Saturday, January 12, 2013

TEPCO "#Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Video Tour"

The 26-minute video was released on December 14, 2012 in English. It looks like the collection of images and videos of the plant since March 11, 2011.

TEPCO released the Japanese version of the video (slightly shorter, 22 minutes) on January 10, 2013.

Friday, January 11, 2013

US National Cancer Institute I-131 Thyroid Dose Calculator for Nevada Test Site Fallout

For readers in the US who were born before 1971, there is an online calculator available from the National Cancer Institute to assess your radioactive iodine (I-131) exposure (thyroid dose equivalent) from nuclear tests in Nevada:

I-131 Thyroid Dose/Risk Calculator for Nevada Test Site (NTS) Fallout

You input gender, date of birth (month, year), state, county, and primary type of milk you drank. The number may surprise.

NCI has reports on I-131, here.

State and county level exposures in an interactive map (which wasn't working when I checked), here. The maximum exposure was 16 rad (thyroid dose equivalent), which is 160 milligray which is 160 millisieverts. That is rather high.

I got the links to the site from a tweet by a young nuclear researcher in Japan I follow on Twitter. He said in a later tweet, "It would have been very nice if Fukushima Prefecture's system to estimate the radiation exposure had been available for the residents to run the calculation like this." I can't agree with him more.

Instead in Japan, the National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS), a government agency, built a proprietary system based on the questionnaires from the Fukushima residents (low response rate), and came up with model cases. (For details, see this PDF, in Japanese.) I don't think the residents who submitted the questionnaires have received any individualized estimate, but I could be wrong.

In nuclear testing in Nevada by the US government, soldiers were made to watch without any shielding.

The US Department of Defense has a website to assist ex-soldiers file a claim if they think they were exposed to ionizing radiation.

The recent study "Childhood Thyroid Radioiodine Exposure and Subsequent Infertility in the Intermountain Fallout Cohort" by University of Utah Department of Family and Preventive Medicine considers up to 1,245.5 milligray exposure. (PDF file of the paper is here.)

#Fukushima City Housewife: "Fukushima 50" No Hero, Because They Work for TEPCO

Ms. Seiko Takahashi responds to BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes (1/3/2013) when he asks about "Fukushima 50", workers who remained at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant after Reactor 3 building exploded and kept on doing whatever they could to contain the situation:

Before the meltdowns, Seiko Takahashi never thought of activism. Now the middle-aged mother from Fukushima City is a passionate anti-nuclear campaigner. And she admits there is little sympathy for the Fukushima workers.

"They are not heroes for us," she says. "I feel sorry for them, but I don't see them as heroes. We see them as one block, they work for Tepco, they earned high salaries. The company made a lot of money from nuclear power, and that's what paid for their nice lives."

She is essentially saying they get what they deserve, for having worked for TEPCO.

Her city, Fukushima City, is in the highly contaminated middle-third of Fukushima Prefecture. While most Japanese (and foreigners) may sympathize with her and her city's plight, many of them are also angry that the city, along with almost all municipalities in that prefecture, continues to grow crops and sell them outside, claiming they are "safe" (i.e. less than 100 Bq/kg of radioactive cesium), and claims it suffers tremendously from "baseless rumors".

For how some of the Fukushima I Nuke Plant workers have been treated by their fellow Fukushima residents, see my post from February 2012. That post was about an article that appeared in Germany's Der Spiegel. I have seen hardly any coverage on the issue in the Japanese media.

As BBC's Wingfield-Hayes says at the end of his report,

There is wide sympathy here for victims like him, [Mr. Yoshizawa the cattle farmer in Namie-machi] but the Japanese public appears to have little sympathy or concern for the suffering of Fukushima workers.

That's Japan for you.

(H/T anon reader)

OT: Zoom, Zoom...Goes His Majesty's Honda Integra...

Footage is from 2009 NHK documentary. His car is 1991 Honda (Acura) Integra, stick shift. (It's clearly doctored, but...)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Japan's Abe Mimics US, Will Force Bank of Japan to Have Job Creation Mandate, Modify Constitution to Send SDF to Foreign Wars

It never enters the mind of the pork-cutlet-over-curry-rice 3rd-generation prime minister of Japan that what he is doing is a lap or two behind. He thinks he is ahead of the curve.

From Nikkei Shinbun's exclusive interview (1/10/2013) with PM Abe on his economic policies which are collectively dubbed as "Abenomics" in Japan, by an uncritical reporter who does not ask tough questions (for that matter, any question):

Role of Bank of Japan:


"I want [Bank of Japan] to be responsible for the real economy. They should keep maximum employment mandate in mind," Abe said, indicating his thoughts that [BOJ] has to strive for increasing employment through financial policies. As to the foreign exchange, he said "Japan has lost competitiveness because of the foreign exchange. It is the responsibility of the government and the central bank to correct (a strong yen). We have to keep trying."


As to the mechanism of cooperation with BOJ, he said "I want to formalize the agreement." He said he would include the 2% inflation target in the joint communique. As to when the 2% target will be achieved, he said "In many counties in the world, there is no date given. However, it cannot be long. If it takes long, it's not a target at all."


If BOJ cannot achieve the 2% inflation target, "BOJ will have to explain" in the advisory board meeting.


The reason why the prime minister demands maximum employment [mandate] for BOJ is the US Federal Reserve Board, whose mandates are "price stability" and "maximum employment".

Successor to Governor Shirakawa:


"It has to be someone who fully understands the idea that Bank of Japan should play a decisive role in stable [inflation] target of 2% and maximum employment. The person also needs to be a man of action who will impress others in the international arena."

Japanese Constitution (Article 9):


As to exercising the right of collective self-defense which the government has interpreted as "not allowed", Abe said "I will officially receive the conclusion by the discussion group (which was established during the 1st Abe administration), and I want the group to further discuss", indicating his policy to come up with concrete steps to allow the exercise of the right.

Abe is probably unaware that it is rare for a central bank to have dual mandates like the US Federal Reserve. ECB's mandate is interest rate stability, and nothing else. I was extremely disappointed to see Governor Shirakawa of BOJ immediately folded after Abe became the prime minister and agreed to have the inflation target. I guess Mr. Shirakawa wanted to serve out his term, which will end in April 18.

I had to laugh when I read "man of action". Like him, I suppose, who can gobble up pork cutlet over rice curry in 3 minutes.

As to high yen hurting the economy, it was not very long time ago that Japan was roundly accused of manipulating the currency at extremely low level to gain export advantage.

Just like Bernanke and most Federal Reserve governors, Abe thinks it is possible to manufacture steadily rising 2% inflation. I guess he's right. The US core inflation does not include food and energy anyway, and those are the two items that have gone up significantly under Bernanke's printing press, particularly in the past 4 years.

Just like the US Obama administration eager to ditch the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution, Japan's LDP has been itching to modify the Article 9 so that Japan can jump into action when an ally is attacked by a hostile force and attack the aggressor even when Japan itself is not attacked (right of collective self-defense). So whenever the US soldiers in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, etc. are attacked, the SDF soldiers will get to go and use live ammunition? How exciting it must be for a chicken hawk like Abe.

I have a suspicion that most Japanese do not understand what the "right of collective self-defense" actually means. They may be thinking it is a right to collectively defend their country. If they are not curious enough to know what it really means, I'd have to say they deserve what they get.

There is also a long article at Nikkei site that covers the entire interview, but as soon as I started to take a look my head started to hurt because of his sheer, utter economic ignorance. If you read Japanese, the link is this (you have to sign up (free) to read the whole article).

From what I could tolerate to read the long article, Abe says he will going to somehow force companies to pay more salaries to workers. That will drive the companies that still remain in Japan out.

Lunacy that has been with Japan for the past 20-plus years has just got out of proportion, if that's possible. ("My kind of place" must be the thinking at Goldman Sachs, though.)

In both Nikkei articles, there is not a single word about the nuclear accident, radiation contamination, or even the recovery in the disaster affected areas.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Boy-Wonder Mayor of Osaka: "Corporal Punishment Is Part of Education", as a High School Boy Kills Himself After Beaten by School Coach

Another typical day in Japan, where a high school boy commits suicide after having been beaten up by his basketball coach yet again and people including reporters from major newspapers are busy making excuse for the coach, implicitly blaming the boy for overreacting to or misunderstanding the "pure intention" of the coach.

Instead of throwing the coach in jail right away, as they might elsewhere in the world, the Board of Education of that city insists their investigation didn't reveal anything wrong.

