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Backlash against Japanese Prime Minister’s haste to dump Fukushima nuclear water into the ocean


Kishida triggers backlash by saying dumping Fukushima nuclear water can’t be delayed, Global Times, By Xu Keyue: O
ct 19, 2021   Only two weeks after taking office, Japan’s new prime minister Fumio Kishida pressed two hot buttons on the same day on Sunday – sending a ritual offering to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine, and claiming the Fukushima wastewater release cannot be delayed, despite opposition from home and abroad.


Instead of taking full advantage of its own science and technology to process the Fukushima wastewater and deliver a qualified answer to the world over the water treatment, Japan has opted for its irresponsible plan to dump the wastewater as soon as possible and provided self-contradictory explanations for the decision, said Chinese experts.Speaking at his first visit to the tsunami-wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant since taking office, Kishida said the planned mass disposal of wastewater stored at the facility cannot be delayed, claiming his government would work to reassure residents nearby the plant about the technical safety of the wastewater disposal project, Asahi Shimbun reported Monday.

South Korea has expressed concern over Kishida’s plan to release the radioactive wastewater, according to South Korean media on Monday.

“Japan’s decision [to discharge the wastewater] was made without enough consultations with neighboring nations,” a senior South Korean foreign ministry official said. “We have expressed serious concerns and opposition to its plan, which could affect our people’s health and security as well as the ocean environment.”

The Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) has planned to build a one-kilometer undersea tunnel to release contaminated radioactive water out to sea, amid condemnation from fishermen, media reported in late August.

The plan again showed that Japan’s “explanation” over the safety of the water is “self-contradicting,” Liu Jiangyong, vice dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, told the Global Times on Monday.
Assuming the wastewater has been processed without any side effects or pollution as the Japanese government claimed, and that people can even drink it, why does the Japanese government not simply discharge the water into the sea but plan to dump the water 1 kilometer away from the local residents? asked Liu. He also questioned the claim that it will have no impact on the marine environment and life chain, and asked why the water could not be recycled on land if the wastewater can be processed so cleanly and safely.

Japan can’t answer any of these questions, said Liu, noting that dumping the nuclear water shows that the water is “unusual.”…………. https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?tab=rm&ogbl#inbox?compose=DmwnWsTJtkLTcgrqMkBKSqBpmgbKhMHpzMMgttqhvJHgDJrfsKrtFCCwkflZJkjjhwgvJbPrQhFV

October 19, 2021 Posted by | Japan, oceans, politics international, wastes | Leave a comment

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida confirms release of Fukushima wastewater to start in 2023


Release of Fukushima wastewater to proceed: Kishida, The Guardian, TOKYO, 18 Oct 21,

New Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said that there can be no delay to plans to release contaminated water from the wrecked Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant into the sea, despite opposition from fishers and neighboring countries.

Kishida, who made his first trip to the plant on Sunday since becoming prime minister last month, said every effort would be made to reassure local people that disposing of the water in the Pacific Ocean was safe……

Researchers have used snakes fitted with tracking devices and dosimeters to measure radiation levels in the area around the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, which suffered triple meltdowns in March 2011……

More than 1 million tonnes of water are being stored in 1,000 tanks at the site, and TEPCO has said that space would run out late next year.

The government and TEPCO in April said that work to release the heavily diluted water would begin in the spring of 2023 and take decades to complete.

The move is opposed by nearby fishing communities, which say it would undo years of hard work rebuilding their industry’s reputation since the plant was struck by a huge tsunami in March 2011, soon after Japan’s northeast coast was rocked by a magnitude 9 earthquake.

The decision ended years of debate over what to do with the water, with other options including evaporation or the construction of more storage tanks at other sites.   More than 1 million tonnes of water are being stored in 1,000 tanks at the site, and TEPCO has said that space would run out late next year.

The government and TEPCO in April said that work to release the heavily diluted water would begin in the spring of 2023 and take decades to complete.

The move is opposed by nearby fishing communities, which say it would undo years of hard work rebuilding their industry’s reputation since the plant was struck by a huge tsunami in March 2011, soon after Japan’s northeast coast was rocked by a magnitude 9 earthquake.

The decision ended years of debate over what to do with the water, with other options including evaporation or the construction of more storage tanks at other sites.More than 1 million tonnes of water are being stored in 1,000 tanks at the site, and TEPCO has said that space would run out late next year.

