Abe makes sales pitch for Fukushima sake at Davos

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other Japanese officials toast with sake produced in Fukushima Prefecture during the Japan Night event in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday.
Jan 24, 2019
DAVOS, SWITZERLAND – On the sidelines of the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a sales pitch for sake produced in Fukushima Prefecture.
At the Japan Night event in Davos, Abe advertised Yamato no Kokoro, produced in Fukushima’s Aizuwakamatsu from rice that his wife, Akie, grew in Yamaguchi Prefecture, where his electoral home district is located.
In the past, it would have been unthinkable for a sake brewer in the Aizu region to use rice from Choshu — now Yamaguchi — Abe said in a speech, noting that the Aizu and Choshu domains fought against each other in a civil war amid the 1868 Meiji Restoration.
Yamato no Kokoro is a symbol of peace, he said.
“I hope you’ll enjoy Japanese food and sake, the strongest of the country’s soft powers, and visit Japan to enjoy the real stuff,” Abe said.
The prime minister was making an appearance at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting for the first time in five years. Abe made a speech at the Davos conference and stressed the need to promote free trade.
He returned to Japan on Thursday evening.

TEPCO failed to spot leak of contaminated water

 
 
Like they always say… “there is no impact on the environment.”
 
January 24, 2019
 
Tokyo Electric Power Company says it has determined that water containing radioactive substances leaked from a tank at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant for more than two years. The company says there is no impact on the environment.
 
The utility says workers discovered water from an unknown source in an underground tunnel on January 10th at the plant.
 
The reactor complex was heavily damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
 
Officials later found that the water level of a nearby tank had dropped since around November 2016. They say about 300 tons of water leaked from the tank.
 
The officials say the water contained 120,000 becquerels of tritium per liter. That is twice the allowable level for the release of contaminated water at a nuclear plant operating normally.
 
The officials report that the tritium level of the water found in the tunnel was below the standard.
 
They believe the water flowed into the turbine building for the number four reactor through pipes.
 
The officials say the tank’s water level declined by about 1.7 meters during the period, but measurements conducted four times each day failed to detect the tiny difference from the previous check.
 
The company will now work to uncover the cause.
 

Fukushima soccer facility to fully reopen in April after 2011 crisis

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This July 28, 2018 file photo shows the football stadium at J-Village, a national training center in Naraha, Fukushima Prefecture
January 23, 2019
FUKUSHIMA, Japan (Kyodo) — A soccer facility in Fukushima Prefecture that was used as an operational base for dealing with the 2011 nuclear crisis will fully reopen on April 20 with new natural turf pitches, its operator said Wednesday.
The J-Village, Japan’s first national soccer training center, located some 20 kilometers from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, served until November 2016 as a base for crisis response, accommodating thousands of workers engaged in disaster cleanup efforts.
The facility, seen as the symbol of reconstruction of the disaster-affected area, partially resumed operations in July 2018, with the opening of its main stadium, restaurants, a hotel and a conference center.
A new train station nearby named after the facility will also start operations on April 20, according to its operator East Japan Railway Co., known as JR East.
The new station, set up between the existing Kido and Hirono stations on the Joban Line, will be used only when there is a major event held at the J-Village and its vicinity.
The Joban Line still remains partially out of service due to the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns, triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster. JR East is seeking to fully resume operations on the line by the end of March 2020.
The J-Village, built and donated to Fukushima Prefecture by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., opened in 1997.
It has played host to a number of different sports and will be the Japan soccer teams’ official training camp prior to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear regulator: nuclear is dangerous, a failed technology, not a safe bet for combating climate change

“Jaczko headed the NRC from 2009 to 2012 under former President Barack Obama. During his tenure, he oversaw several of nuclear’s worst battles and disasters, including Yucca Mountain, the proposed nuclear waste depository, and the Fukushima meltdown in Japan. He writes that what he witnessed was an agency overpowered by the agenda of the nuclear industry. Decisions were based on politics, not safety or the public’s best interests. After witnessing several close calls with plants and the aftermath of Fukushima, he’s come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as safe nuclear power.”

