Fukushima updates resume today after our posting of the 123rd Carnival of Nuclear Bloggers, earlier this week. Although the Japanese Press has been focusing on the off-shore island dispute with China, there have been some very interesting developments on the Fukushima-related issues.

  • Whether or not Japan’s future energy policy will be “no-nukes” continues to be debated. Last week, Prime Minister Noda and his cabinet’s decision on the Diet’s proposed no-nuke energy policy seemed inconsistent with the proposal itself. Now, Noda says it wasn’t inconsistent at all. “Don’t get me wrong,” Noda said Friday. “We did make a cabinet decision” on the nuclear phase-out policy on Sept 14. “Japan will seek a no-nuclear society in the 2030s and will realize it. With an unwavering attitude, we will implement various policies based on this principle. This is a huge policy change that we have made with a genuine determination.” Policy minister Motohisa Furukawa echoed his bosses words when he said, “We will mobilize all possible measures to achieve zero nuclear in the 2030s.” However, at the same time Tokyo said they will complete the three nukes already under construction and continue supporting Japan’s nuclear fuel recycling facility. This has caused the traditionally conservative Yomiuri Shimbun to say the government “tried to be friendly with both anti-nuclear bloc and pro-nuclear bloc, and that resulted in revealing it is incoherent.” The Yomiuri added, “The biggest reason for the faulty new energy strategy is that the government and the (ruling) Democratic Party of Japan announced the popular ‘zero-nuclear’ policy too quickly without much deliberation. Therefore, they ended up running about in confusion in the face of strong opposition.” In parallel, the traditionally liberal Mainichi Shimbun said the cabinet’s “Ad-hoc policy-making and trying to appease everyone has resulted in a vague position.” In other words, it seems that confusion over Japan’s actual energy future is widespread, and remains subject to sudden change. (Japan Today)
  • On Saturday, a steel beam was accidently dropped into the spent fuel pool of unit #3. While removing debris from the decimated refueling deck of unit #3 with a large crane, a hydraulic grasping device which was attempting to clutch the beam was not completely engaged with the beam itself. Upon trying to lift it, the beam slipped and fell into the pool. Pool monitoring devices showed no changes or irregularities after the incident. In addition, the radionuclide levels in the pool’s water have not changed in the four days since. Thus, Tepco says there was no damage to any of the stored fuel bundles the beam fell on top of. In addition, Tepco videos from an underwater camera seem to show no damage. (NHK World; Tepco Press Releases) Video footage of the debris removal, showing the beam being struck and sliding into the pool near the end of the clip, can be seen here… http://nuclearstreet.com/nuclear_power_industry_news/b/nuclear_power_news/archive/2012/09/26/remote_2d00_controlled-equipment-removes-wreckage-from-around-fukushima-spent-fuel-pool-in-new-tepco-video-092602.aspx
  • The Yomiuri Shimbun has posted an impressive overview of the radioactive waste disposal situation in Japan. The Yomiuri adds the rhetorical comment that “Methods and locations for the disposal of nuclear fuel remain unclear as the government maintains a directionless course over its nuclear policy.” Regardless, the article provides a rather rational understanding of Japan’s spent fuel disposal situation over the past decade. Here’s the link… http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120924003848.htm
  • Nuclear Regulation Authority chief Shunichi Tanaka says the previous “stress tests” on Japan’s nukes will no longer be used. “We will not use ‘stress tests’ as our judgment criteria,” Tanaka insisted. Instead, the NRA will establish new criteria for determining a nuke’s ability to withstand earthquakes and other natural calamities. Tanaka added he has “no intention” to decide whether or not the submitted stress test results are proper. In other words, all utilities with nukes must literally start anew to show whether or not their facilities are sufficiently quake-proof. (Japan Times)
  • In an exclusive interview with the Yomiuri Shimbun, NRA chief Tanaka said no currently-idled nukes will be restarted before the summer of 2013. Between now and then, the NRA will create new nuclear safety rules which will be used to determine restart criteria. Tanaka added that the rules development process will begin with about two months of public hearings across Japan. According to the law which formed the NRA, the new safety regulations must be in place within 10 months after launching the group, giving it a deadline of July, 2013. Tanaka went on to say the NRA will take a radical view when making the new guidelines, “Such tasks as drawing up countermeasures against severe nuclear accidents and [deciding] how to deal with possible active faults beneath nuclear facilities will take a lot of time. I think the time frame is very tight.” He also stressed the NRA will dedicate itself exclusively to scientific evaluations, excluding the prior “stress tests”. The NRA will make no specific efforts to obtain the public’s acceptance of restarting reactors, which Tanaka said was a government responsibility. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Technologies developed to facilitate radionuclide decontamination are becoming big business in Japan. An exhibit showcasing these technologies opened in Tokyo on Monday. The three-day event has attracted representatives from more than 100 organizations now involved with the Fukushima decontamination efforts. For example, one construction company has a road decontamination device that has already been used and shown to reduce highway radiation levels by 70%. Also, a chemical company is demonstrating a filter that removes Cesium from water. And, an electronics company is exhibiting a camera that gives a visual display of gamma radiation levels which can be used to find radioactive “hot spots” in parks and other natural settings. (NHK World)
  • Industry Minister Yukio Edano says Tokyo will strongly urge utilities to scrap all plans to build any more nukes. “The government’s Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment has a certain binding force on nuclear power and the energy industry,” Edano stressed during the interview on Sept. 25, “We will examine whether the government will have power companies take voluntary responses in light of the government strategy or if any legislative measures are necessary.” The government’s policy states that “no new or additional nuclear reactors will be constructed” in compliance with the no-nukes energy rule. When the Fukushima accident happened, there were plans on the table to build six more nukes, in addition to the three that were already under construction. Plans for the six proposed units in question are the ones to be dropped. While there is currently no law-backed regulation to forbid new nuclear construction, it is felt Tokyo’s threat of creating such a law should be enough to deter any future nukes from being built. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • About two-thirds of America favors nuclear energy as an essential part of its present and future energy mix. This was discovered in a recent random telephone survey of 1000 people run by Bisconti Research Inc., for the Nuclear Energy Institute. Those strongly in favor of nukes were 29% while those strongly opposed was 14%. In addition, just over three-fourths said they believe America’s nuclear facilities to be “safe and secure”, while only 19% believed they were not. 81% said they favor the renewal of operating licenses for nukes that meet federal safety standards. In addition, 74% believe companies should be ready to build new nukes in the next decade if needed. Further, 80% agreed that “…we should learn the lessons from the Japanese accident and continue to develop advanced nuclear energy plants to meet America’s growing electricity demand.” (Nuclear Engineering International)
  • Blog colleague Rod Adams at Atomic Insights has posted an article by a Yokohama City University lecturer who says Fukushima changed his mind about nuclear energy. Michael Radcliffe wrote the article entitled “How I learned to stop worrying and embrace the atom”. I recommend it to everyone… http://atomicinsights.com/2012/09/how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-embrace-the-atom.html#more-13047