Japan has requested help from the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure that the discharge meets global safety standards, including treating the wastewater so its radioactivity levels are below legal limits.   https://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2021/10/19/2003766372

October 19, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Japan’s new pro nuclear push – and for small nuclear reactors

Japan’s Carbon Goal Is Based on Restarting 30 Nuclear Reactors, Bloomberg,  By Isabel Reynolds 17 October 2021,  Japan’s goal of reducing carbon emissions by 46% by 2030 is based on the assumption it will restart 30 of its nuclear reactors, a top ruling party executive said. 

Akira Amari, secretary general of the Liberal Democratic Party, made the remarks Sunday in a televised debate broadcast by NHK ahead of the Oct. 31 general election. 

Much of Japan’s nuclear capacity has been offline since the 2011 Fukushima disaster and Amari said only nine reactors are currently in service. Surveys generally show the electorate is against restarting the plants. 

The LDP has also been promoting the idea of building small modular reactors, saying they are safer than Japan’s existing atomic plants……..https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-17/amari-says-japan-s-carbon-goal-based-on-restarting-30-reactors

October 18, 2021 Posted by | Japan, politics, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | 1 Comment

Lethal radiation levels detected in Fukushima nuclear plant reactor lid 

Lethal radiation levels detected in Fukushima nuke plant reactor lid   https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14440765

By TSUYOSHI KAWAMURA/ Staff Writer

September 15, 2021  
The operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant could be forced to reconsider the plant’s decommissioning process after lethal radiation levels equivalent to those of melted nuclear fuel were detected near one of the lids covering a reactor.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority said Sept. 14 that a radiation reading near the surface of the lid of the No. 2 reactor’s containment vessel was 1.2 sieverts per hour, higher than the level previously assumed.

The discovery came on Sept. 9 during a study by the NRA and Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant.

TEPCO plans to insert a robotic arm into the No. 2 reactor’s containment vessel from its side in a trial planned for the second half of 2022 to retrieve pieces of melted nuclear fuel.

“We will consider what we can do during the trial on the basis of the detection of the concentration of contamination” in the upper area of the containment vessel, a TEPCO official said.

The round concrete lid, called the shield plug, is 12 meters in diameter and about 60 centimeters thick.

The shield plug consists of three lids placed on top of each other to block extremely high radiation emanating from the reactor core.

Each lid weighs 150 tons.

When operators work on the decommissioning, the shield plug will be removed to allow for the entry into the containment vessel.

The NRA said a huge amount of radioactive cesium that was released during the meltdown of the No. 2 reactor in March 2011 remained between the uppermost lid and middle lid.

In the Sept. 9 study, workers bored two holes measuring 7 cm deep each on the surface of the uppermost lid to measure radiation doses there by deploying remotely controlled robots.

One radiation reading was 1.2 sieverts per hour at a location 4 cm down from the surface in a hole near the center of the lid.Prior to the study, the NRA estimated that the dose from a contamination source that existed beneath the lid was more than 10 sieverts per hour, a level lethal to humans if exposed to it for about an hour.

But the finding suggested that the actual dose would likely be dozens of sieverts per hour, thus far more dangerous.

While it is expected to be a huge challenge to dismantle the lids, TEPCO has yet to decide what to do with them during the decades-long cleanup work.

The NRA also mentioned the possibility that radioactive cesium is also concentrated between the middle lid and the lowermost lid.

But there is no way at the moment to confirm whether that is the case, according to NRA officials

October 16, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima 2015, radiation | Leave a comment

Nuclear hawks under Kishida threaten Suga’s renewables push

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN, October 14, 2021 Pro-nuclear lawmakers now hold key positions under Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, sparking concern that he will stray from the prior administration’s focus on renewables to help achieve “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

New ministers in charge of Japan’s efforts to fight climate change and energy issues under the Kishida administration have vowed to stick with the net zero target………

The new Basic Energy Plan drafted by the Suga administration made no mention of such nuclear power-related projects despite pressure from pro-nuclear lawmakers within the LDP and the nuclear industry.

LDP lawmakers who support nuclear energy are unhappy about the Basic Energy Plan, which said Japan will “reduce its dependence on nuclear energy as much as possible.”   

