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Clean-up doubts: Many Fukushima evacuees may never return home

RT | November 13, 2013

Many of the people who were forced to evacuate after the 2011 triple meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant may never return, Japanese lawmakers admitted, overturning initial optimistic government pledges.

A call to admit the grim reality and step back from the ambitious Fukushima decontamination goals came from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s coalition parties. Japan has so far spent $30 billion on the clean-up program, which has proven to be more difficult to carry out than initially expected.

The new plan would be for the government to fund relocation to new homes for those who used to live in the most contaminated areas.

“There will come a time when someone has to say, ‘You won’t be able to live here anymore, but we will make up for it’,” Shigeru Ishiba, the secretary General of Abe’s Liberal Democrat party said in a speech earlier this month.

On Tuesday, evacuees reacted with anger at the government’s admission.

“Politicians should have specified a long time ago the areas where evacuees will not be able to return, and presented plans to help them rebuild their lives elsewhere,” Toshitaka Kakinuma, a 71-year-old evacuee, told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

Some 160,000 people escaped the vicinity of Fukushima Daiichi, when a powerful earthquake and tsunami transformed the plant into the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. About a third of them are still living in temporary housing. They were promised that this would not last for longer than 3 years.

In August the death toll among the evacuees surpassed the threshold of 1,599 lives, which is how many people in the prefecture were killed by the disaster itself. The displaced residents are suffering from health problems, alcoholism and high rates of suicide.

The Ministry of Environment wanted to decontaminate 11 townships in the affected area, bringing the average annual radiation dose to 20 millisieverts, a level deemed safe by the International Centre for Radiological Protection. It further pledged to pursue a long-term goal reducing it to 1 millisievert per year.

The clean-up, however, has been marred by delays and reports that workers sometimes simply dumped contaminated waste rather than collect it for safe storage, causing the environment ministry push back the deadline. There are also calls on the government to abandon the more ambitious dose target, arguing that it is unrealistic.

Some evacuees said they wouldn’t return even after the first phase of the cleanup, saying the dose of 20 millisieverts per year still poses health risks.

“No matter how much they decontaminate I’m not going back because I have children and it is my responsibility to protect them,” Yumi Ide, a mother of two teenage boys, told Reuters.

The fear of radiation has soared in Japan in the wake of the Fukushima disaster, with rallies against the use of nuclear power scoring record attendance. The government shut down all 50 remaining Japanese reactors for safety checks, and there is strong pressure to keep them offline.

The Japanese government is reportedly seeking to borrow an extra $30 billion for the Fukushima cleanup and compensations, which would raise the total cost of the disaster response to $80 billion. The figure does not include the cost of decommissioning reactors to be carried out by the plant operator, Tepco. The company recently complained about the huge expense of the process, which may last at least 30 years.

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Economics, Environmentalism, Nuclear Power | , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Clean-up doubts: Many Fukushima evacuees may never return home

IPPNW to Prime Minister Abe: “Cancel Rokkasho”

The co-presidents have sent the following letter to the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzō Abe, urging him to halt plans for nuclear fuel reprocessing, calling the program “unnecessary and hazardous” and “not consistent with Japan’s stated support for achieving a world freed from nuclear weapons.”

September 23, 2013

Your Excellency,

We write on behalf of physicians in 62 countries to express our concern at Japan’s intention to start commercial operation of the Rokkasho spent nuclear fuel reprocessing plant next year, and to urge your government not to proceed with the operation of the Rokkasho plant.

The goal of our federation is to safeguard global health from the threat of nuclear annihilation, which the World Health Organization has identified as “the greatest immediate threat to human health and welfare”. In 1985 IPPNW was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for performing “a considerable service to mankind by spreading authoritative information and by creating an awareness of the catastrophic consequences of atomic warfare.”

Nuclear weapons could not exist without fissile materials – highly enriched uranium and plutonium. If humanity is to enjoy a healthy and sustainable future, we must achieve a world freed from nuclear weapons, before they are ever again used. We are in a race against time to ensure this. Achieving a world free of the extreme humanitarian threat posed by nuclear weapons will require not only disarmament, but also minimising and wherever possible eliminating further production of fissile materials, and wherever possible eliminating existing stocks. Extreme levels of security are required for any remaining fissile material. This will be a massive task that cannot be undertaken too soon. The authoritative International Panel on Fissile Materials estimated global stockpiles in January 2013 to be 1390 tons of highly enriched uranium, with 31 countries possessing at least 1 kg; and 490 tons of separated plutonium. Each US nuclear weapon is known to contain on average just 4 kg of plutonium.

