Friday, September 13, 2013

Contaminated Water Problems at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant "A Matter of How to Communicate"

Oh. Here I thought they were about:

  • figuring out where the groundwater and contaminated water are coming from, and how much;

  • diverting the groundwater from the contaminated areas;

  • decreasing the amount of water injected into the reactors to reduce the amount of contaminated water to treat;

  • possibly diluting and dissipating if only tritium is the issue;

  • building welded tanks to replace the assembled tanks;

  • coming up with different ways to cool the reactors that do not rely on continuous injection of water; and

  • creating a human resource management system so that the workers at the plant (other than TEPCO employees) can work with decent training, pay and benefits.

According to TEPCO and Mr. Lake Barrett, a former US NRC official advising TEPCO, it seems it is more about how the problems are explained to the rest of the world, since the contaminated water is well contained.

From NHK News (9/13/2013; part):


Contaminated water "more effort to communicate with the world"


Mr. Lake Barrett, former US NRC official who directed the decommissioning work for 4 years after the Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant accident, attended the meeting at TEPCO headquarters as an outside expert.


At the start of the meeting, Mr. Barrett said, "Despite the large amount of contaminated water at the site, I think it is properly contained by the maximum effort [by TEPCO]. It is a difficult problem with the very complex groundwater flow, but I would recommend that the efforts not only be for technical control of the water but also to improve your methods of communicating to the world the situation that's actually there at the site." [From "I would recommend..." onward, it is Mr. Barrett's actual remark as heard on the NHK video.]


Mr. Barrett also suggested that problems should be dealt with before they become problems, and communication be improved by disseminating information in a way that is easy for the general public to understand.


TEPCO's President Hirose said, "With the advice from experts, we will do our best to communicate better with the general public including the fishermen, and to reinforce measures [for contaminated water].

Mr. Barrett, according to NHK World news from 9/12/2013, visited Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on the day before (9/12/2013) and inspected the tanks himself.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

#Radioactive Japan: Fukushima Prefecture Wants to Sell Wild Mushrooms and Wild Edible Plants

While fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture have, for the most part, restrained themselves from pushing hard on resuming the commercial fishing after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, farmers are a totally different story.

They have never stopped growing vegetables, rice, fruits, mushrooms, cattle for meat, etc., and have insisted that they sell to the rest of Japan as long as the national government says they are under the safety limit (100 Bq/kg radioactive cesium). Right after the start of the nuclear accident and as radioactive fallout was descending on their land, farmers in Fukushima started tilling the land to plant.

"They have to make a living", supporters say. (Don't fishermen, too?)

But this news goes too far as far as I am concerned. Fukushima Prefecture wants to allow farmers to sell wild mushrooms and wild edible plants, which have been known to concentrate radioactive cesium. There is no specific reason given in the article why they are considering lifting the shipment restriction now, and there is no mention of the fact that these food items tend to contain high levels of radioactive cesium.

From Fukushima Minpo via Yahoo Japan (9/12/2013):

キノコ・山菜類の出荷制限解除に向けて説明会 郡山

Briefing on lifting the shipment restriction


Fukushima prefectural government held a briefing at the Prefectural Forestry Research Center in Koriyama City toward lifting the shipment restriction on mushrooms and edible wild plants that was put in place because of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. The prefectural government asked the municipalities to submit data of nuclide analysis of food items submitted by citizens.


To lift the shipment restriction in a municipality, samples from three or more locations within a municipality must test below the safety standard. The national government who sets the standard is requesting Fukushima Prefecture to increase the number of samples as it is difficult to manage mushrooms cultivated outdoors, wild mushrooms and wild edible plants. The prefectural government plans to increase the number of samples and enhance the accuracy of monitoring.


The briefing was attended by about 100 managers from the municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture.

The reason why the prefectural government is asking for data on a municipal level is that there is hardly any official monitoring data of wild mushrooms and wild edible plants done by the prefecture.

Come to think about it, a "shipping restriction" has not been a "shipping ban" anyway, as the prefectural government lacks will and personnel to enforce the "restriction". All the government (prefectural and municipal) officials do is to tell farmers not to sell them. Besides, the shipment restriction only means farmers are not supposed to sell either outside the municipalities they live in or outside Fukushima Prefecture.

Full of loopholes big enough to drive a farm truck through.