……………concerns have been raised over a possible return to reliance on more nuclear power following pro-nuclear lawmakers assuming key posts in the government and the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

Koizumi, who as environment minister pushed for renewable energy, and Taro Kono, who served as minister in charge of administrative reform and is a staunch opponent of nuclear energy, were replaced when Kishida formed his Cabinet.

….. Despite his vow against new reactor projects, Hagiuda is a close ally of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who serves as the most senior adviser to a group of lawmakers advocating construction of new reactors to replace aged units.

Akira Amari, the new secretary-general of the LDP, the second most powerful post after the party president, Kishida, is the most senior adviser to the group.

Sanae Takaichi, who proposed bolstering development of new technology to build a nuclear fusion reactor during the LDP

 leadership race last month, landed the position of the party’s policy chief.

…Not surprisingly, the nuclear industry hailed the government and the new party lineup…….. https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14460623

October 16, 2021 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida praises Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons

ICAN 9 Oct 21, After receiving a letter from Hiroshima survivor and long-time ICAN activist Setsuko Thurlow and ICAN, the new Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said “I believe that the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a very important treaty for a world without nuclear weapons.” This is definitely a good sign from a nuclear allied country that previously has dismissed our treaty.  


Setsuko had already met with Mr Kishida in 2018, together with ICAN partner Peace Boat, to discuss Japan’s nuclear disarmament policy and we will use the opportunity of this new Prime Minister to strengthen our work to get Japan join the treaty.

October 9, 2021 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

Japan’s independent English language newsletter, analysing nuclear issues, is struggling to survive

Japan NPO on nuke power issues struggling to retain English newsletter

September 27, 2021 (Mainichi Japan    TOKYO (Kyodo) — A citizens’ organization in Japan that publishes independent analysis in English on nuclear power issues is struggling financially, threatening its ability to remain the major source of specialized public information on Japan’s nuclear industry for an international audience.

The Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center based in Tokyo has published the free bimonthly English newsletter Nuke Info Tokyo since 1987 but is having to crowdfund to keep publishing amid financial difficulties caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

The nonprofit organization, which also produces a monthly newsletter in Japanese for a domestic audience, had previously financed the cost of the English publication by holding paid seminars at which it also solicited donations and sold books, as well as collecting membership fees.

But it has been unable to hold the events since early 2020 when coronavirus infections began to impact Japan, Hajime Matsukubo, CNIC secretary general, told Kyodo News.

Membership — already in decline — has also dropped further amid the pandemic and its effect on the economy, he said.

“Membership decreased by about 100 last year alone under the coronavirus outbreaks and (membership) is around 2,100 now,” Matsukubo said, admitting the decline in membership also owed to a waning of public interest in nuclear issues in recent years.

…………. Philip White, a former editor of Nuke Info Tokyo, wrote that he fielded calls around the clock from the foreign media by referring to the archived English-language articles at the time of the disaster.

“The international media was hungry for critical information to counter the sanitized version offered by the government and the nuclear industry. Our English website offered clearly referenced Nuke Info Tokyo articles,” he wrote……………

Matsukubo argues that the government and electric power companies operating nuclear plants tend to withhold information, not just when accidents occur but also in normal times.

Although the government has said the Fukushima plant is under control, it is uncertain how many more years it will take to deal with over a million tons of treated radioactive water from the plant and decommission damaged reactors.

The government continues to deem nuclear power a major energy source, although, since 2014, it has said it aims to decrease its reliance on such power.

Running the English newsletter, staffed by Stronell, four freelance translators, and an editor who is also co-director of the group, costs around 1.5 million yen ($13,700) per year. While the translators used to work voluntarily, CNIC started to pay them in 2009 — though they receive half or less than the market rate.

At this time, the newsletter, which had been printed and mailed to readers with a postage fee charged only to readers in Japan, was made available for free online. Several hundred readers regularly refer to the newsletter, among them journalists, NGO staff, and academics.

Another co-director of CNIC, Hideyuki Ban, said that researchers worldwide have quoted Nuke Info Tokyo in their work.

“Nuke Info Tokyo is the only newsletter in English that specializes in the situation of nuclear power in Japan and has covered a wide range of issues from citizens’ standpoints for decades,” Ban said.

