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Fukushima: Japan attempts to safely remove nuclear fuel from crippled reactors

DW 22.09.2022, Julian Ryall (Tokyo)

More than a decade after the second-worst nuclear disaster in history, engineers want to construct a huge water-filled tank around one of the damaged reactors and carry out underwater dismantling work.

Nuclear experts pondering the safest way to decommission the three crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi atomic energy plant have devised a new plan to recover highly radioactive debris at the site, with even anti-nuclear campaigners giving the proposal their qualified support.  

They warn, however, that the situation at the plant — on the northeast coast of Japan— remains precarious more than a decade since three of the six reactors suffered meltdowns after an offshore earthquake of magnitude 9 triggered a series of powerful tsunamis.  

In their latest annual strategy report on progress at the plant, experts at the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Office (NDF) have proposed the construction and filling with water of a massive concrete tank to completely enclose one of the reactor buildings. ………………………………………. more

September 22, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

40% of Japan’s nuclear plant staff lack experiences of reactivation

By Takashi Maemura and Ayaka Matsuo / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writers, September 18, 2022

Nearly 40% of the operations staff at the seven electric power companies that have not yet restarted their nuclear power plants since 2011 have no experience with reactors, a Yomiuri Shimbun survey found.

That group includes Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc., the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant that had an accident during the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

Because progress to restart their reactors has been slow, these power companies have sought to maintain their personnel’s skills by dispatching staff to nuclear power plants and thermal power plants operated by other companies.

Currently, only Kansai Electric Power Co., Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Shikoku Electric Power Co. have been able to restart some reactors…………………………………..

Chugoku Electric Power Co.’s Shimane nuclear power plant Reactor No. 2, which is currently shut down, has passed the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety examinations, which took about seven years and eight months to complete.

However, the Shimane nuclear power plant has been shut down for more than 10 years, and 41 out of its 107 operators, or 38%, have no experience operating a nuclear power plant. In light of this, Chugoku Electric Power has begun training them this fiscal year, asking Makino, a former operator with more than 30 years of experience, to serve as an instructor.

September 20, 2022 Posted by | Japan, safety | Leave a comment

Sendai and Genkai nuclear power stations in the path of powerful Typhoon Nanmadol

Strong Typhoon Nanmadol feared to hit southwest Japan’s Kyushu on Sept. 18

Close to Sendai and Genkai nuclear power stations

Record-breaking rainfall+violent winds – peak gusts at 270kph


Large and powerful Typhoon Nanmadol is predicted to approach southwestern Japan’s Kyushu region and make landfall there between Sept. 18 and 19.

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), the 14th typhoon of the year was moving northwestward at a speed of about 20 kilometers per hour over the sea some 190 kilometers east of Minamidaito Island at 9 a.m. on Sept. 17. The tropical storm had a central atmospheric pressure of 910 hectopascals. The maximum sustained wind speed near its center was 198 kph, with peak gusts at 270 kph. Violent winds at a speed of 90 kph or more were recorded within a 185-km radius on the east and a 150-km radius on the west of the storm’s center.

Many parts of Japan may be affected by the typhoon for extended periods of time as it is moving slowly while maintaining its strength. It is feared that the storm could cause record-breaking rainfall and violent winds through Sept. 19, the last day of the three-day weekend, primarily in west Japan and along the Pacific coast of east Japan. The JMA is calling on people to refrain from unnecessary outings.

(Japanese original by Azusa Yamazaki, Kyushu News Department)

September 20, 2022 Posted by | Japan, safety | Leave a comment

Tepco to revise power prices for industry, factoring in nuclear restart

TOKYO, Sept 16 (Reuters) – Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) (9501.T) said on Friday it will revise its pricing for high-voltage industry customers next year to reflect soaring costs, but will take into account the assumed restart of the No.7 unit of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.

Tepco President Tomoaki Kobayakawa told a news conference of the new pricing policy, including the impact of an assumed restart, although Japan’s nuclear regulator is continuing inspections after barring Tepco, operator of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, from restarting its only operable atomic power station last year due to safety breaches.

“We plan to revise the pricing scheme next business year as we can’t reflect soaring power procurement cost in the electricity price,” Kobayakawa said.

“But we are factoring in that the No.7 unit will be 75% operational next year, or operating nine months out of 12, in calculating the new electricity price to reduce the burden on customers,” he said, adding that the company itself is not forecasting the unit’s resumption next year.

“We do hope to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa as soon as possible, but we can’t say when it will happen,” he said.

Tepco plans to announce details of the new price scheme for industry customers by the end of this month……..

Tepco had been hoping to restart the world’s biggest atomic power plant, with capacity of 8,212 megawatts, in a quest to slash the utility’s operating costs.

But it drew criticism last year when failings at the plant came to light, including security breaches that led to an unauthorised staff member accessing sensitive areas of the plant.

Japan’s industry minister said at the time the plant would not be restarted any time soon.

September 19, 2022 Posted by | business and costs, Japan | Leave a comment

A series of defective products at a French MOX fuel plant Abnormal nuclear reaction at a nuclear power plant

A shipping container containing MOX fuel being unloaded from a ship by crane. At left is the containment vessel of the No. 4 reactor at the Takahama Nuclear Power Plant of Kansai Electric Power Co. November 17, 2021.

September 3, 2022

A series of defective products have been found at the Mellox plant in southeastern France, which manufactures fuel for plutonium thermal power generation, in which plutonium is burned in nuclear power plants. In addition, an abnormal increase in nuclear reactions has also been observed at some nuclear power plants that are conducting plu-thermal power generation. What in the world is going on?

