Mission Impossible. What Future Fukushima? — Japan Focus

” Critics say Japan’s government is engaged in a vast, duplicitous and fruitless campaign to decontaminate Fukushima Prefecture.

David McNeill and Miguel Quintana in Fukushima, Japan

Across much of Fukushima’s rolling green countryside they descend on homes like antibodies around a virus, men wielding low-tech tools against a very modern enemy: radiation. Power hoses, shovels and mechanical diggers are used to scour toxins that rained down from the sky nearly 31 months ago. The job is exhausting, expensive and, say some, doomed to failure.

A sweating four-man crew wearing surgical masks and boiler suits cleans the home of Saito Hiroshi (71) and his wife Terue (68). Their aim is to bring average radiation at this home down to 1.5 microsieverts an hour, still several times what it was before the accident but safe enough, perhaps, for Saito’s seven grandchildren to visit. “My youngest grandchild has never been here,” he says. Since 2011, the family reunites in Soma, around 20 km away.

Saito Hitoshi and Teruo

For a few days during March 2011, after a string of explosions at the Daiichi nuclear plant roughly 25 kilometers to the south, rain and snow laced with radiation fell across this area, contaminating thousands of acres of rich farming land and forests Over 160,000 people near the plant were ordered to evacuate. The Saito’s home fell a few miles outside the 20-km compulsory evacuation zone, but like thousands of others they left voluntarily. When they returned two weeks later their neat, two-story country house appeared undamaged but it was blanketed in an invisible poison only detectable with beeping Geiger counters.

Nobody knows for certain how dangerous the radiation is. Japan’s central government refined its policy in December 2011, defining evacuation zones as “areas where cumulative dose levels might reach 20 millisieverts per year,” the typical worldwide limit for nuclear power plant engineers. The worst radiation is supposed to be confined to the 20-km exclusion zone, but it dispersed unevenly: less than 5km north of the Daiichi plant, our Geiger counter shows less than 5 millisieverts a year; 40km northwest, in parts of Iitate Village, it is well over 120 millisieverts.

Those 160,000 people, most of whom left with nothing on a freezing cold night in March 2011, have not returned and are scattered throughout Japan, and as far away as Europe and North America. The nuclear diaspora is swelled by thousands of voluntary refugees. Local governments are spending millions of dollars to persuade them to come back, dividing the cleanup with the central government, which handles the most toxic areas.

The price tag for cleaning a heavily mountainous and wooded area roughly half the size of Rhode Island (2000 sq. km) has government heads spinning. In August, experts from the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology put the total cost of decontamination at $50 billion. Many experts believe that figure is too low. Ironically, much of the responsibility for the cleanup has been handed over to the nuclear and construction powerhouses that built the Daiichi plant with all its design failures: Toshiba and Hitachi, Taisei Corporation and Kajima Corporation. … ”

read full article

Advertisements

Fukushima farmers describe what it’s like to harvest poisoned food — Ace Hoffman’s Nuclear Failures Reports

” “In the agricultural policy managed by the Ministry of Agriculture, it is a priority to dispel the harmful rumor about Fukushima produce.”

The above quote is from within the transcript (below).  It clearly demonstrates the International Atomic Energy Agency’s agenda: to dispel the ‘harmful rumors’ about contaminated agriculture.  And here’s how it’s done.

First, you define the level of contamination which is “acceptable” (this is based on the International Council of Radiation Protection [ICRP]; these are the guys who did the radiological studies after Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 and 1946 and they created the standards of “acceptable” radiation exposures based on those studies.  It is important that you understand this, because DNA wasn’t discovered until 1952 (Watson & Crick) and radiological damage to DNA is much more subtle and happens at much lower levels of exposure. It is also important to understand that the ICRP has so far refused to adjust their “acceptable” limits to include considerations for damage to DNA).

Second, you do some generalized surveys, take the average readings and round them off (round them down to the next lowest number) and define that as the “limit” (this does not take into account actual levels of contamination at any particular location). (Of course, you say that any levels of contamination above that “limit” is a problem which will be studied and addressed.)

