Lundi 28 juillet 2014 1 28 /07 /Juil /2014 18:55

July 28, 2014

Govt. won't nationalize radioactive storage site 


The government says it will allow landowners to keep their property rights for the land where it will build temporary storage facilities for radioactive debris in Fukushima Prefecture. It had originally planned to buy the land for the facilities.

Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara and Reconstruction Minister Takumi Nemoto met Fukushima Prefecture Governor Yuhei Sato and the mayors of Futaba and Okuma in Tokyo on Monday. The two towns host the crippled nuclear power plant.

The government had planned to buy land from landowners in the towns to build the intermediate storage facilities for radioactive soil and waste from the nuclear power plant. But some landowners had refused to sell.

The ministers said the central government will offer those landowners the right to retain their land. The government says it will obtain the right to use the land for up to 30 years.

They also said the government will provide rough compensation figures for the land after local governments and residents accept the construction plans.

Ishihara said the government has offered as much as it can at this point. He said he hopes the local governments will accept the construction of the facilities as they are vital for decontamination and recovery work.

Governor Sato said the central government has accepted the landowners' opinions. But he said it still has not come up with concrete measures to revive communities and rebuild residents' lives.

Jul. 28, 2014 - Updated 12:59 UTC

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Lundi 28 juillet 2014 1 28 /07 /Juil /2014 18:50

 July 28, 2014

Former Kansai Electric Power executive reveals 18 years of secret payments to prime ministers 



A former top official at Kansai Electric Power Co. has come forward to reveal a nearly 20-year history of doling out "top secret" huge donations to Japanese prime ministers, funded on the backs of ratepayers.

Chimori Naito, 91, a former KEPCO vice president, said that for 18 years from 1972, seven prime ministers received 20 million yen (about $200,000 now) annually from Yoshishige Ashihara, who served as both KEPCO president and chairman.

At that time, political donations to individual lawmakers were not illegal. However, in 1974, electric power companies declared a ban on corporate donations to politicians because of strong public opposition to the use of electricity fees to pay for such contributions.

Naito said that "ban" was only a superficial stance taken by the electric power companies.

"There is no way those companies could (ban such donations)," he said. "Nothing would have happened if we angered politicians."

Naito had long taken pride in working closely with Ashihara in making the donations as part of efforts to promote nuclear energy and to further develop the electric power industry.

However, the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 and the inept handling of that disaster by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, politicians and bureaucrats led Naito to have a change of heart.

"As I began to think about my own death, I also recalled the course I had taken in life," Naito said.

"A reporter (from The Asahi Shimbun) came just at the time when I began feeling that I wanted to talk about matters I had never spoken about until now. I thought it would serve as a lesson for future generations."

According to Naito, the prime ministers who were given the money were Kakuei Tanaka, Takeo Miki, Takeo Fukuda, Masayoshi Ohira, Zenko Suzuki, Yasuhiro Nakasone and Noboru Takeshita. Only Nakasone is still alive.

Naito called aides to the prime ministers to arrange meetings twice a year during the traditional Bon period in summer and at the year-end season. Naito accompanied Ashihara to those meetings where the money was directly handed over.

Naito also revealed that other important politicians, including the chief Cabinet secretary and executives of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party as well as the major opposition parties, were given donations according to how much assistance they provided the electric power industry. In total, Kansai Electric doled out several hundreds of millions of yen a year in such donations.

Naito graduated from Kyoto University in 1947 and entered what would later become Kansai Electric. In 1962, he became an aide to Ashihara, who at that time was company president. Ashihara would serve as president until 1970 when he became chairman, a post he held until 1983, the same year Naito became a vice president at Kansai Electric. He left the company in 1987. Ashihara died in 2003 at 102.

Distributing political donations to influential politicians was imperative for Kansai Electric, which depended on nuclear power plants for about half of its total electricity supply before the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Naito agreed to be interviewed by The Asahi Shimbun, and he spoke with reporters for a total of 69 hours over 23 sessions from December 2013 until July 2014.

He said the government's handling of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was unforgivable.

"There was a problem in the relationship created over many years among those in the political, bureaucratic and electric power sectors," he said.

