Saturday, August 10, 2013

Idiosyncratic Japan: 85-Year-Old Wife of 91-Year-Old Man Killed by Train Ordered by Court to Pay 7.2 Million Yen in Damages to Train Operator

I do hope it is indeed "idiosyncratic" to Japan and nowhere else, but I could be negatively surprised.

I thought it was a joke of some kind when I saw tweets with the link to the article, like the Japanese version of Onion News Network (which is less funny these days as the reality becomes more hilarious by the day). It wasn't.

The focus of people in Japan was on the fact that the remaining family members - 85-year-old wife and her son - was deemed responsible at all times for the man who suffered from severe dementia.

My focus was, what the hell did the train operator - JR Tokai - sue the family for?

Here's how Mr. Tetsu Ueda, chief justice of the Nagoya district court in Aichi Prefecture decided, according to Nikkei Shinbun (8/10/2013):

The court orders the wife of the man and their eldest son to pay full 7,200,000 yen to JR Tokai for damages demanded by JR Tokai for train delay stemming from the fatal accident in which the man, 91 years old at the time of the accident, entered the railroad track and was hit by a train in December 2007.

The man had been diagnosed with the severe dementia that required care at all times.

The man slipped outside when the wife, then 85 years old, was not looking. Judge Ueda decided that the wife was negligent in performing her duties as caregiver. Judge Ueda also accused the eldest son who didn't live with the parents for not providing the appropriate measures to prevent roaming.

The family argued that it was impossible for the then-85-year-old wife to monitor her husband all the time. But Judge Ueda said the family could have hired a helper, and said "The prerequisite for the care of the man was that a caregiver keep an eye on him at all times. Therefore the family was negligent."





And so they will be made to pay 7.2 million yen to a large train operator because the man had dementia and roamed into the railroad track and hit by a train, causing some delay in train schedule and supposedly some loss of revenue for the operator.

The same Japanese justice system is NOT going to prosecute anyone from TEPCO's former top management and DPJ's politicians under the Kan administration over the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. But it has no problem indicting the now 91-year-old woman and ordering her to pay damages arising from her negligence, of not taking care of her husband.

The system goes after easier targets, and that's unfortunately universal.

Reporting of the "300 Tonnes of Contaminated Water Leaking Every Day from #Fukushima I Nuke Plant" Assumption by METI Official

(UPDATE) Here comes IAEA, pledging support to Japanese government in dealing with contaminated water leak at Fukushima I Nuke Plant. Jiji Tsushin in English reports "IAEA Ready to Help TEPCO over Tainted Water Leak". ("Tainted"??)


The press decided to simply quote the government official, despite their misgivings.

There's a word for that in Japanese: げたを預ける (to leave a matter completely in someone else's hand)

It is rather apparent if you watch the video of the press conference on August 7, 2013 that reporters from Japanese press and foreign press either did not understand what Mr. Tatsuya Shinkawa, official in charge of dealing with the Fukushima I Nuke Plant accident at the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy at METI, said about the "300 tonnes leak", or had varying degrees of doubt as to the veracity of the numbers.

Particularly when Mr. Shinkawa, to answer the persistent questions from the reporters throughout the press conference from Asahi, Yomiuri, Mainichi, NHK, Wall Street Journal, AP and others, had to repeatedly cite TEPCO's numbers which had nothing to do with the actual or potential leak:

TEPCO told us they will start drawing 100 tonnes of water each day from three wells.

On hearing that from TEPCO, the conclusion at his place of work, the most elite ministry of the Japanese government with Japan's best and brightest, was that this water must be leaking right now, because the wells were yet to be operational.

Judging by the questions and how the reporters asked them, it is clear that they didn't buy Shinkawa's "assumption" or hypothesis (仮定), the word Shinkawa repeatedly used.

But what happened when the reporters wrote up their articles for their respective papers?

With the exception of Tokyo Shinbun reporter, they made no reference to how Mr. Tatsukawa came up with the number ("assumption" from TEPCO's numbers which were not about the amount of leak), and treated Tatsukawa's remark at face value, as a given fact that officially came from the national government.

If it is wrong, it's Tatsukawa's and the government's problem, not the reporters. What can go wrong by citing the government official? And in the process of quoting the government official, so what the groundwater morphed into either "highly contaminated water" or "nuclear waste water"? What minor difference!

The amount of groundwater flowing into the ocean is unknown. It could be 300 tonnes, it could be more. It could be less. The degree of contamination is known, to the extent of the actual monitoring of the seawater right outside the water intakes at the embankment; the data shows radioactive cesium in slightly over 100 Bq per liter at the maximum, no radioactive iodine.

The highest measurement of radioactive cesium is in front of the Reactor 3 water intake. At other locations, the density of cesium is between 10 and 50 percent of the legally allowable density in discharge water from a nuclear power plant. Tritium and all-beta are not regularly monitored. (Here's the latest seawater monitoring data, released by TEPCO on August 10, 2013.)

The video archive of the August 7, 2013 press conference at IWJ:

Friday, August 9, 2013

"300 Tonnes of Contaminated Water" Leaking from #Fukushima I Nuke Plant: "It's Just an Assumption", Says Energy Agency Official

"300 tonnes of highly contaminated water is leaking everyday from Fukushima I Nuke Plant! The government official in charge of the nuclear accident in the Ministry of Economy admitted!"

