Nuclear safety – Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida

Nuclear safety - Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida

“Japan needs to prepare fourth level and fifth level defense-in-depth to nuclear accidents”

Governor Hirohiko Izumida: “Nuclear power operating companies should have their headquarters at the nuclear power plant in order to immediately take responsibility and respond.”

Governor Hirohiko Izumida (泉田裕彦) is elected by the 2.3 million people of Niigata Prefecture to be responsible for their lives, safety and assets. The world’s largest nuclear power plant, Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station (柏崎刈羽原子力発電所) with seven reactors and 8 GigaWatt power, is located in Niigata Prefecture, but as all other nuclear power stations in Japan, it is currently switched off.

On October 15, 2014, Governor Izumida in his official role, explained a long list of detailed safety concerns, and a list of necessary changes in legislation and emergency command regulations in order to ensure nuclear safety. These safety concerns include the reduced responsibilities of the new Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which limits its responsibility to technical issues, and shies away from the broader issues of nuclear accident management, in particular, IAEA’s fourth level and fifth level of defense-in-depth. Governor Izumida demands a full investigation of the Fukushima nuclear disaster which should address who is responsible, and in particular also why the knowledge of the meltdown was hidden for more than two months.

Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida’s safety concerns – overview:

  1. Safety concerns regarding the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)
    1. the Fukushima accident was not yet sufficiently investigated or reviewed
    2. shrinking jurisdiction of the NRC. Regulatory safety standards have been reduced to performance standards. NRC have reduced their actual work.
    3. insufficient support for IAEA “defense-in-depth”. No provision at all for IAEA fifth level, and insufficient provision for IAEA fourth level response
    4. insufficient support for municipalities
  2. Safety concerns regarding nuclear accident preparations
    1. no meltdown countermeasures
    2. decision making during crisis, e.g. seawater flooding of a reactor in risk of meltdown. Salarymen including Presidents of companies are not equipped for such serious decisions during crisis.
    3. emergency response under high radiation. Revision of labor laws is necessary. Immediate response team needs to be created.
  3. Safety concerns regarding evacuation policies
    1. unification of legal systems: natural disaster response and nuclear disaster response needs to be integrated, and two-tiered command structure needs to be unified
    2. decisions of nuclear disaster response needs to be reformed
    3. insufficient response for sheltering in place when evacuation is impossible
    4. current regulations for the distribution of Iodine tablets are impossible to implement. Need for realistic regulations which can actually be implemented in case of disaster.
    5. Disaster response under high radiation levels: reform of labor laws necessary. Need to clarify hierarchy and issue of orders during emergency. Must review laws for command structure, responsibility and compensation.
    6. Other concerns: screening and decontamination, safety of assets in evacuation areas, nuclear disaster prevention system.
  4. Safety concerns regarding TEPCO
    1. Inadequate investigation and review. No one has taken responsibility for the Fukushima accident. TEPCO has not explained who was responsible for the 2 months delay in acknowledging the meltdown.
    2. Economic issues are given priority over safety. TEPCO should have their headquarters at the nuclear power station in order to immediately take responsibility and respond.

Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station (柏崎刈羽原子力発電所)

Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station (柏崎刈羽原子力発電所) is the world’s largest nuclear power station, and consists of 7 reactors with a total capacity of about 8 GigaWatt. It began operations in September 1985.

Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station is located about 220km from Tokyo, in Niigata-ken in the village Kariwa (刈羽村) near the town Kashiwazaki (柏崎市), and about 80km from the Niigata Prefecture capital Niigata-shi. Niigata Prefecture has about 2.3 million population.

At the time of this article, the Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station, as all other Japanese nuclear power stations, is completely switched off, and the time of a potential restart of any of its seven reactors is unclear.

The Heisei 19 (2007) Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake” (平成19年新潟県中越沖地震)

The Heisei 19 (2007) Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake” (平成19年新潟県中越沖地震) (Niigata Prefecture Government record for the 2007 Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake) took place on July 16, 2007 at 10:13am of magnitude 6 on the Japanese Shindo-Scale, and caused fires and a number of other worrying defects at Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station.

Lessons learnt and implemented from the fires and other defects caused by the 2007 Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station

Hirohiko Izumida was Governor of Niigata at the time of the 2007 Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake on July 16, 2007. The Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station was about 20km from the epicenter, the ground at the Nuclear Power station dropped about 1.5 Meters leading to a fire of the transformer at the nuclear reactor Unit 3.

Due to the damage caused by the earthquake, Niigata Prefecture Government had no communication link to the Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station, all we could do was to follow the fire on public television. There had been a hotline, but it was not secure, and because of the dropped land, the entrance door to the building containing the hotline connection became warped and the hotline became unaccessible at the nuclear power station.

Land dropped by 1.5 meters and distorted pipes which caused the fire. We are concerned that similar damage could render the venting tubes dysfunctional.

Governor Izumida insisted that a seismically secure communications building and hotline should be built at Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Station and also at other nuclear power stations including the Fukushima Nuclear Power stations.

We requested TEPCO very strongly to build a secure building for a secure hotline between the Nuclear Power Station and the Prefectural Government Office. Initially, TEPCO rejected this request, because at that time such a hotline was not required by regulations, and Governor Izumida was told that it should be sufficient to use mobile phones for emergency communications (note that Japan’s mobile phone networks were largely out of service for several days after the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake).

Governor Izumida insisted that a seismically isolated building for a hotline and a secure hotline be built, and because of the strong instance this hotline was built. Governor Izumida also insisted that the same type of secure communications buildings and hotlines should be built at other nuclear power stations including Fukushima Dai Ichi. The secure communications building and hotline at Fukushima Dai Ichi was only completed 8 months before the March 11, 2011 earthquake.

Governor Izumida feels, that if he had not insisted on the construction of secure communications buildings and hotlines at Fukushima and Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power stations, there might be no-one living in Tokyo today.

Governor Izumida demands improvement of fire fighting infrastructure at nuclear power stations.

At the 2007 Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake the underground emergency water supply lines were destroyed, and the fire fighting forces could not help and had to leave the nuclear power plant. We insisted on improvements of the fire fighting infrastructure.

Governor Izumida has grave concerns on the current work of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)

We have grave concerns on the Nuclear Regulatory System today, as the Fukushima accident has not yet been fully investigated. Therefore it is not yet possible to draw all necessary lessons from the Fukushima disaster for the necessary new nuclear regulatory system.

We believe that the current Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is shrinking its responsibility: we believe that the current Chairman Tanaka of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is restricting his responsibility to a narrow range of technical issues, and withdrawing from his responsibilities for the wider safety issues.

The law says, that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission “must ensure the safety of the usage of nuclear power”. Governor Izumida thinks that the current commission and it’s Chairman Tanaka is not fulfilling this obligation to ensure the overall safety, and instead focuses only on a limited range of technical issues.

Insufficient support for “defense-in-depth” recommended by the IAEA: NRC does not take responsibility for the Fifth Level of IAEA defense-in-depth

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recommends a system of “defense-in-depth“, which includes mitigation of nuclear accidents in different levels.

IAEA levels of defense-in-depth:

  1. First level: Prevention of abnormal operation and failures
  2. Second level: Control of abnormal operation and detection of failures
  3. Third level: Control of accidents within the design basis
  4. Fourth level: Control of severe plant conditions including prevention of accident progression and mitigation of severe accident consequences
  5. Fifth level: Mitigation of radiological consequences of significant off-site releases of radioactive materials

Fifth Level response is absent – NRC needs to build fifth level response

Governor Izumida: The current Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Commission essentially does not take any responsibility at all for the fifth level of the response in depth recommended by the IAEA, and in case of the Fourth Level

Fourth Level response is insufficient – NRC needs to expand fourth level response

Governor Izumida: the current Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Commission restricts its responsibilities to hardware issues and does not touch on operations.

Insufficient support for municipalities

The communication between Japanese Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the local authorities is totally inadequate, basically the NRC does not listen to us directly, although we – the local Government authorities – have to take care of the local population when an accident occurs.

Insufficient preparations for the case of a nuclear accident

Other countries are taking very detailed preparations for the case of nuclear accidents or melt-downs: for example European countries are requiring core catchers, and the US has centralized response forces. Governor Izumida feels that in Japan preparations are totally insufficient and need to be much improved.

“Salarymen” employees, including company Presidents, in case of a melt-down are not equipped to take necessary decisions for example to inject sea water for cooling, which is certain to destroy a US$ 5 billion investment

Current decision making processes and legal frameworks are totally insufficient for the case of nuclear accidents.

To be specific, at the time of the Fukushima Nuclear disaster on March 14th – 15th, TEPCO employees could not make the necessary decision quickly enough to pump seawater into the Fukushima nuclear power station.

“Salarymen” employees, even if they are Presidents of companies, are not equipped to take decisions which destroy equipment which represents US$ 5 billion (YEN 500 billion) investment, as injecting seawater for cooling as in the case of Fukushima Dai Ichi. We need regulations to take necessary decisions quickly.

A further problem is that when private company employees work at the nuclear accident location, they are governed by the common labor laws, so they cannot be forced to work at dangerous high-radiation locations. This also needs to be solved.

Command structure currently leads to confusion in case of nuclear accidents

With the current legal framework in Japan, in the case of a natural disaster, the State Minister in charge of disaster prevention sets up Disaster Headquarters.

In the case of a nuclear disaster however, the Head of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency sets up its own Disaster Headquarters. So if we have a natural disaster and a nuclear disaster concurrently, as in the case of Fukushima, we have two competing Disaster Headquarters, which leads to great confusion.

