Friday, April 11, 2014

#Fukushima I NPP: Tank Alarm Didn't Sound, But the Reason Is Probably Not What You Think


After countless mishaps in controlling and monitoring the huge steel tanks that store waters with different degrees of contamination - from water with hardly any contamination (rainwater, water drawn from the wells for the underground water bypass plan) to water with extremely high beta nuclides (waste water after SARRY/Kurion and desalination) - and countless promptings from Nuclear Regulation Authority commissioners, TEPCO installed water gauges to all 1000 tanks.

The water gauges are monitored in a room dedicated to monitoring the tanks, using a PC.

On April 8, TEPCO quietly announced that alarms went off on two of the tanks, without the staff in charge of monitoring (TEPCO employees) noticing the alarms for two hours. They turned out to be false alarms, and there was nothing wrong with either tank.

Now, why didn't the workers hear the alarm?

Then on April 9, TEPCO further admitted that there were not just two but 433 tanks whose alarms on water gauges were turned off.

Why? Because someone had turned off the sound on the PC.

This has got to be one of the lowest level of (non-)performance, even for TEPCO. But hardly anyone pays any attention any more to anything happening or not happening at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, and even the NRA commissioners seems resigned to the fact that nothing they say or suggest to TEPCO will be fully heeded by TEPCO anyway. Chairman Tanaka, in recent press conferences, reportedly said "TEPCO is just that, that kind of company..."

From Mainichi Shinbun (4/9/2014):

汚染水タンク:433基の水位計 異常警報が「消音」状態

Alarms on water gauges on 433 tanks that store contaminated water were "off"

 東京電力は9日、福島第1原発の汚染水をためるタンク約1000基のうち433基に設置された水位計が、水位の異常を示す警報が出ても音が鳴らない「消音」状態になっていたことを明らかにした。8日には実際に水位計が故障して警報は出ても音が鳴らず、約2時間気付かなかったケースがあったという。

TEPCO revealed on April 9 that the water gauges on 433 tanks out of 1000 tanks that store contaminated water at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant had been set so that there would be no sound even if an alarm was sounded to indicate abnormal water levels. On April 8, some water gauges malfunctioned and alarms were issued, but since there was no sound [the workers] didn't notice for two hours.

 東電によると、水位が上昇したり、急激に低下したりした時に警報が鳴る仕組みだが、全ての水位計を制御するパソコンで、警報音が鳴らない「消音」の設定になっていたという。2月に高濃度汚染水が漏れた際は警報音が鳴っており、東電はそれ以降に「消音」設定されたとみて「操作ミスかどうか原因を調べている」としている。

According to TEPCO, an alarm goes off when the water level rises or drops rapidly. However, the sound of the PC that controls all water gauges was set "off". When the highly contaminated water leaked in February this year, the alarm did go off. TEPCO believes the sound setting was changed to "off" after the February incident, and says they are investigating whether the sound was turned off by mistake.


My guess is that there were so many false positives that the workers couldn't stand the alarm noise and turned off the sound on the PC.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

(OT) "STAP Cell Is Truth, I Have Encountered It Many Times!" 30-Year Old Riken Researcher Pleads in Press Conference


Whatever.

Having already hired not just one or not even three but FOUR attorneys in preparation to fight her employer Riken, the prestigious research institution in Japan who has in fact re-hired her with taxpayers' money ($150,000 a year, I hear) as of April Fools' Day, Ms. Haruko Obokata is holding a press conference in Osaka with more than 200 reporters attending.

The 30-year-old PhD (for now, until Waseda University strips her of the doctoral degree) is fully employing the girl-like charm with blank stares, shifting eyes as if she is about to cry for an effect, well-coiffed old-fashioned hair style, and is speaking like an elementary school girl who is trying hard to make excuse for her bad behavior or missing homework. "Poor me! Look at me I'm suffering!"


"STAP cell phenomenon is truth, I have encountered it many times. Just because my paper was not well-prepared, why should STAP cell be denied?"

Well, a total fiction can be truth, as a female novelist from nearly 1000 years ago in Japan wrote in her phenomenal Tale of Genji.

Your paper, which you wrote with the vice president of Riken and your Harvard University professor (Mr. Charles Vacanti, an anesthesiologist), is full of borrowed and photoshopped photographs and borrowed texts without attribution. The key photograph that was supposed to prove the existence of your STAP cell was copied and photoshopped by you from your own doctoral thesis at Waseda University.

I couldn't stand to watch the press conference (live on USTREAM right now) any longer. It has devolved into tabloid news.

"There is no photograph that shows what does not exist, therefore it is not a fabrication," Obokata just said.

She is no scientist, and the Japanese media is no scientist. They deserve each other.

As to the STAP cell itself, after many attempts to reproduce the result, Professor Ken Lee of Chinese University of Hong Kong has thrown in the towel after all, and has gone back to his own research. He said in his ResearchGate post 5 days ago:

"I don’t think STAP cells exist and it will be a waste of manpower and research funding to carry on with this experiment any further. "


Meanwhile I haven't heard any news about Nature Magazine investigating its "peer-review" system, or about Harvard University investigating Professor Vacanti's lab.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

UNSCEAR: Increase in Cancer Unlikely following Fukushima Exposure


Press release from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) (4/2/2014; emphasis is mine):

UNIS/OUS/237
2 April 2014

Increase in Cancer Unlikely following Fukushima Exposure - says UN Report

Low Risk of Thyroid Cancer Among Children Most Exposed

VIENNA, 2 April (UN Information Service) - Cancer levels are likely to remain stable in the wake of the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power accident, according to a new UN report released today.

The report is titled Levels and effects of radiation exposure due to the nuclear accident after the 2011 great east-Japan earthquake and tsunami, by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR).

It finds that no discernible changes in future cancer rates and hereditary diseases are expected due to exposure to radiation as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident; and, that no increases in the rates of birth defects are expected.

Nevertheless, it notes a theoretical possibility that the risk of thyroid cancer among the group of children most exposed to radiation could increase and concludes that the situation needs to be followed closely and further assessed in the future. Thyroid cancer is a rare disease among young children, and their normal risk is very low.

"People are rightly concerned about the impact on their health and their children's health," said Carl-Magnus Larsson, Chair, UNSCEAR. "Based on this assessment, however, the Committee does not expect significant changes in future cancer statistics that could be attributed to radiation exposure from the accident," he said.

The findings are based on estimates of the exposure of various population groups - including children - as well as scientific knowledge of health impacts following radiation exposure.

According to the study, the expected low impact on cancer rates of the population is largely due to prompt protective actions on the part of the Japanese authorities following the accident.

The Committee analyzed reported worker doses and also independently assessed doses for some of the workers. The Committee's assessments are broadly consistent with reported doses, but uncertainties remain for exposures during the early phase of the accident. "The Committee concluded that no discernible increase in cancer or other diseases is expected; however, the most exposed workers will receive regular health checks," said Wolfgang Weiss, Chair of the Assessment.

The Committee also evaluated the effects of radiation exposure on both terrestrial and marine ecosystems, finding that any effects would have been transient.

For marine ecosystems, the possibility of effects on flora and fauna was limited to the shoreline area adjacent to the power station and the potential for effects over the long term was considered insignificant.

***

About UNSCEAR

The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), established in 1955, is mandated to undertake broad reviews of the sources of ionizing radiation and the effects on human health and the environment. Its assessments provide a scientific foundation for governments and UN agencies to formulate standards and programmes for protection against ionizing radiation.

More than 80 leading scientists worked on the study analyzing the effects of radiation exposure following the accident at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power station. Material they prepared was reviewed for technical and scientific quality by its 27 Member States at their annual session in May 2013. All scientists had to declare any conflict of interest related to their participation in the assessment.

