Thousands of Japanese protestors want an end to nuclear power, as well as shutdown of Monju reprocessing plant
Anti-nuclear rally calls for more than just a Monju shutdown http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201609230047.html By RYUJI KUDO/ Staff Writer September 23, 2016 Thousands of anti-nuclear demonstrators gathered in Tokyo on Sept. 22 to demand the government go beyond decommissioning the troubled Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor and abandon its plans to restart other nuclear power plants.
“We definitely don’t need the money-sucking and dangerous Monju,” said Hisae Sawachi, a writer and a member of the organizing committee of the demonstration, which took place under the banner “No nukes, No war.” “Why don’t government officials have the courage to close down all the other nuclear power plants?”
The rally, at Yoyogi Park in Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward, followed the government’s decision this week to unplug the reactor, which has hardly generated any electricity despite the more than 1 trillion yen ($9.9 billion) spent on it over two decades.
Masaichi Miyashita, who heads the secretariat of an anti-nuclear group in Fukui Prefecture, told the rally that officials in Tsuruga in the prefecture, where the reactor is situated, are opposed to the government decision to decommission the reactor and want to keep it.
“I wonder how local leaders calling for the continuation of the Monju program consider the health and lives of residents,” he said. “I would like you, demonstrators, to continue to demand the decommissioning of Monju by pressuring the government not to waste taxpayers’ money.”
An estimated 9,500 people attended the rally, according to the organizer, which identifies itself as a citizens’ group that is collecting 10 million signatures for a petition to say “sayonara” to nuclear power. Satoshi Kamata, a journalist who has written about the nuclear industry and a member of the committee, said the government should phase out the entire nuclear program.
“Unplugging Monju is just a starting point in ending Japan’s nuclear fuel recycling policy and the restart of nuclear power plants, as well as in changing the course of the nation’s nuclear power policy,” he said.
JCP reveals risk of contaminated water leakage at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP http://www.japan-press.co.jp/modules/news/index.php?id=9945 September 16, 2016
The JCP investigation team consisting of JCP Dietmembers, Fujino Yasufumi (Lower House) and Takeda Ryosuke (Upper House), on September 15 visited the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP to examine its safety measures.
The group investigated Nos. 6 and 7 reactors, which the Nuclear Regulation Authority is examining TEPCO’s application for restart, and sites of subsidence damage caused by liquefaction due to the 2007 Chuestu Offshore Earthquake.
It has come to light that the amount of groundwater being used at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP is much larger than the amount at other NPPs in Japan. However, TEPCO explained to the JCP group that it has no idea why so much groundwater is being pumped into the nuclear power station. After the investigation, JCP member of the House of Representatives Fujino Yasufumi said to reporters, “The utility has yet to implement measures to control its use of groundwater.” Given the fact that at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, TEPCO is struggling with a serious leakage of radioactively-contaminated water which is caused by groundwater entering the crippled NPP, it is unacceptable for the power company to bring the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power station back online.
Professor Emeritus of Seismology at Niigata University Tateishi Masaaki, who joined the JCP investigation team, pointed out that the NRA should examine the amount of groundwater used at the NPP and asses the seismic capacity of wells pumping up the groundwater.”
NAMIE, Japan — In an abandoned Japanese village, cows grazing in lush green plains begin to gather when they hear the familiar rumble of the ranch owner’s mini-pickup. This isn’t feeding time, though.
Instead, the animals are about to be measured for how they’re affected by living in radiation — radioactivity that is 15 times the safe benchmark. For these cows’ pasture sits near Fukushima, a name now synonymous with nuclear disaster.
The area was once a haven for agriculture with more than 3,500 cattle and other livestock. Ranchers who refused a government order to kill their cows continue to feed and tend about 200 of them. The herds won’t be used as food; now science is their mission.
Researchers visit every three months to test livestock living within a 20-kilometer (12-mile) radius of the Fukushima plant, where three reactors had core meltdowns after the facility was swamped by a tsunami in 2011. It is the first-ever study of the impact on large mammals of extended exposure to low-level radiation.
The ranchers are breeders, as opposed to those raising cattle to sell for beef, and tend to be attached to their animals. They treat them almost as if they were children, even giving them names. The research gives them a reason to keep their beloved cows alive, and to hope that someday ranching might safely return here.
Under a drizzling rain, doctors and volunteers wearing blue Tyvek protective suits draw the cows into a handmade pen of aluminum pipes. Five to six cows line up in the cage and are tied with a rope around their head and through their nose ring for solid support, so they won’t be hurt when the needle draws blood from their neck.
