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Cold shutdown reached at Fukushima?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

September 28, 2011 marked a milestone of sorts for the Fukushima Daiichi reactors: some six-and-a-half months after the onset of the accident, temperature levels at all of the reactors and fuel pools fell below the boiling point (100 degrees Celsius) for the first time since March 11. But there are some caveats to that statement. Meanwhile, hydrogen detected in a pipe will cause no explosion "in the immediate future". Plutonium has been found as far as 45 km from the plant.

The temperature at Unit 2 fell only to 99.4 degrees Celsius, and has been going up and down in recent days, so could quickly return to the boiling point. Moreover, while the reactor temperatures are measured at the bottom of the pressure vessel, it’s not clear that is where the hottest temperatures are. Since fuel melted and containments failed, allowing fuel to go below the pressure vessel, temperatures below the vessel where the molten fuel has collected may remain higher than the boiling point.

Meanwhile, the cooling system that has brought down temperatures is a jerry-rigged system nothing akin to the normal cooling systems found in reactors, and its long-term reliability is in serious question. This is especially so because the region continues to suffer earthquakes (a 5.6 earthquake struck the region on September 29), not to mention typhoons and other problems.

In other words, there remains some time before cold shutdown of the reactors can be proclaimed. And in the meantime, radiation releases continue, although they are reported to be a small fraction of earlier releases. They’re now on the order of one million becquerels/hour (as opposed to a trillion/hour a few months ago and thousands of times more than that in March). Although, a caveat to that too: Tepco has admitted that it doesn’t really know how much radiation is being emitted--it’s estimating.

On Oct 2, Tepco announced that it had estimated that the interruption for about 38 hours of water injection into the cores would prompt their nuclear fuels to melt again. Unless water injection is restarted about 18 hours after being stopped, a massive amount of radioactive substances would be released into the environment. In the estimate for the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors at the March disaster-ravaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, TEPCO assumed that their pressure vessels would have no water to cool nuclear fuels when water

injection stops. The temperate of the nuclear fuels would rise by about 50 degrees Celsius every hour from 300 degrees at the time of the coolant loss and reach 2,200 degrees about 38 hours later, the power utility estimated. At that time, the nuclear fuel would start melting, and some would break through the pressure vessel to fall into the containment structure, according to the company.

A couple of reports have struck us recently. One widely reported is that Tepco seriously considering abandoning the Fukushima facility in mid-March when it reduced its on-site workforce to 50 people. Another, also widely reported, is that then-Prime Minister Kan was actively considering ordering an evacuation of Tokyo in mid-March as conditions deteriorated and foresaw a potential end to Japan as a functioning nation. It may go without saying that if Tepco actually had abandoned its efforts at the time, that’s exactly what would have happened.

On September 23,Tepco said that hydrogen has been detected in a pipe at the No. 1 reactor, but there is no possibility it will cause an explosion "in the immediate future". According to Tokyo Electric Power Co., hydrogen of at least 10,000 parts per million was detected at two spots in a pipe passing through the containment vessel on the reactor building's first floor. This concentration was higher than Tepco had anticipated. Although Tepco is not certain how much hydrogen is still inside the vessel, the utility believes it is possible the concentration of the highly flammable gas is higher than had been assumed.

In air and liquid, 10,000 ppm is equivalent to 1 percent. Air containing at least 4 percent hydrogen and 5 percent oxygen is at risk of causing explosion. Tepco has been injecting nitrogen into the containment vessel since April so it is assumed there is virtually no oxygen. As a result, the utility ruled out the possibility of an explosion "in the immediate future."

Japanese officials said they have found, for the first time, small amounts of plutonium from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant as far as 28 miles (45 kilometers) away. At a  October 2, Tokyo news conference, federal officials announced the first discovery plutonium outside the immediate vicinity of the power plant, as well as radioactive strontium in 45 spots as far as 50 miles (80km) from the reactors, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Meanwhile, Tepco is fighting to keep its pre-disaster emergency-response procedures a secret from politicians and the public, arguing they contain valuable trade information. In September the company angered members of a parliamentary committee when it handed over manuals outlining steps that its nuclear plant operators are meant to follow in the case of accidents. All but a few words of the texts were redacted with black ink.

The storm of controversy that followed – one newspaper columnist compared it to wartime censorship – seems not to have softened the company’s stance. Early October it asked Japan’s nuclear safety regulator, which had ordered it to resubmit the manuals without redaction, to allow it to keep much of the material secret. So far only the regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa), has seen the originals, which run to thousands of pages. It has not passed them on to the lawmakers who originally requested them. 

Tepco has told Nisa that if the manuals are to be made public, 90 per cent of the content related to “severe accidents” such as that at Fukushima should be kept under black ink. “The manuals contain knowhow that we have built up over a long period of operation,” a company spokesman said. “There are also issues of national security.”

