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Fukushima Bill

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Shaun Burnie ‒ senior nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany, Tokyo.

Six years after Japan's Fukushima nuclear accident, three global nuclear corporations are fighting for their very survival. The bankruptcy filing by Westinghouse Electric Co. and its parent company Toshiba Corp. preparing to post losses of ¥1 trillion (US$9 billion), is a defining moment in the global decline of the nuclear power industry.

However, whereas the final financial meltdown of Westinghouse and Toshiba will likely be measured in a few tens of billions of dollars, those losses are but a fraction of what Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) is looking at as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

If the latest estimates for the cost of cleaning up the Fukushima plant prove accurate, Tepco faces the equivalent of a Toshiba meltdown every year until 2087. In November 2016, the Japanese Government announced a revised estimate for the Fukushima nuclear accident (decommissioning, decontamination, waste management and compensation) of ¥21.5 trillion (US$193 billion) – a doubling of their estimate in 2013.

But the credibility of the government's numbers has been questioned all along, given that the actual 'decommissioning' of the Fukushima plant and its three melted reactors is entering into an engineering unknown.

This questioning was borne out by the November doubling of cost estimates after only several years into the accident, when there is every prospect Tepco will be cleaning up Fukushima well into next century.

And sure enough, a new assessment published in early March from the Japan Institute for Economic Research, estimates that total costs for decommissioning, decontamination and compensation as a result of the Fukushima atomic disaster could range between ¥50‒70 trillion (US$449‒628 billion).

If confirmed over the coming years, it will be the most expensive industrial accident in history with even greater implications for the people and energy future of Japan.

Rather than admit that the Fukushima accident is effectively the end of Tepco as a nuclear generating company, the outline of a restructuring plan was announced in late March.

Tepco Holdings, the entity established to manage the destroyed nuclear site, and the Nuclear Damage Compensation and Decommissioning Facilitation Corporation (NDF) are seeking ways to sustain the utility in the years ahead, confronted as they are with escalating Fukushima costs and electricity market reform.

The NDF, originally established by the Government in 2011 to oversee compensation payments and to secure electricity supply, had its scope broadened in 2014 to oversee decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi plant on the Pacific Ocean coast north of Tokyo.

The latest restructuring plan is intended to find a way forward for Tepco by securing a future for its nuclear, transmission and distribution businesses. If possible in combination with other energy companies in Japan.

But the plan, already received less than warmly by other utilities rightly concerned at being burdened with Tepco's liabilities, is premised on Fukushima cost estimates of ¥21.5 trillion, not ¥50‒70 trillion.

To date Tepco's Fukushima costs have been covered by interest-free government loans, with ¥6 trillion (US$57 billion) already paid out. Since 2012 Tepco's electricity ratepayers have paid ¥2.4 trillion to cover nuclear-related costs, including the Fukushima accident site.

That is nothing compared to the costs looming over future decades and beyond and it comes at a time when Tepco and other electric utilities are under commercial pressure as never before. The commercial pressure comes from electricity market reform that since April 2016 allowed consumers to switch from the monopoly utilities to independent power providers. In the ten months to February 2017, the main electric utilities lost 2.5 million customers, with Tepco alone losing more than 1.44 million. Hence, profits have fallen off a cliff.

Prior to the deregulation of the retail electricity market, Tepco had 22 million customers. As the Tepco president observed late last year: "The number (of customers leaving Tepco) is changing every day as the liberalization continues … We will of course need to think of ways to counter that competition."

Countering that competition shouldn't mean rigging the market, yet Tepco and the other utilities intend to try and retain their decades long dominance of electricity by retaining control over access to the grid. This is a concerted push back against the growth of renewable energy.

Current plans to open the grid to competition in 2020, so called legal unbundling, are essential to wrest control from the big utilities. The message of unbundling and independence, however, doesn't seem to have reached the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) that oversees the electricity industry.

Current plans would allow Tepco to establish separate legal entities: Tepco Fuel & Power (thermal power generation), Tepco Energy Partner (power distribution) and Tepco Power Grid (power transmission). Tepco Holdings will retain their stock and control their management, meaning the same monopoly will retain control of the grid. Where Tepco leads, the other nine electric utilities aim to follow.

Leaving the grid effectively still under the control of the traditional utilities will throw up a major obstacle to large scale expansion of renewable energy sources from new companies. Such businesses will be 'curtailed' or stopped from supplying electricity to the grid when the large utilities decide it's necessary, justified for example to maintain the stability of the grid.

The fact that 'curtailment' will be permitted in many regions without financial compensation piles further pain onto new entrants to the electricity market, and by extension consumers.

Further, METI plans to spread the escalating costs of Fukushima so that other utilities and new power companies pay a proportion of compensation costs. METI's justification for charging customers of new energy companies is that they benefited from nuclear power before the market opened up.

The need to find someone else to pay for Tepco's mess is underscored by the breakdown of the Fukushima disaster cost estimate in November.

When put at an estimated ¥22 trillion, ¥16 trillion is supposed to be covered by Tepco. The Ministry of Finance is to offer ¥2 trillion for decontamination, and the remaining ¥4 trillion is to be provided by other power companies and new electricity providers.

The question is how does Tepco cover its share of the costs when it's losing customers and its only remaining nuclear plant in Japan, Kashiwazaki Kariwa (the world's largest), has no prospect of restarting operation due to local opposition?

What happens when Fukushima costs rise to the levels projected of ¥50‒70 trillion?

The policy measures being put in place by Tepco, other utilities and the government suggests that they know what is coming and their solution for paying for the world's most costly industrial accident will be sticking both hands into the public purse.

Reprinted from Asia Times, 31 March 2017,

Will Westinghouse and Toshiba survive?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

On March 29, the day that Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in New York, Bloomberg noted: "Westinghouse Electric Co., once synonymous with America's industrial might, wagered its future on nuclear power ‒ and lost."1

Whether Westinghouse will survive is an open question. Toshiba said on March 29 that Westinghouse has debts totalling US$9.8 billion and the bankruptcy filing is a clear indication that the company's viability is in doubt.2

Toshiba would sell Westinghouse if it could find a buyer, but it can't. Toshiba has tried but failed to sell Westinghouse several times already.3 Incredibly, Toshiba chief executive Satoshi Tsunakawa said in mid-March that Toshiba might have to pay a buyer to take Westinghouse off its hands.4 Presumably a utility or company willing to accept Westinghouse (along with a payment) would also be taking on a debt load as well as future risks associated with Westinghouse's nuclear business.

The Financial Times reported on March 5: "Mitsubishi this month ruled out rescuing the US company, citing its partnership with Areva, the troubled French reactor designer. Hitachi, which makes reactors with GE, also said it would not invest in Westinghouse, highlighting technology differences. GE is also thought to be highly unlikely to have any interest in Westinghouse. GE declined to comment. EDF, the French power company that is planning to buy a controlling stake in Areva's reactor business, is not expected to pursue Westinghouse. An EDF spokesperson said buying Westinghouse was "not in our plan"."3

South Korea's Kepco is seen as a possible buyer of Westinghouse, or parts of Westinghouse, and Kepco is also seen as a possible saviour of Toshiba's NuGen reactor project at Moorside in the UK. George Borovas from law firm Shearman & Sterling said: "It is therefore possible that some kind of 'package deal' could be structured for a strategic Korean investment into Westinghouse and NuGen at the same time."3

But Suh Kyun-ryul, professor of atomic engineering at Seoul National University, asked: "Why should [Kepco] take such big financial risks by taking over a troubled business amid the gloomy industry outlook?"3 And Kepco president Cho Hwan-eik was unequivocal in his comments on March 22: "We have no plan to acquire Toshiba's stake [in Westinghouse] ... there is no role for us there".5

There is speculation that Chinese utilities might be interested in buying Westinghouse ... if only because just about every other possibility has been ruled out.6 None of the speculation about a Chinese buy-out addresses the point that Chinese interests are no more likely to be interested in a bankrupt company than anyone else. Speculation about a Chinese buy-out has been laced with warnings about the 'need' to keep Westinghouse out of Chinese hands for various non-descript 'national interest' and 'national security' reasons.7

Bloomberg reports that Westinghouse has been a repeated target of Chinese espionage.7 Five Chinese military officials were indicted in absentia in 2014 for allegedly stealing trade secrets from Westinghouse through computer hacks, and China General Nuclear Power Corp. was indicted in 2016 for conspiring to steal restricted nuclear technology from Westinghouse.7

US officials are reportedly examining three options to keep Westinghouse out of Chinese hands: blocking a sale to a Chinese buyer (assuming there is a Chinese buyer ... which seems to be the elephant in the room ... at the moment there isn't a buyer); encouraging a bid from US investors or US-allied foreign investors; or direct US government investment in Westinghouse in return for an equity stake.7

A carve-up of Westinghouse is possible with profitable operations sold off to lessen existing debts. Jose Emeterio Gutierrez, interim president and CEO of Westinghouse, said in early April: "It's a reality that we have this problem with the construction of the US AP1000 projects, but it's also true that the rest of the company is in good shape. It's a healthy business. We don't have significant problems."8

But Westinghouse may have to sell profitable operations to stave off bankruptcy and may be left with little or nothing other than the high-risk, heavily-indebted AP1000 reactor projects in the US. George Borovas from law firm Shearman & Sterling said: "Any sale would likely be preceded by a restructuring of Westinghouse so that the 'new Westinghouse' being sold would be free of any liabilities arising from the current new build projects that Westinghouse is constructing."6

Toshiba itself is already in precisely that situation: reluctantly selling profitable parts of its business to stave off bankruptcy and being left holding an unwanted atomic bomb.

Currently, Toshiba is being forced to increase its 87% stake in Westinghouse. Japanese company IHI Corporation is exercizing its put option to sell its 3% stake of Westinghouse to Toshiba for US$157 million.9 KazAtomProm owns the remaining 10% of Westinghouse and may also exercize its right to sell its stake to Toshiba on or after 1 October 2017.10

On a brighter note, Jose Emeterio Gutierrez, interim president and CEO of Westinghouse, recently told staff that the company's decommissioning business currently brings in almost US$100 million a year and could easily double or triple in the next few years.8 He pointed to plants at risk of early closure in the US and fleets in countries like Germany that are phasing out nuclear power altogether after the Fukushima disaster. "The market is huge. Also, it's not a market that is short term," he said.8

Will Toshiba survive?

Toshiba said in February that it expects to book a US$6.3 billion writedown on Westinghouse11, on top of a US$2.3 billion writedown in April 2016.12 The losses exceed the US$5.4 billion Toshiba paid when it bought a majority stake in Westinghouse in 2006.11

Now Toshiba says there is "substantial doubt about the Company's ability to continue as a going concern".13

Toshiba's demise is a crushing blow to Japan's nuclear industry ... which was already crushed by the Fukushima disaster. Nikkei Asian Review commented on April 10:14

"Japan's nuclear power industry is at the most critical juncture in its history. Demand for new reactors has dried up at home following the Fukushima nuclear disaster and dismal prospects for export are dual menaces threatening the fate of the country's nuclear technology. No domestic construction on a new reactor has begun for the past eight years. The catastrophic accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in 2011 blew a hole in the industry's plans. The picture for exports of Japanese nuclear power technology looks just as gloomy. Japanese reactor manufacturers and suppliers of key components are now facing the possible loss of their technological viability."

Toshiba's decision to have its subsidiary Westinghouse file for bankruptcy protection may put some boundaries around future liabilities and losses, particularly those associated with the US AP1000 projects. But Toshiba will still be responsible for guaranteeing roughly ¥650 billion (US$5.9bn) worth of Westinghouse debt if the nuclear projects are delayed due to the bankruptcy filing, and Toshiba also needs to set aside about ¥170 billion (US$1.54bn) in loan-loss provisions in case loans to Westinghouse prove unrecoverable.15

The US government is also on the hook due to its US$8.3 billion loan guarantee for the two AP1000 reactors under construction in Georgia.16 A Department of Energy spokesperson said the agency is "keenly interested" in Westinghouse's bankruptcy proceedings and that the administration expects all companies to "honor their commitments" to finish the project.16 If Westinghouse cannot complete the reactors, repayment of the loans will likely be delayed, in which case the government would take on the debt. Nikkei Asian Review reported on March 11: "It remains unclear how Washington and Toshiba would split the costs in this case. But the possibility that American taxpayers could bear some of the burden has spurred negotiations involving the U.S. and Japanese governments to settle the matter."17

The BBC noted on March 29 that Toshiba's share-price has been in freefall, losing more than 60% since the company first unveiled the massive cost overruns with US reactor projects in December 2016.18

Standard & Poor's cut its credit rating on Toshiba on March 17, down two notches to CCC-, pushing it further into junk status after previous downgrades in December and January.19

Toshiba is selling profitable businesses to stave off bankruptcy, including its highly-profitable memory chip business. Toshiba will need to earn about ¥1 trillion (US$9.1bn) from the sale to bring its net worth out of the red.15

Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries were planning an integration of their nuclear fuel operations due to the protracted weakness of Japan's nuclear industry ‒ but that has stalled due to Toshiba's current crisis.20

A broader integration between the three companies would make sense according to Tom O'Sullivan from energy consultancy Mathyos Japan. "It would make sense. There's no point in having three companies chasing a dying market in Japan," he said.21 But Mitsubishi president and chief executive Shunichi Miyanaga ruled out a merger in mid-February22 and a Hitachi spokesperson said there are no discussions on merging the companies' overall nuclear operations.21 Nevertheless, the Japanese government might use whatever leverage it has to force a tie-up between the three companies.

There are conflicting reports as to whether Tokyo might use government funds to rescue Toshiba. Most of the statements from the government suggest that there will not be a government bail-out.23 But Nikkei Asian Review reported on March 18 that the Toshiba/Westinghouse crisis was discussed at a meeting between Japan's minister of economy, trade and industry and the US commerce secretary and energy secretary, and speculated that the two governments "seem to be softening on their previous stance that the company's restructuring is a private-sector matter."24

In February, Toshiba said it plans to exit the reactor construction business and focus its nuclear business on design, equipment supply and engineering services.25 That probably remains the plan, but comments by Toshiba chief executive Satoshi Tsunakawa on March 29 suggest a more complete withdrawal from the nuclear industry outside of Japan. "This is a de facto withdrawal from the overseas nuclear business for us. Therefore, we don't see any more risk," he said.

Whatever Toshiba does, it is still on the hook for multi-billion dollar liabilities associated with the AP1000 projects in the US.


1. Chris Martin and Chris Cooper, 29 March 2017, 'How an American Tech Icon Bet on Nuclear ‒ and Lost its Way',

2. Diane Cardwell and Jonathan Soble, 29 March 2017, 'Westinghouse Files for Bankruptcy, in Blow to Nuclear Power',

3. Kana Inagaki and Song Jung-a, 5 March 2017, 'Kepco seen as potential buyer for Toshiba's ailing nuclear unit',
4. Makiko Yamazaki and Taiga Uranaka, 14 March 2017, 'Toshiba pushes sale of nuclear unit Westinghouse as crisis deepens',

5. Song Jung-a in, 22 March 2017, 'Kepco rules out buying Westinghouse stake',

6. Stephen Stapczynski, 13 March 2017, 'Troubled Nuclear Builder Seen Best Fit for Asian Ambitions',

7. Jennifer Jacobs, Saleha Mohsin, and Jennifer A Dlouhy, 5 April 2017, 'Trump Team Takes Steps to Keep Chinese From Westinghouse',

8. Anya Litva, 11 April 2017, 'Westinghouse CEO tries to spread optimism despite bankruptcy',

9. Tom Hals and Jessica DiNapoli, 27 March 2017, 'Factbox: Toshiba's options in U.S. nuclear bankruptcy',

10. World Nuclear News, 29 March 2017, 'Westinghouse files for US bankruptcy protection',

11. BBC, 14 Feb 2017, 'Toshiba chairman quits over nuclear loss',

12. Reuters, 26 April 2016, 'Toshiba Takes $2.3 Billion Writedown on U.S. Nuclear Unit Westinghouse',

13. Toshiba Corporation, 11 April 2017, 'Toshiba Announces Consolidated Results for the First Nine Months and the Third Quarter for Fiscal Year 2016, Ending March 2017',

14. Nikkei Asian Review, 10 April 2017, 'Japan's nuclear technology faces extinction',

15. Nikkei Asian Review, 6 April 2017, 'Cutting Westinghouse loose puts Toshiba in a deeper hole',

16. Peter Maloney, 3 April 2017, 'Westinghouse bankruptcy puts $8.3B in federal loan guarantees for Vogtle plant at risk',

17. Nikkei Asian Review, 11 March 2017, 'Toshiba scrambles to stem further bleeding from Westinghouse',

18. BBC, 29 March 2017, 'Toshiba's Westinghouse files for US bankruptcy',

19. AFP, 17 March 2017, 'S&P cuts troubled Toshiba's credit rating',

20. Japan Times, 23 Feb 2017,

21. Aaron Sheldrick, 31 March 2017, 'Big in Japan? Hope at home for Toshiba's nuclear arm after U.S. debacle',

22. Financial Times, 16 Feb 2017, 'Mitsubishi Heavy rules out Toshiba nuclear rescue',

23. Samantha Cheh, 3 April 2017, 'Never-ending misfortunes: Toshiba stuck in the news cycle from hell',

24. Nikkei Asian Review, 18 March 2017, 'Toshiba's trials entangle Tokyo, Washington',

25. Makiko Yamazaki, 14 Feb 2017, 'Delays, confusion as Toshiba reports $6 billion nuclear hit and slides to loss',

26. Russell Gold and Mayumi Negishi, 31 March 2017, 'Ire at Toshiba's nuclear backdown',

One step forward, one step back for Fukushima evacuees

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

On March 17, the Maebashi District Court in Gunma Prefecture awarded ¥38.6m (US$342,000) to 62 Fukushima evacuees, far below the ¥1.5 billion the group had sought.1,2

The court ruled that negligence by the state contributed to the nuclear disaster and that the government should have used its regulatory powers to force TEPCO, who were also held liable in the court ruling, to take adequate preventive measures.2

The plaintiffs based their claim on a 2002 report by the government's Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, which estimated that there was a 20% chance of a magnitude-8 earthquake occurring and triggering a powerful tsunami within the next 30 years. Citing the 2002 report, the Maebashi Court said "TEPCO was capable of foreseeing … that a large tsunami posed a risk to the facility and could possibly flood its premises and damage safety equipment, such as the backup power generators."3 The Court said TEPCO had put economic expediency ahead of safety.4

The plaintiffs further argued that TEPCO should have taken precautionary measures, including the building of breakwaters, based on calculations in a 2008 internal TEPCO report 'Tsunami Measures Unavoidable' that showed waves of over 10 meters could hit the Fukushima Daiichi plant.3

The suit was filed in the Maebashi District Court on behalf of 137 evacuees, including both forced and 'voluntary' evacuees. Only 62 were awarded damages, and they were awarded only a small fraction of the damages sought.1

Takehiro Matsuta, 38, one of the plaintiffs, said: "The ruling was one big step for my family, for those who evacuated from Fukushima to Gunma, and for tens of thousands of earthquake victims nationwide." But he called the payout "disappointing" as his child, who was three years old at the time of the nuclear disaster, was not granted compensation. "My wife and I are struggling every day, but it's my child who suffers the most."3

Koichi Muramatsu, a plaintiff in another suit, said: "The money is not a problem. Even if it's ¥1,000 or ¥2,000, it's fine. We just want the government to admit their responsibility. Our ultimate goal is to make the government admit their responsibility and remind them not to repeat the same accident."1

A TEPCO spokesperson said: "We again apologize from the bottom of our hearts for giving great troubles and concerns to the residents of Fukushima and other people in society by causing the accident of the nuclear power station of our company. Regarding today's judgment given at the Maebashi local court today, we would like to consider how to respond to this after examining the content of the judgment."1

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority said it will hold an emergency meeting and will "weigh a response after having read the ruling closely".4

Azby Brown from the Kanazawa Institute of Technology, and a volunteer with the independent radiation-monitoring group Safecast, said he expected the government and TEPCO to appeal the court ruling "and for this to drag on for years."1

The court ruling sets an important precedent. It is the first of about 30 lawsuits to be brought by close to 12,000 former Fukushima residents in 18 prefectures.1,2

Efforts to restore community life failing

The number of evacuees (forced and 'voluntary') from the Fukushima nuclear disaster peaked at 164,865 in May 2012. By May 2016, the number was 84,289.5

In early March 2017, officials said about 80,000 people were still dislocated. But the number is greater if including those who have permanently settled elsewhere. Japanese public broadcaster NHK noted that the estimate of 80,000 evacuees includes 17,781 residents of five municipalities near the Fukushima plant ‒ but that number swells to 42,030 if including people who moved into public housing or acquired new homes in other areas.7

A total of 35,503 evacuees from the prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima were still living in temporary makeshift homes as of January 2017.8

Efforts to restore community life in numerous towns are failing. In five municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture ‒ Tamura, Minamisoma, Kawauchi, Katsurao, and Naraha ‒ only 13% of evacuees have returned home after evacuation orders were lifted partly or entirely from April 2014 through July 2016.9 As of January 2017, only about 2,500 people out of a combined population of around 19,460 had returned.9

Of the 11 municipalities within the originally designated evacuation area, five have seen evacuation orders fully or partially lifted since April 2014.10 Evacuation orders will soon be lifted for four more municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture ‒ Namie, Kawamata, Iitate, and Tomioka. About 32,000 residents will be affected but the same pattern is likely to be repeated: only a small percentage will return.11 Reasons cited for the reluctance to return to these municipalities include concerns over the lack of medical services, safety concerns regarding nuclear power and radiation, and the lack of shops, public transportation and other services essential to everyday life.10

Mainichi Japan reported in September 2016 that only 28% of school-children are attending their original schools in five towns and villages in Fukushima Prefecture following the lifting of evacuation orders ‒ and some of those children face long commutes to travel from their current accommodation to their old schools.12 The children attended temporary schools at evacuation sites after the March 2011 triple-disaster. With the closure of the temporary schools, the three options are returning to their hometowns, commuting to their former schools, or attending schools at evacuation sites.

'Difficult to return' zones

Areas still subject to restrictions are divided into three zones: 'difficult to return' zones (annual radiation doses exceeding 50 millisieverts / year), 'restricted residency' zones (20‒50 mSv/year) and 'evacuation order cancellation preparation' zones (<20 mSv/year). The national government aims to end all restrictions in the latter two categories as soon as possible.

About 24,000 people were evacuated from zones now classified as 'difficult to return'. The government intends to pay for the decontamination of certain areas within these zones (perhaps as little as 5% of the area) so former residents can return.11 Mainichi Japan reported in December 2016 that the government planned to allocated ¥30 billion (US$267m; €248m) to partially decontaminate these zones, once again transferring TEPCO's responsibilities onto taxpayers.13 The Citizens Nuclear Information Center noted that the policy runs against the basic law that demands that decontamination be performed at the expense of the entity that caused the contamination.14

Restrictions will likely remain in the difficult-to-return zones for another five years or so13 ‒ and presumably for longer in areas where no attempt is made at decontamination.

Housing assistance gap and gender gap

Fukushima Prefecture is set to terminate its free housing service to thousands of voluntary evacuees at the end of March 2017. As of October 2016, 26,600 people were receiving Fukushima Prefecture's free housing service under the Disaster Relief Act after they voluntarily evacuated from the nuclear disaster.15 A little more than half of them are now living outside the Prefecture.

Nine of Japan's 47 prefectures are planning to provide some assistance to support voluntary evacuees.15 However the level of assistance will vary greatly; some will be generously supported, some will receive little and others none at all. Evacuees faced dislocation after the Fukushima disaster, they face dislocation as the Fukushima Prefecture's support comes to an end at the end of March, and they will face further dislocation as support from other prefectures is wound down.

Voluntary isn't really the word: none of the 'voluntary' evacuees wanted to evacuate. In many cases, they were parents ‒ usually mothers ‒ who weren't prepared to allow their children to be exposed to Fukushima radiation. As Kendra Ulrich from Greenpeace Japan notes:16

"Fukushima-impacted women were faced with significantly greater obstacles in coping with the impacts of the disaster according to their own wishes due to a yawning gender gap in Japanese society. In fact, in the most recent ranking of the 34 OECD countries on gender wage gap, Japan was one of the bottom three with only South Korea and Estonia ranking lower.

"Despite these financial and social barriers, many women separated from or even divorced husbands who chose to stay in the contaminated region. They evacuated with only their children, in an effort to protect them.

"But they continue to face a greater risk of poverty and are more vulnerable to financial pressures. And it is just these financial vulnerabilities that the Abe Government is exploiting now. Thousands of Fukushima survivors from outside the designated zones will be stripped of their housing support in March 2017.

"The government is also moving forward with lifting evacuation orders in some of the more heavily contaminated areas in March and April of this year, even though radiation levels still far exceed long-term decontamination targets. Those from areas where orders are lifted will lose compensation payments next year.

"According to the most recent government data from October 2016, thousands of those losing housing support this month had nowhere else to go. They are at risk of homelessness. This means that some people may be forced to return to contaminated areas, even though they do not want to."


1. Motoko Rich, 17 March 2017, 'Japanese Government and Utility Are Found Negligent in Nuclear Disaster',

2. Justin McCurry, 17 March 2017, 'Japanese government liable for negligence in Fukushima disaster',

3. Daisuke Kikuchi, 17 March 2017, 'In first, government and Tepco found liable for Fukushima disaster',

4. Nikkei Asian Review, 18 March 2017, 'Ruling against Tepco sets high bar for nuclear safety',

5. Fukushima Prefecture, 5 Dec 2016, 'Steps for Revitalization in Fukushima',

7. NHK, 13 March 2017, 'Evacuees not Counted by Fukushima Govt.',

8. Jiji Press, 11 March 2017, '35,000 evacuees still in temporary housing',

9. Mainichi Japan, 29 Jan 2017, 'Only 13% of evacuees in 5 Fukushima municipalities have returned home as of Jan.',

10. Jiji Press, 13 March 2017, 'Another reduction coming for Fukushima nuclear evacuation area',

11. Chikako Kawahara and Osamu Uchiyama, 28 Feb 2017, 'SIX YEARS AFTER: 4 more districts in Fukushima set to be declared safe to return to', The Asahi Shimbun,

12. Mainichi Japan, 10 Sept 2016, 'Only 28% of Fukushima children returning to former schools',

13. Mainichi Japan, 19 Dec 2016, 'Public funds earmarked to decontaminate Fukushima's 'difficult-to-return' zone',

14. CNIC, 2 Feb 2017, 'Difficult-to-return Zone to Be Decontaminated at National Expense', Nuke Info Tokyo No.176,

15. Mainichi Japan, 6 Jan 2017, 'Voluntary nuclear evacuees to face housing assistance gap',

16. Kendra Ulrich, 7 March 2017, 'Fukushima nuclear disaster and the violation of women's and children's human rights',

Nuclear industry for sale ‒ renovator's dream?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

The French government is selling assets so it can prop up its heavily indebted nuclear utilities. Électricité de France (EDF) announced in 2015 that it would divest €10bn (US$10.6bn) of assets by 2020 to ease its debt load ‒ which now stands at €37.4bn (US$39.7bn) ‒ and EDF is acquiring parts of its bankrupt sibling Areva. Meanwhile, Japanese industrial giant Toshiba would like to sell indebted subsidiary Westinghouse, but there are no buyers so Toshiba must instead sell profitable assets to cover its nuclear debts and avoid bankruptcy.

One site where these problems come together is Moorside in the UK. A Toshiba / Engie consortium was planning to build three AP1000 reactors, but Toshiba wants to sell its stake in the consortium in the wake of its massive losses from AP1000 construction projects in the US. Engie reportedly wants to sell its stake in the consortium, and the French government has already sold part of its stake in Engie ... to help prop up EDF and Areva! Deck-chairs are being shuffled.

The latest dramas occur against a backdrop of industry malaise, with the receding hope of even modest growth resting squarely on the shoulders of China. A February 15 piece in the Financial Times said: "Hopes of a nuclear renaissance have largely disappeared. For many suppliers, not least Toshiba, simply avoiding a nuclear dark ages would be achievement enough."1

Toshiba ‒ downfall of a titan

Nuclear-watchers around the world tuned in for Toshiba's February 14 announcement concerning its financial position and future plans. Great theatre ensued as the deadline passed with no announcement and the share price plunged 8%. Toshiba said it needed more time as its lawyers and auditors probe Westinghouse, in particular a whistleblower's claim that senior managers exerted "inappropriate pressure" over the calculation of assets and liabilities for the construction company it bought from Chicago Bridge & Iron (CB&I).2,3

The CB&I saga ‒ detailed in Bloomberg pieces titled 'Toshiba's Nuclear Reactor Mess Winds Back to a Louisiana Swamp'4 and 'Toshiba's Record Fall Highlights U.S. Nuclear Cost Nightmare'5 ‒ concerns delayed and over-budget AP1000 reactor projects in the US. The cost to complete four AP1000 reactors ‒ two each in South Carolina and Georgia ‒ will "far surpass the original estimates", Toshiba said.6 Combined, the cost overruns exceed US$10 billion.7,8 And since there is still a long way to go before construction of the four reactors is complete, there is plenty of scope for further cost overruns.

"The [Feb. 14 reporting] delay shows that the company is in a mess," said Makoto Kikuchi, from Myojo Asset Management. "We can assume that the company is not delaying its earnings release for good news."9

Despite the earlier anticlimax, Toshiba released unaudited financial figures later on February 14. The company said it expects to book a US$6.3 billion (€5.9bn) writedown on Westinghouse ‒ more than the US$5.4 billion it paid when it bought a majority stake in Westinghouse from the British government's BNFL in 2006 ‒ and it expects to report a net loss of US$3.4 billion (€3.2bn) in the fiscal year to March 2017.10

Audited figures are now due on March 14. Ominously, Toshiba cautioned that a major revision was possible.2

The reactors under construction in South Carolina and Georgia are the only reactors under construction in the US. "There's billions and billions of dollars at stake here," said Gregory Jaczko, former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. "This could take down Toshiba and it certainly means the end of new nuclear construction in the US."4

Toshiba said its shareholder equity has fallen into negative territory, a situation it hoped to rectify before the March 31 fiscal year-end.3 The company's stock value has fallen by more than half since mid-December, wiping out more than US$7 billion in market value.4 It faces a "very real" risk of being delisted from the Tokyo Stock Exchange according to JPMorgan's Hisashi Moriyama.1,11

Bankruptcy looms, with the risk heightened by the potential for further delays and cost overruns with the AP1000 reactors in the US, and unresolved litigation over those projects.4 Amir Anvarzadeh from BGC Partners in Singapore is a little more optimistic: "Toshiba is being torn apart. It's going to survive, it's not going to go bankrupt. But it's the end of Toshiba as a company with any hopes to grow."12

Former Westinghouse boss Shigenori Shiga, appointed as chair of Toshiba following a US$1.3 billion accounting scandal in 2015, stood down from the position on February 14.2

"I apologise deeply for all the inconvenience we have caused our stakeholders," Toshiba chief executive and president Satoshi Tsunakawa said at a news conference.3 The Financial Times reported: "After a day of chaotic communication, a stock sell-off and a $6.3bn writedown that may destroy one of Japan's greatest industrial names, the Toshiba president's bow of apology finally came. Satoshi Tsunakawa's head nodded for just one perfunctory second on Tuesday. Most assume there will be much deeper, longer bows to come as Toshiba leads investors, customers, employees and Japan as a whole through the country's first downfall of a nuclear industry titan."1


Toshiba cannot currently raise cash by issuing shares because of restrictions imposed by the stock exchange after the 2015 profit-padding scandal.13 Toshiba says it would likely sell Westinghouse if that was an option ‒ but there is no prospect of a buyer.1,14 The nuclear unit is, as Bloomberg noted, "too much of a mess" to sell.15 And since that isn't an option, Toshiba must sell profitable businesses instead to stave off bankruptcy. The sell-off will be all the more difficult because asset sales following the 2015 accounting scandal eliminated many of the easy choices.15

The company planned to make nuclear operations and microchips its two growth areas. But now the company plans to sell most ‒ perhaps all ‒ of its profitable microchip business to prop up the nuclear mess and avoid bankruptcy.16

Toshiba might get US$13‒17 billion by selling its entire stake in its microchip business, said Joel Hruska from ExtremeTech. "That would pay off the company's immediate debts, but would leave it holding the bag on an incredibly expensive, underwhelming nuclear business with no prospects for near-term improvement."17

Macquarie analyst Damian Thong said that since Toshiba cannot sell its nuclear business, it is left with the "second-best outcome, selling off the crown jewels."18 Masayuki Kubota, chief strategist at Rakuten Securities, said: "Usually in a corporate turnaround plan, the company would keep its most competitive business after selling nonperforming businesses. This turnaround plan gives no hope for Toshiba's future."11

Analysts have speculated that a partnership between Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries could be formed to rescue Toshiba. Restructuring decisions are reportedly being led by Toshiba's biggest bank lenders, Mizuho and Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group.1 However both Hitachi and Mitsubishi said they had no plans to acquire Toshiba's nuclear business.19,20 And Hitachi has its own problems ‒ the company is expected to report a US$620m (€583m) non-operating loss at the end of March 2017, largely due to GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy's withdrawal from a laser uranium enrichment joint venture that is going nowhere.21

Toshiba is saddled with loans totaling around US$7 billion and has been pleading with banks for time to meet its obligations. One trust bank is preparing to sue Toshiba for damages after the 2015 profit-padding scandal caused a share price collapse, and two others may do the same.22

Government funding, in one form or another, may be necessary to save Toshiba. But that brings with it another set of risks. Tom O'Sullivan, a Tokyo-based energy analyst, told the Washington Post: "This is one of Japan's historic corporations and it's very important to the Japanese economy, so this could be very significant for Japan. It would even impact Japan's sovereign credit rating if there's a knock-on effect."23

Nuclear projects and plans

Toshiba plans to exit the high-risk reactor construction business and focus its nuclear business on design, equipment supply and engineering services.2

In Japan, Toshiba will assist with the restart of idled nuclear power plants, maintenance operations and decommissioning. Elsewhere, Toshiba's future role is unclear except in broad terms: the company plans to significantly reduce its role in the nuclear industry and, where possible, to get out of reactor construction altogether.2

For current overseas reactor projects ‒ in particular, the partially-built AP1000 reactors in the US and China ‒ Toshiba aims to "reduce risk" by implementing "comprehensive cost reduction measures."24

Plans for three AP1000 reactors at Moorside in the UK are in doubt. Toshiba has a 60% stake in the project consortium NuGen, with French utility Engie holding 40%. Toshiba said it would still "consider participating" in Moorside, without taking on any risk from carrying out actual construction work, but is seeking to sell its stake in NuGen.24 According to a February 3 Reuters report, Engie also wants to pull out of NuGen (Engie declined to comment).25 The French government sold part of its stake in Engie in January 2017 to help prop up EDF and Areva.26

Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE) reported on February 2: "The financial fog swirling around the Moorside new-build project in West Cumbria continues to thicken by the day. The development consortium NuGen must inadvertently have added to the gloom with its recently published statement that "NuGen's shareholders [Toshiba and Engie] are committed to the development of the Moorside project." Folks with longish memories will recall an identical statement (though with names changed) coming just a few short weeks before the widely predicted departure from NuGen of Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) in 2011 and in 2013 when Spain's Iberdrola also pulled out of the project."27

Cumbrians will be glad to see the back of corruption-plagued Toshiba ‒ but corruption-plagued South Korean utility KEPCO might take its place. CORE commented: "KEPCO is itself still emerging from a major scandal that surfaced in 2012 involving bribery, corruption and faked safety tests for critical nuclear plant equipment which resulted in a prolonged shut-down of a number of nuclear power stations and the jailing of power engineers and parts suppliers."27

A debate is raging in the UK as to whether the government should take a direct stake in NuGen.28 CORE commented: "Picking the UK taxpayer pocket to support a technology past its sell-by date wholly undermines the Government's erstwhile promise that the full costs of developing, constructing and operating new-build reactors would be borne by the developer and is not likely to go unchallenged."27

Plans for six AP1000 reactors in India may not survive the Toshiba / Westinghouse meltdown. Theoretically, Westinghouse might still supply the reactors with someone other than Toshiba taking on the civil engineering works. That arrangement was put to Reuters by Sekhar Basu, secretary of India's Department of Atomic Energy,29 but it was dismissed as "wishful thinking" by a pro-nuclear commentator.30 Toshiba said that India's liability legislation ‒ which provides some recourse to sue vendors in the event of an accident ‒ would have to be changed to promote reactor projects in India.24 The project is now almost impossible according to three industry sources contacted by Reuters.25 Nuclear Power Corporation of India has not yet signed a contract with Westinghouse.

Toshiba's demise would not greatly concern the nuclear industry if it was an isolated case, but it is symptomatic of industry-wide problems. Nick Butler from Kings College London wrote in a Financial Times online post: "Toshiba is just one company in the global nuclear industry, but its current problems are symptomatic of the difficulties facing all the private enterprises in the sector. Civil nuclear power involves huge up-front capital costs, very long pay-back periods and high risks that are compounded by a lack of experience, especially in managing nuclear construction projects after a long period with few new plants. For all those reasons, private investors avoid the sector and prefer to put their money where they see faster and safer returns."31


1. Kana Inagaki, Leo Lewis and Ed Crooks, 15 Feb 2017, 'Downfall of Toshiba, a nuclear industry titan',
2. Makiko Yamazaki, 14 Feb 2017, 'Delays, confusion as Toshiba reports $6 billion nuclear hit and slides to loss',

3. Takashi Mochizuki, 16 Feb 2017, 'Toshiba near meltdown over US nuclear projects cost blowouts', Wall Street Journal,

4. Jason Clenfield and Yuji Nakamura, 13 Feb 2017, 'Toshiba's Nuclear Reactor Mess Winds Back to a Louisiana Swamp',

5. Mark Chediak, 28 Dec 2016, 'Toshiba's Record Fall Highlights U.S. Nuclear Cost Nightmare',

6. Leo Lewis, 28 Dec 2016, 'Toshiba warns of multibillion-dollar charge on US nuclear arm',
7. Financial Times, 17 Feb 2017, Toshiba brought to its knees by two US nuclear plants',

8. World Nuclear Industry Status Report, 2 Feb 2017, 'Toshiba-Westinghouse: The End of New-build for the Largest Historic Nuclear Builder',

9. Makiko Yamazaki, 14 Feb 2017, 'Toshiba says 'not ready', delays earnings, nuclear write-down',

10. BBC, 14 Feb 2017, 'Toshiba chairman quits over nuclear loss',

11. Tomoyuki Tachikawa, 15 Feb 2017, 'Toshiba's latest confusion could complicate path to revival',

12. Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 20 Feb 2017, 'How Toshiba Lost $6 Billion',

13. Toru Yamanaka, 29 Dec 2016, 'Battered Toshiba out of easy options to plug nuclear hole',

14. Anya Litvak, 14 Feb 2017, 'Uncertainty at Toshiba puts Westinghouse in limbo',

15. Pavel Alpeyev, 30 Jan 2017, 'Toshiba Asset Sales After Chips Spinoff Will Cut to the Bone',

16. Shusuke Murai, 14 Feb 2017, 'Toshiba says it is now considering selling majority stake in flash memory spinoff',

17. Joel Hruska, 14 Feb 2017, 'Toshiba facing bankruptcy, total disintegration thanks to bad bets on nuclear power',

18. Leo Lewis and Kana Inagaki, 19 Jan 2017, 'Toshiba: Shrinking to survive',

19. Nathalie Thomas, Michael Pooler and Kana Inagaki, 17 Feb 2017, 'Mitsubishi Heavy rules out Toshiba nuclear rescue',

20. Dan Yurman, 19 Feb 2017, 'Fate of Toshiba's Nuclear Projects Remains Uncertain',

21. Satoshi Seii, 2 Feb 2017, 'Hitachi to take a 70 billion yen hit after U.S nuclear project fails',

22. Jillian Ambrose, 15 Feb 2017, 'Toshiba handed a one month reprieve from lenders as financial woes deepen',

23. Anna Fifield, 14 Feb 2017, 'Chaos at Toshiba: $6.3 billion write-down, chairman resigns, bankruptcy looms', The Washington Post,

24. World Nuclear News, 14 Feb 2017, 'NuGen confirms Toshiba commitment to Moorside',

25. Geert De Clercq and Kentaro Hamada, 3 Feb 2017, 'Battered Toshiba seeks exit from UK, India in nuclear retreat: sources',

26. Francois de Beaupuy, 6 Feb 2017, 'France's Next President Said to Face $3 Billion Nuclear Hangover',

27. CORE, 2 Feb 2017, 'Moorside or Doomrise – NuGen or NoGen',

28. Guardian, 14 Feb 2017, 'Toshiba to confirm cessation of new nuclear projects outside Japan',

29. Douglas Busvine, 17 Feb 2017, 'India still keen to buy Westinghouse reactors despite Toshiba meltdown',

30. Dan Yurman, 19 Feb 2017, 'Does India still want the Westinghouse reactors despite Toshiba meltdown?',

31. Nick Butler, 15 Feb 2017, 'Toshiba and the options on new nuclear ',

Japan's plutonium puzzle

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

We reported in Nuclear Monitor in October that Japan has abandoned plans to restart the ill-fated Monju fast reactor.1 That decision calls into question the rationale for Japan's ongoing development of reprocessing (in particular the partially-built Rokkasho plant). In the absence of a fast-reactor rationale, the only use for plutonium separated at Rokkasho would be incorporation into mixed uranium‒plutonium MOX fuel (or, of course, incorporation into nuclear weapons). MOX fuel makes no sense since uranium is plentiful and cheaper than MOX fuel.

Hideyuki Ban, Co-Director of the Tokyo-based Citizens Nuclear Information Center, takes up this story in the latest edition of Nuke Info Tokyo:2

"On September 21, 2016, the Ministerial Committee on Nuclear Power, which consists of the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry and other relevant cabinet members, adopted a policy entitled "Procedure for Future Fast Reactor Development." This policy included a drastic review of Monju, including its decommissioning, but the continued promotion of the nuclear fuel cycle. Based on the adoption of this policy, the Fast Reactor Development Committee has been established under the initiative of the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry. The new policy states that the committee is scheduled to reach a conclusion on future development before the end of 2016.

"However, the decision to decommission Monju will not be overturned by the committee. This is because "The committee will not discuss whether Monju should be continued or discontinued" (Toshio Kodama, President of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency). Thus the committee has been set up and will conduct deliberations on the premise that Monju will be decommissioned.

"The specific actions the Ministerial Committee on Nuclear Power plans to promote for the nuclear fuel cycle are to restart the experimental reactor Jōyō and to cooperate with fast reactor development in France. The fast reactor Jōyō was first started in 1977, and was operated as a non-breeding reactor after its breeding function was evaluated. Its operation has been suspended since an accident occurred in 2008. It is currently under investigation for compatibility with the new regulatory standards.

"France plans to build a demonstration fast reactor named ASTRID (Advanced Sodium Technological Reactor for Industrial Demonstration). The cooperation between Japan and France began in 2014. ... The ASTRID project is still at the basic design stage and it has not yet been decided whether construction will go ahead or not. Koji Okamoto (Professor, Nuclear Professional School, University of Tokyo) who has been a strong advocate of nuclear energy in Japan, clearly states in an article contributed to Energy Review, a Japanese industrial monthly, that the ASTRID project is close to coming off the tracks.

"The new Japanese governmental policy states that one purpose of the ASTRID development is to lower the toxicity of radioactive wastes. However, a study (called the OMEGA Project) to reduce the toxicity of radioactive wastes has been ongoing for more than 30 years in Japan, resulting in no practical achievements. Presenting a new aim does not necessarily mean that practical achievements have become more obtainable.

"The construction cost of ASTRID is estimated to be 570 billion yen, of which Japan has been asked to provide 290 billion yen, according to a media report. However, the construction cost is considered likely to increase, and if Japan continues to cooperate, it is certain that the cost shouldered by Japan will increase each time construction budgets are reviewed.

"Even if cooperation with the French project results in some achievements, Japan has no way of taking advantage of them. After the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPS accident, the demonstration reactor project that would follow Monju has been shelved, and has, in fact, been returned to the drawing board, with even the site for construction as yet undetermined. Under such circumstances, it is unimaginable for an area of this country to accept the construction of a fast reactor, which is far more dangerous than a light-water reactor. If a fast reactor cannot be built, the achievements of the cooperation with France cannot be used. Japan's nuclear fuel cycle policy will, it seems, fade away in the not-too-distant future."

Commitment to reprocessing

Yet while the prospects for the development of fast reactor technology in Japan are bleak, there is no sign of any weakening of the commitment to complete and operate the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) established the Nuclear Reprocessing Organization (NRO) on 3 October 2016 to pursue reprocessing under the Spent Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing Implementation Act, which was approved on 11 May 2016. The NRO's operations are entrusted to Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., funded by obligatory contributions from each electric power utility.3

Perhaps this financial burden imposed on the power utilities will help to slowly unravel the so-far rock-solid commitment to reprocessing.

Abandoning Rokkasho would mean giving up on the sunk costs ‒ the estimated total cost is ¥2.2 trillion (US$18.6 bn; €17.8 bn) and much of that has already been spent ‒ but continuing with Rokkasho means wasting billions more dollars.

If Rokkasho is abandoned, MOX fuel will sooner or later be abandoned. That said, if for some unfathomable reason Tokyo was determined to pursue the use of MOX fuel, existing plutonium stockpiles could be used to produce MOX fuel far into the future ‒ all the more so since it's unlikely that any more than a handful of reactors will be MOX-fuelled in the foreseeable future (of the 26 reactors either approved and under review for restart by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, only five use MOX fuel).

If fast reactors and reprocessing are abandoned, spent nuclear fuel will be managed as waste ‒ it will be destined for deep underground disposal.

International conference

Given the fluid nature of Japan's policies on fast-reactor R&D ‒ and the potential to unravel the government's illogical commitments to reprocessing and MOX ‒ the Citizens Nuclear Information Center (CNIC) and the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists are jointly organizing an international conference on 23-24 February next year at the United Nations University, Tokyo.4

The conference will focus on Japan's plutonium policy and the US-Japan 123 Agreement, which provides the basis for Japan's reprocessing program. The present Agreement came into effect in 1988 and is valid for 30 years. Thus it is due to expire in 2018. The Agreement is subject to automatic renewal unless either party notifies that it would like to negotiate changes. While it is likely that the Agreement will be automatically renewed in 2018, CNIC is planning to use this opportunity to draw attention to the serious problems with Japan's nuclear fuel cycle policy and the growing plutonium stockpile.

Issues to be considered at the conference include the international repercussions ‒ how do countries in the region react to Japan's massive stockpile of plutonium? How do they see the planned Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, which will produce a further eight tons of plutonium per year? What is the real stance of the US on Japan's plutonium policy?

Organizers plan to include speakers from South Korea, China and Taiwan as well as several US experts. Japanese experts and government officials, both bureaucrats and members of parliament, will be invited to speak, as will speakers from local communities in Aomori Prefecture, host of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant.

Vitrified high-level nuclear waste shipments

One of the problematic aspects of Japan's nuclear fuel cycle policies has been the many shipments of spent fuel, MOX, separated plutonium and high-level nuclear waste between Europe (France and the UK) and Japan. These shipments are slowly coming to an end.

The Pacific Grebe, laden with 132 canisters of vitrified high-level waste (HLW) being returned from the UK, arrived on October 20 at Japan Nuclear Fuel, Ltd.'s High-Level Radioactive Waste Storage Center in Rokkasho-mura.5

From 1969-90 there were more than 160 shipments of spent fuel from Japan to Europe.6 The first shipment of vitrified HLW from France to Japan took place in 1995 and the final shipment was in 2007 ‒ in total, 1,310 HLW canisters were transported. Shipment of vitrified HLW from the UK to Japan commenced early in 2010 and will require about 11 shipments over 8‒10 years to move about 900 canisters. To date, 520 canisters have been sent to Japan from the UK.


1. 5 Oct 2016, 'The slow death of fast reactors', Nuclear Monitor #831,

2. Hideyuki Ban, 5 Dec 2016, 'Planned Monju Decommissioning ‒ The Changed Future of Japan's Nuclear Fuel Cycle', Nuke Info Tokyo No. 175 (Nov/Dec 2016),

3. CNIC, 5 Dec 2016, 'Nuclear Reprocessing Organization Inaugurated',

4. CNIC, 5 Dec 2016, 'International Conference on US-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Agreement and Japan's Plutonium Policy 2017',

5. CNIC, 5 Dec 2016, 'Vitrified HLW Returning from UK Arrives in Japan',

6. World Nuclear Association, Nov 2016, 'Japanese Waste and MOX Shipments From Europe',

The economic impacts of the Fukushima disaster

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) has revised the estimated cost of decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and compensating victims of the disaster, to around ¥21.5 trillion (US$187 bn; €175 bn).1

In 2011/12, the estimate was in the range of ¥5 trillion2 to ¥5.8 trillion.3 In November 2012, TEPCO said compensation and clean-up costs could amount to ¥10 trillion.2 In 2013, METI estimated the cost at ¥11 trillion4, comprising ¥5.4 trillion for compensation (now estimated at ¥7.9 trillion), ¥2.5 trillion yen for decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture (now estimated at ¥4 trillion), ¥1.1 trillion for interim storage facilities for contaminated soil (now estimated at ¥1.6 trillion), and ¥2 trillion for decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant (now estimated at ¥8 trillion).1,5

The current estimate of ¥21.5 trillion is four times greater than the 2011/12 estimates of ¥5‒5.8 trillion, and double the 2012/13 estimates of ¥10‒11 trillion. Further increases are likely. "We don't think it will increase further for some time, but it's possible depending on any changes to the situation," METI chief Hiroshige Seko said on December 9.1 According to Nikkei Asian Review, costs could "surge" if the removal of nuclear fuel fragments from stricken reactors proves more difficult than expected.1

In October 2016, the Japanese government said that expenditure on decommissioning the Fukushima plant would rise from the current figure of ¥80 billion (US$690m) per year to several hundred billion yen (several billion US dollars) per year.6

Indirect costs ‒ fuel imports

In addition to the direct costs discussed above, the Fukushima disaster has resulted in a myriad of indirect costs. While a number of these indirect costs cannot be quantified, it can safely be said that the largest has been the cost of replacing power from Japan's fleet of idled reactors. Replacement power has comprised energy efficiency negawatts, increased use of renewables, and increased use of fossil fuels.

According to METI, fossil fuel import costs to replace power from idled reactors amounted to ¥3.6 trillion (US$31.3 bn) in fiscal year 2013.7 It's a reasonable assumption that comparable costs have been incurred for each of the 5.5 years since the Fukushima disaster. And since nearly all of Japan's reactors remain idle, a reasonable (if arbitrary) assumption is that comparable costs will be incurred for another three years, bringing the total to 8.5 x US$31.3 billion or US$266 billion.

Adding the estimate of US$187 billion in direct costs to the rough estimate of US$266 billion for fuel imports gives a total of US$453 billion. That figure is consistent with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' (ASME) "rough estimate" in a mid-2012 report of US$500 billion costs from the Fukushima disaster.8 ASME estimated costs for clean-up and decommissioning of the Fukushima plant; clean-up of contaminated lands outside the plant boundary; replacement power costs due to the shutdown of all of Japan's reactors; and compensation for citizens evacuated from contaminated areas. ASME noted that the costs would "substantially increase if nuclear electricity generation continues to be replaced for a long time by other means".

The ASME report concluded: "The major consequences of severe accidents at nuclear plants have been socio-political and economic disruptions inflicting enormous cost to society. In other words, even when there are no discernible radiological public health effects from a nuclear power accident, the observed and potential disruption of the socio-economic fabric of society from a large release of radioactivity is not an acceptable outcome."8

Macroeconomic impacts

METI noted in its April 2014 Strategic Energy Plan that electricity prices have risen as a result of strategies to replace nuclear power in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster: "Six Japanese electric power companies have already revised their electricity prices by a range of 6.2% to 9.8% for regulated sectors. However, actually, the model electricity price for the average household has risen by around 20% across Japan due to the rise in fuel price, etc."7

The 2014 METI report further noted that increased electricity prices have had flow-on effects: "Increases in electricity prices due to various factors have put pressure on the profits of energy intensive industries and small and medium-sized enterprises and are starting to cause adverse effects, including personnel cuts and production transfer to overseas due to deteriorating profitability for domestic business. It is a significant obstacle to expand domestic investment from abroad; it also increases burden against household economy."7

Thus, as the METI report notes, the Fukushima disaster and the subsequent shutdown of all of Japan's reactors have had macroeconomic impacts: "Due to increased imports of fossil fuels, Japan's trade balance in 2011 turned to a deficit for the first time in 31 years. In 2012, the trade deficit expanded, and in 2013, it hit a record high of ¥11.5 trillion. Japan's current account has also been significantly affected by the deterioration in the trade balance. The increased imports of fossil fuels have thus caused problems not only in the field of energy but also at the macroeconomic level."7

Other indirect costs

The Fukushima disaster has cost the tourism industry billions of dollars ‒ perhaps tens of billions. According to an estimate by the Japan National Tourism Organization, 6.2 million tourists visited Japan in 2011 ‒ a 28% drop from the previous year.9

Billions more have been lost in the agricultural and fishing industries. The local fishing industry collapsed as a result of the Fukushima disaster. According to a June 2013 Reuters report, fishing industry losses by that time amounted to ¥1.26 trillion (US$10.9 billion).10

Add these costs to the direct clean-up costs of US$187 billion (almost certain to be upwardly revised ... again), and the rough estimate of US$266 billion for fuel imports, and it's likely that the direct and indirect costs resulting from the Fukushima disaster will exceed US$500 billion.


1. Nikkei Asian Review, 10 Dec 2016, 'Japanese consumers will be paying for Fukushima for decades',

2. AFP, 7 Nov 2012, 'TEPCO says Fukushima clean up, compensation may hit $125 bn',

3. Kyodo, 27 Aug 2014, 'Fukushima nuclear crisis estimated to cost ¥11 trillion: study',

4. Reuters, 28 Nov 2016, 'Fukushima nuclear decommission, compensation costs to almost double: media',

5. Nikkei Asian Review, 9 Dec 2016, 'Fukushima cost estimate set to swell to $188bn',

6. South China Morning Post, 25 Oct 2016, 'Cost to scrap Fukushima nuclear plant massively underestimated, Japanese officials admit',

7. Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, April 2014, Strategic Energy Plan',

8. American Society of Mechanical Engineers, June 2012, 'Forging a New Nuclear Safety Construct: The ASME Presidential Task Force on Response to Japan Nuclear Power Plant Events',

9. Japan Times, 9 March 2012, 'Selling Japan's Food and Tourism after Fukushima',

10. Antoni Slodkowski / Reuters, 3 June 2013, 'Rising radioactive spills leave Fukushima fishermen floundering',

Costing Fukushima morbidity and mortality

The impacts of the Fukushima disaster include ill-health and deaths resulting from radiation exposure and from the evacuation of 160,000 people and the prolonged exclusion from contaminated areas.

Putting a dollar value on ill-health and death is both fraught and arbitrary. With those qualifications, figures used by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) can be used to cost the ill-health and death resulting from the Fukushima disaster.

The NRC, in its own words, "uses the dollar per person-rem conversion in cost-benefit analyses to determine the monetary valuation of the consequences associated with radiological exposure and establishes this factor by multiplying a value of a statistical life coefficient by a nominal risk coefficient."1

The NRC suggests a value of $5,100 per person-rem of radiation exposure (US$510,000 per person-Sievert).1 The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation estimates radiation exposure from the Fukushima disaster at 48,000 person-Sieverts.2,3 Multiplying the exposure (48,000 person-Sieverts) by the (fraught, arbitrary) NRC figure of US$510,000 per person-Sievert gives a total of US$24.5 billion.

The NRC suggests a figure of US$9 million for each death caused by radiation exposure (in the jargon, US$9 million is the 'value of a statistical life' or VSL).11 A reasonable ball-park estimate is that 5,000 deaths will result from exposure to radiation from the Fukushima disaster (using a Linear No Threshold-derived risk estimate, almost twice the risk estimate used by the NRC).3 Multiplying the US$9 million VSL figure with the estimate of 5,000 deaths gives a figure of US$45 billion.

In addition, there have been ill-health and deaths attributable to the Fukushima disaster but not directly radiation-related, in particular the impacts of the evacuation and prolonged exclusion from contaminated regions. According to reports in early 2014, information compiled by police and local governments found that 1,656 people had died in Fukushima Prefecture as a result of stress and other illnesses caused by the 2011 disaster.4

If we assume that the number of non-radiation-related deaths has risen from 1,656 by early 2014 to, say, 2,000 deaths up to late 2016, and we use the NRC's US$9 million VSL figure, that gives a cost of US$18 billion.

Regardless of those fraught, arbitrary costings of morbidity and mortality, there's no disputing the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' conclusion that the Fukushima disaster has resulted in an "enormous cost to society" and that the "disruption of the socio-economic fabric of society from a large release of radioactivity is not an acceptable outcome".5

1. US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Aug 2015, "Reassessment of NRC's Dollar Per Person-Rem Conversion Factor Policy: Draft Report for Comment",


3. Ian Fairlie, Feb 2014, 'New UNSCEAR Report on Fukushima: Collective Doses',

4. The Times (UK), 21 Feb 2014, 'More Fukushima victims die of stress than were killed in the disaster',

5. American Society of Mechanical Engineers, June 2012, 'Forging a New Nuclear Safety Construct: The ASME Presidential Task Force on Response to Japan Nuclear Power Plant Events',

Fukushima lessons learned? The US National Academies of Science panel replicates the same collusion that led to the disaster

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

In March 2012, a panel was put together for a study by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS) to examine the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. The study, entitled “Project on Lessons Learned from the Fukushima Nuclear Accident for Improving Safety and Security of U.S. Nuclear Plants,” was recommended by the Blue Ribbon Commission, mandated by the United States Congress, and sponsored by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission. As of December 2012, three meetings have been held to discuss and examine the causes of the Fukushima disaster, with a particular emphasis on safety systems and regulations.

The first meeting, held on July 18th and 19th 2012, introduced the provisional panel, which was challenged almost immediately given that many members of the panel had a pronounced pronuclear bias and would be unable to provide accurate assessments of the current safety culture. On July 17th, 2012, 15 national organizations including NIRS, 25 state organizations, and 47 individuals submitted a letter (1) to the NAS expressing these concerns. One reason these concerns were so pressing was due to a report filed issued by the Japanese Diet in Mid-July 2012 on the Fukushima accident. (2) 
Within this report from the Japanese Diet much of the blame for the accident was placed on a “collusive relationship” between the industry and regulators. This relationship ultimately led to a betrayal of the public’s right to be safe. The NAS panel selection appeared to be replicating the same disastrous Japanese pattern of collusion. 

The letter added that a major problem with the panel’s conflict and bias would be revealed when they would be unable to provide an accurate self-assessment of agency conduct and actions. Involved in this assessment would be the key players in the nuclear industry. Those players are the federal agencies, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Department of Energy; the industry and other advocacy groups such as Institute on Nuclear Power Operations, Nuclear Energy Institute, the American Nuclear Society, and the Health Physics Society. In the U.S., as in Japan, there is a very symbiotic relationship between federal agencies and nuclear industry advocacy groups. Several members of the panel were directly involved with or associated with the entities mentioned above, causing the concerns about self-assessment, bias and conflict. The groups writing the letter were also concerned that the panel was completely devoid of nuclear critics, which would lead to an unbalanced view on safety issues and concerns. 
This meeting, as with the others that followed, provided very little in the way of ensuring that bias and conflict would not be an issue. This panel is yet another example that the nuclear industry has a powerful and dangerous stranglehold on the National Academy of Sciences, and can impede crucial safety improvements by packing a panel with pro-nuclear enthusiasts, rather than with individuals and scientists who can make changes for public good and protection. 



In Japan, a mothers' movement against nuclear power

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Yes Magazine

The Fukushima disaster has brought a powerful new demographic to Japan's anti-nuclear movement: mothers. On the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japanese women in New York city gathered for a rally they called Pregnant With Fear of radiation.

Protestors wore fake pregnant bellies, or carried posters with images of pregnant women wearing face masks.

Well aware that fetuses, children under five, and woman are at the greatest risk from radiation exposure, mothers have emerged as a powerful voice in Japan’s growing anti-nuclear movement.

To call attention to their message, the mothers have organized marches, petitioned government officials, fasted, and held months-long sit-ins in public locations. They regularly wear symbols of maternity and motherhood in deliberately confrontational ways.

The mothers call for action on multiple fronts. Most immediately, they demand the evacuation of all the families of Fukushima, where radiation emissions continue. They ask for tougher safety standards for food and drink in Japan, and an end to the practice of spreading and burning radioactive rubble from the contaminated zone throughout the country’s various prefectures. And, to prevent future disasters, they call for the permanent closure of all nuclear power plants in Japan and throughout the world.

“I couldn’t wait anymore for someone else to take action.”
The rise of maternal anti-nuclear activism in Japan began shortly after the March 11, 2011 disaster, when the hundreds of thousands of residents of Fukushima living outside the 20-kilometer evacuation zone were told it was safe to stay. Soon after the plant failed, the Japanese government raised the maximum limit of radiation considered safe, from 1mSv (millisievert) prior to March 11 to 20mSv. This new measure exposed (and exposes) the people of Fukushima to doses 20 times higher than is normally considered safe.

The families of Fukushima whom the government did not evacuate face a hard choice: leave of their own accord and abandon their homes and jobs (while continuing to be responsible to pay taxes, rents, and/or mortgages), or remain in Fukushima and expose their families to dangerous levels of radiation?

According to mother and activist Kaori Izumi, gender plays into responses to this precarious situation. Often, mothers and women want to leave Fukushima and protect their kids, while men tend to accept the line, from the government and the utility, Tepco, that “all is safe.” This can lead to conflict in a culture where women are taught not to challenge their husbands or government, figures of authority. 

Many worried mothers leave Fukushima with their children while fathers remain behind. “Often husbands don’t want to support two households and they tell the wives to come back to Fukushima, or they’ll stop sending them money,” says Izumi. “As a result, we’re seeing an increase in divorce rates.”

Izumi recounts her own story as a mother-activist. “I was not an activist before Fukushima. I’m a social scientist by training. I kept waiting for someone else to do something, to act, to challenge the government and Tepco for these crimes. Then I couldn’t wait anymore for someone else to take action. I had to do something.”

So, Izumi hit the streets, and during protest rallies, met other mothers working for justice. She brought several lawsuits against the nuclear industry at her own expense. She also organized a vacation program to house Fukushima families during school breaks, so children can gain some relief from radiation exposure—even if only for short periods. Now, she heads up a group working to permanently shut down the Tomari nuclear plant.

Radiation, rubble, and relocation
Tomoi Zeimer, a Japanese mother living in New York City, and her two sisters in Osaka (both of them also mothers), began anti-nuclear activism after Prime Minister Noda’s requirement that prefectures throughout Japan accept and incinerate radioactive rubble so that all of Japan would “share the pain” of Fukushima. In response to Noda’s decision, Zeimer began a petition campaign to stop the spreading of radioactive rubble. Mothers delivered this petition on November 2, 2011 to Japanese consulates across the globe.

As the spreading of rubble continues, more and more women throughout the world have joined the fight. There is a map showing the current status of the rubble spreading and burning (1)

Many activist mothers worry about their children’s health and feel they must leave the country. Ikuko Nitta left Fukushima the day after the disaster at her 12-year-old son’s insistence; they moved to Wakayama, believing it to be safe. When Wakayama agreed to accept rubble and incinerate it, Nitta began to make plans to move to Canada. When she recently tested her children’s radiation levels, her son tested positive for Cesium 137. Where the contamination came from, Nitta does not know, as they left Fukushima so quickly and she monitors the children’s food very carefully.

Cathy Iwane, a Wakayama mother who led the recent fight to stop the spreading of rubble to Wakayama, plans to immigrate to the United States. While she despairs about the Wakayama decision and worries about the children of Japan, she says the bonds she’s formed with women across the world, who support Japanese anti-nuclear activism, fill her with hope.

“I won’t give up,” Iwane says. “Not ever.”

An opportunity
The movement isn’t confined to Japan’s borders. In September, 2011, a group of Japanese mothers, including Sachiko Sato, an organic farmer who traveled with her youngest two children) Kaori Izumi, and Aileen Mioko Smith came to New York City to protest Prime Minister Noda’s participation in the UN summit on nuclear safety. “How can you talk about safety?” Sachiko shouted to Noda outside the UN. “You don’t even take care of the children of Fukushima.”

Sachiko, Izumi, and Smith spoke at various anti-nuclear events throughout the New York City area during their visit, urging American citizens to learn a lesson from the disaster in Japan. At one event, Smith stated, “Many Americans live far too close to nuclear power plants that sit on earthquake fault lines (2), Indian Point in Buchanan, New York, only thirty or so miles from New York City, as well as those on the coast in California. Americans must learn from the Fukushima disaster. You must shut down your own plants, 23 of which are the same design as the Fukushima reactors, GE Mark I. Yes, it can happen here.” 

In October 2011, hundreds of mothers in Japan began a protest in Tokyo at the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry. The protest lasted 10 months and 10 days (the length of time a pregnancy lasts under Japan’s traditional lunar calendar).

Smith, who is executive director of Green Action, an anti-nuclear NGO based in Kyoto, says the Fukushima accident offers a chance to put an end to nuclear power. Most of Japan’s nuclear reactors were taken offline after the disaster; as of this writing, only one nuclear power plant remains online.

Smith says, “For the first time in 30 years, we have a real opportunity” to shut down nuclear reactors in Japan for good.

Heidi Hutner wrote this article for YES! Magazine (3), a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Heidi is a professor of sustainability, English, and women's studies at Stony Brook University, where she writes, speaks, and teaches about the environment and gender. Her forthcoming book is entitled, Polluting Mama: An Ecofeminist Cultural Memoir (Demeter, 2012). 

Reprinted, by author's permission from:



In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Nuclear activists jailed in Belarus for protesting deal with Russia.
One of the few remaining countries that claims the nuclear renaissance is real is Russia. The renaissance is not so real at home, where the number of planned nuclear power stations always looks impressive, but actual construction slows down. So, Russia looks to the outside world to push new reactors. On July 18 in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, the Russian and Belarusian officials signed a general contract on the joint project that envisions Russia’s Rosatom building a 2,400-MW nuclear power plant in the Belarusian town of Ostrovets in Grodno Region. The contract specified start of operation of Ostrovets unit 1 in November 2018 and unit 2 in  July 2020. A price tag of US$10 billion was put on the turnkey project to build the two NPP-2006 model VVER-1200 pressurized water reactors and all associated power plant  infrastructure.
Several journalists and environmentalists who are critical of the plan wanted to give him a petition. Even before they were on their way to the Russian Embassy in Minsk to deliver the petition, Russian nuclear physicist and journalist Andrey Ozharovsky and his Belarussian colleague and organizer of the petition Tatjana Novikova were arrested. Both were convicted that same day, Ozharovsky was given 10 days in jail and Novikova five days. They were accused of "hooliganism." The only witnesses called were the police people who arrested them. They said Ozharovsky and Novikova had screamed foul language that was audible further than 50 meters away. Well, "hooliganism" is the new magic word to persecute unwelcome political activism in current Belarus and Russia, just remember the members of punkgroup Pussy Riot who are facing a 7-year jail sentence for playing an anti-Putin song at the altar of one of Moscow's main cathedrals. Furthermore, new legislation in Russia oblige nongovernmental groups that receive funding from abroad to register as "foreign agents" or risk heavy fines and jail time.
Bellona, 13 July 2012 / WNN, 19 July 2012 / Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace blog, 21 July 2012

Renewables to rescue Areva?
Areva's renewable energy division contributed positive operating cash flow for the first time in the first half of this year, highlighting the emerging importance of green energy to the French group as it looks to improve its cash position and pursue costcutting measures. Revenues from the Renewable Energies division hiked four-fold on the year to Eur253 million (US$308.7 million), on growth in offshore wind, solar and biomass sectors, helping drive up group revenues by 8.3% to Eur4.3 billion. "It's an encouraging sign because we know that renewable energy can contribute to the cash generation objective that we have in general for the group," Chief Financial Officer Pierre Aubouin said July 26 at the company's results presentation. The group has undergone a slim-lining program following costly delays for the construction of third-generation nuclear plants, while the Fukushima nuclear disaster has substantially dented the commercial prospects for nuclear reactor makers. "Ongoing efforts begun in late 2011 to reduce operating costs, with savings measures at the end of June 2012 implemented for nearly 20% of the objective set for the group through 2015, on an annual basis, another 45% of the objective being secured in addition," chief executive Luc Oursel said. The group, which also suffered from major write-downs on its uranium mining assets, still believes that nuclear is to remain a reliable source of energy on a long term, notably in Asia. 
Shares in Areva over the past 12 months have lost more than 55% of their value on the worries related to the impact of Fukushima on the group's outlook, as well as the massive write-down on the mining assets.
Areva, press release, 26 July 2012 /, 26 July 2012 / Platts, 27 July 2012 

Lithuania: Referendum on new nuclear power plant.
On July 16, Lithuanian Parliament decided that there will be a referendum about Visaginas Nuclear  Power Plant project. Text of the referendum will be: "I approve construction of the new nuclear power plant in Lithuania" Yes/No. Sixty-two lawmakers voted in favour of the opposition proposal to hold the referendum, which will not be binding, in tandem with the Baltic state's general election on October 14, while 39 were against and 18 abstained. "Visaginas nuclear power plant will be built on Lithuanian land, with increased danger, therefore we must ask the opinion of the Lithuanian people," said opposition Social Democrat Birute Vesaite. Lithuania's governing Conservatives opposed the referendum plan, accusing the opposition of simply seeking pre-election political gains. The government will not be bound by the results of the referendum, but the vote may add uncertainty to the already-sluggish nuclear project, which lacks strong support from opposition parties that lead the election polls.
At the end of 2009, Lithuania closed its only nuclear power plant, located near Visaginas in the northeast. The shutdown was one of the terms of Lithuania's 2004 admission to the European Union. A referendum on extending the old plant until a new one was ready was held alongside the last general election in 2008, but while 89 percent voted in favour, turnout was only 48 percent, rendering it invalid. 
Now a new wave of propaganda and information about nuclear power is expected. But it is impossible to speak of a level playing field for pro and anti-nuclear organizations, considering the differences in financial means.
AFP, 16 July 2012

Olkiluoto-3 delayed indefinitely.
Finnish electricity company TVO says the Olkiluoto 3 EPR nuclear reactor will not be ready by the latest deadline of 2014 and a new timetable has not yet been set. Olkiluoto 3, originally due to be ready by 2009, is being built by French nuclear company Areva and German  engineering giant Siemens. In a statement, TVO said it was "not pleased with the situation" although solutions to various problems were being found one by one and work was "progressing". It said it was waiting for a new launch date from Areva and Siemens. Work on the site in south-west Finland began in 2005 but has been hit by repeated delays and has run way over budget. TVO has disagreed with the Areva/Siemens consortium over who is responsible for the delays. On July 16, it cited delays in automation system engineering and installation works.
The International Chamber of Commerce's arbitration court is processing the dispute on cost overruns between the consortium and TVO.
A similar project in Flamanville in northern France is itself running four years behind schedule.
China looks set to be the first country to operate an EPR reactor with one due to enter service in 2013. China is building two such reactors at Taishan in the south-east of the country with the first due to enter service at the end of next year and the second a year later.
On August 11, people are going to block the roads to Olkiluoto nuclear power plant in Eurajoki. Previous years have seen people blocking the roads using banners, drumming, performances and peaceful civil disobedience.
BBC, 16 July 2012 / Reuters, 16 July 2012 /

Japan: founding Green Party shows strong anti-nuclear feeling.
While a second reactor (Ohi-4) was restarted and resumed supplying to the grid on July 20, anti- nuclear sentiment is still growing. Anti-nuclear campaigners in Japan have launched the country's first green party. Greens Japan, created by local politicians and activists, hopes to satisfy the legal requirements to become an officially recognised political party in time for the general election, which must be held by next summer but could come much earlier. The party said it would offer voters a viable alternative to the two main parties, the ruling Democratic party of Japan and the minority opposition Liberal democratic party [LDP] both supported the nuclear restart. Akira Miyabe, Greens Japan's deputy leader, said voters had been deprived of the chance to support a party that puts nuclear abolition and other green policies at the top of its agenda. "We need a party that puts the environment first," he said at a launch event in Tokyo. Meanwhile, anti-nuclear protest is continuing. The Friday evening demonstration in Tokyo usually attracts over 100.000 people and a human chain against the Diet building on Sunday July 29 again brought ten of thousands to the streets. In a rare move by a former Japanese prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama joined a anti-nuclear demonstration outside his old office on July 19, another sign that the ruling party he once led is fracturing over energy and other policies. Also in other Japanese cities regularly demonstration take place.
ReUters, 20 & 21 July 2012 / Guardian, 30 July 2012 / Website Metropolitans against nukes 

Fukushima Fallout: Updates from Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Business lobby turning against nuclear, in favor of renewables

The Japan Association of Corporate Executives (JACE), with a membership of about 1,400 executives from around 950 companies, has issued a statement urging Tokyo to remove hurdles holding back the expansion of renewable power.1

JACE vice chair Teruo Asada said: "We have a sense of crisis that Japan will become a laughing stock if we do not encourage renewable power."

Japan has promoted renewables but most investment has been in solar and in recent years incentives have been cut. "There are too many hurdles for other sources of renewable power," Asada said.1

Renewables supplied 14.3% percent of power in Japan in the year to March 2016.1

The statement released by JACE ‒ titled 'Towards the World's Leading Zero-Emissions Society: Measures for an Increased Deployment of Renewable Energy' ‒ says: "Japan should be removing hurdles to renewables development beyond solar, by cutting environmental assessment periods, reducing land restrictions and clarifying the roles of stakeholders in development zones as well as invest in transmission lines. Municipal and central governments should streamline lengthy approval processes, which have led to delays in introducing renewables. Government should create a one-stop advisory body to deal with these issues and expand subsidies or financing through government lenders and other measures beyond the current feed-in-tariff program."2

The JACE statement calls for Japan to aim for "much more" than the current target of a 42-46% contribution from low-carbon power sources (20‒22% nuclear and 22‒24% renewables) by 2030. The statement notes that the outlook for nuclear is "uncertain" and that the 20‒22% target could not be met without an improbably high number of restarts of idled reactors along with numerous reactor lifespan extensions beyond 40 years.2

"In the very long term, we have to lower our dependence on nuclear. Based on current progress, nuclear power reliance may not reach even 10%," Asada said.1

Andrew DeWit, a professor at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, said the push signaled "a profound change in thinking among blue-chip business executives." DeWit added: "Many business leaders have clearly thrown in the towel on nuclear and are instead openly lobbying for Japan to vault to global leadership in renewables, efficiency and smart infrastructure."1

United Nations University report on the aftermath of Fukushima

The United Nations University (UNU) has released a detailed report on the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.3 The report is a product of the three-year Fukushima Global Communication Programme, funded by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority. The report summarizes research in three areas: disaster risk reduction, displacement and livelihoods, and risk communication and nuclear accidents.

On-site decontamination work at the Fukushima nuclear plant will continue for decades, and off-site clean-up work is a long way from being finished. Around 100,000 people remain displaced because of the nuclear disaster. And a bad situation is about to become worse due to government policies ‒ in particular, housing and employment policies.

The winding back of housing subsidies is putting many people in an impossible situation: returning to contaminated areas with limited services and employment opportunities, or abandoning any hope of returning to their homes and doing their best to survive elsewhere despite the looming termination of compensation payments including housing subsidies.

The UNU report states: "Five years have passed since the disaster, and the evacuees are finding themselves in increasingly diverse and rapidly changing situations. Given the persistent uncertainty and instability that characterised these years, many ended up resorting to living arrangements that fall somewhere between return, local integration and resettlement. In the context of policy reorientation that is taking place as the government is trying to shift gears from the immediate response to longer-term recovery, many are now facing the need to reconsider the viability of such makeshift arrangements. This also means that the challenge of livelihood recovery involves not only restoring or formulating an alternative strategy for making a living, but also navigating and integrating into a new environment. Such a challenge is also faced by those who opt to return to their community of origin, where the environment has inevitably changed in the years following the disaster."

The report states that "discussions with both mandatory and voluntary evacuees revealed that many feel trapped in uncertainty: being unable to plan their future in a context where communities have become dispersed and divided, livelihoods have been disrupted, and the prospects for regaining normality continue to dwindle. ... The affected people are not only facing challenges related to radiation, but also unemployment with declining occupational options; adjusting to an unfamiliar environment; disruption of family ties, social networks and community life; and uncertainty about the future."

The employment situation facing evacuees is bleak, all the more so due to the termination of job creation schemes. The report states:

"The 3.11 disasters have had a tremendous impact on livelihoods. The disasters negatively impacted 25.9% of jobs in Fukushima prefecture alone. In a survey conducted in February 2016, 25% of respondents from Fukushima stated that they had lost their jobs, while 67% reported a decrease or loss of income in the years following the disaster.

"The nuclear accident has devastated the reputation of agricultural and fisheries products from the entire prefecture of Fukushima, and prices and sales are yet to recover. The number of tourists visiting the prefecture has also dropped, leading to significant losses in the tourism industry and related service industries. Many businesses and public enterprises were forced to close, and only a few reopened, either in other locations or in their original locations following adjustments to the evacuation zones.

"Most of the emergency job creation schemes were initially planned for 3 years, and then extended several times in recognition of the long-lasting effect of the disaster on the labour market, but most of these schemes were terminated in April 2016."

The report argues that "evacuee situations, and especially their self-reliance capacity, have to be systematically assessed before terminating existing relief measures to avoid further socio-economic marginalisation."

Fukushima evacuees

The latest newsletter from the Citizens Nuclear Information Center details the housing situation facing Fukushima evacuees.4 Well over five years after the Fukushima disaster, some 100,000 people are still living as evacuees. In June 2015, the Japanese government announced plans to lift evacuation orders for the 'restricted residence areas' (23,000 people) and the 'zone under preparation for lifting the evacuation order' (31,800 people), by March 2017 at the latest. Authorities also plan to uniformly terminate compensation for psychological suffering to residents in these regions by March 2018.

However, these decisions have completely disregarded the will of evacuees. According to a survey conducted by the Reconstruction Agency, most residents in the evacuated regions have no intention to return or they have not yet decided whether to return or not. Younger people are the least likely to return. Reasons include concerns about the safety of the Fukushima nuclear plant and anxiety about radiation, concerns about the provision of health care, the living environment, and the decaying of homes.

Many evacuees are renting accommodation provided under the Disaster Relief Act. Under this system, local municipalities hosting evacuees provide government-funded housing through leasing blocks of private apartments. The majority of these funds (90% in this case) are provided by the central government, and the municipalities that the evacuee originally came from (in this case, Fukushima Prefecture) provide the remainder. Yet, Fukushima Prefecture announced plans to stop providing support for evacuees from outside the designated evacuation areas in March 2017.

According to a Fukushima Prefecture survey, 59.2% of all evacuees currently use this publicly leased housing. The attitude of prefectural authorities in terminating subsidies has been the focus of much criticism. Many evacuees and citizen groups organized petitions and submitted these demands to Fukushima Prefecture and the Cabinet Office, which is responsible for the leased housing program. However, neither Fukushima Prefecture nor the central government reversed its decision to terminate support.

In a small gesture, in August 2015 Fukushima Prefecture announced "support measures" for the voluntary evacuees after the free housing program is terminated in March 2017. For low income households, the prefecture will rank financial need and reduce housing assistance gradually, eventually terminating aid in 2019.

Controversy over reuse of contaminated waste

The Japanese government is pursuing controversial plans to recycle contaminated soil collected during off-site clean-up operations in Fukushima Prefecture.5 Soil and other wastes resulting from decontamination in the prefecture are estimated to amount to 22 million cubic meters (as of January 2015). The Japanese government plans to build an interim storage facility straddling the towns of Okuma and Futaba, Fukushima Prefecture, with the waste to be relocated out of the prefecture to a final disposal site before May 2045. But establishing an interim storage facility is proving to be slow and complicated.

Thus the government wants to 'recycle' soil whose total cesium-134 and cesium-137 concentration is 8,000 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) or less. Proposals include use of soil for road construction, ground elevation, coastal windbreaks, seawalls, earth dikes, and land development.

The recycling proposal has sparked criticism as it runs counter to the safety standards of 100 Bq/kg or less for recycling metals generated from the decommissioning of nuclear reactors under the Act on the Regulation of Nuclear Source Material, Nuclear Fuel Material and Reactors.

The government says that if the recycled soil is covered and shielded, radioactivity will be controlled and cause no harm. However as Ryohei Kataoka from the Tokyo-based Citizens Nuclear Information Center points out, all sorts of things could go wrong. After the recent serious earthquake in Kumamoto and Oita in southwest Japan, roads collapsed and cracked at many locations. Coastal windbreaks and seawalls may be destroyed if a tsunami occurs, causing the soil to spread into inland areas and the sea.

The recycling of rubble generated by the March 2011 triple-disaster has already proved problematic. 230,000 tons of rubble of 3,000 Bq/kg or lower, gathered from the Fukushima Prefecture evacuation zones, has been used in a construction project along the seashores of the evacuation zone, to elevate the ground to create coastal windbreaks. But the government does not know how and where private construction companies have used the material, and it made no effort to ensure compliance with a requirement for a shield of at least 30 cm in thickness.

The Mainichi newspaper reported on 3 August 2016 that weakening standards for soil disposal vs. recycling ‒ from 100 Bq/kg to 8,000 Bq/kg ‒ could save over 1.5 trillion yen (US$14.7 billion; €13.3 billion). The estimated cost of 2.9 trillion yen could be reduced to 1.35 trillion yen.6


1. Osamu Tsukimori and Aaron Sheldrick, 22 July 2016, 'Japan business lobby says Abe government can't rely on nuclear energy',

2. Reuters, 22 July 2016, 'Factbox: Japan corporate lobby's proposals for energy policy',

3. Ana Mosneaga, Akiko Sato and Nicholas Turner, United Nations University, Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability, 2016, 'Fukushima Global Communication Programme: Final Report',

4. Kanna Mitsuta / FoE Japan, 2 Aug 2016, 'Fukushima Evacuees abandoned by the government',

5. Ryohei Kataoka / CNIC, 2 Aug 2016, 'Recycling 8,000-Bq/kg decontamination-generated soil wastes should not be permitted',

6. The Mainichi, 3 Aug 2016, 'Reuse of radioactive soil could cut costs by 1.5 trillion yen: ministry estimate',


Reactor restarts in Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear monitor editor

According to the World Nuclear Association, Japan has 43 'operable' power reactors (they are 'operational' according to the IAEA), 3 under construction, 9 'on order or planned', and 3 'proposed'.1 The numbers suggest that Japan's nuclear industry is finally getting back on its feet after the Fukushima disaster ‒ but nothing could be further from the truth.

Before considering the industry's current problems, a little historical context from the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016:2

"[I]t has been 17 years since Japan's nuclear output peaked at 313 TWh in 1998. The noticeably sharp decline during 2002-2003, amounting to a reduction of almost 30%, was due to the temporary shutdown of all 17 of Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) reactors ‒ seven at Kashiwazaki Kariwa and six at Fukushima Daiichi and four at Fukushima Daini. The shutdown was following an admission from TEPCO that its staff had deliberately falsified data for inclusion in regulatory safety inspections reports. During 2003, TEPCO managed to resume operations of five of its reactors.

"The further noticeable decline in electrical output in 2007 was the result of the extended shutdown of the seven Kashiwazaki Kariwa reactors, with a total installed capacity of 8 GWe, following the Niigata Chuetsu-oki earthquake in 2007. TEPCO was struggling to restart the Kashiwazaki Kariwa units, when the Fukushima earthquake occurred."

Nuclear power accounted for 29% of electricity generation in Japan in 2010, down from the historic peak of 36% in 1998, and plans were being developed to increase nuclear's share to 50%.3 But all of Japan's reactors were shut down in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Reactors didn't power a single light-bulb from September 2013 to August 2015.

Japan had 55 operable reactors before Fukushima (including the ill-fated Monju fast reactor). In addition to the six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, the permanent shutdown of another six reactors has been confirmed ‒ all of them smallish (<559 MWe) and all of them aging (grid connections between 1969 and 1977): Kansai Electric's Mihama 1 and 2, Kyushu Electric's Genkai 1, Shikoku's Ikata 1, JAPC's Tsuruga 1, and Chugoku Electric's Shimane 1.

So Japan now has 43 'operable' or 'operational' reactors, and it isn't hard to identify some with little or no prospect of ever restarting, such as the four Fukushima Daini reactors (or Monju for that matter).

Two reactors at Sendai in Kagoshima Prefecture were restarted in August and October 2015. And that's it ‒ only two of Japan's 43 'operable' or 'operational' reactors are actually operating. Moreover an anti-nuclear candidate, Satoshi Mitazono, was elected governor of Kagoshima Prefecture in early July 2016 and he announced that he will seek the shut-down of the two Sendai reactors ‒ he can prevent their restart after they shut down for inspection later this year.4

As of 1 July 2016, 11 utilities had applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) for safety assessments of a total of 26 reactors, including seven reactors that have completed the assessment process. Apart from whatever hurdles the NRA might put in their way, there are other obstacles: citizen-led lawsuits; local political and public opposition; economic factors, in particular the questionable economics of large investments to upgrade and restart aging reactors; and the impact of electricity deregulation and intensified market competition.2

It's anyone's guess how many reactors might restart, but the process will continue to be drawn out ‒ the only strong candidate for restart this year is the Ikata 3 reactor in Ehime Prefecture.

Energy policy

The government's current energy policy calls for a 22‒24% nuclear share of electricity generation by 2030. That is less than half of the pre-Fukushima plans for future nuclear growth (the 50% target), and considerably lower than the 29% nuclear share in 2010. Currently, nuclear power ‒ the two Sendai reactors ‒ account for less than 1%.

To reach the 20‒22% target would require the operation of around 35 reactors by 2030, which seems highly improbable.5

The use of both fossil fuels and renewables has increased since the Fukushima disaster, and energy efficiency has made the task considerably easier ‒ national power consumption in 2015 was 12% below the 2010 level.2

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report comments on energy politics in Japan:2

"Japanese utilities are insisting on, and the government has granted and reinforced, the right to refuse cheaper renewable power, supposedly due to concerns about grid stability ‒ hardly plausible in view of their far smaller renewable fractions than in several European countries ‒ but apparently to suppress competition. The utilities also continue strenuous efforts to ensure that the imminent liberalization of the monopoly-based, vertically integrated Japanese power system should not actually expose utilities' legacy plants to real competition.

"The ability of existing Japanese nuclear plants, if restarted, to operate competitively against modern renewables (as many in the U.S. and Europe can no longer do) is unclear because nuclear operating costs are not transparent. However, the utilities' almost complete suppression of Japanese wind power suggests they are concerned on this score. And as renewables continue to become cheaper and more ubiquitous, customers will be increasingly tempted by Japan's extremely high electricity prices to make and store their own electricity and to drop off the grid altogether, as is already happening, for example, in Hawaii and Australia."

Safety concerns ‒ the case of Takahama

The restart of the Takahama 3 and 4 reactors in Fukui Prefecture is indicative of the nuclear industry's broader problems.6 Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) first applied to the NRA for permission to restart the reactors in July 2013. In February 2015, the NRA gave its permission for KEPCO to make the required safety upgrades. The restart process was delayed by an injunction imposed by the Fukui District Court in April 2015, but the ruling was overturned in December 2015.

Takahama 3 was restarted in late January 2016, and TEPCO was in the process of resolving technical glitches affecting the start-up of Takahama 4, when the Otsu District Court in neighboring Shiga Prefecture ruled on 9 March 2016 that the reactors must be shut down in response to a petition by 29 citizens. The court found that investigations of active fault lines and other safety issues were not thorough enough, it expressed doubts regarding the plant's ability to withstand a tsunami, and it questioned emergency response and evacuation plans.7,8

Citizens and NGOs also questioned the use of arbitrary figures in KEPCO's safety analysis, and fire protection.6

Nuclear Engineering International reported on 2 February 2016: "While there are plans on paper to evacuate some Fukui residents to Hyogo, Kyoto, and Tokushima prefectures, many municipalities there have no detailed plans for receiving evacuees. Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada said he did not feel adequate local consent had been obtained, citing concerns about evacuation issues. Shiga Governor Taizo Mikazuki said there was a lack of sufficient disaster planning."9

On July 12, the Otsu District Court rejected KEPCO's appeal and upheld the injunction preventing the operation of Takahama 3 and 4.10 KEPCO plans to appeal the decision to the Osaka High Court.

Meanwhile, KEPCO is considering whether it is worth investing in upgrades required for the restart of the Takahama 1 and 2 reactors. The NRA controversially approved 20-year lifespan extensions for the two reactors (grid connected in 1974 and 1975), but citizens have initiated a lawsuit to keep them shut down.11

Broader safety concerns

While safety and regulatory standards have improved in the aftermath of Fukushima, there are still serious problems. Citizens and NGOs have raised countless concerns12, but criticisms have also come from other quarters. When the NRA recently approved lifespan extensions for two Takahama reactors, a former NRA commissioner broke his silence and said "a sense of crisis" over safety prompted him to go public and urge more attention to earthquake risks. Kunihiko Shimazaki, a commissioner from 2012 to 2014, said: "I cannot stand by without doing anything. We may have another tragedy ..."13

Prof. Yoshioka Hitoshi, a Kyushu University academic who served on the government's 2011–12 Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations, said in October 2015:14

"Unfortunately, the new regulatory regime is ... inadequate to ensure the safety of Japan's nuclear power facilities. The first problem is that the new safety standards on which the screening and inspection of facilities are to be based are simply too lax. While it is true that the new rules are based on international standards, the international standards themselves are predicated on the status quo. They have been set so as to be attainable by most of the reactors already in operation. In essence, the NRA made sure that all Japan's existing reactors would be able to meet the new standards with the help of affordable piecemeal modifications – back-fitting, in other words."

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) review in early 2016 made the following recommendations (among others) regarding the NRA:15

  • To attract competent and experienced staff, and develop competencies relevant to nuclear and radiation safety.
  • To amend relevant legislation with the aim of allowing NRA to improve the effectiveness of its inspections. The NRA inspection programme "needs significant improvement in certain areas. NRA inspectors should be legally allowed to have free access to any site at any time. The decision process for initiating reactive inspections should be shortened."
  • To strengthen the promotion of safety culture including a questioning attitude.
  • To give greater priority to the oversight of the implementation of radiation protection measures.
  • To develop requirements and guidance for emergency preparedness and response in relation to radiation sources.

The IAEA further noted that the NRA's enforcement provisions are inadequate:

"There is no clear written enforcement policy in place at the NRA. There is no documented process in place at NRA for determining the level of sanctions. NRA inspectors have no power to enforce corrective actions if there is an imminent likelihood of safety significant event. They are required to defer to NRA headquarters. ... NRA processes for enforcement are fragmented and some processes are not documented. NRA needs to establish a formal Enforcement Policy that sets forth processes clearly addressing items such as evaluation of the severity level of non-conformances, sanctions for different levels of non-conformances, processes for issuance of Orders, and expected actions of NRA inspectors if significant safety issues develop."


The narrative from government and industry is that safety and regulatory standards in Japan are now adequate ‒ or they soon will be once teething problems with the new regime are sorted out. NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka claims that Japanese regulatory standards are
"the strictest in the world."16

But Japan's safety and regulatory standards aren't strict. Improvements are ongoing ‒ such as NRA actions in response to the IAEA report, and reports that legislation will be revised to allow unscheduled inspections of nuclear sites.13 But improvements are slow, partial and piecemeal and there are forces pushing in the other direction. An Associated Press report states that nuclear laws will be revised in 2017 but not enacted until 2020.17

Reactor lifespan extensions beyond 40 years were meant to be "limited only to exceptional cases" according to then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, speaking in 2012. Extensions were considered an emergency measure against a possible energy crunch. But lifespan extensions have been approved in the absence of an energy crunch, and more will likely follow.18

If Japan's nuclear history is any guide, already flawed safety and regulatory standards will be weakened over time. Signification elements of Japan's corrupt 'nuclear village' are back in control just a few years after the Fukushima disaster.19 Add to that aging reactors, and utilities facing serious economic stress and intense competition, and there's every reason to be concerned about nuclear safety in Japan.

Tomas Kåberger, Professor of Industrial Energy Policy at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, noted in the foreword to the latest edition of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report:2

"A nuclear industry under economic stress may become an even more dangerous industry. Owners do what they can to reduce operating costs to avoid making economic loss. Reduce staff, reduce maintenance, and reduce any monitoring and inspection that may be avoided. While a stated ambition of "safety first" and demands of safety authorities will be heard, the conflict is always there and reduced margins of safety may prove to be mistakes."


1. WNA, 1 July 2016, 'World Nuclear Power Reactors & Uranium Requirements',

2. Mycle Schneider, Antony Froggatt et al., 2016, World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016, or direct download:

3. METI, June 2010, "The Strategic Energy Plan of Japan - Meeting global challenges and securing energy futures".

4. Will Davis, 13 July 2016, 'Who is qualified to determine nuclear plant safety?',

5. Naoki Asanuma, 17 March 2016, 'Japan's nuclear energy policy remains in disarray after court ruling',

6. 11 Feb 2016, 'Third reactor restart in Japan', Nuclear Monitor #818,

7. Naoki Asanuma, 17 March 2016, 'Japan's nuclear energy policy remains in disarray after court ruling',

8. Eric Johnston, 9 March 2016, 'Court issues surprise injunction to halt Takahama nuclear reactors',

9. Nuclear Engineering International, 2 Feb 2016, 'Japan's Takahama 3 begins power generation',

10. Reuters, 12 July 2016, 'Japan court upholds injunction to halt reactors – Kyodo',

11. CNIC, 31 May 2016, 'Suit filed to prohibit operation of Takahama reactors beyond 40 years',

12. See for example Justin McKeating, 14 Dec, 2015, 'Japan's nuclear watchdog isn't policing its own safety standards',

13. Aaron Sheldrick / Reuters, 1 July 2016, 'As Japan re-embraces nuclear power, safety warnings persist',

14. Yoshioka Hitoshi, 23 Oct 2015, 'Time to Stop Nursing the Nuclear Power Industry',

15. IAEA Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, 2016, "Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) Mission to Japan",

16. JAIF, 22 April 2015, 'Kansai EP Appeals Court Decision Prohibiting Restarts of Takahama NPPs',

17. Mari Yamaguchi / AP, 25 April 2016, 'Japan to raise nuke safety check competency per IAEA review',

18. Masanobu Higashiyama, 21 June 2016, 'INSIGHT: 40-year safety principle erodes in pro-nuclear lobbying',

19. 19 March 2015, 'Japan's 'nuclear village' reasserting control', Nuclear Monitor #800,

Restarting nuclear reactors? Restarting protest!


On July 7, Japan has generated its first nuclear electricity in two months when the Ohi-3 reactor began supplying power to the grid after it has been officially restarted on July 1. The restart of Ohi-4 is expected in July too. The Ohi-3 restart has been accompanied by the most massive protests Japan has seen since the 1960s: not only in Ohi but nationwide hundreds of thousands of people gathered.

On Friday June 29, more than 150.000 people gathered in front of Noda’s residence in Tokyo. A week later on Friday, July 6, again 100.000 demonstrators took the streets. The Friday demonstrations have been organized by the Metropo-litan Coalition against Nukes, which has been active since March 2012. At first the demonstration gathered a few hundred people but after the decision to restart the Ohi reactors, on June 22, 45.000 people gathered. Hundreds of people tried to block the entrance to the reactors in Ohi and stop workers from entering the power plant. On July 29, several groups organize a human chain at the Diet building. International solidarity is called for.

The restart at Ohi has not gone smoothly. As if the people living close to nuclear reactors in Japan aren't worried enough, "more than two dozen alarms rang out at the plant. That came after three days after a separate alarm was triggered midweek". Fortunately, those alarms were false and caused by "unstable atmospheric conditions, such as a dense fog". Attempts to reassure concerned people have failed at the outset.

This follows warnings just last week from Mitsuhisa Watanabe, tectonic geomorphologist at Toyo University, and Katsuhiko Ishibashi, seismologist and professor emeritus at Kobe University. Using Ohi operator Kansai Electric Power Co s (KEPCO) own published seis-mic data, the scientists have found that the reactors sit on geological faults that could produce much larger earthquakes than KEPCO has previously admitted. In 2005, Ishibashi predicted an earthquake could cause a nuclear disaster. In March 2011, he was proved terribly right.

After being shown in such blunt terms that their government is not listening to them, concerned citizens are now resorting to legal means to try to stop the Ohi reactors.

The case of two groups, Green Action and Mihama-no-Kai (Osaka Citizens Against the Mihama, Ohi and Taka-hama Nuclear Power Plants), before a Japanese court concludes July 9, with a decision expected within two weeks.

The groups cite errors in the guidelines for reactor design safety criteria, the three active earthquake faults near the Ohi plant and the need to re-examine the fault under the plant. They also raise concerns that ageing piping at Ohi could be damaged by an earthquake, based on the suspicion that important equipment at the Fukushima reactors was damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and not by the subsequent tsunami. 

Sources: Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes / World Nuclear News, 5 July 2012 / Justin McKeating, Greenpeace Blog 6 July 2012 /  Asahi Shimbin, 6 July 2012
Contact: Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes
Email: info[at]


NAIIC report: Fukushima manmade; minor loca due to earthquake

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Early July the National Diet of Japan published the official report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC). The report states that although triggered by the earthquake and tsunami, the March 11, 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster but a "profoundly manmade disaster". Evidence that the reactors were severely damaged before the tsunami hit the coast is mounting.

"The earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011 were natural disasters of a mag-nitude that shocked the entire world. Although triggered by these cataclysmic events, the subsequent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster. It was a profoundly manmade disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented. And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human response."  

These are the first lines of the 'Message of the Chairman' in the official report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC). On October 30, 2011, the NAIIC Act (officially, the Act regarding Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission) was enacted, creating an independent commission to investigate the Fukushima accident with the authority to request documents and request the legislative branch to use its investigative powers to obtain any necessary documents or evidence required. This was the first independent commission created in the history of Japan’s constitutional government.

The report (published early July by National Diet of Japan) reveals several chronic issues and contradicts reports by the Japanese government and Tepco. But as always it was cherrypicking for different players. While the general public opinion said the accidents was 'handmade', the nuclear industry PR did not hesitate to show that it was a 'Japa-nese accident': Japanese culture was the main culprit, implying the causes of the accident were solely Japanese and nuclear power as such has nothing to do with it. In the July 5, World Nuclear News report on the NAIIC-report, is not once mentioned that the earthquake was an important factor in how the ac-cident started: "Japanese culture itself" was the culprit. 

And indeed the collusion between the Japanese government and Tepco is an important factor why the plant was so vulnerable. But that is only partly to blame on 'Japanese culture'. But, as the UK daily The Guardian points out (July 6) by claiming the disaster was 'made in Japan', the official report reinforces, yet does not explain, unhelpful stereotypes. Bringing out the "made in Japan" argument is not helpful. It panders 
to the uniqueness idea and does not explain, but rather reinforces, existing stereotypes. Moreover, the supposedly Japanese qualities that the report outlines, such as obedience, reluctance to question authority, "sticking with the program" and insularity, are not at all unique to Japan, but are universal qualities in all societies. Putting a cultural gloss on the critical investigative report sends a confusing message to the global community particularly when it comes from a country that is a world leader in technological sophistication.

It is almost inherent of the nuclear industry to have close ties with regulators. For instance in the Netherlands, regulating and promoting nuclear power were placed under the same Ministry in 2010. Or, internationally the IAEA's main task is to promote nuclear power ('The Agency shall seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy') while at the same time monitoring safeguards and enhancing 'standards of safety for protection of health and minimization of danger to life and property'. But even important: it is obvious that nuclear po-wer thrives in countries with exactly that same 'culture': a centralised society, with the tendecy to critize alternative views, suppress dissent, and maintain 'reflexive obedience'; and a government bodies relying too much on assurances and complacency than true oversight. 

Record radiation detected at Fukushima reactor. 
Tepco said record amounts of radiation had been detected in the basement of
reactor number 1 on June 28, further hampering clean-up operations. Tepco took samples from the basement after lowering a camera and surveying instruments through a drain hole in the basement ceiling. Radiation levels above radioactive water in the basement reached up to 10,300 millisievert an hour, a dose that will kill humans within a short time after making them sick within minutes. The annual allowed dose for workers at the stricken site is reached in only 20 seconds.
AFP, 28 June 2012

LOCA result of earthquake
Another finding, not frequently mentioned in headlines, and contrary to all previous statements by Tepco and the Japanese government is the fact that the Fukushima-reactors were already severely damaged after the earthquake and before the tsunami hit the Japanese east-coast. A Loss-Of-Coolant-Accident (LOCA) was in progress. The Nuclear Monitor published about it several times (for the first time in the May 27, 2011 issue), but now the official report confirms this. What is important to realise (and what the NAIIC-report –or at least the executive English summary- fails to mention) is that although the earthquake was 9.0 magnitude, the epicentre was 110 miles (172 km) out at sea.

The accident is clearly attributable to the natural phenomena: the earthquake and resulting tsunami. Yet a number of important factors relating to how the accident actually evolved remain unknown, mainly because much of the critical equipment and piping relevant to the accident are inside the reactor con-tainment facility and are thus beyond the reach of inspection or verification for many years to come.

In spite of this, Tepco specified in its interim investigation report that equipment providing key safety features was not damaged by the earthquake, and that the main cause of the accident was the tsunami. Included in the report was a disclaimer that the report is based on findings “to the extent confirmed.” The government also wrote a similar accident report that was submitted to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

However, the report states, "it is impossible to limit the direct cause of the accident to the tsunami without substantive evidence." The Commission believes that this is an attempt by Tepco to avoid responsibility by putting all the blame on the unexpected (the tsunami), as Tepco wrote in their midterm report, and not on the more foreseeable earthquake.

Although there were a number of external power lines to the plant, there were only two source stations, and both were put out of commission by the earthquake, resulting in a loss of external power to all the units. The diesel generators and other internal power equipment, including the power distribution buses, were all located within or nearby the plant, and were inundated by the tsuna-mi that struck soon after. The assumptions about a normal station blackout (SBO) did not include the loss of DC power, yet this is exactly what occurred. (DC is the abbreviation for 'direct cur-rent', which is a type of electrical current that travels through a circuit in only one direction. AC stands for 'alternating current', which is an electrical current that frequently reverses direction.)

Investigate and verify causes
The Commission conducted its investigations and hearings carefully, 'conscious of not jumping to conclusions based on preordained policy'. The Commission recognizes the need for the regulators and Tepco to investigate and verify causes of the accident based on the following facts: 

  1. The emergency shut-down feature, or SCRAM (Rapid shutdown of a nuclear reactor where fission is halted by inserting control rods into the core), went into operation at Units 1, 2 and 3 immediately after the commencement of the seismic activity. Strong tremors at the facility began 30 seconds after the SCRAM and the plant shook hard for more than 50 seconds. That does not mean, however, that the nuclear reactors were incapable of being impacted by the seismic movements. It is thought that the ground motion from the earthquake was strong enough to cause damage to some key safety features, because seismic backchecks against the earthquake design basis and anti-seismic reinforcement had not been done.
  2. The reactor pressure and water levels make it obvious that a massive loss of coolant (LOCA) did not occur in the time period between the earthquake and the tsunami. However -as has been published by the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization (JNES) in the “Tech-nical Findings” composed by NISA- a minor LOCA, from a crack in the piping and a subsequent leak of coolant would not affect the water level or pressure of a reactor, and could have occurred without being apparent to operators. If this kind of minor LOCA were to remain uncontrolled for 10 hours, tens of tons of coolant would be lost and lead to core damage or core melt.
  3. The government-run investigation committee’s interim report, NISA’s “Technical Findings,” and specifically Tepco’s interim report, all concluded that the loss of emergency AC power -that definitely impacted the progres-sion of the accident- “was caused by the flooding from the tsunami.” Tepco’s report says the first wave of the tsunami reached the site at 15:27 and the second at 15:35. However, these are the times when the wave gauge set 1.5km offshore detected the waves, not the times of when the tsunami hit the plant. This suggests that at least the loss of emergency power supply A at Unit 1 might not have been caused by flooding. Based on this, some basic questions need to be logically explained before making a final determination that flooding was the cause of the station blackout.
  4. Several Tepco vendor workers who were working on the fourth floor of the nuclear reactor building at Unit 1 at the time of the earthquake witnessed a wa-ter leak on the same floor, which houses two large tanks for the isolation conden-ser (IC) and the piping for IC. The Com-mission believes that this was not due to water sloshing out of the spent fuel pool on the fifth floor. However, since we cannot go inside the facility and per-form an on-site inspection, the source of the water remains unconfirmed. 
  5. The isolation condensers (A and B2 systems) of Unit 1 were shut down automatically at 14:52, but the operator of Unit 1 manually stopped both IC systems 11 minutes later. TEPCO has consistently maintained that the explanation for the manual suspension was that “it was judged that the per hour reactor coolant temperature excursion rate could not be kept within 55 degrees (Celsius), which is the benchmark provided by the operational manual.” The government led investigation report, as well as the government’s report to IAEA, states the same reason. However, according to several workers involved in the manual suspension of IC who responded to our investigation, they stopped IC to check whether coolant was leaking from IC and other pipes because the reactor pressure was falling rapidly. While the operator’s explanations are reasonable and appropriate, TEPCO’s explanation is irrational.
  6. There is no evidence that the safety relief (SR) valve was opened at Unit 1, though this should have taken place in the case of an accident. (Such records are available for Units 2 and 3.) We found that the sound of the SR valve opening for Unit 2 was heard at the Central Control Room and at Unit 2, but no one working at Unit 1 heard the sound of the Unit 1 SR valve opening. It is therefore a possibility that the SR valve might not have worked in Unit 1. In this case, a minor LOCA caused by the seismic motion could have taken place in Unit 1.

In short: The damage to Unit 1 was caused not only by the tsunami but also by the earthquake, a conclusion made after considering the facts that: 1) the largest tremor hit after the automatic shutdown; 2) JNES confirmed the possibility of a small-scale LOCA; 3) the Unit 1 operators were concerned about leakage of coolant from the valve, and 4) the safety relief valve was not operating.
Additionally, there were two causes for the loss of external power, both earthquake-related: there was no diver-sity or independence in the earthquake-resistant external power systems, and the Shin-Fukushima transformer station was not earthquake resistant.

Development of civil society
The 'Message of the chairman' in the report ends with a message for change: "The consequences of negligence at Fukushima stand out as catastrophic, but the mindset that supported it can be found across Japan. In recognizing that fact, each of us should reflect on our responsibility as individuals in a democratic society. As the first investigative commission to be empowered by the legislature and independent of the bureaucracy, we hope this initiative can contribute to the development of Japan’s civil society."
Well, despite the hundred of thousand protesting the restart of nuclear reactors and trying to build a civil society, Japanese government gave the permission for the restart of the Ohi-reactors. That decision denied the fact that all ele-ments of this catastrophe are still present in Japanese society: the tendency of relying too much on assurances and complacency than true oversight (as in many societies) as well as the chance of earthquakes.

The executive summary of the NAIIC-report is available at:
Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Akebonobashi Co-op, 2F-B, 8-5, Sumiyoshi-chp, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan.
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800
Email: cnic[at]


Nuclear News - Nuclear Monitor #826 - 6 July 2016

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Fukushima's Stolen Lives: A Dairy Farmer's Story 

An English translation of a book by Mr Hasegawa Kenichi, a dairy farmer from Iitate Village in Fukushima, has recently been published and is available on Kindle and iBooks. Hasegawa-san is a strong community leader who has been an important voice for the rights of local citizens, and a regular speaker on Peace Boat voyages, at conferences and field visits including during the Global Conference for a Nuclear-Free World, and in other speaking tours overseas including to Australia and the EU Parliament in Brussels.

Hasegawa-san describes in the book how most of the people in the Japanese village of Iitate ‒ including very young children ‒ continued to live in their homes for more than two months following the Fukushima disaster in March 2011.

Hasegawa describes the catastrophe and its consequences in simple, direct, and clear prose. Weaving together stories about the experiences of Iitate's residents, Hasegawa is a witness to the truth of what life was like immediately following the accident ‒ as he suffered with the knowledge that his children and grandchildren had been exposed to radiation, as he lost all of his cattle, and as he endured the suicide of a fellow dairy farmer and friend.

This is the story of Iitate, but it is also the story of Hasegawa-san, a man who had a lot to lose: a beautiful village steeped in natural history and time-honored traditions, a working dairy farm, a lovely home shared with his extended family, a close-knit community, and colleagues whom he considered close friends. Ultimately, the accident at Fukushima Daiichi ‒ in concert with the profit-minded "nuclear power village" and failures of leadership at every level of government ‒ not only took, but contaminated, all of it: the farm, the fields, the milk, the water, the harvest, the home, and a cherished way of life.

Through it all, Hasegawa pursued the truth by meeting with journalists and taking his own radiation readings. He made sure that the residents in his hamlet of Maeta got what they needed ‒ whether it was bottled water, or reliable information. He confronted lies and hypocrisy in the leadership where he found it. Ultimately, he took a leading role in preserving the interests of everyone and everything he cared about.

Since the evacuation, Hasegawa has organized people from all over Fukushima, including nearly half the population of Iitate, with the goal of getting justice from TEPCO.

Hasegawa-san's ebook is available for US$8 from

Wanted: someone, anyone to operate Japan's Monju fast reactor

Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) demanded in November 2015 that a new operator should be found to operate the Monju fast-breeder reactor. The new operator would replace the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), a quasi-government organization which was not competent to operate the reactor according to the NRA. Hiroshi Hase, chair of the NRA, said: "We haven't seen acceptable improvements. We cannot fully trust the current organization."

But six months have gone by and a new operator is nowhere in sight. "We are exploring many different options for who will operate the reactor ‒ either a new entity or an existing company," said a government official recently.

Makoto Yagi, chair of the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan, said Monju's design is quite different from normal power reactors and utilities don't have the requisite expertise.

Last November, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) warned that if a replacement operator for Monju cannot be found, the future of the reactor should be fundamentally reviewed, including the possibility of decommissioning it.

Monju has operated for only 250 days in its 20-year history. The World Nuclear Association provides this warts-and-all summary of Monju's history:

"A key part of Japan's nuclear energy program, Monju initially started in August 1995, but was shut down only four months later after a serious incident. About 700 kilograms of liquid sodium leaked from the secondary cooling loop and, although there were no injuries and no radioactivity escaped plant buildings, this was compounded by operator attempts to cover up the scale of the damage."

"Monju was allowed to restart in May 2010 after JAEA carried out a thorough review of the design of the plant, as well as safety procedures, which were shown to have been inadequate. However, the reactor's operation was again suspended in August 2010 after a fuel handling machine was accidentally dropped in the reactor during a refuelling outage. The device was eventually retrieved almost one year later.

"In November 2012, it was revealed that JAEA had failed to conduct regular inspections on almost 10,000 out of a total 39,000 pieces of equipment at Monju. Some of these included safety-critical equipment. In January 2013, the NRA ordered JAEA to change its maintenance rules and inspection plans. However, following a review of JAEA's performance since then, the NRA found that the agency has failed to formulate and adhere to a strict inspection schedule."

Likewise, Nuclear Engineering International made no attempt to put a positive spin on Monju's track record in an October 2015 article:

"In 2013, NRA ordered JAEA to ban test-runs after more than 10,000 maintenance errors had been found, many involving the facility's piping system. Further safety oversights were subsequently discovered, and in late August some 3000 of errors were found in the safety classifications of the equipment and devices at the reactor during NRA's regular inspection which is conducted our times a year. Some of the errors dated back to 2007, suggesting that previous government inspectors had also overlooked the operator's mistakes. ... NRA officials told a meeting on 30 September that they were unable to grasp the exact nature of the problems, because of JAEA's poor handling of the data."

In addition to lax safety standards, security has been lax at Monju. Reports in 2013 and 2014 said that fencing was inadequate, regular checks to ensure the security of equipment were not conducted appropriately, rules were violated regarding visitors inside areas containing nuclear material, and that the JAEA said that computer hackers may have stolen private data including internal e-mails and training records.

Japan continues to expand its stockpile of 48 tonnes of separated plutonium (10.8 tonnes in Japan, 20.7 tonnes in the UK and 16.3 tonnes in France) and it continues to advance plans to start up the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in 2018. Rokkasho would result in an additional eight tonnes of separated plutonium annually.

If Japan abadons Monju ‒ and with it the broader aspiration of developing fast reactors ‒ the only remaining civil use for the plutonium would be the limited use of MOX in light-water reactors.

In response to the latest episode of the Monju saga, Allison MacFarlane, a former chair of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, offered this sarcastic comment on fast reactor technology: "Many countries have tried over and over. What is truly impressive is that these many governments continue to fund a demonstrably failed technology."

UK nuclear power program: a litany of broken promises

Prof. Stephen Thomas from the University of Greenwich analyses the ongoing controversy over the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear power project in the UK in an article published in Energy Policy.

Thomas summarizes:

"In 2006, the British government launched a policy to build nuclear power reactors based on a claim that the power produced would be competitive with fossil fuel and would require no public subsidy. A decade later, it is not clear how many, if any, orders will be placed and the claims on costs and subsidies have proved false. Despite this failure to deliver, the policy is still being pursued with undiminished determination. The finance model that is now proposed is seen as a model other European countries can follow so the success or otherwise of the British nuclear programme will have implications outside the UK.

"This paper that the checks and balances that should weed out misguided policies, have failed. It argues that the most serious failure is with the civil service and its inability to provide politicians with high quality advice – truth to power. It concludes that the failure is likely to be due to the unwillingness of politicians to listen to opinions that conflict with their beliefs. Other weaknesses include the lack of energy expertise in the media, the unwillingness of the public to engage in the policy process and the impotence of Parliamentary Committees."

Thomas provides the following table comparing earlier promises regarding the British nuclear power program (and Hinkley in particular) and actual agreements:

What was promised

What was agreed

No subsidies: would compete in the market on equal terms with all other sources.

Contract for 35 years. Government loan guarantees perhaps covering all the borrowing, about £17bn, of the expected (including finance) cost.

No ‘sweetheart deal'

No competitive procurement process

Competitive with other forms of generation generating at £31–44/MW h.

Most expensive power on system, £92.5/MWh: more than double 2013 wholesale electricity cost.

Construction cost excl. finance £2bn per reactor.

Construction cost, excl. finance £8bn per reactor.

First power 2017.

First power 2026.

Consortium 80% EDF, 20% Centrica

Consortium 66.5% EDF, 33.5% Chinese companies

Programme of 12 reactors by 2030

No more than a handful of reactors built by 2030

Competition between developers & technologies.

Bilateral negotiations with NNB GenCo + EPR

Stephen Thomas, 2016, 'The Hinkley Point decision: An analysis of the policy process', Energy Policy, Volume 96, pp.421–431,

Karlamalyi Walk in Western Australia

Martu Traditional Owners recently led a 140 km, week-long walk to protest against Cameco's proposed uranium mine at Kintyre in Western Australia. Cameco has received conditional government approval to proceed with the mine, but the project has stalled because of the low uranium price.

Kintyre was excised from Karlamilyi National Park ‒ WA's biggest National Park ‒ in 1994. The area still has National Park values ‒ an intricate desert water network and a number of endangered and vulnerable species including the rock wallaby, mulgara, marsupial mole, bilby and quoll. The area includes permanent water holes, ephemeral rivers and salt lakes.

Over 50 artists, activists and Traditional Owners participated in the Karlamalyi Walk. Along the way, stories were told about the land: where water is sourced, where the animals and the plants are, where traditional burial and hunting grounds are located, and why mining on this land must not go ahead.

Aboriginal Traditional Owners are concerned the project will affect their water supplies as well as 28 threatened species in the Karlamilyi National Park. Nola Taylor said the mine represented a threat to the health of people in her community. "It's too close to where we live, it's going to contaminate our waterways, we've got our biggest river that runs right past our community," she said.

"They (Cameco) told me it would be safe, they said all that but we had a cyclone go through here a couple of years back, and for me I have seen what has happened to the river and the water that is in there. I'm going to walk with the rest of the community to fight and stop the uranium mine that's going to go ahead," Taylor said.

Curtis Taylor, a Martu man and filmmaker, is not convinced the waste can be stored safely. "We had assurances given to us by the company but everyone still has that worry, if there was a flooding event that maybe tailings would go into the river," he said.

Joining the walk was Anohni, the Academy Award-nominated musician from Antony and the Johnsons. She said: "It's a huge landscape – it's a really majestic place. It's really hard to put a finger on it but there's a sense of presence and integrity and patience, dignity and perseverance and intense intuitive wisdom that this particular community of people have. There is almost an unbroken connection to the land – they haven't been radically disrupted. They are very impressive people – it's humbling to be around these women. In many regards, I think the guys who run Cameco are desolate souls, desolate souls with no home, with no connection to land, with no connection to country."

From August 7 until September 7, the Walkatjurra Walkabout will be held in Western Australia to protest against the proposed Yeelirrie uranium mine, also owned by Cameco.

Traditional Owner Kado Muir said: "Walkatjurra Walkabout is a pilgrimage across Wangkatja country in the spirit of our ancestors so together, we as present custodians, can protect our land and our culture for future generations. My people have resisted destructive mining on our land and our sacred sites for generations. For over forty years we have fought to stop uranium mining at Yeelirrie, we stopped the removal of sacred stones from Weebo and for the last twenty years we have stopped destruction of 200 sites at Yakabindie. We are not opposed to responsible development, but cannot stand wanton destruction of our land, our culture, and our environment. We invite all people, from all places, to come together to walk with us, to send a clear message that we want the environment here, and our sacred places left alone."

More information:

France: Protest at Bure nuclear waste dump site

On June 19, about 200 people established a protest camp in the forest of Mandres-en-Barrois, a short distance from the Bure site where French government agency ANDRA plans to build a high-level nuclear waste dump.

Protesters successfully established the camp, and have maintained a continuous presence since June 19. Fences that surround the construction site were removed, and barricades were built on the path to the site. Protesters plan to maintain the camp indefinitely and to do all they can to stop work at the site, but they will need ongoing support ‒ especially when police attempt to uproot them.

Major deforestation and land clearing operations have recently been carried out by ANDRA despite local opposition.

Protesters said in a statement:

"Today, on Sunday, 19th, 2016, we have temporarily freed the communal woods of Mandres-en-Barrois from Andra's yoke with its CIGEO nuclear garbage dump. In front of our great wooden pavilion, assembled where the first steps of deforestation were taken, we, resisting inhabitants from here and other places, NGOs, collectives, declare the Woods of Mandres occupied!"

"Today we are occupying this forest to physically oppose ourselves to its being annexed by ANDRA. We are occupying it because we cannot stand to hear the crash of trees being uprooted, because their razor blade wire fences, their mercenaries and big dogs will not stop us from resisting. We are occupying it to stop the territory from being stolen away from the people by the hungry hands of nuclear industry.

"We are occupying this forest in order to prevent the beginning of works for CIGEO. We know that nothing in the shiny corridors of Parliament can stop the dump being dug, that only a territorial struggle can do it.

"We are occupying this forest with another type of life, joyful, inventive, collective, against nuclear society and its world of military and private security guards, of smiling experts and quiet dosimeters, a world set to exploit the ground and its people as much as possible. Where they want to deforest, we are building shelters. Where they raise wire fences, we open paths. Where they are manufacturing a desert of solitude and resignation, we are claiming our joy together, while resisting. So now, all summer, everyone must come to Bure to stop CIGEO!"

More information:

Reprocessing and plutonium stockpiling in East Asia

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green ‒ Nuclear Monitor editor

"Reprocessing provides the strongest link between commercial nuclear power and proliferation."

– US Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, 'Nuclear proliferation and safeguards', June 1977.

U.S. Republican candidate Donald Trump recently said that he would support a decision by Japan to build nuclear weapons. "You may very well be better off if that's the case," Trump said. "In other words, where Japan is defending itself against North Korea, which is a real problem. You very well may have a better case right there."1

Trump's comments were criticized both in Japan and in the U.S. But the position of successive U.S. governments has also been highly problematic ‒ publicly criticizing Japan's stockpiling of ever-greater amounts of separated plutonium and voicing concern about Japan's plan to start up the Rokkasho reprocessing plant ... but doing absolutely nothing about those problems.

Japan continues to expand its stockpile of 48 tonnes of separated plutonium (10.8 tonnes in Japan, 20.7 tonnes in the UK and 16.3 tonnes in France) and it continues to advance plans to start up the Rokkasho reprocessing plant in 2018. Rokkasho would result in an additional eight tonnes of separated plutonium annually.

The U.S. has a long history of publicly and privately voicing concern about Japan's plutonium stockpiling, and an equally long history of inaction. Diplomatic cables in 1993 and 1994 from US Ambassadors in Tokyo described Japan's accumulation of plutonium as "massive" and questioned the rationale for the stockpiling of so much plutonium since it appeared to be economically unjustified.2

A March 1993 diplomatic cable from US Ambassador Armacost in Tokyo to Secretary of State Warren Christopher, obtained under the US Freedom of Information Act, posed these questions: "Can Japan expect that if it embarks on a massive plutonium recycling program that Korea and other nations would not press ahead with reprocessing programs? Would not the perception of Japan's being awash in plutonium and possessing leading edge rocket technology create anxiety in the region?"2

At the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, U.S. President Obama said: "We simply can't go on accumulating huge amounts of the very material, like separated plutonium, that we're trying to keep away from terrorists."3

In 2014, a U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration report noted that "global civilian plutonium inventories have risen sharply over the last 20 years" and that "further international engagement is needed to stop plutonium accumulation and start drawing down inventories."4

The Communiqué of the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, endorsed by 53 nations, stated: "We encourage States to minimise their stocks of HEU [highly enriched uranium] and to keep their stockpile of separated plutonium to the minimum level, both as consistent with national requirements."5

In 2014, with no hint of irony, a joint US/Japan statement announcing the plan to send some HEU and separated plutonium from the Fast Critical Assembly at Tokai to the U.S. concluded: "Our two countries encourage others to consider what they can do to further HEU and plutonium minimization."6 The amount of plutonium held at Tokai was 331 kg, yet Japan plans to separate 8,000 kg of plutonium every year at Rokkasho.

Ahead of the recently-concluded 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, the U.S. government was once again making strong statements about reprocessing and plutonium stockpiling. In mid-March, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Countryman, who heads the State Department's Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that reprocessing "has little if any economic justification" and raises proliferation concerns.7

Countryman said "there are genuine economic questions where it is important that the US and its partners in Asia have a common understanding of the economic and nonproliferation issues at stake before making a decision about renewal of the 123 [civilian nuclear cooperation] agreement, for example, with Japan."8

Countryman focused his criticisms on moves by China, Japan and South Korea to develop reprocessing programs while also expressing blanket opposition to civil reprocessing programs: "I would be very happy to see all countries get out of the plutonium reprocessing business."9

Countryman said the U.S. has raised with France its concerns about the dynamics in Asia. France's Areva is heavily involved in the reprocessing plans in both China and Japan.7

Japan's bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement with the U.S. expires in 2018. The current agreement, which will remain in force beyond 2018 unless amended, does nothing to curb or prevent Japan's plutonium stockpiling or its reprocessing plans.10

Washington could apply constraints to Japan's plutonium stockpiling and reprocessing insofar as it involves U.S.-obligated nuclear materials. But that seems highly unlikely. An indication of the realpolitik came in late March when Thomas Countryman, presumably pressured by higher-ups, reversed his earlier statements. Countryman 2.0 claimed that Japan's reprocessing plans and plutonium stockpiling do not raise proliferation concerns and that no other country was closer or more important as a partner to the U.S. than Japan.11

Nuclear commentator Dan Yurman suggests the whole thing was a set-up: "On one hand, the first round of comments by Countryman appear to address China's concerns about Japan's [plutonium] stockpile. China's delegation to the Nuclear Security Summit was led by Xi Jinping, President of the People's Republic of China. On the other, the state department official's reversal appears to also appease the Japanese delegation which undoubtedly did not take kindly to having such a direct set of remarks expressed ahead of their visit to Washington."12

South Korea

Washington and Seoul came to an agreement last year which continues the prohibition on domestic reprocessing in South Korea while permitting research into pyroprocessing ‒ separating fission products from spent fuel, leaving plutonium mixed with other actinides.13

Pyroprocessing is promoted as a proliferation-resistant alternative to conventional reprocessing. But it can also be a stepping-stone to weapons-usable material. South Korea's Chosun Media quotes a nuclear engineering professor saying that "if spent fuel is first reprocessed using pyroprocessing and then dissolved using nitric acid ‒ which is the typical method ‒ then it is possible to obtain more fissile material in a shorter amount of time."14

In a country with reprocessing, a switch to pyroprocessing would be a stepping-stone to non-proliferation. In a country without reprocessing ‒ such as South Korea ‒ pyroprocessing is a stepping-stone to proliferation.

Washington has been more proactive in its negotiations with South Korea than it has been with Japan. But Washington's refusal to do anything about Japan's reprocessing plans and plutonium stockpiling creates a double-standard which is near-impossible to maintain. Christopher Hill, a former American ambassador to Seoul, said in 2013: "If the Koreans are left with the impression that Japan can do things that South Korea can't, then it's not a sustainable concept."15

Proliferation expert Henry Sokolski notes that those South Koreans who want a nuclear weapons option as a countermeasure against North Korea "complain that Washington has authorized Japan, America's other East Asian security ally, to reprocess spent US-origin fuel (fuel made in the United States but burned in reactors in Japan) to produce plutonium. This grates on Seoul, given the historical enmity between Japan and South Korea. Washington has yet to grant South Korea similar recycling rights."16

Shortly after North Korea's nuclear weapon test on January 6, leaders of the South Korean National Assembly's ruling party publicly urged President Park Geun-hye to consider reprocessing fuel from nuclear power plants to extract plutonium, as a hedge against North Korea's nuclear weapons program.16

Elsewhere, the U.S. established a 'gold standard' with a bilateral agreement with the United Arab Emirates which prohibits enrichment and reprocessing in the UAE. But the U.S. then abandoned the 'gold standard' and is now willing to conclude nuclear trade agreements with (at most) voluntary, unenforceable commitments to forego enrichment and reprocessing.17

Of course, the U.S. is not the only country at fault. France could put international security and non-proliferation objectives ahead of commercial nuclear imperatives ... but that would be a first. Australia has its own unique way of pretending to be concerned about the security and proliferation risks associated with reprocessing and plutonium stockpiling, while ensuring that commercial imperatives and Big Power politics come first. Australia insists on prior consent before Australian-obligated nuclear material is reprocessed. So far, so good ‒ but Australia has never once invoked its right of veto to prohibit reprocessing, even when it leads to plutonium stockpiling.

China's reprocessing plans

At an October 2015 session of the First Committee session of the U.N. General Assembly, China criticized Japan's reprocessing plans, noting that Japan has enough plutonium to produce a large number of nuclear weapons, and that some Japanese advocate weapons production.10

But China doesn't bring a great deal of moral authority to the debate. An editorial in the Japanese Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper said: "China criticizes Japan for possessing enough plutonium 'to produce a large number of nuclear weapons.' Is China, which keeps the actual situation concerning its nuclear weapons secret and is reportedly enhancing its nuclear capability, in a position to criticize Japan?"9

Moreover China is planning to massively increase domestic reprocessing. China National Nuclear Corp. (CNNC) and Areva envisage a commercial-scale plant processing 800 tonnes of spent fuel annually, with capital costs of CNY 100 billion (US$15.4 billion, €13.8 billion).18

In mid-March, U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Bob Corker accused the Obama administration of encouraging reprocessing despite the concern over proliferation, pointing to the renegotiation of a nuclear cooperation agreement with China last year that allows the reprocessing of fuel from U.S.-designed reactors. "We're not calling for a plutonium time-out like we could have done," Corker said.7 Democratic Senator Ed Markey warned of a domino effect in East Asia, saying if Japan and China went ahead with their reprocessing plants, there would be pressure on South Korea to pursue its own reprocessing efforts, which wold in turn undermine efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.7

In Beijing, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz voiced concern about China's plans for its first commercial-scale reprocessing plant. He told the Wall Street Journal that China's recent announcement that it would press ahead with a reprocessing program "certainly isn't a positive in terms of non-proliferation" and that "we don't support large-scale reprocessing". Moniz continued: "I don't think in any way we've been coy about our arguments with all of our partners. We just see so many problems. It's just, on objective grounds, very difficult to understand."19

Areva didn't respond to a request from the Wall Street Journal for comment on Moniz's remarks and CNNC said its press officers weren't available.19

Mark Hibbs from Carnegie's Nuclear Policy Program said China's decision to pursue reprocessing couldn't be justified on economic grounds but China may be acting strategically, guaranteeing future fuel supply by recycling.19 In addition to reprocessing, Beijing plans to expand its limited MOX production capability (most likely with the involvement of Areva) to produce MOX fuel for light water reactors and possibly also fast reactors.18

Moreover there are reports that Beijing may attempt to emulate Russia's build-own-operate nuclear export model and that such an endeavor might be more practical or palatable if spent fuel from overseas reactors is taken back for reprocessing rather than direct disposal.20

Sokolski suggests a more sinister motivation:16

"If China builds and operates this plant, it plans to stockpile plutonium for 10 to 20 years ‒ ostensibly for advanced reactor fuel ‒ producing enough plutonium for between 15,000 and 30,000 bombs, roughly the number of weapons' worth of nuclear explosives that the United States or Russia could remilitarize if they weaponized the massive amounts of surplus nuclear weapons fuel in their respective stockpiles.

"This could be militarily significant. Currently, China's nuclear arsenal is believed to be only 200 to 400 weapons. Its surplus plutonium stockpile, moreover, is only large enough to produce some additional hundreds of bombs, and China lacks any working military plutonium production reactor. Would a Chinese commercial plutonium program serve as a work-around? This may not be China's intention now, but if tensions in the region increased, might this change? One has to hope not.

"What makes these civilian plutonium-recycling efforts all the more dubious is how little economic and technical sense they make. They are not only unnecessary to promote nuclear power or manage nuclear waste, but also clear money losers. Privately, Chinese, Japanese, and South Korean officials and other government advisers concede these points; publicly, they don't."


1. 26 March 2016, 'Transcript: Donald Trump Expounds on His Foreign Policy Views',


3. 26 March 2012, 'Remarks by President Obama at Hankuk University',

4. National Nuclear Security Administration, Global Threat Reduction Initiative, 3 Dec 2014, "Removal Program Overview",



7. Matthew Pennington / Associated Press, 17 March 2016, 'US official comes out strongly against major powers in East Asia pursuing nuclear reprocessing',

8. 17 March 2016, 'Reviewing the Administration's Nuclear Agenda ‒ Podcast',

9. 23 March 2016, 'Government needs to thoroughly explain nuclear fuel cycle project to U.S.',

10. 11 Feb 2016, 'US, others worried over Japan's plutonium stockpile',

11. Seima Oki, 29 March 2016, 'U.S. official changes stance on Japan's nuclear policy',

12. Dan Yurman, 2 April 2016, 'Nuclear Fuel News for 4/2/16',

13. 22 April 2015, 'S. Korea, US strike new civil nuclear deal',

14. Lee Young-Wan, 19 Feb 2016,

English translation posted at:

15. Jay Solomon and Miho Inada, 1 May 2013, 'Japan's Nuclear Plan Unsettles U.S.',

16. Henry Sokolski, 28 March 2016, 'Can East Asia avoid a nuclear explosive materials arms race?',

17. 23 Aug 2013, 'Sensitive nuclear technologies and US nuclear export agreements', Nuclear Monitor #766,

18. WNA, Feb 2016, 'China's Nuclear Fuel Cycle',

19. Brian Spegele, 17 March 2016, 'China's Plans to Recycle Nuclear Fuel Raise Concerns',

20. 27 Sept 2015, 'China to start reprocessing plant by 2030',