Sunday, April 8, 2012

Former Japanese Ambassador to Switzerland: "Fate of Japan and the whole world depends on NO.4 reactor"

I don't know what to think of this but it may be one of the reasons why the meme of "Fukushima Reactor 4 is leaning (or listing, or collapsing, or falling apart)" and "Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool is in danger" has started to circulate widely again since March this year.

Mr. Mitsuhei Murata is a former Japanese Ambassador to Switzerland and Senegal and the current Executive Director of the Japan Society for Global System and Ethics (according to his website) who seems to have been very active in anti-nuclear movements. There are tweets and blogs citing his website as the source of his comments which appeared on the English site by a Japanese diplomat (I think) Akio Matsumura.

Assuming that it is indeed Mr. Murata's website, here's the letter that Mr. Murata sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on March 25, 2012, as it appears on his site:

The Honorable Ban Ki-Moon
Secretary–General of the United Nations Organization
New York City, NY.
Tokyo, March 25, 2012

Dear Secretary-General,
Honorable Ban Ki-moon,

I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude for your considerate letter dated 2 March, 2012. Your moral support for a United Nations Ethics Summit will remain a constant source of encouragement for my activities.

Please allow me to pay a tribute to your great contribution to strengthen nuclear safety and security. The current Nuclear Summit in Seoul is no doubt greatly benefiting from the high-level meeting you convened last September.

I was asked to make a statement at the public hearing of the Budgetary Committee of the House of Councilors on March 23. I raised the crucial problem. of N0.4 reactor of Fukushima containing1535 fuel rods. It could be fatally damaged by continuing aftershocks. Moreover, 50 meters away from it exists a common cooling pool for 6 reactors containing 6375 fuel rods !
It is no exaggeration to say that the fate of Japan and the whole world depends on NO.4 reactor. This is confirmed by most reliable experts like Dr.Arnie Gundersen or Dr.Fumiaki Koide.

Please allow me to inform you of an initiative being taken by a former UN official who is endeavoring to have the Nuclear Security Summit take up the crucial problem. of N0.4 reactor of Fukushima. He is pursuing the establishment of”an independent
assessment team. I think his efforts are very significant ,because it is indispensable to draw the attention of world leaders to this vital issue.
I am cooperating with him, writing to some of my Korean acquaintances that this issue deserves the personal attention of President Lee Myung-bak. I have written today to Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda. I asked him to consider taking the initiative of mobilizing human wisdom on the widest scope to cope with the Fukushima reactor No.4 problem, fully taking into account the above-mentioned “independent assessment team".

The world has been made so fragile and vulnerable. The role of the United Nations is increasingly vital.

I wish you the best of luck in your noble mission.

Please accept, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the assurances of my highest consideration.

Mitsuhei Murata
Former Japanese Ambassador to Switzerland and Senegal
Executive Director, the Japan Society for Global System
and Ethics

I don't recall any prominent nuclear researcher named "Fumiaki Koide". I googled the name just in case but I think Mr. Murata is talking about Hiroaki Koide of Kyoto University.

I'm interested in knowing what prompted Mr. Murata to get very concerned about Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool. It is possible he has been concerned about it all along.

As far as I know, the situation of the Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool is not much different from what it was last summer after the wall underneath it was reinforced with metal support beams and concrete. Since my understanding is based on what TEPCO has been willing to disclose, it is quite possible that I've been missing something big.

There are a few Japanese experts, including Mr. Matsumura, who seem to have been advising many US nuclear experts on the situations in Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant since the March 11, 2011 accident. They all communicate in English only, and their information is usually not shared or known in Japan.

If you understand Japanese, here's the video of Mr. Murata testifying in the Upper House Budget Committee (foreign affairs and national security issues) in the Diet on March 22, 2012 (0:30:30, 2:13:54, 2:16:07, 2:53:00), warning about Fukushima Reactor 4.


Anonymous said...

Postings are not working for publish button.

Preview button working as publish button.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Sorry about that. Unfortunately I don't have control over that, as the comment section is Blogger's plug-in.

Anonymous said...

