The radioactive Olympics? — IPPNW, Beyond Nuclear International

” Concern mounts over events to be held in Fukushima

IPPNW has launched a “Nuclear-Free Olympic Games 2020” campaign to call for a worldwide phase-out of nuclear power and to sound the alarm about the Japanese government’s efforts to use the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to “normalize” the aftermath of the still on-going Fukushima nuclear accident. Here, four members of IPPNW Europe outline the campaign and the reasoning behind it.

By Annette Bänsch-Richter-Hansen, Jörg Schmid, Henrik Paulitz and Alex Rosen

In 2020, Japan is inviting athletes from around the world to take part in the Tokyo Olympic Games. We are hoping for the games to be fair and peaceful. At the same time, we are worried about plans to host baseball and softball competitions in Fukushima City, just 50 km away from the ruins of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. It was here, in 2011, that multiple nuclear meltdowns took place, spreading radioactivity across Japan and the Pacific Ocean – a catastrophe comparable only to the nuclear meltdown of Chernobyl.

The ecological and social consequences of that catastrophe can be seen everywhere in the country: whole families uprooted from their ancestral homes, deserted evacuation zones, hundreds of thousands of bags of irradiated soil dumped all over the country, contaminated forests, rivers and lakes.

Normality has not returned to Japan. The reactors continue to be a radiation hazard as further catastrophes could occur at any time. Every day adds more radioactive contamination to the ocean, air and soil. Enormous amounts of radioactive waste are stored on the premises of the power plant in the open air. Should there be another earthquake, these would pose a grave danger to the population and the environment.

The nuclear catastrophe continues today. On the occasion of the Olympic Games 2020, we are planning an international campaign. Our concern is that athletes and visitors to the games could be harmed by the radioactive contamination in the region, especially those people more vulnerable to radiation, children and pregnant women.

According to official Japanese government estimates, the Olympic Games will cost more than the equivalent of 12 billion Euros. At the same time, the Japanese government is threatening to cut support to all evacuees who are unwilling to return to the region. International regulations limit the permitted dose for the general public of additional radiation following a nuclear accident to 1 mSv per year.

In areas where evacuation orders were recently lifted, the returning population will be exposed to levels up to 20 mSv per year. Even places that have undergone extensive decontamination efforts could be recontaminated at any time by unfavourable weather conditions, as mountains and forests serve as a continuous depot for radioactive particles.

Our campaign will focus on educating the public about the dangers of the nuclear industry. We will explain what health threats the Japanese population was and is exposed to today. Even during normal operations, nuclear power plants pose a threat to public health – especially to infants and unborn children. There is still no safe permanent depository site for the toxic inheritance of the nuclear industry anywhere on earth, that is a fact.

We plan to use the media attention generated by the Olympic Games to support Japanese initiatives calling for a nuclear phase-out and to promote a worldwide energy revolution: away from fossil and nuclear fuels and towards renewable energy generation.

We need to raise awareness of the involvement of political representatives around the world in the military-industrial complex. We denounce the attempt of the Japanese government to pretend that normality has returned to the contaminated regions of Japan. We call on all organizations to join our network and help us put together a steering group to coordinate this campaign. The Olympic Games are less than a year away– now is still time to get organized.

You can read the original IPPNW article here.
And more information in German, here.

published by Beyond Nuclear International

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Doctors’ prescription for the Tokyo Olympics — IPPNW, Beyond Nuclear International

Statement of IPPNW Germany regarding participation in the Olympic Games in Japan

In July 2020, the Olympic Games will start in Japan. Young athletes from all over the world have been preparing for these games for years and millions of people are looking forward to this major event.

We at IPPNW Germany are often asked whether it is safe to travel to these Olympic Games in Japan either as a visitor or as an athlete or whether we would advise against such trips from a medical point of view. We would like to address these questions.

To begin with, there are many reasons to be critical of the Olympic Games in general: the increasing commercialization of sports, the lack of sustainability of sports venues, doping scandals, the waste of valuable resources for an event that only takes place for several weeks and corruption in the Olympic organizations to name just a few. However, every four years, the Olympic Games present a unique opportunity for many young people from all over the world to meet other athletes and to celebrate a fair sporting competition – which was the initial vision of the Olympic movement. Also, the idea of Olympic peace and mutual understanding between nations and people is an important aspect for us as a peace organization.

Fukushima…and no end in sight

Regarding the Olympic Games in Japan, another factor comes into play: the Japanese government is using the Olympic Games to deflect from the ongoing nuclear catastrophe in the Northeast of the country.