Third, you define the ‘perceived problem’ as a ‘rumor.’

Fourth, you back it up by saying that the concentration of contamination (i.e., the ‘rumor’, is below the “acceptable” limits.

And here is the transcript:

— David Bear ”

View video source and transcript

Some facts you should know about Fukushima — Counterpunch

” … Here are eight things you need to know.

1. In a residential area park in Tokyo, 230 km from Fukushima, the soil was found to have a radiation level of 92,335 Becquerels per square meter. This is a dangerous level, comparable to what is found around Chernobyl ④ zone (the site of a nuclear catastrophe in 1986). One reason this level of pollution is found in the capital is that between Tokyo and Fukushima there are no mountains high enough to block radioactive clouds. In the capital people who understand the danger absolutely avoid eating food produced in eastern Japan.

2. Inside Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactors #1 – #3 the pipes (which had circulated cooling water) are broken, which caused a meltdown. This means the nuclear fuel overheated, melted, and continued to melt anything it touched. Thus it melted through the bottom of the reactor, and then through the concrete floor of the building, and sank into the ground. As mentioned above, for two and a half years TEPCO workers have been desperately pouring water into the reactor, but it is not known whether the water is actually reaching the melted fuel. If a middle-strength earthquake comes, it is likely to destroy totally the already damaged building. And as a matter of fact, in the last two and a half years earthquakes have continued to hit Fukushima. (And as an additional matter of fact, just as this letter was being written Fukushima was hit by another middle-strength earthquake, but it seems that the building held up one more time. So far so good.) Especially dangerous is Reactor #4, where a large amount of nuclear fuel is being held in a pool, like another disaster waiting for its moment.

3. The cooling water being poured into the reactor is now considered the big problem in Japan. Newspapers and TV stations that previously strove to conceal the danger of nuclear power, are now reporting on this danger every day, and criticizing Shinzo Abe for the lie he told the IOC. The issue is that the highly irradiated water is entering and mixing with the ground water, and this leakage can’t be stopped, so it is spilling into the outer ocean. It is a situation impossible to control. In August, 2013 (the month prior to Abe’s IOC speech) within the site of Fukushima Daiichi Reactor, radiation was measured at 8500 micro Sieverts per hour. That is enough to kill anyone who stayed there for a month. This makes it a very hard place for the workers to get anything done. In Ohkuma-machi, the town where the Daiichi Nuclear Reactor is located, the radiation was measured in July, 2013 (two months before Abe’s talk) at 320 micro Sieverts per hour. This level of radiation would kill a person in two and a half years. Thus, over an area many kilometers wide, ghost towns are increasing.

4. For the sake of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, an important fact has been left out from reports that go abroad. Only the fact that irradiated water is leaking onto the surface of the ground around the reactor is reported. But deep under the surface the ground water is also being irradiated, and the ground water flows out to sea and mixes with the seawater through sea-bottom springs. It is too late to do anything about this.

5. If you go to the big central fish market near Tokyo and measure the radiation in the air, it registers at about 0.05 micro Sieverts – a little higher than normal level. But if you measure the radiation near the place where the instrument that measures the radiation of the fish is located, the level is two or three times greater (2013 measurement). Vegetables and fish from around the Tokyo area, even if they are irradiated, are not thrown away. This is because the level established by the Japanese Government for permissible radiation in food – which if exceeded the food must not be sold – is the same as the permissible level of radiation in low-level radioactive wastes. Which is to say, in Japan today, as the entire country has been contaminated, we have no choice but to put irradiated garbage on the dinner table. The distribution of irradiated food is also a problem. Food from near Fukushima will be sent to another prefecture, and then sent on, relabeled as produced in the second prefecture. In particular, food distributed by the major food companies, and food served in expensive restaurants, is almost never tested for radiation.

6. In Japan, the only radiation from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactors that is being measured is the radioactive cesium. However large amounts of strontium 90 and tritium are spreading all over Japan. Strontium and tritium’s radiation consists of beta rays, and are very difficult to measure. However both are extremely dangerous: strontium can cause leukemia, and tritium can cause chromosome disorder.

