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An insider’s perspective on Fukushima and everything that came after

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Ars chats with Naomi Hirose, who became TEPCO’s CEO after the Fukushima meltdown.
Naomi Hirose, vice chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO).
 
October 5, 2018
The meltdown of the reactors at Fukushima Daichi has changed how many people view the risks of nuclear power, causing countries around the world to revise their plans for further construction and revisit the safety regulations for existing plants. The disaster also gave the world a first-hand view of the challenges of managing accidents in the absence of a functional infrastructure and the costs when those accidents occur in a densely populated, fully developed nation.
Earlier this week, New York’s Japan Society hosted a man with a unique perspective on all of this. Naomi Hirose was an executive at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) when the meltdown occurred, and he became its CEO while he was struggling to get the recovery under control. Ars attended Hirose’s presentation and had the opportunity to interview him. Because the two discussions partly overlapped, we’ll include information from both below.
The accident and safety
During his presentation, Hirose noted that the epicenter of 2011’s Tōhoku earthquake was only 180 kilometers from Fukushima. But initially, safety protocols kicked in; called a scram, the protocols led to control rods being inserted into the reactors to shut down the nuclear reactions and bring the plant to a halt. Since this had happened previously in response to earthquakes, Hirose said people were feeling confident the situation was under control.
But the earthquake itself had damaged the power lines that fed the plant, leaving it reliant on internal power to run the cooling pumps. And the source of that power was swept away when the tsunami generated by the quake inundated all six of the reactors on the site. This left the plant unable to cool its reactors; several melted down, and the hydrogen they generated ultimately led to explosions that wrecked the buildings that housed them. Hirose suggests that these explosions were likely sparked as things shifted and fell due to aftershocks.
This has led countries around the world to tighten their rules regarding backup equipment and to re-evaluate the infrastructure they assumed would be available to help manage the accident. We also got a chance to ask Hirose about how he viewed the risks of nuclear power after this experience:
We learned that safety culture is very important. We saw that we were probably a little arrogant. We spent a huge amount of money to improve the safety of that plant before the accident. We thought that this was enough. We learned that you never think this is enough. We have to learn many things from all over the world. 9/11 could be some lessons for nuclear power stations—it’s not just nuclear accidents in other countries, everything could be a lesson.
So we learn: “Do not stop improving the safety.” This is a technical matter, a scientific matter, and we can make these risks as small as possible.
Re-establishing control
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, what had gone wrong in some of the reactors wasn’t even clear; contaminated groundwater was a massive issue, and a substantial exclusion zone forced the evacuation of thousands of residents nearby. Just to do anything on the site required huge amounts of safety gear.
“[In the] first several years, we didn’t have a really clear plan, because it’s troubleshooting,” Hirose told Ars. “Many, many things took place, so we had to settle down these things. Now the condition of the plant is very stable.”
With the stability, one of the first steps chosen was to remove spent fuel, which was stored in elevated tanks in the reactor buildings. Reactor four shut down when the earthquake struck, and more than 1,500 fuel rods have since been safely removed. At reactor three, rubble covering the spent fuel pool has been cleared, and a new roof incorporating a crane has been built, paving the way to remove the spent fuel there.
But the melted-down reactors pose a much larger challenge. “We don’t know exactly the condition of the debris, so we developed several different types of robotics and let them go into the reactor building,” Hirose told Ars. “Now the robotics are taking movies, collecting all the data—temperature, radioactivity. Now we are planning how to attack, how to go to those debris. So maybe it takes a few more years; it depends on analyzing the situation.”
Meanwhile, decontamination work and time have reduced the onsite risk so that workers only need to wear exposure-tracking badges. The area of the exclusion zone with above-background radiation levels has also shrunk considerably.
“There are only two towns left in the evacuation zone—it’s getting smaller and smaller and smaller,” Hirose said during our interview. “Even those two towns—they are planning to develop a new city hall, new spaces for commercial [activity]. Since it’s been 7.5 years already, all the people will not come back. Kids start going to school in the places they went. Each has different situations. But we’d like to have those towns available for everybody. Still, those two towns are prohibited to come back, but we’d like to have that situation cleared.”
Bearing the costs
None of this comes cheaply. When we were discussing risks, Hirose acknowledged, “Once there is a serious accident, the costs of these things is enormous. And we understood that, and everybody realized that.”
But who carries that cost? In the US, the government steps in once costs exceed $12.6 billion. That’s not the case for TEPCO. “Japanese law—it’s called nuclear damage compensation law—clarified that no matter what the size of the damages, it’s singly the nuclear operator that has all the responsibility without fault. So even if we did [make any] mistake, the operator has to pay. The Price-Anderson Act in the US stipulates the limit in the damage. Maybe we need that kind of limit. It’s been discussed in Japan, and it’s a really difficult point.”
(“I mean, we had the accident, so maybe we shouldn’t say anything about this,” he said at this point.)
In the immediate aftermath of the accident, this pushed TEPCO’s finances to a very bad place. Once the site stabilized, so did the costs, but they remain enormous. During his public discussion, Hirose said that they’re running at about $5 billion a year, and that’s expected to continue for 30 years. “We’ve made enough for the past three years, but we have to do it for 27 more,” Hirose told the audience. That will fundamentally limit the actions the company can take for the next several decades.
Japan’s future
What’s that energy economy going to look like? Prior to Fukushima, Hirose was a big advocate of increasing electrification of energy use. He brought that up in our discussion as well.
Electrification definitely will expand—like electric vehicles and heat-pump technology. Those things are much, much more efficient compared to combustion engines or conventional heating systems. Electric vehicles are very efficient, so they don’t use a lot of electricity. Based on our calculations, even if all the automobiles turn into electric vehicles in the Tokyo area, our demand for electricity only goes up 15 percent or so. So it’s not a big, big potential transition.
And still, the total energy consumption would decline very, very much, because we don’t use any gasoline. And if that electricity is provided by renewables or nuclear, carbon dioxide would decrease dramatically. I think electrification is one of the things that will decrease the total demand for energy. It’s just how to generate that amount of electricity, which depends on if it’s nuclear, solar, wind… Electrification and decarbonization are the two key things.
Any increased demand due to electrification, however, will take place against a general decline in energy use in Japan. While already a very efficient society, the Japanese managed to curtail energy use even further as all of the country’s nuclear plants were shut down in the wake of Fukushima. “Have you been to Tokyo? Shops are very bright, very, um, shining with lights. It’s gorgeous—maybe you need sunglasses,” Hirose suggested. “But people started thinking that maybe that was too much.”
Critically, what might have been temporary measures have produced what appear to be permanent changes. “The consumption of electricity has not come back yet,” Hirose told Ars. “Maybe it never will, because the population of Japan is declining. I don’t know if in the long term the demand for electricity goes up.”
Still, the country will need to continue to produce electricity while decarbonizing its grid to meet international agreements. And the government’s plans for doing so include continued use of nuclear power. “The Japanese government set a target: 20-22 percent is generated by nuclear in 2030,” Hirose said. “In order to keep this number, we need to develop new nuclear power. So far, all the electric power companies and operators focus on the restart of the already existing nuclear power plants. Everybody is not in the mood to build a new one, because they are busy handling the restart of the existing plants.”
If the new plants are ever built, Japan will get the chance to see if it can avoid the massive cost overruns that have plagued projects elsewhere.
But that’s a very large if, and during Hirose’s presentation, an audience member pointed out that more than 60 percent of the Japanese population would like to see the country eliminate nuclear power. Other low-carbon sources, however, face significant hurdles in Japan. “Solar is very popular. Wind is possible, particularly offshore wind. But the Japanese Sea suddenly becomes deep, so it’s not like Northern Europe,” Hirose told Ars. “It’s a little technically difficult. Geothermal is very possible. Unfortunately, all the possible places are in national parks or hot-spring towns, so there aren’t many good places. But technically, it’s possible.”
All of which leaves Japan’s long-term energy future unsettled. But, in the immediate future, attention will remain on the restart of the existing nuclear power plants and the identification of the melted fuel on the floor of the remaining reactors.
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October 8, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Former worker’s book: TEPCO unfit to operate nuclear plants