The gentle beasts moo from discomfort. The doctors work swiftly, drawing blood, collecting urine and checking for lumps or swollen lymph nodes. The check-up takes five minutes or less per cow.
Namie, 11 kilometers (7 miles) northwest of the plant, is a ghost town with no prospect of being habitable for years. But 57-year-old Fumikazu Watanabe comes every day to a ranch to feed 30 to 40 cows owned by seven farmers.
“What is the meaning of slaughtering the cows?” Watanabe said at a worn-out barn where healthy cows used to spend the night tending to their calves. The bones of animals that have died litter the ground outside.
“Keeping the cows alive for research purposes means that we can pass on the study to our next generation instead of simply leaving a negative legacy,” he said.
The research team, made up of veterinary and radiation experts from Iwate University, Tokai University and Kitasato University, was established a year after the meltdowns. They formed a nonprofit group called Society for Animal Refugee & Environment post Nuclear Disaster. Members volunteer to take the blood and urine samples and test them.
In 2012, the Japanese government ordered all livestock in the restricted area killed for fear that the breeding cows would continue to reproduce, and that cows exposed to radiation would have no sale value.
Keiji Okada, associate professor of veterinary medicine and agriculture at Iwate University, said the government considered it pointless to study the animals, since it couldn’t determine how much radiation they were exposed to immediately after the disaster.
Okada disagrees. He said the data will help researchers learn whether farmers can eventually work in affected zones.
So far, the animals’ internal organs and reproductive functions have shown no significant abnormality particularly linked to radiation exposure, Okada said, but it’s too early to draw conclusions about thyroid cancer and leukemia.
Radiation could cause leukemia, but so could mosquitoes, which have infected cattle around the world with bovine leukemia virus.
“Even if we detect leukemia in the cows, we don’t know whether it’s caused by radiation or if it’s a bovine leukemia from a virus,” Okada said. “It is this year’s objective to be able to differentiate the two.”
Many cows have died during the study period, but food shortages have played a role, making it all the more difficult the doctors to determine causes. The dead cows are dissected and the radiation dosage in their organs is measured.
Is radiation killing the cows, or making them sick? Okada said the research team is working toward reaching a conclusion by March. The team worries that the study results could spark overly broad fears that the region will no longer be habitable or fit for agriculture.
Ultimately, Okada said, the team believes that further monitoring of the animals will show under what conditions it is safe to raise livestock exposed to low-level radiation, and how best to deal with such a leak should it happen again.
Yukio Yamamoto, owner of the large Yamamoto Ranch surrounded by a mountain, a river and a vast plain, travels three hours roundtrip from his temporary home to feed his remaining cows.
“The cows are my family. How do I dare kill them?” Yamamoto said. “If there is a God, I’m sure some day we would be rewarded for the sacrifice we are making.”
He hopes one day to see his barn come to life again, filled with a hundred cows and calves cared for by his children and grandchildren.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency reported that the earthquake “has caused no damage to Japan,” while adding that “slight sea-level changes in coastal regions” may be observed.
No immediate tsunami warning has been issued.
Small tremors were reportedly felt in nine Japanese prefectures, including in Fukushima and Tokyo.
Japan is located in a seismically active region at the juncture of three major tectonic plates: North American, Pacific and Philippine Sea.
A whole lot of shallow quakes in the trench
As a result of the measurement of radioactivity from the town of Hirono to the town of Okuma.
Measurements and vido from Tarachine Medical Center, a citizen organized radiation measuring center located in Iwaki city, Fukushima Prefecture.
Credit to tarachine Medical Center
Based on the data released by everyone to the Minna-san data website, a map of the soil contamination of Tokyo by radioactivity was put together.
This data is the result of measurements from 2013 to now 2016.
You can see that the radioactive contamination spread over a wide range of Tokyo.
Particularly, Katsushika district, Edogawa district, Shinjuku district, Setagaya district and Bunkyō district.
Radioactive contamination of both radioactive cesium 134 and 137 exceeding 500Bq / kg has been confirmed.
Among other locations: Inagi city/ Katsushi district / Edogawa district / Eto district / Arakawa district / Kokubunji city / Kokuritsu City / Komae City / Mitaka City / Kodaira city/ Shinjuku district / Suginami district/ Setagaya district / Nishitama gun / Ome city / Chiyoda district / Ota District/ Oshima-cho / Machida city / Chofu city / Higashi Kurume City / Higashimurayama city / Hachioji city / Fuchu city / Musashino City / Fukuo city/ Bunkyo district / Toshima district/ Kita district / Tachikawa city.
