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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


Japan: nuclear energy policy under a new government

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

After winning a landslide victory in the House of Representatives election held on August 30, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) has formed a coalition government with the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the People's New Party (PNP). It might be hoped that a change of government would herald a change of nuclear energy policy, but we should not be too sanguine about the chances of a significant improvement.

There is a wide range of views about nuclear energy within the DPJ (as indeed there is in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which ruled Japan for most of the last fifty odd years). While minor coalition partner SDP favors a nuclear phase out, its influence on nuclear policy within the new government is likely to be quite limited. PNP is a relatively recent breakaway from the LDP and is unlikely to rock the boat on nuclear energy issues.

The prospects for policy change are likely to depend very much on the ability of civil society to make serious proposals that have the potential to garner widespread support. The first opportunity will be the budget estimates for the 2010 fiscal year. Anyone can see that allocating 20 billion yen (US$ 220 million, 150 million Euro) for the Monju prototype fast breeder reactor (FBR) is throwing good money after bad. This should be the first item cut from the budget request. Funding for fairyland proposals like the demonstration FBR to follow the Monju prototype should also be reviewed. It should also be obvious that a review of the Atomic Energy Commission's fundamental policy statement, Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy, should be scheduled as soon as possible.

Before the election DPJ issued a policy Manifesto in which it said that "[w]hile placing safety first and gaining the understanding and confidence of the people," it would "take steady steps toward the use of nuclear power." This quote is from the English summary. The same section in the full Japanese version refers also to "secure supply". Given that Japan's nuclear power program has been a failure with respect to "safety first", "secure supply", and "understanding and confidence of the people", if the DPJ were to get serious about these issues, that in itself would represent a major change.

In regard to "safety first", DPJ's Manifesto states, "a highly independent nuclear safety regulatory commission will be established under Article 3 of the National Government Organization Act." The existing Nuclear Safety Commission was established within the Cabinet Office in 1978 under the Nuclear Energy Basic Law, the same law that covers the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Article 1 of the Law states, "The Objectives of this Law shall be to secure energy resources in the future, to achieve the progress of science and technology and the promotion of industries by encouraging the research, development and utilization of nuclear power..." Thus NSC's safety assurance role is compromised from the start by association with the promotion of nuclear energy.

NSC is supposed to act as a double check on the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), which regulates the nuclear industry. However, as part of the Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), the ministry with prime responsibility for promoting nuclear power, NISA's independence is also compromised. NSC and NISA, or any regulatory body that replaces them, should have nothing to do with the promotion of nuclear power. Serious consideration should also be given to the question of whether the double check relationship should be retained, or whether it would be better to merge NSC and NISA into a single regulatory body. Likewise the question of whether the AEC should continue to exist in its current form should be openly debated.

Another area that should be openly debated is the respective responsibilities of government and industry. DPJ's Manifesto states, "Reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel and disposal of radioactive waste from nuclear power plants are long term projects, so the government should take final responsibility for establishing the technology and for the project." If they are not careful this type of loose wording could have the effect of reinforcing industry's already irresponsible attitude. Electric power companies have primary responsibility for safety assurance and for dealing with the problems of spent fuel and radioactive waste produced in their nuclear power plants. On the other hand, the role of government is to regulate so that the failures of industry do not lead to nuclear disasters or become an excessive economic burden. Government is also responsible for averting potential disasters when all else fails. In this sense the government has "final responsibility", but industry must not be allowed to offload its rightful responsibilities onto the government or the general public.

Our hope is that the new government will reassess recent trends that are inconsistent with the principle of "safety first". These include reducing the time taken for periodic assessments, extending the time between inspections, and life extensions and uprates for aging reactors. We hope the DPJ led government will strive to create a rigorous and rational nuclear regulatory system.

Source: Nuke Info Tokyo 132,  September/October 2009
Contact: Baku Nishio (Co-Director), 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

Monju restart february next year?
On July 12 replacement of degraded fuel was completed at Japan Atomic Energy Agency's (JAEA) Monju Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (FBR, 280 MW) located in Tsuruga City, Fukui Prefecture. Then on August 12 final confirmation tests of the overall integrity of the plant were completed. The same day, Toshio Yamauchi, Senior Vice Minister of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), visited Fukui Governor Issei Nishikawa and Tsuruga Mayor Kazuharu Kawase to officially communicate the government's aim of restarting Monju as early as February 2010. This would be two years later than the target date of February 2008 announced when modification work began in March 2005. The Prototype FBR is closed since a sodium leak and fire in December 1995. Construction of Monju started in 1986 and the reactor was only connected to the grid for four months when the accident happened!