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Toru Hasuike, a former employee of Tokyo Electric Power Co., talks about his new book in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture.
 
August 27, 2018
KASHIWAZAKI, Niigata Prefecture–Toru Hasuike, who worked at Tokyo Electric Power Co. for 32 years, has published another book that he says shows his former employer should be declared “ineligible” to operate nuclear power plants.
“Kokuhatsu” (Accusation), a 250-page book released on Aug. 27 by Tokyo-based Business-sha Inc., reveals episodes that underscore the utility’s culture of cover-ups and collusion, including how it stacked the decks in its favor for government approval of its new reactors, he said.
After graduating from the Tokyo University of Science, Hasuike, 63, had worked in TEPCO’s nuclear division, including a stint at the now-embattled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, from 1977 until he left the company in 2009.
His first book about the utility, titled “Watashi ga Aishita Tokyo Denryoku” (Tokyo Electric Power Co. that I loved), was released by Kyoto-based Kamogawa Co. in September 2011, a half-year after the disaster struck the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
In that book, Hasuike describes the day-to-day activities at TEPCO and the closed nature of the regional monopoly in a matter-of-fact tone. He does not accuse the company of cover-ups or collusion in the book.
“Back then, I believed that even TEPCO would transform itself (following the Fukushima nuclear disaster),” Hasuike said in an interview with The Asahi Shimbun in Kashiwazaki. “But TEPCO’s corporate culture of trying to cover up things and form collusive ties with authorities has not been overhauled. In my latest book, I wrote about all that I saw.”
Assigned to the utility’s main office in Tokyo, Hasuike, who had an engineering background, was primarily involved in work responding to nuclear regulators’ safety inspections of TEPCO’s plants as well as research into the disposal of high-level radioactive waste.
He said he documented a number of his experiences that epitomize the collusive ties between the utility and nuclear regulators before the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
Hasuike said these episodes made him question the feasibility of TEPCO’s new stated goal of pushing for organizational reform that puts safety management of its nuclear facilities above everything else.
Hasuike was born and raised in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture, a city that co-hosts TEPCO’s seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant, the largest nuclear power station in Japan.
His parents and other relatives live in the coastal city.
The Diet’s Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission also pointed out TEPCO’s propensity to seek cozy ties with regulating bodies.
In its report published in 2012, the commission denounced collusion between TEPCO and the government’s nuclear watchdog, describing nuclear authorities as a “regulatory capture” of the company because they were easily manipulated by TEPCO’s vast wealth of nuclear expertise.
In his new book, Hasuike describes, for example, TEPCO’s moves related to the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
The company is currently seeking to bring those reactors back online as soon as possible to save on fuel costs needed to operate its thermal plants.
Hasuike said in the book that TEPCO sent some of its employees to the then Science and Technology Agency in 1990 on the pretext of “assisting in preparations” for a public hearing planned by the government’s Nuclear Safety Commission.
The agency’s commission was scheduled to hold a public hearing at the Niigata prefectural government building on whether to give approval and licenses for the construction of the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.
The TEPCO employees were sent to the agency, where the commission’s secretariat was located, to check postcards sent by those hoping to attend the hearing. Specifically, TEPCO wanted to know their stance on nuclear energy and prevent the hearing from being dominated by anti-nuclear attendees, according to the book.
When they grasped the number of nuclear opponents who planned to attend, the TEPCO employees made arrangements to send several times that number of application postcards to the pro-nuclear energy camp to ensure their representation was larger than nuclear skeptics at the hearing, Hasuike wrote.
After the applicants were selected and those permitted to ask questions at the hearing were chosen, the TEPCO employees advised the pro-nuclear attendees on their proposed questions with the aim to make the plant look safe, according to the book.
Hasuike has also been known as a relentless critic of the government for its handling of the decades-old issue of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korean agents. He has appeared on TV programs and written several books on the subject.
His younger brother, Kaoru, returned to Japan in 2002 after being abducted to North Korea in 1978. But many other abductees remain unaccounted for, and there are few signs of progress toward a resolution of the issue.

August 28, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

Watchdog says TEPCO nuclear disaster drill ‘unacceptable’

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An emergency drill at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture
August 22, 2018
The government’s nuclear watchdog slammed Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s efforts as “unacceptable” in communicating with nuclear authorities during an emergency drill held at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.
TEPCO, operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, was among three utilities to receive the lowest of the three-level scores in terms of ability to share information expediently and accurately, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said July 25.
It was the first time for the company to be given the lowest score on communication skills in a yearly drill.
“It is unacceptable that TEPCO received a low rating, given that it was responsible for the Fukushima disaster,” an NRA official said. “TEPCO appears to be too compartmentalized for its relevant sections to work together and share information.”
The NRA is set to instruct the company to hold additional drills at the plant, which is located in Niigata Prefecture, if it receives another low rating.
The utility was slow in relaying information to the watchdog, and its briefing on its handling of the mock accident was inadequate, according to the NRA’s report.
“We could not respond sufficiently because the envisioned accident was harsh,” said Kiyoto Ishikawa, the chief of the plant’s publicity department, at a news conference.
The drill in question was carried out in March under the scenario of coping with a serious accident.
It involved difficult procedures to cope with a failure in the communication system to send such critical information as the pressure level in the reactors’ containment vessels to the NRA. Operators also simulated a string of maneuvers of the venting system to lower pressure inside the No. 6 reactor that suffered core damage.
“We had to deal with a tough situation because it proceeded with less time allotted for us than in a real accident,” Ishikawa said. “We are determined to make more efforts and improve our standing.”
The NRA’s assessment comes at a time when TEPCO seeks to bring the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant back on line in the near future to save expensive fuel costs incurred by the operation of its thermal power plants.
With seven reactors, the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant is the largest in Japan. It is the only nuclear complex for TEPCO to turn to as it proceeds with decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear plants.
The two reactors have cleared the screenings by the NRA under the stricter reactor regulations put in place following the 2011 Fukushima triple meltdown.
The other plants that were rated on par with the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in the evaluation of emergency drills were Hokuriku Electric Power Co.’s Shika plant in Ishikawa Prefecture and Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka plant in Shizuoka Prefecture.
In the case of the Shika plant, Hokuriku Electric’s in-house information sharing system got bogged down, making it impossible for the NRA to remain in the communication loop.
In total, 10 operators of nuclear power plants carried out emergency drills.
The NRA considers it vital for the operator of a nuclear plant to share accurate information on the accident since the prime minister declares a “nuclear emergency” based on the NRA’s report.
In the Fukushima disaster, TEPCO had trouble passing on information on the unfolding nuclear crisis with the government swiftly and accurately, resulting in confusion.

