Blog Archive

Thursday, 31 July 2014

Experts worry that radiation fears are leading to unnecessary surgery for children Experts question Fukushima thyroid screening

More than three years after the triple core meltdown in Fukushima Prefecture devastated the lives of thousands of residents, the effect that the radiation release is having on children’s thyroid glands still weighs heavily on residents’ minds.

The iodine-131 released into the air by the meltdowns accumulates in the thyroid gland, increasing the risk of thyroid cancer. The gland is responsible for regulating hormone levels in the body.

Children are considered especially vulnerable. After the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, more than 6,000 children were diagnosed with thyroid cancer by 2005, according to the U.N. Scientific Committee of the Effects of Atomic Radiation.

Given the local anxiety, the Fukushima Prefectural Government in October 2011 started offering free thyroid screenings for everyone who was 18 or younger at the time of the disaster. The prefecture has 370,000 residents in that age group, and 300,000 had received voluntary checkups by the end of March.

The program may look good on paper, but it has drawn flak from medical experts who say it is far from adequate in determining a link between the cancers found and radiation exposure.

At the core of the criticism is the prefectural government’s policy of not releasing data on the results of the checkups, such as what stage of cancer the examinees are in.

This lack of disclosure — based on prefectural privacy policies — has made it hard for experts to accurately judge whether the abnormally high incidence of thyroid cancer in Fukushima is being caused the nuclear debacle or the higher screening rate.

In addition, the prefecture has no authority to follow up on children who test positive for cancer, meaning its data on the medical effects of the aftermath of the disaster will be limited.

As of March, the prefectural government found 90 children with suspected thyroid cancer after nearly 300,000 examinations. The prefecture was able to confirm that 51 of them opted to have surgery to remove part or all of their thyroid gland.

This figure is clearly high compared with a thyroid cancer registry rate of around one to nine per 1 million teens in Japan, experts say.

But because thyroid cancer often causes no symptoms and thus goes undiagnosed, experts point to the possibility that the ratio in Fukushima has turned out to be higher simply due to the widespread screening.

“The screenings may have ended up finding cancer that would have never have caused a health problem for their entire lives even if left unattended,” said Kenji Shibuya, a professor and chairman of the department of global health policy at the University of Tokyo.

The thyroid cancer rate among children near the Chernobyl plant started to rise four to five years after the catastrophe, mainly because they kept drinking highly contaminated milk and local produce, according to UNSCEAR.

But in Fukushima, several studies have confirmed that internal and external exposure levels were indeed much lower than those around the former Soviet power plant, which met a much more violent fate.

In April, UNSCEAR said that in Fukushima “the occurrence of a large number of radiation-induced thyroid cancers as were observed after Chernobyl can be discounted because doses were substantially lower.”

“Given the low radiation exposure levels, it is possible that detected cancers were the kind of cancers that would never do harm. But they were found because of the screenings,” said Shibuya, a member of a panel tasked with assessing the result of the thyroid examinations in Fukushima.
He added that there is also a possibility that patients underwent unnecessary surgery.

To examine the possibility of overdiagnosis— diagnosis of a malady that never causes symptoms or death — Shibuya and other medical experts have urged Fukushima Medical University, which is heading up the examination program, to disclose its findings on treated patients, such as the percentage of thyroid cancer cases that spread to the lymph nodes or elsewhere in the body.
The university refuses to disclose the data for privacy reasons.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government meanwhile says it doesn’t have the authority to track down and gather the information from medical institutions because treatment after diagnosis is outside its jurisdiction.

Fukushima official Yukio Kakuta acknowledged that the prefecture can’t track down all patients.
“Under the current system, we can’t follow up on all of the patients,” Kakuta said. “In addition to the issue of privacy, it’s my understanding that some patients and their parents are skeptical of the prefecture-led health checkup program itself, and that some people don’t trust Fukushima Medical University.

“I believe some of those people have gone to other hospitals to get their thyroid glands checked and treated,” which makes it difficult for the prefecture to find out what happens to them over the long term, he said.

Kakuta said the information disclosure issue will be discussed at the next meeting of a local committee in late August but will stay in place for now.

Shibuya of the University of Tokyo pointed out that the disclosure of information on the stages of the cancers does not violate patient privacy.
“They only have to disclose information on percentages of various cancer stages, such as the cases when the lymph nodes are infiltrated with malignant cells,” he said.
“If all of the treated cancers were such cases, then we would know (what’s happening in Fukushima) is not normal, and start discussions on the potential effects of the radiation,” he said. “But without disclosing the data, the suspicion (of overdiagnosis) will never go away.”

With the spreading use of sonography, overdiagnosis of thyroid cancer has become a concern worldwide. While the number of cases is on the rise, experts say the mortality rate remains unchanged.

Papillary thyroid cancer, the type that appears most prevalent among children in Fukushima, is known for having a slow growth rate and very low risk of death, the experts say. Therefore, many hospitals in Japan nowadays tell patients that long-term observation of their condition is an option to surgery.

Iwao Sugitani, a professor and chairman of the department of endocrine surgery at Nippon Medical School Graduate School of Medicine, said about 90 percent of thyroid cancer cases in Japan involve papillary thyroid cancer. While around nine out of every 10 patients with this type of cancer face no immediate threat to their lives, experts are divided on whether to perform surgery in such cases.

According to a study conducted by the Cancer Institute Hospital in Tokyo from 1995 to 2009, a total of 283 papillary thyroid cancer patients chose not to have surgery and opted instead to be monitored on a regular basis. None died nor saw the cancer spread, according to the study.

“Early detection and early treatment is recommendable for most cancers. But I don’t see much meaning in finding and conducting surgery on people with a small papillary thyroid cancer that would go undetected for their entire lifetimes” without screening, Sugitani said.

Shibuya of the University of Tokyo also questions whether the mostly benign nature of papillary thyroid cancer and the option of having no surgery are being fully explained to the children and their parents in Fukushima.
“Without such knowledge, it’s natural for most parents to ask doctors to perform surgery,” Shibuya said.

By going under the knife, “children will have scars on their necks, and they may suffer from the thought that they developed cancer due to radiation exposure,” he said. “Some of them might have to take hormone tablets during their entire lives. (The Fukushima government) must think harder on whether it should continue the program as it is now.”

India seeks Japan's approval to reprocess spent nuclear fuel

Japan has been asked to approve reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel in India as part of negotiations to conclude a nuclear power agreement between the two nations.

But though the Abe administration is eager to export nuclear power generation infrastructure as a pillar of its economic growth strategy, some Japanese government officials are cautious about approving the request from India.

The reprocessing produces plutonium that can be used as raw materials for nuclear weapons, which India already possesses.

According to officials of both the Japanese and Indian governments, India’s request is in line with the nuclear power agreement it reached with the United States.

Under certain conditions, the U.S.-India agreement allows India to reprocess within its borders spent nuclear fuel that was produced at nuclear power plants constructed with infrastructure exported from the United States.

The conditions state that the reprocessing must be conducted at newly constructed reprocessing facilities, which undergo inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

India conducted nuclear tests in 1974 and 1998. As it is not a member country of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT), the international community had long prohibited member countries of the treaty from concluding nuclear power agreements with India for civilian purposes, including exports of nuclear power generation infrastructure.

However, in recent years those countries began to regard India, where electricity demand is growing rapidly, as a promising market for exports of nuclear power generation infrastructure.

As a result, the United States concluded a nuclear power agreement with India in 2007. The next year, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which consists of 48 countries, including Japan and the United States, gave the green light to member countries to draw up nuclear power agreements with India by citing it as an exceptional country.

France and Russia are among countries that have since reached nuclear power agreements with India.
India, which plans to use plutonium in fast-breeder reactors that are under development, claims that reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel in the country is indispensable for nuclear power policies for peaceful purposes.

India wants to quickly reach a nuclear power agreement with Japan, which has key technologies on nuclear reactors. Though India is also considering taking on nuclear power plant construction projects with both the United States and France, there is a strong likelihood that it will use Japan-made products for pressure vessels and other key parts of those plants. Unless India concludes a nuclear power agreement with Japan, those projects will not make any progress.

As India plans to construct about 30 nuclear reactors, it will become a promising client for Japan. Some officials in the Japanese government say that Japan should conclude a nuclear power agreement with India as soon as possible.

However, Japan has not approved reprocessing of spent nuclear fuels or enrichment of uranium in nuclear power agreements it has reached with other countries. That is because plutonium, which is produced by the reprocessing, and enriched uranium can be converted for military use.

If Japan allows India to reprocess spent nuclear fuel, the approval would contradict the Japanese government’s efforts to prevent plutonium or enriched uranium from being converted for military use.

