The Fukushima nuclear meltdown continues unabated — Helen Caldicott, Independent Australia

Helen Caldicott sums up the situation here:

” Recent reporting of a huge radiation measurement at Unit 2 in the Fukushima Daichi reactor complex does not signify that there is a peak in radiation in the reactor building.

All that it indicates is that, for the first time, the Japanese have been able to measure the intense radiation given off by the molten fuel, as each previous attempt has led to failure because the radiation is so intense the robotic parts were functionally destroyed.

The radiation measurement was 530 sieverts, or 53,000 rems (Roentgen Equivalent for Man). The dose at which half an exposed population would die is 250 to 500 rems, so this is a massive measurement. It is quite likely had the robot been able to penetrate deeper into the inner cavern containing the molten corium, the measurement would have been much greater.

These facts illustrate why it will be almost impossible to “decommission” units 1, 2 and 3 as no human could ever be exposed to such extreme radiation. This fact means that Fukushima Daichi will remain a diabolical blot upon Japan and the world for the rest of time, sitting as it does on active earthquake zones.

What the photos taken by the robot did reveal was that some of the structural supports of Unit 2 have been damaged. It is also true that all four buildings were structurally damaged by the original earthquake some five years ago and by the subsequent hydrogen explosions so, should there be an earthquake greater than seven on the Richter scale, it is very possible that one or more of these structures could collapse, leading to a massive release of radiation as the building fell on the molten core beneath. But units 1, 2 and 3 also contain cooling pools with very radioactive fuel rods — numbering 392 in Unit 1, 615 in Unit 2, and 566 in Unit 3; if an earthquake were to breach a pool, the gamma rays would be so intense that the site would have to be permanently evacuated. The fuel from Unit 4 and its cooling pool has been removed.

But there is more to fear.

The reactor complex was built adjacent to a mountain range and millions of gallons of water emanate from the mountains daily beneath the reactor complex, causing some of the earth below the reactor buildings to partially liquefy. As the water flows beneath the damaged reactors, it immerses the three molten cores and becomes extremely radioactive as it continues its journey into the adjacent Pacific Ocean.

Every day since the accident began, 300 to 400 tons of water has poured into the Pacific where numerous isotopes – including cesium 137, 134, strontium 90, tritium, plutonium, americium and up to 100 more – enter the ocean and bio-concentrate by orders of magnitude at each step of the food chain — algae, crustaceans, little fish, big fish then us.

Fish swim thousands of miles and tuna, salmon and other species found on the American west coast now contain some of these radioactive elements, which are tasteless, odourless and invisible. Entering the human body by ingestion they concentrate in various organs, irradiating adjacent cells for many years. The cancer cycle is initiated by a single mutation in a single regulatory gene in a single cell and the incubation time for cancer is any time from 2 to 90 years. And no cancer defines its origin.

We could be catching radioactive fish in Australia or the fish that are imported could contain radioactive isotopes, but unless they are consistently tested we will never know.

As well as the mountain water reaching the Pacific Ocean, since the accident, TEPCO has daily pumped over 300 tons of sea water into the damaged reactors to keep them cool. It becomes intensely radioactive and is pumped out again and stored in over 1,200 huge storage tanks scattered over the Daichi site. These tanks could not withstand a large earthquake and could rupture releasing their contents into the ocean.

But even if that does not happen, TEPCO is rapidly running out of storage space and is trying to convince the local fishermen that it would be okay to empty the tanks into the sea. The Bremsstrahlung radiation like x-rays given off by these tanks is quite high – measuring 10 milirems – presenting a danger to the workers. There are over 4,000 workers on site each day, many recruited by the Yakuza (the Japanese Mafia) and include men who are homeless, drug addicts and those who are mentally unstable.

There’s another problem. Because the molten cores are continuously generating hydrogen, which is explosive, TEPCO has been pumping nitrogen into the reactors to dilute the hydrogen dangers.

Vast areas of Japan are now contaminated, including some areas of Tokyo, which are so radioactive that roadside soil measuring 7,000 becquerels (bc) per kilo would qualify to be buried in a radioactive waste facility in the U.S..

