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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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Monday
Nov122012

4 out of 6 experts on nuclear safety panel got grants from utilities

The Kyodo News reported on Nov. 3rd:

Four out of the six members of a government team drafting new safety standards for nuclear reactors have received between around 3 million yen and 27 million yen each in grants, donations and compensation from utilities in the past three to four years, according to data disclosed by the Nuclear Regulation Authority on Friday.

The regulatory body’s secretariat said the members “have been selected in line with rules, and there should be no problem.” Critics, however, say the members’ judgments might be swayed by the wishes of donors, exposing safety regulations to the risk of being watered down.

The NRA requires experts involved in drafting safety standards for nuclear power plants and other matters to disclose remuneration and donations, but has no provision for disqualifying them in light of such information.

Monday
Nov122012

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe clean-up and decontamination costs double to $125 billion

As reported by Agence France-Presse,  the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has admitted that post-Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe clean-up and decontamination costs will likely double from previous estimates to $125 billion, a whopping 2% of Japan's gross domestic product (GDP). This is reminiscent of post-Chernobyl impacts on countries such as Belarus, where up to 5% of its GDP went toward Chernobyl mitigation -- year after year.

The article reports:

TEPCO chairman Kazuhiko Shimokobe told reporters his company could become a shell, existing only to sort out the mess left by the tsunami-sparked disaster and dependent on the government for money.

"If we address the swelling costs by doubling the amount of government bond issuance (to 10 trillion), our firm will become an entity only for the purpose of dealing with post-accident issues," a company statement said.

The clean-up and decontamination efforts are expected to take decades.

Monday
Nov122012

U.S. needs Japan to stay nuclear, CSIS President Hamre urges

As reported by The Japan Times, John Hamre, the president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington D.C. based think tank, has urged that Japan remain committed to nuclear power, despite the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe and the groundswell of anti-nuclear activism it has inspired. Oddly, Hamre argued that Japan should remain devoted to nuclear power, in order to stem the tide of nuclear weapons proliferation worldwide.

The article reports:

Hamre also said the policy poses a security concern from the viewpoint of international control for nonproliferation of nuclear materials.

"Nuclear power from the very beginning was (not only) a source of promise, but (also) a source of great threat because nuclear power electric generation is also the base for making nuclear weapons, and it's a great risk to the world to have commercial nuclear power plants because there is a possibility of diverting the material and turning it into weapons.

"So for the last 40 years the U.S. and Japan, along with Europe, have been leaders in creating an international system to monitor and control the use of commercial nuclear energy so that we know if people were illegitimately going to divert it and turn it into weapons," he said.

If Japan is to give up nuclear energy — and if nuclear power is to wither in the U.S. due to competition with cheap natural gas and in Europe as in the case of Germany — "the countries that have given us the security system are going to diminish, and who's going to replace them?" he said. "Americans cannot afford from a security standpoint to have Japan abandon nuclear power. It's too important to us."

Of course, the United States is the only country to have actually ever used atomic weapons in warfare -- against Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.

Hamre's arguments that renewable energy cannot replace nuclear power have been disproved, as by Arjun Makhijani's Carbon-Free/Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy.

Monday
Nov122012

Japan nuclear plant on fault line may be next Fukushima, says geologist 

Oi nuclear power plant, with the Sea of Japan in the backgroundAgence France-Presse has reported that Mitsuhisa Watanabe, a tectonic geomorphologist at Tokyo’s Toyo University who is serving on a scientific advisory panel looking at the seismic risks at Oi nuclear power plant in Japan, has warned against continued operations at the two atomic reactors.

When asked if Kansai Electric Power Company should be allowed to continue operating the reactors on top of what he deems an active earthquake fault, Watanabe answered:

“It would be a very silly option.”

“We would have learned nothing from Fukushima. I’m afraid we would see a repeat (of the disaster) one day.”

The two reactors at Oi, in Fukui Prefecture on the shore of the Sea of Japan on the western edge of Honshu, were allowed to restart last June by Japanese Prime Minister Noda, despite regular protests by tens and even hundreds of thousands of protestors at his residence, which continue to the present day. They are the only two reactors in Japan to have been restarted since the beginning of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe on March 11, 2011. The catastrophe destroyed four reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Although 50 reactors remain operable in Japan, 48 have remained shutdown due to grassroots pressure.

Monday
Nov052012

UN directs Japan to protect residents from radiation after Fukushima, awaits response

Japan Times is reporting that a UN human rights council panel has endorsed 170 recommnedations for Japan to improve its human rights record, including:

"...the safeguarding of Japanese citizens' right to lead a healthy life, in light of the enormous amount of radioactive fallout spewed over a vast area by the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant."

Japan is asked to respond no later than March, 2013.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) report concludes:

The recommendations formulated during the interactive dialogue/listed below
will be examined by Japan which will provide responses in due time, but no later than
the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council in March 2013. The responses of Japan
will be included in the outcome report to be adopted by the Human Rights Council at
its 22nd session in March 2013:

147.155. Take all necessary measures to protect the right to health and life of
residents living in the area of Fukushima from radioactive hazards and ensure
that the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health can meet with affected and
evacuated people and civil society groups (Austria);