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Fukushima 36...7/16/12-7/30/12


August 1

  • 8,686 people were taken to Japanese hospitals by ambulance for heatstroke last week. This was a 50% increase from the previous week. Of those hospitalized, 16 died. People over the age of 65 accounted for 43% of the heatstroke patients. The three prefectures with the highest number of heatstroke sufferers were Aichi (668), Tokyo (646) and Saitama (632). (Jiji Press)
  • The tsunami debris along the Fukushima coast continues to run into disposal problems. Local opposition to the government’s disposal plans has caused Tokyo to re-think what might be done with the millions of tons of rubble remaining to be handled. The government had planned to build facilities in 2 towns to incinerate debris from 8 municipalities in Futaba County. However, the environment ministry cannot get local approval for incinerators in Hirono and Namie due to fear of radiation. As a result, the ministry is asking six other towns if they might allow the incinerators to be built. Resolution of the problem remains questionable. (NHK World)
  • While the higher, more robust tsunami protection barrier at Hamaoka is on schedule, other Fukushima-related upgrades are falling behind. Chubu Electric Company says unexpected delays with the installation of additional emergency power equipment are the cause of the scheduling setback. The utility's president, Akihisa Mizuno, told a news conference, "Reactivation (of reactors at the plant) will be delayed because of this, and it will be quite tough on finances." The problems involve a 40-meter-high platform for emergency gas generators plus improvements in seawater intake protection. Construction of the safety upgrades is considered essential for gaining public support for future restarts of the Hamaoka units. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The 20km Fukushima maritime no-go zone will be reduced to 5km. The government has been reviewing the maritime entry regulations into the zone at the request of the fishing industry. Fishing industry officials say the 20km radius is costing them money when shipping their catch between the northern and southern ports because by-passing the no-go zone is also adding considerable time to their trade movements. The nuclear disaster task force says radiation levels are sufficiently low in the sea compared to land, where a large part of the 20-kilometer radius around F. Daiichi is still off limits. The potential date for this change was not announced. (NHK World)
  • A 20 member team from the IAEA is inspecting the Onagawa nuclear station in Miyagi Prefecture. The goal is to ascertain the level of earthquake damage caused on 3/11/11. They are also inspecting tsunami protection upgrades. Onagawa is 120 kilometers north of F. Daiichi and experienced temblors that were greater than the design criteria for the location. The tsunami flooded one of the station’s basements, but no reactor cooling systems were lost. The mission, led by seismologist Sujit Samaddar, will inspect equipment and facilities at the plant through August 9th. (Japan Today)
  • Naoto Kan continues to establish himself as an antinuclear activist. Kan and about a dozen Diet lawmakers met with organizers of the weekly Tokyo antinuclear rally. Kan told the group he has talked with Prime Minister Noda and feels the protests have had an influence on the national leader. "He has told me that he is not reluctant to meet with you," Kan said, adding he will help arrange a meeting. The activists' demands include shutting down the two restarted reactors at Oi and not starting up any of the other idled reactors. Their goal is abolishing all nuclear power as soon as possible. Kan stressed that he feels it is crucial to decide Japan’s antinuclear future as soon as possible. (Japan Times)
  • The annual Nagasaki Peace Declaration will not call for the abolition of nuclear energy. In addition to their recurring anti-nuclear-weapons plea, the declaration will make a call for “a society where people are not threatened by radiation”. Nagasaki mayor Tomisha Taue said, “This year’s declaration is based on last year’s declaration that called for a change to renewable energy.” (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Fukushima seafood is now being shipped to Tokyo for public sale. This is the first attempt to sell Fukushima Prefecture’s seafood in the national capital. Wednesday’s shipment of 200 kilograms of octopus arrived in Tokyo on Wednesday. After not fishing for any seafood for 15 months, Fukushima fisherman began hauling in 2 kinds of octopus and one variety of clams in June. None of the three have any detectable Fukushima contamination in them. The seafood was taken from the waters off Soma City, 50km from F. Daiichi. The federation of fisheries cooperatives in Fukushima says it will study resuming fishing on a full-fledged basis after seeing how sales go in big markets like Tokyo. The octopus shipped to Tokyo will be sold on Thursday at Tsukiji market. (NHK World)

