A Voice from Insider: I Want You to Know What a Nuclear Power Plant Is by Norio Hirai (English version)
I Want You to Know What a Nuclear Power Plant Is
About the author Norio Hirai: died in January 1997.
Level 1 plant piping engineer, advisor to the National Conference of Nuclear Power Plant Accident Survey, representative of the Relief Center of Nuclear Radiation Workers, special assistant to the court plaintiff Noto (currently, Shiga) Nuclear Power Plant Injunction of Hokuriku Electric Power Company, Special Assistant to the court plaintiff of Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant Injunction of Tohoku Electric Power Company, lawsuit plaintiff witnesses of Unit 3 of Fukushima II Nuclear Power Plant Operating Injunction.
Relief Center of the Nuclear Radiation Workers was closed down, as there weren’t successors.
I am not an Activist Against Nuclear Power
I am not an activist against nuclear power. I am a person who was working at nuclear power plants site for over twenty years. There are various controversies about nuclear power; agree, dangerous, safe and so on; however, I am going to talk about things in the nuclear power plant that are unknown by most of people in a manner "nuclear power plants are like such a thing." And I think that when you read through until the end, it will be clear to you that nuclear power plants are not something everybody has in mind, they cause people to be exposed and make serious differences daily as well.
I think there are going to be many things you will hear for the first time. I would truly like you to read it through to the end, and then let’s think what we should do about nuclear power plants.
There are many people who talk about the design of nuclear power plants, but there is no one who talks about execution and making them, like I do. However, if one doesn’t know about the site of a nuclear power plant, he/she doesn’t know the truth about it.
I specialize in laying pipes for plants, large chemical manufacturing factories and etc. At the end of the 20s Japan was going to build nuclear power plants, and I was recruited and went to the nuclear power plant. If I had been just an operations worker, I wouldn’t have known, even if I had worked there for decades; but I worked as a site foreman for a long time, so I know almost all things about nuclear power plants.
"Safety" is a Talk on the Desk
On January the 17th of last year (1995) the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck, the voice of fear "Is the earthquake at the nuclear power plant going to break it or will something happen to it?" increased from the public. The question is “Is a nuclear power plant okay in an earthquake?” However, it is not okay at all.
The government and the electric power companies emphasize that it is safe because it has been constructed on solid rock considering seismic design, but this is a talk on the desk. I went to Kobe on the following day of the earthquake to see, and there were too many things in common with a nuclear power plant; it made me rethink. I think that no one from our nation ever had it in their minds that the rails of the bullet trains would really fall; or that the freeways would really fall sideways then.
It is a common assumption in the world that strict inspection is being done via official inspections at the nuclear power plants, the bullet trains, freeways and so on. However, wooden blocks of formworks were contained in concrete on the bright pier of the bullet trains, the penetration of welded steel struts of the freeways was bad. It looked like it had been welded at first glance, but the welding itself had not been done; part of the welding was completely out of place.
Why did these kinds of things happen? Basically it is because only the design was emphasized on paper, it was neglected in the field of construction and management. It is not even the direct reason, but such accidents happened.
Nuclear Power Plants are Built by Amateurs
Even in nuclear power plants, there are way too many so called accidents can be caused by human mistakes; human errors have occurred, such as a wire was left inside the reactor or in the piping that connected pipes when some tool was left inside. It is because there are so few professional craftsmen; no matter how admirable the design is, it can’t be built by just the design itself. The absolute conditions on discussion of design on the desk are construction by the highest-skilled craftsmen. But, there has never been a discussion about what kind of skills the people who are building the nuclear power plants have and how it is going on-site.
Because it is a reality that they are being built entirely by amateurs, from the actual workers to the inspectors both in nuclear power plants and at the construction site; it is not incomprehensible when any accident occurs at a nuclear power plant, the bullet train, a motorway and so on.
The designs of Japanese nuclear power plants are excellent, with double, triple, multiple protections; they are designed in such a way that if a failure occurs somewhere, it will duly stop. However, this is just until the design stage. It becomes strange in the actual stage of construction and building.
Suppose, we are building our own house, even if we have respectable first-class architects, but if the carpenter, plasterer and etc. are low-skilled, leaking may occur, the joints may not fit, and so on; unfortunately this is a Japanese nuclear power plant.
An age ago there was always a craftsman called a Boshin, a more experienced craftsman than the young supervisor in the field as the group leader. Craftsmen had pride in their work, considered accidents or negligence as shameful, and knew the horror of accidents well. From about 10 years ago these craftsmen disappeared on site. They recruited complete amateurs with no experience required. The amateurs didn’t know the fear of accidents, building completely without awareness of what might be a negligent or illegal construction.
For example, in the Fukushima nuclear power plant, they were operating with a wire that dropped inside the reactor. A huge accident was going to occur that would catch the whole world if there were a misstep more. The worker himself did know that he dropped the wire, but he wasn’t completely aware of just how big an accident would have connected. In that sense the decrepit nuclear power plants are dangerous, but the danger of nuclear power plants is the same in the sense that the amateurs built them.
Since there were fewer craftsmen at the site, construction workers began being instructed by manuals, so that even amateurs could build the plant. Instruction by manuals is not building something by looking at drawings; they brought assembled pieces from the factories, and then just stacked them like building blocks and so on, such as No. 1 to No. 1, No. 2 to No. 2 at the site. This way, while you’re building, you completely have no idea about what you’re doing and how important it is. This kind of matter is also one of the reasons that accidents or failures frequently occur.
Furthermore, nuclear power plants are working places where we cannot raise a successor after we have had a problem of exposure to radioactivity. Because it is dark and hot at nuclear power plant sites, people also wear protective masks; it is a place where people can’t even talk to each other, so they have to use body language. So this way, good skills can't be taught. In addition, the more skillful a worker is, the earlier the worker uses the maximum permissible dose in a year, and then they can’t enter. So amateurs are also ok moreover.
