Toshiba Nuclear Losses and Woes

n-greenpeace-z-20170216-870x616

The logo of Toshiba Corp. is seen at the company’s facility in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Monday

Toshiba’s woes weigh heavily on government’s ambition to sell Japan’s nuclear technology

OSAKA – Toshiba’s announcement that it will write down nearly ¥712.5 billion in losses involving its U.S. nuclear unit, Westinghouse, is seen as a major setback for the government’s strategy of selling Japanese nuclear power technology abroad.

Over the past four years, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, and nuclear power players, such as Toshiba/Westinghouse, General Electric-Hitachi and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, have promoted Japanese nuclear reactor technology worldwide.

Attempts to increase exports came even as concern within Japan grew over nuclear safety following a triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in the wake of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The efforts also came as questions were being raised about the total cost of nuclear power compared with other energy sources.

Japanese firms have attempted, with little success, to sell their technologies in countries as diverse as France, Vietnam, India, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and the United Arab Emirates. In June 2016, Toshiba said its goal was to win orders for 45 or more nuclear reactors overseas by 2030.

But Tuesday’s announcement by Toshiba came a few weeks after the company announced it would not take any new construction orders for nuclear reactors, and that it would focus instead on maintenance and decommissioning operations.

That decision effectively ended a decade-long effort by Toshiba, which began when it acquired a majority stake in Westinghouse in 2006, to make nuclear reactors a viable export business.

It follows greater than projected construction costs for four Westinghouse AP1000 next-generation nuclear reactors in the U.S. that have run billions of dollars over budget and are three years behind schedule. Original plans called for their startup around 2019 but that could be delayed.

Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, chairman of the Japan Association of Corporate Executives, told reporters at a regular news conference on Tuesday that promoting nuclear reactor exports was a necessary strategy, but one that needed to be reviewed.

The nuclear power industry requires huge amounts of money for safety,” Kobayashi said.

Given such high costs, we have to think about whether just one company can succeed. We have to keep strong technology in Japan, but we need to rethink how to create a union of private firms” in the nuclear business, he said.

But with Toshiba’s problems and the growing use worldwide of other, cheaper energy sources, including some renewables, anti-nuclear groups see an opportunity for Japan to change its basic policy.

The Japanese government’s nuclear export policy was built on a combination of a poor understanding of the global energy market and self-delusion, said Shaun Burnie, a senior nuclear specialist at Greenpeace Germany who is currently based in Japan.

The sooner the government and industry realize there is no future for nuclear power either domestically or in exports, the sooner they can concentrate on the energy technology of the future — renewables.”

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/02/15/national/toshibas-woes-weigh-heavily-governments-ambition-sell-japans-nuclear-technology/#.WKTKvBh7Sis

The logo of Toshiba Corp. is seen at the company’s facility in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, on Monday

VOX POPULI: Toshiba’s plight shows nuclear business is now a treacherous bet

What appears to be a lump of melted nuclear fuel is discernible in a photo, released late last month, of the interior of the crippled No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The high radiation level inside the reactor would be lethal to humans so a small robot was expected to start inspecting the interior on Feb. 16. (The robot started inspection around 7:50 a.m.)

The robot is marked with the name TOSHIBA.

While leading the nation in the dismantling of nuclear reactors, Toshiba Corp. has aggressively pursued nuclear power plant construction overseas through its U.S. affiliate.

But on Feb. 14, the company announced a projected loss of 712.5 billion yen ($6.3 billion) in its nuclear business. To survive, Toshiba will have to sell off its profitable businesses piecemeal. To be sure, the company is in for massive restructuring.

The 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima plant was one of the indirect causes of Toshiba’s losses. Around the world, tighter regulations have been applied to nuclear power plants because of safety concerns, and Toshiba’s four nuclear plant construction projects in the United States became far more costly than anticipated.

The company has only itself to blame for underestimating the consequences of the Fukushima disaster.

I dropped in at the Toshiba Science Museum in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture, the other day. Its impressive array of exhibits included Japan’s first electric refrigerator, washing machine and vacuum cleaner. There was even a portable personal computer, said to be the first of its kind in the world.

Once a prestigious corporation that boasted cutting-edge technology, I wonder how long Toshiba’s decline will continue.

Overseas, Siemens AG of Germany withdrew from the nuclear business after the Fukushima accident, and France’s Areva SA is said to be struggling.

Toshiba’s massive losses remind us anew that the end is drawing near on the era of lucrative nuclear businesses.

A long, tough road lies ahead for the decommissioning of Fukushima’s nuclear reactors. I feel for Toshiba workers who are engaged in this task while their company languishes.

It will soon be six years since the Fukushima disaster. The days of having to confront the gravity of that accident are far from over.

http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201702160039.html

 

 

 

Real Doomsday clock passed midnight long ago

Chris Busby and also I are from Europe,  both looking from afar at what is happening presently in the US, free from the US partisan dramatics and mainstream media spin.

That does not mean that we like Trump and who he is, it just means that we refuse the US mainstream media manipulations.

588df096c46188891b8b45d4.jpg

On Tuesday, the Doomsday Clock was moved 30 seconds closer to midnight by “Scientists” says the web Telegraph, with video and scary musical accompaniment.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock first appeared in 1947. Everyone was reeling from the photographs of the vaporization of Hiroshima. It was thought that atomic war would wipe out everyone on earth. This almost happened in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which the top page of Google informs us was a “direct and dangerous confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.”

I didn’t need to go to Google to find this out. It was a defining moment in my life. Women were refusing to have children because they didn’t want them to live in a world of fear and probable atomization. We moved to the Welsh mountains in a pathetic attempt to do something, anything, and stocked up on food. In America, there was a brisk trade in fallout shelters. It was my friend, the late Ernest Sternglass, who stopped the atmospheric testing by getting to President Kennedy with the calculation that several million children had died from exposure to fallout Strontium-90 building up in the milk and their bones – seeds planted for the global cancer epidemic that began 20 years later.

