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The Myth of Nuclear Necessity – NYTimes.com

Posted by on Jan 14, 2013 in Environmental News, U.S. Nuclear Sites, Uncategorized | Comments Off

FIVE years ago, four titans of American foreign policy — the former secretaries of state George P. Shultz and Henry A. Kissinger, the former defense secretary William J. Perry and the former senator Sam Nunn — called for “a world free of nuclear weapons,” giving new momentum to an idea that had moved from the sidelines of pacifist idealism to the center of foreign policy debate.

America’s 76 million baby boomers grew up during the cold war, when a deep fear of nuclear weapons permeated American life, from duck-and-cover school drills to backyard fallout shelters. Then, in the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan’s leadership, combined with immense anti-nuclear demonstrations, led to negotiations with the Soviet Union that drastically reduced the size of the two superpowers’ nuclear arsenals.

Sadly, the abolition movement seems stalled. Part of the reason is fear of nuclear weapons in the hands of others: President George W. Bush exploited anxieties over nuclear weapons to justify the 2003 invasion of Iraq; most Republican presidential candidates last year said they would fight a war with Iran rather than allow it to get the bomb.

There is also a small group of people who still believe fervently in nuclear weapons. President Obama had to buy passage of the New START treaty with Russia, in 2010, with a promise to spend $185 billion to modernize warheads and delivery systems over 10 years — revealing that while support for nuclear weapons may not be broad, it runs deep. That support endures because of five widely held myths.

The first is the myth that nuclear weapons altered the course of World War II. Leaving aside the morality of America’s decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, new research by the historian Tsuyoshi Hasegawa and other scholars shows that Japan surrendered not because of the atom bomb but because the Soviets renounced neutrality and joined the war. Sixty-six Japanese cities had already been destroyed by conventional weapons — two more did not make the difference. Attributing surrender to the bomb was also convenient for Japan’s leaders, allowing them to blame defeat on a “miracle” weapon.

Second is the myth of “decisive destruction.” Mass destruction doesn’t win wars; killing soldiers does. No war has ever been won simply by killing civilians. The 1941-44 siege of Leningrad didn’t deter Soviet leaders from pressing the fight against Hitler. Nor did the 1945 firebombing of Dresden force Germany to submit. As long as an army has a fighting chance at victory, wars continue. Building ever more destructive weapons simply increases the horror of war, not the certainty of ending it.

Third is the myth of reliable nuclear deterrence. Numerous leaders have taken risks and acted aggressively during nuclear crises. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy and his advisers knew that blockading Cuba risked nuclear war; they mentioned the possibility 60 times while debating their options. Yet they went ahead. Nuclear proponents might argue that no cold war crisis ever erupted into nuclear war, so deterrence must work. But they’re moving the goal posts.

Originally it was claimed that nuclear weapons would assure success in negotiations, prevent any sort of attack — conventional or nuclear — and allow countries to protect their friends with a nuclear umbrella. When the Russians weren’t intimidated during talks after World War II, the claim about negotiations was dropped. When the Yom Kippur War and the Falkland Islands War showed that fighting against nuclear-armed countries was possible, the prevention of conventional war claim was dropped. The nuclear umbrella claim ought to have been dropped at the same time, but there was too much American foreign policy riding on it for anyone to make this argument. After all, if Britain couldn’t deter an attack on its own far-flung islands, how could deterrence prevent attacks on other countries?

Fourth is the myth of the long peace: the argument that the absence of nuclear war since 1945 means nuclear weapons have “kept the peace.” But we don’t accept proof by absence in any circumstance where there is real risk. We wouldn’t fly an airline that claimed to have invented a device that prevented metal fatigue, proved it by equipping 100 planes with the devices for one year without a single crash, and then suddenly ceased all metal-fatigue inspections and repairs, and decided instead to rely solely on these new devices.

