Fukushima Commentary (blog)

Fukushima Commentary

These postings address four questions. What Japanese decisions border on the irrational? Is the Fukushima accident ongoing? Does Fukushima have the potential for world-wide apocalyptic disaster? Are the Fukushima radiation levels health-threatening?

"Fukushima : The First Five Days"...a book taken from the records kept by the operating staff at Fukushima Daiichi during the first crucial days of the crisis. It is now available at all E-book outlets. For the PDF and bundle... (click here)

NEW E-BOOK - "Kimin: Japan's Forgotten People" - the untold story of Japan's 300,000 tsunami refugees, ignored by the world's news media. for Availability... (click here)

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March 1, 2015

250th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the Quarter-Millennial, 250th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. This week’s edition includes articles by Dr. Gail Marcus, Rod Adams, Meredith Angwin, Dan Yurman, Will Davis, Brian Wang, and Leslie Corrice.

Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… On November 13, 1938, Otto Hahn met secretly with Lise Meitner in Copenhagen. At her suggestion, Hahn and colleagues performed further tests on a uranium-produced product they thought was Radium. Radium became the first fission product discovered from uranium fission.

Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include… Nuclear performance for 2014, US advanced reactor development, the benefits of clean nuclear energy, the world’s largest nuke station is center of Japan’s restart issue, Belgian nukes are back in the news, the latest news out of China, mildly radioactive rainwater causes outrage in Japan, and a poem.

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From Nuke Power Talkby Dr. Gail Marcus (2) –

Nuclear Power Plant Performance 2014: Maintaining High Levels

One bright spot, Gail Marcus notes in Nuke Power Talk, is the continued high level of performance of the operating nuclear reactor fleet in the United States.  In fact, her blog is sparked by a report showing that the performance in 2014 was the highest ever. http://nukepowertalk.blogspot.jp/2015/02/nuclear-power-plant-performance-2014.html 


More Acronyms: Beyond Energy

Do you want to know what BINGOs are?  BASICs?  NAMAs?  Gail Marcus posts another set of useful acronyms.  This list comes from the recent climate change discussions, but should be of interest to anyone who is concerned about discussions of the world's energy mix and the global climate. http://nukepowertalk.blogspot.jp/2015/02/more-acronyms.html

From Atomic Insights by Rod Adams (2) –

Diseconomy of scale – world’s largest canned-motor reactor coolant pump

Will design and manufacturing challenges associated with the world’s largest canned-motor reactor coolant pump put billions of dollars-worth of investments at risk of never generating revenue? http://atomicinsights.com/diseconomy-of-scale-worlds-largest-canned-motor-reactor-coolant-pump/


Atomic Show #233 – Innovators discuss advanced reactor development in US

There are a growing number of innovative small companies and a few divisions of larger companies that have recognized that nuclear energy offers solutions to a number of important human challenges. Despite the proclamations by opponents, the Nuclear Renaissance is no-more dead in 2015 than the European Renaissance was dead in 1315. In the minds of the people who participated in this show, the revival in nuclear energy has only just begun. http://atomicinsights.com/atomic-show-233-innovators-discuss-advanced-reactor-development-in-us/

From Yes Vermont Yankee by Meredith Angwin (2) –

The Local Grid: Pictures at the Edge

On a recent cold morning, the New England grid had 243 MW excess capacity with 20,000 MW projected demand. (1% safety margin!)  In this post, Meredith Angwin shares screen shots from the grid operator website. These are "Pictures at the Edge (of reliability)." Oh yeah, prices also soared past $230/MWh. http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-local-grid-pictures-at-edge.html#.VPH6_jpNnNg


Northwest Clean Energy blog…

Forbes’ Jim Conca showcases benefits of clean nuclear energy

In a clear 30 second Public Service Announcement, Dr. James Conca describes the importance of clean nuclear energy to a diverse energy mix. https://northwestcleanenergy.wordpress.com/2015/02/27/forbes-jim-conca-showcases-benefits-of-clean-nuclear-energy/

From Neutron Bytes by Dan Yurman (2) –

Japan’s largest nuclear power station moves to center of reactor restart efforts

Tokyo Electric Company President Naomi Hirose may now playing hardball with Niigata Governor over restart of the world’s largest nuclear station; Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. Izumida has resisted all restart overtures because he believes Tepco was negligent with respect to Fukushima Daiichi. Hirose says the company will have no alternative to raising rates as long as Izumida remains firm. The message to 29 million customers in Tokyo is that their electric bills are going up because Izumida won’t give his assent to restart two safe nuclear reactors. http://neutronbytes.com/2015/02/22/japans-largest-nuclear-power-station-moves-to-center-of-reactor-restart-efforts/


