WikiLeaks / Unsuitablog: Cover-Ups Over Nuclear Reality in Japan

The coming together of contradictory information from different bodies that represent the nuclear industry and a confidential cable from the Japanese Ambassador to the US makes it vital to repost this information on EnviroLeaks.

Given the duration of the incidents at Fukushima the relevant bodies and governments will have made a concerted effort to align their stories. As the following post makes clear, this was not the case earlier on – if you want to get close to the truth then it is always best to see what first came out of mouthpieces, before they have a chance to slap down any dissent.

In the light of the Japanese earthquake and subsequent tsumani, government and internation agencies are working like crazy to ensure no news remains good news regarding the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Yet from the BBC we hear the following:

There are now problems at the number three reactor – the concern is that it is overheating. They’re trying to pump sea water through it at the moment. That’s an unusual, somewhat innovative solution to the problem. But the fact that they’re prepared to consider unusual solutions like that gives you a hint of just how serious the problem is.

This is a very difficult issue for the Japanese government. There has always been concern here about the safety of nuclear power stations, about the wisdom of building nuclear power stations, on which Japan relies hugely for its energy needs, in a country which is so prone to earthquakes.

They’re also aware that they don’t want to cause panic. On Saturday we saw the exclusion zone around this plant gradually increase. First of all it was just a few kilometres, now it’s much wider. But obviously once that exclusion zone is extended, you’ve then got to get the people out. So it’s important, they would say, not to cause unnecessary panic. And that’s why they’re trying to play this down as much as they can.

The World Nuclear Association are being fairly up-front with the facts, albeit holding back on speculation about possible outcomes; thus we read from them:

Operations to relieve pressure in the containment of Fukushima Daiichi 3 have taken place after the failure of a core coolant system.*

The news comes one day after the plant’s first reactor was effectively written off as a result of a hydrogen explosion and the move to inject seawater to make certain of cooling the reactor core. Two days ago were the earthquake and tsunami that have proven Japan’s worst ever natural disaster.

Reactors 1, 2 and 3 were in operation at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (Tepco’s) east coast power station when the earthquake struck. Three other reactors were already shut for inspection and all three operating units underwent automatic shutdown as expected. Because plant power and grid power were unavailable during the earthquake, diesel generators started automatically to supply power for decay heat removal.

This situation continued for one hour until the plant was hit by the tsunami wave, which stopped the generators and left the plant in black-out conditions. The loss of power meant inevitable rises in temperature within the reactor system as well increases in pressure. Engineers fought for many hours to install mobile power units to replace the diesels and managed to stabilise conditions at units 2 and 3.

However, there was not enough power to provide sufficient coolant to unit 1, which came under greater and greater strain from falling water levels and steady pressure rises. Tepco found it necessary yesterday to vent steam from the reactor containment. Next, the world saw a sharp hydrogen explosion destroy a portion of the reactor building roof. Prime minister Naoto Kan ordered the situation brought under control by the injection of seawater to the reactor vessel.

Now Tepco has reported it has not been able to restart unit 3′s high pressure injection system after an automatic stop. This has left the reactor without sufficient coolant and obligated Tepco to notify government of an emergency situation.

Yet what do we hear from the International Atomic Energy Agency, which purports to speak for the entire nuclear industry and all governments that have nuclear capability:

Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that Units 1, 2, and 4 at the Fukushima Daini retain off-site power. Daini Unit 3 is in a safe, cold shutdown, according to Japanese officials.

Even the WNA are incredulous at this statement; their Twitter feed states:

#IAEA quashes reports of problems at #Fukushima Daiichi 3 #nuclear #japan #earthquake

Which leads us to the obvious conclusion that there is a huge cover-up taking place, but failing in part because there is too much obvious contradiction of information. In this situation the best approach is to listen to your nearest equivalent to a trusted news source and not listen to a word emanating from government (Japanese or otherwise) or the IAEA.


Cable dated:2008-10-27T08:20:00
C O N F I D E N T I A L TOKYO 002993
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/24/2018
REF: STATE 107836

Classified By: Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer; reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)

1. (C) Summary: Lower House Diet Member Taro Kono voiced his strong opposition to the nuclear industry in Japan, especially nuclear reprocessing, based on issues of cost, safety, and security during a dinner with a visiting staffdel, Energy Attache and Economic Officer October 21. Kono also criticized the Japanese bureaucracy and power companies for continuing an outdated nuclear energy strategy, suppressing development of alternative energy, and keeping information from Diet members and the public. He also expressed dissatisfaction with the current election campaign law. End Summary.

2. (C) Member of the House of Representatives Taro Kono spoke extensively on nuclear energy and nuclear fuel reprocessing during a dinner with a visiting staffdel, Energy Attache and Economic Officer October 21. Kono, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party first elected in 1996, is the son of Yohei Kono, a former President of the LDP who is currently the longest serving speaker of the House in post-war history. Taro Kono, who studied and worked in the United States and speaks excellent English, is a frequent embassy contact who has interests in agriculture, nuclear, and foreign policy issues. He is relatively young, and very outspoken, especially as a critic of the government's nuclear policy. During this meeting, he voiced his strong opposition to the nuclear industry in Japan, especially nuclear fuel reprocessing, based on issues of cost, safety, and security. Kono claimed Japanese electric companies are hiding the costs and safety problems associated with nuclear energy, while successfully selling the idea of reprocessing to the Japanese public as "recycling uranium." He asserted that Japan's reprocessing program had been conceived as part of a nuclear cycle designed to use reprocessed fuel in fast breeder reactors (FBR). However, these reactors have not been successfully deployed, and Japan's prototype FBR at Monju is still off-line after an accident in 1995.

3. (C) Kono said following the accident at the Monju FBR, rather than cancel plans to conduct reprocessing, the electric companies developed the Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel program. However, Kono criticized the MOX program as too expensive, noting it would be cheaper to just "buy a uranium mountain in Australia," or to make a deal to import uranium from other sources. Kono claimed the high costs of the reprocessing program were being passed to Japanese consumers in their power bills, and they were unaware of how much they paid for electricity relative to people in other countries. In describing the clout wielded by the electric companies, Kono claimed that a Japanese television station had planned a three part interview with him on nuclear issues, but had canceled after the first interview, because the electric companies threatened to withdraw their extensive sponsorship.

4. (C) In addition to the electric companies, Kono was also very critical of the Japanese ministries, particularly the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI). He claimed the ministries were trapped in their policies, as officials inherited policies from people more senior to them, which they could then not challenge. As an example, Kono noted that Japanese radiation standards for imported foods had been set following the Chernobyl incident, and had not changed since then, despite other nations having reduced their levels of allowable radiation.

5. (C) In a similar way, he alleged, METI was committed to advocating for nuclear energy development, despite the problems he attributed to it. Kono noted that while METI claimed to support alternative energy, it in actuality provides little support. He claimed that METI in the past had orchestrated the defeat of legislation that supported alternatives energy development, and instead secured the passage of the Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) act. This act simply requires power companies to purchase a very small amount of their electricity from alternative sources. Kono also criticized the government's handling of subsidies to alternative energy projects, noting that the subsidies were of such short duration that the projects have difficulty finding investors because of the risk and uncertainty involved. As a more specific example of Japan neglecting alternative energy sources, Kono noted there was abundant wind power available in Hokkaido that went undeveloped because the electricity company claimed it did not have sufficient grid capacity. Kono noted there was in fact an unused connection between the Hokkaido grid and the Honshu grid that the companies keep in reserve for unspecified emergencies. He wanted to know why they could not just link the grids and thus gain the ability to add in more wind power.

6. (C) He also accused METI of covering up nuclear accidents, and obscuring the true costs and problems associated with the nuclear industry. He claimed MPs have a difficult time hearing the whole of the U.S. message on nuclear energy because METI picks and chooses those portions of the message that it likes. Only information in agreement with METI policies is passed through to the MPs. Elaborating on his frustrations with the ministries, Kono noted that the Diet committee staffs are made up of professional bureaucrats, and are often headed by detailees from the ministries. He said he had no authority to hire or fire committee staff, and that any inquiries he made to them quickly found their way back to the ministries.

7. (C) Kono also raised the issue of nuclear waste, commenting that Japan had no permanent high-level waste storage, and thus no solution to the problem of storage. He cited Japan's extensive seismic activity, and abundant groundwater, and questioned if there really was a safe place to store nuclear waste in the "land of volcanoes." He noted that Rokkasho was only intended as a temporary holding site for high-level waste. The Rokkasho local government, he said, had only agreed to store waste temporarily contingent on its eventual reprocessing. Kono said that in this regard, the US was better off that Japan because of the Yucca mountain facility. He was somewhat surprised to hear about opposition to that project, and the fact that Yucca had not yet begun storing waste.

8. (C) In describing how he would deal with Japan's future energy needs, Kono claimed Japan needed to devise a real energy strategy. He said while he believed Japan eventually would have to move to 100% renewable energy, in the meantime he advocated replacing energy produced by nuclear plants ready for decommissioning with an equal amount of energy from plants using liquid natural gas. To this he would add new renewable energy sources.

9. (C) Kono also made a few side remarks concerning the Japanese election process. He expressed dissatisfaction with the current election campaign law, which he called outdated. He noted, for example, that during the official campaign period he was not allowed to actively campaign on the Internet. He said he could print flyers during this time, but only a limited number, which had to be picked up by constituents at his campaign office. So, to get around these and other limitations, MPs had to campaign before the official campaign period began. Given the current uncertainty on a date for elections, he noted in a humorous manner that if the government delayed elections long enough, he and the other MPs would go broke.


*There may be confusion between the two different plants – the one in a stricken state is Fukushima Daiichi (Number One), the other plant is Daini (Number Two). The IAEA may have confused the two, nonetheless the point stands, as the IAEA denied there were any problems with Daiichi, according to the WNA. Thanks to DJ for the information.