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Pacific Island nations urge action on climate change at UN

Pacific Island nations urge action on climate change at UN,  Pacific leaders want to remind the world what’s at stake for the most vulnerable – low lying nations – if nothing is done to combat climate change.  (video)  https://www.sbs.com.au/news/pacific-island-nations-urge-action-on-climate-change-at-un

September 30, 2019 Posted by | climate change, OCEANIA | Leave a comment

Global nuclear industry quietly fizzling out

September 28, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, business and costs | Leave a comment

Britain’s nuclear power future might be ended, with Hinkley Point C’s escalating costs

Could rising costs at Hinkley Point C end the UK’s nuclear ambitions?  New Scientist  25 September 2019, By Adam Vaughan   It’s nearly two years since Christmas turkeys were meant to be cooking with electricity from the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. Today EDF Energy, the company building the vast 3.2 Gigawatt plant in Somerset in the UK, admits even the latest plan of delivering power by 2025 is at an increased risk of being missed.

EDF Energy says that “challenging ground conditions” mean costs could be £2.9 billion higher, taking the total bill to £22.9 billion. This might seem only of interest to EDF shareholders, given the controversial subsidy deal for the plant means consumers are protected from cost overruns.

But the potential significance of this is much bigger – it could cast a cloud over the UK’s hopes of a new wave of nuclear power plants. Ministers want more nuclear power in the energy mix alongside renewables, to meet carbon targets and provide continuous electricity supply.

Two Japanese companies have already pulled out of plans to build new nuclear plants in the UK, leaving EDF Energy’s designs for a second one at Sizewell in Suffolk as the main option. But the government’s proposed financial model for Sizewell C is very different to the one agreed for Hinkley. Unlike that deal, the “regulated asset base” (RAB) model under consultation for future plants would see consumers paying through energy bills while power stations are still being built.

The main trade-off with the RAB deal was that loading more construction risk onto consumers should make it cheaper to raise funds and therefore cheaper electricity, says Jonathan Marshall at non-profit the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit.

But the more delays and over-runs there are, it will add to concerns that consumers will be left to pick up an ever-increasing bill, he says. “Consumer groups and others that are against the new framework are going to point to the delays at Hinkley as evidence that billpayers will be liable to pay more than planned to bring new power stations online.”……

What are the alternatives? Some nuclear proponents think small modular reactors could do the job. But the technology for commercial ones is still years off and analysis suggests they could even be more costly than conventional large ones…….  https://www.newscientist.com/article/2217725-could-rising-costs-at-hinkley-point-c-end-the-uks-nuclear-ambitions/

September 28, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, UK | Leave a comment

Weapons proliferation risk of nuclear power in space

Push for nuclear power in space sets off proliferation debate, Politico, By JACQUELINE FELDSCHER , 09/27/2019    NASA could place human missions to the moon or Mars in political jeopardy if it opts to use highly-enriched uranium as a power source in space, warns a leading specialist on nuclear proliferation.Astronauts living off of Earth for months at a time will need a reliable energy source for life support and to conduct experiments. But nuclear reactors using highly-enriched uranium, which is used in atomic bombs, will present a host of safety risks and diplomatic obstacles, says Alan Kuperman, the founding coordinator of the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin.Kuperman is convening stakeholders on the issue next month, including Jeffrey Sheehy, the chief engineer in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate, and Rep. Bill Foster (D-Ill.), who serves on the committee that oversees NASA. The House-passed fiscal 2020 appropriations bill for NASA includes an amendment from Foster that directs NASA to focus its research on low-enriched uranium reactors.

“There’s a lot of opposition in Congress and in nonprofit groups to any further use of highly-enriched uranium,” Kuperman tells us. “So if NASA wants to use highly-enriched uranium for this space reactor, it might provoke opposition to space reactors in general.

“NASA is introducing political risks to its plan by going this highly-enriched uranium route,” he adds.

The Trump administration ordered NASA in August to craft guidelines for safely using nuclear reactors on Mars or the moon. NASA is also moving ahead with its nuclear power ambitions under it’s Kilopower project to build a highly-enriched uranium reactor that could deliver 10 kilowatts of electrical power continuously for at least 10 years. The space agency launched a study in fiscal 2019 with the Department of Energy to determine how both low and highly-enriched uranium could meet different needs. But the agency “has not made a final decision on highly-enriched uranium versus low-enriched uranium for surface power,” according to NASA spokeswoman Clare Skelly………  https://www.politico.com/story/2019/09/27/nuclear-power-nasa-mars-alan-kuperman-q-and-a-1510896

September 28, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, space travel, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear energy too slow, too expensive to save climate: report 

Nuclear energy too slow, too expensive to save climate: report https://uk.reuters.com/article/us-energy-nuclearpower-idUKKBN1W909J, Marton DunaiGeert De Clercq, BUDAPEST/PARIS, 26 Sept 19  (Reuters) – Nuclear power is losing ground to renewables in terms of both cost and capacity as its reactors are increasingly seen as less economical and slower to reverse carbon emissions, an industry report said.

In mid-2019, new wind and solar generators competed efficiently against even existing nuclear power plants in cost terms, and grew generating capacity faster than any other power type, the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report (WNISR) showed.

Stabilizing the climate is urgent, nuclear power is slow,” said Mycle Schneider, lead author of the report. “It meets no technical or operational need that low-carbon competitors cannot meet better, cheaper and faster.”

The report estimates that since 2009 the average construction time for reactors worldwide was just under 10 years, well above the estimate given by industry body the World Nuclear Association (WNA) of between 5 and 8.5 years.

The extra time that nuclear plants take to build has major implications for climate goals, as existing fossil-fueled plants continue to emit CO2 while awaiting substitution.

To protect the climate, we must abate the most carbon at the least cost and in the least time,” Schneider said.

The WNA said in an emailed statement that studies have shown that nuclear energy has a proven track record in providing new generation faster than other low-carbon options, and added that in many countries nuclear generation provides on average more low-carbon power per year than solar or wind.

It said that reactor construction times can be as short as four years when several reactors are built in sequence.

Nuclear is also much more expensive, the WNISR report said.

The cost of generating solar power ranges from $36 to $44 per megawatt hour (MWh), the WNISR said, while onshore wind power comes in at $29–$56 per MWh. Nuclear energy costs between $112 and $189.

Over the past decade, the WNISR estimates levelized costs – which compare the total lifetime cost of building and running a plant to lifetime output – for utility-scale solar have dropped by 88% and for wind by 69%.

For nuclear, they have increased by 23%, it said.

Capital flows reflect that trend. In 2018, China invested $91 billion in renewables but just $6.5 billion in nuclear.

In the United States, renewable capacity is expected to grow by 45 GW in the next three years, while nuclear and coal are set to retire a net 24 GW.

China, still the world’s most aggressive nuclear builder, has added nearly 40 reactors to its grid over the last decade, but its nuclear output was still a third lower than its wind generation.

Although several new nuclear plants are under construction, no new project has started in China since 2016.

Global nuclear operating capacity has increased 3.4% in the past year to 370 gigawatts, a new historic maximum, but with renewable capacity growing quickly, the share of nuclear in the world’s gross power generation has stayed at just over 10%.

