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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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Thursday
Aug222013

Thyroid cancers continue to increase among Fukushima children

The prefectural government has so far released thyroid testing results for 193,000 children. The number of children who have been diagnosed as or suspected of having thyroid cancer totaled 44, up from 28 as of June.

Eighteen of them have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and 25 are showing symptoms of the disease. The remaining child was suspected of having the cancer but was later diagnosed with a benign tumor.

The 44 children and young people who have received definitive or suspected diagnoses of thyroid cancer were aged between 6 and 18 as of March 2011. Their tumors were diagnosed as slow-growing types, ranging in diameter from 5.2 millimeters to 34.1 millimeters. The Asahi Shimbun

Thursday
Aug222013

Fukushima disaster worsens, Japan sends first international SOS

For the first time since Japan’s nuclear catastrophe erupted two and half years ago at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) requested international aid in an increasing desperate fight to bring the worsening disaster under control.

TEPCO Vice President Zengo Aizawa sent the country’s first international SOS since the March 2011 catastrophe as highly radioactive water continues to leak at higher rates and in greater concentrations of contamination into the aquifer that flows under the reactor wreckage into the Pacific Ocean.  Another storage tank has failed spilling 300 more tons of radioactive water onto the site from the growing number of units in a makeshift tank farm now containing nearly 400,000 tons of highly contaminated water. Contaminated water used to keep the melted reactor cores cool is being continuously pumped up out of reactor building basements into the tank farm. The continuous pumping operations are overwhelming an already dubious plan to decontaminate the growing toxic backlog before release. The storage tanks themselves are now beginning to fail.

Efforts to divert and dam the movement of groundwater flowing from the mountains, under the damaged reactor site and on into the Pacific Ocean have not only failed but are increasing the risk of a new and larger catastrophe as the site is increasingly unstable.  More than 1000 tons of groundwater are estimated to flow daily under Fukushima Daiichi towards the ocean.  A glassified dam, five feet tall, injected below grade into the earth between the reactors and the ocean has failed to stop the radioactive flood into the Pacific. This build-up of contaminated groundwater is now topping the glass dam and saturating the ground around and under the reactor site so that another significant earthquake could liquefy the earth under the damaged complex including a huge nuclear waste storage pool that is common to all six units. In total, Fukushima Daiichi’s nuclear waste storage pools contain an estimated 2,000 tons of irradiated nuclear fuel bundles that must remain gamma ray-shielded underwater as well as continuously cooled. Hundreds of tons of this high-level nuclear waste remain in precarious roof top storage ponds elevated more than fifty feet up in the remains of six units, including the four that are severely damaged after multiple reactor meltdowns and hydrogen explosions. If any of these storage pools were to catastrophically fail, a renewed atomic fire could ignite and burn in the open atmosphere in an expanding nuclear catastrophe of global proportions.

An international aid program will need to be a generous, open ended and most importantly transparent if its agenda is to protect the public health, safety and the environment rather than continue to shield and promote an increasingly desperate global nuclear industry.

Wednesday
Aug212013

Top Japanese nuclear regulator: Fukushima Daiichi a "house of horrors"

U.S. NRC Chairwoman Macfarlane and Japanese Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Tanaka meeting in Japan in December 2012As reported by CNN, Japan's top nuclear regulator has compared the devastated and leaking Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to a "house of horrors" at an amusement park, after a growing list of leaks of highly radioactive water.

Tanka's description was also documented in an August 29th op-ed to the Japan Times, calling for the Japanese government to take over the catastrophe recovery operations at the Fukushima Daiichi site:

'...Crises have been arising with such frequency that NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka has described the plant as being like a “haunted house” in which “mishaps keep happening one after the other.”...'.

Above left, Tanaka is shown with U.S. NRC Chairwoman Allison Macfarlane, who visited Japan in December 2012.

Monday
Aug122013

Thom Hartmann's Aug. 12 interview of Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps re: Fukushima Daiichi

On August 12th, Thom Hartmann interviewed Beyond Nuclear's Kevin Kamps about the latest from Fukushima Daiichi on his radio show. Kevin teleported in via Skype from the office of Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Chicago.

Wednesday
Aug072013

New radioactive “Emergency” in worsening Fukushima nuclear disaster 

Japan’s fledgling Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) has declared a new “emergency” in the worsening Fukushima Daiichi nuclear catastrophe with the disclosure of the ongoing uncontrolled release of radioactivity into groundwater that is flowing into the Pacific Ocean. The announcement comes with the admission by a Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) spokesman, now more than two years after the multiple nuclear meltdowns, that “We understand that this water discharge is beyond our control and we do not think that the current situation is good.”  Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has only recently pledged the government’s support in a new hope to gain control of the radioactive contamination of the sea. In fact, Fukushima’s radioactive water crisis as now finally disclosed has only just begun.

An estimated 400 tons of groundwater highly contaminated by radioactivity each day flows in an aquifer that runs beneath the Fukushima Daiichi reactor wreckage.  In an effort to control the flow of radioactive contamination from the reactor site into the Pacific Ocean, TEPCO injected a makeshift underground dam-like chemical barrier that has now been breached by radioactive water welling up to the surface and threatening to flow over the top of the barrier structure on its way down to the sea.

TEPCO has estimated that a “cumulative 20 trillion to 40 trillion Becquerels of radioactive tritium had probably leaked into the sea” since the accident began on March 11, 2011. But these figures are unreliable as the bankrupt electric utility also admits it has no idea how much radioactive water has already leaked or passed through the wrecked atomic site. Tritium, radioactive hydrogen that cannot be economically filtered out, is the most mobile of all the isotopes and likely only the leading edge of a slower moving but growing and more highly contaminated radioactive plume.  A sample taken from a Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 onsite test well that is approximately 150 feet from the ocean confirmed that the level of radioactive cesium-137 has increased in moving groundwater by more than 47 times in the first days of August 2013. TEPCO, like an atomic age “Sorcerer’s Apprentice”, is desperately pumping radioactive water into now more than one thousand temporary onsite storage tanks slated for future decontamination treatment. But that collection and decontamination effort now appears to be completely overwhelmed and admitted by TEPCO to have failed.

Of additional concern, there is also the periodic release of radioactive steam to the atmosphere from the exploded reactor wreckage at Unit 3.  Technical experts have not been able to confidently explain what is causing the on-again off-again releases of steam to the atmosphere. Beyond Nuclear remains concerned that melted reactor core(s) material, or “corium”, has already burned through the concrete foundation of the reactor site and bored into the earth underneath the site where it is coming in contact with water, generating steam and creating highly radioactive plumes in the aquifer. Recovery and containment of corium material from the earth would prove extremely difficult and if unsuccessful will result in a constant uncontrolled high-level radioactive release into the biosphere far, far into the future.

The worsening situation and growing uncertainty adds more evidence and justification for a full-scale international and technical intervention into the catastrophe to stem the radioactive contamination of the world’s oceans.  Japan's soverignity rights must be weighed against the clear and present danger from global marine enviroment contamination and degradation.