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Friday, July 5, 2013

Start Up The Nukes Says Gaijin TEPCO Representative

I spotted the following story written by Yuri Kageyama of THE ASSOCIATED PRESS.

If not immediately clear, the story revolves around Lady Barbara Judge being hired by TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power COmpany), and whose first major public announcement is to say that Japan needs to get on with restarting the nuclear power generation programs... which is all well and good, because the longer TEPCO and other company plants are down, the more money everyone continues to lose.

I'll offer a wee bit of commentary below.

Here's the story:

TOKYO—The Japanese utility still battling leaks of radiated water at the nuclear plant sent into meltdown by the 2011 tsunami thinks it has found the perfect person to oversee its safety campaign—Lady Barbara Judge—a British-American, who has worked as a lawyer, banker and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissioner.

She says Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the utility behind the 2011 Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, has changed enough under a new president to begin restarting its reactors.
Still, she did not mince words about the past practices of the utility linked to the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.

"There was a culture of efficiency, not a culture of safety," Judge told The Associated Press on Friday (July 5, 2013), during a trip to Tokyo for meetings at TEPCO. "There was no safety culture. There was an assumption of safety."

Judge, honorary chairman at the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority, says nuclear power remains the best option for a resource-poor nation like Japan and vows that under her guidance the utility will adhere to world-class safety standards.

Tepco, which hired her for its nuclear reform committee in September, is eager to restart its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant, northeast of Tokyo.

New government safety rules are set to kick in next week, signaling a possible go-ahead for some of the 50 idled reactors to get back online.

On Friday, four utilities, Hokkaido, Kansai, Shikoku and Kyushu, told regulators they would apply to restart 10 reactors at five plants, according to the Nuclear Regulation Authority.

Tepco’s president met Friday with the governor and mayors of the Niigata region, where Kashiwazaki-Kariwa is housed, to gain their understanding on the restarts, but was met with doubts and questions about safety measures.

Having undergone a public bailout, Tepco is bleeding money, facing compensation demands from the thousands of people evacuated from around the plant, as well as importing costly oil, coal and gas to keep power going.

All its reactors are either defunct, including the four being decommissioned at Fukushima Dai-ichi, or shut down for safety tests after the disaster. And nuclear plants that can’t restart are a liability, looking terrible on a company’s books.

But Japanese protesters oppose restarting the plants, and public opinion surveys show a majority want an end to atomic power. The ruling party is pro-nuclear, but every other political party is demanding a phase-out.

Decades are likely needed to decommission Fukushima Dai-ichi. A (now) dead rat recently caused a massive blackout, temporarily shutting down the system to keep reactor-cores cool.

Tons of contaminated water continue to leak. Experienced workers are growing harder to find as they reach radiation-exposure limits.

Judge’s answer to such skeptics: Tepco should do more outreach to answer people’s questions and show how nuclear is the superior choice.

She has advised Tepco to "apologize profusely" for the accident and asserts that under her initiative, Tepco is bringing together the toughest standards and safest practices in the world.

Judge served as chairman of the U.K. Atomic Energy Authority from 2004 to 2010.

She insists that the safety-oversight section she is bringing together at TEPCO, instead of being ignored as they were in the past, will be respected, a place for “the best and the brightest.”

She said the standards her team is putting together would be ready "within months."

After all, the Fukushima accident was set off because backup generators were in the basement when the tsunami struck in March 2011, not a failure of fancy science, she noted.

She pointed to Germany as seeing costly energy imports, worsening carbon emissions and higher electricity prices, while it’s buying nuclear power from France, after opting for a nuclear phase-out.

"It’s a mess," said Judge. "Life without nuclear is the Emperor’s new clothes, as far as I’m concerned."

Interesting. One can only hope that Lady Judge was talking about the moral story and not about Japan's Emperor Akihito... because I think he's a pretty sharp dresser.

If she's trying to be funny - poor choice of words. Which, in itself, could spell trouble for TEPCO and its interests. Perhaps she could have said something like: "A day without nuclear power is like a day without money... for TEPCO" ... you know... something honest...

So... getting a woman to oversee the safety campaign... what does that mean? I don't care that she's a woman - or even a foreign woman... safety campaign... is that what the installation of safety issues is... at a nuclear facility? Shouldn't one of those places be the safest place on the planet... or at least feel as though it is?

At least Lady Judge and her spin-doctors agree that no matter what, TEPCO needs to beg forgiveness. Hmmm... this is not the Japanese way of doing things... usually, it's just something regrettable. And if it's really bad, then you kill yourself.

I like that she says she - under her initiative - is bringing the industry's toughest safety standards to TEPCO. First... shouldn't every nuclear agency be forced to have the toughest safety standards? Two... uh... so what the hell was TEPCO doing these past two years? Oh yeah, damage control... but even immediately after the accident, the tough safety initiatives should have either been installed or followed. I'll assume Lady Judge just means that we should trust her and TEPCO to not allow all of the regrettable stuff to happen again. Fair enough.

These standards will be put together within months, says Lady Judge .... so... that means there is no time table. That's not news, but that, too, is reality.

Anyhow... Lady Judge does want the nuclear facilities in Japan to restart - once they are deemed safe, and once they have a safety program in place, rather than just one of efficiency. Let's be fair... that's what she wants.

Anyhow... so... TEPCO hired a woman... and a gaijin at that! Check out that profile up above... she looks like she means business. I kind of like that. Anyhow... I found a photo of Lady Judge taken a few years earlier... she was quite the saucy redhead! She seems as though she is a very smart person, and TEPCO stepped out of the box while remaining in the box for this hire.
She's nuclear hot!
Anyhow... for more information on Lady Barbara Judge, check out her Wikipedia page: HERE.

Andrew Joseph

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