Fukushima Commentary


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)

To help keep this page free for everyone, please consider a donation. Everyone tips restaurant service, why not tip your Fukushima service and click on the "donation" button in the left-hand column...

July 19, 2014

How Safe is “safe enough” in Japan?

The question of “how safe is safe enough” has suddenly emerged in Japan. The reason is the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s approval of Kyushu Electric’s submittal on safety improvements for Sendai units 1&2. The NRA says Sendai meets all of their safety regulations, so there is no technical reason to bar restarts. Even though a month-long process of establishing local public approval remains, the NRA finding has spurred the Japanese Press to ask the rhetorical “safe enough” question; which has not been publically broached in the island nation before.

The typically-objective Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan’s largest newspaper, addresses the question without actually stating it. (1) Its answer seems to be that since the Sendai unit’s meet all regulatory criteria, they should be judged safe enough for full-power operation. The newspaper states, “Passing safety screening under the new safety standards is a precondition for reactivation of reactors.” The Yomiuri stresses that Kyushu Electric’s 400-page submission is detailed, including measures taken to avert “maximum impact of an earthquake on the reactors and tsunami height, as well as its measures against serious accidents including hydrogen explosions.” Owing to NRA pressure, Kyushu Electric substantially raised its assumptions for the maximum impact of an earthquake on the reactors and tsunami height, and upgraded accordingly. The Yomiuri also points out that Kyushu Electric is presently running on a thin margin of electrical reserves, and loss of only one fossil-fueled unit could make their surplus capacity vanish. Operation of the two Sendai units will keep this from happening. The implied conclusion is that by passing the NRA requirements, the Sendai nukes are “safe enough”.

However, the majority of major newspapers in Japan are purporting the opposite opinion. Many begin their commentaries with a recent statement by NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka, "We cannot say that a disaster will never happen. The regulations cannot guarantee safety." This opens the door for reasoning fraught with the promotion of uncertainty and doubt, all of which is designed to reinforce public fears.

Perhaps the most flagrant example is the Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second-largest newspaper, which seems determined to make itself the most antinuclear of the bunch. The Sendai units may meet NRA regulations, but is not “safe enough” for operation according to the Asahi. (2) Their editorial opens with, “It clearly hasn't dawned on the central government and Japan's electric power companies that it is impossible to construct a nuclear plant that is 100-percent safe.” It goes on to say that the “stance” of the nuke utilities has been “backward looking” since the Fukushima accident, and wrangled themselves out of “a huge investment of time and money” by “understating” estimates on maximum-possible quakes and tsunamis. In other words, the Asahi believes Japan’s nuclear utilities have ignored the lessons wrought by Fukushima. Thus, they should not be allowed to restart any of the idled nukes.

What the Asahi conveniently ignores is that the utilities have paid out billions of dollars in upgrades to meet or exceed the new standards, all of which have been based on extreme worst-possible scenarios for quakes and tsunamis. It has not mattered if the scenarios are likely to happen in the next millennia-or-so. The NRA said it must be done, thus it will be done or there will be no restart approval. The Sendai units are the first to show that meeting the new worst-case quake and tsunami mandates is entirely possible. This is not in any way an indication of “backward thinking”. Further, the Asahi fails to admit that the Nuclear Regulatory Authority has proved the worst earthquake in Japan’s history produced no safety system compromises at Fukushima Daiichi. The newspaper seems fixated on the vacuaous idea that the quake caused unacceptable damage on 3/11/11, and that there’s no way any nuke could survive a stronger temblor. This is nothing less than irresponsible fantasy.

With respect to the NRA, the newspaper says the new standards are “nothing but the minimum level required for safety.” The Asahi argues that nuclear utilities cannot be trusted to do the right thing during an accident condition, strongly implying that Tokyo should take charge in all cases. Their commentary says, “The electric power companies themselves must bring the [emergency] situation under control. There is no indication of how the central government would take responsibility should another serious situation occur in Japan.” Undoubtedly, the newspaper fails to comprehend that the people most qualified to handle emergencies are the plant staffs, and that virtually no-one in Tokyo has any plant operating experience. In fact, the utterly naïve orders from Japan’s PM, Naoto Kan, unnecessarily delayed the venting of unit#1 and virtually insured the subsequent hydrogen explosion which doomed both unit #2 & #3. The ignorant should never be allowed to lead the knowledgeable. How the Asahi can argue to the contrary with a clear conscience is unfathomable.

The Asahi also believes that no nuclear plant should operate before all public protective plans are completed. This sounds reasonable, but the bottom line is that public safety begins with multi-layered technological safeguards, followed by sound decisions made by the plant staff if and/or when a physical safety compromise is possible. The Asahi fails to acknowledge that the concept of “defense in depth” is the essential public protective factor. Regardless, the newspaper says that Tokyo should take control of such a situation, and not leave the decision-making to the local officials. The utter disaster of the Tokyo-organized nuclear evacuation, based on unrealistic and unscientific radiological assumptions, necessarily proves that a central government should never be given this type of responsibility. The local officials know their people and infrastructure far better than anyone hundreds of kilometers distant, and radiation biologists and Health Physics professionals understand the actual effects of radiation exposure many times better than naïve politicians whose main concern is garnering votes.  

