power – strom und macht

Japan Times: Enough Electricity Without Any Nuclear Power


Susanne Gerber

Sales by 10 major power utilities in July dropped by 6.3 percent due to a decline in demand, the Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan has revealed.

But while efforts to cut down electricity use by households and the business sector are paying off, some say the numbers prove that last month’s reactivation of two reactors at Kansai Electric Power Co.’s Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture may have been unnecessary.

„Electricity utilities may be opting to restart their nuclear reactors since they are cheaper than thermal power plants,“ Hideyuki Koyama, executive director of Mihama no Kai, which opposes Kepco’s nuclear power use, told The Japan Times.

„The data are solid proof that Japan can supply enough electricity even without any nuclear power generation,“ he stressed.

The federation said Monday that overall electricity use in July dropped 6.3 percent compared with the same month last year. Nine out of 10 utilities reported a decline in sales, with the exception being Tohoku Electric Power Co., where recovery from the March 2011 disasters is making progress.

Rolling blackouts are to be implemented if necessary this summer in the Kansai region and Kyushu, but so far none has been needed.

The decline in electricity demand also came even though higher than average temperatures were recorded nationwide last month, according to the Meteorological Agency.

In announcing the restart of the two Oi reactors, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in June warned that it was aimed at supporting the economy and the public’s livelihood. His appeal was validated at least in the Kansai region, where electricity demand would have surpassed supply levels during peak hours had the reactors remained offline.

But pundits say that instead of relying on nuclear power, Kepco could have easily covered any shortage by requesting neighboring electricity utilities, which had an oversupply, to provide backup.

„Reactivation of the reactors was decided considering the cost and profits of the electricity utilities,“ Mihama no Kai’s Koyama said. „But under the circumstances, nuclear plants should be shut down for the safety of the public.“


Filed under: Consequences, Fukushima, Politics

NISA was Blocking any Release of Information


Susanne Gerber

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency ordered Tepco in March 2011 to delay announcing that the pressure level in one of the Fukushima No. 1 plant’s wrecked reactors was spiking to critical levels, teleconference footage released by the utility shows.

Images of Tokyo Electric Power Co. teleconferences during the initial stages of the nuclear crisis, as well as other materials and information, confirm that Tepco was forced to defer an announcement after pressure inside the reactor 3 containment vessel suddenly spiked to alarming levels around 6 a.m. March 14.

Masao Yoshida, then manager of the crippled plant, instructed workers to temporarily evacuate the reactor building, fearing a hydrogen explosion was about to rip it apart, and Tepco began preparing to announce the development to the press.

However, the utility was instructed to withhold the information by NISA, which is under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The agency then made an announcement shortly after 9 a.m. March 14 — just two hours before a hydrogen explosion destroyed the upper part of the structure housing reactor 3.

The reactor 1 building had suffered a similar blast two days earlier. Both reactors, along with reactor 2, subsequently experienced catastrophic meltdowns.

Before the explosion occurred at reactor 3, a Tepco public relations team based at the Fukushima No. 1 plant prepared a press statement about the surging pressure level.

The footage, however, shows that in a conversation with the utility’s headquarters in Tokyo, one member of the team said, „We’ve been stopped by the government and are being made to wait before issuing any announcement to the press.“

„NISA officials are blocking any release of information on the matter,“ a person who appears to be a head office employee says in the video images. „The agency’s officials are saying that (Tepco) should not be the entity to announce this either.“

Another voice on the recordings can be heard stating that NISA had refused to give Tepco permission to announce the pressure surge, saying, „We’ve been strongly requested, instructed not to announce this.“

NISA has said it kept Tepco’s announcement on hold because officials were unable to get in touch with its chief to obtain the necessary permission.


Filed under: Fukushima, Politics

Fukushima Daiichi workers ordered to cover dosimeters with lead plates


Susanne Gerber


Filed under: Danger, Fukushima, Politics, Radiation

Tokyo police preparing early for protesters — Large buses with no windows


Susanne Gerber


Filed under: Consequences, Politics

Fukushima as Manufactured Disaster


Susanne Gerber


They may not live in castles anymore, but the glass-plated skyscrapers that
tower over the great cities of the world, in faceless anonymity, still
signify the imperious domain of the ruling elite. It is from these places,
not the featureless depths of the earth’s roiling crust, which were the
decisive cause of the triple nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima-Daiichi
plant on 11th March 2011.

