Saturday, December 8, 2012

Genetically Modified "Golden Rice" Fed to Unsuspecting 25 Elementary School Children in China As Part of Joint Study by Tufts University and Chinese Authorities, the Same Study Continued in the US

The Chinese government says it has compensated the parents of the children with 80,000 yuan (US$12,800) each.

The director of Tufts University's Carotenoids and Health Laboratory is Chinese. Dr. Guangwen Tang has published her paper titled " Golden Rice is an effective source of vitamin A" in June 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

What is "Golden Rice"? It's one of the projects supported by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Which multinational corporation is behind "Golden Rice"? Syngenta, of Switzerland.

Who's behind the clinical studies by this director of Carotenoids and Health Laboratory at Tufts University? The US government.

After Greenpeace busted the study in China, the Tuft University researcher continued the study using the US children. She is still at it, now using adults.

First, from China Daily (12/7/2012; emphasis is mine):

Parents of students in GM rice test win payout

by Qiu Quanlin

Parents whose children unknowingly took part in a study involving genetically modified rice in Hunan province have received compensation but said they are more worried about their youngsters' health.

Each of 25 families, whose children were fed 60 grams of the GM food "golden rice" in the study, received 80,000 yuan ($12,800) on Friday from local government authorities.

The study, which covered some 80 children then aged between 6 and 8, was conducted in a primary school in Jiangkou township, Hengnan county, in 2008.

"Compared with the compensation, I have more concerns over possible health hazards to my child," said Xie Xiaohua, whose 11-year-old daughter, Liao Ke, was included in the study.

The girl developed dizziness and fever shortly after the test, Xie said.

"We were not told before the test by relevant authorities that it was genetically modified rice. We were only asked to sign names and we thought it was a nutrition program," Xie told China Daily.

Investigations by health authorities show the research team told parents about the experiment but did not say GM rice would be used.

Xie said local authorities have not announced the names of the 25 children.

Authorities in Hengnan county have promised to take full responsibility if children suffer health problems as a result of the test.

Another mother, who gave her name only as Luo, told the Beijing News the local government will soon arrange for all children involved in the study to have medical checks.

"I signed the compensation agreement with the government on Dec 1. I would rather not have received the money. So far, I don't know how dangerous the "golden rice" will be to my child's health," said Luo, whose daughter was fed the GM food.

Three officials who approved and conducted the controversial test have been sacked, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday.

The officials are Yin Shi'an, from the center: Wang Yin, from the Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences: and Hu Yuming, from the Hunan Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

US-based Tufts University, which jointly organized the study, is aware of the announcement made by the Chinese health authorities.

"While we respect China's review process which led to the statement, it would be inappropriate to make further comments at this time as investigations are currently under way in the United States," Andrea Grossman, assistant director of public relations at the Massachusetts-based institution, was quoted as saying by Xinhua News Agency.

Grossman said the university launched a full review in August to determine if proper study procedures were followed. This was after becoming aware of questions about the "golden rice" study, raised after the test was disclosed by environmental group Greenpeace.

"We have also been cooperating with Chinese investigators engaged in their own review. We will continue to cooperate with China's authorities on this matter," Grossman said.

According to the Chinese statement, Guangwen Tang, director of the Carotenoids and Health Laboratory of Tufts University, cooked the GM rice in the United States and brought it to China on May 29, 2008, without declaring it to the Chinese authorities.

Four days later, Tang and other research participants re-cooked the rice, mixed it with ordinary rice and served it for the children's lunch.

The central government introduced a regulation in 2001 to ensure the safety of GM food, with strict provisions for research, testing, production and marketing such products, according to Xinhua.

The regulation states that those conducting GM agricultural experiments should have certain qualifications, and form a panel to oversee the safety of the experiments.

Contact the writer at

A non-profit organization in Wales in the UK called GM-Free Cymru alleges that this Golden Rice is an untested, unapproved GM variety. Further (emphasis is mine),

Project NCT 00680212. Vitamin A Equivalence of Plant Carotenoids in Children. We infer that the earlier trial with children was inconclusive, causing the managers of the Golden Rice Project to engineer so-called "improvements" in later varieties of Golden Rice -- and to press on with another round of trials using children. 24 children of 6-8 years of age at the Center Primary School in Hengyang in Hunan province were to be used as guinea pigs. Zhejiang Academy of Medical Sciences, Hang Zhou, China was initially shown as a project sponsor. However, when Greenpeace alerted the Chinese authorities to the fact that Golden Rice is an unauthorised GM variety, they refused to sanction the experiments (12) and pulled out of the project. Undeterred, the Tufts University team has now decided to press ahead. On 6th February 2009 the US Clinical Trials web site posted news that the trial will now be conducted in the USA, not China. The study is currently recruiting participants; 24 children with and without Vitamin A deficiency will be fed on Golden Rice for an unspecified number of days. Again, the source of funding is unspecified.

