Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Three nuclear facilities in the United States hovered on the brink of catastrophe in the last month of June 2011 - due to climate change.
Nuclear reactors and labs depend upon a relatively stable climate. A single accident could permanently withdraw a large area of the United States from safe human use.
Nuclear technology, instead of being a solution to climate change, is becoming a victim of it.
The nuclear power plant at Fort Calhoun Nebraska was within feet of a 100 percent chance of meltdown, according to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The Cooper Nuclear Station, also on the Missouri River in Nebraska, was also surrounded by flood waters.
In the very same week, a wall of fire raged toward the Los Alamos National Weapons Lab - the nuclear weapons testing facility hosting many thousands of barrels of plutonium waste, old dumps, and the most dangerous nuclear materials on the planet.
A chorus of authorities said over and over, repeated like a mantra in every news report, that everything was completely safe. Just like the government did in Japan before and even after four nuclear reactors blew up and three melted down. It's always declared safe, until it isn't.
I'm Alex Smith. This is Radio Ecoshock.
Later in this program you will hear something completely different from every political promise and every business plan. Scientists, peak oil specialists, environmentalists, and a new breed of financial realists all say the same thing: the age of economic growth is over.
To cope with declining resources, and an eco-system tilting toward a death-spiral, we don't need more growth. We need to shrink our economies. They call it "de-growth."
This new movement argues our financial system, and the whole scheme of human population and every more consumption is an unsustainable Ponzi scheme. We can wait for the grand collapse, or we can plan ways to shrink the human imprint on the planet.
Only on Radio Ecoshock, you will hear two panelists from a recent De-Growth conference in Vancouver, Canada. Our speakers are Conrad Schmidt from the Work-Less-Party, and Dr. Bill Rees, the co-inventor of the ecological footprint concept. What your mainstream media won't tell you.
NUKE TECHNOLOGY UNSTABLE IN CHANGING CLIMATE
But first, we go to the nuclear threats hanging over America. Why there will be more events, perhaps a melt-down and spread of radiation, due to climate change.
You'll also hear who owns America's second largest nuclear company, the corporation behind the disputed Vermont Yankee reactor, the Indian Point plant hanging over New York City, and operator of the now flooded Fort Calhoun reactor in Nebraska.
No, it's not Mr. Burns.
Then we'll go to Los Alamos, the belly of the nuclear weapons beast. Despite what you think, it wouldn't be a good thing if that burned down. Unless you want a side-order of plutonium with your lunch.
Fort Calhoun hasn't been a military fort since 1827. Now it's a village of 856 people, on the very Eastern side of Nebraska, more or less in the Center of North America.
The Fort Calhoun nuclear generating station is located nearby, right on the Missouri River, which snakes through the U.S. Midwest for 2300 miles, or 3700 km until it dumps into the Mississippi River, just North of the major city of St. Louis. There is a lot downstream from this reactor site, right down to New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico, should the deadly radioactivity get washed away in a flood.
The reactor is one of the smallest in America, just under 500 megawatts. It is the old GE Mark I design, a clone of the reactors that blew up in Japan after only a few hours without electrical power.
In late June 2011, record snow-falls in the Rocky Mountains combined with extreme rainfall events to raise the Missouri River to dangerous levels. Both the deep snowfall, and the extreme rain can be attributed to climate change. Burning fossil fuels has warmed the world enough to change the amount of water in the atmosphere, raising it by 4% since 1970, according to the IPCC, and confirmed by several top American scientists, including Dr. Kevin Trenberth.
This year, the run-off was so strong the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers had to open every available floodgate on six flood control dams upstream of the Calhoun Nuclear plant. The Engineeers were aware of the danger, but had no choice. Two of the dams are built out of earth only. If just one dam breaks, the whole lot could go. If just one dam breaks, the Calhoun Nuclear plant would almost undoubtedly flood, and could have parts of the plant washed away, in an inland tsunami.
