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Japanese groups demand: "say goodbye to nuclear power"

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

"We will aim to bring about a society that can exist without nuclear power" Japanese Prime minister Kan said on July 13. But on August 26, Kan resigned after 15 turbulent months in office. His departure both as prime minister and as president of the Democratic Party of Japan, follows Diet passage the same day of two key bills he had set as a precondition for his exit: a bill to issue deficit-covering bonds to finance a large portion of the initial fiscal 2011 budget and legislation to promote use of renewable energy.

On August 17, Tepco announced the level of radioactive contaminants escaping from damaged reactors at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy complex has dropped in the last month. The company said the monthly rate of contaminant emissions from the plant's No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors has fallen to 200 million becquerels per hour; the systems were previously leaking five times that amount, Kyodo News reported.

Water treatment
Japan in July announced it had completed the initial stage of the plant's stabilization. Completing the second phase is expected to require between three months and half a year. A high-level Japanese official at a press event avoided offering a more specific projection. Bolstering the efficiency of the plant's water treatment equipment is a "major challenge" in the stabilization effort. Huge amounts of water were poured into the plant to prevent overheating, resulting in radiation-tainted liquid pooling in large portions of the site. Recently installed equipment cleanses the water and recycles it for continued cooling efforts. The intent is to cut off the need to pour additional coolant into the plant that could become contaminated and then escape into the outside environment. Operation of the new fluid decontamination mechanism operation has been slowed by numerous technical errors since being activated in June. It has run at an average efficiency of 69 percent following its launch, Tepco indicated.

Cesium release
But meanwhile, Japanese government specialists project that the quantity of radioactive cesium 137 emitted to date from the crippled the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant equates to 168 times the amount of material released in the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Agence France-Presse reported. Citing the work of nuclear experts, the Tokyo Shimbun reported the quantity of cesium that escaped Fukushima Daiichi was projected to be 15,000 terabecquerels. In comparison, only 89 terabecquerels were emitted by the detonation of the U.S. weapon dropped over Hiroshima near the end of World War II, according to the newspaper. The Kan administration provided the cesium projection to Japanese lawmakers.

The dropping of the atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 caused enormous destruction, brought about by the blast and by the fireball. It also caused massive radiation exposures, mainly neutron and gamma radiation, most of it delivered at the very instant of the explosion. But the fallout in the area of the bombed cities was relatively little, because in both cases the bombs were deliberately detonated high in the air so that the concussive shock wave would do the most damage on the ground. Thus no crater was created by the blast, and most of the fallout was carried high into the atmosphere by the heat of the fireball and the burning of the cities.  It became global fallout more than local fallout.

On August 26, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology (MEXT) announced their estimation of the first year doses (starting from the day of the accident), at the 50 representative spots within the 20 km "vigilance (off-limit)" zone in view of the government intention of allowing re-habilitation of the evacuees. According to their measurements, the dose rates are orders of magnitude different within the same zone in Fukushima Prefecture. Thirty five out of 50 locations exceeded the Government guideline of the first year dose of 20 mSv. (one location measured 503 mSv!). Being influenced by these facts, the Government is now saying that there will be some areas where rehabilitation will not be possible for an extended [number of] years, typically several tens of years. 

The government estimates that radiation in a contaminated area drops by about 40 percent over two years naturally and it wants to speed up the process by another 10 percent through human effort, according to guidelines for the clean-up unveiled on August 26. "We aim to reduce radiation levels by half over the next two years in affected areas, and by 60 percent over the same period for places used by children," Japan's nuclear crisis minister, Goshi Hosono, told a news conference.

Another key government goal is to bring radiation below 20 millisieverts per year, the threshold level for evacuation, in areas that exceed this. Some places in the evacuation zone have levels that far surpass this. "Ultimately we want to achieve this goal in a shorter period. Technology is continuing to advance and with enough government funding and effort it can be done," Hosono said.

The total area in need of cleanup could be 1,000 to 4,000 square kilometers, about 0.3 to 1 percent of Japan's total land area, and cost several trillion yen to more than 10 trillion yen (US$130 billion), experts say. One major problem that the government faces is that the removal of farmland topsoil could ruin fertile agricultural areas. The government said it will take full responsibility for the soil and debris removed in the cleanup, but that as yet it does not have a permanent solution for storing the radioactive material and that they would have to be kept within local communities for the time being. According to Hosono "Fukushima prefecture will not become the final place of treatment for the debris."

Four days later, on August 30, the results of first comprehensive survey of soil contamination  of 2,200 locations within a 100-km radius of the plant have been made public. In the 100km radius 33 locations had cesium-137 in excess of 1.48 million becquerels per square meter, the level set by the Soviet Union for forced resettlement after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Another 132 locations had combined amount of cesium 137/134 over 555,000 becquerels per square meter, the level at which the Soviet authorities called for voluntary evacuation and imposed a ban on farming. Cesium 137 has a half life of 30 years, meaning that its radioactive emissions will decline only by half after 30 years and affect the environment over several generations. Cesium 134 is considered somewhat less of a long-term problem because it has a half-life of two years.

Separating regulation from promotion
Also in August the Japanese cabinet decided to transfer the country's nuclear safety agency from the trade ministry, where it nestled in a department also dedicated to the expansion of nuclear power, to the environment ministry, where, at least in theory, there is some chance that its operations will not be subverted or manipulated by Japanese energy firms. After nearly half a century of producing nuclear power, Japan has finally separated regulation from promotion, but the move may well have come too late to restore public trust. The impulse to minimize the inherent risks of nuclear power, the tendency to conceal or downplay accidents, the assertion that each succeeding generation of plants is foolproof and super safe, and the presumption, so often proved wrong by events, that every contingency has been provided for, all these have been evident again and again. In contrast, The Netherlands changed nuclear monitoring structures over the past year. The regulation agency is now part of the ministry most promoting nuclear power and responsible for licensing.

Nuclear exports
It looked like the Japanese government resumed its joint efforts with industry to export nuclear power plants, despite effectively halting reactor construction at home following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Critics said the government is using a double standard--reducing the number of nuclear power plants at home and promoting exports. Facing difficulties in building reactors in Japan, reactor manufacturers—Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.--are renewing their emphasis on exports.

In mid-July, Hitachi and General Electric Co. won preferential negotiating rights for a nuclear power plant in Lithuania, edging out Westinghouse Co., a Toshiba unit, after Hitachi President Hiroaki Nakanishi traveled to the country for sales promotion. Industry officials said emerging economies have strong expectations on nuclear power generation to meet their growing demand for electricity. Among emerging economies, only Indonesia and Thailand have frozen plans to build nuclear power plants.

According to the Asahi newspaper, a senior official at a manufacturer said the government should take a greater initiative in promoting exports of nuclear power plants. "Winning projects in large countries, unlike Lithuania, requires government-to-government  negotiations," the official said. "The government and industry need to work together closely."

Electric power companies, which provide support to plant operations, are an indispensable partner to reactor manufacturers in winning overseas projects. Emerging economies require not only plant construction but also operation, maintenance and fuel supply as part of a contract. So Tepco’s situation has cast a cloud over Toshiba's bid to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey. Tepco was scheduled to provide support in the plant's operations. Turkey is asking Japan to choose a different company. If the selection is delayed, Turkey could start negotiating with other countries, such as France and South Korea.

The Japanese government, meanwhile, is trying to conclude nuclear energy agreements with a number of countries to establish a legal framework for exporting nuclear power plants. The Democratic Party of Japan-led government has signed agreements with four countries -Russia, Vietnam, South Korea and Jordan- over 18 months after it took power and is seeking  Diet approval. The government has also entered negotiations with five other countries.

But in a somewhat surprising move, Diet decided to put off approval of four nuclear cooperation agreements. After hearing opinions from four experts on August 24 about an agreement between the Japanese and Jordanian governments, the Foreign Affairs Committee of Japan’s Lower House decided to put off approval at a meeting of its executive advisory board the following day. Bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia, South Korea and Vietnam were also submitted for ratification at the current session of the Diet, but the Foreign Affairs Committee decided on August 31 to postpone the decisions on approval for those later as well.

Former-Prime Minister Naoto Kan played a leading role in signing a nuclear power agreement with Vietnam. But the March 11 disaster completely changed the environment. Kan called for ending dependence on nuclear power generation, halting government-to-government negotiations and Diet deliberations and exports of nuclear power plants were stalled.

New PM
On August 29, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) picked current finance minister Yoshihiko Noda as the new party head and imminent Japanese premier (the sixth PM in five years), who is likely to seek a prompt restart of safe nuclear reactors to revitalize the country's economic activity. Noda, a fiscal hawk, is expected to prioritize fiscal and debt reforms but also support Japanese utilities to restart reactors where their safety is confirmed to aid the country's rehabilitation efforts in the wake of March's devastating earthquake and tsunami. Noda has said that his country will continue to use nuclear power for the next 40 years in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, taking a swerve away from outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s promise of a non-nuclear future in half that time after the worst international nuclear disaster in 25 years.

Meanwhile, more than a third of Japan's nuclear reactors will have to apply for license extensions within five years or face decommissioning at a time when the industry's safety record is in tatters. Japanese opinion polls show about 70 percent of the public wants to reduce reliance on nuclear power. 


Tokyo, Sept. 19: “Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants” Rally!

We, a large coalition of Japanese NGOs, are taking action for a “peaceful and sustainable society”, reconsidering our lifestyles that exploit nature and waste limitless energy, and focusing on natural energy. For that purpose, we set the following goals:
1. Cancellation of construction plans for new nuclear power plants
2. Planned termination of existing nuclear power plants, including the Hamaoka nuclear power plant.
3. Abolition of “Monju” and nuclear reprocessing plants which use plutonium, the most dangerous radioactive material.
We will achieve these goals in order to save our own lives, and fulfill our responsibilities to the future children. We will hold the “Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants” rally at the Meiji Park in Tokyo, Japan, on 19 September. In many countries all over the world that weekend demonstrations and other activities will take place against nuclear power and in support of the demands of the Japanese groups.

Furthermore, there is a '10 Million Signature Campaign to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants' with a petition for the "Realization of Denuclearization and a Society Focused on Natural Energy". Please visit for more information and for signing the petition.


Sources: Atoms in Japan, JAIF 5 September 2011 / Bellona, 31 August 2011 / Nikkei, 30 August 2011 / Argus media, 29 August 2011 / Gordon Edwards, 29 August 2011 / Reuters, 26 August 2011 / Japan Times, 26 August 2011 / NTI Global Security Newswire, 25 & 18 August, 2011 / Asahi, 23 August 2011 / The Guardian, 16 August 2011
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


Japanese prime minister: "nuclear free future"

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

“We will aim to bring about a society that can exist without nuclear power,” Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan said in a television address to the country July 13. The statement was Kan’s clearest yet about the appropriate long-term energy goals for a country dealing with the consequences of the worst nuclear crisis in a quarter-century. More than two-thirds (70.3 %) of Japanese support Prime Minister Naoto Kan's call to do away with nuclear power, a media poll showed on July 24, underscoring growing opposition to atomic energy in the wake of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

It has now been more than four months since the accident began at Fukushima Daiichi and unfortunately no end is yet in sight although much of the major media moved on from Fukushima. But the accident continues, radiation continues to be released (though much lower amounts, of course, than initially), and the risk of new problems remains.

"Japan without nuclear power"
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan's July 13, statement was his clearest yet about the appropriate long-term energy goals for a country dealing with the consequences of the worst nuclear crisis in a quarter-century: “We will aim to bring about a society that can exist without nuclear power.” One day before that statement, Kan told lawmakers that Japan must scrap a plan that calls for the country to increase its use of nuclear power to 53 percent by 2030, up from the pre-quake level of roughly 30 percent. And he took a stand against the government’s long-peddled slogan about the safety of nuclear power ­ the “safety myth” that allowed for the construction of 54 reactors over four decades. “Through my experience of the March 11 accident, I came to realize the risk of nuclear energy is too high,” Kan said. “It involves technology that cannot be controlled according to our conventional concept of safety.”

But Kan’s energy plan faces numerous obstacles, from within his own government and from the utility companies that act as regional monopolies. There is also the matter of Kan’s own domestic unpopularity and his waning authority to guide the country.

But the fact that public opinion is changing, was also highlightened  by the fact that, also on July 13, the Asahi Shimbun, Japan’s second-largest paper, ran a front-page editorial calling for the phase-out of nuclear energy. But the piece also warned against immediate abandonment. “If we go to zero suddenly, we will encounter power shortages, and our lives and economic activities will be hugely affected,” the editorial said. “It is more realistic to not try too hard but to steadily decrease the dependency.”