August 27, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO seeks nuclear power industry tie-up with key players

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Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant
August 22, 2018
Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc., operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, has begun talks with the nuclear industry’s key players about a possible tie-up for maintenance and management services and decommissioning of reactors.
The company is in discussions with Chubu Electric Power Co., Hitachi Ltd. and Toshiba Corp., according to sources.
If the talks go well, a consolidation of the nuclear industry could be in the cards, the sources said.
TEPCO seeks to restart two of the seven reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture in the near future. Both are boiling water reactors, the same type as those that are to be decommissioned at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.
TEPCO operates 11 boiling water reactors, seven of which are located at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. The remainder are located at the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant.
However, the utility announced in June it would pull the plug on the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant, which suffered damage in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami and narrowly escaped a serious disaster like at its sister plant.
Chubu Electric also operates three boiling water reactors at its Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka Prefecture. The plant’s two other reactors are in the process of decommissioning.
Hitachi and Toshiba were both involved in the design and construction of those reactors.
The four parties seek to streamline their nuclear energy operations through cooperation in maintenance and management services as well as safety management of their facilities after the restarts of their reactors.
Utilities today face an exceedingly higher price tag for bolstering safety precautions at their plants that are required under the stricter new reactor regulations put in place in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima No. 1 disaster.
With none of their reactors back online, TEPCO and Chubu Electric fell behind other utilities.
Kansai Electric Power Co. and other operators of pressurized water reactors have restarted their plants.
Meanwhile, work to decommission reactors is looming large for TEPCO and other utilities, as many reactors are aging and nearing their 40-year life span.
The four companies are also expected to discuss possible construction of new nuclear plants in the coming years.
TEPCO plans to call on other electric power companies to join a consortium it seeks to set up in fiscal 2020 in connection with its project to construct the Higashidori nuclear plant in Aomori Prefecture. The construction of the facility has been suspended since the quake and tsunami.

August 27, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , , , | Leave a comment

Tepco’s Sale of Souvenirs

I think Tepco should better sell diluted contaminated water as souvenirs. Why not If people are enough baka (dumb) to buy it and take it home. It is maybe finally a good solution for Tepco to dispose of all that accumulated radioactive water away from the plant site.
 

Tepco halts sale of folders with Fukushima nuclear plant pictures

FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) — The operator of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has halted its sale of file folders with photos showing the current conditions of the complex due to public criticism, company sources said Wednesday.
“We received many views, including favorable ones. We will consider whether we can restart their sale (which began Aug. 1),” an official of the operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said.
The folders, offered in a set of three for 300 yen ($2.70), have pictures of the Nos. 1-4 units of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, stricken by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
The operator known as Tepco said it sold them at two convenience stores on the premises of the Fukushima complex after people involved in work to scrap the plant asked the company to sell souvenirs. Tepco said it does not make any profit on the folders.
But there have been complaints from people who were offended by the folders.
A Tepco official involved in the folder sale has said, “As there are very few opportunities to show the real situation of the Fukushima complex, we wanted people to become aware of it through these goods.”
In one of the world’s worst nuclear crises, the Fukushima Daiichi plant on the Pacific coast suffered meltdowns at three of its six reactors, spewing radioactive materials in the surrounding environment.
Decontamination and other efforts are under way to enable people who lived near the disaster-stricken plant to return to their hometowns, while Tepco struggles with massive compensation payments and cleanup costs stemming from the disaster.
 

Tepco halts sales of souvenirs from Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant following public outcry

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A plastic file folder is seen with pictures of Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The utility halted sales of the folders amid criticism it was looking to profit from the 2011 disaster at the plant.
Aug 9, 2018
Tepco suspended the sale of souvenirs at its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant Wednesday — just eight days after launching the products — following public outcry that it was looking to profit from the 2011 disaster.
Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. had been selling plastic file folders imprinted with pictures of the Nos. 1 to 4 units at the crisis-hit plant at two of the facility’s convenience stores since Aug. 1, after receiving requests for memorabilia from visitors and workers.
But the sales by the utility immediately drew criticism with many people posting angry comments on social media. One comment said Tepco was responsible for the disaster and “had no right to profit from” it, adding that the move was “arrogant and showed scant consideration for the disaster victims.” Others said the plant operator should at least donate the proceeds from the sales to local residents and charities.
“We have received a wide variety of opinions over the past week and decided to suspend sales in order to reflect on those views and consider what would be the proper way to handle such merchandise,” Tepco spokeswoman Yuka Matsubara said.
Matsubara also said the utility is unsure if sales would ever resume.
She emphasized the company never intended to take profits from the sales as the ¥300 retail price for a set of three folders was almost the same as the production cost.
“We had learned that visitors and workers had been keeping the receipts they received from the convenience stores at the complex as souvenirs to show their families,” Matsubara said. “To allow visitors a chance to share their experiences and inform everyone that Fukushima is gradually recovering, we made the decision to sell souvenirs.”
After the sales of souvenirs were reported by several news outlets, mixed comments began appearing on Twitter.
A tweet by @mtycskni_ said, “I guess it would be proper to give away such things to the visitors who wish to have them” instead of selling them, while another from @potetohakusyaku asked, “Why don’t visitors buy local products made in Fukushima instead of such goods?”
The Fukushima plant that suffered nuclear meltdowns following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster is not open to the general public. Only plant workers, decommissioning support staff, media representatives, local politicians and residents are permitted on the grounds as long as they are 18 or older. Last year, 12,500 people visited the complex — up 1,800 from 2016.

August 17, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO to open museum to display decommissioning process for Fukushima reactors

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A rendering of a stage, which projects the life-size cross-section of a nuclear reactor, enabling visitors to see inside of the reactor that suffered a meltdown, using computer graphics and actual footage.
 