The Chair of the NRC, Gregory Jaczko did not mention this risk when he visited Fort Calhoun on JUne 27th. The operators, a big company called Entergy, don't talk about it, declaring there is no risk of any radiation release or melt-down. The final owner of the plant is the State of Nebraska, through the Omaha Public Power District, the OPPD.
The flooding of the nuclear plant, the the extreme stress on upstream dams is expected to continue until early August. This is an on-going risk, even if the peak water appear to have passed.
At the time of broadcast, a water-filled berm called an Aquadam, was punctured by a plant worker and collapsed. The Aquadam was promoted as the main line of defense for the reactor buildings, until it failed. The officials dismissed it as unnecessary.
The fall-back was apparently just sand-bags at the doors. We might expect the National Guard would have flown in heavy sand bags in a hurry. That didn't happen. In fact, the whole response has been much smaller than the risk warrants.
Water leaked into the main electrical transformers. Stand-by generators had to be fired up to cool the fuel, even though the plant had been shut down for maintenance. The spent fuel pool, which is loaded, also has to be cooled, as we learned from the radiation pouring out of the spent fuel pool at Fukushima Dai-Ichi reactor four. That one was also closed down for refueling when the Tsunami hit.
Power was restored. All the power lines are running through what looks like a slow moving lake. It is the Missouri River, eating away at everything.
When water started to pour into the turbine building, again officials said that was nothing unexpected.
Funny, nobody predicted that.
We know from Fukushima that nuclear power plants are riddled with basements, trenches, and pipes carrying wires. Is the wiring in the turbine building designed to be underwater? Can they keep the electrical system, and the cooling pumps going? Has water started leaking through all the connections into the main reactor building? None of that information is coming out. It's all safe, that is what we are told.
And who could have predicted any of this?
Was it a secret that the mountains were buried under record snow? Does the Nuclear Regulatory Commision know climate change means more extreme rainfall events?
At least the NRC did slightly improve the flood chances at the Fort Calhoun plant last year, in one of their rare attempts to get companies to follow safety. Otherwise, NRC documents show, there was a 100 percent chance of reactor core damage if the water reached 1010 feet above sea level. And that still could happen, if a dam bursts.
According to Dave Lochbaum, one of the few nuclear engineers we can trust, the NRC inspected the Fort Calhoun plant, and gave it a yellow safety flag for flood protection problems. Yellow is the second most serious, with only two given by the NRC in 2010 for the whole country.
The operators, Entergy - and we'll hear more about them soon - contested the NRC findings, and tried to avoid upgrading their flood protection. The NRC won that small battle, which may have so far saved the plant.
Was the NRC asking for a 50 foot wall to surround the facility, to protect it permanently? No, Entergy was protesting building a few small berms, getting their staff to practice what to do in a flood, and other minor adjustments. It wasn't nearly enough. The electric transformers and the turbine building have aleady experienced leaks. Perhaps more, that we haven't been told about.
None of this is a surprise. Floods in 1993 endangered the Fort Calhoun plant. The State government, the federal regulators, and the operators had 18 years to plan out their response for the next big one. And opted for quaterly profits instead.
The operator, a company called Entergy, is famous for regular quarterly profits.
Entergy is the second largest nuclear operator and owner in the United States, behind Exelon. They operate the old Vermont Yankee reactor in New England. Entergy promised the State they would not continue past 2012 without permission of a state board, but applied for and got another 20 year license fron the NRC, even after the Vermont Senate voted against continuing the plant operation. Entergy is suing the State, to keep the old reactor going, despite huge public opposition in Vermont.
New York City residents have lots to fear from Entergy's operations of a reactor at Indian Point, just 35 miles north of the mega-city. Believe it or not, the plant is too near a seismic zone. It has a string of safety problems and leaks.
Now we find Entergy at Fort Calhoun, with mickey-mouse safety preparations for the big flood, which was predictable months ago. The New York Times reports a line of staff hand-passing orange fuel cans on catwalks over the flood waters, trying to keep dozens of small pump engines going, trying to keep up with leaks all over the facility. It's frantic, and it's not what we were told about safety in the nuclear industry.