The Asahi also fails to consider that the Sendai units are quite different from F. Daiichi. F. Daiichi has Boiling Water Reactor systems, while Sendai has Pressurized Water Reactor plants. (For the distinction see “The Nuclear Cooling Tower” at http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/the-nuclear-cooling-tower.html which illustrates both types) But, perhaps the most important difference is in the containments that surround the reactor vessels. Fukushima has the relatively small GE Mark I design, which proved to be not forgiving enough with respect to hydrogen generation. The PWRs at Sendai not only have Mark I-similar inner structures for containment (drywells), but the entire nuclear structure is surrounded by a massive domed outer GE Mark III containment, which showed its safety in 1979 at Three Mile Island by withstanding an internal hydrogen explosion.

Finally, it seems the newspaper is overly-charmed with foreign prophets of nuclear energy doom who have long-held that the only safe nuke is one that never operates. The Asahi’s objections are essentially an echoing of long-held antinuclear grandiloquence concerning rhetorical uncertainties and insubstantial doubts. The editorial closes with the following question that shifts responsibility to the most innocent group in Japan, “Now that Japanese society knows what is involved, does it really want to again use nuclear power?” In other words, if the Sendai units restart and a Fukushima-level accident occurs, the people of Japan bear the ultimate responsibility by allowing it to happen in the first place. This level of hubris on the part of Japan’s second-largest newspaper is intolerable, especially since the Asahi makes no effort to balance its opinion with the existent facts.

References :

1 - http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0001429038

2 - http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201407170044

June 29, 2014

215th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 215th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. This week’s edition includes articles by Rod Adams, Dr. James Conca, Meredith Angwin, Margaret Harding, Brian Wang, Will Davis, and (your’s truly) Les Corrice.

Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… Marie Curie was the first woman to win a Nobel Prize and is the only woman to win two.

Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include – nuclear as the best way to boil water, the criminal act of using radiation to scare people, the “bad science” used to set radiation standards, a “love letter” to engineers, Fukushima children not dying of cancer, and more.

 

From Atomic Insights (2) –

Cheap, emission-free way to boil water

H2O had always been important for people, but when they learned to pump it as a liquid, heat it into a pressurized gas, and condense it back down into a liquid, H2O became the vital working fluid that could turn heat into work and force machines to become the drudges in service to human beings. It is not an exaggeration to note that without the act of boiling water to create and use steam, getting rid of serfdom and slavery would have been virtually impossible. http://atomicinsights.com/nuclear-fission-cheap-emission-free-way-boil-water/

(and)

Fission is an elegant way to heat a gas 

What if it was possible to combine low capital cost, reliability, and responsive operations of simple cycle combustion gas turbines with the low fuel cost and zero-emission capability of an actinide (uranium, thorium, or plutonium) fuel source? Machines like that could disrupt a few business models while giving the world’s economy a powerful new development tool. That would be especially true if the fuel source was in a form that could withstand all possible temperature and pressure conditions without being damaged. http://atomicinsights.com/fission-elegant-way-heat-gas/

 

From Dr. James Conca

Scaring the Japanese People with Radiation Is Criminal

Many unethical researchers, activists and reporters claim thyroid cancers have exploded in Japan and Japanese children are dying by the thousands. They have misrepresented two un-comparable data sets from before and after the Fukushima accident, purposefully inflating the post-Fukushima numbers to imply a huge health affect in children. But there is no increase in thyroid health problems in Japanese children living in and around the Prefectures of Fukushima. This malfeasance hurts grieving parents. http://www.forbes.com/sites/jamesconca/2014/06/25/scaring-the-japanese-people-with-radiation-is-criminal/

 

From Yes Vermont Yankee (2) –

"No Safe Dose" is Bad Science. Updated. Guest post by Howard Shaffer

Shaffer writes about the Linear Non Threshold (LNT) theory of radiation, which claims that there is no safe dose of radiation.  This claim was first made as part of an essentially noble "fear campaign" against atmospheric testing. But the LNT science was wrong even in those days.  It is time to get back to the real science. http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2014/06/no-safe-dose-is-bad-science-guest-post.html#.U66vZqNOUdV

(and)

Protecting Against Nothing: The Failings of ALARA

A comment on Shaffer's LNT post said the industry doesn't actually have to get radiation doses to zero (as LNT would imply) but only to "reasonably achievable" levels (as in ALARA).  In answer, Angwin writes that the definition of "reasonable" is subject to expensive interpretation.  In contrast, threshold numbers, such as standards for safe drinking water, can be met without endless challenges. http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2014/06/protecting-against-nothing-failings-of.html#.U66v26NOUdV

 

From 4 Factor Consulting

A Love Letter to Engineers

A reprint of a column in honor of Engineer's week in Fuel Cycle Week. Margaret Harding writes a love letter to engineers. Engineers are more than the stereotype; we make the world work in so many different ways. It is an honor to be an engineer and a joy to have so many of them in my life. http://www.4factorconsulting.com/love-letter-engineers/

 