Besides, for example, if you are a welding craftsman, your eyes get hurt. When you’re over 30 years old, your work is already done; you can’t do the detailed work anymore. So you are someone who is not suitable to work at oil plants where there are many fine workers. Well, in that case, even the daily allowance is cheap, so he might as well go to a nuclear power plant.
People have the wrong idea somehow. You might think that a nuclear power plant is something that is very technically advanced. It is not a premium one. So since nuclear power plants are built by some amateurs, the nuclear power plant is something you just can do nothing with in the future.
Inspection / Inspectors in Name Only
There are some people, who say that there are no craftsmen at the plants anymore, if you strictly do the inspection, it’ll be ok. However, the inspection system is the problem. Because what is wrong is just looking at the things that are already made is the way Japanese inspection is done. It is important to see the process of construction in an inspection.
If it isn’t a real inspection, if an inspector doesn’t have the skill to show himself/herself in case of welding, “Not this way. Watch carefully. You should do it this way.” There is no way for an inspector with no such skill to give a decent inspection. Listening to the description of the manufacturer, donor and etc. if only the paperwork is collected, then pass; this is the fact in the official inspection now.
As nuclear power plant accidents have been occurring way too frequently, they decided to put operation management specialists in each nuclear power plant at the Cabinet meeting. They are officials who give permits for operation after the establishment of a nuclear power plant and periodical inspections. I did know that the officials are amateurs, but I did not know to what terrible extent.
There is a reason to say this. When I was giving a talk in Mito, there was a person who stated from the venue that “It is really embarrassing, but I am entirely an amateur" after he/she clearly said that he/ she was from the Science and Technology Agency. The person said using the real names that "If there was exposure, they would absolutely not send their staff from their workplaces to the sites. Because there were extra officers in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries due to administrative reform just then, the people who had been leading sericulture, yellowtail culturing etc. until yesterday were assigned as technical inspectors the next day. The people of this kind who didn’t know anything issued operation permits as professional inspectors at the nuclear power plants. The specialist who was at Mihama nuclear power plant had been inspecting rice until three months ago." Can you trust the operation permit issued by a complete amateur of this kind?
When the major accident where the emergency core cooling system (ECCS) was activated occurred in Fukushima nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company, Yomiuri Shimbun reported that “Specialist on the Site Was Ignored”, the person in charge of the nuclear power plant learned about the major accident from the newspaper the next day. Why didn't the specialist official know anything? It is because people in the power company knew that the specialist official was a complete amateur; they didn’t include the person to the site and left the person alone in the mess, like in a firestorm you can’t take your time to explain to a kid. That is why the person didn't know anything.
There is a person from the Association of Nuclear Inspection who is under such a negligent person. So what kind of person is this person? It is because the Association is a place where retirees from the Ministry of Trade and Industry go by recommendation from high office, so the specialty is completely different. The person has authority for all inspections of the construction of nuclear power plants; no work can proceed unless this person gives an OK, but the person knows nothing about the inspections. While you’re saying it is an inspection, it’s actually no more than going there and taking a look. However, he has a big authority. There are power companies under this Association, 3 reactor manufacturers, Hitachi, Toshiba and Mitsubishi. I was at Hitachi; there are construction companies under this manufacturer. In other words, there are amateurs above also from manufacturers, the construction companies under it are also almost all amateurs. So about accidents at a nuclear power plant too, it is not the electric power companies, if you’re not the manufacturers, you don’t know the details.
I’m talking about this when I was working on the site and after quitting; we need to make a real third-party agency, Ministry of Trade and Industry is a place that promotes nuclear power plants; we need to make an agency that is totally unrelated to such places; this agency needs to do the inspection, not some place from a parachute or a corporation with special status. If inspectors, who are people with experience such as in piping, veteran craftsmen, give inspection and guidance, they’ll find welding defects, construction work done with cutting corners and etc.; I have been discussing this with the utmost effort, but until now nothing has been changed. The Administration of Japan's nuclear power plants are way too irresponsible and lousy as this.
Sloppy Earthquake-Proof Design of Nuclear Power Plants
After The Great Hanshin Earthquake, the earthquake-resistant designs on nuclear power plants across Japan were hurriedly reviewed, and the result was released in September, it said, "it is ok in any earthquake on any nuclear power plant," which is unbelievable. As far as I was involved, in the early days of nuclear power plants, earthquakes were not considered seriously. Regarding old ones in the same light as new ones and saying it is ok, it is a deadly mistake.
In 1993 the output jumped up in Unit 1 of Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant in an earthquake with an intensity of 4 on the Japanese seven-stage seismic scale, automatic shutdown, and this accident was a serious one. Why was it serious? It was constructed to stop at an intensity of 5 in 1984 in this nuclear power plant, it was not 5, but it stopped. To put it in a simpler way, suppose you’re driving on the freeway, you didn’t step on the brakes, but the brakes stopped suddenly; it is the same thing. This is not as simple as Tohoku Electric said that it was good that it stopped. When it was designed to stop at 5, but stopped at 4, it could mean that it could not stop at 5. In other words, it is showing that various things do not go as designed.
Such an unusual stoppage at the nuclear power plant during an earthquake happened also at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in 1987. There were as many as 10 nuclear power plants of the same type in Japan. Isn’t it really frightening when we think about earthquakes and nuclear power plants?
The Routine Inspection Workers are also Amateurs
It is a fixed rule that after operating for about one year long a nuclear power plant must be stopped and have routine inspections done. A nuclear reactor is an enormously high as 70 - 150 atmospheric pressure-loaded places, boiling water is in the pipes, as hot as 300°C, because the water and steam are rapidly running through, and the thickness of the pipe at some places becomes haft thinned. Such pipes, valves need to be changed after all, for this work exposure is always there.
