Saturday, September 22, 2012

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 3 Platforms for Debris Removal

(UPDATE) TEPCO released the video from the crane. See my latest post.


NHK has an aerial video of Reactor 3 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, in reporting the incident of a 470-kilogram steel frame (30 centimeters x 20 centimeters x 700 centimeters) dropping into the Spent Fuel Pool on September 22.

The link probably won't last (since it's NHK), but here's a screenshot of the video that shows the sides of Reactor 3 building now have platforms on which to put heavy equipment to remove the debris.

As I mentioned in the previous post, debris removal is being done by remote-controlled equipment (in this case, a large crane) by workers in a control room; the system was devised by Kajima (see their press release from April this year:

If the crane failed to grab the steel frame and the frame dropped into the SFP, the whole sequence should have been captured by the video cameras (two on the crane arm, at least two on the platforms). I wonder if TEPCO or Kajima releases the video.

(UPDATED) Just In: Steel Frame Dropped into #Fukushima Reactor 3 Spent Fuel Pool by Accident

(UPDATE 9/24/2012) TEPCO released the video from the crane. See my latest post.


(UPDATE) TEPCO has done the analysis of water in the Reactor 3 SFP, and the amount of cesium was pretty much the same as before the incident. From TEPCO Direct (9/22/2012):

Cesium 134: 2.2 x 10^3 Bq/cubic centimeter
Cesium 137: 3.6 x 10^3 Bq/cubic centimeter

Measurement done on September 21, 2012 (reference):

Cesium 134: 2.4 x 10^3 Bq/cubic centimeter
Cesium 137: 4.0 x 10^3 Bq/cubic centimeter


Removal of debris on the operation floor of Reactor 3 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is being done by remote-controlled heavy equipment on the platforms built outside the reactor building. The system was devised by one of TEPCO's main subcontractor Kajima.

From Jiji Tsushin (9/22/2012, 4:54PM):


Steel frame weighing 470 kilograms dropped into Reactor 3 Spent Fuel Pool at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, TEPCO says


TEPCO announced on September 22 that a steel frame weighing about 470 kilograms dropped into the Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor 3 during the debris removal operation of the Reactor 3 building of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant which had a hydrogen explosion. So far, there is no major increase in radiation levels nearby, TEPCO says.


According to TEPCO, the accident happened at 11:05AM on September 22 when [the crane operator] tried to grab a piece of debris, an H steel lying next to the Spent Fuel Pool on the 5th floor of Reactor 3 building and failed. The H steel slid into the Spent Fuel Pool.

A steel beam weighing 470 kilograms shouldn't be very big. But according to this person who called TEPCO's Public Relations to ask about the incident, TEPCO is investigating, because the steel beam could damage the fuel assemblies.

Well, it's easy for TEPCO to say. The question is how they are going to do it. Debris removal of Reactor 3 is done by remote control for very good reasons. First, it's such a mess on the operating floor that the workers can't even go there. Second, radiation levels are just too high for the workers to go there. So, how is TEPCO going to investigate?

But since it is Saturday in Japan, TEPCO is not scheduling a press conference.

Eda NO! Protest in Saitama Going Strong (Live Netcast)

Mr. Yukio Edano's constituency is Omiya City in Saitama. People are shouting "EdaNO!" (with accent in NO), "Saikado Hantai" (againt nuke plant restart, a rather tired refrain).

It is still a great change as far as Japan is concerned. People no longer feel afraid or silly to march, shouting slogans and beating drums and blowing whistles, and they don't care if they are not a 10,000-strong crowd or 100,000. And unlike in China, no one in the government is telling them to take to the streets (as far as I know).

Live Video streaming by Ustream

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fuel Loading Starts at Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in India

Indians must be thinking they are not Japanese (Fukushima, 2011-to date), just like Japanese were thinking they were not Russians (Chernobyl, 1986), just like Russians were thinking they were not Americans (Three Mile Island, 1979).

The Russian-made reactors are the first reactors in India that are capable of generating 1,000 MW.

Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is located near the very tip of the southern Indian subcontinent.

From The Times of India (9/22/2012):

CHENNAI: Loading of uranium fuel in the first unit of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant started on Wednesday, the Vinayaka Chaturthi day, as the controversial project took a major step towards becoming operational. The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) had given its final clearance for loading fuel on Tuesday night.

"Fuel loading has started and it will take at least 10 days for the process to be completed," said a Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) official. Each of the two Russian-made VVER reactors in the plant is capable of generating 1,000MW power.

"The nod for loading uranium-235 fuel was given on Tuesday and the plant authorities must have started loading the next day. There is nothing that could have stopped them from loading fuel in the first unit," AERB chief S S Bajaj told TOI from Vienna. The loading process was started without any publicity as per advice from central and state governments.

The fuel supplied by Russia was moved to the reactor room by scientists last week. Apart from an AERB team, NPCIL officials and Russian engineers witnessed the crucial event, the last major step before commissioning of the plant. Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency are likely to visit the plant before the reactor vessel is closed after loading fuel, NPCIL sources said.

Once the fuel loading is complete, the AERB will give clearance for closing the reactor vessel and it would take another 10-15 days for the unit to attain criticality, when power generation will start, said an NPCIL official.

The unit is likely to be synchronised with the power grid by October-end. Though plant officials are confident of meeting the deadline, there are apprehensions as the Russian reactor is the first of its kind in the country and it may take some more time to fully operationalise the unit.

The AERB had given its approval for loading fuel on August 11, but laid stringent conditions to be fulfilled before beginning the process. "After the nod, we also sent a team of officials to give clearance, if required, then and there," said Bajaj. The project, which has faced several problems since being launched, finally cleared the legal hurdles when the Madras high court and later the Supreme Court refused to stop loading of fuel.

