Ongoing Cover Up of Nuclear Crisis By Governments and Nuclear Power Companies

via Yves Smith's naked capitalism:

I’ve previously documented that Japanese seismologists and nuclear engineers warned years ago that the risks of a large-scale nuclear accident in Japan were high, with one Japanese seismologist warning in 2004 that the risk of a nuclear accident was:


Like a kamikaze terrorist wrapped in bombs just waiting to explode.

I also showed that whistleblowers have been ignored:


Years before Fukushima engineer Mitsuhiko Tanaka blew the whistle on the fact that Tepco covered up a defective containment vessel, the above-quoted Japan Times article blew the whistle:

Yoichi Kikuchi, a Japanese nuclear engineer who also became a whistle-blower, has told me personally of many safety problems at Japan’s nuclear power plants, such as cracks in pipes in the cooling system from vibrations in the reactor. He said the electric companies are “gambling in a dangerous game to increase profits and decrease government oversight.”

[Kei Sugaoka, a Japanese-American senior field engineer who worked for General Electric in the United States, who previously blew the whistle on Tepco's failure to inform the government of defects at the reactors] agreed, saying, “The scariest thing, on top of all the other problems, is that all nuclear power plants are aging, causing a deterioration of piping and joints which are always exposed to strong radiation and heat.”

Kikuchi and Sugaoka were ignored. Just like American whistle-blowers are being ignored.

And after the March 11th disaster, the Japanese government has been covering up information.

Indeed, nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen points out that American and Japanese governments and nuclear companies are covering up many core facts concerning the Japanese nuclear crisis.


Closing Ranks: The NRC, the Nuclear Industry, and TEPCo. Are Limiting the Flow of Information from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.


Arnie Gundersen Discusses Radioactive Water Leaking Into the Pacific Ocean with CNN’s John King from Fairewinds Associates on Vimeo.


Tepco is covering up crucial information, including:

  • After Gundersen pointed out that the existence of tellurium at Fukushima implies that re-criticality is coming, Tepco pulled the data, saying that the data is no longer accurate
  • Tepco is denying that a blue neutron beam – also indicating re-criticality – has been observed
  • Tepco has tried to deny the report of an eminent nuclear scientist that reactor number 2 had suffered a meltdown

Foreign Nuclear Companies

It’s not just Tepco. Foreign nuclear companies are covering up as well.

For example, the large french nuclear corporation, Areva, has privately determined that:

  • At reactors 1 through 3, the nuclear fuel reached 5,000 degrees, beyond the melting point of steel and the zirconium cladding of the spent fuel rods
  • Containment in reactor number 2 was breached by hydrogen explosions. While the roof of reactor number 2 looks good (see photograph below), the hydrogen explosion blew out the containment, like a sneeze with your nose pinched and mouth closed will pop your ears:

  • Crops and dairy products are polluted out to 50 kilometers from the nuclear site, well beyond what emergency zone is
  • Unit 4 experienced “core melt in fresh air”. The core melted because the fuel pool was cracked in the earthquake. The largest release is from reactor number 4. Because there is no containment as to the materials in the spent fuel rods, all fission products can be volatilized
  • The person who prepared the Areva report said: “Clearly, we are witnessing one of the greatest disasters of our time.”

But publicly, Areva is saying no problem, nuclear is safe.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

NRC staff privately identified significant problems and dangers at Fukushima, including:

  • A lot of “mud” inside the reactor, from injection of seawater
  • The weight of building with all of the water in them might make it unstable in case of another earthquake
  • Recriticitality of nuclear fuel.
  • Plutonium ejected from fuel pools during the hydrogen explosion. NRC thinks that plutonium was ejected a couple of miles from the reactor

But the NRC is telling Congress and the public that the situation is under control.

Incidentally, Reuters reported yesterday:

U.S. regulators privately have expressed doubts that some of the nation’s nuclear power plants are prepared for a Fukushima-scale disaster, undercutting their public confidence since Japan’s nuclear crisis began, documents released by an independent safety watchdog group show.

Internal Nuclear Regulatory Commission e-mails and memos obtained by the Union of Concerned Scientists questioned the adequacy of the back-up plans to keep reactor cooling systems running if off-site power were lost for an extended period.

Those concerns seem to contrast with the confidence U.S. regulators and industry officials have publicly expressed after the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl began to unfold on March 11, UCS officials said on Wednesday.

“While the NRC and the nuclear industry have been reassuring Americans that there is nothing to worry about — that we can do a better job dealing with a nuclear disaster like the one that just happened in Japan — it turns out that privately NRC senior analysts are not so sure,” said Edwin Lyman, a UCS nuclear expert.

Leaked NRC Report at Cryptome

An NRC report on the Fukushima crisis is available at Cryptome:

Fukushima Residents Seek Answers Amid Mixed Signals on Radiation

Fukushima Residents Seek Answers Amid Mixed Signals From Media, TEPCO and Government. Report from the Radiation Exclusion Zone

Makiko SEGAWA in Fukushima

Mistrust of the media has surged among the people of Fukushima Prefecture. In part this is due to reports filed by mainstream journalists who are unwilling to visit the area near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. But above all it is the result of contradictory reportsreleased by the media, TEPCO and the government.

On the one hand, many local officials and residents in Fukushima insist that the situation is safe and that the media, in fanning unwarranted fears, are damaging the economy of the region.By contrast, many freelance journalists in Tokyo report that the central government is downplaying the fact that radiation leakage has been massive and that the threat to public health has been woefully underestimated. While the government long hewed to its original definition of a 20 kilometer exclusion zone, following the April 12 announcement that the Fukushima radiation severity level has been raised from a level 5 event (as with Three Mile Island) to a level 7 event (as with Chernobyl), the government also extended the radiation exclusion zone from 20 kilometers to at least five communities in the 30-50 kilometer range.

In recent weeks, many Fukushima residents who fled in the first week of the nuclear crisis have begun returning home and attempting to resume normal activities. For example, some local people in Iwaki city, 40-50 km from the Fukushima Daiichi reactor, are convinced that it is now safe to return despite the high radiation levels recorded. Here is one example.

School Entrance Ceremony Amid Radiation Fear in an Exclusion Zone Near the Fukushima Daiichi Reactor

In Japan, April’s cherry blossoms signal a symbolic beginning, a new stage in life. On April 6th, along with school children across the nation, Iwaki City, within the 40 km radiation exclusion zone, held many school entrance ceremonies for elementary, middle and high schools.

Iwaki's Yumoto Daini Middle School’s ceremony was a bit different: not only were there 33 new students, but refugees living on the school grounds and some members of the Self Defense Force also attended. Overall 107 people participated in the ceremony. Headmaster Sawai Shiro may have exceeded his authority in taking the humanitarian step of granting permission for the refugees to remain on campus as the school year begins, at the risk of being punished later for breaking rules.


School Entrance Ceremony at Yumoto Daini Middle School, Iwaki City, Fukushima

Local sources report that in the first week or so after the nuclear crisis began, Iwaki City experienced difficulties in receiving supplies like food and fuel because many agents refused to deliver.Since early April, refugees who had evacuated outside the prefecture started returning. Restaurants in downtown Iwaki are reopening and many convenience stores boast reasonably well-stocked shelves, while gas, water and electricity have been restored. Iwaki City has repeatedly confirmed that “radiation is at a stable level which is not harmful to human health.” Iwaki officials explain that this judgment is based on figures provided by the Fukushima prefectural government regularly updated since March 11.

Principal Sawai began his welcome speech by saying, "I am glad to be able to confirm that all 33 new students are participating in this ceremony amidst a disaster that had forced many people to leave Yumoto.""In our district,” he continued,“some people survived by drinking water from their bath for weeks as there was no running water. I want you to care for each other especially for anyone who is in trouble." He concluded, "You young students, are the future of Japan. Now, we should be bound as one beyond differences in ideas, position or self interest."

Though all the new students attended, not all teachers were there. As a result of the catastrophe, personnel for the school was frozen and new teachers were not dispatched to the school, Sawai explained. As a result of the lack of teachers, there will be only one class run by a teacher for each grade.

School Doctor Informs Children “The radiation problem is already finished.”

Following the principal’s speech, the school’s doctor in his white coat stated matter-of-factly that, based on science, people should know that the worst of the earthquake damage had passed and that radiation leakages from the Fukushima Daiichi plant were decreasing and would soon fade away.

“The radiation problem is already finished,” he told the children and their parents. “You can go to school and go outside without any problem. You should not fear malicious gossip.”

While the doctor’s assurance that all major risks have ended would certainly raise eyebrows among most people outside the prefecture, many locals share this belief. We note the difference in perspective between radiation experts and people assessing the issues at a distance and those on the ground facing the destruction of their livelihood. While rumors of the dangers of radiation continue to swirl, many locals are even more afraid that rumors will destroy their businesses and any hope of securing their livelihood and rebuilding their communities.

Ikarashi Yoshitaka, 33, is one who is particularly keen on restoring his business and the local economy, a goal that leads him to downplay warnings of radiation risk.“It is just an emotional thesis that ours is ‘a city in danger!’” he insisted. Together with dozens of volunteers from across Japan, Ikarashi has visited many areas throughout the radiation exclusion zone. He confidently asserts that his $600 made in U.S "Geiger counter" has detected no abnormal amount of radiation.

Ikarashi is troubled by the fact that the milk business he manages suffered a 90% drop in sales as a result of radiation fears. Some farmers have been forced to throw away their milk, and at least one local farmer is rumored to have committed suicide over the ruin of his business.

Following the government announcement of level 7, Ikarashi observed that “residents will not listen; they don’t trust the government. The greatest concern for locals is to restore their towns and I’m doing my best to restore Iwaki City.”

Honma Hiroshi, 56, on patrol with the SDF in Iwaki comments: “I’m surprised that local people are so calm. Even within the 30 km radiation exclusion zone, they don’t even wear special anti-radiation clothes (Taibex). Even after the level 7 announcement, there has been no panic in the city."

Desperation over the destruction of the local economy appears to have provoked an unscientific optimism concerning radiation in some local communities struggling to get back on their feet.

Shortage of Information and Aid for Fukushima Citizens in the Radiation Exclusion Zone

Ikarashi points out that the reason for the absence of trustworthy information and the presence of baseless gossip is “lack of information”; the national media tend to avoid entering the radiation exclusion zone, fearing contamination and merely regurgitate the claims of the local government and officials obtained by telephone.

A more intense form of the same crisis struck Minami-Soma City, closer to the nuclear plant within the 20 km zone but on its northern side. For more than a week, the city was like an island bereft of food, water, and gasoline. Finally, in desperation, on March 24, Mayor Sakurai Katsunobu sent an SOS  to the world through YouTube begging for support to his dying community.


Mayor Sakurai Katsunobu

Mayor Sakurai explained that his gambit of airing a Youtube call for help succeeded in drawing the attention of the central government, and Tokyo has taken seriously subsequent requests. However, Sakurai, said that as of April 6, only 20,000 residents remained of a population of 70,000. “We have to think of the means to save the remaining weak people (aged people and someone who do not have money to evacuate)", Sakurai said sadly.


Minami Soma City

On April 7, the mayor made a second Youtube, observing that "Many businesses had started operating. But, there is no reliable information on the nuclear reactor!"

In the nuclear radiation exclusion zone close to the plant, large numbers of people are out of work. The Fukushima Labor Bureau, on March 29, said that as a result of the East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami disaster, about 58,000 people in approximately 4,800 work places within the 30 km exclusion zone around the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor have lost jobs.

Local people voice concern that the jobless rate is being inflated as a result of pernicious rumors. At the same time that the school ceremony was being held, a long queue of people was lined up in front of the Public Employment Agency in Taira, Iwaki from 8 a.m. in hope of finding work.


Public Employment Agency, Taira

"Before, people formed queues several kilometers long at gas stations; now people stand in a long line at the employment agency," Mori Akira, 63, pastor of the Global Mission Chapel, sighed.

Shimoyamada Matsuto, 50, director of public relations for Iwaki city Disaster Management Headquarters, explained, "Since harmful rumors are so powerful, not only are farming and fishing industries affected, even some industries have been damaged as a result of claims that even machines are contaminated!"

Fukushima provides one third of the electric power for the Tokyo Metropolitan Area, including both nuclear and thermal power plants. “If Fukushima goes down, the entire capital region will panic!" Shimoyamada warned.

Study Session with Hatoyama Yukio and Freelance Journalists: Questioning the Media, the Government and TEPCO

In Tokyo, on April 6, a group of freelance journalists centered on Uesugi Takashi, 43, held a media session with dozens of DPJ lawmakers, including former Prime Minister Hatoyama Yukio, to question the performance of the media in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.


Hatoyama Yukio (right) Uesugi Takashi (left) at media conference

Kawauchi Hiroshi, a DPJ member of the House of Representative, stated that “Information about radiation diffusion should be correctly revealed to the nation. However, so far only once was this done."He explained the frustration of local officials. "The information from TEPCO (Tokyo Electronic Power Company) should be precisely conveyed. I talked to the mayor of Iidate village (in the 30km zone), whotold me, 'There is no information and I do not know what to do.'"

The Media Corruption that Protects TEPCO

Uesugi Takashi explained the core of the problem behind misinformation and rumors.

"Freelance journalists and foreign media are pursuing the facts, even going into the radiation exclusion zone. However, surprisingly, the Japan government continues to prevent freelance journalists and overseas media from gaining access to official press conferences at the prime minister's house and government."

Uesugi stated that since March 11th, the government has excluded all internet media and all foreign media from official press conferences on the "Emergency Situation". While foreign media have scrambled to gather informationabout the Fukushima Reactor, they have been denied access to the direct information provided by the government and one consequence of this is that "rumor-rife news has been broadcast overseas."

In fact, access has been limited in two ways. First, while Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio holds twice daily press conferences for representatives of the big Japanese media, registered representatives of freelance and internet media are limited to a single press conference per week. Second, in contrast to Japanese media who are briefed regularly by Edano and periodically by Prime Miniser Kan, foreign media are briefed exclusively by administrative staff.

Uesugi also notes that at TEPCO press conferences, which are now being held at company headquarters, foreign correspondents and Japanese freelancers regularly ask probing questions while mainstream journalists simply record and report company statements reiterating that the situation is basically under control and there is nothing to worry about. One reason for this, Uesugi suggests, is that TEPCO, a giant media sponsor, has an annual 20 billion yen advertising budget. "The media keeps defending the information from TEPCO!” “The Japanese media today is no different from the wartime propaganda media that kept repeating to the very end that ‘Japan is winning the war against America,’” Uesugi exclaimed.

There is one particularly telling example of the media shielding TEPCO by suppressing information. This concerns “plutonium”. According to Uesugi, after the reactor blew up on March 14, there was concern about the leakage of plutonium. However, astonishingly, until two weeks later when Uesugi asked, not a single media representative had raised the question of plutonium at TEPCO's press conferences.

On March 26, in response to Uesugi’s query, TEPCO stated, “We do not measure the level of plutonium and do not even have a detector to scale it.” Ironically, the next day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano announced that “plutonium was detected”.

When TEPCO finally released data on radioactive plutonium on March 28, it stated that plutonium -238, -239, and -240 were found in the ground, but insisted that it posed no human risk. Since TEPCO provided no clarification of the meaning of the plutonium radiation findings, the mainstream press merely reported the presence of the radiation without assessment (link). Nippon Television on March 29 headlined its interview with Tokyo University Prof. Nakagawa Keiichi, a radiation specialist, “Plutonium from the power plant—No effect on neighbors.”

On March 15, Uesugi criticized TEPCO for its closed attitude toward information on a TBS radio program. For this, he was immediately dismissed from his regular program. The scandal involving TEPCO’s silencing of the media took an interesting turn two weeks later. At the time of the disaster on March 11, TEPCO Chairman Katsumata Tsunehisa was hosting dozens of mainstream media executives on a “study session” in China.When asked about this fact by freelance journalist Tanaka Ryusaku at a TEPCO press conference on March 30, Katsumata defended the practice.

“It is a fact that we traveled together to China,” he said, “[TEPCO] did not pay all the expenses of the trip, but we paid more than they did. Certainly they are executives of the mass media, but they are all members of the study session.”

When Tanaka requested the names of the media executives hosted by TEPCO in China, Katsumata retorted, “I cannot reveal their names since this is private information.” But it is precisely such collusive relations between mainstream media, the government and TEPCO, that results in the censorship of information concerning nuclear problems.

Now the Japanese government has moved to crack down on independent reportage and criticism of the government’s policies in the wake of the disaster by deciding what citizens may or may not talk about in public. A new project team has been created by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, the National Police Agency, and METI to combat “rumors” deemed harmful to Japanese security in the wake of the Fukushima disaster.

The government charges that the damage caused by earthquakes and by the nuclear accident are being magnified by irresponsible rumors, and the government must take action for the sake of the public good. The project team has begun to send “letters of request” to such organizations as telephone companies, internet providers, cable television stations, and others, demanding that they “take adequate measures based on the guidelines in response to illegal information. ”The measures include erasing any information from internet sites that the authorities deem harmful to public order and morality.


Makiko Segawa is a staff writer at the Shingetsu News Agency. She prepared this report from Fukushima and Tokyo. She can be reached at

Recommended citation: Makiko Segawa, Fukushima Residents Seek Answers Amid Mixed Signals From Media, TEPCO and Government. Report from the Radiation Exclusion Zone, The Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 16 No 2, April 18, 2011.

Nuclear Power: Adequate Insurance Too Expensive

BERLIN  — From the U.S. to Japan, it's illegal to drive a car without sufficient insurance, yet governments have chosen to run the world's 443 nuclear power plants with hardly any insurance coverage whatsoever.

Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear disaster, which will leave taxpayers there with a massive bill, highlights one of the industry's key weaknesses — that nuclear power is a viable source for cheap energy only if plants go uninsured. The plant's operator, Tepco, had no disaster insurance.

Governments that use nuclear energy are torn between the benefit of low-cost electricity and the risk of a nuclear catastrophe, which could total trillions of dollars and even bankrupt a country.

The bottom line is that it's a gamble: Governments are hoping to dodge a one-time disaster while they accumulate small gains over the long-term. Yet in financial terms, nuclear incidents can be so devastating that the cost of full insurance would be so high as to make nuclear energy more expensive than fossil fuels.

The cost of a worst-case nuclear accident at a German plant, for example, has been estimated to total as much as euro7.6 trillion ($11 trillion), while the mandatory reactor insurance is only euro2.5 billion ($3.65 billion).

"The euro2.5 billion will be just enough to buy the stamps for the letters of condolence," said Olav Hohmeyer, an economist at the University of Flensburg who is also a member of the German government's environmental advisory body.

One estimate by a German think tank shows that coverage for every euro1 trillion ($1.5 trillion) in estimated damages would theoretically cost annual insurance of euro47 billion ($68.5 billion).

A similar situation exists for nuclear plants in the U.S., Japan, China, France and other countries.

It is still unclear what the final cost will be for the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, crippled by Japan's March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Operator Tepco's shares have been battered, and analysts say Japan — which already has the highest debt level among the world's industrialized nations — might eventually have to nationalize the company and take on its massive liabilities.

"Around the globe, nuclear risks — be it damages to power plants or the liability risks resulting from radiation accidents — are covered by the state. The private insurance industry is barely liable," said Torsten Jeworrek, a board member at Munich Re, one of the world's biggest reinsurance companies.

In Switzerland, the obligatory insurance for nuclear plants is being raised from 1 to 1.8 billion Swiss francs ($2 billion), but a government agency estimates that a Chernobyl-style disaster might cost more than 4 trillion francs — about eight times the country's annual economic output.

A major nuclear accident is statistically extremely unlikely when human errors, natural disasters or terror attacks are excluded, but the world has already suffered three in just about thirty years — Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and now Fukushima.

Many countries back nuclear energy as a cleaner alternative to fossil fuels, even though right now there still is no solution for the permanent disposal of radioactive waste.

Governments could opt for a middle road, taking out more insurance to protect taxpayers from massive bills, but that would make nuclear energy cost more. Ultimately, the decision to keep insurance on nuclear plants to a minimum is a way of supporting the industry.

"Capping the insurance was a clear decision to provide a non-negligible subsidy to the technology," said Klaus Toepfer, a former German environment minister and longtime head of the U.N. Environment Programme (UNEP), said.

The nuclear insurance in Germany costs utilities euro12 million ($17 million) a year or euro0.008 cents ($0.015 cents) per kilowatt hour of electricity, a tiny part of the final energy cost to customers of about euro.22 (32 cents).

Increasing the liability coverage to, say, euro100 billion ($146 billion) would lead to a premium of about euro3.20 ($4.67) per kilowatt hour, according to Bettina Meyer of the Berlin think tank Green Budget Germany.

China, which is under international pressure to lower its use of coal and cut its carbon emissions, is betting on nuclear power to feed its rising energy demand. Yet it has an industry insurance pool covering damages only up to 300 million yuan ($46 million) and another 800 million yuan from the government to compensate victims, too little to cover damages in any meaningful way.

The situation is not much better among veteran users of nuclear energy.

In the U.S., where no new reactors have been planned and completed since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, the necessary insurance for nuclear operators is capped at just $375 million per plant by law, with further claims funded by the utilities up to a maximum of $12.6 billion.

France, a country dotted with 58 reactors, only requires an insurance of euro91 million ($133 million) from plant operators, with the government guaranteeing liabilities up to euro228 million ($333 million). The figures were similar for Britain, Russia and the Czech Republic.

Damage estimates for a worst-case nuclear disaster differ widely because it is difficult to forecast the spillover effects of a meltdown — death and illness from radiation, compensation for lost work and the economic impact of massive evacuations for years.

The cost of a nuclear meltdown at the Indian Point reactors, located 24 miles (37 kilometers) north of New York City has been estimated at up to $416 billion in a study. But that does not take into full account the impact on one of the world's great cities.

"A worst-case scenario could lead to the closure of New York City for years, as happened at Chernobyl ... leading to almost unthinkable costs," University of Pennsylvania's Howard Kunreuther and Columbia University's Geoffrey Heal said in their 2009 study.

