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Financing reactors and the Fukushima disaster

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Greenpeace International & Banktrack

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fukushima 1 reactor: water level low

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fukushima spent fuel pool unit 4

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Construction of Ohma nuclear plant indefinitely delayed.
Japan’s Electric Power Development Co has decided to delay the construction of its Ohma nuclear power plant indefinitely. The plant, which is under construction in Aomori prefecture (northern Honshu), was expected to be complete in late 2014. However, construction has been suspended since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. J-Power said in a statement that it is ‘moving ahead to review safety enhancement measures in response to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi’ and that it would incorporate any necessary measures.

Work started on the Ohma plant, a 1383 MW Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) design, in May 2008. Originally due to start up in 2012, J-Power amended its scheduled start date to November 2014 towards the end of 2008. The Ohma plant has been designed to (eventually) run on a full mixed oxide (MOX) core. In 2009 J-Power entered into an agreement with Global Nuclear Fuel Japan to procure the MOX fuel for Ohman, which was to be manufactured in France.
Nuclear Engineering International, news 3 April 2012

Vermont Yankee: 130 arrests.
More than 1,000 people turned up in Brattleboro to march the 6 km from the town common to Entergy’s offices. Over 130 people trespassed on the company’s property and were arrested. Signs carried by the 1,000 protestors had messages like “time’s up” and “Entergy corporate greed”. March 22, was a monumental day for residents of the tri-state area near the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Forty years after the plant opened, its license expired the day before, but the plant continued to operate pursuant to a federal court order.

The plant’s continued operation sets a precedent nationwide in the nuclear as well as in the legal realm. Earlier this year, federal Judge J. Garvan Murtha issued a ruling finding two Vermont laws requiring legislative approval for the plant to continue operating were unconstitutional as pre-empted by federal law. The plant hasn’t received a new license to replace the one that expired this March. The Vermont Public Service Board has yet to issue an order on the new license and no one has ordered the plant to cease operating in the interim. Entergy does have a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but its state license is expired. The company argues state law allows it to operate while the Public Service Board proceeding to approve a new license goes on.

Meanwhile the state and Entergy have appealed Judge Murtha’s decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Legal experts say the case could have national ramifications. (More in Nuclear Monitor 741, 3 Febr. 2012: Showdown time for Vermont Yankee).
EarthFirst Newswire, 23 March 2012

Bidding process starts for Olkiluoto-4.
The Finnish nuclear power company Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) has started a bidding process for their Olkiluoto 4 project as a part of the bidding and engineering phase. Bids for the new nuclear power plant are expected at the beginning of 2013. TVO reported on March 23, that there are five plant supplier alternatives at the bidding phase of the OL4 project, namely the French installation company Areva, the American GE Hitachi, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power in South Korea, as well as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toshiba in Japan. TVO is not willing to take a stand on whether the difficulties and problems experienced by the Olkiluoto 3 project will have any influence on the possibilities of Areva's involvement.

TVO is to submit an application for a building permit by the summer of 2015. In April 2010, Finland's previous government decided to grant a permit to IVO for the construction of a new reactor in Olkiluoto. The decision was approved by Parliament in July 2010. According to TVO, the electric power of the new plant unit will be in the range of 1,450 to 1,750 MWe, while the projected operational life time of the new reactor is at least 60 years.
Helsingin Sanomat (International edition), 23 March 2012

NRC approves COL for V.C.Summer.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on March 30 approved the combined construction and operating licenses (COL) for the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant in South Carolina, just the second construction license approved for a nuclear plant since 1978. The NRC voted 4-1, just as the Commission did for the Plant Vogtle COLs. The NRC is expected to issue the COLs within 10 business days.

South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. and South Carolina Public Service Authority, or Santee Cooper, the owners and operators of the existing single-unit, 1,100 MW V.C. Summer plant, submitted the application for two new 1,117 MW Westinghouse AP1000 reactors to be built at the site in March 2008. The US$10 billion project, adjacent to the company’s existing reactor approximately 40 km northwest of Columbia, S.C., began in 2009 after receiving approval from the Public Service Commission of South Carolina.

The NRC did impose two conditions on the COLs, with the first requiring inspection and testing of squib valves, important components of the new reactors’ passive cooling system. The second requires the development of strategies to respond to extreme natural events resulting in the loss of power at the new reactors.
Power Engineering, 3 April 2012

Search for Jordan's reactor site expands after protests.
The search for a potential site for Jordan's first nuclear reactor in Mafraq has expanded by a 40 kilometer radius. Officials are searching for a site near the Khirbet Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant, which, according to current plans, is to serve as the main water source to cool the 1,000 megawatt reactor.

According to a source close to the proceedings, the government directed the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) to find an alternative to the initially selected site, Balaama, near Mafraq, after coming under political pressure from tribal leaders and prominent local residents.  The announcement of the transferral of the planned site for the Kingdom's first nuclear reactor from Aqaba to Mafraq in late 2010 prompted a backlash from local residents, who held a series of protests and rallies over the past year urging decision makers to go back on their decision. 
Jordan Times, 19 March 2012

IAEA: safety concerns over aging nuclear fleet.
A 56-page IAEA document highlights safety concerns of an ageing nuclear fleet: 80%  of the world's nuclear power plants are more than 20 years old, and about 70 percent of the world's 254 research reactors have been in operation for more than 30 years "with many of them exceeding their original design life," the report said. But according IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano nuclear power is now safer than it was a year ago. The report said the "operational level of nuclear power plant safety around the world remains high".

"There are growing expectations that older nuclear reactors should meet enhanced safety objectives, closer to that of recent or future reactor designs," the Vienna-based U.N. agency's annual Nuclear Safety Review said. "There is a concern about the ability of the ageing nuclear fleet to fulfill these expectations."
Reuters, 13 March 2012

Japan after Fukushima: 80% distrust government's nuke safety measures.
A whopping 80 percent of people in Japan do not trust the government's safety measures for nuclear power plants. The results are from a nationwide random telephone survey of 3,360 people conducted by The Asahi Shimbun on March 10-11. It received 1,892 valid responses. Fifty-seven percent of the respondents said they are opposed to restarting nuclear reactors currently off line for regular maintenance, compared to the 27 percent in favor. A gap between genders was conspicuous over whether to restart the reactors. Although men were almost evenly split, with 47 percent against and 41 percent in favor, 67 percent of women are opposed, compared with just 15 percent who support the restarts.

Regarding the government's safety steps for nuclear plants, 52 percent said they "do not trust so much," and 28 percent said they "do not trust at all." Although the government has been proceeding with computer-simulated stress tests on reactors, which are necessary steps to reactivate them, people apparently have a deep distrust of the government's nuclear safety provisions.
Asahi Shimbun, 13 March 2012

Tepco: water level reactor #2 wrong by 500%.
Tepco is reporting that the results of an endoscopy into reactor #2 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant show that water levels are far lower than previously thought. The utility had estimated that water in the reactor, which is required to keep melted fuel cool and prevent recriticality, was approximately three meters deep. In fact, it is only 60 cm deep. Tepco insists that the fuel is not in danger of overheating, and continues to pump in nine tons of water every hour. However, experts say that the low water levels show that leaks in the containment vessel are far greater than previously thought, and may make repairing and decommissioning the crippled reactors even more difficult. Tepco attempted an endoscopy in January, but the effort failed because the scope used was too short.
Greenpeace blog, Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Update 28 March 2012

Tokyo soil samples would be considered nuclear waste in the US.
While traveling in Japan in February, Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen took soil samples in Tokyo. He explaines: "I did not look for the highest radiation spot. I just went around with five plastic bags and when I found an area, I just scooped up some dirt and put it in a bag. One of those samples was from a crack in the sidewalk. Another one of those samples was from a children's playground that had been previously decontaminated. Another sample had come from some moss on the side of the road. Another sample came from the roof of an office building that I was at. And the last sample was right across the street from the main judicial center in downtown Tokyo."

Gundersen (an energy advisor with 39-years of nuclear power engineering experience) brought those samples back to the US, declared them through Customs, and sent them to the laboratory. And the lab determined that all of them would be qualified as radioactive waste there in the United States and would have to be shipped to a radioactive waste facility to be disposed of.

Canada: court case against 2 new reactors Ontario.
A group of environmentalists has gone to court to challenge Ontario's plan to build new nuclear reactors, arguing the environmental risks and costs involved haven't been properly assessed. Lawyers for Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association have filed arguments in Federal Court on behalf of several green agencies, saying a review panel failed to carry out a proper environmental assessment on building new reactors at the Darlington station in Clarington, Ontario. Despite a push for green energy projects, Ontario remains committed to nuclear energy, which makes up 50 per cent of its energy supply, and is moving forward with the construction of two new reactors. But the groups, which include Greenpeace, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Northwatch  and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, argue the government provided only vague plans to the federal government-appointed review panel, which nonetheless recommended the project be approved. They argue that, contrary to the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the panel also didn't gather the evidence required to evaluate the project's need and possible alternatives.

The groups are asking Federal Court to order the review panel to take a second look at the project. A proper environmental study, the groups add, is especially important after lessons learned from the disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant. They also note that the government didn't select a specific type of nuclear reactor, making its possible impact difficult to assess. "Despite the profound lack of critical information regarding the project's design and specific means by which the radioactive waste it generates will be managed, the (joint review panel) report purports to conclude that no significant environmental effects are likely," said the court filing, obtained by The Canadian Press. That assumption implies that the "sizable information gaps" will be eventually considered by other bodies, and that "numerous to-be-determined mitigation measures" will be implemented. Such a "leap before you look" approach, the filing adds, "is the antithesis of the precautionary principle, and should not be upheld by this honourable court."
CTV News, 21 March 2012

Chernobyl: Crime Without Punishment.
Alla A. Yaroshinskaya describes the human side of theApril 1986 Chernobyl disaster, with firsthand accounts. Chernobyl: Crime without Punishment is a unique account of events by a reporter who defied the Soviet bureaucracy. The author presents an accurate historical record, with quotations from all the major players in the Chernobyl drama. It also provides unique insight into the final stages of Soviet communism.

