- Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan has become an internationally-acclaimed opponent to nuclear energy. In a Friday interview with the Associated Press, Kan said the Fukushima accident “laid bare” a host of vulnerabilities with Japan’s nuclear industry and its regulation. He believes the disaster mandates Japan reduce its reliance on nuclear energy and replace it with renewables, eventually phasing out all nuclear power plants. Kan said the earthquake and tsunami was not the cause of the nuclear crisis, but rather it was due to a lax nuclear power industry and its regulations, ranging from inadequate safety guidelines to crisis management. He added the crisis was poorly handled due to three areas of insufficiency; communication and coordination among nuclear regulators, Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s management and his own government. Kan denied that he ever withheld information during the crisis, blaming poor Press communications on a lack of timely, reliable data. He further blamed the Fukushima crisis on TEPCO building its nuclear power complex “too low”, meaning it wasn’t high enough above sea level. Kan said he considered a worst-case scenario where all six of the plant's reactors and rods in their spent-fuel pools would have melted down, which could have forced the evacuation of millions of people, including Tokyo. But, he denied actually planning to evacuate Tokyo. Kan said that up until March 15 the situation was losing ground to “the invisible enemy”, but by March 17 he felt that the emergency cooling sprays using seawater had reduced temperatures enough to ease his concerns. The accident convinced him there is no future for nuclear energy, considering the magnitude of the damage from an accident and the yet-to-be resolved question of what to do with radioactive waste. Then, he made a bizarre statement, considering what had already been said, “I wouldn’t call myself anti-nuclear. I seek a society non-reliant on nuclear energy, a society that can do without nuclear energy, and Japan can prove a role model. It’s possible.” (Associated Press) Not anti-nuclear? Who is he kidding?
- The scandalous web tabloid, International News Network, has dubbed Kan an “Energy Apostle”. In addition to echoing the AP report, INN says Kan is still haunted by the specter of having Tokyo evacuated. In a Friday interview, INN quotes Kan as saying, “The biggest factor was how at one point, we faced a situation where there was a chance that people might not be able to live in the capital zone including Tokyo and would have to evacuate. If things had reached that level, not only would the public have had to face hardships but Japan’s very existence would have been in peril.” (INN)
- The Health Ministry has officially set their Cesium standards for food and drink far lower than anywhere in the world. The action has brought considerable criticism from the Radiation Council of the Science and Education Ministry. One Radiation Council member said, "The basic premises for calculating the limits are too strict." Other Council members feel the new standards are based on calculations that are not realistic. One anonymous Council member said, "I wonder [the limits were calculated] based on a fictitious scenario." In response, a senior health ministry official said, "We aimed to set standards that protect a large majority of people, even in a case when multiple worst-case [scenarios] are combined." Health Minister Yoko Komiyama admits that his heavy influence is behind the restrictive standards based on protecting children, "In order to feel safer, we'd like to set stricter limits for baby food items." Another Health Ministry official adds, “We think we must protect the public's health by setting a rational standard under the strictest assumptions. We have a different view from the report presented by the Radiation Council." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- Yokosuka residents have demanded that their city not assist in tsunami rubble disposal. Representatives of ten community groups presented a letter to the local governor on Saturday, seeking a retraction of the city’s desire to help with tsunami clean-up. The groups say they are concerned that the rubble might contain “radioactive fallout”. They admonish the governor for allegedly agreeing to help with rubble disposal before first checking with them. The group also feels accepting the tsunami trash would produce rumors that could hurt the local farmers and fishermen. (JAIF)
- TEPCO has announced that their last operating nuke will be shut down March 26. With Today’s shutdown of Takahama unit #3, the TEPCO Kariwa unit #6 shuttering in March will leave Japan with but one remaining nuke in operation. The final operating nuke, at Tomari NPS, will be shut down in late April. (News on Japan) With Friday’s closure, Kansai Electric has called for further energy-saving efforts to avoid the possibility of rolling blackouts. If no idled nukes are restarted by the end of April, the ever-tightening electricity supply issue in Japan will only get worse. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- Japan’s Forestry Agency would like to build four biomass-burning power plants to rid Japan of tsunami debris and ease the power shortage. The plants are proposed to be built in Miyagi and Iwate Prefectures, will burn 200,000 tons of material per year, and produce a total of 16 MWe of electricity. Barring local meddling, the four units can be finished and operating in 2014. (News on Japan) Radiophobia has effectively paralyzed tsunami debris incineration, so the Forestry Agency should expect the worst.