From Next Big Future (3) –

The future of more cities, more nuclear energy and water management

Urbanization is closely associated with energy demand, and greater urbanization is projected to lead to greater electrification around the world. The connections between successful urbanization and energy demand are examined. http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/06/the-future-of-more-cities-more-nuclear.html

(and)

800 MW fast neutron Russian breeder reactor is fully powered up

Rosenergoatom engineers brought Beloyarsk 4 to criticality - a 789 MWe fast-neutron reactor of the BN-800 design - while its parent (Rosatom) honored the operators who commissioned the 5 MWe Obinsk reactor on the same day in 1954. Its capacity exceeds that of the world's second most powerful fast reactor – 560 Mwe Beloyarsk 3. Russia plans to build a BN-1200 fast reactor power unit at Beloyarsk to start up by 2020. http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/06/800-mw-fast-neutron-russian-breeder.html

(plus)

Prospects for lower cost nuclear fission power

A Technology Review article laments that there is a slump in nuclear construction "worldwide" and that this will mean climate targets will not be met. If the emerging economies like China and India do not have strong growth then there will be less new power generation built. The possibilities with state-of-the-art nuclear technologies are examined. http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/06/propects-for-lower-cost-nuclear-fission.html

 

From The Hiroshima Syndrome

Fukushima Children are NOT Dying!

Harvey Wasserman’s Fukushima’s Children are Dying is the epitome of fabrication. It contains a tacit death threat on children and an unfounded claim of international nuclear conspiracy between the IAEA, WHO and UNSCEAR. The truth is that Fukushima’s child thyroid program has possibly saved dozens of young lives. Wasserman lies like a rug! http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-fud/fukushima-children-are-not-dying.html

From ANS Nuclear Cafe (2) –

Nuclear Power Uprates: What, how, when, and will there be more?

Will Davis writes that over the years, existing U.S. nuclear plants have added generating capacity equivalent to almost 7 entirely new 1000 MWe plants, through power uprates - an amazing amount of new energy - at a fraction of the cost. How does this work exactly? Is there room for more?

http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2014/06/26/nuclear-power-uprates-what-how-when-and-will-there-be-more/

(and)

"Vogtle Loan Guarantee Finally Approved"

Jim Hopf explains that the Vogtle #3 and #4 reactors project received a federal loan guarantee, and without a credit subsidy fee…after the government determined the financial risk is not significant. A small subsidy for nuclear energy? Well, sure – same as renewable projects, which are also exempt. Hopf says this practice needs to spread to nuclear projects in unregulated electricity markets too.

http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2014/06/24/vogtle-loan-guarantee-finally-approved/

 

*                      *                      *

Fact or Fiction (?) answer – Fact.

Marie Curie and her husband were awarded half of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 for their study into spontaneous radiation discovered by Becquerel (who was awarded the other half of the Prize). In 1911 she received a second Nobel Prize in recognition of her work in radio-chemistry. 44 women have received the Nobel Prize, but Marie Curie is the only woman to win the honor twice. http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1903/marie-curie-bio.html -- http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/lists/women.html

June 18, 2014

Nuclear Obsession Covers Up the Impact of the Tsunami on Fukushima Refugees

The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011, resulted in a huge number of deaths and a massive degree of property damage along the Fukushima Prefecture coastline. It is now known that 1609 people were killed and 207 remain missing, more than 21,000 buildings totally collapsed (or were completely swept away), more than 73,000 buildings were half-collapsed, and partial damage occurred at 160,313 specific locations. (1) While the numbers of dead and missing with Fukushima are considerable, they pale in comparison with Iwate (4,673 dead and 1,132 missing) and Miyagi (9,538 dead and 1,272 missing) Prefectures. Meanwhile the number of totally collapsed buildings in Iwate was actually a bit less than in Fukushima (19,107 vs. 21,252), and there were more than eleven times fewer half-collapsed buildings in Iwate (6,599 vs. 73,570). The partial property damage number for Iwate was nearly nine times lower for Iwate than Fukushima (18,601 vs. 160,313). Clearly, the amount of property damage done by the quake/tsunami of 2011 in Fukushima Prefecture was staggering, and can be understood as much worse than with Iwate.

This brings a number of questions to mind that cry out for answers…answers that ought to be readily available and given serious news media attention.

1 – How many of the oft-cited Fukushima evacuees would still be refugees if the nuke accident had never happened? The number of government-mandated evacuees has been documented as roughly 85,000. The total number of Fukushima refugees is often reported to be about 135,000. The 50,000 difference is often stated to be due to “voluntary” evacuees who fled due to fear of radiation. However, looking at the police statistics, I now seriously doubt the “voluntary”, radiation-fleeing concept applies to most of the non-mandated refugees in Fukushima. I now believe that the majority of them would still be refugees if the nuke accident had not happened!

The number that jumps out at me is the more than 21-thousand totally collapsed buildings in the prefecture. Let’s assume that 20,000 were homes with perhaps three persons per domicile. That’s some 60,000 refugees that lost everything to the temblor and/or tsunami wave. If it weren’t for the nuke accident, they would be no better-off than the approximately 200,000 refugees still languishing in relative inattention in Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures. How many of those 60,000 are included in the mandated evacuee statistics? How many of the 60,000 are included in the “voluntary” demographic? I offer that these two questions cry out for answers, and there is no reason why the relative numbers cannot be ascertained.