 The plant also manufactures fuel for the Japanese market. No problems have been found so far with the fuel for the Japanese market, but production has been delayed, and future product deliveries are now unpredictable.

 Plutonium is extracted from spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants through chemical processing (reprocessing). Plutonium is mixed with uranium in the case of pressurized-water nuclear power plants that conduct plutonium thermal power generation, and baked into pellets, cylindrical grains about 8 mm in diameter. This is called mixed uranium-plutonium oxide fuel (MOX fuel). In the case of a pressurized-water nuclear power plant that conducts plutonium thermal power generation, approximately 320 pellets are stacked inside fuel rods, and another 260 fuel rods are bundled together to form a fuel assembly (approximately 4.1 meters in height).

Highly Difficult Homogenization

 It is difficult to uniformly mix plutonium and uranium. According to ASN data and other sources, “plutonium spots,” dense clumps of plutonium, were found in the fuel pellets produced at the MELOX plant. Plutonium spots were found in the fuel pellets manufactured at the MELOX plant.

 On the other hand, a phenomenon in which the amount of neutrons, which indicate a nuclear reaction, increases more than expected near the upper and lower ends of MOX fuel rods was confirmed at a French nuclear power plant conducting a plutonium thermal operation.

 According to ASN, the combination of this plutonium mass problem and the two anomalies of partially elevated nuclear reactions was predicted to “raise questions about the integrity of the fuel, depending on the circumstances of the accident.

 According to Chihiro Uesawa, 56, an engineering specialist at the NPO Nuclear Information and Data Center (Nakano Ward, Tokyo), concerns are that the fuel could melt or the tubes covering the fuel could break. When plutonium is used as fuel, it has been pointed out that there is a possibility of a localized increase in nuclear reactions. This has become apparent,” Uesawa said.

September 4, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima Plants Showing ‘Unusual Growing Patterns’

NewsWeek, BY ROBYN WHITE ON 8/31/22 , Japan’s Fukushima, the site of the world’s second-worst nuclear disaster, is showing “unusual growing patterns” among vegetation in the area because of the radiation contamination.

…………………… Tim Mousseau, a professor of biological sciences at the University of South Carolina and a radiation expert, told Newsweek that a “vast region near the power plant” is still “significantly contaminated” but that levels are much lower than they used to be. However, the effects of radiation continue to be seen in the plants in the area, he said.

“There have been a few studies of the plants showing effects of the radiation. For example, it has been shown that Japanese fir trees show unusual growth patterns similar to that observed for pine trees in Chernobyl,” Mousseau said. “Such effects are still open for study, as they are preserved in the growth form of the plant/tree as long as it is still living.”

He continued, “Many areas are still contaminated above levels that most would consider safe for people to live, although most of the region is now relatively safe for short visits.”

Carmel Mothersill, a radiobiologist and the Canada research chair in environmental radiobiology, said that remediation efforts have also affected the area’s vegetation.

………. Mousseau also said that the ongoing effects of the contamination and “other human disturbances” remain largely unknown, as “research in the region has dropped off dramatically in the past years because of COVID and Japan’s restrictions on visitors from outside the country.”

“Assuming Japan removes travel restrictions, more research will be conducted,” he said

While some areas are opening back up to the public, most of the Fukushima area remains evacuated, Mothersill said……..

August 31, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Fukushima town lifts evacuation order, but few former residents want to come back

More than 80% of the municipality is designated as a “difficult-to-return” zone still experiencing high levels of radiation, the spokesman said. And a survey conducted last August found that 60.5% of residents had decided not to return — far exceeding the 11.3% who wanted to come back.

Fukushima town lifts evacuation order, allowing former residents to return 11 years after nuclear disaster, By Emiko Jozuka and Jessie Yeung, CNN, August 30,

Tokyo (CNN)More than a decade after Japan’s worst nuclear disaster, the town that hosts the disabled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant finally lifted its evacuation order on Tuesday, allowing former residents to come home.

The town of Futaba, previously deemed off-limits, is the last of 11 districts to lift its evacuation order, a spokesman for the town’s municipal office told CNN.

On March 11, 2011, a 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck off Japan’s east coast, triggering a tsunami that caused a nuclear meltdown at the power plant and a major release of radioactive material. It was the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

More than 300,000 people living near the nuclear plant were forced to evacuate temporarily; thousands more did so voluntarily. Once-bustling communities were turned into ghost towns.

In the years since, large-scale cleanup and decontamination operations have allowed some residents who once lived in the former exclusion zone to return.

…………………….Authorities began preparing for the town’s reopening this year; in January, they launched a program allowing former residents to return temporarily, but only 85 people from 52 households took part, the Futaba official said……………….It remains unclear, however, how many people will return — and how long the town will take to recover.

More than 80% of the municipality is designated as a “difficult-to-return” zone still experiencing high levels of radiation, the spokesman said. And a survey conducted last August found that 60.5% of residents had decided not to return — far exceeding the 11.3% who wanted to come back.

Futaba has no official timeline on when other areas of the town will be fully decontaminated.

But the spokesman expressed hope for the town’s future, saying Futaba aims to increase its population to 2,000 by 2030.

If other Japanese towns affected by the 2011 nuclear disaster are any indication, Futaba has a long road ahead. Even places that lifted evacuation orders several years ago have continued to face challenges.

For instance, Katsurao village, which lies about 40 kilometers (24 miles) from the plant, reopened to residents in 2016, but some households are still waiting for their sections of the village to be decontaminated.