This bad news is all over the world, for a change. Even a financial analyst is talking about it (the groundwater has morphed into highly contaminated nuclear waste water in his article).

Is it? Did he?

Reporter: So, uh... you say 300 tonnes of contaminated water per day is leaking into the ocean. What is the basis for your estimate? How did you calculate? Any monitoring data or anything?

Tatsuya Shinkawa, in charge of dealing with the Fukushima nuclear accident at the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy, under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry: Uh... The amount of water that will be drawn is going to be 100 tonnes for each well, as we learned from TEPCO at our hearing.

Reporter: Amount of water to be drawn? So, what you're saying is a mere assumption?

Shinkawa: Yes it is, in that sense.

Reporter: I don't quite understand your logic that the entire 100 tonnes of water [per well] is contaminated.

Shinkawa: Naturally, the groundwater flows from the mountainside. If the amount of water to be drawn is 100 tonnes, we supposed those 100 tonnes must have been leaking.

Reporter: How do you know all the water is contaminated?

Shinkawa: At least the water that comes to this particular area may be contaminated, we think.

Watching the video of the August 7, 2013 press conference by the Nuclear Disaster Response Headquarters of the Japanese national government where it all started (at Yasumi Iwakami's IWJ archive), I just have to laugh so hard that my sides start to hurt. The above dialog is from about 55 minutes into the 2-hour video.

Probably more than 80% of the press conference was about "300 tonnes of contaminated water". Toward the end, both Mr. Shinkawa and the reporters were too tired to realize they were just repeating themselves over and over again.

Probably due to fatigue, Reuters' reporters wrote in their article (8/7/2013):

"Shinkawa described the water as "highly" contaminated."

I watched the entire press conference, and didn't hear him say that.

Probably due to fatigue also, almost all Japanese newspapers and news agencies simply wrote what Shinkawa said as truism, except for Tokyo Shinbun whose reporter doubted the wisdom of basing the countermeasures on such a flimsy assumption.

Here's one-page document that Mr. Shinkawa distributed to the press:

Oh well. The horse is out of the barn. The powerful Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has spread baseless rumors around the world.

I'm starting to believe it is deliberate. The Agency of Natural Resources and Energy wants TEPCO to be able to dump uncontaminated groundwater drawn upstream into the ocean, but the talk with the fisheries associations in Fukushima has stalled after the detection of radioactive materials from the observation holes in the embankment in June.

Here's the bargain the Agency could use with the fishermen: Do you want the leak of "300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater" to continue? Or would you rather have us release uncontaminated groundwater drawn upstream, and keep the contaminated groundwater in tanks?

(OT) Obama on NSA Spying on Americans: No Intention of Stopping

AP article (8/9/2013) from Friday's press conference that Mr. Obama kindly gave, before he goes on his summer vacation (emphasis is mine):

Obama: New oversight but no change to spying power

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama made clear Friday that he has no intention of stopping the daily collection of phone records from millions of Americans, but he promised "appropriate reforms" to how such surveillance is carried out.

In an afternoon news conference, the president acknowledged the domestic spying has troubled Americans and hurt the country's image abroad. But Obama blamed the damage on misinformation stemming from leaks to the news media.

"Understandably, people would be concerned," the president said. "I would be, too, if I weren't inside the government."

But he assured Americans that the surveillance is not being abused, and he described the phone program as "an important tool" that keeps America safe.

"It's not enough for me to have confidence in these programs," Obama said. "The American people have to have confidence in them as well."

(Full article at the link)

Have to have confidence in spy programs. That's rich, coming from a supposed constitutional scholar.

According to President Obama, NSA spying is bad because it was leaked.

By the way here are some choice words from former NSA and CIA director Michael Hayden (who looks like a space alien in The Guardian's article from 8/6/2013), dissing the hackers (whom institutions like NSA and CIA depend on):

The former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA speculated on Tuesday that hackers and transparency groups were likely to respond with cyber-terror attacks if the United States government apprehends whistleblower Edward Snowden.

"If and when our government grabs Edward Snowden, and brings him back here to the United States for trial, what does this group do?" said retired air force general Michael Hayden, who from 1999 to 2009 ran the NSA and then the CIA, referring to "nihilists, anarchists, activists, Lulzsec, Anonymous, twentysomethings who haven't talked to the opposite sex in five or six years".

As "Abenomics" Has So Far Failed to Produce Positive Results for Main Street, Japan's Prime Minister May Be Preparing for Constitutional Change

Abe must know that the hodge-podge economic program he has named "Abenomics" isn't really any program and that it won't work. Japanese consumer sentiment index for July dropped 0.7 to 43.6, following the spike in the consumer price index which turned positive in June but was not accompanied by any rise in wages.

Abe's Plan B is probably "wag the dog", and he seems to be getting ready on two fronts.

First, Yomiuri Shinbun reports that he has made one of the personal advisors of Boy-wonder (aka Toru Hashimoto, mayor of Osaka City) a Special Advisor to the Cabinet, ostensibly to advise the administration on economic growth strategies. Boy-wonder is ecstatic that Mr. Taichi Sakaiya will act as a strong, direct pipe between the Abe administration and his failing party (Japan Restoration Party). Abe needs Japan Restoration Party's vote to change the Constitution.

