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Japan lacks decommissioning experts for Fukushima

49 Comments
By YURI KAGEYAMA

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49 Comments
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Ya think???!

7 ( +11 / -4 )

I guess zakuza are no nuclear experts after all. Who will TEPCO turn to next!?

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Hope for the best and only prepare for the best... too bad Murphy is never far behind!

1 ( +4 / -3 )

So, with 54 nuclear reactors, Japan thought they would never have to decommission any of them? No one was trained for this inevitability?

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Another day more incompetence revealed, I wonder does this process go to infinity in Japan???

The mind numbing stupidity on display is truly despicable.

Once again I am having dreams & wondering if I should have left after 3/11, DAMN YOU tepco!!

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Unlike the U.S. and some European countries, Japan has never decommissioned a full-fledged reactor.

Were the nuclear reactors in Three Mile Island and Chernobyl decommissioned? Where are those EXPERTS in the US and some European countries? If there were experts who could contribute anything at all to melted down reactors, TMI would have been cleaned away decades ago. This article is a product of either superior complex of whites or inferior complex of Japanese.

-12 ( +3 / -15 )

Reactors don't need to meltdown to be decommissioned Duh.... Nihon needs to consult with experts on Decommissioning nuclear reactors and by all means follow the advice of the experts. That is all..

0 ( +1 / -1 )

How is this not a state secret?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

It's not this generations problem wasn't the previous generations concern it's upto the future generation to resolve these issues as always.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Yeah and at one point the US and France didn't have any decommissioning experience either. But of course they had all those serious mistakes when they did their early decommisionings. Oh wait, they didn't have any serious problems.

But when the US had to defuel the melted down TMI they had all those serious problems. Oh wait, they didn't have any serious problems.

Too bad no one has ever written any papers or guidelines on decommisionings or TMI's defueling. Oh wait they have.

Yeah time for the 'experts' to find something else to spread FUD about.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Ah! that's why, make sense. (easy answer)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The original AP article digs deeper, claiming that the US has 20 nuclear decommission experts with a collective 200+ years of experience. France has 10+, whereas Japan has ONE. They need help.

Also interesting was the fact that Japanese experts helped with the decommissioning of Three Mile, but are now in other fields and cannot be reined in to help.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The one expert in Japan probably is keeping out outside help so he can have all the control.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

This is probably the fourth or fifth article stating Japan's lack of expertise and capabilities of successfully decommissioning this plant and nothing has changed after nearly three years. I am sure there are people within the Japanese nuclear industry that have the education to tackle this debacle, but experts don't come cheap and TEPCO's penny-pinching mind set is why they are floundering.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Decommissioning is what happens to nuclear reactors at the end of their life cycles and not reactors which have had meltdowns and melt throughs. Reactors 4, 5 and 6 were empty of nuclear fuel at the time of the disasters in 2011 so these can be decommissioned easily enough. The removal of the spent nuclear fuel from their storage pools should not be a problem. Reactors 5&6 were not damaged by the quake or tsunami.

Reactors 1-3 had a meltdown of the nuclear fuels, which according to TEPCO, more than 70% of the nuclear fuel assemblies melted and melted through the base of the pressure vessel and into the containment vessel and burnt its way into the base of the containment vessel by at least 30 cm or more. Some of the melted fuel is on the sides of the containment vessel but TEPCO have stated it does not know the exact location of the melted fuel which still needs to be kept cool with water.

The containment vessel walls and the suppression chambers are cracked and leaking highly irradiated water into the basements of reactors 1-3. This is causing its own set of problems.

TEPCO have started to remove the spent nuclear fuel from the No4 storage pool which will take until the end of next year to complete. The removal of the spent nuclear fuel from reactors 1-3 will be much more difficult because of very high levels of radiation so the removal of the fuel will involve the use of remote controlled equipment.

There's no current solution to locating and removing the melted nuclear fuel from 1-3 reactors but will eventually need the use of some kind of robots which can withstand the very high radiation levels. A number of robots have already been fried inside those reactor building.

