• Sendai unit #1 restarts, ending Japan’s nuclear moratorium. It is the first Japanese nuke to begin operation according to the new regulations. On Tuesday, the first control rods were partially withdrawn at 10:30am (Japan Time). At ~11pm that night, initial criticality was achieved. Both milestones were on schedule. The first electricity will be generated on Friday, August 14, but commercial operation is not expected before next month. Since the plant has not operated in four years, plant staff is proceeding with caution in case of unexpected abnormalities. A major issue posed by critics concerns the several active volcanoes within a 160km radius of the station. Detailed examinations of the possibility were run beginning in March, 2014, and operating procedures were revised in the unlikely event of the nearest caldera (about 50 km away) were in imminent danger of a worst-case eruption. On 7/16/14, the Nuclear Regulation Authority formulated draft reports which were made available for public comments. On 9/10/14, the units received permission to have their basic design changed accordingly, and equipment upgrades began. Restart inspections began on March 30 of this year, fuel assemblies were installed between July 6-10, and final pre-startup emergency drills were run from July 27-30. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/kyushu-electric-power-starts-up-sendai-1/

The restart of Sendai unit #1 has sparked a number critical news reports from Japan’s antinuclear Press. While most news outlets limited themselves to but one report, the Mainichi Shimbun posted no less than four. The always-antinuclear Russian outlet RT chimed in as well.

  • The Asahi Shimbun headline “Tears, fears, whoops of joy as Sendai reactor restarted” focused almost entirely on the “tears and fears” of the 200 protestors at Sendai station. They, “balanced” it with one local hotel operator and the host community mayor. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201508120060
  • One Mainichi Shimbun report (Local opinion divided over reactivated nuclear plant) mirrors the Asahi Shimbun (above). While more than half of the article covers those protesting the restart, about a third of it addresses those in favor (buried at the end, of course). http://mainichi.jp/english/english/features/news/20150812p2a00m0na017000c.html
  • Another Mainichi article alleges that Sendai was restarted haphazardly, with the headline “Sendai No. 1 reactor back online without sufficient volcano and evacuation measures”. It says that volcanoes more than50 kilometers distant have not been adequately accounted-for, and evacuation plans for residents have not been tested. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20150812p2a00m0na012000c.html
  • A third Mainichi report addresses another aspect of the emergency planning issue. It bemoans Tokyo’s decision to not use SPEEDI (System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information) to plan public evacuations during an emergency. NRA says SPEEDI’s radiological “flow” predictions are uncertain, thus they will not use it. The local response is basically that it is better than nothing and use of SPEEDI at F. Daiichi would have sent evacuees away from plume pathways rather than into them. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150812p2a00m0na022000c.html
  • A last Mainichi Q&A article asks the question “Is Sendai Nuclear Power Plant safe under new standards?” It concludes that the plant is “not necessarily” fully protected, questioning the plant operators’ ability to handle the unexpected. It also makes the false allegation that a nuke accident has the “potential to ruin a nation”. http://mainichi.jp/english/english/perspectives/news/20150812p2a00m0na013000c.html
  • Meanwhile, RT News first attacks emergency planning by alleging that “no evacuation plans – in case of a Fukushima-style catastrophe – have been disclosed to locals,” citing an antinuclear activist. It next quotes antinuclear superstar, former PM Naoto Kan, who asserts, “We don’t need nuclear plants,” and, that Fukushima “exposed the myth of safe and cheap nuclear power, which turned out to be dangerous and expensive.” https://www.rt.com/news/312156-japan-nuclear-protest-restart/

On the other hand, reasonable news articles were run by Japan’s largest newspaper, the Yomiuri Shimbun…