The government wants people to think that the situation in Fukushima is under control and people in the region are safe from radioactive contamination. The president of the German Olympic Sports Association, Alfons Hörmann, recently went so far as to say that “the regions close to the Olympic Games are safe from environmental disasters”.

Of course, this is an untenable assertion for a region with extremely high seismic activity. Regarding the situation around the destroyed nuclear reactors in Fukushima, the situation is far from “under control” even today. External cooling water has to be continuously circulated through the ruins of the damaged reactors. Inside, life-threatening radiation doses still prevail. Large parts of the contaminated cooling-water is still flowing into the sea or leaches into groundwater despite major efforts by the Japanese authorities to contain it. The rest of the radioactive wastewater is being stored in huge tanks on site. Their contamination with hazardous radioisotopes like Strontium- 90 presents an ongoing threat to the region.

In December of 2018, data regarding thyroid tests were published. The incidence of thyroid cancer among tested children in Fukushima is 15 times higher than the Japanese average for this age bracket.

We are also seeing a distinct geographic distribution, with a significantly higher incidence of thyroid cancer in the most heavily contaminated regions.

With each storm, radioactive particles from the forests and mountains are brought back to the villages and cities – even to those previously decontaminated. International regulations stipulate that the population should not be exposed to more than one millisievert of additional radiation after a nuclear accident. In areas around Fukushima already earmarked for resettlement, the population will be exposed to radiation dosages that can range up to 20 mSv. As an organization of physicians, we have repeatedly pointed out the resulting health risks for the population of the affected regions, which we consider unacceptable.

While the nuclear catastrophe is a daily reality for the people living in the area and will be for many years to come, the situation for visitors is of course different. To answer the question of whether a trip to Japan or participation in the Olympic Games is acceptable from a medical point of view, a variety of aspects must be taken into consideration:

General information regarding radiation risks

Generally, the radiation exposure in the contaminated regions in Japan poses increased health risks. However, especially for short-term visits, these risks can be considered small – as long as individuals are not specifically sensitive to radiation. But it needs to be stressed that there is no threshold in radiation dose, below which it could be considered safe or without negative effects on health.

The individual disposition and the risk for a radiation-induced disease normally remains undetected and individuals themselves are often not aware of their sensitivity. Once a person falls sick, you can draw conclusions by working backward and may find increased radiation sensitivity (e.g. for breast cancer patients with the BRCA-1/2-mutation).

For pregnant women and small children, we generally recommend to refrain from intercontinental flights and to avoid visits to the contaminated areas in Japan to minimize individual radiation doses. Until today, there are still hot-spots, even in the decontaminated regions – places where radioactive particles from the Fukushima meltdowns have accumulated and were overlooked during the decontamination efforts or places that were recontaminated by rain, pollen flight or flooding. These hot-spots pose an ongoing risk for the residents of the region. Even in the greater Tokyo area, hot-spots were detected in the past.

It is important to know that even when radiation exposure limits are met, certain health risks cannot be ruled out. Exposure limits are derived from the politically acceptable risk of disease that the government thinks the population would be willing to accept. The question is not “At which dose can we expect health risks to occur?” but rather “Which health risks are still acceptable for society?”

Radioactivity in any dosage, however small, can trigger a disease – the higher the dose, the higher the risk. As with smoking and other cancer-inducing factors, there is no “safe” dose. Even natural background radioactivity can trigger diseases. While natural background radiation can mostly not be avoided, we recommend trying to avoid additional radiation exposure as best as possible in order to lower the individual risk of contracting radiation-induced diseases such as cancer.

We can only hope that there will be no further recontamination in Japan caused by storms, earthquakes, forest fires, flooding or technical failures at the damaged reactors, which could put the Olympic Games in Japan at risk.

How you travel

For most visitors, the flight to Japan and back will probably present the highest single radiation exposure. Depending on solar activity, length, height, and routing of the flight, the radiation dose for a flight from Europe to Japan is between 45 and 110 microsieverts (μSv) per flight – about the same dose you are exposed to during a normal chest x-ray. The exact radiation dose resulting from a flight can be calculated on the website of Munich Helmholtz-Institute.

Where you travel

While large parts of Japan have remained relatively unaffected by the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, there are still radiation hot-spots in the prefectures of Fukushima, Tochigi, Ibaraki, Miyagi and Chiba. Inhalation or ingestion of radioactive particles with food or water poses a considerable health risk. It is not sufficient to rely on officially published dose measurements, as even previously decontaminated areas can always become recontaminated with radioactive particles from the forests and mountains around Fukushima through pollen, rains, forest fires or storms.

