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Rethinking Japan’s Energy Security 8 Years After Fukushima

Fukushima’s nuclear power plant, before the 2011 disaster.
March 21, 2019
To increase energy self-sufficiency after the 2011 nuclear disaster, renewables are Japan’s only option.
It’s been eight years since the Great East Japan Earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster. Since then, the utilization of nuclear energy, which accounted for more than one-tenth of Japan’s energy mix before 2011, has become a controversial issue in Japan. Japan thus started to face the severe challenge of energy security.
First, due to the shutdown of most nuclear power plants, Japan’s energy self-sufficiency rate plummeted from 20.2 percent in 2010 to 11.5 percent in 2011. Since then, the self-sufficiency rate has remained under 10 percent, which is extremely low compared to other countries.
Japan has significantly increased its energy imports from overseas. The reliance on foreign energy not only deteriorates the government budget deficit, but also brings increasing political risk. More than 80 percent of Japan’s imported oil comes from the Middle East. It is not easy to assure a stable supply of oil from those politically unstable countries.
Second, Japan is highly dependent on fossil energy compared to other advanced countries. Fossil energy accounted for 94 percent of Japan’s energy mix when the oil crisis happened in 1973. Since then Japan has made great efforts to reduce that share, which dropped to 81 percent in 2010. However, the degree of dependence on fossil energy rebounded to 89 percent in 2016, approaching the level at the time of oil shock. The increased use of fossil energy is meant to fill the gap caused by the suspension of nuclear energy. Japan now is extremely vulnerable to another oil shock as crude oil accounts for more than 40 percent of its energy source.
Third, the price of electricity in Japan has risen greatly due to the soaring energy cost. Electricity rates peaked in 2014, when rates for household increased by about 24 percent and those for industries increased by about 38 percent over rates in 2010. Although the cost is on a downward trend, rates of electricity for both households and industries remain over 10 percent higher than 2010 rates.
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March 25, 2019 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

For Fukushima returnees, security a growing concern in deserted towns

n-fukushimafile-a-20170619-870x577.jpgThe deserted streets of the town of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, are seen at night after its evacuation order was lifted in this undated photo.


Via Fukushima Minpo –  It’s like a dream to once again be able to live in my “home, sweet home.”

That’s what Hidezo Sato, 72, says he feels every day since returning to his fallout-hit hometown of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.

The government partially lifted its nuclear evacuation order on March 31, six years after radiation from the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant forced them to evacuate.

Now, friends come by to chat at his home in the Gongendo district, which is much more comfortable than where he spent the past six years living as a Fukushima evacuee.

But one thing still bugs him — he doesn’t feel safe at night.

According to town officials, only about 300 residents have come back so far.

Many of the houses in Sato’s neighborhood remain uninhabited. So when he spots a car parked in the dark, it frightens him.

If safety and security aren’t ensured, there won’t be more people coming back,” Sato said.

Sparked by returnees’ concerns about security, many recovering municipalities have set up neighborhood watch groups, installed security cameras and taken other measures to increase safety.

In December, two men were arrested on theft charges after spotted by security cameras.

In Minamisoma, City Hall is installing home security systems for returnees in the Odaka district that allow them to alert a security company simply by pushing a button. As of April 27, about 240 households, or 30 percent of the roughly 770 households that have returned, had the system installed by the city.

The number of police officers brought in from outside Fukushima to help patrol the no-go zone has been reduced to 192, or about 150 fewer than five years ago. The police presence is expected to decline further as decontamination progresses, raising concerns on how to ensure security there in the future.

Many municipalities have been funding security costs with central government subsidies, but it is unclear whether that will continue after fiscal 2020, when the state-designated reconstruction and revitalization period is scheduled to end. The Reconstruction Agency is also slated to be dissolved by then.

A top Reconstruction Agency official would only say it will “consider the issue in the future.”

For its part, the town of Namie is expected to spend about ¥700 million in fiscal 2017 to fund the neighborhood watch teams and surveillance systems. But town officials are worried whether they’ll be able to afford the systems once the subsidies dry up.

Reconstruction minister Masayoshi Yoshino, a Lower House politician representing the Fukushima No. 5 district, said in April that he will consider creating a new government entity to take over the work of the Reconstruction Agency.

I want the government to tell us that it will continue to fund” such projects, said Namie Deputy Mayor Katsumi Miyaguchi.

June 19, 2017 Posted by | Fukushima 2017 | , , | Leave a comment

Anti-terror facility at nuclear plant confirmed


Japan’s nuclear regulator says plans for terrorism-response facilities at the Takahama nuclear plant are the first in Japan to meet its requirements.

New government regulations introduced after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi accident require nuclear plant operators to build standby control rooms at least 100 meters away from each of their reactors.

The special facilities allow employees to retain control of a plant’s reactors even if main control rooms are destroyed by terrorists or in a plane crash.

Officials at the Nuclear Regulation Authority confirmed that the plans for standby control rooms for the No. 3 and No.4 reactors at the plant are in line with requirements. They will soon issue formal approval for construction.

The decision came at a closed-door session to maintain secrecy of the rooms’ design and location.

The Takahama plant on the Japan Sea coast became the first of 7 nuclear plants in Japan to submit applications for approval.

The plant’s operator, Kansai Electric Power Company, is now required to set up the facility for the No.3 reactor by August 2020 and for the No.4 reactor by the following October.

Some are criticizing the decision to restart reactors yet to be equipped with the standby facilities.

The 2 reactors at Takahama went back online earlier this year. But they were halted after a court ordered their suspension in March.

August 3, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear center waits over a year to report cyber-attack

Computer hackers infiltrated a server installed at a facility that oversees handling of plutonium and other nuclear materials, but the breach was not reported for over a year because officials thought it wasn’t serious.

The government-affiliated Nuclear Material Control Center acknowledged on May 18 that the server at one of its facilities in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, was used as a relay point in a cyber-attack in February last year.

Under the law on regulation of nuclear source material, nuclear fuel material and reactors, such security breaches must be reported to authorities. The Tokyo-based center failed to immediately notify the Nuclear Regulation Authority about what had happened.

“We didn’t even think to make a report because we failed to recognize the fact that the attack was something serious,” said Yasuhiro Yokota, a director of the organization.

No data at the facility was compromised.

On Feb. 19, 2015, an outside information security firm notified the center, “Your server is being used as a relay point in a cyber-attack that is sending high volumes of data to an outside target.”

The center changed the settings on its server the following day to prevent further infiltration attempts. The security company did not reveal the target of the cyber-attack.

Center officials apparently learned they were required to report the breach to the NRA when they were investigating a separate computer-related incident in September 2015. A computer used by a center employee had made unauthorized access to an outside server.

The center failed to notify the NRA about this incident as well, and only announced it in January.

May 19, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment