Fukushima evacuees forced back into unacceptably high radiation zones — Beyond Nuclear International

” A UN Special Rapporteur who last August joined two colleagues in sounding an urgent alarm about the plight of Fukushima workers, has now roundly criticized the Japanese government for returning citizens to the Fukushima region under exposure levels 20 times higher than considered “acceptable” under international standards.

He urged the Japanese government to “halt the ongoing relocation of evacuees who are children and women of reproductive age to areas of Fukushima where radiation levels remain higher than what was considered safe or healthy before the nuclear disaster seven years ago.”

Baskut Tuncak, UN Special Rapporteur on hazardous substances and wastes, noted during a October 25, 2018 presentation at the UN in New York, as well at a press conference, that the Japan Government was compelling Fukushima evacuees to return to areas where “the level of acceptable exposure to radiation was raised from 1 to 20 mSv/yr, with potentially grave impacts on the rights of young children returning to or born in contaminated areas.”

He described exposure to toxic substances in general as “a particularly vicious form of exploitation.”

In August, Tuncak, along with Urmila Bhoola and Dainius Puras, expressed deep concern about the Fukushima “cleanup” workers, who include migrants, asylum seekers and the homeless. They feared “possible exploitation by deception regarding the risks of exposure to radiation, possible coercion into accepting hazardous working conditions because of economic hardships, and the adequacy of training and protective measures.

We are equally concerned about the impact that exposure to radiation may have on their physical and mental health.”

Now, Tuncak is urging Japan to return to the 1 millisievert a year allowable radiation exposure levels in place before the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

In a revealing response to Tuncak’s presentation at the UN, the delegate from Japan claimed that 20 msv “is in conformity with the recommendation given in 2007 by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.” He also claimed that Tuncak’s press release would cause people in Fukushima to suffer “an inaccurate negative reputation” that was “further aggravating their suffering,” and that the government and people of Japan were “making effort with a view to dissipating this negative reputation and restoring life back to normal.”

This view is deeply characteristic of the Abe government which is desperately attempting to “normalize” radiation among the population to create a public veneer that everything is as it was. This is motivated at least in part by an effort to dissipate fears about radiation exposure levels that will still be present during the 2020 Summer Olympics there, with events held not only in Tokyo but also in the Fukushima prefecture.

However, Tuncak corrected the delegate’s information, responding that:

“In 2007, the ICRP recommended deployment of “the justification principle. And one of the requests I would make for the Japanese government is to rigorously apply that principle in the case of Fukushima in terms of exposure levels, particularly by children, as well as women of reproductive age to ensure that no unnecessary radiation exposure and accompanying health risk is resulting.” Tuncak said Japan should “expeditiously implement that recommendation.”

He also reminded the delegate that “the Universal Periodic Review of the Human Rights Council last year, did issue a recommendation to lower the acceptable level of radiation back down from 20 millisieverts per year to one millisievert per year. And the concerns articulated in the press release today were concerns that the pace at which that recommendation is being implemented is far too slow, and perhaps not at all.”

During the press conference Tuncak noted that Japan is a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and that forcing evacuees back into areas contaminated to 20 mSv/yr was against the standards contained in that Convention. “We are quite concerned in particular for the health and well-being of children who may be raised or born in Fukushima,” he said.

Earlier, Japan had sounded tacit agreement to reducing allowable exposure levels back down from 20 mSv/yr to 1 mSv/yr. But few believed they would carry this out given that it is virtually impossible to clean up severely contaminated areas in the Fukushima region back to those levels.

Bruno Chareyron, the director of the CRIIRAD lab (Commission de Recherche et d’Information Indépendentes sur la RADioactivité), noted in an August 17, 2018 Truthout article that:

“It is important to understand that the Fukushima disaster is actually an ongoing disaster. The radioactive particles deposited on the ground in March 2011 are still there, and in Japan, millions of people are living on territories that received significant contamination.”

Of the cleanup process, Chareyron told Truthout: “The ground and most contaminated tree leaves are removed only in the immediate vicinity of the houses, but a comprehensive decontamination is impossible.” He said in the article that the powerful gamma rays emitted by Cesium 137 could travel dozens of meters in the air. Therefore, the contaminated soil and trees located around the houses, which have not been removed, are still irradiating the inhabitants.

While the UN delegate from Japan claimed that no one was being forced to return and the decision rested with the evacuees alone, Tuncak expressed concern about coercion. “The gradual lifting of evacuation orders has created enormous strains on people whose lives have already been affected by the worst nuclear disaster of this century. Many feel they are being forced to return to areas that are unsafe, including those with radiation levels above what the Government previously considered safe.”

Recalling his efforts to protect Fukushima workers, Tuncak observed the irony that Japan had admitted that the death of a Fukushima worker from lung cancer was directly related to exposure to radiation at the stricken plant and “quite interestingly, the level of radiation that he was exposed to in the past five years was below the international community’s recommendation for acceptable exposure to radiation by workers.”

Tuncak’s report did not focus solely on Fukushima. It also included exploitation and abuse of Roma people, South Koreans exposed to a toxic commercial product and air pollution in London. During his UN presentation, he observed that “over two million workers die every year from occupational diseases, nearly one million from toxic exposures alone. Approximately 20 workers will have died, prematurely, from such exposures at work by the time I finish my opening remarks to you.”

Before addressing the plight of Fukushima evacuees, he pointed out how “exposure to toxic pollution is now estimated to be the largest source or premature death in the developing world, killing more people than HIV AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria combined.” While noting that this problem exists to a greater or lesser degree the world over, he added that “pediatricians today describe children as born ‘pre-polluted,’ exposed to a cocktail of unquestionably toxic substances many of which have no safe levels of exposure.”

Japan’s decision to ignore pleas to halt repatriation of evacuees into high radiation exposure levels usually deemed unavoidable (but not safe) for nuclear workers, not ordinary citizens, will now tragically contribute to these numbers. ”

by Linda Pentz Gunter, Beyond Nuclear International

source with photos and internal links

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Tepco may need to dump Fukushima water into sea, UN says — Bloomberg Business

” Tokyo Electric Power Co. should consider discharging water contaminated by the Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdowns into the Pacific Ocean, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

More than four years after the nuclear power-plant disaster in Japan, the United Nations agency renewed pressure for an alternative to holding the tainted water in tanks and offered to help monitor for offshore radiation.

“The IAEA team believes it is necessary to find a sustainable solution to the problem of managing contaminated water,” the Vienna-based agency said in a report. “This would require considering all options, including the possible resumption of controlled discharges into the sea.’

Tepco officials are still using water to cool molten nuclear fuel from the reactors and while on-site tanks were installed to hold 800,000 cubic meters of effluent, engineers have battled leaks and groundwater contamination. The assessment, published Thursday, was based on visits by an IAEA team in February and April.

The IAEA also said it would send scientists to collect water and sediment samples off the Fukushima coastline to improve data reliability.

‘‘TEPCO is advised to perform an assessment of the potential radiological impact to the population and the environment arising from the release of water containing tritium and any other residual radionuclides to the sea in order to evaluate the radiological significance,’’ the agency said. ‘‘The IAEA team recognizes the need to also consider socioeconomic conditions.’’

Fishermen Protest

Previous releases of Fukushima contamination into the Pacific have drawn protests by Japanese fishermen and environmental groups. Fish caught off the coast of Fukushima have been subject to testing for radiation before being sold.

Contamination from Fukushima has been measured off the western coasts of the U.S. and Canada, signaling the need for more monitoring, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the largest private non-profit research group looking at the world’s oceans.

Though contamination levels off the North American coast are ‘‘extremely low,’’ oceans need to be monitored ‘‘after what is certainly the largest accidental release of radioactive contaminants to the oceans in history,’’ Ken Buesseler, a marine chemist at Woods Hole, said last month. ”

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Tepco could improve handling of radioactive waste at wrecked Fukushima plant, IAEA says — The Japan Times

After reading the information provided on this blog, I’ll let your decided whether the IAEA is making a fair assessment of TEPCO’s cleanup “progress” at Fukushima Daiichi.