7. More dangerous still: in order, they say, to get rid of the pollution that has fallen over the wide area of Eastern Japan, they are scraping off the top layer of the soil, and putting it in plastic bags as garbage. Great mountains of these plastic bags, all weather-beaten, are sitting in fields in Eastern Japan subject of course to attack by heavy rain and typhoons. Eventually the plastic will split open and the contents will come spilling out. When that happens, there will be no place left to take them.

8. On 21 September, 2013 (again, as this letter was being composed) the newspaper Tokyo Shimbun reported that Tokyo Governor Naoki Inose said at a press conference that what Abe expressed to the IOC was his intention to get the situation under control. “It is not,” Inose said, “under control now.” … ”

read full article

Japan agrees to foreign help with Fukushima — ABC News

” PETER LLOYD: To nuclear issues of another kind now, and Japan has finally accepted international help to sort out the mess at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

It’s agreed to let the French help decommission and dismantle it.

Our Tokyo correspondent Mark Willacy says it’s a climb-down that signals how little success Japan has had stopping the spread of contaminant since the earthquake two and a half years ago.

MARK WILLACY: Well there are a couple of factors, Peter. Firstly, there’s been a lot of international attention and consternation, as you’d imagine, about these leaks at the Fukushima nuclear plant. We have the seepage of about 300 tonnes of contaminated groundwater into the sea every day.

We’ve also been told that there was a leak of 300,000 litres of highly radioactive water from a storage tank at the site. And that some of that water could have gone into the ocean. That’s according to the operator TEPCO.

So there’s not just concern about that in Japan, but there’s also concern in neighbouring countries such as South Korea and China. So there’s a sense that Japan needs outside help, particularly to stem this flow of groundwater under the plant.

But secondly, there was the pledge by Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe earlier this month that the situation at Fukushima was “under control”. And that pledge was made to an international audience and was aimed particularly at the International Olympic Committee. And of course we now know that hours later, Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Games.

So there’s a feeling in the government here in Tokyo that TEPCO needs help to get the plant and its problems in order. And to do that, may finally mean accepting international help and international technology.

PETER LLOYD: What sort of know-how do the French bring to the table? What do we know about the agreement they’ve made?

MARK WILLACY: We don’t know a lot about the agreement. We do know that the Japanese prime minister, Mr Abe, did meet on the sidelines of the United Nations meeting in New York with the French president Francois Hollande. And that this agreement was struck. We don’t know much more than that. We don’t know how the French will help. But we do know that France is one of the world’s leaders in nuclear technologies. We know that the French nuclear firm Areva designed a radiation filtration system that was used for months at the Fukushima plant.

So it seems French help may now extend beyond that but it appears the detail has yet to be fleshed out.

PETER LLOYD: Right. And the French aren’t the only ones. The Russians are on the sidelines offering help too.

MARK WILLACY: That’s right. In fact the Russians offered to help more than two years ago, but that offer of help was never taken up. Russia’s state-owned Rosatom sent Japan a sample of what it said was a special absorbent to help clean up contaminated water but the sample just wasn’t used by the Japanese.

The Russians have said all along that pumping in water to cool the melted reactors was always going to cause more problems than in was worth. That it was just going to create more radioactive water. And in fact we now know that’s what TEPCO is grappling with at the site. So the Russians did offer this absorbent technology but as I say it was never used by the Japanese.

However, the Russians are now reporting a more positive attitude in Tokyo towards accepting their help. After all, Moscow has pointed out in the past that there’s no such thing as a national nuclear accident. They are all international accidents. And after Chernobyl, the Russians would know.

PETER LLOYD: Is there, for the Japanese, a loss of face in this kind of climb-down?

MARK WILLACY: Well there’s certainly been this sense in Japan that they can handle it themselves. In fact not only can they handle it themselves but they left all the running to TEPCO, the company was held at fault by many for this accident. So yes, there has been that sense of isolationism here about, look, we don’t need outside help.