In the decade to 2030, 188 new reactors would have to be connected to the grid to maintain the status quo, which is more than three times the rate achieved over the past decade, the WNISR estimates.

In May, the International Energy Agency warned reut.rs/2mqcG8j that a steep decline in nuclear capacity will threaten climate goals, as advanced economies could lose 25% of their nuclear capacity by 2025.

Reporting by Marton Dunai in Budapest and Geert De Clercq in Paris; Editing by Jan Harvey and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

September 28, 2019 Posted by | 2 WORLD, climate change | Leave a comment

Taiwan warns Japan over radioactive water release

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The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2016. Over the years since, tens of thousands of people have worked to decontaminate the plant and stop leaks. But what to do about the leftover waste water?
September 25, 2019
Some in Taiwan also fear a repeat of Japan’s disaster as a nuclear plant sits close to fault lines on the island
Taiwan has warned Japan not to dump radioactive water from the burned-out reactor cores at the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima into the nearby ocean, fearing prevailing currents may eventually push the polluted water to its own shores.
In March 2011, a devastating tsunami triggered by an undersea tremor buffeted the major nuclear base supplying power to Tokyo, and the apocalyptic disaster made a large swathe of the neighboring areas uninhabitable as well as a spillover of polluted dust into the capital city.
Taiwan’s Atomic Energy Council (AEC) fears that currents could carry polluted water across the Pacific Ocean to the coastline as far as North America, which may flow back to Taiwan in three to six years.
The AEC said on Tuesday it would file a complaint with the Japanese government if it decided to discharge the radioactive water into the sea, but it also stressed that Japanese officials and scientists had not yet reached a consensus on what to do with the staggering amount of contaminated water.
Japan’s environmental protection ministry and Tokyo Electric Power Co which owns the mangled nuclear reactors in Fukushima say the one-million-tonne storage of radioactive water used to cool the reactors to prevent further meltdown would be filled to the brim within three years.
Japan is mulling a plan to release part of the less radioactive waste water – reportedly 10,000 tonnes – into the sea, an idea that instantly stoked fears in neighboring countries, including Taiwan and South Korea.
If the water from the reactors enters the Pacific Ocean, it would first be carried by currents to North America from Alaska, Canada’s British Columbia all the way down to California, before moving southward and reaching Taiwan in three to six years, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Germany-based Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research.
That said, it is believed that by the time the radioactive water returned to Asia and reached Taiwan, the pollutants would have been attenuated to a concentration of nearly one in 10,000, far less harmful after the dilution process in the vast Pacific Ocean.
The island’s nuclear energy watchdog says that water and fishery products in nine ports across Taiwan are regularly sampled to test for radioactivity, without having any abnormal findings so far.

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

International Olympic Committee President confirms Japan’s food products are safe

Business is business, never mind people’s health….A question though, did Abe’s government paid an additional bribe for this declaration or was it included in the first bribe paid to get the Olympics to Tokyo as an all included package deal?
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IOC chief to confirm Japan’s food products are safe
 
September 24, 2019
New York – International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach intends to assure participants of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics that Japanese food products are safe following the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said Monday.
He conveyed his intentions to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York after two international organizations announced last year that the products are adequately managed, the ministry said.
A joint team of the International Atomic Energy Association and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in June last year that inspections for radioactive substances and distribution management of food from Japan were adequate, according to the ministry.
Bach told Abe he would inform the participating countries of the 2020 games of this view, the ministry said.
This comes after South Korea announced last month that it would double the number of samples and frequency of inspections for radioactive substances on some processed foods and agricultural products from Japan.
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The move by the South Korean government marks a tightening of measures first implemented following a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
Abe and Bach also agreed to jointly seek the adoption later this year of a U.N. resolution calling for a truce during the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.
It is customary for the United Nations to adopt a truce resolution before the summer and winter games and Tokyo has been leading preparations for a new one as host of the upcoming sporting events.
Bach was quoted by the Japanese Foreign Ministry as telling Abe that he will work with Tokyo to have the resolution co-sponsored by as many countries as possible.
Abe and Bach also reaffirmed they will continue to work closely together to make the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics a success, the ministry said.
The Japanese leader also met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II over dinner and expressed Tokyo’s intention to help alleviate the country’s burden in accepting refugees from neighboring Syria. The two welcomed the strengthening of bilateral ties in security, economic and other areas, according to the ministry.
 
 
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International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach
 
IOC chief to confirm Japan’s food products are safe after 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster
 
 
September 24, 2019
NEW YORK (Kyodo) — International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach intends to assure participants of the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics that Japanese food products are safe following the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said Monday.
He conveyed his intentions to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during their meeting on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in New York after two international organizations announced last year that the products are adequately managed, the ministry said.
A joint team of the International Atomic Energy Association and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said in June last year that inspections for radioactive substances and distribution management of food from Japan were adequate, according to the ministry.
Bach told Abe he would inform the participating countries of the 2020 games of this view, the ministry said.
This comes after South Korea announced last month that it would double the number of samples and frequency of inspections for radioactive substances on some processed foods and agricultural products from Japan.
The move by the South Korean government marks a tightening of measures first implemented following a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant triggered by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Despite Fukushima acquittals, TEPCO must do more to regain public trust

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September 20, 2019
The Tokyo District Court has acquitted three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Holdings Inc. of professional negligence causing death or injury over the March 2011 nuclear meltdowns at the utility’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
At issue was whether the three officials could have foreseen the nuclear disaster triggered by tsunamis that hit Fukushima Prefecture in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 and averted the damage. In its verdict, the court ruled out the predictability on the part of the former senior executives, who were forcibly indicted over the disaster, highlighting the huge hurdles in holding the defendants liable for the catastrophe in a criminal court.
While the ruling acknowledged that the three men were aware that massive tsunamis could strike the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant based on a report from their subordinates and through meetings, the court pointed out that the report and other information lacked sufficient grounds and were not enough to mandate them to suspend the operation of the nuclear plant to avoid an accident.
In criminal trials, defendants may be detained if found guilty, and therefore stricter fact-finding is called for than in civil trials. The reasoning that the defendants cannot be found guilty of negligence unless they could predict damage with a sense of urgency was behind the latest ruling in favor of TEPCO bosses.
The report in question pertained to the long-term evaluation of earthquake risks that the government’s Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion released in 2002. While the evaluation stated that massive tsunamis could arise off Fukushima Prefecture, the court decision ruled out the credibility of the evaluation itself.
However, the ruling does not exonerate TEPCO from its responsibility for the nuclear crisis once and for all.
The government’s fact-finding committee set up to investigate the Fukushima disaster recognized that there were composite problems on the part of the government and TEPCO. In addition, the Diet’s independent investigation commission even concluded that the nuclear disaster was a “man-made calamity.” These findings will not be overturned by the latest court decision.
In the wake of the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the then Soviet Union in 1986, the Japanese government and the country’s electric industry including TEPCO repeatedly insisted that there would be no nuclear accident in Japan. Yet decades later, the Fukushima Daiichi disaster did happen.
As a matter of course, power companies must pursue the safety of their nuclear complexes to the maximum extent in anticipation of all possible scenarios, including natural disasters. Once a nuclear accident occurs, people are driven out of their hometowns and deprived of them. More than eight years after the onset of the Fukushima crisis, over 40,000 Fukushima residents are still living as evacuees within and outside the prefecture. The price that people have to pay for nuclear disasters is way too high.
Even though the three former executives were declared innocent, TEPCO needs to continue organizational efforts to recover public trust.

