Monthly Archives: April 2011

The Survived Sake from the Earthquake and the Tsunami

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otokoyama1       There has been no bright perspective for the future yet here in Japan. It has already passed a month and a half since the great earthquake hit the northeastern Japan on March 11. The number of the death is 14,574 and missing is 11,324 from the earthquake and the tsunami following the quake as of April 28. There are still lots of big aftershocks, tons of undisposed debris in towns, over 300,000 evacuees, and the unsettled nuclear problems in this county… But I’m going to write something positive here today.

     This is the article about the “survived” sake on the Chunich of 20th. I’d like to introduce it through my translation as below.

     A lot of sake breweries have been visited by the disaster while brewing this time. “Otoko-Yama Honten”, the well-established sake brewery in Kesen-numa, Miyagi Prefecture, is one of them. Luckily they have been able to keep unrefined mash in their tanks and to make new sake. otokoyama2

     Kesen-numa Port, one of the biggest catch landings in Japan, has lost its beautiful scenery and has become just a huge pile of debris. There’s dust in the air and burned fishing boats still at the pier. The name board written “Otoko-Yama” in Chinese character with bright gold color stands out there. It’s an old-line sake brewery “Otoko-Yama Honten”. The building was made about 40 years ago and was a cultural property before the earthquake. It used to be a three stories high building, but now only the third floor is standing there. “According to a witness, a ship hit and destroyed this building,” said Mr. Akihiko Sugawara, 49, the president of the sake brewery. The company was established in 1912 and he is the fifth officer since then. The tsunami climbed up the mountains and came close to the brewery, but it stopped coming before a few meters from their factory.

     All of the employees are victims. Some of them have lost their families and houses. “I can’t make sake at times like this…” Mr. Sugawara thought and began giving up making sake this spring, but many people all over Japan encouraged him after the quake. “Orders are pouring in!” Mr. Sugawara said that with a mixed expression of crying and laughing.

     Tons of orders have come to this brewery, saying “I’d like to buy the “survived” sake from the tsunami” or “I’d like to buy your sake as a support,” since the company restarted at the end of last month. But they can’t send their products easily to their customers due to their lack of packages.

Pop, pop ,pop…

     “I had never thought such a high tsunami would come,” said Mr. Daisuke Kashiwa, 44, the sake brewer, who was working at the brewery at that time of the earthquake. He went outside after the shaking stopped, when he heard of the waves coming. He saw lots of houses being washed away with a big noise. As soon as the tidal waves went out from the parking lot, he ran away from the factory with his colleagues by car. He saw the port burning red in dark of the night through the window of the car. It was snowing hard. Burning ships blazed up when they hit the quay. “Yet, sake was safe,” said Mr. Yukihiro Takeda, 39, the worker.

     When they came back to the brewery, they found out its wall had deep cracks and tanks inclined. However, the two tanks of unrefined mash, which had been prepared for making sake since last November, survived. The unrefined mash began fermenting in March. They heard of this sound, “Pop, pop, pop,” from the tanks. They thought, “It’s alive!”sotendenzyungin1_8

     They had to judge the time to stop fermenting and to press the unrefined mash with the machine for making sake. They had only two options: discarding the mash or starting to brew. Mr. Sugawara thought, “This mash is our hope. I want to make it sake,” and Mr, Katsuhei Kamata, 68, the chief brewer, said to him, “Let’s make sake!” Mr. Kamata is veteran. He hasn’t changed his dietary habit even after the quake: eating little bit hard rice and drinking sake and hot green tea at night. According to Mr. Sugawara, Mr. Kamata never changes his life rhythm. 

Hurdling Electric and Water Outages

     They couldn’t use the electric power and the tap water. They used the well water for preventing too much fermentation. It was lucky for them that the temperature went down after the quake. But still they needed the power for using the machine to press the mash. Fortunately, an acquaintance lent them a large generator and some neighbors helped to bring the heavy machine into the building. “Once we decided to make sake and started it, the circle of support grew bigger and bigger.” Mr. Sugawara said that and appreciated it.

     “Otoko-Yama Honten” makes sake named “Fushimi-Otoko-Yama”, “Kashin” and “Sotenden” mainly. Actually, Japan’s young people don’t drink sake so much and the market of sake is flagging. “I’d like to offer nice sake going best with our local specialties: fish, oysters, and scallops.” Mr. Sugawara thought that and started creating new taste about 10 years ago. “Sotenden” is the latest one. It has become popular with its image of Kesen-numa’s blue water and sky, and young workers skills have been getting improving. And then the earthquake and the tsunami hit them.