Read more at: (in Japanese)
Reassessing the 3.11 Disaster and the Future of Nuclear Power in Japan: An Interview with Former Prime Minister Kan Naoto
Interview by Vincenzo Capodici, Introduction by Shaun Burnie, Translation by Richard Minear
For more than two decades, the global nuclear industry has attempted to frame the debate on nuclear power within the context of climate change: nuclear power is better than any of the alternatives. So the argument went. Ambitious nuclear expansion plans inthe United States and Japan, two of the largest existing markets, and the growth of nuclear power in China appeared to show—superficially at least—that the technology had a future. At least in terms of political rhetoric and media perception, it appeared to be a winning argument. Then came March 11, 2011. Those most determined to promote nuclear power even cited the Fukushima Daiichi accident as a reason for expanding nuclear power: impacts were low, no one died, radiation levels are not a risk. So claimeda handful of commentators in the international (particularly English-language) media.
However,from the start of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi on March 11 2011,the harsh reality of nuclear power was exposed to billions of people across the planet, and in particular to the population of Japan, including the more than 160,000 people displaced by the disaster, many of whom are still unable to return to their homes, and scores of millions more threatened had worst case scenarios occurred. One authoritative voice that has been central to exposing the myth-making of the nuclear industry and its supporters has been that of KanNaoto, Prime Minister in 2011. His conversion from promoter to stern critic may be simple to understand, but it is no less commendable for its bravery. When the survival of half the society you are elected to serve and protect is threatened by a technology that is essentially an expensive way to boil water, then something is clearly wrong. Japan avoided societal destruction thanks in large part to the dedication of workers at the crippled nuclear plant, but also to the intervention of Kan and his staff, and to luck. Had it not been for a leaking pipe into the cooling pool of Unit 4 that maintained sufficient water levels, the highly irradiated spent fuel in the pool, including the entire core only recently removed from the reactor core, would have been exposed, releasing an amount of radioactivity far in excess of that released from the other three reactors. The cascade of subsequent events would have meant total loss of control of the other reactors, including their spent fuel pools and requiring massive evacuation extending throughout metropolitan Tokyo, as Prime Minister Kan feared. That three former Prime Ministers of Japan are not just opposed to nuclear power but actively campaigning against it is unprecedented in global politics and is evidence of the scale of the threat that Fukushima posed to tens of millions ofJapanese.
The reality is thatin terms of electricity share and relative to renewable energy,nuclear power has been in decline globally for two decades.Since the FukushimaDaiichiaccident, this decline has only increased in pace. The nuclear industry knew full well that nuclear power could not be scaled up to the level required to make a serious impact on global emissions. But that was never the point. The industry adopted the climate-change argument as a survival strategy: to ensure extending the life of existing aging reactors and make possible the addition of some new nuclear capacity in the coming decades—sufficient at least to allow a core nuclear industrial infrastructure to survive to mid-century.The dream was to survive to mid-century, when limitless energy would be realized by the deployment of commercial plutonium fast-breeder reactors and other generation IV designs. It was always a myth, but it had a commercial and strategic rationale for the power companies, nuclear suppliers and their political allies.
The basis for the Fukushima Daiichi accident began long before March 11th 2011, when decisions were made to build and operate reactors in a nation almost uniquely vulnerable to major seismic events. More than five years on, the accident continues with a legacy that will stretch over the decades. Preventing the next catastrophic accident in Japan is now a passion of the former Prime Minister, joining as he has the majority of the people of Japan determined to transition to a society based on renewable energy. He is surely correct that the end of nuclear power in Japan is possible. The utilities remain in crisis, with only three reactors operating, and legal challenges have been launched across the nation. No matter what policy the government chooses, the basis for Japan’s entire nuclear fuel cycle policy, which is based on plutonium separation at Rokkasho-mura and its use in the Monju reactor and its fantasy successor reactors, is in a worse state than ever before. But as KanNaotoknows better than most, this is an industry entrenched within the establishment and still wields enormous influence. Its end is not guaranteed. Determination and dedication will be needed to defeat it. Fortunately, the Japanese people have these in abundance. SB
Q: What is your central message?
Kan: Up until the accident at the Fukushima reactor, I too was confident that since Japanese technology is of high quality, no Chernobyl-like event was possible.
But in fact when I came face to face with Fukushima, I learned I was completely mistaken. I learned first and foremost that we stood on the brink of disaster: had the incident spread only slightly, half the territory of Japan, half the area of metropolitan Tokyo would have been irradiated and 50,000,000 people would have had to evacuate.
