Day 295 Ushering in a new year… a 7.0 quake

Uhohjapan2 is traveling today. Will upload a few of the news items I can find and will resume tomorrow evening. By the way, the train in which I was riding today at 14:28 stopped for a few minutes. The quake was out at sea, but it was down near the Tokai region where they are expecting a strong quake at any time.
Sunday, Jan. 1, 201

For how much longer will Japan’s fate remain in the hands of amateurs?

Special to The Japan Times

As we enter into a new year in which last year’s greatest event is still, dreadfully, uppermost in the mind of everyone in Japan, let’s pause to think hard about the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, the tsunami it triggered, and the release into the environment of radioactive substances from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Since then, Japanese society has turned its attention — in the government at all levels, the media, educational institutions, artistic fields — to a single question: How can the Japanese people rediscover the sense of accomplishment and hope that sustained them for decades following the end of World War II in 1945?

The fact is, however, that this question cannot be seriously addressed before another is answered: Can Japan, a country so prone to seismic disaster, move ahead in the 21st century while still maintaining nuclear facilities that may cause even worse radiation-related disasters in the future?

What is the risk of another Fukushima-type catastrophe, perhaps on an even more frightening scale, taking place — and is that risk worth taking?

I turned to an expert on risk, Woody Epstein, whose title is Manager of Risk Consulting at Scandpower Inc., a worldwide company headquartered in Oslo, and with offices in Yokohama.

“There are statutory limits regulating core-damage frequency (CDF) at nuclear power plants all over the world,” explains Epstein, who describes himself as neither pro- nor anti-nuclear. “The CDF limit for a single nuclear power plant is once every 10,000 years. If your CDF is greater than that, you are in violation. My main concern is the release of radioactive material into the environment.

“The Swiss, with their four plants, have the best attitude on safety in the world. They don’t need an accident or a government regulator. They said to me, ‘We think about the safety of our friends and families … we do this because we live here.’ “

So, why aren’t regulators and power plant operators in Japan equally scrupulous and mindful of their “friends and families” — let alone the general public’s welfare both here and far beyond?

With Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco, operator of the crippled Fukushima plant) in the lead, the sway that Japan’s 10 regional electric utilities wield over the politicians, bureaucrats, financiers, academics and captains of the media who together comprise Japan’s so-called nuclear village is, in a word, monumental.

If we are to believe what we are told by people in the mainstream media, steps are being taken to ensure there will be “no more Fukushimas.” But any such safety assurances were all but worthless in the past.

If there was an Ignoble Prize for Prevarication and Coverup, last year’s would go to Tepco for its repeated, official use of the word sōteigai (meaning, “beyond the realm of predictability”) in mitigation of its response to the tsunami that led to the meltdown of three reactors at its Fukushima plant.

Of course Tepco has never yet made any reference to the fact that it failed to follow the Swiss lead by providing completely bunkered, waterproof doors and backup diesel generators and pumps enabling it to keep its reactors cooled to a safe temperature and stabilize the plant even after it was damaged by flooding. And there has similarly been scant mention of the fact that Tepco failed to have in place the means to vent hydrogen safely.

Says Epstein: “The ‘nuclear village’ in Japan just doesn’t know how to be serious about risk and safety.”

He defines “risk” in this way: What things can go wrong; how likely are they to do so; and what are the consequences if they do?

“The in-house study conducted by Tepco in 2006 indicated that a tsunami of 10.2 meters could occur,” continues Epstein, “but they ignored it as something without specific evidence. Yet of course there was evidence, including simulation studies that Tepco performed. Engineers and scientists who make statements such as this have no business running a nuclear power plant.”

This brings us to the crux of the matter: Until such time as the government of this nation can assure its citizens that the people running the nuclear power industry are independent experts who understand the nature of risk and hazard, our fate will remain in the hands of dangerous amateurs who put the aggrandizement of their companies and the gravity of their greed above the welfare of humanity.

So, have Tepco and the other electric power utilities learned a lesson here?

Kansai Electric Power Co. (Kepco) has produced a proposal to erect “tsunami-proof” walls 11.5 meters high at an estimated cost of ¥200 billion to protect nuclear power facilities on the coast of the Sea of Japan in Fukui Prefecture. But Epstein doubts the efficacy of these walls.

“Tsunami walls give a completely false sense of security. Will they hold? Is 12 meters enough? Twenty meters? You just don’t know how high the wave will be.”