Many Words of Encourgement

     They sold their sake to Tokyo area and Sendai, but over 70% of their sales were created in local liquor shops and restaurants before the quake. But about 80% of their profitable customers have become victims, and the orders pouring in now are from all over the country and most of them are new clients. Mr. Sugawara is wondering until when they can get those orders.

     There are lots of encouraging letters from all over Japan in the office. A letter from a woman living in Fukuoka says, “My 85-year old father has stopped drinking beer and shochu sprit, but he loves Fushimi-Otoko-Yama and drinks it every day. Please remember there is a fan in Kagoshima far from Kesen-numa.” Other letters say “I would be very happy if I could help Kesen-numa by drinking your sake. There are many fans in Tokyo!” or “Even non-drinkers among my colleagues have agreed for the group buying.”

     Mr. Sugawara said, “The orders coming now are back-ups from all over Japan, I think. That is, they didn’t order because they just wanted to drink. I’d like to respond to their encouragements. Luckily we have a brewery in this divastated area. It’s our mission to keep making sake here.”

Egregious Practices on the Construction Site of the Nuclear Power Plant: Witness of an ex-engineer

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     “It’s an absolute lie that nuclear power plants have been built with cutting-edge engineering,” said Mr. Yoichi Kikuchi, the ex-engineer engaged in the construction of the Reactor 6 of Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant, in an interview with a journalist of the Chunichi. This is the shocking article about the nuclear plant on the newspaper on 15th. I’ve translated it into English as below:

     “I don’t know when and where severe accidents occur, but it’s inevitable, and it’s happened to be in Fukushima. That’s all.” Mr. Kikuchi is seeing the accident of Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant, which has been out of control by loss of power, coolly at his home in Kushima, Miyazaki Prefecture.

     He was born in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, which has been destroyed by the tsunami caused by the Great Northeastern Japan Earthquake this time. After graduating the university, he had done consulting work on construction, but got a job with U.S’s General Electric Company (GE) in 1973 because an acquaintance of his asked him, saying “Give assistance to the peaceful uses of atomic energy.”

     Mr. Kikuchi has engaged in building the Reactor 6 of Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant and Japan Atomic Power Company’s Tokai Second Nuclear Power Plant (Tokai-mura in Ibaraki Prefecture) for about seven years until 1980 when he left the company. Fukushima First uses boiling light-water reactors, which was designed by GE but was built by Japan’s builders. He was the administrator of schedule for the construction and had to complete the buildings within the assignment timetable. It took four years for building a nuclear reactor at that time. He was involved in Tokai Power Plant for 4 years and Fukushima for the last one year. “The atomic technology wasn’t established at all at that time. Everything was reckless and wild.”

Unskilled Workers

     According to him, changing plats always happened. “We couldn’t go ahead with planned action at the actual construction. We had to rewrite plats many times.” They sometimes juggled the construction with brute-force construction technique. They spent 6 billion yen for the Reactor 6.

     There were many sloppy works at the construction site as well. Most workers urinated in the bottom of the nuclear containment vessel of the Reactor 6 when they were building it. It was troublesome for them to go up to the toilet at the top of the vessel. There were quite number of unskilled workers, and some of them worked muttering, “I have no confidence.” “All of them weren’t workmanlike. Many of them just wanted to go home for the day.”

     Most of workers didn’t report their mistakes to builders or Tokyo Electric Power Company. If they had talked to them the truth, they would have lost their jobs next time. Naturally, flaws which might cause severe accidents lie neglected. Mr. Kikuchi has found a serious flaw at the Reactor 6. It was a pipe where a stopcock for investigation was bulging 1.8 cm inside. If there were bulging parts inside, the circulation couldn’t go smoothly and fractures might happen suddenly. He reported to the quality control manager, but the problem became “unqualified”. “No one had noticed until I found it out. There were many things we shouldn’t have done nonchalantly.”

Risk of Exposure c175e705

     Mr. Kikuchi has engaged in the repair work on Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant before. According to him, there were always risks of exposure to radiation at the site.

     Workers cleaned the contaminated vessel after the spent nuclear fuel rod was removed from the nuclear reactor pressure vessel. They went into it by an iron gondola and washed inside with a hose. The diameter of the pressure vessel is about six meters. The gondola was swaying by the water pressure. Mr. Kikuchi has been to the top of the vessel. “I was scared. I bet the workers felt more scared. People don’t know about the reality of the situation on exposure to radiation.” The repair work was sealing a crack at the joint between the pressure vessel and the pipe. Pipes shake while the reactor is working. “There’s often a crack without noticing. It may be natural because of the sloppy works.”

