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Fukushima 33...5/28/12-6/8/12


June 8

  • More information on unit #4s spent fuel pool auxiliary cooling interruption… Investigation into the overheating condition on the primary pump’s melted electrical housing revealed an “improper terminal connection” as the cause. The backup pump was shut down to find if it had the same improper connection, as well. It did. After shutting off the backup pump, the connection was fixed. The backup pump was restarted and has operated without further incident. (TEPCO Press Releases)
  • Tepco’s president during the Fukushima accident has denied ever considering abandonment of the F. Daiichi power complex. In testimony before the Diet’s Fukushima investigative panel, Masataka Shimizu said he told cabinet minister Kaieda they were considering evacuations from the plant site on March 15, 2011, but, “I was not saying that we would withdraw everyone. The basic premise was that we would leave a number of people.” He admitted he never told Kaieda they were planning on leaving a staff of essential operating personnel, but he had no idea that his words would be severely misunderstood. (Japan Today)
  • The three major parties of the Japanese Diet have agreed on a compromise with the creation of a new nuclear regulatory system. The bill will be voted on by the Diet before its scheduled June 21st adjournment. The new system will be as independent of the government as the law allows (National Government Organization Law), with a two-layered system. A commission will be made up of experts and scholars who will make safety decisions for the nuclear industry. They will have a support Agency below them to insure the new safety standards are complied with. There were 17 specific points of debate, some of which have yet to be worked out. In a move that stuns this writer, the bill will give the prime minister the right to order “key instructions” to the affected power plant staff, like injecting water into the reactor pressure vessel. The majority Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) believes the allowance of political intervention in on-site management of a nuclear crisis will expedite handling of the situation. The minority parties wanted no such power given to the prime minister, but they eventually agreed in a compromise move. It is unclear whether or not the PM will have the right to control venting (depressurization) of the containment. (comment – This is a terrible decision. Naoto Kan’s naïve and rumor-based interference with Fukushima staff only made the situation worse. His meddling did nothing positive. Unless the PM has sufficient experience with nuclear plant emergency operations, he /she should never be given this level of legal authority. To date, no PM would so-qualify. – end comment) When the final bill is passed, it will lay the basis for nuke plant restarts since most local opposition is predicated on the new regulatory system not yet existing. (Yomiuri Shimbun) One thing is for sure - a “no return” rule will be included in the bill. This means that if a bureaucrat becomes part of the commission, he/she cannot return to their prior job after their term has ended. This will effectively cease the past practice of bureaucrats from the Industry Ministry being cycled through NISA (Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency) - a practice said to be one of the reasons behind Japan’s inadequate tsunami protection, which made the Fukushima accident possible. (Kyodo News)