The Doomsday clock signaling nuclear annihilation at midnight is a simple illustration of the fact that, although life on Earth has been around for billions of years, Clever Old Man has developed a system that could switch it off with an hour-long fireworks extravaganza. Now it has been extended to global warming, virus pandemics, and more or less anything that the media has decided makes a good scare story. The clock has now been advanced to two and a half minutes to midnight. By Scientists.

This is the way the World ends—not with a bang, but a whimper. – T.S. Eliot; The Hollow Men, 1925

Let’s think about this a bit. What scientists? The clock is not a scientific concept. It is an emotional cry for help. What are these scientists using as data for their decision? In the last ten years, for all sorts of reasons relating to the destabilization of the world through various obviously organized operations (Twin Towers, Al-Qaeda, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt, Syria etc.), a kind of continuous bombing operation on poor countries has contributed to the profits of arms manufacturers. Added to all this is the US abandonment of the arms limitation agreements and the re-investment in missile development. We see NATO creeping closer to Russia, and the absurd attempts by the US to bring Ukraine into the operation. Is this why the clock has been moved?

No. It is apparently Donald Trump.

In the post-truth era, belief is created by the media: Google (again) reports that the Guardian, Telegraph, and “Science” blame the movement of the clock’s hands on the election of Mr. Trump. ABC10 seems to think it is global warming. But global warming, even in worst case scenarios, won’t wipe out life on Earth. And a virus pandemic would always have some survivors. A total nuclear exchange would not: so that is what we are dealing with. It is still a real possibility. But not because of Donald Trump. The election of Trump, and Brexit also, is a spontaneous creation of civil society in countries that have seen their lives ruined by globalization and what has been called “the New World Order.”

What I see in Mr. Trump is an independent flamboyant showman along the lines of an earlier US President, Andrew Jackson – a man who also tried to destroy the US establishment. Trump clearly thinks outside the system of smoke and mirrors that passes for Western media news, the constructions on the web and TV and newspapers that are increasingly spun and slanted with nonsense and demonstrable lies about the state of the world. Like the Doomsday clock story.

If I were running the Doomsday clock, the election of Trump would make me put the clock back rather than forward. He doesn’t trust the US security services. He disassociates his Presidency from the collection of dodgy characters previously running the show. This was a revolution against the fat-cat control of America and its continuous war against the people on the planet, fought as if the world was a battleground. This machine that emerged in the post-war period is well known to readers of spy novels. It was fueled by paranoia about Communism and the immense amounts of power and wealth associated with developing and manufacturing weapons. When the Soviet Union broke up and the US could no longer justify the huge military budget (presently about 600 billion dollars), other enemies had to be found. Bombs had to be dropped on someone, in order to order new ones. Hence the continuous and endless wars about “democracy” and “freedom.”

Let’s look at some scenarios. How big an exchange would represent apocalypse? A baseline is the atmospheric testing that peaked in megaton yield and radioactive fallout in 1959-63. This did not wipe out humanity, although there was a mini nuclear winter in the 60s. The European Committee on Radiation Risk estimated some 60 million extra cancers together with a few million dead babies (about 0.2% of births) as the consequence.

Nuclear exchanges between India and Pakistan, or Israel and Iran, would not do the trick. The number of warheads involved would result in some mega-Hiroshimas and global fallout contamination would jump, but there would be no end of the world. The combined yield of the approximately 100+100 warheads (say 200 kilotons each) would be just about equal the yield of the 1962 Tsar Bomba 50-megaton test on its own. And Iran has no nuclear weapons, but even if it had, an Israel-Iran exchange would be even feebler than India-Pakistan. North Korea? The same. As for China, it has no real enemies, and the Chinese have always been traders rather than invaders. China is doing alright and doesn’t need to attack anyone.

So, what is the real Doomsday threat? It is the US government’s obsession with Russia, the tail of the Cold War guard dog of the spy novels. It is the encroachment of NATO (let’s be clear, of the US war machine) on the borders of Russia. It is the deployment of sophisticated (and enormously expensive) antimissile systems in countries like Rumania and Poland. It is the crazy world view of NATO and US generals who want to (and have) put troops and materiel into the Baltic States (where I live), on the basis that the “expansionist Russians” are intent on marching over the borders of Latvia and taking back their lost empire.

Since I moved to Riga in 2010, I have seen the NATO infestation of the country. New (US) tanks with the Latvian Flag rumble though the villages, and helicopters thud overhead disturbing the badgers and deer in the forest. Russia has no need to invade Latvia; it can get what it wants or needs. But the media whip up a frenzy of fear that there will be a Russian invasion. There is even a book about this insanity written by a general, retired Deputy NATO commander Sir Richard Shirreff.

Like most things in politics, this is about money. The Media demonizes Trump because he won’t follow the master plan to globalize the planet, driving down unit costs by moving manufacturing around to the lowest wage countries. And the plan to control access through fake democracy wars to diminishing resources (oil) whilst making huge amounts of money for the arms manufacturers that are supplying the global battlefield – Raytheon, Boeing, McDonnell Douglas et al. Trump has said he will increase military spending in the USA, but stop importing weapons, a kind of Keynesian approach to “Making America Great Again,” but as I see it this will not necessarily affect the NATO/ Russia tinderbox. It may rather cause European countries to require NATO to buy weapons in Europe, or even to abandon NATO and set up a European version.
I myself still have an iron in this fire. Inspired by the Perdana Peace Foundation’s campaign to criminalize war, Ditta Rietuma, general secretary of NationalState.INFO, and I have addressed these issues and their solution for some years in conferences in three languages from Latvia and Sweden, for example, recently at the Latvian Academy of Sciences in Riga.

The real Doomsday clock passed midnight long ago. The mad race to extinction fueled by the market-forces laissez faire Western system has created a monster: a system that is not really controlled by anyone, but drives itself with only one imperative – to become richer and more powerful, so as to become richer and more powerful.

This monster has no soul; it was not constructed to look after life on the planet. Following the nuclear fallout, and nuclear energy accidents, the depleted Uranium, and now the fracking, background radioactivity is continuously increasing.  The fertility rate is falling. IVF is advancing. Cancer is an epidemic in real terms. This is the way the world ends. Not with a bang, but a whimper.