The boy was the captain of the highly competitive basketball team at a city public high school. He came home late one night in December last year, told his mother that he was beaten by the school coach again, and he was getting quite weary and couldn't take it any more. He also said the coach singled him out and beat more often and more severely because he was the captain. His mother told him he could just quit playing for the team. He hanged himself that night. His face was severely swollen from the beating.

Where's that city? Well no other than the one where the boy-wonder continues to serve as mayor while being the deputy leader of the Japan Restoration Party.

The boy-wonder issued a statement after the news, in which he insists corporal punishment is part of education. This mayor was a school bully himself, and is proud of it.

Just like eating school lunch that contains radioactive cesium is an educational opportunity for children, being beaten up by your coach is not child abuse but instead such an educational opportunity that everyone should gladly accept.

First, about the poor boy, from Asahi Shinbun (1/9/2013):


According to the school principal Sato, the student became reticent at home about one week before he committed suicide, and the family was worried. The student came home past 9PM on the day before the suicide. He said to his mother, "We lost again. Your bento was delicious. I was beaten again pretty bad today."

[An anonymous citizen alerted the city on the abuse at this particular high school in September 2011. The city decided to investigate. But here's how they did the investigation.]


The city relegated the investigation to the city's Board of Education. The Board of Education instructed the school principal to investigate. According to the Board of Education, the principal asked all the coaches whether they did corporal punishment, and all of them answered "no". There was no further investigation, and the principal reported back to the Board of Education that "there was no corporal punishment".

No kiddin'...

In fact, later investigations revealed that 21 students out of 50 basketball team members said they had been beaten as corporal punishment, and over 40 of them said they had seen others beaten.

Then, the boy-wonder's response, from Mainichi Shinbun (1/8/2013):


"Even I sometimes hit my own children. Even the parents (like me) do, so (corporal punishment) exists in schools. What's important is how to follow up when the beating happens", said [Osaka Mayor Hashimoto], indicating his stance that it was more important to follow up on the pupils/students after they received corporal punishment, rather than eliminating corporal punishment from schools.

Then Asahi Shinbun (1/9/2013) chooses to report words from school officials:


Sakuranomiya High School officials say, "The coach is a very conscientious teacher, and there was nothing wrong with the student who committed suicide. They both have pure characters, and the coach was just a little too overzealous."

One fellow classmate tries to defend the coach (Asahi Shinbun 1/9/2013):


"Corporal punishment [from this coach] is not because he hates us students but because of his good intention of making the team better", said one male student in the Physical Education Department of the high school, speaking about the coach.

Anywhere else in the world, this is called "child abuse", and the coach will be thrown in jail immediately. The mother, for not intervening strongly enough, may also be arrested. Not so in Japan. (As far as I know, this coach is still working at this school.)

In fact, you probably have to thank the coach for the invaluable education. I remember one such teacher in my junior high school who actually demanded the pupils to thank him for beating them up with a thick bamboo stick. He was quite popular with parents, who didn't quite know the severity of his beating. The school did nothing, of course.

It's supremely ironic that this same country worries so much now about the dwindling population and says they have to protect their children (from radioactive materials, for one). Uh huh.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Accident: TEPCO Didn't Procure Fire Engine from Its Own Thermal Power Plant Because It Was Afraid of Breaking the Law

Remember my post about how TEPCO employees at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant tried to "buy car batteries" in their desperate efforts to save the reactors from core melt, instead of just taking them? TEPCO headquarters and Toshiba also dutifully follow the law and waited for the permit to transport batteries on the highway.

I also wrote then that hardly any Japanese thought it odd that TEPCO hadn't just taken the batteries or that Toshiba hadn't simply shipped the batteries without a permit. Reaction from almost all Japanese who read the news was either:

  • "Why didn't they have enough money?" (Or worse, "Why didn't they use credit cards?"

  • "Why didn't the national government issue them the permit?"

  • "We need more laws and regulations for emergencies!"

Asahi Shinbun, who watched all teleconference videos disclosed by TEPCO, has put their findings in a book. One of Asahi reporters who attended the early press conferences tweeted the link to a site that has the summary of the book.