The nuclear disaster and the decommissioning of other reactors at other NPP's will produce ten of thousands of tons of highly radioactive waste and hundreds of thousands of tons of low level waste. Japan needs to resolve the problem of the 1,000 year plus safe storage of its spent nuclear fuel and its stockpile of plutonium. There are more than 15,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel in storage pools at all the 18 NPP's. The only plan I've read for the nuclear fuel from the Fukushima plant is to put it into dry casks and store it at other NPP's which is not a solution to this major problem.

TEPCO is incapable of dealing with the nuclear disaster and the power company should be sold off. A new gov't agency should be formed with nuclear experts from TEPCO and elsewhere in the country and also from the international nuclear community if they are willing and able to work at Fukushima. The HQ of the new agency should be located in Fukushima and not Tokyo.

There are no easy answers for many of the problems and will take many decades to resolve them. It take more than 100 years to resolve the nuclear disaster site, thousands of years to safely store the nuclear fuel and tens of thousands for storing the plutonium which is about 45 tons or enough to make 5,000 atomic war heads.

A paper/report "Ending Reprocessing in Japan" by Masafumi Takubo and Frank N. Von Hippel. Nov.2013. http://fissilematerials.org/library/rr12.pdf

8 ( +9 / -1 )

I am to sure that there are any such experts. I mean how many nuclear melt downs have been cleaned up?

Care to name one. TMI has not been cleaned up yet, Russian has not done it yet, so where do we find experts for such a thing?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Japan lacks experts for Fukushima, period.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Reactors are designed to run for 30~40 years, they become cash cows after 20 years, and utilities have a number of strategies (some dubious) to extend their lives to nearly 60 years, to obtain the most profit. They are supposed to put sufficient money aside to pay for decommissioning during their operating life, unlike most infrastructure projects which require capital investment during the building phase only. You can be certain that most Japanese utilities do have not sufficient funds to decommission all of their reactors.

Decommissioning is typically poorly planned, with massive cost overruns from unanticipated problems, and highly lengthened time frames, and that is just for reactors that were shutdown in an orderly fashion. Imagine the process with 3 melted reactor cores. Technology does not currently exist to manage these, even the laser cutters and robots used in the UK would be fried by the radiation present in Fukushima Daiichi 1~3.

Toshiba, Hitachi and Mitsubishi, who built these 6 reactors in cooperation with General Electric, are anticipating big business in the future for decommissioning around the world (and Japan?) and are strengthening their resources and capabilities.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

@wanderlust

Fascinating! Thank you for the insight!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

According to the law, power companies are suppose to set aside sufficient funds to decommission their nuclear reactors at the end of their life cycle. Big power companies like KEPCO have already admitted that they haven't done that.

The power companies are also saying they lack the funds to update the safety features required by the new NRA. The cost of updating each reactor is about ¥200 billion.

The eventual cost of the nuclear disaster will be more than ¥50 trillion.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Just a correction but it's Ukraine, not the Ukraine. The former is the name of the country, the latter was the diminutive name from the USSR era for the area. Most writers post-USSR stop saying "the Ukraine" and properly use "Ukraine".

2 ( +3 / -1 )

So they build them, make huge profits, and have absolutely no idea at all about how to shut them down? How to deal (obviously) with an " incident". Where to put the waist? I am totally on board with paying extra so they can fix this....oh I have been! For 30+ years? But they have no idea??? And the evacuees are still in temporary housing? Damn it , stupid China.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

zichi: "According to the law, power companies are suppose to set aside sufficient funds to decommission their nuclear reactors at the end of their life cycle. Big power companies like KEPCO have already admitted that they haven't done that."

And despite not abiding by the law no one is being held responsible, and as such, and given the fact they can expect and receive HUGE government bailouts, why would they ever bother abiding by the law?

4 ( +7 / -3 )

It's not just Japan that has problems, both the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the USA, and the European Commission (back in 2008) are concerned with decommissioning funding shortfalls, Europe has 150 NPPs to decommission over the next 20 years, at current estimated costs of between US$400 million to US$1 billion each.

