Posts Tagged ‘nuclear ginza’

On 2012 March 19, The Asahi Shimbun reported that the “city of Osaka, the largest shareholder of Kansai Electric Power Co., will call on the utility to abolish all of its reactors “at the earliest possible time” and today, Mainichi Daily News commented that Osaka had “stirred ripples”. Articles are reproduced below. Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto’s suggestion to phase out of nuclear power, surely surprised KEPCO investors but also citizens for its unusual thoughtfulness.

Kansai is the western region of Japan where Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto, Nara cities lie and, depending on definition, the nuclear power plant shore-lined prefecture of Fukui, where a 7.3 magnitude earthquake killed 1% of population and completely damaged 79% of buildings in 1948. Besides, prevalent winds blow from Fukui towards the huge drinking water Biwako reservoir and aforementioned Kansai cities. Under the radioactive fallout in case of such an earthquake would also be prefectures of Gifu and Aichi, an industrial heartland centered on Nagoya city, where Toyota, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toray Industries (worldwide leader in the carbon fiber industry that should make Boeing Dreamliner fly someday) are based. A new powerful earthquake in Fukui would probably relegate Japan a few ladders down the economic rankings. Kansai is already under severe economic stress – it always was but for a brief decade of national euphoria called the “bubble”.

Since about 30 years ago, poor Japanese regions exchanged time and again their votes and security against subventions and nuclear power plants. Whenever subventions would dry up, they would agree for a new reactor building. Nowadays that these are idled and that subventions have run out, poor regions cannot start a new cycle and are pushing and being pulled to ramp up their radioactive waste “management” business. In the same vote buyout scheme as for nuclear power plants, over-sized incinerator plants have been built and left unused due to their capacity threshold being over the actual amount of waste. Poor prefectures now plan to upgrade these little used, dioxin-spitting facilities so that they could operate at a wider range of waste quantities and include some kind of filtering for radiation. This scheme represents a large economic boost promise in terms of construction work, which is the main employment outside large cities – and under the control of yakuza gangs, who request some sustained business to replace the drop in their recruiting services for nuclear plant workers.

Radioactive waste are largely above what is considered as “low-level waste” worldwide and its incineration in current facilities turn their prefecture into secondary radioactive sources, the primary being Fukushima, still emitting as of 2012 March 22, a year after. Current secondary radioactive sources include 23 wards in Tokyo, Tomakomai (Hokkaido) and Shimada (Shizuoka, where Japanese green tea comes from).

Many prefectures have requested to become secondary radioactive sources, including places where the transportation hazard, time and cost had prevented the Japanese government to push for it such as Okinawa. However, Okinawa is surviving only by the presence of the US army and its underlying economy is threatened by a possible redeployment in Japan, in Guam or elsewhere. Tourism has been declining since about 5 years ago in Okinawa and will not pick up when it will effectively become a secondary radioactive source. Food in supermarkets in Okinawa come from all over Japan as it does not produce much besides beef which become labeled “Kobe” beef after spending 1 year in that heavily industrialized city. Okinawa cows are rather skinny so it must be quite a terrible feeding process that turn them into extra-fatty meat one year later in Kobe warehouses. There have been some scandals of radioactive wood used to bake pizzas in Okinawa, schools have been forced by parents to cancel radioactive snowball gifts, some vegetation like mosses from irradiated areas have been planted in Okinawa, etc. Okinawa is not a nuclear-free land anymore: this concept does not apply to any Japanese territory anymore one year after the disaster. As an advice to nuclear refugees from the no man’s land, if you cannot leave Japan, it is safer to settle down in cities where you can work to sustain a healthier lifestyle, not necessarily to the far end of the archipelago where they have no job; no sense about radio-protection; no clean food choice – and where you will be stuck when they start incinerating radioactive waste.

How does the new denuclearization scheme fit in with the irradiated waste incineration plan and is it for real? Kansai is searching for ways to revitalize its broken economy and incineration is one leg. The other leg is nuclear decommissioning, a potentially profitable business. It takes 5 years for nuclear combustible to cool down, under active controlled systems (or not so controlled systems). Then the proper decommissioning operations begin (and probably never really end). As an actual example, if we look at Sellafield in the UK, a mere 2 square mile facility, the official planning states that decommissioning and closure of the site is planned for 2120 (right: 108 years from now). After this stage, management of radioactive materials is forever. Therefore, decommissioning of the 3 reactors in Mihama, 4 in Oi and 4 in Takahama – and maybe Monju / Tsuruga – all in Fukui prefecture and globally called the Nuclear Ginza, could create a 300 years business, not including the storage and monitoring of million-year long radioactive waste. It could easily give a job to anyone and sustain the local economy. Additional benefits would come from the development of health care – did we mention that Osaka was a biotech center ?

Japanese pharmaceutical companies had trouble to compete globally because their drugs are not properly tested and have resulted in accidents and because they lack innovation. However, in the grand Osaka renewal scheme of joint radioactive waste incineration and nuclear decommissioning, there would be plenty of test subjects and Japan would have an incomparable lead in radiation-induced diseases, even though they would not be marketed as such: auto-immune diseases such as the Kawasaki syndrome, pneumonia, heart attacks, leukemia and all sorts of cancers, or any other kinds of affections described by Pr. Bandazhevsky, even in children (sic).

