary reason is radiation exposure, and the level of ignorance on the subject is endemic. Is it fallout? No! While the popular Press and Tokyo government identify the releases from nuclear plants as fallout…it is not! Fallout is the dust and debris thrown into the air by explosions, the collapse of large structures (like the 9/11 catastrophe in America), and volcanoes. As the debris falls to earth, it is choking to the point of suffocation. The only fallout that is radioactive comes from the detonation of nuclear weapons. What makes weapon’s fallout more dangerous than all other forms? The levels of radiation being emitted by the debris, of course! But releases from nuclear plants, even in a multi-meltdown situation such as Fukushima, are largely noble gasses (like Krypton and Xenon) which have no biological impact, and barely-perceptible radioactive dust (like Iodine and Cesium). It is not fallout. It’s airborne contamination, not fallout.

But perhaps the most damaging and pervasive misconception has to do with radiation itself. When international standards on exposure were created, the limits were based on a faulty assumption – that even the most miniscule amount of radiation posed an infinitessimal risk of fatal cancer. This flawed assumption has been the foundation of all regulatory systems to this day. Why is it flawed? Because it was not based on evidence! Rather, it was created in anticipation of future evidence on the biological effects of low level exposure. Conclusive evidence for this assumption has not manifested over the past 50+ years. To the contrary, the past 30 years of international research has produced compelling evidence that low level exposure is not hazardous and, in fact, accellerates cellular and DNA repair processes. Populations around the world naturally exposed to radiation doses many, many times higher than with Fukushima evacuees have statistically longer life expectancies, lower cancer incidence, and generally better immune system function than their less-exposed countrymen! Any claims to the contrary are no more than agenda-fulfilling assumptions in themselves.

What expands the problem is the corrupt use of politically-based risk estimates as a tool to create fearsome death estimates. Public protective action trigger points are set using the flawed methodology mentioned above. The most recent studies out of America (BEIR) and the ICRP stress that these methodologies should never be used for epidemiological evaluations of risk. And, estimating cancer deaths in huge populations over extremely long time periods, using politically-correct regulatory methodologies as a basis, is scientifically incorrect. In fact, BEIR says, “Collective effective dose is not intended as a tool for epidemiological risk assessment, and it is inappropriate to use it in risk projections. The aggregation of very low individual doses over extended time periods is inappropriate, and in particular, the calculation of the number of cancer deaths based on collective effective doses from trivial individual doses should be avoided.” Unfortunately, this information is largely unknown to the Japanese public, Press, and politicians because there has never been even a smidgen of radiation education in their schools. Thus, the widely-publicized notion of “no-safe-level” of exposure has been used by foreign pseudo-experts who intentionally exaggerate and mislead for purely personal benefit. In essence, the Japanese nation has no idea that they are being used by rhetorical snake-oil-salesmen to try and boost their reputations, which were crushed when their “guaranteed” cancer epidemic from Chernobyl failed to materialize. Because of all this, Japan suffers abject radiophobia (mortal fear of radiation), and countless thousands quiver in mortal terror.

The extraordinary turn-out at last Monday’s antinuclear protest in Tokyo was comprised of those who are convinced that all radiation necessarily causes cancer and believe nuclear plant releases to be the same as bomb fallout. In addition, none would be able to explain the differences between a nuke and a nuclear weapon. All three misconceptions are held as paradigm – concrete belief used as an unquestioned gauge for judgment. Once an incorrect concept becomes paradigm, it is exceedingly difficult to correct. As long as Japan’s people remain ignorant of these misconceptions, the situation will digress from the irrational to the preposterous. The people of Japan run the risk of being the source in the world-wide contamination of the Hiroshima Syndrome.

July 19

Debunking the Latest Fukushima Death Threat

Hardened nuclear critics have no qualms about publishing quasi-scientific reports that are short on reputable, quantitative substance but long on fear, uncertainty, and doubt. What really upsets me is when they postulate numbers of hypothetical deaths attributed to nuclear energy. I see this as making tacit death threats. The methodology used to make these death threats is often logically corrupt. The corruption begins by drawing a conclusion (e.g. even the tiniest radiation exposure kills), then “cherry pick” evidence from carefully selected references and use conclusion-appropriate methods to try and establish credibility for their pre-conceived assumption. The current subject that is spawning this subtly-deceitful conduct is Fukushima.

