Radioactive Floods Recontaminate Japan

 

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Last week a serious typhoon hit eastern Japan creating flooding that has not occurred for at least 50 years. Tokyo Electric Power Company, the operator and owner of the triple meltdown site Fukushima Daiichi, admitted that drainage pumps at Fukushima failed and radioactive water once again poured into the Pacific. But what about the extraordinary amount of radioactive cesium, strontium, and other isotopes spread hundreds of miles from the nuclear catastrophe site yet to be cleaned up and now displaced by the flood into newly contaminated villages? Once again, Fairewinds’ Chief Engineer, Arnie Gundersen, is here to keep you informed.

 


Demystifying Nuclear Power:

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The Overflowing Fukushima Toilet by Sue Prent

 Japan just can’t seem to catch a break as extreme forces in nature repeatedly buffet the island.

 Efforts are currently underway to coax former Nahara residents, evacuated during the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdown, to return to their abandoned homes in the desolated city. Despite assurance that radiation levels in Nahara are now within a ‘safe’ margin, the relatively few who chose immediate return when it officially reopened on September 11, are being issued dosimeters; a reminder that life in this city can never hope to be the same.

 Typhoon Etau, with seven confirmed deaths and 15 people still missing, rolled in about the same time as the official reopening of Nahara, driving home the message of perpetual uncertainty in the island nation. The Shibuagawa riverbank succumbed to irresistible watery forces and landslides ravaged the sodden countryside.

 By Friday, reopening day for the city of Nahara, flooding from the typhoon reached waist-high in some parts of Japan, forcing large-scale evacuations. Then, drainage pumps at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi reactor, still in crisis, were overwhelmed by floodwaters and failed completely, unleashing a torrent of radioactive water and waste into the already decimated environment.

 While Japan was still coming to grips with the impact of Etau on Saturday, Tokyo was hit by an early morning earthquake that registered 5.2 on the Richter scale: a stark reminder of the every day risk from seismic and volcanic disruptions that exists in the Pacific region known as the “Ring of Fire.”

 What more could possibly happen to showcase the futility of Japan’s official efforts to rehabilitate its nuclear energy program in defiance of more than 70% of its citizenry’s urging? Then came reports that some of the huge deteriorating plastic bags of radioactive earth and grass that line the Fukushima Daiichi disaster site and adjacent ocean had been swamped and swept away by torrid floodwaters. Ultimately, TEPCO claimed that only 82 of the massive bags were actually lost, with roughly 30 recovered.

 Anxious to allay public fears, Japan’s official news reports referred to detected radiation levels around the few recovered bags as “slight.” Those reassurances have fallen on skeptical ears among a public that has grown accustomed to message control that places industrial and political interests above those of public information and public health. The inattentive mainstream media is repeating TEPCO’s unbelievable mantra that the ocean is a ‘big place’ and that many tons of toxic radioactive outflows are only ‘a drop in the bucket’. 

 In 2013, when Typhoon Man-yi hit northeastern Japan, TEPCO took advantage of the opportunity to drain collected rainwater directly into the Pacific Ocean from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster site, claiming this toxic dump was within ‘safe’ limits of radioactivity.

 The TEPCO claim that it is okay to dump ‘safe’ levels of radioactivity into the Pacific Ocean is gravely suspicious with the discovery in February 2015 that for many months highly toxic radioactive rainwater collected on the roof of one of the crippled plant’s buildings was being discharged directly into the Pacific. When finally measured, that allegedly innocuous rainwater registered more than 70-times the radioactive level recorded elsewhere on the site of the Fukushima Daiichi triple meltdowns.

 Japan’s citizens and people around the world are wondering if TEPCO was tempted once again to ‘flush’ it’s toxic radioactive toilet full of contaminated water during the cover provided by Typhoon Etau.

 Don’t confuse this issue with TEPCO’s acknowledged periodic release of partially treated radioactive groundwater into the Pacific Ocean. Since the initial 2011 catastrophe, groundwater continues to enter the reactor buildings through cracks and breaches becoming highly radioactive and toxic to life. TEPCO alleges that the highly radioactive treated water they continue to release is not significant compared to the size of the ocean.

 As the government of Japan continues to declare that the ocean impact from contaminated storm runoff from the Daiichi site is minimal, attention has been completely diverted from the more serious questions concerning the redistribution of toxic radiation and contaminated groundwater through massive rainfall and flooding into previously pristine locations inhabited by innocent people.

 Inland impacts are considerable. Typhoon Etau likely washed more radiation from the mountains surrounding the Daiichi disaster than from the nuclear site itself, yet TEPCO and the Japanese government ignore the health impact of these huge, unmonitored releases. Without the government of Japan accepting responsibility for all the contamination caused by the nuclear disaster, the health of the public on both sides of the Pacific Ocean will continue to be jeopardized.


 

 Featured Report:

Lessons-from-Fukushima.jpgLessons from Fukushima by Greenpeace, Intl.

Commissioned by Greenpeace International one year after the March 11, 2011 nuclear meltdown at Fukushima Daiichi, this report addresses the lessons that must be learned from this catastrophe. Four-years later, this nuclear disaster is far from over and continues to provide a unique opportunity for us to ask ourselves what this tragedy has taught us not only about nuclear power, but also about how vulnerable the public and environment is to industry-led political influence. Chapter 3, “The Echo Chamber: Regulatory Capture and the Fukushima Daiichi Disaster,” is Fairewinds’ contribution to this important text. This great read is available in full, for free, on-line. 


