Former chief of Fukushima probe criticizes reactor restarts — The Asahi Shimbun

” The leader of the Diet investigation into the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster blasted the Abe administration’s policies on restarting reactors, noting that proper evacuation plans are not in place.

“What are you going to do if a tsunami comes?” Kiyoshi Kurokawa, former chairman of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission, said at a June 12 meeting of the Lower House ad hoc committee for research of nuclear power issues. “How can you go (there) to rescue people if cars cannot move forward on roads?”

Kurokawa was referring to the restarts of the No. 4 and No. 3 reactors of the Takahama nuclear power plant in Fukui Prefecture in May and June.

The reactors cleared the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s safety standards that were established after the accident unfolded at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in March 2011.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said these standards are the strictest in the world.

But Kurokawa said, “I cannot accept such rhetoric.”

Kurokawa, also a professor emeritus of medical science at the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies, was selected as chairman of a third-party advisory body established by the ad hoc committee in May.

He and other experts of the advisory body responded to questions at the meeting of the ad hoc committee on June 12.

Kurokawa also raised questions about the rules for personnel at the NRA, the country’s nuclear watchdog.

In January, Masaya Yasui, an official of the Ministry of the Economy, Trade and Industry, assumed the post of secretary-general of the NRA’s secretariat.

Kurokawa said he was concerned that an official of the economy ministry, which has promoted nuclear power generation, is now at the top of the secretariat.

Previously, a “no-return rule” was in place that prohibited employees of the NRA secretariat from returning to the economy ministry.

However, the Abe administration changed the rule to allow them to return to the ministry at bureaus not directly related to nuclear power generation.

Regarding the change, Kurokawa said, “The most important thing is to protect the no-return rule.” ”

by Shinichi Sekine, The Asahi Shimbun

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Fukushima cover up — CounterPunch

” It is literally impossible for the world community to get a clear understanding of, and truth about, the Fukushima nuclear disaster. This statement is based upon The Feature article in Columbia Journalism Review (“CJR”) d/d October 25, 2016 entitled: “Sinking a Bold Foray Into Watchdog Journalism in Japan” by Martin Fackler.

The scandalous subject matter of the article is frightening to its core. Essentially, it paints a picture of upending and abolishing a 3-year attempt by one of Japan’s oldest and most liberal/intellectual newspapers, The Asahi Shimbun (circ. 6.6 mln) in its effort of “watchdog journalism” of the Fukushima nuclear disaster. In the end, the newspaper’s special watchdog division suffered un-preannounced abrupt closure.

The CJR article, whether intentionally or not, is an indictment of right wing political control of media throughout the world. The story is, moreover, extraordinarily scary and of deepest concern because no sources can be counted on for accurate, truthful reporting of an incident as powerful and deadly dangerous as the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. Lest anybody in class forgets, three nuclear reactors at Fukushima Diiachi Nuclear Power Plant experienced 100% meltdown, aka The China Syndrome over five years ago.

The molten cores of those reactors melted down to a stage called corium, which is a lumpy hunk of irradiating radionuclides so deadly that robotic cameras are zapped! The radioactivity is powerful, deadly and possessed of frightening longevity, 100s of years. Again for those who missed class, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) has no idea where those masses of sizzling hot radioactive goo are today. Did they burrow into the ground? Nobody knows, but it is known that those blobs of radioactivity are extraordinarily dangerous, as in deathly, erratically spewing radioactivity “who knows where”?

Fukushima is a national/worldwide emergency that is the worst kept secret ever because everybody knows it is happening; it is current; it is alive; it is deadly; it has killed (as explained in several prior articles) and will kill many more as well as maim countless people over many decades (a description of radiation’s gruesomeness follows later on in this article).

Yet, the Abe administration is talking to Olympic officials about conducting Olympic events, like baseball, in Fukushima for Tokyo 2020. Are they nuts, going off the deep end, gone mad, out of control? After all, TEPCO readily admits (1) the Fukushima cleanup will take decades to complete, if ever completed, and (2) nobody knows the whereabouts of the worlds most deadly radioactive blobs of sizzling hot masses of death and destruction, begging the question: Why is there a Chernobyl Exclusion Zone of 1,000 square miles after one nuclear meltdown 30 years ago, but yet Fukushima, with three meltdowns, each more severe than Chernobyl, is already being repopulated? It doesn’t compute!