As previously explained, these radioactive elements concentrate in the food chain. The Fukushima Prefecture has always been a food bowl for Japan and, although much of the rice, vegetables and fruit now grown here is radioactive, there is a big push to sell this food both in the Japanese market and overseas. Taiwan has banned the sale of Japanese food, but Australia and the U.S. have not.

Prime Minister Abe recently passed a law that any reporter who told the truth about the situation could be [jail]ed for ten years. In addition, doctors who tell their patients their disease could be radiation related will not be paid, so there is an immense cover-up in Japan as well as the global media.

The Prefectural Oversite Committee for Fukushima Health is only looking at thyroid cancer among the population and by June 2016, 172 people who were under the age of 18 at the time of the accident have developed, or have suspected, thyroid cancer; the normal incidence in this population is 1 to 2 per million.

However, other cancers and leukemia that are caused by radiation are not being routinely documented, nor are congenital malformations, which were, and are, still rife among the exposed Chernobyl population.

Bottom line, these reactors will never be cleaned up nor decommissioned because such a task is not humanly possible. Hence, they will continue to pour water into the Pacific for the rest of time and threaten Japan and the northern hemisphere with massive releases of radiation should there be another large earthquake. ”

by Helen Caldicott

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Fukushima radiation in the Pacific (revisited) — Triple Pundit

by RP Siegel

” My recent post on the spread of radiation stemming from the Fukushima nuclear accident drew quite a few questioning comments. Specifically the article suggested that radiation from the accident was drifting across the Pacific at levels high enough to cause alarm. It turns out such cause for alarm was exaggerated, though there is still reason to be concerned. I appreciate the feedback. I acknowledge that I relied on sources with which I was unfamiliar and posted some information that has been shown to be incorrect. I apologize.

To all who publish online, beware. Bad news travels fast. It gives credence to the old saying, “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its pants on.” This is especially true on the Internet. I truly hope no one was harmed by this information. Now begins the task of earning back your trust which, though hard-earned, can be quickly lost.

I think the best way to start is to post a revised story on what is actually happening in the waters around Fukushima, Japan, as well as those farther afield.

Let’s start by addressing the points made in the original story.

For starters the initial source, PeakOil, used a bogus NOAA graphic to sensationalize the story, having carefully scrubbed out the legend showing that the colors actually represented wave heights at the peak of the tsunami, not radiation levels as the site would have you believe. I checked this image out, noticed this and chose not to use it in my post. Still, I continued to take the central thrust of the story as true.

Several people went to the generally reliable Snopes site to question the story and found confirmation of their suspicions. The blatant misuse of the NOAA chart is clearly called and tossed into the trash where it belongs. An interesting thing about the Snopes post, however, is that while the site prominently displays a text clipping stating that, “each day 300 tons of radioactive waste seeps into the ocean,” it never specifically addresses that claim.

I dug further and found that number actually comes from a quote by Yushi Yoneyama, an official with the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, which oversees energy policy as quoted in Reuters (generally considered unassailable) and elsewhere. In 2013, Yoneyama said, “We think that the volume of water [leaking into the Pacific] is about 300 tonnes a day.” Of course, anyone could be wrong, but who am I to question Reuters or a Japanese government official? I don’t.

That’s not to say Japanese government officials, or officers of TEPCO, can always be counted on to tell the truth, but their interest has generally been to minimize the extent of the damage, not to embellish it.

As for that amount of leakage, that’s equivalent to about 90,000 gallons of radioactive water. That sounds like quite a bit. But compared to the volume of the Pacific Ocean, it’s not a lot at all. Still, when that much leaks out each day, over the course of a year, it adds up to 33 million gallons. And it’s been five years now.

Even today, TEPCO only acknowledges that radioactive water threatens to flood out of the plant and into the ocean. The company denied, until recently, that any water leaked from the plant at all, even when fish contaminated with high levels of radiation were found near the plant by independent researchers from the University of Tokyo, raising major concerns for local fishermen.

The story regarding radiation reaching the Canadian West Coast, which claimed levels of iodine-131 were 300 times background levels, was recently updated with an editor’s statement that the original figures were incorrect.

Reports of a wildlife biologist (Alexandra Morton) pulling hundreds of herring out of the waters off British Columbia with blood coming out of their eyes and gills have not been discredited. However, there is no evidence linking this observation directly to radiation from Fukushima or anywhere else.