CNIC was founded in 1975 by scientists, including the late Jinzaburo Takagi, a nuclear chemist who began his career in the nuclear industry but later voiced concerns about atomic power……..

To coincide with the policy discussion, CNIC held a virtual seminar on Friday to draw attention to the issues and help people make up their minds on the right policy for Japan.

Stronell said she hopes to run an article on the seminar given by experts in the newsletter.

“I think the most important thing is having independent experts’ information on nuclear power accidents like Fukushima and other problems to let people make decisions about their own health and future,” Stronell said. “And so for us to continue to do this, and that’s what the crowdfunding project is about, any support is very much appreciated.” https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20210927/p2g/00m/0na/078000c

October 1, 2021 Posted by | Japan, media | Leave a comment

Nuclear submarine for Japan? Kono says yes, Kishida says no

Poll leader believes capability is ‘extremely important’ for country

Navy divers assigned to Naval Special Warfare Command conduct operations with the nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine USS North Carolina off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

September 26, 2021

TOKYO — Following a recent deal by the U.S. and the U.K. to offer Australia classified technology to build nuclear-powered submarines, should fellow Quad member Japan also seek such a capability? The four candidates running for the Liberal Democratic Party presidential race to succeed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga were asked the question Sunday on Fuji TV.

Poll leader Taro Kono, minister for administrative reform and also in charge of vaccine distribution, gave a thumbs-up. “As a capability, it is very important for Japan to have nuclear submarines,” he said.

“Whether there are regions [in Japan] willing to host them as a home port, or whether the operating capabilities or costs are pragmatic, these are issues we need to consider going forward,” he added. 

Sanae Takaichi, the former internal affairs minister, also looked favorably upon the idea. “If we think of the worst-case risks in the international environment ahead, I do believe we could have [submarines] that can travel a little longer,” she said, referring to the advantage of nuclear propulsion in that they can stay submerged longer without refueling.

Japan’s Atomic Energy Basic Law stipulates that the use of nuclear power will be limited to peaceful purposes. Takaichi said there was “a need to sort things out” but added she did not believe nuclear-powered submarines to be unconstitutional. 

Former LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida, meanwhile, was less receptive to the idea. “When I think about Japan’s national security arrangements, to what extent do we need it?” he asked.

Nuclear-powered submarines are faster and can travel longer compared to the diesel-electric submarines that Japan currently has. But Kishida was alluding to the fact that the Self-Defense Forces’ operations are primarily in areas close to Japan.  

“To maintain stealth, it will require long hours of work,” he said. “We have to prioritize improving working conditions [of sailors] and secure the personnel.”

Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force has struggled to hire sailors in a country whose population is declining. Submarines are especially unpopular among young recruits, partly because they are unable to use their smartphones for extended periods.

Seiko Noda, the LDP’s executive acting secretary-general, said: “I have no intention to hold such a capability. I want to make clear that we are a nation with three non-nuclear principles,” she said, pointing to Japan’s long-held position of neither possessing nor manufacturing nuclear weapons, nor permitting their introduction into Japanese territory.

“This is not a situation where we can immediately buy and start to use the submarines,” she said. “We must properly establish a national consensus.” 

On Sept. 16,  the U.S., the U.K. and Australia announced an enhanced trilateral security partnership called AUKUS, that will see Washington and London share sensitive nuclear-propulsion technology with Canberra to develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. It is a move to bolster deterrence against China’s growing maritime power. 

https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Nuclear-submarine-for-Japan-Kono-says-yes-Kishida-says-no

September 28, 2021 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan’s election campaign – Liberal Democratic Party candidates’ differing views on nuclear recycling.

Three of the four candidates vying to lead the Liberal Democratic Party
called Sunday for Japan to maintain its nuclear fuel recycling program as
they geared up for the last few days of campaigning prior to Wednesday’s
vote. During a Fuji TV program, vaccination minister Taro Kono, the only
contender who has pushed for phasing out nuclear power generation, went
against his leadership rivals and said Japan should pivot away from fuel
recycling “as soon as possible.”

 Japan Times 26th Sept 2021

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/09/26/national/ldp-hopefuls-nuclear-fuel/

September 27, 2021 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

Will Fukushima’s Water Dump Set a Risky Precedent?

