Saturday, December 29, 2012

Privatization of Risk III: LDP Privatizes Risk in Push to Re-Start Reactors

I previously posted about the Japanese nuclear complex, drawing upon a research article written by a Japanese sociologist:

The Nuclear Complex in Japan: How Public Safety is Trumped by Elite Industrial and Government Interests 

I also described how the nuclear complex in Japan is so very happy with the election results, which swept Japan's former ruling party, the LDP, back into power here

Now we see why: Abe government questions 'no nuke' future hours after taking office. The Asahi Shimbun (2012, December 28), 

Majia here: Apparently, the Abe LDP government plans to decide within 3 years whether operations can resume at Japan's 50 nuclear reactors. Japan's new Nuclear Regulatory Agency has to evaluate the safety of each reactor. Yet, the NRA views this time frame as unrealistic. Moreover, it is not entirely clear whether the NRA can actually force decommissioning of reactors it deems unsafe, as illustrated by the case of the Tsuruga reactor (see source here).

The LDP also states that it is reconsidering the policy to close reactors older than 40 years and that it intends to overturn the ban on building new reactors. (cited in Obe Tokyo Reconsiders Nuclear Phaseout WSJ 12/28/2012 p. a. 9)

Who will bear the risks for re-starting Japan's nuclear reactors? The population will, of course.

Remember that many reactors in Japan were damaged by the 3/11 earthquakes. 

See the following: Kenichi Ohmae (BBT University President) “Lessons of Fukushima Dai-ichi” (2011, October 28): Full report index available here: Full report here In Japanese available here: Appendix of conditions at various plants around Japan

Majia here: There have been substantial aftershocks that may have caused more damage. For example, damaged fuel rods were found in spent fuel pools around Japan: sehere

Furthermore, active faults have been found under other reactors in Japan, including the Rokkasho reactor: Kyoko Hasegawa Quake risk at Japan atomic recycling plant: experts. Pys.Org (2012, December 19) 

The Oi reactor has also had problems. The Oi reactor was recently re-started despite public protests throughout Japan. Now there are concerns it sits upon an active fault.

Govt OK's Oi reactors' restart / KEPCO eyes power generation from No. 3 unit as early as July 4. The Yomiuri Shimbun (2012, June 17)

Oi prompts domestic, U.S. antinuclear rallies Kyodo. Japan Today (2012, June 24)

Hisashi Hattori. Nuclear watchdog to urge shutdown of Oi plant if active fault found. The Asahi Shimbun (2012, December 28),

[Excerpted] The Nuclear Regulation Authority said Dec. 27 it will recommend shutting down the Oi nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture if an active geological fault is found to run directly beneath the facility.

Shunichi Tanaka, NRA chairman, also told The Asahi Shimbun that the three-year timeline presented by the Abe administration is too short for safety screenings to be completed for all 50 nuclear reactors in Japan.

An NRA expert panel began a second session on Dec. 28 of on-site geological surveys at the Oi plant to decide whether a fault line cutting across its premises is active. Two reactors at the Oi plant are the only ones currently up and running in Japan.

Majia here: Tanaka also mentioned that the Tsuruga nuclear power plant, also in Fukui Prefecture, is situated directly on an active fault and therefore the plant will likely have to be decommissioned.

However, careful reading of this article calls into question whether the NRA can actually force a utility to shut down a reactor unless a threat is unmistakable and imminent:

[Excerpted] The law on the regulation of nuclear reactors allows the issuance of a shutdown order in case of imminent danger. However, Tanaka said it would be difficult to issue a legally binding shutdown order after the discovery of an active fault beneath an emergency water intake channel because that would be short of constituting "imminent danger."

...Tanaka said it would be up to the discretion of Japan Atomic Power Co., the Tsuruga plant operator, to decide whether to decommission it.... [end excerpt]

Majia here: It looks to me as if the NRA has limited power to shut down reactors unless the risks are obvious, imminent, and indisputable 

In effect, the risks for future accidents are being shifted to the population of Japan as the LDP facilitates reactor re-starts within time-frames that disallow adequate safety evaluations to occur at each of Japan's 50 reactors.

I fear for the people of Japan. The news that Americans about the USS Ronald Reagan were seriously sickened by a radiation plume when responding back in March 2011 suggests that many citizens in Japan may also be terribly ill (see here ). Japan's quest for energy security is, in my opinion, entirely suicidal.


Dec 17, 2012
Fuksuhima and the Privatization of Risk: Introduction. Every morning I look at the Fukushima webcam and I wonder at what I am seeing. I see strange brownish-purplish colors in vertical shafts, auras of blue-green, and ...

Dec 18, 2012
The privatization of risk is a global social trend occurring in myriad ways as risk is shifted from organized entities – such as government and corporations -- to private citizens. Risk is privatized when organized institutions ...

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