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Toshiba nuclear write-off. BBC interview about Toshiba’s latest nuclear industry write-offs

Toshiba is expected to announce write-off provisions on the order of US$ 6 billion today

Toshiba is on Tokyo Stock Exchange warning list for possible delisting in March 2017

by Gerhard Fasol

Toshiba crisis
Toshiba crisis

This morning 7:30am I was interviewed on BBC TV Asia Business Report about an update of Toshiba’s ongoing crisis, which has been 20 years in the making.

Here some notes in preparation for my interview.

What is Toshiba’s situation now?

Toshiba’s market cap today is YEN 1024 billion = US$ 9.6 billion.
Toshiba is expected today to announce write-off provisions on the order of US$ 6 billion.
Toshiba owes about US$ 5 billion to main banks as follows:

Mizuho YEN 183.4 billion
SMBC YEN 176.8 billion
Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings YEN 131.0 billion
BTMU YEN 111.2 billion
Total YEN 602.4 billion = US$ 5.3 billion

Toshiba is on notice for delisting by the Tokyo and Nagoya Stock Exchanges, and faces the risk of being delisted by March 15, 2017, i.e. in about 4 weeks from now.

Toshiba is trying to raise capital e.g. by seeking investment in the IC/flash memory division, however, Toshiba seeks to keep control, so Toshiba is trying to raise a minority share, or non-voting shares or similar, in order not to lose control.

How did Toshiba get into a situation to potentially need to write off US$ 6 billion?

Toshiba acquired 87% of the US nuclear equipment manufacturer Westinghouse.

While Westinghouse is a famous name, what Toshiba actually acquired seems to have gone through a period of restructuring.

For an analysis see “Westinghouse: Origins and Effects of the Downfall of a Nuclear Giant”, in the World Nuclear Industry Status Report:

In 2015 Toshiba acquired the construction company SHAW’s assets from the Chicago Bridge & Iron Company CB&I for US$ 229 million plus assumed liabilities. CB&I had acquired SHAW for US$ 3.3 billion in July 2012, and SHAW has on the order of US$ 2 billion annual sales.

Why did Toshiba acquire a company for US$229 million, which has US$ 2 billion annual sales, and which was in 2012 acquired for US$ 3.3 billion? Which factors reduced the value of this company from US$ 3.3 billion to US$ 229 million within the 3 years from 2012 to 2015?
Presumably because there are large liabilities arising from nuclear construction, which Toshiba now seems to have to assume.

Cost overruns and delays are not uncommon in the nuclear industry. Similar issues happened with a Finnish nuclear reactor recently, see:

What is likely to happen now with Toshiba? Is Toshiba too big to fail?

Difficult to say what will happen. Toshiba is a huge corporate group with about 200,000 employees and many factories in many countries, so clearly Toshiba is not going to disappear without trace.

The immediate risk is that Tokyo Stock Exchange carries out its warning, and delists Toshiba, which will further increase Toshiba’s ability to raise capital. In the case of a delisting, private equity, and/or government might invest and restructure, and Toshiba might be split up. For example, Toshiba’s nuclear Westinghouse division is totally separate from its very successful flash memory division, there is not much business logic in having both under one holding company.

Impact on UK

Toshiba acquired 60% of UK based NuGeneration with the view to build nuclear power stations in the UK. This project requires Toshiba to contribute to the funding of the nuclear project, for which Toshiba would probably need a financially healthy partner.

What is the big picture? How did Toshiba get into this crisis?

Toshiba’s crisis has been building up for 20 years, and is in my view a consequence of corporate governance issues over a long time.

Essentially, Toshiba should have been reformed 20 years ago from the top down.

Japan’s 8 electronics giants have had essentially no growth and no profits for 20 years. This tragedy has been obvious for many years now, and was a big contributing factor for Japan’s government to reform Japan’s corporate governance laws and regulations, see:

Toshiba’s Board of Directors was exchanged in September 2015, and now includes several very capable and experienced Japanese independent Board Directors, but unlike Hitachi, even today neither Toshiba’s Board of Directors, nor Toshiba’s Executive Board include one single foreigner. 