Yaroshinskaya actively began to pursue the truth about how the nuclear disaster affected surrounding towns starting April 27, 1986 - just a day after the Chernobyl accident - when the deception about the lethal radiation levels was only just beginning. She describes actions taken after the disaster: how authorities built a new city for Chernobyl residents but placed it in a highly polluted area. Secret documents discovered years after the meltdown proved that the government had known all along the magnitude of what was going on and had chosen to hide the truth and put millions of lives at risk.
Twenty-five years later, the author reviews the latest medical data and the changes in the health of 9 million Chernobyl victims in over two decades since the nuclear blast. She reveals the way the Chernobyl health data continued to change from official Kremlin lies to the current results at national research centers in independent states after the Soviet Union collapsed and the Kremlin lost its monopoly over the Chernobyl truth. The author also details the actions of the nuclear lobby inside and outside the former Soviet Union. Yaroshinskaya explains why there has been no trial of top officials who were responsible for the actual decisions regarding the cleanup, and how these top officials have managed to subvert accountability for their actions. 
Alla A. Yaroshinskaya is a Russian journalist and winner of the Right Livelihood Award. She was also a member of the Ecology and Glasnost Committees of the Supreme Soviet and advisor to former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. This book has been edited by Rosalie Bertell and Lynn Howard Ehrle, translated from Russian by Sergei Roy.
Chernobyl 25 years later. Crime without punishment, Alla A.Yaroshinskaya; 2011, Transaction Publishers. ISBN: 978-1-4128-4296-9. 409 pages, hardcover

BAS: Selected readings on TMI and Chernobyl.
The nuclear crisis in Japan following the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, has brought the past tragedies at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl into the spotlight again. To offer a more thorough understanding of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the Bulletin of the atomic Scientists has compiled a reading list from its archives.
Check: and then add -three-mile-island or -chernobyl

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

One year Fukushima: people demand end to nuclear power!
In the weekend of 10-11 March, one year after Fukushima, hundreds of thousands of people took to the street to demonstrate against nuclear power. In Japan, many thousands demanded the abolition of nuclear power; 16,000 in Fukushima, 14,000 in Tokyo and 15,000 in Osaka were the largest demonstrations. In Germany a total of 50,000 people took part in 6 demonstrations; in the UK the largest antinuclear action in over three decades took place near Hinkley Point, where 1,000 people surrounded the nuclear power station and blocked it for 24-hours. In Switzerland 8,000 people demanded the immediate closure of nuclear power plants. In Hong Kong (China), Taipeh (Taiwan), Seoul (South Korea) and many places in North and South America, demonstrations or other actions were held too.

By far the largest demonstration was right in the 'heart of the nuclear beast': in France. Demonstrators in the Rhone valley formed a human chain that stretched for 230 kilometers between Lyon and Avignon. About 60,000 people participated. This is an enormous succes and one of the largest antinuclear demonstrations ever in France. This highlights a shift in public opinion and in a few weeks time presidential elections will be held with one of the two main candidates sceptical about the future importance of nuclear power in France.

The Rhone valley has Europe's highest concentration of nuclear reactors and other nuclear facilities. France's 58 nuclear reactors generate about 75 percent of the country's electricity, making it the world's most nuclear-dependent nation.

Mühleberg: Time to go.
One of the world's oldest nuclear power plants in operation is Mühleberg in the Swiss canton of Bern. A boiling water reactor bought from General Electric and first put into operation in 1972, Mühleberg is aimed at by the Swiss antinuclear movement because of cracks in the vessel around the heart of the reactor. The Würgassen NPP in Germany and Millstone I in the USA were shut down because of the same problem. So when the Swiss Federal Department of Energy gave an unlimited operating license to the Mühlebergs' legal owners (BKW) in 2009, this was seen as a provocation. Neighbors of Mühleberg gathered to attack the decision in court. The city of Geneva, historically antinuclear, as well as other smaller towns gave in all 120,000 fr (100,000 euros) to finance the cost of the appeal. And finally, on March 8, the Federal  Administrative Tribunal released its decision: BKW must shut down Mühleberg by end of June 2013, unless a plan to fix the numerous faults is presented and accepted. Previously, the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Institute released a guarantee stating Mühleberg posed no security threat. The courts' decisions gives a strong blow to this Institute, regularly criticized for its partiality in favor of the nuclear industry. After being at first very surprised by this decision, one can with hindsight acknowledge that the federal court simply took a fresh new look at nuclear safety, new since Fukushima: In Japan too, security authorities told the government that Fukushima Daiichi would resist foreseeable major natural catastrophes...

Five days after the judgment, 8000 demonstrators gathered in front of the old power plant of Muhleberg. BKW has until April 8 to decide whether they will attack the decision in the countries' highest court.

(Update: On March 14, BKW appealed the court ruling on Mühleberg)
Philippe de Rougemont, Sortir du nucléaire Suisse romande, 14 March 2012

DPRK: agreement on suspension of enrichment.
North Korea (Democratic People's Republic of Korea) has agreed to implement a moratorium on long-range missile launches, nuclear tests and nuclear activities at Yongbyon, including uranium enrichment activities. The DPRK has also agreed to the return of IAEA inspectors to verify and monitor the moratorium on uranium enrichment activities at Yongbyon and confirm the disablement of the 5-MW reactor and associated facilities. In return, the US has agreed to meet with the DPRK to finalize administrative details necessary to move forward with the proposed package of 240,000 metric tons of nutritional assistance "along with the intensive monitoring required for the delivery of such assistance."

This was announced on February 29, after the U.S. delegation returned from Beijing following a third exploratory round of U.S.-DPRK bilateral talks.
Press statement, US Department of State, 29 February 2012.

The mysterious flash near South Africa in 1979.
A new paper written by Leonard Weiss, reviews the history of the September 22, 1979 double flash recorded by the VELA satellite and concludes that the flash was an Israeli nuclear test assisted by South Africa. The paper also relates a personal experience of the author in 1981 while working in the U.S. Senate that reinforces the conclusion. The paper calls for the declassification and release of documents that could remove any lingering uncertainty regarding the event. One of the likely reasons that the U.S. government is withholding the declassification of relevant documents is to assist Israel to maintain its policy of opacity in nuclear affairs, a policy which had its origin in a bargain made with the U.S. during the Nixon presidency, and whose abandonment accompanied by the admission that Israel violated the Limited Test Ban Treaty would create some uncomfortable political fallout for both countries. It is hard to argue that helping Israel in this way contributes to U.S. national security at a time when the U.S. demands openness in the nuclear activities of Iran, North Korea, Syria, and all other countries who may be engaged in clandestine weapon-related nuclear activities.

The Iraq war has shown the harm that can result from the politicization of intelligence in order to support a desired policy outcome whose support by the public would otherwise be problematic. In the case of the VELA event, U.S. administrations on both sides of the political fence have sought to ignore or demote the value of legitimately collected and analysed intelligence information in order to reduce or eliminate pressure to take an action with unpredictable or negative political repercussions. Obfuscating or denigrating hard intelligence data in order to avoid a political problem can be as dangerous to national security and democracy as inventing bogus intelligence in order to smooth the way into a war.

The paper 'Israel’s 1979 Nuclear Test and the U.S. Government’s Attempt to Cover It Up', is available at:

Rising antinuclear tide in South Korea

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

On March 10, antinuclear groups staged a rally in the capital of South Korea, Seoul, to voice opposition to nuclear power on the eve of the first anniversary of Fukushima. Over 5,000 people, including many young people and families with children, took part in the rally. The turnout was one of the biggest in recent memory for an antinuclear demonstration. The rally adopted a declaration demanding that the government abandon its policy to promote nuclear power.

South Korea operates 21 reactors and plans to build 13 more ― seven of them under construction and six others planned ― by 2024 to increase the nuclear share of the country’s electricity production to 48.5 percent from 31.2 percent last year. But the scheme may face a strong headwind as surveys have shown a rising antinuclear tide among the public in the wake of the Fukushima accident. In South Korea, before the Fukushima accident, a small number of environmental groups raised voices for abandoning nuclear power, but June last year the Joint Action for Nuclear-free Society, a coalition of about 40 civic organizations was formed. A growing number of civic activists, lawyers, professors and religious leaders have participated in the movement to seek alternatives to the government’s plan to expand the nuclear capacity to meet an ever-increasing demand for electricity.

In a poll taken by the Korea Energy Economics Institute in 2009, about 42 percent of Koreans favored nuclear power and 38.8 percent remained neutral. But the corresponding figures fell to 16.9 percent and 23.8 percent in a survey conducted last August. The proportion of respondents who opposed it jumped to 59.3 percent from 19.2 percent over the cited period.

Less than half felt nuclear power was dangerous in 2009 but the figure climbed to 75.6 percent in 2011 after Fukushima. Confidence in the safety of local nuclear power stations weakened from 70.5 percent to 52.6 percent.

More than 70 percent were in favor of building more reactors in 2009 but the proportion shrank to 38 percent last year. Nearly 55 percent said they found no problem with a nuclear plant being built in the area near where they lived in 2009, but only 29.5 percent replied so in 2011.

Public sentiment against nuclear power was exacerbated particularly in the provinces of North Gyeongsang, South Gyeongsang and South Jeolla and the southeastern city of Busan, where most of the reactors in operation or planned are located.

Little swayed by the surge in the antinuclear tide, President Lee Myung-bak committed himself to carrying out the nuclear expansion plan in a recent news conference. Lee argued that for Korea, which “does not produce a drop of oil,” there is no other option but nuclear power to meet the growing demand for electricity. He said abandoning nuclear energy would cause electricity rates to rise by as much as 40 percent.

