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Japan

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.

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Friday
Mar082013

Japan's "long war" to deal with the aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe could cost more than $500 billion

As reported by Reuters:

"...The reactors were declared to be in a stable state called cold-shut down in December 2011. But now Japan faces an unprecedented clean-up that experts say could cost at least $100 billion for decommissioning the reactors and another $400 billion for compensating victims and decontaminating areas outside the plant.

Tepco said in November the costs of compensation to residents and decontamination of their neighborhoods might double to 10 trillion yen ($107 billion) from a previous estimate. That did not include a forecast for decommissioning...

The Japan Center for Economic Research, a Tokyo-based think tank, has estimated that decontamination costs alone in the Fukushima residential area could balloon to as much as $600 billion...

Estimates for total costs are mostly guesswork. "Only God knows," said Chuo University's Annen [Junji Annen, a professor at Chuo University who last year chaired a panel on Tepco's finances].

Whatever the final bill, Japanese consumers are likely to end up paying much of it, either through taxes, higher electricity rates or both, even as Japan's government struggles with massive public debt and the costs of an ageing population.

That may be unpopular but also inevitable.

"This kind of job has never been done," said Keiro Kitagami, a former lawmaker who headed a government task force overseeing R&D for the project. "The technology, the wherewithal, has never been developed. Basically, we are groping in the dark."

Thursday
Mar072013

Weekly protest rallies continue despite new pro-nuclear government

The weekly antinuclear power rallies are still being staged outside the Japanese prime minister’s office in Tokyo, as evidenced by a gathering of some 3,000 people one recent cold February evening, but the crowds are getting smaller.

Part of this decline may be because two years have passed since the Fukushima nuclear disaster started. Another factor may be that the Liberal Democratic Party — the very promoter of nuclear energy over the past half-century — returned to power at the end of last year.

The demonstrations, organized by the Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes, a body made up of 13 groups as well as individual members, have been held every Friday in Nagata-cho since late last March, when the Democratic Party of Japan was in power and seemed receptive to calls to end nuclear power.

The movement that originally attracted 300 people grew drastically to draw some 200,000 participants of all ages within three months as the DPJ-led government moved toward restarting two reactors at the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture, coalition members said. A tent city, a makeshift gathering place set up by activists just outside the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, was set up on Sept. 11, 2011.

When the tent city was launched, about 1,000 people, many in their 20s and 30s, gathered daily from around the country to express their objections to METI’s efforts to restart nuclear plants without thorough investigations into why Fukushima No. 1 occurred. Some waged 10-day hunger strikes.

“The movement served as a catalyst for young people to take action back home,” said Takehiko Yagi, a spokesman for Tent Square.

Some of the original participants staged sit-ins at the Oi plant last July to try to prevent the reactor restarts. Others continue to confront other issues, including the disposal of radiation-contaminated debris that is being carried out in various parts of Japan.

Wednesday
Mar062013

New Greenpeace report shows Fukushima suffering continuing

The fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster continues for hundreds of thousands of victims in Japan still denied fair compensation from a regulatory system that allows the nuclear industry to evade its responsibilities and forces the public to pay for its disasters. A new Greenpeace International report, Fukushima Fallout: Nuclear business makes people pay and suffer, details how the serious flaws in nuclear regulations worldwide leave the public, not nuclear plant operators or suppliers of key equipment, to pay for the vast majority of the costs in the event of a nuclear accident. 

Tuesday
Mar052013

Where will the Japanese radioactive waste end up?

The Japanese government has unveiled plans to review the way it selects final disposal sites for radioactive waste.

It earlier decided that contaminated mud and incinerator ash from the 2011 nuclear accident in Fukushima would be disposed of in the prefectures where it was generated.

The Environment Ministry plans to bury the radioactive materials in final disposal sites to be built in 5 prefectures.

The Ministry earlier selected state-owned forests in Yaita, in Tochigi Prefecture, and Takahagi, in Ibaraki Prefecture, as possible sites.

But construction has yet to proceed there due to opposition from the host cities and surrounding areas.
Senior Vice Minister Shinji Inoue on Monday announced that the ministry would meet with local governments during the decision-making process. He said the previous government had failed to fully explain to local municipalities why they had been chosen as candidate sites.

He also disclosed a ministry plan to seek recommendations from a new panel of experts, and added that drilling surveys will be carried out to narrow down the choices for the final disposal sites.

Tuesday
Mar052013

Japan will restart idling reactors

In a reversal of the stated policy of his predecessors, new, rightwing Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe (pictured), who is bad news for renewable energy plans, has said that he will order the restart of nuclear plants that pass new and tougher safety guidelines, which are expected to be adopted by a new independent watchdog agency, the Nuclear Regulation Authority, as early as July. He did not specify when any of the reactors might resume operation, and news reports have suggested that it might take months or even years to make the expensive upgrades needed to meet the new safety standards.

In January, the new nuclear agency released a list of its proposed safety regulations, which include higher walls to protect against tsunamis, additional backup power sources for the cooling systems and construction of specially hardened earthquake-proof command centers. The rules surprised many for their toughness, though skeptics worry that industry supporters in the government will manage to get around the regulations.

According to a report by the newspaper Asahi Shimbun, none of Japan’s 16 undamaged commercial nuclear plants would pass the new standards. The agency has said the new guidelines will be finalized and put in place by July 18.