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Giving new status to 30-km zones within nuclear plants

The No. 3 reactor of the Shimane nuclear power plant stands in the foreground, with the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors in the background.
June 2, 2018
The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster provided graphic evidence of the lasting and far-reaching damage that can result when this technology goes askew.
Electric utilities that operate nuclear power plants have a duty to respond with utmost sincerity to safety concerns among local governments and communities, especially cities and towns within 30-kilometer emergency planning zones. Utilities should treat local governments within the zones, which are required to develop emergency evacuation plans under stringent new regulations introduced after the March 2011 emergency, equally as the governments in nuclear host communities.
Chugoku Electric Power Co. recently took the first step toward the start of operations of the Shimane nuclear power plant’s new reactor, whose construction was halted following the Fukushima catastrophe.
The utility, based in Hiroshima, asked the Shimane prefectural government and the Matsue city government to approve its application to the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for safety screening of the No. 3 reactor under the new regulatory standards.
The No. 3 reactor was close to completion when the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant went in a triple meltdown. Work to install the necessary safety measures is expected to finish in the first half of 2019.
This facility could become the first new nuclear reactor in Japan to start operation after the Fukushima disaster, an event that triggered tighter safety standards for nuclear plants.
The new reactor, if cleared for operation, will be in service until around 2060 under the principle that imposes a 40-year limit on the operational life of a reactor.
The reactor is part of a complex that has the distinction of being the only nuclear power plant located in the capital of a prefecture.
Within 30 km of the plant lie three other cities in Shimane as well as the cities of Sakaiminato and Yonago in neighboring Tottori Prefecture. Some 470,000 people live in the 30-km zone.
In 2011, authorities in Tottori Prefecture and the two cities signed an agreement with Chugoku Electric Power that commits the utility to put top priority on the safety of local residents in operating the plant.
These local governments have been demanding that the utility apply the procedures for obtaining consent for reactor operations from the Shimane and Matsue governments also to the local governments in Tottori Prefecture.
In April this year, the prefectural and municipal governments in Tottori formed a joint task force to assess the safety of the new reactor with the help of the utility.
Chugoku Electric Power’s move to seek the consent of only the Shimane prefectural government and the Matsue city government to start the process of bringing the reactor online has caused “considerable confusion” among the local communities in Tottori Prefecture, according to Tottori Governor Shinji Hirai.
“I feel bewildered” at the way the utility is going ahead with the plan, Hirai said with obvious and justifiable discontent.
Safety agreements between nuclear plant operators and local governments generally require utilities to secure the advance consent of the local governments when new reactors are built or important changes are made to existing facilities. In most cases, however, the scope of the local governments covered is limited to the prefectures and municipalities where the plants are located.
But an agreement was reached this spring between Japan Atomic Power Co. (JAPC), the operator of the Tokai No. 2 nuclear power plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, and five surrounding municipalities that commits JAPC to seek approval from these municipalities within the 30-km zone before bringing its idled reactor back on stream. They include the city of Mito, as well as Tokai village, which hosts the nuclear plant, and the prefecture.
Some local governments around the Shimane nuclear plant are calling on Chugoku Electric Power to hold advance talks over the operation of the new reactor with all the six cities within the 30-km zone. The utility should treat all the local governments within the emergency planning zone like host communities.
When Kyushu Electric Power Co. moved to restart the No. 3 reactor at its Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture, four of the eight municipalities in three prefectures located within the 30-km zone were up in arms over the plan. But the procedures for the restart went ahead after the town of Genkai, which hosts the plant, and Saga Prefecture gave their consent.
Shimane Governor Zenbe Mizoguchi has indicated his intention to listen to the opinions of all the surrounding local governments, including those in Tottori Prefecture. The Shimane and Matsue governments plan to propose this approach to their respective local assemblies. The case of the Genkai plant should serve as a cautionary tale for these local governments.

