Study: S. Korean nuclear disaster would hit Japan the hardest

hjhklmmù.jpg

The projected spread of radioactive cesium-137 from a disaster at the No. 3 reactor’s spent fuel pool of the Kori nuclear plant in Busan, South Korea (Provided by Kang Jung-min)

A serious nuclear accident in South Korea could force the evacuation of more than 28 million people in Japan, compared with around 24 million in the home country of the disaster.

Japan would also be hit harder by radioactive fallout than South Korea in such a disaster, particularly if it occurred in winter, when strong westerly winds would blow radioactive substances across the Sea of Japan, according to a simulation by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a Washington-based think tank.

The simulation, based on a scenario of an unfolding crisis at the Kori nuclear power plant in Busan, South Korea, was led by Kang Jung-min, a South Korean senior researcher of nuclear physics, and his colleagues.

At events in Japan and South Korea, Kang, 51, has repeatedly warned about East Asia’s vulnerability to a severe nuclear accident, saying the region shares the “same destiny” regardless of the location of such a disaster.

The Kori nuclear complex is home to seven of the country’s 25 commercial reactors, making it one of the largest in South Korea. Its oldest reactor–and the first in the country–went online in 1978.

Spent nuclear fuel at the Kori plant is cooled in on-site storage pools next to reactors.

But the operator of the plant has ended up storing spent fuel in more cramped conditions than in the past because waste keeps accumulating from the many years of operations.

An estimated 818 tons of spent fuel was being stored at the pool of the Kori No. 3 reactor as of the end of 2015, the most at any reactor in the country.

That is because the No. 3 pool has also been holding spent fuel from the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors since their fuel pools became too crowded.

Storing spent fuel in such a manner greatly increases the risk of a nuclear accident, Kang warned.

Kang’s team simulated the series of likely events that would follow if the No. 3 reactor lost power in a natural disaster or an act of terrorism.

With no power, the spent fuel at the No. 3 reactor could not be cooled. The cooling water would evaporate, exposing the fuel rods to air, generating intensive heat and causing a fire.

Hydrogen gas would then fill up the fuel storage building, leading to an explosion that would result in the release of a large amount of vaporized cesium-137 from the spent fuel.

Assuming that the catastrophe occurred on Jan. 1, 2015, the researchers determined how highly radioactive cesium-137 would spread and fall to the ground based on the actual weather conditions over the following week, as well as the direction and velocity of winds.

To gauge the size of the area and population that would be forced to evacuate in such a disaster, the team took into account recommendations by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, a private entity, and other organizations.

The results showed that up to 67,000 square kilometers of land in Japan–or much of the western part of the country–would fall under the evacuation zone, displacing a maximum of 28.3 million people.

In South Korea, up to 54,000 square kilometers would need to be vacated, affecting up to 24.3 million people.

The simulation also found that 18.4 million Japanese and 19 million Koreans would remain displaced for even after 30 years, the half-life of cesium-137, in a worst-case scenario.

Radioactive materials from South Korea would also pollute North Korea and China, according to the study.

Nineteen reactors in South Korea are located in the coastal area facing the Sea of Japan, including those at the Kori nuclear power plant.

Kang said the public should be alerted to the dangers of highly toxic spent fuel, an inevitable byproduct of nuclear power generation.

One ton of spent fuel contains 100,000 curies of cesium-137, meaning that 20 tons of spent fuel would be enough to match the estimated 2 million curies of cesium-137 released in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

An average-size light-water reactor produces about 20 tons of spent fuel in one year of operation.

East Asia is home to one of the world’s largest congestions of nuclear facilities, Kang said.

Japan, China and South Korea, which have all promoted nuclear energy as state policy for decades, together host about 100 commercial reactors.

A number of nuclear-related facilities are also concentrated in North Korea, particularly in Yongbyon, north of Pyongyang.

If a severe accident were to occur in China, the pollution would inevitably spill over to South Korea and then to Japan.

