Saturday, January 11, 2014

Nikkei Shinbun's Interview of Haruki Madarame (1/7): "#Fukushima I NPP Wasn't Much of a Topic in March 11, 2011 Meeting Despite Station Blackout and Emergency Core Cooling Failure"

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Dr. Haruki Madarame was the chairman of the now-defunct Nuclear Safety Commission at the time of the start of the Fukushima nuclear accident on March 11, 2011. He became instantly infamous and reviled in Japan when it was reported that he had reassured then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan on their way to Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in the morning of March 12, 2011 that there would be no explosion. A few hours later, the Reactor 1 building blew up in a hydrogen explosion.

Nikkei Shinbun interviewed Dr. Madarame recently, who was as candid as he had been in the past few times he had spoken about his role in the early days of the nuclear accident, readily admitting his errors. (In his testimony to the Diet Commission that investigated the Fukushima I NPP accident in February 2012, Dr. Madarame said he didn't remember the 1st week of the accident, as he was so tired from lack of sleep.)

Nikkei's article from the interview is very informative but also quite long, so it will be in 7 installments.

In the first installment below, Dr. Madarame paints a picture of the Kan administration and himself not knowing what was going on and not knowing what to do.

As is quite usual in the Japanese media, no other media even writes about this Nikkei article.

From Nikkei Shinbun (1/10/2014):

班目氏、3年目の証言 「あり得た、フクシマ最悪の筋書き」
編集委員 滝 順一

Testimony of Dr. Madarame, in the third year of the accident: "Worst case scenario was possible for Fukushima"
by Junichi Taki, editorial board member


Dr. Haruki Madarame (professor emeritus at Tokyo University) was the chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission when the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident happened after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. He was in a position to give technical advice to the national government, but he was later criticized as not having been able to give accurate advice. He has maintained a low public profile since he retired as the chairman in the summer of 2012, but Nikkei Shinbun spoke to him recently.


In our interview, Dr. Madarame revealed that he had at one time assumed the worst case scenario whereby the melted fuel would be ejected from the containment vessel. He also pointed out that the current nuclear disaster countermeasures do not fully reflect the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident. We believe the testimony and analysis by Dr. Madarame, who was close at hand by the prime minister and advising him in dealing with the accident, could be useful in thinking about the future nuclear policy. He opened up reluctantly, looking back at those early days of the accident and sometimes defending himself.


"I wasn't sure what was going on in the room."

-- Where were you when the Great East Japan Earthquake hit?


"At 2:46PM (on March 11, 2011), I was in the office of the Nuclear Safety Commission (in the Central Government Building No.4 in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo). One hour later, the Article 10 notice (station blackout) based on the Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness came in. Then the Article 15 notice (emergency core cooling system failure). The Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters should now be established, but there was no message [from the Prime Minister's Official Residence]. So I thought I'd go there and wait."


"The Article 15 notice said the notice was by way of precaution, as it was impossible to inject water into the reactor and the water level inside the reactor couldn't be measured. So I [erroneously] got it in my head that the DC power (storage batteries) was still available, and that the water level couldn't be measured because the water gauge was broken. The DC power would last at least 8 hours, probably half a day easily, so I thought we would just need to keep the DC power by securing power supply cars.


"Around 7PM, a meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters was held. But as far as I remember, the topic of the meeting was mostly about dealing with the earthquake and tsunami, and the nuclear power plant was not discussed much. I didn't have an opportunity to speak [I wasn't asked for an opinion]."


"I went back to my office after the meeting, but then I was called back to the Prime Minister's Official Residence and at about 9PM went into the small conference room in the mezzanine floor next to the Crisis Management Center in the basement of the Prime Minister's Official Residence for the first time. Politicians in the room were very worried, and they asked me what would happen next. People from Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, including Deputy Director-General Eiji Hiraoka, were in the room, but none of them seemed to have been able to answer the questions."