The short answer is the Abe administration claims the radioactivity is being cleaned up. A much longer answer eschews the Abe administration by explaining the near impossibility of cleaning up radioactivity throughout the countryside. There are, after all, independent organizations with boots on the ground in Fukushima (documented in prior articles) that tell the truth, having measured dangerous levels of radiation throughout the region where clean up crews supposedly cleaned up.

The Columbia Journalism Review article, intentionally or not, paints a picture of “journalism by government decree” in Japan, which gainsays any kind of real journalism. It’s faux journalism, kinda like reading The Daily Disneyworld Journal & Times.

Based upon the CJR article: “The hastiness of the Asahi’s retreat raised fresh doubts about whether such watchdog journalism— an inherently risky enterprise that seeks to expose and debunk, and challenge the powerful—is even possible in Japan’s big national media, which are deeply tied to the nation’s political establishment.”

Japan’s journalists belong to “press clubs,” which are exclusively restricted to the big boys (and girls) from major media outlets, where stories are hand-fed according to government officialdom, period. It is the news, period! No questions asked, and this is how Asahi got into trouble. They set up a unit of 30-journalists to tell the truth about Fukushima and along the way won awards for journalism, until it suddenly, abruptly stopped. A big mystery ensues….

According to the CJR article, “The Investigative Reporting Section [Asahi] proved an instant success, winning Japan’s top journalism award two years in a row for its exposure of official cover-ups and shoddy decontamination work around the nuclear plant.”

Furthermore, according to the CJR article: “The abrupt about-face by the Asahi, a 137-year-old newspaper with 2,400 journalists that has been postwar Japan’s liberal media flagship, was an early victory for the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, which had sought to silence critical voices as it moved to roll back Japan’s postwar pacifism, and restart its nuclear industry.”

And, furthermore, the truth be told: “In Japanese journalism, scoops usually just mean learning from the ministry officials today what they intend to do tomorrow,’ says Makoto Watanabe, a former reporter in the section who quit the Asahi in March because he felt blocked from doing investigative reporting. ‘We came up with different scoops that were unwelcome in the Prime Minister’s Office.”

It comes as no surprise that Reporters Without Borders lowered Japan’s rating from 11th in 2010 (but one has to wonder how they ever got that high) to 72nd in this years annual ranking of global press freedoms, released on April 20, 2016.

Koichi Nakano, a professor of politics at Sophia University in Tokyo, says: “Emasculating the Asahi allowed Abe to impose a grim new conformity on the media world.”

When considering the awards Asahi won during its short foray into investigative journalism, like Japan’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for reporting about a gag-order on scientists after the Fukushima disaster and the government’s failure to release information about radiation to evacuating residents, now that Asahi has been forced to put a lid on “investigative journalism” and it must toe the line in “press clubs,” any and all information about the dangers or status of Fukushima are ipso facto suspect!

The world is dead silent on credible information about the world’s biggest disaster! (Which causes one to stop and think… really a lot.)

The evidence is abundantly clear that there is no trustworthy source of information about the world’s biggest nuclear disaster, and likely one of the biggest dangers to the planet in human history. However, time will tell as radiation exposure takes years to show up in the human body. It’s a silent killer but cumulates over time. Fukushima radiation goes on and on, but nobody knows what to do. To say the situation is scandalous is such a gross understatement that it is difficult to take it as seriously as it really should be taken. But, it is scandalous, not just in Japan but for the entire planet.

After all, consider this, 30 years after the fact, horribly deformed Chernobyl children are found in over 300 asylums in the Belarus backwoods deep in the countryside. Equally as bad but maybe more odious, as of today, Chernobyl radiation (since 1986) is already affecting 2nd generation kids.

According to USA Today, Chernobyl’s Legacy: Kids With Bodies Ravaged by Disaster, April 17, 2016: “There are 2,397,863 people registered with Ukraine’s health ministry to receive ongoing Chernobyl-related health care. Of these, 453,391 are children — none born at the time of the accident. Their parents were children in 1986. These children have a range of illnesses: respiratory, digestive, musculoskeletal, eye diseases, blood diseases, cancer, congenital malformations, genetic abnormalities, trauma.”

