Apocalyptic fantasy gets headlines in Japan

This past week, Doomsday prophecies have spread around the world concerning Spent Fuel Pool #4 at Fukushima Daiichi. Tepco has issued statements contradicting the apocalyptic rumors, but it seems no news media source is listening to them. On Thursday, Asahi Shimbun wrote, “But these days, even politicians may seem more reliable than TEPCO about information concerning nuclear safety.” The Asahi supports their Tepco aversion by referencing international news outlets like the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Huffington Post, all of which are an ocean away and a world apart. They also cite a lone Japanese source, Mitsuhei Murata, 74, professor emeritus at Tokaigakuen University who served as Japan’s ambassador to Switzerland. He said, “The trust in the central government and TEPCO which allowed the accident to happen has fallen around the world. There is no nation that wholeheartedly believes those releases.” This strongly implies that the professor is willing to believe international scaremongering over hard data! But, he doesn’t stop there. “Since TEPCO is, after all, a for-profit company, it cannot be said to be making every possible effort.”

Where has this suddenly-popular science-fiction fantasy come from? The scenario comes primarily (but not solely) from America’s notorious prophet of nuclear energy doom, Arnie Gundersen.  Gundersen asserts the SPFs at Fukushima have the “power to split the Japanese Archipelago.” He adds that the fuel in SPF # 4 contains radiation equal to the amount released in the atmosphere by all past nuclear weapon experiments. Gundersen also says that the No. 4 reactor building’s structure was critically weakened by the 3/11/11 earthquake, the building is tilted, and he advises friends in Tokyo to immediately evacuate if and when the No. 4 reactor building collapses. None of Gundersen’s assertions fly in the face of Tepco’s analytical data. It seems his statements are based on personal assumption. In other words, “Apocalyptic Arnie” is making it up! Tepco has flatly denied all of his assertions, as well as those by Robert Alvarez which parallel Gundersen. Undaunted, Mr. Murata chimes in, “Since TEPCO is, after all, a for-profit company, it cannot be said to be making every possible effort. There is no time to waste. Knowledge from around the world should be gathered as soon as possible to begin the work of removing the nuclear fuel from the storage pool.”  This shows that the professor is more willing to believe Gundersen’s fiction than serious analytical fact!

As regular readers will attest, I have closely followed the post-accident events in Japan every day since March 11, 2011. I have found that since Naoto Kan stepped down and Tepco was no longer compelled to clear all public information through Kan’s staff before release, Tepco’s communications have stood the test of time. Their level of transparency and honesty has been commendable since Kan’s resignation. Due to many months of Kan’s censuring, Tepco’s reputation for transparency and honesty went down the drain. It is understandable that trust was lost with the public, causing the Press to seek out other sources to counter Tepco claims. But enough is enough. I firmly believe Tepco has long-since turned the informational corner. The era of distrust in Tepco’s information should end, although there presently seems to be no light at the end of trust’s tunnel. Regardless, when the second-largest newspaper in Japan gives serious billing to phantasmagorical offal of unprecedented magnitude, we are taken from the ridiculous to the sublime.

For additional information on the absurd speculations of a possible apocalypse caused by unit #4 SPF, please go to esteemed colleague Rod Adam’s blog of May 11, 2012… http://atomicinsights.com/

Here’s the remaining updates…

  • Kansai Electric (Kepco) says that 13 of its 28 fossil-fueled (thermal) plants will have scheduled maintenance shutdowns postponed due to the nuclear moratorium. They plan to keep all thermal’s operating at full power through the summer. Fossil-fueled plants are usually shuttered for maintenance, cleaning of the boilers (you have no idea how awful that usually is), and repairs every 2 to 4 years. NISA has already approved seven postponements of legally-required shut-downs as well as voluntary inspections of six other thermals. In order to try and avoid unexpected plant failures, Kepco says they are increasing daily equipment checks. Kepco is also stoking their warehouses with replacement equipment to insure relatively rapid restarts should equipment failures cause some of the plants to suddenly drop off the grid. Why are they doing this? Because last year a motor failure caused a unit in Kyoto Prefecture to suddenly be lost, and another in Osaka Prefecture to shut off due to a gas turbine failure. Unless Oi units #3 & 4 are restarted, no thermal plant failures will be tolerable come the long, hot summer. (Japan Times)
  • On May 6, the Sinchi Thermal Power Station had to be shut down due to excessive steam leakage inside the plant’s boiler. This removed 1,000 megawatts from the national electrical grid. The cause of the Sinchi accident is currently being investigated. Kyodo Electric says they will repair the ruptured boiler tubing and return the plant to service as soon as possible. (Tepco Press Release)
  • A government expert panel predicts power shortages this summer in major cities including Osaka, Fukuoka and Sapporo. Unless, of course, Oi units #3 & 4 are restarted. Without the nukes, electricity supply in the Kepco system will be especially tight and could fall as much as 16% short of demand. Two other companies in danger of shortfalls are Kyushu Electric and Hokkaido Electric. (Kyodo News)
  • Tokyo says unless Oi units #3 & 4 are restarted, areas served by Kepco will possibly face mandated power restrictions this summer. The restrictions include setting firm power-saving targets and penalizing companies that fall short of them. However, if the nuke restarts happen and proposed power saving measures are taken by businesses and residential customers, Kepco patrons might not face the restrictions. This is the first time the government has said that the two Oi restarts could be enough to avert power shortages in Fukui, Kyoto, and Shiga prefectures. An official with the National Policy Unit said, “We presented preliminary calculations envisaging the restarting of the Oi reactors this time because committee members asked us to do so at the last meeting (on May 7).” Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura commented that the explanations to local bodies with a view to restart the Oi reactors were “ripening,” hinting that the government hoped the reactors would be restarted. Nonetheless, the government’s announcement implies that restarting the two Oi plants could reduce the impetus to restart other idled nukes in the region, potentially pacifying local demands to delay restarts until the new nuclear regulatory program and stronger safety rules are in place. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A group of small-to-medium businesses want the nation’s nukes restarted as soon as possible. The National Federation of Small Business Associations’ chairman, Kinya Tsuruta, has submitted a formal request to the industry ministry. It says that electricity shortfalls are a major concern, but they also fear the increased financial burden that goes with the massive rise in burning fossil fuels. Tsuruta fears that electric rate increases could “hollow out” Japanese industry. Industry Minister Edano pledged to make the power supply issue a priority. (JAIF)
  • Tepco discovered water squirting out of a pipe in the waste water filtrate system at Fukushima Daiichi. It took 15 minutes to remotely shut down the system and isolate the leaking section of pipe. The surface radiation level of the leaked water was indistinguishable from the site’s environmental readings near the system leak. None of the leaked water made it to any drainage ditch or gutter, so none of the liquid left the power complex and into the sea. (Tepco Press Release)