Ghosts of Pelindaba nuclear site break-in return to haunt South Africa

A news report this week says that China was behind the break-in at Pelindaba in 2007 which was an effort to steal pebble bed nuclear reactor technology. The story is full of holes. Here’s why. http://neutronbytes.com/2015/03/01/ghosts-of-pelindaba-nuclear-site-break-in-return-to-haunt-south-africa/

From ANS Nuclear Café by Will Davis

Belgian Doel-3, Tihange-2 back in the news

Years-long concerns about the reactor pressure vessels in these two plants have developed to the point where another expert congress is required, and the news media has picked up on this -- as has Greenpeace.  Will Davis details the developments; with many links to past articles. http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2015/02/25/belgian-doel-3-and-tihange-2-back-in-the-news/

From Next Big Future by Brian Wang (2) –

Concentrated solar does set birds on fire…

Concentrated solar does set birds on fire and wind turbines club birds to death. Meanwhile, environmentalists make stuff up about nuclear energy. Nextbigfuture has pictures of the birds that are set on fire and some wind turbine-clubbed birds. Atomic Insights analysis is highlighted. http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/02/concentrated-solar-does-set-birds-on.html


China could build 200 reactors in the next 20 years

Westinghouse CEO Danny Roderick said that a “realistic” assessment of future business in China would place Westinghouse in the vicinity of a 25 percent to 30 percent market share. He estimated that China could build 200 reactors in the next 15 years. It is felt that China is expected to increase its nuclear power plant export business with its own 1,400 MW version of the AP1000. http://nextbigfuture.com/2015/02/china-could-build-200-nuclear-reactors.html

From Fukushima Commentary by Leslie Corrice

Japan’s latest source of radiophobia – Rainwater!

Fear of radiation in Japan has reached a new low. Now, it’s small, biologically-harmless amounts of radioactive material being flushed away by rainwater. It seems that every time it rains in Fukushima, Tepco will be forced to warn everyone that an ensuing, harmless-but-detectible release of rainwater run-off is possible. Now, Japan’s radiophobic demographic has a new source of nuclear angst…rainwater.  http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-commentary.html

And, we close with a thought-provoking poem by English poet Wendy Cope, submitted by Dr. Jim Conca…

He tells her that the Earth is flat -

He knows the facts, and that is that.

In altercations fierce and long

She tries her best to prove him wrong.

But he has learned to argue well.

He calls her arguments unsound

And often asks her not to yell.

She cannot win. He stands his ground. 

The planet goes on being round 

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Fact or Fiction (?) quiz answer – Fiction.

They eventually found that it was Barium, not Radium. They published their results in Naturwissenschaften (January 6, 1939). The process producing the Barium was called “nuclear fission”, using Bohr's model of the nucleus. The esearch paper appeared in Nature (February 11, 1939). Unfortunately, in a sign of the times, Lise’s contribution to the discovery was excluded by her peers. Hahn was given the Nobel Prize for discovering fission in 1944. Eventually, Meitner’s contribution was understood by the scientific community. The Nobel Prize omission was partly rectified in 1966, when Hahn and Meitner were co-awarded the U.S. Fermi Prize. Lise was also honored when element number 109 was named “Meitnerium” after it was created in 1982.  https://www.sdsc.edu/ScienceWomen/meitner.html

February 25, 2015

Japan’s latest source of radiophobia – Rainwater!

Fear of radiation in Japan has reached a new low. Now, it’s small, biologically-harmless amounts of radioactive material being flushed away by rainwater.


Last Sunday, a radiation monitor on a drainage ditch alarmed at Fukushima Daiichi. The alarm set-point for Beta-emitting isotopes, approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, was 1,500 Becquerels per liter. It reached 7,000 Bq/liter at the highest reading. Within 90 minutes, it had dropped back below the set-point. Tepco honestly reported that no tanks were leaking and no increase in the level of seawater activity had occurred. The company said they would investigate the source of the temporary activity spike.

On Tuesday, Tepco said they may have found the source of the sporadic alarm; a large puddle of rainwater that had accumulated on the roof of reactor building #2. The puddle’s activity was 23,000 Bq/liter. The outlet of the roof’s drainage gutter fed into the channel monitored by the device that alarmed. Plus, there were other puddles on the roof reading between 900 and 1,900 Bq/liter, but only one had enough activity to cause the monitor’s high reading on Sunday.

