Saturday, July 28, 2012

July 29 Protest to Surround the National Diet Building to Express "Beyond Nuclear" Sentiment

According to the organizers who skipped the Friday protest this week to concentrate on this supposedly big event, the details are as follows:

Location: Hibiya Park Nakawaiwai Gate (日比谷公園中幸門)
3:30 to 4:30PM: meeting
4:00PM: starting demonstration
7:00PM: surround the National Diet Building (candle light-up)
8:00PM: end the protest

The route map by the organizers:

The purpose of this protest? The organizers' site just says "脱原発" ('datsu genpatsu', beyond nuclear power plants). I suppose the purpose is to express one's wish, or hope, for a nuclear-free world. In other words, the purpose of the protest is to gather together.

If any of the readers of this blog in Japan is going, please let us know how it goes.

On Friday, people gathered anyway at the Prime Minister's Official Residence at 6PM, just as the organizers were giving a press conference at the same time and some members of the organizers were tweeting until the last moment telling people not to go to the protest.

There were several organizers in this Friday's event, some of whom were being criticized by the organizers in the press conference. They announced there were 2,800 protesters (it looked bigger than that to me, watching it on USTREAM). There were people voicing objection to PM Noda, to sales tax, to TPP, nuclear power plant, protesting against unfair treatment of Fukushima I Nuke Plant workers, demanding protection for children in Fukushima. Some tweeted, essentially, "Free at last."

Canadian Magazine Worries About Radioactive Fish

The Georgia Straight is a weekly entertainment magazine in Vancouver, Canada. Its July 19 issue's front cover features salmon with three eyes, setting off an alarm on the geiger counter that's going overscale.

The article titled "Post-Fukushima, Japan's irradiated fish worry B.C. experts" is in that issue:

Are fish from the Pacific Ocean and Japanese coastal and inland waters safe to eat 16 months after the Fukushima nuclear disaster?

Governments and many scientists say they are. But the largest collection of data on radiation in Japanese fish tells a very different story.

In June, 56 percent of Japanese fish catches tested by the Japanese government were contaminated with ce-sium-137 and -134. (Both are human-made radioactive isotopes—produced through nuclear fission—of the element cesium.)

And 9.3 percent of the catches exceeded Japan’s official ceiling for cesium, which is 100 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg). (A becquerel is a unit of radioactivity equal to one nuclear disintegration per second.)

Radiation levels remain especially high in many species that Japan has exported to Canada in recent years, such as cod, sole, halibut, landlocked kokanee, carp, trout, and eel.

Of these species, cod, sole, and halibut, which are oceanic species, could also be fished by other nations that export their Pacific Ocean catch to Canada.

The revelations come from the Japanese Fisheries Agency’s radiation tests on almost 14,000 commercial fish catches in both international Pacific and Japanese waters since March 11, 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami triggered multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

(Full article at the link)

The article goes on to describe how the experts in British Columbia are worried, yet there hasn't been any testing in Canada of fish caught off the Pacific coast of Canada. The data the experts mention is the Japanese data on the Japanese fish caught in Japanese waters or hauled to Japanese ports.

Why are they so concerned about the radioactivity in fish caught in Japan (ocean and freshwater)?

The article says Canada imports a lot of fish from Japan. How much?

...Japan exported $430,000 of kokanee to Canada in the first four months of 2012, according to Statistics Canada figures.

...Statistics Canada data shows Japan exported $37,000 worth of “Pacific, Atlantic, and Danube salmon” to Canada in the first four months of 2012.

...The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a July 17, 2012, statement that Canada has imported one shipment of masu salmon, in October 2011, since Fukushima.

...Japanese finance ministry trade data, however, shows Japan exported 120 kilograms of masu salmon to Canada in April 2011, directly after the nuclear accident.

...Japan exported $6.9 million of fish and crustaceans to Canada in the first four months of 2012, according to Statistics Canada, which would work out to $20.7 million per year if averaged. That would be up from $16.3 million in 2011, which itself was higher than the 2010 total of $15.4 million.

By reading this article, you might get the impression that the same levels of radioactivity must exist in fish caught off the Pacific coast of Canada or in the freshwater rivers and lakes on the Pacific Ocean side. Are any Canadian government agency testing? The answer seems to be "no". Are any of the researchers quoted in the article testing? The answer seems to be also "no". The researchers say it is the government's responsibility to monitor.