The claim that radiation levels found in tuna off the Oregon coast had tripled also appears to be legitimate. However, those levels are still substantially below what would be considered a health threat.

Having sorted through that, I would summarize as follows: Contaminated water continues to enter to ocean from the Fukushima site in significant volume. Traces of radiation have been found in various locations around the Pacific. It also appears that the levels detected at this time do not indicate any immediate threat to humans outside of Japan. That being said, our knowledge of the long-term impacts of these types of radiation on the oceans, and on ourselves, is far from complete.

Upon review, most of the statements in the original piece were in fact true, but I acknowledge the overall sense was that of an exaggerated cause for concern. What this shows is how easily a group of facts taken out of context can become a convincing story — a lesson for all of us. Putting it on the Internet is like putting a match to a dry grassland.

What is far less clear is what the actual levels are and where they can be found. What makes writing about this issue so difficult, and even dangerous, is the combination of two things: It’s a frightening subject, and there is very little solid information being made available.

In my efforts to bring in some more solid facts, I reached out to Greenpeace, which is monitoring the situation carefully. The group sent me some additional information in a press release with links to reports published outside the U.S.

Greenpeace’s famed ship, the Rainbow Warrior, went out to sample the waters around Fukushima in February of this year with former Japanese Prime Minister Mr. Naoto Kan onboard. What they found was that radiation in the seabed off Fukushima “is hundreds of times above pre-2011 levels.” They also found levels in nearby rivers that were “up to 200 times higher than ocean sediment.”

Expressing concern, Ai Kashiwagi, energy campaigner for Greenpeace Japan, said: “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.”

The areas sampled include the Niida River in Minami Soma, where readings measured as high as 29,800 becquerels per kilogram (Bq/kg) for radio-cesium. (For those new to the subject, a becquerel is a derived unit that measures radioactivity.) More samples taken at the estuary of the Abukuma River in Miyagi prefecture, more than 90 kilometers north of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, found levels in sediment as high as 6,500 Bq/kg. To put that in perspective, recorded levels in the seabed near the plant before the disaster were 0.65 Bq/kg.

Kendra Ulrich, senior global energy campaigner for Greenpeace Japan, explained: “The sheer size of the Pacific Ocean combined with powerful complex currents means the largest single release of radioactivity into the marine environment has led to the widespread dispersal of contamination.”

Greenpeace expressed concern that the order scheduled to allow people to return to these areas next March “cannot be permitted to stand.” The group claims that “these ecosystems cannot simply be decontaminated.”

Greenpeace’s report, which came out in July of this year, concludes by saying the impact of the accident will persist for “decades to centuries.”

So, while we have not yet seen the global-scale consequences some predicted, the situation is indeed bad and getting worse. TEPCO continues to build steel tanks at the rate of three per week, to house a great deal of contaminated groundwater while awaiting decontamination. But according to this PBS documentary, the company will run out of room for more tanks sometime next year. The gravity-fed water filtration system has been effective in removing most contaminants, except for tritium. Tritium is a relatively weak radionuclide with a half-life of 12.5 years, which means it will take about 100 years to fully break down.

The molten nuclear cores in reactors still remain in three reactors. And the site will not be fully stabilized until those are removed. But the radioactivity level in those reactors is far too high for people to enter. TEPCO plans to develop robots to go in and retrieve the molten fuel. The company says that retrieval is estimated to begin in 2020.

In closing, while the level of concern suggested in the prior piece was overstated, I maintain that the situation at Fukushima is far from resolved and that it remains a serious concern, particularly in Japan. I further maintain that any plans to continue expanding nuclear power must include an in-depth review of what has happened in Fukushima, with the understanding that this story is far from over. ”

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Five years on, Greenpeace assessing marine contamination off Fukushima — The Japan Times

” Fish market vendor Satoshi Nakano thinks he knows which fish caught in the radiation-tainted sea off the Fukushima coast should be kept away from dinner tables.

Yet five years after the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl there is still no consensus on the true extent of the damage — exacerbating consumer fears about what is safe to eat.

Environmentalists are at odds with authorities, warning that the huge amounts of radiation that seeped into coastal waters after the disaster in 2011 could cause problems for decades.

