Sunday, July 3, 2011

"Now They Tell Us" Series: Depleted Uranium Storage Facility Next to Cosmo Oil Refinary In Chiba Burned after Earthquake Hit on March 11

The facility belongs to Chisso Petrochemical, and it contained 765 kilograms of depleted uranium at 0.3% concentration. It caught fire when the adjacent Cosmo Oil LPG tank caught fire and exploded. Not a problem, the Chiba government now says, and Chisso hasn't said anything about the facility.

There was a "baseless rumor"(link in Japanese) that circulated on the Internet on March 12 that said "Harmful substance will come down with the rain after the Cosmo Oil fire. Do not expose your skin." Cosmo Oil and the government dismissed the rumor vehemently. Maybe the "baseless rumor" was not about Cosmo Oil's tank but about Chisso's depleted uranium...

From Chiba Nippo (7/1/2011):


Depleted Uranium Storage Facility Also Burned when Cosmo Oil's Gas Tank Exploded


On June 30 Chiba Prefectural Assembly held meetings of 2 standing committees, "general affairs and disaster countermeasures" and "planning and water". In the general affairs and disaster countermeasures committee, it was revealed that the LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) tank fire and explosion at Cosmo Oil Refinery in Ichihara City, Chiba also burned the adjacent depleted uranium storage facility. There was no leak of radioactive materials, according to the committee.


The Chiba prefectural fire department disclosed that the depleted uranium storage facility's roof was burned down because of the fire and explosion of the LPG tank at Cosmo Oil. The depleted uranium storage facility belongs to Chisso Petrochemical [subsidiary of Chisso Corporation].


According to the fire department, the storage facility is licensed by the national government as "nuclear fuel usage location", and had 765 kilograms of depleted uranium that contained 0.3% of radioactive material [uranium]. The depleted uranium is used as catalyst for gas production.

Looking at Chisso's press releases, there is no mention of the depleted uranium storage facility at this plant location. The explosion and fire at Cosmo Oil Refinery was finally put out on March 21, at which point Chisso was able to go inside their plant to assess the fire damage.

Ichihara City is on the west side of Chiba Prefecture, facing the Tokyo Bay, and there are many industrial plants and petrochemical facilities on the reclaimed land on the Tokyo Bay. Chisso Petrochemical is marked with a Yellow balloon with a dot:

View Tokyo bay in a larger map

A minor detail, but Chisso Petrochemical is NOT adjacent to Cosmo Oil, by the way. There is Maruzen Oil in between the two. Hmmm. How would Chisso's facility catch fire when Maruzen's did not?

Here are some video of Cosmo Oil explosion on March 11, in case you missed: (Asahi Shinbun footage) (explosion that darkens the sky after 1:40 into the video)

By the way, Chisso is the same company that caused extensive mercury poisoning in the Minamata Bay in Kyushu by dumping methylmercury in the wastewater from the company's chemical plant, and the company has been kept "alive" so that it makes profit to pay compensations to the victims. TEPCO's likely future.

(By the way, turning gossipy, Japan's crown princess is the granddaughter of the Chisso president who fought and fought the "allegation" in the 1960s that his company's plant caused mercury poisoning.)


Anonymous said...

hi, my name's Michaël and i am from france, i regularly follow your articles about the actual crisis in japan... i am thankful because i am truly worried about the situation there for a country i truly love... this story about uranium is truly interesting. Have you heard about the fire incident in Tricastin Power Plant in france ? It occured just yesterday, french authorities said it didn't affect the nuclear storage part of the plant but i have some doubt about it... But back to this story about uranium in Chiba, i find it interesting because something exactly like this occured in 2008 in tricastin power plant, there were uranium in and part of it pourred in the rivers near the plant... the other part in the envirronement... kind of intriguing similarity right ?

Anonymous said...

First, thanks for the great coverage and all the translation!

When you watch the first linked video (from Asahi), you can see around 0:41 and 0:51 a 'small' flame on the left side of the video. Considering your Google map, I would guess that that is the burning roof of Chisso Petrochemical Uranium storage... there is quite a distance without any fires to the burning fuel tank of Cosmo Oil.

Anonymous said...

OH! Thank you for your end paragraph about Chisso president!
I am old enough to remember the wonderful PHOTO ESSAY of that tragedy by W. Eugene Smith.

He was quite old when I went to art school and he lectured there. My prof. insisted we go and I didn't know who hw was. He presented these photos as a slide show. We were all in tears.
I think the girl in #13 photo has another picture of her at a bath (world famous photo) and her mother tenderly care for her. Her mother told Smith she feels she was saved by the daughter as all the mercury went into her body (as birth defect).
- here's that picture - "Tomoko in the Bath",

I cry thinking about it 30 some years later.
Pity Japan!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your wonderful work in these blogs.
They are my daily must-read!
I, too, remember those photos.
Etched into the memory.

Anastatsa said...

great post. also here, Nuclear News Now

ceruleandaze said...

Many of you may already know, but to follow up what flyingcuttlefish says above (thanks!), Eugene Smith's wife at the time the photos were taken was Aileen [Mioko] Smith, who since the early 1990s has led the environmental group Green Action, based in Kyoto, and she and they both have been on the front lines of educating people about the nuclear power & weapons and now the Fukushima disaster, e.g. Surely she/they will have more to say regarding Chisso's connection to the Fukushima crisis. They need all the help we can give them too.

Here's a statement by Aileen on the controversy surrounding the photo of Tomoko and her mother in the bath...

Thank you for the EX-SKF site, too!

Anonymous said...

I've only found out about this news when I was reading an article featured on this site ↓

only one news media seems to have picked up and run this story in Japan.
I guess most of Japanese living in Japan have never heard or read about this news and haven't got a clue of what's been happening in their own country.
Thank you for coverage!!!

I've been checking out your Japanese site as well.
Your site (both English/Japanese)has been a great source of information.
Thank you for all your hard work!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your research....I live about 400meters from this installation and have ordered a Geiger counter to check my air conditioning filter...some helpful links for others;

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Anon above, the video post you linked has been pretty much debunked, by the way.

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