EDITORIAL: 8 years after disaster, Japan must commit to a nuke-free future. When I visited the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in early February, I found that 96 percent of the plant grounds are now designated as “green zones.” You can enter a green zone in normal work clothes without wearing special gear for protection against radiation. In these areas, radiation levels have declined significantly due to measures including removing debris, cutting down plants and covering the soil with mortar. Areas between the No. 2 and No. 3 reactor buildings are also green zones, and I could enter the areas in everyday clothes, wearing just an ordinary disposable mask. It was a dramatic change from several years ago, when I was restricted to seeing the facilities from the inside of a vehicle even though I was wearing a full-body radiation suit. There are, however, still many gloomy vestiges of the nuclear devastation that occurred at this plant in March 2011. The concrete walls of the No. 3 reactor building were blown off by hydrogen explosions and numerous iron reinforcing rods, violently bent and sticking out of the remnants of the walls, are visible. The outer walls of buildings remain colored a vivid green because of residues of an anti-scattering agent sprayed around immediately after the accident began to unfold to prevent radioactive materials from spreading. Massive amounts of melted nuclear fuel debris remain in the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant, recently succeeded in using a remotely controlled probe to make the first physical contact with debris inside the containment vessel of the No. 2 reactor. But it is still unclear whether all the debris will be eventually removed. The plant is generating a rapidly increasing amount of radiation-contaminated water as the reactors are being flooded to cool the cores and underground water keeps pouring in. Even after being treated with a filtering system, the polluted water still contains tritium, a radioactive form of hydrogen, and has to be stored in on-site tanks. The number of the storage tanks filled with contaminated water and placed within the premises has kept growing and is now approaching 1,000. Obviously, a long, rocky road lies ahead for the work to decommission the reactors. Following the Fukushima disaster, it has been decided that a total of 21 reactors, mostly units that have been in service for decades, will be decommissioned. But this does not mean that Japan is moving toward a nuclear-free future. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration has continued to maintain that nuclear power is an “important core power source” even though it has pledged to lower Japan’s dependence on atomic power “as much as possible.” Scrapping the nuclear fuel recycling program would save the government the enormous amount of additional funds needed to operate and upgrade the Rokkasho reprocessing plant. Pursuing a goal of zero nuclear power is not an irresponsible policy. The Abe administration has taken an irresponsible stance toward the issue by allowing the opposition-drafted bill to phase out nuclear power generation to gather dust on the Diet shelf for as long as one year and permitting off-line reactors to be restarted one by one without serious debate on the steps. It is the responsibility of political leaders to make the decision to phase out nuclear power generation and lay out a clear vision for the nuclear-free energy future of this nation.
Asahi Shimbun 12th March 2019 read more »
Lawyers for three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc called for their acquittal over the Fukushima nuclear crisis that erupted in 2011 in their final defense plea on Tuesday. The defense team said it was impossible for them to foresee the massive tsunami that engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi power plant and caused core meltdowns following a massive earthquake in northeastern Japan. A day after Japan marked the eighth anniversary of the March 11, 2011 disasters, the lawyers for Tsunehisa Katsumata, 78, TEPCO chairman at the time, and Ichiro Takekuro, 72, and Sakae Muto, 68, both former vice presidents, told the Tokyo District Court they “do not recognize any predictability in the disaster.” In concluding the trial, the court said it will hand down a ruling on Sept 19.
Japan Today 13th March 2019 read more »