Christopher Busby is an expert on the health effects of ionizing radiation. He qualified in Chemical Physics at the Universities of London and Kent, and worked on the molecular physical chemistry of living cells for the Wellcome Foundation. Professor Busby is the Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk based in Brussels and has edited many of its publications since its founding in 1998. He has held a number of honorary University positions, including Visiting Professor in the Faculty of Health of the University of Ulster. Busby currently lives in Riga, Latvia. See also: http://www.chrisbusbyexposed.org, http://www.greenaudit.org and http://www.llrc.org.

Source : https://www.rt.com/op-edge/375500-doomsday-clock-world-end/

After years of setbacks, Japanese unfit for nuclear energy projects

No one is fit for nuclear.

Not those who believed that they were nor those who still believe that they are.

Let’s all ban this deadly industry from our planet earth!

 

9804_10202423572630538_5261633183318568454_n.jpg

 

According to a well-known joke about the national traits of Europeans, it is heaven if the chefs are French, the engineers are German and the bankers are Swiss and it is hell if the chefs are British, the engineers are French and the bankers are Italian.”
As for the Japanese? They appear not suited to a particular field — nuclear energy. And that is no joke. The development of nuclear technology as part of national policy and by private nuclear businesses has repeatedly experienced failure, causing problems to numerous people and wasting a massive amount of money.

Mutsu, Japan’s first and only nuclear-powered ship which was launched in the early 1970s, suffered a radiation leakage and was decommissioned in 1992 after having only four experimental runs.

The government decided late last year to decommission the prototype fast-breeder reactor Monju in Fukui Prefecture, which has hardly been in operation for more than 20 years following a fire triggered by a sodium leak broke out at the facility in 1995.

Construction work on a spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Rokkasho, Aomori Prefecture, got underway in 1993, but its completion was postponed 23 times and there are no prospects that it will be put in operation in the foreseeable future.

Roughly 5 trillion yen has so far been spent on nuclear projects in Japan.

In March 2011, a serious accident occurred at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant after the complex was hit by a massive tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake. Over 80,000 residents from areas near the atomic power station are still living outside the affected areas as evacuees. The costs of dealing with the nuclear crisis have already surpassed 20 trillion yen.

Meanwhile, Toshiba Corp. has added a new page to the negative history of Japan’s nuclear development.

In 2006, Toshiba acquired Westinghouse Electric Co., a U.S. nuclear plant company, for over 600 billion yen. The deal was criticized as too costly, but Toshiba wanted to control the world nuclear power market. Toshiba’s president at the time was upbeat about the takeover saying, “We’ll conduct business aggressively.”

Nevertheless, Toshiba will likely suffer nearly 1 trillion yen in losses from the deal because the electronics giant failed to find hidden problems involving its U.S. nuclear power unit. The world nuclear power market has shrunk since the outbreak of the Fukushima nuclear crisis. Following revelations that it had padded its profits through accounting irregularities, Toshiba downsized its workforce by more than 10,000 people, but its rehabilitation efforts are still insufficient. Its financial difficulties have even put the company’s survival in jeopardy.

Physicist and technology commentator Kiyoshi Sakurai, who is well versed in technical problems and accidents involving nuclear plants, warned in a past Mainichi Shimbun interview, “Only a handful of those concerned with a certain project loudly underscore the significance of the project. These people could self-righteously go too far without understanding the project’s objectivity or necessity.”

His remarks remind the public of a past silly war (World War II).

More sadly, it is feared that Japanese people traumatized by the atomic bombing tend to stick to the peaceful use of atomic energy and have lost the capacity for calm and rational judgment.

After reviewing the above, one can see that Japanese people are unfit for nuclear energy development projects. (By Hideaki Nakamura, Editorial Writer)

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20170125/p2a/00m/0na/006000c

Japan Political Pulse: A helping hand following radiation misfortune

20141121_abe_koizumi_article_main_image.jpg

 

Recently former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, 74, was seen talking to 62-year-old Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Their encounter was recorded on a photo page of the Sept. 29 issue of the weekly magazine Shukan Bunshun.

The scene was Aoyama Funeral Hall in Tokyo, where they had attended the Sept. 15 funeral of former Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) Secretary-General Koichi Kato and were waiting for their cars to arrive. For about 90 seconds the “master and disciple” stood side by side. Below are the details of Koizimi’s comments and the prime minister’s reaction, which didn’t appear in Shukan Bunshun.

Koizumi: “Why don’t you totally eliminate nuclear power plants?”

Abe: (Faint smile, bow)

Koizumi: “Having zero nuclear power plants is cheaper. Why don’t you understand such a simple thing? It’s all lies, what the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is saying. The things advocates of nuclear power plants are saying — they’re all lies. Don’t be fooled.”

Abe: (Wry smile, bows again, and with head kept low heads to official vehicle)

Koizumi is currently pouring his efforts into a fund to support those who say they were affected by radiation during “Operation Tomodachi,” a U.S. Armed Forces operation to support Japan in the wake of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

Over 400 soldiers from the USS Ronald Regan aircraft carrier and accompanying ships complained of ill-health after helping in rescue efforts following their urgent dispatch to the seas off Fukushima Prefecture in the wake of the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. Some of them are said to have died from causes including leukemia.

The aircraft carrier fleet worked intermittently in a radiation plume from the stricken power plant between March 13 and 17, 2011. After returning home from Japan, a stream of soldiers developed ailments including brain tumors and thyroid cancer. The nuclear plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), and the Japanese and U.S. governments acknowledged that they had been exposed to low-level radiation, but do not accept a causal relationship between exposure and their illnesses.

Koizumi learned that some soldiers had left the military at a young age, had no insurance and couldn’t pay their medical fees. It was in May this year that the former prime minister traveled to the United States and directly inquired about their circumstances.

Former soldiers earlier filed a lawsuit against parties including TEPCO, and oral arguments over whether jurisdiction of the case should lie in Japan or the United States were heard in an appeals court in California on Sept. 1. At the time, a Japanese government adviser is said to have supported an agent for TEPCO, stating that radiation exposure is the responsibility of the U.S. military.

