Saturday, May 25, 2013

#Radioactive Leak at J-PARC: Staff Let 100 Billion Becquerels Escape Through Ventilation Fans

(For all posts about J-PARC radiation leak, click here.)

To add further disgrace to what's already there aplenty, the researchers at J-PARC, Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex, were fully aware that turning on the ventilation fans without any filter would release radioactive materials outside the facility, but did it anyway.

I wondered aloud in the previous post on this accident: Why didn't these particle physicists (supposedly some of the brightest people in Japan) connect the dots and figure out "Radiation level was high, turned on the fans, radiation level dropped, radioactive materials went from inside the facility to outside"?

Well now I know they did know.

From Chunichi Shiinbun Medical Site (5/26/2013; part, link won't last long):


The staff, on learning the radiation level had risen to 4 microsievert/hour, 10 times the normal, operated the fans twice in order to lower the radiation level inside the facility. KEK [High Energy Accelerator Research Organization] explained, "The radiation level wasn't that high. We figured even if [radioactive materials] leaked into the atmosphere it wouldn't be of much inconvenience to anyone."


The fans are for ventilation, and there is no filter installed that would absorb radioactive materials. They didn't expect the malfunction of the equipment, and there was no accident manual. It was 26 hours after they operated the fans, at 6PM on May 24, that they finally confirmed the rise in radiation levels at the monitoring post.


According to KEK, some people who were at the facility suggested the incident be reported to authorities including the national government, but the senior management including Yujiro Ikeda, J-PARC president who came from JAEA, decided it was not the event that requires reporting, leading to the delay in reporting.

But wait, there's always more in Japan when it comes to anything radioactive...

To ignore the warning buzzer and restart the experiment without confirming safety, and to expel radioactive materials from inside the facility using unfiltered ventilation fan is exactly what the operation manual at the facility calls for, according to KEK.

Again, from Chunichi Shinbun Medical Site (5/26/2013; part):


According to High Energy Accelerator Research Organization [KEK] who was conducting the experiment at the nuclear and particle physics experiment facility to hit gold with proton beams to generate elementary particles, the safety mechanism detected the abnormality and sounded an alarm at 11:55AM on May 23. The equipment was stopped.


The researcher in charge, without knowing why the safety mechanism tripped, reset the alarm at 12:08PM and resumed the experiment. Later, when the radiation level rose inside the facility, the experiment was stopped again. At about 3:15PM, the experiment resumed as the radiation level dropped after operating the ventilation fans.


The person in charge at High Energy Accelerator Research Organization says, "It was the procedure following the manual."

This by-the-book release of radioactive material was 100 billion becquerels in the south-westerly direction, one-hundredths of the annual legal limit of radioactive material release, according to Mainichi Shinbun (5/26/2013) quoting JAEA.

Here's the image of the ventilation fans in question (from Chunichi Shinbun):

There are several Japanese nuclear and particle physicists that are widely followed on Twitter, and some of them were apparently scheduled to conduct their experiments using the facility at J-PARC. To a sheer puzzlement of people with some rational mind left, some of these researchers are being ridiculed and bad-mouthed by Twitter mob just because they are nuclear and particle physicists using J-PARC.

Mizuho's Chief Economist Yasunari Ueno Says Abenomics Is Nothing New, "I'm Not Suffering from Amnesia..."

UK's Financial Times interviewed Yasunari Ueno, highly regarded and widely followed Chief Economist of Mizuho Securities on so-called "Abenomics".

Ueno says it's nothing new, and the risk is high that Bank of Japan cannot manage the inflation in now a very weak, fragile Japanese bond market thanks to BOJ's intervention.

A refreshing departure from the gibberish nonsense that I've been hearing and reading in Japan about "Abenomics".

FT: Why aren't you thrilled with "Abenomics"? Why are you skeptical?

Ueno: I'm not suffering from amnesia. Abenomics is kind of revival of Japanese government's economic policies. We already saw a massive expenditure from fiscal side in 1990s. As for quantitative easing by the central bank, we saw one example between 2001 and 2006. As for the so-called "growth strategy", every Japanese cabinet has made such documents, but without any strong initiatives.

FT: If Abenomics won't work, there are risks associated with it, in the unfolding of the policies. Contrary to Mr. Kuroda's intention, yield curves across the government bonds are rising. What's going on here?

Ueno: It is a malfunction of Japan's bond market. BOJ declared massive buying of JGBs (Japanese government bonds), and the market sentiment is too much dependent on BOJ's operations and actions and some voices from BOJ officials. So the market is not in good shape, very fragile, scant liquidity, high volatility. That means weak power on "buying on dips". So Japan's bond yield is going to be a little higher.

The priority there is first "higher stocks", then "weaker yen". The bottom is the level of long-term yields. So, if the higher long-term yields destroy higher stock price, then BOJ or the government is going to extinguish the fire in the bond market. However, now the stock market is firm, so no big reaction to the higher, long-term yields.

FT: Higher bond yields mean investors are positioning for inflation. But Japan has a deflation problem, doesn't it?

Ueno: Yes, in March we saw -0.5% for core CPI YoY basis. In April it will be 0.2 to 0.3%, in May it will be around flat [unchanged]. In June we are going to see 0.2 to 0.3% positive core CPI number. It will be a little shock to the JGB market. When we see the energy market movement, I confidently forecast the positive change for CPI core. However, this is kind of a supply side shock, not pulled up by demand side, stronger internal demand.

BOJ is targeting 2% within about 2 years, however it is totally impossible in this economic reality.

And if we see a higher consumption indices, then we need higher pay rise. About 5 to 6% strong wage hike is needed, however this year we are going to see about 1.8 or 1.9%. So there is a huge gap between them.

Goooood luck Japan........

It Was #Radioactive Gold, Mercury, Potassium, and Sodium Leak at J-PARC

(For previous posts on the accident, go here and here.)

Particle physics scientists at J-PARC are trying to show they are not like nuclear scientists (or nuclear plant operators) and released the result of analysis for gamma nuclides using the germanium semiconductor detector on the night of May 23, 2013, the day of the accident.

No mention of tritium, which is beta nuclide.

From the scanned images of the report on paper, published on May 25, 2013:

Hg (mercury) 197: half life 2.706 days
K (potassium) 43: half life 0.9294 day
Au (gold) 198: half life 2.695174 days
Hg (mercury) 195: half life 10.5306 hours
Na (sodium) 24: half life 14.9589 hours

There are numerous spikes indicating other radionuclides. But since it is a scanned image, I can't read the tiny print clearly.

The report also says the external radiation exposure was 0.1 millisievert (max). Almost all radiation exposure for the researchers, therefore, was from internal exposure as they inhaled the air inside the facility without realizing the gold used as target had been partially vaporized and radioactive materials, instead of staying inside the metal, were released in the air.

(English labels are by me)

The accident timeline in the report shows they continued the experiment after the equipment malfunction at 11:55AM, until 4:15PM when they used the survey meter to measure the radiation levels inside the hall. It was between 4 and 6 microsievert/hour, 10 times the normal level.

The ostensible reason for the delay in reporting the accident to authorities was that on May 23 they thought the contamination was only inside the radiation control area. That doesn't quite fly, as they say (in the accident timeline) that the radiation level (gamma) inside the hall dropped when the ventilation fan was used, and rose when they stopped using the fan.

So these particle physics scientists claim they didn't connect the dots at that time, and that they finally decided there had been radioactive materials leak outside the facility when they checked the monitoring post placed outside the facility in the evening of May 24. Another facility inside the J-PARC compound notified the Hadron Facility that their monitoring post showed elevated radiation level on May 23, precisely when the ventilation fan was being used, according to the report.

It looks like a much larger leak than first reported.

J-PARC's Hadron Experimental Facility, from their homepage:

(Here We Go Again...) "Soh-Teh-Gai" (想定外, Beyond Expectation) Events at J-PARC That Possibly Leaked Tritium and Radioactive Gold

What are the "beyond expectation" events at J-PARC in which radioactive materials leaked after they managed to vaporize gold by hitting it with proton beam that was a bit too strong?

They say (according to Jiji Tsushin, 5/25/2013):

  • They didn't even imagine that the equipment could malfunction; and

  • They didn't even imagine that proton beam could be so strong that it vaporized the metal; and therefore,

  • They didn't even imagine that radioactive materials, which in normal situation remain inside the metal, would leak outside the equipment; therefore,

  • The ventilating fan did not have a filter to block the leak of radioactive materials.

NHK's latest news adds more "beyond expectation" events:

  • They did check the surface contamination on May 23, the day of the accident, and it showed the contamination 10 times the normal level. But they didn't even suspect internal radiation exposure, and let the researchers go home;

  • They didn't check the researchers for internal radiation exposure until 4 researchers asked to be tested;

  • They are yet to test 55 others who at the facility.

The highest radiation exposure, of both internal and external radiation, was 2 millisieverts, according to NHK.

NHK also says they noticed there was a leak of radioactive materials when the radiation level in the facility dropped after using the ventilation fan.


From the tweet of one of the nuclear researchers that I follow (Tomohiro Endo, of Nagoya University), "Calculation of distribution of all nuclides (including stable isotopes and radionuclides) created when 30GeV proton beams hit 1mm-thick gold (30GeVの陽子を1mm厚さの金に当てたときに生成される全核種の分布を計算)":

(Click to enlarge)

He says in another tweet that they are the sum of (1) nuclides created when protons hit gold, and (2) nuclides created when neutrons hit gold.

Most likely radionuclides from the accident are in red and yellow, which he thinks include tritium (proton number 1, neutron number 2) - the orange dot in the lower left corner, and radioactive gold (Au-196), on the left of the orange dot which is stable AU-187 in the upper right corner.

Au-196 has half life of about 6 days. Half life of tritium is about 12 years.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Idio(syncra)tic Japan: Birds of a Feather at Toru Hashimoto's Party

Boy-wonder mayor of Osaka City Toru Hashimoto has been roundly condemned around the world for his tactless and ignorant remarks on "comfort women" and Japanese sex industry (recommending it to the Marines in Okinawa). As you would expect, his political party, Japan Restoration Party, is solidly behind him.

Here's the latest, literally incredible comment from a senior member of the party. Mr. Nariaki Nakayama is a Tokyo University graduate, former bureaucrat at the powerful Ministry of Finance, and former Minister of Education and Science and former Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism when he was with Liberal Democratic Party.

Mr. Nakayama commented on the meeting cancelled by the former Korean "comfort women" with Boy-wonder. The two women, after having observed how Boy-wonder tries to spin his own words to his advantage, changing stories and blaming others, decided they didn't want to be used in Boy-wonder's scheme to further spin the situation.

As Asahi Shinbun reports (5/25/2013), Nakayama tweeted the following:


Meeting between the former comfort women and Mayor Hashimoto was suddenly canceled. According to the support group, the two women don't want to meet [Mayor Hashimoto], as they are afraid they will be exploited for political purposes. But it was always their side who wanted to meet, and it has always been them who exploit the situation for political purposes. Were they afraid that Mr. Hashimoto would tenaciously question whether they were forcibly brought to [the location where they were made to serve as "comfort women"]? Too bad the meeting was canceled, otherwise their true colors would have been exposed.

Literal translation of the second half of the last sentence would be: "otherwise, their fake skin would have been ripped open [by Hashimoto]".

As to Boy-wonder himself, he now says he wants to apologize to people in the US and the US military, because his words were misunderstood.


#Radioactive Materials Leak at Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex (J-PARC) in Ibaraki, Researchers Accidentally Inhaled Radioactive Gold

(UPDATE 2) For the latest, see my posts here and here.

(UPDATE) From Jiji Tsushin (5/25/2013):


When the radiation level inside the facility rose, the person in charge turned on the ventilating fan and released radioactive materials outside the facility. Professor Taichi Miura at High Energy Accelerator Research Organization, who authorized the ventilation, apologized in the press conference, saying "Radiation level rises even in the normal operation because of radioactive materials with short half life, so we thought they would decay quickly. But it turned out to be imprudent."


Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), who operates J-PARC, didn't bother to notify the Nuclear Regulatory Agency (secretariat of the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, mostly made of people from NISA) for 2 days, because they did not think there was any leak of radioactive materials.

According to Asahi, the researchers suffer internal radiation of exposure of 1.7 millisievert, and the contamination of the facility is 40 becquerels per square centimeter.

Apparently, the Ibaraki prefectural government was not too happy about the incident and the fact that JAEA didn't bother to notify the authority and the prefectural government, and held an angry press conference at 2AM on May 25.

The official story of the accident, from Asahi Shinbun (5/25/2013, 1:37AM):

原子力機構で放射性物質漏れ 研究者ら4人が内部被曝

Radioactive materials leak at JAEA facility, 4 researchers suffer internal radiation exposure


Japan Atomic Energy Agency disclosed on May 25 that there was a leak of radioactive materials outside the nuclear and particle research facility at J-PARC in Tokai-mura in Ibaraki Prefecture. At least 4 researchers inside the facility suffered internal radiation exposure. The leak has stopped, and there is no danger of the leak spreading further. The maximum radiation exposure was 1.7 millisievert, according to JAEA. JAEA is currently investigating how much radioactive materials have leaked outside the facility.