The former ambassador is saying what he has been told to say: let's focus on "engineering" problems now and forget about nuclear issues which are the root of all that is happening to our planet. Fukushima is basically a bad "engineering" problem.
Side point: When did Arnie get a doctorate?And let's remember Arnie is not "anti-nuke": he is a whistleblower on safety issues.

Anonymous said...

@anon at 1:06AM, I'm sure they are very minor details, but that, and wrong first name on Koide, and the date of the Diet hearing (which was March 22, not 23) make me not completely comfortable about Mr. Murata.

Anonymous said...

I posted a link to a YouTube video about this on the comments here somewhere a month or so ago.

Since that video, I've been seeing other Western media pick up on it. It's always been an issue, though. They've just been slow to realise how serious it is. As always.

Unknown said...

"it was reinforced with metal support beams and concrete"

I recall seeing an interview where Dr. Koide said that due to the high levels of radiation, it is hard to think that they were very careful and precise in their work. I also recall seeing a picture where they were trying to plug a leak in a high radiation zone . . . looked like it was done by a bunch of preschoolers. That much weight, 5 stories up, in a severely damaged building like that looks bound to collapse at some point . . . then what?

elbows said...

I don't think much has changed with reactor 4 pool, I don't think you are missing anything big.

Certainly if the pool failed then the situation would be extremely serious with huge implications. In theory earthquakes or deterioration of pool liner due to corrosion could happen at some point.

The question is what the chances are of this happening,and I doubt that anyone has special information that makes it easier to predict woe on this front. So although it is quite sensible to be concerned about all that fuel sitting in an open pool, I highly doubt that the realities of reactor 4 at the moment have much to do with why we are hearing about this again now.

In my opinion one of the tragedies of this disaster is that the people who present themselves as anti-nuclear experts have not been able to give the world much information that is of higher quality than the official government line. In fact some of them totally ruined their credibility in my eyes, especially Gundersen and reactor 4 pool. Why should I believe a word he says when he so badly analysed the reactor 4 footage and thought that the fuel racks were in open air? I could tell they weren't and I don't pretend to be a nuclear expert, I had no prior knowledge before Fukushima. Did Gundersen come out and apologise for this big error? No, as far as I know he just never mentioned it again. Rubbish and disgraceful, the world deserves better than this.

James said...

I think the recent release of the scientific paper '‘Tomography of the 2011 Iwaki earthquake (M 7.0) and Fukushima nuclear power plant area’ in February might have something to do with it? These scientific findings often seem to take a few months to enter into popular discourse. The paper basically said that given the ongoing increased activity, there is real and immanent threat to the plant from a possible M7 near to if not directly under the plant:

"While the scientists can’t predict when an earthquake in Fukushima Daiichi will occur, they state that the ascending fluids observed in the area indicate that such an event is likely to occur in the near future. They warn that more attention should be paid to the site’s ability to withstand strong earthquakes, and reduce the risk of another nuclear disaster"

James said...

Sorry, meant to write ^imminent threat^ - Deleuze + Geophysics = poor mix.

Anonymous said...

It shouldn't be a matter of betting on chances like most people seem to be thinking. The fact is that the collapse of reactor 4 could easily happen at any moment - and if it does, we are screwed.

It's a risk that shouldn't have been taken to begin with, and now that we're faced with it, so much time has passed with so little progress. For all we know, the building could collapse tomorrow. I wouldn't feel safe until the risk is completely gone. At this rate, we'll be looking at 30 - 50 years of hoping something doesn't happen at any given moment of any day. Does this sound as ludicrously risky to you as it does to me? Perhaps my understanding of the entire situation is incorrect.

The problem with all of this is that the people who can actually do something are treating it as just another incident they can sweep under the carpet. They always wait for something to happen before reacting, because it costs time and money to act. That's the problem with humans - they're too focused on the moment and themselves. A recipe for destruction, if I ever saw one.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm being naive, but living in an earthquake country for 25 years, I'm used to hearing things like, "this building is designed to withstand an earthquake of magnitude x." NOT hearing anything whatsoever - although I may have missed it - what the current status of the reactor building 4 is in terms of earthquake "safety" makes me very, very uncomfortable. Shouldn't it be possible - and this is the possibly naive part - to calculate/estimate what the building in it's current state can or cannot handle?

elbows said...