  • Prime Minister Noda has gone public with his explanation of the need to restart two Oi nuclear plants, and stressed their improved level of safety since the Fukushima accident. "If nuclear power generation, which used to supply about 30 percent of (the nation's) electricity, remains halted, Japanese society will face a deadlock. My judgment is that the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant should be restarted to benefit people's lives," Noda said during a televised press conference. His statements came one day after Fukui governor Issei Nishikawa said Noda should take his appeal for the restarts directly to the people. Nishikawa made this one of his pre-requisites for a decision on the Oi restart issue. There is no legal requirement for local approval for restarting nukes, but Tokyo has said they will not allow operations to resume without local consent. After Noda’s press conference, Oi Mayor Shinobu Tokioka said he was satisfied with Noda's explanation. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The decision by the Fukui Prefecture’s panel of experts is expected to be given on Sunday. It is expected that partisan groups in the Fukui Assembly will concurrently submit their opinions on the matter with the expert panel’s report. Oi mayor Tokioka and Fukui governor Nishikawa say this is the final level of input they need in order to decide whether or not to approve the Oi restarts. Nishikawa says this will make it possible for him to make up his mind as early as next week. While local input is politically sought by the prime minister, the ultimate decision on the restarts resides with him. If resumptions are approved by Noda, it will take 4-6 weeks to bring both units up to full power output. (NHK World)
  • Is Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto really anti-nuclear or is he merely a political opportunist using the Oi restart issue to boost his popularity? It seems he may not be anti-nuclear after all. Hashimoto recently backed off his opposition to the Oi restarts citing pressure from the local business community as his reason. The Osaka news media speculates that his Oi opposition threatened losing financial support from businesses in the city, which he desperately needs for his national political campaign. However, freelance journalist Yuji Yoshitomi, author of books on Hashimoto and Osaka, says the real reasons for his reversal were fear of being blamed for blackouts and that he is not really an opponent of nuclear power. He has conveniently used the issue for political gain. "I wasn't surprised when he agreed to the restart, as I never thought he was really antinuclear. And he is unlikely to suffer much mid- or long-term political damage as people turn on their air-conditioners and forget about what happened," Yoshitomi said. (Japan Times) On a related note, the governors of Shiga and Kyoto Prefectures remain opposed to restarting the Oi reactors on a permanent basis. They are both in favor of Hashimoto’s prior suggestion that the two units only be run during peak demand periods, then shut them down. This has caused a rift between the governors and Hashimoto, and the outcome could be very interesting. In addition, Hashimoto’s Osaka expert panel on nuclear safety has asked that the new nuclear regulatory commission should have half of their members be experts from outside Japan to insure as much independence as possible. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Tepco has reported that staff walk-down inspections of the pressure suppression pool (torus) rooms of F. Daiichi units 2&3 have found high water levels in both. It is estimated that each room has a water depth of ~5.5 meters. The water level was about half-way up the sides of the donut-shaped torus. The workers were trying to find source(s) of leaks from the rooms and into the adjoining turbine building basements, but they were unsuccessful. The staff also took pictures of what they saw, and it seems there is no visible damage or deformity to either torus. In fact, all equipment in the rooms seemed to be in remarkably good condition. (NHK World)

