*UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai — Mitsuhei Murata’s speech, March 16, 2015

The former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland, Mitsuhei Murata, made the following speech at the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai on March 16, 2015.

” Nuclear disaster and global ethics


It goes without saying that genuine denuclearization, both military and civilian, makes the greatest contribution to disaster risk reduction.

The increased menace of nuclear terrorism has awakened the world to the urgent task of abolishing all nuclear reactors in the world. It is no longer an ideal, but an imperative necessity to realize the vision of President Obama for a “World without Nuclear Weapons” just as soon as possible.

Global ethics and human rights

Nowadays the drawbacks of nuclear power are evident, and many even consider this method to generate power a high risk. Nuclear technology was born in a period of paternal civilisation and in the belief, that this technology would solve all problems. Today a maternal civilization, which is based on solidarity and tolerance, should replace the paternal system of risk taking and sole reliance on technology.

In the past years I had numerous discussions on the option of introducing a “UN Ethics Summit” as forum for a high level dialogue on ethical issues, convinced that the true cause of the crisis facing the world is the lack of ethics.

Considering the ongoing progressive nuclearisation of the earth, future generations will be innocent victims of radioactive contamination. Measures are definitely required to open the way for eventual and potential radiation victims to file a legal suite before an international institution. It is a serious human rights issue.

In this connection, it should be noted that the permissible annual level of radiation exposure has been dangerously heightened in Japan after the March 11th accident. 1 millisievert (mSv) has been elevated to 20 mSv for residents in affected areas. The government increased the annual limit for nuclear workers’ radiation exposure from 100 mSv to 250 mSv in “emergency situations”. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is reported to have suggested raising the limit to 500 mSv!

The situation of the Fukushima nuclear plant ~ not under control

Units 1, 2 and 3 remain inaccessible because of lethal levels of radiation in the buildings. Their containment vessels need a constant flow of nitrogen to maintain low levels of oxygen in order to prevent hydrogen explosions.

The Japanese Nuclear Regulation Agency is reported to envisage the release of treated contaminated water (241,000 tons out of 590,000 tons) into the sea. The dangers of tritium remind us of its legal releases from the reprocessing plants (Rokkasho-mura and Tokai-mura) that, if operated at nominal capacity, surpass by far the current release from Fukushima.

In the joint petition made in 2003 against the ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor)issued by Dr. Masatoshi Koshiba, Nobel Prize Laureate, and Prof. Akira Hasegawa, Maxwell Prize Laureate, we notice that ITER containing two kilograms of tritium could kill up to two million people.

In spite of all this, the Japanese government is now vigorously promoting the restart of nuclear reactors shut down after the Fukushima disaster.

The world needs to be reminded of the warning of the late German President Richard von Weizsaecker: “Those who close their eyes to the past will remain blind regarding the future.”

Nuclear reactors threaten global security

After Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Fukushima, it has become Japan’s historic role to contribute to the true denuclearization of the earth, both civilian and military.

In Belgium, a steam turbine of the Doel-4 reactor was severely damaged by an act of sabotage last August. The same month, a number of rockets were fired at facilities in Israel (Reuters). These facts alone are sufficient to support the assertion that the mere existence of more than 430 nuclear reactors in the world constitutes the most serious global safety and security problem. Nuclear reactors are no less dangerous than nuclear weapons.

After discovering thousands of additional fault indications in two Belgian reactor pressure vessels, the head of the Belgian safety authorities stated in February 2015: “This is possibly a worldwide problem for the whole nuclear sector. The solution lies in carrying out detailed inspections in all 430 nuclear reactors worldwide”.

Fukushima has shown that the existence of a nuclear reactor itself constitutes a security problem.

Consequently, it is required to strengthen the international control over the safety of more than 430 reactors in the world.

Moreover, we should establish international control over the nuclear policies of the concerned countries and the manner in which these policies are executed .