Nuke Info Tokyo, 132, Sept/Oct. 2009 / PRIS Reactor database.


Restart KK-7: emergency cooling malfunctions

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

In the latest issue of the Nuclear Monitor (688, published on May 7) we ran an article on the pressure to restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactor number 7 in Japan. A few hours before printing the issue came the news that the reactor would be restarted in the next days. Too late to rewrite the article but just in time to do a “latest news” box. Just a few days after the restart the emergency cooling-system failed, twice.

On May 9, after months of intense pressure from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and the central government, the Governor of Niigata Prefecture and the Mayors of Kashiwazaki City and Kariwa Village gave their permission to TEPCO to restart Unit 7 of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant (KK) for the first time since the 16 July 2007 Chuetsu-oki Earthquake. In doing so, they are gambling with the safety of the people of Niigata Prefecture and beyond.

Their decision flies in the face of scientific arguments presented in two subcommittees established by Niigata Prefecture to investigate the impact of the earthquake on the plant. Neither of these subcommittees has resolved crucial questions about the nature of the earthquake, the impact of the earthquake on the plant, or the future safety of the plant. In the end, pressure from TEPCO and the central government have prevailed over sound science.

In particular, the following issues have not been resolved (see Nuclear Monitor 688 for more details).

(1) Seismic Safety
TEPCO, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) argue that it is sufficient to set the magnitude of the design-basis earthquake at M7.0. By comparison, the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake was M6.8 on the Japanese scale.

(2) Unstable Ground
The ground beneath the buildings is moving. The ground level has been measured on three occasions since the earthquake, but each time the direction and size of the inclination of the buildings was different.

(3) Seismic Safety of Equipment in Doubt
There are concerns that during an earthquake in excess of M7 the casing within which the recirculation pump motors are contained could buckle and break.

Important technical questions under the following three broad headings have not been answered:

  • "What magnitude earthquake should the plant be designed to withstand?"
  • "Why does the ground continue to move?"
  • "Can the plant withstand the next earthquake?"

As long as scientific answers to these questions are not found, there can be no basis for confidence in the safety of the plant.

TEPCO, the central government and the prefectural and local governments are making the same mistakes that have been repeated throughout the history of KK. As in the past, once again they have decided to sacrifice sound science and public safety for the sake of national policy.

Reactor malfunctions after restart

TEPCO began withdrawing the control rods at 1:53pm on May 9 and started up the reactor. Problems first arose that night at 11:15pm in a valve in the main steam system. More problems occurred on May 11. TEPCO's press release described the May 11 problems, which occurred at 6:43am and 6:53am, as follows:

"[W]hile performing an activation test of the reactor core isolation cooling system (RCIC), water level of the suppression pool went beyond the normal level...[T]he RCIC could not be shut down by normal procedure and had to be shut down manually at the site."

The problems led to a departure from the "Limiting Condition for Operation" stipulated in the Technical Specification. TEPCO had intended to start the turbines and begin sending electricity to Tokyo on May 15, but as a result of these problems it was not able to do so until May 19.


Sources: Statement of Protest, Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), 8 May 2009 / Asahi Shimbun (Japan), 12 May 2009 / Nuke Info Tokyo, May/June 2009
Contact: Philip White (CNIC International Liaison Officer).
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800           

Kashiwazaki Kariwa-7

KK-7: to restart or not to restart?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Philip White at Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC)

It is now almost 22 months since the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant was struck by the Chuetsu-oki Earthquake. The Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company want to restart Unit 7. But currently, debate over three serious problems has not been resolved, one of them being the irregular movement of reactor and turbine buildings. Will science be sacrificed for the sake of national policy?