In the case of natural disasters, the local authorities can issues evacuation orders. However, in the case of a nuclear disaster, the Prime Minister gives the evacuation orders – again a reason for inconsistencies and confusion.

Also the provisions for people who cannot evacuate for health or other reasons is inadequate.

Many current regulatory provisions are impossible to implement

As an example, according to the standards by the NRC for nuclear accidents, the population within a 5km – 30km radius needs to be sheltered in-doors, in the case of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa this population is about 440,000 people. According to current regulations, Iodine tablets need to be distributed after the accident occurs. If venting becomes necessary 8 1/2 hours after the accident, this means that current regulation requires that Iodine tablets must be distributed to 440,000 people within 8 1/2 hours. The medical association tells us that it is impossible to distribute Iodine tablets to 440,000 people within 8 1/2 hours.

It is one thing to create regulations on paper, but Governor Izumida asks the NRC to create regulations which can actually be implemented.


Q: How can the NRC reduce its responsibilities by itself, while these responsibilities are surely fixed by the relevant laws?
A: The law says very clearly that the NRC is responsible for ensuring the safety of nuclear power. I feel that the Chairman of the NRC Tanaka is reluctant to meet with the local authorities, and I think only recently has he started to talk to TEPCO, probably following pressure. Mr Tanaka is a teacher, a Professor of nuclear technology, so I believe that he is focusing to much on the technical issues, focusing on the nuclear technology, and that he neglects the wider issues of safeguarding the lives and assets of the people.

Q: What you are saying sounds very obvious and common sense. Why does nobody else except you speak out clearly about these issues?
A: I think there are two reasons:
1. I had first hand experience as Governor of the 2007 fire at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station caused by the 2007 Chuetsu Offshore earthquake,
2. As Governor of Niigata I was deeply involved from the beginning in the Fukushima Dai Ichi nuclear accident, I heard all the communication and information from the Fukushima nuclear power station, the Government and TEPCO and experts.
Therefore I have direct experience with nuclear accidents, and know which developments are likely to happen. I can imagine which sequence of events are likely to occur as a consequence of nuclear accidents. Therefore I can speak with confidence.

I should also say that some of the points raised are not just points raised by Niigata Prefecture. There is an Organization of Governors of those Prefectures where nuclear power stations are located. Many of the points I have raised are shared by all Governors of Prefectures with nuclear power stations. No-one in this
organizations has raised objections to the points I am raising.

Q: NRC Chairman Tanaka says that Japan now has the world’s strictest safety regulations. Is this true?
A: I am the Governor of Niigata Prefecture, therefore all my statements refer primarily to the safety of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Station in my prefecture.

The new Nuclear Safety Standards of Japan do not include any provisions at all regarding the fifth level of the “defense-in-depth” recommendations of the IAEA, and in case of the fourth level they do not go deep enough at all. Therefore my conclusion is that Japan’s new Nuclear Safety Standards are not the strongest in the world.

Q: Do you think that concerns about nuclear accident mitigation plans and evacuations plans are holding back the restart of nuclear power plants in Japan?
A: My primary mission as Governor is to safeguard the safety, lives and assets of the citizens of our Prefecture. TEPCO knew from very early on that a nuclear meltdown occurred at Fukushima Dai Ichi, yet TEPCO hid this fact for more than two months. If an organization does not reveal the information about something that serious we cannot make any reasonable evacuation plans. To make evacuation plans we need to have reliable information about the actual situation. We have to ask the question whether an organization that hides the truth can even have the right to operate a nuclear power plant.
The first step needs to be to thoroughly investigate the Fukushima Disaster and to determine where the responsibilities lie. Before we have such an investigation we cannot even think about restarting nuclear power plants.

Q: Don’t you think that nuclear power has any positive points? Are you saying there are zero benefits in operating nuclear power stations?
A: My responsibility as Governor of Niigata is for the safety and lives of the citizens of Niigata, and I am speaking in my official capacity as Governor of Niigata. Therefore all my comments about restarts are limited to Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station and TEPCO. It is not my responsibility to talk about the general issues of what Japan as a country should do about nuclear power.
Regarding Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power stations and TEPCO my position is very very clear.
However, regarding TEPCO, TEPCO hid the crucial information of the nuclear meltdown for two months. My question is whether such an organization has the right to operate nuclear power stations at all. Before this question is not addressed, I cannot enter into any discussions about restarting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station.

Q: Don’t you think seven nuclear reactors in one location are too many? In Germany only two reactors are permitted at one location.
A: This question has also been raised by our population. However among experts we hear differing opinions. We need to look not only at technical issues, but also at management structures. Therefore at our Prefectural Government we have formed a committee of experts and we are investigating this and other safety questions in detail.