But then we saw the government step in and say to TEPCO, look, we need to play a bigger role in helping you with this. And I suppose now the government has said well to do that we’ll need international help. So maybe there would be a loss of face.

But I think it goes beyond that, and especially with Japan having the Olympics in a few years time, there could be more international scrutiny about the safety issues at Fukushima which means that they may need to accept more international help to assuage those concerns.

PETER LLOYD: Mark Willacy is the ABC’s North Asia correspondent. ”

listen to corresponding podcast

How Obama made Fukushima worse — Counterpunch

” The Obama administration’s failure to alert Americans to the danger of Fukushima radiation is motivated by corporate politics and the interests of the nuclear power industry. The March 11, 2011 earthquake off the northwest coast of Japan wrecked a complex of nuclear power plants, throwing three units into meltdown and exploding high-level radionuclides into the environment. With the industry’s reputation and billions of dollars in financial arrangements hanging in the fire, the president chose expediency, saying there’s no threat to Americans.

These assurances were highlighted recently when Fukushima Dai-ichi’s operators reported that since the earthquake it has been spilling large amounts of radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. While great efforts have been made to sequester hot water in tank farms, the tanks are leaking and the buildings are insecure. Among the toxics soaking coastal zone soils are fission products: cesium-134 and 137, strontium-90, iodine-131 and 129, along with various isotopes of tritium, uranium and plutonium. These elements and hundreds of others have escaped containment and are moving into the North Pacific at the rate that varies from 300-900 tons of water per day.

Following the president’s lead, most of the media has ignored the story, leaving many Americans in the dark. But the blinders are off in Alaska and the west coast of North America as more people figure the implications of tainted seafood. Pacific tuna ranges between California and Japan on its annual migration. Sampled by scientists from Stanford University in 2012 and 2013, tuna were found with elevated cesium-134 and 137 in their muscle tissue. A public health official in British Columbia is urging the federal government to monitor salmon and tuna. Last week the state of Washington said it will begin testing salmon and steelhead. The newspaper in Alaska’s capital, Juneau, is asking science to settle the question, writing “…Let’s be 100 percent sure our Alaska salmon are safe to eat.”

Distrust of safety assurances here and in Japan mounted when the plant operator, TEPCO, admitted that it had low-balled previous data and that actual releases were 20-30 percent greater than earlier claims. Numbers are being revised upward almost daily. Currently, while the totals remain in flux, independent observers suggest that Fukushima has surpassed Chernobyl in the amount of radiation released to the environment. Chernobyl spilled 85 quadrillion becquerels across Europe while Fukushima’s totals climb to 276 quadrillion in some estimates. Outliers put it as high as 690 quadrillion. Approximately half of the initial aerosol releases fell into the ocean. Maps show that 12,000 square miles of land has been contaminated with cesium and other isotopes. Of this area, 4,500 square miles exceeds human safety limits of 1 mSv (millisievert) per year. Nearly 200,000 Japanese have been turned into refugees.

The Japanese government, as expedient as Obama, quickly raised the allowable dose from 1 mSv to 20 mSv per year–20 times higher than the limit on March 11. People who should have been evacuated remain at home, soaking in cesium. According to Physicians For Social Responsibility, the dose exposes children to a 1 in 200 risk of getting cancer. “And if they are exposed to this dose for two years, the risk is 1 in 100. There is no way that this level of exposure can be considered “safe” for children.”

Radionuclides concentrate as they move along the food chain, from plankton, kelp and herring, and up the line to salmon, seals, bears and people. Cesium-contaminated food bio-accumulates in the heart and endocrine tissues, as well as kidneys, small intestine, pancreas, liver and spleen. Children, particularly girls, are many times more susceptible than adults to the effects of ionizing radiation.

