The last nuclear power plant reactor in Kyushu was taken off-line towards the end of December 2011, leaving the Japanese southern island free of nuclear produced-electricity. Off-line reactors are not necessarily safe in case of earthquake, tsunami or human error, all of which are far too common in Japan to allow such utilities to be but ticking bombs.
It is however a first step towards a nuclear-free island, which produces most of the domestic food, including beef (the famous so-called “Kobe beef” is raised in Miyazaki, Kyushu) now that Hokkaido is contaminated. Besides nuclear fallout, the town of Tomakomai in Hokkaido decided to incinerate nuclear waste against the will of citizens, as reported in Tomakomai Minpo on 2011 December 8. The translated and commented article is available on Ex-SKF blog here. Tomakomai is located on the southern shore, about 50 km / 30 miles away from Sapporo, with a mostly residential / industrial plain between these cities (agricultural products come mainly from Tokachi plain on the east coast which has been under nuclear fallout most of spring and summer 2011).
Politicians and executives will likely get away with public opinion manipulation and other scandals in Kyushu as articles below show: a mere salary cut whereas in some more democratic countries, they might have been jailed. Besides, the Nishinippon Shimbun newspaper cancelled the publication of an anti-nuclear book due to pression from the same utility, which shows that public opinion manipulation is deeply rooted in Kyushu Electric Power Co. and Kyushu political institutions. Indeed, Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa is assured to get a highly paid sinecure in Kyushu Electric Power Co. after he “retires”.
Kyushu is the last large clean food producer in Japan and it has not accepted any nuclear waste for incineration yet: it may as well become the future of Japan.
Hereafter are reproduced several articles found in Japanese news in December 2011, as original articles might become unavailable soon:
Japan Today – Genkai No. 4 reactor shut down; only 6 reactors now operating in Japan
Dec. 26, 2011 – 04:00PM JST
Kyushu Electric Power Co said Monday that it has shut down the No. 4 reactor at its Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture for routine inspection. The shutdown now leaves Japan with only six of its 54 nuclear power plants in service.Kyushu Electric said the reactor, which was shut down on Sunday night, provided around 40% of the electricity in Kyushu. Homes and businesses in the area have been asked to reduce their power consumption by 5% between from now until Feb 3.
According to TBS, the inspection was originally scheduled for mid-December, but was postponed. A planned maintenance on the 559-MW Genkai No. 1 reactor also started on Dec 1, meaning all of Kyushu’s six reactors at two nuclear plants have been closed for the first time in 31 years with no definite schedule for restarts.
No reactors taken offline for routine maintenance nationwide have yet been restarted due to public safety fears since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami triggered reactor meltdowns and radiation leaks at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima Daiichi power station northeast of Tokyo.
The Genkai No. 4 reactor was the first to resume operations in Japan following the March 11 earthquake. The reactor automatically shut down on Oct 4 due to equipment trouble caused by human error, following which it reached full capacity in November.
Mainichi Daily News -Governor admits responsibility over manipulation of nuclear debate
December 20, 2011
SAGA, Japan (Kyodo) — Saga Gov. Yasushi Furukawa admitted Monday for the first time to his responsibility in the manipulation of public debate on a planned plutonium-thermal power generation project at the Genkai nuclear power plant during a forum in 2005.
Furukawa apologized at a prefectural assembly panel meeting on nuclear safety measures, saying he had caused trouble to the assembly and prefectural residents and that the situation was caused by poor governance on his part, but denied knowing that the plant’s operator had prepared questions in advance to be asked at the forum.
Last month, the Saga prefectural government indicated in a report submitted to the assembly that it was aware that plant operator Kyushu Electric Power Co. had encouraged its employees to speak in support of the project during the forum, effectively admitting it had accepted the utility’s attempt to manipulate the prefecture-sponsored forum.
Furukawa said Monday that he will take a pay cut over the matter, including for the prefectural government’s responsibility for failing to stop Kyushu Electric from preparing questions to be posed at the event by its employees. He said he will propose the details of his pay cut to the assembly Tuesday including the period and amount.
In December 2009, the Genkai plant’s No. 3 reactor became the first in Japan to use plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel, which contains plutonium extracted from spent fuel.
Mainichi Daily News – Broken pump shaft found in coolant system at Genkai nuclear plant
About 1.8 tons of coolant water containing radioactive materials was found to have leaked on Dec. 9 from a joint in a pump used to purify primary coolant water for the reactor of the seaside plant in the southwestern Japan prefecture.
But the operator, Kyushu Electric Power Co., did not disclose the incident immediately, only reporting to the local government that a rise in temperature at the base of one of the pipes in the purification system to 80 C or above had triggered an alarm.
Kyushu Electric said later that it did not disclose the leakage because the water had not leaked outside the purification system.
The No. 3 reactor, one of four units at the plant, has been idled due to regular maintenance along with two others. The remaining reactor in operation is set to go offline later this month.
Mainichi Daily News – Genkai plant’s No. 1 unit found to contain high amount of impurity
December 22, 2011
FUKUOKA (Kyodo) — The reactor vessel of the aging No. 1 unit at the Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture was found to contain a high amount of copper, an impure substance, compared with other reactors operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co., officials of the utility said Wednesday.
Some experts say a high content rate of copper could speed up the deterioration of a nuclear reactor vessel every time it is showered by neutrons when nuclear fission occurs.
The steel vessel of the 559,000-kilowatt unit, which began operating in 1975, contains 0.12 percent of copper, about 6.6 times the amount of 0.018 percent in the No. 3 unit whose operation began in 1994, the officials said.
A company official explained that under the technology around the time the construction of the No. 1 unit began in 1971, it was not able to remove further impurities from steel to make the reactor vessel.
Kyushu Electric idled the No. 1 unit on Dec. 1 for regular checks.
The Asahi Shimbun – Paper with ties to power plant cancels anti-nuke book
December 16, 2011
With increasingly heightened public concern over nuclear power after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant accident, a related scandal came to light over a possible attempt by a newspaper company to conceal anti-nuclear statements.
The Nishinippon Shimbun, a Fukuoka-based regional newspaper publisher, canceled the publication of a book last December containing statements critical of pluthermal nuclear power generation at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear power plant.
Before the decision was made, however, the author had accepted a request from the Nishinippon Shimbun to delete statements from the book on local community development.
As the reason for the cancellation, the editor in charge cited “a decision by the management.”
According to Yu Tanaka, the book’s author, the 54-year-old environmental activist was offered the job of writing the book by an editor of the publication division at the Nishinippon Shimbun. The book was scheduled to be published at the end of October 2010.
Shortly before the printing process, however, the Nishinippon Shimbun asked Tanaka to remove 12 pages, including the entire section titled “Is the reprocessing plant really needed?” which discussed the Genkai plant. Tanaka, convinced he would have another chance to write about the issue, agreed to delete the aforementioned passages.
Despite his compliance, the editor notified Tanaka on Dec. 16, 2010, via e-mail, of the cancellation, saying the company concluded that publishing the book was too challenging for a newspaper company, Tanaka said.
But behind the scenes lies a cozy relationship between the media firm and power company. Kyushu Electric Power is the second largest shareholder in the Nishinippon Shimbun with 222,000 shares, or a 3.08-percent stake. The newspaper firm also owned 3,800 shares in the power company as of the end of March. Moreover, Takao Kawasaki, Nishinippon Shimbun president, serves concurrently as a director of the utility’s subsidiary, Nishi Nippon Airlines Co.
In June, Tanaka’s book, including the previously deleted passages, was published in its entirety by Tokyo’s Kodomonomiraisha Publishing. In the postscript of the book, Tanaka described the whole story leading to the cancellation of the initial publication.
The Asahi Shimbun asked the Nishinippon Shimbun in writing and Kawasaki in person for interviews. Both requests were denied.
“Writers and editors are the ones who uphold freedoms in editing and publishing,” said Yasuhiko Tajima, a professor of media law at Sophia University. “It is greatly questionable and unreasonable that someone high up in the corporate hierarchy unilaterally made a decision on such a cancellation, irrespective of the intention of the writer and editor engaging in book-making work on a day-to-day basis.”