Japan already possesses 44 tons of plutonium – enough for more than 5000 nuclear bombs, even allowing a high quantity of 8 kg of plutonium per weapon. Japan is the only country without nuclear weapons to be separating plutonium from spent reactor fuel. Further accumulation of nuclear weapons-usable material is a concern for the international community, particularly for Japan’s North-east Asian neighbours. These concerns are accentuated by the lack of forseeable uses for this large and growing quantity of plutonium. Some Japanese politicians over the years have indeed drawn attention to the potential nuclear weapons arsenal that could be produced from such a plutonium stockpile within just a few months. Whatever the Japanese government’s current stated intention, which we have no reason to doubt, political intentions can change very quickly in comparison to the half-life of plutonium. Further, the mere existence of such a stockpile poses a risk of diversion and theft, and fuels fissile material production programs and the drivers for nuclear proliferation in other countries.

Japan’s policy of separating plutonium from spent reactor fuel represents a dangerous precedent for other states to push for similar programs. The inherent technical difficulties of adequately safeguarding nuclear reprocessing plants, and risk of diversion of separated plutonium adds to these risks.

This facility is especially concerning in the context of the North-east Asian region, where the proliferation of nuclear weapons is already a serious concern.

We understand that on 31 January 1997 the Japan Atomic Energy Commission promised that Japan would not hold surplus plutonium, and that this decision was endorsed by the national Cabinet on 4 February 1997. Further, on 5 August 2003, the Japan Atomic Energy Commission required electric power companies to publish plans for use of plutonium prior to separating plutonium from spent fuel. The commencement of commercial operation at the Rokkasho reprocessing plant would run counter to these decisions and thereby raise questions about Japan’s consistency and reliability.

As the people and government of Japan well know, any future use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences. For this reason, IPPNW is working with other partners in the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons for a global ban treaty to correct the anomaly that the worst of all indiscriminate weapons are the only ones not yet subject to explicit legal prohibition. As a State Party to the conventions on cluster munitions and anti-personnel landmines, we hope Japan would support efforts to ban nuclear weapons as well.

Given Japan’s already huge stockpile of nuclear weapons-usable material, the opening of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant appears both unnecessary and hazardous. Adding to an already large plutonium stockpile is not consistent with Japan’s stated support for achieving a world freed from nuclear weapons.

We encourage your government to reconsider its decision to start commercial operations at Rokkasho and to declare that such operations will not proceed. Such a decision would be widely welcomed around the world and would support rather than undermine global health.

Yours sincerely,

Tilman Ruff, Co-President

Ira Helfand, Co-President

Robert Mtonga, Co-President

Vladimir Garkavenko, Co-President

September 25, 2013 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on IPPNW to Prime Minister Abe: “Cancel Rokkasho”

Fukushima whitewash betrayed trust of NPR listeners

By Linda Lewis | Enformable | March 12, 2012

Last week, National Public Radio (NPR) broadcast a report on the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant meltdowns. The report whitewashed failures of the utility and government by ignoring essential facts of the disaster and its impact on health.

Sunday was the first anniversary of the March 11, 2011 disaster at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. For months, utility and government officials held back the truth, but finally admitted that three meltdowns had occurred. Those truths—potentially poisonous to industry plans to build more nuclear plants, — may not enjoy the sunlight for long. Propagandistic op-eds and reports in U.S. news media are attempting to sweep Fukushima’s history under the rug and, sadly, NPR is one of those wielding a broom.

The following claims were presented in NPR’s March 9 report by science reporter Richard Harris.

(1) Health risks are “too small to measure”

[H]ealth effects from radiation turn out to be minor compared with the other issues the people of Fukushima prefecture now face. {snip} We all watched frightening TV images, and clouds of radioactive steam and gas did erupt from the plant. That material did sometimes move over the countryside and into populated areas, so it looked like a horrible disaster. But, in the case of radiation, the dose matters. It’s true, there is no bright line that separates a safe dose of radiation from a dangerous dose, but at some point, a dose is so small that any potential health risk is simply too small to measure.

(Richard Harris, NPR, March 9)

Harris does not identify the source of that conclusion, but it’s a long-time favorite of the industry that promoted the fantasy of “too cheap to meter.” (The bill for Fukushima is estimated at $77 billion and counting.) Listeners are kept blissfully ignorant of dissenting views, including those of the National Academies of Science. However, it’s well known that cancers due to radiation exposure may take decades to develop. Equating a low rate of illness in the first year with a negligible health risk is decidedly premature.

(2) “Quick actions” were taken by Japanese officials”

Harris quotes John Boice, “a cancer epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University,” in assessing the Japanese government’s actions to protect the public from radiation, including measures like evacuation.