The UNSCEAR secretariat is administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

* *** *

For more information, contact:

Jaya Mohan
Communications, UNSCEAR
Tel: +43 1 26060-4122
Mobile: +43 699 1459 4122
Email: jaya.mohan[at]unscear.org

http://www.unscear.org/

Watch the webcast of the press briefing on 2 April 2014 at 10:30 CEST at http://www.unis.unvienna.org/unis/en/webcast.html


Link to the 321-page report: http://www.unscear.org/unscear/en/publications/2013_1.html

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Happy April Fools' Day! Residents Back in 20km Evacuation Zone in #Fukushima, TEPCO Manages to Contaminate Brand-New Tanks, 30-Year-Old STAP Cell Researcher Says She Meant Well When She Copied and Pasted for Nature Magazine Thesis


April 1st is the start of Japan's new fiscal year. Fitting, you might say.

Residents who were forced to leave their homes in Miyakoji District of Tamura City soon after the start of the nuclear accident on March 11, 2011 are allowed back, as of April 1st, 2014. They are the first in the former no-entry evacuation zone within 20-kilometer radius from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

NBC News in the US has a Reuters article whose only sensationalism is in the title (Miyakoji was never "hot"); otherwise the article simply reports facts, and surprisingly, with numbers for radiation levels, which rarely happens in the articles in the US mainstream media on the Fukushima accident, or any nuclear accident.

It is still a joke. Not because the Japanese government is sending the residents back in the "hot zone" (as Reuters' article says, which is misleading) in 3 "short" years, but because the residents in Miyakoji should never have been forced to leave to begin with.

The radiation levels in Miyakoji, even though the town is inside the 20-kilometer radius, have generally been much lower than larger cities in the more populous middle-third of Fukushima Prefecture ("Nakadori"), where residents have never been forced to evacuate. It's all because of the unscientific, uninformed decision by the ministers of the Kan administration (PM Naoto Kan, Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, Minister of Economy Banri Kaieda) to draw concentric circles around the plant to decide the evacuation zone - as if the nuclear plant accident were an atomic bomb detonation, and as if that had happened on a flat land on a day with no wind.

From NBC News quoting Reuters (4/1/2014; emphasis is mine):

Fukushima Families Return to Homes in 'Hot Zone'

The completion of decontamination work allowed residents of a small part of the Fukushima exclusion zone to return home Tuesday, just over three years after they were forced into exile.

The reopening of the Miyakoji area of Tamura, a city inland from the wrecked nuclear station, marks a tiny step for Japan as it attempts to recover from the 2011 disasters.

But the event is a major milestone for the 357 registered residents of the district. The trickle of returnees highlights both people's desire to return to the forested hamlet and the difficulty of returning to normal.

"Many of our friends and neighbors won't come back," said Kimiko Koyama, 69, speaking on her return to the large farmhouse she had occupied for 50 years, while her husband Toshio, 72, tried to fix a television antenna on the roof.

"There are no jobs. It's inconvenient and young people are scared of radiation," she said. "My daughter won't bring our grandsons here because of the radiation."

A few cars streamed into the town on Tuesday, where several TV news vans were set up. Some elderly women sat by the roadside, but there were no children or families in sight outside.

Schools open later this week, but seven children came to the local pre-school and four older children were also dropped off, as volunteers from nuclear plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) removed ice and snow and leveled the playground.

Radiation levels in Miyakoji ranged from 0.11 microsieverts to 0.48 microsieverts per hour, February readings show.

That was higher than the average 0.034 microsieverts per hour measured in central Tokyo on Monday, but comparable to background radiation of about 0.2 microsieverts per hour in Denver. A commercial flight between Tokyo and New York exposes passengers to about 10 microsieverts per hour.

People exposed to radiation typically have a higher chance of getting cancer if doses exceed 100 millisieverts (100,000 microsieverts), the World Health Organisation says.

Tuesday's homecoming is particularly difficult, as many residents worked at the Fukushima plant before the disaster and depended on Tepco for stable jobs.

"It was the only job out here and we were grateful," said Kimiko Koyama. "We worked hard to feed our three daughters. We worked and we built our life here."

The Koyamas, who helped to build the very nuclear reactors that have displaced them from their homes, are letting the city keep radioactive debris in an empty lot on their land in a bid to hasten the cleanup.


The Koyamas at their home, photo by Reuters:


In Japan, you don't actually hear much about fear of radiation as reason for not returning for these residents. Rather, the concern is not radiation (whose levels are lower than in cities like Fukushima and Koriyama in the middle third), but local economy.

As Reuters' article above briefly mentions, the employment in the district depended heavily on TEPCO. But it is not just employment. Residents used to go to neighboring Okuma-machi and Futaba-machi, both of which are inside the 20-kilometer radius evacuation zone and actually heavily contaminated, for shopping, seeing doctors, entertainment, etc. Both Okuma-machi and Futaba-machi are off-limits for years to come.

According to the latest measurement by Tamura City, Miyakoji District's radiation level as of March 30, 2014 was 0.14 microgray/hour (more or less the same as 0.14 microsievert/hour).

According to the real-time monitoring information compiled at Nuclear Regulation Authority, radiation levels in Koriyama City in the middle-third of Fukushima Prefecture range from 0.09 microsievert/hour to 0.595 microsievert/hour (which happens to be in a nursery school...). The levels in Miyakoji District in Tamura City look to be between 0.1 and 0.2 microsievert/hour.

One clarification about the radiation dose of 100 millisieverts mentioned in the article: it is about life-time cumulative dose.

Now, moving on to TEPCO, you will encounter a joke in the true sense of the word...

The stoppage of all three lines of ALPS was my last post in March, but since then the multi-nuclide removal system has been plagued with new leaks and other problems that cause constant stoppage.

The saddest and stupidest of all must be this (or at least it is for me): TEPCO unknowingly contaminated the brand-new 1,000-tonne welded tanks as they kept sending the water treated by ALPS, except ALPS wasn't treating the waste water properly (for reasons not yet clear) and left a significant amount of beta nuclides in the water.

TEPCO (or rather, Toshiba) didn't have a way to test the water treated by the three ALPS lines individually. Treated water from the three lines all goes to the same holding tank, from which the water is sent to the storage tanks.

There are 21 such brand-new, welded tanks, and TEPCO has admitted that 9 of them have been contaminated (10 million Bq/Liter of all beta). I have a suspicion that all 21 tanks have been contaminated. Why? Because these tanks are all connected by pipes and valves near the bottom of the tanks, and they keep the valves open to fill all tanks by pumping the treated water into one tank

Now, someone has to crawl inside the tanks from the inspection holes near the bottom, and scrub the inside clean.

From Tokyo Shinbun (3/26/2014; part):

東京電力福島第一原発の新型除染装置「ALPS(アルプス)」で不具合が起きているのに東電が運転を続けた結果、多数のタンクを高濃度の放射性物質で汚した。東電は「タンクの除染を始めた」というが、後始末をさせられるのは作業員。除染に当たった作業員らが語る現場は、過酷だった

TEPCO continued to operate ALPS, the multi-nuclide removal system at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, without noticing the problem. As the result, many tanks were contaminated by highly radioactive materials. TEPCO says it has started to "decontaminate the tanks", but the ones who do the actual decontamination are the workers. As told by the workers who did the decontamination, it was a hard labor.

除染されたのは、ALPSで処理した水を一時的にためるため、装置脇にあるタンク一基。作業員らはタンク下部の側面に直径八十センチほどの点検孔を開け、高さ、直径ともに約十メートルあるタンクの中に入った。天板に二カ所ある点検孔を開け、そこから差し込むわずかな光と持ち込んだ発光ダイオード(LED)ライトの光だけが頼りだ。

Workers decontaminated one tank near ALPS which temporarily stores water treated by ALPS. They opened an inspection hole, 80 centimeters in diameter, at the side of the tank near the bottom to enter the tank with 10 meters in diameter and in height. They opened the two inspection hole on the ceiling to let the light. They also carried in the LED lights for the work.

