• As anticipated, the nuclear-neutral Liberal Democratic Party of Japan won yesterday’s election in a virtual landslide, taking 294 seats in the Diet’s lower house. This led Prime Minister Noda to announce he will resign and be replaced by LDP party-chief Shinzo Abe. While the LDP’s victory promises to weaken the political drive to abolish nukes in Japan, Abe said the stunning victory was largely due to public dissatisfaction with Noda’s party, ”It is the people’s ‘No’ to the confusion. People will be carefully watching to see if the LDP can live up to expectations.” Also, the LDP may re-open the door for building new nuclear plants, causing one Industry Ministry official to say the LDP “probably won’t move on the new reactors issue until after the House of Councilors (upper house) election next summer.” Also as expected, the LDP has formed a political coalition with the New Komeito Party, which won 31 seats. Together, the coalition holds more than the two-thirds majority needed to enact bills rejected by the Diet’s upper house. This is of critical importance because the antinuclear Democratic Party of Japan continues to hold the majority in the upper house. For the record, the DPJ won 57 seats which is roughly a third of what they had before the election, and the media-darling antinuclear Tomorrow Party won only nine seats. Tomorrow Party head, Shiga governor Yukiko Kada was disappointed but vowed to continue the antinuclear cause. She pointed out that only 60% of Japan’s registered voters participated in the election, suggesting that pre-election news media coverage predicting the LDP landslide discouraged much of the antinuclear demographic from voting. Voter turnout yesterday was the lowest recorded since the end of World War II. Other critics of the election said this was not an LDP victory so much as a win-by-default. Regardless, Japan’s leading daily newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, said, “Voters handed down a harsh verdict on the government of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).” The Mainichi Shimbun blamed the DPJ’s defeat on its slow and confused post-disaster management after last year’s quake-tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis at Fukushima. (NHK World; Mainichi Shimbun; Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Many people forced to evacuate the Fukushima no-go zones voted for the LDP. Evacuee Eri Kusano voted LDP because “Things might get better than they were with the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). More important than getting rid of nuclear power plants is recovery of disaster areas. I also want them to work on the unemployment problem.” Kazumi Hayakawa, an evacuee from Nahara, said, “There was no other party worth voting for. We were betrayed by the DPJ, whose policies were only words.” Many evacuees felt the DPJ didn’t really work hard enough to repopulate no-go zones and failed to make headway in the restoration of tsunami-devastated communities. (Mainichi Shimbun)
  • An exit poll run by the Asahi Shimbun showed that despite the LDP landslide, most Japanese voters still want a zero-nuclear future. About 15% of those who voted want nukes abolished immediately and 63% want it phased out gradually. These results compare favorably with polls run by the news media before the election. This indicates that while nuclear energy continues to be unpopular, it was not a determining factor in the election’s outcome.
  • The victory of the LDP will likely result in a significant change to the prior regime’s nuclear phase-out policy. It is believed that the LDP will not make rapid, sweeping changes. They will probably exercise caution, taking as long as ten years to make a final decision of Japan’s nuclear energy future. One Tokyo energy official speculates, “The new government may prefer to take plenty of time to work out a new energy policy, saying something like ‘We will think whether it is appropriate or not to choose a nuclear-zero path.'” It is possible the current zero-nuclear-energy goal could be completely abolished and that the new regime could speed up the nuke restarts across the country to eliminate the increased costs of importing fossil fuels, which could significantly ease the country’s tumbling economy. However, the LDP will probably wait and watch the progression of new nuclear safety regulations to be created by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority before making any type of push for nuke restarts. The above-mentioned official said, “I expect the new government will focus on raising the credibility of the regulator for the meantime by avoiding interfering in its activities, because a trusted regulator may help allay public concern over the safety of nuclear power generation.” (Kyodo News Service; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • Fearing a major setback, Japanese antinuclear forces held a desperate rally in Tokyo on election-day. About 1,000 people attended. Hosei University professor Yuko Tanaka told the crowd, “Japan will face a crossroads tomorrow. Depending on the result of the election, I feel that Japan could wind up in hell.” She added that the election would not reflect the feelings of those in Japan who despise nuclear power. Another protestor, Satoshi Kamata, said that public demonstrations should continue for as long as nuclear plants exist, “No matter which party takes power, we must not lower our voices for the abolition of nuclear power.” In parallel with the protest, an international conference of antinuclear activists began in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture: the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety. Tatsuya Yoshioka, a conference organizer, said, “It seems that the goal of scrapping nuclear power is not being taken seriously (in the election). . . . So the significance of the conference is really big and I think we will be able to send a strong message to the electorate.” (Japan Times)
  • Tepco has released photographs and a detailed handout on their inspection of a “vent pipe” on Fukushima Daiichi unit #2, revealing further evidence that there was no explosion inside the Primary Containment Vessel (PCV). The pictured pipe is one of eight that connect the PCV to the 600,000 gallon suppression chamber (torus). At about 65 pounds per square inch internal pressure, a valve inside the pipe opens and allows steam and other internal gasses to be released under the surface of the water in the torus. If there were an explosion inside the PCV or torus on March 15, 2011, some indication of the event should be apparent on or around the huge pipe. But, there isn’t. In fact, Tepco’s press handout says no leakage of any kind was discovered. Western experts caution that this is but one of the eight vent pipes coming out of the PCV and a conclusive judgment on PCV integrity should not be made until all have been investigated. It should be noted that Tepco also measured the radiation level at the bottom of the pipe and found it to be about half of what they had hypothesized. This should be considered with Tepco’s investigation of the torus room, several months ago, which also showed no apparent damage. This further puts Tepco and the Tokyo government’s insistence on a leakage pathway from the unit#2 Reactor Vessel into the PCV, and from there to the outer reactor building basement, into question. To read the handout, follow this link… Results of Investigation on the Lower Part of Unit 2 Vent Pipe at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station (PDF 91.5KB)
  • The NRA has released their new, corrected estimations of radioactive material deposition in the hypothetical worst-case nuclear accident situation. The simulations released In October were riddled with at least 75 critical mistakes affecting all 17 nuke locations. One of the new projections is much less extensive than previously thought, and two others are literally “upside down” from the original projections. The smaller projection is for the Tomari nuke station because the original data included rainfall 10 times greater than average for the location, which would result in a much slower contamination “rain-out”. As a result, the projected mandatory evacuation distance for Tomari has been reduced to 15 kilometers instead of the original maximum distance of 20 kilometers. The Genkai and Sendai stations now have dispersal projections the exact reverse of the previous estimates because the wind direction data supplied to the NRA was 180 degrees opposite of what it should have been. The new furthest projected distance for Genkai is 27.4 kilometers (versus 29) and for Sendai it is 21 kilometers (the same as before). The mistakes for the remaining 14 stations were minor, in comparison, and made little impact on the previously-projected deposition areas. The NRA has blamed the Japan Nuclear Energy Society for supplying the faulty data, and JNES blames the utility companies who own the nukes. The issue may have damaged what level of trust existed between the new NRA and the local officials inside the 30km radii from the nuclear station. (Yomiuri Shimbun)
  • Tepco has formally accepted culpability for the F. Daiichi accident. The company says a combination of bad habits and over-confidence were the roots of the problem. Takefumi Anegawa, the head of Tepco’s reform task force, said the Diet’s report on the accident contained many descriptions of the company’s bad habits and lack of a safety culture and “We admit, we completely admit, that part of the parliamentary report.” While formally admitting accident responsibility for the first time, Tepco says they continue to take issue with the Diet report’s speculation that earthquake damage may have begun the accident before the tsunami hit. Tepco remains firm that there was no safety or safety-related system damage caused by the quake, just the same as the F. Daiini station’s four units and F. Daiichi’s units #5&6. If it were not for the huge sea-waves that inundated the lower four units at F. Daiichi and flooded all emergency power sources, there would have been no nuclear accident. (Japan Today; Mainichi Shimbun)
  • A German physician has charged the World Health Organization with a cover-up of its findings on the health impact of the Fukushima accident. In a research paper, Alex Rosen said WHO used radiation exposure data compiled by what he calls the world’s greatest nuclear promoter: The International Atomic Energy Agency. WHO says the radiation doses to the public, even those living closest to F. Daiichi, will produce too-few health problems to ever be statistically observed, and that there might be no health impacts whatsoever. Rosen countered that an independent assessment based on “solid scientific evidence” would produce results showing significant negative health effects, citing some research groups outside of Japan which have estimated much higher rates of biological damage. Rosen says WHO’s report “seems to suggest a certain safety while omitting the important information that the risk of developing cancer and other radiation-induced diseases increases proportionally to the amount of radioactive exposure.” He also suggests that there is something conspiratorial going on between the Japanese government, IAEA, and WHO, “It is unclear why a report written mainly by the IAEA and collaborating nuclear institutions would need to be published in the name of the WHO, if not to provide an unsuspicious cover” for the true radiation levels Fukushima residents were exposed to. A WHO official said the organization is currently unable to respond to Rosen’s research paper because they are still examining it. Rosen is a member of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which openly admits it believes there is no difference between nuclear weapon’s fallout and the releases from nuclear power plants. (Japan Times)

The 135th carnival of Nuclear Energy Bloggers is posted at ANS Nuclear Café. Topics include; how nuclear power is a “red herring” for terrorists, why nuclear fuel is cheaper than coal, a plea to promote nukes as a solution to climate change, competition between the US and Russia in the field of nuclear construction, the problems contained in the latest Chernobyl cancer study, how spent nuclear fuel disposal is not subsidized by the government, and the current situation with the Vermont nuclear energy political battle. For the links and summaries, go to… http://ansnuclearcafe.org/2012/12/16/135th-nuclear-carnival/