☆☆☆☆☆ Special Post: "I Want You to Know What a Nuclear Plant Is" ☆☆☆☆☆
-- by Norio Hirai, Former piping specialist and supervisor of nuclear power plant construction in Japan for 20 years
☆☆☆☆☆ Signature collection has ended. Thank you to everyone for helping collect signatures to decommission nuclear power plants in Japan ☆☆☆☆☆
Thank you to everyone for helping collect signatures. A total of
81166 signatures were collected and submitted. We will end the
collection of signatures at this point.
Regarding the situation at Monju where in-vessel transfer equipment
fell into the reactor, work is in progress to pull out the equipment,
and the reactor is not in operation now.
The Noda administration will determine the direction for nuclear power by next summer in the Energy and Environment Council of the National Policy Unit. They are saying, "abandon dependence on nuclear power", but it is dubious. Everything depends on the Energy and Environment Council's decisions.
The Atomic Energy Commission is in deliberations regarding the overall nuclear power policy. However, in practice, decisions will not be made since the Energy and Environment Council has superiority.
Therefore, Monju will be stopped at least until the Energy and Environment Council's decisions have been made.
Chronologically, the events related to Monju are as follows.
November 20, 2011 A policy-proposing-type review was implemented in the Government Revitalization Unit. At this meeting, regarding Monju, a proposal was made including "a drastic review of whether or not to continue the program". Regarding the budget for Monju in 2012, "the 2.2 billion yen necessary for restarting operations should be cancelled".
November 26, 2011 State minister in charge of the nuclear crisis,
Goshi Hosono, said, "We have reached a turning point." "Considerations will include decommissioning the reactor."
December 13, 2011 Regarding the overall nuclear energy policy,
Masaharu Nakagawa, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, explained that the 2.2 billion yen adjustment expenses will not be appropriated for test operations at Monju next year. Test operations have not been cancelled, but in the case that test runs are conducted, expenses can be secured in a supplementary budget.
Monju is not in operation at this point and it is planned to be stopped for awhile, but we cannot be optimistic yet.
Although the Fukushima nuclear accident has not been brought to a
conclusion, and earthquakes of various intensities are occurring
throughout the country every day, nuclear reactors are still in
operation in Japan. (As of 2012-1-8, 6 reactors out of 55 were in
English translation of the book was published
This year, the English translation of the book was published as Beyond National Egoism - The Road to a Nation for International Peace and the Environment, and this English website was created.
I am writing this so that everyone can know how nuclear power plants operate in Japan and what the actual risks are. (1996)
I am not a "nukenik" (a hardened member of the anti-nuclear movement). In fact, I worked at nuclear power plant sites for twenty years. I want to write about nuclear power plants from a worker's perspective. Too often we conduct our debates about the pros and cons, dangers or safety systems involved with nuclear power without a true
grasp of the reality of an actual nuclear power facility. If you read this through to the end, you will come to see that nuclear power plants are quite different in reality than they are in the abstract.
1. I am not a `nukenik' (nix-all-nukes club).
2. "Safety" is only a desk plan.
3. Amateurs build nuclear power plants.
4. Inspectors and inspections are in name only.
5. Seismic designs of nuclear power plants are sloppy.
6. The periodical inspection & maintenance work are also done by amateurs.
7. The sea is polluted by runaway radioactive material.
8. Internal irradiation is the most terrifying.
9. The working environment at nuclear facilities is completely different from normal power plants
10. The five-hour brainwashing education about "Absolute safety"
11. Who will save you?
12. Mihama Nuclear Power Plant's Capillary Tube Rupture Accident
13. Major Monju Plant Accident
14 Is plutonium from Japan being used in French nuclear weapons?
15. Japan has no courage to drop out.
16. Nuclear power plants can neither be decommissioned nor dismantled.
17. Close, monitor, manage?
18. There is no effective way to deal with radioactive waste.
19. Residents are exposed to radiation & the plants foster terrible discrimination.
20. Can I give birth to a healthy child?
21. Peace of mind cannot coexist with nuclear power plants
1. I am not a member of `nukenik' (the nix-all-nukes club).
There are many people who write about the nuclear power plants designs, but there are few people who talk about actual construction and work involved in the building ofan actual plant. Without becoming familiar with the actual site work, one cannot know the truth about nuclear power plants.
I specialize in pipefitting work at plants, big chemical manufacturing factories. I was scouted toward the end of my twenties to build a nuclear power plant in Japan, and I engaged in nuclear power plant construction. Had I been an ordinary worker, I would still have known only a little about the design strengths and weaknesses even after many decades of plant construction work. However, I was employed as a foreman at several nuclear sites, so I came to know many aspects about nuclear power plants in Japan.
2. "Safety" is only a desk plan
When the Great Hanshin Earthquake occurred on January 17, last year (1995), the voice of concern about "the danger of earthquake destroying nuclear power plants" was raised by many. People worried if these plants are really okay during earthquakes. From my experience I would,however, have to report that they are never `okay.' The government and power companies stress the safety of these plants, having 'earthquake-proof' designs and being built on solid rock foundations, but these are only desk plans.
The day after the earthquake, I travelled to Kobe and was forced to rethink our nuclear plant designs for Kanto as there are so many common points with nuclear power plants in the Kansai region. Before the Hanshin Earthquake none thought that the elevated bullet train rails might fall or that `earthquakeproof' raised highways of Japan would
come tumbling down.
The general public in Japan tends to think that our nuclear power plants, bullet train lines, highways and other key infrastructure are strictly inspected by government inspectors. But, inside the concrete piers of the bullet train railways we found (after the quake) that wooden frameworks had been left out, the steel pillars of the highways were defective with very poor weldings. At first glance, it looked like they had been welded, but on actual post-quake inspection it was clear that only superficial welding had occurred as the `welded sections' all separated at the welding point.
In high-tech Japan how could such a thing have happened? The root of these infrastructure problems lies in the fact that the stress on safety stops at the design table.
There is very little oversight or outside inspection of the actual construction work; controls and self-inspections at worksite are often nonexistent.
3. Amateurs build nuclear power plants
While I hate to say it, the truth is that amateurs build nuclear power plants. Time has revealed that there are many errors in the construction of nuclear plants in Japan: wire in the reactor, tools and instruments in piping, etc. This is due to the lack of professional craftsmen at the construction sites. Plant construction work is often not done accurately, according to the designs, even when these original paper designs are well thought out.
The discussion of designs at the architect's table takes for granted that professional craftsmen with the highest abilities will be employed, but this is never the case at the actual construction site. During this design phase I have never heard any discussion about how the actual site work will proceed.
The reality is that our nuclear power plants, and in fact all of our key infrastructure sites, are built by amateurs. Even the so-called `inspectors' are often poorly trained. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that during an earthquake or other extreme event, our nuclear power plants, bullet train lines and highways are actually quite likely to have major problems.
In general Japanese nuclear power plant design is excellent with a double, and triple, multiple protections to stop operation during any accident. This stops at design stage.
