Thursday, April 24, 2014

(OT) President Obama: US Is Obligated to Defend Japan Over Senkaku Islands

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has indicated as much, but it is the first official remark by the president of the United States.

So does he wants a nuclear war with China over some rocks in the ocean?

Looking at the way he was extremely willing to go to a "shock and awe" war with Syria (and Russia that supports the Syrian government) on a flimsy so-called piece of evidence (youtube video) of gas attacks (which turned out to be a false flag operation by the Turkish government, according to Seymour Hersh) and looking at the most recent "regime change" in Ukraine and unfolding mess, yes he is quite willing to risk a war with China, even if not necessarily nuclear.

Mr. Obama denies it is yet another infamous "red line"...

From Reuters (4/24/2014; part, emphasis is mine):

U.S. President Barack Obama assured ally Japan on Thursday that Washington was committed to its defendefensece [sic.], including of tiny isles at the heart of a row with China, but denied he had drawn any new "red line" and urged peaceful dialogue over the islands.

...Obama, on the start of a four-nation tour, is being treated to a display of pomp and ceremony meant to show that the U.S.-Japan alliance, the main pillar of America's security strategy in Asia, is solid at a time of rising tensions over growing Chinese assertiveness and North Korean nuclear threats.

"We don't take a position on final sovereignty determinations with respect to Senkaku, but historically they have been administered by Japan and we do not believe that they should be subject to change unilaterally and what is a consistent part of the alliance is that the treaty covers all territories administered by Japan," Obama said.

A bit convoluted way of saying it himself, but the advance statement before he arrived in Japan is much clearer and stronger.

Also from Reuters (4/23/2014; part, emphasis is mine):

U.S. President Barack Obama has assured Japan that tiny islands in the East China Sea at the heart of a territorial row with China are covered by a bilateral security treaty that obligates America to come to Japan's defence.

Obama gave the assurance in remarks published by the Yomiuri newspaper on Wednesday, hours before he was due to arrive in Tokyo for a visit aimed at reaffirming strong U.S.-Japan ties in the face of rising tensions over China and North Korea.

"The policy of the United States is clear - the Senkaku islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of ... the U.S.-Japan Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security," Obama said, referring to the disputed islands known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China.

"And we oppose any unilateral attempts to undermine Japan's administration of these islands," he said.

Reuters Japan's article has an additional take on the Senkaku comments by Obama which does not appear in the English article:


Behind [President Obama's remarks] is the situation in Ukraine. China confronting Japan in East China Sea and the Philippines and other nations in South China Sea conjures the image of Russia that has re-incorporated Crimea in southern Ukraine. In the press conference, President Obama and Prime Minister Abe emphasized the importance of observing the international law, and said they oppose the change of status quo with the threat of force.

That's a good one, Mr. President. Your puppet regime in Ukraine was installed thanks to the use of force by neo-Nazi groups supported by your State Department and USAID.

(Oh wait, does that mean Japan is Ukraine? And Senkaku Island Crimea?)

(Photo from Reuters)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Falsification in Vogue: Niigata Prefecture Lied about Potassium Iodide Pill Purchase, Received Government Subsidy for Non-Purchase

(UPDATE) Asahi Shinbun did an interview with Mr. Izumida (in Japanese, and in English translation, 4/23/2014). He laments there is no "world-class standard" in Japanese nuclear regulation and nuclear accident preparedness. He got that right. No mention of potassium iodide pills that didn't exist but were stored in a former high school building.


It's ironic that it happened in a prefecture whose governor, Hirohiko Izumida, has won wide followings at least among net users by presenting himself as the champion and defender of citizens against evil TEPCO over Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant.

Izumida's government did not purchase potassium iodide pills and lied about it, and received the national government subsidy for the non-existent pills.

Well, since Mr. Izumida does not want to allow TEPCO to vent even in a severe nuclear accident at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, who needs those pills? Right?