Others may still have concerns about radiation. Despite the decontamination efforts, a 2020 survey by Kwansei Gakuin University found 65% of evacuees no longer wanted to return to Fukushima prefecture — 46% feared residual contamination and 45% had settled elsewhere.

CNN’s Kathleen Benoza contributed reporting.

August 30, 2022 Posted by | Japan, social effects | Leave a comment

The government is planning to “promote” nuclear power plants…but there are so many difficulties to overcome before this can be realized, and there are doubts about the assurance of safety and security

August 25, 2022
 The government aims to make a major change in its nuclear energy policy, which has denied the construction of new nuclear power plants since the accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station on August 24. The government also plans to consider extending the operating periods of existing nuclear power plants again and to further promote their restart. The government is moving forward with the use of nuclear power plants because of the tight power supply and demand caused by the crisis in Ukraine. However, there are serious doubts about the safety and security of nuclear power plants, and it is not clear whether the public will understand this. (The government is now considering the use of nuclear power plants.)
The government is clearly stating that it is “considering” the construction of new and additional nuclear power plants…The government is promoting the extension of the operation period and the restart of a total of 17 reactors.

◆Next generation nuclear reactors” – Technology not yet established
 We will discuss all options for a stable energy supply. We will discuss all options for a stable energy supply and will not rule out the construction of new reactors. Yuji Iida, director general of the Economic and Industrial Policy Bureau of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), emphasized this before the Green Transformation (GX) Executive Conference, which was held on March 24 to discuss decarbonization policies.
The “Basic Energy Plan” approved by the Cabinet last October did not mention the construction of new nuclear power plants, and successive prime ministers have repeatedly stated that it was not envisioned at this time. Conscious of public sentiment in the aftermath of the nuclear accident, the government has avoided going into the issue.
 The new plants to be considered this time are not existing nuclear power plants, but next-generation models, such as nuclear power plants with improved accident countermeasures and small reactors. Although the government emphasizes safety, many of these next-generation reactors are still in the process of being tested overseas, and it is difficult to say that they have been established as commercial power generation facilities.
 One official at an electric power company commented, “We don’t have the capacity to build new reactors when we can’t even restart existing nuclear power plants. The first step is to operate the current nuclear power plants and restore their technological capabilities.

◆ Extension of operating period: Regulatory Commission not optimistic
 In 2013, after the Fukushima accident, the law was amended to set the operating period of nuclear power plants at 40 years in principle, and to allow for a one-time extension of 20 years. The law was amended in 2013 after the Fukushima accident to allow for a one-time 20-year extension of the 40-year operating period. Four reactors were approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA), of which Kansai Electric Power’s Mihama Unit 3 (Fukui Prefecture) has restarted.
 If the units are operated for more than 60 years, which would mean a re-extension, the law may need to be revised again. At a press conference on March 24, Chairman Toyoshi Sarada of the Regulatory Commission said, “Detailed technical discussions are needed. In the U.S., operation for 80 years is permitted, but Mr. Sarada pointed out that “Japan has many earthquakes, and we should not be dragged down by foreign countries.

◆ Seven new reactors restarted → Inadequate anti-terrorism and evacuation plans hindering operations
The government has also set a target of restarting seven reactors at five nuclear power plants that have yet to be restarted, although they meet the new regulatory standards, sometime after next summer or winter.
 In April of last year, the regulatory commission ordered a de facto ban on the operation of TEPCO’s Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station in Niigata Prefecture because of a problem with a faulty intrusion detector that had been left unattended. The order was not lifted until the plant was found to be in an improved condition, and its inspections have continued.
 Furthermore, Niigata Prefecture has made its own verification work a condition for whether or not it will agree to restart the plant, and the completion of the work is “not foreseeable” (Prefectural Nuclear Safety Division). In light of the inadequacies of the anti-terrorism measures, even a member of the Liberal Democratic Party’s prefectural assembly, which is pro-nuclear power generation, has voiced his desire not to have TEPCO operate the plant, and the sense of distrust is deep-rooted.
 The Japan Atomic Power Company’s Tokai No. 2 Nuclear Power Plant in Ibaraki Prefecture has more than 900,000 people living within a 30-kilometer evacuation zone, the largest in the nation, and the plan has been extremely difficult to formulate. In addition to the prefectural government, only five of the 14 municipalities in the prefecture have been able to formulate a plan. In addition, the Mito District Court ordered an injunction against the operation of the plant last March, citing problems with the effectiveness of the evacuation plan.
 There is almost no chance that both reactors will be able to operate within the government’s target of a little over a year.

August 28, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

The legacy of Shinzo Abe: a Japan divided about nuclear weapons

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced his resignation due to health concerns on August 28, 2020. Shinzo Abe was assassinated while giving a speech at an election rally on July 8, 2022 in Nara, Japan.

August 24, 2022

On August 1, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida became the first Japanese leader to ever attend the Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which is taking place this month at UN headquarters in New York. Kishida, whose family hails from Hiroshima, is one of the very few voices within Japan’s ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), to consistently emphasize the humanitarian impacts of the use of nuclear weapons and Japan’s unwavering commitment to nuclear disarmament. This contrasts with his most-recognized predecessor, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose assassination on July 8, 2022, shocked the entire world.