Some officials of the Japanese government are keen to avoid stoking more anti-nuclear sentiment in Japan, which has grown stronger since the March 2011 accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

In 2010, the Japanese government started negotiations with India to draw up a nuclear power agreement. The talks were suspended after the Great East Japan Earthquake, but resumed in September 2013.

The nuclear power agreement is expected to be a topic of discussion in a summit meeting between Japan and India when the new Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Japan in late August or later.

Radioactive dust released during Fukushima cleanup reaches as far as Miyagi Prefecture

Airborne radioactive materials released during debris-clearing work at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were found in a town 60 kilometers away on seven occasions since December 2011.

Led by Teruyuki Nakajima, a professor of atmospheric physics at the University of Tokyo’s Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, the team noted a surge in concentration of airborne radioactive cesium during clean-up activities that reached the town of Marumori in neighboring Miyagi Prefecture.

The researchers said the findings show that radioactive materials were repeatedly released into the environment and reached extensive areas during debris-clearing operations.

They called on Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the Fukushima plant, to take more care to prevent the spread of radioactive materials during debris-clearing operations, even if it requires implementing more costly methods.

In conducting its research, the team placed a device to collect airborne dust at the town office of Marumori, 59 kilometers north-northwest of the stricken Fukushima plant. The device collected the samples at four- or five-day intervals between December 2011 and December 2013.

The team determined that there were eight cases in which the amount of radioactive cesium in the samples were at least 10 times higher than normal levels and the material likely originated from the Fukushima plant because of wind direction and speed.

The highest level of contamination was recorded in a sample collected between Aug. 16-20, 2013, reaching 50 to 100 times higher than normal levels.

TEPCO conducted large-scale debris-clearing work at the plant on Aug. 19, 2013. Previous research by the farm ministry and Kyoto University also showed that radioactive dust released during the work reached locations 27 km and 48 km from the plant.

In seven other cases, the amount of radioactive materials in the samples was about 10 times higher than normal. The research team reported the results of its findings to the farm ministry in May.

According to TEPCO, seven of the eight cases were recorded during the same period when the utility was doing debris-clearing work at the No. 3 reactor building.

The remaining case involved samples collected between Nov. 16-20, 2012, coinciding with an accidental water leak from a vent pipe of a cesium-absorption device at the plant.

A TEPCO official said it was unlikely that the accident caused a major release of radioactive materials like the August 2013 incident.

The utility had planned to dismantle a shroud over the No. 1 reactor building this month to start full-scale debris-clearing work around the reactor, but postponed the plan in order to strengthen measures to prevent the spread of radioactive materials during clean-up activities.

A worker at the Fukushima plant said that TEPCO has not discussed any drastic measures, such as covering the reactor with a container.

“It will likely resume debris cleanup when criticism calms down,” the worker said.

Do the Martu peoples want uranium mining?

Western desert-living Martu Elder, Thelma Rawlins said that many of her people remain opposed to the “go-aheads” given to uranium mining on Martu Country.
“Kintyre should be left alone, our Country left alone.”
“This is really bad stuff in the ground, and it will be really bad stuff if it comes above the ground. We are getting too close to bad stuff happening,” said Ms Rawlins.
“Country will be made bad, our water made bad. Our water is salty, the river bed is salty. We have to be careful with our water. The uranium out of ground will take our water away.”
“Leave the uranium in the ground. It is bad stuff that they want our people to be next to, this is not good.”
But Western Australia’s controversial Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has given the thumbs up for the CAMECO company proposal to mine uranium on Martu Country, at Kintyre which is next to the significant waterways of Kalmilyi National Park in the Pilbara. The EPA has been the subject of one controversy after another and most recently with the now defunct James Price Gas Hub proposal in the Kimberley where it had also have given the thumbs up despite widespread public opposition.
Two prospective uranium mine sites in Western Australia are nearing the likelihood of becoming operational in the next couple of years, both near Aboriginal communities – the other uranium site is near Wiluna and Toro Energy may have it operational by the end of next year. By the end of the century Western Australia will be transformed into one of the world’s largest uranium miners according to insiders in the industry. Western Australia is rich in easily accessible high grade uranium. The miners are chomping at the bit, investing in uranium mining research divisions within their multinational companies. It is no secret that the State and Federal Governments are supportive of mining uranium despite the litany of well-known risks.
The Conservation Council of WA has slammed the EPA approval.
“The proposal to mine uranium five hundred metres from a creek system that is part of a network of significant waterways in a national park is reckless and should not be approved,” said CCWA spokesperson, Mia Pepper.
Ms Pepper said the approval disturbingly followed the recent allegations by Martu man, Darren Farmer “that a former mine owner Rio Tinto made secret payments of around $21 million to silence Aboriginal concerns and opposition while it negotiated the project’s sale to current owner CAMECO.”
Former Western Desert Puntukurnuparna Aboriginal Corporation CEO, Bruce Hill has joined the chorus for independent inquiries into how decisions and dealings are made in native title dealings in the Western Desert. A few years ago, Mr Hill blew the whistle on a litany of alleged rorting and what most would have considered illegal activities within his organisation to the Office of the Registrar of Indigenous Corporations and to the Australian Senate but eventually the inquiries petered to a standstill.
Ms Pepper said the EPA approval puts at risk human life and also “our largest national park – and would impact on scarce water resources and a number of significant and vulnerable species including the bilby, marsupial mole and rock wallaby.”
The Australian Conservation Foundation’s Dave Sweeney said that uranium mining is “a high risk, low return activity where proven risks far outweigh any promised rewards.”
“Uranium is currently trading at US$28 per lb. CAMECO has stated it will not mine unless the uranium prices reach upwards of $US75 per lb. The EPA is green lighting yellowcake when the company has stated the finances and the plan don’t stack up.”
But mining company insiders say Mr Sweeney’s arguments are naïve and that uranium prices will spiral upwards, and that for the mining companies it is all “about the expected return, which will be tenfold and then many times more before too many more sleeps.”
There are more than 70 nuclear reactors under construction around the world with more than 300 in the planning stages. There will be a couple thousand more by the end of the century.
Toro Energy managing director, Vanessa Guthrie said that there will be a swell of demand for uranium and that “the price will change – it is just a question of when.”
In wiser statements, Mr Sweeney said that the Western Australian Government has put unparalleled contamination risks for Australia “before the people.” The EPA is supposed to be the environmental watchdog but according to Ms Rawlins, Ms Pepper and Mr Sweeney the EPA is not a genuine environmental watchdog.
According to the EPA, CAMECO’s uranium mine plan at Kintyre has gone through rigid environmental impact assessments.
Just like the proposed Wiluna mine, with Toro Energy to truck uranium oxide to Port Adelaide, similarly so CAMECO expects to truck uranium oxide concentrate to Port Adelaide. The EPA will monitor radiological impacts to plants and animals along the route.
Ms Pepper said that it is “really disappointing to see that most of the conditions by the EPA are administrative and that the ones that do relate to environmental protection are somewhat deferred to the Department of Mines and Petroleum.”
“We will absolutely be putting in a submission and we will be supporting efforts by other people to put in appeals.”
“There is too much at stake with this project and we will challenge this mine at every step of the way.”
“Like the Wiluna project (which has also received EPA approval), the Kintyre project still has a long way to go.”
CAMECO Australia managing director, Brian Reilly said uranium will be mined once the market conditions signal for this. CAMECO produces about 15 per cent of the world’s usable uranium from mines in the United States, Canada and Kazakhstan.
Western Australian Mines Minister, Bill Marmion, who has the final say on the uranium approvals, said that the public opposition to uranium mining has decreased.
Minister Marmion said protesting about uranium mining has “dropped off” the list for activists.
“Three years ago when I was the Minister for the Environment, I think I had ten protestors on uranium outside my office on a Saturday, and I think the same ten were at Wiluna.”
“So I think they are just a rent-a-crowd, and I think they’ve run out of money, those ten people.”
Minister Marmion pointed to the State’s agenda saying that since the State ban on uranium had been lifted in 2008, more than $280 million had been spent on exploration.
Despite Minister Marmion’s claims of a small rent-a-crowd, many Martu have said to me that they oppose the uranium mining. Many Wiluna residents, including senior Elder Geoff Cooke also oppose the proposed uranium mining.
“We are the Custodians of the Land. It must come before all else,” said Mr Cooke.
“Uranium is a poison. Our rivers will be poisoned. Our trees will be poisoned. Our food will be contaminated. Our people will become sick.”
“Uranium mining can hurt us forever, hurt every generation of our children to come.”
Once Toro Energy’s project is operational, there will be two open-cut mines nearby Wiluna at Centipede and Lake Way, producing an estimate of 800 tonnes of uranium oxide a year – for at least 14 years.
The EPA confirmed that the Kintyre will have at least a mine life of 13.5 years.
A few years ago, I wrote about the extensiveness of uranium mining plans that one anti-uranium mining activist criticised at the time as not possible. She believed that the war against uranium mining in Western Australia had been won.
A well-placed insider in a major mining multinational had said, “For a long time the writing has been on the wall. Uranium mining will occur and it will be widespread. The nuclear age will come to Western Australia. The WA of 2030 will be different to the one of 2013.”
The insider said there will be a proliferation of uranium mine sites in Western Australia and nuclear reactors.
“People may get sick at uranium mines and in transporting uranium and in other future plants and sites that will depend on that uranium but that’s par for the course. No-one will be forced to work in them. People do know the risks. Governments know the risks. The resource sector knows the risks but I am telling you this is what will happen and it has been in the advanced planning stages for quite some time.”
Once the Kintyre and Wiluna mines are operational, every month three trucks will carry concentrated powdered ore sealed in drums and with a United Nations inventory numbers. The trucks will rumble thousands of kilometres to Port Adelaide.
Ms Guthrie has been reported in saying, “It is very safe.”
“The plastic-lined drums are sealed and locked in pallets and we monitor the (radiation) exposure to the drivers who would be closest to the product.”
Ms Guthrie said the occupational limit in reference to radiation exposure is 20 millisieverts and she said driver’s exposure “would be less than one millisievert a year.”
But First Nations anti-uranium campaigner, Kado Muir said that “uranium is radioactive and poses great risks to workers, communities and the environment.”
“Uranium oxide can be very dangerous if inhaled.”
“Breaking it down to radon gas is dangerous.”
“The biggest problem is that its impacts are long-term whether from leaks or mine waste. It can get into groundwater and into the food chain. Then what will we do?”
“Every uranium mine so far in Australia has a history of spills and leaks.”
“For our people nearby uranium mines, such as on Arabunna Country, or at Jabiluka in Kakadu, if radiation fallout impacts the environment then animals and food chains will be affected and so too our towns.”
“Uranium is the asbestos of the 21st century.”