When asked by the Press, Tepco said that every time it rained the monitor showed an increase in activity, but this was the first time it alarmed. Further, while nearly all of the water passing by the monitor flowed through a bypass channel into the barricaded inner port, a small amount may have leaked by the closed gate leading directly to the sea. And, Tepco said it took about 90 minutes to close the gate isolating the channel from the inner port. This seems to be the point at which the feces hit the fan! The Press, as well as Tokyo’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, went haywire!

On Wednesday, the Mainichi Shimbun (one of Japan’s 5 largest newspapers) ran the report with the headline “Highly toxic water leaks into ocean from Fukushima plant”. The Mainichi claims there were actually 29,000 Bq/liter of cesium isotopes, and 52,000 Bq/liter of Beta emitters in the “puddle”, citing an un-named source at Tepco. Japan Times, one of the leading Japanese-American outlets, said, “The utility admitted Tuesday it failed to disclose leaks of rainwater containing radioactive substances from a drainage ditch at the stricken plant even though it was aware of high radiation in the water last spring.” The allegation of a cover-up is obvious. Even the usually-objective NHK World added to the fray, “TEPCO knew last April that the density of radioactive substances in the channel rose when rain fell. But it did nothing to prevent contaminated water from leaking directly out to sea, nor did it make the finding public.” Again, the implied supposition is “cover up”.

Fukushima’s fishermen also went ballistic, and the Press exploited it to the fullest. Japan Times reports that Masakazu Yabuki, chief of the Iwaki fisheries cooperative, said, “I don’t understand why (Tepco) kept silent even though they knew about it. Fishery operators are absolutely shocked.” Jiji Press adds that Soma-Futaba fisheries head says, “[Tepco] concealed the leaks into the ocean” and “Our relationship of trust has collapsed”. NHK World reports, “Fishermen are accusing the operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant of betraying their trust.” In other words, allegations of cover-up abound among Fukushima’s fisheries.

In what seems to be another attempt to show it is in-charge, the Nuclear Regulation Authority demanded that Tepco thoroughly investigate the drain-leakage incident, which it seems the company was already doing. Adding insult to injury, NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka said Tepco should not have allowed any contamination to drain to the plant’s port and a system of automatic gate closures should have been in place to stop flow if a monitor alarmed. In other words, Tanaka believes the rainwater incident is worthy of public concern and Tepco wasn’t professional enough to keep it from happening.

I guess it doesn’t matter whether or not an approved alarm set-point was breached. Every time it rains in Fukushima, raising the environmentally-innocuous level of contamination in the run-off, Tepco is supposed to shout it to the world! And, based on what we have seen the past few days, each declaration will be exaggerated by the Press with elaborated notions of “high toxicity”, and the local fishermen will scream bloody murder.

Radiophobia (mortal fear of radiation) infects millions, if not tens of millions of Japanese. Surveys show that 20% the public refuses to buy any foodstuffs coming from Fukushima Prefecture because it might contain an undetectable bit of Fukushima contamination. They believe that if it came from Fukushima, it is necessarily tainted…a term used incessantly by the Press when reporting on Fukushima.

Exploiting radiophobia is good for the news media business in Japan. Radiophobia is one of the core reasons Japan has a Nuclear Regulation Authority. Radiophobia is a real and present danger to the psychological health of the third largest economic entity in the world, but Japan’s Press and nuclear regulators don’t really seem to care. They exploit the fear-ridden millions with what is no less than reckless abandon.

The foundation of radiophobia is the belief that there is no safe level of radiation exposure. That is, all radiation exposure, no matter how trivial, poses a risk of inducing mortal cancer. No level of exposure is 100% safe, under this notion. However, no-safe-level is nothing more than a false belief. (click on “Radiation: The No-Safe-Level Myth” and “Science Proves ‘No-Safe-Level’ is a Fiction”, in the left-hand column) However, the scientific truth about the safety of low level exposure is nowhere to be found in the Japanese Press, and the NRA is clearly an accomplice to this informational omission.

What about the impact by the alleged leak on the Pacific Ocean? None of the numerous sampling points inside the F. Daiichi port’s break-wall show one iota of radiological impact. Ditto for those taken outside the break-wall, including the sampling point nearest the old, now-isolated drain discharge directly to the sea. It has been this way since the sporadic, non-alarmable fluctuations in the discharge channel have occurred since last April. But, this doesn’t matter to the Press or the NRA.

