Wednesday 30 October 2013

Fukushima updates - 10/30/2013

TEPCO may refuse to fund part of Fukushima decontamination
The crippled Fukushima plant operator, TEPCO, is refusing to return more than $300 million already spent in the decontamination of land following the nuclear disaster to the Japanese government.

29 October, 2013

Under the current framework, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) is borrowing public money from the Japanese government to pay for the decontamination work and the compensation to residents after the March 2011 earthquake, which triggered a tsunami damaging Fukushima Daiichi’s nuclear reactors. The company responsible for the clean-up is also required to decommission the damaged nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi with its own funds.

On Tuesday, Japan’s Ministry of Environment said that TEPCO is unwilling to pay for work not directly involving decontamination, for instance related to public relations, research and development.

TEPCO “has said it will continue to think over whether it will reimburse the government, so we understand that TEPCO has not finalized its decision to completely refuse to pay it back,” said Satoshi Watanabe of the Environment Ministry’s cleanup team, as cited by the Japan Times.

TEPCO has already paid $68.5 million, while the Environment Ministry has invested more than $400 million, the Japan Times reports.

Watanabe also hinted that TEPCO may be sued if it does not pay back the money, adding that the company’s intentions are “totally unacceptable.”

While the decontamination costs alone are estimated at more $50 billion, the government has provided $30 billion, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

Investigators estimated that it will take the government up to 31 years to recover the public funds from the money borrowed by TEPCO. Local media has been speculating whether or not TEPCO will have the means to cover the decontamination bill.

The ruling Liberal Democratic Party has voiced concerns that it would be impossible for TEPCO to cover the entire bill and said that it will propose the government to cover part of the costs for decontamination work.

While paying attention to the discussions in the party, we will consider the proposal seriously if it is submitted to the government,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Japan’s Finance Minister Taro Aso supported the proposal saying “I have doubts about the view that all responsibilities lie solely with TEPCO, given that nuclear policy has been framed by the government.”

Part of the decontamination work has been completed around the nuclear facility, in an effort to speed up the return home of thousands of families evacuated after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that caused the meltdown.

Nevertheless the radiation readings have not declined and TEPCO has been widely criticized for failing to handle the leak of radioactive water into the ocean.

The LDP has proposed separating the role of government and TEPCO in the contamination work. The party suggested handing the contaminated water issue and decommissioning of reactors from TEPCO to a government-affiliated organization, so the electric power company can concentrate on its management and compensation payments.

TEPCO in the meantime is scheduled to revise the financial rehabilitation plan to its creditors and present it to the government.

Meanwhile, in attempt to potentially save $1 billion on a monthly basis in fuel costs, TEPCO is aiming to restart Kashiwazaki Kariwa, the largest nuclear plant in the world, next April.

However, the governor of Niigata Prefecture, where the plant is based said that the company [TEPCO] must give a more thorough account of the Fukushima disaster and address “institutionalized lying” in the company, before it will be permitted to restart the nuclear reactors in Kashiwazaki Kariwa.

If they don’t do what needs to be done, if they keep skimping on costs and manipulating information, they can never be trusted,” Hirohiko Izumida told Reuters on Monday, suggesting that TEPCO should be fully stripped of responsibility for decommissioning at Fukushima.

Tepco refuses to fund outside cleanup
Utility leaves ministry holding ¥30 billion bill; exemption eyed

29 October, 2013

Tokyo Electric Power Co. is refusing to reimburse the Environment Ministry for more than ¥30 billion that was spent to decontaminate land hit by radioactive fallout from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, the ministry said Tuesday.

Under the special decontamination law adopted in August 2011, the state is responsible for leading and initially financing the decontamination effort, but it can ask Tepco, responsible for the Fukushima crisis, to pay the bill later.

Tepco has paid ¥6.7 billion so far, while the Environment Ministry has sought ¥40.4 billion.

The ministry said Tepco is unwilling to pay for work not directly involving decontamination. For instance, the bill includes costs related to public relations and research and development.

The ¥6.7 billion Tepco has paid covers direct decontamination work such as washing road surfaces and removing tainted soil.

According to a document presented by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to senior ruling party officials this month, Tepco is insisting that shouldering the cost for decontamination as damages will be “duplicate payments” because it is already compensating for land and buildings.

Tepco “has said it will continue to think over whether it will reimburse the government, so we understand that Tepco has not finalized its decision to completely refuse to pay it back,” said Satoshi Watanabe of the Environment Ministry’s cleanup team, hinting Tepco may be sued. “This situation is totally unacceptable.”

The government has budgeted about ¥1.3 trillion for decontamination, of which about ¥470 billion has been used.

Facing trillions of yen in compensation payments for the Fukushima debacle and soaring fuel costs for thermal power to replace nuclear, Tepco may not even have the means to cover the decontamination bill.

Meanwhile, METI is considering exempting Tepco from paying most of the cleanup costs.

The government has not reached a consensus on the move, which could trigger a public backlash because it would mean further taxpayer help.

METI officials believe it would be difficult to win public approval for releasing Tepco from all of the decontamination costs, but it is considering limiting the bill to the ¥470 billion that has already been used, the sources said.