According to JAEA and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority, the leak took place at 11:55AM on May 23. They were conducting an experiment of generating elementary particles by hitting gold with proton beam. The equipment malfunctioned, and the output of the proton beam increased to 400 times the normal strength, and gold was vaporized. Radioactive materials [radioactive gold vapor] leaked [from the equipment], and were inhaled by the researchers. There were about 30 researchers when the accident happened.


Contamination of the facility is about 40 becquerels per square centimeter maximum. Currently the facility is off-limit. At the time of the accident, JAEA didn't think there was a leak of radioactive materials, and did not report to the government. J-PARC is a facility to study elementary particles with large accelerators.

Equipment malfunctioned. That's the official story.

Let us now turn to "baseless rumors" among knowledgeable researchers (like this one, from Professor Hayano of Tokyo University) for what may really have happened. According to the unverified rumors, it was not the equipment that malfunctioned. Researchers made a mistake, and instead of hitting the target (gold) with low, continuous proton beam over a long period of time they accidentally hit it with high-intensity proton pulses.

According to NHK quoting the Ibaraki prefectural government, the monitoring post outside the facility showed a slight increase in radiation level between 3PM and 6PM on May 23. The radiation level is normally between 70 to 130 nanogray/hour, but it rose by 10 nanogray/hour on May 23.

Never trust the Japanese with a gigantic facility like a proton accelerator. Or a nuclear reactor. They are not only incapable of operating them properly, but when an accident happens they don't tell you.

(How do you get rid of radioactive gold in the body? Does anyone know?)

Japan's PM Abe May Be Planning a Surprise Visit to North Korea Soon

I have a feeling that the US wouldn't like it one bit. The US didn't like a secret visit by Abe's advisor Isao Iijima to Pyongyang, which apparently was news to the US.

After having been treated shabbily by President Obama on his trip to the US in April (or so Abe thinks) and his administration labeled "ultra-nationalists" who could harm the US interests in East Asia in the US Congressional report, Abe must have figured he has nothing further to lose in the eyes of his beloved US.

Abe blew it on his visit to the US, ditto on his visit to Russia, where Prime Minister Vladimir Putin got (or feigned) angry over the question by the Japanese press corp about the Kurile Islands and he refused to give Abe an assurance for selling natural gas to Japan.

Abe needs a friend, and Kim Jong-Un could be the one, I suppose.

Nikkei Shinbun (5/23/2013; part):

首相に北朝鮮訪問観測 元駐日韓国大使発言で

Speculation that Prime Minister Abe may visit North Korea, following the remarks of former South Korean ambassador to Japan


There is a speculation inside the administration and the political parties that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe may pay a surprise visit to North Korea. The speculation started with the interview of Kwon Chul-hyun, former South Korean ambassador to Japan, which appeared on the Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, on May 23. Ambassador Kwon said, "It is highly likely that Prime Minister Abe will visit North Korea, between the end of May and beginning of June at the earliest."


Isao Iijima, Special Advisor to the Cabinet who just returned from North Korea said to the press on May 23, "There are various comments about resumption of negotiations (between the Japanese government and the North Korean government), but as far as I know, in fact, working level negotiations have been complete. It now all depends on the decision by Prime Minister and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga." Mr. Suga didn't elaborate on the remark by former Ambassador Kwon, and only said, "I shouldn't comment, due to the nature of the issue. It is extremely important."

So, does that mean it is a done deal? Does Abe want to be like Kakuei Tanaka, who made a surprise visit to Communist China in 1972 and established a formal diplomatic relationship between China and Japan? Or does he just want to emulate Junichiro Koizumi, who visited North Korea to win the release of 5 abductees? 

If Abe and his advisors think today's North Korea under the North Korean version of Boy-wonder dictator, shunned by every nation except China, is equivalent to Communist China in the 1970s, and the normalization of relationship will be hailed as a great diplomatic coup and success, they are literally insane.

As Zero Hedge's Tyler says about Abe and Kuroda:

We give up: raging schizophrenia and a sado-maso fetish is now a core prerequisite for anyone who wishes to follow the daily lies these central planning sociopaths spew with impunity.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Idio(syncra)tic Japan: Nikkei Cannot Even Manage a "Dead Cat Bounce", Down 468 Right Now

(UPDATE) Nikkei ended the day up 128, afternoon swing of over 600 points. Both BOJ's Kuroda and Finance Minister Aso call the moves of yesterday and today as "just normal, daily fluctuations". Daily fluctuations of 1,000, 1,500 points is apparently the "New Normal" for so-called "Abenomics".


It was down 176 when I started to write the post...

Today's high was 15,007, and the low was 13,981(for now). The intraday swing of 1026 points is about two-thirds of that for yesterday. I was watching the Fibonacci 38.2% bounce from the yesterday's close (around 14,920), and sure enough the index overshot a little in the opening, stayed around that level for the morning but couldn't break that level.

For those of you who wonder "What's the big deal if Nikkei goes back to what it was in early May?", a normal, functioning stock index that reflects fundamentals does not go back to that level in one trading day.

The reason for the afternoon swoon, as I gather from Nikkei Shinbun, is BOJ Governor Kuroda's speech. He apparently only talked about generalities like "It is desirable that the long rate will move in a steady manner". He didn't even mention yesterday's stock market collapse. So, the market participants decided Kuroda had nothing new to offer either to stabilize the long bond rate or the stock market, and started selling index futures.

Earlier in the morning, when the market was up 500 points, Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Abe administration declared it was a sure sign that the Japanese economy was steadily improving. There was even a bizarre comment by a Japanese investment manager that the very fact that Nikkei dropped so much in one day shows they were not in a bubble.

Now, with 25 minutes to go, Nikkei is minus 55. It was jumping 100 points up or down every few seconds for a while. It's broken.

AP: #Fukushima I Nuke Plant "Struggles to Keep Staff", and "Happy" Has Cumulative Radiation Exposure of Over 300 Millisieverts

The worker who tweeted from the plant for two years, "Happy", has a cumulative radiation exposure of more than 300 millisieverts from 20 years of working in the nuclear industry, according to the AP article that extensively quotes him.

The article says the reason for the veterans like "Happy" quitting the Fukushima I Nuke Plant job is their cumulative radiation exposure approaching levels risky to health.

TEPCO, being TEPCO, denies there is any problem of finding workers, even though the plant workers get $100 a day while workers doing the decontamination work in far less contaminated areas outside the plant are paid $160 a day.

From AP (5/23/2013; emphasis is mine):

Stricken Japan nuke plant struggles to keep staff


TOKYO (AP) — Keeping the meltdown-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in northeastern Japan in stable condition requires a cast of thousands. Increasingly the plant's operator is struggling to find enough workers, a trend that many expect to worsen and hamper progress in the decades-long effort to safely decommission it.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that runs the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant that melted down in March 2011 after being hit by a tsunami, is finding that it can barely meet the headcount of workers required to keep the three broken reactors cool while fighting power outages and leaks of tons of radiated water, said current and former nuclear plant workers and others familiar with the situation at Fukushima.