Fairewinds in the News:

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Final decisions over the multi-billion dollar closing costs of San Onofre nuclear power plant rest with the controversial state regulator, California Public Utilities Commission,whose backroom dealings with plant owner and operator Southern California Edison instigated the initial push by the Office of Ratepayer Advocates to reopen the disputed settlement. In ongoing coverage by the LA Times, the California Public Utilities Commission has no time restrictions or obligation to act except the weight of public opinion. The push for reconsideration of the settlement began when secret meetings were revealed between former commission president Michael Peevey and various Edison representatives including then-executive vice president for external relations, Stephen Pickett. LA Times journalist Ivan Penn writes, “Reopening the case could hurt Edison's lawsuit with the Japanese contractor [Mitsubishi] that developed the faulty steam generators.” Mr. Penn contacted Fairewinds Arnie Gundersen, who served as an expert witness regarding the handling of San Onofre’s generators, for comment. Mr. Gundersen cites both Edison and Mitsubishi at fault. "When I reviewed all the data it was clear to me that Southern California Edison was the one driving the bus," Gundersen said. "Mitsubishi wanted the contract and agreed to some very onerous terms in order to get it.”


Energy News: 

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Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi called on the citizens of Japan to join the national movement against nuclear power in his first media interview since stepping down as prime minister in 2006. Koizumi, once a supporter of the Japanese nuclear fleet like so many other officials in Japan, experienced a drastic change of heart in the wake of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima Daiichi in 2011.

“Nuclear power plants are not safe,” Koizumi said in his interview. “If additional precautions are taken (to help prepare nuclear facilities for a giant quake), it will cost a huge amount of money.” Koizumi condemned the current Japanese administration led by Prime Minister Abe for acting under the influence of the nuclear industry and pushing to restart Japan’s nuclear reactors. Addressing the common claim that nuclear reactors are a means to combat global warming, Koizumi said, “Nuclear power is not clean at all…It is obvious that nuclear power also generates ‘nuclear waste’ (highly radioactive waste), which is more dangerous than carbon dioxide (that is spewed by thermal power plants).”


 

Two Chilean women, Liliana and Luisa Terán, created energy autonomy for their rural Chilean village of Caspana by way of solar power. In 2013, Caspana relied on one electric generator to provide each household with two and a half hours of power during the evening. This generator broke down on a regular basis, leaving Caspana totally in the dark. Taking on unorthodox roles as leaders, the two cousins, Liliana and Luisa traveled to India to attend a solar installation training program provided by Barefoot College. The National Women’s Service (SERNAM), and the Italian company Enel Green Power funded Liliana and Luisa’s solar education with additional support from Enel Green Power, which donated the solar equipment for the village. Currently, Pressenza reports that 700 women from 49 countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America – as well as thousands of women from India – have taken the course to become “Barefoot solar engineers”.  Today, thanks to these two amazing women, each household in Caspana has a 12 volt solar panel, a 12 volt battery, a four amp LED lamp, and an eight amp control box that provide at least three uninterrupted hours of electricity each day with the old electric generator serving as a back up.

 

What actions is the NRC taking in regards to the effect of climate change on nuclear reactors? U.S. Congressional Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) questioned four members of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) during two subcommittee hearings by the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

The response? "The NRC doesn't have any studies or rulemaking processes under way that would look explicitly at the effect of climate change on plant operations," NRC spokesperson Neil Sheehan wrote in an email following the hearing.

Rep. Tonko raised concerns to the NRC that rising water temperatures due to climate change could force more nuclear power plants to shut down, posing a myriad of potential safety risks following the fourth unscheduled shutdown of the Pilgrim nuclear reactor operated by Entergy Corp. in Massachusetts.

Citing data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Rep. Tonko pointed out that 2014 was the hottest year on record, and the Pilgrim incident was not the first time a plant was forced to halt operations due to excessive water temperature.  

News source SNL Financial relayed NRC Commissioner Jeff Baran’s response to Rep. Tonko’s question stating “that while there have been several instances of cooling water getting too hot, the NRC evaluates those on a case-by-case basis.”

Such an example of this “case-by-case” evaluation by the NRC includes the 2014 signoff on a request from Dominion Resources Inc.'s Millstone nuclear plant in Connecticut to allow it to draw water up to a temperature of 80 degrees rather than the 75º temperature specified in Millstone’s operating license.

Fairewinds poses this question to the NRC: If the original maximum cooling temperature approved for licensure was 75 degrees, what physical changes are being made to reactor cooling systems that make an increased maximum temperature of 80 degrees safe? What public hearings have been held for such a significant change to Millstone’s operating license?

Furthermore, how can nuclear reactors positively effect climate change when there has been no research into the effects of climate change on nuclear reactors?

 


The United State Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) announced September 8th its abandonment of an ongoing study into cancer incidence and mortalities in proximity to and possibly induced by U.S. nuclear facilities. Initiated in 2009, the first phase of this study was carried out by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), which looked at seven different nuclear sites located around the country. The cost for this essential study is set at $8M.

Now, the NRC claims that the “significant amount of time and resources needed and the agency’s current budget constraints” are excuses for terminating this critical study.

“Study after study in Europe has shown a clear rise in childhood leukemia around operating nuclear power facilities, yet the NRC has decided to hide this vital information from the American public,” Cindy Folkers, radiation and health specialist at Beyond Nuclear, points out.

Beyond Nuclear, who like Fairewinds Energy Education also works to educate the public of nuclear safety risks, obtained documents revealing contact by the nuclear industry with the NRC offering a cheaper, faster and less sensitive study design to replace the NAS study. John Boice, a long-time nuclear industry proponent and the president of U.S. National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (NCRP) conducted this private discourse with the NRC.

  • published this page in Newsletters 2015-09-21 10:24:40 -0400

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