When the exclusion zone boundaries were announced, at a place inside the red line the oldest man in the village—102—killed himself, rather than evacuate. “In front of the village hall, a machine that looked like an oversized parking meter flashed a real-time radiation reading in large red digits: 7.71 microsieverts . . . 8.12 . . . 7.57. Being there was equivalent to receiving a chest X-ray every twelve hours.” [The New Yorker, October 17, 2011]

At the Berkeley campus of the University of California, rainwater collected on March 23, 2011 measured iodine-131 radioactivity at 20.1 becquerels per liter. The federal maximum level of iodine-131 in drinking water is 0.111 becquerels per liter. The sample exceeded this level by 181 times. Fukushima radiation was further confirmed when Berkeley researchers discovered iodine-131 in California dairy milk and in a local waterway. Similarly high levels of iodine-131 were recorded in Portland, Olympia, Boise and points east.

The US government organized a multi-agency stealth response in the wake of the reactor meltdowns. Friends of the Earth and others filed FOIA requests to learn how the crisis was being managed in days after March 11. A trove of emails moving between the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, its field agents in Japan and other agencies show efforts to downplay concern and withhold information. Within days of the event, federal manager’s emails tallied plumes of iodine-131 as they approached America. Supervisors demanded confidentiality while maintaining a press blackout, assuring that most Americans had no chance to prepare or mitigate.

James Mangano, an epidemiologist, and Janette Sherman, a toxicologist, are expert in calculating health effects from radiation exposure. Their review of US deaths before and after the March 11 event indicates that 18,000-22,000 Americans could die as a result of radiation from Fukushima. Carried east by the jet stream, and deposited as rain and snow, uptake into people, plants and animals is primarily through inhalation, ingestion and contact. Infants under the age of one had the highest increase in reported deaths in the 14 weeks after Fukushima’s initial explosions. Increased mortality was also seen in the aged, the infirm and immune compromised.

Today radioactivity washing out to sea is in a combination of seawater that’s being used to cool the wreckage and an influx of groundwater. The groundwater is rising at the toe of the slope behind the facility, threatening to inundate the complex. People working there say the surface is becoming unstable and that building foundations may fail.

Hiroaki Koide, assistant professor at Kyoto University’s Research Reactor Institute, represents a growing consensus that speculates the nuclear fuel in the three melted units has burned through the containment vessels and the basement foundations. The molten fuel (about 360 tons) is now tunneling through geologic strata that underlay the Japanese archipelago. If true, TEPCO’s engineers have lost control; with no options for retrieval, this is an unprecedented catastrophe with no end in sight.

Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear engineer who leads the watchdog group Fairewinds Energy Education, says this is the last year he’ll eat fish from the Pacific, reasoning that Fukushima’s toxic stew has contaminated the ocean. Gundersen says that north of Hawaii, midpoint between Japan and North America, scientists are measuring cesium levels 10 times higher than normal. Background levels of 1 becquerel per cubic meter have been constant for years. It has now increased to 10 becquerels per cubic meter.

The Fukushima disaster is worse than Chernobyl, it’s ongoing. While the North Pacific is a big place, wind and currents move in Alaska’s direction. Dilution is not a solution. A declassified military report, written in 1955, concluded that seawater may not adequately dilute radiation from nuclear accidents and that it’s likely to travel in highly concentrated “pockets’ and “streams”.

While the radiation pouring out of Fukushima can’t be seen or smelled, its implications to Alaska’s fisheries, our economy and cultural resources are obvious. It’s past time to begin talking about the threat and planning for its consequences. We might begin by retrieving the president from the pocket of the nuclear power industry.

Douglas A. Yates is a writer and photographer who lives in Ester, Alaska. “

source

Doubt over Fukushima safety claims — ABC News

” The former chief nuclear regulator in the United States has delivered a damning verdict on the ability of Japanese authorities to stop contaminated groundwater from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant flowing into the sea. Asked about comments by the Japanese prime minister that the situation at Fukushima was under control, Gregory Jaczko replied that the surging groundwater ‘was beyond human control’. Speaking to foreign journalists in Tokyo, Dr Jaczko warned that a planned underground ice wall around the site would also fail to stop the water becoming contaminated. ”

listen to radiocast