The government is confident it has stemmed the flow of radioactive water, but campaigners insist contaminated ground water has continued to seep into the Pacific Ocean, and the situation needs further investigation.

“It was the single largest release of radioactivity to the marine environment in history,” Greenpeace nuclear expert Shaun Burnie said, speaking aboard the campaign group’s Rainbow Warrior ship, which has sailed in to support a three-week marine survey of the area the environmental watchdog is conducting.

Fukushima is facing an “enormous nuclear water crisis,” Burnie said.

“The whole idea that this accident happened five years ago and that Fukushima and Japan have moved on is completely wrong.”

Fishermen are banned from operating only within 20 kilometers of the plant.

Although there are no figures for attitudes on seafood alone, the latest official survey by the government’s Consumer Affairs Agency showed in September that more than 17 percent of Japanese are reluctant to eat food from Fukushima.

Nakano knows it is best for business to consider carefully the type of seafood he sells, in the hope it will quell consumer fears.

“High levels of radioactivity are usually detected in fish that move little and stick to the seabed. I am not an expert, but I think those kinds of fish suck up the dirt of the ocean floor,” he said in his coastal hometown of Onahama.

Greenpeace is surveying waters near the Fukushima plant, dredging up sediment from the ocean floor to check both for radiation hot spots as well as places that are not contaminated.

On Monday, the Rainbow Warrior sailed within 1.6 kilometers of the Fukushima coast as part of the project — the third such test it has conducted, but the closest to the plant since the nuclear accident.

Researchers Tuesday sent down a remote-controlled vehicle attached with a camera and scoop in order to take samples from the seabed, which will then be analyzed in independent laboratories in Japan and France.

“It’s very important (to see) where is more contaminated and where is less or even almost not contaminated,” Greenpeace’s Jan Vande Putte said, stressing the importance of such findings for the fishing industry.

Local fishermen have put coastal catches on the market after thorough testing, which includes placing certain specimens seen as high risk through radiation screening — a program Greenpeace lauds as one of the most advanced in the world.

The tests make sure no fish containing more than half of the government safety standard for radiation goes onto the market.

The 2011 disaster was caused by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake off Japan’s northeastern coast, which sparked a massive tsunami that swamped cooling systems and triggered reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, run by operator Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Today, about 1,000 huge tanks for storing contaminated water occupy large parts of the site, but as 400 tons of groundwater a day flows into the damaged reactor buildings, many more will be needed.

Tepco’s measures to reduce the water influx include building an underground wall, freezing the land itself and siphoning underground water.

The government, too, insists the situation is under control.

“The impact of the contaminated water is completely contained inside the port of the Fukushima plant,” Tsuyoshi Takagi, the Cabinet minister in charge of disaster reconstruction, told reporters on Tuesday.

But Greenpeace’s Burnie says stopping the groundwater flow is crucial to protecting the region.

“What impact is this having on the local ecology and the marine life, which is going on over years, decades?” Burnie asked.

“We can come back in 50 years and still be talking about radiological problems” at the nuclear plant as well as along the coast, he said. ”

by Harumi Ozawa and Quentin Tyberghien

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Five years on, tsunami debris on ocean floor near Fukushima nuclear plant remains untouched — Fukushima Minpo via The Japan Times

” The Fisheries Agency will continue to subsidize efforts by Fukushima Prefecture to remove tsunami-related debris from the ocean floor.

The newest tranche of cash will be used to lift vehicles, concrete blocks and smashed buildings from the seabed within 20 km of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

However, there is no agreement yet on where to dump it.

Fukushima fishermen are asking authorities to demarcate a trial fishing zone up to 10 km from the plant. This means removal of the debris is a pressing matter.

Waters within a 20-km radius from the plant were designated a no-go zone in April 2011, but restrictions were scaled back in stages and were lifted in May 2013.

In fiscal 2011, the Fukushima Prefectural government began sweeping debris from the ocean floor outside the 20 km zone. That year, 33,430 tons were removed, followed by 2,241 tons in fiscal 2012, 664 tons in fiscal 2013, and 213 tons in fiscal 2014.

The Fisheries Agency has subsidized the operation to the tune of about ¥4.8 billion up to fiscal 2014.

But undersea debris within 20 km of the plant remains untouched, due partly to the question of who should remove it.