An independent report <>  by the Fukushima Nuclear
Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), the first independent
investigation committee authorized by the Japanese Diet (parliament) in its
66 year history, was released to both houses of the Diet on July 5. The
chairman of the report begins with zero equivocation as to the ultimate
cause of the nuclear meltdowns, which are still preventing tens of thousands
of people from returning to their homes; returns that for many, are likely
never to come:

„THE EARTHQUAKE AND TSUNAMI of March 11, 2011 were natural disasters of a
magnitude that shocked the entire world. Although triggered by these
cataclysmic events, the subsequent accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear
Power Plant cannot be regarded as a natural disaster. It was a profoundly
manmade disaster – that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.
And its effects could have been mitigated by a more effective human

How could such a „profoundly manmade disaster“ have come to pass? A
multitude of errors, „willful negligence“, and a „reluctance to question
authority“ led to nuclear power becoming „an unstoppable force, immune to
scrutiny by civil society. Its regulation was entrusted to the same
government bureaucracy responsible for its promotion.“ It sounds all too
eerily familiar to anyone who has spent time investigating the US nuclear
regulatory body, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the collusion between
the NRC and US nuclear corporations.

In a line that must indubitably stoke the anger and sorrow of all those made
homeless, all those who have lost their livelihoods and all those tens of
thousands more who now are left to agonize over radioactive contamination
for themselves and their children for decades to come, the report states,
„The direct causes of the accident were all foreseeable prior to March 11,

In other words, contrary to all the talk about „an unforeseeable event“ from
governments around the world and nuclear apologists of the left and right,
the nuclear meltdowns, with all their untold and long-term consequences for
the physical and mental health of the people of the region, were entirely
preventable if the corporation which operated the plants, TEPCO, or the
government bodies charged with regulating the nuclear industry, NISA and
METI, had taken the appropriate safety precautions:

„The operator (TEPCO), the regulatory bodies (NISA and NSC) and the
government body promoting the nuclear power industry (METI), all failed to
correctly develop the most basic safety requirements-such as assessing the
probability of damage, preparing for containing collateral damage from such
a disaster, and developing evacuation plans for the public in the case of a
serious radiation release.“

The report notes that these organizations had known of the inability of the
reactors to withstand such an earthquake and tsunami since 2006. It
recommends across the board, substantive reforms to all aspects of nuclear
regulation, the operation of the plants, the legal framework within which
they operate and the emergency response, evacuation and disaster
preparedness plans, all of which were found wanting.

It warns that these must not be cosmetic name changes or simply shifts of
personnel but a root and branch reordering of priorities and fundamental
reforms as government regulators and the corporation as organizations all
failed to protect the public, as is their legal duty:

„There were many opportunities for NISA, NSC and TEPCO to take measures that
would have prevented the accident, but they did not do so. They either
intentionally postponed putting safety measures in place, or made decisions
based on their organization’s self interest- not in the interest of public

In an echo of the BP Gulf oil spill of 2010, where it was found that BP had
no viable emergency response plan, „TEPCO’s manual for emergency response to
a severe accident was completely ineffective, and the measures it specified
did not function.“ In yet another similarity with the BP disaster, where US
government regulators were found to be having sex and drug parties with BP
officials, the report speaks of „a cozy relationship between the operators,
the regulators and academic scholars that can only be described as totally

However, fundamental reform to the nuclear industry, and TEPCO in
particular, is looking less likely without a further outpouring of national
protest the like of which Japan has not seen in decades. This is because
TEPCO is a giant corporation
ower-of-tepco.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1>  with a stranglehold on electricity
production and much else through various related companies which allow the

„Thanks to a virtual monopoly and a murky electricity pricing system, it has
become one of the biggest sources of loosely regulated cash for politicians,
bureaucrats and businessmen, who have repaid Tepco with unquestioning
support and with the type of lax oversight that contributed to the nuclear

