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Fukushima 35...6/25/12-7/11/12

July 11

  • The latest tests on Fukushima-area breast milk for Cesium shows…nothing! Since June 1st, the Fukushima government has been testing mother’s milk. Since then, more than 300 mothers from Fukushima, Miyagi, Yamagata, and Niigata prefectures have called for counseling. More than 250 have applied to have their breast milk tested for Cesium. Of the first 26 actually tested, no radioactive cesium has been found. The tests are on a first-come, first-serve basis and free of charge. (Japan Times)
  • The maximum child thyroid exposure from Fukushima is below 50 millisieverts total dose. This is below the 50 mSv threshold for the administration of thyroid blocking medication advocated by the IAEA. The exposures for children who were nearest the F. Daiichi power complex when the accident began were from 15-42 mSv. The testing was run by the National Institute of Radioactive Sciences. The government established 100 mSv as the national standard since 3/11/11, but these findings have led Tokyo to reconsider and adopt the IAEA standard. (Kyodo News)
  • Futaba mayor Katsutaka Idogawa has condemned Tokyo for withholding America’s radiation data during the first days of the Fukushima accident. "(Futaba residents) were exposed to radiation that they didn't have to be exposed to," an emotional Idogawa testified during a meeting of the House of Councillors' Budget Committee. "What can we do to make people who haven't been exposed to radiation understand this feeling? If the information had been disclosed efficiently, I would have changed (residents') evacuation routes. Being told things like that it's all right because radiation doses are at such and such a level of millisieverts makes me really furious.” Although the levels of radiation exposure have been too low to cause any actual health damage, Prime Minister Noda extended a formal apology, saying, "As a result of insufficient cooperation and information sharing between related organizations, preparedness to disclose information relevant for the protection of residents' lives was weakened. I apologize.” (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Jellyfish have invaded the Oi unit #3 turbine-generator's cooling water intake system. On Sunday, for a brief time, the plant had to cut its power production a bit because of an influx of jellyfish which partially clogged the seawater intake structure at the Oi facility. This reduced the ability to efficiently cool the turbine-generator exhaust, thus power output was diminished to compensate. The reactor’s power level was not affected…only the electrical generator output was lowered while the jellyfish influx was dealt with. Predicting an infestation of the creatures is notoriously difficult and a solution has proved elusive. However, the problem is not exclusive to Japanese nukes. Thermal plants (fossil-fueled) have been affected too. Kansai Electric Power Company says jellyfish problems have forced it to reduce power output in 17 of its generators between April and June, the largest number of affected plants for the utility in the past 5 years. No reports have been made that jellyfish have completely blocked water intakes.  The main problem is with the Sea of Japan on the country’s west coast. (NHK World)
  • Sean Bonner, founder of the group known as Safecast, has been Press-praised for the group’s effort to get reputable, independent radiation data to the Japanese public quickly after 3/11/11. “There was no data that was available anywhere, and we were rather surprised,” Bonner said during a trip to Japan last week to meet with volunteers. “We realized that we could help.”  The group made some reliable radiation detectors soon after 3/11/11, and had them placed in key locations around Japan. They also had mobile units checking rad levels. There are now about 350 fixed and 35 mobile units sending data into the group’s system, which has logged more than 2.5 million data points. Safecast is promoted as “a global sensor network for collecting and sharing radiation measurements to empower people with data about their environments.” Their main focus over the past 16 months has been in Japan. Safecast systems have proved to be so reliable that the Fukushima government is now linked into their internet system. Toshikatsu Watanabe, who heads a marketing company in Fukushima, is grateful to Safecast, “When you don’t know, you become afraid. I can only do what I can, and we don’t know for sure if the radiation is going to have a bad effect or what.” Safecast filled a public need in post-Fukushima Japan for reliable, government-independent radiation data. It did so by bringing people from various countries together in a common effort. Bonner said, “Everything is radioactive all the time, but nobody was paying any attention to it,” referring to the variety of natural background levels present everywhere, “Most of us have no point of reference for what radiation is.” He and his non-profit group are trying to correct this. (Japan Today)

