Saturday, August 3, 2013

US Congressional Report Express Concern Over Japan's Foreign Policy, Congratulates on Big Election Win by Abe's LDP

Hmmm. OK... (Here I thought you can't do both at the same time...)

From NHK English (8/2/2013; emphasis is mine):

US report expresses concern over Japan's policy

A report released by the US Congress says visits by Japanese Cabinet minister to war-related Yasukuni Shrine could increase tensions in East Asia.

The US Congressional Research Service on Friday published a new report on Japan-US relations. It indicates the deep concerns US officials have about Japan's relations with neighboring countries.

The report notes that relations between Japan and China are in stalemate about which nation has sovereignty over the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

It also says US authorities are concerned about the differences in historical perceptions between Japan and South Korea.

The report warns that regional tensions will increase if Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his cabinet members visit Yasukuni Shrine on August 15th to mark the end of World War Two.

Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine honors Japan's war dead, as well as leading figures convicted of war crimes.

The report welcomes the recent Upper House election results. The ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Abe won the majority.

The document says that for US policymakers, the continuation of Japan's administration is a welcome change after several years of political paralysis.

It expresses expectations for Japan's participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade negotiations and its defense buildup.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Tritium in Perspective: If Rokkasho Ever Becomes Operational, It Will Release 18,000 Trillion Becquerels of Tritium into the Pacific Ocean PER YEAR

While the amount of tritium released from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant since May 2011, 20 to 40 trillion becquerels which TEPCO finally told Nuclear Regulatory Authority on August 2, 2013, could be an order of magnitude lower than the amount if April 2011 were included, it would pale in comparison to what Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Aomori Prefecture would be releasing if (big IF) it ever becomes operational (the October 2013 target has been moved yet again).

According to Wikipedia on Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (in Japanese):

Amount of tritium to be released to the Pacific Ocean in liquid:

  • 18,000 trillion becquerels (terabequerels) per year

Amount of tritium to be released into the atmosphere:

  • 1,900 trillion becquerels (terabequerels) per year

Bioconcentration of tritium is supposed to be non-existent. But my search found this paper titled "Bioaccumulation of tritiated water in phytoplankton and trophic transfer of organically bound tritium to the blue mussel, Mytilus edulis." Jaeschke BC, Bradshaw C (Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden), Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, January 2013.

18,000 trillion becquerels per year into the ocean which has 829,000 trillion becquerels of tritium (according to UNSCEAR 2000 report quoted by TEPCO). Rokkasho would be adding over 2% of the existing amount to the ocean every single year. That's rather big for comfort.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Groundwater Contamination: 20 to 40 Trillion Bq of Tritium May Have Been Released Since May 2011

But even that would still be within the annual regulatory target (22 trillion becquerels of tritium) for Fukushima I Nuclear Power plant.

The information about the amount of tritium released since the accident came from TEPCO during the August 2 meeting of the NRA working group to deal with contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

So far, reports of radioactive materials in water have been focused mostly on I-131 (no longer detected) and radioactive cesium. TEPCO does measure other nuclides including tritium and strontium in seawater and fish, but the total estimates haven't been presented, until yesterday for tritium (August 2, 2013).

First, the news from Kyodo (8/2/2013):

トリチウム数十兆ベクレル流出か 福島第1原発の汚染水
Dozens of trillions of becquerels of tritium may have leaked from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant


Regarding the problem of contaminated water leaking into the ocean from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, TEPCO disclosed the estimate on August 2 showing the amount of tritium in the contaminated water that leaked since May 2011 to be between 20 to 40 trillion becquerels. The estimate was reported during the meeting of the working group set up within Nuclear Regulatory Authority to deal with the contaminated water [at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant].


TEPCO will also estimate the total amount of radioactive strontium that has leaked from the plant, as strontium is easily accumulated in body and may affect health. The company will start the survey of fish and shellfish in the ocean near the plant.

The very last sentence in Kyodo News is not true. The survey has been ongoing. TEPCO has admitted so far only to the leak into the open culvert in front of the water intake canals, and not into the water in the plant harbor.

Before we collectively freak out on the huge number like 40 trillion becquerels, let's take a look at what it was before the accident for Fukushima I Nuke Plant and what it probably continues to be at all the other nuclear power plants in Japan when it comes to releasing tritium.

Here's a page (page 38) from the 2011 report by Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry regarding the nuclear waste management at Japan's nuclear power plants, showing the amount of tritium released yearly by nuclear power plants (English labels added by me; click to enlarge):

Before the accident, Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant was releasing tritium in the order of trillion becquerels per year. In 2009, the amount was 2.0E+12 becquerels, or 2 trillion becquerels of tritium.

Nuclear power plants with pressured-water reactors release more tritium (the numbers in 2011 circled in blue in the table). Hokkaido's Tomari Nuclear Power Plant, for example, released 3.8E+13 becquerels, or 38 trillion becquerels of tritium in 2011.

