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Posted on on March 31st, 2011
by Pincas Jawetz (

The internal debate in Japan brakes out slowly into the news from Japan – as per The Japan Times online: 

Japan Industry Minister Banri Kaieda instructed nuclear plant operators Wednesday to compile emergency safety measures to prevent radiation leaks in the event that their power and cooling systems fail, as happened in the Fukushima crisis.

Utilities, which operate 45 nuclear reactors nationwide excluding the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 plants damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, were instructed to compile a new safety manual and submit it to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency by around mid-April.

The Fukushima emergency developed because Tokyo Electric Power Co. could not immediately secure an alternative power source after the reactors’ cooling systems were  disabled, or tap the huge amounts of water needed to cool spent fuel storage pools, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said.

METI thus instructed plant operators to compile emergency safety measures that will avert another nuclear crisis even if massive tsunami were to again cut electricity and shut down the cooling systems.

“I want plant operators to place power supply vehicles to secure electricity and firetrucks to provide water to spent fuel storage pools and reactors in times of emergency,” Kaieda told a hastily arranged news conference.

“I want the manuals compiled and training carried out.”

The NISA, the government’s nuclear watchdog, will check the utilities’ safety measures by the end of April.

After a thorough review of the Fukushima No. 1 crisis is carried out, METI plans to draw up drastic safety measures, including instructing operators to place a reserve electric system to pump seawater and building seawalls to protect against tsunami.

Asked if he believes there was a problem in the government’s safety monitoring system, Kaieda said, “At this point, I don’t think there was any problem.

“We need to thoroughly look into the nuclear incident, and it will then become clear what the problem was,” he said.


French experts:

PARIS (Kyodo) A French atomic fuel company said Tuesday its president is visiting Japan with five of the country’s nuclear experts to help on the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, according to Radio France.

Anne Lauvergeon, president of Areva SA, and the experts are expected to offer assistance in removing contaminated water accumulating inside the plant’s reactors, a task currently considered to be of the highest importance because the water has been hindering repair work.

According to Radio France, the five specialize in the removal of radioactive contaminants and in the management of nuclear waste storage pools.

Lauvergeon planned to visit the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry on Wednesday before meeting with top officials of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the broadcaster reported.

Areva is commissioned by Japanese power companies to process uranium-plutonium mixed-oxide fuel. MOX fuel used in the No. 3 reactor at Fukushima was manufactured by Areva and was shipped from France in 1999.

Lauvergeon’s visit appears to underline France’s full commitment to support Japan, which asked for its help.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

excerpt from Bloomberg

Reactors may take three decades to decommission.…

Four of the plant’s six reactors became useless when seawater was used to cool them after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out generators running its cooling systems. The entire station will likely be decommissioned, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday.

The damaged reactors need to be demolished after they have cooled and radioactive materials are removed and stored, said Tomoko Murakami, a nuclear researcher at the Institute of Energy Economics, Japan.

The process will take longer than the 12 years needed to decommission the Three Mile Island reactor in Pennsylvania following a partial meltdown, said Hironobu Unesaki, a nuclear engineering professor at Kyoto University.

“Lack of public support may force the decommissioning of all six reactors,” said Daniel Aldrich, a political science professor at Purdue University in Indiana. Tepco “will try to salvage two if it can find public support, which may be unlikely.”

Kan has blamed inadequate tsunami defenses at the plant for the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, saying the safety standards set by Tepco were too low.

Efforts to cool fuel rods at the four reactors have been hindered by detection of radiation levels that can prove fatal for a person exposed for several hours.

Japanese authorities rated the Fukushima accident a 5 on the International Atomic Energy Agency’s 7-step scale for nuclear incidents, under which each extra point represents a tenfold increase in seriousness.

At Pennsylvania’s Three Mile Island in 1979, one reactor partially melted in the worst U.S. accident, earning a 5 rating.

Its $973 million repair and cleanup took almost 12 years to complete, according to a report on the World Nuclear Association’s website. More than 1,000 workers were involved in designing and conducting the cleanup operation, the report said.

Ukraine is unable to fund alone the cost of a new sarcophagus to cover the burned out reactor at Chernobyl, scheduled to be in place by 2014.

The 110 meter-high arched containment structure has a 1.55 billion euro ($2.2 billion) total price tag and the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has so far raised about 65 percent of that.

The Fukushima reactors may take about three decades to decommission, based on Japan’s sole attempt to dismantle a commercial reactor, said Murakami of the Institute of Energy Economics.

Japan Atomic Power Co. began decommissioning a 166-megawatt reactor at Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, in 1998 after the unit had completed 32 years of operations, according to documents posted on the company’s website.

The project will be completed by March 2021, or after 23 years of work, and cost ¥88.5 billion, the documents show.

Japan Atomic Power took three years through June 2001 to stabilize and remove nuclear fuels from the reactor core.


For reporting on the Fukushima plant radioactivity zone – please see: 

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