Second, as Kyodo News reports, he is bringing an active, high-ranking officer of Air Self Defense Force into the Cabinet Secretariat to be in charge of national security and crisis management (i.e. collecting intel on China and North Korea). Major General Jun Nagashima is 52 years old, and the first high-ranking officer of Japan's Self Defense Force to be advising the Cabinet.

As to his so-called "Abenomics", even the International Monetary Fund has some doubts, which was totally ignored by the Japanese media who reported on their latest IMF assessment of Japan. Only Bloomberg Japan reported it, but that news outlet has a rather small audience in Japan. Here's what IMF thinks of Abe's plan to hike sales tax and "Abenomics", according to Bloomberg (English) (8/5/2013; emphasis is mine):

Japan’s plan to double a sales tax by 2015 to improve its finances has triggered some concern within the International Monetary Fund’s board.

While IMF directors “generally” supported the plan, “a few” expressed concern over a possible hit to growth, the fund said today in a statement summarizing the view of its executive board. The term “a few” is used by the IMF to mean between two and four. It urged the country to gradually increase the levy to “at least 15 percent” to bring down its public debt over the medium term, according the IMF’s staff report of its annual review of Japan.

...“An incomplete version of Abenomics would be unlikely to sustain the current strong growth,” Jerry Schiff, IMF mission chief for Japan, said during a conference call today. “In such a case, over-reliance on fiscal and monetary stimulus could also generate important costs for the rest of the world.

Schiff said the IMF supports the plan to increase the consumption tax.

(Full article at the link)

If IMF actually thinks it is even remotely possible to bring Japan's fiscal health back, with the government debt more than double the GDP, it is delusional.

Japan should remember what IMF recommendations have done to Greece, Spain, Portugal, and most recently Cyprus.

Then again, Japan probably thinks this time is different, because Japan is not Greece (or Spain, or anyone else).

Japanese Government Debt Passes One Quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) Yen for the First Time, Says Ministry of Finance

1,008,628,100,000,000, to be exact, as of End of June 2013, but you may find it difficult to figure that out from the press release because the unit that Ministry of Finance of Japan uses in the English press release is "100 million yen".

1,008,628,100,000,000 yen is about 10 trillion US dollars now. (In November last year, it would have been more than 13 trillion US dollars, as yen was as high as 75 yen against dollar.)

In comparison, the US government debt is about $16 trillion, with the US GDP of about $15 trillion. Japan's GDP is $5.86 trillion.

There are many in Japan who say, "We owe it to ourselves. Not a problem."

Ministry of Finance press release, August 9, 2013:

(Click to enlarge.)

Naoto Kan, TEPCO Top Management Won't Be Prosecuted Over #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Accident and Its Aftermath

Not surprising at all, particularly when then-Prime Minister Noda said back in March 2012 that no one in particular was at fault, we were all at fault.

When everyone is said to be responsible, no one is responsible.

All Japanese papers "leaked" this story on August 8, 2013. Some leak. A very detailed one at that, too.

Here's one from Asahi Shinbun (8/8/2013; part):

原発事故、全員が不起訴へ 東電前会長や菅元首相ら

All people concerned, including former chairman of TEPCO and former Prime Minister Kan, won't be prosecuted


It was revealed on August 8 that the Public Prosecutors Office is coordinating [among themselves] so as not to prosecute any one of those who have been charged for professional negligence resulting in deaths and injuries over the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. They include TEPCO's top management and government officials. The prosecutors are expected to announce this non-institution of prosecution by the end of August.


Total 15,000 people, mostly people near the plant and affected by the nuclear accident, have been filing charges intermittently since the accident in March 2011 that they suffered injuries, such as hospital patients having died during the evacuation right after the accident, and residents exposed to radiation. The charges were against former Prime Minister Kan, TEPCO's former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, former president Masataka Shimizu, Nuclear Safety Commission's chairman Haruki Madarame, former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, former Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Banri Kaieda, and dozens of others. The charges were received by the prosecutors in August last year. The Public Prosecutors Office has asked for help from prosecutors in the Tokyo District Prosecutors Office and Fukushima District Prosecutors Office, and has been questioning.


...As the result, [the Public Prosecutors Office] has come to the conclusion that an earthquake and tsunami on such a large scale cannot be said to have been predicted by experts before it actually took place. As to the cause of hydrogen explosions in the reactor buildings, they have dismissed the charges that the delay in vent to lower the pressure inside the Containment Vessels led to the hydrogen explosions; instead, the prosecutors decided that the delay was caused by high radiation levels and power outage. The Public Prosecution Office is expected to conclude that it will be difficult to establish criminal liability of former Prime Minister Kan and TEPCO management.

Never mind that an earthquake and tsunami of that magnitude have actually been predicted by experts. Never mind that the government under Naoto Kan hid the data of radiation levels "so as not to panic the populace", when it was them who panicked. It was those bureaucrats at NISA who had the more accurate simulation of radiation dispersion and were about to set the more precise evacuation areas, but completely dropped that effort as soon as they learned that Kan, Edano, and Kaieda came up with those childish concentric circles.

Never mind that it was the government who did nothing to stop farmers in Fukushima from tilling the contaminated land and plant crops right after the March 11, 2011 accident.

A UN committee member spoke of Japanese judicial system as "medieval" where the prosecution almost always wins, near 100%. The Japanese prosecution hardly ever even thinks of indicting the national government officials and powerful corporate elites, and there is no grand jury system in Japan.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Bank of Japan Governor Kuroda: Japanese Economy Will Grow with Sales Tax Hike

No wonder the Japan's stock market decided to tank yesterday.