This is the first time that a nuclear reactor capable of generating 1,000 MW is being operationalised in the country. As of now, the biggest operational reactors in India are the two 540MW reactors at Tarapur in Maharashtra. All other reactors are smaller in size. The Russian abbreviation VVER stands for water-cooled, water-moderated energy reactor. Apart from Russia, China also has similar reactors.

A Floating Dock from Japan off the Coast of Hawaii?

From NHK Kabun's tweet (9/21/2012):


A local fisherman found what looked like a floating dock off the coast of Hawaii. Japanese characters are reportedly written on part of the structure. The US Coast Guard is cautioning the ships, as the structure may have become adrift after the tsunami on March 11, 2011 earthquake in Japan.

And here's from Hawaii News Now (9/20/2012):

A floating menace could be the biggest piece of tsunami debris Hawaii has seen yet. Exclusive Hawaii News Now video shows a floating dock with Japanese writing on it. It was last seen near Molokai.

The barge gets your attention and fishermen are concerned it's a hazard however what to do with it remains to be seen.

Two Maui fishermen got an up close look at this huge dock. One of them even climbed aboard and saw the Japanese writing. They estimate it's about 30 feet by 50 feet. The dock had pier cleats and electrical boxes attached.

The fisherman first saw it Monday night about 30 miles north of Hana, Maui. Then again Tuesday 25 miles northeast of Molokai. And again yesterday when it was about 15 miles north Molokai. Charting the course the fisherman thinks it will hit around Kahuku sometime Friday evening which had Oahu fisherman concerned.

"I'd hate to have to be traveling at night and no beacons or nothing on it. And some guys, not everybody has radar and to run into that could be devastating," said George White, Fisherman.

"They could seriously damage their boat even at night," said Joey Edwards, Fisherman.

(Full article at the link)

I wonder what kind of invasive species have hitched the ride...

Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Senkaku Islands Row: Japanese Companies in China Hide Their Logos, Display Banners "Diaoyu Islands Are Chinese Territory"

Japan is the perennial loser in a fight with bullies in the sand box.

Because they didn't want the destruction of their buildings, some Japanese companies in China, from a multinational clothing company to a small Japanese restaurant, decided to hide the names and logos that identify them as "Japanese", and displayed a banner that said "Diaoyu Islands are China's own territory". (Chinese call Senkaku Island "Diaoyu Islands".)

From Asahi Shinbun's English paper, Asia & Japan Watch (9/22/2012):

Precautions by Japanese companies in China anger consumers at home:

As recent anti-Japan protests turned violent, police and government officials in China advised Japanese companies to display pro-China messages or Chinese flags to avoid becoming targets of the protesters.

Now, questions of whether--and to what extent--those companies complied has caused a wave of confusion and anger among consumers in Japan.

The protests, which saw Japanese businesses and factories across China attacked, centered on the continuing dispute between the two countries over the uninhabited Senkaku Islands, called Diaoyu by China.

Japanese casual clothing store Uniqlo has faced particularly strong outcry over its apparent response to the protests.

On Sept. 15, a photo surfaced of one of its outlets in Shanghai displaying a sign which read, "We support the claim that the Diaoyu Islands are inherently China's territory."

The sign was posted in the display window of the store's fall fashion line, and remained there for about 40 minutes.


According to a company spokesperson, the Shanghai store did not obey instructions by local police to post a pro-China sign for its own safety. The official said the decision was based on company policy that a store "shall not take any political stance or voice opinions on diplomatic matters."

However, when anti-Japan demonstrations intensified on the morning of Sept. 15, the store was warned again that its "security would not be guaranteed," prompting the store manager to post the sign at the manager's own discretion, the company official said.

The sign was removed at around 12:40 p.m., once the protesters were gone.

(Full article at the link)

Uniqlo is saying it did what it did on its own volition, not because the threat from the local police. Wink, wink, you'd understand, right, Japanese consumers who buy our clothes? Don't you want cheap but chic and high-quality clothes made in our Chinese factory?

Uniqlo says it has received 1,400 calls and emails from Japanese customers protesting the company's action in China, but the CEO of the company says they were "misquoted".

On a separate piece of news from Osaka, washing machines made by the top Chinese maker Haier continue to emit smokes even after the recall and repair.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Three Mile Island Reactor Shuts Down Unexpectedly

From NBC News (9/20/2012):

A reactor at Three Mile Island, the site of the nation’s worst nuclear accident, shut down unexpectedly on Thursday afternoon when a coolant pump tripped and steam was released, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission told NBC News.

The system tripped when "the pump stopped operating and created a power/flow imbalance," said NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan.

The plant responded as designed and is stable with no impact on public health or safety, added NRC spokeswoman Diane Screnci.

If any radiation was in the released steam, Screnci said, it would be below detectable levels.

Exelon, the plant operator, said in a statement that "during the shutdown, steam was released into the atmosphere, creating a loud noise heard by nearby residents."

A NRC inspector based at the plant "responded to the control room immediately after the reactor trip to independently assess control room operators' response to the event and ensure safety systems were functioning as designed," Sheehan said. "He did not identify any immediate concerns with operator or equipment performance."

Plant operators were not yet sure what caused the problem.

"Once the reactor is sufficiently cooled down, plant personnel will be able to access the containment building and troubleshoot the problem," Sheehan added.

Located about 12 miles south of Harrisburg, Pa., Three Mile Island in 1979 saw a partial meltdown of one of its nuclear reactor cores. Small amounts of radiation were released into the environment when the reactor core lost cooling water, exposing the highly radioactive fuel rods.