When the government does monitor, it'd better use an instrument that can actually measure radioactivity, like a germanium semiconductor detector. Waving a geiger counter or personal survey meter over fish and other food items to detect radiation has been long abandoned even by people in Japan concerned about the safety of food.

(H/T John Noah for the article link)


On the separate news, Canada will export uranium to China, as China is planning 171 nuclear reactors to be built in the future to add to the current 14 and additional 26 under construction. (I would think the best defense against possible radioactive contamination of fish in the Pacific Ocean is to eliminate the source of contamination, like nuclear power plants in China ...)

Friday, July 27, 2012

#Radioactive Japan: "Peach Project Junior - Let's Get Cheer From Children!" and Save Fukushima!

That this sort of events still goes on 16 months after the start of the worst nuclear accident in the country is surprising. Or not surprising. I don't know any more. Do you?

It is a leaflet for an event called "Let's Get Cheer (or Energy, Vitality, 'Genki" in Japanese) from Children!". The event is sponsored by an NPO called "Fukushima Stakeholders Coordinating Council" (I don't know if there's an official English name, so it is my translation of the name) set up in May this year. This is the same entity that will be holding a seminar in August on how to "decontaminate" your "soul" (heart, thinking).

It is supported by the Fukushima prefectural government (decontamination countermeasures department), the Board of Education in Date City, and JA Date Mirai (ag producers co-op), and co-sponsored by the Liberal Democratic Party-Kizuna Faction of the Ibaraki City Assembly in Osaka Prefecture.

They are looking for twenty 5th and 6th graders from Ibaraki City to go on a two-day trip (August 16, 17) to Date City in Fukushima Prefecture at a cost of 4,000 yen each. 4,000 yen will cover the lodging and insurance. Transportation costs will be paid by the organizers.

What they are going to do in Fukushima?

August 16:
Soon after arriving at Fukushima after spending 5 hours on the train, go visit Decontamination Information Plaza in Fukushima City set up by the Ministry of the Environment. Then, move to Date City, and enjoy all the peaches they can eat. They stay in Date City overnight.

August 17:
Socialize with school children in Fukushima, take a group photograph at the Decon Information Plaza, and go home to Osaka.

The place they will spend the night in Date City is a public hostel located in Tsukidate-machi, where 1,050 becquerels/kg of radioactive cesium was detected from the rice harvested last year. Date City is famous for its peaches, but they were found with high levels of radioactive cesium last year. Fruit tree "decontamination" of stripping the tree barks must have worked this year.

The organizers are nice enough to hold a informational session on August 11 to explain to the potential participants (and parents I assume) the current condition in Fukushima and the effect of radioactivity.

What is the point of this? How would this make people in Fukushima or in Date City feel uplifted? If I were the receiving end of this "goodwill", I would be nauseated. It is bad enough that the city and the prefecture have been badly contaminated from the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. And here come well-meaning (I hope) organizations and politicians with the support of their city and the prefecture, sending children from far-away Osaka so that people in Date City feel better.

The country is sick.

By the way, the decontamination adviser for Date City, Shunichi Tanaka, is set to become the first chairman of the soon-to-be-created Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Japan. He was also the former acting chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of Japan.

Friday Protest at PM Official Residence in Tokyo, No Matter What

People are gathering, regardless of what the usual organizers for the Friday protest have said (that they are not "organizing" this week's event because they have more important things to "organize" for Sunday).

Yasumi Iwakami tweeted this photo:

IWJ's Channel 1 is live, with Iwakami interviewing the participants:

Live broadcast by Ustream

IWJ's Channel 5 is also live:

Live video for mobile from Ustream

I see many middle-aged men and women, and older - the very generation that was ridiculed by some of the organizers of the past Friday protests (except today)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's Friday Again, BUT There Won't Be a Protest at PM Official Residence in Tokyo This Week

because the organizers of the weekly event say they are focusing on the Sunday's big event of encircling the National Diet Building to protest against nuclear power.