14:46 地震発生(原子力安全委員会オフィスに在席)
15:42 10条通報(1~5号機の全交流電源喪失)
16:00 安全委臨時会議を開催し緊急技術助言組織を立ち上げる。臨機応変の対応を宣言
16:45 15条通報(1、2号機の非常用炉心冷却装置注水不能、直流電源喪失の連絡はなかった)
17:40ころ 首相官邸へ。電源車の調達を知り、是認
19:03 原子力災害対策本部開催(発言機会なし、20:00ころいったん安全委オフィスに戻る)
21:00ころ 官邸へ。3km圏内避難指示、炉心損傷を防ぐため注水とベント(排気)を助言

Dr. Madarame on March 11, 2011:
2:46PM Earthquake (he was in the office of the Nuclear Safety Commission)
3:42PM Article 10 notice (station blackout of Reactors 1 through 5)
4:00PM Held emergency meeting of the Nuclear Safety Commission and set up the emergency technical advisory. Declared that his organization would take such steps as the occasion demanded.
4:45PM Article 15 notice (ECCS failure in Reactors 1 and 2, but there was no mention of loss of DC power)
5:40PM Went to Prime Minister's Official Residence. Approved of the procurement of power supply cars
7:03PM Meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters (no opportunity to speak, returned to his office around 8PM)
9:00PM Went back to Prime Minister's Official Residence. Advised on evacuation within the 3-kilometer radius from the plant and on water injection and vent to prevent core damage

(To be continued to Part 2)

So Dr. Madarame wasn't asked for his opinion, and he didn't volunteer any.

It took two hours and 18 minutes after the Article 15 notice to set up the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, and when it was finally set up, they didn't even talk about the nuclear emergency.

Banri Kaieda, who was Minister of Economy at that time, said in May 2012 that then-PM Naoto Kan couldn't decide whether to declare a nuclear emergency without knowing the legal basis in detail. And there was no one who would shout back at Mr. Kan.

Misfortune of Japan for having the wrong people at the very wrong time.

Was the Fukushima nuclear accident preventable? Dr. Madarame seems to think so. Stay tuned for the next installment of the interview.

Update on Anti-Nuclear Former PM Tag Team for Tokyo Governorship: Anti-Nuclear, Pro-Casino?

(UPDATE) To the dismay of many, yet another former prime minister has declared his support for Hosokawa. Mr. Naoto Kan, who was the prime minister presiding over the unfolding nuclear disaster in March 2011, is urging Tokyo residents who are anti-nuclear to vote for Mr. Hosokawa.


Anti-nuclear former Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa is about to officially declare his candidacy in the gubernatorial race in Tokyo, with the support from another anti-nuclear former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi (see my previous post from 1/8/2014). But what little has been leaked about his policies as the governor of the most populous prefecture in Japan is not so simplistic.

While I could find nothing concrete about his energy policy beyond the "beyond nuclear" slogan, I found a few hints that may indicate Hosokawa's thinking.

Hosokawa's words, as reported by his close associates, according to Tokyo Shinbun (1/12/2014):

"If I allowed casinos, would women stop supporting me?"

"Should Tokyo monopolize the Olympics? Should the disaster-affected areas be left behind?"

"The Tokyo gubernatorial race will determine Japan's destiny. It doesn't matter if I win or lose. All I want to do is to galvanize the public opinion."

I believe Hosokawa means "the public opinion toward 'beyond nuclear'," whatever the phrase means.

I have a feeling that LDP and the Abe administration, supporting the candidacy of Yoichi Masuzoe, won't be very disappointed even if their candidate loses to Hosokawa in the election, if Hosokawa is for bringing the casino (Las Vegas Sand and MGM are eagerly waiting, saying Macao wouldn't even come close to Tokyo in potential) to Tokyo Bay. If Hosokawa is hinting at moving some Olympics venues to the disaster-affected Fukushima to help spread the economic benefit of having the Olympics in Tokyo in 2020, great for LDP.

"Beyond nuclear"? As long as it remains a slogan, without any actionable steps toward it, LDP will tolerate.

#Fukushima I NPP: 2.2 Million Bq/L of All-Beta from Water Sample from an Observation Well Near the Plant Harbor

What's more significant than the number is Fukushima Minyu's interpretation that the contamination may be from the water in the trench(es) that contain extremely highly contaminated water from April/May 2011.

From Fukushima Minyu (1/11/2014):

海側井戸で220万ベクレル検出 第1原発、上昇傾向続く

2.2 million becquerels [per liter] detected from a well near the harbor at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, upward trend continues


A large amount of radioactive materials have been detected from observation wells on the ocean side of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. On January 10, TEPCO announced that the density of all-beta including strontium-90 had further increased and the latest measurement was 2.2 million becquerels per liter, the highest recorded so far.


The well is located on the east side of Reactor 2, about 40 meters from the plant harbor. The water sample was collected on January 9. The density was even higher than the sample taken on December 30, 2013 which had 2.1 million becquerels/liter.