Attention to design goes all wrong during the construction phase of the process.
Suppose you build your own home. Even if you have it designed by a fine, first class architect, if carpenters' and plasterers' abilities are inferior, you will still experience leaks and defective fittings, etc. This is, unfortunately, the stark reality of Japanese nuclear power plants.
There was always the group leader called Boushin (stick heart) professional craftsmen with more experience than younger workers. These craftsmen strictly supervised workers at key construction sites a generation ago. Professional craftsmen had pride in their work; they were shameful of accidents or poor work, and everyone was well aware of how a terrible accident could occur. Since a decade or so ago, professional craftsmen have virtually disappeared from the construction sites in Japan. Complete amateurs are sought out with pleas of `no need of experience.' Amateur workers are much less aware of how terrible an accident at a nuclear facility could become. This is the present reality of our nuclear power industry.
For example, the TEPCO Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant was operating with a stray wire in the nuclear reactor. If things had gone wrong, an accident involving the whole world could easily have occurred. In fact we were only a step away. The worker who had dropped the stray wire into the reactor had no recognition of how great an accident
this might cause. Not only aged nuclear power plants which are dangerous, but also new nuclear power plants are dangerous from this reason that they are built by amateurs.
Since professional craftsmen have become scarce, construction work became more dependent on manuals so that amateurs can do the work. This dependency on manuals means not to work on the drawings, but to match factory-assembled products, matching No.1 with No. 1, No.2 with No.2 - like toy woodblock building. Then, they just build up blocks not knowing what kind of work they are doing and how important their work is.
This is one reason of that accidents have happened repeatedly.
In addition, the nuclear power plants are the work place where successors cannot be raised due to the radiation exposure. The actual plant sites are dark and hot. It is very hard to talk with each other while wearing protection masks, allowing only basic gestures with the hands and bodies. Thus, correct technique cannot be taught. The so-called sure-handed people, having used up the yearly allowable radiation exposure, can no longer enter inside the reactors. Thus the need for even more amateurs doing the actual work.
Also, for example, professional welders often get their eyes damaged. At only 30 years of age, they often are unable to work on delicate jobs. Then, they, incapable of working in petroleum plants abundant in delicate jobs, would want to go with the jobs at nuclear power plants, even with lower pay.
You may have the conception that nuclear power plants are technically built at a very high level, but in reality it is not what you are imagining not so high class. Cost controls have dictated that amateurs' build out nuclear power plants, and things have really gotten out of control.
4. Inspectors and inspections are in name only.
There are people who say that even without professional craftsmen to build nuclear power plants, strict inspection should ensure that things are running smoothly and safely.
But, these inspections are a big part of the problem. The Japanese way of inspection is to inspect the completed products. This is a poor approach. The important point of inspection is in watching the actual construction processes.
If the inspector has no ability to actually demonstrate welding skills, for instance, showing directly "not that way, but this way. Watch how I do it. You must do it in this manner." Without such concrete abilities, no genuine site inspection can be done.
Without such abilities, no inspectors can do true inspections. Giving certificates by just listening to the explanations of manufacturers and construction companies and seeing documents is the reality of today's bureaucratic inspection. We do not need any more "bureaucratic inspections."
When there were too many nuclear power plant accidents, the Cabinet decided to dispatch operation management specialists to nuclear power plants. They are officials who issue permissions for new plants and conduct periodical inspections. When I was in the industry I knew that most of these officials were amateurs, but did not realize how just incompetent most of them actually are.
Once when I was lecturing in Mito, someone in the audience said, "I'm really shameful, but I'm quite an amateur," clearly mentioning his position as one of the Science and Technology Agency (STA) staff. The man said, "We never sent our staff to the plant site fearing radiation exposure. With the good opportunity of administration reform, there were many surplus officials in the Ministry of Farming and Fishing Industries. So, we sent those people who had been engaged in guidance in sericulture and yellowtail farming until yesterday to the plants as professional inspectors the next day. Such persons as these were issuing power plant operating licenses as professional inspectors. The professional at the Mihama
Nuclear Power Plant (X N56) was a person in charge of inspecting rice three months ago." Can we trust the operating licenses issued by such bureaucrats?"
When the TEPCO's Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant had a major accident, the ECCS (emergency core cooling system) was activated, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported that
"The plant inspector was outside the facility resting in the shade under a mosquito net." Thus the person officially in charge came to know from the newspaper that the nuclear power plant under his oversight had actually had a major accident. Why didn't the staff at the plant alert the official as to what was happening? Because the power company knew that the official was quite an amateur, they decided it was best in an
emergency to leave the official outside the loop, not taking the trouble to explain the situation, which would have been rather like trying to teach a child amidst the turmoil like serious fire.
The Nuclear Inspection Association is full of such unreliable, uninformed, ill-trained personnel. Because this association is the first parachute place of retirees of MITI
(Ministry of International Trades and Industries), the bureaucrats who land here are quite out of their field. Such persons have the power of inspecting all of the nuclear power construction work. Thus, nothing proceeds unless one of them gives his ok, even if he knows nothing about inspection. So, inspection means his going to see things. Andyet he has a great authority. Under him is the power company, and under which are three reactor manufacturers, Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi. I was with Hitachi. Under these manufacturers are construction companies. In actuality, above and below the manufacturers are all amateurs. So, the details of nuclear power plant accidents are not known by electric power companies, but only by manufacturers.
During my active time and even after leaving the industry, I have been advocating the establishment of a genuine inspection institution to carry out true inspections, independent from MITI, as they promote nuclear power, and appointing an inspector with long experience with pipefitting, and so on, able to inspect and instruct and to notice any poor welding or other deficient work. But nothing has been changed. In this respect, the Japanese government administration on nuclear power is irresponsible.
5. Seismic designs of nuclear power plants are sloppy
After the Great Hanshin Earthquake, the review of the seismic design of nuclear power plants was published in September. But the scandalous verdict was revealed by sweeping proclamations like, "All nuclear power plants are deemed to be safe with any foreseeable earthquake." As long as I was involved, the early nuclear power plants were not seriously concerned about the threat of earthquakes. It is unbelievable to simply declare that all the old and the newer plants are the same and that they are all safe.
In 1993, the No. 1 reactor at Onnagawa Plant automatically shut down due to the
sudden output jump up due to the earthquake of about the magnitude 4. This accident was a serious one. The reason why it was serious is that this plant was constructed in 1984 to shut off only when magnitude 5 was reached. An easy way to understand what happened is to think like this: a car was able to stop using an emergency braking system, but the ordinary braking system was not working while driving on a highway. At the time the Tohoku Power Company said that it was good that the plant shut off, but it is not that simple. The fact is that it stopped at m-4 despite having been designed to stop at m-5. This means that there is the possibility of not stopping at m-5. In other words, it is a clear manifestation that many things are not working to design specifications.