Hirohiko Izumida, Governor of Niigata Prefecture talks about nuclear safety – watch on YouTube:

Hirohiko Izumida, Governor of Niigata Prefecture

Nuclear safety - Governor of Niigata Prefecture Hirohiko Izumida comments on his experience with the world's largest nuclear power plant Kashiwazaki-Kariwa
Nuclear safety – Governor of Niigata Prefecture Hirohiko Izumida comments on his experience with the world’s largest nuclear power plant Kashiwazaki-Kariwa

Hirohiko Izumida (泉田裕彦) is the elected Governor of Niigata-Prefecture, elected by the people of Niigata. He assumed office on October 25, 2004, two days after the Niigata Chuetsu Earthquake.
Governor Izumida was born on September 15, 1962 in Kamo, Niigata Prefecture
March 1987, graduated from the Law Department of Kyoto University.
April 1987, entered Ministry of Economics and Industry METI, energy resources bureau
June 1994, visiting researcher at the University of British Columbia.
June 1998, Prime Minister’s Office
July 2001, Land and Transportation Ministry
November 2003, Head of the Gifu Prefecture Industrial Labor Bureau
October 2004, elected Governor of Niigata Prefecture

Copyright (c) 2014 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Shuji Nakamura: did he invent the blue GaN LED alone and other questions. An Interview.

Shuji Nakamura at the Ludwig Boltzmann Forum

Interview for the Chinese Newspaper Southern Weekly about Shuji Nakamura

The Chinese Newspaper Southern Weekly interviewed me about Shuji Nakamura’s invention of the blue LED and the background to his Nobel Prize. Here some of my answers.

Read the article in Southern Weekly in Chinese language here: 【2014诺贝尔·科学】无人相信的发明

Shuji Nakamura: when he first announced his breakthrough, most people just did not believe him initially. But you are an exception. What made you believe in Dr Nakamura?

At the time when I first heard Shuji Nakamura’s results around 1992 – long before Bob Johnstone hear about these results (Bob Johnston is a friend of mine, and I know him for a long time – but Bob Johnstone is a journalist, I am a Physicist) I had worked about 18 years in physics research, at many of the best research labs in the world. So I had at that time already a very long experience in research. When I heard Shuji Nakamura’s talk at the Physics Conference in Nagoya, I could immediately judge from his talk that this was a very very important result. So I visited Shuji Nakamura at his laboratory at the company Nichia in Anan several times for discussions, he gave me copies of his papers and patents and I studied his research papers and his patents, and he also showed me the blue LEDs so I could see for myself. I had worked a long time in this field already, so I could understand that his work was true, and I could also see the working blue LEDs with my own eyes. Such blue LEDs did not exist before, so it was clear that he had succeeded in this breakthrough.

At that time I knew almost all research groups in the world working on blue LEDs, at IBM, Hitachi, SONY, and many University labs and national labs globally, and I knew the status of their research. It was obvious that Shuji Nakamura had won this race.

It is true that many people did not believe his results initially. That was because these people did not make the same effort that I made to visit Shuji Nakamura and study his results.

For example, I send a report about Shuji Nakamura’s breakthrough to the German Physical Society member’s journal for publication, and the Editor rejected my article initially, because he showed this report to German Professors in this field. They had not heard about Shuji Nakamura’s work, so they had never heard about this blue LED breakthrough and were working in their own labs on II-VI compounds which was a dead end. Because they considered themselves as the top experts in the field they rejected my report on Shuji Nakamura’s work.

I told the Editor that I am right, and the German experts are wrong, the Editor believed me and printed my report about Shuji Nakamura’s work. You can read this report online here (in German language):

Some researchers question whether Dr Nakamura made the blue LED on his own. Why do people criticise his achievement and what is the truth? Do these rumors continue after the Nobel Prize was announced?

Every researcher “stands on the shoulder of giants”, of course now work is done in total isolation, and always rests on some previous results. Even Einstein, who did not read many scientific papers and worked out many results on his own from zero point, of course used many results of others.

Therefore Shuji Nakamura’s work of course relied on the hard work of many other researchers before him. For example he used the production technology called MOCVD (Metal Organic Chemical Vapor Deposition), which he learned in Professor Ramaswamy’s group at the University of Florida (Professor Ramaswamy was working in the office next to mine at Tokyo University for about 1 year, so I know him also very well). Shuji Nakamura also could read the published part of Professor Akasaki and Professor Amano’s excellent results on GaN compounds – Professor Akasaki and Amano’s work were also awarded the Nobel Prize at the same time as Shuji Nakamura.

Shuji Nakamura could not have done his work without the support of the Founder and Chairman at that time of the company Nichia, Mr. Nobuo Ogawa. Shuji Nakamura introduced me to his Chairman Mr Nobuo Ogawa and I had lunch with him several times and discussed how he supported Shuji Nakamura’s work financially and as the leader of Nichia. Mr Nobuo Ogawa at that time owned about 1/3 of the company Nichia, so he could take major decisions such as supporting Shuji Nakamura.