Other countries and regions with newer NPPs, it's probably not even on their event horizon.

Very broadly speaking, there are three main ways to decommission a nuclear reactor. The first option is to remove the fuel, disassemble the surrounding structure and find a safe place to store all the different radioactive bits. One problem with this option? Not every country currently has proper waste facilities set up.

Secondly, workers could simply take out the fuel, drain the plumbing and then lock up the reactor, letting the isotopes decay until the plant itself is less radioactive. After 10 to 80 years, the whole structure will be easier to dismantle, but security and maintenance of a decaying structure are issues. The third option, meanwhile, is to bury the reactor in a “tomb” of concrete and hope that no one cracks the structure open for the next 1,400 years. The U.S. Department of Energy took this approach for two old reactors at Savannah River in South Carolina.

These complete costs and issues are usually not included during discussions on the actual cost of nuclear power, the nuclear village do not like to upset the gravy train...

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@smithinjapan

the levels of insurance against nuclear disasters are also way too low and when a nuclear disaster does happen like at Fukushima according to law, the liability of the power companies is limited to ¥120 billion. Because Fukushima was caused by an earthquake and tsunami the insurance didn't pay up and the liability for TEPCO is limited to ¥120 billion. The nuclear disaster at Fukushima will cost the taxpayer more than ¥50 trillion.

On reflection of the nuclear disaster, the insurance and liability needs to be increased.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

"Stable shutdown"? Is that the same as a "cold shutdown"? Then, all is good. Noda said it was in cood shutdown a long time ago.

Seriously, does this country have any idea of what it's doing? To me they all act like jesters, frantically trying to divert peoples attention from this mega-failure. Fess up instead. Do it again. Do it right.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The labor issues at the nuclear disaster site and other NPP's should be a major concern and at the forefront of the media reports. Since the 1970's 90% of the 100,000 workers at the nuclear plants are unskilled, undocumented temporary workers commonly know has nuclear gypsies which has enabled the power companies to produce greater profits.

Many of the nuclear gypsies come from several layers of sub contractors which is illegal to prevent these companies from skimming off commissions from these workers. Some of the worker are provided by the Yakuza even with the knowledge of the companies like TEPCO.

The misuse and abuse of these workers needs to end.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

@knox harrington - PM Noda's definition of cold shutdown is very different to the international definition of cold shutdown -defined by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission as the term used to define a reactor coolant system at atmospheric pressure and at a temperature below 200 degrees Fahrenheit following a reactor cool down. The NRC does not define stable shutdown.

It was made for political purposes.There are no stable reactor coolant systems at NPPs 1~3, as evidenced by the continual leaks, plastic piping, power outages, etc..

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There are no brakes on the radiation train.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Most of the posters here have been saying this for at least six months. Now it's news? Wake up and smell the coffee!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

According to the law, power companies are suppose to set aside sufficient funds to decommission their nuclear reactors at the end of their life cycle. Big power companies like KEPCO have already admitted that they haven't done that.

????

http://www.kepco.co.jp/home/s-ryoukin/kojin/share/pdf/document16-1.pdf Pg14-21.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Under lax oversight by the industry ministry, electric power companies have failed to set aside enough money to decommission their nuclear reactors, creating a 170-billion-yen ($1.71-billion) shortfall that consumers may be forced to cover.

Kansai Electric Power Co. has the largest shortfall for a single reactor. Its reserves are 9.5 billion yen short of the 32.3 billion yen needed to decommission the No. 1 reactor at its Mihama plant in Fukui Prefecture. The No. 1 reactor has been in service for more than 42 years.

http://ajw.asahi.com/article/behind_news/social_affairs/AJ201307020073

The real cost of decommissioning a reactor is nearer to ¥100 billion.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sorry Zichi

The article is misleading for as my link indicates, the set aside funds that the law mandates are disbursed to a third party (NUMO) which all of them did. The shortfall, is as a result of lack of "tax" due to for obvious reason, the shutdown of NPP.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

Japan lacks nuclear experts period. Fukushima proved that. The workers didn't have a clue when the plant was in trouble. They never went through any safety drills that tested the protocol so that the workers can see, feel, and hear the consequences. The regulators did not seem to have a clue on how a nuclear plant operated. The government had response but let the operator fix the problem. The fixes the were recommended by the 3 mile Island incident were never implemented in Japan. The government never required or recommended anything. It seems the government, the regulators, and the operators just assumed that nothing can go wrong. No need for drills, no need to modify, this is Japan and nothing will happen here.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@ka_chan, so you believe that somehow after the earthquake the plant operators had enough time to move the generators out of the path of the tsunami? Yeah, sure.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Once again I am having dreams & wondering if I should have left after 3/11, DAMN YOU tepco!!

Is radiation levels outside the immediately affected zones a legitimate concern? Like if you live in Tokyo for example. I ask because I don't know which source to believe. The J-gov on one hand says it's entirely safe, and on the other hand there are (fear mongering?) reports that even Tokyo will be unsafe in a few decades.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@Mitch Cohen

Is radiation levels outside the immediately affected zones a legitimate concern? Like if you live in Tokyo for example. I ask because I don't know which source to believe. The J-gov on one hand says it's entirely safe, and on the other hand there are (fear mongering?) reports that even Tokyo will be unsafe in a few decades.

The radiation levels in all prefectures except some parts of Fukushima are just normal background levels. The radiation level in Tokyo is less than the background level in New York.

You can check out these links.

http://www.japan.ahk.de/en/news/earthquake-and-nuclear-crisis/radiation-monitoring/ http://safecast.org/

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Oh pleeeeeaaase don't let TEPCO do this...bring in the US and EU decommissioning team to do this. You have all of our lives in your hands!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@MikeOBrien

so you believe that somehow after the earthquake the plant operators had enough time to move the generators out of the path of the tsunami? Yeah, sure.

SPEEDI gave TEPCO and the local Govts of Fukushima a 4 hour window IF they had been notified and given SPEEDI's predictions. YES TEPCO would have had the chance to move the back up back up generators indoors and out of harms way.

Some one should hang for keeping SPEEDI's predictions out of the loop.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@MitchCohen

I will send a letter to J Govt to tell them to stop fear mongering with reports of hot spots as far away as Chiba after the accident to make you feel better.

Radiation hotspot in Chiba linked to Fukushima http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/radiation-hotspot-in-chiba-linked-to-fukushima

Stringent tests planned to map radiation spread after hotspot found in Setagaya

Radiation hotspot found in residential Chiba http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/radiation-hotspot-found-in-residential-chiba

Radioactive ash causes Kashiwa incinerators to shut down http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/radioactive-ash-causes-shutdown-of-kashiwa-incinerators

0 ( +0 / -0 )

NUMO (Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan) is not in the business of nuclear reactor decommissioning. Its for the disposal of nuclear waste produced by the nuclear power plants. The money deposited by the power companies is for the storage of nuclear waste. The cost of nuclear waste disposal from day 1 of the nuclear reactors until 2020 will be ¥3 trillion. At the end of Mar.2011 there were ¥800 billion deposited. A further ¥1.2 trillion will be required by 2020.

In accordance with the Final Disposal Act enacted in May 2000, operators of power reactor facilities deposit funds for disposal of high level radioactive waste to NUMO, the implementing body for disposal, who entrusts management of the fund to RWMC. ANRE of METI, every year, notifies utilities of the amount of money to be deposited to the fund. Around 0.2 yen/kWh is charged as a fee for the HLW and TRU waste management operation. The amount of deposit per vitrified package was 39,543,000 yen in the year of FY2010. The amount of money for construction of repository and disposal of about 40,000 vitrified packages of high level waste is estimated about 3 trillion yen. The amount of the money deposited to RWMC at the end of March 2011 was about 800 billion yen.

