Monday, October 16, 2017

Was Flawed Kobe Steel Used in Construction of Japan's Troubled Rokkasho Plant?

Japan's Rokkasho plant has been under construction for years. Despite delayed time-lines, sky-rocketing costs, and a potentially active fault running under the site, the LDP has insisted on moving forward with Rokkasho, which will be one of the largest nuclear fuel "reprocessing" plants in the world (see Wikipedia).

Many nuclear authorities have called for the Rokkasho plant to be abandoned because Japan already has enough "reprocessed" plutonium to fuel MOX and nuclear warheads far into the future, as illustrated in this article:
Plutonium and Japan’s Nuclear Waste Problem: International Scientists Call for an End to Plutonium Reprocessing and Closing the Rokkasho Plant by Piers Williamson

[Excerpt] "Japan possesses around 40 tons of plutonium, which is enough to make five thousand nuclear warheads. Most of this plutonium is stored in France and Britain.5

... Prof. von Hippel concluded [his presentation on March 31, 2012] by making four suggestions:

1) Japan should end its breeder reactor programme. . . ."
The LDP in Japan refuses to halt the Rokkasho project because it has been explicitly linked to "national security," as I document and explain at this post:
Reprocessing nuclear fuel is very dangerous and so it is alarming to read that Rokkasho's operator has been routinely skipping safety checks for 14 years:
Japan Nuclear Fuel skipped safety checks at Rokkasho plant for 14 years ( Oct 12, 2017), The Japan Times,

Nuclear regulators concluded Wednesday that Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. violated legally binding safety rules by failing to conduct necessary checks for over a decade at its uncompleted spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the country’s northeast….

….The envisioned nuclear fuel reprocessing plant is a key component of the government’s nuclear fuel recycle policy, which aims to reprocess spent uranium and reuse extracted plutonium and uranium as reactor fuel….

… The authority also said holes and cracks at exhaust pipes found at Japan Nuclear Fuel’s uranium enrichment plant in September also violated safety rules. The defects had been undetected due to a lack of inspections.
Alarm is amplified when one considers the possibility that construction materials used at Rokkasho could be sub-standard given recently disclosed reports that Kobe Steel has been providing falsified quality certificates for steel sold for construction of NUCLEAR REACTORS, as reported widely in the media:
Leo Lewis and Emiko Terazono (2017, October 15). Kobe Steel scandal strikes another blow to Japan Inc. The Financial Times,

The most unsettling aspect of Kobe Steel’s data falsification scandal is not the scale of wrongdoing — more than 500 customers globally have so far been affected and the risk of litigation could crush the company’s finances — but the problem of familiarity, according to legal and academic experts. Kobe Steel’s self-discovered and self-declared crisis arises from selling materials used in planes, cars, rockets, trains and nuclear reactors with falsified quality certificates.
Reuters is reporting that steel with falsified quality certificates was delivered at Fukushima Daiini:
Yuka Obayashi October 15, 2017 As crisis at Kobe Steel deepens, CEO says cheating engulfs 500 firms. Reuters,

Nuclear power plant parts are the latest to join the list of affected equipment as Fukushima nuclear operator Tokyo Electric Power (9501.T) (Tepco) said on Friday it had taken delivery of pipes from Kobe Steel that were not checked properly.

The pipes were delivered to its Fukushima Daini station, located near the destroyed Fukushima Daiichi plant, but have not been used, Tepco said, adding it was checking all its facilities.

One wonders how much sub-standard fuel is built into the world's nuclear infrastructures?

My guess is that Japan is not alone in producing and disseminating sub-standard steel. For example, you can read here how counterfeit construction material has been "flooding" the US market for years (here).

The risks of nuclear are far higher than represented and now it appears that they are even higher.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Dear Aliens, Thanks but No Thanks, We're Better Off Without Your Technology

I'm a huge science fiction fan because the best of the genre projects our hopes and aspirations, as well as our fears and anxieties, in penetrating disclosures of the present.