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO acquittals spark ire: ‘People who died cannot rest in peace’

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Members of a support group for a criminal complaint over the Fukushima nuclear accident show papers on Sept. 19 in front of the Tokyo District Court that read: “All are innocent. It is an unjustified ruling.”
September 20, 2019
Bewilderment quickly turned into outrage after the Tokyo District Court absolved three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. of criminal responsibility for the 2011 nuclear accident that forced thousands of residents to flee.
Some of those affected by the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami say that their loved ones who died after evacuation orders were issued will receive no justice.
Soon after 1:15 p.m. on Sept. 19, members of a group that supports the criminal complaint against the former executives appeared in front of the district court and held up papers that read: “All are innocent. It is an unjustified ruling.”
People waiting there for the ruling roared in anger, with some muttering, “This must be a joke.”
Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, a former TEPCO chairman, Ichiro Takekuro, 73, a former vice president, and Sakae Muto, 69, also a former vice president, had received mandatory indictments on charges of professional negligence resulting in the deaths of 44 people who were forced to evacuate and the injuries of others at the start of the nuclear disaster.
They were cleared of the charges after the court ruled that they could not have realistically foreseen a disaster of such magnitude.
“As I have thought, there is a gap in common sense (between the court) and the general public,” Masakatsu Kanno, 75, said after hearing the ruling in the public gallery in the court.
Kanno was relocated from Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, a host town of the crippled nuclear plant, to Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, after the accident.
When the tsunami slammed into the nuclear plant on March 11, 2011, his father, Kenzo, was an inpatient at Futaba Hospital in Okuma. Kenzo was forced to stay in the hospital for several days.
He was later transferred to evacuation centers and hospitals, covering a total distance of 250 kilometers. In June that year, he died at the age of 99.
“Many people were forced to evacuate and are still placed in a situation in which they have no prospects of returning (to their hometowns),” Kanno said. “Don’t the top executives of TEPCO have to take responsibility?”
Mieko Okubo, 66, an evacuee who returned to her hometown of Iitate, about 40 km from the nuclear plant, in spring this year, listened to the ruling on her television.
A month after the nuclear accident unfolded, residents in Iitate were told that they will be ordered to evacuate.
Okubo at the time was living with her father-in-law, Fumio, then 102. He told her: “I don’t want to evacuate. I have lived too long.”
He later hanged himself in the home.
Okubo sued TEPCO, and a court recognized a cause-and-effect relation between the nuclear accident and Fumio’s suicide.
But in the criminal trial of the former executives, the only people indicted over the nuclear disaster, the district court acquitted them all.
“People who died cannot rest in peace. Empty feelings will remain in the hearts of the bereaved family members,” Okubo said.
Prosecutors had twice dropped the case against the three former TEPCO executives, citing a lack of evidence.
But the case went to independent judicial panels of citizens, who recommended mandatory indictments against the three. They were indicted in February 2016.
The prosecution side, citing the central government’s long-term earthquake forecast, argued that the three defendants knew that a towering tsunami could hit the plant but failed to take appropriate countermeasures.
The court questioned the credibility of the forecast.
It also said that it would have been impossible for the three defendants to take measures against all natural phenomena, including tsunami.
Lawyer Shozaburo Ishida, who played the role of a prosecutor in the trial, criticized the ruling at a news conference.
“The court said that nuclear power plants are not required to have absolute safety,” he said. “This is a ruling that took the government’s nuclear power policy into consideration.”
Ishida also took issue with the court’s reasoning.
“If an accident occurs, it is impossible to recover the original state. Is it tolerable for top executives who manage a nuclear power plant to have such a (low) level of thinking?” he said.
Ishida declined to say if he would appeal the ruling to a higher court.
“I want to think about it by examining the ruling in detail and hearing the opinions of people affected (by the nuclear accident),” he said.
Lawyer Yuichi Kaido said some good did come from the trial.
“If the trial was not held, many important pieces of evidence, such as records of meetings of TEPCO and e-mails written by its executives, would not have come to light.”
The court heard, for example, that former Chairman Katsumata had “no interest” in setting up additional safety measures at the Fukushima nuclear plant.
Ruiko Muto, head of the group that filed the criminal complaint against the former TEPCO executives, expressed resentment over the ruling.
“Despite the many evidence and testimonies, why weren’t (they) found guilty? I think this ruling is wrong,” she said.

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

From March 29, 2011: Special Report: Japan engineers knew tsunami could overrun plant

TEPCO’s negligence and responsibility!

Japanese engineers knew a huge tsunami could happen in 2007, but TEPCO management ignored them! Now, no legal punishment for the managers who ignored the scientific facts! Note: this article is from 2011 yet it remains relevant in light of recent events.

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Tokyo Electric Power Company, Inc. (TEPCO) Vice President Sakae Muto (C) bows at a news conference at the company head office in Tokyo March 28, 2011.

 

Special Report: Japan engineers knew tsunami could overrun plant

TOKYO (Reuters) – Over the past two weeks, Japanese government officials and Tokyo Electric Power executives have repeatedly described the deadly combination of the most powerful quake in Japan’s history and the massive tsunami that followed as “soteigai,” or beyond expectations.

When Tokyo Electric President Masataka Shimizu apologized to the people of Japan for the continuing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant he called the double disaster “marvels of nature that we have never experienced before”.

But a review of company and regulatory records shows that Japan and its largest utility repeatedly downplayed dangers and ignored warnings — including a 2007 tsunami study from Tokyo Electric Power Co’s senior safety engineer.

We still have the possibilities that the tsunami height exceeds the determined design height due to the uncertainties regarding the tsunami phenomenon,” Tokyo Electric researchers said in a report reviewed by Reuters.

The research paper concluded that there was a roughly 10 percent chance that a tsunami could test or overrun the defenses of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant within a 50-year span based on the most conservative assumptions.

But Tokyo Electric did nothing to change its safety planning based on that study, which was presented at a nuclear engineering conference in Miami in July 2007.

Meanwhile, Japanese nuclear regulators clung to a model that left crucial safety decisions in the hands of the utility that ran the plant, according to regulatory records, officials and outside experts.

Among examples of the failed opportunities to prepare for disaster, Japanese nuclear regulators never demanded that Tokyo Electric reassess its fundamental assumptions about earthquake and tsunami risk for a nuclear plant built more than four decades ago. In the 1990s, officials urged but did not require that Tokyo Electric and other utilities shore up their system of plant monitoring in the event of a crisis, the record shows.

Even though Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, (NISA) one of the three government bodies charged with nuclear safety, cataloged the damage to nuclear plant vent systems from an earlier earthquake, it did not require those to be protected against future disasters or hardened against explosions.

That marked a sharp break with safety practices put in place in the United States in the 1980s after Three Mile Island, even though Japan modeled its regulation on U.S. precedents and even allowed utilities to use American disaster manuals in some cases.

Ultimately, when the wave was crashing in, everything came down to the ability of Tokyo Electric’s front-line workers to carry out disaster plans under intense pressure.

