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Japanese Government Is Ordered to Pay Damages Over Fukushima Disaster

The Sendai High Court said the state and the plant’s operator must pay $9.5 million to survivors of the 2011 nuclear accident. They have until mid-October to appeal to the country’s Supreme Court.

A damaged reactor building at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan in 2011.

September 30, 2020

TOKYO — A high court in Japan on Wednesday became the first at that level to hold the government responsible for the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, saying in a ruling that the state and the plant’s operator must pay about $9.5 million in damages to survivors.

The overpowering earthquake and tsunami that ripped through northern Japan in March 2011 caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, leading to the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

Under Wednesday’s ruling by the Sendai High Court, the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company, known as Tepco, must compensate 3,550 plaintiffs, the Kyodo news agency reported. The plaintiffs had sought monthly compensation payments of about $475 per person until radiation at their homes returns to pre-crisis levels.

In 2017, a lower court had ordered the government and Tepco to pay about half that amount to about 2,900 plaintiffs. But the ruling by Sendai’s high court, one of eight such courts in Japan, is significant because it could set a legal precedent for dozens of similar lawsuits that have been filed across the country.

The government has long argued that it could not have prevented the tsunami or the nuclear accident, while Tepco says it has already paid any compensation that was ordered by the government. Last year, a Japanese court acquitted three former Tepco executives who had been accused of criminal negligence over their roles in the accident.

Hiroshi Kikuchi, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, called Wednesday’s decision “groundbreaking.”

“The court carefully collected facts for this judgment,” Mr. Kikuchi said at a news conference. “We feel now it will largely impact on other actions nationwide.”

Workers removing the top soil from a garden in Naraha, inside Fukushima’s evacuation zone, in 2013.

Izutaro Managi, another lawyer on the team, said in a brief interview that if the government and Tokyo Electric Power appeal the decision, he expects it to go to the country’s Supreme Court. The deadline for filing that appeal is Oct. 14.

Tepco said in a statement on Wednesday that it would examine the judgment before responding to it.

“We again apologize from our heart for giving troubles and concerns to people in Fukushima as well as in the society largely caused by our nuclear power plant’s accident,” the statement said.

Toyoshi Fuketa, the chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, an agency that was created after the Fukushima accident, said on Wednesday that he would not comment until the details of the judgment were released.

“The Nuclear Regulation Authority was set up based on reflection over, and anger against, the nuclear accident in Fukushima,” Mr. Fuketa added. “I would like to advance strict rules on nuclear power so that a nuclear accident will never happen again.”

Takashi Nakajima, one of the plaintiffs in the case, told reporters that the ruling was a reminder that the consequences of the Fukushima disaster were still real, even if many people in Japan were starting to forget about it.

“Some people say that I’m damaging Fukushima’s reputation,” Mr. Nakajima said. “But now I think we are encouraged by the court to say what we think.”

Another plaintiff, Kazuya Tarukawa, said in a tearful statement that he had been tilling contaminated soil in the area for nearly a decade, and waiting for the government and the plant’s operator to take responsibility.

He said the money was beside the point, and that the ruling raised a larger question about the long-term risks of nuclear energy.

“What will come of Japan if there is another nuclear disaster like that?” he asked.

A roadblock in a contaminated area northwest of the nuclear plant in 2013.

October 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Sendai court upholds ruling that state and Tepco must pay Fukushima evacuees

A group of plaintiffs demanding compensation for the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster rally in Sendai on Wednesday prior to the high court’s ruling that held the state and Tepco responsible.

September 30, 2020

Sendai – The Sendai High Court on Wednesday ordered the state and the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to pay ¥1 billion ($9.5 million) in damages to residents over the 2011 earthquake- and tsunami-triggered disaster.

It was the first time a high court has acknowledged the state’s responsibility for the incident in about 30 similar lawsuits filed nationwide.

The Sendai court told the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pay about ¥1.01 billion to 3,550 out of some 3,650 plaintiffs, up from the sum of ¥500 million that a lower court ordered them to pay to around 2,900 plaintiffs in an October 2017 ruling.

In line with the 2017 ruling by the Fukushima District Court, the high court made its decision based on three points in dispute, including whether a major tsunami could have been foreseen.

The two other points were whether countermeasures could have been implemented to prevent a disaster, and whether the compensation levels outlined by the government were sufficient.

The plaintiffs had sought monthly compensation payments of around ¥50,000 per person until radiation at their residences returns to the pre-crisis level, bringing their total final demand to approximately ¥28 billion.

The state, meanwhile, argued it was impossible to predict the tsunami and prevent the subsequent disaster. Tepco claimed it had already paid compensation in accordance with government guidelines.

In the district court ruling, the government and Tepco were both blamed for failing to take steps to counter the huge tsunami.

It ruled that the two should have been able to foresee the risks of a maximum 15.7-meter-high wave, based on a quake assessment issued in 2002, and that the disaster could have been prevented if the state had instructed the operator to implement measures that year.

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck Tohoku on March 11, 2011, causing multiple meltdowns and hydrogen blasts at the nuclear power plant.

Around 55,000 people remained evacuated both within and outside Fukushima Prefecture as of the end of August.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority issued a comment that said, “We will consider appropriate ways to respond while closely examining the ruling and consulting with relevant authorities.”

Tepco said in a statement, “We deeply apologize again for causing great trouble and worries to the people of Fukushima Prefecture and the whole of society because of the nuclear power plant accident. We will closely examine the ruling by the Sendai High Court and consider ways to respond.”

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/09/30/national/crime-legal/sendai-court-tepco-fukushima-evacuees/

October 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO: 11m seawall completed at Fukushima plant

September 29, 2020

The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it has completed an 11-meter-high seawall to protect the facility from tsunami waves.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, erected the barrier based on a government panel warning three years ago. It said that a mega-quake along the Chishima Trench, beneath the sea near northern Japan, could cause a tsunami to hit the compound.

TEPCO announced that a 1.7-meter-high concrete wall was built atop elevated ground stretching 600 meters on the sea side of the No.1 to No.4 reactors.

The firm says the barrier stands 11 meters above sea level and it was completed on Friday.

TEPCO next plans to build another seawall measuring up to 16 meters high, based on a new projection made by a government panel in April.