June 6

  • Tepco’s upcoming final report its Fukushima investigation is going to defend its handling of the accident. This will contradict many of the conclusions drawn by the Cabinet’s investigative panel last year, on two key points. (1) The Cabinet panel said Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi staff failed to notice several emergency cooling system valves were closed, making it impossible to cool reactor #1. Tepco says interviews with the plant’s operating staff revealed the electrical blackout made it impossible to check whether or not the valves were closed on unit #1. (2) The Cabinet’s panel said unit #3 staff erroneously shut off a high pressure cooling system just when it was needed the most. Tepco says the system was shut off because it had reached its high pressure limit and they did not want it to be damaged. Over-pressurization could have broken the system, making it permanently unusable. In both cases, it seems Tepco is denying that their F. Daiichi staff was guilty of human error in these two instances. (NHK World) Tepco’s P.R. group says the company is not trying to contradict the Cabinet panel, "We're trying to describe the situation of the plant at the time of the accident. We have no intention of conflicting with the government." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The auxiliary cooling system for unit #4’s spent fuel pool (SPF) was suspended because of two pump failures. The primary pump failed on Tuesday due to severe overheating in its electrical connection box, which melted some cabling and the top of the housing. Later that day a back-up pump was started but also failed. The back-up pump was repaired and restarted on Wednesday. During the shutdown, pool temperature rose 8 degrees to 42OC. It is expected the temperature will drop by 8-10 degrees by Thursday. (NHK World)
  • The governor of Fukui has avoided making a decision on the restart of Oi units 3&4. At a meeting with disaster minister Hosono, Gov. Issei Nishikawa said that instead of seeking his personal approval, Prime Minister Noda should appeal directly to the local public on the necessity for the resumption of nuke operations. Nishikawa also feels a direct appeal by Noda could win back some of the public’s trust, "It will lead to creating a sense of security among the public if the prime minister directly declares to citizens that the reactivation (of the reactors) is necessary." The governor said if Noda makes this appeal, he will then meet with Oi town and other local officials before making a decision. In addition to tabling his judgment, Nishikawa said he wants Fukui representatives added to the government’s increased monitoring of the Oi operations. He also wishes for Tokyo’s commitment to accelerating the creation of a new nuclear regulatory program and the disposal of nuclear waste. Whether or not the governor’s decision-making delay will further postpone the Oi restarts is unknown. (JAIF)
  • Nearly a third of PM Noda’s own party lawmakers have petitioned him to be cautious about the Oi restarts. “It is clear from surveys that the majority of the people think that we can survive this summer by conserving energy and transferring electricity among regions,” says the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) petition, “We urge you to consider the fact that there is insufficient agreement within the party and among the people and the feelings of the 160,000 victims of the disaster, and be all the more cautious about a decision to restart the reactors.” The petition formalizes the DPJ’s minority opinion on the issue. The sponsor of the petition, Satoshi Arai, said Noda has failed to meet the conditions necessary for restarts, thus he should withhold his decision until all of them are met. (Japan Today)
  • Japan’s Hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) adopted a resolution opposing the Oi restarts. They believe nuclear plants should remain shuttered until the new nuclear regulatory system is launched. They also feel the safety-related damage assessment for the Oi units is incomplete. In addition, the Hibakusha says the restarting of the Oi nukes to avoid summer shortages would further undermine the people’s trust in government. About 150 members attended the meeting and voted on the resolution. (NHK World)
  • Prime Minister Noda says he will take full responsibility for Tokyo’s final decision on the Oi restart issue. "We're aware that restarting (nuclear power plants) is necessary and important for the development of the Japanese economy and society," Noda said at a press conference. He continued, "I'm the one who will take ultimate responsibility [in making a judgment on the reactivation of the Oi reactors]. I'd like to fulfill my responsibility by taking all possible measures to ensure their safety." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A Washington-based poll taken in Japan shows a very severe pessimism has swept Japan. 78% are unhappy with the direction the country is taking, 93% feel negative about the nation’s economy, and 80% are dissatisfied with Tokyo’s handling of the situation surrounding the Fukushima accident. Right after 3/11/11, the same poll showed that 59% felt the F. Daiichi crisis would make Japan stronger in the end. Now, only 39% feel that way. However, concern about radiation exposure seems to have eased a bit. Last year, 59% were worried about family members being exposed, while this year it has dropped to 52%. Opinions about the prime minister and the news media are also discouraging. Only 30% feel P.M. Noda is having a positive influence on Japan, and a mere 34% see the news media as having a positive influence on their readers. The poll was run by Pew Research Center’s Global Attitude Project and covered 700 telephone interviews between March 20 and April 12. (Japan Today)