The total amount of tritium released from Japan's commercial nuclear power plants in 2011 was, according to the table, 3.1E+14 becquerels, or 310 trillion becquerels. The order of magnitude is the same in all years in the table, at 100s of trillions becquerels per year.

The pre-accident target set for Fukushima I Nuke Plant for tritium release per year was 2.2E+13, or 22 trillion becquerels, according to TEPCO's document on tritium released on February 28, 2013. (Here's the results of 2006, showing ND for all nuclides tested except for tritium.)

So, according to TEPCO's estimate, release of tritium after the accident in 40 trillion becquerels, or 20 trillion becquerels per year, would be still within the company's pre-accident annual target, and about the same as amounts released by nuclear power plants with pressured-water reactors.

The density of tritium in waste water that can be released is 60,000 Bq/Liter, according to the law and regulations governing the operating nuclear power plants.

What's more worrisome is strontium, which many suspect has exceeded the target.

(H/T Kontan-Bigcat for NISA/METI document, TEPCO's document)

Vibrantly Democratic Taiwan's Lawmakers Brawl Over Nuclear Plant Referendum

It's for the show, says AP. But still, Taiwanese have more gusto than Japanese, throwing punches, throwing water bottles...

From ABC News quoting AP (8/2/2013; emphasis is mine):

Taiwan Lawmakers Brawl Over Nuclear Plant Bill

Taiwanese lawmakers exchanged punches and threw water at each other Friday ahead of an expected vote that would authorize a referendum on whether to finish a fourth nuclear power plant on this densely populated island of 23 million people.

Nuclear power has long been a contentious issue in Taiwan and became more so following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011. While many Taiwanese consider nuclear power generation an unacceptable safety risk for the earthquake-prone island, economic analyses suggest disruptive power shortages are inevitable if the fourth plant is not completed.

Friday's fracas pitted the pro-referendum forces of President Ma Ying-jeou's ruling Nationalist Party against strongly anti-nuclear forces affiliated with the main opposition Democratic Progressive Party. DPP lawmakers occupied the legislative podium late Thursday night amid vows to disrupt the vote. It had not taken place by midday Friday, but with a large Nationalist majority in the 113-seat legislature, the referendum bill is expected to pass easily.
Taiwan Nuclear.JPEG

Construction of Taiwan's fourth nuclear power plant began in 1997 but was halted while the DPP was in power between 2000 and 2008. If the referendum is passed it could become operational by 2016.

Physical confrontations broke out early in Friday's session. Associated Press television footage shows some eight people pushing and shoving in one scrum. Two people scuffled on the floor, while others tried to separate them. More than a dozen activists in bright yellow shirts chanted and waved signs on a nearby balcony, and several of them splashed water onto lawmakers below. A few water bottles were thrown into the fray.

Some DPP lawmakers object to the idea of any nuclear referendum at all, while others say that the language in the bill needs to be changed because it is prejudicial. According to the bill under discussion, referendum voters would be asked to vote on whether they agree with the proposition that "the construction of the fourth nuclear power plant should be halted and that it not become operational."

Taiwan began transitioning away from a one-party martial law regime in 1987 and is regarded today as one of Asia's most vibrant democracies. But its political process has been undermined by occasional outbursts of violence in the legislature, much of which appears to be deliberately designed to score points among hardline supporters on either side of the island's longstanding political divide.

It is not very clear in the article, but Taiwan's ruling party is pro-nuclear, pushing for this referendum.

For more on growing anti-nuclear movement in Taiwan, here's from Energy Tribune (3/13/2013; emphasis is mine):

Anti-Nuclear Storm Brewing in Taiwan

By Tim Daiss

There is a storm brewing in Taiwan. But this time it’s not a killer typhoon blowing in from the South China Sea or even an earthquake, which often plagues this island country. It’s the fight over the future of nuclear power.

In one corner are environmentalists, academics, an alarmed populace and even Taiwanese celebrities. In the other corner are politicians, government planners and Taipower, the country’s state-owned power utility.

In fact, public outcry against the county’s proposed fourth nuclear plant has reached a fever pitch, prompting a referendum to be held later this year. At stake is a new nuclear plant already about 90 percent completed in New Taipei City. The plant is scheduled to come online by 2015.

...Taiwan’s geographical location, which sits on the boundary between two converging tectonic plates, is indeed cause for concern. Additionally, the country is in the proximity of a volcano group. Opponents also cite the fact that Taiwan’s three existing plants are all located in one area, New Taipei City, which makes it even more vulnerable to natural disaster that could lead to a series of chain reactions.

The country’s anti-nuclear faction also points to nuclear waste as another problem, since nuclear waste has to be buried between 610m and 1,200m underground in a geologically stable area for a period of 10,000 years and up, they claim, citing a Taiwanese government paper. Critics claim that an adequate burial site cannot be found in Taiwan.

...However, the pro-nuclear camp has friends in high places, including current Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou. Ma repeatedly defends his government’s nuclear stance and promises, even guarantees nuclear safety before allowing commercial operation of the new plant.