How is it that decommissioning would make the population sick? Nuclear reactor decommissioning is a task forecast to take over 1 century in the case of Sellafield but nuclear projects always get behind schedule (Areva EPR project in Finland as a relevant example). As a rule of thumb, you can at least double the time (in the case for Olkiluoto, Finland, Areva started in 2005, due to be completed in 4 years – now maybe in 9 years, probably 12) and since it is impossible to rule out wars, economic depressions, natural disasters and social unrest over the period of a century, it could take 4 to 500 years to carry out. The probability of the job being properly done to the end is marginal and our grandchildren, if they ever live, will most likely have to deal with no man’s lands in every place there used to be a nuclear power plant in the 20th century. Working in a nuclear power plant make people sick, they have in Japan, as well documented, not only in Fukushima. Work ethics are shoddy here and tasks are carried out by the 6th level of untrained sub-contractors aka yakuza firms. Nuclear Ginza and other locations in Japan like Tokaimura and Genkai accumulate accidents and are regularly leaking radioactive material, not surprisingly. Now let us project this over the next 500 years for a large segment of society busy cleaning a mess and adding to it at the same time: everyone would get sick, even if Hosono, Noda and Edano, the devilish Trinity as it were, were not working so hard to distribute contaminated food over all the territory – which they are. Mutations get transmitted to people who are not involved in the multi-generational task, weakening the whole society. As a side-note, it is of course impossible to decommission Fukushima nuclear plant within 40 years: it will never be really clean, no matter the official whitewash.

Recently 2 Japanese researchers apologized because they had taken some bone-marrow samples from cancer patients during surgical operations without anybody knowing: with radiation-induced diseases, all Japanese medical researchers would be able to experiment, publish their results and test new drugs on unsuspecting patients. When the Japanese war criminal in charge for human live dissection and experimentation during the war became the head of the top medical institute in Tokyo and was never bothered except for a moment by the Chinese woman who recognized him, anything can happen. Unit 731, Masaji Kitano and Green Cross all over again. Kansai, with Nuclear Ginza, you invested in a future treasure trove for your biotech and pharmaceutical industry (sic) ! Just as some people do not get black humor, let us note here that we are being sarcastic and we do not wish this nightmarish scenario to happen, quite the contrary but we are at a loss as to how prevent it. Japan has yet to come to term with its dark past and its present shows that it is never far behind – humor is a way to get some relief in the terrible situation we are now, and black humor can be offensive. Current Japanese politics are just as offensive.

So it could be for real and it would be the least damaging, as the alternative would be to wait until the next great Fukui earthquake and a fireworks over Nuclear Ginza.

Another possibility is that Hashimoto does not really intend to denuclearize Kansai, but is only trying to gain more KEPCO shares, some financial compensation or a special investor status from KEPCO for Osaka city in exchange for a time extension, a percentage increase in nuclear-produced electricity or such compromise.

Whichever, the pain only begins.

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This article published an hour ago is actually about Kansai and Fukui areas, even though AFP mentions Tokyo and shows a picture of the Diet. (more…)

In All 3 Nuclear Reactors In Shikoku Suspended post, I warned about excessive optimism regarding the non-restart of idled nuclear power plants that we may feel when we consider that most are off-line and so will shortly be the remaining few. The post also digresses on the will of corporations such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Toshiba and Hitachi (actually joint ventures with American General Electric, Westinghouse where the Japanese counterpart are often on the subcontractor / order receiving side) to wait out the fickle public opposition.

Currently, Japanese citizen groups remain strong, well-informed and connected so there is little that any foreigner can do to help out except to show their sympathy and support. If about 0.05% of the Japanese population actively opposes nuclear power while the rest sleeps or support passively, it represents a 60 thousands people crowd – the same that protested in Tokyo. Yet, 0.05% of foreign English readers who resides in the Monitored Land amounts to a handful of individuals, most of whom I am acquainted with.

In a stressful situation, it is helpful to try and take control over one’s environment and act in favor of improving the situation, no matter the real leverage one might have. So it useful, if only for our own psychological balance, to keep on being active together with Japanese citizens – but it is also a self-deluding strategy. Arguably, every voice should count and participate in making a difference, yet the reality is that foreigners are not empowered – we cannot vote, except with our feet. This, many have done already and many more are getting prepared to do.

Time will only tell if Japanese citizens sustain their stand against nuclear power and if democracy may be briefly expressed by recognizing their voices and acting accordingly. It would be a big first in Japan and would imply that the country grew a spine against the US domination. Germany is another country with two cumbersome and belligerent neighbors; like Japan, it had to put up with a foreign army occupation and made it without developing weapons of mass destructions: Japan can go on surviving without nuclear technology and join the path of Germany, a much more successful exporting country and financially sound. Another prerequisite for ending nuclear power in Japan is kicking the yakuza out of this lucrative business and reducing the level of corruption – a tall order.

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Not a day passes without news of fires and water leaks in various nuclear power plants in Japan: after Fukushima, Genkai, Mihama leaks last week (these are geographically as far as can be from each other in Japan), it is the turn of Tsuruga in Fukui prefecture to be on fire (again). Tsuruga is, along with other troubled Mihama and Monju reactors, situated on “Nuclear Ginza” coast of the Sea of Japan in Honshu, close enough to cities like Nagoya and Kyoto to cause a disaster in case of accident. (more…)

Mainichi Shimbun reported further issues at Genkai Nuclear Power Plant in Kyushu. The water leaks follow those at Mihama and Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant last week and a fire yesterday at Tsuruga Nuclear Power Plant (read about it in Fire And Water At Japanese Nuclear Power Plants on Survival Japan). Previous update is available here. It mentioned that there hadn’t been any radioactive material leak, which of course was inexact (although KEPCO tries hard to prove there is no causal link between the leaks and the radiation surge) – incidentally JAPC declared the same regarding Tsuruga today.

About Genkai, claims by the local government that radiation levels ″sometimes rises under natural conditions such as rain″ might be half-truths as radioactive rains are not natural conditions, but it is irrelevant nonetheless in the current nuclear power plant leak context. Besides, ″the usual range of 433 to 472 cpm″ is not harmless – it is about 10 times readings I measured elsewhere in Japan (Cf. Geiger Counter Case Study: Inspector Alert on SurvivalJapan – although results in the post are given in uS/h, in fact 40 cpm was a typical value).

Nuclear power plants in “normal operation” in the US leak a ″little″ amount of radioactivity which operators must report to the NRC. Japanese nuclear power plants are similar although I am not aware of any such reporting in Japan.

Mainichi Shimbun – Radiation rose slightly afterwater leak at Genkai plant

SAGA, Japan (Kyodo) — A radiation reading at Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear power plant in Saga Prefecture rose slightly above the usual range after coolant water leaked there Friday, the prefectural government said Sunday.

The reading at an outlet for seawater cooling the No. 3 reactor’s secondary cooling system was 473 counts per minute at 3 p.m. Friday, against the usual range of 433 to 472 cpm, not high enough to immediately impact human health, it said.

On Friday morning, 1.8 tons of primary coolant water containing radioactive materials leaked within the reactor’s purification system. The utility claimed the radiation reading is unrelated to that leak and said it will investigate the cause.

Water used in treating low-level radioactive waste is sometimes discharged from the outlet, but that was not the case Friday, the local government said, adding the reading sometimes rises under natural conditions such as rain.

(Mainichi Japan) December 12, 2011

Original article may still be available at this link.

Further updates with “not so slight levels” or such as “Yukio Edano ordered the last Genkai reactor to shut down” for instance are foreseeable.

The Another Troubled Nuclear Reactor Shuts Down post on SurvivalJapan discussed the news of the plan to shut down Mihama Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui, reminded of the context of repeated failures at this old facility and gave some hints of the forecast damage on the Kansai and Chubu regions when it will eventually blow up. Most nuclear plant accidents occur due to human errors during maintenance and once the reactor is shut down, fuel rods stay hot for at least 5 years, under constant water cooling. Therefore, all these offline reactors in Japan remain a hazard and should be retired as many dangerous technological pieces of junk from the eighties have been: even the Space Shuttle – why not these rusty NPP?

NHK World published yesterday the following update:

NHK World – Kansai Electric reactor shut down at Mihama

The operator of the Mihama nuclear power plant in western Japan says it has shut down one of 3 reactors because of an ongoing leak of radioactive water within the reactor.

Kansai Electric Power Company says work began on Wednesday night to manually shut down the number-2 reactor at Mihama in Fukui Prefecture. It was completed as of 4 AM on Thursday.

The utility says radioactive water has been leaking from a valve in the pressure vessel into the collection tank since early November. It says there is a risk that the water will exceed the processing capacity of the tank.

The company says all the leaked water has been collected into the tank within the reactor, and that the leakage has caused no damage to the environment.

The reactor was scheduled to be shut down on December 18th for a regular checkup.

The suspension means that 46 of the country’s 54 reactors, or 85 percent of them, are currently out of operation.

The NHK World article may still be available at this link.

Another troubled nuclear reactor was due to shut down yesterday, less than 100 kilometers (50-60 miles) from Kyoto and Nagoya, reported AFP (see reproduced article below from JapanToday news site). The Mihama Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui has a legacy of incidents over the years as mentioned on Wikipedia (also reproduced hereafter) and it is hardly surprising that Safecast measured radioactive levels in Kyoto higher than normal (Cf. Safecast Publishes Kyoto Radiation Map on SurvivalJapan) last week.

Mihama is at the heart of Nuclear Ginza along the Sea of Japan and radiation leaks or nuclear fallout in case of disaster would easily reach Kansai and Nagoya (Aichi) as well as contaminate the Biwako Lake, a major tap water reservoir. (more…)