On Saturday the 16th June, the Prefecture of Fukui (in the West of Japan) officially gave its consent to the Prime Minister for two reactors at the Ohi nuclear power station to be restarted. The dates are set for the 8th July for reactor N°3 and the 24th July for Reactor N°4.
So the ‘nuclear zero’ experiment will only have lasted two months. Apparently, the painful experience of Fukushima will have no impact on the habitual order of Japanese political life.
No question meets with a clear answer anymore: extremely divergent figures are offered up for elements that should be purely factual, whether they concern radiation levels, the probability of fresh seismic activity, or evaluations of the summertime energy consumption. The most fundamental things seem to get lost in a haze. Why did the Fukushima nuclear power station continue to function beyond the date which had been set for its shutdown? Why did the ex-Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, immediately announce the shutdown of the Hamaoka nuclear power station after the Fukushima catastrophe? There is speculation about a possible link between the answers to these questions and a war lost by Japan some 67 years ago – but only on Twitter.
Some hundreds of thousands of Japanese have manifested their opposition to a restart of the nuclear power stations, but this information is virtually absent from the Japanese media: the photos of the demonstrations cannot be found anywhere. On the 7th June, women from Fukushima demonstrated in front of the Prime Minister’s residence. You can see them here. Will their suffering be brought to an end? Unfortunately the question is more or less asked in vain: citizens have ceased to exist in today’s Japanese society which is in the process of transforming into a simple technological dictatorship.
It’s already well established that Tepco, the operator of Fukushima, is in control of very little in the devastated nuclear plant. Not the ongoing, endemic contamination of the atmosphere and of the sea, not the status of nuclear fuel reduced to a state of three coriums which either can’t be localized or are stocked in pools from which they cannot be removed. Nor, even less so, the potential impact of new seismic shocks on the battered systems, including in the first instance that of Reactor N° 4’s cooling pool , a tremendous source of worry given the enormous mass of fuel it contains.
1535 fuel assemblies are stocked 30 metres (110 feet) above the ground in a structure which has had to be consolidated and which is open to the air, representing 85 times the quantity of Cesium-137 released during the explosion of the Chernobyl reactor…..Enough to render the whole of Japan uninhabitable and beyond, for it is on this kind of scale that the potential danger can be measured.
Fukushima poses problems that are currently impossible to resolve, unacknowledged only because of the conviction that even if the dismantling of the plant takes forty years, it will be seen through to the end. In reality, nothing is less certain. All this points to an improbable alternative: covering of all the installations by an immense sarcophagus, which will need continual cooling. An edifice in comparison with which Chernobyl’s –whose replacement site has just entered into construction – will pale into significance. With two slightly different requirements: that the basement floor on which the plant is constructed is able to support the weight, and that the leaks of water contaminated by these basements are stopped.
Simultaneously, the Fukushima catastrophe has just entered into a brand new phase. It started with the progressive halting for maintenance of the entire network of nuclear reactors, which still numbered 50 once Fukushima was discounted, the last one still in operation having ceased all activity on the 5th May. The reactors will now have to pass a double test; security tests which will always be suspected of partiality, and the test of public opinion as well as popular pressure on locally elected representatives.