July 9

  • There is a most interesting editorial from the Virginian-Pilot newspaper in America. A formerly-antinuclear writer has changed his mind, despite the apocalyptic press reports circulating liberally among the international news media. Please click the link and find out for yourself…
  • Dr. Kiyohiko Sakamoto made a stunning presentation at America’s annual American Nuclear Society meeting. A PhD who has studied the effects of radiation since 1975 and resident of Sendai, Sakamoto asserts that the radiation exposures from Fukushima are essentially harmless. He says “Based on my experience in treating many patients the radiation level near Fukushima is not a cancer risk.” Through esteemed colleague Rod Adams, Dr. Sakamoto has asked that his presentation slides be made available to everyone…
  • Unit #3 at the Oi nuclear facility has reached 100% power without incident. Senior vice industry minister Seishu Makino gave thanks to the hosting governments' cooperation. Oi town mayor Shinobu Tokioka said the government should share any future operational abnormalities with the town to prevent trouble. The mayor added that he hopes to see a smooth restart of the plant's No.4 reactor later this month. Kepco’s target date for unit #4 full power operation is now July 25th. Since Oi #3 has lowered the region’s power saving restrictions, it is felt unit #4 operations will reduce them even more. (NHK World)
  • The NAIIC cites F. Daiichi plant manager Masao Yoshida concerning the Prime Minister’s interference from the start of the crisis. He testified, "The chain of command was a total mess. In principle, if [TEPCO's] head office had told me to stop [injecting sea water into the reactor], we could have discussed it at that point. But what actually happened was that I was called by [the Prime Minister's] Office, which was not directly involved in the accident response, and was told to stop [the injections]. I thought, 'What the hell is going on?'" NAIIC concludes, "The direct intervention by the [Prime Minister's Office]...disrupted the chain of command and brought disorder to an already dire situation." However, NAIIC says the group most responsible for PM Kan’s meddling was the Tepco home office in Tokyo, "…while TEPCO's headquarters was supposed to provide support to the plants, in reality it became subordinate to the [Prime Minister's Office], and ended up simply relaying the [Prime Minister's Office's] intentions." (Yomiuri Shimbun) In other words, the two most responsible culprits for interfering with the accident recovery actions at F. Daiichi were the government and Tepco’s home office. The report supports the opinion that they should have left the operating staff at Fukushima alone so they could do the jobs they were trained to do.
  • Here’s some more information on F. Daiichi unit #1 Torus room. In addition to the extremely high radiation levels, it appears the water surrounding the pressure suppression chamber is deeper than what was discovered in unit #2. The water seems to be about three feet deep, covering the donut-shaped torus half-way up the sides. As for the detected radiation levels, in addition to the more than 10 Sieverts/hr level found at the water surface, Tepco discovered the radioactive intensity dropped as the probe went deeper and deeper into the volume. Suddenly, the detector shorted out as it approached the basement’s floor. (Tepco)
  • The first gubernatorial election pitting an incumbent against an antinuclear challenger is over. Incumbent Kagoshima governor Yuichiro Ito defeated publishing president/antinuclear group secretary-general Yoshitaka Mukohara. Ito’s platform called for a cautious restart of the two-unit Sendai facility while Mukohara advocated blocking all attempts for restarts for immediate dismantling of the facilities. While the Sendai restars was not the only major issue on the docket, it was the one that garnered the most press coverage both inside and outside Japan. (Japan Times).
  • Fukui Prefecture now believes nuclear power should be an indispensable source of electricity, and all their nukes should be restarted. Fukui included this in their proposed budget for 2013. Their support for the Fukui nukes is a total reversal of the Prefecture’s position on nuclear energy prior to the last-minute events that preceded the resumption of Oi unit #3. Governor Issei Nishikawa wrote in the budget projection, ''It is necessary for the state to be responsible in maintaining the vitality of areas hosting (nuclear power plants) that have contributed to the nation's energy policy and supported the Japanese economy.” (Kyodo News)
  • The weekly Tokyo protest against the Oi restarts continued Friday. The focus changed from “don’t restart” to “shut it down” since the nuke approached 90% power during the demonstration. The protest organizers have been calling on people to join the weekly event through the internet and word of mouth. A 41-year-old Fukushima woman said she is exasperated with the government's handling of nuclear power after the serious accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. Meanwhile, the Oi unit quietly and safely reached full power on Saturday. (NHK World) At the demonstration, a Tokyo college lecturer said, "The processes that the government made toward the reactivation (of the Oi plant) were incoherent. I've rushed here today thinking nothing will be changed if things remain as they are." The Prime Minister’s office building was the main focus of the protest with many demonstrators calling for Yoshiko Noda’s resignation. When asked if he took the protests seriously, Noda responded, "We've received many opinions, various opinions." (Mainichi Shimbun) Protest leaders estimated the crowd to be around 150,000, but metro police said it was more like 21,000. As with last week’ size estimates , no explanation for the disparity has been given.