Lee, who played a decisive role in gaining a US$40 billion deal with the United Arab Emirates in 2009 to construct and operate four reactors, reiterated his pledge to make Korea one of the five major players in the global nuclear industry. Two years ago, his administration announced a plan to export 80 reactors by 2030 to take a 20 percent share of the world market. Lee also said it would take at least three to four decades before renewable energy becomes economically viable.

His advocacy of nuclear power has drawn criticism from antinuclear activists. “He is leading the nation in the wrong direction to make us rely on nuclear power and thus burdened with its dangers forever,” Kim Hye-jeong, an activist who works for the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement said: “Lee’s nuclear policy is just anachronistic and turns a blind eye to the dominant public opinion.”

The Joint Action for Nuclear-free Society also issued a statement asserting Lee was either misinformed or distorted the facts to make his case for nuclear expansion. The group said Germany has not seen higher utility bills and has continued to export electricity even after shutting down eight reactors in 2011 as part of a plan to decommission all 17 reactors by 2022.

In support of the antinuclear campaign, Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon and heads of 45 small cities, counties and wards gathered in February to adopt a declaration pledging to go nuclear-free and turn to renewable energy. Park has pushed an initiative to cut energy consumption in the capital over the coming three years by the same amount that would make it possible to do away with a nuclear reactor.

The 'no to nuclear power' movement has recently taken on an increasing political implication as liberal and progressive opposition parties are trying to publicize their stances in the run-up to the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit slated for March 26-27. Dozens of former and incumbent lawmakers from the main opposition Democratic United Party launched a group in February to push for the country’s abolition of nuclear power and transformation toward renewable energy. The DUP leaders, who have opposed Seoul’s hosting of the second nuclear summit initiated by U.S. President Barack Obama, are expected to include the group’s demands in the list of the party’s pledges for the April 11, parliamentary elections.

Sources: The Korea Herald, 6 March 2012 / Mainichi Daily News, 11 March 2012


Comparative analysis of responses after Chernobyl and Fukushima

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
LAKA Foundation

The worldwide reactions on the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl (Ukraine, 26 April 1986) were quite different in different countries. So were the worldwide reactions on the nuclear disaster at Fukushima (Japan, 11 March 2011). On both governmental level as well as on a public level. This article is a comparative overview of the worldwide responses two both disasters, with (West-) Germany and the Netherlands as amplified examples.

It is clear it will take some time to analyze the precise consequences of the Fukushima nuclear disaster on a political level, as well as for the future of nuclear power in general. Nevertheless, this is a first attempt, focusing on the differences compared to Chernobyl in two neighboring countries. But first a brief overview of the worldwide responses.

Reactions after Chernobyl
After Chernobyl many countries decided to cancel the (planned) construction of (new) nuclear power plants. Italy was the only country which decided to close their nuclear power plants after a 1987 referendum. The shutdowns of the East-German nuclear power plants  during the German reunification (1990) and Lithuania's only nuclear power plant Ignalina (2009) – a Chernobyl-type reactor - in accordance with Lithuania's accession agreement to the European Union could be considered as a delayed impact of the accident in Chernobyl.

Chernobyl caused much fear among the public and has seriously limited the worldwide expansion of nuclear capacity for a long time. After Chernobyl until now, only China, Iran, Mexico and Romania have completed construction of their first nuclear reactors and thereby entering the select group of countries with nuclear power reactors. Particularly in the United States the partial melt-down in one of the reactors of the Three Mile Island (TMI) nuclear power plant in Harrisburg (29 March 1979) had grave consequences. The support for nuclear power dropped substantially in the United States and elsewhere in the world, which was again amplified after Chernobyl.

However, there were and there are also many other factors involved on influencing the state of the nuclear capacity. On the one hand the oil shocks in the 1970s led to renewed concerns about energy security. For example as a consequence of the oil crisis of 1973-4 France started to launch a large nuclear energy program to diversify its economy away from oil. On the other hand, skyrocketing oil prices led to global inflation and high interest rates making nuclear power much less competitive. High inflation led to sagging economies and falling demand for electric power making earlier assessments of electric power supply/demand projections obsolete. Such periods of economical crises happened in the 1970s, in the early 1980s, the years after Harrisburg, and again with the nuclear disasters at Fukushima in 2011.

Only many years after Chernobyl, from the end of the 1990s, the (worldwide) support for nuclear power started to grow, because nuclear energy was presented as a carbon neutral energy source that would be of great importance to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions. More and more people began to believe in nuclear power as an option to reduce these emissions, although worldwide support for nuclear power has always been limited. In a whole range of non-nuclear nations – in February 2012 according to the World Nuclear Association nearly 45 countries  - a nuclear power program is "under serious consideration". A remarkable (and highly unrealistic) number when you keep in mind that only 10 countries started to generate nuclear energy for the first time since the end of the 1970s; after the accident at Three Mile Island. (see Table 1)

That means that not a single country started a nuclear power program (the construction of its first nuclear power reactor) since Chernobyl; in fact, only two (China and Romania) after the 1979 accident at TMI.

Table 1: Emerging nuclear countries


Start construction

first NPP

First power of

first reactor

Number of reactors

(as of January 2012)

















South Africa




Czech Republic3




















1 By then part of Yugoslavia; 2 By then part of the Soviet Union; 3 By then part of Czechoslovakia

Even in the past decade – long before Fukushima - it was already clear that nuclear energy can’t be a panacea for carbon reductions in the future. This cheap PR trick of the nuclear industry is aimed to generate a nuclear renaissance. But unsuccessfully: there was no nuclear renaissance  (see Table 2). As of march 1, 2012, there were 436 nuclear reactors operating in the world - eight fewer than in 2002. The International Atomic Energy Agency currently lists 63 reactors as “under construction” in 14 countries. By comparison, at the peak of the industry’s growth phase in 1979, there were 233 reactors being built concurrently. In 1987, 137 reactors were listed under construction. In 2008, for the first time since the beginning of the nuclear age, no new unit was started up, while two were added in 2009, five in 2010, and seven in 2011. In the European Union, as of March 1, 2012, there were 143 reactors officially operational, down from a historical maximum of 177 units in 1989.

Table 2: Number of reactors 1979, 1987, 2012

Nuclear Power Status




Units in Operation

Total net MWe







Units Under Construction

Total net MWe







Source: IAEA / ENS

Reactions after Fukushima
Just like with Chernobyl, the worldwide political reactions on the nuclear disaster at Fukushima (Japan, 11 March 2011) were quite different too. A group of countries with a large share of nuclear power, such as China, France, Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom don’t have any intentions to end their nuclear programs. Other countries with a large share of nuclear power have shut down older nuclear reactors (Germany, Japan) and have announced to finish their nuclear programs. Germany says that all nuclear power stations will be closed in 2022 and Switzerland in 2034. Japan hasn’t fixed a date, but declared to stop building new nuclear power reactors. The French Parti Socialiste (Social Democrats) and the French Greens have agreed upon a joint position on the future of France’s nuclear power. The Greens will support the PS candidate François Hollande in the next spring’s presidential elections in return for his promise to shutdown 24 nuclear reactors by 2025, lowering France’s dependence on atomic power to 50 percent, and the immediate halt of the oldest plant at Fessenheim. Italy has declared again by referendum to remain a non-nuclear nation. There are also non-nuclear nations and nations with little share of nuclear power which declare to go on as usual with their nuclear ambitions, such as Czech Republic, Turkey, Lithuania and the Netherlands. They argue that earthquakes like in Japan don’t exist in their areas and that the new generation of nuclear power reactors is much safer than the 1971 built nuclear power station at Fukushima Daiichi.

Also the worldwide reactions from the public were quite different in different countries, with the exception of Germany which always has had a large anti-nuclear movement. In India, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Taiwan and the U.S. the resistance against nuclear power has clearly increased. In other countries the group of skeptical people has clearly increased. Such as in France: 40 percent of the French are 'hesitant' about nuclear energy while a third are in favor and 17 percent are against, according to a survey by pollster Ifop published 13 November 2011.

Comparison of (West-)Germany and the Netherlands
At first sight (West-) Germany and the Netherlands - two neighboring countries - very much look like the same. At least on cultural and economic area. However, there are clearly visible differences (sometimes even opposite to each other) in the way they dealt with the nuclear disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima. On governmental level as well as on public level. The reactions on Chernobyl and Fukushima are first described and the differences then analyzed.

West-Germany after ‘Chernobyl’
Due to weather patterns, and distance to Chernobyl, (West-) Germany was more contaminated than the Netherlands. Although the German authorities took some measurements and precautions to protect citizens from radiation (closure of schools, kindergartens, etc.) a considerable part of the public viewed those precautions with suspicion, convinced that it was not enough and only meant to defend the vested interest of the nuclear sector.