The projection says if a mega-quake were to occur along the Japan Trench off the northeastern coast, a tsunami could be higher than the newly-built seawalls.

TEPCO says it aims to complete the taller seawall by fiscal 2023.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200929_11/?fbclid=IwAR3uKs4W2maNQiasfnFMKbXItn3x_r1irLsCDEwnD5EepYSdTSUwKe1-RxE

October 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

In Rural Fukushima, ‘The Border Between Monkeys And Humans Has Blurred’

Shuichi Kanno, 79, walks in front of his home at dusk. Kanno has been dealing with hordes of macaque monkeys in his neighborhood in Japan. They frequently wake him up as they climb over his roof in the early morning hours.

September 10, 2020

Shuichi Kanno rips tape off the top of a large cardboard box at his house in the mountains in Fukushima prefecture in Japan. He opens the box and rustles around to pull out pack after pack of long, thin Roman candle fireworks. The words “Animal Exterminating Firework” are written in Japanese on the side of each canister.

Kanno has been battling hordes of macaque monkeys that have encroached upon his neighborhood in a rural area of Minamisoma. These fireworks are his main deterrent — not to cause the monkeys any physical harm, but to scare them away with a loud bang. That is, until they regain their confidence and come back a few days later, which they do like clockwork, Kanno says.

Kanno stacks fireworks on his coffee table to distribute to neighbors. The fireworks make a loud noise meant to scare, not injure, the monkeys.

“In the early morning while I’m sleeping, just when I’m about to wake up, I hear the noise,” the 79-year-old says in Japanese as he stacks the fireworks on his living room table. “The sound of the monkeys running around on the roof, getting into the gardens, eating all my food. I have to fight them.”

Hundreds of thousands of people evacuated this area nine years ago, fleeing plumes of radioactive material after three reactors exploded at the Daiichi nuclear power plant, one of the most serious nuclear disasters in history. Whole towns and neighborhoods like Kanno’s were left empty of human life for years — and, much like Chernobyl, nature started to reclaim the space. Plants poke through sidewalks and buildings, while wild boar, raccoons and foxes roam the streets. But in recent years, many evacuation orders have lifted and people have started to return, meaning humans and animals are having to figure out new ways to coexist — or not.

A macaque monkey in a tree in Fukushima prefecture. After the 2011 nuclear disaster, towns and neighborhoods in Fukushima were left devoid of humans for years, and nature started to reclaim the space.

“The monkeys never used to come here, but after the disaster, the border between monkeys and humans has blurred,” Kanno explains. “The houses were empty, but the gardens were still growing — plums, pears, chestnuts, persimmons. It was a wonderland for monkeys, an all-you-can-eat buffet. And they remembered that.”

His neighborhood is on the very edge of the evacuation area, relatively far from Daiichi. People stayed away for only a few years, but by the time they came back, the monkeys had become comfortable. And, Kanno points out, half the houses are still empty and only older people came back. They just don’t have the numbers they need to win the battle against the monkeys without backup.

From left: Shuichi Kanno, Shigeko Hoshino, Hiroyuki Shima and Hachiro Endo are neighbors who moved back to Fukushima after the nuclear disaster and who get regular visits from monkeys that eat fruits and vegetables from their gardens.

That is where the fireworks come in, subsidized by the local government after residents complained. The governments here have provided several different kinds of tools, such as wild boar traps and electric fences for farmers, to help communities with animal problems.

Yuriko Kanno, 75, Shuichi’s wife, comes into the living room, looks at the pile of fireworks and laughs. “I’ve been worried that this village is going to become like that movie, the monkey planet one,” she says, referring to Planet of the Apes. “I’ve seen it — it could happen!”

She walks away giggling. Shuichi Kanno is laughing too. The monkeys are annoying, yes, but they’re also a source of entertainment for the aging residents, he concedes.

Yuriko Kanno, 75, is amused by the battle between her husband and the monkeys.

“Look, I think they’re cute. I would absolutely never hurt them,” he says. “None of this is their fault. It’s nuclear power’s fault. It’s the fault of humans.”

Shuichi Kanno is a leader in the neighborhood, and he’s in charge of distributing the fireworks to any of his neighbors who want them. The neighbors all have to sign an agreement saying they understand the dangers and — most importantly, he says — that they will not hurt any animals.

He loads the fireworks into the trunk of his car and drives down forest roads from house to house, dropping off packs of fireworks at every stop. As he drives, he points to all the natural beauty in the area. The nuclear disaster didn’t just change his relationship with monkeys, he says.

“I loved hiking, and foraging for wild vegetables, finding wild mushrooms. But now it’s so dangerous,” Kanno explains, referring to the high levels of radioactive cesium still present in the dense forests here. “We can’t have a relationship with nature anymore. It’s gone.”

Kanno drives his truck down a main road in his neighborhood, chasing monkeys that he saw scampering around his house not long ago.

He pulls up to the house of Hachiro Endo, 77, whose family has been in the area for generations. The home has a beautiful garden in front and long strands of drying persimmons hanging in the garage.

Endo is delighted by the delivery. He has gone through his entire stockpile protecting his garden. “I’m alert all the time,” Endo sighs. “The monkeys, they’ve taken over my life.”

He says he remembers a time when he was little and his grandfather tried to lure the monkeys down from the mountains into the village, hoping to boost tourism to the area by becoming a monkey town. He was never successful — the macaques were too afraid of humans to come down and stay.

“If only he could see it now,” he says with a laugh.

A troop of monkeys scampers across a road in Fukushima prefecture.

A few days later, Kanno is out on monkey patrol. He has just seen a troop of monkeys running from his house out into the neighborhood. He’s wearing knee-high rubber boots, a bright orange jacket and a baseball cap while clutching a firework in one hand and the steering wheel of his pickup truck in the other.

He drives slowly, leaning forward to scan the hills as he goes. And then suddenly, he slams on his brakes.

“There they are!” he shouts, pointing behind a shed. Dozens of monkeys are jumping toward the forest, scrambling up trees and crawling up the hillside.

He jumps out of the truck and pulls the firework from underneath his jacket, loading it onto a kind of stick so he can hold it far away. He lights the fuse and smiles, pointing it toward the hill.

Kanno grins after shooting off a firework to scare off monkeys that were roaming through the neighborhood.