July 6

  • The Oi nuclear unit #3 has begun generating electricity and supplying the national grid. As of this writing, power level is in the 30% range. Power output will slowly continue until early Monday when the full output of the plant should be realized. At that point, the maximum anticipated power shortfall in the Kansai region will drop from 15% down to 19%. (NHK World; Kyodo News) As of this writing, the power level at Oi unit #3 is at 75% and increasing. (
  • Tepco lashed out at the NAIIC report’s speculation on possible earthquake damage at Fukushima. Tepco spokesperson Junichi Matsumoto told reporters on Thursday that operating staff records and other data do not suggest any quake damage. NAIIC says unit #1 experienced a loss of one of its emergency diesels prior to the second, most massive wave hitting, indicating the earthquake was responsible. They also point out that there may have been tiny leaks from the reactor pressure vessel caused by the quake. Tepco rejects these as mere speculations unsupported by the evidence. (NHK World)
  • This morning, NAIIC head, Kiyoshi Kurokawa said, "Fukushima remains at a very high risk, not only because of the spent fuel issues, but also because of its fragile structure." He added he could not believe the four damaged units at F. Daiichi could survive another quake. In fact, he was quoted as saying that F. Daiichi is presently "incapable of withstanding the earthquake and tsunami [of 3/11/11].” (Kyodo News)
  • Contaminated water has been found in the bottom of the Spent Resin Storage Tank room at F. Daiichi. The Cesium concentration is very low. In fact, it is so low the usual sample size of 1 cubic centimeter could not produce a confident reading as to its contamination level. Thus, a one cubic meter sample was analyzed (10,000 times bigger) and found to have a 120 Becquerel activity level. It was also discovered that the water level in the room was about the same as the nearby turbine building, which makes Tepco think the Cesium came through tiny leaks around piping penetrations through the walls. Since the water level is lower than the groundwater surrounding the two buildings, there is no chance for the almost-too-low-to-monitor contamination to have “tainted” the groundwater. (Tepco Press Release)

July 4

  • The schedule for the full power operation of Oi unit #3 has been set back a full day. On Tuesday, turbine testing began, but it took longer to complete than anticipated. It is now expected that low power operation will begin Thursday, with a small amount of electricity being generated. Connection to the national grid will follow. A slow, sequential process of increasing electrical output will culminate in full electrical output by Sunday. (NHK World)
  • Sunday’s antinuclear rally outside the Oi facility is now estimated to have drawn 650 demonstrators. Many protestors feared the restart could signal a virtual flood of nuke resumptions. Ikuyo Hattori, who came with her two children, said "If the reactor is reactivated . . . other reactors will be restarted in quick succession. We can't accept a forcible restart when the Fukushima crisis hasn't been settled." Meanwhile, organizers of last weekend’s Tokyo demonstration have inflated their attendance estimates to 180,000. The Metropolitan Police estimate remains unchanged at 20,000. No explanation by the protest organizers has been given for the great disparity in estimates. (Japan Times)
  • The Ministry of the Environment has announced that some freshwater fish have higher Cesium-137 levels than sea fish. The highest level was one freshwater goby with a level of 2,600 Becquerels/kg. Flounder and Sea Bass caught off Fukushima Prefecture have shown levels between 330 and 670 Bq/kg. The Ministry assumes the differences between freshwater and sea fish is because sea fish excrete salt from their systems and take Cesium with it since it is chemically similar to Potassium. (NHK World) Comment – what is not mentioned in the news report is that the naturally occurring level of radioactive Potassium-40 is 1000-1500 Bq/kg in sea fish. While the one Goby had Cs-137 ~2 times the naturally occurring K-40 level, the report should publish the comparative numbers. Naturally occurring Cs-137 levels are about 1.6-3.5 Bq/kg, so the news media should refer to it as an “elevated” level, but not a high level which makes it sound dangerous.
  • The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) wants additional studies on the fault fracture zones near three nuclear power stations. The three are Kansai Electric’s Mihama and Takahama stations, and Japan Atomic’s Monju fast breeder facility. NISA says particular attention will be given the Mihama and Monju stations because nearby multiple fracture zones might move in concert and amplify seismic shocks. (Kyodo News)
  • Conditions have been set for membership in Japan’s forthcoming nuclear regulatory commission. The commission will have a chairman and four “experts”. The government decided to use stricter selection requirements than the new law calls for. Members of the commission are required to disclose the amounts of donations that went toward their personal research or to a laboratory to which they belong from companies related to the nuclear industry for the three years previous to the commission being established. None may have been an employee or executive with any utilities, reactor makers or other nuclear-related businesses in the past 3 years. Also ruled out are individuals who have received more than $6,000 per year from lectures, consultancy or other services from a single power firm in the three years prior to appointment. If someone is a university professor, he/she must disclose names of industry-related companies that hired students out of their laboratories and the number hired in the previous three years. These restrictions are intended to promote the impression of independence sought by the Diet. (NHK World; Yomiuri Shimbun)

