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    Posted by Dr. ARUDOU, Debito on March 18th, 2011

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    Hi Blog.  Again, in a society that, if anything, overcompensates for safety, why is the handling of nuclear energy such an exception in Japan?  Arudou Debito

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    WikiLeaks: Cables Show Japan Was Warned About Nuclear Plant Safety

    AOL News, Mar 16, 2011 – 3:33 PM

    Theunis BatesTheunis Bates Contributor

    The Japanese government has said it is doing all it can to contain the crisis at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant, which was critically damaged in last week’s earthquake. But according to U.S. diplomatic papers released by WikiLeaks, that atomic disaster might have been avoided if only the government had acted on earlier safety warnings.

    An unnamed official from the International Atomic Energy Agency is quotedin a 2008 cable from the American embassy in Tokyo as saying that a strong earthquake would pose a “serious problem” for Japan’s nuclear power stations. The official added that the country’s nuclear safety guidelines were dangerously out of date, as they had only been “revised three times in the last 35 years.”

    Following that warning, Japan’s government pledged to raise security at all of its nuclear facilities,reports The Daily Telegraph, which published the cable. But questions are now being asked about whether authorities really took the nuclear watchdog’s worries seriously.

    A new emergency response center was built at the Fukushima power plant. However, that facility was only designed to withstand 7.0-magnitude tremors. Friday’s seismic activity measured 9.0, and the plant has been rocked by three explosions in the past five days. It is now believed that the containment system around one of Fukushima’s reactors has cracked, allowing radioactive steam to escape into the atmosphere.

    Other documents published by WikiLeaks also shine a light on Japan’s seemingly relaxed approach to nuclear safety. A 2006 cable from the Tokyo embassy detailed how a district court ordered a nuclear plant shut down in western Japan “due to safety concerns over its ability to withstand powerful earthquakes.”

    The judge argued that local people might suffer radiation poisoning if there was a quake-caused accident at the Shika plant. That power station was only built to survive a 6.5-magnitude earthquake, in line with outdated regulations written two decades earlier.

    However, the country’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency didn’t share those concerns, the cable reports. It argued that “the reactor is safe and that all safety analyses were appropriately conducted.” And in 2009, the high court overturned the closure order and declared that the reactor’s safety measures satisfied “the government’s quake resistance guidelines.”

    Another cable sent from Tokyo to Washington in October 2008 alleged that the government had hidden past nuclear accidents. In 2008, Taro Kono — a senior member of Japan’s lower house of parliament — told U.S. diplomats that the ministry of economy, trade and industry was “covering up nuclear accidents, and obscuring the true costs and problems associated with the nuclear industry.”

    Kono also raised the issue of earthquakes and nuclear safety in the meeting. Citing “Japan’s extensive seismic activity” and “abundant groundwater,” he doubted government assurances that “a safe place to store nuclear waste” could be found in the “land of volcanoes.”

    The overall picture that emerges from the cables is of a government afraid of interfering with the powerful nuclear industry, which supplies about one-third of Japan’s electricity. In his discussion with U.S. diplomats, Kono suggested that Japan’s culture of deference to authority and corporate power prevented officials from changing the country’s soft-touch regulation. He argued that industry ministers were “trapped” as they “inherited policies from people more senior to them, which they could then not challenge.”

    Japanese officials who went on to work for the IAEA apparently shared this fear of confrontation. In 2009, the U.S. embassy in Vienna, Austria, labeled the IAEA’s outgoing safety director “a disappointment,” in part because of his failure to boost safety at home.

    “[Tomihiro] Taniguchi has been a weak manager and advocate, particularly with respect to confronting Japan’s own safety practices, and he is a particular disappointment to the United States for his unloved-step-child treatment of the Office of Nuclear Security,” said the cable. “This … position requires a good manager and leader who is technically qualified in both safety and security.”

    Taniguchi served as the executive director of Japan’s Nuclear Power Engineering Corp. — which is charged with addressing nuclear plant security in the aftermath of earthquakes — before becoming the deputy director general for the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security in 2001. Taniguchi left his job with the nuclear watchdog in September 2009, when another Japanese official, Yukiya Amano, was appointed director general of the IAEA.