 

June 4

  • Fukushima has raised food safety awareness in Japan to a high level. Before 3/11/11, less than 40% of the public felt fairly well-informed about food safety. That has now increased to 66%. Tokyo’s dietary education office polled more than 2000 people across Japan each of the last seven years. What they found this year surprised everyone. Why has this happened? An anonymous official said, "one of the reasons is the spread of knowledge on food safety by media and other reports (due to the) nuclear accident." Perhaps more of a surprise is that radioactivity in foodstuffs was not the greatest interest. What do the people want more information on? At the top of the list is instructions on healthy meals (48%), followed by prevention of food poisoning (36%), food preservation methods (35%), and then comes radioactivity levels in food (32 %). Respondents were allowed to mark multiple answers concerning new information they want to receive. (Japan Times)
  • Kansai Electric Company (Kepco) has given Minister Yukio Edano a timetable for getting Oi units #3&4 up to full power. Based on anticipated restart approval this week, Kepco says they cannot have the two units at full capacity before July 2ndwhich is the same date as Kepco’s start of its customer voluntary power-saving period. Power-saving’s planning is based on the assumption that no other nukes will be restarted this summer. Kepco says that there could still be shortages even after the Oi nukes are at full power. (Yomiuri Shimbun).
  • Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono will meet with Fukui governor Issei Nishikawa today to explain why Tokyo believes the Oi restarts are safe. It is expected the governor will give his approval, paving the way for a final restart decision by Prime Minister Noda and his cabinet later this week. Hosono will explain the safety improvements made since the Fukushima accident and the upgraded regulatory oversight at Oi planned to be enforced during the startup and operational periods. It is expected the nukes will take 3 to 4 weeks to go through the pre-operational startup phase before full operations will begin. (NHK World)
  • A new poll reveals that 48% of the population feels 15% nuclear generation is optimum for Japan’s energy infrastructure. 25% of Japan’s people feel complete abolishment of nuclear energy is the way to go. Seven percent feel there should be 20-25% nuclear generation, while 15% believe in the market-oriented option based on economics. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A protest was held Friday outside the Prime Minister’s office to demand the Oi restarts not happen. The group feels any restarts at this point would be too hasty and unsafe. The protestors chanted “We oppose restarts” and beat on drums to show their displeasure with PM Noda’s anticipated approval of nuclear operations at Oi. (Reuters)
  • The Mayor of Okuma wants to make the next 5 years a mandatory “no-repopulation” period. Okuma is one of two host communities adjacent to F. Daiichi. According to Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe, 95% of the town will be designated as a 5-year off limits zone, so why not make it 100%? He wants this to insure former residents will receive full, state-mandated compensation payments, even though Tokyo has said they will pay everyone whether they return home or not. The government is considering extending an evacuation advisory covering the whole town for five years under the Disaster Countermeasures Act. Wanatabe says, "I think we will receive the understanding of the citizens for trying to make the compensation payments equal." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A major geothermal construction project in Fukushima Prefecture, planned to ease the area’s reliance on nukes, has been stalled by protests. The prefecture is promoting renewables since the F. Daiichi accident, and has openly welcomed the geothermal project. Initial drilling began late in March after the central government deregulated excavation and the prefecture relaxed drilling regulations in national parks. It is anticipated the plant could produce 270 MWe. However, local hot spring resort operators fear the plant will affect their natural water supply. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • This morning’s Japan Times has a lengthy article which demonstrates the negative effect the concept of “nuclear radiation” has on the public. The public seems to think radiation from nukes is somehow different and more dangerous than natural and medical exposure. Rather than summarize, here’s the link. Don’t be dissuaded by the grossly-misleading and sensational headline. It’s a very good report. http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/radioactivity-japans-invisible-enemy-within