One big cloud did blow inland, up toward the northwest. But most of the 170,000 residents in the area were quickly evacuated. Boice says that helped limit dangerous doses. So did other quick actions by the Japanese government.

(NPR, March 9)

A “quick” evacuation is one where authorities get the public out of the area as soon as a situation arises that might result in a radioactive release. Japanese authorities instead delayed evacuation until May 15 for residents of the area around Itate, where the cumulative radiation (the estimated first year dose) was 20 millisieverts (2000 millirem) or higher. Japanese officials also failed miserably in implementing another protection action, the distribution of potassium iodide pills.

(3) “Release of “any” food with excessive radiation was “prohibited”

They prohibited the release of any food that had had increased levels of radiation in them,” [Boice] says.

(NPR, March 9)

In fact, the Japanese government failed to keep radiation-contaminated food out of the marketplace. Bloomberg Business News reported that officials failed to ban cattle shipments from Fukushima until July 19–after some beef from the area had been shipped to shipped to supermarkets. At that time, the government reported finding beef with “as much 2,300 becquerels of cesium a kilogram,” well over the government’s limit of 500 becquerels per kilogram.

Rice contaminated with cesium also made it into the marketplace, and inspectors in Singapore detected radiation “nine times the limit in cabbages imported from Japan” (Reuters). “Spinach, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, tea, milk, plums and fish have been found contaminated with cesium and iodine as far as 360 kilometers from Dai-Ichi” (Bloomberg). Those, surely, were just the tip of the iceberg because Japan had no central system for checking food for radioactive contamination. It left that task to farmers and local officials–on a voluntary basis.

(4) Smoking is “a far bigger risk to their health”

According to the NPR report, “If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for a year, you’re getting an internal radiation dose of about 30 millisieverts.

That’s more than half the dose they got through occupational exposure. But cigarette smoke is also filled with cancer-causing chemicals, so smoking is a far bigger risk to their health.”

(NPR, March 9)

A graphic in the report shows that the radiation dose from cigarettes exceeds the expected dose from some CT (computed tomography) scans. Thus, the occupational exposure at Fukushima (which likely was greater due to poor dosimetry) also exceeded the dose from CT scans. This is noteworthy because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been urging caution in ordering CT scans due to the associated cancer risk.

The effective doses from diagnostic CT procedures are typically estimated to be in the range of 1 to 10 mSv (millisieverts). This range is not much less than the lowest doses of 5 to 20 mSv received by some of the Japanese survivors of the atomic bombs. These survivors, who are estimated to have experienced doses only slightly larger than those encountered in CT, have demonstrated a small but increased radiation-related excess relative risk for cancer mortality.”

(FDA website, 11 Mar 2012)

Harris reference to cigarettes is a bit of a red herring but appears to be tied to his earlier claim that the health risk is too small to measure. That resembles a claim, popular with the nuclear industry, that FDA addressed in its discussion of CT scans.

There are some that question whether there is adequate evidence for a risk of cancer induction at low doses. However, this position has not been adopted by most authoritative bodies in the radiation protection and medical arenas.

(5) “Trauma, not radiation” is the key concern

Harris correctly acknowledges the importance of recognizing and treating stress and mental health impacts that may accompany a disaster. But, it is equally important to recognize why radiation is stress inducing.

Radiation is invisible. The average person has no means to detect it and lacks the training to understand the results. He/she must rely on a profit-minded utility and government agencies—typically captured by industry–to reveal facts that could be lethal to the corporate bottom line. As one would expect in such circumstances, deception is common.

Arguably, the most primary public health concern is not, as Harris suggests, the trauma of radiation. It is the abuse of public trust that undermines every effort to properly assess, communicate and mitigate health risks. From that point of view, NPR’s deceptive report is a public health menace as well as a disappointment to listeners seeking the “highest standards of public service in journalism.” A reminder from listeners of NPR’s mission statement is in order.

Linda Lewis is a radiological emergency planning specialist and policy analyst. B.S., Emergency Management and Administration; B.S. Geoscience.

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fukushima: BBC Debunked

By | September 22, 2011

Sources cited

The BBC Program

CNN Report Quoted…

The Yomiuri Daily Table

Atomic-Bombing Survivors Study

In light of that study, it’s worth noting that the Japanese government calculated that the Cesium-137 alone emitted from Fukushima as of late August was 168 times more radioactive than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima:…

IAEA Report Quoted…

NYAS Review (Yablokov et al.) Cited

Extra: detailed complaint submitted to BBC over the program critiqued in this video :

January 28, 2012 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Nuclear Power, Timeless or most popular, Video | , , , , | Comments Off on Fukushima: BBC Debunked