You are here


Fukushima Radioactive Fallout Confirmed in U.S. Food Chain

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Kimberly Roberson

The U.S. rainy season of 2011 extended to June, making it unusually long and troubling for many experts and citizens due to Fukushima Daiichi’s triple nuclear meltdowns which began in March. These catastrophic events widely dispersed airborne dust contaminated with radioactive particles over much of the country. When inhaled or ingested these particles can have negative effects on human health that are different from those caused by external or uniform radiation fields, such as from cosmic radiation from air flights (although the Food and Drug administration continues to pretend otherwise). Hawaii and the West coast were the first states to receive radioactive fallout from Japan.

While media and elected officials have remained mostly silent on the issue, concerned experts and citizens have continued to probe. Radiation from Fukushima has been found in U.S. topsoil, rainwater, groundwater, milk, fish, and several varieties of produce as reported by the University of California Berkeley School of Nuclear Engineers (UCBSNE) radiation testing team. Cesium-137, Iodine-131, Strontium-90, Xenon have been detected at several sampling stations throughout the Bay Area beginning late March of 2011. In addition, California Bluefin tuna, almonds, pistachios and oranges have been found to contain measurable amounts of radiation from Fukushima. Cal State Long Beach researchers studied kelp beds spanning the state’s coastline and sampled elevated levels of Iodine- 131 at several sites tested (they are currently looking to expand funding to test for longer-lived Cesium-137). Though the levels of radioactive particles detected by the UCBSNE team in California food and water may appear to be low, chronic exposure to low levels of radiation can be as damaging, or more so, per unit dose, than a single exposure to a high level of radiation.

It has been reported that from March 21 to mid-July of 2011 that 27.1 peta becquerels of cesium 137 was dumped by Tokyo Electric and Power Company (TEPCO) from Fukushima Daiichi into the Pacific ocean. One peta becquerel is a million billion bequerels, or 10 to the power of 15. This is twenty times the amount originally estimated by TEPCO. Yet the FDA has not placed a ban on any north Pacific seafood, and continues to allow an open trade policy on Japanese food imports.

Exposure to these radionuclides is known to cause cancers, heart disease, and other serious illness. Transgenerational DNA damage is a long-term consequence of exposure to radiation from nuclear power production and accidents, with women and children being particularly at risk. When radioactive substances are absorbed in the body they tend to accumulate in specific organs by a process known as selective reuptake. Female children are up to seven times more likely to develop cancer from radioactive cesium than men due to radioactive Cesium-134 and 137 reuptake by the ovaries. Strontium-90 is mistaken for calcium and absorbed by bones and iodine 131 and 129 are attracted to the thyroid, to name but a few. 

A second wave of humanitarian and environmental crisis is currently underway in Japan. The government there has undertaken a massive incineration plan involving tens of millions of tons of earthquake and tsunami wreckage. Their plan involves mulching debris, some of which is contaminated with radiation and much with industrial toxins, and burning it in municipal incinerators already established around the country. It is not known if special equipment and scrubbers are being used in the process. The burn is being carried by the jet stream across the northern hemisphere to the U.S. for the rainy season of 2012, posing a continued threat to the food supply. The California Central Valley grows more than 450 varieties of produce, dairy, wine and an estimated 80% of U.S. lettuce, spinach, and produce. Radionuclides are absorbed by topsoil as are potassium and magnesium and the food chain does not differentiate the healthy from the hazardous. The cycle continues for hundreds of years in some cases, which is what has happened in Europe due to Chernobyl (sheep grazing land in parts of the United Kingdom are still off limits 26 years after that catastrophe began). 

Concerned citizens are working in Southern California to ensure that another Fukushima does not happen. The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) is currently closed as safe energy activists continue to monitor safety concerns. SONGS has one of the worst operating records in the U.S. and sits on a beach atop an active earthquake fault, within miles of the California Central Valley. California’s other nuclear reactor nearby is Diablo Canyon. It returned to full operation on June 26, 2012 after a three-month emergency shutdown caused by a large jellyfish blocking an outfall pipe.

A petition asking for food monitoring of U.S. food and imports from Japan has been circulating since April 1, 2011. A second, more detailed petition is about to be launched which will address the amount of radioactive Cesium currently allowed in the U.S. food, milk and water supply: 1,200 becquerels per kilogram in the U.S., vs. Japan’s limit set at 100. Under the existing regulation food and beverage unfit for human consumption in Japan can now be legally exported and consumed in the U.S.

The food monitoring and anti-incineration petitions, interviews and articles can be found at

UC Berkeley School of Nuclear Engineering website, The French Nuclear Safety Institute, Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), NIRS Mary Olson, Diet for the Atomic Age.
~ By Kimberly Roberson,;


Japan's 'nuclear village' reasserting control

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

Public opposition to reactor restarts, and the nuclear industry more generally, continues to exert some influence in Japan. Five to seven of the oldest of Japan's 48 'operable' reactors are likely to be sacrificed to dampen opposition to the restart of other reactors, and public opposition may result in the permanent shut down of some other reactors.1

However, slowly but surely, the collusive practices that led to the Fukushima disaster are re-emerging. The 'nuclear village' is regaining control.

Energy policy

After the Fukushima accident, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government commenced a review of energy policy. After deliberations in a committee that included more or less equal numbers of nuclear critics, proponents and neutral people, three scenarios were put forward in June 2012 − based on 0%, 15% and 20−25% of electricity generation from nuclear reactors. These scenarios were put to a broad national debate, the outcome of which was that a clear majority of the public supported a nuclear phase-out. The national debate played a crucial role in pushing the DPJ government to support a nuclear phase-out.2

After the December 2012 national election, the incoming Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) government repudiated the DPJ's goal of phasing out nuclear power. The LDP government also revamped the policy-drafting committee, drastically reducing the number of nuclear critics. And the committee itself was sidelined in the development of a draft Basic Energy Plan. "From a process perspective, this represents a step back about 20 years," said Dr Philip White, an expert on Japan's energy policy formation process.2

"A major step toward greater public participation and disclosure of information occurred after the December 1995 sodium leak and fire at the Monju fast breeder reactor," Dr White wrote in Nuclear Monitor last year. "Although public participation was not conducted in good faith, at least lip service was paid. It seems that the current government has decided that it doesn't even need to pay lip service."2

The Basic Energy Plan approved by Cabinet in April 2014 contains nothing more than a meaningless nod to widespread public anti-nuclear sentiment, stating that dependence on nuclear energy will be reduced 'to the extent possible'.

Junko Edahiro, chief executive of Japan for Sustainability and one of the people removed from the energy policy advisory committee, noted in November 2014: "Now what we have is a situation where government officials and committees are back to doing their jobs as if the March 2011 disasters had never occurred. They have resumed what they had been doing for 30 or 40 years, focusing on nuclear power. ... In Japan we have what some people refer to as a "nuclear village": a group of government officials, industries, and academia notorious for being strongly pro-nuclear. There has been little change in this group, and the regulatory committee to oversee nuclear policies and operations is currently headed by a well-known nuclear proponent."3

'An accident will surely happen again'

Yotaro Hatamura, who previously chaired the 'Cabinet Office Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations of TEPCO', recently told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper that pre-Fukushima complacency is returning.4

"Sufficient investigations have not been conducted" into the causes of the Fukushima disaster, said Hatamura, professor emeritus of mechanical engineering at the University of Tokyo. The Cabinet Office Investigation Committee report called on the government to continue efforts to determine the cause of the nuclear disaster, but "almost none" of its proposals have been reflected in recent government actions, Hatamura said.

He further noted that tougher nuclear safety standards were introduced after the Fukushima disaster, but with the exception of this "regulatory hurdle ... the situation seems unchanged from before the accident."

"It does not appear that organizations to watch [government actions] are working properly," Hatamura said. "There could always be lapses in oversight in safety assessments, and an accident will surely happen again."

Hatamura questioned the adequacy of evacuation plans, saying they have been compiled without fully reflecting on the Fukushima accident" "The restarts of reactors should be declared only after sufficient preparations are made, such as conducting evacuation drills covering all residents living within 30 kilometers of each plant based on developed evacuation plans."

Japan Atomic Energy Commission

In September 2012, the DPJ government promised that a review of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) would be conducted 'with its abolition and reorganization in mind'. The government established a review committee, which published a report in December 2012. After taking office, the incoming LDP government shelved the report and commenced a new review.5

The second review recommended that the JAEC no longer produce an overarching Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy. But an LDP committee has reportedly decided that the JAEC will be tasked with putting together a nuclear energy policy that would effectively have equivalent status to the Framework for Nuclear Energy Policy.5

Two reviews, very little change − and far from being abolished, the JAEC retains a role in framing nuclear policy. Moreover, the government has proposed that the JAEC, a promoter of nuclear power, could acts as a 'third party' in the choice of a final disposal site for nuclear waste. Some experts who attended a ministry panel meeting in February questioned the JAEC's independence.6


Many have called for TEPCO to be nationalised, or broken up into separate companies, but the LDP government has protected and supported the company. The government has also greatly increased financial support for TEPCO. For example in January 2014 the government approved an increase in the ceiling for interest-free loans the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund is allowed to give TEPCO, from 5 trillion yen to 9 trillion yen (US$41.2−74.1b; €39.0−70.2b).7

The government will also cover some of the costs for dealing with the Fukushima accident which TEPCO was previously required to pay, such as an estimated 1.1 trillion yen (US$9.1b; €8.6b) for interim storage facilities for waste from clean-up activities outside the Fukushima Daiichi plant.7

The government has also amended the Electricity Business Act to extend the period for collecting decommissioning funds from electricity rates by up to 10 years after nuclear plants are shut down. The amendments also allow TEPCO to include in electricity rates depreciation costs for additional equipment purchased for the decommissioning of the Fukushima plant.8

Media censorship and intimidation

Japan has steadily slipped down Reporters Without Borders global ranking for press freedom since the Fukushima disaster, from 11th in 2010 to 61st in the latest ranking.9,10

Journalists have been threatened with 'criminal contempt' and defamation suits, and Japan's 'state secrets' law makes investigative journalism about Japan's nuclear industry perilous.11 Under the law, which took effect in December 2014, the government can sentence those who divulge government secrets − which are broadly defined − to a decade in jail.10

Benjamin Ismaïl from Reporters Without Borders wrote in March 2014: "As we feared in 2012, the freedom to inform and be informed continues to be restricted by the 'nuclear village' and government, which are trying to control coverage of their handling of the aftermath of this disaster. Its long-term consequences are only now beginning to emerge and coverage of the health risks and public health issues is more important than ever."11

Reporters Without Borders stated in March 2014: "Both Japanese and foreign reporters have described to Reporters Without Borders the various methods used by the authorities to prevent independent coverage of the [Fukushima] disaster and its consequences. They have been prevented from covering anti-nuclear demonstrations and have been threatened with criminal proceedings for entering the "red zone" declared around the plant. And they have even been interrogated and subjected to intimidation by the intelligence services."11


1. 30 Jan 2015, 'Reactor restarts in Japan', Nuclear Monitor #797,
2. Philip White, 24 Jan 2014, Japan goes back to the future to affirm energy 'foundation', Nuclear Monitor #776,
See also: 16 March 2013, 'Abe purges energy board of antinuclear experts',
18 Oct 2013, 'Pro-nuclear voices dominate energy policy committee',
3. Junko Edahiro, November 2014, 'Toward a Sustainable Japan: Fukushima Accidents Show Japan's Challenges', JFS Newsletter No.147,
4. 10 March 2015, 'Ex-panel chief says Japan still hasn't learned lessons from Fukushima crisis',
5. Philip White, 10 July 2014, 'Reform of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission: as if Fukushima never happened', Nuclear Monitor #788,
See also: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center, Jan/Feb 2015, Nuke Info Tokyo No. 164,
6. Kyodo, 17 Feb 2015, 'Government explores options on how to store nuclear waste in the long term',
7. Kyodo, 15 Jan 2014, 'Gov't OKs new business turnaround plan for TEPCO, to give more aid',
8. Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Oct 2013,
9. Reporters Without Borders:!/index-details/JPN
10. Toko Sekiguchi, 13 Feb 2015, 'Japan Slips in Press Freedom Ranking',
11. 12 March 2014, 'Japan – Nuclear lobby still gagging independent coverage three years after disaster',

Fukushima Fallout: Four years on

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

Almost four years have passed since the 3/11 triple-disaster. Around 160,000 people were relocated because of the nuclear disaster and very few have returned to their homes. Apart from the radioactive contamination, there is little for them to return to.

