Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nuclear Ginza - 1995 UK Channel 4 documentary about Japanese nuclear plant worker radiation exposure

The workers in Fukushima are not the first to risk their lives working in Japanese nuclear plants. This documentary Nuclear Ginza, broadcast on Channel 4, UK, in 1995, reveals exploitation and suffering endured by nuclear plant workers in Japan.

In-depth background on the current situation of nuclear temporary workers by Paul Jobin: "Dying for TEPCO? Fukushima’s Nuclear Contract Workers" (APJ, May 2, 2011):
In the titanic struggle to bring to closure the dangerous situation at Fukushima Nuclear Plant No1, there are many signs that TEPCO is facing great difficulties in finding workers. At present, there are nearly 700 people at the site. As in ordinary times, workers rotate so as to limit the cumulative dose of radiation inherent in maintenance and cleanup work at the nuclear site...

But this time, the risks are greater, and the method of recruitment unusual.
Job offers come not from TEPCO but from Mizukami Kogyo, a company whose business is construction and cleaning maintenance. The description indicates only that the work is at a nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture. The job is specified as 3 hours per day at an hourly wage of 10,000 yen. There is no information about danger, only the suggestion to ask the employer for further details on food, lodging, transportation and insurance.

Those who answer these offers may have little awareness of the dangers and they are likely to have few other job opportunities. $122 an hour is hardly a king’s ransom given the risk of cancer from high radiation levels.  But TEPCO and NISA keep diffusing their usual propaganda to minimize the radiation risks.

Rumor has it that many of the cleanup workers are burakumin. This cannot be verified, but it would be congruent with the logic of the nuclear industry and the difficult job situation of day laborers. Because of ostracism, some burakumin are also involved with yakuza. Therefore, it would not be surprising that yakuza-burakumin recruit other burakumin to go to Fukushima. Yakuza are active in recruiting day laborers of the yoseba: Sanya in Tokyo, Kotobukicho in Yokohama, and Kamagasaki in Osaka. People who live in precarious conditions are then exposed to high levels of radiation, doing the most dirty and dangerous jobs in the nuclear plants, then are sent back to the yoseba. Those who fall ill will not even appear in the statistics.
Many prefer to turn a blind eye as it is reassuring to believe TEPCO’s nonsense and the nostrums provided by scholars associated with the nuclear lobby. But there is also a growing awareness of the problem, which can be observed for example through the vast mobilization in the region of Fukushima and Tokyo among citizens and on the Internet...

Temporary subcontract workers who have never entered a nuclear plant before probably have a very vague perception of these risks.
Public bids are now almost entirely controlled by the construction companies at the top (moto uke) and the yakuza at the bottom;

Though the Ministry of the Environment only authorizes two levels of subcontracting, in practice, the levels of subcontracting are even more numerous than at F1 and other nuclear plants. Between his own employer and Shimizu Construction, the moto uke, Masato has counted 24 levels;

Wage skimming is the norm and many workers only get a tiny portion—if any—of the 10,000 Yen hazard allowance;

The majority of workers receive no health insurance benefits from their employer and for many reasons they do not register for the national health insurance system on an individual basis.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

IEER: "Seven major sources of radioactivity still pose a considerable threat to people in Japan."

The Asia Pacific Journal's “Long Since Passed the Level of Three Mile Island – The Fukushima Crisis in Comparative Perspective" spotlights The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) head Arjun Makhijani's March 25, 2011 analysis of Fukushima radiation emissions:
"Whatever the ultimate estimates, it is clear that the Fukushima accident is far beyond the U.S. Three Mile accident in 1979 in every respect, and much closer to the more terrible Chernobyl accident.

Fortunately, much of the radioactivity has been blown over the Pacific Ocean and by the time it reached North America the plumes were very dilute. They were even more dilute by the time they reached Europe.

Unfortunately, much of the radioactivity ahs also affected food and water in Japan. Sadly, the accident is not over and the situation is not yet under control. Seven major sources of radioactivity still pose a considerable threat to people in Japan. That is a completely unprecedented situation. I deeply appreciate the struggle of the workers to contain this terrible accident, for they have been able to prevent an even worse situation from developing."

TEPCO, the Japanese government, and other organizations have been getting more open with data, but many important documents are not being translated quickly and there is little effort to bring the findings together in an easily understood way. See here for TEPCO’s analysis of the radioactive water in the No. 3 reactor building. Satoko Norimatsu has provided English translations of the compounds being measured...

Here (in Japanese) is Japanese government (Nuclear Safety Commission) simulation data that estimates that some areas have already reached the threshold of internal radiation exposure at which iodine tablets become necessary to reduce cancer risk.

Ira Helfand on External & Internal Radiation & Factors that Affect Radiation Risks

Dr. Ira Helfand, an internist and member of Physicians for Social Responsibility: "Unsafe at Any Exposure: There's no safe level of radiation exposure" published March 28 at
As the radioactive contamination of food, water, and soil in Fukushima, Japan worsens, the media is continuously reassuring us that these levels are "safe." But there is no safe level of radiation.

Yes, at lower levels the risk is smaller, but the National Research Council of the National Academies of Science has concluded that any exposure to radiation makes it more likely that an individual will get cancer.

The press is reporting that 100 millisieverts (mSv) is the lowest dose that increases cancer risks. This simply isn't true. According to the NAS, if you are exposed to a dose of 100 mSv, you have a one in 100 chance of getting cancer, but a dose of 10 mSv still gives you a one in 1,000 chance of getting cancer, and a dose of 1 mSv gives you a one in 10,000 risk.

Those odds sound fairly low for one individual, but if you expose 10,000 people to a one in 10,000 risk, one of them will get cancer. If you expose 10 million people to that dose, 1,000 will get cancer. There are more than 30 million people in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

To understand the danger of low levels of radiation exposure, consider several factors.

First, the total dose is the most important factor, not the dose per hour. When you get an X-ray, you're exposed to a one-time burst of radiation. If you work for 10 hours in a spot where the radiation level is 1 millisievert per hour, your dose is 10 millisieverts, and the dose goes up the longer you stand there.

Second, there's a big difference between external and internal radiation. If you're standing in a spot where you're exposed to external radiation, that exposure ends as soon as you move away. But if you ingest or inhale a radioactive particle, it continues to irradiate your body as long as it remains radioactive and stays in your body.

Further, if you ingest radioactive particles, the dose isn't spread evenly over your entire body. It concentrates where the particles lodge. The average total body dose may be relatively low, but the dose at the site may be large enough to damage that tissue and cause cancer.

That's why the radiation being found in Japan in spinach, milk, and other food--as well as water--is so worrisome. If consumed, it will create ongoing radiation exposure and increase the risk of cancer...

Reports indicate that the total radioactive releases in Fukushima have been relatively small so far. If this is the case, then the health effects will be correspondingly small. But it's not "safe" to release this much radiation. Some people will get cancer as a result. Most importantly, we don't know at this point how much more radiation there will be...
Read Dr. Helfand's entire article here.

Greenpeace Radiation Experts: Call to Widen Evacuation Area around Fukushima

March 27 findings by Greenpeace radiation monitoring team:
Fukushima, March 27, 2011: Greenpeace radiation experts have confirmed radiation levels of up to ten micro Sieverts per hour in Iitate village, 40km northwest of the crisis-stricken Fukushima/Daiichi nuclear plant, and 20km beyond the official evacuation zone. These levels are high enough to require evacuation.

“It is clearly not safe for people to remain in Iitate, especially children and pregnant women, when it could mean receiving the maximum allowed annual dose of radiation in only a few days. When further contamination from possible ingestion or inhalation of radioactive particles is factored in, the risks are even higher.”

Monday, March 28, 2011

1997 UNC study: Re-analysis of cancer incidence around Three Mile Island show increased cancer in areas in the path of radioactive plumes

A 1997 study by University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) epidemiologist Dr. Steven Wing: "Study suggests Three Mile Island radiation may have injured people living near reactor"
"I would be the first to say that our study doesn't prove by itself that there were high-level radiation exposures, but it is part of a body of evidence that is consistent with high exposures," Wing said. "The cancer findings, along with studies of animals, plants and chromosomal damage in Three Mile Island area residents, all point to much higher radiation levels than were previously reported. If you say that there was no high radiation, then you are left with higher cancer rates downwind of the plume that are otherwise unexplainable."