Three loud booms echo through the trees. The monkeys scatter. Kanno bursts into a grin, giggling. Then he runs to every house nearby, making sure his neighbors know that he just saved their gardens from almost certain devastation.

“They won’t be back tomorrow!” Kanno calls, waving the spent firework, giddy with excitement. “I won today!”

But even as he says that he loads a fresh firework and tucks it into his coat. The monkeys will be back, and the battle will continue.

October 2, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

Tokyo Olympic torch relay to start on March 25, 2021 in Fukushima

Same time same place next year …The relay will start from the J-Village soccer training center and last for 121 days while traversing all of Japan’s 47 prefectures. The previous schedule for each region was maintained aside from a one-day adjustment to fit next year’s calendar.

September 28, 2020

The Tokyo Olympic torch relay will start on March 25 in Fukushima Prefecture, Tokyo Games organizers said Monday, in keeping with the plan that was developed prior to the games’ one-year postponement due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The relay will start from the J-Village soccer training center and last for 121 days while traversing all of Japan’s 47 prefectures. The previous schedule for each region was maintained aside from a one-day adjustment to fit next year’s calendar.

The Olympics are slated to open on July 23 next summer followed by the Paralympics on Aug. 24.

Approximately 10,000 runners who had already been selected will be given priority for the nationwide relay. Organizers said they will stick with the local routes and events that were already planned in principle but may make future adjustments according to the status of each region.

The Paralympic torch relay will be held in August.

Athens Olympics women’s marathon gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (L) receives the Tokyo Olympics flame from first runner Anna Korakaki, the 2016 Rio Games shooting gold medalist, in the torch relay in Olympia, Greece, on March 12, 2020.

Organizers had been seeking to shorten the torch relay schedule in order to reduce swelling costs caused by the games’ delay but abandoned the idea after receiving strong disapproval from local governments already banking on the event.

As a result, only reducing the size of the vehicle convoys, staff and pageantry of some of the events connected to the relay are under review as potential areas for cost cutting and streamlining the games.

The Olympic flame was lit earlier this year at the site of ancient Olympia in Greece and arrived in Japan four days before the games were postponed on March 24.

The flame has remained in the host country since and is currently on public display at the Japan Olympic Museum near the main stadium for the games in central Tokyo until Nov. 1.

https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2020/09/788bfdb51e62-breaking-news-tokyo-olympic-torch-relay-to-start-on-march-25-in-fukushima.html?fbclid=IwAR0YFM0I_pemfgYyVryoYJwvt4OQPvWK6Eq8oYpHWdvyDJwPEL0kmdpNIYM

October 1, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Prime Minister Suga Visits Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga visits the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Saturday.

Suga visits disaster-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant

September 26, 2020

FUKUSHIMA – Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga on Saturday visited the disaster-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, where decommissioning work is taking place.

The day trip is Suga’s first since he replaced former leader Shinzo Abe, who stepped down for health reasons, and is aimed at demonstrating the government’s continued commitment to rebuilding areas of Tohoku affected by the massive March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and ensuing nuclear crisis.

While the Abe administration’s set of basic policies included the pillar of disaster recovery from its inception in 2012, Suga’s Cabinet platform, adopted at its first meeting on Sept. 16, made no mention of the disasters that left nearly 15,900 people dead and more than 2,500 unaccounted for.

Suga said during a Friday meeting on the rebuilding of the region that he will “inherit the policy” from the previous administration and keep pushing reconstruction forward.

His trip also includes a visit to a museum on the disaster and a meeting with students from local junior and senior high schools.

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/09/26/national/yoshihide-suga-visits-fukushima-nuclear-power-plant/

Japan PM Suga visits disaster-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant

FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga vowed Saturday to press forward with reconstruction efforts for areas devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, as he visited the Fukushima nuclear power plant crippled by the disasters.

He made the comment after there was no mention of the disasters, or rebuilding work for the northeastern Tohoku region, in his Cabinet’s basic policies adopted at its first meeting last week.

Suga told reporters during his first official trip since he took office to succeed Shinzo Abe on Sept. 16 that when he formed the new Cabinet, he wrote of the need to continue reconstruction efforts in instructions handed out to all the Cabinet members.

“There is no recovery of Tohoku, without recovery of Fukushima, and there is no revival of Japan without recovery of Tohoku. This is a basic policy of my Cabinet,” he said.

Fukushima is one of three prefectures in northeastern Japan hit hardest by the disasters that left nearly 15,900 people dead and more than 2,500 unaccounted for, and triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl accident.

The Abe administration’s set of basic policies included the pillar of disaster recovery from its inception in 2012. Suga said Friday during a meeting on the rebuilding of the devastated areas that he will “inherit the policy” from the previous administration.

“We want to make a decision as soon as possible” on radioactive water now being stored at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, he said.

The government and the plant owner, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., are considering how to dispose of the water, which has been contaminated with radioactive materials after being used to cool the melted fuel cores at the plant.

They are looking at options such as releasing it into the Pacific Ocean or evaporation but local fishermen have voiced opposition due to fears consumers would shun seafood caught nearby.

The water is being treated using an advanced liquid processing system, or ALPS, to remove most contaminants other than the relatively nontoxic tritium. It is being stored in tanks on the facility’s premises but space is expected to run out by the summer of 2022.

Suga also visited a museum on the disasters and met with students from local junior and senior high schools as part of the official trip.

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200926/p2g/00m/0na/078000c

October 1, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

Fukushima and freedom of expression

September 23, 2020
According to Asahi, guides welcoming visitors to the disaster museum, which opened on September 20 in Futaba, have no right to criticize either TEPCo or the government. The 29 guides are victims of the disaster or trained people. Each guided tour lasts one hour and is paid 3,500 yen.


During the trainings that took place this summer, the distributed manual stated that one should avoid “criticizing or defaming certain organizations, people or other facilities”. And if a visitor asks the guide about their feelings about TEPCo’s responsibility, the answer should be evasive and the visitor referred to museum staff. Each guide must also put his words in writing and submit it to the museum management who corrects it. And if they ever criticize an organization, their presentation will be immediately stopped and they will never be able to be a guide in that museum again.