Inquest panel calls for indictments against former TEPCO executives

Rejecting a decision by prosecutors, an independent judicial panel of citizens said July 31 that three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Co. should be indicted over the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.
The Tokyo No. 5 Committee for the Inquest of Prosecution said charges of professional negligence resulting in death and injury are warranted against former TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata and two former vice presidents, Sakae Muto and Ichiro Takekuro.
The Tokyo District Public Prosecutors Office had decided not to indict 42 people, including the three former TEPCO executives.
In response to the inquest committee’s decision, however, the prosecutors office will reinvestigate the case to decide whether to indict the three.
If prosecutors again decide not to indict them but the inquest committee maintains its stance that they should be held criminally responsible for the disaster, the three will be indicted mandatorily and stand trial.
After the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami led to the triple meltdown at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant in March 2011, residents affected by the accident and citizens groups filed complaints with prosecutors against the 42 people. Those named in the complaints included not only the former TEPCO executives, but also former high-ranking government officials, including Naoto Kan, who was prime minister at the time of the disaster.
The groups said some inpatients died on their way to evacuation centers from hospitals while others were exposed to radiation from the nuclear power plant.
The prosecutors office accepted the complaints in August 2012. But after the investigations wrapped up, they decided in September 2013 not to indict any of the 42 people.
Prosecutors said the size and scale of the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and tsunami could not have been predicted by experts. They also said evidence of negligence among the 42 people was insufficient.
But a group of people, including those affected by the nuclear accident, asked the prosecution inquest committee in October 2013 to examine the evidence against six former TEPCO executives, including Katsumata, Muto and Takekuro.
In the July 31 announcement of its decision, the inquest panel pointed out that before the nuclear accident, TEPCO estimated that a tsunami as high as “15.7 meters” could hit the Fukushima plant, based on a government organization’s forecast.
The actual tsunami was 15.5 meters at the highest point and inundated the reactor buildings that were located 10 meters above sea level.
“Assuming the arrival of such a tsunami, TEPCO should have taken countermeasures, although it is impossible to predict when it would arrive because a tsunami is a natural phenomenon,” the panel said.

Govt. subsidies for Fukushima questioned

Jul. 30, 2014
There is more controversy over dealing with the aftermath of the 2011 meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

NHK has learned the government notified the prefecture of a plan to provide a subsidy of more than 2.2 billion dollars, over 30 years for regional development. The pledge is connected with the construction of temporary storage facilities for highly radioactive waste.

Sources say the central government last week conveyed its idea to the Fukushima prefectural government and others.

The central government had been discussing with local municipalities a plan to purchase the land needed to build temporary storage facilities for radioactive debris.

The arrangement calls for the facilities to be built in the towns of Futaba and Okuma, which host the Daiichi plant.

Sources also say the government at the same time indicated that it would stop paying subsidies for the Fukushima Daini nuclear plant. Local people are calling for it to be decommissioned. The Daini plant, located 10 kilometers south of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi, has been offline since the 2011 disaster.

The government's new plan would reduce the annual subsidies total for Fukushima by nearly 40 million dollars.

The Fukushima prefectural government has reacted sharply. Local officials are complaining of the new burden of the temporary storage facilities.

Elevated TSH levels among California newborns after Fukushima.

By the way, this is the most significant result yet on American patients’ health in relation to Fukushima. It is more significant than my 2011 mortality study.
The data came from the Genetic Disease Screening Program at the California Department of Public Health. These are TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels of California newborns for the period 2009-2012. Mangano, Sherman, and Busby used this same dataset for their paper on congenital hypothyroidism which was incomprehensibly botched. Dr. Yarnold and I made comments on this paper here. (

While Mangano et al. created arbitrary classifications of hypothyroidism, which are not used in practice, these results reflect TSH levels before and after Fuku. TSH is implicated in many diseases, not just hypothyroidism. It affects the entire hypothalamus-pituitary-thyroid axis. For one thing, increased TSH levels cause the newborn to absorb more iodine-131 than average TSH newborns would.

This is also important because it involves the effect of all species of radioisotopes, I-131, Cs-137, Pu-239, etc. etc. We don’t know if only I-131 affects newborns, in fact Dr. Bandazhevsky has shown that Cs-137 affects thyroids too.

The data have been split up into three seasons:
1. January 1 – March 16
2. March 17 – June 30
3. July 1 – December 31

It involves virtually the entire population of California newborns for the years 2009-2012.
AFTERFUK is an indicator variable, which equals 1 if the birth was after Fukushima, and 0 otherwise. “IF 4.5 < TSH THEN AFTERFUK = 1" means than if TSH is greater than 4.5 (actually 4.99 in the original data), then the newborn is classified as being born after Fukushima. ODA uses maximum-accuracy classification - no model of this form achieves higher classification accuracy. No distributional assumptions are involved.

All three seasons, and the combined data also, show increased TSH levels after Fukushima, and all are statistically significant by two-tailed UniODA at the p<.01 level.

The ESS levels vary from 3.90% to 8.02%. The effect is weak, but I am not a thyroid doctor. Since over two million newborns are involved, even a small effect has consequences for many newborns. I would think that something that would affect even 100 newborns is a big huge deal.

Nuclear waste “flowing out to sea” from underground tunnels at Fukushima

Nuclear waste “flowing out to sea” from underground tunnels at Fukushima — 950 Billion Bq/m³ of cesium in Unit 2 shaft next to ocean — 11,000 tons estimated in tunnels — ‘Stream’ of moving water — Gov’t regulators ‘urgently assessing’ problems, ‘sense of crisis’ needed

July 30th, 2014

NHK, July, 30, 2014 (emphasis added): TEPCO initially planned to freeze radioactive wastewater that’s been flowing into underground utility tunnels at the plant. It hoped the measure would prevent the wastewater from mixing with groundwater and flowing out to sea. But 3 months into the project, the water hasn’t frozen as planned. [...] Utility tunnels between the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors and the sea are estimated to hold a total of 11,000 tons of radiation-contaminated wastewater.

