Categories
Fukushima Daiichi radiation

Tohoku disaster 6 years: March 11, 2011 14:46:24

6 years and many lessons learnt since the Tohoku earth quake and Tsunami and Fukushima-Dai-Ichi nuclear disasters

Tohoku disaster and Fukushima nuclear disaster lead to Japan’s energy market liberalization

Tohoku disaster: On Friday March 11, 2011 at 14:46:24, the magnitude 9.0 “Great East Japan earthquake” caused a tsunami, reaching up to 40.4 meters high inland in Tohoku.

Japan’s National Police Agency registers 15,894 deaths and 2,562 missing people.

TEPCO’s Fukushima Dai-1 nuclear power plant vs Tohoku Electric Power Corporation’s Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant

One of the world’s worst nuclear disasters started at Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-1 Nuclear Power Plant.

The Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant, owned and operated by Tohoku Electric Power Company, and built under Yanosuke Hirai, was closest to the 2011/3/11 earthquake’s epicenter, and survived the quake without major damage and was successfully shut down, and served as a refuge for 300 people from the neighborhood who had lost their homes. There were radiation alarm signals at Onagawa Power Station, but these alarms were caused by radioactive fallout blown from Fukushima-Dai-Ichi by winds, and did not originate from Onagawa.

The Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant was the only nuclear power plant in the region of the Tohoku Earthquake that survived the earthquake without any major damage.

On Yanosuke Hirai’s insistence, Tohoku Electric Power Company built Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant at 13.8 meters above sea level, while during the construction of TEPCO’s Fukushima Dai-1 plant the natural ground elevation was reduced from 35 meters to 10 meters. The Tsunami reached 13 meters height in both locations.

In 1990 Tohoku Electric Power Company (Onagawa Nuclear Power Station Construction Office) published a detailed analysis of the Great Jogan Tsunami of AD 869

Yanosuke Hirai had researched the Great Jogan Tsunami of July 13, 869, which was caused by the 869 Sanriku Earthquake (貞観地震). The results were taken into account in planning the Onagawa Nuclear Power Station, and published in 1990:

Hisashi Abe, Toshisada Sugeno, Akira Chigama, (Onagawa Nuclear Power Station Construction Office)
“Estimation of the Height of the Sanriku Jogan 11 Earthquake-Tsunami (AD 869) in the Sendai Plain”
Zisin (Journal of the Seismological Society of Japan, 2nd Series), Vol. 43 (1990) No. 4 P 513-525

See also the “869 Sanriku earthquake” entry in Wikipedia.

Fukushima nuclear disaster mitigation. US sends 150 nuclear experts headed by Chuck Casto to work with the Japanese Prime Minister and top leaders for 11 months to help deal with the Fukushima disaster

The USA sent a team of about 150 nuclear experts for 11 months to Japan to assist TEPCO and the Japanese Government in mastering the nuclear crisis. This team was headed by Chuck Casto – read some of his conclusions here:

Japan’s first ever Parliamentary Commission

Japan’s Parliament for the first time ever created an Independent Parliamentary Commission to analyze the nuclear disaster, headed by Kiyoshi Kurokawa, read the summary of his talk “Groupthink can kill” here (including videos describing the Commissions results in simple easy to understand terms).

Three former TEPCO executives have now been indicted by a citizen’s prosecution committee.

Nuclear disaster leads to energy market liberalization in Japan

Japan’s faith in nuclear power was shaken, leading to development of renewable energy, liberalization and long overdue reforms of Japan’s energy sector.

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)

Nuclear fallout on Tokyo: radiation levels in Tokyo/Shinjuku

Starting with Tuesday 15 March 2011, radioactive fallout came down on Tokyo as shown in the figures below.

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 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 caused by weather conditions, but they could also be caused by differences in the measurement equipment or a combination of these factors.

Eurotechnology-Japan newsletters in March/April 2011

In a series of newsletters, our company informed our customers, and friends about the nuclear disaster impact on Tokyo. Our newsletters were reposted by our readers to 100s of friends, and in some cases influenced the decisions by foreign subsidiaries here in Tokyo. In the days following the nuclear disaster, it was difficult for non-phycists to understand the true situation, and what the radioactive fallout really meant.