According to the summary of Asahi's book at the site (which seems to be run by several anonymous journalists from the established media companies in Japan), TEPCO, who was incapable of deciding when to follow the law and when not to follow the law (like in an emergency after the nuclear accident), decided to follow the law also when it came to procuring a fire engine to cool the reactors.

From Book Navi website (1/9/2013; part):


As to procuring fire engines, the fire engine at Hirono Thermal Power Station, closest to Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant at only 20 kilometers south of the plant, was never brought to Fukushima I Nuke Plant. The reason was that Hirono Thermal Power Station was designated as "specific station" under the Act on the Prevention of Disasters in Petroleum Industrial Complexes and Other Petroleum Facilities. The Act obliges the Hirono Power Station to always have one large fire engine. There was only one such fire engine. If the engine were to be sent to Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, there was a risk of deviating from the law. No one wanted to take that risk. It was not that someone actively decided they should give up on bringing the fire engine from Hirono. It was scarier, as people simply stopped talking about this fire engine.

Nissan Motor to Start Production of Batteries for Unpopular EV "Leaf" in the US, Thanks to $1.4 Billion Loan from Obama's DOE

From Detroit News (1/9/2013):

Nissan launching production of Leaf in U.S.

Washington — Nissan Motor Co. said it will begin U.S. production of its all-electric Leaf on Thursday in Tennessee as part of a $1.4 billion government loan.

The Japanese automaker won an Energy Department loan in 2010 to build a battery plant in Smyrna, Tenn., and to retool to build the Leaf at its assembly plant next door.

The Leaf will be built alongside the company's gasoline-powered products.

Nissan says it is the only automaker that manufactures its own electric vehicle batteries, at the biggest lithium-ion automotive battery plant in the United States.

The Leaf's sales have struggled and the automaker failed to double sales in 2012 as it had predicted and instead sold about the same number as in 2011.

Last year, Nissan sold 9,819 Leaf EVs in the United States — up 1.5 percent over 2011.

The Leaf is not the only struggling electric vehicle. Ford Motor Co. sold just 685 Focus EVs in 2012 — its first full year of sales — even though it has built 1,627, according to a report from Ford last week.

(Full article at the link)

How generous of the US government to help out a foreign company. TARP money extracted from the Congress under the threat of martial law was also generously spent on foreign financial institutions. No wonder tax should be raised across the board.

#Fukushima I Nuke Plant Reactor 4: Steel Columns for Reactor Frame Installed

This is where TEPCO and subcontractors have been working on to build the foundation that would support heavy columns like the first two that were just installed on January 8, 2013.

The foundation building work has been described by some as the evidence that the Reactor 4 building is collapsing.

From TEPCO's Photos and Videos Library, 1/8/2013:

The steel frame over the Reactor 4 building that will suspend the crane to remove fuel assemblies will be completed by October this year, and TEPCO plans to start removing fuel assemblies from the Reactor 4 Spent Fuel Pool in November 2013, according to Mainichi Shinbun (1/9/2012). That will be one year earlier than previously planned.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

#Radioactive Japan Under Abe's LDP: Consumer Affairs Agency to (Re-)Educate Consumers to Eradicate Baseless Rumor Damages to Producers

It's the agency that LDP's Masako Mori now heads. Remember she is the one who wants to pass a law that will force retailers to sell Fukushima produce prominently in the storefront.

Now, her agency will launch a program to educate consumers so that agricultural producers in contaminated areas, particularly Fukushima (Ms. Mori is from Fukushima Prefecture to begin with) will not suffer from damages from "baseless rumors" that their produce may contain radioactive cesium from the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Also remember this same agency (under ex-TV announcer minister Renho) was the one who excoriated the consumers in Tokyo Metropolitan areas right after the March 11 disaster who bought food and water in panic as radioactive fallout from Fukushima was descending on them. The same agency, with the help of Japanese consumer "advocates", scolded the Japanese consumer in July 2011 for making a big deal out of radioactive beef, some of which tested, after it was eaten, with radioactive cesium in excess of 4,000 Bq/kg.

In Japan, consumers exist for the sake of producers. (Or I could say consumers are the tools for decontamination, if I may be so cynical.)

From Jiji Tsushin (1/8/2012):


Consumer Affairs Agency to set up a team to deal with damages caused by baseless rumors after the nuclear accident, and study the consumer psychology


In order to prevent damages on food [producers] from baseless rumors after the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, Consumer Affairs Agency held the first meeting of a new team set up in the agency on January 8, and decided that the team would conduct a survey of consumer psychology.