Some areas around Fukushima remain closed to the public due to elevated radiation levels, others have been reopened after decontamination measures were performed. In metropolitan areas, like in Fukushima City, most monitoring posts record radiation levels below 0.2 microsieverts per hour (0.2 μSv/h). This corresponds to common background values registered in other parts of the world. Background radiation is a continuous source of radiation that depends largely on the local geographical soil composition. Background radiation contributes to numerous cancers and cardiovascular diseases worldwide. Unlike background radiation, which can hardly be avoided, manmade radiation stemming from nuclear weapons testing or the nuclear industry can be confronted politically. A regularly updated map of the official monitoring post in the prefecture can be found (in Japanese) on line.

However, these official measurements need to be treated with caution since the authorities have a vested interest in systematically downplaying radiation effects and ambient dose levels. While officially published dose levels can be low, just a few meters away from the monitoring post you can find local hot-spots due to contaminated foliage, dust or pollen.

A discussion regarding the actual radiation levels in Japan is difficult since the Japanese government has forfeited a lot of trust through questionable methods, for example by installing shielding lead batteries in the measuring instruments or positioning the monitoring posts in blind spots and other protected areas. Independent monitoring posts installed by independent citizen groups often register much higher values than the official posts.

Unfortunately, for symbolic as well as political reasons, sport arenas in Fukushima were selected to hold softball and baseball competitions during the Olympic Games 2020. Even the symbolic first competitions of the Olympics are to be held here. At the same time, the competition calendar was arranged in a way to ensure that no western teams would compete here. This may sound cynical, but it seems that the organizers expected problems regarding acceptance of these sensitive venues. Consequently, European visitors and athletes will most likely not have to travel to Fukushima in order to compete or watch their team.

If people do plan to travel to Fukushima, they should avoid trips to the mountains or forests and also avoid close contact with dust, dirt, foliage, or other possibly contaminated substances. In the event of high pollen flight, forest fires or natural disasters such as earthquakes, flooding or storms, they should exercise caution. FFP-breathing masks, as well as staying indoors, can offer relative protection against inhalation of radioactive particles. Visitors should make sure to pay attention to and follow the instructions issued by local authorities.

Japan is a country with high seismic activity and earthquakes are a common occurrence, as are forest fires in the summer and storms at any time of the year. To familiarize foreign visitors with the right behavior during emergencies, the Japanese tourism agency has established a website as well as a mobile app called “Safety Tips” with up-to-date information and safety advice.

What you eat

The official dose limits for radioactivity in food in Japan are currently stricter than those in the European Union. This means that contaminated foodstuff not fit for sale on the Japanese markets could very well be sold in Europe without any special labeling or warnings. The dose limit for general foodstuff Japan is 500 Becquerel (Bq) per kilogram, while in the EU it is 600 Bq/kg. One example of this difference: blueberry jam sold in the EU had to be taken off the shelves in Japan due to excessive cesium levels (originating from the Chernobyl disaster). More information can be found here.

Food controls in Japan are rather meticulous, but naturally, it can never be guaranteed that no contaminated foodstuff reaches the shelf. The individual measurement data can be seen at www.new-fukushima.jp, but it cannot be excluded that conspicuous values were prefiltered and do not show up in the statistics. At best, this website can help understand which foodstuffs are regularly tested in Japan.

We strongly recommend avoiding products bought directly from farmers in the contaminated regions, since they are often not monitored. Also, dubious “solidarity events” specifically offering foodstuffs from the contaminated regions should be avoided. Apart from these exceptions, it can be assumed that foodstuff declared safe for sale in Japan complies with high safety standards.

Summary note

In summary, it can be said that the health risk for visitors and athletes participating in the Olympics for short periods of time is small – as long as there is no specific individual sensitivity to radiation. Pregnant women and small children should avoid long-distance flights and trips to Fukushima to protect themselves against radiation.

At the same time, we should all be aware of the continuing problems facing the population in the radioactively contaminated regions in the Northeast of Japan, who has to live with the ongoing nuclear catastrophe on a daily basis.

The Olympic Games should not be abused to distract from their fate but rather to make sure their needs, worries, and demands are properly addressed. The German affiliate of IPPNW is trying to do just that with its campaign “Tokyo 2020 – The Radioactive Olympics”.