For the financial base of the decommissioning of nuclear installations, METI stipulated the Ministerial Order established under the Electricity Business Act on the reserves for decommissioning of nuclear power generation facilities. Based on the Ministerial Order, electric utilities have internally reserved the money for the decommissioning as the expense of dismantling and removal of commercial power reactor facilities, and as the expense of processing and disposal of the waste from decommissioning. The amount of reserve by the end of March 2011 is about 1,700 billion yen by 10 electric utilities.

https://www.oecd-nea.org/rwm/profiles/Japan_profile_web.pdf

The amount of decommissioning reserves held by the power utilities is ¥1,700 billion, which at today's costs would cover the decommissioning of about 17 reactors. The time scale and cost of decommissioning always seem to greatly increase once it starts?

The power companies have the additional unforeseen cost of paying out for the safety updates required by the NRA which will amount to at least ¥200 billion per plant?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Thanks for the replies. I wonder why my question was downvoted though.. how can you disagree with a question?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Utrack

SPEEDI gave TEPCO and the local Govts of Fukushima a 4 hour window IF they had been notified and given SPEEDI's predictions. YES TEPCO would have had the chance to move the back up back up generators indoors and out of harms way.

Then either you are wrong or SPEEDI is ignorant. First the back up generators where indoors. Second the back up generators are huge machines that are bolted to their foundations. It would take days and huge cranes to move them. Then the high voltage cables would have to be rerouted and reconnected. Then the piping for their fuel would have to be rerouted and reconnected.

Anybody who believes that it could be done in 4 hours needs a large dose of reality.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

NUMO (Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan) is not in the business of nuclear reactor decommissioning

Nobody said they were. The fundamental point is that it's in a form of escrow and is accumulated based on electricity generated per NPP. You simply cannot criticize the power companies for the shortfall when the reason behind it is the almost complete shutdown of NPP based on, for the most part, ex post facto requirements.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Nobody said they were. The fundamental point is that it's in a form of escrow and is accumulated based on electricity generated per NPP. You simply cannot criticize the power companies for the shortfall when the reason behind it is the almost complete shutdown of NPP based on, for the most part, ex post facto requirements.

You are confusing the issues. The power companies are faced by three major financial problems. The long term safe storage of spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste which NUMO is trying to solve and the funds given by the power companies is short of ¥2.2 trillion. The money to update the safety of the reactors and the nuclear power plants at more than ¥200 billion per plant. The funds to decommission the reactors and the nuclear power plants. Its unknown at the moment how many will need to be decommissioned. There are the ones coming to the end of their life cycles but also there may be others, according to the NRA which could be on active fault lines or have failed the stress tests and will be shut down. We might know more on those points by next year.

The shutdowns of all the nuclear reactors was a decision taken by the gov't based on lessons learnt from the nuclear disaster and even if the disaster haven't happened, and all the reactors had continued to be operational, the major problems of long term safe storage of spent nuclear fuel, would have continued to be an unsolved problem, both financially and geographically. The funds for decommissioning would also be in shortfall.

You were also saying that the cost of the nuclear disaster would be less than ¥5 trillion, which has already been spent or allocated for spending, which does not include the ¥5 trillion that will be paid in compensation. The nuclear disaster will take 100 years and will cost more than ¥50 trillion.

The levels of insurance for nuclear power plant accidents and disasters, based on the Fukushima experience, are far too low. The level of liabilities of power companies is also set too low.

In the future, the competitive cost of generating power from nuclear energy will be much lower than in the past with all the power companies facing these major financial problems.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The power companies are faced by three major financial problems. The long term safe storage of spent nuclear fuel and nuclear waste which NUMO is trying to solve and the funds given by the power companies is short of ¥2.2 trillion.

Thanks to the stoppage of NPP where such levy cannot be collected. KEPCO's shortfall is directly as a result of them not operating and/or operating below their expected annual capacity.