Copyright (c) 2016 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Disaster disruption Fukushima Daiichi radiation

Fukushima nuclear disaster: 5 years since the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami on 2011/3/11 at 14:46:24

5 years and many lessons learnt since the Tohoku and Fukushima disasters

Tohoku disaster and Fukushima nuclear disaster lead to Japan’s energy market liberalization

Tohoku disaster: On Friday March 11, 2011 at 14:46:24, the magnitude 9.0 “Great East Japan earthquake” caused a tsunami, reaching up to 40.4 meters high inland in Tohoku.

Japan’s National Police Agency registers 15,894 deaths and 2,562 missing people.

TEPCO’s Fukushima Dai-1 nuclear power plant vs Tohoku Electric Power Corporation’s Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant

One of the world’s worst nuclear disasters started at Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) Fukushima Dai-1 Nuclear Power Plant.

The Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant, owned and operated by Tohoku Electric Power Company, and built under Yanosuke Hirai, was closest to the 2011/3/11 earthquake’s epicenter, and survived the quake without major damage and was successfully shut down, and served as a refuge for 300 people from the neighborhood who had lost their homes. There were radiation alarm signals at Onagawa Power Station, but these alarms were caused by radioactive fallout blown from Fukushima-Dai-Ichi by winds, and did not originate from Onagawa.

The Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant was the only nuclear power plant in the region of the Tohoku Earthquake that survived the earthquake without any major damage.

On Yanosuke Hirai’s insistence, Tohoku Electric Power Company built Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant at 13.8 meters above sea level, while during the construction of TEPCO’s Fukushima Dai-1 plant the natural ground elevation was reduced from 35 meters to 10 meters. The Tsunami reached 13 meters height in both locations.

In 1990 Tohoku Electric Power Company (Onagawa Nuclear Power Station Construction Office) published a detailed analysis of the Great Jogan Tsunami of AD 869

Yanosuke Hirai had researched the Great Jogan Tsunami of July 13, 869, which was caused by the 869 Sanriku Earthquake (貞観地震). The results were taken into account in planning the Onagawa Nuclear Power Station, and published in 1990:

Hisashi Abe, Toshisada Sugeno, Akira Chigama, (Onagawa Nuclear Power Station Construction Office)
“Estimation of the Height of the Sanriku Jogan 11 Earthquake-Tsunami (AD 869) in the Sendai Plain”
Zisin (Journal of the Seismological Society of Japan, 2nd Series), Vol. 43 (1990) No. 4 P 513-525

See also the “869 Sanriku earthquake” entry in Wikipedia.

Fukushima nuclear disaster mitigation. US sends 150 nuclear experts headed by Chuck Casto to work with the Japanese Prime Minister and top leaders for 11 months to help deal with the Fukushima disaster

The USA sent a team of about 150 nuclear experts for 11 months to Japan to assist TEPCO and the Japanese Government in mastering the nuclear crisis. This team was headed by Chuck Casto – read some of his conclusions here:

Japan’s first ever Parliamentary Commission

Japan’s Parliament for the first time ever created an Independent Parliamentary Commission to analyze the nuclear disaster, headed by Kiyoshi Kurokawa, read the summary of his talk “Groupthink can kill” here (including videos describing the Commissions results in simple easy to understand terms).

Three former TEPCO executives have now been indicted by a citizen’s prosecution committee.

Nuclear disaster leads to energy market liberalization in Japan

Japan’s faith in nuclear power was shaken, leading to development of renewable energy, liberalization and long overdue reforms of Japan’s energy sector.

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)

Nuclear fallout on Tokyo: radiation levels in Tokyo/Shinjuku

Starting with Tuesday 15 March 2011, radioactive fallout came down on Tokyo as shown in the figures below.

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 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 caused by weather conditions, but they could also be caused by differences in the measurement equipment or a combination of these factors.

Eurotechnology-Japan newsletters in March/April 2011

In a series of newsletters, our company informed our customers, and friends about the nuclear disaster impact on Tokyo. Our newsletters were reposted by our readers to 100s of friends, and in some cases influenced the decisions by foreign subsidiaries here in Tokyo. In the days following the nuclear disaster, it was difficult for non-phycists to understand the true situation, and what the radioactive fallout really meant.

Copyright (c) 2016 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
Disaster Fukushima Daiichi Leadership

Crisis leadership post-Fukushima: Dr. Chuck Casto

Global leadership in the extreme

Dr Chuck Casto: Leader of the US Integrated Government and NRC efforts in Japan during the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011

I don’t think that there is anyone with deeper insight into the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi nuclear disaster, its management, causes and consequences, than Dr. Chuck Casto.

Dr Casto arrived in Japan a few days after March 11, 2011, representing the US Government regarding the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi nuclear disaster, and heading a team of 150 US nuclear industry experts, and for 11 months advised the Japanese Prime Minister and Ministers on the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi disaster management.

Dr. Chuck Custo is licensed nuclear power station operator, and as regional NRC Regulator was responsible for the safety of 23 US nuclear power stations.

We were lucky and honored to have Dr. Chuck Casto as one of the keynote speakers at the 7th Ludwig Boltzmann Forum in Tokyo.

Click to read a summary of Dr Chuck Casto’s keynote
Dr. Chuck Casto: Global leadership in the extreme: crisis leadership in post-Fukushima.

Related talks (click to read summaries of the talk and watch videos):

Reading the talks above will give you a good insight into the key causes and implications of the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi nuclear disaster by the world’s best experts directly involved in this nuclear disaster management.

Copyright (c) 2015 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
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&A

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

Categories
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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Categories
Electricity

Japan electricity sector disruption – new business models and deregulation overdue

Japan electricity regional operators’ income peaked about 10 years ago

Japanese electricity companies’ business models face massive disruption by technology innovation and the Fukushima nuclear accident

With the annual general shareholder meetings completed and financial results published, we have analyzed the financial results of Japan’s 10 regional electric power companies (plus several other Japanese electricity companies, including J-Power) in detail.

We find that each of Japan’s electrical power companies has its own particular circumstances, and some are coping better than others, while of course Tokyo Electric Power Company is a special case due to the incalculable costs of the Fukushima nuclear accident, and due to possible changes in case of a change of Japanese Government policy regarding TEPCO.

Our financial analysis shows, that revenues of Japan’s electricity sector have increased substantially, due to increased electricity costs. On the other hand, revenues of Japan’s electricity companies overall have been declining steadily since a peak around 2005, i.e. ten years ago.

Switching off nuclear power generation contributes to financial problems, but is clearly not the root cause

From our analysis it is obvious that the financial profitability issues of Japan’s electricity sector have started about 10 years ago, long before nuclear reactors were switched off due to the Fukushima accident – while of course the switch-off of nuclear power does contribute to a worsening of the financial situation in the last 3 years.

Clearly, the electricity deregulation which is now on track with regulatory and legal changes, was long overdue, and in my opinion is more due to the declining profitability of Japan’s electricity sector, than immediately triggered by the Fukushima accident. The financial data clearly show that a change of business model for Japan’s electricity sector is needed.

Japan electricity: Combined annual operating income of Japan's regional electric power companies
Operating income of Japan’s electricity sector has been falling continuously since the peak in 2005

Chugoku Electric Power Company as an example

Our analysis shows that each of Japan’s 10 regional electricity companies have different financial circumstances.

We discuss Chugoku Electric Power Company which serves the area around Nagoya in the middle of Japan as an example. The Figure below shows that Chugoku Electric Power Company’s income peaked around 2004-2005, about ten years ago, and since then has been continuously falling, with net income dropping into the red for the first time for Financial Year 2008 (ending March 31, 2009), about two years before the Fukushima nuclear disaster. An important point to consider is that only about 10% of the electricity generation capacity of Chugoku Electric Power Company is nuclear power, which is one of the lowest ratios of nuclear power in Japan. It follows logically, that switching off this 10% of nuclear generation capacity has a much lower impact than for other regional power companies, where the nuclear contribution was about 30%.

Japan electricity: income and margins of Chuo Electrical Power Company have been continuously falling since their peak around 2004
Japan electricity: income and margins of Chuo Electrical Power Company have been continuously falling since their peak around 2004

We conclude that the peak around 2004-2005 in profitability followed by a long decline in profitability indicates a deep rooted need for change of business models which was exacerbated but not directly caused by the Fukushima nuclear accident. Japan’s Government is now reacting to this fact by deregulating the electricity sector.

Japan electricity: Why do current business models need to change?

  • Japan’s regional electricity companies enjoyed monopoly power within their regions, where the electricity prices were regulated by Government, and in exchange electricity companies could enjoy a financial model where they could charge costs + profits to customers. There was no competition and little incentive to reduce costs
  • Japan will now follow the global trend from top-down electricity grids with large central generation facilities and a top-down distribution grid to more de-centralized, localized smart-grids, driven by technological progress, and the emergence of renewable energy.

Renewable energy Japan – research report

Japan’s energy sector – research report

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Categories
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

Categories
Japan's energy sector

Japan energy mix: Keeping the lights on in Japan – deregulation, new and renewable energy

Japan energy mix, smart grid, electricity deregulation – briefing by The Economist Corporate Network

Economist Corporate Network held a breakfast briefing today April 24, 2014 for about 50 Japan-CEOs and executives.

Shigeki (Sean) Miwa, General Manager of SoftBank’s CEO Office, and Representative Director & CEO of Bloom Energy Japan KK, and EVP of SB Energy Corporation

Mr Shigeki (Sean) Miwa, General Manager of SoftBank’s CEO Office, and Representative Director & CEO of Bloom Energy Japan KK, and EVP of SB Energy Corporation, explained SoftBank’s and Masayoshi Son’s reasons for entering the energy business, and he explained Bloom Energy’s offering of energy sources based on very efficient fuel cells in Japan.

Gerhard Fasol, CEO of Eurotechnology-Japan

Gerhard Fasol, CEO of Eurotechnology-Japan, gave an overview of Japan’s energy situation, and an outlook into the future. Here is an interview by The Economist after the breakfast briefing:

You can find detailed data and analysis in our report on Japan’s energy sector, and on Japan’s renewable energy sector.

Renewable energy Japan – research report

Japan energy market report:

Copyright 2014 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
disruption Electricity Fukushima Daiichi

Financial instability of Japan’s electricity companies started in 2007

Financial instability of Japan’s electricity companies started long before the Fukushima nuclear accident

Japan’s electricity companies ran into financial instability long before the March 11, 2011 disaster

It is often assumed that the financial difficulties of Japan’s electricity companies are caused by the shut-down of almost all Japanese nuclear power stations within 13 months of the Fukushima disaster.

This newsletter shows that the financial impact of switching off Japan’s nuclear power stations does not seem to be the major contribution to the financial instability of Japan’s electricity companies.

However, this newsletter clearly proves that Japan’s electricity companies ran into financial instability long before the March 11, 2011 disaster and long before Japan’s nuclear power stations were switched off. The financial instability of Japan’s electricity companies seem to have started in 2004 – about 7 years before the Tohoku Earth-quake, as shown below. Therefore reform of Japan’s electricity industry sector is highly overdue.

Japan's electricity crisis predates the Fukushima disaster by several years
Japan’s electricity crisis predates the Fukushima disaster by several years. Source https://www.eurotechnology.com/store/j_energy/

Financial instability of Japan’s electricity companies started with the increase of natural gas payments in 2004

Japan’s electricity industry sector is dominated by 10 regional electricity operators, which to a large extent have the monopolies of electricity business in their regions. In exchange, their profits are calculated as a fixed percentage of costs. However, the figure above shows, that this system had become unstable around 2009 following a strong increase of natural gas costs since 2004. The figure above clearly shows that the net profits of Japan’s 10 regional electricity operators started a steady decline since 2007, and dropped firmly into the red in the financial year FY 2010, which ended on March 31, 2011, ie almost entirely before the Fukushima disaster, and about a year before nuclear power stations were switched off in Japan.
This argument shows, that the difficulties of Japan’s electricity sector are even more profound than the cut-off of nuclear power stations, and shows that reform of Japan’s electricity sector is long overdue. For details read our report on Japan’s electrical industry sector.