July 2

  • Friday’s organized Tokyo protest against the Oi restarts drew considerable Press coverage across Japan. Thousands marched and chanted in front of the Prime Minister’s office building, waving banners that said “Rise up against the restart”, “Absolutely no restart” and “The nuclear era is over”. The demonstration was largely peaceful, with a lack of the venom and threats had at last week’s protest. Organizer Misao Redwolf said the coalition has worked hard to separate the rally from the violent image many associate with public protests, and mount the kind of demonstration that anyone can feel comfortable attending. Redwolf was quoted as saying, "The best we Tokyo residents can do is to protest in front of the prime minister's office."  Protestor Satomi Nakata said, "I learned on the Internet that the protest would be peaceful, so I came with my kids." Another demonstrator Hideyuki Tanaka, 38, joined the rally on his way home from work, "I've never joined a demonstration before, but I can no longer be indifferent. (The protest) didn't seem to be of a political character, so I wasn't reluctant to join in." A 57-year-old man said he joined the protest for the first time when he learned about it on Twitter. He said the government's handling of the re-start lacks transparency and that it should review the way nuclear power plants are operated. A 40-year-old woman was with her son and mother. She was at first reluctant to take part in the protest, but wanted to protect her children from radiation fears. Regardless, the protest caused Prime Minister Noda to remark that the shouts and chants were quite loud and could be heard clearly from inside his residence. By 7pm, the crowd was very large and getting chaotic, so the organizers announced the protest had to end. The demonstration was the latest in a series of weekly protests that began a few months ago. The question is just how many attended. Organizers told News on Japan that there were 100,000, while at the same time telling Mainichi Shimbun there were 200,000. Meanwhile, the Metropolitan police put the number at less than 20,000. Tokyo Lawmaker Yoshisu Arita said there were about 20,000 demonstrators. Regardless, it was an impressive turn-out. Despite the wide variance in crowd size estimates, the feelings of the attendees were largely laced with anger. Kazumi Honda, a housewife, summed up the general misunderstanding of the crowd, "I think it's outrageous to restart (the Oi reactors) when the Fukushima No. 1 plant accident has not even been contained."  (Mainichi Shimbun, NHK World, Japan Times, News on Japan)
  • Despite the attempts of a few hundred antinuclear fanatics, Oi unit #3 began the slow process of restart on Sunday night at 9pm. (Kyodo news) Literally one-by-one, control rods were being withdrawn from their fully inserted position to provide the optimum pattern for restart. After patterning was complete, a few key control rods were further moved out and the self-sustaining chain reaction (criticality) began. The reactor fuel cell achieved criticality at 6am Monday. It will take several days of sequentially withdrawing all necessary control rods in order to heat the water up to operating temperatures. After making some necessary full temperature tests, it is felt that the first power electricity could be transmitted by this coming weekend and full power output by July 8th. Meanwhile outside the plant property, about 200 protestors clashed with riot police to vent their displeasure with the start-up. Occasionally, demonstrators skirmished with the local officers. At one point, demonstrators blocked the Oi access road with their cars, in a naive attempt to keep the start-up from happening. When asked to move their vehicles, one protester replied, “If the plan to restart the operations at the nuclear plant is suspended, we will remove our cars.”  Almost all of the unruly mob was not from the Oi vicinity, but traveled considerable distances to partake in the protest. people came from communities as far away as Ikata, Shika, and Mihama. A Kyoto university lecturer, Keiji Kobayashi, said there is a geological fault under the Oi facility, and it might be active. Due to this he said, “We must block the restart of the operations (at Oi nuclear plant).” (Asahi Shimbun) One of the protestors, Taisuke Kohno, inadvertently revealed the important impact on him and the demonstrators caused by the Hiroshima Syndrome. He asserted, “It’s a lie that nuclear energy is clean. After experiencing the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, how can Japan possibly want nuclear power?” (Japan Today) After the protestors heard the reactor had reached criticality on Sunday night, they left the premises feeling they had failed. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A large “thermal” (LNG-powered) power station of Kansai Electric Co. failed today. The 600 MWe Himeji Daini unit #5 went off line due to a major steam pipe-break in its boiler. This constituted about 5% of Kepco’s thermal generating system, dropping the company’s capacity reserves from 19% down to 14%. At 5% reserves, rolling blackouts are a possibility. Kansai Electric says they should have the Himeji Daini #5 power plant repaired and operating again later this month. (NHK World)
  • The alternative cooling system for unit #4’s spent fuel pool automatically shut down on Saturday. It was down for more than 24 hours. When the system stopped, the pool was at ~33oC. It was heating up at a rate of only about one-fourth of a degree per hour because the decay heat level is very, very low, at this point. The pool temperature was at about 43oC when the cooling system was restarted late Sunday afternoon. (Kyodo News) Comment - Undaunted by the miniscule risk involved, Japan Today reported that if cooling was not restored in three days, the pool could be “spewing radiation” once again. News on Japan said the fuel bundles must be covered in water to keep them from burning up. Talk about ridiculous! First, the fuel bundles must heat up to in excess of 900oC before any radioactive material could possibly be released. That’s just not going to happen with decay heat as low as it is. Secondly, for a so-called “fire” (actually, more like a fireworks sparkler) the temperatures would have to reach more than 1100oC. Third, there is not, never has been, and probably never will be a radioactive release from the pool. Japan Today and News on Japan are reporting fantasy as a real possibility and should print retractions.