July 31, 2018
TOMIOKA, Fukushima — Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) announced on July 27 that it will open a museum here to display exhibitions in relation to the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster and its decommissioning work.
The exhibition, which is scheduled to start in November 2018, will mostly display films in which actors re-enact scenes in the form of dramas, to inform visitors of how the Fukushima nuclear disaster that began on March 11, 2011, was handled and follow-up work, in sections titled, “Memories and records” and “Reflections and lessons.” On a different floor, drama footage introducing measures taken to lower the risk of decommissioning work and descriptions of the enormous worksite will be screened in sections titled, “Conditions at the scene” and “Progress of the work.”
There will also be a stage in which a life-size cross-section of a nuclear reactor is projected, using both computer graphics and actual footage. Visitors can also experience a simulation of the situation at the time of the meltdowns and see images of the actual debris.
Makoto Okura, head of TEPCO’s Fukushima Revitalization Headquarters, stated at a press conference, “I want the museum to serve as a venue for people hesitant to come back to local areas to understand what kind of accident it was, and what it’s like in reality.”
The venue for the museum will be a refurbished former Energy Kan building in the Fukushima Prefecture town of Tomioka, which was shut down after the disaster. The exhibition space is approximately 1,900 square meters spread over two stories. Entry to the museum will be free.

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment

Fukushima nuclear plant operator resumes TV ads

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18 Jul 2018

TOKYO: The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant on Wednesday (Jul 18) resumed television commercials, seven years after a 2011 meltdown that sparked the world’s worst atomic accident in a generation.

A retail arm of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) Holdings said it was placing commercials on television, radio stations, and trains, as competition among energy companies intensifies.

The decision is controversial, with some activists angered that TEPCO is spending on advertising while it remains on the hook for enormous costs stemming from the disaster, including clean-up, decommissioning and compensation payments.

But a spokeswoman for TEPCO Energy Partner said the new campaign was “necessary” to help Fukushima.

“Our achievement of sales targets will allow us to fulfil our responsibilities for Fukushima,” Megumi Kobayashi told AFP.

The commercials feature “Tepcon”, a rabbit mascot who shares “ear-grabbing” information about the company’s electricity and gas packages.

TEPCO took its commercials off the air in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, which was triggered by a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami in March 2011.

The tsunami wrecked cooling systems at the Fukushima plant on Japan’s northeast coast, sparking reactor meltdowns and radiation leaks.

Japan shut down all reactors in the wake of the Fukushima crisis, the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

The government has poured billions of dollars into TEPCO to keep the company, which supplies electricity to Tokyo and the surrounding area, afloat.

It faces massive ongoing costs as it stumps up cash for decommissioning the reactors, cleaning up contaminated areas and paying compensation to those who fled their homes due to radiation fears.

https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/fukushima-nuclear-plant-operator-resumes-tv-ads-10540020

July 19, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | 1 Comment

TEPCO aims to build more Fukushima-type nuclear reactors, vows to ‘excel in safety’ this time

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Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant
1 Jul, 2018
TEPCO is conducting an independent geological survey to confirm the absence of active faults in Aomori Prefecture, where it wants to resume the construction of a Fukushima-type nuclear plant, frozen following the 2011 disaster.
“It’s necessary to form a consortium for building a nuclear plant that is excellent in safety, technology and economy,” TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa said in Tokyo, announcing the decision to conduct a survey of the Aomori Prefecture nuclear site.
The Higashidori Nuclear Power Plant hosts two adjoining sites administered by Tohoku Electric Power Company and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). While Tohoku Unit 1 began commercial operations in December 2005, TEPCO never got a chance to finish their unit, the construction of which began only in January 2011. All activity at the site has ceased since the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear meltdown.
TEPCO’s survey, scheduled for completion by 2020, will check the fault structure under the site using a two-kilometer-long tunnel, Kobayakawa said on Friday. Previous studies of terrain beneath the area by the Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) found the likely presence of multiple active, seismogenic faults. However, both TEPCO and the Tohoku Electric Power Company decided to conduct further ‘independent’ investigations to review the validity of the NRA findings.
The energy company wants to build two reactors at the site and is exploring ways to meet the stricter government regulations introduced following the Fukushima disaster. Higashidori units, however, would still use the same type of boiling-water, light-water reactors that suffered meltdown at the Fukushima plant, Japan Times noted.
“As we restart the (Higashidori) project, I want to make sure that a new plant would excel in safety,” Kobayakawa told a press conference. “The geological survey is a very significant step to move forward on the joint development of Higashidori,” he noted, adding that TEPCO has asked major utility companies in the country to contribute to the construction and operation of the Higashidori plant.
Three of the Fukushima plant’s six reactors were hit by meltdowns in 2011, after a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami struck the facility, resulting in the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

July 1, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

TEPCO to decommission Fukushima Daini plant

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Tokyo Electric Power Company has revealed a plan to consider decommissioning all the reactors at its Fukushima Daini nuclear plant.
 
It is located about 12 kilometers south of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which was critically damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. All 4 reactors at the Daini plant have been halted since the disaster.
 
TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa informed Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori of the plan at the prefectural government office on Thursday.
 
Kobayakawa noted that there have been negative rumors about Fukushima, and many evacuees are still unable to return home.
 
He told Uchibori his company has decided that keeping the Daini plant idle would hamper the reconstruction efforts in the prefecture.
 
The Fukushima prefectural assembly had adopted a petition to scrap the reactors at the Daini plant.
The municipal assemblies in Tomioka and Naraha, the towns that host the facility, have adopted a similar demand. The governor has repeatedly asked TEPCO and the central government in Tokyo to arrange the early decommissioning of the plant.
 
The utility, however, had refrained from saying clearly whether it would decommission the plant, citing the need to consider the government’s energy policies and the business environment.
 
TEPCO is now expected to scrap all 10 reactors in Fukushima Prefecture — 6 at the Daiichi plant and 4 at the Daini plant.

June 18, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Niigata’s Prefecture Governor Resignation to Affect the Approval of Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Plant Restart…

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Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama bows during a press conference at the Niigata Prefectural Government office on April 18, 2018.
Governor quits over sex scandal, affects nuclear reactor restart
April 18, 2018
NIIGATA (Kyodo) — Niigata Gov. Ryuichi Yoneyama said Wednesday he will resign after admitting to a sex scandal in a move affecting the approval process for the restart of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s nuclear reactors in the central Japan prefecture.
“I sincerely offer apologies for betraying the trust of many people,” Yoneyama told a press conference, admitting that his relationship with a woman, as described in a weekly magazine due out Thursday, may “look to some as prostitution.”
Shukan Bunshun magazine alleged in an online teaser article Wednesday that the 50-year-old governor has been paying money to have sex with a 22-year-old college student. At a news conference Wednesday, the governor said he gave a woman he met online “presents and money so she would like me more.”
Since being elected governor in 2016, Yoneyama has refrained from approving the restart of the No. 6 and 7 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear complex.
The governor has said he cannot make the decision until the prefectural government completes its own assessment of what caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011.
All seven Kashiwazaki-Kariwa units are boiling water reactors, the same as those at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant where three of six reactors melted down in the days after a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. Last December, two reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex cleared safety reviews under the stricter, post-Fukushima regulations.
On Tuesday, Yoneyama said he would consider whether to quit over a forthcoming magazine article about a “woman issue.” Calls for his resignation were growing in the Niigata prefectural assembly.
The gubernatorial election to pick Yoneyama’s successor is expected to be held in early June. Yoneyama will resign with two and a half years of his term remaining.
The seven-reactor Kashiwazaki-Kariwa complex is one of the world’s largest nuclear power plants with a combined output capacity of 8.2 million kilowatts.
Facing huge compensation payments and other costs stemming from the Fukushima disaster, Tepco is keen to resume operation of its reactors to improve its financial performance.
The Japanese government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also supports restarting nuclear reactors that have cleared post-Fukushima safety reviews.
Yoneyama won the Niigata governorship in October 2016 with the support of the Japanese Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party, which are both opposed to nuclear power. He defeated contenders including a candidate backed by Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner Komeito.
 