    Before leaving office, Taniguchi told a meeting of nuclear officials in 2008 that the international community needed to push for more nuclear power safeguards, according to a separate Vienna cable. “We should avoid another Chernobyl or nuclear 9/11,” he said. Unfortunately, such a disaster is now unfolding in Fukushima.

    ENDS

    5 Responses to “AOL News: WikiLeaks: Cables Show Japan Was Warned About Nuclear Plant Safety”

    1. E.P. Lowe Says:

      Ok, the cable says:

      The quoted “contributor” states:

      “An unnamed official from the International Atomic Energy Agency is quoted in a 2008 cable from the American embassy in Tokyo as saying that a strong earthquake would pose a “serious problem” for Japan’s nuclear power stations. The official added that the country’s nuclear safety guidelines were dangerously out of date, as they had only been “revised three times in the last 35 years.”

      But the IAEA official says:
      “On earthquakes and nuclear safety, the IAEA presenter noted the Agency has officials in Japan to learn from Japan’s recent experience dealing with earthquakes and described several areas of IAEA focus. First, he explained that safety guides for seismic safety have only been revised three times in the last 35 years and that the IAEA is now reexamining them.”

      This reads to me that it is the IAEA safety guides are the ones that are being re-examined, if this were not the case then the last sentence would include: “…he explained that Japanese safety guides…”

      “Also, the presenter noted recent earthquakes in some cases have exceeded the design basis for some nuclear plants, and that this a serious problem that is now driving seismic safety work.”

      in some cases Sounds like the article author is inflating things!

    2. E.P. Lowe Says:

      And more dubious journalism:

      “A new emergency response center was built at the Fukushima power plant. However, that facility was only designed to withstand 7.0-magnitude tremors. Friday’s seismic activity measured 9.0, and the plant has been rocked by three explosions in the past five days. It is now believed that the containment system around one of Fukushima’s reactors has cracked, allowing radioactive steam to escape into the atmosphere.”

      Unless the Fukushima Nuclear plants were magically transported to the seabed over the epicentre of the quake they would not have experienced 9.0 tremors.

      The author is also trying to obscure the link between the damage caused by the exceptional tsunami – implying that all the damage was caused by the earthquake.

      This article is a poor piece of work.

    3. DR Says:

      Bloomberg has a piece here: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-03-17/japan-s-nuclear-disaster-caps-decades-of-faked-safety-reports-accidents.html outlining events pretty much as you describe above. It’s long, do I didn’t cut/paste. I’ve also gathered a few links that may be of interest to e-mail friends.

      This video of/by a French resident of Japan, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=15gGuQJzD-U frustrated out of his mind by the lack of useful information being disseminated, is getting attention too. He’s not impressed by “talentos.” (If I was that frustrated I’d leave, information be damned.)

      In Vienna is this group, whose web page are showing this technical data in German, the Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik. http://www.zamg.ac.at/aktuell/index.php?seite=1&artikel=ZAMG_2011-03-17GMT09:15

      TEPCO’s Press Room: http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/index-e.html

      An Israeli company, apparently, installed the security system at Fukushima. http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/israeli-firm-which-secured-japan-nuclear-plant-says-workers-there-putting-their-lives-on-the-line-1.349897

      UCSB has a lecture on Fukushima: http://www.uniquescoop.com/2011/03/how-bad-is-reactor-meltdown-in-japan.html

      German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced a “measured exit” from nuclear power in response to the crisis affecting four reactors in Japan: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-12769810

      Canada has its own nuclear leak cover-up scandal these days too: http://theintelhub.com/2011/03/17/cover-up-in-canada-radioactive-leak-into-lake-ontario/

      California nuclear plants have no earthquake plans: http://axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/Article_62553.shtml

      The water used to cool Fukushima is flowing back into the sea: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZsUHTJyX5g

      Comprehensive coverage in the UK daily Mail: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1366670/Japan-earthquake-tsunami-Waterbombs-dropped-nuclear-reactors.html

      All of a sudden those ideas which received scorn in Kerr’s “Dog & Demons” (paperback edition, pages 116-121 incl.) don’t look so crazy: “Misstating the amount of leaked radioactive material.” “(Of Donen now Genden)…same staff, offices and philosphy as before.” “Tokai’s nuclear plant had not repaired its safety equipment for more than seventeen years!” “No local hospital could be found to handle the victims.” “No neutron measurer in the entire city.” “Looking through the glass, officials realized for the first time that a fission reaction was still going on!” “Poor management and human error.” “If you disguise the truth long enough you eventually lose touch with reality yourself!” “With the stroke of a pen an official can bring fires under control and make leaks dry up.” ” Duct tape and paper towels to contain nuclear leaks. “Kaizen..has no mechanism to …disclose faults or mistakes.”