It’s taken 30 years for the world, via an article in USA Today, to begin to understand how devastating, over decades, not over a few years, radiation exposure is to people. It is a silent killer that cumulates in the body over time and passes from generation to generation to generation, endless destruction that cannot be stopped! ”

by Robert Hunziker

source

*Japan’s government should stay out of U.S. sailors’ lawsuit against Tepco — The Japan Times

” Dear Prime Minister Shinzo Abe,

Let me first acknowledge that after four long years of silence, the Japanese government has finally taken a position regarding the lawsuit filed against Tokyo Electric Power Co. in the U.S. by more than 450 American sailors, marines and civilians who were on board the USS Reagan and accompanying military ships off the coast of Tohoku after 3/11.

These young people experienced serious health problems resulting from, they allege, radiation exposure while participating in Operation Tomodachi, the U.S. military’s humanitarian rescue mission launched in response to the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, and subsequent multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

While the Japanese government’s acknowledgement of the suit is welcome, the unconditional support it has given to Tepco is a matter of deep concern. Even now, U.S. service personnel find themselves prevented from seeking justice because Tepco, with the support of the Japanese government, is doing its utmost to ensure the case will never be heard in an American court.

The Japanese government submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Feb. 3. An amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief is one presented by a party not directly involved in the suit in the hope of influencing the outcome. The brief contains two points:

1. “The Government of Japan has developed a comprehensive system to ensure compensation for victims of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident.”

2. “Damage claims brought in tribunals outside of Japan threaten the continuing viability of the compensation system established by the Government of Japan.”

Examining the first point, if the Japanese government truly had “a comprehensive system to ensure compensation for victims,” there would be no need for the U.S. service members’ lawsuit. Yet, as you know, the Japanese government and its subsidiaries have, to date, not paid a single yen to any non-Tepco-related victim of radiation exposure from Fukushima No. 1. This includes, as of March this year, a total of 173 children from the prefecture who underwent surgery after being diagnosed with suspected thyroid cancer, 131 of whom were confirmed to have had cancer.

If the Japanese government will not admit that the suffering of its own children was caused by radiation exposure, how confident can young Americans be that the apparently radiation-induced injuries they experienced will be recognized as such, let alone compensated for, in Japan?

Further, at least seven of these previously healthy young Americans have already died and many others are too ill to travel to Japan even if they could afford to, let alone reside in this country during lengthy legal procedures, which typically take years to resolve. This is not to mention the prospect of expensive legal costs, including for court fees, hiring Japanese lawyers, translation of relevant documents, etc. And let us never forget, Prime Minister, it was the Japanese government that requested the assistance of these American military personnel.

As for the second point above, I agree the U.S. military personnel’s lawsuit threatens “the continuing viability of the compensation system established by the Government of Japan.” For example, if a U.S. court were to ascribe the plaintiffs’ illnesses to radiation exposure, how could the Japanese government continue to claim that none of the many illnesses the children and adults of Fukushima presently experience are radiation-related? The American service personnel truly serve as “the canary in the coal mine” when it comes to demonstrating the damaging effects of radiation exposure. Moreover, this canary is out of the Japanese government’s ability to control.

Let us further suppose that an American court were to award $3 million per person as compensation for the deaths, currently standing at seven, of the military personnel who were irradiated. By contrast, the Japanese government continues to deny compensation, for radiation-induced illnesses let alone deaths, to its own citizens. This would surely impact the “viability” (not to mention reputation) of the Japanese government in its ongoing denial of radiation-related injuries to non-Tepco employees.

Let me close by noting that there is one Japanese political leader who has accepted personal responsibility for the injuries inflicted on American service personnel. I refer to former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi who, after meeting with injured servicemen and women in San Diego in May, initiated a fund to meet as many of the medical needs of these sailors and marines as possible.

Fortunately, thanks to the support of thousands of ordinary Japanese, he has already raised $700,000 toward his $1 million goal. With tears in his eyes, Koizumi explained that he could not ignore the suffering of hundreds of formerly healthy young Americans who willingly put themselves at risk in order to render aid to the Japanese people.

Prime Minister Abe, I call on you to end the Japanese government’s unconditional legal support of Tepco. Further, if the Japanese government has a conscience, please immediately provide medical aid and compensation to the hundreds of American victims of Operation Tomodachi. ”

by Brian Victoria

online source

Japan Times pdf

Fukushima backlash hits Japan prime minister — CounterPunch

” Nuclear power may never recover its cachet as a clean energy source, irrespective of safety concerns, because of the ongoing saga of meltdown 3/11/11 at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. Over time, the story only grows more horrific, painful, deceitful. It’s a story that will continue for generations to come.

