Comment – Is the No-Go Zone “Uninhabitable”?

The Press, inside Japan and around the world, has labeled the 20km no-go-zone around Fukushima Daiichi “uninhabitable”. In a strict sense, the word means “unfit to live in”. In the words of fellow ANS Social Media member Mark Norsworthy, “’Uninhabitable,’ to me and I suspect to most, conjures the thought ‘if people go there, they will die’…Desolate wastelands, completely devoid of and hostile to life.” I believe Norsworthy’s notion is precisely what the Press is intending. Anyone who has followed this blog, and/or kept a close eye on the Japanese news reports about the no-go zone can see that the term uninhabitable is inappropriate. Actually, we might better define the no-go zone as a place the Japanese government has decided no-one is allowed to live, for the time being. “Off limits” would be perhaps a better phrase for the situation. The no-go zone was established rather arbitrarily by former P.M. Kan who essentially used a grade-school compass to mark off the area on a map, encompassing all our parts of seven municipalities. At least some of the no-go zone is eminently habitable…and habitable right now! At least one of the zone municipalities (Kawauchi Village) has caught on to this fact and wants to re-open their community to repopulation in March. They plan on having sufficient support infrastructure in place by April. Only Futaba and Okuma, both adjacent to F. Daiichi, have contamination levels so high that it could take 30-50 years before repopulation will be permitted. The other six communities could be repopulated as soon as 3 years, given Tokyo’s restrictive standards. Should the Fukushima no-go-zone be termed “uninhabitable”? Of course not. It’s a politically determined “off limits” area.

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Today’s updates…

  • Japan’s Nuclear Technology Institute (JANTI) has issued a formal criticism of former Prime Minister Kan’s Fukushima Investigative Panel’s preliminary report of December 26. They assert four major criticisms. (1) An accurate picture of the Fukushima accident is not given. (2) There was insufficient investigation as to the cause(s) of the accident. (3) In general, analysis of emergency actions and background are insufficient. (4) Many proposals are not based on logical analysis and/or do not match reality. JANTI urges that the Tokyo Panel’s final report incorporate thorough investigation and technical verification. (JAIF)
  • Nuclear Safety Commission chief Haruki Madarame blames the mistakes and safety shortcomings during the triple-meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi on bureaucrats and utilities that failed to heed calls for better disaster preparedness. He pointed a guilty finger at his predecessors at NSC, as well as the rest of the “nuclear village” comprised of government bodies and nuclear utilities. In unsworn testimony before the Diet, Madarame said that advised safety improvements in tsunami protection from around the world were ignored because of the assumption that no long-term electrical blackout situations were possible. “While various safety guidelines were being considered internationally, (the commission) spent its time finding excuses and explaining why Japan did not need to take such measures,” he said. (Japan Times)
  • The panel also summoned Nobuaki Terasaka, former head of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, to testify. He admitted he had no actual background in nuclear energy when he became the Chair of NISA, so when he was summoned to the Prime Minister’s Emergency Task Force on March 11 he sent a surrogate with nuclear experience in his place. “I realized that deep technical knowledge would be necessary after such a severe accident and felt that someone with such technical expertise should stay at the prime minister’s office,” Terasaka said, “I did not study nuclear engineering, nor did I build my career on nuclear safety.” (Japan Times) The remainder of the Prime Minister’s Emergency Task Force were also career bureaucrats with no nuclear background. At least the NISA surrogate had some. We shudder to think how bad it would have been if Terasaka had not done the right thing. Would then-P.M. Kan have panicked and evacuated out to the unreasonable American suggestion of 80 kilometers? Or worse, would he have evacuated Tokyo?
  • In what seems to be a first for Japanese nukes since Fukushima’s accident, the Onagawa Nuclear Power Station has installed three huge emergency back-up diesel generators. Each unit is rated at 4 MWe and located high above the sea level (more than 52 meters …160 feet) in order to preclude their being flooded-out should a Fukushima-sized tsunami hit the facility. The diesels are designed to support the plant’s installed emergency diesels. Should the primary emergency diesels be rendered inoperable, the new ones will supply more than enough electricity to insure adequate cooling of plant systems and a speedy progression to a state of cold shutdown. (JAIF)
  • It’s official. The problematic thermometer on the PCV of unit #2 is broken. TEPCO ran a resistivity test on the wiring of the monitoring device and found it to be 1.7 times greater than specifications. This means there is either a break or major short-circuit somewhere in the electrical system. Tuesday morning, the indicated temperature shot up to more than 200oC, while two other nearby monitors showed a 31oC reading. This prompted TEPCO to run the circuitry check and the malfunction was discovered. (JAIF) Why TEPCO waited this long to make the circuitry check is a mystery. We suggested a monitor failure from the start, which has been echoed in since February 7. If two American bloggers on the other side of the world can figure it out, why not TEPCO?
  • 22% of the Japanese public wants their currently-idled nukes restarted. A poll run by NHK World, with about 1,000 respondents, reveals that 36% are against restart and 36% are undecided.  Although NISA has officially approved the stress test results for Oi 3 & 4, local government approval is sought before actual resumption of operation will be allowed. (NHK World) This poll indicates that opposition to nuke restarts might be waning.