Years ago, I read Isaac Asimov's essays about the probability of life on other planets. I see that his thoughts on this matter have been collected in a 2004 monograph ( here ).

Following Asimov's work from decades back, my thought was that there is probably life "out there" but the distance between solar systems precludes transportation, a conclusion that is pretty mainstream.

It is with this mental framework that I have approached UFO sightings and narratives.

However, over the last several years I've seen more official UFO "disclosures" by people formerly employed by the military and the defense industry.

I've pondered their stories, wondering whether the seeds of truth were limited to disclosure of contemporary Earth's concerns or whether they might bear fruit of a new kind.

I particularly enjoyed the narrative of Zero Point: The Story of Mark McCandlish and the Fluxliner, which chronicled the US reverse engineering of an alien craft that operates by exploiting zero point energy.

The narrative of zero point energy is seductive. Imagine unlimited energy awaiting release by an achievable technological innovation!

Wait! I've read this story before! It is the narrative of atomic energy that was carefully crafted in the 1940s and 1950s. Although atomic energy promised to cure disease, it has produced far more than it has cured. That is because rational administration of atomic energy was subordinated to human's demonstrable narcissism and homicidal tendencies.

Now we have a planet contaminated by artificially generated radionuclides whose chemical toxicity and radioactive decay undermine the forms and operations of life upon which we depend.

And we are on the verge of atomic warfare capable of destroying us all almost instantaneously, as evidenced by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists' Doomsday Clock that has us at two and a half minutes to midnight ( here ). There are, no doubt, other terrible technologies waiting to be unleashed by our military-security complexes.

I see a definite failure in learning occurring. We stake our salvation in technological innovations that are inevitably corrupted in application by our failings.

I cannot imagine that any disruptive new technology, borrowed or stolen from an advanced civilization, is going to change the historical narrative.

Last night I came across the latest extension of the UFO meta-narrative, disclosures by high-ranking former military officers and defense contractors. Disclosing individuals' credentials would seem to preclude pure fantasy:
Leslie Kean, (2017, October 10). Inside knowledge about unidentified aerial phenomena could lead to world-changing technology. Huffington Post, 

The authorities cited in the article are affiliated with the To the Stars Academy, described in this video:


There is an implicit optimism in the name of the academy that nobly seeks innovation, education, and the "growth of consciousness."

Would the mere disclosure of advanced alien life be enough to raise consciousness?

Or will the alien technology affect our transformation by eliminating scarcity, through the material applications of its disruptive technology, thereby enabling authentic human community?

The optimistic narrative codes the alien technology as messianic and presumes we're ready for the great transformation in human consciousness that ends our homicidal psychosis.

I love the narrative but its predictive value is very low when one examines patterns established over the last two hundred years.

And its predictive value for aliens is similarly problematically optimistic. In contradiction to the alien savior narrative, consider the implications of the "bad alien" narrative, which holds that humans were genetically engineered out of existing life on earth in order to serve as slave labor.

There are no guarantees that advanced alien life is beneficent, particularly if we happen to be located on a planet with desirable resources.

Accordingly, this post serves as a special plea to any aliens - good and bad - to take their technologies and go back home and let us resolve our greatest challenges of consciousness before arming us with still greater technologies.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

The Mighty and the Dispossessed

What does it mean to be dispossessed?

To be dispossessed means to lose rights to full citizenship. Dispossessed means to be outside of, or on the fringes of, economic and political systems structuring society.

In the US, a growing class of permanently dispossessed people is symptomatic of contradictions and structural failings that problematize dominant narratives of liberty and equality of opportunity (see here).

The nature of dispossession, the symptomology of structural failure, varies across time and space, but the dispossessed are everywhere and they are growing in number and outrage.

Although dispossession varies by country, there are some characteristic drivers of contemporary systems that produce dispossession in accelerating fashion.

