Nuclear power? Japan sends regrets

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    Nuclear power? Japan sends regrets

    The regressive, back-biting social and political culture of Japan has met its match in nuclear power. With a large area of northeast Japan now drenched in radioactivity and cordoned off forever--on the scale of human history--Japan suffers from buyers' remorse, but few Japanese propose to lance a poisonous culture. [ Martin Fackler, Nuclear disaster in Japan was avoidable, critics contend, New York Times, March 10, 2012, at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/10/world/asia/critics-say-japan-ignored-warnings-of-nuclear-disaster.html ]

    "The hair that stands up gets cut off," by a traditional saying. Mr. Fackler of the NY Times found a hair that stood up in Mr. Setsuo Fujiwara, who was dismissed from his job as a plant inspector for NISA, Japan's corrupt nuclear regulatory agency, after he refused to "pencil whip" a report describing a botched safety procedure at Hokkaido Electric Power. "They told me my job was just to approve reactors, not to raise doubts about them," quotes Mr. Fackler.

    Even amid a brutal, repressive culture, there have long been a handful of hairs that stood up. Mr. Fackler also interviewed retired Prof. Katsuhiko Ishibashi of Kobe University, who warned for years about historical earthquakes and tsunamis larger than those of recent centuries but found himself ignored as a pest. In 2008, staff at Tepco, operator of the devastated Fukushima reactors, estimated damage from a 50-foot tsunami at the plant--slightly more than what happened last year--but then dismissed findings as "academic theories."

    Like NISA in Japan, NRC in the U.S. has usually been a reactive rather than a proactive agent for nuclear power safety. Its tired phrase is "Lessons Learned." [ R.W. Borchardt, Proposed charter for the longer-term review of Lessons Learned from the March 11, 2011, Japanese earthquake and tsunami, SECY-11-0117, U.S. NRC, August 26, 2011, at http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/commission/secys/2011/2011-0117scy.pdf ]

    The Pilgrim nuclear plant in Plymouth is up for decision this year on a 20-year extension. NRC has known for well over 30 years that older boiling-water reactors, like Pilgrim, Vermont Yankee and the three Japanese reactors that were destroyed, would be unable to survive severe accidents. Despite knowing that for decades, NRC has been issuing 20-year operating extensions. Like NISA in Japan, NRC is also a corrupt agency.

     
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    Re: Nuclear power? Japan sends regrets

    Well a small area of northern Japan is under restriction for a few years maybe up to 30 years depending on the veracity of the source. It is a bit shy of FOREVER Appdev. Claiming a minor official of corruption is common place in Japan and has nothing to do with the aftermath of the tsunami. This official worked in a different district, one that had no issues of serious note.
    In the US reactor safety largely does not balance on any issue regarding Fukushima. The US reactors were not built in zones likely to have a 7+ earthquake. They were not designed with the  backup generators deep underground. Unlike Japan US reactors are not built in an area KNOWN in recorded history for TSUNAMI at any serious level of threat. I can guarantee that vermont yankee will not see a tsunami for the next 500 years. Even indian point in new york will not see a tsunami in that time. The whole east coast US will not experience a 7.9+ earthquake for at least 10,000 years.
     
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    Japan's culture of corruption

    In what was once common but is now a rare occurrence, the Globe carried a story of significant interest, to readers who discovered it, originating far outside its current, parochial Route 128 news horizon. Corruption in Japan's nuclear industry surfaced years ago but is rarely described in U.S. news media. Japanese culture encourages servile bootlicking and discourages independent thinking ("the hair that stands up gets cut off"), producing a fertile soil for chicanery, mismanagement and graft. [ Jason Clenfield, Bloomberg News, Japan's nuclear disaster follows decades of accidents and fake reports, Boston Globe, March 18, 2011, at http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2011/03/18/japans_nuclear_disaster_caps_decades_of_accidents_and_fake_reports/ ]

    The episode of chicanery disclosed by Mitsuhiko Tanaka in Mr. Clenfield's story was not a likely contributor to the Japanese nuclear disaster, because the reactor affected, unit 4 at the Fukushima Dai-ishi plant, was shut down for maintenance at the time of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of March, 2011. It was instead the lightly-constructed generator housings at that plant which provoked the disaster. Not apparent from aerial photos and clearly disclosed to English-speaking readers for the first time by this article, diesel generators were installed below grade level.

    That helped to explain failures of emergency power, which caused the reactors to overheat. The generator housings clearly were not planned to resist flooding of the magnitude that the northeast coast of Japan had experienced in the great tsunamis of 1896 and 1933. When another such great tsunami occurred, they proved unable to resist the forces. Once generator pits were flooded, it is likely that controls were damaged, and perhaps air intakes and exhausts became clogged.