Abe’s views about nuclear weapons. Shinzo Abe was known to hold views that underscored the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence and the usefulness of nuclear weapons. He even hinted at the possibility that Japan could one day acquire such weapons. During his eight years as prime minister, Abe made Japan’s ambivalent nuclear policy emphasize the importance of the US nuclear umbrella. In doing so, he shifted further away from the brief momentum in favor of nuclear disarmament created by former US President Barack Obama and Abe’s predecessors. From 2012 to 2020, Abe’s second term[1] was marked by heightened tensions and a rapidly deteriorating regional security environment—from China’s aggressive military buildup advancing claims in the East China Sea to North Korea’s increasing nuclear and missile capabilities. In February 2017, during a visit to US President Donald Trump in Washington, Abe successfully obtained reassurance about the unwavering “U.S. commitment to defend Japan through the full range of U.S. military capabilities, both nuclear and conventional.” One year later, in another remarkable sign of Abe’s focus on the role of nuclear weapons, his Foreign Minister Taro Kono issued swift and unequivocal praise of President Trump’s Nuclear Posture Review.

The increasingly tense regional security environment over the past 10 years may certainly have influenced the Abe government’s nuclear views. But Abe’s focus on nuclear weapons started before 2012. Shinzo Abe’s political rhetoric certainly caused several uproars among the Japanese public throughout his political career. But its analysis provides a useful glimpse into his and his party’s nuclear thinking. In one famous example, in May 2002, Shinzo Abe reportedly told students at Waseda University: “The possession of nuclear bombs is constitutional, so long as they are small.”[2] Then Japan’s deputy chief cabinet secretary, Abe was undeterred by the public outcry that followed his remarks and will maintain his views for the rest of his career.

Two decades later, as Russia was invading Ukraine, Shinzo Abe said on television that Japan needs to discuss the option of a NATO-style nuclear-sharing agreement with the United States. This was an apparent revision by Abe of the third principle of Japan’s Three Non-Nuclear Principles, which states Japan shall never permit the introduction of nuclear weapons into its territory. Japan’s Three Non-Nuclear Principles of not possessing, not producing, and not introducing nuclear weapons were established in 1967 by Prime Minister Eisaku Sato, Abe’s great-uncle. Although these principles were never made into law, they are still viewed as the cornerstone of Japan’s official nuclear policy to this day.

In his February 2022 television interview, Abe did try to stand by these principles, saying: “Japan is a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and has the Three Non-Nuclear Principles. As a country that has suffered atomic bombings, it is important to move toward the goal of nuclear abolition.” Still, his remarks about nuclear sharing were harshly criticized by the Hibakusha community—the survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

A long political tradition of rhetorical ambivalence. Shinzo Abe’s positive view about the potential value of nuclear weapons for Japan was certainly not unique among Japanese politicians and has been shared by many within the LDP. Several of Abe’s government ministers spoke publicly in favor of the nuclear option or answered that “Japan should consider acquiring nuclear weapons if the international situation calls for it” in surveys by the Mainichi Shimbun, one of Japan’s major newspapers. These included Abe himself, former Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, and five former defense ministers. Shinzo Abe’s younger brother and current Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi gave the same response to the Mainichi survey in 2012, although in 2020 he ruled out the nuclear option and publicly supported the Three Non-Nuclear Principles.

Abe’s 2002 assertion about the legality of possessing nuclear weapons under the Japanese Constitution has been made several times by Japanese politicians since the 1950s. For instance, Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi—Abe’s grandfather—stated in May 1957 during a session of the Diet (Japan’s parliament) that the postwar Constitution did not explicitly forbid Japan from possessing nuclear weapons if they were small. This caused several members of the Diet to interrogate Kishi at the time. Later, during a Diet session in April 1968, a socialist member asked State Minister Kaneshichi Masuda to clarify his position on Japan’s security arrangement with the United States, to which Masuda responded, I translate, “the Constitution, indeed, does not forbid Japan to possess tactical nuclear weapons if they’re solely for self-defense. … Just like the Constitution does not forbid the entry of another country’s nuclear weapons.” But Masuda immediately added that the Three Non-Nuclear Principles are here to cover that loophole.

In March 1973, Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka also reaffirmed the Three Non-Nuclear Principles. But this time, he added that “while [Japan is] not able to have offensive nuclear weapons, we are not saying that we will have no nuclear weapons at all.” “[S]trategic nuclear weapons are offensive in character and tactical nuclear weapons are defensive,” Tanaka explained, and “defensive nuclear weapons are constitutional.” A similar argument was made by Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda in 1978 during a Diet debate: “[A]rticle 9 of the Constitution does not prohibit the possession of nuclear weapons by Japan. Japan can have them if their purpose is for a minimum level of defense. However, Japan also has the Three Non-Nuclear Principles.”

Shinzo Abe’s position of questioning the limits of Japan’s non-nuclear policy is therefore part of a long political tradition advancing the idea that nuclear weapons might be a possibility for Japan.

Getting rid of Japan’s non-nuclear policy? The long-standing reluctance by Japanese elites to publicly discuss nuclear weapons for Japan, called “the nuclear taboo,” derives from the strong public aversion to such weapons. This aversion was amplified after the Lucky Dragon no. 5 incident on March 1, 1954, when a Japanese fishing boat was contaminated by the nuclear fallout from the US nuclear test at Bikini Atoll. From that day, whenever a Japanese politician even mentioned nuclear weapons, the public reacted very strongly and stayed skeptical of any rhetoric that might suggest the non-nuclear principles and Japan’s status as a Hibakukoku—a country that suffered atomic bombings—not be upheld. Japanese officials and LDP members together have lamented that discussions over a nuclear Japan are still considered taboo. Former Defense Minister Shigeru Ishiba commented in 2017: “How can we take any responsibility if the Three Non-Nuclear Principles are actually four: not possessing, not producing, not introducing, and not even discussing nuclear weapons?” The gap between what the public expects Japanese politicians to say—and not say—and the LDP’s rhetoric about nuclear weapons truly reveals the ambivalence of the country’s official nuclear policy, which has been in place since the end of World War II.