July 30

  • Tepco has held an emergency drill based on assuming a worst case earthquake near Tokyo Bay. About 300 Tepco employees, including new management, took part in the Monday exercise. The scenario was based on a magnitude 7.3 quake occurring beneath Koto Ward. The drill assumed the quake damaged transmission lines and sub-stations across the world’s largest metropolis. It also presumed potential, albeit minor impact on the two Fukushima power stations 250km north of Tokyo. Tepco says they hope to restore public confidence by staging a number of such drills in the future. (NHK World)
  • Japan is experiencing a “scorching” heat wave reminiscent of record-setting 2010. As of Sunday, the government said there have been more than 52,000 heatstroke cases necessitating hospital care. At the same time, the death toll was reported to be 168. 80% of the reporting locations saw highs of at least 85oF, this weekend. The highest posted temperature was nearly 102oF (38.5oC) in Tajimi City, Gifu Prefecture. Near-100oF readings dotted the landscape in and around Tokyo Bay. Sapporo, on the northern-most major island of Japan, reached a day-time high of 91oF, which is very unusual for the Winter Olympics’ site. The heat wave threatens to stretch Japan’s electrical capacity to its limits, even after the two Oi Nuke restarts. (Accuweather.com)
  • This week’s antinuclear rally in Tokyo was on Sunday, in blistering-hot temperatures of 95oF (35oC). Although protest organizers again exaggerated attendance to be 200,000, this week’s throng was estimated by police at between 14,000 and 17,000. Elderly people, women and children were prominent in the crowd. The demonstrators chanted popular antinuclear themes and once again demanded that the Oi nukes be immediately shut down. The highlight of the event was an encircling of the Diet by candle light. During the evening candle light vigil, a few scuffles broke out between police and a few demonstrators. This was the first instance of physical fracas with the weekly protests. It was also announced that a new political party has been launched. Greens Japan is a political organization planning to field candidates in parliamentary elections with an antinuclear agenda. Deputy Head Akira Miyabe said “A party that pursues environmental policies is needed.” (Japan Today; NHK World)
  • Surprisingly, a few of the Tokyo demonstrators were not opposing nuclear restarts. They were protesting the tsunami of fear, uncertainty and doubt that has harmed the Tohoku region since 3/11/11, caused by scare-mongering rumors. Kotaro Kikuchi of Iwate said, "I guess most of the people who gathered here want to say 'no' to the restart of nuclear reactors. But I came here to say 'no' to "fuhyo-higai" (the damage caused by groundless rumors) that the Tohoku region has been suffering from [since the triple-meltdown].” Kikuchi added, "I've heard that some boards of education decided not to choose Tohoku as a destination for school trips. When I heard that, I really thought we have to raise our voices. Otherwise, Iwate Prefecture won't be revitalized." Kikuchi emphasized, however, that a nuclear crisis should never be allowed to happen again. On the other hand, many demonstrators voiced their fears of a nuclear apocalypse. Laurent Mabesoone, 43, a French haiku poet from Nagano Prefecture said, "If the same kind of accident happens at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, it'd all be over. We should not allow the restart of the power plant.” His wife Toyo added, "I believe it's time to raise our voices. Otherwise, there won't be a future for us." (Japan Times)
  • The Diet’s political parties are in a quandary over how to communicate with antinuclear protestors. It seems the size and persistence of the weekly demonstrations in Tokyo has caught lawmakers unawares. LDP President Sadakazu Tanigaki said, "(The protests) indicate that there are many people who are searching for ways to express their anxiety. What lies beneath their sense of anxiety? It is an important job for politics to dispel such anxieties." A member of the majority Democratic Party of Japan observed, "If nuclear plants are suspended, electricity bills will go up. Those who only advocate their likes and dislikes won't understand our explanations." Even nuclear disaster minister Goshi Hosono commented, "It is hard to figure out how to face up to the demonstrations. I don't have an answer myself." Beyond their general atmosphere of incredulity, many lawmakers are taking issue with the few prominent politicians taking part in the protests. Social Democratic Party leader Mizuho Fukushima said, "Now is not a time for parties to organize [antinuclear] demonstrations." How long will the weekly protests last? It seems protestors only want the Oi plants shut down immediately and keeping all Japanese nukes indefinitely shuttered. Norimichi Hattori, one of the organizers of the protests, asserted, "We will stop the protests once the Oi nuclear plant is suspended." (Mainichi Shimbun) …no matter how hot it gets or how many people die from heat stroke!
  • An antinuclear meeting contaminated by the Hiroshima Syndrome was held in Fukushima City last week. Because of the meeting’s success, Japan Congress Against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs will now hold annual meetings in Fukushima City, in addition to their yearly gatherings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Organizers estimate roughly 1,000 people attended in Fukushima. Group leader Koichi Kawano, a Nagasaki survivor, said that a nuclear accident can happen anywhere and at any time which he feels demands the immediate abolition of nuclear energy. A woman from Nagasaki said she took part in the meeting to support the people of Fukushima, calling for an end to nuclear power and to oppose the restarts of nuclear reactors. (NHK World) Confusing reactors with bombs continues unabated…

July 27

  • Former F. Daiichi plant manager Masao Yoshida’s upcoming video will detail his view on the “full abandonment” issue. The video is scheduled for public release on August 11, but the Press has seen it in advance. In the video, Yoshida makes his obligatory apologies to the people of Fukushima, but later addresses whether or not Tepco ever wanted to abandon the power complex at the height of the crisis. He said that immediately following the unit #1 hydrogen explosion, works “rushed to” the site. Names of all arrivals were documented, as well as the names of those who left. Yoshida wanted to know who "remained at the site until the last minute to fight." He later adds, "Basically, I was thinking how to stabilize the power plant. I thought no one engaged in cooling the reactors could leave. I never said a word about withdrawal to the head office." He admits that his worst fears occurred when the unit #3 exploded with flying debris to hitting their command center (TSC), but even then there was no intent on his part to order abandonment. (Japan Times)
  • The science ministry says the intentional withholding of radiation spread during the early days was justified. Today, they announced the SPEEDI forecasts "cannot be regarded as simulations of the real situations." They explained the predicted spread of radioactivity data compiled by SPEEDI was "calculated based on assumptions" and could not be trusted. (Kyodo News) comment – The evacuations mandated around F. Daiichi were also based on assumptions, but that didn’t stop the government from forcing twice as many people from their homes than was actually needed.
  • Full-scale decontamination of Tamura City by the government has begun. This is the first state-sponsored decontamination work inside the old no-go zones. However, a minority of vocal residents say this is essentially a “rush job”. They further oppose building a high-efficiency incinerator to speed up the disposal of material and greatly reduce its volume. Why? Because they fear radiation exposure. The proposed incinerator will exhaust gasses with no detectable cesium levels. But, opponents say the cesium will be concentrated in the ash and pose an unacceptable danger. Tamura is one of the communities where the return of residents is deemed possible by the end of the year. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The next three nukes proposed to restart (but not this summer) have been announced. They are Shikoku Electric Power Co.'s Ikata plant, Hokkaido Electric Power Co.'s Tomari plant and Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. The Hokkaido plant is seen to be the most crucial because of the region’s typically cold, harsh winters. Without a Tomari retart, the region could experience a 400 MWe shortfall forcing rolling blackouts. Hokkaido Electric says discussions with local officials are scheduled to begin in September. The electrical projection was run by the company at the request of the prefectural government. However, it seems that Shikoku’s Ikata #3 will be the next plant to undergo restart discussions because its “stress test” analysis has been approved by Tokyo. Ehime governor Tokihiro Nakamura wants the restart delayed until the proposed nuclear regulatory commission is in place, and has been critical of the political delays in making it happen. However, he is aware of potential power problems if Ikata #3 is not restarted, "If a thermal power plant is halted due to trouble, the negative impact on the economy and people's lives in the prefecture would be enormous." Whether the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture is restarted will have a significant impact on Tepco’s financial situation. Without a restart, thermal plant and replacement power costs could cripple the company’s already fragile economic situation. However, Niigata governor Hirohiko Izumida doesn’t care, "It's impossible to discuss the restart before the cause of the Fukushima accident is clear." (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The Tokyo government has proposed that Shunichi Tanaka, an expert in radiation physics, be appointed to head the new nuclear regulatory authority. His credentials are essentially impeccable. It should be noted that Tanaka is a resident of Fukushima and has considerable experience with decontamination efforts. The government also presented four other candidates -- Kenzo Oshima, (former ambassador to the United Nations), Kunihiko Shimazaki, (Coordinating Committee for Earthquake Prediction), Kayoko Nakamura (Japan Radioisotope Association), and Toyoshi Fuketa (Japan Atomic Energy Agency).  (Kyodo News)
  • Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono has gone on record as supporting all of former PM kan’s actions during the nuclear crisis. In a closed-door interview last November, Hosono said, "Suppose a prime minister other than Prime Minister Kan was pressed to make decisions there at that time, I have no idea who could be a prime minister capable of making (proper) decisions." On Kan’s meddlesome flight to F. Daiichi on March 12, Hosono reported, "The decision led to Mr. Kan's mental strength to carry the fate of the country and make decisions without sleeping for several days." Concerning the site abandonment issue, he had thought the power company sounded out the government about the "complete withdrawal." Hosono then added, "I hesitated to tell them to stay there. I had no idea what decision I should make", indicating Kan was right in his making the order to not abandon F. Daiichi. He then expressed his sense of distrust in the utility, saying, "I was stunned at the possibility of TEPCO suppressing the Prime Minister's Office's intentions." (Mainichi Shimbun)

