A recently released report has found that 75 percent of Japanese financial institutions surveyed were effectively “funding climate change and nuclear risk.”
“Energy Finance in Japan 2018,” a research paper commissioned by climate change-focused NGO 350.org, shows that 113 of the 151 Japanese financial institutions surveyed, including such giants as Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group (MUFG), Nippon Life Insurance (NLI) and Nomura Holdings, have funneled US$92 billion into coal and nuclear energy development over the past 5 years — a sum that is equivalent to the combined gross domestic products of Cameroon, Bolivia and Paraguay.
The objective of the report was “to identify Japanese financial institutions with no record of financial relations with Japanese companies engage in coal development, fossil fuel ownership and nuclear power, while profiling the financial institutions (banks, asset managers and insurance companies) with the highest exposure to fossil fuels and nuclear power in Japan.”
In order to achieve this goal, researchers utilised financial databases to calculate all known corporate loans, underwritings, bondholdings, and shareholdings from 151 financial groups and their subsidiaries provided to 26 Japanese companies engaged in fossil fuel and nuclear power generation between January 2013 and July 2018, according to the report.
The study, which was conducted by Amsterdam-Based Profound, found that those companies gave US$80 billion in loans and underwriting services, the lion’s share of which ($67 billion) went straight to coal and fossil fuel development/ownership, with the remainder going to nuclear. A further US$12 billion was invested in bonds and shares in those same industries, 65 percent of which went to coal development and 23 percent to fossil fuel owners.
It was also revealed that 59 parent companies of the financial institutions surveyed held shares in companies engaged on coal development; 22 held bonds and shares in companies engaged in fossil fuel ownership; and 48 held bonds and shares in companies engaged in nuclear power.
Despite the “even greater momentum” for decarbonising the energy sector and transitioning to renewable energies since the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, and despite the worsening impacts of climate change and nuclear risk, “Japanese financial institutions continue to support fossil fuel and nuclear projects at home and across the globe” through such investment strategies, the report states.
However, “most consumers in Japan do not realise how financial institutions invest their finds due to a lack of information disclosure regarding climate and environmental risks.”
Should the pattern continue Japan would find it difficult to reach the greenhouse gas emission reduction targets pledged in 2016, the report concludes.
In addition to MUFG, Nomura and Nippon Life, other top investors included Sumitomo Mitsui Trust, Meiji Masuda Life and Mizuho Finance.
The top three creditors of the 55 finance institutions providing loans and underwriting services to coal development companies were Mizuho Financial Group, Sumitomo Financial Group and MUFJ. The three companies listed as being the top three creditors of fossil fuel owners were Sumitomo Mitsui, Mizuho and MUFG.
Among the 151 Japanese financial institutions analyzed, only 38 of them were not involved with coal or nuclear energy projects, though the report pointed out that not all financial relationships are publicly disclosed in company publications, in financial institution publications, or through financial data service providers. There may also be links to companies involved in coal development and fossil fuel ownership that the survey was unable to unearth, the report added.
The figures in the report indicate the continuation of a huge turnaround for Japan, which until March 2011 sourced roughly 40 percent of its energy mix through nuclear power and renewables, against 25 percent sourced through coal. In 2012, nuclear and renewable contributions plummeted to 11 percent of that energy mix, while coal rose to 48 percent, according to Japanese government data. Japan has vowed to increase nuclear (to 22 percent) and renewables (to 24%) and reduce coal (to 26%) by 2030. In 2016 Japan generated its power using 82 percent conventional thermal sources (gas, coal, fuel oil), 8 percent hydro, 4 percent biomass and waste, and 2 percent nuclear, according to the International Energy Agency. The remaining 4 percent came from wind, geothermal and solar, meaning a total of 16 percent came from renewables - well below the IAE average.
There was, of course, a reason for this imbalance. On March 11, 2011 a massive earthquake and tsunami crippled one nuclear plant in Fukushima, causing multiple meltdowns and explosions at three of its six reactors.
Japan subsequently switched off all of its 54 reactors and ordered utilities to implement safety checks and upgrades where necessary. Over the seven and a half years since the disasters — which forced the evacuation of 160,000 residents living near the plant — only half a dozen of those reactors have been restarted and Japan has looked to coal to bridge the gap in energy demand.
A feed-in tariff to encourage renewable projects was introduced in the aftermath of the disasters, but has by-and-large proven to be unsuccessful. Solar development in Japan has failed to keep up with other nations, and has even been referred to as a "shambles".