TEPCO: Progress of blocking water at connection of trenches, July 23, 2014: Sampling results of water inside seawater piping trenches (m³ = 1,000,000 cm³)

> Unit 2 Vertical Shaft C:

Cs-134 @ 110,000-300,000 Bq/cm³
Cs-137 @ 230,000-650,000 Bq/cm³

> Unit 3 Vertical Shaft C:

Cs-134 @ 100,000-130,000 Bq/cm³
Cs-137 @ 220,000-260,000 Bq/cm³

NHK transcript, July 23, 2014: The work isn’t going as planned [...] Water used to cool melted fuel [...] has been reaching the soil [...] and seeping into the sea. Workers want to freeze the water inside the tunnels before it can leak into the ground. [...] Regulators have been skeptical [and] suggested other options such as filling the tunnels with concrete.

Asahi Shimbun, July 24, 2014: NRA instructed TEPCO to pump out contaminated water in the trenches as early as possible because water inside the underground tunnels could be leaking into the surrounding soil. […] A large volume of radioactive water […] has to be removed. […] Although the operations were scheduled to be completed at the end of May [...] TEPCO said a small stream of water in the trenches has hampered the freezing operations. […] The delay in draining the radioactive water from the tunnels could slow the construction of the frozen wall [...]

NHK, July 9, 2014: At Wednesday’s meeting of the Nuclear Regulation Authority [officials] decided to urgently assess a range of problems [and] discussed a delay in work to freeze wastewater in underground utility tunnels at the plant to block further inflows of water and stop contaminated water from leaking out to sea. Members urged that the effort be speeded up. Some expressed doubt as to whether the plant’s operator has a sense of crisis.

See Tepco’s June 1, 2011 ‘Plan to prevent water leakage containing highly concentrated radioactive materials to outside environment in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant’ showing a two month ‘roadmap’ for containing the leaking tunnels (appendix 19) here.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

From Jul. 9, 2014 Nuclear Waste Disposal

Japanese politicians have been debating scrapping the country's nuclear reactors since the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster. Now, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe says the country will push for nuclear power generation as a key energy source.

Nuclear Watch looks at the issue of the toxic radioactive waste these facilities produce. NHK WORLD's Yoichiro Tateiwa reports.

Located near Japan's northernmost point, Horonobe, Hokkaido is a small dairy farm town. Here, researchers of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency are studying the possibilities for the final disposal of radioactive waste.

Workers at a facility that opened in 2003 have dug 380 meters into the ground.
Researchers are looking into whether nuclear waste can be safely stored.

Japan's nuclear energy policy says spent nuclear fuel must be reprocessed and recycled as fuel. In reprocessing, workers extract plutonium and uranium as recyclable substances, leaving behind highly toxic wastewater. Researchers mix that with heated glass and pour the high-level radioactive waste into steel containers.

Each unit is 1.3 meters in height and 500 kilograms in weight. And they emit radiation at an extremely high level...enough to kill a person within 20 seconds.

"Regardless of Japan's nuclear energy policy, highly radioactive nuclear waste must be disposed of. We have to ensure that such waste does not harm the human environment."
Naotaka Shigeta / JAEA Horonobe Underground Research Dept.

Natural uranium is enriched and becomes nuclear fuel.
Radioactivity reaches highest when fuel generates power in a nuclear plant. After the fuel is removed from a nuclear reactor, it is reprocessed and nuclear waste is left. It is kept cooling for about 50 years until the temperature is brought down to less than 100 degrees Celsius. Then it is transported to an underground depository site. Experts say it would take 100,000 years for the level of radioactivity to return to that of natural uranium.

Researchers here study the movement of geological strata and underground water. Workers have to pump up 120 tons of underground water daily. They also assess the durability of materials around the nuclear waste units, to ensure that radioactivity does not escape.

The 2-kilometer-by-3-kilometer underground storage facility has a capacity of 40,000 units. The total length of its tunnels is 270 kilometers.
Researchers hope to find out what impact an earthquake would have on the facility. They installed seismometers at the site and monitor tremors constantly.

"Radioactive waste stored here will have been processed into perfectly solid form, so the glass units will shake with the facility. This means an earthquake would not destroy them."
Naotaka Shigeta / JAEA Horonobe Underground Research Dept

But members of the country's most prestigious science association are voicing their concerns about deep repository systems.
They say it's hard for Japan to build a facility in a region that's prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity.
They recommend that Japanese leaders look for other technological developments to safely store waste.

Japan has 1,700 glass nuclear waste units. The number would rise to 27,000 if all spent fuel rods currently stored at nuclear plants were processed. Japanese leaders must decide where and how to safely store the waste.

Researchers at Horonobe plan to start an experiment using simulated waste units later this year. They say real nuclear waste will never be used here.
The research agency and the local government agreed that radioactive materials will never be brought into the township.
The idea of storing nuclear waste underground is debated around the globe. Only Finland and Sweden have chosen construction sites for such facilities.

From Jul. 16, 2014 Working Conditions at Fukushima Daiichi

Crews at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant are carrying out decommissioning work that will take decades. Managers at the plant are stepping up efforts to improve their employee's...long-term working environment. But, they're facing many obstacles.

NHK WORLD's Yoichiro Tateiwa went for an inside look on this edition of Nuclear Watch.
Cleaning up Fukushima Daiichi is a big job. Workers are removing radioactive contamination and decommissioning damaged reactors at the same time.

The area around the crippled buildings still has high levels of radiation.
People here work in shifts and take breaks every few hours.
As many as 6000 workers come to the site every day. Their schedules are designed to minimize radiation exposure.

TEPCO officials explain most of the people here are employees of subcontracting companies. It means the utility is not directly responsible for their safety.

But TEPCO officials have started taking measures to improve conditions at the plant.
"We consider improving the working environment to be a top priority."
Yuichi Nagano / General Manager, TEPCO

They're constructing a resting facility for workers. The building will have a dining space where hot meals will be sold. It will also have devices people can use to check their internal radiation exposure.
It's not just spaces for breaks that are getting improvements. An example is this vehicle repair factory. Nothing like it existed here before it was built.

That worried many workers. The vehicles here can't leave because they may be contaminated. So if one broke down or needed repairs, there was no way to fix it. Now, that problem has been solved.
"Ensuring worker safety is essential for safe and speedy decommissioning."
Yuichi Nagano / General Manager, TEPCO

But experts say more needs to be done to ensure the safety of workers.
"At Fukushima Daiichi, the task of checking workers' health is handled by the companies that hire them. But what we need is a centralized system for checking the health of all workers. "
Ryuji Okazaki / Professor, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Japan
Okazaki says the Japanese government needs to establish a system for making sure the workers are healthy.

There are other issues to consider. When workers finish a shift, they are required to take off their protective gear. Their clothing and equipment is treated as contaminated waste.

TEPCO is now constructing an incineration facility to deal with it. But the manager overseeing the project says he is not sure when it will be ready.

"All of us have to stop working right when our shifts end to minimize radiation exposure. It's not like a normal construction site."
Shohei Komiya / Manager, TEPCO

He says under these conditions, it's hard to stay on schedule. TEPCO has a lot riding on the safety of the plant's workers. Their health and well being is critical to the success of the decommissioning project.

"Iitate residents to file for arbitration

A group of residents from a village near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is planning to file for state arbitration so all villagers can be entitled to equal damages regardless of radiation levels of their areas.

The entire village of Iitate is designated for evacuation, but it is categorized into three different zones, each with a different radiation level and differing amounts of compensation.

The residents from the two zones with relatively low contamination say that the difference in compensation is dividing residents.

They plan to ask the Center for Settlement of Fukushima Nuclear Damage Claims to urge the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company to pay them equal damages.

The residents also plan to seek the payment of consolation money worth about 30-thousand dollars per person. They say they were exposed to more radiation because the evacuation order wasn't issued until more than one month after the meltdown.

About 2,500 people, or 40 percent of all Iitate residents, are expected to join the group. The group hopes to invite more people to take part and file for arbitration in autumn.

The leader of the group, Kenichi Hasegawa, says he hopes residents will unite to express their anger.

Jul. 22, 2014 - Updated 08:27 UTC

Global nuclear power contribution falls to lowest level since 1980s

Atomic power’s share of the global electricity supply is at the lowest level since the 1980s following the shutdown of Japan’s reactors after the Fukushima disaster, and may fall further without major new plant construction.

The forecast is one of the main conclusions of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2014, a draft copy of which was passed to Reuters before general release later Tuesday.

The report paints a bleak picture of the industry more than three years after the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami triggered the meltdowns of three reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co’s Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Rising costs, construction delays, public opposition and aging fleets of reactors will make it difficult for nuclear to reverse the decline in its share of global energy supply, even after two reactors in Japan won provisional approval to restart earlier this month.

Discounting the bulk of Japan’s 48 reactors due to their long-term outage, the report said the number of operating units in the world has fallen to 388, 50 less than the peak in 2002.