Here’s why it holds pertinence: As a result of total 100% meltdown, TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) cannot locate or remove the radioactive molten core or corium from the reactors. Nobody knows where it is. It is missing. If it is missing from within the reactor structures, has it burrowed into the ground? There are no ready answers.

And, the destroyed nuclear plants are way too radioactive for humans to get close enough for inspection. And, robotic cameras get zapped! Corium is highly radioactive material, begging the question: If it has burrowed through the containment vessel, does it spread underground, contaminating farmland and water resources and if so, how far away? Nobody knows?

According to TEPCO, removing the melted cores from reactors 1,2 and 3 will take upwards of 20 years, or more, again who knows.

But still, Japan will hold Olympic events in Fukushima in 2020 whilst out-of-control radioactive masses of goo are nowhere to be found. TEPCO expects decades before the cleanup is complete, if ever. Fortunately, for Tokyo 2020 (the Olympic designation) radiation’s impact has a latency effect, i.e., it takes a few years to show up as cancer in the human body.

A week ago on September 7th, Former PM Junichiro Koizumi, one of Japan’s most revered former prime ministers, lambasted the current Abe administration, as well as recovery efforts by TEPCO. At a news conference he said PM Shinzō Abe lied to the Olympic committee in 2013 in order to host the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan.

“That was a lie,” Mr Koizumi told reporters when asked about Mr Abe’s remark that Fukushima was “under control,” Abe Lied to IOC About Nuke Plant, ex-PM Says, The Straits Times, Sep 8, 2016. The former PM also went on to explain TEPCO, after 5 years of struggling, still has not been able to effectively control contaminated water at the plant.

According to The Straits Times article: “Speaking to the IOC in September 2013, before the Olympic vote, PM Abe acknowledged concerns but stressed there was no need to worry: “Let me assure you, the situation is under control.”

PM Abe’s irresponsible statement before the world community essentially puts a dagger into the heart of nuclear advocacy and former PM Koizumi deepens the insertion. After all, who can be truthfully trusted? Mr Koizumi was a supporter of nuclear power while in office from 2001-2006, but he has since turned into a vocal opponent.

Speaking at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan in Tokyo, Mr Koizumi said: “The nuclear power industry says safety is their top priority, but profit is in fact what comes first… Japan can grow if the country relies on more renewable energy,” (Ayako Mie, staff writer, Despite Dwindling Momentum, Koizumi Pursues Anti-Nuclear Goals, The Japan Times, Sept. 7, 2016).

Mr Koizumi makes a good point. There have been no blackouts in Japan sans nuclear power. The country functioned well without nuclear.

Further to the point of nuclear versus nonnuclear, Katsunobu Sakurai, mayor of Minamisoma, a city of 70,000 located 25 km north of Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, at a news conference in Tokyo, said: “As a citizen and as a resident of an area affected by the nuclear power plant disaster, I must express great anger at this act… it is necessary for all of Japan to change its way of thinking, and its way of life too – to move to become a society like Germany, which is no longer reliant on nuclear power,” (Sarai Flores, Minamisoma Mayor Sees Future for Fukushima ‘Nonnuclear’ City in Energy Independence, The Japan Times, March 9, 2016).

In March of 2015, Minamisoma declared as a Nonnuclear City, turning to solar and wind power in tandem with energy-saving measures.

Meanwhile, at the insistence of the Abe administration, seven nuclear reactors could restart by the end of FY2016 followed by a total of 19 units over the next 12 months (Source: Japanese Institute Sees 19 Reactor Restarts by March 2018, World Nuclear News, July 28, 2016).

Greenpeace/Japan Discovers Widespread Radioactivity

One of the issues surrounding the Fukushima incident and the upcoming Olympics is whom to trust. Already TEPCO has admitted to misleading the public about reports on the status of the nuclear meltdown, and PM Abe has been caught with his hand in the proverbial cookie jar, but even much worse, lying to a major international sports tribunal. His credibility is down the drain.

As such, maybe third party sources can be trusted to tell the truth. In that regard, Greenpeace/Japan, which does not have a vested interest in nuclear power, may be one of the only reliable sources, especially since it has boots on the ground, testing for radiation. Since 2011, Greenpeace has conducted over 25 extensive surveys for radiation throughout Fukushima Prefecture.