June 29

Commentary : The most dangerous nukes in Japan…NOT!

A group of nine anti-nuclear politicians have ranked the relative danger posed by nuclear plants in Japan. It should come as no surprise to anyone that the two alleged to be most dangerous are Oi units #3 & 4. Genpatsu Zero no Kai (Group for zero nuclear power), headed by former PM Naoto Kan with members from seven political parties in the Diet, say they drew their conclusion on a combination of factors including facility age, type of reactor system, type of containment structure, record of nuclear safety, potentially active faults near the plants, and population concentration. They acknowledge they based their rankings on a system previously used in Germany. (Asahi Shimbun; Kyodo News; Japan Times)

As objective as the group tries to make it seem, the rankings are simply based on current political issues combined with arbitrary assumptions. Of course, their hit list will be touted as unmitigated fact by the prophets of nuclear energy doom all over the world, but should be taken as little more than politically expedient speculation by a minor group of lawmakers exploiting their nation’s nuclear anxiety to gain increased exposure in the Press.

Kan’s Group has identified no less than a dozen plants, including two entire multi-unit nuclear power stations, which they feel should be barred from restart and dismantled as soon as possible. The two Oi units being listed as the most dangerous is no more than pandering to the present political problems surrounding their restarts. Most of the remaining plants earmarked for immediate abolition are either approaching the operational age of 40 years, boiling water reactor systems similar to Fukushima Daiichi, near seismic faults the plants were allegedly not built to accommodate, or all three. First, there’s no scientific evidence that a 40 year old nuke is suddenly too-deteriorated to be safe. The 40-year limit on nuclear operation is arbitrary and not based on sound engineering research. In fact, research on nukes in the west shows them to be of sufficient integrity for license extensions of up to 20 years beyond their current 40-year licensures. There’s considerable reputable speculation that most existing plants will live to be over 100. These babies were built to last.

Second, there’s nothing inherently dangerous about either a boiling water or pressurized water reactor system. The emphasis of the Group’s listing being on BWRs is capricious and grounded in guilt-by-association…Fukushima was a BWR plant, so all BWRs are too risky to operate. 

Thirdly, the focus on earthquakes in the Group’s rankings is an obvious attempt to avoid the true cause of the Fukushima accident…the 40-foot high tsunami. All allegations of the 3/1/11 quake-itself causing critical damage to the F. Daiichi safety and cooling systems are assumptive and phantasmagorical. There is no hard, conclusive evidence of any quake damage to any emergency system at F. Daiichi! Keep in mind that F.Daiichi’s design criterion for earthquakes is ~7.8 Richter scale, but it safely survived a quake some 20 times more powerful on 3/11/11. Like I said earlier, these babies were built to last.

The nuclear power stations alleged to be too dangerous to operate are the three units at Hamaoka and the six at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. The Hamaoka NPS is high on the hit list because of its proximity to Tokyo and its having been ear-marked for shuttering early-on by Group leader Kan, who suddenly became anti-nuclear during the accident and feared he might have to evacuate Tokyo. He says his Hamaoka moratorium was due to inadequate seismic resistance. We now know he did it to soothe his personal fear of a nuclear apocalypse from Hamaoka, which is 100 kilometers nearer Tokyo than F. Faiichi. The Group’s inclusion of the Hamaoka NPS near the top of their hit list is in keeping with Kan’s eschatological nightmares and is obviously an effort to keep the level of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) at a high level in Japan’s capitol. As for the six units at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, they are said to be too dangerous because damage occurred to their emergency electrical systems due to a major earthquake in 2007 of 7.2 Richter scale. It doesn’t matter that the power station was closest of all Japanese nukes to the 9.0 Richter scale quake’s epicenter on 3/11/11. It doesn’t matter that the station suffered no safety system damage due to the quake which was at least 80 times more powerful than the one experienced in 2007.

The Diet Group’s nuclear hit list should not be given serious consideration. It is arbitrary, speculative, politically expedient, and clearly intended to keep Japan’s level of FUD at a fever pitch.