According to the organizers (or I should say those who have been particularly vocal on Twitter), their "single issue" (pronounced 'shinguru ishuu' in katakana English, I doubt the majority of Japanese would be able to spell the phrase in English) movement has succeeded in attracting this many people to the protest every Friday, and if anyone has any problem with their stance or policy (no union flags, no talk about radiation contamination, etc.), they say rather disparagingly, "Feel free to organize a protest yourself, if you think you can".

So they think they "organized" it.

I do not know if anyone is showing up at the Prime Minister's Official Residence to protest. Looking at Yasumi Iwakami's IWJ website, a group is protesting against the appointment of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission at the PM Official Residence at 5:30PM, and another group is protesting against the Ooi restart in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Annex Building (where NISA is located) at 6:30PM. It looks the organizers are giving press conference at 6PM.

The protest in front of KEPCO's headquarters in Osaka City is on, as usual:

Date: Friday, July 27, 2012
Time: 6 to 8PM
Place: KEPCO Headquarters, 3-6-16 Nakanoshima, Kita-ku, Osaka City, Osaka

I'm not very enthusiastic any more in promoting this Friday protest at the PM Official Residence by these particular organizers ("Metropolitan Coalition Against Nukes"), but nonetheless I still feel it is important to keep the "voices" (or noise, or sound, whatever it is to the prime minister) heard.

I just caught a tweet by one of the vocal organizers, effectively saying "It is true that one of us works for an event coordinating company. So what?"

OT: Olympic Men's Football - Japan 1 - Spain 0

(Flying in the business class clearly did them good, although I heard on the radio how uncomfortable they felt with the situation.)

A Kyodo photo from Nikkei Shinbun (7/27/2012) reporting the "Miracle in Glasgow" (where the match was played) shows how the Japanese players stuffed a Spanish offense:

According to the Nikkei article, the Japanese players out-ran the Spanish counterparts, and kept on running the entire 90 minutes.

The next match for Japan is against Morocco on July 29, then Honduras.

PM Noda on Friday Protest in Tokyo: "I Hear The Voices..."

The text below is taken from Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's official blog (officially translated into English, probably by the PR agency who did the homepage renewal) on July 11, 2012, titled "Listening carefully to a range of views".

The translator's effort to follow as close as possible the original cliche-ridden Japanese is evident. I sympathize. But Mr. Noda simply continues the fine tradition of the Japanese government, particularly since the Fukushima nuclear accident, of lying through his teeth.

From the Official Blog (English) of the Prime Minister's Office (7/11/2012), with my comment in square brackets, in blue italics:

I also hear the voices of the large number of people expressing anti-nuclear sentiments outside the Prime Minister's Office each Friday evening. [Yes, that the "sound" (some bloggers called it "noise" that he said he heard.] And I also hear the voices of people who are greatly worried about the possibility of rolling blackouts and drastic energy saving measures, including the elderly in elderly care homes, shop owners, and people employed at small- and medium-sized enterprises. [About the only people I heard who said those things were politicians - Mayor of Osaka City, for one.] We also have the hard fact that the restart of the Unit 3 reactor at the Oi Nuclear Power Station has enabled relaxation of the energy-saving target for the Kansai area to 10%. [The "hard fact" is that as soon as the Ooi Reactor 3 came online despite numerous alarms that were essentially ignored by KEPCO, KEPCO took 8 thermal power generation plants offline. It was also revealed that there would have been no shortage to begin with, as KEPCO's "calculation" was based on the summer of 2010, which was hotter than the summer of 2011.] What we should do now is vigilantly ensure safety, taking all possible means to do so. [Like how? By putting a senior vice minister at the plant who exclaimed "Jellyfish will never stop a modern nuclear power plant!" ?]

In addition, the issue of how to get through this summer's severe supply and demand situation through the restart of the Oi Nuclear Power Station is one that is fundamentally different from the issue of how in concrete terms we can reduce to the greatest possible extent our dependence on nuclear power over the medium to long term. [That's your problem, Mr. Noda, not the protesters'. The protesters don't want to restart Ooi or any other nuke plant until the Fukushima I Nuclear Plant accident is truly "over". Dependence of nuclear power has been part "manufactured" by deliberately putting thermal power generation plants offline and by calculating the "cost" of power generation that seemingly favored nuclear power generation.]