June 5, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima tells world radiation is down, exports up after nuclear crisis

Japanese “sake” from Fukushima, anyone?
The governor of Fukushima was in NYC promoting their food products.
Promoting Fukushima foods is national policy of Japan. No other prefecture in Japan gets this kind of support. Here is a page from the official government’s site:

Fukushima Foods: Safe and Delicious: Six years have passed since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and the prefecture of Fukushima is making steady progress in its reconstruction and revitalization. Fukushima has long been famous for its agriculture, known since old times as one of Japan’s premier rice-growing regions, and also earning the nickname “The Fruit Kingdom.” Fukushima’s agriculture suffered drastically after the earthquake and the nuclear power accident that followed, but as a result of thorough safety measures implemented through national efforts, foods produced in Fukushima have been recognized as safe by the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), as well as by many individual countries, and the prefecture’s exports are increasing. Japan hopes that more and more people will enjoy the safe and delicious foods from Fukushima in the years to come.


Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori speaks about the current conditions of Fukushima Prefecture on Wednesday at One World Trade Center in New York.
May 31, 2018
NEW YORK – Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori on Wednesday told the international community that the nuclear-crisis-hit prefecture is mostly decontaminated and that its food exports are picking up.
“Our consistent efforts over the seven years have borne fruit and recovery is underway,” Uchibori said at a news conference at One World Trade Center in New York, a site symbolizing the U.S. recovery from the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.
He said the prefecture has completed decontamination work for 97 percent of its land after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, triggered reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The governor also said the size of evacuation zones has dropped to 3 percent of prefectural land from the peak of 12 percent.
“The radiation levels of the cities within the prefecture are now the same as any other major city in the world,” he said.
Although a stigma is still attached to Fukushima food products, exports in the year through this March stood at about 210 tons, eclipsing the pre-crisis level of roughly 150 tons in fiscal 2010, according to Uchibori.
Rice and peaches are being exported to countries including Malaysia and Vietnam and a store dealing in its local sake is opening in New York.
As of May 17, about 12,000 Fukushima residents were still under evacuation, according to the Reconstruction Agency. The decommissioning of the crippled nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. is expected to take 30 to 40 years.

June 5, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO prepares to remove fuel from damaged reactor


May 28, 2018
The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has started laying the groundwork to retrieve fuel from one of the plant’s reactor buildings. It’s a crucial step toward scrapping the complex.
Tokyo Electric Power Company began the work on Monday to move 615 fuel rod units from a storage pool on the top floor of the No. 2 reactor to a more secure location.
The No. 2 reactor is one of 3 at the plant that melted down in the 2011 accident. Radiation levels inside the reactor building remain high.
TEPCO will open a hole measuring 5 by 7 meters in the building’s wall and send a robot through it to measure radiation levels inside.
A section of the wall will be divided into 29 blocks, each with a handle to facilitate its removal.
From a control room some distance from the reactor building, TEPCO officials will remotely operate a machine to remove the blocks.
The work is expected to continue until mid-June.
The plant operator will measure radiation levels before deciding how to retrieve the fuel rods. The company plans to start retrieving the fuel in fiscal 2023.
TEPCO official Hiroshi Noda says that although the decommissioning work for the No. 2 reactor has just started, it’s a major step forward.
He says the company will make sure that the work will have no impact on the environment.