Nuclear’s share of global power generation has fallen to 10.8 percent, down from a high of 17.6 percent in 1996 and the the lowest since the 1980s, it said.

The report also pointed to delays in construction projects, even in China, where the government is strongly pushing for nuclear power to replace heavy carbon emitting coal stations.

Of the 67 reactors under construction globally as at July 2014, at least 49 were experiencing delays and eight had been under construction for 20 years, it said.

The average age of reactors has also increased, rising to more than 28 years, while more than 170 units, or 44 percent of the total, have been operating for more than 30 years or more.

“More than 200 reactors may face shutdown in the coming two decades,” Tatsujiro Suzuki, a former Vice Chairman of the Japan Atomic Energy Commission, said in the foreword of the report.

“If new construction pace does not match the pace of shutdown, it is clear that the nuclear share will decline rapidly,” Suzuki said.

Renewable energy is taking up an increasing share of the energy mix, the report said. Installed solar capacity in China topped operating nuclear capacity, while in Spain more power was generated from wind in 2013 than any other source, beating nuclear for the first time.

The report’s lead authors are industry analysts Mycle Schneider, who is based in Paris, and London-based Antony Froggatt. Both have advised European government bodies on energy and nuclear policy issues.

In Japan, where the pro-nuclear ruling Liberal Democratic Party faces strong public opposition to restarts, the nuclear industry won some relief when the Cabinet reversed the previous government policy of a gradual abolition of atomic power.

But it also endorsed a push for more renewables and set no targets for nuclear energy.
Photo :
Construction continues on a new nuclear reactor at the Plant Vogtle power plant in Waynesboro, Georgia, on June 13. Atomic power's share of the global electricity supply is at the lowest level since the 1980s following the shutdown of Japan's reactors after the Fukushima disaster, and may fall further without major new plant construction, a new report says. | AP

"Tochigi town favored as permanent radioactive waste storage site

"Shioya Mayor Kasuhisa Mikata, right, expresses his disappointment to Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue over the Ministry of the Environment's informal selection of his town as a place to construct a final disposal site for radioactive waste, at Shioya town hall on July 30, 2014. (Mainichi)
Shioya Mayor Kasuhisa Mikata, right, expresses his disappointment to Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue over the Ministry of the Environment's informal selection of his town as a place to construct a final disposal site for radioactive waste, at Shioya town hall on July 30, 2014. (Mainichi)

The Ministry of the Environment is preparing to use state-owned land in the Tochigi Prefecture town of Shioya to permanently store radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, it has been learned.

The ministry has been searching for a location to construct a facility to store "designated waste" including radioactive materials from the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. On July 30, Deputy Environment Minister Shinji Inoue visited the Shioya town office and asked Mayor Kazuhisa Mikata to agree to a detailed inspection of the area.

Following the meeting, Mikata stated that he was "opposed to construction" of such a facility but indicated that he would engage in discussions with the ministry.

The ministry is eyeing three hectares of state-owned land in Shioya to construct the storage site, officials say. In a meeting with mayors in Tochigi Prefecture it was earlier agreed that prospective sites would be evaluated on four factors -- their distance from communities, their distance from water resources, the level of vegetation and nature in the area, and the amount of designated waste to be stored. Officials agreed to convert these figures into numerical data to make judgments.

During the meeting on July 30, which was also attended by Tochigi Gov. Tomikazu Fukuda, Inoue explained to Mikata that Shioya had achieved the highest ranking in the evaluation. Mikata responded that the ministry's move was "disappointing." He added that the source of one of Japan's designated 100 remarkable water areas lay nearby.

In a news conference after the meeting, Mikata told reporters, "I conveyed my clear opposition. But I think we should lend an ear with regard the implementation of a detailed survey. I would like to consider the issue after discussions with the Ministry of the Environment."

The designated waste includes straw and incinerated ash with a level of radioactivity of 8,000 becquerels or more per kilogram. In 2012, the ministry named the Tochigi Prefecture city of Yaita as a prospective location to build a permanent storage site, but it did not provide explanations to the town in advance, which resulted in local opposition, sending the ministry's plans back to the drawing board. Later, local officials agreed to settle on a single location in which a detailed survey would be conducted. The ministry had acted swiftly to make a selection. A total of roughly 14,000 tons of designated waste remains in Tochigi Prefecture.

Saitama was unaware of 2,400 Fukushima evacuees living in prefecture

SAITAMA -- The prefectural government here was unaware of about 2,400 people taking shelter in the region after evacuating from Fukushima Prefecture following the nuclear crisis, it has been learned.
The Saitama Prefectural Government found out about the omission after asking all municipalities in the prefecture earlier in July about the number of evacuees they host from the nuclear disaster. The prefectural government had previously tallied the number of only those who lived in temporary housing units it and some municipalities under its jurisdiction provides free of charge. It regularly asked only some of the local bodies about the number of evacuees.

The Reconstruction Agency tasked with efforts to help areas hit by the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and the ensuing nuclear crisis recover from the disasters said it will urge other prefectural governments to release all available figures.

The prefectural government's fire and disaster management division asked all the 63 municipalities in the prefecture on July 8 about the number of evacuees they host. After tallying the figures, the prefectural government revised upward the number of evacuees from 2,640 as of June to 5,044.

Of them, the prefectural government reported 2,992 evacuees, including those who it newly confirmed were living in public housing, to the Reconstruction Agency as a provisional figure.
About 2,400 evacuees who have been newly confirmed are mostly those who have voluntarily evacuated to the prefecture following the outbreak of the nuclear disaster. The figure is expected to further increase, and many unconfirmed evacuees may not receive administrative information such as on healthcare and education and measures to support evacuees.

The prefectural government had previously tallied only evacuees living at temporary housing units it and more than 20 municipalities under its jurisdiction provides for evacuees. It sent an email with a list of the number of evacuees attached to these local bodies and asked the municipalities to report any change in their figures.

This is attributable to the fact that the national government has failed to define evacuees from the nuclear disaster or show any specific method of tallying evacuees.

Yohei Shibusawa, head of the division, told the Mainichi, "We stuck to hard figures (of those living at public temporary housing units)."

A citizens organization supporting evacuees taking shelter in Saitama Prefecture conducted a survey on all 63 municipalities in the prefecture in 2013 and 2014 and found that 1.7 times to two times more evacuees were living in the prefecture than prefectural authorities had announced. The group then pointed out that the prefectural government had failed to grasp the number of evacuees it hosts.

The Reconstruction Agency has announced the number of evacuees across the country every month based on figures provided by prefectural governments. As of July 10, the agency put the number at 247,233 throughout the nation.

July 30, 2014(Mainichi Japan)

Ucluelet West Coast Fishermen ' Fukushima debris waist high'

Ucluelet West Coast Fishermen ' Fukushima debris waist high'

Fisherman 1: We saw some dolphins… lots of sea lions… and lots of junk from Japan. 
Question: I was wondering about Fukushima, and all the stuff… You’re seeing that debris? 

Fisherman 2: Oh yeah… southwest of Langara [Island] — waist high, full of everything. It’s incredible, piles and piles… Drift nets up there with catastrophic death in them, it’s just horrifying… If you want to see incredible stuff, southwest of Langara… the drift nets have got everything in it dead… it’s bad, real bad — that all comes across from Fukushima… The currents are big, bringing everything in. We’ll see tide lines for 10-15 miles of just rows of shit floating [...] 

Question: Were you given any warning by the government that it could be radioactive or dangerous to your health? 

Fisherman 3: No.

Japan Tsunami debris and Northern Gateway pipeline approved

Question: Other fishermen… are saying that there’s a lot of debris out in the ocean now.

Fisherman: A lot of debris from the tsunami… lots… everywhere — Refrigerators floating around… upside-down boats. 

Government offers ¥230 billion over 30 years if Fukushima temporarily stores radioactive soil: NHK

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has offered to pay the Fukushima Prefectural Government ¥230 billion over the next 30 years if the prefecture hosts temporary storage facilities for soil tainted by radiation from the March 2011 nuclear disaster, NHK reported Wednesday.

But Fukushima Prefecture is unhappy with the plan because the administration is at the same time planning to terminate the current ¥12 billion-per-year subsidy when it formally decides to dismantle the Fukushima No. 2 nuclear power plant in line with requests from local governments, according to NHK.

On Monday, Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara and reconstruction minister Takumi Nemoto met with Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato, Okuma Mayor Toshitsuna Watanabe and Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa. The ministers asked the two municipalities to allow construction of the temporary storage facilities for soil collected during decontamination work linked to the meltdown disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

At that meeting, the amount of state subsidies to be offered to the towns in return for the facilities was not specified.