- South Korea is making an attempt to recruit TEPCO officials to buttress their nuclear program. Two TEPCO executives were approached last year. One was asked about his reduced salary over dinner and his views concerning a move to South Korea. It is expected more will be approached this year. South Korea gets 30% of its electricity from nukes and is actively promoting its nuclear technology around the world. (News on Japan)
- Radiation exposure is not the cause of sickened and dead ringed seals along Alaska’s northern coast. America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says tissue samples taken from seals and walruses show no evidence of abnormal radiation levels. The investigation was spurred due to local concerns about possible radioactivity levels from the Fukushima accident. (News on Japan)
- TEPCO has submitted its official report on the faulty temperature monitor to NISA. The abnormal temperatures indicated were due to unusually high electrical resistance in the circuitry. The monitor will no longer be used. TEPCO plans to lower the water injection flow to the unit #2 RPV as soon as NISA approves the change. (NHK World)
- The city of Shimada, Shizuoka Prefecture, has begun test incineration of March 11 tsunami debris. If the ash from the burning is below 500 Becquerels per kilogram, the city will formally agree to accept tsunami waste from Yamata in Iwate Prefecture. This will be the second city outside the Tohoku region to accept tsunami debris for disposal. The first was Tokyo, which has processed about 2,400 tons to date. Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono, Shizuoka governor Heita Kawakatsu and Shimada mayor Katsuro Sakurai witnessed the test run on Thursday. The city will allow residents to check the ashes on Monday to alleviate fears. Authorities will give residents dosimeters to measure contamination levels. Meanwhile, ~30 locals protested the trial voicing safety concerns based on fear of radiation exposure. "We are worried about environmental pollution and the health hazards," one of the protesters said, while another demanded that authorities explain the contamination risks to residents in much greater detail. Shimada has a population of just over 100,000 people. (Japan Times)
- Within the Tohoku Region, Yamagata Prefecture has disposed of nearly 50,000 tons of tsunami debris this winter without elevating local resident exposures. There has been little or no local outcry since the prefecture began processing the material. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- Eight Prefectures in Japan say they are willing to accept and dispose of tsunami rubble, if strict standards for Cesium levels can be met. 26 others say they are unwilling. In addition to Tokyo, Yamagata, and Aomori Prefectures which have begun accepting rubble, Akita, Saitama, Kanagawa, Shizuoka and Osaka are “taking measures” to begin their support of the clean-up. Seven others are “considering” acceptance. It seems the current trial run of incineration in Shizuoka Prefecture is the litmus test upon which most supportive prefectures will make a final decision. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- On the downside, fears of radiation and nuclear energy holds sway in most prefectures. The most visible example is Kanagawa Prefecture where Gov. Yuji Kuroiwa has held three explanatory town meetings for Yokosuka residents in January and February. Kuroiwa has stressed the relative safety of the debris since December when he announced his intention to accept it, but a vocal minority has forced him to postpone a final decision. "Nuclear power plants have been considered safe. Nevertheless, a major accident [in Fukushima Prefecture] broke out. We can't believe the central government's safety standards," one resident said. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- Mayor Takashi Kusano of Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture, says he will consider allowing a temporary disposal site for wastes containing radioactive Cesium. However, he says it should not be the only facility in the 20km no-go zone. He says it should be one of at least two facilities, pointing to the one proposed for Futaba. Criticism of his intent has caused him to clarify his position. On Wednesday, Kusano said, "It doesn't mean the town of Naraha has decided to accept a storage facility. I meant by the remarks that we want intermediate storage facilities to be built as quickly as possible. If the central government officially requests it, we will have to discuss whether to accommodate such a facility.” Nonetheless, Kusano is the first no-go zone government head to speak positively about the possibility of temporary storage. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- Economists and businesses are pessimistic about the future of Japan’s de-facto moratorium on nukes. Japan’s Institute of Energy Economics believes replacing nuclear powered electricity with thermal (fossil-fueled) sources will increase fuel costs in 2012 by $42 billion over 2010 levels. This could mean an 18% hike in residential bills and a 35% increase for businesses. The Daiwa Institute estimates the increased costs will reduce the nation’s economy in 2012 by more than one percent, which will be the first downtrend in decades. The Institute’s chief researcher, Hitoshi Suzuki, says the situation “…could push Japanese companies to further shift production abroad.” The Institute also fears the loss of nuke electricity could cost japan 300,000 jobs by 2017. On the other hand, Masao Tanaka of Nagoya University says there was 4 to 5% electricity reserve in Japan last summer, so there should be enough to keep the economy rolling. However, Tanaka’s conclusion does not factor in the more than 10,000 MWE lost to nuke shutdowns since then. The only commodity estimated to grow significantly is solar and wind generating technology. Not to be outdone in the gloom-and-doom arena, president of leading renewable manufacturer Sharp Corporation Katsuhiko Machida says, “If we continue to rely on nuclear power and petroleum, modern society will be destroyed.” (Asahi Shimbun) No matter how you cut it, Japan’s economy circles the drain…