Co-authors of the report are Dr. Douglas Crawford-Brown, professor of environmental sciences and engineering, and Dr. Donna Armstrong and David Richardson, former and current doctoral students in epidemiology, all at UNC-CH.

The new study involved re-analyzing data from a 1990 report that concluded the nation's worst civilian nuclear accident was not responsible for slightly increased cancer rates near the plant because radiation exposures were too low. Wing and colleagues re-examined data from that report using what they believed were better analytic and statistical techniques.

"Several hundred people at the time of the accident reported nausea, vomiting, hair loss and skin rashes, and a number said their pets died or had symptoms of radiation exposure," he said. "We figured that if that were possible, we ought to look at it again. After adjusting for pre-accident cancer incidence, we found a striking increase in cancers downwind from Three Mile Island."

The scientists do not believe smoking and social and economic factors were responsible for the increased cancers found in the downwind sectors.

Many earlier researchers, as well as government and industry officials, accept as fact that only small amounts of radiation were released into the atmosphere, Wing said. But it is known that plant radiation monitors went off scale when the accident started. Plumes containing higher radiation could have passed undetected, he said.

Findings from the re-analysis of cancer incidence around TMI is consistent with the theory that radiation from the accident increased cancer in areas that were in the path of radioactive plumes, the scientist said.

"This cancer increase would not be expected to occur over a short time in the general population unless doses were far higher than estimated by industry and government authorities," Wing said. "Our findings support the allegation that the people who reported rashes, hair loss, vomiting and pet deaths after the accident were exposed to high level radiation and not only suffering from emotional stress."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

More Japan Vigils Planned for Three Mile Island Anniversary on March 28

In the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history, a cooling system on the Unit Two reactor failed on March 28, 1979 at Three Mile Island (TMI) in Middletown, Pennsylvania. More than half of the reactor’s 36,000 nuclear fuel rods ruptured. This resulted in a partial meltdown that uncovered the reactor's core. Radioactive steam leaked into the atmosphere, prompting fears for the safety of the plant's 500 workers and the surrounding community.

Middletown residents were told there was no need to evacuate but instead advised that if they lived within ten miles of the plant, to stay indoors, with their windows closed. Later, Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh evacuated pregnant women and small children living within five miles of the plant. Some estimate over 100,000 people fled Harrisburg and the surrounding areas.

Until the nuclear crisis in Fukushima, the TMI partial meltdown was the second worst nuclear accident in the world, after Chernobyl. Its legacy was a re-examination of U.S. nuclear policy; the major reason no new nuclear reactors have been built in the U.S. since the accident.

Greenpeace, is organizing "Have Courage Japan" vigils across the U.S. in a show of solidarity, as people in Japan and around the world watch radioactive fallout made visible in smoke and steam while workers continue their struggle to cool the damaged reactors and spent fuel rods (nuclear waste) pools.

Several hundred people attended a Greenpeace vigil in Hong Kong last weekend where residents expressed their concerns over a proposed nuclear expansion in the region. (Beijing suspended approvals for proposed plants and is reconsidering long-term plans for 28 new reactors, 40 percent of all those being built worldwide.)

Greenpeace USA opposes nuclear industry funding the Obama administration placed in next year's federal budget. The White House has proposed that $36 billion tax dollars go towards financing the building of new nuclear reactors, even though most Americans don't approve of this corporate welfare.

In 2009, Democracy Now! interviewed Harvey Wasserman, editor of, on the 30th anniversary of the TMI partial meltdown: covering the pattern of misinformation and lack of transparency, inadequate radiation readings and lack of subsequent research, still-ongoing class-action lawsuit, the long-term aftermath for people near TMI, and the anti-nuclear movement's successes.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Greenpeace begins radiation monitoring in Fukushima

"Greenpeace radiation monitoring team begins Fukushima assessment"
A group of Greenpeace radiation experts has today started monitoring locations around the evacuation area that surrounds the crisis-stricken Fukushima/Daiichi nuclear plant, in order to assess the true extent of radiation risks to the local population.

“Since the beginning of the Fukushima nuclear crisis, the authorities have consistently appeared to underestimate both the risks and extent of radioactive contamination. We have come to Fukushima to bear witness to the impacts of this crisis and to provide some independent insight into the resulting radioactive contamination”, said Greenpeace team leader and radioactivity safety advisor Jan van de Putte.

“By providing honest, transparent and independent analysis of the threats to public health, we aim to provide an alternative to the often contradictory information released by nuclear regulators in the two weeks since the Fukushima disaster began unfolding.”

“Any attempt by authorities to play down the effects of the current crisis should be considered a dangerous deceit. In addition to coming clean on the true dangers of nuclear power, the smartest move for governments around the world is heavily invest in energy efficiency, and redouble their efforts to harness safe and secure renewable energy sources.”

The team are also making contact with and documenting the impacts on communities that have been evacuated from the area around the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Steve Featherstone on Inadequate Radiation Readings & the Politics of Fukushima Evacuation Decisions

Two years ago, creative nonfiction writer and photographer Steve Featherstone traveled to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone in the company of two evolutionary biologists who were doing experiments there. The feature story he wrote about that experience will be published next month in Harper's.

Featherstone is now covering Fukushima for Business Week and told us in an email, "I am utterly aware that things have not "improved" at Fukushima, and that we can't take our eye off the ball. For one, the radiological releases have not been adequately inventoried, and it's going to be a long time before anybody knows exactly what happened inside those reactors.

"One thing is clear: a lot of decisions concerning the health of Japanese citizens caught in the fallout zones will not be made solely on the basis of medical science; they will be political."

More on these points from his first article for BW, published March 24:
The fate of Japan’s Fukushima prefecture, where hundreds of thousands of people have been evacuated, may lie somewhere between the outcomes at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. There were no evacuations during the Three Mile Island accident, which released about 50,000 curies of radioactive gas. Today you can picnic outside the gates of the plant without fear of lingering radiation.

Chernobyl, by comparison, was a nuclear volcano, churning millions of curies of radiation into the sky.. Twenty-five years later, only official workers are allowed within 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) of the entombed reactor at Chernobyl, and radiation levels inside the zone exceed normal background radiation by factors of 100.

Decisions about when to return to Fukushima and how to mitigate any leftover fallout depend on the results of work to stabilize the pressure inside the reactor cores of units 1 through 3 at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear plant, and to cool the fuel rods stored in the spent fuel pools. Until then the amount of radiation falling on the land and sea around the complex, and far beyond it, will continue to accumulate with every puff of steam and cloud of smoke issuing from the wrecked reactor buildings.

At best, evacuees from the exclusion zone won’t be able to return to their homes for months, according to Arnold Gundersen, a nuclear consultant and chair of the Vermont Yankee Public Oversight Panel, which oversees the nuclear power plant of the same name.

Gundersen, however, isn’t expecting the best. “I think there’ll be local contamination off the site, certainly out two or three or four miles, that will make that portion of the exclusion zone uninhabitable for 20 years,” he says...

If conditions aren’t so bad, decisions about a return will likely be as political as they are scientific, because no regulatory body has determined a “safe” level of radiation. The Japanese ban on milk, agricultural products, and drinking water in the four prefectures nearest to the Dai-Ichi plant suggest that radioactive fallout in levels potentially hazardous to human health has already contaminated areas far outside the exclusion zone.

Authorities have revealed few details about the particular radionuclides they’ve found in the food and water, and the situation changes daily. Yesterday, Tokyo officials announced contamination of tap water by iodine-131 and advised parents not to give tap water to infants. Radioactive iodine is linked to thyroid cancer. It’s not the only radioactive component in the fallout. Cesium-137 is also present...

According to Robert Alvarez, a senior scholar for nuclear policy at the Institute for Policy Studies, there’s enough cesium-137 in the spent fuel pool of unit 4 at Fukushima Dai- Ichi to equal all the cesium-137 released from Chernobyl’s shattered reactor core. Cesium-137 has a long half-life -- 30 years as opposed to eight days for iodine 131 -- and it persists in the environment at dangerous levels for many decades...

In a stabilized situation, the radiation levels that triggered bans of spinach and milk and other foods will likely diminish mostly because of radioactive decay, and as radioactive particles are washed by rain from plants and into the soil. Once contaminants such as cesium-137 and strontium-90 get into the soil, though, plants absorb them, and they enter the food chain...