Some guides took offense: as victims, they should be able to criticize TEPCo and the government, which are responsible for the nuclear disaster. Another guide saw their script corrected after mentioning this responsibility. Yet official investigative reports pointed to the responsibility of TEPCo and the government. Not being able to mention it in a museum dedicated to the nuclear disaster is scandalous.


Ironically, Le Canard Enchaîné published an article that same day on the dismissal of an IRSN researcher who was working on the consequences of the Fukushima disaster and who did not agree to have her work censored by his hierarchy. In response, ACRO left the Research Orientation Committee (COR) of this Institute. The resignation letter is on the association’s website and reproduced below.


According to Le Canard Enchaîné, the direct superior of Christine Fassert, the licensed researcher, “wanted to impose changes, even censor words and sentences [of] an article,” in order to “avoid criticism of post-management. accident of the Japanese government, and the civilian nuclear sector in general “, and” to minimize and relativize the risk related to radiation exposure “.


This event is very disturbing because it shows that IRSN is unwilling to accept research results that challenge its prejudices. And when you’re in charge of nuclear safety, it’s particularly serious. He is not the only person to have suffered the rigidity of this institute, but it is the first time that it has led to a dismissal, which is scandalous.


We have already emphasized, twice, in July 2018 and March 2019, the originality of the work of Christine Fassert, socio-anthropologist, risk specialist at IRSN, who worked on trust, as part of the Shinrai project. in partnership with Sciences Po and Tôkyô Tech University. In Japan, as in France, she went, with her Japanese colleagues, to meet all the protagonists and interviewed both officials and independent experts, as can be seen in this presentation (copy).


At IRSN, we prefer to focus on people who show that it is possible to live in contaminated areas. And the dominant paradigm is that we must avoid evacuating and bringing evacuees back as quickly as possible, bypassing the UN directives on internally displaced persons which guarantee them protection, the right to choose between return and resettlement, as well as their full participation in decisions (see our 2016 report: Fukushima, return to abnormal?). It is also obvious in the European research programs in which IRSN participates, where the reduction of uncertainties in the modeling of radioactive fallout should make it possible to avoid unnecessary evacuation of populations (see page 58 of this presentation, for example) , while the faults in the modeling in Fukushima also led to not evacuating people who should have been! This is the case for the contaminated territories which extend up to forty kilometers to the Northwest. The evacuation order did not arrive until April 22, 2011, when the disaster began on March 11, 2011.


In practice, IRSN did not hesitate to work on and highlight an unscrupulous researcher, as we reported in January 2019, but who said what the institute wanted to hear. This is also the object of the Fukushima “dialogues” supported by IRSN shown in the web documentary “Kotoba” (which means “word” and not “dialogue”): no radioactive waste, no sick, no residents who don’t want to come in… Just a few small worries, but in twelve “dialogues”, everything is settled! The results of these dialogues by IRSN are a distressing list of banalities. This is worrying for post-accident management in the event of an accident in France.

Christine Fassert, for her part, also went to meet people who have left and who do not want to return, giving visibility to a category of populations that everyone wants to ignore, although it is the most numerous. The project also examined the pitfalls of an essentially “reassuring” communication on radiological risk, the difficulty of the role of radiation protection experts in direct contact with the public, the tension between a government policy of evacuations and returns devised by Tokoite elites and the implementation of these directives by the mayors in the region of Fukushima… Only subjects which did not fall within the narrow framework of what was expected. So, it was the frame or her!


Resignation message sent on September 18, 2020 to COR members:


Madame President,


Following the dismissal of an IRSN researcher, I would like to resign from COR. If the IRSN is not able to accept unique voices internally, it cannot open up to society.


In its opinion on the post-accident, the COR stressed, for the “populations and governance” section: “The WG thinks that it would be important to conduct research on this subject taking into account the opinions of all categories. population. Self-evacuees escape official monitoring in Japan and most of the studies and research in which IRSN participates. The experience feedback cannot be limited to the population who wish to remain in place or return, which is not very representative of all the populations affected by a serious nuclear accident. IRSN would benefit from broadening the scope of its studies and research or from moving closer to other programs involving all the people affected by the disaster, including those who do not wish to stay or return. “


In the event of a nuclear accident in France, IRSN will not be able to choose from among the affected populations. The participation of all stakeholders will be necessary. The licensed researcher is precisely the only person at the institute who was interested in all categories of the population, the “dialogues” program having selected only people in agreement with the dominant paradigm at IRSN.


I have already had the opportunity several times, within the COR, to question and alert IRSN researchers on the freedom to publish and communicate, to no avail. The COR has never agreed to discuss it.
Since the beginning of COR, I have worked for more openness and to take into account the demands of society. I have participated in almost all GTs and chaired two of them. But I fear that all this work has been in vain and that IRSN is not ready to open up sincerely. Under these conditions, I see no other solution than to resign from COR.


Yours truly,
David Boilley

October 1, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO’s fitness to operate nuke reactors still open to question

From left, the No. 5 to No. 7 reactors of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture

September 24, 2020

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has effectively endorsed Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s fitness to operate nuclear reactors in its safety screening of the utility’s plans to restart the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture.

The nuclear watchdog’s endorsement, based on new legally binding safety rules the utility drafted and pledged to follow, has opened the door for the operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to start running reactors again.

But TEPCO’s actions concerning safety, the decommissioning of the destroyed Fukushima reactors and compensation for victims of the catastrophic accident have created a deep sense of distrust that is hard to brush off. The NRA’s decision is open to question.

Three years ago, when it cleared the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors under the tougher new reactor safety standards established in response to the Fukushima disaster, the NRA placed great importance on TEPCO’s “fitness” to run reactors.

This has led the utility to incorporate seven new principles into its safety code. They include the company’s commitment to carry through the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and hold its president responsible for reactor safety as well as its pledge not to put economic efficiency before safety.

The safety code is legally binding, with a violation potentially provoking an order to suspend operations.

This time, the NRA has examined TEPCO’s seven commitments and acknowledged that they are specific enough to allow the watchdog to identify and punish any violations.

But the seven principles still contain vague elements. It is difficult not to wonder whether they will effectively enable the NRA to monitor and check TEPCO’s operations for violations.

TEPCO, for example, has promised to follow through with the payment of compensation to victims of the Fukushima calamity. In fact, however, the company has rejected many proposed compensation agreements with local residents.