But the government had told prefectural officials last week that it was ready to pay nearly ¥8 billion per year over 30 years, totaling ¥230 billion, in subsidies if the towns agreed to host the facilities, NHK reported.

At the Monday meeting, the government also said it will allow landowners to decide whether to sell their land or set superficies right, because locals are strongly against selling their properties. Communities are reluctant to sell their property because of attachment to ancestral lands and fears that temporary facilities would ultimately become final disposal sites for tainted soil.

Radiation level spiked up over 30 times much in various places in Fukushima / NRA “It’s summer heat”

Since last week, the spikes of radiation level have been recorded at least 8 locations in Fukushima prefecture.

These were observed by the monitoring posts of NRA (Nuclear Regulation Authority).
In Namie-machi, radiation level jumped from 3.7 μSv/h to 110 μSv/h in the afternoon of 7/26/2014.

NRA states the radiation level was in the normal range by measuring the mobile monitor.
They concluded the abnormal reading was due to the malfunction of the monitoring posts caused by summer heat

Cs-134 / 137 density jumped up 12 times much as previous highest reading in groundwater beside Reactor 2

On 7/29/2014, Tepco announced Cesium-134 / 137 density of groundwater increased by over 12 times much as the previous highest reading.

This July, the groundwater was taken in the seaside of Reactor 2.

Last week, the highest density of All β nuclide to include Strontium-90 and Cs-134 were also measured from another boring in the same area.

(cf, Highest density of All β and Cs-134 measured from groundwater near Reactor 2

The highest reading that Tepco announced today was 116,000 Bq/m3 (Cs-134 / 137) . The previous highest reading was 9,600 Bq/m3.

Tepco is struggling to stop contaminated water spreading by building frozen water wall, however the actual contamination doesn’t seem to stop at all.

See also.. 2,700,000,000 Bq/m3 of Strontium-90 measured from groundwater nearby Reactor 2 [

Briefcases Full Of Cash For Japan’s Pro Nuclear Politicians

A former Kansai Electric (KEPCO) executive came forward to admit the nuclear company had been giving huge amounts of secret cash to prime ministers and other government officials. 

Prime ministers had been receiving about 20 million yen a year for about 18 years while he was involved. The secret money was delivered as cash to the government officials.

This was funded ultimately by consumers who paid for the “donations” through higher utility bills.

Chubu Electric had a 250 million dollar slush fund to pay off politicians. The funds were ultimately paid by consumers through inflated billing for projects that were passed on in power bills.

The KEPCO executive admitted that the cash was handed out based on the politicians assistance to the nuclear industry. This may explain why so many politicians have supported nuclear power even in the face of public opposition.

These secret cash payments are bribes by the dictionary definition.

Ice put into utility tunnels at Fukushima plant

The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has begun putting ice into underground utility tunnels to help freeze radiation-contaminated wastewater.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company began work in April to create a wall of ice between the basement of the No. 2 reactor building and its utility tunnel.

TEPCO initially planned to freeze radioactive wastewater that's been flowing into underground utility tunnels at the plant. It hoped the measure would prevent the wastewater from mixing with groundwater and flowing out to sea.

But 3 months into the project, the water hasn't frozen as planned.

Workers began putting ice into the water on an experimental basis this month. They say they found that 2 tons of ice reduced the water temperature by more than 4 degrees by the next day.

On Wednesday, workers increased the daily input of ice to 15 tons.

Utility tunnels between the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors and the sea are estimated to hold a total of 11,000 tons of radiation-contaminated wastewater.

"Emergency Radiation Exposure Limit May Be Raised"

Japan's nuclear watchdog is considering raising the radiation exposure maximum limit for nuclear plant workers for serious accidents.

Nuclear Regulation Authority Chairman Shunichi Tanaka told at the body's regular meeting on Wednesday that the possibility of a nuclear accident, where workers could be exposed to radiation beyond the current legal accumulative limit of 100 millisieverts, cannot be denied. His proposal to study raising the limit was approved at the meeting.

The authority will decide on the level by referring to overseas standards. It will also confer on how to get prior consent from workers and train them for such cases. If a legal amendment is necessary, it plans to send its findings to a relevant government panel for deliberations.

When the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was hit by meltdowns in 2011, many workers were exposed to radiation above the legal limit. As an extraordinary measure, the government had to raise the limit to 250 millisieverts, for 9 months, 3 days after the onset of the accident.

An official of Tokyo Occupational Safety & Health Center said the move is one step in progress. He warned, however, that workers' health risks and how to manage their health should fully be debated before deciding on the specific level.

He said the authority should carefully study the matter by conducting hearings on workers who were involved in the Fukushima disaster.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Tahiti memorial commemorating those impacted by French nuclear tests in danger of removal

The French Polynesian government’s decision to remove a monument on Tahiti dedicated to those who suffered from repeated French nuclear testing in the South Pacific is facing growing opposition, including from survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

On June 11, the government, headed by French Polynesia President Gaston Flosse, decided to rescind permission to use the current location in a park that sits along the ocean in the capital, Papeete.
“It is desirable to construct new facilities to accept yachts and boats and renovate (current) facilities for tourists,” Flosse said.

The memorial, which was erected in 2006 after the government gave permission to use the site free of charge, consists of rocks collected from areas impacted by the testing as well as wooden markers.
France conducted nuclear tests on the remote islands in the archipelago for 30 years starting in the mid-1960s.

The park where the memorial stands was renamed the “Place de 2 Juillet 1966” (July 2, 1966, plaza), to mark the date of France’s first nuclear test in the South Pacific.

The government’s decision to remove the memorial caused a global stir among those opposed to nuclear weapons including Noriko Sakashita, 71, who suffered as a result of the atomic bombing in Hiroshima, but who now resides in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture. She visited the memorial immediately before the June 11 decision.
“I can’t believe that the place where I offered flowers just the other day is going to be abolished,” she said.

A local group affected by the French nuclear tests started a petition to oppose the removal in cooperation with citizens' groups from other countries.

Toshiki Mashimo, a part-time lecturer at Saitama University, who is taking part in the campaign, wrote an open letter addressed to Flosse calling for the eternal preservation of the memorial. His request was handed over to an official of the local government in French Polynesia on June 30 by a member of the United Church of Christ in Japan.
 “A ceremony to mourn for the people who have suffered nuclear damage throughout the world is held in front of the memorial every year. It is a sacred place. Japan is a country which suffered atomic bombings. In addition, many Japanese people visit Tahiti for sightseeing. It is meaningful to express opposition from such a country (Japan),” Mashimo said.

On July 2, Flosse proposed an alternative site for the memorial to a local group, saying, “There will be no problems if the memorial is relocated to a different place.” However, many people oppose the idea and support keeping it at its current location.

"Weak state secrets oversight"

"Under the law, designations of state secrets will be in force for five years. But they can be renewed every five years until the information has been kept secret for 30 years, after which the declassified documents would be moved to the National Archives. Declassified documents that have been treated as state secrets for less than 30 years can also be moved to the archives if they are deemed to be of historical importance. But if not, the documents can be destroyed with the approval of the prime minister. This means that a large volume of state secrets could pass into eternal oblivion without ever being exposed to public scrutiny — which should not be allowed in a democracy. The panel’s draft just allows that to happen." 


JUL 28, 2014
"A panel of private-sector experts has worked out a draft enforcement standard for the state secrets law, including creation of two oversight bodies and government sections that would accept whistle-blowers’ reports. Unfortunately, the setup falls far short of preventing arbitrary designation of government information as state secrets, which endangers the people’s right to know.

Because the proposed bodies will be staffed by bureaucrats, it will not be able to provide independent oversight against improper designation of state secrets, and no specific protection is provided for officials who reveal wrongdoings. As the Abe administration plans to put the law into force by yearend, the danger of limitless expansion of state secrets has not been eliminated.

According to the draft standard, which the Cabinet plans to formally adopt after soliciting public comments for a month through late August, one of the oversight bodies will be created within the Cabinet Office and headed by a bureaucrat of the rank of deputy chief of a ministry bureau. Government ministries and agencies will annually report to the body the list of the information designated as state secrets over the past year, and summaries of the designated secrets when necessary — but not the content of the secrets themselves.

The chief of this oversight body can seek explanations from the ministries and agencies concerned or corrective steps when it is found that specific pieces of information has been improperly classified, but will lack the power to enforce his requests. The chief may find it psychologically difficult to ask Cabinet ministers — who are higher ranking and have the legal power to designate state secrets — to submit explanations or rethink their decisions. The requests can also be turned down on grounds of national security.