In any event, Japanese regulators will be forced to make a range of hard decisions about how much radiation is safe for people to eat or be exposed to in their homes, playgrounds, and workplaces.

There is some comfort, but it is chilly indeed. Fukushima is already the second-worst nuclear accident in history, but it doesn’t yet begin to approach the total radiation released at Chernobyl. For such an event to occur, said Michael W. Golay, a professor of nuclear science and engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “it would have to involve all the nuclear fuel at a multitude of sites within the overall power plant location, and with failure of everything the people there are trying to accomplish. I don’t really see a prospect for things occurring in such an awful form.”
Read Featherstone's entire article, "Politics, Radiation to Decide Fate of Land Near Japan’s Fukushima Reactor," here.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Democracy Now Interview with Aileen Mioko Smith addresses latest findings on radiation levels & need for larger evacuation zone in Fukushima

Democracy Now March 24, 2011 interview with Aileen Mioko Smith addresses latest findings on radioactivity in Tokyo and the Kan administration's refusal to expand the evacuation zone in Fukushima beyond 20 kilometers (12 miles):
Well, our key concern is evacuation. And really, evacuation should have been proactive. And the later you delay, the more you would expose people who are trying to evacuate, who are going out and outdoors to evacuate, to levels of radiation exposure, and we don’t want that to happen. So we’re urging the Japanese government. Now Diet members are urging evacuation.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Crystal Uchino: Rise like Tsunamis after the Earthquakes" — An open letter speaking to grief, hope & sharing resources for healing after 3.11

Banner reading “We Prioritize Life Over Electricity”, handcrafted by Crystal Uchino for April 10 anti-nuke demonstrations in Tokyo

Greetings. My name is Crystal Uchino, and I am writing from my home in the southern prefecture of Nagasaki, Japan.

A somber dirge continues to play in the hearts of all of us here across Japan in the wake of this earth-shaking, tsunami and subsequent nuclear crisis. This trifecta of disasters is truly beyond humbling: It is a living, grotesque and sobering nightmare that will haunt the world to come. As the after effects of both the earthquake and the tsunami continue to be revealed, so grows the depths of sadness over the magnitude of the situation. Watching events unfold over the news daily in real time delivers new quakes to test the resilience and endurance of our hearts, faith, the depths of our empathy, grief and determination to act.

The death toll has continued to climb daily, as does the number of homeless and seeking shelter from nuclear fallout. Additionally the conditions within the shelters appears grim: inadequate infrastructure to provide sufficient food, warmth, and sanitation. New explosions at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, and large aftershock tremors continue to rock this already shaken nation. The apocalyptic images we see on television news conjure memories of the damage reaped by the atomic bombs dropped here over sixty years ago, as the possibility for a new generation of Hibakusha ("nuclear explosion-affected peoples") emerges as a frightening reality.

Today, it seems Japan is once again being poised as a teacher. The wounds emerging from this crisis serve to underscore, once again, just how much the splitting of the atom remains a volatile global threat at many levels: personal, community, state, and environmental. Japan, despite past injuries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and its seemingly anti-nuclear principles (non-production, non-possession, and non-introduction of nuclear weapons) has become a world leader in nuclear development and production. According to Green Action Japan, before the quake, there were 53 nuclear power plants in operation in Japan: 53 nuclear power plants in a small island country notoriously vulnerable to earthquakes and other natural disasters.

My heart and prayers are with the people of Fukushima and the Tohoku area; it is they who are now shouldering this horrific burden so that the world may be reminded again of just what a painful and costly responsibility we bear when we allow bad stuff to enter our communities.

Around the globe, people are awakening to the reality of our fragility and vulnerability surrounding the dangers of all forms of nuclear development. Barely a week has passed since the initial earthquakes, but as a world we have grown up in ways that we had never hoped to; and with our newly realized maturity, we are challenged look ourselves in the face, to grapple with this saddest of lessons, and answer the question of how we will begin to take responsibility for our part in allowing bad stuff to enter our communities, on both the local and global scale.

The desire to help, to constructively affect the situation here in Japan, is echoing around the world. And the ways each of us can tangibly work to affect some immediate relief are just beginning to be known. Still, because I have gotten so many requests from folks for suggestions on how they can support things here, I wanted to share some of the initial resources I know of with you. These links offer the best grassroots alternatives to donating to the Red Cross that I know of at this time.

Second Harvest Japan: This group has been working at the community level feeding people in Japan for years.

Japan Volunteers: A great resource page consolidating links to support relief efforts, relevant to folks living in Japan and oversees. It is being updated daily with new resources as they develop.

Call for Home stay for Earthquake Evacuees (Only for folks currently living in Japan)

Translators United for Peace: For those who are bilingual. 日本の原発奴隷――原子力発電所における秘密

A friend of mine once wrote some song lyrics calling for people to "RISE LIKE TSUNAMIS AFTER EARTHQUAKES." It is a most hopeful metaphor for me in this time. And today, I received these words in an email from another friend: "When Mother Earth speaks, all we can do is listen. But when humans' dangerous passion for energy consumption has wreaked such toil on her children, then we must act."

The current genpatsu nanmin (“nuclear power refugees”) have translated the reality of nuclear development into a language that the world can feel. Humanity is speaking clearly, and I feel as a result of this new communication, though painful, that many beautiful, hopeful and inspiring things have been brought to the surface. I have been so moved by the feelings of sincere and unconditional caring and support I have received from friends, family, and even strangers this last week; and equally as moved by the demonstrations and vigils manifesting in a multitude of forms that have been erupting with passion all over the world.
You may think me young, naive, callous or even insane to bring up politics in a time like this. But I tell you that I have prayed at the graves of unborn aunts and uncles murdered by the atomic bomb disease and I feel entitled to tap into ancestral lessons this week. It is from my vantage point of both proximity and distance from this crisis as a current resident of southern Japan; from my vantage point of both proximity and distance from the horrors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima as the granddaughter of a Nagasaki Hibakusha, that I say with great hope and longing that this darkest of nightmares may serve as a catalyst to once again pump life into the stagnant pools of the anti-nuclear movement, to overflow them so that the energies built and created there may also nourish other movements. To me, the words "activist" and "healer" are interchangeable.

This tragedy has been an ugly and unsought vindication of many undersupported social-justice struggles, most poignantly the anti-nuclear movement, which warned about this eventuality time and again. Most people sat in silent denial as more nuclear power plants were constructed, not just in Japan, but around the world, and many people sit even now in disbelief, quietly burying their fears as development plans for hundreds of more (albeit "safer") nuclear reactors remain on the discussion tables concurrently with the grotesque suffering of tens of thousands of displaced peoples. But in this cold and dark time resides new growth. A new spring is beginning and each day we rise anew, we each are gifted an opportunity to carve out a more sincere definition of accountability, to hold ourselves and each other responsible in new ways. Although our recent wounds are still gaping, still throbbing, the time is now for us to rise like tsunamis after earthquakes and once again recommit ourselves to the healing of the future for the next generation.

I've spent several days writing and revising this letter, it started out as some brief resource suggestions to friends but morphed into this. I was propelled to keep writing by mydesire to combat the helplessness I feel sitting here, relatively safe, overdosing on miso, kombu, and the news in the southern prefecture of Nagasaki, Japan, as coordinated relief efforts have not yet begun taking volunteers. This time of mourning has given me a good opportunity to reassess what I hold important and clear out some clutter to make room for the work that lies ahead. Many exciting possibilities for new growth and new cooperation are resonating in the undertones of this funeral song. Those of us living in the overdeveloped world have become so accustomed to the ubiquitous take take take lifestyle that we have forgotten how to stretch our arms, to reach them out, to reach them up! in times when our spirits long to do so the most. This is an open letter to anyone feeling helpless at this time: let us relearn the actions.

It is my hope that some of the things said and resources within these words will be useful to you, please feel free to share them with others. The links below are also great places to continue to sober up through educating ourselves and get inspired for the long term work that is to come.

Nuclear Information and Resource Service: Updates on the situation at Fukushima and simple ways to engage in the movement to end nuclear dependency

Democracy Now: Sober news reporting.