Though pro-nuclear, Ma seems to be taking a pragmatic approach to the problem. “We can reduce nuclear power gradually, but it will be hard to achieve this goal in a single step,” he said at a March 2 meeting with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) members that call for a halt to construction of the fourth plant.

Ma added that the government would respect any decision made by the public on this issue in the upcoming national referendum, which itself has become a political bloodbath as both sides try to work referendum details to suit their own agendas.

(Full article at the link)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Groundwater Contamination: High Contamination Confirmed in Water in Shaft B Connected to Reactor 3 Turbine Building

But the level of contamination is less than water in Shaft C that connects to Reactor 2 turbine building.

TEPCO announced the results of nuclide analysis of the water sample taken from the Shaft B (see the diagram below, from TEPCO's 7/26/2013 document, with added English labels) at different water levels in the shaft. Shaft B and the seawater intake pipe trench that connects to the shaft go to Reactor 3's turbine building.

In an effort perhaps to make the data more accessible to mere mortals, in addition to announcing the results in liter TEPCO also spelled out the numbers instead of using "x.xE+x" format. (I wish they just used Bq/cm3. Too many zeroes, and I couldn't grasp the numbers right away.)

From TEPCO's 8/1/2013 handout for the press in Japanese (English labels are by me):

Comparing Shaft B for Reactor 3 and Shaft C for Reactor 2, you will note:

  • Chloride content is one order of magnitude bigger in Shaft B than in Shaft C.

  • Cesium content is one order of magnitude smaller in Shaft B than in Shaft C.

  • All-beta content is one order of magnitude smaller in Shaft B than in Shaft

Therefore, unlike the water in Shaft C and seawater pipe trench for Reactor 2, the water in Shaft B for Reactor 3 is not likely to be the highly contaminated water that leaked to the ocean in April 2011. Rather, the density is in the same order of magnitude as in the water that is currently in the Reactor 3 turbine building basement.

According to the most recent analyses of the contaminated water inside the turbine buildings,

Water in the Reactor 3 turbine building basement (as of 6/13/2013) has:

  • Cs-134: 1.5E+04 Bq/cm3, or 15,000 Bq/cm3

  • Cs-137: 3.1E+04 Bq/cm3, or 31,000 Bq/cm3

For reference, water in the Reactor 2 turbine building basement (as of 7/22/2013) has:

  • Cs-134: 1.1E+04 Bq/cm3, or 11,000 Bq/cm3

  • Cs-137: 2.5E+04 Bq/cm3, or 25,000 Bq/cm3

The numbers are comparable to water in the Reactor 3 turbine building basement but one order of magnitude smaller than the water sitting in the Shaft C and trenches connected to it.

Put the information yet another way for easier comparison, the numbers in Bq/cm3 instead of Bq/liter, except for chloride (click to enlarge):

High-Level Radioactive Liquid Waste, Plutonium Nitrate Stored in Tokai Reprocessing Plant, JAEA Volunteers Information to NRA

I've never heard of a nuclear operator volunteering bad information to a regulatory agency without being asked. Neither has NRA Chairman Tanaka, apparently.

It is almost unprecedented, says Chairman Tanaka, that a nuclear operator (in this case JAEA) has volunteered the information and alerted the regulatory authority (in this case NRA) of existence of hazard and risk at a nuclear facility (in this case Tokai Reprocessing Plant).

On July 31, Nuclear Regulatory Authority held its regular weekly meeting, which was netcast live (now archived at NRA's Youtube channel). Toward the end of the long meeting, Chairman Shunichi Tanaka asked the commissioners if they had any last thoughts and suggestions. Commissioner Fuketa raised his hand, and proceeded to tell the other commissioners and officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (secretariat of NRA) about a piece of information voluntarily submitted by Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA).

JAEA told NRA that there are large quantities of high-level liquid waste and plutonium in liquid form at its Tokai Reprocessing Plant in Ibaraki Prefecture and that they wanted to solidify them to make the facility safer. JAEA wanted to know how to proceed under the new standards, if applied.

A nuclear operator proactively (to save its skin maybe, but) addressing the safety issue and asking for direction - a small, first step toward the right direction?

This is what Commissioner Fuketa told the group (my summary, from the video of the meeting, after 1 hour and 45 minutes):

JAEA operates Tokai Reprocessing Plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, about 1/4 of the size of Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant in Aomori Prefecture. It became operational in 1981, and stopped operation to enter into a prolonged inspection/maintenance in 2007.

NRA is currently soliciting public comments on the new regulatory standards for nuclear fuel reprocessing facilities, and as part of the process NRA conducted hearings from the nuclear operators for their opinions on the new regulatory standards. Instead, JAEA submitted the information that in addition to spent fuel assemblies there are large quantities of high-level radioactive liquid waste and liquid plutonium (plutonium nitrate) stored at Tokai Reprocessing Plant, and that they pose a hazard and JAEA wants to do something about it.