The last and most stubborn myth is that of irreversibility. Whenever idealists say that they want to abolish nuclear weapons, so-called realists shake their heads and say, in tones of patient condescension. “You can’t stuff the nuclear genie back in the bottle.”

via The Myth of Nuclear Necessity – NYTimes.com.

Vermonters take sides as board debates state’s nuclear future – WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Posted by on Nov 21, 2012 in Environmental News, Featured, U.S. Nuclear Sites | Comments Off

WILLISTON, Vt. -The Public Service Board once again grapples with the continued operation of Vermont Yankee. Monday night, they heard from residents.From Bennington to the Northeast Kingdom, about 80 Vermonters from all over the state packed into 13 conference rooms to discuss the nuclear plant’s future. They made their case to members of the Vermont Public Service Board – who regulate utilities in the state.”I see absolutely no public good in its license extension and operation going forward and instead see a wide range of serious problems that will most likely harm the good citizens of Vermont,” said Huntington resident Wally Jenkins.”I support the issue of issuing a certificate of public good to Vermont Yankee,” said Bret Powell of Williston, “the opposition to Vermont Yankee can only be described as unsupported by history and facts.”Proponents of continued operation say the plant means jobs, stable power, and a low carbon footprint. “Vermont Yankee provides not only inexpensive power, it generates $100 million a year in economic benefits to the state,” said Powell.Opponents disagree about how green such a plant is, worry about its safety, and the trustworthiness of Vermont Yankee’s operators. “Time and time again, this corporation has shown little regard for the truth and has lied and broken promises with the state,” said Jenkins.The plant’s old license expired last March but federal regulators gave it the green light. Vermont challenged, and lost, in court. The state still has a say but can’t base its decision on safety, forcing the Public Service Board to start over.Public Service Board members say they hope to reach a decision by next fall. Should they decide not to issue a ‘Certificate of Public Good’ to Vermont Yankee, Entergy – the Louisiana based operators – could appeal to the state supreme court.

via Vermonters take sides as board debates state’s nuclear future – WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-.

TEPCO struggling to find somewhere to store contaminated water ‹ Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion

Posted by on Oct 30, 2012 in Environmental News, Fukushima, Japan | Comments Off

TOKYO —

Japan’s crippled nuclear power plant is struggling to find space to store tens of thousands of tons of highly contaminated water used to cool the broken reactors, the manager of the water treatment team said.

About 200,000 tons of radioactive water—enough to fill more than 50 Olympic-sized swimming pools—are being stored in hundreds of gigantic tanks built around the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co has already chopped down trees to make room for more tanks and predicts the volume of water will more than triple within three years.

“It’s a pressing issue because our land is limited and we would eventually run out of storage space,” the water-treatment manager, Yuichi Okamura, told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview this week.

TEPCO is close to running a new treatment system that could make the water safe enough to release into the ocean. But in the meantime, its tanks are filling up—mostly because leaks in reactor facilities are allowing ground water pour in.

Outside experts worry that if contaminated water is released, there will be lasting impact on the environment. And they fear that because of the reactor leaks and water flowing from one part of the plant to another, that may already be happening.

Nuclear engineer and college lecturer Masashi Goto said the contaminated water buildup poses a long-term health and environmental threat. He worries that the radioactive water in the basements may already be getting into the underground water system, where it could reach far beyond the plant, possibly the ocean or public water supplies.

“You never know where it’s leaking out and once it’s out, you can never put it back in place,” he said. “It’s just outrageous and shows how big a disaster this is.”

The concerns are less severe than the nightmare scenario TEPCO faced in the weeks after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and cooling systems at the plant, leading to explosions and meltdowns of three reactor cores. The plant released radiation into the surrounding air, soil and ocean and displaced more than 100,000 residents who are uncertain when—or if—they will be able to return to their homes.

Dumping massive amounts of water into the melting reactors was the only way to avoid an even bigger catastrophe.

