How Fukushima turned a nuclear advocate into an antinuclear champion — The Christian Science Monitor

” Trading “le nucléaire” for renewables is a tough sell in the planet’s most nuclear-dependent nation.

Naoto Kan came to France anyway. The once pro-nuclear former prime minister who led Japan through the Fukushima nuclear disaster recently made a swing through one of France’s most nuclearized areas – the tip of Normandy – giving struggling environmentalists a rare boost.

An improbable activist in his conservative dark suit and tie, Mr. Kan came to explain his 180-degree switch from pro-nuclear to antinuclear crusader, and urge people to go for renewables instead.

“I came here because I am fiercely opposed to nuclear power, and I want to show my solidarity with people fighting it here,” Kan politely told a small crowd of activists near Flamanville’s controversial EPR nuclear reactor. “Before Fukushima I was pronuclear,” he said, laying flowers on a homemade memorial to unknown radiation victims whose slogan, “aux irradiés inconnus,” mimics monuments to unknown soldiers dotting France. “But with Fukushima, we almost had to evacuate millions of people, and I realized we had to stop nuclear power – in France, Japan, the world – and turn to renewables as fast as possible.”

Kan’s unusual visit buoyed “écolos” in rural Normandy, where the nuclear industry employs thousands and its critics feel marginalized. “We’re used to criticism, but his message is universal, so he gives the opposition credibility,” said retired schoolteacher and veteran activist Paulette Anger, secretary of Crilan, one of two small anti-nuclear groups hosting Kan.

How to produce electricity safely is a quandary many countries have grappled with since the Fukushima Daiichi disaster – the planet’s second major nuclear accident after the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe. It’s a question Kan never thought he’d face when he became prime minister of Japan on June 8, 2010.

Nine months later, Japan’s worst nuclear accident confronted him with its greatest crisis since World War II.

Kan was a science buff who thought nuclear power was needed in a plugged-in world. After majoring in applied physics at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, he was drawn to ’60s activism, and then entered politics.

But on March 11, 2011, a massive category-9 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan’s east coast, killing thousands. Huge waves swamped the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, knocking out electric power to its six reactors and seven spent fuel pools.

Kan followed with dread as the power loss halted cooling to the nuclear fuel rods in the reactors and spent fuel pools. The failure of all backup fixes inexorably led to three meltdowns and several hydrogen explosions, spewing long-lived radioactive poisons across the countryside.

“Human error is inevitable,” Kan told a rapt crowd of 400, packed into a community center near Flamanville’s village church. Because a nuclear accident robs people of their lives and ancestral lands, the risk is too high, Kan said in guttural Japanese, pausing for his translator to catch up. “So I’m trying to use this terrible experience to convince as many people as I can to get out of nuclear power.”

For his antinuclear hosts, Kan was the biggest guest star since oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau came to fight the Flamanville reactors decades ago.

“It’s remarkable to have the former prime minister here,” said retired schoolteacher and antinuclear veteran Didier Anger, president of Crilan and a spokesman for Can-Ouest, the two antinuclear groups co-hosting Kan. “When someone changes their mind as Mr. Naoto Kan has, bravo!” he said to resounding applause.

A fictionalized film of the disaster’s first days accompanied Kan. “Le Couvercle du Soleil” (“The Seal of the Sun”), produced by Tomiyoshi Tachibana, shows the besieged prime minister struggling to understand the problem so he can react without causing panic. The secretive fictional power company lies and stalls. A chain of errors leads to disaster. In a key turning point, radiation levels in the doomed plants get so high the power company wants to leave. In what investigators conclude “saves Japan,” Kan orders them to stay.

An earthquake and tsunami are catastrophes that end, Kan explains in his book, “My Nuclear Nightmare.” But leaving an unmanageable nuclear reactor alone only lets things get worse.

The disaster released massive amounts of radiation, created 160,000 refugees, drove farmers to suicide, and rendered a beautiful part of Japan uninhabitable for years. After a no-confidence vote, Kan resigned, but not before insisting on legislation easing Japan’s path to renewables.

Chernobyl got explained away as an accident in an old reactor in an undeveloped nation. For Kan, Fukushima underscored the false assumption that nuclear disaster can’t happen in a high-tech country. By luck, he didn’t have to order Tokyo and 50 million people evacuated for 30 to 50 years, he said.

Now, Kan travels the world as a guest of antinuclear groups, warning about the powerful collection of special interests promoting nuclear power.

