Tuesday, August 6, 2013

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Accident: The Blind (METI) Still Leading the Blind (TEPCO)


So Nuclear Regulatory Authority finally butted in, formed its own committee and started ordering TEPCO to do something (probably wrong "something", again, but...) over the groundwater saturating the embankment at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant because of TEPCO's ill-conceived underground impermeable wall.

I was wondering why it took NRA until very recently to actively participate in dealing with the accident, until I read independent journalist Ryuichi Kino's tweet just now. It is because Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is in charge of decommissioning the plant:

福島第一の現場で何かが行われているのか、何を基準に工法や、工事の優先順位を決めているのか、この判断理由が外からはまったく見えない。事故収束作業の管理監督をしているのは資源エネルギー庁を事務局とする廃炉対策推進会議だけども、エネ庁はコストの確認をしていない。

What is going on at Fukushima I Nuke Plant? Who decides what method of construction to use on what criteria, and who decides which construction to be given the priority? From outside, the decision-making is completely opaque. The entity in charge of managing and supervising the works to control the plant is the Council on Decommissioning Measures with the Agency of Natural Resource and Energy [under Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry] acting as the secretariat, but the Agency does not know the cost of works at the plant.


The Council was set up by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as of February 8, 2013, and so far has had 5 meetings. The members are (information from TEPCO):

  • Chairman: Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry

  • Deputy Chairman: Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry

  • Council members: President of TEPCO, Director General of JAEA, President of Toshiba, President of Hitachi

  • Secretary: Advisor to Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry in charge of energy and technology

  • Observer: Nuclear Regulatory Authority/Nuclear Regulatory Agency


Nuclear Regulatory Authority/Nuclear Regulatory Agency is just an observer, which in case of Japan has a privilege to sit in the meeting and literally "observe" the meeting but not say much (or at all).

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) had to relinquish NISA (Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency) in September last year when the new nuclear regulatory body (NRA) was created. Or so I thought.

Reuters' article from yesterday quoting Mr. Kinjo, who is the observer to this Council, fails to mention that it is still good old METI in charge of decommissioning work.

Kino says the Secretary to the Council is a career bureaucrat, and the current one was rotated into this position in June this year. Just a part of career stepping stone for bureaucrats at the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry is ex-McKinsey consultant Toshimitsu Motegi, who just dispensed consulting advice to "the parties concerned" regarding Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant.

For politicians and bureaucrats, it's "Après moi, le déluge". Literally.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for showing the line of command which is no command.
Can we get something on the BIG news which is that Fuku may BOIL away that collected water instead of (or in addition to) dumping into the Pacific.

netudiant said...

This is really helpful input, because it does clarify who is in charge.
Now it would be important to understand on what basis the NRA issues orders to TEPCO, because from the above document the job is the purview of the Council on Decommissioning Measures where the NRA is an observer. So the NRA order is really one part of the government trying to order around another part.
In my experience, bureaucracies are very good at deflecting outside influences and by all accounts, METI is really, really good.

It seems that an reasonable narrative could be constructed that the Japanese leadership was in panic initially and hoped for help from the US. After the obvious ineffectiveness of the US Navy ( remembering the carrier Reagan hightailing out of the area as it started to meet radiation), they got the foolishness of NRC Commissioner Jazco. At his insistence, members of the JSDF risked their lives for useless helicopter water drops on the reactor 3 spent fuel pool, even though it was not empty.
At that point probably the leadership decided that there was no help to be had, that Japan would solve its problems itself and endure the consequences as a nation, not limited to a region.
That explains why debris are distributed for burning, why foods are not segregated by region and why the cleanup seems haphazard.
The fact is between the water treatment and the ground water flushing of the site, the site water is getting cleaner. The corium is not dissolving into the water, so Japan has time, even if the aggregate pollution doubles over the next century. A very hard nosed calculus is evident, that weighted what was feasible and what was not and has focused the efforts on making the losses more evenly distributed.
This current kerfuffle re the ground water should be put into perspective, there are over 300,000 tons of water in storage and processing, three times as much as is in the plant. I don't see any crisis here other than what is manufactured and I expect it to be 'resolved' before the end of the month.

Anonymous said...

So netudiant has us see the Japanese govt. seeking help from the U.S., their govt. not knowing 3's pool water level, they valuing the JSDF's lives, overcoming their panic with a very hard nosed calculus that tells them 3's water level, that there's no harm in distributing burn materials, site water is getting "cleaner", the kefuffle is nothing to worry about.
Nothing to worry about here, move along. And don't forget to "support Fukushima produce"?

The "semi-cunning AI", netudiant, at work.

Anonymous said...

Meh, until the miraculous "resolving" of the "kerfuffle" regarding ground water takes place, whether before the end of the month or not, I'll keep my dismal perspective, if you don't mind.

Otherwise, there is always the untroubled Physics Forums, that den of denial, made up of deprived-of-perception scientific types, for some good ol' nuke industry cheer.

Anonymous said...

@anon @ 3:29, exactly the point. I am the one, btw, that attempted to engage "netudiant" several years ago and received no reply. I'll give my theory as to why 'engagement' was not achieved.

"netudiant" is in fact a cyborg-of-sorts, a neural net program that is randomly updated w/course corrections. A literal neural net with data feeds of catch phrases and buzzwords characteristic of the anti-nuke crowd. The cyborg aspect is the human course corrector's admission that it is "hard-nosed": silicon based.

Otherwise, its comment @5:18 makes no sense to a human, especially one that has visited this site over the last few years. And lastly, it is an experiment in human semantics generation. Actual content is of no meaning to its cyborg operators.

Kind of like this, they're seeking actions leading from events,
"The neurosynaptic chip throws that model away and relies instead on tracking relationships between events and determining if those events lead to action."

http://gigaom.com/2011/08/17/for-our-sensor-heavy-future-ibm-cooks-up-a-new-silicon-brain/

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