When you move a nuclear power plant one time, radiation fills it; people work there in pouring radiation. To go into such a site, you need to take all your clothes off, change into protective clothing, and then enter. When you say “protective clothing”, it sounds like some clothing to protect your body from radioactivity, but it's not. It is because an alarm meter for measuring the amount of radiation is attached to the vest of the protective clothing. In other words, the protective clothes are only a working uniform so the worker does not carry radioactivity outside. It is not something to protect the working people against radiation. So when you finish your work and do out, you wear only a pair of underpants to test whether you’re exposed or not. When radioactivity is attached to the surface of the body, i.e. an external exposure, you take a shower thoroughly; it can be almost watched off, so you wash thoroughly until the radioactivity is down to zero, then finally you can go out.
Then there are shoes, called safety shoes; you put the equipped shoes on, because there are no shoes that well suit individual sizes, the place where your feet are, the important place for work, are not steady. In addition, to prevent from breathing in radioactivity, you wear full-face mask and so on. You enter the site in this kind of look, because you work while worrying about radioactivity; in fact, there is no way to do a good job in the nuclear power plant. It is completely different from a usual workplace.
More than 95% of the people working this way are complete amateurs. The farmers and fishermen work there when they have spare time from their work in the winter. Sorry for the language, but these people work away from home for money. So this kind of people with no experience does the work without knowing the fear at all.
For example, when working on tightening bolts with screws, you give them instruction such as "Please lock it in diagonal, otherwise it will leak." The working place is a radiation controlled environment, so it’s full of radioactivity, the worst place. You attach an alarm meter upon entering the site, because depending on the locations, the amount of radiation is different, and the time when you can work is different. The schedule has everything worked out to the minute.
Before entering the site, the work and time of the day is determined by the amount of radioactivity passible for one person for the day; in the site you can work for 20 minutes, when the 20 minutes is up, the alarm meter rings. So you give them instruction that “When the alarm meter rings, please leave the site.” But there is no clock on the site. If you enter with a clock, the clock will be contaminated with radioactivity, so only your internal clock. You go in the site this way.
So locking the bolts with the screw in there, you think that maybe 10 minutes passed; maybe 15 minutes passed, your mind goes only there. The ring of the alarm meter is scary. The arm meter makes an outrageous sound. When one hears it for the first time, it is scary that your face can become bloodless. You can know if you don’t experience it. When it makes the sound, if it is x-ray, it approximately equals to the amount of radiation that can transcribe dozens once. So even you instruct them that “clock it in diagonal”, they can’t do it as being said, so the job inevitably becomes a sloppy work, well, lock it and fine. Then, what will happen?
The Sea of Runaway Radioactivity
The inspection work is often done in the winter, when it is finished, dozens of tons of water containing radioactivity flow into the sea. Frankly speaking, there is almost no fish caught in Japan's Islands that you can eat without worrying. It is because the ocean of Japan is polluted by radioactivity.
The discharging of dirty water with radioactivity to the sea is being done not only at the time of routine inspections. A nuclear power plant produces terribly high heat. In Japan we cool it down with seawater, and then dump the water into the sea; this is thermal water flow with radioactivity; there can be even tens of tons of water in one minute.
When there is a nuclear power plant accident, the prefectures, etc. declare safety in their panic; the electric power company tries to hide issues even further. The people in Japan are almost indifferent, so the ocean of Japan has become dirty and hasn’t been taken care of.
Because the protective clothing is full of radioactive material, wash it first, and then flow into the sea. When you measure the amount of radiation in the drains, it is a great amount. In places like this people are doing fish farming. I really would like people who see safe food to know these kinds of things and become more interested in nuclear power plants. If it continues, we won’t be able to choose food uncontaminated by radioactivity.
Several years ago at the briefing session of the court case of Shiga Nuclear Power Plant Injunction of Ishikawa Prefecture, a nearly 80-year-old peddling old woman gave a talk. She said, "I didn’t know about nuclear power plants until now. Today when I brought some seaweed, Wakame and Kombu, to my regular customer, the young wife said 'Sorry but I won’t be able to buy it from today. Today is the last day because the Shiga Nuclear Power Plant has started operating." I don’t know anything about nuclear power plant, but I understand about a nuclear power plant for the first time by my real experience. What should I do?" She was lost. The ocean of Japan has been polluted by radioactivity, while you are unaware.
Internal Radiation Exposure is the most Frightening
Everything in the building of a nuclear power plant turns to radioactive materials. Everything becomes a radioactive substance, everything puts out radiation. No matter how thick iron is, radiation can pierce through. It is scary to be exposed from outside of the body, but what is most frightening is internal exposure.
Dust, which is everywhere. This dust that has been bathed in radioactivity in the nuclear power plants and become radioactive is flying. When the dust, which has been bathed in radioactivity, enters your mouth, nose, etc., it’ll be internal exposure. Tidying up and cleaning a nuclear power plant gets internal exposure the most; the radiation dose exposure from inside of your body is much more dangerous than external radiation exposure. It is because you are exposed to radiation directly from your body.
Radioactivity entered in the body usually comes out in about three days with sweat and urine. Well, okay, 3 days, the radioactivity will be in the body. Also, even if it comes out of the body, because it is human-made criteria by itself, it is never zero. This is very scary. No matter how minor, it accumulates in the body.
If you have ever visited a nuclear power plant, you would know that the place for the general public to visit is really clean; the staff also says proudly "Is it clean?” naturally, it’s clean. It is because if you don’t keep it clean, radioactive dust will be flying around and dangerous.
I have had internal exposure more than 100 times, so I have cancer. When I was told that I was diagnosed with cancer, I was so scared thinking of what to do. I am going to die. However, my mother always said, “there is nothing that is greater than death." So well, I thought I’d do something before I die. What I thought is that I’d reveal all the things I know about nuclear power plants.