And the farmers cry "baseless rumors" because they cannot get the price they used to get before the accident.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

(OT) Today's John Kerry on Syria: "It Was Me Who Suggested Syria's Chemical Weapon Control Last Week"

After the scramble to spin Secretary Kerry's blunder during a press briefing in London on Monday which gave an opening to Vladimir Putin was unsuccessful, the Obama administration's Tuesday's spin is that it is not Russia but the US who suggested it, and it was last week.

From Buzz Feed (9/10/2013):

Administration Changes Russian Proposal’s Origin Story

WASHINGTON — The Obama Administration’s explanation of how a Russian proposal to get rid of Syrian chemical weapons came to be has morphed rapidly in the past 24 hours from being portrayed as an unexpected slip-up to — in its new incarnation — a plan that U.S. officials were involved in as early as last week.

“I had some conversations about this with my counterpart from Russia last week,” Secretary of State John Kerry said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Tuesday, referring to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “President Putin raised the issue with President Obama at St. Petersburg. President Obama directed us to try to continue to talk and see if it is possible. So it is not something that — you know, suddenly emerged, though it did publicly. But it cannot be allowed to be a delay.”

Later, under questioning by Rep. Hank Johnson, Kerry said he had not made a mistake when he suggested the proposal in a press conference in London on Monday.

I didn’t misspeak,” Kerry said. “I was asked about it. I responded because I was asked.”

(Full article at the link)

How he takes us for fools who cannot (do not, would not) remember what his own department put out yesterday that his remark was nothing but "hypothetical and rhetorical".

But now the Obama administration's "strategy" today is to make it near-impossible for the UN Security Council to come to any agreement on Russia's proposal for an international supervision of Syria's chemical weapons. Russia has just withdrawn the request for the emergency session of the Council.

Meanwhile "Syrian rebels" that the US supports are dead set against political solutions, as they have been planning their offensive around the coming US military attack on Syria.

Mccain-Graham duo now says the Assad administration's willingness to submit its chemical weapons under international supervision is an excellent reason for the US Congress to vote "yes" on launching a military attack on Syria.

President Assad, during his interview with Charlie Rose that was aired on Monday, said:

"... for us in Syria, we have principles. We'll do anything to prevent another crazy war in the region. ... It's not about me, it's about the region."

Monday, September 9, 2013

"National Government at the Forefront" on Contaminated Water Problems at #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Means Committees, Teams, Groups

that would make Sir Humphrey Appleby proud.

Now that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declared to IOC Commissioners who gave him the 2020 Summer Olympic in Tokyo that his government would be at the forefront in dealing with contaminated water problems, and that "the effect of contamination" (carefully note the word "effect") was confined within the plant harbor (to the great puzzlement of TEPCO who said they hadn't advised Mr. Abe on anything), the government is in full gear - creating committees.

Let's see. How many committees, teams, working groups are there on the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident?

On contaminated water problems:

  • Working Group set up by Nuclear Regulatory Authority, headed by Commissioner Fuketa

  • Team set up by Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, headed by Minister Motegi himself

  • Group set up by the national government that include Fukushima Prefecture officials, headed by Vice Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry

  • Committee of 10 government ministers to discuss the problems (useless of them all...)

TEPCO has to send people to each group meeting, and it has set up its own group on contaminated water as demanded by the national government.

On decommissioning:

  • Government committee to promote decommissioning based on the "roadmap"

  • Government committee on R&D for decommissioning technologies

  • Private industry association set up at the prompting by Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to develop decommissioning technologies

Other than the working group set up by NRA which actually is very useful in analyzing the situation and suggesting courses of action, the rest look like good venues for government officials, bureaucrats and university professors to earn extra per diem, and waste of resource for TEPCO who will have to send mid to high-ranking managers and prepare presentations to placate the officials and bureaucrats.

(OT) US Secretary of State John Kerry's Own Goal on Syria, and Obama Takes Credit for Possible "Political Solution"

Now the Obama administration is busy taking credit for possible political solutions on Syria, after Russia made good use of Secretary Kerry's blunder, aka "hypothetical" remark, during a press briefing in London on Monday, and Syria, the UN, and a host of political leaders around the world (including UK's Cameron) warm up to the Russian proposal of putting Syria's chemical weapons under international supervision.

Even the GOP duo McCain and Graham, who have been staunch supporters of President Obama's policies and initiatives, say "the proposal should be given a chance".

Harry Reid has delayed the procedural vote in the US Senate due to this new development (aka he doesn't have enough vote to pass the resolution).

From Washington Post (9/9/2013; emphasis is mine):

(Original title of the article as seen on the browser bar: Syria says it 'welcomes' Russia proposal on chemical weapons)

(Current article title is all about Obama) Obama sees potential ‘breakthrough’ in Russia’s Syria proposal

Russia and Syria embraced Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s suggestion Monday that the Syrian government could avert a U.S. attack by placing its chemical weapons under international control, upending the Obama administration’s efforts to sharpen its case for military action.


The timing of the new proposal was awkward and its apparent genesis perhaps more so.

It began when Kerry was asked early Monday whether Assad could avoid a U.S. attack.

“Sure. He could turn over every bit of his weapons to the international community within the next week, without delay,” Kerry responded with a shrug. “But he isn’t about to.”

As Kerry flew back to Washington to help lobby lawmakers, he received a midair call from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said he had heard the secretary’s remarks and was about to make a public announcement.

The statement in Moscow came before Kerry landed.

“We are calling on the Syrian authorities [to] not only agree on putting chemical weapons storages under international control but also for its further destruction and then joining the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons,” Lavrov said, adding, “We have passed our offer to [Syrian Foreign Minister] Walid al-Moualem and hope to receive a fast and positive answer.”

Moualem, who was in Moscow meeting with Lavrov, followed with a statement that his government “welcomes Russia’s initiative, based on the Syrian government’s care about the lives of our people and security of our country.”

Although Syrian President Bashar al-Assad denies having a stockpile of the widely banned weapons, the idea of international control also quickly gained traction among diplomats and at least some senior Democrats whose support Obama seeks for a show of force.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) was the first senior lawmaker to voice support for the Russian proposal.

“I think if the U.N. would accept the responsibility of maintaining these facilities, seeing that they’re secure, and that Syria would announce that it is giving up any chemical weapons programs or delivery system vehicles that may have been armed, then I think we’ve got something,” Feinstein said.

The Russian announcement was met with approval by international backers and critics of a U.S. strike. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who has said a U.S. attack on Syria would be illegal without U.N. approval, signaled support, as did British Prime Minister David Cameron.

French Foreign Minister Laurant Fabius, whose government had said it would join an American attack and who two days ago stood at Kerry’s side in Paris to pledge an all-out effort to build public support, said it was worth testing. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been wary of a strike, welcomed the idea.

Republican Sens. John McCain (Ariz.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) said the proposal came only because Assad feels the threat of military force and that Congress should continue considering Obama’s request for legislative backing. But the two said the proposal should be given a chance — and a test of its sincerity — by being committed to writing in a U.N. Security Council resolution.

“We should not trust, and we must verify,” the pair said in a joint statement.

A senior State Department official said Kerry warned Lavrov that the United States was “not going to play games.”

Current and former Obama administration officials scrambled Monday to say the proposal should not derail plans for a punitive strike. They suggested it was a delaying tactic after more than two years of diplomatic efforts with Syria and its ally Russia, albeit one spurred by the prospect that a U.S. military attack is imminent.

“It’s very important to note that it’s clear that this proposal comes in the context of the threat of U.S. action and the pressure that the president is exerting,” deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken said at the White House. “So it’s even more important that we don’t take the pressure off and that Congress give the president the authority he’s requested.”

(Full article at the link)

Senator John McCain's initial reaction to Secretary Kerry's own goal was, "unbelievably unhelpful".

(OT) "Coalition of the Willing" to Attack Syria for Whatever Reason that Obama Administration Comes Up With Has Expanded to 25

(UPDATE) The latest and hilarious development over Syria in the new post.


Nations who signed the joint agreement with the US at G20:

the U.K. (even though the Parliament voted No)
Saudi Arabia
South Korea

As of 9/9/2013, according to Washington Times):

United Arab Emirates

Total 25 mighty nations of the world.

As the Obama administration sends out top officials (including this one of Benghazi fame) to TV networks to prep the general public for the big speech by Mr. Obama himself on Tuesday, Russia has proposed the initiative for chemical weapon disarmament for Syria, and Syria has welcomed the proposal. The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is now calling for the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons in internationally supervised safe zones.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

RO Waste Water Leak at #Fukushima: TEPCO's Video of Tank Patrol by Workers (UPDATED)

Three workers are doing the patrol of the tank area to spot the leaks. These are the assembled tanks as opposed to welded, held together by rivets and packing (whose effective life is about 5 hours, and that doesn't assume radiation).

