Friday, April 15, 2011

TEPCO's 1,000,000 Yen - It's a Start

Now and then, the Lemming realizes that there are worse things than dealing with America's annual income tax forms. Like this news from Japan:

"Nuke plant owner to pay $600 million -- for now"
Matt Smith, CNN World (April 15, 2011)

"The owners of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant must start paying up to 1 million yen ($12,000) per household to residents displaced or forced indoors by the nuclear accident there, Japan's government ordered Friday.

"The Tokyo Electric Power Company will start handing out checks 'as smoothly and as early as possible,' hopefully by April 28, its president, Masataka Shimizu, told reporters. Sole residents will receive 750,000 yen and multi-person households will get 1 million, Shimizu said, with the company's interim cost estimated at about $600 million...."

750,000 yen sounds like a lot - but the CNN article points out that it works out to about $12,000, in U. S. currency. Also that it's a sort of down payment on compensation that may shut down Tokyo Electric permanently.

No cheers on the possible demise of TEPCO from the Lemming: not because the Lemming thinks the company that apparently missed inspections is blameless, but because of what the company shutting down will mean for folks who work for TEPCO - and didn't have anything to to with the Fukushima disaster.

Back to the CNN article:

"...Tokyo Electric offered a token payment to residents of 10 municipalities around the plant in early April. But officials in one of those towns, Namie, rejected the offer, saying it amounted to about $12 for each of its roughly 20,000 residents

"Tokyo Electric has no timetable for resolving the accident, and the yet-unknown cost of compensation has called the survival of Japan's largest utility into question. The Japanese government has agreed to support the company to keep power flowing to its 25 million customers without big rate increases, Deputy Finance Minister Fumihiko Igarashi told CNN, but he said a government takeover of the utility was unlikely.

" 'The way the government will approach that is still in the decision process,'" Igarashi said.

"The utility reported 2010 profits of more than 1.4 trillion yen ($17 billion).

"About 78,000 people living within 20 kilometers (12.4 miles) of the plant were ordered out of their homes in the days after the March 11 accident, which now is ranked at the top of the international scale for nuclear disasters. Those living another 10 kilometers out were told to remain indoors as the plant belched radioactive particles into the environment from three damaged reactors.

"Monday, Japanese authorities told residents of five municipalities in that outer belt and beyond to evacuate within a month, due to lower levels of radioactive contamination that are likely to pose a long-term health hazard. Other towns have been put on notice that evacuations may be required soon, bringing the total number of people directly affected so far to about 146,000, according to Japanese government estimates.

"But in Washington, the U.S. State Department on Friday lifted a departure recommendation for families of U.S. diplomats in Japan. While it still advises Americans to stay more than 50 kilometers from the plant, the latest notice calls the situation 'dramatically different' than in mid-March.

" 'Today, while the situation remains serious, and there is still a possibility of unanticipated developments, cooling efforts are ongoing and successful, power, water supply, and back-up services have been partially or fully restored, and planning has begun to control radioactive contamination and mitigate future dangers,' the travel alert states....

Perfection, Fukushima, and Reality

Ideally, the Fukushima nuclear power plant's reactors would have been unaffected by the most powerful earthquake to hit Japan in recorded history.

And that the primary cooling systems would have kept working through a tsunami.

And that the backup cooling systems could have kept running long enough for someone to run the equivalent of a Godzilla-size extension cord to parts of the Japanese power grid that were still working on March 11.


Here in the real world, that's not what happened.

From what's in the news, the Lemming suspects that TEPCO/Tokyo Electric could have done a much more adequate job of maintaining the power plant. Between that, and whatever role of omission or commission the Japanese government played: the Lemming's guess is that there will be no lack of finger-pointing in Japan for quite a few years.

What's Japan's 'Chernobyl' Actually Like?

The Lemming posted about Japan's upgrading of their nuclear woes earlier this week. (April 12, 2011) The Chernobyl comparison is, probably, apt - but Japan may be handling the situation a tad better than the Soviet Union did. Which, as the Lemming recalls, wouldn't take much.

Anyway, we're getting an updated look at what condition the Fukushima reactors are in:

"...a Friday report by the Atomic Energy Society of Japan [a group of nuclear engineers, scientists, and professors] painted a fresh picture of the extent of the damage.

"The zirconium alloy sheaths that surround the fuel rods in the reactor core are believed to have ruptured in all three units, sending molten uranium fuel pellets tumbling to the bottom of the reactors. The pellets are since believed to have cooled and solidified at the reactor bases or in the framework of the fuel assembly, according to the report...."

The Lemming could jump on that "believed to have," and opine on the wanton indifference, or capitalist greed, or something. But it's the Lemming's opinion that the acknowledged uncertainty indicates rather admirable candor.

One of the major differences between trouble in a nuclear reactor and a good old-fashioned fire in the woodshed, in the Lemming's opinion, is that what was left of the woodshed cooled down fairly fast - allowing someone to get in and look at the damage.

Fukushima's nuclear reactors will, eventually, 'cool down.' But it's going to take - quite a while. Back to that CNN article:

"...About 70% of the fuel rods in the No. 1 reactor have been damaged, the report states. In reactor No. 2, that figure is 30%, and in No. 3, 25%.

"In addition, the pools that house used but still-energetic spent fuel assemblies are an ongoing concern, [Atomic Energy Society deputy director Takashi] Sawada said. Hydrogen explosions blew apart the reactor buildings at units 1 and 2, while the No. 4 reactor building has been damaged by fires of still-unknown origin -- leaving the pools exposed to the environment.

" 'If there's water enough, there's no problem,' he said. 'But if some of the fuel is damaged, fission products will come out from those pools.'

"At the plant on Friday, efforts continued to drain highly radioactive water from the basements and service tunnels of the reactor units' turbine plants -- a necessary first step to restoring normal cooling systems. Japanese authorities drew the ire of fishermen and some of their country's neighbors by authorizing the dumping of thousands of tons of less-contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean last week...."

The Lemming posted about plutonium in the Pacific before. (April 4, 2011) Essentially, the Lemming is glad that he doesn't depend on fishing in that part of Japan's coast - but that the Pacific Ocean is big, and can most likely handle water from the Fukushima plant.

The water - water, mind you - dumped in the Pacific will be diluted to the tune of about 1.15 parts per 64,500,000,000,000.

On a planet that's endured periodic ice ages, massive volcanic events, and the occasional falling asteroid - the Lemming figures that the Pacific can handle it.

(See "Frail, Delicate Little Mother Nature?!" (December 20, 2009))

Does the Lemming care about the environment? Yes - and the Lemming's covering that topic in another blog. (A Catholic Citizen in America, "Environmental Awareness, Enlightened Self-Interest, and My Catholic Faith" (April 15, 2011))

Bottom line, about TEPCO, Japan, and folks who are picking up the pieces after the March 11, 2011, earthquake? The Lemming thinks that TEPCO's promised compensation is probably more than a token payment - and that the price tag is going to be a while lot higher.

Related posts:In the news:More:


prasad said...

All the people must be shifted to safety zone and take the necessary action to stop the radiation as early as possible they do not pour the water (radio active) into the sea and think another alternative to drop the water.

Brian Gill said...


The last I heard, the Japanese government had extended the exclusion zone, and announcing plans for the 'permanent' evacuation of a wide area around the Fukushima power plant. Permanent, that is, until the area once again becomes safe.

As for dumping the (mildly) tainted water - that, as described by several news services, was a one-shot, emergency, limited procedure: and has long since ended.

Anybody who's interested can keep up with current developments through Reuters (, BBC News (, or any of a host of other news services.

I've been updating a link list of posts dealing with Japan's 'March 11, 2011' situation: "Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of March 11, 2011: Posts ."

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