The Japan Times: ” VIENNA – The United Nations nuclear watchdog said Thursday the management of radioactive waste and contaminated water at the tsunami-crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant could be improved despite “good progress” in cleaning up the site.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. said in February it had found a pool of highly contaminated water on the roof of a plant building and that it had probably leaked into the sea through a gutter when it rained.

The finding comes four years after a massive earthquake and tsunami caused three meltdowns at Tepco’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Some of the leaks have been dealt with, the International Atomic Energy Agency said. Efforts have included filling and covering of gaps, recovering contaminated soil and treating surfaces to prevent rainwater from leaking.

“While acknowledging these efforts, the IAEA experts encourage Tepco to continue to focus on finding any other sources contaminating the channels,” the agency said in a report released on Thursday.

Tepco’s decision to create a new branch 2014 that focuses on decontamination and decommissioning work at the plant was a good step toward defining responsibility for the cleanup more clearly, the IAEA said.

Still, there was room for improvement in how the body handles radioactive waste, for example by employing more complete waste characterization and packaging, it added.

The cleanup entity “could better employ long-term radioactive waste management principles (beyond the segregation, relocation and dose reduction/shielding currently performed),” the agency said.

“While recognizing the usefulness of the large number of water treatment systems deployed by Tepco for decontaminating and thereby ensuring highly radioactive water . . . is not inappropriately released . . ., the IAEA team also notes that currently not all of these systems are operating to their full design capacity and performance,” it added.

The IAEA will send a team to Japan this month to collect water samples from the sea near the Fukushima plant to help Japanese authorities with radioactive data collection and analysis. ”

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Why Fukushima ended all debate about nuclear power — Counterpunch

