Posts Tagged Kan

Greenpeace monitoring effort | Lenz Blog

Greenpeace wants schools in Fukushima closed because of radiation. They had a radiation measuring team doing some monitoring in schools there, finding levels of radiation exceeding the “international 1 mSv/y maximum allowed” in many places.

While I don’t agree with them regarding the safety levels, I think it is a good thing they are doing this monitoring and publishing their results.

via Greenpeace monitoring effort | Lenz Blog.

As far as radiation-readings are concerned, I think the more the merrier. Many Japan residents have complaints, criticisms and demands of the national and local governments, but a common theme is “take responsibility”, which seems to mean in many cases “decide on guidelines, policies and safety standards and tell us and the local governments what they are.” In other words, they want certainty: what level of radiation in the air, the water, in rice, is safe for adults, children, women, people over 60, etc.? Given such-and-such a level, what actions should people take?

However, this obscures the fact that the final decision is/has to be a personal and individual one taken by each person using their own judgment based on the information they can get.  There may never be certainty, even if all politicians defer to scientific judgment.  There are also differences of opinion amongst scientists regarding what is and is not a “safe” level of radiation (as Prof. Lenz blogged before, see his entry on Radiation and reason by Wade Allison, and on former radiation adviser to PM Kan Toshiko Kosako).

In other words, what we have is an evolving situation (tho evolving less rapidly than in the first couple of months after March 11), with a great deal of data, and a large number of issues, i.e. decisions to be made on both an individual (do I stay? Do I abandon my business and home and move to another area of Japan? Do I commit suicide? What about my Ageing Parent(s)?) and collective level (what should we do with all this debris? What about medical services? What about refuse collection?), and disagreement and/or conflicting professional opinions (e.g. about what is a safe level of radiation).

Given this environment of uncertainty, how should an individual act?

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Japan faces more confusion amid leadership vote – Yahoo! News

Japan — which is set to see its sixth prime minister in five years — has fumbled recently to find leadership to tackle formidable challenges, including recovery from a massive earthquake and tsunami in March and the battle to bring a nuclear power plant sent into meltdown by the disasters under control.

Even before the disasters hit, the nation was already ailing with serious problems such as an aging population and stagnant economy.

None of the five candidates looking to replace Naoto Kan as prime minister is expected to win the needed majority of 200 votes in balloting among legislators in the ruling Democratic Party in the first round of voting, set for Monday. If no one gets a majority, a run-off between the top two candidates would follow.

The winner of the Democrats’ leadership vote is almost certain to become the nation’s next prime minister because the party controls the lower house of Parliament, which chooses Japan’s chief.

Public interest has been stunningly low, underlining the widespread disenchantment with politics.A debate Sunday among the candidates was not carried live on any of the major TV networks.

via Japan faces more confusion amid leadership vote – Yahoo! News.

Ayn Rand on the nature of politicians in a mixed economy:

“In a controlled (or mixed) economy, a legislator’s job consists in sacrificing some men to others. No matter what choice he makes, no choice of this kind can be morally justified (and never has been). Proceeding from an immoral base, no decision of his can be honest or dishonest, just or unjust – these concepts are inapplicable. He becomes, therefore, an easy target for the promptings of any pressure group, any lobbyist, any influence-peddler, any manipulator – he has no standards by which to judge or to resist them. You do not know what hidden powers drive him or what he is doing. Neither does he.

From the above Yahoo! News article:

At Sunday’s debate at a Tokyo hotel, candidates appeared in agreement, all promising a revived Japanese economy and a resolution of the nuclear crisis in comments heavy on rhetoric but scant on concrete proposals.