Recently, the Energy and Environment Council set forth three scenarios for Japan's energy composition in 2030. I intend to advance a national public debate regarding our medium- to long-term energy composition, earnestly taking into account the views of various people. ["Earnestly taking into account"? Well your Minister of the Environment Goshi Hosono said the same thing, and guess what. It is not Goshi Hosono who is reading the views of various people but the PR agency your administration has contracted (Hakuhodo). You have outsourced "earnestly taking into account" activity.]

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

#Radioactive Japan: Kyoto Finally Gives Up on Bringing and Burning Disaster Debris from Miyagi Prefecture

A victory achieved in Kyoto for the opponents of disaster debris incineration in Kyoto, by protesting (including shouting down Minister Goshi Hosono, telling him to go back to where he belongs - that was fun to watch), attending the "town hall meetings" to argue against it, and petitioning.

It's not really that the Kyoto officials finally listened to the opponents (if they did they wouldn't admit), but the opponents, by protracting the process long enough, have made it irrelevant. The amount of disaster debris in Miyagi and Iwate has turned out to be much less, and the prefecture officials (with the exception of the governors who remain eager to distribute the debris) say they are able to process them (not even burning it) within the prefectures.

Kyoto City has formally abandoned the idea of bringing in the disaster debris and incinerating it, and says it will focus on other ways to help the recovery of the disaster-affected areas. As the result, there will be no municipalities in Kyoto Prefecture that will accept and burn the debris with radioactive materials from the Fukushima nuclear accident, asbestos, arsenic, hexavalent chromium (from the tsunami damage).

That leaves Osaka and Kitakyushu City in the western half of Japan that still adamantly insist on burning the debris which even the officials in the disaster-affected Iwate and Miyagi say may not be necessary at all.

From Kyoto Shinbun (7/25/2012):


Kyoto City to shelve the plan to process disaster debris


Kyoto City, which had been planning for disposal of disaster debris from Miyagi, decided to shelve the plan to accept the debris on July 25. The Ministry of the Environment informed the city on July 25 that the ministry would not request the cooperation from the city because Miyagi Prefecture was likely to be able to process the debris within itself. As the result, there are no municipalities in Kyoto Prefecture that will accept the disaster debris.


According to the disaster debris process plan that Miyagi Prefecture announced on July 25, the prefecture would only request the disposal of flammable debris to the municipalities which are currently in the process of accepting or have already been accepting (Aomori, Yamagata, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tokyo). [Fukushima??]


Kyoto City was planning to test burn the debris at 3 incineration plants in the city. In late May it set up a committee of experts to study the safety of the process.


Mayor Daisaku Kadokawa issued a comment, saying "We believe there is no need to accept the debris any more. We continue to hope for the earliest recovery, and support the disaster-affected areas in a variety of ways."


Within Kyoto Prefecture, Maizuru City and Kyotanba-cho were also preparing for the debris acceptance, but the Ministry of the Environment requested on July 3 that municipalities with the disposal capacity of less than several ten thousand tonnes per year should refrain from accepting the debris.

I have a feeling that these cities, denied of the debris and of the opportunity to enrich the cities (government subsidies, repairing and rebuilding aging incineration plants and final disposal sites at the government expense, jobs for their favorite contractors, etc.), may be rather upset with these residents who have opposed.

#Radioactive Strontium Was Detected in Monthly Fallout As Late As November Last Year in Chiba, Ibaraki, Ministry of Education's Data Shows

But the Ministry of Education (MEXT) doesn't think the strontium-90 fallout after May last year was of Fukushima origin.

Following up on the post about strontium-90 fallout last year that MEXT (Ministry of Education and Science) announced on July 24 this year, I found some interesting data in the Japan Chemical Analysis Center where I created the chart plotting the Sr-90 fallout for the past 50 years or so in Japan (reproduced here).

The 2011 monthly fallout data for strontium-90 at the Japan Chemical Analysis Center is easier to see than the MEXT PDF file pages (they are the same data). As I was browsing through the search result, I started to wonder:

When was the last month that strontium-90 was detected in the fallout for these ten prefectures?