From Kyodo News (4/22/2014):

30キロ圏内、ヨウ素剤ゼロ 柏崎刈羽、購入済み装う

No potassium iodide pills inside 30-kilometer radius of Kashiwazaki-Kariwa NPP, [Niigata prefectural government] pretended they had purchased the pills


Niigata prefectural government announced on April 22 that 1.32 million potassium iodide pills to be distributed to residents during the fiscal 2012 [that ended in March 31, 2013] in areas within 10 to 30 kilometer from TEPCO Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant (in Niigata Prefecture) in preparation for a severe accident hadn't been purchased.


The government employee in charge stopped the purchasing process when there was no prospect of procuring the pills by the end of March in 2013. The employee wrote "already purchased" in the document, and no one verified it. The subsidy of about 8 million yen (US$80,000) from the national government was paid based on the document.


The [phantom] potassium iodide pills that were supposed to have been purchased were "stored" at a former high school building in Niigata City which is now used as a disaster prevention warehouse, according to the paperwork. The medical and pharmaceutical section of the prefectural government says they intend to procure as quickly as possible.

Like that 30-year-old so-called researcher, this hapless government employee should have held a press conference and declared,

"Potassium iodide pills exist! Potassium iodide pills are the truth! I have seen them 200 times!"

and all would have been forgiven.

With teary eyes of course. Water-proof mascara and eyeliner, if available.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Telephone Game for N+1 Time: From #Fukushima I NNP "Not Sufficiently Managed" to "Out of Control" in Three Simple Steps

It hasn't happened for some time, this telephone game over the Fukushima nuclear accident mostly due to translation errors (intentional and unintentional). The last one I wrote about in the English blog was in September 2013, and that was about the world as we knew back then ending because of the "collapsed" exhaust stack at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

I wrote about the not-so-brilliant comment by Mr. Akira Ono, plant manager of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, in an April 19, 2014 post. He said he would make the switches for emergency temporary pumps "tamper-proof", which I argued would defeat the purpose of easy access in an emergency.

In that same post, I also noted that Reuters had two different stories to tell in its Japanese article and its English article on the same topic of contaminated water routed to wrong buildings.

And as I suspected, the Reuters English article got quoted by the US media (I haven't checked the UK media) and morphed. It will be soon imported back to Japan as "credible and reliable English-language source which would always tell the truth".

It started out as a solid, fact-based article in Japanese by Reuters Japan (4/17/2014). Mr. Ono's comment comes in the very first paragraph (English translation is mine):


Routing contaminated water to wrong buildings at Fukushima I Nuclear Power plant is due to "insufficient management", says Plant Manager Ono


Mr. Akira Ono, plant manager of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, spoke with the press on April 15 and commented on the problem of about 203 tonnes of contaminated water having been routed to wrong buildings, saying "I am ashamed. We haven't been able to sufficiently manage the plant (or we haven't been able to manage the plant as sufficiently as we would like)," admitting to inadequacy of the plant management. He said [the company] will investigate and come up with countermeasures.

Then, when the article was translated into English and arranged for English-speaking readers, three things happened.

First, the article title and the opening paragraph dropped the mention of routing water to wrong buildings and associated Mr. Ono's comment with contaminated water management in general.

Second, Mr. Ono's comment was translated incorrectly - even if it is not technically wrong, that's not what Japanese would understand hearing Mr. Ono.

Third, Mr. Ono's comment was severed from the context; then the context - that Mr. Ono was speaking about the particular incidence of routing water to wrong buildings - was placed after Mr. Ono's comment.

And this is the end result, also by Reuters but in English (4/17/2014; emphasis is mine):

Manager at Japan's Fukushima plant admits radioactive water "embarrassing"

The manager of the Fukushima nuclear power plant admits to embarrassment that repeated efforts have failed to bring under control the problem of radioactive water, eight months after Japan's prime minister told the world the matter was resolved.

Tokyo Electric Power Co, the plant's operator, has been fighting a daily battle against contaminated water since Fukushima was wrecked by a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's government pledged half a billion dollars last year to tackle the issue, but progress has been limited.

"It's embarrassing to admit, but there are certain parts of the site where we don't have full control," Akira Ono told reporters touring the plant this week.