July 25

  • Oi unit #4 is now producing electricity at full capacity – 1127 MWe. The anticipated milestone was reached at 1am today. Oi's unit #3 resumed operation earlier this month and is running at full capacity. Now that both units are at full power, the government plans to lift the power-saving targets imposed on the service areas of 3 other utilities in central and western Japan. Coincidently, the governor of Fukui Prefecture has praised added monitoring with the units which has given everyone full, transparent information about the restarts. Governor Issei Nishikawa says the upgraded monitoring provided effective disclosure of information, improved understanding of the need for the restarts, and developed awareness of the relation between power generation and the economy.  (NHK World)
  • Former F. Daiichi plant manager Masao Yoshida has praised the staff at the power complex during the height of the crisis. In a soon-to-be-released video, Yoshida described his staff as “Buddhist saints in Hell”. He added that the “workers cooling the reactors at the plant could not leave the site”. The video, scheduled for release August 11 at a Fukushima City symposium, will be the first public airing of Yoshida’s personal feelings during the crucial period following the start of the accident. (Kyodo News)
  • Japan’s academic community is now supporting the belief that most of the radiological releases from F. Daiichi were due to unit #2. Researchers from the University of Tokyo, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and “other experts” have examined the crisis response log at the reactor facility. They also checked radiation levels in surrounding areas. (NHK World) comment – This report isn’t worth the fonts it was printed with. They base their finding on data taken from radiation monitors spread around the perimeter of the power complex, which showed that airborne levels increased every time the unit #2 staff vented pressure to the atmosphere. There is no doubt the recorded data is correct, however these experts fail to recognize that the necessarily enormous releases due to the hydrogen explosions with units #1&3 which occurred when the winds were blowing out to sea. There are no radiation monitors on the sea-ward side of the power complex, thus the unquestionably greater releases on March 12 and 13 were unrecorded. This does not mean they didn’t happen…they absolutely did happen. The experts also fail to consider that the unit #4 hydrogen explosion of March 15 perfectly coincided with the first release recorded on that day…and not from unit #2. The longer official sources in Japan continue to promulgate the notion that the main releases came from unit #2, the worse it will be when the truth is eventually known…and it will be!
  • Information contained in this week’s release of the government’s Fukushima investigation continues to make headlines. Some new insights occur on a daily basis. Japan Times reports The Prime Minister’s emergency staff “failed to handle the disaster professionally”. The report adds "The prime minister's office had to make important decisions without having any contact with the off-site center that was supposed to collect crucial information." This lack of information may have led then-PM Naoto Kan and his subordinates to panic and act on rumor. As a result, Kan added to the chaos by confusing the plant officials and workers with his attempt to stop seawater cooling and his belief that Tepco was going to abandon the F. Daiichi power station. The report says they find no supportive evidence to say Tepco considered abandonment. Mainichi Shimbun reports “the lack of communication between authorities led to an "inappropriate" handling of patient evacuation from hospitals.” Nearly 600 people died as a result of evacuation problems and general panic caused by the mandated de-population of the 20km radius. In response to the report, Takao Suganuma of the Fukushima prefectural health and welfare group called the government's criticism "extremely harsh," but added that "it is being taken seriously." Suganuma added, "We learned that it is not enough to only evacuate people, but that it is also very important to be aware of each person's condition."
  • Another successful nuclear accident drill was held, this time at Tohoku Electric Company’s Onagawa facility. Onagawa station is located in Miyagi Prefecture, whose coastline bore the brunt of the 3/11/11 tsunami and suffered considerable loss of life from the giant wave. The drill simulated a comparable massive quake and tsunami. About 150 on-site staff participated, bringing in 4 power trucks to practice restoring electrical sources in case installed emergency generators break down. The power trucks are garaged on high ground to protect them from tsunami. The new mobile generators were purchased and housed at Onagawa station in March. Onagawa workers also practiced using mobile units to inject emergency cooling water into reactors. (NHK World)
  • The town of Futaba, immediately adjacent to F. Daiichi, has decided to run their own investigation into the accident. Mayor Katsutaka Idogawa denounced the government's final report on the accident saying, "Why is it a 'final' report when tens of thousands of people are still evacuated and the disaster is ongoing? Why can they say that for sure when they cannot do a sufficient study of the inside (of the reactor buildings)? I cannot trust the report and don't feel like reading it." He then turned his attack on Tepco, saying that their in-house accident report is faulty because "They don't have any awareness that they caused the disaster." (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Barely detectable levels of Strontium-90 have been monitored in the soils of ten Prefectures other than Fukushima and Miyagi. (NHK World; Mainichi Shimbun; Japan Today) The highest level reported is 6 Becquerels per meter in Ibaraki Prefecture. This is less than half the naturally-occurring Potassium-40 level in a banana. Both K-40 and Sr-90 are considered “bone seekers”. The science ministry has emphasized that the amounts detected are extremely small and present no risk to human health. Regardless, the Japanese news media’s coverage only adds to the radiophobic belief that detectable radiation is necessarily dangerous.
  • A number of Japanese prosecutors have announced they are willing to litigate lawsuits against Tepco and the government. The decision is alleged to be the result of the government’s NAIIC report on the F. Daiichi accident. The prosecutors say they cannot ignore the people’s fears of radiation exposure since it is difficult to identify the level of harm. They also focus on the NAIIC-based assumption that the true cause of the accident has yet to be disclosed. (NHK World) comment – Enough of this “not knowing the cause of the accident”, already. Any rational person would say the answer is obvious. The earthquake triggered automatic shutdowns of the three operating units at F. Daiichi and all emergency cooling systems were working precisely as they were designed to operate. Then the massive tsunami hit, and all hell broke loose. The cause of the accident was the tsunami…pure and simple…period! No tsunami = no nuclear accident. Denial of this no more than an exercise in self-deception.