     Mr. Kikuchi has engaged in constructions of oil factories in Middle East after leaving GE, but nuclear power plants stuff has been burned into his brain. “I had a nightmare about an accident of nuclear power plants almost every night. In the dream, the pipe of the pressure vessel breaks suddenly and…” He has begun joining in anti-nuke movements since the accident occurred at Fukushima Second Nuclear Power Plant in 1989. He couldn’t help appealing the risk of nuclear power generation. “Neither the government nor the electric power companies understand the reality situation of the nuclear power plants.”

Concerned about Hamaoka

     The containment vessels of the Reactors 1 to 5 at Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant are called Mark I and have flask-like forms, the Reactor 6, in which Mr. Kikuchi has been involved, is called Mark II and has a bell shape. Fukushima Second’s Reactor 1 to 4 and Kasiwazaki-Kariwa’s 1 to 7 are Mark II. It’s revealed that Mark I has more load than expected if a severe accident happens because it is small in capacity. Mark II is 1.6 times in capacity. “Mark II is much safer than Mark I, but they have built five Mark I vessels one after another. It was a big mistake.”

     So, are there no problems in Mark II? “Designers of GE concern about severe accidents sufficiently, though Japan’s government and the electric power companies just say, ’Nuclear Power Plants are safe.’ However, the measure for safety of Mark II is not enough because no one could save it once the reactor became out of control. It’s wrong to think to try to save it. If it’s possible for the purpose of calculation, we are behind in construction technology.”

     Mr. Kikuchi had lived in Shizuoka for a year in 2002 for appealing for stopping Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, which would be damaged by Tokai Earthquake in the near future. He is now living in Kushima to block a project of construction of a nuclear power plant of Kyushu Electric Power Company. He is worried about Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant. “If an inland earthquake hit there, Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant couldn’t stand. Its damage could be more catastrophic than Fukushima.”

The Actual Condition of Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant: An Interview with Hiroaki Koide, a leader of antinuclear power movement

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     This is an article in the Chunichi on April 13. I’ve translated it into English from Japanese of the original one as follows:

東京電力2

      The accident level of INES (The International Nuclear Event Scale) at the Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) was raised to 7 from 5 on 12th. It’s the same level of Chernobyl and the worst. There’s a man who is paying close attention to the situation, being frustrated and angry and maybe feeling a sense of defeat. He is Mr. Hiroaki Koide, 61, Associate Professor of Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute. He researches the safety of nuclear reactors and the radioactivity measurement. He has shifted his position of pro-nuke to anti-nuke, and then has publicized the dangers of nuclear power generation for 40 years. This is the interview with him. (by Chiaki Ashihara at Kyoto Branch Office)

The Greatest Fear for the Phreatic Eruption: Incomplete Cooling

     “I have many friends who I still can’t contact with in Tohoku area, where I’ve spent my school days and led the movement against nuclear power generation, such as Sendai, Onagawa, and Sanriku.” This is Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute in Kumadori, southern Osaka. There are about 100 cherry trees and the blossoms are wonderful in full bloom in lands, but they put off opening to the public this spring. Rooms are dim. A.Prof. H. Koide began talking, saying, “I don’t want to waste power.”

      “The expected worst situation would be meltdown in the accident at Fukusima First Nuclear Plant. It’s clear that the reactor core is melting now, but it’s partial.” The reactor core is the place where uranium of the fuel rod fissions. 93% of caloric value of nuclear is by the atomic fission, but the control rod stopped the reaction after the earthquake. Yet, fission products are settling into the fuel rod and they are remaining as gigantic heating elements. Fission products produce decay heat and the heat can cause meltdown. The decay heat has reduced to a thirtieth after the accident, but it can’t go down so much. It’s the most important to cool the heating reactor core to prevent meltdown. TEPCO and the government have been pouring a large volume of water to the plant. “It’s a tightrope, but it has a cooling effect and has made the possibility of a massive meltdown lower than 50 %. The temperature of the reactor core, however, hasn’t cooled less than 100 ℃ yet. It means cooling is not sufficient. If they couldn’t keep cooling the core, the meltdown would set to be worse.” fukushima

     Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant has also been in meltdown. After the reactor exploded, the remaining core was in meltdown. “It’s possible that the reactor is in meltdown more and more without breaking in Fukushima. If the situation got worse, high temperature dissolved materials would react with water underneath, and which would cause a pheratic explosion, and then incommensurable quantity of radioactive substance would be released. That’s the scariest thing.” The pheratic explosion could be much more massive than ever before. It would destroy the pressure vessel which covers the core and even the outer containment vessel. “If a huge pheratic explosion occurred and most of the radioactive materials in the reactor core were splattered in the air as gas or particulate, the contamination level would be the same as the Chernobyl accident.” In Chernobyl, extreme polluted areas were found 200-300 kilometers away from the nuclear plant three months after the accident. Assuming the same distance from Fukushima, Tokyo metropolitan area also comes within the range. “We couldn’t do anything for it if it happened.”