But even in normal operations, the regulatory record shows Tokyo Electric had been cited for more dangerous operator errors over the past five years than any other utility. In a separate 2008 case, it admitted that a 17-year-old worker had been hired illegally as part of a safety inspection at Fukushima Daiichi.

It’s a bit strange for me that we have officials saying this was outside expectations,” said Hideaki Shiroyama, a professor at the University of Tokyo who has studied nuclear safety policy. “Unexpected things can happen. That’s the world we live in.”

He added: “Both the regulators and TEPCO are trying to avoid responsibility.”

Najmedin Meshkati, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Southern California, said the government’s approach of relying heavily on Tokyo Electric to do the right thing largely on its own had clearly failed.

The Japanese government is receiving some advice, but they are relying on the already badly stretched resources of TEPCO to handle this,” said Meshkati, a researcher of the Chernobyl disaster who has been critical of the company’s safety record before. “Time is not on our side.”

The revelation that Tokyo Electric had put a number to the possibility of a tsunami beyond the designed strength of its Fukushima nuclear plant comes at a time when investor confidence in the utility is in fast retreat.

Shares in the world’s largest private utility have lost almost three-fourth of their value — $30 billion — since the March 11 earthquake pushed the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into crisis. Analysts see a chance the utility will be nationalized by the Japanese government in the face of mounting liability claims and growing public frustration.

AN ‘EXTREMELY LOW’ RISK

The tsunami research presented by a Tokyo Electric team led by Toshiaki Sakai came on the first day of a three-day conference in July 2007 organized by the International Conference on Nuclear Engineering.

It represented the product of several years of work at Japan’s top utility, prompted by the 2004 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra that had shaken the industry’s accepted wisdom. In that disaster, the tsunami that hit Indonesia and a dozen other countries around the Indian Ocean also flooded a nuclear power plant in southern India. That raised concerns in Tokyo about the risk to Japan’s 55 nuclear plants, many exposed to the dangerous coast in order to have quick access to water for cooling.

Tokyo Electric’s Fukushima Daiichi plant, some 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was a particular concern.

The 40-year-old nuclear complex was built near a quake zone in the Pacific that had produced earthquakes of magnitude 8 or higher four times in the past 400 years — in 1896, 1793, 1677 and then in 1611, Tokyo Electric researchers had come to understand.

Based on that history, Sakai, a senior safety manager at Tokyo Electric, and his research team applied new science to a simple question: What was the chance that an earthquake-generated wave would hit Fukushima? More pressing, what were the odds that it would be larger than the roughly 6-meter (20 feet) wall of water the plant had been designed to handle?

The tsunami that crashed through the Fukushima plant on March 11 was 14 meters high.

Sakai’s team determined the Fukushima plant was dead certain to be hit by a tsunami of one or two meters in a 50-year period. They put the risk of a wave of 6 meters or more at around 10 percent over the same time span.

In other words, Tokyo Electric scientists realized as early as 2007 that it was quite possible a giant wave would overwhelm the sea walls and other defenses at Fukushima by surpassing engineering assumptions behind the plant’s design that date back to the 1960s.

Company Vice President Sakae Muto said the utility had built its Fukushima nuclear power plant “with a margin for error” based on its assessment of the largest waves to hit the site in the past.

That would have included the magnitude 9.5 Chile earthquake in 1960 that killed 140 in Japan and generated a wave estimated at near 6 meters, roughly in line with the plans for Fukushima Daiichi a decade later.

It’s been pointed out by some that there could be a bigger tsunami than we had planned for, but my understanding of the situation is that there was no consensus among the experts,” Muto said in response to a question from Reuters.

Despite the projection by its own safety engineers that the older assumptions might be mistaken, Tokyo Electric was not breaking any Japanese nuclear safety regulation by its failure to use its new research to fortify Fukushima Daiichi, which was built on the rural Pacific coast to give it quick access to sea water and keep it away from population centers.

There are no legal requirements to re-evaluate site related (safety) features periodically,” the Japanese government said in a response to questions from the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, in 2008.

In fact, in safety guidelines issued over the past 20 years, Japanese nuclear safety regulators had all but written off the risk of a severe accident that would test the vaunted safety standards of one of their 55 nuclear reactors, a key pillar of the nation’s energy and export policies.

That has left planning for a strategy to head off runaway meltdown in the worst case scenarios to Tokyo Electric in the belief that the utility was best placed to handle any such crisis, according to published regulations.

In December 2010, for example, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission said the risk for a severe accident was “extremely low” at reactors like those in operation at Fukushima. The question of how to prepare for those scenarios would be left to utilities, the commission said.

A 1992 policy guideline by the NSC also concluded core damage at one of Japan’s reactors severe enough to release radiation would be an event with a probability of once in 185 years. So with such a limited risk of happening, the best policy, the guidelines say, is to leave emergency response planning to Tokyo electric and other plant operators.

PREVENTION NOT CURE

Over the past 20 years, nuclear operators and regulators in Europe and the United States have taken a new approach to managing risk. Rather than simple defenses against failures, researchers have examined worst-case outcomes to test their assumptions, and then required plants to make changes.

They have looked especially at the chance that a single calamity could wipe out an operator’s main defense and its backup, just as the earthquake and tsunami did when the double disaster took out the main power and backup electricity to Fukushima Daiichi.

Japanese nuclear safety regulators have been slow to embrace those changes.

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), one of three government bodies with responsibility for safety policy and inspections, had published guidelines in 2005 and 2006 based on the advances in regulation elsewhere but did not insist on their application.

Since, in Japanese safety regulation, the application of risk information is scarce in experience � (the) guidelines are in trial use,” the NISA said.

Japanese regulators and Tokyo Electric instead put more emphasis on regular maintenance and programs designed to catch flaws in the components of their aging plants.

That was the thinking behind extending the life of the No. 1 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi, which had been scheduled to go out of commission in February after a 40-year run.

But shutting down the reactor would have made it much more difficult for Japan to reach its target of deriving half of its total generation of electricity from nuclear power by June 2010 — or almost double its share in 2007.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) figured it could reach the target by building at least 14 new nuclear plants, and running existing plants harder and longer. Fukushima’s No. 1 reactor was given a 10-year extension after Tokyo Electric submitted a maintenance plan.

Safety regulators, who also belong to METI, did not require Tokyo Electric to rethink the fundamental safety assumptions behind the plant. The utility only had to insure the reactor’s component parts were not being worn down dangerously, according to a 2009 presentation by the utility’s senior maintenance engineer.

That kind of thinking — looking at potential problems with components without seeing the risk to the overall plant — was evident in the way that Japanese officials responded to trouble with backup generators at a nuclear reactor even before the tsunami.

On four occasions over the past four years, safety inspectors from Japan and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were called in to review failures with backup diesel generators at nuclear plants.

In June 2007, an inspector was dispatched to Fukushima’s No. 4 reactor, where the backup generator had caught fire after a circuit breaker was installed improperly, according to the inspector’s report.

There is no need of providing feedback to other plants for the reason that no similar event could occur,” the June 2007 inspection concluded.

The installation had met its safety target. Nothing in that report or any other shows safety inspectors questioned the placement of the generators on low ground near the shore where they proved to be at highest risk for tsunami damage at Fukushima Daiichi.