Those included in the “mandated” group are getting a bit more than $8,500 (USD) per month in compensation payments, and the total for the entire group now stands at $17 billion (June 13 numbers). (2) In addition, those owning homes are receiving similar individual disbursements in property compensation every month. In fact, the amount of property payouts stands at more than $17.5 billion (June 13, again). As for the “voluntary” evacuees, they have received a total of more than $3.5 billion. This should be compared to the Miyagi and Iwate refugees that get about a twentieth of the amount garnered by mandated Fukushima refugees, at between $400 and $600 per month. Property owners in Iwate and Miyagi can get $27,000 (lump sum) toward rebuilding, but this is merely 10% of the average construction cost of a new home.

2 – Would the current Fukushima evacuees be getting the considerable compensation they now receive if there were no nuclear accident?

Probably not! There is no reason to think they would be any better-off than the Miyagi/Iwate refugees of today.

3 – Should the Press distinguish between the number of Fukushima evacuees and those who would now be refugees if the nuke accident had not happened?

Of course!

However, there hasn’t been even the most meager attempt on the part of the news media, both inside and outside Japan, to make this important distinction. The same is true for the Tokyo and Fukushima governments. It is something that ought to happen, but I seriously doubt that it ever will happen. Here’s why. It would seriously diminish the “news value” of the so-called plight of the Fukushima refugees with the Press, perhaps more than the fact that the mandated evacuees are making a small fortune out of remaining estranged from their homes. Further, it would show that the governments are more concerned with making political hay out of the Fukushima accident evacuees, at the expense of the Iwate/Miyagi refugees. Let’s face it, one of the unreported “feel good” stories since 3/11/11 is that the tens of thousands of quake/tsunami refugees in Fukushima Prefecture are far, far better-off than their Iwate/Miyagi Prefecture peers.

4- One of the most widespread stories of the past six months is that the number of Fukushima Prefecture “related” deaths now exceeds the number killed by the quake/tsunami (1656 vs. 1609). (3) It should be noted that if the Fukushima quake/tsunami “missing” numbers are added to the toll, the total would be 1816. Why isn’t this point ever made by the news media? Plus, why isn’t anyone, including the Press and the Japanese government, distinguishing between the Fukushima accident-related deaths and the Fukushima quake/tsunami related deaths?

Let’s do some more speculating with some reasonable numbers. There have been 434 Iwate Prefecture “related” deaths since 3/11/11, with a complete or partial loss of 27,000 homes due to the tsunami and quake. Meanwhile, the “related” deaths in Fukushima Prefecture is now at 1,656, with a complete or partial loss of ~95,000 homes. Using some simple math we find the rate of “related” deaths per home loss for both Fukushima and Iwate Prefectures is roughly the same! (Iwate=0.16 vs. Fukushima=0,017).

Without distinguishing between Fukushima’s nuke accident “related” deaths and those that would have happened if the nuke crisis had never happened, the Japanese government and the Press are doing the world a great disservice. In fact, this may well be the most severe instance of cover-up. The Press is covering this up because it would make the nuke accident aftermath seem much, much less than has been promoted to date. The governments are covering it up because Tokyo can make Tepco pay huge sums to the Fukushima evacuees while a relative pittance goes to the Iwate/Miyagi refugees, and make it seem reasonable. In actuality, Tokyo believes Tepco will reimburse them for every yen now being loaned for evacuee compensation. Further, the cover-up masks the fact that Tokyo is literally helpless in giving equivalent help to Tsunami refugees. Finally, if these questions are addressed by the Fukushima government, they run the risk of having Tokyo cut off the money flow to the prefecture for reconstruction.

References –

1. Damage Situation and Police Countermeasures associated with 2011Tohoku district - off the Pacific Ocean Earthquake; National Police Agency of Japan; June 10,2014 http://www.npa.go.jp/archive/keibi/biki/higaijokyo_e.pdf

2 – Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments; http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-evacuee-compensation-payments.html

3 - Fukushima’s appalling death toll; The Japan Times; March 1, 2014. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/opinion/2014/03/01/editorials/fukushimas-appalling-death-toll/#.U59aZKNOUdV

June 4, 2014

The Godzilla Movie and the Parallel with Fukushima

I’ve seen every Godzilla movie ever made. I was an adolescent when the first one hit America, and I immediately fell in love with monster movies…a passion I have held to this day. Needless to say, when the latest Godzilla movie hit the big screen a few weeks ago, I was there.

The movie opens at a Japanese nuclear plant which had cooling towers. I found this more than a bit odd because none of Japan’s actual nukes have them. I told myself it was only a movie and settled in for the duration. A few minutes into the flick, the nuke seems to be struck by a massive earthquake, causing the entire facility and its towers to collapse. Over the next 15 years (movie time) a wide radius around the devastated nuke is turned into a virtual no-go zone by the government due to allegedly high radiation levels. The parallel to Fukushima seemed obvious.

