South Korea’s president vows to end reliance on nuclear power — The Telegraph

” South Korea will abandon nuclear energy amid to concerns over a Fukushima-style disaster and instead focus on renewable energy sources, the country’s president said yesterday.

Moon Jae In announced he had scrapped plans to build more nuclear power plants, ending decades of reliance on the controversial energy source.

His decision marks the latest blow to the nuclear industry, following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster and follows through on Mr Moon’s campaign pledge to reduce usage of coal and nuclear power.

“We will abolish our nuclear-centred energy policy and move towards a nuclear-free era.” Mr Moon said at a ceremony marking the shutdown of the country’s oldest power plant, Kori 1, in Busan. “So far South Korea’s energy policy pursued cheap prices and efficiency. Cheap production prices were considered the priority while the public’s life and safety took a backseat.”

“But it’s time for a change…The country’s economic situation has changed, and our awareness of the importance of the environment has changed. The conviction that the safety and lives of people are more important than anything else has become firmly established.”

He also announced plans to reduce the reliance on coal  by shutting down 10 coal plants.

Environmental groups such as Greenpeace welcomed the announcement.

“People in South Korea have been demanding an energy transition for a long time in major cities and this is one reason why President Moon’s electoral pledge for a safe and clean energy policy was so popular during the presidential campaign,” said Daul Jang, a senior climate & energy campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

“We are living in a different world from the 1970s when nuclear power kicked-off in Korea. Incidents such as the Fukushima disaster, the magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Gyeongju 2016 and the worsening fine dust pollution in large cities all became critical turning points for people to realise that safety and health are of foremost value. Nuclear and coal are clearly two of the most unsafe and polluting energy resources,” said Jang.

“Wind and solar energy will account for over a third of the world’s power generation by 2040 so President Moon’s promise to prioritise renewables as a source of national growth provides great hope. We can only expect this to strengthen the competitiveness of the Korean industry, both nationally and internationally.”

South Korea has 25 nuclear reacts which supply roughly a third of the country’s electricity. But the country’s enthusiasm for the energy source quickly waned following the 2011 Fukushima meltdowns in its neighbor Japan.

In the following year, fake parts scandals prompted an investigation and spread fear over nuclear plants’ safety.

Recent earthquakes in southeastern South Korea also dented public support in the country that was long believed to be safe from earthquakes. South Korea is also searching for answers on how and where to store spent nuclear fuels permanently.

Mr Moon hopes to gradually replace nuclear power with renewable energy sources which should supply at least 20 per cent of all electricity by 2030, according to government targets. ”

by James Rothwell

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Japan says Fukushima residents can return home, despite NGO report warning of high radiation level — Fox News

” Almost six years after he was forced to leave his home following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, the Japanese government informed Toru Anzai that it was safe for him to return to the small agricultural village of Iitate.

Anzai and the rest of the some 6,000 people who once called the village – located about 24 miles northwest of the doomed nuclear power plant – home were told that the evacuation orders were to be lifted by the end of March as the government has completed its decontamination work and reduced the average radiation level in the air to 0.8 microsieverts (µSv/h) per hour – a level deemed by international organizations as safe for human life.

Alongside lifting the evacuation order, the Japanese government also noted that it will end compensation payments to the former residents of Iitate after a year from when an area is declared safe again to live in.

The government’s announcement, however, has been met with skepticism from Iitate’s former residents and widespread criticism from environmental activists and radiation experts around the world. They say that Japan has based its policies not on any interest in public health but on undoing the financial burden of compensation and creating a false reality that life in the Fukushima prefecture is back to normal.

“The Japanese government just wants to say that we can overcome,” Jans Vande Putte, a radiation specialist with environmental group Greenpeace and one of the authors of a report on the cleanup efforts in Iitate, told Fox News. “It’s like they’re running a PR campaign to say that everything is okay and we can now go back to normal.”

Considered the worst atomic accident since the Chernobyl meltdown in the Ukraine in 1986, the Fukushima disaster occurred on March 11, 2011, following a massive 9.0 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami. That tsunami destroyed the emergency generators that would have provided power to cool the nuclear reactors. The insufficient cooling led to three nuclear meltdowns, explosions of hydrogen-air chemicals and the release of radioactive material into the surrounding prefecture.

While Japanese officials assert that the radiation around homes in Iitate have been brought down to an acceptable level since the disaster, Greenpeace said that a survey team it sent into the village found radiation dose rates at houses that were well above long-term government targets.