Who is the operator, Entergy? Their Board of Directors is a snap-shot of the American nuclear industry today. Most outstanding to me is the number of former high level government officials, and elected politicians, who end up as highly paid directors in a nuclear company.
Like Ms Alexis M. Herman, an Entergy Director since 2003. She's also a Director of Coca-Cola, Cummins, the engine people, and MGM Mirage, the entertainment and gambling giant. MS. Herman was the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1997 to 2001. She was also a White House Assistant to the U.S. President. She got $136,000 as an Entergy Director in 2010.
Or how about this for political power for your Board. Entergy is a southern-based company. They have banking connections in Ohio, but really they are from the South. In January 2011 they scored another big politician: Blanche Lambert Lincoln. She was Congresswoman for Arkansas, and then a U.S. Senator for the State of Arkansas right up to 2011, when she went on the Entergy Board.
Blanche Lincoln was in a position to oversee some parts of the nuclear industry, in her position as a Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Now she'll get her 120 something thousand dollars or more from the big nuclear company, as a Director. Straight from the Senate Floor to the industry Board Room.
W.J. "Billy" Tauzin is on the Board with her. Billy was a United States Representative for the State of Louisiana until 2005. He served as Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce. You can't get more plugged in that that.
That's the revolving door of nuclear politics. Candidates get campaign money while the serve, and then a directorship, often just a few meetings a year, when they leave.
ENTERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Entergy has a mixed record on the environment. The current Chairman of the Board of Directors of Entergy is J. Wayne Leonard. He helped arrange a joint-venture with the infamous climate deniers, the Koch Brothers. Entergy-Koch LP, a gas and commodities trading company, was sold to Merrill Lynch in 2004.
Leonard is also connected to the oil industry. He is a Director of Tidewater Inc. That company prides itself on providing services to the offshore oil industry, including, quote: we’re serving customers who are operating in more remote, deeper and increasingly hostile environments in order to meet the world’s energy demands."
End quote. They serve the most risky plays for oil and gas.
On the other hand, J. Wayne Leonard took the Entergy Board of Directors into endorsing Cap and Trade as a way to control climate change emissions. The nuclear industry saw climate change as a way to become the "good guys", since their reactors, once built, hardly emitted carbon. There might even be a future for new reactors, which would be good for the construction company Directors on Entergy's Board.
The rare big industry support for cap and trade, and even admission that global warming was happening, more or less collapsed with the failure of climate legislation in the United States.
At least they tried.
But for all the power of this Entergy Board, none of them are the owners of the company. In fact, company insiders own less than 1 percent of the stock. Who is the Mr. Burns behind it all?
It could be you, via the big Wall Street Institutional holders who have up hold billions of dollars worth of share. Here is a short list of the biggest Entergy owners. The two biggest are Franklin Resources and Price T. Rowe Associates, with three quarters of a billion dollars worth each. State Street Corp and Evercore Trust Company come in at half a billion.
Then some names you know, like Barclays, Blackrock, Goldman Sachs, Lazard, Bank of New York Mellon, and many more.
These are the institutions who fund risky nuclear power. They could lose big if even one reactor is permantly shut down, or blows up like Fukushima. They make big money every quater, partly by fighting off costs imposed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, or by re-licensing agains the will of States and local populations.
Your pension fund may have bought into nuclear power. Find out. Get out. Because nuclear power is dying after Fukushima, and now these near misses in the United States. We hope they are near misses. That drama is not over yet.
LOS ALAMOS LAB
The Los Alamos National Laboratory is the site of many black nuclear doings. The bombs dropped on Japan were made there. A lot of early nuclear testing at Los Alamos put Strontium 90 into the bones of a generation in the 50's and 60's.
There are old dumps on the site, some of them badly marked. I doubt anyone really know where all the nuclear materials are.
