Cancer patient compensated for Fukushima work to sue Tepco — The Asahi Shimbun

” A 42-year-old man diagnosed with leukemia after working at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant plans to sue Tokyo Electric Power Co., saying the utility failed to take adequate precautions against radiation exposure.

He will also sue Kyushu Electric Power Co., operator of the Genkai nuclear plant in Saga Prefecture where he had also worked, in the lawsuit expected to be filed at the Tokyo District Court on Nov. 22.

The man, who is from Kita-Kyushu in Fukuoka Prefecture, will demand about 59 million yen ($541,000) in total compensation from the two utilities.

“TEPCO and Kyushu Electric, as the managers of the facilities, are responsible for the health of workers there, but they failed to take adequate measures to protect them from radiation exposure,” said one of the lawyers representing him.

“The man was forced to undergo unnecessary radiation exposure because of the utilities’ slipshod on-site radiation management, and as a result had to face danger to his life and fear of death,” the lawyer said.

The lawyers group said the man has a strong case, citing a ruling by labor authorities in October 2015 that recognized a correlation between his leukemia and his work in response to the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

It was the first time cancer was ruled work-related among people who developed the disease after working at the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

The planned lawsuit will be the first legal action against TEPCO brought by an individual whose work-related compensation claim has already been granted.

Between October 2011 and December 2013, the man worked at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to set up a cover on the damaged No. 4 reactor building and perform other tasks.

The man also did regular maintenance jobs at the Genkai plant.

His accumulative radiation exposure at the two plants came to about 20 millisieverts.

He was diagnosed with acute myelocytic leukemia in January 2014. ”

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Japan extends reactor lifetimes for first time since Fukushima — POWER Magazine

” Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) this June approved 20-year license extensions for the aging Takahama 1 and 2 reactors, a first for the power-strapped country that has been conflicted about the future of its nuclear power plants since the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe in 2011.

A regulatory system established in the aftermath of Fukushima limits the operating lives of Japanese nuclear units to 40 years, though it allows a one-time extension of no more than 20 years. The NRA’s approval to allow the 40-year-old Takahama 1 and 39-year-old Takahama 2 to operate an additional 20 years was carried out as an “extraordinary case.” Kansai Electric Power Co., which owns the two 826-MW reactors, filed applications for the extensions in April 2015, as well as for its 826-MW Mihama 3 reactor in November 2015, saying that they were “important” for its business.

Under its revised long-term energy plan, Japan anticipates getting between 20% and 22% of its total generated electricity from nuclear power by 2030, and industry groups like the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum have argued that the lifetime extensions will be integral to meeting that target.

Four of the nation’s nuclear power plants idled after Fukushima have so far cleared the new regulatory standards required to resume operations, but only Sendai 1 and 2, which are owned and operated by Kyushu Electric Power Co., are online. Kansai started up its Takahama 3 reactor on January 29 and Takahama 4 on February 26, but it took Unit 4 offline just three days later following a “main transformer/generator internal failure” (Figure 1). It was then forced to halt operations at Unit 3 on March 10 after Japan’s Otsu District Court issued a temporary injunction against the operation of both reactors because, the court said, the safety of the units could not be guaranteed. On July 12, Otsu District Court Judge Yoshihiko Yamamoto rejected Kansai’s request to lift the injunction. Kansai now says that—though it has filed to appeal the court’s decision to the Osaka High Court—it will begin removing nuclear fuel from the reactor cores.

Meanwhile, applications for 22 more nuclear plant restarts have been filed with the NRA. According to a 2017 economic and energy outlook released by the Institute of Energy Economics of Japan (IEEJ) in late July, at least 12 nuclear power plants should be restarted next year. The research group notes, however, that those projections are clouded by a number of issues, including court judgments and local agreements. That uncertainty could come at a significant cost to the nation, it added.

“Because of the judicial ruling that ceased operations at the Takahama Unit No. 3 and 4, it is important to analyse the effect of stopping operations of nuclear power plants from a local point of view,” the IEEJ’s outlook says. “As a rule, if one nuclear plant with the capacity of 1 MW stops operation for one year in an area where annual demand is about 100 TWh, total fossil fuel costs increase by [$594 million] and the energy-related [carbon dioxide] emissions increases by 4 Mt-CO2 (7% increase for the local emissions). The average electricity unit cost will increase by [$3.96/MWh] (1.8% rise of the average power unit price).” ”

by Sonal Patel

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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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Japan approves first reactor life extension since Fukushima disaster — Reuters via The Business Times

” [TOKYO] Japan’s nuclear regulator on Monday approved an application from Kansai Electric Power Co to extend the life of two ageing reactors beyond 40 years, the first such approval under new safety requirements imposed since the Fukushima disaster.

The move means Kansai Electric, Japan’s most nuclear reliant utility before Fukushima led to the almost complete shutdown of Japan’s atomic industry, can keep reactors No 1 and 2 at its Takahama plant operating until they are 60-years-old.

Both reactors have been shutdown since 2011 and any restart will not take place immediately as Kansai Electric needs to carry out safety upgrades at a cost of about 200 billion yen (S$2.57 billion).

A company spokesman told Reuters the upgrades involve fire proofing cabling and other measures and will not be completed until October 2019 at the earliest.

Takahama No 1 reactor is 41-years-old and the No 2 unit is 40-years-old. Located west of Tokyo, both have a capacity of 826 megawatts and are pressurised water reactors, which uses a different technology than the boiling water reactors that melted down at Fukushima in 2011.

Kansai’s No 3 and 4 units at the Takahama plant are under court-ordered shutdown after they were restarted earlier this year, a ruling that was upheld last Friday.

Opinion polls consistently show opposition to nuclear power following Fukushima. Critics say regulators have failed to take into account lessons learned after a massive earthquake and tsunami caused meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

Only two other reactors have restarted under the new regulatory regime, those at the Sendai plant operated by Kyushu Electric Power in southwestern Japan, Shikoku Electric Power expects to begin operations of its Ikata No 3 reactor in late July after receiving approval from the regulator, a spokesman has told Reuters.

Osaka-based Kansai Electric, which used to get about half of power supplies from nuclear plants before the 2011 disaster, says it needs to get reactors running to cut costs and improve its financial position.

It is facing competition from other suppliers after the government in April opened up the retail power market to full competition. ”

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Former NRA boss calls for review of safety screening method — The Japan Times

” Japan needs to review its current method for screening nuclear plant safety, seismologist and former senior regulator Kunihiko Shimazaki said in a recent interview.

The current method risks underestimating the magnitude of possible earthquakes that may hit nuclear plants, Shimazaki, former acting chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, said.

He said a review was needed on the method to calculate the design basis earthquake, or the maximum quake motion that can occur around a nuclear plant, which is currently part of the NRA’s screening procedures.

Shimazaki said that he confirmed the need for such a review after examining data on powerful quakes that hit Kumamoto Prefecture and other areas in Kyushu in April.

“The NRA has to be aware that the current screening procedures have shortcomings,” he said, adding it is “very dangerous to keep using the method.”

Before leaving the NRA in September 2014, Shimazaki was in charge of assessing quake and tsunami impacts as part of its nuclear safety screening process.

The current method risks underestimating design basis earthquakes when it is applied to vertical faults found mainly in western Japan, he said.

The design basis earthquakes for Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama and Oi nuclear plants, both in Fukui Prefecture, and Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Genkai nuclear plant in Saga Prefecture, should be recalculated based on a different method, he said.

The NRA should draw up a revised method by taking into account new data, including on strong tremors such as the Kumamoto quakes, Shimazaki said.

The No. 3 and No. 4 reactors at the Takahama plant have passed the NRA’s safety screening. The NRA is expected to approve Kansai Electric’s request for extending operational periods at the plant’s No. 1 and No. 2 reactors beyond 40 years, a basic lifetime for nuclear reactors in Japan. ”

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NHK chief urges staff to exclude experts’ views on quake coverage — The Asahi Shimbun

” The Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) president not only instructed subordinates to toe the government line in covering the Kyushu earthquake disaster, but he also urged them to avoid airing the views of outside experts, sources said.

“The reporting should be based on authorities’ official announcements,” the sources quoted Katsuto Momii as saying during a meeting at the public broadcaster on April 20. “If various assessments by experts were broadcast, it would only end up unnecessarily raising concerns among the public.”

Minutes of the meeting obtained by The Asahi Shimbun earlier showed Momii’s instructions to rely on official government announcements in reporting the series of earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture that started on April 14 and the possible impact on nuclear power plants in the region.

But the minutes did not include any passages on Momii’s call to refrain from broadcasting experts’ opinions about the implications on nuclear power plants.

Sources at NHK said Momii indeed said those words at the meeting.

“The part may have been removed (from the record) over concerns that it could cause trouble if left intact,” an NHK source said.

An official with NHK’s Public Relations Department declined to comment on details of the internal meeting, which was attended by about 100 senior officials.

Momii has faced constant criticism since he assumed the NHK presidency in January 2014. At his first news conference as NHK chief, he indicated that the public broadcaster would be a mouthpiece for the government.

On April 26, Momii reiterated his position about toeing the official line for coverage on the earthquake disaster and nuclear facilities in response to a question from Soichiro Okuno, a member of the main opposition Democratic Party.

“Based on facts, we will report on (radiation) figures registered at monitoring posts without adding various comments,” Momii said at a session of the Lower House Committee of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Momii said official announcements would come from the Meteorological Agency, the Nuclear Regulation Authority and Kyushu Electric Power Co.

Kyushu Electric operates the Sendai nuclear power plant in Satsuma-Sendai, Kagoshima Prefecture, which is immediately south of Kumamoto Prefecture. The Sendai plant’s two reactors are the only ones currently operating in Japan, and the plant’s relative proximity to the series of temblors has prompted calls to shut down the reactors until the shaking stops.

“If the NRA believes that the nuclear plant is safe or can remain in operation, we will just report it like that,” Momii said.

The NHK president also said broadcasting such official announcements is not at all like the release of reports that were convenient to wartime authorities when Japan was losing World War II.

“I do not mean official announcements by the headquarters of the imperial military during World War II,” Momii said.

Some NHK reporters clearly expressed their frustration with Momii’s editorial stance.

“I feel that he did it again, which I find saddening,” said a midlevel reporter in NHK’s news department. “But we, who are gathering news on the front lines, want to stick with our mission to report information for the viewers.”

Academics specializing in news media were also upset by Momii’s words.

“NHK has the ability to report on what is unfolding at the scene before the government makes an announcement,” said Yoshihiro Oto, professor of media theory at Sophia University.

Oto mentioned the time when Fukushima Central Television Co., a local broadcaster, showed footage of hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011, before the government acknowledged that the explosions had occurred at the plant.

“If a similar thing occurs in the future, Momii’s instructions would mean that NHK would not be allowed to broadcast the footage until the government makes an official announcement,” Oto said. “That would be tantamount to resigning NHK’s editorial rights and suicidal as a news organization.”

Yasuhiko Oishi, professor of media ethics at Aoyama Gakuin University, said the president of the public broadcaster does not have a proper understanding of the role of journalism.

“He completely lacks a perspective to critically evaluate what authorities say,” Oishi said. “If he believes that the news media’s role is just reporting the official line, then that is equivalent to being the government’s mouthpiece.” ”

by Yohei Goto and Misuzu Sato

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