On Wednesday, following a brief visit to Ukraine's crippled Chernobyl reactor, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned that the "unfortunate truth is that we are likely to see more such disasters."

"To many, nuclear energy looks to be a relatively clean and logical choice in an era of increasing resource scarcity. Yet the record requires us to ask painful questions: have we correctly calculated its risks and costs?" Ban said.

In Germany, where Chernobyl's radiation wave blew over in 1986, a 1992 study for the government, the latest official report available, found the total cost of health damages and other economic losses by a nuclear disaster could amount to euro7.6 trillion ($11.1 trillion) in today's money.

"If you take all external costs into account, the conclusion is inevitable: Nuclear power is not economically viable," Hohmeyer said. "The risk is only bearable if you externalize it on the wider society."

The majority of Germans and its political parties have concluded that the potential damage outweighs the benefits, and the country now stands alone among industrialized nations in its determination to abandon nuclear power.

But Dieter Marx of Germany's Nuclear Forum, an industry lobby, says no industry has prices that reflect all of its risks, and insists that the risk of a meltdown was very low.

"Ultimately, it comes down to the question of how big a risk the society is ready to bear," he said.

Frank Jordans in Geneva, Camille Rusticci in Paris, Yu Bing in Beijing, Jon Fahey in Washington, Jim Heintz in Moscow and Shino Yuasa in Tokyo contributed to this report.

Radiation Expert: "...I Think It Prudent to Stop Drinking Milk"

Guest Post: Radiation Expert Says “Sr-90 and Uranium and Particulates Will Be Building Up in the USA and Europe … For Now I Think It Prudent To Stop Drinking Milk”

Washington’s Blog

Preface: I take very seriously any warning about consuming a product which is important for the local economy. But when a respected radiation expert issues this type of warning, I have to pass it on.

I wrote to radiation expert Dr. Chris Busby to ask him if he thought people living outside of Japan should take any actions to try to reduce their radiation exposure:

Epidemiologist Dr. Wing thinks people outside of Japan shouldn’t do anything to attempt to reduce radiation exposure: Leading Epidemiologist: Instead of Trying to Avoid Japanese Radiation, Put Your Energy Into Demanding a Saner Energy Policy

But the French anti-nuclear NGO CRIIAD says that pregnant women and infants should take steps to reduce exposure: French Nuclear Group Warns that Children and Pregnant Mothers Should Protect Themselves from Radiation

I’ve also researched the scientific literature, and found that antioxidants can help a little: Can Vitamins or Herbs Help Protect Us from Radiation?

What’s your advice for people outside of Japan?

Professor Busby replied:

I attach my “don’t panic” paper. However, since then I have re-thought this advice as the thing is still fissioning and releasing 10 to the fourteen becquerels a day. This will mean that Sr-90 [strontium 90] and Uranium and particulates will be building up in the USA and Europe. I will assess this later but for now I think it prudent to stop drinking milk. I also attach the particulates note.

Busby – Fukuparticles2(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(”script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(”script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

Busby – Dont Panic(function() { var scribd = document.createElement(”script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(”script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();

Disclaimer: I am not a health professional or radiation expert.

via Yves Smith

naked capitalism

Copyright © 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 Aurora Advisors Incorporated

In Nuclear Accident, Risks Extend Beyond Evacuation Zone

by Renee Schoof

WASHINGTON — The nuclear power accidents at Fukushima this spring and at Chernobyl 25 years ago Tuesday show that radiation releases can endanger people and contaminate land many miles beyond evacuation zones.

One hundred and four nuclear power plants in thirty-one states provide 20 percent of the electricity used in the United States. The advocacy group Physicians for Nuclear Responsibility, which opposes nuclear power, said Tuesday that the U.S. 10-mile evacuation plan was inadequate and should be extended to 50 miles. One-third of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of nuclear power plants.(Credit: Los Alamos National Laboratory) The advocacy group Physicians for Nuclear Responsibility, which opposes nuclear power, said Tuesday that the U.S. 10-mile evacuation plan was inadequate and should be extended to 50 miles. One-third of the U.S. population lives within 50 miles of nuclear power plants.

In Japan, much of the radiation plume went over the Pacific Ocean in the early weeks after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but wind's and rain drove some of it onto land. The release of radioactive materials raises the risk of cancer, especially for children, who are more vulnerable than adults, Ira Helfand, a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, said at a news conference.

The Chernobyl accident in 1986 in the former Soviet Union contaminated 58,000 square miles of land, stretching as far as 300 miles north of the plant, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported. Unlike the Fukushima plants or U.S. plants, Chernobyl had no concrete and steel structure to contain accidental releases.

The Fukushima accident spread fallout beyond the government's initial 12-mile evacuation zone as a result of explosions. At Fukushima and in the U.S., the pools where spent radioactive fuel is stored aren't inside the containment structure.

Measurements of soil samples as far as 30 miles from the Fukushima plant have detected cesium-137, a long-lived radioactive element that human bodies can absorb. It was measured at levels that were above the cutoff that was used to determine the permanent exclusion zone around Chernobyl, said Andrew Kanter, the president-elect of Physicians for Social Responsibility.

Other measurements, at playgrounds outside the exclusion zone, showed levels equivalent to the limit of radiation permitted for an adult nuclear-plant worker. That amount would mean that one in 200 children would get cancer as a direct result of the exposure, Helfand said.

The U.S. nuclear industry said American experts had determined that it was highly unlikely that evacuation would be necessary beyond 10 miles, even in a worst-case accident. The U.S. observes a 50-mile zone to limit exposure to contaminated water, milk and food, and local officials could expand an evacuation order if they thought it necessary, Steve Kerekes, a spokesman for the industry's Nuclear Energy Institute, said in an email.


In Japan, work is still under way to cool the reactor cores and spent-fuel pools to stop further releases of airborne radioactive materials.

"Once they decide how to put the reactors into some sort of safe storage mode, they will need to deal with the contamination in and around the plants," said Kathryn Higley, a professor of radiation health physics at Oregon State University.

When the cleanup phase begins, workers probably will use shovels to remove contaminated soil for disposal in a nuclear landfill, said Lake Barrett, a former official with the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission who was involved in the cleanup of Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania after a nuclear accident there in 1979.

Some of the land that's cleaned up in Japan might end up being good enough for a factory or a parking lot, but not for a garden or a pasture, he said in an interview.

"It took 10 years for Three Mile Island," Barrett said, "and that was simple compared to what they've got."


Physicians for Social Responsibility says the risks of nuclear power to public health and of nuclear proliferation are too high.

The group reported Tuesday that it had used a computer simulation to model what would happen in the case of a complete meltdown and massive release of radiation from a power plant in a metropolitan area. It studied Braidwood, outside Chicago. The projection was that 20,000 people might get lethal doses, and thousands of doctors and firefighters would be unable to work because the radiation levels would be so high.

Scientists still debate how many deaths were due to Chernobyl's radiation releases. A U.S. National Research Council report concluded that there's no safe level of radiation and cancer risks rise with increased exposure.

Deadly Silence on Fukushima

by Vivian Norris

I received the following email a few days ago from a Russian nuclear physicist friend who is an expert on the kinds of gases being released at Fukushima. Here is what he wrote:

"About Japan: the problem is that the reactor uses "dirty" fuel. It is a combination of plutonium and uranium (MOX). I suspect that the old fuel rods have bean spread out due to the explosion and the surrounding area is contaminated with plutonium which means you can never return to this place again. It is like a new Tchernobyl. Personally, I am not surprised that the authority has not informed people about this."

I have been following the Fukushima story very closely since the earthquake and devastating tsunami. I have asked scientists I know, nuclear physicists and others about where they find real information. I have also watched as the news has virtually disappeared. There is something extremely disturbing going on and having lived through the media blackout in France back in April and early May 1986, and speaking to doctors who are deeply concerned by the dramatic increase in cancers appearing at very young ages, it is obvious that information is being held back. We are still told not to eat mushrooms and truffles from parts of Europe, not wild boar and reindeer from Germany and Finland 25 years later.

A special thanks to people like European Representative Michele Rivasi who has followed this issue since Chernobyl: Michelle Rivasi, a Green MEP and founder of France's Commission for Independent Research and Information on Radioactivity, told EurActiv that she was worried the tests would cover up nuclear risks and reinstate business as usual.

"It's very important to have scientists who are not already paid by the nuclear power industry," she said. "If they are the same people from Euratom and national authorities they use today, why would they say anything different to what they say all the time?"

One resource for information on Chernobyl deaths and cancers/illnesses was only just recently translated and can be found online: Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment by Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko, and Alexey Nesterenko

Another very good report (pdf) on Chernobyl is this one which also outlines the disturbing relationship between WHO and the nuclear industry.

The best site I have found for up to date information by nuclear industry experts is:

Arnie Gundersen was a high level executive for years and analyzes the information he has been receiving in a calm and scientific way. His latest update is entitled, "Fukushima Groundwater Contamination Worst in Nuclear History". Gundersen is in touch with senior members of the Japanese nuclear establishment. What is highly disturbing is that the main reason Japan does not appear to be as bad a Chernobyl is that the wind was blowing out to sea and not for the most part towards land. But all this has done is spread the cancers out into the worldwide population as opposed to concentrating it all in Japan. It will be very difficult to tell, as it was in France, Scandinavia and other places where the Chernobyl cloud travelled in the days following the disaster. I will summarize some of Gunderson's very disturbing and important information here:

1. There was a hydrogen explosion and it was a detonation not a deflagration, in other words the fire burned up not burned down.

2. A frame by frame analysis shows a flame which confirms that the fuel pool is burning as a result of an explosion which started as a hydrogen explosion but that could not have lifted the fuel into the air so there must have been a violent explosion at the bottom of the fuel pool. But more data is needed.

3. Gunderson speaks about past criticalities in other nuclear reactors around the world, and I fin d it odd we are not hearing about these and how they can teach us about what is going on now at Fukushima.

4. Radioactive water is being pumped out and ground water is contaminated so there must be a leak or leaks and this disaster is in no way contained. There will be contamination for a long time to come and this ground water contamination is moving inland. One town is reporting radioactive sewage sludge from ground water or rainwater.

5. The Greenpeace ship Rainbow water has requested the Japanese government to test the waters near Japan and Japan has refused this independent data request. The EPA has also shut down all inspection centers and is NOT inspecting fish. (Why the silence?)

Since Gunderson made this latest video, just a day or so ago new photo evidence seems to be showing burning and new fires taking place at Fukushima (from TBS JNN Japan).

Why is this not on the front page of every single newspaper in the world? Why are official agencies not measuring from many places around the world and reporting on what is going on in terms of contamination every single day since this disaster happened? Radioactivity has been being released now for almost two full months! Even small amounts when released continuously, and in fact especially continuous exposure to small amounts of radioactivity, can cause all kinds of increases in cancers.

One reason no one is reporting on this nor allowed to go inside the exclusion zone nor even measure the waters off of Japan is because of the following compiled by Makiko Segawa, a staff writer at the Shingetsu News Agency. She prepared this report from Fukushima and Tokyo for

"Freelance journalists and foreign media are pursuing the facts, even going into the radiation exclusion zone. However, surprisingly, the Japan government continues to prevent freelance journalists and overseas media from gaining access to official press conferences at the prime minister's house and government."

Uesugi stated that since March 11th, the government has excluded all internet media and all foreign media from official press conferences on the "Emergency Situation". While foreign media have scrambled to gather informationabout the Fukushima Reactor, they have been denied access to the direct information provided by the government and one consequence of this is that "rumor-rife news has been broadcast overseas."

In fact, access has been limited in two ways. First, while Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano Yukio holds twice daily press conferences for representatives of the big Japanese media, registered representatives of freelance and internet media are limited to a single press conference per week. Second, in contrast to Japanese media who are briefed regularly by Edano and periodically by Prime Miniser Kan, foreign media are briefed exclusively by administrative staff.

Uesugi also notes that at TEPCO press conferences, which are now being held at company headquarters, foreign correspondents and Japanese freelancers regularly ask probing questions while mainstream journalists simply record and report company statements reiterating that the situation is basically under control and there is nothing to worry about. One reason for this, Uesugi suggests, is that TEPCO, a giant media sponsor, has an annual 20 billion yen advertising budget. "The media keeps defending the information from TEPCO!" "The Japanese media today is no different from the wartime propaganda media that kept repeating to the very end that 'Japan is winning the war against America,'" Uesugi exclaimed.

There is one particularly telling example of the media shielding TEPCO by suppressing information. This concerns "plutonium". According to Uesugi, after the reactor blew up on March 14, there was concern about the leakage of plutonium. However, astonishingly, until two weeks later when Uesugi asked, not a single media representative had raised the question of plutonium at TEPCO's press conferences.

On March 26, in response to Uesugi's query, TEPCO stated, "We do not measure the level of plutonium and do not even have a detector to scale it." Ironically, the next day, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano announced that "plutonium was detected".

When TEPCO finally released data on radioactive plutonium on March 28, it stated that plutonium -238, -239, and -240 were found in the ground, but insisted that it posed no human risk. Since TEPCO provided no clarification of the meaning of the plutonium radiation findings, the mainstream press merely reported the presence of the radiation without assessment (link). Nippon Television on March 29 headlined its interview with Tokyo University Prof. Nakagawa Keiichi, a radiation specialist, "Plutonium from the power plant--No effect on neighbors."

On March 15, Uesugi criticized TEPCO for its closed attitude toward information on a TBS radio program. For this, he was immediately dismissed from his regular program. The scandal involving TEPCO's silencing of the media took an interesting turn two weeks later. At the time of the disaster on March 11, TEPCO Chairman Katsumata Tsunehisa was hosting dozens of mainstream media executives on a "study session" in China.When asked about this fact by freelance journalist Tanaka Ryusaku at a TEPCO press conference on March 30, Katsumata defended the practice.

"It is a fact that we traveled together to China," he said, "[TEPCO] did not pay all the expenses of the trip, but we paid more than they did. Certainly they are executives of the mass media, but they are all members of the study session."

When Tanaka requested the names of the media executives hosted by TEPCO in China, Katsumata retorted, "I cannot reveal their names since this is private information." But it is precisely such collusive relations between mainstream media, the government and TEPCO, that results in the censorship of information concerning nuclear problems.
Now the Japanese government has moved to crack down on independent reportage and criticism of the government's policies in the wake of the disaster by deciding what citizens may or may not talk about in public. A new project team has been created by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communication, the National Police Agency, and METI to combat "rumors" deemed harmful to Japanese security in the wake of the Fukushima disaster".

We need to demonstrate and write to our representatives and demand that measuring be done around the world continuously. Fukushima's nuclear disaster is still going on. People need accurate information to protect themselves. Here is how after Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Chernobyl doctors worked with those who had been contaminated to decontaminate them:

"Macrobiotic Diet Prevents Radiation Sickness Among A-Bomb Survivors in Japan - In August, 1945, at the time of the atomic bombing of Japan, Tatsuichiro Akizuki, M.D., was director of the Department of Internal Medicine at St. Francis's Hospital in Nagasaki. Most patients in the hospital, located one mile from the center of the blast, survived the initial effects of the bomb, but soon after came down with symptoms of radiation sickness from the fallout that had been released. Dr. Akizuki fed his staff and patients a strict macrobiotic diet of brown rice, miso soup, wakame and other sea vegetables, Hokkaido pumpkin, and sea salt and prohibited the consumption of sugar and sweets. As a result, he saved everyone in his hospital, while many other survivors in the city perished from radiation sickness.

"I gave the cooks and staff strict orders that they should make unpolished whole-grain rice balls, adding some salt to them, prepare strong miso soup for each meal, and never use sugar. When they didn't follow my orders, I scolded them without mercy, 'Never take sugar. Sugar will destroy your blood!'. . .

"This dietary method made it possible for me to remain alive and go on working vigorously as a doctor. The radioactivity may not have been a fatal dose, but thanks to this method, Brother Iwanaga, Reverend Noguchi, Chief Nurse Miss Murai, other staff members and in-patients, as well as myself, all kept on living on the lethal ashes of the bombed ruins. It was thanks to this food that all of us could work for people day after day, overcoming fatigue or symptoms of atomic disease and survive the disaster" free from severe symptoms of radioactivity." [Sources: Tatsuichiro Akizuki, M.D., Nagasaki 1945 (London: Quartet Books, 1981); Tatsuichiro Akizuki, "How We Survived Nagasaki," East West Journal, December 1980.]

People need answers, data and honest information to help them deal with what is going on. Media blackouts, propaganda and greedy self-interested industries, of any kind, who allow human beings' health to be affected, and deaths to occur, must be stopped now. That senior TEPCO man and the leading nuclear academic in Japan did not break down crying and resign their positions because all was well at Fukushima. Think about it world, and act now before it is too late.

Problems Cited With Backup Power at 32 US Nuclear Plants

Tests Show 32 U.S. Nuclear Reactors Pose Threat

by Beth Daley

Nuclear plant emergency generators like those that failed in Japan following the March earthquake and tsunami also failed during tests at the Seabrook Station in New Hampshire and 32 other US plants in the past eight years, according to a report by US Representative Edward J. Markey’s office.

The report was issued yesterday by the Malden Democrat’s office as a federal task force vouched for the safety of the nation’s nuclear plants in the aftermath of the Japanese crisis, triggered in part by the failure of backup generators at one plant.

The Seabrook incident, according to the report, took place in August 2006, when the plant shut down because of “inoperable emergency diesel generators.’’ The generators were inoperable for one day.

Alan Griffith, a spokesman for NextEra, which owns Seabrook, said the problem occurred when one of two backup generators was taken down for routine maintenance and a voltage problem occurred at the other during a test. It was quickly repaired, but Nuclear Regulatory Commission rules require the plant to shut down if a certain number of generators are not operational.

Markey criticized the NRC for becoming too cozy with the industry it oversees and compromising safety. The report noted that NRC regulations do not require emergency diesel generators to be operational when there is no fuel in a nuclear reactor core — creating the possibility that in a power failure, spent fuel rods stored on site could be left without a functioning cooling system. In Japan, large amounts of radioactive material escaped from a spent-fuel pool at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after cooling systems failed. Japanese officials said yesterday that one of the reactors at that plant appears to be more damaged than originally thought.

“An examination of NRC regulations demonstrates that flawed assumptions and under-estimation of safety risks are currently an inherent part of the NRC regulatory program, due to a long history of decisions made by prior Commissions or by the NRC staff that have all too often acquiesced to industry requests for a weakening of safety standards,’’ the report said.

Markey, a nuclear opponent, hopes the report persuades the NRC not to issue license extensions for nuclear plants until it finishes reviews and upgrades its safety requirements. That appears unlikely to happen — since the Japan quake, the agency has approved a 20-year license renewal at Vermont Yankee and at three reactors at an Arizona plant.

But even as the task force gave safety assurances yesterday, its members said they are likely to recommend changes in rules to enhance safety and preparedness of US plants — and lower the level of risk. The group, made up of senior NRC staffers, said it will address a range of issues at nuclear plants, including their ability to cope with prolonged power outages caused by earthquakes, fires, or other catastrophes.

Markey’s report homed in on backup generators whose failures rendered them inoperable for at least a day, noting there have been at least 69 reports of problems with emergency diesel generators during testing at 33 nuclear plants. A total of 48 reactors were affected. The failures included 19 that lasted over two weeks and six that lasted longer than a month, the report says.

Neil Sheehan, a NRC spokesman, said that the agency takes “the maintenance and testing of emergency diesel generators very seriously, as their lack of availability raises plant safety risk. The NRC has taken enforcement action against many plants for problems involving the generators. We also track issues associated with them through our Performance Indicators and inspections.’’

At Seabrook, Griffith stressed that there are three separate power lines that come into the plant and multiple levels of redundancy in case of power loss.

“These generators are not used to run the plant [day to day], they are for emergencies,’’ he said. “What is most important is that there are multilayered safety systems in place to ensure there is always sufficient power.’’

At the Globe’s request, the NRC searched its records for reports of other problems involving backup generators at New England plants. The agency said it found problems at both Seabrook and the Pilgrim Nuclear Station in Plymouth and there could be more. Most involved tests or inspections of the systems.

In 2001, a violation of “low to moderate safety significance’’ was given to Seabrook for not fixing degraded components related to emergency generation. And the plant got the same level of violation in November 2009 when it failed to assure suitable parts were chosen for a generator, which failed as a result.

Pilgrim, owned by Entergy, also received two citations, although for more minor issues. In 2005, it failed to develop adequate instructions to start a diesel generator if power was lost — during an actual loss of power to auxiliary equipment, a generator did not start. And in May 2009, it was cited by the agency for failing to ensure there was an adequate supply of air to generators, which resulted in one generator becoming inoperable during a test. Entergy fixed that problem right away, and a spokeswoman said yesterday that both issues were minor.

“In both instances, two other emergency diesel generators were available as backup power if needed during the short time frame the others were not operable, as well as other electric power sources,’’ spokeswoman Carol Wightman said.

Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.

In Japan Reactor Failings, Danger Signs for the U.S.

by Hiroko Tabuchi, Keith Bradsher and Matthew L. Wald.

TOKYO — Emergency vents that American officials have said would prevent devastating hydrogen explosions at nuclear plants in the United States were put to the test in Japan — and failed to work, according to experts and officials with the company that operates the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The failure of the vents calls into question the safety of similar nuclear power plants in the United States and Japan. After the venting failed at the Fukushima plant, the hydrogen gas fueled explosions that spewed radioactive materials into the atmosphere, reaching levels about 10 percent of estimated emissions at Chernobyl, according to Japan’s nuclear regulatory agency.

Venting was critical to relieving pressure that was building up inside several reactors after the March 11 tsunami knocked out the plant’s crucial cooling systems. Without flowing water to cool the reactors’ cores, they had begun to dangerously overheat.

American officials had said early on that reactors in the United States would be safe from such disasters because they were equipped with new, stronger venting systems. But Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant, now says that Fukushima Daiichi had installed the same vents years ago.