The well is located near the underground trench for electrical cables where water with extremely high contamination was found leaking right after the March 2011 accident. It is likely that the contamination is spreading into the surrounding soil.

Jiji Tsushin reports the same news but it says "The cause of the high all-beta measurement is unknown."

The level of radioactive cesium in this water was ND (not detected).

How "extremely high" was the contamination of the water that was found leaking from the Reactor 2 turbine building via the trench into the harbor in April 2011?

From TEPCO's press release, 4/5/2011:

  • Iodine-131: 5.2 billion Bq/Liter (or 5.2 million Bq/cm3)

  • Cesium-134: 1.9 billion Bq/Liter (or 1.9 million Bq/cm3)

  • Cesium-137: 1.9 billion Bq/Liter (or 1.9 million Bq/cm3)

The air dose rate measured above the water in April 2011 was over 1 Sievert/Hour (survey meter went overscale).

If this trench water is spreading in the soil, it makes sense that cesium is not detected from the water, as cesium has been bound to the soil.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

JAEA to Recreate a Core Melt to Better Understand #Fukushima I NPP Accident

Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) of Monju fame (most recently with free video playback software download that infected the PC in the central control room at Monju) will conduct an experiment that creates a small-scale core melt (commonly referred to as "meltdown").

Let's see. JAEA had a fire at Monju, which they hid. They dropped the fuel handling machine in the reactor. There were so many irregularities that Nuclear Regulation Authority was recommending shutting down the organization, when the pro-nuclear Abe administration came in and pledged to continue fuel recycle using Monju operated by JAEA.

(I would be much more comfortable if it weren't JAEA who will be doing the experiment.)

From Yomiuri Shinbun (1/8/2014):


JAEA to recreate core melt in an experiment, [result] to be utilized in dealing with Fukushima I NPP accident


Japan Atomic Energy Agency will conduct a small-scale experiment in the new fiscal year (that starts April 1, 2014) that will recreate a core melt that happened at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant after the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami.


So far, the progression of core melt has only been simulated by computer models based on limited data, and there is much that are still unknown. By using an actual fuel rod and overheat it without coolant [water], JAEA hopes to "better understand what actually happened in the accident and utilize the knowledge gained from the experiment in dealing with the accident."


The experiment will be carried out in JAEA's Nuclear Safety Research Reactor (NSRR) in Tokai-mura in Ibaraki Prefecture. A stainless steel capsule (1.2 meter long) will be inserted in the center of the reactor, and a miniature fuel rod (30 centimeters long) will be placed in the capsule without touching water. Uranium in the miniature fuel rod will undergo nuclear fission as it is being hit by neutrons emitted from the nuclear fuels surround the capsule, causing the temperature to rise above 2,000 degrees Celsius and causing the fuel rod to melt. [See the diagram by Yomiuri. English labels are by me.]


According to JAEA, since [the fuel rod to be used] is much smaller than 4.5 meter-long fuel rods used in a real nuclear power plant, nuclear fission will stop shortly, and the melted fuel will cool and solidify in a few minutes. The solidified fuel will be analyzed, and then stored in the pool on the premises with other nuclear fuels.

(OT) No, #Fukushima I NPP Did Not Cause High Radiation Reading on California Beach, Experts and Officials Say

But yes, the beach was "contaminated" with naturally occurring thorium and radium.

From Half Moon Bay Review (1/8/2014):

Experts say beach radiation unrelated to Fukushima

...The amateur video went viral, drawing more than half a million views to date, and spurring government inspectors to conduct their own surveys.

After watching the clip, El Granada electrical engineer Steven Weiss grabbed his own radiation measurement equipment to test the radiation reports for himself.

On Monday, Weiss carried a Geiger counter in each hand for a second survey of Surfer's Beach. As he descended to the waterline, the readings on his gadgets climbed. He tested various spots: the side of the bluffs and the white sand closest to the waterline, both registering levels that were high but not suspiciously so as far as he was concerned. But when he placed the sensors down near a line of black silt along the back of the beach, the meters on both his gadgets spiked. The counters registered about 415 counts per minute. A cpm of 30 is considered the baseline for radioactivity typically found in the air.

“It's not normal. I've never seen 400 cpm when I just wave my Geiger around.” he said. “There has to be something radioactive for it to do that.”