It seems that every time it rains in Fukushima, Tepco will be forced to warn everyone that an ensuing, harmless-but-detectible release of radioactive rainwater run-off is possible. The Press will post exaggerated copy of toxicity and the NRA will tell Tepco to do the job it is already doing. As a result, Japan’s millions within the radiophobic demographic are having their existent nuclear stress amplified by a new, entirely unnecessary source of angst…rainwater!

February 21, 2013

Fear of radiation the only thing stopping discharge of Fukushima wastewaters

This week, the head of the IAEA Fukushima inspection team urged Tepco to release fully treated Fukushima wastewaters to the sea. At a news conference in Tokyo, Juan Carlos Lentijo said, “Controlled discharges are a normal practice in the industry. Most of the [world’s] nuclear power plants are discharging treated water. This is accomplished with negligible impact on the environment and the safety of the people.” The head of Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority, Shunichi Tanaka, said essentially the same thing last month. In response to a worker falling to his death while fabricating yet another giant storage tank, Tanaka asserted, “Tokyo Electric Power must consider whether it (storing the water) is really necessary. It is surely harmful if it leads to the death of workers. It is important to listen to public opinion, but human life must not be lost for the sake of echoing public views. You [Tepco] are not yet demonstrating appropriate determination.”

All waste waters are run through what is essentially a three stage process to remove radioactive isotopes. The first is a cesium absorption system that has worked better than expected. It was hoped it would have a removal factor of 1,000, but has actually had a Cesium decontamination factor of more than 10,000. The next stage is called ALPS; Advanced Liquid Processing System. ALPS strips the water discharged from the Cesium absorbers of all additional radioisotopes, except one – Tritium. Since ALPS’ output has a tiny amount of radioactive Strontium in it, Tepco recently added a mobile Strontium removal system as the final step in the process. All that remains is water… Water so chemically pure it rivals that used in research facilities. Water so chemically pure it would probably not conduct electricity!

One might ask, what about the Tritium? Tritium is hydrogen, albeit the element’s radioactive isotope. The Tritium is an integral part of water molecules in the storage tanks, just the same as the non-radioactive isotope of hydrogen found in all water molecules of the universe. Tritium is also biologically innocuous; i.e. it will not harm organisms. (For more detail, click on “Background Information on Tritium” in the left-hand column)

In the best of all possible worlds, and in any other country on our planet, the Tritium-only waters would already have been dumped into the Pacific Ocean, and the unfortunate death of the plant worker last month would never have happened! But, Japan is not the best of all possible worlds when it comes to radiation. In fact, it may well be the worst!

Unbridled fear of radiation (radiophobia), no matter how trivial, infects millions of Japanese citizens. If radiation is detectible, it is unacceptable. The Japanese Press continually uses the term “tainted” to describe any waters found to have radioactive isotopes in it, or have had contamination in it. Thus, the Press recurrently reinforces radiophobia in the minds of those so-afflicted. In fact, the mere possibility of radiation triggers this paranoiac aversion.

Less than 48 hours after NRA Chair Tanaka urged Tepco to discharge fully-treated waters, the Fukushima Fisheries demanded this not happen. Why? Because it would possibly further hurt sale of their catches in Japan’s large marketplaces. Surveys show that as much as 20% of the public shuns any foods coming out of Fukushima Prefecture, whether or not it contains detectible contaminants. It doesn’t matter that all Fukushima foods must pass the most stringent marketing restrictions in the world. The food might have some radioactive material in it that is too little to be detected. After all, if it’s from Fukushima, it must be tainted. This is why the Fukushima Fisheries are convinced that releasing the tritiated waters to the sea would make a bad situation worse.

Unfortunately, they are probably right.

A Japanese colleague who lives in Japan says fear of radiation has infected the island nation since the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. He says millions believe that all of the people killed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were due to fallout; i.e. they all died due to radiation exposure. Actually, of the 200,000 who died due to the nuclear bombings, more than 97% were due to the two horrific explosions, and not due to radiation. It seems that Japan’s government neglected to tell its people this simple fact and it has become a foundation of the country’s current fear of radiation, exacerbated by a complete lack of education about radiation over the past seven decades!

This is my fourth Fukushima Commentary posting on the matter. My first “A Plea to Tepco and Tokyo – Just Do It!” was on 9/27/14, the second “Radiophobia increasing in Japan’s markets (again)” on 10/8/14, and the next was “Japan’s NRA chief is right: Tepco should release water ASAP” on 1/28/15. If this is beginning to sound like a stuck record, so be it. Franklin Roosevelt once said the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. It seems that such a concept is alien to Japan’s numerous radiophobic demographic. Tepco seems more concerned about catering to their unfounded fears than releasing the entirely harmless wastewater to the sea.