In an ill-timed and bold rhetorical shift, however, Abe omitted the usual pledge to uphold the Three Non-Nuclear Principles in his Hiroshima speech on August 6, 2015. The omission, during the official ceremony commemorating the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings, caused great anxiety among many and prompted angered responses from the Hibakusha community. Anti-nuclear activist and Hibakusha Tomoyuki Mimaki noted: “It seems like the government is disrespecting the Three Non-Nuclear Principles.” Another activist, Kazuo Okoshi, commented: “Some politicians advocate for nuclearization. This is proof that the Three Non-Nuclear Principles are weakening.” Probably in response to the public outcry following his omission, Abe did mention the Three Non-Nuclear Principles in his speech in Nagasaki three days later. In doing so, Abe was reassuring the Japanese that there would be no change to the official nuclear policy.

This long history of mixed messages and rhetorical mishaps by leaders of Japan’s ruling party can be read as the inevitable consequence of the country’s ambiguous nuclear policy, swinging between effective nuclear deterrence and global nuclear disarmament aspirations. But this posture can be also understood as creating a hedging strategy about nuclear weapons perceived as necessary by many within the LDP. Politicians of the ruling party may indeed have seen it as advantageous for Japan to flash the “nuclear card” from time to time while still referring to the Three Non-Nuclear Principles.

Talking to different audiences. The ambivalent nature of Japan’s nuclear policy may appear useful in catering to different audiences at home and abroad. The first and most obvious audience intended to receive signaling about the nuclear card consists of Japan’s regional adversaries, especially China. Statements about the constitutional right to possess nuclear weapons exemplify such rhetoric and are partly aimed at keeping Japan’s adversaries uncertain about their neighbor’s ultimate security intentions. As former Executive Director of the International Energy Agency Nobuo Tanaka wrote in 2018: “[G]iven recent geopolitical developments in Northeast Asia, eliminating Japan’s nuclear capability could be very unwise. If so, whether and how we should maintain Japan’s nuclear capability needs to include the national security perspective as part of a serious public discussion. Japan will never ever build nuclear weapons, and yet being suspected of doing so by some of its neighbors, is probably the strongest national security reason for Japan to continue to use nuclear power.”

The second audience is domestic. Japan is widely viewed as a nuclear threshold state, as it has significant latent capabilities due to its highly advanced nuclear fuel cycle technologies. That Japan refuses to develop nuclear weapons despite its latent nuclear status has been used by Japanese officials to reassure the public about the security of the archipelago, while keeping its moral stance vis-à-vis global peace. Possessing latent nuclear capabilities yet not going nuclear is indeed considered proof that Japan is an international role model and fits in the official narrative that Japan is a bridge-builder between nuclear and non-nuclear states. At the same time, because this rhetoric is ambiguous, it also provides Japanese leaders with another way to remind the public of the country’s potential to go nuclear, if it decides to.

The first recorded instance of such reassurance discourse dates from 1958. In his memoirs published in 1983, Prime Minister Nobusuke Kishi wrote after a visit to the new Tokai-mura nuclear facility “Japan does not have nuclear weapons, but by showing that we possess the technology to build them, we can increase our political leverage at the international level when it comes to disarmament issues and nuclear testing.”

A more explicit version of this argument features in a Diet debate in October 2006, when Akira Amari, minister of economy, trade, and industry under Shinzo Abe’s first premiership, stated, I translate: “Japan has the capabilities [to go nuclear], but doesn’t. The fact that Japan declares that it has no intention of doing so while maintaining those capabilities is what truly makes Japan’s policy convincing. If a country that doesn’t have the capabilities to go nuclear declares that it will not go nuclear, it is just lip service. However, Japan does have the technical capabilities, yet it asserts that it will not go nuclear: this is exactly what makes Japan a credible and persuasive advocate for the abolition of nuclear weapons around the world.” In other words, retaining nuclear latency adds credibility to disarmament matters.

The third audience is the United States, with which Abe has been particularly keen to engage. On some occasions, nuclear statements made by Japanese officials have alluded to a “nuclear option.” These were directed to the United States and meant to test its commitment to defend Japan. Commenting on North Korea’s nuclear test and ballistic missile launch of early 2016, Abe stated, in presence of US Pacific Commander Admiral Harry Harris, that “[t]he missile launch by North Korea was not only a direct threat to Japan but also a challenge to the United States.” Japanese political scientist Shogo Imoto commented at the time: “It is clearly an exaggeration to state that Mr. Abe is thinking of nuclear weapons for Japan. However, I interpret [his quote] as the following: ‘If the United States abandons Japan now and runs away from the North Korean threat, Japan will seriously consider a shift in its policy and nuclearize. Japan wants the United States to be fully aware of this as you tackle the North Korean issue.’”

These messages have appeared each time Japan felt its regional environment was becoming more challenging, as happened in December 1964 when Japan’s Prime Minister Eisaku Sato reportedly told US ambassador Edwin Reischauer that Japan could develop nuclear weapons. Sato’s remarks were made after China had conducted its first successful nuclear bomb test in October 1964.