Of the seven reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant (KK), all of which have been shut down since the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake in July 2007, Unit 7 (ABWR, 1356 MW) is said to have suffered least damage. On February 18 the Nuclear Safety Commission (located within the Cabinet Office) approved the restart of this reactor. The following day Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) applied to Kashiwazaki City, Kariwa Village and Niigata Prefecture for permission to restart the reactor. It appeared that it wanted all the necessary approvals in place by March 31, the end of the fiscal year.

However, things are not going as TEPCO planned. A fire in Unit 1 on March 5 increased the concerns of the local residents. This is the eighth fire since TEPCO began work in preparation for restart. The cause on this occasion was that workers had not received training about the danger of inflammable vapor in the area. Residents are very critical of TEPCO. They say that TEPCO's claim that it places top priority on safety is an empty slogan and that it is not qualified to operate nuclear reactors. On March 11 Niigata Governor, Hirohiko Izumida, said that he would not give his approval for restart of KK Unit 7 until the appropriateness of TEPCO's plan to revise its fire prevention system is accepted. He indicated that he did not think public understanding for restart had been obtained. Kashiwazaki Mayor, Hiroshi Aida, and Kariwa Mayor, Hiroo Shinada expressed similar sentiments.

2. Jumping the gun
On March 8 Niigata Prefecture's technical committee on safety control of nuclear power plants held its third meeting since the Chuetsu Oki Earthquake. It agreed that a chairman's opinion supporting restart should be presented at the next meeting, scheduled for March 18. However, the March 8 meeting was sadly lacking in scientific and technical debate and failed to answer scientifically based questions raised by committee members opposed to restarting KK-7. The reason for the unscientific nature of the discussion was that it was based on a sloppy summary of issues debated in two technical subcommittees, when the deliberations of these subcommittees have not even been concluded.

3. Unresolved problems
At this stage, debate over three serious problems has not been resolved.

(1) KK's seismic safety
TEPCO, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) argue that it is sufficient to set the magnitude of the design-basis earthquake at M7.0. NISA and NSC approved restart of Unit 7 on this basis. (By comparison, the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake was M6.8 on the Japanese scale.) However, some scientists have said that this is inadequate. They believe a M7.5 earthquake should be chosen. Although they have provided clear scientific evidence, their arguments have been ignored.

The issue relates to questions about the seismic fault plane that caused the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake and the form of the marine terrace running from Kashiwazaki to Niigata. The critics claim that the F-B fault was not the source of the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake. They say the source was the much longer Eastern Boundary Fault of Sado Basin. Historically, this fault has moved repeatedly and it has had a fundamental influence on the form of the marine terrace in the region. There is no scientific basis for refuting this argument.

The basic earthquake ground motion was set at 2,300 Gal for Units 1~4 and 1,209 Gal for Units 5~7 on the basis of a M7.0 earthquake, but these levels are clearly inadequate.

(2) Irregular movement of reactor and turbine buildings
The ground level has been measured on three occasions since the earthquake, but each time the direction and size of the inclination of the buildings was different. This shows that the plant was not built on firm ground. The fact is that the ground beneath the buildings is moving [see box].

Building on tofu?

An issue relevant to the work of both sub-committees is how to interpret the fact that the reactor and turbine buildings have continued to move since the earthquake. TEPCO has measured the elevation of the buildings on three occasions since the earthquake - immediately after the earthquake, in February 2008 and again in August 2008. There are suspicions that the continued movement could be because the bedrock has broken up, or for some other similar cause. Alternatively, it could be related to the Madogasaka Fault, which NSC claims is not active.

During the December 23 meeting in Kariwa Village hosted by the Niigata Prefecture sub-committees, the chair of the subcommittee into equipment integrity and earthquake resistance and safety, Haruo Yamazaki, responded to a question with an example of a nuclear power plant floating on a cup of starch. When construction of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant was first planned, people said it was like building a nuclear power plant on tofu. Now it looks like the ground on which the plant is built is no more solid than a cup of starch.

Nuke Info Tokyo 128, Jan/Febr. 2009

The seismic safety guidelines in force when the plant was constructed (the old guidelines) required that nuclear power plants be constructed on firm ground. The construction of KK violated these guidelines. The excuse is given that the inclination is within the permitted limits and will not interfere with insertion of the control rods, but this avoids the real issue. Can the plant withstand the next earthquake? Why does the ground continue to move in this irregular way? As long as scientific answers to these questions are not found, residents will not have confidence in the safety of the plant.

At the beginning of March a research team from Niigata University carried out a second boring near the plant. Results have just come in and there is a difference of 20 meters between the Niigata University team's measurement and TEPCO's measurement of the Nishiyama stratum. This suggests fault activity contrary to the analysis of the ground structure around the KK plant carried out by TEPCO and accepted by the government. My view is that this is because KK is indeed "a nuclear power plant floating on a cup of starch".

(3) Can the casing of the reactor coolant recirculation pump motor survive the next earthquake?
KK-6&7 are Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR). This type of reactor has internal recirculation pumps. ABWR reactors have 10 recirculation pumps, which are welded onto the bottom of the wall of the reactor vessel. There are concerns that during an earthquake in excess of M7 the casing within which the recirculation pump motors are contained could buckle and break.

The stress applied by a M7 earthquake is calculated to be 195 megapascals. By comparison, the design standard is 207 megapascals. That means there is a leeway of just 6%, suggesting that the casing would not withstand a M7.5 earthquake. There is a danger that it could break off. In such a case, the reactor coolant would drain out leading to a major accident.

Considering the abovementioned unresolved issues, TEPCO should not be allowed to restart KK Unit 7. To restart the reactor would be a huge gamble. It would fly in the face of the safety-first principle.

4. Radioactive pine needles
Measurements commissioned by CNIC of radioactive carbon-14 in the needles of pine trees growing by the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant raise questions about how much radioactivity was actually released during the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake. Pine needles which grew in 2007, the year of the Chuetsu-Oki Earthquake, on trees in TEPCO's public relations center had elevated specific activity of carbon 14 (294.8 mBq/gC from 2007 pine needles compared to 251.2 mBq/gC for 2008 pine needles). This suggests that more radioactivity was released during the earthquake than TEPCO claimed. It is unclear where the carbon 14 came from, but it is conceivable that it could have leaked from damaged fuel assemblies. This is further evidence that the full effects of the earthquake are still not properly understood.

TEPCO failed to carry out measurements of environmental samples to assess radioactivity released during the earthquake. As it happened, CNIC already had a project to measure radioactivity around Rokkasho, so we decided to measure carbon 14 in pine needles from KK at the same time.

April: Another fire; more delays

Meanwhile, on April 17, the central government and the mayors of Kashiwazaki City and Kariwa Town had given their approval for the restart of KK Unit 7. Only the approval of the governor of Niigata Prefecture remains.

Governor Izumida said recently that he wanted an explanation to be provided to the Prefectural Assembly before making his final decision. It was expected that the explanation would be provided on April 21, but the date was postponed after yet another fire at the plant. The fire, which arose in a storehouse on April 11, was the ninth fire at the plant since the earthquake. Tokyo Electric Power Company's inability to develop an effective fire control system has severely damaged its credibility in safety management.

Nevertheless, there is tremendous pressure on the governor to approve restart of reactor 7. The local movement against restart of the plant is fighting valiantly, but it will be difficult to prevent restart of the reactor for much longer. There are no immediate signs that any of the other reactors will be restarted soon.

Under these circumstances, people might be interested in material to help them refute the propaganda that is likely to accompany the restart of Unit 7. CNIC recently added to its website a report on the history of the seismic design of KK. This report shows how politics has always been prioritized over seismic safety in the design and operation of KK. We hope the report will be useful for people trying to stop nuclear power plants in other earthquake prone regions.

The April 6, 2009 report “Seismic Design of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant: a Historical Perspective”, by Philip White and Yukio Yamaguchi can be found at:


Source: Nuke Info Tokyo 129, March/April 2009 & update CNIC, 17 April 2009
Contact: Philip White at 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

Latest: Restart KK-7 May 8?

As stated in the article, there is “tremendous pressure on the governor to approve restart” of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactor 7, and it is “difficult to prevent restart (…) for much longer”. And indeed, on May 6, Reuters reports that the restart is imminent and the reactor may begin a trial-run as soon as May 8, expecting the approval of the governor on May 7.

Reuters, 6 May 2009


Kashiwazaki Kariwa-7