Fukushima Updates resumes today after this past weekend’s posting of the Carnival of Nuclear Power Bloggers.

  • Many of the evacuees of Kawamata town, Fukushima Prefecture, are skeptical of government decontamination efforts. Kawamata Mayor Michio Furukawa said, “The government needs to clearly show the effects of decontamination so that many residents can return home.” But up to 60% of the evacuees responding to a Kawamata survey were not so trusting as the mayor. Negative decontamination responses included “decontamination is difficult,” “there is no prospect that the nuclear crisis will be brought under control in the foreseeable future,” “the national government’s safety measures are unreliable,” “there are few jobs in the town” and “we just can’t let our children or grandchildren go back to our neighborhoods.” (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Solar energy construction and operation would produce 95,000 times more waste than nuclear power plants. The report with the above conclusion was posted on new nuclear blog site created by engineers at prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here’s the link… http://thingsworsethannuclearpower.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-real-waste-problem-solar-edition.html
  • Police videotaping of the weekly antinuclear protests in Tokyo has been called illegal. While police say they are taking a “soft handed approach” to protect the protestors, a volunteer group of lawyers has formed to keep an eye on what’s happening. Last Friday, two police were seen video-taping the gathering and one of the lawyers asked what they were doing. “Do you know that photographing ordinary citizens could be against the law?” he told them. They two police immediately left. Now, the group questions setting up barricades around the protestors and police confiscation of a few people’s cameras.  As for the barricades, the group says, “Freedom of expression is the lifeline of a democratic society and should not be interfered with by the exercise of police authority.” With respect to camera seizure, the group maintains, “It could be a violation of one’s portrait rights, and it could serve as a form of intimidation on the participants.” A 51-year-old woman said. “With the police taking videos and specifying where we can stand, I felt intimidated. This is a peaceful protest movement.” A high-ranking police official responded, “We are taking a soft security approach and have no political meaning in our actions.” While early protests were estimated to have about 20,000 demonstrators, last week’s demonstration attracted less than 3,000. The reduced number is seen by the group to be a possible result of police measures that intimidate people. (Asahi Shimbun)
  • Tokyo has proposed that a Tochigi Prefecture site be used for radioactive wastes from the Fukushima accident. Senior Vice-Environment Minister Katsuhiko Yokomitsu made the proposal to Tochigi Governor Tomikazu Fukuda on Monday. The government has taken full responsibility for the disposal of wastes from as many as nine prefectures, provided it is actually more radioactive than the national standard of 8,000 Becquerels per kilogram. Tochigi Prefecture is already temporarily storing about 9,000 tons of radioactive waste at sewage treatment and other facilities. Tokyo says a 4-hectare site in a forest outside Yaita city should be sufficient. (NHK World) The Yaita forest was chosen after geological and topographic considerations were investigated. The Ministry is also investigating possible sites in Miyagi, Ibaraki, and Chiga Prefectures. Some 50,000 tons of such waste is currently stored in the three prefectures. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Former PM Naoto Kan has gone totally antinuclear, continuing to bring his apocalyptic nightmares to Japan. A former social activist before becoming a politician, Kan says he is going back to his roots as a civil movement campaigner to end Japan’s reliance on nuclear energy. Before a packed audience of more than 200 at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan (FCCJ) on Aug. 29, he said, “To the best of my knowledge, there is no other kind of accident besides nuclear power plant accidents that have the potential to destroy an entire nation or create a situation where a nation is more or less destroyed.” He added he fully supports recent lawsuits against the Tokyo Electric Power Company because, “After all, it was such a tremendous accident.” He believes it is possible that the public prosecutors’ office will eventually indict someone to face charges stemming from the nuclear crisis. He further stated his continuing assertion that he saved Japan from total destruction by ordering Tepco to not abandon F. Daiichi the first few days of the crisis, although all government investigations say his fears were unfounded. Kan is waging his anti-nuclear campaign despite investigative findings that his knowledge of nuclear energy was minimal and his meddling in nuclear operations during the accident only made the situation worse. “I felt strongly that my role as prime minister was to ensure that we would think of everything possible to deal with the situation,” Kan said, rebutting such allegations. “I realized that this was an accident caused by the Japanese people and therefore I feel it is the responsibility of the Japanese people to bring this accident to a close.” (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The Tokyo government says the abolition of nuclear energy could potentially double the cost of electricity. The estimate was compiled by Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano, based on complete withdrawal from nuclear energy by 2030. The estimate is in response to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda asking for guidance on the challenges the nation could face if the government decided to reduce Japan’s dependency on nukes to zero. (Kyodo News) Japan’s government estimates it will take a $600 billion investment for a complete replacement of nukes with renewables. National policy minister Motohisa Furukawa says a new national policy plan will be released by early next week, but hinted that it will be based on the eventual abolition of nuclear energy by making the renewable investment projection. Japan’s energy generated from solar, wind and other renewable sources would need to increase 250 billion kwh by 2030 to cover the loss of nuclear power. Even if nuclear generation is only reduced to 15% by 2030, the renewable investiture would be more than $450 billion. Another problem with a complete nuke phase-out would be disposal of spent fuel. Japan currently recycles spent fuel and re-uses the uranium once it is stripped of its fission products. With an abolition of nukes, there would be no market for recycled fuel and disposal options would have to be politically hammered out. An additional issue would be the loss of jobs in the nuclear profession begging the question as to what the displaced workers would do for a living. (Japan Times)
  • Defense Chief Satoshi Morimoto said Japan’s nuclear industry is a deterrent to foreign attack. He made this statement on January 25, before becoming a minister at a public forum on defense. He said Japanese nukes are “taken by neighboring countries as having very great defensive deterrent functions” because other Asian nations believe Japan can produce nuclear weapons quickly if it wanted to. (Kyodo News) Comment -This can only exacerbate Japan’s Hiroshima Syndrome affliction by continuing the confusion of reactors with bombs. Making weapons-grade material out of reactor fuel is hypothetically possible, but technically infeasible. For details on the naivety of the notion, read “Nuclear Waste: Is It?” from the menu to the left.

Now for this past weekend’s updates…

  • The IAEA has agreed to assist in the F. Daiichi decontamination effort and resident health checks. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano met Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato at the agency’s headquarters in Vienna. The IAEA chief said his agency will send staff and foreign experts to Fukushima. Agency and prefectural officials plan to set up a detailed plan of action as soon as possible. (NHK World)
  • Japanese judges are calling for more in-depth F. Daiichi safety analyses in legal cases involving nuclear plants. Five of seven judges who submitted proposals at a study meeting hosted by the Supreme Court pointed to the need to examine safety more thoroughly than before. Courts have routinely rejected appeals made in cases involving nuclear plants, but now they are debating whether the government itself is taking appropriate safety procedures. Lawyer Hiroyuki Kawai, who has represented clients involved in lawsuits against nuclear plants, said the fact that the Supreme Court held a meeting to study the issue is sending a strong message to judges. Kawai said. “The opinions of the judges clearly show that their reliance on regulators and bureaucrats is losing ground.” (Japan Times)
  • The Ministry of the Environment plans to examine the genomes of Fukushima volunteers to look for radiation damage. The Ministry will work with Fukushima Medical University to collect DNA samples from volunteers and hunt for abnormalities in their genes. They that there have been repeated requests to do a gene study from pregnant mothers and others, especially with respect to children. Professor Yusuke Nakamura of the University of Chicago calls the idea “baseless” because people’s gene sequences differ slightly and errors in testing equipment could occur, even if abnormalities in DNA sequences were found they might not be caused by radiation. Satoru Miyano of Tokyo University added, “Analysis results that might not in fact have any connection to radiation could be associated with the Fukushima nuclear disaster, hurting the people of Fukushima Prefecture and leading to discrimination and prejudice.” (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • The heads of three Japanese F. Daiichi investigative panels say the accident could happen again. “It would still be an enormous challenge to bring an accident under control if another occurred,” said Koichi Kitazawa, former chairman of the Japan Science and Technology Agency. The other two, Yoichiro Hatamura, professor emeritus of engineering at the University of Tokyo and Kiyoshi Kurokawa who was Chair of the Diet’s investigative committee, agreed with Kitazawa. Hatamura said the plant’s operators and engineers made crucial mistakes that should not be allowed to happen again. He feels that more work needs to be done to prevent such errors in the future, “We should establish a field of research that explores why certain approaches aren’t working.” Kurokawa called on Japan’s nuclear engineers to upgrade their expertise and skill by learning from other countries, “They should embark more frequently on exchanges with foreign counterparts…” In sum, they believe the current investigations don’t go deep enough into the accident, and unless further inquiry happens there could be another serious nuclear accident. (Asahi Shimbun)