Construction jobs are already plentiful in the area due to rebuilding of tsunami ravaged towns and cities. Other public works spending planned by the government, under the "Abenomics" stimulus programs of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, is likely to make well-paying construction jobs more abundant. And less risky, better paid decontamination projects in the region irradiated by the Fukushima meltdown are another draw.

Some Fukushima veterans are quitting as their cumulative radiation exposure approaches levels risky to health, said two long-time Fukushima nuclear workers who spoke to The Associated Press. They requested anonymity because their speaking to the media is a breach of their employers' policy and they say being publicly identified will get them fired.

TEPCO spokesman Ryo Shimizu denied any shortage of workers, and said the decommissioning is progressing fine.

"We have been able to acquire workers, and there is no shortage. We plan to add workers as needed," he said.

The discrepancy may stem from the system of contracting prevalent in Japan's nuclear industry. Plant operators farm out the running of their facilities to contractors, who in turn find the workers, and also rely on lower-level contractors to do some of their work, resulting in as many as five layers of contractors. Utilities such as TEPCO know the final headcount — 3,000 people now at Fukushima Dai-ichi — but not the difficulties in meeting it.

TEPCO does not release a pay scale at Fukushima Dai-ichi or give numbers of workers forced to leave because of radiation exposure. It does not keep close tabs on contracting arrangements for its workers. A December 2012 survey of workers that the company released found 48 percent were from companies not signed as contractors with the utility and the workers were falsely registered under companies that weren't employing them. It is not clear if any laws were broken, but the government and TEPCO issued warnings to contractors to correct the situation.

Hiroyuki Watanabe, a city assemblyman for Iwaki in Fukushima, who talks often to Fukushima Dai-ichi workers, believes the labor shortage is only likely to worsen.

"They are scrounging around, barely able to clear the numbers," he said. "Why would anyone want to work at a nuclear plant, of all places, when other work is available?"

According to Watanabe, a nuclear worker generally earns about 10,000 yen ($100) a day. In contrast, decontamination work outside the plant, generally involving less exposure to radiation, is paid for by the environment ministry, and with bonuses for working a job officially categorized as dangerous, totals about 16,000 yen ($160) a day, he said.

Experts, including even the most optimistic government officials, say decommissioning Fukushima Dai-ichi will take nearly a half-century. TEPCO acknowledges that the exact path to decommissioning remains unclear because an assessment of the state of the melted reactor cores has not yet been carried out.

Since being brought under control following the disaster, the plant has suffered one setback after another. A dead rat caused a power blackout, including temporarily shutting down reactor-cooling systems, and leaks required tons of water to be piped into hundreds of tanks and underground storage areas. The process of permanently shutting down the plant hasn't gotten started yet and the work up to now has been one makeshift measure after another to keep the reactors from deteriorating.

Thousands of spent nuclear fuel rods that are outside the reactors also have to be removed and safely stored. Taking them out is complex because the explosions at the plant have destroyed parts of the structure used to move the rods under normal conditions. The process of taking out the rods, one by one, hasn't even begun yet. The spent rods have been used as fuel for the reactors but remain highly radioactive.

One Fukushima Dai-ichi worker, who has gained a big following on Twitter because of his updates about the state of the plant since the meltdowns, said veteran workers are quitting or forced to cut back on working in highly radiated areas of the plant as their cumulative exposure rises.

"I feel a sense of responsibility to stick with this job," he told AP. "But so many people have quit. Their families wanted them to quit. Or they were worried about their children. Or their parents told him to go find another job."

Known as "Happy-san" to his 71,500 Twitter followers, he has worked in the nuclear industry for 20 years, about half of that at Fukushima. He has worked at bigger contractors before, but is now at a mid-level contractor with about 20 employees, and has an executive level position.

"If things continue the way they are going, I fear decommissioning in 40 years is impossible. If nuclear plants are built abroad, then Japanese engineers and workers will go abroad. If plants in Japan are restarted, engineers and workers will go to those plants," he said in a tweet. Most of Japan's nuclear plants were shut for inspections after the Fukushima disaster.

His cumulative radiation exposure is at more than 300 millisieverts. Medical experts say a rise in cancer and other illnesses is statistically detected at exposure of more than 100 millisieverts, but health damage varies by individuals. He was exposed to 60 millisieverts of radiation the first year after the disaster and gets a health checkup every six months.

Nuclear workers generally are limited to 100 millisieverts exposure over five years, and 50 millisieverts a year, except for the first year after the disaster when the threshold was raised to an emergency 100 millisieverts.

The workers handle the day-to-day work of lugging around hoses, checking valves and temperatures, fixing leaks, moving away debris and working on the construction for the equipment to remove the spent fuel rods.

Other jobs are already so plentiful that securing enough workers for even the more lucrative work decontaminating the towns around the plant is impossible, according to Fukushima Labor Bureau data.

During the first quarter of this year, only 321 jobs got filled from 2,124 openings in decontamination, which involves scraping soil, gathering foliage and scrubbing walls to bring down radiation levels.

"There are lots of jobs because of the reconstruction here," said bureau official Kosei Kanno.

A former Fukushima Dai-ichi worker, who switched to a decontamination job in December, said he became fed up with the pay, treatment and radiation risks at the plant. He has 10 years of experience as a nuclear worker, and grew up in Fukushima.

He warned it would be harder to find experienced people like him, raising the risk of accidents caused by human error.

He accused TEPCO of being more preoccupied with cost cuts than with worker safety or fair treatment. The utility went bankrupt after the disaster and was nationalized by a government bailout. Even if TEPCO somehow obtains workers in quantity in coming months, their quality would deteriorate, he said.

"We're headed toward a real crisis," said Ryuichi Kino, a free-lance writer and photographer who has authored books about the nuclear disaster and has reported on TEPCO intensively since March 2011.

Under the worst scenario, experienced workers capable of supervising the work will be gone as they reach their radiation-exposure limits, said Kino.

He believes an independent company separate from TEPCO needs to be set up to deal with the decommissioning, to make sure safety is not being compromised and taxpayer money is spent wisely.

Watanabe, the assemblyman, said the bigger nuclear contractors may go out of business because they are being under-bid by lower-tier companies with less experienced, cheaper workers. That is likely to worsen the worker shortages at the skilled level, he said.

Happy-san has the same fear. Some of the recent workers, rounded up by the lesser contractors, appear uneducated and can't read well, he said.