One might think that a huge global group like Toshiba with complex businesses around the globe might benefit from a variety of view points and experiences from different countries at Supervisory Board and Executive Board level – not all just from one single country. Japanese corporations including Hitachi, SoftBank, Nissan and a small number of others are now recognizing the benefits of diversity of experience and viewpoints at Supervisory Board and Executive Board level.

We can only hope that Toshiba’s executives and Board Directors have the experience and ability to solve the extremely complex issues deep inside the bowels of the US nuclear construction industry – far away on the other side of the world.

Japan electronics industries – mono zukuri

Copyright (c) 2017-2019 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Disaster Fukushima Daiichi nuclear

Nuclear safety – Niigata Governor Hirohiko Izumida

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

Record and commentary by Gerhard Fasol

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)

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

Disaster Fukushima Daiichi nuclear

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 “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

Further information:

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Fukushima Daiichi nuclear

What will happen with Japan’s nuclear power stations?

by Gerhard Fasol

Watch The Economist interview on Japan’s energy policy.

Read our report on Japan’s energy sector,
and our report on Renewable energy in Japan.

Many times, often several times a day, I get asked about what will happen with Japan’s nuclear power stations – today alone twice. So here is the answer I usually give – please note that I am Physicist, and I know a lot about the Physics of nuclear power, and although I have personally avoided working in the nuclear physics field (which is much wider than nuclear power), I do not have a personal opinion for or against nuclear power:

Quick answer: it is impossible for anyone, including the Prime Minister of Japan, to know with any certainty.

Long answer: Japan is a democracy. Japan currently is quite polarized for or against nuclear power. Everyone knows that some Japanese leaders including the Prime Minister Abe, are in favor of nuclear power. On the other hand, many outstanding opinion leaders are strongly against nuclear power in Japan, these include Nobel Prize Winner Kenzaburo Oe, and also the former Prime Minister Koizumi. Currently we can observe the evolution of a democratic process in Japan to reach a consensus on the future of nuclear power stations in Japan. This process is different for every single nuclear power station, and it is impossible for anyone to make predictions.

Obviously the owners of the nuclear power stations hope to restart their power stations as quickly as possible, and they are supported by many industrial leaders and the current Prime Minister. They need to obtain the agreement by the newly established nuclear power regulator, which was newly established because the Parliamentary Committee which investigated the Fukushima nuclear disaster established that the cause for the nuclear disaster was “regulatory capture”. This committee was chaired by Kiyoshi Kurokawa, and you can read one of his speeches “Groupthink can kill”, and watch YouTube movies explaining the results of his committee here.

Sofar none of the nuclear power station was cleared by the new nuclear safety agency, and no one knows when the safety inspection program will be concluded for any of the nuclear power stations, nor which stations will be cleared to restart (in principle) and to which the nuclear safety agency will refuse the clearance.

However, clearance by the nuclear safety agency is by far not enough. In addition, in Japan, nuclear power stations need the agreement of the local communities, i.e. the local mayors and Province (Ken, Prefecture) Government Prefects. As an example, the world’s largest nuclear power plant is Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, it is currently owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company to supply Tokyo with electricity, and it is located approximately 80 km from the Prefecture capital city Niigata-shi, which has about 1 million inhabitants. The current very outspoken Governor (Government Leader) of Niigata-Prefecture, Hirohiko Izumida (泉田 裕彦), has clearly stated his opposition both to the restart of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station, and secondly he has also stated that he considers Tokyo Electric Power Company unsuited to manage a nuclear power station. Read and watch a video of Governor Hirohito Izumida here. I have read speculations that as a consequence it might be thinkable that ownership and/or management of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power station could be transferred to a different power company to overcome this local resistance. But it is not possible for anyone to predict how this will play out.

It is my understanding also, that in Japan it is not clearly defined which local authorities have to agree before a nuclear plant can operate, and which distance from the nuclear power station is still close enough that agreement of local authorities is needed. In my understanding also it seems to be unclear which type of local authorities have veto power: The Prefect (i.e. the chief of the Prefectural Government), cities, towns, villages etc. There seems to be much uncertainty here, which did not exist in the past, or which did not come out into the open in the past.