- Because of public fears, the Environment Ministry will study levels of radioactive substances that could be feeding into Tokyo Bay from rivers. At the same time, the Education Ministry will study water, bottom mud, and Bay organisms. Incessant pleas from some residents who live in or near the bay are the root cause. They want to know if the fish they catch are safe to eat or if it is safe to let children swim in the waters. They fear that “fallout” from Fukushima has been washed into the Bay by rivers due to rainfall and concentrated in the Bay itself. They also fear that Fukushima Cesium has gotten into the bay’s food chain. The Environment Ministry’s study begins today and the Education Ministry’s work will begin in April. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
Comment – Is the No-Go Zone “Uninhabitable”?
The Press, inside Japan and around the world, has labeled the 20km no-go-zone around Fukushima Daiichi “uninhabitable”. In a strict sense, the word means “unfit to live in”. In the words of fellow ANS Social Media member Mark Norsworthy, “’Uninhabitable,’ to me and I suspect to most, conjures the thought ‘if people go there, they will die’…Desolate wastelands, completely devoid of and hostile to life.” I believe Norsworthy’s notion is precisely what the Press is intending. Anyone who has followed this blog, and/or kept a close eye on the Japanese news reports about the no-go zone can see that the term uninhabitable is inappropriate. Actually, we might better define the no-go zone as a place the Japanese government has decided no-one is allowed to live, for the time being. “Off limits” would be perhaps a better phrase for the situation. The no-go zone was established rather arbitrarily by former P.M. Kan who essentially used a grade-school compass to mark off the area on a map, encompassing all our parts of seven municipalities. At least some of the no-go zone is eminently habitable...and habitable right now! At least one of the zone municipalities (Kawauchi Village) has caught on to this fact and wants to re-open their community to repopulation in March. They plan on having sufficient support infrastructure in place by April. Only Futaba and Okuma, both adjacent to F. Daiichi, have contamination levels so high that it could take 30-50 years before repopulation will be permitted. The other six communities could be repopulated as soon as 3 years, given Tokyo’s restrictive standards. Should the Fukushima no-go-zone be termed “uninhabitable”? Of course not. It’s a politically determined “off limits” area.
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- Japan’s Nuclear Technology Institute (JANTI) has issued a formal criticism of former Prime Minister Kan’s Fukushima Investigative Panel’s preliminary report of December 26. They assert four major criticisms. (1) An accurate picture of the Fukushima accident is not given. (2) There was insufficient investigation as to the cause(s) of the accident. (3) In general, analysis of emergency actions and background are insufficient. (4) Many proposals are not based on logical analysis and/or do not match reality. JANTI urges that the Tokyo Panel’s final report incorporate thorough investigation and technical verification. (JAIF)
- Nuclear Safety Commission chief Haruki Madarame blames the mistakes and safety shortcomings during the triple-meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi on bureaucrats and utilities that failed to heed calls for better disaster preparedness. He pointed a guilty finger at his predecessors at NSC, as well as the rest of the “nuclear village” comprised of government bodies and nuclear utilities. In unsworn testimony before the Diet, Madarame said that advised safety improvements in tsunami protection from around the world were ignored because of the assumption that no long-term electrical blackout situations were possible. "While various safety guidelines were being considered internationally, (the commission) spent its time finding excuses and explaining why Japan did not need to take such measures,” he said. (Japan Times)
- The panel also summoned Nobuaki Terasaka, former head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, to testify. He admitted he had no actual background in nuclear energy when he became the Chair of NISA, so when he was summoned to the Prime Minister’s Emergency Task Force on March 11 he sent a surrogate with nuclear experience in his place. "I realized that deep technical knowledge would be necessary after such a severe accident and felt that someone with such technical expertise should stay at the prime minister's office," Terasaka said, "I did not study nuclear engineering, nor did I build my career on nuclear safety." (Japan Times) The remainder of the Prime Minister’s Emergency Task Force were also career bureaucrats with no nuclear background. At least the NISA surrogate had some. We shudder to think how bad it would have been if Terasaka had not done the right thing. Would then-P.M. Kan have panicked and evacuated out to the unreasonable American suggestion of 80 kilometers? Or worse, would he have evacuated Tokyo?
