Monthly Archives: October 2013

Fukushima decommissioning slip-up could trigger monumental chain reaction, expert warns


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By North Asia correspondent Mark Willacy

Updated 2 hours 22 minutes ago
VIDEO: Nuclear experts say they are ready to remove highly radioactive used fuel assemblies from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant. (AFP, file photo) (ABC News)

One slip-up in the latest step to decommission Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant could trigger a “monumental” chain reaction, experts warn.
Within days, Fukushima nuclear plant operators will begin what is being described as the most dangerous phase of the decommissioning process so far.
In an operation never before attempted, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) will start removing 1,331 highly radioactive used fuel assemblies from a deep pool which sits high above the ground in a shattered reactor building.
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Full article

LDP panel proposes breaking up TEPCO


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By Takaya Yamaguchi and Kentaro Hamada

TOKYO —
Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) should be stripped of the responsibility for shutting down its crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, according to a draft proposal by a panel of Japan’s ruling party.
TEPCO has been widely criticized for repeated missteps, poor planning and a lack of disclosure in its efforts to clear up the site of the nuclear disaster.
A task force formed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) suggests that responsibility for the massive work of decommissioning the Fukushima plant be stripped from the giant utility in its current form – either by creating a separate unit within TEPCO, breaking the unit off as a separate company or hiving it off as a government-affiliated, but independent, administrative agency.
A person familiar with the LDP panel’s deliberations said it favors the option of creating a separate organization within TEPCO to handle decommissioning – a job that could take decades as massive amounts of toxic water and spent fuel are removed and stored elsewhere.
The policy recommendations will be presented to Abe as soon as next week.
“We need to have a prompt conclusion to create a clear and realistic organization,” said the draft proposal, reviewed by Reuters.
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Regulators OKs fuel rod removal from pool at Fukushima plant


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Regulators OKs fuel rod removal from pool at Fukushima plant The steel structure for the use of the spent fuel removal from the cooling pool is seen at the No. 4 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant .AP Photo/Noboru Hashimto, Pool
TOKYO —
Japanese regulators on Wednesday formally approved the removal of fuel rods from an uncontained cooling pool at a damaged reactor building considered the highest risk at a crippled nuclear plant.
Removing the fuel rods from the No. 4 reactor cooling pool is the first major step in a decommissioning process that is expected to last decades at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, where three reactors melted down after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
The Nuclear Regulation Authority said at its weekly meeting that the proposal by the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, is appropriate and that the removal can start in November as planned, following an on-site inspection by regulators. Japanese public broadcaster NHK said the removal would start as early as Nov 8, but TEPCO said it may not announce the date in advance, citing security reasons.
“It’s a major step toward decommissioning,” said Toyoshi Fuketa, one of the authority’s five commissioners. “Moving the fuel rods out of No. 4 can significantly reduce the risk at the plant.”…s reinforced the structure around the pool and says the building can survive a major earthquake, but the unenclosed pool on the unit’s top floor, which contains 1,533 fuel rods, has caused international concern. About 200 of the rods that are unused and safer are expected to be the first to be removed…
…“It’s a totally different operation than removing normal fuel rods from a spent fuel pool,” Tanaka said at a regular news conference. “They need to be handled extremely carefully and closely monitored. You should never rush or force them out, or they may break.”
He said it would be a disaster if fuel rods are pulled forcibly and are damaged or break open when dropped from the pool, located about 30 meters above ground, releasing highly radioactive material. “I’m much more worried about this than contaminated water,” Tanaka said.
TEPCO has prepared a massive steel structure that comes with a remote-controlled crane to remove the fuel rods, which will be placed into a protective cask and transferred to a joint cooling pool inside a nearby building. To make room for the fuel rods, the company has been moving those already in the joint pool to safer storage in dry casks at a separate plant location.
The utility plans to empty the pool by end of 2014, and remove fuel rods from other pools at three other wrecked reactors over several years before digging into their melted cores around 2020.
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New York Times: Japan’s Illiberal Secrecy Law: 10 years jail determined on Journalists posting news with no constitution on what is deemed ‘Secret’, here it comes.


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By THE EDITORIAL BOARD

Published: October 29, 2013

The Japanese government is poised to enact a secrecy law that will undermine the people’s right to know. The law will give all government ministries the right to classify information related to defense, diplomacy, counterintelligence and counterterrorism as a state secret. But there is no guideline as to what constitutes a secret. This lack of definition means the government could well designate any inconvenient information secret.

Under the proposed law, government officials found to have revealed secrets could be jailed up to 10 years. Such a provision would give officials even greater incentive to label documents secret rather than risk their release.

Until now, only the Defense Ministry had the authority to classify information as a “defense secret.” Its record is abysmal. Of the 55,000 documents the ministry classified secret between 2006 and 2011, 34,000 were destroyed at the end of a particular secrecy period, depending on the document. And only one was declassified for public release.

The new law would allow the secrecy period to be extended indefinitely. And it further limits government accountability by making no clear provision for sharing secrets with elected representatives in the national Diet.

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Full article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/30/opinion/international/japans-illiberal-secrecy-law.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=1&