These experiments raise major ethical issues. Very young children suffering from varying degrees of Vitamin A deficiency have been fed on an unauthorised and untested GM variety. According to the Nuremberg Code, which underpins modern medical ethics, there are three principles which have been breached (13). First, children under the age of ten do not have the legal capacity to give informed consent prior to being used in these experiments. Second, it has in no case been demonstrated by Tufts University or the other participants that the results desired could not be obtained by other means of study. And third, the studies were not preceded by animal experiments which might have shown up hazards for the trial subjects. There has been a cavalier disregard for the safety of the vulnerable persons used in these tests, driven by the ideological conviction that Golden Rice is "just another rice." It is most definitely NOT just another rice, as indicated in a number of studies (14). And it is not just the genetic manipulation of the plant that causes concern, since studies have shown that in certain circumstances high doses of Vitamin A can in themselves be very damaging when fed to patients / normal consumers who are not suffering from Vitamin A deficiency. (15)

It is clear that there is more than a little sensitivity in the research community about the three Golden Rice feeding experiments. The lead researcher, Dr Guangwen Tang, refuses to respond to Email messages, and when a journalist reached her by telephone she refused point-blank to answer any questions about the research. It was only after persistent questioning of key Golden Rice promoters that the same journalist obtained an admission from Syngenta that there had been no animal feeding studies.

After checking the government link on clinical trials above, the test of Golden Rice on young children in the US by Tufts University was completed in January 2009. According to the government page:

  • 72 children, aged 6 to 8, with or without adequate Vitamin A nutrition

  • Duration of the study, 21 days

It was a Phase 2 study, but GM-Free Cymru says Syngenta has admitted that there has been no animal studies. So they basically used children as lab animals.

I wonder what the incentive was for the parents of these 72 children to agree to have their children subjected to a GMO test. I wonder they knew what the test was about.

Ms. Guangwen Tang is currently recruiting participants in her Phase 1 study of "Bioavailability of Golden Rice Carotenoids in Humans":

  • A well-nourished population will be fed hydroponically grown Golden Rice

  • 15 adults, aged between 40 and 70 years

But the government data is as of April 2012. This clinical trial may have also been over.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Election in Japan: Nippon Future Party Leader Disappoints

Ms. Yukiko Kada's party is not doing well. Some blame the media coverage, but actually the media has given more than the usual coverage of her party than even that of the existing parties like Komei Party. I'm afraid it has more to do with her and her rather tone-deaf campaign style so far.

Mr. Tetsunari Iida as the deputy party leader is not helping either. He was squarely, solely responsible for the debacle on the day of submission of the list of party candidates when the party almost missed (technically it did miss, by 10 seconds) the deadline to submit the list of candidates because of the last-minute change that Mr. Iida demanded. It was a very bad PR for the party, and one of the party members seen crying on camera didn't help. The whole incident confirmed the suspicion held by many that they were rank amateurs.

Articles I found yesterday indicate to me that Mr. Kada, despite her being the governor of Shiga Prefecture, is one of the amateurs of the party, out of sync, out of step even with her party's candidate.

Sponichi (12/7/2012) says Ms. Kada was at the side of Ms. Yukiko Miyake, who is putting up a good fight to defeat Prime Minister Noda in his Chiba 4th District (Funabashi City, Chiba). But what did she do to help Ms. Miyake? Nothing. After ms. Miyake spoke, with sharp attacks on PM Noda, It was Ms. Kada's turn. But Ms. Kada mentioned Mr. Noda only once in her speech in connection with the restart of Ooi Nuclear Power Plant (she approved of the restart anyway) , and toward the end she started to peddle her book. "All I talked about today is in this book", she said, whipping out her book titled "What a governor can do". She recommended the audience to go ahead and buy the book and read it. Then she handed the book to Ms. Miyake, and left in a car. Huh?

In the same event in Funabashi City, Ms. Kada also said the following, according to Sankei Shinbun (12/6/2012): "I'm heartbroken." Why? Because the poll numbers for her party reported by the media are low. So her party does not have a system to gauge the effectiveness of the campaign and is relying on the mass media's numbers. And to say she was heartbroken (depressed, dejected, disheartened, etc.) in a speech that was supposed to support and encourage Ms. Miyake on to fight the prime minister of Japan, what was she thinking?

Finally, not all people in Shiga Prefecture are happy about their governor spending time campaigning on their dime (or yen). According to Yomiuri Shinbun (12/6/2012), Mayor of Hikone City has filed a "resident audit request to local government authority", demanding the prefecture halt salary payment to Ms. Kada while she's campaigning. According to the Hikone City Mayor, Ms. Kada didn't come to work from December 4 to 6 as she campaigned elsewhere. "To pay from the taxpayers' money in Shiga to the governor who is campaigning for a particular political party while the Shiga residents' political views vary is clearly illegal", says the mayor.

To this, Ms. Kada responded: "The resident audit request is invalid, because the governorship is a special position in the government service, and there is no set number of work hours like the regular government employees."

Her argument is strange. It is true that the governors are not bound by obligation to work certain number of hours, but that does not mean they are free to do anything they like. In fact, the law only says they are not punished for working less hours, or not rewarded for working more hours. Governors are paid by taxpayers' money to be governors 24/7, always ready to work as the governors of the prefectures.

Apparently not to her, and not to the governor of Osaka, who, as the sidekick to the boy wonder, has been working the struggling campaign for his party (Japan Restoration Party).

Here's Ms. Kada's party's campaign CM. Very weak. Silly music. Portraying nuclear and tax issues as if they were just the matter of clicking buttons on the net.

So far, it seems like the decision by Mr. Ichiro Ozawa and Mr. Shizuka Kamei to join her party may end up destroying their own bases in the election.

Slight Rise in Pressure in #Fukushima II (Daini) Nuke Plant Reactor 1 Bldg After Dec 7 M7.3 Quake

Update on the Magnitude 7.3 outer-rise earthquake on December 7 off Miyagi Prefecture. (Yesterday's report is here.)

It looks something may have happened at Fukushima II Nuclear Power Plant. According to TEPCO, there was a small rise in pressure in the reactor building, which is to be kept at a negative pressure to prevent radioactive contamination from spreading into the environment.

Jiji Tsushin (12/7/2012):


TEPCO: Fukushima I Nuke Plant "No abnormality", Fukushima II [reactor] building pressure rise


TEPCO announced that there was no new abnormality in Fukushima I and II Nuclear Power Plants. The quake measured on site was small, and it didn't affect the water injection into the reactors or the cooling of the spent fuel pools.


However, in Fukushima II (Daini) Nuke Plant, the pressure inside the Reactor 1 building rose a little. At 5:20PM, workers lowered the pressure by manually operating [the system that] pumps out the air.


TEPCO's manager Masayuki Ono explained "It's not very serious", even though he acknowledged the company did not know the cause of the pressure rise. According to TEPCO, there is no leak of radioactive materials in the environment.

Ah the famous last word, "No leak of radioactive materials in the environment".

There were 11 people injured in the M7.3 earthquake. There was a M6.2 earthquake 13 minutes after the M7.3 earthquake, but the Japanese tweets say there was no media report on that one, other than in the data pages of Japan Meteorological Agency and other meteorological news sites. Many people say they did indeed felt two shakes.

Right now, some people are trying to figure out what the hell is "autaah raizu" earthquake (and remember, "r" and "l" are indistinguishable to the Japanese) - a transliteration of "outer-rise" earthquake".

(UPDATED) M.7.3 Earthquake in Tohoku, 1-Meter Tsunami Arrived in Miyagi Prefecture (Ishinomaki)

(UPDATE 12/7/2012) Information on Fukushima II (Daini) Nuke Plant in my latest post.


Just saw the headline at Jiji Tsushin.


Strong earthquake at 5:18PM on December 7 in Tohoku and Kanto. Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Tochigi had the seismic intensity of "5 weak". Japan Meteorological Agency has issued a tsunami warning to Miyagi, as 1-meter high tsunami may arrive at 5:40PM.

Prime Minister Noda, who was campaigning, returned to the Official Residence on the news.

It was a Magnitude 7.3 earthquake.

Nuclear Regulatory Authority says there has been no report of problems at nuclear power plants.

TEPCO says there is no damage to Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant. (As if the plant needs any more damage..) No one was hurt, no change in plant parameters. TEPCO says it was 4 in seismic intensity in Hamadori (ocean 1/3 of Fukushima Prefecture where the plant is located).

NHK apparently changed its way to report on the tsunami. The announcers are using strong words to appeal to people to take heed and take refuge. Asahi Shinbun quickly reports that a male NHK announcer is saying:

"Tsunami Warning for Miyagi Prefecture... In 10 more minutes... Please recall how it was in East Japan Great Earthquake [March 11, 2011 earthquake]... Escape to highest places as possible... To save lives, hurry and escape..."

NHK says the 1-meter tsunami did arrive at Ayukawa in Ishinomaki City in Miyagi at 6:02PM.

USGS site shows a relatively strong aftershock (M.6.2) about 13 minutes after the M.7.3 quake, then a M.5.5 and M.4.7 (two).

Many Japanese on Twitter are recalling how it was in March last year. Not the March 11 one but the one that came before, a few days earlier, just about the same magnitude.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Sasago Tunnel: Ceiling Panels Were Welded Together

Reason unknown.