The new team is called "the team to promote the understanding by the consumers of food and radiation". There are 14 managers in the team, who will meet once a week.

The name of the team makes it clear that it is not about "understanding" but about "repeating the same safety mantra over and over and over again until the consumer gets so weary and gives up". Much like those town hall meetings over disaster debris burning, which was literally about "obtaining understanding" but in reality about "telling the residents what the municipal government is going to do anyway, and calling it understanding".

The sheer number of deranged news out of Japan today has been such that makes my head spin. In addition to the Japan's (literally) senseless Olympics message and this news, there is also depraved uttering by the boy-wonder mayor of Osaka City affirming the right of public school teachers to strike students for educational purposes. I just saw a headline from January 1, 2013 Sankei Shinbun that the Abe administration is planning for a war with China over possible Chinese aggression over Senkaku Islands, Miyako and Ishigaki Islands (both part of Okinawa Prefecture).

Kyle Bass is right. This has to end in a major war, all over the world. Someone should hit the reset button.

#Radioactive Japan's Olympic Gibberish (UPDATED with Japanese Message Translation)

Even the Japanese are dismayed at the Olympic message in Japanese by the Tokyo Metropolitan government, fully endorsed by the Abe pork-cutlet-curry government, which reads like fluffy TV commercial copy by the nation's top ad agency.

The Japanese message says, "Japan needs the power of Olympics! Olympics gives us dream, and the dream gives us power... Let's show to the world how strong we are!"

Uh... if Japan is so "strong", why do you need Olympics to give them "power"?

That aside, the English version exists, and though it is not the translation of the Japanese (which I may do later) it is equally bad if not worse.

It's an arrogant gibberish, and it's not even grammatically correct either.

Here's from Tokyo 2020 Candidate City website, which I had to transcribe because the message is in jpeg (how much more demented can it be? Oh I forgot about Goshi Hosono's message...). I couldn't help commenting, in square brackets in blue italic:

(The original text is centered; it has deliberate line breaks for whatever poetic effect that the ad agency intended, but I couldn't care less. So the line breaks are not original.)

Tokyo 2020

Japan has a long and distinguished history as part of the global sporting community.

[So what? Are you saying that the Japan's history is only about being part of the global sporting community?]

Our athletes first competed at the Olympic Games exactly 100 years ago, in 1912.

[So what? Besides, 1912 is not "exactly" 100 years ago either.]

We proudly hosted the Games in Tokyo in 1964, demonstrating the power of sport as a domestic catalyst for change and international agent for friendship and understanding.

[So you used the Olympic to build highways and other infra. So what?]

Now, we want to renew the success. We want to use the 2020 Games as a catalyst for development and progress at home, and an instrument for bringing the world closer together.

[I don't think you "renew" success. Besides, what success? Why should the rest of the world care?]

This bid has been given extra importance because of the tragic 2011 earthquake and tsunami. We have a responsibility to inspire and unite the entire population behind a common goal - and a vision for the future.

[The bid has been given extra importance? Who has given it extra importance? You have. Who has called it tragic? You have. Unite the entire population behind a common goal? You mean "the common goal", maybe? Like on the eve of the World War II, maybe?]

Tokyo 2020 will see new sporting and other development in the world's largest and most spectacular and urban areas. And global friendships renewed by Games of excellence and real excitement. Together, with new generations.

The 1st round of Olympic soccer would be hosted by the disaster-affected areas in Tohoku (Miyagi, for one), and the torch relay would travel the length of Fukushima Prefecture, according to the Tokyo 2020 Bid Committee.


(UPDATE) Here's what the message (aka gibberish) in Japanese (a png file, for a change) says:

Right now, Nippon [Japan]
needs the power of this dream.

Olympics and Paralympics give us a dream.
A dream gives us power.
Power builds our future.
We need this power right now.
To be as one.
To be strong.
Let's tell the world how strong Japan is.
Because we're sure the world will be encouraged.

Now, let's [have] 2020 Olympics/Paralympics in Nippon!

Oh boy. This is beyond gibberish. It's sad.