As for decommissioning the stricken plant, the company has left entirely to the government the vital challenge of disposing of radiation-contaminated water being generated by the plant.

These actions of the firm appear to be at odds with the safety code. What does the NRA think about them?

The real question is whether TEPCO’s basic attitude has really changed.

Asahi Shimbun editorials have questioned the company’s reliability to operate nuclear plants safely because it has failed to demonstrate the safety awareness and commitment required for the operator of a nuclear power plant.

TEPCO, for example, failed to report accurately the fact that an important facility at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant does not have sufficient earthquake resistance.

It also avoided publishing voluntarily the fact that contaminated water from the Fukushima plant contains various radioactive materials whose levels are well above the safety standards after treatment. All these facts raised doubts about the firm’s ethical integrity.

Unless the utility changes its culture and behavior, it will be unable to win local support for its plans to restart the reactors.

TEPCO, as the operator of the Fukushima plant, has the responsibility to put the priority on decommissioning the reactors and paying compensation to people who have suffered from the accident.

It is doubtful whether the company will be able to operate reactors safely while grappling with the colossal challenge of decommissioning the plant, a process that will continue for decades.

There are legitimate concerns that the company could be unable to secure sufficient human and other resources for its efforts to ensure the safety of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

Instead of sticking to its business strategy, which is focused on restoring its financial health by restarting the reactors at the plant in Niigata Prefecture so that it can bear the huge cost of decommissioning and compensation payments, TEPCO should start exploring carving out a viable future without nuclear power generation for itself.

As the utility’s virtual leading shareholder, the government should urge the firm to reconsider its business strategy.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13755624

October 1, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan Struggles to Secure Radioactive Nuclear Waste Dump Sites

A small, aging town grapples with the financial lure of storing radioactive waste underground. 

Japan’s worsening depopulation crisis is crippling the public finances of regional towns. Now one small town has made national headlines after expressing interest in storing radioactive nuclear waste underground in a last ditch effort to save itself from impending bankruptcy.

The small town of Suttsu in Hokkaido, the northernmost main island of Japan, has a population of just under 3,000 people. It’s the first local municipality to volunteer for the permanent storage site of highly radioactive nuclear waste and nuclear spent fuel. Suttsu Mayor Kataoka Haruo says the town has no more than 10 years left to find new sources of income after struggling with a slump in sales of seafood due to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Kataoka says there is an impending sense of crisis unless an urgent financial boost in the form of a government grant can be secured. He has called on local residents not to dismiss the idea of applying for the phase one “literature survey” without weighing the ways the grant could be spent — in contrast to the harsh reality of town funds running dry in 10 years’ time.

In Japan there are more than 2,500 containers of nuclear waste being stored in limbo without a permanent disposal site. Currently, the waste is stored temporarily in Aomori prefecture in northwest Japan at the Japan Nuclear Waste Storage Management Center. According to the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry there are also approximately 19,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel stored at each nuclear power plant.

Nuclear waste projects immense heat and it needs to be cooled through exposure to air for between 30 to 50 years before it can be transferred and stored underground. However, it takes roughly 1,000 years to 100,000 years for radiation intensity to drop to safe levels.

The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster left long-lasting trauma further exasperating Japan’s already vexed relationship with nuclear energy as a resource deficient nation. The aftermath of the disaster and the slow road to recovery prompted many people to object to nuclear waste storage not only on geographic grounds but also out of strong emotional opposition.

Hokkaido has built a global reputation for its high quality dairy, agricultural products, and seafood. Nuclear waste storage, and the negative publicity that would follow, could jeopardize those industries.

With the proposal, local residents in Sutsu have been placed in a difficult situation, weighing up the health of their children and future generations against the town’s financial prospects and viable funding opportunities.

In August, Kataoka said he would not apply for phase one without the understanding of the general public. Last week, Kataoka held a local briefing session aiming to deepen local understanding and consent. But after discussing the damage to the town’s reputation and the possible conflict with a previous ordinance against accepting nuclear waste set by a radioactive waste research facility created in Hokkaido in 2000, Kataoka indicated the application for phase one would likely be delayed.

In 2000 the government enacted the Final Disposal Law, which outlined criteria for electing a permanent storage site. A three-stage investigation process sets out excavation to be deeper than 300 meters below ground and in doing so a survey of volcanoes, active fault lines, and underground rock must be performed in addition to installing an underground survey facility. It’s estimated that steps one through to three will take approximately 20 years in total.

In 2017 the government released a scientific map of Japan, pinpointing towns with suitable geographic conditions to host final disposal sites. If the application and survey are approved successfully, towns are eligible for grants up to 2 billion yen (around $19 million at current exchange rates) from the central government and another 7 billion yen if stage two goes ahead. In 2002 The Nuclear Waste Management of Japan (NUMO) launched an open call for local municipalities to consider applying for an initial investigation stage without success. Three years after the release of the map, NUMO has attempted to garner public support by hosting over 100 local discussion meetings all over Japan. Suttsu was the first town to express interest in phase one out of 900 local municipalities.

The final nuclear waste site is expected to make room underground for 40,000 barrels requiring six to 10 square kilometers — the equivalent of 214 Tokyo Dome Stadiums — to a tune of 3.9 trillion yen.

The government is currently formulating a “nuclear fuel cycle policy,” which aims to reduce the amount of nuclear waste generated by encouraging the recycling and reuse of spent fuel. But one major criticism of Japan’s nuclear power policy is the lack of a comprehensive strategy. The two year period for a “literature survey” has been touted as an opportunity for Japan to seriously consider the cleanup of nuclear power.

https://thediplomat.com/2020/09/japan-struggles-to-secure-radioactive-nuclear-waste-dump-sites/?fbclid=IwAR3UC-dCpZzWDF4eS8WvHn04z1ZxM3SwijKeTO5fdwJ3BOIenmceT_weFxo

October 1, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Energy authority clears TEPCO to restart Niigata’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant

It is the largest nuclear generating station in the world by net electrical power rating. There are seven units, all lined up along the coast line. Numbering starts at Unit 1 with the south-most unit through Unit 4, then there is a large green space in between Unit 4 and 7, then it continues with Units 6 and 5, the newest of the reactors.