すでに上部から高圧の水を吹きつけて洗浄してあるとはいえ、つい数日前まで一リットル当たり一〇〇〇万ベクレルと、放出基準の数十万倍もある放射性ストロンチウムなどを含む水が入っていた。ベータ線を発する物質で、被ばくの心配は少ないが、直接触れたり体内に取り込むと内部被ばくにつながる。

Even though the tank had been washed from above with high-pressure washer, until a few days ago it had stored water that contained 10 million becquerels per liter of radioactive materials including radioactive strontium, hundreds of thousands times the limit for discharge. They were beta nuclides so there was less worry for radiation exposure unless they came into direct contact or they were ingested.

防護服の上にかっぱを二枚重ねし、かっぱのフードを全面マスクの上からテープで密封。手はゴム手袋など四枚重ね。足元は長靴と完全防備だ。

Workers wore two [water-proof] jackets on top of the protective clothing [Tyvek, probably]. The hoods of the jackets were taped shut onto the full-face masks. They wore four layers of gloves including rubber gloves, and wore long boots.



Meanwhile, I hear that TEPCO's president, Mr. Hirose, was welling up as he welcomed new employees (new graduates) for the first time in three years. TEPCO on the road to recovery...

Now, moving on to surreal...

The 30-year old (so-called) researcher at RIKEN, one of the premier research institutions in Japan, who seems to have copied and pasted all the way to her current cushy position, claims her STAP cells are real, and copying and pasting she did to falsify the data was done with good intension - or at least with lack of bad intension.

So in her privileged mind, as long as she doesn't mean ill, she should be forgiven.

For those who are not familiar, she and her professor during her Harvard days, Professor Charles Vacanti, claim they have created a cell that can become any cell from an adult cell just by stressing it a little bit with acid bath or mechanical stress. One of the photographs critical to their claim and prominently featured and published in the prominent peer-reviewed magazine Nature turns out to be the same photograph from her doctoral dissertation from a totally different process.


RIKEN's top management (who happen to be top scientists, too, including a Nobel prize winner in chemistry) held a press conference on April 1st to announce their final findings: The researcher, Ms. Haruko Obokata, knowingly falsified.

Ms. Obokata, now being advised by not just one but THREE lawyers, has this to say (From none other than Nature Magazine, 4/1/2014):

In her letter, Obokata says the spliced gel lane did nothing to change the study’s results. “There was no merit in falsifying data, and I had no intention of doing so when I made the image. I only wanted to have a better image,” she writes. Use of the duplicated image was also “a simple mistake” made because the images were similar. Obokata says that she had already identified the mistakes and sent Nature a correction.


Except she didn't identify the mistakes. Net citizens did. Her "simple mistake" involved photoshopping the original image and editing the text beneath the photos. Such an innocent mistake, she actually claims. As long as the intention is good, she should be forgiven, she says.

RIKEN says it was presented with only two lab notes in the three years Ms. Obokata was with RIKEN, and the commissioners at the press conference said they were effectively just one note, and so poorly written, without dates, that they couldn't verify the data or the origin of the photos.

Ms. Obokata is doubling down, and says she will file a formal complaint with RIKEN, and probably sue them.

For what? No one knows. She probably liked the attention she got in her 15 minutes of fame. RIKEN is under heavy criticism for hiring this person who seems like a pathological liar if you read tabloid magazines and for allowing this to happen. She reportedly won the essay contest when she was in middle school by copying and pasting quotes from a very popular animation (Galaxy Express Three-Nine) and passing them as her own words.

So far, no one has accused Nature Magazine for its sloppy peer review.

Hope you had a fun April Fools' Day...

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

#Fukushima I NPP: All Three Lines of ALPS (Multi-Nuclide Removal System) Are Stopped


TEPCO says "as a precaution". It looks ALPS Line B wasn't removing enough all-beta.

The multi-nuclide removal system ALPS is still on the extended "hot" test run using the waste water, treating less than 200 tonnes of water per day.

ALPS comes after the desalination (reverse osmosis) that comes after the cesium absorption by either SARRY or Kurion. These systems before ALPS haven't stopped. The water processed through SARRY/Kurion and reverse osmosis goes back into the reactors to cool the corium, and ALPS is to treat the waste water that is high in all-beta.

Even if ALPS is stopped, the water treatment and cooling the reactors continue.

TEPCO's email alert to the press (3/18/2014) says:

多核種除去設備(ALPS)では、汚染水処理設備にて処理した廃液を用いた試験(ホット試験)を行っていますが、本日(3月18日)、3系統(A系,B系,C系)あるうちの1系統(B系)について、午後0時4分にフィルタの酸洗浄のため停止しています。

We've been conducting the "hot" test of the multi-nuclide removal system ALPS using the waste water after it is processed in the contaminated water treatment systems. Today (3/18/2014), one of the three lines, Line B, has been stopped at 12:04PM to acid-clean the filters.

同日、B系の処理後の出口水の全ベータの分析結果(3月17日採取分)が10の7乗Bq/L程度であることを確認しました。

Also today, we noted that the nuclide analysis of the water treated by Line B (collected on March 17) showed all-beta to be [in the order of] 10^7 Bq/L [10,000,000 Bq/L].

多核種除去設備(ALPS)の入口水については、全ベータで10の8乗Bq/L程度であり、処理が不充分となっている可能性があることから、念のため、A系について同日午後1時38分、C系について午後1時39分に処理を中断しました。

The water before entering ALPS has about 10^8 Bq/L [100,000,000 Bq/L] of all-beta, so there is a possibility that the treatment by ALPS is not adequate. As a precaution, we stopped Line A at 1:38PM and Line C at 1:39PM.


Strontium-90, a beta nuclide, is mostly removed in the pre-treatment process of ALPS that uses iron coprecipitation and carbonate coprecipitation. TEPCO hasn't found what part of ALPS may be malfunctioning this time.

For my post on why ALPS may already be obsolete, click here.

Monday, March 17, 2014

3 Years after #Fukushima Nuclear Accident: Bags Used to Store Contaminated Soil Were Meant to Last 3 Years


Oopsy...

Or rather, mainstream media outlets like TV Asahi has waited three years to tell us about what many of us suspected from the beginning.

It has been a sad, familiar sight of bags upon bags that contain contaminated soil removed from people's homes, roadsides, gardens, parks, schools, farmlands, etc. in Fukushima Prefecture and areas in Kanto Region for the past three years in the name of "decontamination".

TV Asahi apparently reported in the morning news on March 11, 2014 that these black plastic bags were made to last 3 years, and the manufacturer told Asahi that they were not meant to hold radioactive materials, according to a tweet by ‏@k_reichan:


If you always thought they looked awfully like oversized garbage bags, you were probably right. The photo in another tweet by the same person shows the bags ripped and shredded:


This is supposed to be "news", or "scoop" by TV Asahi.

At Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, there are a finite number of those huge tanks that are riveted together with the liner that was meant to last for 5 years but deteriorated in only two years. They are slowly being replaced by the welded tanks.

But these countless, seemingly infinite black plastic bags of soil that contain radioactive cesium whose half-life is 30 years, not 3? I wonder who came up with the idea to put the removed soil in these bags to begin with.

Now it is the 4th year since the start of the nuclear accident, and it feels Year 4 is just as relaxed as Year 3, Year 2, and even Year 1.

(OT) New "Cold War" Between the US and Russia: US Will "Calibrate", Russia Will "Incinerate"


Too funny to pass these up...