Will Fukushima’s Water Dump Set a Risky Precedent? IEEE Spectrum 
Questions raised over new norms the disaster’s radioactive wastewater cleanup efforts may foster
, RAHUL RAO 24 SEP 2021   Since the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, groundwater has been trickling through the damaged facilities at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, filtering through the melted cores and fuel rods and becoming irradiated with a whole medley of radioisotopes. Japanese authorities have been pumping that water into a vast array of tanks on-site: currently over a thousand tanks, and adding around one new tank per week.

Now, Japanese authorities are preparing to release that water into the Pacific Ocean. Even though they’re treating and diluting the water first, the plan is meeting with vocal protests. From that opposition and from scientists’ critiques of the process, the ongoing events at Fukushima leave an unprecedented example that other nuclear power facilities can watch and learn from.

The release is slated to start in 2023, and potentially last for decades. This month, observers from the International Atomic Energy Agency have arrived in the country to inspect the process. And efforts are also underway to build an undersea tunnel that will discharge the water a kilometer away from the shore.

Before they do that, they’ll treat the water to cleanse it of radioactive contaminants. According to the authorities’ account of the situation, there’s one major contaminant that their system cannot cleanse: tritium.

It’s actually normal for nuclear power plants to release tritium into the air and water in their normal operations. In fact, pre-disaster, Fukushima Daiichi held boiling-water reactors, the lowest-tritium type of nuclear reactors. The Japanese government’s solution is to dilute the tritium-contaminated water down to comparable levels. That’s part of the reason the discharge will likely last several decades.

“While one can argue whether such release limits are appropriate in general for normally operating facilities, the planned release, if carried out correctly, does not appear to be outside of the norm,” says Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear power safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Even so, the plan has—perhaps expectedly—encountered some rather vocal opposition. Some of the loudest cries have come from within Japan, particularly from the fishing industry. Radiation levels in seafood from that coast are well within safety limits, but fishing cooperatives are concerned the plan is (once again) putting their reputations at stake………….

can the events at Fukushima offer other energy facilities around the world any lessons at all?

For one, they’re a good show of the need for emergency planning. “Every nuclear plant should be required to analyze the potential for such long-term consequences,” says Lyman. “New nuclear plants, if built, should incorporate such evaluations into their siting decisions.”

But there’s other things experts say that facilities could learn. For example, something that hasn’t always been present in the Fukushima matter—working against it—has been transparency.

Authorities at the plant haven’t fully addressed the matter of non-tritium contaminants, according to Ken Buesseler, a marine radiochemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who has studied radioactivity in the ocean off Fukushima. Some contaminants—like caesium-137 and strontium-90—were present in the initial disaster in 2011. Others—like cobalt-60 and cerium-144—entered the water later.


It isn’t something the authorities have completely ignored. “Japan plans to run the water again through the decontamination process before release, and the dilution will further reduce the concentrations of the remaining isotopes,” says Lyman.

But Buesseler isn’t convinced that it will be enough. “Theoretically, it’s possible to improve the situation a lot,” he says. “In practice, they haven’t done that.” Japanese authorities insist they can do so, but their ability, he says, hasn’t been independently verified and peer-reviewed……….

“I’d hate to see every country that has radioactive waste start dumping waste into the ocean,” he says. “It’s a transboundary issue, in a way. It’s something bigger than Japan, and something different from regular operation. I think they need to be at least open about that, getting international approval.”

Here, Lyman agrees. “This situation is unique and the decision to release the water into the sea should not set a precedent for any other project.”

But even taking all of that into account, some believe that, if anything, this is an example of a time when there simply is no choice but to take drastic action.

“I believe that this action is necessary to avoid potentially worse consequences,” says Lyman. https://spectrum.ieee.org/fukushima-wastewater-cleanup-questions

September 27, 2021 Posted by | Japan, oceans, wastes | Leave a comment

Nuclear submarine for Japan? Kono says yes, Kishida says no 

Nuclear submarine for Japan? Kono says yes, Kishida says no Nikkei Asia Poll leader believes capability is ‘extremely important’ for country.  YUSUKE TAKEUCHI, Nikkei staff writer, September 26, 2021

TOKYO — Following a recent deal by the U.S. and the U.K. to offer Australia classified technology to build nuclear-powered submarines, should fellow Quad member Japan also seek such a capability? The four candidates running for the Liberal Democratic Party presidential race to succeed Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga were asked the question Sunday on Fuji TV.