Government officials have also suggested that one of the primary causes of the explosions was a several-hour delay in a decision to use the vents, as Tokyo Electric managers agonized over whether to resort to emergency measures that would allow a substantial amount of radioactive materials to escape into the air.

But the release this week of company documents and interviews with experts provides the most comprehensive evidence yet that mechanical failures and design flaws in the venting system also contributed to delays. The documents paint a picture of increasing desperation at the plant in the early hours of the disaster, as workers who had finally gotten the go-ahead to vent realized that the system would not respond to their commands.

While venting would have allowed some radioactive materials to escape, analysts say that those releases would have been far smaller than those that followed the explosions at three of the plant’s reactors, which blew open containment buildings meant to serve as a first line of defense against catastrophe. The blasts may also have been responsible for breaches in containment vessels that have complicated efforts to cool the fuel rods and contain radioactive leaks from the site.

One reason the venting system at the plant, which was built by General Electric, did not work is that it relied on the same sources of electricity as the rest of the plant: backup generators that were in basements at the plant and vulnerable to tsunamis. But the earthquake may also have damaged the valves that are part of the venting system, preventing them from working even when operators tried to manually open them, Tokyo Electric officials said.

In either case, regulators in the United States and Japan will now need to determine if such systems at similar plants designed by G.E. need to undergo expensive and time-consuming retrofitting or redesign to allow them to function even in severe accidents.

“Japan is going to teach us lessons,” said David Lochbaum at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “If we’re in a situation where we can’t vent where we need to, we need to fix that.”

Officials from General Electric did not comment on Tuesday.

The seriousness of the crisis at the Fukushima plant became evident within hours of the quake and the tsunami that rushed over the plant’s sea wall.

Just 12 hours after the quake, the pressure inside Reactor No. 1 had reached roughly twice the maximum pressure the unit had been designed to withstand, raising fears the vessels that fuel rods would rupture, setting a possible meltdown in motion. With the pressure high, pumping in additional cooling water also was not possible.

The government became rattled enough that it ordered Tokyo Electric to begin venting. But even then, Tokyo Electric’s executives continued to deliberate, according to a person close to government efforts to bring the reactors under control. The exchanges became so heated, the person said, that the company’s nuclear chief, Vice President Sakae Muto, and the stricken plant’s director, Masao Yoshida, engaged in a “shouting match” — a rarity in reserved Japan.

Mr. Yoshida wanted to vent as soon as possible, but Mr. Muto was skeptical whether venting would work, the person said, requesting anonymity because he is still an adviser to the government and is not permitted to comment publicly. “There was hesitation, arguments and sheer confusion over what to do,” he said.

The executives did not give the order to begin venting until Saturday — more than 17 hours after the tsunami struck and 6 hours after the government order to vent.

As workers scrambled to comply with their new directive, they faced a cascading series of complications.

The venting system is designed to be operated from the control room, but operators’ attempts to turn it on failed, most likely because the power to open a critical valve was out. The valves are designed so they can also be opened manually, but by that time, workers found radiation levels near the venting system at Reactor No. 1 were already too high to approach, according to Tokyo Electric’s records.

At Reactor No. 2, workers tried to manually open the safety valves, but pressure did not fall inside the reactor, making it unclear whether venting was successful, the records show. At Reactor No. 3, workers tried seven times to manually open the valve, but it kept closing, the records say.

The results of the failed venting were disastrous.

Reactor No. 1 exploded first, on Saturday, the day after the earthquake. Reactor No. 3 came next, on Monday. And No. 2 exploded early Tuesday morning.

With each explosion, radioactive materials surged into the air, forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands of earthquake survivors living near the plant, contaminating crops and sending a faint plume of radioactive isotopes as far as the United States within days. Aerial photos of the reactor buildings showed No. 1 and 3 had been blown apart and another was seriously damaged.

As the troubles mounted, Tokyo Electric and government officials conducted a series of news conferences that began to suggest the scope of the damage. The blasts, they said, probably caused breaches in containment vessels that are among the final layers of protection against meltdowns and even larger releases of radioactive materials.

Tokyo Electric in recent days has acknowledged that damage at the plant was worse than previously thought, with fuel rods most likely melting completely at Reactors 1, 2 and 3 in the early hours of the crisis, raising the danger of more catastrophic releases of radioactive materials. The company also said new evidence seemed to confirm that at Reactor No. 1, the pressure vessel, the last layer of protection, was broken and leaking radioactive water.

The improved venting system at the Fukushima plant was first mandated for use in the United States in the late 1980s as part of a “safety enhancement program” for boiling-water reactors that used the Mark I containment system, which had been designed by General Electric in the 1960s. Between 1998 and 2001, Tokyo Electric followed suit at Fukushima Daiichi, where five of six reactors use the Mark I design.

The company said that was the case this week, after a review of Japanese regulatory filings made in 2002 showed that the vents had been installed.

The fortified venting system addressed concerns that the existing systems were not strong enough to channel pent-up pressure inside the reactors in an emergency. Pressure would be expected to rise along with temperature, damaging the zirconium cladding on the fuel rods at the reactor core and allowing them to react chemically with water to produce zirconium oxide and hydrogen gas.

The new vents were designed to send steam and gas directly from the reactor’s primary containment, which houses the reactor vessel, racing past the usual filters and gas treatment systems that would normally slow releases of gas and eliminate most radioactive materials.

But the emergency vents were fitted with numerous safeguards, some of which require electricity to work, rendering them useless when all power is lost at a nuclear plant, experts say.

The most important of those safeguards is a valve, operated from a switch under lock and key in the control room, that must be opened for the vents to work. When a key is inserted into the keyboard in the nuclear reactor’s control room and turned, the valves are supposed to open, letting gases rush out of the reactor building.

Tokyo Electric has said the valves did not work at Fukushima Daiichi after the power failed.

That would suggest that operators of similar plants in the United States and Japan could protect reactors by moving generators to higher floors if the equipment is currently in places that could be affected by tsunamis or flooding from rivers.

But a redesign of the venting system itself might also be necessary.

The design is the result of conflicting schools of thought among United States nuclear officials, said Michael Friedlander, a former senior operator at several American nuclear power plants.

Mr. Friedlander said, referring to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission: “You have the N.R.C. containment isolation guys who want containment closed, always, under every conceivable accident scenario, and then you’ve got the reactor safety guys who need containment to be vented under severe accident scenarios. It is a very controversial system.”

Hiroko Tabuchi reported from Tokyo, Keith Bradsher from Hong Kong, and Matthew L. Wald from Washington.

Copyright 2011 The New York Times

IAEA Knew of Meltdowns, Kept News from Public for Weeks

Join TD Ameritrade + start trading today.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Guest Post: IAEA Knew Within Weeks of Japanese Earthquake that Reactors Had Melted Down … Public Not Told for a Month and a Half

Washington’s Blog

As I noted last week, reactors 1, 2 and 3 all melted down within hours of the Japanese earthquake.

On Monday, Mainchi Daily News provided an important tidbit:

A meltdown occurred at one of the reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant three and a half hours after its cooling system started malfunctioning, according to the result of a simulation using “severe accident” analyzing software developed by the Idaho National Laboratory.

Chris Allison [a former manager and technical leader at Idaho National Laboratory], who had actually developed the analysis and simulation software, reported the result to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in late March. It was only May 15 when Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) admitted for the first time that a meltdown had occurred at the No. 1 reactor at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

According to Allison’s report obtained by the Mainichi, the simulation was based on basic data on light-water nuclear reactors at the Laguna Verde Nuclear Power Plant in Mexico that are about the same size as that of the No. 1, 2, and 3 reactors in Fukushima.

According to the simulation, the reactor core started melting about 50 minutes after the emergency core cooling system of the No. 1 reactor stopped functioning and the injection of water into the reactor pressure vessel came to a halt. About an hour and 20 minutes later, the control rod and pipes used to gauge neutrons started melting and falling onto the bottom of the pressure vessel. After about three hours and 20 minutes, most of the melted fuel had piled up on the bottom of the pressure vessel. At the four hour and 20 minute mark, the temperature of the bottom of the pressure vessel had risen to 1,642 degrees Celsius, close to the melting point for the stainless steel lining, probably damaging the pressure vessel.

In other words, the IAEA knew in late March that there was a meltdown. The IAEA informs all of its member states of important nuclear developments.

Government agencies sat on this information, and the world didn’t learn the truth until the operator of the stricken reactors itself made the announcement a month and a half later.

This is not entirely surprising given that governments have been covering up nuclear meltdowns for fifty years to protect the nuclear industry.

H/t: Ex-Skf

via Naked Capitalism

35% Spike in Infant Mortality in NW US Cities Since Fukushima

Is the Dramatic Increase in Baby Deaths in the US a Result of Fukushima Fallout?



U.S. babies are dying at an increased rate. While the United States spends billions on medical care, as of 2006, the US ranked 28th in the world in infant mortality, more than twice that of the lowest ranked countries.  (DHHS, CDC, National Center for Health Statistics.  Health United States 2010, Table 20, p. 131, February 2011.)

The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age:

4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 - 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011  - 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week)

This amounts to an increase of 35% (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3%), and is statistically significant.   Of further significance is that those dates include the four weeks before and the ten weeks after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster.  In 2001 the infant mortality was 6.834 per 1000 live births, increasing to 6.845 in 2007. All years from 2002 to 2007 were higher than the 2001 rate. 

Spewing from the Fukushima reactor are radioactive isotopes including those of iodine (I-131), strontium (Sr-90) and cesium (Cs-134 and Cs-137) all of which are taken up in food and water.  Iodine is concentrated in the thyroid, Sr-90 in bones and teeth and Cs-134 and Cs-137 in soft tissues, including the heart.  The unborn and babies are more vulnerable because the cells are rapidly dividing and the delivered dose is proportionally larger than that delivered to an adult.

Data from Chernobyl, which exploded 25 years ago, clearly shows increased numbers of sick and weak newborns and increased numbers of deaths in the unborn and newborns, especially soon after the meltdown.  These occurred in Europe as well as the former Soviet Union. Similar findings are also seen in wildlife living in areas with increased radioactive fallout levels.
(Chernobyl – Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment,  Alexeiy    V. Yablokov, Vasily B. Nesterenko, and Alexey V. Nesterenko.  Consulting Editor:  Janette D. Sherman-Nevinger. New York Academy of Sciences, 2009.)

Levels of radioisotopes were measured in children who had died in the Minsk area that had received Chernobyl fallout.  The cardiac findings were the same as those seen in test animals that had been administered Cs-137.  Bandashevsky, Y. I, Pathology of Incorporated Ionizing Radiation, Belarus Technical University, Minsk. 136 pp., 1999.  For his pioneering work, Prof. Bandashevsky was arrested in 2001 and imprisoned for five years of an eight year sentence.

The national low-weight (under 2500 grams, or 5.5 lbs) rate has risen 23% from 1984 to 2006.  Nearly 400,000 infants are born under 2500g each year in the U.S.  Most of the increase in infant mortality is due  specifically to infants born weighing less than 750 grams (I lb 10 1/2 oz).  Multiple births commonly result in underweight babies, but most of the increase in births at less than 750 grams occurred among singletons and among mothers 20-34 years of age.  (CDC, National Vital Statistics Report, 52 (12): 1-24, 2005.)

From an obstetrical point of view, women in the age bracket 20 to 34 are those most physically able to deliver a healthy child.  So what has gone wrong?   Clues to causation are often revealed when there is a change in incidence, a suspicious geographical distribution, and/or an increase in hazards known to adversely affect health and development.

The risk of having a baby with birth defects is estimated at three to four of every 100 babies born.  As of 2005, the Institute of medicine estimated the cost of pre-term births in the US at more than $2.6 billion, or $51,600 for each infant. 

Low birth weight babies, born too soon and too small, face a lifetime of health problems, including cerebral palsy, and behavioral and learning problems placing an enormous physical, emotional and economic burdens on society as a whole and on those caring for them.  Death of a young child is devastating to a family.

As of June 5, 2011, The Japan Times reported that radiation in the No. 1 plant was measured at 4,000 milliseverts per hour.  To put that in perspective, a worker would receive a maximal “permissible” dose in 4 minutes.  In addition there are over 40,000 tons of radioactive water under that reactor with more radioactivity escaping into the air and sea.  Fuel rods are believed to have melted and sunk to the bottom of reactors 1, 2, and 3. 

Tepco, the corporate owner took more than two months to confirm the meltdowns and admitted lying about the levels of destruction and subsequent contamination, resulting in “Public Distrust.” Over 100,000 tons of radioactive waste are on the site.

Why should we care if there may be is a link between Fukushima and the death of children?  Because we need to measure the actual levels of isotopes in the environment and in the bodies of people exposed to determine if the fallout is killing our most vulnerable.  The research is not technically difficult – the political and economic barriers may be greater.  Bandshevsky and others did it and confirmed the connection.  The information is available in the Chernobyl book.  (Previously cited.)

The biological findings of Chernobyl cannot be ignored:  isotope incorporation will determine the future of all life on earth – animal, fish, bird, plant and human.  It is crucial to know this information if we are to avoid further catastrophic damage.

Janette D. Sherman, M. D. is the author of Life's Delicate Balance: Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer and Chemical Exposure and Disease, and is a specialist in internal medicine and toxicology. She edited the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature, written by A. V. Yablokov, V. B., Nesterenko and A. V. Nesterenko, published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009.  Her primary interest is the prevention of illness through public education.  She can be reached at:  and

Joseph Mangano is an epidemiologist, and Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project research group.

Fukushima: It's Much Worse Than You Think

Scientific experts believe Japan's nuclear disaster to be far worse than governments are revealing to the public.

by Dahr Jamail

"Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind," Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president, told Al Jazeera.

Japan's 9.0 earthquake on March 11 caused a massive tsunami that crippled the cooling systems at the Tokyo Electric Power Company's (TEPCO) nuclear plant in Fukushima, Japan. It also lead to hydrogen explosions and reactor meltdowns that forced evacuations of those living within a 20km radius of the plant.

Gundersen, a licensed reactor operator with 39 years of nuclear power engineering experience, managing and coordinating projects at 70 nuclear power plants around the US, says the Fukushima nuclear plant likely has more exposed reactor cores than commonly believed.

"Fukushima has three nuclear reactors exposed and four fuel cores exposed," he said, "You probably have the equivalent of 20 nuclear reactor cores because of the fuel cores, and they are all in desperate need of being cooled, and there is no means to cool them effectively."

TEPCO has been spraying water on several of the reactors and fuel cores, but this has led to even greater problems, such as radiation being emitted into the air in steam and evaporated sea water - as well as generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive sea water that has to be disposed of.

"The problem is how to keep it cool," says Gundersen. "They are pouring in water and the question is what are they going to do with the waste that comes out of that system, because it is going to contain plutonium and uranium. Where do you put the water?"

Even though the plant is now shut down, fission products such as uranium continue to generate heat, and therefore require cooling.

"The fuels are now a molten blob at the bottom of the reactor," Gundersen added. "TEPCO announced they had a melt through. A melt down is when the fuel collapses to the bottom of the reactor, and a melt through means it has melted through some layers. That blob is incredibly radioactive, and now you have water on top of it. The water picks up enormous amounts of radiation, so you add more water and you are generating hundreds of thousands of tons of highly radioactive water."

Independent scientists have been monitoring the locations of radioactive "hot spots" around Japan, and their findings are disconcerting.

"We have 20 nuclear cores exposed, the fuel pools have several cores each, that is 20 times the potential to be released than Chernobyl," said Gundersen. "The data I'm seeing shows that we are finding hot spots further away than we had from Chernobyl, and the amount of radiation in many of them was the amount that caused areas to be declared no-man's-land for Chernobyl. We are seeing square kilometres being found 60 to 70 kilometres away from the reactor. You can't clean all this up. We still have radioactive wild boar in Germany, 30 years after Chernobyl."

Radiation monitors for children

Japan's Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters finally admitted earlier this month that reactors 1, 2, and 3 at the Fukushima plant experienced full meltdowns.

TEPCO announced that the accident probably released more radioactive material into the environment than Chernobyl, making it the worst nuclear accident on record.

Meanwhile, a nuclear waste advisor to the Japanese government reported that about 966 square kilometres near the power station - an area roughly 17 times the size of Manhattan - is now likely uninhabitable.

In the US, physician Janette Sherman MD and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano published an essay shedding light on a 35 per cent spike in infant mortality in northwest cities that occurred after the Fukushima meltdown, and may well be the result of fallout from the stricken nuclear plant.

The eight cities included in the report are San Jose, Berkeley, San Francisco, Sacramento, Santa Cruz, Portland, Seattle, and Boise, and the time frame of the report included the ten weeks immediately following the disaster.

"There is and should be concern about younger people being exposed, and the Japanese government will be giving out radiation monitors to children," Dr MV Ramana, a physicist with the Programme on Science and Global Security at Princeton University who specialises in issues of nuclear safety, told Al Jazeera.

Dr Ramana explained that he believes the primary radiation threat continues to be mostly for residents living within 50km of the plant, but added: "There are going to be areas outside of the Japanese government's 20km mandatory evacuation zone where radiation is higher. So that could mean evacuation zones in those areas as well."

Gundersen points out that far more radiation has been released than has been reported.

"They recalculated the amount of radiation released, but the news is really not talking about this," he said. "The new calculations show that within the first week of the accident, they released 2.3 times as much radiation as they thought they released in the first 80 days."

According to Gundersen, the exposed reactors and fuel cores are continuing to release microns of caesium, strontium, and plutonium isotopes. These are referred to as "hot particles".

"We are discovering hot particles everywhere in Japan, even in Tokyo," he said. "Scientists are finding these everywhere. Over the last 90 days these hot particles have continued to fall and are being deposited in high concentrations. A lot of people are picking these up in car engine air filters."

Radioactive air filters from cars in Fukushima prefecture and Tokyo are now common, and Gundersen says his sources are finding radioactive air filters in the greater Seattle area of the US as well.

The hot particles on them can eventually lead to cancer.

"These get stuck in your lungs or GI tract, and they are a constant irritant," he explained, "One cigarette doesn't get you, but over time they do. These [hot particles] can cause cancer, but you can't measure them with a Geiger counter. Clearly people in Fukushima prefecture have breathed in a large amount of these particles. Clearly the upper West Coast of the US has people being affected. That area got hit pretty heavy in April."

Blame the US?

In reaction to the Fukushima catastrophe, Germany is phasing out all of its nuclear reactors over the next decade. In a referendum vote this Monday, 95 per cent of Italians voted in favour of blocking a nuclear power revival in their country. A recent newspaper poll in Japan shows nearly three-quarters of respondents favour a phase-out of nuclear power in Japan.

Why have alarms not been sounded about radiation exposure in the US?

Nuclear operator Exelon Corporation has been among Barack Obama's biggest campaign donors, and is one of the largest employers in Illinois where Obama was senator. Exelon has donated more than $269,000 to his political campaigns, thus far. Obama also appointed Exelon CEO John Rowe to his Blue Ribbon Commission on America's Nuclear Future.

Dr Shoji Sawada is a theoretical particle physicist and Professor Emeritus at Nagoya University in Japan.
He is concerned about the types of nuclear plants in his country, and the fact that most of them are of US design.

"Most of the reactors in Japan were designed by US companies who did not care for the effects of earthquakes," Dr Sawada told Al Jazeera. "I think this problem applies to all nuclear power stations across Japan."

Using nuclear power to produce electricity in Japan is a product of the nuclear policy of the US, something Dr Sawada feels is also a large component of the problem.

"Most of the Japanese scientists at that time, the mid-1950s, considered that the technology of nuclear energy was under development or not established enough, and that it was too early to be put to practical use," he explained. "The Japan Scientists Council recommended the Japanese government not use this technology yet, but the government accepted to use enriched uranium to fuel nuclear power stations, and was thus subjected to US government policy."

As a 13-year-old, Dr Sawada experienced the US nuclear attack against Japan from his home, situated just 1400 metres from the hypocentre of the Hiroshima bomb.

"I think the Fukushima accident has caused the Japanese people to abandon the myth that nuclear power stations are safe," he said. "Now the opinions of the Japanese people have rapidly changed. Well beyond half the population believes Japan should move towards natural electricity."   

A problem of infinite proportions

Dr Ramana expects the plant reactors and fuel cores to be cooled enough for a shutdown within two years.
"But it is going to take a very long time before the fuel can be removed from the reactor," he added. "Dealing with the cracking and compromised structure and dealing with radiation in the area will take several years, there's no question about that."

Dr Sawada is not as clear about how long a cold shutdown could take, and said the problem will be "the effects from caesium-137 that remains in the soil and the polluted water around the power station and underground. It will take a year, or more time, to deal with this".

Gundersen pointed out that the units are still leaking radiation.

"They are still emitting radioactive gases and an enormous amount of radioactive liquid," he said. "It will be at least a year before it stops boiling, and until it stops boiling, it's going to be cranking out radioactive steam and liquids."

Gundersen worries about more earthquake aftershocks, as well as how to cool two of the units.

"Unit four is the most dangerous, it could topple," he said. "After the earthquake in Sumatra there was an 8.6 [aftershock] about 90 days later, so we are not out of the woods yet. And you're at a point where, if that happens, there is no science for this, no one has ever imagined having hot nuclear fuel lying outside the fuel pool. They've not figured out how to cool units three and four."

Gundersen's assessment of solving this crisis is grim.

"Units one through three have nuclear waste on the floor, the melted core, that has plutonium in it, and that has to be removed from the environment for hundreds of thousands of years," he said. "Somehow, robotically, they will have to go in there and manage to put it in a container and store it for infinity, and that technology doesn't exist. Nobody knows how to pick up the molten core from the floor, there is no solution available now for picking that up from the floor."

Dr Sawada says that the creation of nuclear fission generates radioactive materials for which there is simply no knowledge informing us how to dispose of the radioactive waste safely.