     What about the recriticality? Is it possible to fission again after stopping? According to TEPCO, they are now researching about radioactive materials after the recriticality accident. If the recriticality occurred, its evolution heat and fission products would make the handling much more difficult.

Release the Data

     What about the ocean being contaminated by radioactivity? “It’s dangerous to exposure to radiation even in minute amount. I cannot accept the view of the government and experts who say it’s okay and safe to release the polluted water to the ocean because it’ll diffuse. It might cut risk by attenuating but spread contaminated water widely. If they say it’s safe, they should release the exact data to prevent spreading harmful rumors instead of regulating shipping.” According to A. Prof. H. Koide, it’s the most important to check seaweeds which ingest a lot of cesium and iodine to investigate the extent of contamination. Shellfish and fish will show the influence later. “I would examine seaweeds right away. They might already have the data.”

     It’s not only the ocean but also the air to have been polluted. The air including radioactive materials has been leaked. The government has told the nation, “It doesn’t have an effect on the human body immediately.” But A. Prof. H. Koide is angry saying, “They should say it doesn’t cause acute radiation damage.” Even small amount of radioactive ingredient could cause late injury such as cancers. Many of survivors of atomic bombings in Hiroshima and Nagasaki have developed leukemia within a few years and then different kinds of cancers ten years later. In Chernobyl, it has been revealed that many children have thyroid’s cancer a few years later.

     About the contamination in the air, his co-worker A. Prof. T. Imanaka, 60, and his group investigated in Iidate outside the 30 kilometer-range at the end of last month. The radioactivity level in the place is more than 50 mSV a month, which is the barometer for evacuation set by Nuclear Safety Commission. The research shows the evacuation directive is not sufficient to set areas within 30 km from the nuclear plant. “After researchers investigated the amount of radiation voluntarily, the government released the data of the areas 30 km away from the plant for the first time. Releasing all data would be the most important to prevent panicking, though…”東京電力1

     Why have such dangerous nuclear power plants been advanced so much? A. Prof. H. Koide is pointing out the existence of the industry-government-academia group crowding around money. “For electric power companies, nuclear plants have been golden eggs. They could tack on the expense for power bill and dominate the market. Electric appliance giants and major constructors also have flocked to construction of nuclear plants.” And university researchers have given a stamp of approval to it. “They want research posts and budgets. They need money for studying nuclear. There are many researchers who can’t think of the connection between their specialized field and the society.”

Discrimination against Anti-Nuke Researchers

     A. Prof. H. Koide had questions why electric power companies never built nuclear power plants in urban areas when he was a student. He’s experienced the movement against Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant and then has shifted his position of pro-nuke to anti-nuke. He’s worked at Kyoto University for more than 30 years, but he and his co-worker A. Prof. T. Imanaka haven’t promoted yet. “There were many young researchers who emphasized with us so far, but I couldn’t tell them to work together. If they threw in us, they couldn’t live as researchers in stable condition. But I regret that. I’m afraid that researchers who publicly disagree with nuclear power generation might not appear any more after Iamanaka and I were gone.”

     The power of money and the government’s policy for promoting nuclear power plants has been enormous. But Japan is the only country to have ever experienced nuclear devastation and has strong nuclear allergy. Why has the country advanced building nuclear power plants? “It’s because Japan would rather maintain its manufacturing power than have nuclear weapons themselves. If they promote nuclear power plants, they’ll get the technology and the ingredient, plutonium.” He emphasizes the importance of stopping all of the nuclear power plants immediately. “The accident this time is now going on and no one knows how the damage will extend. We wouldn’t be able to make it up if we used all money the nuclear power plants had made. Nuclear power plants are unreasonable.”

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Hiroaki Koide

Born in Tokyo, 1949. Graduated from Tohoku University (Nuclear Engineering Department), Associated professor in Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute. The deponent for citizens of the lawsuit over Ikata Nuclear Power Plant