We do know, through the Christian Science Monitor, and the Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety: there are between 20 and 30 thousand barrels of nuclear waste sitting in flamable tents, above ground at the Los Alamos site. A raging forest fire was 3.5 miles, that is 5.6 Kilometers, away.
The Lab was forced to close, and turn off the gas, with the fire clearly visible. Fifteen thousand people work there, mostly on nuclear weapons technology. There are around 2,000 buildings in the complex, making it the equivalent of the old Soviet "secret cities".
A spot fire appeared on lab property but was put out. That was at Tech Area 49, where underground tests with radioactive materials were undertaken in the early 1960s.
All around, 44,000 acres, 176 square kilometers of forest and brush burned violently.
Despite that, all we get from government officials at the lab is that everything is completely safe from fire. They can't say anything more, because the whole site is a national security secret. Except from the Chinese spies who penetrated everything there a few years ago.
The nuclear materials at Los Alamos lab have the potential to poison the entire U.S. South West, and perhaps the Northern Hemisphere.
Again, the risk of fire was entirely predictable. There was a serious fire in 2000. The Cerro Grande fire burned another 48,000 acres, destroying some Los Alamos Lab buildings.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, increased radiation levels were measured after that fire, including plutonium, cesium, and strontium. A Lab employee claimed the source was natural radon from the forest, augmented by fall-out still present from the nuclear testing years. Yes, plutonium will last for hundreds of thousands of years. But can we trust this source? Or was radiation released by the fire in 2000, when Lab buildings went up in smoke?
It's all a big secret. We don't know then, and we won't be told now, even though the public could be exposed to increased numbers of cancers down the road.
CLIMATE CHANGE DRIVES BOTH FIRE AND FLOOD
Scientists say the amount of water in the atmosphere has risen measurably. That extra water has to come from somewhere. Perversely, it is drawn from those regions already hot and dry. Wet place become saturated, dry regions are sucked drier. That's how warming works.
Since 2000, a long-lasting drought, brought on by climate change, according to dozens of scientists, including those in Arizona - the drought weakend most tree-life in the American West. It opened the forests to boring beetles, and set the stage for a decade or more of devastating wild fires.
Just like the wild-fires in the Russian heat wave in 2010. A fire there wiped out power lines to a secret nuclear facility. Russian troops were called in to fight the flames before they could sweep over whatever secret nuclear horrors were stored there. A radioactive fire plume was narrowly averted.
All around the world, climate disruption has made the use and storage of nuclear materials impossibly dangerous. It's a spin-off of climate change that was predicable, and still we didn't see it, until these three threats in the United States. Record flooding in Nebraska, with two reactors surrounded by running river waters, and drought-driven fire nipping at the edges of vast quantities of the most deadly nuclear elements, in a weapons lab.
Toss in rising seas for the reactors at ocean side, and the picture of an industry past it's due date becomes complete. The nuclear industry cannot survive the great warming already in process.
I'm Alex Smith. Find all our reports at the web site, ecoshock.org.
FUKUSHIMA UPDATE - WHY JAPAN'S NUCLEAR DISASTER COULD BANKRUPT THE UNITED STATES
Many of you have asked for an update on the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan. After all, three out of control reactors continue to melt-down.
It is difficult to communicate the big picture of the Japanese nuclear accident, or the strange collusion of the American government. They play down the severity of the exposions and radiation.
Here is a discussion, Plato-style.
Kate: This is Kate Smith.
ALEX: ...and I'm Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock.
Kate: We're here to bring you critical information on the triple melt-down of nuclear reactors in Fukushima, Japan
ALEX: and questions about the failure of the American government to protect its own citizens from radiation.
Why did the Nuclear Regulatory Commission fail to warn Americans about the surge of radiation in early March of 2011?
Kate: Why did the government announce it was withdrawing radiation monitors from the West Coast?
ALEX: Why did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announce the U.S. would support sales from Japan, despite popular concerns about radiation?
Is it possible America is downplaying the world's most serious nuclear accident, to avoid its own economic collapse? Details to come.
Kate: Alex, where do we start?