July 23

  • The government panel formed by ex-PM Kan has issued its report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The panel concludes Tepco ignored evidence of possible severe accident risks prior to the accident, pointed another guilty finger at Japan’s primary nuclear regulator NISA, said PM Kan’s interference was un-called-for, but fell short of calling the crisis man-made. The report says, “The fundamental problem lies in the fact that utilities, including TEPCO, and the government have failed to see the danger as reality as they were bound by a myth of nuclear safety and the notion that severe accidents do not happen at nuclear plants in our country.” The panel also suggested the situation leading to the F. Daiichi accident could be endemic with respect to Japan’s nuclear industry. Further, the panel implied that not enough steps have been taken to insure adequate safety concerning reactor restarts, “We understand that immediate safety measures are being further detailed and will materialize in the future. But we strongly urge the people concerned to make continued efforts to take really effective steps…Both the government and companies should establish a new philosophy of disaster prevention that requires safety and disaster measures against any massive accident and disaster ... regardless of event probability.” The report also says Tepco should review its analysis of the accident because it seems they have made errors and all causes of the crisis have not yet been fully disclosed. They also chided the utility for having employees “not fully trained to think for themselves. The government-appointed panel said there was no proof the earthquake was a key factor in the disaster…a stunning contradiction to the Diet investigative committee’s (NAIIC) recent report (Japan Today)
  • The government report also compared the accident response at F. Daiichi with what simultaneously occurred at Fukushima Daiini, 10km to the south. It says the staff at F. Daiini averted a nuclear accident because they monitored reactor temperatures and pressures, as well as made speedy preparations for alternative water cooling supplies. These things did not occur at F. Daiichi because all emergency power supply sources were flooded by the tsunami. The emergency power systems at F. Daiini were not lost because the wave that hit to power complex was ~15 feet smaller. This comparison suggests that if not for the tsunami-initiated full station black-out at F. Daiichi, the nuclear accident could have been avoided. (NHK World)
  • Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan has outlined a bill in the Diet to outlaw nuclear energy by 2025. He has support from at least a dozen members of the Diet. The bill identifies two central reasons for the abolishment of nukes. First, future nuclear accidents could lead to “infinite damages”. Second, with no safe method of disposal, “piles of nuclear waste” will be left to future generations. Kan’s bill will call for establishing alternative power sources to replace nukes. In order to minimize carbon emissions, Kan wants unprecedented construction of massive wind and solar farms. The bill also calls for the government to create jobs in the communities now hosting nuclear plants so that nuclear abolition will not hurt local economies. (NHK World)
  • Last week’s massive antinuclear demonstration in Tokyo continues to make headlines. Why did so many people attend? Why were there so many elderly citizens? “Before the disaster, I had never thought of taking part in rallies,” said 22-year-old Yusuke Hasunuma, “But now I find it very exciting. It’s great to take action with other people who feel the same.” It seems that for the younger demonstrators, participation was due to the thrill of being part of a kindred group. But, this does not seem to have been the case with elderly demonstrators, who made open references to the horrors they recall due to the bombings of Hiroshima/Nagasaki in 1945. Kiyoshi Abe, professor of media and communication studies at Kwansei Gakuin University said, “I think many of those who experienced World War II and particularly the misery of atomic bombs are participating…Elderly people worked hard and kept silent for the sake of the country’s recovery from the war, but they seem to have realized that what they dreamed of is different from what they are seeing now.” (Japan Today) Thus we see more evidence of the Hiroshima Syndrome at work in Japan.
  • Some protestors said they don’t care if there are rolling blackouts and fossil-fueled pollution…they just want all nuclear energy abolished immediately. One man named Ozaki said, "If there is a power shortage, there are alternatives. What about coal-fired power stations, hydro-electric power stations, or we can just survive with what we have. We have to be patient, but even with blackouts, we can survive without nuclear power." Japan’s business community feels otherwise. Masami Hasegawa of the Japan Business Federation said, "We hear our members saying that they cannot stay in Japan if this situation continues…If the current situation continues, energy consuming industries cannot survive in Japan and they will leave.” But, protesters say safety and the avoidance of fear is more important. (CNN Asia)
  • Oi unit #4 is connected to the Japanese grid and its electrical output is on the steady increase. Kansai Electric Company says the plant will achieve full power shortly after midnight on Wednesday. Full operation of the two reactors will allow the government to remove power-saving targets in the service areas of Chubu Electric Power Co., Hokuriku Electric Power Co. and Chugoku Electric Power Co., while further easing the target in the area served by Shikoku Electric Power Co. to 5 percent from 7 percent. (Kyodo News)
  • In an attempt to prevent Hamaoka restarts, a petition with 178,000 signatures has been submitted to Shizuoka Prefecture calling for a nuclear referendum. The local election committees will check the petition for irregularities and report by August 12. The prefecture’s assembly is required to consider a possible referendum if a petition signed by 2% of the voters is submitted, which in this case must number at least 62,000. (NHK World)