The fate of the world will be decided by the utility or electric power companies, if no drastic change takes place, learning the lessons of Fukushima.

Japan knows more than any other country the real and present dangers of nuclear reactors. It is a serious security problem that much of the world continues to promote nuclear power generation even after Fukushima, totally ignoring its lessons.

Even after the March 11th disaster, Japan has not revised the basic nuclear law intended to promote nuclear power generation as a national policy! Japan’s governability is now questioned.

It is increasingly pointed out that Fukushima is being forgotten!

Chernobyl is facing a new crisis. The period of durability of the decaying sarcophagus ends in 2016.The building of the shelter being constructed through international cooperation will not be accomplished in time for shortage of fund (615million EUR). Ukraine is faced with serious financial difficulties, in addition to its internal strife with pro-Russian citizens.

A new international system needed

We need a new international system that obliges all the governments struck by a nuclear disaster to consecrate maximum efforts to solve the crisis and to mobilize human wisdom on the widest possible scope to concretize international cooperation.

Fukushima is revealing the limitations of a government facing a national crisis, its longevity being but several years. Nuclear accidents have shown the necessity of coping with their consequences quasi- permanently.

The current Japanese system of coping with the consequences of Fukushima is faulty and needs a drastic change. Japan is in need of international solidarity and powerful international cooperation.

The reform of the IAEA

The IOC continues to ignore the legitimate requests by the public to have an independent assessment team of experts to reassure the safety of Tokyo. The not forthcoming reply from the IOC is based on the official assertions of the Japanese Government whose credibility is more and more questioned. They are in conformity with the position of the IAEA.

It represents the interests of the utility, minimizing the dangers of radioactive contamination and the consequences of nuclear accidents.

The IAEA needs urgent reforms and much better funding in order to accomplish its mission of control of all existing nuclear installations world- wide.

The reform of the IAEA has now been requested both by a Former Japanese Prime Minister and a Former Swiss President. They assert that international control over the safety of existing nuclear plants must be strengthened. Their plea deserves wide international support.

They support the decision of the World Federation of UNESCO Clubs and Associations to make March 11th an International Day for Global Ethics.

Maximum efforts needed to cope with Fukushima crisis

After the Chernobyl accident, a sarcophagus was constructed within 7 months. Actually, a huge shelter is being built by dint of international cooperation.

Actually, the average number of daily workers at the site is more than 7000 at present. The difficulty of procuring workers at the site is beyond imagination. Homeless people have been hired off the streets to do

dangerous decontamination work. The lack of the sense of crisis over Fukushima is in stark contrast to the gravity of the crisis.

Maximum efforts must be made by Japan to stop the worsening of the actual situation. The honorable retreat from Tokyo Olympic Games to enable this seems imperative. Japanese civil society will not allow the irresponsibility of organizing the Tokyo Olympic Games without prior reassurance of the safety of Tokyo by the International Olympic Committeee.

Fukushima is a crisis for Japan as a nation. It is a crisis of the global environment for the international community. It is surprisingly being treated as a crisis for the management of electric companies. The total assumption of responsibilities by the State is indispensable.

It is noteworthy that a proposal to establish an International Task Force Fukushima (ITFF) is gaining substantial support abroad.

UN Ethics Summit

Attributing far higher value to ethical thinking and doing so on a global level would best guarantee human rights. It will give ready evidence to the lack of ethics inherent in the technology of nuclear energy.

I am convinced, that the adequately reformed IAEA, in association with the national Japanese organizations, can and should play a greater role in coping with the disaster of Fukushima”.

I join many others in calling for a UN Ethics Summit that paves the way for global ethics, maternal civilization and true denuclearization.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote me in his letter dated March 2, 2013 that he would gladly support such a summit if member-states submit it to the General Assembly.

