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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How Fukushima produce is making its way into international stores — Natural Society

” It is being reported that tainted food from Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gumma, and Chiba is making its way into local supermarkets in Taiwan due to the irresponsibility of mislabeling. What’s more, these food products were banned in Taiwan since March of 2011.

The first question is: Why are food products from the concerned Japanese prefectures surrounding Fukushima mislabeled?

The second question is: Why is Japan attempting to foist its unsafe and inferior radioactive foods on Taiwan?

Instead of humbly acquiescing to Taiwan’s wishes, Japan takes an aggressive approach even threatening WTO arbitration.

Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration said the latest enforcement was in line with radiation safety management practices that other countries have put in place on Japanese food imports following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

It said it “is necessary to protect the safety of food consumption” for Taiwanese.

But Japan is protesting the move, with the government warning that it may escalate the matter to the World Trade Organization, potentially deepening the conflict between Taipei and Tokyo.

Rather than own the problem which successive Japanese governments are fully responsible for, they appear to be taking advantage of their neighbors. No one ever forced Japan to locate their entire nuclear power generation industry on the shoreline.

Even after 4 plus years beyond the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan has still failed to satisfactorily address the fallout from the meltdown(s) that occurred after the March 11, 2011 earthquake-generated tsunami.

Even more inexplicably, the Japanese government has voted to continue the operation of their nuclear power plants in spite of their vulnerability to both frequent earthquakes and potential tsunamis. Being located in one of the most seismically active earthquake zones in the Ring of Fire, such an ill-advised decision can only set up another nuclear catastrophe. Which begs the question:

“Does anyone in their right mind believe that nuclear power plants can ever be designed, engineered or constructed to withstand 9.0 earthquakes followed by 15 meter high tsunamis?

The obvious answer is as follows:

“Japan should never have sited 55 nuclear reactors (plus 12 others) on its coastlines.”
Therefore, why are countries like Taiwan paying a serious price for Japan’s extraordinarily bad judgment and serious mistakes? They have known for centuries that they reside on one of the most earthquake-prone pieces of real estate in the entire world. To continue with the same nuclear energy model despite the obvious lessons of Fukushima seems to defy common sense.

Conclusion

Japan made some extremely fateful decisions post World War II concerning the ways it would satisfy the nation’s energy needs. In light of their direct experience with atomic energy during WWII, it would seem that they would have opted for non-nuclear energy alternatives. Instead, they went full bore constructing nuclear power plants as quickly as they could convince the prefectures with the targeted coastlines.

Here they are now still dealing with the Fukushima meltdown(s) — a set of intractable nuclear challenges which may have no practical solutions. That means that those prefectures surrounding Fukushima may always have an environment suffering from a proliferation of radionuclides. What exactly are radionuclides?

A radionuclide or radioactive nuclide is a nuclide that is radioactive. Also referred to as a radioisotope or radioactive isotope, it is an isotope with an unstable nucleus, characterized by excess energy available to be imparted either to a newly created radiation particle within the nucleus or via internal conversion. During this process, the radionuclide is said to undergo radioactive decay, resulting in the emission of gamma ray(s) and/or subatomic particles such as alpha or beta particles.[1] These emissions constitute ionizing radiation. (Source: Wikipedia — Radionuclide) Radionuclides, and especially the ionizing radiation which they emit, are certainly not something that anyone would want in their back yard, much less in their food. Nevertheless, Japan feels it can maintain the same policies that got them into this calamitous predicament. Hopefully, Taiwan will not relent to demands so unreasonable they strain credulity. After all, Japan needs to learn some critical lessons for their own benefit as well as for their trading partners. ”

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Warnings that Fukushima food could enter UK market — Fish Information and Services

This article discusses an investigation carried out by The Independent newspaper that revealed that more than 100 food products including tea, noodles and chocolate bars that are contaminated with radioactive cesium from Fukushima and mislabeled as originating in Tokyo may have reached UK markets. Due to copyright restrictions, I’m not posting the article on this blog. You can access it HERE.

Updated 4/15/2015: Government calls Taiwan’s food-labeling move ‘regrettable’; Taiwan to check waste shipments from Japan for radiation — The Japan Times

Updated April 15, 2015, The Japan Times: ” The government on Tuesday called Taiwan’s plan to tighten regulations on Japanese food imports because of fears of radioactive contamination “extremely regrettable.”

The top government spokesman called on Taipei to use what he called “scientific findings” in drafting its rules.

“So far we have explained safety of foods produced in Japan and asked (Taiwan) to make judgment based on scientific findings,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference. “It’s extremely regrettable that Taiwan will strengthen regulations this time.”

On Monday, Taipei said it will introduce new regulations, possibly in mid-May, requiring all food imported from Japan to carry labeling declaring which prefecture it came from.

Four years after the meltdown at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Taiwan still bans the import of food produced in Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba prefectures.

In March, Taiwan found that some products from those areas had been reaching its consumers. The scandal led to public outcry, prompting Taipei to announce the new import regulations.

Japan conducts sampling of foodstuffs for radioactive materials, and few samples are now being found to exceed safety levels.

Some wild vegetables, wild game, wild mushrooms, freshwater fish and bottom-dwelling ocean fish are among those that exceeded safe Japan’s mandated safety levels over the past year, and were thus banned from shipment.

Between April 1 last year and March 1, around 292,000 such samples were tested for radioactive cesium. Of them, 502, or 0.17 percent, exceeded the government regulation level, the health ministry said. In fiscal 2012, the rate was 0.85 percent. ”

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Posted Nov. 6, 2014, The Japan Times: ” TAIPEI – Taiwan will conduct radiation checks on some types of container cargo arriving from Japan, the island’s legislature said on Wednesday.