TEPCO had net income (i.e. profits) of $1.7 billion in 2009 through its
corporate affiliates and ownership of 192 electricity plants that produce up
to one third of the electricity in Japan. Overall, Japanese people pay twice
as much for electricity as do those in the US. TEPCO is, therefore, in the
current neoliberal jargon justifying yet more daylight robbery through
ongoing bank bailouts, apparently another corporation „too big to fail“.
Amazingly, TEPCO is pushing to restart some of its own reactors despite the
widely held belief, now well documented in the government’s independent
report, that the corporation was largely to blame. Meanwhile, TEPCO, in its
own report on the accident exonerated itself
onerates-itself-in-report.html?_r=2&emc=tnt&tntemail1=y> , citing instead
the size of the tsunami and government blunders as the
causes of the meltdowns.

Conversely, not to mention much more believably, the authors of the NAIIC
report conclude that the accident was „manmade“:

„The TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident was the result of
collusion between the government, the regulators and TEPCO, and the lack of
governance by said parties. They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to
be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was
clearly „manmade.“

Some people, a lot of people, should be going to jail. Betrayal of the
people and their right to be free of radioactive contamination, particularly
a people that has already suffered the horror of atomic weapons used against
its civilian population, is unconscionable. What could have driven these
decisions taken by so many people in all these different organizations? Led
them to behave in such a criminally irresponsible manner?

Ultimately, we get to the heart of the matter: „As the nuclear power
business became less profitable over the years, TEPCO’s management began to
put more emphasis on cost cutting and increasing Japan’s reliance on nuclear

Put another way, the decisions taken were dictated by the prime directive of
capitalism: make profit at all costs, grow by any means necessary. Cut
whatever corners you need to, bribe and cajole whoever is necessary,
denigrate and belittle those who oppose you; there is no higher power to
which you will answer other than the God of Profit. This is the iron law of
capital accumulation.

The consequences of those decisions, taken in the faraway, plush boardrooms
of the nuclear corporations, and the lack of credible government information
since the disaster, have now created the fear of the people
lth-fears> , the disbanding of families, and the destruction of their
livelihoods in Fukushima prefecture:

„They continue to face grave concerns, including the health effects of
radiation exposure, displacement, the dissolution of families, disruption of
their lives and lifestyles and the contamination of vast areas of the
environment. There is no foreseeable end to the decontamination and
restoration activities that are essential for rebuilding communities.“

What an utterly appalling way to make electricity. No foreseeable end to
decontamination and restoration activities. Even without considering the
issue of nuclear waste, the staggering cost of building and operating
nuclear plants, or the umbilical cord that indelibly connects the nuclear
power industry to the nuclear weapons and defense industry, can anyone
honestly say that as a highly technological society, we have no better
alternatives to generating electricity than operating nuclear power

The response by the people of Japan has been tremendous and inspiring. Tens
of thousands
tm_content=FullStory#s365125&title=Japan_Anti_Nuclear>  have regularly
picketed government and corporate offices to prevent the restart of
reactors, 7.5 million people have signed a petition against the restarting
of any of the 54 idled reactors which have been kept shuttered due to this
massive and unprecedented outpouring of activism, organizing and anger. A
new anti-nuclear movement is being born from below. As of May, the people of
Japan celebrated the shut-down of the last of the 54 Japanese reactors, even
as there were no power cuts. Our power defeated the nuclear power! People’s
joy was short-lived however. Despite the „setback“ of the Fukushima nuclear
disaster – which should now surely be described at the very least as a
disaster-waiting-to-happen, nuclear corporations are not throwing in the
towel and admitting that nuclear power has got to go.

Through a carefully orchestrated media campaign of fear-mongering based on
the threat of power cuts and government announcements about the dangers a
lack of electricity pose to Japan’s fragile economy, they have managed to
successfully argue for the restart of reactors in the western industrial
region around Osaka. In a rare televised appeal
estart-of-2-nuclear-reactors.html?hpw>  to the Japanese public, the new
Prime Minister, Yoshihiko Noda, who is entirely pro-nuclear, made the case
for the necessary restarts.
Description: Description: Description:

However, in another new piece of evidence that should halt all talk all
restarts, the NAIIC report notes that it cannot say whether the earthquake
itself – not the tsunami – was partly responsible for the reactor meltdowns.
This finding invalidates the „stress tests“ that the nuclear plants have
undergone to prove that they are safe to operate because those tests were
based on the assumption that it was only the tsunami, not the earthquake,
which caused the structural problems and loss of power at the plant.