The plant is owned and operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), same company which owns the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant where the nuclear disaster is still ongoing since March 2011.

The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant is a large, modern (housing the world’s first ABWR) nuclear power plant on a 4.2-square-kilometer (1,000-acre) site including land in the towns of Kashiwazaki and Kariwa in Niigata Prefecture, Japan on the coast of the Sea of Japan, from where it gets cooling water.

It was approximately 19 km (12 mi) from the epicenter of the second-strongest earthquake to occur at a nuclear plant, the Mw 6.6 July 2007 Chūetsu offshore earthquake.

Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex in Niigata Prefecture

September 23, 2020

Tokyo Electric Power Co. cleared a major regulatory hurdle toward restarting a nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, but the utility’s bid to resume its operations still hangs in the balance of a series of political approvals.

The government’s nuclear watchdog concluded Sept. 23 that the utility is fit to operate the plant, based on new legally binding safety rules TEPCO drafted and pledged to follow. If TEPCO is found to be in breach of those regulations, it could be ordered to halt the plant’s operations.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority’s green light now shifts the focus over to whether local governments will agree in the coming months to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

TEPCO is keen to get the plant back up and running. It has been financially reeling from the closure of its nuclear plants in Fukushima Prefecture following the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in 2011 triggered by the earthquake and tsunami disaster.

The company plans to bring the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors back online at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex, which is among the world’s largest nuclear plants.

The two reactors each boast 1.35 gigawatts in output capacity. They are the newest of the seven reactors there, first put into service between 1996 and 1997.

TEPCO has not revealed specific plans yet on what to do with the older five reactors.

In 2017, the NRA cleared the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors under the tougher new reactor regulations established in 2013 in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

It also closely scrutinized the operator’s ability to run the Niigata Prefecture plant safely, given its history as the entity responsible for the nation’s most serious nuclear accident.

After several rounds of meetings with top TEPCO managers, the NRA managed to hold the utility’s feet to the fire enough to make it pledge, in writing, to abide by a new seven-point safety code for the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

The creation of the new code, which is legally binding, is meant to hold the company accountable for safety measures at the facility.

“As the top executive, the president of TEPCO will take responsibility for the safety of nuclear power,” one of the points reads. “TEPCO will not put the facility’s economic performance above its safety,” reads another.

The company promised to abide by the points set out in writing during the NRA’s examination of its safety regulations.

TEPCO also vowed to set up a system where the president is directly briefed on risks to the nuclear complex, including the likelihood of earthquakes more powerful than what the plant is designed to withstand. It must also draft safeguard measures to deal with those kinds of earthquakes and confirm whether precautionary steps are in place.

The utility additionally pledged to promptly release public records on the decision-making process concerning crucial matters related to nuclear safety, and to preserve the documents until the facility is decommissioned.

TEPCO plans to complete its work to reinforce the safety of the No. 7 reactor in December. It has not set a definite deadline for similar work for the No. 6 reactor.

To restart the Kashiwazki-Kariwa plant, TEPCO needs to obtain consent from local governments, including the Niigata prefectural government.

The prefectural government is studying the plant’s safety through a panel of experts, which is reviewing whether evacuation plans are adequate and the health impact on residents from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Niigata Governor Hideyo Hanazumi said he will not decide on the restart until the panel completes its review.

The nuclear complex suffered damage, including from fire at an electric transformer, when an earthquake it deemed able to withstand hit in 2007.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13753076

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

South Korean Gov’t Concerned over Fukushima Daiichi’s Radioactive Water Release

Gov’t. Concerned over Japan Possibly Releasing Contaminated Water from Daiichi Plant

September 23, 2020

South Korea has expressed concerns over Japan strongly considering the release of contaminated water from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster site into the ocean.

The Ministry of Science and ICT said First Vice Minister Jeong Byung-seon revealed the plans in a virtual keynote speech during the 64th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA) on Wednesday.  

Jeong said the international community, including South Korea, is growing concerned and nervous about the environment and its safety as Japan mulls such a possibility.   

The vice minister stressed the need to thoroughly analyze the mid-  and long-term damage the release could have on the environment and the appropriate way to go about it, given that it could affect global marine environments.  

In particular, Jeong said that in line with international laws, Japan is obligated to communicate with the international community in a transparent manner ahead of deciding on ways to dispose of the contaminated water and proposed that the IAEA play a key role in that process.

S.Korea concerned about Fukushima waste water

September 23, 2020

South Korea has again expressed its concerns about Japan’s plan to release into the sea radioactive wastewater building up at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The first vice minister of South Korea’s science ministry Jeong Byungseon was speaking at a general meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna on Tuesday.

He said “releasing contaminated water into the ocean is not an issue of Japan itself, but one that could have a wider impact on the global marine environment, as well as the neighboring countries.”

He said Japan has “an overarching obligation to make transparent, concrete communication within the global society,” including South Korea, before making any disposal decision.

He asked the IAEA to play a proactive role in the issue.

At last year’s IAEA general meeting, South Korea raised questions about the issue and criticized Japan.

On Monday, Japan’s Science and Technology Policy Minister Inoue Shinji told the meeting that Japan is studying ways to dispose of the water, taking into consideration advice from the IAEA. He stressed Japan will provide careful and transparent explanations to the global community.

In February, a Japanese government expert panel came up with a report saying that diluting the wastewater below environmental and other standards, and discharging it into the sea, as well as vaporizing and releasing it into the air are realistic options.

The government plans to make a decision after hearing opinions from local residents and groups.

https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/20200923_03/

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t criticize government or TEPCO, guides in Fukushima told

A guide gives a demonstration talk at a preview event held on Sept. 5 at the Fukushima memorial museum.

A Fukushima memorial museum staff member presents a talk on Sept. 20 when the facility opened.

The Fukushima memorial museum in Futaba is devoted to passing on the lessons from the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

September 23, 2020

Tour guides are bristling at instructions not to criticize the central government or Tokyo Electric Power Co. when speaking to visitors at a recently opened memorial museum to the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The instructions have left some Fukushima residents who signed up to be guides feeling perplexed and sparked anger in others.