This week, a most effective (and philosophically-repugnant) death threat has come out of Stanford University fellow Mark Jacobson and his understudy John Ten Hoeve. The work itself is a brilliant piece of pseudo-scientific propaganda, rife with numerous cherry-picked references and dripping in questionable methodology. Upon reading the published report, I realized it was little more than another nuclear energy death threat, so I set to work – seeking references and putting my outraged mind to pen. While I labored, however, several kindred nuclear bloggers literally beat me to the punch. Collectively, they have done a very good job. I have little to add of substance, so why not let them do the talking? Here’s the links to their fine rebuttals to the Jacobson/Ten Hoeve paper…

(1) Why Fukushima Death Toll Projections are Based on Junk Science by Mark Lynas - http://www.marklynas.org/2012/07/fukushima-death-tolls-junk-science/

(2) Jacobson misuses LNT to purposefully exaggerate effects of Fukushima radiation by Rod Adams - http://atomicinsights.com/2012/07/jacobson-misuses-lnt-to-purposefully-exaggerate-effects-of-fukushima-radiation.html

(3) The Effects of Low-Level radiation (July 18, 2012 postings) by Cheryl Rofer - http://www.nucleardiner.com/forum/8-health-effects/371-the-effects-of-low-level-radiation#391

(4) Anti-nuclear Mark Jacobson estimates, ie made up, what he expects for future deaths resulting from Fukushima by Brian Wang - http://nextbigfuture.com/2012/07/anti-nuclear-mark-jacobson-estimated-ie.html

July 11

Financial Times prefers fiction over fact

A Financial Times opinion blog (7/10/11) demonstrates yet another appeal to nuclear rumor in deference to the facts. The blogger, Gerald Curtis, writes his opinion on the recent Fukushima accident report by the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigative Committee (NAIIC) convened by the Japanese Diet. One surprising conclusion drawn by the NAIIC was calling Fukushima an accident “made in Japan”, openly accusing Japanese culture as central to having made the crisis possible. Financial Times rejects this out-of-hand. Curtis calls this “the ultimate cop-out” and adds “culture does not explain Fukushima”. He later makes the following confused assertion, “If obedience to authority is such an ingrained trait in Japan, how then is it possible for a group of Japanese to write a report that not only questions but lambasts authority, anything but an example of reflexive obedience?” To the contrary, Japanese culture does in-fact clarify why the F. Daiichi accident was possible in the first place. Prior to Fukushima, there was a national conceit whereby the Japanese saw themselves as the technological center of the world. They also prided themselves in making astute financial decisions. These two cultural paradigms combined to set the stage for the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. They believed that because they believed their nuclear technology was the best in the world, the rare-but-not-impossible accident initiator was too unlikely to be considered. Thus there was no reason to spend the money to upgrade their protection against a complete blackout. Had they merely upgraded akin to what America did after 9/11 by making emergency electrical systems flood-proof, there would have been no “Fukushima disaster”. The possibility of a nuclear accident in Japan existed entirely because of culturally-ingrained overconfidence. To say otherwise is misleading.

But, the blog does not stop there. Curtis openly supports the claim of former PM Naoto Kan that he literally saved Japan from an even worse calamity by ordering Tepco to not abandon the facility, “Had Mr Kan not stormed into Tepco headquarters and tried to exercise some authority over the company’s executives, the situation might have been far worse.” Financial Times takes a position that is predicated on assumption and rumor coming from one source – Naoto Kan and his staff during the crisis (aka, Kentei). The Kentei are the only people in Japan who say Kan did the right thing. The NAIIC, Tepco, and even Kan’s own hand-picked investigative committee’s report published in December, 2011, say Kan should never have meddled in the accident mitigation effort. In fact, his interference made matters worse than they might have been!

Next, Curtis goes out on a limb by blaming Tepco for Kan’s problematic interference, “If Tepco had had a more competent president, its communications with the prime minister’s office would have been better.” What? Blaming the Tepco president when he actually had nothing to do with information flow? Blaming the Tepco president because communication’s networks between Tohoku and Tokyo were blacked-out along with the entire electrical infrastructure? The only people who knew what was really going on during the crucial first five days at Fukushima were the people at the stricken power complex. Very little accurate information was trickling through the communications morass, and most of it through a daisy-chain of people who all added their own spin to the story. In fact, it was the Kentei that made communications worse by demanding information from Tepco that they did not, nor could not possibly have had before the communications grid was re-energized on March 17. Blaming the Tepco president for a situation beyond his control is ridiculous, if not ethically corrupt.

