After Fukushima: nuclear dirty tricks
After nearly half a century of producing nuclear power, Japan has finally separated regulation from promotion
The Guardian, Tuesday 16 August 2011
The Japanese cabinet decided this week to transfer the country’s nuclear safety agency from the trade ministry, where it nestled in a department also dedicated to the expansion of nuclear power, to the environment ministry, where, at least in theory, there is some chance that its operations will not be subverted or manipulated by Japanese energy firms. After nearly half a century of producing nuclear power, Japan has finally separated regulation from promotion, but the move may well have come too late to restore public trust.
In a country where people have to use their own detectors to check on local radiation levels which the government failed to release, where information about threats to life and health after Fukushima dribbled out so haphazardly, and where a nuclear industry apparently unabashed by that disaster has been resorting to dirty tricks to influence public debate, mere bureaucratic rearrangement will hardly suffice. The latest blow to confidence came when it was reported last month that workers at the Kyushu Electric Power Company had been asked to pose as ordinary citizens with no connection to the industry and send emails calling for the resumption of operations at two nuclear reactors in southern Japan to a televised public hearing. Investigations showed this was standard behaviour long before Fukushima, with other power companies admitting that they had sent employees to make up as many as half of the participants in similar forums as far back as 2005.
As if this were not bad enough, two of the utilities said they were urged to do so by the nuclear agency itself. It was this revelation which appears to have led to the decision to fire three top officials, including the head of the agency, and then to reorganise and move it.
Japan’s polarised industrial culture, which veers between the heedless pursuit of short- term interest, on the one hand, and confessions, tears, and apparently heartfelt apologies when things go wrong, on the other, makes it an extreme case. But the same factors are at work in every country that has a nuclear industry. The impulse to minimise the inherent risks of the most dangerous technology man has ever tried to master, the tendency to conceal or downplay accidents, the assertion that each succeeding generation of plants is foolproof and super safe, and the presumption, so often proved wrong by events, that every contingency has been provided for, all these have been evident again and again. Angela Merkel, one of the few leading politicians who is also a scientist, saw the writing on the wall. Her decision to phase out nuclear power has revived a global debate which has been dormant for far too long.
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Probe finds TEPCO failed to predict hydrogen explosion at Fukushima nuclear plant
The damaged No. 1 reactor building, center left, at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant is pictured on March 12. (Mainichi)
The operator of the tsunami-hit Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant failed to predict the hydrogen explosion that occurred on March 12 following the disaster, sources involved in the investigation into the crisis said.
“Nobody was able to predict the explosion,” an employee at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) was quoted as telling members of the government’s fact-finding panel on the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
“We made a serious mistake as we failed to grasp important information on the power station,” plant manager Masao Yoshida was quoted as telling the panel.
The investigation has also revealed that TEPCO did not prepare an instruction manual on procedures for venting to protect reactors’ containment vessels when external power sources are lost.
As part of its investigation into the crisis, the fact-finding panel has questioned Yoshida and other TEPCO employees as well as officials with government regulators. It will closely examine the answers as well as data on the accident in order to get to the bottom of the crisis.
The hydrogen explosion occurred at the plant’s No. 1 reactor at 3:36 p.m. on March 12, the day after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami hit the plant. The blast blew off the upper part of the building housing the reactor.
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So….. just where are we “at” in terms of bringing this whole little episode of three melt-throughs to a conclusion? M heard today on the news that TEPCO has announced that their first plan for cooling reactor 1 has succeeded. Um, in a word… HUH? cooling a reactor that has melted through it’s containment and is lying in a blob on the structural concrete? So, i guess they mean it’s no longer blobbing, they have scooped it up and placed it lovingly in a protective containment of some sort and it is happily chilling there indefinitely? Are they crazy?
Well, other sources say this scenario is far from the truth. Here are several voices to that effect: (From EX-SKF)
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 17, 2011
Fukushima I Nuke Plant Worker: No Steam Gushing From Cracks, But There Are Many 10-Plus Sieverts/Hr Locations
The anonymous Fukushima I Nuke Plant worker whom I featured before several times tweets on the information, yet to be substantiated, related by an independent journalist Kota Kinoshita on his blog on August 15. Mr. Kinoshita related the information only because he had heard the similar information from his government source.
What is that information? That there is steam gushing out of cracks on the ground, and that there are 6 locations that exceed 10 sieverts/hr radiation.
1. About “steam gushing out from cracks on the ground”:
In Mr. Kinoshita’s blog:
8月上旬の話です。夜の九時 ごろにおきたこと。福島第一原発の作業員よりつぎの趣旨でメールで情報が地元関係者に届いたという事です。その内容は、「敷地内にある地割れから水蒸気 が噴出。周りが真っ白になり、作業員が一時退避した。地下で反応しているようだ。風向きでそちらの線量に注意して」。
It was early August, around 9PM. A worker at Fukushima I Nuke Plant sent an email to his local contact, saying “Steam gushing out of cracks on the ground. The area is foggy with steam, and the workers evacuated temporarily. Some kind of reaction may be occurring underground. Watch out for radiation level depending on the wind direction”.
From the information source within the government, “I’ve heard about the steam coming out from the ground, and I am concerned”.
Fukushima worker’s tweet:
As I have said before, I have never seen, or heard about, such steam.
It’s possible that he doesn’t know but someone else may know.
2. About locations that exceed 10 sieverts/hr:
In Mr. Kinoshita’s blog:
[The same worker] also told [his contact] that there are 6 locations that exceed 10,000 millisievert/hr [10 sieverts/hr], unlike what TEPCO has announced.
Fukushima worker’s tweet:
I think that is true. But those are the locations that have been measured. I think there are many more.
Mr. Kinoshita’s blog has this bit of “rumor” from his worker at the plant:
There are several cracks on the ground near the Containment Vessel, and the steam is coming out from them, not on a regular basis but sporadically.
Wait, does that mean the floor of the reactor building is cracked? He doesn’t say which reactor.
And Fukushima worker has another tweet that says:
In the reactor buildings of Reactors 1, 2 and 3, there are many spots that measure even higher [than 10 sieverts/hr] and we can’t go near them.
So much for the plant being stable. But so far, the information is unsubstantiated (i.e. not admitted, or denied, by officials at TEPCO or the government).
Speaking of the government, it will allow the residents in Okuma-machi and Futaba-machi, where the plant is located, to temporarily return to their homes later this month now that the plant is stable.
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