The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), was founded in 1980 and won the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize. It is a non-partisan federation of national medical groups in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens who share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation.

For more on how the dispersal of “hot” radioactive particles might affect the Olympics, see the Beyond Nuclear article.

published by Beyond Nuclear International

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Dangerous radioactive hot particles span the globe — Beyond Nuclear International

” When reactors exploded and melted down at the Fukushima nuclear power complex in March 2011, they launched radioactivity from their ruined cores into the unprotected environment. Some of this toxic radioactivity was in the form of hot particles (radioactive microparticles) that congealed and became airborne by attaching to dusts and traveling great distances.

However, the Fukushima disaster is only the most recent example of atomic power and nuclear weapons sites creating and spreading these microparticles. Prior occurrences include various U.S. weapons sites and the ruined Chernobyl reactor. While government and industry cover up this hazard, community volunteer citizen science efforts – collaborations between scientists and community volunteers – are tracking the problem to raise awareness of its tremendous danger in Japan and across the globe.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster began, one highly radioactive specimen, a particle small enough to inhale or ingest, was found in a private home where it should not have been, hundreds of miles from its source, in a vacuum cleaner bag containing simple house dust.

This “high activity radioactively-hot dust particle” came from a house in Nagoya, Japan – after it had traveled 270 miles from Fukushima. The only radioactive particle found in the home’s vacuum cleaner bag, it was an unimaginably minuscule part of the ruined radioactive core material from Fukushima – many times smaller than the width of a human hair. We know it came from Fukushima because it contained cesium-134, meaning that the particle came from a recent release, and we know it is a piece of core material specifically because it was so radioactive that it could not have come from any other material.

Most of the particle’s radioactivity came from cesium-134 and cesium-137. By the time it was collected, some of the particle’s radioactivity, mostly from iodine-131, had already decayed. Named “corium” by scientists, it was still thousands of times more radioactive (5,200,000,000,000,000 disintegrations per second per kilogram — that’s 5.2 quadrillion more than the average activity (26,000 disintegrations per second per kilogram) found in dust and soil samples collected through community volunteer efforts from across Japan — with a focus on areas around Fukushima — since the 2011 nuclear disaster began. By way of comparison, in the U.S., average soil and dust activity is thousands of times lower.

Due to privacy concerns, we are not permitted to know the identities of the Nagoya residents who participated in the dust sampling collection and in whose home the particle was found. Nor do we know how many people lived in the home; if there were children or babies present; or pets; or pregnant women. And we will never know if there were any other radioactive microparticles in the home that did not make it into that vacuum cleaner bag.

We do not know how the particle got there. No one in the home (nor the vacuum cleaner) had any connection to the Fukushima reactors or the exclusion zone. Was the particle transported by a car tire into their city? On someone’s shoes? Did it fly in through a window after being lofted by air currents? Did it arrive by a combination of forces? We do not know if other particles like this travelled just as far in all directions, or who may have taken a breath at just the wrong moment, so that a similar microparticle might be lodged in their lungs.

We do know the residents in Nagoya were notified about the particle’s presence, and that if it had been inhaled or ingested, it could have proven lethal over time. This corium particle would have destroyed tissue near it, potentially threatening the function of any organ that tissue was part of. But the particle’s additional danger would come from what it didn’t destroy – that is tissue that is damaged but survives and can go on to mutate into cancer or non-cancer diseases.

We also know that had scientists and citizens not worked together to collect samples, we would never have known a microparticle of corium existed at all at a distance so far away from the Fukushima meltdowns. If the presence of this particle – and its potential for inhalation – had gone unnoticed, any calculations of the doses to residents of this home would have been significantly underestimated. And while the Nagoya particle may simply be an outlier, it shows how inaccurate radiation risk assessment has turned out to be. All of these microparticles, even ones less radioactive, may pose significant health risks inside the body that are currently uncalculated.

Citizen and scientists collaborations show us that radioactive microparticles are a worldwide problem. Yet action by public health advocates and government officials has been slow to nonexistent in recognizing this danger, much less working to protect people against exposure from it. Detecting radioactive microparticles is extremely difficult, in part because detecting them and proving their danger requires specialized techniques and equipment. But this is no excuse for governments to ignore the problem altogether as they continue to do. When experts tell us what our risks are from radiation exposure, risks from these microparticles remain unaccounted for in every country in the world. Speculation swirls around these particles and whether the rapid-onset cancers occurring in Japan are possibly due to their presence.

