Friday, September 07, 2012

Fukushima safety versus "man-made nuclear betrayal"

IAEA Team visiting Fukushima

"Manmade nuclear betrayal" is the expression used by a Japanese panel on Fukushima. I was reading again the Tepco front page and I want to write about future energy plan because I found this paragraph by Tepco absolutely scary.

"Among those who engaged in the emergency works at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in the period from March to June, there are some people whose internal exposure doses have not been measured and who we cannot contact (10 people as of December 17, 2011). It needs for security and relief of identical person to evaluate the radiation exposure. If you know something about the person who can't get communication, please contact to our call center."  (In: Status of Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Stations after Great East Japan Earthquake ( )

"Radiation exposure" indeed. I watched last week a remarkable (but late) NHK TV special about the nuclear workers, the "cleaners". Terrifying news is the amount of radiation these workers endured in the last year or at the time of the interviews, some got 12 to 13 mSv already. Daily dose was slightly under 1 mSv a day, obliging the subcontractors to hire permanently new staff, in their 20's years old included. "Why haven't these stories been available before ?"

Now that Japan is embarked into new roadmap about its energy policy, people seem to talk more. The new head of Japan's biggest electric company aired concerns about the possibility that Japan could phase out nuclear power, saying such a move would necessitate a "complete" revamping of its investment and fuel-procurement plans and could be detrimental to the country's energy security as well. Based on Japan's past experience with oil shortages in the 1970s it'd be wiser to have diversity in Japan's energy mix, both in the kinds of fuels used and the places they are bought from. Says who? Naomi Hirose, president of Tokyo Electric Power this week. 

After the oil shocks, "we had to sharply hike rates twice, and Japanese society fell into chaos." Hirose's comments come as a threat while the situation is entirely different today. No NPP for a year and Japan works pretty well. So, where is the truth? But it comes a week before the administration of Japan Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda announce a long awaited decision on Japan's future energy mix, following last year's devastating accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear-power plant.

If Japan phases out nuclear power, Japan will have to draw a new map in terms on investment and fuel-procurement plans. Could be detrimental to the country's energy security? Critics say no. Since last year Japan worked out without needing nuclear energy. The fear Japanese have is about the consumption peak, at this moment they can need more energy access. Does it have to come from the nuclear power supply?

Safety and information, not deceitful communication

Improvement is necessary related to the selective presentation of information by Tepco, for instance on the Fukushima buildings and reactors 1 2 3 4. Tepco constantly denied access to information or delayed this access, say, when situation becomes hot... Then they find a couple of guys to file a story. So did the JP administration. 

Same with the work made on the Dai Ichi plant. Offering proper information on what constitutes dangers is not part of Tepco corporate culture. I wish I could go to Dai Ichi NPP tomorrow but Tepco does not invite us and if it does, it is so controlled that what we see is simply an inch of the reality, it often brings biased views. 

Not telling the truth on the spent fuel rods to the public and saying that reactor 4 is to be cleaned by late 2013 by showing new rods on official Tepco pictures (not contaminated) is an example of Tepco's poor communication, or say of malign type of expression to deceive the media especially when these pictures are not provided in accurate timing. 

Currently there are 1,331 used nuclear fuel and 202 unused nuclear fuel in the reactor 4 storage pool. A pool reinforced indeed but to levels which critics say, here again there are two sort of critics with those who work for Tepco and the others, who say Fukushima reactors cannot sustain new natural disasters. This is physics, meteorology and geological sciences and... luck or not. Quantifiable? Time will prove.

So I say again to Tepco: Don't wait for troubles to come and preach that you are sorry. Invite the foreign media and brief them seriously before we attempt to investigate more by entering the plant. Some talk about doing it without asking the permissions. Our interest is to check if Tepco and Co respect the mid-to long term roadmap toward the decommissioning of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Units 1 to 4.

One thing is: How, at the beginning, could Japan go for such reactors as Fukushima, the GE Mark 1, with confinement of the reactors which in case of accident see the formation of an uncontrollable corium, but with no confinement of the storage pool? This is where we are today, and an accident of high intensity is at risk to turn Fukushima and Japan into a nightmare. 

A Japanese University professor friend of mine, Mr K. speaks perfect English, told me 2 weeks after March 11 2011 that "when GE sold this Mark 1 nuclear reactors to Japan, the American maker told the Japanese that this was not earthquake prone, Japanese did not care about it" he added. Terrible right? Who is lying who is telling the truth?

One other of my sources, an American, who visited Japanese nuclear plants in official capacity told me about the dangers for mothers and children: "it is now our duty as specialists and independent inspectors to go and explain to the Japanese people and to go to Fukushima to tell them the truth, the reality." 

He is one of the IAEA monitoring team's member...!

Edited: 07 Sept. 15:35

n.b. So much information that never goes out in France or in the rest of the world despite our daily efforts, world capitals such as Paris are careful on news from Fukushima, is it because the IAEA Charter says the organization is here to promote the nuclear energy? Why this "shield" on Fukushima information? On Fukushima NPP, on the food chain contamination, on spreading of cesium, it has been over a year I spoke about it repeatedly. Nuclear nations such as France are timid, just reactive. In the U.S. and UK, the Chinese and Russians media appear even more talkative! Why is that so? Tepco does not communicate information. Reacts only later. Adds "chart", removes embarrassing questions, modifies its press statements, hesitates, changes positions on facts, does not comment on answers or avoid follow-ups. Its executives do not remember etc. We can not believe what we are told at Tepco press conferences, it is based on our daily tracking since March 11, 2011. In fact we saw a lot of propaganda on the extraction of a new rod midsummer, but then nothing on the shields to protect and reinforce the NPP R4, nothing came here on the shield because, as far as we can understand, Tepco will not admit that there is danger in the pool of R4 or elsewhere. Why reinforce when "it is safe, with no harm for health" etc.. are we served on each hot topic. On this R4 shield, we talked about "building structures" on the radio (live) with the head of the IRSN, Thierry Charles, who was a guest. His concern was so keen on the "risk of abuse". Disturbing nonetheless. Since then, new concerns and revelations appear from Fukushima: On the wall of R4, a gaping hole in the bottom of the building, hidden by trucks and cranes. Concern also lately about suspicious white fumes. Should the government set a crisis on the "psychological" Tepco? And why such a mess in the political life about the instability of the Noda government following the demonstrations against the nuclear industry, now in 100 Japanese cities on weekly basis, since prime minister Noda announced he would reduce the dependance on nuclear power supply? Shogun Tepco is maybe in a bad posture but the "Japanese nuclear village", as it is called, is still exerting a huge domination on media: "When middle management loses its nerves, there is a sort of self-restraint imposed within the newspapers not to handle articles that criticize corporations.” However, it depends on which media, which television etc. He said that he still believes that the Mainichi and Chunichi Tokyo Newspaper are doing solid investigative journalism. TEPCO has an advertising budget of about twenty-three or four billion yen ($230 to 240 million) a year. A lot of that was to keep the media under control," says Hajime Kitamura, publisher of Shukan Kinyoubi  (Friday Weekly).

Edited: 08 Sept. 11:45