One characteristic driver of dispossession is a corrupted legal system that fails to hold the world's most powerful entities - nation states and corporations - responsible for good governance. Legal scholar Rena Steinzor, author of Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance and Government Action, argues that contemporary deregulatory governance coupled with modest fines, rather than criminal settlements, enable and encourage reckless daily operations that pose catastrophic risks.[i]

Steinzor attributes deregulation to “hollow government,” defined as governance with weak legal authority, funding shortfalls that preclude appropriate regulatory implementation, and de-valuation of the civil services.

Hollow, or even predatory (as described by Galbraith here), governments fail to hold the world's most powerful agents fully accountable for conduct that destroys livelihoods and lives far too often. Today, The Asahi Shimbun argues this point, albeit indirectly, in on op-ed condemning failures in relief and learning in the wake of the Fukushima disaster:
EDITORIAL: Rulings show Fukushima relief falls short of reality of victims (October 12, 2017). The Asahi Shmbun,
Perhaps one of the most obvious failures in justice is the decision to end subsidies for people who are reluctant to return to environments contaminated with radioncuclides up to 19 times higher than before the accident. In April 2017, the LDP cut housing subsidies for “voluntary evacuees,” with Masahiro Imamura, who heads recovery for the Tohoku region, stating radiation refugees should assume “self-responsibility for their own decisions.”[ii]

This move to force people to return to areas measuring up to 20 millisiverts a year has been officially called into question by Anand Grover, UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health. His report voiced concerns regarding new elevated radiation exposure laws and inadequate oversight of health issues.[iii] In particular, Grover challenged the Japanese government’s decision to allow habitation in areas with up to 19 millisieverts a year of external radiation exposure and challenged the adequacy of health surveillance and treatment.

TEPCO returns to profitability having socialized its losses while General Electric walks away completely unscathed by a disaster predicted by engineering failures in its Mark I reactors.

Powerful corporations are not subject to the disciplining power of the markets they so adulate in public rhetoric.

Moreover, mighty, reified organizational entities, such as governments and corporations, are allowed to operate according to logics that are immune to the needs and welfare of the people and physical environments that sustain them.

In The Next Catastrophe, sociologist Charles Perrow describes how infrastructural risk is amplified by concentrations of energy (i.e., concentration of hazardous activities and facilities: e.g., Concentrations of dangerous substances in single locations), concentrations of populations, and concentrations of political and economic power, which concentrate energy and decision-making, encouraging “over-reach.”[i] Concentrated power tends to self-replicate, seeking to expand its resources and influence, although the means of replication are always shaped by historical, cultural, and economic particularities.

How can the mighty be made more responsive to the needs of others, rather than more insulated from them?

This question seems even more relevant now as disaster shock after disaster shock threaten to accelerate the production of dispossession at an unprecedented rate.

In the absence of state re-investment, disaster of every form produces more dispossessed. We will see this occur in Texas, Florida, and California in the wake of environmental catastrophes exacerbated by human disregard for the "natural."

Puerto Rico - where residents are still without power and where US citizens are represented by the media as filling water bottles at streams - illustrates how those on the outer circles of power can be thrust almost overnight into abject poverty.

But the flooding and fires also produce dispossession among the former middle-class as their limited insurance and job losses due to economic disruption preclude "recovery."

The world's mighty - its corporations and nation-states - have little time left to reverse course and heed the plight of their dispossessed, to become responsive to the needs of the systems they exploit for their operations.

To ignore the dispossessed is to fuel the fire that will ultimately extinguish the mighty, probably taking all of humanity down in the process.

[i] Rena Steinzor, Why Not Jail? Industrial Catastrophes, Corporate Malfeasance and Government Action (Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

[ii] Grover Anand (2012) UN Special Rapporteur on the Right of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical and Mental Health. Mr. Anand Grover: Country Visit to Japan, 15 to 26 November 2012. Available at (accessed 26 November 2012).

