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According to Japan's Prime Minister,

the crippled reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant have been successfully brought to a state of cold shutdown.

The state is a target in the second phase of a timetable established by the government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company to bring the plant under control.

At a meeting of the government nuclear disaster task force on Friday, Noda declared that the reactors are now stable and that the second phase is complete.

Let me note here that cold shutdown is the reactor state when...

  • The reactor is subcritical (chain reaction cannot be sustained without an external source of neutrons)
  • The cooling system is at atmospheric pressure
  • The cooling system is at a temperature below the boiling point of water

In a light-water reactor (LWR) - and that's the type of the reactor that was installed at Fukushima - that means that the reactor cooling water will not boil, significantly simplifying the maintenance.

This announcement certainly sounds encouraging, although no timetable yet is available on the return of the people evacuated after the March 11 tsunami and earthquake crippled the plant and led to hydrogen explosions and radiation releases (and the number of evacuees is more than 80,000).

Another interesting bit of news is the exposé from Tomohiko Suzuki, a Japanese investigative reporter who worked at the Fukushima Daiichi plant incognito. According to Suzuki, the emergency crews working at the Fukushima plant were seriously mobbed up.

Mr Suzuki, who writes for weekly news magazines in Japan and specialises in yakuza [Japanese organized crime syndicates] coverage, said gangsters were prominent in both the Fukushima area and the nuclear industry even before the accident, and their influence had grown as they creamed subsidies for finding labour to work at the site.

"The yakuza are very much involved in this industry. They are in charge of finding and dispatching workers to the site," he told the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan. "It's rumoured . . . that yakuza people who drove ordinary cars before the accident are now driving very fancy cars."

He said he had met only one yakuza on the job, but that there were yakuza-aligned members among the Fukushima 50, the so-called nuclear samurai who battled the initial crisis amid explosions and soaring radiation levels.

The same report claims a variety of coverups, shoddy work, and incompetence by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) management.

I am not familiar with Mr. Suzuki's prior work. I cannot vouch that everything he says in his book "Yakuza to genpatsu" ("The yakuza and nuclear power") that just got published in Japan is 100% accurate, so caveat lector - just thought this is interesting.

2:59 AM PT: Another noteworthy tidbit (Wall Street Journal):

To date, scientists estimate that the total radiation dispersed over a broad swath of northern Japan is equal to about 15% of what was released from the Chernobyl accident 25 years ago, the worst nuclear accident in history.

7:53 AM PT: The reaction to this diary is sad,but not surprising, considering the absolutely hysterical and fact-free treatment of the 2011 quake and its aftermath by certain actors here.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Very comforting news. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sandino, Joieau

    Another declaration of the prime minister:

    radiation levels at the periphery of the plant site will remain low if another accident occurs.

    Also very comforting.  

    "to gobern dat wicked natur, dat is de pint. You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den you be angel; for all angel is not'ing more dan de shark well goberned." Herman Melville

    by ovals49 on Fri Dec 16, 2011 at 02:55:04 AM PST

    •  /snark (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Sandino, Joieau

      "to gobern dat wicked natur, dat is de pint. You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den you be angel; for all angel is not'ing more dan de shark well goberned." Herman Melville

      by ovals49 on Fri Dec 16, 2011 at 05:24:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  rest assured that I will give your comment... (0+ / 0-)

        the amount of consideration it deserves, commensurate with your level of knowledge and the depth of your arguments.

        •  When you recommended my original comment, (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          notwithstanding the inadequate

          "... level of knowledge and the depth of your arguments."
          I suspected that you had misread it.  I added the /snark followup.  Now that you understand my drift, your rec is gone and my ignorance is paramount.  

          What a tool.

          "to gobern dat wicked natur, dat is de pint. You is sharks, sartin; but if you gobern de shark in you, why den you be angel; for all angel is not'ing more dan de shark well goberned." Herman Melville

          by ovals49 on Fri Dec 16, 2011 at 02:35:53 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  sounds like progress. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kalmoth, bryfry

    OK, so now the worst of it is over and it's time to start cleaning up the mess and figuring out how to replace the lost power without adding more fossil fuel plants to the grid.  

    For anyone who doesn't know, the Yakuza are Japan's organized crime syndicate.  Yes, Japan has one, just like every other country on Earth.  