Koizumi, who read a note on the hearing (carried in the Sept. 9 issue of the magazine Shukan Kinyobi), responded immediately.

“This is embarrassing. They were relief efforts for Japan, right? The American judge is said to have been appalled,” he was quoted as saying.

On July 5, Koizumi appeared in a news conference with figures including former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa, 78, and Tsuyoshi Yoshiwara, 61, an adviser at The Johnan Shinkin Bank, to announce the start of fundraising activities to help the U.S. soldiers. Koizumi himself approached the Japan Business Federation (Keidanren) but was turned away on the grounds that TEPCO is a member of the federation.

Reinforcements have nevertheless appeared on the funding front. Japanese architect Tadao Ando, 75, posed the following question: “Mr. Koizumi, will you come to Osaka and give a lecture? I’ll assemble 1,000 people. With a fee of 10,000 yen per person, that’ll bring in 10 million yen.”

When Koizumi appeared at the lecture in August, 1,300 people turned up. The same style of lecture is due to be held in Tokyo on Nov. 16, organized by the head of a group of managers of small- and medium-sized enterprises. Additionally, the president of a solar power generation company provided 10 million yen.

Through these efforts, the total has climbed to 50 million yen. Koizumi apparently hopes to amass 100 million yen by next spring.

The connection between radiation exposure and the development of illness is delicate. There’s a possibility of developing cancer, but there are doubts about whether a person would suddenly die, experts say.

On Sept. 7, Koizumi spoke at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo’s Yurakucho district. He was asked if it was responsible to talk about damage from radiation exposure without presenting scientific evidence.

Below is the gist of his reply:

“I’m no longer a member of the government. I’m a civilian. There are people who are actually suffering. It’s common sense for me to support them.”

Fundraising and service instead of criticism; denial of the perception of saying, “Radiation exposure is the responsibility of the U.S. military” to protect nuclear power policies … I support this form of common sense from our former prime minister. (By Takao Yamada, Special Senior Writer)

http://mainichi.jp/english/articles/20161003/p2a/00m/0na/021000c

Reassessing the 3.11 Disaster and the Future of Nuclear Power in Japan: An Interview with Former Prime Minister Kan Naoto

Interview by Vincenzo Capodici, Introduction by Shaun Burnie, Translation by Richard Minear

Introduction

For more than two decades, the global nuclear industry has attempted to frame the debate on nuclear power within the context of climate change: nuclear power is better than any of the alternatives. So the argument went. Ambitious nuclear expansion plans inthe United States and Japan, two of the largest existing markets, and the growth of nuclear power in China appeared to show—superficially at least—that the technology had a future. At least in terms of political rhetoric and media perception, it appeared to be a winning argument. Then came March 11, 2011. Those most determined to promote nuclear power even cited the Fukushima Daiichi accident as a reason for expanding nuclear power: impacts were low, no one died, radiation levels are not a risk. So claimeda handful of commentators in the international (particularly English-language) media.

However,from the start of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi on March 11 2011,the harsh reality of nuclear power was exposed to billions of people across the planet, and in particular to the population of Japan, including the more than 160,000 people displaced by the disaster, many of whom are still unable to return to their homes, and scores of millions more threatened had worst case scenarios occurred. One authoritative voice that has been central to exposing the myth-making of the nuclear industry and its supporters has been that of KanNaoto, Prime Minister in 2011. His conversion from promoter to stern critic may be simple to understand, but it is no less commendable for its bravery. When the survival of half the society you are elected to serve and protect is threatened by a technology that is essentially an expensive way to boil water, then something is clearly wrong. Japan avoided societal destruction thanks in large part to the dedication of workers at the crippled nuclear plant, but also to the intervention of Kan and his staff, and to luck. Had it not been for a leaking pipe into the cooling pool of Unit 4 that maintained sufficient water levels, the highly irradiated spent fuel in the pool, including the entire core only recently removed from the reactor core, would have been exposed, releasing an amount of radioactivity far in excess of that released from the other three reactors. The cascade of subsequent events would have meant total loss of control of the other reactors, including their spent fuel pools and requiring massive evacuation extending throughout metropolitan Tokyo, as Prime Minister Kan feared. That three former Prime Ministers of Japan are not just opposed to nuclear power but actively campaigning against it is unprecedented in global politics and is evidence of the scale of the threat that Fukushima posed to tens of millions ofJapanese.

The reality is thatin terms of electricity share and relative to renewable energy,nuclear power has been in decline globally for two decades.Since the FukushimaDaiichiaccident, this decline has only increased in pace. The nuclear industry knew full well that nuclear power could not be scaled up to the level required to make a serious impact on global emissions. But that was never the point. The industry adopted the climate-change argument as a survival strategy: to ensure extending the life of existing aging reactors and make possible the addition of some new nuclear capacity in the coming decades—sufficient at least to allow a core nuclear industrial infrastructure to survive to mid-century.The dream was to survive to mid-century, when limitless energy would be realized by the deployment of commercial plutonium fast-breeder reactors and other generation IV designs. It was always a myth, but it had a commercial and strategic rationale for the power companies, nuclear suppliers and their political allies.

The basis for the Fukushima Daiichi accident began long before March 11th 2011, when decisions were made to build and operate reactors in a nation almost uniquely vulnerable to major seismic events. More than five years on, the accident continues with a legacy that will stretch over the decades. Preventing the next catastrophic accident in Japan is now a passion of the former Prime Minister, joining as he has the majority of the people of Japan determined to transition to a society based on renewable energy. He is surely correct that the end of nuclear power in Japan is possible. The utilities remain in crisis, with only three reactors operating, and legal challenges have been launched across the nation. No matter what policy the government chooses, the basis for Japan’s entire nuclear fuel cycle policy, which is based on plutonium separation at Rokkasho-mura and its use in the Monju reactor and its fantasy successor reactors, is in a worse state than ever before. But as KanNaotoknows better than most, this is an industry entrenched within the establishment and still wields enormous influence. Its end is not guaranteed. Determination and dedication will be needed to defeat it. Fortunately, the Japanese people have these in abundance. SB

220px-Naoto_Kan_cropped_3_Naoto_Kan_2_20110129.jpg

The Interview

Q: What is your central message?

Kan: Up until the accident at the Fukushima reactor, I too was confident that since Japanese technology is of high quality, no Chernobyl-like event was possible.

But in fact when I came face to face with Fukushima, I learned I was completely mistaken. I learned first and foremost that we stood on the brink of disaster: had the incident spread only slightly, half the territory of Japan, half the area of metropolitan Tokyo would have been irradiated and 50,000,000 people would have had to evacuate.

Half one’s country would be irradiated, nearly half of the population would have to flee: to the extent it’s conceivable, only defeat in major war is comparable.

That the risk was so enormous: that is what in the first place I want all of you, all the Japanese, all the world’s people to realize.

Q: You yourself are a physicist, yet you don’t believe in the first analysis that people can handle nuclear power? Don’t you believe that there are technical advances and that in the end it will be safe to use?

Kan: As a rule, all technologies involve risk. For example, automobiles have accidents; airplanes, too. But the scale of the risk if an accident happens affects the question whether or not to use that technology. You compare the plus of using it and on the other hand the minus of not using it. We learned that with nuclear reactors, the Fukushima nuclear reactors, the risk was such that 50,000,000 people nearly had to evacuate. Moreover, if we had not used nuclear reactors—in fact, after the incident, there was a period of about two years when we didn’t use nuclear power and there was no great impact on the public welfare, nor any economic impact either. So when you take these factors as a whole into account, in a broad sense there is no plus to using nuclear power. That is my judgment.

One more thing. In the matter of the difference between nuclear power and other technologies, controlling the radiation is in the final analysis extremely difficult.

For example, plutonium emits radiation for a long time. Its half-life is 24,000 years, so because nuclear waste contains plutonium—in its disposal, even if you let it sit and don’t use it—its half-life is 24,000 years, in effect forever. So it’s a very difficult technology to use—an additional point I want to make.

Q: It figured a bit ago in the lecture by Professor Prasser, that in third-generation reactors, risk can be avoided. What is your response?

Kan: It’s as Professor Khwostowa said: we’ve said that even with many nuclear reactors, an event inside a reactor like the Fukushima nuclear accident or a Chernobyl-sized event would occur only once in a million years; but in fact, in the past sixty years, we’ve had Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, Fukushima. Professor Prasser says it’s getting gradually safer, but in fact accidents have happened with greater frequency and on a larger scale than was foreseen. So partial improvements are possible, as Professor Prasser says, but saying that doesn’t mean that accidents won’t happen. Equipment causes accidents, but so do humans.

Q: Today it’s five years after Fukushima. What is the situation in Japan today? We hear that there are plans beginning in 2018 to return the refugees to their homes. To what extent is the clean-up complete?

Kan: Let me describe conditions on site at Fukushima. Reactors #1, #2, #3 melted down, and the melted nuclear fuel still sits in the containment vessel; every day they introduce water to cool it. Radioactivity in the vessel of #2, they say, is 70 sieverts—not microsieverts or millisieverts, 70 sieverts. If humans approach a site that is radiating 70 sieverts, they die within five minutes. That situation has held ever since: that’s the current situation.

Moreover, the water they introduce leaves the containment vessel and is said to be recirculated, but in fact it mixes with groundwater, and some flows into the ocean. Prime Minister Abe used the words “under control,” but Japanese experts, including me, consider it not under control if part is flowing into the ocean. All the experts see it this way.

As for the area outside the site, more than 100,000 people have fled the Fukushima area.

So now the government is pushing residential decontamination and beyond that the decontamination of agricultural land.

Even if you decontaminate the soil, it’s only a temporary or partial reduction in radioactivity; in very many cases cesium comes down from the mountains, it returns.

The Fukushima prefectural government and the government say that certain of the areas where decontamination has been completed are habitable, so people have until 2018 to return; moreover, beyond that date, they won’t give aid to the people who have fled. But I and others think there’s still danger and that the support should be continued at the same level for people who conclude on their own that it’s still dangerous—that’s what we’re saying.

Given the conditions on site and the conditions of those who have fled, you simply can’t say that the clean-up is complete.

Q: Since the Fukushima accident, you have become a strong advocate of getting rid of nuclear reactors; yet in the end, the Abe regime came to power, and it is going in the opposite direction: three reactors are now in operation. As you see this happening, are you angry?

Kan: Clearly what Prime Minister Abe is trying to do—his nuclear reactor policy or energy policy—is mistaken. I am strongly opposed to current policy.

But are things moving steadily backward? Three reactors are indeed in operation. However, phrase it differently: only three are in operation. Why only three? Most—more than half the people—are still resisting strongly. From now on, if it should come to new nuclear plants, say, or to extending the licenses of existing nuclear plants, popular opposition is extremely strong, so that won’t be at all easy. In that sense, Japan’s situation today is a very harsh opposition—a tug of war—between the Abe government, intent on retrogression, and the people, who are heading toward abolishing nuclear reactors.

Two of Prime Minister Abe’s closest advisors are opposed to his policy on nuclear power.

One is his wife. The other is former Prime Minister Koizumi, who promoted him.

Q: Last question: please talk about the possibility that within ten years Japan will do away with nuclear power.

Kan: In the long run, it will disappear gradually. But if you ask whether it will disappear in the next ten years, I can’t say. For example, even in my own party opinion is divided; some hope to do away with it in the 2030s. So I can’t say whether it will disappear completely in the next ten years, but taking the long view, it will surely be gone, for example, by the year 2050 or 2070. The most important reason is economic. It has become clear that compared with other forms of energy, the cost of nuclear energy is high.

Q: Thank you.

http://apjjf.org/2016/18/Capodici.html

Japan’s big ‘nuclear restart’ overtaken by conservation and renewables

ikata Npp 2

The three-unit Ikata nuclear power plant in the south of Japan.Its 890MW unit 3 is the only reactor in Japan that has a chance of restarting in 2016.

For all Japan’s talk of 43 ‘operable’ nuclear reactors, only two are actually running, writes Jim Green, as renewables and a 12% fall in demand eat into the power market. And while Japan’s ‘nuclear village’ defends safety standards, the IAEA, tasked with promoting nuclear power worldwide, has expressed deep concerns over the country’s weak and ‘fragmented’ safety regulation.

According to the World Nuclear Association, Japan has 43 ‘operable’ power reactors (they are ‘operational’ according to the IAEA), three under construction, nine ‘on order or planned’, and three ‘proposed’.

The numbers suggest that Japan’s nuclear industry is finally getting back on its feet after the Fukushima disaster – but nothing could be further from the truth.

Before considering the industry’s current problems, a little historical context from the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2016:

“[I]t has been 17 years since Japan’s nuclear output peaked at 313 TWh in 1998. The noticeably sharp decline during 2002-2003, amounting to a reduction of almost 30%, was due to the temporary shutdown of all 17 of Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) reactors – seven at Kashiwazaki Kariwa and six at Fukushima Daiichi and four at Fukushima Daini.

“The shutdown was following an admission from TEPCO that its staff had deliberately falsified data for inclusion in regulatory safety inspections reports. During 2003, TEPCO managed to resume operations of five of its reactors.

“The further noticeable decline in electrical output in 2007 was the result of the extended shutdown of the seven Kashiwazaki Kariwa reactors, with a total installed capacity of 8 GWe, following the Niigata Chuetsu-oki earthquake in 2007. TEPCO was struggling to restart the Kashiwazaki Kariwa units, when the Fukushima earthquake occurred.”

How many of Japan’s reactors are really ‘operable’?

Nuclear power accounted for 29% of electricity generation in Japan in 2010, down from the historic peak of 36% in 1998, and plans were being developed to increase nuclear’s share to 50%. But all of Japan’s reactors were shut down in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Reactors didn’t power a single light-bulb from September 2013 to August 2015.

Japan had 55 operable reactors before Fukushima (including the ill-fated Monju fast reactor). In addition to the six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi, the permanent shutdown of another six reactors has been confirmed – all of them smallish (<559 MWe) and all of them ageing (grid connections between 1969 and 1977): Kansai Electric’s Mihama 1 and 2, Kyushu Electric’s Genkai 1, Shikoku’s Ikata 1, JAPC’s Tsuruga 1, and Chugoku Electric’s Shimane 1.

So Japan now has 43 ‘operable’ or ‘operational’ reactors, and it isn’t hard to identify some with little or no prospect of ever restarting, such as the four Fukushima Daini reactors (or Monju for that matter).

Two reactors at Sendai in Kagoshima Prefecture were restarted in August and October 2015. And that’s it – only two of Japan’s 43 ‘operable’ or ‘operational’ reactors are actually operating. Moreover an anti-nuclear candidate, Satoshi Mitazono, was elected governor of Kagoshima Prefecture in early July 2016 and he announced that he will seek the shut-down of the two Sendai reactors – he can prevent their restart after they shut down for inspection later this year.

As of 1 July 2016, 11 utilities had applied to the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) for safety assessments of a total of 26 reactors, including seven reactors that have completed the assessment process. Apart from whatever hurdles the NRA might put in their way, there are other obstacles: citizen-led lawsuits; local political and public opposition; economic factors, in particular the questionable economics of large investments to upgrade and restart aging reactors; and the impact of electricity deregulation and intensified market competition.

It’s anyone’s guess how many reactors might restart, but the process will continue to be drawn out – the only strong candidate for restart this year is the Ikata 3 reactor in Ehime Prefecture.

The government’s current energy policy calls for a 22-24% nuclear share of electricity generation by 2030. That is less than half of the pre-Fukushima plans for future nuclear growth (the 50% target), and considerably lower than the 29% nuclear share in 2010. Currently, nuclear power – the two Sendai reactors – account for less than 1%.

To reach the 20-22% target would require the operation of around 35 reactors by 2030, which seems highly improbable.

Cheap renewables picking up high-level support

The use of both fossil fuels and renewables has increased since the Fukushima disaster, while energy efficiency has made the task considerably easier – national power consumption in 2015 was 12% below the 2010 level.

The World Nuclear Industry Status Report comments on energy politics in Japan:

“Japanese utilities are insisting on, and the government has granted and reinforced, the right to refuse cheaper renewable power, supposedly due to concerns about grid stability – hardly plausible in view of their far smaller renewable fractions than in several European countries – but apparently to suppress competition.

“The utilities also continue strenuous efforts to ensure that the imminent liberalization of the monopoly-based, vertically integrated Japanese power system should not actually expose utilities’ legacy plants to real competition.

“The ability of existing Japanese nuclear plants, if restarted, to operate competitively against modern renewables (as many in the U.S. and Europe can no longer do) is unclear because nuclear operating costs are not transparent. However, the utilities’ almost complete suppression of Japanese wind power suggests they are concerned on this score.

“And as renewables continue to become cheaper and more ubiquitous, customers will be increasingly tempted by Japan’s extremely high electricity prices to make and store their own electricity and to drop off the grid altogether, as is already happening, for example, in Hawaii and Australia.”

The Japan Association of Corporate Executives, with a membership of about 1,400 executives from around 950 companies, recently issued a statement urging Tokyo to remove hurdles holding back the expansion of renewable power – which supplied 14.3 percent of power in Japan in the year to March 2016.

The statement also notes that the outlook for nuclear is “uncertain” and that the 20‒22% target could not be met without an improbably high number of restarts of idled reactors along with numerous reactor lifespan extensions beyond 40 years.

Andrew DeWit, a professor at Rikkyo University in Tokyo, said the push signalled “a profound change in thinking among blue-chip business executives.” DeWit added:

“Many business leaders have clearly thrown in the towel on nuclear and are instead openly lobbying for Japan to vault to global leadership in renewables, efficiency and smart infrastructure.”