[iii] O'Connor Tom (5 April 2017). Japan's Fukushima Cleanup Minister Says Refugees from Nuclear Radiation Are on their Own. Newsweek. Available at (accessed 7 April 2017).

Fukushima: Dispossession or Denuclearization?

Majia's Blog: Dispossession

Majia's Blog: Dispossession: Liberalism's Crisis

Majia's Blog: Dispossession: Liberalism's Crisis Part III

Majia's Blog: Undoing Financial Regulation and the Evolving Neo ...

Majia's Blog: Neofeudal Lords and the Dispossessed

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

TEPCO Held Liable for Fukushima Disaster

(Material from this blog post has been adapted from my latest book Crisis Communication, Liberal Democracy and Ecological Sustainability).

The Japan Times is reporting that TEPCO was found liable for the Fukushima disaster in a case brought by citizens whose lives were terribly upended by the Daiichi meltdowns and spent fuel pool fire:
Government, Tepco ordered to pay ¥500 million in damages for Fukushima disaster. Kyodo [The Japan Times]
...[in] the second ruling of its kind in a series of group lawsuits filed nationwide. The Fukushima District Court ordered the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. to pay ¥500 million to about 2,900 of the 3,800 plaintiffs.... In the ruling, presiding Judge Hideki Kanazawa concluded that the government and Tepco are both to blame for failing to take steps to counter the risk of a huge tsunami caused by an earthquake, as they were able to foresee the risk based on an assessment issued in 2002.
TEPCO was responsible in many ways for the Fukushima disaster, but culpability extends beyond this single corporation and the government responsible for its regulation. I've explained in my post "nuclear governmentality" that the nuclear apparatus is unified by a set of common logics, technologies, protocols, authorities and value orientations that are global in operation (


Reactors 1 through 5 at the Fukushima Daiichi site were based on General Electric’s Mark I design. This design was declared flawed by two engineers from General Electric who resigned in 1975 after expressing concerns about potential containment failures, particularly in loss of cooling accidents. You can read more here:
Fukushima: Mark 1 nuclear reactor design caused GE scientist to quit in protest. (2011, March 15). ABC the Blotter. Available
General Electric’s poor reactor design likely contributed to the explosions that occurred at the Daiichi complex. Reactors like the ones that melted down in Fukushima are still operating in the US and elsewhere.

The nuclear industry is rendered immune from its culpability by limits on liability and by seemingly unconditional governmental support (a finding explained by the "security" logic of nuclear governmentality).

In Japan, the Atomic Energy Basic Law passed in 1955, the same year the LDP was formed, focused nuclear liability on plant operators (such as TEPCO), thereby absolving designers (e.g., GE). The law allowed for use of nuclear power for energy and created the Japanese Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute. It dictated control over fissile materials, measures for patented inventions, and radiation protections.

Article 21 of the law dictated compensation for nuclear accidents, although the law has been criticized for not specifying level of governmental responsibility.

The government of Japan has ultimately assumed responsibility for TEPCO's liabilities, although the corporation operates as a stand-in. TEPCO returned to profitability in 2013 having externalized most of its losses in a state-sponsored plan to offload liabilities:
 K. Ohira and M. Fujisaki (31 July 2012) ‘Taxpayers, Electricity Users Finance TEPCO Bailout’, The Asahi Shimbun,
TEPCO's 2016 Annual Report ( describes how the company has been dis-assembled into holding companies in its efforts toward renewed profitability.

In the US, Price–Anderson Nuclear Industries Indemnity Act limits liability, as you can learn here:

A rational assessment of cost and benefits must also address the risks posed by nuclear power.  The existence of an international nuclear liability convention points to the potential cataclysmic risks from nuclear power hazareds and demonstrates how decision-makers limit economic liability for the nuclear complex, allowing it to externalize full costs.

The Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC),[i] limits international liability for nuclear disasters by offering a uniform and limiting set of compensation standards for victims of nuclear disasters in impacted countries not the origin of the disaster. The convention also exonerates manufacturers, placing liability exclusively on operators. 