Monday, January 7, 2013

NY Times on Japan's Slow and Flawed Decontamination: "Japan Seems to Want to Do It By Themselves", Says US Expert, "Japan's Soil Is Different", Says Japanese Official

That official is none other than Mr. Hidehiko Nishiyama, Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency spokesman in much of the early days of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident, and was removed from the post after he was caught fooling around with a young female subordinate of his in the Ministry.

In the New York Times article by the Tokyo-based reporter Hiroko Tabuchi, Mr. Nishiyama says, of collaboration with foreign companies in decontaminating Fukushima Prefecture,

“Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”

Yes, I remember the Japanese snow was also different, thus ski wax made in France should not be allowed to be sold.

From New York Times (1/7/2013; part, emphasis is mine):

In Japan, a Painfully Slow Sweep


(Photo by Ko Sasaki for NYT)

NARAHA, Japan — The decontamination crews at a deserted elementary school here are at the forefront of what Japan says is the most ambitious radiological cleanup the world has seen, one that promised to draw on cutting-edge technology from across the globe.

But much of the work at the Naraha-Minami Elementary School, about 12 miles away from the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, tells another story. For eight hours a day, construction workers blast buildings with water, cut grass and shovel dirt and foliage into big black plastic bags — which, with nowhere to go, dot Naraha’s landscape like funeral mounds.

More than a year and a half since the nuclear crisis, much of Japan’s post-Fukushima cleanup remains primitive, slapdash and bereft of the cleanup methods lauded by government scientists as effective in removing harmful radioactive cesium from the environment.

Local businesses that responded to a government call to research and develop decontamination methods have found themselves largely left out. American and other foreign companies with proven expertise in environmental remediation, invited to Japan in June to show off their technologies, have similarly found little scope to participate.

Recent reports in the local media of cleanup crews dumping contaminated soil and leaves into rivers has focused attention on the sloppiness of the cleanup.

“What’s happening on the ground is a disgrace,” said Masafumi Shiga, president of Shiga Toso, a refurbishing company based in Iwaki, Fukushima. The company developed a more effective and safer way to remove cesium from concrete without using water, which could repollute the environment. “We’ve been ready to help for ages, but they say they’ve got their own way of cleaning up,” he said.

Shiga Toso’s technology was tested and identified by government scientists as “fit to deploy immediately,” but it has been used only at two small locations, including a concrete drain at the Naraha-Minami school.

Instead, both the central and local governments have handed over much of the 1 trillion yen decontamination effort to Japan’s largest construction companies. The politically connected companies have little radiological cleanup expertise and critics say they have cut corners to employ primitive — even potentially hazardous — techniques.

... Also worrying, industry experts say, are cleanup methods used by the construction companies that create loose contamination that can become airborne or enter the water.

At many sites, contaminated runoff from cleanup projects is not fully recovered and is being released into the environment, multiple people involved in the decontamination work said.

In addition, there are no concrete plans about storing the vast amounts of contaminated soil and foliage the cleanup is generating, which the environment ministry estimates will amount to at least 29 million cubic meters, or more than a billion cubic feet.

The contaminated dirt lies in bags on roadsides, in abandoned fields and on the coastline, where experts say they are at risk from high waves or another tsunami.

This isn’t decontamination — it’s sweeping up dirt and leaves and absolutely irresponsible,” said Tomoya Yamauchi, an expert in radiation measurement at Kobe University who has been helping Fukushima communities test the effectiveness of various decontamination methods. “Japan has started up its big public works machine, and the cleanup has become an end in itself. It’s a way for the government to appear to be doing something for Fukushima.”

... The Japanese government also made an initial effort to contact foreign companies for decontamination support. It invited 32 companies from the United States that specialize in remediation technologies like strip-painting and waste minimization, to show off their expertise to Japanese government officials, experts and companies involved in the cleanup.

Opinions on the trip’s effectiveness vary among participants, but in the six months since, not a single foreign company has been employed in Japan’s cleanup, according to the trip’s participants and Japan’s Environment Ministry.

Japan has a rich history in nuclear energy, but as you know, the U.S. has a much more diverse experience in dealing with the cleanup of very complicated nuclear processing facilities. We’ve been cleaning it up since World War II,” said Casey Bunker, a director at RJ Lee, a scientific consulting company based in Pennsylvania that took part in the visit.