It is Completely Different from a Usual Workplace.
Radioactivity accumulates. No matter how minor, if it’s 10 years, it accumulates for those 10 years. This is scary. Japan's radiation control has such an attitude, if you follow the 50 mSv per year, it is fine, if it does not exceed that, and it is fine.
For example, it takes about three months for a regular inspection, if you do division by it, you get the dose per day. However, there are places with high radiation where you can work only for five to seven minutes. But, because it is not work at all, so you ask them to do the work bathing a dose for days such as 3 days, a week once. This is something that you never should do, this way you can do the work for 10 minutes, 20 minutes and so on. It is still ok if you know that if you do so, you can get leukemia, cancer and so on… But the power company doesn’t tell you anything about this kind of thing.
There was a case where a large screw attached to a machine got loose in the operation of the nuclear power plant. Because the amount of radioactivity was horrendous when the nuclear power plant was running, we provided 30 workers to tighten the one screw. Lined up and ran up to the screw at about seven meters away. Go there, like you’re counting one, two, three, the alarm meter rang already. There was even a person who ran in and thought “where is the wrench to tighten the screw?” then it was over already. Just for tightening the screw it cost about four million yen, for a 160-person operation.
You may be wondering why the nuclear plant wasn’t stopped and repaired. If the plant stops for a day, the loss will be as much as hundred million yen, so the power company tries not to have it stopped if possible. Radioactivity is a very dangerous thing, but it is because to a company, money is more important than people’s lives.
Five Hours of “It is absolutely safe” Brainwashing Education
The people who work in workplaces with radioactivity, such as nuclear power plants, are called radiation workers. There have been about two hundred seventy thousand radiation workers in Japan so far, most of them are nuclear power plant workers. About ninety thousand people are working on nuclear power plants now too. These people are doing the annual regular inspection work, supporting the nuclear power plants, while being exposed every day, every single day.
For the first-time workers at nuclear power plants have radiological control education for about five hours. The main purpose of this education is to relieve anxiety. There is no one telling you that nuclear power plants are dangerous. They are being brainwashed for over five hours this way, because the government controls the exposure amount, and it absolutely safe, so please work with no concern; some people in the world who are against nuclear power plants say that you can get cancer, leukemia etc. from being exposed to radioactivity, but these are “complete damned lies.” If you follow the things the government has defined, it is absolutely alright.
Such "nuclear safety" brainwashing is being done by the power companies to the people of the region too. For instance, famous people are called to give speeches, make cooking classes for culture activity, and insert splendid color-printed flyers to the newspaper. So even when an accident occurs, you become uneasy, but you’ll be brainwashed immediately by such safety propaganda, and you will be convinced that “It’s going to be hard, if we lose electricity without nuclear power plants.”
I myself was doing brainwashing education to the workers, more than the mind control of Asahara from Aleph for nearly 20 years as a site director. I don’t know how many people I killed. People often ask that if the workers on the site don’t have anxiety, because they are not told about the danger of radioactivity, exposure and etc., nearly all of them won’t feel anxious. When their health is gets worse, they never even think that it is because of the nuclear power plant. All of the workers get exposure every day. The job of the site director is to prevent the person and the people outside from knowing. Leaking the problem about exposure to the person and the people outside is a disqualification of the site.
I did this work for a long time; there were many days when I couldn’t stand it every day. I used the power of alcohol at night, drank more and more. I also questioned myself as such a person more and more: for what and for whom the hell must I spend every day lying like this? When I noticed this, my body was already ragged with exposure from the 20-year nuclear power plant labor.
Who is going to help?
There was also a serious injury at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant of TEPCO. A field worker cut his forehead with a grinder. The blood was blown out; since it was a serious injury vying for every second, an ambulance was called in immediately and he was carried out. However, the injured person was covered with radioactivity. The power company was panicked too, they didn’t take the protective clothing off and the removal cleaning by washing the body wasn't done, and so on. Because the rescue workers didn’t have knowledge about radioactive contamination at all too, the injured person was carried out to the hospital without the removal washing of the radioactivity. So the rescue workers who touched the injured person were contaminated, the ambulance was also contaminated, the doctors, the nurses, and other patients being touched by the nurses were contaminated. When patients went out, contamination was extended, this way, it became a serious situation as a panic in the town. Everybody desperately just wanted to help the badly injured and bleeding person somehow, because radioactivity is totally invisible, no one noticed that the person is contaminated with radioactivity.
It is so serious for even one person alone like this. What happens if many of the residents were contaminated by radioactivity because a major accident occurred? Can you imagine? That's not per person. This is a problem for everyone, for the whole country.
Startling Renal Tubular Break Accident at Mihama Nuclear Power Plant!
People don’t know or they are indifferent to them about some startling large accidents at nuclear power plants in Japan have been occurring frequently. These accidents are comparable to Three Mile Island or Chernobyl. The accident where the recirculation pumps fell apart at Fukushima II Nuclear Power Plant of TEPCO in 1989 was also the first accident in the world.
The renal tubular break accident at Mihama Nuclear Power Plant of TEPCO in February 1991 discharged a large amount of radioactivity directly to the air and sea.
I was not too surprised when the Chernobyl accident occurred. It is because I knew that when you build a nuclear power plant, such accidents were bound to happen. So I thought, oh, it happened to have occurred in Chernobyl, not in Japan by chance. However, at the time of the accident in Mihama I was so shocked that my legs were shaking and almost couldn’t stand up from the chair.