Finally, Curtis makes a final misleading claim dependent on a most naïve analogous stretch, “What jumps out from this report are the parallels between the manmade causes of and responses to Fukushima and the ‘culture’ that led to the financial meltdown in the US after the Lehman Brothers collapse…” Pure speculative rhetoric, at best! A clear , albeit entirely assumptive attempt to say that this sort of thing happens routinely, everywhere in the world. This isn’t adding apples and oranges…it’s adding apples to onions!

Let’s face it…who knows the Japanese better than the Japanese themselves? They have extended a profound “mea culpa” to the world, and should be respected for their candid appraisal. Curtis clearly has no respect for this nationally-humbling disclosure. Curtis only demonstrates an agenda-driven mindset that prioritizes the continuation of fiction as fact.

July 9

No earthquake damage at F. Daiichi unit #1

Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco) remains at odds with the NAIIC concerning whether or not the 3/11/11 earthquake caused the blackout of unit #1. This blog totally agrees with Tepco. There is no substantive evidence of quake damage to any of the Fukushima Daiichi nukes prior to the tsunami waves hitting. NAIIC bases their unlikely claim based on a single off-shore wave gauge 1.5 kilometers from the F.Daiichi coastline which recorded the second wave passing at 3:37pm. Tepco’s operator’s records say the second wave hit the power complex at 3:37pm. NAIIC believes it is not possible the two could have happened simultaneously. NAIIC speculates the unit #1 emergency diesels were knocked out between 3:35 and 3:36pm, which would be several minutes before the 42-foot high wave hit by their estimations. This assumption has no evidentiary support. The assumption of lost diesels before the second wave hit makes NAIIC conclude the quake, not the tsunami, began the nuclear accident with unit #1.

Tepco says there is no substance to the NAIIC claim. Japan Times reports Tepco spokesman Junichi Matsumoto saying, "We did not hear that the diesel generator had stopped before the tsunami." The F. Daiichi unit #1 control room record shows the first, albeit smaller wave hitting them at 3:35pm and the second massive surge at 3:37pm. The complete loss of all electric power is recorded to be concurrent with the second tsunami wave at 3:37pm, and not before. Astonishingly, the NAIIC panel responded that Tepco’s (and the government’s) denial of quake-causation is deceitful, "(It is) very regrettable…(the investigators' findings) are insincere." In other words, the official records of the people who were physically at F. Daiichi and diligently labored to mitigate the effects of the tsunami are not to be trusted! To the contrary, NAIIC had no-one at F. Daiichi on 3/11/11 and reject the eye-witness account. Theyplace their faith in one off-shore wave gauge, combined with wild speculation that the emergency diesels failed before the wave hit. Does this make any sense?

Of course not!

This single faux-pas on the part of NAIIC threatens to taint what is otherwise a well done effort.

July 6

The NAIIC Fukushima report – Some hits and some misses

The Japanese Diet’s Nuclear Accident Independent Investigative Committee (NAIIC) has issued its executive summary of their Fukushima report. The more than 640-page report was givento the Diet on Thursday, but only the executive summary has been released to the public. The full report is “coming soon”. The following is a summation and critique of the Executive Summary, sprinkled with a few Japanese news media article citations.

NAIIC has summarily concluded the accident was “man-made” due to pre-quake/tsunami negligence on the part of the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). The reports says, “The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and (plant operator) TEPCO, and the lack of governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly ‘man-made.’ We believe that the root causes were the organizational and regulatory systems that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions, rather than issues relating to the competency of any specific individual.” The accident itself was caused by an earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which leads the report to say, "Although triggered by these cataclysmic events, the subsequent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster." The report added that regulators should "go through an essential transformation process" to ensure nuclear safety in Japan, and further stated, "Japan's regulators need to shed the insular attitude of ignoring international safety standards and transform themselves into a globally trusted entity."

