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Agreement between Trump and Putin – let’s revive the nuclear arms race

Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin agree: Let’s revive the nuclear arms race, WP  December 22 Russian President Vladimir Putin gave a speech Thursday in which he praised his country’s military operations on behalf of the government of Syria and made a case for how Russia could be stronger moving forward.

“We need to strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces,” …… You can’t have a new nuclear arms race, of course, without someone to run against. Enter President-elect Donald Trump……..


The trend since the late 1980s has been in the opposite direction, winding down the stockpiles of weapons held by the United States and Russia…….

As always, it’s fraught to take one Trump tweet as a descriptor of where his presidency might be headed. (He has, for example, also tweeted that he never argued for other countries to get nuclear weapons, which is false.) It’s also not clear that “strengthen and expand” means more actual nuclear warheads. (The United States will spend an estimated $1 trillionover 30 years to modernize its weapons stockpile, in part because aging nuclear warheads require significant maintenance.) But Trump’s tweet stands in stark contrast to what President Obama said in May, at the site of the first atomic detonation in world history. In Hiroshima, Japan, Obama called for “a world without nuclear weapons.”…….

As Gizmodo’s Matt Novak noted on Twitter, a recently declassified 1982 briefing given to President Ronald Reagan estimated that 80 million Americans could be killed in a nuclear confrontation with the Soviet Union.


December 23, 2016 Posted by | Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Biggest threat in Asia Pacific region – nuclear North Korea

Rudd warns of nuclear North Korea The US and China must agree a strategy to arrest North Korea’s nuclear weapons program which is the biggest threat in the Asia-Pacific region, Kevin Rudd says. Kevin Rudd says the most pressing challenge in the Asia-Pacific region is North Korea’s nuclear weapons program which must be arrested by a strategy agreed between the US and China.

Speaking on the ABC’s 7.30 program on Wednesday the former prime minister said the nuclear threat was the number one priority in terms of US-China relations.

When asked by host Leigh Sales what the pressing challenges were in our region, Mr Rudd said: “I will give you three: North Korea, North Korea and North Korea.

“It’s to do with North Korean technical capabilities in terms of missile sophistication, missile range, the availability of nuclear material and the ability to militarise that into a warhead.”

The issue was escalating “on a very rapid timescale”, said Mr Rudd, who heads up the New York-based Asia Society Policy Institute.

“Therefore the number one priority in terms of US-China relations, leaving everything to one side, is to reach agreement strategically between the president of China and the president-elect of the US into how this can be arrested.”

Failing that “the alternatives are too horrible to talk about”, he said.

When asked about the “belligerence that Donald Trump is displaying towards China”, Mr Rudd said the challenge was to open a channel between the two administrations as early as possible “so the parameters can be set for One China, for North Korea”.

He said North Korea was a “sort of freight train rolling down the tracks towards us in terms of its nuclear weapons program”.

December 23, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment

Donald Trump’s contradictory thinking on nuclear weapons

Nuclear arms expert: There’s a huge contradiction in Trump’s thinking on nuclear arms, Business Insider ALEX LOCKIE DEC 24, 2016 On Thursday, President-elect Donald Trump tweeted that “The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”

December 23, 2016 Posted by | politics, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Petition calls for Barack Obama to fulfil Green Climate Fund pledge

US promised US$3bn towards fund, which was part of historic Paris agreement, but so far has transferred only $500m, Guardian, , 21 Dec 16, More than 100 climate and development organisations, along with 70,000 people, have called on Barack Obama to help secure the future of the Paris agreement by transferring the remaining $2.5bn committed by the US.

The Green Climate Fund was a key aspect of the historic Paris agreement signed in 2015, which aims to keep global warming “well below” 2C and aspires to keep warming to 1.5C.

The fund, established in 2010, is financed by wealthy countries and used to assist developing countries with adaptation and mitigation. It was widely seen as a key measure to bring both rich and poor countries to the negotiating table.

The US pledged $3bn towards the fund, making up nearly a third of the $10.3bn pledged in total. But so far, it has only transferred $500m.

“This is one of the only things Obama can do now that Trump can’t undo,” said Jesse Bragg from Corporate Accountability International, the group that organised the petitions. “Once those funds are transferred, Trump won’t be able to take them back.”