January 28, 2015

Japan’s NRA chief is right: Tepco should release water ASAP

On January 21, Chairman Shunichi Tanaka of the Nuclear Regulation Authority spoke about the worker safety issue at Fukushima Daiichi following the death of a contractor employee. The employee slipped and fell from the top of a ten-meter high tank while helping secure the top cover of the container. Tanaka said one of the causes was Tepco continually building more and more tanks to store contaminated and decontaminated waters. He reiterated his opinion, made a few days earlier, that fully treated water should be released to the sea, as long as all radio-isotopic levels are below permissible limits.

Tanaka’s original statement caused a negative outcry from some of the public, and Fukushima fishermen, who did not want the releases to happen. The public reasoning was that even if contamination is well-below national standards, some radioactivity could remain and any detectible amount is unacceptable. The fishermen balked at Tanaka’s suggestion because any release to the sea could further damage the sale of Fukushima seafood in the marketplace.

After Tanaka’s January 21st restatement of his position, members of the public and Press in attendance shouted their continued disapproval. He responded with anger, “Even if a person dies?” He then turned to the Tepco Chairman and said,“It is important to listen to public opinion, but human life must not be lost for the sake of echoing public views. You are not yet demonstrating appropriate determination.” (1)

It should come as no surprise to regular readers of these blogs that this writer is not a big fan of Tanaka. However, in this case I must give him a hearty “well done”! About half of the 400,000 tons of wastewater stored at Fukushima Daiichi has been run through the multi-system decontamination process and cleansed to a purity approaching near-laboratory quality. Tepco has already said that any release will be run through mobile Strontium absorbers one final time to insure that the only radio-isotope remaining is Tritium, which is part of the water molecule itself. As I have written on many occasions, Tritium is biologically harmless.

To make the outcry from the public and Press even more ridiculous, Tepco has self-imposed limits that are ten to 15 times lower than Japan’s ultra-conservative drinking water standards. Further, this water will be released into the Pacific Ocean; not into a drinking water supply! And, no one drinks seawater, anyway! It seems that some segments of the Japanese public and Press believe that miniscule hypothetical risks are more important than human life!

Is Tepco taking heed of the NRA Chair’s admonition? It seems not! It appears Tepco is entirely comfortable with building more and more storage tanks, at considerable cost. They have ceased all decommissioning and recovery work at F. Daiichi until all worker safety considerations are checked and all contractors are fully trained in safety. This is also costing considerable time and money. However, the loss of life, as well as subsequent expenditures for upgraded worker safety, could have been easily avoided if Tepco had shown “appropriate determination” a long time ago and discharged the fully treated waters to the sea.

Yes…I’m mad as a wet hornet about this, and have been since word of the employee’s unfortunate demise hit the news last week. I called for Tepco to begin discharges to the sea in my September 27 Commentary; “A Plea to Tepco and Tokyo: Just Do it!” (2)  NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka is telling Tepco to do the same thing., and start the discharges as soon as possible, before someone else gets hurt.


1 – Fall of Worker: NRA Chairman Urged TEPCO to Release Water to the Sea; http://www.jaif.or.jp/english/news_images/pdf/ENGNEWS01_1421903957P.pdf

2 - http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-commentary-17.html

January 25, 2015

245th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 245th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. This week’s edition includes articles by Dan Yurman, Dr. Gail Marcus, Dr. Jim Conca, Meredith Angwin, Rod Adams, Steve Alpin and Brian Wang. 

Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… Enrico Fermi received the Nobel Prize in 1942 for his important work on the world’s first man-made nuclear reactor, CP1 (The Chicago Pile).

Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include… Governors of Idaho better learn about used nuclear fuel, seven blogger’s unabashed opinions on closure of Vermont Yankee, Google’s shift on renewables, the moon really is a planet, a behind-the-scenes look at the shady source of the standard-setting model for radiation exposure, the latest events in China, and ruminations made in a cold Canadian tent.

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From Dan Yurman’s Neutron Bytes – (2)

Want to be governor of Idaho? Better learn about spent nuclear fuel



French Energy Minister Royal reverses course on Hollande’s plan to close reactors



Dan’s contribution to this week’s ANS Nuclear Café

Seven At One Blow



Thanks to Will Davis, the full trilogy of postings from Nuclear Café can be found at these three links… http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2015/01/19/reflections-on-vermont-yankee-1/ ; http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2015/01/20/reflections-on-vermont-yankee-2/ ; http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2015/01/21/reflections-on-vermont-yankee-3/


From Dr. Gail Marcus’ Nuke Power Talk

Google and Renewable Energy: A Retreat?