That feeling was further fed by the fact that the federal government - a center right wing coalition of Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Free Democrats (Liberals, FDP) - didn’t falter about their position on nuclear power. The FDP remained the party of the status quo: cancel nothing, construct nothing further. It was left to the Christian Democrats, the largest single party, with 40% of the votes, to decide how the country should react to this unexpected threat from a foreign disaster. Meanwhile the political parties were in the position of having to fight a number of state elections, the first only a few weeks after the disaster, and a federal election in January 1987. In July 1986, the death sentence for the fast breeder reactor Kalkar was pronounced by Reimut Jochimsen, Social Democratic Economics Minister in Northrhine-Westphalia. He said he spoke not as a politician but as a licensing authority according to the German Atomic Energy Act. According to Jochimsen Kalkar has dangerous similarities to Chernobyl. The Social Democrats (SPD), once the nuclear industry’s supporters, opted in August for closure of all nuclear stations in ten years, starting in 1988, and an end to federal subsidies for nuclear power, except for research related to spent fuel disposal and safety. The Greens stayed even more resolutely anti-nuclear. The first Green politician to be appointed as a minister in a state government (Hessen, 1985), Joschka Fischer, was taking action against a plutonium fuel plant at Hanau for non-compliance with the letter of regulatory procedures. For all that, yet all existing nuclear projects in West-Germany went on as usual. And remarkably, even several reactors were connected to the grid in the following year. The controversial Brokdorf reactor was put into operation a few months after Chernobyl and connected to the grid in October 1986. In 1987 the nuclear power plant in Mühlheim-Kärlich (first criticality 6 weeks before Chernobyl) was connected to the grid and the THTR reactor in Hamm-Uentrop went into commercial operation. This thorium reactor was synchronized to the grid in 1985 and started full power operation in February 1987 and it was shut down definitely in autumn 1989. Despite the large opposition to nuclear power the Christian Democrats won the 1986 elections in most states and the federal elections in January 1987.

The West-German anti-nuclear movement was already a big social movement before and continued to be that after the Chernobyl accident. The movement was mainly focusing on Gorleben and Wackerdorf. Several very large demonstrations during 1985 and 1986 have been staged to protest the planned commercial reprocessing plant at the Bavarian village, 100 km north of Munich. In the Pentecost weekend (7& 8 June, 1986) about 100,000 people marched to the Wackersdorf construction site. At the same time, in Northern-Germany, some 70,000 gathered to protest the completed but not yet started Brokdorf reactor outside Hamburg. Police arrested 800 demonstrators and 60 policemen were injured, despite very strong efforts by the opponents to keep the demonstration peaceful. The police have been accused of provoking the violence.

The Netherlands after ‘Chernobyl’
The Dutch government was in the process of licensing the construction of two or three nuclear power plants, when Chernobyl happened. As soon as the consequences of the nuclear accident became clear, the government – a center right coalition of Christian Democrats (CDA) and Liberals (VVD) - was taking action. The Dutch government took measurements and precautions in case of radioactive contaminations: cows were ordered inside (to avoid eating contaminated grass) and the  consumption  of certain vegetables (esp. spinach) was discouraged. But the most important decision was to postpone an important decision for the construction of the new nuclear power stations that was scheduled a few days later. Because of the nuclear disaster - and with elections ahead a few weeks later - these plans were postponed and later mothballed. Due to this swift reaction there was not much criticism or suspicion towards measurements and precautions in society (quite different from Germany).

The Dutch public was concerned, but the number of demonstrators – at most a few hundred people - was not a glimpse of the masses in West-Germany or even of the recent past of the Dutch movement. At the end of the 1970s and the beginning of the 1980s there was a big anti-nuclear movement, probably the biggest social movement the Netherlands ever had. After ‘Chernobyl’ there was no revival. A few large environmental organizations had started a 'vote-against-nuclear' campaign for the coming national elections on 21 May. The attitude of the center right wing government, however, took the wind out of their sails. The Christian Democrats won the elections (54 seats as opposed to 52 seats for the Social Democrats, out of the 150 seats in parliament) and led to second CDA/VVD cabinet. But plans for more nuclear reactors were off the table for many years.

Germany after ‘Fukushima’
Just like after the Chernobyl accident, Germany has a center right wing government with Christian Democrats and Free Democrats. Nonetheless the situation is totally different. In autumn 2010 Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed through an extension of nuclear reactor lifetimes. After the accidents in Fukushima she retract this decision:  the German government announced that all the country's nuclear power plants will be phased out by 2022. This is a return to the decision taken by the previous red-green government in 2001.

Further, it is important to note here that the decision for lifetime extension of the older reactors was taken together with the Energiewende (energy transition) decision, which means a phase-out of fossil and nuclear power. So, Germany had decided to follow a new avenue, a roadmap to a renewable energy future. And Germany was losing speed to this future by this lifetime extension decision. Just because of this decision the resistance had grown tremendously. Perhaps, therefore the (alternative) energy movement as well as companies and famous research institutes are politicized and against nuclear power. The involved companies see clearly that they have a direct interest for their trade sector to quit nuclear energy quickly.  

By tradition the German anti-nuclear movement remains a big social movement, not resting before all nuclear facilities have been closed today.

The Netherlands after ‘Fukushima’
At the time of the Fukushima accident, the Netherlands was, again, in the process to license the construction of new nuclear power reactors. In the decade before ‘Fukushima’, a growing part of the Dutch public became used to the idea that growth of the nuclear capacity was necessary to counter global warming. The right-wing government of Christian Democrats and Liberals (VVD), supported by the ultra-right wing Party of Freedom (PVV), was and still is - also after the nuclear accidents in Fukushima - of the opinion, that nuclear power is a necessary source of energy in the current energy mix.

From opinion polls it is shown that a majority of the Dutch doesn’t support nuclear energy, although there is a decline in opposition compared to the early 1980's or after Chernobyl. The reaction of the anti-nuclear movement after Fukushima was diametric compared to the reaction after Chernobyl.  Though the Dutch anti-nuclear movement was at death’s door since the mid-1980s, there was a strong revival. A large anti-nuclear coalition was built and several actions were held, resulting in a 10,000 strong demonstration in Amsterdam on April 16. One could definitely say that the movement was gaining power again. Especially in the province Zeeland where the municipality Borsele – the location of the only nuclear power reactor and proposed site for new reactors - is situated.

How to explain?
It is striking that both countries had a center right government during both nuclear disasters and that both countries (have) reacted almost opposite at both nuclear disasters, and - after Fukushima - opposite to the reaction of their predecessors. 

Despite a large and militant antinuclear opposition in Germany no apparent changes were made in government policies after Chernobyl, while after Fukushima the government totally reversed it's policy. Why did Merkel retract her decision to prolong the operational-life of the nuclear reactors after Fukushima and demand the closure of seven of the oldest reactors immediately? One reason could be that Fukushima was a welcome occasion for her to prevent a collision with the Bundesrat, dominated by the Social Democrats and the Greens, on the Bill about the lifetime extension of the older nuclear reactors. An elegant way to get rid of it and to take the wind out of the sails of the Greens - which became the largest political party in the polls - with important elections ahead.

In the Netherlands in 1986 as well as in 2011 firm plans for the construction of new reactors existed. After Chernobyl the government was swift to cancel construction plans - although there was no longer a vibrant antinuclear movement - with general elections three weeks later (and staying in power). After Fukushima, despite growing opposition the government did not move an inch, claimed Fukushima had no safety related consequences for the Netherlands, and it was a matter for the private sector to decide about newbuild anyway.

It is clear the Dutch government is leaving the energy sector to the private sector market and does not want to interfere much. It has not developed a vision on future energy production and refuses to make fundamental choices towards a sustainable energy policy. The reason why the Dutch government is standing by nuclear power is partly because of feelings of revanchismus (revanchism) against the environmental movement. Nuclear power is being seen by the government (especially VVD and PVV) as being blocked by the environmental movement for decades and just because of that a good way to get back at the movement. Another reason for the pro-nuclear position of the government is because nuclear power has been considered and advocated as the winner in a liberalized market (and neoliberalism reigns).

Nevertheless, it is not plausible that a new nuclear power plant will appear in the Netherlands in the coming years. Utility Delta postponed the construction of a new nuclear power plant in January 2012, blaming the financial crisis and low energy prices. Overt subsidizing the construction of a nuclear reactor is not realistic for this government, while especially those political parties were very audible the last decade in claiming nuclear power was the only source of electricity without needing subsidies.

How to explain all this? Although in both societies the political debate was much polarized we observe an important difference concerning the political situation in the mid-1980's. The Netherlands came from an (what we will call) 'open' society. In the 1970s the Netherlands went through a radical upheaval. In virtually all sectors of the society mature and critical citizens took control of their own fate. As a result the Dutch government was forced and thus willing to listen more to civil society and encouraged participation. Germany of the 1980s, however, was in the end-phase of a 'closed' society. The historical legacy of Nazism drove a wedge between the generations and increased suspicion of authoritarian structures in society in the 1970's. Because of this legacy, which became imminent in the late 1960's and 1970 through to the early 1980's the German society was therefore stronger polarized (and with less participation of civil society in institutionalized structures) in this era than the Dutch society.

Though the German antinuclear movement was very big in the 1970's and 1980s, it was also more isolated and much less institutionalized than the Dutch movement in the same era or the German movement in 2011. The Greens were just coming in and (still) quite marginal, but the big difference with  Germany of 2011 was the absence of a civil society against nuclear energy, like the current alternative energy movement, the energy movement after Fukushima. There was virtually not yet a movement dealing with energy in general. The then antinuclear movement was much more a political movement, left-wing, autonomous and anti-establishment. In short, a movement on the street, not in the center of the power, or even in the periphery of the power.

In Germany after Fukushima this situation was totally different: there is a reasonable consensus on the direction to go. Only the pace was / is different. In the Netherlands, however, there was in the era after Chernobyl an (alternative) energy movement. This could well have been an (unplanned) consequence of the so-called Brede Maatschappelijke Discussie (BMD, broad social debate) on nuclear energy. This BMD was intended by the government to easy the antinuclear sentiment in Dutch society, and was to discuss - in the aftermath of the second oil crisis, in 1981-83 - Dutch energy policy in general. After (and before for that matter) Fukushima that energy movement was completely de-politicized, and not interfering in - or part of - the nuclear energy debate.

To summarize: while the Netherlands is heading towards a more 'closed' society (in which not civil society but market forces dominate the debate and decision making), in which 'renewable energy' has a negative connotation, the vast majority of Germans is convinced of the need for a 100 per cent power supply with renewable energy sources as soon as possible.

