On April 16 a Japanese court rejected an application by Green Action and more than 260 people to have two Ohi (Oi) reactors shut down. Ohi reactors 3 and 4 are the only two reactors currently operating in Japan. They are operating without new safety measures designed in the wake of the Fukushima disaster. There are active earthquake faults nearby. The court ruled that the reactors are safe until proven otherwise. It also ruled that there is no requirement to be able to shut down a reactor within the required time in the event of an accident/earthquake − even though Ohi received its licensing permit on the premise that it met this shut-down time limit. Green Action is appealing the court's verdict. (Green Action www.greenaction-japan.org/modules/entop2)
Meanwhile, Japan's new Nuclear Regulation Authority has begun the process of assessing Ohi reactors #3 and #4. Kansai Electric insists that the plant does not require an anti-tsunami wall, and that there are no active faults beneath the facility. Seismic experts have disputed that statement.
More leaks, accidents and incidents
TEPCO has acknowledged more leaks of radioactive water at Fukushima, bringing the total number of leaks that have been discovered in April to at least five. The leaks have been found in holding tanks and in pipes connecting tanks. Some of the leaks are continuing because TEPCO has been unable to locate their source. TEPCO President Naomi Hirose held a press conference and apologised for the fiasco. He said that TEPCO is building more above-ground tanks and that all water would be transferred by the end of June. A total of 23,600 tons of water needs to be relocated.
World Nuclear News noted that levels of radioactivity in the leaked water were 6 MBq/l and 300 MBq/l − enough to be classified as intermediate-level radioactive waste in most countries.
In addition to the leaks, there have been multiple accidents and incidents in the past month including multiple power losses, radiation monitoring malfunctions, and accidental shutdown of a water decontamination system.
TEPCO has admitted that 14 workers dealing with radioactive water problems were working without dosimeters on April 6 − adding to the long and shameful history of employees and contractors working without dosimeters, or with dosimeters covered up, since the March 2011 triple-disaster.
Fish within 20 kms of the Fukushima plant have surpassed baseline measures of radioactivity, TEPCO said in its environmental monitoring report published April 12. One specimen tested near the port entrance to Fukushima Daiichi was 4,300-times more radioactive than what Japanese officials consider standard. (Greenpeace International 'Nuclear Reaction' weblog; World Nuclear News, 15 April; Bloomberg 15 April)
TEPCO refuses to pay decontaminations costs
Despite the fact that the Japanese government paid one trillion yen to keep TEPCO afloat, TEPCO officials are now refusing to reimburse the government's Environment Ministry for 10.5 billion yen in costs required to decontaminate areas around the Fukushima plant. The Ministry has already requested payment twice, but so far, TEPCO has refused to comply. Because the government did not specify any timelines in the legislation, no interest or fines can be levied against TEPCO for not paying, and if the utility refuses, those costs would be passed along to taxpayers. (Greenpeace International 'Nuclear Reaction' weblog)
A group of 12 experts from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) undertook a week-long investigation the Fukushima Daiichi plant in mid-April. Juan Carlos Lentijo, head of the IAEA assessment team, said that decommissioning of the Fukushima reactors may exceed 40 years, far longer than TEPCO's projected timeline. "In my view, it will be near impossible to ensure the time for the decommissioning of such a complex facility in less than 30, 40 years, as is currently established in the roadmap," he said.
There is a long and unhappy history between the IAEA and Japan. There has been a revolving door between Japan's nuclear village and the IAEA. In 2009, a US cable released by WikiLeaks said that over the past decade, the IAEA's department of safety and security "suffered tremendously because of [deputy director general] Taniguchi's weak management and leadership skills." Taniguchi moved to the IAEA after decades working in the private- and public-sector arms of Japan's nuclear village. Another 2009 US cable said: "Taniguchi has been a weak manager and advocate, particularly with respect to confronting Japan's own safety practices, and he is a particular disappointment to the United States for his unloved-step-child treatment of the Office of Nuclear Security."
The IAEA carried out safety inspections at Fukushima in 1992 and at Chubu's Hamaoko plant in 1995, finding a total of 90 deficiencies in safety procedures including "weakness in emergency plan procedures", "insufficient event analysis on near-misses" and "lack of training for plant personnel on severe accident management". The IAEA was not invited to carry out any further safety inspections after 1995 and TEPCO and Chubu resisted the recommendations of the IAEA experts.
Koriyama legal action
Residents are pursuing legal action charging that children living in the town of Koriyama, 55 kms west of the Fukushima nuclear plant, should be evacuated in order to protect them from radiation. The town is home to 330,000 people. The case, originally filed in 2011 on behalf of the children by their parents and anti-nuclear activists, was rejected by a lower court and is now being heard by an appeals court − the Sendai High Court in Miyagi Prefecture. The number of children behind the original lawsuit has dwindled as families left the prefecture voluntarily or the children grew older. Annual radiation exposure in most areas of the town is below 20 millisieverts but there are more heavily contaminated hot spots. Plaintiffs argue that children should not be exposed to higher levels than international standards allow − 1 millisievert per year. (Greenpeace; Japan Daily Press; Associated Press)
Offshore wind turbines
The Environment Ministry of Japan will begin installing two floating offshore wind turbines this year as a way to help diversify the country's generation mix in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Post-Fukushima, Japan is spending approximately $100 million each day on liquid natural gas to replace offline reactors. The Japanese government will take incremental steps to prove the floating offshore turbine technology, testing three additional types of floating turbine technology. The best-performing turbine type may then be chosen to power a larger offshore wind farm − up to 1,000 MW − located off the Fukushima coastline. There are only two full-scale offshore wind projects in the world that feature floating wind turbines, in Norway and Portugal. (nawindpower.com)