JAEA seems to have decided to volunteer the information before the new standards are enforced [later this year, I think]. JAEA says it wants to vitrify high-level radioactive liquid waste and solidify plutonium nitrate to make them safer, and the new regulatory standards should address this problem.

It is extremely rare that a nuclear operator readily disclose a hazard or risk at its facility. Nuclear Regulatory Authority/Agency should assess the situation and figure out what to do.

Existence of liquid waste and plutonium itself does not constitute a regulatory problem per se. But since the operator has volunteered the information of this risk, we should investigate, understand the situation and quantify the risk.

Then, to vitrify the liquid waste and solidify plutonium nitrate, we have to somehow bring Tokai Reprocessing Plant operational. Do we do that under the new regulatory standards? In order to figure out how we could do so and come up with the plan, Nuclear Regulatory Agency should investigate and find out the details of the situation.

There are 400m3 (cubic meter) of highly contaminated liquid waste, and 670 kilograms of plutonium nitrate (in liquid form) at the site. (699 kilogram to be exact, according to JAEA's website).

Chairman Tanaka expressed his concern that he had had about the liquid waste and liquid plutonium at Tokai, and said it was unprecedented that an operator volunteered such information. He reminded the group about the leak of high-level liquid waste in the US, and asked Nuclear Regulatory Agency to investigate. But he asked the Agency to do the operator hearing in public, as it concerned safety of the facility. The Agency chief agreed.

Then, Commissioner Kenzo Oshima, the only commissioner who is not scientist but a career bureaucrat at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asked to comment. He went on to try to vilify JAEA for disclosing the information now that the new regulatory standards on nuclear reprocessing facilities are coming their way, and repeatedly raised the issue (it was the issue to him, apparently) of "abandoning high-level liquid waste at the site" and who should be held responsible (Ministry of Education, he mentioned).

The scientists of NRA looked puzzled. Finally, Commissioner Fuketa told Commissioner Oshima rather forcefully that it was not the matter of "abandoning" the waste, but since the processing was halted, the waste and plutonium were "work in progress", so to speak, and it was not the matter of who was responsible or who was to be punished. What would be needed was to understand the situation, and come up with the solution to the problem. Commissioner Fuketa was effectively saying it was not about punishing JAEA for volunteering the information.

Commissioner Oshima is the one who declared in early July that they would restart some reactors in one year's time.

As a non-scientist, Commissioner Oshima cannot participate in the examination of the applications from nuclear power plant operators, and in the meeting he sounded frustrated, being among no-nonsense scientists who so far do not play much politics.

It made me wonder what kind of dialog TEPCO (or any nuclear power plant operators) and NISA, previous regulatory body now abolished, used to have. I have a feeling that TEPCO never volunteered a bad piece of information about their nuke plants, and NISA didn't want to hear either.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

One Thing or Another at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Series No. N: SARRY (Cesium Absorption System) Stopped

What's more worrisome than SARRY being stopped (TEPCO does have backups - Kurion's cesium absorption towers and AREVA's decontamination system if they really need treatment) is how little capacity left in storing the highly contaminated water (7 days worth).

According to TEPCO's email notice for the press (7/31/2013):


SARRY (cesium absorption system) stopped after an alarm sounded on July 30 signaling "Booster pump stopped/leak detection".


The booster pump that stopped is on Line B. On checking the alarm board on site, we confirmed that there was an alarm indicating there was something wrong with the cesium absorption tower.


We will conduct a detailed investigation this morning (July 31) to understand how the system stopped and prepare to start the backup booster pump on Line A.


Even if processing [of contaminated water] by SARRY is stopped, we have about 7 days worth of capacity to store contaminated water in Solid Waste Processing Facilities buildings. We have confirmed that about 12 days worth of reactor cooling water is secured in the condensate storage tank and the desalination apparatus.

In the desalination apparatus?? I suppose TEPCO means tanks that store water treated by the desalination apparatus.

I knew TEPCO had long stopped using Kurion's cesium absorption system and AREVA's co-precipitation system, but I don't think I read or heard anywhere why they stopped using them.

Governor of Niigata Meets Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy, as Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuke Plant in Niigata Suffers a Small Fire (Fluorescent Light Burned)

Hirohiko Izumida, Governor of Niigata Prefecture, is a thorn in the side of TEPCO and the LDP government who want to restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Niigata as soon as possible.

TEPCO's president Naomi Hirose went to meet with him on July 5 in an effort to convince the governor of the need to submit the application for inspection under the new regulatory standard (which used to be called "safety standard") set by Nuclear Regulatory Authority, and was rebuffed by the governor who wanted ...

Actually I did not understand what he wanted. Mr. Izumida kept asking Mr. Hirose, "What is more important to you, money or safety?" It is an impossible question for a president of (nominally) for-profit organization. Mr. Hirose tried to tell Mr. Izumida that submitting the application and having NRA inspect Kashiwazaki-Kariwa would be the best way to ensure safety. As far as I watched the video of the meeting and read about it (here and here) there was no dialog between the two. They simply talked past each other.