Source and contact: Laka Foundation, Ketelhuisplein 43, 1054 RD Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Tel: +31 20 6168 294
Email: info[at]


Lessons from Fukushima

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Greenpeace International

It has been almost 12 months since the Fukushima nuclear disaster began. Although the Great East Japan earthquake and the following tsunami triggered it, the key causes of the nuclear accident lie in the institutional failures of political influence and industry-led regulation. It was a failure of human institutions to acknowledge real reactor risks, a failure to establish and enforce appropriate nuclear safety standards and a failure to ultimately protect the public and the environment.

Greenpeace International commissioned the "Lessons from Fukushima" report that addresses what lessons can be taken away from this catastrophe. The one-year memorial of the Fukushima accident offers a unique opportunity to ask ourselves what the tragedy – which is far from being over for hundreds of thousands of Japanese people – has taught us. And it also raises the question, are we prepared to learn?

There are broader issues and essential questions that still deserve our attention:

  • How it is possible that – despite all assurances – a major nuclear accident on the scale of the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 happened again, in one of the world’s most industrially advanced countries?
  • Why did emergency and evacuation plans not work to protect people from excessive exposure to the radioactive fallout and resulting contamination? Why is the government still failing to better protect its citizens from radiation one year later?
  • Why are the over 100,000 people who suffer the most from the impacts of the nuclear accident still not receiving adequate financial and social support to help them rebuild their homes, lives and communities?

These are the fundamental questions that we need to ask to be able to learn from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The just released Greenpeace report  looks into them and draws some important conclusions:

  1. The Fukushima nuclear accident marks the end of the ‘nuclear safety’ paradigm.
  2. The Fukushima nuclear accident exposes the deep and systemic failure of the very institutions that are supposed to control nuclear power and protect people from its accidents.

End of nuclear safety paradigm
Why do we talk about the end of a paradigm? After what we have seen of the failures in Fukushima, we can conclude that ‘nuclear safety’ does not exist in reality. There are only nuclear risks, inherent to every reactor, and these risks are unpredictable. At any time, an unforeseen combination of technological failures, human errors or natural disasters at any one of the world’s reactors could lead to a reactor quickly getting out of control.

In Fukushima, the multiple barriers that were engineered to keep radiation away from the environment and people failed rapidly. In less than 24 hours following the loss of cooling at the first Fukushima reactor, a major hydrogen explosion blew apart the last remaining barrier between massive amounts of radiation and the open air.

Probabilistic Safety Assessments
At the heart of claims of nuclear safety is an assumption that accidents, which lead to significant releases of radiation, have a very low probability of occurring. International safety regulators have adopted a nuclear safety paradigm under which, for accidents that are categorised as ‘design basis’ events, the design of a plant must guarantee no significant radioactive releases will occur. These events are also often referred to as ‘credible’ accidents. Accidents involving significant radiation releases, like those at Fukushima Daiichi are called ‘incredible’ or ‘beyond design basis’ events.  These are claimed to be of an extraordinary low probability. These numbers are the results of PSA (probabilistic safety assessment) studies. However, PSAs cannot provide meaningful estimates for accident frequencies (probabilities), since they cannot take into account all relevant factors (e.g. they cannot cover inadequate regulatory oversight) and the factors that are included are beset with huge uncertainties (e.g. regarding earthquakes).

The designs for all reactors in operation, including the Fukushima Daiichi units, were established in the 1960s. The ‘design basis’ of reactors was based upon ‘reasonably foreseeable’ accidents, i.e. accidents that, according to industry experts, could be expected. Also the designs applied the antiquated engineering modelling and methodology available during that time period more than 40 years ago.

In the following decades, accidents involving significant radiation releases that were initially deemed as ‘incredible’ began to occur, such as Three Mile Island (1979) and Chernobyl (1986). Despite some development in nuclear assessments, e.g. in terms of the kind of accidents taken into account, the nuclear sector did not question the safety paradigm but carried on using the model, i.e. the probabilistic risk assessments, to justify the allowance of certain reactor weaknesses and vulnerabilities.

Regulators and the industry call nuclear power ‘safe’, because their calculational methodology depicts events that could cause a significant accident, like the one that occurred at Fukushima Daiichi, as extremely unlikely. Reactors were allowed to be constructed in ways that do not allow them to withstand such events. According to probabilistic risk assessments, the chance of a ‘beyond design basis’ accident, which causes a core melt and a significant radioactive release, is less than once in a million years of reactor operation. The Fukushima Daiichi disaster, however, has shown this theory of nuclear safety to be false.

By 2011, the world had accumulated just over 14,000 years of reactor operating experience. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safety guidelines state that the frequency of actual core damage should be less than once in 100,000 years. Hence, with more than 400 reactors operating worldwide, a significant reactor accident would be expected to occur approximately once every 250 years.

Culminating with the Fukushima Daiichi accidents in 2011 there have been five major accidents involving significant fuel melt during the past 33 years: Three Mile Island (a Pressurised Water Reactor) in 1979, Chernobyl (a RBMK design) in 1986, and the three Fukushima Daiichi units (Mark 1 Boiling Water Reactors) in 2011. Based upon these five meltdowns, the probability of significant accidents is in fact one core-melt for every 2,900 years of reactor operation. Put another way, based upon observed experience with more than 400 reactors operating worldwide, a significant nuclear accident has occurred approximately every seven years.

The theory of nuclear safety espoused by the nuclear power sector has given regulators, reactor operators, and the public a false sense of security. For industries that require a high level of reliability, such as aviation and nuclear generation, institutional failures are the major contributor to real-world accidents. Surveys of nuclear and other high-reliability industries show that 70% of real accident rates are caused by institutional failures. Despite this, the probabilistic risk studies produced by reactor operators to predict the frequency of component failures leading to radioactivity releases do not take into account failures of operators and regulators overseeing the plant. The empirical evidence shows that reactor accidents are more than one order of magnitude more likely than predicted by the nuclear industry’s modelling. This historical record clearly contradicts the industry’s claim of nuclear safety. Instead of being low-probability events as asserted by the nuclear industry, reactor meltdowns are regular events with significant consequences.

Failure of human institutions
In Japan, the failure of the human institutions inevitably led to the Fukushima disaster. The risks of earthquakes and tsunamis were well known years before the disaster. The industry and its regulators reassured the public about the safety of the reactors in the case of a natural disaster for so long that they started to believe it themselves. This is sometimes called the Echo Chamber effect: the tendency for beliefs to be amplified in an environment where a limited number of similarly interested actors fail to challenge each other’s ideas. The tight links between the promotion and regulation of the nuclear sector created a ‘self-regulatory’ environment that is a key cause of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

It is symptomatic of this complacent attitude that the first concerns voiced by many of the decision makers and regulators after the accident were about how to restore public confidence in nuclear power – instead of how to protect people from the radiation risks. This has also been the case with the UN’s IAEA, which failed to prioritise protection of people over the political interests of the Japanese government, or over its own mission to promote nuclear power. The IAEA has systematically praised Japan for its robust regulatory regime and for best practices in its preparedness for major accidents in its findings from missions to Japan as recently as 2007 and 2008.

Lessons to be learned
The institutional failures in Japan are a warning to the rest of the world. These failures are the main cause of all past nuclear accidents, including the accident at Three Mile Island in the US and the disaster at Chernobyl in Ukraine. There are a number of similarities between the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters: the amounts of released radiation, the number of relocated people, and the long-term contamination of vast areas of land. Also the root causes of the accident are similar: concerned institutions systematically underestimated risks, other interests (political and economic) were prioritised over safety, and both industry and decision makers were not only fatally unprepared, but were allowed to establish an environment in which they existed and operated without any accountability.

Governments, regulators and the nuclear industry have stated they have learnt big lessons from the past. Yet, once again they failed to deliver. How confident can we be that the same will not happen again?

The report "Lessons from Fukushima" is available at:

Sixty centimeters of cement on seabed off Fukushima. Tepco is to cover a large swathe of seabed near the battered reactors with cement in a bid to halt the spread of radiation, the company announced on 22 February 2012. A clay-cement compound will be laid over 73,000 square meters (equivalent to around 10 soccer pitches) of the floor of the Pacific Ocean in front of the Fukushima Daiichi plant on the nation’s northeast coast. The cover will be 60 centimeters thick, with 10 centimeters expected to be eaten away by seawater every 50 years, the Tepco official said. “This is meant to prevent further contamination of the ocean… as sample tests have shown a relatively high concentration of radioactive substances in the sea soil in the bay,” a company spokeswoman said. 'Relatively high'? sounds not worth 60 cm of cement… So, relatively high compared to what?
Japan Today, 22 February 2012

11,000,000,000,000 yen for Tepco bailout. Tepco (Tokyo Electric Power) is set to receive a government bailout that may cost as much as 11 trillion yen (US $137 billion or 102 bn euro) after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the largest in Japan since the rescue of the banking industry in the 1990s. Japan’s government included 2 trillion yen in this year’s budget for the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, the bailout vehicle for  Tepco. The government plans to budget 4 trillion yen in the next fiscal year and has issued 5 trillion yen of so called delivery bonds, which the state fund can cash in for financial aid to Tepco. The funds redeemed can only be used to compensate those affected by the disaster.
Bloomberg, 24 February 2012

Source and Contact: Greenpeace International, Ottho Heldringstraat 5, 1066 AZ Amsterdam,The Netherlands
Tel: +31 20 718 20 00

Never again Fukushima. Stop nuclear power!

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Thousands of people demonstrated in Japanese cities on February 11 (some 12,000 in Tokyo alone), to commemorate Fukushima and demand the end of nuclear power. The main anti-nuclear rallies were held on February 11, because on March 11, Japan will commemorate the earthquake and tsunami, resulting in 20,000 deaths.

Elsewhere, many antinuclear events will take place in the weekend of on March 11. There is much more but here a first overview of actions and activities. If you have additions; let us know!

Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) is making an overview of actions in the US. There are actions listed in New Jersey, New York, Texas, Vermont. Please visit their website at

The French umbrella Reseau Sortir du Nucleaire organizes a very ambitious action on March 11; a Human Chain, between Lyon and Avignon. That means 230 kilometer of people…... More than 50.000 people are needed.  In April France will elect a new president. This is very important for the future debate on nuclear power. For more information, also in English, see:

153 local actions all over the country… with 5 major demonstrations at Brokdorf, Neckarwestheim, Gundremmingen (nuclear reactors) Schacht Konrad (radwaste) and  Gronau (Uranium enrichment). Best overview available via

South Africa:
The conference 'Nuclear Power For Africa?' will take place in Cape Town on March 8 – 9. The South African government has stated it is planning to order 6 more nuclear reactors in early 2012. On the African continent today, South Africa is the only country to possess a nuclear reactor, and its developments in this field will undoubtedly influence other African countries. More information via:

Conference ‘Uranium, Health and Environment, March 16-18, organized by the IPPNW and the Association of Inhabitants and Friends of the Municipality of Falea,  the region which is being threatened by uranium mining plans. More information:

March 10, manifestation in Middelburg, capital of the province where new-build was planned and with the last Dutch commercial nuclear power station in operation.  
More information (only in Dutch):

Nationwide demonstration in the capital, Brussels. Main aim is to put pressure on the new government to stand with the policy to phase-out nuclear power gradually over the coming decade. More information:  the national platform “Stop and Go’ (referring to a ‘stop’ on nuclear and a ‘go’ for renewables) (only in Dutch and French)

The No Nukes Asia Forum takes place in Korea, this year from March 19 to 24. Not only will there be a conference with the international participants but also tours and actions at Busan (nuclear power station Kori 1), against the export of reactors to the UAE and visits to the proposed site for new nuclear power plants (Samcheok & Yeongdeok) to support local resistance. The NNAF is being held just a week before the “Seoul Nuclear Security Summit 2012” takes place. The second Nuclear security summit (the first was held in Washington in 2010) was meant to focus on proliferation and nuclear terrorism issues. But it looks like it is taking a more overt pro-nuclear position. From its website: “The summit has been involved in cooperative measures to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism, protection of nuclear materials and related facilities, and prevention of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials. With new agendas like Fukushima nuclear disaster and regional cooperation for peaceful use of nuclear power proposed, however, the scope is expected to be expanded from nuclear security to nuclear safety”. It should be particularly noted that South Korean government, the host country, and Korean nuclear industry regard the summit as an opportunity to promote nuclear power plant export. (the Third nuclear security summit will be held in the Netherlands in 2014.
More information about the NNAF:

United Kingdom:
Surround and blockade Hinkley Point, Somerset. Hinkley Point is the first of eight proposed sites for nuclear new build to go ahead. We stopped them here before in 1987, and we can do it again in 2012. If they fail at Hinkley, it is unlikely the “nuclear renaissance” will have the momentum to continue. On the 10th -11th March 2012, we will return to Hinkley to form a human chain around the station to show our determined opposition to new nuclear. In 2010, dozens of us blockaded the gates at Hinkley. In 2011 hundreds of us blockaded the entrance again. In 2012, thousands of us will surround the power station to say No to new nuclear! Not here, not anywhere!
More information at:


Help Fukushima children escape high radiations

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Watari District is one of the most severely polluted areas in Fukushima City. Since high levels of radiation exceeding 2μSv/hour (2 microsievert/hr) are still observed across the District, Watari residents are urging the government to help them evacuate at least children until decontamination is completed. While going forward with the project, we will continue to lobby the government to change its evacuation policy. The government criterion for evacuation, 20millieSv/year, is nearly four times as high as the safe limit in radiation-controlled areas. The evacuation criterion itself needs to be reconsidered.

While the Japanese government defines 20mSv/year as a criterion for designating special evacuation points, NGOs have demanded that the government should establish a broader, “optional evacuation area” to allow people to decide whether or not to evacuate for themselves. Since the Japanese government is unwilling to change its evacuation policy, however, people in Fukushima, especially residents of Watari District (Fukushima City), have suffered enormously.

In the Watari district of Fukushima City which is 60 kilometer from the Fukushima nuclear plant, 16,000 people of 6,700 households are exposed to high levels of radiation exceeding 2μSv/hour. However, given the lack of information from the government and the absence of proper financial compensation for evacuees, many families are not able to move out of the contaminated area for a variety of reasons such as work or school.

The government has delayed evacuation of children and pregnant women with the promise of decontamination. This policy can be said to violate human rights. At this very moment, children in Watari District live, study, and play in the severely polluted environment. Here, it is crucial to facilitate their temporary evacuation until satisfactory decontamination is accomplished.

No groups have launched “POKA-POKA Project for Fukushima Children” in response to the dire situation in Watari District. The project is jointly managed by Save Watari Kids, Fukushima Network for Saving Children from Radiation, Citizens against the Fukushima Aging Nuclear Power Plants, and Friends of the Earth Japan. The project focuses on Watari District as well as Onami, Nankodai, and Oguraji and aims to lower radiation exposure for children of families that have to stay in the polluted areas for a variety of reasons.

The group will organize trips to a location in west part of Fukushima City and 30 minutes by car from Watari district, where recorded radiation rates are much lower. They also try to subsidize costs of travel and accommodation for families in Watari district. This will allow children to spend time away from high levels of radiation as well as support the local communities and help economic recovery. We hope that many families can take part in this project. While doing so, we will continue to lobby the government to change its evacuation policy that puts citizens at risk. This is not only Watari’s problem. The problem is also relevant to Fukushima and, indeed, Japan as a whole.

Contact: Kanna Mitsuta, Eri Watanabe, Akiko Yoshida at Friends of the Earth Japan.
3-30-8-1F Ikebukuro Toshima-ku, Tokyo 171-0014, Japan.
Tel: +81 3 6907 7217
Email: yoshida[at]


#740** January 14, 2012 - FUKUSHIMA SPECIAL

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Fukushima Special
Full issue

This was  published as a special - in between regular issues, compiled of articles which were already published in the 9 months before, all about the Fukushima disaster. We made this special compilation to be spread at the 'Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World', Yokohama, Japan, 14 and 15 January 2012. WISE attended this conference and disseminated 500 copies of this special. Here its now only available as pdf.


Japan after Fukushima: only 10% of nuclear capacity in operation

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

In Japan, starting January 13, only five of the countries 54 reactors are in operation: only 10% of total installed capacity. On December 16, the Japanese authorities stated that the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi is in a state of "cold shutdown". The industry definition of “cold shutdown” means that the temperature inside a nuclear reactor has stabilized below 95 degrees Celsius from the hellish temperatures of the nuclear fission process.

In the case of Fukushima Daiichi, declaring a cold shutdown suggests the crisis is over. But that is not the whole truth. In fact, the Japanese authorities have cheated by redefining “cold shutdown” to suit the situation at Fukushima. Only operating nuclear reactors can be put into a state of “cold shutdown”. Reactors that have suffered meltdowns – like those at Fukushima – cannot be. The 260 tons of nuclear fuel inside the Fukushima reactors melted and burned through the steel floors of the containment vessels and into the thick concrete under pads. The melted fuel is far from under control. This means the temperature inside the reactor can’t be regulated by conventional means.

Nuclear generation capacity
Platts reported that Japan's combined nuclear generation capacity is to fall to 5.058 GW over five nuclear reactors from January 13, as Shikoku Electric is scheduled to shut the 566 MW No 2 reactor at its Ikata nuclear power plant in western Japan that day. The 5.058 GW represents 10.3% of the country's total installed nuclear capacity of 48.96 GW over 54 reactors, according to Platts calculations. Nuclear capacity represents 21% of Japan's total installed power generation capacity of 228.479 GW.

Japan is currently in the middle of its winter power demand season, which typically runs over December-March. Weather and nuclear utilization rates have a direct impact on crude, fuel oil and LNG consumption for thermal power generation in Japan.

None of the shut nuclear plants are expected to be allowed to restart soon in view of the stress test conditions imposed by the government in July last year. In that case, Japan could see all its nuclear power output shut by May 2012 because regulations require nuclear power plants to carry out scheduled maintenance at least once every 13 months.

Decommissioning will take 40 years
In December Japan's government announced that decommissioning Fukushima Daiichi will take three or four decades - that is just for the plant alone and not the surrounding areas, composed mostly of farmland. According to the cleanup plan announced on December 21, crews will begin removing spent fuel from the plant before 2014. The timeline for removing melted fuel debris from the reactors is a decade, with a full decommissioning taking as long as 40 years. While four decades seems like a long time, some think that estimate is unrealistically short, given the scale of the nuclear disaster at the plant. An official advisory panel has estimated it may cost about US$15billion (11.8 billion euro) to decommission the plant, though some experts put it at nearly three times that amount.

'40-year limit' for reactors

Japan’s nuclear reactors will be limited to a 40-year life, allowing extensions only under stringent conditions, under new plans to be submitted to parliament. It is part of a revision in a law on nuclear plant operations following Japan’s devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami that triggered meltdowns at the Fukushima. The planned legislation, which the government aims to submit in a session of parliament starting in January, would mark the first time that Japan would legally limit how long nuclear reactors would remain in operation. The draft plan also makes its mandatory for utilities to prepare for severe nuclear accidents. Under current rules, the government has left it up to plant operators to draw up contingency plans. With strong public opposition to building new reactors, Japan is bound to reduce its reliance on nuclear energy which before the disaster met about a third of its electricity needs. How long the existing reactors will remain in operation will affect utilities' long-term business plans and determine how rapid Japan's shift away from nuclear power will be.

