News for January 2012

“The Fukushima incident shattered three myths of nuclear power: One, that it’s safe; two, that it contributes toward our electricity supply; and three, that it’s cheap.”
Kenji Eda. Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World (AJW).

After removal of rubble around the Unit 4 and upper the reactor building. January 5, 2012. Source: TEPCO


  • Atomic Agency Backs Safety Tests for Japan’s Reactors
    A United Nations mission on Tuesday tentatively supported new stress tests designed to determine whether Japan’s nuclear plants can withstand another emergency.
    Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times, Jan 31, 2012.

  • IAEA approves stress tests on Japan reactors
    UN inspectors have given their backing to tests designed to confirm the reactors’ safety, despite concern from some experts.
    Justin McCurry, The Guardian, Jan 31, 2012.

  • Piping at Fukushima reactor found insufficient to withstand quake
    Piping and support structures at the No. 5 reactor of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant did not have sufficient anti-quake strength under new government standards revised in 2006.
    Eisuke Sasaki, Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 31, 2012.

  • ‘Shadow meals’ employed to keep families safe from radiation
    The practice of kagezen – literally “shadow meal” – entails setting out meals at home for a family member who is absent, in hopes that they will be safe while traveling. The latest kagezen trend began in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture, when the city started radiation testing of school lunch last fall, and has spread across the country. Starting Jan. 16, the method has been implemented by schools and nursery schools in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Minamisoma, where a week’s worth of school meals are tested with equipment that can distinguish between different types of nuclear species, on top of measuring radiation doses.
    The Mainichi Daily News, Jan. 31, 2012.

  • Leaks sprout at 14 spots in Fukushima nuclear power plant
    Some 7,800 liters of water leaked from a fuel rod storage pool and reactor cooling systems in the disabled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant on Jan. 29.
    Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 30, 2012.

  • Experts meet in Vienna on health effects of Fukushima nuclear crisis
    Experts from around the world who are studying the health impact on nearby residents from the release of radioactive materials in the nuclear crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant in northeastern Japan began a five-day meeting in Vienna on Monday.
    Kyodo News, Jan. 30, 2012.

  • Radiation study of wildlife planned in Fukushima
    Japan will launch a comprehensive study to monitor the impact of radiation exposure on wild animals and plants around the damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima. Fukushima Prefecture requested the study, which will be conducted by the Environment Ministry with the cooperation of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences.
    NHK, Jan. 29, 2012.

  • METI protesters ignore official eviction notice
    Anti-nuclear protesters defied a government order to vacate the area in front of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry in Tokyo’s Kasumigaseki district on Jan. 27.
    Eisuke Sasaki, Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 28, 2012.

  • Edano not banking on nuclear energy this summer
    Economy minister Yukio Edano said he does not expect any nuclear power plant to be operating this summer, but thermal power and conservation efforts should be enough for the nation to get by. Only four of the 54 nuclear reactors were operating as of Jan. 26. All four will stop operations by the end of April to undergo periodic inspections.
    Takeshi Kamiya, Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 27, 2012.

  • Experts cast doubt on Japan nuclear plant tests
    Japanese government ordered tests on all reactors after Fukushima meltdown, but advisers say they do not prove a plant is safe.
    Justin McCurry, The Guardian, Jan 27, 2012.

  • Road map released for Fukushima decontamination
    The Environment Ministry released a road map on Jan. 26 for decontaminating areas around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, hoping to provide encouragement for residents forced to flee the radioactive fallout from the accident.
    Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 27, 2012.

  • Anti-nuclear movement unites rightists, leftists
    “My desire to get rid of nuclear power has nothing to do with right- or left-wing ideologies”, says Cocoro Fujinami, 15-year-old, one of the new faces of the anti-nuclear movement in Japan, an issue that has blurred the lines between leftists and rightists.
    Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 27, 2012.

  • Japan task force kept no records of nuclear crisis response
    Japan’s energy minister admitted on Tuesday that no records were kept of top level discussions in the critical early days on how to respond to the world’s worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.
    Yoko Kubota and Shinichi Saoshiro, Reuters, Jan 24, 2012.

  • Citizens group plows ahead to win referendum on use of nuclear power
    With two weeks to go before the expiry of a deadline to win backing for a local referendum on the use of nuclear power, a Tokyo-based citizens group is still short of 120,000 signatures. The group is called Minna de Kimeyo Genpatsu Kokumin Tohyo, which translates as Let everyone participate in a referendum on making decisions about nuclear power.
    Kosuke So, Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 24, 2012.

  • Gov’t withheld estimates showing electricity surplus to boost nuclear power
    The government withheld an estimate that there would be no electricity shortages in the upcoming summer in an apparent bid to underscore the need to restart nuclear power plants, it has been learned.
    The Mainichi Daily News, Jan 23, 2012.