As of today, 117 organisations including, Friends of the Earth and the League of Conservation Voters have joined with Corporate Accountability International to deliver a petition signed by more than 70,000 to the Obama administration.

The organisations signed a letter saying: “The world cannot afford Donald Trump’s steps backward on climate. Right now, people around the world are mobilising to counter Trump’s anticipated actions. You can help us protect your climate legacy by fulfilling your pledge to contribute $3bn to fund climate justice measures in the Global South.”

The petition those organisations delivered said: “Donald Trump plans to do everything he can to reverse progress on climate change. His policies threaten disaster for people and the planet. But there’s one thing President Obama can do before he leaves office that Trump cannot undo.”

Trump has nominated a series of climate deniers to his cabinet, including Rex Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, as secretary of state. He has also nominated Scott Pruitt, who is known for suing the Environmental Protection Agency, to direct that agency.

Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, associate research director at Corporate Accountability International, said: “Donald Trump’s administration will be of, by and for the fossil fuel industry and if we don’t act now, millions will suffer.”

“President Obama must do whatever it takes to fulfil the US’s commitment to the Green Climate Fund before Donald Trump and his Big Oil cabinet take over,” she said.’s founder, Bill McKibben, said: “The debt for the damage inflicted on the global climate by American carbon will never be fully repaid – and the Trump administration can be counted on to do nothing for the most vulnerable people on the planet … so this call makes both practical and moral sense.”

The first $500m was transferred through a State Department fund, which Obama could use without congressional support. Corporate Accountability International argues that Obama could draw from several relevant funds to fulfill his pledge, including those within the State Department, Treasury Department, Defense Department and other agencies.

December 23, 2016 Posted by | ACTION | Leave a comment

Year of melting ice, monster storms and Australia’s big wet – 2016

Weird weather 2016: Year of melting ice, monster storms and Australia’s big wet, The Age, 22 Dec 16 Peter Hannam If Santa really lived at the North Pole his sleigh would run the risk of falling through the ice this week, empty or fully laden.

Temperatures in the high Arctic will approach melting point on Thursday, including near the North Pole, a massive 30 degrees or more above average for this time of the year. Wide departures from temperature norms – usually on the warm side – have been a feature for a long while in the Arctic but this year’s extremes qualify the region as home to probably this year’s world’s weirdest weather.

The polar extremes are part of what is highly likely to be declared as the hottest year in records going back to the 1880s. And so, with 2016 eclipsing both 2015 and 2014, the world would have set a new high mark for three years in a row.

Here are some of this year’s outstanding weather and climate events:

Extreme ice melt……..

Early storms……

Extreme heat records…..

Strongest storm……

Big wet…..

Hottest month…..

Hottest year…..

December 23, 2016 Posted by | general | Leave a comment


December 23, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

December 23 Energy News



¶ Installation of the 18 turbines of the 110.7-MW Nordergruende offshore wind project in the German North Sea has concluded, MPI Offshore Ltd said, as the wind turbine installation vessel MPI Enterprise has finished its work. The wind park is will produce enough power to provide the annual needs of over 70,000 homes. [SeeNews Renewables]

Nordergünde turbine installation (Image by WPD AG) Nordergünde turbine installation (Image by WPD AG)

¶ In West Bengal, rooftop solar units installed on industrial and corporate establishments by third parties are offering power 30-40% below the rates offered by the state’s power distribution companies. This gap is expected to widen further as thermal power costs will likely rise and solar modules prices fall further. []

¶ France has opened what it claims to be the world’s first solar panel road, in a Normandy village. A 1-km (0.6-mile) route in the small village of Tourouvre-au-Perche covered with 2,800…

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December 23, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This is What The Resistance Looks Like — Cities, States and Nations Run on 100 Percent Renewable Power


The sparks of resistance to a harmful domination of energy supplies by the fossil fuel industry are out there. They are the lights of clean power generation blooming like stars across a world blackened by smokestack emissions and imperiled by climate change.