Nuclear establishment
But Naoto Kan's dream of creating a society free of nuclear power appears destined to die when his reign as prime minister expires. No politician considered a possible successor is taking up Kan's call to decommission all of Japan's nuclear reactors. In fact, almost all prominent Cabinet ministers and executives of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan who have supported Kan appear reluctant to go along with his nuclear-free idea.

Japan suspend nuclear talks
In what could be an important move, the Japanese government has decided to suspend negotiations with India and four other countries on civil nuclear cooperation following Prime Minister Mr Naoto Kan's call for Japan's eventual exit from atomic power, according to a media report. Any move to proceed with the talks now “could risk contradicting the Prime Minister's policy,” an unnamed government source was quoted as saying by 'Kyodo' news agency.

The report said the government will suspend talks with India, Brazil, South Africa, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates on the sale of Japanese-made nuclear power equipment and technology. The decision concerns negotiations over completing separate nuclear power cooperation agreements with these countries.

The source also indicated the government will not schedule any high-level talks with the five prospective nations on completing nuclear cooperation accords without getting Mr Kan's nod, the report said.

Turkey to cancel talks with Japan?
The Turkish government informed the Japanese government that it will cancel the preferential negotiations with Japan and start talks with other candidate countries on the project to build a nuclear power plant, if Japan does not make clear its intention to continue the negotiations by the end of July, (Japanese) government sources said.

Turkey plans to construct a power plant with four 1.4 million kilowatt-class nuclear reactors in the Black Sea coastal city of Sinop. It aims to start operating the plant around 2020. Toshiba Corp. hopes to win an order to construct the plant with the cooperation of Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The negotiations between Turkey and Japan have been suspended since the nuclear crisis began at TEPCO's Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

Turkey ended negotiations with South Korea last December and gave the Japanese government the preferential negotiation rights. Turkey, which is also an earthquake-prone country, highly valued Japan's quake-resistance technology in awarding the priority rights, according to the sources.

After Kan's "denuclearization declaration" on July 13, it has been increasingly unclear whether Japan will be able to extend government-level support to Turkey, even if Toshiba won the order. Meanwhile, Japan's rivals, especially South Korea, are eager to extend such support.

"Stable cooling"
Tepco says it has achieved “stable cooling” of all of the reactors at the site. This might sound like good news until it is realized that Tepco does not mean the reactors are at cold shutdown. In fact, all 3 reactors with fuel in them remain above the boiling point of 100 degrees Centigrade, meaning that water continues to boil off and radiation continues to be released. Cold shutdown—bringing the temperatures below 100 degrees—is still not expected before January 2012. What Tepco really means is that it has more or less successfully set up a system for water to be recirculated through the reactors, so that constant water from outside is no longer needed. However, the recirculation system has been plagued with problems from the beginning and continues to not work at desired capacity. That is not the case for the Unit 4 fuel pool, which continues to receive water from outside. Temperature in the pool is said to be below boiling, at 80 degrees Centigrade.

Radioactive beef
The central government is considering buying all beef with levels of radioactive cesium exceeding government standards in an effort to try to address rising consumer concern and falling prices for Japanese beef. It would be the first time the central government has provided direct compensation for food products contaminated by the accident at Fukushima.

However, the current draft plan only envisages paying for beef that has been confirmed as contaminated in random tests. Meat from cows that have not been tested will not be bought. Farmers are demanding that all cows affected by shipment restrictions be bought up by the government to cover large losses from tumbling beef prices due to the radiation scare. The payment of compensation to beef farmers could lead to complaints from other farmers and fishermen of preferential treatment.

The issue of contaminated beef surfaced July 8, when meat from cattle shipped from a farm in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, was found to have levels of cesium exceeding government standards. The contamination was caused by feeding the cattle contaminated straw. Investigators are looking into whether cattle in other areas have been similarly affected.

Industry minister Banri Kaieda said that Tepco should shoulder part of the costs of the government's planned purchase.

But it’s not just beef and straw. Very high levels of Cesium-137 and other radioactive elements have been detected in all manners of agricultural products and soils across the region. Of particular note are both the Cesium-137 levels far higher that allowable limits, but also the continued presence of high levels of Iodine-131. Because of its 8-day half-life, Iodine-131 released during the initial week of the accident, when extremely large amounts of radioactive materials were ejected from all the Fukushima reactors, already has decayed to background. The continued presence of high levels of Iodine-131 is a certain indicator of the radiation releases that continue at Fukushima and will continue for months to come.

State support Tepco
A bill aimed at keeping troubled utility Tepco solvent gained approval from a Japanese parliamentary committee on July 26, with both ruling and opposition party support, paving the way for its passage through both houses of Japan's parliament. The bill would create a state-backed entity to financially support Tepco, which is in desperate need of assistance to cope with the potentially staggering costs of compensating those affected by the nuclear accident at its Fukushima Daiichi plant.

But while approval of the bill may reassure financial markets concerned about Tepco's survival, revisions to the bill to secure its likely passage mean the key issue of who pays what to fund the compensation will be decided later. Japan's two leading domestic rating agencies have already warned that parliament needs to move quickly to avert a Tepco bond rating downgrade that could trigger a major selloff in the utility's bonds, hitting the broader market.

Tepco shares have lost 76% since the accident while the yield on the utility's bonds has risen sharply, as has the cost of debt protection.

Nuclear plant workers developed cancer despite lower radiation exposure than legal limit. Of 10 nuclear power plant workers who have developed cancer and received workers’ compensation in the past, nine had been exposed to less than 100 millisieverts of radiation, according to a Mainichi Daily News report. The revelation comes amid reports that a number of workers battling the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant were found to have been exposed to more than the emergency limit of 250 millisieverts, which was raised from the previous limit of 100 millisieverts in March. The current guidelines for workers’ compensation due to radiation exposure only certify leukemia among various types of cancer. In these cases compensation is granted only when an applicant is exposed to more than 5 millisieverts of radiation a year.

According to Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry (of Japan) statistics, of the 10 nuclear power plant workers, six had leukemia, two multiple myeloma and another two lymphatic malignancy. Only one had been exposed to 129.8 millisieverts but the remaining nine were less than 100 millisieverts, including one who had been exposed to about 5 millisieverts.

Mainichi Daily News, Japan, July 27, 2011 

Sources: Washington Post, 13 July 2011 / The Statesman, 17 July 2011 / Asahi, 19 July 2011 / NIRS update, 19 July 2011 / Asahi, 23 July 2011 / Japan Times, 24 July 2011 / Reuters, 24 July 2011 /, 26 july / The Yomiuri Shimbun, 27 July 2011
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


The ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster and the continuing impact

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
LAKA Foundation

Four months after the earthquake and the resulting tsunami damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant senior engineers at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) admit that they knew that a potentially dangerous design flaw in five of the nuclear reactors weren't fully upgraded, the Wall Street Journal reported on July 1. Meanwhile the nuclear power plant continues to leak large amounts of radioactive substances. After initially problems and failures, workers succeeded in setting up a machinery to clean contaminated water and then use it to cool the reactors, while other workers had to repair a leaking hose in reactor 5 and to double the amount of water being injected into unit 1 after the water level decreased. Tepco said it will soon begin injecting nitrogen into reactor 3 to prevent a hydrogen explosion. Medical tests in Fukushima prefecture reveal that almost half of the children tested positive for thyroid exposure. High levels of cesium were found in the soil at four locations of Fukushima city, 60 km away. The scientist who coordinated this soil survey says that these areas have to evacuated.

In what could be an attempt to distract attention from generic unsafe nuclear reactors to 'specific unsolved safety problems at Fukushima', former senior and current engineers at Tepco, including those who were involved when the design decisions were made in the 1970s, stated that Tepco knew for years that five of its Fukushima nuclear reactors had a potentially dangerous design flaw. The company, however, didn't fully upgrade them, dooming them to failure when the earthquake hit, according to the statement. Tepco used two different designs for safeguarding its 10 reactors in Fukushima Daiichi and Daini. After the March 11 quake, the five reactors with the newer design withstood the resulting 12-meter tsunami without their vital cooling systems failing. Those reactors shut down safely. The cooling systems of four units with older designs, however, failed, and the backup generators and other equipment for switching were flooded, ultimately causing melt downs in three reactors.

Some of the engineers declared that Tepco had opportunities to retrofit the oldest reactors in the past decades. They blame a combination of complacency, cost-cutting pressures and lax regulation for the failure to do so (not extra-ordinary for Tepco, considering it's history). However, spokesman for Tepco declined to comment for this story, citing the Japanese government's ongoing investigation into the cause of the accident.

Because Tepco's first reactor buildings were small, the generators had to go somewhere else. They  put them into neighboring structures that house turbines. The reactor buildings had thick concrete walls and dual sets of sturdy doors. The turbine buildings were far less sturdy, especially their doors. “Backup power generators are critical safety equipment, and it should have been a no-brainer to put them inside the reactor buildings,” one of the senior engineers says. Kiyoshi Kishi, a former Tepco executive in charge of nuclear-plant engineering, says that people thought a large tsunami on Fukushima's Pacific coast was “impossible.” Later Tepco adjusted some parts of the plant to address tsunamis less than half the height of the one that hit in March. “Some of us knew all along and were concerned about the inconsistent placements of diesel generators at Fukushima Daiichi between reactor No. 6 and the older reactors 1 through 5, and their potential vulnerability,” says one of Tepco's top engineers who has guided the company's nuclear division. In 2001, when the original 30-year operating permit for Daiichi's unit 1 reactor was set to expire, Tepco applied for and received a 10-year extension. It got another one earlier this year, just five weeks before the accident. Regulators never reviewed whether the basic blueprint of the older reactors was flawed, the abbreviated minutes of government deliberations show.

Ongoing problems at Fukushima NPP
Meanwhile the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi NPP is far from over. Tepco and the Japanese government have admitted to three 100 percent meltdowns, but can't confirm with any reliability the current state of those cores. There's reason to believe one or more have progressed to “melt-throughs” in which they burn through the stainless steel pressure vessel and onto the containment floor. The molten cores may be covered with water. But whether they can melt further through the containments and into the ground remains unclear. At least three explosions have occurred, one of which may have involved criticality.  Unit 4 is cracked and sinking. The status of its used radioactive fuel pool, which has clearly caught fire, is uncertain. Also unclear is the ability of the owners to sustain the stability of reactors 5 and 6, which were shut when the quake/tsunami hit.

Workers have now finally set up a system to clean contaminated water and then use it to cool the reactors. Establishing a closed cooling system is a key step to bringing the crisis under control. Hosing down the reactors from outside has left the facility with 100,000 tons of irradiated water. Tepco said cooling was lost temporarily on July 3 in reactor 5. A shutdown of the cooling system became necessary in order to replace a leaking plastic hose. The cooling operation resumed a few hours later. The temperature of the reactor was 43.1 degrees Celsius at the time of the cooling system shutdown. It continued to rise during the few hours that it took to replace the hose, but did not exceed 48 Celsius degrees overnight, Tepco said. If the leak had not been spotted, the reactor would have reached the boiling point within 24 hours, causing all the water to evaporate, which would expose the rods, placing the reactor in danger of a core meltdown. According to the utility the crack was the result of hydraulic pressure caused by tides and seawater. It plans to install a support structure to prevent the hose from rocking. The leaking hose was the first of two incidents in early July. Workers at the plant had to double the amount of water being injected into unit 1 after the water level decreased from 3.7 tons of water to 3 tons, setting off an alarm. The problem was suspected to be caused by debris that had accumulated inside the hoses resulting in a clog that reduced the water flow. 

Meanwhile, Tepco said July 3 that it installed about 50 iron sheets on the floor of the reactor 3 building to shield against radiation. While the inside of the building has high levels of radiation mainly due to a hydrogen explosion on March 14, which is hampering reconstruction work, the utility said it aims to reduce radiation levels by one-third or more. High levels of radiation were detected on the first floor of the reactor building, measuring 58-178 mSv/hr as of June 24. In an effort to lower radiation levels, Tepco used a robot to clean the floor on July 1, but the radiation levels as of July 3 remained as high as 50-186 mSv/hr. On July 9, Tepco said it will soon begin injecting nitrogen into reactor 3 to prevent a hydrogen explosion. Tepco says it could achieve stable cooling of all the crippled reactors by mid-July as initially planned. The injection of nitrogen into reactor 3 will be carried out as soon as Tepco gets the green light from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and local governments. Tepco has already began injecting nitrogen into reactors 1 and 2. Tepco began injecting nitrogen in unit 1 in April. This wasn't possible for unit 3 because excessively high radiation prevented workers from laying the necessary groundwork. The utility said it can start the injection after connecting hoses to the necessary pipes at the reactor. Still, high levels of radiation at  reactor building 3 could prevent workers from carrying out the nitrogen injection, a Tepco official said.