Another factor is the local geological situation for each nuclear power station. In Japan there are legal requirements that nuclear power stations need to be located away from active geological faults. Recently there have been investigations by geological experts about the geological conditions near the nuclear power stations, but my understanding is that many questions are still unsettled at least for some of the nuclear power stations.

Still another factor are the courts. Traditionally Japanese courts have rejected all complaints against the operation of nuclear power stations, but I hear that recently some court complaints against the operation, or against the restart of nuclear power stations have been successful. Court decisions also cannot be predicted by anyone.

So in summary: No-one can possibly predict what will happen with Japan’s nuclear power stations. When pushed, I sometimes say that a possible scenario will be that about 10 out of Japan’s approx. 50 nuclear power stations might be restarted in about 3 years from now. However, no one can know this for sure, and no one can assign a probability to any outcome.

There have been enquires by some non-Japanese/foreign media, which interviewed a number of experts, asked them to estimate the probability for each of Japan’s nuclear power plant, and then took some kind of average of these experts opinions. I was also asked to participate in this experts’ enquiry, but I refused to participate, and said that simply no one can know with any precision at all.

Watch The Economist interview on Japan’s energy policy.
Read our report on Japan’s energy sector,

and our report on Renewable energy in Japan.

Copyright 2014 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved


IAEA recommends international cooperation for Fukushima decommissioning, Mr Yukiya Amano (天野之弥), Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

IAEA President Amano on Fukushima decommissioning

by Gerhard Fasol

It is wrong that Japan has all technology to decommission Fukushima Dai-ichi

“It is wrong that Japan has all technology to decommission Fukushima Dai-ichi. The IAEA strongly recommends international cooperation for the decommissioning of Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plants”, is the strongest statement Mr Yukiya Amano (天野之弥), Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) made today at the Foreign Correspondence Club in Tokyo in a very carefully worded presentation.

IAEA is currently preparing a report about Fukushima Dai-ichi which will be completed by the end of this year, 2014.

We are often asked, whether nuclear power is safe, the answer is that no technology is 100% safe. A multilayer defense is required against risks, in-depth defense. Safety levels are now higher than they were before the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear accident.

IAEA: non-proliferation, nuclear safety, and other programs

Let me introduce The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA has three roles:

  1. Advise on nuclear power and nuclear safety. In this area, IAEA has no authority. IAEA only can advise. IAEA also helps developing countries which are are thinking to introduce nuclear power.
  2. Prevent nuclear proliferation. In this area, IAEA has authority.
  3. Other projects, for example in healthcare and decease prevention. For example, IAEA used radiation to disable breeding by insects distributing malaria and other illnesses.

IAEA is not an international nuclear safety regulator. IAEA can only advise on nuclear safety. IAEA does not influence countries, but provides comprehensive assistance.

Of course nuclear safety is intrinsically international: one country’s nuclear accident is all countries’ nuclear accident.

IAEA position on nuclear power

The IAEA has the position that nuclear technology is affordable and useful. IAEA is much more than a “nuclear watchdog”. IAEA also helps to make nuclear technology available for developing countries.

IAEA advises countries introducing nuclear energy. Today we have 437 nuclear power plants globally, and 72 are under planning or construction. Growth of nuclear energy is mainly in Asia, especially China and India, but also in Europe and in developing countries.

30 countries use nuclear power, and 60 countries are considering to start using nuclear power in the future.

IAEA and nuclear security

A growing role for IAEA is nuclear security, to advise on proper protection of nuclear materials, for example to prevent dirty bombs. IAEA provides guidance and measurement equipment. IAEA is ready to assist Japan in advising on nuclear security for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Next week, we will have a Nuclear Security Summit in Den Haag.

IAEA prevents proliferation, prevents spread of nuclear weapons

The main current issue is Iran, and Iran has taken positive steps forward, but much remains to be done.

Regarding North Korea, the IAEA is currently not involved inside North Korea, but ready to help. The IAEA calls on North Korea to fully cooperate with IAEA.

IAEA motto is “Atoms for peace”.