Midnight Apothecary: Some recipes, because protection, healing, and action begin inside the body.

Anti Atom Demo in Germany

Anti Atom Demo in France

A look into the history of "Japan's Nuclear Nightmare."

This is a great sticker.

An excerpt for an article from Color Lines:
A little over a week before an 8.9-magnitude earthquake ripped open a fissure in the Earth, triggered a deadly tsunami and set off a potential worldwide nuclear catastrophe, House Republicans introduced a bill to permit 200 more commercial nuclear reactors in the U.S., “enough to triple current megawatt capacity, by 2040.” Tucked into that bill is a clause that revives the long debate around nuclear waste storage in Nevada’s Yucca Mountain, a move that Native American and environmental groups have been resisting for decades.
Japan quake radioactive material monitoring post MAP

Blog post by a Tokyo resident connecting a bunch of dots and sharing a bunch of really great links

Many of the words flowing from this page have been pretty heavy, so I wanted to share just one small anecdote with you.... This past weekend I went to the post office. And so I'm at the post office right, and there are people lined up out the door of the post office sending bags of rice and boxes of water or fresh vegetables to loved ones up north and I thought to myself..."What kind of apocalypse is this?...No one can get food or water, but they can get mail?!"

On that note, I end this letter in solidarity and with hope, taking comfort in the knowing that the same moon shines light down on all of us. Each day I wake up to the budding and flowering of the ume, momo, and the sakura as well are beginning to bloom, as if to say 春が来るよ ("Spring is coming!").

Crystal K. Uchino

Our friend, Crystal K. Uchino, a Nikkei granddaughter of Hibakusha, lives in Nagasaki

Drepung Loseling monks in Atlanta leading chants & prayers for Japan

The Mystical Arts of Tibet:
Tonight through Friday March 25 from 6 PM - 7 PM , the Drepung Loseling resident and touring Mystical Arts of Tibet monks will lead chants and prayers at Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta, GA for the victims and families of the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

WWOOF organic farm hosts need volunteers in Japan

WWOOF Japan, a member of Worldwide Organic Farm Opportunities (WWOOF) is looking for volunteers who want to live and work on a Japanese organic farm. The earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis has not affected many parts of Japan, and these farms have had cancellations because of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis:
Earthquake / tsunami update

Thank you so much for all your warm messages.

Japanese Hosts are really appreciating WWOOFers' and ex-WWOOFers' strong encouragements.

We have at last contacted all our Hosts who are situated where the heavier earthquake / tsunami was experienced, and found them all to be safe. Also, we are receiving contact ongoing from the family and friends of current WWOOFers, and so far we have ascertained that all those WWOOFers for whom we have inquired, are safe.

March 16, 2011

To WWOOFers: In the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, there are many Hosts who need support from WWOOFers, as usual.

The big earthquake & Tsunami occurred in the northern part of the main island of Honshu. Please feel safe and give your good support to Japanese farmers and other Hosts. Thank you for your support.
Some of the opportunities that sound wonderful:
Kyushu area - Oita:

We are friendly family. We treat WWOOFers as real family. We welcome WWOOFers from all over the world. You can enjoy Obachan's (grandma) delicious traditional meals every day. Our children are happy to meet WWOOFers. Onsen (hot spring) is near here. If you want, you can use our bicycle, so you can go around this area. It is nice.
One of many WWOOF farms in Okinawa:

We are seeking Woofers who can stay for over 2 weeks, starting at the end of April 2011. Long period welcome! We have 3 small chirldren so some one who likes kids will be better. The ferry from Okinawa Hontou is no longer available. If you are staying for a long time we will pay for the price difference betweeen the ferry and the flight. please ask from Naha can be as cheep as 7600yen if you book 28days in advance; the ferry was 6500yen, in this case we can pay 1100yen back to you. We are waiting for your contact!! Wwoofers from overseas must check out...
And this poignant message from the prefecture south of Fukushima:
Kanto area - Tochigi

***Our computer is out of order. We are sorry but we cannot reply to WWOOFers soon at the moment. ======

++PLEASE HELP US. WE LEARN AND STUDY JAPANESE POWER OF PEACE. POWER OF NATURE FROM JAPANESE HISTORY, FOR WORLD PEACE! 7ha. FRIENDLY.** Kennkou-seikatuwo kihonntoshite,●○ Kennkouni tunagaru annzennna syokuryouno-seisannwo shiteimasu. えいが ととろ(トトロ)の イントネーション〓音調(おんちょう)〓抑揚(よくよう)〓にほんごを おしえます。EIGA "TOTORO"-NO intonation〓onncyou〓yokuyou〓NIHONGOWO OSHIEMASU. きてくださいKITEKUDASAI.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

People's Plan Study Group: Let the truth be known about the Fukushima Nuclear Plants: An urgent demand to the mass media and the Government of Japan

Via Tokyo-based People's Plan Study Group, a Tokyo-based critical think tank:
Let the truth be known about the Fukushima Nuclear Plants: An urgent demand to the mass media and the Government of Japan

People's Plan Study Group
17 March, 2011

Developments at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant could cause a catastrophic situation, aggravating damage brought by the massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami which hit Japan on March 11. This is a serious emergency which is equivalent to what happened in Chernobyl, but should also be regarded as the first-ever incident of its kind since multiple nuclear reactors malfunctioned simultaneously. The released radioactivity could spread out beyond a 20 or 30 kilometres radius and cause an irreparable damage to human health, the environment and society.

The Government of Japan has met this crisis only with stop-gap measures and tried to abdicate its responsibility, thereby letting the situation to take an even more serious turn. But at this moment we are not taking the government to task on the whole range of its neglect because the situation is too urgent.

At this critical moment, we demand that the Japanese Government and the mass media tell us the whole truth about what is happening at the Fukushima reactors.

The Government of Japan has only released a fraction of the necessary information and has refused to let people know what the worst case scenario is, leaving us completely unprotected. The Government of Japan has not taken any measures to minimize possible damage caused in this scenario. Instead of giving us the truth, the Government, the mass media which follow it blindly, and self-proclaimed “experts” are trting to play down the severity of this situation by, for example, suggesting comparisons with exposure to medical X-rays or radioactivity during an international flight, making the entire situation appear close to what normally happens in daily life. Data about the measured level of radiation is disclosed at random, but it does not contain information about what kind of nuclear materials are being released. Reporters attending the Government's press conferences don't dare to ask questions about this. There is also a lack of systematic warnings about internal exposure to radiation.

Meanwhile, most foreign organisations, experts and media have already classed the Fukushima accident close to level seven in the International and Radiological Nuclear Event Scale, and foreign governments have accordingly asked their nationals to evacuate Japan.

Where does this huge gap in their acknowledgment of the situation come from?

A favourable interpretation is that the Japanese Government have tried not to cause social panic. But the best way to avoid panic is to give people access to a correct understanding of ongoing events, let them know how to minimize the damage and allow them a variety of methods to do so. Panic occurs when a patient who has been told by their physician that they only have a stomach ache suddenly discovers that they actually have a severe tumour.

The accident at the Fukushima facility requires urgent and coordinated action. We demand that the Government of Japan acknowledge the severity of this situation, make people aware of it, and clarify how this emergency is to be dealt with without delay.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tim Shorrock: "Japan, Democracy, and the Globalization of Nuclear Power"

Investigative journalist (and Network for Okinawa member) Tim Shorrock, who grew up Japan, writes powerfully on the political-economic forces that created the nuclear disaster in Japan. His "Japan, Democracy, and the Globalization of Nuclear Power (Japan's Nuclear Nightmare: Part 1)" and related articles at are eye-opening must-reads that trace interrelationships in the nuclear power industry from the U.S. to Europe to Asia.

Satellite Photo of Fukushima Nuclear Facility on March 18

K. Hosokawa, MagpieNews via Mainichi News via Green Action's Fukushima Update

Tokyo's forced military construction of U.S. base in Okinawa unabated during natural disaster aftermath and nuclear catastrophe

Community activists in Henoko, Okinawa keep watch—as they have since 1996

One week after the country's worst natural disaster in a hundred years, the Japanese government has not been able to resolve a long-predicted nuclear catastrophe. Millions of people are living without running water or power in temperatures that fall below freezing at night. Half a million homes are without power in Tohoku and 2.5 million have no access to water. Food is critically short and bottled water is running low in many cities. Gasoline is scarce and homes are running out of kerosene to power heaters.