Perhaps the most revealing aspect of the report comes from its chairman. "What must be admitted — very painfully — is that this was a disaster 'Made in Japan,' " says an accompanying statement by the panel chairman, Kiyoshi Kurokawa.”Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture: our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to 'sticking with the program'; our groupism; and our insularity." Thus, it is not only Tepco and the government that should be blamed for the accident, but also the very culture of Japan itself.

NAIIC took the prime minister and his staff (Kentei) to task because they “did not function correctly” and for poor communications between them and Tepco. NAIIC concluded there is no evidence to support then-PM Kan’s continual assertion that Tepco planned a full abandonment of Fukushima Daiichi beginning March 15, 2011. Kan told NHK World he clearly remembers Tepco planning the pull-out and he believes a public disclosure of internal Tepco documents (such as video-conferencing) will prove him correct. TheNAIIC report also says the Prime Minister's office interfered with emergency work at the plant, causing a breakdown in the chain of command in the first critical hours of the crisis, “The prime minister’s office was supposed to contact the plant operator through an on-the-spot taskforce. [The Kentei] issued direct instructions to TEPCO head office and the accident site, confusing the command line.” The report also says that from the first hours of the crisis, no-one was sure who was giving the orders. After Kan’s unprecedented visit to the F. Daiichi early on March 12, Tepco was reluctant to make decisions unless they were approved by the Kentai, which greatly slowed the progression of work at the accident site and may have contributed to the severity of the crisis.

While this blog agrees completely with the above, there are three key areas of the report that should be questioned. First, the NAIIC report states there was a compromise of the unit #2 containment at 6am on March 15. The report blames the massive increase in radiological releases on that date due to unit #2. The NAIIC refuses to believe Tepco who has said repeatedly since March, 2011, that there was no explosion inside unit #2 containment, and that the reported “impulsive sound” was a seismic echo reverberating through the undamaged structure from the concurrent explosion of the unit #4 refueling deck. NAIIC also failed to consider the video evidence of the interior of the Primary Containment Tepco has presented to the Press, which shows no indication whatsoever of structural compromise. Further, NAIIC fails to recognize that the massive recorded radiological release on March 15 probably came from a combination of the unit #4 detonation and residual releases from the decimated units #1&#3. Also, they fail to consider that a wind shift on March 15 sent the releases inland for the first time, and directly past the airborne monitoring devices at the power complex perimeter. The four previous days, the winds blew out to sea and Tepco had no airborne monitors on the sea-side of the facility to record the massive releases that surely came from unit #1 on March 12 and unit #3 on March 14. This portion of the report is clearly flawed and needs substantial revision.

Second, the NAIIC refuses to believe the earthquake of March 11, 2011, caused no safety compromises at F. Daiichi. They say that they have evidence of a Loss of Coolant Accident (LOCA) for unit #1 on March 11 caused by the quake-alone before the Tsunami hit. This writer has pored over all available information relative to the several investigative reports released to date. This is the first time a claim of a LOCA has been mentioned, and the lack of evidence in the NAIIC report to support it makes the claim questionable, at best. Regardless, NAIIC chooses to reopen the door on earthquake damage speculation. Japan Today says, “The findings published on Thursday call for further investigation into the impact of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake—as opposed to the towering tsunami—on the reactors at Fukushima.” We hope such an investigation takes place as soon as possible to remove this issue from the realm of possibility. It does no more than needlessly prolong anxiety and doubt. A Mainichi Shimbun article shows our position is reflected in a statement by Takashi Sowada, director of the Atomic Energy Society of Japan, "From an engineering point of view, the report's judgment is insufficient. If pipes were even only slightly damaged, allowing coolant water to leak, the temperatures and pressure inside the reactor containment vessel would be abnormally high. However, the measurement data released by TEPCO does not indicate anything like this between the time the quake occurred and the tsunami arrived.”

Finally, NAIIC says that the use of SPEEDI (a meteorological projection system) to determine the scope and direction of the weather would not have helped with mandated evacuations. The report says meteorological predictions are subject to inaccuracy and insufficient to base public protective actions. This is at the very least naïve, but may well be a politically-motivated assertion designed to protect Tokyo officials. Hindsight evidence shows that the SPEEDI projections were remarkably accurate and should have been used to keep evacuee exposures as low as reasonably achievable. The main reason SPEEDI wasn’t used was because no-one in the Kentei had any experience with it! The previous year’s training on SPEEDI for PM Kan and his staff was cancelled. Why the training was canceled is not presently known, but if it had taken place then maybe…just maybe…SPEEDI would have been used and evacuee exposures lessened.

