(For today’s Commentary – A Phantom Conflict of Interest in Japan – click here)

This week’s Carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is being hosted by Things Worse Than Nuclear Power website, run by two MIT engineers. This week’s topics include; the “awkward” debate in Vermont on renewable energy sources, a re-cap of this past-year’s developments in nuclear power, CNN’s misleading story of natural gas being safer than nuclear energy, next year’s anticipated start-up of a nuke in Argentina, and Saudi Arabia’s plans for more than a dozen nukes by 2032. For the full run-down, follow this link… http://www.thingsworsethannuclearpower.com/2012/12/carnival-of-nuclear-bloggers-134.html

Here are some Fukushima updates…

  • Many political parties vying for seats in the Japanese Diet want to replace nuclear energy with of renewables, but they are ignoring the down-side of the change-over. One party slogan says “We will push through an energy revolution,” and another says, “We will develop local industries through renewable energy and expand employment.” There is no doubt that the energy shift will raise electric bills significantly and the antinuclear parties do not want to make that known. A feed-in-tariff, passed in July, requires utilities to buy all power produced by renewables and pass the costs on to their customers. Currently, renewable-generated electricity costs three times more than that produced by burning fossil fuels, and the massive increase in fossil-fuel imports due to the nuclear moratorium is already draining the national economy. The Japan Iron and Steel Federation estimates the shift to renewables will cost them more than a billion dollars per year in added energy costs beyond that which they now pay. “It could deliver a third blow to the industry, on top of the yen’s appreciation and deflation,” said a Federation representative. Energy experts point to what has happened in Germany since they began their shift from nuclear to renewables in 2009 – monthly electric bills have tripled. Tokyo plans on injecting about 1.5 trillion yen into renewable development to ease the customer’s financial burden, but it will not come close to eliminating it. “There are concerns that promotion of renewable energy would only push up electricity bills and wouldn’t lead to economic revitalization,” said Hideaki Matsui, senior energy researcher at the Japan Research Institute. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Japan’s estimated trade deficit for next year will be over 82 billion dollars, up 1.3% from 2012. This will be the largest shortfall Japan has experienced since World War II. While the huge impact of importing liquid natural gas to compensate for the nuclear moratorium hurts the deficit the most, reduction in overseas sales of Japanese vehicles and machine tools for more than two years had also hurt. In addition, the import and sales of foreign vehicles is increasing across Japan. The gloomy projection was made by Japan’s Foreign Trade Council. (NHK World)
  • With the numerous parties currently contending for Diet seats, it is possible than a number of “single-seats” will not be filled because of Japanese regulations. By law, a candidate must garner at least one-sixth of the votes cast in order to win the election. If candidates do not meet this minimum, the elections for the unfilled seats will have to be re-held. “It is theoretically possible that no candidate will earn one-sixth of the vote” if there are more than seven candidates in a single-seat constituency, an official of the internal affairs ministry said. (Kyodo News Service)
  • A new government panel has been created to monitor the progress of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority. The panel will be led by Koichi Kitazawa, who headed the Fukushima investigation by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation. Others include Yotaro Hatamura, who headed the Prime Minister’s Fukushima panel, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, who led the Diet’s version, and Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato. The group will be a formal watchdog of the NRA to see how well the recommendations of the three investigations are being implemented. Primarily, the panel will focus on how independent the NRA is from government and the so-called “nuclear village”, how well the country has improved in handling nuclear accidents, and the degree of transparency demonstrated by the NRA. (Japan Times)
  • A geologic anomaly found running under the Tsugura nuclear station’s grounds has been judged to be potentially seismic. The NRA has studied the geology and found that a “crush zone” running under the power complex property might be seismically active. NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka says the investigative team’s findings give him the “impression” that the NRA “cannot implement safety assessments for the resumption (of the plant) under the current situation.” The crush zone connects to the near-by Urazoko fault which has moved within the past 125,000 years. It appears that the crush zone moved with it. Tsuruga station’s owner, Japan Atomic Power Company, calls the NRA’s findings “totally unacceptable” and says it will continue its on-going investigation at the plant site. The outcome of the NRA findings is sure to cause political issues in Tokyo. If the geology under the plant is truly seismic, will the Tsuruga nukes be barred from restarts next summer? Who has the legal right to make and enforce that kind of decision? The NRA says decisions on restarts must come from the government, but the government says they must come from the NRA. (Mainichi Shimbun; Kyodo news Service; NHK World)
  • Of the 522 Fukushima workers who had thyroid exposure, 163 have exceeded more than 200 millisieverts to the gland. The World health Organization will soon release a report detailing the complete study, but a preliminary copy was acquired by the Asahi Shimbun. Two workers had thyroid doses in excess of 10 sieverts, with one getting an 11.8 sievert dose to the gland. Neither man has reported any negative health effects since their exposures. High thyroid exposure is not as hazardous as whole body exposure, so the numbers should not be confused with whole body. A 10 sievert thyroid exposure is the equivalent of 575 millisievert whole body dose. Regardless, the 163 higher-exposure individuals are believed to have an elevated risk of developing future thyroid cancer. (Asahi Shimbun; Nuclear Street)