Thyroid exposure to radiation
About 45 per cent of the children in Fukushima prefecture have experienced thyroid exposure to radiation, according to an investigation led by the Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission. In late March, the Commission conducted the testing on 1,080 kids from infants to 15 year-olds and maintains the exposure is minimal and doesn't warrant further examination. Among children who tested positive for thyroid exposure, the amounts measured 0.04 microsieverts per hour (µSv/hr) or less in most cases, while the largest exposure was 0.1 µSv/hr, equivalent to a yearly dose of 50 mSv for a one-year-old baby.

Hot spots in Fukushima
A soil survey at four locations in Fukushima city found all samples were contaminated with cesium-137, measuring 16,000 to 46,000 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg), exceeding the official limit of 10,000 Bq/kg, citizens groups said. Measured in sieverts the survey showed radiation levels exceeding 13 mSv/yr, more than six times natural levels. The city of 300,000 is located far from the 20-km zone around the plant, about 60 km from Fukushima NPP. The group detected as much as 931,000 Bq/m2 at one location, above the 555,000-Bq limit for compulsory resettlement ordered by Soviet authorities following the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine. Samples from the other three locations measured between 326,000 and 384,000 Bq/m2. The citizens' groups - the Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation and five other non-governmental organizations - have called for the evacuation of pregnant women and children from the town. Kobe University radiation expert professor Tomoya Yamauchi conducted the survey on June 26 following a request from the groups. “Soil contamination is spreading in the city,” Yamauchi said in a statement. “Children are playing with the soil, meaning they are playing with high levels of radioactive substances. Evacuation must be conducted as soon as possible.”

Increasingly panicked residents take matters into their own hands. They scoop up soil from their gardens and dump it in holes dug out in open spaces in the surroundings, scrub their roofs and refuse to let their children play outside. They are scrambling to cope with contamination on their own in the absence of a long-term plan from the government. Experts, however, warn that their do-it-yourself efforts to reduce contamination risk making matters worse by allowing radiation to spread without monitoring and by creating hotspots of high radioactivity where soil is piled high. They say the longer it takes Japanese authorities to organize a clean-up the greater the risk of additional, long-lasting damage. “Such clusters of radiation can also leak into the groundwater and pose more health hazards for a sustained period,” said Takumi Gotoh, a cancer specialist. “That's why Japan urgently needs a comprehensive, long-term plan to deal with the issue,” Gotoh said.

The International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) has issued guidelines that urge governments dealing with a nuclear emergency to set up a radiation monitoring system with a detailed read-out on hotspots and a health monitoring system for the affected population. While checking radiation in schools is now commonplace, health check-ups have only started in the worst-affected areas. Tokyo has promised that the radiation hotspot map will be ready by October - seven months after the disaster.

High levels of cesium in tea leaves
Besides Fukushima prefecture, excessive levels of cesium-137 have been detected in samples of tea leaves in Chiba prefecture. The health ministry asked the Chiba prefecture authority to expand a restriction on shipments of tea leaves produced near Katsuura city in addition to six areas in the prefecture restricted on June 2. Dried leaves from Katsuura city, 78 km from Tokyo, had radiation levels exceeding safety standards, the health ministry said. The leaves had 2,300 Bq/kg, more than the government safety standard of 500 Bq/kg, according to a statement on July 1 by the local government. The country’s tea production, including fresh and dried leaves, was worth 102.1bn yen (US$1.3bn) in 2009, according to the agriculture ministry. Tea from Japan’s Shizuoka prefecture had above-standard cesium levels three months after radiation leaked from the plant about 360 kilometers from the area. Shizuoka, which accounts for about 40 percent of the nation’s tea output and lies southwest of Tokyo, asked farmers in June to recall products and halt shipments. Other products including spinach, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, milk, plums and fish have been found to be contaminated with cesium and iodine as far as 360 kilometer from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and the London-based World Nuclear Association has warned that prolonged exposure to radiation in the air, ground and food can cause leukemia and other cancers.

Cesium found in Tokyo's tap water
Cesium-137 was found in Tokyo's tap water. The level discovered, 0,14 Bq/kg, was below the safety limit set by the government. According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Public Health no cesium-134 or iodine-131 was detected. In March, after radioactive iodine was found in the city's supply at levels twice the allowable limit for infants, Tokyo's metropolitan government warned residents not to give tap water to small children.

Compensation and reconstruction budgets
Japan's government has approved a second budget of 2tn yen (US$24.7bn) for reconstruction. The money will be spent on rebuilding, and on compensating victims of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. About 85,000 people have been forced to evacuate the area around the plant. This emergency budget will be sent to parliament for approval this July. In June, Prime Minister Naoto Kan survived a no-confidence motion brought by MPs critical of his handling of the reconstruction process. Mr Kan, who is just over a year into his post, has vowed to step down soon, but only once several key bills on disaster recovery and renewable energy are passed.

Japanese families who had to flee their homes because of the nuclear disaster will receive additional compensation of up to US$3,700 per person. The money, following earlier payments of US$12,300 per household, is meant to compensate the radiation refugees for their “mental suffering”, Industry Minister Banri Kaieda said, according to the Kyodo News agency. Tepco estimates that the new round of payouts will total up to 48 billion yen (US$592m). The utility will give the new payments to 160,000 people who have fled from a 30-km radius around the NPP, including a 20 km legal no-go zone, and from other radiation hotspots further afield. The new payments take into account the time families have spent away from their homes so far, and amount to 100,000 yen (US$1,234) per person per month. Those who have returned home will be paid for the period they were gone.

Avoiding power shortages
Japan will conduct new safety tests of all its nuclear reactors, the nation’s top energy official said. After the start of the Fukushima nuclear accident, reactors had to be shut down and delays in restarting others already undergoing regular maintenance checks mean that only 19 of Japan's 54 reactors are currently operating, hindering the county's effort to recover. Trade Minister Banri Kaieda said Japan's reactors would undergo "stress tests" to determine how well they can withstand major disasters. The government is worried that unless more rectors are restarted the country could soon experience power shortages. Although safety checks are already being carried out on all of Japan's nuclear reactors, the government said the new round of testing would focus on their resilience to extreme and multiple disasters. The chief cabinet secretary, Yukio Edano, said the tests would be modeled on those under way at 143 reactors in the European Union. Speaking on Japanese television, Mr Kaieda said: "We are planning the stress tests to gain the understanding of local residents. We will get further confidence from the people and will restart operations at some plants." He did not say when the stress tests would begin; however, he promised there would be enough energy available for the peak usage during the summer months.

As said, only 19 of Japan's 54 reactors are currently operating. On July 1, the government imposed restrictions on electricity consumption by large-lot users in eastern and northeastern Japan to avert power shortages. Major companies in Japan began operating on weekends to avoid the concentration of electricity use on weekdays. Although the government's curb on power consumption applies only to large-lot users in the service areas of Tokyo Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co. in eastern and northeastern Japan, respectively, some factories and companies in other regions will also operate on the weekends as the automobile industry's supply chain is spread across the country.

Large-lot users in the areas are required in principle to reduce peak-time electricity consumption by 15 percent from a year earlier. Hospitals that provide emergency treatment and shelters for evacuees from the March 11 disaster are exempted, while the reduction target will be relaxed to up to 10 percent for medical, nursing-care and transportation service providers.

What was that again about nuclear power being necessary for energy security reasons?

Angry Tepco shareholders.
On June 28, angry shareholders lashed out at Tepco, demanding a retreat from nuclear power and the chairman's resignation over the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Anti-nuclear groups rallied around the Tokyo hotel where Tepco's meeting was held, foreshadowing the complaints that would be heard inside. Although the meeting was scheduled to begin at 10 a.m., shareholders were still registering to enter at that time. As of 3:30 p.m., 9,302 shareholders had shown up, far exceeding the previous high of 3,342 who attended last year's Tepco meeting. Many could not enter the room where Tepco management was seated and were forced to use separate rooms with video monitors displaying the meeting.

A proposal submitted by 402 shareholders called on Tepco management to stop operations and decommission nuclear reactors starting with the oldest ones and not to construct new ones. However, the proposal failed to gain the approval of the required two-thirds of shareholders in attendance. 

Three other electric utilities had similar experiences at their shareholders' meetings., 29 June 2011

UK government 'in bed with nuclear industry'
Officials from the UK government approached nuclear companies to draw up a co-ordinated PR strategy to play down the Fukushima nuclear accident just two days after the earthquake and tsunami  and before the extent of the disaster was known. At least 80 e-mails seen by The Guardian are described as “Orwellian”. Two UK government departments were working with nuclear companies to spin one of the biggest industrial catastrophes of the last 50 years, even as people were dying and a vast area was being made uninhabitable for generations. The e-mails show how the business and energy departments worked closely behind the scenes with the multinational companies EDF Energy, Areva and Westinghouse to try to ensure the accident did not derail their plans for a new generation of nuclear stations in the UK. “This has the potential to set the nuclear industry back globally,” wrote one official at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), The Guardian reported. “We need to ensure the anti-nuclear chaps and chapesses do not gain ground on this. We need to occupy the territory and hold it. We really need to show the safety of nuclear.”

The e-mails makes clear how a weak government is controlled by a powerful industry colluding to  misinform the public and the media. We now know Fukushima is at least on the same scale as Chernobyl, and likely to be the most expensive accident in the history of industrial accidents. Yet industry and government here want to dismiss it as “not as bad as it looks”. Much more than the facts coming out of Japan, the emails now make the situation far worse for the industry caught with government trying to manipulate the truth.

Or, as John Vidal puts it in his July 1, Guardian article: "These guys –industry and government (Laka)- were not just cosy. They were naked, in bed and consenting. Their closeness now raises questions such as what influence could the industry have had on the chief nuclear inspector's report on Fukushima, and whether speeches by David Cameron, Chris Huhne and other ministers wefre informed or even written by the industry. Can we ever trust government to tell us the thruth on nuclear power, or should we just accept that the industry and government are now as one."
The Guardian, 30 June 2010: Revealed: British government's plan to play down Fukushima (amended 1 July 2011);
The Guardian, 1 July 2011: Fukushima spin was Orwellian

Sources: The Asahi Shimbun, 5 July, 2011: Leaky hose temporarily halts reactor cooling system; VPR News, 5 July, 2011: What Went Wrong In Fukushima: The Human Factor; NTI, 5 July 2011: New Equipment Cleaning Japan Plant Coolant; The Huffington Post, 5 July 2011: Fukushima Spews, Los Alamos Burns, Vermont Rages and We've Almost Lost Nebraska; Harvey Wasserman; UPI, 4 July 2011: Fukushima reactor cooling problem fixed; Digital Journal, 5 July 2011: Cooling of Fukushima nuclear reactor interrupted; Wall Street Journal, 1 July 2011: Design Flaw Fueled Nuclear Disaster; Moscow Time, 6 July 2011: Fukushima-1: secrets revealed; International Business Times,  4 July 2011: Fukushima: Radioactive cesium-137 found in Tokyo’s tap water; The Hindu, 5 July, 2011: 45 per cent of Fukushima children had thyroid exposure to radiation; Kyodo, 4 July, 2011; Business Insider, 5 July, 2011: Almost Half The Kids In Fukushima Have Thyroid Radiation Exposure; AFP, 5 July, 2010: Japan Soil Found Radioactive Outside Evacuation Zone; Bloomberg News, 05 July 2011: Japan expands tea restrictions as more radioactive samples found; Reuters, 4 July 2011: Fukushima residents dump radiated soil in absence of plan; BBC News, 4 July, 2011: Life on the edge of Japan's nuclear contamination zone; Channel News Asia, 5 July 2011: Japan radiation refugees to get more compensation; The Japan Times, 9 July 2011: Tepco to soon inject unit 3 with nitrogen; International Business Times, 6 July 2011: Fukushima nuclear crisis: Japan faces power shortages; BBC News, 6 July 2011: Japan to hold stress tests at all nuclear plants; New York Times, 7 July 2011: Japan Plans Safety Tests of Nuclear Plants; Mainichi Daily News, 2 July 2011: Major firms begin operating on weekends to save power

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


Three meltdown at Fukushima; evidence severe damage before tsunami hit reactors

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Despite the lack of coverage in the international media, the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan remains, in the words of the International Atomic Energy Agency’s weekly bulletin, “very serious”. Meanwhile, it's becoming more and more clear that, contrary to earlier assumptions, the reactors were damaged by the earthquake rather than the tsunami, although the earthquake "did not exceed design base values significantly".