  • 11 universities received nuclear energy research funds from gov’t, industry
    Eleven top universities, such as the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University, accepted a total of some 10.4 billion yen in nuclear technology research funds from the government and industry between fiscal 2006 and 2010, the Mainichi Shimbun has learned.
    The Mainichi Daily News, Jan 23, 2012.

  • TEPCO Notes Rise in Radioactive Leaks from Damaged Reactors
    The total amount of radioactive cesium that leaked from the containment vessels of the No. 1 to No. 3 reactors reached 70 million becquerels per hour, up 12 million becquerels from the December level, the power firm said.
    Jiji Press, Jan 23, 2012.

  • Cabinet kept alarming nuke report secret
    Fearful of scaring public, existence of document was denied for months.
    The Japan Times, Jan 22, 2012.

  • Japanese Struggle to Protect Their Food Supply
    The discovery of tainted rice 35 miles from a damaged nuclear plant has Japan scrambling to plug gaps in its food-screening measures.
    Martin Fackler, The New York Times, Jan 21, 2012.

  • With so many food safety standards, it’s no surprise consumers are confused
    In their rush to reassure consumers, retailers and cooperatives are drawing up their own radiation safety standards for food–and causing even more confusion among the public about what is safe to eat. Some experts are now questioning whether the consumer food safety campaign is of any realistic help.
    Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 20, 2012.

  • First photos from inside Fukushima reactor released

    Inside of the containment vessel, Unit 2. TEPCO, January 19, 2012

    The first photographs of the inside of a reactor at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant taken since the March 11 earthquake show that the water level in the containment vessel may be lower than previously thought.
    Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 20, 2012.

  • TEPCO uses endoscope to look inside crippled Fukushima reactor
    Tokyo Electric Power Co. said that it has passed an industrial endoscope into the reactor No 2 that suffered meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in the first attempt by the plant operator to directly check the interiors of the crippled reactors.
    The Mainichi Daily News, Jan 19, 2012.

  • Japan: the Atomic Cure
    Ten months after Fukushima, almost all Japanese reactors are shut down. While imports of gas climb, the Japanese reduce their electricity consumption. Dreaming of a nuclear phase-out.
    Michel Temman, Japon: la cure atomique. Liberation, Jan 18, 2012.

  • Lack of backup systems evident at Fukushima nuclear plants
    A momentary voltage drop on Jan. 17 stopped the cooling equipment for storage pools containing spent fuel at the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 nuclear power plants, TEPCO officials said.
    Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 18, 2012.

  • Japanese Reactors Could Operate Beyond 40-Year Cap
    Japan could allow nuclear reactors to operate for up to 60 years if they pass safety checks, the government said Wednesday, already revealing a loophole in recently announced plans to cap their lifespans at 40 years.
    Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times, Jan 18, 2012.

  • Radiation-dispersal data was provided to U.S. before Japanese public
    Japan’s science ministry provided data on the dispersal of radioactive materials to U.S. forces a few days after the nuclear crisis erupted at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, far earlier than the disclosure of the information to the Japanese public, a ministry official said Monday.
    The Mainichi Daily News, Jan 17, 2012.
    (Associated Press had reported the non use of SPEEDI August 9, 2011)

  • Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World
    On 14 and 15 January 2012, in Yokohama, was held the Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World. 11,500 people, from over 30 countries, was gathered at the conference. The conference was broadcast live over the internet, with an audience of approximately 100,000.
    Global Conference for a Nuclear Power Free World, Jan 16, 2012.

  • Opponents of Hamaoka nuclear plant restart gain momentum
    A growing number of municipalities near the suspended Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant in Shizuoka Prefecture are up in arms about plans by operator Chubu Electric Power Co. to restart the plant.
    The Mainichi Daily News, Jan 16, 2012.

  • Evacuees may move due to radioactive concrete
    Concrete with high radiation levels was likely used for the foundation of an apartment building in Fukushima Prefecture, forcing the builder to find new homes for some of the tenants, which include many evacuees from the nuclear accident.
    Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 16, 2012.

  • 11 people live in no-entry zone within 20 km of Fukushima plant
    Eleven people still live in the government-designated no-entry zone within a 20-kilometer radius of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant despite a threat of radiation exposure, municipalities officials said Sunday.
    The Mainichi Daily News, Jan 16, 2012.

  • Panel Challenges Japan’s Account of Nuclear Disaster
    First met for the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC), a bi-partisan independent panel of experts led by Kiyoshi Kurokawa and appointed to investigate the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident. Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) has insisted that the earthquake caused no damage; however, panel member Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a former nuclear engineer who worked on the design of the Fukushima reactors, said that a quake of that magnitude would likely result in reactor damage leading to meltdowns, even without a tsunami. Discovering seismic damage at the plant would have a profound impact on all of Japan’s reactors, which are built across many fault lines.
    Hiroko Tabuchi, The New York Times, Jan 15, 2012.

