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.



A fly on the wall as Tokyo University's fledgling nuclear engineering class of 1962 reunion grapples with Fukushima catastrophe

The Mainichi Daily News has published a fascinating article, interviewing several nuclear engineers who graduated from the University of Tokyo's fledging Atomic Age Class of 1962. After spending lifetimes devoted to control of the atom, they now question if that is even possible. One had survived Hiroshima at age 4, and vowed to show Americans what Japan was made of, after being exposed to "Atoms for Peace" propaganda as a child. Another vowed to wrest energy from mere rock (uranium) after having survived bitter cold winters in energy-starved post war Japan. Yet another began his career as a health protection specialist, but after having seen what radiation did to lab rats, asked himself "can humankind tame something as dangerous as this?" He eventually became anti-nuclear power, and suffered serious harassment in academia as a consequence. "I just don't think that nuclear power and humankind can coexist," he concluded.


Japan Health Ministry: "Whereabouts of 30 nuclear power plant subcontractors unknown" due to Tepco's "sloppy" record keeping

The Mainichi Daily News of Japan has reported that Tokyo Electric Power Company has lost track of around 30 workers who helped battle the nuclear crisis at Fukushima Daiichi in the first few weeks after the earthquake and tsunami unleashed catastrophic radiation releases from melting reactor cores and boiled-dry radioactive waste storage pools. Tepco says that none of the missing 30 workers got more than 25 rem of external exposure, according to their dosimeters (which is still significant -- prior to the emergency, Japanese nuclear workers were only allowed to get at most 5 rem per year; German nuclear workers are only allowed to get 2 rem per year). But Tepco does not know about these workers' internal exposures -- more hazardous than their external exposures. The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare has criticized Tepco for "sloppy administration." 


Revisiting Chernobyl for lessons to apply at Fukushima

Over 25 years since it exploded and caught fire, the Australian television program Sixty Minutes on June 6, 2011 revisited the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine to learn the lessons about radioactivity's hazards for application in Japan, downwind and downstream of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe.


JAEA risks extractration of 3.3 ton fuel loader from near Monju reactor core

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency has successfully removed a 3.3 ton fuel loading device from precariously near its Monju experimental plutonium breeder reactor's (picture at left) core, Reuters reports. The move was quite risky, in that Monju's 1,600 tons of liquid metal sodium coolant is violently reactive upon contact with water or air. A fire involving the 1.4 tons of ultra-hazardous plutonium fuel in the reactor's core could be catastrophic. Just such a liquid sodium leak took place in 1995, shutting the $12 billion plant until spring 2010. Then the fuel loading device drop accident happened in August. The 20 year old facility has only generated electricity for one hour thus far in the past two decades. Given public concern over the ongoing Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, pressure may force the local and prefectural governments to not approve Monju's eventual restart. The article above reports that Monju was named after the Buddhist god of wisdom -- a most ironic, even blasphemous choice. But then again, the U.S. nuclear establishment code-named its first plutonium bomb "Trinity," and India code-named its first nuclear detonation "Smiling Buddha." This risky "surgery" was only carried out because JAEA wants to re-start Monju. The extraction could have been avoided if further operations at the reactor are simply disallowed, and the problem-plagued facility shut down for good. See Thom Hartmann's interview with Kevin Kamps on Monju a couple postings below.


Japanese government submits report to IAEA on Fukushima nuclear catastrophe

The federal government of Japan has transmitted a 750 page report to the International Atomic Energy Agency as part of an IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, being held at the IAEA's headquarters in Vienna, Austria from June 20 to 24. Although called "preliminary," the report represents the single most comprehensive assessment compiled by the Japanese government since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe began on March 11th. An overview summarizes the report's main findings. It must be borne in mind that the IAEA's schizophrenic mandate is to promote nuclear energy as "atoms for peace," while also preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Given that fatally flawed internal contradiction, risks of atomic energy often get downplayed, to put it mildly. For example, a 1957 "Memorandum of Understanding" between the IAEA and World Health Organization gives the IAEA an effective veto over WHO on any radiation health related matter, leading to such outrages as IAEA/WHO maintaining for 20 (1986 to 2006) years that just a few dozen people had died from Chernobyl's radioactivity releases (in 2006, IAEA/WHO upped the figure to 4,000, still far below Alexey Yablokov's figure of nearly a million deaths due to Chernobyl between 1986 and 2004). It should not be surprising, then, that IAEA has invoked secrecy on its Fukushima nuclear catastrophe meeting (see Bloomberg article)!