Ayn Rand on the pretense of knowledge (my emphasis):

Now observe the results of such policies and their effect on the country[the U.S.A.]. You
have seen that Nixon’s wage-price controls, imposed two years ago [this article was written in 1973] for the purpose of slowing down inflation, have accelerated it. You have seen that a shortage of soybeans, which you probably do not buy, has led to the shortage of most of the food items which you do buy and need. You have seen a demonstration of the fact that a country’s economy is an integrated (and self-integrating) whole – and that the biggest computer would not be able to predict all the consequences of an edict controlling the price of milk, let alone an edict controlling the price, the costs, the sales, the amounts of wheat or beef or steel or oil or electricity. Can you hold in mind the total of a country’s economy, including every detail of the interrelationships of every group, every profession, every kind of goods and services? Can you determine which controls are proper or improper, practical or impractical, beneficent or disastrous? If you cannot do it, what makes you assume that a politician can? In fact, there is no such thing as proper, practical or beneficent controls. [The Ayn Rand Letter, July 16, 1973, PDF.]

“Managing the economy”, according to “the pretence of knowledge” as expressed by thinkers such as Hayek, is impossible for anyone or any group of people, however good their computers are. “formidable challenges, including recovery from a massive earthquake and tsunami in March and the battle to bring a nuclear power plant sent into meltdown by the disasters under control…an aging population and stagnant economy.”

Politicians always promise more than they can deliver. And the voters always seem to believe them, and then complain bitterly when the politicians don’t deliver.  Sometimes I almost feel sorry for the politicians. Almost. From the Diplomat:

The Japanese people want a lot of nice things from their government: the rebuilding of the areas devastated by the triple disaster, a comfortable retirement, affordable, high-quality healthcare, a vibrant public education system, secure borders, etc. But quite how the government will provide for these desires, if indeed such a task is at all possible, is another issue dividing the candidates.

Ayn Rand comments on the type of consciousness that does not consider ideas important in themselves, only as means to a pragmatic end:

A perceptual consciousness is unable to believe that ideas can be of personal importance to anyone; it regards ideas as a matter of arbitrary choice, as means to some immediate ends. On this view, a man does not seek to be elected to a public office in order to carry out certain policies – he advocates certain policies in order to be elected. If so, then why on earth should he want to be elected? [The Ayn Rand Letter, June 4 1973, PDF.]

Again, from the above Yahoo! News article:

At Sunday’s debate at a Tokyo hotel, candidates appeared in agreement, all promising a revived Japanese economy and a resolution of the nuclear crisis in comments heavy on rhetoric but scant on concrete proposals.

The ideas of the various candidates apparently are relatively unimportant in themselves; they are merely means to an end – getting elected (or in this case, chosen by Mr. Ozawa). (More in the small differences between the 5 candidates can be found at the end of this AP article on Yahoo! Nuclear power key topic in close Japan leader race. Sat Aug 27, and in the Diplomat article Why DPJ Leadership Race Matters, August 29, 2011 (or read the comment by mareo2 ]

Mr. Ozawa is a political genius, says the Diplomat, no doubt echoing the opinion of many.  Political genius seems to mean someone who has contributed little to solving Japan’s major challenges, as listed above in the AP article. A hint at the true nature of Mr. Ozawa’s “political genius” might be seen in his reasons for not supporting the publicly popular former diplomat, Mr. Maehara, and for supporting the somewhat emotional and eccentric Mr. Kaeda:

“Kaieda was also the first lawmaker to raise the prospect of restoring Ozawa’s party privileges, suspended after his indictment” [Kaieda’s weakness wins Ozawa’s support, 2011/08/28]

“Maehara expressed eagerness to meet with Ozawa … But he would not budge on Ozawa’s party privileges, which were revoked by Prime Minister Naoto Kan and other senior party officials over a funding scandal.” [Maehara’s economic, security policies likely center of debate. 2011/08/25]

“Maehara also talked with former Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, who reportedly asked Maehara, if he wins, to consider offering Ozawa a senior party post.” [Maehara’s overture to Ozawa. Japan Times, Thursday, August 25th, 2011]

Why might revoking Ozawa’s party privileges be a bad idea? “When he was secretary general of the party during the brief Hatoyama administration, he obliterated all the DPJ’s and the government’s policy crafting institutions, leaving himself as the sole guide of the nation’s policy making. It was this power grab that turned the other major party leaders against him” [The Diplomat, ibid.]

Why did “the other major party leaders” turn against him? Was it because they believed that it was a bad idea for a single person to have their hands only on national policy-making? Or because they wanted to be that person?

Fumbling leadership

Back to the AP article Japan faces more confusion amid leadership vote: “Japan — which is set to see its sixth prime minister in five years — has fumbled recently to find leadership to tackle formidable challenges”

Recently? Define, “recently”? As VOA reporter Steve Herman tweeted, “No Japanese prime minister has spent 500 days in office since Koizumi”.

The Diplomat article begins, “ It’s easy to make light of the proceedings, which will elect the seventh prime minister Japan has had in the last five years. Just another election, some might argue, giving the country a leader without giving it leadership.  There’s certainly much merit in such scepticism. Given that the partisan political divisions that bedevilled the premiership of Kan – both of the Diet (Japan’s parliament) and the DPJ – will still be present and waiting to shackle the initiatives of the new DPJ leader, there’s little hope of Japan’s next leader’s lasting any longer than his five immediate predecessors. “

Yet the article makes little attempt to explain why Japan will have 7 prime ministers in 5 years, why none has spent 500 days in office since Koizumi. The nearest writer Michael Cucek comes is to explain the split within the DPJ that occurred as a result of Ozawa’s power-grab described above, which led to : the division of the DPJ into two streams: a ‘mainstream’ group whose guiding principle is to keeping Ozawa away from the levers of power, and an ‘anti-mainstream’ group of both Ozawa loyalists and DPJ members who have noticed that since Ozawa’s ouster, the DPJ has known only electoral failure.

Blogger EX-SKF summarises the Japanese attitude nicely: “”It doesn’t matter who’s at the top, they’re all the same” has been the attitude of most Japanese from the time immemorial. At the same time, they trust the government authority (yes, even today) and clamor for a strong leader to guide them.

The voting is taking place now, and is live on the Internet here. The two runoff candidates, Noda and Kaeda have spoken, and the doors have been closed. Voting is now taking place. The names of the legislators are called one by one, they come up on stage, go to a booth to write their choice and put their ballot in the box.

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It wasn’t our fault! It wasn’t our fault!!! – Japan utility knew of tsunami threat: government – Yahoo! News

So the blame shifting continues.  Does anyone really think this exculpates the regulatory agency?  “OK, here’s the deal: you tell us what safety procedures you think you ought to implement, and we’ll mull them over and tell you to implement them. Or maybe we’ll just skip the mulling. Save time. I hate reading, anyway.” (“Despite taking part in the Hamaoka drill, Kan admitted he didn’t understand how SPEEDI worked or how valuable the data was.” From AP Impact: Japan ignored own radiation forecasts). 

But now, of course, the regulatory body has moved to MEXT, so that will solve all the problems. There will never be any more fudging of responsibilities now. We can all sleep soundly in our beds.

TOKYO – Japan’s nuclear regulator said Wednesday that the operator of a crippled nuclear plant knew it might be hit by a far bigger tsunami than it was designed to withstand.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said the operator informed it just four days before Japan’s massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami that waves exceeding 10 meters 33 feet could hit the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

The plant was only designed to withstand a tsunami about half that height.Agency officials said Wednesday they recommended that Tokyo Electric Power Co. take measures to prepare for a bigger tsunami but did not give specific instructions.

via Japan utility knew of tsunami threat: government – Yahoo! News.

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Tepco now says reactor seawater injection wasn’t halted – Japan Times

Discussing this with my wife this morning, she said probably the man in charge of Fukushima, the man on the ground there, Yoshida, probably decided to keep pouring the water into the reactors, whatever the government or anyone else was saying, on his own initiative, and this shameful fact was then hushed up. For obvious reasons. It goes without saying that Yoshida would have been hauled over the hibachi for acting unilaterally, and not consulting every Taro, Jiro and Suzuki and their pet carp. (Click here for more pearls of wisdom on this blog about taking initiative in Japan.)