A presidential commission later said the accident was "the result of a series of human, institutional and mechanical failures."

Several thousand people claimed they had suffered ill health effects from radiation, but their lawsuit was rejected by a federal court in 1996 with the judge concluding they had not proved their case.

Various assessments by the government and nuclear industry have concluded no radiation-related deaths or illnesses resulted from the accident.

#Radioactive Japan: Government to Send Emperor and Empress to Fukushima to Observe Decontamination Work

It's clearly not enough for the power that be in Japan to have peaches grown in one of the more contaminated areas in Fukushima offered to the Imperial Family. Now the government will send the Emperor and the Empress to the areas in Fukushima to observe the decontamination work.

From Mainichi Shinbun (9/20/2012):


Emperor and Empress to observe decontamination work


Our paper found out from the source in the Imperial Household Agency that the Emperor and the Empress intend to visit Fukushima Prefecture on October 13 in order to observe the work to decontaminate the areas contaminated by the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. It will be the first time for the Emperor and the Empress to observe the decontamination work. The Imperial Household Agency is currently scheduling the visit.


According to the source, the visit will be a day trip. The Emperor and the Empress visited Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima in April and May last year, and expressed deep sympathy to the victims.


In the one-year anniversary ceremony this March, the Emperor referred to the nuclear accident by saying "People had to evacuate from areas made dangerous by the nuclear accident, where they had lived and worked for many years. In order for them to go back and live safely there, we have a difficult problem of radiation contamination to overcome."

The emperor was the only person among those who spoke in the ceremony who mentioned radiation, who talked to the deceased, and expressed genuine concern for the people who had to leave their homes because of the nuclear accident.

One response from a person supposedly living in Fukushima, on the Emperor's visit to the decon site:

"What's wrong with that?"

I briefly thought of replying, but I quickly dropped the thought.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Angry Crowd Shout "GO HOME! GO HOME!" to PM Noda and Leadership Candidates in Shinjuku, Tokyo

Good job, people.

And thank you citizens of Kyoto City for showing us the way back in March, when you shouted down Goshi Hosono and his underlings.

Frankly, things like this have never ever happened in Japan before - ordinary people shouting down the leadership of the country.

"帰れ、帰れ! 解散しろ!" Go home, go home! Dissolve the Diet and hold election! People shouted at the DPJ leadership candidates speaking atop the van, on September 19, 2012 on the street corner in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

According to people who watched the snippet in the evening news in Japan, the television stations all filtered out the angry crowd. As you see at about 2:20 into the video, there is a wide space between the candidates and people. Plain-clothes secret policemen, who look exactly like yakuza, make sure none of the peasants dare approach the van.

Latest #Fukushima I Nuke Plant Videos from Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Japan

The Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) has just replaced the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and the Nuclear Safety Commission as the new regulatory body over the nuclear industry in Japan. The appointment of the commissioners was done without the Diet's approval, though I don't think the Diet would have prevented the appointment anyway.

Unlike its predecessors, NRA may be well advised by a media-savvy PR agency, and it already has its Youtube channel and Twitter account.

I found these videos on the Youtube channel, taken on September 15, 2012 when the commissioners-to-be visited Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. The videos are short, as they have been edited, and they even have a horrendous BGM in the intro parts and in transitions (to me, a tell-tale sign that the videos were compiled by a PR agency).

Some of the voices have been edited out for nuclear security concerns, according to NRA. Unlike videos released by TEPCO, these are clearly taken by a professional cameraman.

Locations they visited (from the Youtube video description):

Anti-earthquake building
Pumps for water injection into the reactors
Storage tanks for treated water
Reactors 1 through 4, from outside
Reactor 4 building operation floor
Reactor 4 building seismic reinforcement
Cesium removal system
Ocean side of Reactors 1 through 4 turbine buildings
Dry cask storage
Reactors 5, 6
Power transmission tower that fell in the March 11, 2011 earthquake
Multiple nuclide removal system (Toshiba's system)

The second video shows the operation floor of Reactor 4. "1.9 millisievert/hour" behind the Reactor 3 turbine building (ocean side), someone from TEPCO explains as they ride the bus.

People against nuclear power have been vehemently against these commissioners, particularly against the chairman Shunichi Tanaka, accusing them of "Nuke Village" insiders.

I am dead set against that silly music in the videos.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Senkaku Islands Row: Chinese Protesters Surround US Ambassador's Car

Well, as you may have heard, the Japanese ambassador to China died before he was dispatched to China. So instead, Chinese protesters seem to have picked on the ambassador of Japan's overlord (as many in Japan perceive the US to be).

US Ambassador Gary Locke is ethnic Chinese (3rd-generation). Somewhat like the Japanese shops and restaurants destroyed by the mob in various parts of China are owned and operated by Chinese.

From Wall Street Journal (9/18/2012; emphasis is mine):

BEIJING—The U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke, was surrounded in his official car by a group of about 50 Chinese protesters outside the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday and had to be protected by Chinese security guards, a State Department spokesperson said.

The protesters caused minor damage to the vehicle, but Mr. Locke was unharmed, the spokesperson said in a statement.

"Embassy officials have registered their concern regarding today's incident with the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and urged the Chinese Government to do everything possible to protect American facilities and personnel," the statement said. The ministry couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing is close to the Japanese Embassy, where thousands of protesters have been massing over the past several days in a show of anger over the Japanese government's decision to purchase disputed islands in the East China Sea.

Security near the U.S. Embassy was heightened this week, as riot police and others attempted to keep order among protesters. Main roads near the embassy had been closed to vehicle traffic, though they were reopened early Wednesday amid a heavy police presence.