Given the local fishermen’s call to expand the trial fishing zone closer to the plant, the agency plans to speed up the removal of debris by giving the prefecture subsidies for it.

The prefectural government will now negotiate with municipalities over where to dump the debris, and that process may take time, according to prefectural officials.

Ports near the nuclear plant, including those of Tomioka and Ukedo, are still undergoing post-tsunami repairs. The next candidates are Manogawa port, north of the plant, and Hisanohama port to the south, but their residents do not want potentially radioactive debris dumped in their backyards.

“Even if we pull debris out of the water, it’s not easy to find a place for it,” a prefectural official said.

The official urged the central government to weigh in on where to put the debris.

Meanwhile, Fukushima fishermen hope to expand the trial fishing zone as early as next month.

An underwater survey conducted by the prefecture in 2013 confirmed that several houses, cars and tetrapods are lying on the ocean floor. The survey was unable to determine the total amount of debris within the 20 km area.

“Unless the debris is removed, fishing nets may be caught and the risk of accidents will rise,” said an official of the Soma-Futaba Fisheries Cooperative. “We want the debris removed soon.” ”

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Fukushima fishermen to expand operations off crippled nuclear plant — The Japan Times

Fishermen in Fukushima Prefecture said Wednesday they plan to scale down their self-imposed fishing ban in waters off the damaged nuclear power plant due mainly to a substantial decline in radioactive cesium levels.

The Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations is considering narrowing the area subject to the ban to a 10-kilometer radius from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from the current 20-kilometer radius.

The move comes as plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. last autumn completed the construction of a shielding wall to prevent leaks of contaminated groundwater into the sea. Since the completion, radiation levels in sea waters at the plant’s port have been declining.

In addition, prefectural research shows the radioactive cesium levels of marine products caught in coastal areas have dropped substantially.

The proportion of marine products with cesium levels exceeding the state standards of 100 becquerels per kilogram fell to less than 0.1 percent last year from some 40 percent between April and December 2011, soon after the nuclear accident at the plant in March that year. No products have surpassed the level in checks since last April.

The federation is scheduled to make a final decision late next month. “The environment of the seas of Fukushima has improved, and conditions for reviving fisheries are being laid out,” federation leader Tetsu Nozaki told reporters.

After the tsunami-triggered triple meltdown at the nuclear plant, the federation voluntarily halted all of its coastal fishing. In June 2012, it started trial operations in a limited area, which has since expanded in steps. ”

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Struggling Fukushima fishermen hold 1st New Year’s ceremony in 5 years — The Asahi Shimbun

” IWAKI, Fukushima Prefecture–Fishermen held a traditional New Year’s ceremony here on Jan. 8 for the first time since the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster killed their colleagues and ruined their livelihoods.

With their vessels flying colorful banners, the fishermen gathered at Hisanohama fishing port in the northern part of Iwaki in the morning to pray for a safe and bountiful harvest.

After traditional Shinto rituals were performed, the fishermen set off from the port to cleanse their 30 or so boats with seawater and sake. From their boats, they offered prayers to the Shinto shrines and “torii” gates located along the coast.

“Today is our New Year’s Day 2016,” said Akira Egawa, the 68-year-old head of the Hisanohama branch of the Iwaki city fishery association. “All the fishermen looked happy.”

Although the ceremony is an annual event, the fishermen had refrained from holding it until now in light of the misery that the March 2011 disaster brought to the area.

The tsunami spawned by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, slammed into the Hisanohama district around the port, killing about 60 people.

One of the biggest hurdles they continue to face is the spread of negative publicity about food safety in the area in light of the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant north of Iwaki.

Leaks of contaminated water from the nuclear plant are another reason why the fishermen are unable to resume large-scale operations.

But with 2016 being the hallmark fifth year since the disaster, the fishermen decided to resume the ceremony.

Fishermen on the Fukushima Prefecture coast are currently operating on a trial basis, targeting 71 species of marine animals deemed safe by authorities.

The fish catch in the region in 2014 was about 740 tons, a mere 3 percent of the annual haul before the 2011 disaster.

Prefectural authorities in 2015 tested 8,577 marine specimens for radioactive substances. Only four of the specimens exceeded government standards for contamination. ”

by Takuro Negishi

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