Environment and Nuclear Crisis Minister Goshi Hosono said exceptions from the 40-year limit would be rare. "It will be quite hard to operate nuclear reactors beyond 40 years and we will implement stringent measures on nuclear reactor operations as safety is the first priority." Under the current system, nuclear plant operators can file for an extension of operations after 30 years and they usually get granted a 10-year extension, if they provide required maintenance. It can be further extended and Japan's oldest existing nuclear reactor is Tsuruga No.1 reactor, operated by Japan Atomic Power, which went into service in March 1970.

Japanese media reported that the law may include loopholes to allow some old nuclear reactors to keep running if their safety is confirmed with tests. The proposal could be similar to the law in the U.S., which grants 40-year licenses and allows for 20-year extensions. Such renewals have been granted to 66 of 104 U.S. nuclear reactors. That process has been so routine that many in the industry are already planning for additional license extensions that could push the plants to operate for 80 years or even 100.

The Asahi newspaper reported Japan is likely to face a power shortage if it carries out the 40-year rule, which barring loopholes would force 18 more reactors to shut down by 2020, and another 18 by 2030. But promising that nuclear plants may be gone in about four decades may help the government gain public support for getting more reactors running again.

Industry donations
Haruki Madarame, the head of the Japan Nuclear Safety Commission and Seiji Shiroya, a member of the government panel, received donations totaling 7.1 million yen (US$92,000 or 72,000 euro) from the nuclear power industry before becoming members of the watchdog. The two announced that on a pressconference in Tokyo on January 2, 2012. Madarame, a former University of Tokyo professor who became the commission chief in April 2010, said he received 4 million yen over four years through 2009 from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., a major manufacturer of nuclear power reactors. Shiroya, another member of the panel who joined the commission at the same time as Madarame, said he received 3.1 million yen from a regional branch of Japan Atomic Industrial Forum Inc.(JAIF)  over three years to 2009 while serving as a Kyoto University professor. JAIF consists of power companies and other companies in the nuclear industry.

Madarame said the donations have not influenced the panel's decision-making processs. The five-member state commission is tasked with double-checking regulatory measures implemented mainly by the industry and science ministries to ensure nuclear safety. The donations provided by private entities were “intended to promote research at universities”, and the money was spent to conduct research and to cover overseas business trip costs, according to the two experts.

Shrinking population.
Several cities in the Chiba prefecture relatively close to the Fukushima Daaichi nuclear power plant are suffering a population decline as a result of the nuclear disaster, local governments have revealed in January. According to monthly population surveys conducted by municipal governments, cities have been experiencing a continuous population decline since August last year, with the single exception of September.

As of Jan. 1 this year, there were a total of 405,099 registered residents in Kashiwa, a decline of some 279 people from the previous month and also the largest fall since the slide was first observed six months ago. Kashiwa has been one of the areas in the prefecture where relatively higher radiation levels were detected in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster.

According to Kashiwa Mayor Hiroyasu Akiyama, one of the major reasons for the population decline is the municipal government's failure to address people's anxieties and frustrations over radiation. Following the meltdowns in Fukushima, the city repeatedly released statements that "The radiation is at a non-problematic level."

"Our judgment that radiation levels were 'non problematic,' and the way we addressed the issue immediately after the outbreak of the nuclear disaster caused anxiety among many young households who have children. Because of this, people from other cities stopped moving into Kashiwa," he said.

Fukushima compilation
A 28-page compilation of articles published in the Nuclear Monitor in the past 9 months about Fukushima and its consequences was published by WISE Amsterdam for the Yokohama conference "For a nuclear power free world", January 14-15. Available as pdf-document on request from

Sources:, 21 December 2011 / Mainichi Daily News (Japan), 3 & 11 January 2012 / Engineering and Technology, 6 January 2012/ Tokyo Times, 11 January 2012 / Platts, 11 january 2012
Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC). Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800
Email: cnic[at]



Fukushima emissions double estimates - new international study

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

A new study by an international team of researchers estimates that the emissions from the power plant started earlier, lasted longer and are therefore higher than assumed in most studies conducted before. The study estimates the emissions of the radioactive noble gas Xenon-133 and the aerosol-bound nuclide Caesium-137 from the Japanese Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant until April 20 (!) by combining a large set of measurements from Japan and worldwide, atmospheric transport model calculations, and available information and reasonable approximations on radionuclide inventories and accident events at Fukushima Daiichi.

The study led by Andreas Stohl, an atmospheric scientist at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, was released on the website of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions. The calculations are based on about 1000 measurements of activity concentrations and deposition conducted in Japan, USA and Europe. This is the most comprehensive investigation so far. There is no doubt that the Fukushima accident is, at least in terms of the isotopes Xenon-133 and Caesium-137,  the most significant event after the catastrophe in Chernobyl 25 years ago, says Dr. Andreas Stohl from NILU - Norwegian Institute for Air Research, lead author of the study.

Regarding the radioactive noble gas Xenon-133, the results indicate an emission of 16.7 million terabecquerel (1 Becquerel is one radioactive decay per second, 1 terabecquerel equals one million times one million becquerels). This is the largest civilian noble gas release in history, exceeding the Chernobyl noble gas release by a factor of 2.5. Xenon-133 is neither ingested nor retained in the inhalation process and therefore of less health concern, but it is important for understanding the accident events.

This study confirms there is strong evidence that emissions started already on 11 March 2011 at 6:00 UTC, which is immediately after the big earthquake. So contrary to official assumptions (Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency remains convinced the quake didn’t cause significant damage to the plant, Tadashige Koitabashi, a NISA spokesman, said by phone to Bloomberg) it becomes more and more clear that the reactors and fuel pool were already severely damaged by the earthquake before the tsunami hit. And that is despite the fact that the earthquake "did not exceed design base values significantly", according to Jan Leen Kloosterman a Dutch scientist and important nuclear advocate from the Technical University Delft. But it was a big earthquake (magnitude 9.0) out at sea but not so big 130 km from the epicentre at Fukushima. NISA and Tepco blame the tsunami, which swamped backup generators, causing a loss of cooling and the meltdowns of the three reactors operating at the time of the disaster. Explosions at the plant sent radiation into the atmosphere.

Regarding Cesium-137, which is of high relevance for human health due to its physical properties and the long half-life time of 30 years, the new estimate shows that emissions started earlier and ended later than assumed in most studies so far. The total release amounts to 36 petabecquerel (1 p-Bq is 1000t-Bq), which equals 42% of the Chernobyl emissions. 19% of the cesium was deposited on Japanese territory, while about 80% was deposited in the water.

While the winds transported most of the Fukushima emissions toward the Pacific Ocean, the plume headed inland during and following March 14-15, the period of highest cesium emissions, although “the situation could have been even much worse, as fortunately no rain occurred at the time.” During a second episode March 20-22, even larger areas of Honshu were covered by the plume, from Osaka in the south to areas north of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and heavy rains “nearly completely cleansed the atmosphere of 137Cs  and again produced strong deposition of this radionuclide over Honshu, including Tokyo,” the study said. “This episode again followed a period of high (though fortunately not as high as on 14–15 March) 137Cs emission fluxes on 19 March, which were transported to Japan on 20 March.” There were “a few other periods” when the plume went over land, “but the areas affected were smaller and the emissions lower.”

The study also suggests that, contrary to government claims, pools used to store spent nuclear fuel played a significant part in the release of the long-lived environmental contaminant caesium-137, which could have been prevented by prompt action. The levels of cesium-137 emissions “suddenly dropped” after Tepco started spraying water on the spent fuel pool of the No. 4 reactor, they said. Reactor 4 was idle before the quake and the fuel assemblies in the core had been placed in the spent fuel pool of the unit. The radioactivity released into the atmosphere represented “nearly 2% of the available inventory of the reactor cores in units 1–3,” the study said, “and the spent-fuel pool [radioactive content] in unit 4 was discharged into the atmosphere.” Indeed, it was the spent fuel pools at Fukushima that contained the bulk of the offending material, according to the study, which looked only at the aerosol-bound cesium-137 and the noble gas xenon-133

Sit-in outside Ministry of Economy
On October 28, close to two hundred women from Fukushima began a three-day sit-in outside the Tokyo office of Japan's Ministry of Economy calling for the evacuation of children from areas with high radiation levels and the permanent shut down of nuclear reactors in Japan currently switched off. Their peaceful protest is a powerful – almost radical - act in a country where standing up for something can often mean ostracism from one's community. These are not women who regularly participate in civil protest. These are mothers who fear for their children's safety and future. These are grandmothers separated from their families. The fact that they have put their own lives and families on hold for these three days reflects the harrowing situation these women and their families have found themselves in since the nuclear disaster.
Greenpeace International, 28 October 2011


Sources: Report "Xenon-133 and caesium-137 releases into the atmosphere from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant: determination of the source term, atmospheric dispersion, and deposition" by A. Stohl, P. Seibert, G. Wotawa, D. Arnold, J. F. Burkhart, S. Eckhardt, C. Tapia, A. Vargas, and T. J. Yasunari / Nuclear Monitor, 727, 27 May 2011 / Bloomberg, 27 October 2011 / Nuclear Intelligence Weekly, 13 October 2011 / Press release NILU, 21 October 2011

The full report is available at:
Contact: Dr. Andreas Stohl, NILU - Norwegian Institute for Air Research, PO Box 100, 2027 Kjeller, Norway



Status of stress tests nuclear power plants in EU

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Patricia Lorenz, FoEE

In reaction to the Fukushima nuclear disaster the European Union decided to start a process to make sure whether European Union nuclear power plants are safe and events like in Japan can be excluded in Europe. Stress tests are defined as: 'Reassessment of safety margins of nuclear power plants in the light of the events at Fukushima: extreme natural events challenging the plant safety functions and leading to severe accidents".