July 20

  • Japan’s Meteorological Agency has issued a heatstroke warning. The early summer heat wave and atmospheric conditions over the Pacific indicate this will be a “hotter than normal” summer. The number of heat-related medical patients reported between July 9 and July 15 were 2,483, compared to 979 the previous week. (News on Japan) As the temperature rises in Japan, some good news comes out of Tepco. They announced the third of a triple-unit gas turbine power system has begun operation. The first two were started on June 29 and July 12, respectively. Total electrical output for the three is 804 MWe. (TEPCO press release) This, combined with the expected full-power output from Oi unit #4 at some point this weekend, should help avert power shortages as the summer begins to bake the island nation.
  • The first fuel bundles have been removed from F. Daiichi unit #4 spent fuel pool. The first was removed on Wednesday and second fuel bundle was removed Thursday.  They have been inspected for any possible corrosion or damage from being cooled with seawater, with no follow-up report of finding any. The bundles were slid into plastic protective sleeves and placed inside a “transport vessel” for storage. (Yomiuri Shimbun) In addition, Tepco has released pictures of the removal of the first bundle… http://photo.tepco.co.jp/en/date/2012/201207-e/120719_01e.html
  • The Hamaoka nuclear power station on Tokyo Bay has held a power blackout drill, simulating what happened to Fukushima Daiichi on 3/11/11. The Hamaoka nukes were the first to be ordered shut down by former PM Naoto Kan in May, 2011, because of fear of an earthquake and tsunami similar to the one on 3/11/11 which might happen within the next 30 years. The drill dealt with emergency actions during the first two hours of such a natural calamity. Some 4,000 people took part in the exercise. (Japan Times)
  • Although the extreme earthquake of 3/11/11 did not seem to have damaged F. Daiichi, the government is stepping up quake analysis for Japan’s nukes, nonetheless. One nuke of most concern is the Shika nuclear facility in Ishikawa Prefecture. A 900 meter-long crack in the bedrock under the property has been recently discovered. It is not known whether it is seismic or merely a geologic anomaly that cannot cause or contribute to a quake. Another crack was also discovered near the Oi nuclear power complex, and whether or not it is seismic is not known. As a result, NISA has ordered a full analysis because the cracks were unknown when the plants were designed and built. Expert opinions on the crack near Oi were heard on Tuesday, which were generally in favor of the “non-seismic” conclusion. However, NISA ordered Kepco (the Oi owners) to run a full evaluation “just in case”. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Fukushima University plans on opening a research center to study the long-tern effects of radioactive contamination. It is hoped the center will be fully operational early next year. The research center will be supported by Hiroshima University, Nagasaki University, University of Tsukubam (Ibaraki Prefecture), and the National Institute of Radiological Sciences. International support will come from a state university in Belarus. University vice president Takayuki Takahashi said, "Environmental radiation research will be a long battle." The center will study the movement of substances through the environment, the migration of the materials through the food chain, and “environmental regeneration”. (Japan Times) comment – Environmental regeneration? What regeneration? There is no evidence for any actual environmental damage due to the Fukushima accident. With no damage, how can there be regeneration? All the actual damage was due to the massive tsunami. Why not a study center on regeneration of tsunami damage?
  • America’s National Academy of Sciences has established a committee to study the F. Daiichi accident. Representatives of the American nuclear power industry and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission took part in the first meeting on Thursday. Both groups said they have taken steps to insure against the possibility of a prolonged full station blackout, like the one that occurred at Fukushima. Because overconfidence was at least partly to blame for the Japanese crisis, everyone agreed to take steps to insure it would not happen in the United States. On other issue to be addressed was the negative effect of government meddling during the critical stages of the accident. The committee wants to insure that a similar situation never happens with American plants (NHK World)