Safety concerns – the case of Takahama

The restart of the Takahama 3 and 4 reactors in Fukui Prefecture is indicative of the nuclear industry’s broader problems. Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) first applied to the NRA for permission to restart the reactors in July 2013. In February 2015, the NRA gave its permission for KEPCO to make the required safety upgrades. The restart process was delayed by an injunction imposed by the Fukui District Court in April 2015, but the ruling was overturned in December 2015.

Takahama 3 was restarted in late January 2016, and TEPCO was in the process of resolving technical glitches affecting the start-up of Takahama 4, when the Otsu District Court in neighbouring Shiga Prefecture ruled on 9 March 2016 that the reactors must be shut down in response to a petition by 29 citizens.

The court found that investigations of active fault lines and other safety issues were not thorough enough, it expressed doubts regarding the plant’s ability to withstand a tsunami, and it questioned emergency response and evacuation plans. Citizens and NGOs also questioned the use of arbitrary figures in KEPCO’s safety analysis, and fire protection.

Nuclear Engineering International reported on 2 February 2016:

“While there are plans on paper to evacuate some Fukui residents to Hyogo, Kyoto, and Tokushima prefectures, many municipalities there have no detailed plans for receiving evacuees. Kyoto Governor Keiji Yamada said he did not feel adequate local consent had been obtained, citing concerns about evacuation issues. Shiga Governor Taizo Mikazuki said there was a lack of sufficient disaster planning.”

On July 12, the Otsu District Court rejected KEPCO’s appeal and upheld the injunction preventing the operation of Takahama 3 and 4. KEPCO plans to appeal the decision to the Osaka High Court.

Meanwhile, KEPCO is considering whether it is worth investing in upgrades required for the restart of the Takahama 1 and 2 reactors. The NRA controversially approved 20-year lifespan extensions for the two reactors (grid connected in 1974 and 1975), but citizens have initiated a lawsuit to keep them shut down.

Japan’s ‘lax’ and’ inadequate’ regulatory regime

While safety and regulatory standards have improved in the aftermath of Fukushima, there are still serious problems. Citizens and NGOs have raised countless concerns, but criticisms have also come from other quarters.

When the NRA recently approved lifespan extensions for two Takahama reactors, a former NRA commissioner broke his silence and said “a sense of crisis” over safety prompted him to go public and urge more attention to earthquake risks. Kunihiko Shimazaki, a commissioner from 2012 to 2014, said: “I cannot stand by without doing anything. We may have another tragedy …”

Professor Yoshioka Hitoshi, a Kyushu University academic who served on the government’s 2011-12 Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations, said in October 2015:

“Unfortunately, the new regulatory regime is … inadequate to ensure the safety of Japan’s nuclear power facilities. The first problem is that the new safety standards on which the screening and inspection of facilities are to be based are simply too lax. While it is true that the new rules are based on international standards, the international standards themselves are predicated on the status quo.

“They have been set so as to be attainable by most of the reactors already in operation. In essence, the NRA made sure that all Japan’s existing reactors would be able to meet the new standards with the help of affordable piecemeal modifications – back-fitting, in other words.”

Even the IAEA has slammed the feeble NRA

An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) review in early 2016 made the following recommendations (among others) regarding the NRA:

  • To attract competent and experienced staff, and develop competencies relevant to nuclear and radiation safety.
  • To amend relevant legislation with the aim of allowing NRA to improve the effectiveness of its inspections. The NRA inspection programme “needs significant improvement in certain areas. NRA inspectors should be legally allowed to have free access to any site at any time. The decision process for initiating reactive inspections should be shortened.”
  • To strengthen the promotion of safety culture including a questioning attitude.
  • To give greater priority to the oversight of the implementation of radiation protection measures.
  • To develop requirements and guidance for emergency preparedness and response in relation to radiation sources.

The IAEA further noted that the NRA’s enforcement provisions are inadequate:

“There is no clear written enforcement policy in place at the NRA. There is no documented process in place at NRA for determining the level of sanctions. NRA inspectors have no power to enforce corrective actions if there is an imminent likelihood of safety significant event. They are required to defer to NRA headquarters. … NRA processes for enforcement are fragmented and some processes are not documented.

“NRA needs to establish a formal Enforcement Policy that sets forth processes clearly addressing items such as evaluation of the severity level of non-conformances, sanctions for different levels of non-conformances, processes for issuance of Orders, and expected actions of NRA inspectors if significant safety issues develop.”

As the industry declines, expect new safety cutbacks

The narrative from government and industry is that safety and regulatory standards in Japan are now adequate – or they soon will be once teething problems with the new regime are sorted out. NRA Chair Shunichi Tanaka claims that Japanese regulatory standards are “the strictest in the world.”

But Japan’s safety and regulatory standards aren’t strict. Improvements are ongoing – such as NRA actions in response to the IAEA report, and reports that legislation will be revised to allow unscheduled inspections of nuclear sites. But improvements are slow, partial and piecemeal and there are forces pushing in the other direction. An Associated Press report states that nuclear laws will be revised in 2017 but not enacted until 2020.

Reactor lifespan extensions beyond 40 years were meant to be “limited only to exceptional cases” according to then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, speaking in 2012. Extensions were considered an emergency measure against a possible energy crunch. But lifespan extensions have been approved in the absence of an energy crunch, and more will likely follow.

If Japan’s nuclear history is any guide, already flawed safety and regulatory standards will be weakened over time. Signification elements of Japan’s corrupt ‘nuclear village’ are back in control just a few years after the Fukushima disaster. Add to that aging reactors, and utilities facing serious economic stress and intense competition, and there’s every reason to be concerned about nuclear safety in Japan.

Tomas Kåberger, Professor of Industrial Energy Policy at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, noted in the foreword to the latest edition of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report:

“A nuclear industry under economic stress may become an even more dangerous industry. Owners do what they can to reduce operating costs to avoid making economic loss. Reduce staff, reduce maintenance, and reduce any monitoring and inspection that may be avoided.

“While a stated ambition of ‘safety first’ and demands of safety authorities will be heard, the conflict is always there and reduced margins of safety may prove to be mistakes.”