 

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Former NRC head disagrees with Bill Gates, says nuclear not a safe bet for combating climate change

How much do you think about nuclear power?
 
If you’re like most Americans, the answer is likely “not often.” Unless you work in the industry, you don’t hear too much about nuclear power these days, as Big Oil and coal face off against solar and wind.
 
The former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission wants to change that. In his latest book, Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator, Dr. Gregory Jaczko says that we not only should be thinking more about the consequences of nuclear power, we should be way more concerned about it than we are.
 
The former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission wants to change that. In his latest book, Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator, Dr. Gregory Jaczko says that we not only should be thinking more about the consequences of nuclear power, we should be way more concerned about it than we are.
 
Jaczko headed the NRC from 2009 to 2012 under former President Barack Obama. During his tenure, he oversaw several of nuclear’s worst battles and disasters, including Yucca Mountain, the proposed nuclear waste depository, and the Fukushima meltdown in Japan. He writes that what he witnessed was an agency overpowered by the agenda of the nuclear industry. Decisions were based on politics, not safety or the public’s best interests. After witnessing several close calls with plants and the aftermath of Fukushima, he’s come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as safe nuclear power.
 
Why did you decide to write a book?
 
I’d had a unique experience. I learned a lot in the job about the process of how nuclear power plants are regulated. I think it’s important for people to understand the influence that the industry has, that Congress has, and these are lessons that are true in any safety-sensitive industry.
 
The more pressing issue for me right now has developed the last couple years, and it’s the recognition that a lot of people are turning to nuclear as the savior of climate change. I have two kids and I’m extremely worried about climate change, but I’m even more worried that nuclear is a solution that people are pushing.
 
It’s a bad solution. It’s not the cheapest, and it’s a very expensive way to reduce carbon. And it’s an unreliable partner for climate change. You can have accidents and that can shut down plants, and that comes with all the environmental issues with nuclear itself.
 
That brings us to Bill Gates’ end of 2018 letter, in which he says that nuclear is essential for combating climate change.
 
Yeah, I think I actually saw that article, and I worry because I do think the history of nuclear technology shows that it’s not reliable. If you look today at the cheapest ways to generate electricity, it’s solar, it’s wind, it’s geothermal. These methods are a lot cheaper and only getting cheaper.
 
The biggest argument against them is the dispatch problem — you can’t always have them when you want them, but battery storage is also rapidly dropping in price. I look at those kinds of stories, and I scratch my head. I don’t really understand where those new nuclear technologies are coming from. His [Gates/TerraPower’s] technology is unproven and at least one decade, if not more realistically two, out, and they’re strategizing based on tech from China, and because of Trump policies they had to pull back on that project.
 
It’s not there. It’s not a solution. That’s just putting our head in the sand.
 
You are now working in renewable energy projects yourself?
 
I started in the offshore wind space about three or four years ago. Lo and behold, last month, three companies each bid $135 million just for the right to build offshore wind farms off Massachusetts. They think they can produce that power at almost competitive wholesale electricity prices. Even three years ago, we were not predicting that.
 
What’s happening in that clean energy space is dramatic. The tech is advancing so fast and the cost reductions are happening so fast, that’s really where the input should be going.
 
Why do you think Bill Gates and others are still pursuing nuclear?
 
Well, I’ve never met Bill Gates, and I would certainly ask him if we met [laughs].
 
I started my career as a scientist, and there are a lot of technical features to nuclear that make it very attractive. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying to come up with better nuclear fission technology, but it’s not going to combat climate change. In the short term, we could work on better nuclear, but if it comes to spending money on nuclear or other renewable energy sources, it would make more sense to invest in the other.
 