June 1

  • Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato’s criticisms of the government’s response to the Fukushima accident continue. In his testimony before the Diet's Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC) Sato said Tokyo’s escalating evacuation orders in March, 2011, were confounding, "We had no prior notice. No grounds for the instructions were presented and the instructions were announced one after another. It was totally beyond us." In nuclear emergency drills, Tokyo was expected to issue a nuclear emergency declaration 30 minutes after the causal situation was discovered. However, it took more than 4 hours on 3/11/11. "But in this accident, the declaration was announced about 2-1/2 hours after receiving the report from Tokyo Electric Power Co. It was another hour later when the notice arrived at the prefectural government,” Sato explained, "I determined that if we waited for the central government to act, we could not have protected the safety of residents. So I asked residents in a two-kilometer radius of the plant to evacuate." But, Tokyo then began to issue evacuation orders unilaterally, never seeking input from Sato or any other local official. The central government determined the 20 km radius (no-go zone) entirely on its own. Sato the offered his perspective on Tokyo’s actions, "Evacuation instructions for a radius of more than 10 kilometers were not assumed in the nuclear disaster prevention plan. About 80,000 residents in that radius and other parts of the prefecture who felt anxious were forced to evacuate to places both inside and outside of the prefecture." Further, the SPEEDI system for predicting the atmospheric dispersal of radioactive releases was never used, which made Tokyo’s determination of who would evacuate largely arbitrary. Sato said that SPEEDI data was “carelessly overlooked” by both Tokyo and his own office. Sato’s statement was echoed by other Fukushima officials. Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe said, "The central government's crisis-management systems did not work. I wanted the prefectural government to provide correct information speedily.” Naraha Mayor Yukiei Matsumoto added, "The responsibility is heavy for the failure to quickly relay the radiation information about contamination conditions to municipal governments." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The head of the Union of Kansai Governments said it will accept any decision the government makes on restarting Oi units 3&4. Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido, head of the group, said, "We will accept the government's decision.” The announcement was made after the group met with PM Noda and three of his cabinet officials, explaining the government’s reasons for wanting the restarts. Following the meeting, the Union issued a statement saying, "On the assumption that the government's safety judgment is provisional, we call on it to make a definitive judgment." Disaster minister Goshi Hosono spoke of concessions made to the Union during the meeting, "In the event of an emergency, we will link the Oi nuclear power plant, Kansai Electric, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, and the prime minister's office via a videoconferencing system." (Japan Times)
  • It’s possible that the Oi nukes will be restarted in June. PM Noda and his cabinet ministers feel the local support for restart is growing. Noda says, "We are seeing some understanding from the relevant local governments. If we can gain their approval we'll discuss the issue at a ministers' meeting. In the end, I'll make the final decision." Hyogo Gov. Toshizo Ido, head of the Kansai Union, told reporters, "We'll leave the decision to the central government. We don't need to take any further action." In a cautionary statement, Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa said, "It's important for the prime minister to give a clear explanation to the public." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • In a sudden, unexpected reversal, Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto now says he will approve the reactivation of the Oi nukes. His change is believed to be due to the real possibility of electric shortages in Osaka this coming summer.  "It is extremely difficult as the individual in charge of local administration to have a precondition of a 15-percent shortage," the mayor said. Hashimoto came under pressure at a meeting on May 15, when the heads of three Kansai regional economic organizations raised concerns about electricity shortages. In a related reversal of opinion, Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada says that she is leaning toward allowing the Oi restart. She said the concerns raised by local business leaders were the primary reasons she was changing her position. (Japan Times)
  • A new survey shows that 64% of the people in Oi town support the nuke restarts. However, 60% of them felt the government’s handling of the debate was a negative. The survey also shows that 55% of the residents in four neighboring communities and the city of Osaka are not in favor. 74% of the “neighbors” had a negative opinion of the government’s role in the restart issue. (NHK World)
  • Prime Minister Noda says restarting Oi units 3&4 are necessary. All he needs to give his consent is approval from the Oi town mayor and the Fukui governor. “If we get a decision by local authorities, then we will discuss among the four key ministers and I will make the final decision,” Noda told reporters. The Kansai Union said current safety standards were provisional but sufficient until the new nuclear regulatory agency is launched. The Diet has finally begun formal debate on the issue and it seems Tokyo is headed in the right direction. Greenpeace International continues to  oppose any restarts saying, “Our consistent position is that this is being rushed.” (Japan Times, WSJ Japan Realtime)
  • Ex-PM Naoto Kan admitted to the NAIIC that he was ignorant of Japanese disaster law before 3/11/11. “When it comes to the specific responsibilities and authorities given to the Prime Minister (PM), when a nuclear accident takes place, I do not recall being briefed before or directly after the accident,” Kan testified, “When it comes to the specific responsibilities and authorities given to a PM, when a nuclear accident takes place, as a head of the counter-measure headquarters, after I became PM until the accident took place, I do not recall any situation where I was briefed on those points. I admit that as the head of the counter-measure headquarters, yes, I should have been briefed more deeply about my responsibilities and authority.” In other words, he refuses to take responsibility for his ignorance of Japanese law on nuclear calamities (and disastrous tsunamis), but rather points to his advisors as culprits. In addition, he denies that the delay in issuing an emergency declaration was intentional, “I did not postpone the issuance of the declaration. The request was made to me at 5:42 for my approval of the declaration, on the other side, the meeting of the opposition party leaders was taking place, to which I was committed to participate, so it took one hour and 21 minutes to declare the emergency state.” The question remains – what was more important? A routine political meeting or a nuclear accident declaration? Obviously, Kan felt routine politics took priority. (Japan Subculture Research Center)