Although life at the plant has calmed compared to right after the disaster, Happy-san still remembers the huge blast that went off when one of the reactors exploded, and rubble was showering from the sky for what felt like an eternity.

"We had opened the Pandora's box. After all the evil comes out, then hope might be sitting there, at the bottom of the box, and someday we can be happy, even though that may not come during my lifetime," he said.

Nikkei, JGB Double-Whammy: "Please Do Not Worry..."

Another masterpiece from williambanzai7 at Zero Hedge. Click to enlarge, for full glory.

Haruhiko Kuroda, governor of Bank of Japan, had just repeated his mantra at a press conference on May 22, one day before the Nikkei collapsed over 1,000 points, that (according to Nikkei Shinbun 5/22/2013 article):

  • Long rate is rising because the rates in Europe and the US are rising [Let's blame others, that's the Japanese way]; and

  • BOJ's purchase of JGB compresses the risk premium, and the effect will get stronger as BOJ buys more [Let's flat-out lie, until people actually believe it]

  • He doesn't expect the long rate to jump, under the rate-lowering pressure from quantitative and qualitative easing [And let's lie some more..]

BOJ's purchase of JGB since early April has been nothing but disaster, with risk premium widening. The 10-year bond yield dropped to 0.315% on April 5, 2013, the day after Kuroda announced a new and improved quantitative easing of 7 trillion yen per month. The 10-year yield was 1% on May 23, 2013, 200% jump from the low on April 5.

Some "compression", Mr. Kuroda. Maybe it's another BOJ Newspeak, where "inflation" is "price stability". "Expansion" therefore must be "compression".

Yesterday's Nikkei fall started right after Kuroda's BOJ injected 2.8 trillion yen into the bond market to stabilize the (again) extremely volatile market as the bond futures trading was halted.

So what's the official excuse for that fall? As far as the semi-official story in Nikkei Shinbun (5/24/2013) goes, the consensus views are:

  • The correction has nothing to do with the (economic) fundamentals [which they call "fandamentaruzu" in katakana transliteration to disguise what it actually means];

  • It is just profit-taking, in a stock market that has risen 80% since November 2012 [So they do think the market that rose 80% in 6 months reflects economic fundamentals of Japan. Sure.];

  • [And sure enough,] Japanese economy is on a solid footing;

  • The Nikkei level after the fall on May 23 is just about right, even a little bit cheaper; and

  • BTFD (Buy The Failed Dip), with "animal spirit".

As you see, all is well. Keep repeating the lies and soon everyone will believe them and make the lies come true. That's what the Japanese government has been effectively doing, since March 11, 2011 in particular.

The magnitude of the Nikkei fall is unmistakable, though. From's homepage, chart that plots Nikkei, FTSE, Dow:

Suicide Bombers Attack Niger's Military Base and AREVA's Uranium Mine, 23 Dead

From Bloomberg/Newsweek (5/23/2013):

Niger Terrorist Attacks Leave 23 Dead as Areva Staff Hurt (2)

At least 23 people were reported dead in attacks on a Niger military base and a Areva SA (AREVA) uranium mine as one of the Islamist groups that prompted French strikes on neighboring Mali claimed responsibility.

Radio France International cited government officials it didn’t identify for the death toll. Interior Minister Abdou Labo told reporters in Niamey, the capital, that at least 19 people are confirmed dead, including 18 soldiers. Four of the attackers were killed, he said, and a fifth was holding hostages at the Agadez base.

Areva, the French maker of nuclear fuel and reactors, said one of its workers died and 14 were injured at the site near Arlit, 240 kilometers (149 miles) north of Agadez.

Forces in Niger have stepped up “security on all of our sites” following the assault at about 5:30 a.m. local time at the Somair uranium mine near Arlit in the north, Areva said in a statement. The injured people were transferred to the Somair hospital, Areva said.

Areva, which produced more than 4,500 metric tons of uranium in Niger last year out of total production of 9,760 tons, increased security measures at its sites in the West African nation after seven workers employed by the company and a unit of Vinci SA (DG) were kidnapped in 2010, and again as French military forces intervened to oust rebels in Mali earlier this year.

Responsibility for the attacks was claimed by the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, known by their French acronym Mujao, according to RFI. The group is among Islamist insurgents, including al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, who took over most of northern Mali until the French campaign to push them out.
Sahara Desert

Areva owns 63.6 percent of Somair, the company that operates the mine, and the government of Niger owns the rest. The site produced 3,000 tons of uranium last year, the company said in December.

The French company also owns 34 percent of Cominak, another uranium mine in Niger, and is in talks to sell part of its majority stake in Imouraren SA, a third production site being developed in the country, to China National Nuclear Corp.

Niger, which started oil production in the south in 2011, has previously battled insurgencies led by ethnic Touaregs in the remote north along the edge of the Sahara, where tourists once visited ancient carvings and mosques on desert journeys.

While Touaregs were early drivers of the rebellion in neighboring Mali that started in late 2011, they were later largely overpowered by the al-Qaeda-linked groups, cedeing much of their territory until the French campaign.

A group of terrorists killed at least 38 hostages in an attack on a gas complex in Algeria, which neighbors Mali and Niger, earlier this year.

AREVA's press release doesn't say much beyond what's in the article (one person died, 14 injured):

Attack against the Somair Mine in Niger – Death of one of the wounded

May 23, 2013

3:37 pm (Paris time)

AREVA has just learned with great sadness of the death of one of the victims injured during the attack of the Somaïr site. The group shares its most sincere condolences with the family and loved ones.

The current status is 14 injured people. They have been taken into care by emergency services and have been transferred to the hospital in Somaïr.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Japan's Nikkei Free-Falling, -1143

(UPDATE) It is ugly in Europe, with Germany's DAX down 223 points (2.62%). US stock futures are ugly, too. Dow futures down 159. Ben's Fed has some work to do before the cash market opens.


The stock market in Japan is supposedly disliking the contracting Chinese economy and the US Fed comment about "tapering" down the QE4EVA, but I think it's about another botched day in the JGB (Japanese Government Bond) futures market which was halted (yet again) when the price dropped and yield spiked. 10-year JGB's yield hit 1%, almost triple the yield right before the Bank of Japan intervention in early April.

Nikkei is now minus 940...still 5 minutes to trade.

I wonder if Governor Inose now has second thoughts about advancing the Japan Standard Time. He wouldn't want to start the financial day for the entire world with disaster after disaster in Japanese financial markets, would he?

It is now minus 976, one minute to trade...

...and just ended the day with minus 1,143. That's an intraday swing of 1,459 from the high of 15,942, or over 9% swing.

Now their stock market is catching up with the bond market in terms of extreme volatility.