We have one of the biggest examples in Fukushima [2011], and my experiences dealing with the accident there. One by one, the Japanese shut down all their nuclear power plants, and you have a country of the Kyoto Protocol with very aggressive climate goals, and they hinged on this fleet of nuclear reactors. And you have one accident, and all this human suffering aside, and this technology has torn apart your goals for climate change.
 
There was certainly the immediate harm, but you’ve damaged your longer-term goals for saving the planet. Their carbon went up as they had to turn to all these dirty fossil fuels, and now they’ve started to come down. And they’ve done a tremendous amount since in energy efficiency. If they’d one this 20 years ago, they wouldn’t be in that situation today.
 
Before stepping into the role, did you have any idea how messy politics in the agency were?
 
I spent time working on the Hill for a congressman and a senator, and I’d had my taste for politics always as a staffer. There is always a difference between a staffer and principal. When I became chairman I was the principal. Then I realized the power that was at stake, the influence that was at stake, and the stakes were so high, it was going to be intense.
 
The nuclear power industry is tens of billions, and electrical utilities are some of the most powerful in the country. My first encounter with [Obama’s chief of staff] Rahm Emanuel, it was a very direct communication style, and it certainly made an impression on me. I realized what was at stake then, all the idealistic aspirations I hoped I maintained were going to run up against some practical and political powers.
 
I was trying to strike balance between public safety and the industries that operate. It was a delicate balance. The Fukushima accident is when I crossed that threshold that my job was foremost health and public safety and that was it. If we weren’t going to do it, who was? And the accident really galvanized that for me.
 
How do you see the future of nuclear power progressing under the Trump administration?
 
Well the thing the president has tried to do the most, coupled with the strategy to keep coal plants operating, has been comparable. He hasn’t gotten as much attention to subsidize nuclear power plants, and thankfully those efforts have been unsuccessful because I think those are mistakes.
 
Coal plants and nuclear plants are just too expensive to operate, and the focus has been on preserving them, but they’re being replaced by solar, wind, some gas, which is not ideal but I think other technologies will catch up and replace gas.
 
To me, the best thing anybody can do in the government, despite what the president says about climate change, is to just stay out of it. In many parts of the country, the market is doing the right thing. In many cases, the right pocketbook approach is the environmental approach. This is one place where the government needs to step out of the way and let the market take over.
 
Knowing what you know now, would you have still taken the job?
 
Absolutely. It was a great privilege to have the job. There was one moment when I was sitting across from my counterpart in Japan [during the Fukushima aftermath], and we both looked at each other and realized that we were both relatively young [around 40]. In that moment, I knew there was a reason we were there, if for no other reason than I could relate to this individual.
 
It was a great experience. It was hard, but at the end of the day, I got up knowing what I was doing and why I was doing it, and I was doing something to help people. And those jobs don’t come often.
 
 
 
Other interviews of Greg Jaczko to watch and to listen to:

“Nuclear: Dangerous, A Failed Technology” – Former Nuke Regulatory Chief Greg Jaczko Goes Rogue

Greg Jaczko, the former Chair of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, has published an explosive new book: Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator.  In it, he gets honest with the American people about the dangers of nuclear technology, which he labels “failed,” “dangerous,” “not reliable.”  He particularly comes down against nuclear as having any part in mitigating the problems of climate change/global warming.  In this extended Nuclear Hotseat interview, Jaczko brings us inside the NRC’s response to Fukushima, the “precipice” on which nuclear safety balances, his own growing doubts about how safe nuclear reactors are in the United States, and how, ultimately, it was that concern with safety that probably brought him down.

Confessions of a Rogue Nuclear Regulator

Gregory Jaczko recounted his time with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for which he served as chair from 2009-2012.

Japan Night reception to serve a selection of Gold Prize-winning sake

Promotion of Fukushima Prefecture’s sake by the Japanese government in total denial of  the Fukushima radiation contamination existing health harmful risk!!!
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Various sake brands from Fukushima Prefecture have won the Gold Prize at the prestigious Annual Japan Sake Awards 2018
Jan 22, 2019
Six kinds of Fukushima Prefecture’s sake will be served to complete the feast at the annual Japan Night reception during the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2019 — one of the events that VIPs from around the world attending the conference look forward to the most.
Fukushima, as one of the major rice-producing prefectures in Japan, is known for its flavorful sake, which relies heavily on the stable harvesting of quality rice.
At the Annual Japan Sake Awards 2018, one of the most prestigious sake competitions that dates back to 1911, Fukushima had 19 brands of sake take home the Gold Prize. Out of 850 entries submitted from across Japan, 232 were awarded the Gold Prize, and Fukushima, together with Hyogo Prefecture, topped the list of Gold Prizes by prefecture.
Fukushima has been the prefecture to win the most Gold Prizes for six consecutive years, marking a record since 1956 when records were first kept. It was also a product of Fukushima, the Okunomatsu Adatara Ginjo 2017 made by Okunomatsu Sake Brewery, a venerable sake manufacturer established in 1716, that was selected as the winner of the Champion Sake Award in the International Wine Challenge (IWC) 2018, out of a record number of 1,639 candidates in the sake category.
The Okunomatsu Adatara Ginjo, comprising a clean, fresh and balanced taste that has been highly evaluated internationally, will be served at the Japan Night event.
The brewery stands on the premises of about 12,000 square meters, almost as large as a baseball field, at the foot of Mount Adatara. Its sake is made using the mountain’s fresh subsoil water.
Five other sake brands to be served at the Japan Night include the Gold Ninki Junmai Daiginjo by Ninki Shuzo; Momo no Namida by Yamatogawa Brewery; Sparkling Toyokuni by Toyokuni Brewery; Issho Seishun Bessen Daiginjo by Akebono Brewery; and Aizu-miyaizumi Junmaishu by Miyaizumi-meijo.
The Gold Ninki Junmai Daiginjo has already gained international recognition after being served at the Nobel NightCap 2012, the final festivity of the Nobel Week organized by students. Ninkishuzo, located in Fukushima’s city of Nihonmatsu, takes pride in making sake through the traditional method of using wooden tools and Japanese-style pots. The local rice they use is well-suited for making sake because of the wide range of temperatures.
Momo no Namida (tears of a peach) is a liqueur made of locally produced peach juice and sake.
Fukushima is one of the major peach-producing areas in Japan. Peach orchards that were not able to deliver their peaches to customers across Japan in the spring of 2011 after the nuclear incident following the Great East Japan Earthquake inspired the liqueur, which overflows with a fresh peach scent.
Sparkling Toyokuni is the only sparkling sake to be served at the event. Taking a bronze medal at the 2017 IWC, its bubbly fruitiness is perfect for toasting. Toyokuni Brewery, established in 1862 in the town of Aizubange in the central part of Fukushima, sticks to the traditional funashibori (slow pressing) method without using a compressor.
Issho Seishun Bessen Daiginjo is one of the brands that won last year’s Gold Prize at the Annual Japan Sake Awards. With a name that can be translated as “youth for life,” it presents a light and fresh sweetness with a pleasant aroma.
Aizu-miyaizumi Junmaishu took first prize among the 456 entries of the Junmaishu category in the Sake Competition 2018, another large-scale sake competition that started in 2012. Junmaishu refers to a kind of sake made only with rice, rice koji (malted rice) and water with no added alcohol. It is often favored by sake lovers who enjoy the scent and taste of rice in their sake.

Greenpeace slams Japan’s plan to dump radioactive Fukushima water into the ocean

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22 January, 2019
The decision by the government and the tsunami-devastated plant’s operator to release contaminated water into the Pacific was ‘driven by short-term cost-cutting’, a new study has found
Greenpeace has slammed a plan by the Japanese government and an electric utility company to release into the ocean highly radioactive water from the tsunami-devastated Fukushima Daiichi power plant, saying in a new report the decision was “driven by short-term cost-cutting”.
Released on Tuesday, the Greenpeace study condemns the decision taken after the disaster to not develop technology that could remove radioactivity from the groundwater, which continues to seep into the basement levels of three of the six nuclear reactors at Fukushima.
An estimated 1.09 million tonnes of water are presently stored in more than 900 tanks at the plant, which was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, with up to 4,000 tonnes added every week.
The decision by the government and the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), to avoid developing the relevant technology “was motivated by short-term cost-cutting, not protection of the Pacific Ocean environment and of the health and livelihoods of communities along the Fukushima coast”, said Kazue Suzuki, campaigner on energy issues for Greenpeace Japan.
“We have raised the water crisis with the UN International Maritime Organisation and firmly stand with local communities, especially fisheries, who are strongly opposed to any plans to discharge contaminated water into their fishing grounds.”
The backlash against the plan jointly put forward by the government and Tepco began late last year after the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) held public hearings in Tokyo and Fukushima designed to convince local people that releasing the water into the ocean would have no impact on marine or human life.
Anti-nuclear and environmental groups had obtained data leaked from government sources, however, that showed that the water was still contaminated, triggering public anger. Tepco was forced to admit late last year that its efforts to reduce radioactive material – known as radionuclides – in the water had failed.
The company had previously claimed that advanced processes had reduced cancer-causing contaminants such as strontium-90, iodine-129 and ruthenium-106 in the water to non-detectible levels.
Despite the much-vaunted Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) plant at Fukushima, Tepco has confirmed that levels of strontium-90, for example, are more than 100 times above legally permitted levels in 65,000 tonnes of water that have already been through the ALPS system.
n one of the hearings, Tatsuhiko Sato, a resident of Naraha who only returned to his home last spring because of contamination from the nuclear accident, accused Tepco of “not gathering all the data” and failing to adequately investigate reports that dangerous levels of radionuclides were still in the water after it was treated.
Local fishermen used the public hearing to express their “strong opposition” to plans to release the water, with one, Tetsu Nozaki, pointing out that while levels of radiation in locally caught fish and shellfish have been at or below normal levels for the past three years, releasing contaminated water would “deal a fatal blow” to the local fishing industry.
There has also been anger in some nearby countries, with environmental groups demonstrating in Seoul in November and Korea Radioactive Watch declaring that releasing the water “will threaten the waters of South Korea and other neighbouring nations”.
The issue was also part of a referendum held in Taiwan in November, with voters asked whether the government should maintain the ban on imports of food and products from areas of Japan that were most seriously affected by radiation from the disaster.
Japan’s trade ministry, however, still refuses to rule out the possibility that the water will be poured into the Pacific.
“We have established a committee to discuss the treatment of the water that is presently being stored and those discussions are still going on,” Shinji Hirai, director of the ministry’s Nuclear Accident Response Office, told the Post.
“There are five proposals being discussed, including releasing the water into the ocean or storing it underground, and we have not set a deadline for the committee to reach a decision.”
He declined to comment on the findings of the Greenpeace report.
But others have welcomed the new study, with Caitlin Stronell, spokeswoman for the Tokyo-based Citizens’ Nuclear Information Centre, also expressing opposition to plans to dump the water into the ocean.
“There needs to be a lot of consultations before any decision is reached on what to do and it cannot simply be the government making an arbitrary decision,” she said. “The whole story of the Fukushima disaster has been one of lies and half-truths from the authorities and it is very hard to trust anyone in Tepco or the government on this issue.
“People’s opinions have been completely disregarded in the rush by the government to tell us how everything is just fine and we believe the people from the region, those who have lost the most, cannot be overlooked or neglected.”
The Greenpeace report concludes that the water crisis at the plant will remain unresolved for the foreseeable future – and that the only viable option to safeguard local communities and the environment is to continue to store the water.
“The Japanese government and Tepco set an objective of ‘solving’ the radioactive water crisis by 2020 – that was never credible,” said Shaun Burnie, a nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany.
“The reality is that there is no end to the water crisis at Fukushima, a crisis compounded by poor decision-making by both Tepco and the government. Discharging into the Pacific is the worst option and must be ruled out.”