Largest trade union changes policy on nuclear power. The leadership of Rengo, Japan's largest trade union organization will rethink the body's energy policy in light of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, with a view to shifting from its stance of promoting nuclear power to one that aims for a society not reliant on atomic energy, according to Rengo sources on October 3. Since Rengo is the largest supporter of the ruling Democratic Party of Japan, the turnaround is expected to have an impact on the energy policy of the DPJ-led government. Rengo, which counts labor unions of power utilities among its members, has struggled to reconcile differences within the organization over nuclear energy policy. But its leadership has decided on the policy turnaround by taking into account the seriousness of damage brought by the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster, they said. In August 2010, Rengo decided for the first time to promote nuclear power generation and back construction of new nuclear power plants.
Japan Times, 5 October 2011

Sources: The Yomiuri Shimbun, 24 September 2011 /  NIRS Fukushima Update, 29 September 2011 / Jiji Press, 2 October 2011 /  UPI, 2 October 2011 / Financial Times (UK), 5 October 2011

Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC). Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800


IAEA: slower nuclear growth after Fukushima

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

The Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear accident will slow growth in nuclear power but not reverse it, according to the latest projections by the IAEA. The 2011 updates take into account the effects of the 11 March 2011 accident. But this projection means that the market share of nuclear power in the world's total generation of electricity may more than halve to just over 6 percent by 2050 despite growth in the number of reactors in use.

The IAEA publishes annually two updated projections for the world's nuclear power generating capacity, a low projection and a high projection. But even in the high-growth scenario the market share will not change much from last year's 13.5 percent of total electricity generation, rising to 14 percent in 2030 before falling to 13.5 percent in 2050, the IAEA forecast said. This reflects an anticipated rapid increase in total electricity output in the world over the coming four decades - expected to more than triple by 2050.

In the updated low projection, the world's installed nuclear power capacity grows from 367 gigawatts (GW) today to 501 GW in 2030, down 8% from what was projected last year. In the updated high projection, it grows to 746 GW in 2030, down 7% from last year. A GW equals one billion watts (1000 MW) of electrical power.

The number of operating nuclear reactors increases by about 90 by 2030 in the low projection and by about 350 in the high projection, from the current total of 433 reactors. Most of the growth will occur in countries that already have operating nuclear power plants.

Projected growth is greatest in the Far East notably in China and India. From 81 GW at the end of 2010, capacity grows to 180 GW in 2030 in the low projection and to 255 GW in the high. These levels are, however, lower than last year's projections by 17 GW and 12 GW respectively.

Western Europe shows the biggest difference between the low and high projections. In the low projection, Western Europe's nuclear power capacity drops from 123 GW at the end of 2010 to 83 GW in 2030. In the high projection, nuclear power grows to 141 GW, but that is 17 GW below the growth projected last year.

In North America, the low case projects a small decline, from 114 GW at the end of 2010 to 111 GW in 2030. The high projection projects an increase to 149 GW, still 17 GW below last year's projection.

Other regions with substantial nuclear power programs are Eastern Europe, which includes Russia, and the Middle East and South Asia, which includes India and Pakistan. Nuclear power expands in both regions in both the low and high projections - to only slightly lower levels than projected last year. The same is true for regions with smaller programs - Latin America, Africa and South East Asia.

The low projection assumes current trends continue with few changes in policies affecting nuclear power. But it does not necessarily assume that all national targets for nuclear power will be achieved. It is a "conservative but plausible" projection.

The high projection assumes that the current financial and economic crises will be overcome relatively soon and past rates of economic growth and electricity demand would resume, notably in the Far East. It assumes stringent global policies to mitigate climate change.

The low and high projections are developed by experts from around the world who are assembled by the IAEA each spring. They consider all the operating reactors, possible license renewals, planned shutdowns and plausible construction projects foreseen for the next several decades. They build the projections project-by-project by assessing the plausibility of each in light of, first, the low projection's assumptions and, second, the high projection's assumptions.

IAEA's optimism. IAEA has always been over-optimistic about the future of nuclear power. In 1975 the IAEA made a forecast of 1,600 GW (1 GigaWatt = 1000MW) by the year 1990. In reality, nuclear power installed in 1990 was 325 GW. Their prognosis in 1975 for the year 2000 was 2,300 GW installed nuclear energy (which was half of the expectations a year before!). In 1997 the IAEA expected an installed capacity for the year 2000 of 360 GW. In December 2000, 438 nuclear power plants were in operation with a net stalled capacity of 351 GW. The 1995 IAEA prognosis assumes an increase of nuclear power by 50% in 20 years, from 345 GW in 1995 to 515 GW in 2015 (2.5%/year). Today's installed capacity is 367 GW.

Source: Reuters, 20 September 2011 /  IAEA September 2011: "Energy, electricity and nuclear power estimates for the period up to 2050" available at:



In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Dounreay area never cleaned up completely.
Radioactive contamination that leaked for more than two decades from the Dounreay nuclear plant on the north coast of Scotland will never be completely cleaned up, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) (a Scottish government agency) has admitted. At a September 20, board meeting the Scottish government's environmental watchdog opted to encourage remediation "as far as is practically achievable" but to abandon any hope of removing all the radioactive pollution from the seabed and to give up on its aim of returning the seabed near the plant to a "pristine condition" (a recommendation it made in 1998).

Tens of thousands of radioactive fuel fragments (socalled 'particles') escaped from the Dounreay plant between 1963 and 1984, polluting local beaches, the coastline and the seabed. Fishing has been banned within a two-kilometer radius of the plant since 1997.

The most radioactive of the particles are regarded by experts as potentially lethal if ingested. Similar in size to grains of sand, they contain caesium-137, which has a half-life of 30 years, but they can also incorporate traces of plutonium-239, which has a half-life of over 24,000 years. The particles are milled shards from the reprocessing of irradiated uranium and plutonium fuel from two long-defunct reactors. They are thought to have drained into the sea with discharges from cooling ponds.