As it turned out, the government used public fear of radiation as a smokescreen to deflect the world’s attention away from what was really happening. A massive, radiation-eating primordial monster (called MUTO) was hatching beneath the station. There was no actual earthquake and there was no radiation released because the MUTO “egg” was absorbing it all. Rather than spoil things for those who have yet to see this epic monster movie, I’ll not get any deeper into the plot. But I will say that, once again, Godzilla saves the world.

I was wrong in my initial feeling that the movie intentionally appealed to the public perception of what happened at Fukushima in March, 2011. However, there was another more-subtle (and real) parallel with Japan’s reaction and response to the Fukushima accident. The nuke accident in Japan was successfully used by the government to deflect the world’s attention away from the real disaster – the earthquake and tsunami of 3/11/11. The earthquake destroyed or damaged more than a million buildings in Japan, and thousands lost their lives in the process. The tsunami forced the evacuation of nearly 500,000 people along the Tohoku region’s Pacific coastline, caused some 20,000 deaths (including the presumed dead), and made 250,000 of the evacuees permanently homeless.

The massive scale of this natural calamity was overwhelming and the political regime in Tokyo was literally helpless and hopeless concerning what to do. Nothing of this magnitude had struck Japan in it’s recorded history. Further, the government’s flawed policies over a period of more than six years had the nation’s economy literally circling the drain. Not only did Tokyo not know what to do, but there was precious little money to do anything even if they did. For politicians, this sort of experience is a career death-knell, and the Naoto Kan regime would inevitably collapse. Regardless, Kan and his party (Liberal Democratic Party) would not go down without a fight. They needed something to turn the Press’ focus away from their ineffectiveness, and they needed it fast!

Less than eight hours after the tragedy struck, the nuclear accident became a fixation of the Kan regime. The PM interfered in what was happening at F. Daiichi, and made a point to let the Press know that he was in charge. His infamous helicopter flight to F. Daiichi the morning of March 12 now seems little more than a ploy to get some positive Press, which the quake/tsunami would never have given him. When the first hydrogen explosion at Fukushima Daiichi occurred later that day, the government was provided with a convenient smokescreen. As the cloud of the explosion’s debris blew toward the northeast, the world’s news media pounced on it like hungry predators. The horrific aftermath of the quake/tsunami immediately became a secondary topic. In less than a week, the Fukushima accident was all we heard about.

Could a more perfect smokescreen have been anticipated? The weeks and months following 3/11/11 were rife with news reports about the Fukushima aftermath, and the Kan regime used it to the fullest while a quarter of a million tsunami refugees languished in utter inattention.

Thus, the parallel between the new Godzilla movie and Fukushima emerges. In both cases, a nuclear plant accident is used as a cover-up for the real problem-at-hand.

(Aside - By the way…I positively enjoyed the movie and highly recommend it to all Godzilla/monster-movie buffs. It is great fun.)

June 1, 2014

211th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers

The Hiroshima Syndrome’s Fukushima Commentary is proudly hosting the 211th Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers. This week’s edition includes articles by Gail Marcus, Adam Hoffman, Brian Wang, Rod Adams and Leslie Corrice.

Here’s the Fact or Fiction (?) quiz for this week… Albert Einstein’s famous formula, E=MC2 was first presented to the world in his General Theory of Relativity in 1910.

Now…for this week’s Blogs. To read the full articles, please click on the individual links. Blog topics for this edition include – the Veteran’s Administration needs nuclear lessons, disposal of waste Plutonium, status of a fusion energy project, a Helen Caldicott documentary, retired seniors working to rebuild a Fukushima town, Fukushima workers not fleeing the accident, and the status of Fukushima evacuee compensation payments. 

From Nuke Power Talk

Lessons from VA: A Reminder for the Nuclear Community

Gail Marcus reports on the recent scandal at the Department of Veterans Affairs.  While cautious because the situation is still unfolding, Marcus contrasts the behavior observed at the VA with the type of safety culture instilled in the nuclear community.  She sees both the possibility of other industries and organizations learning from the nuclear community. The VA situation is potent reminder of the need to maintain vigilance within the nuclear industry to guard against similar behavior. http://nukepowertalk.blogspot.com/2014/05/lessons-from-va.html

From ANS Nuclear Café

Plutonium Disposition by 'Downblending and Disposal'"

Guest blogger Adam Hoffman reports – The US DOE recently released a report on alternatives to MOX for plutonium disposition. Hoffman examines the pros and cons of 'downblending and disposal,' an option viewed favorably in the report. Also included is information on an AAAS breakfast panel event on the topic to be held Wednesday June 4 in Washington DC. http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2014/05/29/plutonium-disposition-by-downblending-and-disposal/

From Next Big Future

Focus Fusion uses the natural instabilities of plasma instead of fighting them like the gigantic tokomaks for a smaller and vastly cheaper solution to nuclear fusion

LPP Fusion reports that the fabrication of the first new tungsten electrodes, the anode, or inner electrodes, is now complete and arrived at the Middlesex, NJ, lab on May 9. The electrode will contribute to greatly reducing the impurities that have prevented high density in our fusion-generating plasmoids. First, it connects to the rest of the circuit outside the vacuum chamber, eliminating any possibly of internal arcing. Second, it is made of pure tungsten, a material that far better resists vaporization than copper electrodes. The much larger and more complex outer electrode, or cathode, is being machined into shape at NJ Precision Machining and is now expected to be finished by late June. http://nextbigfuture.com/2014/05/focus-fusion-uses-natural-instabilities.html

From Atomic Insights – (2)

Dr. Helen Caldicott versus emission-free nuclear energy

In a lengthy video, Canadian film-maker Gordon McDowell has made a documentary contrasting proponents of emission-free nuclear energy and long-standing nuclear critic Helen Caldicott. Even casual viewers should recognize that Dr. Caldicott is a deeply pessimistic, irrational speaker, who accuses nuclear energy professionals of being sociopaths and equivalent to war criminals. Rod Adams asks, “How did our supposedly rational society get to the point where someone like Caldicott is considered by such a wide range of people to be a respectable source of information?” http://atomicinsights.com/dr-helen-caldicott-versus-emission-free-nuclear-energy/

(and)

I want to join the Okuma Town Senior Brigade

Inspired by an Atomic Insights reader, Adams viewed an NHK World documentary about six retirees who now work daily to protect and preserve Okuma Town, which is a home community of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. The retirees spend considerable time working to make it possible for evacuees to return home. Adams says he wants to join in their efforts. http://atomicinsights.com/want-join-okuma-town-senior-brigade/

From Yes Vermont Yankee

$17 Million Vermont Yankee Check to Utility--Use It Well

(Guest post by Reg Wilcox) 

Grid prices were high this winter, and Vermont Yankee "shares revenue" with the Vermont utilities when the grid prices are high. As a result, Vermont Yankee has sent more than $17 million dollars to Green Mountain Power (and the smaller utilities).  Reg Wilcox's suggests the utilities should use the money to lower rates for their customers, instead of funneling it to their favorite efficiency or renewable projects. http://yesvy.blogspot.com/2014/05/17-million-vermont-yankee-check-to.html#.U4if8yiTSwE

From The Hiroshima Syndrome – (2)

In Fukushima Commentary, 5/28/14…

Did Fukushima Workers Flee in Mortal Terror?

The world’s press has reported that 650 emergency workers fled Fukushima Daiichi on March 15, 2011, fearing for their lives. It is also alleged that they disregarded the orders of their plant manager Masao Yoshida. However, this seems to be another example of the news media “spinning” the facts in order to present the most sensational point of view possible. In fact, it might be a tempest in a teapot. http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-commentary.html

(and)

A new Hiroshima Syndrome Information page…

Fukushima Evacuee Compensation Payments

The Fukushima evacuees are receiving huge monthly compensation payments. The numbers are so great that it’s hard to believe, but the numbers don’t lie. http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/fukushima-evacuee-compensation-payments.html

*        *        *

Fact or Fiction answer – Fiction.

Einstein’s famous, paradigm-shifting formula was in his Special Theory of Relativity published in 1905.Also, the title of this ground-breaking work was actually “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies”. 

May 27, 2014

Did Fukushima Workers Flee in Mortal Terror?

The world’s press has reported that 650 emergency workers fled Fukushima Daiichi on March 15, 2011, fearing for their lives. It is also alleged that they disregarded the orders of their plant manager Masao Yoshida. However, this seems to be another example of the news media “spinning” the facts in order to present the most sensational point of view possible. In fact, it might be a tempest in a teapot.

On March 15, it appeared to F. Daiichi management that the situation was finally coming under control. All of the damaged cores were being cooled with seawater and the possibility of additional hydrogen explosions was nearly zero. There were more than 700 people at the plant site who had been combatting the situation for nearly five days. They needed a break. Plus, Yoshida’s staff had to decide upon subsequent mitigation efforts. It was decided that seventy of the workers would be needed to insure that conditions at the station would be maintained. Keeping the rest of the workers in the higher radiation fields would cause them un-necessary exposures while they waited for further orders. Thus, Yoshida decided to move un-necessary personnel to low exposure locations within the plant property boundary.

Yoshida’s order to withdraw to low-level locations seems to have been misunderstood. The workers were loaded on busses and driven to the Fukushima Daini station, 10 kilometers south of F. Daiichi. Some actually drove their own cars. Actually, the misunderstanding provided the temporarily un-needed staff with the lowest possible exposures and the best place to rest and recover from the exhaustion caused by five days of intense emergency efforts.

But, this is not the way the scenario has been portrayed by the Press. The New York Times ran their story under the headline “Panicked Workers Fled Fukushima Plant in 2011 Despite Orders, Record Shows”. The Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s widest-read source of antinuclear angst, headlined “90% of TEPCO workers defied orders, fled Fukushima plant in 2011”. In both cases, inferences of a cover-up by Tepco are obvious. The NY Times article says, “If true, the account challenges earlier descriptions of the day’s events that portrayed the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco, as having evacuated all but a small number of highly dedicated workers.” The Asahi says, “Tokyo Electric Power Company…has never mentioned the orders Yoshida issued on March 15, 2011.” NY Times affiliate, the Japan Times, makes it seem the government was complicit in the cover-up under the provocative headline “Government silent on report Fukushima No. 1 workers fled during crisis”. This is because Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined comment by saying, “We don’t know what the Asahi Shimbun has obtained and we can’t say its contents are identical to those the government has.”

The uproar started with the Asahi Shimbun getting a copy of Masao Yoshida’s complete testimony given to the Japanese Diet (congress) during the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigative Committee’s (NAIIC) inquiry into the accident. It supposedly covers more than 400 pages. During the testimony, Yoshia said “In fact, I didn’t tell them to go to 2F [F. Daini]. I thought I gave the order to temporarily evacuate to a location where radiation levels were low near the [Fukushima Daiichi] plant and await further instructions.”

To add insult to injury, the Asahi strongly suggests that Yoshida’s withdrawal “order” was ill-advised. The upper two stories of the unit #4 reactor building had exploded on March 15, and a loud thudding sound had been heard from inside unit #2 concurrent with the unit #4 blast. The Asahi adds that pressure had suddenly dropped in unit #2 for an unknown reason. To the Asahi, these two events made it seem that the accident was not coming under control and Yoshida’s decision to remove 650 workers from the site was misguided.

The skewed reporting was further exacerbated by quoting a former senior Asahi writer and current chairman of the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation who feels the government has not done its job to protect the public by insuring that panicked workers never do this again. He said, “This country operated nuclear plants without such systems. And the situation still hasn’t changed yet. [Japan] is still unable to draw up a [contingency] plan to deal with the worst-case scenario.”

For perspective, let’s try to put ourselves in the shoes of the F. Daiichi workers ordered to withdraw to lower radiation exposure locations. Yoshida told them to go where the radiation levels were low. No specific location seems to have been suggested in the order itself. The entire F. Daiichi plant site had elevated radiation levels due to the three hydrogen explosions and subsequent uncontrolled releases of airborne radioactive isotopes. The F. Daini station did not suffer meltdowns was not in the airborne plume path coming from F. Daiichi. Thus, it makes sense for the workers to have assumed that Yoshida meant for them to withdraw to F. Daini. In fact, the Asahi mentions that Yoshida never blamed the workers for doing what they did! Further, Tepco’s response to the Asahi’s inquiry on the matter fully supports Yoshida, “Evacuating temporarily to the No. 2 plant [F. Daini] was not a violation of regulations because Yoshida’s order left open the possibility of leaving for the No.2 plant if there were no locations at the No. I plant [F. Daiichi] where radiation levels were low.”

Thus it seems that the workers who withdrew from F. Daiichi on March 15 did not “flee” in mortal fear. At the time, they apparently felt they were following orders. Let’s face it…if they actually fled in mortal terror, why did each and every one of them show up at F. Daini? If there was actually a death-fearing panic, at least a few would have bolted to some location outside the [then] 20 kilometer evacuation radius mandated by Tokyo, and not have placed themselves in a position to be ordered back to F. Daiichi. There was no panic, the workers did not flee in terror, and the press is making a mountain out of a mole-hill.

References:

1 - http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/21/world/asia/fukushima-workers-fled-plant-after-accident-despite-orders.html?emc=edit_tnt_20140520&nlid=22734935&tntemail0=y&_r=1

2 – http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201405200031

3 - http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/05/20/national/government-silent-report-fukushima-1-workers-fled-crisis/#.U4Hv1aNOUdV

May 16, 2014

Japan Today says the truth is “obscene and vulgar”

Japan Today posted this article on Friday (5/16/14)... http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/source-of-contaminated-water-leak-found-at-fukushima-no-3-reactor  

Upset with the brazen bias within the report, I submitted the following comment... "Another irresponsible scare-mongering article. True, a small leak was found, but Japan Today merely used it as a convenient excuse to re-hash old news while leaving out the truth....the tank leak is not getting into the Pacific...local fishermen have approved the groundwater release as long as the radioactivity is below 1 Becquerel per liter for Cs-134, which this week's third party analyses have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt...the international alarm has subsided...and Korea's fishing ban was a political ploy largely because of saber-rattling over off-shore island ownership and a many-century history of mutual dislike. There's more to pick apart, but this should get the point across."

The newspaper rejected it because it is "offensive and vulgar".

I decided to dash-off a response after I stopped rolling on the floor laughing. I've criticized their Fukushima coverage a number of times in the past for being biased and irresponsible. If what I commented is offensive and/or vulgar, I’ll eat my hat.

I guess they don't want to hear that the leak they reported isn't where the article says it is (a storage tank). It's from a Main Steam Isolation Valve Drain line inside unit #3. http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2014/201405-e/140515-01e.html Japan Today didn’t even get the location of the leak right! It had nothing to do with the wastewater storage tanks! As of Saturday, the misinformational article had not been corrected. Making such an egregious error, and arrogantly neglecting to correct it, is a journalistic vulgarity. In my honest opinion, the Japan Today article is offensive and their rejection of my comment is laughable. 