In which case, the Japanese people should take heed because PM Abe is pushing hard to reopen nuclear plants and pushing hard to repopulate Fukushima, of course, well ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics since there will be events held in Fukushima Prefecture. After all, how can one expect Olympians to populate Fukushima if Japan’s own citizens do not? But, as of now to a certain extent citizens are pushing back. Maybe they instinctively do not trust their own government’s assurances.

But, more chilling yet, after extensive boots-on-the-ground analyses, Greenpeace issued the following statement in March 2016: “Unfortunately, the crux of the nuclear contamination issue – from Kyshtym to Chernobyl to Fukushima- is this: When a major radiological disaster happens and impacts vast tracts of land, it cannot be ‘cleaned up’ or ‘fixed’.” (Source: Hanis Maketab, Environmental Impacts of Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Will Last ‘decades to centuries’ – Greenpeace, Asia Correspondent, March 4, 2016).

That is a blunt way of saying sayonara to habitation on radioactive contaminated land. That’s why Chernobyl is a permanently closed restricted zone for the past 30 years.

As far as “returning home” goes, if Greenpeace/Japan ran the show rather than PM Abe, it appears they would say ‘no’. Greenpeace does not believe it is safe. Greenpeace International issued a press release a little over one month ago with the headline: Radiation Along Fukushima Rivers up to 200 Times Higher Than Pacific Ocean Seabed – Greenpeace Press Release, July 21, 2016.

Here’s what they discovered: “The extremely high levels of radioactivity we found along the river systems highlights the enormity and longevity of both the environmental contamination and the public health risks resulting from the Fukushima disaster,” says Ai Kashiwagi, Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Japan.

“These river samples were taken in areas where the Abe government is stating it is safe for people to live. But the results show there is no return to normal after this nuclear catastrophe,” claims Kashiwagi.

“Riverbank sediment samples taken along the Niida River in Minami Soma, measured as high as 29,800 Bq/kg for radiocaesium (Cs-134 and 137). The Niida samples were taken where there are no restrictions on people living, as were other river samples. At the estuary of the Abukuma River in Miyagi prefecture, which lies more than 90km north of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, levels measured in sediment samples were as high as 6,500 Bq/kg” (Greenpeace).

The prescribed safe limit of radioactive cesium for drinking water is 200 Bq/kg. A Becquerel (“Bq”) is a gauge of strength of radioactivity in materials such as Iodine-131 and Cesium-137 (Source: Safe Limits for Consuming Radiation-Contaminated Food, Bloomberg, March 20, 2011).

“The lifting of evacuation orders in March 2017 for areas that remain highly contaminated is a looming human rights crisis and cannot be permitted to stand. The vast expanses of contaminated forests and freshwater systems will remain a perennial source of radioactivity for the foreseeable future, as these ecosystems cannot simply be decontaminated” (Greenpeace).

Still, the Abe administration is to be commended for its herculean effort to try to clean up radioactivity throughout Fukushima Prefecture, but at the end of the day, it may be for naught. A massive cleanup effort is impossible in the hills, in the mountains, in the valleys, in the vast forests, along riverbeds and lakes, across extensive meadows in the wild where radiation levels remain deadly dangerous. Over time, it leaches back into decontaminated areas.

And as significantly, if not more so, what happens to the out-of-control radioactive blobs of corium? Nobody knows where those are, or what to do about it. It’s kinda like the mystery surrounding black holes in outer space, but nobody dares go there.

Fukushima is a story for the ages because radiation doesn’t quit. Still, the Olympics must go on, but where? ”

by Robert Hunziker

source

Citizen science takes on Japan’s nuclear establishment — Los Angeles Times

” As other Tokyo office workers poured into restaurants and bars at quitting time one recent evening, Kohei Matsushita went to the eighth floor of a high-rise for an unusual after-hours activity: learning how to assemble his own Geiger counter from a kit.

Hunched over a circuit board, the 37-year-old practiced his soldering technique as Joe Moross, a former L.A. resident with a background in radiation detection, explained how to fit together about $500 worth of components – including a sensor, circuit board, digital display, GPS module, battery and case.

“My family has a house near a nuclear power plant,” Matsushita said, explaining his motivation. “I want to take this there and collect data, and contribute to this pool of information.”