  • Question: Is it right to release contaminated water into the ocean?
    Answer: It is common practice globally, to release contaminated water into the ocean, provided contamination is sufficiently low, and it is essential to talk to stake holders, e.g. fishermen. Storage is not a long term solution. IAEA recommends to release contaminated water into the ocean after proper treatment of the water, and after consultation with stake holders. IAEA recommends release into the ocean, because storage is cost and human resource intensive, and these resources need to be used in other areas of the decommissioning work.
  • Question: Should not Japan have higher safety requirements because Japan is in an earthquake zone?
    Answer: IAEA does not discriminate against any countries, and strong earthquakes are also known to happen in Europe. Strong earthquakes and tsunami can occur anywhere.
  • Question: what is IAEA’s position regarding the prioritization of the Sendai nuclear plant in Kyushu?
    Answer: IAEA does not take party in such decision making. Regulation is the responsibility of each country, and IAEA says that the regulator must be robust, independent and well funded.
  • Question: Prime-Minister Abe says that Japan’s nuclear safety regulations now are the strictest in the world. What about missing evacuation plans?
    Answer: It is not IAEA’s role to rank countries. Broadly speaking, Japanese regulations today are broadly in line with global regulations recommended by IAEA, and Japan has requested the IAEA to review the Japanese nuclear safety standards. IAEA makes safety standards, recommends the use of these standards, and if requested, sends missions to assist.
  • Question: why do you say “broadly”?
    Answer: Nuclear safety is a huge and complex field. In our view, Japanese nuclear safety regulations are broadly in line with global regulations, and IAEA will evaluate Japanese safety regulations on request by the Japanese Government.
  • Question: Did IAEA warn that pre-Fukushima Dai-Ichi-disaster Japan’s nuclear regulator did not fulfill IAEA criteria: (1) robust, (2) independent, and (3) well funded?
    Answer: IAEA did warn in polite language that more independence was needed.
  • Question: What was the Japanese Government’s response?
    Answer: The Japanese Government’s response was, that the regulatory body was sufficiently independent.
  • Question: IAEA promotes nuclear power, and sets safety standards. Is there no conflict of interest between these two roles?
    Answer: The IAEA is not a global regulator. In each country separately an independent in-country regulator is responsible for regulation in that country. IAEA supports, provides training for in-country regulators.
  • Question: Who assesses IAEA?
    Answer: The member states assess, and will end the tenure of the Director General if they are not satisfied.
  • Question: Did IAEA hide nuclear radiation information in the days after the Fukushima Dai-Ichi disaster?
    Answer: The IAEA came on a radiation measurement mission to Tokyo and Fukushima on March 18, 2011 one week after the Fukushima Dai-Ichi disaster, reconfirmed the measurements on March 19, 2011, the next day, and published these data.
  • Question: Japan has 331 kg Plutonium. What is the target?
    Answer: There are three issues: (1) Safeguard: this material is placed under IAEA control, assure that all material is used for peaceful purpose, and short-notice controls by IAEA are included by Japan, (2) nuclear security: is the responsibility of each state under IAEA guidance, (3) transparency, including future use: it is the responsibility of the Japanese Government to provide transparency regarding future use
  • Question: do you think that 30-40 years will be sufficient for complete decommissioning of Fukushima Dai-Ichi?
    Answer: I don’t know. Good understanding of the melted core takes very long time. At present we have no understanding of the melted core. IAEA recommends international cooperation. It is wrong that Japan has all technology. It is IAEA’s recommendation to cooperate internationally. Decommissioning the most difficult nuclear power plant will help to decommission all other nuclear power plants.
  • Question: what about the shortage of workers for decommissioning Fukushima-Dai-Ichi?
    Answer: Shortage of workers in nuclear plants is a global phenomenon.
fukushima decommissioning - Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mr Yukiya Amano (天野之弥)
Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mr Yukiya Amano (天野之弥)

Copyright 2014 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Electricity Fukushima Daiichi Japan's energy sector Natural Gas, LNG nuclear Renewable energy

Japan’s energy foxtrot: Two steps forward one step back

Two steps forward one step back:

describes a frog struggling to climb out of a well, slipping back one step on the ladder for each two steps upwards out of the well

Before the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s energy policy, strategy and execution were essentially decided behind closed doors by a small group of (about 100) Japanese people, and while European countries, Canada, USA experimented with electricity liberalization, Japan’s electricity industry structure went unchanged for a very very long time with a rigid top-down structure. However with the Fukushima disaster, Japan’s energy landscape has been brought onto the world stage, catching global attention for the first time.