Okamura remembers frantically trying to find a way to get water to spent fuel pools located on the highest floor of the 50-meter-high reactor buildings. Without water, the spent fuel likely would have overheated and melted, sending radioactive smoke for miles and affecting possibly millions of people.

“The water would keep evaporating, and the pools would have dried up if we had left them alone,” he said. “That would have been the end of it.”

Attempts to dump water from helicopters were ineffective. Spraying water from fire trucks into the pools didn’t work either. Okamura then helped bring in a huge, German-made concrete-making pump with a remote-controlled arm that was long enough to spray water

via TEPCO struggling to find somewhere to store contaminated water ‹ Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion.

Cancer risks near seven nuclear sites to be studied

Posted by on Oct 30, 2012 in Environmental News, Health News | Comments Off

12:51PM EDT October 25. 2012 – HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Federal regulators say a pilot study of cancer risks posed to residents near seven nuclear power sites in the United States will update 22-year-old data, but an industry group says the study won’t come up with anything new.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says it will study cancer types in infants and the general population near six nuclear power plants and a nuclear-fuel plant for the Navy. The $2 million study is expected to begin in the next three months and continue at least into 2014.

The Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry group, opposes the study, saying it won’t likely provide any meaningful data.

The sites are in California, Connecticut, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey and Tennessee.

via Cancer risks near seven nuclear sites to be studied.

Fish near Fukushima have high radiation levels | Nation/World | Detroit Free Press | freep.com

Posted by on Oct 30, 2012 in Environmental News, Japan | Comments Off

Most fish and seafood caught near Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear plant still have elevated levels of radioactive cesium more than 18 months after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, indicating continued contamination from either reactor leaks or seabed sediment, a U.S. researcher reports.

Nonetheless, the “vast majority” of fish caught off the northeast coast show radiation levels below tightened Japanese and international limits for seafood consumption, concludes marine chemist Ken Buesseler, of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

His analysis of data from the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries was published Friday in the journal Science. He led an international team last year that studied the spread of radioactive elements from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

“Although offshore waters are safe with respect to international standards for radionuclides in the ocean, the nuclear power plants continue to leak radioactive contaminants into the ocean,” Buesseler says.

According to the WHOI news release:

[T]he most highly contaminated fish continue to be caught off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture, as could be expected, and that demersal, or bottom-dwelling fish, consistently show the highest level of contamination by a radioactive isotope of cesium from the damaged nuclear power plant. He also points out that levels of contamination in almost all classifications of fish are not declining, although not all types of fish are showing the same levels, and some are not showing any appreciable contamination.

Buesseler found that 40% of bottom fish — cod, flounder, halibut, pollock, sole, greenlings and others — remain above the limit. Two greenlings caught in August contained cesium levels that were 250 times the level the government considers safe, the Associated Press notes.

Except for octopus and sea snails, the Japanese government has banned fish, other seafood and seaweed harvested near Fukushima from domestic markets or being exported.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has acknowledged that radioactive water used to cool the plant’s damaged reactors leaked into the Pacific several times, most recently in April.

“Given the 30-year half-life of cesium-137, this means that even if these sources (of contamination) were to be shut off completely, the sediments would remain contaminated for decades to come,” Buesseler wrote.

via Fish near Fukushima have high radiation levels | Nation/World | Detroit Free Press | freep.com.

Activists plan to sue Mass. nuclear plant owner – Businessweek

Posted by on Oct 11, 2012 in Environmental News, Featured, U.S. Nuclear Sites | Comments Off

PLYMOUTH, Mass. (AP) — Massachusetts activists have announced plans to sue the owners of the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station for what they say is the continuous pollution of Cape Cod Bay over the last 16 years.

The three activists, represented by Ecolaw, notified the Environmental Protection Agency on Friday of their intent to sue the plant’s owner, New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. They say the Plymouth plant damaged the local ecology by discharging chemical pollution and water heated far above allowed standards.

The activists say Pilgrim has more than 33,000 violations of the Clean Water Act since 1996 and charge that the company could be liable for $831 million in penalties, at $25,000 per violation.