Idiosyncratic Japan: Governor of Tokyo Wants to Set Japan Standard Time 2 Hours Earlier, Making Tokyo the First Financial Market to Open in the World

(I almost put the title as "Idiotic Japan" instead of "Idiosyncratic Japan"...)

He's at it again. Governor of Tokyo Naoki Inose seems to have fully recovered from his faux pas over Turkey. He now wants to have the Japan Standard Time advance by 2 hours so that the Japanese financial markets will become the first major market in the world to open.

What's the point, you may ask?

According to Asahi Shinbun who reported the news, it is to enhance the status of Tokyo as financial center in the eyes of the world. Daylight saving time (Summer time)-like effect will be economically beneficial, they say, without telling us who touted these benefits (I assume it is Governor Inose).

By advancing the clock by two hours, Tokyo can open one hour earlier than Australia.

Are they kidding, you may ask?

No, dead serious. The Abe administration will consider Inose's demand as part of the economic growth strategy to be compiled in June, in preparation for the July Upper House election.

I could already hear roaring laughs from real financial centers in Asia (Hong Kong, Singapore, Shanghai).

From Asahi Shinbun (5/22/2013):

日本の標準時「2時間早く」 都知事が提案、政府検討へ

Governor of Tokyo suggests Japan Standard Time to be "two hours earlier", and the national government will consider the suggestion


Governor of Tokyo Naoki Inose is going to propose at a meeting of the industrial competitiveness conference to be held on May 22 by the national government that Japan Standard Time be advanced by two hours. The aim is to encourage financial institutions to be based on Japan by making the financial markets in Tokyo first to open in the world.


Japan Standard Time was set in 1886 and hasn't been changed since. However, there are examples overseas in which the standard times were altered by the government decisions. For example, Singapore advanced the local standard time in 1982.


If Japan Standard Time is advanced by two hours, financial markets such as foreign exchange markets will be the first to open in the world, and that is said to enhance the presence of Tokyo among the world financial markets.


Right now, the European financial markets open in the evening in Japan. But if Japan Standard Time is advanced by two hours, the market hours of the three biggest financial markets of Tokyo, London and New York can complement each other.


Effects similar to daylight saving time (summer time) will be obtained, resulting in savings in energy consumption.

The presence of Tokyo in the world financial markets has been already enhanced, albeit in a bad way, with yields of Japanese Government Bonds (JGBs) going all over the place and crashing other financial asset classes, thanks to Bank of Japan's clumsy, amateurish interventions (none of which by the way is reported much in Japanese press).

Daylight saving time is usually one hour advance. But no, Japan will do two, and screw up everyone's internal clock badly. Why it's all for the economic growth!

Japan as Number One was the title of a best-selling book by Ezra Vogel published in 1979, before the start of the asset bubble in Japan in 1980s.

One more time, with arrogance and hubris.

(OT) Are You Right-Brained or Left-Brained? (Or Is She Spinning Clockwise or Counter-Clockwise?)

Apparently, she's spinning clockwise all the time for some, counter-clockwise for other. Some see both but cannot control the direction, and others can switch at will.

(I can switch if I focus, and it feels bizarre.)

The article that appeared in Australia's Herald Sun on October 9, 2007 says most of us see only counter-clockwise (i.e. left-brained), but when I re-tweeted this article there were many who said they could only see clockwise turn no matter how hard they try.

US Congressional Research Service on Japan-US Relationship: Abe Administration "Could Upset Regional Relations in Ways that Hurt U.S. Interests"


Chief Cabinet Secretary of the Abe administration is trying to spin it by saying, "The report must have been based on misunderstanding." But as I'm skimming through the report written by three Asia specialists and one specialist on international trade and finance at the Congressional Research Service of the US government, it is well written, and the grasp of Japanese politics and economic issues looks solid.

From CRS Report for Congress Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress "Japan-U.S. Relations: Issues for Congress" (5/1/2013; emphasis is mine):

(From "Summary")

Japan is a significant partner for the United States in a number of foreign policy areas, particularly in terms of security priorities, from hedging against Chinese military modernization to countering threats from North Korea. The post-World War II U.S.-Japan alliance has long been an anchor of the U.S. security role in East Asia. The alliance facilitates the forward deployment of about 49,000 U.S. troops and other U.S. military assets based in Japan in the Asia-Pacific.

Japan has struggled to find political stability in the past seven years. Since 2007, six men have been prime minister, including the current premier Shinzo Abe, who also held the post in 2006-2007. His Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) returned to power in a landslide election in December 2012. Japan’s leaders face daunting tasks: an increasingly assertive China, a weak economy, and rebuilding from the devastating March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. In recent years, opposition control of one chamber of parliament has paralyzed policymaking in Tokyo and
made U.S.-Japan relations difficult to manage despite overall shared national interests. Abe is unlikely to pursue controversial initiatives before the next national elections, for the Upper House of parliament (called the Diet) in July 2013. Perhaps most significantly, the United States could become directly involved in a military conflict between Japan and China over the Senkaku/Diaoyu islets in the East China Sea.

Comments and actions on controversial historical issues by Prime Minister Abe and his cabinet have raised concern that Tokyo could upset regional relations in ways that hurt U.S. interests. Abe is known as a strong nationalist. Abe’s approach to issues like the so-called “comfort women” sex slaves from the World War II era, history textbooks, visits to the Yasukuni Shrine that honors Japan’s war dead, and statements on a territorial dispute with South Korea will be closely monitored by Japan’s neighbors as well as the United States.

(From "Japan’s Foreign Policy and U.S.-Japan Relations", page 10)

It remains uncertain how Prime Minister Abe will fare as a steward of the relationship. On the one hand, he is known as a strong supporter of the U.S. alliance and promotes a number of security positions that align with the United States. He is an advocate of building relations with fellow democracies, particularly advancing security ties with Australia and India. On the other hand, Abe faces questions about his ability to steer foreign policy away from divisive regional issues that could hurt U.S. interests. (See section below for discussion.) In addition, domestic political divisions mean that major U.S. priorities such as Japan agreeing to the terms for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (see “Economic Issues” section for more) and allowing for more advanced defense cooperation (see “Alliance Issues” section for more) will be difficult to pursue. Abe’s approval ratings after his initial fourth months in office remained high, but action on many agenda items may be determined by the July 2013 Upper House election results.

(About "comfort women" - sex slaves, page 11)

Abe’s statements on the so-called “comfort women”—sex slaves used by the Japanese imperial military during its conquest and colonization of several Asian countries in the 1930s and 1940s—have been criticized by other regional powers and the U.S. House of Representatives in a 2007 resolution. Abe has suggested that his government might consider revising a 1993 official Japanese apology for its treatment of these women, a move that would be sure to degrade Tokyo’s relations with South Korea and other countries.