Two steps forward (actually much more than two steps): Last Friday, September 14, 2012, Japan’s Cabinet released Japan’s new “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy”. We have analyzed the full Japanese text of this strategy paper, and you can find a summary on pages 5-23 in our “Japan Electrical Energy Landscape” report.

Most English language press reports focus only on the first few pages which describe a plan to phase out nuclear energy in Japan over the next 30-40 years. However this Government paper contains many other policy measures to reform Japan’s electricity industry and to completely change the principles of Japan’s energy landscape – steps which are long overdue, and where Japan has fallen behind most other advanced countries, because pre-Fukushima, Japan’s electricity industry was functioning “too well” – although at very elevated prices (for detailed analysis, read our report).

The strategy plan announced on September 14, 2012 has not yet created any irreversible facts – although two irreversible facts could soon be implemented: the Government announced a few days ago, that 3 nuclear power reactors should be decommissioned under the new 40-year-limit-rule, Tsuruga’s No 1 reactor (started March 1970), and Mihama’s No. 1 (started Nov 1970) and No. 2 reactors (started July 1972).

One step back: Sept. 19, the Cabinet released a “Kakugikettei” (Cabinet Decision) which is 4 and 1/2 lines long, which says:

We will carry out our energy and environmental policy based on the “Innovative Energy and Environmental Strategy” as decided by the Energy and Environment Council on Sept 14, however we will hold responsible discussions with concerned self-governing regional bodies of Japan and with concerned international organizations, and we will continuously and flexibly verify and adjust our policy. (Kakugikettei, Cabinet decision of Sept 19, 2012, our unofficial translation from bureaucratic official complex Japanese into simplified English, attempting to keep the same meaning).

Note, that this “step back” is not uniquely Japanese: Sweden decided in the 1980s to go zero-nuclear with a Parliament approved schedule, and Sweden’s parliament reversed the earlier zero-nuclear decision, and went back to continue nuclear power in 2010 and renewing or building new nuclear power stations.

Subscribe to our report on Japan’s energy sector and receive regular updates.

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Disaster disruption Fukushima Daiichi Leadership nuclear radiation

Fukushima disaster impact on Tokyo [5]: Radiation risk situation for Tokyo, Business risk impact

5th update on the crisis in Tokyo, focusing on radiation and business impact

Fukushima nuclear accident impact on Tokyo, 12 April 2011

This is our 5th update on the crisis in Tokyo, focusing mainly on the radiation and impact on business in Japan.

The continuing quakes (as shown below) do present risk. To my knowledge, earth quakes are “chaotic” (mathematically speaking), and there is considerable scientific argument that earth quakes cannot be reliably predicted. More in a future newsletter.

The Japanese Government has classified the Fukushima Dai-Ichi accident as a level 7 accident in the INES Scale. The official Japanese Government documents announcing this INES Scale classification can be found here in Japanese and here in English. Note however, that we are dealing here with nature, and human reactions. Nature does not care how we classify such accidents.

Damaged Fukushima reactors are “static” but not yet stable

Gregory Jaczko, Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission on April 11, 2011 reported to the US Senate, that the condition of the damaged reactors is ” ‘static’, but with improvised cooling efforts, they are not ‘stable’ “.

Rebuilding is progressing at amazing speed. The Tohoku Shinkansen high-speed train was re-opened Tokyo-Fukushima yesterday, with relay train connections on regular track to Sendai. The full Tokyo-Shin-Aomori line is scheduled to open beginning of May. ANA has started to fly to the repaired Sendai airport.

Radiation measurement results for Tokyo are shown below. Measured radiation levels in Tokyo are now comparable to Austria, and there are many places on earth which have far higher levels than are reported for Tokyo now.

Quakes and after-quakes

The figures show that more than 300 earthquakes of magnitude 5 or larger occurred since the major quake on March 11, 2011 at 14:46. The epicenters of quakes lie mostly where the Pacific Plate moves under the North American Plate on which Tohoku lies.