“Those who benefit from nuclear power are not the ones who will pay,” he warned, noting that the half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years. Fukushima, he stressed, is not over.

After speaking to the National Assembly in Paris and the European Parliament in Strasbourg, Kan toured Normandy’s “nuclear peninsula.” Activists took Kan along the rugged coast to view Flamanville’s controversial EPR reactor from a cliff. They drove him past France’s oldest nuclear waste dump to the huge La Hague nuclear waste reprocessing plant, home of Europe’s largest store of nuclear materials, tons of plutonium, and thousands of tons of nuclear waste. A citizen scientist from the independent radiation lab ACRO showed Kan two contaminated streams amid bucolic cow pastures behind the nuclear waste plant, including one where authorities last year confirmed plutonium in sediments. Kan admired the grand view at the peninsula’s jagged tip, where the waste plant’s discharge pipe routinely pours thousands of gallons of radioactive wastewater out to sea with government permission.

After the disaster, Japan shut down its 54 nuclear reactors, 12 of them permanently. Five restarted, but efforts to restart more are stalled by public opposition. Kan wants them all shut down.

Fukushima had a profound effect on global nuclear programs, said Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based independent energy and nuclear policy analyst and lead author of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report. “It accelerated its decline in Europe, the US, globally – and significantly slowed down expansion in China.”

Still, France’s 58 reactors produce almost three-quarters of its electricity.

Flamanville’s Mayor Patrick Fauchon echoed the French industry view that its plants are safe. “I think it’s important that he share his experience,” he said of Kan. “But it’s his fight.” As for a nuclear accident here: “I’m not particularly worried.”

Meanwhile, Kan’s visit left veteran critics of le nucléaire feeling buoyed.

“It probably won’t change opinions on the pronuclear side,” Ms. Anger said. “But because he lived through certain things and was once pronuclear, it made them think. His visit enormously enhanced our credibility. It was a big event.” ”

by contributor Clare Kittredge, The Christian Science Monitor

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Japan’s nuclear export ambitions hit wall as Vietnam set to rip up reactor order — Japan Today

” TOKYO/HANOI — Vietnam is poised to abandon plans for Japanese firms to build a multi-billion dollar nuclear power plant, damaging Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s drive to begin exporting reactors after the Fukushima disaster left the industry in deep-freeze at home. … ”

by Aaron Sheldrick and Ho Binh Minh

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*No bliss in this ignorance: The Great Fukushima nuclear coverup — The Ecologist

” The Japanese were kept in the dark from the start of the Fukushima disaster about high radiation levels and their dangers to health, writes Linda Pentz Gunter. In order to proclaim the Fukushima area ‘safe’, the Government increased exposure limits to twenty times the international norm. Soon, many Fukushima refugees will be forced to return home to endure damaging levels of radiation. “

” Dr. Tetsunari Iida is the founder and executive director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy Policies (ISEP) in Japan.

As such, one might have expected a recent presentation he gave in the UK within the hallowed halls of the House of Commons, to have focused on Japan’s capacity to replace the electricity once generated by its now mainly shuttered nuclear power plants, with renewable energy.

But Dr lida’s passionate polemic was not about the power of the sun, but the power of propaganda. March 11, 2011 might have been the day the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. But it was also the beginning of the Great Japan Cover-Up.

On the ISEP website, Iida extols the coming of the Fourth Revolution, following on from those in agriculture, industry and IT. “This fourth revolution will be an energy revolution, a green industrial revolution, and a decentralized network revolution”, he writes.

But in person, Iida was most interested in conveying the extent to which the Japanese people were lied to before, during and after the devastating nuclear disaster at Fukushima-Daiichi, precipitated on that same fateful day and by the deadly duo of earthquake and tsunami.

“Shinzo Abe says ‘everything is under control'”, said Iida, speaking at an event hosted by Nuclear Free Local Authorities, Green Cross, and Nuclear Consulting Group in late January. It was headlined by the former Japan Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, who was at the helm when the triple disasters struck.“Yes – under the control of the media!”

A trial for Tepco like post-war Tokyo Trials

The media may have played the willing government handmaiden in reassuring the public with falsehoods, but in July 2012, the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission concluded that the disaster was really no accident but “man-made”. It came about, the researchers said, as a result of “collusion” between the government, regulators and the nuclear industry, in this case, Tepco.

“There should be a Tepco trial like the post-war Tokyo Trials”, Iida said, referring to the post World War II war crimes trial in which 28 Japanese were tried, seven of whom were subsequently executed by hanging.