    Reported so far is that generators were initially running, but during the tsunami they stopped and then could not be restarted. This news article shows that failures at the Fukushima nuclear plant represented disasters by design. Such a development it is hardly unprecedented. The General Electric Mark I reactor containment design, used at the plant, was inspired by financial aggression at the potential expense of safety and reliability. It has been strongly criticized within the nuclear industry since the 1960s.

    Generator failures provoking the Japanese nuclear disaster do not necessarily reflect reactors of similar design now operating in the U.S. In the era of the Japanese nuclear plant, there were no standard reactor designs. Each plant had individualized features. Any combination of at least four companies involved might be responsible for the failure-prone generator housings in Japan: Tokyo Electric, General Electric, Hitachi and Toshiba.

     
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    Japanese education: tsunamis not terrorist acts

    Eric Talmadge, a somewhat loquacious AP reporter in Japan, filed a recent story trying to link tsunamis with terrorist acts against nuclear power-plants. [ Japan to push anti-terror measures at nuclear plants, Boston Globe, March 25, 2012, at http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2012/03/25/japan_to_push_anti_terror_measures_at_nuke_plants/ ]

    According to Mr. Talmadge, "Japan's disaster at its Fukushima plant has provided a salient example of how solid protections against terrorist attacks go hand in hand with protections against natural disasters." Life in Japan may have taught Mr. Talmadge how to believe seven impossible things before breakfast.

    The last story of much substance from Mr. Talmadge reported a striking victory by the Democratic Party of Japan, winning 2009 elections for parliament. Fortunes of the Liberal Party were reversed: a 296-113 majority turned into a 119-308 minority. It was Japan's political tidal wave, throwing out the party in power for all but a year since 1955. [ Opposition wins landslide in Japan's election, New York Times, August 30, 2009, at http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2009/08/30/world/AP-AS-Japan-Politics.html ]

    A key issue reported by Mr. Talmadge was the Democratic Party commitment to free high schools--otherwise almost entirely ignored by news media outside Japan. From a perspective in and around Boston, where Boston English began a U.S. tradition of free public high schools in 1827, it usually comes as a surprise that an industrially advanced nation would not provide free public education. That was Japan, before 2010.

    The new government of Japan passed the Act on Free Tuition at Public High Schools of 2010, with a national High School Enrollment Support Fund to implement it. [ Ministry of Education (Japan), Making public high schools tuition-free, 2010, at http://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/hakusho/html/hpab200901/detail/1305888.htm ]

     
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    Back at the ranch

    Meanwhile, the Board of Selectmen in Plympton are reported as fuming that their town has been spared the manifold blessings of nuclear evacuation plans.

    "As thousands cheer," in Plymouth and Kingston, for their sirens and their iodide pills, time has passed Plympton by. Only a small corner of that town falls inside a magical 10-mile radius from the Pilgrim nuclear power-plant.

    [ Meg Murphy, Pilgrim scenarios overlook key town, Boston Globe, March 26, 2012, at http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2012/03/25/pilgrim_emergency_plans_rely_on_plymptons_roads_but_leave_residents_behind/ ]

     
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    Re: Nuclear power? Japan sends regrets

    The issue is more political than rational. More than three hundred thousand people moved into new houses after indian point 3 was built all inside the US evacuation zone. All house permits knowing the issues of evacuation.
     The real issue is there have been three problems with reactors built since the 1960's. These required at least at first the evacuation of a populace. That is 52 years or so. TMI did not require evacuation but some occurred. Fukishima and Chernobyl did. Chernobyl was caused by the operators, as maybe TMI. Fukishima was caused by nature and bad engineering. So with hundreds of operating plants there are three around the world that are a problem for residents only two of which in 40+ years have properly caused an evacuation.
     
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    Japanese knowingly courted disaster

    Japan enjoys a long written history, extending back about 1,300 years. The recent disaster in Japan was a classic tragedy--a direct result of ignoring that history, heavily populating and industrializing coastal areas certain to be devastated, as they had been in both the recent and distant past. Sanriku, along the northeast coast of Japan, has experienced a great tsunami about every 30 to 100 years.

    Before the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of March, 2011, the previous great tsunami followed the magnitude 8.4 Sanriku earthquake of March, 1933. Seawater surged up to 90 feet above sea level, destroying many coastal towns. The June, 1896, Meiji-Sanriku earthquake, estimated at magnitude 8.5 by USGS, produced the next previous great tsunami. Seawater surged up to 125 feet above sea level. More than 20,000 people died, and over 9,000 homes were lost, in what was then a sparsely settled part of Japan. The Sanriku tsunami of July, 869, was greater than any tsunami recorded since, flooding the entire Sendai plain. Sand deposits have been found up to 4 km inland.

