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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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Wednesday
Feb252015

Fukushima to Vermont Yankee: Uncontrolled releases mean more uncontrolled costs for decommissioning and environmental cleanup

Uncontrolled radioactive leaks continue to spring from nuclear power plants around the world and into the news; from the multi-unit wreckage of Fukushima Daiichi in Japan to the recently shuttered Vermont Yankee nuke here in the US.  The ongoing pollution of air, land and water means that no one can reliably predict the ultimate cost of decommissioning these radioactive hulks or the quality of the environmental cleanup left to generations decades from now.

Radioactive leaks from known sources and from still unmonitored pathways are streaming from the Fukushima reactor wreckage into the Pacific Ocean. TEPCO recently reported that radioactivity was being monitored in a discharge canal for rain runoff and groundwater from the disaster area that is 70 times greater than any previous recorded levels of contamination.  The radioactive leak set off site alarms after detecting high levels of strontium-90 in the drainage ditch. TEPCO has not been able to identify the source of the radioactive spike that could be coming from any number of sources including an expanding tank farm for holding highly radioactive cooling water or the three melted reactor cores somewhere beneath the site still contaminating groundwater. Uncontrolled radioactive leaks from Fukushima have continued to plague the reactor site on the eastern coast of Japan where all six units (the four units destroyed by the accident and the two permanently closed undamaged units) demonstrate the uncertainty and difficulty for bringing this four year-old nuclear catastrophe to a close. Current decommissioning cost estimates run from TEPCO’s paltry $125 billion to $500 billion according to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. One thing is for sure with the ongoing uncontrolled radioactive leaks, there is no reliability for predicting the quality of an environmental cleanup or the ultimate costs of decommissioning the reactor site despite the assurances of the International Atomic Energy Agency that “significant progress” is being made.

Meanwhile back in the US, the Vermont Department of Health disclosed its discovery of strontium-90 contamination in four groundwater wells at Entergy’s permanently closed Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant. This radioactive relic of the Atomic Age and de facto high-level nuclear waste site is situated in the Connecticut River valley of Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Neither Entergy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission nor the State of Vermont have located the exact source(s), past or present, of these radioactive leaks to groundwater.  The consequences are the same, however. Vermont’s latest discovery adds millions of dollars to Yankee’s estimated $1.25 billion decommissioning and dubious cleanup bill; a process that Entergy plans to delay for the next 60 years because they have roughly half the estimated cost in the company’s decommissioning “trust” fund.  Such decommissioning plans, approved by the NRC, are more akin to dismantling the company's long-term liability than the reactor site.

Tuesday
Jan272015

Demolition of symbol of triple calamity: earthquake, tsunami, nuclear catastrophe

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, demolition crews are dismantling a haunting symbol of the 3/11/11 triple catastrophe of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear catastrophe (the latter aspect still unfolding, nearly four years later): the central train station in Tomioko, less than 20 km south of Fukushima Daiichi.

The train station was inundated and destroyed by the tsunami. The entire town was then evacuated due to radioactive contamination.

More recently, visitors have been allowed back during daytime hours -- although Asahi Shimbun photos reveal that visitors wisely wear radiation protection suits and dust masks. (Is it enough? The article doesn't report radiation measurements in the air, dust, etc.).

Due to the risk of collapse, and the growing number of visitors to the symbolic site, the authorities have decided to take down the structures.

No date certain has been set for restoration of rail service in the quake and tsunami damaged, radioactively contaminated area.

Tuesday
Jan272015

"Mom’s anti-nuclear stance inspires film"

As reported by Kyodo and posted at Japan Times, the daughter of a long-time anti-nuclear activist who passed on in 1996 has been moved by the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, and inspired by her mother's lead, to make a documentary film about the ravages of nuclear weapons and nuclear power in Japan and around the world.

Shizuko Sakata was "an ordinary person living in the quiet city of Suzaka, Nagano Prefecture," but moved to warn her fellow townspeople about nuclear dangers, after learning of radioactive pollution from her daughter Yuko, who had moved to the English Channel Islands, immediately downstream from the French radioactive waste reprocessing facility at La Hague.

Shizuko Sakata began publishing her own newsletter on nuclear matters in 1977, and handed them out to passersby in Suzaka, asking them "Could you listen to me?" Her many newsletters were collected into a book, entitled Please Listen.

Masako Sakata, Shizuko's daughter and Yuko's sister, is an environmental documentary filmmaker. She has traveled the world to nuclear hot spots, such as the Marshall Islands where the U.S. tested hydrogen bombs, and Kazakhstan, where the U.S.S.R. tested nuclear weapons. She has also traveled to Fukushima a number of times, carrying her mother's old radiation monitor with her.

Her film is entitled "Journey Without End," and will be available in Japanese and English versions.

Tuesday
Jan272015

"Fishermen oppose dumping radioactive water into sea"

As reported by JIJI and posted at Japan Times, "The National Federation of Fisheries Cooperative Associations called on the Abe administration Tuesday not to allow the release of radioactive water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant into the sea."

Tokyo Electric and the Abe administration are planning to begin releases in 2017, supposedly after radioisotopes such as Cesium-137, Cesium-134, Strontium-90, etc. are filtered out (where the contaminated filters will be stored or buried is not clear).

The article does not report, however, that tritium cannot be economically filtered out at an industrial scale. Thus, the official plan, currently, is simply to release the 100 million gallons of tritiated water into the ocean.

Tritium can go anywhere in the human body hydrogen goes, which is everywhere, such as right down to the DNA molecule, where it can cause damage, including genetic damage. Tritium bio-concentrates in the food chain -- just the dynamic the fishermen are concerned about.

Saturday
Jan242015

Childhood obesity included in "fallout" from Fukushima catastrophe

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, the healthy fear of outdoor radioactive contamination, leading to severe or total restrictions on outdoor play by children, has led to a dramatic increase in childhood obesity in Fukushima Prefecture. Several age categories (7-years, 9, 11, 13) exhibited the increase in childhood obesity, with Fukushima Prefecture ranking as the worst, or second worst, of the 47 prefectures across Japan. In certain age groups, the childhood obesity in Fukushima Prefecture is twice the national average.