In the U.S., backward-looking republicans like Donald Trump, Paul Ryan, James Inhofe and Mitch McConnell appear to be gearing up to fight against both a necessary and helpful science that provides us with a life-saving awareness of the threats posed by human caused climate change and a highly beneficial renewable energy renaissance that has now gone global. Trump’s presidential cabinet is filled to the brim with climate change deniers and fossil fuel pushers. Pledges to de-fund climate science, implied threats to fire employees at the Department of Energy who worked on climate and renewable energy related issues, and belligerent boasting about dismantling much-needed policies like the…

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December 23, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Home Truths about the Climate Emergency. #auspol #science


As 2016 draws to a close, we appear to be living in a world that is increasingly defined by its illusions, where the truth is a matter of subjective interpretation or argumentative debate.

Indeed, following the United States election and Brexit referendum there is much talk of a new era of post-truth politics, in which appeals to emotion count more than verifiable facts. But there are some facts that cannot be ignored for much longer, however hard we may try. And the greatest of all these facts is the escalating climate emergency that neither mainstream politicians, nor the public at large, are anywhere near to confronting on the urgent scale needed.

This was brought home once again at the latest Conference of the Parties held in Morocco last month, following the so-called ‘historic’ Paris Agreement of November 2015. Dubbed the ‘implementation’ or ‘action COP’, the main purpose of the summit…

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December 23, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Will The Climate Crisis Spread Financial Crisis? #Auspol 


Will The Climate Crisis Spread Financial Chaos In Oil and Gas?
By Nick Cunningham – Dec 21, 2016, 2:17 PM CST

Will climate change spark a financial crisis? It may not seem like an obvious connection but that was exactly the warning from the deputy head of the Bank of England a few months ago, a warning that is all the more stark as we are set to close the books on the world’s hottest year on record.
“It is potentially a systemic risk,” Paul Fisher, the deputy head of the Bank of England, said in October. “You don’t need to believe in climate change, you don’t need to believe that it is man-made,” he added. “You just need to believe that governments are going to do stuff and that is going to affect your business. And then it is a material risk.” That echoes the voice of Mark Carney…

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December 23, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fuel removal at Fukushima reactor again faces delay


Steel frames are transported at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Dec. 20 to prepare for work to retrieve spent nuclear fuel from the storage pool of the damaged No. 3 reactor building.

Work to retrieve spent nuclear fuel in the No. 3 reactor building storage pool of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant will again be postponed due to a delay in clearing radioactive debris at the site.

TEPCO planned to begin removing 566 spent nuclear fuel assemblies in the storage pool in January 2018. However, the government and the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., decided on the postponement, sources said on Dec. 22. They will decide on a new timetable in a few weeks.

The work was initially scheduled for fiscal 2015, but had been pushed back because of high radiation readings in and around the No. 3 reactor building. The building was heavily damaged by a hydrogen explosion in the days following the disaster, triggered by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

TEPCO had attempted to lower radiation levels by clearing the radioactive debris remaining at the site.

But the clearing work took longer than expected due to contamination being more widespread than previously thought, forcing TEPCO and the government to again put off the retrieval.

Radiation levels have now dropped as almost all of wreckage at the site has been cleared, TEPCO said. The government and TEPCO have said fuel retrieval at the No. 1 and No. 2 reactor buildings will start in fiscal 2020 or later.

December 23, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , , | Leave a comment

For 6,000, the daily bus ride takes them to Fukushima plant


A shuttle bus takes workers in deep sleep from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to J-Village, where their temporary dormitories are located.

A shuttle bus takes workers in deep sleep from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to J-Village, where their temporary dormitories are located. (Shigeta Kodama)
NARAHA, Fukushima Prefecture–Despite the predawn hour, few people are sleeping on a bus that steadily makes its way north on National Route 6.

Some passengers are planning for the work ahead. One is looking forward to chatting with his colleagues. And a few wonder if today will be the day when their annual radiation doses reach the safety limit.

Every day, buses like this take 6,000 workers to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. And every day, the same buses take the exhausted and mostly sleeping workers back to their base at the Japan Football Village (J-Village) in Naraha.

Although the Fukushima plant is still decades away from being decommissioned, without this daily routine of the workers who toil amid an invisible danger, the situation at the site would be much more difficult.


