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.



More great reporting from Mark Willacy in Japan: radiation killing fishing industry

Mark Willacy reports from Fukushima for the Australian Broadcasting Company. An excerpt: "As Akira Kaya lowers his trawling nets he explains how he used to haul in magnificent catches of octopus, horse mackerel and flatfish. And today again a decent catch spills from his nets onto the deck. But none of these fish will ever make it to market. Here, just 20 kilometres out to sea from the shattered remains of the Fukushima nuclear plant, nothing can be sold to the public."

Wallacy concludes the segment: "A few days after our expedition off Fukushima the results of our haul came in - about a quarter of the catch has radiation levels exceeding the safe limit, with one fish 16 times over the limit, more bad news for Akira Kaya and his fellow Fukushima fisherman."


Seismologists warn against reactor restart in Japan

Reports Reuters: Two prominent seismologists said on Tuesday that Japan is ignoring the safety lessons of last year's Fukushima crisis and warned against restarting two reactors next month.

Japan has approved the restart of the two reactors at the Kansai Electric Power Ohi nuclear plant, northwest of Tokyo, despite mass public opposition.

They will be the first to come back on line after all reactors were shut following a massive earthquake and tsunami last March that caused the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl at Tokyo Electric Power's Daiichi Fukushima plant.

Seismic modeling by Japan's nuclear regulator did not properly take into account active fault lines near the Ohi plant, Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismologist at Kobe University, told reporters.

On June 22, 20,000 Japanese protested the approved restart of two reactors at Oi.


"The stress tests and new safety guidelines for restarting nuclear power plants both allow for accidents at plants to occur," Ishibashi told reporters. "Instead of making standards more strict, they both represent a severe setback in safety standards." Read more.



Waiting for the worst at Unit 4

Interviewed by Radio Australia, Institute for Policy Studies' Bob Alvarez addressed what could happen if another major earthquake rocked the coastal Fukishima area. "The drainage of water caused by an earthquake or the toppling of the pool, which would be the worst possible consequence, could result in essentially the cladding around the spent fuel, which is made of an alloy of zirconium, to heat up and catch fire. And then there would be a massive release of radioactivity, he said. "The spent fuel pool in number four at Fukushima contains roughly ten times more caesium 137 than released by the Chernobyl accident," he pointed out.

Mitsuhei Murata (pictured, above left), a former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland and a career diplomat who fears for the future of his nation, was also interviewed on the show. He also fears that inaction could spell further disaster. "I call it the sickness of Japan," he said. "Colloquially it can be explained that first, we hide; then we postpone; and then we assume no responsibility." When asked by show host, Mark Willacy, whether a problem with the fuel pool at Unit 4 could spell the end of Japan, Murata replied: "Yes. And there is no one who denies that." Read the full transcript or listen to the show.


Dr. Gordon Edwards on the dangers posed by tilting Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4

Photo of severely damaged Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 reactor building. For perspective, note workers in white radiation suits standing beside the high-level radioactive waste storage pool's surface towards the top of the building.The tilting of the Unit 4 building, the bulging of two of its four outer walls, the total absence of a roof, the twisted metal members in the devastated upper portions of the building, the fact that over a thousand irradiated fuel assemblies are perched in a pool 100 feet above ground level -- all these should be a matter of great concern for Japan and for the world, for there is no doubt that severe damage to the pool or its contents will lead to further disastrous episodes of radioactive emissions into the atmosphere.

Yet Tepco refuses to regard the situation as "risky", and has repeatedly refused to allow an international team of experts to come and inspect the Unit 4 building so as to devise a plan of immediate action to protect the pool from multiple dangers -- the possibility of the pool collapsing or toppling following another powerful earthquake (now anticipated with very high probability); the possibility of a falling object damaging the pool, causing drainage of the water, leading to overheating of the fuel and a blast of gamma radiation that will bring all work at Fukushima Dai-ichi to a halt; the possibility of slumping of the fuel leading to recriticality (restart of the nuclear chain reaction); the possibility that the hastily assembled and unprotected interim cooling system in Unit 4 will be disabled, leading to overheating of the irradiated fuel; the possibility of a zirconium fire breaking out in the partially or fully drained spent fuel pool....

The world community cannot afford to put its trust in Tepco, a corporation that has repeatedly shown that it puts its own corporate interests ahead of safety and is unwilling to accept a policy of honesty and full disclosure, nor in the Japanese government, which has apparently abdicated its responsibility to the people by allowing Tepco to monopolize information and exclude all other expert intervenors from the Fukushima Dai-ichi site.


Seismologists warn Japan against nuclear restart

Reuters has reported from Tokyo:

"...Seismic modeling by Japan's nuclear regulator did not properly take into account active fault lines near the Ohi plant, Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a seismologist at Kobe University, told reporters.

"The stress tests and new safety guidelines for restarting nuclear power plants both allow for accidents at plants to occur," Ishibashi told reporters. "Instead of making standards more strict, they both represent a severe setback in safety standards."

Experts advising Japan's nuclear industry had underestimated the seismic threat, Mitsuhisa Watanabe, a tectonic geomorphology professor at Tokyo University, said at the same news conference.

"The expertise and neutrality of experts advising Japan's Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency are highly questionable," Watanabe said.

After an earthquake in 2007 caused radiation leaks at reactors north of Tokyo, Ishibashi said Japan was at risk of a nuclear disaster following a large earthquake, a warning that proved prescient after Fukushima.

While it is impossible to predict when earthquakes will happen, Ishibashi said on Tuesday the magnitude 9 quake last year made it more likely "devastating" earthquakes would follow."