Here's what BOJ Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said in the press conference after the BOJ meeting on August 8, 2013, as reported by Nikkei Shinbun (8/8/2013):


BOJ Governor says sales tax increase and growth out of deflation "will coexist"


During the press conference after the monetary policy meeting on August 8, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda emphasized that he believed raising the sales tax rate and growing the economy out of deflation "will coexist". He cited the report "Outlook for economy and consumer prices", and commented on the Japanese economy after the sales tax hike, saying "It is highly likely that forward-looking loop will be maintained, and [the economy] will grow at a rate surpassing the potential growth rate."

I have no idea what "forward-looking", or positive, loop he is talking about when the sales tax is raised from the current 5% (it triggered the recession when it was introduced) to 8% come April 2014 (start of fiscal 2014). But I can guess from other remarks he made in the press conference. The positive loop for the economy is that people will hurry up and buy stuff before the new sales tax rate kicks in in January, boosting the economy during the run-up to the tax hike. Then after the hike, there will be tax breaks for corporations who will no doubt boost production and employment.

Sure. A pie in the sky.

What's more likely, in my humble opinion, is that consumers will stop spending, and corporations won't invest because there is no demand.

As far as I know, there is no offsetting reduction in personal income tax for the residents. On the contrary, personal income tax rates have actually been raised, supposedly to pay for the "recovery" and "reconstruction" of the disaster-affected Tohoku. The government under DPJ's Noda got away with introducing the carbon tax, further raising the cost of importing oil and gas.

Here's how he looked as he delivered the above, literally incredible remark, courtesy of Nikkei Shinbun:

Is he lying or is he lying?

In addition to normalcy bias, adoration of people with higher education and degrees from the nation's most prominent universities is Japan's hallmark. Most people will go, "Oh OK, if Mr. Kuroda says so. After all, he is a Tokyo University graduate, and he was a career bureaucrat at one of the most elite ministries (Ministry of Finance) who passed such a difficult entrance examination to become one!"

Nikkei's article has a short video clip of Kuroda answering questions from the reporters. One of the topics not mentioned in the article above is about the fiscal policy of the national government and its effect on monetary policy by BOJ.

Again, Kuroda said things as if no one but him knew what he was talking about.

He said,

"If the fiscal discipline becomes weak, it may affect the monetary policy..."

Fiscal discipline? Weak? Japan's fiscal discipline has been gone for at least two decades. How else is the national debt at 240% of GDP?

61% of Japan's GDP is from consumer spending, while 13% is from capital investment. Abe and Kuroda firmly believe by giving subsidies, incentives including free money printed by BOJ to large corporation to make capital investment the economy will expand. Does that make sense? No. Just ask China.

Japanese newspapers and NHK have been quoting the IMF report in the past few days in which IMF supposedly insists that Japan stick with the schedule of raising sales tax, possibly all the way up to 15%. Only Bloomberg Japan mentioned that there were several IMF commissioners who expressed concern that the sales tax hike would negatively affect the Japanese economy.

Bloomberg Japan's article (also in English, by Bloomberg reporter in Tokyo) also mentions IMF's fear that should the so-called "Abenomics" be imperfect, Japan's reliance on fiscal and monetary stimulus for growth may be a heavy burden to the rest of the world.

Bank of Japan's Kuroda Disappoints Again, Nikkei Drops More than 400Pts from Day's High

Bank of Japan's Governor Haruhiko Kuroda firmly believes what he cared to utter in April this year (that he will buy 7 trillion yen worth of Japanese Government Bonds and other securities per month) should be good enough for anyone, and he and his company stuck to the line in the BOJ meeting on August 8, 2013.

The stock market, infinitely wiser, even if in its heavily manipulated state, than Mr. Kuroda, heads south in the afternoon market. It ended the day at 13,605, down 219 from yesterday's close and reversing the 200 point gain at one point. The forex market reacted similarly, pushing yen higher against US dollar on expectation that there will be no added easing announced by Kuroda.

Economists and analysts, on the other hand, seem to have learned not to expect much from Kuroda any more. Kuroda has said what they expected him to say. Or rather, Kuroda has said what they say they expected him to say.

Here's what Kuroda and company did in today's meeting, according to Bloomberg News (8/7/2013):

Bank of Japan Refrains From Adding to Unprecedented Stimulus

The Bank of Japan refrained from adding to unprecedented monetary stimulus after consumer prices rose in June and a recovery in the world’s third-biggest economy maintained momentum.

Governor Haruhiko Kuroda’s board stuck with an April pledge to expand the monetary base by 60 trillion yen to 70 trillion yen ($723 billion) per year, a statement released in Tokyo today showed. All 26 economists in a Bloomberg News survey predicted the decision.

...The bigger focus may be Kuroda’s press briefing today and any comments he makes on the sales tax, Masamichi Adachi, a senior economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in Tokyo and a former BOJ official, said before the decision.

(Full article at the link)

And did Kuroda say anything about the sales tax?

If this intraday chart of Nikkei on August 8, 2013, if he did say something, he must have said the sales tax hike should be carried out as scheduled, and that there would be no effect on the growth of the Japanese economy (which he already said about a week ago).

