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Japan Government Power

Why the Japanese Government Should Take Over the Fukushima Nuclear Plant 211

Lasrick writes "The Japan Times has an opinion piece about the seriousness of the situation at Fukushima and the incompetence of Tepco. The article makes the case that it's time for the Japanese government to step in and take control of the plant to facilitate clean-up. Quoting: 'Japan has been very lucky that nothing worse has occurred at the plant. But luck eventually runs out. The longer Tepco stays in charge of the decommissioning process, the worse the odds become. Without downplaying the seriousness of leaks and the other setbacks at the plant, it is important to recognize that things could very quickly get much worse. In November, Tepco plans to begin the delicate operation of removing spent fuel from Reactor No. 4. There are 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies in a pool above the reactor. They weigh a total of 400 tons, and contain radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released by the Hiroshima atomic bomb. The spent-fuel pool, standing 18 meters above ground, was damaged by the earthquake and tsunami and is in a deteriorating condition. It remains vulnerable to any further shocks, and is also at risk from ground liquefaction. Removing its spent fuel, which contains deadly plutonium, is an urgent task.'"
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Why the Japanese Government Should Take Over the Fukushima Nuclear Plant

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  • IAEA. Not Japan. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 30, 2013 @09:45AM (#44715909)

    The Japanese govt. doesn't feel the necessity to take this on to date, evidenced by their unwillingness to even consider it.

    They've already blown oversight, transparency, and emergency response planning. They're not going to suddenly become competent.

    Get the IAEA in there, use the UN to pressure them to accept international oversight. There are over 12,000 fuel rods 100 feet in the air.

    There's really no more time for trusting the Japanese government.

  • Just build a Waste-Annihilating Molten Salt Reactor (WAMSR) next to the site, problem solved. []

    • Russ Wilcox, Transatomicâ(TM)s new CEO estimates that it will take eight years to build a prototype reactor

      Seems like the perfect solution to our current problem! :p

      • If the Japanese government had started planning this immediately after the earthquake, by now it would only be 10 years from completion.

    • by umghhh ( 965931 )

      Three things.:

      1. The radioactive waste needs to be removed from the ruins. This for the spent fuel tanks is extremely dangerous operation in itself.
      2. The radioactive waste needs to be processed in this case into salt solution. This is possible but nor really done yet ever. I understand this is rather 'small' problem especially comparing with the first one.
      3. MSR is in itself as dangerous as anything else. We thought we knew it all and then during decommissioning there were surprises. It is also interesting to think
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 30, 2013 @09:46AM (#44715927)

    Really now, any time nuclear anything is mentioned in comparison with Hiroshima, you know that someone is trying to scare you. I believe the SI unit would be Becquerels, not "Hiroshimas".

    • With regards to this particular situation, Japan could do with a whole lot more scared, to pressure those in authority to get their arses in gear.

  • Unlikely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <mojo@world3.nBLUEet minus berry> on Friday August 30, 2013 @09:46AM (#44715933) Homepage Journal

    I don't think the government is very likely to take over from TEPCO. TEPCO itself is already practically nationalized due to the vast amounts of money the government has had to pump into it and pay out to those affected by the disaster. By keeping it independent there is someone external to blame for all the problems, which would otherwise be the direct responsibility of the government.

    TFA is full of hype but one interesting point that is often missed is worth noting. The earthquake itself damage the plant, and even without the tsunami there would have been a serious accident.

    • by nojayuk ( 567177 )

      The Japanese government has been supervising the work TEPCO have been carrying out since the tsunami. Basically they can't spit without permission and anything and everything about the site is reported to the government on a daily basis via the newly-setup Nuclear Regulatory Authority. Exactly what the government could do that TEPCO isn't doing right now I don't know.

      As for the earthquake the reactors at Fukushima Daiichi (and Daini ten km south) survived the ground shocks quite well, going into shutdown an

      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        For one, they could get rid of the people who keep lying to them about the extent of the problem.
        two, They have access to more moeny and can get t solving the actual problem.

        This is all about how tepco handle everything post tsunami.
        And we are starting to see they weren't as unaffected as we were led to believe.
        This is why we should build more new tech reactors and they should be run by the government and the electricity sold at cost.

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          If they got rid of the people lying they would have to immediately admit it was far worse than previous government estimates, based on those lies, said. As well as embarrassment that would also mean paying out more compensation.