Or maybe everyone’s just playing “pass-the-parcel” with this hot potato: whoever ordered the halting is now, in the public mind, guilty of causing the meltdown.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. in an apparent flip-flop Thursday claimed it did not temporarily stop the injection of seawater into the damaged Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant on March 12, a day after the deadly earthquake and tsunami.

On Saturday, the utility announced that the injection of seawater into reactor unit 1 had been suspended for close to an hour.

The media reported that Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered Tepco to stop due to the risk of starting a chain reaction in an event known as a “recriticality,” and suggested the halt may have caused the situation to deteriorate. Kan later completely denied the allegations, saying he nor the government gave such orders.

via Tepco now says reactor seawater injection wasn’t halted – Japan Times

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Sources: Kan halted cooling day after quake | The Japan Times Online

Why should a PM halt cooling? What does he know about nuclear engineering? You have to read down into the article to see that it was actually the NSC that advised Kan on this matter.

But wait a minute! The reason they advised this was their concern about “recriticality” being caused by seawater (I recall this question was actually asked by a young woman announcer on a TV talk show to the visiting pundit of the hour, probably some Todai (Tokyo Uni) nuclear physicist professor. The answer was “No”.)

Don’t Tepco know about this? Are the folks at Tepco not competent to judge about this matter that they need overseeeing from some bureaucracy? The whole decision-making process is here is fog city!

This sounds like a political attack. Someone trying to blame Kan for the meltdown. I don’t buy it. It’s an engineering problem, to be answered by engineers. Clearly in this case, the politicians were just saying what they were told by the NSC. Are the NSC to be trusted? Is it full of engineers or politicians? Which would you trust to manage a shutdown of a nuclear plant?

According to the sources, the Nuclear Safety Commission advised Kan that seawater injection into the reactor vessel could rekindle a chain reaction in a state called “recriticality,” prompting him to require the utility to suspend the operation.But the commission later confirmed that the injection wouldn’t cause any problem, and Tepco, which initially began pumping seawater at the discretion of on-site workers, restarted the work by also putting in boric acid, which works to suppress criticality, the sources said.

via Sources: Kan halted cooling day after quake | The Japan Times Online.

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Absent TEPCO execs slowed crucial action : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri)

(Update: First installment is here. I’m still not sure what to make of this article, or the first installment. The headline seems to be a direct and unequivocal criticism of TEPCO management, yet the details revealed in the article do not add up to clear guilt at all. If anything, the slow response was almost inevitable given the physical conditions at the time. The only “flaw” I can see, as revealed in the article, is the endemic Japanese one of decision-making: underlings are completely unable, either by training, experience, or by company policy, to make decisions on their own. This usually works OK, but its weaknesses become clear in an emergency.

Is this series a way for the U.S. armed forces and/or government to criticize Kan and his administation indirectly?  It seems to be criticizing the Japanese authorities from Western point of view. Such views typically do not take into account the (different) Japanese way of doing things: of making decisions, of taking executive action. Yet this article is published in the English-language ediction of a Japanese newspaper, presumably written by Japanese (or at least with their input and editorial supervision); in other words, written by people who should know better, who are capable (or should be) of seeing both cultural sides. I don’t get it.)

This is the second installment in a series focusing on delays in implementing emergency steps by the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. to deal with the unprecedented nuclear crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

It took TEPCO about 15 hours to vent steam from the nuclear reactor vessel at the Fukushima facility’s No. 1 reactor, despite having recognized the need to do so by the evening of March 11….

Venting a reactor heightens the risk of radioactive contamination. This decision could place enormous social responsibility on the company and also make it liable for substantial damages. And injecting water into a reactor core essentially destroys it. One reactor costs about 100 billion yen to replace.

via Absent TEPCO execs slowed crucial action : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri).