Yet, Tokyo is still using monetary and military construction labor resources to forcibly build a U.S. mega-base at Henoko, an environmentally sensitive coastal area in northern Okinawa, despite the prefecture's unanimous democratic opposition. The base's ostensible purpose to protect Japan from an attack from North Korea. However the long-feared nuclear attack on Japan has already come—accidentally, but predictably from within. The nuclear plant failure and resulting radioactiive fallout has affected Japan with the force of a perpetual dirty bomb.

30 U.S. military bases already exist on 20 percent of Okinawa. For 16 years, Okinawans and global environmentalists have protested the planned base in this biologically rich area.

Construction in Henoko began the morning after U.S. Marine amphibious tanks disembarked on the beach in the middle of the night on Jan. 27 of this year. Since the disaster, construction has intensified as the media and Japanese NGOs that were supporting Okinawan resistance have, understandably, turned their attention to natural disaster survivors and the nuclear crisis.

Reverse Timeline of military construction:

March 17

March 16 - Henoko blog: "Even today (after the earthquake and tsunami), the construction continues..From morning throughout the day, we hear the sound of machine guns — training for killing — echo over the village, across the fishery and bay..."

Jan. 31 - Temporary Wall

( All photos courtesy of Henoko Hama Tsushin blog)

(Click for larger image)

One week after earthquake, sick & elderly found dead & dying in fallout zone within 10 km. of Fukushima nuclear plant

The Sydney Morning Herald:" Sick and elderly abandoned in fallout zone"
In and around the 20-kilometre exclusion zone surrounding the stricken plant, those without means of escape are being left to suffer.

In one case, 128 people were found by Japanese Self-Defence Force troops, abandoned by medical staff in their hospital 10 kilometres from the plant. Most were comatose and 14 later died. The living were moved to a makeshift ward at a nearby school gym, but conditions are scarcely better.

A Fukushima government official said authorities had no better place to send people, and no way to move them to safety. "We feel very helpless," Chue Inamura said. "The condition at the gymnasium was horrible. No running water, no medicine and very, very little food."

Millions of people are living without running water or power in temperatures that fall below freezing overnight. It is estimated half a million homes are without power in Japan's north and 2.5 million have no access to water.
Wall Street Journal's March 19 article on shortages of food, water, and medicine for elderly refugees; as Tokyo "has held off asking for a wave of aid from international relief agencies."

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wind Farm in Ibaraki (north of Tokyo, south of Fukushima) survives earthquakes; producing power

Huffington Post:"...the Japanese wind industry is still functioning and helping to keep the lights on during the Fuksuhima crisis."

Democracy Now! interview addresses high- & low-radiation risks; radiation measurements; different isotopes; how far radiation might travel

Democracy Now! interview with Philip White of Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (Tokyo) and Dr. Ira Helfand of Physicians for Social Responsibility addresses high- and low-level radiation risks; what radiation measurements mean; the different isotopes (200) being emitted, and how far the radiation emissions might travel.

New York Cares for Japan - Event Listings, Relief Resources; Prayer Service Tonight

New York Cares for Japan - Event Listings and Resources for Support Relief

Ongoing community relief support events of all kinds, from arts to running to praying.

March 18 - Prayer Service and Candlelight Vigil for Japan

Who: coordinated by Rev. T.K. Nakagaki
Place: The Church Center for United Nations, 777 First Ave. at 44St
Time: 5:30PM

Candlelight Vigil

Place: Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 47th St. between 1st and 2nd Ave.
Time: 7:30PM

Info: New Yorkers gather for prayer and hope in the aftermath of Japan’s earthquake and tsunami. On Friday, March 18th, marking one week since Japan was devastated by the massive earthquake and tsunami, New Yorkers will come together to pay respect to the victims of this tragedy and send solidarity to all those affected.

Reuters: Japanese engineers considering "Chernobyl Option" as last resort

Today Reuters reported that Japanese engineers are considering the "Chernobyl Option" as a last resort. This option, suggested by Japanese American physicist Michio Kaku, would involve burying the nuclear facility in sand and concrete to prevent a catastrophic radiation release:
This is what the Soviets did in 1986, calling out the Red Air Force and sandbagging the reactor with over 5,000 tons of concrete and sand.

Reuters: Chernobyl clean-up expert condemns nuclear industry & Int. Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for inadequate response at Fukushima

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Russian nuclear accident specialist Iouli Andreev blamed a greedy nuclear industry and its influence over the United Nations' International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for intentionally ignoring lessons from Chernobyl:
"After Chernobyl all the force of the nuclear industry was directed to hide this event, for not creating damage to their reputation. The Chernobyl experience was not studied properly because who has money for studying? Only industry.

"But industry doesn't like it," he said in an interview in Vienna where the former director of the Soviet Spetsatom clean-up agency now teaches and advises on nuclear safety. Austria's environment ministry has used him as an adviser.

Andreev said a fire which released radiation on Tuesday involving spent fuel rods stored close to reactors at Fukushima looked like an example of putting profit before safety:

"The Japanese were very greedy and they used every square inch of the space. But when you have a dense placing of spent fuel in the basin you have a high possibility of fire if the water is removed from the basin," Andreev said.

The IAEA should share blame for standards, he said, arguing it was too close to corporations building and running plants. And he dismissed an emergency incident team set up by the Vienna-based agency as "only a think-tank not a working force".

Nautilus: "Possible need for int. effort to assist Japan with reactors, spent fuel ponds, meltdowns, & radioactive contamination"

From Nautilus Institute for Security & Sustainability - Northeast Asia Peace & Security Network Special Report
“After the Deluge: Short and Medium-term Impacts of the Reactor Damage Caused by the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami”
March 17, 2011

The Nautilus Institute released this report as a rapid response evaluation of the implications of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and consequent tsunami off the northeast coast of Japan, focusing on Japan’s electricity system, its energy security and the future of the nuclear power plants located in the earthquake- and tsunami-affected regions...

Section 6 evaluates the stabilization and recovery of the hardest hit sites, at Fukushima 2 reactor complex. It notes the possible need for a massive international effort, perhaps mandated by the UN Security Council, to assist Japan in the huge task of dealing with multiple reactors and spent fuel ponds affected by the earthquake, explosions, meltdowns, and radioactive contamination

Read the report at:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some good news: Planned Kaminoseki nuclear plant (in Japan's beautiful Inland Sea) construction suspended

( Photo: Hiroshima-Kaminoseki Link: No Nuke Kaminoseki)

Two days ago construction on a planned nuclear power plant in seismic-intense, water-surrounded Kaminoseki was suspended.

For 30 years, Japanese fishermen, environmentalists, and citizens concerned about the safety of nuclear power have been protesting the proposed construction of a nuclear power plant at a small island in Japan's beautiful Seto Inland Sea National Park. The Seto Inland Sea is sometimes referred to as Japan’s Galapagos because of its rich biological diversity. Hiroshima-based Chugoku Electric Power Company, unresponsive to local choice (by villagers descended from area inhabitants for over a thousand years) and environmentalist concerns, even started landfill during an international biodiversity conference held in Nagoya last fall.

Chugoku operates two nuclear power plants and is now constructing a third in Matsue City, on the coast of the Japan Sea. On the other side of western Honshu (Japan's main island). The power company has planned to build two nuclear power plants on the Seto Inland Sea coast in Kaminoseki Town.

A Pan Orient News report on a hunger-strike earlier this year summarizes alarming unaddressed environmental risks and the history of the local unanimous protests.

(Photo: Martin Frid's eco-blog, Kurashi)

A recent hunger strike activist statement:
We decided to take this action because we do not want the radioactive waste that will arise and the radioactivity that will accumulate in the sea and the atmosphere as a consequence of constructing and operating this nuclear power plant to be left to our own and our children’s generations.

Radioactive waste continues to release radioactivity for thousands of years, but no means of disposing of it has been established. Furthermore, although nuclear power plants can only be operated for about 40 years and the buildings themselves become radioactive in the process, no safe method of decommissioning them after they are shut down has been found.