So here it is, from the search result at the Japan Chemical Analysis Center's website, the last date when strontium-90 was detected in the monthly fallout in the cities/prefectures in Tohoku and Kanto in 2011:

Aomori City, Aomori: March 31
Morioka City, Iwate: September 10
Akita City, Akita: July 1
Yamagata City, Yamagata: July 1
Hitachinaka City, Ibaraki: November 1
Utsunomiya City, Tochigi: August 1
Maebashi City, Gunma: June 1
Saitama City (Sakura-ku), Saitama: August 1
Ichihara City, Chiba: November 1
Chiba City (Inage-ku), Chiba: November 1

Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo: August 1
Chigasaki City, Kanagawa: June 30

Of these results, MEXT doesn't seem to think the detection in Aomori had anything to do with the Fukushima nuclear accident, as the prefecture is excluded from the list by MEXT in the press release (see my previous post for the MEXT list). In addition, MEXT seems to think the fallout after the first two to three months of the accident (March through May, 2011) is due not to the Fukushima accident but to the past atmospheric nuclear testing because the measured amount did not exceed the amount prior to the Fukushima accident.

Outside Kanto and Tohoku regions, there are occasional detection of strontium-90 in:

Niigata City (Nishi-ku), Niigata: May 2
Imizu City, Toyama: April 1
Kakamigahara City, Gifu: July 1
Shizuoka City (Aoi-ku), Shizuoka: August 1
Yokkaichi City, Mie: May 2
Kyoto City (Fushimi-ku), Kyoto: April 1
Wakayama City, Wakayama: November 1
Okayama City (Minami-ku), Okayama: April 1
Ishii-cho (Myozai-gun), Tokushima: April 1
Takamatsu City, Kagawa: April 1
Matsuyama City, Ehime: April 1
Kochi City, Kochi: April 1

Likewise, none of the detections above is considered by MEXT as the result of the Fukushima accident.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Another Alarm at Ooi Nuke Plant, But Power Generation Continues Uninterrupted

I doubt that anything will ever interrupt the operation of any nuclear power plant in Japan at this point, short of what has happened in Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

From NHK News (link to a backup site, part; 7/25/2012):


At Ooi Nuclear Power Plant, following Reactor 3 on July 9, Reactor 4 reached the full operation at 1AM on July 25 with officials including Senior Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Makino attending in the central control room.


In Reactor 4 however, an alarm was triggered at 5:30AM on July 25. It was one of the thermometers that triggered the alarm which are used to monitor the temperature of the primary coolant inside the reactor.


This thermometer monitors the temperature of the primary coolant, and if the temperature reaches 336 degrees Celsius it sets off an alarm. In the morning of July 25, this temperature was momentarily exceeded [according to KEPCO].


The other thermometers monitoring the primary coolant show normal temperatures, and there is no abnormal data such as the pressure of the reactor. KEPCO believes the alarm at the thermometer was due to a temporary rise in temperature due to water flow, and says the company continues to monitor the situation but without lowering the output.


With Reactors 3 and 4 at Ooi Nuclear Power Plant, which have the largest output capacities among the reactors operated by KEPCO, in full operation, the national government will remove the numerical targets for power saving in the areas served by Hokuriku Electric, Chubu Electric, and Chugoku Electric [who were required to deliver power to KEPCO in case of power shortage in KEPCO area].

Ooi's Reactors 3 and 4 are pressurized-water reactors.

By the way, the organizers who have been organizing the Friday protest at the Prime Minister's Official Residence in Tokyo says they are not doing it this week in order to focus their effort on the big July 29 event to surround the National Diet Building. They don't seem particularly worried about Ooi Nuke Plant any more, and one of the organizers continues to trash "the old left" who either come to the protest with labor union flags or argue with the police.

(I heard rumors that people are doing the "Kantei (PM Official Residence) demo" on Friday anyway. That would be interesting...)

Now They Tell Us: Ministry of Education Says Strontium-90 of #Fukushima Origin Found in 10 Prefectures

It took about 15 to 16 months for the Ministry of Education and Science or MEXT (the very name is a joke at this point) to announce radioactive strontium (Sr-90) was widely dispersed from the broken reactors at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant last year in 10 prefectures in Kanto and Tohoku, to the levels last seen in the Chernobyl accident.

Caveat is that it excludes Fukushima and Miyagi, probably the two most contaminated with radioactive fallout from the Fukushima accident. MEXT's excuse is that the stations in these prefectures have been damaged by the earthquake/tsunami.

From the press release by Ministry of Education and Science on July 24, 2012, "Analysis of Strontium-90 in the monthly environmental radioactivity levels (fallout)" (in Japanese; labels added by me):

Asahi Shinbun has a chart that tries to put these numbers in perspective. The bump this time looks slightly bigger than the one after the Chernobyl accident. But Asahi, either in its scientific illiteracy or on purpose to minimize the latest bump, uses the normal scale on the Y-axis instead of a log scale which would make it easier to discern the fluctuations in smaller numbers:

Looking for a historical chart on a log scale, I went to the site maintained by the Japan Chemical Analysis Center. I searched the database, and the 2011 data is already in the database. Here's the chart I created using the graph function at the site. I added the thin red line later to compare the 2011 level with that after the Chernobyl accident. It does look it is ever so slightly higher. The chart is a log scale, and the data is from all prefectures:

I wonder what the levels would be if Fukushima and Miyagi's data were to be added. Back to the level during the atmospheric nuclear testing? Or would it exceed that level?

Monday, July 23, 2012

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: TEPCO Will Fly Balloons Inside Reactor 1 to Survey and Measure Radiation

Somebody, save TEPCO or at least TEPCO workers who will have to hold two balloons just inside the truck bay of the high-radiation Reactor 1 building...

They could use a horde of these self-organizing flying robots by Vijay Kumar at University of Pennsylvania instead.

But TEPCO as being TEPCO (and now it is controlled by even less-imaginable national government of Japan), the company will send workers holding balloons with video cameras attached to survey the operating floor and measure radiation levels in Reactor 1 in early August, as the first step toward eventually removing the fuel assemblies from the Spent Fuel Pool.

Just remember the Onsen powder as tracer, baby diaper polymers and shredded newspaper to plug the hole near the water intake for Reactor 2 that was leaking the extremely radioactive water (over 1 sievert/hour radiation above the hole) in April last year. Anything is possible with this company.

From TEPCO's presentation at the Fukushima nuclear accident technology workshop, in Japanese only (7/23/2012):

Time Magazine: Japan's Women's Soccer "Shoots for Glory"

(Shame on the Japan Football Association for flying her and her team mates in the economy class...)

From @Kontan_Bigcat on Twitter:

Harmful UV Radiation for Humans from Energy Efficient, Environmentally Friendly CFL Bulbs

Researchers from Stony Brook University and New York State Stem Cell Science found the compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs emitting harmful UV lights that can cause skin damages.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, and the result is similar to the 2008 European study.

These CFL bulbs, said to be energy-efficient and environmentally friendly according to the proponents, have been federally mandated in the US to completely replace incandescent light bulbs.

From Daily Caller (7/23/2012; emphasis is mine):

Energy-efficient CFL bulbs cause skin damage, say researchers

New research funded by the National Science Foundation has scientists warning consumers about the potentially harmful effects energy-saving CFL light bulbs can have on skin.

The warning comes based on a study conducted by Stony Brook University and New York State Stem Cell Science — published in the June issue of Photochemistry and Photobiology — which looked at whether and how the invisible UV rays CFL bulbs emit affect the skin.

Based on the research, scientists concluded that CFL light bulbs can be harmful to healthy skin cells.

“Our study revealed that the response of healthy skin cells to UV emitted from CFL bulbs is consistent with damage from ultraviolet radiation,” said lead researcher Miriam Rafailovich, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Stony Brook University, in New York, in a statement. “Skin cell damage was further enhanced when low dosages of TiO2 nanoparticles were introduced to the skin cells prior to exposure.”

According to Rafailovich, with or without TiO2 (a chemical found in sunblock), incandescent bulbs of the same light intensity had zero effects on healthy skin.

The scientists found that cracks in the CFL bulbs phosphor coatings yielded significant levels of UVC and UVA in all of the bulbs — purchased in different locations across two counties — they examined.

With high levels of ultraviolet radiation present, the researchers delved into how the exposure affected the skin. According to the findings, skin damage from exposure to CFLs was consistent with harm caused by ultraviolet radiation.