According to the Tepco 6-9 months scheme to stabilize the Fukushima Daiichi reactors, announced on April 17, the utility expected a sustained drop in radiation levels at the entire plant by July. Following that, a cold shutdown of reactors No. 1, 2 and 3 may take place as early as October, the utility announced then.

But that was predicated on the notion that it could efficiently cool the fuel in several reactors – a harder task if water is leaking out. The company had long suspected that the containment vessels at two other reactors were breached and leaking, but it had hoped the No. 1 reactor was intact and therefore easiest to bring under control.

Tepco was able to better access the reactor on May 12, because workers had recently been able to get close enough to fix a water gauge. It showed that the water level in the reactor was much lower than expected despite the infusion of tons of water. Previous readings had shown the water level to be at 1.6 meters below the top of the fuel rods in the reactor core. As it turned out, these measurements were false. The actual water level was five meters below the top of the fuel rods, leaving them fully exposed.

Tepco has been pumping water into the pressure vessels of reactors 1, 2 and 3 for weeks in a bid to lower temperatures. The low level of water in reactor 1 indicates that the molten fuel might have created a hole in the bottom of the steel pressure vessel. Tepco general manager Junichi Matsumoto told a press conference: “There must be a large leak... The fuel pellets likely melted and fell, and in the process may have damaged... the pressure vessel itself and created a hole.”

The discovery that the pressure vessel is leaking certainly complicates efforts to permanently stabilise the reactor and prevent the further spread of radiation.

Earthquake main reason for failures?
Meanwhile, evidence is growing that Unit 1’s meltdown was initiated by the earthquake and only exacerbated by the ensuing tsunami. Bloomberg reports that a radiation alarm inside Unit 1 went off before the tsunami even arrived, indicating coolant already had been lost and fuel melting had begun. If true, this could also require a re-assessment of how quickly reactors can melt down. Tepco said May 16, that radiation levels inside Unit 1 were measured at 300 MilliSieverts/hour within hours of the earthquake - meaning that fuel melting already had begun. For melting to have begun that early, coolant must have been lost almost immediately. It’s now believed that fuel melted and dropped to the bottom of the containment - melting a hole into it, within 16 hours. Most likely, a major pipe carrying cooling water to the core was damaged by the earthquake, which should lead to a new evaluation of the ability of key reactor components to withstand seismic events.

According to Arnie Gunderson (a former nuclear industry senior vice president, and energy advisor with 39-years of nuclear power engineering experience) of Fairewind Associates, who is citing a report by Siemens, Unit 4's fuel pool cracked from the earthquake, not from the tsunami.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency has so far said (as has the international nuclear industry) that the reactor withstood shaking but tsunami of an unexpected scale caused power loss, which led to an explosion.

On May 16, Tepco disclosed internal documents and data indicating the isolation condenser may have been manually shut down around 3 p.m. March 11 following the massive quake at 2:46 p.m. The plant was hit by tsunami around 3:30 p.m.  The isolation condenser is designed to inject water into the reactor for at least eight hours after the main coolant system loses power, as happened March 11. "It is possible that a worker may have manually closed the valve (of the isolation condenser) to prevent a rapid decrease in temperature, as is stipulated by a reactor operating guideline," Tepco spokesman Hajime Motojuku told The Japan Times. A worker may have stopped the condenser to keep cold water from coming into contact with the hot steel of the reactor to prevent it from being damaged.

However, nuclear reactors are designed to withstand this procedure in case of an emergency, said Hiromi Ogawa, a former nuclear plant engineer at Toshiba Corp. According to Tepco, the isolation condenser's valve was confirmed open at 6:10 p.m. March 11 but it is unknown whether it was open between 3 p.m. and 6:10 p.m. The valve was confirmed closed at 6:25 p.m. and confirmed open again at 9:30 p.m. Finally, the condenser was shut down due to a pump malfunction at 1:48 a.m. March 12, roughly eight hours after the tsunami, matching the battery life of the isolation condenser.

Radiation leak before Tsunami?
Only a few days after the revelations about the failure of the cooling before the tsunami hit the plant, another revelation, with possible grave consequences, hit the media.

A radiation monitoring post on the perimeter of the Daiichi plant about 1.5 kilometers from the No. 1 reactor went off at 3:29 p.m., minutes before the station was overwhelmed by the tsunami that knocked out backup power that kept reactor cooling systems running, according to documents supplied by the company. The monitor was set to go off at high levels of radiation, an official said.

“We are still investigating whether the monitoring post was working properly,” said Teruaki Kobayashi, the company’s head of nuclear facility management. “There is a possibility that radiation leaked before the tsunami arrived.” Kobayashi said he didn’t have the exact radiation reading that would trigger the sensor.

Until recently Tepco said the plant stood up to the magnitude-9 quake and was crippled by the tsunami that followed.  This early radiation alarm has implications for other reactors in Japan, one of the most earthquake prone countries in the world, because safety upgrades ordered by the government since March 11 have focused on the threat from tsunamis, rather than earthquakes.

So it's becoming more and more clear that, contrary to earlier assumptions, the reactors were already severely damaged by the earthquake before the tsunami hit the reactors. And that is despite the fact that the earthquake "did not exceed design base values significantly", according to an important Dutch nuclear lobbyist of the Technical University Delft Jan Leen Kloosterman, before news of damage before the tsunami even hit the reactors became public. He put it this way in a meeting on May 13: "If seismic data can be confirmed, practically all damage at Fukushima-Daiichi would have to be contributed to the tsunami." That would suit  them well. Gunderson: "This wasn't, at Fukushima, that big an earthquake. It was, out at sea a nine, but by the time it got to Fukushima, they should have been able to ride out that storm, at least the seizmic issues of it. But what that says is that what we have been relying on in analyzing these plants may not be working. Two out of the four plants developed cracks from an earthquake and they should have been able to get through this."

On May 24, Tepco confirmed finally what everybody except Tepco and the international pro-nuclear community already knew: that fresh data from Units 2 and 3 indicate that fuel rods in those reactors are “in a similar state as that in reactor number 1”. That is: fallen into a lump at the bottom of the pressure vessel. Three melt downs confirmed.

More evacuations; and more to come?
More than 2 months after March 11, residents of Kawamatamachi and Iitatemura, both in Fukushima Prefecture, began evacuating on May 15, to avoid high-level radiation. Farewell ceremonies were held in both municipalities. About 1,200 residents in Kawamatamachi will evacuate from their homes. In Iitatemura, about 4,500 residents will move from the village to accommodations in Fukushima city, such as housing for local government officials and hot spring hotels. Most of Iitatemura is located more than 30 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Around 70,000 people, including 9,500 children aged up to 14, live in  the area, "the most contaminated territory outside the evacuation zone," according to a report by France's Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear  Safety (IRSN). Updating its assessment of the March 11 disaster, IRSN highlighted an area northwest of the plant that lies beyond the 20-km zone whose inhabitants have already been evacuated. Radioactivity levels in this area range from several hundred  becquerels per square meter to thousands or even several million becquerels per square meter, the IRSN report, issued May 23, said. "These are people who are still to be evacuated, in addition to those who were evacuated during the emergency phase in March," Didier Champion, IRSN’s environment director, told AFP.

Internal contamination after visiting Fukushima
The engineering details of the Fukushima tragedy are beginning to be admitted publicly, while the biomedical details are still being glossed over. With fuel melting, vastly greater amounts of radio-active materials are released from the core than occur with the lesser types of fuel damage that had been postulated earlier.

Dozens of different species of radioactive materials were released in the form of vapours or particulates, susceptible for inhalation or ingestion by humans and animals, likely to be tracked into homes, schools and offices after being deposited in clothing, skin or hair.

The discovery that almost 5000 nuclear workers have now shown signs of internal radioactive contamination after simply visiting the Fukushima site guarantees that Japanese citizens of all ages from the nearby areas have also experienced some degree of internal deposition of radioactive materials in their bodies.  Nursing mothers are now showing measurable amounts of radioactive contamination from Fukushima in their milk.

The decision of the Japanese government to allow children in dozens of schools to be exposed to levels of atomic radiation up to 20 millisieverts per year is irresponsible and deserves to be denounced. Not only are children much more susceptible to the harmful effects of radiation exposure than adults, but they are much more likely to track radioactive contaminants into their homes and schools in the form of dirt and dust, soiled hands and fingernails, and dirty play-clothes.

June 11: Global Day of Action
Meanwhile, anti-nuclear protest continue. On  May 23, furious parents from the Fukushima region and hundreds of their supporters rallied in Tokyo against revised nuclear safety standards in schools (see also Nuclear Monitor 726). Japanese children can now be exposed to 20 times the radiation that was permissible before the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that caused  meltdowns at Fukushima Daiichi. Around 400 protesters, many from areas around the stricken plant, flocked to the education and science ministry to demand a rethink on the new limit, which allows exposure of up to 20 millisieverts a year. A group of Fukushima residents submitted a letter for the education minister demanding the ministry do all it can to lower radiation levels at schools and offer financial support.

Many citizens and groups in Japan have started organizing June 11 actions like demonstrations or parades. The day marks three months after the Fukushima nuclear disaster triggered by the earthquake and tsunami. The plants are still spewing radioactive materials. No one wants such dirty electricity harmful to human and nature.

“Join Japanese groups on June 11th with million-people action throughout the world and let our voice be heard. We need your support to spread our message and hear from as many people on Earth as possible. We appreciate it if you decide to organize your own demonstrations, parades, gatherings, or anything on June 11th or 12th.

Our solidarity, if you are in Japan, in Asia, in Europe, in Americas, or anywhere in this world, will soon end this dark age of nuclear power generation”.

Please, endorse the June 11 actions and list your own action at:
Endorsing groups or organizations will be publicized on the website.

Sources: Mainichi Daily News, 15 & 21 May 2011 / Godon Edwards CCNR, 24 May 2011 / AFP, 24 May 2011 / Japan Times, 17 May / Bloomberg, 12 & 19 May 2011 / Japan Today, 24 May 2011 / / Daily Yomiuri Online, 16 May 2011 / NIRS updates / Jan Leen Kloosterman, presentation Fukushima 2011 on 13 May, The Hague, Netherlands, available at: (in English)

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


Fukushima’s temporarily sarcophagus. According to an article in the Daily Mail (U.K.) polyester tents will be placed over the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactors in a bid to try and contain the escape of radioactive substances into the atmosphere. In June Tepco will start work on installing the first cover at the Daiichi No.1 reactor. The Japanese government plans to erect a steel framework and place a giant polyester tent-like cover around the reactor building - similar covers will be placed around units 3 and 4.  Work on the huge protective tents is expected to be completed by the end of the year.



Fukushima in brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has spawned antinuclear protests in Tokyo on a scale not seen for decades, raising hopes among activists that Japan's future is geared toward a revolution in renewable energy. Japanese media estimated that 17,000 people calling for immediate closure of all the country's nuclear plants marched through Tokyo's Koenji neighborhood on April 10, and many thousands again on similar demonstrations early May.

30 Years of resistance against proposed Kaminoseki reactors.
Radition matters at Iwaishima Island. People do things just like their great-great-grandfathers once did, each day venturing out to sea to haul in seaweed, octopus and red snapper. Villagers are proud of their tightknit camaraderie and historical harmony with nature. But a utility company plans to build a nuclear power plant just across the bay, at the tip of the Kaminoseki peninsula. After receiving compensation, several nearby communities have hesitantly embraced the project.

Not Iwaishima. Many residents are convinced that the twin reactors will threaten not just their way of life but the long-term survival of the Inland Sea, a national park known as Japan's Galapagos for its range of sea life. They say the plant's warm water discharge will raise sea temperatures, altering the ecosystem.

So for three decades, since the Chugoku Electric Power Co. unveiled its plans in 1982, islanders have taken an unusually aggressive stand, turning their backs on efforts at negotiation. Graying residents, mostly in their 70s, have in recent years formed an alliance with young antinuclear activists. Together, they have staged hunger strikes, picketing and sit-ins, using a flotilla of fishing boats and kayaks to block company construction cranes from reaching the site.

