Monthly Archives: May 2013

Greenfield’s sister city, Kawauchi, Japan.

Last night Chikako Nishiyama spoke in Greenfield. MA about her town of Kawauchi, with 2,300 residents,  about fifteen miles from the Fukushima accident.   She reported that there was much confusion at he beginning, with the government assuring everyone that there was no danger.   She became suspicious when she saw trucks doing radiation monitoring.  After several days her town was told to evacuate.   They were sent to one of the few large cities that had the capacity to hold refuges in a large civic center.  It turned out that the city they moved to had more radiation than the town that they had left.  After a year they were encourage to return.   What impressed my wife most was  a photo which Chikako  showed of evening primrose growing in the back yard.   Unlike its usual knee high form, it was now shoulder high.   Altered by radiation? They have changed the standards of acceptable radiation exposure so that many places that were regarded as unsafe are now regarded as being safe.  The medical experts are  telling people that worrying about radiation is more destructive than the radiation itself.   The disaster is being managed by the government and the officials from TEPCO to minimize liability.   The places are now deemed safe and there is no need for evacuation or compensation.   Without government authorization of evacuation the people are on their own personably responsible for the losses of home, land, and security.  The type of people who are working for the government and TEPCO are very much like the people who work for the NRC and Vermont Yankee.

It was clear to the audience listening that the problems of Kawauchi would be the same in Greenfield if there were a major accident at Vermont Yankee.

In other news this mistreatment of the people is regarded as a human rights violation.

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Uranium processing company may be for sale

The New York Times reports that Urenco, the British state owned company is thinking of getting out of the uranium enrichment business.

Analysts estimate Urenco’s market value at about 10 billion euros. For all that momentum, though, the company is at a crossroads. Growth may flatten in the next couple of years, executives say, mainly because Japan — a major user of nuclear power until the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster — has shut down its reactors, taking about 10 percent of the world’s nuclear energy generating capacity offline. And the Japanese have stockpiled substantial amounts of fuel for the day, if ever, that those reactors go back into operation…..

“Nuclear strategies have changed,” said Michael Kruse, a consultant on nuclear issues for the management consultant Arthur D. Little in Frankfurt. “Governments no longer think they need to be in this business,” he said, “and utilities in several countries want out after Fukushima.”

Some countries are getting out of the nuclear business.   Other countries, like the US and Japan, see their futures tied to nuclear power.

Tepco stock report 5/28/13

In a report in Bloomberg news TEPCO shares lost value because of possible future compensation claims.   The report goes on to say that compensation costs may excede $100 billion.  TEPCO may be unable to pay this much.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501) led a plunge in Japanese utility shares after an upper house committee approved a bill to allow more compensation claims against the operator of the crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactor.

Tokyo Electric, known as Tepco, fell 6 percent to close at 612 yen on the Tokyo Stock Exchange, the lowest since May 15. Japan’s upper house committee earlier approved a bill to allow those affected by the March 2011 disaster to seek compensation even after the expiry of a three-year statutory period, a spokesman at the parliament said, confirming a Kyodo News report.

Tepco faces more than 11 trillion yen ($108 billion) in estimated costs, including compensation payments, after the quake and tsunami two years ago caused three meltdowns and radiation leaks, forcing about 160,000 people to evacuate. Tepco had paid more than 2.2 trillion yen in compensation by the end of April, it said last month.

Even with today’s decline, the stock has risen almost threefold this year, the best performer among the 82 securities in the MSCI World/Utilities Index. Four other regional power companies from Japan are also among the best-performing utilities on the index this year.

So far 160,000 have lost their homes.   The government seems ready to continue supporting nuclear power.

Fukushima 5/28/13: crooks high, and crooks low

In a recent report in the Japan Times the author reports that for the people in power the most important point is to keep the nuclear dance with death continuing:

The election of the pro-nuclear Liberal Democratic Party to power in December 2012 was not about energy policy, but has revived prospects for the nuclear village; citizens may favor phasing out nuclear energy, but they will not get to decide. Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi tie-ups with General Electric, Westinghouse and Areva mean that Japan stands at the nexus of the global nuclear-energy industry. The recent award of a $22 billion contract by Turkey to a Japanese-led consortium indicates how high the stakes are, explaining why domestic firms’ nuclear-policy preferences are fully reflected in government policy.