The museum in Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, opened on Sept. 20 with the objective of passing on to visitors the lessons learned from the nuclear disaster triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

It was constructed by the Fukushima prefectural government in the town of Futaba, which co-hosts the nuclear plant. Evacuation orders issued for residents following the disaster were recently partially lifted.

About 150 items chosen from the 240,000 or so materials collected from around the nation are on display at the facility operated by the Fukushima Innovation Coast Framework Promotion Organization. The central government effectively paid for the 5.3 billion yen ($50 million) that went into completing it.

The museum has 29 registered guides who either survived the 2011 disaster or underwent a training program for the work. They rotate on a daily basis and talk to visitors about their experiences, which include how they lived while living as evacuees and losing their homes in the tsunami.

Each session lasts for a maximum one hour and the guide is paid 3,500 yen for each session.

Training sessions were held in July and August for the guides in which a manual was distributed that included wording to avoid “criticizing or defaming specific organizations, individuals or other facilities.”

One question raised was what to say if a visitor asked what the guide felt about TEPCO’s responsibility, according to several guides who took part in the training sessions.

The guides were told to not directly respond to such questions, but to leave the matter up to facility staff who would be sitting in on the sessions.

Each guide was also asked to write down a script of what they intended to say. The draft was checked and revised by facility staff.

The guides were also told that if they did criticize a specific organization, their talks would be stopped immediately and they would be dismissed as a registered guide.

The manual also included instructions to contact and consult with facility staff if the script was to be changed or if the guide was contacted by media representatives for an interview.

With regard to the manual and instructions, one guide said, “While defamation is out of the question, I think it is wrong that as a victim I am unable to criticize the central government or TEPCO, which is responsible for the damage.”

A second guide had the script revised after pointing out the responsibility of the central government and TEPCO.

Another speculated that the Fukushima prefectural government was not trying to ruffle feathers since the central government had paid for the facility.

“I suffered psychological anguish from TEPCO and I’m also angry with the central government,” one tour guide said.

“To me, that is the truth. The facility has asked us to speak the truth so it is not in a position to say ‘Don’t say such things.’ I will quit as a guide if expressing my feelings is considered being critical.”

A prefectural government official admitted that the central government and TEPCO would be covered by the “specific organizations” clause in the manual.

“We believe it is not appropriate to criticize a third party such as the central government, TEPCO or the Fukushima prefectural government in a public facility,” said another prefectural government official now on the facility staff.

Committees set up by the Diet and central government to investigate the cause of the Fukushima nuclear disaster issued reports that called it a “man-made disaster” and said TEPCO never considered the possibility that the Fukushima plant would lose all electric power sources in the event of an earthquake or tsunami because it stuck to a baseless myth that the plant was safe.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13752941?fbclid=IwAR34yixcczj5IYUQ3CNrfustGO0EbHo2SY3Hi2TUMGY1Gc2nrOKAdE-IGXw

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , | Leave a comment

9 1/2 years after meltdowns, no end in sight for Fukushima nuke plant decommissioning

The No. 1 reactor building is seen at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, on Sept. 1, 2020.

September 22, 2020

It has been some 9 1/2 years since the triple-meltdown disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in northeast Japan, and in early September I visited the plant to get a close-up look at the reactor buildings and find out how much progress is being made in dismantling them.

The trip began aboard a microbus, which stopped on an inland promontory running north to south at an elevation of 33.5 meters above sea level. Getting off the bus, I looked east, over the Pacific Ocean. And then I saw them, just 100 meters away or so: the buildings containing the plant’s No. 1 to 4 reactors.

When a tsunami triggered by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake slammed into the coastal facility, reactors 1 to 3 were online, while No. 4 was shut down for a regular inspection. There were core meltdowns in all three of the active reactors, with the fuel mixing with material from the surrounding structure as it melted and turned into “fuel debris.” Later, the No. 4 reactor building, connected to the No. 3 building by plumbing, was blown apart by a hydrogen explosion.

To complicate matters further, the reactor buildings had fuel storage pools each containing between 392 and 1,534 nuclear fuel rods. However, the plant workers managed to keep the rods cool, averting a major secondary disaster.

On my visit, the No. 3 reactor building is encased in what looks like a Baumkuchen layer cake stood upright. Inside, operations are underway to remove the fuel rods from the 12-meter-deep storage pool.

“There’s a newly installed crane in there to take the fuel out,” said our guide Masayuki Ueda, who is a manager at the Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning unit of the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO).

The hydrogen explosion choked the pool and surrounding area with debris, including fragments of the roof and bits of nearby machinery. Even after the clearing of this debris, equipment and other problems delayed the fuel removal operation by more than four years. The process finally got underway in April 2019. The special crane lifts the some 300-kilogram rods out of the pool one at a time, and they are then taken to a pool in a separate building. Of the 566 rods, 366 had been removed as of Sept. 11, 2020. Due to the high radiation in the building itself, the crane is operated remotely from a control facility about 500 meters away.

The hardest part of the task is yet to come; the handles on 16 of the rods were warped by falling debris, and can’t be extracted by the crane as they are. TEPCO is apparently working on a “grabbing tool” for the crane to lift out the damaged rods, among other methods, in hopes to finish the removal project by March 2021.

We get back on the microbus and head down the hill to a spot where we can look up at the No. 4 reactor building. Here, too, we can see the machinery for the so-called underground ice wall surrounding the No. 1-4 reactors.

Groundwater from the mountains flows relentlessly beneath the power station. The walls in the basement levels of the reactor buildings were cracked in the March 2011 quake, letting in the groundwater and rainwater that has come into contact with the nuclear fuel debris, contaminating it. The “ice wall,” which TEPCO began making in May 2013, is TEPCO’s attempt to control the problem.

The wall is made up of some 1,500 pipes sunk 30 meters into the ground, creating a subterranean perimeter about 1.5 kilometers long around the reactor buildings. Liquid cooled to minus 30 degrees Celsius is then run through the pipes, freezing the soil around them. The Japanese treasury spent about 34.5 billion yen (about $330.7 million) to make the wall, and the electricity and other maintenance to keep it going costs hundreds of millions of yen per year. These latter outlays are passed on to consumers in their power bills.