I thought that at least Japan's civil engineering was still solid. Wrong.

Sankei Shinbun, quoting Kyodo News (12/5/2012):

トンネル天井板は溶接 広範囲崩落の要因か

Ceiling panels of the tunnel were welded together, may have contributed to a large section collapse


9 people died and 2 people suffered injuries in the collapse of [ceiling panels in] Sasago Tunnel on Chuo Expressway in Yamanashi Prefecture. It was revealed on December 5 that the ceiling panels that fell were welded together using rebar.


The collapsed section is 130 meters long, and Central Nippon Expressway Company is admitting the possibility that the connected ceiling panels contributed to the collapse. The prefectural police will conduct the investigation by taking with the experts who accompanied the inspection of the scene of the accident and analyzing the documents seized from


According to Central Nippon Expressway, the 5m x 1.2m x 8.9 centimeter ceiling panels are made of concrete, weighing about 1.2 tonne each. There is a small gap in between the ceiling panels, but the gap was filled with metal [rebar] and welded.


Central Nippon Expressway says, "We still don't know how it actually collapsed, but we cannot deny the possibility that one segment fell, taking the other segments with it."

I thought, "How can you weld a concrete panel?" Looking at the video of FNN News below, the concrete ceiling panels seem to be covered by metal casings.

From FNN News Youtube channel (12/6/2012):

Neither Central Nippon Expressway Company nor the Yamanashi prefectural police has the detailed information or photos or the video regarding this accident available at their websites. I guess they have no intention of learning from the Fukushima nuclear accident when it comes to timely disclosure of information to the general public.

New Normal in US: Obama and Reid Attempt to Eliminate Congressional Checks on Debt Limit, Geithner Says "Absolutely" Yes to Going Over the Fiscal Cliff, Dean Says "Raise Tax Across the Board"

Dems gone wild.

Harry put it for voting, and Republicans in the Senate blocked the vote, for now. Barack and Harry's plan would have passed by a simple majority (51), which Democrats have in the Senate, to give Barack the executive power to unilaterally raise the debt limit.

Combine that with Ben's unilateral unlimited QE. (Move over, Abe.)

In the US Senate, there are 51 Democrats and 47 Republicans.

From Reuters (12/6/2012):

Senate Republican leader blocks debt limit vote

(Reuters) - Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday prevented a simple majority vote on a proposal to give Democratic President Barack Obama unilateral power to raise the debt limit.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brought the measure to the floor for consideration at the request of McConnell. But McConnell refused to permit a vote after Reid said it could pass with 51 votes in the 100-member Senate. McConnell demanded 60 votes needed for passage.

The jockeying played out as Democrats and Republicans seek to end a stalemate on how to resolve spending and tax issues by year's end.

In the meantime, during his appearance in a TV show (CNBC), Treasury Secretary Timmy "Turbotax" Geithner said Obama would be "absolutely" willing to go over the fiscal cliff.

As Bruce Krasting at Zero Hedge says in his piece today (emphasis is mine),

Given that Geithner will be out of his job running Treasury soon, I’m sure that he went on TV with the blessings of Obama, and he had a scripted message from the President. There will be no negotiations on tax rates, the top rate is going to 40%, or we will be sailing off the cliff. What an idiotic bargaining position.

At this point, I don’t think there is any significant opposition to increasing tax revenue from America’s wealthiest folks; the question is how to achieve it. Raising marginal rates is one option; cutting deductions can accomplish exactly the same thing. Geithner and Obama will not consider adjusting deductions; the reasons are a mystery to me. It appears that the President wants to “punish” some folks rather than to find a compromise that achieves the desired results.

So I agree with Bartiromo, unless the President backs off, we are going cliff diving in 20 days.

I believe the President has started a war, No real bullets or sabers in this war, but there will be casualties none-the-less. The question is, “Who is going to get hurt?” The thinking by all of the pundits is that a fall of the cliff will fall squarely on the shoulders of Republicans. If they stand up to the Administration on tax rates, the Republicans will get slaughtered in the Congressional elections two years from now.

The facts force me to conclude that Obama is, in fact, using the cliff negotiations to bend Republicans over and force them into submission. The goal is to destroy the Republicans, and have the House, Senate and the White House all Democratically controlled in twenty-two months. Harry Reid would be in charge of the Senate, Nancy Pelosi would be running the House, and the President would have the last two years of his administration with the government controlled by “friendly” hands. A disaster in the making.

Mr. Krasting has said he voted for Mr. Obama in 2008. I don't know if he voted at all in 2012.

And if you think it will be only the so-called "rich" (household earning more than $250,000 a year), former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean has a better idea. From Real Clear Politics (emphasis is mine):

The only problem is -- and this is initially going to seem like heresy from a progressive is -- the truth is everybody needs to pay more taxes, not just the rich. And it's a good start. But we're not going to get out of this deficit problem unless we raise taxes across the board, to go back to what Bill Clinton had and his taxes. And if we don't do that, the problem is the pressure is going to be on spending even more.

If Mr. Dean and his party are proposing the cutback of the Federal bureaucracy to the level last seen in the Clinton Era, that's one thing. Mr. Dean of course does not offer that, and instead threatens us with even more spending by the Obama administration. Which they will do anyway, as Obama's "cut" (for that matter, Republicans' "cut", with the exception of Ron Paul's) is nothing but decreasing the rate of debt increase. Instead of debt growing at 5% a year, for example, Obama would cut the growth rate to, say 3% a year, and call 2% a "cut".

Again, from Bruce Krasting (emphasis is mine):

I think the Republicans should call the President’s bluff. Lets take a walk over the cliff; see what happens when we get to the other side. It can’t be much worse than 50%+ tax rates in the most productive states in the Union. Will Republicans get hammered in the bi-elections as a result? Maybe. But one thing is sure, if the President gets his way on tax rates today, and we also have the Republicans lose the House in two years, it sets up the possibility for a return to a more conservative frame of mind for the country when the next Presidential election comes around. If Obama gets his way, the economy will pay the price. In the process, any legacy that Obama might have had will have been converted into something like Herbert Hoover’s. So who is bluffing whom?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Dictatorial Egypt: 4 Killed, 350 Injured in Crash in Cairo Between Opponents and Supporters of President Morsi

"No to dictatorship," Morsi's opponents chanted, while their rivals chanted: "Defending Morsi is defending Islam."

As if Islam is Egypt.

From Al Jazeera (12/6/2012):

At least four people have been killed in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, as supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi clashed near the presidential palace, the health ministry says.

Fighting continued into the early morning on Thursday with fires burning in the streets where the opposing sides threw stones and petrol bombs at each other.

"No to dictatorship," Morsi's opponents chanted, while their rivals chanted: "Defending Morsi is defending Islam."

Riot police were sent in to break up the violence on Wednesday, in which about 350 people were injured.

The opposition is demanding Morsi rescind a decree giving him nearly unrestricted powers and shelve a disputed draft constitution that the assembly passed hurriedly last week.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo, said hundreds of protesters remained in the streets before dawn on Thursday, but that most of Morsi's opponents had retreated.

A small group of opposition activists had been camped outside the palace since Tuesday night, when tens of thousands rallied against the presidential decree.

Supporters of Morsi marched to the palace on Wednesday and tore down the opposition's tents. Witnesses said they threw stones and used clubs to attack demonstrators.

Thirty-two people were arrested on Wednesday, according to a statement from the interior ministry.

Protests spread to other cities, and offices of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood in Ismailia and Suez were torched.

Both sides blamed the other for starting the clashes: Opposition leaders said Morsi was responsible for the bloodshed, while senior Brotherhood officials accused the opposition of "inciting violence".

(Full article at the link)


For joyous and victorious Egypt in February 2011, the links seem still valid from my page:

US Academy of Sciences Went to #Fukushima I Nuke Plant to "Learn the Lesson", US, UK, French Regulators to Become "International Advisors" to Japan's Nuclear Regulatory Authority

Members of the US National Academy of Sciences were there at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant on November 30 in Tyvek suits and full-face masks to learn the lesson from the accident.

Whether it is because of the Japanese media and citizens clearly having "moved on", or because of some other reasons, the visit was hardly reported or remarked in Japan. I learned about it yesterday after checking the TEPCO's Photos and Videos section and found photos of the members in various locations inside the plant:

Then on December 5, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority of Japan announced its "international advisors" from the US, the UK and France. According to NRA, they are:

  • Mr. André-Claude Lacoste (France, former chairman of ASN)

  • Dr. Richard A. Meserve (US, former chairman of NRC)

  • Dr. Mike Weightman (UK, head of ONR, was the head of the IAEA mission to Japan)

The NRA and the international advisors will have their first meeting on December 14 in Tokyo. They will probably keep a very good eye on Japan, so that Japan does not deviate from the nuclear path.

But then, these experts need not worry, as the Japanese have moved on. They are now obsessed with the upcoming election. Many point to the brighter future somewhere over the horizon and dream, while not even noticing they have stepped on a pile of dog excrement. By the power of sheer hope, they don't smell it, they don't see it, therefore it doesn't exist.

Sasago Tunnel Accident: "No Corrosion of Bolts, Only Some Rust, Ceiling Intact", Says Yomiuri, But NHK Says "Some Bolts Corroded, Cracked"

Information on the accident is dribbling out via the media, not directly through the tunnel operator NEXCO Central, whose website has zero information on the accident other than their "Sorry for the accident victims" message, or the ministry in charge (Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism) which set up an investigation committee made up of scholars and university professors (as if they had ever worked a day in construction).

First, from Yomiuri Shinbun (12/4/2012):


The Investigation committee of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism surveyed the accident location and met for the first time on December 4 after the Sasago Tunnel accident in Yamanashi Prefecture where the ceiling panels collapsed [killing 9 people].


The committee revealed to the press that there was no noticeable corrosion on the anchor bolts that fell from the ceiling. The committee will further investigate in order to determine why the bolts fell.


The survey lasted for about one hour. The committee members saw the anchor bolts that fell, and looked at the concrete ceiling of the tunnel. According to the committee, there was no evidence of large flaking of concrete, and while some anchor bolts showed some rusting, it was minor.


The committee also confirmed the maintenance method with the Central Nippon Expressway Company. According to the committee, they were "conducting the maintenance according to the internal manual, but we cannot determine at this point whether the manual was appropriate."

As if there is only one manual. From my personal experience, they may have at least three manuals, one for the submission to the regulatory authority, one as the official company manual, one as the unofficial manual for the field workers. I wouldn't be surprised if there's yet another one, unofficial, oral manual handed down the workers who really know the situation.

However, NHK, reporting on the police investigation, says bolts were corroded and cracked (12/5/2012; part):


According to the police investigating the scene, there were multiple metal bolts that had fallen from the tunnel ceiling, which had been used to secure the metal bars that had suspended the ceiling panels.


Some corrosion was found on the bolts, and some of them were found cracked, according to the police. They will further investigate how the bolts fell.

Does the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism have the minutes of the expert committee meeting on December 4? Yes it does, sort of. The ministry's website has a "minute summary" that consists of seven short sentences. As to the accident, it has this to say:


2) How the accident happened
- There was a discussion of how the accident happened.

You would think the government and the government experts have learned the lesson from the Fukushima accident - that information needs to be promptly and fully disclosed. So we have no choice but rely on the media, and muddle through.

Life is completely back to normal in Japan.

Monday, December 3, 2012

OT: My Personal Election Campaign Poster

I'm not running for any office, but since everyone is having fun creating election posters, I thought I'd make one myself.

I have to admit it's not very inspiring or pretty.

(The photo courtesy of TEPCO.)

Japanese Politics: December 16 Election Posters

[My brief impression in square bracket.]

Democratic Party of Japan, Yoshihiko Noda: "What matters is decision [in the very large font]. Responsibility for today and for the future." [or "What matters is the ability to decide." Noda's left eye and right eye look as if they belong to two different persons. Scary.]

Liberal Democratic Party, Shinzo Abe: "Take back Japan" [Take back from whom? Gazing into distance, not looking at you, with eyebrows that reminded me of Gromit. To my amusement, LDP now call themselves "Lib Dems", like the Lib Dems in the UK. As we all know by now, LDP is not liberal, it's not democratic either.]

Boy-wonder's Japan Restoration Party: "Rebirth of Japan, responsibility for the future." [If anyone get inspired by looking at this poster, he/she will fully deserve whatever comes after this party is elected.]

Japan's Future Party: "Future where everyone can have hope." [Mr. Tetsunari Iida and Ms. Yukiko Kada, both of whom changed part of their names from kanji to hiragana for the election so that voters can easily write, without mistake. Sorry to say but I find very little personal charm in these two. Mr. Iida had better get a decent haircut.]

Japan Communist Party: Kazuo Shii, "We propose, we act." [Mr. Shii, you are not an enka singer. Sorry. The look is the 70's look...]

New Party Nippon, Yasuo Tanaka: "I know who to protect" [his word. "I don't make mistakes in choosing who to protect" - criticizing DPJ and LDP for putting big businesses first.]

My personal favorite is Mr. Tanaka's poster. He looks calm and not prone to over-promising. Despite the silly gesture, I also do like Mr. Shii, smiling at us, looking like a good sport.

As far as the color scheme goes, DPJ's Noda and New Party Nippon's Tanaka are the winners to me. The colors (red or dark red background, very dark suits) portray substance, whether the substance is actually there or not. Mr. Tanaka could have chosen a better tie.

Someone couldn't help faking a poster for Goshi Hosono:

Sasago Tunnel Accident: Concrete Ceiling Panels Fell When the 35-Year-Old Metal Bolts Securing the Panels Fell Off from the Tunnel Ceiling

This is the silliest design I've ever seen. But then I'm no engineer.

9 people were killed when the concrete ceiling panels in Sasago Tunnel in Yamanashi Prefecture suddenly caved and fell on the motorists who happened to be in the tunnel.