Meanwhile, a separate government panel of experts has declared that, based
on what happened with the tsunami from the March 11th earthquake, 34m, or
112 feet high tsunamis are possible
isk> along the Pacific coast. Every single one of the 54 Japanese nuclear
reactors is situated along the coast!

The tsunami that overwhelmed the Fukushima-Daiichi plant, and swept away
entire villages in the area, causing 19,000 deaths, was 14m (45 feet) high,
less than half what is predicted as now possible. A 2003 report had put the
maximum that had to be planned for at 20m (60 feet) but clearly a 14m wave
can overwhelm coastal defenses and inundate nuclear plants such as at
Fukushima-Daiichi, which had only anticipated and prepared for a 6m (20
foot) high wave – especially if they have already been compromised by the
preceding earthquake. The only rational answer is to permanently shut down
all the reactors, break apart and dismantle the nuclear corporations as
threats to public health, take further measures to conserve electricity and
speed up the program of building the infrastructure necessary for a clean
energy economy.

However, there are a few broader conclusions to draw from this report and
the litany of similar cases of accidents such as the BP spill where the
corporate drive for profit is like an unstoppable tsunami rationalizing all
manner of health and safety evasions and cutbacks.

Firstly, this is not about a few bad apples or irresponsible, corrupt
people. This is about how capitalism operates. How else does one explain the
need for every single area of capital accumulation – from the nuclear
industry, to oil and gas, to pharmaceuticals to food production – to have
independent regulators preventing the corporations from doing what they are
primed to do: make profit at all costs? If the regulators are in the pockets
of the corporations that bestride the planet as unaccountable behemoths with
their colossal economies, often larger than most individual states, all hell
breaks loose.

Second, whatever those deluded environmentalists who are pro-nuclear think,
there is no scenario in which a sane person can be pro-nuclear when the nuke
plants are operating within a social system that has no ethical, social,
ecological or moral concerns and drives the individuals who run the system
into immoral actions. The only thing crazier than boiling water by splitting
atoms is boiling water by splitting atoms in a social system driven by

Five years ago the great leftist social and ecological thinker and activist
Barry Commoner was asked in a
New York Times interview whether the environmentalists who have now turned
to nuclear power as an answer to global warming had a point. To which he

„No. This is a good example of shortsighted environmentalism. It
superficially makes sense to say, „Here’s a way of producing energy without
carbon dioxide.“ But every activity that increases the amount of
radioactivity to which we are exposed is idiotic. There has to be a
life-and-death reason to do it. I mean, we haven’t solved the problem of
waste yet. We still have used fuel sitting all over the place. I think the
fact that some people who have established a reputation as environmentalists
have adopted this is appalling.“

Third, within capitalism, there are certain essential economic activities
which need to be thought of as they were before the acceleration of
capitalist orthodoxy of deregulation and privatization that occurred with
the birth of neoliberalism 30 years ago. Before the drive for privatization
that necessitated the evisceration of the organized power of the working
class, as the balance of class forces were forcibly tilted toward the
corporations and away from us.

Activities where we are not seen as customers for a commodity that we buy
from a for-profit corporation, but rather as citizens, with a right to a
service from the government that we elect to represent our interests.

Examples of such essential services are the provision of education, access
to water, healthcare, a pension, public transportation – the most basic
attributes for a productive and healthy life and a functioning society. But
this idea must also extend to the provision of electricity. Not just because
it is fundamental to the way we live, but, just as importantly, for
ecological reasons.

We need to conserve electricity and energy use in general and set up systems
to ensure that there is a nationally organized program to do so. However,
that will never happen with electricity production when the utilities are
privately owned. Private electric utilities make more money the more
electricity they sell us. So, having consumers use less would be
counter-productive and irrational from a corporate perspective. If they’re
regulated and offered incentives to sell us less, they just charge more for
each individual unit and pass the costs on. Furthermore, corporations are
always going to spend as little as they can get away with on infrastructure,
safety and maintenance, as illustrated to a horrific extent by the nuclear
catastrophe in Japan.

Electricity should be a service that is publically provided, not a commodity
to be bought. In other words, we need to re-nationalize the electricity grid
and see it as an opportunity to build a new energy infrastructure, one that
is efficient and has at its heart energy conservation based around
alternative sources of energy. Not outdated, dirty, and dangerous 19th and
20th century technologies such as coal, oil, gas or uranium but clean,
renewable – and safe – wind, solar and geothermal sources. Energy sources
that Japan and United States, have in great abundance.

It’s crystal clear however, that without an organized mass movement from
below that unites social and ecological issues together into a single
movement for jobs, sustainability and justice, one that tilts the balance of
social power back in our favor, as the Japanese people are attempting right
now, those changes will not happen. Absent the building of such a movement,
we will eventually be left living on an irradiated cinder of a planet where
they sell us hazmat suits at inflated prices from the safety of their
glittering corporate towers.

In India, there is a titanic struggle going on between people organized
under the banner of the People’s Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE) and
the Indian government. The Indian state is determined, despite Fukushima, to
increase its reliance on nuclear power tenfold, so that it represents 25% of
electricity production. This in a country where almost half the population,
400 million people, lack access to electricity and decades old Indian wind
turbines produce twice as much electricity as current Indian nuclear plants
that have already received billions of dollars in funding. If these wind
turbines alone were upgraded, let along building more modern ones or taking
advantage of the plentiful solar energy that India basks in, they could
supply a much larger segment of electricity and obviate the need for the
nuclear plants.

Due to the growth and persistence of the Indian activists struggle, the
state is becoming increasingly violent, dispatching thousands of troops to
put down protests. The response by PMANE and the anti-nuclear activists
to state violence and intimidation as they fight to protect themselves from
the calamity of building more nuclear plants deserves to be quoted at some

„The day after the Tamil Nadu state by-elections last March. Chief Minister
Selvi J. Jayalalithaa suddenly reversed her earlier decision to support the
protesters, dispatching at least 6,000 police and paramilitary to the
region. For three days, the government prevented essential supplies –
including tankers of water and milk – from reaching the PMANE base in
Idinthikarai, a coastal village about two kilometers from the Koodankulam
reactors. But nearby fishing communities sympathized with the protesters at
Idinthikarai and sent in boats of supplies for them. In an unprecedented
display of solidarity, traditional local women also took to boats to reach
the village. Residents blocked roads en masse, preventing police from
arresting the movement’s coordinators.“

This is the kind of heroic solidarity actions and mass movement we need to
build in the United States and in every part of the globe.

But finally, if the system really is pathological in its operation, as I
would argue it is, then the only solution is to uproot it in its entirety
and replace it with something that we can jointly and collectively create; a
social and economic system that places people and the planet before profit.

Ultimately, a system where there is no profit, where we cooperate to
democratically plan out what we need to produce and how we’re going to
produce it with, to use Marx’s words, the „least possible expenditure of
energy“. The stepping stones along the path to that fundamental
transformation require the building of a mass social and ecological justice
movement that fights for real reforms as outlined above, beginning with the
abandonment of the destructive and costly insanity of nuclear power and the
eradication of fossil fuel derived energy that is destabilizing global
climate. But a movement that simultaneously aims for a revolutionary
reordering of power.

Power to the People, Not the Corporations!

Chris Williams is a professor in the Dept of Chemistry & Physical Science,
Pace University and author of Ecology and Socialism: Solutions to Capitalist
Ecological Crisis
(Haymarket Books, 2010)

see also

Filed under: Fukushima, Politics, Reflection, Resistance

Mizumoto park in Tokyo needs radiation decontamination


Susanne Gerber

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has rejected a local politician’s call to decontaminate a park where high concentrations of radioactive cesium have been detected, saying radiation levels are not high enough to warrant a cleanup. The high concentrations in Katsushika Ward’s Mizumoto Park were found earlier by Japanese Communist Party (JCP) members of the metropolitan assembly, and JCP assemblyman Tamio Tazoe called for the decontamination of the site in a recent session. The metropolitan government, which detected a radiation dose of 0.99 microsieverts per hour in tests at the park on June 11, rejected Tazoe’s request, stating the emissions did not reach the national limit. According to the Tokyo Bureau of Environment, it conducted the June 11 measurements at the request of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), which had been contacted by the JCP. It says bureau workers took the 0.99 microsieverts per hour reading a meter above the ground where the JCP members had earlier found the high cesium concentrations. About 60 meters away in the middle of the park’s parking lot, however, the bureau says it measured a dose of just 0.18 microsieverts per hour. In October last year, the national government established standards whereby MEXT could be contacted if localized radiation levels were on average one microsievert per hour higher than surrounding areas. Bureau chief Teruyuki Ono stated that the measurements taken this time were below the national limit and that he thought an overall radiation survey of Tokyo government facilities was “basically unnecessary.”

Filed under: Fukushima, Politics, Radiation

Fukushima prefecture requested Hirosaki university to stop internal exposure test


Susanne Gerber

Fukushima prefectural government requested Hirosaki University to stop internal exposure test “because it causes fear of Fukushima people”.

Researching team of Hirosaki university conducted radiation test for Iodine 131 taken in the thyroid for 17 people in Namiemachi, where is in planned evacuation area and 45 people who evacuated from MInamisoma to Fukushima (62 in total). The researching team obtained the permission of the citizens and local government.
To make the reliable data, they needed over 100 testees but the local medical department of Fukushima prefecture stopped them conducting further research. They commented, “The researching team is allowed to measure environmental radiation level but internal exposure test causes fear, it shall be stopped.”

The medical department states, they don’t remember that comment but they actually requested other universities to “understand the feelings of local citizens.” as well.
As the result, almost none of the internal exposure data of Iodine 131 remained.

The radiation data of those 62 people are already published. On the assumption that they took Iodine 131 to their thyroid on 3/12,the total dosage of internal exposure of the 5 people exceed 50 mSv, which they had to take iodine preparation from the regulation of IAEA. However now it’s considered to be more possible that they took iodine 131 on 3/15, they are analyzing the data again.

Around the end of March 2011, Nuclear disaster headquarters of the government actually conducted thyroid internal exposure test for 1080 of 0 ~ 15 years old people living in Iidate mura but because they used the simple equipment, they couldn’t measure iodine 131 directly.

Filed under: Consequences, Fukushima, Politics, Radiation

If this global catastrophe occurs, what will the world history books say?


Susanne Gerber

By Akio Matsumura

I was amazed when I heard that one million Japanese had read our article that introduces Ambassador Mitsuhei Murata’s courageous appeal at the public hearing of the House of Councilors of Japan and Robert Alvarez’s famous figure that there is 85 times greater Cesium-137 at Fukushima than at Chernobyl accident. People from 176 nations have visited our blog and Ambassador Murata and Robert Alvarez have been quoted in online and print media in many of them. Despite this global attention, the Japanese government seems to be further from taking action to deal with the growing dangers of Fukushima Dai-ichi. In April I flew to Japan to meet with government and opposition party leaders to convey how dangerous the situation is. Ambassador Murata and I met with Mr. Fujimura, Chief Cabinet Secretary, who assured us he would convey our message to Prime Minister Noda before his departure for Washington to meet with President Obama on April 30. It was to our great disappointment that the idea of an independent assessment team and international technical support for the disaster were not mentioned publicly. I was also astonished to hear that many Japanese political leaders were not aware of the potential global catastrophe because they were not told anything about it by TEPCO. I find it difficult to understand their mindset. Why would the Japanese political leaders think it appropriate to depend on one source (with an obvious and inherent conflict of interest) to judge what issues have resulted from the Fukushima accident and who is most appropriate to handle it? As a result of this myopia, Japan’s leadership lacks a clear picture of the situation and has little idea where it is steering its country and people.

Let me clarify briefly why Fukushima Dai-ichi remains an enormous danger for which no scientists can recommend a solution at the moment.

Any one of the following accidents could seriously endanger the entire Fukushima Dai-ichi area.

1.      In reactors 1, 2 and 3, complete core meltdowns have occurred.  Japanese authorities have admitted the possibility that the fuel may have melted through the bottom of the reactor core vessels. It is speculated that this might lead to unintended criticality (resumption of the chain reaction) or a powerful steam explosion – either event could lead to major new releases of radioactivity into the environment.

2.      Reactors 1 and 3 are sites of particularly intense penetrating radiation, making those areas unapproachable.  As a result, reinforcement repairs have not yet been done since the Fukushima accident.  The ability of these structures to withstand a strong aftershock earthquake is uncertain.

3.      The temporary cooling pipes installed in each of the crippled reactors pass through rubble and debris.

They are unprotected and highly vulnerable to damage. This could lead to a failure of some cooling systems, causing overheating of the fuel, further fuel damage with radioactive releases, additional hydrogen gas explosions, possibly even a zirconium fire and fuel melting within the spent fuel pools.

4.      Reactor No. 4 building and its frame are serious damaged. The spent fuel pool in Unit 4, with a total weight of 1,670 tons, is suspended 100 feet (30 meters) above ground, beside a wall which is bulging outward.

If this pool collapses or drains, the resulting blast of penetrating radiation will shut down the entire area. At the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station, the spent fuel pools alone contain an amount of cesium-137 that is 85 times greater than at Chernobyl.

Any of these occurrences could have major consequences for the entire Fukushima Dai-ichi area.

Due to the pressure by the public and media, the government of Japan sent Mr. Goshi Hosono, Minister of the Environment and Nuclear Power Policy, to Reactor 4 on May 26. He spent half an hour on a temporary staircase at the site. Surprisingly, he said the structure supporting the pool appeared sound. (So our constant request for an Independent Assessment team was accomplished within 30 minutes, just like that. Thanks, Japan.) Minister Hosono also said at the press meeting that Reactor 4 could stand a Magnitude-6 earthquake. I don’t understand why he said this. We are warning that Japanese geologists predict that a 90% probability M-7 earthquake will be hitting Japan within three years.

Is he preparing his excuse that a M-7 earthquake was beyond his assumption?

Does the government of Japan think that the public is stupid enough to believe in such a performance? If they are so brazen, it’s probably because they know the Japanese media will cover what they wish to be covered. If we were talking about business as usual, I could ignore this as political theater, but we are talking about a global catastrophe that mankind has never experienced. “Frustration” and “disappointment” take on new meaning with each passing day.

I decided to visit Washington, D.C., to meet with a retired Army Lieutenant General, an old friend who I first met at the United Nations, to explain how Fukushima should be considered an urgent international security priority, and how it requires immediate U.S. action.

He agreed. He saw very clearly why Fukushima needs action now and he was puzzled why all possible actors have been so slow to move. One year and two months have now passed and it is a mystery what the United States government is waiting for. Investigating Reactor 4 should be a prioritized national security issue. We think we have been lucky for 14 months but it was a litmus test to see if opinion leaders from all walks of life would stand up to face the challenge. They haven’t thus far. And I don’t think we can count on luck for 14 more months.

I also met with Bob Alvarez in Washington and we talked for several hours. I thanked him for his calculation of Cs-137 at Fukushima Daiichi site; the simple figure has helped draw the public’s attention to the issue. Mr. Alvarez said that the figure of a ten times Cs-137 at Reactor 4 compared to Chernobyl is low, but is useful to avoid scientific arguments; a higher figure might be 50 times, which means that 85 times greater than Chernobyl might be an underestimate as well.

But it doesn’t matter, Alvarez said, whether the magnitude is 10 or 20 times greater at Reactor 4. The Cesium-137 in Reactor 4 would cause all of Japan’s land  to become an evacuation zone, the strong radiation would affect East Asia and North America, and the radioactive material fall out would remain there for several hundred years.  He asked me if Japanese leaders understand this. My answer is, yes, they understand it in theory but not in a practical sense. Prime Minister Noda, the sixth premier in the past five years, does not have the political power to make a decision to request the Independent Assessment team and the international technical support teams outside of TEPCO.

I told him that I came to Washington to explain that Japan will not take the first step; its leadership does not have the power to act first and survive politically, and does not have the courage to take the first step without thinking of the second.

Our guest speaker at the Moscow Global Forum in 1990, Dr. Robert Socolow, a professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University wrote his essay to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists dated March 21, 2011.