(About U.S. World-War II-Era Prisoners of War (POWs), page 14)

For decades, U.S. soldiers who were held captive by Imperial Japan during World War II have sought official apologies from the Japanese government for their treatment. A number of Members of Congress have supported these campaigns. The brutal conditions of Japanese POW camps have been widely documented.(24) In May 2009, Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki attended the last convention of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor to deliver a cabinet-approved apology for their suffering and abuse. In 2010, with the support and encouragement of the Obama Administration, the Japanese government financed a Japanese/American POW Friendship Program for former American POWs and their immediate family members to visit Japan, receive an apology from the sitting Foreign Minister and other Japanese Cabinet members, and travel to the sites of their POW camps. Annual trips were held in 2010, 2011, and 2012.(25) It is unclear whether the Abe government will continue the program. It is also unclear if Abe and other LDP politicians’ suggestions that past Japanese apologies should be reworded or retracted include the apologies to the U.S. POWs. In the 112th Congress, three resolutions—S.Res. 333, H.Res. 324, and H.Res. 333—were introduced thanking the government of Japan for its apology and for arranging the visitation program.26 The resolutions also encouraged the Japanese to do more for the U.S. POWs, including by continuing and expanding the visitation programs as well as its World War II education efforts. They also called for Japanese companies to apologize for their or their predecessor firms’ use of un- or inadequately compensated forced prison laborers during the war.

I don't think many Japanese are even aware of former American POWs... The Abe administration certainly wants to "reword" what took place in the World War II, starting with the definition of "aggression".

(About "Japanese politics", page 32)

The December 2012 Elections: A Landslide Without a Mandate for the LDP

Since 2007, Japanese politics has been plagued by in stability. Six men have been prime minister, including the current occupant of the post, Shinzo Abe (born in 1954), who was also prime minister for a 12-month period from 2006-2007. The LDP’s dominant victory in the December 2012 Lower House elections swept the party back into power. However, in the view of most observers—and even many in the LDP—the results were more attributable to voters’ desire to eject the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) from power rather than enthusiasm for the LDP or its policy proposals.(51) Indeed, by some measures, the LDP garnered less support than in the last Lower House election, in 2009. Nonetheless, it was able to secure a commanding number of seats because of one of the lowest turnouts (59%) in the post-World War II era and the splitting of the anti-LDP vote among the DPJ and a number of new or relatively new parties.

The Abe administration, and Prime Minister Abe himself, has been craving the love and attention from the US administration. After visiting President Obama, Abe was heard complaining to his aides, "I traveled great distance to see him (President Obama), and but didn't even smile at me."

Instead, in this report, I sense a puzzlement, almost a slight dismay - of all nations, why does Japan under this prime minister have to be the US military ally and economic partner?

As usual, some of the response I get on Japanese Twitter is rabidly anti-US, casting Japan as "victim"; it's all because of China, Korea, or the US that Japan and the Japanese suffer, and they are there to wrestle money from Japan.

Like worrying that Thais will re-export expensive tomatoes and asparagus from Fukushima back to Japan and the Japanese will suffer.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cherry Tomatoes and Asparagus, From #Fukushima to Thailand

I don't quite understand the psychology of some of the farmers in Fukushima in the past two years. From what's been reported and what I've known in blogs and tweets, they are angry that fickle consumers outside their prefecture are still fanning the "baseless rumors" that their produce is contaminated with radioactive materials from the biggest nuclear accident in Japan in history, and they are determined more than ever to keep producing anything they like and demand that consumers buy them, because they have to make living. I'm sure there are conscientious farmers who would rather not farm, but they are not vocal.

"Eat and support" is now clearly being expanded to foreign countries, with Thailand to start.

For some time, the Fukushima prefectural government and Fukushima JA seem to have been targeting Thailand, which receives 70% of foreign economic aids from Japan, according to Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. First, it was Fukushima peaches. Then apples, pears, then persimmons. Now, Fukushima will sell fresh cherry tomatoes and asparagus to wealthy Thais.

That, on top of the hot money escaping from Japan, thanks to PM Abe and BOJ's Kuroda, and pouring into developing nations including Thailand. Thais are traditionally very friendly to Japanese, but I wonder how long that will last.

From Fukushima Minyu (5/17/2013; part):

県産野菜をタイで販売へ ミニトマトとアスパラ初輸出

Vegetables grown in Fukushima to be sold in Thailand, first export of cherry tomatoes and asparagus


Fukushima Trade Promotion Council made of the prefectural and municipal governments and corporations in Fukushima announced on May 16 that cherry tomatoes and asparagus grown in Fukushima will be exported to Thailand for the first time, and test sales will be on May 24 to 26 at large department stores in Bangkok. It will be the first export of Fukushima's vegetables to Thailand. On May 23, a business meeting with potential buyers will be set up in Bangkok, where 4 brands of well-renowned sake in Fukushima will be offered. The Council felt good that peaches and apples from Fukushima sold well [in Thailand last year], and wants to make this occasion a foothold to expand export to Thailand.


Vegetables to be exported this time are 40 kilograms of cherry tomatoes produced by Tomatoland Iwaki (in Iwaki City), and 30 kilograms of asparagus produced in Kitakata City and shipped by JA Aizu Iide. Since it will be a test sales, the quantities will be small, and they will be sold at 5 stores of a large department store chain in Thailand. In order to export, it is necessary to confirm the safety of the produce at a testing laboratory designated by the Thai government. So, at the time of shipment, the vegetables will be tested for radioactive materials. The test results will be attached to the vegetables which will be transported by air from Haneda Airport.

Tomatoland Iwaki's homepage proudly says "Delicious and Safe Produce to Your Table".

The company says it tests its tomatoes for radioactive materials using the germanium semiconductor detector at an outside lab. Radioactive cesium not detected, says the latest result for cherry tomato on May 15, 2013. Looking closely, I notice that the detection limit is 10 Bq/kg. That's awfully high for the germanium semiconductor detector, meaning they don't test long. But in post-Fukushima Japan, if it is less than 10 Bq/kg, what are you complaining about? There's nothing to fear.

Iwaki City is located 30 kilometers south of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant.

While the Aizu region (mountain third of Fukushima) are relatively free of radioactive materials from the accident, areas around Kitakata City is unfortunately not so clean, as you can see in Professor Hayakawa's map.

Fukushima Prefecture's own testing of asparagus from Kitakata City has been N/D, with the detection limit of about 8 to 20 Bq/kg for radioactive cesium.

So, people in Bangkok will have an opportunity to taste pricey cherry tomatoes and asparagus from Fukushima which may or may not have radioactive cesium, in addition to peaches, apples and persimmons which were found with radioactive cesium, albeit below the government safety standard of 100 Bq/kg.