Poll leader Taro Kono, minister for administrative reform and also in charge of vaccine distribution, gave a thumbs-up. “As a capability, it is very important for Japan to have nuclear submarines,” he said……..

Sanae Takaichi, the former internal affairs minister, also looked favorably upon the idea. “If we think of the worst-case risks in the international environment ahead, I do believe we could have [submarines] that can travel a little longer,” she said, referring to the advantage of nuclear propulsion in that they can stay submerged longer without refueling.

Japan’s Atomic Energy Basic Law stipulates that the use of nuclear power will be limited to peaceful purposes. Takaichi said there was “a need to sort things out” but added she did not believe nuclear-powered submarines to be unconstitutional. 

Former LDP policy chief Fumio Kishida, meanwhile, was less receptive to the idea. “When I think about Japan’s national security arrangements, to what extent do we need it?” he asked.

Nuclear-powered submarines are faster and can travel longer compared to the diesel-electric submarines that Japan currently has. But Kishida was alluding to the fact that the Self-Defense Forces’ operations are primarily in areas close to Japan.  

To maintain stealth, it will require long hours of work,” he said. “We have to prioritize improving working conditions [of sailors] and secure the personnel.”…….

Seiko Noda, the LDP’s executive acting secretary-general, said: “I have no intention to hold such a capability. I want to make clear that we are a nation with three non-nuclear principles,” she said, pointing to Japan’s long-held position of neither possessing nor manufacturing nuclear weapons, nor permitting their introduction into Japanese territory.

“This is not a situation where we can immediately buy and start to use the submarines,” she said. “We must properly establish a national consensus.” ……. https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/Nuclear-submarine-for-Japan-Kono-says-yes-Kishida-says-no

September 27, 2021 Posted by | Japan, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment

LDP candidates debate on nuke power must be based on realities

Storage tanks hold contaminated water at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on April 12.

September 24, 2021

Japan’s nuclear power policy has emerged as one of the main issues for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership race.

The four candidates for the party presidential election on Sept. 29 should face up to the lessons from the disaster that unfolded at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant a decade ago and offer specific policy proposals for ensuring in-depth debate on key questions.

Taro Kono, the minister of administrative reform who also served as foreign and defense minister in the past, is the only one among the contenders who has clearly argued for phasing out nuclear power generation.

Kono has stated that Japan should pull the plug on its nuclear fuel recycling program “as soon as possible” while promising to allow offline reactors to be restarted when they are officially endorsed as safe, for the time being.

The other three politicians seeking to succeed outgoing Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga have committed themselves to maintaining the current policy of keeping nuclear reactors running. During a recent debate, they voiced skepticism about Kono’s vow to end the fuel recycling program.

Fumio Kishida, a former foreign minister and LDP policy chief, questioned the consistency between Kono’s position on fuel recycling and his policy of allowing reactors to be brought on stream.

Seiko Noda, executive acting secretary-general of the LDP, ruled out any energy policy change that could cause a disruption in the stable supply of power. Sanae Takaichi, a former communications minister, stressed she would promote the development of small reactors and nuclear fusion reactor technology.

The nuclear fuel recycling process involves recovering plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for recycling back into new fuel.

But Japan’s original plan to reprocess spent nuclear fuel to obtain start-up plutonium for a new generation of plutonium “fast breeder” reactors fell through when its Monju prototype fast breeder reactor, which was supposed to be the core technology for the program, was shut down after a sodium leak and fire.

The government then shifted to a strategy of converting spent plutonium, formed in nuclear reactors as a by-product of burning uranium fuel, and uranium into a “mixed oxide” (MOX) that can be reused in existing reactors to produce more electricity.

But this approach has also hit a snag as the number of operating reactors has declined sharply since the Fukushima meltdowns.

Asahi Shimbun editorials have argued that the government should concede that the fuel recycling program is no longer viable and declare an end to it. To be sure, withdrawing from the program would mean spent nuclear fuel must be disposed of as waste. But Japan would only make the world uneasy if it keeps a massive stockpile of weapons-usable plutonium without any plan to use it.

Arguments concerning nuclear policy issues in general, not just fuel recycling, tend to overlook reality. The most important fact about the catastrophic accident at the Fukushima plant is that it caused tremendous damage to society.