GET OUT, GET OUT”

Japanese nuclear regulators have handed primary responsibility for dealing with nuclear plant emergencies to the utilities themselves. But that hinges on their ability to carry them out in an actual crisis, and the record shows that working in a nuclear reactor has been a dangerous and stressful job in Japan even under routine conditions.

Inspectors with Japan’s Nuclear Energy Safety Organization have recorded 18 safety lapses at Tokyo Electric’s 17 nuclear plants since 2005. Ten of them were attributed to mistakes by staff and repairmen.

They included failures to follow established maintenance procedures and failures to perform prescribed safety checks. Even so, Tokyo Electric was left on its own to set standards for nuclear plant staff certification, a position some IAEA officials had questioned in 2008.

In March 2004, two workers in Tokyo Electric’s Fukushima Daini plant passed out when the oxygen masks they were using – originally designed for use on an airplane – began leaking and allowed nitrogen to seep into their air supply.

The risks also appear to have made it hard to hire for key positions. In 2008, Toshiba admitted it had illegally used six employees under the age of 18 as part of a series of inspections of nuclear power plants at Tokyo Electric and Tohoku Electric. One of those minors, then aged 17, had participated in an inspection of the Fukushima Daiichi No. 5 reactor, Tokyo Electric said then.

The magnitude 9.0 quake struck on Friday afternoon of March 11 — the most powerful in Japan’s long history of them — pushed workers at the Fukushima plant to the breaking point as injuries mounted and panic took hold.

Hiroyuki Nishi, a subcontractor who had been moving scaffolding inside Reactor No. 3 when the quake hit, described a scene of chaos as a massive hook came crashing down next to him. “People were shouting ‘Get out, get out!’” Nishi said. “Everyone was screaming.”

In the pandemonium, workers pleaded to be let out, knowing a tsunami was soon to come. But Tokyo Electric supervisors appealed for calm, saying each worker had to be tested first for radiation exposure. Eventually, the supervisors relented, threw open the doors to the plant and the contractors scrambled for high ground just ahead of the tsunami.

After the wave receded, two employee were missing, apparently washed away while working on unit No. 4. Two contractors were treated for leg fractures and two others were treated for slight injuries. A ninth worker was being treated for a stroke.

In the chaos of the early response, workers did not notice when the diesel pumps at No. 2 ran out of fuel, allowing water levels to fall and fuel to become exposed and overheat. When the Fukushima plant suffered its second hydrogen blast in three days the following Monday, Tokyo electric executives only notified the prime minister’s office an hour later. Seven workers had been injured in the explosion along with four soldiers.

An enraged Prime Minister Naoto Kan pulled up to Tokyo Electric’s headquarters the next morning before dawn. “What the hell is going on?” reporters outside the closed-door discussion reported hearing Kan demand angrily of senior executives.

Errors of judgment by workers in the hot zone and errors of calculation by plant managers hampered the emergency response a full week later as some 600 soldiers and workers struggled to contain the spread of radiation.

On Thursday, two workers at Fukushima were shuttled to the hospital to be treated for potential radiation burns after wading in water in the turbine building of reactor No. 3. The workers had ignored their radiation alarms thinking they were broken.

Then Tokyo electric officials pulled workers back from an effort to pump water out of the No. 2 reactor and reported that radiation readings were 10 million times normal. They later apologized, saying that reading was wrong. The actual reading was still 100,000 times normal, Tokyo Electric said.

The government’s chief spokesman was withering in his assessment. “The radiation readings are an important part of a number of important steps we’re taking to protect safety,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters. “There is no excuse for getting them wrong.”

VENTS AND GAUGES

Although U.S. nuclear plant operators were required to install “hardened” vent systems in the 1980s after the Three Mile Island incident, Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission rejected the need to require such systems in 1992, saying that should be left to the plant operators to decide.

A nuclear power plant’s vent represents one of the last resorts for operators struggling to keep a reactor from pressure that could to blow the building that houses it apart and spread radiation, which is what happened at Chernobyl 25 years ago. A hardened vent in a U.S. plant is designed to behave like the barrel on a rifle, strong enough to withstand an explosive force from within.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded in the late 1980s that the General Electric designed Mark I reactors, like those used at Fukushima, required safety modifications.

The risks they flagged, and that Tokyo did not heed, would come back to haunt Japan in the Fukushima crisis.

First, U.S. researchers concluded that a loss of power at one of the nuclear plants would be one of the “dominant contributors” to the most severe accidents. Flooding of the reactor building would worsen the risks. The NRC also required U.S. plants to install “hard pipe” after concluding the sheet-metal ducts used in Japan could make things much worse.

Venting via a sheet metal duct system could result in a reactor building hydrogen burn,” researchers said in a report published in November 2008.

In the current crisis, the failure of the more vulnerable duct vents in Fukushima’s No. 1 and No. 3 reactors may have contributed to the hydrogen explosions that blew the roof off the first and left the second a tangled hulk of steel beams in the first three days of the crisis.

The plant vents, which connect to the big smokestack-like towers, appear to have been damaged in the quake or the tsunami, one NISA official said.

Even without damage, opening the vulnerable vents in the presence of a build-up of hydrogen gas was a known danger. In the case of Fukushima, opening the vents to relieve pressure was like turning on an acetylene torch and then watching the flame “shoot back into the fuel tank,” said one expert with knowledge of Fukushima who asked not to be identified because of his commercial ties in Japan.

Tokyo Electric began venting the No. 1 reactor on March 12 just after 10 a.m. An hour earlier the pressure in the reactor was twice its designed limit. Six hours later the reactor exploded.

The same pattern held with reactor No. 3. Venting to relieve a dangerous build-up of pressure in the reactor began on March 13. A day later, the outer building – a concrete and steel shell known as the “secondary containment” — exploded.

Toshiaki Sakai, the Tokyo Electric researcher who worked on tsunami risk, also sat on a panel in 2008 that reviewed the damage to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant. In that case, Tokyo Electric safely shut down the plant, which survived a quake 2.5 times stronger than it had been designed to handle.

Sakai and the other panelists agreed that despite the successful outcome the way the ground sank and broke underground pipes needed for firefighting equipment had to be considered “a failure to fulfill expected performance”.

Japanese regulators also knew a major earthquake could damage exhaust ducts. A September 2007 review of damage at the same Tokyo Electric nuclear plant by NISA Deputy Director Akira Fukushima showed two spots where the exhaust ducts had broken.

No new standard was put in place requiring vents to be shored up against potential damage, records show.

Masashi Goto, a former nuclear engineer who has turned critical of the industry, said he believed Tokyo Electric and regulators wrongly focused on the parts of the plant that performed well in the 2007 quake, rather than the weaknesses it exposed. “I think they drew the wrong lesson,” Goto said.

The March 11 quake not only damaged the vents but also the gauges in the Fukushima Daiichi complex, which meant that Tokyo Electric was without much of the instrumentation it needed to assess the situation on the ground during the crisis.

The data we’re getting is very sketchy and makes it impossible for us to do the analysis,” said David Lochbaum, a nuclear expert and analyst with the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s hard to connect the dots when there are so few dots.”

In fact, Japan’s NSC had concluded in 1992 that it was important for nuclear plant operators to have access to key gauges and instruments even in the kind of crisis that had not happened then. But it left plans on how to implement that policy entirely to the plant operators.