I believe that at Nichia there are two people without whom this work would not have happened:

  1. Chairman Nobuo Ogawa and
  2. Shuji Nakamura

Neither could have done the work alone, and both together were necessary to achieve this
breakthrough at Nichia. Also, when Shuji Nakamura went to Mr Nobuo Ogawa and proposed to work towards the discovery of blue GaN LEDs, at that time, Shuji Nakamura did not have a PhD, and no great research success stories behind him, although he has done successful development of red LEDs, but which were not commercially successful. Without a PhD I think there would have been almost no one except Mr Nobuo Ogawa who would have supported Shuji Nakamura’s proposal, certainly no large corporation, government supported research agency, or University, and without a PhD he would have had zero chance to win a peer-reviewed research grant from large research agencies.

Unfortunately Mr Nobuo Ogawa passed away some years ago, so he cannot enjoy the Nobel Prize celebrations.

Of course at Nichia, Shuji Nakamura could attract a number of very excellent assistant researchers, but it is very clear that Shuji Nakamura was the leader of the Blue LED research at Nichia who was leading a group of assistant researchers who essentially followed his leadership and were doing this work because of him and under Shuji Nakamura’s leadership. I am very convinced that if Shuji Nakamura would not have been working at Nichia, this invention would not have happened at Nichia. This is quite obvious to anyone who understands how science works.

Of course there are some people who envy Shuji Nakamura. Excellent people celebrate Shuji Nakamura’s success and get inspired. Mediocre people spend their time spreading rumors and talking bad about Shuji Nakamura, don’t listen to them. I have heard some of these rumors, and I have checked most of them direct with Shuji Nakamura, and I am convinced that these rumors are wrong.

Maybe some of the people who spread stupid rumors about Shuji Nakamura have failed in their own work, and don’t like someone else succeed?

About the Nobel Prize: The Nobel Prize in Physics is decided by the Nobel Prize in Physics Committee of the Swedish National Academy of Science. When I have worked in Europe, I met some of the members of this committee and I can tell you that they are all very very excellent Physicist. I am convinced that they are doing a very excellent job in checking in great detail how Shuji Nakamura achieved his results, and I am sure they have checked out all these rumors and found that they are untrue.

As a colleague of Dr Nakamura’s, could you describe a little bit about his style in research?

First of all like all excellent researchers Shuji Nakamura is extremely passionate, driven by passion for his work, and he is a maniac, working very very hard. When I was working on the book with Shuji, he was working with me on 30., 31., December, 1st of January all over the New Year period without break, exchanging emails with me in the middle of the night etc.

Secondly he is driven by intuition – he is a genius. Maybe you know that when Shuji studied at the University of Tokushima, the University did not have a Physics Department, so Shuji did not study full Physics but won the Physics Nobel Prize! I am Physicist, I have full Physics University training even to a PhD level, and I can tell you that Shuji has a very deep understanding of Physics, but he has essentially learnt this all by himself! Not through a University Physics degree!

I think his work is very intuitive. He has a very deep understanding of Nature, and follows his intuitions, his feelings, much more than anything he has learnt from the books.

More information:

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Shuji Nakamura, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano win Nobel Prize in Physics 2014 for the blue LED

Shuji Nakamura at the Ludwig Boltzmann Forum

Nobel Prize in Physics 2014 for the blue GaN LED

Shuji Nakamura, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano enabled the global lighting revolution

The Nobel Prize in Physics 2014 was awarded in equal shares to Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano and Shuji Nakamura “for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes which has enabled bright and energy-saving white light sources”.

While red and green LEDs were invented long ago, efficient blue LEDs did not exist until Akasaki’s, Amano’s and Nakamura’s long series of inventions. Blue LEDs are needed to create white light.

The invention of blue GaN based LEDs enables the global lighting revolution. By replacing legacy light bulbs, fluorescent tubes etc by GaN LEDs, a big fraction of the world’s electricity can be saved, and the effect is even bigger in the developing world where still today many people use extremely expensive oil for lighting. Read a detailed analysis of the economics of lighting here.

The mainstream blue-LED scientific community was working on a dead-end: II-VI compounds

Of course the importance of blue LEDs was understood for a long time, and in the 1980s and 1990s all major industrial and University labs were working towards this holy grail – Hitachi, SONY, Philips, IBM, lots of Universities in Europe and US and elsewhere had groups working towards blue LEDs – but they all worked on II-VI compounds, which turned out to be a dead end.

The way much (not all – and thats the way towards Nobel Prize class discoveries) of mainstream established incremental research works, in most established labs, to get peer reviewed grants for research towards blue LEDs in the 1980s, this had to be II-VI work.