The fourth and last audience is the most conservative part of the Japanese public. Using the slogan “Take Japan back” (Nippon wo torimodosu), Abe’s campaign for a second term appeared to go beyond the mainstream conservatism of LDP politicians and revealed the prime minister’s overtly nationalistic values and agenda. When Abe rose to power for the second time in 2012, many Japanese and international analysts warned about his revisionist and nationalist views and the regional instability they could cause. Some analysts even labeled Abe as “the most conservative leader in Japan’s postwar history.” Abe, however, quickly managed to eclipse his nationalist label by skillfully handling newly elected US President Donald Trump and even enjoyed a new reputation as a proactive diplomat seeking engagement and mediation. But in the nuclear rhetoric of Shinzo Abe, as of his closest allies, one could still find hints and allusions to nuclear weapons’ prestige and relevance to international politics.

Abe’s nuclear legacy. The deeply ambivalent messages that paved Abe’s political career point to the perception by LDP leaders that a nuclear stance needs to simultaneously address all four audiences—adversaries, allies, the Japanese public, as well as its most conservative fraction. But Shinzo Abe’s views on nuclear weapons do not only reflect the longstanding strategy of his party. His continued, strong emphasis on the need for nuclear deterrence also resulted in a sharper divide and a greater hostility between the government and largely anti-nuclear public opinion in Japan. Moreover, even though Abe’s views were not at odds with the LDP, his government’s reliance on nuclear deterrence uniquely contributed to consolidating Japan’s nuclear hedging posture even further. The delays and hesitation by Abe’s government in presenting a clear roadmap for the management of the country’s plutonium stockpile as well as its nuclear energy policy also exacerbated the distrust of the public, still embittered by how the government managed the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Japan’s current prime minister, Fumio Kishida, is now highlighting Japan’s goal of nuclear disarmament and publicly rejected Abe’s idea of nuclear sharing. But the country’s nuclear hedging posture is so entrenched in the political thinking of the LDP’s leadership that it is highly unlikely Japan’s ambivalent nuclear policy will change in the foreseeable future.

Kishida’s speech on August 1 at the United Nations on the first day of the NPT Review Conference already drew harsh criticism from the Hibakusha community for failing to mention the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW, also called the “ban treaty”) and for not clarifying Japan’s future role in nuclear disarmament. Kishida’s efforts to re-center the country’s nuclear policy towards disarmament may be sincere, but it will have to overcome the wide gap between the public and the government that Abe’s focus on nuclear deterrence further exacerbated.

Through his security-oriented nuclear views, Shinzo Abe attempted to diminish the Japanese public’s long-standing allergy to and the country’s emotional wounds over nuclear weapons. However, his nuclear legacy has created an even wider divide in Japan—between those who think of nuclear policy exclusively in terms of disarmament and those who prefer emphasizing Japan’s deterrence needs. How Abe’s nuclear legacy will impact the future of nuclear policy in Japan—in one direction or another—is an open question.


[1] Shinzo Abe served four terms as prime minister of Japan, in 2006–2007, 2012–2014, 2014–2017, and 2017–2020. His last three contiguous terms from 2012 to 2020 are often referred to as his “second term.” Abe has been the longest-serving prime minister in Japan to date.

[2] What Shinzo Abe is reported to have said is not entirely clear. Some news outlets report that he said: “There is no problem with atomic bombs, constitutionally speaking. As long as they’re small.” (Wall Street Journal Japanese version) Others state he said: “The possession or use of nuclear weapons is not a problem constitutionally, as long as they’re small” (Sunday Mainichi magazine). As this was an oral remark at an event at Waseda University, it is difficult to know what Abe said exactly. In any case, his remarks were later criticized very harshly by the Japanese public.


August 28, 2022 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Government policy change, considering new and additional nuclear power plants, restarting 7 additional reactors, and extending operating periods

Prime Minister Kishida (screen) addresses the GX Executive Conference online on the afternoon of August 24 at the Prime Minister’s Office.

August 24, 2022
On August 24, the government announced its policy to consider the construction of next-generation nuclear power plants to ensure a stable supply of electricity in the future. This is a shift in the basic policy of the previous energy policy, which did not envision the construction of new nuclear power plants or the rebuilding of existing ones. It will also consider extending the operating period of nuclear power plants, which had been set at a maximum of 60 years. It will also aim to restart an additional seven nuclear power plants that have already passed the new regulatory standards screening process from next year onward. The government is prepared to promote nuclear power plants in order to ensure a stable power supply while promoting decarbonization.
 This was put forth at the “GX Action Council” held at the prime minister’s office to realize a decarbonized society. A conclusion will be reached by the end of the year. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida emphasized that “the government will take all possible measures in the forefront to restart nuclear power plants.

August 28, 2022 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Robot issue delays fuel removal from Fukushima nuclear plant

The operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant says it is postponing the start of the removal of highly radioactive melted fuel from its damaged reactors because of delays in the development of a remote-controlled robotic arm

abc news, By, MARI YAMAGUCHI Associated Press, August 25, 2022, Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings had originally planned to begin removing melted fuel from the Unit 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant last year, 10 years after the disaster triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

That plan was postponed until later this year, and now will be delayed further until about autumn next year because of additional work needed to improve the performance of the robotic arm, TEPCO said.

The giant arm, jointly developed by Veolia Nuclear Solutions of Britain and Japan‘s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, has been transported to Japan and is being adjusted at a testing facility south of the Fukushima plant……………………

August 26, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

Tepco delays removing Fukushima nuclear debris

TOKYO, Aug 24 (Reuters) – Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (Tepco) (9501.T) is considering abandoning a plan to start removing nuclear debris from a reactor in its wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant by the end of the year, Kyodo reported on Wednesday.