Thank you for your kind attention. ”

Also read Mitsuhei Murata’s letter, “The Worsening Situation in Fukushima,” May 6, 2015

Why hosting the 2020 Olympics would hurt Japan

The Feb. 28 Economist article (below), “Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup is bad for a city’s health,” explains who is really paying for the new infrastructure built to host the games (taxpayers!) and who is really making the majority of the profit – I’ll give you one guess, that’s right, the IOC [International Olympic Committee] and FIFA. Seeing the precedent of economic disadvantage for both the London and Sochi Olympics and Brazil’s World Cup, Tokyo would be making a huge mistake in hosting the 2020 Olympics.

The article states, “But over the past few decades, the IOC, in particular, has appropriated an every-greater share of the proceeds for itself: the most recent public data reveal that it now pockets more than 70% of Olympic television revenue, compared with less than 4% between 1960 and 1980… And there is little evidence to support the projections that hosting will bring a surge in tourism: Beijing and London both attracted fewer visitors during their summer Olympics in 2008 and 2012 respectively than they had int he same period a year earlier.

The international organizations argue, in return, that they also contribute to the costs of staging the contests: in particular, FIFA funds the entire World Cup operating budget. However, “operating” costs account for only a small portion of the price of hosting tournaments. The lion’s share is spent on construction, both on stadiums and on transport capacity to shuttle people between events. Those expenditures are borne entirely by the host. Although there is no formal requirement that such venues be new, the IOC and FIFA have consistently selected cities with the most ambitious plans for custom-built facilities. It is the need to build so much, so fast that leads to taxpayer-funded cost overruns that would be comic were they not so tragic, running from a low of four times the original estimate up to ten times or more.”

Rather than digging itself into deeper debt by spending billions of dollars on sports facilities, Tokyo must funnel maximum resources into the Fukushima Daiichi decommissioning efforts and compensation for the ten of thousands of displaced Fukushima refugees. I use the word “efforts” because no one truly knows how to deal with the situation — three reactors with spent melted fuel that cannot be located due to extreme radiation levels; about 1,300 storage tanks full of contaminated water, up to 333 of which are leaking; the risk of sinking foundation due to underground water, which also becomes contaminated; and 300 tons of radioactive water flowing in the Pacific Ocean daily since March 2011. The list goes on. Japan seems to have its hands full with an estimated several trillion dollar cleanup process and recovery that will take a minimum of 40 years.

Rather than looking out for the safety of its citizens, the Japanese government has literally done the opposite by increasing the annual radiation limit from 1 mSv to 20 mSv and by threatening evacuees to move back to contaminated areas where evacuation orders have been lifted. They are given a set number of months to return home until they can no longer receive compensation. I’m talking about mothers who fear radiation exposure for their families every day and children who can’t even play outside for more than a short period of time before they’ve reached their daily radiation capacity.

The Japanese government has shamed and dishonored its country by denying its citizens their basic needs for survival and happiness and the freedom to raise their families in a clean environment. Instead, its marriage with utilities and energy companies has pushed nuclear energy to the forefront of Japan’s energy policy, a slap in the face to the survivors of the Fukushima triple meltdowns.

Tokyo must step down as host of the 2020 Olympics for the social and economic welfare of Japan.


The Horrors of Fukushima — Mitsuhei Murata, April 20, 2015

Document dated April 20, 2015:

” The Fukushima accident gives the impression to the world that it has been brought under control. It is far from it. The following point of view of Dr. Norio Iriguchi, Professor Emeritus of Kumamoto University, impresses us with the potential horrors of the damaged nuclear plant. I wish to convey to you my impressions it has given me.

1. The point of view of Professor Iriguchi

The containment vessels of units 1, 2 and 3 are broken. The containment vessels were the last strongholds to shut radioactive materials in, but now they are now in contact with the external environment. The volume of each vessel is about 15,000 cubic meters. The temperature inside the vessels varies day and night, winter and summer, and we can presume they are breathing, so to speak, accordingly. Within the vessels, there are molten nuclear fuel rods. If the temperature rises for some reasons, radioactive materials are released into the atmosphere.

Cesium 137 contained in the containment vessels of units 1, 2 and 3 is the equivalent of 14 thousand Hiroshima atomic bombs, 7000 of which are spent nuclear fuel rods whose radioactivity will be reduced by one to one thousand in 300 years. During this period, radioactive materials will continue to be scattered bit by bit as stated above, unless a major natural disaster takes place. However, if molten nuclear fuel rods are exposed through cracks to the atmosphere due to a mega earthquake or the liquidization of the site that causes the collapse or the inclination of a nuclear reactor, Japan’s landmass would become uninhabitable to a large extent.

Cesium 137 contained in unspent nuclear fuel rods amounts to about 7000 Hiroshima atomic bombs, and the possibility of it causing a nuclear fission chain reaction persists for one million years.

In addition to the above-mentioned dangers, there exists a cooling pool for spent nuclear fuel rods on the third floor of each building of the three units. The total of the radioactive materials in the three pools amounts to the equivalent of 16,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. They are submersed in water in order to confine radioactivity. For 300 years at least, they make us dread mega earthquakes and the associated collapse of the buildings that could take place at any moment.

2. My impressions

The DNA of Japan as a nation has been damaged by the nuclear accident. I have been asserting that nuclear reactors are no less dangerous than nuclear weapons, but it is more correct to say that nuclear reactors are more dangerous than nuclear weapons.

The nuclear accident has obliged many residents of Fukushima to abandon their native places. It has contaminated Japan’s invaluable soil with radioactivity and has brought about a situation that obliges the relevant residents to abandon forever their living and farming land.

The ongoing radioactive contamination of the sea with no prospect for a solution is dishonoring Japan, being criticized as harming the global environment. In spite of all this, attempts are shamefully being made to hide Fukushima.

The Tokyo Olympic Games, the Senkaku Islands problem, the Takeshima issue, all these are just out of the question. ”

*also read Mitsuhei Murata’s letter from May 6, 2015.

Letters from Mitsuhei Murata, former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland, to Caroline Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Washington Post

This letter was dated May 7, 2015, Tokyo:

” Dear Ambassador Caroline Kennedy,

Please allow me to send you my message being widely disseminated. It is a serious warning against an eventual severe nuclear accident.

The international community could not remain indifferent for long to the present and increasing dangers of Fukushima.

On individual, regional and national levels, serious efforts are needed to improve the situation.

The Tokyo Olympic Games give the false impression that Fukushima is under control. Japan is, alas, damaging the global environment with never-ending radioactive contamination.

Japan should devote maximum efforts to bring Fukushima under control, mobilizing human wisdom on the widest possible scale.

Please allow me to count on your understanding and support.

With highest and warmest regards,

Mitsuhei Murata

Former Japanese Ambassador to Switzerland
Executive Director, Japan Society for Global System and Ethics ”

* * *

This letter was dated Nov. 18, 2014:

” Dear President Jimmy Carter,

I hope all goes well for you.

The new political development in Japan could remind the responsibility of the IOC [International Olympic Committee] to have been influenced by the lack of understanding of the real situation of the Fukuichi.

I am attaching below my letter sent to the Washington Post last September. Tepco announced yesterday that contaminated water is flowing into the sea from the trenches at Fukuichi, due to the failure to freeze the water. The situation is dangerously worsening.

The IOC continue to ignore Dr. Helen Caldicott’s  legitimate request to send to Japan a team of independent scientists to reasure the safty problem. The credibility of the IOC is at stake.

I am informing you of an important initiative taken by a Swiss friend of mine, Mr. Andreas Nidecker, Co-Founder of IPPNW-Switzerland in response to my message attached below.

It is very timely and its impact will be extensive.

With highest and warmest regards,

Mitsuhei Murata ”

* * *

” Prof. Mitsuhei Murata
Former Ambassador to Switzerland
Executive Director, Japan Society for Global System and Ethics
Dr. Jean Jacques Fasnacht, MD, President PSR / IPPNW Switzerland
Basel, 17.11.2014

Dear Mitsuhei Murata and Jean Jacques Fasnacht,
Dear friends in IPPNW in Switzerland and worldwide,

Mitsuhei, reading Your description of the current events in the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant I am as alarmed as You about the worsening situation: the failure of the „freezing concept“ of TEPCO for the underground water flow indeed may facilitate a lasting increase of the Pacific seawater contamination, which is of global concern. You are also absolutely correct in Your assessment, that the Internatl. Olympic Cttee should seriously consider withdrawing the 2020 Olympic Games from Japan.

By Your previous political position You have a close connection with our country, Mitsuhei. We activists in Switzerland and in many countries are involved in a politically tenacious and difficult struggle to get our Nuclear Power Plants phased out. I therefore propose to You, Jean Jacques, to publish Mitsuhei’s letter to the Washington Post in Swiss Newspapers, translated into German obviously. Other IPPNW affiliates may also decide to do the same.

Both the state of the damaged reactor and the failing efforts by TEPCO and the fact of expensive Olympic Games still planned in Japan in 2020 deserve wide public attention. i feel that we as IPPNW  have a responsibility to publish these facts

Best regards and thanks for Your continued efforts to stand-by in observing the evolving disaster in Fukushima and report about it.

Andi Nidecker, MD ”

* * *

This letter was sent to the Washington Post and dated Sep. 16, 2014, Tokyo:

” Mitsuhei Murata
Former Ambassador to Switzerland
Executive Director, Japan Society for Global System and Ethics

The worsening situation at Fukushima Daiichi has some experts fearing the worst; collapse of the 4 reactor buildings due to the softening of the soil caused by excessive underground water. It could be the beginning of a catastrophe for Japan and the world. Experts say within weeks a radioactive plume could reach the West Coast of the United States.

The total volume of cesium 137 of the Fukushima Daiichi is equivalent to 5000 Hiroshima Atomic Bombs. The release of their total radiation could bring about the nuclear winter that would fatally affect the United States for hundreds of years. The dangers are real and incomparably terrifying than many are led to realize by Tokyo Electric Company (Tepco) and the Japanese Government.

Fukushima is forgotten, but the reality remains; Fukushima is a global security issue.

Japan knows more than any other country the real and present dangers of nuclear reactors. It is a serious security problem that the mainstream of the world continue to promote nuclear power generation even after Fukushima, totally ignoring its lessons.

The problem of protecting the security of the residents of the US West Coast will soon awaken the world to the uncontrollable and spreading consequences of the Accident. We cannot deny that Fukushima, if badly managed, could become the beginning of the ultimate global catastrophe.

The withdrawal from the Tokyo Olympic Games seems inevitable. “

Curtain falls on atomic feud with Kepco — The Japan Times

” OSAKA – They’re nothing but a bunch of overpaid, arrogant jerks who should have been fired long ago for their managerial incompetence, while he’s a just another crude loudmouth who has no idea what he’s talking about.

Based on their public comments these past few years, that pretty much sums up, in the politest language possible, how Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto feels about senior managers at Kansai Electric Power Co., and how they view him. But with Hashimoto announcing he will not seek re-election when his term ends later this year, the cobra-mongoose relationship between the mayor and Kepco officials will come to an end.

That’s very good news for Kepco’s pro-nuclear managers, who must have popped the champagne corks when the Osaka merger plan was voted down on May 17 and its champion, Hashimoto, declared he was done with politics.

Ever since Hashimoto, as governor in spring 2011, announced it was time for Osaka, and Japan, to get out of nuclear power, he’s been a pain in the neck (at least) for Kepco managers. Many thought, and still do, that Hashimoto wasn’t truly serious about dropping nuclear power, that it was just an appeal to popular sentiment in the weeks after March 11, 2011.

But if Hashimoto was playacting, it was a long-running performance. After becoming mayor in November 2011, he made it clear that Osaka, which owns about 9 percent of Kepco, would demand the utility reform itself by deregulating its distribution channels and increasing renewable energy.

That was music to the ears of nuclear opponents in a region that had relied on atomic power for about half its electricity supply before the core meltdowns of March 2011.

It also appealed to Osaka’s traditional entrepreneurial spirit in two ways. Those with an interest in developing renewable-energy technology saw a city that might support their efforts, while the idea of homes and small businesses generating, and selling, small amounts of electricity to their immediate neighbors created a gleam in the eye of many merchants.

They salivated at the thought of grabbing business from Kepco, whose monopoly on the electricity market was cited by Hashimoto and his supporters as a major factor behind Osaka’s two-decade-long economic stagnation.

Traditional anti-nuclear activists were wary, however. Most despised Hashimoto’s conservative, even right-wing, views on historical and educational issues, and doubted he’d spend political capital to challenge the nuclear lobby. When a group of activists tried to get him to hold a referendum on whether Osaka should get out of nuclear power, the mayor balked, saying that without a detailed plan of action for doing so, such a pursuit was meaningless. The referendum never happened.

Hashimoto did form a committee of outside experts to look at getting the city and prefecture out of nuclear and into renewables. But Kepco defied Hashimoto and public opinion and restarted two reactors in Oi, Fukui Prefecture, in summer 2012. These were the nation’s first restarts since the 2011 quake, tsunami and Fukushima meltdowns.

Hashimoto initially opposed the Oi restarts. But in the end, he agreed with other Kansai leaders to a provisional restart, a move that disappointed his anti-nuclear supporters.

The relationship between the mayor and Kepco remained contentious. Finally, Hashimoto announced earlier this year he would submit a resolution to force the city to sell its shares in Kepco, saying the utility had made no effort to get out of nuclear power. But members of the Osaka Municipal Assembly, many of whom are loyal to Kepco or fear its financial and political clout, voted the resolution down.

Last week, the day after the merger referendum failed, Kepco won permission from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to raise electricity rates 8.36 percent beginning June 1 — its third rate hike since March 2011.

That means a monthly home power bill of around ¥8,200, up 28 percent from early 2011, and another drag on the local economy.

After the merger plan failed, Hashimoto was asked about his failure to get Osaka out of nuclear power. He brushed off the question, saying it was now a national issue, beyond his authority. But there was a touch of regret in his voice, although it’s unclear whether that was because he genuinely believes in a nuclear-free future, or because he just hates losing an argument. Especially to those he views as a bunch of overpaid, arrogant jerks who should have been fired long ago for their managerial incompetence. ”


*Lowball nuclear pitch is fooling no one — The Japan Times

” Earlier this month, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) announced the results of a review of energy production costs, which concluded that nuclear will remain the cheapest alternative for Japan over the next 15 years while pointing out that the calculations took into consideration the government’s new safety measures. By 2030, the cost of producing a kilowatt hour of electricity in a nuclear plant is expected to increase from ¥8.9 to ¥10.1. This estimate also incorporates the presumed savings resulting from those new safety measures, which, METI assumes, will reduce the “frequency” of reactor accidents.

In comparison, energy derived from coal will cost ¥12.9 per kilowatt hour and from LNG ¥13.4, though these figures are based on price increases predicted in 2011. More significantly, the cost of solar will rise from ¥12.4 to ¥16, and wind from ¥13.9 to ¥33.1. Geothermal comes in at ¥19.2. METI said these high costs will “affect development” of renewables, implying that there isn’t much of a future for them.