So now, it's the national government's turn to weigh in, and Mr. Akira Amari, former Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry (which is where Mr. Izumida came from) and current Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy, had words with Mr. Izumida on July 30.

From Kyodo News (7/30/2013):


Akira Amari, Minister of State for Economic and Fiscal Policy, met with Hirohiko Izumida, Governor of Niigata, in Tokyo on July 30 over the safety evaluation for Reactors 6 and 7 at TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant (in Niigata Prefecture). Amari urged for Izumida to agree to TEPCO submitting the application for the inspection by Nuclear Regulatory Authority.


After the meeting, Mr. Amari said to the press, "I explained to Governor Izumida that 'It's not a bad thing to have the plant examined', but I failed to obtain the understanding from the governor. We talked past each other." The meeting was closed to the press.


TEPCO is aiming at submitting the application for inspection as soon as possible, so that they can restart Reactors 6 and 7 at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa. However, the company has been unable to do so because of delay in coordinating with officials in Niigata.

Kyodo News has a video of Governor Izumida speaking to the press after the meeting. I still don't quite understand what the governor is trying to achieve, but he seems to be saying:

  • Responsibility of Fukushima's recovery and compensation should be shared by the national government so that TEPCO doesn't feel the need to restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa in haste (to generate revenue).

  • Talk with TEPCO's president has already started. All TEPCO needs to do is answer my questions.

  • TEPCO needs to talk to him with sincerity.

  • Problem is that there is no central government command (in nuclear policies) - Ministry of Education is involved, Ministry of Economy is involved, Ministry of the Environment is also involved.

So what does the governor want? What does he want to achieve? I still can't tell. If TEPCO's management speaks to him in a nice, sincere way, then he will be satisfied and let the plant restart?

As I wrote before, governors of prefectures where nuclear power plants are located DO NOT have legal say or power in allowing or stopping the operators' applications for NRA inspection. They do not have legal power to interfere with the decision of municipalities when it comes to allowing the operators to restart the nuclear power plants in their cities and towns.

Meanwhile at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, TEPCO says a fluorescent light caught on fire in Reactor 6 turbine building. The fire died on its own. Just so you know.

From TEPCO's Photos and Videos page, 7/30/2013:

There is some negative campaign going on to discredit or smear Governor Izumida. Weekly magazines have been writing up articles telling the readers how Izumida was universally disliked while he was at Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and many thought he was strange.


(UPDATE 7/30/2013) From the reader "Beppe", Izumida's appearance in Hodo Station program:

"Izumida just showed up at Hodo Station and I had no problem understanding what he wants.

"Basically he does not want another Fukushima to happen; the new "regulatory" standard, which replaced the safety standard, does not offer enough guarantees and is based on the premise that accidents happen.

"He also wants to be able to evacuate the people in the 5km radius from KK: they tried evacuating 400 people and obtained a traffic jam; in case of an accident they would have to evacuate 20,000 people; he does not know how to do that.

"Moreover, in case of another accident, he wants it to be decided in advance who is expected to go and operate the power plant even at the cost of his life. Apparently in the US this is the army job; in Japan this is not decided.

"He also wants the KK npp to be reinforced taking into account *at least* the lessons from the 2007 earthquake: at that time the ground sunk up to 1.5m and, as a result, some electrical connections were severed and a relatively large fire broke out. Izumida is asking what if the same happens with the pipes that will connect the reactor to the filtered vent? if pipes are severed the reactor will discharge directly in the atmosphere, possibly at a few meters height. This is not being addressed by Tepco.

"Obviously he sees a lot of issues with nuclear power and he is getting no satisfactory answer. He met Amari but Amari has no decisive power; he would like to meet NRA's Tanaka but the latter refused to meet him.

"During the interview he came across as being very passionate about the issue and I do not see what personal benefit he could get from asking nuclear power to be safe. I wish we had many more Izumida."

Monday, July 29, 2013

Japan's Vice Prime Minister (and Finance Minister) Taro Aso Says "Learn from Nazis" When It Comes to Changing the Constitution

I suspect Mr. Aso is going to claim his remark was taken totally out of context.

From Nikkei Shinbun, quoting Kyodo News (7/30/2013):


Taro Aso, Vice Prime Minister and Finance Minister, gave a lecture in Tokyo in the evening of July 29. Regarding the revision of the Japanese Constitution, Mr. Aso referred to the Nazis Germany before the World War II and said, "The constitution of Germany's Weimar Republic [the Weimar Constitution] was changed unnoticed. It was changed before anyone was aware. We could learn from that technique." He also said, "[Change of the Japanese Constitution] shouldn't be decided in turmoil", and his remark [about Nazi Germany and Weimar Republic Constitution] was in the context that the changing the Constitution should be discussed in a calm environment.