The media reports try to explain how the ceiling panels were secured by metal brackets, no, they were hanging from the ceiling, oh wait, no they were attached to the dividing wall in the middle, no they were secured by metal bolts. I guess the reporters aren't engineers either.

I finally found this drawing which seems to be more or less accurate.

From the news site "Iza":

Since the tunnel opened in 1977, there has been no maintenance, no testing of the bolts that secure and hang the concrete ceiling panels (1.2 tonne a piece). There is no record of the bolts ever replaced. All they have done every five years is visual inspection. Why? Because physical inspection was not required by law, and since the bolts are anchored at the highest part of the tunnel they are inaccessible.

After I tweeted I wanted to see the detailed diagram of the tunnel, my twitter followers sent me the graphics that show how the bolts and metal suspensions were attached to the concrete panel.

16 bolts, 1.6 centimeter in diameter and 23 centimeters long, secures the metal plate to the ceiling, using chemical anchor. The metal plate secures the 5.3-meter long metal bar that is connected to another metal plate securing two concrete panels, each weighing 1.2 tonnes and measuring 5 meters x 1.2 meters x 8 centimeters (thick). The middle divider is not connected to the ceiling, but the purpose seems to be to secure the metal bar that suspends the ceiling panels. (The image is from Tokyo Shinbun.)

Now, why did they need this strange ad-hoc-looking structure? (It is not actually ad-hoc, as this structure was in place when the tunnel opened for business in 1977.) It turned out that the air in the tunnel tended to stagnate, and with heavy traffic with motorists having to sit in the tunnel for an extended period of time the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning was high. So they needed a structure that would allow effective air flow. So they decided to create air ducts by dividing the tunnel by concrete panels suspended from the ceiling by metal bars which would be supported by concrete divider wall that would separate the duct space in two, and the metal gars would be bolted to the ceiling.

Who were the general contractors who did this job? I looked all over, and there are only rumors. No major news outlets mention the names of the general contractors.

Rumors or no rumors, share prices of Japan's 1st-tier and second-tier general contractors jumped in the stock market in Japan on Monday. Kumagai-gumi, one of the most skilled contractors in tunnels, jumped more than 10 percent.

Why? Because the market thinks it is now extremely certain that the Japanese government will spend another borrowed fortune on public works, in response to citizens' fear and outrage that their infrastructure has deteriorated rapidly. As one of my followers said, it's not that the top-tier general contractors are good at maintenance (they aren't).

Well, 35 years of deferred maintenance does wonders. Like generating fat profits for general contractors who will throw work down their construction subcontractor pyramids. Dango anyone?

(H/T Kontan_Bigcat, Morimorikids, dr_masa_, 110rin, mwuema)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Southern California Edison: San Onofre's Emergency Diesel Generator May Have Been Tampered With

Mysterious case of coolant in the diesel generator oil system. How did it get there? The plant operator suspects a sabotage.

From Huffington Post (11/29/2012; emphasis is mine):

San Onofre Nuclear Plant Investigating Possible Sabotage Of Safety System

by Tom Zeller Jr.

A California utility said Thursday it has notified the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of potential sabotage, possibly by an employee, of a crucial piece of safety equipment attached to one of its nuclear power reactors.

Southern California Edison said the incident did not pose an immediate safety threat because the plant involved, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station near San Clemente, is currently offline. But the plant operator found engine coolant had been poured into an oil reservoir on an emergency backup generator, which would have likely caused the generator to malfunction if needed to help cool the reactor during a power failure. The tampering is being taken seriously and security at the plant has been tightened, SCE said.

"The comprehensive investigation has included rigorous tests, a review of station logs and employee interviews to determine the cause of the presence of the residual engine coolant," the company said in a statement late Thursday. "Based on the unexpected discovery of the coolant in the diesel oil system and the ongoing investigation, security at the plant has been enhanced."

An employee at the plant who asked not to be named because he feared reprisals from management said supervisors told employees on Thursday that the FBI would be taking over the investigation and that criminal charges were possible. A company spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the FBI was involved.

The incident was first discovered in late October and was reported to an on-site NRC inspector shortly thereafter. "The plant initiated a review of the incident, which is still ongoing, and subsequently reported the incident as a security-related incident on November 27," said Scott Burnell, a spokesman for the NRC. "Because the NRC’s review is ongoing and the incident is security related, we have no further information to share at this time."

The backup diesel generator, attached to Unit 3, one of the site's two nuclear reactors, would be needed to help keep the reactor cool if off-site power was somehow lost.

According to the Voice of Orange County, which first reported the incident in early November, NRC's on-site inspector said the coolant likely would have made the generator run unpredictably.