According to our knowledge earth quakes are mathematically speaking a “chaotic” phenomenon, and scientific arguments are, that it is difficult if not impossible to predict earth quakes with precision. (Figure: Wolfram Alpha LLC)

Earth quakes of magnitude 5 and greater in Japan (March-April 2011) (Figure: Wolfram Alpha LLC)
Earth quakes of magnitude 5 and greater in Japan (March-April 2011) (Figure: Wolfram Alpha LLC)

Earth quakes of magnitude 5 and greater in Japan (March-April 2011) on logarithmic magnitude scale (Figure: Wolfram Alpha LLC)
Earth quakes of magnitude 5 and greater in Japan (March-April 2011) on logarithmic magnitude scale (Figure: Wolfram Alpha LLC)

Analyzing radiation levels in Tokyo/Shinjuku

Radiation in Tokyo/Shinjuku (until April 13, 2011) compared to Austria
Radiation in Tokyo/Shinjuku (until April 13, 2011) compared to Austria

Radiation levels in Tokyo (Shinjuku and Shibuya) and Tsukuba:

Radiation in Tsukuba (until April 13, 2011) compared to Austria
Radiation in Tsukuba (until April 13, 2011) compared to Austria

The blue curve above shows the radiation levels in Tokyo/Shinjuku as measured and published by the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute for Public Health here:

  • each hour for the last 24 hours
  • daily starting March 1

The red curves show maximum and minimum data as measured by TEPCO in Tokyo-Shibuya, and published here: TEPCO radiation data

The green curves show radiation data measured by Japan’s highly respected AIST Laboratory in Tsukuba (Ibaraki-ken, about 60 km north of Tokyo in direction of Fukushima) and published here: AIST radiation data.

Radiation levels in Tsukuba

The green curves show radiation data measured by AIST Laboratory in Tsukuba (Ibaraki-ken, about 60 km north of Tokyo in direction of Fukushima) and published here: AIST radiation data.

The radiation measurement results in Tsukuba are considerably higher than found in Tokyo, but have in the last few days decreased close to the top levels found naturally in Austria and in many other countries.

The differences in the data between Tokyo and Tsukuba could be because Tsukuba is 60km closer to Fukushima, could be cause by weather conditions, but they could also be caused by differences in the measurement equipment or a combination of these factors.

Drinking water (tap water) in Tokyo:

Contamination of Tokyo tap water with I-131 (until April 13, 2011)
Contamination of Tokyo tap water with I-131 (until April 13, 2011)

Analysis of tap water in Tokyo can be found here for each day starting with March 18. This analysis shows that Tokyo tap water currently contains some radioactive Iodine (I-131), and some Cesium (CS-134 and Cs-137) radioactive isotopes.

Interesting in this context is that according to a WHO report on Japan of March 22 (pdf-file), Japanese health limits for radioactive Iodine are about 10 times lower than global standards, ie if Japanese health limits are exceeded, the levels are still at 10% of global limits (we don’t intend to underestimate this problem however).

We conclude that currently radioactive Iodine (I-131) concentrations are about 0.2% of Japan’s limits set by Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission, and about 0.02% of international health limits, and are currently on a downward trend.

Contamination of tap water with Cesium Cs-134 and CS-137 isotopes (until April 13, 2011)
Contamination of tap water with Cesium Cs-134 and CS-137 isotopes (until April 13, 2011)

Radioactive contamination of drinking water (Cesium)

Cesium contamination with radioactive Cs-134 (1/2-life = 2.1 years) and Cs-137 (1/2-life = 30 years) isotopes is currently on the order of 0.1% of the limits set by Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission and are on a downward trend.

The relatively long 1/2-life of Cesium-134 and Cesium-137 means that these radioactive isotopes will stay with us for many years. To understand this situation it is necessary to compare these levels with natural levels, and with other sources of radioactivity, and how Cesium interacts with our bodies.

Where to find radiation measurement results (updated March 28, 2011):

Japan’s Government AIST laboratory:

Japan’s Science and Education Ministry MEXT publishes regional radiation data:
These data are graphically shown here:
Drinking water:
Rain water:

Radiation data for Tokyo/Shinjuku are published here:
each hour for the last 24 hours
for each day starting March 1

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