    After a few years in each case, Japanese began to reoccupy the threatened territories. Japan allowed large towns in low-lying areas that had been levelled by the great tsunamis of 1896 and 1933. Beginning in the late 1950s, nuclear power-plants were built at four locations along the northeast coast. Their designs do not take into account the magnitudes of tsunamis known to have occurred, leaving them at risk. [ Norimitsu Onishi and Martin Fackler, Japanese officials ignored or concealed dangers, New York Times, May 17, 2011, at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/17/world/asia/17japan.html ]

     
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    Re: Nuclear power? Japan sends regrets

    Aside from the obvious, no Officials did not deny the risks. That was by law left to the company building the plant. This was not clearly regulated as it is in the US. No contractor would design the plant with generating backup power in a floodable area if they were not clearly told to do so. Many areas at the plant above ground would be safe given the risk of earthquake and tsunami. The buildings survived well. In Fact so much of the plant survived that 90% of the risks were well accounted for and built properly. It is always the least model that fails in any disaster. The model which said no external power for over two weeks, no pumps, no backup generators, no one flying in backup generators within 24 hours, no ships offshore with generators, and no way to tie them in due to flooded tunnels without power to pump them out. This model was not properly considered here. This has been considered in the design elsewhere. But the customer buying the plant decides the non-nuclear issues.
     
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    Shared heritage of corruption

    The previous reader states a view of government regulation that would be childish in the U.S. but largely reflects the truth in Japan. When public safety is at great risk, the U.S. does not allow "the company building the plant" to decide on matters endangering the public.

    In Japan, during the 1950s, the entire national government became a patronage mill run by large companies. While Japan has nominal regulatory bureaus, in practice they act as agents and protectors for companies they are charged to regulate.

    As news articles from many sources explained over the past year, Japanese operators of nuclear power-plants were warned for decades that their plants would not withstand tsunamis similar to ones recorded in Japanese history. The companies and their corrupt government agents ignored the warnings.

    The U.S. achieved its current levels of regulation through struggles and hard lessons. We, too, had totally corrupt regulation of nuclear power until the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974.

    Just how those struggles take place was illustrated in the theft of oil royalty payments for many years and by the Gulf of Mexico catastrophe that began in April, 2010. Federal administrations from Reagan through the second Bush encouraged the former Minerals Management Service to become a cesspool of corruption.

    [ Charlie Savage, Sex, drug use and graft cited in Interior Department, New York Times, September 10, 2008,  at http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/11/washington/11royalty.html ]

    [ Juliet Eilperin and Scott Higham, Seeking answers in corrupt MMS culture, Washington Post, August 25, 2010, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/08/24/AR2010082406754.html ]

     
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    Struggle over nuclear restart in Japan

    The Kansai Electric nuclear plant in Ohi has been put forward as the lead in a quest by Japan's electric power industry to restart its nuclear power-plants. Ohi units 3 and 4, just proposed to be restarted, are relatively modern, comissioned in 1991 and 1992. [ Tsuyoshi Inajima and Masatsugu Horie, Bloomberg News, Kansai Electric to spend $2.5 billion to improve reactor safety, Business Week, April 9, 2012, at http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-04-09/kansai-electric-to-spend-2-dot-5-billion-to-improve-reactor-safety ]

    Unlike the devastated reactors at the Fukushima plant and the majority of Japan's nuclear fleet, those at Ohi are pressurized water reactors and do not share the Fukushima reactors' design liabilities of relatively small containment volumes. They were built by Mitsubishi, using technology licensed from Westinghouse. However, they are also situated along ocean coast, on the western shore of Honshu, and their locations have also seen great tsunamis, although less frequently than the Sanriku coast in the northeast.

    The cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe--which together own 12-1/2 percent of Kansai Electric stock--circulated a proposal for the next stockholder meeting in June to shut down all 11 Kansai Electric nuclear reactors, along with other, far reaching changes. [ Unattributed, Osaka stirs ripples with planned anti-nuclear power pitch, Mainichi Shimbun (Japan, in English), March 21, 2012, at http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/business/archive/news/2012/03/21/20120321p2a00m0na006000c.html ]

    Antinuclear activists in Japan, formerly numbering only in the thousands, are gathering force to prevent restart of nuclear power-plants. Some have discovered that the recently rejiggered Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, a traditional patronage arm of the power industry, doctored its safety standards so that Kansai Electric's plant would "pass" a recent "stress test." [ Unattributed, Stop nuclear power restart, Against Nuclear Restart! National Action (and others, Japan, in English), March 23, 2012, available at http://www.peaceboat.org/english/?page=view&nr=25&type=22&menu=62 ]

     
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    Re: Nuclear power? Japan sends regrets

    Hey cutting your throat can be popular if enough media says so. But it is not rational. The power infrastructure works and is already built. Most is clearly safe. Others maybe not, but that was decided by the government at the time to put the design on to the companies. Now is different. All japanese should know that they voted for people to make the rules as they are. If they want change they should vote change after a debate of the facts. Not accept the pointless TV CHAT forced by fear.
     
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    State governor on the spot to decide

    The government led by Yoshihiko Noda is supporting and looks likely to encourage restarting Japan's idled nuclear power-plants. However, Japan has a peculiar arrangement in this matter that leaves veto powers in the hands of prefectural governments where plants are located. [ Tsuyoshi Inajima and Masatsugu Horie, Bloomberg News, Japan closer to restarting nuclear reactors, Business Week, April 10, 2012, at
    www.businessweek.com/news/2012-04-09/japan-closer-to-restarting-first-reactors-since-fukushima ]

    Kansai Electric is Japan's second-largest utility, servicing Japan's key export industries in the corridor of southern Honshu between Nagoya and Okayama. It relies more heavily on nuclear plants than any of the country's other utilities--about half of the utility's capacity. Fukui Gov. Issei Nishikawa, who has enjoyed political cover as national figures dodge and weave around the issues, is now on the spot to decide whether or not to approve the bid by Kansai Electric to restart Ohi units 3 and 4. [ Unattributed, Unhappiness about Japan's nuclear plant restart policy, Asia One News Network (Singapore), April 5, 2012, at http://www.asiaone.com/News/AsiaOne%2BNews/Asia/Story/A1Story20120405-337851.html ]

     
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    All quiet on the western (and eastern) fronts

    As probably known to some Globe readers, all of Japan's 50 operable nuclear-power reactors are now idle. The last one was turned off a few days ago. [ Yuri Kageyama, Associated Press, All of Japan's nuclear reactors now offline, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 5, 2012, at http://www.star-telegram.com/2012/05/05/3938714/all-of-japans-nuclear-reactors.html ]

    Efforts for an early restart of Kansai Electric's Ohi units 3 and 4 foundered on political wrangling between local and national governments, which have joint responsibilities. [ Tsuyoshi Inajima and Masatsugu Horie, Japan closer to restarting nuclear reactors, Business Week, April 10, 2012, at http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-04-09/japan-closer-to-restarting-first-reactors-since-fukushima ]

    Age-associated risks of running Japanese nuclear power-plants are getting renewed attention. At the time of its meltdown in March, 2011, unit 1 at Fukushima Dai-ichi was Japan's oldest operating reactor. A license to extend its life had been approved but not yet issued. [ Mari Iwata and Eleanor Warnock, Japan assesses older nuclear plants, Wall Street Journal, May 3, 2012, at http://http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303978104577361191820516780.html ]

    In the U.S., NRC adopted largely arbitrary standards and a cookbook process for approving extensions to reactor lifetimes. Despite designs of the same family as the four devastated Japanese reactors at Fukushima Dai-ichi, NRC has issued operating life extensions for Oyster Creek in New Jersey, Vermont Yankee and other reactors. An extension for Pilgrim in Plymouth is expected soon.

    Unlike their counterparts in Vermont, Massachusetts state officials and agencies mounted only token protests. [ Robert Knox, Over protests, NRC edges toward Pilgrim renewal, Boston Globe, May 6, 2012, at http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2012/05/06/nuclear_watchdogs_make_last_ditch_appeal_against_us_plan_to_extend_pilgrims_license/ ]

     
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    Factory town votes to restart reactors

    The town council of Ohi, a power-plant factory town in Fukui prefecture, Japan--showing some of the outlooks found in Vernon, VT--has voted to support restarting Kansai Electric units 3 and 4 nuclear reactors at the giant plant in the town. A substantial number of residents work there, and the town receives more than $30 million a year in revenues linked with the plant. Neighboring towns, sharing much less of the benefits, must also approve. [ Linda Sieg and Yoko Kubota, Reuters, Japan assembly agrees to restart reactors, Yahoo News, May 14, 2012, at http://news.yahoo.com/japan-assembly-agrees-restart-reactors-hurdles-remain-092000681.html ]
     