Radioactive particles across the globe

Collections of various samples (home air filters, vehicle engine intake filters, soils, samples of dust from vacuum cleaner bags) have revealed radioactive microparticles from Fukushima made it as far as Seattle, WA and Portland, OR in the U.S.,and to the Western coast of Canada.

Not surprisingly, microparticles in Japan were much more radioactive than those that made their way to the U.S. and contained more varied radioisotopes, thus posing a much greater health risk. In the case of some filters in Japan, contamination was high enough to be classified as “radioactive waste.”

In addition to catastrophic releases from nuclear power facilities, these particles come from atomic detonations, other nuclear industry processes such as mining and atomic fuel fabrication, and nuclear facility releases of radioactivity, as well as leaking atomic waste dumps. Nuclear workers, First Nations Tribes, and local residents have submitted samples for testing around such facilities. Particles have been detected in the environment and in house dusts in communities around weapons facilities in Los Alamos, NM; Hanford, WA; and Rocky Flats, CO. Thorium, plutonium, and uranium from nuclear facilities were found “outside of radiation protection zones,” including workplaces, workers’ homes and cars. “Given the small respirable size of these radioactive microparticles, they are a potential source of internal exposure from inhalation or ingestion,” according to Dr. Marco Kaltofen of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

In some cases, radioactive particle releases can be higher from nuclear power catastrophes than disasters at atomic bomb facilities. In 1986, Chernobyl also released radioactive particles that still contaminate the environment today. Forest fires are spreading them further. Current community volunteer citizen science efforts are underway in the environs of the Santa Susana Field Laboratory (SSFL) – a former reactor test site adjacent to Simi Valley, CA – and the site of several unanticipated and unmonitored nuclear releases, a meltdown, and the November 2018 Woolsey forest fire.

Similar work is being carried out in Pike County, OH, host to a uranium enrichment facility for military and civilian nuclear reactors that has spread radioactive contamination to a nearby middle school, the grounds of which have now been quarantined. The U.S. Department of Energy hid the school contamination for two years, prompting public outrage and calls for health investigations into the high incidence of local childhood disease.

Ignoring danger to human health, environment

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) currently has an existing 10-mile emergency planning radius around commercial nuclear power reactors, a zone the NRC does not place around other nuclear facilities. This 10-mile zone is not large enough to account for exposures that often occur well outside of it.

While the NRC is aware of the radioactive microparticle threat, its dose models fail to provide the extensive, detailed calculations required to actually protect anyone working at or living near these sites. Since radioactive microparticles remain a threat for generations after a catastrophe begins, the NRC should account for continuing exposure to communities and their people for the decades or centuries it takes for such materials to be safe for human or animal exposure. ”

by Cindy Folkers, Beyond Nuclear International; with technical and editorial input from Arnie and Maggie Gundersen

source with photos

Ground zero at Fukushima nuclear power plant — 60 Minutes Australia

This video by 60 Minutes Australia covers the bleak reality of the effects of both the Fukushima and Chernobyl meltdowns on the people who were evacuated in Fukushima and the future generations of children in Ukraine.

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Fukushima Daiichi Typhoon Hagibis damage update 10.15.19 — Simply Info

SimplyInfo reported: ” TEPCO reports today that some minor landslides due to the recent typhoon were found on the north edge of the plant grounds. The impacted area was not near the reactor buildings or other critical facilities.

NHK TV reported that a total of 10 bags of contaminated soil have now been retrieved from a nearby river in Tamura City. There is still no accounting of the total missing bags. ”

by SimplyInfo: The Fukushima Project

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Fukushima’s radioactive water crisis — Counter Currents

Here is an honest and critical look at the reality of what is happening in Japan relating to releasing tons of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean and the coverup of radiation exposure and its related death toll. Robert Hunziker calls out the facts behind the true impact of radiation exposure on millions of Ukrainians from the Chernobyl meltdown in 1986. This begs the question, What will be the true impact of Fukushima radiation on the Japanese population, including decontamination workers, children, and future generations?

The article quotes a Greenpeace International March 8th 2019 article entitled: Japanese Government Misleading UN on Impact of Fukushima Fallout on Children, Decontamination Workers: “The Japanese government is deliberately misleading United Nations human rights bodies and experts over the ongoing nuclear crisis in areas of Fukushima… In areas where some of these decontamination workers are operating, the radiation levels would be considered an emergency if they were inside a nuclear facility.”

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