Naito said the money Ashihara distributed to prime ministers and other influential politicians was a "top secret" matter.

Naito said the two major reasons for making the donations was to contribute to the stability of the electric power industry and to promote national prosperity.

"The money was given for the betterment of the nation, and there was no specific objective," he said. "That was simply one way for electric power companies to act toward public authority that had control over approval of business matters. We hoped it would work like Chinese herbal medicine and take effect after prolonged use."

An official with Kansai Electric said the company was not aware of such donations.

Officials at Nakasone's office said aides from the time of the donations had long since died so there was no way of confirming their receipt. Nakasone also did not acknowledge receiving such donations even after repeated questions from The Asahi Shimbun.

Those who knew the other prime ministers named by Naito said they were unaware of such donations.

Takashi Mikuriya, a visiting political science professor at the University of Tokyo who has long conducted oral histories of politicians, praised Naito for coming forward to leave behind testimony as a history of the nation.

"Naito likely felt that the electric power industry had never done anything wrong, but the nuclear accident made him realize that was nothing but misplaced confidence," Mikuriya said. "The accident by TEPCO, which for Kansai Electric was the model to strive for and to overcome, likely led to a drastic change in his sense of values that had previously believed his behind-the-scenes work was for the good of the nation."

(This article was written by Kamome Fujimori and Osamu Murayama.)


Par fukushima-is-still-news - Publié dans : Vested interests, transparency, corruption - Communauté : Fukushima blogs
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Lundi 28 juillet 2014 1 28 /07 /Juil /2014 18:49

 July 27, 2014

Kagoshima residents near Sendai nuclear plant given iodine tablets 



Local authorities in Kagoshima Prefecture on Sunday started handing out iodine tablets to residents living within 5 km of the Sendai nuclear power plant, which may be restarted in the fall.

It is the first time iodine tablets have been distributed under guidelines instituted by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which was set up in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster. Iodine tablets help people protect their thyroid glands from radiation.

The move by the Kagoshima prefectural and Satsumasendai municipal governments came after Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai plant cleared a key safety hurdle for restarting operations earlier this month.

About 2,700 of the roughly 4,700 residents over 3 who live within the 5-km radius were given a supply of tablets after hearing an official briefing, submitting medical interview sheets and receiving the green light from doctors, according to prefectural officials.

Briefings for the remaining residents will resume in September, they said.

A total of 39 residents declined to receive the tablets. Children under 3 will receive the equivalent at shelters in the event of a nuclear accident, the officials said.



Iodine distributed to residents near nuclear plant 


Government officials in communities near the off-line Sendai nuclear power plant in Kagoshima Prefecture have distributed iodine tablets to residents. Preparations are underway to restart the plant.

A disaster preparedness plan developed by Kagoshima Prefecture says about 4,700 people aged 3 or older living within 5 kilometers of the Sendai plant should take iodine tablets in the event of a nuclear accident. Iodine helps prevent the thyroid gland from absorbing radioactive substances.

The governments of Kagoshima Prefecture and Sendai City distributed iodine tablets to 2,661 people on Sunday.

Residents were given permission to take the medicine after consulting with a doctor as iodine can cause side effects.

Residents visiting a facility in Sendai City received background information about iodine from a pharmacist before being given the medicine.

A 64-year-old man said he feels reassured because the medicine is being distributed in advance. He said he won't need to take it unless there's an accident at the plant, so he hopes there won't be one.

This is the first time iodine is being distributed under new safety guidelines drawn up by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Prefectural and municipal authorities are planning to distribute iodine to other residents after holding a public meeting on the matter in September or later.

Jul. 27, 2014 - Updated 04:57 UTC

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Vendredi 25 juillet 2014 5 25 /07 /Juil /2014 23:32

NAS Fukushima report: Accidents will happen


Gregg Levine @GreggJLevine


More than three years after the start of the Fukushima crisis, nuclear regulators and industry still lag on implementing upgrades.

If there is one message to take from the National Academy of Sciences report, Lessons Learned From the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving the Safety of U.S. Nuclear Plants, released today, it is that accidents can happen, and it is essential for nuclear plant operators, regulators and public safety responders to all have plans for what to do when one does.