Here is another article on the subject. Parts of this leave me baffled: is it implying that TEPCO’s reasons for not opening the vents sooner were excuses, not the real reasons? If TEPCO cannot open the vents because  of lack of power, how does getting angry or invoking the law solve the problem? This article, like the other two, seems to leave out (or leave unsaid) as much as it includes.

At 1:30 a.m. on March 12, Kan, Kaieda and Madarame gathered at the crisis management center in the basement of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The three urged TEPCO officials to vent the steam as soon as possible. But TEPCO officials said there was no way of opening the valves because there was no power supply.

Exasperated, Kaieda called the utility’s head office in Tokyo and the accident headquarters at the plant every hour, pressuring them to open the valves immediately.

TEPCO workers tried to open the valves by manually overriding the automatic system, but struggled to make progress because they had to work in darkness.

At dawn, pressure inside the No. 1 reactor was more than twice the designed maximum.

Eventually, at 6:50 a.m., the government ordered the utility to open the valves under the Nuclear Reactor Regulation Law.

When Kan visited the accident site shortly after 7 a.m. and found TEPCO had not opened the valves yet, he reprimanded company officials. The officials replied they would like to have another hour to make a decision on what to do.

Kan blew his stack.

“Now’s not the time to make such lackadaisical comments!” the prime minister told the TEPCO officials.

Yet even still, the utility spent three more hours discussing the matter before finally opening the valves at 10:17 a.m.

Five hours after that, a hydrogen explosion occurred at the No. 1 reactor, blowing apart its outer building.

(Apr. 12, 2011)

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Kan’s thank-you message placed in world’s major papers : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri)

“Kizuna” is becoming a buzzword. I don’t like buzzwords.


Kizuna - from ti-da

NEW YORK–The Japanese government placed an ad bearing a thank-you message from Prime Minister Naoto Kan in some of the world’s major newspapers on Monday, a month after the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake.

Part of the message reads, “At that desperate time people from around the world rallied to our side, bringing hope and inspiring courage.”

It also says, “We deeply appreciate the Kizuna [bonds of friendship] our friends around the world have shown.”

The English version includes a large kanji character for “kizuna” and the heading “Thank you for the Kizuna,” under which Kan’s message appears in English with the prime minister’s signature printed at the end.

via Kan’s thank-you message placed in world’s major papers : National : DAILY YOMIURI ONLINE (The Daily Yomiuri).

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Rural sports complex turns into base camp for nuclear workers | The Japan Times Online

The Japan Times provides more details of the working conditions at Fukushima, and reports on Kan’s visit there.
Update:I don’t think this is the complete truth, but this article and others on the same subject seem to indicate that the government and TEPCo are aware of people’s concern and anxiety over
a) the workers on the front-lines of this crisis, and
b) the secrecy that continues to shroud exactly what is going on in the plant.
One could be cynical and say the officials are trying to avert criticism and fob people off, but I take Edano’s statement of gratitude as 100% sincere (if a little late). As was Tokyo mayor Ishihara’s expression of thanks to the Tokyo Hyperrescue fire-fighting team.

“I humbly bow to the workers and officials who are engaged in various difficult work at the frontline of the nuclear plant,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Tuesday.

via Rural sports complex turns into base camp for nuclear workers | The Japan Times Online.

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The Struggle for a New Japan | The Diplomat

Another article cautiously praising the Japanese government’s response to the recent disaster (although after quickly glancing through the contents, it looks to be little more than a re-hash of what Karel von Wolferen wrote the other day):

There are three things that stand out about the current Japanese response that distinguish it sharply from the last time the country suffered a comparable shock—the Kobe earthquake of 1995—and which underline just how much has changed since then.The first difference is the considerable lengths that the Kan government has taken to keep the Japanese people informed about the crisis and its efforts to deal with it. The Prime Minister and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano have been offering regular press briefings as the crisis has unfolded, in sharp contrast with the hapless Maruyama government, whose initial response in 1995 was marked by indecision and apparent confusion.

via The Struggle for a New Japan | The Diplomat.

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