      Gambatte and prayers Japan.

    4. hoihoi Says:

      http://astand.asahi.com/magazine/judiciary/fukabori/2011031600022.html

      米国人弁護士が疑問に思う在日外国人の地震パニック
      2011年03月17日(約1500字)
      在日外国人の地震パニックが伝染している
      外国法事務弁護士・米NY州弁護士
      スティーブン・ギブンズ(Stephen Givens)

      Stephen Givens(スティーブン・ギブンズ)
       外国法事務弁護士、米ニューヨーク州弁護士。ギブンズ外国法事務弁護士事務所(東京都港区赤坂)所属。
       東京育ちで、1987年以降は東京を拠点として活動している。京都大学法学部大学院留学後、ハーバード・ロースクール修了。
       日本企業に関わる国際間取引の組成や交渉に長年従事している。

       私は在日外国人の一人として、地震発生後の外国報道機関、外国投資家、在日外国人のパニック反応、不確実な情報の言い散らしを見て恥ずかしく感じる。

       ニューヨーク・タイムズ等は発生日以降、連日、大々的に地震関連ニュースを1面に載せている。焦点をあてているのは、東北地方での深刻な災害や救助活動の取材よりも、東京電力・福島原子力発電所から放射能が(彼らの所在地である)東京まで来る恐れや在日外国人の感想、避難の計画などだ。記事を読むと、その多くの情報源は、現場にいる日本人ではなく、東京にいる外国人仲間だ。つまり外国の特派員は同じ在日外国人を取材して、その情報をまともなニュースとして世界に送っている。

       私はフェイスブックを通じて在日外国人コミュニティーの構成とムードはよく把握できているつもりだが、在日外国人の多くは、唯一の情報源である英語のメディアを目にして海外に避難しようとしている。私のある「フレンド」はきょう、「危険」な東京から「安全」なテルアビブに戻るという。彼女の帰国のニュースを受けて彼女の「フレンド」の反応は「拍手!」「安心した!」「よかった!」。皮肉にも、避難しようとしている在日外国人の動きが報道され、パニックの悪循環が加速する。

       今週の株の大暴落の主な原因も外国投資家のパニックのようだ。外国の機関投資家は日本の上場株の3割以上を保有しているが、たいていの外国のファンドマネジャーはロンドン、ニューヨークにいる英語の情報源に頼る人たちだ。彼らが遠くからファイナンシャルタイムズの地震関連ニュースを読むと、「売り」「日本撤退」に駆け込む結果となる。

       在日外国人たちのフェイスブックのページを見ると、彼らの多くの「フレンド」の中に日本人が極めて少ないことが分かる。ニューヨーク・タイムズ、その他の大手外国機関の在日特派員のフェイスブックページも同じだ。数百人の「フレンド」のうち、日本人のフレンドはわずか、日本人がいるにしても欧米の大学を卒業しているような人たちで、いわゆる普通の日本人とは違う。

       開国から150年以上経っても、在日外国人コミュニティーの日本への根っこがこれだけ浅く、外国人同士の「出島」にアイソレイト(孤立化)されていることを不気味に感じる。海外にいる外国人が日本に関する情報を得るためにこの在日外国人に頼っていることもおかしいし、日本にとっても好ましくない。日本人自身がもっと効果的に日本の情報を外に伝える必要性を強く感じる。
      ENDS

    5. amro Says:

      Since the major problem at Fukushima Daiichi was loss of coolant power due to the tsunami and poorly placed backup generators, I don’t see what this article has to do with it. The explosions had nothing to do with the earthquake and were caused by a loss of coolant. The claim that another Chernobyl is unfolding is pretty nuts too. Too much conjecturing in the article and too much focus on the earthquake rather than the real problem.

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