The plan will be postponed for about a year due to a delay in the development of a robot arm that will be used to remove the debris, the report said citing unnamed sources………………….. more

August 23, 2022 Posted by | Fukushima continuing | Leave a comment

The legacy of Shinzo Abe: a Japan divided about nuclear weapons

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, By Sayuri Romei | August 24, 2022, On August 1, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida became the first Japanese leader to ever attend the Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which is taking place this month at UN headquarters in New York. Kishida, whose family hails from Hiroshima, is one of the very few voices within Japan’s ruling party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), to consistently emphasize the humanitarian impacts of the use of nuclear weapons and Japan’s unwavering commitment to nuclear disarmament. This contrasts with his most-recognized predecessor, former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, whose assassination on July 8, 2022, shocked the entire world.

Abe’s views about nuclear weapons. Shinzo Abe was known to hold views that underscored the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence and the usefulness of nuclear weapons. He even hinted at the possibility that Japan could one day acquire such weapons. During his eight years as prime minister, Abe made Japan’s ambivalent nuclear policy emphasize the importance of the US nuclear umbrella. In doing so, he shifted further away from the brief momentum in favor of nuclear disarmament created by former US President Barack Obama and Abe’s predecessors. …………………..more

August 23, 2022 Posted by | Japan, politics | Leave a comment

Report on “The Symposium Concerning Geological Disposal of High-level Radioactive Waste from Nuclear Power Plants” held in Kamoenai Village, Hokkaido

by Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center · Published August 4, 2022 · Updated August 4, 2022

By Takano Satoshi (CNIC)

In November 2020, literature surveys were launched in Suttsu Town and Kamoenai Village, both in Hokkaido, as part of the official procedures for determining whether the two municipalities were suitable for hosting an underground storage site for high-level radioactive waste from nuclear power plants. More than 18 months has passed since that time, during which the Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan (NUMO), which oversees the selection of the location of the dump site, strived to promote communications with the local residents by arranging “dialogue” events. Although NUMO publicly maintained that the dialogues were not intended to create a local consensus for accepting the storage facility, the reality was that NUMO took the leadership in the move to deepen popular understanding of the geological repository. Some of the local residents and the municipalities concerned were critical of the dialogue events, claiming that such occasions were organized simply for seeking compromises and winning the support of residents for the geological disposal project. [1]

To date, dialogue events have been held eight times in Kamoenai Village. In the events, some participants, such as the members of the events’ steering committee and local villagers, expressed a wish to hear different opinions, not only those of NUMO. In response, NUMO held a symposium concerning the geological disposal of high-level nuclear waste on May 29 in the Kamoenai Village Fishing Center, by inviting experts for and against the geological disposal project. [2] Professor Yoshida Hidekazu of Nagoya University Museum was invited as the expert supporting the geological disposal project, and CNIC Co-director Ban Hideyuki, as the expert against it. This writer accompanied Mr. Ban to Kamoenai to attend the event. 

The symposium was comprised of two sessions, the first concerning policy aspects, and the second technical aspects. As for policy aspects, Mr. Ban pointed out the need to obtain the consent of the prefectural governor before the prefecture’s municipalities apply for the literature survey, in order to avoid confusion and turmoil within the local communities. He also said the government’s offer of subsidies in exchange for accepting the literature survey is not appropriate, since impoverished local governments may not be able to resist the temptation of the subsidies and apply for the literature survey simply to obtain the money. Mr. Ban went on to say that the offer of massive subsidies to small municipalities may create the negative effect of depressing their local industries. In addition, he pointed out the need to determine the types and the amount of high-level radioactive nuclear waste that would be stored in the repository.

Referring to the plan to set a limit on the total amount of nuclear waste to be stored at the disposal site and the determination of the types of waste, Prof. Yoshida said it would be rather difficult to formulate such a precise plan, but added that it would be ideal if it could be done. He went on to say that accumulation of a greater amount of highly radioactive waste would endanger the safety of geological disposal. Although nuclear power generation has the advantage of not emitting CO2, it is exposed to many risks, such as tsunami tidal waves, he added. For this reason, he recommended that Japan should develop other energy resources. There was no disagreement about this point between Mr. Ban and Prof. Yoshida. On the contrary, they agreed that they would make efforts to reduce the amount of nuclear waste and to prevent the restart of nuclear power plants.

 With regard to the technological aspect of geological disposal, Prof. Yoshida introduced the geological phenomenon called “concretion.” This means a hard, compact mass of matter formed by the precipitation of mineral cement within the spaces between particles, which is found in sedimentary rock or soil. He then stated, if “concretion” is applied to the construction of the repository, it may be useful for making geological disposal safer.

According to Prof. Yoshida, the geological disposal site will be constructed several hundred meters below ground because the great depth of the ground prevents weathering originating from the ground surface, and serves as a buffer against seismic motion, volcanic activity, fault movements and other types of environmental phenomena on and below the ground surface. The buffer-function level is called the ‘cocoon degree,’ and a high ‘cocoon degree’ signifies an area suitable for creating a repository of nuclear waste.

He pointed out that NUMO must find a high cocoon-degree area based on the technological data collected in the literature survey, and then determine if it is appropriate to proceed to the next stage of overview survey of the area.

Prof. Yoshida also pointed out that the geological characteristic of the Kamoenai area is that it consists of hyaloclastite. Hyaloclastite is lava and volcanic ashes from undersea volcanic eruptions which have been crushed and cooled by seawater and accumulated in the location. The Kamoenai area and the Shakotan Peninsula were formed from hyaloclastite elevated from the seabed. Prof. Yoshida said the main point of the literature survey should be to discover how deep the underground accumulation of hyaloclastite is in the area.