With the exception of the three objections stated above, this writer concludes this report to be far superior to PM Kan’s investigative committee’s submittal last summer, addresses many accident-related issues not mentioned in prior Tepco reports, and avoids most (but not all) of the doubt-generating speculations made by other allegedly independent reports.

Here’s the link to the NAIIC executive summary…


June 27

A recent laboratory study at prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology concludes that prolonged radiation exposures up to 400 times natural background pose no genetic risk. This presents serious questions relative to the exposure limits used for nuclear accident evacuations…are the standards set way too low? Is the psychological damage of having ultra-conservative evacuation “trigger points” worth keeping the exposure limits where they are? In America, exposures eight times background are recommended as the evacuation standard. In Japan, no comparable guideline exists. Government exposure evacuation standards fluctuate with the politically expedient winds that blow across the island nation. Before the Fukushima crisis, it was assumed that Japan’s natural background was 1 millisievert/yr. The MIT study shows that backgrounds 400X higher (400 mSv/yr) doesn’t cause irreparable genetic damage, and regulatory limits for evacuation should be reconsidered. But, don’t just take my word for it. Check it out… 


May 29

What about F. Daiichi unit #4?

Are those closest to the Fukushima Daiichi situation overlooking the obvious, or is there something sinister happening? On Saturday, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported Tepco has blamed containment damaged to unit #2 as the major source of radioactive releases on March 15, 2011. Tepco says about 1,000 Tera-Becquerels (TBq) were released with the unit #1 explosion on March 12, and less than 5,000 TBqs released with the unit #3 explosion of March 14. Tepco reports releases suddenly swelled to 160,000 TBqs on March 15, and they blame it on leaks from seams and “other parts” inside the containment of unit #2 when it was over-pressurized. On March 16, the biggest release occurred, at 180,000 TBqs, largely from unit #3.

There seems to be two glaring errors in their prognostications. First, there was no hydrogen explosion with unit #2, which is now understood to have had the least fuel damage of the three meltdowns. The unit #2 reactor building was not compromised and remains intact, with only the relatively small “blow-out panel” open to allow radioactive gasses to escape. The other two buildings literally had nothing to restrict atmospheric releases once they experienced their hydrogen detonations. In addition, with lesser fuel damage than the other two units, the amount of radioactive isotopes escaping unit #2’s fuel-itself would also be less than units #3&4. Unit #2 had the most restrictive pathway for release and the lowest concentration of radioactive material available.

The second error flummoxes this writer. On March 15 unit #4 experienced its hydrogen explosion. The hydrogen for the explosion came from unit #3, which must necessarily have brought considerable radioactive material along with it. There is no mention of unit #4’s explosive contribution to the March 15 release. In fact, Tepco seems to be trying to deflect all possible interest away from unit #4 as a possible radioactive release source by saying there was no damage to the unit #4 core. Of course there wasn’t any #4 fuel damage since the reactor was shut down, cooled down, depressurized and all fuel was in its spent fuel pool. Tepco seems to be avoiding the obvious because of the current unit #4 spent fuel pool controversy that has swept the international Press. There is no doubt that the unit #4 detonation was caused by inter-unit leakage from unit #3. The fuel in #4 SPF had nothing to do with it. There can also be no logical doubt that much, if not most of the March 15 surge in radioactive releases from F. Daiichi came from the unit #4 explosion. Was there enough radioactive material from unit #3 to cause the releases for both March 15th and 16th? Since there was enough hydrogen from unit #3 to demolish two robustly-built, steel and concrete outer structures, there must have been enough radiological material for two days of releases, as well. This does not mean unit #2 is not a contributor to both-day’s-worth of releases, but it was in no way the primary reason for the March 15th release. Unless the unit #4 release caused by its hydrogen explosion is included in the scenario, it’s clearly a white-wash of reality-itself.

The current controversy with unit #4 SPF is as fantasy-predicated as it gets. Fear of adding to the apocalyptic hullabaloo by deflecting the world’s attention away from the truth is totally non-transparent. Tepco has spent nearly a year trying to recapture the world’s trust. This could generate a whole new level of suspicion.

