Aileen Mioko Smith of Green Action, Japan, discusses what would happen during an evacuation caused by a nuclear emergency in Japan. But the plans are deeply flawed and inadequate.
Dave Kraft, Director of Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) based in Chicago, wrote the following introduction as he forwarded the NIRS press release entitled "NRC Fails the American People: Denies Petition to Make Modest Improvements in Emergency Planning for Nuclear Reactor Accidents." Beyond Nuclear joined NEIS and three dozen other groups in supporting NIRS' petition.
"As a courtesy to our colleagues at NIRS in Washington, D.C., we forward a press release that reports the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s denial of a request to improve evacuation plans around U.S. nuclear reactors, based on the real-life information and evidence provided by the Fukushima and Chornobyl nuclear disasters. With Illinois having 14 reactors – four of which are of Fukushima design and vintage -- and 9,000+ tons of high-level radioactive waste in the form of spent fuel in spent fuel pools and dry casks, this is no inconsequential matter. (DISCLOSURE: NEIS was a co-signatory of the petition to NRC)
Reality has never been a strong suit at the NRC, which consistently denies even the most common sense requests and recommendations emanating from members of the public they allegedly serve and protect. The Commission’s interest in safety seems to be in direct proportion to the length of the leash held by Marvin S. Fertel, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear industry trade and lobbying group. While NEI representatives are frequently invited by NRC to help write public policy on nuclear power issues, attend meetings and give briefings, public interest groups are routinely refused such opportunities. This has been a consistent pattern of NRC behavior for decades.
It is for this reason that the public has come to understand that “NRC” actually stands for “not really concerned.” NRC has yet to learn the lesson that betrayal is a rational justification for distrust."
Beyond Nuclear teamed up with NEIS on many occassions, including to co-sponsor the "Mountain of Radioactive Waste 70 Years High" conference in Chicago in Dec. 2012.
Along the same lines, Beyond Nuclear's Reactor Oversight Project Director, Paul Gunter, has submitted public comments to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) "[rejecting] the conclusion of the NRC ISG [Interim Staff Guidance] that nuclear power plant owners can be exempted from emergency planning and preparedness once they have permanently ceased power operations but continue to maintain onsite storage of high-level nuclear waste (irradiated nuclear fuel assemblies) in wet or dry storage configurations."
As but one example that Paul points out:
"Numerous nuclear power plant irradiated fuel storage sites are also located within ten miles of General Aviation airfields where pilot and passenger screening are non-existent and cargo manifests are not supervised nor inspected. Private aircraft(s) malevolently equipped as Improvised Explosive Devices can turn any one of these high-density storage pools (many, such as the GE boiling water reactors are elevated to the upper region of the reactor building without any defensive supersturcture and all outside of any rated radiological containment structure) into a pre-deployed radiological weapon of mass destruction."
As documented in the Federal Register, the French Areva EPR ("Evolutionary Power Reactor") targeted at the Nine Mile Point nuclear power plant site in Upstate New York, on the Lake Ontario shore, has been officially cancelled.
The location is already heavily burdened by the presence of Nine Mile Point Units 1 & 2, as well as the FitzPatrick atomic reactor. Nine Mile Point Unit 1 and FitzPatrick are General Electric Mark I Boiling Water Reactors, identical in design to Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4. Nine Mile Point Unit 2 is a Mark II, very similar in design to Fukushima Daiichi. Lake Ontario serves as the drinking water supply for many millions of people in New York, Ontario (including Canada's largest city, Toronto), and a large number of Native American/First Nations.
As reported by St. Louis Public Radio, "[a] new analysis by scientists at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency suggests there could be risks to area residents if an underground fire were to reach radioactive waste at the West Lake Landfill."
In the early 1970s, the radioactive wastes from the Manhattan Project were illegally dumped in the Missouri River floodplain, near residential communities and not far upstream from major drinking water intakes for St. Louis area residents.
Beyond Nuclear board member Kay Drey has been a long-time watchdog on the West Lake Landfill. For example, in 1989 she was interviewed by the St. Louis Post Dispatch in a major exposé on the "Legacy of the Bomb" for the St. Louis area.
Fukushima nuclear evacuees resist being treated like "guinea pigs," pressured to re-occupy evacuation zone
Although reported by Reuters on April 1st, it is unfortunately not an April Fool's Day joke. The Japanese national and Fukushima prefectural governments have allowed a small number of residents to re-occupy their homes within the 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) evacuation zone around the wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant today.
While the article compares the radioactivity levels in Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan to Denver, Colorado, USA, it does not specify whether or not the Denver radioactivity levels include plutonium fallout from catastrophic fires at the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons factory upwind in 1957 and 1969. And while the article reports that a Tokyo to New York jetliner flight exposes passengers to higher hourly radiation exposures, it neglects to mention the difference between external, natural (cosmic) radioactivity exposures over just several hours, versus internal exposures to artificial radioactive isotopes (such as tritium lodged near DNA molecules, Cs-137 in heart and thyroid tissue, Sr-90 in bone, Pu-239 in lung tissue, etc.) for the rest of one's life.
The article reports that while in evacuation shelters for the past three years, due to their parents' fear of radioactivity exposures, the children of Tamura have gotten only 30 minutes per day of outdoor play time, much less than most prison inmates in the U.S. are allowed in outdoor recreational time each day. How much outdoor play time the handful of children returning to Tamura will be allowed now that they are back in their radioactively contaminated homes, is unclear.
The article reports:
'...Kitaro Saito, who is in his early 60s, will stay outside Miyakoji, despite wanting to return to his large hillside house there, because he thinks the government is using residents as "guinea pigs" to test if more people can return home.
' "Relatives are arguing over what to do," he said, warming his hands outside his temporary home among rows of other one-room trailers. "The town will be broken up." ' (emphasis added)
Recently, Mari Takenouchi, a reporter and founder of Save Kids Japan, was officially charged with criminal contempt by a member of the nuclear industry-affiliated group called "ETHOS" after she also described the treatment of nuclear evacuees as akin to "guinea pigs," among other statements she made. ETHOS also advocated for leaving people in contaminated areas in Belarus and for feeding children contaminated food following the Chernobyl catastrophe.
The Reuters article also fails to mention that Tokyo Electric Power Company's compensation payments to nuclear evacuees will end after a certain number of months, once they have returned to their now radioactively contaminated communities in the former evacuation zones. This, in addition to their health concerns about chronic radioactivity exposures, is part of the reason why many nuclear evacuees refuse to go back home.
Alexaner Lukashenko, the dictator of Belarus -- the country hardest hit by the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe -- has used similar pressure tactics to force nuclear evacuees there to return to radioactive areas. Chernobyl evacuees were threatened with loss of their meager yet essential government compensation payments, a thin lifeline, unless they returned to their former homes and began farming the land again, despite its radioactive contamination. (photo Reuters)
In response to the news of Tamura's resettlement, Pieter Franken, the co-founder and Japan director of SAFECAST, has stated: "Though good news for the residents, what is being missed out is that the area mentioned had fairly low levels of pollution. In fact many people were evacuated to Koriyama and other cities with quite higher levels than Tamura (despite it being in the exclusion zone). So in a way, the evacuation should have been the other way around." Pieter Franken was featured on Democracy Now! in a recent broadcast interview.
Franken's irony-laden account points out the importance of using citizen-based radiation monitoring to assess radiation contamination, not reliance on government and industry for this information. Considering the uneven deposition of radioactive isotopes that occurs initially after a disaster like Chernobyl or Fukushima, and the subsequent cycling of radioactive isotopes in the environment which could change this measurement profile, regular measurement is prudent.