In a separate letter Friday, Ecolaw also told the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection it intends to sue the agency for allegedly allowing Entergy to damage the environment.

Pine duBois, one of the three residents who signed the notification to the EPA, said regulators have a duty to enforce anti-pollution laws. “Our ocean is not Entergy’s dump,” she said in a news release. “Cape Cod Bay belongs to all of us.”

The Department of Environmental Protection said Tuesday it had just received the letter.

“We are currently reviewing each allegation contained in it,” the agency said in a statement.

Messages were left for Entergy and the EPA.

Pilgrim was relicensed earlier this year after 6 1/2 years of review by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The relicensing means the commission has certified that the plant, built in 1972, can operate safely for another 20 years.

NRC officials have noted its staff devoted approximately 14,600 hours to the review, which was the longest of any renewal application in the agency’s history.

Ecolaw said it notified state and federal agencies of its intent to sue under laws that allow citizens to act if the government fails to enforce the law.

The group told the EPA it’s able to sue Entergy if the agency doesn’t act within 60 days of the notification. And it says under Massachusetts law it can sue the Department of Environmental Protection if the state does not act with 21 days of its Friday notification to that agency.

via Activists plan to sue Mass. nuclear plant owner – Businessweek.

Mutant Butterflies Found After Fukushima Nuclear Disaster In Japan (VIDEO)

Posted by on Aug 27, 2012 in Environmental News, Featured, Fukushima, Japan | Comments Off

Researchers in Japan say they have found evidence that radiation from the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident has caused the mutation of dozens of butterflies.

Features such as stunted wings, irregularly developed eyes, disfigured antennas and different color patterns found in butterflies from irradiated regions have led scientists to say they have found evidence to suggest a link between the genetic mutations and the radioactive material that was leaked into the environment last year.

“We conclude that artificial radionuclides from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant caused physiological and genetic damage to this species,” said the researchers’ report, which was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

The study is one of the first to explore the genetic impacts of the disaster.

According to the BBC, two months after the Fukushima nuclear accident, researchers collected 144 adult pale grass blue butterflies from 10 locations in Japan, including the Fukushima area.

Lead researcher Joji Otaki from the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa said the results were surprising.

“It has been believed that insects are very resistant to radiation,” Otaki told the BBC. “In that sense, our results were unexpected.”

According to the study, the team found that areas with higher levels of radiation in the environment were home to butterflies with more mutant characteristics. In all, about 12 percent of the 144 butterflies were found to be mutant.

Though this news is perhaps disturbing enough, what researchers say is even more alarming is that these mutations are spreading rapidly through subsequent generations.

When Otaki and his team bred the butterflies in a laboratory setting, they discovered that a whole “suite of abnormalities that hadn’t been seen in the previous generation” began to appear.

Moreover, six months after the first collection, researchers found that butterflies from the Fukushima area showed a mutation rate “more than double” that of those found two months after the accident.

The researchers concluded that this higher rate of mutation likely came from butterfly larvae eating contaminated leaves and also from mutations of genetic material being passed on to subsequent generations by mutant parents.

“Since we’ve seen these effects on butterflies, it’s easy to imagine that it would also have affected other species as well,” Otaki told NBC. “It’s pretty clear that something has gone wrong with the ecosystem.”

University of South Carolina biologist Tim Mousseau — who studies the impacts of radiation on animals and plants, but who was not involved in this study — told the BBC that this research is a crucial step forward in understanding the impact of radiation on humans and other living things.

“This study is important and overwhelming in its implications for both the human and biological communities living in Fukushima,” Mousseau said.

via Mutant Butterflies Found After Fukushima Nuclear Disaster In Japan (VIDEO).