In this accident the nuclear power plant was stopped by manually moving the ECCS (emergency core cooling system); in this sense it was a very serious accident. ECCS is the last stronghold to protect the safety of the nuclear power plant. If it doesn’t work, everything is over. So the Mihama accident where the ECCS was moved was such a major accident, like a bus carrying a hundred million and tens of millions of people was being driven at the speed of 100 km on the freeway, but the brakes were not working, and the handbrake also was not working, hit a cliff and finally stopped.
The radioactive water in the reactor flowed out to the sea, and the reactor was about on the verge to heat up with no water in it. The multiple safety valves for protection that Japan was proud of didn’t work one after another, it was going to be Chernobyl in 0.6 seconds. Even though, it was a Saturday, an experienced staff person came in by chance, because it wasn’t stopping automatically as supposed, so he momentarily made a snap decision and manually stopped it, so it didn’t become a major accident the world would have been involved in. It was really good luck for all the people in Japan, no, for the people all over the world.
The reason for this accident was the metal fittings attached on the about 2-mm thin capillaries that touch and stop, the metal fittings for keeping the thousands of capillaries from vibrating apart weren’t there as designed. It was a construction error. Since it was an error that hadn’t been found during the regular inspections that had been done many times for almost 20 years, it also was an accident that revealed the negligence of the inspections. It was also an accident where we understood that the things that the designers regarded as impossible such as if it doesn’t go in, cut it and throw it away. If it doesn’t fit, pull it; it happened at the site as usual.
Monju's Major Accident
A major sodium leak accident occurred in Monju at the PNC (Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation) in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture on December 8th last year (1995). This wasn’t the first accident in Monju, accidents had been occurring frequently. I was called 6 times during the construction. It is because the director, or craftsmen etc. who were my subordinates before are also in charge of Monju, so when there were troubles, they called me. I had already left the company, but only in a nuclear power plant an accident is irreparable, so you can’t put it aside, so I went.
One day, there was a phone call that said, "the pipes don’t fit, no matter what we do.” I went and looked. All the specially made pipes and off-the-shelf pipes were at the dimensions as they were on the drawing. But they didn’t fit. I tried hard to figure out how to get them to fit, but couldn’t understand it for a while. I thought for a night and finally understood. Monju was made from a miscellany of makers such as Hitachi, Toshiba, Mitsubishi, Fuji Electric, and the design standards of the companies were different.
When they do the drawings, in Hitachi where I was, 0.5mm was truncated, in Toshiba and Mitsubishi 0.5mm was rounded up, in JAEA 0.5mm was truncated. It was only 0.5mm, but when you collect from a hundred places, it makes a really big difference. So even the numbers and lines should fit, but they didn’t fit.
It was not ok this way, so we re-made them. It was connected to the dignity of the nation anyhow, so we spent the money.
So why did it become this way? It is because each company has its own knowhow, company secrets, they discussed in general, but they didn’t discuss with each other about the 0.5mm, either truncated or rounded up, or which to unify. So about the temperature sensor, which caused the reason for the Monju accident this time, the manufacturers didn’t discuss it with each other as well?
These kinds of thermometers were attached to many plant pipes; I had never seen something that long. There should have been someone during the construction who knew that was dangerous. However, the thought was that it was from another company, so just leave it, it’s not our company’s liability. The PNC itself loaned miscellany from the power company, the manufacturers did miscellany too. This way, obviously, accidents were supposed to happen; if no accident happened, it would have been a mystery.
However, even with such a serious accident, the government didn’t say "an accident." Just like at the Mihama Nuclear Power Plant accident, they said "there was an event." Right after the accident, I was immediately called and went to the Fukui Prefectural Council. There is a big nuclear power plant with 15 reactors; the person who invited the company to set up its plant was the LDP lawmakers. So I always have seen people like them, "when accident occurs, you’ll be the cause, whoever opposes it has no responsibility." I was called by these lawmakers at this time. I received this counseling, "This time I prepared myself for fighting the PNC, tell me what I should do."
So what I first said is "This is an accident, accident. You shouldn’t be cheated by such a word as “event.” In the Prefectural Assembly, the PNC started their explanation "the event this time ...," the lawmaker shouted, "It’s an accident! Accident!" It was shown on TV; that too, if you keep silent, you will be affected with a light word like "event." Not only the local people, we should not be cheated with a light word such as “event.”
For ordinary people, the words "event" and "accident" are understood in completely different ways. Because this country changes “accident” with “event,” so the Japanese almost don’t have a sense of the crisis of the nuclear power plant accident.
Plutonium of Japan to Nuclear Weapons of France?
The plutonium being used in Monju was extracted after Japan asked France to reprocess it. Reprocessing is taking the plutonium out of the uranium fuel burned out in nuclear power plants; plutonium can only be made artificially.
Approximately as much as 1.4 tons of plutonium is being used in Monju. It was said that there was about eight kilograms in the Nagasaki atomic bomb. How the heck many atomic bombs could be made from the plutonium in Monju? Moreover, it is a highly toxic material that causes lung cancer, no matter how minor. The half-life is twenty four thousand years, so it will keep sending out radioactivity permanently. That’s why the name was given from Pluto, the king of hell; as the name shows, plutonium is said to be the most dangerous thing in the world.
However, there are few people who know that plutonium from Japan was very likely used in nuclear tests in France that were done last year (1995) in the South Pacific Ocean. There is no difference in the purposes in the plutonium made in the reprocessing plants in France, for nuclear weapons or nuclear power plants. So there is almost no doubt that plutonium from Japan was used for the nuclear test at this time.
Because of this reason, Japan couldn’t exactly say its opposition against nuclear test. If Japan government seriously wanted to stop nuclear test of France, it was easy. In other words, if they had stopped the reprocessing contracts, it’s been alright. But they didn’t do it.
The volumes of trade of Japan and France is the second largest, it is because of the money from reprocessing. People don't know such things, no matter how you say "against nuclear testing; again," it just doesn’t help, does it? And while saying we’re the only country exposed, there is no doubt that the plutonium from Japan exposed people on Tahiti, and polluted the clean ocean with radioactivity.
