- Shiga Governor Yukiko Kada’s new antinuclear party dominates the December 16 election headlines in Japan. Kada has named her new party the Japan Future Party (JFP). In a “kick-off” press conference, Kada said she hopes to send a powerful message to future generations and the world. She emphasized, “We’ll abolish nuclear power plants as soon as possible. My proposal is that we will do so by 2022. We must show the path toward graduating from nuclear power generation. We’d like to send a message of hope to the world, to the Earth and to future generations.” Kada boldly asserted that for people who oppose nukes in Japan “There’s no other political party that such voters can cast their ballots for.” This is all contained in the “Lake Biwa Declaration” which is the official platform of the JFP. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who has created his own minority party, endorses the nuclear policies of the JFP, “Let’s debate thoroughly on the nuclear power issue. Debate and friendly competition will benefit Japan. Let’s sacrifice ourselves for future generations.” While she and Hashimoto differ on many other national issues concerning tax increases and Japan joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Kada expressed sympathy with the Osaka mayor’s antinuclear stand, “My position is the same with his in that we have no choice but to be involved in national politics in order to assure the implementation of the policy measures of our local governments.” Kada also said, “We will welcome anyone who wants to join us.” She admitted she was not fully committed until this past Tuesday (11/27) when she received a letter from Tetsunari Iida of the Institute for Sustainable Energy policies saying, “There’s no turning back. Let’s go all the way.” While many antinuclear pundits have hailed the new party’s creation, members of the public aren’t so sure. A 56-year-old housewife from Tokyo said, “I don’t trust politicians very much, so I have no excessive expectations. I will wait and see if they won’t change their cause.” Many politicians also have their reservations about the JFP. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda lambasted the move saying that philosophies and policies of Kada’s new party are “unclear.” DPJ Policy Chief (and Industry Minister) Goshi Hosono said, “I don’t know how realistically she thinks about [phasing out nuclear energy].” The opinion-poll-leading Liberal Democratic Party has criticized the JFP’s extreme anti-nuclear policies as “irresponsible” and unrealistic. It is believed that the new party could attract about 60 Diet members, out of the 770 now in office. Kada feels her party could have as many as 100 people on the ballot by election time. (Mainichi Shimbun; Yomiuri Shimbun; Japan Today)
- In parallel with the creation of the JFP, the currently-ruling DPJ party issued its official policy platform. The DPJ vows to pursue alternative energy sources and abolish all nukes by the 2030s. They also favor Participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. Prime Minister Noda announced the platform and said, “Looking back on the past three years we did achieve many things, but unfortunately there were promises we couldn’t keep and we owe the people a deep apology. This manifesto was compiled based on our past reflections and the lessons we learned.” Because of the territorial dispute with China over the Senkaku Islands, the DPJ promised to protect Japanese territory and try to reach a mutual understanding with China so that the East China Sea, where the Islands are located, is “an ocean of peace, friendship and cooperation.” (Japan Times) In addition, the poll-leading LDP party believes the singular issue of nuclear energy will not fully unite the new “3rd parties” in Japan. “Such a large number of third-force candidates in one constituency will doom themselves to defeat. Our party can only benefit with that kind of competition,” a senior LDP official from Kanagawa Prefecture said. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
- Tepco has released more video footage of company activities during the early weeks of the Fukushima crisis. A most disturbing revelation is Tepco/Tokyo’s continual failure to grasp the gravity of the situation at F. Daiichi weeks after the three hydrogen explosions had happened. Plant Manager Masao Yoshida shows considerable frustration with the home office. On March 30th, Yoshida tells Tepco/Tokyo he must release a large volume of mildly radioactive water to the sea or else he will run out of space to store the intensely radioactive waters building up in the turbine building basements (units #1, 2 & 3). Yoshida says he has been trying to get permission from them for a week and he cannot wait any longer. A Tepco official he tells him the home office has been looking at ways to avoid the release of the decontaminated waters. Yoshida reluctantly relents. But, five days later he tells Tepco he has reached his limit and cannot possibly handle the situation “with his feet and hands bound”. Later that day the water was released to the sea, sparking sharp criticism from the Japanese Press and Asian neighbors. Whether or not Yoshida did this with Tepco’s permission is not mentioned in today’s Press report. (NHK World)
- Tepco’s latest posting of contaminated water data at F. Daiichi shows a significant reduction in Cesium levels contained in the water remaining in the plant basements. On June 19th the concentration of the two Cesium isotopes was ~440,000 Becquerels per milliliter (cubic centimeter). On October 16th the levels had dropped to 23,000 Bq/ml. This should be compared to the May 22nd levels of ~330,000 Bq/ml which indicates the waters in the building basements maintained a relatively constant contamination concentration until recently. However, the new data suggests this is the first time Tepco has made sizable headway in the decontamination effort. Why Tepco is merely posting the data and not issuing a Press release on this very good news is a mystery.
- The Nuclear Regulatory Authority says they have problems with the “safety culture” embodied by The Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco). Chief NRA commissioner Shunichi Tanaka said Tepco’s attempt to cover up problems in 2002 makes him wary, “To tell the truth, I think there may be something wrong (with this utility).” He stressed that if Tepco ever wants to restart any of its numerous nukes, they need to clearly demonstrate they have changed, “People on site, with their enthusiasm, knowledge and ability, should serve as a defense that prevents accidents and problems from occurring. But I wonder whether that function is working properly.” Tanaka also spoke of the recently-reported spent fuel damage at Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa station, unit #5, which amplifies his doubts. 18 tubes in Kariwa’s stored fuel bundles have been “warped” due to movement of the bundles. Tanaka feels this indicates that TEPCO has an ongoing problem, thus he cannot dispel concerns over its safety awareness. (Kyodo News Service; NHK World)
Several municipalities in northeastern Japan say they are now willing to consider hosting temporary storage facilities for the wastes building up in numerous treatment facilities. The facilities, which would have concrete walls, will be used to store containers of contaminated soil and other decontamination materials. The Environment Ministry wants at least eight such facilities established. The waste will be stored for three years in short-term repositories while the government constructs bigger facilities for a 30-year period. It seems that Okuma and Nahara municipalities, nearest F. Daiichi, have finally relented to the prefectural government’s pressure to at least allow surveys to be run. However, the municipalities say that this does not mean they will actually allow the facilities to be built. Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato said “accepting the surveys does not mean accepting the construction of the facility.” Sato says he decided to accept the surveys on condition that the ministry will provide detailed explanations to his constituents and report work progress in a timely manner. One dissenting voice is Futaba mayor Katsutaka Idogawa who said, “I did not attend the [governor’s] meeting in protest, as the central government is pushing the [storage facility construction] plan forcefully.” Tokyo plans to start the siting surveys in January. (NHK World; Japan Today; Japan Times)