  • No. 1 plant radioactive water leak kept ashore
    Tokyo Electric Power Co. says it found that about 10 liters of water containing radioactive strontium leaked from a water processing facility at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant but it did not flow into the Pacific Ocean.
    The Japan Times, Jan 12, 2012.

  • Lack of memory caused breakdown in nuclear plant monitoring system
    The government’s emergency support system to respond to nuclear plant accidents broke down temporarily late last year when it ran out of memory, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has announced.
    The Mainichi Daily News, Jan 12, 2012.

  • Fukushima nuclear cleanup could create its own environmental disaster
    Decontaminating the Fukushima region to remove radioactive particles will not be possible without removing large amounts of soil, leaves and plants.
    The Guardian, 9 gen. 2012.

  • Tiny particles may illuminate reactor cores
    A team of researchers at Nagoya University is developing technology to use elementary muon particles from space and obtain images similar to X-rays of what is happening inside the crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. TEPCO plans to start operations to move melted-down nuclear fuel out of the reactors within the coming 10 years as a step toward decommissioning them. To do so must know exactly where the lumps of nuclear fuel are in the reactors. The government has therefore thrown its support behind the critical project at Nagoya University.
    The Daily Yomiuri, 8 gen. 2012.

  • Govt mulls public operations of N-plants
    The government will study whether it should place the management of nuclear power plants in public hands as part of an overhaul of the current system in which private utilities hold managerial authority, it has been learned.
    The Daily Yomiuri, 7 gen. 2012.

  • Government envisioned Tokyo evacuation in worst-case scenario
    In a worst-case scenario, the central government would have requested the evacuation of Tokyo and everyone within a 250-kilometer radius of the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. The plan would have ordered mandatory evacuations of everyone within a 170-km radius of the plant. Evacuations would have been voluntary for those living between 170 km and 250 km from the plant, including the Japanese capital.
    Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 7, 2012.

  • U.S. envoy Roos pressured Japan’s foreign minister to pour water onto reactors
    The U.S. government, frustrated with Japan’s alleged slow initial response to the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, urged Japan to spray water to cool down the crippled nuclear reactors, Japanese government officials revealed. In the wee hours of March 17, the United States urged Americans within a radius of 50 miles (about 80 kilometers) from the nuclear power plant to evacuate. On the afternoon of March 17, the United States recommended Americans in Japan to consider leaving the country.
    The Mainichi Daily News, Jan 6, 2012.

  • Parents raise concerns about radiation in Nikko
    Parents are bombarding the Nikko city government with questions and requests, fearing children on school trips might be exposed to dangerous radiation levels in one of the nation’s most popular tourist destinations. Nikko, a city with gorgeous shrines and a rich history in Tochigi Prefecture, lies about 140 kilometers from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Many elementary schools in the Tokyo metropolitan area send their students to Nikko on field trips.
    Taichiro Yoshino, Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 6, 2012.

  • Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Update for December 30th, 2011 –January 2nd, 2012
    The Greenpeace news from the ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
    Christine McCann, Greenpeace, Jan 5, 2012.

  • TEPCO says water level in tank at Fukushima nuclear dropped due to quake
    Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said on Jan. 2 that the level of water in a tank for the No. 4 reactor at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant dropped “abnormally” after an earthquake measuring up to 4 on the Japanese scale of 7 struck the Kanto and Tohoku regions on New Year’s Day.
    The Mainichi Daily News, Jan 3, 2012.

  • Different radiation standards add to confusion
    Different standards used by municipal governments are exacerbating the confusion among residents over safety levels of radioactive fallout from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant and how to deal with possible dangerous areas.
    Kenichiro Saito, Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 3, 2012.

  • Cover-up of estimated costs to dispose of radioactive waste raises serious questions
    Revelations that officials from the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy concealed the estimated costs of disposing of spent nuclear fuel highlights the distorted logic of government officials who stick to reprocessing radioactive waste even by lying.
    Tadashi Kobayashi, Kenji Shimizu and Seiichi Ota, The Mainichi Daily News, Jan 2, 2012.

  • Energy agency boss told subordinate to cover up estimated costs to dump nuclear fuel
    A division head at the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy instructed a subordinate in April 2004 to conceal the estimated costs for disposing of spent nuclear fuel without reprocessing it, sources involved in the case and a memorandum have revealed.
    The Mainichi Daily News, Jan 2, 2012.

  • Nuclear watchdog members received donations from energy sector
    One-third of Nuclear Safety Commission members on committees overseeing inspections of power plants and nuclear fuel received donations from companies and organizations affiliated with the nuclear energy sector, an Asahi Shimbun study has found.
    Satoshi Otani and Yusuke Nikaido, Asahi Japan Watch, Jan 2, 2012.

  • See also the news archive for 2012 and 2011.



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    About Backyard World

    Backyard World is an art and information architecture project on the Fukushima crisis. The project was started March 17, 2011.
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