*Document shows Tepco recognized risk of huge tsunami at Fukushima plant in 2008 — The Asahi Shimbun

” Tokyo Electric Power Co. in 2008 recognized the “indispensable” need for countermeasures against a towering tsunami at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, but it ended up doing nothing, an internal document showed.

The document was disclosed on June 18 by TEPCO, operator of the Fukushima plant, at the request of its shareholders who have filed a lawsuit against the utility’s executives. The plaintiffs are demanding that company executives be held responsible for the nuclear crisis at the plant that was triggered by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

“It is indispensable for us to develop measures against a higher tsunami than currently estimated,” the document says.

The plaintiffs argue that the document proves that TEPCO executives at the time could foresee the possibility of a huge tsunami striking the nuclear plant. They say the utility in 2008 estimated a 15.7-meter tsunami could hit the plant based on earthquake predictions by a governmental organization.

But TEPCO said its 2008 estimate could not be “a factor that inevitably forced them to take concrete countermeasures because there were differences of opinion, even among experts, on how to estimate a quake.”

The in-house document was distributed during a TEPCO meeting held on Sept. 10, 2008, to discuss countermeasures at the Fukushima nuclear plant against earthquakes and tsunami.

Akio Komori, a managing executive officer and director of the plant at that time, attended the meeting.

The document says it is “difficult to completely deny” the government findings on a possible earthquake and tsunami, and that the company had “no choice but” to raise the maximum height in its estimates for tsunami.

According to the shareholders suing the TEPCO officials, the document includes a sentence that says, “This contains sensitive information and must be returned.”

In another document submitted to the Tokyo District Court by TEPCO in the lawsuit, the company says, “The (2008) document just mentioned the possibility of some sort of anti-tsunami measures required in the future and did not point out any specific risk of tsunami.” ”


Fukushima radioactive waste storage operator’s intranet infected by virus — The Japan Times

” The internal computer network of the state-run Japan Environmental Storage & Safety Corp., which manages temporary storage sites for decontaminated waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, has been infected by a computer virus, the Environment Ministry said Wednesday.

The operator also known as JESCO, an Environment Ministry affiliate, is investigating whether any information has been leaked, ministry officials said.

JESCO will run interim facilities to be set up on land in Fukushima Prefecture to store radioactive soil and other waste. Facility buildings have yet to be built amid slow progress in negotiations with landowners.

JESCO’s computers do not store information on the landowners, which is kept at the Environment Ministry, the officials said.

JESCO shut down the network’s external communications Tuesday night after a firm monitoring the network detected unintended data transmission, they said.

The Environment Ministry temporarily halted transportation of waste scheduled for earlier Wednesday, but the operation resumed later, the officials said.

The Japan Pension Service and the Tokyo chamber of commerce recently announced their respective computer networks had been hacked, causing data leaks of confidential information. ”


Quake-proofing efforts lag at Fukushima schools — The Japan Times

” Education ministry data released earlier this month showed that only 84.9 percent of public elementary and junior high school buildings in Fukushima Prefecture had been quake-proofed as of April 1, 10.7 points below the national average.

Of the 2,053 buildings, 310 still need renovation and 67 are likely to collapse if a quake measuring upper 6 or higher on the Japanese seismic intensity scale to 7 strikes the area.

Even though the figure was second-worst among the 47 prefectures, the municipalities in question lack the funds for the renovations because they are putting priority on decontamination and recovery from the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns. The rise in prices of construction materials isn’t helping either, they say.

Even if they have the funds, they would have difficulty securing the workers and materials needed for the retrofitting process — which the ministry had intended to complete by end of fiscal 2015 — due to reconstruction from 3/11.

Among 52 municipalities in the prefecture, excluding seven radiation-contaminated towns and villages where schools remain closed, the city of Fukushima had the most school buildings not yet up to quake-resistance standards or pending quake-resistance checks.

“We want to provide students with safe places to study as soon as possible, but it will take time to get the retrofitting work done,” said Tsutomu Abe of Fukushima’s board of education, which is in charge of the retrofitting projects.

Since higher priority was given to reconstruction projects, retrofitting contracts at some schools even failed to draw bids, board officials said, predicting it will take several more years to finish the work.

At municipal Shinryo Junior High School, which has 670 students, a new building is under construction next to one built more than 50 years ago. The old building is said to be at high risk of collapsing if an upper 6 quake hits the region.

“We place priority on the safety of students while the construction work is going on,” Principal Tomohiro Kameoka said.

The data also revealed that 85.4 percent of public schools for special needs students in Fukushima are quake-resistant, which was the lowest level nationwide.

At a municipal school for the handicapped, seven buildings more than 40 years old failed the quake-proofing criteria. Authorities have yet to come up with concrete renovation plans despite repeated calls from parents and local support groups.

“We will make efforts to secure children’s safety by taking advantage of the fact that we have more staff than regular schools,” said Principal Kaoru Tsukano. ”


IAEA board considers Fukushima and LEU ‘bank’ — World Nuclear News

” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director general Yukiya Amano highlighted a major report on the Fukushima nuclear accident and agreements paving the way for a low-enriched uranium (LEU) ‘fuel bank’ in his introductory statement to the IAEA’s Board of Governors yesterday.

The IAEA’s 35-strong board generally meets five times per year to examine and make recommendations to the agency’s General Conference, held every September, on the IAEA’s accounts, program and budget. It also considers applications for membership.

Amano described the Fukushima report as “an authoritative, factual and balanced assessment of what happened at Fukushima Daiichi”. The result of an extensive international effort involving some 180 experts from 42 IAEA member states and other organizations over two years, it draws on five detailed technical volumes which will be issued before the General Conference. It also aims to be accessible for a non-technical audience, he said.

“There can be no grounds for complacency about nuclear safety in any country. Some of the factors that contributed to the Fukushima Daiichi accident were not unique to Japan,” Amano noted, adding that continuous questioning and openness to learning from experience are key to safety culture and are essential for everyone involved in nuclear power. “Safety must always come first,” he said.

The report was delivered to the IAEA’s member states in May, but must be considered by the Board of Governors prior to its public release which is scheduled to take place during the IAEA General Conference in September.

Banking on agreement

Board approval is also being sought for two key agreements underpinning the establishment of the IAEA LEU ‘fuel bank’ in Kazakhstan: a host state agreement between the IAEA and Kazakhstan on the establishment of the reserve in that country; and a draft transit agreement between the IAEA and Russia to permit the IAEA to transport LEU through Russia to and from the ‘bank’.

The facility would provide a reserve of fuel to be made available to IAEA member states, at market prices, as a last resort should they find themselves unable to obtain LEU for power generation on the global commercial market. The IAEA has been working since 2010 to establish the reserve, which aims to hold enough LEU to meet the fuel fabrication needs for two to three reloads of fuel for a 1000 MWe light water reactor.

Kazakhstan volunteered to host the repository in 2010, and the country’s energy minister signed the draft agreement with the IAEA on 27 April. The facility looks likely to be sited at the Ulba Metallurgical Plant at Ust-Kamenogorsk in eastern Kazakhstan.

Amano described the conclusion of the two agreements as a “significant milestone” for the project, enabling the IAEA to proceed to full-scale implementation. Two related technical agreements are also near to finalization, and are expected to be signed at the same time as the host state agreement, he added. ”


Chubu Electric pushes Hamaoka reactor toward restart; residents divided — The Japan Times

” Chubu Electric Power Co. applied Tuesday for Nuclear Regulation Authority safety screening so it can restart the No. 3 reactor at its Hamaoka nuclear plant.

Located on the Pacific coast in Omaezaki, Shizuoka Prefecture, the facility is in a region that studies suggest could be devastated by a major earthquake.

Chubu Electric said it plans to take measures by September 2017 to enhance the safety of the No. 3 unit against risks from earthquakes and tsunami.

In February 2014, it applied for a safety assessment of the No. 4 unit. It and the No. 5 reactor were shut down in May 2011 after Prime Minister Naoto Kan of the Democratic Party of Japan requested that operations be suspended amid fears that a powerful earthquake predicted in the area could trigger another nuclear crisis. The Fukushima disaster was playing out at the time.

Residents in Shizuoka Prefecture expressed mixed reaction Tuesday.

“I can’t trust the safety of a nuclear plant even if it passes the screening,” said a woman in her 40s who operates a shop in Omaezaki.

A man in his 60s who owns a business in the city said the plant should not be restarted.

“Higher electricity bills are hitting my business hard, but that can’t be traded for safety,” he said.

Katsushi Hayashi, who belongs to a local citizens’ group, said the application for restart “goes against the will of the people in Shizuoka.”

However, some residents said the restart may be necessary for development of the local economy.

“It’s true that many people have jobs thanks to the Hamaoka plant, although I support phasing out nuclear power,” said a 43-year-old housewife who lives near the plant.

A man in his 30s who works at a local restaurant said, “We have no choice but to allow the restart if it would contribute to the local economy.”

At the time of the Fukushima disaster, the No. 3 unit at the five-reactor Hamaoka plant was offline for scheduled maintenance and inspections. Reactors 1 and 2 ended commercial operation in 2009.

Chubu Electric wants to resume power generation at the complex as soon as possible to reduce its reliance on expensive fossil fuel imports.

Currently all of Japan’s commercial reactors remain offline pending NRA safety reviews. Prior to the Fukushima disaster they provided nearly a third of the nation’s power.

The NRA’s current safety standards were adopted in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. ”