Wednesday, April 6, 2011
FEAR AND LOATHING IN FUKUSHIMA
Welcome to Radio Ecoshock - where we are all more radio active. It is almost a month since the multiple nuclear disasters in Japan. And still, we hardly know what to expect.
Last week, the International Atomic Energy Agency assured the world there would be no further explosions.
The following Tuesday the Los Angeles Times reported, "Engineers also planned to begin injecting nitrogen gas into reactors Nos. 1,2, and 3 in an attempt to prevent possible explosions from the buildup of hydrogen gas..."
By Wednesday, the Japanese announced they were injecting the nitrogen.
We have reports of meltdowns in reactors, and possibly spent fuel pools. You will hear two nuclear experts with different points of view.
Dr. John Large from the UK explains the on-going disaster.
Dr. Krzysztof Starosta from Canada reports radiation from Fukushima reactors has reached the rain and seaweed in Vancouver - but it's no problem.
I've got 80 minutes of audio for a one hour program, so we might as well let the recordings speak for themselves, and you be the judge. Fear and controversy are the children of the atom.
[Quick clips John Large, the UK History TV show "A for Atom", CNN bodies too radioactive to collect...]
The biggest development of the week: Japan unilaterally decides to dump thousands of tons of radioactive waste into the Pacific ocean. On top of the existing leak of highly radioactive waste water coming from Fukushima reactor number 2.
Here is a report from Mark Willacy of ABC TV Australia. View the complete video here.
Transcript, courtesy of ABC National News "Lateline":
"ALI MOORE: And already there are reports of radioactive leaks into the ocean. How serious is that?
MARK WILLACY: It's extremely serious. What we have is a 20-centimetre long crack inside a concrete pit near reactor 2. Now that's letting out 7,000 tonnes of radioactive water every hour, and this is quite highly radioactive water, this isn't low-level radiation. Now what they've tried to do is try to plug that crack.
They've tried to put concrete in it, but the force of the water has just blown the concrete out; the crack's still there. Then they tried something even more ingenious, they thought, and that was mixing sawdust with shredded newspaper and what's called an absorbent polymer. This polymer can apparently absorb water 50 times its size. But unfortunately, that didn't work either. That was simply blown out by the force of the
water. So there's still this 20-centimetre crack in this concrete trench, this pit, and that is leeching thousands of tonnes of water, radioactive water into the Pacific every hour.
ALI MOORE: But there are also reports not just I guess of leaks and leeching, but also that the authorities, the operators may have to actually dump contaminated water?
MARK WILLACY: Well I can tell you that started a short time ago. There's going to be an 11,500 tonnes of what's being called low-level radioactive water dumped into the Pacific.
Now, the reason this has to be done according to TEPCO, the company that operates the plant and the government here in Tokyo, is because this water's just building up around the plant. As I said, 11,500 tonnes of it, it's not going anywhere, it has to be moved out of the way so that really contaminated and toxic radioactive water can be stored safely at the plant and not run off into the ocean. So that dumping process has started tonight. That will continue on.
Now TEPCO, the operator, and the government are assuring the Japanese public that there is nothing to fear from this water. They're saying it's low-level and you could actually eat seafood that was caught in this water every day for a year and apparently you'd only have a quarter of your annual environmental radiation exposure. So in other words, the government and TEPCO are saying, "Please, do not panic. This is low-level radioactive water.
We have to do this so that the highly contaminated water doesn't leech outside the plant."
ALI MOORE: I wonder though how many'll be prepared to take that risk. Mark Willacy, many thanks."
Again, from the Australian national broadcaster, we get protests from both Greenpeace and Friends of Earth. Full video and transcript here.
"The move has drawn outrage and condemnation from around the world.
THOMAS BREUER: So there's evidence from Europe that radioactive releases into the sea will damage the seafood, like shellfish and seaweed, which will be contaminated and
beaches will be highly contaminated as well.
ADRIENNE FRANCIS: Thomas Breuer is heading up the Greenpeace presence in Japan.
THOMAS BREUER: The information about the desperateness on the nuclear power plant is so bad that we don't know, even know if it is necessary to release the water or not.
ADRIENNE FRANCIS: Other conservation organisations say there is no justification for deliberate ocean dumping. The Friend's of the Earth describe the move as exporting Japan's burden to the world.