“There was a little of, ‘Hey, bring your tools over and show us how it works.’ But they ultimately wanted to do it themselves, to fix things themselves,” Mr. Bunker said. “There didn’t seem to be a lot of interest in a consultative relationship moving forward.”

Japanese officials said adapting overseas technologies presented a particular challenge.

Even if a method works overseas, the soil in Japan is different, for example,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director at the environment ministry, who is in charge of the Fukushima cleanup. “And if we have foreigners roaming around Fukushima, they might scare the old grandmas and granddads there.”

Some local residents are losing faith in the decontamination effort.

I thought Japan was a technologically advanced country. I thought we’d be able to clean up better than this,” said Yoshiko Suganami, a legal worker who was forced to abandon her home and office over two miles from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. “It’s clear the decontamination drive isn’t really about us any more.”

(Full article at the link)

Reuters: IAEA's Yukiya Amano to Be Re-Elected

Unlike his initial election which needed 6 rounds of balloting, it is supposed to be a smooth sailing second time around, according to Reuters.

From Reuters (1/7/2012):

U.N. nuclear chief Amano has no rivals for new term

(Reuters) - U.N. nuclear chief Yukiya Amano, a key figure in international diplomacy on Iran's disputed nuclear work, is set to win another four-year term as he faces no rivals for the post.

A letter from the chairman of the 35-nation governing board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to member states of the U.N. agency, dated January 7, said no other candidates had come forward by a December 31 deadline.

It means Amano, who has taken a tougher approach on the Iran nuclear file than his predecessor Mohamed ElBaradei, will almost certainly be reappointed as director general without problems, in contrast to his close election victory in 2009.

"I wish to inform you that I have received no nominations and that, consequently, Mr Amano is the only candidate," said the letter from Canadian envoy John Barrett, seen by Reuters.

Barrett indicated that he aimed for a formal decision to reappoint Amano, a veteran Japanese diplomat, at the board's next meeting in early March.

Western diplomats are generally happy with the way he has stepped up pressure on Iran to stop stonewalling an agency investigation into suspected atom bomb research, even if that push has yet to bear fruit.

But the Vienna-based U.N. watchdog's relations with Tehran, which denies Western accusations that it is seeking to develop the capability to produce nuclear weapons, have become increasingly strained since Amano took office on December 1, 2009.

Under Amano, the IAEA was criticized in 2011 for a perceived slow initial response to Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, but later led international efforts to agree an action plan to improve global reactor safety.

In 2009, supported largely by industrialized nations, Amano defeated South Africa's Abdul Samad Minty in a sixth round of balloting after five inconclusive votes.

Yukiya Amano is an elite "career" bureaucrat from Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He has lived and studied in France and the US. He is one of the Japanese politicians and bureaucrats who are viewed as "representing the foreign (the US, mostly) interests" by many Japanese who are against nuclear power and are hated by them. DPJ's Seiji Maehara is another.

What's ironic about it is that Amano and Maehara are those few Japanese who can communicate very well with the international communities, regardless of how "poor" their English pronunciation is perceived to be by the Japanese who hate them.

It's what they communicate that's important, but to most Japanese, English grammar and pronunciation "like natives" (never mind "which" native) are far more important.

NNSA Helicopter Measuring Background Radiation Levels Over Washington DC

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) was the one that sent a special team to Japan in March 2011 to measure the radiation levels after the start of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident. (See my previous post).

From CBS News (1/5/2012):

Nuclear Security Helicopters Testing Radiation Levels Above DC Area

WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Helicopters have been conducting radiation tests above portions of the Washington, D.C. area using remote gamma radiation sensing technology.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has been flying the radiation missions since Dec. 27, 2012 and they will continue until next Friday, Jan. 11. The flights have been conducted during daylight only, and the pilots fly about 80 miles per hour at 150 feet above the approximately 70-square mile radiation assessment area.

Naturally-occurring radiation is measured so that baseline levels can be established and used in security and emergency preparedness, reads a statement from the NNSA.

In addition to monitoring radiation levels and responding to radiological emergencies on the home front, the agency provides the U.S. Navy with nuclear propulsion and works to reduce the global danger of weapons of mass destruction, according to a release issued by the agency.