The whole world has given up, but only Japan is still trying to make electricity from something like this. In usual nuclear power plants they burn a fuel mixed (MOX fuel) with uranium and plutonium, i.e., trying to make plutonium-thermal. But this is very dangerous. To put it in simple way, it is like trying to burn in a kerosene stove. The original design of nuclear power plants is not suitable for burning plutonium. The power of nuclear fission of plutonium is big; it is incomparably different from that of uranium. That’s the way it is used as material for atomic bombs.
No matter how little resources Japan has, is it this overly severe? If you don’t stop nuclear power plants soon, and stop the attempt to use plutonium, exposed people will increase here and there from now on.
Japan doesn’t have the courage to stop in the middle
The era of nuclear power is finished in the world. In the advance in nuclear power in America it was announced in February (1996) that it will cut nuclear power in half by the year 2015. In addition, plutonium research was stopped by a presidential order. It is such a scary thing, that they even stopped studying it.
America surely stopped nuclear power plants using plutonium and fast breeder reactors like in Monju; Britain and Germany stopped them as well. Germany closed a completed one down and made it into a resort park. It is because it became clear to the countries around the world that it is impossible to make electricity using plutonium, so they stopped. The Japanese government might be thinking that “we have failed” because of the Monju accident. Yet, they still won’t stop. Still saying they still are going to do it.
Why is Japan not stopping? Because Japan doesn’t have the courage to stop the things that it has decided on in the middle; it is very scary that this country doesn’t dare to stop in the middle. You probably know many, many such examples.
First of all, Japan’s nuclear policy is irresponsible. From the time Japan started their nuclear power plants, they didn't think anything about them after that. Japan just thought they’re going to be dealt with somehow. It has been done this irresponsible way since then. It’s been done for decades this way. But Japan really can’t even deal with one single issue, waste.
One more terrible issue is the departments of nuclear engineering of the universities. There were a certain amount of students in its own way, but now the young people left nuclear power; there are almost no more students in colleges starting from the University of Tokyo. Even students who research at a desk are no longer there.
The people in the nuclear division in Hitachi and Toshiba have also decreased to one third; they went to gas turbine of co-generation (Efficient power generation facilities making electricity and hot water at the same time). Even the manufacturers of nuclear power think this is the end.
A person named Takehisa Shimamura who was the head of the Atomic Energy Bureau resigned wrote in his book with the title “A Talk about Nuclear Power," what the Japanese government is doing is nothing but to trying to make their story sound plausible, not because of the lack of elasticity, nothing of this kind. It is because they have too much uranium, plutonium etc. due to not having any plan. Because they can’t clearly say “no,” they are given to carry on. In addition, Japan is seen from countries around the world that Japan might make nuclear weapons using those plants; to deny the allegations, they naturally go on to say that they are for the peaceful use of nuclear power. In other words, we should make more and more nuclear power." This is also the way the country is.
Nuclear Power Plants: Closed down reactors unable to be taken apart
In 1966, a commercial nuclear reactor with ten kilowatts that was imported from the United Kingdom ran for the first time in Japan in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture. After that reactors were imported from the United States, then Japan became able to build them on their own along the way, and now there are 51 nuclear power reactors including a reactor as huge as 1, 350,000 kilowatts in this small country of Japan.
Nuclear power plants started to operate without specifically thinking about closing down reactors, dismantling, waste etc., even reactors made of thick iron can become ragged, bathed with large amounts of radioactivity. So, at first it was said that the service life was ten years and they planned to close down the reactors and dismantle them in ten years. However, it became clear that when unit 1 in Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant of TEPCO in 1981 became ten years old, they couldn’t dismantle it as thought originally at all. This became a problem in parliament too; the problem there was that nuclear reactors couldn’t bear nuclear reaction.
At the time I also joined to discuss what to do about closing down the reactor and dismantling nearly every day; this way? No, that way? No; such things were understood that if you forced the reactor to close down and dismantle the nuclear plant with radioactivity all over, it would cost money, several times more than building it then; mass exposure couldn’t be avoided no matter what you did, there was no way out and so on. It was because one could only stay only about ten seconds in the place right under the reactor, if you tried to follow the fixed dose.
On the desk you can do anything, in reality it needs to be done with people’s hands, and the accompanied exposure would be outrageous. So if the radioactivity doesn’t become zero, there is nothing you can do. As long as there was radioactivity, closing down and dismantling was impossibility. There are also people who are saying if humans can’t do it, use robots. The research surely is being done, but robots become insane with radioactivity, they can’t be used.
So, the reactor couldn’t be closed down in the Fukushima nuclear power plant after all. The American manufacturer that sold them the nuclear power plant sent in their workers from their country, allowed exposure the amount of which was unbelievable in Japan and repaired the nuclear reactor. Now the reactor is still working.
The serving time of the nuclear reactor was said to be ten years at the beginning; it’s been working nearly 30 years already. There are as many as 11 such nuclear reactors. It is overly exhausted already, but it is still being used, I just can’t help worrying about it.
The reactor of the Musashi Institute of Technology located in Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture for research, which is with only 100 kilowatts, also caused a radiation leak, and it stopped. By the calculation on the desk, it is said to have cost as much as 2 billion yen to repair and 6 billion yen to close it down; even though it can’t be closed down even by spending the money that is equivalent to the university's annual budget. The only thing they can do is to stop it first, and control it until the radioactivity gets down to zero.
If it is a big nuclear power plant such as 1 million kilowatts, then there is really no way to deal with it.