- In what seems to be a first for Japanese nukes since Fukushima’s accident, the Onagawa Nuclear Power Station has installed three huge emergency back-up diesel generators. Each unit is rated at 4 MWe and located high above the sea level (more than 52 meters …160 feet) in order to preclude their being flooded-out should a Fukushima-sized tsunami hit the facility. The diesels are designed to support the plant’s installed emergency diesels. Should the primary emergency diesels be rendered inoperable, the new ones will supply more than enough electricity to insure adequate cooling of plant systems and a speedy progression to a state of cold shutdown. (JAIF)
- It’s official. The problematic thermometer on the PCV of unit #2 is broken. TEPCO ran a resistivity test on the wiring of the monitoring device and found it to be 1.7 times greater than specifications. This means there is either a break or major short-circuit somewhere in the electrical system. Tuesday morning, the indicated temperature shot up to more than 200oC, while two other nearby monitors showed a 31oC reading. This prompted TEPCO to run the circuitry check and the malfunction was discovered. (JAIF) Why TEPCO waited this long to make the circuitry check is a mystery. We suggested a monitor failure from the start, which has been echoed in Atomicpowerreview.com since February 7. If two American bloggers on the other side of the world can figure it out, why not TEPCO?
- 22% of the Japanese public wants their currently-idled nukes restarted. A poll run by NHK World, with about 1,000 respondents, reveals that 36% are against restart and 36% are undecided. Although NISA has officially approved the stress test results for Oi 3 & 4, local government approval is sought before actual resumption of operation will be allowed. (NHK World) This poll indicates that opposition to nuke restarts might be waning.
More disturbing news out of Japan? I think not!
The Press, fueled by the Japanese news media, has been focusing on the faulty temperature monitor inside the PCV (Primary Containment Vessel) of Fukushima Daiichi unit #2. Early Sunday morning, the indication rose to ~82oC, which is above the national guideline of 80oC for maintaining a state of cold shutdown. At 2:20pm, TEPCO informed NISA that the temperature guideline for unit #2 was “no longer satisfied” as stipulated in the “Reactor Facility safety Regulation” as a “condition for Operation”. A ton of liquid boric acid was injected into the RPV, followed by a 3-ton-per-hour increase in cooling water flow. Total injection rose to 17.5 tons per hour. Within a few minutes, the indicated temperature began to decrease. By 3pm, the monitor indicated 79OC, once again below the guideline. But this morning (Monday), the monitor rose to 94oC. Looking at this trend in isolation is being widely purported as “more disturbing news from Japan”.
However, two other detectors in close proximity to the problematic one have been steadily decreasing in temperature the entire weekend. Both of them now read about 33oC, down from about 42oC before this all started. As TEPCO has been increasing cooling water flow, the two temperature decreases have followed completely in-step. While this fact has not been completely ignored by the Press, it has been reported at the very end of each article we have seen, making it a relative “ho-hum” adjunct to the “real story”. In any other industrial facility, if one instrument provides an unexpected change and the others show either nothing or the opposite trend, the problem monitor’s reading is rejected due to obvious malfunction. That is, any industrial realm other than nuclear. Everything in nuclear energy gets exaggerated by the Press to the negative extreme…everything! This is perhaps the most obvious example in Japan since March 11, 2011. By all rational thought, TEPCO’s judgment of a faulty device is correct. At least one sensible voice can be found…"It is unlikely the one showing 91.2 degrees is correct and the other two are incorrect because the other two show almost the same temperature," Toshihiro Yamamoto, a specialist in reactor safety management at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, told The Japan Times Monday. But, the international Press neglects to mention Yamamoto’s statement.