In November, some 450 experts from 39 countries met in Paris under the auspices of the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety “to draw technical lessons from the Fukushima accident.”

One paper presented there — by Harald Thielen, a German nuclear safety and waste-disposal expert, and colleagues — addressed the environmental consequences of the release of high concentrations of radioactive material. Its conclusion struck me as ominous: “The radiological situation for the people of Japan is serious but regionally limited, if no further releases occur.”

I was tempted here to put the last five words in italics. Even if the Fukushima plants produce no further such releases, we are already experiencing contamination of rice, a range of leafy vegetables, milk, beef, tea, shiitake mushrooms and even containers of natto (fermented soybeans) packed in rice-straw bearing traces of radioactive cesium. And early this month it was announced that that potentially lethal substance had been detected in powered milk for babies.

How do you quantify fear? How do you assure people that the food they eat, the water they drink, the air they breathe, the soil they walk on and their children play on are safe anywhere in Japan — when no one can assure the people of this country that nuclear power generation is safe or ever will be?

A seismic event such as the one on March 11, 2011, that led to a plant blackout and the loss of cooling in three reactors could take place under or near any nuclear power plant in Japan at any time.

As of the end of October last year, only 10 reactors out of a total of 54 were operating in this country. Since then, three have gone offline for scheduled inspections, and one more is due to do so in February. With a mere seven reactors working now, there has been no vocal call for restrictions on the use of electricity this winter.

So, are we really to believe that Japan’s electricity needs cannot be met without nuclear power?

Steps should be taken to shut down the remaining operating reactors at a reasonable pace and begin decommissioning every single nuclear power plant in this country. Urgent steps should also be taken to secure additional supplies of natural gas, and to develop and utilize all practicable forms of alternative energy.

In addition, and along with these measures, moves must be made to judiciously deregulate the generation, transmission and distribution of energy so that, beside the big 10 utilities, smaller companies and individuals can begin to provide energy for the nation.

I return to Epstein’s three questions that define “risk”: What things can go wrong; how likely are they to do so; and what are the consequences if they do?

As for the first, almost anything can go wrong in such a seismically active country as Japan. Regarding the second, the answer is clear: The likelihood is far too high to be acceptable. And regarding “what happens if?” … the consequences would border on the catastrophic for life and land in Japan, and quite possibly much further afield.

Tepco should be thanking its lucky stars. The nuclear disaster it has foisted on the country could have been a lot worse.

All the talk last year about rediscovering a sense of hope and accomplishment will amount to nothing but bluster and hot air unless — and until — Japan is made safe from the unacceptable risks and the known certain hazards of nuclear power.


Strong quake jolts eastern, northeastern Japan

TOKYO (Kyodo) — A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 jolted a wide area in eastern and northeastern Japan on Sunday, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, issuing no tsunami warning.

The 2:28 p.m. quake measured an intensity of 4 on the Japanese scale of 7 in many locations in downtown Tokyo, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa prefectures, the agency said.

There was no immediate information about abnormalities at nuclear reactors including those of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

The focus of the quake was near Torishima Island in the Pacific, south of Tokyo, at a depth of 370 kilometers, it said.

Earlier Sunday, an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 4.1 jolted Nagano and Niigata prefectures, central Japan.

The 12:29 a.m. quake measured an intensity of 4 on the Japanese scale of 7 in the village of Sakae in Nagano Prefecture, the agency said.

(Mainichi Japan) January 1, 2012


Temporary problem with reactor monitoring system

The Japanese government’s nationwide nuclear reactor monitoring system failed to provide data for at least 24 hours before being restored on Saturday afternoon.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says that on early Friday afternoon a rapid reaction point near Shika nuclear power plant in Ishikawa Prefecture reported that all data from the Emergency Response and Support System was not showing up on its screens.

The system monitors pressure, temperature, and other real-time conditions of reactors at nuclear power plants across the country, as well as radiation dosage in surrounding areas. The system also predicts future conditions of reactors based on such data.

The information can be accessed from terminals at the agency and rapid reaction points around the country.

The agency says its investigation discovered that a facility of the state-affiliated operator of the system was not transmitting any data for unknown reasons.

But the system recovered without any grave result at around 2:30 PM on Saturday. The agency says it is looking into the cause of the problem and how long the system was out of operation.

The agency says it regrets that important data became temporarily inaccessible. It also apologizes for a delay in the announcement.