          They don't want to pour more money into that giant sinkhole. It's going to cost in the hundreds of billions of dollars range by conservative estimates, and looks set to rocket as decontamination is failing and needs to be re-done in many areas. People are starting to get sick as well

          • by fritsd ( 924429 )
            They *have* to pour more money in and clean it up. Japan is a very densely populated country. They can't all move out to "Japan 2.0" nextdoor, you know. If half of Honshu becomes uninhabitable for 300 years, where are they all going to live then?? Hokkaido?
            • by nojayuk ( 567177 )

              The area of Japan that's noticeably contaminated (i.e. significantly above background and maybe dangerous to live in for decades) by the Fukushima radiation releases is maybe a thousand square km in extent, or a quarter the size of Rhode Island to put it in terms of the US. A chunk of that is hills and mountains, quite lightly populated to start with. The larger towns in the area tend to be down near the coast for fishing and agriculture and most of those population centres missed the plumes of radioactive

              • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

                The problem is a lot of people are not going back. Their jobs and businesses have gone, their homes are in ruin and have lost most of their value. They have been living somewhere else for over two years and have started a new life, with new friends and neighbours. It isn't clear if those towns will return to being viable communities again.

                Decontaminating land is a labour intensive and expensive job. Decontaminating the sea might be impossible, so anyone who used to fish or work in a related industry isn't g

              • by fritsd ( 924429 )
                No, I meant more like: what if spent fuel storage pool 4 stuff leaks into the ground water before cleanup is ready for it. I wasn't being clear.
    • by cyn1c77 ( 928549 )

      TFA is full of hype but one interesting point that is often missed is worth noting. The earthquake itself damage the plant, and even without the tsunami there would have been a serious accident.


      The official line from, well, everyone, is that the reactors would have been fine had the emergency generators been able to operate. They were unable to operate because they were flooded by the tsunami. Also note that the emergency generators did turn on after the earthquake, before they were destroyed by the subsequent tsunami. Even then, secondary backup batteries kept the cores cool for 8 hours until the batteries were depleted.

      If the emergency generators were not flooded, they could have been

      • The reactors were SCRAMed and would have been kept cool by the (redundant) backup generators for an indefinite length of time.

        Ideally, you would safely shut down the reactors when running on generator. Running the plant any longer than absolutely necessary on generator power isn't the safest.

        • Re:Unlikely (Score:4, Interesting)

          by nojayuk ( 567177 ) on Friday August 30, 2013 @11:07AM (#44716743)

          The reactors were shut down, that is the fission "chain reaction" had been stopped. The problem is that reactors build up fission products in the fuel pellets, assorted isotopes like I-131 and Cs-137 that are radioactive and as they decay they give off energy = heat. Operating reactors like the ones at Fukushima Daiichi produce about 3000 MW of heat when running at 100% power. A few seconds after they were shut down the residual radioactivity was producing only 50 MW of heat. By the time the cooling systems failed a few hours later that was down to one or two MW of heat as the very short-lived isotopes with half-lifes of seconds or minutes decayed away. That heat energy was still enough to react steam with the fuel rod cladding jackets and evolve hydrogen which caused the explosions.

          Reactors five and six at Daiichi, both with full fuel loads in place are being actively cooled to this day; they didn't suffer the hydrogen explosions the other four did but they weren't operating directly before the earthquake hit. There were some problems sustaining their cooling operations after the tsunami but they never failed totally.

      • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

        Have a look at some of NHK's documentaries on the subject. I don't know if you can watch them online, the go out in English on NHK World. Anyway, they point out that emergency cooling was in fact available but didn't work.

        After the earthquake they lost power to their instrumentation. This prevented them from seeing that a valve that needed to be closed was in fact open. In addition some of the pipes carrying cooling water to the cores were damaged. Even though the backup generators were damaged by the tsuna

    • Does anybody think our government could have managed the BP oil blowout?

  • USA might help (Score:4, Insightful)

    by stewsters ( 1406737 ) on Friday August 30, 2013 @09:47AM (#44715945)
    How about they ask the Americans for help? We have had a lot of experience with nukes, and could use a chance to prove that we can still do something in the world besides violate international law. If we fuck it up, then you can blame external powers for it.
    • There is no way they are going to ask for help.

    • France might help also. Areva has a lot of experience with nuclear reactors and wastes. They were willing to help during the meltdown, but at this moment Tepco seemed too proud to accept any help from the foreign countries.
      They accepted later, as they bought some water filtering equipment to capture radionucleids.

      Next time such a disaster occurs, I hope that the host country will not wait to aks help from the most competent companies in the world.

    • How about they ask the Americans for help? We have had a lot of experience with nukes

      Yeah, let's send teams from the Hanford site. They've had a quarter century's worth of experience in failing to clean up a nuclear mess.

    • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Friday August 30, 2013 @11:08AM (#44716751) Homepage
      How would attacking the plant with drones help?
    • Re:USA might help (Score:4, Interesting)

      by fritsd ( 924429 ) on Friday August 30, 2013 @11:26AM (#44716941) Journal
      If you're serious, then no, they're not going to take advice from people who have the Hanford site and don't want to open that waste repository in Nevada what was it called..

      If you're making a funny joke (

      How about they ask the Americans for help? We have had a lot of experience with nukes, (...)

      ), then you are a really sick bastard.