According to wiki, the Weimar Constitution "technically remained in effect throughout the existence of the Third Reich from 1933 to 1945":

Hitler's subversion of the Weimar Constitution

Less than a month after Adolf Hitler’s appointment as chancellor in 1933, the Reichstag Fire Decree invoked Article 48 of the Weimar Constitution, suspending several constitutional protections on civil rights. The articles affected were 114 (habeas corpus), 115 (inviolability of residence), 117 (correspondence privacy), 118 (freedom of expression /censorship), 123 (assembly), 124 (associations), and 153 (expropriation).
The subsequent Enabling Act, passed by the Reichstag on March 23, 1933, stated that, in addition to the traditional method of the Reichstag passing legislation, the Reich government could also pass legislation. It further stated that the powers of the Reichstag, Reichsrat and Reich President were not affected. The normal legislative procedures outlined in Articles 68 to 77 of the constitution did not apply to legislation promulgated by the Reich government.

The Enabling Act was effectively a constitutional amendment because of the foregoing alterations to the normal legislative process. The act met the constitutional requirements (two-thirds of the Reichstag's members were present, and two-thirds of the members present voted in favor of the measure). The Act did not explicitly amend the Weimar Constitution, but there was explicit mention to the fact that the procedure sufficient for constitutional reform was followed. The constitution of 1919 was never formally repealed, but the Enabling Act meant that all its other provisions were a dead letter.

Two, and possibly three, of the penultimate acts Hitler took to consolidate his power in 1934 actually violated the Enabling Act. Article 2 of the act stated that

'Laws enacted by the government of the Reich may deviate from the constitution as long as they do not affect the institutions of the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. The rights of the President remain undisturbed.'

However, on 14 February, the Reichsrat was abolished even though Article 2 explicitly protected the existence of that body. It can be argued that the Enabling Act had been breached two weeks earlier on 30 January, when the Law for the Reconstruction of the Reich transferred the states' powers to the Reich and rendered the Reichstat obsolete. Hindenburg died on 2 August, and Hitler appropriated the president's powers for himself in accordance with a law passed the previous day. However, in 1932 the constitution had been amended to make the president of the High Court of Justice, not the chancellor, acting president pending new elections. Nonetheless, the Enabling Act did not specify any recourse that could be taken if the chancellor violated Article 2, and no judicial challenge was ever mounted.

Instead of referring to Weimar Republic, Aso could have referred to Japan's ally the United States. The surveillance state under NSA is not exactly what the country fought the war of independence against England for, but here it is, before anyone is fully aware, the Constitution has been subverted, or for pro-NSA surveillance people, "updated" to meet the needs of modern times.

I may also add that Mr. Aso wants to become Prime Minister again, just like Mr. Abe has done. He thinks Abe's health problems will get him again sooner or later.

Ideas to Save Bankrupt Detroit: Nuclear Power Plant Factory and Obamacare

Whatever works, some may say.

First, Nuke for Detroit scheme. A little-known company called American Atomics has made an offer to Detroit:

American Atomics would like to extend an offer to the City of Detroit, one that will not only “save Detroit," but that will result in Detroit becoming the fastest growing city on earth in five years.

We are going to build the world’s largest factory and begin mass producing our HOPE 40 power plant on August 1, 2018. This 8 million square foot, 720 million cubic foot highly integrated manufacturing facility will create between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs within 10 years, most of which will be accessible to semi-skilled workers based on company provided job training.

Our headquarters operations will require a separate 600,000 square foot office and laboratory campus where about 2,000 of the world’s most talented nuclear science and engineering, marketing and management, and administrative and finance individuals will work each day. The factory complex will be on a 2,000 to 2,400 acre site. Our HQ campus will be on a 60 to 90 acre site.

Our plan includes developing a companion industrial park complex where our key suppliers will build dedicated facilities for servicing our operations, with this site being another 1,200 to 1,600 acres and expected to generate another 100,000 to 200,000 manufacturing and industrial services jobs.

...We will, of course, implement HOPE 40 provided power generation for our own usage and the use of the community where we reside. This means that local businesses will enjoy 2¢ per kilowatt-hour flat rate electricity pricing, with no limitation on capacity — given that we will scale the local generating capacity with as many HOPE 40 power plants as needed to service the demand.

...We would like to choose Detroit, as we can think of no finer demonstration of the power of cheap, clean electricity to fuel economic growth than to show what happens in a location so desperately needing an economic boost. ...

What is "HOPE 40 power plant"? It sounds like a small-scale nuclear power generating unit using liquid metal as coolant, i.e. fast breeder.

From American Atomics' mission statement page:

On August 1st, 2018 the world will fundamentally, radically change for the better. That's when we'll begin shipping our first mass production run of 1,000 HOPE 40 power plants — a self-contained, truck-shippable power generator system that can be quickly set up anywhere on earth and allow its owner-operator to begin profitably selling electricity for three cents per kWH or less.

...We're rebooting the Atoms For Peace initiative by choosing the other reactor science — the fast spectrum reactor — and pouring the collective resources of the world's largest commercial venture into its completion.

The company looks like a venture-funded start-up, based in Tennessee. There is no information of officers of the company, except that "We are a group of the leading nuclear scientists, engineers, technologists, and manufacturing experts on earth, utterly dedicated to our mission of solving humanity's energy problems." (from the company's website)

I have no idea whether this is some kind of joke or hoax, or the real thing. The blog where I got the link to the company notes:

"...the technology that the company plans to develop into mass produced small nuclear power plants uses liquid metal cooling, something that has not been used in commercial nuclear plants in the United States since Fermi 1"

Fermi 1 was the 94 MWe prototype fast breeder reactor that had a partial core melt in 1966.

If this "truck-shippable" mass-produced nuclear power generating unit is real, then move over Russians (who are building nuclear power generating ships)...

And Obamacare...

From New York Times (7/28/2013):

Detroit Looks to Health Law to Ease Costs

As Detroit enters the federal bankruptcy process, the city is proposing a controversial plan for paring some of the $5.7 billion it owes in retiree health costs: pushing many of those too young to qualify for Medicare out of city-run coverage and into the new insurance markets that will soon be operating under the Obama health care law.

Officials say the plan would be part of a broader effort to save Detroit tens of millions of dollars in health costs each year, a major element in a restructuring package that must be approved by a bankruptcy judge. It is being watched closely by municipal leaders around the nation, many of whom complain of mounting, unsustainable prices for the health care promised to retired city workers.

Similar proposals that could shift public sector retirees into the new insurance markets, called exchanges, are already being planned or contemplated in places like Chicago; Sheboygan County, Wis.; and Stockton, Calif. While large employers that eliminate health benefits for full-time workers can be penalized under the health care law, retirees are a different matter.

“There’s fear and panic about what this means,” said Michael Underwood, 62, who retired from the Chicago Police Department after 30 years and has diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. ...

...retirees say they worry about what the costs would actually amount to and whether the coverage would be as generous as some have received through city plans.

A 60-year-old single man with an income of $45,000 might have to pay $4,275 a year, or about 52 percent of his total annual premium, for a midpriced plan bought through an exchange, with the balance covered by the federal subsidies, according to an estimate by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan research group. A couple who are both 55 with a combined income of $60,000 might have to pay $5,700 a year, or 42 percent of their total premium. In both examples, additional out-of-pocket costs of up to $6,350 per person could apply, depending on how much medical care they needed.

(Full article at the link)

So the city retirees would be forced to spend nearly 10% of the income on so-called Obamacare plans, just like non-city workers elsewhere.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Weekend Theme of #Fukushima I Nuke Plant on Japanese Twitter: "Only Foreign Media Tells Us the TRUTH!", Citing (sic) Al Jazeera and BBC

I have no idea who this person is, but his tweet on Friday set up a weekend of praising and adoring foreign media (again) among many Twitter users when it comes to reporting on the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.

His tweet says the most (literally) incredible thing:


"It is reported all over the world that the top of Reactor 3 Containment Vessel has broken off. Only Japan hides it"

And he links Al-Jazeera's article on July 24, 2013 about steam rising from the top floor of Reactor 3.

I looked and looked, but I couldn't find anything remotely referring to what he says. The word "containment vessel" is not even mentioned in the article.

But I think I've finally figure it out. It's the third sentence in the article which is nothing but the short summary of what TEPCO announced in the recent press conferences and what was being reported in Japan (emphasis is mine):

"The steam has raised concerns about the damaged reactor, but TEPCO said no significant changes occurred, including in the levels of potentially cancer-causing radioactivity the broken reactor is releasing."

This person who tweeted decided to translate the word "broken" from the original verb "break": "Separate or cause to separate into pieces as a result of a blow, shock, or strain". In his mind, it must mean something has been broken off (like a tree branch, or a bone). Further, he decided what has been broken off must be the Containment Vessel top (whatever that means).

And people are retweeting this tweet, clearly without bothering to read (or unable to read) the original English article, and exclaiming "How the Japanese media lies!" "We can rely on only foreign media to tell us the truth!"

All I can say is that it may be actually a good idea to make TOEFL English proficiency test as a requirement not just for career bureaucrat candidates but for graduation from colleges, or better yet, from high schools.

"Broken" reactors are the ones at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant (Reactors 1-4), damaged by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami, suffered core melt with part of the corium dropped down to the floor of the Containment Vessels, reactor buildings half-wrecked, water injected into the reactors leaking to the building basements.

So far, the original tweet has 929 retweets and 276 favorites. Not too bad, but enough to make me despair. I had to write a tweet to tell people they are lied to, but it only has 113 retweets.

Then, along came the July 23 BBC News video, which is being tweeted furiously as well. After TEPCO finally acknowledged on July 22, 2013 that the contaminated groundwater may have been leaking into the open culvert inside the silt fence in the plant harbor, foreign media, including BBC, started to report on this leak.

However, to many, many Japanese, BBC was the first one to break the news (not true), and if only Japanese media reported it before the July 21 election (they did) things might have been different!