Hope for such accountability – without advocating hanging – is fleeting at best. In 2011, while addressing a conference in Berlin hosted by the Heinrich Böll Foundation, I suggested the Tepco officials should be sent to the International Criminal Court at The Hague, (a body the US still conveniently refuses to recognize) to answer for what clearly amounts to crimes against humanity.

The remark caused a bit of a stir and earnest questions about the mechanism by which Tepco could be brought there. Needless to say, nothing of the kind ever happened, or is likely to.

Instead, the Abe’s government’s preferred tactic is to go full out to restart reactors and move everybody back home as soon as possible, as if nothing serious had happened. Just scoop off a little topsoil, cart it away somewhere else and, Abracadabra! Everything is clean and safe again!

Normalizing radiation, a policy and now a practice

Of course radiological decontamination is not that easy. Nor is it reliable. It is more likepushing contamination from one spot to the next”, as independent nuclear expert, Mycle Schneider describes it. And radiation does not remain obediently in one place, either.

“The mountains and forests that cannot even be vaguely decontaminated, will serve as a permanent source of new contamination, each rainfall washing out radiation and bringing it down from the mountains to the flat lands”, Schneider explained. Birds move around. Animals eat and excrete radioactive plant life. Radiation gets swept out to sea. It is a cycle with no end.

Nevertheless, efforts are underway to repopulate stricken areas, particularly in Fukushima Prefecture. It’s a policy, and now a practice, of ‘normalizing’ radiation standards, to tell people that everything is alright, when clearly, there is no medical or scientific evidence to support this. And it was an approach already firmly and institutionally in place, even on March 11, 2011 as the Fukushima disaster first struck and much of the decision-making was left to individual judgement.

“We were told that evacuating poses a greater risk than radiation,” recalls Hasegawa Kenji, a farmer from Iitate, a village situated 45 kilometers from the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Featured in the Vice documentary ‘Alone In The Zone’, Hasegawa criticized Iitate’s mayor for making what he called a terrible mistake.

“Even when the scientists told the mayor that Iitate was dangerous, he ignored them all. He brought in experts from around the country who preached about how safe it was here. They said we had nothing to worry about. They kept telling us that. Eventually the villagers fell for it and began to relax. And the mayor rejected the idea of evacuating even more. That’s why nobody left, even though the radiation levels were so high.”

The nuclear industry did not tell the public the truth

The confusion surrounding evacuation was so profound that, as Zhang. noted in a September 11, 2014 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health: “Unclear evacuation instructions caused numerous residents to flee to the northwestern zone where radiation levels were even higher.”

All par for the course, said Iida. “I must emphasize, the people in the nuclear industry did not tell the public the truth and keep us informed.”

Next in the ‘normalization’ process came the decision to raise allowable radiation exposure standards to 20 millisieverts of radiation a year, up from the prior level of 2 mSv a year. The globally-accepted limit for radiation absorption is 1 mSv a year.

This meant that children were potentially being exposed to the same levels of radiation that are permitted for adult nuclear power plant workers in Europe. Some officials even argued that zones where rates were as high as 100 mSv a year should be considered ‘safe’. Writing on his blog, anti-pollution New Orleans-based attorney, Stuart Smith, observed wryly:

“Instead of taking corrective measures to protect its people, Japan has simply increased internationally recognized exposure limits. It seems that the priority – as we’ve seen in so many other industrial disasters in so many other countries – is to protect industry and limit its liability rather than to ensure the long-term health and well being of the masses. Go figure.”

The great repatriation lie

All of this set the perfect stage for the Great Repatriation Lie. “It’s the big cover-up,” Iida told his Westminster audience. “People are being told it’s quite safe to have a little [radiation] exposure.”

Indeed, at a recent conferences of prefectural governors, young people in particular were urged to return to Fukushima. “If you come to live with us in Fukushima and work there, that will facilitate its post-disaster reconstruction and help you lead a meaningful life”, said Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori.

Young people in Japan, however, appear not to be cooperating. Where evacuees are returning, the majority are senior citizens, who have less to lose from a health perspective and are more traditionally tied to the land and their ancestral burial grounds.

“They want to die where they were born and not in an unfamiliar place”, said Yoshiko Aoki, an evacuee herself who now works with others, and who also spoke at the London conference.

All of this impacts revenue from the inhabitants’ tax which constitutes 24.3% of all local tax sources and is collected by both prefectures and municipalities. It is levied on both individuals and corporations but with the bulk of revenue coming from individuals.