Technical failures increase risk of contaminated Fukushima water discharge into Pacific – Greenpeace

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by Greenpeace International
22 January 2019
Tokyo, 22 January 2019 – The nuclear water crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant has been compounded by multiple technical failures and flawed decision making driven by short term cost cutting by the Japanese government and TEPCO, a new Greenpeace Germany analysis concludes.
The report details how plans to discharge over 1 million tonnes of highly contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean was proposed by the same Government task force that ignored alternative options that would have avoided threatening further contamination of the ocean.
“The decision not to develop water processing technology that could remove radioactive tritium was motivated by short term cost cutting not protection of the Pacific ocean environment or the health and livelihoods of communities along the Fukushima coast,” said Kazue Suzuki, Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan. “We have raised the water crisis with the UN International Maritime Organization and firmly stand with local communities, especially fisheries, who are strongly opposed to any plans to discharge contaminated water into their fishing grounds.”
The report concludes that the water crisis remains unresolved, and will be for the foreseeable future. The only viable option to protect the environment and the communities along the Fukushima coast being long term storage for the contaminated water.
The discharge option for water containing high levels of radioactive tritium was recommended as least cost by the Government’s Tritiated Water Task Force and promoted by Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA). The Task Force concluded in 2016 that “sea discharge would cost 3.4 billion yen (US$30 million) and take seven years and four months to complete. It concluded that this was cheapest and quickest of the five methods.” However, technical proposals for removing tritium were submitted to the same Government Task Force by multiple nuclear companies with estimated costs ranging from US$2-US$20 billion to US$50-US$180 billion depending on the technology used. These were dismissed as not viable but without detailed technical consideration.
TEPCO has claimed since 2013 that its ALPS technology would reduce radioactivity levels “to lower than the permissible level for discharge.” However, in September 2018 TEPCO admitted that the processing of over 800,000 tons of contaminated water in 1000 storage tanks, including strontium, had failed to remove radioactivity to below regulatory limits, including for strontium-90, a bone seeking radionuclide that causes cancer. TEPCO knew of the failure of the technology from 2013. The Greenpeace report details technical problems with the ALPS system.
The Fukushima Daiichi site, due its location, is subject to massive groundwater contamination which TEPCO has also failed to stop. Each week an additional 2-4000 tonnes of contaminated water is added to the storage tanks.
“The Japanese government and TEPCO set an objective of ‘solving’ the radioactive water crisis by 2020 – that was never credible. TEPCO has finally admitted that its ALPS technology has failed to reduce levels of strontium, and other hazardous radioactivity, to below regulatory limits,” said Shaun Burnie, nuclear specialist with Greenpeace Germany.
“The reality is there is no end to the water crisis at Fukushima, a crisis compounded by poor decision making by both TEPCO and the government. Discharging into the Pacific is the worst option and must be ruled out. The only viable option, and it’s not without risks, is the long term storage of this water in robust steel tanks over at least the next century, and the parallel development of water processing technology.”
Greenpeace offices are calling on the government and TEPCO to urgently reassess options for the long term management of highly contaminated water at Fukushima Daiichi. Paramount in any future decision making should be the protection of the environment and the interests of the those in the front line – the communities and fishing industries of Fukushima’s Pacific coast.
END
Photos and video can be accessed here
Notes:
“TEPCO Water Crisis” briefing can be accessed here
Contact:
Shaun Burnie, senior nuclear specialist, Greenpeace Germany, sburnie@greenpeace.org – +49 151 6432 0548
Greenpeace International Press Desk, pressdesk.int@greenpeace.org, phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)