(Full article at the link)

Voice of Orange County reported on November 9, 2012, quoting John Reynoso, NRC inspector at San Onofre Plant:

San Onofre’s diesel generator was taken offline on Oct. 21 for two weeks of maintenance when about two cups of coolant was found in the oil for its governor, Reynoso said.

If the coolant had been left in place and the generators activated, Edison believes the governor, which controls the generator’s speed and prevents it from running too fast, would have failed, Reynoso said.

TEPCO's Teleconference Video on March 16, 2011: "Lunch Menu is Biscuits and Canned Saury"

About 50 minutes into the March 16, 2011 video linked in the previous post, there is an announcement from the Workers Welfare Section of Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant:

This is Workers Welfare Section. Lunch is distributed at ... Today's menu is biscuits and canned saury. Please bring your own spoon. If you don't have one...

I'll never forget the NISA official who said in March last year that it was none of the government's responsibility to provide the workers at the plant with decent food. He said, "Yes we're aware of the situation, but it's basically TEPCO's problem. No, we're not going to do anything about it."

The workers didn't have enough blankets in the beginning, either.

As hardly anyone in Japan has paid attention to details on what happened and why, this will be repeated in the next accident.

TEPCO's Teleconference Video from March 16 to April 6, 2011 Shows TEPCO HQ's Ineptitude, Meddling by the Government (1)

Fukushima I Nuclear Plant Manager Yoshida said angrily to a manager in TEPCO HQ:

"If it [Reactor 3] explodes, we'll all die. Do you understand? Take it seriously and come up with the procedure!"

He was talking about the SDF helicopter's water dropping operation at the request of the Kan administration, which eventually took place on March 17, 2011.

On November 30, 2012, TEPCO released the 336 hours of its teleconference video from March 16 to 23, and from March 30 to April 6, 2011. TEPCO only made about 2 hours worth of the video available to the general public (online). The rest of the video is only available for viewing at TEPCO's headquarters and only by the qualified press (Japan press club members).

One such qualified press, Sankei Shinbun viewed part of the video, and wrote a series of articles on what they found.

Excerpts from Sankei Shinbun (12/1/2012) on the Self Defense Force spraying water onto the Spent Fuel Pool of Reactor 3 paint the scene as that of confusion and anger. The first segment below is from March 16, 2011, which is part of the video only available to the qualified press, and the second segment is on March 17, 2011, in the video TEPCO made available to public (embedded below, in Japanese only).

One caveat: Sankei has been highly critical of the Democratic Party of Japan's administrations, and they often go out of the way to emphasize the ham-handed meddling by the DPJ politicians.

[On March 16, 2011, Plant Manager Yoshida sternly speaks to a manager in TEPCO HQ. When the HQ manager suggests Yoshida should plan for emergency, Yoshida gets angry, and stops using the polite form of Japanese and breaks into a rather rude form, which I cannot fully render into English but tried my best.]


Fukushima I Plant Manager Masao Yoshida: "How are they going to inject water? I would like you to instruct us a bit more clearly. Any instruction will do, like a procedure manual."


Manager at TEPCO HQ: "It is important to establish a procedure, but I think it is also necessary to prepare for emergency and quick retreat."


Yoshida: "Yes, but I want the HQ to create a procedure manual. Don't you have it? The manual? You thought simply pouring water would do it, is that it? We'll all be watching, around [the reactor]. And you know what, if it explodes, we'll all die, you understand? We'll do it, I understand it has to be done right now. So get serious, and come up with the procedure, please!"



(March 17, 2011 at 9:48AM, the first helicopter arrived, and the dumping of water on Reactor 3 was shown on TV.) [It's about 33 minutes into the video.]


A worker at Fukushima I Nuke Plant: "This is it? Where's the water?"


Another worker: "Agh. (Water) didn't reach Reactor 3. What is this?"


The first worker: "Oh well.. It is just a spray."

Spraying the water from air and capturing it on video and releasing the video worldwide was an idea by the Kan administration to appeal to the world that the administration was in control of the accident. After seeing the video, according to the former State Department official Kevin Maher, the US government officials called in the Japanese ambassador and said to him,

"Look, you have to take this stuff seriously. We don't know what's going to happen."

Maher said the US government was terrified, in his interview in January this year, recalling the time. He published a book about the accident and the government response ("決断できない日本 The Japan That Can't Decide") last year, but no one in Japan seems to have paid any attention, as it contradicts the official stories of Japan and the US which were all praise of this daring operations caught live on camera.

Speaking of helicopter, Maher also said last year that one of the items freely offered by the US government to the Japanese government right after the nuclear accident started was an unmanned helicopter. After going back and forth, with the Japanese government asking about the technical details and trivial points about the helicopter and its operation, the big question finally came from the Japanese government: "In the event that the helicopter is contaminated by radiation, what will happen with regards to compensation?"

US officials must have thought they were speaking with the space aliens.