President Obama says this, after slapping "sanctions" on Russia (and Ukraine's government officials, 11 of them in total) over what seems like a very democratic vote in Crimea to leave Ukraine and re-join Russia, according to Bloomberg News (3/17/2014):

Obama said at the White House. The U.S. can “calibrate our response” based on whether Russia chooses “to escalate or to de-escalate the situation.”


While President Obama, who didn't attend the National Security Council meeting at the White House over the weekend (again), "calibrates", Mr. Dmitry Kiselyov, a presenter of the Russian state-owned TV, says, according to The Independent (3/17/2014):

"Russia is the only country in the world realistically capable of turning the United States into radioactive ash," Kiselyov said standing in front of a large screen depicting a mushroom cloud produced by a nuclear explosion.

"Americans themselves consider Putin to be a stronger leader than Obama," he said. "Why is Obama phoning Putin all the time and talking to him for hours on end?"

Kiselyov suggested President Obama's hair is turning grey because he is fretting about Russia's nuclear capacity, which could turn the US into dust.


The Independent has a screen shot of Mr. Kiselyov with the image of a huge mushroom cloud in the back:


A less-colorful and plainer word is from Crimea's Prime Minister Sergey Aksyonov, according to CNN:

"We are going home. Crimea is in Russia"


Soviet Russia did have one awe-inspiring atomic bomb (Tsar Bomba):

Thursday, March 13, 2014

M6.3 Earthquake Off Northeastern Kyushu, Seismic Intensity of "5-Weak" at Ikata Nuclear Power Plant


Nuclear Regulation Authority's emergency information page says there is no report of troubles at the nuclear plants in the region (Ikata NPP in Ehime, Genkai NPP in Fukuoka, Shimane NPP in Shimane).

Ikata Nuclear Power Plant is located in Ehime Prefecture in Shikoku, across from the Bungo Channel that separates Kyushu and Shikoku.

Ikata Nuclear Power Plant with pressurized water reactors by Mitsubishi Heavy Electric sits extremely close to Japan's Median Tectonic Line, the largest fault in Japan, part of which is active.

The plant is one of the few nuclear power plants in Japan slated to restart after NRA finishes the reviews.

MTL, from wiki:


Location of Ikata NPP:


Earthquake epicenter, according to USGS:

Ex-NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko: No More Nuclear Power for Japan Unless Japan Is Willing to Have Another Accident


I do not believe anyone in Japan, regardless of whether he/she is pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear, wants to have another nuclear accident. But according to the former chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Japan then has to abandon nuclear power.

From Wall Street Journal's Fukushima Watch (3/12/2014):

Fukushima Watch: Is Japan Ready for Another Nuclear Accident?

Is Japan ready for another nuclear accident? That is a question the country must answer before returning to large-scale reliance on nuclear power, according to a former senior U.S. nuclear energy regulatory official.

This has to be remembered — that there are certain accidents that are not preventable,” said Gregory Jaczko, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “The question Japan has to ask itself is: Is the country willing to have another accident? And if the answer is no, then the answer has to be no more nuclear power,” he said Tuesday in an interview with JRT.

Mr. Jaczko made the remarks as the ruling Liberal Democratic Party debates whether to approve a new energy plan that defines nuclear power as an important “base load” electricity source that should almost always run at full capacity. During a ceremony Tuesday to commemorate the third anniversary of the March 2011 disaster that triggered the Fukushima crisis, LDP lawmaker an lower house speaker Bunmei Ibuki said “it seems as if we have reaped the benefits of electricity … while letting the people of Fukushima bear the cost.”

Reaffirming a commitment to nuclear power was one of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s campaign promises in the national election he won in late 2012. But during parliamentary deliberations Monday, Mr. Abe himself called for a reduction on dependence on nuclear power “as much as possible.” Nevertheless, he stressed the importance of nuclear power and called for the restart of reactors idled since the Fukushima accident.

Public opinion polls have consistently shown high approval for Mr. Abe’s leadership and strong opposition to nuclear power at the same time.

In the March 2011 disaster, an earthquake caused large tsunami waves that knocked out all backup power at the Fukushima plant, paralyzing cooling systems and eventually causing three of six reactors to melt down.

Investigations later showed the plant’s operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.9501.TO -2.51% had underestimated the potential size of a tsunami and the chances of losing all power, ignoring studies recommending stronger safety systems.

Mr. Jaczko said it was true Tepco had failed to sufficiently prepare for the disaster. “But at the end of the day, Tepco didn’t create the earthquake, Mother Nature did that,” he said.

Japan’s new, stricter regulations meant to prevent another big accident like Fukushima took effect in July 2013. Since then, the Nuclear Regulation Authority has been reviewing the safety of several reactors that power companies want to restart. The NRA is expected to identify one or two reactors that are nearly ready to restart when its board meets Thursday.


That nuclear power plant looks to be Sendai Nuclear Power Plant located in Kagoshima Prefecture in southern Kyushu. The operator, Kyushu Electric Power Company, is likely to face power shortage this summer, and there is little opposition in the city of Satsumasendai, where the power plant is located.

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority's review of the nuclear power plants based on the new regulatory standard that NRA crafted in haste is mostly about hardware - plants, reactors, equipment, backup batteries, etc.. I don't believe NRA has even adequately investigated what went wrong on the "software" side of the Fukushima nuclear accident - how well or how badly politicians, regulators, scientists, TEPCO communicated with each other in the crucial first few weeks of the accident, for example. Or why the teleconference system at the Prime Minister's Official Residence was never turned on. Or why no one was able to tell then-PM Kan to shut up and listen to the experts.

They didn't communicate well at all, but the NRA commissioners - four scientists and one former diplomat - seem to think they can do much better and there is no need to learn from the mistakes from people like Dr. Haruki Madarame, who has publicly demanded that NRA call him and hear him out. Dr. Madarame is rather upset that the NRA commissioners don't think it necessary to learn from the mistakes he made as he was in the middle of the initial chaos after the start of the nuclear accident.

So, not for the reason that Dr. Jaczko cites - if Japan don't want another nuclear accident - but for the reason that practically nothing has been learned on the "software" mistakes from the Fukushima nuclear accident, I agree with Dr. Jaczko that Japan should stay away from nuclear power generation.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

(OT) "Copy & Paste" Your Way to a PhD, to Peer-Reviewed Nature Magazine


This news, at least on the net in Japan, was probably the most talked-about news on March 11, overshadowing the 3rd anniversary of the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident.

From Nature's Newsblog (3/10/2014; emphasis is mine):

Call for acid-bath stem-cell paper to be retracted

Less than 40 days after a team led by Haruko Obokata of the RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology in Kobe, Japan, presented two stunning papers claiming a method of using a simple acid-bath method to reprogramme mature mammalian cells back to an embryonic state – so called STAP cells – researchers in Japan, including one of the paper’s co-authors, are calling for them to be retracted.

Within weeks of their January 30 publication, the paper was criticized for irregularities and apparent duplicated images. Numerous scientists also had difficulty reproducing the supposedly simple method. The team responded with the promise of corrections and a list of tips to help other scientists to reproduce the results.

Over the weekend, however, two more serious problems surfaced. The Nature paper was found to contain two images apparently duplicated from Obokata’s doctoral dissertation. Her thesis also reported experiments dealing with cells that were supposedly in an embryonic state, but the cells reported in the Nature paper were said to be derived from a different process in an altogether different experiment.

The revelation has led to a flurry of calls – including some from senior scientists in Japan – for the paper to be retracted.

Perhaps the most damning comes from Teruhiko Wakayama, a cloning expert at Yamanashi University and a corresponding author on one of the papers. Interviewed by NHK news, Wakayama said: “I have lost faith in the paper. Overall there are now just too many uncertainties about it. I think we have to wait for some confirmation.” Wakayama calls for an investigation of all the laboratory notebooks and data. He continues: “To check the legitimacy of the paper, we should retract it, prepare proper data and images, and then use those to demonstrate, with confidence, that the paper is correct.” Wakayama reportedly contacted all of the authors requesting that they agree to retract the paper. RIKEN says it is still investigating the case.