The convention essentially limits only the liability, but not the incalculable risks, from nuclear accidents. The externalities of international nuclear disasters are therefore primarily assumed by the exposed individuals. Although fixed costs and liabilities cannot be provided, it is possible to address actual and potential liabilities and risks from nuclear power.

In 2012 Japan expressed interest in joining the CSC after a February visit by U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy, Daniel Poneman.[ii] During the visit, a Japanese prime ministerial envoy “secretly promised” to Poneman that Japan would resume its pluthermal nuclear program, raising considerable controversy in Japan when leaked because of the dangers of plutonium enriched MOX fuel, as subsequently reported by The Mainichi :
A Japanese prime ministerial envoy secretly promised to the United States that Japan would resume its controversial "pluthermal" program, using light-water reactors to burn plutonium, according to documents obtained by the Mainichi. 
The secret promise was made by Hiroshi Ogushi, then parliamentary secretary of the Cabinet Office, to Daniel Poneman, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy, during Ogushi's visit to the United States on behalf of then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in September last year. The revelation comes as Japan's pluthermal project remains suspended in the wake of the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant disaster due to safety concerns. The fact that a Japanese official promised to the U.S. to implement such a controversial project without a prior explanation to the Japanese public is expected to stir up controversy.[iii]
Poneman advocating running Japan’s Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which had drawn safety concerns when, as mentioned previously, Japanese scientists announced finding a potentially active fault running through the site.[iv]

At a July 2012 press conference, Poneman implicitly endorsed plutonium-enriched MOX fuel production at Rokkasho as an important tool for reducing climate change and reducing Japan’s excessive plutonium stockpiles:
"Obviously what is done in the long term at Rokkasho is a decision for the Japanese people, the Japanese government to make," Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman said during a July 2012 press conference in Tokyo. 
He added that "to the extent that there would be paths forward for Rokkasho" that could avoid increasing Japan's stockpile of plutonium, "that would be a good thing." Poneman coupled this, however, with a public pitch for letting Japan use nuclear power to reduce carbon emissions, acknowledging that it is an important tool "for our friends and colleagues in Japan … who are very worried about climate change."[v] 
MOX fuel increases likelihoods of risks because of the increased heat and radiological contamination produced by its fissioning. Despited acknowledged risks, demonstrated empirically with the explosion at Fukushima Unit 3, Japan's Atomic Energy Commission endorsed continuing fuel recycling.

The Rokkasho plant construction is still underway, although also still delayed, as reported recently here

Despite this setback, Japan's Atomic Energy Commission remains a cheerleader for plutonium production at the very troubled Monju reactor, as part of the "national energy mix":
Associated Press (15 September 2017). Bucking public sentiment, Atomic Energy Commission backs nuclear power for national energy mix (Sep 15, 2017 ) 
The report also endorsed continuing the government’s ambitious pursuit of a nuclear fuel cycle program based on plutonium, despite a decision last year to scrap the experimental Monju reactor, the centerpiece of its plutonium fuel program, following decades of poor safety and technical problems. Japan faces growing international scrutiny over its plutonium stockpile because the element can be used to make atomic weapons.
Nuclear governmentality, the logic and code of conduct of the nuclear apparatus, operates autopoietically, closed to negative feedback.

Individual authorities within this apparatus are rewarded for their role reinforcing and extending nuclear governmentality.

Poneman’s role as a nuclear industry advocated was solidified when Poneman left the Department of Energy in 2015 to take on the role of CEO at Centrus Energy, formerly USEC, an enrichment processing facility.

The U.S. based Center for Public Integrity noted the nuclear industry’s revolving door relationship with the Department of Energy (DOE), observing that during Poneman’s approximate five year tenure at the DOE he approved or advocated hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts and subsidies to USEC.[vi]

U.S. pressure is just part of the big picture at Rokkasho and with nuclear in general in Japan. Nuclear energy and enriched fuel are part of Japan’s national security strategy, as has been publicly acknowledged by LDP representatives. Nuclear power is the gateway to nuclear weapons and rising geopolitical tensions breed anxious warriors. Unwavering support for nuclear power tends to coincide with nuclear-based conceptions of state security. Consequently, the nuclear energy complex is closely coupled in important ways with the military complex....