The incident comes as U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is in Beijing this week meeting with senior Chinese military and civilian leaders.

The statement gave no details about the demonstrators who blocked Mr. Locke's car, and what motivated their action.

Protests in some cities have turned violent, with Japanese cars smashed and Japanese-owned shops and factories forced to close. Nonetheless, protests in Beijing haven't appeared directly targeted at the U.S., or its alliance with Tokyo.

"Chinese security personnel standing in front of the embassy responded and removed the demonstrators from the scene, allowing the Ambassador's vehicle to enter the Embassy compound through another gate," the statement said.

Mr. Locke, the first ethnic Chinese to hold the job of ambassador to China, has become a media celebrity since he arrived in 2011. Many Chinese admire his informal style, and how he and his family mix with ordinary Chinese, in contrast to the aloof behavior of their own leaders.

Mr. Locke was famously photographed by a Chinese traveler carrying a backpack and buying his own cup of coffee at Starbucks at Seattle airport as he flew off to start his assignment in Beijing. The picture went viral on the Chinese Internet, where critics noted a Chinese official would likely be surrounded by personal assistants.

New Energy Policy of "Unremitting Examination and Revision", Says Noda Administration, Not "Zero Nuke" (Sorry, Angela)

So, the policy about zero nuclear plants operating in Japan by 2030 first became the policy about zero nuclear plants operating in Japan by some time in 2030s, and then the wording was completely dropped from the official cabinet decision document. Now, what is in the cabinet decision?

This is:

The Japanese government is committed to the "unremitting (ceaseless) examination and revision" of the new energy policy.

Reading the Jiji Tsushin article (9/19/2012; part), it almost reads as if this "unremitting examination and revision" is indeed the new energy policy itself:


Zero nuke is not explicitly written in the cabinet decision document, the new energy strategy "unremitting revision"


The government [Noda administration] made the decision to "execute the future energy policy with unremitting examination and revision, based on the "revolutionary [innovative, if you so prefer] energy and environmental strategy"" during the cabinet meeting on September 19. The strategy is supposed to aim at zero nuclear power plant operating in 2030s, but "zero nuclear" was not mentioned in the official document of the cabinet decision.


Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said in the morning press conference, "We will plan for concrete actions for the energy and environmental policies based on the strategy." Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Yukio Edano said in the press conference after the cabinet meeting, "(The strategy) is not mentioned in the document for the cabinet decision, but was authorized in the cabinet meeting." Minister in charge of national strategy Motohisa Furukawa said, "There is no hidden agenda behind the way we made our decision."


The body text of the Nuclear Energy Policy Guideline compiled in 2005, for example, was not the subject of the cabinet decision either.


The business circle and others were strongly against the strategy that was agreed on by the "Energy and Environmental Conference" of the Cabinet Office on September 14. In the National Strategy Conference held on September 18, civilian members expressed opposition, and the approval of the strategy didn't happen.

There is no hidden agenda behind the way they decided. Now that's unintentionally funny.

Jiji Tsushin is kind enough to make excuse for the minister by citing the precedent, as if that would make it OK to omit the "zero nuke" reference from the formal cabinet decision, after the unprecedented 90,000 public comments on the nuclear energy policy flooded the office of Mr. Furukawa.

The omission is called "plausible deniability". Twenty years from now when all these politicians have long gone to the politicians' heaven or into the cushy retirement, no one will care to know how the decision was made, except by looking at what was written down on paper. Since no mention of "zero nuclear plants in 2030 or 2030s" is found in the document, there will be no reason for the administration at that time (if Japan lasts that long as a nation, given the Chinese threat of dumping Japanese bonds) to make that happen.

German Chancellor Welcomes Japan's Zero Nuke Policy, But Noda Admin Drops It After Protest from Big Business Lobby and Doubt from IAEA

Oops. Ms. Merkel should have waited one more day.

On September 18, as Jiji Press (English) reported the Chancellor's comments on September 17:

Vienna, Sept. 17 (Jiji Press)--German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcomed on Monday a new strategy of the Japanese government to lower dependence on nuclear power to zero in the 2030s.

Merkel said at a news conference in Berlin that she expresses respect for Japan's decision and that she hopes the two nations will strengthen cooperation in converting to renewable energy sources.

Since the nuclear accident in March 2011 at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s <9501> Fukushima No. 1 power plant, Germany has worked closely with Japan on energy policy, Merkel said.

She said Germany is pleased to continue cooperation with Japan and that Japan must be looking for stronger cooperation.

The chancellor said Germany hopes to share information with Japan on energy efficiency, the introduction of renewable energy and the expansion of power grids.

But one day later on September 19, the same Jiji Tsushin (Japanese) first reported:


Zero Nuke is "Not in the Cabinet document", says Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Edano


In the press conference after the cabinet meeting on September 19, Yukio Edano, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry said that the new energy and environmental strategy that aims at zero nuclear power plant operating in 2030s "is not mentioned in the document for the cabinet decision, but it was authorized in the cabinet meeting."

If you scratch your head and wonder aloud what the hell Mr. Edano meant, here's the minister in charge of national strategy, no less:


The administration put off the cabinet decision on the new energy strategy


Yoshihisa Furukawa, minister in charge of national strategy, said that the cabinet decision on the new energy strategy had been put off.

So, with the Keidanren's chairman threatening to resign from the national strategy council over the zero nuke policy and IAEA expressing doubts about the implication of zero nuke on the production of plutonium, the Noda administration simply drops the zero nuke strategy which they embraced reluctantly anyway to win popularity in the coming Lower House election.

And guess what. Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is expected to win the Democratic Party of Japan's leadership election in a landslide.