We must explain, over and over, the concept of ‘afterheat,’ the fire that you can’t put out, the generation of heat from fission fragments now and weeks from now and months from now, heat that must be removed. Journalists are having such a hard time communicating this concept because it is so unfamiliar to them and nearly everyone they are writing for. Every layman feels that every fire can be put out.

It is so difficult, as Dr. Socolow says, to convince political leaders to take action in the face of an unknown – in this case an unprecedented catastrophe that they cannot conceive of in terms of an election cycle.

In the same way, I must explain to foreign leaders over and over again that Japan’s Prime Minister is a consensus builder, not a risk taker. He won’t face up to this challenge.

The United States government is the only other logical actor, and I find it very difficult to understand why they remain silent.

If this global catastrophe occurs, what will the world history books say?

Filed under: Consequences, Danger, Fukushima, Politics

Tepco Corporate Information


Susanne Gerber


I would like to express my sincerest condolences to those who have suffered from the Tohoku-Chihou-Taiheiyo-Oki Earthquake that struck our nation on March 11.

The TEPCO Group is currently in the process of mobilizing all of its available resources towards the stabilization of „Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station“ and to „care for the afflicted“, „ensure stable power supply during the summer“ and „implement extreme business efficiency and streamlining measures.“

We are especially concerned with the speedy expedition of multiple measures in accordance with the „Roadmap“ so that those who were forced to evacuate due to the accident will be allowed to return to their homes as soon as possible.

I sincerely request your continued support and cooperation.

June 2011
The Tokyo Electric Power Company, Incorporated
Toshio Nishizawa

Filed under: Fukushima, Politics

MIT awarded $1.65 million in Department of Energy Nuclear Energy University Programs grants and $450,000 in graduate student fellowships.


Susanne Gerber
Two of 47 newly funded Department of Energy (DOE) research projects are led by professors in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering (NSE) at MIT. Under its Nuclear Energy University Programs (NEUP) umbrella, the DOE has awarded $36.2 million in support of projects in four fields: fuel cycle research and development; reactor concepts research, development and demonstration; nuclear energy advanced modeling and simulation; and transformative research. Both the MIT projects fall into the fuel cycle research & development category.

“Optimization of Deep Borehole Systems for HLW Disposal,” led by Professor emeritus Michael Driscoll and Assistant Professor Emilio Baglietto, received an $850,000 grant; and “Scholarship for Nuclear Communications and Methods for Evaluation of Nuclear Project Acceptability,” led by Professor Michael Golay, received $800,000.

NEUP research award winners

From left to right: Michael Driscoll, Emilio Baglietto, Michael Golay.

The objective of the “Optimization of Deep Borehole Systems for HLW Disposal” project is to provide a comprehensive evaluation of the deep borehole option for disposal of high level nuclear waste. This project builds upon a long history of prior work carried out in the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT and more recently at Sandia National Labs. It is designed in part to respond to the recent report to the Secretary of Energy by the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, which — drawing in part on earlier MIT research — identified deep boreholes as a possible alternative to shallower mined repositories.

Collaborators on this project are Associate Professor Jacopo Buongiorno and Professor and Department Head Richard Lester, and Dr. Patrick Brady at Sandia National Labs.

“Scholarship for Nuclear Communications and Methods for Evaluation of Nuclear Project Acceptability“ will develop a model to characterize the factors affecting social acceptance of nuclear projects by potential stakeholders. The nuclear enterprise has long faced difficulties in gaining the broad social acceptance needed for success. The base of scholarship relevant to this problem is relatively small, and not much used within the nuclear enterprise. Reliance upon public education efforts continues to be the main, and largely unsuccessful, tactic to achieve acceptance. This project will develop a model for the social acceptability of nuclear projects, for use in assessment and refinement of their probabilities of success among essential stakeholders. The researchers expect that it will strengthen the ability to design and implement large projects more efficiently, leading to higher rates of success for future nuclear projects.

In addition to the two research grants, three NSE graduate students, Sam Shaner, William Boyd and Bradley Black, have been awarded 2012 NEUP fellowships. Each student will receive $150,000 over three years to support their studies at MIT.

These grants and fellowships are part of a larger effort by the DOE to build on President Obama’s commitment to promote education in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. The awards announced under the NEUP programs will support nuclear energy research and development and student education at 46 colleges and universities around the country.

Filed under: Politics