May 30

  • The World Nuclear Association has created an educational video “Fukushima and Chernobyl: Myth versus Reality”, which I recommend to everyone. Here’s the link… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Ncm8KwxWNg
  • Ex-Prime Minister Naoto Kan is once again apologizing for the Fukushima accident, but this time some people have said “enough”. In Kan’s testimony before the Diet commission, he said, "The disaster was triggered by a nuclear power plant that was maintained as part of national policy, and the government is predominantly responsible for it. I once again apologize for not having been able to stem the disaster as the person responsible for the country." Futaba mayor Katsutaka Idogawa criticized Kan for blaming the inadequacy of NISA officials for the government's poor initial response, saying, "If that's the end of the story, it would offer no solutions." Meanwhile, one evacuated Futaba woman said, "It's too late to receive expressions of regret or apologies. It really doesn't matter to me anymore." Namie mayor Tamotsu Baba also said Kan’s blaming the accident on the government is insufficient, "That's tantamount to saying that the Prime Minister's Office lacked a sense of crisis." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • In addition, Kan has gone on record as categorically denying he wanted seawater injection to #1 RPV stopped. Records show that the F. Daiichi plant manager was ordered to stop seawater injection the night of March 12 "in accordance with the intentions of the Prime Minister's Office." When the panel asked for his recollection, Kan said, "Since this is a matter over which I have been criticized harshly many times, I think it is appropriate to explain in detail what actually happened. TEPCO liaison Ichiro Takekuro decided on his own to tell Yoshida to suspend the operation…I don’t understand why he did this.” Takekuro was part of the prime minister’s advisory group in the PM’s office, at the time. But, Takekuro tells a different story, “I did not want it continuing as I had not finished my explanation about it to the prime minister.” Upon ending his briefing, Takekuro called plant manager Yoshida (over the only land-line available) and told him, "We cannot obtain the prime minister's approval [for using seawater], so please take some time before starting seawater injections." Reminded of this, Kan snapped back, "It is wrong to consider statements made by people from the power utility at my office as instructions from the Prime Minister's Office." To make his response sound even more disingenuous, his hand-picked investigative panel reported in February that Kan had grave concerns about seawater injection and told his staff about it. Kan says his concerns were with the sea salt and its potential damage to the reactor’s internal materials, and that he was not concerned about the potential for seawater causing recriticality. Upon hearing this, a panel member asked why Kan's aides "took the trouble of showing you reference material proving there was no correlation between seawater injections and recriticality." Kan responded, "I don't have any recollection of such a thing." Lastly, when accused of his contradicting the testimony given to the panel by Tepco Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, Kan responded, "I can hardly believe the TEPCO chairman was really informed of key technicalities by the utility's people in charge of the matter." Although the article says Kan seemed well-prepared for facing the panel, his response to inquiries appears to inconsistent and contrary. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Fukushima Gov Yuhei Sato has testified that he was not informed of the accident at Fukushima by Tokyo. This is a possible violation of Japanese law which states that all local officials are to be made aware of the emergency situation as soon as a formal accident declaration is made. Sato says it was more than six hours after the accident began before he found out about it, and then only because he learned of it by watching a TV news report! Sato also commented on his office having not used SPEEDI data to plan public protection actions. He said his office was literally flooded with SPEEDI data, but before it could be analyzed and used for planning purposes, Tokyo issued an evacuation order without consulting the prefectural government. It was more than a month before he found that the government’s evacuation decision did not include SPEEDI data. This unexpected action by Tokyo caused considerable chaos among his staff, which was exacerbated when the unit #1hydrogen explosion occurred. (Japan Today)
  • Disaster minister Goshi Hosono says that he regrets the Japanese government’s reluctance to admit the three meltdowns at Fukushima until nearly 4 months after-the-fact. He feels they had enough information to draw the meltdown’s conclusion by the end of the accident’s first week. In his talks with professor Michael Sandel of Harvard University, Hosono said he believes the government's communication with the public following the nuclear accident was "problematic”. If it had openly admitted the meltdowns, people could have had more trust in the government. (Kyodo News)
  • Kansai Electric Company (Kepco) urged Prime Minister Noda to approve the restart of Oi units #3&4 as soon as possible. Kepco head Makoto Yagi says, “The final decision rests with the government or the prime minister.” The weather in the Kansai region is heating up and without the two nukes, there’s the real possibility of rolling blackouts once the summer hits in full. One cannot simply start a nuke quickly. After a prolonged outage, including maintenance and refueling, there are weeks of tests that must be run before the plants can provide electricity to the local infrastructure. Kepco has been given approval by the host community of Oi, which in the past was all that a nuke restart needed. Due to the Fukushima accident, local officials of three Prefectures and the meddling mayor of Osaka have demanded that they also be given determining power over the restarts. (Japan Times)
  • Industry minister Yukio Edano has gone on record as opposing temporary restarts of Oi units #3&4. He cited his personal safety concerns as the reason behind his decision. Edano said that temporarily reactivating the Oi reactors "could be taken as allowing them to operate when (electricity) is in short supply even though they may not be safe. As the government, we can hardly propose such a measure to the people of Fukui Prefecture and the town of Oi, who will suffer severe effects if an accident occurs there." (Japan Times)

