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Tuesday
May312011

Oil spill into ocean from Fukushima Daiichi Units 5 and 6

The Associated Press has reported an oil spill into the ocean from atomic reactor units 5 and 6 at the devastated Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in northeast Japan. The oil spill has occurred despite Units 5 and 6 being in a supposedly stable state of "cold shutdown," according to plant owner and operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco). Units 5 and 6 reactor cores just happened to be shut down for inspection and maintenance when the earthquake and tsunami struck on March 11th, facilitating their cooling since. Although Unit 4 was likewise shut down, and its reactor core emptied of nuclear fuel, its secondary containment building was destroyed by a hydrogen explosion, perhaps due to a high-level radioactive waste storage pool fire, or ingress of explosive hydrogen gas from the Unit 3 reactor via a venting system shared by the two units. In addition to the oil spill at Units 5 and 6, a "small" explosion has been reported at Unit 4. The biggest problems, however, remain the Units 1, 2, and 3 reactor cores, in states of meltdown at risk of burning through primary containment structures, as well as multiple high-level radioactive waste storage pools across the site, at risk of boiling dry, catching fire, and releasing catastrophic amounts of radioactivity directly into the environment, as they are not located within primary containment structures, and secondary containment buildings have been damaged or destroyed by massive hydrogen gas blasts. Japan Today reports that the oil leak was detected after bad weather hit the site. The Japan Times has reported that Tepco is speculating that two oil tanks, or connected pipes, which were being filled by a tanker at the time of the March 11 natural disasters, may have been damaged, and may even have been leaking oil ever since. The two tanks were moved 30 feet by the earthquake and/or tsunami; each tank could have contained as much as 1 million liters of heavy oil.

Tuesday
May312011

Italians say "no" to nuclear during soccer championship

Greenpeace unfurled a banner during the championship soccer game last Sunday, reading: "From Milan to Palermo, let's shut down nuclear." The tag line at the end reads, "the crazy ones are you if you don't vote to close nuclear in the referendum. The national referendum will be held June 12 and 13. In the last one in 1987, Italians voted to shut down their nuclear power program which has never since reopened.

Tuesday
May312011

Experts Say Japan Utility Failed to Disclose Scale of Radiation Leaks

"...[A]cademics warn the company has failed to disclose the scale of radiation leaks and faces a 'massive problem' with contaminated water.

Tepco has been withholding data on radiation from Dai-Ichi, Goshi Hosono, an adviser to Japan’s prime minister, said at a press briefing today. Hosono said he ordered the utility to check for any data it hasn’t disclosed and release the material as soon as possible."

Incredibly, Tepco has not updated the grand total for how much radioactivity has been released to the environment since mid April.

Officials are worried this will further add to public distrust and heightened problems already faced by the nuclear industry and Japanese federal government, which conveyed Tepco's false assurances as facts. Bloomberg

Tuesday
May312011

Gil Scott-Heron's "Shut 'em down" anthem lives on

Gil Scott-Heron who died at the weekend, (see tribute further down this page) composed his call for a nuclear shutdown back in 1980 for the MUSE concert. But it sadly remains relevant today. Germany, at least, is listening (see report below).

Listen here.

Check out the powerful (and eerily prescient, given the Fukushima earthquake-tsunami-nuclear catastophe) lyrics:

“Did you feel that rumble? Did you hear that sound,
Well It wasn’t no earthquake but it shook the ground,
Made me think about power like it or not,
Got to work for Earth for what it’s worth,
'Cause it’s the only Earth we’ve got,
 
Shut ‘em down
if that’s the only way to keep them from melting down,
Shut ‘em down
if that’s the only way to keep them from melting down,
 
I heard a lot about safety and human error,
A few dials and gauges is just a wing and a prayer,
If you need perfection and that’s what it takes,
Then you don’t need people, can’t use people,
You know people make mistakes,
 
Shut ‘em down
if that’s the only way to keep them from melting down,
Shut ‘em down
if that’s the only way to keep them from melting down
 
Did you feel that rumble? Did you hear that sound,
Well it wasn’t no earthquake but it shook the ground,
Made me think about power like it or not,
Got to work for Earth for what it’s worth,
'Cause it’s the only Earth we’ve got,
 
Shut ‘em down
if that’s the only way to keep them from melting down,
Shut ‘em down
if that’s the only way to keep them from melting down...”

Rest in Power, Gil Scott-Heron, April 1, 1949 to Infinity (from a tribute posted at the Glut Food Co-Op in Mount Rainier, Maryland)

Monday
May302011

Popular protests by parents pressure Japanese government to reinstate stronger radiation protections for children

The L.A. Times has reported that a growing movement, led by parents, protesting the Japanese federal government's decision to allow a 20-fold increase in "permissible" radiation exposures for children -- in order to enable contaminated schools downwind of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe to stay open -- has been reversed. The Japanese Ministry of Education has announced that "permissible" radiation exposure limits for children at school will be returned from 20 milliSieverts per year (2 Rem/yr) to 1 mSv/yr (100 millirem/yr). 2 Rem/yr is equivalent to what the German federal government allows German nuclear power plant workers to receive, a level for children that Physicians for Social Responsibility has called "unconscionable."