In 2007, Dounreay, which is now being decommissioned, pleaded guilty at Wick sheriff court to a "failure to prevent fragments of irradiated nuclear fuel being discharged into the environment". The plant's operator at the time, the UK Atomic Energy Authority, was fined £140,000 (US$220,000 or 160,000 euro).
The Guardian, 21 September 2011

Urenco: "No impact from Fukushima"; shareholders want to sell.
Urenco, the uranium enrichment company has dismissed concerns about the impact on its business from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The chief financial officer of Urenco said that less than 10 per cent of its forecast orders for the next two years were with Japan, and that the group "had not detected any sign that customers in other countries, other than Germany, would scale back their nuclear plans." The CFO declined to give precise figures or comment on the UK Government's planned sale of its stake. The British government has been looking into a sale of their stake since 2009. It is thought that the UK Treasury, which hopes to raise BP1 billion (US$ 1.57 bn or 1.15 bn euro) from the sale, will appoint an investment bank in September to handle the disposal.

The remainder of Urenco is split between the Dutch Government and E.ON and RWE, two German utility companies. German energy giant RWE has appointed advisers for a 'strategic review' selling its Urenco part. RWE is increasing its sell- off program from 8bn (7bn) to 11bn in the next three years. The company, which has about 27.5bn of net debt, was put under further pressure by the German government's decision to phase out nuclear energy. RWE is also in final negotiations with Gazprom over a potential split of its assets and operations, including Npower in the UK. The deadline for any agreement with Gazprom runs out on October 15. The UK energy company could be split up and sold to other buyers, such as Centrica, if no deal is agreed with Gazprom. E.ON, too, is planning to sell its stake in Urenco, German daily Handelsblatt reported on Sept. 7, citing unnamed sources.

Divestment by any party would require the approval of Urenco's other owners, and the newspaper indicated the Dutch government may try to stop the potential sales. In the past (1999-2000) the Netherlands had plans to sell (part of) its stake in Urenco but decided not to. Areva wanted to buy parts of the Dutch and RWE shares, but later it was decided to sign an agreement to cooperate in Enrichment Technology Company (ETC; 50 % Areva, 50 % Urenco).
The Times (UK) 27 August 2011 / / WISE Uranium / Reuters, 7 September 2011)

Areva suspend U-production due to Fukushima.
French nuclear company Areva is suspending uranium production at two plants because of low demand from Japanese power stations in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, a spokeswoman of the company said September 15. Production at subsidiary Comhurex's Malvesi and Tricastin sites will be suspended for two months. "This decision is based on the events in Japan, which today has led to a drop in deliveries to Japanese power producers and short term downward pressure on prices in this market," Areva said in a statement.

Comurhex, which is 100 percent owned by Areva, uses a two-stage process to transform mined uranium into uranium hexafluoride, the raw material for the enrichment process that eventually produces reactor-grade fuel.

Areva said there were no plans to suspend or lay off the less than 600 workers from the plants, who will be asked to attend training sessions or use up holiday allowances while their plants are taken off-line. A number of other plants were shut down following the Fukushima accident and currently only 11 of 54 Japanese reactors are in operation.
AFP, 16 September 2011

Call for Nominations for the "2012 Public Eye Awards".
The Berne Declaration and Greenpeace Switzerland are once again searching far and wide for corporations that pursue profits without regard for social and/or environmental harm. To succeed, we need your support and the critical eye of civil society!

Whether inhumane working conditions, reckless environmental sins, deliberate disinformation, or the disregard for human rights by corporations: In the run-up to the World Economic Forum (WEF) in late January 2012 in Davos, Switzerland, the worst corporate sins will appear on the 2012 Public Eye Awards short list. We thereby place corporate offenses in the international spotlight and help NGO campaigns succeed. A number of firms have already felt the considerable pressure from the unwelcome exposure in the media

and the social Web! Over 50,000 people worldwide took part in the online voting for

the People’s Award last year.

In 2008 Areva won the Award. It won't be bad if the nuclear industry gets some extra attention this year.... Please act quickly as the deadline for nominations is September 30!

Go to and vote.

The aftermath of Fukushima in India

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE India

The three-in-one disaster at Fukushima has stirred human consciousness all over the world. On the one hand, it has prompted Germany's decision of phasing out nuclear energy by the year 2022, Italians' overwhelming vote against nuclear power in a national referendum, and some 20,000 Swiss citizens' rallying against nuclear power and so forth. Even the Chinese government put all its nuclear activities on hold and decided to do stocktaking before proceeding any further.

On the other hand, Fukushima has evoked a totally different and horrendous response from other quarters. India is a case in point. The chief of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) tried to explain away Fukushima accidents as "chemical explosions" and the chief of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd. (NPCIL) claimed that the Indian nuclear power plants were all away from earthquake-prone zones. The Prime Minister of India tried to reassure the nation that the Indian nuclear power plants were all safe. He did not elaborate on what made him feel so confident or what steps he had taken to evaluate the safety standards and procedures at the Indian nuclear power plants.

This kind of lame excuses and false promises only made the people of India wearier about the whole nuclear power program. To add insult to injury, Manmohan Singh cabinet chose April 26, 2011, the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl Day, to issue an official statement that they would persist with the nuclear power program. This slap on the face of every Indian on a sensitive day betrayed the real values and loyalties of the government.