A few days later, Shukan Asahi ran an article assessing these calculations, pointing out that the figure of ¥10.1 per kW/hour for nuclear is, in the ministry’s statement, followed by the word ijō, meaning “at least,” while figures for other energy sources are not. The Asahi suggests that METI is trying to assure deniability because it’s almost certain that nuclear-related costs will increase in the future. According to Kenichi Oshima, professor of environmental economics at Ritsumeikan University, the ¥9.1 trillion needed to clean up the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and pay compensation to locals affected by the accident was not factored into the estimate; nor was the cost of decommissioning not only Fukushima No. 1 but other reactors scheduled to go out of service in the next 15 years, and Tokyo Electric Power Co. hasn’t even set a budget for decommissioning Fukushima, a separate procedure from the cleanup. To put matters into perspective, the estimated amount of radioactive material at Fukushima that needs to be processed is equivalent to the amount of radioactive material that would need to be processed from the normal decommissioning of 54 nuclear reactors.

Decommissioning involves removing the spent fuel from the reactor and then disassembling the containment vessel and tearing down the facility. Tepco maintains it has expertise in this area, based on its decommissioning of a test reactor in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture. The group that carried out that work says 99 percent of the radiation in the plant was in the fuel rods, so that was the only waste that required special handling.

But Japan still lacks facilities for storing high-level radioactive waste. At present, spent fuel rods are kept on-site at the nuclear plants from which they’re removed, whether these plants are in operation or not, and high-level waste stays radioactive for hundreds of years. Even low-level irradiated waste, such as the discarded containment vessel, has to be isolated for 30 to 50 years. Tokaimura’s decommissioning was supposed to be completed by 2017, but there is still no solution to the waste problem, so the timetable has been extended to 2025.

But this “easy” scenario for decommissioning doesn’t apply to Fukushima, because Tepco doesn’t know exactly how much high-level radioactive material has to be removed — or even where it is. NHK World elicited a frank evaluation of the situation from Naohiro Masuda, the man in charge of decommissioning Fukushima No. 1, on “Newsline,” its English-language news program. Masuda doesn’t believe decommissioning can start before 2020, and betrays doubt as to whether a proper cleanup of the plant “is even possible.”

The public broadcaster went further last week with a documentary in its series “Decommissioning Fukushima,” a process that, under the most favorable circumstances, won’t be completed until 2051.

There are few examples to follow for the people trying to clean up the crippled reactors. It took workers at Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island nuclear plant three years to find the radioactive debris after the 1979 meltdown, and another 11 years to remove it, and that was only one reactor. Fukushima has three damaged reactors, within which the radiation is lethal, so Tepco and its affiliates designed a ¥1.5 billion robot to enter the reactor and look around. It got stuck mid-inspection.

NHK shows how Tepco has sought advice from experts in France and South Korea to facilitate the cleanup, and while these consultations yield useful ideas, as the program points out, all accidents are unique, which means cleaning up after them is invariably complicated.

Meanwhile, expenses are accumulating at a rate that makes them difficult to project, but according to a different Shukan Asahi article, Japan’s nuclear industry has set the cost of decommissioning at between ¥55 billion and ¥70 billion per reactor. Germany and the U.K., which have each decommissioned a number of reactors, spent the equivalent of between ¥250 billion and ¥300 billion.

The online magazine Business Journal recently explained the matter in bookkeeping terms. Kansai Electric and other power companies plan to decommission at least five superannuated reactors rather than apply for extensions because their respective output isn’t enough to pay for the government’s new safety measures, which cost about ¥10 billion per reactor. The problem is that once a reactor is shut down permanently, in addition to the cost of decommissioning, the company’s revenue for that plant drops to zero, thus hurting its bottom line even more and making it difficult to borrow money or issue bonds. Consequently, METI is thinking of changing the accounting system so that companies can spread this loss over 10 years, during which they can add a surcharge to every customer’s bill for decommissioning.

Obviously, when METI says nuclear is the cheapest form of energy, they’re not thinking about the user. ”