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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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Thursday
Jul122012

Take action on Fukushima lessons learned 

Submit comments and questions to the scientific panel or attend the DC meeting!

Next Thursday, July 19, 2012, at an initial meeting of a National Academy of Sciences panel, the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission will discuss its actions following the Fukushima disaster in Japan. NRC is paying for this NAS study. There will be time for public comment and those wishing to attend should contact NAS at fukushima@nas.edu. NAS is taking comments on the committee membership for the next few days ONLY, and general questions on the study can be submitted by the email above. NAS is expecting to release the report in early 2014. Beyond Nuclear will keep you updated as much as possible. No further meetings have been scheduled.

Background: At the recommendation of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future, the Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Committee directed the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to contract with the National Academy of Sciences [NAS] for a study of the lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. According to the Senate report, the following areas should be examined:

--the lessons that can be learned;

--the lessons' implications for conclusions reached in earlier NAS studies on the safety and security of current storage arrangements for "spent" [emphasis added] nuclear fuel and high-level waste in the United States, including an assessment of whether the amount of "spent" fuel currently stored in reactor pools should be reduced;

--the lessons' implications for commercial nuclear reactor safety and security regulations; and

--the potential to improve design basis threats assessment.

This study shall build upon the 2004 NAS study of storage issues and complement the other efforts to learn from Fukushima that have already been launched by the NRC and industry. The study should be conducted in coordination with the Department of Energy and, if possible, the Japanese Government. The Committee expects the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Energy, and the Department of State to assist the National Academy of Sciences in obtaining the information it needs to complete this study in a timely manner.

Wednesday
Jul112012

Fukushima residents charge Tepco officials with criminal negligence for nuclear catastrophe

TEPCO chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata (2nd L) bows to apologize to Ikuhiro Hattori (2nd R), chief of Zengyoren, Japan Fisheries Cooperatives at TEPCO's headquarters in Tokyo, April 6, 2011CNN reports that 1,324 Fukushima Prefecture residents have accused 33 Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) officials, including its current chairman (Tsunehisa Katsumata, photo, left), as well as its former president (Masataka Shimizu), with criminal negligence. The Fukushima District Public Prosecutor's Office must now decide whether or not to file formal charges.

"The Fukushima nuclear accident is the worst corporate crime in Japan's history and caused significant damage to the life, health and assets of the people of Fukushima and the rest of Japan," the group said on its website, dubbed the Plaintiffs Against the Fukushima Nuclear Plant.

"We lost our homeland, filled with beautiful nature, and our irreplaceable community. We shoulder the heavy burden of a divided local community and we are sitting in the midst of a suffering which shall never end," said the group.

Sunday
Jul082012

Debris removal underway at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4

Lucas Hixson has posted a recent photo (left) at Enformable Nuclear News showing the significant change of appearance going on at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4. Tokyo Electric Power Company is now removing large debris, such as destroyed walls, from the Unit 4 reactor building, nearly 16 months after a hydrogen explosion severely damaged it.

The yellow vessel is the visible portion of the primary radiological containment structure surrounding the reactor pressure vessel, which fortunately had been defueled and was not operational on March 11, 2011.

However, the high-level radioactive waste storage pool, located under the green-colored crane structure, is still of global concern. The pool holds 1,331 irradiated nuclear fuel assemblies. It remains vulnerable to a cooling water drain down, due to a large earthquake, setting the high-level radioactive waste on fire. A slow motion cooling water "boil down" could lead to the same catastrophic radioactivity release, if cooling systems are disrupted for a long enough period of time, even from simple mechanical breakdown, as have occurred repeatedly over the months.

Sunday
Jul082012

Japanese Diet Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission official report published

Kurokawa at a press conference after the release of the report. A medical doctor, Kurokawa is also an Academic Fellow at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, and is former President of the National Science Council of JapanThe Japanese Diet's (Parliament) Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, chaired by Kiyoshi Kurokawa (photo left), has released its official report. An 88 page English language executive summary is currently available. The full 641 page report's English translation is due out in the near future. The report is based on 900 hours of testimony collected from 1,167 witnesses.

Major findings include the fact that deep "collusion" between the Japanese government, so-called safety regulators, and the nuclear power industry inevitably led to the "profoundly man-made" Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe, as ordered safeguards against earthquakes were long delayed, and tsunami risks were entirely ignored. In addition, the Commission raises the distinct possibility that the 9.0 earthquake so damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 reactor that its meltdown was well under way before the tsunami struck about 50 minutes later. The report also describes the disastrous emergency response and fatally flawed evacuation efforts. 

Extensive media coverage about the release of this report took place on July 5th and 6th, much of it commenting on the report's implications for the growing Japanese public opposition to atomic reactor restarts due to ongoing seismic and tsunami risks. The media coverage has included: the Wall Street Journal; the Washington Post; the London Independent; the London Guardian, including on the role of Japan's culture in the catastrophe; 

Thursday
Jul052012

150,000+ to Noda: “Saikado hantai!” ("We oppose the restart of the reactors!") 

Photo credit: Satoru SembaThe Asahi Shimbun has reported that "Even [Prime Minister] Noda [was] startled by [the] size of [the] anti-nuclear protest outside his office" last Friday evening. What began as 300 people protesting weekly outside his Tokyo office last March had grown to 45,000 by June 22nd after he had approved the first atomic reactor restarts (at Ohi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture) in Japan since the beginning of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe. But the Friday evening, June 29th rally was of unprecedented and historic size, with estimates ranging from 150,000 to 180,000 protestors. "Listen to the people's voices," one protestor was reported to have said. Prime Minister Noda was overheard saying to a police officer guarding him “It is such a huge sound.”

Simultaneously, protests took place across the country, including a rally of 2,200 at Kansai Electric Power Company headquarters in Osaka, and several hundred at the Ohi nuclear power plant itself. A blockade of the front entrance at Ohi nuclear power plant forced a government minister sent to witness the restart to enter the nuclear power plant by ferry boat, as vehicular traffic was blocked.