"Close down," Then Monitor/ Manage
Why can’t a nuclear power reactor be closed down and dismantled? Because a nuclear power plant is operated with water and steam, if you stop operation and leave it, it rusts and gets ragged immediately, holes appear, and radioactivity leaks. When you operate a nuclear reactor even only once, it gets full of radioactivity, so it can’t be left nonfunctional, and it can’t be closed down and dismantled.
There are many locked up nuclear power reactors in developed countries. Because they can’t be closed down and dismantled, so that’s why people "lock" them up. “Locking up” means to stop the power generation and take the nuclear fuel out; it’s going to be hard from now on.
You need to put water in the fully tainted with radioactivity nuclear power reactor and move it just like when it generates electricity. If the pipes become thin and the condition of the parts gets bad from water pressure, regular inspection needs to be done and such places need to be fixed, so that the radioactivity won’t leak outside. It needs to be monitored continuously just like when it generates electricity, until the radioactivity is gone.
Now, 51 reactors in operation, 3 reactors under construction, and 54 reactors in total surround Japan’s Islands. There are also several reactors that are severely dangerous, if they continue to operate them further. There are also reactors for research at universities, companies and etc.; the smallest one is 100 kilowatts, the biggest one is 1,350,000 kilowatts; put the small and big ones together, there are 76 nuclear reactors.
But it is very questionable if the power companies in Japan will continue to seriously monitor the locked-up nuclear reactors that don’t make electricity and money. But they are still trying to build new plants, expand further, and so on. Among these, they are about to add a fifth reactor in Hamaoka which is a concern during the Tokai earthquakes; there is also an expansion by changing a soccer field in Fukushima. As new establishments, there are several such as Maki-machi in Niigata, Ashihama in Mie, Kaminoseki in Yamaguchi, Suzu in Ishikawa, Oma and Higashidori in Aomori. This way, they are trying to build 70-80 reactors by the year 2010. In fact, sorry for the language, this country is crazy, this is the only thought I can come up with.
Closing down nuclear power plants which is bound to come up is a really serious problem from now on. Closed down power plants will appear in the near future all over Japan. This is creepy rather than disturbing. Is it only me who gets frightened?
Radioactive Waste: There is No Way to Deal with It
Besides, when a nuclear power plant operates, nuclear waste inevitably comes out every day. The low-level radioactive waste, the name is “low-level”, but some of them are such things, if you are next to this drum for just 5 hours, you can be exposed by a lethal dose of radiation. There are about more than 800,000 drums accumulated in the nuclear power plants across the country.
From the time Japan started nuclear power plants in 1969, all the nuclear waste has been stuffed in drums and dumped into the sea nearby. It was a normal thing at that time. When I was at the Tokai Nuclear Power Plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, the company put the drums in trucks and abandoned them off the coast of Chiba.
However, what made me think that nuclear power plants are a little strange was this matter. The first thing I thought was that the drums dumped into the sea rot after just one year, but what would happen to the radioactive waste in them, what would happen to the fish?
The current nuclear waste is being carried to Rokkasho Village in Aomori. It is said that the drums in total 3 million will be controlled for 300 years from now, but, what the hell, are there drums that stay for the whole 300 years? Or are the waste contractors going to continue for the whole 300 years? What will happen?
Another high-level waste is radioactive waste left after plutonium being taken out by reprocessing used nuclear fuel. Japan is asking companies in the UK and France for reprocessing. Last year (1995) 28 drums of high-level waste were returned from France. This was high-level waste that was mushy and hardened with glass, and put into metal containers. It is said that if people are next to the container for two minutes, it gives out radiation that makes people die; and it is said that it is temporarily put in Rokkasho Village in Aomori Prefecture, and will continue to cool down for about 30-50 years, and then bring it to somewhere and bury it in the deep earth, but the location hasn’t been decided at all. This is a plan that probably to some other country, it is just a plan, but there is no country that actually has disposed of waste at this high level. No one knows what to do.
About the nuclear power reactors themselves, the government is carelessly saying that after they have been sealed and controlled for 5-10 years, they will be smashed to smithereens, put into drums, and then buried on the location of the nuclear power plants; even with that, tens thousands tons of waste material filled with radioactivity still appears from one reactor. There is even nowhere to dump the trash of the living, what on earth and what the hell can we do with this? First of all, we see that nuclear waste will be everywhere all over Japan. Don’t we need to handle this soon by any means possible? Don’t we need to stop nuclear power plants, even one day sooner for that matter?
When I was giving a talk in Hokkaido about five years ago, I said "keep monitoring and controlling radioactive waste for 50 years, 300 years," a junior-high-school girl raised her hand, "Can I ask a question? You said just now that we should keep monitoring nuclear waste for 50 years, 300 years. Are the adults going to do that? It won’t be that way, will it? Aren’t we, the next generation, and then the next generation after us going to do it? But we don't want to hate it,” she said as she was shouting. Is there any adult who can reply to this child?
Besides, it sounds like that when 50 or 300 years pass, it's going to be just fine, but it is not. As long as nuclear power plants are in motion, it means that the 50 years, 300 years will never end.
Radioactivity Exposure of the Residents and the Terrible Discrimination
The lie that Japan nuclear power plants haven’t been putting out any radioactivity at all by now had been for decades. But such a lie can’t be continued anymore.
Radioactivity is coming out from the tall exhaust towers in the nuclear power plants. It is not coming out, it is putting out; because it is putting out radioactivity 24 hours a day, people who live in the surrounding area are being exposed bathing in the radioactivity all day long.
A letter came from a woman. 23 years old. The letter paper was soaked with her tears. It was written, “I found a job in Tokyo, fell in love, decided to marry, and exchanged engagement presents already. But my engagement was cancelled suddenly. The other side said that nothing is wrong with you, I want to be with you. But, from the parents, you grew up in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture for ten something years. People say that it is likely that babies with leukemia are born in areas around nuclear power plants. Don’t want to see grandchild’s faces with leukemia in pity. He was told to stop the marriage. Did I do anything wrong ". What is this girl guilty of? Such stories have been happening in several places.