This article is a call to action from Miriam German, the director of RadCast.org and founder of No Nukes NW in 2012. ” It’s March 3rd, 2015, just eight days away from the fourth anniversary of the triple meltdown and explosion at Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan. As I write this, I’m seated on a plane heading back to the East coast to see family far from my home in Cascadia, otherwise known as the Pacific Northwest. Next to me is my current reading, A Field Guide to Radiation by Wayne Biddle. Why this book? Because I’ve already read the books about the creation of nuclear power, nuclear bombs, the making of the nuclear power plant in the NW that caused the largest bond default in the history of the United States, books about the effects of radiation on citizens written by individuals who grew up near nuke plants and books by both scientists and doctors on the effects of radiation from Chernobyl, Three Mile Island and Fukushima-Daiichi. So why read one more? Because I want to know more. Because I need to know more. Because I have to know more about what has happened to me, my family, friends, animals and plants along the West Coast as the effects of Fukushima-Daiichi’s fallout hit us just days after 3.11 occurred and continues to do so intermittently at any time on any given day as things continue to steam up in Japan. I have to know more because I live downstream from the Hanford Nuclear Dump, the largest nuclear dump in the northern hemisphere, and because I live downstream from a nuclear power plant called the Columbia Generating Station which if an earthquake occurs or a dam breaks or the grid goes down for any reason at all, or a worker makes a mistake I would be killed along with most in N. America. Killed by radiation. The event on 3.11 at Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant was not an accident. It was caused by an idea. And that idea was fueled by hubris, that we could create a weapon so powerful through the creation of nuclear fission, that we could destroy our greatest enemy. The missing link was simple; it was a mirror hidden behind the cloak of hubris, greed and the minds of the greatest psychopaths in scientific and engineering history. The enemy was Us, all along. There are no two sides of this story. There can be no real debate under any circumstance that nuclear power is a beneficent source of Energy. The side-effects of nuclear explosions and meltdowns are death. The side-effects of leaking radiation from decrepit nuclear plants are deadly. There is no longer any question of what would occur after a nuclear accident; we saw what happened when we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and then continued bomb testing until 1980. We witnessed the death and annihilation of people, animals and plant life after Chernobyl, TMI and of course Fukushima-Daiichi. It is well documented now though due to the corporate media blackout of the past eighty years on nuclear issues, you might not have heard the news. (See Noblokav as an example). Our DNA cannot withstand cell mutations from ionizing radioactivity. This is a fact founded through the studies of Timothy Mousseau. Healthy DNA is the key to creating healthy future generations. Since the1940’s, ionizing radiation —man-made ionizing radiation– has been altering our DNA and once a mutation occurs, it cannot be turned back. We cannot accept the preponderance of genetic alterations nor can we live with or accept nuclear weapons and nuclear power. None of these produce life. It is ironic that so many Republican Pro-life politicians are Pro-Nuclear as well. The irony does not escape those of us in the anti-nuclear movement. Or does it? Activists, environmental activists(!), use terms like Critical Mass as a method for creating change without really understanding that critical mass is a term meaning the minimum quantity of Uranium-235, Uranium-233 and Plutonium-239 to sustain a Fission reaction. We must remove terms like Critical Mass from the lexicon of anti-nuclear activism, a term which only suits the Atom Bomb as our guide post to effective activism! And that won’t get us very far. It is time to acknowledge the depth of the harm we have wrought on the Earth. And then it is time to grieve. After grief comes anger. At this point, how about we finally say fuck you to the environmental leaders who refuse to include nukes in their arguments and worse yet, point to nukes as the answer! We do need to come together with the anti-frackers, anti-coal and anti-tar-sands folks and say NO to nukes. Nukes are the missing piece of the environmentalist equation and shutting down a nuke plant is possible. We’ve de-commissioned five nuke plants in the US so far with ninety-nine more to go. Many of us believe that Diablo Canyon is close to being shut down. CGS is close, Pilgrim is close. There are many more, but all 99 on-line nuke plants need to be shut down and NOW. There is no time left. On 3.11, our group, No Nukes NW, is holding an open memorial for our Pacific Ocean. Yes, the Pacific Ocean. It is dying and her animals and plant life are dying with her. And we caused this. How terribly sad. When I was a teenager, I knew things would get bad after reading Diet For A Small Planet but I do not remember thinking we would decimate the oceans. Perhaps I did know somewhere deep inside that the insanity could and would grow like a cancer when mixed with greed, lies, narcissism, masochism and the almighty dollar. I sit here in amazement and utter sadness when I think that we are coming together in a week to grieve over the impending deaths of so many ocean animals. Our new reality is very hard to handle. It hurts the heart. As to the question of what we can now do for the Pacific Ocean her most beautiful creatures? We can protest loudly inside the UN that we are in the midst of the most international Earth Crisis ever faced in the history of Earth from the triple meltdown at Fukushima-Daiichi. With no Pacific, we have no life. We need our oceans to remain alive in order for us to live. Demand to the UN to create an international science and engineering team along with leaders from the anti-nuclear community to be established to go to Japan and take over responsibility from TEPCO and the Japanese Government. Do it now. The whales and dolphins and turtles and big fish, yellow fish, green fish, red fish, blue fish, all need us to move on this today. ” source

*Why new studies are needed now! The Fukushima health crisis — CounterPunch

” Over 3 years since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, there is virtually no health research being conducted or released on harm to the Japanese. An April report by a UN committee tried to sweep the issue under the rug, predicting any harmful effects of the catastrophe is “unlikely.”

The UN panel made a very broad assumption about the worst nuclear catastrophe in history (or worst since Chernobyl) – and did this BEFORE research is done. However, a local health study raises alarm bells. Fukushima Medical University found 46% of local children have a pre-cancerous nodule or cyst, and 130 have thyroid cancer, vs. 3 expected. Incredibly, the University corrupts science by asserting the meltdown played no role in these high figures.

But Japanese studies must go far beyond childhood thyroid diseases. Japan isn’t the only site to study, as the fallout from the meltdown spread across the northern hemisphere.

In 2011, we estimated 13,983 excess U.S. deaths occurred in the 14 weeks after Fukushima, when fallout levels were highest – roughly the same after Chernobyl in 1986. We used only a sample of deaths available at that time, and cautioned not to conclude that fallout caused all of these deaths.