  • Post-Fukushima safety measures strengthen Sendai unit #1. Sendai Plant Manager Nobuhiko Fujiwara says, “We aim to carefully resume electricity generation and give top priority to safety.” Safety upgrades include anti-tsunami barriers around the seawater pumping system, a tornado cover for the external condensate storage tank, mobile emergency power generators on-site, pumping trucks to supply cooling water (also on-site), a new emergency operations center, and satellite phones and transceivers to be available at all times. NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka spoke about the upgrades, “We required the power company to take measures that would prevent another Fukushima disaster, and our screenings checked that they were met. Safety has been ensured to a certain extent.” The station has also added to their emergency staff, and now has 36 trained in crisis procedures. A utility spokesperson said, “We’re now able to bring an accident under control even at night or on holidays.” In preparation for restart, more than 450 emergency drills have been run. Kazuhiko Suzuki, a professor at Okayama University, says, “There are many facilities and equipment aimed at preparing for emergencies, and utilizing them effectively depends on the capability of the plant’s workers. Drills need to be held continuously to ensure that the workers are maintaining their skill.” http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002351622
  • Nuke restarts promise Japan a stable supply of power. The Yomiuri reports, “A stable supply of electricity is vital for the people’s livelihood and the nation’s economic development. It is significant that progress has been made in the utilization of nuclear power, an important energy source that can be produced at low cost and with stability,” and, “With safety measures more stringent than those taken before the Fukushima disaster, it can be said the danger of a serious accident occurring at the plant has been markedly reduced.” A main point concerned the high cost of electricity and lack of reliability that has come with increased use of fossil fuels. While the shortage of generating capacity has not caused a massive power outage, the current electricity supply has only been possible by operating inefficient, outdated fossil-fueled power plants. Finally, the Yomiuri argues that “the government should adopt a policy of extending the life of reactors in operation up to 60 years, while building new ones.” http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002351023

Now, here’s some recent Fukushima news…

  • Naraha Town will be open for repopulation on September 5th. On August 7, the members of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters convened at the prime minister’s residence in Tokyo and formally decided to lift the evacuation order for Naraha Town. Yosuke Takagi, State Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, notified the town and prefecture. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the government would assist the town even more than it had done already, adding, “In order for the residents to successfully return to their hometown, the livelihoods and lives of those affected will have to be rebuilt.” He also announced a joint public-private team consisting of more than 100 people would be established this month to support self-reliance with entrepreneurs. http://www.jaif.or.jp/en/decided-evacuation-order-for-naraha-town-to-be-lifted-on-september-5/
  • More information on the impending release of treated groundwater to the sea. Tepco will pump groundwater out of numerous subdrain wells around the four damaged-unit basements. The water will be released after treatment, if it meets the ridiculously-stringent limits on radioactivity, which are actually 10 times lower than Japan’s drinking water standards. The local fisheries have demanded that Tepco and Tokyo improve public communication regarding the plan’s stringent water management and safety to allay the federation’s concern about groundless rumors hurting their market. Tepco estimates that the subdrain plan will reduce groundwater in-seepage to the basements to about 150 tons per day. With the current pumping-away of uncontaminated groundwater on the inland side of the four units, groundwater in-seepage has been lowered from 400 to 300 tons per day. The subdrain plan will also allow final closure of the impenetrable wall installed in the ground just inland of the inner port shoreline. A small opening was left open in the wall to address concerns that a fully-sealed wall would be like a dam allowing water level behind it to rise. The subdrain system will prevent this from happening and the impenetrable wall opening will be sealed. Hopefully, this will also dispel rumors of huge flows of groundwater contaminating the Pacific. None of the water to be released will be from the nearly 700,000 tons of treated water previously stored in massive tanks covering much of the station’s property. http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0002353495
  • Fukushima InFORM outlines their program for monitoring movement of nuclides across the Pacific. The sampling program will characterize the dispersal of Fukushima-derived radionuclides Cesium-137 and Cesium-134. This will be used to determine accuracy of model predictions. This will also aid the scientific community in better understanding of ocean mixing. 60 liter seawater samples are collected and processed at sea by research assistant Laura McKay. The large samples are needed to confidently determine the very low levels of the targeted isotopes. Ms. McKay has been taking samples across the North Pacific, from the Alaskan island chain to points just west of British Columbia. She disembarked from Barrow, Alaska, in late July. Results of the sampling program should be available in a couple of months. http://fukushimainform.ca/2015/08/09/update-sampling-for-fukushima-derived-radionuclides-in-the-northeast-pacific-and-arctic-2015/#more-1303
  • The Industry Ministry will lower subsidies to the local governments of idled nukes. Currently, subsidies are paid out by assuming an 81% capacity factor, even though no nukes have operated since 2013. Beginning in fiscal 2016, the idled-nuke subsidies will be based on actual operating records prior to the 2011 Fukushima accident. This could possibly spur local communities waffling on future restarts to reconsider their decisions. However, the Ministry says the measure is merely being instituted in the interest of fairness, to insure that municipalities with restarted reactors will not be paid less than those that remain idled. Regardless, communities with idled nukes are destined to lose money if their stations remain in a non-operating state. The Mihama Municipal Government in Fukui Prefecture says they could lose half of their current subsidies due to the anticipated decommissioning of Mihama units #1 & 2. The local Mihama government says, “If the deemed operational rate is to be brought down on top of this, there will be growing calls for reactivating reactors.” http://mainichi.jp/english/english/newsselect/news/20150811p2a00m0na010000c.html