Hence, the issue now is to calculate the levy based on the new stricter standards and how the said allocation (XXX yen per kwh) is cost effective as opposed to other sources. Simply throwing out big numbers when the power companies in Japan itself generates a annual revenue of combined 20 trillion yen is simply misguided.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Thanks to the stoppage of NPP where such levy cannot be collected. KEPCO's shortfall is directly as a result of them not operating and/or operating below their expected annual capacity.

You seem to not understand, the ¥2.2 trillion shortfall in funds to NUMO is from all the power companies with nuclear power. It will cost ¥3 trillion to build a safe storage for the 15,000 tons of nuclear spent fuel by 2020. You also seem to not understand why the gov't and NRA took the decision to shut down all the reactors? Many members of the LPD don't want reactor restarts until after the 2016 general election.

Hence, the issue now is to calculate the levy based on the new stricter standards and how the said allocation (XXX yen per kwh) is cost effective as opposed to other sources. Simply throwing out big numbers when the power companies in Japan itself generates a annual revenue of combined 20 trillion yen is simply misguided.

In future the cost of power from nuclear energy will be higher than in the past. If the power companies are producing annual revenue of ¥20 trillion then they should be paying some of the costs of the nuclear disaster which will use up ¥25 trillion over the next 10 years.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

You seem to not understand, the ¥2.2 trillion shortfall in funds to NUMO is from all the power companies with nuclear power. It will cost ¥3 trillion to build a safe storage for the 15,000 tons of nuclear spent fuel by 2020. You also seem to not understand why the gov't and NRA took the decision to shut down all the reactors? Many members of the LPD don't want reactor restarts until after the 2016 general election.

This is how the amount of collection is determined.

http://www.rwmc.or.jp/organization/img/2010img17.jpg http://www.enecho.meti.go.jp/denkihp/bunkakai/seido_sochi/1th/shiryo6.pdf http://www.enecho.meti.go.jp/rw/docs/singikai/shobun/1/010419-04-2.pdf

In other words, the revenue stream is primary based on the power output of NPP. To reach that goal, they need to be operating.

You're essentially two faced. While you cry and scream about the "shortfall" at one end, you also advocate the stoppage of NPP which basically kills the ability to fund this shortfall.

In future the cost of power from nuclear energy will be higher than in the past. If the power companies are producing annual revenue of ¥20 trillion then they should be paying some of the costs of the nuclear disaster which will use up ¥25 trillion over the next 10 years.

There you go again. You want them to pay but you don't want them to operate NPP where they can at least have the ability to raise these funds by setting new allocation amounts.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

One of the most critical questions about the future of nuclear energy is, "Is there a safe place and way to dispose of high-level radioactive waste?"

Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi has lashed out at the Abe government because it has no plan to build a permanent nuclear waste repository.

Japan classifies its nuclear waste has high level and low level waste. Most of the high level waste is from byproducts of the fission inside the reactor core, which is very hot and dangerous. Its mixed with molten glass to reduce its volume and then placed in very strong heat-resistant stainless steel canisters that are 130 cm high, 40 cm in diameter and weigh 500 kg each. Each of these canisters emits radiation at a level of 1,500 sieverts per hour. More than enough to kill any carbon based creatures. The surface temperature of the canisters is about 200 deg C.

According to the the Natural Resources and Energy Agency, the level of radioactivity starts at 20,000 trillion becquerels and will take more than 1,000 years to fall below one-tenth of that level. It will take tens of thousands of years to weaken to the same level as uranium ore.

According to NUMO, (Nuclear Waste Management Organization of Japan, there were 1,664 canisters in Japan as of December 2009, each capable of holding 500 liters of vitrified high-level waste. In addition, power plants across the country are keeping vast amounts of fuel in their spent fuel pools — enough to fill 23,100 canisters.

If the country were to restart all its 50 reactors, NUMO states by 2021 there would be enough high level nuclear waste to fill 40,000 canisters.

NUMO states the cost of building a safe storage depot for high level waste up to 2020, will cost ¥3 trillion. The power utility companies to date have deposited ¥800 billion with NUMO.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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