“Despite their large energy savings, consumers should be careful when using compact fluorescent light bulbs,” said Rafailovich. “Our research shows that it is best to avoid using them at close distances and that they are safest when placed behind an additional glass cover.”

The research was inspired by a similar 2008 European study conducted by the Scientific Committee on Emerging and Newly Identified Health Risks which found a potential for skin damage and suggested the use of double-enveloped bulbs as a mitigation tool.

CFLs have been the source of political rumblings since 2007 when Congress approved new energy standards that would have started to phase out the traditional incandescent light bulb in favor of the energy-efficient CFL bulb this year. In December, Congress offered a provision to prevent the Department of Energy from enforcing the standards for nine months. The regulation is still on the books.

The restriction on consumer choice has represented a political battle cry for Tea Partiers and conservatives alike who view the regulation as an infringement on individual liberty. Environmentalists and CFL proponents argue the bulbs are environmentally friendly and economically efficient.

How a mercury-filled bulb could be environmentally friendly remains a mystery to me. As to energy efficiency, as far as my personal experience goes, they keep dying on me prematurely so I wouldn't know how efficient it could be.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Government Commission's Final Report on #Fukushima Nuke Accident Blames Government, Experts, TEPCO

The investigation commission on the Fukushima accident set up by the Cabinet Office of the government has just issued its final report.

You can download your own copy from this page, but the main report in English has to wait.

This commission conducted the investigation and carried out interviews with people involved since the start of the nuclear accident in March last year in private, unlike the National Diet commission who also released its final report recently.

Some have criticized the government commission for not making its sessions open to public. I don't think it is necessarily a bad thing. The National Diet commission should be applauded for its openness and its highly critical final report (anyone reading?), but in some of the public testimonies of the commission that I watched it was rather a place for the expert commissioners to display (or show off) their expertise and knowledge of the nuclear issues in general.

So, will there be information only obtainable in the closed sessions? We'll find out, but someone at Jiji Tsushin has clearly been assigned to read the voluminous report, and he/she has been putting up short articles. Judging from these articles, the government investigation commission is just as critical, if not way more, as the Diet investigation commission. Some of the points from Jiji articles (7/23/2012, here, here and here, in Japanese):

  • Detailed analysis and timeline from the time the water injection into RPVs failed till the damages to RPVs and Containment Vessels occurred;

  • Conclusion on how and when the core melt happened and progressed cannot be made because the actual survey at the plant is highly difficult [to say the least...];

  • Experts from TEPCO, NISA, and Nuclear Safety Commission at the PM's Official Residence failed to provide expert opinion and advice, adding to the distrust by PM Kan of these "in-house" experts;

  • Head of NISA couldn't answer Kan's question about the precise locations of emergency diesel generators [... should he be asking such details?];

  • PM Kan decided to go to Fukushima I Nuke Plant on March 12 morning because he (said he) had "the food feel for the place" when it came to technical aspects of nuclear energy;

  • Communication process was haphazard, direct communication between TEPCO and PM's Official Residence, without NISA's intermediation, had never been assumed or planned;

  • TEPCO, even though they were well trained and knowledgeable, they critically lacked the ability to think in a flexible and proactive manner;

  • TEPCO's organization was too vertically segmented to deal with the accident;

  • TEPCO didn't seem eager to find out what was happening at the plant in the early hours and days of the accident.

If you can think flexibly and proactively and you are curious, you wouldn't be working at TEPCO or NISA (or any ministry or government agency), I'm afraid.

The last Jiji Tsushin article linked above has examples of TEPCO's "inattention" to details and its vertically segmented organization:

From March 12 to 21, nearly 1,000 personal dosimeters were sent to Fukushima I Nuke Plant from Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuke Plant in Niigata (operated by TEPCO) and from Shikoku Electric Power Company. However, TEPCO employees didn't ask for [?] the equipment needed [to use those dosimeters], they were never used. Until the end of March, only one dosimeter was available per work group of several workers.

On the first day of the accident on March 11, Masao Yoshida, general manager of the plant, instructed [his managers] to plan for water injection using fire engines. However, because of TEPCO's vertically segmented organization, no one thought it was his job to do so.