Tag Archives: Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant

The Sacrificial Light – Wakasa’s Tears 7: Two Homes (From The Chunichi, a local newspaper in Nagoya)


wakasa 7     “That’s a monster of civilization. You don’t need to go and rest near the monster’s coffin in old age.” (“Kokyo (Hometown)” Tsutomu Mizukami)

     The sun was setting in Wakasa’s sea. It was as beautiful as the one she had seen in her childhood. The beach in Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, is the archetypal scenery of her home for Miki Suzuki, 44. But Miki is a little afraid of the place now. “We also have ones here.” Her eyes were directing to the white domed nuclear reactors.

     Miki came back to her home town Mihama two years ago. Until then she had lived with her husband in Fukushima’s Minami Soma for 20 years. She evacuated to her mother’s home from that nuclear accident. The nuclear power plant in Mihama has been a familiar existence for her since she was a child. Most of her relatives and acquaintances work for the power station. She entered a local bank after graduating from the high school, and worked at one of its branches near the powerhouse. The slogan of the day at the bank was “Let’s solicit deposit to workers at the nuclear power stations!” It was the late bubble economy in 1980s, when a sodium-cooled fast reactor “Monju” was being built in Tsuruga the next town to Mihama, and many workers came to Fukui.

     Miki’s home town was getting affluent. She left Mihama, looking at the sight. She got married a man at the age of 21 and moved to Minami Soma in Fukushima Prefecture. Her husband was a teacher in Fukushima. “In Fukushima, the sun rises from the sea,” he said. The climate and the language were different there from her home town, but its local people were very friendly and Miki had two daughters. She was happy there. She was going to live there forever as her second home town until Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant, which was in 25 kilometers south of her house, exploded…

     As soon as Miki and her family evacuated to Mihama, her husband went back to Fukushima for his job and her older daughter entered a university in Tokyo. After she and her younger daughter were staying at her mother’s house for a while, they decided to move to an apartment for victims of the disaster. But her home town offered an old building of Kansai Electric Power Company standing along the sea. “What if a big tsunami comes? What would happen to the nuclear power station?” She who had lost her home in Fukushima because of the radioactive contamination felt like being hit her mental bruise. Hinako, the younger daughter, had to say goodbye to all of her friends in Minami Soma and to enter a junior high school in Mihama. She cried in her bed every night: “I wanna go back to Fukushima! I don’t mind being exposed to radiation!” Moreover, she sometimes shouted “This is not a home. Just a box!”

     In the spring last year, one year after Miki’s evacuation, when the plan of the resumption of Ohi No.3 and No.4 Nuclear Reactors came alive, Mike sent a message to the governor of Fukui Prefecture. She thanked for the support for the victims, but opposed to the resumption: “Please don’t forget many victims are living in Fukui.” She did not receive anything from the governor. And soon the nuclear power plant restarted.

     Hinako has entered a high school in Fukui, but still now she says: “This is your home town, not mine, Mom.” The evacuation instruction has been left around her home in Fukushima. “Are you coming?” Whenever Miki’s husband says so, she wants to go back. But she cannot say “Let’s go home,” to her daughter because the radioactive density is still more than 10 times the normal value there.

     “What does richness mean?” Now Miki is thinking about that when she looks at handsome roads and tunnels in Mihama and Tsuruga. “Everything might have been in exchange for security.” She is now suffering the reality between her two home towns: Fukushima and Wakasa. Home is a comforting, nostalgic, and relaxing place for everyone. My hometowns have changed. Nuclear Power Plants have changed them…

(The Chunichi June 3, 2013, translated by Moshimoshimo)

Resumption of Operation of the Nuclear Power Plant: The government is eager to resume the operation of Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant without plausible safety measures and citizens’ opinions.


     It was not only Fukushima First Nuclear Power Plant to get damaged by the earthquake and the following tsunami but also Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant of Tohoku Electric Power Company was. Onagawa Plant is in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. The towns in Onagawa have been also flattened by the quake and the tsunami. Luckily, Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant stopped automatically after the earthquake unlike Fukushima, but the government has already tried to resume operation at the plant, while the local residents are too busy putting their lives back in order to think about it. This is an article on the Chunichi on June 23. I’ll translate it in English below. onagawa nuclear power plant

     Oshika Peninsula in Miyagi Prefecture is rich with nature and a beauty spot, where you often see wild deer as its name suggests. Oshika means male deer. Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant is built along the coast. All the villages on the coast were damaged by the tsunami, and some of them were wiped out. A civil servant at the age of 60, who was praying at the remaining shrine on a hill, said, “My house is almost dilapidated. I’m now living in a part of its remaining second floor without electricity and running water,” and looked down at the ground. “I can’t even think about the nuclear power plant in this situation,” he added.

     That day, Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant was also hit by the big tsunami. It didn’t have a serious damage unlike Fukushima’s, and Tohoku Electric Power Company says that it is because all of its safety measures worked. But it might nothing but sheer luck. In fact, the earthquake shorted circuit the high-voltage power supply at the first reactor and caused a fire there. Because of that, one of the two emergency diesel generators was impossible to be used. In addition, the second reactor is built nearer the coast than the first one, and its heat exchanging room at the reactor building was flooded. That is why one of the two emergency generators was broken there, too. Moreover, the fuel oil storage tank was destroyed by the tsunami, and the water of the spent fuel pools of the first to the third reactors overflowed by the quake. There were damages above in Onagawa Plant, but a serious “accident” didn’t occur because it could use the external power supply. The height of the tsunami which hit Onagawa Plant was about 13 meters. The expected height was 9.1 meters tops before the quake. The reason why the plant didn’t have a big damage seems that it is located 14.8 meters above sea level. monitaring station

     Before fixing the emergency generators, another big earthquake hit the area on April 7th. One of the five lines of the external power supply was being checked and three of them were broken by the quake. They had to operate the facility with only one line. It was a tightrope. That tsunami has also broken four of the eleven monitoring stations for checking radiation dose near the plant. The Nuclear Off-Site Center about 8 kilometers away from the nuclear power plant in Onagawa and Prefectural Environmental Radioactivity Monitoring Center were also flattened. The monitoring center was about 400 meter away from the coast, and was swept away to the sea. They lost two of their staff. Other three including the head are still missing at the office of Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

     The Mayor of Onagawa Nobutaka Azumi and The City Mayer of Ishinamaki Hiroshi Kameyema are taking a forward-looking stance for resumption of operation of the nuclear power plant, saying “After carefully checking the safety,” meanwhile, the governor of Miyagi Prefecture Yoshihiro Murai says, “It’s unacceptable until the government brings up a new safety criterion.” Tohoku Electric Power Company has announced in public new safety measures, such as building coastal levees and setting three big power-supply units, after the earthquake disaster. Besides, the Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda requested to resume the operation of the nuclear plant, which is having a regular check now, because its emergency safety planning was being carried out appropriately on 18th.

     But most of the local people can’t think about it right now. They are spun out on their daily lives. They used to oppose to build the nuclear power plant around 1965 because they were afraid of the radioactive contamination. But the tide changed in 1973 when the oil shocks occurred. The government pushed people to agree dangling subsidies or finance loan when the marine fuel was escalating. After the long-term protest campaign, they decided to have the nuclear power plant in their town in 1979. The plant has brought them great benefit. Inns had many construction workers to stay, the village has received lots of subsidies, and even the gymnastic, where about 650 people are taking shelter now, was built by the subsidy. Hospitals and sports parks were also built by the money. prefectural nuclear center

     About 360 people evacuated to the building of Tohoku Electric Power Company just after the earthquake. Staff of the company gave them food and blankets. Refugees appreciate it, saying, “Tohoku Electric Power Company did many things to us kindly.” A man, 57, who was fired because his company had been destroyed by the quake, was afraid of the future, saying, “Onagawa depends on the nuclear power plant. If it stopped completely, our town would go into a decline.” A woman, 79, said, “We have had luxury lives due to the electric power company. We can’t say the nuclear power plant is scary at this late date.”

     On the contrary, some voice concerns. A woman, whose undergraduate daughter lives in Fukushima, 55, said, “I can’t regard Fukushima as having nothing to do with us. It’s possible for Onagawa to have a similar serious accident.” A man fired by a fish processing company said, “I don’t think the nuclear power plant shouldn’t be resumed again, but it may be premature to start now.” Mr. Hiroshi Takano, a town councilor, said, “We’ve built buildings one after another with the subsidy, but the cost of maintaining them have bore down to the town. Local businesses haven’t grown up, and people have left for other places. People have become changing their opinions gradually after the accident in Fukushima, I think…”

     Experts have pointed out the possibility of a major earthquake off Miyagi Prefecture in the near future. Mr. Ikuo Kusaka, a member of a civic group on the nuclear power, said, “We should inspect the earthquake disaster thoroughly at first. It’ll be possible we have to rethink of guidance depending on the analysis result.” Onagawa plant recorded the earthquake acceleration more than the government had expected. He added, “We shouldn’t talk about the resumption of operation without the local citizens while they are making efforts toward recovery from the disaster. We should discuss about it with time and care and public opinions to decide what to do.”

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



     “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


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


      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.”


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