Japan’s prime minister at the time of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami has revealed that the country came within a “paper-thin margin” of a nuclear disaster requiring the evacuation of 50 million people. In an interview with The Telegraph to mark the fifth anniversary of the tragedy, Naoto Kan described the panic and disarray at the highest levels of the Japanese government as it fought to control multiple meltdowns at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station. He said he considered evacuating the capital, Tokyo, along with all other areas within 160 miles of the plant, and declaring martial law. “The future existence of Japan as a whole was at stake,” he said. “Something on that scale, an evacuation of 50 million, it would have been like a losing a huge war.”
Telegraph 4th March 2016 read more »
Shaun Burnie: The decision this week to indict executives of Japan’s largest energy utility, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), for their failure to prevent the meltdown of three reactors at Fukushima Daiichi is a major step forward for the people of Japan. The fact that this criminal prosecution is taking place at all is a vindication for the thousands of citizens and their dedicated lawyers who are challenging the nation’s largest power company and the establishment system. It is a devastating blow to the obsessively pro-nuclear Abe government, which is truly fearful of the effects the trial will have on nuclear policy and public opinion over the coming years. For the eight other nuclear power companies in Japan, including their executives, the signal is clear – ignore nuclear safety and there is every prospect that when the next nuclear accident happens at your plant you will end up in court. For an industry that disregarded safety violations and falsified inspection results through its entire existence, the prosecution of TEPCO will be shocking. Nuclear power is a financial disaster which will only get worse as the electricity market opens to new suppliers and renewable energies out-price them. And the vast majority in Japan realize this: 60 percent of Japanese are opposed to the phase-in of nuclear, and there are more than 300 lawyers fighting reactor by reactor to prevent restart on behalf of citizens. At this rate, the Abe government and the nuclear industry will never see the target of 35 reactors restarted by 2030. The criminal prosecution of TEPCO, long in coming, is another step in the process to end nuclear power in Japan and for a transformation of its energy system to renewables.
The Diplomat 4th March 2016 read more »
Mutations and DNA changes caused by the Fukushima nuclear crisis are starting to be seen in surrounding forests, warn campaigners Greenpeace has warned the environmental impact of the Fukushima nuclear crisis five years ago on nearby forests is just beginning to be seen and will remain a source of contamination for years to come. As the fifth anniversary of the disaster approaches, Greenpeace said signs of mutations in trees and DNA-damaged worms were beginning to appear, while ‘vast stocks of radiation’ mean that forests cannot be decontaminated. In a report, Greenpeace cited ‘apparent increases in growth mutations of fir trees… heritable mutations in pale blue grass butterfly populations’ as well as ‘DNA-damaged worms in highly contaminated areas’, it said. The report came as the government intends to lift many evacuation orders in villages around the Fukushima plant by March 2017, if its massive decontamination effort progresses as it hopes. For now, only residential areas are being cleaned in the short-term, and the worst-hit parts of the countryside are being omitted, a recommendation made by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Daily Mail 4th March 2016 read more »
Five years after the 11 March 2011 Fukushima accident, which put Japan’s nuclear power industry under intense scrutiny, official policy is still a shambles. In June 2011, the then prime minister Naoto Kan announced that Japan was phasing out nuclear power in the long run only to backtrack a few days later. Current Prime Minster Shinzo Abe announced a restart of all reactors within three years in his 2013 New Year’s Address. But after prolonged energy policy deliberations a new Basic Energy Plan published in 2014 still failed, for the first time ever, to include numerical targets for Japan’s future energy mix. A look at the reactors that have submitted safety review applications reveal that the future profitability of the plant is a major consideration for operators. There is a clear trend toward submitting applications for younger reactors with a large generation capacity — in other words, those that exhibit the highest chance of generating enough profit in the future to make the necessary investments worthwhile. It is questionable whether the same utilities will submit safety review applications for older and generally smaller reactors, which require more updates and have a shorter remaining life span. It is also unlikely that review applications will be submitted for the four reactors at Fukushima Daini as it lies within the 20 kilometre exclusion zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant. If Japan is to meet its goal of generating 20–22 per cent of its power through nuclear energy by 2030 it needs to reopen 30 reactors. So far only 25 reactor review applications have been submitted to the NRA. In terms of power generation capacity, the 25 reactors currently under review amount to about half of the installed capacity available prior to the Fukushima accident. Five years after the Fukushima accident, and three years after Prime Minister Abe announced a restart of all reactors, Japanese nuclear power policy is still in a state of disarray.
East Asia Forum 3rd March 2016 read more »