Fukushima Update Extra – Takahama #3 restart.

The restart of a third Japanese nuke plant has spawned the expected spate of Press reports. Expected? Absolutely! The majority of the postings are negative, resurrecting become common themes: allegedly inadequate emergency planning, the apparent lack of a national nuclear waste disposal option, the inference that the only benefit of nuke operation is making money, and local residents claiming a violation of their human rights. But the main reason for the onslaught is the use of MOX fuel in 15% of the unit#3 fuel load. Even the relatively few nuclear-neutral Japanese news outlets mention the MOX fuel in the core. Much of what is posted is misleading and drips with FUD rhetoric (Fear predicated on perceived Uncertainty & Doubt).

  • Takahama unit #3 was restarted late Friday afternoon. The first of the control rods was slowly withdrawn at 5pm, allowing neutrons from the fuel to be moderated (slowed-down) to produce subsequent fissions. Initial criticality occurred at around 6am this morning. All reports literally centered around Takahama unit #3 being the first nuke to restart using Mixed Oxide fuel Only one, Japan’s Atomic Industrial Forum, mentioned that MOX comprises about 15 % of the installed fuel bundles. Fear generated by the mere mention of the word “Plutonium” was obviously being exploited for increased ratings and advertising income. http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/20160129_28.htmlhttp://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/news/nuclear.htmlhttp://www.jaif.or.jp/en/kansai-ep-starts-up-takahama-3-npp/ [Comment – NHK World posted some apparently misleading information. First, they make it seem as if three-fourths of the control rods were removed from the core. Actually, they were partially withdrawn to expose enough of the fuel to allow initial criticality. The control rods were patterned appropriately, but none totally removed from the core. In addition, the generation of electricity has nothing to do with the NHK assertion about “density of materials in cooling water”. NHK may be making a dismal attempt to explain the core void coefficient of reactivity (see “Slowing Down Neutrons” in http://www.hiroshimasyndrome.com/chernobyl.html) that effects power control. The above errors may be merely a quirk of translating from Japanese to English, but this writer suspects it is a result of ignorance on the part of the Press.]
  • Japan’s antinuclear Press makes fears and minor protests seem significant. On Friday, the Japan Times fixated primarily on the evacuation issue. Although welcomed by local businesses, the Mayor, the prefecture, and the governor, the news outlet focuses on the dissident demographic, which mostly comes from neighboring Kyoto Prefecture. The Times says the existing evacuation plans merely exist on paper, clearly implying that they are untested and prone to catastrophic failure. Aileen Mioko Smith of the antinuclear group Green Action said the plans fail to consider the “tens of thousands of people with special needs” inside the EPZ. She added a plea obviously intended to evoke emotional response, “Restart of the Takahama Plant is a human rights injustice toward children and those with handicaps”. (emphasis added) The Times also spends time on the nuclear waste disposal/storage issue, a long-standing favorite of the antinuclear persuasion for more than three decades. The Mainichi Shimbun focused on public protests and failed court injunctions in their Friday restart article. They went so far as to post a picture of about 30 protesters demonstrating in Hiroshima City, exploiting confusion between reactors and bombs that is common across Japan. The Asahi Shimbun chimed-in on this topic, as well. Perhaps 30 demonstrators stood outside Takahama station’s gate shouting antinuclear slogans. Adding to the emotional appeal, the Asahi said they were doing this in “cold weather and steady rain.” The newspaper even found a solitary local businessman whose statement fits the obviously antinuclear agenda. He said, “The resumption of the reactor’s operation poses a huge dilemma for us. We can’t readily welcome the restart, but it is also true that we have relied on revenues from hosting the plant over the past 40 years. This town is certain to go into decline without the plant in operation.” The rest of the article dwelled on the issues raised by the three neighboring prefectures that skirt the 30km EPZ. One Hyogo official said, “The restart has left with concerns because we have yet to decide locations to shelter evacuees.”  https://us-mg5.mail.yahoo.com/neo/launch?.rand=cfo8ngq19ikc2 –- http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/01/29/national/third-reactor-restart-spurs-fears-over-shaky-kansai-evacuation-plans/#.Vqtz35Bf0dVhttp://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160129/p2g/00m/0dm/074000c