The Congress party-ruled states such as Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh where French and American nuclear power parks are coming up are working overtime to facilitate these anti-people but pro-corporate projects. But the chief minister Mamta Banerjee of West Bengal asked the central government to cancel the Haripur project with Russian collaboration and pronounced that they would not welcome any nuclear power plant anywhere in her state.

In Tamil Nadu, however, all the political parties tend to see the nuclear power project as a developmental project and have never raised their voice against the Koodankulam or Kalpakkam or the Neutrino project coming up in Theni district. The People's Movement Against Nuclear Energy has been protesting against the Koodankulam project from the very beginning. Although we enjoy much support and sympathy in coastal villages where people live in harmony with Nature and will be the first victims of any nuclear calamity, people in the interior areas and the middle class have been generally indifferent. But watching Fukushima plants explode and the Japanese citizens flee the triple-tragedy on their TV screens, our people realize the intensity of the danger we are facing.

When the Koodankulam authorities gear up to start the first unit of 1,000 MW plant within a few months of Fukushima, the local people do take offense. When the former tries to conduct a safety drill, the local people get alert and angry. Safety instructions ask them to cover their noses and mouths and to enter the nearest building and close the doors. While the state government claims that 0-5 km area is sterilization zone, the Koodankulam authorities say informally that nobody will be displaced. This kind of confusions and carefully-concealed decisions do not help the people to feel confident.

On August 11, 2011, thousands of people from Koodankulam gathered around the local Catholic Church and demonstrated against the nuclear power plant. A local activist, Advocate Sivasubramanian phoned me and asked me to go to Koodankulam immediately. We organized the demonstration as best as possible and asked people to be careful and nonviolent as we did not want the emerging uprising to be crushed by the state power. The crowd of thousands of people was very cooperative and responsible although the presence of several drunkards, police informers, friends of vested interests and the ever-growing strength of police was a cause to worry.

As this demo was going on in Koodankulam, we received a message that people in the neighboring fishing village, Idinthakarai were ringing the bell in their church and gathering around the parish priest's house. We were invited to go and talk to them. We arranged a group of young people to lead a hunger strike at Koodankulam, and a few of us rushed to that fishing village and held a discussion. People took decisions such as boycotting fishing, keeping children away from schools, a complete shut down of shops and facilities, hoisting black flags in front of the houses, returning the government ration cards (which serve as important Identity card) and passing a resolution at the Village Council on the Independence Day (August 15) against the Koodankulam plant.

We held a planning meeting at Nagercoil on August 13 and decided that our only demand was closing down the Koodankulam plants and that we would avoid processions and marches that carry a good degree of vulnerability and stick to nonviolent hunger strikes.

On August 14, we visited the villages of Koothankuli, Koodankulam and Idinthakarai and conducted planning meetings. On the Independence Day (August 15) the Village Councils of Koodankulam, Vijayapathi, Koothankuli and Levingipuram passed resolutions to close down the Koodankulam nuclear power plant. On August 16, more than 10,000 people gathered for the hunger strike and we also formed an administrative committee, finance committee, and legal cell to lead the struggle.

On August 17, we started our three-day hunger strike at Koodankulam and thousands of men and women gathered for that. Police had denied permission on the 16th midnight but we defied that and went ahead with the strike. We heard that police was planning to break up our peaceful demonstration by force and we contacted the authorities to protest against it. They invited us for talks and requested us to halt all our demos in return for the cancellation of the safety drills. We reached an agreement that we would not hold any massive campaigns until September 7. But on August 27, 2011 the DAE chief announced that they would start the first unit of Koodankulam nuclear power plant in September 2011. Since this nullifies the ongoing dialogue, we convened our administrative committee meeting on August 30 at Idinthakarai and decided to resume our struggle. After all, India is still a democracy and Indian citizens have been guaranteed the rights to life and livelihood by our Constitution.

Source and contact: S. P. Udayakumar at WISE India

Japanese prime minister: "nuclear free future"

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mainichi Daily News, Japan, July 27, 2011 

Sources: Washington Post, 13 July 2011 / The Statesman, 17 July 2011 / Asahi, 19 July 2011 / NIRS update, 19 July 2011 / Asahi, 23 July 2011 / Japan Times, 24 July 2011 / Reuters, 24 July 2011 /, 26 july / The Yomiuri Shimbun, 27 July 2011
Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan.
Tel: +81 3-3357-3800


Spain: large anti-nuclear campaigns after Fukushima

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Grup de Cientifics I Tecnics per un Futur No Nuclear

Fukushima has had a big impact in Spain, mainly in Catalonia, as this country is one of the most nuclearized countries of the world. In 2010, almost 50% of all the generated electricity in Catalonia was nuclear. The main issue is the extension of operational licenses of several reactors.

Despite the lack of serious information about the Fukushima nuclear accident in the main media, a coalition of antinuclear Catalan groups just after the Fukushima accident called for a sit-in in front of the Catalan government and City Council main buildings (17 March 2011). Also they succeed in organizing a big march (supported by more than 100 environmental, political, social and solidarity organisations), on Sunday 5 June 2011, the World Environment Day, from the Spanish Government Delegation building in Barcelona to the Endesa main office in the city. The Spanish Socialist Party won the elections with the commitment to establish a timetable to shutdown the nuclear reactors, but at present nothing has been decided and the only nuclear decision has been to extend the life of the oldest nuclear reactor operating in Spain (Santa María de Garoña, GE BWR, similar to Fukushima number 1 unit).