July 18

  • The temperatures across Japan are rising quickly, with Tuesday’s highs ranging from 94oF to 105oF. As a result, the electrical power situation in the country approaches then point of no return. Even with the full power addition of Oi unit #3, power reserves have dropped dramatically. For example, last week Tepco announced that demand was but 85% of available capacity. On Tuesday, Tepco said they are at 91% of capacity, with but 9% in reserve to handle increased demand. They are not alone. Chubu Electric says they are at 93% of available capacity. At 95%, government mandated power reductions will be instituted. Rolling blackouts now seem to be a real possibility. On Wednesday evening, Oi unit #4 was restarted, will begin producing electricity on Saturday and be at full output by next Wednesday. It is hoped this will avert the worst. (NHK World; Kyodo News)
  • Sunday evening, two alarms sounded at Oi unit #4. Neither was anything to be worried about. One was for a slightly high pressure in a pure water tank, and the other a faulty electrical connection on support equipment for one of the two emergency diesel generators. The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the incidents won't impact the restart schedule because the rise in pressure was marginal and the emergency generator will be able to function normally should it be needed. (Japan Times)
  • Two spent fuel bundles have been removed from F. Daiichi unit #4 spent fuel pool. Both bundles are new, have never been used inside the reactor, and have no fission products in them. Thus, they have minimal radioactivity. Japanese TV reports have been showing a large crane removing the 4 meter long (~13 feet) bundles for inspection. After ascertaining the condition of the bundles, they will be placed inside a metal storage container where they will remain until August. At that point, they will be inspected to insure that such storage will not cause damage or corrosion. Once the test period is completed, preparations will begin for the systematic and safe removal of the remaining 1,533 fuel bundles currently in the pool. (NHK World)
  • The Tokyo government is now under fire from antinuclear groups for their handling of the public hearings earlier this week. “This gives the impression that they haven’t learned anything,” said Koichi Nakano, a professor at Sophia University, after news that power company employees were among the few chosen to voice their opinions on potential changes to national energy policy after Fukushima. Sunday’s first hearing witnessed a Tepco employee calling for at least 15% of the future energy mix to come from nuclear. On Monday, a Chubu Electric employee called for the same option, adding, “Not one single person died as a result of radiation from the (Fukushima) accident.” The government is considering three options for its future energy portfolio—reduce nuclear power’s role to zero as soon as possible, aim at a 15% share by 2030, and seek a 20-25% share by the same date. Public hearings are being held around the country, with nine representatives chosen by lottery to speak at each event - three for each of the options. The public can also comment via the internet or fax. The inclusion of the utility employees has outraged nuclear critics, who are now calling for Prime Minister Noda and his political party (DPJ) to be voted out of office. It doesn’t matter that both employees are members of the public with every right to voice how they feel. The issue could open the door for new political parties—such as the one led by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto - which are springing up all over Japan. (Japan Today)
  • The news media continues to broadcast ramifications of Monday’s anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo. Chief organizer, Nobel laureate Kenzaburo Oe says, "I believe we'll be able to break free from the fear and indignity caused by the existence of nuclear power plants, and to live freely." His main collaborator, composer Ryuichi Sakamoto adds, "We should never jeopardize this beautiful land of Japan and the lives of our children, who are the future of this country, just for the sake of electricity." Fukushima resort owner Setsuo Fujita believes the Tokyo government is out of touch with the people they govern, and said, "I want Prime Minister [Yoshihiko] Noda to hear what the people here today are saying." To the contrary, PM Noda says he is taking all input to heart, including those opposed to nuclear energy. He feels the emotional effect spawned by public fear has yet to subside so that a rational national decision can be made, "It's only been a year and four months since the crisis began at TEPCO's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. I believe many people have mixed feelings" toward maintaining nuclear power plants. Noda insists the decision to recently resume operations at Kansai Electric Power Co.'s Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture was correct. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • The town of Iitate, inside the northwest evacuation corridor, has been divided into three zones. The first new zone positively affects about 30% of the evacuees because the evacuation order will be lifted, allowing businesses to resume and city services to be re-instituted. The other 70 percent will be collectively known as the "residency control area," where people will be allowed to make temporary visits to their homes in order to prepare for eventually going home. Only the 70 residences in the Nagadoro district will be off-limits to everyone for approximately five years. (Japan Times) The zone where the evacuation order is to be lifted holds about 210 residences, home to about 800 evacuees. The resident-restricted zone contains 1,660 homes for about 2,900 citizens. Before they can return home permanently, decontamination procedures need to be completed, which could take until 2014. Iitate is the fourth town to be re-zoned. The three previous are Kawauchi, Tamura, and Minamisoma, where residents are preparing to return home. However, how many citizens will actually repopulate is a mystery.  Nearly 58% of the polled evacuees say they plan on returning. The rest either don’t know what they will do or have decided to make their homes elsewhere. Of note, 54% of the women of child-bearing age say they will not return because of their fear of radiation harming their babies. (Mainichi Shimbun)