That is why people should take serious interest in not just their own country’s nuclear issues, but also in neighboring countries,” Kang said. “Japan, China and South Korea should cooperate with each other to ensure the safety and security of spent fuel and nuclear facilities.”

He said the risks of a fire would be reduced if spent fuel were placed at greater intervals in storage pools.

Ideally, spent fuel should be moved to sealed dry casks and cooled with air after it is cooled in a pool for about five years,” he said.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201703300001.html

 

Fulfilling duties to Fukushima must top list in TEPCO reform

tepco logo

A new plan has recently been worked out for rehabilitating Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO), the embattled operator of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The plan is centered on a bold management reform for enhancing the utility’s earning capacity so it can cover the ballooning expenses related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, including the payment of damages and the cost of scrapping the hobbled nuclear reactors.

TEPCO obviously has the duty to fulfill its responsibility to the people and communities affected by the disaster. But the plan has set profit targets that are anything but easy to achieve, and some of the components of the plan appear unlikely to be realizable any time soon.

There is a need to continue reviewing the plan so it will not end up as simply pie in the sky.

TEPCO came under de facto government ownership after it could no longer keep operating on its own as a result of the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns. The utility has since been paying damages and otherwise dealing with the aftermath of the disaster while receiving aid in various forms under government supervision.

It was learned late last year that post-disaster processing would cost twice as much as the previous estimate. The government worked out a framework, wherein about 16 trillion yen ($141 billion), out of the total expense of some 22 trillion yen, would be covered either by TEPCO or with profits from the sale of the government’s share in TEPCO.

The rehabilitation plan, which was revised in response thereto, envisages that TEPCO can come up with 500 billion yen in necessary expenses annually over the coming three decades. It also sets the goal of substantially increasing TEPCO’s profits.

Many questions linger, however.

A restart of the idled Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, which is expected to be the key instrument for TEPCO’s turnaround, is unlikely to be feasible any time soon. The governor of Niigata Prefecture and others are growing increasingly distrustful of TEPCO, as it recently came to light that the company had failed to inform the government’s Nuclear Regulation Authority that one key building on the nuclear plant site is not sufficiently anti-seismic.

The first order of business is to take thorough safety measures. TEPCO should come up with ways for generating the necessary financial resources without relying on a restart of the nuclear plant.

The centerpiece of new measures for enhancing TEPCO’s earning capacity is a prospective reorganization of its operations along segment lines, such as in the field of power transmission and distribution and in nuclear power operations, which would also involve other utilities. That apparently came against the backdrop of the industry ministry’s hopes that TEPCO’s realignment will trigger a reform of the entire energy industry.

Other major electric utilities, however, are wary of the risk of having to play a part in TEPCO’s response to the nuclear disaster. It therefore remains uncertain whether the reorganization will actually take place as envisaged.

The framework for sharing the burdens of post-disaster processing, which the government has worked out as a precondition for the new plan, is in the first place ridden with problems.

The framework envisages that new entrants to the power supply market, who operate no nuclear reactors, will also have to pay part of the disaster response costs. Critics continue to argue such a plan is about passing the bill on to irrelevant parties.

The 4 trillion yen in radioactive cleanup fees are designated for being covered by profits on the sale of TEPCO shares. But that plan could fail unless TEPCO’s earnings were to expand and its share price were to grow significantly.

Using taxpayers’ money to fill the hole would then emerge as a realistic option.

TEPCO was allowed to stay afloat at the expense of taxpayers on the sole grounds that it bears heavy responsibility to the people and communities affected by the Fukushima disaster.

The government would have to take another step forward if TEPCO were unable to fulfill that responsibility. That would also fuel the argument for dismantling the embattled utility.

TEPCO is expected to soon make a fresh start under a reshuffled management. The utility and the government should not forget about the exacting eyes of the public.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201705150018.html

As I See It: Six years later, no time for TEPCO personnel squabbles

jklklm.jpg

Former Hitachi Ltd. chairman Takashi Kawamura, left, who will take the post of the next chairman of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., and Tomoaki Kobayakawa, who has been tapped to be the next TEPCO Holdings president, are pictured here in Tokyo’s Chiyoda Ward on April 3, 2017.

Six years since the outbreak of the nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) Holdings Inc.’s Fukushima nuclear plant, the utility still faces massive challenges. And yet, what I’ve come to see through my reporting is that efforts meant to help revitalize the company’s finances in order to secure the funds needed to bring the nuclear crisis under control and compensate victims, have been overshadowed by petty feuds over personnel appointments between executives dispatched by the central government — which effectively owns the company — and dyed-in-the-wool TEPCO employees. Rebuilding TEPCO will be impossible if such squabbles are not put to rest.

In March of this year, TEPCO announced an outline of its revitalization plans, with a restructuring of its nuclear power business as a central pillar, as well as a reshuffling of executive personnel. According to the announcement, chairman Fumio Sudo, 76, will be replaced by Takashi Kawamura, 77, the previous chairman at Hitachi Ltd., and president Naomi Hirose, 64, will be replaced by 53-year-old board director Tomoaki Kobayakawa.

After the nuclear crisis began in March 2011, TEPCO was effectively nationalized. The plan has been for TEPCO to increase its earning power by rebuilding its finances under the central government’s management, so that it could secure the funds necessary to decommission the reactors at Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant and compensate victims of the disaster.

With the nationalization of TEPCO, the government swept the utility clean of all its old executives and in addition to placing bureaucrats from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) on the company’s board, in 2014 it put Sudo, formerly of major steel corporation JFE Holdings, in the position of TEPCO chairman. However, when Sudo, with the backing of the government, implemented cost-cutting measures, grumblings were heard within the company that Sudo was seeking too many results too fast and that staff evaluations were changing too dramatically. Sudo’s clashes with TEPCO president Hirose, who had worked up the ranks and was initially considered pro-reform, grew increasingly serious.

There was an incident in the spring of 2016 that could be considered a prelude to current conflicts. Sudo and METI, unhappy with the fact that Hirose would not cut his ties with former management, tried to re-appoint him to the post of deputy chairman. Hirose resisted and, according to multiple sources involved with TEPCO, was able to get the support of a former TEPCO executive who had close ties with the prime minister’s office. As a result, Hirose stayed in his post as company president, but his relationship with Sudo deteriorated beyond the point of repair. “It wasn’t uncommon for the two to criticize each other openly at management meetings,” a senior TEPCO official said.

At the end of 2016, METI announced that the amount of money necessary to deal with the nuclear crisis would be about 21.5 trillion yen, almost twice the amount of an earlier estimate. Because of the need to secure more funds, the government set up an expert panel, which then offered “recommendations” to TEPCO on how to rebuild its finances. When it was revealed that “the passing of authority down to the next generation” was one of the pieces of advice offered by the panel, industry insiders saw it as another government attempt at bringing Hirose down from his post, a source close to the case said.

Hirose is said to have resisted strongly to such renewed efforts. However, Sudo vowed that he would step down if Hirose did, forcing Hirose to bow to the pressure to resign. Some in the electric power industry have described the latest personnel reshuffle a “tie” in that both “camps” made concessions, but discontent is already spreading among career TEPCO employees. According to a senior TEPCO official, new executives, including Kobayakawa and the new president of a subsidiary company, are “all drinking buddies of outside board members who are former METI bureaucrats.”

TEPCO can’t afford to waste time on personnel feuds. In order to come up with the money needed to bring the troubled reactors under control, TEPCO must earn 500 billion yen per year for the next 30 years. The amount goes up further when taking into account the funds needed for capital investment. Meanwhile, TEPCO’s consolidated financial results for fiscal 2016 stood at just 258.6 billion yen in operating income.

TEPCO’s outline of its latest reorganization plan shows that it is aiming to raise earning power by realigning its various businesses, such as nuclear power, as well as the transmission and distribution of power, with other utilities. However, this plan is a carbon copy of the recommendations given by the government-established expert panel. Some long-time TEPCO employees have said the company only included the recommendation into its reorganization plan because the government has been on its back to do so, and that because other utilities will find no benefit to them in restructuring with TEPCO, the plan will never come to fruition. If people in the company remain this divided, TEPCO will never be able to follow through with rigorous reforms.

If TEPCO drops the ball on management reform and is unable to come up with the money it needs, it could lead to further burdens on the public in the form of higher electricity prices. TEPCO, under normal circumstances, would have gone under following the onset nuclear disaster. So if things go further south, not just the utility, but the central government, which allowed the utility to survive by pumping 1 trillion yen from national coffers into the company, will be held accountable.

Kawamura, who will be appointed TEPCO’s new chairman at the company’s general meeting of shareholders in late June, has the experience of having accomplished Hitachi’s v-shaped turnaround through fundamental management reforms. While his appointment was initiated by the government, many TEPCO employees welcome Kawamura’s pending appointment. The latest personnel change may be the last chance for TEPCO and the government to put its differences aside toward the goal of rebuilding the troubled power company.

Looking back at the latest personnel power struggle, a senior TEPCO official said, “I’m embarrassed when asked if any of the people involved (in the debacle) had ‘our responsibility toward Fukushima’ in mind.” The government and TEPCO must not forget its responsibility toward the victims of the nuclear disaster. If they focused on the fact that there are people out there whose peaceful lives in their beloved hometowns were taken away from them, they could refrain from feuds over personnel appointments. (By Daisuke Oka, Business News Department)

https://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170512/p2a/00m/0na/014000c

Japan’s nuclear disaster gave everyone on Earth extra radiation

« …Researchers still believe the overall exposure to have been negligible in the grand scheme of things… » A nicely turned lie in the grand scheme !

« …Of course, the robots sent in to do the dirty work haven’t been nearly as lucky… » Yes, no joke !

fukushima.jpg

 

Japan’s nuclear disaster gave everyone on Earth extra radiation

It’s been over half a decade since Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant suffered a catastrophic meltdown due to the effects of a tsunami which struck the island nation, but scientists are only just now confirming its far-reaching effects. After conducting the first worldwide survey to measure the ultimate radiation exposure caused by the reactor meltdown, researchers at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research finally have a figure on exactly how much extra radiation humanity was exposed to.

According to the group’s data, over 80 percent of the radiation that was released by the meltdown ended up in either the ocean or ice at the north and south poles. Of the remaining radiation, each human on the planet received roughly 0.1 millisievert, which equates to about “one extra X-ray each,” according to the team.

That amount of radiation isn’t likely to have much of an effect on humanity, however, and in comparison to the normal amount of radiation each of us receives over the course of a year, which can be as high as 3.65 millisieverts on average, it’s hardly anything. In fact, as NewScientist notes, a typical CT scan exposes you to 15 millisieverts on its own, and radiation sickness doesn’t occur until you reach the 1,000 millisievert threshold.

Obviously, those living the the vicinity of the reactor, especially in the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, can expect to have received a good deal more radiation as a result, but the researchers still believe the overall exposure to have been negligible in the grand scheme of things. Of course, the robots sent in to do the dirty work haven’t been nearly as lucky.

https://www.yahoo.com/tech/japan-nuclear-disaster-gave-everyone-earth-extra-radiation-154756561.html?.tsrc=fauxdal

‘Yoshida’s Dilemma: One Man’s Struggle to Avert Nuclear Catastrophe’: But for him, Fukushima could have been much worse

p22-gattig-yoshida-a-20170430.jpg

Hero: Masao Yoshida disregarded orders to abandon the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The actions of him and his team are credited with averting further disaster.

Disaster response, even at its most heroic, can fall to people who would rather be somewhere else.

So it was for Masao Yoshida, who, while helming the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant during the disaster in 2011, gave the groan, “Why does this happen on my shift?”

But in some ways Yoshida, an industry veteran of 32 years, was the right man to handle the crisis. His leadership during those days on the edge, at times in defiance of orders from the top of the utility that employed him, is at the center of Rob Gilhooly’s new book “Yoshida’s Dilemma: One Man’s Struggle to Avert Nuclear Catastrophe.”

Gilhooly writes from the eye of the storm, putting the reader in the plant’s control room with almost claustrophobic immediacy. One of his challenges was to render the emergency in real-time. How much can prose, moving forward in measured steps, convey a lethal technology unraveling in extremis? How do you convey the breakdown of machinery without getting mired in technical detail?

“It was difficult,” says Gilhooly, who spent almost four years researching and writing the book. “What struck me about the plant workers — it sounded like complete chaos. My decision was not to make it sound orderly. I wanted it to appear chaotic, without the writing becoming chaotic itself. I tore my hair out over the technical details, because I wanted the book to be readable.”

In the end, the book is a cumulative experience — an intense ride that rewards endurance. Gilhooly weaves in the history of nuclear energy in Japan, interviews with experts and re-created conversations among the plant workers.

“Yoshida was a straight talker from Osaka — a larger-than-life personality,” says Gilhooly, who interviewed the superintendent off the record. “He was different from the other superintendents, more prepared to stick his neck out. He was sharper, more bloody-minded. When tipping his hat to authority, he may have done so with a quietly raised middle finger.”

This attitude might have saved lives, when, after a hydrogen blast at the No. 1 plant, Tepco HQ in Tokyo ordered staff to evacuate. Yoshida knew that the executives had little idea of what was actually happening at the plant. Going behind the backs of his superiors, he contacted then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, insisting that leaving the plant would be reckless. The utility also ordered that seawater not be pumped through the reactor as coolant, since that would render it useless for energy generation in the future. Exposed to life-threatening levels of radiation, Yoshida and his team defied the order, scrambling to cool the overheating reactor with seawater.

The desperate move worked. The team managed to cool the reactor, and later the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, which was authorized by the Diet, concluded in its report that “(Yoshida’s) disregard for corporate instructions was possibly the only reason that the reactor cores didn’t explode.”

In Western media coverage of the Fukushima disaster, much was made of Japanese groupthink. A culturally ingrained obedience and a reluctance to question authority was blamed in part for the disaster. Still, the responses vary, and some staff put safety concerns over company loyalty.

“I didn’t want to editorialize,” says Gilhooly, who writes with a calm, thoughtful voice, avoiding the temptation of melodrama. “But yes, Yoshida — and others — refuted the stereotype that was used to explain parts of the disaster.”

Gilhooly is talking to a Japanese publisher, but thinks a translated version may prove difficult: His sources spoke freely about the events at the plant assuming the interviews wouldn’t be published in Japanese. Still, Gilhooly, who takes a stand in the book against using nuclear energy, hopes to fuel the ongoing debate in his adopted home.

“I just wanted to know the truth,” he says. “There is a discussion that needs to happen about nuclear power — about disaster un-preparedness in Japan. I wanted to contribute to that argument. It’s six years on and already we are airbrushing some things out.”

The book points out the gulf between rural Fukushima and the large cities consuming the energy it produced. Gilhooly talked to Atsufumi Yoshizawa, Yoshida’s deputy at the plant, who recalled the first home leave with his boss, a month after the disaster:

“Tokyo was … as though nothing had happened. They were selling things as usual, women were walking around with high heels and makeup as usual, while we didn’t even have our own clothes (which had been contaminated). I remember thinking, ‘What the hell is this? How can it be so different?’ I realized just how useless it would be to try and explain the situation at the plant to these people, what we had been through and the fear we had faced.”

It is a punch in the gut, then, to read about Yoshida’s death from esophageal cancer at age 58, just two years after his exposure to radiation. It’s one of the many elements of the Fukushima crisis that stirs anger, demanding a change that honors the lessons and sacrifice.

Gilhooly points out that, unlike Yoshida in the stricken plant, Japan has the chance to make positive choices about the future, choices that should be informed by the suffering in Fukushima.

“We should think more about how we use energy,” he concludes. “There are things we can do better, with small changes in lifestyle.”