Financial trouble of Japan's electricity companies started before Fukushima
Financial trouble of Japan’s electricity companies started before Fukushima. Source https://www.eurotechnology.com/store/j_energy/

Financial instability of Japan’s 10 electricity operators started in FY2007 – several years earlier than the Fukushima nuclear disaster


This figure shows the combined annual net income of Japan’s 10 regional electricity operators for the period FY1999 – FY2011. The figure clearly shows, that combined net after-tax income was extremely stable until 2007, when net income started to drop dramatically, and has been falling ever since, culminating in combined net losses of over US$ 20 billion in FY2011. Losses are expected to increase even further for FY2012.

This figure clearly shows, that the financial instability of Japan’s electricity companies started several years earlier than the March 11, 2011 disaster and well before any nuclear power stations were switched off. More details in our report on Japan’s electricity and energy sector.

Copyright 2013 Eurotechnology Japan KK All Rights Reserved

Categories
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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Categories
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:
http://www.aist.go.jp/taisaku/ja/measurement/index.html

Japan’s Science and Education Ministry MEXT publishes regional radiation data:
http://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/saigaijohou/index.htm
http://www.mext.go.jp/english/radioactivity_level/
These data are graphically shown here:
Radiation: http://atmc.jp/
Drinking water: http://atmc.jp/water/
Rain water: http://atmc.jp/ame/

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

Copyright·©2013 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK·All Rights Reserved·

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Disaster

Fukushima disaster impact on Tokyo – Update No. 3

Radiation fall-out on Tokyo

3rd update of 24 March 2011

This is our third update on the crisis situation in Tokyo, focusing mainly on the radiation risk, and impact on business in Japan. Strong after-quakes are still continuing everyday, more than 300 after-quakes stronger than magnitude 5 were counted since the initial magnitude 9 quake on March 11, 2011 at 14:46.

Loss of human lives (more than 20,000), evacuation (more than 300,000 evacuees), electricity shortages and factory closures have impact on the global supply chains and will impact the GDP of Japan, however we believe there could be a positive impact on Japan’s competitiveness if this crisis leads to structural changes and deregulation in Japan – for details see our interview on BBC.

In the initial phase of the earthquakes mobile phone communications were very unreliable, with voice connections unavailable, and mobile mail connections almost unavailable even in Tokyo, only one mail out of 10-20 attempts could be sent. 3426 mobile phone base stations are reported to be out of action as of March 22 (for an overview of mobile communications including details of base stations see our JCOMM report). SNS on the other hand (Twitter, Facebook, Mixi, GREE etc) were resilient, and we expect their popularity to increase even further because of the quake. Several Japanese Government agencies and Electrical Utility TEPCO started using Twitter the first time a few days after the quake.

Analyzing radiation levels in Tokyo/Shinjuku

Radiation levels in Tokyo in March 2011
Radiation levels in Tokyo in March 2011

Comparing radiation levels in Tokyo/Shinjuku with 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
Before the earthquake on March 11, 2011 at 14.46, radiation data were around 34 nanoGray/hour. Around March 15 and since March 21 increases to the range of 130 – 150 nanoGray/hour where measured. It is generally assumed that these increases are due to radioactive isotopes carried from the Fukushima Nuclear Power station due to wind and weather conditions.

Our Figure shows that radiation levels measured in Tokyo seem to have stabilized with a downward trend. So there maybe some hope for radiation levels to return to normally low levels if the downward trend continues.

To put these radiation levels into context, we compare these radiation levels in the Figure above with the radiation levels naturally found in Austria. The Austrian umweltnet.at website shows current radiation levels in Austria, and mentions that natural radiation levels in Austria are between 70 and 200 nano-Sievert/hour, which corresponds to 70 – 200 nanoGray/hour. We indicate this range above in pink color.