July 16

  • It seems the governor of Niigata Prefecture thinks he understands the Fukushima situation better than Tepco. Governor Hirohiko Izumida met Tepco's Chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe and President Naomi Hirose on Friday, concerning the possibility of nuke restarts in the prefecture next year. Izumida says he doubts Tepco is truly aware of its responsibility for the accident because the utility’s recent report concludes the staff did everything properly. He refuses to discuss restarts until Tepco admits being the true cause of the accident. He also demanded immediate release of all Tepco teleconferencing footage of their actions relative to the crucial first weeks of the crisis. (NHK World) comment - Obviously, the governor doesn’t trust Tepco and thinks they are perpetrating a cover-up. He says he wants Tepco to admit they and their nuclear staff was incompetent. This is a position of arrogance on Izumida’s part. What he actually knows about nuclear operations is no more than assumption.
  • The Tokyo government has begun a series of public hearings on what Japan’s energy future should look like. The hearings will take place over the next month in cities across Japan. The first hearing was held in Saitama on Friday and Sendai on Sunday, with nine citizens voicing their feelings in each. Some were in favor of keeping nuclear as a part of the mix, and some felt nuclear energy should be abandoned. One of the selected speakers at Sendai was an employee of Tepco who said the company supported the 20-25% option as being right for Japan since they have no indigenous fuels. The crowd was outraged when he spoke, with many accusing the selection process as being manipulated. Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono tried to quell the uproar, telling everyone the selection process was “totally random”. The Tepco employee said "The company has taken steps to stem manipulation. I applied (to speak) in the capacity of a private citizen." Later, Hosono said that future meetings will make sure utility employees are not included in the speaker’s mix because, “Organizations can present their policies in various forms.” Another issue was that no less than a third of the people speaking were not from Sendai or the host Prefecture. Rather, they were from Tokyo, although not in any company or government capacity. Concerning the next hearing in Fukushima City, Hosono promised that efforts would be taken to insure only the voices of the host prefecture are heard.  (Kyodo News; Mainichi Shimbun) However, true to the international antinuclear dogma, critics have called these hearings inadequate; they insist one month of debate is not long enough. Nuclear opponents also decried that individual testimonies have a strict time limit and there are no Q&A periods following each. Noriaki Yamashita, senior researcher at the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies, said "My impression is that (the hearings) are typical moves to prepare an excuse. It's hardly a move toward a public debate." Clearly, nothing Tokyo does to placate the antinuclear demographic will be acceptable to them. (Japan Times)
  • Former PM Naoto Kan’s investigative panel will release its full report on the Fukushima accident July 23rd. The report will say Tokyo made a mistake in not using SPEEDI contamination projections to direct evacuations from what would become the no-go zone around and evacuation corridor northwest of the stricken power complex. On 3/15/11, SPEEDI predicted that meteorological conditions were carrying airborne releases northwest and west of F. Daiichi. However, a significant fraction of those told to evacuate were sent directly into the predicted pathway. Ground-based monitoring demonstrates that SPEEDI was correct. The evacuees should have been sent to locations outside the predicted contamination pathway, or otherwise have stayed indoors on March 15 and waited for the wind to blow out to sea on March 16. The report will say people could have avoided unnecessary exposure if the government had used SPEEDI to plan the evacuations. This report will contradict the Diet’s NAIIC investigation which says SPEEDI should not have been used because weather forecasting is imprecise. (NHK World)
  • The July 23 report will also say the staff at Fukushima Daiini responded better to the tsunami than the people at F. Daiichi, implying that the F. Daiichi staff made an insufficient effort. The report will also conclude that evacuation of local residents and hospital patients was much better around the F. Daiini plant. F. Daiini is about 10 kilometers south of F. Daiichi, was struck by a wave about 9 meters high (~28 feet) and the amount of electrical generating equipment damaged was much less than F. Daiichi. The wave at F. Daiichi was about 14 meters (42 feet) high, resulting in a complete loss of all electrical systems. Further, the transmission equipment connecting F. Daiini to outside electrical sources was not destroyed, while the F. Daiichi electrical infrastructure was devastated. Regardless of these two critical differences, the July 23 report will say the F. Daiini staff did an adequate job, but the efforts of the F. Daiichi staff were inadequate. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Friday’s addition to the weekly antinuclear protest in Tokyo was well-attended. The Metro police estimate about 10,000 protestors took part in the well-publicized demonstration. True to form, and in accord with yet another antinuclear dogma (to exaggerate everything), protest organizers inflated their estimate to 150,000. The reason for the demonstration was the safe-and-sound restart of Oi unit #3. (News on Japan)
  • On Monday, a Japanese national holiday, a huge protest occurred in Tokyo. The event was organized by Nobel-winning author Kenzaburo Oe and Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, and was widely advertised over the internet and by the Press. “I dare to say it is merely a matter of electricity,” Sakamoto told the gathering. “Why do we have to expose our lives to danger only for the sake of power?” Oe demanded the immediate abolition of all nuclear power in Japan, implying that none of the shuttered nukes should ever be restarted. In a television interview, Prime Minister Noda responded, “We made a political decision after carrying out strict stress tests and getting through procedures in the safety committee and agency.” Yasunari Fujimoto, another organizer of the rally, said, “We want to continue to stage demonstration as anti-nuclear sentiment is growing steadily among people.” Event organizers estimated the attendance at 150,000. The metro police said the number was 70,000. (Japan Times)

 

 

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