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/2017/04/29/books/book-reviews/yoshidas-dilemma-one-mans-struggle-avert-nuclear-catastrophe-fukushima-much-worse/

hjlk.jpg

 

Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization?

fhfhgjhk.jpg

Summary of the book:

The Fukushima nuclear power plant explosions and the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings are intimately connected events, bound together across time by a nuclear will to power that holds little regard for life itself. In Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization? contributors document and explore diverse dispossession effects stemming from this nuclear will to power, including market distortions, radiation damage to personal property, wrecked livelihoods, and transgenerational mutations potentially eroding human health and happiness. Liberal democratic capitalism is itself disclosed as vulnerable to the corrupting influences of the nuclear will to power. Contributors contend that denuclearization stands as the only viable path forward capable of freeing humans from the catastrophic risks engineered into global nuclear networks. They conclude that the choice of dispossession or denuclearization through the pursuit of alternative technologies will determine human survival across the twenty-first century.

Contributing editors to Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization? are Majia Nadesan, Antony Boys, Andrew McKillop and Richard Wilcox. Harvey Wasserman, Christopher Busby, Paul Langley, Adam Broinowski, Christian Lystbaek, and The Fukushima Five have also contributed chapters. Cover artwork by William Banzai7.

Proceeds from the book:

Proceeds from the book will be donated to the Fukushima Collective Evacuation Trial Team, a team of lawyers who are fighting in the courts in northern Japan to have children in Koriyama City, quite badly contaminated with radiation after the March 11, 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, evacuated to safe areas at government expense. Please see:

http://www.fukushima-sokai.net/ (English)

The group also has a (Japanese) Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/fukushimasokai

We very much hope that you will consider purchasing and reading the book, firstly for the insights it may give you into the significance of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and also to make a donation toward this important trial to help evacuate children to safer areas.

In fact, the group has now decided to link up with the Matsumoto Fund Boarding School Project for Fukushima Kids in order to take practical action to evacuate children from contaminated areas of Fukushima. Please see an English explanation a

http://www.kodomoryugaku-matsumoto.net/?page_id=614

Electronic copy: http://www.lulu.com/shop/nadesan-boys-mckillop-wilcox/fukushima-dispossession-or-denuclearization/ebook/product-21800492.html

Print copy: http://www.lulu.com/shop/nadesanboysmckillopwilcox-editors/fukushima-dispossession-or-denuclearization/paperback/product-21798972.html

Lack of proper facilities forced disabled evacuees to move from shelter to shelter after 3/11

FUKUSHIMA – Disabled people have been forced to move to various evacuation shelters since the March 2011 calamity due mainly to the shortage of barrier-free facilities, a survey conducted by support group showed Saturday.

Among the 147 physically and mentally disabled people surveyed, mainly in Fukushima Prefecture, 118, or 80 percent, were moved at least three times, the survey said. Around 40 percent complained that their disabilities got worse.

The survey was conducted between 2015 and 2016.

Given the acute lack of availability in shelters with welfare services and functions in 2011, four people transferred a total of nine times in search of a better environment.

Only 16, or 11 percent, stayed in the first evacuation shelters they landed in, typically public gymnasiums and community halls. On average, the disabled people surveyed were moved four times.

After the meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Mieko Matsumoto, 58, moved to three evacuation shelters with her 26-year-old son, Yuta, in the space of four months.

Matsumoto said she could not feel relaxed because Yuta, who had cerebral palsy and was confined to a wheelchair, occasionally made loud noises and she always had to be mindful of the other evacuees.

Many respondents said they faced difficulty using the toilet or when they wanted to take a bath, since the shelters were not equipped to handle wheelchair users.

In 2013, the government compiled guidelines stressing the importance of having welfare evacuation shelters and installment procedures, urging municipalities across the nation to take steps in accordance with the lessons learned from mega-quake and nuclear crisis.

But similar problems emerged after Kumamoto Earthquake rocked Kyushu last April.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/22/national/lack-proper-facilities-forced-disabled-evacuees-move-shelter-shelter-311/