[i] T. Nakagawa (3 February 2012) ‘Japan Wants in On Nuclear Accident Compensation Pact’, The Asahi Shimbun,, date accessed 5 February 2012.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] “Japan made secret promise with U.S. to restart pluthermal nuclear program,” The Mainichi (June 25, 2013):

[iv] K. Hasegawa ‘Quake Risk at Japan Atomic Recycling Plant’, Pys.Org December 19 2012,–12-quake-japan-atomic-recycling-experts.html#jCp, date accessed 25 December 2012.

[v] Douglas Birch and R. Jeffrey Smith “Japan's Well-Placed Nuclear Power Advocates Swat Away Opponents,” NBC (March 12, 2014 )

[vi] Douglas Birch, (2015, May 13) Former Energy Department official wins huge pay raise after moving to firm with deep ties to DOE” Center for Public Integrity (May 13, 2015):

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fukushima Daiichi Earthquake October 2017 and Plant Conditions

Fukushima Daiichi's structures appear intact (at least above ground) and visible atmospheric emissions appear unaffected by Friday's earthquake, described below:
AP (2017, October 7). Strong quake shakes northeastern Japan, no danger of tsunami. The Asahi Shimbun,
Visible emissions on the TEPCO 1 webcam (first screenshot in linked document here) appear less than yesterday, while visible emissions on the TEPCO 4 webcam seem up a bit, particularly over the common spent fuel pool, but are not high by comparison to historical levels.

Of course, what appears on the webcams is a narrow slice of the leaking, spilling, belching phenomena occurring out of view at the plant. TEPCO has been reporting "unintended" contaminated water leaks pretty regularly over the last 6 years. Here are samples of latest reports:
Fukushima plant may have leaked radioactive water (2017, September 29). NHK
Tom O'Connor (Sep 29, 2017) Fukushima Nuclear Disaster: Radioactive Water May Have Been Leaking From Reactors for Months. Newsweek,
Here is a "blast from the past" on contaminated water production and leaks:
Radioactivity levels in Fukushima groundwater increase 47-fold over 5 days THE ASAHI SHIMBUN August 06, 2013

[excerpt] Radioactivity levels soared 47-fold over just five days in groundwater from a monitoring well on the ocean side of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the plant operator said Aug. 5…. TEPCO has been struggling to deal with the enormous amounts of water used to cool the damaged reactors and block the flow of contaminated water into the ocean. [end]

Fukushima is a contaminated water producing machine. Contaminants are concentrating in certain areas and organisms, with ominous implications for affected lives.

Perhaps you saw the new study reporting high concentrations of radioactive cesium in groundwater below sandy beaches miles from Fukushima at levels up to 10 times higher than cesium levels found in seawater in the Fukushima Daiichi harbor:
Scientists Find New Source of Radioactivyt from Fukushima Disaster (October 2, 2017). PhysOrg,
The scientists estimated that the amount of contaminated water flowing into the ocean from this brackish groundwater source below the sandy beaches is as large as the input from two other known sources: ongoing releases and runoff from the nuclear power plant site itself, and outflow from rivers that continue to carry cesium from the fallout on land…
The cesium levels in the groundwater were up to 10 times higher than the levels found in seawater within the harbor of the nuclear power plant itself. In addition, the total amount of cesium retained more than 3 feet deep in the sands is higher than what is found in sediments on the seafloor offshore of the beaches.
I remember the diagram of the nuclear melt-through at Fukushima allegedly posted by the Swiss embassy in Japan. This diagram has never been verified as authentic but its representation is consistent with the delays in fuel extraction and the very high radiation levels being reported in units 1 and 2: