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Japan

Until the Fukushima accident, Japan had 55 operating nuclear reactors as well as enrichment and reprocessing plants which had suffered a series of deadly accidents at its nuclear facilities resulting in the deaths of workers and releases of radioactivity into the environment and surrounding communities. Since the Fukushima disaster, there is growing opposition against re-opening those reactors closed for maintenance.

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Saturday
Aug012015

"3 Former Executives to Be Prosecuted in Fukushima Nuclear Disaster"

Tsunehisa Katsumata, the chairman of Tepco at the time of the accident. Credit Franck Robichon/European Pressphoto Agency As reported by Jonathon Soble in the New York Times, a review panel of private citzens has -- for the second time -- overruled prosecutors and demanded that three top executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) be charged in relation to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe that began on 3/11/11.

This second review panel ruling is binding, meaning prosecutors must bring charges.

The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Plaintiffs Group, representing 15,000 individuals, including nuclear evacuees, has long sought the prosecution.

The binding decision by the review panel requires that prosecutors bring charges of "professional negligence resulting in death."

As reported by the 2015 World Nuclear Industry Status Report (see bottom of page 84), 3,200 individual nuclear evacuees -- the majority from Fukushima Prefecture -- have died since the nuclear catastrophe began. This includes the elderly or infirm, who have succumbed to illnesses during their long exile from their radioactive homes, as well as suicides.

The article reports:

To convict the Tokyo Electric Power executives, prosecutors would have to prove that their failure to predict the massive tsunami that struck Fukushima’s coast in March 2011 and to equip the power plant with sufficient protections against it constituted an act of criminal oversight.

However, as reported by the mainstream Japanese press, evidence has emerged that Tepco had clear warnings that such a massive tsunami was possible at the Fukushima Daiichi site, and yet the company, and its executive decision makers, chose not to act, or else dragged their feet for years.

In fact, the 2012 Japanese Parliament independent investigation on the nuclear catastrophe documented that Tepco and other nuclear power industry officials had inappropriately influenced tsunami protection decision making, leaving plants like Fukushima Daiichi vulnerable. The investigation concluded that collusion between regulators, industry, and government officials was the root cause of the catastrophe, the reason why the reactors were so vulnerable to the natural disasters that wrecked them.

Thursday
Jul232015

Fukushima event showcases need to educate local communities/institutions on radiation issues

Two medical staffers from Fukushima Medical University (FMU) in Japan -- Arifumi Hasegawa, Professor and Chair of Fukushima Medical University’s (FMU) Department of Radiation Disaster Medicine and Kenneth E. Nollet, Professor and Director of International Cooperation at FMU’s Radiation Medical Science Center -- gave talks at the Goethe-Institut in Washington, DC on July 16, on their experience dealing with the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe that began on March 11, 2011. Beyond Nuclear attended. The focus of the event was to see if and how the lessons of Fukushima would be applicable to nuclear reactor communities in the U.S.

It was clear that initially, FMU lacked sufficient knowledge and infrastructure to deal with the radiological catastrophe facing them-- a situation which is most likely true for many medical professionals, and others, around nuclear facilities in the United States. It also became evident as discussion at this event progressed,  these experts' lack of knowledge left them open to the nuclear establishment's biased interpretation of events, which in the past has discounted radiation's impact--instead blaming health impacts on consumption of alcohol, smoking, and mental illness.

While it is good that the FMU staff were present at Goethe where their misconceptions could be challenged or corrected, it is unfortunate that they were also presenting at other institutions, including the Red Cross, probably as the sole expertise available. Not only was one physician under the impression that tritium was also called "heavy water" (in fact, deuterium is heavy water, NOT tritium, and deuterium is not radioactive) but still more importantly, the other parroted the "official" line that any dose below 10 rem is safe. (see below)

FMU has been the subject of controversy since the catastrophe began. A different FMU medical doctor has  made statements in the past claiming any dose below 100 mSv (10 Rem) is safe, and smiling will help prevent radiation harm. Additionally, FMU is responsible for a health study that remains the center of controversy and FMU has signed a Memorandum of Cooperation with international nuclear power promotion agency IAEA regarding human health impacts of radiation exposure.

Beyond Nuclear's Cindy Folkers asked why proper biological monitoring, such as urine testing and blood draws to look for chromosome damage, was not instituted immediately after the accident in order to assess public exposure, rather than estimating doses to the public. She further suggested that communities around reactors should have their blood drawn and "banked" for future examination prior to any accident so that, should a nuclear accident occur, there would be empirical evidence of exposure (malformations of chromosomes in the blood due to radiation), rather than just reliance on error-ridden estimates and dose calculations.

Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps asked why, if radiation doses to Fukushima residents have been so low, as the FMU presenters claimed, were the "allowable" or "permissible" (not to be confused with "safe") levels of radioactivity exposure officially raised by the Japanese government to 20 mSv (2 Rem) per year shortly after 3/11/11, where they remain to this day? This is equal to the permissible dose to nuclear power plant workers in Germany, only it's applied to everyone living in contaminated areas of Japan, including children, pregnant women, the elderly, the infirm, and those with already weakened immune systems. One physician responded that 10 rem is safe. When pressed with statistical evidence that 10 rem is NOT safe, the physician conceded that allowing such dose rates was a political decision, not a scientific one. At the same time, this physician acknowledged certain stages of fetal development are uniquely vulnerable to radiation's hazards. In fact, childhood leukemia starts to increase at about 2 mSv and increases in a statistically significant way, at just 4 mSv of cumulative dose (not a yearly dose, but a total dose). That is 4 years' worth of the average background dose in most places (80-100 mrem) without any additional radiation exposure.

Wednesday
Jul222015

Cora Henry: "70 Years After Bomb, Hiroshima Activists Defy Nuclear Energy Industry"

Kosei Mito, showing Elisabeth Fernandes, of Osaka, and her niece his research on nuclear power. They are on the banks of the Motoyasu River, in front of the Atom Dome. Mr. Mito's guide badge, with an anti-nuclear weapons symbol, reads “IN-UTERO SURVIVOR.” Photo taken March 12, 2015 by Cora Henry in Hiroshima, Japan.Cora Henry, a journalism student at Indiana University, has published an article entitled "70 Years After Bomb, Hiroshima Activists Defy Nuclear Energy Industry."

Henry's article explores the history of the evolving position of Hiroshima's Hibakusha, literally “radiation-affected people,” towards nuclear power. She interviewed survivors of the bombing at the iconic remains of the Hiroshima Prefectural Industry Promotion Building, known as the Atomic-Bomb Dome.

In the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, an anti-nuclear power consensus has emerged in both major Hibakusha organizations, with some members now very active in the ongoing campaign to resist atomic reactor restarts across Japan.

Wednesday
Jul152015

Witnessing Fukushima mutations, remembering Three Mile Island 

The clinical evidence concludes that exposure to radioactivity increases the risk of not only contracting a cancer and a host of diseases but also genetic mutations and birth defects. But beyond the clinical findings, we continue to witness the persistent, irreversible consequences of uncontrolled radioactive releases from nuclear accidents from Three Mile Island to Fukushima. 

Twitter feeds are now imprinting on the global consciousness the images of san_kaido’s mutant daisies found growing in Nasushiobara City, 70 miles from the 2011 Fukushima disaster site. They are hauntingly similar to botanical specimens preserved by Harrisburg, PA resident Mary Osborne that she still collects from around the  site of the Three Mile Island reactor accident in 1979.  

They are all reminders, indeed warnings, that Life in all its forms is being deleteriously altered by the increasing exposure to radioactivity escaping from every link of the nuclear fuel chain; the mining,  the routine releases, the radioactive waste and the inevitable, recurring nuclear accidents.

Better active today, than radioactive tomorrow.  Act Now!

 

Wednesday
Jul152015

When an old atomic reactor license extension leads to a meltdown: Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1

As reported by WNISR published on July 15, 2015:

"As a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, more pressing questions have been raised about the wisdom of operating older reactors. The Fukushima Daiichi Units (1 to 4) were connected to the grid between 1971 and 1974. The license for unit 1 had been extended for another 10 years in February 2011, a month before the catastrophe began. Four days after the accidents in Japan, the German government ordered the shutdown of seven reactors that had started up before 1981. These reactors, together with another unit that was closed at the time, never restarted. The sole selection criterion was operational age. Other countries did not adopt the same approach, but it is clear that the 3/11 events had an impact on previously assumed extended lifetimes in other countries as well, including in Belgium, Switzerland, and Taiwan." (p.38-39)

Thus, had the operating license at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 not been extended, just weeks earlier, Unit 1 would not have been operating on 3/11/11. Especially if its irradiated nuclear fuel had then been removed from the reactor core, a meltdown could not have occurred (by definition) -- as was the case at Fukushima Daiichi Units 4, 5, and 6 (which were not operating, and had cores off-loaded of nuclear fuel).

(Granted, off-loading a reactor core of its irradiated fuel, into the storage pool, simply transfers the risk another location. This was the dire situation at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4, until the irradiated nuclear fuel was finally completely removed from the storage pool by Dec. 2014. Now, that irradiated nuclear fuel risk has been transferred to Fukushima Daiichi's ground level "common pool" -- not a risk-free location, but significantly less risky than the near-collapse Unit 4 reactor building, of which the storage pool is an integral part.)

It is also important to point out that some sources allege that the meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 was well under way even before the tsunami hit the site, about 50 minutes after the 9.0 earthquake had struck. That is, certain sources (citing the testimony of on-site workers' eye-witness experience) allege that the earthquake itself had so badly damaged Unit 1, that it was already in process of melting down, even before the tsunami struck the site (that is, tsunami or no tsunami, Unit 1 was likely doomed to melt down, due to earthquake damage).

This begs the question, how vulerable to earthquakes, or other shocks, are the oldest reactors still operating in the U.S., and around the world?