One of them, the 49-year-old leader of a group of metal workers from Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, has been working at nuclear plants, including the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station in Niigata Prefecture, for nearly 20 years.

He was at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the triple meltdown there in March 2011.

Nobody can get close to the area where the melted nuclear fuel remains due to high radiation doses,” the man said. “Even if we could approach the area, we would have no way out if something happens. The situation is harsh.”

Those metal workers install tanks for the contaminated water that keeps accumulating at the plant.

Although there are plenty of empty seats, the young workers sit in front and the older workers take the back seats.

Thousands of workers are staying at temporary dormitories set up in J-Village, a soccer training complex.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., operator of the nuclear plant, hired a local bus company to transport the workers to the plant because securing parking areas near the site has been difficult since the 2011 disaster.

The company provides 407 services a day to and from the plant. Each trip takes about 30 minutes.

The first shuttle bus departs from J-Village at 3:30 a.m., while the last bus leaves the Fukushima plant at 9:45 p.m.

In mid-November amid torrential rain, one bus picked up a man taking shelter under the eaves of a bus stop.

He said he is in charge of managing data related to radiation doses of fittings and other equipment at the plant.

We have many different types of work here,” the man proudly said.

Also on the way to the nuclear plant, a 53-year-old employee of a security company was thinking about personnel distribution.

Like other workers there, security guards must be replaced when their annual radiation doses reach a certain level set by the government.

He said he has difficulties making ends meet with a limited number of guards who have knowledge about radiation.

Suddenly, the man’s cellphone rings, and the caller orders the deployment of additional security guards to the plant.

A 52-year-old TEPCO employee was on the way to the nearby Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant to provide a safety training program for workers, many of whom are victims of the triple disaster.

I want to convey to workers how precious their lives are and how important safety is in a way that doesn’t make me sound hypocritical,” the employee said.

The triple meltdown has been called a “man-made disaster” caused by the failure of both TEPCO’s management and the government’s regulatory authorities.

The TEPCO employee will use props, such as a ladder, and pretend to be a worker to explain dangerous cases at the No. 1 plant.


On the trip back to J-Village, a different atmosphere exists on the bus.

Although dazzling sunlight shines through the windows and stunning views of the ocean are available, most of the workers are fast asleep in their wrinkled uniforms.

Few people stay awake. I don’t even switch on the radio. They must be tired after their work,” said Nobuyuki Kimura, 52, who has driven the shuttle bus for one-and-a-half years.

In Kimura’s bus that departed the plant at 2:30 p.m., all 50 seats and some of the auxiliary seats were filled. The few passengers who stayed awake remained quiet.

By early evening, fewer workers boarded the bus at the plant.

Window seats at the back of the bus are desirable on all rides because they have an enough room for the seats to recline, allowing passengers to cross their legs.

A 21-year-old worker from Iwaki went for a window seat at the back after standing at the front of a line waiting for the bus.

I can relax sitting here. This is the premium seat,” said the man who collects waste materials, such as boots and socks, at the site.

Although he works in protective gear in an area with high radiation levels, he said he has never thought about quitting his job.

He said he became fed up with school as a junior high school student, and did not bother going to senior high school.

At the age of 18, he joined his current company, and his first assignment was at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

I became acquaintances with more and more people. It’s fun to speak with people at work,” he said.

Through his work at the nuclear plant, his weight has dropped from 115 kilograms to 93 kg.

Thirty to 40 years are needed to decommission the Fukushima No. 1 plant, according to the mid- and-long-term roadmap compiled by the government and TEPCO.

To reduce the groundwater flowing into the buildings housing the No. 1 to No. 4 reactors, TEPCO installed coolant pipes this year to create an underground frozen soil wall to divert the water into the ocean.

TEPCO announced in October that the ice wall on the sea side was nearly frozen, but groundwater is believed to be seeping through it.

The utility plans to start removing spent fuel from the No. 3 reactor building in fiscal 2017. It also has plans to begin the daunting task of removing the melted fuel from the No. 1 to No. 3 reactor containment vessels in 2021.

However, extremely high radiation levels have prevented workers from approaching and understanding the condition of the melted fuel. The removal method has yet to be decided.

