Until the Fukushima accident, Japan had 55 operating nuclear reactors as well as enrichment and reprocessing plants which had suffered a series of deadly accidents at its nuclear facilities resulting in the deaths of workers and releases of radioactivity into the environment and surrounding communities. Since the Fukushima disaster, there is growing opposition against re-opening those reactors closed for maintenance.



Typhoon Etau's unprecedented downpour causes another radioactive wastewater release to Pacific from Fukushima Daiichi

As reported by the Guardian:

The heavy rain, which is expected to spread north on Friday, has also caused additional leaks of radioactive water at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), said rain had overwhelmed the site’s drainage pumps, sending hundreds of tonnes of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean.

Workers at the Fukushima plant have had to store huge quantities of contaminated water used to cool melted fuel in three badly damaged reactors in thousands of steel tanks.

As reported by the International Business Times, Tepco issued a statement about its preparations at Fukushima Daiichi in advance of the typhoon's landfall.


"Nearly 700,000 tons of radioactive water stored at Fukushima plant"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, 700,000 tons of highly contaminated radioactive water has accumulated in temporary storage tanks at the devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The figure grows by several hundred tons per day.

This means an additional 1,000-ton, 30-foot tall storage tank must be added every few days. More than a thousand such tanks now exist at the site.

700,000 tons of contaminated water is equal to more than 188 million U.S. gallons.

As the article reports, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) claims that most of the stored wastewater has already been processed by its ALPS (Advanced Liquid Processing System), as of May 2015.

However, the ALPS had suffered numerous breakdowns, and even leaks into the environment, over the past several years. Also, ALPS only filters out 60-some of the radioactive substances in the wastewater. There are a couple hundred radioactive substances contaminating the water.

One of the hazardous radioactive substances that cannot be filtered out is tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen. Tepco wants to simply dump the massive amount of tritium into the Pacific, but Japanese fishermen have resisted the plan for years.

Another unresolved question is where the 60-odd radioactive substances filtered out of the wastewater by ALPS will be stored or dumped.


IAEA Fukushima report downplays radiation risks and ignores science - Greenpeace

Greenpeace International has issued a press release, that begins:

Tokyo, 1 September 2015 – The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Fukushima report, released Monday, downplays the ongoing environmental and health effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. According to Greenpeace Japan, the report plays into the Abe government’s agenda to normalise the ongoing nuclear disaster.

“The IAEA concludes that no discernible health consequences are expected as a result of the Fukushima disaster, but admits important uncertainties in both radiation dose and long-term effects. Nobody knows how much radiation citizens were exposed to in the immediate days following the disaster. If you don’t know the doses, then you can’t conclude there won’t be any consequences. To say otherwise is political rhetoric, not science,” said Kendra Ulrich, senior global energy campaigner with Greenpeace Japan.

[Ulrich also serves as a Beyond Nuclear Board of Directors Member.]


"Japan nuclear power outlook bleak despite first reactor restart"

As reported by Reuters, of the 54 commercial atomic reactors that operated in Japan prior to the ongoing Fukushima nuclear catastrophe that began on 3/11/11:

"...analysis shows that of the other 42 operable reactors remaining in the country, just seven are likely to be turned on in the next few years, down from the 14 predicted in a similar survey last year.

The findings are based on reactor inspection data from industry watchdog the Nuclear Regulation Authority, court rulings and interviews with local authorities, utilities and energy experts. They also show that nine reactors are unlikely to ever restart and that the fate of the remaining 26 looks uncertain."

Although the article does not explicitly mention it, the six reactors at Fukushima Daiichi are counted as never to operate again. So too are the four reactors just seven miles south at Fukushima Daini. Reuters does not name the additional two reactors it has determined will never operate again. 

The article also reports:

"Four-and-a-half years after the events started unfolding at Fukushima Daiichi, the Japanese government, the nuclear utilities and the NRA have not succeeded in overcoming complete planning insecurity for investors. The outlook for restarts is as cloudy as ever," said Mycle Schneider, an independent energy consultant in Paris.

Schneider is a lead author of the annual World Nuclear Industry Status Report. The 2015 edition has a number of sections devoted to Japan, including the status of the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe, as well as the rest of the Japanese nuclear power industry. 

(A 55th reactor in Japan -- the Monju experimental plutonium breeder reactor in Fukui Prefecture -- is also in serious trouble, as it has been for decades.) 

The article concludes:

But offering some hope to nuclear operators, some aging units may be given a new lease of life as the NRA considers applications for operation beyond the standard 40 years.

Two Kansai units, both around 40 years old, are being vetted for extensions. The regulator has said it would be very strict on granting permission, but Kansai is pushing for acceptance of less costly measures on fireproofing thousands of kilometers of wiring.

But the article neglects to mention that Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1, the first to melt down, beginning on 3/11/11, had only recently recieved its permit to extend operations beyond 40 years. That is, had it retired, as planned, it would not have been operating on 3/11/11, and likely would not have melted down.

(Some, including the Japanese Parliament's indendepent investigators, say the Unit 1 meltdown may have begun before the tsunami struck, due to damage from the earthquake alone.

And that first domino to fall, may have made the Unit 2 and 3 meltdowns, and the Unit 4 explosion, an inevitability, given the spiralling chaos on site.)


Atomic reactor restarted in Japan, despite overwhelming public opposition  

Image: The Sendai nuclear power plant is located 40 km (25 mi) from the active volcano Mount Sakurajima in Japan. Photo: courtesy of Kimon Berlin.A 30-year old nuclear reactor in Sendai, in southwestern Japan, began powering up on August 11, amid much controversy, local active volcanoes and nationwide, and even worldwide, opposition, including by former nuclear power industry workers.

The restart is the first allowed under Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority post-Fukushima reformed safety rules. Sendai had been shut down in May 2011, shortly after the Fukushima nuclear catastorphe began, and has not operated since, till now.

Although the restart may mark a "victory" for the pro-nuclear Prime Minister Abe administration, it is a loss for public health, safety, and the environment. Abe's insistence on disregarding 2 to 1 opposition to the restart amongst the Japanese public may someday cost him and his party at the polls, as well.

And although Abe's Liberal Democratic Party remains true to its 1950s pro-nuclear power roots, it has suffered some significant defections, including Abe's own mentor: the still very popular former Prime Minister, Koizumi, who served from 2001 to 2006, is now an outspoken opponent to nuclear power.

Of Japan's 48 operable atomic reactors not destroyed at Fukushima Daiichi (Units 1, 2, and 3 melted down; Unit 4 exploded, despite not operating on 3/11/11; Units 5 and 6 were retired, due to the site's dangerous radioactive contamination), few to none have operated at all since the nuclear catastrophe began over four years ago. The long reactor shut down, showing that Japan does not need nuclear power, has been won by a grassroots, nationwide anti-nuclear groundswell, joined by many elected officials, and even some judges who have ruled in favor of citizen lawsuits, blocking restarts.

However, the Sendai restart has been allowed by a pro-nuclear prefectural governor, a majority pro-nuclear municipal council, and the recent rejection of a citizen lawsuit, despite very significant volcanic risks in the area. (see photo, left)

Residents are concerned that, despite the lessons that should have been learned from the Fukushima disaster, evacuation plans are not adequate, particularly for medical care facilities and schools.

“An Asahi Shimbun survey revealed that 66 percent of medical institutions and 49 percent of social welfare facilities within 30 km of nuclear power plants across Japan have not compiled mandatory evacuation plans specifying evacuation destinations, routes and transportation means to be used in the event of an accident.” About 220,000 people live within 30 km (20 mi) of the Sendai nuclear facility, and 900,000 live within 50 km (31 mi). Evacuating even a fraction of these people would be a Herculean task.

Beyond Nuclear recently reported on a Washington, D.C. event, featuring two medical doctors from Fukushima Medical University, that revealed a significant need to learn and apply lessons from the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, more than four years after it began.

Two days before the restart, about 2,000 protesters marched at Sendai in oppostion, contending that Kyushu Electric, the company that owns and operates the reactor, has not accomplished the necessary safety enhancements to begin operation. In addition, some note that the 30-year old facility may not be reliable because of age-related degradation.

Notable among those opposing the restart are survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II, and the former Prime Minister of Japan, Naoto Kan, who attended the August 9 Sendai action. Numerous commentators noted the ironic restart date for the Sendai atomic reactor, right after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings' 70th anniversaries.

Former Prime Minister Kan has testified that, amidst the chaotic first days of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe, he ordered secretive contingency planning for the evacuation of metro Tokyo, or even all of northeast Japan -- 30 to 50 million people -- if a "demonic chain reaction" of reactor meltdowns and high-level radioactive waste storage pool fires unfolded at the Fukushima Daiichi, Fukushima Daini, and Tokai nuclear power plants in the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

While local governments in Japan are responsible for emergency preparedness, and preventing radiation exposure of their residents, they have no say in whether a reactor restarts if it is hosted by a nearby jurisdiction. The editorial in the Asahi Shimbun contends that “(n)uclear reactors should be considered to be too dangerous if the local governments of areas that can be affected by accidents involving the reactors refuse to support their operations. These reactors should be decommissioned as soon as possible…(o)ne vital lesson from the catastrophe is that the mere existence of a nuclear reactor poses serious safety risks.”

Sendai receives 1 billion yen (over $8 million) per year in federal subsidies to host the nuclear facility, and local authorities voted to approve the restart, yet no poll was conducted among the local population by the pro-nuclear municipality to gauge the public’s wishes. This was widely believed to be because the results would have revealed widespread public opposition. The facility’s second reactor is scheduled for start up in October 2015.