Nuclear industry in crisis, Japan overview — Reneweconomy.com

” … Japan: Only two of the country’s 42 ‘operable’ reactors are actually operating. The future of Japan’s nuclear program remains a guessing game, but projections are being steadily reduced. According to the OECD’s Nuclear Energy Agency and the IAEA, installed capacity of 42.4 GW in 2014 could fall to as little as 7.6 GW by 2035 “as reactors are permanently shut down owing to a range of factors including location near active faults, technology, age and local political resistance.”

Another reactor was permanently shut down in 2016 (Ikata-1) in addition to five shut-downs in 2015 and the six Fukushima Daiichi reactors shut down in the aftermath of the March 2011 disaster. Japan also decided last year to permanently shut down the troubled Monju fast breeder reactor. For all the rhetoric about Generation IV fast reactors, and the A$130+ billion invested worldwide, only five such reactors are operating worldwide (three of them experimental) and only one is under construction.

(Australia’s nuclear lobby ‒ all three of them ‒ are promoting Generation IV fast reactors yet their arguments were rejected by the pro-nuclear Royal Commission. The Commission’s final report said that advanced fast reactors are unlikely to be feasible or viable in the foreseeable future; that the development of such a first-of-a-kind project would have high commercial and technical risk; that there is no licensed, commercially proven design and development to that point would require substantial capital investment; and that electricity generated from such reactors has not been demonstrated to be cost competitive with current light water reactor designs.)

Late last year, Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry revised the estimated cost of decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, and compensating victims of the disaster, to around A$244 billion. The latest estimate is four times greater than estimates provided in 2011/12. Indirect costs (e.g. fuel imports, adverse impacts on agriculture and fishing, etc.) are likely to exceed the direct clean-up and compensation costs. … ”

by Jim Green

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Risk of another Chernobyl or Fukushima type accident plausible, experts say — University of Sussex, Phys.org

” A team of risk experts who have carried out the biggest-ever analysis of nuclear accidents warn that the next disaster on the scale of Chernobyl or Fukushima may happen much sooner than the public realizes.

Researchers at the University of Sussex, in England, and ETH Zurich, in Switzerland, have analysed more than 200 nuclear accidents, and – estimating and controlling for effects of industry responses to previous disasters – provide a grim assessment of the risk of nuclear power.

Their worrying conclusion is that, while nuclear accidents have substantially decreased in frequency, this has been accomplished by the suppression of moderate-to-large events. They estimate that Fukushima- and Chernobyl-scale disasters are still more likely than not once or twice per century, and that accidents on the scale of the 1979 meltdown at Three Mile Island in the USA (a damage cost of about 10 Billion USD) are more likely than not to occur every 10-20 years.

As Dr Spencer Wheatley, the lead author, explains: “We have found that the risk level for nuclear power is extremely high.

“Although we were able to detect the positive impact of the industry responses to accidents such as Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, these did not sufficiently remove the possibility of extreme disasters such as Fukushima. To remove such a possibility would likely require enormous changes to the current fleet of reactors, which is predominantly second-generation technology.”

The studies, published in two papers in the journals Energy Research & Social Science and Risk Analysis, put fresh pressure on the nuclear industry to be more transparent with data on incidents.

“Flawed and woefully incomplete” public data from the nuclear industry is leading to an over-confident attitude to risk, the study warns. The research team points to the fact that their own independent analysis contains three times as much data as that provided publicly by the industry itself. This is probably because the International Atomic Energy Agency, which compiles the reports, has a dual role of regulating the sector and promoting it.

The research team for this new study gathered their data from reports, academic papers, press releases, public documents and newspaper articles. The result is a dataset that is unprecedented – being twice the size of the next largest independent analysis. Further, the authors emphasize that the dataset is an important resource that needs to be continually developed and shared with the public.

Professor Benjamin Sovacool of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex, who co-authored the studies, says: “Our results are sobering. They suggest that the standard methodology used by the International Atomic Energy Agency to predict accidents and incidents – particularly when focusing on consequences of extreme events – is problematic.

“The next nuclear accident may be much sooner or more severe than the public realizes.”

The team also call for a fundamental rethink of how accidents are rated, arguing that the current method (the discrete seven-point INES scale) is highly imprecise, poorly defined, and often inconsistent.

In their new analysis, the research team provides a cost in US dollars for each incident, taking into account factors such as destruction of property, the cost of emergency response, environmental remediation, evacuation, fines, and insurance claims. And for each death, they added a cost of $6 million, which is the figure used by the US government to calculate the value of a human life.