Meanwhile, Mr. Ban said it is problematic that the standards by which construction of the nuclear waste repository would be deemed inappropriate are not clearly stated in the literature survey results. He went on to say that the geoscientific characteristics map gives only an extremely rough standard, and insisted that more exact and stricter standards should be formulated. For example, no volcanic eruptions are predicted on the east side of the “volcanic front” shown in the map, and for this reason he proposed that the repository site should be chosen within that area.

The comprehensive technological report contains a simulation which was conducted on the assumption that a rare frequency event had occurred. The simulation, using transuranic waste (TRU), revealed the possibility that an annual radiation exposure of 4 to 14 millisieverts per annum (mSv/y) might occur at ground level. The report said an annual exposure of less than 20 mSv/y is safe, but Mr. Ban asserted that such a high level of exposure is not safe. According to Mr. Ban, the maximum permissible level of exposure for ordinary people is 1 mSv/y and this level is set by considering the balance between the use of nuclear power and its effect on human health. The probability of the use of nuclear power by future generations is very slim, and setting the maximum permissible exposure level of 20 mSv/y for these future people is ethically impermissible, he added.

One thing that was impressive for this writer during this symposium was that when Kamoenai Village Mayor Takahashi Masayuki delivered the opening and closing speeches, nobody clapped. Generally speaking, when the head of a municipality greets the participants at the outset of a local event, they usually clap, albeit in a formal manner, but no one did so at this symposium. Mayor Takahashi has served as the mayor of the small village with a population of less than 800 people for a long time, and all the villagers know him.

I was unable to find out why the villagers did not clap, because I did not have a chance to ask them, but there is a possibility that his acceptance of the governments’ literature survey made the villagers angry and they are currently very dissatisfied with his behavior. The absence of applause made me feel that way.

As things stand now, I would like to watch the development of this literature survey issue in Kamoenai from a rather critical viewpoint from now on and try to understand the opinions and feelings of the villagers on this problem.

[1] Takano has outlined the problems with the dialogue that NUMO is conducting in a previous article at

[2] The symposium can be seen on YouTube at


August 21, 2022 Posted by | Japan | | Leave a comment

Kishida, ‘PM from Hiroshima’, is Shifting Japan’s Long-Standing Pro-Nuclear Weapons Posture

He has begun a sincere effort to realign Japan’s position from one that supports the maintenance of the US “nuclear umbrella” to one that aims for gradual global nuclear weapons disarmament.

Marcus Donaldson The Wire, 17 Aug 22

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has outlined what appears to be a sincere effort to realign Japan’s position on nuclear weapons – from one that supports the maintenance of the US “nuclear umbrella” to one that aims for gradual global nuclear weapons disarmament.

Previous administrations have been unwilling to challenge the nuclear weapons status quo. Indeed, Tokyo has been a quiet and consistent advocate for nuclear weapons among the non-nuclear powers (as counterintuitive as this may be for the only nation to have been subjected to nuclear weapons attacks).

At present, the United States, Russia, France, China, the United Kingdom, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea are known to possess nuclear weapons arsenals.

In 2016, Japan voted against a UN resolution that would have compelled nations to negotiate the reduction and eventual elimination of nuclear weapons stockpiles. It also chose not to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017 – which did eventually pass – and snubbed subsequent invitations to ratify the accord or even to send observers to related diplomatic events.

Japan’s pro-nuclear weapons posture continued, relatively unchanged, into the early months of Kishida’s government. …………………………….

On August 1, Prime Minister Kishida travelled to New York to address the latest Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which are scheduled every five years, although this was held two years late due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was the first time that a Japanese prime minister had ever spoken at one of these conferences, usually attended by working-level diplomats.

Kishida began by relating the issue to himself, noting that, “as a prime minister from Hiroshima, I believe that we must take every realistic measure towards a world without nuclear weapons, step by step, however difficult the path may be.”

This phrasing echoed the title of a book that Kishida published in 2020 – Kakuheiki no nai Sekai e (Toward a World without Nuclear Weapons).

In his speech, Kishida declared that “Japan is determined to firmly uphold the NPT as its guardian.” adding that he is working on a five-point “Hiroshima Action Plan” to reduce nuclear weapons risks.

As part of his initiative, Kishida clarified that “Japan supports the dialogue conducted between the United States and Russia for further reductions, and encourages the United States and China to engage in a bilateral dialogue on nuclear arms control and disarmament.” He also emphasised the importance of transparency between nuclear weapons powers, a greater commitment to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT), and a peaceful solution to conflicts such as that on the Korean Peninsula.

Kishida further announced that Tokyo would make a US$10 million contribution to the United Nations in order to set up a “Youth Leader Fund for a World without Nuclear Weapons,” again making use of the phrase which he seems to be promoting as his own political trademark.

“We must ensure that Nagasaki remains the last place to suffer an atomic bombing,” he declared.

Kishida’s address was well received by the Japanese public. Interestingly, some of the most outspoken praise came from the Japan Communist Party, which viewed the speech as a “landmark success.”

In late 2019,  the Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament conducted a poll which found that about 75% of the Japanese public supported joining the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which the government has so far spurned.

In spite of the popularity of Kishida’s anti-nuclear weapons orientation among the general public, he faces the potential risk of alienating both rightwing forces within his own ruling party as well as some figures within the US government. Indeed, it was reported that Kishida’s own political advisers counselled him not to give the speech in New York and to keep a lower profile on nuclear weapons disarmament issues.

August 17, 2022 Posted by | Japan, politics, weapons and war | Leave a comment