A steady stream of reports detail the misery faced by evacuees from the triple-disaster. The latest of these reports concerns the number of evacuees who have died in solitude. At least 145 evacuees from the triple-disaster have died in solitude since March 2011. It is believed that prolonged isolation damages their health.1

The clean-up and decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi site will take decades to complete − but no-one knows how many decades. There is little precedent for some of the challenges TEPCO faces, such as the robotic extraction of damaged nuclear fuel from stricken reactors and its storage or disposal ... somewhere.

Last October, TEPCO pushed back the timeline for the start of the damaged fuel removal work by five years, to 2025. Dale Klein, a member of TEPCO's Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, says the decommissioning schedule is pure supposition until engineers figure out how to remove the damaged fuel.2

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report

The IAEA completed its third review of the Fukushima clean-up operations in mid-February.3 The 15-member IAEA team released a preliminary report and the final report will be released by the end of March.4 The report does not consider contamination and clean-up operations outside the Fukushima Daiichi site.

"Japan has made significant progress since our previous missions," said IAEA team leader Juan Carlos Lentijo. "The situation, however, remains very complex, with the increasing amount of contaminated water posing a short-term challenge that must be resolved in a sustainable manner. The need to remove highly radioactive spent fuel, including damaged fuel and fuel debris, from the reactors that suffered meltdowns poses a huge long-term challenge."3

The preliminary report notes that the safe decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi "is a very challenging task that requires the allocation of enormous resources, as well as the development and use of innovative technologies to deal with the most difficult activities."

Achievements since the last IAEA mission in 2013 include the complete removal of nuclear fuel from reactor #4 (1,533 new and spent fuel assemblies); progress with the clean-up of the site; and some progress with water management. Challenges include persistent underground water ingress and the accumulation of contaminated water; the long-term management of radioactive waste; and issues related to the removal of spent nuclear fuel, damaged fuel and fuel debris.

Water management

A large majority of the 7,000 workers at Fukushima Daiichi are working on problems associated with contaminated water − groundwater that becomes contaminated, and cooling water that becomes contaminated.5

An estimated two trillion yen (US$16.7 billion; €14.8b) will be spent on water management alone, which is 20% of the estimated cost of decommissioning the entire site.6 (In 2012, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers provided a "rough estimate" of US$500 billion (€447b) for on-site decommissioning costs, clean-up of contaminated lands outside the Fukushima plant boundary, replacement power costs, and compensation payments.7)

The IAEA report states that achievements since the last IAEA mission in 2013 include:

  • Improved and expanded systems to clean contaminated water;
  • The installation of new, improved tanks to store contaminated water (fully welded tanks replacing bolted flange type tanks), construction of dykes around the tanks with enhanced water holding capacity, and provision of covers to deflect rainwater from the dykes; and
  • The installation and operation of a set of pumping wells to reduce the flow of groundwater towards the reactor buildings, sealing of sea-side trenches and shafts, and the rehabilitation of the subdrain system. Groundwater ingress has been reduced by about 25% or 100,000 litres per day.

The installation of additional measures to reduce groundwater ingress, such as a frozen (ice) wall, is ongoing. The partially-built ice wall will enclose the area around reactors #1−4 on both the sea-side and the land-side. Whether the ice wall will effectively prevent the ingress and contamination of groundwater has been the subject of debate and scepticism.8

According to the IAEA report, the rehabilitation of subdrains (wells built around reactor buildings) and the construction of a treatment system for pumped subdrain water, are nearly complete. As the subdrains are placed in operation, they are expected to further reduce the groundwater ingress by about 150,000 litres per day, and to near zero following the installation of the land-side ice wall (if it works as hoped).

As of February 2015, about 600 million litres of contaminated water was stored on-site, of which more than half has already been treated to remove some radionuclides (including most caesium and strontium, but not tritium) and TEPCO expects to complete the treatment of the remaining water in the next few months.

Nevertheless the situation remains "complex", the IAEA report states, due to the ingress of about 300,000 litres of groundwater into the Fukushima Daiichi site each day, and the ongoing use (and contamination) of water to cool stricken reactors. The IAEA states that not all of the large number of water treatment systems deployed by TEPCO are operating to their full design capacity and performance. One of the many remaining challenges for TEPCO will be to seal leakages in reactor and turbine building walls, which it plans to tackle after controlling groundwater ingress.

Leaks and spills are still occurring. On February 22, sensors detected a fresh leak of radioactive water to the ocean. The sensors, rigged to a gutter that directs rain and groundwater to a nearby bay, detected contamination levels 50−70 times greater than normal, falling to 10−20 times the normal level later that day.9,10

On February 24, TEPCO acknowledged that it had failed to disclose leaks to the ocean of highly contaminated rainwater from a drainage ditch even though it was aware of the problem 10 months ago. The ditch receives run-off from the roof of the #2 reactor building. TEPCO said it recorded 29,400 becquerels of caesium per litre in water pooled on the rooftop, and 52,000 becquerels per litre of beta-emitting radionuclides such as strontium-90.11

The governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Masao Uchibori, said the incident was "extremely regrettable". Masakazu Yabuki, head of the Iwaki fisheries cooperative, said he had been "betrayed" by TEPCO. "I don't understand why [TEPCO] kept silent even though they knew about it. Fishery operators are absolutely shocked," Yabuki said.12 The National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations said: "The anger among local fishermen who have been waiting to resume their business is immeasurable."13

Fishing industry and ocean dumping

A Fisheries Agency survey released in February revealed that the fishing industry has been slow to recover in coastal prefectures affected by the 3/11 triple-disaster. Only 50% of the surveyed companies in five prefectures said their production capacities have recovered to 80% or more of the levels before the disaster, with Fukushima Prefecture recording the lowest figure of 25%. Selling the catch has also been problematic. In the Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures, only 28% of the fish processing businesses have seen their sales rise to 80% or more of the pre-disaster levels.14

In January, the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations called on the government not to allow the release of contaminated water into the sea.15 Yet the IAEA report reiterates earlier advice to do just that. According to the IAEA, TEPCO's present plan to continue storing contaminated water in tanks, with a capacity of 800 million litres, is "at best a temporary measure while a more sustainable solution is needed."

Meanwhile, subsidiaries of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom are working on plans to build a demonstration plant to test technology for tritium removal from contaminated water.16 However the demonstration plant would not be operational until early 2016 and it is doubtful whether it could be deployed before the existing tank storage capacity is full.

The Prince of PR

The IAEA's latest report is one part substance, one part public relations. It is silent about the miserable situation faced by evacuees, sub-standard working conditions at Fukushima, the government's disgraceful secrecy law17, and much else besides.

Prince William's visit to Japan in late February was used for more pro-nuclear PR by the Japanese government. Escorted by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Prince William visited Fukushima prefecture, ate local produce and went to a children's playground. However they drove straight past a village where some of the Fukushima evacuees are still living as refugees.

Tokuo Hayakawa, a Buddhist priest who lives near the Fukushima plant, said: "I think Abe is using him. It's true that you can find children playing outside, and you can eat some Fukushima food. But to take that as the overall reality here is totally wrong. If I could, I would take him to these abandoned ghost towns, and to the temporary houses where people still live, so he could see the reality that we are facing."18

Worker accidents and deaths on the rise

Shortly after the third anniversary of the triple-disaster, Fukushima workers rallied outside the Tokyo headquarters of TEPCO, complaining that they were forced to work in dangerous conditions for meagre pay.19 Little has changed over the past year.20,21,22

The number of serious work-related accidents at Fukushima Daiichi doubled in 2014. Nine serious accidents occurred between March 2014 and January 2015, resulting in two deaths and eight serious injuries. The total number of accidents at Fukushima Daiichi, including heatstrokes, has almost doubled to 55 this fiscal year (which ends on March 31). "It's not just the number of accidents that has been on the rise," said labour inspector Katsuyoshi Ito. "It's the serious cases, including deaths and serious injuries that have risen."22

On January 19, a worker died at Fukushima Daiichi after falling into an empty rainwater tank, and the following day a worker at the nearby Fukushima Daini plant died after being hit on the head by a piece of heavy equipment in a waste treatment facility. In March 2014, a worker died at Fukushima Daiichi after being buried by gravel while digging a ditch.

Just one week before the two deaths in January, labour inspectors warned TEPCO about the rising frequency of accidents and ordered it to take measures to deal with the problem. The rising accident rate is partly due to the increased number of workers involved in the clean-up of Fukushima Daiichi − now around 7,000, more than double the 3,000 or so that worked there in April 2013. But other factors are at work. TEPCO acknowledged after the deaths in January that there has been a "lack of continuous safety enhancement activity, such as listing up danger zones and eliminating them." The company also noted that "because of strong pressure to comply with the schedule, accident recurrence prevention activity was not thorough, and the range of inspection and measures was restricted."21

Hazard payments

TEPCO President Naomi Hirose announced in late 2013 that the daily hazard payment for Fukushima Daiichi clean-up workers would be doubled to about US$180 (€161). But many workers are not receiving the promised pay increase. TEPCO has declined to disclose details of its legal agreements with the 800 contractors and subcontractors who employ almost all of the Fukushima workforce. Only one of the 37 workers interviewed by Reuters from July−September 2014 said he received the full hazard pay increase promised by TEPCO. Some got no increase. In cases where payslips detailed a hazard payment, the amounts ranged from US$36−90 (€32−80) per day.23

Two former and two current workers have initiated legal action against TEPCO to reclaim unpaid wages, in particular unpaid hazard payments. The four workers are seeking a total of US$543,000 (€485,000).24

In November 2014, TEPCO acknowledged that that the number of workers on false contracts has increased in the past year. Survey results released by TEPCO showed that around 30% of those workers polled said that they were paid by a different company from the contractor that normally directs them at the worksite, which is illegal under Japan's labour laws. A similar survey in 2013 found that about 20% of workers were on false contracts.25

Yet another controversy emerged on February 18 when a construction firm executive was arrested for sending a 15-year-old boy to help clean up radioactive waste outside the Fukushima plant. Japan's labour laws prohibit people under 18 from working in radioactive areas. The boy was ordered to lie about his age. He said he was paid just ¥3,000 (US$25.1; €22.4) per day and was hit when he did not work hard enough.26

A New York Times editorial in March 2014 stated: "A pattern of shirking responsibility permeates the decommissioning work at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. ... It was the Japanese government, which had been leading the promotion of nuclear power, that made the Fukushima cleanup TEPCO's responsibility. The government kept TEPCO afloat to protect shareholders and bank lenders. It then used taxpayer money to set up the Nuclear Damage Liability Facilitation Fund, which provided loans to TEPCO to deal with Fukushima. This arrangement has conveniently allowed the government to avoid taking responsibility for the nuclear cleanup."27

The government passes responsibility to TEPCO, and TEPCO passes responsibility to a labyrinth of contractors and subcontractors. The government and TEPCO shirk responsibility for the Fukushima clean-up, just as they shirked responsibility for the March 2011 nuclear disaster.


1. 1 March 2015, '44 evacuees die alone in temporary housing in ’14', Yomiuri Shimbun,
2. 7 Feb 2015, 'Mission impossible: An industrial clean-up without precedent',
3. IAEA media release, 17 Feb 2015, 'IAEA Team Completed Third Review of Japan's Plans to Decommission Fukushima Daiichi',
4. IAEA, February 2015, IAEA International Peer Review, Preliminary Summary Report: Mission on Mid-And-Long-Term Roadmap Towards the Decommissioning of TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Units 1-4,
5. Justin McCurry, 14 Nov 2014, 'Fukushima £11bn cleanup progresses, but there is no cause for optimism',
6. Mari Yamaguchi / Associated Press, 12 Nov 2014, 'Japan's Fukushima cleanup 3 years on: little key work done',
7. American Society of Mechanical Engineers, June 2012, 'Forging a New Nuclear Safety Construct: The ASME Presidential Task Force on Response to Japan Nuclear Power Plant Events',
8. 2 May 2014, 'Nuclear expert doubts ice wall will solve Fukushima plant leaks',
9. AFP, 22 Feb 2015, 'Fukushima nuclear plant detects fresh leak of radioactive water',
10. Nuclear Regulation Authority, 25 Feb 2015, 'Possible Flow of Contaminated Water to the Outside of the Controlled Area of Fukushima Daiichi NPS',
11. 25 Feb 2015, 'Fisheries 'shocked' at silence over water leak at wrecked Fukushima No. 1 plant',
12. Arata Yamamoto, 25 Feb 2015, 'Radioactive Fukushima Water Leak Was Unreported for Months: Official',
13. Kazuaki Nagata, 27 Feb 2015, 'Fisheries group lodges protest against Tepco's failure to disclose leak of radioactive rainwater',
14. 13 Feb 2015, 'Recovery slow in disaster-zone fish processing industries',
15. 27 Jan 2015, 'Fishermen oppose dumping radioactive water into sea',
16. WNN, 18 Feb 2015, 'IAEA team sees improvements at Fukushima Daiichi',
17. Toko Sekiguchi, 13 Feb 2015, 'Japan Slips in Press Freedom Ranking',
18. Gordon Rayner / Reuters, 26 Feb 2015, 'Prince William in Japan: controversial visit to Fukushima during visit',
19. Agence France-Presse, 14 March 2014, 'Fukushima nuclear workers rally against plant operator over low pay, dangerous conditions',
20. Yu Kotsubo and Akifumi Nagahashi, 17 Feb 2015, 'TEPCO vows safety first in training program for workers at Fukushima',
21. WNN, 3 Feb 2015, 'Tepco resumes work after contractor deaths',
22. Antoni Slodkowski, 19 Jan 2015, 'Fukushima worker dies after falling into water storage tank',
23. Mari Saito and Antoni Slodkowski, 8 Oct 2014, 'Nuclear workers kept in dark on Fukushima hazard pay',
24. Justin McCurry, 9 Sept 2014, 'Fukushima fallout continues: now cleanup workers claim unpaid wages',
25. Aaron Sheldrick, 28 Nov 2014, 'Fukushima workers still in murky labor contracts: Tepco survey',
26. 18 Feb 2015, 'Construction firm exec arrested for sending teen to help Fukushima cleanup',
27. Editorial, 21 March 2014, 'Fukushima's Shameful Cleanup',

Reactor restarts in Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green − Nuclear Monitor editor

No power reactors have operated in Japan since 16 September 2013 but the slow process of restarting reactors is in train and the first restarts − Kyushu's two reactors at Sendai − will likely occur in the first half of this year. Next in line are Takahama #3 and #4.