Not much is known about the current conditions of the reactors whose cores melted down during the accident. There is no predicting when and how the process of decommissioning the plant will come to an end.

The LDP presidential candidates are divided over whether to build new nuclear plants or expand current ones. But it is obvious that winning the support of the public in general and the local communities involved for such plans would be next to impossible.

It is also unclear when the small reactor and the nuclear fusion reactor that are under development will enter commercial use.

A new estimate by the industry ministry on the future costs of power generation published in August predicts that solar power will eclipse nuclear energy in terms of costs as of 2030. It is hardly surprising that the government’s draft new Basic Energy Plan, unveiled in July, says promoting renewable energy sources should be the top energy policy priority.

Since the Fukushima disaster, the government has been seeking to restart offline reactors one by one while leaving the decisions up to the Nuclear Regulation Authority. But the government should not shy away from a sweeping review of its broken nuclear energy policy.

There are many sticky questions the LDP presidential hopefuls need to address. How would they try to change the country’s current energy mix in what ways and in what kind of time frames while maintaining a steady power supply? What would they do with the growing amount of spent nuclear fuel?

The LDP election requires them to clarify their approaches to tackling these tough challenges.

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14446745

September 25, 2021 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Japan eyes disposal abroad of radioactive plant equipment

Watch out! Japan’s hoping to export now its radioactive junk!

Decommissioning is at work at the Tokai nuclear plant in Tokai village, Ibaraki Prefecture, in 2015.

September 20, 2021

Japan plans to ease regulations to allow exports of large, disused equipment from nuclear power plants for overseas disposal as a way to reduce the mountains of radioactive waste accumulating at home.

The setup would mark a major shift from the government’s existing principle of disposing of all radioactive waste inside the country.

The industry ministry mentioned the revised disposal policy in the draft of the updated Basic Energy Plan, which awaits Cabinet approval in October at the earliest.

Even if the plan is approved, it will likely take some time for the government and nuclear plant operators to clear a slew of hurdles, such as estimating the costs of the project and ensuring the safety of shipments.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nuclear industry, is considering outsourcing the disposal of three kinds of large low-level radioactive equipment overseas: steam generators, feed-water heaters and nuclear fuel storing and shipping casks.

These components range in size from 5 to 20 meters and weigh 100 to 300 tons.

Although they are not highly contaminated, compared with nuclear debris generated by spent fuel, they must be disposed of and managed properly, including being buried deep in the ground for years.

The ministry is considering their export as an “exceptional measure” to deal with the grave issue of the radioactive waste accumulating at nuclear facilities across Japan.

“Export regulations will be reviewed to allow for export (of low-level radioactive waste) when certain conditions are met, such as their safe recycling into useful resources,” the draft for the latest version of the Basic Energy Plan said.

The industry ministry is soliciting public opinions on the outsourcing plan until Oct. 4.

Nuclear plant operators have decided to decommission 24 reactors, including the six units at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

Work to dismantle those reactors is expected to go into full gear starting in 2025.

Excluding the reactors at the Fukushima plant, the decommissioned units will produce an estimated 165,000 tons of low-level radioactive waste.

But more than 90 percent of that waste has nowhere to go for dismantling and disposal.

Japan still lacks a dedicated disposal site for equipment used at nuclear plants, forcing plant operators to store the waste at their facilities.

The ministry says the storage of the out-of-service equipment is getting in the way of the decommissioning process.

Experts say some businesses in the United States and Sweden clean, melt and recycle metal from radioactive waste sent by foreign countries.

“Japan should first learn the know-how of disposal by outsourcing the work to foreign businesses with a reliable track record in the area and eventually become capable of doing it at home,” said Koji Okamoto, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Tokyo.

Under the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, signatory countries that produce radioactive waste are obliged, in principle, to dispose of it within their territories.

But they can export the waste as exceptional cases if they obtain the consent of countries where business partners are based.

However, Japan’s Foreign Exchange and Foreign Trade Control Law bans such exports.

Utilities have pressed the government for a change in the disposal policy, and the industry ministry has been reviewing the existing setup alongside experts on nuclear technology.

Although the ministry intends to follow the principle of doing away with the waste within Japan, it plans to approve exports of the three types of nuclear plant equipment on condition that they will be recycled.

Ministry officials say the plan can be achieved through a revised ministry directive, without having to change the law.

The equipment intended for recycling overseas could include components kept at nuclear plants that still generate power.

But the ministry needs to work out many issues to turn the plan into reality.

Nuclear plant operators have the primary responsibility for disposing of low-level radioactive waste. And the actual costs these Japanese companies would have to pay to recyclers overseas is still unknown.

The bill could be far more expensive than initially estimated.

How to safely ship the radiation-contaminated equipment abroad is another unresolved issue.

The amount of nuclear waste in Japan has been growing since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Utilities have gradually resumed operations at nuclear plants, but some have decided to decommission reactors, particularly aging ones, largely because of the costs needed to upgrade them under new safety standards.

For decades, Japan has been unable to secure a final disposal site for such waste inside the country, mainly because of opposition from residents of candidate sites.

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14444199

September 20, 2021 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO bungles placement of 100 fire detectors at nuclear plant

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

September 20, 2021

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has continued its bumbling ways concerning safety measures, misplacing dozens of fire detectors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture, sources said.

TEPCO is seeking to restart the No. 7 reactor at the sprawling nuclear plant, but the utility has run into a host of problems following stricter safety standards implemented after the 2011 disaster at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

In the latest incident, about 100 fire detectors were not placed in locations set under safety regulations, the sources said.

The misplacements could delay the detection of heat and smoke from a fire, hampering an immediate response to such a potentially disastrous event.

Under the new safety regulations, nuclear plant operators are required to place a fire detector at least 1.5 meters from an air conditioner vent or other opening. That rule is based on the fire protection law.

Inspectors from the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority in February noticed that a smoke detector was placed only about 1 meter from the ventilating opening in the storage battery room of the No. 7 reactor building.

TEPCO said it has since moved the detector to the proper location and confirmed through visual checks that the other fire detectors were installed in the right places.

But an additional NRA inspection in April found that two other fire detectors were misplaced.

Following that finding, TEPCO undertook a fresh check of about 2,000 detectors throughout the nuclear plant.

The company reported to the nuclear watchdog on Sept. 16 that more cases of misplaced detectors were confirmed, bringing the total to about 100, according to the sources.

With seven reactors, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant is among the largest in the world in terms of capacity. It is also the only nuclear facility that TEPCO can restart since the company decided to decommission both the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear plants.

TEPCO is eager to put the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant back online because burning fossil fuel at its thermal plants has proved costly.

But the NRA in April ordered the company to stop preparations toward a restart following revelations of a number of safety flaws.

In January, the company announced the completion of work to bolster safeguarding of the No. 7 reactor, which has an output of 1.35 gigawatts.

However, fire-prevention work was not finished at many locations of the nuclear plant.

News outlets also reported in January that an employee of the plant entered the central control room of a reactor by using the ID of another employee in September last year, a serious breach of the NRA’s anti-terrorism measures.

In addition, it was found that security devices designed to detect unauthorized entry had not been working properly at 15 sites at the plant since March last year.

TEPCO left most of these devices unfixed for about a month.

The company is expected to submit a report to the NRA on how to prevent a recurrence by Sept. 23.

https://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/14444231

September 20, 2021 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

New radiation scrubber begins cleaning water at Fukushima plant


New radiation scrubber begins cleaning water at Fukushima plant, Japan Times 19 Sep 21
The operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on Thursday powered up an additional water treatment facility to scrub contamination from the massive quantities of radioactive water stored there.

The new, mobile facility filters radioactive strontium from water used to cool three reactors that partially melted down in March 2011, said operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., and can handle 300 tons of water a day……

The procedure will reduce radioactive strontium in the water to about one-thousandth of its current level, the utility said.

However, removing strontium will not in itself render the water safe. It then needs to be treated by another system at the plant which filters out around 60 kinds of radioactive materials.

But there is an important reason why the strontium takes precedence. Removing that isotope before the others will make the water far less of a hazard in the event of a major leak into the ocean.

Meanwhile, an estimated 400 tons of groundwater continues to seep into the reactor basements every day, forcing the utility to find ways to store it. Tepco already has 400,000 tons of toxic water stored at the site, which will all need to be treated one day. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/10/03/national/new-radiation-scrubber-begins-cleaning-water-at-fukushima-plant/

September 20, 2021 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | 2 Comments