The estimated cost of work for decommissioning and dealing with the contaminated water has ballooned to 8 trillion yen ($68.1 billion).

December 23, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , , | Leave a comment

State funds to be used for clean-up in Fukushima

jjkkllm22 dec 2016 public money.jpg


The Japanese government, for the first time, is using state funds for decontamination work in areas affected by the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima Prefecture.

The environment ministry earmarked roughly 30 billion yen, or about 250 million dollars, in the fiscal 2017 budget plan, which was approved by the Cabinet on Thursday.

The allocation will be for cleaning up no-entry areas where radiation levels remain prohibitively high.

The government has so far made the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, pay for the cleanup, based on the principle that the entity responsible for the contamination should bear the cost.

Some lawmakers within the governing coalition are opposed to the turnaround in policy, saying the government should continue to make TEPCO pay.

Environment minister Koichi Yamamoto told reporters on Thursday that the ministry will carefully explain the decision in an effort to seek public understanding on the use of state funds.

The Environment Ministry says it estimates the cost of decontamination work carried out by TEPCO so far at around 36 billion dollars.

But the cleanup of the heavily-contaminated areas that starts from fiscal 2017 is expected to be more time- and labor-consuming than the work in lesser tainted areas.

December 23, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima plaintiffs speak up on evacuee plight

A group of people who evacuated due to the 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has spoken out about the many problems they face, including recent bullying of evacuee children.

The group consists of plaintiffs in lawsuits demanding compensation for damages from the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operates the plant.

Group representatives called for understanding of their suffering in a statement released at a news conference in Tokyo on Thursday.

The plaintiffs living in and outside Fukushima Prefecture, where the plant is located, took the action after a revelation last month that a student evacuee was bullied at school in Yokohama, near Tokyo.

The bullies demanded money from the boy. Similar cases have since been revealed elsewhere.

The statement says it is regrettable that evacuees, who are victims of the accident, suffer from insensitive criticism and unreasonable acts by others. It says the group seeks understanding of the seriousness of the situation.

A senior official of the group, Mitsuo Sato, said what has been reported about bullying is the tip of the iceberg. He said adults also face harassment and insensitivity. Sato said he wants people to know that bullying and discrimination affect all evacuees.

A woman who voluntarily evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture with her daughter asked people to think about why they had to leave their home. She added that the nuclear accident is far from over.

December 23, 2016 Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | | Leave a comment

Gov’t set to continue nuclear fuel cycle project despite Monju closure. Time to scrap nuclear fuel cycle, not just Monju reactor


Gov’t set to continue nuclear fuel cycle project despite Monju closure

The government formally decided at a meeting of Cabinet ministers concerned with nuclear energy on Dec. 21 to decommission the trouble-plagued Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture.
Over 1 trillion yen in taxpayers’ money has so far been invested in the reactor — the core facility in the government’s nuclear fuel cycle project in which spent nuclear fuel is reprocessed and reused in nuclear reactors.

Nevertheless, Monju, operated by the government-affiliated Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), will be shut down after being in operation for a total of only 250 days since the reactor reached criticality for the first time in 1994.

Still, the government, which is poised to continue the nuclear fuel cycle project, also agreed at the Dec. 21 meeting to draw up a road map by 2018 toward developing a fast reactor for the project.

In other words, the government is moving toward its “next dream” even without clarifying the cause of the failure of what they called “dream nuclear reactor” Monju and who is responsible for the fiasco.

“It’s extremely important to maintain the nuclear fuel cycle project and promote the development of a fast reactor,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference following the decision.

However, continuation of the project will likely pose a challenge. The government’s nuclear fuel cycle project involves two cycles — one centered on a fast-breeder reactor and the other in which mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel, nuclear fuel made from reprocessed plutonium and uranium, is used in nuclear plants.

With the decision to decommission Monju, the cycle involving a fast-breeder reactor has failed. At the same time, the government has failed to smoothly press forward with the cycle involving the use of MOX fuel since most nuclear power plants have been idled since the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis in March 2011. The No. 3 reactor at Shikoku Electric Power Co.’s Ikata plant is the only nuclear reactor using MOX fuel, which is currently in operation.

A spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Aomori Prefecture is undergoing safety screening by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), and pools holding spent nuclear fuel at atomic power stations across the country are filled to 70 percent of their capacities on average. Japan’s stockpile of plutonium, which can be converted to use in nuclear weapons, has kept growing. By the end of 2015, the plutonium Japan possessed domestically and overseas had amounted to 47.9 metric tons.

The development of a fast reactor poses technological challenges. While a breeder reactor is designed to increase the amount of plutonium, the government emphasizes that a fast reactor that it is aiming to develop will play the role of an “incinerator” for nuclear waste such as by reducing the volume of high-level radioactive waste.

However, no experiment has been conducted on a fast reactor using actual radioactive waste. Hirofumi Nakamura, head of JAEA’s planning and coordination division, acknowledged that the technology has not even reached the stage prior to putting it into practical use.

Serious questions persist about the feasibility of a fast reactor for economic reasons, and such a reactor is often dubbed as “modern alchemy.”

The basic structure of a fast reactor and that of a breeder reactor are basically the same with the only differences being fuel types and arrangements. Therefore, a fast reactor, which is supposed to play the role of an incinerator for spent nuclear fuel, could be converted into a breeder reactor that produces plutonium.

A senior official of JAEA admits that “there is room for converting a fast reactor into one that breeds (plutonium).”

A fast reactor can be put into practical use after the development and production of experimental, prototype and then demonstration reactors. The government participates in the joint development of ASTRID, a French demonstration fast reactor. However, it remains unclear whether data and knowledge gained from the project in France, which is rarely hit by earthquakes, can be utilized in quake-prone Japan.

France is aiming to begin to operate the fast reactor in the 2030s, but the necessary funds for the project have only been allocated up to 2019. Questions remain as to whether Japan, which has aborted its project involving Monju, a prototype reactor, can be involved in a project to develop an upper-tier demonstration reactor.

Even those within the governing coalition are calling for caution in Japan’s involvement in the joint development project in France. “Japan shouldn’t ride on someone’s (France’s) back,” said Hiroshi Hase, former education, culture, sports, science and technology minister.

NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka dismissed the feasibility of a demonstration reactor. “I understand that a demonstration reactor isn’t realistic,” Tanaka told a news conference on Dec. 21.

Government still refuses to face up to reality, failure of Monju project

The government officially decided on Dec. 21 to decommission the troubled Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor and instead develop a new fast reactor to maintain Japan’s nuclear fuel recycling program.

The decision can be likened to a theater director determined not to declare an end to production despite dropping the spendthrift leading actor whose scandals have prevented him from performing on stage.

Fearing possible repercussions from the termination of the production, the director keeps promising to stage the play “sometime in the future.” The director refuses to say clearly when the play will be staged because there is no actor in sight who can substitute for the dismissed one.

But this policy decision cannot be simply laughed away as an absurd piece of political theatrics. An enormous amount of taxpayer money has already been poured into Monju, and the government is poised to spend a huge additional amount to deal with its demise.

There is no doubt the Monju project has been a costly failure. The government cannot be allowed to put the debacle behind it by simply scrapping the experimental reactor and having the science and technology minister offer to return part of his salary for several months.

Despite an injection of more than 1 trillion yen ($8.5 billion) of public funds into the project, the reactor has been mostly out of operation for the 20-odd years since it first reached criticality in 1994. Decommissioning the reactor will require an additional expenditure of nearly 400 billion yen, according to a government estimate.

An exhaustive postmortem for the project to identify the causes of its failure is in order.

The government should not waste any more money or make unreasonable efforts to keep its nuclear fuel recycling program alive.

The government has made the questionable claim that “a certain amount of useful knowledge” has been acquired through the Monju project that can be used to develop a new fast reactor. Instead, the government should confront the grim reality of this undertaking.

Four years ago, the science and technology ministry submitted a report on technological achievements in the Monju project to the Japan Atomic Energy Commission.

The report included estimated levels of achievements, weighted in terms of importance, in different areas.

The degree of achievement, expressed as a percentage, for equipment and system tests was, for instance, 16 percent. The figure for reactor core tests and irradiation issues was 31 percent, while that for operation and maintenance was nil. The overall achievement level was estimated at 16 percent.

Does the government believe this poor track record justifies its claim that “a certain amount of useful knowledge” has been obtained?

The clear moral of the Monju saga is that a huge price must be paid for failing to take a hard look at the reality and underestimating risks and problems.

Serious concerns about the cost-effectiveness of a nuclear fuel recycling program and the risk of nuclear proliferation from accumulating stockpiles of plutonium led many countries to give up developing fast-breeder reactors. Japan, however, bucked the trend and embarked on building Monju.

When sodium leaks occurred overseas, Japanese proponents insisted that such an accident would not happen at the Monju reactor.

When a sodium leak accident did occur at Monju in 1995, they made false announcements and covered up vital information.

Monju resumed operations in 2010 after a long hiatus, but mechanical trouble soon caused it to be shut down again.

Eventually, the ability and competence of the Monju operator, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, was called into question.

The government’s decision to decommission the reactor has long been delayed apparently because of fears that the step would raise questions about how to reprocess spent nuclear fuel in the recycling process and could have a negative impact on nuclear power generation itself.

The government should take this opportunity to confront the reality of its nuclear fuel recycling policy and try to create a new nuclear power policy that can win support of the public through open and broad debate.

Forging ahead with the plan to develop a fast reactor without following this process would be tantamount to betraying the people.

Editorial: Time to scrap nuclear fuel cycle, not just Monju reactor

The government formally decided on Dec. 21 to decommission Japan’s Monju prototype fast-breeder nuclear reactor, yet will continue to pursue the nuclear fuel cycle in which plutonium is extracted from spent fuel through reprocessing to be used again. This stance by the government takes the existence of fast reactors and the nuclear fuel cycle as a foregone conclusion.

Over 1 trillion yen in public funds has been injected into the Monju project, yet due to recurring trouble and scandals, the reactor has operated for just 250 days over 22 years. The Nuclear Regulation Authority went as far as to point out that Monju’s operator, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency, was not capable of running the reactor and should be replaced.

It is only natural for the reactor to be scrapped, but there remains a problem in that the government has closed its eyes to various issues in reaching its decision. Why was it unable to act sooner to put an end to the waste of taxpayers’ money and decommission the reactor? Disregarding any probe into such issues, the government went ahead and made its decision behind closed doors. This is no way to win public approval.

An even more fundamental problem is that while the government is set to decommission the Monju reactor, it has decided to proceed with the development of a demonstration fast reactor — a step up from Monju.

Fast reactors form a cornerstone of the nuclear fuel cycle. The decommissioning of Monju should mean the cycle is broken, and if that is the case, then what needs to be reviewed above all is the fuel cycle policy itself.

The government, however, is still trying to promote fast reactor development, on the grounds that maintenance of the nuclear fuel cycle was included in the nation’s basic energy policy that the Cabinet approved in 2014.

As a step in that direction, the government has proposed taking part in France’s project to build the Astrid fast demonstration reactor, but the feasibility of this project remains unclear, and the government’s move sticks out as a seemingly stop-gap measure.

The reason the government has stuck to maintaining the nuclear fuel cycle is that as soon as it takes down its fuel cycle banner, spent fuel that was previously a “resource” becomes mere “waste.” As a result, the Aomori Prefectural Government would probably have to ask power companies to take back the “resources” that have been piling up at the nuclear fuel reprocessing facility in the prefecture. And once the storage pools for spent fuel at the nation’s nuclear power plants are full, those plants’ reactors will have to be taken offline.

Politicians should be sitting down and working out measures to solve this problem; maintenance of the nuclear fuel cycle should not be used as an expedient.

Some may see officials as wanting to maintain the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from the viewpoint of potential nuclear deterrence, but this position lacks persuasiveness.

Five years and nine months have now passed since the onset of the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, and as we prepare to usher in a new year, there are still people living in temporary dwellings and other places to which they evacuated. And the government is trying to widely push the swelling costs of the disaster cleanup, reactor decommissioning, and compensation payments onto the public.

Looking squarely at this reality, fast reactor development is not something the government should be placing priority on tackling. It should give up on the nuclear fuel cycle and put the money to use in measures to assist Fukushima’s recovery.


December 23, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment