Saturday, June 29, 2013

Germany's Spiegel Online: Attacks from America - NSA Spied on European Union Offices

At this point, who hasn't been spied on by NSA?

The newspaper says it has seen part of secret documents obtained by Edward Snowden.

From Spiegel Online International (6/29/2013; emphasis is mine):

Attacks from America: NSA Spied on European Union Offices

By Laura Poitras, Marcel Rosenbach, Fidelius Schmid and Holger Stark

America's NSA intelligence service allegedly targeted the European Union with its spying activities. According to SPIEGEL information, the US placed bugs in the EU representation in Washington and infiltrated its computer network. Cyber attacks were also perpetrated against Brussels in New York and Washington.

Information obtained by SPIEGEL shows that America's National Security Agency (NSA) not only conducted online surveillance of European citizens, but also appears to have specifically targeted buildings housing European Union institutions. The information appears in secret documents obtained by whistleblower Edward Snowden that SPIEGEL has in part seen. A "top secret" 2010 document describes how the secret service attacked the EU's diplomatic representation in Washington.

The document suggests that in addition to installing bugs in the building in downtown Washington, DC, the EU representation's computer network was also infiltrated. In this way, the Americans were able to access discussions in EU rooms as well as emails and internal documents on computers.

The attacks on EU institutions show yet another level in the broad scope of the NSA's spying activities. For weeks now, new details about Prism and other surveillance programs have been emerging that had been compiled by whistleblower Snowden. Details have also emerged that the British intelligence service GCHQ operates a similar program under the name Tempora with which global telephone and Internet connections are monitored.

The documents SPIEGEL has seen indicate that the EU representation to the United Nations was attacked in a manner similar to the way surveillance was conducted against its offices in Washington. An NSU document dated September 2010 explicitly names the Europeans as a "location target"

The documents also indicate the US intelligence service was responsible for an electronic eavesdropping operation in Brussels. A little over five years ago, EU security experts noticed several telephone calls that were apparently targeting the remote maintenance system in the Justus Lipsius Building where the EU Council of Ministers and the European Council is located. The calls were made to numbers that were very close to the one used for the remote administration of the building's telephone system.

Security officials managed to track the calls to NATO headquarters in the Brussels suburb of Evere. A precise analysis showed that the attacks on the telecommunications system had originated from a building complex separated from the rest of the NATO headquarters that is used by NSA experts.

A review of the remote maintenance system showed that it had been called and reached several times from precisely that NATO complex. Every EU member state has rooms in the Justus Lipsius Building that can be used by EU ministers. They also have telephone and Internet connections at their disposal.

Naturally, European officials are not too happy. From

US officials have yet to comment but the European Parliament chief Martin Schulz said that more information was needed , but if the charges of spying were confirmed, it would be a huge scandal. Schultz said in statement: "On behalf of the European Parliament, I demand full clarification and require further information speedily from the US authorities with regard to these allegations" The Foreign Minister of Luxembourg said that it the reports are true it is disgusting. "The United States would be better off monitoring its secret services rather than its allies. We must get a guarantee from the very highest level now that this stops immediately."

I agree with the Luxembourg minister.

As to Mr. Snowden, he is apparently still stranded inside the airport in Moscow, as Ecuador President Corea revoked his transit papers to Ecuador where he seeks asylum. Apparently, President Corea's ego is bruised as Wikileaks' Assange is seen to be running the show.

President Obama's newly appointed National Security Advisor Susan Rice (the same one who was sent out to lie about Benghazi on Sunday talk shows right after the attack) says NSA leaks are not significant, and they haven't weakened her boss one bit.

President Obama and his family and friends are on a 100-million-dollar tour of Africa right now. No sign of weakness as far as the dollar amount shows.

Mainichi: Japan Made Secret Promise with the US to Restart Pluthermal Nuclear Program in September Last Year

It was when Yoshihiko Noda was still the prime minister in the DPJ administration. Just like the current prime minister, Mr. Noda did his utmost best to please the US president (Mr. Obama) and the US power that be, whom Noda thought Mr. Obama represented. Mr. Noda, however, was taken more seriously in the US and elsewhere than the current office holder who is deemed a threat to the US interests in Asia.

Mainichi Shinbun claims it obtained the official documents (which they never disclose to the readers) detailing the promise that Mr. Noda's envoy, Hiroshi Ogushi, made to Mr. Daniel Poneman, Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Energy.

"Pluthermal" is a Japanese English made from "plutonium" and "thermal-neutron reactor", and it means nuclear power generation using MOX fuel in light-water reactors.

From Mainichi English (6/25/2013):

Japan made secret promise with U.S. to restart pluthermal nuclear program

A Japanese prime ministerial envoy secretly promised to the United States that Japan would resume its controversial "pluthermal" program, using light-water reactors to burn plutonium, according to documents obtained by the Mainichi.

The secret promise was made by Hiroshi Ogushi, then parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office, to Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, during Ogushi's visit to the United States on behalf of then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in September last year.

The revelation comes as Japan's pluthermal project remains suspended in the wake of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster due to safety concerns. The fact that a Japanese official promised to the U.S. to implement such a controversial project without a prior explanation to the Japanese public is expected to stir up controversy.

According to the official documents obtained by the Mainichi, upon being pressed to reduce the amount of plutonium in Japan that could be diverted to military use, Ogushi told Poneman that Japan would burn plutonium in plutonium-thermal (pluthermal) reactors. The then ruling Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) was in the final stages of formulating its nuclear energy policy at the time.

Under the pluthermal plan, spent nuclear fuel generated in light-water reactors is reprocessed to extract plutonium, which is then mixed with uranium to create mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for use in power generation. However, many experts have raised questions about the program, citing its high costs and the risks posed by the fuel's comparatively low melting point and the decreased effectiveness of control rods. The plan to burn plutonium in conventional reactors was introduced in 2009 because there were no prospects for putting the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor into practical use.

The documents that the Mainichi obtained are a compilation of cables recording the Ogushi-Poneman talks in the U.S. on Sept. 12 last year. During the meeting, Ogushi explained that Japan would inject all available policy resources to break away from nuclear power generation in the 2030s, that it would steadfastly promote the nuclear fuel cycle program in the medium and long term, and that Japan would end research on the Monju reactor after confirming its achievements. The explanation was in accordance with the government's Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment, which was finalized on Sept. 14.

The promotion of a nuclear fuel cycle implies extraction of plutonium from spent nuclear fuel at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Aomori Prefecture. But Japan's "zero nuclear power" policy and the suspension of the Monju reactor could leave the nation without a facility to burn plutonium. Poneman expressed concern that this would create a situation in which plutonium could be diverted to military use. In response, Ogushi promised the continuation of the pluthermal program to burn plutonium in light-water reactors.

During an interview with the Mainichi, Ogushi declined to reveal the details of the meeting, saying, "I can't disclose whom I met from a diplomatic standpoint." He added that he didn't remember the pluthermal issue.

The Innovative Strategy for Energy and the Environment states that "nuclear reactors whose safety has been confirmed will be utilized," but contains no reference to pluthermal plans.

Yukio Edano, a House of Representatives legislator who was serving as economy, trade and industry minister at the time, defended Ogushi, saying Japan had made no distinction between pluthermal and conventional reactors that were to be operated. "There were no such micro-level talks in the Energy and Environment Council. I would have given the same answer (if I had visited the U.S.)," he said.

The current administration led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also upholds a policy to resume the pluthermal program, according to documents obtained by the Mainichi that were produced by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on March 1 and submitted to minister Toshimitsu Motegi. The documents clearly state that the government will "promote the use of MOX fuel in light-water reactors (pluthermal) after reprocessing (nuclear fuel) at the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant." Based on the content of the documents, Motegi stated at a lower house Committee on Economy, Trade and Industry session on March 22, "We will steadily promote the pluthermal plans."

Despite the country not knowing which nuclear reactors will be authorized to resume operations following the July implementation of the new regulatory standards, the government has been pushing ahead with its plans to restart the controversial pluthermal program.

"It is abnormal for sure," said one official with the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. "But it can't be helped if the Rokkasho plant is to be put into operation."

Japan that cannot say no and doesn't know when and how to stop.

As usual some on Twitter in Japan are angrily saying "See, we are made to do this by the evil capitalist empire of the United States! We are slaves! We are a colony of the US!" or something to that extent. I guess 54 reactors dotting the coastlines of Japan were so forced by the US on Japan who just couldn't say no out of fear of angering the US.

MOX fuel from France has just arrived at KEPCO's Takahama Nuclear Power Plant. KEPCO is set to submit the application for restart of the plant, and use MOX fuel in Reactors 3 and 4.

(H/T @enformable for the article link)

At WTO, Japan Demands China, Hong Kong and Taiwan to Drop Their Food Import Bans after Fukushima Nuclear Accident Because "Any Contaminated Products Can Not Be Traded" in Japan

China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan continue to ban food import from Japan after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, and Japan doesn't like it. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has pledged in his "growth strategy" that he wants to make Japanese agriculture "strong". One of the clear gauges of this "strength" is apparently how much agricultural products Japan can export, particularly from the nuclear-disaster-affected Tohoku and Kanto. So his government used a committee at the World Trade Organization to demand these three countries drop the bans.

Country-specific restrictions should be based on science, Japan and WTO say.

First, from Jiji Tsushin (6/29/2013):



In the meeting of the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Committee that ended on June 28, the Japanese government demanded China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan to correct (revise) the import restrictions on Japanese agricultural products. The countries continue to place the import restrictions following the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The Japanese government had refrained from naming the countries, but used the opportunity to express strong concern as the import restrictions from these countries have been going on too long.


Regarding the food safety, in addition to the international sanitary and phytosanitary measures, countries are allowed to use their own judgment. In the latter case, the health risk evaluation based on scientific evidence would be necessary.

The WTO's meeting was in part to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Codex Alimentarius, a controversial collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines and other recommendations relating to foods, food production and food safety.

It is amusing for the Japanese to insist on scientific evidence at this point, but that's what they did at WTO.

From WTO's press release (6/28/2013; emphasis is mine):

WTO members celebrated the 50th anniversary of 186-member Codex Alimentarius, which sets international standards for food safety, by calling, on 27–28 June 2013, for continued support for the body, and for trade measures to be based on science.

The calls came in a two-day meeting of the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) Committee, which consists of all 159 WTO members and deals with food safety and animal and plant health — measures having an increasing impact on trade.

They echoed a paper circulated by Brazil (document G/SPS/GEN/1253), which described food safety as an important contributor to food security, and said international standards and guidelines should be based on science, that confidence in Codex and other international standards-setting bodies should be strengthened, and that any measures that apply higher standards should also be justified by science.

“The increase in the number of SPS measures that are not based on international standards, guidelines and recommendations, or that lack scientific justification, is a point of concern that has often been raised by many members in the SPS Committee and other contexts,” Brazil observed.

A political body like WTO insisting on science. Fantastic.

So, if people in the world don't want to eat food that contains more than normal amount of radioactive cesium, or don't want to eat genetically-modified food, both of which are supposedly proven "safe", what does WTO do? Force-feed them?

From the same press release, Japan's specific concern:

Import restrictions in response to Japan’s nuclear power plant accident.

Japan updated members on the latest situation and said radiation levels are generally within normal safety levels, and that any contaminated products could not be traded. Many trading partners have lifted their import restrictions, Japan said. However, restrictions remain in Hong Kong China and Chinese Taipei although Japan is starting to work with them on analysing the situation. China remains a major trading partner that still has import bans and Japan has not been able to discuss this bilaterally, Japan said. China said that only products from seriously polluted areas are affected.

Just by looking at the daily updates by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and periodic updates from municipal governments, not to mention citizens' groups, it is easy to note that food items being sold on the market in Japan continue to be found with radioactive cesium. The levels may be below 100 Bq/kg in most cases, but they are actively "traded", contrary to the Japanese government's claim.

I do not know what "normal safety levels" for the radiation levels in Japan at this point, but judging by the way the national government is trying to return the evacuees in the former "no-entry" evacuation zones, as long as the annual external radiation exposure is less than 20 millisieverts, it is safe. (More in later post.)

After the March 11, 2011 triple disaster, people in Taiwan collected and donated a large amount of money (second-largest, in fact, almost the same as the US, at 2.9 billion yen) to help people in the disaster affected Japan. China, in addition to monetary donation (920 million yen), offered the Putzmeister crane to be used at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. Hong Kong gave 700 million yen to Japan.

And Japan turns around and use the WTO to force them to drop the food bans. Not a way to treat generous neighbors.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: 3,000 Bq/Liter All-Beta (including Strontium) from a New Observation hole Near Reactor 1-2 Turbine Building

(UPDATE 6/29/2013) Tritium number for the same hole, as announced by TEPCO: 430,000 Bq/liter

Safety standard for tritium in water discharged from a nuclear power plant is 60,000 Bq/liter.


Having been severely criticized by the press and scolded by the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, TEPCO decided to release the data as soon as they got the number for all-beta, instead of waiting a month for the result of strontium.

Good to know they are capable of some learning.

From a new observation hole, they found all-beta at 3,000 Bq/liter that includes radioactive strontium.

See my post on 6/18/2013 for the initial announcement of finding high levels of tritium and strontium in groundwater near the Reactor 1-2 turbine building.

From TEPCO's email alert for the press, 6/29/2013:

セシウム134 ND(0.41 Bq/L)
セシウム137 ND(0.51 Bq/L)
全ベータ 3,000 Bq/L

(New) groundwater observation hole No.1-1
Sample collected on June 28
Cesium-134 ND (0.41 Bq/L)
Cesium-137 ND (0.51 Bq/L)
All beta: 3,000 Bq/L

From the previous data on all-beta and strontium, half or more of 3,000 Bq/liter may be from strontium. The safety standard for strontium in discharge water from a nuclear power plant is 30 Bq/liter.

TEPCO is announcing the numbers in liters, instead of cm3, even though the sample amounts are likely to be small. The radioactivity of ocean water is measured in liters, and safety standards for water discharged from a nuclear power plant are specified in liters.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority Blasts #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Revised Plan for Decommissioning As "Pie In The Sky"

The original Japanese is "drawing a picture of mochi (sticky rice cake)" - it may look nice but can't be eaten.

Sadly, their severe criticism won't make a bit of difference.

Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority had a meeting with TEPCO on June 28, 2013 to hear what TEPCO/government had to say about their new and improved decommissioning plan for Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, which proudly proclaims the corium (fuel debris) will be taken out of the reactors "ahead of schedule".

NRA's commissioners' response was: So what? What's the point of doing it "ahead of schedule" when you don't even know how to seal containment vessels that are leaking?

To that, TEPCO/government answer was: It is really very meaningful to do it "ahead of schedule".

In other words, they were from different planets.

Summary of the meeting from Jiji Tsushin (6/28/2013):


NRA criticizes the Roadmap for decommissioning Fukushima I Nuke Plant as "pie in the sky"


A meeting was held on June 28 at the Nuclear Regulatory Authority in charge of monitoring the decommissioning of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant and assuring the safety of decommissioning work. Experts at NRA criticized the revised roadmap from the government and TEPCO that would remove [melted] nuclear fuel [from the reactors] ahead of schedule, as "no concrete steps to do it ahead of schedule, unreal" and "pie in the sky".


The revised schedule for decommissioning specifies the start of fuel debris removal from Reactors 1 and 2 as June 2020, one and a half year ahead of the original plan.


Professor Akira Watanabe of Fukushima University said in the meeting, "I understand the removal of fuel debris means a lot, but it is the ultimate goal at this point. What's the point of doing it one and a half year ahead of schedule? What's more important is to show a solid (credible) plan and explain it to the people in the affected areas." NRA's Commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa criticized by saying "It looks like pie in the sky. I don't see the basis on which [the removal of corium] can be done ahead of schedule."


Commissioner Fuketa was not happy either that the roadmap had only few mentions of countermeasures against contaminated water. Judging from the result of analysis of the water taken from the observation wells at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, contaminated water may have leaked into the ocean. Commissioner Fuketa criticized [TEPCO/government], and said "The immediate goal should be to lower the current risks, not the ultimate removal [of fuel debris]. I don't understand anymore what this roadmap is trying to show."

IAEA really spoke the truth when it advised TEPCO/government to picture the end state - what is it that you want to achieve? How do you get there?

The government entity that was severely criticized by the NRA commissioners and experts is the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy within the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. The Ministry is headed by Mr. Toshimitsu Motegi, the original "ahead of schedule because he says so" guy.

To the critical commissioners and experts at NRA, the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, which oversees the nuclear industry, said during the 3-plus-hour meeting (from the tweet from someone who actually watched the entire meeting live):

  • The medium/long-term roadmap was already decided and confirmed yesterday, and it is hard to change anything right now.

  • There is a certain hazard to fuel and fuel debris. It means a great lot to remove them sooner.

  • We've written "safety first" in the roadmap.

That's comforting, isn't it? They wrote in "safety first".

By the way, there is apparently no "Plan B" if the fuel debris cannot be removed. The Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said in the meeting that the reason why the concrete steps toward removing the fuel debris ahead of schedule was not mentioned in the roadmap was because they couldn't figure out those steps yet.

Looking at TEPCO's plan for fuel debris removal, as posted at NRA's site, it is painfully clear that TEPCO was told by the Agency what to write (garbage).

So, this meeting between TEPCO/government and NRA, as with many (if not most) meetings in a "democratic" society, is just to keep up the appearance, so to speak. NRA has been consulted, never mind that the commissioners and experts blasted their plan. For TEPCO and the government, particularly the government, a mere gesture of consulting with NRA is more than enough for procedural purposes.

Now they can proudly announce "We have a great plan, and we have even spoken with NRA about it, and the fact that they met with us means the plan has been approved. It's ready to go."

They now get to squander more taxpayers' money for "pie in the sky".

(Almost OT) Contamination of Freshwater Fish in #Fukushima and Eastern Japan, by Financial Analysts at Shiga University

Another gem from the open-access magazine Scientific Reports. If you think the blue butterfly mutation was flaky, this one takes the cake.

The paper is about freshwater fish contamination after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, published on Scientific Reports on April 29, 2013.

The first problem is right off the bat, the authors. They belong to Shiga University Economics Department, assessing risks of various financial instruments including insurance.

Here's Mr. Toshiaki Mizuno's bio, and here's Mr. Hideya Kubo's (in Japanese).

Uh.. Economics? Finance?

Here's their paper's abstract:

Overview of active cesium contamination of freshwater fish in Fukushima and Eastern Japan

Toshiaki Mizuno & Hideya Kubo (The Center for Risk Research, Shiga University)

This paper focuses on an overview of radioactive cesium 137 (quasi-Cs137 included Cs134) contamination of freshwater fish in Fukushima and eastern Japan based on the data published by the Fisheries Agency of the Japanese Government in 2011. In the area north and west of the Fukushima Nuclear plant, freshwater fish have been highly contaminated. For example, the mean of active cesium (quasi-Cs137) contamination of Ayu (Plecoglossus altivelis) is 2,657 Bq/kg at Mano River, 20–40 km north-west from the plant. Bioaccumulation is observed in the Agano river basin in Aizu sub-region, 70–150 km west from the plant. The active cesium (quasi-Cs137) contamination of carnivorous Salmondae is around 2 times higher than herbivorous Ayu. The extent of active cesium (quasi-Cs137) contamination of Ayu is observed in the entire eastern Japan. The some level of the contamination is recognized even in Shizuoka prefecture, 400 km south-west from the plant.

Scary, isn't it? Based on the quasi-Cs137 numbers (as the Fisheries Agency in their haste to measure anything radioactive right after the accident did not separate Cs-134 and Cs-137) the researcher drew up this contour map:

Figure 3: The isogram map shows average active cesium (quasi-Cs137) contamination level of the Ayu (Plecoglossus) captured in between May and September 2011 on each prefectures in eastern Japan.

Below the map, there is this remark:

Each isogram center points are each prefecture's capital city. We created the map using the GIS software which is 'MANDARA for windows 2000/XP/VISTA/7 Version 9.35' (the software copyright: 1992–2011 Tani Kenji).

I don't understand what they want to say in the first sentence.

This contour map, when it was first reported in Japan in April this year, spread fast, as the evidence of wide-area contamination of freshwater fish. "Look, even all of Shizuoka Prefecture is so contaminated!" It spread with comments like "The paper has been accepted by Nature Magazine! Peer-reviewed and authoritative!"

It turns out the economics researchers painted entire Shizuoka in green (0 to 10 Bq/kg of quasi-Cs137) from two samples that tested 5 Bq/kg and 2 Bq/kg.

As outsiders (not even a biologist or radiation expert) they were over-eager in drawing a radiation contamination contour map from a scant, incomplete data by the Fisheries Agency in the early days of the accident in 2011, while more detailed 2012 data was already available.

The original data points of the Fisheries Agency that these researchers used are plotted in this map (by @Kontan_Bigcat):

より大きな地図で アユのセシウムの放射能濃度(2011年) Radioactive cesium activity concentration in ayu after Fukushima nuclear disaster (2011) を表示

In the paper, part of which reads more like a tour guide, the two economists openly admits their data is not sufficient and over-estimating Cs-134 but at the same time declares the contamination has spread wide and all water systems are in danger:

The Japanese freshwater system is very high density as developed rice water paddy field, irrigation canal, urban water-system network. Therefore, we have to think that the contamination of freshwater fish is widespread not only in river basins but also all over the ground included all types of water-systems, for example, agricultural and urban water systems. The isogram map shows the contamination tendency quite well. The contamination levels of the freshwater fish provide insufficient data and the knowledge of the path about bioaccumulation. So, we will have to survey a more wide spread area and monitor bioaccumulation in each species level.

...Data 2011 of radioactive cesium of freshwater fish was analyzed by each local government according to the emergency food survey manual of radioactive substance14. The purpose of this manual is they avoid feeding high contaminated food it was defined by food security of emergency condition. Therefore, it is not aimed at collecting accurate data. As a result, this data did not distinguish between cesium137 and cesium134. Therefore, the analysis of this paper calculated by quasi-Cs137 included Cs134. They used germanium semiconductor machine when they measured the radioactive cesium contamination of freshwater fish. The measure time is from 10 minute to 1 hour. The calibration is only Cs137 in per week. The range of radioactive cesium applied only Cs137 regression equation. The result, when the case included Cs134 is relatively much, the numerical value become over estimation. The sample of freshwater fish was collected by each prefectural government by emergency policy of food security. In the survey, the fish sample collected 5–10 kg in one survey station. The measure is using wet condition fish. Ayu and small fish was measured hole body, while big fish measured the part of food portion.

"relatively much"??

I don't know who wrote English, but it is so bad that it makes my head spin. It could even be the Google translation. At least the blue butterfly paper was written in a decent enough English.

But no matter. Nature Japan decided to provide the very favorable Japanese translation of this hard-to-comprehend paper's abstract, and tweeted the page. So it is being tweeted again among people I follow.

I guess these two financial analysts just wanted to create a contour map like Professor Yukio Hayakawa, a volcanologist, did. If a volcanologist can, why not financial analysts?

At this point in time, after more than 2 years after the accident, people believe what they want to believe. Anything that shakes their belief system is either "pro-nuke" propaganda or "anti-radiation" over-reaction, depending on which "side" they are on. People in the "middle" who simply want to know what happened, what is happening, and what will happen are dwindling fast.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Japan's May Consumer Price Index "Stable" (=Did Not Fall), Stock Market Cheers; CPI May Turn Positive in June as Price Pressure from Energy and Food Rise

As the PKO (price-keeping operation) seems to continue on Nikkei Index futures, as Nikkei Shinbun writes "the orders just don't stop", the Japanese stock market is also cheering the consumer "price stability" achieved in May for the first time in seven months.

It makes your head spin, as "price stability" in this case means "price did not go down" in May. As far as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Bank of Japan's Kuroda are concerned, it is of course not enough but a good start; for them, "price stability" means 2% inflation every single year.

From New York Times' Hiroko Tabuchi's article (6/27/2013):

TOKYO — In the latest sign that Japan may be inching out of its deflationary slump, data on Friday showed that core consumer prices were flat in May compared with the previous year, though lackluster household spending signaled that the recovery still needed time to take hold in the wider economy.

It was the first time in seven months that Japan’s core consumer price index, which excludes volatile fresh food prices but includes energy, did not fall. The results were largely in line with economists’ expectations. In April, prices fell an annual 0.4 percent.

... Japanese consumers have been the most wary of Mr. Abe’s recovery pitch. Separate government data released Friday showed that household spending fell 1.6 percent in May from a year earlier, dashing economists’ expectations of a 1.3 percent rise. A shortfall in consumer demand has been the biggest contributor to Japan’s deflationary woes.

And Japan’s so-called core-core consumer price index, which excludes both food and energy, fell 0.4 percent in the year to May, after a 0.6 percent annual decline in April, underscoring continued weak consumer demand.

Still, early data for consumer prices in Tokyo, seen as a precursor of nationwide trends, rose 0.2 percent in June, signaling that a turnaround could be near.

(Full article at the link)

It does make my head spin. A turnaround for whom? I guess for Abe and Kuroda, but not for households and businesses who have to deal with fast-rising input costs.

According to Nikkei Shinbun, the biggest contributor to "price stability" in May was 8.8% rise in utility bills. Prices of non-perishable food items are set to rise, as manufacturers are passing higher input costs to consumers. The higher input costs have been brought on by Abe, Aso and Kuroda's talking down of Japanese yen over the past 6 months.

Yasunari Ueno, chief economist of Mizuho Securities, said in his May interview with the UK's Financial Times:

Yes, in March we saw -0.5% for core CPI YoY basis. In April it will be -0.2 to -0.3%, in May it will be around flat [unchanged]. In June we are going to see 0.2 to 0.3% positive core CPI number. It will be a little shock to the JGB market. When we see the energy market movement, I confidently forecast the positive change for CPI core. However, this is kind of a supply side shock, not pulled up by demand side, stronger internal demand.

He also said,

And if we see a higher consumption indices, then we need higher pay rise. About 5 to 6% strong wage hike is needed, however this year we are going to see about 1.8 or 1.9%. So there is a huge gap between them.

His remarks were hardly heeded in Japan, as Ueno spoke in English to an English media. I have noticed that Bloomberg Japan and Wall Street Journal Japan both modify their Japanese articles to make them less edgy and less controversial compared to their English articles, particularly when they interview Japan-based economists and analysts whose views are very sharp and critical. Reuters Japan, on the other hand, features such economists and analysts and write up articles detailing their views and opinions.

Idio(syncra)tic Japanese Stock Market: Return of PKO (Price Keeping Operation) to Support Abe/Kuroda Agendas

Both "growth strategies" of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and "QE from different time-space dimension" of Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda hinge on the Nikkei stock index to keep rising, signaling the "wealth effect" to the populace most of whom are yet to see any tangible benefit of either Abe's or Kuroda's strategies.

So, as part of "doing whatever it takes" (which even Bank of International Settlement says is so passe), PKO, or price-keeping operation, on the Nikkei index seems to have returned.

Economic journalist Takehiko Nishino wrote in Nikkei Shinbun on 6/26/2013 the following (my summary of original Japanese):

The Nikkei Index on June 21, 2013 started at -311 yen following the rout in the US stock market, with Dow Jones Industrial plunging 353 points. However, in the afternoon market, Nikkei, led by strong, intermittent buys in the futures market, reversed to positive, and ended the day up 215 yen. As it was happening, traders were puzzled by the scale and speed of the index recovery.

Rumor had it at first that those speculative buys in the futures market were from foreign investment banks, but it turned out that foreign investment banks like ABN Amro, Newedge Group, Barklays, UBS, Morgan Stanley were net sellers of the futures.

So who did the buying? Japanese investment banks, particularly Nomura Securities. The buying and selling of the futures were totally out of proportion. So what was it?

Mr. Nishino thinks it was the good old "PKO", price-keeping operation, resurrected. PKO was done in the 2000s when the Japanese stock market was going nowhere, to inject some fizz in the market and support the market. It worked like this:

Japanese investment banks and institutional investors routed their orders through foreign investment banks or through their overseas offices to make the orders look like they were from foreign investors.

After it was revealed they were not foreign investors, they were euphemistically called "foreign investors with dark eyes" (i.e. Japanese). Also, the national government directed public fund (public pensions, postal savings) to invest in the stock market to support the market. [That was one of the worst-kept secret among traders.]

[One of the PKO was done by then-Prime Minister Taro Aso, current vice prime minister and minister of finance, in October 2008 when Nikkei tanked to post-bubble low of 6994 yen. Aso directed the Japanese investment banks and public pensions to prop up the market at all cost (literally), and Nikkei ended the year at 8859.]

So, why did this PKO suddenly reappear on June 21, 2013, with Japanese investment banks buying up massive amount of Nikkei futures?

Mr. Nishino thinks there are two factors. Japanese investment banks themselves didn't want Nikkei to tank at this point, for their own sake. They want the "Abenomics" market that keeps going up no matter what. And Prime Minister Abe himself didn't want Nikkei to tank, right before the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election, a precursor to the Upper House election in July. So far, the rising stock market is about the only "positive" results of so-called "Abenomics", and if the stock market tanks it will be considered failure of Abe's overall policies.

So what to do? Buy Nikkei futures at all cost.

And today, Nikkei ended at 13,213, up 379 from yesterday's close. With PKO's help, I'm positive it will regain 50-day moving average (13,788) sometime next week (if not Friday). BIS be damned. For most Japanese from Prime Minister on down, the stock market is a true reflection of the economy on Main Street.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

(UPDATED with Maps) JAEA and US Dept of Energy Maps of Iodine-131 Deposition in April 2011 Finally to Be Revealed After Two Years

(UPDATE) From JAEA website,

The maps covers about the ocean-third of Fukushima Prefecture.

The left map shows the flight paths. The right map is I-131 deposition.

The left map is I-131 deposition, and the left map is cesium-134 deposition to show similarities and differences.


Japan Atomic Energy Agency and the US Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration collaborated to create a map of iodine-131 deposition, and the paper featuring the map is to be published on June 26, 2013 in the electronic version of the official journal of Health Physics Society.

I searched JAEA site looking for the maps, and as usual their latest information is several days old, even though they just held a press conference announcing the publication.

Here's from a nuclear researcher I follow, an abstract of the paper for the 58th Annual Meeting of the Health Physics Society (7-11 July 2013, Madison, WI):

WAM-B.5   10:30  Enhanced Analysis of Early Aerial Surveys Maps I-131 Deposition from the Fukushima Daiichi Accident T Torii, Fukushima Environmental Safety Center, Japan Atomic Energy Agency ; T Sugita, Fukushima Environmental Safety Center, Japan Atomic Energy Agency; CE Okada*, U.S. Department of Energy, Remote Sensing Laboratory; MR Reed, U.S. Department of Energy, Remote Sensing Laboratory; DJ Blumenthal, U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration

Abstract: During March through May 2011, the U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration conducted aerial radiological surveys to characterize the severity and extent of the Fukushima Daiichi accident. The data from these surveys have previously been reported in terms of ground-level exposure rate (mSv/h) and concentrations of Cs-134/Cs-137 (Bq/m²). A small subset of the data has been re-examined with analysis techniques that were developed to exploit the gamma-ray spectral data and determine the ground-level I-131 concentration. I-131 is a short-lived (t½ = 8.04 d) radionuclide that is a potential major contributor to dose in a nuclear power plant accident. The methods developed for this analysis are described, and results of this effort are reported. *This work was done in part by National Security Technologies, LLC, under Contract No. DE-AC52-06NA25946 with the U.S. Department of Energy.

National Security Technologies, LLC is a joint venture formed in 2006 between Northrop Grumman Corporation and three other corporate partners including Babcock & Wilcox. Looks like an outsourcing outfit of Dept of Energy.

According to Mainichi Shinbun (6/27/2013):

  • The maps show contamination by radioactive iodine in the 400 square kilometer areas around Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

  • The maps are based on the analysis of the data from aerial surveys done by the US Department of Energy on April 2 and 3 in 2011.

  • High deposition of radioactive iodine in the north-western direction from the plant, same as radioactive cesium deposition.

  • High deposition of radioactive iodine also in the southern direction from the plant, with areas with more than 1 million Bq/m2 extending to the north of Iwaki City.

  • Delay in disclosing the data is ascribed to "careful examination" by JAEA, as it was difficult to extract data for radioactive iodine as the contamination of the airplanes used in the survey was quite high.

I think this is part of the data that was freely given by the US government to the Japanese government, with the express consent by the US government to the Japanese government to distribute the data freely, but which the Japanese government decided to sit on. The data included contamination maps from data collected by Global Hawk drones in March 2011, and near-real-time video footage of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant also by Global Hawk in March 2011. (See my post from 2012.)

If so, JAEA may have finally figured out that the data was in GIS file format.

Radioactive iodine spreading to the south of the plant was the animation of the simulation I was watching in horror at France's IRSN site within a week (earliest simulation was on March 17, 2011) of the accident on March 11, 2011.

Russian President Vladimir Putin: Snowden "Is a Free Man", US Accusations of Russia Are "Drivel and Nonsense"

From Bloomberg News (6/25/2013):

Putin Defends Snowden’s Stopover, Rejects U.S. ‘Drivel’

Russian President Vladimir Putin refused to extradite fugitive Edward Snowden as the Obama administration maintained that officials in Moscow have a legal basis to return him to the U.S.

Russia was “completely surprised” by the arrival of Snowden, who remained in a Moscow airport transit zone after traveling from Hong Kong on June 23, Putin told reporters in Finland yesterday. Snowden, who faces U.S. espionage charges, can’t be handed over because the two nations don’t have an extradition treaty, Putin said.

Tensions between the U.S. and Russia increased after U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on June 24 that it would be “deeply troubling” if Russia had received advance notice of Snowden’s arrival. Yesterday, Putin said that Russian security agencies “didn’t work and aren’t working” with Snowden and any accusations of wrongdoing by his country are “drivel and nonsense.”

Snowden has requested asylum in Ecuador, and he also may be exploring other possible places of refuge, according to Julian Assange, founder of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks. Snowden, a former worker for government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp. (BAH), disclosed top-secret U.S. National Security Agency programs that collect phone and Internet data.

Snowden “is a free man, and the sooner he selects his final destination, the better it will be both for us and for him,” Putin said. “As a transit passenger, he has the right to buy a ticket and fly wherever he wants.”

(Full article at the link)

Let's see. John Kerry, a swift boat captain, vs Vladimir Putin, KGB spymaster. Who will win?

The comment section of the article is more entertaining than the article, which is increasingly the case with any media websites these days. People continue to write stuff, even though they now know NSA is snooping.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

#Radioactive Japan: Using Children to Promote Agendas Continues Unabated

A university in Kumamoto Prefecture in Kyushu, far away from radiation contamination in Kanto and Tohoku, wants to send 4 local children to Fukushima Prefecture as "ambassadors" so that the children form a rapport with children in Fukushima. The university, Kumamoto Gakuen University, is one of many that have signed up with the program called "Children Ambassadors to Fukushima" to recruit children. (Mainichi Shinbun western regional version, 6/22/2013)

There have been many events like this since 2011, where adults recruit children to help dispel "baseless rumors" of radiation contamination in Fukushima and northern Kanto by sending children there to "cheer the locals" or by having them eat locally-produced food (like this one in Tochigi Prefecture in 2011, where the mayor of the city and cattle farmers went to an elementary school and made sure children eat their local beef).

Children, in this case, are to visit Aizu region, mountain-third of Fukushima Prefecture with far less contamination from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, but with areas with somewhat elevated radiation in Aizuwakamatsu City (30,000 to 60,000 Bq/m2, according to Ministry of Education).

People who are against events like this say:

  • Why do they want to send children who are more sensitive to radiation to the radiation-contaminated Fukushima?

Most people who are for events like this say:

  • Aizu region of Fukushima is hardly contaminated. Opponents are fanning baseless rumors.

  • It should be up to the parents to decide, not people who oppose such events.

I dislike events like this. Why use children? If the well-meaning college students from Kyushu want to deepen ties with Fukushima, go right ahead and do so by going there themselves, at their own risk and responsibility. Leave minors alone who cannot and should not assess risk properly and should not assume responsibility.

But equally hypocritical, as far as I'm concerned, is something like this (from this tweet):

Wonderful-sounding slogan like "Let's protect children", with adult hands shielding children from the red dots that represent radiation. Yes? How are you going to protect children? By buying this stamp?

People who retweeted said, "What a wonderful picture! Where can I buy them?"

What has happened to those piles of dirt on sides of the roads, on the rooftops, in the drains, in Tohoku and Kanto? Have they been removed? How about food items used in school lunches that contain radioactive cesium in varying amounts, albeit in most cases these days in less than 100 Bq/kg? Have they been removed from lunch menus? Baby formulas continue to be found with small amount of radioactive cesium. Does anyone still care?

No and no and no. So what's with "protecting children?"

One of my Twitter followers observed, "The hands look like they are holding down the children right there", instead of moving them to red-dot-free areas or creating red-dot-free (as possible) areas for them.

The biggest irony is that this country, Japan, suffers a population decline, and only now (instead of 20 years ago) the power that be have started to think, "Gee, we'd better have more children (so that we have enough people who pay taxes for our pensions)". You would assume people at least treat children with care and gratitude.

But no. Children are used as convenient props by all sides - pro-nuke, anti-nuke, pro-recovery, or anti-radiation.

Saying "cheer people in Fukushima with the power of children" or "protect children" is the same as saying "beyond nuclear" in Japan. It's the beautiful image on the horizon that counts, not the pile of shit at their feet.

University of the Ryukus' Paper on Butterfly Mutation in #Fukushima "Highly Suspect, Should Not Be Used to Scare the Local Population", Says Georgetown University Professor

(UPDATE 6/25/2013) A graduate student working under Dr. Otaki sent me a huffy tweet, in which she said, "That comment doesn't mean that professor is right. We have Q&A page that proves him wrong. Here's the link:" It's in Japanese. From all I can tell, their rebuttal is "Trust us."

Quickly checking her tweets, I'm afraid she is in an "echo chamber" - position for an activist and not a researcher.

Does being published on Scientific Reports magazine mean it is correct and right?


Remember the blue butterflies in Tohoku region that were supposedly irreparably damaged and mutated by the radiation from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident? Or so it is claimed by researchers at University of the Ryukyus whose paper was published in Scientific Reports magazine in August last year?

There were several retweets on my twitter page (like this one) about this old story yesterday, with a new incredible twist.

According to people who tweet and retweet, the researchers who did this research telling the world how contaminated Fukushima was and how dangerous the radiation levels were in Fukushima to cause such mutations (never mind that the same researchers had attributed the mutation to temperature before the accident, as none of these people bother to know the details), and what's more, whose paper has been accepted by a peer-reviewed magazine (true) called Nature (not true, just the same publisher), have just been denied funding for their work!

See how the government censors the truth! Let's all donate money to them, so that they can continue this invaluable research!

Having the research funding cut in the middle of a school year is itself incredible (it usually happens at the end of the school year for the funding for the next year, i.e. March), but people are totally buying the story.

Why? Because one of TV Asahi's programs (the same one that didn't know Reactor 4 building was systematically dismantled) reported on the research on May 30 this year after one of the TV stations in Germany ( featured it in October last year.

For some reason, anything that comes from Germany is received in Japan as more credible than those coming from other foreign sources like France or the US. BBC is considered more credible than others but less so than Germany's media. Asahi simply uncritically parroted what the researchers said (or what the German TV said the researcher said). So now, for a lot of people in Japan, it is proven as a fact (as accepted by a peer-review magazine, no less) that these butterflies mutated because of the low-level radiation from the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident. "In such a short time! What will happen to people in Fukushima! I'm scared!" is a typical tweet in reaction.

As far as I was concerned in August last year, the paper was a redux of the Sokal Affair.

On re-visiting the link to their paper, I noticed there was a comment attached to the paper. When I wrote the initial post on the subject on August 17, 2012, the comment was not there.

The comment was by Dr. Timothy J. Jorgensen, on August 21, 2012. Dr. Jorgensen is associate professor of Health Physics and Radiation Protection Program at Georgetown University, and he shredded the paper to pieces.

From the comment section of the paper "The biological impacts of the Fukushima nuclear accident on the pale grass blue butterfly", Scientific Reports (emphasis is mine):

Dear Scientific Reports editors:

The recent article, The biological impacts of the Fukushima nuclear accident on the pale grass blue butterfly [Sci. Rep. 2, 570; DOI:10.1038/srep00570 (2012)], has a number of scientific problems that raise serious doubts about the validity of its findings and the conclusions that can be drawn about low dose radiation effects on insects or humans. Although these scientific issues are too numerous to be addressed here, three main problems need to be mentioned for the record.

A major finding of the study is that forewing size was inversely correlated with distance from Fukushima, resulting in the conclusion that radiation from Fukushima had stunted forewing development. However, the more distant butterfly sampling sites were all progressively further south of Fukushima, so that latitude was also changing with the distance. This is a problem because it is well established that the forewing size of a number of insect species is dependent upon the latitude of their microhabitat. This has been extensively studied both in fruit flies (Drosophila subobscura) and butterflies (Pararge aeberia), and the magnitude of the forewing changes found in this study is comparable to these known latitudinal determinants on forewing anatomy (1, 2). The potential latitudinal influences on forewing size were completely ignored in this study. Had the data been adjusted for sampling site latitude, it is likely there would have been no significant forewing findings to report.

The second major problem is that the decreased butterfly survival rates reported to be associated with proximity to Fukushima are claimed to be reproducible in the laboratory with external beam irradiation. This claim stretches credulity since it has long been established that insects, including butterflies (Order: Lepidoptera), are resistant to radiation effects. It takes an average dose of 10,000 mSv to kill a Lepidoptera cell (3), and it requires an average dose of 1,300 mSv to Lepidoptera eggs to reduce their hatch rate by 50% (4). Larval, pupal, and adult forms of Lepidoptera are even more radioresistant (5). The concept that the low environmental radiation exposures (<15 mSv per year) that are being attributed to the Fukushima accident could be killing off butterflies, or any other insect species, is simply not credible. It should further be noted the external radiation doses that were used to reproduce the results from field-collected individuals were 00 times higher than any radiation doses in the field that could possibly be attributed to Fukushima. Thus, it can even be seen from the investigators' own laboratory experimental data that no measurable killing would be expected at the radiation doses that were encountered in the field.

The third major problem regards the time to eclosion (emergence of an adult insect from a pupa). Eclosion times were claimed to be associated with proximity to Fukushima. Yet irradiation has been employed as a pest control measure for a number of insect species for decades (6), and the effects of radiation on various insect biological endpoints have already been well characterized. It typically takes as much as 30,000 mSv of Lepidoptera egg irradiation to extend eclosion times by the 4 to 5 days reported in this study, and similarly high doses are required when irradiation is done in the larval stage (5). It is, therefore, astounding that effects on eclosion of a similar magnitude can be seen at radiation doses that are just a few fold above natural background doses. So the claim that eclosion times were extended due to these environmental radiation exposures is also incredible when compared to the literature. Perhaps it is more plausible that eclosion time of the pale grass blue butterfly, like forewing size, might also be related to microhabitat latitude or temperature. [Average daily temperatures differ by as much as 9 degrees Celsius between Fukushima and Tokyo during April (hatching season).]

There are other inferences from this study's findings that counter established radiation biology tenets, including the notion that radiation can target specific developmental genes for mutation simultaneously in multiple individuals, which is what would be required to explain much of the findings reported in the study. Further, the field dosimetry procedures reported in the methods were inadequate to the task at hand. Namely, it should have been possible to actually measure the 137Cs contamination in the environment, which would have allowed an estimation of the component of the environmental radiation dose that could actually be attributed to the Fukushima accident. Moreover, the investigators should have applied the same sampling and statistical rigor to their environmental radiation dosimetry measurements as they did for their biological endpoints. Had they adequately captured this additional source of variability, which would have likely been substantial, it is doubtful that they would have produced the same findings.

In conclusion, the results reported in this study should be considered highly suspect due to both their internal inconsistencies and their incompatibility with earlier and more comprehensive radiation biology research on insects. The study's central assertion is that 'artificial radionuclides from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant caused physiological and genetic damage to [the pale grass blue butterfly]'. This statement is incredulous and goes well beyond anything that the study data can actually substantiate. Therefore, this study's sensational claims should not be used to scare the local population into the erroneous conclusion that their exposures to these relatively low environmental radiation doses put them at significant health risk.


Timothy J. Jorgensen, PhD, MPH
Department of Radiation Medicine and the Health Physics Program
Georgetown University
Washington DC

1. Gilchrest GW, Huey RB, Serra L. Rapid evolution of wing size clines in Drosophila subobscura. Genetica 2001;112:13.
2. Vandewoestijne S, Van Dyck H. Flight morphology along latitudinal gradient in a butterfly: do geographic clines differ between agricultural and woodland landscapes? Ecography 2011;34:13.
3. Koval TM. Intrinsic resistance to the lethal effects of x-irradiation in insect and arachnid cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 1983;80(15):4752-5.
4. Chanu OP, Ibotombi N. Effect of 60Co gamma radiation on eggs of tasar silkworm, Antheraea pryoylei (Lepidoptera). J. Exp. Sciences 2011;2:5.
5. Ayvaz A, Albayrak S, Karaborklu S. Gamma radiation sensitivity of the eggs, larvae and pupae of Indian meal moth Plodia interpunctella (Hubner) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae). Pest Manag Sci 2008;64(5):505-12.
6. Robinson AS. Mutations and their use in insect control. Mutat Res 2002;511(2):113-32.

Scientific Reports is an open-access magazine that accepts comments. There is no response to Dr. Jorgensen's comment from the researchers at University of the Ryukyus.