"Until we know how to safely dispose of the radioactive materials generated by nuclear plants, we should postpone these activities so as not to cause further harm to future generations," he explained. "To do otherwise is simply an immoral act, and that is my belief, both as a scientist and as a survivor of the Hiroshima atomic bombing."

Gundersen believes it will take experts at least ten years to design and implement the plan.

"So ten to 15 years from now maybe we can say the reactors have been dismantled, and in the meantime you wind up contaminating the water," Gundersen said. "We are already seeing Strontium [at] 250 times the allowable limits in the water table at Fukushima. Contaminated water tables are incredibly difficult to clean. So I think we will have a contaminated aquifer in the area of the Fukushima site for a long, long time to come."

Unfortunately, the history of nuclear disasters appears to back Gundersen's assessment.

"With Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, and now with Fukushima, you can pinpoint the exact day and time they started," he said, "But they never end."

Health experts unheard on health effects of Fukushima

Industry Views Prevail on Radiation Risks

Health experts unheard on health effects of Fukushima

by Steve Rendall and Patrick Morrison

U.S. media coverage of the nuclear disaster in Japan contains vanishingly little serious discussion of the human health risks posed by the radiation escaping from the Fukushima nuclear facility.

In place of a discussion informed by experts on these risks, journalism largely conveys vague, industry-friendly reassurances, frequently including no sources with expertise on the health effects of radiation on humans. U.S. media coverage of the nuclear disaster in Japan contains vanishingly little serious discussion of the human health risks posed by the radiation escaping from the Fukushima nuclear facility. (photo: SandoCap)

New York Times reporter William Broad reported (3/22/11) that “health experts” deemed a radiation plume that had reached the U.S. from Japan to be harmless:

Health experts said that the plume’s radiation had been diluted enormously in its journey of thousands of miles and that—at least for now, with concentrations so low—its presence will have no health consequences in the United States. In a similar way, faint radiation from the Chernobyl disaster spread around the globe and reached the West Coast in 10 days, its levels detectable but minuscule.


Who were Broad’s “health experts”? He didn’t name any, unless you count the Department of Energy, which is better known for promoting nuclear energy than for its medical expertise. Broad wrote that the DOE said that the radiation plumes, in his words, “posed no health hazard.”

There is scientific disagreement about the risks of ionizing radiation. Some scientists hold that there’s no evidence that low-level radiation is harmful (e.g., Health Physics Society, 7/10), or insist, for instance, that the accidental radiation release at Three Mile Island caused little or no harm to humans (NRC Backgrounder, 8/09). But the prevailing scientific view is that there’s no threshold below which radiation exposure is safe—in other words, that all radiation, including the ever-present background radiation, is a potential health risk—and that the risk decreases linearly, so that even decreasing a radiation dose by 99 percent still leaves 1 percent of the risk. According to this “linear, no-threshold” model of radiation risk, a given amount of human radiation exposure will produce the same number of cancers, no matter how many people it is distributed among.

In 2006, the National Academy of Sciences concluded, in the final paragraph of its 323-page report on the biological effect of ionizing radiation, that current scientific evidence “is consistent with the hypothesis that there is a linear, no-threshold dose-response relationship between exposure to ionizing radiation and the development of cancer in humans.”

An Extra! survey of New York Times and Washington Post coverage and commentary on the first eight days of the Fukushima story found that Broad’s reporting was typical. Out of 89 Fukushima articles appearing in the two papers during the period (3/12–19/11), no story mentioned the NAS’s conclusions specifically, nor generally described the notion that there was no safe level of radiation exposure.

Just 6 percent of total sources were presented as health experts—that is, medical or scientific experts with specialized knowledge of the effects of ionizing radiation on humans—and of these, only two-thirds were actually identified by name. These sources were used to comment on, for instance, comparisons between the Fukushima and Chernobyl accidents, the wisdom of taking iodine to ward off thyroid cancer, whether or not Japanese imports posed a threat to the U.S., and the levels of radiation exposure facing Japanese reactor workers and civilians.

With few exceptions, these sources did not play down radiation risks in Japan, but neither paper cited a single health expert warning that radiation from Japan might pose any real threat to the United States. For instance, regarding the radioactive plume passing over the U.S. from Japan, the Times (3/19/11) quoted a spokesperson from the California Department of Public Health saying that “all data from state and federal sources show that harmful levels of radiation won’t reach California.’’

In the case of the unnamed experts, identified, for instance, as “health experts,” “scientists” or “studies,” it wasn’t clear that the journalists had actually consulted with sources. For instance, the Times (3/17/11) reported, “Health and nuclear experts emphasize that radiation in the plume will be diluted as it travels and, at worst, would have extremely minor health consequences in the United States, even if hints of it are ultimately detectable.”

So dismissive was the coverage of health concerns that among articles that mentioned radiation and human health issues, just 30 percent (17 of 57) included one or more sources identified or presented as a health experts including unnamed sources—a rate that held constant in both papers.

Reassuring claims were often attributed to sources with no identified expertise in relevant scientific fields, as in a Times article (3/16/11) that reported that “experts say” Japanese officials had “taken precautions” concerning public health that would prevent Fukushima from “becoming another Chernobyl, even if additional radiation is released.”

Journalists may like to seek simple (and reassuring) answers from “science,” but science is rarely so straightforward. A 1990 Columbia University study found that local increases in cancers following the Three Mile Island accident couldn’t be conclusively attributed to radiation releases (American Journal of Epidemiology, 9/90). But a 1997 follow-up by the University of North Carolina, led by epidemiologist Steve Wing (see "Coverage of Radiation Risks 'Astonishingly Irresponsible,'" Extra!, 7/11), faulted the Columbia researchers, whose court-ordered study allowed insurance companies to influence scientific questions, for accepting unreasonably low assumptions about the magnitude of radiation releases in the disaster. Wing’s team concluded that the releases had contributed to cancer increases (Environmental Health Perspectives, 1/97). Corporate journalists, however, virtually always reflect the Columbia study’s findings (e.g., Associated Press, 3/16/11; Washington Post, 9/14/10).

Even within scientific circles that acknowledge the harmful effects of low-level radiation, there is a spectrum of views. The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation Chernobyl assessment (2008) predicted 6,000 additional cases of thyroid cancer, but little other low-level radiation damage to people. Using some of the same data, the Union of Concerned Scientists (4/22/11) predicted that Chernobyl would end up causing 50,000 excess cancers, and 25,000 additional deaths. A large array of scientific publications assessed in the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment (New York Academy of Sciences, 2009) suggested that Chernobyl has already contributed to hundreds of thousands of excess deaths.

While it might be beyond the abilities of daily journalists to determine who is right in these scientific disagreements, it’s not hard to convey that they exist, a fact that would be hard to glean from corporate media. But the short history of scientific literature about the effects of ionizing radiation on humans demonstrates that the scientists who have urged more caution have had their views vindicated over time.

For decades, distinguished scientists who insisted, contra industry claims, that there was no safe level of radiation exposure suffered professional marginalization for challenging the nuclear establishment. The late nuclear chemist and medical researcher John Gofman first argued against the notion there were safe levels of radiation in the 1960s as the director of the Biomedical Research Division at the DOE’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. Gofman’s clashes with the DOE over its notions of safe radiation levels resulted in his being stripped of research funding and his departure from Livermore in the early 1970s.

However, in recent years several major scientific organizations have adopted the views of Gofman and his colleagues. In addition to the NAS, Gofman’s no-threshold model has been adopted by the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (2000), the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (2001) and the United States Research Council (an arm of the NAS, 2004), among others.

In reporting on technical scientific issues such as radiation effects, journalists inexpert in the relevant fields of science are wrong to take sides. The best they can do is to inform readers on the range of opinions and the track records and relative independence of the researchers behind them. This is clearly not being done with regard to the Fukushima fallout—a failing that could have dangerous consequences.



Fukushima Radiation Highest Ever, Exceeding Measurement Limit

Fukushima Radiation Highest Ever, Exceeding Capacity of Measuring Device ... Fuel Likely Leaking Out Of Containment Vessel

Things are - literally - heating up again at Fukushima:

In related news from Japan:

But Reuters notes that the world's most hazardous nuclear plant in terms of worker radiation exposure is in the U.S., not Japan. This Reuters graphic ranks the world's 5 most hazardous plants (Fukushima is only the 5th most hazardous):

(click for better image).

Other U.S. nuclear updates include:

One piece of good news. The river level outside the Fort Calhoun nuclear plant has dropped to 1006 feet, well below the critical 1014 foot danger level:

The Explosive Truth Behind Fukushima's Meltdown

by David McNeill in Tokyo and Jake Adelstein

It is one of the mysteries of Japan's ongoing nuclear crisis: How much damage did the 11 March earthquake inflict on the Fukushima Daiichi reactors before the tsunami hit?

The stakes are high: if the earthquake structurally compromised the plant and the safety of its nuclear fuel, then every similar reactor in Japan may have to be shut down. With almost all of Japan's 54 reactors either offline (in the case of 35) or scheduled for shutdown by next April, the issue of structural safety looms over any discussion about restarting them.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) and Japan's government are hardly reliable adjudicators in this controversy. "There has been no meltdown," government spokesman Yukio Edano repeated in the days after 11 March. "It was an unforeseeable disaster," Tepco's then president Masataka Shimizu famously and improbably said later. Five months since the disaster, we now know that meltdown was already occurring as Mr Edano spoke. And far from being unforeseeable, the disaster had been repeatedly forewarned by industry critics.

Throughout the months of lies and misinformation, one story has stuck: it was the earthquake that knocked out the plant's electric power, halting cooling to its six reactors. The tsunami then washed out the plant's back-up generators 40 minutes later, shutting down all cooling and starting the chain of events that would cause the world's first triple meltdown.

But what if recirculation pipes and cooling pipes burst after the earthquake – before the tidal wave reached the facilities; before the electricity went out? This would surprise few people familiar with the 40-year-old reactor one, the grandfather of the nuclear reactors still operating in Japan.

Problems with the fractured, deteriorating, poorly repaired pipes and the cooling system had been pointed out for years. In September 2002, Tepco admitted covering up data about cracks in critical circulation pipes. In their analysis of the cover-up, The Citizen's Nuclear Information Center writes: "The records that were covered up had to do with cracks in parts of the reactor known as recirculation pipes. These pipes are there to siphon off heat from the reactor. If these pipes were to fracture, it would result in a serious accident in which coolant leaks out."

On 2 March, nine days before the meltdown, government watchdog the Nuclear Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) warned Tepco on its failure to inspect critical pieces of equipment at the plant, including recirculation pumps. Tepco was ordered to make the inspections, perform repairs if needed and report to NISA on 2 June. It does not appear, as of now, that the report has been filed.

The Independent has spoken to several workers at the plant who recite the same story: serious damage, to piping and at least one of the reactors, occurred before the tsunami hit. All have requested anonymity because they are still working at or connected with the stricken plant. Worker A, a maintenance engineer who was at the Fukushima complex on the day of the disaster, recalls hissing, leaking pipes.

"I personally saw pipes that had come apart and I assume that there were many more that had been broken throughout the plant. There's no doubt that the earthquake did a lot of damage inside the plant... I also saw that part of the wall of the turbine building for reactor one had come away. That crack might have affected the reactor."

The reactor walls are quite fragile, he notes: "If the walls are too rigid, they can crack under the slightest pressure from inside so they have to be breakable because if the pressure is kept inside... it can damage the equipment inside so it needs to be allowed to escape. It's designed to give during a crisis, if not it could be worse – that might be shocking to others, but to us it's common sense." Worker B, a technician in his late 30s who was also on site at the time of the earthquake, recalls: "It felt like the earthquake hit in two waves, the first impact was so intense you could see the building shaking, the pipes buckling, and within minutes I saw pipes bursting. Some fell off the wall...

"Someone yelled that we all needed to evacuate. But I was severely alarmed because as I was leaving I was told and I could see that several pipes had cracked open, including what I believe were cold water supply pipes. That would mean that coolant couldn't get to the reactor core. If you can't sufficiently get the coolant to the core, it melts down. You don't have to have to be a nuclear scientist to figure that out." As he was heading to his car, he could see that the walls of the reactor one building had started to collapse. "There were holes in them. In the first few minutes, no one was thinking about a tsunami. We were thinking about survival."

The suspicion that the earthquake caused severe damage to the reactors is strengthened by reports that radiation leaked from the plant minutes later. The Bloomberg news agency has reported that a radiation alarm went off about a mile from the plant at 3.29pm, before the tsunami hit.

The reason for official reluctance to admit that the earthquake did direct structural damage to reactor one is obvious. Katsunobu Onda, author of Tepco: The Dark Empire, explains it this way: A government or industry admission "raises suspicions about the safety of every reactor they run. They are using a number of antiquated reactors that have the same systematic problems, the same wear and tear on the piping." Earthquakes, of course, are commonplace in Japan.

Mitsuhiko Tanaka, a former nuclear plant designer, describes what occurred on 11 March as a loss-of-coolant accident. "The data that Tepco has made public shows a huge loss of coolant within the first few hours of the earthquake. It can't be accounted for by the loss of electrical power. There was already so much damage to the cooling system that a meltdown was inevitable long before the tsunami came."

He says the released data shows that at 2.52pm, just after the quake, the emergency circulation equipment of both the A and B systems automatically started up. "This only happens when there is a loss of coolant." Between 3.04 and 3.11pm, the water sprayer inside the containment vessel was turned on. Mr Tanaka says that it is an emergency measure only done when other cooling systems have failed. By the time the tsunami arrived and knocked out all the electrical systems, at about 3.37pm, the plant was already on its way to melting down.

Kei Sugaoka, who conducted on-site inspections at the plant and was the first to blow the whistle on Tepco's data tampering, says he was not surprised by what happened. In a letter to the Japanese government, dated 28 June 2000, he warned that Tepco continued to operate a severely damaged steam dryer in the plant 10 years after he pointed out the problem. The government sat on the warning for two years.

"I always thought it was just a matter of time," he says of the disaster. "This is one of those times in my life when I'm not happy I was right."

During his research, Mr Onda spoke with several engineers who worked at the Tepco plants. One told him that often piping would not match up to the blueprints. In that case, the only solution was to use heavy machinery to pull the pipes close enough together to weld them shut. Inspection of piping was often cursory and the backs of the pipes, which were hard to reach, were often ignored. Repair jobs were rushed; no one wanted to be exposed to nuclear radiation longer than necessary.

Mr Onda adds: "When I first visited the Fukushima Power Plant it was a web of pipes. Pipes on the wall, on the ceiling, on the ground. You'd have to walk over them, duck under them – sometimes you'd bump your head on them. The pipes, which regulate the heat of the reactor and carry coolant are the veins and arteries of a nuclear power plant; the core is the heart. If the pipes burst, vital components don't reach the heart and thus you have a heart attack, in nuclear terms: meltdown. In simpler terms, you can't cool a reactor core if the pipes carrying the coolant and regulating the heat rupture – it doesn't get to the core."

Tooru Hasuike, a Tepco employee from 1977 until 2009 and former general safety manager of the Fukushima plant, says: "The emergency plans for a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima plant had no mention of using seawater to cool the core. To pump seawater into the core is to destroy the reactor. The only reason you'd do that is no other water or coolant was available."

Before dawn on 12 March, the water levels at the reactor began to plummet and the radiation began rising. The Tepco press release published just past 4am that day states: "The pressure within the containment vessel is high but stable." There was one note buried in the release that many people missed: "The emergency water circulation system was cooling the steam within the core; it has ceased to function."

At 9.51pm, under the chief executive's orders, the inside of the reactor building was declared a no-entry zone. At around 11pm, radiation levels for the inside of the turbine building, which was next door to reactor reached levels of 0.5 to 1.2 mSv per hour. In other words, the meltdown was already underway. At those levels, if you spent 20 minutes exposed to those radiation levels you would exceed the five-year limit for a nuclear reactor worker in Japan.

Sometime between 4 and 6am, on 12 March, Masao Yoshida, the plant manager decided it was time to pump seawater into the reactor core and notified Tepco. Seawater was not pumped in until hours after a hydrogen explosion occurred, at roughly 8pm. By then, it was probably already too late.

Later that month, Tepco went some way toward admitting at least some of these claims in a report called "Reactor Core Status of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station Unit One". The report said there was pre-tsunami damage to key facilities, including pipes.

"This means that assurances from the industry in Japan and overseas that the reactors were robust is now blown apart," said Shaun Burnie, an independent nuclear waste consultant who works with Greenpeace. "It raises fundamental questions on all reactors in high seismic risk areas."

As Mr Burnie points out, Tepco also admitted massive fuel melt 16 hours after loss of coolant, and seven or eight hours before the explosion in Unit One. "Since they must have known all this, their decision to flood with massive water volumes would guarantee massive additional contamination – including leaks to the ocean."

No one knows how much damage was done to the plant by the earthquake, or if this damage alone would account for the meltdown. But certainly Tepco's data and eyewitness testimony indicates that the damage was significant.

As Mr Hasuike says: "Tepco and the government of Japan have provided many explanations. They don't make sense. The one thing they haven't provided is the truth. It's time they did."

Sea Radiation from Fukushima Seen Triple Tepco Estimate

by Yuko Takeo

TOKYO -- Radioactive material released into the sea in the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis is more than triple the amount estimated by plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co, Japanese researchers say.

The upper point of Unit 2 water intake is seen before the installation of concrete plates for mitigation of radioactive contamination in the ocean at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in Fukushima prefecture, in this handout photo taken and released July 5, 2011. (Tokyo Electric Power Co/Handout) Japan's biggest utility estimated around 4,720 trillion becquerels of cesium-137 and iodine-131 was released into the Pacific Ocean between March 21 and April 30, but researchers at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) put the amount 15,000 trillion becquerels, or terabecquerels.

Government regulations ban shipment of foodstuff containing over 500 becquerels of radioactive material per kg.

Takuya Kobayashi, a researcher at the agency, said on Friday the difference in figures was probably because his team measured airborne radioactive material that fell into the ocean in addition to material from contaminated water that leaked from the plant.

He believed Tepco excluded radiation that originally came from airborne material. The report does not include cesium-134 as the research group initially lacked resources to measure it, meaning the amount of estimated radioactive material will increase with further calculations.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami knocked out reactor cooling systems at Fukushima Daiichi, 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo, triggering meltdowns and radiation leaks.

Huge amounts of contaminated water accumulated during efforts to cool the reactors, with much of it reaching the sea, and radiation has been found in fish, seaweed and other seafood.

Tepco edged closer this week to its near-term goal of bringing the reactors to a state of cold shutdown by January, with the temperature at the second of three damaged units falling below boiling point.


Effect of Contaminated Soil on Food Chain Sparks Fears

Cesium absorption through roots may have long-term effect on farming

by Mizuho Aoki

Six months after the nuclear meltdowns in Fukushima Prefecture, the public's awareness of the threat posed by radiation is entering a new phase: the realization that the biggest danger now and in the future is from contaminated soil.

The iodine-131 ejected into the sky by the Fukushima No. 1 power station disaster was quickly detected in vegetables and tap water — even as far away as Tokyo, 220 km south of the plant.

But contamination levels are now so low they are virtually undetectable, thanks to the short half-life of iodine-131 — eight days — and stepped up filtering by water companies.

But cesium is proving to be a tougher foe. The element's various isotopes have half-lives ranging from two to 30 years, generating concern about the food chain in Fukushima Prefecture, a predominantly agricultural region, as the elements wash fallout into the ground.

The root of the problem is, well — roots.

Cesium-134 and cesium-137 are viewed as potential health threats because vegetables can absorb the isotopes from the soil they're planted in.

"Until early spring, produce was contaminated (on the surface with radioactive materials) that the No. 1 plant discharged into the atmosphere. But now, the major route of contamination is through plant roots," said Kunikazu Noguchi, a radiation protection expert at Nihon University.

Whether absorption by plant roots can affect human health remains to be seen. Experts are warning that the region's soil and agricultural products will require close monitoring for many years.

At the moment, sampling data collected by the various prefectural governments indicate that no vegetables, except for those grown in Fukushima Prefecture, have been found to contain more than the government's provisional limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram since June.

Likewise, as of Sept. 7, samples of pork, chicken, milk and fruit had also tested within the provisional radiation limit, apart from Fukushima products and tea from Chiba, Kanagawa, Gunma, Tochigi, Saitama and Ibaraki prefectures.

In fact, the amount of radioactive materials in most of the food sampled has been steadily declining over the past few months, except for produce from Fukushima.

"The results of Fukushima's sampling tests show the amountof radioactive material contained in vegetables has dropped sharply in recent months, including those grown in areas with high radiation levels," Noguchi said.

"People shouldn't worry about it much (for the time being)," he said. "But mushrooms and other vegetables grown in contaminated forests are likely tocontain high levels of radioactive materials."

Now that soil in a wide area of eastern Japan has been contaminated with cesium, experts are calling for close monitoring of soil and produce.

The education ministry conducted soil surveys in June and July at 2,200 locations within 100 km of the crippled plant. At 34 locations in six municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture, including Minamisoma, Namie and Iitate, the data said cesium levels had exceeded 1.48 million becquerels per sq. meter — the same level that was used to define the exclusion zone around Chernobyl in 1986.

Yasuyuki Muramatsu, a radiochemistry professor at Gakushuin University, said that agricultural contamination will likely peak this year because cesium binds more strongly with minerals in soil as time passes, making it more difficult to be absorbed by plant roots.

"Data from the Chernobyl disaster show that radioactive cesium in soil tends to become fixed more strongly to clay minerals as time passes. So agricultural contamination will lessen next year," he said.

Muramatsu urged that special caution should be taken over products grown in soil rich in organic matter, such as in forested areas.

"If the soil is rich in organic matter, it makes (cesium) more easily transferable to plants. . . . Forest soil is rich in organic matter, so people should be careful," he said.

"This year, it's very important to conduct thorough surveys. The contamination will continue for a long time, so data collection is essential," Muramatsu said.

"We need to be prepared for the following years by recording data this year and studying the rate at which cesium in the soil is absorbed by each kind of produce," Muramatsu said.