Japan Citizens Favor Zero Nuclear in Debate Over Energy Options – Businessweek

Posted by on Aug 27, 2012 in Environmental News, Fukushima, Japan | Comments Off

Japan’s public wants the government to phase out nuclear power according to the results of town hall-like forums to give the public a say in the debate on the nation’s energy supply post-Fukushima.

The forums brought together 286 citizens for two days in early August in Tokyo from thousands surveyed by phone. They were broken into smaller groups to discuss and vote on three energy supply options the government proposed: Zero nuclear, 15 percent nuclear, and 20 percent to 25 percent nuclear.

A total 47 percent opted for zero nuclear, 16 percent favored the nuclear ratio at 15 percent, while 13 percent endorsed 20-25 percent, according to a report by Yasunori Sone, a professor of political science at Keio University and the head of the group that organized the survey for the government. The remainder chose more than one option, said Sone’s report.

The poll results “indicate Japanese citizens are prepared for a policy shift to green energy from nuclear power and consequent lifestyle changes and cost burdens,” according to the report.

The results of the poll will be used in deciding the country’s long-term energy policy, which may be drafted as early as the end of next week. Tens of thousands of Japanese citizens have held weekly demonstrations in Tokyo since March opposing nuclear power and the restart of reactors closed for safety checks after the Fukushima disaster.

The March 11 earthquake and tsunami last year caused reactor meltdowns and radiation leaks at Tokyo Electric Power Co. (9501)’s Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant, forcing the evacuation of about 160,000 people and destroying fishery and farming industries.

via Japan Citizens Favor Zero Nuclear in Debate Over Energy Options – Businessweek.

Anti-nuclear activists question plan for shipping plutonium from warheads to New Mexico – The Washington Post

Posted by on Aug 27, 2012 in Environmental News, Nuclear Weapons, U.S. Nuclear Sites | Comments Off

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. — Nuclear watchdogs are fighting a proposal to ship tons of plutonium to New Mexico, including the cores of nuclear warheads that would be dismantled at an aging and structurally questionable lab atop an earthquake fault zone.

Opponents voiced their opposition at a series of public hearings that opened this week on the best way to dispose of the radioactive material as the federal government works to reduce the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

The Department of Energy is studying alternatives for disposing of plutonium in light of federal budget cuts that have derailed plans for new multi-billion-dollar facilities at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.

The preferred plan under consideration calls for the shipment of 7.1 metric tons of so-called pits — or cores — of an undisclosed number of nuclear warheads now stored at the Pantex plant in West Texas to Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Savannah River Site for disarmament and processing into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors.

The plan also calls for another 6 tons of surplus plutonium to be buried at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M. That proposal has raised concerns about whether that waste would take up space needed for disposing of thousands of barrels of low-level radioactive waste that have been sitting for years above ground at a Los Alamos dump.

Potential threats from that waste drew attention when a massive wildfire lapped at lab property in 2011.

During the initial hearing Tuesday night in Los Alamos, activists questioned the safety of bringing more plutonium to the 1970s-era Los Alamos lab known as PF-4. A federal oversight board has said the facility remains structurally unable to safely withstand a major earthquake. The lab was built over fault lines that were later found to have the potential for more severe earthquakes than previously thought.

Additionally, the Defense Nuclear Safety Facilities Board recently said officials had significantly underestimated how much radiation would be released if there were a major earthquake and fire at Los Alamos.

Activist Greg Mello, executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group, said he couldn’t understand why using the lab was a preferred option “when these very basic problems have not been resolved.”

“We are talking about a very large new mission, a type of mission for which this building was not designed,” he said during the hearing.

Mello said the government should simply look at ways to safely bury the plutonium.

David Clark, a chemist and plutonium expert at the lab, countered that the facility is ideally suited for the project.

“They are disassembling pits today,” he said. “They are doing it right now. It is already part of the mission. … They have the knowledge.”

via Anti-nuclear activists question plan for shipping plutonium from warheads to New Mexico – The Washington Post.