Senior citizens who have retired do not contribute to income tax, so the onus is on governors and mayors to lure as many working people as possible back to their towns and regions in order to effectively finance local public services.

Radioactive areas are hardest hit economically

Late last year, the Asahi Shimbun looked at tax revenues in the 42 municipalities affected by the triple 2011 disasters of earthquake, tsunami and the Fukushima meltdowns.

Unsurprisingly, the areas hardest hit by radiological contamination had suffered the biggest economic blows. Those areas free from radioactive fallout could simply rebuild after the tsunami and earthquake, and had consequently recovered economically, some even to better than pre-3/11 levels.

On the other end of the scale, Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, marked the biggest decreasing rate – 72.9 percent – in tax revenues for fiscal 2014″, the Asahi Shimbun reported. “All residents of the town near the crippled nuclear plant remain in evacuation. Although tax payments from companies increased from decontamination work and other public works projects, income taxes paid by residents and fixed asset taxes have declined.”

To return or not to return is the question of the hour – or it will be come March 2017, when the Abe government has announced it will revoke many evacuation orders. At that point, government compensation to evacuees would be lifted, putting them under financial pressure to return. Cue more confusion.

People are confronted, said Iida, with “two extreme views, either that it’s very dangerous or quite safe. So it’s very difficult to decide which is the truth and it has been left up to individuals.”

One of those towns that could be declared ‘safe’ is Tomioka, Japan’s Pripyat, formerly home to close to 16,000 people but now uninhabited.

“It’s like a human experiment, that’s how we feel,” said Aoki in London, herself a former Tomioka resident. “The Governor of Fukushima spoke about a safe Fukushima. We want it to become safe, but our thoughts and reality are not one and the same.”

Observes Kyoto University professor of nuclear physics, Koide Hiroaki, in the Vice film, who has been outspoken for decades against the continued use of nuclear energy:

“Once you enter a radiation controlled area, you aren’t supposed to drink water, let alone eat anything. The idea that somebody”, he pauses, ” … is living in a place like that is unimaginable.”

by Linda Pentz Gunter

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Tokyo under fire for plans to speed return of Fukushima evacuees — Deutsche Welle

” In a bid seen by critics as aiming to speed up reconstruction, the Japanese government is preparing to declare sections of the evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant a safe place to live. The ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe intends to revoke many evacuation orders by March 2017, if decontamination progresses as hoped, meaning that up to 55,000 evacuees could return to the homes they abandoned more than four years ago.

Moreover, Tokyo recently announced that the 7,000 residents of Nahara, a town in one of the seven Fukushima municipalities completely evacuated following the nuclear crisis, will be able to return home permanently from September 5. How many residents of the settlement, which lies just 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of the plant, will return, however, remains unclear as many still have mixed feelings, according to a recent poll.

On March 11, 2011, a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami struck northeastern Japan, causing massive devastation and ultimately sending three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into meltdown. It was the worst atomic accident in a generation. Hundreds of thousands of people were forced to flee amid fears of rising radiation, with more than 72,500 people – who used to live within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant – still living in temporary housing units.

Massive clean-up operation

In the meantime, government-run decontamination efforts are underway in 11 cities, with at least 20,000 people involved in the clean-up, according to the environment ministry. In the mammoth task, workers try to remove tons of contaminated surface soil, plants and leaves, placing them in bags or in one of the nearly 800 temporary outdoor storage facilities that have been set up across the disaster zone.

The operation also includes parts of the district of Iitate, which covers more than 200 square kilometers, and was one of the most contaminated areas following the March 2011 disaster. Since 2014, tens of thousands of workers have been attempting to reduce radiation levels in some parts of Fukushima prefecture, including in Iitate.

Mounting concerns

But while organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) say such efforts have contributed to reducing radiation levels, many problems remain, especially when one considers the disposal of contaminated water in the plant and the fact that anyone living in the surrounding areas would be exposed to radiation levels of more than 20 millisieverts (mSv) a year.

The globally-accepted limit for radiation absorption is 1mSv per year, although the IAEA says anything up to 20mSv per year poses no immediate danger to human health. However, various studies have shown health impacts from exposure to lower levels. Moreover, critics argue that only residential areas are being cleaned in the short-term, and the worst-hit parts of the countryside are being omitted or are impossible to be decontaminated, like dense forests and mountains.