He was referring to the latest blunder at the plant: channeling contaminated water to the wrong building

This naturally invited one English-language media outlet called "nsnbc" to totally separate Mr. Ono's comment, and added some fluff on their own to create a familiar fantasy world of doom.

From nsnbc (4/19/2014):

TEPCO’s Fukushima Manager: “Embarrassing, but we don’t have control”

TEPCO’s manager of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (NPP), Akira Ono, has begun to come clean on contamination control at the site. Akaira Ono broke the iron discipline admitting that it is embarrassing, but TEPCO’s attempts to plug the leaks of radioactive water have failed. But have Ono and TEPCO really begun to come clean? The site is so volatile that an earthquake could force TEPCO to abandon the site and a meltdown of tons of spent fuel rods.

Making that statement, the manager of what, arguably, is the world’s most hazardous work site, the Fukushima Daiichi manager contradicted last year’s statements by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, that the situation at the nuclear power plant was under control. Talking to journalists, Akira Ono said:

“It is embarrassing to admit it, but there are certain parts of the site where we don’t have full control”.

Then finally, "I am ashamed, we haven't been able to sufficiently manage the plant" turned "embarrassing...we don't have full control" turned "we don't have control" has turned into "out of control" today.

From Zero Hedge (4/21/2014; emphasis is mine):

Fukushima Manager Admits Water Woes "Out Of Control", Refutes Lies By PM Abe

...As Japan Times reports, the manager of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant has embarrassingly admitted that repeated efforts have failed to bring under control the problem of radioactive water.

Zero Hedge quotes Japan Times, which is the Reuters English article.

At any moment now, I am fully expecting a tweet in Japanese proclaiming "See, the plant is totally out of control! It's all in the English language media! They must be right! We aren't told the truth!"

(The last I heard, the truth is STAP cells , which Ms. Obokata encountered more than 200 times. Maybe TEPCO needs to hire Ms. Obokata as a spokeswoman who would exclaim, with tears in her eyes with full makeup and neatly curled tresses, "The plant is under control! It's the truth! I've seen it 200 times!" Maybe male journalists would then flock to her defense...)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

"Now They Tell Us" UK Version: UK Government Admits to Mistake of Siting Nuclear Waste Dump Near Sellafield

Now they tell us, but they also tell us any nuclear waste leak due to erosion would start in a few hundred years at the earliest, when all of us will be gone.

From The Guardian (4/20/2014; emphasis is mine):

Cumbrian nuclear dump 'virtually certain' to be eroded by rising sea levels

One million cubic metres of waste near Sellafield are housed at a site that was a mistake, admits Environment Agency

Britain's nuclear dump is virtually certain to be eroded by rising sea levels and to contaminate the Cumbrian coast with large amounts of radioactive waste, according to an internal document released by the Environment Agency (EA).

The document suggests that in retrospect it was a mistake to site the Drigg Low-Level Waste Repository (LLWR) on the Cumbrian coast because of its vulnerability to flooding. "It is doubtful whether the location of the LLWR site would be chosen for a new facility for near-surface radioactive waste disposal if the choice were being made now," it says.

The EA document estimates that the one million cubic metres of radioactive waste disposed of over the last 55 years by the civil and military nuclear industry at the site, near the Sellafield nuclear complex in west Cumbria, is going to start leaking on to the shoreline in "a few hundred to a few thousand years from now".

The agency voices concerns about "the potential appearance on the beach and in its accessible surroundings, during the process of erosion, of discrete items carrying a significant burden of radioactivity individually". They could range from tiny particles to larger objects such as hand tools that have become contaminated during use at Britain's nuclear sites then subsequently disposed of at Drigg, the document says.

Officials at the EA are considering a plan by the companies that run Drigg to dispose of a further 800,000 cubic metres of waste there over the next 100 years. This will include radioactive debris from Britain's nuclear power stations, nuclear submarines, nuclear weapons, hospitals and universities.

Environmentalists argue that continuing to use the site is "unethical, unsustainable and highly dangerous". But this is rejected by Drigg's operators, who describe the risks as "insignificant".