Now, for some other Fukushima-related news…

  • The highest radiation level to date has been measured inside F. Daiichi unit #1 torus room. Tepco staff inserted an endoscope and a mini-dosimeter through a drain hole in the ceiling above the suppression chamber. The insertion was tortuous because of what appears to be a small pipe and a cable inside the hole. At 4 meters above the water in the bottom of the room, the radiation level is about one sievert/hour (1000 millisieverts). At about 20 centimeters above the water level, the reading is a whopping 10.3 sieverts/hour (10,300 millisieverts). This is more than 10 times anything measured in either unit #2 or #3. Tepco had assumed all along that since the rad levels inside units #2&3 torus rooms made robots necessary, the same would be the case for unit #1. Tepco reports, “Workers cannot enter the site and we must use robots for the demolition.” TEPCO official Junichi Matsumoto added (as this blog has said for 15 months) that unit #1’s fuel core experienced the most severe damage of the three. (NHK World; Japan Today)
  • The Kansai Electric’s shareholder rejection of Osaka’s desire to abolish nuclear energy is a serious setback for Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s reputation as an effective antinuclear mayor. Because the city owns nearly 10% of Kepco stock, Hashimoto felt that would be enough to convince other major shareowners to follow suit. They didn’t. Immediately, Hashimoto shifted into a new mode of attacking the company. "At this rate, Kepco is going to end up bankrupt. Explanations about the future risk (of continuing with nuclear power) are insufficient," Hashimoto said. He then posed questions about the problem of spent nuclear fuel and what would happen to Kepco's costs if its 11 reactors were halted permanently. While sidestepping the waste issue, Kepco officials estimated that keeping the nukes off-line would result in an increase of 900 billion yen in annual fuel costs. These added costs would mean increased bills to the customers. (Japan Times)
  • The price of electricity in Japan continues to rise due to the moratorium on operating nukes. The situation is exemplified by TEPCO President Toshio Nishizawa, who said, "As we have increased thermal power generation [in place of nuclear power generation], our fuel costs have soared. In light of this, we have to raise electricity rates so our customers can help shoulder the costs." In contrast, local officials feel there has been little evidence to support the soaring rates. Tokyo Vice Gov. Naoki Inose says Tepco "has not sufficiently explained why the rate should be raised, while its corporate streamlining efforts are just not good enough.” (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Some stalwarts in the Diet continue to deny the government’s responsibility for making the Fukushima accident possible. "There is no way [for the government] to support TEPCO, which is responsible for the crisis," a ruling Democratic Party of Japan lawmaker said. (Yomiuri Shimbun) comment - In other words, it’s all Tepco’s fault? Who do they think they are kidding?
  • Another week, another protest in front of the prime minister’s office. Anticipating the Sunday restart of Oi unit #3, thousands of anti-nuclear supporters marched on Friday to demand the preparations for operations be stopped immediately. The crowd displayed banners of "No Nukes" and "Nuclear era is over!" Duncan Callister is a 63-year-old American who joined the protest who said, "This isn't just Japan's problem. It's an international problem." Protest organizers estimated attendance to be 45,000, but police said the actual attendance was much lower. (Kyodo News)