Half one’s country would be irradiated, nearly half of the population would have to flee: to the extent it’s conceivable, only defeat in major war is comparable.
That the risk was so enormous: that is what in the first place I want all of you, all the Japanese, all the world’s people to realize.
Q: You yourself are a physicist, yet you don’t believe in the first analysis that people can handle nuclear power? Don’t you believe that there are technical advances and that in the end it will be safe to use?
Kan: As a rule, all technologies involve risk. For example, automobiles have accidents; airplanes, too. But the scale of the risk if an accident happens affects the question whether or not to use that technology. You compare the plus of using it and on the other hand the minus of not using it. We learned that with nuclear reactors, the Fukushima nuclear reactors, the risk was such that 50,000,000 people nearly had to evacuate. Moreover, if we had not used nuclear reactors—in fact, after the incident, there was a period of about two years when we didn’t use nuclear power and there was no great impact on the public welfare, nor any economic impact either. So when you take these factors as a whole into account, in a broad sense there is no plus to using nuclear power. That is my judgment.
One more thing. In the matter of the difference between nuclear power and other technologies, controlling the radiation is in the final analysis extremely difficult.
For example, plutonium emits radiation for a long time. Its half-life is 24,000 years, so because nuclear waste contains plutonium—in its disposal, even if you let it sit and don’t use it—its half-life is 24,000 years, in effect forever. So it’s a very difficult technology to use—an additional point I want to make.
Q: It figured a bit ago in the lecture by Professor Prasser, that in third-generation reactors, risk can be avoided. What is your response?
Kan: It’s as Professor Khwostowa said: we’ve said that even with many nuclear reactors, an event inside a reactor like the Fukushima nuclear accident or a Chernobyl-sized event would occur only once in a million years; but in fact, in the past sixty years, we’ve had Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima. Professor Prasser says it’s getting gradually safer, but in fact accidents have happened with greater frequency and on a larger scale than was foreseen. So partial improvements are possible, as Professor Prasser says, but saying that doesn’t mean that accidents won’t happen. Equipment causes accidents, but so do humans.
Q: Today it’s five years after Fukushima. What is the situation in Japan today? We hear that there are plans beginning in 2018 to return the refugees to their homes. To what extent is the clean-up complete?
Kan: Let me describe conditions on site at Fukushima. Reactors #1, #2, #3 melted down, and the melted nuclear fuel still sits in the containment vessel; every day they introduce water to cool it. Radioactivity in the vessel of #2, they say, is 70 sieverts—not microsieverts or millisieverts, 70 sieverts. If humans approach a site that is radiating 70 sieverts, they die within five minutes. That situation has held ever since: that’s the current situation.
Moreover, the water they introduce leaves the containment vessel and is said to be recirculated, but in fact it mixes with groundwater, and some flows into the ocean. Prime Minister Abe used the words “under control,” but Japanese experts, including me, consider it not under control if part is flowing into the ocean. All the experts see it this way.
As for the area outside the site, more than 100,000 people have fled the Fukushima area.
So now the government is pushing residential decontamination and beyond that the decontamination of agricultural land.
Even if you decontaminate the soil, it’s only a temporary or partial reduction in radioactivity; in very many cases cesium comes down from the mountains, it returns.
The Fukushima prefectural government and the government say that certain of the areas where decontamination has been completed are habitable, so people have until 2018 to return; moreover, beyond that date, they won’t give aid to the people who have fled. But I and others think there’s still danger and that the support should be continued at the same level for people who conclude on their own that it’s still dangerous—that’s what we’re saying.
Given the conditions on site and the conditions of those who have fled, you simply can’t say that the clean-up is complete.
Q: Since the Fukushima accident, you have become a strong advocate of getting rid of nuclear reactors; yet in the end, the Abe regime came to power, and it is going in the opposite direction: three reactors are now in operation. As you see this happening, are you angry?
Kan: Clearly what Prime Minister Abe is trying to do—his nuclear reactor policy or energy policy—is mistaken. I am strongly opposed to current policy.
But are things moving steadily backward? Three reactors are indeed in operation. However, phrase it differently: only three are in operation. Why only three? Most—more than half the people—are still resisting strongly. From now on, if it should come to new nuclear plants, say, or to extending the licenses of existing nuclear plants, popular opposition is extremely strong, so that won’t be at all easy. In that sense, Japan’s situation today is a very harsh opposition—a tug of war—between the Abe government, intent on retrogression, and the people, who are heading toward abolishing nuclear reactors.
Two of Prime Minister Abe’s closest advisors are opposed to his policy on nuclear power.