The EA document, dated 9 January 2014, sets out the agency's latest assessment of the risks of coastal erosion at Drigg. It was released by the EA this month in response to a request from The Guardian.

Erosion from storms and rising sea levels caused by climate change has "emerged as the expected evolution scenario" for Drigg, it says. Experts have concluded that this is almost bound to happen.

Although Drigg was meant to be for low-level radioactive waste, there are fears that some of the disposals in the past may have included higher-level wastes. The rest of the nuclear industry's medium and high-level wastes are still awaiting an agreed disposal route, with successive UK governments failing for decades to find a deep burial site.

The site, which covers about 110 hectares, is between five and 20 metres above sea level. It is run by a consortium led by the US engineering company URS, the French state-owned nuclear company Areva, and the Swedish nuclear firm Studsvik. The consortium has already been asked by the EA to look at options for improved flood defences.

According to Ian Parker, the EA's nuclear regulation group manager in Cumbria, the agency had reached its latest conclusions after detailed technical assessments. "It's highly probable the coast will erode and the waste will be disrupted," he said.

The EA was taking "a very conservative approach" to reduce risks to future generations, he argued. Further public consultations on the proposal to keep using the site were due in the autumn, and no final decision would be taken until next year.

Drigg's operator, LLW Repository Ltd, said it had introduced new restrictions on the amounts of radioactivity that can be disposed of at the site in order to make sure that radiation doses to people will be "very small" if the wastes are exposed by coastal erosion.

The company's head of science and engineering, Dr Richard Cummings, accepted that erosion could start "in a few hundred years". But he added: "The radioactivity in the wastes will largely have decayed away by this time."

Carrying on disposing of waste at Drigg was sustainable and ethical because future generations would be given the same protection as now, Cummings said. "The stringent regulatory requirements we have to meet ensure that even if people in the future forget about the repository and the wastes disposed there, the effects will be insignificant."

But Martin Forward, from Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, pointed out that more than 1,200 radioactive particles from Sellafield had been found on nearby beaches in recent years. "The potent threat of rising sea levels makes the future use of the site unsustainable, unethical and highly dangerous for future generations," he said.

(OT) US President Obama to Visit Meiji Jingu Shrine as a State Guest in Japan


A state minister in Mr. Shinzo Abe's cabinet, Mr. Keiji Furuya, visiting the controversial Yasukuni Shrine is at least explainable. But the president of the United States visiting the shrine that enshrines Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken as god and goddess?

What's the point?

To honor the current emperor by paying respect to his great-grandfather, I suppose.

Emperor Meiji is the great-grandfather of the current emperor of Japan, although his great-grandmother is a concubine of Emperor Meiji. (The Empress was childless.) Meiji Jingu shrine was built in 1920.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel went to Chidorigafuchi Cemetery to honor the war dead when they visited Japan in October 2013. There I thought it was the beginning of a new tradition that would help de-emphasize Yasukuni. I was wrong.

Visiting Meiji Jingu shrine seems devoid of meaning, which fits Mr. Obama's presidency rather well.

From The Japan News by Yomiuri (4/20/2014):

Obama will visit Meiji Jingu, museum during tour

WASHINGTON—The White House said Friday that U.S. President Barack Obama will visit Meiji Jingu shrine during his stay in Japan, as part of his tour to four Asian countries in late April.

Detailed schedules of Obama’s trip have also been released.

Obama will have a private dinner meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday, and on Thursday they will hold a summit meeting to demonstrate unity between Japan and the United States toward the international community.

Obama will be the first U.S. president to visit Japan as a state guest in 18 years, since a visit by then U.S. President Bill Clinton. Obama will stay in Japan from Wednesday to Friday.

After leaving Japan on Friday he will then visit South Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines.

The private dinner will be held soon after Obama’s arrival in Japan, on Wednesday evening.

According to sources knowledgeable on Japan-U.S. relations, they will dine outside the prime minister’s official residence with the intention of deepening their relationship in a relaxed atmosphere.

