Fukushima updates: admission and remission?
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Fukushima updates: admission and remission?

Last week the head of Japan’s new nuclear regulatory agency announced that the country’s reactors will not be restarted until proper seismic inspections are carried out. The new standards with which the reactors must comply will be established next year. Prior to last year’s Fukushima disaster, regulations were in fact only recommendations and plant operators were allowed to decide whether to follow them or not.

It might be a bit of an understatement to say hindsight would suggest that this policy was a recipe for disaster.

Now comes an admission from Tepco that the March 2011 disaster was avoidable – an about face from previous statements made since the meltdowns. But this admission comes from the electric company’s new management in the form of a draft plan for the reform of the nuclear power organization, which admits that the Fukushima Daiichi power plant was not prepared for an event like a tsunami.

From Reuters:

It was possible to take action in regard to tsunami defense based on the company’s earlier tsunami evaluations and it was also possible to diversify safety systems by referencing severe accident measures taken in other countries, the draft also said.

Recorded dialogue between the Fukushima plant workers and officials at Tepco headquarters also reveals repeated human errors and failed efforts to stop the disaster as it happened.

At 9:42 a.m., Yoshida voiced concern about a possible hydrogen explosion at the No. 3 reactor due to fuel damage. A marathon teleconference ensued, during which contributors discussed in vain ways to prevent a hydrogen explosion. As a result, the rest of March 13 was effectively wasted.

Read the exchanges and explanations of what happened during the disaster in the Asahi Shimbun.

Korea’s Dong-A Ilbo daily reports how radiation levels have fallen around Fukushima prefecture, but also describes the scene during a tour of the site by foreign media, during which all wore radiation suits and observed the now desolate Okumamachi village:

Rice paddies and farm fields had not been cultivated for more than 19 months and showed a wave of yellowish weeds called solidago altissima, a name that sounds unfamiliar. The village has turned into a ghost town.

Despite the still dangerous levels of radiation around the plant, beef from Fukushima prefecture is again being exported to the United States, for the first time in 30 months – not initially banned because of the meltdown, but due to an outbreak of foot and mouth disease back in 2010, which stopped all Japanese beef from entering the US. The cattle, whose beef is destined for upmarket American restaurants, undergo radiation tests, but I doubt any posh diners will be informed about where their expensive steaks are coming from.

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Press tour of Iitate village, Fukushima prefecture, Pic: IAEA Imagebank (Flickr CC)