Look Im sure everyone would be much happier if the reactor 4 pool (and the other pools) could be sorted out quickly. Its not a nice risk to think about. But nobody has a time machine or magic wand, and I would not expect humanity to be able to transfer the fuel out of the pool very rapidly. This is one of the problems with nuclear, in some ways it is a technology that does not match the other technological capabilities we posses, it is hard to clear this stuff up.

The timetable for removing the fuel from reactor 4 pool is years, not decades. I don't know quite how quickly we could possibly expect them to achieve this probably quicker than the timetable but I also do not want them to rush and make a big mistake. They have to be careful doing this stuff, and like I said human tech is not quite as sophisticated as they liked to pretend before the disaster happened.

Yes in theory something new and terrible could happen at the plant at any time. But how likely it is, and what mitigation can be performed, really does matter. It is not balanced to only predict the worst-case scenarios as if they are certainties, especially when the people who do this are completely uninterested in commenting on progress that actually does get made, such as installing the supporting structure under reactor 4 pool. We can be critical of all the failings and mistakes without having to pretend that no progress has been made at all.

I read this blog because it is not full of hysterical rubbish like some 'information' sites are. The disaster is so bad that nobody should feel the need to hype it, but plenty do. Risk assessment of nuclear power plants was clearly faulty and imbalanced before the disaster, but hysteria doesn't fix this.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for suggesting it might take 30 - 50 years. I honestly don't remember which part of the clean up would take that long.

I understand that time machines and magic wands aren't readily available, and I agree that hysteria won't fix the problem. I'm just concerned with issues like cover-ups, ignorance and incompetence.

I believe that obscuring the urgency of the situation may cause people to simply ignore it outright when they may be capable of contributing to its solution (eg. researchers, scientists, even students, etc). I also imagine that money used on propaganda could easily go towards funding research to better deal with the situation. None of this can happen if people pretend there isn't a problem. That's why I think it's important to make people understand how serious the situation is. I apologize if my words come across as "fear-mongering" or inciting hysteria, because I honestly don't mean it to be interpreted that way.

Personally, I'm not afraid... just disgusted by typical stupidity displayed by politicians and the like.

Anonymous said...


The Wall Street Journal recently ran a major story about newly released documents which showed that, in the early days of the crisis, top US officials, and the NRC delegation in Japan, were operating on information that an explosion occurred at the No. 4 reactor and there was no water in the spent-fuel pool. Their conclusions were derived, in part, from unmanned US surveillance planes. A subsequent TEPCO report contradicted US findings in December 2011. Here's the WSJ article, February 22, 2012: "Bad Data Guided U.S. Fukushima Call" [] Note that at least one of the US officials cited below appears to still be somewhat skeptical of TEPCO's claims about the overall status of reactor No. 4.

...Documents, released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by The Wall Street Journal and other organizations, consist of transcripts of phone conversations at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's operations center in Rockville, Md., during the first 10 days after the worst nuclear accident in Japan's history.

...The No. 4 reactor suffered an explosion March 15, 2011. John Monninger, an NRC official in Japan, told others at the agency, "The explosion leveled the walls, leveled the structure for the Unit 4 spent-fuel pool all the way down to the approximate level of the bottom of the fuels. So, there's no water in there whatsoever". This information was relayed to NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko and, on March 16, he told U.S. lawmakers that he recommended a [50 mile evacuation zone].

...Shortly afterward, Chuck Casto, the head of the NRC's delegation in Japan also reported new information that persuaded him the pool lacked water. "For me, I'm ever more convinced that there's nothing there. There's major damage to that building. And I just have to stake my career on it," he told other NRC staffers...The source of the new information was redacted in the transcripts, but the U.S. has said it sent an unmanned surveillance plane over Fukushima about that time.