The STAP paper by Obokata also contains "copy and paste" from a paper published in 2005, without any citation or reference.

Professor Charles Vacanti at Harvard Medical School, co-author of the paper on STAP cell, says there is no need for retraction. Professor Vacanti also happens to be one of the researchers who reviewed Ms. Obokata's doctoral thesis in 2011 from Waseda University.

In Japan, this doctoral thesis is now being dissected in details. A huge chunk of the 100-page thesis - 22 pages out of 24-page introduction was found to have been taken from the National Institute of Health website. One of the key photographs was found to have been taken from a commercial biotech company's website. Even the references to several chapters of the thesis turned out to be "copy & paste" from other papers. There is now a doubt whether Ms. Obokata did the experiment as she claimed in the thesis at all.

So far, there is no direct evidence to indicate that STAP cell is also made up, a hoax. However, Nikkan Gendai, a Japanese daily tabloid, raises an interesting point that Obokata and her group used old, dated equipment (which was used in the late 1990s) to take the photographs of STAP cells when her employer, RIKEN, no doubt had the most advanced, top-of-the-line equipment for such purpose.

The Japanese media and politicians have been very eager to present a young, female Japanese scientist to the world. Maybe they have been too eager.

Monday, March 10, 2014

3rd Anniversary of the Triple Disaster in Japan: If Only It Had Been Just Earthquake and Tsunami...


Reuters has photographs that show towns (or what used to be towns) and people in Tohoku region in Japan right after the March 11, 2011 earthquake/tsunami/nuclear accident.

Some of the photos I remember seeing, but others I see now for the first time. What impressed me was this photograph of Kesennuma City in Miyagi Prefecture, which was devastated by the tsunami and the ensuing fire. It was taken on March 22, 2011, eleven days after the tsunami. The roads, as you see in the photo, were already cleared of debris, and a man was walking his dog, as if it were just another ordinary day:


Here's Rikuzentakata City in Iwate Prefecture. It was a total wipeout for the town. The photo was taken on March 17, 2011. Rescue workers, probably either policemen or firefighters, salute to pay respect to the dead:


I have little doubt that Japan would have quickly recovered and rebuilt itself after the March 11, 2011 disaster, if it had been just the earthquake and tsunami.

UK Medical Experts Say Seemingly Large Number of Thyroid Cancer in Children in Fukushima Is Likely Due to Hypersensitive Ultrasound


In other words, "screening effect," as other researchers have already concluded. (Here's a paper by German researchers, published in January 2014 in Radiation and Environmental Biophysics.)

Even some of the Japanese experts such as Dr. Masamichi Nishio who have been fanning the fear of a big increase in thyroid cancer in children after the Fukushima I NPP accident seem to be backtracking (link goes to a togetter with Dr. Nishio's comments) these days, as the third anniversary of the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident in Japan approaches.

The Guardian's article below, however, does not make it crystal clear that the thyroid screening test being done in Fukushima Prefecture since 2011 aims to test ALL children who were 18 years old and under at the time of the nuclear accident and who would have not gone to a thyroid specialist to have their thyroids checked had there been no nuclear accident.

Fukushima Prefecture's screening is finding the cases of thyroid cancer which would have gone unnoticed and undetected for years if not decades. To compare the cancer cases found in this screening with the normal cancer cases where the patient goes to the doctor and the doctor makes diagnosis doesn't make any sense, but that's what some experts in Japan and outside Japan have been doing, to the apparent frustration (for some) and anxiety (for many others) among parents in Fukushima.

So far, 269,354 children, or about 80% of all children in Fukushima who were 18 years old and younger at the time of the accident have been tested, according to the latest report (2/7/2014; in Japanese) by the Fukushima prefectural government. None of the children found with thyroid cancer had any symptoms.

From UK's The Guardian (3/9/2014; emphasis is mine):

Fukushima's children at centre of debate over rates of thyroid cancer

Three years after the worst nuclear accident in a generation, the Japanese prefecture is reporting a rise in the number of children showing cancer symptoms. But is this directly related to the disaster, or is the testing more rigorous?

by Justin McCurry in Fukushima

When doctors found several tiny nodules on his 12-year-old daughter's thyroid gland, Toshiyuki Kamei refused to let parental fear get the better of him. The symptoms are not uncommon, and the probability that they will develop into something more serious is low.

Yet Kamei can be forgiven for occasional moments of doubt: his daughter, Ayako, is one of almost 400,000 children who were living in Fukushima on 11 March 2011 – the start of the world's worst nuclear accident for a quarter of a century.

"As a parent, of course I worry, but my daughter is taking it in her stride," said Kamei, who lives in Iwaki, a city about 40km (25 miles) south of the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. "She doesn't tell me if it's on her mind, and I've decided not to ask her about it."

Three years after the plant suffered a triple meltdown that released huge quantities of radiation into the atmosphere, medical authorities in Fukushima prefecture are reporting a significant rise in the number of thyroid cancer cases among local children and young adults.

The results have prompted a bitter debate about the potential effects the meltdown had on the health of hundreds of thousands of children. Either the higher-than-normal rates of thyroid cancer are connected to the nuclear accident, or they are the inevitable result of a testing regime unprecedented in size, and conducted using state-of-the-art medical equipment.

Last month, the number of confirmed and suspected cases of thyroid cancer among people aged 18 or below at the time of the accident rose to 75, compared with 59 at the end of last September. Of the current total, 33 cases have been confirmed as cancer.

...At first sight, the figures give cause for alarm. Thyroid cancer normally affects one to two people per million among 10 to 14-year-olds in Japan, a rate far lower than observed in Fukushima, although tests there apply to people aged up to 18.

But experts familiar with both disasters caution against making similarly gloomy predictions for the children of Fukushima. Dillwyn Williams, emeritus professor of pathology at Cambridge University, pointed out that a noticeable increase in thyroid cancers was not observed until three to four years after the Chernobyl accident.

"Much less radioactivity was released from Fukushima than from Chernobyl," he said. "Most of [the Fukushima radiation] was blown over the Pacific Ocean, and thyroid doses in the most-affected areas are low compared to Chernobyl.

"It is very unlikely there will be a large increase in thyroid cancer or any other health problems, apart from anxiety and psychological difficulties. That does not mean the surveillance should stop. There were surprises after Chernobyl and there may be again after Fukushima."

Williams and other experts have attributed the large number of cases to the use of hypersensitive ultrasound, which can detect the tiniest lesions, and the large number of children being tested.

...Gerry Thomas, professor of molecular pathology at Imperial College, London University, blames growing anxiety among Fukushima residents on "pseudo-scientists who can shout louder than real scientists".

"The biggest effect will be psychological – just as it was post-Chernobyl," said Thomas, who insists the rising number of cases is due to comprehensive screening, not radiation. "I still stick with what I have always said: there will not be a single death due to the radiological consequences of this accident."


(Full article at the link)


Ah. The curse of "one in million" continues, but at least the article mentions "comprehensive screening".

Professor Geraldine Thomas sounds somewhat like Mr. George Monbiot, or lot like Professor Wade Allison of Oxford University, but her comment that "pseudo-scientists" causing anxiety among Fukushima residents has a point, I believe, after reading numerous articles from the Japanese newspapers on the 3rd anniversary of the nuclear accident.

Friday, March 7, 2014

(OT) Ukraine's Lone Paralympic Athlete Met With Thunderous Applause in Sochi


From Mashable:

Ukraine sent 23 athletes to the Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia, but only one man participated in Friday's opening ceremony. That man, biathlete Mykhailo Tkachenko, was met with a thunderous ovation when his country's name was called during the parade and he entered the stadium.