This development has raised concerns among environmentalist groups such as Greenpeace, who fear that radioactive contamination in Iitate district is so widespread and at such a high level that it will be “impossible for people to safely return to their homes.”

‘A vast stock of radioactivity’

“Prime Minister Abe would like the people of Japan to believe that they are decontaminating vast areas of Fukushima to levels safe enough for people to live in. The reality is that this is a policy doomed to failure. The forests of Iitate are a vast stock of radioactivity that will remain both a direct hazard and source of potential recontamination for hundreds of years. It is impossible to decontaminate,” said Jan Vande Putte, a radiation specialist with Greenpeace Belgium.

Based on its own investigation, Greenpeace claims that even after decontamination, radiation dose rates were measured higher than 2 micro Sv/h on decontaminated fields, the equivalent of an annual dose higher than 10mSv/year or ten times the maximum allowed dose to the general public.

“In the untouched and heavily contaminated forests, radiation dose rates are typically in the range of 1-3uSv/h – high levels that will remain for many years to come, said Greenpeace, adding that the only forest decontamination underway in Iitate is along public roads, where thousands of workers are removing contaminated soil and plants along a 10-20 meter strip.

Mamoru Sekiguchi, the group’s energy campaigner at Greenpeace Japan, put the situation into a broader perspective, arguing that even after nearly thirty years, the 30-kilometer area around he crippled Chernobyl plant in Ukraine remains an exclusion zone.

“It’s a shocking indictment of both the IAEA and the Abe government, which reveals how desperate they are to create the illusion that returning to ‘normal’ is possible after a severe nuclear accident. Their position is indefensible and plans for a de facto forced return must be stopped,” Sekiguchi said.

‘Helplessly inefficient’

Mycle Schneider, a Paris-based independent international energy and nuclear policy consultant, told DW that if the remaining dose levels were indeed between 1 and 3mSv per hour on average this would exceed the 1mSv limit applied in most of the countries. “As there is no threshold, meaning there is no safe level of exposure, the health risk to people would be significantly increased.”

The nuclear expert also slammed much of Japan’s decontamination activities, referring to them as “helplessly inefficient.” To explain his view, he said that while high pressure water would be applied to cleaning surfaces like parking lots, for instance, the used water wouldn’t be recovered, thus pushing contamination from one spot to the next.

In addition, Schneider pointed out that contamination levels were not static. “The mountains and forests that cannot even be vaguely decontaminated, will serve as a permanent source of new contamination, each rainfall washing out radiation and bringing it down from the mountains to the flat lands.”

No compensation?

Campaigners also claim the government’s plans mean that some people will have no choice but to go back to their abandoned homes given that they will trigger the ending of some compensation payments. “Stripping nuclear victims of their already inadequate compensation, which may force them to have to return to unsafe, highly radioactive areas for financial reasons, amounts to economic coercion,” said Vande Putte.

A similar view is shared by Schneider: “The decontamination program and the government plan to ‘allow’ for the return of inhabitants do have a very simple goal: reduce the amount of compensation being paid out to victims,” said the expert.

Tokyo Electric has paid some $40 billion (36.78 billion euros) in compensation to residents and expects to pay billions more to decontaminate the area and decommission the wrecked power station, a project that could take an estimated three decades, according to Reuters news agency.

Under the existing compensation scheme, the utility pays each evacuee about $1,000 (921 euros) a month for emotional distress. The assistance is to be cut off a year after the government lifts an evacuation order, said Reuters, citing a Japanese government draft. ”

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‘Fukushima tragedy solution needs international involvement’ – Mycle Schneider — Voice of Russia

” Record radiation levels have been detected at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Its operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, says radiation was measured inside a duct connecting reactor buildings to an outside ventilation pipe. The highest radiation estimates could kill an exposed person in 20 minutes, according to local media. This is the highest radiation level ever detected outside Fukushima reactor buildings. Earlier, TEPCO measured radiation of at least 10 sieverts around the same pipe. The new measurements show radiation levels that are twice as high. TEPCO stressed that it is highly likely that the ventilation pipe still contains radioactive substances. In an interview to Voice of Russia, Mycle Schneider, an independent analyst on energy and nuclear policy, talked in detail about the situation.

“This is most obviously the latest in the series of discoveries of the hot spot. So, there is very local, extremely high level of radiation, which can kill somebody in a very short period of time, rather deliver a lethal doze in a few minutes,” – Mr Schneider said.

“It shows also that we are now over 2,5 years after the start of the disaster in Japan, and there is still no appropriate monitoring for radioactivity on the site”, Mr Schneider said. “We have a situation where the infrastructure, like buildings and various facilities, is exposed to sea water which means highly charged in salt and, therefore, particularly fragile and exposed to corrosion.”

Mr Schneider pointed out, that the latest cases were an indication that “there are many places where there could be very high levels of radiation”. This case, according to Mr Scheider, also indicates that “other places might have received fractions of highly radioactive spent fuel pieces.”

Mr Schneider also expressed his doubts that everything that could be done to minimize the catastrophe is done.

“However, it is obvious that we are facing the situation that is completely unprecedented, unprecedented in scope and unprecedented in complexity. So, one has to be careful with giving lessons. However, unfortunately, there has not been a concerted international effort to assist the Japanese with this tragic event. And, I think, that is really something that should be done most urgently to try to get together some sort of international task force for Fukushima which would pull together the best experts in the key areas of concern and bring them together to develop short, medium, and long-term strategies to secure the site,” Mr Schneider said.

Mr Schneider concluded saying that there are “two families of problems”:

“One is the continuous leakage of radioactivity mainly through water into the ocean and through the contamination of ground water. So, that is an ongoing process and it is increasing radioactivity levels in the sea and in the surroundings. The other risk area is entirely different in nature. We can unfortunately not exclude a much more dramatic situation where, for example, we have a draining of cooling water of one of the pools that are up in the forth-fifth floor, and that contains very large amounts of radioactive inventories and if such a pool is drained, the spent fuel is highly radioactive, if used fuel is exposed to air, we could get a spontaneous ignition and fire. That would mean releasing quantities of radiation to the atmosphere readily dispersible and inhalable that would be dozens of times what had been released at an accident like Chernobyl’s.”


Fukushima plant record radiation fatal in 20 minutes

Fukushima’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), on Friday detected record radiation levels in a duct that connects reactor buildings and an external ventilation pipe. Radiation found near the steel pipe connecting reactor buildings could kill anyone exposed to it in 20 minutes, local media reported.

This is the highest level ever detected outside the reactor buildings, according to local broadcaster NHK. Earlier TEPCO said radiation levels of at least 10 Sieverts per hour were found on the pipe.

The ventilation pipe used to conduct radioactive gasses after the nuclear disaster may still contain radioactive substances, TEPCO added.

The water leakage has raised health concerns among Japan’s neighbors. For instance, South Korea has been testing fish caught off the country’s coast, according to the country’s fisheries ministry.

Meanwhile, the chairwoman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission gave assurances that the radioactive water will only reach the US West coast at safe levels.

On March 11, 2011, a nine-magnitude earthquake triggered a tsunami that inflicted heavy damage on the six-reactor Fukushima plant. Cooling systems in the plant’s reactors were knocked out, leading to meltdowns and the release of radioactive material.

In October, TEPCO said Japanese technicians found a new leak of radioactive water in one of the storage tanks at the damaged nuclear power station, noting that 430 liters (100 gallons) of the toxic water had leaked from the 450-ton tank because of heavy rainfall.

Currently, 400 tons of contaminated water are being produced at the site on a daily basis. In an attempt to solve the storage problem the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) proposed on Wednesday to consider dumping toxic water into the ocean after lowering the level of radioactive materials.

“Regarding the growing amounts of contaminated water at the site, TEPCO should… examine all options for its further management, including the possibility of resuming controlled discharges (into the sea) in compliance with authorized limits,” the IAEA said in a statement.

TEPCO has been testing a high-tech water processing machine called ALPS, which can remove all radioactive materials from the water except tritium. However, the low-energy isotope is considered to be less dangerous than other radioactive isotopes such as caesium and strontium, also contained in the tainted water. “

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Situation remains complex at Fukushima plant — RFI

Listen to nuclear expert Mycle Schneider discuss the risks at Fukushima on Radio France Internationale.

” United Nations nuclear experts have praised Japan for making progress on shutting down the crippled Fukushima plant, but have warned the situation there remains very complex.

The 19-strong mission from the International Atomic Energy Agency has been in Japan since last week to examine efforts by Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) to contain the site.

They have reviewed the management of contaminated water that has been used to cool reactor cores, as well as work on removing spent fuel rods in Reactor No.4.

Mycle Schneider, an expert on energy and nuclear policy, comments that the measures are not enough to prevent the risk of another disaster. “