ALEX: Everyone needs to recognize the Japanese authorities and plant owner Tepco are not trying to stop radiation into the sky and the sea. They are not engaged in "cleaning up" the reactors. Their official announcements make clear their first priority is to cope with tons of highly radioactive water already poured over melting reactor fuel. The contaminated water threatens to flood the site, and leak even more radiation into the groundwater and the ocean.
The operator has brought in two devices designed to remove enough radioactivity to recycle water back into the ruins of the reactor, to cool the lava-like melted cores. The machines quickly become clogged with such large amounts of radioactive particles, they had to be shut down after very short runs.
The filter devices cannot keep up with cooling needs, much less deal with 110,00 tonnes of radioactive water hovering near overflow levels in several locations around the site. Officials admit highly radioactive water reached the water table. It is still flowing into the sea around Fukushima.
Samples taken at the end of June from the ocean bottom three kilometers from the reactor site show Strontium 90, a radioactive metal known to lodge in bones, and to cause leukemia. Plutonium has also been found on the sea floor.
The operator Tepco is overwhelmed with radioactive water. It is falling behind every announced timetable to cope with it.
Kate: On June 23rd, Bloomberg news reported Tepco is running out of nuclear workers. 3500 workers have been exposed to radiation at Fukushima Dai-ichi. Staff on site has dropped from a high of about 2,000, to just over 1,000 people.
Banri Kaieda, the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry verbally approved a new plan to use senior citizens as volunteers to help the emergency work at Fukushima. Workers as old as 72 say they have formed a volunteer brigade to go to the reactors, to help fix guages and clean up radioactive debris. In the summer heat, with heavy breathing masks and protective clothing, nobody is certain these seniors can cope with the work.
Radiation in some places at Fukushima Dai-ichi is deadly with just half an hour exposure. But the volunteers deny this is a "kamakaize" mission.
ALEX: Yes, and this is exactly what the famous Japanese-American physicist Michio Kaku has been saying for months in the mainstream media, and on Democracy Now. Kaku predicted Tepco would run out of workers. In early April, he called for the deployment of Japanese troops to Fukushima-Daichi.
The model is what the Soviet Union did when the Chernobyl nuclear plant blew up in April of 1986. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers were sent in, some for as little as 15 minutes each, to shovel, install pipes, pour a little concrete. Then each man or woman was withdrawn, given a medal, and sent back to barracks, so the next person could step up. This was the only way to work in such a highly radioactive environment, in the huge task of burying the reactor in concrete.
Kate: But the core of the Chernobyl reactor did not manage to reach the ground water. Plus the new Chernobyl reactor did not generate as many tons of stored waste as Fukushima. Would burying the reactor work?
ALEX: It seems doubtful, and yet may be the only solution, if there is any solution. We are talking about four reactors here at least, maybe six. It could take a decade or more to build such a giant silo, the largest construction project in history. It means hundreds of thousands of workers exposed.
Kate: What is the financial impact of the Fukushima melt-down.
ALEX: The total cost of this accident is entirely unknown. Nuclear industry executive Arnie Gundersen suggests the direct liability to the Japanese government might reach a quarter of a trillion dollars.
That doesn't count the damage to Japanese trade, from countries who suspect radioactive products. It doesn't count down-time to big companies, like electronics and car makers who must run part-time shifts of production, due to lack of power.
The loss of part of Japan to radiation, lasting hundreds of years or more, is incalculable.
Even the direct costs could bankrupt the Japanese government.
Kate: The Japanese are already the most indebted country in the world, in relation to their Gross Domestic Product. The government owes at least 200 percent of the GDP. They have run giant deficits for years, making countries like Greece look prudent and conservative by comparison.
How can they afford new billions for compensation, buying liquified gas from abroad, the loss of the tax base, while supporting citizens made homeless by the earthquake and tsunami?
ALEX: The government cannot afford it - unless they withdraw money from their huge bank account in the United States. Japan is the world's second largest holder of U.S. debt, mostly U.S. Treasuries. Japan has over seven hundred billion dollars banked in America. But if they withdraw that, selling their holdings, the collapse in value of U.S. treasuries could plunge America into bankruptcy.
