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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
May122012

"A Nuclear Clash Could Starve the World"

Mushroom cloud rising above Hiroshima after U.S. atomic bombing of Japan, August 1945As described in an op-ed posted at CNN, "A Nuclear Clash Could Starve the World," Jayantha Dhanapala and Ira Helfand report on the findings of a new PSR/IPPNW report, NUCLEAR FAMINE: A BILLION PEOPLE AT RISK.

Among the findings: even a limited nuclear war, as between Indian and Pakistan, involving less than half of 1% of the world's nuclear arsenals, would cause climate disruption that could set off a global famine; 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs (see photo, left) exploded in a war between India and Pakistan would lead to the starvation of an estimated 1 billion people, one-sixth of the human race, over the following decade; each U.S. Trident nuclear submarine can destroy 100 cities and produce the global famine described in the study (the United States has 14 Tridents). 

Jayantha Dhanapala is a former ambassador to the United States from Sri Lanka, U.N. under-secretary general for disarmament and chairman of the 1995 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review and Extension Conference. Ira Helfand is the past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and current North American vice president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).

Saturday
May122012

"Fukushima Daiichi: It May Be Too Late Unless the Military Steps In"

Workers wearing white radiation protection suits beside the surface of the elevated storage pool for high-level radioactive waste at the destroyed Unit 4 reactor building at Fukushima DaiichiJapanese diplomat Akio Matsumura has posted a new blog proposing that military intervention be deployed to prevent the worst from happening at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 (see photo, left). He proposes that the Japan Self-Defense Forces be deployed to Unit 4 to offload high-level radioactive waste, before another, almost inevitable earthquake topples the building and its irradiated nuclear fuel catches fire. Unit 4's pool holds 8 times the radioactive Cesium-137 released by Chernobyl. But a fire in Unit 4's pool would very likely lead to the evacuation of the entire site, risking 85 times Chernobyl's hazardous Cesium-137 escaping if all 7 of Fukushima Daiichi's pools are allowed to boil dry and catch fire (not to mention what more would happen if its three melted down reactor cores are no longer cooled either). 

Monday
May072012

Thousands march as Japan switches off last nuclear reactor

Thousands of Japanese marched to celebrate the switching off of the last of their nation's 50 nuclear reactors Saturday, waving banners shaped as giant fish that have become a potent anti-nuclear symbol.

Japan was without electricity from nuclear power for the first time in four decades when the reactor at Tomari nuclear plant on the northern island of Hokkaido went offline for mandatory routine maintenance.

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"Today is a historic day," Masashi Ishikawa shouted to a crowd gathered at a Tokyo park, some holding traditional "koinobori" carp-shaped banners for Children's Day that have become a symbol of the anti-nuclear movement.

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The activists said it is fitting that the day Japan stopped nuclear power coincides with Children's Day because of their concerns about protecting children from radiation, which Fukushima Dai-ichi is still spewing into the air and water.

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Whether Japan will suffer a sharp power crunch is still unclear.

Electricity shortages are expected only at peak periods, such as the middle of the day in hot weather, and critics of nuclear power say proponents are exaggerating the consequences to win public approval to restart reactors. Associated Press

Thursday
Apr192012

Fukushima's Nuclear Nightmare Is Far From Over (or the Disturbingly Deadly Act of Placing Profits Before People) 

The visit to Japan some twenty days after the catastrophic earthquake, horrific tsunami and resulting nuclear accidents at the Fukushima Daiichi site by French president Nicolas Sarkozy is described as having been focused on the continued sale of deadly MOX (a "dirty" mixture of Plutonium and Depleted Uranium). In the article, the claim is made that the French are now seen in Japan as "chi no shonin" or merchants of death. The false assertion that the French team arrived in Japan to show solidarity with those who had so greatly suffered is a joke. This is about a powerful nuclear industry protecting its own, and reaping profits from not only the sale of radioactive materials, but also winning extraordinarily lucrative contracts for the cleanup and disposal of the nuclear waste and what is left of the reactors at Fukushima. In other words, as in the oil industry where companies such as Halliburton make money off the building, operating and selling of materials to the oil industry, when disaster strikes, they also make billions off the cleanup. It's called a vertical monopoly. In other words, even disasters are lucrative. Just take a look at all of the funds investing on the negative outcomes of our common future if you want to see how the wealthiest are hedging their bets by betting on the worst of the worst kinds of outcomes for humanity and our planet. Huffington Post

Thursday
Apr192012

Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4 high-level radioactive waste storage pool at risk of catastrophic fire

A recent photo of the Unit 4 reactor building, with workers in white radiation suits (under girders) beside HLRW storage pool surfaceJapanese diplomat Akio Matsumura has been warning for many months about the potentially catastrophic risk, as due to another powerful earthquake, of Fukushima Daiichi's damaged and listing Unit 4 high-level radioactive waste (HLRW) storage pool (photo, left) completely collapsing. Robert Alvarez of Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) has documented that the Unit 4 pool contains nearly 10 times the radioactive Cesium-137 (Cs-137) than was released by the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe. If the pool's floor falls out, or the entire Unit 4 reactor building collapses, the pool's cooling water supply will drain away, and the HLRW could catch on fire within a short period of time. Up to 100% of the volatile Cs-137 would then be discharged directly to the environment in the fire and smoke, as the pool lacks any radiological containment whatsoever. Former Japanese Ambassador to Senegal and Switzerland, Mitsuhei Murata, recently warned not only the Japanese Parliament about this risk, but also the Japanese Prime Minister and United Nations Secretary-General. There are a total of 7 HLRW storage pools at Fukushima Daiichi, containing 85 times the Cs-137 released at Chernobyl (this figure does not even account for the Cs-137 in the three melted down reactor cores). If Unit 4's pool goes up in flames, it would make the entire site a deadly radioactive zone which would have to be abandoned by workers, risking the other 6 pools also boiling down and catching fire. The "common pool," containing the most HLRW of all on site, is just 50 yards away from Unit 4.

Alvarez et al. (2003) have documented that U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) studies, carried out by Sandia National Lab (2001) and Brookhaven National Lab (1997), reported that a HLRW pool fire in the US could cause: as many as 143,000 latent cancer fatalities, up to 500 miles downwind; up to 2,700 square miles of agricultural land condemned; and property damage and economic losses due to evacuation and condemnation surmounting $765 BILLION (adjusted for inflation to 2010 dollar figures). Beyond Nuclear and IPS have warned that US irradiated nuclear fuel storage pools, especially those at 24 General Electric Mark I boiling water reactors, are vulnerable to catastrophic accidents or attacks. In fact, most US GE BWR Mark I pools contain more HLRW than Fukushima Daiichi Units 1 to 4 put together. The National Academy of Science confirmed such risks in 2005, yet NRC still does not require pools to be emptied into hardened on-site storage.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) recently took a fact-finding trip to Fukushima Daiichi -- donning a radiation protection suit and respirator. Wyden revealed that the situation at the rubblized complex is worse than reported, and has called on Japan to open up to international assistance, and on relevant US federal agencies (Energy, State, NRC) to provide it, to prevent even more catastrophic radioactivity releases in the near future than have already taken place over the past 13 months.

Wyden stated: “The scope of damage to the plants and to the surrounding area was far beyond what I expected and the scope of the challenges to the utility owner, the government of Japan, and to the people of the region are daunting. The precarious status of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear units and the risk presented by the enormous inventory of radioactive materials and spent fuel in the event of further earthquake threats should be of concern to all and a focus of greater international support and assistance.” (emphasis added)

Please contact your own U.S. Senators and U.S. Representative and urge them to support Sen. Wyden's urgent initiative. Phone your U.S. Members of Congress via the congressional switchboard: (202) 224-3121.

Thom Hartmann hosted Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps on his television program "The Big Picture" on April 18th to discuss these risks.