Unlike athletes from other counties who marched with beaming smiles and waves to the crowd, Tkachenko completed the parade around Fisht Stadium with a solemn expression on his face.

...Ukraine decided at the last minute to participate in the Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi. Although the U.S. sent 80 athletes to the games, it refused to send presidential delegation.

As for Russia, its athletes chose "Goodbye America" as its entrance song for Friday's opening ceremony.

(Full article and more photos at the link)

Monday, March 3, 2014

(OT) Anatole Kaletsky: "Realpolitik in Ukraine"


A post at Zero Hedge has made most sense to me so far regarding the turmoil in Ukraine after the West has successfully incited the opposition to President Yanukovich and after Russia has entered Crimea.

Putin’s decision to back himself into this corner has been derided by the Western media as a strategic blunder but it is actually a textbook example of realpolitik. Putin has created a situation where the West’s only alternative to acquiescing in the Russian takeover of Crimea is all-out war.


Accept Putin's terms, or an all-out war.

In another word, checkmate for the West?

From Zero Hedge (3/3/2014; emphasis is mine):

Realpolitik In Ukraine

Submitted by Anatole Kaletsky via Evergreen-Gavekal


Oscar Wilde described marriage as the triumph of imagination over intelligence and second marriage as the triumph of hope over experience. In finance and geopolitics, by contrast, experience must always prevail over hope and realism over wishful thinking. A grim case in point is the Russian incursion into Ukraine. What makes this confrontation so dangerous is that US and EU policy seems to be motivated entirely by hope and wishful thinking. Hope that Vladimir Putin will “see sense,” or at least be deterred by the threat of US and EU sanctions to Russia’s economic interests and the personal wealth of his oligarch friends. Wishful thinking about “democracy and freedom” overcoming dictatorship and military bullying.

Financial markets cannot afford to be so sentimental. While we should always recall at a time like this the famous advice from Nathan Rothschild to “buy at the sound of gunfire,” the drastically risk-off response to weekend events in Ukraine makes perfect sense because Russia’s annexation of Crimea is the most dangerous geopolitical event of the post-Cold War era, and perhaps since the Cuban Missile crisis. It can result in only two possible outcomes, either of which will be damaging to European stability in the long-term. Either Russia will quickly prevail and thereby win the right to redraw borders and exercise veto powers over the governments of its neighbouring countries. Or the Western-backed Ukrainian government will fight back and Europe’s second-largest country by area will descend into a Yugoslav-style civil war that will ultimately draw in Poland, NATO and therefore the US.

No other outcome is possible because it is literally inconceivable that Putin will ever withdraw from Crimea. To give up Crimea now would mean the end of Putin’s presidency, since the Russian public, not to mention the military and security apparatus, believe almost unanimously that Crimea still belongs to Russia, since it was only administratively transferred to Ukraine, almost by accident, in 1954. In fact, many Russians believe, rightly or wrongly, that most of Ukraine “belongs” to them. (The very name of the country in Russian means “at the border” and certainly not “beyond the border”). Under these circumstances, the idea that Putin would respond to Western diplomatic or economic sanctions, no matter how stringent, by giving up his newly gained territory is pure wishful thinking.

Putin’s decision to back himself into this corner has been derided by the Western media as a strategic blunder but it is actually a textbook example of realpolitik. Putin has created a situation where the West’s only alternative to acquiescing in the Russian takeover of Crimea is all-out war. And since a NATO military attack on Russian forces is even more inconceivable than Putin’s withdrawal, it seems that Russia has won this round of the confrontation. The only question now is whether the new Ukrainian government will accept the loss of Crimea quietly or try to retaliate against Russian speakers in Ukraine—offering Putin a pretext for invasion, and thereby precipitating an all-out civil war.

(Full article at the link)


The United Kingdom has already backed out of trade sanctions against Russia over Crimea, as it fears the impact on global economic recovery.

(What recovery? 99.9% would ask...)

Friday, February 28, 2014

201 Accidents at #Fukushima I NPP? "No Way," Says Worker at the Plant, "It's More Like 1,000"


"Happy", who's been tweeting from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant since March 2011, tweeted on the news that Nuclear Regulation Authority told the Lower House Budget Committee that there have been 201 accidents at the plant since March 2011 earthquake.

He says "1,000" is more like it. OK that makes more sense. Almost one a day.

"Happy"'s tweet:

この数は発表されたものだけで、全企業のヒヤリハット含めると1000件は越えてるはずでし。

首相は「なぜ?」って理解してないみたいだけど、それは首相が1F収束に対し真剣に目と耳を傾けてないからでし。

This number [201] is only the ones that have been publicly disclosed. If you include "hiyari hatto" [a Japanese word that means "an incident that almost became a more serious accident") by all companies at the plant, the number would be over 1,000.

Prime Minister asks "Why?" He doesn't seem to understand. But that's because Prime Minister is not paying serious attention to the restoration [ongoing work] of Fukushima I NPP.


From what I've read since 2011, "Happy" seldom voices a direct criticism of politicians. This tweet is one of the rare cases.

=============

"Hiyari" - making one's blood turn cold
"Hatto" - startled

(OT) Unintended Humor on a Street Corner Somewhere in Tokyo: "Abe LDP Heading for Dead End"


The left poster with Prime Minister Abe says: "Japan Has Started to Move. Retake Japan. That's the responsibility of Tokyo. Liberal Democratic Party."

The poster to the right of the LDP poster is by a landowner who probably owns a lot where the poster is displayed: "Dead End that way (with a blue arrow pointing in the direction of the LDP poster)."

(H/T @aoshizu on Twitter)

(For Record, Before This Too Disappears) Bloomberg: Gold Fix Study Shows Signs of Decade of Bank Manipulation


The direction of the manipulation, researchers Rosa Abrantes-Metz (New York University’s Stern School of Business Professor) and Albert Metz (a managing director at Moody’s Investors Service) argue, is predominantly DOWN.

Oh what a surprise. (Not.)

After the UK's Financial Times pulled at a lightening speed a similar article accusing the London Gold Fix participants for manipulating the gold price, I feel the need to save the article for my personal record, as one of the last "conspiracy theories" may turn out to be not "conspiracy theory" but reality.

(But who cares about reality these days?)

The banks setting the gold fix are Barclays, Deutsche Bank, Bank of Nova Scotia, HSBC, and Societe Generale. Bloomberg says these banks has set up a committee to consider reforms. (Much like TEPCO trying to explain how the nuclear accident happened.)

From Bloomberg News (2/28/2014; emphasis is mine):

Gold Fix Study Shows Signs of Decade of Bank Manipulation

By Liam Vaughan Feb 28, 2014 1:07 AM PT

The London gold fix, the benchmark used by miners, jewelers and central banks to value the metal, may have been manipulated for a decade by the banks setting it, researchers say.

Unusual trading patterns around 3 p.m. in London, when the so-called afternoon fix is set on a private conference call between five of the biggest gold dealers, are a sign of collusive behavior and should be investigated, New York University’s Stern School of Business Professor Rosa Abrantes-Metz and Albert Metz, a managing director at Moody’s Investors Service, wrote in a draft research paper.

Video: Are Gold Prices Being Manipulated by Banks?

“The structure of the benchmark is certainly conducive to collusion and manipulation, and the empirical data are consistent with price artificiality,” they say in the report, which hasn’t yet been submitted for publication. “It is likely that co-operation between participants may be occurring.”

The paper is the first to raise the possibility that the five banks overseeing the century-old rate -- Barclays Plc (BARC), Deutsche Bank AG (DBK), Bank of Nova Scotia, HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) and Societe Generale SA (GLE) -- may have been actively working together to manipulate the benchmark. It also adds to pressure on the firms to overhaul the way the rate is calculated. Authorities around the world, already investigating the manipulation of benchmarks from interest rates to foreign exchange, are examining the $20 trillion gold market for signs of wrongdoing.