The congressionally mandated report, the result of over two years of work, looked at the responses at Japanese nuclear facilities after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of 2011, and found the outcomes indicate some obvious actions going forward.

Foremost in both the lengthy report and at the press conference with its authors: Emergency managers, regulators, and most pointedly, nuclear plant operators need to pay better attention to what are called “beyond design basis events” (BDBEs).

The nuclear industry will tell you that its reactors are designed with a degree of redundancy — that there are backup systems, should primary essential safety and monitoring equipment fail. But critics ask a follow up: What if the backup systems fail or are inadequate?

This scenario was very much in evidence at Fukushima Daiichi after the March 11, 2011 earthquake. The plant had backup generators to handle the loss of station power triggered by the quake, but those generators were knocked out by the tsunami. At that point, Fukushima’s crew was left with no obvious disaster mitigation protocol.

The same could be said for emergency responders, who presented with severely damaged infrastructure, had limited access to the plant, limited tools for monitoring external contamination, and no effective plan to evacuate residents both inside and beyond a previously determined quarantine zone.

These “X+1” scenarios have long been the focus of industry watchdogs, and though the NAS will couch their recommendations in terms of better evaluating risk, the strong emphasis in their report makes clear the risk of these BDBEs has not been adequately assessed.

The report’s authors seemed to stress that there exists more and better information on the type of risks to the stability and security of nuclear power plants than is currently considered by operators and regulators. “It is not to say that risks haven’t been considered,” said one of the report’s authors, it is just that the “opportunity exists to expand the breadth and depth of the analysis.”

The light water paradox

Take, again, what happened at Fukushima Daiichi.

The disaster has, at its root, something I’ve previously called “The Light Water Paradox.” As I explained in response to a prior Fukushima study:

Return for a moment to something discussed here last summer, The Light Water Paradox: “In order to safely generate a steady stream of electricity, a light water reactor needs a steady stream of electricity.” As previously noted, this is not some perpetual motion riddle–all but one of Japan’s commercial nuclear reactors and every operating reactor in the United States is of a design that requires water to be actively pumped though the reactor containment in order to keep the radioactive fuel cool enough to prevent a string of catastrophes, from hydrogen explosions and cladding fires, to core meltdowns and melt-throughs.

Most of the multiple calamities to befall Fukushima Daiichi have their roots in the paradox. As many have observed and the latest Japanese report reiterates, the Tohoku earthquake caused breaches in reactor containment and cooling structures, and damaged all of Fukushima’s electrical systems, save the diesel backup generators, which were in turn taken out by the tsunami that followed the quake. Meeting the demands of the paradox — circulating coolant in a contained system — was severely compromised after the quake, and was rendered completely impossible after the tsunami. Given Japan’s seismic history, and the need of any light water reactor for massive amounts of water, Fukushima wouldn’t really have been a surprise even if scientists hadn’t been telling plant operators and Japanese regulators about these very problems for the last two decades.

In the case of Japan, Fukushima operator TEPCO did not account for known seismic and tsunami risks, and, even if they had, they still did not have a plan of action for the total station blackout (known as an SBO) — that X+1 scenario or beyond design basis event.

In the months (and even years) after the beginning of the Fukushima crisis, advocates for American nuclear power commonly downplayed the implications of Japan’s experience, arguing it was a freak “one-two punch.” The NAS report appears to frown on that kind of blinkered assessment. As a case study for U.S. facilities — and the NAS study is meant to inform management of the U.S. nuclear fleet — analysis of the Fukushima disaster says that the earthquake and tsunami were far from unforeseeable, that there were experts that saw it, and that even if that specific chain of events was surprising, the consequences of it should still be considered and prepared for.

Evaluating risk in this more sophisticated (one might even say “honest”) fashion led the NAS panel to make several concrete recommendations — or, as the report tends to phrase things, the panel “recommends particular attention” be paid to “improving the availability, reliability, redundancy, and diversity of specific nuclear plant systems.” Among them, DC backup power for instrumentation and safety systems, tools for monitoring plant status during an SBO, methods for removing heat, depressurizing reactors and venting built up gases, improved heat, hydrogen and radiation monitoring, and better real-time communications.