In a three step process all countries were to check their plants based on the ENSREG (European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group) criteria catalogue, which again is based mostly on WENRA (Western European Nuclear Regulators' Association) criteria. While the first is a legitimate body of all 27 EU nuclear regulators, WENRA is a only the club of nuclear regulators.

A major issue is transparency, often announced by the regulators and EU officials, but this did not trickle down to the regulators ye. WENRA did conduct an almost unnoticed public consultation on the criteria, but did not even acknowledge receiving contributions from the public, like e.g. fairly elaborate contributions by FOEE (Friends of the Earth Europe) or Greenpeace and other groups. Nothing was taken up, no reason given why not. The first part of the stress tests was finished in time, when in August all operators handed in the reports on their plants. Based on these, the regulator reports were made and published on the ENSREG homepage. The differences in methods, approaches and simply the number of pages of the reports, of course are substantial.

One of the most important lessons learnt from Fukushima is that the probabilistic approach is not reliable; events unlikely to happen according to models and codes used during designing, licensing and safety checks, were obviously proven wrong. This is reflected in the ENSREG paper, urging states to look into extreme natural events, like seismicity and flooding and their combinations.

A good example for business as usual is the Romanian report. For assessing the seismic risk they apply very weak criteria which are contradicting international practice. For earthquakes it would be necessary to look into a earthquake which have a return period of at least 10 000 years and use this data to prove that an NPP resists an earthquake. Instead the Romanian reports sticks with the old data and uses the 1000 years return period chosen as design basis. The Czech report with 7 pages only stands out by being of exceptionally poor quality; however, there is an understanding they will come up with more complete one in the next few weeks. Similar though the situation in the Netherlands, where the regulator so far did not receive much more than the overview over what the Borssele operator will send until October 31.

The Slovak reports went into a lot more length, but the key questions are not answered:  In case of a station black-out, when no emergency diesel generators are available, having time is a great advantage to restore power for starting up cooling pumps for removing residual heat from the reactor and cooling the spent fuel pool. The report does not show clearly, how long it is possible to keep the reactor in a safe state during severe accident measures without power. There is no prove provided on how external impacts like airplane crashes, fires, explosions can be excluded as direct hazards for the reactor buildings /containment systems, which could lead to core melt.

What is to happen next: The EU Commission and ENSREG will produce the first progress report based on the individual country reports for the EU Council meeting on December 9. This phase is followed by a unique new procedure: EU peer review, when teams will evaluate the reports and are expected to even look at the nuclear power plant site. This is something very new in nuclear safety, which is the field of national competence only. The exact conduct of those peer review is of course an issue of discussions. Currently it seems that there will be 17 peer review teams. 14 of them will be vertical (looking into all aspects - one per country) and 3 will be horizontal (looking at all countries but only one issue: earthquakes, floods, loss of power and ultimate heat sink). Coordination will be done by a supervisory board.

There are concerns about the role of Mr. Petr Krs from SUJB to head the peer review process. This leading role given to the Czech regulator is met with a lot of distrust and criticism from NGO in this field. SUJB is acting openly pro-nuclear in the domestic energy debate and there is a lot of criticism about SUJB's role in the welding case around Temelin and the national stress report.

Two major Fukushima issues are not looked into properly: the emergency preparedness in case of severe accidents in European plants and the security issues. While it is obvious, that evacuations are not possible in densely populated European countries, the issue of security threats like armed attacks and targeted airline crashes are hidden under the thick cover of confidentiality of interior ministries, secret services and similar institutions. Along those lines a European Council working group was formed and started its meetings:  The first meeting of this working group under the Atomic Question Group (ATO), called Group Ad Hoc on Nuclear Security (GAHNS) took place before the summer break. It can be seen as a success, that all EU Member States participated in this group, including UK and Czech Republic. The European Commission participates as an observer. Some information from this group is expected to be taken up in the Commission Reports to the Council in December, April and June. The group has prepared a long list of issues and questions to be addressed.

The peer review will last until mid-2012. During this phase several evaluating events are expected to take place. On the one hand NGOs will demand seminars to be held in their countries, which will be encouraged by the EU Commission. The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is organizing a conference in December in Brussels and in the Summer of 2012 ANCLI (the National Association of Local Information Committees) and the EU Commission will co-organize a major meeting on stress-tests and Aarhus Convention. For further information also concerning the broader context please read the article already published earlier in this publication.

Source: Patricia Lorenz (with information provided by Jan Haverkamp –Greenpeace International- and independent nuclear safety expert Antonia Wenisch, who contributed first evaluations of some of the country reports)
Contact: Patricia Lorenz
Mail: patricia.lorenz[at]

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

France: Thousands of activists take the streets to demand ending the nuclear age.
On October 15, some 25,000 people took part in several anti-nuclear rallies, organized by the Reseau Sortir du nucléaire (Nuclear phase-out) federation, the largest one in Rennes with almost 20.000 participants. The demonstrators called on the government to halt all its military and civilian nuclear activities, and criticized Paris for continuing its nuclear policy. The protesters particularly called for the closure of Bugey nuclear plant in eastern France, which they say is susceptible to high risks of earthquake and flood. They also held a minute of silence in honor of the victims of Fukushima nuclear disaster in eastern Japan, and urged the French government to take lessons from Japan's tragedy and turn to renewable energies.
Website: Reseau Sortir du nucleaire.

Lithuania Formally Submits Visaginas Plans To EC.
The Lithuanian government has formally notified the European Commission of plans for a new nuclear power plant at Visaginas to be developed with Estonia, Latvia and Poland. This means that the coordination of the Project with the EU institutions starts. The 1,350-megawatt advanced boiling water reactor is scheduled to begin commercial operation around 2020, Lithuania's energy ministry said. According to the ministry the Visaginas unit is intended to help replace generation from the two 1,300-MW Ignalina reactors that have been shut down as part of Lithuania's European Union membership agreement.

"Visaginas NPP project  is a strong step towards long term objectives of strengthening the security of supply and full integration of the Baltic States into European Energy market", according to the Visaginas press release. The information on Visaginas NPP was submitted according to European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM) treaty (Article 41). This ensures that the developers of new nuclear facilities must notify the European Commission not later than three months before the first  contracts are concluded with the suppliers or, if the work is to be carried out by the undertaking  with its own resources, three months before the work begins.
NucNet, 14 October 2010 / Visaginas nuclear power plant project, press release, 10 October 2011

Indonesia: reactor plan delayed by Fukushima.
Indonesia’s National Nuclear Energy Agency (Batan) head Hudi Hastowo told journalists that the 11 March Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan had impacted government plans to construct the country’s first nuclear power plant in Tanjung Ular Muntok Cape region, West Bangka, stating, "After the major earthquake in Japan that hit Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant caused some radioactive leakage, the plan is now delayed whereas it was previously accepted by the public," Jakarta’s government-owned Antara news agency reported. Experts noted that the proposed Tanjung Ular Muntok nuclear power plant is situated in a seismically active region and that a repeat of the December 2004 tsunami that devastated the country could cause a catastrophic disaster. Indonesia currently has three nuclear research reactors – Kartini, Siwabessy and the Triga Mark II nuclear research facility. Plans for a nuclear power plant date back from the 1970s., 18 October 2011

Atomic radiation is more harmful to women.
(October 20, 2011) Women as a group suffer significantly more from the impact of ionizing radiation than do men. Today Nuclear Information and Resource Service published a Briefing Paper that focuses on a dramatic fifty-percent greater incidence of cancer and fifty-percent greater rate of death from cancer among women, compared to the same radiation dose level to men. To be clear: males suffer cancer and cancer death from exposure to ionizing radiation; but gender difference in the level of harm has been to date under-reported.

The data leading to this conclusion originally was reported in the National Academy of Sciences 2006 report, "BEIR VII" which is the seventh report in a series on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation. The greater vulnerability of females was not the focal point of that publication, and the concern has until now escaped notice.

NIRS is co-releasing the paper with activist groups in global "hot spots" including Japan (Green Action), Ukraine (Ecoclub) and Pennsylvania (Three Mile Island Alert). The paper is posted at:
NIRS, 18 October 2011

Growth wind capacity vs nuclear.
2010 was a turning point in the global race to develop clean technology. It marked the first time that more new wind power generating capacity was installed in developing countries than in the rich world. China led the way, according to the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), and now has the most wind generating capacity in the world, thanks to favorable government policies. A record capacity of 19 gigawatts (1 GW = 1000MW) was added in China last year, taking the total to more than 42GW. India also showed strong growth, in line with the government target of adding more than 10GW of new capacity by 2012, and there are industry estimates that 100GW is possible.

According to the IAEA PRIS reactor database in 2010 3720MW was connected and 130MW disconnected to the grid from nuclear reactors worldwide. So, just in China about 5times as much wind was connected to the grid as nuclear worldwide.
Guardian (UK), 18 October 2011 / PRIS:

US: Crack in Davis Besse containment.
The Davis Besse nuclear plant was shut down years ago because of a hole discovered in a reactor. Now, a newly discovered 30-foot (about 9 meter) crack in the containment structure intended to protect the reactors from tornados and other potential threats raises new concerns about whether the reactor, now closed for maintenance, should ever be allowed to return to active status. “When a nuclear power plant that had a reactor with a hole in its head now has a 30 foot crack in its side, it is time to question whether the plant and the reactor are safe to operate,” said Rep. Ed Markey, the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee and a senior member on the Energy and Commerce Committee. “This large crack in a critical containment structure is yet another chink in the armor for the nuclear industry’s sweeping claims of complete safety.”

The Davis Besse plant has experienced multiple problems during the last 20 years, including a close call in 2002 when a hole was discovered at the top of one reactor that nearly breached the pressurized reactor chamber. Problems with replacements to that reactor have caused subsequent shut-downs of the reactor. The crack in the containment dome was discovered during activities to replace the pressure chamber head.
Press release, Ed Markey, 14 October 2011,