Nevertheless, they are going ahead with a plan to construct a new nuclear power plant at Kaminoseki Town in Yamaguchi Prefecture. To construct a new nuclear power plant when there is neither a method of disposing of the radioactive waste that will be produced in the process of operating the plant, nor a method of decommissioning the plant after it is shut down is to bequeath the problems to generations of young people to come.
Caroline Fraser writes on Kaminoseki at Environment 360:
The nuclear power industry, a powerful player in Japan’s politically dominant construction industry, has pressed ahead with its plans — endorsed in 2006 by the Ministry of Economics, Trade and Industry’s “New National Energy Policy” — to mold the country into a “nuclear state.” In addition to 54 existing nuclear power plants that until last week supplied 30 percent of the country’s electricity, a dozen new nuclear plants are planned or under construction.

One in particular has exposed a deep public divide. The proposed Kaminoseki nuclear plant is to be built on landfill in a national park in the country’s well-known Inland Sea, hailed as Japan’s Galapagos. For three decades, local residents, fishermen, and environmental activists have opposed the plant, saying it should not be built in the picturesque sea, with its rich marine life and fishing culture dating back millennia. The Inland Sea has also been the site of intense seismic activity, including the epicenter of the 1995 Kobe earthquake that killed 6,400 people...

“We have to stop it,” Masae Yuasa, a professor of International Studies at Hiroshima City University and a leading opponent of the plant, told me when I visited Japan last fall. In words that have a chilling resonance now, she continued, “Once an accident happens, there is no border. I want to be more polite, but we have to stop it. I am a person from Hiroshima. I cannot be quiet about it.”
Read the entire must-read article here. In an even broader framework, Allison MacFarlane explores the risky mix of geologic uncertainties and hazardous industries at The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

Via 3-min commentary on Japan by Karl Grossman

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Eileen Mioko Smith & Arnie Gundersen: "Get the Children Away from the Reactors": Japan Urged to Expand Evacuation as Radiation Spreads

Democracy Now! interview with Eileen Mioko Smith & Arnie Gundersen:"'Get the Children Away from the Reactors': Japan Urged to Expand Evacuation Area Around Nuclear Plants as Leaking Radiation Spreads"
Japanese anti-nuclear activist Aileen Mioko Smith and nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen question whether Japanese officials are doing enough to protect civilians from radiation, including proper monitoring and widening the evacuation zones. Some 70,000 residents have been forced to evacuate their homes, and another 140,000 people have been ordered not to step outside.

“You can’t protect the people from reality,” Smith says.

And Gundersen says, “If I were in Japan, I would at least get the children away from the reactor, because their bodies are growing faster and their cells are more susceptible to radiation damage. I would go out to 50 kilometers and at least get the children away from those reactors.”

Michio Kaku on how PM Kan can help Japan: consider the "Chernobyl Option"

Japanese American physicist Michio Kaku (author of Physics of the Future, expert on string theory, parallel universes) foresaw the meltdowns at the nuclear power facility in Fukushima. Now he is advising PM Kan to take the "Chernobyl Option."
The situation in Japan, as of Tuesday morning, keeps getting worse. We are getting close to the point of no return (the point where we have uncontrolled releases of radiation due to breach of containment).

News & Developments

• 3 reactors have suffered partial meltdowns.

• These three reactors also suffered hydrogen gas explosions

• A fourth unit has a nuclear waste storage site on fire (which can in principle release more radiation than in a standard reactor core).

• Almost all workers, except for 50, have been evacuated. Once all the workers are evacuated, full scale melting is inevitable.

• Unit 2 actually had 100% of its core fully exposed, for about 2 hours. Worse, cracks seem to have formed in the containment vessel, which may be the source of the very high radiation levels.

• Unit 3 uses MOX fuel, which contains some deadly plutonium, one of the most dangerous substances on earth.The utility keeps saying that things are stable, only to see things worsen. This "stability" is the stability of hanging by your fingernails.

If I had the ear of the Prime Minister, I would recommend the "Chernobyl Option."

• Put the Japanese Air Force on alert

• Assemble a huge fleet of helicopters. Put shielding underneath them.

• Accumulate enough sand, boric acid, and concrete to smother these reactors, to entomb them forever.

This is what the Soviets did in 1986, calling out the Red Air Force and sandbagging the reactor with over 5,000 tons of concrete and sand.

We have not yet hit the point of no return. But when we do, I think the only option left is this one.

The Union of Concerned Scientists: Spent Fuel Pools at Fukushima Nuclear Facility

The Union of Concerned Scientists' analyis of the spent fuel (radioactive nuclear waste) situation at Fukushima's Unit 4 reactor.

More on censorship of information on the Fukushima nuclear crisis from journalist Yoichi Shimatsu

Yoichi Shimatsu, former editor of The Japan Times Weekly, offers this criticism at New American Media, of Japanese governmental and media censorship of nuclear disaster news, unconscionable at a time when transparent, reliable information is a life and death matter:
On March 13, Japan’s Prime Minister's office imposed information control on news related to the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, citing the legal grounds of Article 15 of the Constitution. However, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano's explanation might seem confusing, because Article 15 has nothing to do with limiting information releases related to national security...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Japanese government & media censor critical information about the Fukushima nuclear plant crisis

Satoko Norimatsu of Vancouver-based Peace Philosophy Centre is following the Japanese media coverage of the nuclear crisis and observes:
Hiroko Tabuchi and Keith Bradsher of The New York Times have been reporting things that Japanese media has failed to report. For example, yesterday, Tepco made 750 workers evacuate while 50 workers stayed behind.

The latest news says 5 workers have died of radiation poisoning since the quake. NONE of the Japanese government public press conferences TEPCO, and no Japanese media have reported this. what is going on? At recent TEPCO conference, officials said they did not rule out recriticality; some media are reporting but NHK has totally ignored it.

Incredible information control and manipulation is going on at this "critical" time.
Follow Satoko's updates on Twitter here.

Yumi Tanaka, director of the New York Peace Film Festival, is also concerned abou the free flow of information to Japanese people, and is posting at Twitter in both English and Japanese here.

Paul Arensen of the Tokyo Progressive posted on this pattern after the first explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power facility.

Democracy Now! • Summary post on compromised spent fuel containment • Maggie Gundersen's latest on the Fukushima nuclear facility emergency

Yesterday's "Japan Facing Biggest Catastrophe Since Dawn of Nuclear Age" with Arika Ayukawa, formerly with Tokyo-based Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), now a professor of Environmental Studies at Chiba University (just east of Tokyo); Harvey Wasserman (editor of; Kevin Kamps (specialist in nuclear waste at Beyond Nuclear): and Arnie Gundersen (a nuclear industry executive before blowing the whistle on the company he worked for in 1990, when he found inappropriately stored radioactive material) and more news today on the nuclear emergency at Democracy Now!.

Our summary post (with links to articles) on "Nuclear plant in Fukushima has lost nuclear waste containment integrity" excerpts Maggie Gunderson's article published at Green Mountain Daily (this must-read article contains a video and important background links). and other similar expert evaluations.

Maggie Gundersen's latest: "It Just Got Worse: 3 nuke plants in process of meltdown and 4th has fire in spent fuel pool":
As you all know, one nuclear plant had the top blow off and began to leak radioactivity into the air (Unit 1, built in 1970). Then a 2nd one it exploded yesterday (Sunday) (Unit 3 built in 1974) Tonight we received word at 8 pm that Unit 2 exploded (built in 1972 - the same year as Vermont Yankee). Each explosion has gotten worse, and the third explosion has severely damaged the containment building...

Arnie's interview here in the Global Post was spot on regarding a reactor core melt and containment failure:
GlobalPost: The ultimate risk in any nuclear accident is that the heat can grow so intense that the steel containment vessel is ruptured, releasing a large amount of radiation. You say there's a 50-50 chance of this happening. What kind of health effects can we expect?

Gundersen: First, it's important to know that this steel containment is about an inch thick. It's not some massive battleship of steel. The reactor is already open, because the pressure relief valves have to stay open.

On top of that, these containments have already breached. We saw iodine and cesium in the environment before the first unit exploded. When you see that, that's clearly an indication that the containment has breached.

Now, is it leaking 1 percent a day? Probably. Is it leaking 100 percent a day? No. I think for the neighboring towns out to 2 miles, they won't have anybody back in them for five years. Out to 15 miles, I doubt you're going to see anyone back for six months. And that's in the best case, without a meltdown.