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: ALPS Multi-Nuclide Absorption Vessel Itself Had Rust and Corrosion

TEPCO kindly updated us with the bad weld and rust on the batch processing tanks in ALPS multi-nuclide removal system (see my posts from June this year here, here, here and here) on August 7, 2013. But I thought the title of the page was funny (emphasis is by me):


"Plan to halt Line B because of the leak from the batch processing tanks in Multi-Nuclide Removal System and the result of additional investigation"

Additional investigation?

It turns out that this additional investigation has found corrosion and rust in one of the multi-nuclide absorption tower vessels. The absorption material inside the vessel was due for exchange, so TEPCO decided to take a look inside the vessel. This is what they found:

From TEPCO's Photos and Videos Library 8/7/2013:

Flange of the inspection hole:

Rust around the weld, inside the vessel:

These were not supposed to happen.

From PDF document, page 2 (English labels are by me):

Here's the system diagram of ALPS. There are three lines, A, B and C.

In my June 20, 2013 post, I wondered:

how about the same tanks in other two lines? What about other tanks and vessels that are all welded?

The tanks and towers for ALPS were made by Toshiba (most likely Toshiba's subcontractor), and the weld was inspected by Toshiba before they were deployed at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, according to independent journalist Ryuichi Kino when I asked him back in June when the batch processing tanks were found with bad weld and leak.

What has happened to the technological and manufacturing might of Japan? (Or was it a myth after all?)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Ministry of Economy's Money Grab Using #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Groundwater Contamination

(UPDATE) And just to show it knows something about contaminated water, the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy under METI just declared that 300 tonnes of contaminated water is flowing out to the ocean every day from Fukushima I Nuke Plant, according to Kyodo News.


There may no line of command and they may be "blind", but that doesn't stop Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and its Minister Toshimitsu Motegi from using the "crisis" over the contaminated groundwater at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant for money grab.

As Japanese and foreign media's coverage of "highly contaminated" groundwater that may have gone over the top of the underground impermeable wall into the "ocean" (open culvert outside the water intakes inside the plant harbor) without much raising the radioactivity in the seawater there reaches a crescendo, Motegi and his Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry which (surprisingly) still retains the main role in Fukushima I Nuke Plant decommissioning ride to the rescue.

According to the Japanese papers (Asahi, Nikkei, Jiji and others) are reporting on August 7 that:

  • Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will ask for at least 40 billion yen from the fiscal 2014 national budget for the construction of the frozen impermeable wall to surround the reactor buildings and turbine buildings at Fukushima I Nuke Plant to stop the groundwater from entering the buildings;

  • Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will formally instruct Minister of Economy Toshimitsu Motegi to hurry up with countermeasures to deal with the contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuke Plant during the meeting of Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters [yes, it still exists] in the afternoon of August 7;

  • "There is no precedent in the world to build such an extensive frozen wall like this", says Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, "So the national government should step forward to carry out the project".

Fiscal 2014 starts in April 2014. Some urgency. And the national government wants to take credit because it will be the first ever in the world (their favorite - "No.1! Number One!"). Or at least so in their mind.

That indicates to me that METI and Motegi are using the problem of contaminated groundwater that may be slowly saturating the space between the turbine buildings and the seawall and potentially destabilizing the underground trenches as a tool to grab money for themselves, to show the Ministry is still powerful and influential in distributing goodies to their buddies (in this case minimum 40 billion yen to Kajima to build the frozen wall).

Nikkei Shinbun makes a curious put-down on Nuclear Regulatory Authority:


Nuclear Regulatory Authority, which was created separate from Ministry of Economy, Trade in Industry in September last year, distanced itself initially from the decommission work, and the regulatory oversight by ministries weakened.

As if NRA had any choice, and as if it was because of NRA that the oversight weakened.

The tenor and timbre of the Japanese papers are:

Finally! National government is doing something! and it will be Ministry of Economy in charge. Isn't it wonderful?

Nuclear Regulatory Authority's Kinjo said in the Reuters' article that TEPCO's "sense of crisis is weak". The same can be said about METI and Abe's government. For that matter, it can be said about the entire populace.

Normalcy bias has been pervasive and strong in Japan from the day one of the nuclear accident.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Accident: The Blind (METI) Still Leading the Blind (TEPCO)

So Nuclear Regulatory Authority finally butted in, formed its own committee and started ordering TEPCO to do something (probably wrong "something", again, but...) over the groundwater saturating the embankment at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant because of TEPCO's ill-conceived underground impermeable wall.

I was wondering why it took NRA until very recently to actively participate in dealing with the accident, until I read independent journalist Ryuichi Kino's tweet just now. It is because Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) is in charge of decommissioning the plant:


What is going on at Fukushima I Nuke Plant? Who decides what method of construction to use on what criteria, and who decides which construction to be given the priority? From outside, the decision-making is completely opaque. The entity in charge of managing and supervising the works to control the plant is the Council on Decommissioning Measures with the Agency of Natural Resource and Energy [under Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry] acting as the secretariat, but the Agency does not know the cost of works at the plant.

The Council was set up by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry as of February 8, 2013, and so far has had 5 meetings. The members are (information from TEPCO):

  • Chairman: Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry

  • Deputy Chairman: Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry

  • Council members: President of TEPCO, Director General of JAEA, President of Toshiba, President of Hitachi

  • Secretary: Advisor to Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry in charge of energy and technology

  • Observer: Nuclear Regulatory Authority/Nuclear Regulatory Agency

Nuclear Regulatory Authority/Nuclear Regulatory Agency is just an observer, which in case of Japan has a privilege to sit in the meeting and literally "observe" the meeting but not say much (or at all).