    • How about they ask the Americans for help? We have had a lot of experience with nukes, and could use a chance to prove that we can still do something in the world besides violate international law. If we fuck it up, then you can blame external powers for it.

      I think Russia would be the experts, not the US. It's purely ego-centric to think that any nation would just at the US helping them out. BTW, I'm all in favor of disbanding congress, and bringing in another nation to redesign our government. I wonder how that would go over?

      • I think Russia would be the experts, not the US.

        Yes, and they'd probably charge less too. The current may not be flowing their way, but their oceans are much closer to the problem as well.

  • Next question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Friday August 30, 2013 @09:48AM (#44715957) Journal

    Who are they going to have do it? I don't know, let's call in the experts at Tepco.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )

      The could reach out to the global community, something Tepco doesn't want to do.

      • by TWX ( 665546 )
        I think that the point is to change who makes the decisions, more than who handles the technical aspects.

        Remember, after the original disaster, there are several examples of on-site plant managers and workers defying their corporate bosses to do things that weren't necessarily in TEPCO's interest, but were definitely necessary to attempt to stabilize the situation, like injecting seawater into the reactor when the distilled coolant level was falling.

        If the workers and engineers know their business and
      • The could reach out to the global community, something Tepco doesn't want to do.

        Citation needed.

      • Neither Japan's govt. Do be naive, the Japaneses don't want another else to monitor are good or bad they are doing. It is very unlikely the govt will call the global community to help. And anyway, it is unlikely to be less costly and better. This issue revolves around management only, not around technical expertise.
  • The corporation is the government.
  • by bravecanadian ( 638315 ) on Friday August 30, 2013 @10:20AM (#44716243)

    If the government would just stop interfering with the free markets the invisible hand and enlightened self interest would take over and do a much better job! We'd be living in a land of unicorns and rainbows in no time!

    Also nuclear power is the only reasonable - and environmentally friendly! - solution to our energy problems. * /sarcasm

    * - Excluding all those pesky externalities because we all know in the technologically advanced future we'll magically solve all those problems -- also using the power of the free markets! (some conditions and circular reasoning may apply, offer not valid in all states blah blah blah)

    • by fritsd ( 924429 )
      I fail to see how the export profit of of selling novelty horses that have mutated to grow horns on their heads would off-set the loss in GDP of not being able to live near those horses and rainbows..

      I fear you are overlooking a very serious problem for the world elite: where are you going to find the nori for your sushi that *doesn't* glow-in-the-dark?
  • The commentary is written by:
    Andrew DeWit is a professor in the School of Policy Studies, Rikkyo University. Dr. Christopher Hobson is a research fellow at the Institute for Sustainability and Peace, United Nations University, Tokyo.

    Not exactly credentials for someone who should be making the decision on who should do the clean up. Certainly, the government should be monitoring whatever action is taken, and if Tepco is screwing up give them the boot. But, I wouldn't be doing so on the recommendations of t

  • by swschrad ( 312009 ) on Friday August 30, 2013 @10:42AM (#44716467) Homepage Journal

    the International Nuclear organization's crisis teams and resources should be brought in, given a drawer full of blank checks, and set after it without any more interference by the hacks that caused this catastrophe in the first place.

  • TEPCO will go out of business and can't afford the cleanup. New age capitalism requires you to privatize your profits and socialize the losses.
  • Yep, it's about time the Japanese gov't steps in and takes charge of this mess. TEPCO has demonstrated they don't know what they're doing. Matters can and will get much worse. There are experts worldwide who can be brought in to help. The Russians have some experience with a meltdown. There are probably some TMI era consultants still around. It's going to get very expensive.

    We might ought to help them. It's not just their problem. If those fuel rods catch fire, that radioactivity will be drifting towards ou

  • Please sign the petition over at to get the US to act in getting the Japanese government to allow US/UN assistance in cleaning up the spent fuel pools. This is an urgent need. []

    ~ X

  • Have those who made the decision to build this global minimum spec engineered nightmare to publicly remove a finger?
  • TEPCO _is_ the government.
    And Japan is bankrupt.
    So let the world that so far ignores the disaster step in.
    Make TEPCO leave.
    Make Japan cede control.
    Have the rest of the world fix it. It's be quicker and less euphemistic.
  • ... bring in consultants from Chernobyl. Lessons learned and all that.

    Assuming any survived, that is.

  • If the company is cleaning it up, you have oversight by the government, the government can force the revelation of inconvenient facts, the government can force them to not take unnecessary risks.

    But who oversees the government if they're doing it?

  • What? (Score:4, Funny)

    by lennier1 ( 264730 ) on Friday August 30, 2013 @12:27PM (#44717619)

    The problem was caused by corrupt lying sacks of shit and now you want to let politicians run the show?
    That's like exchanging AIDS for terminal cancer!

If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith. -- Albert Einstein