After the Fukushima accident, the utility temporarily suspended plant construction after local officials expressed safety concerns. "Without our protests, that plant would already be running," said Masue Hayashi, 59, who began her opposition to the project when she was 30. "Those people near Fukushima could have been us."
LA Times, 5 May 2011

Farmers protest nuclear power.
Angry Japanese farmers working and living up to 60 kilometers away from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant have protested in the country's capital Tokyo that their businesses are in jeopardy. More than 200 farmers including cereal, vegetable and livestock growers demanded redress for farm products contaminated by radiation spewing from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant.
Agra Europe, 3 May 2011

Protest against increase permissible radiation levels.
On May 2, furious parents in Fukushima delivered a bag of radioactive playground earth to education officials in protest at moves to weaken nuclear safety standards in schools. Children can now be exposed to 20 times more radiation than was previously permissible. The new regulations have prompted outcry. A senior adviser resigned and the prime minister, Naoto Kan, was criticised by politicians from his own party. Ministers have defended the increase in the acceptable safety level from 1 to 20 millisieverts per year as a necessary measure to guarantee the education of hundreds of thousands of children in Fukushima prefecture.
Guardian (UK), 2 May 2011

Shareholders call for disinvestments in nukes.
Some of the shareholders of a Japanese electric power company say they want the utility to close its nuclear power plants. On May 2, a group of 232 individual stockholders of Tohoku Electric Power Company submitted the documents needed for their proposal to scrap its nuclear power plants. The proposal is expected to be put to a vote in an annual shareholders' meeting at the end of June. Tohoku Electric Power has 2 nuclear power plants in Japan's northeastern region, one in Higashidori Village in Aomori Prefecture and another in Onagawa Town in Miyagi Prefecture. The group is also calling for the company to end its investment in spent nuclear fuel reprocessing businesses, including a reprocessing plant at Rokkasho.
NHK, 2 May  2011


The liquidators of Fukushima

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Paul Jobin

There are many signs that Tepco is facing great difficulties in finding workers in the titanic struggle to bring to contain the dangerous situation at Fukushima. At present, there are nearly 700 people at the site. As in ordinary times, workers rotate so as to limit the cumulative dose of radiation inherent in maintenance and cleanup work at the nuclear site. But this time, the risks are greater, and the method of recruitment unusual.

Job offers for Fukushima come not from Tepco but from Mizukami Kogyo, a company whose  business is construction and cleaning maintenance. The description indicates only that the work is at a nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture. The job is specified as three hours per day at an hourly wage of 10,000 yen (US$123 or 86 euro). There is no information about danger, only the suggestion to ask the employer for further details on food, lodging, transportation and insurance.

Those who answer these offers may have little awareness of the dangers and they are likely to have few other job opportunities. A rate of US$122 an hour is hardly a king's ransom given the risk of cancer from high radiation levels. But Tepco and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) keep diffusing their usual propaganda to minimize the radiation risks.

Rumor has it that many of the cleanup workers are burakumin (a minority group dating from Japan's feudal era and still often associated with discrimination). This cannot be verified, but it would be congruent with the logic of the nuclear industry and the difficult job situation of day laborers. Because of ostracism, some burakumin are also involved with yakuza, or organized crime groups. Therefore, it would not be surprising that yakuza-burakumin recruit other burakumin to go to Fukushima. Yakuza are active in recruiting day laborers of the yoseba (communities for day laborers): Sanya in Tokyo, Kotobukicho in Yokohama, and Kamagasaki in Osaka. People who live in precarious conditions are then exposed to high levels of radiation, doing the most dirty and dangerous jobs in the nuclear plants, then are sent back to the yoseba. Those who fall ill will not even appear in the statistics.

On March 14, three days after the earthquake and tsunami that caused the damage at Fukushima, the Ministry of Health and Labor raised the maximum dose for workers to 250 mSv a year, where previously it was set at 100 mSv over five years (either 20 mSv a year for five years or 50 mSv for two years, which is in itself a strange interpretation of the recommendations of the International Commission on

Radiological Protection's guideline stipulating a maximum of 20 mSv a year. The letter that the ministry sent the next day to the chiefs of labor bureaus to inform them of the decision justifies it on the grounds of the state of emergency, ignoring the safety of the workers.

This could be a measure to avoid or limit the number of workers who would apply for compensation. Stated differently, it has the effect of legalizing illness and deaths from nuclear radiation, or at least the state's responsibility for them. Usually, in case of leukemia, a one year exposure to 5 mSV is sufficient to obtain occupational hazards compensation. The list of potential applicants could be very long in light of the number of workers already on the job, or who are likely to be recruited to dismantle the reactors. The project proposed by Toshiba to close down and safeguard the reactors would take at least 10 years.

In short, the state's concern appears to be less the health of employees and more the cost of caring for nuclear victims. The same logic prevailed when, on April 23, the government urged children back to the schools of Fukushima prefecture, stating that the risk of 20 mSv or more per year was acceptable, despite the high vulnerability of children. Can the state be prioritizing the limitation of the burden of compensation for TEPCO and protection of the nuclear industry at large over the health of workers and children?

Source: Paul Jobin, Asia Times Online, 4 May 2011


Fukushima Daiichi and Daini

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

The 9.0-magnitude earthquake and resultant tsunami in northeastern Japan on March 11, affected more than 31,800 megawatts (MW) of generating capacity. In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake 11 nuclear reactors with 9,674 MW of capacity at four sites shut down automatically, while three other reactors with 2,700 MW of capacity which were closed for maintenance were also affected.

The Japan Atomic Power Company’s 1,100-MW Tokai Daini boiling water reactor (BWR) in Ibaraki prefecture shut down without apparent problems, although JAPC said on March 13, that two of three diesel generators used for emergency cooling had failed.

Meanwhile a fire occurred immediately after the disaster in a turbine building at one of the three BWRs at Tohoku Electric Power Company’s 2,174-MW Onagawa plant in Miyagi prefecture. It was extinguished without indications at the time of radioactive leakage.

Tohoku Electric subsequently said on March 12 that radiation levels at Onagawa had surged. But by March 14 radiation had fallen to normal levels, with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) saying that “the current assumption of the Japanese authorities is that the increased level may have been due to a release of radioactive material from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.”

Fukushima, which has experienced by far the worst problems, comprises two plants located 11.5 kilometers apart. Fukushima Daiichi (Fukushima-I) and Fukushima Daini (Fukushima-II) are both owned and operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), with the Fukushima-I complex comprising six BWRs with 4,700 MW of capacity, while Fukushima-II comprises four BWRs with 4,400 MW of capacity.

All four Fukushima-II reactors were operating at the time of the earthquake and shut down automatically, as did three units at Fukushima-I. The remaining three reactors at Fukushima-1 were already shut for scheduled maintenance.

The automatic shutdown of the Fukushima-II reactors ran into cooling problems when emergency generators failed, apparently as a result of the impact of the tsunami on the generators or their diesel stocks. But much worse loss of coolant incidents occurred at Fukushima-I. Nevertheless, early may Tepco, perhaps bowing to reality, said that it may never restart its four Fukushima II (Daini) reactors.

Fukushima I (Daiichi)

Reactor 1 [BWR, 439MWe, March 1971] - Possible hydrogen explosion March 12, outer building is damaged and there was a partial meltdown. When fuel rods heat up due to insufficient cooling, the zirconium alloy in the fuel rods reacts with steam and produces a large amount of hydrogen. Radioactivity has been vented and leaked. Probably 70% of fuel rods are damaged. Operators have trouble cooling down the reactor. The reactor has 400 fuel assemblies and the spent fuel pool has 292. Update May 12: possible 100% of fuel rods damaged

Reactor 2 [BWR, 760MWe, July 1974] - The fuel and the reactor core severely damaged. Some fuel may have leaked out of the reactor vessel into the primary containment vessel, which was damaged in an explosion on March 15. Broken fuel rods have been found outside the reactor, probably from the spent fuel pool. The reactor has 548 fuel assemblies and the spent fuel pool has 587. Probably 30-40% of the fuel rods have been damaged.

Reactor 3 [BWR, 760MWe, March 1976] - The reactor used uranium and plutonium (MOx), which may produce more toxic radioactivity. The reactor containment vessel may have been damaged due to the March 14 explosion, and the spent fuel pool may have become uncovered. The reactor had 548 fuel assemblies and the spent fuel pool has 514. About 30% of fuel rods have been damaged. A remarkable early May video of the fuel pool at Unit 3 has been released. It shows the pool is now underwater, but also a picture of complete devastation. There is no actual visual evidence any fuel remains in the pool -certainly not in racks as designed. However, some fuel must remain, as NHK TV reports on May 11, radiation readings taken May 8, inside the pool of “140,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium-134 per cubic centimeter, 150,000 becquerels of cesium-137, and 11,000 becquerels of iodine-131.” The presence of short-lived Iodine-131 indicates that either the pool has become contaminated from melting fuel in the Unit 3 reactor or there has been inadvertent fissioning inside the fuel pool itself. An inadvertent criticality is believed by many to have caused the enormous explosion at Unit 3.

Reactor 4 [BWR, 439MWe, March 1971] - Spent fuel rods in a water pool may have become exposed to air, emitting radioactive gases. On March 15, a hydrogen explosion created by chemical reactions with the spent fuel rods, and fire have damaged the building and probably also the spent fuel pool.

There are no fuel assemblies in the reactor; 548 were removed for maintenance and are part of 1,535 in the spent fuel pool.

Reactor 5 [BWR, 760MWe, October 1978] - The reactor is shut down at the time of the earthquake and the building is not damaged. But the concern had been about spent fuel in the building becoming exposed to air. With power restored to the building, that concern has abated. The reactor has 548 fuel assemblies and the spent fuel pool has 946.

Reactor 6 [BWR, 760MWe, April 1978] - The reactor was shut down at the time of the earthquake and the building is not damaged. But the concern had been about spent fuel in the building becoming exposed to air. With power restored to the building, that concern has abated. The reactor has 764 fuel assemblies and there are 876 in spent fuel pools.

General: New joint U.S.-Japanese aerial monitoring results of the area have been posted and show significant Cesium contamination well beyond the government’s evacuation zone. Cesium levels above 600,000 becquerels per square meter are indicated more than 60 kilometers (30 miles) northwest of the Fukushima Daiichi site. After Chernobyl, the Soviet Union evacuated areas above 550,000 becquerels per square meter. Maps are posted on the DOE website at

Sources: Wim Turkenburg, Power point presentation Copernicus Institute Utrecht, NL; April 26, 2011); NIRS Updates; TEPCO updates; Japan, coming to terms with the power crisis (Platts, April 2011)

Nuclear reactor residual heat generation over time from shut down

Time after reactor stop        Residual power (% of operating power)

1 second                                             17%

1 minute                                             5%

1 hour                                                 1.5%

1 day                                                  0.5%

1 week                                               0.3%

1 month                                              0.15%

1 year                                                 0.03%

Source: Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN)



TEPCO: 'leakage has not stopped completely'

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced on May 10, that Japan is scrapping plans to build 14 new nuclear reactors and instead will rethink its energy policy with a focus toward renewable energy sources and efficiency.

Three months earlier, on February 7, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry gave unit 1 of Fukushima-I permission to continue operations beyond 40 years of commercial operation. Just over one month later the Fukushima I Unit 1 was wiped out by an earthquake and tsunami.

The May 10 decision to abandon plans to build more nuclear reactors and “start from scratch” in creating a new energy policy,  will mean the end for a plan that the Kan government released last year to build 14 nuclear reactors by 2030 and increase the share of nuclear power in Japan’s electricity supply to 50 percent. Japan currently has 54 reactors that before the earthquake produced 30 percent of its electricity. But 13 of those could well be closed permanently after the March 11 earthquake: six at Fukushima-I, four at Fukushima-II and three at Hamaoka.

Could the Chernobyl 1986 accident be characterized as a Soviet accident in a unique type of reactor, the Fukushima accident occurred in a high-tech nation with broad international cooperation and a common reactor type. Even more, the accident as a result of the earthquake happened in one of the most active earthquake zones in the world, in a society prepared for massive earthquakes.

After initially rating the accident Level 5, on April 12, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency uprated the ongoing accident to Level 7, the highest level on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), indicating a major accident with significant environmental consequences. Helmut Hirsch, a consultant to Greenpeace Germany, already published an analysis two weeks earlier (March 25), saying the Fukushima events should be rated at Level 7, or even three Level 7s for the three damaged core's, based on releases up to March 25.

On the same day, April 12, an official from Tepco (world's #4 power company) told a press briefing that radiation leakage “has not stopped completely and our concern is that it could eventually exceed Chernobyl.” The phrase "leakage has not stopped completely" turned out to be the understatement of the year, given the fact that late April and early May enormous peaks in releases occurred, and it can take months before (accidental) radioactive release stop.