 

 

If Abe is serious, he should listen in earnest to anti-nuke calls

(We can choose) a future in which Hiroshima and Nagasaki are known not as the dawn of atomic warfare, but as the start of our own moral awakening.” That was how Barack Obama wound up his 17-minute-long public address during his historic visit to Hiroshima on May 27.

He was the first sitting U.S. president to visit the city leveled by the world’s first atomic bombing. The 71st anniversary of that event fell on Aug. 6. Nagasaki suffered the same fate as Hiroshima three days later, on Aug. 9, 1945.

Obama’s visit to Hiroshima was a benchmark event. Even so, nuclear stockpiles around the world are still in excess of 15,000 warheads. A world without nuclear weapons remains a distant dream.

Action is needed to carve out the future. In this regard, there are particularly high expectations for the role of Japan, which experienced the ravages of atomic bombings.

But the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are increasingly suspicious of the central government’s intentions. In their view, the government seems to be obstructing the global trend for trying to eradicate nuclear weaponry.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who accompanied Obama during his Hiroshima visit, pledged that he would “continue to make incessant efforts” toward realizing a world without nuclear weapons.

But what precisely is he determined to do, we wonder. The key question here is that of a concrete vision.

TOKYO EMBARRASSED BY TALK OF ‘NO FIRST USE’

The Washington Post reported last month that the Obama administration is considering changes in its nuclear policy.

Notably, a declaration of “no first use” is reportedly being weighed as an option. The term refers to a country’s pledge that it will not be the first to use nuclear arms unless it comes under nuclear attack from another nation. China and India, among the world’s nuclear weapon states, have adopted that policy.

No first use” is expected to significantly reduce the role of nuclear arms in security policy. It is also believed to be highly effective in urging other nuclear weapon states to engage in nuclear disarmament.

Ten U.S. Democratic senators have called on Obama to declare “no first use.” The mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have sent a letter to Obama to express their support for the potential nuclear policy changes, saying such moves would “mark an important step toward realizing a world without nuclear weapons.”

But Tokyo appears to be embarrassed by this. Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said only that Japan and the United States “should remain closely in touch” over the matter. When the Obama administration reviewed its nuclear policy in 2010, it stopped short of declaring “no first use” out of consideration for Japan and other U.S. allies.

At the United Nations, meantime, there is growing momentum to outlaw nuclear arms, which are inhumane weapons, under international law.

A U.N. working group, which has been discussing the matter since February in Switzerland, is holding its final session this month. The working group’s chairman has worked out a draft report that says, “A majority of States expressed support for the commencement of negotiations … in 2017.”

Japan is one country that is not part of that “majority of States.” Tokyo has reiterated at the working group’s sessions that the time is not ripe for declaring nuclear weapons illegal in view of the current security climate.

Seventy-one years after the A-bombings, the very country that suffered the nuclear attacks is trying to block the trend for nuclear disarmament.

PERSISTENT DEPENDENCE ON NUCLEAR UMBRELLA

The backdrop here is Japan’s dependence on the “nuclear umbrella,” under which it relies on the nuclear arsenal of the United States to deter attacks from other countries.

Tokyo believes Japan must stay under the nuclear umbrella, not the least because it has to face up to China, which is pursuing a rapid military buildup, and to North Korea, which has repeatedly conducted nuclear tests and test-firings of missiles.

No approval can be given to a “no first use” policy and a prospective treaty to ban nuclear weapons, both of which would erode the deterrent potential of the nuclear umbrella, according to Tokyo’s position.

Let us remember, however, that nuclear deterrence theory is a relic of the Cold War period. The government of Japan has not ruled out a possible use of nuclear weapons by the United States. That is broadly at odds with the sentiment of the Japanese public, which does not want a repeat of the ravages of a nuclear attack.

As long as deterrence theory is adhered to, other nuclear weapon states will also stick to their reliance on nuclear arsenals, which means the risk of a nuclear war would never diminish.

It goes without saying that the security climate should be taken into account from a tough viewpoint. Many experts believe, however, that conventional war potential–basically that of Japan and the United States–alone is functioning as a sufficient deterrent on North Korea and China.

We must have the courage to escape the logic of fear, and pursue a world without (nuclear weapons),” Obama said in his Hiroshima address.

Kazumi Matsui, the mayor of Hiroshima, cited that passage in his Aug. 6 Peace Declaration, and added, “We need to fill our policymakers with the passion to … create a security system based on trust and dialogue.”

Courage and passion: These qualities are probably expected from the government of Japan more than anything else. Tokyo should start striving to seek a security policy that does not rely on the nuclear umbrella and begin holding talks with Washington to achieve that goal.

Abe has attended the peace ceremonies in Hiroshima and Nagasaki every year. He has also had opportunities to hold dialogue with representatives of A-bomb survivors.

But the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki strongly distrust Abe. The prime minister has not only rushed through policies that undermine the pacifist principles of the Constitution, such as lifting Japan’s self-imposed ban on the right to exercise collective self-defense and enacting new security legislation. He has been less than willing to listen to earnest pleas. In 2014, for example, he used the phrase, “It’s a matter of opinion,” to dismiss concerns expressed by an A-bomb survivor.

POIGNANT CALLS FROM A-BOMBED CITIES

The Nagasaki Peace Declaration to be released Aug. 9 is expected to include, for the first time in two years, a demand for enacting a law to set down Japan’s three non-nuclear principles–not possessing, not producing and not permitting the introduction into Japan, of nuclear weapons.

Sumiteru Taniguchi, an 87-year-old A-bomb survivor, strongly called, during a drafting committee meeting, for the inclusion of that passage.

Those who never experienced that abominable war are trying to have the (pacifist) Constitution amended,” Taniguchi said. “As a survivor of the A-bomb, I have to continue calling out loud as long as I am alive.”

Poignant calls from the A-bombed cities represent the starting point of efforts to realize a world without nuclear arms. If Abe wishes, as he says he does, to lead initiatives to have nuclear weapons abolished, the first thing he should do is to face up in earnest to the calls of people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and seek out a way to go hand in hand with them.

http://www.newsjs.com/url.php?p=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.asahi.com%2Fajw%2Farticles%2FAJ201608060027.html