 

May 28

  • (Saturday) Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono has personally inspected the physical integrity of SPF #4. He said he can confirm what Tepco has said about unit #4 SPF for more than 14 months…the internal building itself and new support structures under the bottom off the pool are intact. The reinforcement using steel-reinforced concrete has been tested to withstand an earthquake many times greater than the temblor of 3/11/11. In parallel with the Hosono statement, Tepco has confirmed that the #4 SPF structure is not tilting and is capable of safely storing the nuclear fuel. Tepco did say the outer west wall of the #4 reactor building is deformed and bowed outward some 33 centimeters, probably due to the hydrogen explosion of 3/15/11. It is unlikely that the outer wall’s deformation had a negative effect on the soundness of the pool because the wall and the pool are niether located close to each other nor are they inter-connected. (Kyodo News)
  • (Saturday) Fukui governor Issei Nishikawa says Oi units #3 & 4 can restart if he says they can. His decision will not be swayed by dissent from neighboring prefectures, including the bombastic mayor of Osaka, Toru Hashimoto. "We're not necessarily waiting for approval from the Kansai region. This issue can be resolved if the central government clearly shows its stance," Nishikawa said at a press conference. Nishikawa criticized the central government for dragging its feet and not clarifying its position on the reactivation. Technically, Nishikawa has yet to firmly state his position on the matter, but said "there will be no reason" to "bother to reactivate the two reactors when both the state and major power-consuming areas say they do not need electricity." Nishikawa also criticized Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, saying he is "opportunistic." Meanwhile, Kobe Mayor Tatsuo Yada asked the head of Kansai Electric's branch office to try and avoid rolling blackouts because they would "shatter the social system and threaten human life." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • (Sunday) Industry minister Yukio Edano was interviewed by the Diet’s Fukushima accident investigative committee on Saturday. In a clear attempt to support his former boss Naoto Kan, he said Tepco made it “clear” to him that they intended to abandon F. Daiichi on March 15, 2011. Edano says he heard Tokyo Electric President Masataka Shimizu "stammer" when asked over the phone whether the situation might get out of control if all staff were withdrawn from the plant. "I do not remember the exchanges of words accurately,” Edano admitted. (Mainichi Shimbun)  In another report, Edano explained what he remembers, "I told Shimizu (over phone) that the situation could only get worse and the disaster would be unstoppable if no workers were left at the plant to handle the accident. Then Shimizu stammered, so it was clear that he did not intend to leave some workers (to contain the accident) there.” Asked what he thought of Kan's controversial visit to the Fukushima plant on the morning of March 12, Edano said he told Kan he would face criticism for interfering too much. The minister believes Kan's visit had the positive effect of gathering critical information for key officials in Tokyo who were largely in the dark. (Japan Times) comment - Whether Tepco was really considering a complete pullout from Fukushima Daiichi has been a major question in the investigation. The utility has denied such planning from the start of the crisis, but Kan and Edano have continued to contradict Tepco in an effort to absolve Kan of over-reaction during the early days of the accident.Tepco said it never considered the option and has insisted it was thinking of leaving a skeleton crew to handle the accident while temporarily withdrawing everyone else. They have also said Kan’s visit to the site on March 12 was unwelcome because the feverishly-working staff already had enough pressure on them to stop the accident’s progression. Kan only made the situation worse. Now he and Edano are trying to whitewash Kan’s malfeasance.
  • On Sunday, more of the Edano interview with the Diet panel was revealed. (1) He admitted the government failed to provide sufficient information to the public and regretted Tokyo’s response to the accident. His regrets began with the government’s inability to acquire timely, accurate information, and anticipate evens. In addition, he has misgivings because there were major gaps between his understanding of radiation exposure and the public’s. He also feels that his request that Tepco and NISA submit all information to the government before making it public was not followed. Finally, he regrets that he did not find out about SPEEDI projections on the spread of contamination until 15 or 16 days after March 11, 2011. (2) Edano said the reason Tokyo initially refused the assistance of other nations, like the United States, was because Japan had a history of