In the Fukushima accident, most meters and gauges were taken out by the loss of power in the early days of the crisis.

That left a pair of workers in a white Prius to race into the plant to get radiation readings with a handheld device in the early days of the crisis, according to Tokyo Electric.

They could have used robots to go in.

Immediately after the tsunami, a French firm with nuclear expertise shipped robots for use in Fukushima, a European nuclear expert said. The robots are built to withstand high radiation.

But Japan, arguably the country with the most advanced robotics industry, stopped them from arriving in Fukishima, saying such help could only come through government channels, said the expert who asked not to be identified so as not to appear critical of Japan in a moment of crisis.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-japa-nuclear-risks-idUSTRE72S2UA20110329?fbclid=IwAR0uUoVibWYaZdEf9yHYFHn0FZg0meC8PRAz4QgWyKDiLHf5RpHorTAulZI

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘No one has taken responsibility’: Fukushima victims decry nuclear bosses’ acquittal

jhjmlm.jpgPeople connected to the support group for a criminal lawsuit for the Fukushima nuclear accident are seen outside the Tokyo District Court in the capital’s Chiyoda Ward on Sept. 19, 2019. Some are holding signs that say the innocent verdict for all parties is an unjust decision.

September 20, 2019

TOKYO — On Sept. 19, the Japanese judiciary returned a verdict that there was no question of criminality relating to one of the worst nuclear accidents in history.

According to the ruling by the Tokyo District Court, the meltdown at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s (TEPCO) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station could not have been foreseen, thereby acquitting three of the company’s former executives from responsibility for the disaster.

The three apologized again after the decision was handed down. But with no question now as to whether they were criminally liable for what happened in March 2011, evacuees who lost their families and communities have voiced their contempt for the ruling.

But what lessons are there from the trial on the nuclear meltdown that started off after a mandatory indictment?

The decision to acquit all three men came at 1:15 p.m. in the 104 court room, the largest at the Tokyo District Court. The former TEPCO executives stood totally still as Presiding Judge Kenichi Nagafuchi read the text of the ruling aloud. As he did, a stir broke in the gallery, with some even shouting out in shock and disbelief.

Among those watching the proceedings unfold were people who lost their families to the nuclear disaster. A 66-year-old resident of Hirono in Fukushima Prefecture tried to repress her emotions while watching the three in court.

On March 11, 2011, when the tsunamis came rushing to the nuclear power station, her parents were living in “Deauville Futaba” in the town of Okuma, a care home about 4.5 kilometers southwest of the reactors. Her father was 92, and her mother was 88.

Evacuation orders were issued, and three days later on March 14 they were rescued by Japan Self-Defense Force troops alongside other members of the care home. They then appear to have ridden a bus for about 10 hours to arrive at Iwaki Koyo High School, based in the city of Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture.

With no medical facilities on site and only mats to sleep on in the school’s gym, the evacuees began dying one by one. Her mother passed away around March 15, and her father on the night of March 16. Their daughter only learned of their death about a week later, on March 22.

The daughter was born and raised in Okuma, and her home was just about 3 kilometers from the nuclear plant. She led a close-knit life in the community. Her father worked for the town’s trash disposal facility and other places. He didn’t drink, and was a quiet, honest man. He would look forward every year to the overnight trip he and his brothers in arms in World War II would take to the monument for the fallen in the city of Aizuwakamatsu, also in Fukushima Prefecture.

Her mother was a cheerful person who loved to chat. Even at the care home, she would light up the room where she lived. “Because they were opposites, they made a good couple. They were very kind to me,” their daughter said. For Shichigosan, the annual celebration for girls aged three and seven, and boys aged five, her parents bought her a long-sleeved furisode kimono patterned with vibrant chrysanthemum. She treasures the photo they took on that day.

The daughter’s home was washed away by the tsunamis, and the area is set to host an interim storage facility for radioactive soil generated by decontamination work. The town she and her parents shared their lives in is gone, never to return. Looking for answers as to why her parents had to die, and why the accident that caused such serious damage occurred, she chose to participate in the trial as one of the victims.

At a hearing of the trial in November 2018, she said, “Didn’t TEPCO underestimate the threat from tsunamis? No one has taken responsibility for such huge damage wrought by the disaster. It’s unforgivable.”

She remains unconvinced by the not guilty ruling handed down on Sept. 19 this year. After the trial, she spoke quietly, saying, “The three of them might think ‘We were right,’ but from the victims’ points of view, they got away with the damage they caused. The ruling did not bring answers,” she added, “I can’t think of anything else right now.”

Yoshinobu Ishii, 74, of the village of Kawauchi in Fukushima Prefecture, lost his mother, Ei, then aged 91, in the midst of the evacuations. Also a resident at the Deauville Futaba care home, she died around March 14, 2011 after she too was evacuated to Iwaki Koyo High School.

She had raised Ishii and his five siblings as a single mother. “She brought us up in the midst of hardship. It’s terrible that she died alone, with none of us there to be with her,” he said, his voice heavy with regret.

But Ishii has no interest in the criminal court case. “Looking at it in hindsight, they could have taken measures to prevent the accident, but at the time no one expected such a terrible disaster to unfold.”

He spent Sept. 19 at home. “It’s important for us to make use of the lessons learned by the accident. But putting the responsibility for it on someone, that kind of talk, is pointless. After all, my mother isn’t coming back,” he said.

(Japanese original by Kenji Tatsumi and Masanori Makita, City News Department)

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20190920/p2a/00m/0na/007000c?fbclid=IwAR0PfkcR79gbUQtpdfSIMVAmgTj21sLDlM8XjpX4RKcms-Ss2O2FX-nV4rA#cxrecs_s

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

CITIZENS’ RADIOACTIVITY DATA MAP OF JAPAN

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September 19, 2019

This booklet shows the actual amount of radioactive contamination caused by the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, as revealed by Japanese citizen scientists.

[ Table of Contents ]

Page 2 – 3: Why Measure in Becquerels?
Page 4 – 5: What is the East Japan Soil Becquerel Measurement Project?
Page 6 – 7: 2011 Radioactivity Map of 17 Prefectures in Eastern Japan
Page 8: 2020 Cesium Contamination Map
Page 9: 2010 Radioactivity Level Before the Fukushima Accident
Page 10 – 11: Estimate of Radioactive Cesium Contamination Over 100 Years
Page 12: What is Minna-no Data Site?
Page 13: Minna-no Data Site Measurement Accuracy Control
Page 14 – 15: Minna-no Data Site Participating Measurement Laboratories
Page 16: Glossary, Credits, and Acknowledgments

Specifications

Pages:16
Oversized book
500 yen (tax exclude)

About CITIZENS’ RADIATION DATA MAP OF JAPAN – Digest Edition

This booklet shows the actual amount of radioactive contamination caused by the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, as revealed by Japanese citizen scientists.
In the aftermath of the accident, citizens around Japan began to question the Japanese government’s initial radiation exposure assessment, the scope of their radioactivity measuring, and their method of information disclosure. With the aim of reducing citizen exposure to radiation, we established Minna-no Data Site, an independent nonprofit network of radioactivity measuring laboratories, to conduct extensive food measurements and release this information to the public.