June 5, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , | Leave a comment

Japan’s divestment campaign pits Buddhist priest against banks

In the wake of Fukushima, Tomonobu Narita is at the forefront of a movement to withdraw money from banks that back environmentally harmful energy projects.
YOKOHAMA, Japan — Buddhist priest Tomonobu Narita admits he hadn’t thought much about energy policy until the Fukushima nuclear meltdown forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes in 2011.
Now he’s at the forefront of a budding movement in Japan to withdraw money from banks that provide finance for environmentally harmful energy projects.
“I was taught about the idea of how changing your bank account can contribute to bettering the environment, and that was an enlightenment for me,” said Narita, the third-generation head priest of a temple in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.
The campaign to “divest” from fossil fuels such as coal has gained traction in the United States, Europe and Australia in recent years, but environmental activists are now targeting Japan. They see the country as crucial to the success of international efforts to address climate change.
On top of fossil fuels — which release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when burned, contributing to global warming — campaigners here are working to oppose nuclear power.
While advocates of nuclear power say it can provide carbon emissions-free energy, critics say the overall dangers are too high.
Residents are still barred from returning to some of the towns closest to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, where three reactor meltdowns occurred after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
Most of the country’s nuclear plants remain offline amid safety checks and legal challenges.
Driven by concern about nuclear power, Narita recently shifted some of his temple’s funds to a financial firm that is rated as one of Japan’s 45 “earth-friendly” banks. This means the bank is not known to provide finance for the fossil fuel and nuclear sectors.
Narita told NBC News he planned to explain the decision to his counterparts in other temples, believing that “we need to be more mindful of what we’re blessed with.”
Tomonobu Narita is the head priest of Totsuka Zenryo Temple in Yokohama, Japan.
“That small action when combined [with the actions of others] leads to a bigger effect, so I hope for divestment to have that kind of spread in Japan,” he said during an interview at Totsuka Zenryo Temple.
In the next room, about 100 people gathered to hear from the veteran American climate campaigner Bill McKibben, who co-founded the global divestment and climate action movement known as and has organized rallies around the world.
McKibben described being jolted into action by a visit to Bangladesh more than a decade ago when he saw people die from dengue — a mosquito-borne viral illness that is projected to worsen in that country as the globe warms. McKibben said he viewed it as “very unfair” that Bangladesh would bear major impacts from climate change when it had not been the source of most of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“They’re suffering from a problem that they didn’t cause, a problem that we caused,” McKibben said. “And so, when I went back to the United States, I decided that the time had come to fight — in a good, nonviolent, Buddhist peaceful way,” he quipped to the temple crowd.
Now, McKibben said, it was important for the divestment movement to spread to Japan “because Japanese banks are now the biggest lenders of money for coal projects around the world.”
Japan’s Mizuho provided an estimated $11.5 billion in loans to the world’s top coal-plant developers from January 2014 to September 2017, according to analysis published by BankTrack, a pro-renewable energy network. That led to Mizuho being assessed as the most prolific lender in that category, followed by another Japanese financial group, MUFG, in second place, while Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation came in at fifth.
These banks have signaled that they are weighing their future lending criteria.
Mizuho said on its website that it was currently discussing the “best due diligence methods” for reducing environmental and social risks, while MUFG told investors it would strengthen its focus on financing renewable energy.
A spokesperson for Sumitomo Mitsui told NBC News: “Coal-fired thermal power generation is considered as a relatively low-cost power generation method; however, since we consider that the impact on climate change is significant, we are considering [reviewing] our current credit policy.”
Still, the number of ordinary people in Japan actively divesting from fossil fuels remains small: Just 146 individuals have so far reported divestments worth 568.2 million yen ($5.1 million) since the campaign launched late last year, according to Japan.
Takejiro Sueyoshi, a former senior banking executive who is now a special adviser to the United Nations Environment Program Finance Initiative, believes it will require strong government leadership for banks to take a more assertive step toward renewables.
“Many people are very well aware of this matter, but what they are saying is: ‘Personally I understand that, but under the current situation no Japanese government [has set] any new direction, new policy, new strategy.’”
This was because the Japanese business culture tended to be “government-oriented,” he explained. “When the Japanese central government says ‘do this,’ they follow. And if the Japanese central government does not say anything about something, no institutions or companies will [act].”
Some senior government figures, at least, seem to be paying attention. The foreign minister, Taro Kono, recently blasted his country’s lackluster embrace of renewable sources like wind and solar as “lamentable.”
Japan’s target for renewables to make up 22 percent to 24 percent of its overall energy mix by 2030 is low, Kono said in a speech in January. He pointed out that such technology already accounts for about a quarter of the total global energy mix, and there had been a “dramatic decrease” in the price of renewables.
“We have prioritized keeping the status quo for fear of change,” said Kono, whose climate advisory panel warned the following month that Japan was facing increasing scrutiny from other countries about its plans to build dozens of new coal-fired power plants.
As the government and experts continue to debate the best way forward in terms of policy, campaigners will step up their efforts to build community momentum for change.
Narita, the Buddhist priest, said he had not sought media attention for his decision to divest but simply wanted to do his part “to contribute to society.” The action is grounded in his beliefs.
“Right now the greenery that we have, the earth, the soil — everything is a product of the things that people who have come before us have left behind, so we can’t just treat those things carelessly,” Narita said.

June 5, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

NHK’s new documentary, Meltdown: Cooling Water Crisis provides new insight into a series of less known events in the Fukushima disaster.

June 5, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment