40-year-old Japanese reactors poised for new lease on life — Nikkei Asian Review

” TOKYO/OSAKA — Japan’s nuclear power regulators will likely clear reactors to remain in operation beyond 40 years for the first time, an exception that may become a factor in pending reviews of similar cases.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority is expected to approve units 1 and 2 at Osaka-based Kansai Electric Power’s Takahama plant for extensions, press officer Katsumi Matsuura said Monday.

As a general rule, reactors’ operating lives are supposed to end at 40. But extensions of up to 20 years are possible for those that pass three sets of assessments evaluating their compliance with new safety standards, their designs, and the effects of aging on their components.

The two Takahama reactors, in Fukui Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast, passed the safety assessments this April. The NRA will compile a report serving as de facto approval for the extensions in June.

The approval process is expected to finish up before a July 7 deadline. But even if they pass, the reactors would not resume operation until at least the autumn of 2019, because Kansai Electric is planning extensive safety upgrades.

Profit recharge

For Kansai Electric, restarting the pair of reactors would improve monthly earnings by an estimated 9 billion yen ($81.3 million). President Makoto Yagi has argued that the units still have “economic potential.”

The utility logged a net profit for the year ended March 31 but has no guarantee that fossil-fuel costs will remain low in fiscal 2016. A medium-term business plan compiled in April aims for a pretax profit of at least 300 billion yen a decade from now, assuming that most of its nuclear capacity resumes operation.

Approving the two reactors for extensions would likely set a precedent. Kansai Electric has also applied for an extension for the No. 3 reactor at its Mihama power plant in Fukui, aiming to complete the necessary procedures by the end of November. That reactor is expected to pass the NRA’s safety assessment as soon as this summer.

Other regional utilities are also weighing the benefits of keeping 40-year-old reactors in operation against the immense costs needed to make the grade. In May, smaller Shikoku Electric Power decided to decommission unit 1 at its Ikata nuclear plant in Ehime Prefecture rather than seek an extension.

Such decision-making will affect Japanese energy policy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has identified the atom as an important baseload energy source. Nuclear accounts for 20-22% of the government’s desired energy mix as of fiscal 2030.

This would entail having about 30 of the country’s 40-odd reactors in operation. But applying the 40-year rule on reactor operation without exception would leave only around 20 units. If most reactors end up qualifying for extensions, people may start questioning the purpose of the limit. ”

by Nikkei

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**Fukushima and nuclear power: Does the advertising giant Dentsu pull the strings of Japan’s media? — GlobalResearch

This article is a MUST READ.

” French journalist Mathieu Gaulène describes the business practices of Dentsu and its competitor Hakuhodo, the biggest and the second biggest advertising companies of Japan respectively. Specifically, it examines how their close relations to the media and the nuclear industry play out in the wake of the 3.11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster. Focusing Dentsu, Gaulène discusses how the marketing and public relations (PR) giant has dominated major media which large advertising contracts from the nuclear industry. The article is particularly timely as Dentsu unveils its deep ties to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic bid and the Panama Papers. Regrettably, however, with rare exceptions, there is little media coverage of the influence of Dentsu in mainstream Japanese newspapers and magazines.

According to the author, a partial translation of the French original was made by Kazparis (username), and quickly received more than 70,000 views on Twitter. Then, Uchida Tatsuru, a specialist in French literature, and HACK & SOCIETAS published two other Japanese translations. Soon after, Tokyo Shimbun and Mainichi Shimbun published long articles about Dentsu. SN

Dentsu, the fifth largest communication group in the world, holds a large share of the Japanese advertising market, which impacts media freedom in Japan. This is particularly true in relation to the nuclear power industry.

– Dentsu and information on nuclear power

– Indirect pressures on press journalists

– The 2016 comeback of nuclear advertisements and the resignations of TV journalists

The moment remains famous. On the eve of Japan’s Upper House elections, former actor Yamamoto Taro, an anti-nuclear power candidate supported by no party, campaigned on Twitter to win an upper house seat in the Diet. Censored by the media, the young candidate, famous for his verve, had mainly campaigned against nuclear power, but he also called out the big media, accusing it of being in the pay of sponsors and thus of electric companies and of systematically censoring critical information on nuclear power.

A television channel granted him an interview at the end of a program, but only after presenting a journalist to defend his profession. On screen, the young senator was given only one minute to respond. “I will take a simple example. Food can now hold up to 100 becquerels per kilogram; that means even just via eating we are irradiated. It is never said on television… ” Yamamoto had to stop. The ending jingle started, and the presenter at the studio announced, bantering, that the show was over, before launching an advertising page.

The video, which was available online for 3 years, was removed on May 16, 2016 shortly after the publication of this article. 

” Advertisements in Japan are literally everywhere: a veritable hell of posters or screens in trains and stations, giant posters on buildings, bearers of advertising placards or lorries with huge posters and loud PA systems in the streets: even advertising displays mounted atop urinals in some restaurants. In this advertising empire, the media are no exception. In the press, naturally, as in France, major companies pay for full page advertisements. But, above all in television. An entertainment show generally starts with the announcement of sponsors, and is interrupted every five minutes by numerous short advertising spots, where we often find the same sponsors. There is virtually no time for thinking, most TV channels offer programs close to the world of pachinko: garish colors, constant noise, and frat humor even of the most vulgar kind.

In this immense television arena, advertising is orchestrated by one of the global giants, Dentsu, the 5th communication group in the world and the number one ad agency. With its rival Hakuhodo, 2nd in the archipelago, the two agencies nicknamed “Denpaku,” combine advertising, public relations, media monitoring, crisis management for the largest Japanese and foreign companies, the local authorities, political parties or the government. Together they hold nearly 70% of the market. A true empire that some accuse of ruling the roost in the Japanese media.

A figure allows sizing up Dentsu’s reach: in 2015, the group secured nearly 7 billion euros in revenue, second only to the French Publicis with 9.6 billion euros during the same period. Most of its business is in TV advertisements. For example, Dentsu has created a commercial series for Softbank for almost ten years: the famous “Shirato” family characterized by a white dog as the father; an American black actor as the older brother; and Tommy Lee Jones as a housekeeper.

In July 2013, the group expanded internationally by acquiring the British Aegis for 3.7 billion euros to establish the Dentsu Aegis Network in London. This international network, consisting of ten advertising agencies in more than 140 countries, allowed the Japanese to beef up their activities, particularly in digital marketing, and to secure a position in the international market which accounts for more than half of its total global business (54.3% in 2015). Dentsu employs 47,000 people worldwide, including 7,000 in Japan.

Dentsu and information on nuclear power

Located in the business district of Shiodome, not far from Nippon TV, Fuji TV and the Asahi Shimbun newspaper, the Dentsu tower dominates the skyline with its imposing beauty. Designed by the French architect Jean Nouvel, its gentle curves and perfect glass walls soothe the eye. Inside the building, Mr. Kannan Shusaku, communications director of the group, receives us, all smiles for a visit of the site. The ground floor is filled with contemporary art, like a white chessboard by Yoko Ono. From there, a noria of lifts takes employees towards different floors and rigorously separates departments. The group’s customers are the top 5 in each industry, and “everything is done so that employees working for competing enterprises never meet each other.” Mr. Kannan assures us. Dentsu obviously prizes transparency, but is its image that stainless?

In a book published in 2012, Honma Ryu looked into some of Dentsu’s backstage, and its tight control over the media, especially on behalf of one of its major clients: Tokyo Electric Power Company, Tepco. Honma is not alien to advertising circles; he worked for 18 years at number 2, Hakuhodo, then after one year imprisonment for fraud, he began writing, first about his prison experience, then about his years of advertising and the methods he used to coax the media. In 2012, his book Dentsu and Nuclear Coverage became a bestseller within a few months, despite almost universal media blackout.

Honma meticulously described the mechanisms by which Dentsu, the inevitable intermediary, implicitly imposes on media what can or cannot be written on nuclear power, and under what conditions. “Dentsu occupies a special position since the agency holds 80% of the market for nuclear advertising in Japan,” he reminded us during an interview in a coffee shop at Ueno Station. In 2010, in this huge advertising market, Tepco, a regional firm, indeed ranked 10th in terms of advertising expenses, next to power plant manufacturer Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. That year, on the eve of the Fukushima accident, Tepco had spent more than 2 million euros on advertising. The overall advertising expenses of the 10 regional electrical power companies amounted to 7 million euros.

For decades, especially since the 1990s when public opinion began to become critical of nuclear power following several accidents, Tepco and other power companies stepped up commercials and advertorials in the press.

On television, the advertisements can be enough in themselves to overwhelm criticism. Big groups often sponsor TV programs, talk shows or series for an entire season. Sometimes, entire documentaries are produced by Denjiren, [the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan (FEPC)], a key player in the nuclear lobby, to promote the industry. Any dissenting voice is unwelcome for fear of losing sponsors. After Fukushima, Yamamoto Taro paid the price; appearing regularly on TV as a tarento [talent] until then when he suddenly became persona non grata on TV and even in cinema for having expressed opposition to nuclear power. This is hardly new since the great figures of the anti-nuclear movement, best-selling authors such as Hirose Takashi or Koide Hiroaki are almost never invited to appear on TV, especially after the Fukushima accident. This “control by media” denounced by Honma Ryu obviously is not limited to the nuclear power industry. Thus, he reminds us of the case of the millions of Toyota vehicle recalls due to a defective accelerator pedal. It was necessary to wait until the Toyota CEO apologized to the U.S. Congress before that affair really appeared in the Japanese press. “No doubt the advertising agency had succeeded until then in preserving the image of its client, but when the scandal became too big and was in the public eye abroad, the media had no choice but to reveal the affair” he states. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that apart from some programs such as “Hodo Station” on TV Asahi, which provide good quality information, sometimes being critical of the government, most TV news in Japan rarely address subjects that can offend one or another group, relaying communications from the government without critically stepping back, and not introducing international news except when the subject involves Japanese citizens.

Amid all these private media groups, only NHK escapes this advertising empire and can claim to be independent, receiving its funding directly from viewers. Alas, the situation at NHK is even more disastrous, its president Momii Katsuto having said without embarrassment on several occasions that the chain had to be the spokesman for the Abe government. In a recent statement before 200 retired NHK employees, he even seemingly acknowledged having ordered NHK journalists to confine broadcasts to reassuring communiqués from the authorities about Kyushu earthquakes and potential risks they pose to nuclear plants and instructing them not to interview independent experts.

Indirect pressures on the press

What about the press? Dentsu has long had a special relationship with the two news agencies Kyodo News and Jiji Press: the three entities formed a single information group before the war. If information in the press is more difficult to control, Dentsu not only advertises, but provides after-sales customer service — media monitoring, advice on crisis management, and indirect pressure on newspapers.

Whereas in France, the acquisition of media companies by large industrial groups is the prelude to direct pressure, in Japan pressure comes via advertising agencies that act as true ambassadors for the groups. “I know very well how this happens, as Honma Ryu amusingly relates, I did the same thing when I was at Hakuhodo. If an incident occurs in a factory or a plant and the press reports it, Dentsu directly intervenes and visits the business department of the newspaper in question.” Things are done in the “Japanese” way. “We ask them politely to try to speak less about the case, not to put the article on the front page, or to publish it in the evening paper which is less read.” Such messages are directly transmitted by the business staff of the journal to top management.

Journalists will never know, but the next day their article will be relegated to the inside pages, or sometimes simply not published, or, for example, claiming lack of space. But, suspicions are numerous, and, Honma reports, after the publication of his book, many journalists came to see him confirming cases of censorship. Advertisements of nuclear power are mainly distributed in weekly and daily newspapers. Since the accident at the Fukushima nuclear plant, they stopped; but for Dentsu, a profitable new business emerged: promoting agricultural products from Fukushima. Since 2011, with the participation of star singers, Fukushima Prefecture has never skimped on promoting its peaches, rice, or tomatoes, with slogans like “Fukushima Pride” or “Fukushima is well!”

All this thanks to the help of Dentsu and Dentsu Public Relations (PR). “Dentsu PR also works for the METI [Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry],” explains Ms. Fujii Kyoko, Director of communications at Dentsu PR. “We organized free tours of Tohoku for foreign journalists, such as Thai and Malaysian journalists, to show that the region is recovering from the disaster.” And to expunge the surrounding radioactivity?

Dentsu thus occupies a very special position in the promotion of nuclear power, beside Tepco but also the powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI) and the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), both clients of the advertising company. Under these conditions, can Dentsu not be considered to actively underwrite the “nuclear village”? To this question, Mr. Kannan Shusaku, who received us in his office at the top of the Dentsu tower, answered without beating around the bush. “We have no power to influence the media and we do not practice politics.” Yet when asked why Dentsu is a member of the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF), the main organization of nuclear lobbying, along with Japanese electric utility companies and EDF [Electricity of France, Électricité de France], Mr. Kannan became more circumspect. “I do not know this association… Really, are you sure?” he replied, slightly annoyed, before reaching for his smartphone. “Oh, yes, we are members. But, you know we are members of many associations. People ask us to send someone and sign, that’s all.” Apparently unconvinced by his own argument, he finally found a getaway and suddenly exclaimed: “You see, Hakuhodo is also a member!” obviously happy about not being the only one enlisted in the lobby.

The 2016 comeback of nuclear advertisements and resignations of TV journalists

For Honma Ryu, this is a sign of a resumption of promotion activities of nuclear power. “Hakuhodo has actually been a member of the JAIF for two years,” he explained, after the Fukushima accident. Obviously, having been sidelined for several decades from this gold mine of nuclear advertisements, the rival agency wants to restore its share in the promotion of nuclear power in the post-Fukushima era. These ads had, however, completely disappeared since the accident on March 11, 2011. After a final full page apology in the press and broadcast on television by Tepco, the plant operators and manufacturers had chosen to keep a low profile, not broadcasting advertisements on nuclear power for five years.

But, although plant restarts have been hindered by dozens of lawsuits, some victorious as in Takahama, and the general population has generally been reluctant to see resumption of reactors, promoting nuclear power has again become intense. After restarting one plant in 2015, 2016 is the year of a discreet comeback for nuclear advertisements. These appear in the press and on local television of the prefectures with power stations. Honma Ryu reports that since February 2016, full-page advertisements have been published in Fukui Shimbun by the Kansai Electric Power Company, where the Takahama plant was closed a month after its restart due to a lawsuit filed by citizens. Tepco advertisements for restarting Kashiwazaki-Kariwa have also appeared in the Niigata Nippo and on local television in a particular context: the current governor is firmly anti-nuclear and opposes any restart, but elections will be held by the end of this year when his term ends. This resurgence of Tepco nuclear advertising, however, has raised the ire of Niigata citizens, especially refugees from Fukushima who have launched a petition to stop them.

The message of all of these advertisements is identical, revealing the hand of Dentsu behind the scenes. Electric companies promise to make every effort to ensure the safety of power plants, while photographs highlight the plight of nuclear workers who are often poor and sometimes dependent on jobs in the nuclear industry. According to Honma Ryu, these advertisements are certainly only the tip of the iceberg. They are part of a campaign to closely monitor all information published on nuclear power, as well as the quasi-guarantee that local newspapers will limit the voice of opponents.

In a report on press freedom released in April 2016, Reporters Without Borders ranked Japan 72nd, behind Hungary and Tanzania. Six years ago, it ranked 11th. Visiting Tokyo, a United Nations rapporteur alerted the country to the growing pressures on Japanese journalists who work for private media or NHK. This is because of increasing government pressure, exacerbated by the entry into force in the past year of a law on state secrets, including nuclear related matters. A law with vague outlines threatens journalists with imprisonment for disclosing “secret” information. A sign of the times is that three television journalists known for their independence announced their resignation at the beginning of the year. Among them is Furutachi Ichiro, presenter of “Hodo Station,” which, according to Honma Ryu, was targeted by Dentsu for several years because of his critical views on nuclear power and the Abe administration. No doubt Dentsu, privileged ambassador of the largest industrial groups, will continue to play its role in the great media lockdown ongoing in Japan. ”

by Sachie Mizohata, Translation from French and Introduction

Original French article in INA Global

Japanese translation by Uchida Tatsuru (see May 15, 2016)

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IAEA official notes quake-resistant center’s role in Fukushima crisis — Kyodo News

” A senior official from the U.N. nuclear watchdog on Wednesday underlined the importance of building an emergency response center that can sufficiently withstand a disaster at a nuclear power plant, noting the effectiveness of such a facility is one of the lessons learned from the Fukushima crisis.

At the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, a so-called seismically isolated building played an important role providing shelter to emergency responders in the wake of the 2011 nuclear accident caused by a powerful earthquake and tsunami.

Juan Carlos Lentijo, the organization’s deputy director general and the head of the department of nuclear safety and security, said the quake-resistant center “was instrumental for conducting mitigation operations.”

“I think this is one of the major lessons from Fukushima,” the official from the International Atomic Energy Agency said in an interview with Kyodo News.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. set up the quake-resistant building equipped with devices and resources for power generation, communications, radiation exposure mitigation at Fukushima after an administrative building was rendered unusable by a major earthquake at another multi-reactor power complex in Niigata Prefecture in 2007.

Unlike reactor-housing units, the seismically isolated building sustained no major damage in the disaster and currently accommodates staff engaged in disaster containment operations at Fukushima.

In Japan, whether to install seismically isolated facilities is drawing renewed attention as the nation has been rebooting nuclear reactors that had been mothballed after Fukushima. Not all the plants have such disaster response setups.

Kyushu Electric Power Co. has been criticized by the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority for scrapping a plan to establish a reinforced building with an earthquake buffer mechanism at its Sendai plant in Kagoshima Prefecture, after the plant was restarted last year.

Kansai Electric Power Co., meanwhile, said that it has yet to decide when to start running a seismic isolation facility at its Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture, backing away from its earlier plan to begin operating it by the end of March 2018.

Lentijo said that “it is important to build a strong center” with “appropriate resources to deal with an emergency, even a severe accident.”

“Fortunately, in Fukushima Daiichi, they had this center that survived both — the earthquake and the tsunami,” he said.

And risks stem from not just earthquakes, he noted. “In other countries the lesson is to enhance this center to deal with flooding, for example, or with hurricanes.”

Regarding the Japanese utilities’ plans for seismic isolation buildings, Lentijo said it is for the national authorities, which have knowledge about specific sites, to evaluate. ”

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Fukushima nuclear crisis far from over, Kan says — The Japan Times

Former Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant is not over five years since a massive earthquake and tsunami triggered the meltdowns.

“There is no doubt” radioactive materials have been seeping into the sea after mixing with groundwater, Kan, who has been a vocal critic of nuclear energy since the crisis started, told the National Press Club in Washington.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has repeatedly said the issue of water contaminated with radioactive substances at the Fukushima plant is “under control,” including when he was making a pitch for Tokyo as host of the 2020 Olympic Games.

Kan disputes this. “The accident is still unfolding,” he said.

Kan was prime minister when the world’s worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl occurred following the massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

Kan, a lawmaker of the Democratic Party of Japan, also criticized Abe’s decision to raise the ratio of electricity produced by atomic energy to 20-22 percent of the nation’s total output by 2030.

“The goal is not achievable” unless Japan extends the maximum legal period of reactor operations or builds a new nuclear plant, Kan said.

Most nuclear reactors remain off line in Japan, but various operators are seeking restarts.

Kansai Electric Power Co. is set to reactivate a reactor at its Takahama plant in Fukui Prefecture on Friday, in what would be the third restart since new safety standards were put in place. ”

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Japan court gives go-ahead for restart of 2 nuke reactors — The Associated Press

This Associated Press article by Mari Yamaguchi talks about the Fukui District Court’s injunction lift in order to restart Kansai Electric’s Takahama Nos. 3 and 4 reactors despite heavy local opposition.

Tepco seeks foreign seal of approval to restart nuclear plant — The Japan Times

” Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s invitation to the world’s top nuclear agency to review the safety of its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility signals the utility’s desire to win international backing to resume operations at the world’s largest atomic power plant.

Kashiwazaki is Tepco’s best bet of returning to nuclear power generation, after the plant was shuttered along with the rest of Japan’s nuclear capacity following the unprecedented meltdowns at the company’s Fukushima No. 1 plant in 2011.

Firing up its reactors would boost Tepco’s profit by as much as ¥32 billion a month, according to Tepco spokesman Tatsuhiro Yamagishi.

“They want a foreign seal of approval,” said Robert Dujarric, a director at the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies of Temple University in Tokyo. “No one trusts what Tepco says. The only way they can convince Japanese residents that this is not risky is to get a foreign institution to certify them being acceptable.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency began its 11-day evaluation on Tuesday and will report its findings to Japan’s watchdog, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, which has the final say on a plant’s safety. A restart would still need local government approval, which presents difficulties as the region’s governor remains a vociferous critic of Tepco.

Tepco expects to spend at least ¥270 billion to bring Kashiwazaki back online, although it says the cost is a secondary consideration. What is needed and what the IAEA brings is the “knowledge, ingenuity, and engineering capabilities to get there,” Takafumi Anegawa, Tepco’s chief nuclear officer, told a news conference at the plant on Tuesday. “Randomly spending money doesn’t assure safety.”

The NRA has visited Kashiwazaki three times since agreeing to check its reactors in 2013, although it has not given a timeline for approval, according to Tepco’s Yamagishi. NRA spokesman Taro Komine declined to comment on Kashiwazaki and the IAEA’s safety study there.

The IAEA was created in 1957 and one of its goals is to promote the safe use of nuclear energy. Tepco, meanwhile, is struggling to convince the Japanese public of improvements in its attitudes to safety amid worker deaths and irradiated water leaks at the ruined Fukushima plant.

“Of course Tepco would like them to come online,” Tom O’Sullivan, founder of Tokyo-based energy consultant Mathyos, said by email. However, “I have normally categorized it as a plant that is extremely unlikely to come online. There is huge local opposition.”

Hirohiko Izumida, three-term governor of Niigata Prefecture where the plant is located, has said restarting Kashiwazaki shouldn’t even be considered until Tepco’s safety record and handling of Fukushima are properly reviewed.

Niigata Prefecture spokesman Kenji Kiuchi declined to comment on the governor’s opinion of the IAEA review.

Restarting Kashiwazaki would boost Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plan for nuclear energy to account for as much as 22 percent of the country’s total electricity supply by 2030.

Thus far, Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s Sendai reactors are the only ones to pass the NRA’s safety requirements and clear local courts. Kyushu is aiming to restart the two units this year. While the NRA judged two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Takahama station as safe, legal hurdles have since obstructed any restart.

Tepco is seeking to restore two of the seven reactors at Kashiwazaki, which is located about 220 km northwest of Tokyo on coast of the Sea of Japan. Its only other nuclear plants are Fukushima No. 1, which is being decommissioned, and the nearby Fukushima No. 2 facility, which may be too tainted by its association with the 2011 disaster to ever restart.

In order to ensure Kashizawaki’s safety, Tepco says it has bolstered staff levels, built a 15 meter flood-prevention wall, and built a reservoir to store 20,000 tons of water to cool reactors in case of pump failures.

The IAEA said its primary focus will be assessing the plant’s internal operations. Three months after its review, the agency will send its report to Tepco, the NRA and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.

The review will not replace Japan’s regulatory process, said Peter Tarren, the IAEA’s team leader at Kashiwazaki. “Decisions about restarts of the plant are not the authority of the IAEA,” he said. ”

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