On Thursday morning Obama will attend a welcome ceremony in the Imperial Palace, followed by the summit meeting and a joint press conference.

In the afternoon, the U.S. leader will visit the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation and Meiji Jingu shrine, before meeting with Japanese business leaders.

In the evening, Obama will attend a banquet at the Imperial Palace.

At a press conference Friday, National Security Advisor Susan Rice commented on Obama’s forthcoming tour of Asian countries, saying that it will be an important opportunity to clearly express the United States’ continuing focus on the Asia-Pacific region.

Despite being a "state guest", the status of which will cost the host country extra few million and require Japan's Emperor and Empress to host a lavish banquet for the guest, Mr. Obama won't be accompanied by his wife, leaving many Japanese puzzled.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Plant Manager at #Fukushima I NPP on Highly Contaminated Water Routed to Wrong Buildings: "We Will Make Pump Switches Tamper-Proof"

Mr. Akira Ono, current plant manager at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, hasn't struck me as one of the brightest at TEPCO, but his "solution" to the problem defeats the whole purpose of having the temporary pumps in those buildings - which is to make those pumps readily accessible and operational in case of an emergency that necessitates those pumps.

From Reuters Japan (4/17/2014; part):


TEPCO announced on April 14 that contaminated water had been routed to wrong buildings, and explained the cause as the transfer pumps having been turned on. The pumps usually remain "off". Plant Manager Ono told the press that it was true that the pumps had been turned on for some reason, and that TEPCO would investigate and come up with countermeasures.


As it stands, the possibility cannot be excluded that someone had turned on the pumps not by mistake but intentionally. Mr. Ono said he would like to set up a control system whereby no one can tamper with [the pump switches].

Reuters has the English article (4/17/2014) that pretty much covers what Reuters Japan's article covers, but Ono's above comment is missing. Instead, it has Ono's comment that TEPCO has put speed first, instead of quality.

Well, as if it had a choice back in March and April in 2011.

Reuters' English article also translated the following words by Mr. Ono:

(My translation would be: "I am ashamed. We haven't been able to sufficiently manage the plant.")


"It's embarrassing to admit, but there are certain parts of the site where we don't have full control," Akira Ono told reporters touring the plant this week.

which is quoted by other US media (including MSNBC), with the emphasis (naturally) on "we don't have full control."

As a Japanese native, I wouldn't have translated Mr. Ono's words that way, but everyone needs extra eyeballs...

(OT) TEPCO's Old Billboard Message: "Please Do Not Litter, Keep Environment Clean"

It looks like an old sign, way before the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011. Smaller letters are fading.

Someone snapped the photo, and added the message back to TEPCO in yellow and posted on Facebook, which was then tweeted. (Ah, the age of social media.)

TEPCO: Please do not litter (or literally, please do not throw out garbage). Pristine environment starts with your kind consideration.

Anonymous message in yellow letters: For you to say!

From the tweet by "galeria de muerte":

Thursday, April 17, 2014

#Fukushima I NPP: Highly Contaminated Water from Turbine Buildings Routed to Wrong Buildings, and the Reason May Not Be What You Think

In fact, one of the long-time workers who tweet from Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, "Sunny", seems to suspect a 'foul play'.

When I first read the document TEPCO submitted to Nuclear Regulation Authority regarding this incident two days ago, I simply could not comprehend. After reading equally incomprehensible accounts by the mainstream newspapers, NHK (link won't last), and TEPCO's press release (4/16/2014), I think I have finally figured it out.

Here's what seems to have happened between April 10 and April 13 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant in transferring highly contaminated water from the basements of the turbine buildings which comes from the basements of the reactor buildings where core melt had happened in March 2011:

1. The water gets highly contaminated after it is injected into the reactor pressure vessels and comes in contact with the corium. The water accumulates in the basements of the reactor buildings, then it leaks into the adjacent turbine building basements.

2. From there, the water is normally routed to the Central Waste Building for storage. From the Central Waste Building, the water then goes to the cesium absorption system (either SARRY in the High-Temperature Incineration Building or Kurion in the Incineration Building) for treatment (removing cesium).