Weiss is no amateur; for 40 years he has made a living designing Geiger counters, most recently for International Medcom Inc. After he verified the hotspot, he took a sample of the dark sediment and sent it to his company's main offices in Sebastopol for analysis.

International Medcom CEO Dan Sythe later put the dirt sample in a spectrum analyzer to view the radioactive “signature” of the particles, the photon energy associated with each isotope. What he found was different from cesium-137, the fissile material used in the Fukushima reactors. He would know – since the 2011 meltdown, Sythe has visited Japan nine times to help map the cesium fallout.

Instead he was seeing radium and thorium, naturally occurring radioactive elements.


Nonetheless, the presence and concentration of natural thorium and radium at Surfer’s Beach left experts puzzled. Both elements are actually common at beaches. In fact, a 2008 study by the Journal of the Serbian Chemical Society found similar concentrations at Southern California beaches.

Sythe offered a couple possible explanations. A vein of thorium could be spilling out from the nearby coastal bluffs, he suggested. Alternatively, he heard mention of an old oil pipe running nearby the beach. Oil pipelines had a tendency to collect heavy radioactive minerals, he said.

Peterson thought the minerals could be just washing up with the salt water from the shores. The radioactive materials all were just past the high tide line, so it made sense that would be where the minerals would build up, he said.

The conditions that are out on the beach could be the same conditions that have been out there for millennia,” he said.

Update: Tests by government health inspectors have found no connection between the elevated radiation levels at Coastside beaches and the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, according to a statement by the California Public Health Department released late on Tuesday evening. An analysis by county and state officials found the radiation was the result of naturally occurring minerals, a conclusion similar to reports by independent experts.

(Full article at the link)

But the net media who went there to prove the source of radiation was the wrecked nuclear plant halfway across the globe is undeterred:

...Working to relieve concerns that the high radiation readings indicated fallout from Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant had finally reached the United States, electrical engineer Steve Weiss, a radiological expert who has worked on Geiger counters for 40 years, examined the same beach as the man in the video, and presented even worse results.

Weiss found levels well in excess of 1,400% of what acceptable amounts should be.

“It’s not normal. I’ve never seen 400 cpm when I just wave my Geiger around,” Weiss told the Review. “There has to be something radioactive for it to do that.”

After a spectrum analysis of the dirt on the cove, the paper later discovered the isotopes to be naturally occurring thorium and radium, and not cesium-137, the fissile material employed at the Fukushima reactor. This led many to scrap the notion that radiation from the damaged nuclear plant in Japan was the cause of the high readings. We, however, were not convinced, and set out on a mission to conduct radiation measurements up and down the coast.

And on they went, armed with a pocket geiger counter ("Inspector" brand, it looks).

Unless you find cesium-134 in addition to cesium-137, you can't tell whether cesium-137 is from Fukushima or from the atmospheric nuclear testing that the US has done so many times. And without analysis by a gamma-ray spectrometer to see the distinct peaks for nuclides and knowledge to read them, well...

#Fukushima I NPP: Data on Strontium in Water Hasn't Been Published for 6 Months, and Will Not Be Published Until TEPCO Figures Out What's Wrong

What's worse is (as usual) TEPCO didn't say anything until now.

What's even worse is that TEPCO is not going to release the data until it fully investigates why the new results differ from the old results.

Nuclear Regulation Authority was openly expressing doubt about the data that came from TEPCO on radioactive materials measurement, and that was about 6 months ago.

From Yomiuri Shinbun (1/9/2014):


TEPCO will not publish data on strontium density, measurement error?


TEPCO announced on January 8 that regarding the density of radioactive strontium in the sea water and groundwater whose samples are taken from the plant harbor and wells at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, there is a possibility of errors in the measurement results and the results cannot be published.


Water samples are regularly collected to monitor contamination, and the density of radioactive cesium are measured and published every week. Strontium is supposed to be measured every month, but the result of measurement hasn't been published for nearly a half year since the last one for the seawater samples taken in June last year.


According to TEPCO, the measurement results from an equipment used until the summer of 2013 were not consistent and not reliable. TEPCO switched to a new equipment in September and the reliability was enhanced. But TEPCO says, "We would like to investigate first why the new results differ from the old results, before we announce the new results from the new equipment."

Curious to know what kind of "inconsistencies"?

According to TEPCO's own words during the regular press conference on January 8 (well captured by this tweet from @jaikoman), the density of strontium - a beta nuclide - exceeded the density of all-beta, which is impossible.