An abnormal shut off during a minor earthquake happened at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in 1987. There are ten similar nuclear power plants in Japan. Isn't this really a terrifying thing to realize? These plants are not performing to design specifications during minor earthquakes. What will happen if we are hit by a large one? It is terrible for me to even think about this mix of earthquakes and nuclear power plants together.
6. Periodical inspection and maintenance work are also done by amateurs.
Nuclear power plants must be shutdown and inspected after a year or so of operation.
This process is called `teiken' (teiki-kensa: periodical inspection). Inside of a nuclear reactor the atmospheric pressures reach 70-150 psi. Also high pressure water or steam at temperatures as high as 300°C violently flow through the pipes of a nuclear power facility. This sometimes causes a pipe's thickness to decrease by as much as half the
original specifications. Such pipes or valves must be replaced with new ones. This necessary upkeep always involves radiation exposure for the workers.
Once nuclear power plants are put into operation, the internal operation areas become filled with radiation and radiation beams. People are working exposed to such radiation and radiation beams. When they go into such area, they take off their regular clothes and change to the protective clothing. Protective clothing sounds like the clothes protect the body from radiation, but this is not the case. Alarm meter measuring the amount of radiation is attached to the vest in the clothing. In truth, these suits are simply work clothes that are contained at the plant so that radiation is not transported outside. These suits do very little to protect workers from radiation. So, after doing the repairs, workers must become strip-down to be checked for the extent of their radiation exposure. If radiation is detected on their bodies (external irradiation which can to some extent be washed away), they must be thoroughly washed in strong showers until the radioactivity approaches zero. Only then are the workers permitted to leave the plant.
Also, they must change from their shoes to "safety shoes." Unfortunately these typically do not fit very well making it more difficult to position themselves firmly while doing the important work. In addition, they must put on hooded masks and enter the irradiated work area looking quite strange.
By my estimates more than 95% of these workers are completely amateurs. For example, farmers and fishermen work at the nuclear plants doing this type of repair work during the off- season (typically winter). This type of work is known in Japan as `dekasegi' ("day labor," or literally "emigrant earners"). In Japan such persons with no technical experience and no knowledge of the true dangers do this work.
For instance, in the simple process of screwing bolts down, I instructed countless workers to, "Tighten the bolts diagonally, or they will leak." But, the site is filled with radioactivity, particularly in the "radiation control areas." They enter these areas, turning their alarm meters on. The allowable work time differs according to the specific location within the plant, each which has a different amount of radiation. Under such
circumstances every minute, even every second counts. This puts a real premium on speed, rather than thoroughness.
Before entering into the site, the length of the work day is determined. The time is decided by the allowable radiation amount per day. If the site is allowing 20 minutes work, the alarm is set at 20 minutes. I always strictly instructed my workers to "Comeout of the site, when your alarm goes off." But the radiation quickly ruins most watches and clocks so they must just depend on their alarm units and their own guts.
Within the irradiated area, these day labor's attention is always only on the time remaining. Sometimes a single bolt could take as much as 10 or 15 minutes to bolt properly into place (concerned about the time elapsed, not this much of time to place a bolt). In such cases the workers are afraid of the time-limit alarm going off. These alarm gives an extraordinarily jarring sound, "BEEP BEEP!". When you hear it the first time, the blood will surely drain from your face. No one can understand the pressure and the sound of these time-limit alarms without actually experiencing the true situation in the plants. When the alarm goes off -- "BEEP" -- you are already contaminated with radiation to an amount equal to tens of X-rays. Under such circumstances do you think that you could ensure that each of your bolts was screwed down diagonally? So you would be satisfied if the damned bolt was just screwed down in some sort of fashion.
The point is to get to the next one before your alarm goes off. (This is not mentioned and meant.) Inevitably some bolts are left quite loose. You would be right to ask, what happens then...
7. The sea is polluted by runaway radioactive matters
Periodical inspection and repair work are often done in the winter time. After these periodical inspections, tens of tons of contaminated water are dumped into the sea.
Honestly speaking, there are almost no fish caught around the Japanese islands that we can be assured are safe. The truth is that most of the sea around the Japanese coast is contaminated by some level of radiation.
It is not only at the time of periodical inspections that contaminated water containing high levels of radioactivity is released. All nuclear power plants emit enormous amounts of heat. In Japan these reactors are cooled with sea water, and the warm waste water contaminated by some level of radioactivity is dumped back into the sea. Tens of tons of low-level irradiated water are returned to the sea per minute.
Even when nuclear power plant accidents have occurred, prefectural governments have hurriedly issued safety announcement, and power companies try to hide the facts.
On top of this, the general population has too little concern for the environment, and the sea around the coasts of Japan is left contaminated.
The protection clothing the workers wear is bathed in radioactive particles. When these cloths are washed, the radioactive particles end up in the sea near the plant. We know that when measurements at the disposal outlets are taken, the level of radioactivity is enormous. In such places, fishing often continues. People who are looking for safe food (all of us) should understand these things and have greater concern regarding thereleases from these nuclear power plants. Going forward will we be able to choose food that is uncontaminated by radioactivity?
At the briefing meeting of the judicial injunction of stopping the Shiga nuclear power plant in Ishikawa Prefecture a few years ago, an old woman, a travelling merchant almost 80 year old, told her story: 'I don't known anything about nuclear power plants so far. Today, I took kelp and sea weeds to my customer. The young housewife there said, "I'm sorry, but we cannot buy from you any more. It's finished with today, because the Shiga nuclear power plant started its operation." I do not know anything about nuclear power plants, but I can no longer sell my kelp.
What should I do?' The woman was at a loss. The sea around Japan is continually being contaminated by radioactivity with little notice.
8. Internal irradiation is the most frightening
All things turn into radioactive matters in the nuclear power plant building. All things become radioactive matters and start emitting radiation, because radiation penetrates through everything, even thick iron. Radiation exposure outside the plant is scary, but that on the inside is the most terrifying (It is not about the inside of the building, but
inside the body).
Dust and dirt existing anywhere — they are irradiated and become radioactive material, flying about in a nuclear plant. When this radioactive dust enters into the mouth and nose, they cause internal irradiation, which is much more dangerous than external exposure. Among work in the nuclear power plants, cleaning and putting things in order cause the most internal irradiation. This internal irradiation is far more dangerous than external irradiation, because it irradiate directly from inside your body.
Radioactive particles entering the body eventually come out with sweat and urine, usually in about three days time. Radioactive matters remain in the body three days or so. Coming out in a few days is only in human standards and it does not become completely zero. This is terrifying. Even small amount, they accumulate.
It is quite natural that anyone who took tour at a nuclear power plant finds the visit places are kept quite clean and guides would boastfully declare, "It's clean, isn't it?" If they don't keep clean, it becomes dangerous with radioactive matters.
I have undergone internal radiation exposure on more than one hundred occasions and naturally I got cancer. When I heard that I had the `sentence of cancer,' I was really terrified of dying and considered what I should do. But I remembered my mother always saying, "Nothing is greater than death." Then, I would do something before I die. I thought I would make all that I know about the actual operations at nuclear facilities clear to the public.