In the meantime, the radioactivity itself will continue to weaken over the years. Cesium-134 has a half-life of 2 years and cesium-137 a half-life of 30 years, meaning the radiation they emit will drop by half in 2 years and 30 years.

The ratio of cesium-134 to cesium-137 in the Fukushima accident is estimated as 1-to-1, while the ratio during the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was 1-to-2. This indicates the radiation in Fukushima will weaken at a faster rate than at Chernobyl.

Between April and early August, the farm ministry tested soil at some 580 locations in six prefectures, including Fukushima, Tochigi and Gunma, to get a better picture of the full extent of contamination.

According to the results, 40 locations in Fukushima Prefecture had an intensity exceeding 5,000 becquerels per kilogram — the government's maximum limit for growing rice. Many municipalities within 30 km of the Fukushima No. 1 plant were banned from planting rice based on similar tests conducted in April.

In addition, the ministry has asked 17 prefectures in eastern Japan to conduct two-phase radiation tests on harvested rice.

So far, none of the tests performed on unmilled rice — including from Fukushima — exceeded the government's limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram.

Masanori Nonaka, an agriculture professor at Niigata University who specializes in soil science, said rice grown in contaminated areas is likely to be tainted, but to what extent is anyone's guess. White rice, however, may prove to be safe, Nonaka said. Because most of the radioactive material will adhere to the bran — the part of the husk left behind after hulling — about 60 percent of the cesium can be removed just by polishing it, he explained.

Other foods, such as marine produce, won't be as easy to handle, experts say. After the Chernobyl accident, for example, the radioactive contamination of fish peaked between 6 to 12 months after the disaster.

The Fisheries Agency, meanwhile, has asked nine prefectures on the Pacific coast to increase their sampling rates to prevent contaminated fish from landing in supermarkets.


Fears of Fission Rise at Stricken Japanese Plant

by Hiroko Tabuchi

TOKYO — Nuclear workers at the crippled Fukushima power plant raced to inject boric acid into the plant’s No. 2 reactor early Wednesday after telltale radioactive elements were detected there, and the plant’s owner admitted for the first time that fuel deep inside three stricken plants was probably continuing to experience bursts of fission.

The unexpected bursts — something akin to flare-ups after a major fire — are extremely unlikely to presage a large-scale nuclear reaction with the resulting large-scale production of heat and radiation. But they threaten to increase the amount of dangerous radioactive elements leaking from the complex and complicate cleanup efforts, raising startling questions about how much remains uncertain at the plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. The Japanese government has said that it aims to bring the reactors to a stable state known as a “cold shutdown” by the end of the year.

On Wednesday, the plant’s operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, said that measurements of gas from inside Reactor No. 2 indicated the presence of radioactive xenon and other substances that could be the byproduct of nuclear fission. The presence of xenon 135 in particular, which has a half-life of just nine hours, seemed to indicate that fission took place very recently.

Trade Minister Yukuo Edano censured Japan’s nuclear regulator, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, for failing to report the discovery to the prime minister’s office for hours, according to local media reports.

The developments added to the disquiet over handling of information related to the disaster. For almost two months after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, disaster, both company and government officials declared it was unlikely any meltdown had occurred at all at the Fukushima Daichi nuclear complex, finally conceding that the fuel had indeed slumped and had likely breached containments in three reactors.

The amount of detected xenon was small, and there was no rise in temperature, pressure or radiation levels at the reactor, Tokyo Electric said. Researchers were double-checking the data to make sure there were no errors, the company said. Experts concurred that it was possible that Tokyo Electric had made a simple error in its measurements.

But the urgent injection of boric acid underscored that the company was operating on the assumption that the measurements were valid. A naturally occurring element, boron soaks up the neutrons released when an atom is split so that those neutrons cannot go on to split other atoms in the process of fission. Nuclear power plants harness the energy released in the form of heat to produce electricity.

It is impossible to determine exactly what state the fuel is in, given that even an intact reactor can offer only limited gauges in the form of temperature, pressure readings and neutron flow, but not visual observation. That lack of clarity is one of the most resonant lessons of the Fukushima disaster, where those trying to guide the response and assess the danger operated by what amounted to educated guesswork.

In reactors of the design used at Fukushima, that chain reaction is normally stopped when the operator gives a command to insert control rods, which rise up from the bottom of the core and separate the fuel assemblies. But when the cores of three reactors at Fukushima melted, a large part of the fuel presumably formed a jumbled mass in the bottom of the vessel, and without a strict gridlike geometry, the control rods cannot be inserted. Some of the fuel has escaped the vessel, experts believe, and is in spaces underneath, where there is no way to use control rods to interrupt the flow of neutrons.

The jumble of material and conditions had seemed very unlikely to be able to produce sustained fission, but intermittent criticalities have long been suspected.

Junichi Matsumoto, a Tokyo Electric spokesman, acknowledged episodes of fission, telling a news conference: “There is a possibility that certain conditions came together temporarily that were conducive to re-criticality,” and that the measurements indicated a burst that occurred at a slightly higher rate than prior cases. “It’s not that we’ve had zero fission until now,” Mr. Matsumoto said. “But at this point, we do not think there is a large-scale and self-sustained re-criticality.”

A criticality could produce energy that would rearrange the wrecked fuel into a configuration that would no longer support fission, but gradually the material could come together in a form that would support a new burst of fission. That has been the case in previous so-called inadvertent criticalities in other accidents.

He said detailed measurements had not yet been taken at two other severely damaged reactors on the Fukushima site, but acknowledged the possibility of episodes of fission there too. The Fukushima complex, about 160 miles from Tokyo, was struck by a devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11, which knocked out vital cooling systems and caused the nuclear fuel at three of the plant’s six reactors to melt, with radiation leaks and releases whose damage is still being calculated. A 12-mile exclusion zone is still in effect around the plant. Over 80,000 households were displaced.

The three reactors — together with spent fuel rods stored at a fourth damaged reactor — have been leaking radioactive material since the initial disaster, and new episodes of fission would only increase their dangers.

“Re-criticality would produce more harmful radioactive material, and because the reactors are damaged, there would be a danger of a leak,” said Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, whose prescient warnings about nuclear safety have won him respect in Japan.

Mr. Koide holds that the nuclear fuel at the three reactors probably melted through containments and into the ground, raising the possibility of contaminated groundwater. If much of the fuel was indeed in the ground early in the crisis, the “feed and bleed” strategy initially taken by Tokyo Electric — where workers pumped cooling water into the reactors, producing hundreds of tons of radioactive runoff — would have prevented fuel still in the reactor from boiling itself dry and melting, but would not have done anything to reduce danger from fuel already in the soil — if it got that far. Workers have now put in place a circulating cooling system that recycles water, which results in less runoff.

Tokyo Electric does not deny the possibility that the fuel may have burrowed into the ground, but its officials say that “most” of the fuel likely remains within the reactor, albeit slumped at the bottom in a molten mass.

But even in their most dire assessments, some experts had not expected even bursts of re-criticality to occur, because it was unlikely that the fuel would melt in just the right way — and that another ingredient, water, would be present in just the right amounts — to allow for any nuclear reaction. If episodes of fission at Fukushima were confirmed, Mr. Koide said, “our entire understanding of nuclear safety would be turned on its head.”

Some nuclear experts have debated for months whether nuclear reactions might be continuing, either in the fuel inside the reactors, or in the spent fuel pools at the plant. They have pointed, for example, to the continued reports of short-lived iodine in the spent fuel pool at Reactor No. 3.

A former nuclear engineer with three decades of experience at a major engineering firm, meanwhile, said that sustained re-criticality remained highly unlikely. But his main concern was that officials could not pinpoint the exact location of the nuclear fuel — which would greatly complicate the cleanup.

The engineer, who has worked at all three nuclear power complexes operated by Tokyo Electric, spoke on condition of anonymity because he did not want to be identified by his former employers. He said that tiny fuel pellets could have been carried to different parts of the plant, like the spaces under the reactor during attempts to vent them in the early days. That would explain several cases of lethally high radiation readings found outside the reactor cores.

“If the fuel is still inside the reactor core, that’s one thing,” he said. But if the fuel has been dispersed more widely, then we are far from any stable shutdown.”

Matthew L. Wald contributed reporting from Washington, and Kantaro Suzuki from Tokyo.

Copyright 2011 The New York Times

Fukushima Fuel Rods May Have Completely Melted

One of the plant's nuclear reactors was close to being breached as fuel rods bore through its concrete floor, says Tepco
by Justin McCurry in Tokyo

Fuel rods inside one of the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant may have completely melted and bored most of the way through a concrete floor, the reactor's last line of defence before its steel outer casing, the plant's operator said.

Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said in a report that fuel inside reactor No 1 appeared to have dropped through its inner pressure vessel and into the outer containment vessel, indicating that the accident was more severe than first thought.

The revelation that the plant may have narrowly averted a disastrous "China syndrome" scenario comes days after reports that the company had dismissed a 2008 warning that the plant was inadequately prepared to resist a tsunami.

Tepco revised its view of the damage inside the No 1 reactor – one of three that suffered meltdown soon after the 11 March disaster – after running a new simulation of the accident.

It would not comment on the exact position of the molten fuel, or on how much of it is exposed to water being pumped in to cool the reactor. More than nine months into the crisis, workers are still unable to gauge the damage directly because of dangerously high levels of radiation inside the reactor building.

"Uncertainty involved in the analysis is significant, due to the uncertain nature of the original conditions and data used," Tepco said in a report. It said the concrete "could have been penetrated", but added that the fuel remained inside the reactor's outer casing.

Previously, the firm had said that only some of the fuel had burned through its inner pressure vessel and dropped into the containment vessel.

"Almost no fuel remains at its original position," Tepco said. The simulation shows that the fuel may have penetrated the concrete floor by up to 65cm, just 37cm from the reactor's outer steel wall.

Tepco said that about 60% of the fuel in the two other reactors that experienced meltdown had dropped onto the concrete base, but had caused less damage.

After the tsunami, workers at the site stopped injecting reactor No 1 with water for about 14 hours, resulting in more serious damage than sustained by the two other reactors.

The company added, however, that fuel in all three reactors was being kept stable by cooling water, adding that the erosion had stopped.

It said the findings would not affect plans to bring the reactors to a safe state, known as cold shutdown, possibly by the middle of the month.

Japanese authorities may announce cold shutdown on 16 December, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported on Friday. That stage is reached when water used to cool the fuel rods remains below boiling point, thereby preventing the fuel from heating up again.

Stabilising the reactors is just the first stage of the operation to resolve the crisis. Tepco has said it won't be able to begin removing the fuel for another 10 years. Decommissioning the plant could take at least 30 years.

© Guardian News and Media Limited 2011

After Fukushima: Enough Is Enough

by Helen Caldicott

The nuclear power industry has been resurrected over the past decade by a lobbying campaign that has left many people believing it to be a clean, green, emission-free alternative to fossil fuels. These beliefs pose an extraordinary threat to global public health and encourage a major financial drain on national economies and taxpayers. The commitment to nuclear power as an environmentally safe energy source has also stifled the mass development of alternative technologies that are far cheaper, safer and almost emission free — the future for global energy.

When the Fukushima Daiichi reactors suffered meltdowns in March, literally in the backyard of an unsuspecting public, the stark reality that the risks of nuclear power far outweigh any benefits should have become clear to the world. As the old quip states, “Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water.”

Instead, the nuclear industry has used the disaster to increase its already extensive lobbying efforts. A few nations vowed to phase out nuclear energy after the disaster. But many others have remained steadfast in their commitment. That has left millions of innocent people unaware that they — all of us — may face a medical catastrophe beyond all proportions in the wake of Fukushima and through the continued widespread use of nuclear energy.

The world was warned of the dangers of nuclear accidents 25 years ago, when Chernobyl exploded and lofted radioactive poisons into the atmosphere. Those poisons “rained out,” creating hot spots over the Northern Hemisphere. Research by scientists in Eastern Europe, collected and published by the New York Academy of Sciences, estimates that 40 percent of the European land mass is now contaminated with cesium 137 and other radioactive poisons that will concentrate in food for hundreds to thousands of years. Wide areas of Asia — from Turkey to China — the United Arab Emirates, North Africa and North America are also contaminated. Nearly 200 million people remain exposed.

That research estimated that by now close to 1 million people have died of causes linked to the Chernobyl disaster. They perished from cancers, congenital deformities, immune deficiencies, infections, cardiovascular diseases, endocrine abnormalities and radiation-induced factors that increased infant mortality. Studies in Belarus found that in 2000, 14 years after the Chernobyl disaster, fewer than 20 percent of children were considered “practically healthy,” compared to 90 percent before Chernobyl. Now, Fukushima has been called the second-worst nuclear disaster after Chernobyl. Much is still uncertain about the long-term consequences. Fukushima may well be on par with or even far exceed Chernobyl in terms of the effects on public health, as new information becomes available. The crisis is ongoing; the plant remains unstable and radiation emissions continue into the air and water.

Recent monitoring by citizens groups, international organizations and the U.S. government have found dangerous hot spots in Tokyo and other areas. The Japanese government, meanwhile, in late September lifted evacuation advisories for some areas near the damaged plant — even though high levels of radiation remained. The government estimated that it will spend at least $13 billion to clean up contamination.

Many thousands of people continue to inhabit areas that are highly contaminated, particularly northwest of Fukushima. Radioactive elements have been deposited throughout northern Japan, found in tap water in Tokyo and concentrated in tea, beef, rice and other food. In one of the few studies on human contamination in the months following the accident, over half of the more than 1,000 children whose thyroids were monitored in Fukushima City were found to be contaminated with iodine 131 — condemning many to thyroid cancer years from now.

Children are innately sensitive to the carcinogenic effects of radiation, fetuses even more so. Like Chernobyl, the accident at Fukushima is of global proportions. Unusual levels of radiation have been discovered in British Columbia, along the West Coast and East Coast of the United States and in Europe, and heavy contamination has been found in oceanic waters.

Fukushima is classified as a grade 7 accident on the International Atomic Energy Agency scale — denoting “widespread health and environmental effects.” That is the same severity as Chernobyl, the only other grade 7 accident in history, but there is no higher number on the agency’s scale.

After the accident, lobbying groups touted improved safety at nuclear installations globally. In Japan, the Tokyo Electric Power Co. — which operates the Fukushima Daiichi reactors — and the government have sought to control the reporting of negative stories via telecom companies and Internet service providers.

In Britain, The Guardian reported that days after the tsunami, companies with interests in nuclear power — Areva, EDF Energy and Westinghouse — worked with the government to downplay the accident, fearing setbacks on plans for new nuclear power plants.

Nuclear power has always been the nefarious Trojan horse for the weapons industry, and effective publicity campaigns are a hallmark of both industries. The concept of nuclear electricity was conceived in the early 1950s as a way to make the public more comfortable with the U.S. development of nuclear weapons. “The atomic bomb will be accepted far more readily if at the same time atomic energy is being used for constructive ends,” a consultant to the Defense Department Psychological Strategy Board, Stefan Possony, suggested. The phrase “Atoms for Peace” was popularized by President Dwight Eisenhower in the early 1950s.

Nuclear power and nuclear weapons are one and the same technology. A 1,000 megawatt nuclear reactor generates 600 pounds or so of plutonium per year: An atomic bomb requires a fraction of that amount for fuel, and plutonium remains radioactive for 250,000 years. Therefore every country with a nuclear power plant also has a bomb factory with unlimited potential.The nuclear power industry sets an unforgivable precedent by exporting nuclear technology — bomb factories — to dozens of non-nuclear nations.

Why is nuclear power still viable, after we’ve witnessed catastrophic accidents, enormous financial outlays, weapons proliferation and nuclear-waste induced epidemics of cancers and genetic disease for generations to come? Simply put, many government and other officials believe the nuclear industry mantra: safe, clean and green. And the public is not educated on the issue.

There are some signs of change. Germany will phase out nuclear power by 2022. Italy and Switzerland have decided against it, and anti-nuclear advocates in Japan have gained traction. China remains cautious on nuclear power. Yet the nuclear enthusiasm of the U.S., Britain, Russia and Canada continues unabated. The industry, meanwhile, has promoted new modular and “advanced” reactors as better alternatives to traditional reactors. They are, however, subject to the very same risks — accidents, terrorist attacks, human error — as the traditional reactors. Many also create fissile material for bombs as well as the legacy of radioactive waste.

True green, clean, nearly emission-free solutions exist for providing energy. They lie in a combination of conservation and renewable energy sources, mainly wind, solar and geothermal, hydropower plants, and biomass from algae. A smart-grid could integrate consuming and producing devices, allowing flexible operation of household appliances. The problem of intermittent power can be solved by storing energy using available technologies.

Millions of jobs can be created by replacing nuclear power with nationally integrated, renewable energy systems. In the U.S. alone, the project could be paid for by the $180 billion currently allocated for nuclear weapons programs over the next decade. There would be no need for new weapons if the Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals — 95 percent of the estimated 20,500 nuclear weapons globally — were abolished.

Nuclear advocates often paint those who oppose them as Luddites who are afraid of, or don’t understand, technology, or as hysterics who exaggerate the dangers of nuclear power.

One might recall the sustained attack over many decades by the tobacco industry upon the medical profession, a profession that revealed the grave health dangers induced by smoking.

Smoking, broadly speaking, only kills the smoker. Nuclear power bequeaths morbidity and mortality — epidemics of disease — to all future generations.

The millions of lives lost to smoking in the era before the health risks of cigarettes were widely exposed will be minuscule compared to the medical catastrophe we face through the continued use of nuclear power.

Let’s use this extraordinary moment to convince governments and others to move toward a nuclear-free world. Let’s prove that informed democracies will behave in a responsible fashion.

© 2011 Helen Caldicott

Dr. Helen Caldicott is president of the Helen Caldicott Foundation for a Nuclear-Free Planet and the author of Nuclear Power is Not the Answer

Fukushima Plant Leaks Radioactive Water

Radioactive water might have found its way into the Pacific ocean and experts believe it could contain strontium
by Justin McCurry

TOKYO - Large quantities of highly radioactive water have leaked through a crack in the wall of a treatment facility at the Fukushima power plant, and some may have founds its way into the sea, the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco], said.

The firm said as much as 45 tons of water had leaked through the concrete wall of a building being used to purify contaminated water that is then used to cool molten fuel in the plant's three damaged reactors.

The firm has piled up sandbags to prevent further leaks but fears some water may have already found its way into a gutter that connects to the Pacific ocean about 600 meters away.

Experts believe the water could contain high levels of strontium-90, a beta-emitting radioactive substance that, if ingested, can cause bone cancer.

Public broadcaster NHK reported that although cesium levels in the leaked water were low, it could contain up to 130,000 becquerels per cubic centimeter of strontium, which has a half-life of 29 years.

Workers temporarily halted the purification apparatus after spotting a puddle of water on Sunday. They later recorded 1.8 millisieverts [mSv] per hour of gamma radiation and 110mSv per hour of beta radiation on the surface of the puddle, the company said in a statement.

It said the leak appeared to have been stemmed, adding it already had enough purified water to continue cooling the reactors as scheduled.

The discovery underlines the difficulties facing Fukushima Daiichi workers as they struggle to contain and reuse large volumes of contaminated water.

In October, the Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety, a French government body, said the plant had been responsible for the biggest-ever discharge of radioactive material into the sea.

More details have emerged, meanwhile, of the workers' desperate struggle to save the power plant in the moments after it was struck by a tsunami of up to 14 meters in height on the afternoon of 11 March.

One of the unnamed employees, who was in charge of the main control room at the time of the disaster, recalled how, at one point, he had begged colleagues not to abandon the plant.

He realized that the tsunami had caused a disaster when the lights on the plant's control panels flickered, and then went out. "I came to realize that a tsunami had hit the site when one of the workers came rushing into the control room, shouting 'Sea water is gushing in!'" he said. "I felt at a complete loss after the power went down."

He said the plant's "anxious" employees argued over how to contain the crisis, with one suggesting they had no choice but to flee. "He said: 'Is there any point in staying when there is nothing we can do?'

"I bowed my head and begged them to stay."

Workers at the site in the aftermath of the accident – quickly nicknamed the Fukushima 50 because they initially worked in groups of around that number – have been hailed as heroes for remaining at their posts and preventing an even greater catastrophe.

One recalled how he had volunteered to enter a reactor building to manually open a ventilation valve in an attempt to ease the pressure building inside.

"We put on full protective gear, but we couldn't possibly let younger workers do that job as we were entering an area with high levels of radiation," he said.

"When I got there, I heard a strange, loud popping sound from below, and when I tried to start work, my black rubber boots melted [due to the heat]."

The workers echoed fears voiced recently by the plant's chief, Masao Yoshida, who has taken early retirement due to an unspecified illness, that there were moments when they believed they would die.

"We experienced big aftershocks and had to keep fleeing [from possible tsunami] up the hill still wearing our protective masks," said one worker.

Another recalled how he and his colleagues constantly worried about being electrocuted as they worked while standing in puddles of water.

© 2011 Guardian News and Media Limited

Fukushima Nuclear Crisis Far from Resolved

Japan Times Editorial

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda on Dec. 16 declared that the stricken reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant have entered the state of "cold shutdown" and that it has been confirmed that the nuclear crisis has "been resolved"(Shusoku ni itatta.) As far as Tepco and the goverment are concerned, "Step 2" of their "road map" to bring the nuclear crisis under control has been accomplished one month earlier than originally scheduled. After the completion of Step 2, work that will eventually lead to removal of molten nuclear fuel and decommissioning of the stricken reactors is supposed to start. But the prime minister's declaration that the crisis has been resolved will not be accepted by many people, especially those in Fukushima Prefecture.

Workers who have struggled continuously since March 11 to stabilize the stricken reactors deserve the nation's praise. But Mr. Noda's announcement is political grandstanding designed to give an impression that the plant's four crippled reactors — three of which suffered meltdowns — have been completely brought under control. Apparently he wanted to make the announcement before year's end.

Mr. Noda's announcement could have the negative effect of turning the public's attention away from the reactors, which would be most unwelcome as their condition should be under continuous scrutiny. Tepco and the government must continue to give priority to accurately measuring the ongoing risks and keep the public fully informed of them. The prime minister's declaration that the nuclear crisis has "been resolved" should not be used as an excuse by the government and Tepco to shy away from that duty.

The severity level of the Fukushima nuclear crisis is the maximum 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale — the same level designated for the 1986 Chernobyl disaster — the world's worst nuclear accident. In the Fukushima fiasco, four reactors were damaged by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, three suffered full meltdowns, several hydrogen explosions occurred and a tremendous amount of radioactive material has been released. In view of this, the Fukushima nuclear crisis is not only an extremely grave disaster but the first of its kind in the history of nuclear power because it involves multiple reactors. It must be remembered that it will take decades before the crisis is truly resolved.

Although Prime Minister Noda announced that the stricken reactors have entered a state of cold shutdown, it must be emphasized that Tepco and the government's definition of "cold shutdown" is very different from the nuclear power industry's traditional definition. The prime minister announced that "cold shutdown" had been achieved because the temperature at the bottom of the pressure vessels and inside the containment vessels have fallen below 100 C, the radiation level of radioactive substances currently released from the reactors has come down to 0.1 millisieverts per year inside the plant compound, which exceeds the goal of one millisievert per year, and the "safety" of the external system that has been set up to cool the reactors has been confirmed.

The term "cold shutdown" is traditionally used to describe a reactor in normal working order that has reached a state of sub-criticality. If the nuclear fission process is stopped in such a reactor, the temperature inside the reactor falls below 100 C and the nuclear fuel is cooled by the reactor's own internal cooling system in a stable manner, then a reactor can be said to be in the state of cold shutdown. In this state, no amount of radioactive substances is released from a reactor. In addition, a reactor in a true state of cold shutdown can be easily restarted.

The conditions of the stricken reactors at Fukushima No. 1 are completely different from a reactor that is in a true state of cold shutdown. An external cooling system that has been cobbled together uses about 4 km of rubber hosing and was not built to earthquake safety standards so it cannot be considered to be a stable system. Furthermore, while the containment vessels of reactors in true states of cold shutdown can be opened and their fuel rods removed, the melted nuclear fuel in the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 reactors cannot be removed and must be continually kept cool by the external makeshift cooling system. Finally, the reactors could easily suffer additional damage if another strong earthquake strikes, and the pools containing spent nuclear fuel remain in a vulnerable state.

Another major problem is that Mr. Noda made his announcement despite Tepco and the government not knowing the real conditions of the reactors. It is believed that most of the No. 1 reactor's nuclear fuel and about 60 percent of the Nos. 2 and 3 reactors' nuclear fuel melted through the bottoms of the pressure vessels and fell to the bottom of the containment vessels, even boring into their concrete floors. In this situation, it is impossible to accurately know the temperature of fuel by the method used by Tepco and the government. More importantly, neither Tepco nor the government knows what the conditions of the damaged pressure and containment vessels are truly like.

The Fukushima No. 1 power plant is facing other problems as well. Several hundred tons of ground water are seeping into the basements of the reactor buildings on a daily basis and becoming contaminated. Tepco must prevent leakage of this contaminated water into the sea, but available tanks to store such water will be filled to capacity in a short time. Tepco and the government must do their utmost to prevent additional leakage of radioactive substances.

Tepco's middle- and long-range scenario includes such risks as spontaneous restart of a fission process, new hydrogen explosions, corrosion of the pools containing spent nuclear fuel, leakage of contaminated water or mud, and another strong earthquake and tsunami. Clearly, the nuclear crisis remains far from resolved and Tepco and the government must continue to make their utmost efforts to bring the situation at the Fukushima plant truly under control as quickly as possible and ensure that enough workers remain at the site to cope with any dangerous developments.

© 2011 The Japan Times

14,000 U.S. Deaths Tied to Fukushima Reactor Disaster Fallout

By Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman, International Journal of Health Services

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2011 -- Impact Seen As Roughly Comparable to Radiation-Related Deaths After Chernobyl; Infants Are Hardest Hit, With Continuing Research Showing Even Higher Possible Death Count.W

ASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An estimated 14,000 excess deaths in the United States are linked to the radioactive fallout from the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors in Japan, according to a major new article in the December 2011 edition of the International Journal of Health Services. This is the first peer-reviewed study published in a medical journal documenting the health hazards of Fukushima.

Authors Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman note that their estimate of 14,000 excess U.S. deaths in the 14 weeks after the Fukushima meltdowns is comparable to the 16,500 excess deaths in the 17 weeks after the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. The rise in reported deaths after Fukushima was largest among U.S. infants under age one. The 2010-2011 increase for infant deaths in the spring was 1.8 percent, compared to a decrease of 8.37 percent in the preceding 14 weeks.

The IJHS article will be published Tuesday and will be available online as of 11 a.m. EST at

Just six days after the disastrous meltdowns struck four reactors at Fukushima on March 11, scientists detected the plume of toxic fallout had arrived over American shores. Subsequent measurements by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found levels of radiation in air, water, and milk hundreds of times above normal across the U.S. The highest detected levels of Iodine-131 in precipitation in the U.S. were as follows (normal is about 2 picocuries I-131 per liter of water): Boise, ID (390); Kansas City (200); Salt Lake City (190); Jacksonville, FL (150); Olympia, WA (125); and Boston, MA (92).

Epidemiologist Joseph Mangano, MPH MBA, said: "This study of Fukushima health hazards is the first to be published in a scientific journal. It raises concerns, and strongly suggests that health studies continue, to understand the true impact of Fukushima in Japan and around the world. Findings are important to the current debate of whether to build new reactors, and how long to keep aging ones in operation."

Mangano is executive director, Radiation and Public Health Project, and the author of 27 peer-reviewed medical journal articles and letters. Internist and toxicologist Janette Sherman, MD, said: "Based on our continuing research, the actual death count here may be as high as 18,000, with influenza and pneumonia, which were up five-fold in the period in question as a cause of death. Deaths are seen across all ages, but we continue to find that infants are hardest hit because their tissues are rapidly multiplying, they have undeveloped immune systems, and the doses of radioisotopes are proportionally greater than for adults."

Dr. Sherman is an adjunct professor, Western Michigan University, and contributing editor of "Chernobyl - Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment" published by the NY Academy of Sciences in 2009, and author of "Chemical Exposure and Disease and Life's Delicate Balance - Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issues weekly reports on numbers of deaths for 122 U.S. cities with a population over 100,000, or about 25-30 percent of the U.S. In the 14 weeks after Fukushima fallout arrived in the U.S. (March 20 to June 25), deaths reported to the CDC rose 4.46 percent from the same period in 2010, compared to just 2.34 percent in the 14 weeks prior. Estimated excess deaths during this period for the entire U.S. are about 14,000.

EDITOR'S NOTE: A streaming audio replay of a related news event will be available on the Web at as of 4 p.m. EST/2100 GMT on December 19, 2011. Embargoed copies of the medical journal article are available by contacting Ailis Aaron Wolf, (703) 276-3265 or

Read more here:

Copyright © The Sacramento Bee

Report: Childhood Leukemia Spikes Near Nuclear Reactors

by John LaForge

French researchers have confirmed that childhood leukemia rates are shockingly elevated among children living near nuclear power reactors.

The “International Journal of Cancer” has published in January a scientific study establishing a clear correlation between the frequency of acute childhood leukemia and proximity to nuclear power stations. The paper is titled, “Childhood leukemia around French nuclear power plants – the Geocap study, 2002-2007.”

This devastating report promises to do for France what a set of 2008 reports did for Germany — which recently legislated a total phase-out of all its power reactors by 2022 (sooner if the Greens get their way).

The French epidemiology — conducted by a team from the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale, or INSERM, the Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire, or IRSN, and the National Register of hematological diseases of children in Villejuif, outside Paris — demonstrates during the period from 2002-2007 in France the doubling of childhood leukemia incidence: the increase is up to 2.2 among children under age five.

The researchers note that they found no mechanistic proof of cause and effect, but could identify no other environmental factor that could produce the excess cancers.

Without getting overly technical, the case-control study included the 2,753 cases of acute leukemia diagnosed in mainland France over 2002-2007, and 30,000 contemporaneous population “controls.” The children’s last addresses were geo-coded and located around France’s 19 nuclear power stations, which operate 54 separate reactors. The study used distance to the reactors and a dose-based geographic zoning, based on the estimated dose to bone marrow related to the reactors’ gaseous discharges.
All operating reactors routinely spew radioactive gases like xenon, krypton and the radioactive form of hydrogen known as tritium. These gases are allowed to be released under licenses issued by federal government agencies. Allowable limits on these radioactive poisons were suggested to governments and regulatory agencies by the giant utilities that own the reactors and by reactor operators themselves. This is because their reactors can’t even function without regularly releasing radioactive liquids and gases, releases required to control pressure, temperature and vibrations inside the gigantic systems. (See: “Routine Radioactive Releases from Nuclear Power Plants in the United States: What Are the Dangers?” (pdf) from, 2009)

In Germany, results of the 2008 KiKK studies — a German acronym for Childhood Cancer in the Vicinity of Nuclear Power Plants — were published in both the International Journal of Cancer (Vol. 122) and the European Journal of Cancer (Vol. 44). These 25-year-long studies found higher incidences of cancers and a stronger association with reactor installations than all previous reports.

The main findings were a 60 percent increase in solid cancers and a 117 percent increase in leukemia among young children living near all 16 large German nuclear facilities between 1980 and 2003. These shocking studies — along with persistent radioactive contamination of Germany from the Chernobyl catastrophe — are largely responsible for depth and breadth of anti-nuclear public opinion all across Germany.

Similar leukemia spikes have been found around U.S. reactors (European Journal of Cancer Care, Vol. 16, 2007). Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina analyzed 17 research papers covering 136 reactor sites in the UK, Canada, France, the U.S., Germany, Japan and Spain. The incidence of leukemia in children under age 9 living close to the sites showed an increase of 14 to 21 percent, while death rates from the disease were raised by 5 to 24 percent, depending on their proximity to the nuclear facilities.

When the U.S. public owns up to the dangers of nuclear power, we too can get around to its replacement and phase-out.

John LaForge is on the Nukewatch staff and edits its Quarterly.

Panic Within US Nuke Agency in Wake of Fukushima Disaster

US experts for Nuclear Regulatary Commission disagreed over best way to contain ongoing nuclear disaster
- by Common Dreams staff

Emails posted on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) website show an agency that was ill-informed about the state of the crisis taking place at the failing Fukushima nuclear plant last year in Japan. The emails reveal some of the mitigation plans advisors to the NRC were contemplating, show an agency reluctant to share its own research on spent fuel pools, and unwilling to articulate worst-case scenarios, including a nuclear fallout plan for Alaska.

The Washington Post reports:

The NRC e-mails reveal disagreement about how to advise the Japanese. The NRC staff chafed at some un­or­tho­dox advice coming from an ad hoc group of scientists assembled by Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Famed physicist Richard Garwin, one of Chu’s group, proposed setting off a controlled “shaped” explosion to break through the concrete shield around the primary steel containment structure to allow cooling water to be applied from the outside. One NRC scientist called the idea “madness.”

Another idea from the Chu group was to attempt a “junk shot” — a variation on what some engineers proposed to stop the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico — to plug leaks of radioactive water from Fukushima’s nuclear reactors into the sea. When using a mixture of sawdust, newspapers and other junk failed, Japan’s Tepco ultimately used a compound known as liquid glass.

“The e-mails provide a candid picture of the level of uncertainty and confusion within the U.S. government and indicates that even U.S. experts had major divisions about what was going on and how to best mitigate the crisis,” said Edwin Lyman, a senior scientist and nuclear expert at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

And The Daily Mail reports:

The agency was asked by several countries about pools used to house spent nuclear reactor fuel. [...]

France, Germany and Japan sought access to NRC information on the pools on March 17, but it was reluctant to share the data over fears of potential attacks on reactors triggered by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Mr Lyman added: 'There is a whole base of information about spent fuel fires and pools that the NRC is not sharing with the public.

'We understand that when you're concerned about terrorist attacks that you want to conceal information, but I don't think there's any reason to maintain such a broad blackout over this type of information.'

Other emails reveal people in the U.S. calling for all nuclear power stations to be temporarily shut so tests could be carried out as well as Freedom of Information Act requests for details of correspondence on Fukushima.

The emails, available on the NRC website, also reveal concerns over a U.S. reactor similar to one of the stricken units at Fukushima.

And The Washington Post story adds:

While assuring Americans publicly that there was no danger [to those living in the United States], the NRC did not disclose one worst-case scenario, which did not rule out the possibility of radiation exceeding safe levels for thyroid doses in Alaska, the e-mails show. “Because things were uncertain, we considered it but the data that was available . . . did not support that very pessimistic scenario so no, it was not discussed publicly at that point,” NRC spokesman Scott Burnell said. In the end, Alaska was not affected.


Rising temperatures at Fukushima raise questions over stability of nuclear plant

The Guardian reported late Tuesday:

Workers at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant say they are regaining control of a reactor after its temperature rose dramatically this week, casting doubt on government claims that the facility has been stabilised.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power [Tepco] was forced to increase the amount of cooling water being injected into the No 2 reactor after its temperature soared to 73.3C earlier this week.

By Tuesday night, the temperature had dropped to 68.5C at the bottom of the reactor's containment vessel, where molten fuel is believed to have accumulated after three of Fukushima Daiichi's six reactors suffered meltdown after last year's tsunami disaster.

The temperature at the bottom of the No 2 reactor vessel had risen by more than 20C in the space of several days, although it remained below the 93C limit the US nuclear regulatory commission sets for a safe state known as cold shutdown. Tepco said it had also injected water containing boric acid to prevent a nuclear chain reaction known as re-criticality.


Nobel Winner Oe Urges Japan to Decommission Nuclear Reactors

And Bloomberg reports on the growing anti-nuclear movement in Japan:

Japan should decide quickly to abandon its nuclear reactors, according to Nobel Prize laureate Kenzaburo Oe.

“If we are to take ethical responsibility for children of tomorrow, we need to decide now to abandon all reactors,” the 77-year old author said today at a press conference at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan.

“Another severe nuclear accident could occur,” said Oe, who is among the nine founding members of the “Sayonara Nuclear Power Plants” campaign launched last June. “There is no proof it won’t happen again.”

The initiative aims to collect 10 million signatures to urge the government to phase out nuclear power generation and shift to clean energy and energy-saving measures. So far, 5 million signatures have been collected, said Satoshi Kamata, a freelance journalist and another founding member.


Fukushima – Worse Than Chernobyl

by Janette Sherman and Joseph J. Mangano

There is good news and bad news: The good news is that 11 months after the Fukushima meltdown, thousands of Japanese marched in the streets to protest the continuing operation of nuclear power plants in their country, and urged a shift to renewable energy. Some 250,000 people signed petitions to close the reactors in the Tokyo area. Meanwhile in the U.S. the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) approved the building of two new nuclear power plants in Georgia.

The investigative reporter, Karl Grossman, for his program Envirovideo, interviewed Dr. Sherman on March 5, 2011, and she said that it was just a matter of time before we have another nuclear meltdown. Less than a week later, on March 11, following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, Fukushima Daiichi did just that. On March 19, Professor Alexey Yablokov, the senior author of “Chernobyl – Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment,” arrived on a previously planned visit to Washington, D.C. In a series of radio and TV interviews, we opined, even that early, it appeared that Fukushima was worse than Chernobyl – the latter continuing to harm 25 years later.

On March 25, before Professor Yablokov flew to Seattle for a series of talks, Matt Wald of the New York Times interviewed him. In two follow-up emails asking Wald what he planned to do with the interview, Wald wrote on Nov. 7: “I have not published anything on that conversation and I’m not sure I will … I don’t think the thrust of the book has achieved sufficient scientific traction,” and “I don’t believe there’s evidence that human exposures from Fukushima approach those of Chernobyl.”

The stance of the New York Times is not surprising, as a bastion of corporatism, so well explained in Chris Hedges’ book: “Death of the Liberal Class.” Selective blackouts such as this must push citizens to educate themselves – if we do not understand the many adverse effects caused by Chernobyl, how can we prepare for and document the ones surely resulting from Fukushima. If we don’t know the history of Chernobyl, how can we prevent yet more nuclear meltdowns?

Xenon-133 from Fukushima fallout was detected in the United States just four days after the earthquake, tsunami and meltdowns, and additional isotope deposition was reported that week. Some samples of radioactivity in precipitation, air, water and milk, taken by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed levels hundreds of times above normal; however, the EPA, in its wisdom, stopped collecting weekly samples, reverting to quarterly ones.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported weekly deaths by age in 122 cities, which represents about 25 to 35 percent of the population total. Deaths rose 4.46 percent from 2010 to 2011 in the 14 weeks after the arrival of Japanese fallout, compared with a 2.34 percent increase in the prior 14 weeks. The number of infant deaths after Fukushima rose 1.80 percent, compared with a previous 8.37 percent decrease. Projecting these figures for the entire United States yields 13,983 total deaths and 822 infant deaths in excess of the expected numbers. An updated analysis using the entire year 2011 raised the excess deaths to 21,851.

By contrast to nuclear tests that prolong the release of radioisotopes by dispersion into the stratosphere, emissions from nuclear power plants are dispersed at low atmospheric levels, brought down by rain and snow in a matter of days to weeks. Every nuclear power plant releases a number of isotopes, whether it is operating “normally” or melting down. These include Sr-90, Cs-137, I-131, argon, krypton, xenon and barium, taken up by animals, plants and humans.

The epidemic increase in childhood and adult cancer has occurred since World War II, when both chemical and radiological pollution spread over the world. Half a century later, there is no longer any doubt that radioisotopes in concert with industrial chemicals have caused this epidemic.

All forms of cancer can be induced by radiation. The incidence increases with cumulative dose, and younger aged individuals – human, animals and plants alike – are more sensitive to ionizing radiation than adults. It is not only cancer that is of concern, but genetic damage, birth defects, over-all health and loss of intellectual capacity, the latter absolutely essential for survival. In Belarus, only 20 percent of children are considered well by official standards since the Chernobyl catastrophe.

A unique study of Norwegian children, exposed early before birth to low-level Chernobyl fallout, demonstrated lower intellectual capacity than a comparable group not exposed.

After the Chernobyl meltdown, not all biological systems were studied, but of those that were – wild and domestic animals, birds, fish, plants, fungi, bacteria, viruses, humans, etc. – all were altered, many irreversibly. Genetic damage and reduced viability across species continues to be documented.

Studies of mutation rates of plants and animals around Chernobyl have increased by up to a factor 20 due to release of radionuclides. Rare bird species suffered greater impact than more common ones. Given that each slightly deleterious mutation is expected to result in a selective genetic death and that an average fruit fly under normal conditions may carry as many as 80 mutations, the number of mutations in animals and plants around Chernobyl and hence the number of selective deaths is bound to be much higher.

Bird populations in Fukushima appear to fare worse than those near Chernobyl. Analysis of 14 species common to the two areas revealed a negative effect of radiation immediately after the March 11, 2011, accident upon abundance, differing between areas and species, during the main breeding season in March to July, when individuals work close to their maximum sustainable level.

The citizens of San Francisco’s Hunters Point neighborhood have long known that factors adversely impacting children, adults and the unborn are emissions from incinerators and dumps, chemicals released from various industrial processes, pesticides and other toxic chemicals. Repeated small exposures to radionuclides and to many industrial and agricultural chemicals produce additive and synergistic effects, resulting in greater toxicity than from a single equivalent dose.

What is to be done?

It is absolutely essential that health and environmental data be compiled and made available to the public in an open and transparent way so that contamination levels are known. This information is needed to anticipate and structure health care for those damaged by the fallout of radioactive isotopes. It is in this context that governments must be able to handle increased disease levels. Given the known fallout of radioactive iodine, it is likely that various thyroid diseases (hypo-, hyper-, non-malignant and malignant disease) will increase, thus testing and treatment must be planned for and available.

But beyond just diagnosing and treating more people with radiation-related disease, we can truly prevent these diseases by closing nuclear power reactors, thus reducing exposure to radiation. This is not a theory, but a reality with precedents. After President John F. Kennedy signed the 1963 treaty banning above-ground atom bomb tests, there was an immediate and drastic decline in U.S. infant deaths and cancer in young children. After the closing of eight U.S. nuclear power plants in the 1980s and 1990s, similar declines occurred in down-wind areas.

With one in six of our population living within 50 miles of a nuclear reactor, the opportunity for a healthier future is great indeed.

Every remaining nuclear power plant is a disaster waiting to happen. Twenty-three of these in the U.S. are the same design as those that are melting down at Fukushima Daiichi. California’s San Onofre and Diablo Canyon nuclear plants are located on the ocean, next to known earthquake faults, and up-wind of huge populations where evacuation is next to impossible. Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, on the Hudson River, is 35 miles north of New York City, where it is a threat to one-fifth of the entire U.S. population.

If 100,000 protested nuclear power in Japan, why is this not happening in the U.S.? Is it because we are so poorly educated scientifically and politically that we don’t “get it”?

I hope not! Or is it the billions of dollars spent by the U.S. government and the nuclear industry in support of this dangerous and unsustainable industry? Protests against the excesses of Wall Street are taking place – can we mobilize to close all nuclear power plants?

Since the Fukushima disaster, only two of 54 Japanese reactors are operating – the rest closed for inspection and upgrades. Germany and Switzerland have pledged to phase out their reactors, and other nations are considering the same.

Unless the earth stops turning and the laws of chemistry, biology and physics are rescinded, the radioisotopes being released from Fukushima will cause worldwide harm to life. It is in our hands to prevent another Chernobyl or Fukushima.

Janette Sherman, M.D. specializes in internal medicine and toxicology with an emphasis on chemicals and nuclear radiation that cause illness, including cancer and birth defects. Prior to medical school, she worked for the Atomic Energy Commission (forerunner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) at the University of California in Berkeley, and for the U.S. Navy Radiation Defense Laboratory in San Francisco. Thus began her long-time involvement with the subject of nuclear radiation.

Joseph J. Mangano, MPH, MBA, is Director, Secretary, and the Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project. Mr. Mangano is a public health administrator and researcher who has studied the connection between low-dose radiation exposure and subsequent risk of diseases such as cancer and damage to newborns. He has published numerous articles and letters in medical and other journals in addition to books, including Low Level Radiation and Immune System Disorders: An Atomic Era Legacy. There he examines the connection between radiation exposure and current widespread health problems.

Nuclear Crisis Set Off Fears Over Tokyo, Report Says

by Martin Fackler

TOKYO — In the darkest moments of last year’s nuclear accident, Japanese leaders did not know the actual extent of damage at the plant and secretly considered the possibility of evacuating Tokyo, even as they tried to play down the risks in public, an independent investigation into the accident disclosed on Monday.

The investigation by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation, a new private policy organization, offered one of the most vivid accounts yet of how Japan teetered on the edge of an even larger nuclear crisis than the one that engulfed the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. A team of 30 university professors, lawyers and journalists spent more than six months on the inquiry into Japan’s response to the triple meltdown at the plant, which followed a massive earthquake and tsunami last March 11 that shut down the plant’s cooling systems.

The team conducted interviews with more than 300 people including top nuclear regulators and government officials, as well as the prime minister during the crisis, Naoto Kan. They were granted extraordinary access, in part because of a strong public demand for greater accountability and because the organization’s founder, Yoichi Funabashi, a former editor in chief of the daily Asahi Shimbun, is one of Japan’s most respected public intellectuals.

An advanced copy of the report describes how Japan’s response was hindered at times by a debilitating breakdown in trust between the major actors: Mr. Kan; the Tokyo headquarters of the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power, known as Tepco; and the manager at the stricken plant. The conflicts produced confused flows of sometimes contradictory information in the early days of the crisis, the report said.

It described frantic phone calls by the manager, Masao Yoshida, to top officials in the Kan government arguing that he could get the plant under control if he could keep his staff in place, while at the same time ignoring orders from Tepco’s headquarters not to use sea water to cool the overheating reactors. By contrast, Mr. Funabashi said in an interview, Tepco’s president, Masataka Shimizu, was making competing calls to the prime minister’s office saying the company should evacuate all of its staff, a step that could have been catastrophic.

The 400-page report, due to be released later this week, also described a darkening mood at the prime minister’s residence as a series of hydrogen explosions rocked the plant on March 14 and 15. It said Mr. Kan and other officials began discussing a worst-case outcome of an evacuation of workers at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. This would allow the plant to spiral out of control, releasing even larger amounts of radioactive material into the atmosphere that would in turn force the evacuation of other nearby nuclear plants, causing further meltdowns.

The report quoted the chief cabinet secretary at the time, Yukio Edano, as having warned that this “demonic chain reaction” of plant meltdowns could have resulted in the evacuation of Tokyo, 150 miles to the south.

“We would lose Fukushima Daini, then we would lose Tokai,” Mr. Edano was quoted as saying, naming two other nuclear plants. “If that happened, it was only logical to conclude that we would also lose Tokyo itself.”

The report also described the panic within the Kan administration at the prospect of large radiation releases from the more than 10,000 spent fuel rods that were stored in relatively unprotected pools near the damaged reactors. The report said it was not until five days after the earthquake that a Japanese military helicopter was finally able to confirm that the pool deemed at highest risk, near the No. 4 reactor, was still safely filled with water.

“We barely avoided the worst case scenario, though the public didn’t know it at the time,” Mr. Funabashi, the foundation founder, said.

Mr. Funabashi blamed the Kan administration’s fear of creating a panic for its decision to understate the true dangers of the accident. He said the Japanese government hid its most alarming assessments not just from its own public but also from allies like the United States. Mr. Funabashi said the investigation revealed “how precarious the U.S.-Japan relationship was” in the early days of the crisis, until the two nations began daily informational meetings at the prime minister’s residence on March 22.

The report seemed to confirm the suspicions of nuclear experts in the United States — inside and outside the government — that the Japanese government was not being forthcoming about the full dangers posed by the stricken Fukushima plant. But it also showed that the United States government occasionally overreacted and inflated the risks, like when American officials mistakenly warned that the spent fuel rods in the pool near unit No. 4 were exposed to the air and vulnerable to melting down and releasing massive amounts of radiation.

Still, Mr. Funabashi said it was the Japanese government’s failure to warn its people of the dangers and the widespread distrust it bred in the government that spurred him to assemble the independent investigation. Such outside investigations have been rare in Japan, where the public in the past has tended to accept official versions of events.

He said his group’s findings conflicted with those of the government’s own investigation into the accident, which were released in an interim report in December. A big difference involved one of the most crucial moments of the nuclear crisis, when the prime minister, Mr. Kan, marched into Tepco’s headquarters early on the morning of March 15 upon hearing that the company wanted to withdraw its employees from the wrecked nuclear plant.

The government’s investigation sided with Tepco by saying that Mr. Kan, a former social activist who often clashed with Japan’s establishment, had simply misunderstood the company, which wanted to withdraw only a portion of its staff. Mr. Funabashi said his foundation’s investigators had interviewed most of the people involved — except executives at Tepco, which refused to cooperate — and found that the company had in fact said it wanted a total pull out.

He credited Mr. Kan with making the right decision in forcing Tepco not to abandon the plant.

“Prime Minister Kan had his minuses and he had his lapses,” Mr. Funabashi said, “but his decision to storm into Tepco and demand that it not give up saved Japan.”

Copyright 2012 The New York Times

The Big Lie: One Year After Fukushima, Nuclear Cover Up Revealed

by Karl Grossman

As the first anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster arrives, the cover-up involving nuclear power is more extensive than ever.

The Big Lie was integral to the nuclear push from its start.

Promoters of nuclear power discounted the seriousness of nuclear plant accidents, although government documents acknowledged the vast scale of catastrophe. As the Atomic Energy Commission’s “WASH-740 update,” done at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the 1960s, repeatedly states about a major nuclear plant accident: “The possible size of the area of such a disaster might be equal to that of the State of Pennsylvania.”

They pushed the “peaceful atom” although knowing that any nation with a nuclear plant would have the materiel from it (the plutonium produced as a byproduct) and trained personnel to make atomic weapons.

They downplayed the effects of radioactivity claiming it needed to reach a “threshold” to cause harm even as it became clear that any amount of radioactivity can injure and kill.
And nuclear power would be “too cheap to meter,” they insisted.

And on and on…

The realities of nuclear power have become ever more evident acutely so because of the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

But the Nuclear Big Lie continues bigger than ever.

In recent weeks, for example, there’s been the move to negate what has been the U.S. government’s benchmark analysis on the impacts of nuclear plant accidents. “Calculation Reactor Accident Consequences 2” (CRAC-2) was done for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories in 1982. It catalogues the impacts from a meltdown with a breach of containment at every nuclear plant in the U.S.

It divides the consequences into “Peak Early Fatalities,” “Peak Early Injuries,” “Peak Cancer Deaths” and “Scaled Costs” for property damage and the numbers are chilling.

For the Indian Point 3 nuclear plant north of New York City, for instance, it projects “Peak Early Fatalities” at 50,000, “Peak Early Injuries” at 167,000, “Peak Cancer Deaths” at 14,000 and “Scaled Costs” at $314 billion (in 1980 dollars).

The estimates turn out to be low considering the toll of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant accident.

But in January, the NRC put out a report that it intends to replace CRAC-2 with that it titles the “State-of-the-Art Reactor Consequences Analyses” or SOARCA. SOARCA flatly dismisses the high casualty and damage figures of CRAC-2 (and the WASH-740 update before it). Using as models the Surry nuclear station in Virginia and the Peach Bottom facility in Pennsylvania, each with two nuclear plants, the NRC declared that the “risks of public health consequences from severe accidents” at a nuclear plant “are very small.”

The “long-term risk” of a person dying from cancer from a nuclear plant accident is less than one-in-a billion, says SOARCA. This is because “successful implementation of existing mitigation measures can prevent reactor core damage or delay or reduce offsite releases of radioactive material.”

Tell that to the people impacted by Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Cindy Folkers of the organization Beyond Nuclear declares that the “NRC should immediately withdraw its absurd SOARCA report and get about the business of protecting the public health, safety, and the environment its mandate rather than doing the nuclear power industry’s bidding.”

Then there’s the attempt to cover up Fuksushima impacts.

"Health impacts from the radioactive materials released in the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns will probably be too small to be easily measured,” began a New York Times piece by Matthew Wald last week. That was based on a Health Physics Society program at the National Press Club.

But the Health Physics Society is a booster of nuclear technology. It wasn’t supposed to be that. The health physics profession was founded in 1943 by Karl Z. Morgan, a physicist with an interest in the health effects of radioactivity. He was hired by the Manhattan Project, the World War II crash program to build atomic bombs, to deal with health issues caused by radioactivity at the project. Then, for more than two decades, he was director of health physics at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. He was the first president of the Health Physics Society. And he saw and protested the profession selling out.

“It is with much reluctance and regret that I now must recognize that the U.S. profession of health physics has become essentially a labor union for the nuclear industry not a profession of scientists dedicated to protect the worker and members of the public from radiation injury,” Dr. Morgan wrote in 1992.

The radioactivity that has fallen in Japan for many months from Fukushima will have enormous consequences to the people of Japan. The type of accident that occurred at Fukushima Daiichi was “something that never happened a multiple reactor catastrophe…happening within 200 kilometers of 30 million people,” notes Dr. Alexey Yablokov, lead author of Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment. Dr. Yablokov, a biologist, and two other scientists, in the 2009 book, published by the New York Academy of Sciences, find that 985,000 people died between 1986, the year of the Chernobyl accident, “The Fukushima disaster will be worse than Chernobyl,” agrees Dr. Janette Sherman, toxicologist and editor of the Chernobyl book. She also points to the Fukushima disaster involving several nuclear plants along with spent fuel pools affecting a part of Japan “far more populated” than the region around Chernobyl.

Fukushima fall-out has already caused death in the U.S., Dr. Sherman and epidemiologist Joseph Mangano of the Radiation and Public Health Project have determined.

Dr. Sherman and Mangano cross-checked data on infant mortality from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with records of Fukushima fallout from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and found that infant mortality spiked by an average of 35 percent in eight cities west of the Rocky Mountains, including San Francisco and Seattle, and by 48 percent in Philadelphia during the ten weeks after the accident began on March 11, 2011.

Infant mortality defined as death of children from birth to one year old is considered an early measure of radiation effects because there is rapid growth and cell division at this stage, increasing the impacts of radioactivity. Cancer is a subsequent consequence.

“A global increase in cancer can be expected from the Fukushima discharges,” says Dr. Sherman, who has been an advisor to the National Cancer Institute and has studied the impacts of radiation since working for the Atomic Energy Commission in the 1950s.

Besides blowing in the wind, the radioactive poisons from Fukushima have been spread in food, which is why several countries have restricted food imports from Japan.

Moreover, the sea along the Fukushima site provides a vast pathway for spreading radioactivity. When radioactive poison gets into the marine environment a “concentration factor” kicks in as the radiation moves up the food chain. Small fish eat radiation-contaminated seaweed, and medium-size fish eat the small fish. Then big fish eat the medium-size fish and radioactivity becomes increasingly concentrated. Some of the fish are migratory, so it’s not just sushi in Tokyo that’s imperiled.

Meanwhile, the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear industry trade group, continues to insist: “No health effects are expected among the Japanese people as a result of the events at Fukushima.” The American Nuclear Society proclaims on its website that “no public ill effects are expected from the Fukushima incident.”

Mangano says that “the absurd belief that no one will be harmed by Fukushima is perhaps the strongest evidence of the pattern of deception and denial by nuclear officials in industry and government.”

Further, last May 3,after doing at least weekly monitoring of radioactivity providing the data that Dr. Sherman and Mangano linked to infant mortality, the EPA announced it would only gather readings every three months. Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, described it as “inexplicable that EPA would shut down its radiation monitoring effort” while Fukushima discharges continued to fall on the U.S.

Inexplicable, but in line, says Dr. Jeffrey Patterson, immediate past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility, with the “cover-up, a minimization of the effects of radioactivity, since the development of nuclear weapons and nuclear technology.”

Here and there, there’s been a break through the Fukushima cover-up such the PBS television Frontline program, Inside Japan’s Nuclear Meltdown, that aired last week with an interview with former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan in which he acknowledged that Japanese officials considered at one point an evacuation of the greater Tokyo area with its 30 million people. The New York Times, in a Page One story last week, also reported this based not on its own investigative work but on a six-month inquiry by the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation that resulted in a 400-page report.

Yes, as WASH-740-update said decades ago, the scale of a major nuclear plant accident “might be equal to that of the State of Pennsylvania.”

Another part of the cover-up since Fukushima has been the claim that there is no alternative to nuclear power. As Miranda Spencer wrote in last May’s issue of Extra! magazine, with the Fukushima disaster “U.S. government and nuclear industry spin control kicked in, asserting that a similar disaster couldn’t happen here, and that atomic power is here to stay…An option hardly mentioned: renewable energy, such as wind, solar and geothermal power.”

This is especially important for the nuclear establishment because, as Spencer pointed out, “wind is already cheaper per kilowatt-hour than nuclear” and “the National Research Council estimates that by 2020, the cost of geothermal will be comparable to or lower than that of nuclear (10 cents/kwh versus 6-13 cents/kwh). Solar power, which the Council said “could potentially produce many times the current and projected future U.S. electricity consumption,” is projected to cost anywhere from 8-30 cents/kwh. Also, "A Duke University study found that the cost of solar power has not only recently declined by half, but also is poised to become cheaper than nuclear, even in places that aren’t always sunny." The claims, she accurately wrote, that safe, clean, renewable power is not here to substitute for atomic energy “simply don’t stand up to scrutiny.”

But “the story that emerged accordingly presented nuclear energy as a path with no real alternatives.” This is despite Germany, Italy, Switzerland and other nations deciding, because of Fukushima, to pursue safe, clean, renewable power instead of nuclear power. It can be done.

“Renewable Energy Can Power the World, Says Landmark IPCC Study,” headlined the British newspaper, The Guardian, also in May. It went on: “UN’s climate change science body says renewable supply, particularly solar power, can meet global demand.” The article, about a 1,000-page report of the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, added, however, that this is “only if governments pursue the policies needed to promote green power.”

An especially grisly angle was taken in last week’s New Scientist magazine. In an article titled “Radiation and evolution, Surviving fallout,” it reported on a study on birds around Chernobyl and Fukushima. “When researchers looked at the 14 bird species that lived in both regions, they found that the same level of radiation was associated with twice as large a drop in bird numbers in Fukushima as in Chernobyl.”

New Scientist said that Dr. Timothy Mousseau, professor of biological sciences at the University of South Carolina, co-author of the study published in Environmental Pollution, believes a “likely explanation is that evolution has already been at work near Chernobyl, killing off individual birds that cannot cope with the background radiation and allowing the genes of those that have some tolerance to be passed on. The birds at Fukushima are only beginning to face the evolutionary challenge of living in a radioactive world.”

Does this point to the consequence of living in “a radioactive world” the elimination of huge numbers of people with the more radiation-tolerant humans the survivors? Is this what we want? And is there no choice but to live in “a radioactive world.”

Nobel Award-winning biologist Dr. George Wald once said of nuclear power: “If you were to read in the newspapers tomorrow that astronomers had a shocking piece of information for us, they had just found another star is going to collide with the sun and that would be curtains, we’d have eight months more to go and, finished why heavens above! You would put on your best clothes and go dancing in the streets that’s cosmic, that’s fate. You could go out with dignity.” But to die as a result of nuclear power, he said, “is so trivial, it’s so ghastly ignoble as to be, I think, intolerable, altogether unacceptable.” And he called for “the closing down of all nuclear power plants tomorrow.”

That’s more relevant and urgent than ever.

Censored: Japan Cuts Emperor Akihito's Nuclear Comments from TV

by Common Dreams staff

On the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, March 11, Japan's Emperor Akihito gave a speech at a government-sponsored memorial ceremony in Tokyo.

The emperor, who had just been released from the hospital a week earlier from a heart bypass surgery, said in his address that people who had lived in areas marked as danger zones had been forced to leave their homes and said, "In order for them to live there again safely, we have to overcome the problem of radioactive contamination, which is a formidable task."

While the address was seen in its entirety live and in the morning newspapers, The Atlantic reports that by the evening, major news programs took out his nuclear comments and made no mention of them. The Atlantic points out that social media forum quickly made note of the omission and accused networks of censorship.

* * *

Kyodo News: Emperor Akihito offers condolences to victims of March disaster

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Emperor Akihito, who is recuperating from heart bypass surgery, offered condolences Sunday to the victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami at a government-sponsored memorial ceremony in Tokyo to mark the first anniversary of the disaster in northeastern Japan.

"I would like to express my deepest condolences for the many people who lost their lives in this earthquake," the emperor said in his speech at the ceremony held at the National Theater in central Tokyo. With Empress Michiko at his side, the royal couple observed a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m., the time the earthquake struck last year. [...]

The emperor acknowledged that due to the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, people in areas designated as the danger zone lost their homes and livelihoods when compelled to leave where they lived.

"In order for them to live there again safely, we have to overcome the problem of radioactive contamination, which is a formidable task," the emperor said.

* * *

Michael McAteer: The Atlantic
Japan in Uproar Over Censorship of Emperor's Anti-Nuclear Speech

There is a particularly sensitive accusation reverberating through online discussion boards and social media in Japan: that Emperor Akihito's speech on the one year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami was censored on TV for his comments about the nuclear disaster at Fukushima. [...]

["In order for them to live there again safely, we have to overcome the problem of radioactive contamination, which is a formidable task," said the emperor.]

While this statement may seem more obvious than radical to outsiders, underneath the Imperial-grade Japanese understatement were two ideas that have become quietly explosive. First, he seemed to suggest that the nuclear crisis is not over, a "formidable task" yet to be overcome. This noticeably contradicts the government's official stance that Fukushima has achieved a cold shutdown and, for all practical purposes, the crisis is over. Second, it implies that it is not yet safe for people to return to areas stricken with high levels of radiation, at least not before the "formidable task" is "overcome." This, again, contradicts the government's position that it is now safe for people to return to almost all areas and that neither Tokyo Electric Power Company nor the national government are obliged to assist in long term evacuations. [...]

[M]any Japanese were shocked when TV media began cutting out the emperor's dramatic statement. Live daytime broadcasts of the event contained the whole speech and newspapers printed it in its entirety. But, by that evening, all of the major news programs aired edited versions of the speech without his nuclear comments, which also went unmentioned and undiscussed on the heavily watches news shows. The vast majority of Japanese, who don't watch TV news during the day, missed the comments entirely.

Blogs and chat-rooms quickly filled with angry accusations that TV networks were censoring an important communication by the Emperor to his people at a time when his guidance is most sought.

Fukushima Greater Disaster than Chernobyl, Warning to US

Why Fukushima Is a Greater Disaster than Chernobyl and a Warning Sign for the U.S.

The radioactive inventory of all the irradiated nuclear fuel stored in spent fuel pools at Fukushima is far greater and even more problematic than the molten cores.
by Robert Alvarez

In the aftermath of the world’s worst nuclear power disaster, the news media is just beginning to grasp that the dangers to Japan and the rest of the world posed by the Fukushima-Dai-Ichi site are far from over. After repeated warnings by former senior Japanese officials, nuclear experts, and now a U.S. Senator, it is sinking in that the irradiated nuclear fuel stored in spent fuel pools amidst the reactor ruins may have far greater potential offsite consequences than the molten cores.

After visiting the site recently, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) wrote to Japan's ambassador to the U.S. stating that, "loss of containment in any of these pools could result in an even greater release than the initial accident."

This is why:

Each pool contains irradiated fuel from several years of operation, making for an extremely large radioactive inventory without a strong containment structure that encloses the reactor cores;
Several pools are now completely open to the atmosphere because the reactor buildings were demolished by explosions; they are about 100 feet above ground and could possibly topple or collapse from structural damage coupled with another powerful earthquake;
The loss of water exposing the spent fuel will result in overheating can cause melting and ignite its zirconium metal cladding – resulting in a fire that could deposit large amounts of radioactive materials over hundreds of miles.

Irradiated nuclear fuel, also called "spent fuel," is extraordinarily radioactive. In a matter of seconds, an unprotected human one foot away from a single freshly removed spent fuel assembly would receive a lethal dose of radiation within seconds. As one of the most dangerous materials in the world, spent reactor fuel poses significant long-term risks, requiring isolation in a geological disposal site that can protect the human environment for tens of thousands of years.

It's almost 26 years since the Chernobyl reactor exploded and caught fire releasing enormous amounts of radioactive debris. The Chernobyl accident revealed the folly of not having an extra barrier of thick concrete and steel surrounding the reactor core that is required for modern plants in the U.S., Japan and elsewhere. The Fukushima Dai-Ichi accident revealed the folly of storing huge amounts of highly radioactive spent fuel in vulnerable pools, high above the ground.

What both accidents have in common is widespread environmental contamination from cesium-137. With a half-life of 30, years, Cs-137 gives off penetrating radiation, as it decays. Once in the environment, it mimics potassium as it accumulates in biota and the human food chain for many decades. When it enters the human body, about 75 percent lodges in muscle tissue, with perhaps the most important muscle being the heart. Studies of chronic exposure to Cs-137 among the people living near Chernobyl show an alarming rate of heart problems, particularly among children.

As more information is made available, we now know that the Fukushima Dai-Ichi site is storing 10,833 spent fuel assemblies (SNF) containing roughly 327 million curies of long-lived radioactivity About 132 million curies is cesium-137 or nearly 85 times the amount estimated to have been released at Chernobyl.

The overall problem we face is that nearly all of the spent fuel at the Dai-Ichi site is in vulnerable pools in a high risk/consequence earthquake zone. The urgency of the situation is underscored by the ongoing seismic activity around NE Japan in which 13 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 - 5.7 have occurred off the NE coast of Honshu last week in the 4 days between 4/14 and 4/17. This has been the norm since the first quake and tsunami hit the site on March 11th of last year. Larger quakes are expected closer to the power plant.
Earlier this month, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) revealed plans to remove 2,274 spent fuel assemblies from the damaged reactors that will probably take at least a decade to accomplish. The first priority will be removal of the contents in Pool No. 4. This pool is structurally damaged and contains about 10 times more cesium-137 than released at Chernobyl. Removal of SNF from the No. 4 reactor is optimistically expected to begin at the end of 2013. A significant amount of construction to remove, debris and reinforce the structurally-damaged reactor buildings, especially the fuel-handling areas, will be required.

Also, it is not safe to keep 1,882 spent fuel assemblies containing ~57 million curies of long-lived radioactivity, including nearly 15 times more cs-137 than released at Chernobyl in the elevated pools at reactors 5, 6, and 7, which did not experience melt-downs and explosions.

The main reason why there is so much spent fuel at the Da-Ichi site, is that it was supposed to be sent to the Rokkasho reprocessing plant, which has experienced 18 lengthy delays throughout its construction history. Plutonium and uranium was to be extracted from the spent fuel there, with the plutonium to be used as fuel at the Monju fast reactor.

After several decades and billions of dollars, the United States effectively abandoned the "closed" nuclear fuel cycle 30 years ago for cost and nuclear non-proliferation reasons. Over the past 60 years, the history of fast reactors using plutonium is littered with failures the most recent being the Monju project in Japan. Monju was cancelled in November of last year, dealing a fatal blow to the dream of a "closed" nuclear fuel cycle in Japan.

The stark reality, if TEPCO's plan is realized, is that nearly all of the spent fuel at the Da-Ichi containing some of the largest concentrations of radioactivity on the planet will remain indefinitely in vulnerable pools. TEPCO wants to store the spent fuel from the damaged reactors in the common pool, and only to resort to dry, cask storage when the common pool's capacity is exceeded. At this time, the common pool is at 80 percent storage capacity and will require removal of SNF to make room. TEPCO's plan is to minimize dry cask storage as much as possible and to rely indefinitely on vulnerable pool storage. Senator Wyden finds that TEPCO's plan for remediation carries extraordinary and continuing risk. He sensibly recommends that retrieval of spent fuel in existing on-site spent fuel pools to safer storage in dry casks should be a priority.

Given these circumstances, a key goal for the stabilization of the Fukushima-Daichi site is to place all of its spent reactor fuel into dry, hardened storage casks. This will require about 244 additional casks at a cost of about $1 mllion per cask. To accomplish this goal, an international effort is required – something that Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has called for. As we have learned, despite the enormous destruction from the earthquake and tsunami at the Dai-Ich Site, the nine dry casks and their contents were unscathed. This is an important lesson we should not ignore.

© 2012 Institute for Policy Studies

Robert Alvarez, an Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar, served as senior policy adviser to the Energy Department's secretary and deputy assistant secretary for national security and the environment from 1993 to 1999.

Tepco Says It Underestimated Radiation Released at Fukushima

TOKYO (Reuters) — The amount of radioactive materials released in the first days of the Fukushima nuclear disaster was almost two and a half times the initial estimate by Japanese safety regulators, the operator of the crippled plant said in a report released on Thursday.

The operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, said the meltdowns it believes took place at three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant released about 900,000 terabecquerels of radioactive substances into the air during March 2011. The accident, which followed an earthquake and a tsunami, occurred on March 11.

The latest estimate was based on measurements suggesting the amount of iodine-131 released by the nuclear accident was much larger than previous estimates, the utility said in the report. Iodine-131 is a fast-decaying radioactive substance produced by fission that takes place inside a nuclear reactor. It has a half-life of eight days and can cause thyroid cancer.

It is difficult to judge the health effects of the larger-than-reported release, since even the latest number is an estimate, and it does not clarify how much exposure people received or continue to receive from contaminated soil and food. Experts have been divided on the health impacts since the disaster because the studies of assessing radiation risks are based mainly on a different type of exposure — the large doses delivered quickly by the atomic bombs in Japan in 1945.

Although people who lived closest to the plant were evacuated, many people remain in areas with significantly higher radiation levels than normal.

Tokyo Electric said it had initially been unable to accurately judge the amount of radioactive materials released soon after the accident because radiation sensors closest to the plant were disabled in the disaster.

“If this information had been available at the time, we could have used it in planning evacuations,” a spokesman for Tokyo Electric, Junichi Matsumoto, said at a news conference.

More than 99 percent of the radiation released by the accident came in the first three weeks, the utility company added.

The newly released information is likely to add to concerns among many Japanese that they were never told the extent of the accident or the risks it posed.

A terabecquerel is a trillion becquerels, a commonly used measure of the radiation emitted by a radioactive material.

Copyright 2012 Reuters

Fukushima Radiation Found in Tuna Off California

by Common Dreams staff

Detectable amounts of cesium-137 and cesium-134 were found in bluefin tuna caught off the coast of California about four months after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, US scientists reported on Monday.

The timing is important because it shows that migrating fish carried radiation much further and faster than either wind or ocean currents. In addition, of course, the bluefin are a highly prized edible fish found in sushi restaurants all over the world.

Without making a definitive judgment on the safety of the fish, lead author Daniel Madigan of Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station told Reuters that the amount of radioactive material detected was far less than the Japanese safety limit.

"I wouldn't tell anyone what's safe to eat or what's not safe to eat," she said. "It's become clear that some people feel that any amount of radioactivity, in their minds, is bad and they'd like to avoid it."

* * *

Reuters reports:

There was about five times the background amount of cesium 137 in the bluefin tuna they tested, but that is still a tiny quantity, Madigan said: 5 becquerels instead of 1 becquerel. (It takes 37 billion becquerels to equal 1 curie; for context, a pound of uranium-238 has 0.00015 curies of radioactivity, so one becquerel would be a truly miniscule proportion.)

The researchers figured that the elevated levels of cesium 137 and all of the cesium 134 they detected came from Fukushima because of the way bluefin tuna migrate across the Pacific.

Bluefin tuna spawn only in the western Pacific, off the coasts of Japan and the Philippines. As young fish, some migrate east to the California coast, where upwelling ocean water brings lots of food for them and their prey. They get to these waters as juveniles or adolescents, and remain there, fattening up.

Judging by the size of the bluefin tuna they sampled - they averaged about 15 pounds (6 kg) - the researchers knew these were young fish that had left Japanese water about a month after the accident.

Most of the radiation was released over a few days in April 2011, and unlike some other compounds, radioactive cesium does not quickly sink to the sea bottom but remains dispersed in the water column, from the surface to the ocean floor.

Fish can swim right through it, ingesting it through their gills, by taking in seawater or by eating organisms that have already taken it in, Madigan said.

* * *

The Guardian adds:

The results "are unequivocal. Fukushima was the source", said Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, who played no part in the research.

Japan's chief cabinet secretary, Osamu Fujimura, conceded that the findings suggested the monitoring of radiation levels in fish outside Japanese waters may have to be stepped up. [...]

"We were frankly kind of startled," said Nicholas Fisher, an expert at Stony Brook University in New York who took part in the study. "That's a big ocean. To swim across it and still retain these radionuclides is pretty amazing."

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, Tokyo Electric Power, estimates that 18,000 terabecquerels of radioactive materials flowed into the Pacific after the accident, either in the form of fallout, or through mixing with water that leaked from the facility. A terabecquerel is equal to 1tn becquerels.

# # #

Nuclear Tuna and NPR's Trivialization

NPR shouldn't trivialize the risk of radioactive tuna from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.
by Robert Alvarez

Yesterday, National Public Radio (NPR) ran a story asserting that cesium-137 from the Fukushima nuclear accident found in Bluefin tuna on the west coast of the U.S. is harmless (

It's not harmless. The Fukushima nuclear accident released about as much cesium-137 as a thermonuclear weapon with the explosive force of 11 million tons of TNT. In the spring of 1954, after the United States exploded nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands, the Japanese government had to confiscate about 4 million pounds of contaminated fish.

Radiation from Fukushima spread far and wide. Like American hydrogen bomb testing, the Fukushima nuclear accident deposited cesium-137 over 600,000 square-miles of the Pacific, as well as the Northern Hemisphere and Europe. With a half-life of 30 years, cesium-137 is taken up in the meat of the tuna as if it were potassium, indicating that the metabolism holds on to it.

According to a previously secret 1955 memo from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission regarding concerns of the British government over contaminated tuna, "dissipation of radioactive fall-out in ocean waters is not a gradual spreading out of the activity from the region with the highest concentration to uncontaminated regions, but that in all probability the process results in scattered pockets and streams of higher radioactive materials in the Pacific. We can speculate that tuna which now show radioactivity from ingested materials have been living, in or have passed through, such pockets; or have been feeding on plant and animal life which has been exposed in those areas."

In 2001, the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry noted that "...concentrations of cesium within muscle tissue are somewhat higher than the whole-body average. Cesium has been shown to cross the placental barrier of animals..."

There are several reasons why it's not advisable to eat Bluefin tuna:

Cesium-137 adds to the contaminant risk of harm to humans eating the Bluefin tuna, especially pregnant women and infants, who are the most vulnerable, and will for some time to come.
Bluefin tuna is an endangered species because of over-fishing and contamination.
Bluefin tuna accumulate other contaminants such as mercury from sources such as coal-fired power plants.

If NPR had been around in the 1950's, would it also have trivialized the impacts of open-air hydrogen bomb testing?

© 2012 Institute for Policy Studies

Robert Alvarez, an Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar, served as senior policy adviser to the Energy Department's secretary and deputy assistant secretary for national security and the environment from 1993 to 1999.

Japanese Gov't Hid Radiation Information from Public

Japan withheld US-provided radiation maps in days after Fukushima disaster
by Common Dreams staff

The Japanese government admitted on Monday that it did not use U.S.-provided maps showing the spread of radiation in the days after the Fukushima nuclear disaster to evacuate residents in areas with spiked radiation levels.

The newspaper Asahi Shimbun reports ( that Tetsuya Yamamoto, deputy director-general for safety examination of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA), told reporters today that the U.S. provided detailed radiation maps taken by the U.S. Energy Department using U.S. military planes on three occasions in the week after the Fukushima disaster began on March 11.

The information, showing residents in an area northwest of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear plant were being exposed to their annual permissible dose of radiation within only eight hours, was not made public, and those residents were not evacuated.

Industry Minister Yukio Edano told reporters today, "It is extremely regrettable that this information was not shared or utilized properly within the government and I have no words to apologize, especially to the disaster victims."

The news of the radiation map blackout comes days after Japan announced it would restart two reactors at the Oi nuclear power plant despite the majority of Japanese people being strongly against nuclear power.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said of the restart, "We are determined to make further efforts to restore people's trust in nuclear policy and safety regulations."

* * *

Agence France-Presse: Japan sorry for not using US radiation map

Tokyo - A Japanese minister apologized on Tuesday for the nation's failure to make use of a United States-made map showing how radiation was spreading from crippled reactors in the days after the Fukushima crisis.

Tokyo admitted that confusion among government departments meant the map was never used and evacuees were not directed away from areas where radiation from the leaking nuclear plant was spiking.

* * *

Kyodo News: Japan sat on U.S. radiation maps showing immediate fallout from nuke crisis

From March 17 to 19, U.S. military aircraft collected radiation data in an area with a 45-km radius from the plant for the U.S. Department of Energy. The data showed that more than 125 microsieverts of radiation per hour was leaking as far as about 25 km northwest of the plant, meaning residents in the area were being exposed to their annual permissible dose within just eight hours.

# # #

The Terrifying Normal: Nuclear Industry's Collusion with Gov't

by Karl Grossman

The conclusion of a report of a Japanese parliamentary panel issued last week that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster was rooted in government-industry “collusion” and thus was “man-made” is mirrored throughout the world. The “regulatory capture” cited by the panel is the pattern among nuclear agencies right up to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

“The Fukushima nuclear power plant accident was the result of collusion between the government, the regulators and Tepco [Tokyo Electric Power Company, the owner of the six Fukushima plants] and the lack of governance by said parties,” said the 641-page report of The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission released on July 5. “They effectively betrayed the nation’s right to be safe from nuclear accidents. Therefore, we conclude that the accident was clearly ‘man-made,’” said the report of the panel established by the National Diet or parliament of Japan.

“We believe the root causes were the organizational and regulatory system that supported faulty rationales for decisions and actions,” it went on. “Across the board, the commission found ignorance and arrogance unforgivable for anyone or any organization that deals with nuclear power.” It said nuclear regulators in Japan and Tepco “all failed to correctly develop the most basic safety requirements.”

The chairman of the 10-member panel, Kiyoshi Kurokawa, a medical doctor, declared in the report’s introduction: “It was a profoundly man-made disaster ­that could and should have been foreseen and prevented.”

He also placed blame on cultural traits in Japan. “What must be admitted ­very painfully,” wrote Dr. Kurokawa, “is that this was a disaster ‘Made in Japan.’ Its fundamental causes are to be found in the ingrained conventions of Japanese culture; our reflexive obedience; our reluctance to question authority; our devotion to ‘sticking with the programme’; our groupism; and our insularity.”

In fact, the nuclear regulatory situation in Japan is the rule globally.

In the United States, for example, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission and its predecessor agency, the Atomic Energy Commission, never denied a construction or operating license for a nuclear power plant anywhere, anytime. The NRC has been busy in recent times not only giving the go-ahead to new nuclear power plant construction in the U.S. but extending the operating licenses of most of the 104 existing plants from 40 to 60 years­ although they were only designed to run for 40 years. That’s because radioactivity embrittles their metal components and degrades other parts after 40 years making the plants unsafe to operate. And the NRC is now considering extending their licenses for 80 years.

Moreover, the NRC’s chairman, Gregory Jaczko, recently resigned in the face of an assault on him by the nuclear industry and his four fellow NRC members led by William D. Magwood, IV. Magwood, ­a zealous promoter of nuclear power, is typical of most NRC and AEC commissioners through the decades. He came to the NRC after running Advanced Energy Strategies through which he served as a consultant to various companies involved with nuclear power including many in Japan­among them Tepco.

Before that, Magwood served as director of nuclear energy for the U.S. Department of Energy. He “led the creation,” according to his NRC biography, of DOE programs pushing nuclear power, “Nuclear Power 2010” and “Generation IV.” Prior to that, he worked for the Edison Electric Institute and Westinghouse, a major nuclear power plant manufacturer.

Jaczko, although a supporter of nuclear power, with a Ph.D. in physics, repeatedly called for the NRC to apply “lessons learned” from the Fukushima disaster to its rules and actions­ -- upsetting the industry and the other four NRC commissioners. As Jaczko declared in February as the other four NRC commissioners first approved the construction of new nuclear plants since Fukushima, giving the go-ahead to two plants in Georgia: “I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima had never happened.”

The NRC was set up to be an independent regulator of nuclear power to replace the AEC which was established by Congress under the Atomic Energy Act of 1946. The AEC was given the dual missions of promoting and regulating nuclear power­. The dual role was a conflict of interest, Congress realized in 1974, so it eliminated the AEC and created the NRC as regulator and, later, the Department of Energy as promoter of nuclear power. But both the NRC and DOE have ended up pushing nuclear power with revolving doors between them and the government’s national nuclear laboratories ­and the nuclear industry.

The International Atomic Energy Agency was established as an international version of the AEC by the United Nations after a speech made at it by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 in which he espoused “Atoms for Peace.” Its dual missions are serving as a monitor of nuclear technology globally while also seeking “to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world.”

The IAEA's first director general was Sterling Cole, a US congressman and a big booster of nuclear power. Later came Hans Blix after he led a move in his native Sweden against an effort to close nuclear plants there. Blix was outspoken in seeking to spread nuclear power internationally calling for “resolute response by government, acting individually or together as in the [IAE] Agency.”

Blix’s long-time IAEA second-in command was Morris Rosen, ­formerly of the AEC and before that the nuclear division of General Electric (which manufactured the Fukushima plants)­who said after the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster: “There is very little doubt that nuclear power is a rather benign industrial enterprise and we may have to expect catastrophic accidents from time to time.”

Mohamed ElBaradei of Egypt followed Blix, and as he told an “International Conference on Nuclear Power for the 21st Century” organized by the IAEA in 2005: “There is clearly a sense of rising expectations for nuclear power.”

The current IAEA director general is Yukiya Amano of Japan. In Vienna at the heaquarters of the IAEA, marking the first anniversary of the Fukushima disaster in March, Amano said: “Nuclear power is now safer than it was a year ago.”


Shuya Nomura, a member of the Japanese investigation commission and a professor at the Chuo Law School, was quoted in the New York Times as saying that the panel’s report tried to “shed light on Japan’s wider structural problems, on the pus that pervades Japanese society.” And, noted the Times, he added, “This report contains hints on how Japanese society needs to change.”

Those “wider structural problems” are far wider than Japan; ­they are global. The “regulatory capture” cited in the Japanese panel’s report has occurred all over the world­ with the nuclear industry and those promoting nuclear power in governments making sure that the nuclear foxes are in charge of the nuclear hen houses. The “pus that pervades Japanese society” is international. With some very important exceptions, people have not adequately taken on the nuclear authorities. And we all must. The nuclear promoters have set up a corrupt system to enable them to get their way with their deadly technology. They have lied, they have connived, they have distorted governments. The nuclear industry is thus allowed to do whatever it wants. The nuclear pushers must be firmly challenged and they and nuclear power must be stopped.

Karl Grossman has been a professor of journalism at the State University of New York/College at Old Westbury for 32 years. He is a specialist in investigative reporting. He is the author of Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Power. He is the host of the nationally aired TV program, Enviro Close-Up.

Fukushima Workers 'Told to Lie About Radiation'

by Common Dreams Staff

After last year's Fukushima nuclear disaster, a subcontracting company working to clean up the plant told workers to lie ( about high radiation exposure in a bid to maintain its contract, Japanese media reported on Saturday.

According to the new reports, an executive at the company told about 10 of its workers to place lead casing around their radiation detection devices, worn on their clothes, so the meters would appear to read under the radiation exposure threshold.

Several workers at the company, Build-Up, told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper that a senior on-site supervisor urged workers to manipulate the radiation monitors.

The workers had a recording of their meeting, Asahi reported.

"Unless we hide it with lead, exposure will max out and we cannot work," the executive told the workers (

The supervisor executive told the workers they would quickly surpass the legally permissible exposure limit of 50 millisieverts, and should lie to keep on working.

Japan's health ministry has said it will begin an investigation into the reports.

Radiation at Fukushima Soars to Highest Level Yet

As officials tout 'ice wall' experiment, more lethal levels of radioactivity detected

by Andrea Germanos, Commondreams staff writer

Record high radiation levels were detected at the disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear plant, Japan's nuclear regulator and plant operator TEPCO said on Wednesday, raising more concerns that the spiraling catastrophe has no end in sight.

Officials said they had detected radiation of levels of 2,200 millisieverts per hour on Tuesday near contaminated water storage tanks. That's a rise of 20% from the previous high, the Guardian reports

The announcement comes just days after officials said they had detected lethal radiation levels 18 times higher than previously documented because the testing equipment they were using could only read measurements of up to a maximum of 100 millisieverts per hour.

Reuters notes that "both [the 2,200 and 1,800] levels would be enough to kill an unprotected person within hours."

Also festering at the plant is the buildup of contaminated water, which has proven an unsustainable crisis. There has also been as a series of leaks from storage tanks and pipes.

Mycle Schneider, lead author for the World Nuclear Industry status reports, told BBC News last month that the problem of water leaks "is much worse than we have been led to believe, much worse." There are leaks "not just from the tanks. It is leaking out from the basements, it is leaking out from the cracks all over the place," he said.  Further, the head of Japan's nuclear regulatory body warned on Monday that there may be no other option than to dump radioactive waste water into the Pacific.

In a desperate attempt to stop the leaks, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Tuesday the government plans to invest nearly $500 million in a giant "ice wall" surrounding the plant.

Nuclear engineer Arjun Makhijani of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research called the wall of ice plan a "risky experiment." Speaking on PBS Newshour, Makhijani explained:

I don't know that an ice wall like this has been tried before.

It's like building a dam underground, but with ice, by freezing all the poor water in the soil, all soil has -- so there's water coming in from uphill, through the side and going into the ocean, all underground. It's an aquifer. Some of that water contacts the molten fuel and is becoming contaminated.

And they hope to build -- to freeze the soil, basically, with a giant freezing machine, just like your freezer at home, put cooling coils in the soil, lots and lots of them. It takes an enormous amount of electricity and they would freeze it. Of course, it contains the water behind it like a dam, but eventually it's going to overtop the dam, as it did before. [...]

It is an experiment. And I think it's a risky experiment, because if the power fails, you know, just like if your -- when the power goes out with your refrigerator, everything will de-freeze in -- defrost in the freezer.

So, if this ice melts suddenly and it's blocking an enormous amount of contaminated water behind it, then you have got a problem. At the same time, you know, the tanks are themselves something of a threat, if there's another earthquake and this highly contaminated water gets into the ocean. And so they have a got a very -- couple of very, very serious problems of containing the water.

Last month, Makhijani warned, "This is an accident that’s shockingly not stopping."

Amidst the fight to contain the nuclear disaster, Japan is brushing aside concerns of radioactivity as it makes its bid to be the host of the 2020 Olympics.

“The radiation level in Tokyo is the same as London, New York and Paris,” said Tsunekazu Takeda, an IOC member and president of the Japanese Olympic committee. “It’s absolutely safe, 35 million people living there in very normal conditions. We have no worries.”


Post new comment

This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Theme by Danetsoft and Danang Probo Sayekti inspired by Maksimer