All are sound conclusions, and ones that have been more or less echoed in previous studies of the crisis, but the gap between saying “attention must be paid” and seeing activity on the part of nuclear regulators and operators still appears wide.

‘100 percent failure’

Case in point: vents.

The GE Mark I Boiling Water Reactor, the design of the damaged reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, and similar Mark IIs, were built with very small containment vessels, making them vulnerable to over-pressurization, and without vents to relieve the pressure in an emergency. This problem was actually recognized by some engineers in the 1970s; still, it took until 1989 for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission recommended adding the most basic vents to older reactors. (And, even today, one currently operating U.S. reactor — Fitzpatrick in upstate New York — still does not meet those requirements.)

The basic vents were back-fit to the Fukushima reactors prior to the 2011 earthquake.

But well before the 1989 NRC rule, some nuclear watchers, based on observations after the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, suspected the type of vents in the NRC recommendation would not be sufficient in accidents where the nuclear fuel was damaged. So-called “hardened vents,” designed to operate under more adverse conditions, with filtration systems engineered to remove some of the radiation from the released gas, would be necessary to respond quickly and minimize environmental contamination.

There is still some debate on exactly how the vents at Fukushima failed and what role they played in the hydrogen explosions that so severely damaged containment buildings at Daiichi, but there has been little argument that the design modification recommended for all U.S. boiling water reactors failed the test.

The system “demonstrated a 100 percent failure rate for Mark I over-pressurization events,” said Paul Gunter, director of the Reactor Oversight Project at Beyond Nuclear, a nuclear industry watchdog.

The need to retrofit the 23 Mark I and eight Mark II reactors still operating in the U.S. with “sever accident capable” vents and high-capacity filtration systems was a common finding in several post-Fukushima reports. Indeed, just such an upgrade was the firm recommendation of the NRC’s own Japan Lessons Learned Task Force.

But in March 2013, with the Fukushima disaster starting its third year, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission bowed to industry objections, ignored its own task force’s findings and voted 4 to 1 to reject ordering the installation of the robust vents and filtrations systems on the ancient GE reactors.

‘Tragic’ lack of independence

It was an example of “regulatory capture,” said Gunter, which represents the “fundamental problem” with nuclear regulation. “Industry essentially rules the regulators.”

It is a problem the NAS panel seemed to recognize, even if their report failed to recommend any solutions.

“The NRC and industry must maintain a strong safety culture,” said Dr. Emilie Roth, a cognitive psychologist and a member of the NAS Fukushima committee, adding that to do this, “the NRC must maintain its independence.”

When asked if these conclusions were based on any specific examples in either Japan or the U.S., Roth said they were not, but restated the necessity of regulators to represent interests separate from those of the nuclear industry.

It is a sentiment shared by industry watchdogs and good government advocates, but it is not a reality according to Gunther. While he praised the NAS for recommending plant regulations take into account BDBEs, he noted that under the current regulatory regime, “plants are not even in compliance with their design basis, let alone beyond design basis” considerations.

It is fine for the NAS report to recommend enhanced risk analysis, said Gunter, but at present regulators make rules based on a cost-benefit analysis keyed to “industry production costs, not to public health and safety.”

As an example, Gunter returned to the vents. In Japan, reactors now seeking to restart must install state-of-the-art vents and filtration systems. Such equipment has already been installed at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa facility, a demonstration, said Gunther, that the technology already exists.

The incestuous nature of government and industry in Japan is much documented, and regulatory capture was oft cited as a contributing factor to the Fukushima crisis. But even in Japan, its Nuclear Regulatory Agency has been able to require a “lessons learned” upgrade that seems beyond the reach of the U.S. NRC.

The story illustrates in detail the problem the NAS report alludes to by impression: A nuclear industry resistant to learning from the past, uninterested in planning for the future, and virtually impervious to oversight.

“It is tragic in a post-Fukushima world,” said Gunter.


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Vendredi 25 juillet 2014 5 25 /07 /Juil /2014 23:27


July 25, 2014



US scholars release report on Fukushima accident 


A US report on Fukushima's nuclear accident has pointed out measures that need to be taken in the future to protect residents from a serious nuclear disaster.