In uprating the accident to Level 7, however, the government appears to be downplaying the actual radiation releases, with several media reports quoting government officials as saying releases have been about 10% of those from Chernobyl. However,  the Austrian weather service, which has been monitoring radiation across the world and advising the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on March 23 (!), that releases of Cesium-137 at that time could amount to about 50% of the Chernobyl source term of Cesium-137 and Iodine-131 releases were at 20%. It is true however that prevailing winds blew the vast majority of the radioactivity onto the sea, but in several periods the emissions were transported inland.

Meanwhile, the world’s largest nuclear companies are trying to capitalize on the nuclear catastrophe: they are forming consortia to bid for work to stabilize and clean up the Fukushima I nuclear power plant. Tepco and the Japanese government face the challenge of managing a huge project that will dwarf the Three Mile Island-2 cleanup. “TMI took 10 years and a billion dollars, and this is a lot bigger,” one industry source said.

Hitachi is leading one group of companies, including reactor business partner General Electric, seeking Fukushima I work. Toshiba has formed another consortium with several US companies. Areva is in talks with Tokyo Electric Power Co. The consortia could divide the work by unit or by task; the remediation of contaminated air, water and solids are different areas requiring different work.

On May 9, Chubu Electric Co. agreed to Prime minister Kan’s request that the three operational reactors at the Hamaoka nuclear complex be closed, at least until seismic upgrades can be performed and a new seawall to protect against tsunamis be built. The betting here is that these reactors, which sit atop probably Japan’s most dangerous earthquake fault, will not reopen.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has announced a post-Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety to be held in Vienna June 20-24.

Sources: Nucleonics Week, 31 March and 14 April 2011; NIRS Update; Nuke Info Tokyo 141, March/April 2011


Fukushima: the ongoing disaster

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Philip White

The most remarkable thing about the response so far to the ''gempatsu shinsai'' (nuclear-earthquake disaster) that has engulfed Japan is that there are still people who think nuclear power has a future. Should this be attributed more to the dependence of modern industrialized societies on massive inputs of energy, or to a collective lack of imagination?

We do not yet know how this unfolding catastrophe will end, but we can be sure that if most of the radioactivity in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant remains on site, then the true believers will claim that this is as bad as it gets and that the risk is worth taking. The environmental damage of localized contamination and releases to sea will be discounted and long-term health impacts from exposure to low levels of radiation will be denied. Even those workers who suffer from acute radiation sickness will not find their way into the most commonly quoted statistics, unless they die promptly.

The truth is that even in the best-case scenario the environmental and human consequences of this disaster will be enormous. The potential impact of a worst-case scenario is beyond most people's comprehension. To give an indication of the amount of radioactive material involved, the total capacity of the three reactors that were operating at the time of the earthquake was double that of the Chernobyl number 4 reactor that exploded 25 years ago in the Ukraine. To this you have to add the radioactivity in the spent fuel pools of all 6 units and of the shared spent fuel pool.

All of this is at risk and, due to the long-term heat-generating properties of the fuel, the situation will not be stabilized any time soon. Even if the radioactivity does not travel far, the release of just a fraction would have incalculable consequences for human beings and the environment.

Besides the true believers, there are also those who regard nuclear energy as a necessary evil. They don't particularly like it, but they see no alternative. But is it true that there is no alternative? For those who can't see beyond the current centralized, supply-driven electrical power systems and who assume an eternally increasing demand for energy, then perhaps it is difficult to imagine how modern societies could survive without nuclear power. But if you allow the possibility of decentralized systems that reward the efficient provision of energy services, rather than the supply of raw energy, then hitherto unimagined options open up.

After last year's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico and now the Fukushima Daiichi ''gempatsu shinsai,'' people must realize that business as usual is not an option.

To claim that nuclear energy has a future represents a colossal failure of our collective imagination -- a failure to imagine the risks involved and a failure to imagine how we could do things differently. If future generations are to say that there was a silver lining to the cloud of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, it will be because human beings now looked beyond their recent history and chose to build a society that was not subject to catastrophic risks of human making.

(Philip worked as the International Liaison Officer of the Tokyo-based Citizens' Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo, Japan. He now returns to Australia)


Joint statement on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

On the Occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster, April 26, 2011

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, precipitated by the huge earthquake and ensuing tsunamis that hit eastern Japan on March 11, has created fear of radiation exposure and radioactive contamination not just in Japan, but throughout the world.

The Japanese Government, electric power companies and academics who served them boasted that Japan's nuclear power plants were completely safe, that a nuclear accident would not occur. Their responsibility is heavy indeed. Many people had long warned of precisely the situation that is now in progress - of the danger of a huge earthquake and tsunami, of an accident caused by a loss of power supply, of the danger of concentrating several plants on a single site, of the problems facing suicide squads required to respond to a major accident, of the defects of emergency response preparations which only covered a 10 kilometer radius - but these warnings were not taken seriously. The attitude of promoting nuclear energy no matter what is one of the reasons why the response on this occasion by the Japanese Government and Tokyo Electric Power Company has at each stage been too late. To nevertheless claim that this was 'beyond expectations' is both immoral and criminal.

Reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station have not achieved cold shut down. The situation continues to be unpredictable. It is important to maintain cooling function and to take measures to prevent further contamination from releases and leaks of radioactive material. It goes without saying that in doing so sufficient consideration must be given to the safety of the workers. Radiation exposure standards for residents should not be set excessively high to meet accident circumstances. Rather, it is necessary to rapidly take all steps to enable the earliest possible adherence to the original standard of less than 1 millisievert per year. Decommissioning and disposal of the huge heap of radioactive waste that Fukushima Daiichi has become will probably be a long battle extending over decades.

We have continued to oppose nuclear power and nuclear facilities, calling for a phase out of nuclear energy through activities throughout Japan. Hoping for the earliest possible end to the crisis at Fukushima Daiichi, whatever we are able to do together we wish to do it now.

As a first step we are issuing this joint statement today, 25 years after the Chernobyl accident. At an appropriate time we will launch a large national action demanding a formal decision to permanently close down the Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Stations, to cancel the nuclear fuel cycle program, to cancel plans to build new nuclear reactors and to shut down aging nuclear reactors and we will propose a process for achieving a steady phase out of nuclear energy.

We refuse to allow the earth to be further subjected to radioactive contamination and radiation exposure. For the sake of all living beings, let us walk together towards the achievement of a nuclear-free society.

April 26, 2011, endorsed by 87 Japanese NGOs


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Criticism South Korean UAE contract
A news program has belatedly exposed the fact that the South Korean government agreed to provide a loan covering approximately half the construction costs for the exportation of a nuclear power plant to the United Arab Emirates. While the government explained that this was part of ordinary power plant export financing, controversy has been flaring up as this revelation couples with previous controversies over inflation of the order amount and the deployment of troops to the UAE as a condition for receiving the order. A Jan. 30 episode of the MBC program 'News Magazine 2580' revealed that in the process of signing a contract with the UAE for the power plant export in December 2009, the South Korean government agreed to provide a loan for approximately US$10 billion (7.25 billion euro) of the total order amount of US$18.6 billion through Korea Eximbank. In addition, the program reported that the repayment period was set at 28 years, and that the transaction generates a loss due to the fact that South Korea, which has a lower credit rating than the UAE, has to borrow the money at high interest rates and lend it at low interest rates. The program also reported that the construction has encountered setbacks, including a delay in the groundbreaking ceremony from its originally scheduled date in late 2010, as the Korean government has encountered difficulties coming up with the promised US$10 billion loan.

Hankyoreh, South Korea, 1 February 2011

the 1st International Uranium Film Festival is Latin America´s first film festival to highlight nuclear and radioactive issues. It is an annual event with 2 international competitions.

The Uranium Film Festival wants to inform especially the Brazilian and Latin American societies and stimulate the production of independent documentaries and movies about the whole nuclear fuel cycle, about the dangers of radioactivity and especially about the environmental and health risks of uranium exploration, mining and processing. The Uranium Film Festival will be held from May 21th to 28th 2011 in the city of Rio de Janeiro and from June 2nd to 9th in the city of São Paulo

The first 18 films have been selected: look for the list at:

Germany: Complaints against runtime extensions to Constitutional Court.

In cooperation with citizens living close to Germany's seven oldest nuclear powerplants, Greenpeace has submitted a complaint to Germany's Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht). While Greenpeace Germany generally argues that the runtime extensions endanger each citizen's right of being protected against bodily harm, the new constitutional complaint is specifically directed at the latest Nuclear Energy Law's paragraph 7d. The new §7d tells reactor operators, in rather poetic language, to reduce risks threatening "the population". This is, according to Greenpeace's law experts, a significant point. It means that individual citizens who have lately filed complaints (with support from Greenpeace) against the extension of the licenses for reactors in their neighborhood will be denied the right of action. In other words, the old Nuclear Law was designed to protect citizens and gave them the right to complain in local courts against the risks caused by the local polluter, and the new law withdraws this right.

Parallel to Greenpeace's action, two other complaints against the new Nuclear Law

will be filed at the Constitutional Court later this year. One is by a number of states of the German federation and the other is by groups of members of the federal parliament.

Greenpeace press release (in German), 3 February 2011

Norway: severe consequences of Sellafield accident.
An accident at the high-activity liquor storage at Sellafield would have severe consequences for Norway's wildlife, agricultural industry and environment. The Norwegian Radiological Protection Authority has published a second report on the consequences of a accident that releases just one per cent of the high-level liquid waste at Sellafield. This report looks at the consequences to the environment and animals, while the first report considered the fallout likely from a similar accident. The report use the typical weather experienced in October 2008 and only considers the release of caesium-137. An actual accident would release other radionuclides, particularly strontium.

It is estimated the amount of caesium-137 deposited on Norway would be about seven times that from Chernobyl. Direct costs from Chernobyl on agriculture and reindeer in Norway have been over 665 million kroner (US$118 million; 86 million euro) and there are still annual costs of 15 million kroner. Up to 80 per cent of all lambs in Norway would be expected to have excess radiation levels and restrictions apply for decades. The report is available at

N-Base Briefing 681, 25 January 2011

Canada: White Elephant 'Pointless Lepreau' reappears in New Brunswick.
The Point Lepreau nuclear generating station provides the quintessential definition of a white elephant. The aging nuclear plant opened its doors three times over budget in 1983. The Energy and Utilities Board refused to support spending on refurbishing it beyond its expected lifetime, but politicians went ahead anyway. Today, costs for the touch-and-go overhaul are already over Cdn$1.4 billion (1.4 bn US$, 1 bn Euro). The latest guess at a completion date is May 2012, a delay of almost three years. Damage to public and worker health and the environment have yet to be calculated and the final costs for taxpayers may not end for generations.

An alliance of public interest groups in New Brunswick, known as the Point Lepreau Decommissioning Caucus, is spreading a simple, but powerful message: Point Lepreau is a white elephant, we don't need it. Pointless Lepreau is old, sickly and on its last legs: Do Not Resuscitate. To underline the foolishness of refurbishing Lepreau, the groups are holding surprise events featuring their newest member, an actual white elephant costume aptly named Pointless Lepreau.

Press release, 19 January 2011

When the dust settles.
The International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) and IKV Pax Christi have been working on a joint project to create an animated short film on the hazards of depleted uranium and the international campaign against its use and are happy to announce that the English language version has now been completed. We have sought to render down a complex issue into six and a half minutes and at present the animation is available in English and Dutch, we hope that additional languages will be available in future.

Both versions are available from our Youtube channels at the links below. ICBUW can also provide copies for use at events and to help support your national campaigns.

English version:

UK Gov't sending papers down the memory-hole. The UK government and its agencies like the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA; successor to Nirex) are trying to airbrush out the history of the attempt to find a nuclear waste repository in West Cumbria. Documents and scientific papers which were formerly available on their websites have been removed; the Nirex documents have been transferred to the safe keeping of the British Geological Survey, where they may be 'consulted' at Keyworth, Nottinghamshire. But nothing remains online, not even an index of the documents and reports. Now, David Smythe has re-scanned much of the material and collected links of other parts.

Sellafield (West-Cumbria) was disqualified for several reasons, but now NDA and government is looking again at that region for final disposal.