One is his wife. The other is former Prime Minister Koizumi, who promoted him.
Q: Last question: please talk about the possibility that within ten years Japan will do away with nuclear power.
Kan: In the long run, it will disappear gradually. But if you ask whether it will disappear in the next ten years, I can’t say. For example, even in my own party opinion is divided; some hope to do away with it in the 2030s. So I can’t say whether it will disappear completely in the next ten years, but taking the long view, it will surely be gone, for example, by the year 2050 or 2070. The most important reason is economic. It has become clear that compared with other forms of energy, the cost of nuclear energy is high.
Q: Thank you.
Fukushima Daiichi Floods, Show Lack of Preparedness
News reports indicated that groundwater at Fukushima Daiichi had risen so high it broke the surface and flowed into the port as a recent typhoon passed through the area. As TEPCO prepared to close the steel sea wall and freeze the underground frozen wall, NRA stopped the process for a review of the potential for flooding within the reactor building area.
The conclusion was that TEPCO thought they could sufficiently remove excess groundwater with the sump pump subdrain system near the reactor buildings. There were also concerns of the groundwater dropping too low, allowing contaminated water to flow out of the reactor building basements.
With all this review, nobody conceived a need for more water removal capacity. TEPCO ended up employing some sort of makeshift pumps and also using septic tank trucks to pump up water. This lack of anywhere for rainwater to go may have contributed to the water flowing out into the port as it built up on the surface.
Without some major changes at Daiichi this problem of groundwater rising to the surface and flowing into the port or the sea will continue to happen when significant rainfall takes place.
Typhoon rain raises tainted Fukushima plant groundwater to surface
Heavy rain brought by Typhoon Malakas caused contaminated groundwater to rise to ground level at the radiation-hit Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant Tuesday night, raising fears of tainted water flooding out to the plant’s port area, its operator said.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said in a press release that plant workers are doing their utmost to pump up tainted groundwater at the Fukushima compound, while trying to measure the level of radioactive substances contained in the water.
Under normal circumstances, groundwater taken from wells around the damaged reactor buildings at the Fukushima plant is filtered and stored in numerous tanks built on the compound.
Shortly before 10 p.m. Tuesday, groundwater reached the surface level at an observation well near the seawall at the power plant’s port, and at 11:30 p.m. Tuesday, groundwater stood at 3 cm above the surface level, Tepco said.
The well has a far higher wall and the ground around it is paved, the company said, playing down the possibility that any water flowed out of the well.
By 9 a.m. Wednesday, the water level had dropped to 3 cm below the surface.
Meanwhile, some rainwater may have flowed directly into the port before seeping underground, according to the company.
Tepco will continue pumping groundwater around the seawall, located near the damaged No. 1 to No. 4 reactors, and carry out close examinations of water inside the port, the company said.
In order to curb the flow of groundwater into the sea, the company has covered the seawall with water shields and carries out groundwater pumping operations.
Typhoon Malakas itself was downgraded to an extratropical depression at around 9 p.m. Tuesday as it moved along the coast of the Tokai region and swayed toward the Pacific. It was initially forecast to hit the Kanto region in the early hours of Wednesday.
The previous typhoon, Lionrock, earlier this month killed at least 17 people. Before Lionrock, two typhoons had claimed at least two lives in the northeast.
TEPCO: Possible water leak at Fukushima plant during typhoon
Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sept. 21 it will check for radiation contamination in seawater near its crippled Fukushima nuclear plant after heavy rain from Typhoon No. 16 brought tainted groundwater to the surface.
The water reached the top of wells at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, and there is a possibility that some of it spilled into the sea.
“We will analyze the seawater because we cannot determine whether groundwater containing radioactive materials has actually leaked,” a TEPCO official said.
The official added that the company believes most of the water that may have poured into the sea was rainwater that had not seeped into the ground.
The utility constantly monitors groundwater levels in wells around the reactor buildings at the plant to prevent overflows.
TEPCO said groundwater in wells on the seaside area of the nuclear complex reached the surface around 10 p.m. on Sept. 20 amid the heavy rain brought by the approaching typhoon. The water kept rising despite workers’ efforts to lower the level using makeshift pumps and septic tank trucks.
The groundwater level remained the same as of 7 a.m. on Sept. 21 before it finally dropped to about 3 centimeters from the surface two hours later, the company said.
According to TEPCO, about 575 millimeters of rain fell in the area of the nuclear plant from Aug. 1 to Sept. 20.
The crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is located in the towns of Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture.