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) had to relinquish NISA (Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency) in September last year when the new nuclear regulatory body (NRA) was created. Or so I thought.

Reuters' article from yesterday quoting Mr. Kinjo, who is the observer to this Council, fails to mention that it is still good old METI in charge of decommissioning work.

Kino says the Secretary to the Council is a career bureaucrat, and the current one was rotated into this position in June this year. Just a part of career stepping stone for bureaucrats at the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy.

Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry is ex-McKinsey consultant Toshimitsu Motegi, who just dispensed consulting advice to "the parties concerned" regarding Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant.

For politicians and bureaucrats, it's "Après moi, le déluge". Literally.

Reuters: Japan nuclear body says radioactive water at Fukushima an "emergency", water could breach surface

OK, it may be an emergency after all.

From Reuters Japan, who regularly sends reporters to press conferences by TEPCO and Nuclear Regulatory Authority, on the groundwater contamination along the embankment of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant (8/5/2013):

EXCLUSIVE-Japan nuclear body says radioactive water at Fukushima an "emergency"

* Fukushima radioactive groundwater could breach surface, regulator says

* Watchdog panel head says Tepco's 'sense of crisis is weak'

* Official says leaks into ocean exceed legal limits

* Tepco apologises, says taking steps to block further leaks into ocean (Adds comments from outside experts, background)

By Antoni Slodkowski and Mari Saito

TOKYO, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Highly radioactive water seeping into the ocean from Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant is creating an "emergency" that the operator is struggling to contain, an official from the country's nuclear watchdog said on Monday.

This contaminated groundwater has breached an underground barrier, is rising toward the surface and is exceeding legal limits of radioactive discharge, Shinji Kinjo, head of a Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) task force, told Reuters.

Countermeasures planned by Tokyo Electric Power Co are only a temporary solution, he said.

Tepco's "sense of crisis is weak," Kinjo said. "This is why you can't just leave it up to Tepco alone" to grapple with the ongoing disaster.

"Right now, we have an emergency," he said.

Tepco has been widely castigated for its failure to prepare for the massive 2011 tsunami and earthquake that devastated its Fukushima plant and lambasted for its inept response to the reactor meltdowns. It has also been accused of covering up shortcomings.

It was not immediately clear how much of a threat the contaminated groundwater could pose. In the early weeks of the disaster, the Japanese government allowed Tepco to dump tens of thousands of tonnes of contaminated water into the Pacific in an emergency move.

The toxic water release was however heavily criticised by neighbouring countries as well as local fishermen and the utility has since promised it would not dump irradiated water without the consent of local townships.

"Until we know the exact density and volume of the water that's flowing out, I honestly can't speculate on the impact on the sea," said Mitsuo Uematsu from the Center for International Collaboration, Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute at the University of Tokyo.

"We also should check what the levels are like in the sea water. If it's only inside the port and it's not flowing out into the sea, it may not spread as widely as some fear."


Tepco said it is taking various measures to prevent contaminated water from leaking into the bay near the plant. In an e-mailed statement to Reuters, a company spokesman said Tepco deeply apologised to residents in Fukushima prefecture, the surrounding region and the larger public for causing inconveniences, worries and trouble.

The utility pumps out some 400 tonnes a day of groundwater flowing from the hills above the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the basements of the destroyed buildings, which mixes with highly irradiated water that is used to cool the reactors in a stable state below 100 degrees Celsius.

Tepco is trying to prevent groundwater from reaching the plant by building a "bypass" but recent spikes of radioactive elements in sea water has prompted the utility to reverse months of denials and finally admit that tainted water is reaching the sea.

In a bid to prevent more leaks into the bay of the Pacific Ocean, plant workers created the underground barrier by injecting chemicals to harden the ground along the shoreline of the No. 1 reactor building. But that barrier is only effective in solidifying the ground at least 1.8 meters below the surface.

By breaching the barrier, the water can seep through the shallow areas of earth into the nearby sea. More seriously, it is rising toward the surface - a break of which would accelerate the outflow.

"If you build a wall, of course the water is going to accumulate there. And there is no other way for the water to go but up or sideways and eventually lead to the ocean," said Masashi Goto, a retired Toshiba Corp nuclear engineer who worked on several Tepco plants. "So now, the question is how long do we have?"

Contaminated water could rise to the ground's surface within three weeks, the Asahi Shimbun said on Saturday. Kinjo said the three-week timeline was not based on NRA's calculations but acknowledged that if the water reaches the surface, "it would flow extremely fast."

A Tepco official said on Monday the company plans to start pumping out a further 100 tonnes of groundwater a day around the end of the week.

The regulatory task force overseeing accident measures of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, which met Friday, "concluded that new measures are needed to stop the water from flowing into the sea that way," Kinjo said.

Tepco said on Friday that a cumulative 20 trillion to 40 trillion becquerels of radioactive tritium had probably leaked into the sea since the disaster. The company said this was within legal limits.

Tritium is far less harmful than cesium and strontium, which have also been released from the plant. Tepco is scheduled to test strontium levels next.