And while financial institutions have spied a chance in coal and fossil fuels, Japanese banks, which are some of the world’s biggest backers of coal-fired plant projects overseas, especially in emerging economies, have created stricter financing guidelines that would disqualify new credit-seeking coal-fired plant projects that failed to implement advanced air-pollution technologies. Some of those banks, such as Sumitomo Mitsui, have suggested that they may make exceptions to some overseas projects.
Sumitomo is one of a few of the institutions listed in the 350.org report have started to tighten up their coal-financing policies. Meanwhile Nomura announced in July that it would no longer invest in coal-fired plants for environmental reasons and Dai-ichi Life has pledged a similar move to cease its financing of overseas coal plants.
Some argue that in the wider scheme of things these changes are nothing more than token gestures and will not prevent the continuation of massive Japanese investments into coal as long as suitable alternatives — to both coal and nuclear — are ignored.
Sources: IAE; Bloomberg; Energy Finance in Japan 2018
I have just been reading about a nuclear plant in North Carolina that houses reactors that share the same design as those at the Fukushima plant that suffered multiple meltdowns in 2011.
Duke Energy Corp.'s Brunswick nuclear plant's two boiling water reactors (BWR) were built by General Electric. The reactor containment vessels are BWR-4s -- the exact same models as 4 of the 6 reactors housed at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Two of those four reactors and a further one (model BWR-3) went into meltdown following the magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami that hit northern Japan March 11, 2011 forcing the evacuation of over 160,000 residents.
One report says the Carolina utility had started powering down one reactor early Thursday and would start shutting the second reactor later in the day.
Hurricane Florence reached land near the plant on Friday.
Following the Fukushima disaster US regulators enforced new regulations whereby all U.S. nuclear nuclear plants had to be reinforced against earthquakes and flooding.
Duke Energy has not indicated if it has yet implemented those changes at Brunswick, but has said emergency generators and pumps will remove stormwater should the plant flood.
Local news yesterday broadcast images and footage of the aftermath of the strong earthquake that rocked Hokkaido Thursday, but little mention was made of another deja vu drama that was unfolding on Japan’s northernmost island.
As the magnitude 6.7 quake toppled buildings, ripped up roads and triggered massive landslides, resulting in 16 confirmed deaths and 100s of injuries, more than half of the 5.3 million residents on Hokkaido were left without electricity as power plants went into blackout -- including the Tomari nuclear power plant.
Albeit for a relatively short time, the Hokkaido Electric Power Co.-operated nuclear plant was reduced to relying on backup generators, much as the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant had done with such devastating results more than seven years ago.
In March 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunamis caused three of the six reactors there to go into meltdown causing the evacuation of more than 150,000 residents. On this occasion, the outage at the Tomari nuclear facility was relatively brief and unlike Fukushima, 600 km to the south, backup power remained intact, meaning cooling of the reactor cores could continue — a part of the “redundant” safety systems that are set up, at massive expense, within nuclear facilities around the globe.
Nonetheless, the temblor, which also damaged a local coal-fired power station among other facilities, knocked out the grid leaving many residents without electricity. More than a day on, that situation remains the same for many residents, who are also stuck in shelters rocked by aftershocks on a regular basis.
According to a government statement, the shutdown of all Hokkaido Electric's power facilities has affected around 2.95 million households, as well as business and oil and LPG terminals on the island.
While Hokkaido Electric has managed to restart some hydropower plants and one 125 megawatt coal-fired unit, its power supply capacity remains short of meeting the regional power demand, which was around 3.10 GW at the time of the earthquake.
According to one local news report Hokkaido has more than a dozen coal-fired and other power plants located in coastal areas that combined can supply close to double that amount. The interconnected system, however, means that if one goes down that interconnectivity is adversely affected, the Fuji TV report said. It also meant that it would take time to reconnect, it added. As a result, a state minister has warned that reduced power likely would continue to affect Hokkaido for over a week.
Hokkaido Electric says it hopes to restore much of that demand by Friday, topping up the supply from its restarts with an undamaged 600 MW power cable that connects Hokkaido with Japan’s main Honshu island, where Tokyo, Osaka and other major connotations are located.
The Tomari nuclear power plant, which restored power 10 hours after Thursday’s temblor, will be of little help: Like most of Japan’s nuclear reactors it has been out of service since the 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima as it undergoes stringent safety checks. While the blackout will undoubtedly caused more than just a little concern, an official said there had been no radiation leakage from the plant.
Japan has acknowledged for the first time that a worker at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which experienced triple meltdowns and explosions more than seven years ago, died from radiation exposure.
According the the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the man, who was in his 50s, took up employment with a sub-contracting company of plant operator TEPCO in the immediate aftermath of the March 2011 nuclear disaster, which was triggered by a magnitude 9 earthquake and mega-tsunami.
The man had been charged with monitoring radiation levels at the stricken plant and had worked their on and off until 2015, the ministry said. Shortly after, he was diagnosed with lung cancer.
While Japan’s government has previously recognised four worker illnesses, such as cancer and leukaemia, as being directly linked to working at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, the recently announced case marks the first occasion that it has recognised a death from working at the stricken facility.
The employee who died had an accumulated radiation dose of around 195 millisieverts (mSv), despite wearing the stipulated protective masks and clothing, according to local media reports.
Nuclear plant workers in Japan are limited to an accumulated dose of 100 mSv over any given 5-year period -- an amount that was controversially increased for several months to 250 mSv in the aftermath of the disaster -- which is generally accepted as being the 2nd worst in history after Chernobyl in 1986.
According to the World Nuclear Association, exposure to 100 mSv a year is the lowest level at which any increase in cancer risk is clearly evident. A cumulative 1,000 mSv would likely result in a fatal cancer in five out of every 100 persons exposed to it, the WNA says*. These estimates are made for people without protective masks or clothing.
*Some scientists believe there are cancer and other health risks from much lower doses. Others, such as Oxford University professor Wade Allison, believe there are no risks even from exposure to 1,000 mSv of radiation or more.
A new map shows radioactive contamination in Tokyo is at such levels that Japan should make an "honourable retreat" from hosting 2020 summer Games, claims former ambassador to Switzerland.
Reports out today that the Fukushima government and Japan's Reconstruction Agency are considering taking action over an episode from Netflix's “Dark Tourist” series.
The episode in question covers a tour of areas hit by the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, when multiple meltdowns and reactor explosions caused the evacuation of 160,000 residents.
During the tour, which was organised for foreign tourists, claims are made that a meal served at a restaurant in a town that was badly affected by the meltdowns had been contaminated with radiation.
The video also shows tour participants getting upset by rising radiation readings on their bus.
Concerned by the potential negative impact the video could have, the Fukushima Prefectural Government and Reconstruction Agency has said it was "examining" the content, with an eye to possible legal action, according to some Japanese news outlets.
Kiwi journalist David Farrier appears to have caught the attention of Japanese authorities over his video tour of Fukushima.
The Dark Tourist series is fronted by David Farrier, who explores so-called "dark tourist" spots, or destinations with a dark and sometimes grisly background. In the episode n question, the New Zealand journalist went on a tour of areas affected by the March 2011, 9.0-magnitude earthquake and mega-tsunami, which triggered the meltdowns and explosions at three of the six reactors at Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.
Late last year, publisher Jo Lowe, founder of Inknbeans Press, which published "Yoshida's Dilemma," sadly passed away. She was 61. Jo had been battling a long illness, but her passing came as a huge shock for many, including her loyal INB authors. I never had the fortune to actually meet her, but I quickly learned she was a hugely respected member of he publishing world with a unique voice and independent mind. I have always been grateful to her for accepting my manuscript, which in hindsight was a brave decision on her part.
There was uncertainty as to what would happen to INB after her passing but just today I received a letter from her husband, Gary, saying that the company has ceased to do business and the rights to the book are now returned to me. While sad, this means that (sorry if this sounds cold) I can look out for another publisher (any suggestions welcomed). The book is still available for sale online. However, if you would like to order directly through my website (www.yoshidas-dilemma.com) I would be very grateful. (As sad as Jo's loss is, I have never actually received any royalties for sales to date.)
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) says it will reconvene its plans to build a nuclear power plant in the northern Japan prefecture of Aomori just a month after the controversial power company announced the possible decommissioning of its Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant, which neighbours the No. 1 plant that was at the centre of the March 2011 nuclear disaster.
TEPCO’s proposed Higashidori nuclear plant, which will initially consist of two boiling water reactors — the same type found in the two Fukushima plants — providing a total output of 2.77 gigawatts, had been put on hold since the 2011 disaster as Japan’s 50-plus reactors were put through lengthy safety tests.