Kate: America is already close to bankruptcy. The debt limit was reached by June. Congress fought over whether to allow more borrowing, or slash government services, possibly including pensions and support for the poorest citizens.
In the last big debt sale, the U.S. government-supported agency, the Federal Reserve, bought most of the debt offered. It was called "quantitative easing". How is that affected by the nuclear accident in Japan?
ALEX: To explain the connection, we have to look at a buried story. Nobody wants to talk about Tokyo.
Tokyo is the capital of Japan, and likely the world's largest city, with somewhere around 35 million people. It is only 140 miles, or 225 km south of the Fukushima accident site.
In March, after the explosions at all four Fukushim Dai-ichi reactors, clouds of radioactivity fell on Tokyo. The drinking water was declared unsafe. There was a run on bottled water. The government delivered water to pregnant women and day-care centers.
Then the government and the tightly controlled-Japanese press went silent about the radiation of Tokyo.
Until late April. Then the story came out that most Tokyo sewage plants were overwhelmed with radioactivity. These sewage treatment centers were burning the sludge, further distributing more radioactive particles, which are not destroyed by incineration. Hot ash went out over parts of Tokyo again.
Even though the authorities knew the remaining slag after incinceration was highly radioactive, they permitted it to be sold to cement companies. Again, radioactivity was spread, this time through construction with contaminated cement.
They are just redistributing radioactive particles, which remain dangerous in the environment for a very long time.
The government set up a few radioactive testing sensors in Tokyo. These were 18 meters high, almost 60 feet above the ground. The authorities said radiation levels were very low.
Citizens, and people from the University began to test radiation at ground level. They found many radioactive hot spots all around Tokyo. They were using cheap hand-held geiger counters. The truth got out over the Internet, by You tube videos showing high readings.
That forced the government to admit background radiation in Tokyo was three times the previous level. It won't go down, these elements last for decades, even centuries.
More radioactivity continues to arrive from the Fukushima site itself, especially now that the winds have shifted, blowing South from the plant toward the capital.
The Russian media quoted a government inside source saying the Japanese had a plan to move the government from Tokyo to somewhere less radioactive, like Osaka. The government denied it.
Major financial newspapers in the United States said national embassies, and even the headquarters of some multinational companies, were moving out of Tokyo, some to Osaka.
Kate: This is a dialog on the Japanese nuclear accident and the American response. I'm Kate Smith, with Radio Ecoshock host Alex Smith.
Kate: Alex, how does radioactivity in the capital Tokyo tie in with finance?
ALEX: We need to understand the current financial position of Japan, to understand their fear of a big fall. Not only is the Japanese government holding world-record debt, the big banks in the country actually became insolvent in the early 1990's when the property bubble collapsed. It was the same process now going on in America.
The banks gave out giant real estate loans, with a lot of collateral based on the alleged value of Tokyo property.
When Tokyo real estate dropped sharply in the early 1990's, banks pretended to be solvent, by keeping the previous high values on their books. The biggest American banks are doing the same thing now.
So the Japanese banks managed to keep going for two decades, known as "zombie banks" -because they were actually dead in financial reality.
They could continue this pretense by saying "Well, the value of Tokyo real estate might go up again, and then our books would be more balanced."
Now, with this radiation, everybody knows Tokyo real estate is never coming back to it's record high levels. It may even decline, as some people move out due to nuclear concerns. This Fukushima radiation could reveal the true bankrupt state of both the banks and the Japanese government.
Kate: Does this affect Americans?
ALEX: Yes, if the Japanese decided to withdraw their billions, America could also go bankrupt.
The Obama government realized the risk soon after the accident. On April 17th Hillary Clinton went to Japan, making public appearances to show American support for the Japanese. Meetings of officials of both countries went on behind the scenes.