Governor of Japan’s Niigata resigns to avoid ‘turmoil’ over magazine article
April 18, 2018
TOKYO (Reuters) – The governor of Japan’s Niigata prefecture, home to the world’s largest nuclear power plant, resigned on Wednesday, saying he hoped to avoid political turmoil over an impending magazine article about his relations with women.
News that the governor, Ryuichi Yoneyama, intended to resign sent shares of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc (Tepco) surging as investors bet his departure could make it easier for the utility to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, which is in Niigata prefecture.
Japan has had few reported “#MeToo” cases about sexual harassment involving public figures but Yoneyama’s resignation came on the same day Japan’s top finance bureaucrat resigned on after a magazine said he had sexually harassed several female reporters. The official denied the allegation.
Yoneyama, like his predecessor, is opposed to a restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant and has been a block to attempts to get the station going by the utility, which also owns the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear station.

April 22, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment

A Representative of Plaintiffs, Tokuo HayaKawa’s Statement in The Court

tokuo-hayakawa.jpgTokuo Hayakawa at the rally in Tokyo in January, 2018.

 

JIJI PRESS’s article

TEPCO Ordered to Pay 600 M. Yen to Fukushima Evacuees

The statement below is translated by Yoshihiro Kaneda. If it has mistakes, Yoshihiro Kaneda has responsibility for that.

Statement

2017 October 6th

To  The Iwaki branch of the Fukushima District Court

Plaintiff: Tokuo Hayakawa

1 I am the thirtieth chief priest of a mountain temple which has a history of over 600 years, but the temple will pass into nothingness in my lifetime. Ten parishioners already severed our relationship. I became a chief priest in 1977 and the temple was desolated even 30 years after the end of the World War 2 because we had about 100 parishioners.

I planed reviving original religious activities and events and improvement for the environment of the temple and was satisfied with its achievement that I did most of it for three decades and several years until March 11th. Especially, the improvement of the precincts, I exerted myself and I overlapped it with my thought which I wanted to live my late life with enjoying the beauty of nature. After retirement, I was comfortable and enjoyed the nature.

I was deprived of this achievement, satisfaction and enjoyment. I was deprived of happiness which I could earn by living for it. I lost my spiritual support to live the rest of my life. What was my life?

 

2 I am living this way now, but there were evacuees abandoned themselves to grief and then, they comitted suicide.

I heard about a married couple who lost their jobs due to the nuclear accident and heaved sighs repeatedly in Aizuwakamatsu. They strangled their disabled son and they hanged themselves along at the railroad of the Tadami Line.

There was a man,102 years old, who said “Do I have to move from here? I want to live here. I have lived too long.” The man had a rope around his neck and hanged himself.

A cattle farmer who was a 54-year-old man committed suicide, left a message on the wall of the cattle shed in Souma “if there was no nuclear power plant.”

The nuclear accident took a job from a person who was a hundred kilometers away and took an old man’s home, who has lived a hundred-year life and forced a man to kill himself, who had no idea how to pay back his debt because he could not earn money due to a ban on the shipment of milk.

 

There are many other people who committed suicide.

Our defense counsel won two epochal decisions by suing for the people who killed themselves at the Fukushima District Court.

The appeal of the man whose wife burnt herself to death was admitted. After the ruling, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) officials came to his house to apologize but they lost words because the husband rejected point-blank and said “But my wife will never return,” on the scene.

 The wife lost her husband by suicide. Her appeal was admitted and officials of TEPCO went to her home to apologize. But she said “I don’t accept,” and the officials were amazed and silent.

One of the plaintiff’s statements stated that he barely stopped his suicide. I listened to all of the statements by the plaintiffs. While listening to each statement, I always presumed regrets of those who committed suicide.

 

3  The nuclear accident deprived all of regions and societies we lived, people’s lives and existences. We cannot ever fully recover from this problem again. We lost the places where we were born. The judges witnessed this themselves.

“If only there was no nuclear power plant,” “If only the nuclear accident did not happen.” Those words cannot pierce the heart of the officials of TEPCO. That is the true nature of TEPCO that has not changed after the accident. If they were human, these words would reach them.

Did our statements touch TEPCO? Or their hearts? I will continue to appeal until our victims’ lodgment reach the hearts of TEPCO officials. That is our regretful thought.

 

4  Through the trial, it became clear that the bottom cause of the accident was a top priority of profit seeking.

However, TEPCO does not admit their responsibility of the accident and, regarding our compensation, they said: “Go to law.” Can we forgive this injustice?

Originally, why did TEPCO build a nuclear plant in Fukushima? Can they explain? They cannot.

We are not only ones who are victims and evacuees by the nuclear accident and our regions are not the only victimized regions. Victims are struggling at the various regions and the evacuation areas. Among them, our plaintiffs are only forced evacuees and what rules the trial is the local Iwaki branch which is nearest court from the nuclear power plant which caused the accident. Those who will rule are the judges who live in Iwaki and have chances to meet the evacuees. We were facing the trial with feeling the significance of that. Our lawyers were aware of this profoundly.

 

5  “Due to the geographical and social conditions, a location of a nuclear power plant must be the place which does not have a big city in its neighboring region and the place which is sparsely populated.” (The Development Vision of the Futatba Atomic Energy District) “We confirmed that both towns of Okuma and Futaba were the best place to build the nuclear power plant. In the background that the confirmation went along well, there were facts such as that EPCO manipulated carefully after asking to build the nuclear power plant. (Coexistence and Co-evolution-With the Region-The Course of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant 45 years, A History of the first thirty years of Tokyo Electric Power Company)

These are the reason and the circumstance but “why must the location of the nuclear power plant be the place which is sparsely populated?” “why do they manipulate carefully?”

These questions suggest that TEPCO expects a danger and severe accident. If they explained the danger and severe accident to residents, there would be no sacrifices and victims who said if only there was no nuclear power plant.