No other entity is allowed to take measurements of radioactive materials inside the plant. It has been TEPCO's monopoly. It was less than two months ago that IAEA visited the plant and endorsed TEPCO's method of measurement.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

TEPCO to Return J-Village to #Fukushima Prefecture by 2018 for Use in Preparation for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

TEPCO's President Naomi Hirose says, "2020 Olympics seems like a good target."

J-Village, located in Naraha-machi about 20 kilometers south of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, has been used as the staging area for the emergency and restoration work at the plant since March 15, 2011. It was originally built as a non-monetary "donation" by TEPCO to Naraha-machi and Fukushima Prefecture to compensate for the "inconvenience" of having TEPCO's nuclear power plants, in line with the common practice in prefectures in Japan where nuclear power plants are located or being planned.

Naraha-machi was designated as "no-entry zone" around Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant until August 10, 2012. Since then, it has been designated as "areas in preparation for the lifting of evacuation order" - i.e. residents are allowed to return.

It was the ex-mayor of Naraha-machi who demanded that J-Village be "returned" so that the town could use it for the original purpose (soccer (football) training).

Optimism abounds in Fukushima and in Japan in general these days.

From Jiji Tsushin (1/8/2014):


J-Village to be returned to Fukushima Prefecture in 2018 to be utilized for prep for Tokyo Olympics [in 2020], says TEPCO president


TEPCO's president Naomi Hirose met with Governor Yuhei Sato on January 8 at the Fukushima prefectural government building, and indicated TEPCO will return J-Village (in Naraha-machi, Fukushima Prefecture) to Fukushima Prefecture. Hirose said, "Tokyo Olympics in 2020 is a good target. I would like to have it [J-Village] ready by 2018 to be utilized for the Olympic." J-Village has been used as the staging area for the work dealing with the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident.


J-Village was operated by the Football Association of Japan and was used as a training camp for the national team. Since the nuclear accident, it has been used by TEPCO. It is where TEPCO's Fukushima Revitalization Company is located, which deals with compensations and decontamination.

J-Village, by the way, was one of the three locations where a small amount of plutonium-241 of Fukushima origin was found by the researchers at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS). The researchers measured the soil samples as early as April of 2011, and didn't tell the world until March 8, 2012. Half life of plutonium-241 is relatively short at 14 years, and it decays into americium-241 which is readily absorbed into legumes.

TEPCO's Japanese homepage showing the sign of Fukushima Revitalization Company at J-Village:

"Revitalization of Fukushima is our starting point," TEPCO says.

Anti-Nuclear Former Prime Ministers of Japan May Join Forces, with One Running for the Governor of Tokyo, Says Asahi

(UPDATE) It looks almost official. TV Tokyo reports (1/9/2014) that Hosokawa has decided to run, and Koizumi has already pledged support. TV Tokyo says "Hosokawa and Koizumi are both popular with voters", which is probably true.


Now it gets somewhat interesting, with two weeks left till the official announcement of candidacy.

Former prime ministers - Morihiro Hosokawa (Japan New Party, 1995-1996) and Junichiro Koizumi (LDP, 2001-2006) may join forces, with Mr. Hosokawa running in the gubernatorial election for Tokyo set to be held on February 9, according to the latest Asahi Shinbun article.

Mr. Hosokawa was the first prime minister since 1955 who was not from Liberal Democratic Party. His coalition later evolved into Democratic Party of Japan. He has taken to pottery after he retired from politics.

Mr. Koizumi retains substantial influence within/out LDP even after he retired from politics, and he has caused a stir among anti-nuclear citizens who look at Koizumi's anti-nuclear stance with great suspicion. Koizumi doesn't seem to care about his critics, though, and continues to openly speak up against nuclear energy.

Hosokawa's potential entry into the gubernatorial race, from Asahi Shinbun (1/9/2014; part):


Two weeks till the official announcement on January 23 of the Tokyo gubernatorial election, the name of the former prime minister Morihiro Hosokawa has suddenly surfaced as a candidate. As Yoichi Masuzoe, former Minister of Health and Labor, has announced his intention to run with the LDP support, Hosokawa's entry into the race could vastly change the election landscape.


Mr. Masuzoe is considered to be one of the favorite to win the race. But if the alliance of Mr. Hosokawa and the former prime minister Junichiro Koizumi materializes under the "anti [beyond] - nuclear" slogan, it could become the eye of a storm.