The other oversight body will be set up within the Cabinet secretariat and be composed of administrative vice ministers or officials of the same rank. Like the oversight body within the Cabinet Office, it will have no legal power to enforce its requests, including calls for rectifying secret designations. Its function as an oversight body will be in doubt because its members represent the very 19 ministries and agencies that, under the enforcement standard, will designate state secrets.

Under the enforcement standard, a section will be created at each of the ministries and agencies, including the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry, to accept reports from officials alerting to improper designation of government secrets. However, the standard does not provide for any protection for the whistle-blowers against unfair treatment.

The panel that worked out the draft seems to assume that when there is an act of whistle-blowing, a ministry or agency will be altruistic enough to correct its decision or behavior. The new section might even serve as mechanism to monitor the behavior of workers at ministries or agencies.

But the biggest problem with the panel’s draft is the idea of letting the ministries and agencies that designate state secrets judge for themselves whether their designation is reasonable.

The panel listed 55 categories of government information that the 19 ministries and agencies can designate as state secrets ostensibly to ensure transparency. But the list covers an exhaustive range of activities in the areas of defense, diplomacy, counterintelligence and anti-terrorism efforts. Information about the mobilization of Self-Defense Forces units in defense and other missions are among the categories. The government would be able to conceal information on Japan’s negotiations with other countries over security matters if it chooses to do so. Information on nuclear power plants that the government wants to keep hidden from the public could also be designated as secret under the guise of “anti-terrorism efforts.”

Despite the panel’s nominal efforts to bring transparency to the implementation of the state secrets law, it will be difficult to effectively control bureaucracy in the designation of state secrets because the law itself gives the Cabinet ministers concerned discretionary powers to classify an extremely wide range of government information. The law allows the defense minister to designate almost all information related to defense and the SDF, including plans, estimates and studies related to the forces’ operations. The foreign minister would be able to designate as secrets, for example, the scope of cooperation with foreign governments or international organization in the field of security.

Under the law, designations of state secrets will be in force for five years. But they can be renewed every five years until the information has been kept secret for 30 years, after which the declassified documents would be moved to the National Archives. Declassified documents that have been treated as state secrets for less than 30 years can also be moved to the archives if they are deemed to be of historical importance. But if not, the documents can be destroyed with the approval of the prime minister. This means that a large volume of state secrets could pass into eternal oblivion without ever being exposed to public scrutiny — which should not be allowed in a democracy. The panel’s draft just allows that to happen.

Clearly the panel of private-sector experts’ draft enforcement standard does nothing to alleviate grave concerns about the state secrets law, which pose a serious threat to the nation’s democracy. This reinforces the case for the Diet abolishing the state secrets law. Citizens should continue grass-roots movements to pressure lawmakers to act."

Operation to halt flow of groundwater into No. 1 reactor buildings falters: Tepco

Tokyo Electric Power Co. admitted Monday that the so-called groundwater bypass operation at its crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is not working.

In May, the utility began the operation to pump untainted groundwater into the sea to prevent it from flowing into and accumulating in reactor buildings.

The operation is intended to reduce the tons of radiation-tainted water being generated by the plant each day. The melted reactor fuel at the plant, which was heavily damaged by three core meltdowns after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, must be perpetually cooled by water that then leaks into the basements and taints incoming groundwater from the hills behind the plant.

Tepco official Teruaki Kobayashi told a news conference Monday that the utility has yet to see tangible results from the operation in the reactor buildings.

According to Tepco, 400 tons of groundwater flow on average into reactor buildings and other areas at the plant per day, causing the buildup of contaminated water. The company has said the operation could lower that amount by up to 100 tons per day.

Two months after the start of the operation, however, there is still no sign that the buildup of contaminated water has been halted. Even so, Kobayashi noted that water levels had dropped by up to 10 centimeters at the point halfway between the reactor buildings and the wells used to pump out groundwater.

Rainfall at the plant site has been hampering the operation, Tepco said, adding that it plans to solidify the soil with asphalt near the hills where the groundwater flows from, according to NHK.

For the water inflow to decline by 100 tons per day, levels at the halfway point need to fall by several dozen centimeters, to 1 meter.

Kobayashi declined to specify when groundwater levels could begin to fall.

A total of 15,828 tons of groundwater was released into the sea between May 21 and July 20.

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Nuclear Attacks on Mari Takenouchi: Free Information, Health and Safety in today Japan

I am appealing to all of you, students, activists, bloggers, podcasters, journalists, lawyers, doctors, stand up to help denounce and expose those pro-nuclear agents'  illegal permanent harassment of Mari Takenouchi.

A Fukushima evacuee, single mother,  Mari Takenouchi became an full-time independent journalist after 311, a beacon in the night calling attention to the plight of the Fukushima children, of the Fukushima evacuees and non-evacuees, calling for the protection and evacuation of the Fukushima Children.

She needs OUR HELP. She is now under observation by some nuclear offices and agents, virtual and in real life. Those pro-nuclear agents are constantly harassing her, pressuring her, intimidating her, in their will to silence her.

We can make them stop, if we all denounce those illegal acts, on our blogs, podcasts, websites articles, bringing maximum exposure to their harassment, those pro-nukers will realize that their actions are counter-productive, that more they pressure her to silence her, more they will be bring attention to her cause worldwide and more international support for Mari Takenouchi, then they will have to reconsider and stop.

Due to the present Japanese Government politics and their recent State Secrecy Law, somehow most the Japanese people are presently scared to support her, to become involved and implicated.
It belong to us, the foreign No Nukes activists to bring her our full and loud support, that is the least we can do for a lady who  has been courageously opposing and denouncing the activities of Nuclear lobby Ethos Project in Fukushima.

Mari needs our help, let's not abandon this lady to fight those crooks alone.
Thank you in advance for you future given support to Mari.



Mari Takenouchi, a Japanese journalist is under criminal accusation by Fukushima ETHOS leaders – who work FOR the nuclear holocaust industry, AGAINST people, but fake it as humanitarian aid.

“ETHOS and CORE, who must take their share of the responsibility. (Translator’s note: CEPN is the Centre d’étude sur l’Evaluation de la Protection dans le domaine Nucléaire ; Mutadis, ETHOS and CORE are all offshoots of the French nuclear industry, financed either through Electricité de France or the Autorité de Sureté Nucléaire.)
The same fate awaits the Japanese people and their children living in areas contaminated by the Fukushima disaster because the same strategy is being put in place in Japan with the same players, the same pseudo-scientific justifications and under the aegis of the same authorities.”:

Latest (quote):

To Asahi Newspaper朝日新聞殿:貴社の写真から冷泉明彦@Joseph Yoikoが竹野内の住所を特定し仲間内で拡散しています!

不起訴ですが、私を犯罪者とみなす起訴猶予! 拡散続けて下さい。英文記事と和訳「ツイートで刑事告訴?」Please keep sharing though I got unindicted. “How could a single tweet land Takenouchi in Jail?”

More on her website:


Former Kansai Electric Power executive reveals 18 years of secret payments to prime ministers

A former top official at Kansai Electric Power Co. has come forward to reveal a nearly 20-year history of doling out "top secret" huge donations to Japanese prime ministers, funded on the backs of ratepayers.

Chimori Naito, 91, a former KEPCO vice president, said that for 18 years from 1972, seven prime ministers received 20 million yen (about $200,000 now) annually from Yoshishige Ashihara, who served as both KEPCO president and chairman.

At that time, political donations to individual lawmakers were not illegal. However, in 1974, electric power companies declared a ban on corporate donations to politicians because of strong public opposition to the use of electricity fees to pay for such contributions.

Naito said that "ban" was only a superficial stance taken by the electric power companies.
"There is no way those companies could (ban such donations)," he said. "Nothing would have happened if we angered politicians."

Naito had long taken pride in working closely with Ashihara in making the donations as part of efforts to promote nuclear energy and to further develop the electric power industry.
However, the Fukushima nuclear accident in 2011 and the inept handling of that disaster by Tokyo Electric Power Co., the plant operator, politicians and bureaucrats led Naito to have a change of heart.
"As I began to think about my own death, I also recalled the course I had taken in life," Naito said. "A reporter (from The Asahi Shimbun) came just at the time when I began feeling that I wanted to talk about matters I had never spoken about until now. I thought it would serve as a lesson for future generations."

According to Naito, the prime ministers who were given the money were Kakuei Tanaka, Takeo Miki, Takeo Fukuda, Masayoshi Ohira, Zenko Suzuki, Yasuhiro Nakasone and Noboru Takeshita. Only Nakasone is still alive.
Naito called aides to the prime ministers to arrange meetings twice a year during the traditional Bon period in summer and at the year-end season. Naito accompanied Ashihara to those meetings where the money was directly handed over.