With six of those reactors now back online, TEPCO announced it will undertake geological surveys at the Higashidori starting later this year through 2020.
TEPCO President Tomoaki Kobayakawa said at a news conference that the surveys will enable the facility “to build a safer and more technologically advanced plant.”
Ironically, construction of the first reactor there started in January 2011, two months before the devastating earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan that triggered multiple meltdowns and explosions at the Fukushima No. 1 plant. It was unclear if the geological surveys announced were supplementary to ones already carried out prior to the building of that reactor.
Nonetheless, construction there came to a standstill following the 2011 disasters.
Kobayakawa is part of TEPCO’s reshuffled leadership that announced in May it will mull the decommissioning of the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant, while restating efforts to restart its controversial Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture, which is believed to stand on an active geological fault and was badly affected by another earthquake in 2007.
The damage there, however, less devastating than at its sister plant in Fukushima four years later.
The 2011 Fukushima disaster caused the evacuation of 160,000 residents living near the plant, many of whom remain displaced or have moved on to pastures new.
The proposed plant in Aomori will neighbour a separate plant already completed by another utility, Tohoku Electric Power Co., though that plant too has been offline since 2011.
Efforts by Tohoku Power to restart the reactors there have been thwarted by protestors and experts who believe that that plant too is located directly above an active fault.
Higashidori is viewed as as a central plant in a plan to reform and integrate the nuclear power generation business in Japan.
TEPCO reportedly has its eyes on a new company operated jointly by several other existing power utilities and nuclear plant manufacturers.
Those companies, however, are wary of such a plan, which is believed to be a result of TEPCO’s shocking safety record, which dates back decades, as well as its economic viability. The costs for building nuclear plants and upgrading older ones under new safety guidelines has risen considerably amid a background of falling demand for electricity, news sources report.
Source: NHK, Asahi Shimbun, Japan Times
There's an article in today's Asahi newspaper about an award for a film that documents a Fukushima farmer's continuing quest to find missing loved ones, including his son, who was just 3 years old who went missing following the 2011 tsunami and nuclear disaster.
Although he managed to find the body of his 8-year-old daughter in the disaster aftermath, the farmer, 45-year-old Takayuki Ueno, has been unable to find his son and four other members of his family who are believed to have been swept away by the tsunami waves.
The family were living in Miami-Soma, a city located about 25 km north of the Fukushima plant that was one of the municipalities hardest hit by the March 11, 2011 mega-quake and tsunamis that followed.
The documentary, Life--Another Story of Fukushima,” by Chiaki Kasai, has been chosen for this year's Mika Yamamoto International Journalist Award.
Mika Yamamoto was a video journalist who lost her life while covering the Syria conflict in 2012.
An English-Language version of the Asahi story can be found here
Today marks the 7th anniversary since the devastating earthquakes and tsunami hit northern Japan, claiming up to 21,000 lives and triggering the second-worst nuclear disaster in history.
The multiple meltdowns and explosions at three of the reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, which is located in the heart of the tsunami-hit region, resulted in the contamination of a wide area of land and sea and caused the evacuation of some 160,000 residents living near the plant.
Naturally, one of the biggest fears from nuclear "fallout" is the impact on health, most crucially the effect of radionuclides, such as radioactive iodine and caesium. Studies following the A-bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Nevada nuclear tests and the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster, among others, showed an increase in prevalence of a variety of of cancers among survivors and residents. Of those cancers, thyroid cancer has been shown to be a concern, particularly because it has been shown to impact people under 18 the most -- including babies and unborn foetuses.
In the case of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, even the most conservative estimates -- including those made by US cancer expert Robert Peter Gale, who treated emergency workers who were irradiated (some of whom eventually died) by the explosion and massive release of radionuclides at ONE reactor at the Chernobyl plant -- say more than 6,000 cases of thyroid cancers were found among children and adolescents as a result of ingesting large amounts of iodine.*** Since the Nevada tests, which were carried out between 1952 and 1957, up to 270,000 of the 170 million US residents alive at the time of those experiments developed extra thyroid cancers, according to Gale's 2013 book "Radiation."
In the case of Fukushima, tests on some 380,000 people who were under 18 at the time of the nuclear disaster have found some 200 "extra"** thyroid cancers (39 of them "suspected" cancers).