Twelve utilities have applied to restart 21 reactors, and further applications will follow (Japan has a total of 48 operable reactors). The World Nuclear Association cites a 'high case' scenario developed by Itochu Corporation, with about 10 reactor restarts annually and a total of up to 35 restarts within five years.1

The Japanese public remains sceptical. A November 2014 poll by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper found that twice as many respondents oppose reactor restarts as support them (56:28).2 More than 16,000 people gathered in Tokyo last September to protest against the decision to approve the restart of the Sendai reactors.3 Of the 18,711 comments on the government's draft basic energy plan, 94.4% opposed reactor restarts, while only 1.1% were in favour.4

On the other hand, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and the Liberal Democratic Party comfortably won the December 2014 election, and the government is intent on reactor restarts. Public opposition will delay many reactor restart approval processes and it may force the closure of at least a few reactors (in addition to those already slated for closure).

The government/corporate collusion that was a central feature of Japan's pre-Fukushima 'nuclear village' is re-emerging (if it ever went away). Junko Edahiro, chief executive of Japan for Sustainability, noted in a November 2014 speech: "Before the Abe administration, I was a member of an energy committee, an advisory body for the government charged with providing input on energy policies until 2030 for Japan. We had 25 members, of whom myself and seven others were not in favor of nuclear power. It was a small contingent, but this was still a huge departure from the past because citizens and experts against nuclear power have never been assigned as members of a governmental advisory body. The new administration, however, restructured the committee, eliminating anyone against nuclear power. ... In Japan we have what some people refer to as a "nuclear village": a group of government officials, industries, and academia notorious for being strongly pro-nuclear. There has been little change in this group, and the regulatory committee to oversee nuclear policies and operations is currently headed by a well-known nuclear proponent."5

With the nuclear village back in charge, familiar patterns are re-emerging. A November 2014 editorial in Japan Times, commenting on the Sendai restart approval, said the "move contains serious safety and procedural problems" such as inadequate evacuation plans, the lack of a permanent off-site command centre in the case of an emergency, the exclusion of eight municipalities from the approval process, and numerous other problems. "As the seemingly last key hurdle for the restart of the Sendai nuclear power plant is lifted," Japan Times editorialised, "a dangerous precedent has been set and many fundamental questions remain unanswered."6

One post-Fukushima reform that has not yet been destroyed is TEPCO's outside advisory committee, the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee, chaired by former US Nuclear Regulatory Commission chair Dale Klein.7 Klein said late last year that TEPCO should convene a panel of foreign operators to review safety standards.

"I would like to see what I call a readiness review," Klein told Reuters. "You've got regulatory aspects – Do you meet everything? Do you have right training? – and then, I think, because of Fukushima Daiichi, the Japanese public would feel better if another group came in and said operationally they are ready. I have been pushing for that."8

So, might TEPCO appoint an outside committee to review safety standards and supplement the work of the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee? A more likely outcome is that the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee itself will be abolished.

Permanent reactor shut-downs

A minimum of five reactors will be permanently shut down (in addition to the six Fukushima Daiichi reactors).9 The five reactors are Kansai's Mihama #1 and #2, Japan Atomic Power's Tsuruga 1, Chugoku's Shimane 1, and Kyushu's Genkai 1. All are relatively small (320−529 MW), and by October 2015 all will be more than 40 years old. Another two reactors, Kansai's Takahama #1 #2, which began commercial operation in 1974 and 1975, may also be shut down although Kansai may fight to restart them.

Other reactors may also be permanently shut down. Cantor Fitzgerald forecasts that in the long-term 32 of the 48 reactors will restart and the other 16 shut down.10 One of the other candidates for permanent closure is Tsuruga #2 − Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority disagrees with Japan Atomic Power Corporation about seismic risks.11

TEPCO's plan to restart reactors #6 and #7 at the Kashiwazaki−Kariwa plant (badly damaged by an earthquake in 2007) is meeting stiff resistance from the governor of Niigata province, Hirohiko Izumida. The governor says TEPCO must address its "institutionalized lying" before it can expect to restart reactors.12 He wants TEPCO executives held accountable for the negligence that led to the Fukushima disaster, but government prosecutors have refused to bring charges against TEPCO executives.13

Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees the nuclear industry, is reportedly considering revising accounting rules to lighten the financial burden on utilities that decommission nuclear reactors, with decisions expected by March.9 In other words, the government is planning to do what the government does best: throw taxpayers' money at the nuclear industry.

Among other smoke-and-mirror tricks:
•    Reactors are limited to a 40-year operating life ... but utilities can apply for a 20-year extension.
•    Government and industry are not (yet) promoting the construction of new reactors, but efforts are being made to move ahead with reactors under construction before March 2011. Expect double-dipping and triple-dipping: the closure of a small number of reactors is being used to quell opposition to reactor restarts, then the closure of the same reactors will be used to quell opposition to the completion of reactors under construction and reactors in the planning stages.

Debates over the future of the Monju fast reactor and the Rokkasho reprocessing plant will add spice to Japan's nuclear debate this year. Monju may be doomed, but Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd hopes to begin operating Rokkasho in early 2016.1

2. 6 Jan 2015, 'Editorial: Consensus-building process needed for nuclear policy decisions',
3. 23 Sept 2014, 'What's your anti-disaster plan?' Thousands protest Japanese nuclear revival',
4. Atsushi Komori, 12 Nov 2014, 'Energy plan overlooked flat-out opposition to nuclear power, analysis shows',
5. Junko Edahiro, November 2014, 'Toward a Sustainable Japan: Fukushima Accidents Show Japan's Challenges', JFS Newsletter No.147,
6. 12 Nov 2014, 'Bad precedent for nuclear restart',
8. Kentaro Hamada, 2 Dec 2014, 'Japan's Tepco needs safety review from foreign nuclear operators − adviser',
9. 11 Jan 2015, '5 old nuclear reactors headed for decommissioning scrap heap',
10. 1 Jan 2015, 'Japan turns ignition key on efforts to restart its nuclear fleet',
11. 20 Nov 2014, 'Nuclear watchdog panel: Fault under Tsuruga reactor is active',
12. Antoni Slodkowski and Kentaro Hamada, 29 Oct 2013, 'Tepco can't yet be trusted to restart world's biggest nuclear plant: governor',
13. Reuters, 22 Jan 2015, 'Prosecutors won't indict former Tepco execs over Fukushima',

Fukushima Fallout: Updates from Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Most of these news items are taken from the twice-weekly updates produced by Greenpeace International. You can subscribe to the updates at:

The first batch of 22 nuclear fuel assemblies removed from the reactor #4 storage pool at the Fukushima Daiichi plant have been placed in a more secure storage pool 100 metres away. The assemblies moved to the new location were unused. The next 22 to be removed, however, will be spent fuel. The fuel assemblies are the first of over 1,500 to be removed from the storage pool in work that is expected to take around a year.[2]

TEPCO has announced that it will permanently close the undamaged reactors #5 and #6 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after a request to do so from Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in September. The reactors were closed for maintenance when the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami hit the plant. TEPCO will not decommission and dismantle the reactors. Instead they will become "test platforms" and used as research facilities to help plan for the removal of fuel from reactors #1, #2, #3 which suffered core meltdowns.[1]

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority has begun safety assessments of two nuclear reactors at TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa power plant this week. There are many issues involved and the process is not expected to run smoothly. There are geological faults below the plant although TEPCO says they are not active. NRA chief Shunichi Tanaka has warned TECPO that the assessment process could be halted if events at the Fukushima Daiichi plant take another turn for the worse. Niigata Prefecture Governor Hirohiko Izumida − who effectively holds a veto over TEPCO's plan to restart reactors at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant − said TEPCO must give a fuller account of the Fukushima disaster and address its "institutionalized lying" before it can expect to restart reactors.[1]

Japan's government has proposed a change to its policy towards disposing of nuclear waste. The policy of waiting for towns and cities to volunteer to host final disposal facilities for nuclear waste has failed, with no candidates stepping forward. The policy has been in place for over 10 years. Instead, the government is proposing to draw up a list of candidate sites for storage facilities and then measuring public support in those places.[1]

Government sources have told the Japan Times that plans are being drawn up to purchase 15 square kilometres of land around the Fukushima Daiichi plant to use store radioactive waste from cleanup and decontamination operations. The lack of storage facilities for the waste has meant decontamination efforts have not progressed as quickly as the government would have liked. However, the purchase of the land is expected to affect landowners and may prevent evacuees from eventually returning to their homes. The plan is expected to cost one trillion yen (US$9.84 billion).[2]

Almost eight out of 10 South Koreans have reduced the amount of fish they eat over possible safety concerns associated with a leak of radioactive water from Japan's Fukushima plant, a poll showed Monday. An online poll released by the Korea Rural Economic Institute found that 77.5% of those questioned said they reduced their fish consumption by nearly half since August. Since September, South Korea has blocked all fishery imports from eight prefectures surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi plant.[3,4]

Only one-third of people evacuated from areas near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are willing to return to their homes, even if evacuation orders were lifted now. Parts of Minamisoma City, Fukushima Prefecture, are designated evacuation zones. The city and the Reconstruction Agency conducted a survey in August and September of 5,677 households originally from the evacuation region. Among them, 3,543 households, or 62%, responded. When asked if they will return home once the evacuation orders are lifted, 29% said they want to do so, 44% said they are undecided and 26% said they will not go back. When the undecided group was asked what is needed to make a decision, many said information on things such as when schools, hospitals and shops will be reopened. They also want to know when radiation levels will go down and how much decontamination work has been done.[5]

[3] Yonhap, 11 Nov 2013,
[4] Kwanwoo Jun, 14 Nov 2013, 'Fish Is Off the Menu in South Korea Over Radiation Fears',
[5] NHK World, 25 Nov 2013, 'Only a third of evacuees want to return',


Fukushima − Exploited workers

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Recent media reports − including a detailed Reuters investigation − have detailed the difficult and sometimes dangerous situation faced by decontamination and decommissioning workers within and beyond the Fukushima Daiichi plant.[1]

Some of the problems arise from the labyrinth of contractors and subcontractors employing a total of about 6,000 people. An estimated 50,000 workers have been involved in the decontamination work since March 2011, and many thousands more will be required in coming years and decades. TEPCO says it has been unable to monitor subcontractors fully. There has been a proliferation of small firms − around 800 companies are active inside the Fukushima plant and hundreds more outside the plant. Legislation regarding Fukushima decontamination work, approved in August 2011, relaxed previous rules and thus contractors have not been required to disclose information on management or undergo screening. Inexperienced companies rushed to bid for contracts and then turned to brokers to round up workers.[1]

Nearly 70% of the clean-up companies surveyed in the first half of 2013 had broken labour regulations, according to a labour ministry report in July. The ministry's Fukushima office received 567 complaints related to working conditions in the decontamination zone in the 12 months year to March 2013; the ministry issued 10 warnings, but no firm was penalised.[1]

For the thousands of non-TEPCO decontamination workers hired by subcontractors, the lure of earning decent money in return for dangerous work has proved an illusion. Once money for accommodation has been subtracted, workers are typically left with a few thousand yen each day (1000 yen = US$10). In some cases, employers withhold danger money.[4]

Workers interviewed by Reuters said wages usually average around US$12 an hour. With poor wages and conditions, there is a deepening shortage of workers, with about 25% more openings than applicants for jobs in Fukushima Prefecture.[1] Seven hundred TEPCO employees have left the company in the past year alone.[2]

Labour brokers have helped to fill the gap, recruiting people whose lives have reached a dead end or who have trouble finding a job outside the disaster zone. This continues the long-standing pattern of cheap labour from itinerant workers known as 'nuclear gypsies'. "Working conditions in the nuclear industry have always been bad," Saburo Murata, deputy director of Osaka's Hannan Chuo Hospital, told Reuters. "Problems with money, outsourced recruitment, lack of proper health insurance − these have existed for decades."[1]

Yousuke Minaguchi, a lawyer who has represented Fukushima workers, says the Japanese government has turned a blind eye to worker exploitation problems: "On the surface, they say it is illegal. But in reality they don't want to do anything. By not punishing anyone, they can keep using a lot of workers cheaply."[1]

The situation has been exploited by yakuza − organised crime syndicates − which have run labour rackets for generations. Nearly 50 gangs, with 1,050 members, operate in Fukushima Prefecture.[1]

Many workers are scared to draw attention to their exploitation for fear of being blacklisted. "Major contractors that run this system think that workers will always be afraid to talk because they are scared to lose their jobs," said Tetsuya Hayashi, a former decontamination worker. "But Japan can't continue to ignore this problem forever."[1]

In some cases, Reuters reported, brokers have 'bought' workers by paying off their debts − the workers are then forced to work for low wages until they pay off their brokers, under conditions that make it hard for them to speak out against abuses.[1]

Yukiteru Naka, a retired General Electric engineer who helped build some of Fukushima Daiichi's reactors, told The Guardian that in the long term, TEPCO will struggle to find enough people with specialist knowledge to see decommissioning through to the end. "There aren't enough trained people at Fukushima Daiichi even now," he said. "For TEPCO, money is the top priority – nuclear technology and safety come second and third. That's why the accident happened. The management insists on keeping the company going. They think about shareholders, bank lenders and the government, but not the people of Fukushima."[3]

Between March 2011 and July 2013, 138 Fukushima workers reached the 100 millisievert (mSv) threshold and thus could no longer be involved in work exposing them to radiation; another 331 had been exposed to between 75 mSv and 100 mSv, meaning their days at the plant are numbered.[4]

Former decontamination worker Watanabe Kai said: "Every penny the company spends in Fukushima is a loss. So the mentality is to save as much as possible, not to ensure good conditions and safety for workers." Justin McCurry and David McNeill note that: "TEPCO's astonishing penny-pinching became evident during the summer of 2013, when the company revealed it was relying on a skeleton crew to monitor a huge plantation of 1,000-ton makeshift water tanks for leaks. Instead of installing gauges, engineers were checking 1,000 tanks visually by standing on top of them."[4,5]

"I'm particularly worried about depression and alcoholism" among decontamination workers said Tanigawa Takeshi, a professor in the department of public health at Ehime University in western Japan. "I've seen high levels of physical distress and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder."[4]

In early November, TEPCO announced that it would implement measures to improve the working environment, including wage increases and improvements to on-site facilities including break rooms, catering, cell phone communications and transportation.[6] Too little, too late?

[1] Antoni Slodkowski and Mari Saito, 25 Oct 2013, 'Special Report - Help wanted in Fukushima: Low pay, high risks and gangsters',
[2] 28 Oct 2013, 'Japanese nuclear watchdog tells Fukushima boss to stop messing up',
[3] Justin McCurry, 16 Oct 2013, 'Plummeting morale at Fukushima Daiichi as nuclear cleanup takes its toll',
[4] Justin McCurry and David McNeill, "Japan's Cut-Price Nuclear Cleanup: TEPCO woes continue amid human error, plummeting morale and worker exodus," The Asia-Pacific Journal, Vol. 11, Issue 43, No. 2, 28 October 2013,
[5] Mari Yamaguchi, 8 Nov 2013, 'Workers Speak Out About Flawed Fukushima Water Tanks',
[6] WNN, 8 Nov 2013, 'Tepco seeks to improve worker welfare',

(Written by Nuclear Monitor editor Jim Green.)


The 2020 Olympics, Fukushima and Trust − M.V. Ramana

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
M.V. Ramana − Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, USA.

The recent leaks from the Fukushima nuclear plant demonstrate that the accident that started on 11 March 2011 is by no means over.

When the announcement about Tokyo being selected for the 2020 Olympics came – after the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made a strong pitch to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) – one of my acquaintances on Facebook reacted with a three-letter acronym that is not used in polite language (Hint: the third letter corresponds to a four-letter word that starts as "Fukushima" does!) What else can one say to the kind of assurances that Prime Minister Abe had offered to the IOC. Witness, for example, his answers to questions by Norwegian IOC member Gerhard Heiberg about the recent leaks in Fukushima as well as the 2011 accident. According to Yahoo News, Prime Minister Abe said (in Japanese, of course): "It poses no problem whatsoever. ... There are no health-related problems until now, nor will there be in the future. ... I make the statement to you in the most emphatic and unequivocal way."

This is problematic on so many levels. First, there is little doubt that there will be some health-related problems in the future, for the simple reason that any exposure to radiation comes with an increased probability of developing cancer and similar endpoints. Based on a "comprehensive review of the biology data", the United States National Research Council's Committee to Assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR Committee) concluded that "the risk would continue in a linear fashion at lower doses without a threshold and that the smallest dose has the potential to cause a small increase in risk to humans".

Estimates of cancer mortality based on early estimates of radiation exposure suggest that there would be something of the order of a thousand victims over the next few decades. Still more would suffer from cancer but are expected to recover due to modern treatment methods. By most standards, cancer incidence, even if successfully treated, should count as a "health-related problem".

Second, the recent spate of leaks at Fukushima demonstrates that the accident that started on 11 March 2011 is by no means over. While the probability of a further large-scale release of radioactivity into the atmosphere has receded, the continued escape of radioactive materials into the soil and the sea means that Fukushima will pose additional hazards to human and marine health. The continued releases also mean that estimates made so far of the likely long-term total health and environmental effects of Fukushima are necessarily incomplete, even if future contributions to the total radiation dose may not – or may – add significantly to the already incurred dose.

Third, it is still unclear whether the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), or the Japanese government, will be able to stop these leaks anytime soon. If the Fukushima reactors had only a few leaks, then it is possible that the problem could be ended if and when they are sealed. However, the plant currently is, in the words of a recent visitor to the site, "like Swiss cheese", i.e., full of holes. And the problem has been ongoing for a while now. The reason for the sudden intervention by the Japanese government, as Jeff Kingston from Temple University in Japan observed, was essentially due to the concern that alarm about Fukushima imperilled Tokyo's Olympic bid as well as Prime Minister Abe's plans to quickly restart nuclear reactors.

It is also unclear how effective the proposed solutions, such as building a frozen wall at the cost of US$470 million, will be over the long term. Not only is the frozen-wall strategy untested on the scale that is being contemplated, it would be vulnerable to loss of power and possibly earthquakes. It is difficult to believe that this complicated scheme would successfully prevent any radioactive materials from ever contaminating the sea, sooner or later. Assessments of the time scale – before the Olympics – for bringing the Fukushima reactors "under control" are likely to be inaccurate.

Fourth, trying to control a hazardous technology such as nuclear power is always linked to the possibility of failures and errors, and events going disastrously wrong. TEPCO's problems offer further evidence for what sociologists like Lee Clarke have argued: often plans for dealing with accidents and emergencies might look good on paper, but could well prove inadequate in the face of an actual accident.

Finally, there is the question of trust. On nuclear issues, there is widespread distrust of Japanese officials, belonging to the nuclear establishment or the government, in that country. A recent poll by the Asahi Shimbun showed that 94% of Japanese believe that the Fukushima accident has not been brought under control. Prime Minister Abe's strong claims about there being no problems at Fukushima, and his emphatic reassurances that there are no health effects only increase the levels of distrust. Regaining that trust is going to take both full transparency and openness as well as a complete overhaul of Japan's "nuclear village". There is little evidence of either of these happening anytime soon.

Reprinted from Economic & Political Weekly, Vol.XLVIII, No.40, 5 October 2013

Fukushima leaks, lies, cover-ups, Whac-A-Mole

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor

A huge storage tank from which about 300 tons of highly radioactive water leaked at Fukushima may have deteriorated as a result of being moved and reassembled, TEPCO says. The tank was first installed at a different location in June 2011 but, after its foundation was found to have cracked after the tank sank in the ground, it was dismantled and reassembled at its current location where the leak occurred.[1,2]

The leak was rated Level 3 on the International Nuclear Events Scale by Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) − making it the most serious incident since the March 2011 disaster in the NRA's view. Level 3 can be assigned when there is "severe contamination in an area not expected by design, with a low probability of significant public exposure."

Between July 2012 and June 2013, the NRA made recommendations or issued instructions around 10 times to increase patrols and to install more observation cameras and water gauges, among other measures. TEPCO only upped its patrols from once a day to twice a day, and installed more cameras while still leaving blind spots. Since the revelation of the 300-ton leak, TEPCO has said it will increase patrol staff from 10 to 60 people, boost the number of daily patrols to four, and install water gauges in the tanks.[3]

Previously, TEPCO assigned only two workers to inspect 1,000 water tanks, during twice-daily patrols of two hours each. That meant that each worker took only 15 seconds to inspect each tank, and radiation levels were not measured unless a worker suspected something was wrong. Although workers sometimes saw puddles of water, they generally assumed that they were rainwater, which tends to collect near the bases of the tanks.[4,5]

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Toshimitsu Motegi visited Fukushima on August 26 and said: "The major problem lies in that TEPCO failed to manage the tanks properly. ... The urgency of the situation is very high, from here on the government will take charge."[6] He said TEPCO "has been playing a game of Whac-a-Mole with problems at the site."[7]

More than 300,000 tons of contaminated water are being stored at the Fukushima plant, in around 1,000 tanks, with around 400 tons being added every day as water is still being used to cool reactors.

In early September, TEPCO said workers had discovered high levels of radioactivity on three tanks and one pipe. One reading was 1,800 millisieverts per hour (compared to typical background radiation levels of 2−3 millisieverts per year) and another reading was 2,200 millisieverts per hour. It is believed that at least five of the tanks holding contaminated water may have leaked. Officials said that water levels have not dropped in any of the five tanks (whereas the 300-ton leak markedly reduced the level). The tanks were constructed by bolting together sheets of metal, rather than welding them. Welded tanks are more secure but TEPCO chose the bolted type because they are cheaper and faster to construct.[4,10,11,28]

A subcontractor who worked on constructing the tanks said workers were concerned about the integrity of the tanks even as they were constructing them: "We were required to build tanks in succession. We gave priority to making the tanks, rather than quality control. There were fears that toxic water may leak." The life-span of the tanks is only around five years, the subcontractors added, and more contaminated water may leak as they deteriorate.[12,13]

The head of the NRA, Shinichi Tanaka, said there may be no choice but to pump radioactive water from tanks − which are nearing capacity − into the sea but most of the contamination would first be removed. "The situation at Fukushima is changing every day," he said. "Fukushima Daiichi has various risks. The accident has yet to be settled down."[8,9]

Meanwhile, the NRA is urging TEPCO to increase monitoring of seawater to better assess the effects on ocean water as well as fish and other marine life. Shunichi Tanaka said TEPCO's efforts to monitor oceanic radiation levels have been insufficient.[14]

Fishers south of Fukushima Daiichi have not been able to fish commercially since the disaster, while those north of the plant can catch only octopus and whelks. They planned a trial catch in the hope that radiation levels would be low enough to begin sales soon after − but that plan has been aborted in the wake of the recent spills and leaks. Hiroshi Kishi, chair of the Japan Fisheries Co-operative, said: "This has dealt an immeasurable blow to the future of Japan's fishing industry, and we are extremely concerned." Nobuyuki Hatta, director of the Fukushima Prefecture Fisheries Research Centre, said: "People in the fishing business have no choice but to give up. Many have mostly given up already."[15,16,17]


In addition to problems with water tanks, there are ongoing problems with contaminated water in, around and beneath the reactor buildings. On July 10, the NRA announced it "highly suspected" that the plant was leaking contaminated water into the ocean. TEPCO didn't acknowledge what was happening until July 22; a month after initial suspicions were raised.[18,19] The NRA's Shunichi Tanaka said he believed contamination of the sea had been continuing since the March 2011 catastrophe.[20]

In response to the July revelations, Dale Klein, a member of TEPCO's Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee and former head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, told TEPCO: "It ... appears that you are not keeping the people of Japan informed. These actions indicate that you don't know what you are doing ... you do not have a plan and that you are not doing all you can to protect the environment and the people." [21]

Barbara Judge, a member of the Nuclear Reform Monitoring Committee and former chair of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, said she was "disappointed and distressed" over the company's lack of disclosure: "I hope that there will be lessons learned from the mishandling of this issue and the next time an issue arises − which inevitably it will because decommissioning is a complicated and difficult process − that the public will be immediately informed about the situation and what TEPCO is planning to do in order to remedy it."[21]

Atsushi Kasai, a former researcher at the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, said: "They let people know about the good things and hide the bad things. This culture of cover up hasn't changed since the disaster."[22]

Journalist Mark Willacy described the recurring pattern: "At first TEPCO denies there's a problem at the crippled Fukushima plant. Then it becomes obvious to everyone that there is a problem, so the company then acknowledges the problem and makes it public. And finally one of its hapless officials is sent out to apologise to the cameras."[23]

Still more problems surfaced in August. Three months earlier, TEPCO realised that contaminants apparently leaking from a maze of conduits near the reactors were responsible for a spike in radiation levels in groundwater elsewhere in the plant. TEPCO began to build an underground "wall" created by injected hardening chemicals into the soil but the barrier created a dam and water pooled behind it eventually began to flow over. In August, government officials said they believed 300 tons of the contaminated water was entering the ocean daily.[24] Shinji Kinjo, head of an taskforce, described the situation as an "emergency" and said the discharges exceeded legal limits of radioactivity.[25]

In early September, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said the government would allocate 47 billion yen (US$470 million) towards dealing with the contaminated water problems, including funding for a massive underground wall of frozen earth around the damaged reactors to contain groundwater flows, and funding to improve a water treatment system meant to reduce radiation levels in the contaminated water.[26]

Mayors from Futaba, Okuma, Tomioka, and Naraha have joined Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato in formally demanding the decommissioning of all 10 nuclear reactors in Fukushima Prefecture, not just those that were damaged in the 2011 nuclear disaster.[27]

Reactor #3 at Kansai Electric's Oi power plant in Fukui Prefecture has been taken offline for routine maintenance, leaving just one reactor operating in all of Japan: reactor #4 at the same facility. That reactor will go offline on September 15. For the first time in 14 months and only the second time since 1966, Japan will be entirely nuclear free.


Fukushima Tourism Proposal
A group of authors, scholars, academics and architects has put forward a proposal for a new community on the edge of the Fukushima exclusion zone. Tourists would be able to check into hotels constructed to protect guests from elevated levels of radiation. The village would also have restaurants and souvenir shops, as well as a museum dedicated to the impact the disaster has had on local people. Visitors would be taken on a tour of "ground zero" dressed in protective suits and wearing respirators. The group said they got the idea from the growth in so-called "dark tourism" such as Ground Zero in New York or the "killing fields" of Cambodia.
− Julian Ryall, 19 August 2013, The Telegraph,



Fukushima Fallout: Updates from Japan

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

UN Special Rapporteur's report
In November 2012, the UN Human Rights Council sent Special Rapporteur Anand Grover to Japan to assess the situation in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Grover's report is highly critical of both TEPCO and the Japanese government. For example:

  • It says that by nationalising TEPCO, the government "arguably helped TEPCO to effectively avoid accountability and liability for damages" from the nuclear crisis.
  • It criticises TEPCO for its "attempts to reduce compensation levels and delay settlement" through a complicated and difficult compensation process, as well as failure to protect workers from radiation exposure.
  • It criticises the government for failing to protect children, the elderly, and those with disabilities from the disaster, as well as inadequate use of the country's System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information, which led to some residents being evacuated to areas directly in the path of the radiation plume in the days following the March 11 disaster.

The report urges Japan to avoid repopulating contaminated areas until radiation levels reach one millisievert per year. It stresses that epidemiological experts "conclude that there is no low-threshold limit for excess radiation risk to non-solid cancers, such as leukemia." Currently, Japan allows residents to return to their homes when radiation levels reach 20 millisieverts per year.

Japanese government officials were more concerned about the economic implications of a massive evacuation and the costs of compensating victims after the Fukushima disaster than they were about residents' safety, according to a new exposé by the Asahi Shimbun. Records from government meetings conducted in December 2011, during which attendees were trying to decide the radiation level at which residents could safely return to their homes, show that then Nuclear Crisis Minister Goshi Hosono fought to establish the annual radiation level at which residents could safely return at five millisieverts. However, other attendees insisted on a 20 millisievert per year limit.

UN Special Rapporteur's report:
Beyond Nuclear analysis, 'Can nuclear power ever comply with the human right to health?',
Asahi Shimbun, 25 May 2013, 'Strict radiation reference levels shunned to stem Fukushima exodus'
Asahi Shimbun, 26 May 2013, 'U.N. expert urges help for Japan's nuclear victims'
Greenpeace Nuclear Reaction Weblog, Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Update for May 23rd to May 28th, 2013,

Decontamination and waste disposal
Despite public promises by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to complete decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture by March 2014, which would reduce radiation exposure levels there to one millisievert per year or less, Japan's government recently informed municipal officials that they will likely not meet their stated deadline as a result of local opposition to hosting nuclear waste storage sites. Officially, the government is still denying any change to the timeline. Japan's decontamination schedule is already far behind schedule − cleanup efforts have not even begun in five of 11 municipalities that have been declared evacuation zones. Moreover, the Environment Ministry has told local officials that areas that have already been decontaminated but where radiation levels remain high will not be decontaminated again, raising questions about if or when residents will ever be able to safely return.

Asahi Shimbun, 16 June 2013, 'Government secretly backtracks on Fukushima decontamination goal',
Greenpeace Nuclear Reaction Weblog − Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Update for June 14th to June 17th, 2013,

Legal claims and compensation payments
TEPCO's legal troubles continue to mount as yet another group filed suit against it. Family members of hospital patients and elderly nursing home residents who died in the process of evacuation, or because staff were unavailable to care for them, are suing the utility for approximately US$300,000 each. The families say that they care less about collecting damages and more about learning the root causes of the Fukushima disaster. However, the case could have far-reaching legal implications for TEPCO if it is decided in favour of the plaintiffs. More than 200 people were stuck in hospitals and nursing facilities following the nuclear accident, and 50 of those died. (NHK World; Greenpeace Nuclear Reaction Weblog, Fukushima Update 7−10 June 2013)

In late May, the Namie municipal government announced that it will sue TEPCO on behalf of over 11,000 residents for psychological suffering. Although TEPCO is already paying victims 1,000 yen per month, Namie officials want to increase that amount to 3,500 yen. (The Mainichi, 3 June 2013, 'Fukushima village residents to receive new compensation over mental damage')

The Japanese government is now considering suing TEPCO. So far, the government has paid 16.5 billion yen (US$169 million) in decontamination costs. Japanese law requires that the government pay those costs initially, and then be reimbursed by the utility. More than two and half years after the nuclear disaster first began, however, TEPCO has not paid any of the costs. (Kyodo News, 1 June 2013, 'Gov't eyes suing TEPCO over unpaid decontamination costs')

TEPCO is again under fire for failure to pay adequate compensation to Fukushima prefectural and local governments that were forced to cover costs of damage, decontamination, evacuation, and other losses. As of April 30, claims total 46.64 billion yen (US$478 million), with further claims expected, but TEPCO has only paid 5.2 billion yen (US$50 million). Some local leaders are threatening to sue, complaining that the utility has been unresponsive to their repeated requests for payment. "No matter what we say, we get no reply," said Takanori Seto, the mayor of Fukushima City. "We'll file a lawsuit." (Japan News, 18 June 2013, 'TEPCO slow to pay Fukushima governments' compensation')

Japan's Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center has made two judgments that could have significant impact on TEPCO's obligations. In the first case, the Center ruled that TEPCO must pay a group of 180 residents from the Nagadoro District of Iitate 500,000 yen (around US$5,000) for emotional distress from high levels of radiation exposure. Pregnant women and children under 18 at the time of the accident were awarded one million yen each. People from that area were not told to evacuate until a month after the nuclear crisis first began to unfold, increasing their radiation exposure. Experts say that the case is sure to encourage other municipalities in similar circumstances to follow suit. (Asahi Shimbun, 3 June 2013, 'Consolation money to place additional financial burden on TEPCO')

In the second case, TEPCO agreed to compensate to the family of a farmer from Sukagawa, who committed suicide after learning that he would be forced to stop selling cabbage from his organic farm. He had worked on the farm for 30 years. TEPCO eventually agreed to pay over 10 million yen (US$100,000) after the Nuclear Damage Claim Dispute Resolution Center intervened. Company officials continue to refuse to apologise to the man's family. (The Mainichi, 3 June 2013, 'Fukushima family, TEPCO reach redress deal over farmer's suicide')

Fukushima films
A number of independent films have been produced recounting personal stories from Japan's March 2011 triple-disaster and its aftermath. These websites provide more information:

  • Nuclear Nation:
  • Surviving Japan:
  • Pray for Japan:
  • Ian Thomas Ash:
  • The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom:
  • The Land of Hope (trailer):
  • Himizu:
  • Fukushima: Memories of the Lost Landscape:
  • Kalina's Apple, Forest of Chernobyl:

Financing reactors and the Fukushima disaster

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Greenpeace International & Banktrack

Investors in nuclear power are being sold precarious and potentially damaging investments because the industry's risks are regularly being overlooked or underestimated. Using the enormous economic losses surrounding the triple meltdown at Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant as an example, a new Greenpeace/BankTrack report shows how financial valuations and investment decisions had not taken well-known and systemic problems into account.

The report ‘Toxic Assets: nuclear reactors in the 21st century’, looks at the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster from an investors’ point of view. It identifies the long-known technological, management, governance and other institutional deficiencies that were instrumental in turning a predicted natural misfortune into a nuclear nightmare. The owner of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), lost 90% of its market capitalization, had its bonds rated as junk and is currently in the process of being at least partly nationalized. Investors and financiers of nuclear utilities all over the world saw their investments eroded.

Had analysts and credit-rating agencies looked beyond short-term cash flows and paid attention to the many early warnings, they would have been able to save investors from major losses. These red flags included warnings about:

* Crucial vulnerabilities in the Fukushima reactor design;
* Substantial governance issues and weak management characterized by major frauds and cover-ups;
* Collusion and loose regulatory supervision; and
* Well-understood and ignored earthquake and tsunami warnings.

All of these warnings had been publically highlighted years, often decades, before the nuclear disaster, and should have been taken seriously not only by nuclear authorities but by analysts and investors as well. Still, Tepco continued to benefit from high credit ratings, supportive analyst recommendations and cheap financing right until the Fukushima nuclear accident. Like Japanese nuclear authorities, financial ʻauthoritiesʼ also missed the many opportunities to force changes on the company. It seems regular dividends were enough to relax the vigilance of analysts who simply ignored major ʻfundamentalʼ risks and their fiduciary duty towards their investor clients.

Investors and financiers kept throwing good money after Tepco. Dozens of banks provided Tepco with at least €54bn of low-cost capital through bond issues, corporate loans and a share issuance between 2000 and 2011. The potential for similar catastrophic nuclear disasters and disastrous investment decisions is not limited to Tepco or Japan. Existing and planned new reactors all over the world are inherently at risk from any combination of:

* Similar mistakes in technology design that proved devastating at Fukushima;
* Substantial governance and management issues, and human error;
* The lack of effective independent supervision; and
* The threat of earthquakes, tsunami, floods and other natural disaster risks.

Nuclear power plants are potentially toxic assets for their investors and financiers. Quite uniquely, they can give rise to liabilities that can exceed their ownerʼs equity a hundred-fold or more. The probability of a devastating accident is around one major disaster in a decade based on the five core meltdowns since the 1950s, and this number does not even take into consideration the growing risks of ageing reactors.

Nuclear assets are also dangerous for investors even in the absence of a nuclear disaster. New reactor builds have been a clear investor ʻno-goʼ for at least a decade. Recently, even existing plants have come under increasing pressure from phase-out decisions, early retirements, large-scale regulatory and liability changes, and shrinking taxpayer and government support. The future of nuclear energy will be highly influenced by three tectonic changes:

* Post-Fukushima regulations that will require additional safety investments, shorter lifespans, higher operating and decommissioning costs, and stricter liability systems;
* Renewable energy, with falling costs and more installed capacity than nuclear plants1, is pushing nuclear out from the merit order and leading to lower plant utilization; and
* A strong reduction in subsidies, credit guarantees and other state supports to nuclear of earlier generous, but now highly indebted governments.

The report ‘Toxic Assets: nuclear reactors in the 21st century’ is written by Gyorgy Dallos & Lauri Myllyvirta and available at:

Contact: Greg McNevin, Greenpeace International Communications,
Tel: +81 80 5416 6507
Email: greg.mcnevin[at],

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Construction of Ohma nuclear plant indefinitely delayed.
Japan’s Electric Power Development Co has decided to delay the construction of its Ohma nuclear power plant indefinitely. The plant, which is under construction in Aomori prefecture (northern Honshu), was expected to be complete in late 2014. However, construction has been suspended since the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011. J-Power said in a statement that it is ‘moving ahead to review safety enhancement measures in response to the accident at Fukushima Daiichi’ and that it would incorporate any necessary measures.

Work started on the Ohma plant, a 1383 MW Advanced Boiling Water Reactor (ABWR) design, in May 2008. Originally due to start up in 2012, J-Power amended its scheduled start date to November 2014 towards the end of 2008. The Ohma plant has been designed to (eventually) run on a full mixed oxide (MOX) core. In 2009 J-Power entered into an agreement with Global Nuclear Fuel Japan to procure the MOX fuel for Ohman, which was to be manufactured in France.
Nuclear Engineering International, news 3 April 2012

Vermont Yankee: 130 arrests.
More than 1,000 people turned up in Brattleboro to march the 6 km from the town common to Entergy’s offices. Over 130 people trespassed on the company’s property and were arrested. Signs carried by the 1,000 protestors had messages like “time’s up” and “Entergy corporate greed”. March 22, was a monumental day for residents of the tri-state area near the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. Forty years after the plant opened, its license expired the day before, but the plant continued to operate pursuant to a federal court order.

The plant’s continued operation sets a precedent nationwide in the nuclear as well as in the legal realm. Earlier this year, federal Judge J. Garvan Murtha issued a ruling finding two Vermont laws requiring legislative approval for the plant to continue operating were unconstitutional as pre-empted by federal law. The plant hasn’t received a new license to replace the one that expired this March. The Vermont Public Service Board has yet to issue an order on the new license and no one has ordered the plant to cease operating in the interim. Entergy does have a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but its state license is expired. The company argues state law allows it to operate while the Public Service Board proceeding to approve a new license goes on.

Meanwhile the state and Entergy have appealed Judge Murtha’s decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. Legal experts say the case could have national ramifications. (More in Nuclear Monitor 741, 3 Febr. 2012: Showdown time for Vermont Yankee).
EarthFirst Newswire, 23 March 2012

Bidding process starts for Olkiluoto-4.
The Finnish nuclear power company Teollisuuden Voima (TVO) has started a bidding process for their Olkiluoto 4 project as a part of the bidding and engineering phase. Bids for the new nuclear power plant are expected at the beginning of 2013. TVO reported on March 23, that there are five plant supplier alternatives at the bidding phase of the OL4 project, namely the French installation company Areva, the American GE Hitachi, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power in South Korea, as well as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Toshiba in Japan. TVO is not willing to take a stand on whether the difficulties and problems experienced by the Olkiluoto 3 project will have any influence on the possibilities of Areva's involvement.

TVO is to submit an application for a building permit by the summer of 2015. In April 2010, Finland's previous government decided to grant a permit to IVO for the construction of a new reactor in Olkiluoto. The decision was approved by Parliament in July 2010. According to TVO, the electric power of the new plant unit will be in the range of 1,450 to 1,750 MWe, while the projected operational life time of the new reactor is at least 60 years.
Helsingin Sanomat (International edition), 23 March 2012

NRC approves COL for V.C.Summer.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) on March 30 approved the combined construction and operating licenses (COL) for the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant in South Carolina, just the second construction license approved for a nuclear plant since 1978. The NRC voted 4-1, just as the Commission did for the Plant Vogtle COLs. The NRC is expected to issue the COLs within 10 business days.

South Carolina Electric and Gas Co. and South Carolina Public Service Authority, or Santee Cooper, the owners and operators of the existing single-unit, 1,100 MW V.C. Summer plant, submitted the application for two new 1,117 MW Westinghouse AP1000 reactors to be built at the site in March 2008. The US$10 billion project, adjacent to the company’s existing reactor approximately 40 km northwest of Columbia, S.C., began in 2009 after receiving approval from the Public Service Commission of South Carolina.

The NRC did impose two conditions on the COLs, with the first requiring inspection and testing of squib valves, important components of the new reactors’ passive cooling system. The second requires the development of strategies to respond to extreme natural events resulting in the loss of power at the new reactors.
Power Engineering, 3 April 2012

Search for Jordan's reactor site expands after protests.
The search for a potential site for Jordan's first nuclear reactor in Mafraq has expanded by a 40 kilometer radius. Officials are searching for a site near the Khirbet Samra Wastewater Treatment Plant, which, according to current plans, is to serve as the main water source to cool the 1,000 megawatt reactor.

According to a source close to the proceedings, the government directed the Jordan Atomic Energy Commission (JAEC) to find an alternative to the initially selected site, Balaama, near Mafraq, after coming under political pressure from tribal leaders and prominent local residents.  The announcement of the transferral of the planned site for the Kingdom's first nuclear reactor from Aqaba to Mafraq in late 2010 prompted a backlash from local residents, who held a series of protests and rallies over the past year urging decision makers to go back on their decision. 
Jordan Times, 19 March 2012

IAEA: safety concerns over aging nuclear fleet.
A 56-page IAEA document highlights safety concerns of an ageing nuclear fleet: 80%  of the world's nuclear power plants are more than 20 years old, and about 70 percent of the world's 254 research reactors have been in operation for more than 30 years "with many of them exceeding their original design life," the report said. But according IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano nuclear power is now safer than it was a year ago. The report said the "operational level of nuclear power plant safety around the world remains high".

"There are growing expectations that older nuclear reactors should meet enhanced safety objectives, closer to that of recent or future reactor designs," the Vienna-based U.N. agency's annual Nuclear Safety Review said. "There is a concern about the ability of the ageing nuclear fleet to fulfill these expectations."
Reuters, 13 March 2012

Japan after Fukushima: 80% distrust government's nuke safety measures.
A whopping 80 percent of people in Japan do not trust the government's safety measures for nuclear power plants. The results are from a nationwide random telephone survey of 3,360 people conducted by The Asahi Shimbun on March 10-11. It received 1,892 valid responses. Fifty-seven percent of the respondents said they are opposed to restarting nuclear reactors currently off line for regular maintenance, compared to the 27 percent in favor. A gap between genders was conspicuous over whether to restart the reactors. Although men were almost evenly split, with 47 percent against and 41 percent in favor, 67 percent of women are opposed, compared with just 15 percent who support the restarts.

Regarding the government's safety steps for nuclear plants, 52 percent said they "do not trust so much," and 28 percent said they "do not trust at all." Although the government has been proceeding with computer-simulated stress tests on reactors, which are necessary steps to reactivate them, people apparently have a deep distrust of the government's nuclear safety provisions.
Asahi Shimbun, 13 March 2012

Tepco: water level reactor #2 wrong by 500%.
Tepco is reporting that the results of an endoscopy into reactor #2 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant show that water levels are far lower than previously thought. The utility had estimated that water in the reactor, which is required to keep melted fuel cool and prevent recriticality, was approximately three meters deep. In fact, it is only 60 cm deep. Tepco insists that the fuel is not in danger of overheating, and continues to pump in nine tons of water every hour. However, experts say that the low water levels show that leaks in the containment vessel are far greater than previously thought, and may make repairing and decommissioning the crippled reactors even more difficult. Tepco attempted an endoscopy in January, but the effort failed because the scope used was too short.
Greenpeace blog, Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Update 28 March 2012

Tokyo soil samples would be considered nuclear waste in the US.
While traveling in Japan in February, Fairewinds’ Arnie Gundersen took soil samples in Tokyo. He explaines: "I did not look for the highest radiation spot. I just went around with five plastic bags and when I found an area, I just scooped up some dirt and put it in a bag. One of those samples was from a crack in the sidewalk. Another one of those samples was from a children's playground that had been previously decontaminated. Another sample had come from some moss on the side of the road. Another sample came from the roof of an office building that I was at. And the last sample was right across the street from the main judicial center in downtown Tokyo."

Gundersen (an energy advisor with 39-years of nuclear power engineering experience) brought those samples back to the US, declared them through Customs, and sent them to the laboratory. And the lab determined that all of them would be qualified as radioactive waste there in the United States and would have to be shipped to a radioactive waste facility to be disposed of.

Canada: court case against 2 new reactors Ontario.
A group of environmentalists has gone to court to challenge Ontario's plan to build new nuclear reactors, arguing the environmental risks and costs involved haven't been properly assessed. Lawyers for Ecojustice and the Canadian Environmental Law Association have filed arguments in Federal Court on behalf of several green agencies, saying a review panel failed to carry out a proper environmental assessment on building new reactors at the Darlington station in Clarington, Ontario. Despite a push for green energy projects, Ontario remains committed to nuclear energy, which makes up 50 per cent of its energy supply, and is moving forward with the construction of two new reactors. But the groups, which include Greenpeace, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Northwatch  and the Canadian Environmental Law Association, argue the government provided only vague plans to the federal government-appointed review panel, which nonetheless recommended the project be approved. They argue that, contrary to the requirements of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, the panel also didn't gather the evidence required to evaluate the project's need and possible alternatives.

The groups are asking Federal Court to order the review panel to take a second look at the project. A proper environmental study, the groups add, is especially important after lessons learned from the disaster at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant. They also note that the government didn't select a specific type of nuclear reactor, making its possible impact difficult to assess. "Despite the profound lack of critical information regarding the project's design and specific means by which the radioactive waste it generates will be managed, the (joint review panel) report purports to conclude that no significant environmental effects are likely," said the court filing, obtained by The Canadian Press. That assumption implies that the "sizable information gaps" will be eventually considered by other bodies, and that "numerous to-be-determined mitigation measures" will be implemented. Such a "leap before you look" approach, the filing adds, "is the antithesis of the precautionary principle, and should not be upheld by this honourable court."
CTV News, 21 March 2012

Chernobyl: Crime Without Punishment.
Alla A. Yaroshinskaya describes the human side of theApril 1986 Chernobyl disaster, with firsthand accounts. Chernobyl: Crime without Punishment is a unique account of events by a reporter who defied the Soviet bureaucracy. The author presents an accurate historical record, with quotations from all the major players in the Chernobyl drama. It also provides unique insight into the final stages of Soviet communism.

Yaroshinskaya actively began to pursue the truth about how the nuclear disaster affected surrounding towns starting April 27, 1986 - just a day after the Chernobyl accident - when the deception about the lethal radiation levels was only just beginning. She describes actions taken after the disaster: how authorities built a new city for Chernobyl residents but placed it in a highly polluted area. Secret documents discovered years after the meltdown proved that the government had known all along the magnitude of what was going on and had chosen to hide the truth and put millions of lives at risk.
Twenty-five years later, the author reviews the latest medical data and the changes in the health of 9 million Chernobyl victims in over two decades since the nuclear blast. She reveals the way the Chernobyl health data continued to change from official Kremlin lies to the current results at national research centers in independent states after the Soviet Union collapsed and the Kremlin lost its monopoly over the Chernobyl truth. The author also details the actions of the nuclear lobby inside and outside the former Soviet Union. Yaroshinskaya explains why there has been no trial of top officials who were responsible for the actual decisions regarding the cleanup, and how these top officials have managed to subvert accountability for their actions. 
Alla A. Yaroshinskaya is a Russian journalist and winner of the Right Livelihood Award. She was also a member of the Ecology and Glasnost Committees of the Supreme Soviet and advisor to former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. This book has been edited by Rosalie Bertell and Lynn Howard Ehrle, translated from Russian by Sergei Roy.
Chernobyl 25 years later. Crime without punishment, Alla A.Yaroshinskaya; 2011, Transaction Publishers. ISBN: 978-1-4128-4296-9. 409 pages, hardcover

BAS: Selected readings on TMI and Chernobyl.
The nuclear crisis in Japan following the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, has brought the past tragedies at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl into the spotlight again. To offer a more thorough understanding of Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the Bulletin of the atomic Scientists has compiled a reading list from its archives.
Check: and then add -three-mile-island or -chernobyl

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Little support for nuclear power worldwide.
There is little public appetite across the world for building new nuclear reactors, a poll for the BBC indicates. In countries with nuclear programmes, people are significantly more opposed than they were in 2005, with only the UK and US bucking the trend. Most believe that boosting efficiency and renewables can meet their needs. Just 22% agreed that "nuclear power is relatively safe and an important source of electricity, and we should build more nuclear power plants". In contrast, 71% thought their country "could almost entirely replace coal and nuclear energy within 20 years by becoming highly energy-efficient and focusing on generating energy from the Sun and wind".  Globally, 39% want to continue using existing reactors without building new ones, while 30% would like to shut everything down now.