Endesa was the former public utility that was privatized by the conservative government in 1998 and is now owned by Enel. Endesa, as public utility, played a main role in late seventies and early eighties buying shares of many Spanish private utilities engaged in building nuclear power plants that experienced big financial problems. And now Endesa owns 45.3% of all the nuclear power capacity in Spain (Iberdrola 44,9%, GasNatural Fenosa 7.5% and HC 2.1%). The antinuclear Barcelona march was attended by many thousands of people from all ages, showing a 250 square meter banner (15x15m) with a gigantic Smiling Sun logo.

The antinuclear march was a big success because since November 1989, just after the serious accident that Vandellos I reactor experienced on October of that year, not one antinuclear demonstration had been organized any place in Spain. Only the Barcelona based Group of Scientists and Technicians for a Non Nuclear Future (founded in Barcelona at the end of 1980 and registered as NGO just after the Chernobyl accident) was able to organize an annual event called the Catalan Conference for a Future Without Nuclear Power (since 1992 it was renamed as Catalan Conference for a Sustainable Energy Future Without Nuclear Power). During the last edition of the conference (the 25th) two main energy studies were presented: the SolarCat and the SosTec, the first showing two scenarios on how Catalonia could have a 100% renewable electricity system between 2030 and 2045 and the second exploring how to shutdown the three remaining nuclear reactors operating in Catalonia before 2020. As invited guests, Walt Patterson (author of many books on energy) and Javier García Breva (former IDAE director and now chairman of Renewables Foundation) were able to give lectures.

To understand the success of the present antinuclear events it is necessary to remember that on occasion of the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl accident (2006) in Barcelona a big antinuclear music festival around Earth Day was organized. In Barcelona, Catalonia Earth Day is organizing since 1996, an annual Earth Fair and the last editions of the Earth Fair were attended by 100.000 people). Also, in 2010, at the same event, a successful demonstration was organized to show the rejection of the proposal of the Spanish Government plans to build a Nuclear Waste Centralised Storage facility. Many thousands of people with antinuclear face-masks, showed the opposition to the project. And a few weeks before the June 5 march, another massive antinuclear event during the Earth Fair was organized and attended by many thousands of people.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster other antinuclear demonstrations were organised in Madrid (8 May, supported by 27 political, social and environmental organisations) and Bilbao (Basque Country, 23 June, supported by 20 social and environmental organisations).

On July 26, 2010 the Spanish government renewed the operational license of Vandellòs 2 nuclear reactor until 2020. On March 10, 2011 (one day before Fukushima) it did the same with Cofrentes nuclear reactor, renewing the operational license until 2021. Next October 1, 2011 the operational license of Ascó nuclear plant (with two reactors, Ascó 1 and Ascó 2) will end. Now there is a strong campaign to ask the Spanish government not to renew the Ascó operational license because it is the nuclear plant experiencing almost 50% of all the nuclear irregular events in Spain. Last July 22, 2011 the Catalan Parliament rejected a proposal introduced by ‘Solidaritat Catalana per a la Independència’ (a coalition of 5 political parties, including the Catalan green party ‘Els Verds – Alternativa Verda’), supported by the Socialist Party (PSC), the Republican Party (ERC) and the leftist party (ICV-EUA) asking the Catalan government to address a petition to the Spanish Government in order not to renew the operational license of Ascó, until the nuclear power plant will succeed with the stress tests adopted after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe. The majority of votes from the Catalan center-rigth party CiU (ruling at present the Catalan government) with the support of the Spanish rightist party PP rejected the proposal, showing clearly their support for the nuclear industry.

Source and contact: Group of Scientists and Technicians for a Non Nuclear Future, Tanquem les Nuclears, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain.

The ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster and the continuing impact

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
LAKA Foundation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan.
Tel: +81 3-3357-3800


Benefit concert to support disaster relief efforts in Japan and non-nuclear groups worldwide

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

An impressive line-up of artists are coming together for a special benefit event on August 7 in Mountain View, California, USA. Amongst them names as Crosby, Stills & Nash, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, Jason Mraz, The Doobie Brothers, Tom Morello, John Hall, Kitaro, Jonathan Wilson, Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Proceeds from the concert will be distributed to Musicians United for Safe Energy (MUSE) to support Japan disaster relief efforts, and organizations worldwide working to promote safe, alternative, non-nuclear energy. “The disaster in Fukushima is not only a disaster for Japan. It is a global disaster. We come together now across cultural boundaries, political and generational boundaries, to call for changes in the way we use energy, and in the ways we conduct the search for solutions to the problems facing humanity,” says Jackson Browne. “We join with the people of Japan, and people everywhere who believe in a non-nuclear future.”

It was shortly after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan that the decision was made to coordinate a benefit. Shoreline Amphitheatre was chosen because of its close proximity to the Pacific Rim, Northern California’s history and deep association with Japan—and because nuclear reactors on the California coast store spent fuel rods in the same manner as at Fukushima. The concert date falls between the anniversaries of atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima (August 6, 1945) and Nagasaki (August 9, 1945).

“The MUSE concert will not only be a great show, it will hopefully entice the public to become better informed of the tremendous dangers of nuclear power,” says Graham Nash. “We have to keep real and true information flowing so that people can act on it.”

“We’re so lucky to have been able to bring back some of the original MUSE team to collaborate with some new and younger artists for MUSE 2, so that we can immediately help with the Japan relief effort and raise funds and awareness for the no nukes issue,” says Bonnie Raitt. “I'm excited to be a part of this important and truly collaborative effort. It’s going to be a very special, one of a kind event.”

Pat Simmons, of The Doobie Brothers, who performed at the original MUSE shows adds, "We are so proud to be reuniting with so many of our talented friends, who share our concern for the safety, and sustainable future of our fragile planet. Current events have brought us to a turning point in our human existence. It's time to consider alternatives to the present course of energy production that have been forced upon us by an aggressive corporate power structure. We join together to generate funds to help our Japanese friends, as they recover from the devastation that they have had to endure, due to man's careless use of nuclear energy, and nature's unpredictability. Through these efforts we also hope to raise public awareness of the challenges we are faced with, and the important responsibilities we share in moving us towards a safer, nuclear free future."

The concert stage will be powered by an integrated system of clean, alternative energy sources, using solar, biodiesel, and wind technologies. One goal is that the concert will inspire musicians in other areas to organize shows that both employ and promote safe energy alternatives, and that raise funds for disaster relief efforts and for groups—local, regional, national, and international alike—advocating non-nuclear programs and initiatives.

“As Japan struggles to subdue meltdowns at Fukushima, and Ft. Calhoun Nuclear in Nebraska struggles to keep its reactor and spent fuel above the Missouri's floodwaters, we once again face a crucial choice,” says John Hall. “Will we, as a country, invest in clean, renewable sources of energy, or will we continue to use taxpayer dollars to indemnify and subsidize the dirty, deadly old technologies that are making our planet unlivable?”

"Even though the news cycle has moved on from the Fukushima disaster, this is another massive world energy disaster from which there will be long-term effects,” adds Jason Mraz. “I am thrilled to be a part of this amazing show that will not only help those in Japan, but that will also call attention to the urgent need to embrace safe, clean energy alternatives."

Japanese musician and multi-instrumentalist, Kitaro, joined the bill as a way to give thanks “for all of the support for Japan from the world, and to all of the Japanese, who are helping each other.” He adds, “It is time to consider the change to alternative clean energy instead of nuclear power.”

For more information, please visit: and

Little stress with stress test

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Patricia Lorenz, FoEE/Global 2000

The stress tests for European Union (EU) nuclear power plants were suggested by the Austrian Minster for the Environment right after the Fukushima disaster, without concrete ideas how they should be performed. The idea was quickly adopted by Brussels and hijacked by the nuclear establishment, namely WENRA. 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.”

The Western European Nuclear Regulators' Association (WENRA) outlined a proposal, which was put up for public commenting until May 5. Slightly more resistance than expected became visible in the run-up to agreeing on the WENRA stress test outline by EU member states: ENSREG, created in 2007, the until this point hardly known Group nuclear regulators (European Nuclear Safety Regulators Group) represents also the non-nuclear EU-27 countries. In ENSREG, some countries, mainly Austria and Germany, did not accept the WENRA suggestions and asked for much more stringent testing - with out-spoken support by EU Commissioner Oettinger, wanted more stringent stress test. However, the operator countries tried to stay in the usual routine of testing– under the political leadership of UK and France.

Negotiations were really tough, especially the EU Commission warned that negotiations might break down and no stress test and nothing similar would be achieved. The compromise was presented on May 25. (see box: EC-Memo)

Yes:  plane crash will be included in the tests – but only in an implicit manner

No: Terror is not a task of majority of ENSREG regulators, therefore terror attacks cannot be included. This matter will be discussed with the Council to determine who is responsible (intelligence, police etc.).

This part of the stress test is really not clear, it is a compromise, because Austria and Germany wanted to include air crashes, but the big nuclear countries are against. Therefore the robustness of nuclear power plants in case of external impacts are stressed regarding their ability to guarantee cooling and safe shut down (ultimate heat sink and power supply). An explosion near the plant or an air crash both challenges the structure of containment and other essential buildings directly or for example due to a fire. Severe accident management is stressed in all these events. In this context the robustness of structures, systems and components has to be proofed; weak points are to be identified and improvements should be proposed. Subject of the stress test is not the initiating event (air crash, flooding, explosion or fire) but the capability of the plant to maintain, control, safe shut down and core cooling without external support as long as necessary (the lesson from Fukushima: it could be weeks  to reclaim control over the nuclear power plant).

The Stress test is 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.” (ENSREG Annex 1 EU 'Stress test' specification)

The stress test will be conducted in 3 phases:
-1: started already on June 1: the operators/utilities make a report based on stress test criteria
-2: until August 15 the reports of the operators will be submitted to the national regulators, they will review the reports until September
-3: September: the European part of the test starts; teams from member states conduct peer reviews, also in the field to check the reports of phase 1 and 2 as well as the nuclear power plants. Those teams will consist of different experts from national regulators and EU Commission experts.

The Council will receive the final report for 9 December meeting.  EU Commission might suggest measures on how to continue. Tests will be prolonged into 2012.

In addition: In mid June, the member states energy ministry representatives will invite the EU neighbouring countries (Switzerland, Russia, Ukraine, Armenia and Turkey) to join the stress test effort. Switzerland already presented the first stress test results, at the same time the Swiss government decided the phase-out.

The information which has to be prepared by the operator is listed in Annex 1:
* All natural disaster esp. earthquakes and floods, need to be reassessed, in terms of return period and severity;
* The evaluation methodology has to be described as well as the reasons for the chosen design basis; and a conclusion on the adequacy of the design basis.
* Combinations of those disasters should be included.
* Provisions to protect the plant against natural disasters
* Plant compliance with the current licensing basis

Evaluation of safety margins, weak points and provisions to improve the robustness are also to be specified; In the end assessment of the range of disaster severity the plant can withstand without losing confinement integrity.

The most important functions needed during any emergencies in a nuclear power plant should be secured: Availability of power supply, and heat removal must be evaluated regarding redundancy and diversity. The time power sources and water supply can operate without external support has to be assessed. Provisions to prolong this time and increase the robustness of the plant are to be indicated. An evaluation of robustness of essential structures, systems and components which are needed for severe accident management is also foreseen.

A lesson from Fukushima is not that not only one reactor, but several plus the spent fuel pools can be affected by a major (natural or man-made) disaster at the same time.

The set-up of the stress test as described above might lead to useful results. Reports of each phase will be made public. It will be crucial that the public stays involved and closely follows the process, because the stress-tests are voluntary and the extent and depth of testing will be determined by national regulators. Some of the regulators already made clear that they do not expect to go much further than their routine testing. The first one to state that was the ENSREG chairman Mr. Stritar who pointed out the regulators are continuously testing and improving nuclear safety in their countries, also the Czech regulator does not see much news, only admitted that the issue of flooding might have changed since the plants were designed and sited due to climate change.

A quick calculation of high-risk reactors – older than 30 years (44 reactors) or lack of containment (12 reactors) or situated in a seismic region (5 reactors) and the 6 BWRs – gives the number of 67 reactors out of the 143 to be tested in the EU.

Interesting detail: EU Commissioner Oettinger believes, that the EU Commission will be invited when planning of new NPP is on the table. However, Bulgaria already announced that the planned NPP Belene is not to be stress-tested. The EU Commission also announced that the safety directive will be updated soon.

EC- MEMO 11/339 of 25 May 2011:
“What will be assessed in the stress tests?
It will be assessed whether the nuclear power plant can withstand the effects of the following events:
1- Natural disasters: earthquakes, flooding, extreme cold, extreme heat, snow, ice, storms, tornados, heavy rain and other extreme natural conditions.
2- All man-made failures and actions. These accidents can be: air plan crashes and explosions close to nuclear power plants, whether caused by a gas container or an oil tanker approaching the plant, fire. Comparable damaging effects from terrorist attacks (air plane crash, explosives) are also covered.”

Source and contact: Patricia Lorenz, Antinuclear Campaigner, FoEE/Global 2000
Neustiftgasse 36, A-107- Vienna, Austria

Global 2000

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

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5, Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800


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



Fukushima's blast wave in French nuclear debate

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Charlotte Mijeon at Reseau ‘Sortir du Nucleaire’

A few months ago, any foreigner would have described France as the ever-lasting kingdom of  the atom. In the French Republic, nuclear power appeared as one of the most representative remainders of absolute monarchy: only the case of the Prince and His close advisers, and not to be called into question. A broad political consensus maintained the status quo. From conservatives to the communists (except the Greens and some small left-wing parties only), the whole political class would support nuclear power, in the name of national independence, industrial pride or faith in technology. 

Many local antinuclear groups were active in local resistance, but without being taken seriously, and their influence was by no way comparable with the powerful nuclear lobby and its propaganda. Decades of nuclear brainwashing had succeeded in making the population, if not supportive, at least passive and resigned. After the tale of “the energy of the future”, loads of “all-your-appliances-are-nuclear-and-so-what?”-advertisements in the nineties, the widely-spread myth of climate-friendly nuclear power, and even a 20-million-Euro luxurious animated movie ending with sexy young people dancing on Funky Town in a nuclear-powered party… no wonder that many people would think “Nuclear power ? Well, maybe it’s not all clean, but we just cannot do without it!”. Chernobyl? Well… it was in Soviet Ukraine, in a remote and backward state; it couldn’t happen now in a modern country…”

A tsunami over nuclear France
And then the unexpected happened. On March 11, the tsunami and the earthquake did not crippled only the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The blast wave also hit the French media and public opinion.

Unlike after the Chernobyl accident, the media focused immediately on the catastrophe and on the internet information coul;d be found, which made it not possible for the nuclear lobby to set a information black-out. The usual nuclear promoters made a quite low profile, official safety authorities did not really denied the seriousness of the accident… while antinuclear groups and independent organizations like CRIIRAD (the Independent Research and Information Commission on Radioactivity, founded in 1986 just after the Chernobyl accident) were suddenly bombarded with enquiries by journalists. As a result, French nuclear issues were addressed: what about the safety of our facilities? Are they earthquake-proof? Shouldn’t the older plants be closed? By the way, are there any plans to phase-out nuclear energy in France?

Suddenly, the myth of safe nuclear power broke into pieces, people realizing that the accident, after all, was possible everywhere. The latent feeling of being lied to by the political elite, which was already very strong, swelled again. Many people who had never been activists, or who had withdrawn themselves from any commitment, felt the need to take action. In the very week-end following the catastrophe, and in the days and weeks there after, antinuclear gatherings and protests proliferated.

A few months earlier, a call for action had been sent by the French antinuclear network “Sortir du nucléaire” to commemorate the 25th Chernobyl anniversary. With the Fukushima accident, this call got an echo like never before in the late history of the French antinuclear movement, with 366 actions all over the country. This bears no comparison with the huge demonstration happening in Germany at the same time, but in the French nuclear kingdom, it represents a lot.

