Independent investigation documents that "demonic chain reaction" of atomic reactor meltdowns could have forced Tokyo's evacuation

Yoichi Funabashi, founder of the Rebuild Japan Initiative FoundationMartin Fackler of the New York Times has reported that an imminent, high-level independent investigation into the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Catastrophe has documented that the worst-case scenarios were intentionally concealed from the Japanese people and world community. Led by Yoichi Funabashi (pictured, left), former editor in chief of the daily newspaper Asahi Shimbun, regarded as one of Japan’s foremost intellectuals, an investigative team "of 30 university professors, lawyers and journalists" came together to form the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation. Over the course of six months, it interviewed more than 300 people, including top government and nuclear officials involved in the response, to compile a 400 page report due out within days, described as "one of the most vivid accounts yet of how Japan teetered on the edge of an even larger nuclear crisis than the one that engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant."

The article describes what might have happened if Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) had been allowed to abandon emergency efforts at Fukushima Daiichi, as it considered doing in the first days:

'The report quotes the chief cabinet secretary at the time, Yukio Edano, as having warned that such a “demonic chain reaction” of plant meltdowns could result in the evacuation of Tokyo, 150 miles to the south.

“We would lose Fukushima Daini, then we would lose Tokai,” Mr. Edano is quoted as saying, naming two other nuclear plants. “If that happened, it was only logical to conclude that we would also lose Tokyo itself.”

The Foundation 'credited Mr. Kan [the former Japanese Prime Minister who was serving when the catastrophe began, and resigned in August, 2011] with making the right decision in forcing Tepco not to abandon the plant.

“Prime Minister Kan had his minuses and he had his lapses,” Mr. Funabashi said, “but his decision to storm into Tepco and demand that it not give up saved Japan.” '


Environmental coalition supplements Davis-Besse cracked containment contention: Rep. Kucinich reveals outer rebar no longer functional

U.S. Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is a long-time watchdog on the Davis-Besse atomic reactor near ToledoThe environmental coalition opposing the Davis-Besse atomic reactor's 20 year license extension (Beyond Nuclear, Citizens Environment Alliance of Southwestern Ontario, Don't Waste Michigan, and the Green Party of Ohio) has filed a supplement to its cracked containment contention. In a motion filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and License Board (ASLB) today, the coalition cited a Feb. 8th revelation by the office of U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH, pictured at left), which broke the news to the public that the NRC considers the outer rebar steel reinforcement layer in the Davis-Besse atomic reactor to have lost its functional effectiveness due to the extensive cracking. Despite this, NRC approved Davis-Besse's restart in early December 2011. The ASLB plans oral pre-hearings near Davis-Besse in the weeks ahead on the cracked containment contention. A copy of today's filing, with the Kucinich Feb. 8th media release, as well as an NRC inspection report dated Jan. 31st, is posted here. The NRC inspection report provides further detail on structural cracking in the upper 20 feet of the containment building. The coalition published a media release on today's filing, posted here.


NRC inspection report reveals more problems at Davis-Besse in aftermath of cracked containment

A U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) inspection report dated Jan. 31, 2012, reveals numerous problems at FirstEnergy Nuclear Operating Corpoation's (FENOC) problem-plagued Davis-Besse atomic reactor near Toledo, Ohio on the Lake Erie shoreline. Incredibly, despite its infamy for having to replace its reactor vessel head twice in one decade, FENOC still resisted inspecting its third, newest lid for potential defects, until NRC forced it to. No defects were found, but had there been any, FENOC would have not known prior to installation. (FENOC had previously installed a new lid at its Beaver Valley nuclear power plant suspected of being potentially defective.)

In addition, despite the controversy over its recently revealed concrete containment building cracks, FENOC nearly installed corroded and brittle rebar into its patch on the shield building after the vessel head swap. NRC inspectors prevented FENOC from cementing the bad rebar in place.

A number of other problems came to light in the inspetion report, including: significant deterioration of the intake/discharge canal into Lake Erie, essential for reactor cooling during routine operations but especially during accident conditions; an un-licensed operator manipulating control rods in the operating reactor core; and a worker who damaged safety-significant equipment by climbing up it, rather than using a ladder, to inspect an elevated valve.


Beyond Nuclear op-ed in run up to NRC public meeting at Palisades

The Kalamazoo Gazette in southwest Michigan has published a "Viewpoint" op-ed by Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps, written in response to a Gazette editorial applauding a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission announcement of enhanced inspections in the aftermath of a major safety downgrade at Entergy's Palisades atomic reactor on the Lake Michigan shoreline. Kevin warned that NRC's repeated weakenings of its safety regulations over the course of decades, and its rubberstamp of a 20 year license extension at the dangerously deteriorated 40+ year old reactor, is the only reason Palisades is still operating.

NRC will hold a public meeting near Palisades on Wed., Feb. 29 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. EST to discuss a litany of recent serious incidents at the reactor. Beyond Nuclear urges concerned citizens to attend the meeting in person, or by calling into the toll-free phone number.


Danger Zone: Aging Nuclear Reactors

Al Jazeera's weekly program "People & Power" has produced an excellent exposé on the more than 70 risky rubberstamps the Nuclear Regulatory has granted: 20 year license extensions at "break down phase," age-degraded atomic reactors across the U.S. Here is the introduction:

Following Japan's nuclear disaster last year there are fears the US may be heading for a nuclear catastrophe of its own

In March 2011, a devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan caused a meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

As tens of thousands of people were evacuated from nearby towns and villages, the world waited anxiously to see whether the radioactive fallout would spread across the country, or even be carried overseas.

Unsurprisingly, in the wake of this incident, the nuclear operations of other countries have come under considerable scrutiny.

One such country is the US where more than 100 similar reactors - some of them in earthquake zones or close to major cities - are now reaching the end of their working lives.

Their owners want to keep them running, but others - from environmentalists to mainstream politicians - are deeply concerned.

In this investigation for People & Power, Joe Rubin and Serene Fang of the Center for Investigative Reporting examine whether important safety considerations are being taken into account as the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) considers extending the licences of these plants.

The agency has recently come under fire for glossing over the potential dangers of ageing reactors, for becoming too cosy with the industry and for political infighting among the agency's senior executives, which critics in the US Senate and elsewhere say seriously hampers its ability to ensure safety.

The investigation focuses on the Pacific Gas & Electric nuclear facility at Diablo Canyon and two others, which are at Indian Point in New York and Fort Calhoun in Nebraska.

These three sites represent the dangers posed to nuclear power plant safety by earthquakes, terrorism and flooding.

Rubin and Fang discover that the NRC's oversight track record is far from perfect, and that unless urgent action is taken the US could be heading for a nuclear catastrophe of its own.