June 27

  • Tepco has reported that all outer walls of F. Daiichi unit #4 have been examined and more than one is “tilted”…bowed out as a result of the hydrogen explosion of 3/15/11, actually. The most extreme is outside the third floor, two stories below the destroyed refueling deck, which moved 4.6 centimeters. None of the walls exceed legal specifications. It must be stressed that these discoveries are for the building’s outer walls, but in no way affect the integrity of the robust inner containment building of which the spent fuel pool is a part. Regardless, the press report says that” more than 1500 nuclear fuel rods” are “stockpiled” in the un-affected pool. The use of the term “stockpiled” evokes visions of nuclear weapons and is a clear example of the Hiroshima Syndrome at work. (NHK World)
  • The Oi restart issue has been blown out of proportion by the Associated Press, calling it a “new crisis” in Japan. The AP says that restarting Oi units #3&4 could lead to meltdowns which will potentially contaminate lake Biwa, Japan’s largest freshwater source. Further, it alleged that safe evacuations from the 30km radius are not possible given the existing roads in the area. The AP purports that there is no contingency plan for Lake Biwa and an alternative route for evacuation is “barely on the drawing board”. Then, AP expands their scare-mongering to all of Japan, saying all communities around the nukes do not comply with the expanded 30km evacuation standard and its contingency planning. The AP carefully selects who they quote to support their position. "If another crisis hits now, we can't do anything but flee. We feel so insecure." said Kaoru Tsuchiya, a crisis management official in Shiga Prefecture. Shiga Gov. Yukuko Kada accuses Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of emphasizing plant site safety to the exclusion of any discussion of safety procedures in the communities surrounding the plants. "They still ignore the residents, and that's what angers me most. I'm horrified by the thought that another Fukushima-class crisis could instantly make the lake water undrinkable," Kada lamented.  For “balance, the AP quotes NISA disaster management official Hisatoshi Nakazaki, "In an emergency, they have to use the old evacuation plans, think quickly and use discretion." Kyoto, some 100 kilometers from Oi, is also up in arms. City disaster manager Fulio Yoshida, says, "Until Fukushima, we never imagined radiation reaching our city, or the need for crisis plans" Ehime Prefecture lies roughly 300 kilometers from Oi, but even they have issues with the restart. Prefectural official Noriyuki Onishi, says, "We need a manual. We have to consider a much larger area than before. We have to get started. We can't just wait and worry." (Associated Press)
  • Two Japanese seismologists with a history of anti-nuclear posturing have denounced the restart of Oi units 3&4. Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismologist at Kobe University, told reporters, "The stress tests and new safety guidelines for restarting nuclear power plants both allow for accidents at plants to occur. Instead of making standards more strict, they both represent a severe setback in safety standards." Mitsuhisa Watanabe, a tectonic professor at Tokyo University, said the seismic threat to nukes has been underestimated, "The expertise and neutrality of experts advising Japan's Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency are highly questionable.” Both say the 3/11/11 quake makes future super-quakes more likely than before. Neither presented any scientific data to support this claim. (Asia One, Reuters)
  • A group of ~120 citizens have filed suit against the restart of Shika Nuclear Power Station in Ishikawa Prefecture. The plaintiffs come from Ishikawa as well as neighboring Toyama Prefecture. The suit claims the F. Daiichi accident shows the government and utilities had been wrong in securing the safety of reactors. (Kyodo News) The group says, "The present quake-resistance guidelines for the nuclear power plant have serious flaws." They claim that earthquake design considerations were based on a single fault being the trigger, but F. Daiichi proved multiple fault earthquakes are possible and could not have been considered in building the Shiga plants. The group says the plants were built to withstand a quake of 6.8 on the Richter scale, but a multiple fault quake could be 7.3 on the Richter scale. (Mainichi Shimbun) The plaintiffs conclude that a large quake would seriously damage the Shika plant, threatening the safety of nearby residents. They say the disaster occurred at Fukushima even though the plant was considered safe by government guidelines and those guidelines have lost credibility, so the Shika plant can no longer be considered safe. In 2006, the Kanazawa District Court accepted similar demands from residents around the Shika plant and ordered the utility to halt its Number 2 reactor. But that ruling was overturned by the Nagoya High Court and the Supreme Court. (NHK World)
  • Anti-nuclear attempts to stop atomic power generation at nine utility company stockholder’s meetings have all failed. (Asahi Shimbun) The Tepco shareholder’s meeting in Tokyo literally turned into a media circus. Outside the venue held in a gymnasium, civic groups and individual citizens demanded Tepco adopt a nuclear-free energy policy. Prominent among the shareholders was a contingent from Germany’s anti-nuclear Ethecon Foundation [for] Ethics & Economics, including its chairman Axel Koehler-Schnura. They presented Tepco with a “black planet award” trophy (a filthy-looking globe), saying Tepco was last year’s worst company in the world with respect to protecting the environment. "TEPCO caused unrecoverable damage to the global environment and the human rights of people throughout the world," the chairman said. A minority of the Japanese shareholders called for a phase-out of nuclear plants, while most supported continued nuclear energy operations for the good of the nation’s economy. Mikio Nakayama, 72, who served as a member of the Nerima Ward Assembly and the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly, said, "Ideally, we should reduce nuclear power in stages, but when I think of people's livelihood in the immediate future, I would support the reactivation of nuclear reactors." (Mainichi Shimbun) Osaka-based Kansai Electric (Kepco) shareholders have summarily rejected the city’s proposal to scrap all of the company’s nukes. While protestors chanted outside the meeting, Kepco shareowners agreed that nuclear plants are crucial for a stable energy supply. The cities of Kobe and Kyoto made proposals similar to Osaka, but the shareholders voted them down as well. (NHK World)


June 25

The decision to resume operations at Oi units #3&4 has spawned numerous protests around the world. It makes no difference that the Oi power plants were undamaged on 3/11/11 and safety measures have been significantly improved over the past year. To date, 54 safety improvements have been put in place at Oi to insure emergency electrical supplies will be available, withstand severe earthquakes, and protect against the worst-possible tsunami for the region. It also makes little difference that the number of protestors outside of Tokyo has been minimal. The popular Press is giving all demonstrations relatively equal coverage. It is also interesting that the one well-attended protest in Tokyo has had a wide range of estimates as to the number of individuals involved. The true number? That’s for you to decide…