The government plans to make the public pay an additional 8.3 trillion yen (about $83 billion) to decommission reactors at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant and provide compensation for evacuees of the 2011 disaster, sources said.
The public’s money will also be used for the future decommissioning of reactors at other nuclear plants, they said on Sept. 20.
The burden will also affect families that switched from nuclear power generating utilities to new electric power companies after the liberalization of the electricity retail market for families in April this year.
Major utilities that operate nuclear plants are, in principle, required to secure funds through electricity charges to decommission their reactors. Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, is no exception.
Under the reforms of the power industry, the new electric power companies, which do not operate nuclear plants, were exempt from shouldering any burden related to nuclear power.
But the industry ministry wants to change that arrangement.
Even people in the ruling coalition and the government are criticizing the plan as an attempt to ease the burden of utilities that had long held regional monopolies.
“The plan will damage the basic idea of the reforms,” said Taro Kono, former chairman of the National Public Safety Commission and a lawmaker of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
To realize the plan, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry aims to submit revisions to the Electricity Business Law to the next year’s ordinary Diet session.
A government-approved organization is procuring funds from major electric power companies to assist in the eventual decommissioning of the reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.
However, TEPCO has asked the government for additional support because more money will be needed for the lengthy operation.
The costs to decommission the reactors at the Fukushima plant are expected to soar to 6 trillion yen from the current estimate of 2 trillion yen, according to in-house documents of the industry ministry.
The ministry also needs an additional 3 trillion yen to cover compensation payments for evacuees from the 2011 nuclear disaster and 1.3 trillion yen to decommission reactors of other nuclear plants in the future, according to the documents.
To get the new electric power companies to pay part of the 8.3 trillion yen, the ministry plans to increase power grid “usage fees,” which are paid to major electric power companies.
“It is necessary to collect costs from all of the people fairly,” said a high-ranking official of the ministry.
Some of the consumers switched to new electric power companies because they did not want to continue using electricity produced by nuclear power plants.
But the ministry official pointed out that those consumers had been using nuclear-generated electricity until March.
New electric power companies, which do not have their own power grids, have concluded contracts with only 2 percent of all households in Japan.
The ministry is concerned that if more families switch from nuclear plant operators to the new companies, it could become difficult to secure sufficient funds to cover reactor decommissioning costs.
Under the ministry’s plan, a standard family of three in areas covered by TEPCO will be required to pay an additional 180 yen every month. In areas covered by other major electric power companies, the corresponding figure will be about 60 yen.
The Monju plant in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, is seen in this file photo from January. Its scrapping will leave a massive plutonium stockpile that cannot be reduced quickly
The government decided to cut its losses Wednesday on the ¥1 trillion Monju fast-breeder reactor, pulling the plug on the project after years of mishaps, cover-ups and waste.
At an extraordinary meeting, the Cabinet decided to decommission the idle facility in Fukui Prefecture but reaffirmed a national commitment to obtaining a nuclear fuel cycle.
At the end of the Cabinet meeting, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government will set up an expert panel on fast-breeder reactor issues that will “carry out an overall revision of the Monju project, including its decommissioning” by the end of this year.
Fast-breeder reactors like Monju are designed to produce more plutonium than they consume. The government has long envisioned them as playing a role in the nation’s nuclear profile.
During the same meeting, the government also pledged to draw up a road map of developing “demonstration fast reactors” by the end of the year.
A demonstration reactor is more advanced than a prototype reactor like Monju. Specifically, Japan is considering participating in France’s project to develop a fast-breeder reactor of the demonstration type, documents submitted to the meeting by industry minister Hiroshige Seko showed.
But given the record of Monju’s serious accidents and mismanagement scandals, Seko’s pledge to go to the next development stage — with little public explanation on the failure of the Monju project itself — is likely to draw strong criticism from the public.
Monju dates back to 1980, when work began amid the realization of a need to reduce reliance on fossil fuel. Almost all oil, coal and gas burned in Japan is imported.
Monju not only absorbed fistfuls of taxpayer money, but also suffered repeated accidents and mismanagement while only going live for a few months during its three-decade existence.
The Monju reactor reached criticality for the first time in 1994 but was forced to shut down in December 1995 after a leak of sodium coolant and fire. There was a subsequent attempt at a cover-up.
In November 2012, it emerged that the operator, Japan Atomic Energy Agency, had failed to check as many as 10,000 of Monju’s components, as safety rules require.
In November last year, the Nuclear Regulation Authority declared that the government-affiliated JAEA was “not qualified as an entity to safely operate” Monju.