May 9, 2014

The “Fall Back” for Japan’s Press on a Slow Fukushima News Week

This past week, relatively little Fukushima news has been posted by the Japanese Press. No new contaminated wastewater tank leaks. No cooling system failures. No mishaps with the relocation of spent fuel bundles from unit #4 pool. In fact, nothing negative to report on from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station. For many news outlets, however, this does not mean there will be no adverse Fukushima news reports. Rather, there is an always-in-place, ready-for exploitation human-interest story that can be tapped during the slow periods of negative Fukushima news; a “fall back” if you will.

Most of the 85,000 people forced to leave their homes due to government dictum remain estranged from their homes; the remaining Fukushima accident evacuees. With a population that large, there are unquestionably a large number who are continually upset and suffering from radiophobic angst. It takes little effort for reporters to find them, get a few “juicy” quotes, and create an article expressing their grievances. This is what I call a “fall back” report, guaranteed to get the kind of attention that is good for the news business. One such article was posted by the unabashedly antinuclear Japan Times on May 7th, entitled “No-go ‘zone’ a state of mind”. (1)

The subtitle reads, “State's rush to reopen irradiated areas in Fukushima puts ex-residents in bind”. Obviously, this is intended to mean that three years is too soon for repopulation. Further, the subtitle implies that the subsequent article will provide examples of those who are reluctant to repopulate, plus those who are ready to go home. Unfortunately, the report posts only the opinions of the disgruntled and fearful.

The story focuses on the community of Tomioka, divided into three repopulation zones. One zone is ready for the residents to return and Tokyo currently allows the people around-the-clock access in “preparation” for fully lifting all remaining restrictions on-or-about July 1st. The other zones are (1) “in preparation to lift evacuation orders”, which will begin the three month pre-repopulation period of round-the-clock access, with radiation levels below the 20 millisievert per year limit for residential return, and (2) a “restricted” zone where residents are allowed visits for only a few hours at a time, where radiation exposures range between 20 and 50 mSv/yr. There is a fourth zone designated “difficult to return” where access is summarily denied, with estimated exposure levels above 50 mSv/yr.

The article also mentions that each evacuee gets $1,000 per month for mental anguish. However, it fails to report that this stipend is above and beyond the $7,500 every man, woman and child receives each month for evacuation compensation, and the additional hundreds of millions in monthly pay-outs to property owners and businesses. Regardless, the article is presaged with the ominous fear-intended statement, “Above all, radiation is everywhere”, soon followed by an appeal to uncertainty and doubt, “But distrust about the decontamination program runs deep. Is it really safe?”

The majority of the report focuses on a few highly disgruntled persons and their emotionally-appealing stories. One, a former librarian, returns occasionally to his former home, clothed in full anti-contamination coveralls, wearing a face mask and a dosimeter hung around his neck. His property is described thusly, “Grass grows wild in the backyard. The ceiling leaks. Thieves have ransacked the shelves, leaving papers and clothing all over the floor so there is barely room to walk. Mouse dung is scattered like raisins. There is no running water or electricity.” He and his wife recently viewed the nearby cherry blossoms, which were in full bloom. “They flower as though nothing has happened,” he said. “They are weeping because all the people have left.” Will he return full time when restrictions are lifted? The Times article does not say.

Another former resident, Shigetoshi Suzuki is outraged anyone would even ask “Do you want to go back?” He says it is a preposterous query, “It is a ridiculous question. We could have led normal lives. What we have lost can’t be measured in money.” Suzuki has refused to sign the form giving Tokyo permission to decontaminate his Tomioka home. Why would he do this? Is it because he would lose his generous compensation income a year after restrictions are lifted? Does he think that refusing free decontamination will keep the money flowing into his pockets indefinitely? It seems that loss of income is at the root of the issue, doesn’t it?

Michiko Onuki, who ran a ceramic and craft shop out of their Tomioka home, has a different objection to returning permanently, “The prime minister says the accident is ‘under control,’ but we feel the thing could explode the next minute. We would have to live in fear of radiation. This town is dead.” He is not going back because he feels there is no hope for the future of the town.

Another problem is the differing zone designations in Tomioka, which assemblyman Seijun Ando says is pitting groups of residents against each other. He wants to rebuild Tomioka in a less-radioactive part of the prefecture, a place he envisions as “for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.”Tears welling up in his eyes, Ando added, “I can survive anywhere, although I had a plan for my life that was destroyed from its very roots. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suffering. I’m just worried for Tomioka.”

However, their feelings of anguish and anger are not balanced with interviews with those who feel less negative…who eagerly seek going home…those few who are taking advantage of the opportunity for unlimited stay in the one zone soon to be released from its political shackles. The Times only tells the stories of those who best exemplify the pains of constant fear, uncertainty and doubt.

It’s been a relatively slow week for negative Fukushima news reporting. But, the Press can always fall back on the exploitation of the angry…the frightened…the uncertain…the doubtful. The Japan Times has done just that.

1. http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/05/07/national/go-zone-state-mind/#.U2t_qqNOUdU

 

 

Earlier Posts >>