“This pool” is a stunning set of data – 50 million readings and counting, all logged and mapped on a website anyone can see – collected by volunteers with self-built equipment. Known as Safecast, the group was founded just days after the massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown that shocked Japan in March 2011.

Though the immediate threat of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has waned, interest in Safecast’s data has not. The organization, which takes no position on nuclear power, is supported by foundations, grants and individual donations.

Part of the growing movement known as citizen science, the idea is to give people the knowledge and the tools to better understand their environment, and make more informed decisions based on accurate information.

Trust in both nuclear power plant operators and the government has not fully recovered since the disaster. As authorities push ahead with the contentious process of restarting dozens of nuclear reactors taken off-line in wake of the disaster, Japanese like Matsushita say a network of monitors controlled by ordinary people could serve as an early warning system in the event of another disaster.

Meanwhile, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s administration continues with its extensive effort to decontaminate areas around Fukushima Daiichi and reopen evacuated towns and villages, potential returnees say they want a way to verify official numbers that indicate radiation really has dropped to safe levels.

“They want people to come back, but there’s no decontamination in the forest areas and those cover 75% of this village,” says retired engineer Nobuyoshi Ito, 72, who in 2010 opened an eco-farm retreat in Iitate, about 20 miles northwest of the nuclear power plant. Recently, he had Safecast install a radiation monitor at the retreat, which is still in a restricted zone.  “We have to check ourselves.”

++

Joe Moross straps a GPS-enabled Geiger counter the size of a small brick to the back window of his red station wagon on the outskirts of Tokyo and begins a 16-hour day driving north through the most contaminated areas around the Fukushima nuclear plant. In the last five years, he calculates he’s driven 90,000 miles gathering data for Safecast.

Through a Bluetooth connection, he can monitor the Geiger counter’s readings on his cellphone as he goes. But he also keeps a mental log of more qualitative signs of the region’s transformation.

“That 7-Eleven reopened in 2014,” he notes as he nears the town of Tomioka. “That Family Mart came back in 2015.” In the town of Naraha, he gasps. “That’s the first rice growing in the fields here in five years!”

Along the way, he passes several dozen fixed-point radiation monitors installed by the government along the roadsides. Their solar-powered, digital displays provide readouts in microsieverts per hour (μSv/hr); today’s show relatively low readings from 0.1 to 3.8 between the towns of Hirono and Minamisoma. That is less than what one would be exposed to on a long flight, although that exposure lasts only as long as the flight.

Moross’ much more granular, mobile data, recorded every five seconds and uploaded to the Web the next day, generally matches the government signs, though when passing near the Fukushima plant, Moross’ counter produces readings above 4 μSv/hr. (Not long after the disaster, Safecast found readings higher than 30 in the region).

In the town of Iwaki, Moross drops in on Brett Waterman, a 51-year-old Australian who’s been teaching English in the area for 11 years and was having some technical issues with a Safecast monitor.

“Like most people, I knew nothing about radiation” when the disaster hit, says Waterman, who acquired an early Safecast Geiger counter through Kickstarter and has since upgraded to more sophisticated models as the group has refined its designs. Waterman says the data indicate Iwaki is now safe, but it’s important to keep generating frequent readings to provide a reference of what’s “normal” in case circumstances change.

Safecast holds regular sessions for adults to teach them to assemble their own devices and is planning a kids’ workshop as well. Plans and directions for building the devices are also available online for free. Organizers say that people who build their own monitors are much more motivated to use them.

“If they just buy one, they may use it once, throw it in a drawer and never upload any data,” says Moross. “If they make it themselves, they’re more invested.”

++

Safecast’s tiny Tokyo office feels like a combination tech start-up, old-school shop class, and comedy club for middle-aged expats. As Moross inspects Matsushita’s soldering progress, English teacher Jonathan Wilder, 59, is busy gathering switches, resistors, batteries, and sensors and parceling them out into plastic bags that will become kits for Safecast’s current workhorse Geiger counter, known as the bGeigie Nano.  

Moross and Wilder trade jokes as Azby Brown, 60, an expert on traditional Japanese architecture, sits at another table typing up news for the group’s blog; he has just led Safecast’s efforts to publish its first scientific paper, in the Journal of Radiological Protection. Pieter Franken, a Dutch expatriate and chief technology officer for a large securities firm, looks over some materials for the group’s upcoming kids’ workshop.

“Safecast is an interesting social experiment, in a fairly anarchistic kind of way,” says Franken, one of the group’s founders. “It taps into trends including maker-spaces, the Internet of things and even artists. We attract people who want to break out of the traditional way of solving problems.”

Safecast grew out of an email conversation among Franken, L.A.-based tech entrepreneur Sean Bonner and MIT Media Lab director Joichi “Joi” Ito immediately after the March 11, 2011, disaster. As the Fukushima crisis unfolded, Safecast’s effort to produce and distribute Geiger counters and collect data snowballed, drawing in more expertise and volunteers. The group has successively iterated smaller and smaller Geiger counters with more functionality for data collection.

In the last five years, Safecast volunteers have taken radiation readings all over the world, from Brisbane, Australia, to Santa Monica. The group is also working on monitoring air quality in Los Angeles and elsewhere; recently, volunteers took methane readings around Porter Ranch during the gas leak there. Now, Safecast is trying to figure out how to depict that kind of data meaningfully online.

Moross says the potential applications for citizen-based environmental monitoring are vast, pointing to incidents such as the recent scandal over the lead-tainted water supply in Flint, Mich., as an example of where deeper community-based scientific knowledge could have improved debate and policymaking.

“Flint and Fukushima have parallels,” says Moross. “Democracy should start from facts, and we need to give citizens facts to understand what’s happening.”

Safecast has taken heat from both pro- and anti-nuclear activists, Brown says. “But if people spend some time with us, they find we are valuable.” Even Japan’s postal service has cooperated with Safecast, putting its monitors on carriers’ motorbikes in some towns and gathering data.

Safecast’s goal now is, essentially, “base-lining the world,” says Franken, crowdsourcing environmental data from every corner of the Earth.

“We should start with measuring our environments,” he says. “Then we can talk about things like global warming and air pollution; from there, activism can start. Once you know, for example, that your street is polluted, you can start to make a change. That’s where we can make a difference.” ”

by Julie Makinen

source with video

40-year-old Japanese reactors poised for new lease on life — Nikkei Asian Review

” TOKYO/OSAKA — Japan’s nuclear power regulators will likely clear reactors to remain in operation beyond 40 years for the first time, an exception that may become a factor in pending reviews of similar cases.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority is expected to approve units 1 and 2 at Osaka-based Kansai Electric Power’s Takahama plant for extensions, press officer Katsumi Matsuura said Monday.

As a general rule, reactors’ operating lives are supposed to end at 40. But extensions of up to 20 years are possible for those that pass three sets of assessments evaluating their compliance with new safety standards, their designs, and the effects of aging on their components.

The two Takahama reactors, in Fukui Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast, passed the safety assessments this April. The NRA will compile a report serving as de facto approval for the extensions in June.

The approval process is expected to finish up before a July 7 deadline. But even if they pass, the reactors would not resume operation until at least the autumn of 2019, because Kansai Electric is planning extensive safety upgrades.

Profit recharge

For Kansai Electric, restarting the pair of reactors would improve monthly earnings by an estimated 9 billion yen ($81.3 million). President Makoto Yagi has argued that the units still have “economic potential.”

The utility logged a net profit for the year ended March 31 but has no guarantee that fossil-fuel costs will remain low in fiscal 2016. A medium-term business plan compiled in April aims for a pretax profit of at least 300 billion yen a decade from now, assuming that most of its nuclear capacity resumes operation.

Approving the two reactors for extensions would likely set a precedent. Kansai Electric has also applied for an extension for the No. 3 reactor at its Mihama power plant in Fukui, aiming to complete the necessary procedures by the end of November. That reactor is expected to pass the NRA’s safety assessment as soon as this summer.

Other regional utilities are also weighing the benefits of keeping 40-year-old reactors in operation against the immense costs needed to make the grade. In May, smaller Shikoku Electric Power decided to decommission unit 1 at its Ikata nuclear plant in Ehime Prefecture rather than seek an extension.

Such decision-making will affect Japanese energy policy. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has identified the atom as an important baseload energy source. Nuclear accounts for 20-22% of the government’s desired energy mix as of fiscal 2030.

This would entail having about 30 of the country’s 40-odd reactors in operation. But applying the 40-year rule on reactor operation without exception would leave only around 20 units. If most reactors end up qualifying for extensions, people may start questioning the purpose of the limit. ”

by Nikkei

source