Papers are available at:

Monju: accident delays startup with 3 more years. The task of removing a device that accidentally fell into the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju in August will delay its full startup about a year to 2014 or later.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the 280 MW Monju reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, is expected to remove the device next summer or later and then conduct checkups, delaying the test operation initially scheduled to start next spring and subsequent full-fledged run. Removing the 3.3-ton device, which was used for fuel exchange before it fell into the reactor vessel in the Aug. 26 accident, requires special equipment, approval from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and a followup inspection.
Monju resumed operations with limited power output in May 2010 after 14 years and five months(!) of suspension due to a sodium coolant leak and a resultant fire and coverup attempt in 1995.
Kyodo, 17 December 2010

Extended operation for Paducah enrichment plant? US uranium enrichment company USEC said that it is working to extend the operation of its Paducah plant in Kentucky beyond May 2012, when the old and inefficient gaseous diffusion plant had been expected to shut down. The company said that it will "base its decision to extend operations upon economic considerations and the ability of the plant to operate profitably." The Paducah plant – currently the only operating uranium enrichment facility in the USA - is set to be replaced by USEC's planned American Centrifuge Plant (ACP) project in Piketon, Ohio.

The full ACP plant was originally expected to commence commercial operation in early 2010 and achieve full annual capacity at the end of 2012. However, early in 2009 the whole project was slowed pending funding through the Department of Energy (DoE) loan guarantee program, and in July 2009 it was suspended due to the DoE refusing to award a US$2 billion (1.5 billion euro) loan guarantee, and asking USEC to withdraw its application. USEC refused to do this, and in July 2010, it submitted an updated loan guarantee application to the DoE. In October 2010, DoE informed USEC that it has largely completed its initial technical review of USEC's application and is proceeding to the next stage of the loan guarantee process.

Although USEC earlier secured investment of U$200 million from Toshiba and Babcock & Wilcox to support the ACP, the company maintains that additional financing is needed to complete plant construction.

World Nuclear News, 12 January 2011

Italy: referendum on relaunching nuclear power.
Italy's constitutional court ruled on January 12, a national referendum could be held against the construction of nuclear power plants, dealing a potential blow to government plans to relaunch the sector. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants nuclear plants to generate a quarter of the country's electricity in the future. The court allowed a request by opposition politician Antonio Di Pietro for a referendum, which will take place between on a Sunday between April 15 and June 15.

Antonio Di Pietro is leader of Italia dei Valori (Italy of Values) a centrist political party and an outspoken opponent of nuclear power. An April 2010 petition by the party successfully gathered the 500,000 signatures of Italian voters needed for the referendum to proceed through the Italian legislative system. This was presented to the Constitutional Court for it's final ruling on the admissibility of the proposed referendum.

Public opinion in Italy has been generally hostile to nuclear energy, and a 1987 referendum following the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 closed all plants and phased out production.

Reuters, 12 January 2011, Rete Nazionale Antinucleare (RNA) International, 13 January 2011

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

US embassy cable on Belene.
A US diplomatic cable, originating from the WikiLeaks organisation and published in the Guardian newspaper just before Christmas, relates the serious misgivings of US Ambassador in Bulgaria, Nancy McEldowney, over the planned Belene nuclear power plant in Bulgaria. Commenting in 2009, McEldowney notes that the controversial nuke project, slated for construction in an earthquake zone, “is dogged by cost overruns, financing woes, construction delays, and now serious safety and quality assurance concerns. Belene may end up costing Bulgaria more than money in the long run.” 
The high-level revelations thus confirm the concerns consistently raised in recent years by campaign NGOs such as the BeleNE! Coalition, CEE Bankwatch Network, Greenpeace, Urgewald, BankTrack and many others in Bulgaria and across Europe. The project-related information described by the US Embassy in Sofia is derived from various sources, including project experts and Bulgarian governmental officials.
The cable also presents the problems experienced by RWE, the German energy utility giant that was involved in Belene as a strategic investor throughout 2007-2009. “RWE is clearly feeling 'buyer's remorse' about its participation in Belene. Belene experts said that RWE remains 'in the dark' on most on-site day-to-day and technical issues. During a late May 2009 Belene project meeting, RWE asked numerous basic questions, indicating that they have not seen any of the on-site safety and environmental reports.”
This confirmation about the project's serious shortcomings comes during a period of renewed pressure from the Russian government to speed up Belene's construction. Meanwhile, the British-based bank HSBC has been recently selected as the financial consultant to organise financing for the Bulgarian nuke. In 2009 French bank BNP Paribas pulled out of a similar role following its own fruitless attempts to convince private and public European investors to put up money for Belene.
In parallel, and following invitations from Bulgaria's prime minister Boyko Borisov to invest in Belene, none of the other countries in the region has as yet confirmed their participation. Croatia has already declared no interest, while Serbia and Macedonia await more documents before taking their decisions. The most damning – and credible – Belene documentation looks already to have been delivered.

Source: The Guardian (UK), 20 December 2010

Extended operation for Paducah enrichment plant?
US uranium enrichment company USEC said that it is working to extend the operation of its Paducah plant in Kentucky beyond May 2012, when the old and inefficient gaseous diffusion plant had been expected to shut down. The company said that it will "base its decision to extend operations upon economic considerations and the ability of the plant to operate profitably." The Paducah plant – currently the only operating uranium enrichment facility in the USA - is set to be replaced by USEC's planned American Centrifuge Plant (ACP) project in Piketon, Ohio.

The full ACP plant was originally expected to commence commercial operation in early 2010 and achieve full annual capacity at the end of 2012. However, early in 2009 the whole project was slowed pending funding through the Department of Energy (DoE) loan guarantee program, and in July 2009 it was suspended due to the DoE refusing to award a US$2 billion (1.5 billion euro) loan guarantee, and asking USEC to withdraw its application. USEC refused to do this, and in July 2010, it submitted an updated loan guarantee application to the DoE. In October 2010, DoE informed USEC that it has largely completed its initial technical review of USEC's application and is proceeding to the next stage of the loan guarantee process.

Although USEC earlier secured investment of U$200 million from Toshiba and Babcock & Wilcox to support the ACP, the company maintains that additional financing is needed to complete plant construction.

Source: World Nuclear News, 12 January 2011

USA: another huge victory.
More than 15,000 letters were sent to Congress in December and many, many phone calls made to stop US$8 billion (6 billion euro) in taxpayer loans for new nuclear reactor construction. And the final government funding bill, signed by President Obama, contains not one dime for new nukes! The Senate was forced to pull the "Omnibus" funding bill it had proposed, which included the US$8 billion in taxpayer loans for the nuclear industry, and instead a "Continuing Resolution" was passed that funds the government through mid-March.

That makes at least seven major efforts over the past two years by nuclear industry backers to increase taxpayer loans for new reactors -and every one of those efforts has been blocked! Grassroots people power works! Michael Mariotte: "Take a moment to celebrate … and get ready to do it all over again early in the new year -because the nuclear industry will surely be back, hat-in-hand, looking for your money again. We will, of course, keep you informed."

NIRS,, 23 December 2010

Monju: accident delays startup with 3 more years.
The task of removing a device that accidentally fell into the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju in August will delay its full startup about a year to 2014 or later.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency, the operator of the 280 MW Monju reactor in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, is expected to remove the device next summer or later and then conduct checkups, delaying the test operation initially scheduled to start next spring and subsequent full-fledged run. Removing the 3.3-ton device, which was used for fuel exchange before it fell into the reactor vessel in the Aug. 26 accident, requires special equipment, approval from the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and a followup inspection.
Monju resumed operations with limited power output in May 2010 after 14 years and five months(!) of suspension due to a sodium coolant leak and a resultant fire and coverup attempt in 1995.

Kyodo, 17 December 2010

Italy: referendum on relaunching nuclear power.
Italy's constitutional court ruled on January 12, a national referendum could be held against the construction of nuclear power plants, dealing a potential blow to government plans to relaunch the sector. Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi wants nuclear plants to generate a quarter of the country's electricity in the future. The court allowed a request by opposition politician Antonio Di Pietro for a referendum, which will take place between on a Sunday between April 15 and June 15.

Antonio Di Pietro is leader of Italia dei Valori (Italy of Values) a centrist political party and an outspoken opponent of nuclear power. An April 2010 petition by the party successfully gathered the 500,000 signatures of Italian voters needed for the referendum to proceed through the Italian legislative system. This was presented to the Constitutional Court for it's final ruling on the admissibility of the proposed referendum.

Public opinion in Italy has been generally hostile to nuclear energy, and a 1987 referendum following the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986 closed all plants and phased out production.

Reuters, 12 January 2011, Rete Nazionale Antinucleare (RNA) International, 13 January 2011

UK: more no-subsidies.
The government's Green Investment Bank could fund the building of new nuclear reactors, it has emerged. It is the latest form of public financial support on offer to the industry from the government which continues to insist that the industry will not receive any more subsidies. The Conservatives' pre-election manifesto promised that the Green Investment Bank - which was also in the coalition agreement - would finance "new green technology start-ups". But documents issued before Christmas by Vince Cable's business department list new reactors, along with offshore wind farms and new electricity grids, as one of the three proposed "target sectors" on which the bank would initially focus.

Guardian (UK), 13 January 2011

Israel: Founders antinuclear information network died.
Shirley Rose Benyamin died late last year and Herschell Benyamin died early January in Jerusalem. After the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, Shirley Benyamin "decided to do something to stop Israel from going down the nuclear power pathway," as environmentalist Alon Tal recounted in his book Pollution in a Promised Land. In addition to her husband, she enlisted the late Dr. Dvora Ben-Shaul, a journalist and scientist. The group founded the Israel Agency for Nuclear Information, but in the post-Vanunu affair atmosphere, the Interior Ministry refused to register the non-profit. The group reconstituted itself with broader environmental goals as EcoNet and was approved. The establishment was suspicious of the couple, but Shirley was undeterred. Funds she raised made it possible to examine the state of health of employees of the Dimona reactor, for which EcoNet won the Israel Prize in 1994. Donations she solicited also helped provide seed money for the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, Green Action and others., 7 January 2011

December 8: nuclear phase out day

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Kazuhide Fukada

December 8 is “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” in Japan. The “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” campaign, which now includes a wide range of people, is supporting campaigns around country and wants to remain rooted in people’s daily lives.

“Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” Organizing Committee - In September this year a few people formed a “virtual group” to initiate a “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” campaign. They created an email list and drafted a statement about the nature and purpose of the campaign and publicized it through “Twitter” and “Mixi”. Supporters began to join the email list and a poster and Blog were created to gather supporters, further publicize the campaign and generate “phase out nuclear energy” actions all over Japan around the December 8 date. The campaign, which now includes a wide range of people, wants to remain rooted in people’s daily lives.

The “virtual” group is limiting its aim for this year to getting “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” known. We do not plan to organize a major event ourselves this year, but we are supporting other events (see below).

Why December 8?
December 8 is the fifteenth anniversary of the sodium leak and fire at the Monju Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. About a month later Shigeo Nishimura, deputy general manager of PNC's general affairs department and one of the team leaders of the in-house team tasked with looking into the cover-up, jumped to his death from a hotel in Tokyo and many details of the accident remain unclear to this day.

What is clear, however, is that plutonium-fueled, sodium-cooled Monju is an exceptionally complicated and dangerous nuclear reactor, subjecting the public to even greater risks than “normal” light water reactors and exacerbating the problem of nuclear proliferation.

Believing that the Monju accident should have been the end of nuclear power in Japan, we chose December 8 as “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” to simultaneously commemorate the Monju accident, call for the closure of Monju and call for a total phase out of nuclear power.

Why phase-out nuclear energy?
Unfortunately, in spite of strong opposition, Monju was restarted in May this year. There has been a series of problems, culminating in an accident on August 26 in which a 3-ton fuel-loading device dropped into the reactor when it was being removed. Monju has been out of action since then.

Monju is part of Japan’s failed nuclear fuel cycle program. The Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, another core nuclear fuel cycle facility, is also in serious trouble. Commercial operations were officially postponed for the eighteenth time in September.

In earthquake-prone Japan, nuclear power is the most unsuitable way of generating electricity. There are now 54 nuclear power plants operating in Japan (not including Monju). Besides the danger of accidents, the warm water released from nuclear power plants damages the marine environment and radioactivity released into the environment during the course of regular operations bio-accumulates in the food chain and exposes human beings to radiation.

Nuclear energy is unable to contribute to solving the problem of global warming. Rather it exacerbates the problem. There is an urgent need for the whole of Japan to shift to renewable forms of energy.

Specific actions
The “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” campaign is supporting campaigns around Japan, including the 28-year opposition of the people of the island of Iwaishima to Chugoku Electric Power Company’s plan to construct the Kaminoseki Nuclear Power Plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture. We are sponsoring a film screening and public meeting on December 4 in Yamaguchi City.