It's been 15 years since Mr. Hosokawa retired from politics. The main reason he is considering a comeback is his sense of crisis over nuclear power plants and energy issues.


According to a person involved in Japan New Party, which Mr. Hosokawa started [it doesn't exist any more], Mr. Hosokawa told him in early January that "The energy policy of the Abe administration may harm the nation. It is important to appeal anti (beyond) - nuclear to the voters in the Tokyo gubernatorial election. It's not the matter of win or lose."


This person says the preparation is already underway should Hosokawa decide to run. "Depending on his decision, anything is possible. It's been all prepared."


The key to Hosokawa's candidacy is Mr. Koizumi's intention.


The two met and spoke last fall, and promised to join forces in anti-nuclear movement. The person involved [in Japan New Party] is hopeful, saying "If Mr. Hosokawa runs, Mr. Koizumi will definitely support him. If Mr. Hosokawa joins forces with Mr. Koizumi, the election landscape will suddenly changes." He says Mr. Hosokawa is watching Mr. Koizumi carefully.


... On the other hand, LDP, who will support Mr. Masuzoe, is openly wary. The party has already started gathering information on Mr. Hosokawa's moves. One of the senior party members says, "We're not afraid of Mr. Hosokawa, if he is alone. However, if Mr. Koizumi is behind him, it could lead to a nuclear fusion [meaning "very significant event that could jeopardize their soon-to-be-declared candidate Masuzoe"]."

If it is going to be a choice among Mr. Kenji Utsunomiya (attorney backed by Social Democrats and Communist Party), Mr. Yoichi Masuzoe (scholar-author-TV personality-politician backed by LDP and DPJ) and Mr. Hosokawa (with Mr. Koizumi's backing) and if I am forced to choose, I'll be totally at a loss for whom to vote. Mr. Utsunomiya and his message look too "1990s", Mr. Masuzoe is too slick and sleazy for my liking. Beyond the historical significance, Hosokawa was utterly ineffective as the prime minister who effectively threw out the job in only 9 months.

Hosokawa's ancestor was the lord that governed today's Kumamoto after Kiyomasa Kato, extremely popular lord who was displaced by the Tokugawa administration in the 17th century. Maybe Hosokawa is more fit for governing a prefecture, instead of the entire nation.

Asahi's hope that the anti-nuclear stance will get many votes seems little more than a hope, though. From all indications, the Fukushima nuclear accident is long over in the minds of most Japanese.

If Hosokawa runs in the race, it will be the very first time that a former prime minister of Japan runs for a prefectural office. At least I've never heard of it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Latest from Fast Breeder Monju: PC Hacked by Someone Accessing from a Korean Site, After a Night-Shift Worker Downloaded a Free Video Software off the Net

Net citizens in Japan are incredulous.

"So this fast-breeder project burns hundreds of millions of yen every year, and the worker downloads a free software off the net?" "A video playback software cannot be for business use, can it?"

(I'd say, "Don't they have antivirus software and firewall? They are also free...")

From NHK News (1/6/2013):


It has been revealed that a personal computer in the central control room of the fast breeder Monju in Tsuruga City in Fukui Prefecture may have been accessed illegally and information including emails may have been stolen.


Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), who operates [well, tries to operate would be more accurate...] Monju, says, "Important security information is not likely to have leaked."


According to JAEA, a male supervisor on night duty on January 2 was downloading a free software for video playback on one of the eight personal computers used for operations, when 30 or so incidents of illegal access to the PC from a Korean site happened.


The PC in question stores about 42,000 emails and training reports. There is a record of external transmission, and part of the information may have been stolen.


JAEA thinks the computer was infected with a virus during the update of the free software, but says no illegal access to other PCs at Monju has been confirmed. "It is not likely that critical security information has been leaked outside," JAEA explains.


Last November, Nuclear Regulation Authority issued a "reprimand (stern warning)" to Monju's operator for deficiencies in countermeasures against terrorism.

Yup. We're supposed to take JAEA's comment at face value, as if they are on top of things while in fact they weren't aware of the illegal access until they were contacted by their security firm, according to Yomiuri Shinbun (1/7/2014).

Radioactive Materials from Atmospheric Testing Persist in Upper Atmosphere (Stratosphere), According to Swiss Researchers

More plutonium and cesium remain in the stratosphere than in the troposphere (which sits directly above the earth), though the amount is still very miniscule, measured in microbecquerels (1 microbecquerel = 0.000001 becquerel).