  • Japan’s Press makes a mockery of MOX (pluthermal) fuel. On Friday, the Asahi Shimbun believes that MOX fuel places the 180,000 people living inside the 30km evacuation zone at extraordinary risk, and makes it the main focus of its report. The article tries to exacerbate the fear-mongering by including the impending restart of Ikata unit #3, which will also use MOX as a minor part of the fuel bundle mix. Using a modified bait-and-switch tactic, the Mainichi Shimbun added to the MOX fear-mongering on Saturday. The Mainichi said spent (used) MOX fuel bundles “will have nowhere to go for reprocessing…leaving Japan with yet another nuclear waste problem”. It then dwells on historical issues with the Monju fast breeder project and the Rokkasho reprocessing facility. Although wildly misleading and dripping with FUD rhetoric (Fear predicated on perceived Uncertainty & Doubt) , the Mainichi claims “spent MOX fuel is beyond the capacity of the Rokkasho plant, [and] there needs to be built yet another plant dedicated to reprocessing spent MOX fuel. However, there’s not even a blueprint for building such a plant.”  (Aside – the Rokkasho facility was completed in 2013, but operation has been delayed in order to meet the post-Fukushima regulatory changes. Until the Nuclear Regulation Authority approves start-up, MOX bundles will be stored at their home site, just the same as all used fuel bundles. – End aside)  Hideyuki Ban of Tokyo’s Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center added to the wave of deception by saying, “It is unclear whether spent nuclear fuel will really be reused, while the final disposal site has yet to be decided.” On Sunday, the Japan Times resorted to outright fear-mongering, saying that when this fuel load is ends its life in the core “the amount of highly toxic spent mixed-oxide fuel present there will [raise] to an estimated 18.5 tons”. (Emphasis added) No explanation of the reason for the “highly toxic” designation is given. On Monday, Feb. 1st, the Asahi ran a brief (reminder” piece with the misleading headline “Kansai Electric’s Takahama pluthermal reactor back in operation”. Having 15% of its core comprised of recycled nuclear fuel does not constitute entitling Takahama #3 a “pluthermal reactor”. The Asahi should be formally rebuked for this. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201601290054http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160130/p2a/00m/0na/013000chttp://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2016/01/31/national/restarts-threaten-increase-amount-deadly-mox-takahama-plant-18-5-tons/#.Vq4NrpBf0dVhttp://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201602010028
  • Not to be outdone by their Japanese counterparts, Greenpeace Japan proclaimed the remote possibility of meltdown is unacceptable. The group’s Kendra Ulrich said, “Allowing the restart of the Takahama reactors with potential fire safety hazards that would pose significant risk of reactor core meltdown is irresponsible. Once again, it may be the people of Japan who end up paying the price for their government’s nuclear gambling.” How “fire safety hazards” could cause a nuclear disaster was not explained. http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/japan-restarts-takahama-nuclear-reactorhttp://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20160130/p2a/00m/0na/013000c
  • The Asahi Shimbun says the restart of the two Sendai units last year will provide a “financial windfall” to Kyushu Electric Company. Further, Kyushu’s President Michiaki Uriu is said to be pushing for the “early restarts” of two units at Genkai station, to further bloat the monetary bonanza. He is cited thusly, “The impact of reactor restarts at the Sendai plant has been certainly large, but we are making profits thanks to such fluctuating factors as the declining fuel [oil and gas] price.” What is not mentioned is the massive financial hit that Kyushu Electric, as well as all other nuke owners took because of the nearly four-year-long national nuclear moratorium. Clearly, the Asahi feels the only positive from nuke operation is the money made by the owning utilities, not to mention the local businesses around the stations. http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201601300040