According to cancer experts, this is 10s of times more than the normally occurring thyroid cases in Japan's general population.
What is perplexing about the finds in Fukushima is that while in other historical cases such as Chernobyl, extra thyroid cancers believed to be tied to the radiation emitted by the nuclear plant did not begin to show up in residents until around a decade after the disasters, in Fukushima they started to show up just a few years after the disasters.
This has led scientists to believe they are not connected to the disaster itself.
One of them is Imperial College London cancer expert Geraldine Thomas. In one interview with Dr. Thomas I was told about something known as the "screening effect," where extensive tests on patients turn up "suspected" thyroid nodes/lumps that "almost certainly will be treated, even though treatment might not be required." What this means is that, many people who have lumps on their thyroids that are not necessarily tied to radiation and quite possibly not even to cancer go through life completely unaware that they exist. They are, in many cases, harmless. However, the moment they are tested and the lumps revealed, the "natural" result is that they will be treated, possibly through a surgical procedure that might actually have not been required (and potentially be of even more danger to the patient than the lump itself).
Kenji Shibuya, a public health specialist at University of Tokyo, is another specialist who would seem to agree with Thomas. According to a report in Science magazine, Shibuya said after the first thyroid cancers were detected back in 2011 that the extensive screenings were leading to an “overdiagnosis and overtreatment,” of dozens of children who were having their thyroids removed, perhaps unnecessarily.
Further clouding the issue is how/where the relevant radionuclide -- iodine-131 -- was dispersed following the Fukushima nuclear disaster. While government data showing where these radionuclides were dispersed was sadly lacking -- an issue I discuss in my book Yoshida's Dilemma -- it is widely believed that prevailing winds took them out to sea. Gale says in his book that even if that was not the case and the winds had taken them inland, the Japanese diet -- which is high in iodine due to the widespread consumption of fish, seaweed and other iodine-rich marine products -- "the danger would not have been as grave as one might think."
"The danger to people from iodine-131 released in the Chernobyl reactor meltdown ... was strikingly dissimilar from that released in the Fukushima explosions," Gale writes.
A major difference between the two is how quickly and efficiently the Japanese cut the food supply chain after the disaster, adds Thomas. "While Chernobyl children continued to consume contaminated milk and other dairy produce, Japanese children ate uncontaminated food brought in from elsewhere," she says.
A final word on this point: As reported in my book, independent tests of soil from rice paddies by local farmers and other residents living inland from the nuclear plant, showed fairly large deposits of radionuclides INCLUDING iodine. Are we to believe, then that these were already present in the soil?
Nonetheless, scientists such as Thomas are adamant that the occurrence of cancers among Fukushima residents will not take place for another three years at least.
And yet, I have personally interviewed residents, nuclear plant workers and disaster first respondents who have developed cancers that they believe, or have been told, were a result of the nuclear disaster. As one of the lawyers representing some of those first respondents (who are in the process of suing Fukushima plant operator TEPCO)* says, his clients were shown to be healthy and fit before the disasters. "So why are they getting cancer and other illnesses? That can only be because they were exposed to radiation. It can’t just be a coincidence.”
Thomas, Gale and other (often pro-nuclear) cancer experts seem to be in agreement about one thing: while it is impossible to incontrovertibly link nuclear plant radiation to cancers, it is also impossible to say that link does not exist. (No experiments to date have revealed a DNA marker connecting the two, according to Thomas). If science has been unable to provide 100 percent verification in this regard, does it make sense to assume that thyroid or other cancers that occur 10 years or more after a nuclear disaster are connected but those occurring under 10 years are not? It seems ludicrous to say something unprovable suddenly becomes provable at a certain point, and that point is 10 years, even if we have historical "evidence" suggesting that is the case.
*His clients are US sailors and other navy officials who were taking part in relief operations following the March 11 2011 disasters. They claim that their illnesses -- including thyroid and other cancers -- were the result of a plume of radiation from the Fukushima plant that passed over their boats when anchored in the Pacific Ocean about 100 miles northwest of the plant.
**"extra" indicates "in addition" to what would be normally found in the population.
***If discovered at an early stage aught thyroid cancer is often cured by removing the thyroid gland. In the case of the 6,000 cases following Chernobyl, most were not life-threatening. Indeed, according to a 2006 UN report, there were just 15 childhood thyroid cancer deaths believed to be attributable to the Chernobyl disaster.