NNSA is making the public aware of the upcoming flights so that citizens who see the low-flying aircraft are not alarmed by the helicopters conducting the tests. The NNSA’s Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL) out of Joint Base Andrews will be performing the assessment for local law enforcement of Washington, D.C, according to the organization’s Dec. 26 press release.

NNSA’s Office of Emergency Operations currently collaborates with more than 80 foreign governments and 10 international organizations with projects ranging from providing assistance to foreign governments in improving their emergency preparedness and response programs, to joint collaborative activities to improve emergency management infrastructure worldwide.

(Full article at the link)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

#Fukushima Nuclear Accident: Japan's Top Bureaucrats Didn't Know GIS, Couldn't Figure Out Data Given by the US, a Japanese Magazine Alleges

I have read incredible news over the past 20 months, but this one, if true, may take the cake.

I saw the article below back in July last year, and was going to post it but I couldn't manage to do so. On December 31, 2012, the news by Kyodo surfaced that the team the US government sent to Japan right after the start of the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant accident was a special nuclear counter-terrorism group. That resurrected the news in June last year that the Japanese government did not disclose the US data in a timely manner and the government ministers of the Noda administration apologized.

Yukio Edano, then Minister of the Economy, Trade and Industry, was heard again apologizing, as Kahoku Shinpo (original is probably from Kyodo News; 1/1/2013):


Mr. Yukio Edano, then in charge of crisis management as Chief Cabinet Secretary, said, "(If the US data was utilized) it is possible that we could evacuate people in the 'indoor evacuation area' sooner. Why wasn't the data brought up to the parliamentary official level? It is really lamentable."

Well, if the Shukan Playboy magazine is right, it was because no one in the national government could make head or tail out of the US data because it was in GIS format, it didn't even occur to them that the data was in GIS format.

From Shukan Playboy (7/23/2012; part):


The biggest problem was that there was no one at Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency or Ministry of Education who could [recognize the data as] the GIS data. The national government had enacted the law to utilize GIS, but the elite bureaucrats in the Japanese government did not know how to use this data [from the US government].


[We learned that] there were bureaucrats in Kasumigaseki [in Tokyo where the national government ministries are located] who printed out the vast amount data on paper and stared at it, even though the numbers wouldn't mean a thing unless they were opened in GIS software. [Otherwise] competent reporters of the media are equally incapable of making full use of this valuable data. They even call the data "cipher", even if it is not a military secret.


That's the reason why the US government has made the "raw data" available on the Internet since October 2011 that includes locations measured, types and amounts of radionuclides measured, and dates measured. They are making the data directly available because they can't trust the Japanese government or the media [to do anything with the data].


The Japanese government could not understand nor utilize the radiation contamination data taken by the US military because the data was meant to be used in GIS. As the result, the Japanese people did not have a chance to learn about this valuable data. Not even today, more than 1 year after the start of the Fukushima nuclear accident. What good is the NSDI Law [National Spatial Data Infrastructure Law, which became the law in 2007] that is supposed to "fully utilize GIS"?

It's not that this reporter knows much about GIS himself, as he writes,


GIS is a technology that combines geographic information and data such as "main contaminant", "areas of high contamination", "timeline" etc. as a single map to allow sophisticated analysis and quick decision-making when an accident or disaster happens with large-scale contamination of the environment.


GIS software can be downloaded free of charge. With high-performance hardware available at cheaper cost, GIS is widely used throughout the world.

I don't know for certain but it is not likely that the GIS system used by the US government is free software. It is likely to be from Esri, definitely not free, nor cheap. The reporter seems to think it's like a GPS car navigation system from Garmin, or Google Earth.

GIS is decidedly not a technology only for a big accident or natural disaster. It is about how to organize and visualize information geographically.

But isn't this sad, if the article is true? Bureaucrats at the powerful ministries didn't have any idea what the data was about, and they were staring at the printouts and trying to make sense of the numbers, as if by intuition that might come in a divine flash.

Many Japanese readers dismissed the article as "not credible" because it came from a soft-core men's magazine. I found it very credible, particularly the part it describes elite bureaucrats staring at the printouts trying to make sense out of the numbers. That image fits very nicely with the then-head of NISA, who left the disaster response headquarters inside the Prime Minister's Official Residence and went home on March 11, 2012 because he was a "liberal arts major". He never returned to the headquarters afterward.