It needed strong willed people as Shuji, Akasaki and Amano to take a totally different approach outside the mainstream. Its to the credit of JST and other Japanese funding agencies to have supported Amano and Akasaki’s work. Shuji on the other hand ‘only’ had one person to convince: the owner and founder of Nichia Mr Nobuo Ogawa- and did I say that Shuji did not have a PhD at that time?

Which research agency would give a couple of million $ to a researcher without a PhD but with a big almost unreachable target who still has to learn the methods (MOCVD in this case) to work towards this target – other than Mr Nobuo Ogawa?

Shuji Nakamura actually introduced me to Mr Nobuo Ogawa in Anan (Tokushima-ken), and we had several curry lunches in a restaurant next to Nichia Chemical Industries Headquarters. I asked Nichia-Chairman and Founder Nobuo Ogawa how he decided at the time to fund Shuji Nakamura’s one-year stay at the University of Florida in Professor Ramaswamy’s group to learn MOCVD (by the way Professor Ramaswamy was my office-neighbour when I was Associate Professor on the NTT Telecommunications Chair at Tokyo University), and fund Shuji Nakamura’s work to the tune of many US$ million, which at that time was a large fraction of Nichia’s overall sales.

To my question how Mr Nobuo Ogawa took the decision to support Shuji Nakamura, Mr Nobuo Ogawa simply answered: “How did you chose your wife, Gerhard?”.

Shuji Nakamura, Isamu Akasaki, Hiroshi Amano worked on III-V compounds and achieved the lighting breakthrough

While the mainstream scientific blue-LED community worked with high intensity towards this dead end without knowing that they devoted their lives and their students to a dead-end, Akasaki and Amano over many years painstakingly solved one problem after another to create electronic devices based on the III-V compound semiconductor GaN and its variations.

Shuji Nakamura then built on Akasaki and Amano’s work, solved the three major and many many minor problems remaining to create commercially viable blue LEDs. But the work did not stop there: Shuji Nakamura also created white LEDs, UV LEDs, blue Lasers (e.g. for SONY’s blue-ray DVD players and displays) and a lot more. (read about Shuji Nakamura’s breakthrough work in great technical detail here: The Blue Laser Diode)

Shuji Nakamura, Nichia Kagaku Kougiyou and releasing Japan’s creative power

Shuji Nakamura was also a very diligent writer of patents and wrote a large number of very strong patents. These inventions together with patents propelled his then employer Nichia Kagaku Kougiou from a maker of phosphors (which were used for cathode ray tubes and fluorescent tubes) to one of the most important semiconductor companies. For these inventions, Nichia paid Shuji Nakamura a salary approximately on the level of a Japanese primary school teacher, plus a few US$ 100 bonus for the inventions.

Lets not go into the law suits between Nichia and Shuji Nakamura here, but let me say, that I have never found the complete story explained in the media. Most media reports give a very incomplete picture of the true story of the law suits between Nichia and Shuji Nakamura. – I guess most media just copy from each other in this case…

I noticed Shuji Nakamura’s work first around 1992 at the Japanese Applied Physics Conference in Nagoya, where Shuji gave a talk about his GaN work. I visited Shuji a couple of times in Anan (Tokushima-ken), he introduced me to the founder of Nichia, Mr Nobuo Ogawa, without who’s support Shuji’s work would have been impossible. With Nobuo Ogawa’s death, Shuji decided to move to the USA, to Santa Barbara, where he is working today. Interestingly, when Shuji was looking for a job, he had lots of offers from USA, but none from Europe and none from Japan… Why that?

Shuji developed deep insights about issues holding back Japan, and has shared his advice on many occasions, including also the Ludwig Boltzmann Forum, which I annually organize in Tokyo as a leadership platform. Read about his talk here, where Shuji passionately calls for changes – even a revolution – in Japan, to unshackle Japan’s creative energies.

To learn more about the Blue GaN LEDs and lasers, and their invention:

and of course you can also read Shuji Nakamura’s, Isamu Akasaki’s and Hiroshi Amano’s 100s or even 1000s of original scientific publications.

Shuji Nakamura talking passionately at the Ludwig Boltzmann Forum in Tokyo 2013
Shuji Nakamura talking passionately at the Ludwig Boltzmann Forum in Tokyo 2013

Copyright (c) 2014 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Japan nuclear safety – Dr. Charles “Chuck” Casto’s view and lessons learnt

Japan nuclear safety – Dr. Charles “Chuck” Casto’s view and lessons learnt Dr Charles Casto: the Fukushima disaster changed my life. We cannot let this happen again anywhere in the world.

Dr Charles Casto: the Fukushima disaster changed my life. We cannot let this happen again anywhere in the world.