...Months later, Japan judged based on photographs and other analyses that the No. 4 pool was "nearly undamaged." Fukushima Daiichi operator Tepco, said in a December report that the spent-fuel rods remained covered with water throughout. Mr. Jaczko has conceded the point recently...Mr. Casto said in an interview Tuesday he took the prudent course. "The right thing to do is to hope for the best and assume the worst," he said. He added that he still believed the fuel rods in reactor No. 4 may have suffered damage. "Until you pull the fuel out, you don't know what happened," he said.

I think there's much more to this story than meets the eye. Note: if the full text of the WSJ article doesn't come up at the link, just do a Google search for the story title.


Anonymous said...

As far as I'm aware, Gundersen just dropped the subject of "no water in Unit 4 SFP". I have no idea whatever he was seeing when he proclaimed it was a fuel rack that was out in the open.

Doesn't matter. His book apparently selling well in Japan, and there are people both Japanese and non-Japanese who jump to the defense of his character or integrity or whatever when his methodology is examined. Cult figure at this point.

As to WSJ article, I think NRC changed their story about Unit 4 SPF long time ago, not recently. WSJ is very late in the game.

elbows said...

The NRC transcripts demonstrate quite well why they were so concerned, and why there was so much media focus on reactor 4 pool early on. A lot was happening and information was poor, and people didn't have an alternative explanation for why reactor 4 building exploded. The NRC guy in Japan could not get his head around the idea that the pool might still be intact, mostly because of how bad a state the building looked in the photos etc. And once you form an opinion about something, it can take a while before your brain is ready to change its opinion.

Gundersen was looking at part of the refuelling bridge and mistaking it for fuel racks. I moan because he is supposed to know something about nuclear power stations, but when I looked at the same video that he did, at the same time, it was possible to predict that he was wrong, and to work out what we were really seeing.

Sometimes people with big agendas or who are hysterical about this stuff can still be useful, they can bring information and news to our attention even if their analysis is quite wrong. I learnt quite a lot by spending time studying dodgy reports and finding out what the more likely reality was. But its still a big shame we don't have more credible sources to turn to when nuclear stuff goes wrong. Plenty of reputations have been ruined by Fukushima, and I haven't yet found an obvious candidate for someone that has justifiably gained a great reputation for providing decent information about nuclear issues. Probably some good academic papers or works by institutions here and there, but no great figurehead whose words we should eagerly await.

To the commenter who apologised, thanks, and I would like to say that my criticism was directed at many other people, you only set it off, it wasn't all aimed at you. The hysterical types are not likely to apologise or admit problems with their facts, they just move on to the next thing they can babble on about, or react with anger and accuse people like me of being pro-nuclear or an establishment shill, when obviously I am really not either of those things.

The human story and the long term consequences are what worry me, I won't fret too much about all the things that could go wrong on site unless one of them shows signs of coming true.

Anonymous said...


Reply @Anon at 10:28 Am,

Well, if you read the WSJ article, or my above comment, you will see that Chuck Casto (head of the NRC's delegation in Japan) said that he "STILL believes the fuel rods in reactor No. 4 may have suffered damage".

Moreover, it appears that in March 2010, Gundersen may have been privy to some of the 'inside' information that was being used by key US officials and the NRC. However, unlike Gundersen, they chose to keep the public in the dark and offered no information as to why they thought the situation was so dire as to require a 50 mile evacuation zone.

As the NRC's Mr. Casto just told the WSJ:

..."The right thing to do is to hope for the best and assume the worst..Until you pull the fuel out, you don't know what happened."

Perhaps you find TEPCO's reports more reassuring.

Cheers, JP

Anonymous said...

JP, it's called "escalation of commitment" on Chuck Casto's side. As to your staunch support for Gundersen, good for you. Keep on believing.

Yes, on certain subjects, TEPCO's reports are more reassuring than Gundersen's or anyone who is not at the site.

Anonymous said...


Reply @Anon at 12:01,

You don't think that independent analysts, like Arnie Gundersen and Hiroaki Koide, and Ambassadors Akio Matsumura and Mitsuhei Murataand have access to information from people who are "at the site". Hah!

