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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
Mar082017

Six years after Fukushima began, “normalizing” radiation exposure risks the health of women and children; evacuees are given few options but to return to contamination

BEYOND NUCLEAR PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 8, 2017 (International Women’s Day)

CONTACT: Cindy Folkers, Beyond Nuclear, 240.354.4314 

Six years after Fukushima began, “normalizing” radiation exposure risks the health of women and children

Evacuees are given few options but to return to contamination

TAKOMA PARK, MD- Six years after the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe began, Japan is lifting evacuation orders in a narrow radius around the ruined reactors, and removing compensation for evacuees. These evacuees will be moving back to towns that are still contaminated with hazardous radioactivity that can reach 20 times the internationally recommended level for human exposure. Even at the recommended level, most people would end up doubling the annual dose that they normally receive from unavoidable natural background.

Radiation is associated with disease, even at low levels. Females, children and pregnancy are especially vulnerable to radiation damage, but many of these sensitivities are unaccounted for in international recommendations. Despite these unique vulnerabilities, and lack of protection for them, women and children are often accused of “radiophobia”, characterized by nuclear proponents as an irrational fear of radiation exposure—a point highlighted in a recent article in Counterpunch by Beyond Nuclear’s Radiation and Health Hazard Specialist, Cindy Folkers.

“Females, children and pregnancy pay a disproportionate health price for nuclear energy because they are especially vulnerable to radiation damage. When a catastrophe like Fukushima happens, they become targets of ridicule for asking about safety, and often end up socially isolated or worse.

“In reality, science shows that women have every right to express grave concern over exposure to radioactivity without unscientific, misogynistic terms like ‘radiophobia’—or in the case of Japan, ‘radiation brain mom’—being applied to them,” said Folkers.

In the wake of catastrophes that release hazardous man-made radioactivity, national and international agencies have acted to “normalize” radiation exposure by endorsing higher levels of allowable exposures (sometimes up to 20 times recommended levels) as well as encouraging the growing, eating and distributing of contaminated foods.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency has recently recommended levels of radioactive contamination that are hundreds, even thousands or more, times higher after a nuclear incident. Under these Orwellian-named Protective Action Guides (PAGs), people could be exposed to these unsafe levels for years.

“These attempts to normalize’ radiation exposure, by telling people it’s alright to get more radiation than they already are, will continue to leave women and kids unprotected both internationally, and in the event of another nuclear catastrophe in the U.S.,” Folkers contends.

According to the first-of-its-kind United Nations investigation linking health impacts of industrial radiation from a nuclear catastrophe to human rights, economic convenience is an unacceptable reason for increasing allowable levels of exposure post accident. A just-released report details how the nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima, and the official response to it, continues to be in violation of women’s and children’s human rights. This report is by Kendra Ulrich, a senior global energy campaigner for Greenpeace Japan, and a Beyond Nuclear board member.

“On this International Women’s Day, we need to remember, women’s voices should count for more, not less. The fact is, women and children are more vulnerable to radiation’s harmful impacts, and the life-stage of pregnancy is uniquely sensitive. Since they pay the highest price for nuclear power and its releases, they should have a greater say in the energy decisions we currently face, and in how we protect those whose lives are devastated by nuclear catastrophes,” says Folkers.

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Tuesday
Mar072017

North Korea says missile launches were training for striking U.S. bases in Japan

Friday
Feb102017

Beyond Nuclear on Thom Hartmann's "The Big Picture": "Fukushima Is Still Melting Down..."

(11 minute long interview posted online)

Fukushima Is Still Melting Down...

Big Picture Interview: Kevin Kamps, Beyond Nuclear. Almost 6 years after a massive meltdown - radiation levels at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan are as dangerously high as ever. So is nuclear power ever worth the risk?

Thursday
Feb092017

Greenpeace campaigner on ground in Japan puts high Fukushima radiation readings in perspective

This is a recent note by Kendra Ulrich, Senior Global Energy Campaigner, Greenpeace Japan, and Beyond Nuclear board member, on the high radiation levels found recently in the ruined Fukushima reactors.

"Just a quick update on the Fukushima Unit 2 situation... Some english language stories have implied that the incredibly high levels of radiation recently recorded by a robot (530 sieverts!!) are a "spike" in radiation levels. We here in Japan have been cross-checking the Japanese press and it would appear that this is a confusion of the Japanese reporting - lost in translation, if you will. While this IS the highest ever recording, it is likely not a new situation. This is the closest TEPCO has been to the pedestal and, likely, molten core. As such, radiation levels would be extremely high - though some experts are speculating the nearly unfathomable levels in Unit 2 are an indication not only of molten fuel nearby, but that it is not covered by water (despite the 316 tonnes of water pumped into Units 1-3 daily). Though this does not appear to be a new emergency situation, it clearly shows both how little TEPCO and the Abe government know about the actual situation inside the reactors and how very far they are from "decommissioning." As we have been saying, this is an ongoing radiological crisis and one that will continue -- onsite and offsite -- for the foreseeable future."

Thursday
Feb092017

Lost in translation: Fukushima readings are not new spikes, just the same “hot mess” that’s always been there

The ongoing Fukushima nuclear catastrophe has been back in the news lately following record high readings at the reactor site. Radiation levels were estimated to be 530 sieverts per hour, the highest recorded since the triple core meltdown in March 2011.

But upon further examination, the story has been misreported, in part due to mistranslation. In fact, according to Nancy Foust of SimplyInfo.org, interviewed on Nuclear Hotseat, there was no spike. High readings were in expected locations that TEPCO was only able to access recently. Therefore, the reading became evident because workers were getting closer to the melted fuel in more dangerous parts of the facility. In other words, it’s not a new hot mess, just the same hot mess it’s always been, pretty much from the beginning. The good news is nothing has changed. The bad news is – nothing has changed.

The confusion was initially caused by a translation error that SimplyInfo.org thinks occurred between the Kyoto News and Japan Times.  Since this happened, Foust and her group have been trying to get news sources to correct the stories, with limited success.  

The elevated radiation levels are inside containment (good news) in ruined unit 2 and were discovered using a camera, not proper radiation monitors. Therefore, the high reading may not be reliable since it is an estimate based on interference data with the camera. (It has been reported that the 530 Sievert/hour figure could be 30% too low, or 30% too high. 530 Sieverts/hour equates with 53,000 Rems/hour, a dose rate that would deliver a fatal dose of radiation to a person a short distance away, with no radiation shielding, in a minute or less exposure time.) TEPCO is planning on sending in a robot properly equipped with radiation detectors to take a reliable reading. Although no date has been given, TEPCO indicates it expects to deploy the robot within 30 days or so.

Foust theorizes that the bulk of the melted irradiated nuclear fuel is probably right below the reactor vessel burned into the concrete below. No one knows if melted irradiated nuclear fuel has gone into the ground water below that.

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