Secretary of State Clinton returned to Japan at the end of April. On April 29th, Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto said the U.S. agreed to help Japan dispel "rumors" about radioactivity and fight import bans based on safety. The announcement surprised Americans concerned about possibly radioactive food and other products from Japan.
Kate: Japan admitted the radiation going into the ocean from Fukushima was triple the amounts announced earlier. The government confirmed the ocean was poisoned with radioactivity along the coast for 300 kilometers. That is 186 miles.
With in their ship the Rainbow Warrior, Greenpeace found radioactivity in seaweed 12 miles out to sea.
It seems incredible the U.S. government would agree to not test sea food products from Japan.
ALEX: The Obama administration did some very strange things, some of them questionable for the safety of it's citizens. The EPA loudly and publicly announced they were withdrawing radiation testing stations from the American West Coast. Even though three reactors continue to melt down across the Pacific, with unknown results. More explosions and releases are possible.
In mid-April, FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey announced the agency would NOT test North Pacific-caught sea food for safety. There is no sampling or monitoring for radioactivity from Fukushima bioaccumulating in fish.
According to Kyodo June 26th, the Japanese are now proposing to ship unsold sea food to developing nations.
Despite the clouds of radioactivity that continue to blow over much of Japan, at times going as far as Korea, China and the Russian coast, the U.S. military has not announced any base closings there. In mid-March, the military did withdraw thousands of dependents in a mass air operation. But the soldiers and airforce are still there. Why is America risking the health of 47,000 troops in Japan?
Soon after the accident, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission was warned the only possible outcome after cooling stopped was three melt-downs. Why didn't the government warn the American public about the radiation that fell over the whole country a week later?
Kate, my question is: to prevent a run on U.S. Treasuries, to stop the Japanese from endangering the economy by withdrawing billions, did the Obama administration make big concessions to the Japanese?
Kate: Alex, can you prove these negotiations took place?
ALEX: No. At this point it is just a theory that explains the behavoior of the U.S. government in this affair. It is based on facts well-known in the financial world, about insolvent banks and governments. I think agreements made by the American administration will come out eventually.
That is just part of a complicated history between the two countries, of war, occupation, and a lot of trade. Plus, America wants to hide its own nuclear risks.
We can't discount the current economic crisis as a reason why the American government is so anxious to support Japan, even while risking the safety of it's own citizens.
Kate: You are tuned to a special program on the Japanese nuclear accident and the American response. I'm Kate Smith, with Alex Smith from Radio Ecoshock.
I think we need to hear more about the local situation in Japan. There are still some 290,000 people in Fukushima City, 37 miles,or 60 kilometers away from the plant. Fukushima City was highly irradiated by explosions at the reactors. Like Tokyo, their sewage systems and waterways are radioactive.
Even school yards and public parks have hot zones. The municipal government ordered a limit of one hour only in the parks. On June 6th they lifted those restrictions. On June 7th Greenpeace technicians found a pile of leaves in a park measuring 4.2 microsieverts per hour. Even the leaves qualified as radioactive waste that needed special handling and disposal for 30 years. The leaves cannot be burned. That would just spread the radiation.
Radiation is everywhere. Fukushima City, and many other towns and cities in that region, are now the world's biggest experiment in living within a radioactive zone. There is no where to evacuate all the people.
ALEX: That's true. The Japanese government tried to raise the permissible levels for radiation of children to 20 millisieverts - the same level previously set for workers inside a nuclear plant. Parents made a rare protest, the government pulled back to 1 millisievert.
Now they are issuing bracelets to 34,000 school children to measure radioactivity. These dosimeters don't warn children if they approach a hot spot, they just collect the data, to be assessed later by the secretive Japanese government. It is likely no child or family will ever be told how much radiation they have been exposed to, or how many hot particles they have ingested. As you said Kate, it's a big experiment - a whole population living in a nuclear disaster zone in Japan.
Kate: I'm Kate Smith.
ALEX: and I'm Alex Smith, reporting for Radio Ecoshock, at ecoshock.org.
Thank you for listening.