What makes matters worse, and borders precipitously on the absurd, is the speculation that the materials inside the reactor have moved, creating a localized hot spot. We’re talking about temperatures below 100oC, for crying out loud! That’s not hot enough for any “movement”. However, in the news media’s unquenchable thirst for “balance”, nay-saying voices have been found. "Because we haven't been able to grasp how the nuclear fuel in the cores has been distributed, it's impossible to rule out localized high temperature spots," says Kazuhiko Kudo, a special professor of nuclear engineering at Kyushu University. (Mainichi Shimbun) So, why hasn’t this hot spot been detected over the past 10 months? Probably because there is no hot spot! All this sort of reporting does is feed the anxiety of a public already paralyzed by the double-whammy of radiophobia and The Hiroshima Syndrome.
Which brings us to a final informational issue…The international Press calls everything inside of or attached to the reactor building “the reactor”. This is as incorrect and misleading as saying your entire house is your kitchen. The reactor is the steel vessel that contains the uranium core, and everything inside the vessel. All structures and material outside the steel container are not the reactor. Just like my kitchen is not my house, the reactor is not the entire power plant!
Now, for the real news…
- Fears of radiation are stopping the massive amount of debris due to the March 2011 tsunami from being sent to other areas for processing. Even those local officials who wish to help are politically restrained from providing assistance. Keisuke Hiwatashi, mayor of Takeo, Saga Prefecture, feels the need to help processing debris. On Nov. 28 he announced that Takeo would take some of the material for disposal. However, over 1,000 phone calls and e-mails came in over the next two days, including one that could be considered a threat. Hiwatashi withdrew his decision because of these complaints. The mayor says he wants to use naturally occurring radiation as a standard, but Hiroki Nonaka, a representative of a local citizen's group, opposes bringing in debris under any circumstances. "We should not spread contamination. We can help in other ways, like receiving evacuees or sending safe crops," he said. Koichi Toyoshima, professor of physics at Saga University, commented, "Radiation levels differ across the different parts of debris. The plan to use the maximum limit of naturally occurring radiation would be hard, as the volume (of debris to measure) is large." Hiwatashi is considering holding a referendum on the issue. Elsewhere, in Kanagawa Prefecture where the government has said they want to help, most residents at meetings have been opposed to the idea and the receipt of debris is indefinitely delayed. In Niigata Prefecture, although cities have expressed willingness to consider taking on debris, the prefectural governor is reluctant to do so because of widespread fears of radiation. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- A last-minute push by the Tokyo-based anti-nuke petition drive may have succeeded. The Tokyo branch of the Let's Decide Together/Citizen-initiated National Referendum on Nuclear Power claims to have garnered about 250,000 signatures just before the February 10th statute deadline, which is a bit more than the 214,000 that was needed. Before the petition can be formally considered by the Tokyo metropolitan assembly, the signatures must be officially verified by the city. Undaunted, the Let’s Decide group leaders have begun a news media blitz designed to gain support, as if they already have the petition verified. On Saturday, the group attacked Tokyo Governor Ishihara’s December statement that the group’s agenda is “sentimental and hysteric”. The group believes the governor’s considerable political influence will prevent their intended referendum from happening, despite their petition. Eiko Nakamura, head of the group, said, "I think that assembly members can't make entirely independent decisions because they have to vote in line with the policies of their political parties. So we must press each member to find out their own opinion, and lobbying them will be crucial." Clearly, their lobbying efforts include using the news media. She added, "A plebiscite is a way for all citizens to express their opinions on an equal footing, regardless of their beliefs…I believe that's very important." Another signature drive for a nuclear referendum is planned by the group in Shizuoka Prefecture, to start around the end of March. (Japan Times)
- On Sunday, Tokyo’s Governor Ishihara confirmed his opposition to “Let’s Decide Together”. The governor criticized activity against nuclear power, saying: "It's impossible to create such an ordinance, and I have no intention of doing so…The most troublesome thing among humans is sentiment. Because Japanese have the trauma of atomic bombs, people speak [against nuclear power plants] out of fear.” However, if the group submits a legal, verified petition to the governor then he must bring the demands before the Metropolitan Assembly so they can deliberate on it. (Yomiuri Shimbun) At least one Japanese governor seems aware of The Hiroshima Syndrome.