9. The working environment at nuclear facilities is completely different from normal
power plants (or from any work place)
Radioactivity effect accumulates gradually. Even in small amounts, it keeps accumulating. If ten years passes then ten year's worth of radioactivity accumulates and the total level of radiation keeps increasing in the affected area. This is terrifying. The management of radiation in Japan is not to exceed 50 mSv per year — `if this limit is not exceeded then things are ok.' This is the attitude.
For example, the periodical inspection work requires about three months. If that figure is divided by the number of days, we get the allowable amount per day. Where there is high radioactivity, only five or seven minute work is allowed. Because such short work times are not productive, the workers often must work time frames that deliver three days maximum amount radioactivity, or even one week's amount of radiation, in a single shift. This scheduling method should never be allowed, but ten minute or twenty minutes work is just too short to get things done. This approach is definitely causing leukemia and cancer in the plant workers, but the power companies never have much to say about this fact.
Once I experienced a big, critical screw loosening on a machine during the operation of the nuclear power plant. As the radioactivity is enormous within an operating plant, I prepared 30 people for the task to fix it. They stand in line and run to the screw about 7m away upon my, "Set, Go!" Within the duration of counting one, two, three, the alarm meter sets off "BEEP!" Someone among them even used up his time by just running and looking for the spanner. Only tightening the screw one thread, two threads and three threads, required 160 persons, and amounted to 4,000,000 yen in salary.
"Why don't they stop plant operation and repair the problem?" you may wonder, but it costs hundreds of million yen to stop the operation for even one day. This is a great loss, so power companies attempt to avoid shutting down the plant at all costs. Radiation is very dangerous, but our utility companies are choosing profits over human life. This is just the facts of the matter.
10. The five-hour brainwashing education about "Absolute safety"
Those who work with radioactive materials in Japan are called "radiation workers."
Radiation workers in Japan number about 270,000, most of these are workers at nuclear power plants. Those people are supporting the industry working for periodical inspection work per year, etc. exposed to radiation day after day.
Radiation control education is given to those who start their work at nuclear power plants. This "education" consists of about five hours of information. The greatest objective of this education is removing the worker's anxieties. The workers are never taught that nuclear power plants are dangerous. Their five hour `education' consists ofbeing told: "You are completely okay under the radiation controls established by the
government. So, work with ease of mind. Some anti-nuclear extremists may say that radiation causes cancer and leukemia, but such stories are just a big lie, completely untrue. If you observe the regulations determined by the government, it is absolutely safe to work here."
Power companies also provide this "safe nuclear power" brainwashing, to the people living in the surrounding region, hosting celebrity lectures, cooking classes among circles, sending fine color printed flyers in newspapers. Unfortunately people are easily brainwashed by this safety propaganda and the necessity of the plants is sold with lines like, "no more nuclear power plants equals no more electricity."
I myself participated in this "brainwashing education." In retrospect this is mind control worse even than Asahara's adventures with the cult followers of Aum Shinri-kyou (the group that released poison gas in Tokyo's Subway System). As a person in charge of a nuclear work site for almost twenty years, I don't know how many people I killed with this brainwashing. People often ask me if the workers at work sites feel
anxious, but they don't feel anxious, because they are never told about the actual dangers and the effects of exposure to radiation. Even if they feel in poor health, they seldom link this to their work at the nuclear power plants. And yet all workers get irradiated everyday. The work of the supervisors is to ensure that the workers remain ignorant of the actual dangers they are exposed to.
Since I have been engaged in such dirty work for two decades, many of my current days are unbearable. I am dependent on the power of alcohol — ever increasing the amount of it. More and more often I tended to ask myself. More and more, I question why, and for whom, should I spend my remaining days continuing to tell these lies.
When I noticed what was actually happening to me mentally and physically, my body was completely destroyed by irradiation after twenty years of nuclear power plant labor.
I cannot change that, but I can change the lies.
11. Who will save you?
There was an accident where the site worker at the Fukushima nuclear power plant of TEPCO was injured terribly by cutting his forehead by a grinder. His injury was a very serious one with a large loss of blood. So, we took him out of the plant and to a hospital by the ambulance. This injured worker was still covered by radioactive particles. There was no time to clean him properly. The power company in haste did not even have time to strip him from his contaminated, protection clothing, and there was no time to shower, of course. The ambulance rescuers had no knowledge about this radiation contamination, so the injured person was carried out to the local hospital without cleansing. Thus,rescuers who touched him were contaminated; the ambulance was contaminated, doctors, nurses and other patients whom the nurses touched, all were contaminated. The patient went out into the city, and spread contamination. When this news got out the whole town panicked. Everyone was desperate to save the greatly injured and bleeding person by all means. They completely could not see the radiation -no one noticed that the person was contaminated.
Even one person can cause such a great upheaval. So, if a big accident occurs and lots of people are contaminated all at once, what will happen? Can you imagine it? This is not a matter for others to consider. It's the matter of the whole nation of Japan must face.
12. Mihama Nuclear Power Plant Capillary Tube Rupture Accident
Japanese nuclear power plants have already produced a number of serious accidents. I think this is because few people grasp the actual risks that are being taken at these facilities. We have already had major accidents that are comparable to those of Three Mile Island or even Chernobyl. The major rupture accident of the recirculation pump at
the TEPCO's Fukushima number 2 facility in 1989 was the first such accident at a nuclear power plant.
Unfortunately this serious accident was followed by a capillary tube rupture at Kansai Electric's Mihama Power Plant, in February of 1991. This was a major accident that released a large amount of radiation directly into the atmosphere and the ocean.
I was not so surprised by the Chernobyl accident, because I was engaged in building nuclear plants and I supposed that such an accident would inevitably happen somewhere.
So at the time I thought, `Ah, by chance it happened at Chernobyl, not in Japan.' But still at the time of the Mihama accident, I found that I was totally astonished. When I learned of the news my legs were shaking so much that I could not rise from my chair.
This accident was a major one, because ECCS (emergency core cooling system) was manually operated and thus stopped the nuclear power plant. The ECCS is the last resort to protect the safety of nuclear power plants. If this does not work, that is the end of the critical cooling process. So, the Mihama accident where ECCS was manually operated was a major accident like a highway bus carrying a hundred of millions of people running at 100km/h speed with both pedal and emergency brakes not working, and hitting a cliff to finally stop.
They were on the verge of the radiation contaminated water in the nuclear reactor flowing into sea and the furnace burning without water. In Japan high-tech multiplex protection of safety valves did not work correctly and we were on the verge of a Chernobyl type incident. This took place on Saturday, but a veteran worker happened to be there at the time. On his instant judgment, he opted to manually override the
automatic safety system, thus saving Japan from a major accident that could have involved the whole world. This was really a lucky day for all of the Japanese people, and really all the people in this world of ours.