making their own decisions as a sovereign state. He tried to explain this to American officials, but they only grew frustrated. (NHK World)  (3) Edano admitted that if Fukushima were to happen today, the same mistakes would probably be made. He feels the current government and Japanese nuclear community (nuclear village) have not learned the lessons of Fukushima well enough to avoid a recurrance. For example, he assumed the public knew enough about radiation for him to make statements based on his level of understanding. Early in the crisis, Edano stated there would be "no immediate (physical) effects" from radiation leaks with respect to eating food banned from shipping, loading and unloading items from vehicles between 20 and 30 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi. He also spoke of the low probability of mid- to long-term low-level radiation effects. On the third point Edano said he had "questioned whether that was the right thing to say." A meeting participant, Reiko Hachisuka of Fukushima Prefecture said, "Residents are thinking, 'Well, the health effects might not be immediate, but they will hit us in the future.'" (4) Edano challenged the belief that Tokyo covered up the three meltdowns until June, 2011. “I stated during a March 13 news conference (two days into the disaster) that there was a real chance the cores had melted down, and the government was proceeding based on that assumption. We took the possibility of core meltdowns for granted as we dealt with the disaster, and I did not have the chance to reiterate that possibility," he added, denying any deliberate cover-up.” During a news conference on March 12, 2011, NISA officials alluded to the possibility of core meltdowns at the No. 1 plant. Soon after the news conference the Prime Minister's Office informed NISA of its misgivings over the agency's press announcement methods. Mentions of "meltdowns" then disappeared from NISA briefings. Edano criticized the NISA and Tepco reports on March 11&12, saying, "Laypeople could not understand what they were talking about. All the news conferences did was sow anxiety, so we told (NISA and TEPCO) to admit when they didn't know something, and inform the Prime Minister's Office of the information that they were releasing at press conferences.” Panel chair Kiyoshi Kurokawa jumped at this statement by Edano, "The officials who received those instructions might have thought they meant the Prime Minister's Office would decide on all information releases." (Mainichi Shimbun) (5) Edano openly denied ever censoring the word “meltdown” from Tepco or NISA statements, "We didn't regard the word as a problem. At least, I never ordered anyone not to use it." He said that the Prime Minister only wanted official announcements to be coordinated, "It meant that we asked NISA to at least notify the Prime Minister's Office before announcing something, because TEPCO and NISA officials sometimes revealed information that had not been reported to the Prime Minister's Office, especially in the initial phases of the crisis." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • This Morning, Naoto Kan was brought before the Diet’s Fukushima investigative panel. In addition to echoing everything said earlier by minister (and political cohort) Yukio Edano, Kan took the opportunity to call for a complete abandonment of nuclear power in Japan. He blamed the government for promoting nuclear power as a national policy. He apologized for failing to prevent the accident as the head of government at the time. Kan alleged NISA said nothing about what would happen in such an accident, nor did the government receive information from other sources. He criticized what he calls an inner circle of nuclear policymakers, experts and businesses for trying to hold on to their power without doing any soul-searching after the accident. (NHK World) In another report, Kan blames a lack of sufficient nuclear accident laws as key to mistakes that were made, "The nuclear disaster special measures law does not assume a serious disaster" like Fukushima. He stated that situations assumed under the law were "extremely insufficient." He also attempted to absolve himself of responsibility for mistakes when he said, "We could hardly get information. We couldn't do anything." He said this was the reason he felt compelled to take firm control of everything he could, including trying to call the shots for the operating staff at F. Daiichi. ( comment - He neglected to say that all communications with the Tohoku region were disabled until March 15. He focused only on the nuclear accident and virtually ignored everything else.) It wasn't until March 15 that the government and Tepco started sharing the same level of information. On that day, Kan decided to form a crisis task force in Tepco's Tokyo headquarters. He said that decision was prompted by rumors that Tepco wanted to evacuate the plant. (Japan Times)

 

 

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