If Japan terminated nuclear power, the pain would extend beyond the utilities and vendors; lenders and investors, including Japan’s major banks and insurance firms, would also face huge losses. Pulling the plug on nuclear power could also drive some of Japan’s 10 utilities into insolvency. In addition, there have been strident voices from the political right calling for the retention of nuclear energy because it leaves available the nuclear-weapons option. Washington, too, has warned Tokyo that phasing out nuclear energy would harm bilateral relations because it would raise concerns about Japan’s large stockpiles of plutonium and uncomfortable questions about the consistency of U.S. nuclear non-proliferation efforts targeting Iran and North Korea.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the cleanup,  a report on Rocket News says that workers are being paid about $10 daily:

Despite being able to rent lodging facilities from the government and others for free or for very little money, contractors forcibly deduct inflated accommodation and meal charges from workers’ pay. When the 10,000 yen (US$111) a day “danger pay” provided to contractors by the government (read: taxpayers) is taken into consideration, it means the contractors themselves end up forking out a measly 1,000 yen (US$11) a day per worker.

According to another report also on Rocket News:

According to a book recently published by Tomohiko Suzuki, a freelance journalist who went undercover as a laborer at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant for two months this year, people who were unable to repay loans from yakuza gangs were forced to work at the site as a means of repaying their debts.

At the highest levels, the corporate powers are committed to continuing nuclear power as  long as it is profitable, and turning the problem over to government if it becomes unprofitable.  At the lowest level, the workers who are trying to decontaminate the environment are being taken advantage of by the corporate system of subcontracting the work out, paying for others to take the health risks.

Fukushima disaster, worker shortage, May 2013

The Fukushima disaster continues to unfold.   A recent report in the Washington Post  states that there is a shortage of labor to do the decommissioning work.   Some workers have reached their threshold of radioactive exposure, others are being lured away by better paying safer jobs. The report goes on to say:

During the first quarter of this year, only 321 jobs got filled from 2,124 openings in decontamination, which involves scraping soil, gathering foliage and scrubbing walls to bring down radiation levels.

Under the worst scenario, experienced workers capable of supervising the work will be gone as they reach their radiation-exposure limits, said Kino.

According to Watanabe, a nuclear worker generally earns about 10,000 yen ($100) a day. In contrast, decontamination work outside the plant, generally involving less exposure to radiation, is paid for by the environment ministry, and with bonuses for working a job officially categorized as dangerous, totals about 16,000 yen ($160) a day, he said.

There is too much radioactive water, no place to store the water, and the people with the experience are beginning to leave the plant for a variety of issues.  The unsolvable problems are accumulating with time.

 

Plowshares now and nuclear weapons

There is currently a trial going on in Knoxville, TN, about a three activists who broke into the repository of nuclear weapons.   There is an excellent account of their caper in the Washington Post.

Three peace activists endangered U.S. national security last year when they breached a secure facility where enriched uranium for nuclear bombs is stored, a federal official testified on Tuesday at their trial on charges of sabotage and destruction of federal property.

Steven Erhart, site manager for the heavily guarded Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, said the break-in by an 83-year-old nun and two others resulted in a 15-day shutdown that disrupted operations at one of the primary manufacturing facilities for the U.S. nuclear weapons program.

They walked into this super-secure facility,  cut fences, and entered the “shoot to kill” zone.   The alarms went off, and the security systems and people  failed to respond.  The only person fired was the security officier who finally found them.  He recognized them as elderly pacifists, and apparently failed to shoot them on sight.  The national security state wants to punish these trespassers.  They should be thanked for exposing the weakness of the security at this site.

Attack on Iran nuclear facilities

There are often reports in the news of the dangers of Iran developing nuclear weapons  and the need to stop this development,  either with  diplomacy or by military means if necessary.  A report states that this would be an unmitigated disaster.   There are frequent dust storms, blowing dust from Iran to the southwest, namely Saud Arabia and Israel. Image

If these reactors were attacked, it would disperse radioactivity into the air, in a disaster on a level with Chernobyl or Fukushima. Israel has consistently lied about their nuclear capacity; they are thought to have about 500 illegal nuclear weapons.  It is one of four nuclear-armed countries not recognized as a Nuclear Weapons State by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the others being IndiaPakistanand North Korea.