Previously, the stricken plant produced up to 600 metric tons of contaminated water per day. However, thanks to pumping up groundwater on the landward side of the plant and other measures, that was down to 160 tons per day in April through July this year. Under the plant decommissioning plan, TEPCO and the Japanese government intend to reduce that to 150 tons per day by the end of 2020, and 100 tons by 2025. TEPCO has said that, with work on new roofs over the reactor buildings proceeding, it believes it can meet the 150 ton target this year.

Meanwhile, with radiation levels around the reactor buildings gradually declining, the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) believes it is the moment to consider going into the basement levels to patch the cracks in the walls. NRA Chairman Toyoshi Fuketa has said that “it’s about time to start discussing when to halt” the ice wall operation.

There are experts who doubt the efficacy of the ice wall. In 2018, TEPCO estimated the wall alone was preventing 95 tons of contaminated water from being generated per day. However, Hideyuki Ban, co-director of the nonprofit organization Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, told the Mainichi Shimbun, “There needs to be an inquiry into whether the ice wall was ever really necessary.”

Parts of the Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning plan have been delayed repeatedly since its release in December 2011. At that time, the plan stated it would take 30-40 years to complete the project. However, after seeing the power station up close, I find it hard to imagine this.

(Japanese original by Suzuko Araki, Science and Environment News Department)

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20200921/p2a/00m/0na/018000c

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , | Leave a comment

S. Korea renews concerns over possible release of tainted Fukushima water

The logo of the Ministry of Science and ICT at its main offices in the central city of Sejong, 130 kilometers south of Seoul, is shown in this undated photo provided by the ministry

September 22, 2020

SEOUL, Sept. 22 (Yonhap) — South Korea on Tuesday reiterated its concerns over Japan’s potential move to release radioactive water from its disabled Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea.

Japan has been mulling over options to discharge the water from the nuclear plant, which was devastated by a tsunami triggered by an earthquake in March 2011.

An estimated 1.1 million tons of tainted water is in temporary storage at the Fukushima plant.

South Korea’s Vice Minister of Science and ICT Jeong Byung-seon renewed concerns over Japan’s potential move in a recorded message at an annual conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA), according to the science ministry.

The general conference of the U.N. nuclear watchdog was held partially online this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Jeong said releasing the tainted water would impact the global marine environment and that its method and long-term environmental risks need careful consideration through cooperation with global agencies, such as the IAEA.

The vice minister also called for an active role of the IAEA to facilitate transparency in the water’s disposal process, adding that Japan’s disposal plans should follow international law, such as the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.

The science ministry said the vice minister will convey South Korea’s concerns to IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in a separate meeting Wednesday.

The fallout of the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant has been a source of contention between the two neighboring countries, with South Korea imposing a ban on all seafood imports from eight Japanese prefectures near Fukushima in 2013.

https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20200922007000320?section=national/diplomacy

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Fukushima 2020 | , , , | Leave a comment

Much at stake in picking a final nuclear waste disposal site

Local residents attend a meeting held Sept. 10 by the town government of Suttsu, Hokkaido, to explain plans to host a final disposal site for nuclear waste.

September 22, 2020

Two local communities in Hokkaido are considering pitching themselves as candidates for the site for final disposal of highly radioactive waste from nuclear power plants.

Last month, the mayor of Suttsu in the northernmost main island said the municipal government is thinking to apply for the first stage of the three-stage process of selecting the site for the nation’s final repository for nuclear waste.

During this period, past records about natural disasters and geological conditions for the candidate area are examined. Town authorities are holding meetings with local residents to explain its intentions.

In Kamoenai, a village also in Hokkaido, the local chamber of commerce and industry submitted a petition to the local assembly to consider an application for the process. The issue was discussed at an assembly committee. However, the assembly decided to postpone making a decision after further discussion.

Both communities are located close to the Tomari nuclear power plant operated by Hokkaido Electric Power Co. and struggling with common rural problems such as a dwindling population and industrial and economic stagnation.

The law decrees that when the first stage of the selection process starts, the municipality that is picked will receive up to 2 billion yen ($19.1 million) in state subsidies for two years.

But the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO), which are in charge of the selection process, have promised it will not move to the second stage if the prefectural governor or local mayor voices an objection.

Hokkaido Governor Naomichi Suzuki has already expressed his opposition.

A huge amount of spent nuclear fuel has been produced by nuclear plants in Japan, and it needs to be stored and disposed of somewhere in this country.

This policy challenge requires a solid consensus among a broad range of people, including residents of cities who have been beneficiaries of electricity generated at nuclear plants.

The two Hokkaido municipalities’ moves to consider applying for the first stage of the selection process should be taken as an opportunity for national debate on the issue.

The first step should be to establish a system for local communities to discuss the issue thoroughly from a broad perspective.

It is crucial to prevent bitter, acrimonious divisions in local communities between supporters and opponents.

The central government and other parties involved need to provide whatever information is needed from a fair and neutral position to help create an environment for healthy, in-depth debate.

There is also a crucial need to fix the problems with the current plan to build a final repository for radioactive waste.

Under the plan, which is based on the assumption that a nuclear fuel recycling system will eventually be established, the repository will be used to store waste to be left after spent nuclear fuel is reprocessed to recover and recycle plutonium and uranium.

But there is no prospect for the establishment of such a recycling system which would allow for disposing only of the waste from reprocessing and recycling.

Eventually, Japan, like most other countries with nuclear power plants, will be forced to map out plans for “direct disposal,” or disposing of spent fuel from nuclear reactors in underground repositories.

The central government has not changed its policy of maintaining nuclear power generation as a major power source. If nuclear reactors keep operating, they will continue producing spent fuel.

The government will find it difficult to win local support for the planned repository unless it makes clear what kind of and how much radioactive material will be stored at the site.

Many local governments are facing a fiscal crunch partly because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hokkaido Governor Suzuki has taken a dim view of the financial incentive offered to encourage local governments to apply for the first stage of the selection process, criticizing the proposed subsidies as “a wad of cash used as a powerful carrot.”

It takes tens of thousands of years for the radioactivity of spent nuclear fuel to decline to sufficiently safe levels.

Trying to stem local opposition by dangling temporary subsidies could create a serious problem for the future in the communities.

It is vital to ensure that the repository plan will secure a long-term policy commitment to the development of the local communities and ensure benefits for the entire areas.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/13749856

September 24, 2020 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment