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Nuclear News

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Stop Japan's Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant
Action Requested: Sending letter to the Japanese Embassy in your country urging Japan not to start the Rokkasho reprocessing plant.

Dear Friends,

Greetings from Japan! Sixty-eight years ago on August 9, an atomic bomb containing about 6kg of plutonium destroyed the city of Nagasaki in an instant. Next year, Japan intends to start the commercial operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, the only industrial-scale reprocessing plant in a non-nuclear weapons state, to separate plutonium from fuel used in nuclear power plants at a rate of 8 tons per year, equivalent to 1,000 bombs using the IAEA formula of 8 kg per bomb.

Originally, Japan intended to use separated plutonium to fuel fast breeder reactors, which were supposed to produce more plutonium than they consumed, guaranteeing a semi-eternal energy source. As in other countries, this program stalled, however. So Japan launched an uneconomical program to consume its accumulating plutonium in light water reactors. This also stalled. As result Japan has accumulated about 44 tons of plutonium, equivalent to more than 5,000 bombs: 34 tons in Europe, from reprocessing Japan's spent fuel in the UK and France, and 10 tons in Japan.

Due to the Fukushima accident we have only two of 50 reactors operating. The number and the timing the reactors to be restarted is uncertain and the prospect of being able to consume a significant amount of the existing plutonium in reactors anytime soon is dim. Applications for review for restart of 10 reactors under the new safety rules were just submitted July 8.

The government still wants to start operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. Further accumulation of nuclear-weapon-usable material is a concern for the international society and for Japan's neighbors, who wonder about its intentions.

Separated plutonium is also a security risk. And if other countries follow Japan's example, it would increase proliferation risks.

Please help us to stop Japan from further separating nuclear weapon usable material by doing the following:

Send a message/letter by fax or otherwise to the Japanese Embassy in your country by August 9 urging Japan not to start the Rokkasho reprocessing plant and send a copy of the message/letter that you have sent or intend to send to the following e-mail address by 5 August no-pu[@]

List of Japanese Embassies:

We will deliver them to the government of Japan on August 9. We also will release them to the media.

Thank you very much in advance.


Sincerely yours,

Yasunari Fujimoto
Secretary General,
Japan Congress Against A- and H-Bombs (GENSUIKIN)

(For background information see 'Japan's Reprocessing Plans, Nuclear Monitor #763, 13 June 2013).


Canada: Cameco agreement to silence indigenous protests on uranium mining
After the Pinehouse collaboration Agreement with Cameco and Areva in December 2012, with the English First River Nation in May 2013 another indigenous community of Northwest Saskatchewan has - against protests of their community members - signed an agreement with these uranium mining companies to support their business and not to disturb it anymore.

The agreement - which members have not been permitted to see - allegedly promises $600 million in business contracts and employee wages to the Dene band, in exchange for supporting Cameco/Areva's existing and proposed projects within ERFN's traditional territory, and with the condition that ERFN discontinue their lawsuit against the Saskatchewan government relating to Treaty Land Entitlement section of lands near Cameco's proposed Millenium mine project.

− from Nuclear Heritage Network − NukesNews #10, 29 July 2013,

More information:
Committee for Future Generations,
Peter Prebble and Ann Coxworth, July 2013, 'The Government of Canadaʼs Legacy of Contamination in Northern Saskatchewan Watersheds,

South Korea: Nuclear scandal widens
The scandal in South Korea concerning the use of counterfeit parts in nuclear plants, and faked quality assurance certificates, has widened. [1]
In May 2012, five engineers were charged with covering up a potentially dangerous power failure at the Kori-I reactor which led to a rapid rise in the reactor core temperature. The accident occurred because of a failure to follow safety procedures. [2] A manager decided to conceal the incident and to delete records, despite a legal obligation to notify the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission. [3] In October 2012, authorities temporarily shut down two reactors at separate plants after system malfunctions.

Then in November 2012, the scandal involving counterfeit parts and faked certificates erupted. [4] The reactor parts included fuses, switches, heat sensors, and cooling fans. The scandal kept escalating and by the end of November it involved at least 8601 reactor parts, 10 firms and six reactors and it was revealed the problems had been ongoing for at least 10 years. Plant owner Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power (KHNP) acknowledged possible bribery and collusion by its own staff members as well as corruption by firms supplying reactor parts. [5]

Two reactors were taken offline to replace thousands of parts, while replacement parts were fitted to other reactors without taking them offline.

In recent months the scandal has continued to expand.

Late May 2013: Two more reactors were shutdown and the scheduled start of two others was delayed because an anonymous whistleblower revealed that "control cables had been supplied to [the] four reactors with faked certificates even though the part had failed to pass a safety test." [6]

June 20: Widespread police raids. [7] Prosecutors reveal that the number of plants suspected to have non-compliant parts (or at least paperwork) has widened to include 11 of South Korea's 23 reactor reactors. [8]

July 8: The former president of KHNP was arrested as part of the ongoing investigation into nuclear industry corruption. [9,10]

July 10: Search and seizure occurred at Hyundai Heavy Industries after the Busan Prosecutor's office obtained warrants relating to the nuclear parts scandal. [11]

July 11: Details emerged on the involved parties in the Hyundai headquarters raid, including persons and exchanged funds. Contract bribery is included in the charges. [12]

Even before the scandals of the past two years, a 2011 IPSOS survey found 68% opposition to new reactors in South Korea. [13] The proportion of South Koreans who consider nuclear power safe fell from 71% in 2010 to 35% in 2012. [14]

References and Sources:
1. Atomic Power Review, 14 July 2013, 'South Korea's Nuclear Energy Corruption Scandal Widens in Scope',
13. IPSOS, June 2011, 'Global Citizen Reaction to the Fukushima Nuclear Plant Disaster',
14. Reuters, 7 Jan 2013, 'South Korea to expand nuclear energy despite growing safety fears',


France: Activists target uranium and nuclear plants
Two uranium facilities were blocked by activists in the South of France on June 19. The collectives "Stop Uranium" and "Stop Tricastin" organised simultaneous non-violent blockades in front of two uranium facilities in the south of France. The first facility, the Comurhex Malvési (near Narbonne) is the entrance gate for yellowcake in France. The second facility was the Eurodif enrichment plant, on the Tricastin nuclear site, near Avignon.

About 30 Greenpeace activists were arrested on July 15 after breaking into an EDF nuclear power plant in southern France, saying they wanted to expose security flaws and demanding its closure. The activists said they reached the walls of two reactors at the Tricastin plant, one of France's oldest. The protesters who entered the plant at dawn unfurled a yellow and black banner on a wall above a picture of President Francois Hollande, marked with the words: 'TRICASTIN ACCIDENT NUCLÉAIRE: PRÉSIDENT DE LA CATASTROPHE?' (Tricastin Nuclear Accident: President of the Disaster?).

"With this action, Greenpeace is asking François Hollande to close the Tricastin plant, which is among the five most dangerous in France," said Yannick Rousselet from Greenpeace France. Greenpeace is pressing Hollande to honour his previous promise to close at least 10 reactors by 2017 and 20 by 2020.

In July 2008 an accident at a treatment centre next to the Tricastin plant saw liquid containing untreated uranium overflow out of a faulty tank during a draining operation. The same month around 100 staff at Tricastin's nuclear reactor number four were contaminated by radioactive particles that escaped from a pipe.

Nuclear Heritage Network − NukesNews #10, 29 July 2013,
Reuters, 'Greenpeace activists break into French nuclear plant',
'French Greenpeace activists break into nuclear power plant', 15 July 2013,
Angelique Chrisafis, 25 July 2008, 'It feels like a sci-fi film' - accidents tarnish nuclear dream',


Germany: Activists blockade nuclear fuel production plant
On July 25, around 50 activists blockaded Areva's nuclear fuel production plant in Lingen, north-east Germany. The protest included a climbing action as well as Samba-band. For seven hours, traffic delivering material to the plant was blocked. Around midday, police arrived and cleared away the peaceful non-violent blockade. A number of activists were taken to the police station. A female activist was wounded and had to be taken to the hospital.

Photo from visual.rebellion:

Fukushima Fallout: Updates from Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

UN Special Rapporteur's report
In November 2012, the UN Human Rights Council sent Special Rapporteur Anand Grover to Japan to assess the situation in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Grover's report is highly critical of both TEPCO and the Japanese government. For example:

  • It says that by nationalising TEPCO, the government "arguably helped TEPCO to effectively avoid accountability and liability for damages" from the nuclear crisis.
  • It criticises TEPCO for its "attempts to reduce compensation levels and delay settlement" through a complicated and difficult compensation process, as well as failure to protect workers from radiation exposure.
  • It criticises the government for failing to protect children, the elderly, and those with disabilities from the disaster, as well as inadequate use of the country's System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information, which led to some residents being evacuated to areas directly in the path of the radiation plume in the days following the March 11 disaster.

The report urges Japan to avoid repopulating contaminated areas until radiation levels reach one millisievert per year. It stresses that epidemiological experts "conclude that there is no low-threshold limit for excess radiation risk to non-solid cancers, such as leukemia." Currently, Japan allows residents to return to their homes when radiation levels reach 20 millisieverts per year.

Japanese government officials were more concerned about the economic implications of a massive evacuation and the costs of compensating victims after the Fukushima disaster than they were about residents' safety, according to a new exposé by the Asahi Shimbun. Records from government meetings conducted in December 2011, during which attendees were trying to decide the radiation level at which residents could safely return to their homes, show that then Nuclear Crisis Minister Goshi Hosono fought to establish the annual radiation level at which residents could safely return at five millisieverts. However, other attendees insisted on a 20 millisievert per year limit.

UN Special Rapporteur's report:
Beyond Nuclear analysis, 'Can nuclear power ever comply with the human right to health?',
Asahi Shimbun, 25 May 2013, 'Strict radiation reference levels shunned to stem Fukushima exodus'
Asahi Shimbun, 26 May 2013, 'U.N. expert urges help for Japan's nuclear victims'
Greenpeace Nuclear Reaction Weblog, Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Update for May 23rd to May 28th, 2013,

Decontamination and waste disposal
Despite public promises by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to complete decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture by March 2014, which would reduce radiation exposure levels there to one millisievert per year or less, Japan's government recently informed municipal officials that they will likely not meet their stated deadline as a result of local opposition to hosting nuclear waste storage sites. Officially, the government is still denying any change to the timeline. Japan's decontamination schedule is already far behind schedule − cleanup efforts have not even begun in five of 11 municipalities that have been declared evacuation zones. Moreover, the Environment Ministry has told local officials that areas that have already been decontaminated but where radiation levels remain high will not be decontaminated again, raising questions about if or when residents will ever be able to safely return.

Asahi Shimbun, 16 June 2013, 'Government secretly backtracks on Fukushima decontamination goal',
Greenpeace Nuclear Reaction Weblog − Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Update for June 14th to June 17th, 2013,

Legal claims and compensation payments
TEPCO's legal troubles continue to mount as yet another group filed suit against it. Family members of hospital patients and elderly nursing home residents who died in the process of evacuation, or because staff were unavailable to care for them, are suing the utility for approximately US$300,000 each. The families say that they care less about collecting damages and more about learning the root causes of the Fukushima disaster. However, the case could have far-reaching legal implications for TEPCO if it is decided in favour of the plaintiffs. More than 200 people were stuck in hospitals and nursing facilities following the nuclear accident, and 50 of those died. (NHK World; Greenpeace Nuclear Reaction Weblog, Fukushima Update 7−10 June 2013)

In late May, the Namie municipal government announced that it will sue TEPCO on behalf of over 11,000 residents for psychological suffering. Although TEPCO is already paying victims 1,000 yen per month, Namie officials want to increase that amount to 3,500 yen. (The Mainichi, 3 June 2013, 'Fukushima village residents to receive new compensation over mental damage')

The Japanese government is now considering suing TEPCO. So far, the government has paid 16.5 billion yen (US$169 million) in decontamination costs. Japanese law requires that the government pay those costs initially, and then be reimbursed by the utility. More than two and half years after the nuclear disaster first began, however, TEPCO has not paid any of the costs. (Kyodo News, 1 June 2013, 'Gov't eyes suing TEPCO over unpaid decontamination costs')

TEPCO is again under fire for failure to pay adequate compensation to Fukushima prefectural and local governments that were forced to cover costs of damage, decontamination, evacuation, and other losses. As of April 30, claims total 46.64 billion yen (US$478 million), with further claims expected, but TEPCO has only paid 5.2 billion yen (US$50 million). Some local leaders are threatening to sue, complaining that the utility has been unresponsive to their repeated requests for payment. "No matter what we say, we get no reply," said Takanori Seto, the mayor of Fukushima City. "We'll file a lawsuit." (Japan News, 18 June 2013, 'TEPCO slow to pay Fukushima governments' compensation')

Japan's Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center has made two judgments that could have significant impact on TEPCO's obligations. In the first case, the Center ruled that TEPCO must pay a group of 180 residents from the Nagadoro District of Iitate 500,000 yen (around US$5,000) for emotional distress from high levels of radiation exposure. Pregnant women and children under 18 at the time of the accident were awarded one million yen each. People from that area were not told to evacuate until a month after the nuclear crisis first began to unfold, increasing their radiation exposure. Experts say that the case is sure to encourage other municipalities in similar circumstances to follow suit. (Asahi Shimbun, 3 June 2013, 'Consolation money to place additional financial burden on TEPCO')

In the second case, TEPCO agreed to compensate to the family of a farmer from Sukagawa, who committed suicide after learning that he would be forced to stop selling cabbage from his organic farm. He had worked on the farm for 30 years. TEPCO eventually agreed to pay over 10 million yen (US$100,000) after the Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center intervened. Company officials continue to refuse to apologise to the man's family. (The Mainichi, 3 June 2013, 'Fukushima family, TEPCO reach redress deal over farmer's suicide')

Fukushima films
A number of independent films have been produced recounting personal stories from Japan's March 2011 triple-disaster and its aftermath. These websites provide more information:

  • Nuclear Nation:
  • Surviving Japan:
  • Pray for Japan:
  • Ian Thomas Ash:
  • The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom:
  • The Land of Hope (trailer):
  • Himizu:
  • Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape:
  • Kalina's Apple, Forest of Chernobyl:

Japan's reprocessing plans

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Japan continues to work towards operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing facility in the northern Aomori prefecture. Both the Japan Atomic Energy Commission and Japan Nuclear Fuel have cited October as the start-up date for the facility. However operation is likely to be further delayed in order to meet requirements yet to be set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which was created in response to the Fukushima disaster.

Japan's government and private companies have invested more than US$21 billion in the Rokkasho plant since construction began in 1992. The startup of the plant has been delayed 19 times because of technical and financial problems. [Dow Jones Newswire, 2013]

When operating at full capacity, the Rokkasho plant could separate around nine tonnes of plutonium from 800 tonnes of spent fuel annually; sufficient to build around 900 weapons annually. Diversion of, say, 1% of the separated plutonium would be difficult for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to detect against the background of routine accounting discrepancies, yet it would provide enough plutonium to build one nuclear weapon every 4−6 weeks.

There have been incidents of large-scale plutonium accounting problems in Japan. The 'Atoms in Japan' publication provides one such example. In 2003 it was discovered that of the 6.9 tons of plutonium separated at the Tokai reprocessing facility in the period from 1977 to 2002, the measured amount of plutonium was 206 kgs less than it should have been. After further investigations, the Japanese government claimed that it could account for some of the discrepancy and reduced the figure to 59 kgs. [Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, 2003.]

Japanese officials argue that the reprocessing program is for civil purposes only and that reprocessing is a necessary step towards using the plutonium as reactor fuel and thus reducing plutonium stockpiles. However in practice the use of mixed uranium/plutonium MOX fuel does not reduce plutonium stockpiles because MOX-fuelled reactors produce more plutonium than they consume. Moreover, only four reactors, including the No. 3 reactor at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, have so far used MOX fuel.

Fast neutron (a.k.a. fast breeder) reactors could reduce plutonium stockpiles − but fast reactor programs have mostly been expensive and accident-prone and have done precious little to reduce plutonium stockpiles. Those problems have been all too evident with the accident-prone, scandal-prone Monju fast reactor in Japan.

In the latest scandal, Atsuyuki Suzuki, President of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), which operates the Monju reactor, has resigned after the Agency admitted that it had neglected to perform safety inspections on almost 10,000 pieces of equipment, some of them critical for safe operation of the reactor. A statement from the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) said: "The Japan Atomic Energy Agency cannot sufficiently secure the safety of Monju. We see deterioration in its safety culture."

The Monju reactor was first brought online in 1994, but a serious sodium coolant leak and subsequent cover-up by JAEA led to a 15-year shutdown. In 2010, the reactor was restarted for testing, but an equipment accident ceased operations before the reactor could reach full capacity. As a result of the latest scandal, plans to restart the reactor have been pushed back and preparatory work has been delayed. Japan Times recently editorialised that the NRA should order the permanent shut-down of Monju and noted that "the JAEA has learned nothing from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, which was caused in part by lax management."

The contradictions with Japan's plutonium program are still more acute since all but two of the country's reactors are shut-down in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Nevertheless, a shipment of MOX left the port of Cherbourg in northern France in mid-April and is scheduled to arrive in Japan in the second half of June, destined for Kansai Electric Power Co's Takahama plant west of Tokyo.

An editorial in The Asahi Shimbun on April 22 outlined the dilemma that seems to be driving the continued pursuit of Japan's plutonium program: "Still, the government and the electric power industry insist on continuing the fuel recycling program because terminating it would turn spent fuel into radioactive waste, causing them to violate an agreement with Aomori Prefecture, which has accepted the related facilities. There is no justification for continuing the now-unrealistic reprocessing program even if ending it requires a time-consuming process of securing the consent of the local communities through earnest dialogue. It is critical that a realistic road map toward interim storage and eventual direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel is worked out. It would be highly irresponsible to try to operate the reprocessing plant simply because it has been built."

Regional implications of Japan's plutonium program
The US government has reportedly expressed concern about Japan's reprocessing plans. Tatsujiro Suzuki, vice-chair of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, met in April in Washington with Obama administration officials. Suzuki said he was told that separating and stockpiling large amounts of plutonium without clear prospects for its use as reactor fuel sets a bad example. In particular, Japan's plans complicate efforts to prevent the development of reprocessing in South Korea and Taiwan, and could also encourage an expansion of reprocessing in China.

These problems have been festering for decades. 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. 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?"

Further raising concerns are calls by hawkish South Korean and Japanese politicians to consider developing nuclear weapons after North Korea began a series of atomic-weapons tests in 2006 (including tests using plutonium produced in an 'experimental power reactor'). Japan's then defence minister Satoshi Morimoto said in 2012 that Japan's nuclear power program is "taken by neighbouring countries as having very great defensive deterrent functions" and former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba said: "Having nuclear plants shows to other nations that Japan can make nuclear weapons." In 2002, Ichiro Ozawa, then leader of the Liberal Party in Japan, said: "It would be so easy for us to produce nuclear warheads – we have plutonium at nuclear power plants in Japan, enough to make several thousand such warheads."

A new US − South Korean nuclear-cooperation agreement, which would allow for the continued sale of US-origin fuel and equipment, was recently deferred for two years. Seoul wants to be allowed to begin enriching uranium and reprocessing spent reactor fuel, but Washington resisted and the two countries agreed to extend the current agreement (which prohibits enrichment and reprocessing in South Korea) while negotiations continue.

"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," said Christopher Hill, a former American ambassador to Seoul.

It is well within the capacity of the US to take concrete steps to curb the separation and stockpiling of plutonium in Japan. The US has the authority to disallow separation and stockpiling of US-obligated plutonium, i.e. plutonium produced from nuclear materials originally mined or processed in the US. However there has been no suggestion that the US will take such a step.

President Obama cautioned at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul: "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." But it appears to be all talk and no action.

In April, China signed an agreement with French nuclear-power company Areva SA to construct a new reprocessing plant similar in size to Rokkasho. Beijing says the plant will be used only for civilian purposes − but it would inevitably increase China's capacity to separate plutonium for potential use in nuclear weapons.

Henry Sokolski from the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center said: "As a practical matter, if it operates Rokkasho, it will force China to respond to re-establish that it, Beijing, not Tokyo, is the most dominant nuclear player in East Asia. Such nuclear tit-for-tats-manship could get ugly."


References and main sources:


Fukushima Updates

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Ohi reactors
On April 16 a Japanese court rejected an application by Green Action and more than 260 people to have two Ohi (Oi) reactors shut down. Ohi reactors 3 and 4 are the only two reactors currently operating in Japan. They are operating without new safety measures designed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. There are active earthquake faults nearby. The court ruled that the reactors are safe until proven otherwise. It also ruled that there is no requirement to be able to shut down a reactor within the required time in the event of an accident/earthquake − even though Ohi received its licensing permit on the premise that it met this shut-down time limit. Green Action is appealing the court's verdict. (Green Action

Meanwhile, Japan's new Nuclear Regulation Authority has begun the process of assessing Ohi reactors #3 and #4. Kansai Electric insists that the plant does not require an anti-tsunami wall, and that there are no active faults beneath the facility. Seismic experts have disputed that statement.

More leaks, accidents and incidents
TEPCO has acknowledged more leaks of radioactive water at Fukushima, bringing the total number of leaks that have been discovered in April to at least five. The leaks have been found in holding tanks and in pipes connecting tanks. Some of the leaks are continuing because TEPCO has been unable to locate their source. TEPCO President Naomi Hirose held a press conference and apologised for the fiasco. He said that TEPCO is building more above-ground tanks and that all water would be transferred by the end of June. A total of 23,600 tons of water needs to be relocated.

World Nuclear News noted that levels of radioactivity in the leaked water were 6 MBq/l and 300 MBq/l − enough to be classified as intermediate-level radioactive waste in most countries.

In addition to the leaks, there have been multiple accidents and incidents in the past month including multiple power losses, radiation monitoring malfunctions, and accidental shutdown of a water decontamination system.

TEPCO has admitted that 14 workers dealing with radioactive water problems were working without dosimeters on April 6 − adding to the long and shameful history of employees and contractors working without dosimeters, or with dosimeters covered up, since the March 2011 triple-disaster.

Fish within 20 kms of the Fukushima plant have surpassed baseline measures of radioactivity, TEPCO said in its environmental monitoring report published April 12. One specimen tested near the port entrance to Fukushima Daiichi was 4,300-times more radioactive than what Japanese officials consider standard. (Greenpeace International 'Nuclear Reaction' weblog; World Nuclear News, 15 April; Bloomberg 15 April)

TEPCO refuses to pay decontaminations costs
Despite the fact that the Japanese government paid one trillion yen to keep TEPCO afloat, TEPCO officials are now refusing to reimburse the government's Environment Ministry for 10.5 billion yen in costs required to decontaminate areas around the Fukushima plant. The Ministry has already requested payment twice, but so far, TEPCO has refused to comply. Because the government did not specify any timelines in the legislation, no interest or fines can be levied against TEPCO for not paying, and if the utility refuses, those costs would be passed along to taxpayers. (Greenpeace International 'Nuclear Reaction' weblog)

IAEA investigation
A group of 12 experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) undertook a week-long investigation the Fukushima Daiichi plant in mid-April. Juan Carlos Lentijo, head of the IAEA assessment team, said that decommissioning of the Fukushima reactors may exceed 40 years, far longer than TEPCO's projected timeline. "In my view, it will be near impossible to ensure the time for the decommissioning of such a complex facility in less than 30, 40 years, as is currently established in the roadmap," he said.

There is a long and unhappy history between the IAEA and Japan. There has been a revolving door between Japan's nuclear village and the IAEA. In 2009, a US cable released by WikiLeaks said that over the past decade, the IAEA's department of safety and security "suffered tremendously because of [deputy director general] Taniguchi's weak management and leadership skills." Taniguchi moved to the IAEA after decades working in the private- and public-sector arms of Japan's nuclear village. Another 2009 US cable said: "Taniguchi has been a weak manager and advocate, particularly with respect to confronting Japan's own safety practices, and he is a particular disappointment to the United States for his unloved-step-child treatment of the Office of Nuclear Security."

The IAEA carried out safety inspections at Fukushima in 1992 and at Chubu's Hamaoko plant in 1995, finding a total of 90 deficiencies in safety procedures including "weakness in emergency plan procedures", "insufficient event analysis on near-misses" and "lack of training for plant personnel on severe accident management". The IAEA was not invited to carry out any further safety inspections after 1995 and TEPCO and Chubu resisted the recommendations of the IAEA experts.

Koriyama legal action
Residents are pursuing legal action charging that children living in the town of Koriyama, 55 kms west of the Fukushima nuclear plant, should be evacuated in order to protect them from radiation. The town is home to 330,000 people. The case, originally filed in 2011 on behalf of the children by their parents and anti-nuclear activists, was rejected by a lower court and is now being heard by an appeals court − the Sendai High Court in Miyagi Prefecture. The number of children behind the original lawsuit has dwindled as families left the prefecture voluntarily or the children grew older. Annual radiation exposure in most areas of the town is below 20 millisieverts but there are more heavily contaminated hot spots. Plaintiffs argue that children should not be exposed to higher levels than international standards allow − 1 millisievert per year. (Greenpeace; Japan Daily Press; Associated Press)

Offshore wind turbines
The Environment Ministry of Japan will begin installing two floating offshore wind turbines this year as a way to help diversify the country's generation mix in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Post-Fukushima, Japan is spending approximately $100 million each day on liquid natural gas to replace offline reactors. The Japanese government will take incremental steps to prove the floating offshore turbine technology, testing three additional types of floating turbine technology. The best-performing turbine type may then be chosen to power a larger offshore wind farm − up to 1,000 MW − located off the Fukushima coastline. There are only two full-scale offshore wind projects in the world that feature floating wind turbines, in Norway and Portugal. (

Fukushima anniversary protests and vigils

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Fukushima second anniversary

Actions and vigils were held in an estimated 270 locations throughout Japan to mark the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster. On March 10, an estimated 40,000 protesters demonstrated around Tokyo, including in front of the Prime Minister's official residence, ministry offices and Hibiya Park. Weekly anti-nuclear power rallies are still being held in Tokyo, as evidenced by a gathering of some 3,000 people outside the Prime Minister's office one recent cold February evening. The demonstrations are organised by the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes, a body made up of 13 groups as well as individual members.

In Fukushima Prefecture, thousands came out to demonstrate against nuclear power. On March 8, a citizens group called Fukushima Smile Project held its 31st anti-nuclear demonstration; the first was held last August.

Perhaps the largest protests were held in Taiwan. A March 9 protest in Taipei was attended by around 100,000 people, and tens of thousands participated in protests in other major cities. Taiwan is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, the same tectonically active region as Japan. Taiwan's three existing nuclear power plants are situated near to the coast on active fault lines. A partly-constructed fourth plant (seventh and eighth reactors) is the subject of intense opposition. A referendum on the fourth reactor is expected to be held later this year, and opinion polls currently indicate majority opposition.

In Germany, around 28,000 protesters rallied at four locations on March 9, expressing solidarity with victims of the Fukushima disaster and demanding a halt to the reactors that are still operational in Germany. In Lower Saxony, many thousands took part in a training exercise based on the scenario that an accident had occurred at Grohnde Nuclear Power Plant. People wearing protective gear washed down the vehicles of evacuees from areas in the vicinity of the plant and students took their pets with them as they evacuated in the training exercise. Protests and solidarity events were held in at least 20 locations in Germany.

In Paris, about 20,000 anti-nuclear demonstrators formed a human chain. The event was jointly organised by 26 anti-nuclear groups. Participants gathered at 18 locations in the city and began to march hand in hand at the same time.

Gatherings in South Korea reflected concerns over nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. In Seoul on March 9, several thousand people remembered the victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, and also called for denuclearisation of Asia and the world due to concerns about the growing tensions on the Korean Peninsula with a nuclear-capable North Korea. Among the participants were hibakusha who survived the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, as well as their descendants.

In London, crowds took to the streets on March 9. The protest was organised by the Sunflower Revolution, CND and Kick Nuclear. Demonstrators, including Japanese expats, wore sunflower garlands and carried an array of sunflower-covered flags and banners as they marched on London's streets.

The website links to actions that were held in many other countries including the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Switzerland, New Zealand, Australia, India, Canada, the USA, Taiwan, and Mongolia.

Fukushima cancer death toll (Jim Green, Friends of the Earth, Australia)

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Fukushima second anniversary

Jim Green

An article in Nuclear Monitor #757 pointed to some preliminary estimates of the long-term cancer death toll from the Fukushima disaster, based on information about radiation releases and exposures (Green, 2013). Specifically, the article pointed to:

  • a "very preliminary order-of-magnitude guesstimate" of "around 1000" fatal cancers (von Hippel, 2011); and
  • a Stanford University study that estimates "an additional 130 (15–1100) cancer-related mortalities and 180 (24–1800) cancer-related morbidities" (Ten Hoeve and Jacobson, 2012).

Responding to the Ten Hoeve and Jacobson (TH&J) study, Beyea et al. (2013) arrive at a higher estimate. They state: "On balance, the net result of adjusting the TH&J numbers to account for long-term dose from radiocesium is uncertain, but the mid-range estimate for the number of future mortalities is probably closer to 1000 than to 125."

In a web-post, radiation biologist and independent consultant Dr Ian Fairlie (2013) estimates around 3,000 cancer deaths − about an order of magnitude lower than those from Chernobyl. Of course the Fukushima figures would be much higher if not for the fact that wind blew around 80% of the radioactivity from the Fukushima disaster over the Pacific Ocean.

A media release accompanying a World Health Organization (2013) report released in late February states:

In terms of specific cancers, for people in the most contaminated location, the estimated increased risks over what would normally be expected are:

  • all solid cancers − around 4% in females exposed as infants;
  • breast cancer − around 6% in females exposed as infants;
  • leukaemia − around 7% in males exposed as infants;
  • thyroid cancer − up to 70% in females exposed as infants (the normally expected risk of thyroid cancer in females over lifetime is 0.75% and the additional lifetime risk assessed for females exposed as infants in the most affected location is 0.50%).

For people in the second most contaminated location of Fukushima Prefecture, the estimated risks are approximately one-half of those in the location with the highest doses.

However the WHO report provides no information on the number of people in each of the exposed categories. It provides no information on total human radiation doses (a.k.a. collective doses) nor does it provide sufficient information for readers to be able to do those calculations. Thus there is no way of estimating the total number of cancer deaths.

The WHO report excludes radiation doses received by workers at the Fukushima nuclear plant. It also does not consider radiation doses within 20 kms of the Fukushima site, ostensibly because most people in the area were rapidly evacuated and because "such assessment would have required more precise data than were available to the panel." A report by Oda Becker (2012) on behalf of Greenpeace Germany found that people within the 20 km zone are likely to have received high radiation doses before evacuation − but Becker does not attempt to estimate the number of people who may have been affected.

Commenting on the WHO report, Ian Fairlie (2013b) states: "Despite the report containing some useful information (and some good members on its expert team) it fails in what should have been its most important task – i.e. to calculate collective doses to the people of Fukushima, to the people of Japan and to the people of the Northern hemisphere from the Fukushima accident. Indeed the phrase 'collective dose' does not appear in the report. ... Not only does the report not contain population doses, it appears to have been designed to prevent independent readers and scientists from doing their own calculations. For example, it tries to blind people with science by giving lots of estimates on organ doses (tables 4 and 5) but none on whole body doses, and lots of worker data (tables 6,7,8,9) but relatively little on public doses."

Contact: Jim Green is editor of the Nuclear Monitor and national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Australia. monitor[@]

A longer version of this article is posted at


Post-Fukushima Japanese Nuclear Energy Policy (Hideyuki Ban, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center)

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Fukushima second anniversary

Hideyuki Ban, Co-Director, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Tokyo.

Establishment of the Nuclear Regulation Authority
The accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant led to reflection on the inadequacy of nuclear safety regulation. Both the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), which was an external bureau of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), as well as the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), which was under the Prime Minister's Office, were shut down and the new Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) was established. Moreover, the NRA was put under the Ministry of the Environment (MoE). At long last, nuclear power regulation is an independent system separated from the promotion of nuclear power.


The NRA, which was founded in September 2012, has the authority to grant and withdraw permits and approvals related to nuclear power. Furthermore, the legislation establishing the NRA states that new scientific knowledge can be applied retrospectively to existing nuclear power stations.

As a response to the Fukushima accident, the NRA is in the process of deciding on new guidelines related to nuclear disaster prevention, new nuclear safety standards, and seismic safety standards. A decision on the new standards will be made by July 2013. Then, based on the new standards, each nuclear power plant will be investigated. After the investigations by the NRA are completed, and if approval from local governments is received, operation of the nuclear power plants can resume.

The NRA has focused on two points. One is whether or not as a counter-measure for severe accidents, a base-isolated building and a vent filter should be installed as a condition for the restart of the nuclear reactors. The power companies strongly demand that these conditions be omitted. With these conditions in place, the resumption of operation within the next three years would become impossible.

The other point is the problem of active faults. The Japanese government originally stated that there were no active faults within nuclear power plant sites. However, the evaluation regarding active faults changed in 2006. Whereas once it was sufficient to trace back 50,000 years, it was decided that the evaluation should go back 120,000 years. And now it has changed again to trace back 400,000 years in cases where a clear judgement cannot be made by tracing back 120,000 years.

At the same time, the government permitted active faults if they do not cross the important facilities of the nuclear power plant. If an active fault crosses a major facility, the NRA will not allow the nuclear power station to resume operation. At present, at several nuclear power plants (Ohi, Tsuruga, Shika, Monju Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, and Higashidori), it is being re-evaluated whether or not some major facilities cross an active fault. So far, investigations have been conducted at the Ohi Nuclear Power Plant and the Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant. The experts in charge of the investigations acknowledge that there is the possibility of active faults crossing the plants. Despite strong opposition from the power companies, there is the possibility that due to the judgement on active faults several nuclear power plants will be decommissioned.

The attitude of local governments
In April 2012, TEPCO officially declared that it had permanently shut down the four reactors at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power involved in the accident. However, TEPCO still has not decided on the phase out of reactors 5 and 6 at the plant. In opposition to this, the local government and municipalities of Fukushima are demanding that all 10 nuclear power reactors in Fukushima, including the four at the Fukushima Daini plant, be decommissioned.

At the Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, in Shizuoka Prefecture, the mayor and council of the neighboring municipalities strongly oppose the resumption of operation of the reactors. The local government, Omaezaki City, welcomes a restart of operation − but since the opposition of neighbouring municipalities is continuing it is difficult for Chubu Electric Power Company to ignore these voices. Meanwhile, Murakami Tatsuya, Mayor of Tokai, declared that he will not approve the restart of the Tokai nuclear plant in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Tokai and Hamaoka both have great problems with emergency planning. The NRA decided to expand the evacuation area to 30 kms radius in the event of a serious accident. Thus Ibaraki governor, where the Tokai nuclear plant is located, has to make evacuation plans for 930,000 people, but the governor states that this is impossible. For Hamaoka an evacuation plan for 740,000 people has become necessary.

The failure of the Basic Energy Plan
The current Basic Energy Plan was worked out by the government in October 2010, half a year before the accident at Fukushima. The Plan was made obsolete by the 3/11 nuclear accident. The 2010 Plan was an outlook to 2030. It highlighted ''placing nuclear energy as a key resource and promoting the nuclear fuel cycle". The plan was to achieve Japan's international CO2 reduction commitment by promoting nuclear power as a key energy source.

This plan was due for revision in 2013, but because of the nuclear accident the revision process was started in 2011. Under the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) Government, the Energy and Environment Council (EEC) was in charge of this. First, the EEC conducted a verification of the cost of nuclear power. Unlike previous calculations, the Council added costs such as accident treatment costs and research and development costs. Together, these amounted to 8.9 Yen/kWh. However, this number underestimates some costs.

In regard to the revision of the Basic Energy Plan, the EEC consulted with METI about the selection of energy alternatives and with the Japan Atomic Energy Commission about the selection of alternatives for a nuclear fuel cycle. The selected alternatives were the basis for a national debate.

Energy alternatives
The Fundamental Issues Subcommittee was established within METI and the 25 nominated members started to discuss the energy alternatives in October 2011. The author of this article was elected as a member and took part in the discussion within the Subcommittee. The question of how much electricity should be supplied by nuclear power became the centre of discussion.

After 27 meetings of the Subcommittee, three "Scenarios" were selected, based on the percentage of electricity generated by nuclear power by 2030: 0% (Zero-Scenario), 15% (15-Scenario) or 20-25% (20−25-Scenario). The percentage of renewable energy and thermal power was included in the Scenarios as well. The expectation was that economic growth will be 1% for the next 10 years and 0.8% for the following 10 years. It was assumed that electric power consumption in 2030 will be reduced by up to 10% from 2010. In the Zero-Scenario the ratio of renewable energy will rise to 35%, in the 15-Scenario to 30%, and in the 20−25-Scenario to 25−30% . The rest will be covered by thermal power generation.

National debate
The EEC, which received the report containing the three Scenarios from METI, presented the alternatives to the public and began a public comment program in June 2012. The national debate, which took place in July and August, included public comments, public hearings in 11 places throughout Japan hosted by the government, a deliberative poll, and participation of the government at meetings held by NGOs, industry groups, etc. Several mass media companies also conducted public opinion polls and these were taken into consideration as well.

The total number of public comments was 89,214. Of the comments received, 87% supported the Zero-Scenario and a total of 78% called for an immediate phase-out of nuclear power. At the public hearings, 68% of the participants supported the Zero-Scenario. Further, the result of the deliberative poll was that the more participants considered the issues the more they tended to support the Zero-Scenario. The opinion polls conducted several times by mass media companies showed that besides strong support for the Zero-Scenario, a lot of people also voted for the 15-Scenario.

As a result of the national debate, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ), which was the ruling party at this time, established the Energy and Environment Investigating Committee. On September 6, the DPJ officially announced its proposal, "Heading for a Nuclear Power Free Society", which became the formal policy of the DPJ. Based on this announcement, on September 14 the EEC released the Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment (New Strategy) in which it stated: "We will mobilise all policy resources, particularly for the "realisation of a green energy revolution," such a level as to even enable zero operation of nuclear power plants in the 2030's."

At a joint press conference on September 18, the three representative Japanese economic organisations − the Federation of Economic Organisations (Keidanren), the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) and the Japan Committee for Economic Development − strongly opposed the decision to phase out nuclear power. However, there are different corporate voices and views, such as the 400 entrepreneurs who established the Network of Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs for a Sustainable Business and Energy Future in April 2012.

The confused nuclear fuel cycle
In the three Scenarios, only the Zero-Scenario called for an end to the reprocessing of nuclear fuel. In the other two Scenarios, both reprocessing and direct disposal of spent nuclear fuel are possible. However, discussion on the nuclear fuel cycle was lost in the debate on nuclear energy.

In the New Strategy concluded by the EEC, it says: "The Government will continue its present nuclear fuel cycle policy to engage in reprocessing projects, and will have discussions responsibly in communicating with related local governments including Aomori Prefecture and with the international community." In the New Strategy, decisions on the future of the Monju Fast Breeder and the start of research on direct disposal of nuclear waste were included.

Before the Fukushima accident, Japan's policy on spent nuclear fuel only focused on reprocessing and no research was conducted into direct disposal of spent fuel. However, this might have changed as a result of the discussions on nuclear fuel cycle alternatives. For example, in METI's budgetary request for 2013 the cost for research on direct disposal is included. Furthermore, it is unlikely that the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, in Aomori Prefecture, which is still not operating because of ongoing troubles, will be able to process the official capacity of 800 ton/year. The construction of a MOX fuel fabrication plant to consume the surplus plutonium produced by reprocessing has just started. Consequently, even with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) in power, the trend from reprocessing to direct disposal of nuclear fuel will probably not change.

Japan Atomic Energy Commission
On October 31, 2012 the government established the Council for Revising the Atomic Energy Commission and the Council, in which the author of this article took part as a nominated member, started its investigation. At the sixth meeting on December 12, the work was summed up in a document called "Basic Point of View".

The debate showed that the AEC did not have authority. Practically, several ministries and government offices have jurisdiction over nuclear policy in Japan and the AEC just collects all the information. In the early days of nuclear power development the AEC had a leading role, but with the reorganisation of the central bureaucracy in 2001 this role fundamentally changed.

In the report it says that the function of the AEC is to guarantee the peaceful use of nuclear material. In a 2012 amendment to the Atomic Energy Basic Law, the purpose of nuclear energy was augmented to include the phrase "to contribute to national security". The DPJ government explained that this refers only to the physical protection of nuclear material, but due to the military implications of this wording the amendment was strongly criticised. There were concerns that the explanation given by the DPJ could change according to the political circumstances.

The report comments on the need for a revision of the Atomic Energy Basic Law. If we are heading for a nuclear phase out by the 2030s, it is necessary to eliminate the words "encouraging the research, development and utilisation of nuclear energy" from Article 1, which states the purpose of the law.

Change of Government
In the Lower House General Election in 2012, the DPJ suffered a crushing defeat and the LDP along with the New Komeito Party came into power. In the lead up to the election, many candidates and parties called for a nuclear phase out and nuclear power was one of the main issues. Anti-nuclear citizens' movements also set up a proposal for a basic law for a nuclear phase out. To some extent it was successful, but on the other hand, as the number of parties supporting a nuclear phase out grew, the votes were scattered between these parties.

After the election, the LDP announced that it will not follow the nuclear phase out policy. But given that the majority of the population still wants a nuclear-free society, the LDP-led government will not be able to ignore this completely.

The 10 reactors in Fukushima will be decommissioned, regardless of what TEPCO thinks. In Hamaoka and/or Tokai the opposition of surrounding local governments cannot be ignored. It will not be possible to forcibly restart the reactors just because there was a change of government. Further, there is the possibility that the outcome of the debate about active faults will lead to the decommissioning of more nuclear plants. Decommissioned plants cannot easily be replaced by new construction, as it is difficult to gain the acceptance of local governments for new plants after the Fukushima accident.

As a member of several committees, I felt that even after the Fukushima accident the influence of the so-called 'nuclear village' still exists. Therefore we who desire a nuclear phase out have to join together with different groups and people and continue to demand that those responsible for the accident be held accountable, and to make sure that the memories of the Fukushima accident do not fade away.

Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Tokyo. Email cnic[@]

Fukushima – Citizens' Actions, Two Years On (Meri Joyce)

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Fukushima second anniversary

Meri Joyce, International Coordinator, Peace Boat (Tokyo, Japan)

The second anniversary of the March 11 triple-disaster was marked in Japan and around the world by quiet reflection, looking back on the immense damage and suffering the triple disaster has caused, remembering the thousands of lives lost, and considering the deep impact made on the very foundations of Japanese society. Forty thousand people in Tokyo and many more around the nation also gathered the weekend before to call for an end to Japan's reliance on nuclear power, and for the Abe government to respect the majority wishes of the citizens for a nuclear phase-out − demonstrated for example in the huge turnouts at regular weekly demonstrations, and the tens of thousands of public comments submitted as part of the policy consultation process.

The real damage caused by the Fukushima disaster is not only that which can be simply measured numerically such as radiation doses, but also the more complex and ongoing social impacts. While it is true that at this stage there are no cases of deaths or diseases proven to be caused directly by radiation damage, any appearance of cancers and other diseases caused by radiation is likely to take several years and the future situation cannot be predicted.

The Japanese Government's Reconstruction Agency announced in August 2012 that more than 1,600 people passed away from "disaster related deaths" such as decreased physical condition following the disaster. Of these, almost half were from Fukushima Prefecture, demonstrating the extreme hardship local citizens were forced to bear as a result of the nuclear crisis. Many farmers and others who lost their livelihoods following the disaster have committed suicide. And even today, there are approximately 160,000 people living in evacuation both within and outside of Fukushima Prefecture, forced to live as internally displaced persons, with even their basic human rights neglected.

Such social and economic damage caused by the disaster is enormous, and difficult to fathom, let alone calculate. Little is known about the situation of workers at the nuclear power plants; agriculture, fisheries and dairy farming were dealt a devastating blow; and food safety is now a serious concern for all of Japan. On top of this, the financial and human costs for stabilising and decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant from now on will reach unprecedented amounts. These must all be understood as costs of the nuclear power plant accident.

Yet amidst these overwhelming difficulties, many individuals and citizens groups both in and outside of Fukushima have been struggling tirelessly to address these issues. While immediate activities were focused on emergency relief such as supporting evacuation centres, food provision and so on, the main focus now is on programs for the protection of children, radiation measuring and monitoring, health support, and information dissemination.

The misinformation, deception and confusion following the nuclear disaster has led to a deep-rooted lack of trust amongst citizens towards the government, and serious difficulties still exist regarding access to timely, accurate information. For this reason, groups of citizens have been coming together attempting to monitor and understand the actions of the government and other international agencies active in Fukushima, and ensure that their needs and demands are sufficiently reflected.

For example, in 2012 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced that it would establish a research centre in Fukushima in 2013 focusing on decontamination and health management, and hold a Ministerial Meeting on Nuclear Safety in Koriyama City, Fukushima Prefecture on December 15-17, 2012. Upon hearing this, a group of citizens from various backgrounds and different parts of the prefecture established the Fukushima Action Project (, which aims to: "raise awareness about these facts, and to ... enable those affected by the TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster to monitor the IAEA plans in Fukushima, and ensure that their demands are delivered and that the IAEA research activities are conducted to be for the benefit of the people."

Launched in October 2012, the Fukushima Action Project has held several public events together with international experts to share information about the background and track record of the IAEA, produced information booklets, and successfully lobbied the Japanese Government to hold information sessions for residents before the Ministerial Conference and display messages of local citizens at the conference venue, and meet with IAEA officials to convey their demands. While their capacity and resources are limited, such actions are serving the important purposes of demonstrating the importance of local agency, raising public awareness both amongst local residents and in the rest of Japan – in a situation where it is still very difficult for citizens from Fukushima to raise their voices critically − and finally, working towards acting as a watchdog for the IAEA and Japanese Government activities in the future.

Other significant examples include citizens' groups holding regular health consultation sessions, monitoring the activities of the Radiation Medical Science Centre for the Fukushima Health Management Survey, based at the Fukushima Medical University (, including seeking outside expert analysis and evaluation of the survey design and results, observing and broadcasting live online the committee meetings, and helping to provide opportunities for second opinions and medical check-ups for children and their concerned parents.

Since the first reports of radiation, citizens – despite having no prior experience or knowledge in such matters – also began to measure the air radiation level in Fukushima, followed by measurements of food items such as rice and vegetables. The Citizens' Radioactivity Measuring Station, established in July 2011 in Fukushima, has played a leading role in this and the health related efforts, continuing to conduct training, measurements, and provide information on internal and external exposure. There are now at least 26 such stations in Fukushima, and many have also been launched in other parts of Japan. Such efforts have also helped to lead the government to provide monitoring services for citizens and also called attention to discrepancies and problems to do with official measurements, and despite resource related and other difficulties continue to provide a vital service to the people of Fukushima. These efforts are largely conducted through the support of outside donors, many from overseas.

External support has, and continues to be, crucial for the citizens of Fukushima. A rural agricultural area, the region was not home to many civil society organisations or NGOs prior to the accident. Furthermore, radiation concerns meant that very few outside organisations, whether from other parts of Japan or overseas, could enter the area to provide aid and relief following the disaster. This issue continues today, where groups which have mobilised large numbers of volunteers to help in recovery activities are not able to conduct similar programs in Fukushima due to radiation contamination and health concerns.

Such limitations highlight the continuing urgent need for outside support, both in relation to resources but also provision of information, independent analysis, and solidarity for the people of Fukushima – both those still resident in the prefecture and also evacuees who have since moved to other parts of Japan. With the ongoing confusion surrounding information, including how to understand radiation and its effects, continued communication and interaction is crucial.

Furthermore, there is also a need to disseminate more information from Fukushima and Japan to the world, in order to enable such engagement to take place in a meaningful way. One effort towards this is the online portal "Fukushima on the Globe" ( set up earlier in 2013 by the Japan NGO Center for International Cooperation (, one of the few outside NGOs to set up a headquarters in Fukushima since the accident and which continues to play a lead role in coordination, communication and linking Fukushima citizens with individuals and groups in both the rest of Japan and around the world.

NGOs are also working to support Fukushima citizens in efforts to tell their stories throughout Japan and internationally. One such example is Mr Hasegawa Kenichi, a dairy farmer from Iitate Village, which was entirely evacuated following the nuclear disaster. Mr Hasegawa is this week in Australia for a speaking tour coordinated by Peace Boat and local Australian organisations.

Mr Hasegawa says: "I hope that hearing my story is an opportunity for people to understand more about the ongoing situation in Fukushima. It is important to make sure that what is happening in Fukushima is not forgotten. Two years have passed, but nothing has changed. We are still struggling not knowing what will happen in our future. And we are worried about the children. We are still living in evacuation. Will we be able to return in a few years from now? Ever at all? We have no idea. We must prevent any other place from suffering as Fukushima and Japan have. Human beings have opened a Pandora's Box which should not have been touched, and taken out this thing from uranium. Yet this was something which humans could not control. We need to work together to close this Pandora's Box."

While the media and public interest may be fading, the radiation and concerns of citizens are not. Although two years have passed, continued support and solidarity from medical and radiation experts, human rights advocates, and everyday citizens around the world is needed to deal with the ongoing situation in Fukushima, to protect the lives and health of the citizens there, and to prevent such a disaster from ever occurring elsewhere.

Contact: Meri Joyce, Peace Boat, email meri[@],


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

With the second anniversary of the Fukushima disaster approaching, nuclear propagandists around the world are peddling the following dishonest arguments:

  • the nuclear accident was caused by a natural disaster and no-one is to blame;
  • the accident has not caused and will not cause any radiation-related deaths;
  • low-level radiation exposure is harmless;
  • the accident has caused a great deal of psychological suffering but that should be blamed on nuclear critics spreading 'radiophobia'; and
  • lessons will be learned from the accident and nuclear power will be even safer than it already is.

Let's take each of those arguments in turn.

An Act of God?
Spin: "It was therefore a sequence of extraordinary forces unleashed by an unprecedented natural disaster which caused the accident at the reactors, not any operating failure, human error or design fault of the reactors themselves." − Uranium junior Toro Energy, 2011,

The 3/11 earthquake and tsunami were Acts of God but the nuclear disaster was an Act of TEPCO. The July 2012 report of Japan's Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission concluded that the accident was "a profoundly man-made disaster that could and should have been foreseen and prevented" if not for "a multitude of errors and wilful negligence that left the Fukushima plant unprepared for the events of March 11" (NAIIC, 2012).

No radiation deaths?
Spin: "There have been no harmful effects from radiation on local people, nor any doses approaching harmful levels." − World Nuclear Association, January 2013,

Long-term studies are unlikely to demonstrate statistically-significant increases in cancer incidence because of the high incidence of cancers in the general population. Nevertheless, some preliminary scientific estimates of the long-term cancer death toll are available, based on information about radiation releases and exposures, and applying a risk estimate derived from the Linear No-Threshold (LNT) model.

These estimates include a "very preliminary order-of-magnitude guesstimate" of "around 1000" fatal cancers (von Hippel, 2011), and a Stanford University study that estimates "an additional 130 (15–1100) cancer-related mortalities and 180 (24–1800) cancer-related morbidities incorporating uncertainties associated with the exposure−dose and dose−response models used in the study" (Ten Hoeve and Jacobson, 2012).

Better estimates will emerge in future as more accurate (and updated) information becomes available. No doubt there will be higher estimates of the death toll as attempts are made to quantify the many and varied radiation exposure pathways.


The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) recommend against using collective radiation dose figures and LNT risk estimates to estimate total deaths because of the uncertainties of that approach (even though UNSCEAR itself uses the same approach to estimate up to 4,000 long-term cancer deaths among people who received the highest radiation doses from Chernobyl). (Chernobyl Forum, 2005)

The problem with the recommendation from UNSCEAR and the ICRP is that there is no other way to arrive at an estimate of the death toll from Fukushima given the limitations of epidemiological studies. By all means we should acknowledge uncertainties associated with the use of a risk estimate derived from the LNT model. As the 2006 report from the U.S. National Academy of Sciences states, "combined analyses are compatible with a range of possibilities, from a reduction of risk at low doses to risks twice those upon which current radiation protection recommendations are based." (BEIR VII, 2006)

The U.S. National Academy of Sciences makes the important point that the true risks may be lower or higher than predicted by the LNT model − a point that needs emphasis and constant repetition because nuclear apologists routinely conflate uncertainty with zero risk.

Indirect deaths must also be considered, especially those resulting from the failure of TEPCO and government authorities to develop and implement adequate emergency response procedures. A September 2012 Editorial in Japan Times notes that 1,632 deaths occurred during or after evacuation from the triple-disaster; and 160,000 of the 343,000 evacuees were dislocated specifically because of the nuclear disaster (Japan Times, 2012). A January 2013 article in The Lancet notes that "the fact that 47% of disaster-related deaths were recognised in Fukushima prefecture alone indicates that the earthquake-triggered nuclear crisis at the Fukushima power plant caused extreme hardship for local residents." (Ichiseki, 2013)

Low-level radiation exposure is safe?
Spin: "If the most highly exposed person receives a trivial dose, then everyone's dose will be trivial and we can't expect anyone to get cancer." − US Health Physics Society,

The Health Physics Society redefines the problem of low-level radiation exposure as a non-problem involving "trivial" doses which are, by definition, harmless. It would be too kind to describe that as circular logic − it is asinine.

The overwhelming weight of scientific opinion holds that there is no threshold below which ionising radiation is without risk. For example:

  • The 2006 report of the Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionising Radiation of the US National Academy of Sciences states: "The Committee judges that the balance of evidence from epidemiologic, animal and mechanistic studies tend to favor a simple proportionate relationship at low doses between radiation dose and cancer risk." It states that claims that low-level radiation exposure is beneficial are "unwarranted at this time". (BEIR VII, 2006)
  • A report by UNSCEAR (2011) states that "the current balance of available evidence tends to favour a non-threshold response for the mutational component of radiation-associated cancer induction at low doses and low dose rates."
  • And to give one other example (there are many), a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences states: "Given that it is supported by experimentally grounded, quantifiable, biophysical arguments, a linear extrapolation of cancer risks from intermediate to very low doses currently appears to be the most appropriate methodology." (Brenner et al., 2003)

Spin: 'Radiophobia' spread by nuclear critics is responsible for most of the suffering resulting from the nuclear accident.

The spin is disingenuous but we should acknowledge a thin thread of truth − claims that the Fukushima disaster will lead to hundreds of thousands of deaths have no credibility and must be causing some distress in Japan. However, vastly more suffering can be attributed to Japan's 'nuclear village'. As the Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission report notes, the Fukushima disaster was the result of "collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO" and evacuees "continue to face grave concerns, including the health effects of radiation exposure, displacement, the dissolution of families, disruption of their lives and lifestyles and the contamination of vast areas of the environment." (NAIIC, 2012)

Lessons learned?
Spin: Lessons will be learned from the Fukushima accident and improvements made. Nuclear power − already safe − will be safer still.

If the nuclear industry learned lessons from past mistakes, the Fukushima disaster wouldn't have happened in the first place. Too often, lessons are learned but then forgotten, or learned by some but not by those who really need to know, or learned too late, or learned but not acted upon. The Chernobyl accident certainly led to improvements but complacency set in as memories of the disaster faded, and the same can be expected in the aftermath of Fukushima.

A report by the IAEA and the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency covering events from 2002-2005 states that "corrective measures, which are generally well-known, may not reach all end-users, or are not always rigorously or timely applied" and "operating experience feedback needs to be much improved in the international arena." (IAEA/NEA, 2006)

There is no clearer example of the industry's failure to learn than Japan's nuclear industry. Countless subsequent accidents, incidents and scandals would have been averted had the lessons of the fatal 1999 Tokaimura accident been properly learned and acted upon (and Tokaimura wouldn't have happened if earlier lessons about the need for adequate operator training had been acted upon). In 2002 and again in 2007, details of several hundreds safety breaches and data falsification incidents were revealed, stretching back to the 1980s (FoE, 2012). But nothing changed.

It has become increasingly obvious over the past decade that greater protection against seismic risks was necessary − especially in the aftermath of the July 2007 earthquake that caused radioactive water spills, burst pipes and fires at TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant. But the nuclear utilities didn't want to spend money on upgrades and they weren't forced to act.

Nuclear apologists have learned the wrong lessons altogether. Dr William Sacks (2011) argues that an important lesson from Fukushima is the need to convince people that low-level radiation exposure is harmless. Rod Adams (2012) states: "The lesson that the world needs to take away from Fukushima is that it is okay to build hundreds or thousands of new nuclear power stations and to place them quite close to the backyards of millions of people."

Tell that to the family and friends of the Fukushima farmer whose suicide note read: "I wish there wasn't a nuclear plant."

Adams, Rod, 2012, 'Least informed piece on Fukushima yet',
BEIR VII − US National Academy of Sciences, Committee to Assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation, 2006, 'Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII Phase 2',
Brenner, David, et al., 2003, 'Cancer risks attributable to low doses of ionizing radiation: Assessing what we really know', Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 25, 2003, vol.100, no.24, pp.13761–13766,
Chernobyl Forum, 2005, 'Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts',
FoE − Friends of the Earth, Australia, 2012, 'Japan's Nuclear Scandals and the Fukushima Disaster',
Hirsch, Helmut et al., 2005, "Nuclear Reactor Hazards: Ongoing Dangers of Operating Nuclear Technology in the 21st Century",
Ichiseki, Hajime, 19 January 2013, 'Features of disaster-related deaths after the Great East Japan Earthquake', The Lancet, Vol.381, Issue 9862,
IAEA/NEA, 2006, 'Nuclear Power Plant Operating Experiences from the IAEA/NEA Incident Reporting System 2002−2005',
Japan Times, 19 September 2012, Editorial: 'Slow road to reconstruction',
MIT − Massachusetts Institute of Technology Interdisciplinary Study of Nuclear Power, 2003,
NAIIC, 2012, 'The Official Report of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission',
Sacks, William, 2011, 'Lessons About Nuclear Energy from the Japanese Quake and Tsunami',
Ten Hoeve, John E., and Mark Z. Jacobson, 2012, 'Worldwide health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident', Energy and Environmental Science, June,
UK Royal Society, October 2011, 'Fuel cycle stewardship in a nuclear renaissance',
UNSCEAR, 2011, 'Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Ionising Radiation 2010',
von Hippel, Frank, 2011, 'The radiological and psychological consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi accident', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, September/October, vol.67 no.5,

More information on nuclear hazards
Hirsch et al. (see above).
M. V. Ramana, 2011, 'Beyond our imagination: Fukushima and the problem of assessing risk', Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists,
Mycle Schneider et al., 2007, 'Residual Risk: An Account of Events in Nuclear Power Plants Since the Chernobyl Accident in 1986',
International Panel on Fissile Materials, 2010, 'The Uncertain Future of Nuclear Energy', Frank von Hippel (ed.),
Antony Froggatt, 2006, 'Potential Environmental Risks of the Next Generation of Nuclear Power Plants',

Source and contact: Jim Green is the national nuclear campaigner with Friends of the Earth, Australia.[@]

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Nigeria signs agreement with Rosatom. Last issue we made a funny remark about Nigeria’s announcement that it selected two sites for the construction of nuclear power reactors, but only a few days later the country signed a cooperation accord with Russia’s Rosatom towards the construction of its first nuclear power plant. Rosatom chief Sergei Kiriyenko signed a memorandum of understanding with the chairman of the Nigerian Atomic Energy Commission, Franklin Erepamo Osaisai. Its terms will see the two countries "prepare a comprehensive program of building nuclear power plants in Nigeria," including the development of infrastructure and a framework and system of regulation for nuclear and radiation safety.

Sergei Kiriyenko is quoted in Leadership newspaper to have said that  the contract would cover the building of nuclear power plant (1200MW) worth about US$4.5 billion (about N697 billion). In 2010 Nigeria said it aimed to have 1000 MW of nuclear generation in place by 2019 with another 4000 MW online by 2030. Although not all contracts Rosatom signed have materialized in the past, however, Nigeria is, one of the very few African countries pursuing a nuclear energy program.
World Nuclear News, 4 June 2012 / Leadership Newspapers (Nigeria), 13 June 2012

Fear nuclear safety is in stake in harsh competition for sales.
Nuclear-reactor makers are offering prices too low to cover costs to win orders abroad in a strategy that puts earnings at risk, according to Andre-Claude Lacoste, head of the French Autorite de Surete Nucleaire regulator. “Export contracts for nuclear plants are being obtained at pure dumping-level prices,” Lacoste fears that nuclear safety could be compromised in trying to win tenders. “Prices accepted by vendors and obtained by buyers are unsustainable,” he said. “There aren’t many tenders, which is why competitors are ripping each other off. It’s already a serious matter, and we need to make sure that there’s no dumping on safety on top of that.”
Bloomberg, 6 June 2012

Academic study on IAEA.
Just published: a new research report Unleashing the Nuclear Watchdog: Strengthening and Reform of the IAEA, by Trevor Findlay. The report is the outcome of the two-and-a-half year research project on “Strengthening and Reform of the IAEA” conducted by the CCTC and CIGI. The project aimed to carry out a “root and branch” study of the Agency to examine its current strengths and weaknesses and make recommendations for bolstering and, if necessary, reforming it. According to the preface this academic study of the Agency “is needed not just in the light of accumulating challenges to the IAEA’s future and the increasing demands made on it by its member states, but because the Agency itself is demanding more support and resources. At a time of financial stringencies, many of the countries that traditionally have offered such support seek proper justification for any increases.” Findlay concludes that the IAEA is irreplaceable: “like the United Nations itself, if it did not exist it would have to be invented”.

However, this report is a good source for general information about the Agency that was founded to “accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world,” while ensuring, “so far as it is able,” that this does not “further any military purpose”.
Unleashing the nuclear watchdog is available at: href=""

China: nuclear safety plan but no approval for new projects yet.
China has approved a nuclear safety plan and says its nuclear power plants meet the latest international safety standards, though some plants need to improve their ability to cope with flooding and earthquakes, state media said on May 31. But the government has not made any decision on when to start approving new nuclear plant projects.

China suspended approvals of new nuclear power plants in the wake of Japan's nuclear crisis in March 2011 following a devastating tsunami, and ordered nationwide safety checks on existing plants and construction sites. It also pledged to review its nuclear power development plan. The State Council, China's Cabinet, now approved a nuclear safety plan for 2011-2015 in a meeting chaired by Premier Wen Jiabao. China also aims to enhance nuclear safety standards and lower the risks of nuclear radiation by 2020, the report said.

A nine-month safety inspection of China's 41 nuclear power plants, which are either operating or under construction, showed that most of China's nuclear power stations meet both Chinese and International Atomic Energy Agency standards, according to the report. However, some individual power plants need to improve their ability to prevent damage from serious accidents such as earthquakes, flooding or tsunami, it said.
Reuters, 31 May 2012

Switzerland: court rejects Mühleberg extension.
BKW, the operator of the Mühleberg nuclear power plant, must submit a full maintenance plan, or shut down the plant in June 2013. The Federal Supreme Court has rejected BKW’s request for an injunction, after earlier this year the Federal Administrative Court pulled Mühleberg’s right to an unlimited permit. Federal environment officials had reasoned BKW could have an indefinite operating permit so long as the Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate was monitoring site maintenance and safety issues. The court ruled BKW needed to submit maintenance and safety plans, especially with known concerns over the site’s cooling system, and cracks in the core shroud.
World Radio Switzerland, 29 May 2012

Lithuania opposes construction of N-plants close to its borders.
On May 28, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis blasted plans by Russia and Belarus to build nuclear power plants close to its borders, accusing both of lax safety and environmental standards and "bypassing international safety and environmental standards." "This is not just an issue for Lithuania... it should be a matter of concern to all countries in this region. We should do everything possible to make these two projects develop according to international standards. It is vital," Azubalis said, following talks in Riga with Latvian Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics. Rinkevics offered a cautious endorsement of Azubalis' concerns.  Asked by AFP what proof Lithuania had concerning the safety of the Russian and Belarusian projects, Azubalis said he had yet to receive satisfactory responses to written requests for information through official channels including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Espoo Convention Committee. The Lithuanian foreign ministry provided AFP with a document dated May 4 expressing "deep concern" over an alleged recent accident at Russia's Leningrad NPP-2 nuclear facility, which is still under construction. "The incident in Leningrad NPP-2 raises a number of serious questions about the safety of this and two other planned (plants) near Lithuanian borders and the capital Vilnius which are projected to be based on the same technology and possibly the same means of construction," the document states.

Lithuania and Latvia, together with Estonia and Japanese company Hitachi, have putative plans of their own to construct a joint nuclear power plant at Visaginas in northern Lithuania to replace the Soviet-era Ignalina facility which was shut down in 2009.
AFP, 28 may 2012

Flying into trouble at Sellafield
Unusual pathways by which radioactivity routinely escapes the confines of nuclear sites are well documented with one recent example to hit the headlines being the 6000 mile transportation of radioactive contamination by bluefin tuna from the polluted waters around the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant to the coasts of North America. An even more recent case has however turned up very much closer to home – at Sellafield.
No stranger to unusual pathways for radioactivity - as 2000 Cumbrian feral pigeons and a host of seagulls will know to their cost - the site’s latest victims have been identified as a number of swallows which, gorging on the mosquitos that flit over the waters of Sellafield’s radioactive storage ponds, have taken up residence in Sellafield’s transport section.  As confirmed by the Environment Agency last week to a meeting of the Environmental Health Sub-Committee of the West Cumbria Sites Stakeholder Group, the birds’ droppings from around their roost/nesting sites have been found to be radioactively contaminated. Whilst neither the contamination levels nor the number of swallows involved was provided, the Environment Agency told the Committee that measures were being taken by Sellafield Ltd to tackle the mosquito problem.
CORE’s spokesman Martin Forwood commented; “These much-loved and now radioactive birds and their offspring will unwittingly be carrying a highly toxic message from Sellafield when they migrate back to Southern Africa at the end of the summer - a distance at least equivalent to that recently undertaken by the bluefin tuna.”
CORE press release, 6 June 2012

U.K.: Chernobyl restrictions sheep lifted after 26 years.
Twenty-six years after the April 26, 1986, explosion at Chernobyl reactor 4, restrictions remained on 334 farms in North Wales, and eight in Cumbria. But as of June 1, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) regulations on these farms were lifted. In the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, when radioactive rain swept the UK, farmers saw their livelihoods and even their families threatened. Some 9,700 farms and four million sheep were placed under restriction as radioactive cesium- 137 seeped into the upland soils of England, Scotland and Wales.

Before June 1, any livestock for breeding or sale had to be assessed with gamma monitors by officials from Defra or the Welsh government. Sheep found to exceed the legal radiation dose (1,000 Becquerel per kilo) were moved to the lowlands before sale, and had the farmers wanted to move their flock, they had to seek permission.

The FSA said the restrictions had been lifted because “the current controls are no longer proportionate to the very low risk”. No sheep in Cumbria have failed the monitoring criteria for several years, and less than 0.5 per cent of the 75,000 sheep monitored annually in North Wales fail.  But not everyone agrees with lifting the restrictions. An anonymous farmer with a flock of 1,000 ewes, was quoted in the Independent saying: “The feeling I have is that it should still be in place. The food should be kept safe.”
Independent (UK), 1 June 2012

Australia: at last: Kakadu Koongarra victory.
The Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory is set to be expanded, with the inclusion of land previously earmarked land for uranium mining known as Koongarra. The Northern Land Council (NLC) has agreed for a 1,200 hectare parcel of land containing rich reserves of uranium to be incorporated in to the park. This looks like the final step in a long battle that Aboriginal traditional owner Jeffrey Lee has waged to protect his land from mining. The uranium-rich mining lease Koongarra was excised from Kakadu when the conservation area was established in the late 1970s. The lease is held by French company Areva, which wanted to mine the area for uranium. Two years ago, Mr Lee, the sole traditional owner of the land, called on the Federal Government to incorporate it in to Kakadu. The Government accepted the offer and referred the matter to the NLC. The NLC conducted consultations and its full council has agreed to endorse Mr Lee's wishes. The council and land trust will now move to enter an agreement with national parks to incorporate Koongarra into Kakadu. The Koongarra area includes the much-visited Nourlangie Rock (Burrunggui/Anbangbang) and is important in the Rainbow Serpent and Lightning Man stories.

In June 2011, the Koongarra site was added to the World Heritage List during a meeting of the Unesco World Heritage Committee in Paris. The French nuclear energy company Areva, had unsuccessfully asked the committee to remove Koongarra from its agenda.

It is not known if Areva will attempt to take any action over the decision to include Koongarra in the Kakadu national park
Nuclear Monitor, 1 July 2012 / ABC, 1 June 2012

Japan: Smartphone capable of measuring radiation.
On May 29, the Japanese company Softbank Mobile unveiled a smartphone capable of measuring radiation levels in a bid to respond to growing demand for dosimeters in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Users can measure radiation levels by pressing and holding a button on the phone, and the device can be set to a constant measurement mode or plot readings on a map, according to Softbank.

The Pantone 5 107SH, manufactured by Sharp Corp., is equipped with a sensor that can measure between 0.05 and 9.99 microsieverts per hour of gamma ray in the atmosphere. The product is aimed at ''alleviating as much as possible the concerns of mothers with children,'' the mobile operator said in a statement, adding it will go on sale sometime in mid-July or later.
Mainichi (Japan), 29 May 2012

Public acceptance – what holds back the nuclear industry?
“Multiple structural barriers inside the nuclear industry tend to prevent it from producing a united pro-nuclear front to the general public. Efforts to change public opinion worldwide must deal with these real-world constraints.” In an article called: Public acceptance – what holds back the nuclear industry? Steve Kidd (deputy director-general of the World Nuclear Association) is asking if “we have probably begun to reach some limits in employing a fact-based strategy to improve public acceptance of nuclear. Huge efforts have been made to inform people about nuclear by freely providing a lot of good information. But the message doesn’t seem to hit home with many.” He is explaining why and how to overcome this in an article in the May issue of Nuclear Engineering International.

In the next episode he will look at the possibilities of increasing public acceptance in more detail. 
The article is available at:

Restart Ohi reactors

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

On May 29, the Japanese Prime Minister Noda has announced his decision to order the restart two nuclear reactors in the town of Ohi in the prefecture of Fukui in Western Japan. He also claimed that nuclear energy will remain an important source of energy for Japan also in the future, thereby reconfirming Japans nuclear energy policy. Noda even increased political pressure in a televised broadcast to the nation on June 11 by saying: No nuclear power – no Japan: "Japanese society cannot survive" without restarting Ohi reactors 3 and 4.

Prime Minister Noda claimed on May 29, that the central government is winning the understanding of local authorities. On June 1 over a 1,000 people demonstrated outside the prime minister’s office. A few days later 4,000 people marched in Tokyo against the restart and more than 7.5 million Japanese people signed a petition for a nuclear-free Japan. A call for international solidarity and pressure on the Japanese government by sending faxes to the local Japanese embassies, not to restart nuclear reactors comes from the large anti-nuclear organizations CNIC, FoE Japan, Green Action, No Nukes Asia Forum, Peace Boat and Shut Tomari.

On June 12, a group of 134 residents in eight central and western prefectures filed a lawsuit demanding that the Japanese government order a halt restart of operations of Ohi 3 & 4, claiming that the reactors have not even met existing quake-resistance standards that are now under review.

Pressure to okay restart
In a meeting in April, Prime Minister Noda and Cabinet ministers concerned, confirmed the safety of the Ohi reactors and concluded that restarting the reactors is appropriate, but the reactivation process came to a standstill. Then things took a turn: During a meeting on May 30 of the Union of Kansai Governments, nuclear disaster management minister Goshi Hosono reaffirmed the reactors' safety and vowed to create a special monitoring system that would see a senior vice industry minister and other government officials stationed at the Ohi plant.

In response, the Union of Kansai Governments issued a statement demanding the restart of the reactors be only a "limited" measure, apparently indicating the union would accept the reactivation if the reactors operate during the summer only. However, Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa vehemently opposes Osaka’s Mayor Toru Hashimoto, who previously led the opposition to restarting the reactors, saying that his suggestion to run the reactors only in the summer "arbitrary and opportunistic, and [his opinion] is hardly worth discussing.” Noda ruled out temporary restart, too.

Over the past few months, intense lobbying of political leaders by Kansai Electric Power Co. and threats by major corporate supporters to relocate outside the region were cited by the Union of Kansai Governments as reasons for caving in. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto admitted defeat but said he had done all he could as mayor. “The pressure from Kansai’s corporate leaders to restart the reactors was really strong,” said Shiga Gov. Yukiko Kada, who had been one of the staunchest opponents of the restart. “Kepco put a lot of pressure on companies in the Kansai region, telling them that without the Oi reactors, they would face rolling blackouts. Those firms, in turn, pressured Kansai-area politicians, saying that if there were blackouts they would have to relocate outside the Kansai region,” according to Shigeaki Koga, a senior member of a committee appointed by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto to look into the city’s energy strategy.

More than 30 percent of lawmakers from the Democratic Party of Japan have expressed opposition to the central governments push to restart two nuclear reactors. A letter of opposition signed by 117 DPJ members, including former party leaders Ichiro Ozawa and Yukio Hatoyama, was submitted to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Tuesday, urging him to exercise “greater caution”. “Most of the public are of the opinion that we should overcome this summer’s energy needs through conservation and flexibility,” the petition said, adding that the party remains split on the issue.

The prime minister and three cabinet members with final say on the restart may give the go-ahead as early as June 16, the Kyodo News agency reported, citing unnamed officials. Including inspection and maintenance, it will take about 1-1/2 months for the two reactors at the Ohi plant to operate at full capacity.

According to a June 12, editorial of the Mainichi newspaper, Noda’s statements that "the livelihoods and daily lives of the Japanese people cannot be sustained if reactors are only restarted for the summer," and "from the energy security point of view, nuclear power is very important”, leave true national debate on this issue behind in the dust.

The newspaper continued by saying that of course lives could be at stake if Japan is hit with sudden blackouts from a lack of electricity and industry will also be affected, however, it is known for more than a year that the country needs measures to deal with summer power shortfalls, and both the government and Kansai Electric have been negligent in developing those measures. “And though these parties ought to be reflecting on and apologizing for their negligence, all we see them doing is fanning the flames of anxiety.”

Concluding:  “there is a major push on now to save electricity, cut down on peak usage, and create flexibility in the power system. To force the restart of the Ohi plant reactors even amid all these efforts would be to crush the fragile bud of energy reform now growing in society.”

Sources: The Daily Yomiuri, 1 June 2012 / Reuters, 1 June 2012 / Enformable, 7 June 2012 / Bellona Foundation, 11 June 2012 / International Business Times, 11 June 2012 / Mainichi, 12 June 2012
Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC). Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800
Email: cnic[at]


Financing reactors and the Fukushima disaster

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Greenpeace International & Banktrack

Investors in nuclear power are being sold precarious and potentially damaging investments because the industry's risks are regularly being overlooked or underestimated. Using the enormous economic losses surrounding the triple meltdown at Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant as an example, a new Greenpeace/BankTrack report shows how financial valuations and investment decisions had not taken well-known and systemic problems into account.

The report ‘Toxic Assets: nuclear reactors in the 21st century’, looks at the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster from an investors’ point of view. It identifies the long-known technological, management, governance and other institutional deficiencies that were instrumental in turning a predicted natural misfortune into a nuclear nightmare. The owner of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), lost 90% of its market capitalization, had its bonds rated as junk and is currently in the process of being at least partly nationalized. Investors and financiers of nuclear utilities all over the world saw their investments eroded.

Had analysts and credit-rating agencies looked beyond short-term cash flows and paid attention to the many early warnings, they would have been able to save investors from major losses. These red flags included warnings about:

* Crucial vulnerabilities in the Fukushima reactor design;
* Substantial governance issues and weak management characterized by major frauds and cover-ups;
* Collusion and loose regulatory supervision; and
* Well-understood and ignored earthquake and tsunami warnings.

All of these warnings had been publically highlighted years, often decades, before the nuclear disaster, and should have been taken seriously not only by nuclear authorities but by analysts and investors as well. Still, Tepco continued to benefit from high credit ratings, supportive analyst recommendations and cheap financing right until the Fukushima nuclear accident. Like Japanese nuclear authorities, financial ʻauthoritiesʼ also missed the many opportunities to force changes on the company. It seems regular dividends were enough to relax the vigilance of analysts who simply ignored major ʻfundamentalʼ risks and their fiduciary duty towards their investor clients.

Investors and financiers kept throwing good money after Tepco. Dozens of banks provided Tepco with at least €54bn of low-cost capital through bond issues, corporate loans and a share issuance between 2000 and 2011. The potential for similar catastrophic nuclear disasters and disastrous investment decisions is not limited to Tepco or Japan. Existing and planned new reactors all over the world are inherently at risk from any combination of:

* Similar mistakes in technology design that proved devastating at Fukushima;
* Substantial governance and management issues, and human error;
* The lack of effective independent supervision; and
* The threat of earthquakes, tsunami, floods and other natural disaster risks.

Nuclear power plants are potentially toxic assets for their investors and financiers. Quite uniquely, they can give rise to liabilities that can exceed their ownerʼs equity a hundred-fold or more. The probability of a devastating accident is around one major disaster in a decade based on the five core meltdowns since the 1950s, and this number does not even take into consideration the growing risks of ageing reactors.

Nuclear assets are also dangerous for investors even in the absence of a nuclear disaster. New reactor builds have been a clear investor ʻno-goʼ for at least a decade. Recently, even existing plants have come under increasing pressure from phase-out decisions, early retirements, large-scale regulatory and liability changes, and shrinking taxpayer and government support. The future of nuclear energy will be highly influenced by three tectonic changes:

* Post-Fukushima regulations that will require additional safety investments, shorter lifespans, higher operating and decommissioning costs, and stricter liability systems;
* Renewable energy, with falling costs and more installed capacity than nuclear plants1, is pushing nuclear out from the merit order and leading to lower plant utilization; and
* A strong reduction in subsidies, credit guarantees and other state supports to nuclear of earlier generous, but now highly indebted governments.

The report ‘Toxic Assets: nuclear reactors in the 21st century’ is written by Gyorgy Dallos & Lauri Myllyvirta and available at:

Contact: Greg McNevin, Greenpeace International Communications,
Tel: +81 80 5416 6507
Email: greg.mcnevin[at],

Fukushima 1 reactor: water level low

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

In last Nuclear Monitor the unstable situation of Fukushima Daiichi unit 4 fuel pool was mentioned, this time’s bad news is about water level at reactor 1. Former Prime Minister Kan repeated that the nuclear lobby was to blame for the Fukushima disaster, and 70% of Japanese companies support abandoning nuclear power.

An analysis by the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organization has shown that the level of water filling the number 1 reactor may be far lower than estimated by plant operator Tepco, officials of JNES said on May 22. JNES estimated that the water in the primary containment vessel is only 40 centimeters deep. TEPCO has estimated the water level to be about 1.9 meters. Not disputed is the fact coolant water injected into the reactor is leaking. JNES thinks that the water injected into the reactor may be leaking from a hole (of about 2 cm in diameter) located in a section connecting the primary container and the suppression pool, leaving the container with water just 40 cm in depth. Tepco spokesperson Matsumoto declined to comment, but said that what is important is that the nuclear fuel, which has melted through the pressure vessel and accumulated at the bottom of the outer primary container, is covered with water and kept cool.

TEPCO hopes to insert an endoscope into the reactor by the end of the year to determine the actual water level. Although JNES officials noted there are "uncertainties" in their analysis, the track record of Tepco is not very good (to put it mildly). Tepco has already inserted an endoscope into the crippled No. 2 reactor and found the water level at a much-lower-than-expected 60 cm deep.

On May 25, a Reuters poll showed that nearly three-quarters of Japanese companies support abandoning nuclear power after last year's Fukushima disaster, although a majority set the condition that alternative energy resources must be secured. Highlighting public mistrust of Japan's regional monopoly power companies, only 11 percent of those surveyed approved of utilities' efforts to secure power supply and just 12 percent trusted their projections for electricity demand. Forty percent saw efforts by power companies as "insufficient" and 29 percent saw their power demand projections as unreliable. Critics accuse utilities of exaggerating potential power shortages in order to win public support to restart off-line reactors, beginning with two at the Ohi plant. The poll also showed 70 percent of firms are prepared to cooperate on power saving to the same degree as last summer, with 24 percent willing to cooperate to a lesser extent.

Naoto Kan, the former Prime Minister, has admitted that his office was "overwhelmed" during the Fukushima nuclear meltdown last year, and he recommended that Japan scrap all its reactors to avoid a repeat. On May 28, he told a parliamentary committee that the bulk of the blame for the disaster lay with the nuclear lobby, which he said had acted like the nation's out-of-control military during the Second World War, with "a grip on actual political power".

Sources: Mainichi, 23 May 2012 / Reuters, 25 May 2012 / Independent (UK), 29 May 2012
Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC). Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800
Email: cnic[at]


Fukushima spent fuel pool unit 4

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Recently, former diplomats and experts both in Japan and abroad stressed the extremely risky condition of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool and this is being widely reported by world media. On May 1, 72 Japanese organizations urgently ask U.N. to step in and help stabilize Fukushima Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool.

Robert Alvarez, Senior Scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), who is one of the best-known experts on spent nuclear fuel, stated that in Unit 4 there is spent nuclear fuel which contains Cesium-137 (Cs-137) that is equivalent to 10 times the amount that was released at the time of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Thus, if an earthquake or other event were to cause this pool to drain, this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cs-137 released by the Chernobyl accident.

Nearly all of the 10,893 spent fuel assemblies at the Fukushima Daiichi plant sit in pools vulnerable to future earthquakes, with roughly 85 times more long-lived radioactivity than released at Chernobyl.

Nuclear experts from the US and Japan such as Arnie Gundersen, Robert Alvarez, Hiroaki Koide, Masashi Goto, and Mitsuhei Murata, a former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland, and, Akio Matsumura, a former UN diplomat, have continually warned against the high risk of the Fukushima Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool.

US Senator Roy Wyden, after his visit to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on 6 April, 2012, issued a press release on 16 April, pointing out the catastrophic risk of Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4, calling for urgent US government intervention. Senator Wyden also sent a letter to Ichiro Fujisaki, Japan’s Ambassador to the United States, requesting Japan to accept international assistance to tackle the crisis.

We Japanese civil organizations express our deepest concern that our government does not inform its citizens about the extent of risk of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool. Given the fact that collapse of this pool could potentially lead to catastrophic consequences with worldwide implications, what the Japanese government should be doing as a responsible member of the international community is to avoid any further disaster by mobilizing all the wisdom and the means available in order to stabilize this spent nuclear fuel. It is clearly evident that Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool is no longer a Japanese issue but an international issue with potentially serious consequences. Therefore, it is imperative for the Japanese government and the international community to work together on this crisis before it becomes too late. We are appealing to the United Nations to help Japan and the planet in order to prevent the irreversible consequences of a catastrophe that could affect generations to come. We herewith make our urgent request to you as follows:

1. The United Nations should organize a Nuclear Security Summit to take up the crucial problem of the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 spent nuclear fuel pool.

2. The United Nations should establish an independent assessment team on Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 and coordinate international assistance in order to stabilize the unit’s spent nuclear fuel and prevent radiological consequences with potentially catastrophic consequences.

The situation at the spent fuel pool of unit 4 is a crisis for which there is no simple, risk free solution. Removing the spent fuel rods is a priority, but it will not be achieved (or even attempted) before 2013 or later. Securing the structure of the pool at Unit 4 was identified early on in the crisis, with support columns installed. But the survivability of these columns, if struck by a major seismic event, must be doubted. A decision to build a new structure around the plant with heavy lift cranes is only the start of a long process that risks failure at numerous corners. All through this period and before the spent fuel is unloaded and put in secure casks the possibility will persist of loss of cooling water leading to an exothermic reaction that would lead to the release of a vast inventory of radioactive cesium and other radionuclides. The 50 mile evacuation zone recommended for U.S. citizens in the months after the Fukushima accident began would not be sufficient to protect Japan, including Metropolitan Tokyo, from potential devastation as a society. That was the information conveyed to Prime Minister Kan more than one year ago – and it remains the nightmare today.

Source: Shaun Burnie, Matsumura Akio and Murata Mitsuhei, "The Highest Risk: Problems of Radiation at Reaction Unit 4, Fukushima Daiichi," 

The Asia- Pacific Journal, Vol 10, Issue 17, No. 4.

Source and contact: Green Action (Japan). Suite 103, 22-75 Tanaka Sekiden-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8203 Japan
Tel: +81-75-701-7223
Email: info[at]


Japan nuclear power free, but for how long?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

On Sunday May 6, Japan became, for the time being, a nuclear free country. For the first time in 42 years no electricity was produced by splitting atoms. Thousands celebrated this fact in the streets of Japanese cities. The pressure on local authorities to allow restart of reactors increases, even more after Prime minister Noda gave preliminary allowance to restart Ohi 3 and 4.

A group of current and former mayors pushing for a nuclear-free Japan held its inaugural meeting April 28 in Tokyo. At the meeting, the group adopted a resolution urging the central government to incorporate the goal of completely eliminating nuclear power in its new basic energy plan, to be compiled this summer. The roughly 70 members of the group either served as mayors, or are currently in office, in 35 of the nation's 47 prefectures.

Meanwhile Prime Minister Noda is rushing to restart nuclear reactors for the first time since March 11, last year. But he needs local government consent to move forward with any decision to restart;

as the government will have to do for each of the other 48 reactors across the country should it seek to bring them back online.

Fukui’s local leaders have valiantly resisted efforts to restart the 2 reactors at the Ohi plant amidst lingering doubts on whether these reactors can withstand a Fukushima-like disaster. But they’re under incredible pressure from Noda and the power industry to cave.

On April 13, industry minister Yukio Edano, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda and two other ministers agreed that Ohi reactors 3 and 4 are safe enough to restart. A day later he traveled to the prefecture to drum up public support for the governor. After a meeting with Fukui local leaders, Edano told reporters he will press ahead with the reactivation plan and that he intends to explain the government's decision in Kyoto and Shiga prefectures to win their approval as soon as possible.

PM  Noda is expected to make a final decision before July on whether to authorize the restart of Ohi 3 and 4.

Meanwhile, future looks even more dim for the nuclear industry because of a very likely future lack of 'human resources'. In Japan the number of students enrolled as nuclear energy majors at seven universities has fallen by 16 percent this year, a Kyodo News announced on April 16. Among universities offering undergraduate and graduate programs in the nuclear sciences, only 223 students had enrolled for the 2012 academic year, compared with 264 last year.

Fukui University of Technology saw the biggest decline among the seven, with enrollments in the department of nuclear-related studies plunging to 10 from last year's 34, a drop of 71 percent. Fukui University saw numbers drop to 25 from 42, a 40 percent drop. Fukui Prefecture, in which the two universities are located, has a concentration of nuclear reactors, including those stuck in the restart debate at the Ohi power plant.

Sources: Japan Times, 15, 17 & 29 April 2012 / USA Today, 9 April 2012
Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC). Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800
Email: cnic[at]