The global research agency GlobeScan, commissioned by BBC News, polled 23,231 people in 23 countries from July to September this year, several months after Fukushima. GlobeScan had previously polled eight countries with nuclear programmes, in 2005. In most of them, opposition to building new reactors has risen markedly since. In Germany it is up from 73% in 2005 to 90% now - which is reflected in the government's recent decision to close its nuclear programme. More intriguingly, it also rose in pro-nuclear France (66% to 83%) and Russia (61% to 83%). Fukushima-stricken Japan, however, registered the much more modest rise of 76% to 84%. In the UK, support for building new reactors has risen from 33% to 37%. It is unchanged in the US, and also high in China and Pakistan, which all poll around the 40% mark. Support for continuing to use existing plants while not building new ones was strongest in France and Japan (58% and 57%), while Spaniards and Germans (55% and 52%) were the keenest to shut existing plants down immediately.

In countries without operating reactors, support for building them was strongest in Nigeria (41%), Ghana (33%) and Egypt (31%).
BBC News, 25 November 2011

Short list  for Poland's first n-power plant.
Poland's largest utility PGE on 25 November announced a short list of three sites for Poland's first nuclear plant. The utility intends to conduct more studies at Choczewo, Gaski and Zarnowiec over the next two years, with a final decision expected in 2013. Poland has signalled its intention to potentially build two nuclear plants with a combined capacity of up to 3GW. PGE plans to commission the first plant, at a projected cost of 18 billion euro ($23.7bn), in 2020-22.

Meanwhile PGE has withdrawn from nuclear developments in Lithuania and the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to focus on domestic opportunities. PGE has suspended its involvement in building the Visaginas nuclear plant, near Ignalina, in Lithuania. The move ends hopes that the project will be jointly developed by Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Poland. PGE said it suspended its involvement after analysing the offer from Lithuanian firm VAE, which is lead investor in the project. VAE plans to build the €5bn ($6.6bn) plant by 2020 next to the site of the Ignalina nuclear station, which was shut in 2009.
Argus Media, 12 December 2011

TEPCO: Radioactive substances belong to landowners, not us.
During court proceedings concerning a radioactive golf course, Tokyo Electric Power Co. stunned lawyers by saying the utility was not responsible for decontamination because it no longer "owned" the radioactive substances. “Radioactive materials (such as cesium) that scattered and fell from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant belong to individual landowners there, not TEPCO,” the utility said.

That argument did not sit well with the companies that own and operate the Sunfield Nihonmatsu Golf Club, just 45 kilometers west of the stricken TEPCO plant in Fukushima Prefecture. The Tokyo District Court also rejected that idea. But in a ruling described as inconsistent by lawyers, the court essentially freed TEPCO from responsibility for decontamination work, saying the cleanup efforts should be done by the central and local governments. TEPCO's argument over ownership of the radioactive substances drew a sharp response from lawyers representing the Sunfield Nihonmatsu Golf Club and owner Sunfield. “It is common sense that worthless substances such as radioactive fallout would not belong to landowners,” one of the lawyers said. “We are flabbergasted at TEPCO’s argument.” The golf course has been out of operation since March 12, the day after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami set off the nuclear crisis. Although the legal battle has moved to a higher court, observers said that if the district court’s decision stands and becomes a precedent, local governments' coffers could be drained.

The two golf companies in August filed for a provisional disposition with the Tokyo District Court, demanding TEPCO decontaminate the golf course and pay about 87 million yen ($1.13 million) for the upkeep costs over six months.
Asahi Shimbun Weekly, 24 November 2011

The powers that be.
U.K.: at least 50 employees of companies including EDF Energy, npower and Centrica have been placed within government to work on energy issues in the past four years. The staff are provided free of charge and work within the departments for secondments of up to two years. None of the staff on secondment in the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) work for renewable energy companies or non-governmental organizations, though a small number come from organizations such as the Carbon Trust, the Environment Agency and Cambridge University.

There have also been 195 meetings between ministers from the Decc and the energy industry (and 17 with green campaign groups) between the 2010 general election and March 2011, according to a Guardian analysis of declared meetings with Decc. Centrica met ministers seven times, EDF and npower fives times each, E.ON four times and Scottish and Southern just three times. "Companies such as the big six energy firms do not lend their staff to government for nothing - they expect a certain degree of influence, insider knowledge and preferential treatment in return," said Caroline Lucas. The Green party MP asked under the Freedom of Information Act, several key government departments to tell more about staff secondments - private companies and other organisations sending staff to advise and work with the government.

Secondments also work in reverse, with civil servants going to work in the energy industry, such as a two-year secondment to Shell and another to Horizon Nuclear Power, a joint venture of E.ON and RWE npower that aims to build nuclear power stations in the UK.
Guardian (UK), 5 December 2011

Anti-nuclear protestors take out rally against Koodankulam. 
India: about 10,000 anti-nuclear protestors today took out a procession from a temple at nearby Koodankulam to this town and staged a peaceful demonstration, condemning Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s statement that the nuclear power project would be operationalised in a couple of weeks and resolved to picket the plant if work resumed. Pushparayan, Convenor of People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE), which is spearheading the stir, said the organisation would intensify its agitation from January 1 if their demand for removing the fuel rods loaded into the reactor were not removed by that date. Earlier in the day, PMANE condemned Singh’s ‘anti-people’ and ‘autocratic’ statement on KNPP (Koodankulam Nuclear Power Project), saying it betrayed the fact that the state government’s resolution to halt work was never honoured earnestly or implemented effectively.

One of the 'leaders' of the anti-Koodankulam fight, long-time anti-nuclear activist, Mr Udayakumar is awaiting the consequences of the sedition charges that have been filed against him for his anti-Koodankulam activities. Given the number of charges he is facing ("55 to 60 cases"), Mr Udayakumar said he did not know why he has not yet been arrested. Charges have reportedly been filed against Mr Udayakumar under sections 121 and 124A of the Indian Penal Code, which carry possible sentences of life in prison or even death. But he said he was not particularly concerned. "I haven't done anything wrong or bad or harmful to the country. I am fighting for something just. So no, I am not worried."
Statesman (India), 16 December 2011 /, 18 December 2011

Saudi Arabia not excluding nuclear weapons program.
Saudi Arabia may consider acquiring nuclear weapons to match regional rivals Israel and Iran, its former intelligence chief Prince Turki al-Faisal said on December 5. Israel is widely held to possess hundreds of nuclear weapons, which it neither confirms nor denies, while the West accuses Iran of seeking an atomic bomb, a charge the Islamic republic rejects. Riyadh, which has repeatedly voiced fears about the nuclear threat posed by Shiite-dominated Iran and denounced Israel's atomic capacity, has stepped up efforts to develop its own nuclear power for 'peaceful use.'

"Our efforts and those of the world have failed to convince Israel to abandon its weapons of mass destruction, as well as Iran... therefore it is our duty towards our nation and people to consider all possible options, including the possession of these weapons," Faisal told a security forum in Riyadh.

Abdul Ghani Malibari, coordinator at the Saudi civil nuclear agency, said in June that Riyadh plans to build 16 civilian nuclear reactors in the next two decades at a cost of 300 billion riyals ($80 billion). He said the Sunni kingdom would launch an international invitation to tender for the reactors to be used in power generation and desalination in the desert kingdom.
AFP, 5 December 2011

Japanese groups demand: "say goodbye to nuclear power"

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

"We will aim to bring about a society that can exist without nuclear power" Japanese Prime minister Kan said on July 13. But on August 26, Kan resigned after 15 turbulent months in office. His departure both as prime minister and as president of the Democratic Party of Japan, follows Diet passage the same day of two key bills he had set as a precondition for his exit: a bill to issue deficit-covering bonds to finance a large portion of the initial fiscal 2011 budget and legislation to promote use of renewable energy.

On August 17, Tepco announced the level of radioactive contaminants escaping from damaged reactors at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy complex has dropped in the last month. The company said the monthly rate of contaminant emissions from the plant's No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 reactors has fallen to 200 million becquerels per hour; the systems were previously leaking five times that amount, Kyodo News reported.

Water treatment
Japan in July announced it had completed the initial stage of the plant's stabilization. Completing the second phase is expected to require between three months and half a year. A high-level Japanese official at a press event avoided offering a more specific projection. Bolstering the efficiency of the plant's water treatment equipment is a "major challenge" in the stabilization effort. Huge amounts of water were poured into the plant to prevent overheating, resulting in radiation-tainted liquid pooling in large portions of the site. Recently installed equipment cleanses the water and recycles it for continued cooling efforts. The intent is to cut off the need to pour additional coolant into the plant that could become contaminated and then escape into the outside environment. Operation of the new fluid decontamination mechanism operation has been slowed by numerous technical errors since being activated in June. It has run at an average efficiency of 69 percent following its launch, Tepco indicated.

Cesium release
But meanwhile, Japanese government specialists project that the quantity of radioactive cesium 137 emitted to date from the crippled the Fukushima Daiichi atomic power plant equates to 168 times the amount of material released in the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Agence France-Presse reported. Citing the work of nuclear experts, the Tokyo Shimbun reported the quantity of cesium that escaped Fukushima Daiichi was projected to be 15,000 terabecquerels. In comparison, only 89 terabecquerels were emitted by the detonation of the U.S. weapon dropped over Hiroshima near the end of World War II, according to the newspaper. The Kan administration provided the cesium projection to Japanese lawmakers.

The dropping of the atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 caused enormous destruction, brought about by the blast and by the fireball. It also caused massive radiation exposures, mainly neutron and gamma radiation, most of it delivered at the very instant of the explosion. But the fallout in the area of the bombed cities was relatively little, because in both cases the bombs were deliberately detonated high in the air so that the concussive shock wave would do the most damage on the ground. Thus no crater was created by the blast, and most of the fallout was carried high into the atmosphere by the heat of the fireball and the burning of the cities.  It became global fallout more than local fallout.

On August 26, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science & Technology (MEXT) announced their estimation of the first year doses (starting from the day of the accident), at the 50 representative spots within the 20 km "vigilance (off-limit)" zone in view of the government intention of allowing re-habilitation of the evacuees. According to their measurements, the dose rates are orders of magnitude different within the same zone in Fukushima Prefecture. Thirty five out of 50 locations exceeded the Government guideline of the first year dose of 20 mSv. (one location measured 503 mSv!). Being influenced by these facts, the Government is now saying that there will be some areas where rehabilitation will not be possible for an extended [number of] years, typically several tens of years. 

The government estimates that radiation in a contaminated area drops by about 40 percent over two years naturally and it wants to speed up the process by another 10 percent through human effort, according to guidelines for the clean-up unveiled on August 26. "We aim to reduce radiation levels by half over the next two years in affected areas, and by 60 percent over the same period for places used by children," Japan's nuclear crisis minister, Goshi Hosono, told a news conference.

Another key government goal is to bring radiation below 20 millisieverts per year, the threshold level for evacuation, in areas that exceed this. Some places in the evacuation zone have levels that far surpass this. "Ultimately we want to achieve this goal in a shorter period. Technology is continuing to advance and with enough government funding and effort it can be done," Hosono said.

The total area in need of cleanup could be 1,000 to 4,000 square kilometers, about 0.3 to 1 percent of Japan's total land area, and cost several trillion yen to more than 10 trillion yen (US$130 billion), experts say. One major problem that the government faces is that the removal of farmland topsoil could ruin fertile agricultural areas. The government said it will take full responsibility for the soil and debris removed in the cleanup, but that as yet it does not have a permanent solution for storing the radioactive material and that they would have to be kept within local communities for the time being. According to Hosono "Fukushima prefecture will not become the final place of treatment for the debris."

Four days later, on August 30, the results of first comprehensive survey of soil contamination  of 2,200 locations within a 100-km radius of the plant have been made public. In the 100km radius 33 locations had cesium-137 in excess of 1.48 million becquerels per square meter, the level set by the Soviet Union for forced resettlement after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Another 132 locations had combined amount of cesium 137/134 over 555,000 becquerels per square meter, the level at which the Soviet authorities called for voluntary evacuation and imposed a ban on farming. Cesium 137 has a half life of 30 years, meaning that its radioactive emissions will decline only by half after 30 years and affect the environment over several generations. Cesium 134 is considered somewhat less of a long-term problem because it has a half-life of two years.