The tanks contain highly contaminated waste water after cesium absorption treatment and desalination treatment (currently Reverse Osmosis only), high in beta nuclides including strontium. The beta radiation levels are about 2,000 mSv/hr, give or take 200, at 70 micrometer dose equivalent measured at 5-centimeter distance. (For more, read my posts on the topic, here.)

Workers are to examine the tanks and any water puddles closely, and measure the radiation. The area looks huge, and there is no way to distinguish the actual leak from the rainwater puddle until and unless they actually measure the radiation.

TEPCO released the video on September 4, 2013, which was taken on September 3.

By the way, there is a job listing posted on September 3, 2013 at the government job agency "Hellowork" in Fukushima Prefecture to recruit workers to do the tank patrol at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The listing was posted by one of the subcontractors (of the subcontractors, most likely).

According to the job listing, the tank patrol has three 8-hour shifts, and the workers will be paid between 10,000 yen to 14,000 yen per day with no benefit. There is no risk benefit either, even though they will be in very close proximity of the high beta source.

From Hellowork (9/3/2013):

  • Type of job: Full-time, contract

  • Job description: Monitoring tanks that store contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant

  • Shifts: three (08:00~17:00, 16:00~01:00, 00:00~09:00)

  • Break: 60 minutes

  • Overtime: 10 hours per month average

  • Wages: 10,000 to 14,000 yen [100 to 140 dollars] per day

  • Benefits: none

  • Details of work: to monitor tanks that store contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. You will patrol the compound with survey meter with another worker, and visually inspect the tanks and write reports. One round takes about 30 to 40 minutes, and you are expected to do 4 to 6 rounds of patrol per one shift. The work will be intermittent, and the effective hours of work per day will be about three hours. When you are not doing the patrol, you will wait in the room that is shielded from radiation inside the plant. Trial workers are also wanted.

  • Required education: none

  • Required work experience, license, certificate: none

If the national government is serious about tackling the problems at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, the very first thing they should do is to change this employment scheme of subcontracting pyramid which gives each layer profit by skimming off workers' wages and gives the top contractor(s) plausible deniability that they do not know about work conditions of the workers in the lower layers of the pyramid and therefore they are not responsible for the workers.

But I fear the government is not serious, and only interested in evading their responsibility and finding others to blame for any failure, past, present, and future.

For Japanese Politicians, Contaminated Water Leak at #Fukushima Is All About "Who to Blame" (Other Than Themselves, Of Course)

Now that the 2020 Summer Olympic is in the bag, Japanese politicians have resumed the blame game instead of actually trying to solve the problems of contaminated water storage and leaks at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

DPJ politicians are afraid of being criticized for their (lack of) response to the nuclear accident when they were in power. LDP politicians are afraid of being criticized for their (lack of) response to the nuclear accident now. But they can both criticize Ministry of Economy and Trade and Industry. So let's do that...

From Yomiuri Shinbun (9/8/2013; part):


Scheduling of the debate in the National Diet over the contaminated water problems at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is going nowhere because of political bargaining.


Democratic Party of Japan demands an "inspection while the Diet is not in session" [a special Diet procedure] in order to press on the government's response, but the party's effort lacks determination perhaps due to its own response to contaminated water while it was in charge of the government. On the other hand, there is a smouldering discontent inside Liberal Democratic Party over the government response, and there is no prospect that the date is set any time soon.


Head of DPJ Kaieda requested an "inspection while the Diet is not in cession" during his August 26 press conference. On August 30 during the informal gathering of the Lower House Economy and Industry Committee members, DPJ members requested that the "inspection" be started by the middle of September. However, they readily accepted the response from LDP that they would consider it after how the government responds.

... 民主党のちぐはぐな対応の背景には、自らの政権時代の対応を逆に批判されかねないとの懸念がある。海江田氏は6日、「民主党もただ単にケチをつけるのではなく、政権与党にあった時代の事故に対して大きな責任がある」と述べており、政府を攻めあぐねる展開も予想される。

Behind DPJ's inconsistent attitude is the fear that their own handling of the problems when they were in charge of the government may be criticized. Mr. Kaieda said on September 6 that "DPJ cannot just criticize LDP, as it shares a large responsibility for the accident that happened when the party was the ruling party". They may not be able to effectively attack the government on the issue.