Finance Minister Taro Aso indicated Tuesday that his ministry may give the green light to using government money to clean contaminated areas around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear complex.

I wonder if we can put all the blame on Tepco, given that (nuclear policy) has been framed by the government,” Aso said.

TEPCO likely to post mid-year profit
Tokyo Electric Power Company is likely to post a profit in its midterm earnings report.

29 October, 2013

The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is expected to post about 1.1 billion dollars in profits for the April-September period.

It will be the company's first midterm profit since the nuclear accident in March 2011.

Profits rose due to an increase in electricity sales during this summer's record heat wave, as well as a rise in household rates in September of last year.

The company instituted huge spending cuts that include putting off repair work at other power plants and transmission facilities.

TEPCO aims to post a profit for the full business year that ends in March of 2014.

But the company will continue to face the huge costs of compensation related to the nuclear accident, as well as those of decommissioning nuclear reactors and measures to handle contaminated wastewater at the Fukushima plant.

TEPCO wants to restart 2 reactors at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa plant to improve earnings, but nuclear regulators have not yet begun the required safety screening.

ENENews headlines

Japan Gov’t: “Unprecedented situation of radioactive pollution” from Fukushima disaster — “Intensive Contamination Areas” designated near downtown Tokyo, and officials there say health assistance for kids and pregnant women is needed (MAP)

10:06 PM EST on October 29th, 2013 | 22 comments
Tokyo Mother: “Total media blackout” in Japan of lots and lots of people developing symptoms related to Fukushima disaster (VIDEO) — “Many cases of sickness and death among young generations” not reported

06:57 PM EST on October 29th, 2013 | 10 comments
For first time, officials admit to ‘shortage of workers’ at Fukushima — Tepco promises ‘additional efforts’ to get more — BBC reveals homeless people cleaning reactors and “modern slavery” in Japan nuclear industry… exactly 14 years ago

01:06 PM EST on October 29th, 2013 | 28 comments
Top Hong Kong Newspaper: Fukushima is a global threat — Global response urgently needed — Situation could prove catastrophic for world

11:51 AM EST on October 29th, 2013 | 70 comments
Physician: The high radiation doses, the plume from Fukushima crossing ocean, likely to hit coast of Canada and Northwestern US in early 2014 — California impacted later in year — People don’t know how to stop situation at plant, it’s a global public health catastrophe (AUDIO)

10:03 AM EST on October 29th, 2013 | 47 comments
TV Journalist: Poison from Fukushima plant spreading around the world, causing incalculable damage — They may never get this under control (AUDIO)

08:44 AM EST on October 29th, 2013 | 9 comments
Cesium near Fukushima reported to be many times higher than claimed by Tepco — Levels rising further away from plant — Professor: After quake as big as last week there’s concern about stuff breaking and leakage getting worse

Crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant needs international help

30 October, 2013

Japan has a history of struggling to face up to the past. So, whether it has the crisis at the stricken nuclear plant at Fukushima under control, as it claims, has to be of concern. A disaster like none before could occur if clean-up, stabilisation and decommissioning operations are not handled properly. The series of failures, mistakes and untruths since the earthquake and tsunami caused a meltdown on March 11, 2011, prove the government and operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., are ill-equipped to deal with the challenges. The threat is global and a global response is urgently needed.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has sent mixed signals, alternatively contending that safety is not a problem and suggesting help is needed to deal with radioactive water leaking into the Pacific Ocean. But this is no matter to be vague about. Hiding the true nature of the problem could prove catastrophic for the region and world. The leaks, dangerous to sea life and fisheries if unchecked, are only one of three challenges. The meltdown of three of the plant's six reactors has left the precise location of the melted cores unknown, while 1,533 of the 11,000 spent fuel rods that have to be removed are in a cooling pool in a building that risks collapse should another large quake hit. Highlighting the danger, workers were evacuated last Saturday after a small offshore quake prompted a tsunami alert.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant was ordered shut down by Abe only last month. The operator acknowledged year-old claims by scientists of leaks of radioactive water from storage tanks. Official inquiries found negligence and a series of errors, while there had also been deficiencies in the response to the disaster by the company, regulators and the government.

These are not matters to be taken lightly - the world has not seen a nuclear disaster as severe since the worst-ever, at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, in 1986. The government has pledged US$470 million to tackle the leaks with unconventional and untried methods. The decommissioning process could take at least 40 years. Removing the spent rods will be difficult given the uncertainties. If any come into contact with each other or are exposed to air, gases with high levels of radiation will be released or, worse, there could be a catastrophic explosion.

There is a lack of trust in Japanese efforts to deal with the crisis. A call to the UN by 16 nuclear experts in an open letter should be heeded. Responsibility for the Fukushima site should be transferred to a worldwide engineering group overseen by independent nuclear scientists and a civil society panel

Fukushima News 10/28/13: NRA Urges "Bold" Fukushima Action; Nuclear Waste Disposal Challenged

Fukushima News 10/29/13: Radioactive Forests; Running Out of Fuku Fighters; Uncontrollable Fukushima

Fukushima News 10/28/13: NRA Urges "Bold" Fukushima Action; Nuclear Waste Disposal Challenged

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