3. HOWEVER, on April 10, a temporary pump installed in the Central Waste Building was turned on by someone, and this highly contaminated water (Cs-134 at 10 million Bq/L, Cs-137 at 27 million Bq/L) was pumped from this building into the Site Bunker Building. There was yet another temporary pump in the Central Waste Building, and that pump was also turned on by someone. The contaminated water started to be pumped into the Incineration Building, which is not supposed to store this highly contaminated water.

4. There were two temporary pumps in the Incineration Building itself, which were also turned on by someone, and they started pumping the contaminated water back into the Central Waste Building.

To sum up, highly contaminated water went from:

Central Waste Building --> On-Site Bunker Building
Central Waste Building --> Incineration Building --> Central Waste Building

(From TEPCO's press release 4/16/2014, English labels are by me)

As all these were happening, TEPCO kept wondering why the water level in the Central Waste Building was lower than it should, and the water level in the Site Bunker Building was higher than it should. In the early morning of April 13, TEPCO finally figured out that the temporary pumps were running, but it took them nearly 12 hours to finally stopped the pumps (from TEPCO's press release 6/16/2014, timeline on page 3).

By then, 200 tonnes of highly contaminated water was diverted to locations that shouldn't have received any such water.

TEPCO says it didn't occur to them to check those temporary pumps sooner, because they were not supposed to be on.

There was nothing mechanically wrong with the temporary pumps, according to TEPCO.

"Sunny" at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant tweeted:


It is probably not a human error. In other words, someone did it on purpose.



I'm convinced. It was "intentional".

Just like in the incident in February this year when the "wrong" valve was opened to let the highly contaminated (beta nuclides) waste water overflow from the top of the tank, TEPCO says it is investigating. Just like then, it is likely that the investigation will fail to identify the cause (or the culprit), and TEPCO will simply stop the investigation.

I tweeted and wondered if this was an act of sabotage. With shortage of workers at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, there may be workers who go there for the express purpose of "making the point" - in this case, and in the case in February, to show how vulnerable and dangerous the plant is - by actually causing the problems like this.

But this is a country where a 30-year-old so-called researcher can appear in front of the cameras and shed tears carefully (not to smear her perfect makeup) and insist it was an innocent mistake, and male so-called journalists and even scientists fall for her and forgive her for her fraud of faking the data in the doctoral thesis and the paper in the so-called peer-review science magazine. This must also be an innocent mistake by an inexperienced worker who has been sent to Fukushima I NPP by a yakuza head-hunter and is being exploited by the subcontractor but who happens to know exactly what switches to flip to turn on the pumps that should not be on.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

(OT) Police Dogs Final Test: Self Control

I'm impressed with the cat, being able to calmly walk past the dogs.

From "Fascinating Pictures" on Twitter:

(Sorry I haven't been posting much. Too many things needing my attention closer at home, but some bizarre things have been happening in faraway Fukushima I NPP which I do want to write about. Stay tuned.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From Mainichi Shinbun (4/9/2014):

汚染水タンク:433基の水位計 異常警報が「消音」状態

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


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


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

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

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 3, 2014

UNSCEAR: Increase in Cancer Unlikely following Fukushima Exposure

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

2 April 2014

Increase in Cancer Unlikely following Fukushima Exposure - says UN Report

Low Risk of Thyroid Cancer Among Children Most Exposed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

* *** *

For more information, contact:

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

Watch the webcast of the press briefing on 2 April 2014 at 10:30 CEST at

Link to the 321-page report:

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fukushima Families Return to Homes in 'Hot Zone'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Koyamas at their home, photo by Reuters:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

Now, moving on to surreal...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

Monday, March 17, 2014

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too funny to pass these up...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"We are going home. Crimea is in Russia"

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

Thursday, March 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

MTL, from wiki:

Location of Ikata NPP:

Earthquake epicenter, according to USGS:

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

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

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

Fukushima Watch: Is Japan Ready for Another Nuclear Accident?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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