The organization’s report also noted that annual and lifetime exposure levels in Iitate pose a long-term risk to citizens who may return – especially young children. Scientific research found that on average a newborn girl is seven times more sensitive to radiation as a young adult.

The Japanese government has set a long-term decontamination target of 0.23 µSv/h, which would give a dose of 1 millisievert (mSv) per year, or the maximum limit recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. The sievert is a derived unit that measures the health effect of low levels of ionizing radiation on the human body.

Greenpeace measurements outside on Anzai’s house, however, found that level to be 0.7µSv/h, which would equal 2.5 mSv per year. Inside his home the numbers were even higher, with values coming in at a range between 5.1 to 10.4 mSv per year.

“It is still relatively unsafe to live there,” Vande Putte said. “If thousands of people go back it will be a bad situation and it’s just not wise to go back.”

The radiation levels, experts contend, are even more dangerous outside of the village and the area the government has allegedly decontaminated. Iitate is primarily an agricultural community and 75 percent of the 77-square-mile area is mountainous forest, where Greenpeace contends that radiation levels are comparable to the exclusion zone around Chernobyl.

That means that anyone taking a walk through the woods or even eating something grown in supposedly decontaminated land is at greater risk for a high level of radiation exposure.

“You don’t have to go right out into the forest because they’re not cleaning up areas that are already settled,” Keith Baverstock, a former regional adviser for radiation and public health at the World Health Organization and current medical researcher at the University of Eastern Finland, told Fox News. “If you eat anything grown locally, the levels of radiation are going to be unquestionably a lot higher.”

Baverstock, who for years has been a sharp critic of Japan’s cleanup, said that it could take between 15 and 20 years for the radioactivity in the soil to sink to safe levels if measured at the same speed as that of Chernobyl. But he added that nobody can currently be sure of that rate.

“The Japanese government doesn’t say to these people that they have to accept the risk if they return to the area,” he added.

Greenpeace is demanding that the Japanese government provide full compensation payments to residents of Fukushima prefecture and continue measuring the radiation levels so that people can decide on their own when they want to return.

Outside observers argue that the Japanese government doesn’t have many options if they really hope to protect their citizens from high levels of radiation.

“This is going to cost them,” Baverstock said. “Japan doesn’t have an alternative to waiting it out and resettling these refugees somewhere else.” ”

by Andrew O’Reilly

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The future of nuclear energy in Japan, nearly six years after the 2011 Fukushima disaster — ABC News

” Japan has been pursuing a dream of nuclear energy since the 1960s.

The country’s first nuclear reactor was completed in 1965 and between then and 2011, Japan invested hundreds of billions of dollars into the industry.

Money is still being funnelled into the industry, but these days it is mostly just for upkeep of idle reactors.

When disaster struck the Fukushima nuclear plantin Japan in March 2011, there were 54 nuclear reactors operating in the country and generating about one third of Japan’s power.

But with the triple, reactor-core meltdown at Fukushima came concerns about nuclear power in other areas of Japan. The government of the day ordered an immediate review of the safety aspects of the remaining reactors.

Today, there are just four reactors in operation across Japan (although one is “paused” while a legal challenge is heard).

Eleven are in the process of being decommissioned — six of these are at Fukushima — and decisions are yet to be made about 42 other reactors.

Tom O’Sullivan, an energy sector analyst in Japan, said five or six other reactors should come back online in 2017, but there were localised protests to some of those planned restarts.

“Some of the polling that has been done indicates that 60-70 per cent of the Japanese people actually oppose the restarting of the reactors,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

In April 2016, a major earthquake struck Japan’s southern-most island of Kyushu.

An operating nuclear reactor was just 120 kilometres from the epicentre of the quake. Roads and bridges were damaged and landslides cut off access to some areas — aggravating the fears of local people about how they would evacuate if another nuclear disaster was to occur.

Future energy needs quesitioned

In the years to come, the Japanese Government has major decisions to make about the future of the nuclear industry. Nuclear reactors have a natural operating life of 40 years.

“The average age of the Japanese reactors is now close to 30 years, so most of them have only a remaining operating life of 10 years,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

“Once they start hitting the 40-year time limit, they’re going to have to write off some of the residual costs associated with them. Then of course you have the additional, significant issue of having to decommission them and the costs in that regard are very, very significant.”

