- Nuclear Crisis Minister Goshi Hosono told Kyodo News that the government must be rational in setting standards for reactor operational lifespans. “We must create a situation where we can make decisions scientifically,” Hosono said. He added that setting a limit based merely on a number [of years] makes little or no sense, especially since nuclear systems do not deteriorate like most other industrial systems due to their low corrosive environment. Hosono said it is “not necessarily scientific” to set a numerical cutoff line for reactors, noting that there are many different types [of reactors and containments]. He adds that while reactors were originally licensed for 30-40 years, many experts believe they can safely operate for 60 years. The first step in setting a “lifetime” criteria will be the much ballyhooed stress tests currently under way.
- Despite his predecessor’s shut-them-down-at-all-costs assertions, Prime Minister Noda is taking a more rational approach to the nuclear energy option. Bloomburg and Japan Times report Noda believes a nuclear phase-out and solar/wind renaissance will take two or more decades. While Noda agrees with former P.M. Kan in principle, he is not interested in throwing out the baby with the bathwater, “It’s a realistic option to use existing [nuclear] plants to a certain extent and develop nuclear technology until at least 2030, while aiming to decrease our dependency on atomic power. We will build a framework so we can restart reactors shut for maintenance after ensuring they are safe following stress tests and gaining the understanding of local residents.” He then asserted, “It’s important for us to prepare for restarts.”With respect to Kan’s insistence on the Japanese government officially promoting renewables, Noda believes Japan should increase renewables from the current 9%, to 20% at some point in the 2020s. By combining continued nuclear operations and renewable development he feels, “This crisis has the potential to revive Japanese industries in the long run.” But, without the nuclear option, industrial recovery will be doubtful as many industries are threatening to leave Japan because of the energy shortage caused by nukes politically-idled under the Kan regime.
- Because the temperatures inside unit #3 RPV have dropped considerably since beginning water injections through the feedwater spray piping, TEPCO has reduced total water flow to ~5 tons per hour. The previous flow rate was ~7 tons per hour. Close monitoring of temperatures over the next few days should indicate whether or not the reduced injections will do the job.
- NHK World reports the new TEPCO Chairman, Toshio Nishizawa, says the company will “scrap” Fukushima Daiichi units 1 through 4, which should surprise no one. However, he said the company will pursue restarts for undamaged units 5 and 6, which were in the process of restart before March 11. Further, they will seek the restarts of the four undamaged units at Fukushima Daini, 10 km south of Daiichi. In addition, Nishizawa says he thinks that the company had prepared for possible damage based on various [government] studies, but that it needs to consider such predictions more humbly. He admitted to insufficient damage prediction by his company.
- Ex-Prime Minister Kan has begun a media blitz to absolve himself of all blame for his actions the first five days of the Fukushima accident, and at the same time set himself up as an anti-nuclear celebrity. This morning, Kan gave no less that three separate interviews to major Japanese news media outlets, in some cases contradicting himself, but in all cases pointing toward his activist vision.He told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “The nuclear accident should be considered a man-made disaster,” and that his flawed emergency actions were due to poor communication on the part of TEPCO. Further, he said he did not use accident simulations run by NISA because they “hardly worked at all”, allegedly because a designated emergency response center 5km from the accident was not operating. (Even though all computer projections were subsequently found to be correct.) In addition, Kan says no-one was listening to him concerning venting unit #1, arrogantly suggesting he could have saved the plant from meltdown and the hydrogen explosion, “Although I instructed the utility to vent [vapor in the nuclear reactor containers], TEPCO failed to do this, and I wasn’t told of the reasons for that failure. Even as I sought an explanation for this situation, I couldn’t tell whose decisions I was being given.” (Of course he fails to acknowledge that delays on venting due to his insistence on the 3km radius being evacuated and a press conference held, before venting could begin, were major reasons for the meltdown and hydrogen explosion.)
In another statement given to the Asahi Shimbun, Kan accused TEPCO of wanting to “withdraw” all personnel from Fukushima Daiichi on March 15, completely abandoning the power complex at a most critical point in the evolution of the accident. He asserted, “At around 3 a.m., METI minister Banri Kaieda told me that TEPCO said it wished to withdraw. I thought: ‘What would happen if it withdrew?’ If we left the plant unattended, everything might have melted down and things might have gone far beyond Chernobyl.” (There is no record whatsoever of TEPCO ever considering complete abandonment of the power complex.) In addition, Kan said he was told of the computer-generated possibility of evacuation out to 300km, and this possibility is the reason he has turned against nuclear energy, “That’s the biggest reason why I changed my views on nuclear power. If there are risks of accidents that could make half the land mass of our country uninhabitable, we cannot afford to take such risks, even if we are only going to be playing with those risks once a century.” (But…didn’t he tell The Yomiuri Shimbun he ignored computer accident projections because they “hardly worked at all”?)
In a third interview, Kan told Japan Today he believed a nuclear accident in Japan could force the evacuation of the Tokyo metropolitan area, “Deserted scenes of Tokyo without a single man around came across my mind. It really was a spine-chilling thought. Japan wouldn’t stand as a country if the uninhabitable zone [around the crippled Fukushima plant] had to spread out to 100 or 200 kilometers. Evacuating 100,000 or 200,000 people is a really grave situation, but if 30 million people were to be subjected, evacuating them all would be impossible.” Because of this he now feels nuclear power is a too dangerous option, implying he was formerly pro-nuclear. (Which his political record shows to be just the opposite.)
Clearly, Kan’s personal anti-nuclear crusade has begun.
- The Mainichi Shimbun reports Chubu University engineering professor Kunihiko Takeda has speculated “Eating vegetables and meat from the Tohoku region will ruin your health,” and that “making agricultural products in Tohoku right now is a mistake.” He made his comments on a Yomiuri TV show focusing on radioactivity in Iwate Prefecture. Ichinoseki Mayor Osamu Katsube was literally enraged by Takeda’s statements, which were broadcast in many areas of the Tohoku region. He sent an angry email to the engineering professor on Sept. 6, in which he called Takeda’s claims “thoughtless”.
- Asahi Shimbun reports on the current status of the evacuated town of Namie, some 9km north-by-northwest of Fukushima Daiichi. After the obligatory opening paragraphs concerning the empty streets and “horrific” destruction wreaked by the earthquake of March 11, we find some interesting observations on the current condition of the town. Rather than a wasteland devoid of life, it’s become a “green ghost-town”. The Asahi says, “The yard of Kiyohashi Elementary school, about 1.5 km to the east of the town hall, was like a pasture, with lush grass growing taller than knee height. Seven cattle, with their ears tagged, hid and then thundered through the yard and disappeared into a wood when disturbed. Across the several kilometers between the school and the coastline, high grass, between 1 and 2 meters tall, swayed.”