 

6  TEPCO had various big and small accidents one after the other immediately after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant started business operation and they hid the accident which might become a huge accident. Whenever the accident happened, they were designated their slow report and, furthermore, they falsified and fabricated the data and so on. That situation became normal and worsen. It was no wonder that a huge accident could happen at anytime without the earthquake and tsunami. That situation lasted 40 years. That was the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

On the other hand, TEPCO circulated an enormous quantity of various handouts and brochures, providing “safety myth” as the measure to local residents. Among those, there was a brochure, titled Calm and Lively Way. Support for Futaba Vigor Life! Futaba with ties: In order to tie strongly between the power plant and residents of Futaba County forever.

They ignored the safety measure we asked whenever strange things happened to the nuclear power plant. In the same breath, they distributed the handouts like that.

 

7  In 1972, the Association of Naraha Town Residents was formed with the resolution: “We protect beautiful natural mountains and rivers and peaceful lives of townspeople and lives of us and our posterity.” In 1973, the same associations were formed in Tomioka and Okuma. On September in the same year the prefecture association was formed with the agreement: “We are against nuclear and thermal power plants because we cannot obtain the confirmation of safety and those plants are not true regional development and those are against people’s will.” So we, both town and prefecture people were appealing its risk.

One year after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the organizations of anti-nuclear residents all over Japan took a leading part and they formed “The Nuclear Power Plant Problem Residential Movement National Contact Center.” Since then, in order to establish measures for safety and emergency, we proposed and negotiated with the government and each electric power company every year.

We continued to warn them with publishing a pamphlet titled “Next Huge Accident Will Be in Japan” in 1992.

 

8  On February, 2005, TEPCO admitted the nuclear power plants in Fukushima could not be withstood by a tsunami in the Chilean Tsunami class becuase we had accused them. But they neglected one and all of our frequented drastic measure claims. Then, the huge accident happened. The Fukushima nuclear accident was an accident that was waiting to happen. Can we deny it?

 

9  According to “The Result of the Root Cause Analysis” in Summary of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Accident and Nuclear Safety Reform Plan, published after the accident, on March 3, 2013, by TEPCO, TEPCO says “the fact of admitting a need of tsunami protection measures leads that the power plant at that time is not safe. As a result, we were convinced that we would be required nimious measures by Nuclear Regulatory Commission and local residents.”

These things like this are TEPCO’s 40 years history. In consequence, what a huge damage we got! This is our one word “if only there was no nuclear accident.”

 

10  On August 5th, 2015, Naomi Hirose, CEO of TEPCO was asked the question “Do you acknowledge that the accident was a man-made disaster as a perpetrator?” He answered firmly  “Honestly, I have never thought seriously whether the accident was a man-made disaster or natural disaster until now.” On December 8th, 2016, Yoshiyuki Ishizaki, the president of TEPCO Fukushima Revital Headquarter, said to one victim “the nuclear power plant is  a necessary evil.” They made incautious remarks that they have not understood the calamity of victims and the stricken area at all four and five years after the accident.

 

11  We dare to bring a case before the Iwaki branch which is the closest local court from the location of the stricken area and the nuclear power plant. It is because we assure only this local court can understand suffering of victims and also they can hand down the decision which will take the part of the victims.

If this local court will hand down a decision which overlooks our actual conditions of damage and the situations of the hometown, we, victims, will not be relieved. All the more, please, the court, according to the facts and truth, hand down a decision for which we are able to hold a hope to live. We and many victims are suffering the damage that “it is impossible to verbalize.”

The Mainichi’s article is below.
Another court orders TEPCO to pay damages to Fukushima evacuees

Source: http://www.absurdity.asia/2018/03/22/a-representative-of-plaintiffs-tokuo-hayakawas-statement-in-the-court/

March 23, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Americans seek $1 bil. in damages over Fukushima nuclear disaster

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A U.S. Marine assists Japanese Self-Defense Force members in removing debris from the grounds of Minato Elementary School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, in this file photo taken on April 1, 2011.
 
TOKYO (Kyodo) — Some 200 U.S. residents filed a suit against Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and a U.S. firm seeking at least $1 billion to cover medical expenses related to radiation exposure suffered during the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the utility said Monday.
 
The lawsuit was filed last Wednesday with U.S. federal courts in the Southern District of California and the District of Columbia by participants in the U.S. forces’ Operation Tomodachi relief effort carried out in the wake of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that crippled TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
 
Many of the plaintiffs are suing TEPCO and the U.S. company, whose name was withheld by TEPCO, for the second time after a similar suit was rejected by the federal court in California in January.
 
They are seeking the establishment of a compensation fund of at least $1 billion to cover medical and other costs, the utility said.
 
The plaintiffs claim that the nuclear accident occurred due to improper design and management of the plant by TEPCO. They are also seeking compensation for physical and psychological damage suffered as a result of the disaster, said the utility.
In Operation Tomodachi, which began two days after the natural disasters, the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan and other U.S. military resources and personnel were deployed to deliver supplies and undertake relief efforts at the same time as three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi complex suffered fuel meltdowns.
 

March 21, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

Tepco and other utilities eye joint nuclear plant project in Aomori Prefecture

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Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. and other major utilities will start talks this spring on jointly building and operating a nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan, sources close to the matter said Friday.
The plan involves Tepco’s Higashidori nuclear power plant in Aomori Prefecture, the construction of which was suspended following meltdowns at the firm’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant in March 2011. Tohoku Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric Power Co., and Japan Atomic Power Co. are expected to participate in the project, according to the sources.
Kansai Electric Power Co. is also considering joining a group to discuss the role of each utility and how to shoulder the huge costs related to the Higashidori plant, they said.
The government, which holds the majority of Tepco’s voting rights through a state-backed bailout fund, is expected to support the move.
Tepco, which began constructing the Higashidori plant in January 2011, hopes to compile a joint venture plan around fiscal 2020.
Struggling under the burden of huge compensation payments and plant decommissioning costs from the Fukushima nuclear crisis, Tepco is aiming to rebuild itself through realigning its nuclear business. The utility has been asking other power companies since late last year to join in with construction of the Higashidori plant.
Other utilities may benefit from the joint business as they can share know-how and resources through the initiative at a time when profitability is deteriorating, due to suspensions of nuclear power plants for tighter safety screening introduced after the Fukushima disaster.
Still, many utilities remain wary that teaming up with the crisis-hit Tepco could result in their share of plant decommissioning costs increasing in the future.

March 17, 2018 Posted by | Japan | , | Leave a comment

Third Court, Kyoto District Court, Rules Tepco and Government Liable to Pay Damages to Evacuees

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TEPCO, state told to pay 3/11 evacuees who left on their own
March 15, 2018
The legal team for evacuees of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster hold signs stating partial victory at the Kyoto District Court on March 15.
KYOTO–The district court here ordered the government and the operator of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 15 to pay a combined 110 million yen ($1 million) to 110 evacuees who fled voluntarily after the 2011 nuclear disaster.
Presiding Judge Nobuyoshi Asami at the Kyoto District Court ruled that the government and plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. were liable on grounds that they failed to take adequate measures to protect the plant from the tsunami that inundated the facility after the Great East Japan Earthquake.
The court noted the government’s “long-term assessment” for possible earthquakes unleashing tsunami compiled in 2002. The report pointed to the possibility of a powerful earthquake and tsunami striking the plant.
All of the 174 plaintiffs from 57 families had evacuated to Kyoto Prefecture without an evacuation order except for one individual from Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture.
Tomioka was within the 20-kilometer radius from the plant ordered to evacuate after the crisis unfolded on March 11, 2011, triggered by the magnitude-9.0 quake and tsunami.
Apart from Fukushima, the plaintiffs were from Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures.
The plaintiffs plan to appeal the court decision, as 64 were not awarded compensation.
The plaintiffs sought 846.6 million yen collectively in damages from the government and the utility.
The district court ruling marked the fifth in a series of similar lawsuits brought across the nation.
In all five cases, the respective courts acknowledged TEPCO’s responsibility to pay damages to the plaintiffs.
The Kyoto District Court’s decision was the third to acknowledge the government’s responsibility.
The key issues in the Kyoto case were if the towering tsunami that swamped the plant was foreseen, if the government had authority to force TEPCO to take countermeasures against such an event, and if the amount of compensation paid by TEPCO to voluntary evacuees based on the government’s guidelines was appropriate.
Most of the plaintiffs sought 5.5 million yen each in damages.
In the ruling, the district court determined that TEPCO should pay additional compensation on top of the amount set in the government guidelines to 109 plaintiffs who fled voluntarily despite not being subject to evacuation orders.
The criteria for extra payment are distance from the plant, radiation levels around homes, and family members who require medical attention due to the exposure to radiation.
Among the plaintiffs who were awarded additional compensation were those from Chiba Prefecture, just east of Tokyo and roughly 240 km from Fukushima Prefecture.
The court stated that the extra payment should be based on damage they suffered over two years after they began evacuating.
In the lawsuits filed at three other districts, some of the plaintiffs who evacuated voluntarily were awarded additional compensation, ranging from 10,000 yen to 730,000 yen per person.
 
Third court rules Tepco, govt liable over Fukushima disaster-media
TOKYO, March 15 (Reuters) –
* Kyoto district court on Thursday ruled that Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) and the Japanese government were liable for damages arising from the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, the Asahi newspaper said
* The ruling is the third court decision assigning liability to both Tepco and the government for the disaster that led to the evacuation of around 160,000 people
* A group of 174 claimants sought 850 million yen ($8 million)in damages arising from the disaster
* The court in western Japan did not accept that all plaintiffs should be awarded damages ($1 = 105.9900 yen) (Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick Editing by Shri Navaratnam)
 
Court orders Japan government to pay new Fukushima damages
TOKYO (AFP)-A Japanese court on Thursday ordered the government to pay one million dollars in new damages over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, ruling it should have predicted and avoided the meltdown.
The Kyoto district court ordered the government and power plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) to pay 110 million yen in damages to 110 local residents who had to leave the Fukushima region, a court official and local media said.
Thursday’s verdict was the third time the government has been ruled liable for the meltdown in eastern Japan, the world’s most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986.
In October, a court in Fukushima city ruled that both the government and TEPCO were responsible, following a similar ruling in March in the eastern city of Maebashi.
However, another court, in Chiba near Tokyo, ruled in September that only the operator was liable.
On Thursday, presiding judge Nobuyoshi Asami ordered that 110 plaintiffs who saw their lives ruined and their property destroyed by the disaster be awarded compensation, Jiji Press and other media reported.
Contacted by AFP, a court spokesman confirmed the reports, adding that the ruling denied damages to several dozen additional plaintiffs.
“That damages for 64 people were not recognised was unexpected and regrettable,” a lawyer for the plaintiffs said, adding that they would appeal, according to public broadcaster NHK.
Around 12,000 people who fled after the disaster due to radiation fears have filed various lawsuits against the government and TEPCO.
Cases have revolved around whether the government and TEPCO, both of whom are responsible for disaster prevention measures, could have foreseen the scale of the tsunami and subsequent meltdown.
Dozens of class-action lawsuits have been filed seeking compensation from the government.
In June, former TEPCO executives went on trial in the only criminal case in connection with the disaster.
The hearing is continuing.
Triggered by a 9.1-magnitude earthquake, the tsunami overwhelmed reactor cooling systems, sending three into meltdown and sending radiation over a large area.

March 16, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nuclear Power Facing a Tsunami of Litigation