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    Worse disaster avoided

    Devastated Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear-power reactors in Japan had relatively small amounts of spent fuel in storage pools located on their top floors. Otherwise the dangers would have been worse, and radioactivity released when hydrogen blew apart three pool enclosures could have been greater, particularly from the badly damaged pool of unit 4. After the explosion and fire in that unit, a sharp spike in radiation outside the reactors was recorded. [ Radiation monitoring data, Institute of Sustainable Energy Policies (Japan, in English), March 26, 2011, at http://hmatsuba.air-nifty.com/fukushima1F20110326Eng.pdf ]

    Years earlier, utility operator Tepco had bowed to public pressure and built secondary central storage facilities, located at the same site. A common spent-fuel storage pool is set back somewhat farther from the ocean than the reactors and has separate, less vulnerable emergency power. A building to house dry casks is located along oceanfront. [ Special report on the nuclear accident at Fukushima, Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, November, 2011, at http://hps.org/documents/INPO_Fukushima_Special_Report.pdf ]

    Central storage facilities at Fukushima Dai-ichi survived the Tokohu earthquake and tsunami of March, 2011. The dry cask storage building was damaged. Seawater wetted the casks there, but it did not penetrate them. The emergency power generator for the common spent-fuel storage pool, unlike those for reactor units 1 through 4, continued to function. [ BRC memorandum, U.S. Department of Energy, May 10, 2011, at http://brc.gov/sites/default/files/meetings/presentations/brc_staff_memo_re_fukushima_5-10-11.pdf ]

    At the time of the disaster, the common spent-fuel storage pool was filled nearly to capacity. Some fuel had been shipped to Japan's new Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant. Because spent fuel had been moved out of reactor buildings and into central storage on a regular basis, the inventories held inside reactors were close to the original design capacities.

    However, before the availability of central storage, the pools in the reactors had been retrofitted with high-density racks. Fuel rods were stored at denser than original-design spacings, increasing potential hazards. One reactor, unit 3, was running part mixed-oxide fuel, reprocessed from older spent fuel, but did not have any mixed-oxide fuel in its storage pool.

    Earlier this year, the Japan Atomic Energy Commission heard from an expert review board assembled last year that Japan should not continue to pursue reprocessing spent fuel with current technologies, including mixed-oxide fuel and fast-breeder reactors cooled by liquid sodium. If that advice were followed, the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant and the fast-breeder reactor at Monju would be mothballed. [ John C.K. Daly, Japan nixes hopes of using recycled nuclear energy, Oil Price News, February 27, 2012, at http://oilprice.com/alternative-energy/nuclear-power/another-fukushima-casualty-japans-fast-breeder-reactor-program.html ]

     
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    An anniversary of regrets

    With August 6 soon approaching, we are about to be treated to an anniversary of fraudulent nuclear regrets. Political figures who regret the destruction of Japanese cities with nuclear bombs, achieving an early end to World War II, either forgot or never learned the brutal history of the Japanese imperial regime, starting decades before its attack on the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor. The fire-bombings of Tokyo and more than 100 other Japanese cities were far more destructive than two nuclear bombs, but latter-day apologists have also forgotten or never learned about those. In the mid-1940s, the world was not apologizing to Japanese; they had more than earned destruction they attracted.

    The U.S. did not enforce lustration on Japanese, as it did on Germans. To this day, sleazebag Japanese politicians worship imperial relics in state-supported shrines. Japan has never offered just compensation for the colonizations of Taiwan, Korea and Manchuria, for the rapes of tens of thousands of Korean and Chinese "comfort women," for the savage killings of 300,000 Chinese around Nanjing or for the unprovoked invasions of Burma and Vietnam, killing tens of thousands of defenseless people. Barely below the surface of civil Japanese manners lurks an urge to resume the brutal days of imperial Japanese might and glory.

     
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    Paying the piper from the pockets of the poor

    The piper will be paid--even in Japan, with the highest debt ratio of any industrial country. There's a cost to bailing out Tokyo Electric Power, the nuclear criminal. That price is going to be loaded most heavily onto Japanese who have the least resources--by doubling the national sales tax.

    [ Hiroko Tabuchi, Japan to nationalize Fukushima utility, New York Times, May 10, 2012, at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/business/global/japan-to-nationalize-fukushima-utility.html ]

    [ Unattributed, Associated Press, Japan OKs tax hike, Boston Globe, August 10, 2012, at http://www.boston.com/news/world/asia/articles/2012/08/10/japan_oks_tax_hike_pm_faces_election_pressure/ ]

     

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