Anti-nuclear protests signal new activism in Japan

Posted by on Aug 27, 2012 in Environmental News, Fukushima, Japan | Comments Off

By MARI YAMAGUCHI, Associated Press – 1 day ago TOKYO AP — This is Japan’s summer of discontent. Tens of thousands of protesters — the largest demonstrations the country has seen in decades — descend on Tokyo every Friday evening to shout anti-nuclear slogans at the prime minister’s office. Many have never protested publicly before.”I used to complain about this to my family but I realized that doesn’t do any good,” said Takeshi Tamura, a 67-year-old retired office worker. “So I came here to say this to his office. I don’t know if we can make a difference but I had to do something, and at least it’s a start.”The government’s much-criticized handling of the Fukushima nuclear crisis has spawned a new breed of protesters in Japan. Drawn from the ranks of ordinary citizens rather than activists, they are a manifestation of a broader dissatisfaction with government and could create pressure for change in a political system that has long resisted it.What started as relatively small protests in April has swollen rapidly since the government decided to restart two of Japan’s nuclear reactors in June, despite lingering safety fears after the meltdowns at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant triggered by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.As many as 20,000 people have gathered at the Friday rallies by unofficial police estimates, and organizers say the turnout has topped 100,000. Officials at the prime minister’s office say their crowd estimate is “several tens of thousands.” Either way, the two-hour demonstrations are the largest and most persistent since the 1960s, when violent student-led protests against a security alliance with the United States rocked Japan.The protesters include office workers, families with children, young couples and retirees.”No to restart!” they chant in unison without a break. “No nukes!”Despite the simple message, the anger runs much deeper, analysts say.”It’s not only about nuclear,” says writer and social critic Karin Amamiya. “It mirrors core problems in Japanese society, and the way politics has ignored public opinion.”Distrust of politics runs deep in Japan, and many think politicians are corrupt and only care about big business. Some voters were angered when the government rammed through a sales tax hike in July that had divided public opinion and the ruling party. The government has also done little to reduce the U.S. military presence on the southern island of Okinawa despite decades of protests there, under the security alliance that had initially triggered violent student protests.In a country not known for mass protests, the nuclear crisis has galvanized people to an unusual extent. Unlike other issues, it cuts across ideological lines. For Japanese from all walks of life, it has shattered a sense of safety they felt about their food, the environment and the health of their children.That helps explain why the long-standing frustration with government exploded in protests after the restart of two reactors in Ohi in western Japan. They were the first of Japan’s 50 reactors to resume operation under a new regime of post-tsunami safety checks.Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda was criticized for making the restart decision behind closed doors and calling the weekly chanting and drum-beating outside his office “a loud noise.” An apparently chastised Noda met with rally leaders, who have proposed talks, allowing them inside his office compound for the first time Wednesday. Noda also met with leaders of Japan’s influential business lobbies afterwards.”It’s not a loud noise that we are making. It’s desperate voices of the people,” said Misao Redwolf, an illustrator who heads the weekly protests, as she demanded Noda immediately stop the two recently resumed reactors and eventually abandon nuclear energy. “We’ll continue our protests as long as you keep ignoring our voices.”Noda promised to listen to the people’s voices carefully before deciding Japan’s long-term energy policy, but refused to stop the two reactors.Protest leaders said they don’t expect anything to happen just because they met Noda, but at least hold on to their hope for a change.

via The Associated Press: Anti-nuclear protests signal new activism in Japan.

Surreal Serenity In Fukushima

Posted by on Jul 24, 2012 in Environmental News, Featured, Fukushima, International Sites, Japan | Comments Off

via In Fukushima, Surreal Serenity – NYTimes.com.

KORIYAMA, JAPAN — The traditional inn nestled amid the mountainous countryside offered all the luxurious comforts for which these old-style hotels are famous. An elegant and eye-pleasing eight-course dinner was served in our room. The outdoor hot-spring bath had a view of lush foliage covering a steep cliff, lit up to highlight the diverse shades of green. A soothing sound emanated from a river flowing below. I could have been anywhere in Japan enjoying the typically understated royal treatment.