It told the government either to find an alternative operator or scrap the project. The government was unable to find new management.
On Wednesday after the Cabinet meeting, education minister Hirokazu Matsuno said investments of another ¥500 billion would be needed if the Monju reactor were to be maintained.
“And it is also true we have yet to find an (alternative) entity to run Monju,” he noted.
Later the same day during a briefing for reporters, government bureaucrats emphasized that the government has yet to draw any conclusion on the fate of the Monju reactor.
But the comments of Suga and Matsuno were widely interpreted as signaling that the Cabinet is willing to eventually mothball the Monju reactor.
Meanwhile, decommissioning Monju will raise international concerns over Japan’s massive plutonium stockpile, extracted from spent fuel at the nation’s dozens of conventional nuclear power plants.
The stockpile is estimated at 48 tons of plutonium, enough to produce thousands of atomic bombs.
With no way to consume plutonium directly, the government plans to continue using MOX fuels — a mix of plutonium and uranium — in conventional nuclear reactors.
But most commercial reactors remain idle in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis, and for now the rate of consumption will be slow. The No. 3 reactor of the Ikata nuclear power plant in Ehime Prefecture is currently the sole active unit that uses MOX fuel.
The Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to reactivate more reactors once the NRA completes its safety checks.
Meanwhile, the matter remains a divisive one between government ministries.
The education and science ministry, which oversees the Monju project, reportedly opposes scrapping the reactor, arguing its importance in setting up a nuclear fuel cycle and tackling the plutonium oversupply.
But the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees national nuclear policy, reportedly backs Monju’s scrapping as officials fear its tainted reputation could fuel opposition to nuclear power.
At the same time, METI wants to keep the fuel cycle policy afloat. It has reportedly argued for Japan’s participation in France’s ASTRID project to develop a demonstration fast-breeder reactor. ASTRID, or Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration, will use more advanced technologies than those on which Monju was based. But the project is still in the designing phase, which will continue at least until the end of 2019.
Sodium coolant used for fast-breeder reactors can catch fire easily and is very difficult to handle, which is why no countries have developed such a reactor yet.
6.4 quake hits Japan southeast of Tokyo, Rt.com 23 Sep, 2016 A powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake rocked Japan some 230km southeast of the country’s capital, Tokyo, at a depth of 10km on Thursday night, the US Geological Survey (USGS) reported on its website.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency reported that the earthquake “has caused no damage to Japan,” while adding that “slight sea-level changes in coastal regions” may be observed.
No immediate tsunami warning has been issued.
Small tremors were reportedly felt in nine Japanese prefectures, including in Fukushima and Tokyo……..https://www.rt.com/news/360331-tokyo-southeast-quake-reaction/#.V-R_nRi_Fis.facebook
Costly Japanese prototype nuclear reactor shuts down http://eandt.theiet.org/content/articles/2016/09/costly-japanese-prototype-nuclear-reactor-shuts-down/ By Jack Loughran, September 21, 2016
The Monju nuclear reactor in Japan, which has operated for less than a year in more than two decades at a cost of 1tn yen (£7.6bn), is set to be scrapped. The prototype fast-breeder reactor was designed to burn plutonium from spent fuel at conventional reactors to create more fuel than it consumes.
The process is appealing to a country whose limited resources force it to rely on imports for virtually all its oil and gas needs.
But Tokyo believes it would be difficult to gain public support to spend several hundred billion yen to upgrade the Monju facility, which has been plagued by accidents, missteps and falsification of documents.
There is also a strong anti-nuclear sentiment in Japan in reaction to the 2011 Fukushima atomic disaster, and calls to decommission Monju have been growing in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, with scant results from using around 20 billion yen of public money a year for maintenance alone.
Science Minister Hirokazu Matsuno, Trade Minister Hiroshige Seko and others had decided to shift policy away from developing Monju, a fast-breeder nuclear reactor in the west of the country, the government said.
They had also agreed to keep the nuclear fuel cycle intact and would set up a committee to decide a policy for future fast-breeder development by the end of the year.
A formal decision to decommission Monju is likely to be made by the end of the year, government officials said.
The decision would have no impact on Japan’s nuclear recycling policy as Tokyo would continue to co-develop a fast-breeder demonstration reactor that has been proposed in France, while research will continue at another experimental fast-breeder reactor, Joyo, which was a predecessor of Monju.
“The move will not have an impact on nuclear fuel balance or nuclear fuel cycle technology development or Japan’s international cooperation,” said Tomoko Murakami, nuclear energy manager at the country’s Institute of Energy Economics.