This Figure shows that according to our interpretation, radiation levels in Tokyo/Shinjuku were about 30% lower than the lowest radiation levels found in Austria, and are currently increased to levels which would be in mid-range of natural radiation in Austria (natural radiation is mainly caused by Radon gas diffusing out from the ground, and from the natural cosmic radiation from space). Humans have been exposed to this natural background radiation ever since life exists on earth, and Darwinian evolution of human live has taken place in coexistence with this natural background radiation, and in the natural presence of a corresponding amount of radioactive isotopes.

It is important to keep in mind however, that the radiation levels in the Figure above are due to radioactive isotopes, mainly Iodine (I-131, I-133), and Cesium (CS-134, CS-137), but also Tellurium (Te-132), Xenon (Xe-133) (for a detailed analysis see the AIST data). Detailed impact on people depends on how these isotopes enter the body and whether they remain inside the body, and which organs they affect.

Another factor is 1/2-life. Radioactive isotopes decay with time via emission of radiation, in the case of I-131 8 days, I-132 2.3 hours, and I-133 21 hours. Therefore the Iodine isotopes disappear naturally after a few days, while Cs-134 (1/2-life 2.1 years), Cs-137 (1/2-life 30 years) stay around for a long time.

Drinking water

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-137).

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). According to US Ambassador Roos, US Government experts are currently analyzing the Tokyo tap water situation and will report on their findings shortly.

Our short analysis of the radiation data for Tsukuba and Shinjuku:

Gray, Gy, microGray, nanoGray measure the absorption of ionizing radiation. One Gray is the the absorption of one Joule (the unit of energy) by one kilogram of matter, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gray_(unit)

Sv, Sievert, uSievert refers to the impact of radiation on biological tissue, not to the physics of the radiation itself, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sievert
For X-rays and Gamma-rays (which are high-energy X-rays) the units are the same, ie one microGray has the impact of one microSievert, the conversion factor is 1.

You can see that in Tsukuba the radiation impact on humans over the last days has been on the order of 40 – 300 nano-Sieverts/hour, which is oscillating around the natural range of radiation in Austria.

The radiation measurements in Tokyo-Shinjuku showed around 50 nano-Sieverts/hour most of the time, except for spikes above 100 nano-Sieverts/hour.

Click here to see that radiation levels in Austria are in the range of 70 – 200 nano-Gray/hour (corresponding to 70 – 200 nano-Siever/hour for Gamma-Rays).

This means that the radiation levels in Tsukuba are currently similar or a little higher than you would typically experience in higher regions of Austria, while the radiation levels in Tokyo-Shinjuku currently at mid-range for Austria, and have been 30% lower than the lowest radiation levels in Austria for much of the time since the quake. We have made similar comparisons for Italy. The natural background radiation load in Austria and Italy (and other countries) are due to (1) radon gas which emerges from the ground and produced by the decay of natural Uranium, and (2) cosmic radiation from space, which are all exposed to anywhere on earth. Cosmic radiation exposure is higher at high altitudes, since cosmic radiation is screened by the atmosphere.

We conclude that currently radiation levels in the Tokyo region are of similar magnitude as in typical European countries.

Note however, that the radiation levels currently in Tokyo are due to radioactive isotopes which may be inhaled or ingested and remain inside the human body, so there is a difference to natural background radiation. We may analyze this point in future newsletters.

Regarding radiation, please note that radiation is not equal radiation, there are
alpha (= Helium nuclei),
beta (= electrons e.g. inside vacumm TV tubes and old fashioned PC terminals) and
gamma rays (= high energy X-rays),
neutrons, and other types or radiation (e.g. neutrinos).

When people talk about “radiation” from the Nuclear power station, they don’t usually mean the direct alpha, beta, gamma radiation or neutrons, which cannot travel far, but they mean radioactive isotopes which are the product of radioactive decay. The harmful nature of radio-active isotopes depends very much on the type of isotope, and specially also their half-life, and whether they are attached externally to clothing or shoes, or whether they are inhaled or eaten and remain in the body. Some decay very fast, and others live very long. Some, like plutonium are also very poisonous in addition to radioactivity.