Only this time, when I checked out, instead of a parting gift of a box of local confectionaries or a hand towel with the hotel’s name on it, the owner handed me a plastic bag containing a vinyl raincoat, cotton gloves and a gauze mask. “Just in case you need it,” he said. “Sometimes when it rains, the numbers are high.” He was referring to (more…)

Inquiry Sees Chaos in Evacuations After Japan Tsunami – NYTimes.com

Posted by on Jul 24, 2012 in Environmental News, Featured, Fukushima, Japan | Comments Off

via Inquiry Sees Chaos in Evacuations After Japan Tsunami – NYTimes.com.

By HIROKO TABUCHI

Published: July 23, 2012

TOKYO — Chaotic evacuations after a tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant left children in areas where radiation levels were deemed dangerously high, while causing unnecessary deaths among sickly patients who were hastily removed from their hospitals, a government-sponsored inquiry reported on Monday.

The inquiry, the latest in a series of investigations into the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, came amid intensifying debate over the human toll of the disaster. The 450-page report on the inquiry, released on Monday, also said that the government’s failure to act on computer-aided predictions of radioactive releases as the disaster unfolded might have caused residents of at least two communities to be led straight into the radioactive plume.

The inquiry’s chairman, Yotaro Hatamura, an engineering professor at the University of Tokyo and an expert on the study of large-scale failure, stressed that he had made it a point to study the disaster from the point of view of communities affected by it.

“An analysis from the victims’ perspective takes you beyond studying what equipment or systems broke down,” Mr. Hatamura said at a news conference. “Instead, we begin to consider the suffering brought upon local communities and whether that suffering could have been minimized.”

Mr. Hatamura and his 10-member panel detailed how miscommunication among the nuclear site’s operator — the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or Tepco — local officials, the police and the Japan Self-Defense Forces set off chaos as about 340 patients, most of them elderly, were evacuated from a hospital facility near the plant. Eight patients who spent almost 12 hours on a bus died on board, while about 35 were mistakenly left behind at the hospital for two extra days. By the end of March, 40 patients had died, either from medical complications or from the fatigue of staying at evacuation centers, according to the hospital.

Local governments in the 13 municipalities affected by the Fukushima crisis have certified nearly 600 deaths as “disaster-related,” meaning caused by fatigue or by medical conditions made worse by evacuation. Experts say it is difficult to separate out the effects of the nuclear disaster, however, because many of the evacuees were also driven from their homes by the tsunami.

The report detailed how the government decided not to act on the computer-aided estimates, available 12 days into the disaster, which showed radiation levels dangerous for small children in areas to the northwest and to the south of the plant beyond the 12-mile evacuation zone.

The report said that Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission, considering those projections “grave,” brought the data to the prime minister at the time, Naoto Kan, who eventually decided that they were overblown and elected not to widen the evacuation zone. Instead, he ordered that all children in those areas undergo medical tests “to confirm thyroid exposure through actual test results,” the report said.

Those tests so far have not revealed exposure above government limits, the report said. However, some experts have warned that the health effects of longer-term exposure to low levels of radiation are not well understood. Some of these areas — like Iitate village, northwest of the plant — were not evacuated for over a month.

Earlier, government scientists had used the same estimates — made by a computer program known as the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information, or Speedi — to discover that plumes that had been blowing eastward from the plant out to sea were starting to head inland, in a northwesterly direction.

Japan’s nuclear regulator relayed the predictions to Mr. Kan’s office, which raised no alarm, the report said.

As a result, in one town near the stricken plant, Namie, the mayor might have inadvertently led evacuees northwest into the radioactive plume, the report confirms. And in Minamisoma, north of the plant, local officials probably organized evacuations by bus on the very day — March 15 — that a radioactive plume swung into their path, the report said.