Separating regulation from promotion
Also in August the Japanese cabinet decided to transfer the country's nuclear safety agency from the trade ministry, where it nestled in a department also dedicated to the expansion of nuclear power, to the environment ministry, where, at least in theory, there is some chance that its operations will not be subverted or manipulated by Japanese energy firms. After nearly half a century of producing nuclear power, Japan has finally separated regulation from promotion, but the move may well have come too late to restore public trust. The impulse to minimize the inherent risks of nuclear power, the tendency to conceal or downplay accidents, the assertion that each succeeding generation of plants is foolproof and super safe, and the presumption, so often proved wrong by events, that every contingency has been provided for, all these have been evident again and again. In contrast, The Netherlands changed nuclear monitoring structures over the past year. The regulation agency is now part of the ministry most promoting nuclear power and responsible for licensing.

Nuclear exports
It looked like the Japanese government resumed its joint efforts with industry to export nuclear power plants, despite effectively halting reactor construction at home following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Critics said the government is using a double standard--reducing the number of nuclear power plants at home and promoting exports. Facing difficulties in building reactors in Japan, reactor manufacturers—Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.--are renewing their emphasis on exports.

In mid-July, Hitachi and General Electric Co. won preferential negotiating rights for a nuclear power plant in Lithuania, edging out Westinghouse Co., a Toshiba unit, after Hitachi President Hiroaki Nakanishi traveled to the country for sales promotion. Industry officials said emerging economies have strong expectations on nuclear power generation to meet their growing demand for electricity. Among emerging economies, only Indonesia and Thailand have frozen plans to build nuclear power plants.

According to the Asahi newspaper, a senior official at a manufacturer said the government should take a greater initiative in promoting exports of nuclear power plants. "Winning projects in large countries, unlike Lithuania, requires government-to-government  negotiations," the official said. "The government and industry need to work together closely."

Electric power companies, which provide support to plant operations, are an indispensable partner to reactor manufacturers in winning overseas projects. Emerging economies require not only plant construction but also operation, maintenance and fuel supply as part of a contract. So Tepco’s situation has cast a cloud over Toshiba's bid to build a nuclear power plant in Turkey. Tepco was scheduled to provide support in the plant's operations. Turkey is asking Japan to choose a different company. If the selection is delayed, Turkey could start negotiating with other countries, such as France and South Korea.

The Japanese government, meanwhile, is trying to conclude nuclear energy agreements with a number of countries to establish a legal framework for exporting nuclear power plants. The Democratic Party of Japan-led government has signed agreements with four countries -Russia, Vietnam, South Korea and Jordan- over 18 months after it took power and is seeking  Diet approval. The government has also entered negotiations with five other countries.

But in a somewhat surprising move, Diet decided to put off approval of four nuclear cooperation agreements. After hearing opinions from four experts on August 24 about an agreement between the Japanese and Jordanian governments, the Foreign Affairs Committee of Japan’s Lower House decided to put off approval at a meeting of its executive advisory board the following day. Bilateral nuclear cooperation agreements with Russia, South Korea and Vietnam were also submitted for ratification at the current session of the Diet, but the Foreign Affairs Committee decided on August 31 to postpone the decisions on approval for those later as well.

Former-Prime Minister Naoto Kan played a leading role in signing a nuclear power agreement with Vietnam. But the March 11 disaster completely changed the environment. Kan called for ending dependence on nuclear power generation, halting government-to-government negotiations and Diet deliberations and exports of nuclear power plants were stalled.

New PM
On August 29, the ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) picked current finance minister Yoshihiko Noda as the new party head and imminent Japanese premier (the sixth PM in five years), who is likely to seek a prompt restart of safe nuclear reactors to revitalize the country's economic activity. Noda, a fiscal hawk, is expected to prioritize fiscal and debt reforms but also support Japanese utilities to restart reactors where their safety is confirmed to aid the country's rehabilitation efforts in the wake of March's devastating earthquake and tsunami. Noda has said that his country will continue to use nuclear power for the next 40 years in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, taking a swerve away from outgoing Prime Minister Naoto Kan’s promise of a non-nuclear future in half that time after the worst international nuclear disaster in 25 years.

Meanwhile, more than a third of Japan's nuclear reactors will have to apply for license extensions within five years or face decommissioning at a time when the industry's safety record is in tatters. Japanese opinion polls show about 70 percent of the public wants to reduce reliance on nuclear power. 


Tokyo, Sept. 19: “Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants” Rally!

We, a large coalition of Japanese NGOs, are taking action for a “peaceful and sustainable society”, reconsidering our lifestyles that exploit nature and waste limitless energy, and focusing on natural energy. For that purpose, we set the following goals:
1. Cancellation of construction plans for new nuclear power plants
2. Planned termination of existing nuclear power plants, including the Hamaoka nuclear power plant.
3. Abolition of “Monju” and nuclear reprocessing plants which use plutonium, the most dangerous radioactive material.
We will achieve these goals in order to save our own lives, and fulfill our responsibilities to the future children. We will hold the “Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants” rally at the Meiji Park in Tokyo, Japan, on 19 September. In many countries all over the world that weekend demonstrations and other activities will take place against nuclear power and in support of the demands of the Japanese groups.

Furthermore, there is a '10 Million Signature Campaign to say Goodbye to Nuclear Power Plants' with a petition for the "Realization of Denuclearization and a Society Focused on Natural Energy". Please visit for more information and for signing the petition.


Sources: Atoms in Japan, JAIF 5 September 2011 / Bellona, 31 August 2011 / Nikkei, 30 August 2011 / Argus media, 29 August 2011 / Gordon Edwards, 29 August 2011 / Reuters, 26 August 2011 / Japan Times, 26 August 2011 / NTI Global Security Newswire, 25 & 18 August, 2011 / Asahi, 23 August 2011 / The Guardian, 16 August 2011
Contact: Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC). Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan
Tel: +81-3-3357-3800


The liquidators of Fukushima

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Paul Jobin

There are many signs that Tepco is facing great difficulties in finding workers in the titanic struggle to bring to contain the dangerous situation at Fukushima. At present, there are nearly 700 people at the site. As in ordinary times, workers rotate so as to limit the cumulative dose of radiation inherent in maintenance and cleanup work at the nuclear site. But this time, the risks are greater, and the method of recruitment unusual.

Job offers for Fukushima come not from Tepco but from Mizukami Kogyo, a company whose  business is construction and cleaning maintenance. The description indicates only that the work is at a nuclear plant in Fukushima prefecture. The job is specified as three hours per day at an hourly wage of 10,000 yen (US$123 or 86 euro). There is no information about danger, only the suggestion to ask the employer for further details on food, lodging, transportation and insurance.

Those who answer these offers may have little awareness of the dangers and they are likely to have few other job opportunities. A rate of US$122 an hour is hardly a king's ransom given the risk of cancer from high radiation levels. But Tepco and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) keep diffusing their usual propaganda to minimize the radiation risks.

Rumor has it that many of the cleanup workers are burakumin (a minority group dating from Japan's feudal era and still often associated with discrimination). This cannot be verified, but it would be congruent with the logic of the nuclear industry and the difficult job situation of day laborers. Because of ostracism, some burakumin are also involved with yakuza, or organized crime groups. Therefore, it would not be surprising that yakuza-burakumin recruit other burakumin to go to Fukushima. Yakuza are active in recruiting day laborers of the yoseba (communities for day laborers): Sanya in Tokyo, Kotobukicho in Yokohama, and Kamagasaki in Osaka. People who live in precarious conditions are then exposed to high levels of radiation, doing the most dirty and dangerous jobs in the nuclear plants, then are sent back to the yoseba. Those who fall ill will not even appear in the statistics.

On March 14, three days after the earthquake and tsunami that caused the damage at Fukushima, the Ministry of Health and Labor raised the maximum dose for workers to 250 mSv a year, where previously it was set at 100 mSv over five years (either 20 mSv a year for five years or 50 mSv for two years, which is in itself a strange interpretation of the recommendations of the International Commission on

Radiological Protection's guideline stipulating a maximum of 20 mSv a year. The letter that the ministry sent the next day to the chiefs of labor bureaus to inform them of the decision justifies it on the grounds of the state of emergency, ignoring the safety of the workers.

This could be a measure to avoid or limit the number of workers who would apply for compensation. Stated differently, it has the effect of legalizing illness and deaths from nuclear radiation, or at least the state's responsibility for them. Usually, in case of leukemia, a one year exposure to 5 mSV is sufficient to obtain occupational hazards compensation. The list of potential applicants could be very long in light of the number of workers already on the job, or who are likely to be recruited to dismantle the reactors. The project proposed by Toshiba to close down and safeguard the reactors would take at least 10 years.

In short, the state's concern appears to be less the health of employees and more the cost of caring for nuclear victims. The same logic prevailed when, on April 23, the government urged children back to the schools of Fukushima prefecture, stating that the risk of 20 mSv or more per year was acceptable, despite the high vulnerability of children. Can the state be prioritizing the limitation of the burden of compensation for TEPCO and protection of the nuclear industry at large over the health of workers and children?

Source: Paul Jobin, Asia Times Online, 4 May 2011


TEPCO: 'leakage has not stopped completely'

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced on May 10, that Japan is scrapping plans to build 14 new nuclear reactors and instead will rethink its energy policy with a focus toward renewable energy sources and efficiency.

Three months earlier, on February 7, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry gave unit 1 of Fukushima-I permission to continue operations beyond 40 years of commercial operation. Just over one month later the Fukushima I Unit 1 was wiped out by an earthquake and tsunami.

The May 10 decision to abandon plans to build more nuclear reactors and “start from scratch” in creating a new energy policy,  will mean the end for a plan that the Kan government released last year to build 14 nuclear reactors by 2030 and increase the share of nuclear power in Japan’s electricity supply to 50 percent. Japan currently has 54 reactors that before the earthquake produced 30 percent of its electricity. But 13 of those could well be closed permanently after the March 11 earthquake: six at Fukushima-I, four at Fukushima-II and three at Hamaoka.

Could the Chernobyl 1986 accident be characterized as a Soviet accident in a unique type of reactor, the Fukushima accident occurred in a high-tech nation with broad international cooperation and a common reactor type. Even more, the accident as a result of the earthquake happened in one of the most active earthquake zones in the world, in a society prepared for massive earthquakes.

After initially rating the accident Level 5, on April 12, Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency uprated the ongoing accident to Level 7, the highest level on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), indicating a major accident with significant environmental consequences. Helmut Hirsch, a consultant to Greenpeace Germany, already published an analysis two weeks earlier (March 25), saying the Fukushima events should be rated at Level 7, or even three Level 7s for the three damaged core's, based on releases up to March 25.

On the same day, April 12, an official from Tepco (world's #4 power company) told a press briefing that radiation leakage “has not stopped completely and our concern is that it could eventually exceed Chernobyl.” The phrase "leakage has not stopped completely" turned out to be the understatement of the year, given the fact that late April and early May enormous peaks in releases occurred, and it can take months before (accidental) radioactive release stop.

In uprating the accident to Level 7, however, the government appears to be downplaying the actual radiation releases, with several media reports quoting government officials as saying releases have been about 10% of those from Chernobyl. However,  the Austrian weather service, which has been monitoring radiation across the world and advising the International Atomic Energy Agency, said on March 23 (!), that releases of Cesium-137 at that time could amount to about 50% of the Chernobyl source term of Cesium-137 and Iodine-131 releases were at 20%. It is true however that prevailing winds blew the vast majority of the radioactivity onto the sea, but in several periods the emissions were transported inland.

Meanwhile, the world’s largest nuclear companies are trying to capitalize on the nuclear catastrophe: they are forming consortia to bid for work to stabilize and clean up the Fukushima I nuclear power plant. Tepco and the Japanese government face the challenge of managing a huge project that will dwarf the Three Mile Island-2 cleanup. “TMI took 10 years and a billion dollars, and this is a lot bigger,” one industry source said.

Hitachi is leading one group of companies, including reactor business partner General Electric, seeking Fukushima I work. Toshiba has formed another consortium with several US companies. Areva is in talks with Tokyo Electric Power Co. The consortia could divide the work by unit or by task; the remediation of contaminated air, water and solids are different areas requiring different work.

On May 9, Chubu Electric Co. agreed to Prime minister Kan’s request that the three operational reactors at the Hamaoka nuclear complex be closed, at least until seismic upgrades can be performed and a new seawall to protect against tsunamis be built. The betting here is that these reactors, which sit atop probably Japan’s most dangerous earthquake fault, will not reopen.

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano has announced a post-Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety to be held in Vienna June 20-24.

Sources: Nucleonics Week, 31 March and 14 April 2011; NIRS Update; Nuke Info Tokyo 141, March/April 2011