I tweeted this comment section. Reaction from scientific researchers and doctors, who read the comment, was "I see, this is how an open-access paper is reviewed and criticized. What a wonderful thing for the University of the Rukyus' researchers", or "My goodness, what a brutal rebuttal..." Reaction from some non-researchers was "Nature magazine is a pro-nuke outfit!" and end of story.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Election: 60% of Candidates Who Used Homepage, Facebook, Twitter for Campaign Lost

An interesting tidbit from Mainichi Shinbun (6/24/2013; part):


In the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Election on June 23, it turned out the candidates who lost were utilizing the Internet more before the election announcement than the candidates who won. According to the poll of the candidates by Mainichi Shinbun from June 3 to June 10, there were 89 candidates who were using all three Internet platforms - homepage, Twitter and Facebook. 60 percent of them, or 55 candidates, lost in the election. The campaigning on the net didn't seem to result directly in votes.

According to the article, the above holds true for DJP. Probably the same for Boy-wonder's Japan Restoration Party whose 30-plus candidates almost all lost, and other minor parties that failed to send anyone to the Assembly.

But it was not so for Japanese Communist Party and Your Party, both of which doubled the number of successful candidates. 8 out of 17 JCP winners are heavy users of all three net platforms, so are 5 out of 7 Your Party winners.

Use of the Internet didn't matter at all in the end of LDP and Komei Party, low users of the net, as all of their candidates won.

So, Mainichi's observation that the net campaigning didn't result in actual votes may be premature. It may not be about the net but the party's appeal itself.

If you are not selling an attractive product that customers want, the amount you spend on advertisement is irrelevant.

Also, social media in particular tends to be an "echo chamber", where one follows and likes people with similar views and tastes. Maybe these net-user candidates deluded themselves as having much support in real world as in cyberspace.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority's "World Toughest" Safety Standards, Assumed to Work Perfectly

Although no one outside the NRA seems to know clearly what is in the new safety standards that will be effective as of July 8, 2013, it has been praised by the media as the "world number one" and "world toughest".

So I looked for any write-up by the media about these standards, which should be of interest to many in Japan after the Fukushima nuclear accident. I couldn't find any beyond a mention of "filtered vents". So I went to the NRA website.

All they have is the drafts from February this year. As almost always happens in Japan and other "democratic" countries, the drafts were very likely to have been adopted as the official standards after public comments were solicited so that the government could claim the public had been consulted and then the comments were ignored.

From NRA's English page, "NRA Library":

Safety Standards

Is there anyone who would care to read and highlight the points, problems for us? (I'm being too lazy, I know.)

If you prefer Japanese, here they are (in PDF):

I am skimming through the second one, "Severe Accident Measures". So far, many details on what facilities, equipment, manuals, measures to prepare in advance in case of a severe accident as defined by the NRA (core damage including core melt, containment vessel damage, spent fuel damage, and fuel damage while reactor is not in operation), but NRA seems to assume such facilities, equipment, manuals and measures will all work.

What if they don't work? Then what?

Or what if the next major accident is not BWR or PWR but fast breeder with liquid sodium as coolant?

Or what if the next accident happens at a plant not easily accessible like Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant? KEPCO's Ooi Nuclear Power Plant is only accessible through a tunnel, and Mihama Nuclear Power Plant in Fukui Prefectureis is located on a peninsula connected to the mainland by a single bridge:

View Larger Map

All Candidates from LDP, Komei Win in Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly Election, Communist Party Jumps

Boy-wonder's party, Japan Restoration Party, had only two candidates win, out of 17.

Japanese Communist Party is now the third largest party (with 17) after LDP and Komei Party, in the Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly. Japanese Communist Party's platform was "Protect the Constitution", "Zero Nuke", "Protect People's Living". They more than doubled the seats, from 8 to 17.

Democratic Party of Japan went from 43 to 15, now behind Japan Communist Party.

Social Democrats, Greens, and Ichiro Ozawa's People's Life Party couldn't get any candidate elected.

43.50% of eligible voters in Tokyo bothered to vote, down 11 points from the last election.

Naturally, LDP and the Abe administration take it as endorsement of their policies, particularly the so-called "Abenomics", and as good omen for the July Upper House election.

LDP/Komei total: 82 (LDP 59, Komei 23)
Japan Restoration Party: 2
Your Party (Minna): 7
Others: 4
Japanese Communist Party: 17
Democratic Party of Japan: 15

Hong Kong Government Denies US Government Request, Ed Snowden in Moscow

Instead of deferring to the Obama administration's request for a provisional warrant of arrest against the NSA whistleblower, Hong Kong government said they abide by the law, and the US didn't provide enough information the requirement by that law. Request denied, Snowden free to go.

Snowden is in transit in Moscow and may be on the way to Ecuador, eventually, as the Foreign Minister of Ecuador tweets that his government received the asylum request.

From Hong Kong's Information Services Department (6/23/2013) (emphasis is mine):

Snowden leaves HK

June 23, 2013

Edward Snowden has left Hong Kong on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel, and Hong Kong has informed the US Government of his departure.

The Hong Kong Government today said the US Government had earlier requested a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden.

Since the documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the Hong Kong Government requested additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government's request met relevant legal conditions.

As the Hong Kong Government did not yet have sufficient information to process the request, there was no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.

At the same time, it has formally written to the US Government requesting clarification on reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by US government agencies. It will follow up on the matter, to protect the legal rights of people of Hong Kong.

So, Hong Kong pulled off a "Sir Humphrey Appleby", in a good way, by sticking to the rule of law.

In what could be a small sign of perhaps a slowly changing time that even the progressives may be upset with the federal government surveillance, Nancy Pelosi, US House Minority Leader, was booed onstage by her home crowd, as The Hill reports (6/22/2013; emphasis is mine):

Pelosi booed for saying NSA leaker Snowden violated the law

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was booed onstage Saturday when she said former government contractor Edward Snowden broke the law by leaking classified documents on National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs.

Speaking at the NetRoots Nation conference in San Jose, Calif., Pelosi told the audience to reject comparisons between President Barack Obama and his predecessor, President George W. Bush, on their oversight of surveillance programs. The top House Democrat said Obama is poised to reveal "in another few days, a few more proceedings" of the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Pelosi received the loudest boos and heckles from the crowd when she said Snowden had run afoul of the law by leaking documents to the media on a pair of secret NSA surveillance programs.

"He did violate the law in terms of releasing those documents," Pelosi said, drawing a thunder of boos from the crowd at the progressive conference. "I understand, I understand, but he did violate the law. And the fact is that, again, we have to have the balance between security and privacy, and we don't know what sources and methods may have been revealed, which is a tough thing."

(Full article at the link)