More specifically, over a three-year period starting from October 2014, we measured the concentration of radioactivity (cesium 134 and cesium 137) in the soil (in Bq/kg) as part of the “East Japan Soil Becquerel Measurement Project” and publicized the results online as a collection of maps.

According to legislation enacted five years after the Chernobyl accident, Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus were responsible for measuring both air dosage (μSv/h) and soil concentration (Bq/m2).
And using these measurements, the authorities were required to establish criteria for relocation and compensation.
The Chernobyl legislation guarantees relocation and recuperation rights to residents from areas where the exposure dose was estimated to be above 1mSv/year.
In contrast, after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, soil measurements were more or less not conducted outside of Fukushima Prefecture, and the government has only published estimated numbers of the deposition amount of radioactive cesium and the air dose rate one meter above the ground. The soil concentration figures released by the government are nothing more than estimates, and because the method of display was just an approximation, it is impossible to correctly ascertain the actual amount of contamination
in areas where citizens actually live.

In order to address this unsatisfactory state of affairs, we solicited the cooperation of citizens from around the country to help us carry out this soil measurement project in an attempt to
fully grasp the total amount of radioactive fallout which fell on eastern Japan (excluding Hokkaido) as a result of the triple
meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi NPP.

As a result of this investigation, we determined that the radioactive contamination was by no means limited to Fukushima Prefecture and that one hundred years from now there will still be several highly-contaminated areas where humans should not live.

Now, eight years after the accident, not only has the government yet to establish a criterion for radioactive concentration in the soil, but the authorities are continuing to enforce the policy of compelling people to return to their homes if the air dose rate goes below 20 mSv/year.
Seen from the standpoint of international standards of public health and radiological protection we cannot turn a blind eye to this unacceptable situation. With the Summer Olympics and Paralympics scheduled to be held in Tokyo in 2020, we decided to publish this booklet in order to respond to questions and concerns from people around the world about the current
state of radiation contamination in Japan.

This book is a digest version of our bestselling Japanese book, Illustration: 17 Prefecture Radioactivity Map & Close Analysis which was self-published in November 2018, and was awarded the Japan Congress of Journalists Prize in July 2019.

With the publication of this English booklet, we are hopingto inform people around the world about the actual amount of contamination in Japan, and at the same time, we are calling on the Japanese government to correct the following two problems:

CORRECTION OF THE DOUBLE STANDARD CONCERNINGRADIOACTIVE MATERIALS 100 Bq/kg AND 8,000 Bq/kg
With regards to the clearance rule for radioactive materials, prior to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident if the level of radioactivity was more than 100 Bq/kg there was a strict storage obligation.
However, with regards to radioactive contaminants derived from the Fukushima accident, the government is permitting anything less than 8,000 Bq/kg to be incinerated or disposed of as ordinary waste; an irresponsible policy which leads to the unnecessary spread of radioactive materials.
We are calling on the Japanese government to correct this double standard and are demanding a return to the preaccident clearance level of 100 Bq/kg.
Also, with regards to soil contamination, we are asking the government to not rely simply on the air radiation dose (sieverts) as they have been doing up until now. Instead, we are calling on them to guarantee appropriate rights of evacuation and compensation that meet international standards based on zone classification depending on the soil concentration
of radioactive material.

RESTORING THE ANNUAL PUBLIC DOSE LIMIT FROM20 mSv TO THE PRE-ACCIDENT LEVEL OF 1mSv A YEAR.
The Japanese government has not yet cancelled the nuclear power accident state of emergency declaration, which was enacted on March 11th, 2011.
Based on this declaration, the public dose limit was raised from 1mSv/year to 20 mSv/year and the government is forcefully requiring evacuees to return to their homes in areas where the dose limit does not exceed 20 mSv/year.
We are calling on the authorities to abolish the 20mSv standard repatriation policy and to return to the pre-accident public standard annual dose limit of 1mSv.

Minna-no Data Site
September 2019
Citizens’ Radiation Data Map of Japan Digest Edition Project Team

https://en.minnanods.net/mds/e-digest.html?fbclid=IwAR0dIUuqd4GESdmVHSKTOlapOm_Pn5XbQ8Iql0nsN1ImV-dMiePhz_OstxM

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , | Leave a comment

Eight years after Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japanese court acquits trio of negligence over meltdown

This verdict certainly raised questions about the independence of the judiciary.
But the verdict, and the implication that the nuclear power operators cannot be blamed for accidents that may occur, is unlikely to help restore shaky public trust in the industry — especially in a country where earthquakes and tsunamis are common.
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September 19, 2019
TOKYO —  A Japanese court on Thursday found three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. not guilty of professional negligence over the 2011 tsunami-induced reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Former Tepco chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 79, and two former colleagues were accused of failing to take adequate precautions to safeguard the plant against the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that struck the region on March 11, 2011. The disaster crippled the plant and spread radioactive contamination across a swath of northern Japan. 
The trial at Tokyo’s District Court marked the only criminal proceedings resulting from the nuclear explosions and meltdown, which forced the evacuation of more than 165,000 people. Tens of thousands are still prevented from returning because of lingering contamination.
The court also found the trio not guilty of causing the deaths of 44 elderly patients who were forcibly evacuated from hospitals. 
Government scientists had warned years earlier of a significant risk of an earthquake and tsunami along Japan’s northeastern coast, imperiling the plant. But the three men argued that they could not have predicted such a massive tsunami, an argument ultimately accepted by the court.
“It would be impossible to operate a nuclear plant if operators are obliged to predict every possibility about a tsunami and take necessary measures,” Judge Kenichi Nagafuchi said in handing down the ruling.
The Fukushima meltdown was the world’s worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union, and it caused a reevaluation of the risks of nuclear power globally, especially in Germany. 
Japan’s government shut down the country’s 50 other nuclear reactors after the disaster and imposed new safety rules. But in recent years it has reopened nine, with the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pushing to restart more, partly to reduce Japan’s reliance on fossil fuels but also because the nuclear lobby retains considerable influence within the corridors of power, experts say.
Prosecution lawyers, who had sought jail sentences of five years, said they will consider whether to appeal the ruling, arguing that the verdict was influenced by the government’s policy on nuclear energy. 
“The ruling says absolute safety is not a requirement,” prosecution lawyer Shozaburo Ishida said at a news conference. “That’s unthinkable. If you believe that a nuclear accident should never happen, you wouldn’t hand down this sort of ruling.”
There was anger at the verdict outside the courtroom, where former residents of the affected area and activists had gathered. The legal action, brought by former residents, was delayed for years after prosecutors twice refused to bring a case. 
“It’s like the court is on Tepco’s side,” said Noboru Honda, a community leader who lost his home and livelihood after the disaster. He described the victims as “stunned” and “indignant” to hear the accident being described as a natural disaster and not the result of human error by Tepco officials.
“They built the plants and bear no responsibility? What about us? Our pain? We had to move nine or 10 times. Even today, families live apart, and we are living a tough life. Where can we direct our indignation?”
Greenpeace condemned the court’s decision, arguing that Japan’s legal system had failed to stand up for the rights of people affected by the meltdown.
“A guilty verdict would have been a devastating blow not just to Tepco but the Abe government and the Japanese nuclear industry. It is therefore perhaps not a surprise that the court has failed to rule based on the evidence,” Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace, said in a statement. “More than eight years after the start of this catastrophe, Tepco and the government are still avoiding being held to full account for their decades of ignoring the science of nuclear risks.” 
Efforts to restart Japan’s nuclear plants have been dogged by safety concerns, tougher regulations and local opposition around the plants, making it unlikely that the government will achieve its target for nuclear energy to supply 20 to 22 percent of the country’s power by 2030.
Muneyuki Shindo, a professor emeritus at Chiba University and critic of Japan’s nuclear regulatory oversight, said the verdict reflected “mainstream thinking” that nuclear power is here to stay despite the risks and raised questions about the independence of the judiciary.
But he said the fact that so many internal documents were revealed during the trial could make regulators more cautious about approving other restarts in future.
The court heard evidence that Tepco executives were warned between 2002 and 2008 that there was a 20 percent chance that an earthquake greater than 8-magnitude could occur off Japan’s east coast in the next three decades, potentially triggering a tsunami significantly higher than the sea wall protecting the plant. 
But the company failed to invest in measures that might have prevented the catastrophe, such as raising the height of the sea wall and installing additional emergency generators.
The 30-foot-high tsunami that followed the earthquake flooded the plant and knocked out the electric power that cooled the reactors, causing explosions and reactor meltdowns.
Executives, struggling with losses from the shutdown of another nuclear plant after an earthquake in Niigata in 2007, were accused of delaying preventive action for cost reasons, but they argued they had not acted because they had considered the warnings unreliable. 
“We once again offer our sincerest apologies for causing great trouble and worries to many people, including people in Fukushima Prefecture,” Tepco said in a statement after the ruling.
The majority-state-owned company said it was “putting all efforts” into Fukushima’s reconstruction, providing compensation for disaster-related damage and carrying out decommissioning work and decontamination. It added that it was determined to reinforce security measures at nuclear power plants.
But the verdict, and the implication that the nuclear power operators cannot be blamed for accidents that may occur, is unlikely to help restore shaky public trust in the industry — especially in a country where earthquakes and tsunamis are common.