Final figures became available this week. The 2010-2011 change in deaths in the four months after Fukushima was +2.63%, vs. +1.54% for the rest of the year. This difference translates to 9,158 excess deaths – not an exact match for the 13,983 estimate, but a substantial spike nonetheless.

Again, without concluding that only Fukushima caused these deaths, some interesting patterns emerged. The five Pacific and West Coast states, with the greatest levels of Fukushima fallout in the U.S., had an especially large excess. So did the five neighboring states (Arizona, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Utah), which received the next highest levels.

Most of the spring 2011 mortality increase were people over 80. Many of these elderly were in frail health; one possibility is that the added exposure to radioactive poison sped the dying process.

Fukushima radiation is the same as fallout from atom bomb explosions, releasing over 100 chemicals not found in nature. The radioactive chemicals enter the body as a result of precipitation that gets into the food chain. Once in the body, these particles harm or kill cells, leading to disease or death.

Once-skeptical health officials now admit even low doses of radiation are harmful. Studies showed X-rays to pregnant women’s abdomens raised the risk of the child dying of cancer, ending the practice. Bomb fallout from Nevada caused up to 212,000 Americans to develop thyroid cancer. Nuclear weapons workers are at high risk for a large number of cancers.

Rather than the UN Committee making assumptions based on no research, medical research on changes in Japanese disease and death rates are needed – now, in all parts of Japan. Similar studies should be done in nations like Korea, China, eastern Russia, and the U.S. Not knowing Fukushima’s health toll only raises the chance that such a disaster will be repeated in the future. ”

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Critical Analysis of the UNSCEAR Report, “Levels and effects of radiation exposure due to the nuclear accident…” — IPPNW

Here is an excellent analysis of the UNSCEAR Report, “Levels and effects of radiation exposure due to the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East-Japan Earthquake and tsunami.” This analysis was organized by the German Affiliate of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) and includes a number international physician groups for social and environmental responsibility and prevention of nuclear war. Quoted below is the conclusion for those of you who want the big picture. I strongly urge you to read the full document in pdf form: Critical Analysis of Unscear2014 (1)

” IV. Conclusion

The Fukushima nuclear disaster is far from over. Despite the declaration of “cold shutdown” by the Japanese government in December of 2011, the crippled reactors have not yet achieved a stable status and even UNSCEAR admits that emissions of radioisotopes are continuing unabated. 188 TEPCO is struggling with an enormous amount of contaminated water, which continues to leak into the surrounding soil and sea. Large quantities of contaminated cooling water are accumulating at the site. Failures in the makeshift cooling systems are occurring repeatedly. The discharge of radioactive waste will most likely continue for a long time.

Both the damaged nuclear reactors and the spent fuel ponds contain vast amounts of radioactivity and are highly vulnerable to further earthquakes, tsunamis, typhoons and human error. Catastrophic releases of radioactivity could occur at any time and eliminating this risk will take many decades. Moreover, many of Japan’s other nuclear power stations are just as sensitive to seismic catastrophes as the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

Attempts to make reliable forecasts for the next decades seem futile against the backdrop of so much uncertainty. While much of the UNSCEAR report represents useful and important groundwork for future assessments, it does not in any way justify the type of ‘all-clear’ that UNSCEAR is proposing.

It is impossible at this point to come up with an exact prognosis of the effects that the Fukushima nuclear disaster will have on the population in Japan. However, based on the arguments presented in this paper, it has to be stated that the UNSCEAR report represents a systematic underestimation and conjures up an illusion of scientific certainty that obscures the true impact of the nuclear catastrophe on health and the environment.

In its report, UNSCEAR calculates the collective effective doses and absorbed thyroid doses for the Japanese population. However, the admitted uncertainties regarding exposure doses, questionable data selection, faulty assumptions and the fact that ongoing radioactive emissions were not considered undermine the validity of these calculations. The resulting dose estimates are most likely underestimated and do not reflect the true extent of radiation received by the affected population.