This story didn’t happen in the area of nuclear power plants, it happened in Tokyo. Can you be happy in your heart if a man who worked in a nuclear plant marries your daughter, or your son marries a woman who grew up near a nuclear plant like this woman? Young people too, you might fall in love with such a person; it is absolutely not just one person. This story of discrimination, yes, if we say it, it is discrimination. If we don’t say it, it is something we don't understand. People, who are against nuclear power want people to say that nuclear power plants are scary, not only because of the accidents, damage etc., but also they are nasty because these kinds of things happen. It is because a nuclear power plant does not just hurt people with accidents, it even breaks our hearts.
Can I Give Birth to a Child? It Is Alright, Even If There is No Electricity, I Hate the Nuclear Power Plant
In the end, this is a story by which I was shocked myself; I am going to talk about a story at the time I was giving a speech organized by the faculty union in Kyowa-cho in Hokkaido that is next to the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant. Wherever I go, I always talk about this. Even if you forget the whole thing, it is alright, but please remember only this story.
The lecture meeting was an evening gathering, parents and teachers were about half and half, and about 300 people had come. There were also junior-high students and high-school students among them. They said that we came to listen because nuclear power plants are not a problem for adults now, it is a problem for us, the children.
When my talk was through at the end, I asked if anyone has questions, a girl in the second-year of junior-high school raised her hand, said the following, crying.
"All of the adults gathered in this hall tonight are big liars, they pretend they are good. I came here to see their faces. I thought that with what kind of faces they will come. Adults, especially the adults here talk about pesticides issues, golf field issue, nuclear issue, whatever they say, they say that this is for our children, but they pretend that they are doing something. I live in Kyowa-cho that is next to the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant, I am exposed 24 hours a day. It is likely that babies are born with leukemia in Sellafield in Britain, the surrounding area of a nuclear power plant. I know this because I read a book. I am also a girl. I think when I’m old enough to marry, I will. Can I Give Birth to a Child?” She was crying and asking the 300 adults. But, no one was able to give her an answer.
"If the nuclear power plants are this terrible, why didn’t you try hard to oppose it when they were building them at the first place? Not now, but you should have done it before. More than that, didn’t the adults who have come here let them make the reactor No. 2? It is alright, even if there is no electricity, I hate nuclear power plants.” It was just the time when reactor No. 2 at the Tomari Nuclear Power Plant started the trial operation. "
“Why are you having this kind of rally now? It is too late. I don’t understand. If I was an adult and had children, I would be making desperate efforts with my own life to stop the nuclear power plant." She said.
"The second one is here, and I am being exposed to radioactivity 2 times more than before. But I can’t run away from Hokkaido." She complained in her cry.
When I asked that "Have you talked about your worries to your mom and teachers?" She answered, "my mother and teachers have come to this hall too; I have never talked about this to them," she said. "We always talk about this with each other among the girls. We can neither marry, nor have children."
The homeroom teacher said that they didn’t know that the students had these kinds of worries either.
This is never only a problem of 8 kilometers, 10 kilometers of nuclear disaster prevention, many such cases happen in the area in 50 kilometers, 100 kilometers. I would like you to be aware of such worries junior-high school student and high-school students have all the time.
We Can’t Stop Worrying as long as there are Nuclear Power Plants
I think that it has become clear to you about what kind of things nuclear power plants are from these things so far.
I think that since the big accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant happened, there have been also many people who thought that nuclear power plants are scary too. But people think that “It’ll be hard, if the nuclear power plants stop, and electricity will no longer be here,” especially the urban people who live far away from nuclear power plants, aren’t there many people who think that even they’re a little scary, but there is no other way.
But, this is the result of the propaganda the government and power companies made with big money, "peaceful use of nuclear power" and "nuclear power plants in Japan never cause accidents. Don’t worry, because they are safe" and “Because Japan doesn’t have resources, nuclear power is absolutely necessary." But the truth has been hidden all the time as the Monju accident has.
Nuclear power plants do make electricity. However, I worked for over 20 years, from what I saw with my own eyes, and experienced with my own body, nuclear power plants are something that absolutely can’t move without exposure of the workers. From the time nuclear power plants were being built, the people of the region were divided, either in favor or opposition, make their hearts to pieces. It reminds the same after they have been built; exposed, innocent people are suffering from being discriminated against.
People know that it’s scary if an accident at a nuclear power plant occurs. So is it ok only if there is no accident? Peaceful use? It is not this way. Like the things I said, as long as the workers are dying because of exposure, local people suffer, nuclear power plants are not such things for peaceful use at all. In addition, safety and security are different things. It is because we can’t stop worrying as long as there are nuclear power plants.
Besides, even though they seem to make electricity now, the nuclear waste that has to be managed for tens of thousands of years needs huge amounts of electricity and oil. There is no doubt that it will need more energy than we are making now! In addition, the people who manage the nuclear waste and closed down plants are going to be our descendants.
Such nuclear power plants, how can we talk about peaceful use? So, I have said many times, nuclear power plants are absolutely not for peaceful use.
So, I ask you for a favor. I would like you to carefully look at your own children’s and grandchildren’s faces in the morning. Is it really ok after all that only Japan builds nuclear power plants more and more as it is now? There are not only accidents, but also worries about that they will break during an earthquake, if this continues, irreparable things will really happen. I want you to know this by all means.
That’s why I live in the belief that nuclear power plants can't be increased anymore, and I am absolutely against expansion of nuclear power plants. I think that the nuclear power plants in operation have to be stopped for certain as well.
It is because as long as there are nuclear power plants, real peace will not come into the world.
Let’s leave to our children, a friendly Earth.