First, from BBC News (1/7/2014; emphasis is mine):

Nuclear weapon test debris 'persists' in atmosphere
By Rebecca Morelle

Radioactive particles from nuclear tests that took place decades ago persist in the upper atmosphere, a study suggests.

Previously, scientists believed that nuclear debris found high above the Earth would now be negligible.

However this research shows that plutonium and caesium isotopes are still present at surprisingly high concentrations.

The work is published in the journal Nature Communications.

Lead author Dr Jose Corcho Alvarado, from the Institute of Radiation Physics at Lausanne University Hospital in Switzerland, said: "Most of the radioactive particles are removed in the first few years after the explosion, but a fraction remains in the stratosphere for a few decades or even hundreds or thousands of years."

However, he said the levels were not high enough to pose a risk to human health.

Radioactive hangover

At the height of the Cold War, when the nuclear arms race was in full swing, weapons were being developed and tested around the world.

But more than 50 years on, their radioactive legacy remains.

While nuclear explosions initially throw material up into the air, scientists had thought that the radioactive particles would remain for a limited time.

In the troposphere (the lower layer of the atmosphere that sits directly above the Earth), the isotopes are removed fairly quickly, as they are "washed out" by attaching to rain or snow or are drawn down by gravity.

However, in the stratosphere (the layer that sits from about 10-50km above the Earth), the Swiss team believes that some particles become trapped.

"The concentrations we measured were in the order of about 1,000 to 1,500 levels higher in the stratosphere than in the troposphere," said Dr Jose Corcho Alvarado.

While the tests were carried out over Switzerland, the team said they expected similar levels would be found at the same latitude elsewhere around the world.

The scientists also found that this material can be moved around in the atmosphere by natural events such as volcanic eruptions.

For example, in 2010 after Iceland's Eyjafjallajökull volcano erupted, plutonium levels in the lower atmosphere increased.

While scientists say the long-term effects are not clear, the lead author Dr Jose Corcho Alvarado said: "It is important to say that this is not dangerous for the population."

He added that the nuclear debris could be tracked to find out more about how particles in the atmosphere move around.

The paper at the Nature Communications (peer-reviewed) (emphasis is mine):

Anthropogenic radionuclides in atmospheric air over Switzerland during the last few decades

The atmospheric nuclear testing in the 1950s and early 1960s and the burn-up of the SNAP-9A satellite led to large injections of radionuclides into the stratosphere. It is generally accepted that current levels of plutonium and caesium radionuclides in the stratosphere are negligible. Here we show that those radionuclides are present in the stratosphere at higher levels than in the troposphere. The lower content in the troposphere reveals that dry and wet deposition efficiently removes radionuclides within a period of a few weeks to months. Since the stratosphere is thermally stratified and separated from the troposphere by the tropopause, radioactive aerosols remain longer. We estimate a mean residence time for plutonium and caesium radionuclides in the stratosphere of 2.5–5 years. Our results also reveal that strong volcanic eruptions like Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 have an important role in redistributing anthropogenic radionuclides from the stratosphere to the troposphere.

The diagrams presented in the paper showing the activity concentration of plutonium (239+240) and cesium (137) in the atmosphere. The unit is microbecquerel/cubic meter (μBq/m3):



(H/T Enformable)

Sunday, January 5, 2014

TEPCO Apologizes to #Fukushima I NPP Subcontractors and Explains, "Additional Risk Benefit of 10,000 Yen (US$96) a Day Doesn't Mean Additional Risk Benefit of 10,000 Yen a Day"

Uh... what does that mean, you may ask?

And why is TEPCO apologizing? Because, apparently, TEPCO's announcement that the company would double the risk benefit for the workers hired by the subcontractors to work at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant from 10,000 yen a day to 20,000 yen a day has caused anxiety and confusion among TEPCO's primary contractors and subcontractors.

Why are TEPCO's primary contractors (1st tier) and subcontractors (and subcontractors of the subcontractors... to the nth degree) anxious and confused? Because the workers they hire now knows how much TEPCO is paying the primary contractors and can compare it to what they actually receive.

The article below is by Mainichi English on January 5, 2014, translated from the Japanese article on the previous day. The title, "TEPCO allows contractors to dip into 'labor fund' increase", is very unclear.

