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.



First time: Japan court orders TEPCO to pay damages for suicide

TEPCO has been ordered to pay Mikio Watanabe (pictured) nearly 500,000 US dollars in compensation for the suicide of his wife, Hamako (58 years), after they were forced to leave their home and livelihoods in Kawamata town (40 km from the reactors) due to contamination from the ongoing Fukushima catastrophe. They evacuated three months after the accident began when it was realized the contamination levels in their area were too high for living and working.

Her family claimed "the evacuation was responsible for a deterioration of Mrs Watanabe's mental state because she did not know when she could return home, according to Kyodo news agency. The chicken farm where she and her husband were working also closed."

TEPCO has been settling such damage claims out of court, but this case marks the first time a court has rendered a verdict. More cases like this are expected.

"Dozens of Fukushima residents are reported to have killed themselves since the disaster...

Tens of thousand fled their homes and businesses because of radioactive contamination, with the majority still unable to return home." BBC

" '"It is well assumed that the stress caused by sudden loss of the base of her life against her will and unknown future in evacuation was unbearable for her,' according to the court ruling." CNN

Indeed, the ongoing nuclear power catastrophe has set up a dichotomy of lose-lose situations: suffering radiation health damage if one is allowed to stay in a contaminated area, and suffering the stress of having to evacuate and being forced into an uncertain future.

No word on whether TEPCO is planning to appeal.



Fukushima still releasing 8 billion Becquerels per day into Pacific

"TEPCO made the startling admission... at a press conference that the plant is leaking 8 billion bequerels per day. (8 gigabequerels)

5 billion bq of strontium 90
2 billion bq of cesium 137
1 billion bq of tritium..." from SimplyInfo

Worth noting is that the majority of the relases are strontium 90, a radioisotope known to collect in bone and increase the risk of leukemia. Strontium 90, along with tritium, is particularly hard to detect through widely used detection methods.

According to SimplyInfo, 8 billion Bq per day would mean that the total release to the ocean from Fukushima would be well over the assumed release of 11 Terabecquerels over four years' time.


"Water leaks continue to plague No. 5 reactor at Fukushima plant"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, a series of leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi Units #5 and 6 have continued throughout this month, right up to the present. The leaks are occuring in piping attached to the high-level radioactive waste storage pools, which still do hold irradiated nuclear fuel. Apparently, valves are failing on the pools' cooling system piping.

Loss of cooling to irradiated nuclear fuel can lead to catastrophic consequences. A sudden pool drain down could lead to an irradiated nuclear fuel fire in a matter of hours. A slower motion pool boil down could still result in an irradiated nuclear fuel fire, if the water loss proceeds to uncover the stored assemblies. Storage pools not only hold large quantities of hazardous irradiated nuclear fuel, they also are not located within robust radiological containment structures. Very large-scale radioactivity releases are possible, directly into the environment.

Units #5 and 6 were not operating on 3/11/11, and were largely undamaged by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear catastrophe. However, Tokyo Electric Power Company has decided to retire them nonetheless, and is converting them into training centers for nuclear decommissioning. The lessons learned will be applied later at the devastated Fukushima Daiichi Units 1, 2, 3 (all melted down) and 4 (also not operating on 3/11/11, but still severely damaged by a hydrogen explosion).

(Note, access to Asahi Shimbum articles is limited to a certain number per month, unless you have a subscription.)


"NRA blames tsunami for equipment failure at Fukushima plant"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's fledgling Nuclear Regulatory Authority has concluded that the tsunami of 3/11/11, not the earthquake, caused the damage to safety and cooling systems that led to the triple meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi.

As the article reports:

"Whether the isolation condensers were already damaged by the quake is an issue of significant implications, raising the question of the adequacy of anti-quake preparedness measures at the Fukushima plant and other nuclear facilities."

Whistleblowers working in Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 at the time of the earthquake reported water leaking on the fourth floor, before the tsunami struck. The Japanese Parliamentary investigation into the nuclear disaster questioned whether this leaking water was from the reactor cooling condensers, and was caused by the quake directly. The investigators also questioned the timing on the loss of essential power to run safety and cooling systems at Unit 1 -- whether it was lost before or after the tsunami struck.

Unit 1 was the first to meltdown and explode, within the first day. The malfunction of its condeners played a major role in that meltdown.

(Note, the Asahi Shimbun limits access to articles to a certain number per month; a subscription is needed for unlimited access).




Japan's tug of war for 'zero nuclear' intensifies

On July 16, 2014, Japanese antinuclear groups were quick to announce their opposition to the draft approval by the country’s fledgling Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) for the restart of two reactors at the Sendai nuclear power station in Kagoshima Prefecture.  All of Japan’s 48 nuclear power reactors remain closed still pending final approval by both national and local government authorities. The majority of the Japanese public remain solidly opposed to restarting any of the nation’s inherently dangerous nukes in the geologically active country.  Among the contentions presented in the joint statement, the antinuclear groups point out that the NRA draft approval, 1) ignores its own Volcano Effects Assessment for Sendai which is located near the active Sakurajima volcano as well as five gigantic volcanic caldera depressions;  2) ignores the lessons learned from Fukushima’s on-going failure to contain uncontrolled releases of highly radioactive water as could also occur at Sendai following an accident, and; 3) diminishes emergency evacuation planning for the general population living near the reactors including special needs populations such as hospitals and nursing homes.

In May 2014, three judges with the Fukui District Court in Fukui Prefecture, Japan ruled in favor of 166 Japanese plaintiffs who had brought a suit to halt the restart of Kansai Electric Power Company’s Ohi nuclear power station Units 3 and 4 which are sited atop earthquake faults. Greenpeace and Green Action Japan recently provided an English translation of the court ruling. The decision blunted the Abe government and nuclear industry’s efforts to restart the first two of Japan’s remaining 48 reactor units shut down in the wake of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe.

The Fukui court ruling places the personal rights and safety of the Japanese people above the nuclear industry's commercial claims and economic interests of Japan. The ruling tackled one of the Abe government and industry’s key arguments for nuclear restart stating, “it is the view of this Court that even if a large trade deficit occurred as a result of stopping the operation of this nuclear power plant, this should not be considered an outflow or loss of national wealth. This Court considers national wealth to be the rich land and the people's livelihoods that have taken root there, and that being unable to recover these is the true loss of national wealth."