The admission on the long-term tritium leaks, as well as renewed criticism from the regulator, show the precarious state of the $11 billion cleanup and Tepco's challenge to fix a fundamental problem: How to prevent water, tainted with radioactive elements like cesium, from flowing into the ocean. (Additional reporting by Kentaro Hamada; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Asahi's article:

It looks like "three weeks" is Asahi's own calculation.

I hope TEPCO has at least stopped the injection of waterglass into the artificial soil, but hope is a dirty four-letter word.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Groundwater Contamination: TEPCO's Ad-Hoc Underground Impermeable Wall in Embankment Made It Worse

This is just too ... (I can't even come up with the right word to describe).

Amateurish, maybe. Pathetic, maybe. And sad.

Because radioactive materials started to get detected in June this year in observation holes along the embankment in orders they didn't expect, TEPCO hastily decided in early July to inject waterglass in the soil of the embankment to create an impermeable wall in the ground. Since it is hot during the day at the plant, they made the workers work at night in full protection gear, from 7PM to 7AM, in the area with high radiation.

According to the articles below, we now know what many of us may have been suspecting all along. The idiom "Haste makes waste" exists for TEPCO.

It turned out that injection of chemicals to create the impermeable wall was too successful. It not only stopped the flow of groundwater, but raised the groundwater level significantly. So now, the groundwater is probably going up and over the hastily built underground impermeable wall, and through the porous, top part of the embankment into the open culvert.

The embankment is artificial, built on top of a natural sandy beach which had existed before the plant was built. There is no way to inject chemicals to solidify the top 1.8 meters. Even if it is possible, the water will simply go around the sides.

(The opening sentence of Nikkei's article below is wrong, though. There is no highly contaminated water leaking from the plant, yet. The highly contaminated water is mostly in the underground trenches, where it has been since 2011. Some may be leaking into the groundwater flowing from the west and that groundwater may be leaking into the open culvert.)

From Nikkei Shinbun (8/3/2013):


Contaminated water from Fukushima I Nuke Plant may be leaking into the ocean over the underground impermeable wall


Regarding the problem of highly contaminated water leaking from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, it was revealed on August 2 that it was highly likely that the contaminated water is going over the underground "impermeable wall" and leaking into the ocean. Nuclear Regulatory Authority's working group met on August 2, and commissioners including Toyoshi Fuketa pointed out the possibility and TEPCO admitted to the possibility. As there are worries over the effect on marine creatures including fish, Nuclear Regulatory Authority ordered TEPCO to come up with emergency countermeasures.


In order to prevent the underground contaminated water from leaking into the ocean, TEPCO has been injecting special liquid called waterglass [sodium silicate solution] along the embankment to solidify the soil and build an impermeable wall since early July. The wall is set deeper than 1.8 meters from the surface.


The working group came to the conclusion that because the underground impermeable wall stopped the flow of groundwater, the level of groundwater rose recently, and went over the top of the wall. Not only the groundwater could go over the impermeable wall but go around the wall and leak from the sides of the wall.


TEPCO will start digging wells near the impermeable wall to draw groundwater and lower the water level. The company hopes to finish by the end of this month. Groundwater is flowing in from the mountain side (west) at the rate of 100 tonnes per day, and TEPCO needs to draw more than that amount. Storage of the water thus drawn will be discussed later.

(Diagram from Nikkei Shinbun, English labels are by me.)

Now, what is the point of drawing the contaminated groundwater along the embankment? In haste? Particularly when the levels of cesium, all-beta, and tritium in the open culvert have not risen in a significant manner? Do they even stop and think?

They have to somehow stop the groundwater upstream, before it reaches the space between the turbine buildings and the embankment and gets contaminated.

According to an article by Mainichi Shinbun that only appeared in Fukushima local edition (7/24/2013), the embankment was a landfill:


This area was reclaimed in the 1960s when the plant was being constructed. TEPCO explains that the land was made by piling up mudstones and sandstones on the beach.

And just like anything else - from removing fuel rods from the spent fuel pools to removing the corium from the broken reactors - TEPCO has been made to promise the wells will be dug "ahead of schedule", starting this weekend, according to Yomiuri Shinbun (8/6/2013).

The Yomiuri article makes no mention of what will happen to the water drawn from the wells.

What's the point of drawing the water "ahead of schedule" when you don't even know what to do with it?

I am more convinced that construction of the impermeable wall in the ocean by driving sheet piles in the open culvert with vibratory hammer has caused the leak by disturbing the underground trenches and joints that were already damaged by the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami. The trenches and shafts were filled with highly contaminated water from April/May 2011 leak from the turbine buildings for Reactors 2 and 3.

TEPCO did not want to deal with the highly contaminated water, and instead decided to inject waterglass, thinking that would stop any water from flowing into the ocean.

My guess is that by hastily injecting waterglass TEPCO wanted at least few weeks of non detection or low detection of radioactive materials from the observation holes, so that they could somehow proceed on releasing the uncontaminated groundwater drawn from upstream into the ocean.

For now, TEPCO cannot release any water, and groundwater keeps flowing from west to east without any hindrance.

The photo below is from July 16, as workers injected waterglass in an effort to stop the groundwater (from TEPCO's Photos and Videos Library 7/17/2013):

Monday, August 5, 2013

"The Parties Concerned Should Talk Things Out First" Over Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP, Says Minister of Economy

It is as if the government is not involved at all, and Minister Motegi is simply dispensing a piece of advice. Quite fitting for this former McKinsey consultant.