  • Kyodo News reports that protest organizers believe 45,000 attended the Tokyo rally. A 42-year-old woman who had come with her children, said, "The government's decision (to reactive the Oi reactors) is folly. We should not leave the solution of energy issue to the next generation."
  • The Mainichi Shimbun also reports the 45,000 attendance number, but adds that Tokyo Metropolitan Police estimate that 11,000 attended. "I learned about today's activity via Facebook," said a 32-year-old from Tsuchiura, Ibaraki Prefecture. "I'm appalled at (the government's decision on) restarting the nuclear reactors while the method to dispose of nuclear waste hasn't been determined." There have been weekly protests outside then Prime Minister’s office since March, with an average of about 300 attending each week. The organizers (Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes) says the numbers were growing until this week when the Oi restart decision suddenly swelled their ranks.
  • Japan Today says about 20,000 attended Friday’s Tokyo rally. The report suggests the protest shows that PM Noda’s decision contradicts the public’s position on the matter. “The battle has only just begun”, insisted composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, a leading anti-nuclear figure. Protesters said they would hold another demonstration next week. Noda had said he would not allow restarts as long as local officials from Oi town and Fukui Prefecture were opposed. Once their approval was given, Noda said restoration of Oi operations was permitted. Nearly all Tokyo protestors were from communities outside the Oi locality, from all over Japan.

Outside Tokyo, the Oi protests were much less popular…

  • Japan Times tells us that protests were held all over the world in parallel with the Tokyo demonstration. In Osaka, about 1500 people massed outside the Kansai Electric Company offices to protest the Oi restarts. One protestor said, “They are trying to scare us by saying power supplies may run out even if the reactors are restarted”. Another attendee said, “I think reactivation is premature”. In Washington, D.C., about 35 protestors from as far away as California delivered a letter to the Japanese Consulate which said (in part), "Your decision is undemocratic. It is clear even from the United States that the Japanese public is not supporting you. You may reject this letter as outside interference. However, the fallout of nuclear accidents does not know national borders (and) severely impacts the global environment." Similar demonstrations occurred in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, with small numbers attending. Finally, about 20 protestors interrupted the final day of the international sustainable energy conference in Rio de Janeiro where PM Noda represented Japan.
  • Asahi Shimbun reports on a rally against the Oi restarts in P.M. Noda’s home town. A few hundred protestors marched in Funabashi, Chiba Prefecture, denouncing the resumption of nuclear powered electricity in Japan. The demonstration took place on Sunday.

In other Fukushima news…

  • Seafood harvested from the waters off Fukushima is safe to eat. The prefecture’s federation of fisheries says they have tested shellfish and octopus and found no detectable levels of Fukushima isotopes gathered off Soma city. This marks the first seafood testing done on Fukushima seafood since the 3/11/11 crisis began. Octopus and whelk, a kind of marine snail, were shipped to a few cities and went on sale today. “It was crisp when I bit into it, and it tasted so good,” said Yasuhiro Yoshida, who oversees the seafood section at a supermarket in Soma, which sold out of about 30 kilograms of the snails and 40 kilograms of the octopus that had been shipped to the store. “I was filled with both uncertainty and hope today, but I was so happy when I found out the local supermarket had sold out by 3 p.m.,” said Hirofumi Konno, a fisheries official. He said they planned to also offer crab, which has been discovered to be free of Fukushima contamination as well. He said many people were buying the seafood in support of local fishermen. The items were available locally but not in the whole prefecture or the Tokyo area. Flounder, sea bass and other fish from Fukushima can’t be sold yet because of detectable contamination. (Japan Today)
  • Tokyo has asked four major power companies to prepare for rolling blackouts. This is despite the anticipated restarts of the Oi nukes. Chubu, Kansai, Shikoku, and Hokkaido Electic companies have been alerted that Tokyo will call for the blackouts if power demand reaches 99% of capacity. If the outages are anticipated, Tokyo will issue warnings by Email 3-4 hours before the blackouts will begin. Each local area affected will experience two hours of power loss, once per day as long as the shortage exists. Hospitals, prefectural government buildings, police and fire stations will be exempt, along with railways, airports and banks. (Japan Today)
  • The Tokyo government warns the people of Japan about ads that purport protection from radiation, but are misleading or technically unfair. The Bureau of Citizens and Cultural Affairs checked on about 24,000 ads concerning radiation protection in 2011 and found 582 cases of questionable content. About a fourth of the dubious ads made claims without verifiable data to support what they say. 56 cases were for water purification equipment, 39 unfair ads for disaster-prevention products, 34 cases involved ads for health food, 16 for radioactivity measuring devices and 11 were ads for protective masks. The Bureau said faulty ads for detergents and masks were said to be effective in avoiding contamination, but the products were “ordinary” and had no supportive data for their claims. While the ads are not themselves illegal, Tokyo advises consumers to closely check the credibility of advertising statements. (Mainichi Shimbun)


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