From Forbes Magazine’s Dr. Jim Conca

Attention QVC Shoppers, The Moon Is A Planet



From Meredith Angwin’s Yes Vermont Yankee – (2)

Bloggers Analyze Vermont Yankee Closure: Series Starting at American Nuclear Society



American Nuclear Society Blog: Second Part of Analysis on Vermont Yankee Closing 



The Vermont Yankee Series Expands. The "Attitude Post" and more 



From Rod Adams’ Atomic Insights

Suppressing Differing Opinions to Promote “No Safe Dose” Mantra



From Steve Alpin’s Canadian Energy Issues -

Some un-frozen thoughts on humanity, progress, and the dangers of pretending we can run an electricity grid with power that can’t prevent water from freezing



From Next Big Future by Brian Wang – (2)

China's biggest reactor operator will put five nuclear reactors into operation this year 



EMC2 Chief Scientist presents a path to Electrostatic Nuclear Fusion


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Fact or Fiction (?) quiz answer – Fiction. Fermi did win the Nobel Prize, but it was not in 1942 and it had nothing to do with the Chicago Pile. Actually, he won the prize in 1938 for his demonstrations of the existence of new radioactive elements produced by neutron irradiation, and for his related discovery of nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons". http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1938/

January 9, 2015

Japan NRA Chief makes no sense about nuke restart safety

Japan’s chief nuke watchdog says 2015 will be a crucial year for nuke safety. Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka made his first Press statement of the year on January 6th. He said restarting nukes face particularly dangerous risks of accidents. Tanaka gave two reasons for his statement. First, the units have been idled for a long time. Second, they have a lot of new safety equipment never used before. (1)

Both of his reasons make little or no sense.

Yes, the 48 mandated-idled units have not run in a long time, the most recent shutdowns being the two Oi units in September of 2013. Many others have been off for two years or more. Tanaka makes it seem that all idled units have been left alone and the crews have taken a “Well, we’re shut down. Who’s got a deck of cards” attitude. As a veteran of 15 years in construction and commercial operation of an American nuke, I know that Tanaka’s implied concept is simply not the case.

All of the currently-idled nukes were either already in a refueling outage or subsequently went into one when shut down by Naoto Kan’s moratorium. With any refueling outage, considerable activity occurs to insure that a subsequent start-up will occur safety and expeditiously: e.g. systems are tested, planned maintenance is performed as scheduled, and operation’s systems are kept in peak condition. Since this is actually an extended refueling outage with respect to the systems needed for restarts, the passage of time should not make future nuke restarts any different than the routine startups experienced after every refueling period.

With respect to Tanaka’s second reason, the new safety equipment for each Japanese nuke has essentially nothing to do with the operating systems on any of the 48 units. They are not involved with actually restarting the units. The new safety equipment is specific to making sure another prolonged full-station-blackout, a-la Fukushima Daiichi, does not happen again. The emergency systems are there to keep emergency electricity flowing into a plant in the event that another beyond-worst-case natural disaster happens. The equipment has nothing to do with routine startup and operation of the power plant.

Thus, we need to ask; what would possess Tanaka to believe these two things? I can only think of two possibilities. One is that he isn’t knowledgeable in power plant operations. Although he has nuclear engineering credentials and a long history in nuclear academia, his resume’ does not include any power plant operating experience. It seems he has university and research-level reactor experience, but that is a far cry for a large power plant reactor’s operations. I like to say it’s as different as operating a compact car versus a top-fuel dragster. It would be nice to think Tanaka understands operations at nuclear power plants, but his statements indicate otherwise. 

The second possibility is that he thinks he’s demonstrating informational transparency. But, does this include making inexperienced suppositions that can only increase fear in a largely naïve public? I think not. In the words of a famous (now deceased) American sportscaster, “Tell it like it is!” That’s transparency in a nutshell. Don’t tell it like it isn’t! Tanaka’s notion of “particularly dangerous risks of accidents” due to nuke startups is anything but a demonstration of transparency.

To the contrary, it’s a demonstration of naivety.

December 28, 2014

241st Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 241st Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. This week’s edition includes articles by Dr. James Conca, Dr. Gail Marcus, Meredith Angwin, Dan Yurman, Brian Wang, Rod Adams, and Will Davis.

Here’s the Fact or Fiction(?) quiz for this week… The first reactor to operate outside of North America occurred on Christmas Day?

Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include… no danger with hacking into South Korea’s nukes, the benefits of low-carbon technologies, the financial consequences of closing Vermont Yankee, why Yucca Mountain spent fuel repository might not be out of the woods, best-case predictions for nuke startups in China and restarts in Japan, closure of Vermont Yankee makes no environmental sense, nuke plant controls for operation cannot be hacked, and the total lack of international news coverage on the end of Fukushima #4 fuel transferals.

*              *              *

From Forbes Magazine’s Dr. James Conca

Hacking of South Korean Nuclear Reactors Poses No Danger


Three postings from Nuke Power Talk by Dr. Gail Marcus

Views on the EPA Carbon Rule: Support from Outside the Nuclear Industry



Brookings Energy Study: Comparing the Net Benefits of Low-Carbon Technologies



Gas Leaks: Is natural Gas as Clean as We Thought?


From Northwest Clean Energy by John Dobken

Cold Weather is just fine for Columbia Generating Station


Two posts from Yes Vermont Yankee by Meredith Angwin

The High-Cost Consequences of New England's Energy Choices



For Christmas: Muddling Through or Hanging a Star


Two posts from Neutron Bytes by Dan Yurman

Just when you thought Yucca was dead, more trouble



Pro-Nuclear Twitter Feeds


Two posts from Next Big Future by Brian Wang

China could start about 12 nuclear reactors by the end of 2015 and 20 over the next 30 months



Japan could restart 9 nuclear reactors in 2015, 10 in 2016, and 12 in 2017


Two posts from Atomic Insights by Rod Adams

Should groups that celebrate loss of 600 MWe of reliable, ultra-low emission nuclear be called “environmental?”



Prevention is Easier and Less Painful than Cure – Keep Vermont Yankee Operable


From Atomic Power Review by Will Adams

News from Korea leads at year's end


From The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary by Leslie Corrice

The end of the unit #4 fuel transfer isn’t newsworthy outside Japan


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Fact or Fiction(?) quiz answer – Fact.

The first reactor start-up outside of North America occurred on December 25, 1946. It was in the Soviet Union and designated “F-1”.  This was a test (demonstration) unit and did not produce electricity. I found this little nugget in a Nuke Power Talk blog by Dr. Gail Marcus, posted December 7, 2011… http://nukepowertalk.blogspot.com/2011/12/nuclear-power-anniversaries.html

December 24, 2014

The end of the unit #4 fuel transfer isn’t newsworthy outside Japan

For nearly two years prior to Tepco beginning the transfer of fuel bundles from unit #4 at Fukushima Daiichi in December of 2013, the international Press provided coverage of wild speculations on what might go wrong with the effort. Antinuclear organizations regularly chirped about worst-case scenarios, many of which provoked fears of nigh-apocalyptic consequence for all of Japan, if not the world. It was scary, and fear sells. Press coverage of these wild speculation was good for business.

Well, the project is done. None of the supposed problems manifested. But other than the Japanese Press, World Nuclear News, and blogs like this one, there has been nothing about this significant milestone out of the antinuclear persuasion or in the international Press.

I expected the antinuclear groups and their prophets of doom to ignore the end of a year of uneventful fuel movement. They never admit when they have been wrong (which they almost always are), and anything that might appear positive to their rank-and-file followers is avoided like the plague. Back in the mid-1980s, a co-worker sarcastically offered, “The (insert antinuke group name here) treats their followers like mushrooms. They feed them crap and keep them in the dark.”

But, I did not expect abject snubbing by all of the international Press!  Are they treating the public of the world like mushrooms, too? Not reporting on the end of the unit #4 fuel transfer is a prime example of how negative or potentially scary topics about Fukushima Daiichi make headlines, but nothing bad actually happening just doesn’t seem to qualify as being “newsworthy”. It’s as important to the news media as John Q. Public walking the dog. Wait…I take that back. Dog walking occasionally gets coverage. Worst-case speculations that do not happen never gets coverage.

Another instance of this prejudicial practice occurred a few months ago, concerning the child thyroid tests being performed in Fukushima Prefecture. The initial finding that more than 40% of the children were found to have nodules or cysts considered significant (greater than 0.5 centimeters in diameter), about 100 being dubbed “pre-cancerous”, and more than fifty having surgery to remove the suspect thyroid anomalies, made headlines around the world. However, Fukushima University subsequently ran the same testing procedures on more than 6,000 children from three prefectures hundreds of kilometers distant. The researchers found that all three distant prefectures had significantly higher rates of the same thyroid anomalies than the Fukushima kids. In other words, Fukushima children probably have the lowest child thyroid anomaly rate in Japan! (see - http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-child-thyroid-issue.html) Was this reported by any of the international Press? Absolutely not. They didn’t even have the human decency to bury it among the back-end human interest stories!

