Comment – The true crime of March 11, 2011!

11 months after the earthquake and tsunami devastated the coast of the Tohoku region, the Tokyo government has finally established a Reconstruction Agency to deal with recovery. This comes after nearly a year of political dickering within the central government while millions of tons of debris smolder with unhealthy inattention. Not to mention more than 200,000 evacuees who are unable to return to their homes. We’re not talking about the Fukushima no-go zones, either. That’s a different issue. The Tohoku non-nuclear disaster is a national embarrassment of international proportion. While the attention of the world has been directed to the plight of the Fukushima evacuees by the government and Japanese Press, very little has been reported concerning the much, much worse situation with the evacuees along the rest of the Tohoku coast. It’s beyond unreasonable. It’s ludicrous! Tokyo says they can now “quickly address the needs of the people in the disaster zone.” Who do they think they are conning? Upon today’s announcement Prime Minister Noda said, “I feel the heavy weight of responsibility that I need to meet the expectations of the people in the disaster area.” Your words ring hollow, Mr. Noda. You and your predecessor (Naoto Kan) clearly have not felt enough weight to do the right thing as soon as possible. Politically-predicated delays of an unconscionable nature have transpired and the central government is the culprit. The Diet should be dissolved and the party leaders responsible for this largely avoidable situation should be tried for crimes against their own people. Propriety demands I practice restraint in what I write here…and I am. I’m livid with outrage! Local officials along the Tohoku coast have denounced Tokyo’s inactivity since last spring, and for good reason. 11 months of literally doing nothing while exploiting the political fruits of the Fukushima accident is beyond all ethical and moral comprehension!

Now, for the news…

  • As of Thursday at 11am, the problem temperature reading on the unit #2 PCV had dropped to 65oC. By Friday, the temperature has held at the same level.
  • The first scientific analysis of the March 11 tsunami has revealed a 21 meter-high wave hit about eight kilometers south of Fukushima Daiichi. The preliminary results were made public Thursday. All previous wave height reports inside the 20km no-go zone have been estimates made by TEPCO based on high-water marks on plant structures. No tsunami specialist has been allowed to enter the no-go zone to make analysis until now. Nearly the entire Fukushima Prefecture coastline south of F. Daiichi experienced 10 meter waves, except for the region within the no-go zone. Researchers including Shinji Sato, a professor at the University of Tokyo, obtained permission from local governments to enter the zone for the first time since the tsunami and made surveys Monday & Tuesday. “It is necessary to do more research on what caused the tsunami to hit the central part of the prefecture particularly hard,” Sato said. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • TEPCO is using an underwater remote camera to examine the condition of the 1,535 spent fuel bundles in SPF #4. The camera will be used several times through March. This is the first step in preparing to remove the fuel bundles from the severely damaged building, which is planned for March, 2014. Visibility in the pool is about 16 feet. The footage taken by the camera shows no damage to any of the stored fuel bundles. The footage also shows considerable debris lying on top of many bundles from the building explosion of March 15. (NHK World)
  • The Plant Manager at Fukushima Daini (Fukushima No. 2) has gone public with what happened there after the 9 meter tsunami hit on March 11. Fukushima Daini is located about 10km south of Fukushima Daiichi (Fukushima No. 1). Naohiro Masuda, in charge of plant operations since the crisis, told reporters Wednesday, “The No. 2 plant almost suffered the same fate as No. 1,” because the plant’s seawater supply pumps were flooded which shorted out their motors. The pumps fed many emergency cooling components in each power plant at Daini, and this reduced their ability to remove decay heat from the three operating reactor cores. However, there was never a full blackout. Most emergency diesels started automatically and plant electrical interconnections supplied all four units. One power line bringing electricity into the power station continued to function. Although cooling functions were reduced by the loss of seawater pumps, there was enough other cooling system flows to keep the reactor cores from experiencing fuel damage. All Daini reactors were finally in a state of cold shutdown by March 15. Masuda pointed out that there were about 2,000 people at the plant on March 11, which he termed “lucky” because the tsunami hit during a routine workday. If it had hit during the dead of night or on a weekend, there would have been less than 100 employees on-site and emergency-mitigating operations would have gone much, much slower. He praised the employees who spliced together a nine-kilometer-long cable stretching inland to another operational electric power source which eventually provided additional electricity. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • In a complete about-face, the Tokyo government says they have no intention of restarting the two Oi nuclear plants. Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano denied that the government will give the green light for resumptions of operations without consensus among local residents on the issue, “We have no intention of setting a deadline for reactivation.” Edano dismissed some news reports that the government will aim to reactivate Oi’s No. 3 and 4 reactors by April, saying, “I have no such intention.” (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The first of 12 temporary radioactive waste disposal sites near Fukushima Daiichi has been opened to the Press. A huge hole has been excavated and completely lined with thick waterproof sheets. Waste material is densely packed in thick poly bags and stored in precise fashion by a crane. A Japan Atomic Energy Agency official in charge of the operation stated, “We are building these (temporary disposal) sites in such a way that, even when full of waste, radiation levels won’t rise in the surrounding area.” (Japan Times)
  • The much-ballyhooed demise of nuclear energy in Germany has taken an unexpected turn. Because of unprecedented cold weather across the Continent, there is literally no excess electricity for Germany to buy in order to keep up with demand. So, they are restarting currently shut down nukes to prevent blackouts. Five of the eight reactors shut down are serving as reserve generators in case electricity demand cannot be met from other sources. (Daily Handelsblatt) In other words, the nukes are being started and idled in a stand-by mode in case a full-powered unit goes down, in order to have replacement power immediately available and avoid a blackout condition. Will Japan use this as a model to relieve the nation’s current near-blackout electricity shortage by restarting some of their currently-idled nukes? We hope so, but are not optimistic. The pressure of political expediency in Japan far outweighs rational decision-making.