If we have a meltdown, I don't think anyone will be back within 20 miles for 10 or 15 years.

The New York Times: "Way past Three-Mile Island" — another explosion & fire result in more radiation emissions

Last night The New York Times reported on the latest fire and explosion, and resulting situation and rise in radioactive emissions, at the Fukushima nuclear facility:
Even if a full meltdown is averted, Japanese officials have been facing unpalatable options. One was to continue flooding the reactors and venting the resulting steam, while hoping that the prevailing winds did not turn south toward Tokyo or west, across northern Japan to the Korean Peninsula. The other was to hope that the worst of the overheating was over, and that with the passage of a few more days the nuclear cores would cool enough to essentially entomb the radioactivity inside the plants, which clearly will never be used again. Both approaches carried huge risks...

"It’s way past Three Mile Island already,” said Frank von Hippel, a physicist and professor at Princeton. “The biggest risk now is that the core really melts down and you have a steam explosion.”

The sharp deterioration came after a frantic day and night of rescue efforts focused largely on the No. 2 reactor. There, a malfunctioning valve prevented workers from manually venting the containment vessel to release pressure and allow fresh seawater to be injected into it. That meant that the extraordinary remedy emergency workers had jury-rigged to keep the nuclear fuel from overheating no longer worked.

As a result, the nuclear fuel in that reactor was exposed for many hours, increasing the risk of a breach of the container vessel and more dangerous emissions of radioactive particles.

By Tuesday morning, Tokyo Electric Power said that it had fixed the valve and resumed seawater injections, but that it had detected possible leaks in the containment vessel that prevented water from fully covering the fuel rods.

Then an explosion hit that reactor. After a series of conflicting reports about what level of damage was inflicted on the reactor after that blast, Mr. Edano said, “there is a very high probability that a portion of the container vessel was damaged.”

Monday, March 14, 2011

Nuclear plant in Fukushima has lost nuclear waste containment integrity; leaking radiation

Dave Lindorff of This Can't Be Happening explains why the 1970's-era General Electric (GE)-designed boiling water nuclear reactors in Fukushima experienced hydrogen explosions:
The drawings of the plants in question, called Mark I Reactors, provide no way for venting hydrogen gas from the containment buildings, despite the fact that one of the first things that happens in the event of a cooling failure is the massive production of hydrogen gas by the exposed fuel rods in the core. This is why three of the nuclear generator buildings at Fukushima Dai-ichi have exploded with tremendous force blasting off the roof and walls of the structures, and damaging control equipment needed to control the reactors.
Today The Guardian reported that the U.S.-based Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) began issuing warnings in 1972 about the hydrogen explosion risks of the GE Mark 1 reactors.

Another GE Mark 1 design issue involves the storage of spent nuclear fuel (nuclear waste). These plants store waste in pools of water on the upper level of the containment building, above the reactors. This waste contains the highly radioactive decay products of the fission process: Cesium 137, Iodine 131 and Strontium 90. To prevent evaporation, the pool water must circulate. If the containment around the spent fuel is compromised, then radiation will be released. Photos from the Fukushima facility show the roofs of two containment buildings have been blown off, calling the integrity of the spent nuclear fuel pools into question.

Two days ago, Green Mountain Daily published Maggie Gundersen's analysis of the first explosion by nuclear plant engineers familiar with the plants' design. (This must-read article contains a video and important background links). Their evaluation in short: the blast opened the fuel pool on the top floor to the environment, so years of spent fuel is not being cooled and is in direct contact with the air.

Thus, the plant is releasing significant amounts of radiation that appears to be moving towards the Pacific Ocean. Like Three Mile Island (TMI), significant amounts of radiation has been detected around the plants: radioactive Cesium (lasts in the environment for 300 years and is absorbed by muscles in the human body, especially infant hearts). People near the plants are receiving as much radiation in an hour as they would normally receive in one year.

The Guardian also reported that Robert Alvarez, a senior policy analyst at the Institute of Policy Studies, has echoed the PACE assessment, saying: "...satellite pictures of the Fukushima plant showed evidence of damage to the spent fuel pool:
"There is clear evidence that the fuel cask cranes that haul spent fuels to and from the reactor to the pool both fell. They are gone," he said. "There appears to be copious amounts of steam pouring of the area where the pools is located."
The Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), also based in the U.S., has addressed the same issue. John McGlynn, editor at The Asia-Pacific Journal, posted a summary and excerpt of their report:
"A special feature of the Mark 1 design is that the used fuel, also called spent fuel, is stored within the reactor building in a swimming pool like concrete structure near the top of the reactor vessel. When the reactor is refueled, the spent fuel is taken from the reactor by a large crane, transferred to the pool, and kept underwater for a few years. This spent fuel must be kept underwater to prevent severe releases of radioactivity, among other reasons. A meltdown or even a fire could occur if there is a loss of coolant from the spent fuel pool. The water in the spent fuel pool and the roof of the reactor building are the main barriers to release of radioactivity from the spent fuel pool."
Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action just posted (via NHK) this today, as well:
NHK has now reported that the spent fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi (Unit 3) does not have a roof over it since yesterday’s explosion.

There is no electric source, and there is a possibility that it has lost cooling ability. There is steam around the roof top.
Joseph Calamia at IEEE Spectrum, a website that reports on tech issues, reports on expert discussion about the risks from radioactive nuclear waste emissions at the Fukushima facility:
In a larger discussion regarding the disaster among representatives from the watchdog group, the Union of Concerned Scientists, experts questioned whether spent fuel, stored on-site in the Japanese plants, might also pose a threat...

In Mark-I reactor designs, such as the Fukushima Daiichi plant, spent fuel is located in cooling pools in the reactor's "attic," explains David Lochbaum, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' nuclear safety program. For exploding units, which have blown off their roofs and walls, the problem is clear: "If there's any radiation released, it's got to get to the environment." He compares that scenario with radiation released from fuel in the core, protected by the containment building which "would reduce the amount of radioactivity that reaches the public..."

Describing hypotheticals, Lochbaum explains that if there was widespread release of spent fuel, the casualties for a worst case scenario might be similar to the worst case scenario for leakage from the core.

The difference, he explains, is that the core would release a lot of short-lived radioisotopes, causing more fatalities in the first year, while a spent fuel accident might mean that primary casualties would come from cancer "down the road."

Nuclear waste storage pools at 2 nuclear plants in Fukushima have lost containment integrity

Two days ago, the U.S.-based People's Alliance for Clean Energy (PACE), a clean energy advocacy group in Virginia, posted an analysis of the Fukushima nuclear facility emergency by nuclear plant expert engineers familiar with the plants' design.

In short, they say at least one nuclear plant has lost containment integrity and is leaking radiation. The General Electric-designed plants have a Mark 1 (earliest) containment, with the fuel pool on the top floor. After the hydrogen explosion at the first (#1 unit) plant, the fuel pool opened to the environment, so years of spent fuel is not being cooled and is in direct contact with the air. The plants are releasing significant amounts of radiation that appears to be moving towards the Pacific Ocean. Like Three Mile Island (TMI), significant amounts of radiation has been detected around the plant: radioactive Cesium (lasts in the environment for 300 years and is absorbed by muscles in the human body, especially infant hearts). People near the plant are receiving as much radiation in an hour as they would normally receive in one year.

Today, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER), also based in the U.S., addresses the same issue. John McGlynn, hot news editor, posted a summary and excerpt of the IEER report atThe Asia-Pacific Journal:
"Both reactors [Units 1 and 3] are of the Mark 1 Boiling Water Design. They do not have the sturdy secondary containment buildings of concrete that is several feet thick typical of later reactor designs.

A special feature of the Mark 1 design is that the used fuel, also called spent fuel [radioactive waste], is stored within the reactor building in a swimming pool like concrete structure near the top of the reactor vessel. When the reactor is refueled, the spent fuel is taken from the reactor by a large crane, transferred to the pool, and kept underwater for a few years. This spent fuel must be kept underwater to prevent severe releases of radioactivity, among other reasons. A meltdown or even a fire could occur if there is a loss of coolant from the spent fuel pool. The water in the spent fuel pool and the roof of the reactor building are the main barriers to release of radioactivity from the spent fuel pool."
Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action just reposted (via NHK) on the same issue:
NHK has now reported that the spent fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi (Unit 3) does not have a roof over it since yesterday’s explosion.