Nuclear power becomes a political issue
With the Fukushima accident, the political class felt that it had to take a new stance on nuclear power. Of course, the ruling right-wing Union pour un Mouvement Populaire stuck stubbornly to the nuclear option. President Sarkozy (also UMP), one of the most enthusiastic nuclear power advocates, even made a trip to Japan only three weeks after the beginning of the catastrophe, to express clearly that nothing would change its plan to promote nuclear power worldwide. He even claimed that phasing out nuclear power would be like cutting one’s arm, vilifying the fools who wanted to “go back heating themselves with candles”.

On the other hand, the debate divided the social-democratic Socialist Party. The few antinuclear voices got more self-assured, and First Secretary Martine Aubry even expressed herself in favour of nuclear phaseout within 20 to 30 years. However, some other heads of the party, reacting quite violently, immediately tried to marginalise this point of view, claiming it not to be representative of the Party. The socialist program for the 2012 presidential elections therefore appeared as a battlefield where the few energy experts had tried to push nuclear phase-out in, before more influential elected representatives re-wrote it, adding long praises to an industrial flagship that should not get lost. This conflict reflects the growing gap between party elites and their electoral basis, now mostly supporting the end of the nuclear age.

However, possible change could happen in the coming months. The Strauss-Kahn affair put offside the “natural” socialist candidate, maybe leaving a chance for Martine Aubry and the more antinuclear wing of the party. Above all, the bargaining phase between the Socialists and the rising Green party Europe Ecologie-Les Verts, in the perspective of legislative elections next year, could play a key role. Some may have told that, for some years now, the nuclear issue did not stand in the forefront of the Green program, with the rise of newer issues like global warming and the party’s attempt to address people with no specific environmental background in the frame of “Europe Ecologie”. But it seems that this era is over now: nuclear phaseout has become the main point, strongly endorsed by all potential candidates. It is now seen as the very issue on which Europe Ecologie-Les Verts won’t give in, in any agreement with the socialists.

Is France “resilient”?
Finally, another thing that is still not clear is the question whether, after the shock, nuclear power will remain an important issue in French political debates, given that environmental problems have never been allowed a big place in France. If the media slowly forgets the still ongoing catastrophe and other issues come in the forefront, like unemployment or the ugly arguments about “national identity” pushed by the extreme-right, then the need to phase-out nuclear power could shift to the background again. In late March, a leaked Powerpoint presentation from Areva mentioned a “resilient public opinion”.  It is now up to the French antinuclear organizations to make sure that a nuclear phase-out does not remain only an environmental issue, but becomes a social issue.

Source and contact: Charlotte Mijeon at Reseau ‘Sortir du Nucleaire’
Email :
Tel: +33 3 20 17 94 91

No fake stress test!

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

In the wake of Fukushima, European Union officials pledged to create stress tests for the 143 nuclear power plants in the EU, that would evaluate the threat posed by natural disasters, terrorism, cyberwar and human error. Now it turns out that that  nuclear regulators are unwilling to accept stricter scrutiny and the plans are likely to get watered down.

Western European nuclear regulators are now staunchly rejecting calls for rigorous tests, Süddeutsche Zeitung reported in its May 4 edition. The regulators reportedly stated in an internal paper that they would only agree to conduct stress tests involving natural disaster scenarios -- and not terrorist strikes or other manmade situations. Instead, they would agree to compose reports on potential threats that would be submitted to the European Commission in Brussels. Neither would independent nuclear experts be given access to the plants under the plan.

European Commission sources told the newspaper that France and Britain have led the efforts to oppose more stringent stress tests. With France's 59 plants and Britain's 19, the two operate the largest number of nuclear power plants of any countries in Europe. Government officials in Paris and London have already stated that they plan to rely more heavily on nuclear power in the future despite the Fukushima disaster. Officials in London also stated they would not publish the results of the stress tests, which are expected to be completed by December.

Such a stress tests will not give a comprehensive and transparent risk assessment of the European nuclear installations. If developed in such a way the stress tests will only serve as "alibi tests" so nuclear operators can continue their business-as usual.

On May 11, the European nuclear lobby organisation Foratom said that "Including terrorist attacks or cyber-attacks as stress-test criteria would mean the checks will take more time and authorities won't be able to make the results public." And continued: "Our feeling is that citizens in Europe are waiting for the results and we should announce them without delays. People don't want to make things political and it's

important to prove that nuclear plants in Europe are safe."

Or... people want results now - therefore we should not do stress tests, but simply tell them it's OK...., commented Greenpeace spokesperson Jan Haverkamp

We ask you to take urgent action on this issue! Put pressure on Commissioner Oettinger by writing him an E-Mail expressing your concern and protest. Your protest for a genuine stress test on nuclear power plants in Europe. Go to

Sources:; Der Spiegel, 5 May 2011; Bloomberg, 11 May 2011

Fukushima in brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The liquidators of Fukushima

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Paul Jobin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fukushima Daiichi and Daini

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fukushima I (Daiichi)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nuclear reactor residual heat generation over time from shut down

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

1 second                                             17%

1 minute                                             5%

1 hour                                                 1.5%

1 day                                                  0.5%

1 week                                               0.3%

1 month                                              0.15%

1 year                                                 0.03%

Source: Autorité de Sûreté Nucléaire (ASN)