I was in no way surprised that the antinuclear voices did not acknowledge that Fukushima children actually have less thyroid problems than the rest of Japan. They can’t feed that sort of thing to their mushrooms. But, completely ignored by the international Press? It’s nauseating and repulsive.

When will this odious practice end? Not until the antinuclear lemmings realize their paradigms of nuclear energy doom are as empty as inter-galactic space. Not until the TV news viewers and newspaper readers demand that it stop! But, I’m not holding my breath. Significant fractions of the people of the world like the scary stuff, even if it’s twisted disinformation, misinformation and/or outright fabrication. It’s titillating, and titillation sells. So what if it turns out to be entirely wrong? That’s just not newsworthy.

December 16, 2014

Is the Japan election a nuclear restart mandate?

Sunday’s national election for Japan’s Lower House (i.e. House of Representatives) was carried mightily by PM Shinzo Abe’s LDP (Liberal Democratic Party). Some internet sources are calling this a mandate for restarting Japan’s currently-idled nukes, which has been echoed in a few international Press outlets. While a small fraction of Japan’s largely-liberal Press have tried to make the impending nuke restarts an election outcome issue, the bulk of the election’s Japanese Press have focused on other topics and essentially left the restart issue in the lurch. It is this reporter’s opinion that the lower house election changes nothing with respect to nuclear issues inside Japan.

Here’s why…

The Lower House election was called by PM Abe because of wide-spread negative Press over several controversial moves made by his administration. Abe’s reforms include the recent passage of Japan’s first national security legislation since WWII, the weakening of the yen in order to stimulate foreign investment, and a sales tax in April that flattened the public’s spending. Another sales tax increase is proposed for next year, bringing an additional wave of criticism with it. Abe called for the “snap election” to seek a “renewed mandate” for continuing his administration’s reforms, hoping to counter news media criticism.

On the surface, the election was a landslide victory for the LDP and its coalition partner party, the Buddhist-backed New Komeito. But, it actually made little difference in the political demographic within the Lower House. The coalition already held a 2/3 majority, allowing it to chair all seventeen standing committees in the House. This virtually assures the continuation of smooth passage of all bills at the committee level before being put to a vote in the chamber. It also allows to Lower House to over-ride decisions made in the upper house (i.e. Senate). It further means Abe will remain as Prime Minister, which is not a surprise to anyone.

The Yomiuri Shimbun reports that number of representatives from the ruling coalition increased by only one, and stands at 326 of the 475 seats. One the other hand, only about 55% of all eligible voters actually voted, which was the lowest ever. Most news outlets say the election outcome was largely due to voter apathy. In addition, the LDP garnered only 48% of the total votes cast. As a result, the largely liberal Press is taking a “ho-hum” attitude to the election results. Mainichi Shimbun says the LDP victory is a “mandate that lacks any sense of exaltation”, Japan Times called it a “hollow victory”, the Diplomat dubs it an “ambiguous mandate”, and many other outlets say Abe won by default since there were no other viable parties presenting better options. The Asahi Shimbun went so far as to dub the snap election and abrupt move that caught the opposition parties off-guard, and “the political equivalent to Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941.” It thus seems the Japanese Press’ liberal demographic will likely continue its anti-Abe agenda. This indicates that very little has changed with respect to Japan’s socio-political landscape.

The same can be said about the issue of restarting Japan’s nukes. As was the case before Sunday, restarts will only occur after all new guidelines created by the Nuclear Regulation Authority have been met or exceeded and local public approval has been garnered. Progression toward the inevitable resumption of nuke operations will continue to limp along at a snail’s-pace. To be blunt, nothing will change on the nuclear front due to the election. To speculate otherwise seems unwarranted, either from a pronuclear or antinuclear stance.

It cannot be realistically denied that as the qualified nukes come on-line… one or two at a time with each station’s restart separated from the next by several months… Japan’s treacherous trade deficit will be lessened. This will surely bolster Abe’s effort to affect an economic recovery, but it will be a slow process. Despite a few Japanese news sources reporting to the contrary (e.g. Japan Times, Kyodo News), there is no reason to think the timetable for restarts will speed up or the number of nukes allowed to come on line will swell because of a Lower House election that did nothing more than maintain the status quo.



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