There is no electric source, and there is a possibility that it has lost cooling ability. There is steam around the roof top. The connection between this and the other is unknown.
The Union of Concerned Scientists: fact-sheet on nuclear accidents.

Physicist Michio Kaku now blogging on Fukushima; advises PM Kan to take the "Chernobyl Option"

Japanese American physicist Michio Kaku (author of Physics of the Future, expert on string theory, parallel universes) foresaw the meltdowns at the nuclear power facility in Fukushima. Now he is advising PM Kan to take the "Chernobyl Option."
The situation in Japan, as of Tuesday morning, keeps getting worse. We are getting close to the point of no return (the point where we have uncontrolled releases of radiation due to breach of containment).

News and Developments

•3 reactors have suffered partial meltdowns.

•These three reactors also suffered hydrogen gas explosions

•A fourth unit has a nuclear waste storage site on fire (which can in principle release more radiation than in a standard reactor core).

•Almost all workers, except for 50, have been evacuated. Once all the workers are evacuated, full scale melting is inevitable.

•Unit 2 actually had 100% of its core fully exposed, for about 2 hours. Worse, cracks seem to have formed in the containment vessel, which may be the source of the very high radiation levels.

•Unit 3 uses MOX fuel, which contains some deadly plutonium, one of the most dangerous substances on earth.The utility keeps saying that things are stable, only to see things worsen. This "stability" is the stability of hanging by your fingernails.

If I had the ear of the Prime Minister, I would recommend the "Chernobyl Option."

•Put the Japanese Air Force on alert

•Assemble a huge fleet of helicopters. Put shielding underneath them.

•Accumulate enough sand, boric acid, and concrete to smother these reactors, to entomb them forever. This is what the Soviets did in 1986, calling out the Red Air Force and sandbagging the reactor with over 5,000 tons of concrete and sand.

We have not yet hit the point of no return. But when we do, I think the only option left is this one.

Green Action: 6 journalists find high radiation readings in Futaba (location of Fukushima nuclear reactors)

Aileen Mioko Smith, director of Kyoto-based Green Action, is providing English-language updates from Japanese NGOs, news media, and direct reports from journalists in Fukushima:
Breaking on Fukushima I-2 Fukushima Update

It is now 16:05 Japan time (3:05am EST USA), 14 March, 2011
NHK: "All cooling at Fukushima Daiichi (Unit2) has been lost"

According to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), a unit of Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), all mechanisms to cool the reactor was all completely lost at 13:25 (1:25pm) today. Since the internal pressure continues to be high, ways to secure the safety such as releasing the air from the containment to the outside is being considered.
5 members of the Japan Visual Journalist Association (JVJA) and Ryuichi HIROKAWA, editor-in-chief of DAYS JAPAN (magazine), arrived at Futaba Town where the Fukushima Daiichi reactors are located (the plants are located in both Okuma Town and Futaba Town) to undertake independent monitoring measurements.
We traveled to Futaba Town, arriving shortly after 10:00am Sunday, 13 March and began taking radiation readings. We took three types of radiation detectors, one each. The levels were extremely high.

According to Mr. Hirokawa, when measurements were taken near the high school at Futaba town, the measurements were higher than (the recording sounds like “higher than” but the wording is not 100% clear) when he had taken measurements approximately 200 meters from unit 4 at Chernobyl.

We went to the Futaba Town Hall to inform them about this situation, but because everyone had evacuated, there were no people there. At the front of the Futaba Town Hall, all our three radiation monitors went off scale and became inoperable (we could not take measurements).

We went to Futaba Kosei Hospital, the town’s hospital, where 4 people had been hospitalized the day before for radiation exposure. At the entrance of the hospital, stretchers were turned over, many things were scattered, a feeling that evacuation had been undertaken in a very rushed way. On the first floor, beds were overturned, vinyl pipes for blood injections were scattered around, many items were in disarray, showing that things were very rushed when they evacuated. When we checked the examination room, the levels were so high that measurements could not be taken.

We thought the town was deserted but met one elderly man on a bicycle. Talked about what we were doing. We told him that the place was very contaminated and that he should flee right away.

We saw two men in town, and one man went past us via motorcycle, and we saw one car, to my recollection.

We stayed in the town for about one hour, and those were the only people we saw.

We thought that when entering the town that there would be a security gate and that we would not be able to enter. However, this was not the case. We were just able to go right in. When we were leaving the town, we saw people entering the town. We stopped them to tell them not to go in. They were returning to get clothes, farmers were there to go give water to flowers. That was the situation, you could go in and out freely.

FIVE MINUTES INTO YOUTUBE. The visual begins with the meters. — (translation: Aileen)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Aerial Photos of Before & After (makes clear extensive damage to Fukushima nuclear facility)

Via Floating Down Denial, ABC (Australia) News' Aerial Photos of Before and After (reveals catastrophic damage to the Fukushima nuclear facility):

See Kyoto-based Green Action blog for more on the nuclear crisis, including updates, video links.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

More Update Sources: NIRS (Nuclear Info & Resource Service) & Green Action (in Kyoto)

Check out updates also at Martin Frid's eco-blog, Kurashi. Martin lives in Saitama, just north of Tokyo and works with the Consumers Union of Japan. His latest: "Extreme Flooding Along The Coast Due To Earthquake And Tsunami."

NHK, the Japanese public broadcasting outlet, and The Mainichi Daily News are both good news sources.

Via Naomi Klein on Twitter:
Naomi Klein: No energy that can poison entire populations during disasters deserves to be called "clean."

daphnewysham: NIRS (Nuclear Information and Resource Service) is providing regular updates on the Fukushima reactor explosion:
March 11, 2011: BREAKING NEWS. Fact sheet on Fukushima reactors and aftermath of Japan earthquake. Updated 5:30 pm, Saturday, March 12. Report that Unit 3 has lost cooling. Of particular concern: Unit 3 uses plutonium-based fuel.

There are currently 23 General Electric Mark I reactors in the U.S.--the design that exploded at Fukushima. A top Atomic Energy Commission official first proposed banning this design nearly 40 years ago. List/fact sheet.

Statement of CNIC (Tokyo-based Citizens' Nuclear Information Center), March 12, 2011

Green Action blog on Japan nuclear crisis, includes updates, video links.

TMI Alert piece on similarities/differences between Fukushima and Three Mile Island events.
Green Action is located in Kyoto and under the direction of long-time environmentalist Aileen Mioko Smith. Her husband, William Eugene Smith, photographed Minamata survivors.

Video: Explosion occurs at nuclear plant facility in Fukushima; Residents urged to take precautions against possible exposure to contaminants

On Saturday afternoon, one day following the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the Tohoku region of Japan, an explosion occurred at the Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Plant after its pumping system failed during an operation to repair the plant's cooling system following damage by a post-earthquake tsunami on Friday.

CNN has an in-depth report on the accident and its possible aftermath, from which an excerpt reads as follows:
"If this accident stops right now it will already be one of the three worst accidents we have ever had at a nuclear power plant in the history of nuclear power," said Joseph Cirincione, an expert on nuclear materials and president of the U.S.-based Ploughshares Fund, a firm involved in security and peace funding.

If the effort to cool the nuclear fuel inside the reactor fails completely -- a scenario experts who have spoken to CNN say is unlikely -- the resulting release of radiation could cause enormous damage to the plant or release radiation into the atmosphere or water. That could lead to widespread cancer and other health problems, experts say.
Peace and anti-nuclear activist Yumi Kikuchi wrote on her blog late Saturday night (summarized translation is my own):
Depending on the wind's direction, it is already possible that radioactive substances have been spread to other areas of Japan. In order to protect skin from possible contamination, it is important not to have direct contact with rain--and to wear hats and masks while outside. It is also best to save water in tanks now in case of future possible contamination of the water supply.

Iodine pills can also help prevent radiation damage, but since they are likely now not easily available, it is recommended to eat iodine-rich foods such as seaweed and tororo konbu (vinegared kelp).
Progress on the cooling efforts at the Fukushima Daini plant may be read in English at Twitter Trackbacks, and Karl Grossman has a penetrating piece on the accident and its implications at Counterpunch here.

- Posted by Kimberly Hughes