The Government has had very little to say in recent months about its energy policy.

The most recent utterings of Prime Minister Abe were back in March — when Japan was marking the five-year anniversary of the nuclear disaster. He said his Government was aiming to achieve 20-22 per cent of energy needs met by nuclear by 2030.

Environmental group Greenpeace said that aim would be close to impossible to achieve.

“The reality is, they will never get to that 20 or 22 per cent. I think inside Government, there are factions that basically believe that maybe we can reach that target, but a more realistic assessment says maybe it will be a lot less,” Greenpeace nuclear spokesman Shaun Burnie said.

“I think the Japanese Government will be forced to change its energy policy. This cannot go on indefinitely. Nuclear utilities are unable to operate their reactors.” ”

by Rachel Mealey

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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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Fukushima flunks decontamination — Robert Hunziker, CounterPunch

” Japan’s Abe administration is pushing very hard to decontaminate land, roads, and buildings throughout Fukushima Prefecture, 105 cities, towns, and villages. Thousands of workers collect toxic material into enormous black one-ton bags, thereby accumulating gigantic geometric structures of bags throughout the landscape, looking evermore like the foreground of iconic ancient temples.

Here’s the big push: PM Abe committed to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, which shall be a crowning achievement in the face of the Fukushima disaster. Hence, all stops are pulled to repopulate Fukushima Prefecture, especially with Olympic events held within Fukushima, where foodstuff will originate for Olympic attendees.

The Abe government is desperately trying to clean up and repopulate as if nothing happened, whereas Chernobyl (1986) determined at the outset it was an impossible task, a lost cause, declaring a 1,000 square mile no-habitation zone, resettling 350,000 people. It’ll take centuries for the land to return to normal.

Still and all, is it really truly possible to cleanse the Fukushima countryside?

Already, workers have accumulated enough one-ton black bags filled with irradiated soil and debris to stretch from Tokyo to LA. But, that only accounts for about one-half of the job yet to be done. Still, in the face of this commendable herculean effort, analysis of decontamination reveals serious missteps and problems.

Even though the Abe government is encouraging evacuees to move back into villages, towns, and cities of Fukushima Prefecture, Greenpeace nuclear campaigner Heinz Smital claims, in a video – Fukushima: Living with Disaster d/d March 2016: “Radiation is so high here that nobody will be able to live here in the coming years.”

Greenpeace has experts on the ground in Fukushima Prefecture March 2016, testing radiation levels. The numbers do not look good at all. Still, at the insistence of the Abe government, people are moving back into partially contaminated areas. In such a case, and assuming Greenpeace is straightforward, it’s a fair statement that if the Abe government can’t do a better job, then something or somebody needs to change. The Olympics are coming.

The Greenpeace report of March 4, 2016: Radiation Reloaded – Impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident 5 Years Later, exposes deeply flawed assumptions by the IAEA and the Abe government in terms of both decontamination and ecosystem risks.

Ever since March 2011, for over 5 years now, Greenpeace has conducted 25 radiological investigations in Fukushima Prefecture, concluding that five years after the Fukushima nuclear accident, it remains clear that the environmental consequences are complex and extensive and hazardous.

A 17-minute video entitled “Fukushima: Living with Disaster,” shows Greenpeace specialists in real time, conducting radiation tests in decontaminated villages and towns of the prefecture. Viewers can see actual real time measurements of radiation on dosimeters.

For example, in the Village of Iitate, 40 kilometers northwest of the Daiichi nuclear plant, Toru Anzai, an evacuee of Iitate, is told decontamination work on his plot of land nearly complete, and he is to rehabitate in 2017. However, Toru has personal doubts about governmental claims. As it happens, Greenpeace tests show abnormally high levels of radiation where decontamination work is already complete.

“Here we have around 0.8 microsieverts (μSv) per hour,” Heinz Smital, nuclear campaigner Greenpeace, “0.23 was the government target for decontamination work.” An adjoining space registers 1.5-2.0 μSv sometimes up to 3.5 μSv. “This is not the kind of count where you can say things are back to normal.”

Throughout the prefecture, decontamination is only partially carried out. For example, decontamination is confined within a 20-meter radius of private plots and along the roads as well as on farmland, leaving vast swaths of hills, valleys, riverbanks, streams, forests, and mountains untouched. Over time, radiation contamination runoff will re-contaminate many previously decontaminated areas.

Alarmingly, Greenpeace found large caches of hidden buried toxic black bags. Over time, it is likely the bags will rot away with radioactivity seeping into groundwater.

At Fukushima City, 60 km from the plant, Greenpeace discovered unacceptable radiation levels with spot readings as high as 4.26, 1.85, 9.06 μSv. According to Greenpeace: “These radiation levels are anything but harmless.”

The government officially informed Miyoko Watanable, an evacuee of Miyakochi, of “radiation eradicated” from her home. But, she says, “I don’t plan to live here again.” Greenpeace confirmed her instincts: “Although work has only recently finished here, we find counts of 1-to-2 μSv per hour… That’s not a satisfactory for the people here in this contaminated area” (Heinz Smital).

Once an area is officially declared “decontaminated,” disaster relief payments for citizens like Miyoko Watanable stop. The government is off the hook.

Without a doubt, the government of Japan is confronted with an extraordinarily difficult challenge, and it may seem unbecoming to ridicule or find fault with the Abe administration in the face of such unprecedented circumstances. But, the issue is much bigger than the weird antics of the Abe government, which passed an absolutely insane secrecy law providing for 10 years in prison to anybody who breathes a secret, undefined.

Rather, whether nuclear power is truly safe is a worldwide issue. In that regard, the nuclear industry has an unfair PR advantage because of the latency effect of radiation. In general, the latency period for cancers is 5-6 years before statistically discernible numbers. People forget.

Consequently, it is important to reflect on key facts:

In a 2014 RT interview, Katsutaka Idogawa, former mayor of Futaba in Fukushima Prefecture, said: “It’s a real shame that the authorities hide the truth from the whole world, from the UN. We need to admit that actually many people are dying. We are not allowed to say that, but TEPCO employees also are dying. But they keep mum about it.”

Alas, two hundred fifty U.S. sailors of the USS Ronald Reagan, on a Fukushima humanitarian rescue mission, have a pending lawsuit against TEPCO, et al claiming they are already experiencing leukemia, ulcers, gall bladder removals, brain cancer, brain tumors, testicular cancer, dysfunctional uterine bleeding, thyroid illness, stomach ailments and other complaints extremely unusual in such young adults. Allegedly, the sailors were led to believe radiation exposure was not a problem.

Theodore Holcomb (38), an aviation mechanic, died from radiation complications, and according to Charles Bonner, attorney for the sailors, at least three sailors have now died from mysterious illnesses (Third US Navy Sailor Dies After Being Exposed to Fukushima Radiation, Natural News, August 24, 2015.) Among the plaintiffs is a sailor who was pregnant during the mission. Her baby was born with multiple genetic mutations.

Reflecting on 30 years ago, Adi Roche, chief executive of Chernobyl Children International, care for 25,000 children so far, says (2014): “The impact of Chernobyl is still very real and very present to the children who must live in an environment poisoned with radioactivity.”

“Children rocking back and forth for hours on end, hitting their heads against walls, grinding their teeth, scraping their faces and putting their hands down their throats… This is what I witnessed when I volunteered at Vesnova Children’s Mental Asylum in Belarus (February 2014),” How my Trip to a Children’s Mental Asylum in Belarus Made me Proud to be Irish, the journal.ie. March 18, 2014 (Cliodhna Russell). Belarus has over 300 institutions like this hidden deep in the backwoods.

Chernobyl is filled with tear-jerking, heart-wrenching stories of deformed, crippled, misshaped, and countless dead because of radiation sickness. It’s enough to turn one’s stomach in the face of any and all apologists for nuclear power.

According to Naoto Kan, Japanese PM 2010-11 during the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant meltdown: “For the good of humanity it is absolutely necessary to shut down all nuclear power plants. That is my firm belief” (source: Greenpeace video, March 2016).

Over 60 nuclear reactors are currently under construction in 15 countries. China has 400 nuclear power plants on the drawing boards. Russia plans mini-nuclear floating power plants to power oil drill rigs in the Arctic by 2020. Honestly! ”

by David Hunziker

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*NPT and nuclear security risks exposed by secret plutonium shipment: NGOs — PanOrient News

Read PanOrient News’ well-researched article on the recent transport of 331 kg of weapons-grade plutonium from the port of the Japanese Tokai nuclear station in Ibaraki prefecture to be dumped at the Department of Energy Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina, which plutonium will be added to SRS’s existing plutonium stockpile of 13 tons.