The original Japanese title for the article is:


which I started to translate (till I found Mainichi's own English translation) as:

TEPCO allows "taking a cut" of the daily wages for the workers at Fukushima I Nuke Plant, TEPCO's letter to the prime contractors reveals

It's about "skimming", as Reuters' article on December 19, 2013 made abundantly clear.

From Mainichi English (1/5/2014; emphasis is mine):

TEPCO allows contractors to dip into 'labor fund' increase

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), after announcing last November that "labor funds" would be increased for contract work on the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, told contractors that not all the money had to go to wage increases, effectively reneging on its earlier announcement, it has been learned.

When contracting out work, in addition to base money for wages, TEPCO sets aside extra funds to pay workers at the plant based on radiation exposure and the type of work they do. However, until a Nov. 8 announcement the company had not revealed exact numbers, saying that doing so would "affect future contracts and bids." This was criticized as encouraging contractors and subcontractors to dip into the labor funds.

When TEPCO announced "emergency safety measures" for the Fukushima plant on Nov. 8 last year, it revealed that until then it had been setting aside 10,000 yen of these extra funds per worker. In order to improve workers' wages, however, the utility said it would increase this amount by another 10,000 yen per day starting with work contracted the following month. This was also clearly indicated in documents the company distributed to contractors.

TEPCO president Naomi Hirose said at a press conference, "I ask that prime contractors thoroughly enact (wage improvements). Workers will be aware of the 10,000 yen increase, so we ask that contractors follow through."

However, on Nov. 29, TEPCO sent a message to its contractors in the name of the chief of its supplies division. The message concerned the Nov. 8 announcement, and apologized that "the measure had not been understood correctly, bringing confusion to our business partners." It read that the increase of 10,000 yen was "for making efforts to improve workers' wages" but "does not mean that the amount (paid to workers) will be increased by 10,000 yen."

A representative of TEPCO's PR department told the Mainichi Shimbun, "The wages paid to workers are decided in contracts made between workers and subcontractors, so we explained that the labor funds we set and the actual wages paid to workers are different." Furthermore, the PR official said the increase of 10,000 to 20,000 yen in daily extra labor funds was "introduced as a representative case, but the actual amount could be lower." The official would not discuss the actual amount of increases made because it was "a contract matter."

The Nov. 8 announcement had been reported as a "doubling" of payments to workers by a local paper. One worker who works at the Fukushima plant said, "Some subcontractors have properly increased wages and others haven't, creating a stronger feeling of unfairness amongst those on-site. These TEPCO documents could lower the morale of the workers."

To be fair, TEPCO's President Naomi Hirose did say in the November 8, 2013 press conference that adding 10,000 yen to the existing 10,000 yen daily risk benefit would not mean all workers hired by the subcontractors would now receive 10,000 yen more per day. He emphasized that TEPCO would pay the prime contractors (top-tier subcontractors) additional 10,000 yen per day per worker. How the money was to be distributed down the subcontracting pyramid would not be TEPCO's responsibility but the prime contractors' and subcontractors' responsibility, Hirose said.

"Sunny", one of the workers who have been tweeting from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, is angrily calling the contractors unethical in his tweet:


President of the electric power company [TEPCO] says he is paying more, but the workers at the bottom [of the subcontracting pyramid] are not receiving it. Taxpayers' money is being used [to restore the plant] but the money to the workers disappear because of "circumstances at the companies". This is beyond the level of being problematic; it is the corporate ethics problem. Those companies that still won't pay the workers should be screened out.

Mainichi's original Japanese article has a diagram that shows how the skimming is done (English labels are by me):

From what I sometimes hear, though, this is what actually happens, in some cases: "Oh you want more risk benefit? OK, here you are. Oh by the way your regular pay will be reduced."

According to anecdotal stories in the press in the past, there are workers at the plant with no risk benefit; the benefit has been all skimmed off by the layers of subcontractors before it reaches the workers.

When this additional 10,000 yen risk benefit was announced in November last year, both "Sunny" and "Happy" (who is leaving the plant) were hoping that the national government, who claims to be "in charge" of restoring the plant, would make this additional money go directly to all contract workers. Well that didn't happen, and is not likely to happen.

Just like in late March 2011, when it comes to treating the workers who work at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, it is a private company's problem, not the government's problem, whether it is under DPJ or LDP. So sorry to hear that the workers have little to eat and drink at the plant, but no we're not going to do anything because it is TEPCO's problem, said an elite career bureaucrat at Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. My jaw dropped when I watched him say so in the press conference.