The Tsukuba AIST website analyzes the isotopes in detail and lists the occurance as a function of time, as well as the 1/2-life. Shorter 1/2-life (ie I-132: 2.3 hours) mean higher radioactivity, but also mean that such short-lived isotopes also disappear faster.

Further information on radiation levels in Japan, CTBTO data:

It turns out that according to an article in NATURE, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is collecting and transmitting very detailed data on radioactivity and composition of radio-nucleides in and around Japan, but it keeping these data secret.

CTBTO radiation data have now been analyzed by the Austrian Central Agency for Weather and Geodynamics (“Hohe Warte”), and conclude that the release of radioactive isotopes by the Fukushima powerstations corresponds to approximately 20% of the amounts released in the Chernobyl accident. For a short report including animations of the spread of the radioactive plume see here http://www.zamg.ac.at/aktuell/index.php?seite=1&artikel=ZAMG_2011-03-23GMT10:57 .

Copyright·©2013 ·Eurotechnology Japan KK·All Rights Reserved·

Categories
Disaster radiation

Radiation in Tokyo: Fukushima disaster update No. 2

Radiation in Tokyo due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster

Our second update of the radiation and disaster situation in Tokyo, as of 22 March 2011

Suffering caused by the Friday March 11, 14:46 earthquake in Japan continues, but we see hope and reconstruction. Tomorrow the new high-speed train line north of the disaster zone is planned to run again between Shin-Aomori and Morioka. Radiation in Tokyo is evolving due to the Fukushima disaster and explosions and melt-down of nuclear reactors.

Japan’s society has developed over 100s of years coping with similar disasters, and it is already obvious that Japan will overcome this disaster strengthened. In recent years, Japan overcame the Kobe-Earthquake and the Niigata-Earthquake, and Japan will also overcome this earthquake soon. We observe many discussions to learn from this disaster and to strengthen Japan.

In this newsletter we focus on analysis of radiation risks (see below) in Tokyo, and on US and EU response.

Radiation in Tokyo: situation in Tokyo

Radiation in Tokyo is evolving due to the Fukushima disaster and explosions and melt-down of nuclear reactors
Radiation in Tokyo is evolving due to the Fukushima disaster and explosions and melt-down of nuclear reactors

We see Japanese companies and Japanese workers – including our company Eurotechnology-Japan here in Tokyo – working almost normally throughout the period of after-quakes. A notable exception is the account settlement IT system of Mizuho-Bank which apparently has broken down.

Electricity savings by the population were beyond expectations, so that planned electricity cuts have been largely avoided – most electricity cuts were announced but not implemented – the electricity keeps flowing in most areas, especially in the central areas.

While many long-term foreign residents remained in Tokyo, a large fraction of temporary foreigners left either to Osaka, or left Japan altogether.
The departure of some foreigners (and some Japanese) has not been un-noticed.

One of my friends, Japanese surgeon (medical doctor) at Tokyo University’s hospital, who had stayed at the bedside of patients throughout the quake, broke down in tears telling me about a colleague leaving Tokyo during the after-quakes.

US actions – Operation Tomodachi

“Operation Tomodachi”: The US Pacific Command has built up a massive help and relief effort “Operation Tomodachi”, which involves US Air Force, US Marine Corps, US Army (458 personell + 1000 contractors), US Navy (12,750 personell participating in Operation Tomodachi). A summary of US Pacific Command help to Japan including “Operation Tomodachi” can be found here. In particular, US experts and loaned equipment are helping with the Fukushima nuclear power stations, US is working to repair Sendai Airport and other damaged infrastructure so that supplies can be forwarded, and US military is delivering supplies including food, blankets, fuel and water into the disaster area.

According to announcements by the US Ambassador Roos, the US Embassy in Tokyo has increased staffing by about 30%, and 96 US Government employees and experts have arrived from outside Japan to help.

EU actions

EU response: summarized here on the EU website .

Many EU country Embassies have reduced staff or shut down in Tokyo. (This is in stark contrast to the actions of the US Embassy in Japan, which actually increased staff numbers).

Situation at the Fukushima Reactor

Through heroic work of the fire fighters at the reactors the situation seems to stabilize and improve in the right direction. The International Atomic Energy Agency website summarizes the the situation officially here dated March 20, 2011. It appears that since March 20 the situation has improved further.

We here at Eurotechnology-Japan are continously working here in Tokyo for you – and our customers. We actually closed new business contracts a few days after the March 11 earthquake.

Categories
Disaster radiation

Understanding radiation in Tokyo: Japan crisis update No. 1

Understanding radiation in Tokyo as a consequence of the Fukushima nuclear disaster

Sources of radiation information and analysis as of 18 March 2011

On Friday March 11, at 14:46 one of the world’s largest earthquakes ever happened close to Japan’s coast near Fukushima, triggering a series of disasters which are still ongoing, and which brought much suffering. Human suffering continues, after-quakes continue – for a full week we had 20 or more after-quakes every day, some also quite strong, including several during the production of this newsletter. Understanding radiation in Tokyo has become a key factor for decision making by government, companies and population

We will interview one of the world’s most important earthquake experts in one of our next newsletter.

In this edition we focus on the radiation issues from the nuclear power station disaster

For an assessment of the situation at the Fukushima nuclear power stations, you may be interested to read a report of March 15, 2011 by the UK Government’s Chief Scientific Officer Professor John Beddington.

Our understanding of Japan’s radiation situation

Japan’s Government AIST laboratory (which is METI’s largest laboratory and it’s competence and R&D results are very respected for a long time) is publishing radiation measurements taken in their Tsukuba laboratory directly, and include analysis of the radiation (Tsukuba is in Ibaraki-ken north of Tokyo in direction of the Fukushima nuclear power station – so we expect radiation in Tsukuba to be higher than in Tokyo) – you can find them here: http://www.aist.go.jp/taisaku/ja/measurement/index.html

Japan’s Science and Education Ministry publishes radiation data for the last 24 hours for all of Japan here: http://atmc.jp/

Radiation data for Tokyo/Shinjuku are published here

each hour for the last 24 hours

for each day starting March 1

Our short analysis of the radiation data for Tsukuba and Shinjuku

Sv, Sievert, uSievert refer to the impact on the body by radiation, not to the physics of the radiation itself, which is measured with different units. find details here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sievert

You can see that in Tsukuba the radiation impact on humans is currently on the order of 0.08 – 0.10 micro-Sieverts/hour.

The radiation measurements in Tokyo-Shinjuku show around 0.05 micro-Sieverts/hour

Click here to see that radiation levels in Austria are in the range of 0.07 – 0.2 micro-Sieverts/hour.

This means that the radiation levels in Tsukuba are currently the same as you would typically experience in Austria, while the radiation levels in Tokyo-Shinjuku currently are about 30% lower than the lowest radiation levels in Austria, and about 4 times lower than the highest radiation levels in Austria. We have made similar comparisons for Italy.

We conclude that currently radiation levels in the Tokyo region are of similar magnitude or lower than in typical European countries.

Regarding radiation, please note also that radiation is not equal radiation, there are

  • alpha (= Helium nuclei),
  • beta (= electrons e.g. inside vacumm TV tubes and old fashioned PC terminals) and
  • gamma rays (= high energy X-rays),
  • neutrons,
  • and other types or radiation (e.g. neutrinos).

When people talk about “radiation” from the Nuclear power station, they don’t usually mean the direct alpha, beta, gamma radiation or neutrons, which cannot travel far, but they mean radioactive ions. The harmful nature of radio-active ions depends very much on what kind of ions these are, and specially also their half-life, and whether they are attached externally to clothing or shoes, or whether they are inhaled or eaten and remain in the body. Some decay very fast, and others live very long. Some, like plutonium are also very poisonous in addition to radioactivity.

Further information on radiation levels in Japan

It turns out that according to an article in NATURE, the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) is collecting and transmitting very details data on radioactivity and composition of radio-nucleides in and around Japan, but it keeping these data secret.

We do not know the reasons why it is necessary to keep CTBTO’s measured data about radiation in Japan secret during this disaster. If anybody reads this newsletter familar with CTBTO’s conditions – maybe this person could urge the publication of these radiation data.