BTW, it would be a far more productive conversation if you could get past your fixation on Gundersen and focus on the substantive contents of the post.


Anonymous said...

Gundersen is Ambassador Murata's fixation, citing him as one of the two (the other with wrong first name).

Anonymous said...

To me, it is clear that the main problem is and remains that any available data comes from TEPCO first and pretty much only. Naturally, the operating company has financial interests at stake, which may or may not influence their assessments and what information is released.

Also, in my humble opinion, it is also quite naturally that fear and even hysteria is created in many of "the rest of us" who may not completely trust the information released AND may have limited or no comprehension of the technical aspects of what's going on.

With both of these situations being "natural," it is just the more clear that in such a situation, one or more independent bodies should be on-site, checking and reporting any and all information. I believe it's the only way how then knowledgeable people can interpret the info and put to rest (or, God forbid, substantiate) any fear and hysteria out there in the general public.

Apart from technical aspects, at least I hope that this will be one of the lessons learned from Fukushima. And the sooner, the better.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Hysteria goes both ways, looking at what the national government is trying to do. Restarting the nuke plant because the government declares it is safe, spreading the debris because the government declares it is safe, and now allowing the clearing of the debris inside the 20-kilometer no-entry zone by private parties because the government values free competition.

Anonymous said...

Wholeheartedly agree with laprimavera. The national government's actions are definitely not exactly trust-inspiring either.

Anonymous said...

here is a japanese transscript of what was being said at the Upper House Budget Committee

Anonymous said...

Thanks, too. I'm trying to be reasonable and I want to know what's really going on. I hate that every single bit of information we get is coated with some form of lies, bullshit or misconception. I don't trust any of the experts or sources. Everyone seems to have some kind of agenda other than trying to find out the facts and fix the damn situation.

If people weren't so retardedly selfish and worked together, this kind of disaster would probably not occur in the first place. I'd also like a time machine and a magic wand.

Anonymous said...


In your introduction to this post, you made a prominent point about Mr. Murata's letter misnaming a nuclear expert as "Fumiaki Koide" when he was probably referring to "Hiroaki Koide".

In the West, this is what we call "GOTCHA JOURNALISM". Meaning, attention is focused on a foolish, but relatively inconsequential, misstatement or error; which has the effect of taking time and attention away from more substantive matters about which the individual may very well be altogether correct. It's a kind of covert ridicule that you do well and rather often.

Question: how do you know the misnaming wasn't due to a TRANSCRIPTION error? Not that it much matters either way.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

I can't help noticing and can't help mentioning the smallest of errors and discrepancies when I see one. My habit from playing adventure games for long hours.

But if I wanted to make it a "prominent" point, I would have SCREAMED at the top. The ambassador and Mr. Matsumura are not widely known in Japan. I didn't know about them until someone sent me a link to Mr. Matsumura's site.

Someone knew about the ambassador and had enough connection with a politician to have him invited to the Upper House Committee for testimony.

I got the letter to the UN Secretary-General directly from his supposed website. No idea who post the letter on the site.

Anonymous said...

Why aren't they listening to Mr. Robert Alvarez now?

"Bob Alvarez who advocate accelerated transfer of spent fuel from pools to casks"

"Many of our readers might find it difficult to appreciate the actual meaning of the figure, yet we can grasp what 85 times more Cesium-137 than the Chernobyl would mean. It would destroy the world environment and our civilization. This is not rocket science, nor does it connect to the pugilistic debate over nuclear power plants. This is an issue of human survival."

Anonymous said...

I skimmed through the transcription of his testimony. Oh boy.

Anonymous said...

At this point, I don't trust either side - Ambassador/Koide/Gundersen or TEPCO/Government/pro-nuke.

Anonymous said...

@Anon at 1:36 AM,

I'm wondering whether you think Ex-Skf is saying that both sides are equally worthless - that Matsumara/Murata/Koide/Gundersen are as corrupt as TEPCO/Government/Pro-nuke Lobby?

Anonymous said...

the wisest course of actions is to wait for 死NR#4 to fall down & see what happens. Then we will have more factual data to feed secret Gallium Arsenide Supercomputers

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