Our Japanese blog is on the following link

Source: Mari Hoshikawa, Member of the “Phase Out Nuclear Energy Day” Organizing Committee
Contact: Kazuhide Fukada


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

UK & US regulators: unresolved safety issues EPR and AP1000.
On November 10, the UK nuclear regulator said it expects both the Areva EPR and the Westinghouse AP1000 reactors to have unresolved safety issues when the generic design assessment, or GDA, program completes next year. In a quarterly progress report, the NII said it has potential open issues in 10 out of 18 topical areas on the Areva EPR design review and in 16 out of the 18 topical areas on the Westinghouse AP1000 design. The GDA program was set up to issue design acceptance confirmations, or DACs, to the reactor vendors, which would see the regulator sign off on all but site specific licensing issues. The DAC could then be referenced in site license applications by utilities building the reactors. But the program has been plagued by delays resulting from NII Staff shortages and "a failure on the part of the reactor vendors to satisfy the regulator's queries", as Platts puts it.

A day earlier, World Nuclear News reported that Westinghouse has been told by the U.S. NRC that it's AP1000 aircraft impact study is not adequate. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that documents put to it in order to demonstrate a 2009 requirement did not include 'realistic' analyses and that this amounted to a violation of requirements that Westinghouse must explain and rectify. A rule introduced by NRC in 2009 states that  new nuclear power plant buildings and safety systems must maintain containment, cooling of the reactor core and the integrity or cooling of used fuel facilities in the event of the impact of a large passenger jet. All reactor vendors must fulfill this requirement for their designs. For Westinghouse this regulatory work comes in addition to a 2007 design amendment to the original AP1000 design, which was certified by the NRC in 2006.

In February, UK regulators already criticized the "long delays" and "poor quality" of replies they received from Westinghouse and Areva following safety reviews of their reactor designs.
Source: World Nuclear News, 9 November 2010 / Platts, 10 November 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 704, 26 February 2010

Update Belene, Bulgaria
The situation around the planned nuclear power station in Belene in Bulgaria has become unclear again. Under heavy Russian pressure (among others directly from Prime Minister Putin) and political pressure from a faction within his own party GERB around the Parliament Chair Tsetska Tsacheva, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov declared he is dedicated to the construction of the power plant on the shores of the Danube. Russian Atomstroyexport, a part of Rosatom, prolonged the construction contract with half a year under the condition of a price increase of maximally 2,5 billion Euro on top of the initial 4 Billion price tag. According former director of the Bulgarian Nuclear Regulatory Agency and current professor in risk analysis at the university of Vienna, Georghi Kashchiev, during a round table discussion on 18 October in Sofia, this does, however, not include the first load and large parts of the non-nuclear equipment. With that, the demand from Borisov that the total cost of the project remain under 7 billion Euro come under severe pressure. It is also unclear whether the 500 Million Euro already sunk into Belene are part of this budget. On 1 November, Bulgaria's finance minister Simeon Djankov once more confirmed that no state finances would flow into the project.

In a surprise move, Prime Minister Borisov declared on 25 October after a visit to Muenich a week earlier, that he had found a strategic investor from Bavaria for Belene. Bulgarian media speculate interest from Siemens, the engineering firm that recently broke its alliance with Areva and partnered instead with Rosatom. Siemens, however, refuses to comment on these speculations. An announcement from the Bulgarian Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism that the new strategic investor would be announced in the first week of November was not realised, however, and German media have remained suspiciously silent about a possible deal. On 5 November, Borisov announced an offer of up to 2% participation to each Serbia and Croatia in what he said was a pragmatic attempt to secure markets for the output of Belene.

… and Mochovce, Slovakia

Slovakia has asked and received an extension of the period of comment on the draft verdict of the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee, that the Environmental Impact Assessment for the Mochovce 3,4 project has violated the rules of the Convention. The NGOs that originally filed the complaint, Za Matku Zem, Greenpeace Slovakia, Global2000 and the Oeko-buero Wien, did not object to an extension to 30 November. The ACCC is expected to come with a final verdict in December. A spokesperson of the Slovak nuclear regulator UJD, which was responsible for issuing construction licenses in spite of the fact that the EIA procedure had not been finalised, is currently looking for possibilities to implement a likely final verdict of the ACCC, but stated to Greenpeace that it has problems finding a proper legal pathway to do so.

An ACCC verdict is, however, binding and a breach of the Aarhus Convention is also a breach of EU legislation on Environmental Impact Assessments, which means that the European Commission would be obliged to start corrective procedures against Slovakia in case the ACCC verdict concludes a violation of the rules.

… and Temelin, Czech Republic

The submission date for the tender for five new nuclear power stations issued by the Czech utility CEZ has been extended with a year to 2013. CEZ argued that some of the contenders had asked for such an extension, though analysts are of the opinion that the lack of growth in electricity demand in the Czech Republic has bitten into the economic viability of the project. The tender for five blocks, two for Temelin and one for Dukovany in the Czech Republic, one for Jaslovske Bohunice in Slovakia and one for a still to be decided project is expected to cost around 500 billion Czech Crowns or 25 billion Euro. Each block is supposed to deliver between 1000 and 1600 MW capacity.
Source of these 3: Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace EU Unit, email, 6 November 2010

Another fiasco at Monju, Japan.
A12-meter-long, 46-centimeter-wide, 3.3-metric-ton heavy fuel exchange component that lodged in the reactor vessel of the Monju fast-breeder reactor after being dropped on August 26, cannot be extracted using "usual methods," the Japan  Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) has stated. The JAEA made the announcement November 9, after examining the component -a cylinder now stuck in an opening in the reactor vessel cap- with a camera. The agency believes that to get the part out, equipment on the reactor vessel cap will have to be removed, and an entirely new structure built to prevent sodium now covering the cylinder from mixing with the outside air and igniting during the process. The agency is now considering ways to do this, but gave no hint when testing of the reactor may recommence.

Since Monju resumed test operations on May 6 after shut down since a 1995 sodium leak, it has undergone the first stage of testing. These core confirmation tests were completed on July 22. Preparations were being made for the next stage, which involves increasing power output to 40%, planned for July 2011. However,  the jammed relay cylinder has made further long delays probable.
Source: Nuke Info Tokyo 138, Sept/Oct 2010 / The Mainichi Daily News, 10 November 2010

UK: What 'no subsidies' means: more help will be given.
Following lobbying by the nuclear industry the Government has accepted that it needs to give more financial incentives in order to ensure a new generation of reactors are built in the UK. Energy minister Charles Hendry said he now agreed with the industry that fixing a high minimum price for carbon emissions was not enough. Instead he thought other financial incentive measures would be need to encourage nuclear and other low-carbon energy sources.
Source: N-Base Briefing 674, 10 November 2910

IEA: US$312 billion subsidy annually for fossil.
On November 10, the International Energy Agency published its World Energy Outlook 2010. The IEA report clearly states that fossil fuels are heavily subsidized by more than US$312 billion per year globally! This leads obviously to unfair competition with clean and climate friendly renewable energies. IEA is increasingly recognizing the important role renewable energy can play to fight climate change and improve security of supply. However, it is failing to shift technology recommendations from unproven, dangerous and expensive technologies such as CCS and nuclear power plants.
Source: Press release Greenpeace, 9 November 2010

Two year delay for Rokkasho plant

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

The annual announcement of further delay in the start-up of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant might become a biannual announcement from now on. On November 18, 2005 Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. (JNFL) announced that start-up of Rokkasho would be pushed back to July 2007. Just before that date, in May 2007, JNFL suspended the receipt of spent fuel at the plant after it was revealed that incorrect data had been used to calculate design standards for some shearing and fuel handling equipment in the event of an earthquake. In November 2008 a delay was announced as it was in September 2009.

On September 10, this year Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL) announced that the commencement of commercial operations of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant would be delayed by two years from October this year to October 2012. This is the eighteenth time the start date has been delayed. The reason for the delay is a series of problems and accidents during testing of the process of vitrifying high-level radioactive liquid waste. All the other tests have been completed, but unless the two vitrification furnaces can achieve a production capacity of 1,000 glass canisters per year, the plant cannot begin commercial operations.

JNFL says that the first 18 months of the extension period will be spent on activities including fitting thermometers to the vitrification furnaces and comparing operational data from a mock up facility (KMOC) in Tokai Village which is conducting experiments vitrifying an imitation of the radioactive liquid waste produced at the Rokkasho plant.

So far all the vitrification tests at Rokkasho have used Vitrification Furnace A, but glass and other material have become stuck in the furnace. JNFL now wants to begin testing Vitrification Furnace B and conduct "hot tests" (using real high-level liquid waste) in both furnaces from April 2012.

However, it is completely unclear when it will be possible to resume testing of the Vitrification Facility. No matter how well comparison of the KMOC data goes, since KMOC is not using the strong heat and radiation generating highly radioactive liquid waste produced at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant, the problems involved are not the same. JNFL's attempts to gather new data from KMOC since testing of the Rokkasho plant came to a standstill are bound to fail. They only go to show that the development of the vitrification furnaces was a total failure in the first place. JNFL needs to reconsider the fundamental design and development of the vitrification furnaces.

Testing of the vitrification furnaces has been a vicious circle in which one problem has led to another. Due to its lack of technical ability, JNFL has only been able to respond to problems in a haphazard fashion. To deal with the sedimentation of platinum group elements at the bottom of the vitrification furnace it inserted a stirring rod, but the stirring rod bent and in the ensuing confusion a brick was dislodged from the ceiling of the furnace. As attempts were being made to overcome the problem, about 150 liters of highly radioactive liquid waste leaked and evaporated within the cell. No doubt there will be more problems in future and JNFL will end up chasing its tail as it tries to respond to them, while the real tests are pushed further and further into the future.

It is hard to read any technical logic into the two-year period of the delay. Rather, it seems to have more to do with the fact that the spent fuel pools at Japan's nuclear power plants can just manage to get by without sending spent fuel to Rokkasho for a period of two years. Rokkasho's spent fuel storage pools are almost full. As at September, 2,776 tons of spent fuel was already stored in the pools, which have a total capacity of 3,000 tons.

The two-year delay will have a severe impact on the finances of Rokkasho Village. Rokkasho Village expects to receive about 2 billion yen (US$ 23 million or 17.5 million euro) in fixed assets taxes in the first year the plant begins commercial operations. The figure will gradually decrease thereafter. It is four and a half years since active testing of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant began on March 31, 2006 and almost three years have passed since testing of the Vitrification Facility began on November 5, 2007. Now completion of the tests has been pushed back another two years. This small village made all sorts of plans on the assumption that it would receive huge taxation income from the reprocessing plant, but now it is forced to reconsider its finances.

At the same time as announcing the delay, JNFL announced that it was making third-party allocations of new stocks worth a total of 400 billion yen (US$ 4.68 billion or 3.5 billion euro). The thirteen recipients are the nine electric power companies that operate nuclear power plants, plus Japan Atomic Power Company, Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. A September 14 article published on the English web site of The Denki Shimbun (The Electric Daily News) made the following comment:

"As of March 31 this year, JNFL's equity ratio was about 7.5%. Its financial position was weak for an enterprise executing the nuclear fuel cycle as a matter of national policy, and was viewed with concern by the electric power companies and other shareholders. Once the new third-party allocations are made, JNFL's equity ratio will top 20%...."

The stock issue shows that JNFL is experiencing financial difficulties, but a question that remains unanswered is the impact that this and previous delays will have on the total cost of the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. After so many delays, it is inconceivable that construction costs will not exceed the official figure of 2.14 trillion yen (US$ 25 billion or 19 billion euro).

1982: Rokkasho finished in 1991.
One of the first articles in the Laka archive-file on the Rokkasho reprocessing plant is a Mainichi Daily News clipping of January 8, 1982. Although a site was not definitive chosen, the plans to construct a reprocessing plant, and related facilities (a plutonium-conversion plant, a fission products vitrification plant, spent fuel storage, a "specialized ship designed to carry used nuclear fuel" a pier and other port facilities) were announced. The company, Japan Nuclear Fuel Services, plans to complete the reprocessing plant and related facilities "by the end of fiscal year1 1990 (March 31, 1991) at an estimated cost of  690 billion Yen in 19979 terms (which works out  to about US$ 3.15 billion at present rates)."
Mainichi Daily News, 8 January 1982.

Sources: Nuke Info Tokyo 138, Sept/Oct 2010 / NucNet, 3 December 2008
Contact:  Masako Sawai, CNIC (Citizens' Nuclear Information Center) Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5, Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan
Tel:  +81-3-3357-3800