Senkaku Island Row May Turn into a Bond War as China Threatens to Dump Japanese Government Bond It Holds

Uh we're talking serious matters. Are Messrs Ishihara, Noda (not to mention Bank of Japan Governor Shirakawa) ready for this?

(Talk about fiscal cliff... See the chart near the bottom of the post.)

First, from Ambrose Evans-Pritchard at The Telegraph (9/18/2012):

Beijing hints at bond attack on Japan

A senior advisor to the Chinese government has called for an attack on the Japanese bond market to precipitate a funding crisis and bring the country to its knees, unless Tokyo reverses its decision to nationalise the disputed Senkaku/Diaoyu islands in the East China Sea.

Jin Baisong from the Chinese Academy of International Trade – a branch of the commerce ministry – said China should use its power as Japan’s biggest creditor with $230bn (£141bn) of bonds to “impose sanctions on Japan in the most effective manner” and bring Tokyo’s festering fiscal crisis to a head.

Writing in the Communist Party newspaper China Daily, Mr Jin called on China to invoke the “security exception” rule under the World Trade Organisation to punish Japan, rejecting arguments that a trade war between the two Pacific giants would be mutually destructive.

Separately, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported that China is drawing up plans to cut off Japan’s supplies of rare earth metals needed for hi-tech industry.

The warnings came as anti-Japanese protests spread to 85 cities across China, forcing Japanese companies to shutter factories and suspend operations.

Mr Jin said China can afford to sacrifice its “low-value-added” exports to Japan at a small cost. By contrast, Japan relies on Chinese demand to keep its economy afloat and stave off “irreversible” decline.

It’s clear that China can deal a heavy blow to the Japanese economy without hurting itself too much,” he said. It is unclear whether he was speaking with the full backing of the Politburo or whether sales of Japanese debt would do much damage. The Bank of Japan could counter the move with bond purchases. Any weakening of the yen would be welcome.

(Full article at the link)

Mr. Evans-Pritchard, on-again-off-again Keynesian (currently "on"), seems to think Bank of Japan would be happy and willing to absorb the dumped JGB should it occur. But reality-based Tyler Durden at Zero Hedge has a different take:

Should this stunning recommendation be enacted, not only would it be the first time in world history that insurmountable credit is used as a weapon of retaliation, it would mark a clear phase transition in the evolution of modern warfare: from outright military incursions, to FX wars, to trade wars, culminating with "bond wars" which could in the span of minutes cripple the entire Japanese fiscal house of cards still standing solely due to the myth that unserviceable debt can be pushed off into perpetuity (as previously discussed here).

Not needing further explanation is the reality that should China commence a wholesale Japanese bond dump, it may well lead to that long anticipated Japanese bond market collapse, as creditor after creditor proceeds to sell into a market in which the BOJ is the buyer of only resort in the best case, and into a bidless market in the worst.

The immediate outcome would be soaring inflation as the BOJ is forced to monetize debt for dear life, buying up first hundreds of billions, then trillions in the secondary market to avoid a complete rout, matched by trillions of reserves created out of thin air which may or may not be halted by the Japanese deflationary gate, and which most certainly could waterfall into the economy especially if Japanese citizens take this as an all clear signal that the Japanese economy is about to be crippled in all out economic warfare with the most dangerous such opponent, and one which just defected from the "global insolvent creditor" game of Mutual Assured Destruction.

Further complicating things is that Japan has no clear means of retaliation: it owns no Chinese bonds of its own it can dump as a containment measure. Instead, Japan is at best left with the threat of damages incurred on the Chinese economy should Japan be lost as a trading parting.

Tyler's conclusion, to which I agree:

One thing here is certain: Japan picked on the wrong country when two weeks ago it "purchased" the disputed Senkaku Islands. If it thought that China would just forgive and forget with a wink, it was dead wrong.

It now has several two options: undo all that has happened in the past fortnight, in the process suffering tremendous diplomatic humiliation, leaving Senkaku in the "no man's land" where they belong, or push on, and suffer the consequences. And the consequences for the country represented by the question market in the chart below, would be tragically severe, as would they for the entire "developed", insolvent and daisy-chained world.

The world could literally collapse over some inconsequential pieces of rock in the South China Sea.

Kitakyushu City Started Radioactive Disaster Debris Burning and Burying, Also Started Internet Monitoring to Prevent "Baseless Rumors"

"Wag the dog" is working splendidly in Japan, as the media focus is solely on the small piece of real estate in the ocean (plus natural resources under the ocean, amount of which seems nowhere near the initial estimate, by the way). As they start the burn of disaster debris from Miyagi Prefecture in Kitakyushu City, first ever of such a burn west of Shizuoka Prefecture (which is located about the middle of the archipelago), only a smattering of newspapers cover the event, and none of them mentions continued strong opposition by residents in the city (and far greater number of Japanese citizens/residents outside the city), and local fishermen (the ashes are to be quickly buried in the landfill in the bay).

Here's one from Mainichi Shinbun, who buried the article in the local version of the paper; it tells us two incredible and frustrating pieces of information:

  • As soon as they started burning the disaster debris contaminated with radioactive materials from the nuclear accident, the Kitakyushu City government started the monitoring of the Internet for any negative comments about city's burning and burying to prevent "baseless rumors";

  • Anonymous city official is quoted as basically saying "Maybe we shouldn't be doing this, but it was the national government's responsibility to tell us otherwise."

As I wrote in my previous post, there is no sensible reason to bring the debris all the way to Kyushu and burn it, because, for one, there is no debris technically that could be diverted to Kitakyushu City.