Union Jacks

Officials at London Gold Market Fixing Ltd., the company owned by the banks that administer the rate, referred requests for comment to Societe Generale, which holds the rotating chairmanship of the group. Officials at Barclays, Deutsche Bank, HSBC and Societe Generale declined to comment on the report and the future of the benchmark. Joe Konecny, a spokesman for Bank of Nova Scotia, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Abrantes-Metz advises the European Union and the International Organization of Securities Commissions on financial benchmarks. Her 2008 paper “Libor Manipulation?” helped uncover the rigging of the London interbank offered rate, which has led financial firms including Barclays Plc and UBS AG to be fined about $6 billion in total. She is a paid expert witness to lawyers, providing economic analysis for litigation. Metz heads credit policy research at ratings company Moody’s.

The rate-setting ritual dates back to 1919. Dealers in the early years met in a wood-paneled room in Rothschild’s office in the City of London and raised little Union Jacks to indicate interest. Now the fix is calculated twice a day on telephone conferences at 10:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. London time. The calls usually last 10 minutes, though they can run more than an hour.

Unregulated Process

Firms declare how many bars of gold they want to buy or sell at the current spot price, based on orders from clients and themselves. The price is increased or reduced until the buy and sell amounts are within 50 bars, or about 620 kilograms, of each other, at which point the fix is set.

Traders relay shifts in supply and demand to clients during the call and take fresh orders to buy or sell as the price changes, according to the website of London Gold Market Fixing, where the results are published. At 3 p.m. yesterday, the price was $1,332.25 an ounce. The process is unregulated and the five banks can trade gold and its derivatives throughout the call.

Bloomberg News reported in November concerns among traders and economists that the fixing banks and their clients had an unfair advantage because information gleaned from the calls provided an insight into the future direction of prices and banks can bet on spot and derivatives markets during the call.

All Down

Abrantes-Metz and Metz screened intraday trading in the spot gold market from 2001 to 2013 for sudden, unexplained moves that may indicate illegal behavior. From 2004, they observed frequent spikes in spot gold prices during the afternoon call. The moves weren’t replicated during the morning call and hadn’t happened before 2004, they found.

Large price moves during the afternoon call were also overwhelmingly in the same direction: down. On days when the authors identified large price moves during the fix, they were downwards at least two-thirds of the time in six different years between 2004 and 2013. In 2010, large moves during the fix were negative 92 percent of the time, the authors found.

There’s no obvious explanation as to why the patterns began in 2004, why they were more prevalent in the afternoon fixing, and why price moves tended to be downwards, Abrantes-Metz said in a telephone interview this week.

“This is a first attempt to uncover potentially manipulative behavior and the results are concerning,” she said. “It’s down to regulators to establish why there are such striking patterns but banks have the means, motive and opportunity to manipulate the fixing. The results are consistent with the possibility of collusion.”

Bafin, FCA

Deutsche Bank, Germany’s largest lender, said in January that it will withdraw from the panels setting the gold and silver fixings. German financial markets regulator Bafin interviewed the Frankfurt-based bank’s employees as part of a probe into the potential manipulation of gold and silver prices.

“In general, research that finds certain price patterns does not as such constitute evidence of manipulation,” said Thorsten Polleit, chief economist at Frankfurt-based precious-metals broker Degussa Goldhandel GmbH and a former Barclays economist. “However, it might encourage interest in finding out more about the sources of these price patterns.”

‘Appropriate Oversight’

The five banks that oversee the fixing set up a steering committee and will appoint external advisers to consider reforms before EU legislation on financial benchmarks’ regulation and oversight comes into force, Bloomberg reported last month.

Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority is also scrutinizing how prices are calculated. The regulator published a report this week outlining its remit for regulating commodities including gold, saying that while it’s responsible for commodities derivatives, it doesn’t regulate physical commodities.

“Abusive behavior can occur in the physical commodity markets which in turn can have an impact on, or be directly linked with, financial market activity and prices,” the FCA said in the report. “The regulatory regime -- both in the U.K. and internationally -- needs to be adapted to ensure robust and appropriate oversight.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Liam Vaughan in London at lvaughan6@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Heather Smith at hsmith26@bloomberg.net; Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net


Also from Bloomberg, Tokyo-based Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox has filed for bankruptcy in Japan. Bitcoin is a virtual currency based on trust of the users, much like the paper-based fiat currencies of the world.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

There Have Been 201 Accidents at #Fukushima I NPP Since March 11, 2011, Says Nuclear Regulation Authority; PM Abe Says "Regrettable"


If the number is correct, it has been 5 to 6 accidents ("toraburu" - trouble, as Japanese call them) per month since March 11, 2011. Reading tweets by workers at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, I would have thought the number was much, much higher (like one per day).

From Jiji Tsushin (2/27/2014):

福島原発トラブル201件=規制委

201 accidents at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, says Nuclear Regulation Authority

 原子力規制委員会の田中俊一委員長は27日の衆院予算委員会で、2011年3月の東日本大震災発生以降の東京電力福島第1原発でのトラブル発生件数について、「構内車両の油漏れなども含め、(原子力)規制庁が整理したものまで入れると、全体で201件になる」と語った。共産党の笠井亮氏への答弁。

In the Budget Committee in the Lower House on February 27, Chairman Shunichi Tanaka of Nuclear Regulation Authority said the number of accidents that have taken place in Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant since the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake is "201, including oil leaks from the vehicles inside the plant compound and including those documented by the Nuclear Regulation Agency." His remark was in response to the question by Mr. Ryo Kasai of Japanese Communist Party.

 田中氏は当初、規制委として把握しているトラブルの件数を107件と説明した。笠井氏は「トラブル隠しとしか言いようがない」と批判。安倍晋三首相は「なぜ(トラブルが)出るのかはなかなか理解できないが、そういうことがあれば誠に遺憾だし、起こらないように万全を尽くすべきだ」と述べた。

Initially, Mr. Tanaka said the number of incidents that NRA was aware of was 107. Mr. Kasai criticized [Mr Tanaka] as "hiding accidents". Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said, "It is hard to understand why (accidents) happen, but when they do it is very regrettable, and [TEPCO] should do its atmost best to prevent accidents from happening."


It's not that Mr. Abe does not quite understand; he doesn't quite care. That's the feeling I get, seeing him and reading the comment like this which is devoid of any meaning, even though he was the one who declared "the national government at the forefront" in dealing with the Fukushima I NPP accident.

The concept of "Japan, the beautiful country" is all he cares. Not the real thing.

Representative Kasai of Communist Party criticizes, but I don't think his party cares either, judging from what Communist Party's stance turned out to be during the Tokyo gubernatorial election. If the plant keeps having one accident after another, they can use the accidents to criticize the Abe administration and look good in the eyes of current supporters and potential voters in the future election. No incentive for them to push for comprehensible measures.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Obama Signed Off on Nuclear Deal with Vietnam, Allowing Nuclear Fuel Sale and Uranium Enrichment


As he openly demands Japan to return 300 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium that the US gave as part of "Atoms for Peace" for his concern for nuclear proliferation (to the delight of China for another chance to bash Japan), President Obama allows the US to sell nuclear fuel and technology to Vietnam, and allows Vietnam to enrich uranium if they want to.

Why? According to The Hill, to counter China.

It's a curious timing, as Vietnam has just postponed the construction of its first nuclear power plant (to be built by Russian companies) for six years. Vietnam's second nuclear power plant is to be built by the Japanese consortium, but there is no news of delay for that one.

The Hill (2/24/2014; emphasis is mine):

Obama OKs nuke deal with Vietnam

President Obama signed off Monday on a controversial civilian nuclear deal with Vietnam.