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

‘What Corporate Impunity Looks Like’: Court Acquits Tepco Executives for Role in Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Akihiro Yoshidome, an 81-year-old anti-nuclear campaigner from Tokyo, told AFP he was shocked by the court’s decision. “I had braced myself that we might not get a clean victory, but this is too awful,” Yoshidome said. “This shows Japanese courts don’t stand for people’s interest. This can’t be true.”

 

fukushima_5.jpgIchiro Takekuro, former vice president of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), arrives at the Tokyo District Court on September 19, 2019.

September 19, 2019
A Japanese court sparked widespread outrage Thursday by acquitting three former Tepco executives accused of criminal negligence for their failure to take adequate safety measures ahead of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
In 2011, a powerful earthquake off the coast of Japan caused a tsunami that severely damaged Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, unleashing tons of radioactive material and forcing hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.
Prosecutors said Tsunehisa Katsumata, Sakae Muto, and Ichiro Takekuro knew of the severe risk posed to the facility by a tsunami as early as 2008 but refused to act.
“The executives were charged with contributing to the deaths of 44 people who had been living in a hospital and nursing home near the plant and died during the hasty evacuation or soon after,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Yuichi Kaido, lawyer and anti-nuclear activist, told the New York Times that the executives “themselves had done the calculations” on the risk of a tsunami “and hid them for three years.”
“The only way to see this is the court has issued an unfair verdict,” Kaido said following the acquittal.
The court’s decision provoked a furious response from the dozens of people who rallied outside Tokyo District Court hoping the executives would be held accountable.
“I couldn’t be more angry,” a man who was forced to evacuate due to the Fukushima disaster told supporters at a rally following the verdict. “We can’t go back to our normal lives. Those who were at the top of the company at the time must be prosecuted!”
Akihiro Yoshidome, an 81-year-old anti-nuclear campaigner from Tokyo, told AFP he was shocked by the court’s decision.
“I had braced myself that we might not get a clean victory, but this is too awful,” Yoshidome said. “This shows Japanese courts don’t stand for people’s interest. This can’t be true.”

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment

Japanese legal system fails the victims of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster ex-TEPCO executives found not guilty

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Tokyo, 19 September – The legal system of Japan has once again failed to stand up for the rights of tens of thousands of citizens impacted by the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, Greenpeace said today. The Tokyo District Court prosecutors, in the only criminal case brought by thousands of Fukushima and other Japanese citizens,(1) ruled that former CEO Tsunehisa Katsumata, and two former Executive Vice Presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro, were not guilty in failing to take action that could have prevented the nuclear accident. This is despite evidence presented to the court that they were aware between 2002-2008 that there was a risk of a 15.7 meter tsunami hitting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

A guilty verdict would have been a devastating blow not just to TEPCO but the Abe government and the Japanese nuclear industry. It is therefore perhaps not a surprise that the court has failed to rule based on the evidence. More than eight years after the start of this catastrophe, TEPCO and the government are still avoiding being held to full account for their decades of ignoring the science of nuclear risks,”  said Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist at Greenpeace Germany (based in Tokyo currently).

The Japanese nuclear industry continues to refuse to act on warnings of seismic hazards at their vulnerable reactor sites, not least TEPCO at its one remaining nuclear plant in Niigata.(2)

The court proceedings, which began in 2017, resulted from persistent efforts by a citizens panel to hold TEPCO to account. The court heard irrefutable evidence that TEPCO executives deliberately ignored evidence of major earthquake risks at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Between 2002 and 2008, predictions of the potential of 15.7 meter tsunami were known to TEPCO. This was ten meters higher than the existing seawall at Fukushima Daiichi. TEPCO, struggling at the time with major financial losses due to the shutdown of the Kashiwazaki Kariwa reactors following the 2008 Niigata earthquake,(3) refused to invest in protective measures, including raising the seawall height and installing additional emergency generators. 

Deliberately ignoring scientific evidence of the multiple safety risks to Japanese nuclear plants was one of the principal reasons for the Fukushima nuclear disaster. It remains the default setting for the industry today. The people of Japan will be confronted with the dangerous legacy of the Fukushima accident for many decades ahead and longer, so today’s ruling, while a setback, is only part of a long road to justice for the citizens of Fukushima and Japan that will help to prevent another nuclear accident,” said Burnie

Notes:

1 – website of citizen’s support for the court case ;

https://shien-dan.org/

2 -“Technical issues of Japanese seismic evaluations from the point of global and Japanese standards”, Satoshi Sato, Greenpeace Japan, 2015 and Katsuhiko Ishibashi, Emeritus Professor at Kobe University, seismologist, member of NAIIC (the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission), presentation to Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan, April 27, 2015 – see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nV018TVMec

3 – TEPCO’s Atomic Delusion: Greenpeace Japan, 25 June 2018, see https://storage.googleapis.com/planet4-japan-stateless/2019/08/3d2e8976-atomic_delusion.pdf

https://www.greenpeace.org/japan/uncategorized/press-release/2019/09/19/10278/?fbclid=IwAR3qgZWPmDlUlgBux3Jtjg7sMLlRtTIjD1JcG43hqvc588VKh0LoGaVzxiw

September 26, 2019 Posted by | fukushima 2019 | , , , | Leave a comment