That new analysis showed that the Fukushima accident in 2011 and the Chernobyl accident in 1986 cost a combined $425 billion – five times the sum of all the other events put together.

However, these two extremes are rated 7 – the maximum severity level – on the INES scale. Fukushima alone would need a score of between 10 and 11 to represent the true magnitude of consequences.

Further, the authors emphasize that such frequency-severity statistical analysis of holistic consequences should be used as a complementary tool to the industry standard Probabilistic Safety Assessment, especially when aggregate consequences are of interest.

Professor Sovacool adds: “The results suggest that catastrophic accidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima are not relics of the past.

“Even if we introduce new nuclear technology, as long as older facilities remain operational—likely, given recent trends to extend permits and relicense existing reactors—their risks, and the aggregate risk of operating the global nuclear fleet, remain.”

Finally, the authors emphasize that this work is not comparative in nature, i.e. it does not quantify the risks of other energy sources. It provides a risk assessment for nuclear power alone, thus informing a single criterion, for a single power source, in the selection of a portfolio of multiple power sources, where many criteria must be considered.

Fellow co-author Professor Didier Sornette stresses: “While our studies seem damning of the nuclear industry, other considerations and potential for improvement may actually make nuclear energy attractive in the future.”

The 15 most costly nuclear events analysed by the team are:

  1. Chernobyl, Ukraine (1986) – $259 billion
  2. Fukushima, Japan (2011) – $166 billion
  3. Tsuruga, Japan (1995) – $15.5 billion
  4. TMI, Pennsylvania, USA (1979) – $11 billion
  5. Beloyarsk, USSR (1977) – $3.5 billion
  6. Sellafield, UK (1969) – $2.5 billion
  7. Athens, Alabama, USA (1985) – $2.1 billion
  8. Jaslovske Bohunice, Czechoslovakia (1977) – $2 billion
  9. Sellafield, UK (1968) – $1.9 billion
  10. Sellafield, UK (1971) – $1.3 billion
  11. Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA (1986) – $1.2 billion
  12. Chapelcross, UK (1967) – $1.1 billion
  13. Chernobyl, Ukraine (1982) – $1.1 billion
  14. Pickering, Canada (1983) – $1 billion
  15. Sellafield, UK (1973) – $1 billion “

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Treated Fukushima water safe for release, Tepco adviser says — Bloomberg

” Treated water from Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc.’s wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant north of Tokyo is safe to be released under controlled circumstances into the nearby Pacific Ocean, an independent adviser to the utility said.

“It is much better to do a controlled release in my view than to have an accidental release,” Dale Klein, the adviser and a former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said in an interview in Tokyo. “I get nervous about just storing all that water when you have about a thousand tanks. You have all the piping, all the valves, everything that can break. ”

More than five years after the meltdowns at Fukushima, Tokyo-based Tepco continues to struggle to contain the radiation-contaminated water that inundates the plant.

About 300 metric tons of water — partly from the nearby hills — flow into Fukushima’s reactor building daily, mixing with melted fuel and becoming tainted, according to the company’s website. For perspective, that’s roughly the amount of water contained in one lane of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.

The water is currently pumped out of the buildings and purified, lowering its radioactive content with a system called Advanced Liquid Processing System, or ALPS. The treated water, which still contains a radioactive element known as tritium, is then stored in one of roughly 1,000 tanks at the site.

Water Challenges

What to do with the treated water remains a headache for Tepco. The utility was urged by the International Atomic Energy Agency in May 2015 to consider discharging the water into the ocean. In early 2014, Klein, the Tepco adviser, criticized the company’s progress in managing the water situation, saying at the time that the task distracted Tepco from other important challenges associated with the cleanup.

Tepco will cooperate with the government, local authorities, and fishermen regarding what to do with the tritium water, spokesman Tatsuhiro Yamagishi said by phone. As of July 28, Tepco stored 668,352 tons of treated water at the Fukushima plant, while 188,462 tons of untreated water was waiting in a second set of tanks to be processed by ALPS, according to Tepco’s Yamagishi.

The government agency overseeing handling of the treated water hasn’t decided whether to go ahead with an ocean release because it needs to “weigh any potential impact on society,” according to an official who asked to not be named, citing internal policy.

“I hope the government will help move towards a decision,” Klein said.

Nuclear power plants routinely and safely release dilute concentrations of tritiated water, according to the the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Release of the “water will not be a safety issue, but it will be an emotional issue,” Klein said. “A lot of people are not going to know what tritium is and they’re just going to perceive that the water is glowing in the dark.” ”

by Stephen Stapczynski

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Monju fiasco, Fukushima plans point to a better energy source — The Asahi Shimbun

” We are perhaps witnessing a turning point in history regarding humankind and energy.

The total capacity of facilities in Japan that sell electricity generated from solar power under the feed-in tariff system exceeded 30 gigawatts by the end of last year, according to figures of the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy.

Most of those facilities began generating power after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant disaster in 2011. Their total capacity is worth 30 nuclear reactors, although actual output depends on the time of day and the weather.

Frankly, I was surprised to learn that solar power has grown so big despite the many barriers, such as regional utilities essentially setting upper limits on the amount of electricity generated with renewable energy sources that they purchase.

And solar power is turning out to be useful.

Through inquiries with nine regional utilities, The Asahi Shimbun learned that electricity generated with solar power accounted for about 10 percent of power supply at peak demand last summer.

In the service area of Kyushu Electric Power Co., the ratio was close to 25 percent.

The shift to renewable energies is more pronounced on the global scale.

For example, global wind power capacity topped 430 gigawatts in 2015, according to the Global Status Report released on June 1 by the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21), an international body.

Global nuclear power capacity is now 386 gigawatts, according to figures of the International Atomic Energy Agency, so wind turbines have outstripped nuclear reactors in terms of output capacity.

Solar power has a total capacity of 227 gigawatts, nearly 60 percent of that of nuclear power.

SOLAR FARM IN EMPTY TOWN

A symposium was held June 4 in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, to commemorate the start of a large-scale solar farm project in the town of Tomioka, also in the prefecture. Tomioka remains entirely evacuated because of the nuclear disaster.

Under their own initiative, residents of the town plan to build a giant solar farm with an output capacity of 30 megawatts. Proceeds from the project will be used to help rebuild communities.

The plan is being led by Yoko Endo, a 66-year-old former music teacher, and her husband, Michihito, a 60-year-old former art teacher. The couple now live in evacuation in the city of Iwaki, also in Fukushima Prefecture.

The couple’s former home is in a government-designated “no-residence” zone, whereas Yoko’s family home nearby stands in a “difficult-to-return” zone.

Michihito’s 2 hectares of rice paddies have also been rendered unusable.

The couple said they thought they would still be able to produce something that would be good for Japan from their terrain, even if they could not return to Tomioka and no longer grow crops there.

They solicited cooperation from their “neighbors” in diaspora across the country for the solar farm project, and they obtained agreements from more than 30 landowners for the use of about 35 hectares of rice paddies.

The total cost of the project is 9.5 billion yen ($91 million), an exceptionally large figure for a project initiated by residents. Citizens’ investments will cover 1.3 billion yen of the expenses.

Proceeds from the project will be used to help elderly residents get to and from medical institutions and stores when they return to Tomioka. The money will also fund projects to help pass on farming technologies to younger generations when farming can resume in the town.

The couple plan to start building the solar farm this autumn and have it operational in March 2018.

“We hope to nurture the project so that people will look back and say that this solar farm project, led by the initiative of residents, was more bright and brilliant than any other project of the kind,” Yoko Endo said.

Other large-scale renewable energy projects are springing up in Fukushima Prefecture.

MONJU REACTOR IN DEADLOCK

“An energy source that relies on nuclear power is not suited to human needs,” Tetsuya Takahashi, a professor of philosophy with the University of Tokyo, said in his keynote lecture during the Koriyama symposium. “Once it runs amok, it hurts human livelihoods to an unrecoverable extent.”

Takahashi was born in Iwaki and spent his childhood in Tomioka. People from that area are now aspiring to create an energy source that is better suited to their needs.

As I listened to the professor talk, my thoughts went to Monju, the prototype fast-breeder reactor.

In 1956, shortly after Japan set out on its nuclear development program, the government said in its initial long-term plan that a fast-breeder reactor “best fits the circumstances of Japan.” At the time, the reactor appeared to represent the best solution.

In the following years, the fast-breeder reactor became the symbol of Japan’s nuclear development.

The government has spent 1 trillion yen on the construction of Monju, which began in earnest in 1985. But its development program was suspended after sodium leaked from the reactor in 1995.

Things got so bad that the Nuclear Regulation Authority recommended to science minister Hiroshi Hase last November that Monju should be brought under a different operating body.

“The first thing to do is to implement reliable maintenance in a state of suspended operation,” a study group set up by the science ministry said May 27 in a report about Monju’s operating body.

Something as basic as that is not being done properly.

A project once thought to symbolize national policy was, after all, not best suited to the people’s needs. ”

by Toshihide Ueda

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Fukushima 3/11 breeds cynicism — Robert Hunziker, CounterPunch

” … Meanwhile, in another universe, former PM Koizumi supports the lawsuit of U.S. sailors aboard the USS Ronald Reagan that participated in Operation Tomodachi, providing humanitarian relief after the March 11th Fukushima meltdowns. Allegedly, they were assured that radiation levels were okay!

“There is no excuse for Tokyo Electric Power Co. not to give the 400 U.S. sailors and marines who are now suing the company the proper facts. Things are looking especially good for the plaintiffs now that former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is backing the lawsuit over the Fukushima radiation,” Support for U.S. Sailor’s Tepco Suit, The Japan Times, June 17, 2016.

“Undoubtedly, Koizumi was convinced to help the sailors because they now suffer from radiation poisoning. He said: ‘Those who gave their all to assist Japan are now suffering from serious illness. I can’t overlook them,” Ibid.

According to lawyers representing the sailors, Charles Bonner & Cabral Bonner & Paul Garner, Esq., Sausalito, CA, seven sailors have already died, including some from leukemia.

With passage of time, the number of plaintiffs and numbers of deaths grows as the latency effect of radiation sets in. Thus, over time, the latency effect works against the pro-nuclear squawk talk that “all’s clear.”

Initially, the lawsuit represented less than 200 sailors but over time, the latency effect brings forward 400 sailors claiming radiation-poison complications, including leukemia, ulcers, gall bladder removal, brain cancer, brain tumors, testicular cancer, uterine bleeding, thyroid illness, stomach ailments, and premature deaths. These are youngsters. … ”

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Fukushima flunks decontamination — Robert Hunziker, CounterPunch

” Japan’s Abe administration is pushing very hard to decontaminate land, roads, and buildings throughout Fukushima Prefecture, 105 cities, towns, and villages. Thousands of workers collect toxic material into enormous black one-ton bags, thereby accumulating gigantic geometric structures of bags throughout the landscape, looking evermore like the foreground of iconic ancient temples.

Here’s the big push: PM Abe committed to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which shall be a crowning achievement in the face of the Fukushima disaster. Hence, all stops are pulled to repopulate Fukushima Prefecture, especially with Olympic events held within Fukushima, where foodstuff will originate for Olympic attendees.

The Abe government is desperately trying to clean up and repopulate as if nothing happened, whereas Chernobyl (1986) determined at the outset it was an impossible task, a lost cause, declaring a 1,000 square mile no-habitation zone, resettling 350,000 people. It’ll take centuries for the land to return to normal.

Still and all, is it really truly possible to cleanse the Fukushima countryside?

Already, workers have accumulated enough one-ton black bags filled with irradiated soil and debris to stretch from Tokyo to LA. But, that only accounts for about one-half of the job yet to be done. Still, in the face of this commendable herculean effort, analysis of decontamination reveals serious missteps and problems.

Even though the Abe government is encouraging evacuees to move back into villages, towns, and cities of Fukushima Prefecture, Greenpeace nuclear campaigner Heinz Smital claims, in a video – Fukushima: Living with Disaster d/d March 2016: “Radiation is so high here that nobody will be able to live here in the coming years.”

Greenpeace has experts on the ground in Fukushima Prefecture March 2016, testing radiation levels. The numbers do not look good at all. Still, at the insistence of the Abe government, people are moving back into partially contaminated areas. In such a case, and assuming Greenpeace is straightforward, it’s a fair statement that if the Abe government can’t do a better job, then something or somebody needs to change. The Olympics are coming.

The Greenpeace report of March 4, 2016: Radiation Reloaded – Impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident 5 Years Later, exposes deeply flawed assumptions by the IAEA and the Abe government in terms of both decontamination and ecosystem risks.

Ever since March 2011, for over 5 years now, Greenpeace has conducted 25 radiological investigations in Fukushima Prefecture, concluding that five years after the Fukushima nuclear accident, it remains clear that the environmental consequences are complex and extensive and hazardous.

A 17-minute video entitled “Fukushima: Living with Disaster,” shows Greenpeace specialists in real time, conducting radiation tests in decontaminated villages and towns of the prefecture. Viewers can see actual real time measurements of radiation on dosimeters.

For example, in the Village of Iitate, 40 kilometers northwest of the Daiichi nuclear plant, Toru Anzai, an evacuee of Iitate, is told decontamination work on his plot of land nearly complete, and he is to rehabitate in 2017. However, Toru has personal doubts about governmental claims. As it happens, Greenpeace tests show abnormally high levels of radiation where decontamination work is already complete.

“Here we have around 0.8 microsieverts (μSv) per hour,” Heinz Smital, nuclear campaigner Greenpeace, “0.23 was the government target for decontamination work.” An adjoining space registers 1.5-2.0 μSv sometimes up to 3.5 μSv. “This is not the kind of count where you can say things are back to normal.”

Throughout the prefecture, decontamination is only partially carried out. For example, decontamination is confined within a 20-meter radius of private plots and along the roads as well as on farmland, leaving vast swaths of hills, valleys, riverbanks, streams, forests, and mountains untouched. Over time, radiation contamination runoff will re-contaminate many previously decontaminated areas.

Alarmingly, Greenpeace found large caches of hidden buried toxic black bags. Over time, it is likely the bags will rot away with radioactivity seeping into groundwater.

At Fukushima City, 60 km from the plant, Greenpeace discovered unacceptable radiation levels with spot readings as high as 4.26, 1.85, 9.06 μSv. According to Greenpeace: “These radiation levels are anything but harmless.”

The government officially informed Miyoko Watanable, an evacuee of Miyakochi, of “radiation eradicated” from her home. But, she says, “I don’t plan to live here again.” Greenpeace confirmed her instincts: “Although work has only recently finished here, we find counts of 1-to-2 μSv per hour… That’s not a satisfactory for the people here in this contaminated area” (Heinz Smital).

Once an area is officially declared “decontaminated,” disaster relief payments for citizens like Miyoko Watanable stop. The government is off the hook.

Without a doubt, the government of Japan is confronted with an extraordinarily difficult challenge, and it may seem unbecoming to ridicule or find fault with the Abe administration in the face of such unprecedented circumstances. But, the issue is much bigger than the weird antics of the Abe government, which passed an absolutely insane secrecy law providing for 10 years in prison to anybody who breathes a secret, undefined.

Rather, whether nuclear power is truly safe is a worldwide issue. In that regard, the nuclear industry has an unfair PR advantage because of the latency effect of radiation. In general, the latency period for cancers is 5-6 years before statistically discernible numbers. People forget.

Consequently, it is important to reflect on key facts:

In a 2014 RT interview, Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture, said: “It’s a real shame that the authorities hide the truth from the whole world, from the UN. We need to admit that actually many people are dying. We are not allowed to say that, but TEPCO employees also are dying. But they keep mum about it.”

Alas, two hundred fifty U.S. sailors of the USS Ronald Reagan, on a Fukushima humanitarian rescue mission, have a pending lawsuit against TEPCO, et al claiming they are already experiencing leukemia, ulcers, gall bladder removals, brain cancer, brain tumors, testicular cancer, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, thyroid illness, stomach ailments and other complaints extremely unusual in such young adults. Allegedly, the sailors were led to believe radiation exposure was not a problem.

Theodore Holcomb (38), an aviation mechanic, died from radiation complications, and according to Charles Bonner, attorney for the sailors, at least three sailors have now died from mysterious illnesses (Third US Navy Sailor Dies After Being Exposed to Fukushima Radiation, Natural News, August 24, 2015.) Among the plaintiffs is a sailor who was pregnant during the mission. Her baby was born with multiple genetic mutations.

Reflecting on 30 years ago, Adi Roche, chief executive of Chernobyl Children International, care for 25,000 children so far, says (2014): “The impact of Chernobyl is still very real and very present to the children who must live in an environment poisoned with radioactivity.”

“Children rocking back and forth for hours on end, hitting their heads against walls, grinding their teeth, scraping their faces and putting their hands down their throats… This is what I witnessed when I volunteered at Vesnova Children’s Mental Asylum in Belarus (February 2014),” How my Trip to a Children’s Mental Asylum in Belarus Made me Proud to be Irish, the journal.ie. March 18, 2014 (Cliodhna Russell). Belarus has over 300 institutions like this hidden deep in the backwoods.

Chernobyl is filled with tear-jerking, heart-wrenching stories of deformed, crippled, misshaped, and countless dead because of radiation sickness. It’s enough to turn one’s stomach in the face of any and all apologists for nuclear power.

According to Naoto Kan, Japanese PM 2010-11 during the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown: “For the good of humanity it is absolutely necessary to shut down all nuclear power plants. That is my firm belief” (source: Greenpeace video, March 2016).

Over 60 nuclear reactors are currently under construction in 15 countries. China has 400 nuclear power plants on the drawing boards. Russia plans mini-nuclear floating power plants to power oil drill rigs in the Arctic by 2020. Honestly! ”

by David Hunziker

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