Naito also revealed that other important politicians, including the chief Cabinet secretary and executives of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party as well as the major opposition parties, were given donations according to how much assistance they provided the electric power industry. In total, Kansai Electric doled out several hundreds of millions of yen a year in such donations.

Naito graduated from Kyoto University in 1947 and entered what would later become Kansai Electric. In 1962, he became an aide to Ashihara, who at that time was company president. Ashihara would serve as president until 1970 when he became chairman, a post he held until 1983, the same year Naito became a vice president at Kansai Electric. He left the company in 1987. Ashihara died in 2003 at 102.

Distributing political donations to influential politicians was imperative for Kansai Electric, which depended on nuclear power plants for about half of its total electricity supply before the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Naito agreed to be interviewed by The Asahi Shimbun, and he spoke with reporters for a total of 69 hours over 23 sessions from December 2013 until July 2014.
He said the government's handling of the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was unforgivable.
"There was a problem in the relationship created over many years among those in the political, bureaucratic and electric power sectors," he said.

Naito said the money Ashihara distributed to prime ministers and other influential politicians was a "top secret" matter.
Naito said the two major reasons for making the donations was to contribute to the stability of the electric power industry and to promote national prosperity.
"The money was given for the betterment of the nation, and there was no specific objective," he said. "That was simply one way for electric power companies to act toward public authority that had control over approval of business matters. We hoped it would work like Chinese herbal medicine and take effect after prolonged use."

An official with Kansai Electric said the company was not aware of such donations.
Officials at Nakasone's office said aides from the time of the donations had long since died so there was no way of confirming their receipt. Nakasone also did not acknowledge receiving such donations even after repeated questions from The Asahi Shimbun.
Those who knew the other prime ministers named by Naito said they were unaware of such donations.

Takashi Mikuriya, a visiting political science professor at the University of Tokyo who has long conducted oral histories of politicians, praised Naito for coming forward to leave behind testimony as a history of the nation.
"Naito likely felt that the electric power industry had never done anything wrong, but the nuclear accident made him realize that was nothing but misplaced confidence," Mikuriya said. "The accident by TEPCO, which for Kansai Electric was the model to strive for and to overcome, likely led to a drastic change in his sense of values that had previously believed his behind-the-scenes work was for the good of the nation."

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Fukushima Groundwater Bypass Not Working As Planned

NHK is reporting that the groundwater bypass system being used by TEPCO isn’t making a significant change in groundwater levels near the reactors.

Monitoring wells showed only about a 10 centimeter drop over the last two months. Regulators asked TEPCO to gather more data.

The current bypass system is quite small, removing only 100 tons of the daily 400 tons of incoming groundwater. This system is also near the reactors being located directly uphill near the buildings.

Our research team and others suggested to IRID that a much larger bypass system would be needed and it should be installed further inland of the plant to encircle the facility. This plan was approved by IRID but never actually implemented by METI or TEPCO.

REPOST More needed than NRA safety nod

The Nuclear Regulation Authority has effectively given the safety clearance for restarting Kyushu Electric Power Co.’s idled Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Kagoshima Prefecture — the first under power plant safety standards updated a year ago.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has reiterated that his administration will move to reactivate nuclear reactors that have passed NRA screening, and the power industry hopes that the decision will pave the way for getting back online many other nuclear power plants across Japan that were halted in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

However, the NRA’s nod covers only some technical aspects of nuclear power generation safety in this natural disaster-prone country. Blind faith in what the Abe administration has billed the world’s top-level plant safety standards could lead to a revival of the “safety myth” of nuclear power that was prevalent before the March 2011 triple meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 plant.

Before restarting any idled plant, the government and the power industry need to stop and consider if they have, in fact, learned the crucial lessons of the Fukushima crisis.

The Nos. 1 and 2 reactors at Kyushu Electric’s Sendai plant in the city of Satsumasendai have been fast-tracked for NRA screening among the 19 reactors at 12 power plants across Japan that regional power companies have applied to restart.

The NRA will finalize its report on the Sendai plant after soliciting public comments for a month. It could be reactivated sometime after the fall, pending additional procedures and the consent of local governments hosting the plant.

Under the updated safety standards, power companies are obliged to take countermeasures against possible severe accidents such as reactor core meltdowns as well as terrorist attacks. They are required to ensure that their plants can withstand the strongest quakes and highest tsunami estimated for their locations, and make necessary reinforcements.

The new standards were introduced in light of the lessons learned from the Fukushima plant meltdowns caused by the massive earthquake and tsunami. The standards have been hailed repeatedly by the Abe administration as among the world’s toughest for nuclear power plants.

Still, NRA Chairman Shunichi Tanaka said the watchdog’s assessment does not guarantee safety at the Sendai plan; it shows only that the plant matches the updated standards. “The plant’s safety has improved to a certain extent, but this is not the goal,” Tanaka said, adding that Kyushu Electric needs to make further efforts to guard the plant against possible natural disasters whose severity can be exceptionally high in Japan. Questions linger about the validity of the new safety standards, which have been created even before the causes of the Fukushima meltdowns are fully identified.

Achieving absolute safety in nuclear power plants may be pie in the sky. But one of the lessons of Fukushima was that a catastrophic accident can take place because of a series of unforeseen events. What’s needed are efforts to minimize the risk of severe accidents through multiple layers of safeguards at the plants, and to ensure the safety of residents in areas that could be hit by radiation fallout in such disasters.

It won’t be until fiscal 2015 and 2016 at the earliest, respectively, that the Sendai plant will have an “important anti-seismic building” and a filter to remove radioactive substances from steam released in an accident.

Since the Fukushima disaster, municipalities around nuclear power plants across the country have been called on to prepare evacuation plans for residents within 30 km of the plants. However, nearly 40 percent of such municipalities have reportedly not come up with a plan, even as the power companies seek to restart the idled plants.

Creation of the evacuation plans have been left in the hands of local governments, with no NRA or central government oversight to help ensure that the plans are adequate.

Municipalities around Kyushu Electric’s Sendai plant have already drawn up evacuation plans. However, local residents and experts charge that the plans are ineffective because they are often based on implausible scenarios. Last month, more than half the residents of Ichikikushikino, which borders the Sendai plant host city of Satsumasendai, signed a petition opposing restart of the plant, citing the lack of an adequate plan to safely evacuate local residents.

The Kagoshima Prefectural Government in May released an estimate that it would take roughly 29 hours, at most, for 90 percent of some 210,000 residents within 30 km of the Sendai plant to evacuate the area. But doubts were cast on the plausibility of the estimate, especially because it did not take into account the extra time that would be required for evacuating people in need of special care such as hospital inpatients and residents of welfare facilities.
Many such people died during the evacuation of areas around the Fukushima plant in 2011.

Kagoshima Gov. Yuichiro Ito says the prefecture will create plans for the evacuation of hospital patients and care facility residents within 10 km of the Sendai plant, but that it would be difficult to prepare a realistic plan to evacuate all such people within the 30-km zone, given the much larger number of institutions and patients.

The Sendai plant is widely considered one of the most vulnerable to volcanic eruptions because of the concentration of calderas in the area. The NRA report said it judged as “appropriate” the assessment by Kyushu Electric — though questioned by many volcanologists — that the risk of a massive eruption that could affect the plant during its life span is “small enough.” The NRA says the power company will monitor crustal movements in the calderas for possible signs of an eruption, and take steps to halt the reactors and move out nuclear fuels — a process that would take years — when such signs emerge. NRA Chairman Tanaka admits that its screening was carried out in the absence of sufficient scientific knowledge on the subject of forecasting volcanic eruptions.

The power industry has its reasons to seek a quick restart of idled nuclear power plants. Since the Fukushima disaster put the nation’s nuclear power plants offline, utility firms have suffered huge losses due to the increased costs of imported fuel to run thermal power plants — costs that have also been passed on to consumers. For Kyushu Electric, which relied on nuclear energy to generate 40 percent of its power before 2011, a restart of the Sendai plant’s Nos. 1 and 2 reactors alone would save it ¥20 billion in fuel costs each month.

The NRA decision comes as a relief for Kyushu Electric and other power companies that hope more reactors will quickly get the go-ahead to restart. However, they and the Abe administration need to reconsider whether adequate steps have been taken to avoid a repeat of the mistakes that led to the Fukushima disaster — and to ensure that shortcuts to safety are not being taken in the drive to restart the idled plants.