Dr Charles “Chuck” Casto: leader of the US Government response to the Fukushima Dai Ichi Nuclear disaster

When President Obama expanded the Operation Tomodachi to include the nuclear disaster, Dr. Charles Casto was selected to lead the US Government response.

Read also:

First time, where a first world country assists another first world country in a major crisis

We are very good at providing humanitarian support from first world countries to second or third world countries.

However, it is unprecedented for a first world country to assist another first world country in a crisis of this magnitude. The Fukushima Dai Ichi Nuclear crisis is without doubt the most serious international crisis we ever had in peace time. How do we respond to first world to first world crisis?

How do we respond in a prolonged “nat-tech” (natural – technology) disaster in a first world country?

Need for protocols and frameworks for information flow in case of large scale first world disasters

Dr Casto feels there is a need to establish international protocols and frameworks for information exchange and cooperation in the case of this kind of large scale disasters.

Time lost: It took 10 days until an understanding and a framework for the exchange of information was established

In this case there was much information missing, information was “unknowable”, since the reactors were unaccessible. Big disconnect in the availability of data.

No one engineer had all the information. Sources of information were unfamiliar. It was necessary to go high enough in the administration to understand the situation. It took about 10 days to establish an understanding

Kantai meetings started on March 21st, 2011 – about 10 days after the start of the disaster, until a framework for understanding the disaster was established and a rhythm for the exchange of information.

Speed of the response must be at least as fast as the speed of the accident evolution. Achieving sufficient speed is a challenge for Governments. Governments tend to be too slow.

Five crisis caused the Fukushima Dai Ichi accident:

  1. Earth quake
  2. Tsunami
  3. Nuclear event
  4. Societal crisis
  5. Policy crisis

To understand the Fukushima disaster and in order to solve and to respond it is necessary to analyze all these five crisis.

Fukushima Dai Ichi: A system breakdown, an organizational accident, imbalance of power.

It is necessary to understand the balance of power, the history of how the electricity industry developed over time, and how nuclear industry was established in Japan.

Most expertise rested in the hands of the 9 utilities, giving all power to the utilities. This imbalance of power is a major component of the accident.

Unless all five crisis are addressed and solved, including the societal crisis and the policy crisis, nuclear power is unlikely to start again in Japan.

Need to share responsibility.

Today most power and responsibility is with the regulator. However, it is necessary to share power and responsibility between regulator, Government, and the utilities.

It needs to be clear that the utilities are responsible for safety.

Need for national dialogue on how much risk the people of Japan are willing to accept.

Elected officials need to have a national dialogue to understand which level of risk the people of Japan are willing to accept. Only the people can decide.

The level of acceptable risk needs to be determined by the elected officials in dialogue with the people, that level of acceptable risk needs to be set in law, and then the regulator needs to regulate to this level of acceptable risk. It is not the role of a regulator to determine the level of acceptable risk.

If the national dialogue results in the result that no level of risk is acceptable, then there will be no nuclear power operating.

The Government needs to prove to the people that Fukushima Dai Ichi can be resolved.

The regulator needs to address emergency planning in dialogue with the population.

We cannot permit another accident like Fukushima Dai Ichi happen anywhere else in the world again.

When traveling through the evacuated zone around Fukushima Dai Ichi, it is clear that we cannot ever let such an accident happen anywhere else again in the world.

We have to learn about the science of nuclear energy. I want the Fukushima disaster to be treated in science books – not just in history books. We need to understand the science of nuclear power.

Q & A

Q: Do Mr Yoshida’s notes show that operating a nuclear power plant in emergency is too difficult to handle for humans?
A: We need an incident command system to be bigger than the crisis. Such an accident is too big for one single person. No one single person can have all the knowledge required for such a disaster.

Q: Are six or seven nuclear reactors at one single plant too much for one single plant manager?
A: Dr Casto worked several years on a three unit site. We should treat each reactor individually. We should have six or seven leadership structures for each reactor, and then one overall leader.

Q: Were we lucky that the disaster occurred on a working day, rather than on a weekend?
A: We need a command system that is of sufficient size. If we have more people than this its good, but we cannot have less than the sufficient size to respond to the accident.

Q: Prime Minister Naoto Kan has been under heavy criticism. Do you think if Abe and the LDP would have been in power, that the crisis management would have been better?
A: Without doubt the response would have been different with different leaders in charge. The difference I saw in Japan compared to other countries: in all other countries we have independent Government people at the site of the nuclear power station, who will be at the control room, and work independently for the Government. One of the issues of Prime Minister Kan was, that he did not have any independent source of information, he had to use other organizations, and he felt that he did not have a reliable source of information. It is necessary to flatten the organization. The people at the top need to be able to talk to the people on the location of the accident.