What's more, they look at the BBC News clip that someone put the Japanese caption on, and are horrified. "Look! The steam rising from the reactors is so vigorous! I didn't know things are this bad!"

Uh...this is vigorous? So I looked at the video.

Vigorous steam or smoke rising, yes, from Reactors 1, 2, 3, 4 right after the explosion on March 14, 2011. BBC uses the old footage of the accident extensively as it narrates the news about the most recent steam rising from Reactor 3, without telling the viewers that these images are from 2011.

BBC may have thought that by now everyone knows these images of reactors are from 2011, right after the accident. Well clearly not so in Japan. They think that's how it is right now at the plant because that's how BBC reports it, and accuse Japanese media for not telling them the truth.

However, in the video, when the announcer says (14 seconds into the video),

"And yet today, for the second time in a week, steam is seen rising from the Reactor No.3..."

what do they show? The video of vigorous steam escaping from the blowout panel hole of Reactor 2, in March 2011.

For the narration

"and TEPCO can only guess where the steam is coming from"

they show huge steam coming out of half-wrecked Reactor 4 while water is being injected from the boom of a Putzmeister crane. That's also March 2011.

Does BBC ever show the steam rising NOW, in July 2013, from the top floor of Reactor 3? Yes, for two seconds, from 1:11 to 1:13, but the BBC announcer says:

"And at the same time that it finally acknowledged the water leaking problem..."

Water leaking problem? Over the 2-second video clip of Reactor 3 steam?

The news ends with reference to the workers at Fukushima I Nuke Plant:

"The numbers of the workers at the plant exposed to levels of radiation that could cause cancer was not 175 as previously reported but more than one thousand nine hundred, or 10% of total work force"

It not only parrots erroneous Asahi Shinbun's article that doesn't bother to say it is about "equivalent dose" on thyroid, but goes further by eliminating the reference to the thyroid altogether, making it sound like it is about effective dose for the overall body. The equivalent dose of 100 millisieverts on thyroid would be 4 to 5 millisieverts in overall effective dose.

This BBC reporting is being praised as "truth telling" by the Japanese. Go figure.

Whenever I can, I still watch the live press conference given by TEPCO. Journalists who attend the press conference, whether they are independent journalists like Ryuichi Kino or mainstream-media journalists from Asahi, Yomiuri, or even NHK, ask tough questions these days, as they are much more knowledgeable than they were in the beginning of the nuclear accident two years ago. Many of their tough questions have led TEPCO to finally acknowledge the dire situations at the plant, and this groundwater leak is one of them. As to the foreign media, I've seen Japanese reporters from AP, Reuters asking uncomfortable questions to TEPCO.

But many Japanese firmly believe only foreign media like BBC will tell them the truth about radiation and about the nuclear accident. Some of these people worship foreign "experts" who visit Japan from time to time to warn them with their dire warnings on nuclear contamination, simply because their warnings are very dire.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Groundwater Contamination: No One Fully Knows Exactly Where Trenches and Ducts Are Located, How They Are Connected

Tokyo Shinbun has a pictorial showing the locations of the known trenches along the seawall. I think it is more helpful than TEPCO's pictorial, which does not show the embankment which is clearly created artificially. It also nicely summarizes the entire article.

It shows the possibility of seawater and groundwater mixing beneath the sea level. If the highly contaminated water in the trenches from the turbine buildings to the water intake along the embankment bordering the open culvert are leaking somewhere, they will go to the layers of crushed stones underneath the trenches (standard construction method) and leak to the surrounding soil

From Tokyo Shinbun (7/26/2013, English labels are by me):

Tokyo Shinbun's article itself has some misunderstanding:


The biggest problem is that highly contaminated water is flowing into the trenches from the [turbine building] basements which hold 75,000 tonnes of such water.

No it isn't. Tokyo Shinbun doesn't know or forgot to check the density of radioactive materials found this time from the seawater pipe trench for Reactor 2. The density is one order of magnitude GREATER than the density of contaminated water inside the Reactor 2 turbine building, indicating the water in the trench is the same water that leaked into the ocean in April 2011.

I see two big problems, one of which is shared by Tokyo Shinbun.

"Crisscrossing trenches run several meters from the ground surface all the way down to 30 meters deep, and TEPCO doesn't exactly know what their conditions are."

I don't think TEPCO knows what trenches are there, where, or how many. The original blueprint wouldn't help, and all the blueprints of site and facility upgrades are, I believe, still in the condemned building at the plant.

And second, solidifying the artificial soil using the chemicals are possible only up to 20 meters deep.

Some trenches are 30 meters deep? Uh oh.

Since April 2011, TEPCO knows the highly contaminated water from the turbine buildings filled the trenches that goes out to the water intake, but didn't do anything about it until now. Even now, I don't know how they even attempt to empty the trenches, as the water is just too radioactive.

TEPCO's 7/26/2013 handout shows the air dose level as high as 100 millisieverts/hour, and that's when measured from the top of the pit at the turbine building where the trench starts, not near the water surface.