Sunday, January 01, 2012 00:28 +0900 (JST)

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DIY cesium scanning store may be ‘new normal’

Staff writer
First of five parts

Kashiwa, about 30 km northeast of Tokyo, is known for its humble beginnings as a 1970s bedroom community for Tokyo workers.

News photo
Hot or not: Hiroko Aki, a resident of Nagareyama, Chiba Prefecture, places a food sample in a radiation detector Oct. 11 at Bec-Miru, a DIY irradiation scanning store in nearby Kashiwa. YOSHIAKI MIURA PHOTO

The tranquil residential city of 406,000 in Chiba Prefecture rarely enters the national spotlight, except when Kashiwa Reysol, the local soccer team, is playing at home.

But on a street just six minutes from JR Kashiwa Station, the Bec-Miru facility that Motohiro Takamatsu opened in October is turning heads by offering residents a chance to scan their own groceries, garden soil and other items for radiation.

“To have Kashiwa become contaminated with radiation, that was a big deal for me,” the software engineer and accidental entrepreneur said in a recent interview with The Japan Times.

Takamatsu imported several LB 200 gamma spectroscopy machines from Germany to equip his new shop, which allows anyone to check items for contamination from the Fukushima nuclear crisis for a fee of ¥980 per 20 minutes.

The high-tech radiation detectors cost ¥1 million each but can detect cesium levels as low as 20 becquerels, as long as customers provide 1 kg of the item.

The machines have proven popular. People brought in 3,000 items to Bec-Miru for scanning in the first two months, and reservations are now common.

The surreal sight of a do-it-yourself radiation testing facility standing next to a hardware store and an Internet cafe raises a question for Japan: Is this the new normal?

The March 11 earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear disaster set the unthinkable in motion in 2011. Teachers in Tohoku now carry Geiger counters to check radiation levels on school grounds, and cesium isotopes have shown up in baby formula, rice and tea.

Just by tainting the food chain, the disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant created a whole new generation of activists — whether or not they realized it at the time.

“Before March 11, I wasn’t involved in any grassroots movement or any sort of antinuclear activity,” said Takamatsu, who has two young children. “Now, I worry about the safety of food.”

Particle continues at:


Breaking News: Radioactive debris map

A citizen’s group made a radioactive debris map. (Link)

Hosono minister of environment stated he is negotiating with local governments without public announcement not to cause a “panic”.

Whether they announce it or not, they may secretly accept radioactive debris for money and ignorantly incinerate them.

None of the Japanese incineration facility has proper filter for radiation but rare gas radionuclide such as xenon can not be filtered whatever they use. The conclusion therefore is, “evacuate ” right now.

For now, this map would help people to an extent.

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#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Reactor Bldgs of Reactors 1, 3, 4 Blew Up Because Blowout Panels Were Welded Shut, Fuku-I Workers Say

This information is not confirmed, meaning it is not officially admitted by the national government’s agencies and commissions or by TEPCO.

The worker who’s been tweeting from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, after watching the late night/early morning TV program on New Year’s Day (that I mentioned in my post here) about the plant accident, tweets, as a matter of fact, that:

If the blowout panels in the reactor buildings at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant had opened as designed, there would have been no hydrogen explosion, as one expert on the TV program said.

But at Fukushima, they didn’t open except for the one on Reactor 2. Why?

Because all the other blowout panels in other reactor buildings had been welded shut by the order of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency after the earthquake in Niigata Prefecture in 2007, when the blowout panels of the reactor at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant opened.

What’s wrong with the blowout panels opening?

From a blogpost and the comment to the post in August, I learn that:

In the Niigata earthquake in 2007, the blowout panels for the Kashiwazaki reactor opened, and that was unacceptable to the government’s nuclear regulatory agency NISA. So NISA ordered TEPCO to alter the blowout panels so that they would not open. After the earthquake of 2007 (Chuetsu earthquake), all the blowout panels at nuclear power plants that TEPCO operated were welded shut.

After the March 11 accident, the workers at the plant tried to open the holes to serve as blowout panes that didn’t open any more, taking on great risks, but their effort was too late, and the reactors exploded.

The comment to the post was supposedly written by a TEPCO employee who remained at Fuku-I plant after the March 11 earthquake (one of “Fukushima 50”). He also said he feared for his safety and couldn’t speak up. The post was written on March 14, 2011, and the comment was written on August 4.

Article continues at:



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