On the other hand, LDP does not have monolithic solidarity either. In the meeting on September 4 to discuss the government response to the contaminated water problems, there were members of the Diet who criticized METI (Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry) saying "METI is the cause of the current problems. If it (contaminated water problem) happens again, are we correct in assuming Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry will take responsibility [and resign]?"

Where have I heard something similar just recently? Oh yes, about Tokay Reprocessing Plant and its highly radioactive liquid waste and plutonium. NRA Commissioner Oshima, who is from Ministry of Foreign Affairs, just wanted to know if Ministry of Education would be held responsible, instead of being interested in understanding the situation and coming up with the solution.

While I wholeheartedly agree that METI is the cause of the current and past problems regarding the nuclear plant (most recently a METI career bureaucrat with his "assumption" about 300 tonnes of "contaminated water" into the ocean every day), it is just tired old déjà vu of politicians whose only interest is to cover their behind, whether they are DPJ politicians or LDP ones.

What's amazing to me personally is that after nearly two and a half years of abysmal track record of the national government when it comes to dealing with the nuclear accident and its aftermath (contamination, decontamination, compensating the victims, monitoring, etc.), many Japanese are still looking longingly to the national government for magical solutions.

"TEPCO cannot be trusted!" they say. But somehow they can still trust their government.

Soaring Nikkei index does wonders. It is up more than 300 points today, as investors celebrate 2020 Tokyo Olympic by buying up the stocks of construction companies and real estate companies.

(OT) Obama's Chief of Staff Says Military Attack on Syria Is to Teach Iran a Lesson (UPDATED)

(UPDATE 9/9/2013) "Coalition of the willing" has added new members. See the list at the bottom.


Rumor has it (other than the amount of money each candidate cities spent on winning the hearts and minds of IOC members) that Istanbul lost because of its proximity to Syria and Middle East. (See Xinhua news, for one.)

True that this Olympic is for 2020 not this year or the next, but it seems the recency bias worked on the IOC members.

The reason for the Obama administration to attack Syria continues to shift, and the latest reason was offered by Obama's Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on NBC "Meet the Press" by David Gregory on Sunday, September 8, 2013.

It's about teaching IRAN, not Syria, a lesson.

But instead of attacking Iran to teach the lesson, the Obama administration wants to attack Syria.

Now that's clear, I wonder how many Senators and Congressmen/women will rush to the support of the President.

From NBC News (9/8/2013):

McDonough says attack on Assad regime would send message to Iran

By Tom Curry, National Affairs Writer, NBC News

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Sunday that an impending U.S. attack on Syria would send a message to Iranian leaders that they should not feel free to develop nuclear weapons.

“This is an opportunity to be bold with the Iranians,” McDonough said on NBC’s Meet the Press.

He said, “nobody is rebutting the intelligence; nobody doubts the intelligence” that is the basis for President Barack Obama pinning the blame for an August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria on President Bashar Assad's regime which is fighting to suppress a rebellion that began in 2011.

McDonough noted that “our troops have not been subject to chemical weapons attacks since World War I” and argued that “we have to make sure that for the sake of our guys – our men and women on the front lines – that we reinforce this prohibition against using chemical weapons.”

If Assad is not deterred, he will put chemical weapons on the front lines in his battle against the Syrian rebels and that would mean “a greater risk of them being proliferated” and perhaps falling into terrorists’ hands, McDonough argued.

He added that “the momentum on the battle field will be changed by a targeted, limited effort” but he said ultimately “there’s not a military resolution” to the civil war in Syria, only a “political, diplomatic resolution.”

(Full article at the link)

In the video segment at the link, Mr. Gregory shows the Youtube video (he doesn't say it's from Youtube) which was then edited by the State Department for public consumption and breathlessly explains that was the work of the Assad regime.

"Nobody is rebutting the intelligence, nobody doubts the intelligence"? I've seen several already, including the one from Russians on March 2013 attack, and the one from the retired US military and intelligence officers. I suppose Mr. McDonough's "nobody" means "nobody" in the administration and in the US Congress who are in support of attacking Syria.

So far, the "coalition of the willing" for Obama on attacking Syria includes:

10 countries at G20 who signed the joint statement with the US):
the U.K. (even though the Parliament voted No)
Saudi Arabia
South Korea

few unnamed Arab countries, as per Secretary Kerry

(as of 9/9/2013, according to Washington Times)
United Arab Emirates

The Japanese government pretends as if the statement they signed at G20 was not about military intervention.