The cooperation agreement with the communist nation allows the U.S. to sell nuclear fuel and technology to its former foe. It aims to help guarantee Vietnams' energy independence as China asserts a more prominent role in the region.

“I have determined that the performance of the Agreement will promote, and will not constitute an unreasonable risk to, the common defense and security,” Obama wrote in a memo for the secretaries of State and Energy.
The deal aims to get Vietnam to import the fuel it needs for its reactors instead of producing it domestically. But it doesn't bar the country from conducting its own uranium enrichment, raising concerns about nuclear proliferation.

The agreement is also seen as a potential complicating factor in the ongoing nuclear talks with Iran. Iran has repeatedly accused nuclear powers, and the United States in particular, of a double standard in terms of which nations are allowed to run nuclear programs that are allegedly for civilian purposes only.

Japan Under Prime Minister Abe: Back to the Future (to Pre-World War II)?


Someone is ripping the pages off over 300 copies of Anne Frank's "Diary of a Young Girl" in libraries in parts of Tokyo and Yokohama. The police thinks the same person may be doing it.

Minami Kyushu City in Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu has applied to the UNESCO to have over 300 pieces of farewell letters by "kamikaze" pilots during the World War II designated as "world heritage", so that people will remember how awful a war is. (Anne Frank's "Diary" is designated as "world heritage".)

Kasai City in Hyogo Prefecture wants to memorialize the runway used by kamikaze pilots during the World War II as a historic site.

William Pesek, Bloomberg's columnist in Tokyo wonders aloud: Where is Prime Minister Abe?

From Bloomberg News (2/23/2014):

Is Abe Encouraging Japan's Nut Jobs?

There's a reason the nuns in Queens had me and my classmates read Anne Frank's "The Diary of a Young Girl" several times -- the same reason that's made the book required reading around the globe. The 15-year-old's account of hiding from the Nazis is impervious to nut jobs who argue the Holocaust is fiction.

Shockingly, in recent days at least 282 copies of Frank's memoirs have been vandalized at 36 libraries across Tokyo -- their pages torn or defaced. No one knows who did it, or why. But it requires an acrobatic feat of compartmentalization not to see the connection to Japan's own recent efforts to deface history.

Earlier this month, the southern Japanese city of Minami Kyushu asked the U.N. World Heritage organization to enshrine farewell letters written by World War II kamikaze suicide pilots alongside documents like Frank's diaries and the Magna Carta. The request drew an immediate rebuke from China and stirred up Japan's right wing. What many see as evidence of Japan's wartime fanaticism, nationalists view as testaments to manly duty and devotion to the Emperor.

I have no evidence that Japan's right-wingers are behind this clearly coordinated campaign to desecrate Frank's work. Anti-Semitism isn't particularly pervasive among Japanese (although one extremist group is organizing a 125th birthday party for the Fuhrer so fans can "converse, listening to Wagner's music and enjoying wine together"). But it would be a coincidence of astounding proportions if this shameful vandalism weren't related to the kamikaze letters controversy.

One has to ask to what extent the return of nationalistic leader Shinzo Abe has encouraged such behavior. Though most attention has focused on Abe's efforts to revive the economy, right-wingers have delighted in the prime minister's other initiatives -- to whitewash textbooks, beautify Japan's wartime aggression, load the governing board of national broadcaster NHK with like-minded conservatives, and embolden the nation's military.

No, I'm not suggesting Abe bears responsibility for the Frank diary attacks. But his 14 months in office have created an atmosphere that's encouraging fringe activists, who may believe Abe secretly supports them. Intentionally or not, the Prime Minister has fed this impression by visiting Yasukuni Shrine, which honors 14 World War II Class A war criminals, and hinting that he wants to revisit a past apology for the military's sex-slave program. Among Abe's picks for the NHK board is a man who claims the Nanjing Massacre of the 1930s never happened.

When Abe and his ilk explain why Japan should be able to honor its dead soldiers and rewrite its pacifist constitution, they highlight how their nation has been a model global citizen. The argument is not without merit. For 68 years now, Japan has been a peaceful, generous, and reasonably cooperative power.

Yet Abe's rightward turn could squander much of the "soft power" Japan amassed since then
. Japanese don't tend to track events in Richmond, Virginia and Glendale, California very closely. But it’s in these two American cities that officials in Tokyo can get a glimpse of their nation's future. It's not pretty.

On Feb. 6, the Virginia legislature passed a bill to change textbooks to say the Sea of Japan is also known as the East Sea. It may not seem like a big deal, but the move outraged Japan. The change came at the behest of fast-rising contingent of Korean-American voters who are wielding that power to right what they view as historical wrongs by Japan 7,000 miles away. Tokyo has also taken great umbrage at a "comfort women" statue in the Los Angeles area erected by Asian Americans, and protests from Japanese diplomats and an online petition to President Barack Obama have gone unheeded. More and more, Chinese-Americans are showing up at Japanese consulates with protest placards, including in December when Abe visited Yasukuni.

As Abe preaches the glory of patriotism more than capitalism, expect Korea and China to intensify efforts around the world to shame Tokyo. Take Xi Jinping's trip to Germany next month. According to Reuters, the Chinese president plans to highlight Germany's atonement for the sins of World War II, in order to embarrass Japan. It's a reminder that statements from Japanese politicians have repeatedly undercut the country's many apologies for its wartime behavior.

Abe's mandate from voters is the economy, not prettifying some ugly moments in the nation's history. He should get back to that job. But first he must unequivocally condemn the Frank attacks in clear and strong terms. Few issues are more cut-and-dry than the need to denounce anti-Semitism in all forms. This isn't an issue to be left to Abe's cabinet chief, Yoshihide Suga, whose name isn't widely known outside Japan. Suga has promised a full investigation. But this is a task for the nation's leader, and Abe's silence is, like much of his other signaling thus far, damaging the nation's interests.


Mr. Pesek seems to think the culprit behind the defaced copies of Anne Frank's "Diary" is an Abe supporter. It is indeed possible that his supporters are that dumb.

JTA (2/21/2014; emphasis is mine) notes that Anne Frank's "Diary" is extremely popular in Japan, with the number of copies sold only next to the United States:

Vandals destroy copies of Anne Frank’s diary in Japan

(JTA) — More than 100 copies of Anne Frank’s “Diary of a Young Girl” have been vandalized in public libraries in Japan’s capital Tokyo.

Pages have been ripped from at least 265 copies of the diary and other related books, Japanese officials told the BBC on Thursday. It is not clear who is behind the vandalism, they said.

Anne Frank’s diary was written during World War II, while the teenager hid from the Nazis in occupied Amsterdam. The book made her a symbol of the suffering of Jews during the war.

The head of Japan’s library council, Satomi Murata, told the French AFP news agency that five of Tokyo’s wards had reported the vandalism so far. “We don’t know why this happened or who did it,” he added.

Toshihiro Obayashi, a library official in West Tokyo’s Suginsami area, said, “Each and every book which comes up under the index of Anne Frank has been damaged at our library.”

The Simon Wiesenthal Center said in a statement that it was shocked and concerned by the incidents, and called for the authorities to investigate.

“The geographic scope of these incidents strongly suggest an organized effort to denigrate the memory of the most famous of the 1.5 million Jewish children murdered by the Nazis in the World War II Holocaust,” Associate Dean Abraham Cooper said.

Rotem Kowner, a professor of Japanese history and culture at Israel’s University of Haifa, told the BBC that the book has been exceptionally popular and successful in Japan.

He said that in terms of absolute numbers of copies of the book sold, Japan is second only to the United States.

About 30,000 Japanese tourists visit the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam every year, about 5,000 visitors more than the number of visitors from Israel.

Japan is also the only East Asian country with statues and a museum in memory of Anne Frank.