- The Ibaraki governor has been presented a demand to never allow restart of the Tokai Nuclear Power Station. A petition has been circulated around the prefecture and has garnered more than 51,000 signatures. The document was given to Governor Masaru Hashimoto on Saturday. The petition states, in part, "We should not allow a recurrence of the irretrievable sacrifice and loss as experienced in the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident." Crisis management head Katsuyoshi Tan responded to the submittal, "The (central) government has not yet announced its decision on resuming operations (of idled nuclear reactors), so we are undecided." The head of the petition drive wants a decision made independent of the Tokyo government. This petition is the second given to the Governor since November. (Mainichi Shimbun)
- Japanese radiophobia has spilled over into neighboring China. Wangjiang district’s local government in Anhui province has demanded that the construction of a new nuclear power station be halted immediately because “residents in the quake-prone region are in terrible danger if the nuke complex is completed.” They cite Fukushima’s accident as their evidence that earthquakes cause radiation leaks. The Wangjiang officials state that "gas and toxic liquids emitted by the plant will severely affect residents downstream. The Fukushima nuclear power plant accident in Japan last year represents a big warning." The two most recent temblors were 5.7 and 4.9 on the Richter scale. The 5.7 quake was more than 1,000 times less severe than the 9.0 quake in Japan’s Tohoku region on March 11, 2011. This seems to mean nothing to the locals. The Chinese central government has correctly said that the claims are "baseless". (Nuclear Power Daily)
Comment - The true crime of March 11, 2011!
11 months after the earthquake and tsunami devastated the coast of the Tohoku region, the Tokyo government has finally established a Reconstruction Agency to deal with recovery. This comes after nearly a year of political dickering within the central government while millions of tons of debris smolder with unhealthy inattention. Not to mention more than 200,000 evacuees who are unable to return to their homes. We’re not talking about the Fukushima no-go zones, either. That’s a different issue. The Tohoku non-nuclear disaster is a national embarrassment of international proportion. While the attention of the world has been directed to the plight of the Fukushima evacuees by the government and Japanese Press, very little has been reported concerning the much, much worse situation with the evacuees along the rest of the Tohoku coast. It’s beyond unreasonable. It’s ludicrous! Tokyo says they can now “quickly address the needs of the people in the disaster zone.” Who do they think they are conning? Upon today’s announcement Prime Minister Noda said, "I feel the heavy weight of responsibility that I need to meet the expectations of the people in the disaster area." Your words ring hollow, Mr. Noda. You and your predecessor (Naoto Kan) clearly have not felt enough weight to do the right thing as soon as possible. Politically-predicated delays of an unconscionable nature have transpired and the central government is the culprit. The Diet should be dissolved and the party leaders responsible for this largely avoidable situation should be tried for crimes against their own people. Propriety demands I practice restraint in what I write here…and I am. I’m livid with outrage! Local officials along the Tohoku coast have denounced Tokyo’s inactivity since last spring, and for good reason. 11 months of literally doing nothing while exploiting the political fruits of the Fukushima accident is beyond all ethical and moral comprehension!
Now, for the news…
- As of Thursday at 11am, the problem temperature reading on the unit #2 PCV had dropped to 65oC. By Friday, the temperature has held at the same level.
- The first scientific analysis of the March 11 tsunami has revealed a 21 meter-high wave hit about eight kilometers south of Fukushima Daiichi. The preliminary results were made public Thursday. All previous wave height reports inside the 20km no-go zone have been estimates made by TEPCO based on high-water marks on plant structures. No tsunami specialist has been allowed to enter the no-go zone to make analysis until now. Nearly the entire Fukushima Prefecture coastline south of F. Daiichi experienced 10 meter waves, except for the region within the no-go zone. Researchers including Shinji Sato, a professor at the University of Tokyo, obtained permission from local governments to enter the zone for the first time since the tsunami and made surveys Monday & Tuesday. "It is necessary to do more research on what caused the tsunami to hit the central part of the prefecture particularly hard," Sato said. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- TEPCO is using an underwater remote camera to examine the condition of the 1,535 spent fuel bundles in SPF #4. The camera will be used several times through March. This is the first step in preparing to remove the fuel bundles from the severely damaged building, which is planned for March, 2014. Visibility in the pool is about 16 feet. The footage taken by the camera shows no damage to any of the stored fuel bundles. The footage also shows considerable debris lying on top of many bundles from the building explosion of March 15. (NHK World)
- The Plant Manager at Fukushima Daini (Fukushima No. 2) has gone public with what happened there after the 9 meter tsunami hit on March 11. Fukushima Daini is located about 10km south of Fukushima Daiichi (Fukushima No. 1). Naohiro Masuda, in charge of plant operations since the crisis, told reporters Wednesday, "The No. 2 plant almost suffered the same fate as No. 1,” because the plant’s seawater supply pumps were flooded which shorted out their motors. The pumps fed many emergency cooling components in each power plant at Daini, and this reduced their ability to remove decay heat from the three operating reactor cores. However, there was never a full blackout. Most emergency diesels started automatically and plant electrical interconnections supplied all four units. One power line bringing electricity into the power station continued to function. Although cooling functions were reduced by the loss of seawater pumps, there was enough other cooling system flows to keep the reactor cores from experiencing fuel damage. All Daini reactors were finally in a state of cold shutdown by March 15. Masuda pointed out that there were about 2,000 people at the plant on March 11, which he termed “lucky” because the tsunami hit during a routine workday. If it had hit during the dead of night or on a weekend, there would have been less than 100 employees on-site and emergency-mitigating operations would have gone much, much slower. He praised the employees who spliced together a nine-kilometer-long cable stretching inland to another operational electric power source which eventually provided additional electricity. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- In a complete about-face, the Tokyo government says they have no intention of restarting the two Oi nuclear plants. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano denied that the government will give the green light for resumptions of operations without consensus among local residents on the issue, "We have no intention of setting a deadline for reactivation." Edano dismissed some news reports that the government will aim to reactivate Oi's No. 3 and 4 reactors by April, saying, "I have no such intention." (Mainichi Shimbun)
- The first of 12 temporary radioactive waste disposal sites near Fukushima Daiichi has been opened to the Press. A huge hole has been excavated and completely lined with thick waterproof sheets. Waste material is densely packed in thick poly bags and stored in precise fashion by a crane. A Japan Atomic Energy Agency official in charge of the operation stated, "We are building these (temporary disposal) sites in such a way that, even when full of waste, radiation levels won't rise in the surrounding area." (Japan Times)
- The much-ballyhooed demise of nuclear energy in Germany has taken an unexpected turn. Because of unprecedented cold weather across the Continent, there is literally no excess electricity for Germany to buy in order to keep up with demand. So, they are restarting currently shut down nukes to prevent blackouts. Five of the eight reactors shut down are serving as reserve generators in case electricity demand cannot be met from other sources. (Daily Handelsblatt) In other words, the nukes are being started and idled in a stand-by mode in case a full-powered unit goes down, in order to have replacement power immediately available and avoid a blackout condition. Will Japan use this as a model to relieve the nation’s current near-blackout electricity shortage by restarting some of their currently-idled nukes? We hope so, but are not optimistic. The pressure of political expediency in Japan far outweighs rational decision-making.
- On Tuesday, TEPCO increased water injection to RPV #2 to try and reduce the temperature. One monitor on the Primary Containment Vessel continued to indicate high temperature, so the operators raised flow through the core spray line from 3.8 to 6.8 tons per hour. After a few hours, the temperature dropped from 71oC to 69oC. Meanwhile, the two temperature monitors on the RPV dropped from 44oC to 40oC. It seems the RPV is being cooled faster as a result of the higher injection rate, but the PCV monitor is not dropping in temperature as quickly. As of this morning (Wednesday), the TEPCO says the problematic monitor reading had slid down to 66oC. (Mainichi Shimbun) Some of the Japanese Press maintains that if the temperature increases beyond 80oC, they will no longer be able to say unit #2 is in cold shutdown, but there seems to be no official foundation for the claim. NISA says they want the temperature to stay below 80oC so there will be a sufficient margin below the 100oC cold shutdown criteria. Nuclear disaster minister Goshi Hosono told reporters that TEPCO is making every effort to lower the temperature. He mentioned the recent plumbing changes on the water injection system, saying, "This was a process to enhance stability, but it has become clear that there is a possibility (the replacement work created) an unstable situation temporarily. We have to consider matters in an even more careful way.” In addition, some Press says there are fears of recriticality because TEPCO reported that the increased water flow includes boric acid, a fission inhibitor. Actually, the possibility of recriticality is almost zero, with or without the boric acid.
- TEPCO says a contractor company has discovered the overflow of a temporary water pool next to unit #2 at Fukushima Daiichi. Upon the discovery, pumps feeding the pool were stopped, terminating the overflow. Investigation of nearby drainage ditches revealed none of the water in them. There was no leakage to the sea. The pool was receiving water being pumped out of several sub-drains at the plant site. The contamination level of the water is less than one Becquerel per cubic centimeter.
- Because of the Fukushima accident, all nuclear plant operating companies have agreed to install “hardened” containment venting systems. The decision was announced by the Federation of Electric Power Companies, which represents all Japanese utilities. This includes pressurized water reactor systems surrounded by huge domed containment structures. The Japanese boiling water reactor containments, like Fukushima Daiichi, are much, much smaller and already have venting systems that need electricity to operate as designed. But, the new commitment will insure that vents will be operable by hand from remote sites in case power is lost. Operators will also write accident procedures to cover a prolonged full-station blackout, similar to what Fukushima Daiichi experienced. (NHK World)
- The Tokyo government wants to restart two of KEPCO’s Oi nuclear plants in April. Why? Because another nuke will be shut down at the end of February and place the nation’s thin electric supply on the crucial edge. When 97% of the nation’s available power supply is being consumed, there is little margin for error and sudden loss of one large power plant’s output could cause widespread blackouts. The anticipated nuke shutdown in 2-3 weeks will bring the numbers above 97%. Hopefully, the current unprecedented cold wave gripping Japan will subside by the end of the month and lower national electricity consumption. The problem with the gov’t plan is local opposition the Oi reactors restarting. Disaster Minister Edano says he will soon meet with Fuku Prefecture Governor Nishikawa to fully explain the safety of the Oi systems and the critical need the rest of the nation has for their electricity. Sources close to Edano say they are not optimistic toward getting local consent. Both units have submitted satisfactory stress test data. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- Is the tide turning? 17% of the municipalities that host nukes have said they support restarts! 72% are either opposed or have not made a firm decision. The other 10% did not respond to the survey run by NHK World. When asked what, in addition to stress tests, is needed for restart approval, 48% cited a firm understanding of the Fukushima accident and 38% said the government needs improved national safety standards. Most of the opposed communities say their main concern is persuading residents the reactors are really safe. (NHK World) Up to this point the Japanese Press has made it seem that only one local community supports a nuke restart. There are at least five. Has the Press been making the situation seem worse than it is because bad news sells better than good news? Hmmm…
- One of former P.M. Kan’s advisors in his March emergency task force says the Fukushima accident is not really over. Hiroshi Tasaka, nuclear engineering professor at Tama Universtity, warns the condition is far from resolved, "I would say (the crisis) just opened Pandora's box." He also said the March 25 worst case scenario submitted to Kan on March 25 showed him how dangerous spent fuel pools can be. "The storage capacities of the spent fuel pools at the nation's nuclear power plants are reaching their limits," Tasaka wrote in a new book, The Truth About the Nuclear Accident as Viewed From the Prime Minister's Office. Tasaka is also concerned about the "groundless optimism" of bureaucrats and business leaders rushing to restart dozens of reactors idled since March 11. (Japan Times)
- Glencore International’s $62 billion takeover of Xstrata will put a further financial squeeze on Japan’s already-shaky economy. “The coal market will likely tighten because the merger accelerates market domination by suppliers,” Hidetoshi Shioda, a senior analyst at SMBC Nikko Securities Inc., said, “Japan will increase coal imports because of energy issues after the Fukushima accident.” Yuuki Sakurai, chief executive officer at Fukoku Capital Management Inc. in Tokyo said, “Fewer suppliers through mergers and acquisition activities may oligopolize (sic) the market.” (Bloomberg)