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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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Tuesday
Sep232014

Japan PM says no nuclear restart without "100% safety."

Reports Reuters: "Japan will not restart closed-down nuclear plants "unless safety is restored 100 percent," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Monday." But what will this really mean and how will 100% safety be guaranteed, a virtually impossible standard for most heavy industries?

 

"Japan is currently 'completely dependent on fossil fuels,'" Abe lamented, learning rather too late the obvious lesson that if you bank on nuclear you are stranded when it fails. Abe says "his government is looking to introduce renewable energy sources at a fast pace," a good possibility in France where wind and solar is already running on a limited but growing basis.

Thursday
Sep042014

Families sue government for Fukushima radiation exposure

"A group of parents and children who were residing in Fukushima Prefecture when the nuclear disaster unfolded in March 2011 is suing the central and prefectural governments for failing to take sufficient steps to protect children from radiation exposure during the crisis.

"In a written complaint, they said the central and prefectural governments failed to promptly release accurate data on airborne radiation levels after the nuclear crisis, neglecting their duty to prevent residential radiation exposure as much as possible, and exposing children to radiation."

"As a result, the parents and children are seriously worried about their health down the road and are suffering from mental distress, they said in the complaint." One woman's child became ill after the initial radiation releases.

"Of the 88 plaintiffs, 24 children who live in Fukushima and are still attending school there are demanding that local municipal offices affirm their right to receive education in a safe environment." The Japan Times

Radiation is known to cause various diseases. The information sharing and evacuations following Fukushima were clearly botched and some people were exposed to radiation because of this incompetent handling of the crisis.

Children are particularly vulnerable to radiation exposure, so these families are not waiting until someone has taken ill to sue for compensation. Their suit implies that exposure to radiation against their will and due to government incompetence is enough to allow them compensation as their risk of certain diseases has been increased by this exposure.

 

Wednesday
Aug272014

First time: Japan court orders TEPCO to pay damages for suicide

TEPCO has been ordered to pay Mikio Watanabe (pictured) nearly 500,000 US dollars in compensation for the suicide of his wife, Hamako (58 years), after they were forced to leave their home and livelihoods in Kawamata town (40 km from the reactors) due to contamination from the ongoing Fukushima catastrophe. They evacuated three months after the accident began when it was realized the contamination levels in their area were too high for living and working.

Her family claimed "the evacuation was responsible for a deterioration of Mrs Watanabe's mental state because she did not know when she could return home, according to Kyodo news agency. The chicken farm where she and her husband were working also closed."

TEPCO has been settling such damage claims out of court, but this case marks the first time a court has rendered a verdict. More cases like this are expected.

"Dozens of Fukushima residents are reported to have killed themselves since the disaster...

Tens of thousand fled their homes and businesses because of radioactive contamination, with the majority still unable to return home." BBC

" '"It is well assumed that the stress caused by sudden loss of the base of her life against her will and unknown future in evacuation was unbearable for her,' according to the court ruling." CNN

Indeed, the ongoing nuclear power catastrophe has set up a dichotomy of lose-lose situations: suffering radiation health damage if one is allowed to stay in a contaminated area, and suffering the stress of having to evacuate and being forced into an uncertain future.

No word on whether TEPCO is planning to appeal.

 

Wednesday
Aug272014

Fukushima still releasing 8 billion Becquerels per day into Pacific

"TEPCO made the startling admission... at a press conference that the plant is leaking 8 billion bequerels per day. (8 gigabequerels)

5 billion bq of strontium 90
2 billion bq of cesium 137
1 billion bq of tritium..." from SimplyInfo

Worth noting is that the majority of the relases are strontium 90, a radioisotope known to collect in bone and increase the risk of leukemia. Strontium 90, along with tritium, is particularly hard to detect through widely used detection methods.

According to SimplyInfo, 8 billion Bq per day would mean that the total release to the ocean from Fukushima would be well over the assumed release of 11 Terabecquerels over four years' time.

Sunday
Jul202014

"Water leaks continue to plague No. 5 reactor at Fukushima plant"

As reported by the Asahi Shimbun, a series of leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi Units #5 and 6 have continued throughout this month, right up to the present. The leaks are occuring in piping attached to the high-level radioactive waste storage pools, which still do hold irradiated nuclear fuel. Apparently, valves are failing on the pools' cooling system piping.

Loss of cooling to irradiated nuclear fuel can lead to catastrophic consequences. A sudden pool drain down could lead to an irradiated nuclear fuel fire in a matter of hours. A slower motion pool boil down could still result in an irradiated nuclear fuel fire, if the water loss proceeds to uncover the stored assemblies. Storage pools not only hold large quantities of hazardous irradiated nuclear fuel, they also are not located within robust radiological containment structures. Very large-scale radioactivity releases are possible, directly into the environment.

Units #5 and 6 were not operating on 3/11/11, and were largely undamaged by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear catastrophe. However, Tokyo Electric Power Company has decided to retire them nonetheless, and is converting them into training centers for nuclear decommissioning. The lessons learned will be applied later at the devastated Fukushima Daiichi Units 1, 2, 3 (all melted down) and 4 (also not operating on 3/11/11, but still severely damaged by a hydrogen explosion).

(Note, access to Asahi Shimbum articles is limited to a certain number per month, unless you have a subscription.)