    I don't get how the Japanese gov hasn't managed to clean up the Yakuza in its entirety, but anyway.  And if a bunch of them volunteered to be "nuclear samurai," well, good for them, I guess they won't be having any offspring.  

    "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

    by G2geek on Fri Dec 16, 2011 at 03:00:20 AM PST

    •  The way I read it... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      the volunteers were more of a kind that owes favors to the yakuza. I am a little bit apprehensive about some of the claims in Mr. Suzuki's book (and so appear most major news agencies with the exception of AFP), but the timing of its release (Dec. 15) made the temptation to juxtapose his statements with the PM's statements irresistible.

      •  ohboy... (0+ / 0-)

        People who owe favors to the Yakuza.  

        Not good.

        I can't imagine how Japan's government hasn't found a way to just clean them up 100%.  For one thing, they all tend to have specific body tattoos and other visible signals of membership, so just arrest and put away anyone with any of that stuff.  (And don't anyone give me any s--- about "freedom of expression" to wear gang signs.)

        "Minus one vote for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Fri Dec 16, 2011 at 03:27:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Yakuza is not quite the equivalent of the mob. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      They may work outside the law, but they are not evil murderous thugs.

      When a bad earthquake hit and shut down many ports (in the 90's I think) the government concentrated on opening the ports for buisiness, but the Yakuza was out to help the citizens cope. They distributed water, food, and other needs. Here they operated like a cross between Robin Hood and the Red Cross.

    •  um .... (0+ / 0-)

      JP has a Yakuza-Industrial Complex and machine politicians are right in the middle of it.

      The Real Heros.

      What about my Daughter's future?

      by koNko on Fri Dec 16, 2011 at 09:32:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Cold Shutdown is a lie (11+ / 0-)

    They can measure the temperature of the reactor all they want, but if they can't even tell where the core is, or if they announce that the corium has eaten into the concrete below the pressure vessel, then the temperature is basically irrelevant. It will be many years before anyone can find out what is really going on inside the former reactors, meanwhile huge amounts of radioactive materials are flowing into the ocean, and Tepco is preparing to dump even more contaminated water into the ocean.  It may be that the chance of further recriticalities is tiny at this point, but to suggest that the situation is under control, or pretend that there is not a massive, ongoing leak of deadly radioisotopes is to swallow Tepco and the Plutonium cartel's propaganda.  They have barely admitted the level of radiation released, but keep pimping their own outdated and false estimates to downplay the severity of the releases, or hide the fact that the meltdowns were caused by the earthquake, design flaws and brittle materials, rather than the Tsunami.

    This diary is a surprising uncritical recitation of disinformation:

    although no timetable yet is available on the return of the people evacuated after the March 11 tsunami and earthquake crippled the plant and led to hydrogen explosions and radiation releases

    No timetable for return of evacuees to regions that would be considered uninhabotable by Chernobyl standards? Color me shocked.  My rough timetable is 300 years, for the places lucky enough not to be hit by uranium/plutonium from the non-hydrogen explosion that blew much of the fuel out or reactor 3.  I like that the statement also cleverly implies that the tsunami was to blame, and that it was just hydrogen explosions.  Keep an eye out for those propaganda points, which are so ubiquitous, we restate them as unquestioned axioms.

    •  They should never go back (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bear83, Sandino, cotterperson

      just like Chernobyl.  It will always be to dangerous.

      After the Republicans burn down the world, they will prove the Democrats did it.

      by jimraff on Fri Dec 16, 2011 at 05:07:46 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  TEPCO : Professional Liars (5+ / 0-)

      Japanese Government : Lapdogs of the Professional Liars

      Cold shutdown - what a bunch of baloney.

      "Here is my principle: Taxes shall be levied according to ability to pay. That is the only American principle." Franklin D. Roosevelt

      by bear83 on Fri Dec 16, 2011 at 05:15:02 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  In the case of Yoshihiko Noda... (0+ / 0-)

      his job and reputation are rather related to being correct on the subject, so don't take it hard, but, while I don't trust him 100% (he's a politician), I still trust his pronouncements  a little more than yours.

      •  How 'bout the NYT? (5+ / 0-)

        If it is about trusting pronouncements rather than following events, perhaps the NYT's skepticism is enough to shake your faith in Murdoch's WSJ:

        On Friday, a disaster-response task force headed by Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda will vote on whether to announce that the plant’s three damaged reactors have been put into the equivalent of a “cold shutdown,” a technical term normally used to describe intact reactors with fuel cores that are in a safe and stable condition. Experts say that if it does announce a shutdown, as many expect, it will simply reflect the government’s effort to fulfill a pledge to restore the plant’s cooling system by year’s end and, according to some experts, not the true situation.


        They also said the term cold shutdown might give an exaggerated impression of stability to severely damaged reactors with fuel cores that have not only melted down, but melted through the inner containment vessels and bored into the floor of their concrete outer containment structures.

        “The government wants to reassure the people that everything is under control, and do this by the end of this year,” said Kazuhiko Kudo, a professor of nuclear engineering at Kyushu University.


        Still, experts say the term is usually reserved for healthy reactors, to indicate that they are safe enough that their containment vessels can be opened up and their fuel rods taken out. But they warn it may take far longer than even the government’s projected three years to begin cleaning up the melted fuel in Fukushima Daiichi’s damaged reactors. This has led some experts to say that proclaiming a cold shutdown may actually be deceptive, suggesting the Fukushima plant is closer to getting cleaned up than it actually is.

        Of course no Japanese Prime Minister, and especially Noda would ever lie about safety, despite all the incentives he has, from noble to venal. And especially not to save the billions that the government has to pay to the evacuees if they don't return soon.  And you can be sure that he gets all the information accurately, and comprehends it completely as the sycophants who brief him read their industry provided reports.

        •  All this being what it is... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          davidwalters, bryfry

          I will still trust a somewhat overweight Japanese bureaucrat a little higher than you, because, unlike you, he is not anonymous, he is accountable, and he is not immune to facts. Don't take it too hard, mate. G'day.

          •  (to elaborate...) (0+ / 0-)

            Your uprate of this comment suggests that you likely know about the subject under discussion a little less than the amount necessary to form a valid opinion. Don't let this stop you. feel free to have the last word, or three hundred.

          •  Have they removed (7+ / 0-)

            the containment vessel heads yet? The reactor heads? Or will that be next week? I mean, since "cold shutdown" means it's safe to remove the heads and fuel, that ought to be done by the end of the month, right?

            Surely they've removed the oldest of the spent fuel from the pools to the common pool already, so there's room for the assemblies they'll be removing next week, right? Oh, wait. There are no assemblies in any of those reactors. There's corium pancakes in the drywells/basements/bedrock...

            Never mind. [/Emily Litella]

            •  They probably have... (0+ / 0-)

              about 20 more years of hard work ahead, and your gloating is unbecoming.

              •  Gloating? (6+ / 0-)
                your gloating is unbecoming

                That, it would seem, was the message of your diary, not Joieau's comment. I do not believe that word means what you think it means. It more seems like you are taking your own maliciious satisfaction from the Japenese government's self-serving and utterly misleading announcement of cold reactor shutdown, when you characterize the remarks of well informed and respected voices on this issue as "absolutely hysterical and fact-free".  

                Here is what is fact free:  TEPCO, Japan's and your remarks about cold reactor shutdown. Ponder this simple fact:  To shut down a reactor, one must first have a reactor. What exists at the site now, in three cases, is piles of wreckage that used to be reactors. The use of the technical term "cold shutdown" implies conditions of control and safety that simply do not and cannot exist.

                Joieau's comment merely asks legitimate questions (that you do not address), makes statements of well established and admitted to facts previously announced by the Japanese government and TEPCO (that you fail to acknowledge), and expresses exasperated dispair. No gloating.  

                If you are looking for hysterical and fact-free treatment, try a mirror. In the meantime, I recommend you take your overconfidence in authoritative voices out to the West Coast and spend the next few months beach combing.

                Bumpersticker: GOP. Cheering Death. Booing Soldiers. Join Us.

                by LeftOfYou on Fri Dec 16, 2011 at 01:49:55 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

              •  No, dear. (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                worldlotus, Sandino

                They have 30 years of hard work, by the Japanese government's estimation. Which means more like 75 years in realistic terms. And the area will remain too contaminated for humans for at least 300 years, several thousand in some places. I won't live long enough to see an 'end' to this mess, and neither will you. Everything else is academic.

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