There are people who retweet this story in Japan with their comment like "Now the risk of having these vegetables and fruits processed in Thailand and shipped back to Japan as "Made-in-Thailand" food will be even greater!" It does not make any economical sense for Thais to do so, but for some Japanese, it has to be always the Japanese who are the victims of this nuclear accident.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Belgium's Two Nuclear Reactors with Cracks Are Good to Restart, Minister Says Government Does Not Have Power To Interfere with "Independent" Regulator and Operator

These days, things nuclear look almost serene compared to the (soap) scums in the political world (here and here in Japan, here and here and here in the US, for some examples).

But that's probably because political scums are used to mask problems that cannot be fixed.

Belgium, having to rely on nuclear power for more than 50% of electricity, has declared two reactors safe to operate whose Reactor Pressure Vessels were found with thousands of small cracks in August 2012 (see my post for one of them).

Why? Because there is no way to fix the cracks now (besides, the company that made the vessels went out of business), and Belgium needs electricity.

From Reuters (5/17/2013):

UPDATE 1-Belgian regulator clears GDF to restart nuclear reactors

* A third of Belgium's nuclear capacity closed since last yr

* Reactors should restart in 2-3 weeks (Recasts with regulator confirmation)

By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS, May 17 (Reuters) - Belgium's nuclear safety regulator has given approval for GDF Suez to restart two nuclear reactors closed last year over safety concerns, it said in a report on Friday.

"The Federal Agency for Nuclear Control considers that the Doel 3 and Tihange 2 reactor units can be restarted safely," the report said.

It added that all of the safety concerns had been resolved satisfactorily.

Belgium halted the 1,006-megawatt (MW) Doel 3 reactor in August last year after indications of cracks were discovered on the core tank during ultrasound checks.

A month later, it found similar flaws on the 1,008-MW Tihange 2 after it tested the tank during a routine stoppage, leaving Belgium without a third of its nuclear power generation capacity.

It will take two to three weeks to restart the reactors, a spokeswoman for GDF Suez's Belgian division Electrabel said following the decision.

According to Asahi Shinbun who reported the news in Japan, Doel 3 reactor has over 8,000 small cracks, and Tihange 2 has over 2,000. They conducted the tolerance test to ensure safety, according to Asahi.

Greenpeace is vowed to sue the Belgium government, according to Euronews (5/17/2013):

Greenpeace are threatening to sue the Belgian government. The leading environmental activist network is threatening legal action after Belgium’s nuclear safety regulator gave the green light to GDF Suez to go ahead and restart two nuclear reactors.

However, during a news conference, the Belgian Interior Minister, Joelle Milquet claimed that the government does not have the power to block the move.

The independent regulator provides technical advice to an operator on the restarting of its operations. We do not have the ability to interfere in the decision, because it is an independent operator,” he said.

Last year two nuclear reactors were closed after safety concerns were flagged up in their their tanks, during an ultrasound check.

Greenpeace says it is the government’s responsibility to guarantee the safety of the Belgian people.

“We will summon the government for the lack of decent emergency plan and at the same time they increase the risks of a nuclear accident,” says Greenpeace Belgium energy campaigner Eloi Glorieux.

So while a legal battle may be brewing reactors, Doel 3 and Tihange 2 could be back up and running within 3 weeks, now that Belgium’s nuclear watchdog claims all issues have been resolved.

What does the minister mean, the government does not have the power to block the move? Ensuring the safety of things like nuclear reactors is one of the few remaining good things that a government should do.

In contrast, Switzerland's Mühleberg Nuclear Power Plant has a huge crack in the core shroud inside the Reactor Pressure Vessel, and the license to operate is set to be withdrawn by the court order in June this year.

#Idiosyncratic Japan: Business Is Good at Tokyo's "Soaplands", and They Call the Boom "Awa (Soap Bubble) nomics"

Ahhhhh this can't be happening......

As Boy-wonder speaks of Japanese sex industry as solution to Marines in Okinawa and doubles down on his "opinion" that comfort women were necessary and they were no sex slaves and everyone did it, The Economist magazine puts wrinkled Abe as a superman of some sort flying over Tokyo accompanied by two Japanese fighter jets, and puts out an article titled "Japan and Abenomics: Once more with feeling" with the opening paragraph talking about price hike at "soapland" outfits in Tokyo that offer sexual massage.

Welcome to "Awanomics". ("Awa" is bubble, as in soap bubble used in the soapland massage.)

From The Economist (5/18/2013):

Japan and Abenomics: Once more with feeling

The Shinzo Abe shaking up Japan’s economy seems a different man from the one whose previous premiership was marked by nationalistic posturing. He isn’t

IN “SOAPLAND”—Sopurando, a Tokyo red-light district—the price of a basic half-hour “massage” has recently gone up for the first time since 1990. Demand for the top-end, “highly technical” massage service, costing ¥60,000 ($600) a go, has also been soaring, according to Akira Ikoma, editor of My Journey, which covers the sex industry. He says it is all thanks to the surging stockmarket.

In Sopurando they are cheekily calling this reinvigoration “awanomics”, from awa, meaning bubble or lather. Elsewhere in Japan they call it Abenomics in honour of Shinzo Abe, elected prime minister in December 2012. Japan, Mr Abe declared as he took office, was back, and he lost not a moment in proving it. Having quickly assembled his cabinet, in January he announced a ¥10.3 trillion fiscal stimulus.

(Full article at the link)

The article even has a Japanese Self Defense Force ship with the rising-sun flag of the imperial navy (which is still used as the naval ensign of the SDF). It had been used before the Meiji government adopted it as military flag, but it is widely regarded in Asia in particular as the symbol of Japanese aggression (which Boy-wonder's sidekick and Governor of Osaka Prefecture wants it precisely defined).

The somewhat light-hearted, Keynesian article still ends somewhat ominously:

The emperor’s new constitution

Some amendments to the 1947 constitution, such as one acknowledging Japan’s clear right to a standing army, navy and air force, are now broadly popular. But it is becoming clear that Mr Abe and the traditionalists, pining for an imperial era from which most of the country has moved on, aim to go further than that. They want, among other things: the emperor to be restored as head of state; collective duties emphasised over individual rights; and veneration for the family unit. As a precursor to such changes, the LDP plans to make it easier to amend a constitution which so far has never been altered. The current process requires a two-thirds majority in each house, plus a national referendum.

At best, all this could prove a distraction at a time when some structural-reform initiatives already appear to be running into the sands. At worst, it could endanger all reform by eroding the government’s popularity, at the same time increasing tensions with Japan’s neighbours. Far from having banished the ghosts of his past, as some of his advisers claim, the prime minister is in danger of summoning them up again.

The section title is a pun on Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes", I believe. Not good at all...