This accident occurred because a metal piece to be fitted to a capillary tube of about 2 mm to dampen vibrations (from thousands of tubes) was not machined correctly (not correctly fitted. It was really construction work mistake.). It was a basic design mistake in the construction of the plant. This error was not found even by scores of years' periodical inspections. What does this tell us? It was thus an accident that clearly
revealed the sloppiness of the periodical inspection system. This was an accident that also reveals the unbelievable practices going on at nuclear construction sites, such as the cutting and discarding if too long of piping, and simply pulling things to make them fit if they happen to be too short. These sorts of practices are not dreamed of by the designers.
13. Major Monju Plant Accident
The Monju of PNC (Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation) in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, was the site of a major accident involving a sodium leak on December, 8 of last year (1995). This accident at the Monju Plant was not the first one, rather this site saw repeated accidents. I was called on to consult with the supervisors on six occasions during this plant construction. The reason I was called on is that my former workers are now in supervisory positions at Monju, working as the plant director, manager, professional craftsmen. These former workers called me when troubles arose.
At the time I had been already retired, but of course, I did what I could to avoid a future nuclear accident. Once an accident is ongoing, it can never be put back in the bottle.
On one occasion, I received a phone call urging me to, "Please come, as the piping never fits correctly." I went and checked on the piping. In fact all the ready-made pipes and specially ordered pieces were in accordance with drawings. Still, they just didn't fit tightly. I tried to explore out all kinds of reasons, but I could not isolate the problem.
After an overnight deliberation with the key parties (his independent intent search came to this finding), at last I figured it out. The reason was that there were small differences in the standards being used among different subcontractors. Monju was built by the patchwork group of companies: Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, Fuji, etc.
In drawing diagrams, Hitachi, where I belonged, truncated 0.5 mm, Toshiba and Mitsubishi rounded 0.5mm up, Japanese Atomic Research Institute devalued 0.5mm. If 0.5mm differences in the tolerances of many pipes are added up, they end up making very significant differences. So, even though figures and lines were correctly matched, the pipes still didn't fit.
This was a very serious problem. So, I ordered that all the pipes be reproduced. As the prestige of the nation depended on it, money was liberally spent.
The reason why such problems arise has a lot to do with the know-how and the secrecy of various sub-contractors. Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, Fuji, etc, did not discuss how to unify their various standards, rounding up or cut out 0.5mm. The temperature sensor that caused the Monju accident also may well be an item that was not discussed over among the various manufacturers.
Any plant piping has temperature sensors attached, but I have never seen such a long one. Probably someone noticed the danger there at the construction stage, but it was left untouched, because it was some other company's problem and not a problem created by the company in question (companies not doing the job). This sort of thinking can quickly lead to disaster.
The PNC itself is a patchwork group of dispatched workers from different companies.
Manufacturers make up a patchwork group. This situation naturally creates differences that can lead to accidents. To my eyes it seems strange, if accidents don't happen. With this state of affairs, accidents are only a matter of natural course.
Yet even for such serious accidents as these, the government does not call them "accidents." The government always labels these accidents as "events." In the same way as at Mihama nuclear power plant accident, officials said "an event took place."
After that accident I was called and so went to Fukui's Prefectural Council. There are over fifteen reactors there, which were fostered by Liberal Democratic Party members. I used to say to them, "You are to blame, if any accident happens. Those who have been opposed have no responsibility." This time, I was called by the very politicians who had been pushing for these reactors. They consulted me saying, "We have made extreme efforts to fight with the PNC. So, let us know what to do now."
So first of all, I said, "This is an accident. An ACCIDENT! You should not be fooled by euphemisms such as 'event." The PNC person began his report to the prefectural assembly, "This event was ...," I interrupted, "It's an accident, isn't it?!"
"Accident!" shouted the lawmakers in the TV broadcast. If they remained quiet, the accident was regarded as a mild "event." Not only the prefectural authorities, but the whole nation must not be fooled by such a light word as "an event."
For the average people, an "accident" and an "event" have quite a different ring. The Japanese government is always choosing words carefully, replacing "accident" with "event," etc. Therefore the Japanese people have little sense of depth of our crisis regarding the safety of our nuclear power plants.
14. Is plutonium from Japan used in French nuclear weapons?
The plutonium used at Monju plant is extracted in France through a reprocessing system at the request of Japan. This reprocessing retrieves plutonium produced in the uranium fuel that is burnt in nuclear power plants that use uranium. The plutonium is not naturally occuring, rather it is an artificially created byproduct of uranium fission.
The Monju plant makes use of about 1.4 tons of plutonium. The atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki is said to have contained about 8 kg. Think for a moment about how many atomic bombs could be made with the plutonium that is being used at the Monju Plant. Moreover, plutonium is a highly toxic substance, even a trace of it causes lung
cancers. With an average life of 25,000 years, it continues to produce radioactivity permanently. It was appropriately named after Pluto, the King of Hell. As you can see plutonium is among the most dangerous substances found on this planet.
Furthermore few people realize that there is a possibility that Japanese plutonium was used in French nuclear test in the South Pacific last year (1995). The reprocessing plant in France does not distinguish between nuclear weapon use and nuclear power plant use. So there is almost no doubt that plutonium reprocessed at the French plant, designed to supply fuel to Japanese nuclear industry, was also used in these nuclear tests (the uranium used and produced in Japan was processed and used for the nuke test).
For these reasons Japan seemed unable to clearly say "No" to the French nuclear tests in the Pacific. If Japanese government wanted to prevent these nuclear tests, there was a simple solution. It would have sufficed to stop the reprocessing contract. But our officials opted not do that.
Of all the trade between France and Japan this reprocessing of plutonium accounts for second most valuable item on the international accounting ledgers. Without a clear understanding of this critical fact, it is of no use for our government (not only government, but all people) to simply declare: "We are against all nuclear testing; absolutely against it." While we say we are the only A-bombed people, plutonium produced for Japan ("in" Japan — for Japan cannot be used for the nuke test) must surely have irradiated the Tahitian people with radioactivity and contaminated the sea with radioactivity.
Much of the world has turned away from nuclear power production, but Japan is still trying to produce electricity this way (with such a terrible thing as plutonium). Now our government is trying to go ahead with the so-called Plu-thermal process burning a mixture of uranium and plutonium fuels (MOX fuel). This is an extremely dangerous
development. To put it in easy to understand illustration, it is like you burn gasoline in kerosene heaters. The original design of the nuclear power plants is not intended to burn plutonium fuel. The nuclear fission power of plutonium is magnitudes of difference from uranium. That's why plutonium is used as the power source in nuclear bombs.
It is too cruel to follow this path, even if our country lacks petroleum resources. If we do not stop this plan to use plutonium in our nuclear power plants, then it is more likely that nuclear-bomb victims and nuclear-bomb tests victims are in our collective future.
15. Japan has no courage to drop out
The era of nuclear power has spread over many parts of the world. The U.S.A., the most advanced country in regard to nuclear power plant design, announced in February (1996) plans to halve the number of nuclear power plants in the United States by 2015. A presidential decree also mandated that research into using plutonium in civilian power plants be halted. The U.S. has thus cancelled all research in such a scary method of producing power.
Not only the U.S., but also the U.K. has now stopped using plutonium in fast-breeder reactors, such as the Monju plant. Germany stopped plutonium reactors entirely, converting one nuclear site into a resort park. The whole world knows that it is impossible to generate electricity with plutonium safely, and so plutonium reactors are now unusual. The Japanese government must have realized that its plutonium power plans have been shown to be a "failure." However, the powers that be in Japan will not alter course, and it looks like plutonium power plants will continue in our future.
The reason why Japanese government does not alter its plans is that government bureaucrats and politicians have no courage to stop something once a decision has been made and a precedent has been established. This is a very dangerous tendency. The Japanese political establishment seems unable to stop anything halfway. All of us in Japan can think of countless such examples.
In any case Japanese nuclear policy is fundamentally irresponsible. Japan did not plan for the future since the start of nuclear power era. Matters that were inconvenient to consider were just left for future generations. Such an irresponsible approach has been taken by our utilities and politicians. Many decades have now passed in this manner. But now that nuclear waste is piling up, there will come a point where we are forced to do something.
One positive development is that until now there have been many departments of nuclear engineering at our top universities, these departments are now under considerable stress as they are having difficulties recruiting good students. Many young Japanese engineers, even at the University of Tokyo, are abandoning departments of nuclear engineering in favor of other lines of study. In Japan the number of students for nuclear design are in decline.
Also, the number of employees assigned to the nuclear power departments at Hitachi and Toshiba, have decreased to one third of their former numbers. Some of these engineers have been transferred to gas turbine departments for co-generation (efficient power plants producing electricity and hot water at the same time). Many of Japanese reactor manufacturers appear now to view nuclear power as an industry of the past.
Shimamura Takehisa, who had retired from the position of the head of the Nuclear Power Bureau, says in his book, Talks on Nuclear Power, "What the Japanese government is doing is simply making both ends meet. It is not at all lack of electricity. It is because it came to possess too much uranium and plutonium with no planning for these materials. Because it could not clearly say, "No," it wasforced to possess them. Then, some in the world suspected that Japan might actually desire to make nuclear weapons. To allay that suspicion, it had to demonstrate the peaceful use of nuclear materials. That is, the Japanese bureaucracy felt forced to develop more nuclear power plants."
16. Nuclear power plants can neither be decommissioned nor dismantled
The first commercial nuclear reactor of 160,000 kw in Japan, which was imported from England, started its operation in Tokai-mura, Ibaraki Prefecture in 1966. Then, nuclear reactors were imported from the U.S., and thence after they were built on our own. Now, 51 nuclear reactors, including the nuclear giant reactors of 1,350,000 kw, are operated in this small island country of Japan.
Nuclear power plants started without concrete measures to decommission and dismantle nuclear reactors and nuclear wastes, but nuclear reactors even made of thick iron become brittle after extended exposure to large amounts of radioactivity.
The service life of reactors was first considered to be 10 years and it was planned to be decommissioned and dismantled. However, in 1981, 10 years after commissioning, it was found that Fukushima's nuclear reactor No. 1 (TEPCO) could not be decommissioned or dismantling as originally called for. The Japanese Diet has also taken up the problem of older reactors that cannot withstand nuclear reactions forever.
I was invited many times to join these discussions on devising a decommissioning and dismantling strategy for our nuclear reactors, but nothing could be concluded one way or the other. It was found that there is no easy way to proceed because it requires many times more money to decommission and dismantle a nuclear plant than the amount of
financing that was necessary to actual build and commission these plants.
Furthermore the levels of radiation are often just too high to make dismantling a practical prospect. In most cases only about 10 seconds of exposure time are allowable when working just below the nuclear reactors, in order to remain within the total allowable radiation exposure limits.
On paper maybe engineers could come up with some sort of plan of action, but in reality you just cannot do anything in 10 seconds time. Any actual human work in these conditions would involve extraordinarily high radiation exposure. Therefore, nothing could be done, unless the radiation levels significantly drop. As long as the radiation levels remain high (for decades to come) it is impossible to decommission and dismantle these older plants. Some people have suggested using robots instead of men. Research has been done, but robots can seldom be used. These machines also malfunction when In the end it was decided that the nuclear reactor at Fukushima could not be decommissioned. So, the U.S. manufacturer who sold it sent workers from the United States to make repairs on the reactor. This exposed some of these foreign workers to levels of radiation that are unacceptable in Japan. Thus the Fukushima nuclear reactor is still in operation even now.
The nuclear reactor considered to have its service life of ten years in the beginning is still in operation — now almost thirty years. There are eleven such older nuclear reactors operating in Japan. Even if these are on the brink of failure, it appears that in Japan there are many forces that encourage utility companies to keep these facilities operating. I am too worried to even think of the future of these nuclear power plants.
The reactor at the Musashi Institute of Technology in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture is only a small 100 kw research reactor, but the effects of radiation exposure ground the equipment to a halt. Theoretical calculation suggests that it would cost about two billion yen to repair it and to decommission it would cost six billion yen. Even if Musashi Institute of Technology's entire budget was allocated to this task, the funds would still be inadequate to pay for the decommissioning of the reactor. The only option is monitor the reactor continuously until the radioactivity drops significantly. Who can project how long such a process might take? Remember this is a very small 100 kw reactor.
When we try to grasp the enormity of the task of decommission a large 1,000,000 kw nuclear reactor the situation appears quite hopeless.
17. Close, monitor, manage?
Why cannot nuclear reactors be decommissioned and dismantled? The key to the problem is that they operate by producing steam and must be continually cooled with huge quantities of water. If reactors are shut down and remain off-line, they immediately begin to rust and the containment vessels become brittle. This eventually leads to radiation leaks.
There are now many closed nuclear reactors in the developed countries. But note that all of these reactors are "closed." None of these facilities have been decommissioned or dismantled. Thus "closure" simply means stopping electricity generation and perhaps removing nuclear fuels. But the big problems remain.
Even after "closure" of a nuclear power plant, which is thoroughly contaminated with radiation, water must continue to circulate within the core. Indeed the cooling requirements are basically the same way as when the plant was actually generating electricity. Due to the high water pressure, pipes become thin and parts deteriorate, so periodical inspections must be performed with repair of deterioration and malfunction, and radiation leak must be prevented. These facilities must be carefully monitored and taken care of until radiation levels fall. When will this end?
Now, fifty four reactors -fifty one in operation plus three under construction- encircle the Japanese archipelago. As we have seen these include a number of dangerously old nuclear reactors, that no longer should be in operation. Beside these, there are also nuclear furnaces for research purpose at universities and even at private companies. At
present in Japan, there are seventy-six small and large nuclear reactors, from 100 kw to 1,350,000 kw.
However, it is very questionable if Japanese power companies would sincerely continue watching their closed nuclear reactors which neither generate electricity nor generate any income. The fact is that these facilities will only continue to require substantial financial inputs for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, utility corporations are trying to start new plants or further expand existing facilities. Among these there is a fifth reactor planned at the Hamaoka plant, which is vulnerable to a major earthquake, which is predicted for the Tokai area. In Fukushima there is talk of some kind of backroom deal to expand the nuclear power facility in return for the construction of a soccer stadium! There are many new units scheduled to come online: Maki-machi in Niigata Prefecture, Ashihama in Mie Prefecture, Kaminoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Suzu in Ishikawa Prefecture, Ooma and Azuma-doori in Aomori Prefecture.
Thus, it appears that there are concrete plans to build seventy to eighty reactors in the small island nation of Japan. It sounds crazy, and yet the bureaucratic structures in this country suggest that it just might happen.
The closure of nuclear power plants surely will become a very, very serious problem in our future. Even in the near future the "closing" of nuclear power plants will be a mushrooming problem across the country. There may not be very much observable anxiety about these issues in Japan, but the situation is rather eerie. Am I the only one who shudders at this prospect? Surely not.
18. There is no effective way to deal with radioactive waste
I have hardly even mentioned the huge problem of the vast quantity of nuclear waste that is inevitably being produced at these nuclear power plants. Day after day after day the wastes are building up. Most of these wastes are deemed "low-level radioactive waste." Although they are called "low-level," if you were to simply stand beside a drum of some of this "low-level" waste for, say, five hours, you would be exposed to a lethal dose of radioactivity. Does that sound like "low-level" radiation? There are now about 800,000 such drums stocked up at nuclear power plants all over Japan.
It was common practice in Japan that nuclear power facilities pack nuclear waste into drums and simply discard these drums into the nearby sea. This practice dates back to 1969. In those days this was a standard practice. When I was at Tokai Nuclear Plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, contractors carried drums containing these wastes on their trucks,
then loaded these drums onto ships. Most of these were dumped off the shore of Chiba, which is adjacent to Tokyo.
This practice caused me to wonder about nuclear power plants. Somehow this seemed queer. What happens to this radioactive waste in the drums that are dumped into the sea, which must decay in years (a year or so) to come? What happens to the fish in the seas around Japan?
Ocean dumping of "low-level" nuclear waste is no longer permitted. Currently nuclear wastes are taken to Rokkasho-mura in Aomori Prefecture in northern Honshu. They say they will manage 3,000,000 drums in total for 3,000,000 years. What an empty promise! How can those drums possibly last for 3,000,000 years and how can waste managing companies oversee the future safety of this material? This is pure fiction. What will really happen?
Another type of "high-level" nuclear waste is a byproduct created by the extracting plutonium during the reprocessing of after-use nuclear fuel. Japan is currently asking British and French companies to reprocess this fuel. Last year (1995) 28 containers of high-level radioactive waste were returned to France for reprocessing. These are muddy high-level waste mixed with glass, solidified and put into metal containers. It is said that the issuing radiation is so strong that anyone would die by just being next to its container for two minutes! It is projected that these must be continually cooled for 30 to 50 years at Rokkasho-mura in Aomori Prefecture as a provisional measure. After that, there are supposed to be plans drawn up to transfer these materials somewhere, and bury them somewhere deep into the ground. Where is this "somewhere"? The fact is that there is no concrete plan to bury these wastes anywhere because there is no place to bury them.
Other countries also are having similar problems making plans for the long term storage of high-level nuclear wastes. Everyone is concerned about this huge issue, which is especially acute in a small, densely populated island nation like Japan.
Japanese government bureaucrats talk idly about the nuclear reactors themselves, promising to manage them with tight enclosures for five to ten years after taking them off-line. Waste is to be packed into drums and buried, somewhere. Just a single reactor creates several tens of thousand tons of waste materials thoroughly contaminated by radiation.
This is a very large amount of highly dangerous material. At a time when the human population ever presses on planet, how in the world are we going to be able to secure a place to bury these materials? Can such a thing be done? It is quite clear that Japan will be brimming with low and high level nuclear wastes. We must do something very quickly, shouldn't we? But what can be "done" other than abolishing nuclear power plants?
About five years ago in Hokkaido when I gave a talk and said "the authorities promise to continue monitoring radioactive waste for fifty years, or even three hundred years or more," a junior high school girl, raised her hand, and said almost shouting: "May I ask you something? Now you said, 'They will continue monitoring radioactive waste fifty years or three hundred years...' Will the presentadults do this? That can't be done. We, the next generation, and the following generations will have to do it, won't we? But, we don't want to have to do it." Are there any adults who can reply to this child?
And, when you hear fifty years, or even three hundred years, this sounds like the job is going to finish within a fixed amount of time. But this is not the case. As long as nuclear power plants are continuing to operate, this process is endlessly renewed, an eternal fifty years, an eternal three hundred years!
19. Residents are exposed to radiation & the plants foster terrible discrimination
For decades officials have been lying about the state of the nuclear power facilities of Japan, particularly about radioactive emission and leaks. But these leaks and emissions have become impossible to hide entirely from the public.
Radiation is emitted from the high exhaust towers of nuclear power plant. This is part of the design. It is not that the radiation is leaking from the exhaust towers. Rather radiation is being purposely released from these towers, 24 hours a day. Those who live around the plants are thus inevitably exposed to this low-level radiation all day long.
A letter came to me from a woman. She was thirty two years old. Traces of tears
had blotted her letter, which said, "In Tokyo I found employment, and in time I met someone and fell in love. We decided to marry and exchanged betrothal vows.
However, suddenly one day the engagement was cancelled by my fiance. He said that I had done nothing wrong and that he still wanted to marry me; however, he had discovered that I was raised in Fukui Prefecture, in Tsuruga in fact. He had also learned or been told that those who had been raised in Tsuruga have a high possibility of bearing a child with leukemia, or other defects as a consequence of living near the nuclear power plant. So, his parents begged him not to marry me, as
they couldn't bear to see the face of their grandchild with leukemia. Did I do anything wrong? Why is this happening to me?" Is there any fault to be found with this young woman? Such stories are not uncommon in Japan.
This unfortunately tragic love story did not unfold at the site of the nuclear power plant, but rather right in Tokyo. In Tokyo! Ask yourself, would you be delighted to hear that your child was set to marry someone who had been raised near a nuclear facility.
How about if your child's partner had been working for years at a nuclear power plant?
In the bottom of your heart would you be content with such a match? Any young person might fall in love with someone who had been exposed to high levels of radiation. This will only become more common so it is not someone else's concern. I hope those who are against nuclear power plants are opposed to nuclear power, not only because you are afraid of accidents or breakdowns, but also because of the inherent discrimination that these plants give rise to. Nuclear power plants put a stain in the nearby residents and on the workers who man the plants. These facilities not only can cause accidents, but they destroy our human heart, and jeopardize our humanity to one another.
20. Can I give birth to a healthy child?
At the end of my tale, I want to tell you a story which shocked me a great deal. This happened while I was talking at the informational gathering held by the teacher-staff union in Kyowa-machi, which is next to the Tomari nuclear power plant in Hokkaido.
No matter where I go, I always make a point to tell this story. You may forget all the rest I have written, but by all means please consider and remember this story.
That particular meeting was an evening event at which some three hundred people gathered. There were about equal numbers of parents and teachers, half and half There were also some junior high school and senior high school students. Many of these young people came to the gathering, thinking that nuclear power plant issues are not just a problem for the present adults, but rather a big issue of their own younger generation.
As I finished my talk about the realities of nuclear power plants, I asked if there were any questions. I was surprised when a junior high second grade student raised her hand and said, crying:
"The adults gathered at this venue tonight are big liars and imposters. I came to see their faces — to see what kind of faces they might show. Adults gathering here pretend to be involved with these citizen movements about pesticide-herbicide problems, problems of golf courses, problems of nuclear power plants, and what not, for the sake of their children. I have been living in Kyowa-machi near the Tomari nuclear power plant, exposed to radiation twenty four hours for my whole
life. I know from books that there is the high probability for living children near the nuclear power plants in Sellafield, in the UK, of developing leukemia. I am also a girl. If I get married when I come of age will it be okay to give birth to my own children?" She was asking me and the three hundred adults gathered there. She was asking in tears, but no one could give her any real answer.
"If nuclear power plants pose such serious health problems, why not now, but rather at the beginning of the construction, didn't you all oppose the plant wholeheartedly? Much more, these adults who have come here this evening, are allowed a second one reactor to be built! Even if there is no electricity in our future,
I am still opposed to the nuclear power plants." She said this just when the second reactor was about to begin its trial run.
She continued, "I do not know why such a meeting as this is held at this late date.
If I were an adult having children, I would have worked to stop the nuclear power plant with my own body to death if necessary."
"But now that you are building a second reactor, we will be exposed to twice as much radiation as before, I guess. And yet I will not and cannot run away from Hokkaido," she appealed to the adults with tears streaming down her checks.
I could only ask her, "Have you talked about your worries with your mother and teachers?" She said, "My teachers and my mom are here, but I've never talked about this with them. But the other girls at my junior high are always talking about this. Perhaps we cannot get married, and cannot give birth to our children."
Most of the teachers had no idea that many of their present students held such deep anxiety about their future. How can we answer these young persons' fears?
This is never simply a matter of disaster protection within an 8 km or 10 km radius from the nuclear power plant. Deep worries are arising in the populations of young people living within 50 km or 100 km area, quite far from the nuclear facilities. I want you to realize that present generation of junior and senior high school students carry such worries in their hearts. We have given them these worries. How will we answer them now?
21. Peace of mind cannot coexist with nuclear power plants
I think that from the preceding stories you can understand the kind of problems that nuclear power plants bring on us all.
I think that many people have a vague apprehension of nuclear power plants, especially after witnessing the major nuclear accident that unfolded at the Chernobyl nuclear facility. But, there are many people who argue that "If nuclear power plants were abolished, we would surely be in trouble, lacking electricity." Especially the city-dwelling people, living relatively far away from nuclear power plants, might tend to think that nuclear power plants are unavoidable, even if a little scary.
But this state of affairs is largely because of the fact that the government and the power companies are creating a disinformation campaign by throwing lots of money at pronuclear advertising. The Japanese public is constantly told that: "Nuclear power generation is a peaceful use of nuclear material... Japanese nuclear power plants
never cause accidents... It's safe, so be at ease with nuclear power... Japan does not have the resources, so nuclear power is absolutely necessary for Japan."
Then when some accident happens, the powers that be hide the truth for as long as possible, such as in the case of the Monju accident.
Nuclear power plants certainly can generate a lot of electricity. However, the reality of the nuclear power plants seen by these eyes of mine and experienced by my body over my twenty years of working in the industry, is that these facilities can never operate without subjecting their workers to large amounts of radiation exposure. In addition, from the very moment of beginning the construction of a nuclear power facility, the local people become separated from the general population and those in favor and/or opposed to the plant are torn in their hearts from one another. Once the plant is completed, these residents are exposed to some level of radiation exposure. As a result of this exposure they are in turn discriminated against and tormented, through no fault of their own.
Everyone knows that if nuclear power plant should have an accident, it could be dreadful. Then, is everything okay if there is no major accident? Is this actually a peaceful use of nuclear technology? I must say that it isn't. How can we say that nuclear power plants are for peaceful use, so long as workers die through exposure to the radiation of the plant, and nearby residents always face fears of significant exposure?
The absence of a major accident, that is, `safety' and `security of mind' are two very different things. So long as there are nuclear power plants scattered over Japan, there is no security of mind.
Finally, it seems that these plants are generating a great deal of electricity, but this does not take into account the enormous amounts of electricity and oil that will be required to managed the nuclear wastes for tens of thousands of years. How much energy will that take? No one knows. I would guess that these decommissioned plants, and the long term management of the spent fuel will certainly consume more energy
than these facilities ever were able to produce. And those who must manage these nuclear wastes and the closed nuclear facilities are our descendents. How can we demand that unborn future generations take on such a task?
How can such nuclear power facilities claim to be `the peaceful use of nuclear technology"? I find myself repeatedly saying that nuclear power plants are not a peaceful use anything at all.
So, I implore you. In the morning, please never fail to look squarely at your children's and grandchildren's faces. Is it right for Japan to continue to build nuclear power plants?
There are not only random accidents, but in Japan we also must be concerned about the destruction of a plant by one of our frequent earthquakes. If we continue on this road, there will surely be unrecoverable disasters in our future. I want you to realize this by all means so that we can act while there is still time.
So, I am continuing my educational efforts, in the conviction that no more nuclear power plants should be built. After twenty years as a nuclear industry insider, I am absolutely against the addition any new reactors. I am also working with the goal ever in mind that the power plants presently operating nuclear in Japan must be systematically closed.
There will be no true peace in this world as long as nuclear power plants threaten our planet, our bodies, and our hearts.
Graceful globe — let that be our goal and the gift we leave to children.
About the author Norio Hirai:
After many years as nuclear plant manager and consultant and subsequently as a nuclear power activist, Mr. Hirai passed away in January of 1997. Hirai Norio was a first class certified plant pipe-fitter, a nuclear advisor, a Nuclear Power Plant Accident Investigator appointed by the National Congress of Japan, a President of the Nuclear Power Plant Radiation Exposed Workers Relief Center*, a Special Assistant to the Plaintiffs in the Suit to Stop the Noto-Hokuriku Electric Power Plant (now known as Shiga), a Special Assistant to Plaintiff in the Suit to Stop the Onnagawa-Hokuriku Electric Power Plant, a Special Assistant to Plaintiff in the Suit to Stop the Fukushima Plant 2, Unit 3 Operation.
*(Please note that the "Nuclear Power Plant Radiation Exposed Workers Relief Center" has been closed; the organization had no successor.)
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