From Mainichi Shinbun (9/18/2012; part):


The task of the city from now on is to dispel fears among the residents over the debris burning. The city will publish the data on air radiation levels near the three incineration plants on the city's homepage, and since September 17 it has been monitoring the Internet for messages as the countermeasure against baseless rumors. The city has contracted a private business, who will check the Internet message boards. The purpose is to see whether there are baseless messages that may lead to rumors that may damage tourism and agriculture and fishing industries [in Kitakyushu City]. However, it hasn't been decided at this point how to respond to such a message, if found.


After the incineration on September 17, the city measured the air radiation levels on the perimeters of the three incineration plants; the levels were between 0.05 to 0.09 microsievert/hour, unchanged from before the incineration. Based on these measurements, the city says "There is no problem with the safety", and will start burying the ashes in the landfill in the city's Wakamatsu-ku.


However, some doubt the necessity of wide-area disposal of disaster debris. Miyagi Prefecture has stopped requesting for the acceptance of the flammable debris [that's what Kitakyushu is getting] because the prefecture can now do it on its own, and there are hardly any municipalities following Kitakyushu City [in accepting the debris]. Also, the processing cost is about 77,000 yen per tonne, higher than the cost suggested by the Ministry of the Environment (30,000 to 70,000 yen). People who oppose [the wide-area disposal] ask, "What's the point of spending that kind of money to do the wide-area disposal?"


The Ministry of the Environment, who requested the cooperation from all municipalities in Japan, now explains, "The sooner the debris disposal is done the better, and at the time of our request we thought it was necessary (to ask all municipalities in Japan)." The senior officials in Kitakyushu City now says, "It may have been better if the national government had exerted a little bit more control [over the issue of wide-area disposal]."

Most of the cost of disposing the debris in Kitakyushu City is the transportation cost, which will be paid out of the pocket of Japanese citizens/residents to Kajima, who will do the transport by container ship. (Talk about regulatory capture, on which Japan is the world number one expert.)

Besides, what the Ministry of the Environment is not telling you is this: At the time when the Ministry decided to spread the debris all over Japan, they weren't aware that the debris were contaminated with radioactive materials from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. It apparently never occurred to them, and they went ahead with the plan of wide-area disposal, which had been in place long before the disaster happened.

Looking at the debris, the concern should be more about chemical and heavy metal contamination (from tsunami) and asbestos. But then, the severe environmental pollution from these substances is what Kitakyushu City has been subjected to and familiar with, ever since the first furnace was built and installed in the city in the late 19th century by the central government.

After a year and half since the start of the nuclear accident, only the bureaucrats and officials in national and municipal governments who still think they can measure the radiation contamination by waving a survey meter over the debris (or food, for that matter). I still see occasional, exasperated tweets from the radiation researchers in the universities that their job would be so much easier if a survey meter could tell them the density of radioactive materials in any given item.

But not to worry. As Mainichi article says, the city is already burying the ashes in the city's landfill on the ocean, with this reassuring photo coming from Kokura Times, newspaper in Kitakyushu City (click to enlarge):

According to Kokura Times, the city is paying the private company 12 million yen (US$152,000) to monitor the Internet message boards and report back to the city of the findings. I suppose the city's mayor who bullied the opposition will send the invoice to Goshi Hosono, who will promptly pay with the taxpayers' money.

(Put these bureaucrats all in the containers, ship the containers back to Tohoku, but instead of sending them back to Ishinomaki City, send them to Fuku-I. All the toxic, deadly materials should be in one place.)

Monday, September 17, 2012

IAEA's Director General Yukiya Amano's Statement on Fukushima: "We are now well into the post-accident phase"

The occasion was the 56th Regular Session of IAEA General Conference being held in Vienna, Austria.

Mr. Amano, a former career bureaucrat in Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, says "lessons learned from Fukushima" a number of times in the statement, but gives one concrete example only: backup power.

Other than that, the Fukushima nuclear accident is behind us, according to Mr. Amano, and everything is fine and dandy again in the world of nuclear energy. All we need to do is to make sure it is as safe as humanly possible.

From IAEA press release (9/17/2012), part about the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident (emphasis is mine):

Mr. President,

Nuclear power remains the best known peaceful application of nuclear energy. When I became Director General three years ago, the talk was of a nuclear renaissance. Then the Fukushima Daiichi accident happened, raising fundamental questions about the future of nuclear energy throughout the world.

Eighteen months after the accident, it is clear that nuclear energy will remain an important option for many countries. Our latest projections show a steady rise in the number of nuclear power plants in the world in the next 20 years.

Most of the new nuclear power reactors which are planned or under construction are in Asia. Established users such as China, India, the Republic of Korea and the Russian Federation plan significant expansions of their nuclear power programmes. Developing countries continue to show keen interest in nuclear power. Vietnam and Bangladesh are among those with advanced plans to build their first power reactors.

The most important lesson that we have learned from Fukushima Daiichi is that we need a much more intense focus on nuclear safety. But nuclear energy offers many benefits. It can help to improve energy security, reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices, mitigate the effects of climate change and make economies more competitive. It also has important non-electric applications such as seawater desalination, district heating and heat for industrial processes. The Agency is committed to supporting the development of new and emerging applications in these areas.

In recent years, we have devoted more staff and resources to helping newcomer countries. The United Arab Emirates recently became the first country in 27 years to start building its first nuclear power plant. Our expert assistance enables newcomers to learn from the experience of existing nuclear power users. We have extensive tools to assist newcomers with energy planning and infrastructure development, and in crafting sound long-term nuclear energy strategies. We stress that the highest standards of safety must be the basis of all nuclear power programmes.

Turning to the question of assurance of supply of nuclear fuel, the world's first reserve of low enriched uranium (LEU) under the Agency's auspices was established in December 2010 in Angarsk, in the Russian Federation.

A separate arrangement, originally proposed by the United Kingdom, for the assurance of supply of enrichment services and LEU, is also in place. Our work to establish an IAEA LEU Bank in Kazakhstan continues to make progress.

The safe management and disposal of radioactive waste and spent fuel remain key issues. The Agency works closely with Member States in this area. The nuclear industry has been managing interim waste disposal successfully for more than half a century. But no long-term disposal facility has so far become operational for nuclear spent fuel. This is often due to difficulties involving public acceptance.

Nevertheless, good progress has been made in a number of countries, including Finland, Sweden and France. Last month, I had an opportunity to visit the ONKALO facility in Finland, where a repository for the final disposal of spent fuel is being built deep underground. It is an impressive site. We expect the first deep geological repositories for nuclear spent fuel to become operational after 2020. The progress that is being made in this area deserves to be better known.

The International Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Power in the 21st Century in St Petersburg, Russia, next June, will provide a valuable opportunity to consider nuclear power's long-term contribution to sustainable development.

Mr. President,

At the last General Conference, the Fukushima Daiichi accident was uppermost in all our minds. The Agency provided practical assistance to Japan and shared information, openly and transparently, with governments and the public.

We are now well into the post-accident phase. The focus is on implementing the IAEA Action Plan on Nuclear Safety which the last General Conference endorsed. Progress has been made in many areas. Let me highlight one example. One of the key problems at Fukushima Daiichi was the loss of all electrical power as backup generators were disabled by the tsunami. After the accident, securing alternative reliable electricity supply during a prolonged blackout was recognized as an area requiring swift action by plant operators around the world.

We have expanded the content of IAEA expert peer review services to Member States to include the first lessons learned from the accident. Peer reviews involve assessments of plant safety, regulatory effectiveness or emergency preparedness and response. Possible safety weak points at nuclear power plants have been identified and are being addressed.

We undertook a systematic review of IAEA Safety Standards, taking into account lessons learned from the Fukushima Daiichi accident. We took a self-critical look at our own response to the accident and identified areas where we could have done better, including in communication. We launched a series of international expert meetings focussing on different technical issues. And we have continued to support our Member States in their efforts to enhance the international nuclear safety legal framework.

In December, the Fukushima Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety, organized by the Government of Japan and the IAEA, will take place in Fukushima Prefecture. At this Conference, we will present a report outlining the conclusions of the international expert meetings held so far. We will also prepare a comprehensive report on the Fukushima Daiichi accident, to be finalized in 2014.

Nuclear safety remains the primary responsibility of individual countries. However, governments have recognized that effective international cooperation is vitally important and that the IAEA has a unique role to play in this regard. It is essential that the Nuclear Safety Action Plan is implemented in full. We must never become complacent. The ultimate goal is to make nuclear power as safe as humanly possible everywhere and to restore public confidence.

As safe as humanly possible. How is he going to achieve that? Probably by creating more detailed manuals and procedures to follow. TEPCO and NISA did have extensive manuals and procedures, but that didn't help either of them in dealing with the accident unfolding in front of them in a way that had never been described in the manuals and anticipated in the procedures.

From reading what Asahi Shinbun had to report from the transcript of 50 hours worth of the teleconference video in the early days of the accident in March last year, I am beginning to form my own conclusion that all could have been prevented if they, particularly TEPCO, dared not follow the manuals and procedures, rules and regulations. (More later, maybe.)

No amount of IAEA's new and improved procedures will make nuclear power as safe as humanly possible. It will only make a very convenient excuse for the officials and operators of nuclear plants when an accident does happen. "See, we meticulously followed the procedures. We did nothing wrong. It's all beyond our expectation."

Sound familiar?

Senkaku Islands Row: 2 Japanese Landed on One of the Islands?

Headline only at NHK (9/18/2012, 10:37AM):


According to the information obtained by the Maritime Safety Agency, two people considered to be Japanese landed on Uotsurishima Island in Senkaku Island, Okinawa at about 9:30AM on September 18. The Agency is trying to verify the information.

I hope it's Shintaro Ishihara and his son, and I hope they will stay there for good.

Senkaku Island Row: 1,000 Fishing boats to Senkaku, and Fake Brand Market in Beijing Refuses Japanese Goods, Noda Dispatches SDF Ships

(UPDATE) According to Nikkei Shinbun (9/17/2012), the Noda administration is dispatching the Self Defense Force ships to Senkaku Island.

(What Chinese clearly doesn't think much of: Article 5 of the Security Treaty between Japan and the US. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta just affirmed it would apply to Senkaku Islands during his visit to Japan:

Each Party recognizes that an armed attack against either Party in the territories under the administration of Japan would be dangerous to its own peace and safety and declares that it would act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional provisions and processes. Any such armed attack and all measures taken as a result thereof shall be immediately reported to the Security Council of the United Nations in accordance with the provisions of Article 51 of the Charter. Such measures shall be terminated when the Security Council has taken the measures necessary to restore and maintain international peace and security.


Not to be late for the party of global unrest from Portugal to Syria to Afganistan to Indonesia, about 12,000 fishing boats have departed from mainland China, and 1,000 of them due at Senkaku Islands on September 18.

As Shanghai Stock Exchange Composite Index plunged more than 2% on Monday September 17 to the level last seen in early 2009, people in China look very happy smashing windows of evil Japanese establishments in China. Sankei Shinbun has several interesting photos from Reuters, and this one caught my attention:

Young males in 20s, at most early 30s, smashing windows of Seibu Department Store in Shenzhen. China's draconian one-child policy has produced a severe, unnatural imbalance of males and females, 1.2 to 1. As the economy slows significantly in China, how to engage these excess males in gainful activities becomes a big issue. What better way than to egg them on to some destructive activities to relieve some pressure?

I thought this photo below was cute. A middle-aged man posing in front of a huge banner at a fake-brand goods market in Beijing, saying "We refuse to sell Japanese goods, the islands are ours!" Uh... fake Japanese goods made in China? Take a close look at the depiction of Senkaku Islands, with figures (soldiers, probably) propping up a Chinese flag. The US Marines in Iojima imagery. Very cute.

By making the banner in Chinese and English (not Japanese), it's rather obvious who they are appealing to.

Techworld: "Microsoft discovers Chinese malware pre-installed on new PCs"

What a surprise.

From, by John E. Dunn (9/14/2012):

Microsoft discovers Chinese malware pre-installed on new PCs: Shock as Chinese supply chain compromised

Microsoft has published evidence of an extraordinary conspiracy in which potent botnet malware was apparently installed and hidden on PCs during their manufacture in China.

In ‘Operation B70’ started in August 2011, Microsoft documents how its Digital Crimes Unit (DCU) bought 20 brand new laptops and desktop PCs from various cities in China, finding that four were infected with pre-installed backdoor malware, including one with a known rootkit called ‘Nitol’.

Tracing Nitol’s activity back to an extensive network of global command and control (C&C) servers, the team discovered that the malware that has infected PCs to build a larger bot, most probably used to launch DDoS attacks.

Once in situ, Nitol would spread beyond the PCs on which it had been pre-installed by copying itself to USB and other removable drives.

Disturbingly, other malware hosted on the main domain used as C&C by Nitol was capable of performing just about every nasty in the malware criminal’s armoury, including keylogging, controlling webcams, and changing search settings.

This hints at the disturbing possibility that the pre-installed malware tactic is almost certainly much more significant than previously realised.

That PCs are being pre-installed with malware during or soon after manufacture confirmed a long-held suspicion that had prompted Microsoft to investigate supply chain security, the firm said.

“What’s especially disturbing is that the counterfeit software embedded with malware could have entered the chain at any point as a computer travels among companies that transport and resell the computer,” Microsoft said in a blog introducing its investigations.

Anyone installing malware during manufacture – that is before any form of security is added – would have an important head start over security systems that might be installed on the PC at a later point. The only way around this would be for the customer to reinstall the operating system after purchase using a known secure image.

As PC malware scandals go this is about as bad as it gets; Operation B70 offers an unpleasant glimpse of the state of PC security and asks questions of the security of the supply chain.

(Full article at the link.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

#Radioactive Disaster Debris from Miyagi to Kitakyushu City, 2 Billion Yen Just To Transport

(UPDATE) Kitakyushu City is burning it now, on Monday September 17, which is a holiday in Japan (Respect the Elderly Day, no joke). Looking at TV Tokyo News, it certainly does not look anything like "wood chips".


Does that make sense? Yes it does. Kajima, one of the largest general contractors in Japan, got the job of transporting the debris by sea for a handsome 2 billion yen (US$25.5 million), and the mayor of Kitakyushu City can tell the residents that the cash-strapped city of his will get 620 million yen from Miyagi Prefecture (who will bill the national government, who will bill the Japanese citizens/residents), according to Mr. Yushi Yokota, Communist Party assemblyman in the Miyagi prefectural assembly.

After all, Kitakyushu City has been prepping the city's children, telling them how wonderfully safe and clean it is to burn the debris. This kind of effort should not be wasted.

Here's Asahi Shinbun's video footage. The container ship that carried 800 tonnes of disaster debris from Miyagi arrived at the port in Kitakyushu City in the morning of September 13, 2012:

The containers carried flammable debris, mostly wood chips carefully sorted and washed, from Ishinomaki City in Miyagi, or that's how it was sold to the Kitakyushu City residents.

Well, not quite. A blog called "Kyushu Sunflower Project" by people against accepting and burning debris in kitakyushu City has this photo in one of their posts. When one of the containers was opened, this is what they found. Does it look like "wood chips" to you? Does it look like they were carefully sorted and washed to you?

The blogpost adds one more piece of information that should alarm the residents of Kitakyushu. Debris from Onagawa-cho, Miyagi was mixed in with that of Ishinomaki. Onagawa's debris is much more contaminated than that of Ishinomaki. (For the degree of contamination of disaster debris in Miyagi and Iwate, see my post from March 24, 2012.)

There is also an allegation of "double-counting" of disaster debris from Ishinomaki. As it turns out that there is far less debris than originally estimated, there is not enough to go around. So what does the enterprising governor of Miyagi do? Double-count. Kajima's joint venture had won the contract to process all the disaster debris in Ishinomaki last year. That should have been the end of it. No debris to give to anyone else. But miraculously, for Kitakyushu City, the debris somehow materialized, and Goshi Hosono's Ministry of the Environment will make sure it will get burned and money be paid to Kajima and Kitakyushu City.

The blog "Kyushu Sunflower Project" has a cartoon titled "There was no debris left", explaining this double-counting. The cartoon also has an incredible piece of information - the temporary housing for people in the city who lost their homes in the tsunami of March 11, 2011 was built right next to the debris piles. What's more, Ishinomaki City does have a landfill in the mountain on the east side of the city, and it is empty.

What were they thinking? (Maybe they WERE thinking well, to use this as a tool to pressure the municipalities outside Miyagi to accept contaminated debris for the sake of these poor residents...)

(Cartoon continues at the link.)