Q: With the reactors being US designed, did US teach Japan enough about disaster response?
A: We need to look at the evolution of nuclear technology and security over the years since the first introduction. In the US a huge amount of regulations was created since the beginning of nuclear power in response to Three-Mile-Island and other accidents. However in USA maybe we have too many layers of regulation now. Adding more and more layers of regulations does not necessarily improve safety.

Q: What could have been the worst case scenario?
A: I believe that after the first week the worst was over, when the water was cooling the cores I thought we had overcome the worst. So after March 15th maybe the worst point was overcome. Also there is not a linear relation between the number of reactors and the created damage. The radiation damage depends on wind, weather and many other factors. Overall I underestimated the severity of the accident initially.

Q: What did Japan do right?
A: Yoshida-san was absolutely right to inject sea water. Injecting sea water was key to mitigating the ultimate outcome of the disaster.

Q: What did Japan do wrong?
A: The isolation of the plant from the outside was wrong. The Fukushima Dai Ichi plant become more and more isolated as the accident progressed, and had to rely on their own resources. McArthur said – most failures in war time can be summed up in two words: “too late”. Not reacting fast enough, and not getting resources to the site in time.

Q: What have we learnt from the Fukushima disaster?
A: We learnt to make plants more resilient. We need the plants to be resilient for 72 hours, so that the national Government has time to bring in additional resources from distant locations.
In the USA we have established FLEX: two locations in the USA with massive amounts of equipment, which can be flown into the site if there is a significant problem. We have checked in advance that the equipment fits into the airplanes and can be transported properly. We need sufficient equipment available, but far enough away, so that it is not destroyed by a disaster at the site, as in the case of Fukushima.

Q: Japan’s Government says that today’s safety regulations are the highest in the world. Do you think this is true?
A: I think this is likely to be true for the technical aspects of the regulations – but I have not checked this in detail. However, the society issues and emergency planning, evacuation plants, sheltering plans are equally important. Maybe technical people are less interested in these societal aspects, but we need the policy and societal side in case the technology side fails. We cannot neglect the society and policy issues (crisis four and five above).

Q: What about the command structure?
A: I think for the initial 10 days the command structure was unclear, but was unified after the first 10 days from March 21st. Then we started the bilateral US-Japan meetings, and that also solidified the command structure.

Q: What do you think about Prime-Minister Naoto Kan’s helicopter visit to Fukushima Dai Ichi?
A: If I was in place of Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who did not feel he got reliable information, if I am the commander and don’t have anyone I trust on the site, I would also go and look.
I talked with Governor Thornberg of Three-Mile-Island: for him the lesson learnt was to “anchor the facts”. He interrogated the facts, and he interrogated the people who brought the facts. “Anchoring the facts” was why he succeeded in the Three-Mile-Island. A major leadership lesson learnt is that you need to understand the facts.

Q: How many experts did US send, and how did they help?
A: US Government brought in 150 US experts, the best 150 people we have in the USA in the nuclear industry, and we had regular meetings of about 30-40 US experts with the Japanese cabinet every day starting with March 21st, 2011.

Q: There are rumors that TEPCO wanted to withdraw completely from Fukushima Dai Ichi?
A: I don’t know the answer, maybe no-one knows. But I am sure there would have been sufficient protection and resources at Fukushima Dai Ichi to deal with the accident. Currently there is an enormous effort with large resources to deal with the accident, and there is much progress.
I believe that Yoshida-san at Fukushima Dai Ichi, and Masuda-san at Fukushima Dai Ni with their teams did an outstanding job given the situation and given the resources they had.

Q: Are you pro-nuclear?
A: I am not pro-nuclear, I am not anti-nuclear. I am pro-safety. Every human activity including nuclear energy has risk. Coal has risk. Gas has risk. The people need to decide what level risk they want to accept. If the people decide they want nuclear power, then I can help to make nuclear power safe.
Direct communication between Government, nuclear plant operator and population is required. In Three-Mile-Island the population found out about the nuclear accident because journalists overheard a walkie-talkie conversation at the plant, and the Chernobyl disaster was found out via Sweden. Why not establish a direct information link between the nuclear power plant and the population via mobile phones?

Dr. Charles “Chuck” A. Casto

Japan nuclear energy restart: former leader of US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) efforts in Japan explains lessons learnt from the Fukushima disaster
Japan nuclear energy restart: former leader of US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) efforts in Japan explains lessons learnt from the Fukushima disaster

Charles Casto was leader of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) delegation supporting the Japanese Government during the initial 11 months of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and to ensure the safety of US citizens in Japan during this period. For this work he was awarded the Presidential Distinguished Services Award in 2012. He is Regional Administrator for the Region III of NRC overseeing the nuclear regulation in Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin, where he has regulatory responsibility for 23 reactors and a large number of other users of radioactivity. Previously Dr Casto has served many years as certified Reactor Operator and Instructor, and in many other leadership positions in the US nuclear industry.

Dr Casto’s talk and Q&A on YouTube

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