The body’s Finance Committee ruled that waste materials such as plastic, scrap metal and paper must be checked with radiation meters upon arrival at the island’s four seaports: Keelung, Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung.

Jao Ping, director general of the Customs Administration agency, told reporters the measure will go into effect as early as this week.

On Monday, the committee passed a more onerous resolution requiring all container cargo from the ports of Tokyo and Yokohama to undergo radiation testing at the Port of Kaohsiung starting Nov. 17. It then backtracked on the decision.

The resolution was sponsored by Legislator Lu Shiow-yen of the ruling Nationalist Party, who argued that all cargo containers coming from or routed through Japan should be required to pass through Kaohsiung for radiation checks.

Kaohsiung Customs is the only division equipped with radiation detection monitors.

Lu’s proposal drew strong opposition from the Ministry of Finance and Customs Administration.

An official told reporters on Monday that the measure was unfeasible because it would lead to extra transportation expenses and cause major problems for exporters and importers.

The official also revealed that authorities would propose a revision to the resolution when the committee met again on Wednesday.

Lu’s office said she filed the motion because she saw a report in the Liberty Times newspaper in August saying that since the Fukushima nuclear crisis in 2011, Kaohsiung Customs had detected 226 cargo containers originating from or routed through Japan with radiation levels exceeding the legal limit.

After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, Taiwan banned food imports from five of Japan’s 47 prefectures — Fukushima, Ibaraki, Gunma, Tochigi and Chiba — and has been conducting random radiation checks on 11 categories of imported foods.

Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration announced late last month that it is planning to introduce regulations requiring foods imported from Japan to carry prefecture-specific labels of origin, with some items needing to undergo radiation checks by Japanese authorities.

Those regulations are expected to take effect as early as next year if no objections are filed within a 60-day window starting Oct. 29. ”

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Fukushima’s Taiwan Fallout — The Wall Street Journal via Fukushima Update

” Three years after the meltdown at Fukushima, the future of nuclear energy in East Asia is coming into view. Voters everywhere remain jittery about safety, but Japan and South Korea continue to invest in new capacity. The exception is Taiwan, which may soon exacerbate its own economic and strategic vulnerabilities by abandoning domestic nuclear-power production.

Large street protests and a hunger strike by a 72-year-old former opposition leader prompted Taiwan’s government last week to halt construction of a nuclear plant 20 miles outside Taipei. Though the facility is three decades in the making and more than 90% complete, protesters insist that Taiwan is too earthquake-prone given its position on the Pacific Rim’s “ring of fire.”

The island’s three existing nuclear plants have operated safely for decades, but critics note that those were built by expert foreign firms. The controversial fourth plant is being built by state-owned utility Taipower.

President Ma Ying-jeou supports nuclear power but is hamstrung. His approval rating is around 10% and his signature initiative, trade-focused détente with China, was derailed by a student-led occupation of the legislature last month. With important municipal elections due in November, he can’t afford to ignore the anti-nuke movement.

Mr. Ma would like to kick the issue over to the electorate via a referendum, but he can’t get the opposition to agree on the rules of the vote. For now they promise more protests—aimed not only at killing plant four but at shuttering the other three before their scheduled decommissioning dates.

If plant four never opens, Taipower says it would go bankrupt, with more than $9 billion wasted on the project. The site was meant to deliver up to 10% of Taiwan’s power, adding to the 18% share of national energy already provided by nuclear.

If all four plants are taken offline, the government estimates, electricity prices would jump 40% from additional imports of coal, natural gas and oil. Renewables such as solar and wind, which today produce less than 2% of Taiwanese power, would be of little help.

A post-nuclear Taiwan would also be worse-equipped to withstand coercive pressure from China, such as a ban on cross-Strait coal exports or a blockade in the event of war. The island currently holds about two weeks’ worth of strategic energy reserves.

The Taiwanese public’s aversion to nuclear power appears far stronger than Japan’s, despite the latter’s trauma in 2011. Tokyo initially responded to Fukushima by idling Japan’s 50 reactors. Prompted by street protests, the government promised to replace nuclear’s 30% pre-meltdown share of the national energy mix.

However, after Japanese found themselves spending an extra 9.2 trillion yen (more than $100 billion) on energy imports in the first two years without nuclear, they changed their minds. Since 2012 voters have repeatedly rejected the closure of nuclear plants. Tokyo now plans to restart some idled reactors as soon as it gets the green light from its new, reputedly more independent nuclear regulatory authority.

South Korea meanwhile approved construction of two new reactors in January, the first since Fukushima, and restarted three reactors that were idled last year due to a scandal over fake safety certificates. Seoul plans to increase its reliance on nuclear to as much as 45% by 2035 from about 33% today.

That’s less than the 59% target Seoul had before Fukushima, but it will still require doubling domestic nuclear capacity and building 16 new reactors over the next two decades. If popular confidence in nuclear returns to pre-Fukushima levels (over 70%), so may Seoul’s ambitions for majority-nuclear energy production.

All of which is a challenge both to Taiwan’s economic competitiveness and its politics. While Tokyo and Seoul are pursuing regulatory reform and a balanced energy mix, Taipei is moving toward increasingly radicalized street politics and nuclear zero. That’s risky territory for any nation, let alone one stuck in China’s shadow. ”

Fukushima Update
The Wall Street Journal