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March 12, 2018
Legal fallout from the March 2011 accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station continues, as dozens of lawsuits and injunctions make their way through Japan’s judicial system. The final rulings could have a profound impact on the government’s energy policy and approach to risk mitigation.
Court cases stemming from the meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi can be divided broadly into two categories. In the first are efforts to assign responsibility for the accident, including one high-profile criminal case and numerous civil suits by victims seeking damages from the government and owner-operator Tokyo Electric Power Company. The second group consists of lawsuits and injunctions aimed at blocking or shutting down operations at plants other than Fukushima Daiichi (whose reactors have been decommissioned) on the grounds that they pose a grave safety threat. In the following, we briefly survey these cases and their implications.
A Foreseeable Danger?
According to lawyer Managi Izutarō, who is handling the largest class-action suit against TEPCO and the government, about 30 such cases are currently moving through courts around the nation. Most of the plaintiffs are Fukushima evacuees who filed suit in the districts to which they fled after the accident.
Meanwhile, TEPCO’s former chairman and two former vice-presidents are facing charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury in a criminal case currently before the Tokyo District Court. Tokyo prosecutors initially declined to bring charges, but in an unusual reversal, they were overruled by a prosecutorial review panel composed of ordinary citizens.
In all of these cases, the pivotal issues facing the court are (1) whether TEPCO and the state could have foreseen the danger posed to the Fukushima plant by a tsunami on the order of that triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and (2) whether they could realistically have prevented a serious accident through risk-mitigation measures. The “state” in this case is the defunct Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), the regulatory body formerly in charge of the inspection and licensing of nuclear power facilities.
Construction of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station began in 1967, when the government’s ambitious nuclear energy development program was shifting into high gear. Seismology and tsunami simulation have advanced considerably since those days, but at the time, the maximum height of any potential tsunami relevant to the Fukushima Daiichi site was estimated at a little more than 3 meters. When the facility was built, in other words, there was no way for TEPCO or the government to foresee that waves 10–15 meters in height could one day inundate the plant.
However, as scientists continued to collect and analyze data on earthquake and tsunami activity around Japan, their thinking evolved. In July 2002, a government panel of seismologists issued a report estimating a 20% chance that a magnitude-8 earthquake would trigger a dangerous tsunami off the coast of northeastern Japan within the next three decades. That August, NISA asked TEPCO to conduct a tsunami simulation for Fukushima Daiichi and other plants on the basis of that report, but TEPCO refused, and NISA did not press the matter.
When TEPCO finally did conduct such a simulation in 2008, it concluded that a major earthquake could trigger a tsunami as high as 15.7 meters, tall enough to flood the Fukushima Daiichi plant. However, the utility took no action to mitigate the risk (as by building up the facility’s seawalls or taking other measures to protect backup generators), and it failed to report the findings to NISA until early 2011, just weeks before the disaster.
Complacency and Opacity
In the wake of the Fukushima accident, NISA (since replaced by the Nuclear Regulation Authority) was faulted for its lack of independence. The agency was under the authority of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, which promotes the use of nuclear power, and officials maintain that its regulatory powers were limited. In addition, a closed, inbred environment encouraged unhealthy ties between NISA and the electric power industry. As a consequence, NISA had fallen into the habit of accommodating and supporting the utilities instead of overseeing them. TEPCO, for its part, had developed a deeply rooted culture of denial, habitually concealing information that might supply ammunition to anti-nuclear activists or fuel fears among the local citizenry. The company brushed off the warnings, convincing itself that the danger from a giant tsunami was purely hypothetical.
So far, district courts have reached decisions on three major class-action suits, and in each case they have agreed with the plaintiffs that the state and TEPCO could have foreseen the danger from a major tsunami once the 2002 report on earthquake risks was released. Two of the district courts, Maebashi and Fukushima, found both the state and TEPCO negligent for failing to prevent the meltdowns. The Chiba District Court, on the other hand, dismissed claims against the state on the grounds that the government was focusing on earthquake safety at the time and may not have been able to formulate effective measures in time to protect Fukushima Daiichi against the March 2011 tsunami. With the government and TEPCO girding up to appeal the lower courts’ decisions, the cases could drag on for years.
The final verdicts could have important ramifications in a country prone to natural disasters. Despite the scientific advances of the last few decades, our ability to predict major earthquakes, tsunami, and volcanic eruptions remains extremely limited. How can we ensure that the design and operation of existing nuclear power plants reflect the latest scientific assessments of long-term risks? Are the government and industry responsible for guarding against catastrophic events, however low their probability?
A Tsunami of Lawsuits
Attorney Managi Izutarō estimates that more than 10,000 plaintiffs are currently involved in class-action suits against TEPCO and the state. He represents 4,200 victims in the largest of these cases so far. Managi argues that allowing TEPCO to keep Fukushima Daiichi operating after learning of the risks from a tsunami was “like giving an airline permission to fly an unsafe jetliner.”
In its ruling on Managi’s case last October, the Fukushima District Court agreed that both TEPCO and the state were negligent and ordered damages paid to a majority of the plaintiffs. But the victims and their lawyers deemed the amount and scope of the damages inadequate and opted to appeal. TEPCO and the state have appealed the ruling as well.
The case now moves to the Sendai High Court. “Ultimately, we’re demanding that Fukushima Prefecture be restored to the way it was before the nuclear accident,” Managi explains. “At the same time, we’re fighting to end the use of nuclear power.”
Managi stresses the importance of mobilizing a large number of victims. “Unless you get together a big group of plaintiffs, their case won’t resonate with the judges,” says Managi. “The number of people involved in litigation and the intensity of public sentiment are key. I believe the real battle takes place outside the courtroom.”
In organizing victims into large class-action suits, Managi and others lawyers are following the same playbook that helped turn the tide against big industrial polluters in the 1960s and 1970s, when victims of Minamata disease (mercury poisoning) and itai-itai disease (cadmium poisoning) succesfully banded together to seak legal redress. Whether the current movement will have a comparable impact remains to be seen.
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Lawyer Managi Izutarō is representing 4,200 former Fukushima residents in a class-action suit against the state and Tokyo Electric Power Co.
 
Fighting Nuclear Power, One Plant at a Time
On a different but related front, citizens’ groups and other plaintiffs are vigorously pursuing lawsuits and injunctions aimed directly at shutting down nuclear power plants around the country.
Efforts to block nuclear energy development through legal action date all the way back to the 1970s. Prominent among these early cases was a citizens’ suit challenging the legality of the license granted to Shikoku Electric Power Co. to build and operate the Ikata Nuclear Power Station in Ehime Prefecture. In that case, lawyers called into question the fundamental safety of the facility, given its location near the Median Tectonic Line fault zone. The case made its way up to the Supreme Court, which finally ruled against the plaintiffs in 1992.
Safety concerns are at the core of the 30-odd “anti-nuclear” suits and injunctions currently before the nation’s courts (as of January 2018). Most cite the potential danger from major earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or tsunami, while others are calling for suspension of operations on the grounds of inadequate evacuation planning. While a few of these cases date back to the pre-Fukushima era, the majority were filed in the wake of the accident.
In December last year, the Hiroshima High Court issued an injunction suspending operations of the number 3 reactor at the aforementioned Ikata Nuclear Power Station. In its decision, the court cited the danger posed to the Shikoku facility from a massive eruption of Mount Aso, all the way across the sea in Kyūshū. Although an eruption on this scale has not occurred in recorded history, the court opined that the risk was sufficient to make the site unsuitable for a nuclear power plant. The decision did not go down well with the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which had cleared the plant for resumption of operations under new, post-Fukushima safety standards.
At present, almost all of Japan’s operable nuclear power plants are in the midst of some kind of litigation. In one case, the plaintiff is a local government: The city of Hakodate in Hokkaidō has filed a lawsuit to block the construction and operation of the Ōma Nuclear Power Station across the Tsugaru Strait in Aomori Prefecture.
Status of Japan’s Operable Nuclear Reactors
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Note: All six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station were decommissioned between 2011 and 2014.
Lawyers on a Mission
Lawyers Kawai Hiroyuki and Kaido Yūichi have been key figures in the fight against nuclear power since before the Fukushima accident. In the wake of the disaster, they founded the National Network of Counsels in Cases against Nuclear Power Plants, a group that has been pursuing legal action against nuclear facilities on behalf of citizens and other plaintiffs nationwide.
 
Kawai and Kaido are also representing the shareholders of TEPCO, who are suing the company’s former executives for an unprecedented ¥5.5 trillion. In addition, as lawyers for the Complainants for the Criminal Prosecution of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, the two attorneys are working alongside the prosecuting team in the criminal case against three TEPCO executives, which parallels the civil suit in terms of arguments, evidence, and testimony.
 
Even so, the trial—which officially opened last June and is expected to continue at least through the coming summer—is expected to attract intense media coverage as witness examinations begin this spring. More than 20 witnesses are scheduled to testify. The case also involves a massive volume of documentary evidence, including records of interviews conducted by the government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Station, along with countless pages of emails, internal memos, meeting minutes, and reports. Will all this information shed new light on the human factors behind the Fukushima accident? The nation will be watching closely.

March 15, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , , | Leave a comment