The National Academy of Sciences released the report on Thursday. It follows debates by a panel of experts that began in 2012 on the lessons from the Fukushima crisis.

The report notes that poor communication between the central government and local governments, as well as a lack of clear standards about radiation levels that require decontamination, led to public distrust in the government.

It says that the US government and nuclear operators should examine the way information is being given to residents of surrounding communities, as well as means of protecting the ill, elderly, and children.

It also notes that an assessment should be made of the impact of long-term evacuation on the lives of those affected.

The report will be submitted to Congress as a reference for the creation of future safety measures in a nuclear crisis.

Jul. 25, 2014 - Updated 03:35 UTC




U.S. Fukushima report: Think about unthinkable disasters 



WASHINGTON--A U.S. science advisory report says Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident offers a key lesson to the nation's nuclear industry: Focus more on the highly unlikely but worst case scenarios.

That means thinking about earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, solar storms, multiple failures and situations that seem freakishly unusual, according to the National Academy of Sciences report released on July 24. Those kinds of things triggered the world's three major nuclear accidents.

"We need to do a soul searching when it comes to the assumptions" of how to deal with worst case events, said University of Southern California engineering professor Najmedin Meshkati, the panel's technical adviser. Engineers should "think about something that could happen once every, perhaps 1,000 years" but that's not really part of their training or nature, he said.

"You have to totally change your mode of thinking because complacency and hubris is the worst enemy to nuclear safety," Meshkati said in an interview.

The report said the 2011 Japanese accident, caused by an earthquake and tsunami, should not have been a surprise. The report says another Japanese nuclear power plant also hit by the tsunami was closer to the quake's fault. But the Onagawa plant wasn't damaged because quakes and flooding were considered when it was built.

Onagawa had crucial backup electricity available for when the main power went down, as opposed to Fukushima which had emergency generators in a basement that flooded. Onagawa's operators had "a different mindset" than the executives who ran Fukushima, Meshkati said.

The other two nuclear accidents--at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island and Ukraine's Chernobyl--were caused by multiple system failures.

Lee Clarke, a Rutgers University risk expert and author of the book "Worst Cases," criticized the academy's report as too weak. He said the tone of the report made it seem like the accident was unpredictable and caught reasonable people by surprise "and it shouldn't have." But the report itself said the "the Fukushima accident was not a technical surprise."

David Lochbaum of the activist group Union of Concerned Scientists said the problem is that federal law financially protects the U.S. nuclear industry from accidents and gives utilities little incentive to spend money on low-probability, high-consequence problems.

But Nuclear Energy Institute senior vice president Anthony Pietrangelo said the American nuclear industry has already taken several steps to shore up backup power and deal with natural disasters.

"We cannot let such an accident happen here," he said in a statement.

Another issue the report raised was about how far radiation may go in a worst case accident.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission orders plants to have emergency plans for a zone of 10 miles around a nuclear plant. But the academy study said Fukushima showed that "may prove inadequate" if a similar accident happened in the U.S. People nearly 19 miles away in Japan needed protection from radiation. But the committee would not say what would be a good emergency zone.

See also  in the Japan Times :


U.S. Fukushima study: Think about unthinkable disasters 



A U.S. science advisory report says the Fukushima nuclear accident offers a key lesson to America’s nuclear industry: Focus more on the highly unlikely but worst case scenarios.



David Lochbaum of the activist group Union of Concerned Scientists said the problem is that federal law financially protects the U.S. nuclear industry from accidents, which gives utilities little incentive to spend money on low-probability, high-consequence problems.

But Nuclear Energy Institute Senior Vice President Anthony Pietrangelo said the American nuclear industry has already taken several steps to shore up backup power and deal with natural disasters.

“We cannot let such an accident happen here,” he said in a statement.

Another issue the report raises is about how far radiation may go in a worst case accident.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission orders plants to have emergency plans for a zone of 10 miles (16 km) around a nuclear plant. But the academy study said Fukushima No. 1 showed that “may prove inadequate” if a similar accident happened in the U.S.

People 30 km away in Fukushima needed protection from radiation. But the committee would not say what would be a good emergency zone.

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