Before the Fukushima disaster, Japan had planned to build a commercial fast-breeder before 2050, but according to the International Energy Agency that project may be delayed, given the difficulties at Monju.
The fallout from the Fukushima disaster is continuing. Specialised robots have been developed to retrieve some of the radioactive material from the ill-fated plant but they have been repeatedly unable to complete their task because the high levels of radiation destroys their circuitry.
Fukushima Daiichi Groundwater Rises from Typhoon N°16 Sept. 21, 2016
« Groundwater level rises in the aftermath of Typhoon 16, due to its heavy rain the groundwater now reaches now the surface.
It is unclear as whether or not the groundwater has been contaminated with radioactive material as it poured out into the sea, To be determined later, Tepco says. »
Tepco pumping groundwater from Fukushima plant.
The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station says it is pumping groundwater from under the plant to prevent contaminated water from leaking into the adjacent port.
Tokyo Electric Power Company says the heavy rains brought by Typhoon Malakas have raised the underground water levels around the plant’s embankments.
TEPCO officials say they added pumps to prevent the groundwater from rising further. They say the water rose nearly to the surface shortly before 10 PM on Tuesday.
The officials say this has prevented rain from permeating the ground and increased the risk that the rainwater could become contaminated and flow into the port.
The utility says that while it is pumping the groundwater to prevent leakage, it will measure the radioactive substances in the water.
With Typhoon N°16 heavy rain, underground water level reaches ground surface at Fukushima Daiichi.
With the heavy rain associated with the approach of typhoon No. 16, Tepco announced that the underground water level of the sea side of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant area is now at ground level.
There is a possibility that contaminated groundwater has flowed into the sea mixed with the rain.
TEPCO plans soon to analyze the surface of the water and the seawater.
In consideration of the feelings of evacuees who want to return home, it is important to promptly present a specific picture of how towns affected by the nuclear disaster will be reconstructed.
Regarding the “difficult-to-return zones” designated following the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the government has announced a policy of designating priority areas and carrying out full-scale decontamination work there starting next fiscal year.
Entry remains strictly restricted for the difficult-to-return zones, where the yearly dose of radiation was higher than 50 millisieverts as of March 2012. This is the first time for the government to announce a policy of allowing evacuees to eventually return home in the zones.
The zones spread over seven municipalities around the Fukushima plant, including the towns of Okuma, Futaba and Namie.
The latest policy is characterized by the government establishing “reconstruction bases” that center around town offices and railway stations, and drawing up development plans exclusively for the base areas. The government will implement the development of infrastructure, including roads, concurrently with the decontamination work. It aims to lift the evacuation orders for residents in the year 2022, making it possible for evacuees to return home.
To decontaminate the entire area within the difficult-to-return zones will require a sizable amount of money. It is an appropriate measure to move ahead with the decontamination work by narrowing down the target area from the viewpoint of pursuing efficiency.
In areas where the radiation dose is relatively low, namely areas where residence is restricted and where preparations are being made for the lifting of evacuation orders, evacuation orders have already been rescinded for five municipalities. Another four municipalities have also taken such measures as allowing residents to return home for long-term stays, with the aim of lifting the evacuation orders next spring.
Limited progress in returns
However, in areas where evacuation orders have already been lifted, there has not been as much progress in residents’ return as was hoped. Even in the town of Naraha, for which evacuation orders were lifted last autumn and which is considered a model case for residents’ return, only about 10 percent of residents have come back.
There has not been sufficient development of bases closely linked to people’s daily life, such as medical institutions and commercial facilities. This can be a primary factor in evacuees’ reluctance to return home. Younger generations also have strong concerns about their jobs and their children’s education following their return.
Even if residents of the difficult-to-return zones were able to return, that would be six years from now. It would be difficult for residents to plan for their daily life.
At the moment, matters such as where the reconstruction bases can be located and the details of development plans have yet to be decided. It is important to show residents early on how their hometowns would be reconstructed, so as to fulfill evacuees’ wishes of returning home.
Many evacuees have given up on returning home and rebuilt their lives within or outside Fukushima Prefecture. According to a survey taken last year by the Reconstruction Agency, only 11 percent of evacuees from Okuma and 13 percent of those from Futaba — the towns straddled by the plant — said they want to return home.
How should towns be reconstructed to induce evacuees to consider returning? Each municipality is urged to carefully take up the wishes of evacuees and reflect them in the development plans.
As Fukushima’s reconstruction progresses, the government needs to continue doing its utmost in assisting the prefecture so as not to have the difficult-to-return zones become “left-behind areas.”
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