 

Fukushima Radiation Cover-up

Posted by on Jul 24, 2012 in Environmental News, Fukushima, Health News, Japan | Comments Off

via Japan Investigates Reports of Fukushima Radiation Cover-up – NYTimes.com.

TOKYO (AP) — Japanese authorities are investigating subcontractors on suspicion that they forced workers at the Fukushima nuclear plant to underreport the amount of radiation they were exposed to so they could stay on the job longer.

Labor officials said Sunday an investigation had begun after news media reports of a cover-up at the Fukushima Daichi plant, which suffered multiple meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

A subcontractor of plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company acknowledged having nine workers cover their dosimeters with lead plates late last year so that the instruments would indicate a lower level of radiation exposure.

Takashi Wada, president of Fukushima-based subcontractor Build-Up, said over the weekend that the dosimeter falsification had taken place.

“We should never have done that,” Mr. Wada said in an interview with the TBS network, broadcast on Saturday.

The investigation marks the first time the government has looked into the case, believed to be part of a widespread practice at the plant, since it was hit by the worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl.

The government more than doubled the emergency radiation exposure limit soon after the accident, but lowered it to the previous level in December.

 

Japan’s intense nuclear fight

Posted by on Jul 21, 2012 in Environmental News, Featured, Fukushima, Japan | Comments Off

via Japan’s nuclear fight intensifies – CNN.com.

CNN — The 1960s were a time of social revolution. Student, civil rights activists and anti-war protesters rose up against governments around the world, and Japan was no exception.Hundreds of thousands took to the streets to denounce the security treaty Japan signed with the U.S. in 1960. The rallies, which turned violent at times, were the country’s last significant protests — until now.The recent anti-nuclear protests are gathering momentum, and a society once willing to accept the government line is starting to ask questions of its leaders.Tens of thousands of people now protest outside the prime minister’s residence every Friday with one simple message — abandon atomic power.How to prevent another Fukushima disasterReport: Fukushima disaster man-madeReport says Japan failed with FukushimaJapan ends nuclear freezeJapan’s grassroots (more…)

New Study: Fukushima Fallout May Cause 1300 Deaths, 2500 Cancers

Posted by on Jul 18, 2012 in Environmental News, Featured, Japan | Comments Off

via Fukushima Update | New Study: Fukushima May Cause 1300 Deaths, 2500 Cancers.

Worldwide health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident

John E. Ten Hoeve and Mark Z. Jacobson

Energy Environ. Sci., 2012, Advance Article

DOI: 10.1039/C2EE22019A

This study quantifies worldwide health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident on 11 March 2011. Effects are quantified with a 3-D global atmospheric model driven by emission estimates and evaluated against daily worldwide Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) measurements and observed deposition rates. Inhalation exposure, ground-level external exposure, and atmospheric external exposure pathways of radioactive iodine-131, cesium-137, and cesium-134 released from Fukushima are accounted for using a linear no-threshold (LNT) model of human exposure. Exposure due to ingestion of contaminated food and water is estimated by extrapolation. We estimate an additional 130 (15–1100) cancer-related mortalities and 180 (24–1800) cancer-related morbidities incorporating uncertainties associated with the exposure–dose and dose–response models used in the study. We also discuss the LNT model’s uncertainty at low doses. Sensitivities to emission rates, gas to particulate I-131 partitioning, and the mandatory evacuation radius around the plant are also explored, and may increase upper bound mortalities and morbidities in the ranges above to 1300 and 2500, respectively. Radiation exposure to workers at the plant is projected to result in 2 to 12 morbidities. An additional [similar]600 mortalities have been reported due to non-radiological causes such as mandatory evacuations. Lastly, a hypothetical accident at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant in California, USA with identical emissions to Fukushima was studied to analyze the influence of location and seasonality on the impact of a nuclear accident. This hypothetical accident may cause [similar]25% more mortalities than Fukushima despite California having one fourth the local population density due to differing meteorological conditions.

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