TEPCO wants to restart Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, as the company is bleeding to death unless Fukushima decommissioning is somehow separated from the core business of generating electricity. The company is told by the national government, its largest shareholder, to win consensus from the parties involved, including the governor of Niigata.

Governor Hirohiko Izumida of Niigata Prefecture wants to delay the restart until safety is assured (which will never happen, as there is no 100% safety), but he has no legal or regulatory authority over the plant; he doesn't have a say in the new regulatory guidelines by Nuclear Regulatory Authority.

Kashiwazaki City and Kariwa-mura want to have the plant restarted, as their economy depends heavily on the plant. They have just agreed to TEPCO's submitting the application to Nuclear Regulatory Authority.

There are Nuclear Regulatory Authority and Nuclear Regulatory Agency under the Ministry of the Environment that do the risk assessment, and there is Agency for Natural Resources and Energy under the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry that promotes nuclear energy, and there is the Ministry of Education and Science that oversees some of the nuclear operators in Japan. Prime Minister Abe is busy top-selling Japanese-made (and probably Japanese-operated) nuclear reactors and plants.

No one in charge.

From Jiji Tsushin (8/2/2013):


Confirmation of safety "ASAP" for TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP, says Minister of Economy Motegi


During the press conference after the August 2 cabinet meeting, Toshmitsu Motegi, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry referred to the application for safety evaluation for Reactors 6 and 7 at TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant (in Niigata Prefecture) and said, "It is desirable from the viewpoint of confirming safety that the evaluation by Nuclear Regulatory Authority will be done solidly and promptly", indicating his understanding that the application needs to be submitted soon.


Governor of Niigata Hirohiko Izumida is strongly offended that TEPCO has decided to apply for the evaluation. Minister Motegi said, "It is necessary for the parties concerned to talk things out first. Then, it is important to make effort in obtaining the understanding of the municipalities with the nuclear plant for the restart."

Mr. Motegi, you and your ministry as well as your boss, PM Abe, are one of the "parties concerned".

Sunday, August 4, 2013

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant: Latest Images and Video of Inside Reactor 2 Containment Vessel (8/2/2013)

There is a white brush sitting on top of the rail for the control rod driving mechanism...

(From TEPCO's video taken on 8/2/2013):

TEPCO has been trying to get better information inside the Reactor 2's Containment Vessel for some time, and have failed for one reason or another. This latest attempt was to reach inside the pedestal. The attempt failed again, when it simply took too long for the workers to manipulate the camera past the obstacles.

Workers threaded the CCD camera, dosimeter, and thermocouple through the penetration X53 in order to find out whether the CRD exchange rail has dropped or not, whether there is any obstacle on the rail, and whether there is anything dropped inside the pedestal (TEPCO's word in the handout on 8/2/2013).

The rail is there, and there are some items on the rail. TEPCO says they will try again in August 6 to reach inside the pedestal. They will also collect the water sample on August 5.

From TEPCO's Photos and Videos Library, 8/2/2013 (English labels are by me):

The condition of the rail reminded me of the guide rail for the Reactor 3 CV's equipment hatch - some blackish substance, though it could be just water in the dark.

Just like the first video of the inside of Reactor 2's Containment Vessel taken in January 2012, there are constant drops of water in the dark. And radiation:

If TEPCO is successful on August 6, we may get to see the corium for the first time.

"Eat and Support Fukushima" Campaign Going Strong in Its 3rd Year: Train Full of Fukushima Peach Ads in Tokyo

Someone uploaded the photo on Twitter, and was apparently immediately harassed by people who accused him/her of spreading "baseless rumors". So I won't link his/her tweet, as a precaution, although I would like to give credit. The photo looks unaltered.

From the very first year of the nuclear accident in 2011, Fukushima Prefecture was using children to push peaches grown in Fukushima. Back then, those students from Fukushima who went to Yokohama (in Kanagawa Prefecture) on a school trip were promoting Fukushima peaches in a park in Yokohama, telling the passers-by how delicious the peaches were.

Nothing has changed, and just like in the first year of the nuclear accident, and the 2nd year, the pop group TOKIO is busy promoting "Eat and Support" by eating Fukushima peaches again this year:

Checking the radiation monitoring site by Fukushima Prefecture (in English), cesium-134 is no longer detected (with the detection limit of about 4 Bq/kg), and the max cesium-137 is 4.67 Bq/kg.

The highest amount of radioactive cesium in peaches from Fukushima in 2011 was 150 Bq/kg from peaches in Date City. The provisional safety limit was 500 Bq/kg then, so these peaches were deemed "safe".

Fruit farmers in Fukushima had no problem growing, harvesting and selling peaches, apples, pears, persimmons in the very first year of the accident. They complained that their fruits didn't get the price they used to get before the nuclear accident, and said they were suffering the "baseless rumors".

They have continued to produce ever since. With the strong backing from the Abe administration and in particular from Ms. Masako Mori, Minister in charge of consumer affairs and of dealing with declining number of children in Japan, who wants to enact a law to force retailers to carry Fukushima produce, Fukushima farmers can continue to blame those fickle consumers in the rest of the country who won't buy their stuff for spreading "baseless rumors".

Checking the radiation monitoring site by Japan Chemical Analysis Center, there are only 8 cases of measuring any kind of fruits, and they are all in Hokkaido. The max Cs-137 content was found in grapefruits in 1994, at 0.14 Bq/kg.