By utilizing more neutral sets of data, acknowledging inherent uncertainties in dose estimates, citing the full range of possible exposure rates rather than the best-case scenarios, and by incorporating the latest information about ongoing radioactive emissions, UNSCEAR could have presented a more realistic picture of what effects people can expect from the radioactive fallout in the coming decades, including thyroid cancer, leukemia, solid tumors, non-cancer diseases and genetic defects, all of which have been found in the population affected by the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe.

Even with more realistic data, however, the number of cancer cases induced by Fukushima radioactive fallout may still be considered insignificant to the members of UNSCEAR, especially given the relatively high baseline incidence of cancer in Japan. From a physician’s perspective however, every preventable case of cancer is one too many and the tragic consequences that cancer has on a person’s physical and mental health, as well as the situation of the entire family have to be considered.

To reduce the horrible effects of the Fukushima nuclear disaster on tens of thousands of families to a statistical problem and to dismiss these individual stories of suffering by stating that “radiation exposure following the nuclear accident at Fukushima-Daiichi […] is unlikely to be able to attribute any health effects in the future among the general public and the vast majority of workers”189 is inappropriate for a committee of the United Nations, an organization that prides itself on the Declaration of Universal Human Rights.

Through the combination of a man-made nuclear disaster, corrupt operators, regulatory institutions and politicians, inadequate emergency measures, and finally through the systematic underestimation of radiation doses and expected health effects, the people of Fukushima are being deprived of their right to a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being.

As physicians, primarily concerned with the health of the people affected by the nuclear disaster, we urge the United Nations General Assembly and the government of Japan to realize that the affected population needs protection from further radiation exposure. In our opinion, the following issues need to be addressed:

»» All available expertise should be used for the tremendous tasks of minimizing ongoing radioactive emissions from the damaged reactors and spent fuel pools and preventing larger emissions in the future.

»» According to UNSCEAR, more than 24,000 workers have worked on the premises of the crippled reactors since the start of the disaster. Tens of thousands more will be required over many decades. In addition to the provision of adequate radiation protection, monitoring and health care for these workers, a national lifetime radiation exposure register for all workers in the nuclear industry is required in Japan. This must include subcontractors as well as utility employees. Individual workers should have ready access to their results.

»» The issue of functioning registries is also important for the civilian population. Currently, the absence of both effective cancer registries in most prefectures in Japan and comprehensive registers of exposed persons with dose estimates that can be used to assess long term health outcomes means that potential impacts will go undetected. Such registries should be created so that future health effects of the radioactive contamination can be properly assessed.

»» It is unacceptable that people are currently being encouraged to return to some areas where they can be expected to receive up to 20 mSv in additional annual radiation exposure. We see no adequate alternative to minimize such unacceptable exposures other than more relocations than have currently occurred. Logistic and financial support for families living in the radioactively affected municipalities who want to move to less contaminated regions should be offered to reduce the risk of future health effects. Evacuees should not be pressured or bribed into returning to contaminated regions.

»» Decontamination on the scale that would be required to sufficiently and sustainably reduce radiation exposures has not proven feasible. Also, radioactive contamination knows no boundaries, and fallout has not been confined to Fukushima Prefecture alone. Parts of Tochigi, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba have also been contaminated. At present, government programs responding to the nuclear disaster are largely limited
to Fukushima Prefecture. A national approach based on contamination levels, not prefectural boundaries is needed.

»» We ask the United Nations General Assembly and the Japanese Government to study the report of the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health, Mr. Anand Grover, and heed his constructive suggestions.190 The precautionary principle should be employed in radiation protection policies.

The people of Fukushima are not being helped by false claims and premature reassurances that no health effects are to be expected. They need proper information, health monitoring, support and most of all, they need acknowledgment of their right to a standard of living adequate for their health and well being. This should be the guiding principle in evaluating the health effects of the nuclear catastrophe:

“The number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs might seem statistically small to some, in comparison with natural health hazards. But this is not a natural health hazard – and it is not a statistical issue. The loss of even one human life, or the malformation of even one baby – who may be born long after we are gone – should be of concern to us all. Our children and grandchildren are not merely statistics toward which we can be indifferent.” John F. Kennedy, July 26th, 1963 “