Japan’s former PM tells of Tokyo evacuation risk after Fukushima — Brisbane Times

” Naoto Kan was Japan’s prime minister at the time of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 and he is in Brisbane on Thursday to warn Queenslanders about nuclear power and nuclear exports.

Uranium from Australia’s Ranger Uranium Mine was in the Fukushima nuclear plant on the east coast of Japan when it was hit by a magnitude 9 earthquake, then a 15-metre tsunami on March 11, 2011.

More than 160,000 people had to be evacuated.

For several days after the event – having looked at the damaged Fukushima plant from a helicopter – Mr Kan considered evacuating Japan’s largest city, Tokyo, which has 50 million people.

“We were right on the verge,” Mr Kan said.

“Within the first 100 hours of the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, three of the reactors had experienced melt-downs.

“Three of the reactors also experienced hydrogen explosions. If this situation had exacerbated any further we would have been faced with the situation of having to evacuate Tokyo.”

Ultimately authorities’ ability to use seawater to cool the reactors prevented that happening.

According to the World Nuclear Association, there are still 267,000 tsunami refugees, partly because residents are too nervous of radiation to return to their homes.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan.

A report suggests 5,884 people died in the tsunami and earthquake.

Mr Kan said if he could speak to Queensland Premier Campbell Newman today about uranium exports and nuclear power this is what he would say:

“First of all in Japan, prior to the disaster there were 54 reactors in Japan, however these are all stopped today,” Mr Kan told Fairfax Media from Canberra.

“And even if some did restart it would be practically impossible to return to the kind of levels of operation that were in place before the March 2011 disaster.

“Japan will not be consuming anywhere the same levels of uranium it has in the past.”

Mr Kan, now a supporter of renewable energy, has been in Australia for the past week on a trip sponsored by the Australian Conservation Foundation during which he is speaking out against uranium mining.

He has told the USA’s Huffington Post of his conversion to renewable energy in this way.

“Before the Fukushima accident, with the belief that no nuclear accident would happen as long as the safety measures were followed properly, I had pushed the policy of utilising nuclear power,” he wrote.

“Having faced the real accident as prime minister, and having experienced the situation which came so close to requiring me to order the evacuation of 50 million people, my view is now changed 180 degrees.”

Mr Kan told Fairfax Media the world market for uranium was simply not as strong as it was before the Fukushima disaster.

“The trends we are seeing in the United States and Europe – and also because of the very high costs of nuclear power – we are not seeing a growth in this market,” he said.

“The country with the most plans to expand its nuclear plants is China.

“But China has a very high population density so in the case of any kind of accident it would have a huge impact.”

Mr Kan said he would like to see China greatly expand its renewable energy use.

“But at the moment the Chinese government is looking the other way, looking at an increase [in traditional energy],” he said.

Mr Kan said if there was any chance of Queensland developing a uranium market around the world, it would be in China.

He acknowledged Australia – and Queensland – had considerable uranium resources which it had the right to export, with the responsibility for “uranium safety” belonging to the purchasing country.

But Mr Kan said there remained an “ethical responsibility.”

“Japan is at the moment looking to export nuclear power plants to India,” he said.

“But from my position, I believe that if nuclear power is something we should not be using within Japan, we should not be selling this technology overseas to other countries.

“So from an ethical position I believe this is not correct.”

Mr Kan said the long-term health risks from Fukushima’s radiation were still being determined, but people did lose their lives very early after the tsunami and the meltdown.

“There were around 60 people who had been in hospital ill, or who were elderly, who lost their lives during the evacuation,” he said.

Mr Kan said there has been a major increase in suicides among dairy farmers, who had to kill their cattle herds.

“Thankfully we did not face the situation of such acute exposure to radiation that they lost their lives in the short term,” he said.

“However such a large area was suffering this exposure to radiation, that we have to wait to see some of the longer-term effects.”

Mr Kan said governments should consider how the use of renewable energy was changing following Fukushima.

“In Japan, in the time since we introduced the [renewables] feed-in tariff, we have seen a 2.5 times increase, particularly in solar and wind production,” he said.

“If we are able to continue at this pace, within 10 years we will be able to produce as much electricity through renewable as was produced through nuclear power plants prior to the disaster.”

“And I believe this is possible not just in Japan, but in Australia where there is such vast potential for renewable energies.” ”


Three Chiba cities will store radioactive waste if state fails to build final disposal site, NHK says — The Japan Times

” Three cities in Chiba Prefecture that were heavily contaminated with radioactive materials as a result of the March 2011 nuclear meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant will build facilities to store incinerated radioactive waste in their own municipalities if the central government fails to find a final waste disposal site, NHK reported Monday.

The Chiba Prefectural Government is now temporarily in charge of “designated waste” — incinerated ash and other kinds of waste that contain more than 8,000 becquerels of radioactive materials per 1 kg — produced by the cities of Kashiwa, Matsudo and Nagareyama in northwestern Chiba [as close as seven miles from Tokyo!]. The three cities have produced a total of 526 tons of such waste, according to NHK.

While the central government is supposed to build final disposal facilities for designated nuclear waste, the prefectural government is also asking the three cities to bring the waste back to their own municipalities and dispose of it on their own, if the central government fails to build a disposal facility by next March, the broadcaster reported.

The three cities have agreed to the prefectural government’s request. The city of Kashiwa plans to submit a ¥410 million budget request to the municipal assembly this month in order to build a waste storage plant and transport the waste there, NHK said. ”


Radioactive plumes spread cesium a week after Fukushima disaster — Mainichi

” A second wave of radioactive material from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster spread over the Tohoku and Kanto regions around one week after the outbreak of the disaster, analysis of radiation readings has found.

It was already known that clouds of radioactive material, known as “radioactive plumes,” had spread on March 15 and 16, 2011, but new analysis by the secretariat of the Nuclear Regulation Authority and the Ministry of the Environment shows similar radiation readings for March 20 and 21 as well.

Until now, radiation levels after the disaster have been estimated by comparing observed readings, such as those from aircraft, with computer simulations obtained from the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI). For the most recent analysis, the Ministry of the Environment used data from constant monitoring devices used to measure vehicle exhaust fumes and other such air pollution. The ministry sought help from institutions including Tokyo Metropolitan University and the Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute at the University of Tokyo. It collected filter paper that catches airborne particles from around 90 monitoring stations in nine prefectures. Researchers analyzed radiation levels from March 12 to March 23, 2011.

The analysis showed that at one monitoring station in the city of Fukushima on the night of March 15, the combined activity of cesium-137 and cesium-134 went as high as 45.5 becquerels per cubic meter of air.

Radioactive plumes are believed to have continuously spewed from the plant between March 16 and March 19 as well, but the analysis suggests that due to eastern-blowing winds, they spread out over the Pacific Ocean and did not elevate atmospheric radiation levels over Japan. However, the wind direction later changed, and at 3 p.m. on March 20, the Fukushima city monitoring station registered a reading of 104.1 becquerels per cubic meter of air. Readings around this level continued until the next morning.

It is widely known that a radioactive plume spread around March 15, causing a sharp climb in radiation levels to around 20 microsieverts per hour after rain caused radioactive material to fall on homes and on the ground. Rain did not fall on March 20 and 21, so the already-high radiation levels near homes and on the ground did not climb noticeably. This is thought to be the reason why the second radioactive plume was not noticed until now.

In the Kanto region, two belts of high-concentration radiation were registered — one on March 15 and one on March 21. In particular, on the morning of March 21 there was a spike in radioactive cesium concentrations in southern Ibaraki Prefecture and northeastern Chiba Prefecture. Afterwards, the plumes appear to have moved southwest to the northeastern coast of Tokyo Bay. Rain is thought to have brought the radioactive material down to the area and created radioactive “hot spots” that were recorded in various areas.

Yuichi Moriguchi, an environmental systems professor at the University of Tokyo who is knowledgeable about environmental pollution from the Fukushima disaster, commented, “This is important data that shows when and where high concentrations of cesium in the atmosphere spread. This information will help in accurately determining residents’ radiation exposure at the early stages of the nuclear crisis.” ”