Reversing course, Japan makes push to restart dormant nuclear plants — The New York Times

” TOKYO — The government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made its biggest push yet to revive Japan’s nuclear energy program on Tuesday, announcing details of a draft plan that designates atomic power as an important long-term electricity source.

The new Basic Energy Plan, which states that Japan will push to restart reactors that were closed after the disaster in 2011 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, overturns a promise made by a previous government to phase out the country’s nuclear reactors. The plan also leaves open the possibility of building new plants as well as restarting existing ones.

Japan’s minister for trade and industry, Toshimitsu Motegi, sought to play down the shift, telling reporters that Japan was still committed to “reducing its reliance on nuclear power.” But he also criticized the earlier commitment, first made by Prime Minister Naoto Kan in the months after the Fukushima disaster, to forgo nuclear power entirely, a policy Mr. Motegi called irresponsible for a resource-poor nation.

Still, the government’s own energy plan was vague, setting no specific targets for the percentage of power to be provided by nuclear energy. Mr. Motegi said the country needed more time to figure out the best mix of energy sources, which would also include renewables like solar, wind and geothermal power.

The Japanese have been struggling for three years to decide whether to return to nuclear power after the Fukushima disaster, which contaminated a vast area of northeast Japan and is still keeping tens of thousands of people from their homes as a cleanup effort continues. Mr. Abe has been promising to add nuclear power back into Japan’s energy mix since soon after he took office in late 2012, but he has been unable to budge national opinion even as a renewed reliance on fossil fuels has increased energy costs and helped drive Japan’s trade deficit to record highs.

Polls show lingering public misgivings about the safety of nuclear energy and the government’s ability to oversee it, with a majority of people supporting a gradual phaseout. The draft plan issued this week, the first under Mr. Abe, suggests that he plans to move forward despite a lack of agreement among citizens.

To ease public jitters, an independent regulatory agency has been evaluating whether Japan’s 50 operable reactors, which are all currently idle, can safely be brought back online. Even with regulatory approval, though, local opposition could still block or delay restarts. The national plan did not say when the government would begin trying to restart reactors, which are being upgraded to meet the agency’s new safety requirements.

The government is set to discuss the policy with opposition parties, but the cabinet can approve it at any time.

Mr. Abe may feel empowered to move ahead in part because the country’s organized opposition to nuclear power — which erupted in the months after the Fukushima accident into mass street rallies — has failed to materialize. In a closely watched governor’s race in Tokyo this month, a fractured field of antinuclear candidates appeared to split the opposition vote, helping to return a pro-nuclear governing party candidate to office. That victory has given momentum to Mr. Abe’s push.

Mr. Kan, the former prime minister who led the country’s response to the Fukushima crisis, blasted the turn back toward nuclear power.

“This government has not learned the lessons of Fukushima,” he said in a telephone interview. “Japan was on the brink, but now we want to go back to nuclear for economic reasons. But what happens to the economy if another disaster hits?”

Fears about nuclear safety were heightened on Tuesday by another mishap at the crippled Fukushima plant, where continued radiation leaks and errors have undermined cleanup efforts. The plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, said a damaged power cable had shut down a vital cooling system, forcing workers to suspend the delicate process of removing spent nuclear fuel rods from a wrecked storage pool.

The cooling system for the pool at Reactor No. 4 failed for about four hours on Tuesday before power was restored, Tokyo Electric Power said in an emailed announcement. It added that the pool temperature was stable and that it had not detected a rise in radiation levels at the plant.

The country’s new energy plan calls nuclear power an important “baseload” electricity source — one that can produce energy at a constant rate and at a lower cost than alternatives like solar or wind power. Proponents of renewable energy argue that safety risks and the costs of handling nuclear waste make nuclear power less reliable and more expensive than other options.

The plan also says that Japan will ultimately determine the appropriate size of its nuclear program after taking into account its future energy needs, as well as its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which have surged with the decline of nuclear power. That wording, Japanese news outlets noted, left the door open for the government to build new plants. “

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Study claims USS Reagan crew exposed to extremely high levels of radiation near Fukushima — RT

” A new report on the nuclear crisis that started to unfold in Fukushima, Japan almost three years ago suggests that American troops who assisted with disaster relief efforts were exposed to unheard of radiation levels while on assignment.

Kyle Cleveland, a sociology professor at Temple University Japan, makes a case for that argument in an academic paper published in the Asia-Pacific Journal this week titled Mobilizing Nuclear Bias: The Fukushima Nuclear Crisis and the Politics of Uncertainty.

According to Cleveland, transcripts from a March 2011 conference call obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request shows that United States servicemen on the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier experienced radiation levels 30-times above normal during relief operations that week.

During that March 13 phone call, Cleveland wrote, Troy Mueller — the deputy administrator for naval reactors at the US Department of Energy — said the radiation was the equivalent of “about 30 times what you would detect just on a normal air sample out at sea.”

“So it’s much greater than what we had thought,” Mueller reportedly warned other American officials after taking samples on the Reagan. “We didn’t think we would detect anything at 100 miles.”

After Mueller made that remark, according to Cleveland’s transcript, Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman asked him if those levels were “significantly higher than anything you would have expected.”He responded yes.

When Poneman later asked Mueller, “how do the levels detected compare with what is permissible,”Mueller said those on the scene could suffer irreversible harm from the radiation within hours.

“If it were a member of the general public, it would take — well, it would take about 10 hours to reach a limit,” he said. At that point, Mueller added, “it’s a thyroid dose issue.”

If people are exposed to levels beyond the Protective Action Guideline threshold released by the Energy Department, Cleveland acknowledged in his report, radiation could have ravaged their thyroid glands.

When approached for comment by reporters at the website NextGov, however, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Sarah Flaherty said in an email that the crewmembers aboard the USS Reagan were never at danger of such exposure.

“Potentially contaminated personnel were surveyed with sensitive instruments and, if necessary, decontaminated. The low levels of radioactivity from the Fukushima nuclear power plant identified on US Navy ships, their aircraft, and their personnel were easily within the capability of ship’s force to remedy,”Flaherty said

The latest report, NextGov’s Bob Brewin wrote, comes only days after the attorneys representing 79 USS Reagan crewmember filed an amended lawsuit in California against Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO., which has been accused of negligent with regards to maintain the Fukushima nuclear facility ahead of the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that started the emergency.Attorneys for those servicemen are asking TEPCO for $1 billion in damages, and say that the infant child born of one of the crewmembers since the incident has a rare genetic disorder likely brought on by radiation exposure.

Attorneys in that suit say that “up to 70,000 US citizens [were] potentially affected by the radiation,” and might be able to join in their suit. ”

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New Tepco report shows damage to Unit 3 fuel pool MUCH worse than that at Unit 4 — Fairewinds Energy Education

” As the eyes of the world have been focused on the Unit 4’s removal of spent fuel, Tepco released a report entitled, Tepco’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Roadmap, that contained some astounding information regarding Unit 3. Follow Fairewinds Energy’s Arnie Gundersen as he shows you the 35-ton refueling bridge that fell in the Unit 3 spent fuel pool during the Unit 3 detonation explosion. Do the math. The bottom line here is that Tepco has just acknowledged that at least 50-tons of rubble has fallen on top of and into the spent fuel pool in Unit 3. What does this 50-ton pile of debris mean to the Unit 3 spent fuel pool and its cleanup? “

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Breaking news: 75 children have now been diagnosed with thyroid cancers. 福島県、こどもの甲状腺がん75名に

EVACUATE FUKUSHIMA

8 MORE CASES OF THYROID CANCERS IN FUKUSHIMA CHILDREN

In September 2012, the first case of thyroid cancer was diagnosed in a child out of 38 000 children.

By September 2013, the number increase by 58 cases including 26 confirmed.

By February 2014, a whooping 75 children out of roughly 270 000 are either confirmed or suspected to have contracted the disease. We all know what that means;  Those not confirmed WILL soon be confirmed and will be added up to this ever increasing number by next survey (probably due around May 2014).

NOTE; More than 100 000 children have yet to participate in the survey

The sociopaths in charge are still denying this is related to the ongoing nuclear crisis.

The crimes on the children of Fukushima continues unabated. This brings shame to the great nation of Japan. Evacuate the children. No ifs or buts !!

Toshihide Tsuda…

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‘Fukushima’ sounds warning on nuclear energy – Los Angeles Times

” On March 18, 2011, an official from theU.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission  named Chuck Casto called together the NRC delegation on assignment with him in Tokyo.

“We’re in never-never land,” he told them.

Seven days earlier, a magnitude 9 earthquake had rattled a complex of six nuclear power plants known as Fukushima Daiichi, roughly 150 miles northeast of Tokyo. Then came nature’s second, more devastating blow: a tsunami that swamped the complex, flooding its electrical generators and putting its three operating reactors out of commission. The reactors were soon out of control, the plant effectively disabled by that most feared event in the nuclear industry: a “station blackout,” when no power is available to run any of the safety systems designed to defend the public from a runaway reaction.

In the days that followed, three explosions blew apart portions of two reactor buildings, and the reactors’ fuel cores at least partly melted down. Public officials steadily expanded the evacuation zone around the plant, eventually to 19 miles; the evacuation of Tokyo itself was briefly considered.

“Never-never land” barely did justice to the situation. Casto and his team had been flown to Japan to help deal with the crisis, but all that they knew was that the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Co., which owned the plant, were at an almost complete loss about how to deal with the catastrophe, as was the Japanese government.

Today, nearly three years after the event, only two of Japan’s 50 nuclear power reactors have been permitted to restart. The wrecked Fukushima station has been leaking radioactive water into the Pacific.

These events and more are meticulously reconstructed in “Fukushima: The Story of a Nuclear Disaster” by David Lochbaum, Edwin Lyman and Susan Q. Stranahan of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Followers of Fukushima and its consequences for the nuclear power movement have come to rely on Lochbaum and Lyman for their scientific expertise on the topic. Stranahan, a journalist and writer whose experience with nuclear power dates back to her coverage of the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, is evidently responsible for the book’s lucid and gripping narrative.

No one with an interest in the present and future of nuclear power in the United States should miss it.

Books and news coverage about nuclear power coalesced into three periods, roughly tracking the fortunes and self-image of the industry itself. First came the years of optimism, starting in the late 1940s and extending into the 1950s, when physicists and government bureaucrats alike were eager to spread the idea of the “peaceful atom” as counterpoint to the image of nuclear technology as a tool of war established by the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The U.S. government heavily subsidized the nascent nuclear power industry, and General Electric and Westinghouse, manufacturers of the two leading power reactor designs, offered nuclear plants to a willing utility industry on loss-leader terms.

But reactor technology was vastly more complex than anything America’s utilities had dealt with previously. Their executives and their workforces were incapable of safely managing the willful atom. Meanwhile, the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission kept a tight lid on its own staff’s reports of the health perils of radioactivity loosed into the environment and the implications of runaway reactions. Anxious to tamp down public opposition to the novel technology, the AEC issued earnest reassurances about the rigorous safety standards of the nation’s burgeoning fleet of nuclear power stations.

By the late 1970s the truth was beginning to leak out, in part through the indefatigable efforts of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the home of the authors of “Fukushima,” which used the Freedom of Information Act to spring reams of documents from purgatory. The years of doubt culminated in 1979, when the Three Mile Island accident underscored the inadequacy of the “human factor” in managing power reactors. Over the next 10 years, plans for more than 60 nuclear plants in the U.S. were canceled.

But with the turn of the century, interest in nuclear power returned. Today the atom is treated as a potential “green” energy source. The managerial shortcomings of the past supposedly have been overcome, and the safety of the technology supposedly has advanced.

“Fukushima” is an indispensable reminder of the nuclear power industry’s failure to learn from the past. The assurances of greater rigor in the operation and regulation of the peaceful atom after Three Mile Island are contradicted by the flaws exposed by Fukushima. As Lyman, one of the authors of this book, observed in congressional testimony shortly after the disaster, a similar event could happen in the U.S. “We have plants that are just as old. … We have a regulatory system that is not clearly superior to that of the Japanese. We have had extreme weather events that exceeded our expectations and defeated our emergency planning.”

How safe is safe enough? Throughout the history of nuclear power, utilities and regulators have assured the public that their plants can withstand every emergency situation except the truly unimaginable. But the unimaginable can happen, as it did on the coast of Japan on March 11, 2011.

“Fukushima” shows in sobering detail what can follow when those with a vested interest in making the technology seem safer than it is decide not to plan for an extreme event because “it can’t happen here.” The authors remind us: Yes, it can. 

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Understanding the ongoing nuclear disaster in Fukushima: a “two-headed dragon” descends into the earth’s biosphere — The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus

If you are interested in learning about Fukushima Daiichi and global nuclear energy in depth, I recommend you read Fujioka Atsushi’s article, “Understanding the Ongoing Nuclear Disaster in Fukushima: A “Two-Headed Dragon” Descends into the Earth’s Biosphere.” From a scientific perspective, this article explains the causes and effects of the March 2011 nuclear meltdowns, outlines the historical roots of global nuclear power plant expansion, and analyses the radiation impacts from Fukushima No. 1 as well as global impacts of nuclear power. Atsushi explores the following headings:

” Breaking Away from the ‘Celestial Fire’ of the Cosmos: The Formation of the Earth’s Biosphere

‘Nuclear Civilization’: Moving Backward in Cosmic History

From Meltdown to Melt-Through

March 15: The Largest Release of Radiation

March 21: A Second Massive Release of Radiation

The Formation of Contaminated ‘Hot Spots’

The Amount of Radiation Released from Fukushima Daiichi

Radioactive Water and Contamination in the Oceans

Comparison with Hiroshima

Comparison with Three Mile Island and Atmospheric Nuclear Tests

Comparison with Chernobyl

Amount of Radiation Lying Dormant in Fukushima Daiichi

The Fate of 2000 Tons of Damaged Nuclear Fuel

Prospects for Resident Health in Five Years and Beyond

In Place of a Conclusion “

Fujioka Atsushi, the author, is Professor of Economics, Ritsumeikan University and Planning Director, Kyoto Museum for World Peace. He is a specialist on the US nuclear economy, space and intelligence strategy, and economic conversion from military to civilian-oriented industry. Michael Bourdaghs, the translator, is Associate Professor of Modern Japanese Literature, University of Chicago. He is the author of The Dawn That Never Comes: Shimazaki Tōson and Japanese Nationalism, and editor of The Linguistic Turn in Contemporary Japanese Literary Studies: Textuality, Language, Politics.

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