DAMON MOGLEN: We're really in a disastrous situation in Japan. There are only bad choices at this point. We really do face a situation in which we could have further explosions and fires at the reactors and the nuclear waste site, and they do indeed need to cool it down. But that can't possibly be a justification.
ADRIENNE FRANCIS: The organisation's Damon Moglen has been working on nuclear issues for 25 years.
He says dumping radioactive waste at sea is forbidden under an international treaty called the London Convention. Japan, the US and Australia are all signatories to the treaty, but he says it doesn't cover release of radioactive material from land.
DAMON MOGLEN: This is really a landmark international agreement and yet, in this case, the Japanese government and industry are using a loophole which says that, while you can't dump nuclear waste directly into the ocean in barrels, for example, you can actually pump it into the ocean from land based sources.
ADRIENNE FRANCIS: The Friends of the Earth are calling for the waste to instead be moved into storage tankers at sea, or into tanks on land. They're calling for the US government to urgently step in to prevent the deliberate waste dumping.
ELEANOR HALL: Adrienne Francis reporting."
QUICK REVIEW: REACTOR BY REACTOR
Following announcements on Japanese TV, the American Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said Reactor #1 was 70% destroyed.
New arial footage certainly backs that up. Nobody is going to restore the original cooling system, from what I can see in the wreckage.
A former U.S. nuclear executive, Arnie Gundersen of Fairwinds Associates makes a strong case there are intermittent bursts of criticality - live and uncontrolled atomic reactions - happening in Reactor #1. He bases this on isotopes reported by Japanese authorities - which can only come from a current atomic reaction. "Inadvertent criticality" may erupt from time to time inside the damaged reactor. Find a link to his video here.
Other sources suspect criticality in Reactor 1, but the Japanese deny it.
Reactor #2 is estimated to be 30% destroyed, and several sources say melted radioactive materials have burned through the containment, to the concrete floor below.
Extremely radioactive water has filled the turbine hall, and trenches around the reactor, including that 7,000 tons an hour leak to the Pacific. By Wednesday, Tepco announced that leak appeared to have stopped, but found more leaks into the groundwater.
Reactor #3 looks all but destroyed, and has radioactive water so hot workers cannot even try to restore systems there.
The spent fuel pool in Reactor #4 was out of water for some time, may have damaged fuel rods, and could be the most dangerous of all.
The New York Times published an article "U.S. Sees Array of New Threats at Japan's Nuclear Plant" on April 5th that you must read. It contains a secret assessment of more problems, including the risk of those radwater-filled buildings falling apart in an aftershock.
Plus the likelyhood that a hydrogen explosion in the fuel pool of Reactor #4 blew highly radioactive material sky-high on March 15th. There were hot reactor fuel rods in that pool, likely distributing nasty elements, including plutonium.
The Japanese government has STILL not released security camera video, taken by Israeli technology, that shows radioactive clouds rising from the reactors in real-time. Secret, secret! But the world deserved to know, not to mention the Japanese people.
See this report in the Jerusalem Post "Israeli firm’s cameras recording Japanese nuclear core By YAAKOV LAPPIN 03/15/2011 01:43 Security cameras installed by Israeli defense company at Fukushima plant have ability to detect presence of radioactive clouds in air."
DUMPING RADWASTE INTO THE SEA
Let's get back to that intentional dumping of radioactive water by Tepco, the Tokyo Electric Power Company. Here is an announcement from NHK World, Japanese TV.
[N8 NHK World 110404 Tepco announces sea discharge 1 min]
Even before this dumping, radioactive fish were found off the coast of Japan. Again, NHK World on April 4th.
[N9 NHK World 110405 Cesium-loaded fish discovered 51 sec]
Later we'll try to squeeze in the controversy about safety standards, but before we go to our first guest, you should hear this conversation, about radioactive materials contaminating people with sea spray. This was recorded before Fukushima, by WMRW Vermont radio, in the program "Politics and Science" March 30th, 2010.
How strangely this risk now applies to the coastal residents of Japan! And perhaps soon, to people on the American Pacific Coast as well?
The speaker is Chris Busby, a chemist who specializes in cases of so-called low-level nuclear exposure.
[Busby5 Danger of cancer near the sea 2 min 25 sec]
As the Japanese government and utility keep dumping radioactive waste into the Pacific, over the coming months, we may all face this new risk. Japanese officials have already announced it will take many months just to clear the reactor buildings of contaminated water, while trying to develop an alternative self-contained cooling system.
"A senior official of the agency, Hidehiko Nishiyama made the comments at a news conference on Sunday....the agency said it will take several months to remove the water from the contaminated turbine buildings, and to take measures to protect workers from radiation.
At a news conference on Sunday, the independent nuclear safety commission also pointed out that it will take months to stem the leakage and restore cooling systems."
- transcript from NHK World TV Japan broadcast 110403
We have an on-going radioactive poisoning of the sea, imposed by one nation, on all nations, and all species.
German television (ZDF Zweites Detsches Fernsehen - '2nd German television') quotes Greenpeace atomic scientist Karsten Smid saying "currents will carry the contaminated water towards Canada from where it will reach Germany by entering the food chain through fish". Here is the German language broadcast, with Greenpeace statement about 10 minutes in.
Let's go to our interview with a long-time expert on nuclear affairs, Dr. John Large in Britain. His phone has been filled with interviews since the disaster began.
[John Large interview]
You are listening to Radio Ecoshock, as we plumb the depths of nuclear disaster in Japan. I'm Alex Smith. In our next segment, we ask "What Is Safe" and "Will the government tell us?"
PART TWO - FEAR AND LOATHING IN FUKUSHIMA
Let's learn from the Asian experience of when nukes go wrong. It isn't that much different from Three Mile Island or Chernobyl. Greenpeace says the Fukushima disaster has now reached Level 7, comparable to Chernobyl.
When it comes to government information to the bruised people of Japan, it doesn't come in time to help the survivors. After the first week of this disaster, the IAEA and the United States government pleaded for more information from the utility, Tepco, and the Japanese Government.
Starting March 19th, the Americans evacuated 200,000 personel and their dependents from Japan, in a mass air job.
A government web site gives the reason, quote: " Departure is authorized due to the deteriorating situation at the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant following the 8.8 earthquake and tsunami."
GOVERNMENT WITHHOLDS VITAL INFORMATION
Almost a month later, we still find the Japanese government withholding information vital to the health and safety of citizens. Yomuri press complains, quote:
"The Meteorological Agency has been withholding forecasts on dispersal of radioactive substances from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant despite making the forecasts every day, it was learned Monday."
Here is NHK World TV from Japan April 3rd.
"Japan's government says it withheld computer projections indicating high levels of radioactivity in areas more than 30 kilometers from the trouble Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, due to inaccurate data.
An institute commissioned by the government made the estimates using a computer system called SPEEDI on March 16th, after explosions at the plant. The system estimated that people who remained outdoors for 24 hours in Iitate Village, some 40 kilometers from the plant would be exposed to radiation exceeding 100 miliSiverts.
The projections were based on the assumption that radioactive substances had been released for 24 hours on March 15th. The government's Nuclear Safety Commission says it did not release the projections because the locations or amount of radioactive leakage was not specified at the time."
Remember, the New York Times reported the highly radioactive spent fuel pool of Reactor Number 4 suffered a massive hydrogen explosion on March 15th, spewing radioactive materials into the sky.
The trend towards keeping the numbers down, and people pacified if uninformed runs at local governments as well. Ibaraki Prefecture, just south of Fukushima, has been heavily irradiated.
In the city of Ushiku, the local government did not tell residents when radioactive iodine topped the 100 bq/l safety limits, reaching 124.9 on March 24th.
Japanese language source.
[N2 NHK World tells of another village poisoned]
The Ministry of Education has touted their real-time radiation listings from the Nuclear Safety Division.
I've checked that daily, and the most irradiated prefectures of Fukushima and neaby Miyagi are NEVER listed. They are always just "Under Survey". The worst information is not released.
A series of independent tests, by a Greenpeace radiologists, and by representatives for the International Atomic Energy Agency, have shown unsafe radiation in towns and cities well beyond the current evacuation zone. Like cesium-137 (up to 18 Mbq/m2) 40 kilometers away, in Iitate village, and even up to 200 km away, as reported in last week's program.
In some cases, the residents were not told to stay inside. The IAEA and the United States are pleading with the Japanese government to expand the evacuation zone to include another 170,000 people - but so far without result.
The Japanese press do not use investigative reporting. Their traditional role is to repeat and explain what authorities like the government and the utility company Tepco say at press briefings. Period. I have known Japanese NGO's who plead for information to be published in American newspapers, like the New York Times. Then the Japanese press will repeat what the foreign press said. There is hardly any way to originate a story in Japan, beyond what authority says.
From Al Jezeera April 4, transcript of clip:
"Less than 200 kilometers to the north [from the Hamaoke nuclear power plant] lies Japan's capital, where the operator of the crippled Fukushima plant is coming under increased pressure. A small crowd gathered outside the headquarters of the Tokyo Electric Power company to voice their anger at its handling of the crisis.
The protests seem to go completely unnoticed by the Japanese media. But across the road there were plenty of other plain-clothes bystanders. They watched and filmed whoever turned up but were camera shy themselves.
The Japanese journalists could be found inside the Tepco building, waiting for the latest update from management. One reporter who wasn't there was Takashio Isugi.[spelling may not be correct] He's a free-lancer who is now out of work after he criticized Tepco for mistakes made after the Tsunami struck.
'The Japanese mass media is basically sponsored by Tepco through advertising. So far, nobody from the mass media has criticized Tepco. Only free-lancers.'
Wayne Hay, Al Jezeera, Hamaoke, Japan"
Watch the whole Al Jezeera video here.
Advertisers controlling the press? That could never happen here!
And the nuclear industry rolls on, pushing even now for more and more reactors. The CEO of General Electric, Jeffrey Imhelt, Obama's advisor on how to send jobs overseas without ever paying taxes - was in Japan to boost confidence in the blown up reactors his company designed and helped build.
At least, unlike poor muddle-headed George Monbiot, the Japanese media understands the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency is to sell more nuclear power, not to regulate it.
Transcript from NHK World Japanese TV April 3:
"The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency says it will do its utmost to restore public trust in the safety of nuclear energy. The Convention on Nuclear Safety gathers once every three years with it's 72 member nations and institutions.
Director General Yuko Edano suggested the accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant could affect the U.N. nuclear watch dog's future activities. The IAEA has been promoting nuclear power."
And Russia, where AFP reports Fukushima radioactive particles were detected in Moscow April 1st, and there the far eastern seaboard around Vladivostok may get both wind and ocean born radioactivity - Russia is still out there selling nuclear power plants to any buyer, anywhere.
Here is an update from NHK World on the Russian reactor market.
[N6 Russia exports to India, Turkey, and more. Putin supports more reactor sales. etc.]
Australia's green economist Ross Garnaut says nuclear is still the way to go - at least for valuable uranium exports for that country.
The whole nuclear military-industrial complex, with all the talking heads of state, are whirling around the world reassuring everyone. French President Nicolas Sarkozy went straight to Japan. Obama still wants 36 billion dollars for the nuclear industry.
Now we see who these politicians really work for.
HUSH THE RAD MONITORS!
Strangely, the machines and regulations that monitor and protect the population are being pulled back, even in this time of atomic emergency.
Early press reports said the American Environmental Protection Agency withdrew 20 monitors because readings were too high. The Agency later clarified the radiation monitors, part of RadNet, weren't working properly. That included 4 out of 11 monitoring machines in California, where two nuclear power plants sit near earthquake faults. In fact, the Federal government didn't release any radioactivity report until Tuesday April 5th, 25 days after one of the world's largest nuclear disasters.
That's some early warning system!
We only found out there was radiation landing in the U.S. Northeast because it was reported by a nuclear power plant operator.
The University of California Berkeley in San Francisco reported rain water testing many times the safe level of Iodine-131 during heavy rains on March 23rd.
"Specifically, the reports refer to the I-131 activity of 20.1 Bq/L measured in rainwater on 3/23. The EPA limit for I-131 is 3 pCi/L, or 0.111 Bq/L."
The site has now been retrofitted, saying rain water doesn't count, only tap water should be considered, and that was safe.
Let's talk with another University that measured Fukushima radiation on the West Coast.
[interview with Krzysztof Starosta, Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University, Vancouver Canada.]
As one contrbutor to theoildrum.com noted, it's like the nuclear information lights are going out all over the world.
Canada's Natural Resources agency has the following on it's reporting web page, quote:
"Please note that as of March 25, 2011, the frequency of data collection by NRCan using the mobile surveys has been decreased due to the low levels of radiation being detected.
The surveys will be repeated periodically and the data table will be updated."
Both the U.S. EPA and the European Union are currently moving the "safe" level of radiation upwards, as Fukushima rages out of control.
The EPA "Protective Action Guides" or PAG's have been revised upwards, for Iodine-131, and other radioactive materials, allowing up to thousands of times more. The group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has exposed these changes.
Find a summary of nuclear measuring being reshaped or withdrawn in this article at naturalnews.com.
In Europe, a series of foreign language sources report the European Union has quietly, without public input, raised the permissable levels on a number of radioactive substances, in an Emergency Ordinance number 297/2011, on March 27th. This includes allowing higher radioactivity in foods and herbal products. Just in time for the new round of radiation.
Link: Previous limits (EU Regulation 733/2008)
Link: EU Emergency Ordinance 297/2011
Isn't the government supposed to protect us?
Nuclear critics, like Chris Busby and Helen Caldicott, and some nuclear scientists have been saying the allowable safety limits are a cruel joke anyway. The whole regime of what is supposedly safe exposure was based on a physics calculation, where external radiation is measured as a full-body dose, considering the human body like a big sack of water.
Listen to a full explanation by Chris Busby in the Politics and Science podcast, as posted April 2nd on www.radio4all.net.
In fact, that "Politics and Science" program from Warren Vermont has a whole list of essential nuclear listening shows on low-level radiation.
Like Dr. Starosta, not all scientists agree with Chris Busby's assessment, but it makes sense to me. Check the sources, and decide for yourself.
In fact, as you heard in our Radio Ecoshock interview with Dr. Caldicott two weeks ago, the real threat comes from radioactive particles inhaled or eaten with food.
Be sure and listen to Helen Caldicott's weekly radio show "If You Love This Planet" at ifyoulovethisplanet.org This week, she has a special Fukushima update, and that will likely continue in coming programs.
Once lodged in the body, particles like Plutonium and other radioactive heavy metals impact the DNA in just a small part of the body, very intensely. The damage richochets into nearby cells, leading to cancer and other diseases brought on by damaged chromosomes.
Detailed studies of cancer and other diseases near nuclear power plants, and following famous nuclear accidents, not to mention the atomic testing down-winders, and those in the Middle East who suffer from spent uranium weapons - all show that particles within the body bring on disease at levels many times lower than the published safety limits, derived in the 1950's, before DNA was even discovered.
We stick with the outdated science, at our peril, and as a convenience for both the nuclear power industry, and the governments who support them. If we the public learn only one thing from this Fukushima accident - it must be the need for new and fair regulations governing doses of radiation. And that, says Chris Busby, would mean a speedy end to the nuclear power industry.
Look and learn for yourself. The authorities will not warn or protect you in time. That is the true and sad lesson taught both by climate change and nuclear technology. Fukushima is the school house, and a harsh one, for Japan. For us all.
This past weekend I went to our rural retreat, to make sure everything was in order. Here in Vancouver, I filled up 85 gallons of water in blue plastic jugs - just in case something big blows up in Fukushima, and blows over to the West Coast. Our water reservoirs already have tiny, tiny traces of extra radiation - but nothing to worry about - yet.
I'm not sure the authorities will warn us, but the word might get out. Anyway, I don't plan on this happening. I don't really expect the worst, but Fukushima shows me anything can happen. A little stored food and water is good insurance.
I'm Alex Smith. Our main web site is ecoshock.org. The show blog is at ecoshock.info Find us on 25 college and community radio stations, podcast, and live by satellite.
Thank you for hanging in, through this awful time. Join us next week for Radio Ecoshock.
My thanks to all the listeners from all over the world who sent in hot tips on the Fukushima disaster! Keep them coming. Email radio [at] ecoshock.org
Posted by Alex Smith at 4:01 PM
Labels: accident, environment, food, Japan, nuclear, nuclear power, radiation, reactors, risks, safety
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