May 27

Kan’s con – using misinformation to suit his purpose

Ever since he was forced to resign as Prime Minister, Naoto Kan has used creative rhetoric to try place blame for the Fukushima accident on the government and Japan’s nuclear community and absolve himself of guilt for his actions. His recent testimony before the Diet’s Fukushima investigative committee has given him the opportunity to further promote his self-aggrandizing grandiloquence. However, he seems to have stretched the truth more than a bit too far.

Kan says his errors were not his fault. Rather, he now blames Japanese law itself! Kan testified, "The Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness was not responsive to a severe accident. The (government's) assumption of (nuclear) accidents was insufficient." He added had no choice but to interfere in things he knew essentially nothing about and micromanage all emergency efforts, “[The Act] presupposes that an earthquake and a nuclear accident would take place separately. Because of such an extremely insufficient assumption, I had no choice but to meddle in and do various things. I don't think that's the way a prime minister should act." He’s right on one point. It was no way for a Prime Minister to act. But, he isn’t acting how a former Prime Minister should act, either. Here’s why…

There are actually two overlapping laws for emergency preparedness, one "Basic" and the other "Nuclear specific". In the basic law, we find a clear framework for disaster response and what the duties of the Prime Minister entail. Article 11.2 calls for the establishment of a Central Disaster Prevention Council located in a cabinet office, in order to announce the emergency condition. Article 12.2 says the head of the council with wide, on-going powers to direct and control, is the Prime Minister. There at five specified powers endowed on the PM – (1) policies on disaster countermeasures, (2) overall coordination of countermeasures, (3) enactment of temporary emergency measures needed, (4) proclamation of the emergency situation/disaster, and (5) implementation of important matters relating to countermeasures deemed necessary by the Prime Minister. Does this fit Kan’s statement of a non-responsive severe accident law? Of course not! In addition, there is nothing in “The Act” where any type of specific nuclear accident or precursors are assumed. In fact, this law is as comprehensive as it gets with respect to nuclear emergency preparedness. Laws like this are written without technical specificity in order to keep implementation as flexible as possible.

In addition to “The Basic Act”, the Special Law of Emergency Preparedness for Nuclear Disaster, Article 16 says that immediately after issuing the nuclear emergency announcement, “…the Prime Minister shall establish Nuclear Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters in the Prime Minister’s office.” Kan, however, maintains that there was no legal mandate for creating an emergency committee of this type, so he did it ad-hoc. It’s been a long time since Kan resigned and precious few in Japan know the law with respect to nuclear emergencies. Does he think nobody will notice that he’s being disingenuous?

We might bear in mind that former minister Banri Kaieda testified that Kan initially denied his duties as head of the emergency organization, asking “On what grounds”. He assigned Cabinet Secretary Edano the task of examining the law, clarifying the legal basis of his duties and getting back to him. Kan then shirked his emergency responsibilities and left his office to attend a routine meeting with Diet members of the DPJ. It took Edano about an hour to find and read “The Act”, then explain everything to Kan. Kaieda says this is the reason it took too long for the government’s emergency declaration to be issued. Kaieda also pointed out that once Kan understood his legal responsibilities, he became “heavy-handed” and “meddlesome”. Kan admitted to the panel that some of his behaviors were based mostly on rumor, but he was frightened. Plus, he wasn’t getting the volume and quality of information he desired, "Unfortunately, there were no fundamental briefings on the situation, either from TEPCO or the government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA).” What he fails to mention is that no-one in Tokyo had a good feel for what was happening 250 kilometers to the north because the tsunami/quake had decimated the Tohoku electrical and communications infrastructure. That infrastructure would not be available until March 17. Kan over-reacted, assuming Tepco and NISA were not doing their job. His personal arrogance, combined with a serious level of ignorance, resulted in him becoming effectively dictatorial. After his unwarranted attack on the Tepco home office and irresponsible invasion of the Fukushima Daiichi accident site on March 12, it’s no wonder little was done without the Prime Minister’s express permission, thereafter.

Kan is for all intents and purposes perpetrating a con-job on the Diet and the Japanese people. The Diet panel has the power of Parliament behind them and can insist on sworn testimony. It seems clear that unless Naoto Kan is legally sworn in, he will continue to obfuscate the truth in an effort to absolve himself of culpability with respect to the Fukushima accident.

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